AN: Woot! Next chapter. A little less light-hearted than the first, especially the beginning. We writers like to think of it as 'character building' but really it's just us writing about our characters getting beaten up (physically and emotionally). Snippet of present-tense, second-person writing because I'm a rebel like that and a pinch of angst to spice things up. On the plus side there's good food and glomps for all, because I just can't take myself that seriously for a whole 10k words ;) Enjoy!
Transition - Chapter 2
There's white and black and silver, and by God how the silver shines. There's clear plastic - and why's it called clear when it makes everything fuzzier? - scattered around, hanging from ceilings and specked with red. There's red everywhere amongst the shining white, why red? It's quiet to start off with, but the noise is growing now, like you're just getting your hearing back after an explosion. There are muffled voices, fuzzy like plastic, and scratching and scraping, but louder and louder until it's the loudest thing of all is the screaming. There's so much screaming. So much pain. But it doesn't scare you, you've lived with screams. What scares you is the beeping. It's quiet and constant and you couldn't hear it at first because it's always been there but your world is narrowing down even as it gets larger and suddenly the beeping is all you can hear. And it's getting faster and faster and faster and faster and faster and you know that it can't keep on like this.
More red splatters across the shiny world you've found yourself in and you start to wonder if maybe you're the one who's screaming. Is it your pain you're feeling? You didn't think so. There's a crescendo moment - you've never been that big a fan of music, so maybe that's the wrong word - everything's happening at once, the impossible beeping impossibly faster until -
This is your pain. You know that because it explodes across your chest worse than Basilisk venom, worse than cruciatus. The beeping is just one, high, constant note now. The blackness that's always been haunting your vision around the edges creeps towards the centre of your world, dark tendrils of thrilling power closing your eyes and flooding your veins until all that's left is a thin sliver of silver specked with your blood.
Harry woke with a gasp and flung himself off the bed, rolling into a crouch at one side and already grasping for non-existent IVs to pull from his arms before he remembered where he was. A choked sob escaped his throat without permission, and Harry buried his face into the comforter thrown over the bed for a few long moments. Once he'd steadied his breathing he relaxed from the crouch and slumped sideways against the side of the bed. It had been decades since he'd a had a dream like that.
It had occurred a year after Harry became Master of Death, in the first wave of Muggle experimentation. Harry had just received news of what the Muggles had started doing and it was in the process of warning as many as he could to run and hide that he himself got caught. It was a little demeaning, in all actuality, how easy it had been for them to capture him. But he'd been eighteen, not even full magical majority and the control he had over his magic has poor at best. He didn't so much leak it as spew power over everything. Even before the Deathly Hallows Harry had been far and away the most powerful wizard of his generation.
A full twenty-eight hours of quick-fire apparition before he landed in the middle of one of their traps. Harry hadn't even fought them, just let the Muggles take him to one of their facilities. He'd always managed to make miraculous escapes before and he did not doubt that it would happen again. Of course, it didn't quite work out like that.
Harry couldn't really remember all the details of his stay. He'd only remained there for three weeks in total and the majority of that time he was so pumped up on drugs to 'keep him sedated' the only memories he had were deluded, twisted things that were more like remembering a dream. What Harry did know, however, was that the thing that got him out in the end was not outside help - or even inside help - and it certainly wasn't his own doing.
No, the Muggles only had themselves to blame, although they couldn't have foreseen the consequences. Like Voldemort, when they finally captured him a couple of years later, it did not take them long to work out that their new science project could not die. Which was all the more reason for them to push further and faster, stretching to touch the impossible. They could not have possibly known that the man they were killing over and over again was intimately acquainted - and Master of - Death.
Death had not had a Master for a long time - more than the centuries and millenium that humans measure time in - Death is timeless, after all. And he must be ruled. He would not have created the Deathly Hallows if he had not been on his search for his next Master, a Master of his own choosing. And Harry had more than earned the right to live. Death is faithful - he will forget no one - and he is loyal - he will come for everyone - and when he chooses a Master the loyalty of a million deaths are at his feet.
So when some puny mortals try again and again to inflict him on his own he gets angry. Once or twice he could let it go, but almost daily for three weeks is out of the question. According to what Harry heard after the incident, when he was home once more and burning from the loss of his three week high, Death made angry was not a pretty sight. Not that the others had called it that, but Harry knew what they meant.
Over the years Harry had become careless about dying. Not on purpose, just because Death was one constant. A constant that had eaten so many lives he had long since become sentient. His logic was odd and twisted, and having a conversation with Death was like having a conversation with a two year old sometimes. A two year old with limitless knowledge. And Death had changed over the centuries, as he became more familiar. A figure in a cloak, face concealed, to start off with. But now, if Harry were to die, he'd see a face, a person, dressed in old fashioned wizarding robes and with a ready smile. He never lost the scythe though.
Dying didn't scare Harry, not when Death was his friend. But those lost weeks where he can only remember colours that hurt and noises that smelt, they scared him. He was like any other human being, he supposed. Scared of the unknown. And the unknown in the past is all the more terrifying because it's gone now and there is no chance for an explanation.
Breathing under control, Harry stood up straight and shook himself out a bit. It would not do to dwell too much. He'd been too self-confident before, he realised now, in thinking that the transition from his comfortable life planet-side to this shining, unknown future would be smooth. But as magic affected electricity, it affected style and décor too. Everything was darker, earthier, when light came from candles and the use of plastic was impractical at best.
The Enterprise, though… She was beautiful, certainly, and Harry knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he would grow to love her. But she was gleaming white and silver, and that fact couldn't help but raise old memories long since put to rest. Harry did not think he'd have the nightmare very often, but he wouldn't be surprised if he revisited it more than a few times in the coming months.
He hummed in contemplation to himself, glanced at the clock and wandered over to the replicator in the hope of summoning up a quick snack of some sort - a cup of tea would be wonderful, but he doubted that anything created on the spot would measure up to a properly steeped cuppa. He'd find a way of figuring a way around that later, but for just then, a pastry and a glass of orange juice sounded good.
And it was lucky it sounded good, because it looked and tasted awful. Harry glowered at the strange contraption in suspicion and left the caramel shortcake to one side whilst he took the glass of orange juice down the sink and poured himself a glass of water. His stomach grumbled in protest, but there was nothing to do about it now. He sifted briefly through the instructions that Rand had left for him to check that he hadn't just punched the numbers in wrong, but no explanation seemed forthcoming, so he changed his attention to the other information provided.
The ID code appeared to double as an email address, which was both useful and slightly disorientating as his voice itself seemed to be the password, but it was the maps of the spaceship he was onboard that drew Harry's attention fastest. It was an odd looking ship, nothing at all like the rockets that he remembered from his childhood, but a\s odd as it was, it was equally beautiful.
Muggles - American ones in particular - always seemed to have this odd fascination to having everything in the perfect order and arranged just so. It was something that Harry - and his kindred with him - found almost disturbing, the square, cleanliness that Muggles seemed to enjoy so. From the glimmering skyscrapers to towns that, from the air, looked like a sheet of squared paper all coloured in. So the gentle curve of the corridors here was - comforting, almost.
Of course, the precise curvature and careful proportions couldn't hold a candle the chaotic sprawl of London in its prime, but it was enough to save Harry from going spare, of that he was certain. He wondered, a little absently, a little fondly, a little sadly, whether or not London still existed. If there had been a third World War, like McCoy had mentioned, London would no doubt have been one of the cities hit the hardest. And Harry already knew what Muggles were capable of doing to each other.
His attention was broken from further musing when a sharp knock came from the doorway. Harry glanced at it for a moment, glaring a little sullenly at the number pad that was present instead of a door handle and decided, this time at least, just to call out 'come in.' Given the efficiency of the knock it came as no surprise that it was Spock who entered.
"Hello again, Commander," Harry greeted amiably enough. "Has the Captain reawakened then?"
"Mr Potter," Spock offered his own acknowledgement. "Captain Kirk is waiting for you in his ready room for your debriefing."
Harry had enough control over his faculties not to actually snort in amusement at that. The Captain might officially be in charge, but it would be fair to say for that particular mission he wasn't exactly the person who'd taken point. He didn't say any of this to Spock however, although he suspected that the Vulcan had a good idea where his thoughts had gone, and stood to follow his lead to wherever the Captain's office was.
"So has it been decided what's going to be revealed to the general populace of the ship regarding my - ah - colourful past?" Harry inquired.
"Am I the only one aware of your true nature?" Spock asked.
Harry tilted his head, eyeing Spock curiously. "I first appeared on board just outside your Medical Facilities. I did not know, then, that human kind had forgotten about magic. So Dr McCoy knows about my magic, possibly his nurse, too, if she overheard our conversation. When I returned you suggested that he give me a complete medical examination, during which my date of birth was asked after. I could have lied, I suppose, but I didn't know what purpose that would serve. I'd also prefer to lie as little as possible."
They reached the lift and spent the journey in it in contemplative silence, which was fortunate for Harry because he was entirely unprepared for the door to open onto the bridge. At least he only gaped at what he saw, rather than come to a spluttering stop mid-sentence. He was 280 years old, had personally travelled through space for almost two decades, and had seen the silver shadows of the Enterprise from the planet whose orbit they had now left. But actually walking into the bridge was like walking into the set of a sci-fi movie.
You could take the Muggle out of the magic kid, Harry thought absently, but you couldn't take away the Muggle TV. Centuries of experience containing his emotions or not, it did not stop Harry from laughing out loud and racing on to the bridge with all the excitement of a five year old at Christmas.
He recognised one of the bridge crew as being one of those he'd brought up from the planet, and Rand was standing beside the station of a stunning dark skinned woman who Harry had caught a fondness for from Spock's memories. But he didn't pay much attention to them, spinning in the spot trying to take in everything and coming to a halt when he faced Captain Kirk.
"You must be the elusive Captain Kirk," Harry said, racing forward to shake the man's hand.
Harry chuckled, but his eyes couldn't stay on Kirk for long, swivelling around once more to try and take in as much as he possibly could. "You've been unconscious the last couple of times I've met you. I like the chair, by the way, very 'King of the Rock'. Or 'King of the Ship' I guess."
"Don't compliment the chair," someone else cut in, their voice fast becoming familiar to Harry.
And Harry couldn't help but beam at him as McCoy entered the bridge. "Doctor McCoy! Pleasure to see you again. You didn't tell me the bridge was so spectacular - neither did you Mr Spock. Both of you know my past, and for neither of you to warn me of its brilliance… I'm sorry, I'm babbling a bit, but this ship is like something directly out of my favourite TV shows as a kid."
Harry took a deep breath and pressed his lips shut, still grinning foolishly as his eyes continued flickering over everything.
"It's always a pleasure to meet someone who finds my baby as beautiful as I do," Kirk replied, his tone a careful cool fondness of someone who wishes to like a stranger but doesn't trust them enough yet. Then he added, in a decidedly un-measured tone; "The chair is pretty fantastic isn't it?"
Harry laughed again as several of the bridge crew groaned or rolled their eyes in exasperation. "I'm Harry Potter, Captain, it's a pleasure to meet you too."
"Right, onto business then. I hear you've quite a tale to spin for me, Mr Potter?" the Captain said, standing from The Chair and starting towards a different door leading from the bridge.
"I suppose," Harry agreed. "Although, really, I think the decision as to whether everyone knows or not should be made as soon as possible just so that I won't have to keep retelling it. I'm used to people just knowing."
"The decision can not be made without the Captain's input," Spock said.
Harry rolled his eyes, "I know, Mr Spock. I'm an old man. Old men - humans, at least - like complaining. I don't do it as often as I'm inclined to, so you'll have to excuse me when I do."
"Old? You can't be over thirty," the Captain interjected. "Well - you could, but you said 'human'."
"You might want to sit down before you hear this story, Jim," McCoy said, grinning in preparation for what he knew Kirk's reaction would be.
And so, for the third time that day, Harry retold the basics of his life story. "I have a couple of photo albums if you want photographic evidence," he offered when Kirk continued to stare blankly at him several minutes after he finished.
"Dude," Kirk said, apparently forgetting that he was Captain. "Dude," he repeated. "You. Are awesome." Then he turned to McCoy, who was clutching the back of Kirk's chair, and almost doubled over with laughter. "Bones, I think I have a new hero."
Harry blushed a bit at that declaration. His people had seen him as a hero, of course, but then he'd been lauded in the press as everything from saviour to the next Dark Lord, so he had considered all public opinion of him insignificant by the age of sixteen. But Captain Kirk was a stranger, a Muggle, and a pretty damn heroic person himself so his word actually seemed to mean something.
"Captain," Spock interrupted. "If you could get back to the point?"
Kirk and McCoy both straightened, adopting a more professional air, but it was the slight pinking of the Captain's cheeks that Harry had to stop himself from laughing at. From only knowing the Captain for about an hour, he was 80% certain that Kirk was not flushing just because he'd made a bit of a fool out of himself. The Captain seemed like the kind of person who, when not on duty, went out of his way to make a fool out of himself for the dual purposes of having a bit of fun and making everyone else feel better about themselves. Which meant that Kirk had a crush on his First Officer.
Harry glanced at McCoy to see whether the doctor had seen it as well, and was further amused to see that he was wearing an expression that indicated he was very aware of his best friend's infatuation and equally certain that it was a lost cause. Harry wasn't so certain about the latter, but he didn't really know these men, or the world they lived in, so decided to reserve judgement.
"I think that the best way to approach this would be to keep it an 'open secret'," Kirk said, drawing Harry out of his musings.
"Clarify," Spock demanded.
The Captain's attention narrowed down so that he was focussed entirely on the Vulcan. "Mr Potter's a wizard, someone that human beings have persecuted for millennia. To announce to the Federation at large that we have a fully-fledged, undying Sorcerer on our hands would invite exactly the kind of shit storm we don't need. However an explanation for Mr Potter's existence must be provided, as well as well founded-reasoning for the Federation to not return to the 'magic planet'. Therefore, I suggest that in the report we… fabricate some facts."
"You are suggesting that we lie to our superiors," Spock paraphrased solemnly.
"Yes, Mr Spock, just so. We will tell them that the race existing there is alien, but similar enough to humans that we assumed they were early colonists. And from there we can essentially tell them the truth - they have next to nothing electric because their planet has an energy that dissipates it."
"Actually, it's us that have the energy-" Harry cut himself off at the sharp look Kirk sent him. He supposed saying the energy belonged to the planet made the story more plausible.
"And Mr Potter?" Spock asked.
Kirk eyeballed Harry for a bit then smiled softly. "We're part of an exploratory organisation, are we not? Our technologies weren't compatible with those of Mr Potter's planet and the rest of his race weren't interested in joining us. But if one person were to express an interest - surely Starfleet would have no complaint in us ferrying one alien to a different planet where space travel is easier and more accessible?"
McCoy still looked amused. "And the bit about him being 'Master of Death'?"
"It's not nearly as threatening or as interesting as it sounds, doctor," Harry remarked, perhaps a little more coldly than he intended. "I don't age like everyone else does and I have a few supernatural trinkets that refuse to be left behind," he paused, considered, and smiled a little. "And if some fool gets it into their head that they want to see how many times they can kill me in a day they might not have that head for much longer. Death doesn't care for me, particularly, but if called too often for a soul he can't take he tends to get irritable. And Death doesn't have the same metaphysical limitations that we do."
"You realise you sound completely mental, right?" Kirk asked in a deadpan tone. In contrast to his tone, his eyes were vibrant blue and flickering with possibilities and questions. It was then that Harry gained a little understanding about the Captain. He was brash, and brave, and more than a little foolish on occasion, but a lot of that was covering the genius brain hidden behind. His face alight with hundreds of ideas Harry realised with a jolt that Kirk played the fool because then it took less time to explain why, as crazy as a plan might sound, it was still their best bet.
A glance at McCoy and Spock told him that the pair of them were all too aware of this defence mechanism of Kirk's - no doubt there were several more that they knew and he did not.
"I'd offer an old family vow as a promise I don't mean any harm, but the only one I know is 'I solemnly swear I'm up to no good' which I don't think will help," Harry said. "As a more positive reassurance, however, I'm willing to open my mind to any one of you."
"You're a telepath?" Kirk asked, his eyes shooting briefly to Spock before resting on Harry again.
"We call the practice of guarding one's mind against foreign invasion Occlumency and the art of that invasion Legilimency," Harry corrected. "Both of which can be achieved by the majority of magic folk with enough practice and willpower. It was outlawed before we left Earth, however, as there were those who had taken to, well, raping minds, I suppose is the closest comparison that can be made."
Spock looked positively outraged at that statement, as Harry supposed he had the right to having only heard half an explanation and already felt Harry's mind touch his. "You tried to-"
"No!" Harry interrupted before any kind of accusation was made. "All I did was - the mental equivalent of a handshake. Trust me, if I'd wanted to hurt you, you'd be brain dead by now - your shields wouldn't have stopped me. I was proficient in both arts before the age of nineteen. The core group of resistance fighters for our side, led by myself, all were. It was too dangerous for us to communicate in a way the Muggles could tap into, let alone actually meet in person! We had to know that if one of us was captured or killed there was no way to use us against the others. So Hermione and Draco made a mind web with seven cores - the most proficient of us to keep the web alive - with everyone else satellites around that.
"You cannot possibly imagine being part of something like that. It was a concept that no one had dared to try before and no one has the knowledge to attempt again. It demanded absolute and complete honesty between the cores, there were no secrets there, all of our darkest, ugliest secrets laid bare. And the slightest deception in anyone - core or satellite - reverberated throughout the entire web. It was the only way to eradicate any impostors or spies.
"As soon as we were free of the Earth's stratosphere we broke the web," Harry continued. "A tiny ship with the entire wizarding population squeezed on board and I have never felt so alone in my entire life. But it was imperative that we break apart and stay separate. Our conscious were bleeding together. Draco said that if we had stayed like that for much longer we wouldn't have been able to separate - we'd have become one, multi-bodied entity. As it was, it was the most painful thing I have ever done.
"And that was all before I was twenty-five. You said I'm 280 now - I've had plenty of time to practice. Mind-magic has become something of a taboo over the last two hundred years. Everyone who knew or had been part of the mind-web chose not to talk about it. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that," Harry chuckled humourlessly.
Kirk interrupted then. "How do we know, if you are so good at this mind-magic stuff, that you won't just fabricate what we want to see?" he asked.
Harry opened his mouth to answer, but Spock cut in before him. "That is why it makes most sense for me to be the one to look inside Mr Potter's mind. Whilst creating memories is not impossible it is very difficult. Even supposing you are capable of providing all of the details your brain subconsciously detects, counterfeit memories continue to… taste different."
For Harry, when he started being able to tell the difference between fake and real memories, he attributed the difference to a sense of smell. It was a feeling that went beyond the senses people relied on in reality so he could understand the Vulcan's difficulty in explaining it.
"Great!" Harry agreed, lounging back on his chair. "Are we going to do this your way or mine?" He asked Spock.
"There's more than one way to read someone's mind?" Kirk asked, brows furrowed and eyes lit up with possibilities again.
Harry leered. "There's more than one way to do anything," he told the Captain with a wink and felt a well of satisfaction that he managed to make Kirk look surprised, and McCoy look irritated.
Spock was, as ever, impassive. "My way," he told Harry blandly. Harry couldn't be certain, but he was almost positive that Spock was being ever so slightly territorial of Kirk.
Harry smiled blandly back and sat up, leaning forward a little. "Your way," he agreed without complaint.
Spock's fingers met his face half way and Harry felt the unwelcome slide of another consciousness trying to worm its way into his. He had become used, in the last two centuries, to being the one in someone else's mind, the soothing blanket wrapping around others. It felt strange to be the one letting someone else in, and it took a lot of effort to peel back his boundaries and let Spock skim the surface.
He pushed forward his primary feelings about the Enterprise - escape, second chance, adventure, scared of the memories it brought out. About the people - foolish, brave, clever, not his, and so very young. And yes, there, McCoy - brilliant, warm, fondness. The Captain - hidden genius, hidden sadness, stubborn streak a mile wide. Faster and faster the impressions came and went; a thousand and one fleeting memories with emotions attached of the few brief hours he'd been on board, all orbiting the one idea.
I want to stay here.
Spock pulled out slowly, carefully, making sure that he didn't knock any memories loose as he did so. Harry was grateful for the consideration - he'd never kept his mind particularly tidy - and while he'd come to terms with everything that had happened a long time ago, it still hurt to remember certain things.
"You may not be able to," Spock told him, referring to the barely hatched idea that already had everything else revolving around it.
Harry tilted his head to the side and watched him curiously. "I know. But there have been many things that I might not have been able to do that I did, and many more that people said point blank could not be done - and yet I did. I think becoming a member of the Enterprise crew will be one of the easier things I've attempted in my life."
McCoy and Kirk's gazes were dancing between the two of them, Kirk grinning a little and McCoy scowling a little - it seemed to be a permanent state of being for both of them.
"He offers us no threat," Spock told the Captain serenely. "It wouldn't be difficult for him to kill us all if we wished, but the same holds true for any member of the Enterprise in the right place at the right time with the right intentions."
"So cheery," McCoy remarked as an aside.
Kirk brightened and bounded up from his seat. "Fantastic!" he enthused, and slapped Harry on the shoulder. "There're always spots on the security team available, if nothing else opens up, but you'd end up having to spend at least three years dirtside getting the correct qualifications and psych evaluations from the 'Fleet. We could bring you on as a civilian contractor, but you'd still need to be contracted in something - what specialties do you have?"
Harry chuckled warmly and stood too. "You mean besides the magic thing?" he teased.
"'Magic thing' isn't currently one of our departments, and I really can't see that application going down well with the high-and-mighties," Kirk shot back, grinning wildly, "Anything usable?"
Harry considered, chewing on the inside of his cheek absentmindedly. "I cook a mean beef lasagne?" he tried. It wasn't a lie - he'd been a good cook for the Dursleys before age eleven. Leaving them behind just meant that he had more options to chose from. But they were on a starship. The prize lady of the Starfleet. No way they didn't already have a decent cook on board.
And yet -
"Really?" Kirk asked. "Does this culinary skill extend beyond the one dish?"
"Uhm, I can cook and serve a full roast dinner with one hand tied behind my back?" Also true. Although his hand had been less 'tied behind his back' and more 'wrapped in a cast after Vernon slammed it against the hob'.
"Desserts?" Kirk continued questioning.
"No," McCoy cut in before Harry could reply. "You consume too much sugar as it is, I'm not allowing Mr Potter's choice of desserts influence whether you hire him or not."
"Aw, come on Bones, won't you let me have any fun?"
McCoy rolled his eyes. "What you classify as 'fun' normally end up with you in my Sickbay, either from a set of broken bones and raw knuckles or a shiny new STD that no one's ever heard of before."
There was no doubting it this time, Spock definitely stiffened. No one else saw it, and it was probably only because Harry had become so very good at watching people and knowing what they wouldn't say that he saw it, but Kirk's First Officer was definitely very protective of him. Whether it was just as a good friend or as something more Harry couldn't say with any degree of accuracy yet, but it he had to place his money on one or the other, it'd be the latter.
"I'm not going to get into a fight or have sex with a pudding, Bones!" Kirk cried in exasperation.
The doctor just raised his eyebrows at his friend, causing Harry to giggle at the insinuation and Kirk to pout a bit. He did not deny it again though.
"The current chef is getting married and leaving the service next month," Spock said, cutting into what would have grown into an awkward silence, had it lasted any longer. "We would need to get a new galley master at some point soon."
"Good thing she's leaving too," Kirk remarked, wrinkling his nose. "Lovely lady - completely nutters of course - but I've no idea how she ever became a cook. And, you know, marriage is a wonderful thing, congratulations and happiness all around." He added the last uncertainly.
Harry bit his tongue to keep from commenting on that. He wasn't sure where Kirk's uncertainty lay and he didn't want to go off on another 'in the good old days' spiel over a conversational slip up that may or not be related to what he was about to say. But the word 'marriage' always did bring up fond memories.
"I can temp with her for a bit, if you like?" he suggested instead. "See if I'm any good before you make a decision?"
"This is the military, not some fancy cooking competition," McCoy remarked. "So long as you don't poison us Jim's got nothing he can legitimately complain about."
"I complain about illegitimate stuff all the time," Kirk shot back, and Harry thought he only did it to be contrary.
"So long as it's not your potential illegitimate kids I'll try not to worry, shall I?" McCoy grouched.
"You always worry, Bones. You're a worry monster, spewing your anxiety out into the world through scowls and bitchiness."
"You talk out of your ass Jim," the Doctor replied, and stood to leave. "And no, that's not a medical opinion," he added in a way that suggested they'd had this conversation - or one similar to it - many times before.
Kirk beamed. "You love me," he stated.
"God knows why," McCoy agreed. "Now get your skinny ass back into that ridiculous chair of yours and keep this bucket of bolts flying. I expect to see you at dinner."
The four of them all trooped out of the briefing room and back onto the bridge. Harry took a moment or two, again, to take it all in, listening to Kirk and McCoy's bickering with a smile. "Are they always like that?" he asked Spock softly.
"Yes," he answered simply.
Harry nodded and grinned, half at himself and his life now, and half at how, no matter how much time had past or how far you travelled, humanity always remained the same.
Harry hummed to himself as he gave the dough he was kneading another good shove before popping it back in the bowl, placing a tea towel over the top and leaving it to rise. Behind him, the noise and clutter of the kitchen - or galley, really, since it was on board a ship - kept a bubble of suspicion and uncertainty around him, and he could feel the distrustful gaze of Lenora - the head chef - heavy on the back of his neck.
Perhaps it made him crazy or, at least, a little less mentally sound than he'd previously seemed, but Harry kind of like it. It reminded him of Snape's classroom where the worst thing that could happen was a loss of house points and a detention. Snape had been a grumpy old git, certainly, but he'd protected all of his students fiercely and, in the end, at the cost of his own life. Of course, in Potions the bubble of quiet around him had more to do with the whole 'Boy-Who-Lived' propaganda rather than everyone trying to work out if he actually was going to poison them or not. Harry blamed Kirk entirely for this.
After they had finished in the briefing room the official reports had been completed, signed and filed away, and Harry had returned to his quarters to try and catch-up a little on human scientific and cultural development. Kirk, naturally, had taken the opportunity to get a foot-in with the Enterprise rumour mill.
By the time Harry left his rooms in search of McCoy and some dinner he had become a telepathic-alien-god-demon, who had come to save/kill/have sex with them all. Considering how well everyone took this in stride Harry had to wonder how often they got passengers of any of that type of description on board. It was nothing like the accusations flung about at Hogwarts (at least there he had always remained human and mortal - which was kind of amusing, in hindsight) but it wasn't as though Harry wasn't used to being treated like a pariah, so he dealt with it reasonably well.
Kirk found his reaction disappointing. McCoy found it amusing. Although that amusement could be more based on Kirk's disappointment - Harry didn't know and he didn't ask.
He'd been on the Enterprise for a week now and everyone else had settled down and relaxed enough around him that Harry was starting to make some tentative acquaintances. The head of Engineering, a frank, stubborn fellow with a broad Scottish accent and a nickname to match, was fast becoming one of Harry's closest friends on board. The combination of no-nonsense attitude and the accent that distinctly felt like 'home' made it easy for Harry to smile and joke and forget that he was an outsider.
And then there was McCoy. Leonard, as Harry had started calling him already. They had indeed had the dinner Harry had teased out of the man and it had both exceeded and failed to meet his expectations. Nothing had come of it, although the doctor got less flustered by Harry's casual flirtation, but it had been a good evening. Harry had started picking up bits and pieces of information from the crew - from Janice Rand especially - and he had found out that Leonard's ex-wife had gained complete custody over their daughter, whom he now hadn't seen for almost five years except via video-feed.
It explained Leonard's hesitation to get involved on a more serious level, at least, and it didn't take a telepath to know that a long-term relationship was what he was looking for. Which meant that courting Leonard would be a slow process. Not delicate - he wasn't a fragile man - but carefully building up trust, firming it into place and building on top of that. Harry was looking forward to it, actually. He and Ginny had just slotted into place, there had been too much going on to take time with these things. Now - now, he had all the time he could wish for and he wanted to curl himself inextricably into Leonard's life, one date at a time.
He'd already been warned by several of the crew not to hurt Leonard. Kirk's had been the least descriptive and, at the same, the one that had sounded the most dangerous. The Captain had just sidled up to him, clapped him on the back and said, cool as a cucumber, "Hurt him and I'll end you." Then he'd grinned - a quick, sharp grin with two many teeth and a million and one sharp edges - and walked off. Master of Death or not Harry had thought, watching him walk off, if there was anyone who could get around that, it'd be Kirk.
Kirk was a strange one, that was for certain. He was easy-going and amiable at times, and cold and hard as ice at others. From what Harry could tell, the Captain was on first name terms with almost all of his crew and didn't have to enforce rules - they wanted to do their job to the best of their abilities for his sake. There was a bravado that spewed sexual innuendo left, right, and centre on a near-constant basis, but under that there were edges. Dangerous edges that would as soon cut him as anyone else.
There were people who knew about the Captain's past, Harry could see it in their eyes as they watched him. Not pitying, although they probably had been at one point, but tender and fond in a way that if Kirk had been his mask alone he wouldn't have been able to stand. But there were probably only two people who knew the whole truth of whatever messy past Kirk kept hidden, and neither of them would say anything.
It was wonderful the way basis of friendships didn't change. Although, after Harry had made the comparison between Leonard, Kirk, and Spock, and the Golden Trio as they had been known, it was that much harder not to share commiserating glances with Leonard. Which only earned him strange looks in return.
Harry returned from his musings of the past week in time to retrieve a tray of biscuits - cookies, he reminded himself - from the oven and set them on a cooling rack. Then, pointedly, he picked one up, blew on it, and bit into it before waving cheerfully at Lenora. She continued to glower back and Harry turned away again before he started laughing.
Perhaps not the most encouraging way to introduce a new chef - "Keep half an eye on him so he doesn't poison us, won't you?" - But it had now been a week and surely they were used to Kirk's jesting by now? Harry chuckled to himself and started making the caramel for the millionaire shortbread that he'd almost finished the base for. 100g margarine here, 100g sugar there, two tins of condensed milk and oh! Yes, a sprinkle of arsenic to spice things up a bit.
He glanced up and saw that Lenora's glare had intensified. Maybe chuckling at his internal monologue whilst making food wasn't the best of plans when everyone thought he might kill them at a drop of a hat. Harry had grown fond of creating a persona for himself, then disproving everyone who thought they knew him by doing something completely out of character; why not have a go at mad scientist? Well, chef, really, but potay-to, potah-to.
Janice wandered into the kitchen, pausing by him to kiss him fondly on the cheek before gathering together some lunch things. They had fast become friends, partly because she was Harry's cultural go-to-girl when he didn't have a clue what he was supposed to do or how he was supposed to do it, partly because she was a terrible gossip and he was the current source of the juiciest stuff, and partly because they just got on well.
"How are you? Coping with the devils down here?" Janice asked, winking at Lenora and grinning at Harry when the other woman hissed and turned away.
Harry half shrugged and left the bubbling caramel to take the shortbread base out of the oven. "Ah, they're not so bad. Well. I think they're not. No one's actually said anything to me other than 'Eep!' so I couldn't say for certain."
"Oh, Harry," Janice sighed, chopping what might have been celery if it weren't a bit red around the edges. "What did you do?"
"Glamour. Pretended I had fangs for a bit," Harry replied blithely, then grabbed a napkin to pick up a couple of the biscuits to pass to her. "Here, take these. If that tray's for Sulu, he'll love them."
"Thanks. Fangs? You were going for the vampire angle then?"
"Well I didn't include any blood or evil cackling, but the crew does have a wonderfully overactive imagination."
"You are a horrible person," she informed him with a wicked smile, reaching for a glass.
Harry grinned at her unrepentantly then asked, in a lower voice, "Do you know how Leonard is?"
Janice hesitated for a moment, then shook her head. "I haven't seen any of the landing party since they left, love."
Harry nodded, pouring the caramel over the base and starting to melt the chocolate. The current mission - if it could be called that, it was more of a pit stop, really - was one that had been handed to the Enterprise at the last minute. The planet they were currently circling hadn't been visited in longer than the Federation's contracts normally allow when there are only two people there doing research, so they'd been asked to stop by, check the scientists' progress and give them basic medical examinations.
There was nothing at all unusual about any of this, except that the woman who was planetside was apparently Leonard's ex-girlfriend. And a pretty significant ex from the sounds of it. She was married to the other scientist working there, but Leonard had seemed rather dazed that morning, having found out only the day before that he'd be seeing her again. Harry wasn't at all sure what to make of any of it all and had decided, for politeness' sake to step back and let events play out as they would. The Enterprise would be leaving soon enough as it was.
But Janice was leaning forward, with the sly expression on her face that Harry had already begun to associate with her having a hot bit of gossip to tell. "You can't tell anyone, because it's still being kept under wraps at the moment, but Crewman Darnell, who went down with the Captain and Dr McCoy was killed. According to Mrs Crater he ate some kind of poisonous plant, but they haven't been able to find any poison in his system and his symptoms don't match anyway."
"He's dead?" Harry asked in a shocked whisper.
"Uhm-hmm," Janice confirmed, nibbling on one of the sticks of not-celery. "So we're going to be here a bit longer than originally planned. Captain reckons McCoy's old sweetheart did it, but has no idea how and McCoy's certain that wasn't the case anyway. They're bringing the Crater's up to the ship now to try and determine what happened."
Harry finished the shortbread and put it to one side to set. "Is Leonard back on board?"
Janice nodded, and finished arranging the tray. "Dinner tonight at six?"
"Yeah," Harry replied distractedly, before focussing on her again with an sad smile. "See you later. Have fun flirting."
"Oh I do," she told him cheekily. "Go find your doctor."
"Yes ma'am!" Harry watched her as she left and shook his head fondly. He kept making comparisons to his old friends and he had to stop it, particularly if he wanted to be happy here. Quickly, he grated some of the left over chocolate and poured it into a blender along with milk and ice cream. Chocolate milkshake in one hand and cookies in another he raced quickly out of the kitchen whilst Lenora was still distracted and went in search of Leonard.
He found him in his quarters, fast asleep and snoring lightly. Harry smiled fondly and placed the food and drink on the bedside table before grabbing a pen and paper to jot down a quick note to leave him.
I brought some comfort food as it sounded like you were having a bad day. If you need someone to talk to, you know how to find me.
He propped it up against the glass and put the writing materials back on Leonard's desk. As Harry was about to turn away and leave the room he caught sight of the only framed picture the doctor seemed to own. The photograph was of a petit little girl, maybe seven or eight years old. She had bright, curly blonde hair and Leonard's dark, warm eyes. Joanna, Harry thought. She was smiling shyly up at the camera and tugging at the bottom of her dress, and it caused the paternal part of Harry to burn fiercely.
It wasn't right that this man, someone he'd come to trust inside only a week, was kept from his daughter. If this were his society, Harry would be knocking on the mother's door and demanding a fairer arrangement. And he would get it, too. But this wasn't his society any more. This was a strange new place where he was a stranger and his word meant just as much as the next man's. It was freeing, like he had hoped, but it was terrible, too. Because now he could do nothing to help Leonard's situation with his daughter.
Harry sighed heavily and left the room with one last glance at the sleeping doctor. He looked even younger in sleep, stress lines smoothed by the calm of dreams. He was vulnerable and strong and far too damned handsome for Harry's comfort of mind. Laughing at his foolishness, he let the door shut behind him and hurried back to the galley.
About half way back, a curious tugging sensation tickled along the back of Harry's mind and caused him to stop short. He blinked a few times and reached out a hand to steady himself against a wall as poked at the feeling with his mind. It was… bizarre. It was an alien consciousness of some sort, both in the fact that it was foreign to Harry and that it was nothing like any mind that Harry had encountered before. It was - sucking, almost. Searching, definitely. Although for what, Harry really couldn't tell.
There was a sort of directionality to, and Harry couldn't help but glance up in that direction and found himself using the wall for support again when he caught sight of what he assumed was the source. It was a hideous looking think, with suckers all over the place and the most awkward looking facial features Harry had ever seen. However, there was a shimmer around it, like he was seeing through a glamour. How strange.
Harry shrugged it off, offered the alien a half-wave and carried on his way. From the way that other crew members didn't give the alien a second glance he could either assume that it was either a well-known race or crew member, or its equivalent to a glamour worked perfectly well on everyone else. Harry was going to guess at the latter. No matter how far humanity had come, there was always a vanity in people that meant no amount of training could prepare you for facing something like that in real life.
He was going to have a word with the Captain, though, when the weird ordeal with the dead security man was sorted out. It would be nice to get a little warning about these things, especially when Kirk and Spock both knew that he was having a little difficulty getting used to his new environment as it was. Ugly-ass aliens appearing in random corridors and tugging on the back of his mind was not the kind of surprise Harry appreciated.
It was several hours and one red alert later that Harry worked out that the alien he'd seen had, in fact, been the alien behind all of the deaths. And that sat incredibly sourly on his tongue. If he had only known, he could have saved - but no. If there was one thing he should know by now, it was that there was no point musing on what-ifs.
He'd spent the hours leading up to dinner in the galley and, when the red alert had sounded, he'd stayed there too. Lenora had sent someone running off with a selection of salt capsules, and had looked dearly as though she'd wanted to send Harry. Thankfully, he was still to new and unsure of the layout of the ship to be an option, and any small dissatisfaction he could give the other chef was a pleasure.
Kirk and Spock came for dinner at the usual time at the end of their shift, with Janice following them in some twenty minutes later, but Leonard didn't show. Once it got to the end of Harry's shift he moved to sit next to Kirk and Spock.
"Do not ask me what happened," Kirk pre-empted any questions. "Hell of a day."
Harry tilted his head, observing Kirk for a long moment before realising that the deaths of the crewmembers weighed heavily on the Captain's mind.
"I was wondering where Leonard was," he corrected softly. "And, uh, also if I could have a list of all the non-human personnel onboard, along with species."
"He went straight to bed. Fucking arse of a day. Worse for him," Kirk commented, then looked at Harry sharply. "You better not be a damn Xenophobe. I'll have you off my ship in seconds."
"No, no," Harry reassured. "It's not that at all. It's just, there's one of your crewmembers who uses a low-level telepathic shield to project a humanoid appearance and, well, I saw through it and it gave me a bit of a shock. I'd prefer to know what to expect."
Spock narrowed his eyes at Harry, as though searching for some answer that was not immediately obvious.
"There's no one onboard that's like that-" Kirk began.
"But the alien we faced today was," Spock finished, the words pinning Harry to the spot as realisation dawned. "I couldn't see through the projection because I am touch telepath. Mr Potter is not. Perhaps it would be a wise idea to allow him access to crew records to see if we can avoid this kind of mishap in the future."
Kirk's eyes sparked fury momentarily, before it cooled and he calmed again. It was clear that the use of the word 'mishap' had angered him briefly in its connection to several deaths, but he had thought better of his immediate response. Spock did not mean to trivialise their deaths just… put them in perspective. Grieve it, accept it, move on.
"Yeah," he agreed quietly. "Yeah. I'll get Janice to forward them to your PADD first thing tomorrow."
"Why don't you head to bed too, Captain?" Harry suggested. "You look like your coming off an especially tiring adrenaline high. Nothing's going to happen over night."
Kirk snorted in wry amusement at that. "You've gone and jinxed it now," he teased. "If I'm up in anything less than six hours, I'm blaming you."
Harry grinned back. "You do that." He then left them to their conversation to grab his own dinner and join Janice and her friends.
"Hey love," she greeted. "Did you hear?" she asked, obviously in reference to today's 'mishap'.
"If you're talking about the beastie wandering the corridors disguised as Mrs Crater and sucking all the salt out of people, then yeah, a little bit."
"No, silly," Janice contradicted. "Everyone knows about that, old news. No, I'm talking about Gordon, down in robotics."
This brought Harry up short. Gossip have moved on from serial killing alien already?
"Your face," Janice tittered. "We never gossip about missions. Too many deaths, feels too much like talking ill of the dead. Besides which, no one wants to think about lost friends or - ah - neglected jobs."
"Makes sense," Harry agreed readily enough. "Now what's this about Gordon?"
"Gordon in robotics, not Gordon in personnel," Janice reminded.
Harry gave her a flat look. "I don't, currently, know any Gordons."
Janice responded with an equally flat look and proceeded to tell a rather long, convoluted tale involving many people, only a few of whom Harry recognised the names of, let alone was able to put a face to, resulting in poor old Gordon-from-robotics getting yelled at on two separate occasions for the same crime, that he hadn't actually committed. Harry oohed and aahed in the right places and tried not to laugh too much. It was good to know that the rumour mill had moved on to bigger and better things already.
"How did your flirtation with Sulu at lunch go?" Harry asked lightly, once Janice's previous story had come to the end. It appeared to be the wrong question to ask, if her disgruntled expression was anything to go by.
"I don't know," she replied, somewhat bitterly. "I know he's flirting back, I just can't tell if it's because he likes me or not. You know, I'm half convinced he's gay?"
Harry let out a startled laugh. "Just because you're gorgeous and he hasn't asked you out already doesn't mean he's gay," he tried to reassure around chortles.
Janice humphed and pouted a little, clearly not believing it. "What about you and Leonard?" she asked in retaliation. "Did you go and see him?"
"Yeah," Harry said. "He was asleep when I got there though, so I just left him the milkshake and cookies and headed back to the kitchens - uh, galley."
Janice shook her head at him. "You are unbelievably cute," she informed him. "How do you get to be 280 and still as kittenly adorable as you?"
"'Kittenly' isn't a word," Harry felt the need to inform her. She ignored him.
"You're all first-love over Leonard, sweet smiles and adoring looks. If you weren't so charming I might have to smack you for it."
Harry offered a one-shouldered shrug and a half smile. "I have only ever been in love with one person, and I lived to see her die of old age. Maybe I can still be 'first-love' about it because I still believe that love can last a lifetime?" He regretted the words almost as soon as they left his mouth, because Janice's eyes got huge and her expression soppy.
"Aaaaw," she exclaimed, leaning across the table and crushing him into a hug. "You are too adorable!"
Harry suffered through the hug with fond exasperation and vowed to not speak about love again, unless it was to someone a lot less likely to get quite so mushy about it.
AN: So what do you think? Not too much mission, I hope. Not enough flirting with Leonard this time though :/ I'll work on that for the next chapter. I threw in some Kirk/Spock secret-jealousy-issues because I love those two and their obliviousness, and I even managed a little Kirk/Harry non-serious flirtage for one of my lovely reviewers who requested it. I'm curious though. About the Sulu thing, are people more interested in seeing Sulu/Chekov or Sulu/Janice? Or even Sulu/Chekov/Janice. I really don't mind either way ^^ But an answer would be good because Janice is rapidly and unexpectedly becoming a pretty major character. Oops?