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A Lullaby For The Stars

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If Victor’s honest, he’s not entirely sure how he became Captain of a military vessel.

 

Okay, there had been the way he’d thrown himself at the job for years, and yes he’s pulled off some pretty spectacular missions that should really have been impossible. But mostly, he’s just a dork in space who enjoys whizzing around on his personal cruiser when he can.

 

Today is not one of the days he can. Five things have already gone wrong even though it should be an ordinary Tuesday and he’s at his wits end by early afternoon. Not that space has afternoon.

 

And now there’s this. An unidentified object floating in the vacuum ahead of them and looking non-too-threatening but probably is because that’s the sort of day he’s having.

 

“Chulanont, try to get a read on what the hell that is,” Victor says from his Captain’s chair, glaring at the speck of colour he’s seeing in the wide window of the bridge. “I don’t want to alter our course if it’s just gas.”

 

Phichit Chulanont, Officer and navigator, gives his cheery ascent and taps away at the deck in front of him. An enlarged image of the thing in space zooms into view on the glass screen.

 

It’s a body, floating in the vacuum. Nebulous colours drift around them, like a star belt spun into fabric. These vapours seem to draw themselves around the figure, partially clothing it, leaving stretches of creamy skin visible. The body drifts, long limbs floating loosely out from what can only be a corpse.

 

Victor stares, momentarily caught by the absurdity of the situation, before he springs into action.

 

“We need to bring the body in,” he says turning to his First Officer, Christophe Giocometti, his expression grave. “Examine it for clues as to what happened. There might be more survivors close by. Full autopsy, alert Sara. Chulanont, do a sweep for the ship.”

 

Christophe nods and hurries off to carry out his orders. Victor turns back to look at the figure. He dips his head in respect. Where’s this person’s ship? Where’s the distress call?

 

Moments later, a beam of light falls across the body, and the coloured clouds jerk slightly as it starts to get reeled towards the ship. Victor leaves the bridge to head for the landing platform, the heels of his boots clicking across the floor as he hurries to see the strange figure.

 

The landing bay is lit by the same cool blue and white lights as the rest of the ship, a raised chrome dais in the centre of the white room. There are several clicks and thunks from somewhere beneath the dais, and then it opens, the supine figure of a man slowly raised up on the lift. Victor’s inhale is sharp.

 

He is beautiful. Thick, dark lashes cast shadow onto high cheekbones, a sweet little nose above full, slightly parted lips. Raven hair is swept back from a smooth forehead, face slack in death. The graceful limbs are loose around the slumped body, the strange, cloud-like clothing now settled across the curves, thinner than any material Victor’s ever seen, like solidified smoke.

 

“Captain!” Sara’s voice, her figure darting up onto the dais from where she was stood watching with Chris. “He’s breathing!”

 

Victor starts, pulled from his rapture to hurry forward, concern and confusion knitting his brow as he takes in the rise and fall of the man’s chest.

 

“But… he was out there…” Christophe says, joining Victor and Sara on the dais as Mila takes off towards the medical bay. “How is he alive?”

 

“I think the question is what, rather than how.” Victor says, watching as Sara presses her finger to the pulse point on the man’s neck.

 

“Steady heartbeat,” she reports, before bending to listen to the man’s chest, the dark curtain of her hair falling forward over her face.

 

“Can we move him to the medbay?” Victor asks, crouching down next to Sara.

 

“If we’re careful,” Sara says, still checking the man’s vitals. “I don’t know what injuries he sustained.”

 

But as her hands dance over his skin, the man stirs slightly.

 

“Captain!” Sara gasps again, just as Mila returns with Georgi and a stretcher.

 

Victor immediately leans forward, placing a hand on the man’s cheek to tilt his face towards him. He feels no threat from the man despite not knowing what he is. The dark lashes flutter, the brow pinching as the man stirs. He lets out a small groan.

 

“Can you hear me?” Victor says, soft and clear. “You’re aboard the Starship Neuro, you’re safe.”

 

Dark eyes of the deepest brown blink blearily up at him. Victor’s heart stutters and then thuds twice as fast.

 

Then the man screams.

 

Victor is hurled backwards as the man scrambles away from him, backing away so fast that his graceful body slams into the opposite wall. His crewmates let out sounds of alarm and Georgi and Mila’s hands flash to their stunners.

 

“No!” Victor barks, throwing out a hand to stop them as he struggles upright.

 

He gives them each a sharp look that has them lowering their weapons, before turning. The man is flattened against the wall, panic in his eyes as he takes in the group before him. The strange, colourful material is floating around him again, disturbed by his movement. Victor takes a step forward and the man throws out a hand, letting out a stream of panicked words in a language that Victor does not recognise. Victor raises his hands.

 

“It’s okay,” he says, trying to make his voice and expression as unthreatening as possible. “We’re military, we rescued you.”

 

The man just lets out another stream of chattering, the short syllables striking the air as his eyes dart to the exit.

 

“Look,” Victor takes his his gun out of its holster and lays it on the ground before straightening back up.

 

The man watches him do this, eyes suspicious as they stay fixed on Victor. Victor raises his empty hands again and takes another step forward.

 

The man lets out another few words which must be a warning to stay back, but Victor just takes a few more steps and then stops a little way from him. He points to the badge on his chest.

 

“I’m the captain of the Starship Neuro,” Victor tells him, knowing the man probably doesn’t understand but deciding that a calm tone of voice might help. “This is some of my crew. We’re army, we help people, do exploration and rescue missions.”

 

He pauses to ascertain whether the man has taken any of this in. But he just continues to watch Victor with wary eyes. Victor points to himself.

 

“Victor,” he says, before pointing at the man. “Can you tell me your name?”

 

The man’s mouth twitches. He’s taking in every detail of Victor with those big, dark eyes.

 

Victor points again at himself, repeating his name before pointing back at the man. There’s a pause, and then —

 

“Yuuri.”

 

The man’s voice is soft when not panicked, the syllables rounded. He’s still plastered to wall. Victor beams.

 

“Hello Yuuri,” he says, gentle and full of warmth.

 

Yuuri blinks at him, his hands clenching and unclenching repeatedly. Victor takes another step forward, and this time Yuuri does not flinch away.

 

“Can you tell me what happened out there?” Victor points to the wall and then at Yuuri, trying to sign out what he means.

 

Yuuri considers him for a moment, before seeming to make his mind up about something. He holds a hand out to Victor. Victor smiles, thrilled at this development. He steps forward, still careful to move slow and unthreatening. Yuuri lets him come to him, and accepts the hand that Victor extends. His skin is smooth, and very warm despite having just been in the vacuum of space. Victor can’t help the jolt in his pulse as their hands meet.

 

Yuuri searches Victor’s eyes for a moment and then closes his own. The feeling is instantaneous and makes Victor’s knees buckle.

 

Images flash through his mind, gone too quickly to grasp, a sensation like fingers flicking over his memories. He’s yanked out of it by the sound of shouting.

 

Yuuri’s hand is gone from Victor's and his knees are searing from hitting the floor. Every one of his crew-mates have their guns drawn and pointing at Yuuri, who is back to being plastered to the wall. Victor goes to give the order for them to lower their weapons, but at that moment Yuuri speaks for him. Something slices through the air in a horizontal arc over Victor’s head, knocking his crew off their feet. Victor turns and sees Yuuri with his face set, his nebulous skirts rising around him.

 

“Yuuri no!” Victor shouts, flinging a hand towards him. “They were defending me.”

 

Yuuri looks down at him, and his expression smoothes. Victor’s taken aback by the warmth he sees in Yuuri’s eyes as he gazes down at him.

 

“They are loyal,” Yuuri says, and Victor starts at hearing his own language on Yuuri’s tongue. “With good reason.”

 

“You…” Victor says, getting unsteadily to his feet. “You speak our language.”

 

Yuuri nods, still glaring at the crew he just scattered.

 

Victor stares at him, remembering the feeling of someone rifling through his mind.

 

“You can read minds,” he says, realisation dawning on him. “You learnt the language from me.”

 

Yuuri’s gaze shifts back to Victor, his lips twitching in what Victor thinks might be the beginnings of a smile. His skin almost shimmers under the blue lights, bare shoulders thrown back as he considers Victor.

 

Behind Victor his crew are getting to their feet, Mila cursing up a storm about her sore backside. Victor ignores them.

 

“What the flying fuck was that?” Sara groans, rubbing her head as she glares at Yuuri.

 

Yuuri simply blinks slowly back at her, expression insolently bored.

 

“That’s quite the punch you’re packing, hun,” Christophe says, massaging his hip, managing to give Yuuri a flirty smirk despite his obvious annoyance.

 

Victor ignores their grumbling and addresses Yuuri.

 

“What was that?” Victor repeats Sara’s question. He realises that as much as he’s inclined to like and trust Yuuri, he’s potentially a dangerous alien with yet unknown powers.

 

Yuuri opens his mouth, then closes it again, looking down at his feet.

 

“Yuuri, I need to protect my crew,” Victor implores. “Can it damage the ship? How strong is it?”

 

“I won’t damage the ship,” Yuuri says quietly, and the statement seems to surprise him slightly.

 

“Okay,” Victor says slowly. “How strong is it? Can it hurt my crew?”

 

Yuuri looks up at him and looks suddenly very sad. He slowly shakes his head. Victor changes tact.

 

“Why were you floating unconscious out there?” he asks, gaze raking Yuuri’s body. “Are you hurt?”

 

Yuuri shakes his head again, smoothing his hands over his arms as though to assess this fact himself. Victor’s momentarily distracted by the flex of his arm muscles.

 

“Where’s your ship?” Victor continues. “Could there be more survivors?”

 

Yuuri looks up at him. He seems to struggle with something for a moment.

 

“There is no ship,” he says finally.

 

Then Phichit bounds in.

 

“Captain, we’re on course for the Daria system but — oh hello,” Phichit says, interrupting Victor’s line of questioning as he catches sight of Yuuri. He skids to a halt, and after a quick flick of his eyes taking Yuuri in from head to toe, Phichit beams at him, his megawatt sunshine smile on fullblast.

 

“You’re the body we just pulled in, alive and well I see, oh but you’re so pretty, come here, ooh your dress is gorgeous, I like it,” Phichit says, talking a mile a minute as he bounces over to a bemused looking Yuuri, who lets Phichit take his hand and drag him forwards. “What were you doing out there? Oh my gosh what is your skin routine, you doll, we must trade tips.”

 

“Chulanont, we weren’t really finished here,” Victor complains, trailing after his Officer as he draws Yuuri away.

 

“Nonsense,” Phichit says, flapping a hand at him before folding it over Yuuri’s arm. “This boy’s had a horrible shock, he needs tea and hamster time.”

 

Victor can’t help the smile that tugs at the corner of his mouth even as Phichit outright ignores his Captain, because Yuuri is letting Phichit drag him along with a confused smile. His bare feet are light on the white floor, cloudy skirts swirling after him. But he stumbles slightly and holds onto to Phichit’s arm more tightly, making Victor frown.

 

“Take him down to Doctor Altin,” Victor orders in a last ditch attempt to take control of the situation. “He needs to be checked for injuries.”

 

“No it’s just...” Yuuri stutters and then blushes in a way that flings Victor’s brain directly into the nearest sun. “Gravity. I’m not used to it.”

 

Phichit coos over him and wraps his arm more securely around Yuuri’s waist. Then he’s chattering on again as he leads Yuuri off down the corridor.

 

“Babicheva, go with them,” Victor says, watching them go as he beckons her forward.

 

“Certainly, Captain,” she says, passing him. “Should I get someone else from security to watch him too?”

 

Victor hadn’t even been thinking about it in that way, he just wanted to make sure Yuuri was okay.

 

“Yes,” Victor replies, frowning and distracted. “Once he’s been to medical return him to me. I need to continue questioning him.”

 

Mila ducks her head in assent, already striding off after the pair.

 

Victor watches her go for a moment and then turns and heads towards the bridge, Christophe in his wake, the others following a little way behind.

 

“Yuuri says there was no ship, so we probably need to look for debris,” Victor says. “Slow us from Phichit’s path to the Daria system, I want to linger here and figure out what happened.”

 

“Yes, Captain,” Chris agrees as they step onto the bridge.

 

Victor goes and takes a seat in the Captain’s chair, overlooking the Officers as they reenter the ship’s course. At that moment, another ship pings onto their monitor. It’s a huge thing, bigger than the Neuro. And it’s racing towards them, showing no signs of slowing. Alarmed, Victor turns to Chris, who has taken Phichit’s vacant seat.

 

“Connect to that ship’s comms,” Victor orders. “If they aren’t careful they’re going to crash right into us.”

 

But as he speaks the ship slows. A call comes through on their own comms, and the glass that had been offering a view of the approaching ship flickers to an image of a human face Victor does not know.

 

“This is the Starship Neuro,” Victor says, tone clipped in annoyance at this ship’s recklessness. “You are coming dangerously close to violating military airspace, civilian.”

 

“Hardly,” the man on the screen drawls. “When we’ve been sent with the full blessing of the military, Captain Nikiforov.”

 

Victor blinks, and reevaluates the man. He’s got a soft face, something childish in his round cheeks and the flop of blonde hair on his head. He’s not wearing any sort of uniform as far as Victor can tell. In fact that looks like a lab coat.

 

“I’m sorry,” Victor says, his voice still cold despite the new information. “I was under the impression that we hadn’t met.”

 

“Oh you’re right, we haven’t,” the man says, a grin breaking out across his face. “But you’re the face of Space Fleet, Captain, it’d be very hard not to recognise you considering what we do.”

 

Victor catches Christophe swivel his own chair to face him, and knows he’s got his eyebrows raised in that look that’s long foretold a night of demolishing someone over a glass of wine.

 

“And what would that be, sir?” Victor asks politely, ignoring Chris’ look.

 

“We’re scientists of course,” the man replies. “But how rude of me, I haven’t introduced myself. I am Doctor Alexander Howard, at your service.”

 

Victor inclines his head graciously, aware that the rest of his crew on the bridge like Doctor Howard’s oily tone about as much as he does.

 

“But it is our duty to be of service to you, Doctor Howard,” he says. “How may we assist you in this military commissioned operation of yours?”

 

A greasy, pleased look comes over the Doctor’s face then. Victor feels a stab of foreboding, and wonders if he can possibly backtrack from the offer he just made.

 

“My deepest apologies, but I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to discuss that over comms,” Doctor Howard says, not sounding sorry at all. “Perhaps if I came aboard we could talk? I have the necessary papers for boarding a military vessel.”

 

Victor considers this. He can see Chris shaking his head violently out of the corner of his eye, but there’s really no good reason he can refuse. Especially not if Doctor Howard really is on military orders as he claims.

 

“Please,” Victor concedes, “we will arrange for your arrival, Doctor.”

 

“Thank you, Captain.”

 

And the call shuts off.

 

“I don’t like him,” Chris pipes up, barely after the video cuts.

 

“Giocometti,” Victor sighs, rubbing his temple which has started throbbing. “We have to accommodate civilians who request an audience. Especially those on military orders.”

 

“Yes but him?” Chris wrinkles his nose. “The good Doctor just seems so… oily.”

 

That is in fact the exact adjective Victor had applied himself to the man, but he paints on a scolding look.

 

“Enough, Giocometti,” he says, standing from his chair. “It’s our obligation.”

 

Christophe scoffs in a way that tells Victor that he knows he got the bitching-over-wine-look he threw him and can tell Victor is gagging for it too.

 

“I want you to remain on the bridge whilst I go meet Doctor Howard,” Victor tells him, eyeing the rest of his crew until they stop ogling the scene between Chris and him and jump back to work. “You are to continue searching for debris or other indicators of an accident.”

 

It strikes Victor then that Yuuri had been unaccustomed to gravity. If that was the case, and he could survive the vacuum of space, was there any ship at all? This is an absurd thought, because of course even with the other factors Yuuri would have still needed a ship to get off whatever planet he’s come from. Right?

 

Victor shakes the thought from his head, and brings his fingers to his ear and his watch to his lips as he leaves the bridge. His internal call buzzes for a second, before the voice of Seung-Gil Lee, Chief Science Officer comes into his ear.

 

“Captain?”

 

“Lee,” Victor says as he strides up the corridor. “I need you to come talk to a guest we’re soon to be hosting, meet me in my office.”

 

There’s a beat, then an irritated sigh.

 

“Isn’t Popovich up there with you?” Seung-Gil asks, his indifferent rudeness unfailing even in the face of his Captain. “Why do I have to come up?”

 

“Because whilst Popovich is a very accomplished Science Officer, he does not have your gift for making people sweat,” Victor says, hurrying now as he knows how fast a one man shuttle can be and he’d like to be set up in his office by the time the Doctor arrives.

 

“Ah,” says Seung-Gil, short but slightly less annoyed at Victor’s apparently interesting proposition. “I’ll be right up then, Captain.”

 

“Thank you,” Victor huffs, stepping into a lift and jabbing the button for his floor just as the call clicks off.

 

Fifteen minutes later, and Doctor Alexander Howard is being ushered into Victor’s office by a friendly cadet.

 

“Thank you, Olondra,” the Doctor says, politely but apparently indifferent to the pretty girl accompanying him.

 

Strange, Victor thinks, he’d pegged Alexander as the type to creep a bit of sexual harassment in where he could.

 

Victor has arranged himself behind his desk, which is in the outer room of his suite and the first place visitors have to enter before reaching his living areas beyond. It’s white and minimalist like the rest of the ship, but it has an air of private authority that the communal spaces he resides over lack. Seung-Gil stands at his shoulder, wearing the same coolly blank mask as ever.

 

“Doctor Howard,” Victor says, standing and rounding the desk to shake the Doctor’s hand. “Please sit. I trust you had no trouble getting through?”

 

“None at all,” Doctor Howard says, smiling obligingly as Victor gestures for him to take a seat.

 

“This is my Chief Science Officer, Doctor Seung-Gil Lee,” Victor says, indicating Seung-Gil as he retakes his seat. “He’s here in case I get a little lost with the nature of your mission. I take it it is science related, considering your profession?”

 

“Yes, of course,” Doctor Howard says, eyeing Seung-Gil with ill disguised displeasure that instantly puts Victor in a better mood.

 

“So, Doctor,” Victor starts. “How can we be of assistance?”

 

Doctor Howard considers this for a moment, making a show of tilting his head to one side as he thinks. Victor chooses to ignore this, instead going to pour them both a glass of water from the tray to the side of his desk.

 

“Well the problem is, Captain,” Doctor Howard says slowly, accepting the water and taking a long sip before he continues. “We’re rather at loss as to where a vital part of our mission has gone. I suppose you could say it’s the whole mission. And we were hoping you could help us find it.”

 

Victor, who’d half expected a mundane problem and lots of obnoxious babbling to make it seem bigger than it is, frowns at this vagueness.

 

“And what might this object be?” Victor asks, heavily hoping that Seung-Gil will be able to explain any obscure science tech that is about to come up. Victor was top of his year back at the Academy, but Seung-Gil has a tendency to turn into a talking textbook for even the most niche areas of science. It's one of the main reasons Victor hired him. 

 

“Oh it’s not an object,” the Doctor says, looking surprised that Victor thought so. “It’s a lifeform.”

 

“Indeed?” Victor prompts, his eyebrows rising at this new turn of events.

 

Then why did you say ‘it’? he wants to ask, but pushes the motion aside. Of course the Doctor would say ‘it’. He’s clearly that sort of scientist.

 

“Yes,” the Doctor says, placing his glass down. “You see the reason we have military backing, is because this particular specimen is really very dangerous, Captain. And you see, we traced it here, to this stretch of space after weeks of pursuit. Only to have it vanish. As though into thin air. Or vacuum, as the case may be.”

 

Doctor Howard chuckles at his little joke.

 

There’s a dread growing in Victor, like thorns curling their way up around his ribs. He sees a body in space. He sees a little stumble as feet become accustomed to gravity. He sees a pair of wide, frightened brown eyes.

 

“So you see my problem, Captain Nikiforov,” Doctor Howard says, grimacing as though he really wished it was any other way. “But the only explanation we can see for this lifeform’s disappearance, is that it is somewhere here on your ship.”

 

There’s a long silence. Victor’s heart is beating very hard in his chest. He’s trying to arrange his face into something like puzzled curiosity. But he knows his shoulders are too tight, his back too straight, and the way Doctor Howard is gazing at him tells him the Doctor knows everything there is to know about what’s going on in Victor’s head.

 

“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, Doctor,” Victor says eventually, deciding that there’s nothing for it but to outright lie. If Doctor Howard has a warrant for Yuuri, then he can’t stop him from taking him. But he can’t have a warrant to search a military ship just lying around. “We have taken in no lifeforms that I know of.”

 

Doctor Howard’s face breaks into a grimace, any semblance of politeness falling away for a moment before he struggles to regain his composure.

 

“Ah,” he says, tugging slightly at the collar of his lab coat. “Well then. Apologies if I don’t take your word for it, Captain, but have you done a full sweep of the ship?”

 

“A sweep?” Victor asks, slightly wrong-footed. He’d been expecting an outright accusal of a lie from the Doctor.

 

“Yes,” Doctor Howard goes on. “You see this creature’s clever. From what we’ve observed, they have possibly the same cognitive capabilities as we do. This does not deter from their natural violence, but rather makes them all the more dangerous. They of course have none of the human emotions that make them potential allies for our race. They lack compassion, empathy, and a number of other emotions that makes them really no more important than say... a house-cat.”

 

Victor sees Yuuri’s fond expression as he looks down at him, the acknowledgement of his crew’s loyalty as Yuuri holds back from outright killing them all. As Victor’s just now finding out he could have done.

 

“That is concerning, Doctor,” Victor says after a beat, reassessing the Doctor’s ship, how big it is, how many armed men he could have on board. “We will of course do a full sweep if you think there is some way this lifeform could have made it on board. I will say that we are heavily shielded though, it is unlikely anything made it through our barriers.”

 

“Well,” Doctor Howard says, smiling at Victor in a way that makes his skin crawl. “That certainly puts me more at ease over the safety of your crew. However, we will of course be permitted to stay with the Starship Neuro as you make your assessment?”

 

“Of course,” Victor says, dipping his head. Then he hesitates before —

 

“May I ask what you do with these lifeforms you find?” Victor asks, trying to sound nonchalant. “We have our own science crew on board, exploration and discovery being a large part of what we do.”

 

“Well I can’t share the details,” Doctor Howard says, which he’s clearly thoroughly enjoying lording over Victor. “But we observe. Take samples.”

 

“Samples?” Victor asks, his stomach rolling over in a thoroughly unpleasant way.

 

“Of course,” the Doctor says, looking puzzled. “Standard procedure for many new lifeforms.”

 

Victor feels sick.

 

Surely the council wouldn’t stand for this. They couldn’t condone… Victor thinks back, to records of what it was like when humans were first meeting intelligent alien species. Whilst there had been peaceful meetings in some cases, there had been clashes in many. And that’s not even starting on the types that don’t communicate the same way, that humans had to go the extra stretch to understand. He thinks of the nueminei, a name given to the race by humans, because their language doesn’t use words. In fact, humans didn’t think they communicated on an intelligent level at all. Their complex hive mind was overlooked, their customs ignored, and their resource rich planet plundered. Nuemin is now a protected planet, its people given special privileges. Humans can’t visit Nuemin without the proper permissions. That didn’t stop a bunch of nueminei being massacred even when the Council had realised their mistake. All that red tape and bureaucracy cost lives.

 

Victor covers for the way his hands have started shaking by standing.

 

“Well we’ll be sure to do a full sweep of the ship for you, Doctor. But now I’m afraid I must return to my duties. Seung-Gil here will see you to your transport.”

 

The Doctor nods, standing also as Seung-Gil comes around to lead him to the door. Victor doesn’t miss the curious glance his Chief Science Officer throws him behind the Doctor’s back, but there’s nothing he can say now.

 

When the door slides shut behind the pair of them, Victor sinks back to sit against the edge of his desk. His head is thudding. He doesn’t know what to do with all the information he was just handed. He trusts Seung-Gil to have the intuition to keep it to himself for now, but he doesn’t have a plan beyond that.

 

Doctor Howard’s ship is under military orders. His military. Victor would be in direct defiance of his duties if he doesn’t hand Yuuri over to the Doctor. He’d be worse than a deserter. He’d be a traitor.

 

But Yuuri. He sees him, scared, lashing out, and still holding back. And he sees the Doctor again, telling him that Yuuri has no human emotions, is less than a house-cat. The Doctor is after all, a scientist. Victor knows all too well what his mission will be in concerns to Yuuri. How those ‘samples’ will be taken. And it doesn’t look like Yuuri would be kept alive for it either. Not if he’s dangerous.

 

Victor takes a shakey breath, and looks around his office. It’s nice really, lacking colour other than the gentle pink light cast up onto the long stretch of wall to his right. It’s soothing.

 

Victor takes another breath, and decides.

 


 

Yuuri is sat on the operation table when Victor enters the medbay. His mouth is open as Doctor Altin examines it with his latex-covered fingers, and Yuuri's looking as though the only reason he’s not biting those fingers off is because Phichit is playing with his hair.

 

“And Yuri here is the Assistant Chief Security and Tactical Officer, very young for his position too, we’re all very impressed by baby Yuri,” Phichit is saying as he twists locks of Yuuri’s hair into little patterns.

 

“Hey!” Yuri says sharply, from where he’s leant against Otabek’s desk with his arms cross. “Where did baby Yuri come from?”

 

Mila is nowhere in sight, which Victor suspects means she’s deemed Yuri as capable enough or Yuuri as unthreatening enough, and found something else to do.

 

“Well now there’s two Yuris,” Phichit says, as though this is obvious. “We can’t call you both the same thing, it’ll get confusing.”

 

“I was here first,” Yuri points out, livid. “And we don’t even know if this pig is staying.”

 

Yuuri flashes Yuri a look that’s half offended, half deadly, but Yuri’s undeterred.

 

“We can just call this Yuri, Yuuri number two,” Otabek offers.

 

Luckily, his fingers are out of Yuuri’s mouth now, because the look Yuuri gives him could definitely maim.

 

“How about Yurio?” Victor suggests, making all of them jump and turn to look at him where he’s leant against the doorframe. “I think Yurio suits you, Plisetsky.”

 

“What?!” Yuri hisses, and looks like he’s about to go into full scratchy, angry cat mode, but then Otabek lays a hand on his arm.

 

“I’ll still call you Yuri, even if the Captain has a new name for you,” he says the last in a way that’s clearly meant to remind Yuri who he’s talking to. But Victor’s pretty sure Yuri deflates because of Otabek’s effect on him rather than Victor’s.

 

“Well I guess if you still do,” Yuri mutters, scowling. “I don’t care about these other idiots.”

 

“Aw, Yurio!” Phichit trills, looking delighted as he hops down from behind Yuuri. “You’re finally talking about your feelings!”

 

“Shut up! I will kill you!”

 

Victor ignores the argument as he approaches Yuuri instead. Yuuri’s eyes flick up to his, and then he looks quickly down, fiddling with his colourful dress as his mouth twists into something like a smile.

 

“How’re you feeling?” Victor asks gently, coming to lean a hip on the table next to him.

 

Yuuri’s cheeks have gone slightly pink, and from this close Victor can see what Phichit meant about Yuuri’s skin. He practically glows.

 

“Okay I guess,” Yuuri mumbles, and Victor wonders what happened to the confidence bordering on murderous that he’s seen.

 

“Really?” Victor prompts, resisting the urge to tuck a finger under the other man’s chin and tilt his face up.

 

“Well my head hurts,” Yuuri says after a beat. “Doctor Altin says I have a concussion. He said I shouldn’t be alone or sleep.”

 

Victor feels like it’s a physical effort to stop the way his thoughts run away with that sentence, but he manages it, pasting on a gentle smile.

 

“Of course,” he says. “We’ll have someone with you at all times. And we’ll set up somewhere for you to stay so you can recover properly.”

 

“Thank you,” Yuuri half whispers, but when he glances up, Victor is surprised to see conflict in his eyes.

 

He thinks he might know what it is about though. If Doctor Howard’s crew has been pursuing Yuuri for weeks, his impression of humans can hardly be a positive one.

 

This is why Victor has to force himself to say the next sentence.

 

“Yuuri,” he says gently. “I’m afraid I still have some questions for you.”

 

Yuuri looks at Victor properly then. There’s something like fear in his eyes again, and he searches the Captain’s face, slightly frantic.

 

“It’s alright,” Victor assures him. “It can be just you and me. And you don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to.”

 

This would not be usual military procedure for persons of potential threat, but clearly if Victor’s going to do this, he’s going to go the whole hog.

 

After a moment, Yuuri nods, and Victor feels a wave of relief. He can make a plan, he can keep Yuuri safe that much more easily if Yuuri trusts him.

 

“Good,” Victor sighs, his chin dipping towards his chest, suddenly feeling drained. “Good. Well if Doctor Altin is happy to release you, I’d really like to do that now.”

 

The other three, who have been chatting and bickering by Otabek’s desk, turn at that. Apparently they weren’t as oblivious to his and Yuuri’s conversation as they’d been pretending to be.

 

“I’m happy for Yuuri to go,” Otabek agrees, coming over to squint into Yuuri’s eyes one last time. “But he does have to be monitored. And I’m not keen on the idea of him sleeping yet. But if he has to, I’d like someone there with him at all times, waking him up every hour to check.”

 

“I’ll do it!” Phichit exclaims, almost barrelling Otabek out of the way if it weren’t for the Doctor stepping smoothly aside. “Sleepover, Yuuri! We can eat candy and watch the clips of that time Chris and the Captain got drunk.”

 

“Chulanont,” Victor says, in a tone which has the Pavlovian effect of making Phichit snap to attention fast enough for his heels to clack as they come together. “You are not under any circumstance to show that video to Yuuri.”

 

“Yes, Captain Nikiforov,” Phichit says, apparently full of remorse, but Victor catches the wink he throws at Yuuri.

 

Victor only rolls his eyes at this, and helps Yuuri to his feet.

 

“How’s gravity treating you?” Victor asks as they leave the medbay.

 

“It’s okay,” Yuuri says, giving Victor a shy smile. “It’s just odd. Takes a moment.”

 

“That’s alright,” Victor assures him, not feeling sorry at all for an excuse to wrap his arm around the very pretty man’s waist. “It’s like sea legs, you’ll find them eventually.”

 

“...Sea?” Yuuri asks, looking blankly up at him.

 

“Yes, it’s…” Victor starts then stops, blinking. “You’ve never seen a sea?”

 

“No,” Yuuri says, shaking his head, his lip twisting slightly in worry. “Is that bad?”

 

“No,” Victor says automatically, anything to take that concern out of Yuuri’s expression. “No, it’s just… I’m surprised your planet doesn’t have seas. Or maybe you call them something else, I don’t know how this language thing of yours works.”

 

Yuuri just hums and looks away, apparently not wishing to continue the conversation. They fall silent as they get into the lift to take them back up to Victor’s rooms.

 

Moments later Victor can be found dying at the sight of Yuuri curled up on his couch, his hands cradling a mug of hot chocolate like it’s the best gift he’s ever been given.

 

“It’s like… fizzing on my tongue,” Yuuri says, his nose scrunching up as he tries to find the words for the taste. “But soft. Like solar winds with cloud bits.”

 

“Cloud bits?” Victor asks, momentarily distracted from the downright adorable sight of Yuuri chasing a bit of chocolate on his upper lip with his tongue.

 

“Yeah,” Yuuri says, turning to blink at him. “From planets. You’ve seen it right?”

 

“You mean asteroid belts?” Victor says, incredulous. “Yuuri, have you been through asteroid belts?”

 

“Well, yeah,” Yuuri replies, looking worried again. “They’re good for resting. And fun to play in.”

 

“Fun to play in…” Victor repeats faintly. “No wonder you got injured.”

 

Yuuri just hums at this and takes another sip of his hot chocolate. Victor forgets his horror over the sight of Yuuri looking so pleased with his drink again. He hates to break the peace.

 

“So, Yuuri,” he starts, wondering how he can soften his line of questioning when Yuuri’s finally looking comfortable. In Victor’s living quarters of all places. “How did you get injured?”

 

Yuuri lowers his mug back into his lap. He stares at it so mournfully that Victor wants to take back his question.

 

“Okay,” Victor says slowly. “It’s okay. What if I told you that you didn’t have to worry about another ship taking you away from us?”

 

Yuuri looks up so quickly Victor thinks he heard his neck click. Yuuri doesn’t seem to notice, he’s too busy staring at Victor wide eyed. His knuckles have gone white where he’s gripping his mug.

 

“Hey,” Victor murmurs, shifting closer.

 

Yuuri doesn’t flinch back, but he doesn’t relax either. He just keeps on giving Victor that deer in the headlights look.

 

“Look,” Victor starts, “if I’m going to break protocol and commit an act of treason I may as well go all out, and tell you what I know before you tell me what you know. Because I don’t believe you’re bad, Yuuri, no matter what that Doctor says.”

 

If Victor thought this would comfort Yuuri, he was sorely mistaken. Suddenly there are tears in Yuuri’s eyes. They’re bright pearlescent things, that roll down Yuuri’s cheeks like liquid diamond. Victor is so taken aback by the sight of them that it’s a moment before he starts to panic about Yuuri crying. That quickly changes.

 

“Yuuri, no,” he pleads, edging as close as he dares and offering a hand out to Yuuri without actually touching him. He doesn’t want to end up pushing him away more. “No, no, no. I didn’t want to upset you. Shit. I never know what to do with crying people.”

 

Yuuri lets out a sob, and looks away, bringing a hand up to rub sharply at his cheeks.

 

“Would you like more hot chocolate?” Victor ventures, desperate. “Some tissues?”

 

Yuuri nods, not looking at him. Victor doesn’t know which option that was in agreement too, so he hurries off to get both hot chocolate and tissues, and brings them back to a Yuuri who has calmed down into some light sniffling.

 

Victor sits quietly as Yuuri accepts his offerings. This is difficult, but he’s one hundred percent certain that if he spoke right now he’d say the wrong thing. So he lets Yuuri dab his eyes in silence, and watches him resettle himself with his new mug of cocoa.

 

“That wasn’t your fault,” Yuuri says, after taking a few calming breaths.

 

His lips and eyes have gone puffy with the crying, his nose a little pink. It’s funny seeing these very human traits on one so ethereal as Yuuri. He’s so much more, so indescribably beautiful, that it takes Victor from a whole new angle of surprise to see these things.

 

“I just… I’m not as good as you think I am, Victor.”

 

And that’s the first time Yuuri’s said his name. Victor is weak with it. He has no idea why he’s so gone for this man. He didn’t think he was shallow enough to fall for someone without getting to know them. But there’s just something so charming about Yuuri.

 

“I’ve hurt people,” Yuuri is saying whilst Victor is having entirely off topic, inappropriate thoughts.

 

Victor quickly refocuses his attention, realising he’s not giving Yuuri what he needs when he’s baring his heart.

 

“I’ve done… things,” Yuuri whispers, quiet enough that Victor almost misses it.

 

“What things, Yuuri?” Victor asks, and he does slide his hand over to touch him now, sensing it might be okay.

 

Yuuri stares at the hand on his wrist. He twists his own hand to take it. Then he looks up at Victor.

 

“I’m a siren.”

 

If Yuuri thought this was going to be a bombshell, he is sorely mistaken. Victor gazes at him, uncomprehending. His mind is flicking over images of mermaids, manatees, and briefly a flashing alarm. None of this applies to Yuuri, obviously, so he just sits there, staring at him and waiting for him to go on.

 

Yuuri’s mouth opens, unsure, his eyes flicking between Victor’s.

 

“You have no idea what I’m talking about,” Yuuri says slowly, his grip loosening on Victor’s hand.

 

It’s true Victor doesn’t know what Yuuri is talking about, but he does know he doesn’t want to him to let go of his hand.

 

“Then tell me,” Victor coaxes, giving Yuuri’s fingers a little squeeze. “I’m listening.”

 

Yuuri takes a few deep breaths, his gaze still searching Victor’s face.

 

“It’s still unbelievable,” Yuuri murmurs, apparently to himself. “What I saw in your mind. That you won’t hate me for this.”

 

“Of course I won’t hate you,” Victor says quickly, not knowing what he’s agreeing to but knowing that much is true.

 

“That’s the only reason I’m telling you,” Yuuri agrees, eyes still glassy. “Otherwise it’d be dangerous. For both of us.”

 

“Yuuri, you have no idea the risks I’m already taking here,” Victor half laughs.

 

Yuuri bites his lip, which is of course very distracting. Then he sighs.

 

“Okay,” he concedes, shifting on the couch to sit up straighter. “Okay. Sirens are exactly what you think they are. It’s the best word for us in your language. We hunt ships. And we tear them out of the sky.”

 

Victor can’t say he’s surprised exactly, not after what Doctor Howard said. But for one odd moment he is impressed. He makes himself reevaluate this information, see it from an unbiased point of view. Of course an unbiased point of view would be horrified. Yuuri would be enemy number one, everything the fleet fights against. But he’s Yuuri, and Victor can’t help but feel there’s more.

 

Victor runs his free hand through his hair. He can feel Yuuri watching him.

 

“Right,” he says after a long while. “Okay… Well it’s a bit bigger than I expected if I’m honest. A lot more murder. That’s… that’s — yeah.”

 

“I’m so sorry,” Yuuri half sobs, wrenching his hand from Victor’s.

 

He stands, and Victor feels his heart go with him.

 

“This was a terrible idea,” Yuuri says, pacing now, his skirts rising up around him to drift back and forth with his movement. It’s captivating. “I’m only just starting to understand… you’re all so nice.”

 

Yuuri turns and stares at Victor for a long moment. Victor shifts, unsure of himself under the intensity of Yuuri’s gaze.

 

“But you’re not all like you,” Yuuri muses slowly, something desperate in his tone as he draws closer. “Are you?”

 

Victor considers this for a moment. Thinks of the human race and what Yuuri’s done to those ships.

 

“No,” he says eventually, dipping his head, wondering if this makes him a traitor in a whole new way. “Some of us are very bad.”

 

Yuuri releases a long sigh, smoothing his hands down the folds of his dress as he closes his eyes. Victor watches him, how he draws himself together.

 

“Okay,” Yuuri decides. “That’s okay… because I’m not the only one who’s hurt people.”

 

He’s flashes Victor a challenging look then, daring defiance.

 

“Your lot blew up —”

 

And Yuuri says a word that Victor can’t think how to put into letters. It’s like the sharp words he spoke when they first bought him on board, full of short corners and soft dips.

 

“What is… that?” Victor asks, deciding that he’s not even going to do the language the disjustice by trying to say the word.

 

Yuuri looks mournful for a moment, and he comes back over to the couch and sinks down next to Victor.

 

“It was a good nursery,” he says, and there are tears in his eyes again. “The rocks were just the right size so they could learn how to fly.”

 

Victor’s heart stops.

 

“Oh, Yuuri.”

 

Victor knows that an apology from him won’t cover it, can’t undo what his kind have done to Yuuri’s. He knows now, why Yuuri desperately needed the validation that not all humans are like Victor.

 

“I think your kind wanted to make… a highway? Is that what it is? Lots of ships going through.” Yuuri plucks at his skirts in a lacklustre sort of way.

 

And Victor just wants to wipe that look from his face.

 

“Yes,” he agrees, “that’s a highway. We have a few set courses between galaxies.”

 

Yuuri nods. Then smiles in a sharp, mournful way.

 

“Well it certainly made for easy pickings.”

 

And he looks beautiful and deadly in that moment. Victor aches for him.

 

Then he has to ask the question again, can see the full picture but needs to know where to go from here.

 

“How did you get injured, Yuuri?” he asks, soft but insistent.

 

Yuuri looks up, and smiles sadly at him.

 

“Your kind,” he says. “A group of them. Chased me for a long time, I got hurt, but then got away. I must have passed out afterwards. I don’t remember.”

 

“Right,” Victor says, then, not wanting to alarm Yuuri, he thinks about how to phrase the next part.

 

“I need you to know I’m not going to give you to them,” Victor starts, gazing into Yuuri’s eyes, hoping he believes him. “But they’re here.”

 

Yuuri starts, his head whipping around to check the room, as though the Doctor and his crew are going to spring out from behind Victor’s coffee machine.

 

“No, they’re on their ship,” Victor explains, taking Yuuri’s hand again so he can get through the next bit. “But they’ve asked for my help in finding you. I told them I’d never seen the lifeform they were referring to.”

 

Yuuri is breathing heavily, looking on the verge of some sort of panic attack.

 

“Yuuri,” Victor implores. “Yuuri, I’m not going to give you to them.”

 

“You’re not?” Yuuri says, his breaths still sharp, eyes wide.

 

“No,” Victor says, shaking his head with a little smile. “I’ve met the Doctor. He’s not like Doctor Altin or Sara, they take care of people. Doctor Howard… well he seems set on experimenting on them.”

 

Yuuri presses a shaky hand to his lips, his chin dipping towards his chest.

 

“Others have been taken,” Yuuri whispers after a moment. “We didn’t know what was happening to them.”

 

“Well it looks like Doctor Howard has been collecting,” Victor says, pinching the bridge of his nose because apparently this is worse than he thought. “I don’t know all the details, but I know it’s partly to find out more about you. Observe the species they discovered. I’m not sure they’ll keep you alive for that observation if they think you’re dangerous, Yuuri.”

 

It’s a hard truth, but from the sound of it, Yuuri’s been facing it for weeks. He nods, defeated.

 

“There’s more than just one ship,” Yuuri says then, and isn’t that just fantastic news. “They have a little… fleet? Smaller ships with them. I think some of our kind did damage to their big one when they first started, so now they’ve bought more.”

 

Christ, of all the shitty luck, Victor thinks. He squeezes his eyes shut and tries to think.

 

Those ships are no doubt on their way too, it’s not clear why they’re not here yet, maybe they’re slower than the Doctor’s ship. Which had clearly peeled away in pursuit when Yuuri got injured.

 

“If it helps,” Yuuri says, and Victor looks up to see he’s been watching him. “I took out a few of those smaller ones.”

 

“You…” Victor starts, then he breaks into a grin. “You’re really something you know?”

 

Yuuri laughs. It’s like bells, broken icicles tinkling to to the ground.

 

“I don’t think that’s the reaction you’re supposed to have to that,” he says, and they’re grinning at each other, and God it’s good.

 


 

Phichit Chulanont comes to collect Yuuri a few hours later. Victor has spent this time making sure Yuuri is relaxed as possible, whilst delegating his own responsibilities to Chris through his comms. This is why when Phichit is called through, he ducks into Victor’s living room to find Yuuri still curled up on the couch, now with a blanket over him and watching footage of figure skating routines.

 

At first, Yuuri had been so distracted by the display of lights on the screen, that he hadn’t noticed what was going on. Apparently electricity looks very impressive exploding out of a ship in space, but that fails to capture the fun little things it can do. Now Yuuri’s hooked. He loves figure skating.

 

“Showing him some of your favourites, hey Captain?” Phichit asks, looking far too delighted by the scene he’s stumbled upon.

 

Victor, hearing the tease in Phichit’s voice, scowls at him from where he’s sat at the other end of the couch working through documents on a lap-holo.

 

“Phichit,” Yuuri says, with a warmth that instantly makes Victor a little jealous. “They can fly like I do, but in gravity!”

 

At this point Yuuri stands, the blanket falling away as he sweeps into the clear space between him and the larger holo screen set into the wall.

 

“It’s amazing,” Yuuri says as he starts to move. “I don’t know how they do it. I can’t dance at all like this.”

 

Victor is sure he can’t be the only one whose jaw drops as Yuuri starts to dance, but suddenly he’s aware of nothing else.

 

Graceful doesn’t really cover what Yuuri encompasses when he dances. His skirts swirl up around him, floating easily through the air to compliment the elegant twist of each limb. The lines of his body are highlighted, which are firm and powerful, whilst somehow remaining soft and curved. There’s an echo of something moving through water, slow with little flurries, caught in the current of Yuuri’s beauty. He a little nebula, a galaxy all of his own.

 

By the time he’s stumbled to a stop, Victor’s lap-holo has slid off his knees to the floor.

 

“Hmm,” Yuuri muses, frowning at his feet. “I can’t do it right in gravity. Maybe I need skates too.”

 

He looks up then, and startles at the way Victor and Phichit are staring at him.

 

“Yuuri...” Victor starts, his voice rough.

 

“Yuuri, that was incredible!” Phichit cuts across him. “How do you move like that? And your dress!”

 

Phichit hurries to Yuuri’s side, gathering him excitedly into a hug. Yuuri looks taken aback, but rather pleased by this display.

 

“You have to tell me what it’s made of! It’s so light. And where did you learn to dance? I want to hear all about your home planet.”

 

Yuuri stutters and flushes. He tugs at the halter like collar of his dress as he searches for words.

 

“I don’t really have a planet,” Yuuri says eventually. “Not a real one.”

 

“Oh, Yuuri,” Phichit says, nudging him consolingly. “Even if you were born away from your kind’s home planet, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have one.”

 

“No, you don’t —” Yuuri looks conflicted.

 

Victor realises how much Yuuri’s revealed to him already, how much information Victor’s been trusted with. He stands.

 

“Phichit,” Victor says, addressing him by first name now they aren’t on the bridge. “I think what Yuuri needs is food and rest. I’m trusting you to find out what he likes and get it to him. But I think questions should wait for now, don’t you?”

 

Phichit suddenly looks sheepish. He turns back to Yuuri.

 

“Sorry, Yuuri,” he says gently, giving him a little smile. “I just got excited.”

 

Yuuri smiles back at him, and it’s so dazzling that Victor momentarily forgets his concerns.

 

“That’s okay,” he replies, taking Phichit’s hand to show he means it. “Do you want a sleepover now?”

 

“Yes!” Phichit exclaims, practically vibrating on the spot. “We can go raid the dining hall first and then bring our spoils back. Oh we can do a clothes swap!”

 

And with that, Yuuri is being swept out the room. Victor catches the grateful little smile he throws over his shoulder at Victor, and feels his heart warm.

 

This feeling fades, however, as Victor realises the mammoth task he has ahead of him. How to get round a military grade ship, and quietly deposit Yuuri somewhere safe without anyone noticing.

 


 

To say Victor is on edge would be an understatement. It’s late, and he’s sat in his office with his First Officer and his Chief Science Officer facing him. They’re at the little coffee table rather than around his desk, already having moved away from the prints he’s got laid out there. They’re sitting in silence, worn out from going round and round their options.

 

There had been some characteristically daring plans from Victor. These had been helped along to make them a little less mad by Chris. Only to have all of them shut down by Seung-Gil. Who knew committing treason would be so hard?

 

The ultimate hope of course, is that when Victor tells Doctor Howard that there have been no lifeforms found on board he’ll go on his merry way, suspicious but not an immediate threat. But Victor’s met the man and thinks he has the measure of him. The Doctor will not take Yuuri’s disappearance lying down.

 

“Look,” Victor says eventually, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees, his head hung as he addresses his shoes. “Whichever way we look at it, the plan’s not going to be easy. We’re talking mutiny here. But we still haven’t heard anything from command yet, so my guess is that Doctor Howard has held off on reporting back that he’s tracked Yuuri to us. There could be a number of reasons for this, or I could just be getting my hopes up. What we need is to contact command ourselves, someone moral who we can trust, and persuade them that the mission they’ve assigned the Doctor is wrong. That he’s committing murder. But this will all be easier without the overheads watching us. We need to accept the risk that they won’t listen, or the laws will go through too slowly to save Yuuri and others. We need to get him to safety before command gets involved.”

 

“Question,” Seung-Gil says, holding a finger up. “Does Yuuri eat humans?”

 

Victor stares at him, stunned.

 

“I don’t — I hardly think that matters,” Victor manages to choke out.

 

“On the contrary,” Seung-Gil says, raising an eyebrow at him. “I think it matters very much if Yuuri eats men.”

 

At this, Chris bursts into a peel of laughter. Victor shoots him a scathing look.

 

“Oh come on,” Chris says, rolling his eyes. “You can’t begrudge me that one. I didn’t even have to work for it.”

 

Victor sighs, and flops against the back of his seat.

 

“I don’t know what he eats,” Victor says honestly. “He likes hot chocolate.”

 

“And how would you know that, Victor,” Chris teases. “Been getting cosy?”

 

“Chris, really,” Victor huffs. “I am trying to plan a life threatening mission here.”

 

“Which is why I am taking it upon myself to lighten the mood.”

 

They fall silent again, though Chris is still smirking.

 

“Can we just…” Victor sighs eventually, “sleep on it? We should have that long at least.”

 

“Sure,” Chris agrees, standing. “As long as you admit in the next meeting that you’re a giant gay mess and I never have to listen to you about anything.”

 

Victor can only press his fingers hard into his eye sockets until he sees spots. He hears Chris and Seung-Gil leaving, but sits there for a few moments more, stewing.

 

Eventually, he gets to his feet. His grey uniform is crumpled and he knows his hair must be a complete mess from how he’s been running his hands through it. But he goes to the door and exits out into the corridor anyway.

 

Victor straightens himself best he can as he winds his way through the ship. He nods at the very few people who are still up, trying to exude an air of calm. When he reaches his destination, he likes to think he’s managed to make himself look halfway decent. He knocks on the white door in front of him.

 

It’s a few long moments before the door opens, and the sleepy face of Phichit appears.

 

“Oh, hey Captain,” he mumbles, managing to suppress a yawn as he speaks.

 

“Hey,” Victor replies, trying to appear at ease and informal. “Sorry to wake you. I just wanted to check on Yuuri.”

 

Phichit breaks into a grin at this and nods. He steps to the side and Victor enters the room.

 

Phichit’s quarters are of course not as large as Victor’s. It’s really just one room, though a generously spacious one. Clothes are strewn over the couch where a lap-holo sits on one of the cushions. Phichit’s strung fairy lights up around a false window that imitates looking out onto the vastness of space, though Victor knows there’s other display options available. A light rustling comes from a cage on top of a chest of drawers, little nocturnal animals busy inside it.

 

And on the wide double bed in the corner, a figure is swaddled in blankets.

 

The sight of Yuuri in regular human pyjamas does something awful to Victor’s chest. He raises a hand to his heart, not realising he’s let out a little ‘ohh’. The siren’s face is slack in sleep, hair coming loose from its swept back style, pink lips slightly parted. It’s a few moments before Victor remembers they’re not alone.

 

He turns to find Phichit watching him with something suspiciously like glee.

 

“Very good, Chulanont,” Victor says quietly, trying to regain some measure of formality after his little display. “You’re waking him every hour as Doctor Altin advised?”

 

“Yes, sir,” Phichit replies, nodding politely even though there’s still a little curve to the corner of his mouth. “Have got alarms set so I can get some sleep too.”

 

“Thank you,” Victor says then. “It’s good of you, to look after him like this.”

 

Phichit waves this away. “Not at all. We’ve had fun.”

 

“Good,” Victor says. Then, regretfully; “I’ll leave you to it then.”

 

“Of course,” Phichit says, giving him a little salute. “Goodnight, Captain.”

 

“Goodnight, Phichit,” Victor says, softening his voice as he turns and takes one last look at Yuuri.

 

The siren is still blissfully unaware, lost in his dreams. What Victor wouldn’t give to keep it that way.

 

Then Victor turns, and takes his leave.

 


 

There is no time for Victor to have breakfast the next morning. He’s in his office scrambling together a report for Doctor Howard. This won’t be a formal report, as the Doctor doesn’t have permissions for information on a full sweep of a military vessel, but it needs to appear detailed enough to be unquestionable. It’s giving Victor a headache.

 

There’s a buzz at the door, and Victor calls out permission for entry. Christophe ducks in.

 

“So,” he starts, eyeing the papers scattered over Victor’s desk. “You’re making a report for the good Doctor?”

 

He swipes up one of the papers and skims over it.

 

“Really, Victor?” Chris sighs. “I don’t think Doctor Howard will need a full report on the chemicals used in our swimming pool.”

 

Victor snatches the sheaf of paper back, flustered and annoyed.

 

“I’m just trying to cover all the bases,” Victor huffs, sitting back down heavily. “Give him enough information to appear helpful.”

 

“You’re forgetting, mon cheri,” Chris coos, taking a seat opposite him, “that when people lie they talk too much. Over explain.”

 

Victor stops his frantic reshuffling of papers and looks up. Chris grins at him.

 

“You are the Captain of the Starship Neuro, no?” Chris continues, gently because he can see how frazzled Victor is. “If you say there’s no new lifeforms on your ship, then there’s no new lifeforms on your ship.”

 

Victor takes this in, running a hand through the silver fall of his fringe for the hundredth time.

 

“Yes…” he says after a beat. “Yes, of course. You’re right. I’m just…”

 

“Scared for Yuuri,” Christophe finishes for him, and fixes Victor with a look that is somehow both understanding and gently condescending. “We’ve got this, Victor. We may not have a full plan yet, but we will. The best thing you can do for Yuuri at the moment is to keep a cool head… when did you last eat?”

 

Victor thinks back, and realises with a lurch that he skipped dinner last night too. He suddenly feels very hungry.

 

“That’s what I thought,” Chris sighs, he rises and comes round to help Victor to his feet.

 

Victor’s about to complain that he doesn’t need help, but when he stands he does in fact feel a little dizzy.

 

At that moment, the door slides open. Victor has a moment to be annoyed at one of his crew members entering without knocking, but then he looks up and sees Yuuri.

 

Yuuri’s back in his colourful dress, his hair perfectly swept back and looking generally radiant.

 

“Oh,” Yuuri says, as he catches sight of Chris with his hand on Victor’s elbow, their hips pressed together. Yuuri flushes.

 

“Yuuri, hi,” Victor says, hurriedly detaching himself from Chris, who gives an amused little huff in response. “Are you okay? Did you sleep alright?”

 

Victor hurries to cross the room, but half way across it he starts seeing spots in his vision.

 

“Woah.”

 

It’s a half whisper as Victor stumbles towards a chair at the coffee table and sinks down into it.

 

“See,” Chris is saying, tone teasing yet exasperated. “I told you you need to eat. Stay there whilst I go get something. Yuuri, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.”

 

Chris crosses over to Yuuri in a way that Victor’s trying not to think of as a prowl. He ushers Yuuri in from where he’s still standing in the doorway, before dipping low to kiss the hand he’s taken in his own. Yuuri goes even more pink in the face.

 

“Christophe Giocometti, First Officer to this anaemic idiot,” Chris says by way of introduction, before trailing his fingers lightly up Yuuri’s arm. “I must say, it’s really very charming to make the acquaintance of a siren.”

 

By this point Yuuri is stuttering and has gone rigid.

 

“Chris,” Victor sighs, unable to bring any force into his reprimand. “Leave Yuuri alone and go get me some food. That’s an order.”

 

He tags the last bit on when he catches sight of Chris’ hand starting to wander a little further than Yuuri’s arm.

 

Christophe releases Yuuri, who instantly takes a step back.

 

“Watch him for me will you, mon amour?” Chris says, winking at Yuuri and darting out the room before Victor can scold him again.

 

“I’m sorry about Chris,” Victor says, as Yuuri peels himself away from the wall he’s stepped back against. “He can be a handful. Please, take a seat.”

 

Yuuri crosses the room, his feet light and still bare. He comes and settles himself in the seat next to Victor, automatically bringing his legs up to curl beside him.

 

“Are you sick?” Yuuri asks, peering at Victor’s pale face with an intense sort of concern. Victor tries valiantly not to let this pierce his heart too deeply.

 

“No,” he chuckles. “I was just an idiot and forgot to eat… speaking of, have you found any of our food to your liking?”

 

Yuuri nose wrinkles, and Victor laughs.

 

“Phichit made me try lots of different things,” Yuuri explains, apparently relaxing slightly as he leans back against the seat. “I do not like fish. But fruit is nice, and meat is wonderful. Also I don’t know why you eat beans, their texture is very odd.”

 

Victor laughs again, and props an elbow on the back of his seat as he turns to face Yuuri properly.

 

“Okay, well I’m glad you like fruit and meat,” he says

 

“Raw meat,” Yuuri clarifies. “What Phichit tried to do to it was awful.”

 

“Raw meat,” Victor chuckles, but then pauses as that reminds him sharply of his next question.

 

“What do you usually eat?”

 

Yuuri shrugs, plucking at his skirts in way that Victor is realising is a habit.

 

“All sorts,” Yuuri says. “I saw from your head that humans think space is a sort of vacuum, but it’s really not. You talked about a sea, and I got Phichit to show me what that is properly, not just its meaning, and I think that’s the best way to describe space.”

 

“Like the sea?” Victor repeats, slightly surprised by this analogy but realising its not wrong.

 

“Yes,” Yuuri continues, looking eager to explain now. “Like those big stretches of blue you have and it seems like nothing’s in them, but if you look harder, you’ll find… plankton? And little communities of fish living of bits of floating… stuff.”

 

Yuuri finishes, then looks dissatisfied with this explanation for a moment, until Victor says;

 

“Like on flotsam and jetsam?”

 

“Yes!” Yuuri trills, pleased that Victor’s picked up on his meaning. “Exactly like that. Sorry, it’s hard to shift through it all at once.”

 

“Are you kidding?” Victor asks, incredulous. “You learnt our language in seconds, downloaded it like something from the Matrix.”

 

Yuuri’s face goes blank at that reference.

 

“I didn’t see a… a matrix,” he says, puzzled. “Not in that way, but I know what it means?”

 

“Oh so you don’t get everything?” Victor asks, immensely relieved by this.

 

“No, not at all,” Yuuri agrees. “It’s mostly just the language. And I picked out a few of your more recent memories to find out what you’re like.”

 

At this Yuuri blushes. Victor doesn’t know whether to be horrified by this reaction or endeared. He decides on the latter.

 

“Yuuri,” he weedles, “what did you see?”

 

“Nothing,” Yuuri says, too quickly. “I just… it’s odd seeing myself from another’s perspective. It never really stops being odd.”

 

“Oh,” Victor says, and then he’s flushing too, because he knows exactly what he thought when he first saw Yuuri looking at him with those big brown eyes. “Yes, that’s… well.”

 

Yuuri blinks shyly at him, and Victor’s relieved to see a little smile has worked its way onto Yuuri’s lips. He’s trying valiantly to suppress it, but Victor can see none-the-less.

 

Victor wonders for a mad moment what Yuuri would say if he proposed they took a quick trip in his cruiser, went and did a little stargazing together. This is of course impossible with things how they are, and it is perhaps a good thing that they are interrupted by Chris’ return.

 

Chris stays and chats with them while Victor eats, and they are soon joined by Seung-Gil. The Chief Science Officer has come to see whether they’ve gotten any further along in formulating a plan, and seems decidedly unimpressed when they say they haven’t. Victor’s just impressed that Seung-Gil’s so invested. He hasn’t seen him this interested in anything beyond his petri dishes since they bought back that new plant they discovered.

 

Soon after, Phichit comes bounding in, apparently looking for Yuuri.

 

“Are any of my crew actually at their stations like they’re supposed to be?” Victor asks, exasperated but undeniably fond as he watches the way the other three men have gathered around the siren.

 

They turn and blink at him in unison, and it only takes one firm look to have them springing into action. Yuuri gets gathered up in this mass exodus from Victor’s office, and Victor smiles as he sees him tripping along on the end of Phichit’s arm.

 

The silence is slightly startling after having the combined forces of Chris and Phichit in the room. Victor takes a moment to rearrange the papers on his desk and gather himself. He lets out one long breath, knowing that from his next move onwards, there’s no going back.