Phil Boyce woke with a start and glared at his beeping communicator, wondering who was comming him at this ungodly hour.
When it didn’t stop beeping, he freed his arm from the sheets and grabbed it from his nightstand.
“Boyce,” he grumbled
“It’s me,” Damian Rydell replied, sounding muffled and jittery. “Can you come to the Captain’s Quarters? He’s thrashing around and won’t wake up. I’ve tried.”
Phil sat up and pushed back the covers, dressing blindly in his discarded uniform as unwarranted thoughts rushed through his mind. Chris had been struggling with nightmares for a long time, but there hadn’t been any recent away missions that would leave him in a state.
Out of the corner of his eye he caught the stardate on his terminal screen. “Shit,” he swore, pulling on his boots. “Fucking hell, Chris.”
He stopped at medical first, collecting a low grade anaesthesia that would knock him out for a few hours of dreamless sleep and a hand held regenerator as he remembered how muffled Damian had sounded on the comm.
The door opened with a hiss as he approached and he could hear Chris’ muffled grunts and shouts from the bedroom. Sitting on the floor outside his door was Damian, in standard issue black briefs and a shirt that was a little too broad in the shoulders. He looked…miserable, holding something against his face that Phil quickly saw was a dish cloth full of ice.
“Did he hit you?” Phil asked.
Damian nodded. “I grabbed his shoulder and he elbowed me in the jaw,” he said. “He didn’t mean it. He’s not even conscious.”
“I know,” Phil sighed. When Chris found out, he was going to be unbearably guilty for weeks. “Help me get him to hold still, I don’t want to stab him in the wrong place with this hypo.”
Damian tossed the ice pack aside and stood. The left side of his jaw was turning purple, and there was some blood dribbling from the corner of his mouth.
Phil mentally congratulated his decision to bring the regenerator, and followed Damian into Chris’ bedroom.
Chris was still asleep, but tensed like he was ready for a fight. The dream wasn’t going to let him go any time soon, Phil realised and nodded to Damian. “Talk to him,” he said. “It might calm him down.”
“You don’t think I’ve tried that?” Damian snapped, and Phil fixed him with a look. “Fine.”
Damian approached, wary. It almost broke Phil’s heart to see the young man so afraid of Chris. Hours ago they were practically trying to crawl into each other’s skin in the back of the rec room while the rest of the officers were glued to the holovid.
“Christopher?” He said, gentle. “It’s Damian, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here, you’re safe. I promise.”
Chris just seemed to tense further. Whether he couldn’t hear Damian or the dream was twisting the young man’s words into something terrible, Phil didn’t know. “Hold him still so I can get this needle in his neck,” he instructed.
Chris lashed out the moment Damian touched him, and one arm swung wildly and his fist collided with the young man’s nose with a crunch. Phil thrust the needle into Chris’ jugular and pressed down on the plunger as Damian reeled back and clutched his likely broken nose with a groan and a shout of “fucking hell!”
Chris went lax almost immediately, muscles slack and pliant as Phil tucked him back into bed and pulled Damian out of the bedroom.
“He broke my nose,” Damian muttered nasally, blood dripping from between his fingers. “He broke my fucking nose.”
“It’s the anniversary of Rigel VII,” Phil told him, forcing Damian to sit on one of the chairs in Chris’ kitchenette. He pulled out the regenerator and forced Damian to move his hand. “I should have told him to take something before going to sleep. Don’t blame him for this, please? His last partner…well.”
Damian looked at him, miserable. Phil was prepared to beg Damian not to leave because of this, and then he realised that this was about something else. “He doesn’t talk to me,” Damian said after a moment. “I knew something was wrong today but…”
“He’s not good at talking,” Phil explained. “And it’s only been six months since you two started whatever this is. Give him time.”
Phil checked to make sure the regenerator was knitting the soft cartilage of Damian’s nose back together in the right shape. He knew there’d be a lot of angry ensigns who’d crucify his ass if he ruined their favourite Lieutenant’s nose.
Damian stared at him for a long moment. “What happened on Rigel VII?” He asked, almost hesitant.
Phil blinked. “He hasn’t told you?”
“I just told you he doesn’t tell me anything.”
“You didn’t say he hasn’t told you anything,” Phil replied. “I wasn’t there, but it was…bad. They were holed up in a fortress on another planet and-well. Chris was one of the only survivors. It broke him, he almost left Starfleet because of it.”
“Three years ago,” Phil answered, moving the regenerator node to Damian’s jaw. “Don’t worry about kicking his ass about this because I will.”
“I’ll…” Damian frowned, rubbing his jaw as Phil pulled the node away. “What do I do? Until six months ago I never would have thought I’d be in a relationship. How do I talk to him?”
Phil blinked. “Be honest,” was all the advice he could give. “Don’t let him pull rank. If you’re going to be in a relationship with the Captain, you’re going to need to learn to hold your ground when he tries to use his rank to avoid uncomfortable situations. Call him on his bullshit and remember that when you’re not on duty you’re on equal ground.”
Damian swallowed noticeably, and Phil put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Look at me,” he said, stern. Damian’s near-black eyes met his own, unwavering. Most people would have bolted by now, left Chris to deal with his nightmares on his own and pretend the last few months never happened. He'd seen it happen before.
But Damian was still here, terrified but unwavering. He’ll be a great Captain someday, Phil realised. “If he won’t listen, tell him what he did to you. He’ll be unbearable for a couple of weeks but at least you’ll have enough leverage to get him to sit still and tell you about Rigel VII. And ask about Talos IV, while you’re at it.”
“Alright,” Damian replied. “Can I go back to bed? With him?”
Phil nodded and squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll put you both on medical leave tomorrow,” he said. “I'll be back tomorrow to fix the rest of those bruises. Sleep well.”
“I’ll try,” Damian gave a half-smile. “Thank you, Dr Boyce.”
“Call me Phil. You’re important to him, kid, and that means you’re important to me too.”
Chris normally woke with Damian pressed against him in some way, and as sleep unclogged his tired mind he realised the bed was cold. He opened his eyes, twisting in the sheets, and spotted Damian sitting at the end of the bed.
"Hey," Chris called, gentle. "Come back to bed. We still have time before-"
"We're on medical leave for the day," Damian interrupted, not looking at him. "Phil said we need to talk."
"Why would he-" Chris sat up, confused. "Damian, look at me."
Damian turned slightly and Chris felt his heart drop into his stomach. Damian's jaw was badly bruised, his shirt bloodied and nose a patchwork of blue and black with sunken eyes. He looked like someone had punched him, and Chris felt an ache in his arm and hand. He tore his eyes away from Damian and saw the bruise on his hand as nausea crawled up the back of his throat.
"You were thrashing," Damian told him, turning around fully. "I tried to calm you down and you got me with your elbow."
He gripped Chris' hand, lifting it up to the bruise on his jaw. He flinched slightly, but gripped Chris' hand before he could pull it away. "I'm so sorry," Chris choked. "What about...what about your nose?"
"Phil tried to get me to talk to you when he arrived," Damian explained. "Not his brightest idea. You have one hell of a right hook, broke my nose and ruined my favourite shirt."
Chris' eyes flicked to the blood staining the front of Damian's shirt and swallowed around the lump in his throat. His eyes stung with tears, of shame, of regret, of anger at himself and all he wanted to do was curl up in Damian's arms and forget this morning. Forget Rigel VII and Talos IV.
"Don't worry," Damian carded his fingers through Chris' hair. "I'm still pretty under all the bruises."
"I don't care about that," Chris managed, and buried his face in Damian's shoulder as he felt his chest begin to spasm with barely held back sobs.
Damian's arms went around his shoulders and his lips pressed against his head. "We still need to talk," Damian told him. "We need to start talking, Christopher."