This is not how Wayne was expecting to come home from work.
He had expected, as usual, that Eddie would be asleep, and he’d be free to watch the 5:00 AM news. He’d have a bowl of cereal for dinner (or was it breakfast at that point?), and then he’d be out like a light while Eddie did whatever it was he did before noon. Usually, that was sleep.
The exact opposite of what Wayne was expecting is happening right now.
He didn’t even get his keys out of his pocket before Eddie whips the door open. He looks a mess: hair tied back loosely, pajamas off kilter, panic mixed with exhaustion on his face.
“Oh, thank Christ,” he croaks. “Wayne, I need your help. I have no idea what to do.”
Wayne can count on one hand the number of times he’s seen Eddie panic like this. He shoulders past him into the trailer and is greeted with the sight of Steve Harrington standing in the middle of his living room.
“What on God’s green earth,” he murmurs. He blinks, then blinks again, but Harrington is still there, in pajamas, the tire iron Eddie still keeps under his bed in his hands. He’s breathing real heavy, and he stares out the window, stock-still.
“The hell happened?” Wayne asks, keeping his voice low.
“I don’t know,” Eddie whispers desperately. “I don’t know what happened, but he got up and grabbed the iron and just stood here-”
“Ten minutes, maybe.”
Wayne doesn’t like where this is going. “Has he responded to you at all?”
“-but I can try again?”
Wayne eyes the white-knuckled grip Harrington has on the tire iron. He’s ready to swing, and Wayne knows he’ll swing hard if given the chance.
No way he’s risking Eddie. No way he’s risking Harrington. Wayne doesn’t know him well, only met him a few times in passing, but he knows he’d never forgive himself if he hurt Eddie.
“No. Don’t try again.”
“I’m not leaving him.”
“Didn’t ask you to. All I’m saying is don’t go near.”
Eddie is very good at following instructions to the letter and to the letter only, much to Wayne’s fond annoyance. So, he doesn’t go near.
Instead, he says, voice strangely soft, “Stevie, sweetheart.”
Harrington doesn’t respond, but he turns a little in the direction of Eddie’s voice. Wayne takes that as a good sign, even if he can see the tension on his face now.
“Will you come back to sleep? Please?” Wayne hates hearing Eddie’s voice crack the way it is right now.
Harrington faces them a little better, and Wayne sees what he was expecting.
He’s staring through them, not at them. Wherever Harrington is, it sure ain’t here.
“I don’t know how much that’s gonna help, Eddie. He’s having-”
“I know he’s having a flashback, Wayne!” Eddie snaps. “I’m not stupid. It’s usually just not this bad, and I don’t know how to fix it.”
“Alright,” Wayne says because snapping back won’t help anyone. That and because he’s trying to process the fact that Eddie has had to deal with this before. “Let me try.”
He takes a few steps toward Harrington, keeping his hands up and his movements slow.
“Harrington,” he calls, keeping his tone light. “You’re at Eddie’s place right now. It’s almost five AM on a Friday night.”
Harrington blinks, and it looks like his eyes are coming back into focus.
“You’re safe right now. Eddie’s safe right now.”
Harrington shakes his head and lifts the tire iron a little higher. Christ, his arms must be aching by now. “No. I saw the lights flicker, and I heard a thud outside, and it got cold.”
“Stevie, the gate’s closed,” Eddie pleads. “You saw it happen. Nothing got out. You’re safe.”
Wayne doesn’t know what any of that means, but even though it was supposed to reassure Harrington, he just shakes his head again.
He hears Eddie sigh behind him, and he knows without turning around that he’s trying not to cry.
Guess he’s gotta try something different, then. “You just wake up?”
Harrington blinks, and for a minute, Wayne thinks this won’t get them anywhere. But then he whispers, just loud enough to be heard, “Yeah.”
“Okay. I just got off work.”
Harrington stares at him, confused.
“So, I think I’m a little more awake than you. I’ll take what you’ve got in your hands, and I can stay up.”
Harrington shakes his head. “It’s fine. I stay up most of the time when I’m alone.”
Alone. Wayne knows from experience, both personal and witnessing this shit, that alone is the last thing anyone should be when they’re having a flashback. Harrington says it like it’s the only thing he’s ever known.
He dismisses his questions - why is Harrington having flashbacks, why is he alone - and focuses on getting him to put down the tire iron and go to bed.
“You’re not alone this time,” Wayne says. “You’ve got Eddie here, too, and I think both of you would feel better if you were together.”
Harrington looks over Wayne’s shoulder. Wayne doesn’t turn around, but he can imagine the pleading look on Eddie’s face just fine.
Wayne holds out his hands for the tire iron, and after a minute, or maybe a month, Harrington sets it there. Immediately, he looks lighter and heavier.
Eddie walks up next to Wayne and murmurs, “Come on, sugar.”
Harrington goes to him and just rests his head on his shoulder. Eddie holds him there, just standing in the middle of the living room, sunrise just starting to peek in through the windows.
Thank you, he mouths to Wayne.
Wayne nods, but he’s got a hell of a lot more questions than answers - what the hell brought this on, what exactly is Harrington to Eddie. That can wait for morning, though.
For now, he just hopes Harrington will be okay by then.
No, not Harrington. Steve.
After something like this, Wayne has learned, you start using first names.
A blow slammed into Garak’s cheek right along his aural ridge. The pain of it reverberated through his jaw and up through his temple. He took a step backwards.
A cold, sterile room. Bright, white light. Andor. Probably. Torture rooms tended to blend together after a while.
Garak looked around, still stunned. Why did he hear the doctor’s voice?
“Elim, I need you to stay with me. What are five things you can see?”
Garak smirked. “You’re not going to get me to break that easily,” he said. He rubbed the side of his jaw where he’d been struck. “I wouldn’t recommend torture either.”
“I’m not going to torture you.”
“A likely story,” Garak said, “and an odd one to posit after you’ve already struck me.”
“I didn’t…” He heard an exasperated sigh. “The door to the shuttle hit you on the side of the head. I didn’t touch you.”
Like a bit of patterned fabric that had been stretched and was now relaxing back into its original shape, Garak’s grasp on the situation began to mend. Dr. Bashir. Julian was standing about two feet away from him. He was holding a medical scanner. He looked worried. He was wearing a blue tunic that Garak had given him for his last birthday.
Two more things.
Behind Julian sat a hideous Federation grey shuttle. The likely culprit for the blow. He always knew the Federation would hurt him in the end.
Julian’s wedding ring. It was gold with a line of sapphire blue running through it. He looked down at his own hand and found the same ring inverted – sapphire blue with a streak of gold.
“Technically, that’s six,” Garak informed the doctor.
The pained look of patient suffering that passed over Julian’s face was still as funny as ever. “Fine. Great. You’ve done extra credit. Bravo. Four things you can touch.”
Garak gently touched his ring, then the hem of his cotton tunic – not those padded, thermal insulated layers, how times had changed. The sun shining on his face was warm and welcome. He walked over to the shuttle and laid a hand against its cool, metallic surface. “Four,” he announced. “The sun.”
“Three things you can hear.”
“Your voice,” Garak said, “the wind through the cambra trees, and the horrid whirring of that scanner of yours.”
Julian sheepishly turned off the medical scanner. “It doesn’t look too serious any– Erm, two things you can smell.”
“Cambra flowers and…” Garak pulled a disgusted face. “My dear, have you bathed yourself recently?”
“Very funny,” Julian ground out. He tossed Garak a small candy wrapped in red paper. “One thing you can taste.”
Garak unwrapped the candy. It was one of the squishy, brown sugar treats that was native to Earth. “My dear, you wouldn’t happen to have anything a bit less saccharine, would you?” he said.
Julian glared at him, then took a step forward and pressed his mouth to Garak’s. Garak smirked against him before returning the kiss.
“Well, that’s no help at all,” Garak said when they’d parted. When Julian gave him a confused look, he added: “You’re far sweeter than an Earth candy.”
“You’ll live,” Julian said. He glanced down at the data on the medical scanner. “And next time, pack your own snack. I won’t always have food in my pockets.”
“A tinge of sour too, perhaps,” Garak teased, a twinkle in his eyes, “and very faintly bitter.”
“I do my best to ground my husband when he’s having a flashback and he mocks me,” Julian said.
Garak chuckled and took Julian’s hand in his. “If I acted too grateful, you’d accuse me of having a concussion,” he said.
“Well, that’s true,” Julian said, his eyes still focused on the scanner. He pressed a button on it. “You don’t by the way.”
“What a relief.”
“Not that you showed any behavioral signs of it anyway, but whenever there’s blunt force trauma to the head it’s best to check–”
“I know, dearest,” Garak said. He squeezed Julian’s hand. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Julian said, giving him a little squeeze back. “Where was it this time?”
“Andor,” Garak said.
“I didn’t know you’d ever been to Andor.”
“Neither did the Andorians up to a point.”
As he and Julian bantered their way up the walk and into their home, Garak recalled a lunch several years ago. Cardassians don’t believe in luck. You survived because you’re strong.
Nowadays, he found that Cardassians absolutely believed in luck. It was the only way to explain why some people lived and some people died in the attacks.
Perhaps, Garak thought as he watched Julian put on the kettle for tea, it’s a combination. Part luck, part strength.
“Elim, you still here?”
“Yes, my dear doctor,” Garak said. He took Julian’s hand again. “I’m right here.”