Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi, mpreg
The feel of the sheets felt oddly rubbery against his skin and he decided he didn’t like it. He drew in a deep breath and sat up. He could feel himself getting a second wind. It would carry him through as long as he didn’t move too fast.
“Can I use your shower? Are there any clothes for me?” He coughed to clear his throat. He must have really been yowling the night before.
“Of course.” Park stood and went to a black lacquered wardrobe with conch shell inlays. Gregor admired the elegant workmanship as Park opened the door and pulled out a white terrycloth robe he shrugged into.
“I promise I didn’t forget you,” Park said. He knotted the robe with casual grace before reaching into the wardrobe for another robe that he tossed to Gregor. “The shower’s through there. I’ll leave clothes for you on the bed.”
“Where are you going?”
Park paused. “I thought I’d make some coffee. Our breakfast should be here soon, so don’t take too long.” The bedroom door clicked shut behind him.
Gregor sat in his pool of sheets for a long moment before he snorted and hauled himself out of bed. He winced as he pulled on the robe and shuffled to the bathroom.
He needed hot water and soap and a few minutes to himself. Then he would be able to eat breakfast and pretend that he wasn’t an inch away from full on panic.
His life was no longer his life. He pushed the thought away and focused on the task of cleaning himself up. Washing away the things he couldn’t remember and the frightening lack of control he’d experienced.
I’m all right. Everything is going to be all right.
He drew in deep breaths and focused.
* * *
Breakfast with Park was oddly pleasant. There wasn’t much conversation, but Gregor didn’t feel pressured to fill the silence either. He was allowed the peace to enjoy the taste of his food.
Cinnamon bread with butter, country fried potatoes scrambled with eggs, and tiny yellow tomatoes. Sweet and hearty; it took everything Gregor had to chew his food and not gorge himself. He still ate a tremendous amount, but he used his silverware and wiped his mouth with his napkin.
He could feel his strength returning minute by minute. He still ached, but it was bearable.
Finally he folded his napkin next to his plate. “So what happens now?”
Park’s expression was serious. “While you were in the shower I received a call from my grandfather. There’s been a legal motion contesting the validity of the mating filed against us.”
“What does that mean?” Gregor couldn’t help the sense of dread he felt. He didn’t know what was happening, but he didn’t think he was going to like it.
“Let’s go sit on the couch,” Park said. “It will be much more comfortable.”
Gregor followed him to the couch. He hadn’t taken the time to notice before, but Park seemed to have a deluxe luxury apartment suite. There was a sliding glass door that opened up on a private glass-roofed courtyard. There was a lush garden surrounding a canopy he pictured himself lounging on. It was a peaceful idea.
“I’m not going to get all weepy and hysterical. Tell me what’s going on,” he said.
Park clasped his hands together on his knee and Gregor couldn’t help regretting the sight of those black gloves. He missed the somehow illicit thrill of bare skin.
“Somehow Judge Tersoe heard that you rejected Zero. He’s questioning the validity of our mating as I wasn’t the one registered to court you. He’s a very powerful man and he’s decided to cause trouble,” Park said.
“What does that mean?” Gregor asked.
“It means that he is contesting last night. You were in the throes of Madness and would have gone to any mate strong enough,” Park said. “If he wins his suit, a ‘proper’ mate will be found for you and you’ll be rematched.”
“What about what I want?” Gregor compressed the fiery ball of rage that wanted to grow inside at the idea of another choice being taken away from him. There was no reason to yell at Park for something he hadn’t done. He would save his anger for Rulf.
“As a Third that has gone through a much delayed first Heat, you have been deemed emotionally compromised. He is trying to push that you be declared unfit to make a rational decision and your interests should be handled by a court appointed guardian.” Park shook his head, a weary crease appearing between his eyes. “I have lost a great deal of respect for Judge Tersoe.”
“Me too,” Gregor said. He laughed, but quickly snapped his mouth shut at how unhinged he sounded.
Too many shocks in too short a length of time. He was headed toward some kind of meltdown and he didn’t think he could stop it. He certainly couldn’t stop the outrage he felt.
“I’m not a child,” Gregor said. “I’m a grown man. How can he relegate my opinions to hormones and give me a guardian? Because I’m a Third do I suddenly not have any rights? Isn’t that a violations of some law?”
“No, it’s not. He is a Judge and has a great deal of power.”
“That he can abuse,” Gregor said.”
Park looked pained. “Please don’t say anything like that where others can hear. Third or not, seditious talk could earn you a public castigation. You could end up in the stocks.”
The thought of being caged in the square for public viewing made Gregor flinch. It was the kind of punishment he hated the most. To be exposed to public speculation and ridicule was worse in his mind than a trip to the Labor Farms.
“Why is he doing this?” Gregor asked. There was a pinched tight feeling inside that he didn’t like, a sense of being trapped. He’d spent his Heat with Park. He’d thought it was over and he would be allowed to find the bright side of things and settle into his new life. So why was the darkness closing in around him? The uncertainty and fear of having control of his life wrested away from him.
He hated the lack of control. Hated being at the mercy of others, his body more important than him.
“I thought it was over,” the words escaped him in a pathetic wail. He cringed at showing such weakness.
Park didn’t try to pat his hand or give him a comforting hug. He was just a solid presence on the couch, the offer of support there should Gregor decide to take it.
“I don’t know why he’s pushing this so hard,” Park said. “But I promise you that I won’t let your choice be taken. Anymore than it’s already been.”
Tears were burning Gregor’s eyes and he turned his face away. He refused to show weakness in front of anyone. Refused to be weak.
“Your Family has pulled me in. I spent my Heat with you and it wasn’t’ terrible, but I don’t like losing control like that. I don’t like having my body overwhelm my mind and not being able to stop it. I am afraid of having children and screwing everything up. I am afraid of losing myself.” Gregor licked his lips and scrubbed his hand over his eyes. “You’re a bearable man, Dylan Park. Things wouldn’t be terrible with you.”
He reached out and grabbed Park’s hand blindly, squeezing tight enough to feel the small bones shift. “You stop this from happening. You stop them from raping my mind and forcing my body. Help me.”
Park somehow turned his hand palm up in Gregor’s grip and their fingers curled together as inexorable as breathing. “I promise that I will do all in my power to help you.”
“But Judge Tersoe is a very powerful man with very powerful friends. Things could get very ugly.”
“Let them,” Gregor said. Anything not to lose himself again. Anything.