Title: Vignette: Dreams and Realities
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” – Plato
Garrett dreamed in four dimensions.
That was what it felt like, at least. He’d taught himself to lucid dream as a teenager, a therapy suggestion from one of his more open-minded psychologists. After going through the typical chain of events: flying, fucking every hot person he could dream up, killing his enemies and generally exercising all the darker parts of his id, Garrett went back to the beginning of the process and trained himself on not just how to lucid dream, but how to make it into a planning exercise.
Dreams were a wonderful place to work out strategies, test different variables and generally make a mess of things before you had to in the real universe. Not that there weren’t plenty of computer programs designed specifically to help someone account for all possible outcomes and prepare accordingly, but those always had an electron trail, no matter how hard you tried to hide it. Hacking was hard to do, given that most people used implants and had biological firewalls in place that couldn’t be duplicated, but there were no guarantees. Garrett couldn’t risk it, so he used his dreamtime instead. He researched outcomes, played out Senate votes, took the entire Federation to war, and then did it all again.
It was exhausting. It was depressing. It wore on him, because the deeper he dug, the more evident it became that there was only a slim chance, the slimmest really, that he and Miles would be able to get their constituents out of the current crisis without resorting to at least a shadow war. Hell, the war was already happening, feints and lies pushing planets on and off of the board, empty platitudes filling the comm waves as more outliers were destroyed. How long would it be before Pandora was next? Or Paradise?
There were so many variables Garrett just didn’t know, and others he couldn’t accurately predict and control for. He would do his best, but what if Kyle died in prison before Garrett could get him out? What if the tide of sympathy turned and went against him, as President Alexander was working so hard for? What if the “pirates” stepped up the pace of their attacks before everything had been worked out with Admiral Liang? Without adequate ships there would be no adequate defense. What if, thanks to Garrett’s inattention, he got someone killed? What if it was his son, or his husband…what if…
He woke up to Jonah’s hands hot on his shoulders, shaking him gently. “Garrett! C’mon, honey, open your eyes.” He did, and saw Jonah’s face bent close to his, worry in every familiar line of it. Garrett opened his mouth to speak, but his throat felt strangely hoarse.
“What?” he finally managed to ask.
“You were screaming, darlin’.”
Well. That explained it. “Shit.” Garrett lifted his hands—they felt heavy somehow, much heavier than flesh and bone should—and pressed them to his eyes, then briskly rubbed his face. “I’m sorry.”
“You have a nightmare?”
Garrett grimaced and shook his head. “Planning session gone wrong,” he said, tapping his temple. Jonah frowned.
“You’ve been doin’ that every night for the past two months. Don’t you think your brain could use a break?”
“There’s no time for a break,” Garrett said bitterly. “I wish there was. I wish I was going to Perelan with you.”
“I wish you were too.” Jonah looked like he wanted to add something, then got up instead and poured a glass of water, which he brought back to the bed. “Drink a little, darlin’.”
Garrett sat up and sipped, cooling the burn in his throat. “Thanks.”
“It’s nothin’.” Jonah brushed lank hair out of Garrett’s sweaty face, his long fingers lingering against Garrett’s cheeks. Pain and paranoia suddenly gripped him, and Garrett set the water down and threw himself at Jonah, pressing him back onto the bed and covering him as much as he could with his own body.
“Garrett?” Jonah didn’t push him off, didn’t tell him no, just reached up and held him tight, pulling him even closer. It couldn’t be close enough, as far as Garrett was concerned. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t…I don’t know…” Fuck, was he hyperventilating? What was this? “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he forced out before his throat closed almost entirely. Ah, that was what it was. Panic attack. It had been years, but he remembered the fear that came along with them, the desperation with no outlet.
“Garrett, it’s okay, breathe.” Jonah smoothed his broad hands over Garrett’s back. “It’s okay. You don’t have to know anything, just breathe with me. Deep inhale.” He inhaled and Garrett felt his own chest rise with it, and did his best to mimic it. “And out,” Jonah sighed, and they kept it up for minutes, maybe hours, until Garrett could breathe on his own again.
“When’s the last time you went to Regen, darlin’?” Jonah asked quietly once it was over.
“Just a few days ago. This isn’t a brain chemistry thing,” Garrett replied. His body trembled with exhaustion, but he couldn’t go back to sleep yet. It wouldn’t help. “It was a panic attack. Too many variables in my head, no way to make things happen the way they have to.”
“You can’t take responsibility for everything that goes on in the universe,” Jonah told him.
“I should be able to,” Garrett snapped. “I’m in a position of power, I have allies and I have means. If I’m not able to take a stand that creates change, what good am I?”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it. You’re doin’ everything you can, absolutely everything, to make things better for the Fringe planets. You’re doin’ more than anyone else I can think of except maybe your dad. You’ve gotta let the rest of it just happen, darlin’. Making yourself panic about things that you can’t do anything about is just gonna end with you making yourself sick, and if you do that I’m not going anywhere.”
Garrett shook his head. “You’ve got to go back to Pandora and start getting them prepped to leave. You’re the one who made all the arrangements with the Drifters; if you’re not there, the deal will fall apart.”
“If you need me, I’m stayin’ here.” Jonah kissed Garrett’s forehead. “And that’s not a threat. Jack can be trusted to handle things without me if need be.”
“You can’t trust him as far as you can throw him,” Garrett muttered, and Jonah chuckled.
“I always liked that saying. Doesn’t make much sense now though, does it? Could throw him forever in zero-g. And Jack’s not that bad. He wants Cody to like him; he’s not gonna give up on Cody’s home planet.”
“He wants you to like him,” Garrett said, but it was a weak complaint. Jack could want all he wanted—Garrett knew he never needed to worry about his husband’s fidelity.
“I like him fine. I don’t love him, though. Not anymore.”
Garrett lifted his head and looked at Jonah. They’d been together for thirteen years now, a tiny amount of time given the potential span of their lives, but still the longest personal relationship Garrett had ever had. He’d never expected to find someone like Jonah, someone who he never got tired of, someone who he never stopped missing when he went away, instead of feeling relieved to have time to himself again. Marriage was a quaint tradition by modern standards, contracted partnerships carrying all the benefits and none of the Old Earth baggage, but marriage had felt right for them. It still felt right, to call this man his husband, to think of him as one half of their whole. How could he love someone so much? How was he going to bear it when Jonah went away?
“It gets harder and harder,” Garrett said at last, “to let you go.”
Jonah nodded somberly. “I know it. I hate to leave you here without me. This…” he stroked his long fingers down Garrett’s throat, his eyes troubled, “this is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night when I’m not here. I trust you with everything I am, but you don’t always remember to take care of yourself the way I wish you would.” He leaned up and pressed a kiss to Garrett’s adam’s apple. “Use your journal while I’m away, darlin’? And read the messages. I’ll add to ‘em whenever I can.” The messages were a more recent tradition between the two of them, little notes, either physical or electronic, that they passed back and forth with no warning. They were sometimes mundane, sometimes romantic and always very welcome. Garrett had saved every one of them, and he read them often, sometimes out loud to Jonah.
“I will.” He’d have to if he were going to survive what might be months of separation. Comm calls just weren’t the same, and neither of them were interested in intimacy surrogates. Human, machine or something in between on offer, Garrett still just wanted Jonah.
“And get some normal sleep, please. Every now and then. Your big brain needs a chance to relax.”
Jonah grinned suddenly. “Didn’t know that was a kink you wanted to explore, honey.”
Garrett felt his face heat. “Well, I guess it is now,” he muttered, because…okay, yeah, he could get into a little roleplaying with Jonah. “Maybe later, though.” As much as he always wanted his husband, as ready as he was to make love, right now Garrett wanted nothing more than this, just this. He stretched out again and kept his head on Jonah’s shoulder, closed his eyes and listened to his husband’s steady heartbeat, laid his hand on Jonah’s stomach and felt the tiny vibrations of his digestive tract, all the biological processes that meant that Jonah was alive. Garrett inhaled deeply, the faint scents of sweat and sleep and freshly-washed hair filling his nose. He should bottle that scent, keep it on hand so he could have it whenever the longing got too fierce.
Garrett pressed a kiss to Jonah’s chest. “I love you.”
“Love you too, darlin’. More than anything.” It was spoken with the silent understanding that Cody came first, but that was a different type of love. Cody was their child, but Jonah was Garrett’s mate, the bond separate and special. Garrett had that, and he knew it. He’d do his best to hold it close, these next few months.
“Get some sleep,” Jonah said, and Garrett listened.
This time there were no dreams.