Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
"I never tried to fool you about my identity. It was just something that happened." Tersoe sounded so defensive that Gregor wanted to laugh.
"Neither one of us was completely honest," Gregor said. "We both screwed things up," he turned to face Tersoe, "not that it matters very much."
"What do you mean?" Tersoe asked.
Gregor gave him a disbelieving glance. "We are two entirely different people. Could you imagine having been stuck with me all these years?"
It was obvious Tersoe wanted to defend his dream of perfect happiness, but Gregor looked at him until he gave in. "Are you any less wild?"
Gregor snorted. "I'm not dead yet," he said. "Party til you drop."
There was a tinge of regret in Tersoe's expression, but also relief. He'd been carrying an axe to grind for years, and finally he knew that it couldn't have worked.
"It would have been a nightmare," he said.
"Yeah." Gregor smiled. "We would have been the kind of terrible for each other that ends up on the news."
Tersoe barked a laugh. "Probably." He quieted and looked at Gregor. "Would you have been happy with me? No, I think you would have grown tired and completely crushed my spirit before leaving forever." He sounded rueful.
"You make me sound like I crush men's balls on a regular basis." It was one thing to call himself a jerk, it was different when someone else implied it. For some reason, it made Gregor feel like starting a fight. Until he remembered how close he was to going to prison.
"I don't think you really mean to be such an overwhelming force of nature. It's just the way you are." Tersoe shook his head. "You're the kind of person that's almost painfully true to himself, and never mind the hurt feelings you leave in your wake."
Gregor was vaguely horrified by how emotional the Judge was getting. It was what he'd been aiming for in the hopes of being let off the hook for the sake of nostalgia, but it was still upsetting to see Tersoe looking so vulnerable.
"I never meant to hurt you," Gregor said. He walked toward the delicate looking metal framed bench and sat down on the wooden seat. "I hurt myself too."
"We could…" Tersoe let his half-formed suggestion fade away into silence. It seemed that he'd learned to read faces.
"The Duadenora have a Claim on me," Gregor said, staring back over the darkened garden. It looked strangely larger and smaller from this perspective.
"So you are joining their Family?" Tersoe asked, coming to sit beside him.
Gregor shrugged. "Who knows what the future might bring?" He could feel Park's gaze on the side of his face; the man had followed them on their garden stroll, a silent shadow. "I haven't decided anything. I'm just getting used to the idea that my life is going to change at all."
Tersoe leaned close and drew in a long breath through his nose. "You smell good. *Very* good."
Gregor edged a little away. "So I've been told," he said, trying to play it casual. He didn't want to show how uncomfortable the idea of being sniffed made him. So his body was producing pheromones, that didn't mean he was open for business.