Dr.J/Pr.G #2 - Once Upon a Time - a Sabintha Story
Sylvia Noventa sighed and pushed up her sleeves. The dust and heat were getting to her, and she stifled yet another sneeze. Since the funeral, she'd spent each day for the past few weeks going through her Grandmother Sophia's personal belongings. She had specifically asked for the task, but it was trying her patience. Did the woman throw nothing out? So far today, Sylvia had found nothing at all worth saving, and the most interesting thing beyond a few boxes of moth-eaten clothes was a case filled with dozens of miniature horse figurines. Thankfully, she was nearly finished and only a short stack of cardboard boxes and a pair of cedar chests remained to be sorted in the attic.
Crouching down and ignoring the creaking complaints of her knees, Sylvia opened the first of the two chests. It was filled with old linen and was nudged aside towards the "done" pile after some effort. Its battered twin, however, was not so easy to dismiss. A tiny padlock kept the lid closed; Sylvia frowned at the rusted metal latch.
She ground her teeth in frustration when the lock didn't wither away magically. Since she was too irritated - not to mention too stubborn - to run downstairs and find a pair of bolt cutters, she decided to do things the hard way. With her fingers curled tightly around the rubberized handle of a box cutter, Sylvia levered the knife's short blade under the latch. Preparing herself for a fight, she pulled back in a powerful attempt to pry the base of the latch away from the wood.
Things proved far easier than she anticipated, and Sylvia was dumped rudely on her butt as the metal pulled free. She cursed softly and settled into a crouch, rubbing her bruised tailbone with one hand, and pushing open the lid of the chest with the other. When she saw the contents, her breath caught in her throat; it was exactly what she'd been hoping to find. The chest's interior was filled with old photographs and letters, many of them from her grandfather back when he was only a Lieutenant.
Sylvia dug through the box excitedly and pulled out a huge handful of photos. She leafed through them quickly, most were variations of a portrait of her grandfather in dress uniform. She set those aside in a neat pile, before she eagerly took out a second handful. A smile spread on her face, for this time, the photos were more interesting.
The one picture that really caught her eye was a group photo with half a dozen teens, dressed in fatigues and tank tops, posing around an Alliance jeep. She spotted her grandfather easily, he was in the front, sitting on the vehicle's hood. He had his right hand on his knee, with a couple fingers slightly raised in a subtle wave at the camera. The nearly burnt out stub of a cigarette hung on his lip and his left elbow was propped up on the shoulder of a slender young man with a toothy grin, wearing a pair of dark, round sunglasses.
Scrawled all around the white margin of the photo were names; Sylvia spent a long time trying to decide which belonged to whom. After she got bored of attempting to match the crabbed handwriting to the slightly blurry faces in the photos, she set the picture aside and started going through the rest. Many of the aged pictures featured one or more of the same teens posing with her grandfather, and one tattered image of an even larger group than had stood before the jeep, had a date stamped at the bottom. A little math told Sylvia the picture was taken when her grandfather was a senior cadet.
When all the photos stood in neat little stacks around her, Sylvia reached in to start nosing through the letters. She was preparing to retreive a bundle of the tattered envelopes, when her fingernail tapped against something hard...
Digital distortion resolved itself slowly into the white and green interior of a barracks room. Occasionally, small sections of the screen were victim to pixilated burps as the camera panned around, rather shakily, to provide a view of the accommodations. Six bunks were lined on both sides of the room, each one with a plain metal trunk at the foot for storing gear. At the back wall, soft yellow sunlight streamed in through a row of small windows and lit up sluggishly drifting motes of dust in the air. The rest of the windows studding the right wall were shuttered closed; the metal slats let no light in at all.
Sitting on the third bunk on the left of the screen was a wiry boy hunched over a tattered notebook. His dark brown hair obscured more than half his face, and he made no sign that he even noticed that the camera had paused on him. He was writing something with an intense look of concentration, oblivious to the bunk directly across from him, where a pair of teens were locked in a vicious arm wrestling contest. They faced off kneeling on either side of the cot's thin mattress; a third boy sitting cross-legged at the head of the bed served as a referee. The taller of the two opponents, whose back was to the camera, had his hair shaved nearly to the skull.
"So this is where you sleep?"
Sylvia smiled at the sound of her grandmother's voice and clutched her pillow tighter to her chest. She was curled comfortably in the huge overstuffed chair that dominated the main room of her flat. This was the third video Sylvia had watched. At first, she'd felt a little melancholy hearing and seeing a youthful version of her grandmother, but now, she looked forward to each rare glimpse of the bright-eyed young woman.
"Yup." The view rotated around to center on the broad-shouldered frame of a seventeen year old Noventa leaning against the doorway. He indulged the camera with a smile and nodded towards the bunks. "Those are my boys. Well, four of them, anyway."
"Hurry up and introduce me!" The screen centered back on the bunks and the four teens.
"Yes, dear," Noventa chuckled. He motioned towards the trio on the right, "The one sitting up there is Harim."
The camera focused on the boy, who looked up from his refereeing to give a small wave to the camera. He looked exceedingly young with a cutely rounded face that hadn't yet lost its babyfat. As the view zoomed in on his face, he tucked a curl of wavy black hair behind his ear and stuck out his tongue. The expression elicited a giggle from the camerawoman, and he laughed as he went back to making sure the other two cadets were playing fair.
"The guy about to lose is Stefan."
The sandy-haired boy with his hair standing nearly straight up glanced up at the mention of his name. His opponent took advantage of his distraction, crying out "Ha!" and slamming his hand down. Having lost after such a prolonged battle, he muttered and rubbed his arm, not consoled in the least by the friendly pat the other youth gave him before turning around.
"And, he's-," Noventa began, gesturing at the victor.
"Ouyang ZhiJian," the Chinese boy said, giving the camera a vaguely smug smile. He chuckled and scratched the back of his head as he added automatically, "You don't have to try and pronounce it, just call me O."
Noventa pointed at the narrow-shouldered boy hunched alone on his bunk. "And, over there is Gunn." His eyes never left the page of his notebook as he made a half-hearted attempt at a nod.
Sylvia fished around in the small shoebox of pictures she'd brought home with her and pulled out the one with the jeep. She smiled; she now had faces for four of the scrawled names. Curiosity still nibbled at her though, and she wondered, of the two wearing sunglasses, which one was Howard and which one was Jun.
"Is this your girlfriend?" Harim asked. "Sophia? The one whom you can't stop talking about?" He scooted to the edge of the bed now that the arm wrestling match was over and leaned forward expectantly, his hands curling over the edge of the mattress.
"That's me! But it's fiancee now!" Sophia squealed happily. She thrust her hand out and the camera got a blurry look at the ring on her finger.
"Damn." O whistled appreciatively. "If you're rich enough to afford that rock, you should buy us a few rounds in town to celebrate."
The screen spun around immediately to focus on Noventa again, who shook his head ruefully, and gave the girl behind the camera a skeptical look. "Are you sure? Do you really want to hang out with these guys?"
"Yes! After all, I /did/ come here to get to know your friends better."
"Alright, but you are _not_ bringing this thing," Noventa motioned his finger at the lens. A heavy gold ring on his finger winked in the light as he reached out and grabbed the camera. "You've been filming all day. And the last thing I need to come back and bite me in the nuts twenty years down the line is some vid of me flashing a fake ID and getting drunk off my ass.
"Besides," he added, as the view bounced and shifted dizzyingly. "If I had known you were already married to a camera, I don't think I would have proposed."
The frame finally stabilized as the vidcam was placed on the sill of one of the shuttered windows. Its lofty perch gave it an excellent view of most of the room, and, as the lens shifted to bring things back into focus, it was able to catch the tail end of a teasing punch that its owner gave her fiancee.
"Fine, fine... did you turn it off before you set it down?" she asked.
"Of course I did," Noventa said, confidently.
Sylvia laughed lightly. She'd lost track of the number of times she'd heard her grandmother ask him, in the exact same tone of voice, about little things like remembering where his keys were; and he'd always answer with such certainty, even if he had no clue where he'd left them.
"Shotgun!" Harim shouted, scrambling around the bunks towards the door.
"The girl gets shotgun, dumbass," O cried, but he leapt up just as fast. He clapped Noventa on the arm as he darted by, hot on the heels of the short black-haired boy, and his voice boomed as he disappeared into the hallway. "Congrats you two!"
Unhurried, the remainder of the three was still rubbing his arm as he added his own congratulations and followed after his friends.
"What about him?" Sophia asked, casting a look over her shoulder as she was ushered out of the room.
"He doesn't want to come," Noventa replied.
"Are you sure?" the girl frowned. "You didn't even ask!"
"G, you wanna come?"
"No." The distracted reply was several seconds tardy.
"See?" Noventa chuckled. He wrapped an arm around his fiancee and steered her out the door.
After a few minutes of watching the dreadfully boring display of the lone boy alternate between writing and chewing on his pen, Sylvia fast-forwarded through the vid to see if it caught the return of her grandparents. Hours sped by with little change, and she was about to eject the disk and try another when the door of the barracks opened and a new figure blurred into view. She slowed the replay to normal, and her eyes widened, her mouth went dry, and the pillow tumbled from her lap.
"They'll be gone for hours," the ponytailed newcomer moaned into Gunn's neck. His fingers were busy untucking the shorter boy's shirt and he had an erection clearly outlined in his pants.
"Oh my god!" Sylvia paused the vid and threw the remote onto the floor. Her heart pounded wildly and her hands trembled as she clasped them tightly over her mouth. She half-laughed and half-screamed as she bit the heel of her palm. Her eyes were glued to the screen; she could hardly believe what she was seeing.
It didn't take that long for Sylvia to get over the initial shock, and then she was scrambling across the hardwood floor to retrieve the remote and reverse the clip.
The door opened and the longhaired teen Sylvia had seen in the photograph walked in purposefully. Small, rounded sunglasses perched on the bridge of his nose and his raven black hair fanned out behind him as he headed directly for the bunk at the right edge of the screen.
"They're going to send troops into space, you know," he said, with a good amount of frustration.
"So what." Gunn's reply was sharp with irritation. "We all expected it."
"What do you mean, so what? I've got family in the colonies."
"Most of us do. Now go away so I can think."
"What are you working on?"
"Nothing. Go away. Leave me alone."
Black hair slid over his shoulder as the taller youth moved over and tried to peer at the notebook his fellow cadet clutched protectively. When a loose sheet of paper slipped out the side, he snatched it up instantly.
"Jun, you nosy asshole." Gunn let the notebook drop to the bed as he attempted to get the paper back. "Just give that back."
"This again?" Jun snorted derisively and threw the paper back at the other boy. "G, when are you going to give up and admit that your whole theory about thermal energy weapons being able to work in water is nothing but a bunch of garbage?"
"O thinks it will work," Gunn shot back as he scooped his papers up. He peered through the heavy veil of his hair at the other boy, who hovered over him, giving him a condescending smirk. "Bite me."
"In that sort of mood tonight, are you?" Jun said, switching gears and swooping down suddenly with an intent to kiss.
"I'm not in any sort of mood," Gunn replied, evading the other boy by rolling away.
"You're definitely in a mood," Jun spat. He lifted his chin and pulled his hair back into a loose ponytail. "That time of the month, is it?"
"That's what I like to hear."
"Damnit. Why do you always twist around everything I say?"
"Cause the more we fight, the more we get to kiss and make up."
"Don't you ever think of anything besides sex?"
Jun stretched his neck out as he worked at the top button of his uniform. "I came looking for you with an intent to discuss something serious, but you're too busy with your precious theory to listen to what I," he paused momentarily as his fingers undid the tight collar around his throat, "had to say.
"So," the Japanese boy said, flopping down on the newly vacant bunk and causing the thin mattress to buckle and slap against the frame. "We can talk about the stupidity of colony rebels later and you can help me work off all this tension."
Gunn was standing with his head hanging and his shoulders quivering as if he were suppressing laughter. Eventually, he couldn't contain it any longer and the curtaining mass of his hair fell back to reveal his prominent, aquiline profile, as he looked up at the ceiling and said with amusement, "You are such a pervert."
Jun snickered to himself and propped himself up on one elbow. "Come on, let's just fool around for awhile. I'm not going to let you get any work done anyway, you might as well just give in." He toyed with the zipper on his pants, then reached over and tugged at Gunn's wrist.
"We shouldn't be doing shit in here, though," Gunn protested. His words held little conviction, for he set his notebook on the floor and let himself be pulled onto the bunk.
"What's the problem, G? Vents took his girl to town with the rest of the guys," Jun said as he slid his hands around the other boy and caressed his chest. "Even Howard went..."
"Still, don't you think we ought to be a bit more discreet?" The protest held even less weight as Gunn rolled his head to the side to expose his neck.
"Screw discreet," Jun said, nipping at the offered expanse of skin. "Anyway... they'll be gone for hours." He slid his hand under Gunn's shirt as he rolled on top of him and wormed a knee between his thighs. He drew back onto his knees, just enough so that he could look down at the path his hand travelled. His fingers glided down over the subtle swell of ribs that distorted his lover's smooth, pale flesh and traced the soft shadows cast by his angular hipbones.
"I wish you'd take off those damn glasses for once, J," Gunn mumbled as he looped his arms around the taller boy's neck. His hips writhed fitfully, trying to coax the other's fingers away from the ticklish spot they'd found. "I'd like to see your eyes once in a while."
"Get a haircut and then you can complain."
Narrow fingers brushed the bangs away from Gunn's face, and he put up no more resistance as Jun fell into kissing him again. He merely hooked a thin ankle over the legs of the boy that crushed him into the mattress, and kissed back with equal fervor.
Sylvia's eyes burned into the screen in pure voyeuristic excitement as the two cadets rolled around in a dangerous tangle of elbows and knees and tongues and teeth. A few minutes later, however, she was shouting violently at her vidscreen and sorting frantically through the other discs she'd brought home with her. The recording had ended, right as the boys' wild energy waned and their caresses became more tender and serious.
When none of the other discs had anything remotely similar, she related the whole story over the phone to her friend; who promptly invited herself over to see the clip for herself.
"See! Can you believe it? The stupid thing just ends!" Sylvia screeched and waved the remote around for emphasis as the vid turned abruptly to static and left her hanging for the second time. "Ugh! Right when the one guy with the long hair was about to go down on the other guy..."
"Very regrettable," Dorothy said, quirking her mouth to the side as she stared thoughtfully at the blurry photograph. There was something awfully familiar about the boys that she couldn't quite put her finger on.
Sylvia groaned miserably, then turned to face her friend. She nibbled on her lip nervously. "So... do you think it's good enough to get into that club you mentioned before?"
Dorothy tapped the photo against her leg and smiled as her brain made the connection. "I'm fairly confident it'll be worth enough to earn you a membership and a few smaller trades. In fact, I'm sure it would get you a full clip with those two."
"Oh yes," Dorothy answered with a mischievous little gleam in her eye. "There's a rather notorious video of those two from a cellblock surveillance cam..."