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.
(Psiborg tumblr tag)
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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.
The medbay was quiet without the other cyborgs hovering in the background. The only noise was the tone of 008’s monitors on the other end of the room. Gilmore listened for any change in the steady beat as he finished repairing 002’s leg. The only sign that 002 wasn’t sleeping through the repairs was how tightly his arms were crossed across his chest.
“What they did to the Cyborgmen, that’s what they were trying to do to D3 and D10, right?”
The question was almost matter of fact; Gilmore kept his eyes trained on his hands, frozen while clearing liquid out of the joint hinge, and took a deep breath. “Yes.” He forced himself to start working again, setting the joint back into place. “I had thought that that line of experiments was abandoned after… after it failed with those two. I suppose it was moved to a different lab.”
002 made a small noise, and Gilmore pretended not to notice when 002’s hands tightened on his arms. Instead he replaced the sliced hydraulic tubes and tried to ignore the memories lurking.
This was likely why the two of them didn’t talk much, Gilmore thought, setting the last connector and starting to reseal the knee. Despite everything, the rest of the cyborgs were still learning the extent of what Black Ghost was willing to do, and by extension what Gilmore was culpable for; 002 had lost any illusions on that front long ago.
“I don’t really remember everything that happened back then.”
Gilmore let the implications of that sink in as he finished working. “Trauma, most likely,” he said, glancing up at 002 and feeling a bit of guilty relief that his eyes were hidden behind his bangs. “It’s possible that you blanked out some events to protect yourself. Though I remember several concussions that likely didn’t help any.” That got a short laugh, and Gilmore smiled for a moment before the gravity of the conversation set back in. “No mind alterants were used on you. Given how long it took for you to learn to fly, no one wanted to risk anything that could cause any setbacks.”
Slowly, 002’s hands relaxed, and he tilted his head until he could peer out from under his bangs. “More setbacks than running headfirst into trees?”
“We could only control so many variables.” Gilmore stood up, his back twinging in protest at straightening after so long hunched over. “Do you think you’ll be able to sleep? I can get a sedative.”
“Nah, I’ll be fine.” 002 didn’t look fine, still pale and tired, but that stubborn light was back in his eyes.
“All right.” Absurdly, Gilmore felt the impulse to ruffle 002’s hair; he settled for laying his hand on 002’ shoulder. “Good night, 002.”
She did wait until after the war, because she was young and optimistic and hopeful. But even she couldn’t wait forever, and she eventually got used to him not being there. She never remarried, but she lived a long, full life in the house they were to share their lives in.
But when she got older, it was clear her mind was starting to deteriorate. She didn’t always remember names, or mistook who someone was. The worst was that she started waiting again. And when she was too bad off to live in that large house all on her own, her family moved her into a hospital, and her favorite nephew offered to take responsibility for her.
She fought so hard against it. He wouldn’t be able to find her if she wasn’t in the house. A few weeks later, her heart just gave out. A peaceful death in her sleep, the doctors said.
Her favorite nephew was a scientist with Black Ghost. He bribed the hospital to place fake death records and took her. Her frail body wasn’t a problem; they just needed her brain. And the house.
They rebuilt the house, made it a weapon, and put her in charge. They built a doll, based off old pictures of her, to act as life support for her brain.
When she woke up, she was the house, the one where he said he’d come back to her. And they showed her her body, young again, so that he’d recognize her when he came back. She would never have to leave.
We’ve done all this for you, they said. We just need you to do this for us.
And she was crying when she said yes.
“I hate you.”
Pyunma hid his smile, easy to do with water weighing Jet’s hair down over his face. “Uh huh.”
“I fucking hate you. I can’t believe you talked me into this.”
“Just come here.”
If anything, Jet’s look darkened even further. But he still sloshed through the water until he and Pyunma were chest to chest. Pyunma just wrapped his arms around Jet’s waist, tucked under his wings. “Ready?” He waited for Jet’s terse nod before letting both of them fall backwards.
Jet jerked as soon as they were underwater, his wings flaring in panic. Pyunma tightened his hold, gently stroking what skin he could reach. “I’ll keep you up. Just focus on moving.”
The words must have been understandable even through the water because Jet blinked at him through the waving mass of his hair. He was still for a moment before he spread his wings, the red of his feathers even brighter against the iridescent blue of Pyunma’s scales, and slowly, carefully, figured out how to swim again.
Cathy knew, as the sole person in town with regular access to the manor, that she’d eventually be inundated with questions. So it wasn’t a surprise when the grocer asked, too casually, as he counted her change, “Anything interesting going on at the magician’s house?”
“You should know me better than that,” Cathy scolded lightly, gathering up her purchases. He laughed, giving her a brief wave before he greeted his next customer.
It was a bit more of a surprise when one of his daughters sidled up to Cathy once she was outside. “Do you know…” she trailed off, her face turning red before she got her courage together. “Do you know if, uh, the redhead, Jet, if he’s sweet on anyone?”
Cathy stumbled in surprise, and the two of them spent a frantic minute making sure none of her groceries fell. “Is Jet…?” she repeated. “I don't…”
Except she did know. They’d forgotten to shut the door, and she’d walked in to change the bed linens. Jet’s wings hid quite a lot, but they couldn’t hide the tenderness in his touch as he traced Pyunma’s face, or the way Pyunma’s fingers tangled in Jet’s hair. The last thing she saw as she backed out of the room was Jet leaning down and resting their foreheads together, their peaceful expressions hidden when she shut the door.
‘Sweet on’ likely didn’t come close.
GB woke to the sounds of a camp already active, despite the dim light telling him just how early in the day it was. The morning chill manifested in the icy cold touch of the basin he slept in, despite the nearby campfire, and he surged over the side as soon as he registered it. He plucked a stray leaf out of his chest as he shifted into his default form and looked about the camp as soon as his eyes reformed.
And immediately had to protect said eyes when Jet took off a few yards away, kicking up sprays of sand with the first few sweeps of his wings before he caught the wind over the lake. Further down the beach, Geronimo sat feeding Ivan, and Pyunma could just be seen floating in the water. GB let his gaze wander over the lake, taking in the tranquility, until he felt a presence at his side. “You don’t get scenes like this in the city.”
“No,” Chang agreed. GB leaned into him, soaking in the warmth the shorter man emanated. He glanced around, checking for their unaccounted teammates, and found them still asleep on the far side of the fire. “Should we wake them?”
“No.” The flames in Chang’s eyes glowed faintly as he looked up. “We don’t know when Dolphin will be back from feeding, so we might as well let everyone rest up. Besides,” he added, sounding more chipper, “it looks like there’s good fishing in this lake.” He pulled away, ignoring GB’s protest, and spooned a mug of soup from a pot buried next to the fire. “Now, go enjoy the morning.”
GB laughed and looped his free arm around Chang’s shoulders in a quick half-hug before he let himself be shooed away. Chang’s cheerful humming followed him as he joined Geronimo and Ivan. Geronimo gave him a nod in greeting when he sat in the sand next to them, while Ivan blinked at him through his fringe. ‘You’re in a good mood.’
“Yes, well.” He tilted his head back, let the breeze run over his face, and watched Jet loop through the perfect blue sky. “It really is a lovely day.”
That first day, 008 found 002 stretched out on Mr. Kozumi’s deck, one hand up to the sky. “Are you okay?”
"Yeah, just getting used to the light."
A Vespa Scooter
“Jet, a scooter does not have a ‘bitch seat’, and,” Albert said, pinching the bridge of his nose, “even if it did, I wouldn’t ride on one.”
“Can I borrow you notes during lunch?”
Jet dug around in his bag, purposefully bypassing the notebook full of sketches of Professor Heinrich instead of linguistics notes. “Sorry, man, I left them in the dorm.
Wild West AU
Albert leaned against the jail bars, staring at his hungover friend. “Do I want to know what you were doing up the water tower?”
“Al, I don’t even remember what I’m doing in New Mexico.”
On their first date, Junior gave Francoise a small bundle of larkspur. She ran her fingers over delicate blossoms and gave him a teasing smile when she asked, “No roses?”
“I didn’t think we should pretend we would stay with tradition,” Junior told her.
Albert held his head in his hands, listening to the security alarm over his headset. “I said to wait until Joe and Francoise ran the distraction.”
GB’s cheerful, “Not to worry, Albert, this is just a momentary issue,” did nothing assuage Albert’s exasperation.
“Do you ever miss being that age?” GB asks, an edge of wistfulness in his voice as he watches their younger teammates on the beach.
Albert leans against the porch railing next to him, two glasses of wine in his hand. “Not if if meant I had to relearn everything I know now,” he says, his shoulder pressing warmly against GB’s.
There's Not a Word Yet (Soulmate AU)
Jet flinched as Junior gently took his arm, fighting the instinct to pull away, to protect himself. Junior cupped the back of his head for a moment, forcing the younger cyborg to look at him. “You’ll be all right,” he said, and went back to removing the piece of shrapnel bisecting his own name.
“It’s an actor’s sleeve,” GB explained, holding out the bundle of fabric. “We wear them when we’re playing roles that need our name marks covered.”
Slowly, Jet took the sleeve from him, accepting it for the apology it was.
Hilda beckoned Albert to her side, not looking up from the cradle. Albert joined her, carefully dragging his finger down Ivan’s cheek.
“Welcome home, Ivan.”
9x13 - Angst
Before they left Tokyo, Joe stopped by the playground again. He sat on the swingset, turning the wooden rabbit over and over. If he concentrated, he could almost smell fresh bread on the wind.
0010 + and - - Before Black Ghost
“You should’ve packed the spare tire,” his brother sang from where he was stretched out on top of the car.
“Shut up and help me flag down this car.” He stuck his hand out, thumb up, as the black car approached.
“When we’re across the wall,” Hilda started, voice soft, “do you think you’ll look for them?”
Albert covered his arm by instinct, scarlet starbursts peeking out from between his fingers. “I don’t know,” he said. He rubbed his thumb across one of the two names scrawled amidst the placeholder marks, the elegant sweep of Francoise curled around his wrist. “I hadn’t thought about it.”
Albert had better things to think about than his soulmates. Jet and Francoise, whoever they were, weren’t anything more than names in red, and the six stars covering the rest of his arm were less than that. Characters in novels had more substance.
They certainly weren’t as important as the woman standing at the stove, her shoulders slightly hunched and her unmarked arms bare. It was two steps from the table to her, and he curled his arms around her waist and tucked her head under his chin.
“Maybe we’ll look for them,” he said into her hair, “but none of them will ever replace you.”
Hilda twisted a little, her smile warm when she looked up. “It’d be nice to meet them.”
“Yeah. It would.”
“You want me to what?” Junior asked, not quite thinking he’d misheard
“Throw me,” Joe repeated, pointing up and over his shoulder. Out the window, Junior could see – and thankfully couldn’t hear – Francoise and Pyunma yelling up at where GB and Jet looked to be playing keep-away with a volleyball. Knowing them, they were just out of reach.
The logic behind Joe’s request was suddenly very clear.
Junior considered. Even with their enhanced durability, Junior’s strength could still easily hurt his fellow cyborgs. Joe knew that, and still asked.
“Alright.”The squawking noise Jet made when Joe slammed into him was incredibly satisfying
“I told you,” Jet said. His smugness at being right was almost drowned out by how nonplussed he was.
“I thought you were kidding.” Pyunma put down the bag of groceries he was holding and stepped over the still-packed boxes in the living room to study the writing on the wall.
The literal writing on the wall. It dripped red and thick down the off-white wall, a scene straight out of a horror movie. Except it was a bright ‘Hello’ scrawled in what Pyunma could tell, now that he was closer to it, was strawberry jam.
They’d been gone all of ten minutes, taking a break of settling into their new apartment to pick up groceries at the bodega two blocks down. More than time for someone to break in, but that someone would’ve been stupid to ignore the TV, unconnected to anything, or the mp3 player sitting on the kitchen counter. And Jet really had told him.
“You had to find a haunted apartment, didn’t you.”
The birth certificate proclaimed that Vincente Esposito was born to Francesco Esposito and Gracia Caro Palomo February 2nd, 1942. It wasn’t hard to figure out whose it was – aside from the birthday, Jet’s current legal name was Vincent – but Pyunma couldn’t think of any reason Jet would hand him a copy of his original birth certificate out of the blue. The flyer scowled at him, waiting for some sort of reaction.
“So what’s this for?”
Jet ducked his head a little, his scowl deepening. “It’s stupid.”
There was a note of uncertainty in his voice, mostly hidden under the irritation, that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know him well; Pyunma’d heard that note too often to miss it. “It can’t be that stupid if you bothered to hunt it down. How’d you get the hospital to give you a copy?”
“Said it was my grandfather’s.” Jet relaxed slightly and shrugged. “I don't know, I guess I want someone to know. And you won’t make a big deal out of it.”
Translating that from Jet-speak turned it into a pretty big declaration of trust. Pyunma accepted it with a nod. “Alright. Tell me.”
“I love you.”
Hilda’s voice broke through the light doze Albert had faded into. He could tell, from the faint slur in her words and the looseness of her arms around his chest, that she was on the verge of sleep herself. In the morning, she probably wouldn’t remember saying anything.
“If it doesn’t work… if we have to stay here for a while longer, I wouldn’t mind as long as I’m with you.”
“Hilda…” Except her breathing had evened out, warm and slow against the back of his neck. He carefully took her hand. “We’ll make it out. We will. And we’ll be together.”
“Dinner is served,” Jet announced, already digging through the bag as he walked into the kitchen. “What do you want to start with?”
“Egg drop soup?” Pyunma hazarded; he’d been dragging his things into the bedroom when Jet placed the order, so the contents of the delivery bag were a mystery. All the same, Jet passed over a container of soup with a grin before unloading everything else onto the floor in front of the couch. “We’re going to need to get a table at some point.”
“We need a bed first.” The matter of fact statement was delivered with a light leer before fading into something a little more serious. “The air mattress isn’t bad, but my friend’s gonna want it back eventually.”
“You could’ve gotten a bed.”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s just…” Jet glanced away, fiddling with his chopsticks. “It’s ours, right?”
Which… yeah, Pyunma knew where Jet was coming from. When he was accepted to Columbia, moving in with Jet rather than living in the dorms had seemed like an obvious idea. The time in between was too swept up in the details of moving between continents for the idea to settle too much, but now, sitting in the nearly empty living room, the fact that it really was theirs was settling in. No more only seeing each other at Prof. Gilmore’s or in flying visits between countries.
Pyunma put the soup to the side and pushed himself up. “How comfortable is the air mattress?”
Jet made a garbled noise around the eggroll in his mouth before hurriedly swallowing. “It’s pretty good. Tired from the trip?”
“Nah. Just figured we don’t have to wait until we go furniture shopping to break in our place, and we never have much luck with couches.”
Storm clouds gathered in the sky, a promise of relief to the humidity that had soaked the city over the past few days. The heavy air was still a relief when Pyunma stepped out of the crowded restaurant. Especially when he saw Jet slouched against the wall a little ways from the door, smoking and staring into space.
Jet’s answering grin was bright and infectious. “Like hell.”
Pyunma laughed, his own smile wide enough to hurt a little, and went to pull Jet into a kiss. It wasn’t a very good kiss, given that neither of them could stop grinning through it, but Jet still made a pleased sound when Pyunma didn’t let go afterwards.
“Seriously, anything wrong?”
“Nah.” Jet flicked ash off his cigarette, glancing over Pyunma’s head back towards the door. “I just needed a break from in there.”
“I hear you.” He reached up and snagged the cigarette, dodging Jet’s halfhearted swipe to take a long drag. Somehow, the party going on inside made things seem far more real than the small ceremony they’d had the night before. Considering how he’d spent a long time not expecting to survive the fighting – before or after Black Ghost – sneaking out of his own wedding reception to have a quiet smoke with his husband never would have crossed his mind.
And he was not going to get tired of saying that, his husband.
Judging by the look on Jet’s face, soft and happy and a little amazed, he was thinking something similar. “We really did it.”
Light glinted off their rings as Pyunma linked their hands, holding tight. “Yeah, we really did.”
Jet woke up with a start, blinking up at Prof. Gilmore and Pyunma’s concerned faces hovering above him. He took a minute to unscramble the mess of sensor afterimages in his head before he said, “The new sensors are pretty strong.”
Tension eased from Gilmore’s shoulders at the statement, and he patted Jet’s shoulder. “We can adjust the sensitivity until you get used to them. Come down to the lab when you’re feeling steady again.”
As Gilmore clambered to his feet, Jet looked up at Pyunma. “Why am I in your lap?”
“You fainted. Straight into my arms.” The tease has a sympathetic edge to it; Pyunma’s own sensor upgrades had gone haywire before. “If you wanted my attention you didn’t have to go to such extremes.”
“You’re face is extreme,” he muttered, snuggling back into Pyunma’s lap and closing his eyes.
“Not gonna get up?”
Jet had very long fingers.
Joe really should’ve been paying more attention to what Jet was actually saying, but his attention wandered with every gesture the flier made. And given that Jet talked with his hands as much as his voice, Joe’s attention was firmly on those fingers. Finally, he set his beer down – and maybe he’d had one too many at this point, that he was having this much trouble concentrating – and grabbed Jet’s hand, carefully sliding his thumbs over Jet’s knuckles. And now that he had that hand, it only made sense to press a kiss to Jet’s fingertips.
It took him another moment to realize Jet wasn’t talking anymore.
The rain was sudden, a few minutes of distant thunder the only warning before a sudden torrent unleashed and 002 said, “Hey, stop the car.”
004 glanced over; the other cyborg had sat up from his sullen slouch in the passenger seat and was staring out the window. “Something wrong?”
“I just want to get out now.”
He could understand that; they’d all been spending a lot of time outside since they’d escaped, but still… “We’re in the middle of a thunderstorm and you want to stop and feel the rain?”
002 finally turned to glare at him. “It makes me feel normal, okay?”
It took a moment, but 004 did remember. Back during the tests, 002 had always complained that the rain muffled his sensors and made it harder to fly. But if they weren’t fighting for their lives right then…
He pulled over.