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Stargazing

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Phil finds Chris standing outside on the balcony, eyes towards the sky. It’s a rare icy cold, clear, and quiet December night. Chris doesn’t look back even though Phil knows he’s seen him turn on the lights in the living room. It’s three am, and he’s not sure how long Chris has been out there, but he is almost sure his stubborn lover is going to get sick if he stays for much longer. A side-effect of first having an alien slug forced down his throat to wreck his nervous system, and then being shot in the chest by a particle weapon, is that his immune system has gone to hell, and the nerve damage he’s sustained has numbed him to the sensation of being cold. Phil can’t help feeling a little annoyed and worried, but he knows henning him will not go down well with Chris. 

Even though his back is turned, Phil can imagine the longing in Chris’ eyes as he looks up at the endless stars, and it’s enough to send a pang through Phil’s own heart. Chris will never captain a starship again. He’ll probably, hopefully, one day walk without a cane: it’s enough that Starfleet can still use him, it’s enough that they’ve promoted him to Admiral and put him in charge of the whole academy, without which Phil’s sure Chris would be completely miserable, but it’s not enough for active ship service. And Phil knows it’s breaking Chris’ heart every day, despite how hard he fights not to let it. In an age where people frequently live to be over a hundred years, barely fifty is far too young to give up what he loves to do. 

Phil notices how heavily Chris is leaning on his cane, and the tenseness of his shoulders, a clear sign that he’s in pain. Since he was held captive by Nero, no medication has truly made that change, and Phil knows how much Chris fights against that too, but he can see it in the deep lines on his face, the tired look in his eyes on the really bad days. The new medicine they’ve been trying is better, and there are days where he’s almost without pain. On those days, his eyes are just a bit brighter, his jaw not as tightly set.

The fact that he’s out here at all, on his feet with just the cane and not the wheelchair, tells Phil it’s not too bad tonight either, which leads him to conclude that a nightmare is the reason Chris is awake, and he’s a bit embarrassed that he didn’t wake up either from that or when Chris left the bed. He suspects that it’s because Chris’ nightmares compel him to lie frozen in abject terror, which doesn’t make it better. He’s finally agreed to therapy sessions, grudgingly, to Phil’s intense relief, but it also speaks volumes that he agreed at all.

Phil puts a jacket on, and walks out to join Chris in silence. Chris doesn’t even move, his gaze trained on the sky. Phil has never felt drawn to the stars like Chris has, but the sight is gorgeous. 

“You’re going to freeze your balls off out here,” Phil says after a few moments. 

There’s a long, drawn out silence, which Phil doesn’t break, he’s here to show support, not to intrude, for all he wants to pull Chris close, to kiss him, to take him with him inside before they both get pneumonia. 

Chris doesn’t take his eyes away from the sky, not even when he finally speaks, and his voice is distant and low. “Couldn’t sleep.”

Nightmare, then. Phil nods, and steps closer to Chris without crowding him. As much as they’re both feeling sure in their going on thirty years of relationship, he knows Chris hates how vulnerable his nightmares, chronic pain and his weak legs makes him feel. And he knows how Chris utterly despises being taken care of because of it. Chris stubbornness at least has not changed. 

When Chris doesn’t move, Phil quietly places a hand on the small of his back, rubs gentle circles  where he knows the muscles are often stiff and aching. Sure enough, he can feel the tension through clothes and skin as he carefully caresses him.

Chris huffs, but leans back slightly towards Phil's hand. He even closes his eyes for a moment, grunts when Phil presses against a painful spot. “Shit, that feels good.”

“If you come back inside with me I can massage you properly.” He makes sure his hand stays on Chris’ back, and his voice remains non-suggestive, he knows Chris is not up for sex tonight. It’s been six months since the particle weapon to his chest, and Phil is aware how much Chris fears their sex life may never return. As for himself, Phil misses it but he’s just so fucking grateful Chris is still alive at all. Phil’s heart sometimes clenches at the thought of how close Chris came to bleed out on them that day.

Chris finally looks at him, a small frown on his face shadowed by the light coming from behind them, and Phil only now gets a sense that Chris is mentally present with him. “It’s the middle of the night, Phil, you don’t have to.”

“Yeah, I do,” Phil says firmly, he looks at the way Chris’ brow is furrowed, the deep lines around his eyes, the stiffness of his movements. “Do you need meds too?” 

“No. Just a massage.” He gives Phil a small smile, then turns his eye to the sky again.

"I’ll wait inside,” Phil kisses Chris’ shoulder, lingering for a moment to breathe him in before he goes back inside.