Burying his face in his pillow, Gregor breathed deep and let his body go limp and loose. He could feel himself drifting into lazy reverie.
Life had been moving too quick for him to handle–to the point where he’d felt the edges of him scrabble away–but suddenly everything was so much easier. The lurking darkness that had been Virgil Hanson was gone forever.
It was a darker satisfaction to know that he was gone by Gregor’s very own hand.
I killed the boogieman, Gregor thought. And it was strange, yet right.
Virgil Hanson had haunted Gregor’s every step for nearly eleven years. He’d been the first and most lasting mistake Gregor had ever made.
And now he was gone.
Gregor’s lips stretched in a fierce grin and he ground his pelvis into the mattress for the simple pleasure of it.
His changing body had needs he’d found impossible to ignore. It wasn’t just shifting biology; it was surging hormones, some of a kind he’d never experienced before. His very bones were becoming different. Shifting to relieve the ache was becoming a pleasure unto itself.
Being a Third meant having a body that was sensitive to hormones. A little testosterone, and a Third began laddering muscle. A little estrogen, and mammary tissue gathered on even the flattest of chests. And either one would push a Third into sexual maturity, where the visible changes happened.
The cocktail of drugs Gregor had used to block his puberty as a Third would have killed a Two, and damaged the bones and organs of a First.
He’d been told to eat and sleep a lot.
He was fine.
Fertile at the time. Gravid at the moment.
“Fecund is the Third, near mindless in the need to mate. It’s a wild thing, riding any dick it comes across. Keep the creepy cocklet away from you, and it don’t matter what kind of Third you get. They’ll wring your dick dry. Best lay you’ll ever have, boys. You won’t be sorry.”
Those words had reverberated through his memory from the moment he’d heard them at thirteen years old. He’d stayed away from Coach after that, and kept a wary eye on all the boys that had laughed.
Before the Sterility Plague, Thirds had been a fascinating oddity, by turns worshiped and reviled. Nobody’d cared what they’d done to themselves then. Suppressants were nobody’s business but the person using them and their family.
Gregor’s mother had been a Third. She’d known not to trust Desmond with Gregor’s biology (there’d been a lucrative market for young Thirds) and Gregor had always been grateful for her paranoia. She’d saved him from Hell.
Desmond Tierney had never met a temptation he’d bother to deny. Fatherly loyalty would only go as far as his greed would allow it.
And it was fear of that greed that had allowed Gregor the extra years of freedom he’d enjoyed. So he couldn’t really hate it, could he?
In another life, he would already have had three or four kids for the State. Or maybe a dozen for the lifestyle his father would have forced him into.
Or maybe you would have been a trusting fool and let Hanson know about you. He winced away from the thought, refusing to let himself go down that idea path. He couldn’t imagine any version of himself being that kind of trusting.
Virgil Hanson had been sexy and exciting and had made a young Gregor feel special and in some way important. He’d also been the kind of blood freezing terrifying that couldn’t be overlooked for long. Gregor had run away rather than gift him any truths.