I hate God's War. It's terrible. But the idea of the cyborgs getting psionic power upgrades fascinates me and has far too much potential to waste on such a bad story. So, I took it and this is the result.
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“Damnit, GB, don’t—”
Francoise didn’t even flinch at the now familiar sound of a body hitting the ground at high speed. Even the stream of Sicilian invective that followed didn’t get more than a slight frown – and did her voice really get that shrill or was it just Jet?
Instead, she focused on carefully preparing a mug of tea. She’d already broken three cups over the past day, not to mention the crushed doorknob; she wanted to avoid breaking anything else due to her not being used to Junior’s strength. She just really needed a little calm and quiet to get used to this, but…
Another crash echoed in from outside, closely followed by Jet yelling, “It’s not that hard! Ease up on the thrusters!”
She loved her boys, she really did, but ‘calm and quiet’ would never describe most of them.
By process of elimination, they’d quickly figured out that Albert had ended up in Ivan’s body. Ivan, who had just started his two-week sleep. Ivan, who was now sitting in Joe’s body, staring at his own unconscious form.
Ivan had to wonder if this was how the others felt when he was asleep during an emergency.
Idly, Ivan flexed Joe’s hand, watching the long, adult fingers curl and straighten. Technically, the situation wasn’t an emergency. Inconvenient and uncomfortable, yes, but nothing they couldn’t live with for a couple weeks.
Inconvenient and uncomfortable and very slightly creepy. Ivan looked up into GB’s face and saw Junior’s patient gaze looking back. “It’s time for dinner.”
Ivan nodded, carefully standing up and slowly left the room. Junior stayed close, but let him walk on his own.
Laundry day in the Gilmore household could be interesting, given that the various adventures they had were not easy on their clothes. Francoise was thankful that her turn had fallen on one of the less interesting weeks; the most she had to do was gather up the stray clothes that inevitably ended up strewn around.
Her circuit through the house – surprisingly short, resulting in a shirt from the lab and a pair of pantyhose that were most definitely not hers in the bathroom – ended in the den, where Junior sat reading a book. She dropped a kiss on his temple and reached for the sweatshirt piled in the throw blankets next to him.
Junior caught her hand just before she grabbed the cloth. At her surprised look, he raised a finger to his lips and tilted his head down.
Now that she was giving it more than a glance, Francoise could see the fall of red hair coming from the hood and the hand loosely grasping Junior’s shirt and the whole thing resolved into Jet taking a nap in the hoodie he’d stolen from Junior ages ago. The hoodie he only wore when he was having a particularly bad day.
“Did he say what’s wrong?” Francoise asked in a whisper, carefully pushing the hood back to brush her hand over Jet’s forehead. He shifted at the touch, the edge of strain in his face smoothing out.
“Nightmares, I think,” Junior murmured back, and Francoise nodded. They all had them, and they had their own ways of coping. There were certainly worse ways to get through the day.
With one last brush over Jet’s hair, Francoise hefted the laundry basket and smiled at Junior. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” She started humming as she left the room, the soft sound drifting in her wake.
Breath in, two three four, breath out, two three four. Francoise breathed in the steam of her tea in time with the music playing on the radio, some slow song that had been new when she’d been in the labs. The house held that particular silence that only came when everyone else there was asleep; she wasn’t usually up that early, but she also didn’t normally share a bed with the house’s earliest riser – and didn’t that thought bring heat to her cheeks and a smile to her lips. He’d pressed a kiss to the corner of her lips with a murmured apology for waking her before he’d left for his daily walk. She’d been in too good a mood to go back to sleep.
So, tea and music, with a second mug ready to be poured when Junior returned.
When he did, he pressed a kiss into her hair before listening to the radio. “My parents used to play this.”
“I’d heard it before. It’s nice.”
He hummed his agreement and offered his hand. “Want to dance?”
“I still think of him when I look at the stars.”
Hilda finished pouring the tea, breathing in the fragrant steam. “I know.” She placed the cups on a small tray along with a small plate of cookies. “You probably always will.”
“Do you mind?”
“I could never mind you still loving him.” She set the tray on the coffee table and crossed to where Francoise was looking out the window at the clear winter night. Hilda wrapped her arms tight around Francoise’s waist and snuggled her chin down onto the younger woman’s shoulder. “Joe will always be a part of you, just as Albert will always be a part of me. I never expect that to change.”
It was close to what Hilda had said that night on the beach, holding Francoise as she fell apart. Her wailing sobs were something Hilda’d never had time for, between her kidnapping and conversion and just trying to survive in the future world she’d found herself in, but the grief… she knew the grief.
Francoise wouldn’t have to be alone with it.
And now, years later, she kissed Francoise’s cheek and made a promise to the men who’d gone ahead that together, they would be fine.
“Is this legal?”
“What?” Francoise leaned closer to Pyunma, oddly unwilling to take her eyes from GB and Chang’s discussion on whether the ceremony should be performed by Elvis or Frank Sinatra.
Pyunma shifted beside her – probably elbowing Jet again, trying to get him to stop laughing – before elaborating. “Neither of them are American citizens. Can they legally get married here?”
Francoise could feel her forehead crease at the question. “I’m not sure it’s legal for two men to get married here.” That wasn’t a topic anyone thought to update her on. She was sure, though, that GB and Chang weren’t about to let that stop them.
They’d stopped here because everyone was climbing the walls, snapping and arguing as they made their way home. For the sake of their continued good health (Pyunma would kill anyone that damaged the Dolphin during an argument), they’d decided to make a pit stop at the nearest city.
The nearest city had been Las Vegas.
They’d scattered almost as soon as they’d booked hotel rooms, eager to spend a few days not in each other’s pockets and planning to meet back at the Dolphin in three days. Barely a day had passed before GB had contacted everyone, panicky and excited and insisting that everyone had to come meet him, it was important, as soon as possible!
More than a few of them quickly hid guns when everyone arrived at a small chapel instead of a Black Ghost attack. Francoise was fairly certain the minister thought they were a very strange gang.
GB and Chang met them in front of the chapel, happy and beaming. Jet had taken one look at their matching ‘I <3 Las Vegas’ t-shirts and burst out laughing.
He was still laughing even as GB and Chang arranged themselves at the front of the chapel (they’d gone with Frank Sinatra; Francoise couldn’t help but approve). She tuned out whatever Pyunma was doing to quiet him, even tuned out what the minister was saying, and just… watched.
Chang and GB didn’t look like they were paying any more attention to the minister than she was. GB had a bouquet tucked under one arm, his free hand clasped in both of Chang’s, and they were smiling at each other. Not the wide, beaming grins they’d greeted everyone with, but something quieter and far more content than Francoise could remember seeing either of them.
She couldn’t help it. She sniffled.
A hand slipped into hers; she looked to her left. Joe wasn’t looking back at her, but gently squeezed her hand. Across the aisle, Albert did send her a small smile as he handed Dr. Gilmore a handkerchief, and Junior held Ivan up higher to get a better view. She glanced to her right; she couldn’t tell if Jet was still holding back snickers, but he’d wrapped his arm around Pyunma’s shoulders.
She looked back up front, holding in another sniffle, and returned Joe’s hand squeeze as Chang and GB kissed.
* * *
“You could have given us some warning,” Albert said as they left the chapel, making room for the next wedding party.
Chang waived the complaint. “It was spur of the moment. We were lucky they had an open slot.”
“Still, we could have at least dressed up if we’d known,” Francoise said.
“I don’t know, Frannie. The bride looked lovely.” Jet shot a grin over his shoulder at GB, only to get hit in the face with the bouquet.
“I’m sure the next bride will be even lovelier, right 008?” GB answered, smugly draping an arm over Chang’s shoulders.
Francoise fell back to walk next to Junior and Pyunma, briefly considering saving the bouquet from Jet – it didn’t deserve to be battered over GB’s head like that.
“I’m sure the wedding will be lovely,” Junior told Pyunma, voice dry as the desert.
Pyunma chuckled. “I’m sure.” His face took on a thoughtful edge, and he bumped Francoise’s shoulder. “Maybe someday, right?”
Francoise felt herself blush, but couldn’t help glancing back to Joe. “Yes. Maybe someday.”
“Are you all right?”
Joe rolled his shoulder again, wincing at the feel of the synthetic muscles tightening and pulling at his real muscles. “I’m fine. I’m just a little sore.”
Junior gave him an even look, then put the folded blanket down on the bed. “Sit down.”
Joe gave him a confused look, but set down his pile of pillowcases and sat on the half-made bed. He felt the bed shift as Junior sat behind him, places his hands on Joe’s shoulders, and squeezed.
Joe groaned as Junior started a slow massage, his strength obvious even in the gentle press of his fingers. He couldn’t help a few more happy noises escaping as knots he hadn’t even been aware of came undone. It only took a few minutes before Joe melted back against Junior’s chest with a happy sigh.
“Better?” Junior asked, placing a kiss on Joe’s head. Joe just made a small noise of contentment, his eyes sliding shut for a moment before a light tap sounded at the open door.
Francoise stood in the door, a blush high on her cheeks as she stared at them. Joe instantly sat up straighter, reaching out for her. “Francoise?”
She visibly shook herself and took a step towards the bed. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she said, even as she let Joe draw her into Junior’s arms. She glanced at the piles of bedding around them. Joe followed her gaze and winced.
“We’ll finish making the bed before we head down. We got distracted.”
The blush snapped back over Francoise’s cheeks. “I heard.” She shifted slightly, leaning more into Joe’s side. “It… sounded very different.”
Junior’s laugh rumbled through both of them when Joe realized exactly what she meant and buried his face in Francoise’s shoulder, his own blush as bright as hers.
003’s smile is tense when she brought his bottle, a low wave of dread emanating from her unchecked. It was too familiar, too similar to how she felt when she knew she was going out for a field test. Except no one else in the house had that same tension.
*003? Is something wrong?*
Her smile faltered slightly. “I just have a headache.” She gathered him up, her touch a little stiffer than usual. “I always get one before a storm.”
Ivan considered this as he had his bottle. He knew how storms worked, had seen memories of them from the others (the storm started shortly after the field test started, thunder blending in with the rumble of tanks, sending static across 003 ears, shorting out 002’s sensors, making an already horrible task that much worse) but that was all. He’d always been tucked safe in the lab during the worst weather out of worry for his health.
Given the circumstances, 003 had never thought about the more normal ways storms affected her, so it never occurred to Ivan that it was something to consider.
“Hmm?” She put the empty bottle on the coffee table, rubbed his back until he burped. As soon as she settled him back in her arms, he reached up to touch her cheek and gave her mind the slightest nudge.
Slowly, 003’s eyes slid shut, and her grip on him loosened. Ivan caught himself and levitated back to his bassinet. 003 fell asleep to pass by the worst of the storm, and Ivan settled in to listen as the rain began to fall.
“But what if he doesn’t like it?” Joe looked back around the doorframe at the lone person in the library.
“It’ll go fine.” Francoise followed his gaze. “You won’t know unless you try, right?”
“I know, but…”
Jet snorted, pushing away from the wall to clap a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “You’re not going to find out just standing here staring at him.” The supportive hand turned into a firm shove. “Go on, lover boy.”
“We’ll wait for you by the side door,” Francoise called, and the two of them were gone down the hall.
“Traitors,” Joe muttered after them. He turned back to the library, only to see he’d gained some attention. “I, uh. Hey Tsutomu.”
Tsutomu waved in greeting, motioning an invitation towards the chair opposite him. Joe shook his head slightly, making sure he was facing Tsutomu as he spoke.
“Thanks, but I can’t stay long. Junior’s picking us up soon. I just wanted to, uh, give you this.” He dug through his backpack and tried to ignore Tsutomu’s surprised look when he slid a red envelope across the table. “And, uh.” He could feel his face flush as he carefully signed the words Mr. Kozumi had helped him learn before turning and darting out of the library. “Okay, see you tomorrow!”
“Oh no,” Francoise murmured, her voice full of amusement and exasperation, as Pyunma excused himself and slid out of the booth.
“Not a word,” Pyunma said, not looking back as he headed for the bar.
Junior leaned down, pulling Francoise closer to his side so he could quietly ask, “Is something wrong?”
The glance Francoise sent him showed she wasn’t fooled in the slightest, but she leaned into his side just the same. “Just watch.”
He did. Pyunma made a beeline to where Jet waited at the bar, the woman on the stool next to him leaning in close. Pyunma wrapped his arm around Jet’s waist as he joined the conversation, and while Junior couldn’t see his face, the woman suddenly leaned back.
“Does this happen often?”
“Not as often as it used to,” Francoise admitted, turning her attention away from the couple at the bar. “I think they’ve talked about it.”
Junior glanced back at the bar, took in that Jet had curled his hand over Pyunma’s even as he finally got the bartender’s attention. “I think,” he murmured, “that they understand each other.”