Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi
The wanting and the need had become a constant itch, one he'd ceased being able to ignore. The Heat was coming on fast, and his bit of masturbation had only exacerbated things. Medical figured there would only be another two days before the Madness was upon him.
Gregor spent several hours in Zero's company and heard all about his interest in botany. He learned more about cross-hybridization of differing genus groups than he'd even known existed.
Zero was very passionate about his plants, but some of his explanations were very dry. Gregor had to fight down the yawns that kept trying to escape and wasn't sure how to express his lack of interest. So he just smiled and nodded a lot.
It was very obvious that the Family wanted him to hit it off with Zero, but even if they never had anything in common the Family would continue to push the match. Because once the Madness hit, Gregor would happily spread his legs for any fertile First with a penis. The Family would still get its heirs.
Gregor tried not to resent Zero, but it was hard. Zero was a nice guy, but he also represented the loss of freedom Gregor was facing. It was hard to not feel bitter.
It was a relief when a group of Zero's friends showed up because Gregor didn't have to be the focus of attention. He could blend into the crowd around the large indoor pool and enjoy the appetizers being circulated around. Plus he'd always had a thing for water and it had been a long time since he'd been swimming.
"So you do know how to smile."
Gregor pushed his hair off his face and slowly kicked his feet to stay afloat. "What? I smile all the time."
Zero crouched by the pool, still in slacks and a high-collared blue tunic with silver buttons down the front. "You smile, but his is the first time I've seen you really mean it. You like being in the pool."
Gregor shrugged. "I like the water. I like to swim."
"Do you like me too?" Zero asked, and the tilt of his head made Gregor's stomach tighten. Zero was movie star handsome and Gregor was only human.
"Of course I like you," Gregor said. "Have I given you the impression that I felt otherwise?"
"Not in anything you say. I just get the impression that I'm not one of your favorite people."
Zero had incredibly pretty eyes in a pretty face and Gregor got the impression he was supposed to be falling all over himself to get into Zero's pants.
But I've always had a stubborn streak.
"You're a nice guy and I respect you," Gregor said, "but I don't really know you. Yet everyone expects that the two of us are just going to be together. I mean, I never imagined a big romance or even happy ever after, but I would have thought I'd at least know the favorite color of the man I Bond with or his favorite food. I'm going to need time to come to grips with everything."
Zero bit his lip thoughtfully and Gregor hated how turned on it made him. He was in a state of perpetual arousal, and Zero was entirely too pretty for anyone's good.
"My favorite color is blue, and I have a fondness for anything chocolate." Zero rose to his feet with smooth grace. "I'm willing to tell you anything about me you want to know. And I promise I've remembered everything about the times we've met. Even the smell of your hair when you used that new shampoo. Satsuma-raspberry. Very refreshing."
"I'm flattered you want me that much," Gregor said.
"I think I'm already in love with you. I just have to fight to win you over. You don't get sucked in by a pretty face and a few compliments. I'll have to up my game." Zero's grin was surprisingly roguish. Gregor could practically see the powerful and charismatic man he would be in a few years.
"Work hard then," Gregor teased.
The look Zero flashed him was filled with smoky promise. "I'm telling you that I will do my best to win you over. Not for my Family or my Name, but for me. I want you to love me."
Gregor's face felt stretched, his cheeks were burning so hot. He ducked under the water quickly to try and cool his flush. "You should have your ability to flirt declared a weapon of mass destruction. How many people has it gotten in your bed?"
"Hopefully just the one," Zero said, and he looked straight into Gregor's eyes.
Oh, you're good.
From mostly ignoring his existence to pitching some serious woo, it looked like Zero had decided to be serious about pursuing his Family's interests. He probably thought a little bit of flirting would get him past Gregor's guard, because after all, he was only dealing with a hormonal Third.
As long as Zero was at the right place at the right time, he'd be the one to take advantage when the Madness hit. When Gregor was out of his mind and vulnerable, begging for anyone to relieve the Heat.
It made Gregor sick to think about it. Being a commodity to be bought and sold by the State was bad enough. But to think that Zero would cheerily take advantage of him when he couldn't fight back...
Gregor forced a smile, hoping there wasn't a hard glitter to his eyes. "Well aren't you just a charmer."