Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi
He pushed himself away from the pool edge and let his feet go over his head in a dolphin-flip before swimming toward the other end of the pool and back in a quick lap. He needed a chance to regain his control. Otherwise he would end up saying something unfortunate.
His mouth had gotten him into trouble before.
By the time he looked back, Zero was gone. Probably off flirting with the pretty girls he so obviously preferred. It was a relief.
Gregor ignored everyone around him and set about enjoying the luxury of swimming. Of floating weightless, forcing most of the air out of his lungs so he could bob along with just his face poking above the surface. Of kicking with his legs and working his arms to charge across one end of the pool to the other. Of just feeling the water run over his heated skin, cooling him and letting him think with a brain unclouded by lust.
He stayed until the skin of his hands and feet were wrinkled, long past the point that Zero and his friends had left for other entertainments. They'd entreated him to come with them, but their laughter and mindless joy grated on his nerves. The Governor on the pool would keep him from drowning. He was perfectly fine alone, communing with the water and desperately seeking some kind of center.
He hated how helpless he felt. Caught up in the machinations of those more powerful than him, and helpless to his own biological imperatives.
He hated everything.
By the time Gregor dragged himself out of the pool, his legs were trembling with weakness and he felt a satisfying sense of exhaustion. His whole body was limp and loose and he didn't feel so much like bursting out of his skin in frustration.
There were things he had no power over, things he could not change. He would make the best of the situation he found himself in. He would remember who he was and where he came from.
*I am Gregor Tierney, son of Desmond Tierney and Kincaide Wilkes. I am strong and I will live.*
Stumbling on shaky legs toward the chair where he'd left his towel, he wasn't surprised to see Park sitting there waiting. He was too tired for surprise.
"I should have known you'd enjoy the pool considering the amount of time you spend in the bath." Park held out the towel, his black gloves stark against the white fabric. He was in full uniform, not even caring about the moisture in the room.
Gregor wiped his face and arms first, then patted his chest and stomach; both areas were sore, the skin lightly discolored. He felt like a monster, all mottled pseudo-bruised flesh and rearranging parts.
"I love the water. I think I'd spend my whole life in it if I could." Gregor scrubbed his hair, feeling the way it stood up in tufts around his head.
Park chuckled. "I'll have to remember to bring you to the pool more often. I would have brought you before if I'd known how much you love to swim."
Gregor sat on his chair, hugging the towel against his chest. "I didn't know this was here or I would have asked to come. Swimming makes me feel better."
"You seem very natural in the water. Did you ever consider Competition?"
Gregor shrugged like it didn't mean anything. Like he hadn't had his dreams ground out of him. "I wanted to Compete when I was younger, but there was never enough money. Considering I only had the public pool to practice in and I couldn't afford to go all the time, there was no way I could get a scholarship into a training school."
"Well, I think you would have done well in the Battle Arena," Park said.
Gregor couldn't resist a little smile of pleasure. Just hearing the words made him feel lifted up. "Thank you."
"I'm not lying." Park reached out to wipe a trailing drop of water off Gregor's cheek. "Even now I think you could give some of the Competitors a run for their money. You're good."
Title: Paradigm Shift