Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: mm sci-fi, mpreg
The minute Gregor left his room the next morning Zero was on him and barely gave him room to breathe. It made Gregor's hands sweat with the need to have the guy far away from him.
Every time he turned around, there zero was, watching him. Evaluating him. Taking the weigh and measure of him. Waiting for him to tumble and fall into Madness.
Gregor hated being kept on edge, but Zero was constantly watching him. It made him feel as if his skin was becoming too tight and he didn't know what to do. Everyone was expecting him to breed with Zero and the entire Duadenora family kept pushing them together.
The Family's expectations weighed down on him and every time he saw Zero he felt all that expectation like hands around his neck. Soon all the life and fire would be choked out of him and he would be resigned to his fate as the living incubator for the next generation of Duadenora babies.
It scared him. To realize how helpless he was.
His life was tied to those greater than his own and he would be the prize in the games they played. It was a bit outrageous that no one had ever asked him his preference. Because he wasn't important enough for anyone to care about his opinion.
Escaping from Zero was harder than he'd thought--the man clung close and there was never a moment to be alone--but finally Gregor managed to get away. Without anyone noticing.
Gregor slipped out through the French-style door and ran until his foot touched the stone walkway. then he let himself relax into a slow stroll around the garden. He needed the peace to be alone with his thoughts, and in the daylight the garden was vibrantly in bloom and the clear air let him pretend that he wasn't a prisoner in his own life.
A golden cage was still a cage. Even if everyone seemed to think he should be happy.
He would live the rest of his life in pampered luxury. His children would grow up members of a powerful Family, their position secured in Society. He would never again have to worry about getting enough to eat or ending up on the wrong side of the Law. because he was a precious Third, the hope of the nation. He was a valued commodity.
So why did he feel like clawing at the walls and chewing his own leg off to escape? What was wrong with him that he couldn't be happy at the idea of being taken care of?
Why do you have to be so contrary? he asked himself.
The only answer was the formless desire for more. Biology wanted him to give into the idea of spending the rest of his life spreading his legs to someone like Zero and squeezing out baby after baby until he got too old. But his brain...
He wanted something more than this life. He wanted to know that he'd lived a life worth living. That he had known love and happiness and that he hadn't simply given up.
I want to live!
It shook him to realize how much he wanted to live his life. Luxury and warm contentedness meant nothing when every part of him felt like he was trapped. His freedom had been taken from him and everyone looked at him as though he should be overjoyed at the loss.
They were so sure that he should be happy that only Park ever tried to help him fit into this new life. The rest of the Family looked at him as though he should be grateful that they were bothering to accept him.
He touched the large purplish-red bloom erupting out of a rather drab brown bush and marveled at the beauty. The petals were dewy against his skin, velvety soft, and the scent made his lips quirk in a reluctant smile.
The Duadenora Family's private garden was nearly as good as the Public Gardens. Better because there was no rail to keep him away from the plants and there weren't tourist groups everywhere. It didn't seem fair that they kept such beauty for themselves.
He'd lived his whole life in the city. He was used to nature being locked away in large, square buildings. But even he felt that it was selfish of the Families to keep the best of everything for themselves.
They're going to keep you too.
His hand squeezed too hard and a petal broke and fell limp across his palm. He looked at it for a long moment before flipping his hand over. The petal twisted and danced before touching the ground, where it would wither away to nothing.
Gregor stuck his hands in his pockets to keep from touching--ruining--anything else. He continued his stroll through the garden and imagined that he was alone in the world.
He wanted to be in the moment and ignore everything that was to come.
The Heat was building--he could feel it closing around him--and he would lose his last chance to just be himself.
Because he would be a father and a mate. He would be sucked into the Duadenora and Gregor Tierney would disappear forever.
He tipped his head back and looked up at the blameless sky.
It felt silly to be afraid, to have so much dread for the future. But he'd never liked being helpless and that was exactly what he was.
To Families like the Duadenora he was a commodity to be owned. They would swallow him up and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Because he was a Third and they wouldn't let him be anything else.
He was sitting on one of the benches in the garden when Zero found him. With his head tipped back, letting the wind run through his hair.
Getting outside had let him smooth away some of his tensions. He felt more balanced than he'd been. Not so much resigned to his fate, but accepting that he would just have to keep moving forward. There was no reason to angst over the things he could not change.
"What will be, will be," he said, meeting Zero's eyes.
Zero held out his hand. "Everyone has been looking for you. I might win a prize for having been the one to find you."
Gregor took Zero's hand and was surprised to find it was a little smaller than his own. They were close to the same height, though Zero was actually slenderer than his clothing suggested. He wasn't as imposing a presence as Park managed to be.
"Take me inside," Gregor said. "I think I want to steal a mug of that hot cocoa I saw the children drinking earlier."
The smile on Zero's face was bright. He tugged Gregor with him back toward the door.
Gregor forced himself to stop wishing for something else.