Paradigm Shift 29

Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
World: ParaShift

Everyone just seemed to take his Third status as an invitation to ignore the boundaries of personal space. It was as though he'd somehow become public property.

It was driving him insane.

Gregor crossed his arms and hoped that he looked closed off enough that Tersoe caught a clue and backed away. "Every First I've come across has sniffed me, as have some Twos. I'm not sure how to handle it."

"Hm." Tersoe gave him a serious look. "Finding out you're a Third was a shock. Imagine my surprise finding out that you were the Third Rutherford was crowing about. I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to say."

"Congratulations?" Gregor suggested. "That or full sympathies."

"You're not happy being a Third?" Tersoe asked.

"Would I have hidden what I am if it was something I'm jumping for joy over?" Gregor snorted. "Most times it feels like something that was done to me, rather than something I was born as. I hate feeling so itchy in my skin."

Tersoe reached out as though to touch Gregor's arm and Gregor braced himself for the contact--there wasn't a whole lot else he could do without offending a powerful Judge--but Park got there first. He just kind of stuck his hand in the way at the last second.

"Blessed Tierney is Claimed by my Family," Park said. His expression was unreadable, but his dark eyes were focused and sharp. There was an air of danger around him.

Gregor was definitely not aroused.

He subtly crossed his legs and tilted his body to the side where the air was clear of the scent of Park's skin. He felt hot and his shorts were tight. Just that fast, with a few words from Park and the smell of him, and Gregor was desperate for a quiet moment and a quick meeting with his hand.

He supposed it was a good thing he wasn't so far gone that he'd forgotten all the reasons why jumping Dylan Park would be a bad idea. Though it was only a matter of time before he lost all his senses and let his body take over.

Being so far out of control was terrifying. It felt as though he was losing himself.

He'd never bought the hype about how much their biology controlled Thirds. It had seemed like propaganda to keep Thirds down. Except now he could practically feel his responses and instincts being rewritten. He was being shaped into someone else.

Gregor realized he must have let his mind drift when the conversation happening around him snapped into focus with Tersoe's words: "When he turns down your Claim, I will be there with a Claim of my own." Tersoe's voice shook with passion. "I will take him far away from your Family and show him all of the wonders of the world and we will be happier together than your Family could ever make him."

Gregor bit his lip to keep from saying anything scathing. He didn't appreciate being talked about as though he were a possession to be owned.

Tersoe's kind words *to* him meant nothing when the man was talking about him as though he had no free will and his future was already decided. It was disgusting and insulting.

He could feel himself becoming enraged and it took all of his self-control to remain seated on the bench and do nothing more than clench his hands together in his lap. His surging hormones wanted him to punch Tersoe in the face for his presumption, but Gregor wasn't *that* far gone. Yet.

"Perhaps it is time for you to return inside, Judge Tersoe," Park's voice was smooth as glass. "Grandfather said earlier that there was something he wanted to show you tonight."

When Tersoe turned to Gregor with that romantic glint back in his eye, Gregor looked down at his hands in his lap. "It will all work out, you'll see," Tersoe said. He made to touch Gregor on the top of the head, but Park shifted obviously and his hand retracted. "I will speak to you again."

Gregor didn't say anything. His throat felt squeezed tight from holding the words in, but he didn't say anything. Not until the sound of footsteps faded away and he could look up and see that they were alone.

"I want to go to my room," he said, glancing at Park. "Right now."

Wordlessly, Park led him out of the garden and in through a side door. They didn't meet anyone on the way and Gregor could only be thankful. He didn't know what he would have done if someone had stopped them to talk, but it wouldn't have been polite.