Yama’s conscience told him to come, but now that he was at the Captain’s cabin he wasn’t so sure anymore. Harlock was standing by a little table, looking at something in front of him. He gave no indication that he noticed him, even though his steps on the wooden floor must have alerted him of Yama’s presence.
He could still turn around and leave, but Yama forced himself to go in further. His steps rang way too loud in his ears in the silence of the room.
“What is it?” Harlock asked, without turning toward him. His sharp voice stopped Yama in his tracks. He hesitated for a moment before speaking.
“I just wanted to say thank you for saving my life,” there, he said it. Harlock turned his head to look at him for a moment.
“I told you already, as long as you are on this ship, you are one of us. You are my responsibility.” He looked away again, staring out of the window to Earth knows what. Yama knew he should leave the whole issue at that; he did what he came here for, he should leave and let it be. But a small voice in the back of his mind wouldn’t let him. He walked closer, stopping a few feet away from the Captain.
“No other captain I know would have done it; none of the Gaia Sanction's ranking officers would risk their lives for someone, who was sent there to kill them. Why did you?” Yama congratulated himself for the firmness in his voice, he did not actually feel in himself.
Harlock slowly turned to him and looked at him with an unreadable expression. He was an expert at hiding his emotions and it frustrated Yama to no end. Especially since he knew how expressing his looks could be. Harlock’s face painted red and orange by the lava, the little smile on his lips… Yama was not likely to forget that moment down on the shuttle.
“I have no other answer for you, Yama.” The Captain’s empty voice brought him out of his thoughts. Yama’s hands balled into fists.
“Did you know this would happen? You saved me, so I would owe you?” Suddenly he remembered Kei telling the crew that the mission was dangerous. Something crossed Harlock’s face, but the expression was too quick for Yama to recognise. He leaned his hip on the table, crossing his arms over his chest.
“The worm was a calculated risk, but no, I didn’t know.” He tilted his head to the side. “Why are you so angry about this?”
The question caught Yama off guard. He looked away, searching for the right words.
“I… I just don’t understand.” That was the truth; it made no sense. The answer could not be so simple, not when it came to the most wanted man in the universe. “You didn’t tell anyone about me, either,” his voice came out more accusatory, than he intended. Harlock stared at him for a few moments; it made Yama hot under the collar.
“There is no need for them to know where you came from, everyone’s past is their own business.” The Captain still looked at him with the same intense gaze and Yama was sure there was something he wasn’t telling him. But he wasn’t exactly in the position to demand answers; he realised he was pushing his luck. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to leave, something kept him there.
“Do you always give the benefit of the doubt so easily?”
A hint of a smile appeared on the Captain’s lips at that question. “Easily? No. But you can learn a lot about people in a hundred years.” The smile disappeared and a curious look took its place. “You could have gotten rid of Kei down on the planet, but you didn’t. Why?”
Yama looked away, avoiding the penetrating gaze that made him feel like Harlock could see right into his soul. He remembered that moment all too vividly, but Kei wasn’t his target, there was no reason to harm her. At least that’s what he kept telling himself. He shook his head.
“This has nothing to do with her.”
Harlock’s only reaction was a slight eyebrow rise and Yama rushed to continue. “I didn’t come here to argue.”
“Then why are you here?” Harlock took a step closer dropping his arms to his side, now they were only one step apart. Yama forced himself to look at the Captain. His face was impassive, but his stare almost burned his skin. The scene played yet again in Yama’s head with utmost detail. Harlock falling from the sky, dragging him to the safety of the pilot cabin, looking him dead in the eye, as if the pistol wasn’t even there, his face as he touched his hand…
“Nothing changes the fact, that I owe you my life and I’m grateful for that,” Yama stated and acted upon the sudden urge. He took the last step, placed his hands on the Captain’s chest and went on tiptoes to press his lips to Harlock’s. He went rigid under Yama’s touch, but Yama was already drawing away, taking a step back and dropping his eyes. He turned around and hurried away without another word. Thankfully, Harlock let him.
It was finally quiet; only the hums of machines working the ship could be heard and Harlock let the tiredness spread in his body. He only meant to check on the central computer, but now that he was sitting at his usual spot, he didn’t feel like standing up again.
They’d lost their pursuers two star systems ago; Gaia’s ships were no match in speed to the Arcadia, even in the broken state she was in when they left Earth. At last it was time to recover. The last few days took their toll on them. It will take time until everything would be completely restored, himself included.
He heard the slow footsteps echoing in the empty corridor, but he was bound to ignore it and only looked up when the noise continued to come his way. He saw Yama walk among the cables with careful steps. He stopped a few feet away from him, watching the computer, the blinking lights painted colours on his pale face. They stayed in a comfortable silence, but Harlock could see on the boy’s face that his mind was working.
He lost a lot in the past days, Harlock knew how that felt. Still, he was standing, his face wore the mark of the events of the last few days, but the confusion and hesitation was gone from his stance. Growing up fast, seeing much in little time. Yet the weight on his shoulders didn’t crush him, it made him stand up straighter, keeping his head high and looking forward. It was something Harlock found himself admiring. He wasn’t sure he could regain his belief in mankind, but maybe he could have hope in Yama.
“I guess I need to thank you, for stopping my brother,” the boy said without looking at him. His voice was quiet, but steady. He seemed calm or maybe just exhausted after everything.
Harlock huffed out an unamused laugh. “There is no need for that. I killed your brother, because that was the fastest solution. You have every right to resent me for that.”
Harlock watched the brothers’ struggle; so much hate, yet none of them had the real intent to kill the other. Just as he thought; that was why he followed the boy that was why he made that choice neither of them could. Yama looked at him, he seemed to think on his words, but Harlock couldn’t read the look on his face.
“Right now I am grateful that it was you who took the shot. We needed to stop him. I thought I hated him enough after everything; still, I couldn’t…” he trailed off, shaking his head and looked away.
“Hating your brother is one thing, hating him enough to kill him yourself is something else entirely,” Harlock offered, pushing the other three Deathshadow captains’ unbidden memory away. Yama looked at him again and Harlock forced himself to bear the weight of his gaze. Yama was hurting and some of that pain was Harlock’s fault. After all the boy did love his brother.
“It was all my fault,” now Yama’s voice shook and his hands balled into fists.
“You don’t have to tell me anything.”
“I know, but I want to tell you. I want you to know.”
There was nothing Harlock could say to that. He just nodded and waited for him to continue. Yama stood there silently for a time, then walked to him and sank to the floor on his left side, leaning his back to the metal cable case Harlock was sitting on.
“Mother was a botanist; it was her dream to make her favourite flower bloom on Mars.” Yama pulled his knees up, hugging them with his arms and staring ahead. “After she was… gone, the flowers were all that was left of her. I felt if I lost those flowers I would lose her memory; I wanted them to bloom so badly. I got careless,” he paused, taking a deep breath. “There was an explosion in the greenhouse. Isora got paralyzed. Nami never recovered. For my own selfishness I robbed their future from them. And now both are dead because of me,” his voice cracked and he dropped his head on his knees. After a few moments Harlock reached out, placing his hand carefully on the boy’s head. A sob escaped him at the tentative touch. Harlock moved his hand on his back and shoulders, drawing soothing circles on them as Yama let his grief out. There were no words that would dull the pain of destroying everything you wanted to protect. Harlock knew that from experience.
After a time, Yama stilled next to him, yet Harlock left his arm draped over his shoulder. Only when the boy moved, stretched his legs and bumped his shoulder to Harlock’s thigh did he realize how close they were.
Harlock reached into his pocket, pulling out a handkerchief and presented it to Yama. The boy stared at it like he didn’t know what to do with it, but eventually took it and rubbed his face clean. He took a deep and steady breath and looked up at Harlock. His eye was red, but clear, his lips parted and Harlock clenched his fists to stop them from touching Yama’s face. His eye wandered on Harlock’s face, then lower and he jolted up.
“You are bleeding!” Yama moved to kneel in front of him, his hands hovering over him, not quite sure what to do with them. Harlock had to resist the urge the smile.
“It’s nothing you should concern yourself about.”
Yama glared at him. “I still do, let me see it. Please.”
Maybe it was the concern in his eye, or the way he said ‘please’, but with a sigh Harlock unbuckled his cape, letting it fall carelessly to the floor. He opened the clasp at his throat to be able to open the zipper of his jacket, he suppressed a wince as he pulled on his injuries in the process. He lifted his undershirt exposing his torso and watched Yama’s face grow more serious as his eye moved over his skin. Harlock looked away, he didn’t need to see to know how things looked. He knew exactly why the boy was silent. He had at least two cuts on his left side, bullet wounds on the other and old scars. His skin was almost as grey as the dark matter leaking from the wounds. It wasn’t something Yama could see, only a shimmering as it was restoring the damaged tissue in a slow and irritating process. He looked back when he felt Yama’s touch. With an ungloved hand he tentatively brushed his fingers around the cut on his side. His skin was warm.
“Does it hurt?”
Harlock couldn’t see his face, but there was only concern in his voice.
“It is bearable,” he answered, longing to see, yet dreading the expression the boy might wear.
“So it is true, you are indeed immortal,” Yama looked up, a hint of humour shining in his eye and Harlock found himself speechless. Staring at Yama’s face, the small smile playing on his lips he suddenly remembered the touch of those lips. Only a fleeting kiss, but it was vivid in his mind.
“How does that even work?” Yama asked dragging Harlock out of his daze.
“I’m not sure. My body, just as the whole ship is intertwined with dark matter. It… remembers its original shape and works to restore it. This is why we can’t make any modification on the ship. Whenever the dark matter is activated it turns back everything as it was,” his voice sounded detached even for his own ears. When was the last time he bothered to explain it to someone? When was the last time someone bothered to ask?
“That’s amazing,” Yama’s voice sounded sincere, maybe even a bit awed. Harlock let out another huff.
“Usually that’s not the word people use.”
“They are stupid.” Again, Yama said that with such conviction Harlock couldn’t stop his smile. “Are you going to be alright?”
He looked at the boy, his honest worry made a warm feeling worm itself into his chest.
“Yes. You should worry about yourself.” He raised his left hand and placed it on Yama’s face, his thumb brushing the skin below the eye-patch. “You should see the doctor with this. It could be inflamed.”
Yama’s eye darted between his eye and mouth several times and suddenly Harlock was aware of the boy’s hands on his thighs. He saw Yama swallow and his lips parted. Harlock knew he shouldn’t, he still leaned forward, pulling Yama to himself and capturing his lips in a gentle kiss. The boy’s lips were dry, but so warm. Harlock meant to pull back, but Yama’s tongue darted out, tasting him and he couldn’t resist. He felt the boy’s hands slide up to his side, fingers digging into his muscles. He did pull back this time, stopping Yama when he tried to follow him. He brushed his thumb on Yama’s lips. The boy seemed dazzled, his eye slowly focusing on his face. He blinked several times and at that moment, even with the flush on his face he looked exhausted, just as Harlock felt himself. This wasn’t the right time for things like this.
“Please, go see the doctor.”
After a few silent moments Yama nodded, looking away and avoiding his gaze as he stood up and walked away.
“You are acting foolish again.”
Looking up at the machinery beside himself Harlock huffed out a small laugh. “I am, ain’t I?”