Pandora Ch. 04byCarizabeth©
Part Four of what looks like will be five or six total posted here. This story was originally written as a serial on my blog, and I've compressed numerous chapters into each particular installment. While you read it, please keep in mind that it was originally meant to be read either in bite-sized chunks or in one fell swoop, but with over 90k words I couldn't post it to Lit without labeling it a novel. I've modified it slightly from my blog to make sense in its current structure, and I hope it reads okay for you.
The story itself is a spinoff of a previous story of mine posted on Literotica, entitled Bonded. The landscape is m/m science fiction. You'll get more out of some of the interactions if you've read the other story, but it isn't necessary to enjoy this one. Please rate and comment at the end, I really love getting your impressions of my work, and just hearing from you. Thanks to everyone who's left a note so far, you make my day!
Part Four: Bombs Away
Something was going on. Something was disturbing the darkness that he was surrounded by, that he slept in. It was waking him up, and he didn't want to be awake.
"Garrett? Can you hear me?" The sounds were strange, a little echoey, and he felt like he should understand what the words meant, but he really didn't.
"He's definitely coming to, just keep talking to him," another voice said.
"Come on," the first voice said, a little clearer now. "Come on, it's time to wake up."
"There, his fingers twitched. He's almost there. Would you like me to stay and explain the situation to him?"
"No, I think that's better coming from me. If he needs clarification on anything I'll call for you." There was a sliding sound, and then for one beautiful moment, stillness, before the voice started in again.
"Garrett?" Cool fingers stroked soothingly over his shoulder, and a low, feminine voice murmured close to his ear. "I know it's hard to come up, but you have to now. You've got some decisions to make."
"Sleeping," Garrett mumbled almost incoherently. God, his head felt like it was filled with sand, ears to eye sockets, and his throat was terribly sore. A moment later a straw pressed against his lips, and he sipped briefly, then opened his eyes.
At least, he tried to open his eyes. After a few seconds of straining he realized he couldn't, because there was nothing to open. No eyes, and perhaps no eyelids either. It didn't hurt, nothing hurt, actually, but he had good enough proprioception to know that he hadn't just had the optic nerves blocked. His eyes were completely gone. "The fuck?" He tried to sit up and hissed with sudden pain as the movement jarred IV lines that were attached to his neck and wrist. "What the hell is going on?"
"Garrett," the feminine voice said again, and now he could tell that it was Jezria, from the sound of her voice and the firm pressure of her fingers. "You were in an accident. Do you remember that?"
"Yes..." he said hesitantly. "Some." Sparks cascading through the lab, hot and blinding. Blinding...something blew up right in front of him. Them. "Shit, Martina?"
"Fully recovered. She's currently on administrative leave pending your statement. When you're recovered enough to—"
"Why am I in the infirmary?" Garrett demanded.
"Because," Jezria said very clearly and carefully, "You were badly injured. You lost your sight. Your face and upper torso were covered in second and third degree burns."
"Then why am I waking up blind?" Garrett moved his free hand over his face. The skin felt the same as normal, maybe a little smoother. "You've got my medical power of attorney authorizing all grafts and transplants, I should be waking up with new eyes. Shouldn't I?"
"Yes, you should." Jezria's voice didn't change, even as Garrett's sharpened with accusation. "You would be if the transplant templates had survived the fire. As it was, those slides were all destroyed." She gripped his hand a little harder, obviously reacting to some expression of his that he couldn't see, that he could barely imagine. "Your will get new eyes, of course, Garrett. The doctors just have to do it the old fashioned way, and that means giving the tissue the time to grow. In ten to fourteen days, they should be ready for transplant. Apart from that, you're fine. All the skin damage was successfully repaired."
Holy. Shit. It wasn't the first time Garrett had been in an infirmary, far from it. It wasn't even the first time he'd been in an infirmary due to a severe injury. It was, however, the first time he'd entirely lost one of his senses. And his sight...how the hell would he take care of himself for ten to fourteen days?
He zoned back in to what Jezria was saying when he heard, "—course, now that you're awake we can arrange to contact your father, and—"
He heard Jezria shift in her chair, the only sign he could discern of discomfort. "Garrett, you should tell your family."
"I don't want them to know."
"What would it accomplish?" he parried, ignoring the curling, churning acidity starting to flare in his gut. "Miles is a busy man. It's not as if he or Claudia could get here in time to sit and pat my hand before the transplant. He's got enough to worry about on Paradise right now without distracting him with my latest fiasco."
"Miles is your father," Jezria said softly. "Of course he'd worry, but he'd still want to know. Claudia too."
"Claudia's getting ready to have a baby, she doesn't need to be fretting about this either. They can't help me, Jezria, they can't change anything. But I can help them."
"By lying to them?"
"I don't plan on mentioning it at all, actually."
"Lying by omission is still lying."
"Don't tell them, Jezria." His fingers found her wrist and he grabbed her, as hard as he could, which wasn't very hard given the drugs and the fact that he'd just woken up. "Don't."
She didn't say anything for a long moment, and when she did speak, her tone was acrid. "Fine. But I think you're making a mistake. Your family loves you and deserves to know when you're injured badly enough to be hospitalized."
"I'm not arguing with you about this," he told her.
"Well then. Enjoy spending the next two weeks on your back in the infirmary."
Garrett frowned. It felt strange to furrow eyebrows that were no longer there. "What do you mean by that?"
"Since you live alone, you'll be spending your convalescence right here. It isn't safe to let you try to care for yourself in your apartment, and you're not authorized to get sight implants."
"Why not?" he demanded. "I was authorized for them on Paradise."
"Paradise had ready access to significantly more advanced medical facilities than Pandora. You know how implants, particularly brain implants, can have a negative effect on someone's mental and emotional equilibrium. We're simply not equipped to handle the possible health ramifications of that right now."
"You think I'll go off the deep end." His voice was flat and cold.
"It's a possibility we have to take into account, especially given your history," Jezria replied. She reached out and touched his shoulder again. "I'm so sorry, Garrett. I know this must feel like some sort of punishment, but I swear I don't mean for it to be. I'm concerned for your wellbeing, and even if you had consented to inform your family, I would have asked that you remain in the infirmary while you wait for the transplants. I would invite you to stay with me, but people are always coming in and out of my apartments, and I know how much you value your privacy. Here you can get help without making things awkward."
"Garrett..." Jezria blew out a sigh, then changed the subject. "How do you feel about some visitors?"
Honestly what he really wanted to do was hit something until either it broke, or he did, but that would hardly reassure the medical staff about his state of mind. Besides, he was already pretty broken. "Who wants to visit?" he asked.
"Who doesn't want to?' Jezria replied rhetorically. "Martina and Lawrence have asked, of course, but I thought that that should wait, all things considered."
"Good call." Garrett's mind was spinning out of control, and he didn't know if he could be polite with Martina now when he was barely civil to one of his oldest acquaintances.
"There are several of your coworkers who'd like to see you as well. Ms Englander wanted me to assure you that she saved enough of your hair to make a temporary replacement for what you lost, which due to heat damage ended up being everything."
Everything? He was bald? Garrett rubbed his free hand over his head and groaned. "Shit."
"She said the wig would be ready sometime tomorrow."
"How long was I unconscious?" Garrett asked.
Long time. His thoughts must have shown on his face, or maybe Jezria was just taking the conversation to the logical next step. "The damage was extensive, and the skin grafts took some time to set. It was easier for the doctors to keep you down while they worked."
"The most fervent visit requests have come from the Helmses, Jonah and his son Cody. I didn't know you and Mr. Helms were seeing each other."
"We're...well, it's kind of complicated."
"Apparently," she chuckled. "But they're actually here now, if you feel like company. I have to get back to the office, but I'll be by again later this evening to see how you're doing."
"Wait." He reached out for her, his hand stretching into space. After a second she took it. "What do I look like?"
"What, as far as scars and the like?"
"As in am I going to scare a five year old kid?"
"Ah." Her palm touched his face briefly, her thumb smoothing over his cheekbone. "You look fine, Garrett. Your eyes are sealed right now, but it simply looks as though they're closed, not like there's a problem with the eyes themselves. You are hairless at the moment, but it will all start to grow back in a few days. Your skin is beautiful." She pressed her lips to his temple. "You're beautiful."
"Flattery will get you everywhere," Garrett said, and if he sounded a little hoarse it was just because his throat was still sore.
"Shall I let them in?"
"Can we get this IV out of my neck first?"
"Let me get the doctor back." The was the near-silent click of a button being depressed, and then a few seconds later the door slid open again.
"Doctor Caractacus, it's good to see you awake!"
Her voice sounded familiar. "Thanks."
"My favorite patient and his daddy are waiting outside to see you."
"About that...can we take the IVs out? At least this one?" Garrett fingered the line irritably.
"Sure we can. The lower one was just giving you nutrients while you were out, you shouldn't have any trouble switching back to real food." Her hands worked briskly as she spoke, freeing his hand and removing the shunt. "This other one is a direct blocker for your eyes. If you want to get rid of it you'll need to let me give you a shot for the pain, and I'll need to renew it on a daily basis until we're ready to do the transplant."
"It will make you drowsy," she warned.
"Then let's wait on the shot until after they leave, but take the IV out now, please. Needles freak Cody out and I don't want him to see me like this."
"Of course," she said. He felt the line withdraw, and a warm trickle of blood slid down his neck. A moment later it was wiped away, and something sticky was laid on top of the hole. "It's a Green Space Ranger band aid," she told him with a smile in her voice. "I'm thinking Cody will like that."
"What's not to like?" Garrett deadpanned. "Thanks, Doctor..."
"Reynaud. Rickie Reynaud. Like the fox."
"The cartoon fox?"
"The cartoon was actually named for me," she confided. "My dad was the lead animator."
Garrett smiled, and it felt strange on the new, tight skin of his face. "No wonder you're up to speed on all the latest kid fads."
"Yeah, I'm good that way. I'll let them know you're ready for them."
"And on that note," Jezria added, "I'll be off. I'll be back this evening, Garrett."
"Thanks." He heard the two women walk away, their heels clicking in a way that men's never seemed to, not even when they wore stilettos. Maybe it was something in the hips...
His admittedly inane train of thought was derailed by the entrance of someone else with noisy feet, but noisy in an entirely different way. "Garrett!" The rapid feet stopped next to his bed. "Your hair is gone!"
"I know," Garrett said, trying to point his face in Cody's direction. "I'll grow some more soon though."
"You look weird," Cody said uncertainly. "And your eyes aren't open."
"He's not gonna be able to see for a while, bucko, I already told you that," Jonah admonished as he sat down on the edge of Garrett's bed. Garrett felt the mattress move a little, felt the warmth of Jonah's body and caught the scent of him, so ephemeral he couldn't even name it as anything other than Jonah. He took in everything he could, and when Jonah laid a hand on his leg, for the first time since he woke up Garrett felt the low-level panic he'd been feeling recede.
"How ya feelin?" Jonah asked softly.
"Not too terrible. All things considered."
"You missed dinner," Cody said indignantly.
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Cody..." his father began warningly.
"We missed you," the child continued. One of his small hands found its way into Garrett's. "It's been sad without you."
"Oh." Garrett really didn't know how to take that. Part of him wanted to be annoyed, but most of him was aching, with loneliness and a stupid sense of hope that he would never, ever admit to. "I missed you too. Both of you."
"They said you were sleeping."
"I was. I missed you even in my sleep."
"Me too," Cody confided.
Jonah cleared his throat. "What's the word, Garrett?"
"My transplants won't be ready for another two standard weeks," he said, not quite as matter-of-factly as he would have liked. "Since I live alone, that means I get to spend the next few weeks in here. I'm hoping they'll send someone for my own clothes though, because these," he plucked at the scrubs, "never make anyone look good."
"You'd make a paper bag look good, darlin'," Jonah told him, and he squeezed Garrett's knee. "And we were thinkin'...maybe you'd like to shack up with us. Until you're better."
Garrett froze for a moment, then shook his head. "I'm sorry, I think the drugs must be affecting my hearing. Did you just say you want me to live with you?"
"Better n'staying in here, isn't it?" Jonah asked defensively.
"But you—" Garrett tried to keep his voice from rising, but he was tired, and the panic was coming back. Jonah seemed to notice.
"Hey, bucko, could you go chat up the Doc for a minute? Ask what we'll need to do to take Garrett home with us?"
"Sure!" Noisy feet scampered off again, and then it was just Garrett and Jonah, and Garrett exploded.
"What the fuck do you mean, move in with you? Where do you get off telling me it's all right for me to stay at your place if I'm something useless you can put wherever you want, like some kind of goddamn decoration, when you won't even give me the courtesy of sleeping with you in your bedroom—just sleeping!—when I'm fully functional?"
"How does my being blind make it easy for you to open the door, so to speak? Do you get off on helplessness? Do you like having people be utterly dependent on you?"
"You're not helpless," Jonah snapped. "And neither is Cody, so take that line of thinkin' and shut it the hell down right now. You won't be totally dependent on us; 'n fact you'll have more independence once you get used to things there than you'd have here, and God knows how you love your independence." There was a bitter note to his voice that Garrett had never heard before, or at least never noticed.
"I'm offerin' this now because you need it, Garrett, and we need it too. Not because I want you to feel indebted to me, not because I'm tryin' to make up for being an ass earlier about you stayin' over, but because Cody and I have missed you like crazy for the past three days and I don't wanna keep missing you when I don't have to. I want you with us. With me."
"But..." Garrett felt the flames of his anger flicker out almost as quickly as they'd fanned up. "I can't really follow all this right now," he confessed, his voice small and tired. "I'm scared, and I'm still exhausted, and my fucking head is starting to hurt." It was, too, burning as though a needle was heating up right behind his eyes.
Jonah gently clasped Garrett's face between his hands. "I'll get the doc to give you somethin'. We can figure all this out tomorrow."
"No." Garrett laid his hands over's Jonah's, only fumbling a little. "Please. I do want to stay with you." Even though it frightens the hell out of me. "I really do."
Soft, dry lips briefly touched his. "Then I'll get to doc to give you somethin', and then we'll take you home."
"Pleasure's all ours, darlin'." Garrett was kissed again, a little slower, a little more thoroughly. "It's all ours."
The next time Garrett woke up, he was just as disconcerted as the time before. Only now he was lying on his side, curled against a tall, lean body on a firm bed, covered with a sheet. It felt like a dream. It felt like a beautiful, excellent, latently lascivious dream, and he felt warm and happy and content, and so rather than open his eyes he snuggled further into his bedmate's side and reached a questing hand beneath the sheet.
A low chuckle interrupted him. "Don't think you're quite awake enough for that, darlin'."
Oh. Oh. Holy shit, it wasn't a dream, Garrett never got turned down in his dreams. That either made this a nightmare or...he tried to open his eyes and couldn't. No, still a nightmare, just a waking one. Although the fringe benefits of his current situation were pretty damn pleasant.
Recent memories crept back into his mind. They'd left the infirmary and gone to Garrett's apartment just long enough to grab his toiletries and clothes and, after a moment's pause, his journal. Garrett had never even gotten out of the wheelchair, although he figured he could find his way inside of his own place easily enough. He'd heard voices in the halls, murmurs, quiet exchanges of question and answer, and it bothered him more than he could say. Garrett liked to be in control of his surroundings. If something or someone rubbed him the wrong way he changed it, either by manipulating it or modifying his own actions. Now there was nothing he could do, no way to change himself to diminish the attention because he tacitly wasn't in control of himself. He had to rely on Jonah, Cody, Rickie and Jezria, and he both wanted their care and despised himself for wanting it.
Jezria had been very approving of the plan for him to stay with Jonah, even giving the pilot a week off from work to help care for Garrett. She came to meet them at his apartment, and together she and Jonah picked out clothes they knew Garrett liked, things they knew he needed and asked him enough questions to distract Garrett from himself. Cody had ridden along on Garrett's lap, begging the whole time to go faster, faster, and Garrett had been relieved when Jonah firmly said no.
Rickie then met them at Jonah's apartment and talked at length about the importance of counting steps, of keeping clothes and toys off of the floor (which was met with a brief flurry of activity) and especially of being patient all around.
"I'll keep monitoring your brain chemistry," she added quietly to Garrett at the end of her visit. "But if you start to feel depressed—really depressed, Doctor Caractacus, not just out of sorts or unhappy or impatient—let me know immediately, and keep talking to Jonah, okay? He wants to help you."