Written for a friend late last year and originally posted on Archive of Our Own. I wanted something quiet and Chrstimas-y, I wanted pseudo cuddling, and I wanted someone being kind to Harlock after he's had a really difficult time. So, this.


Splish! The orange rind he'd rescued slipped from his fingers and into the pot, spattering red onto his glasses. And his face.

“Agh! Aw, come on.” Tochiro hopped off the step stool and wiped his glasses on his shirt. He'd been contemplating just chucking the rind in without getting out the grater anyway, but not like that. “Tadashi, what are you doing up and wandering around?”

Tadashi - or his vague outline - leaned on the wall just inside the galley door. “It's Christmas Eve and everybody's up anyways. What’re you doing?”

“Preparing to celebrate,” Tochiro said. He put his glasses back on only to have them fog up and blind him all over again when he leaned over the pot. A whole orange would have been better. Probably. Maybe. It wasn't as if he did this all the time.

Bare feet padded over to the table behind him and Tochiro felt eyes on his back. “With the captain?”

“Yep.” Tochiro dumped a couple spoons of sugar from the big bin that swung out from under the counter into the wine-orange-spice-potential-disaster. He should have asked the computer to print a recipe.

Maybe if he scuttled to his room and back fast enough, he could grab something strong enough to cover up his sins.

“Why don't you celebrate with everybody else?”

Tochiro shrugged and smiled. He hated lying to kids. Unless it was for laughs, and then only sometimes. “Well, see, it's different for you than how it is for the rest of the crew.”

“Is it?”

“Yeah. You're really young, so the captain and me are more like fathers or, uh, big brothers for you. For everybody else, the captain is the captain and it's not as easy to cut loose when he's around.”

Mostly lies. Nice lies, polite lies. Still. Any other year, going by the previous two they'd spent aboard, Harlock would be among his crew. But he wasn't, not this year.

He could practically hear Tadashi thinking this over.

“So you're gonna celebrate together.”

“Yep.” Tochiro cut the heat and fetched a tray and a pair of mugs, and the insulated carafe Tadashi used to bring everybody on the bridge coffee.

“Just sitting around in his cabin?” The boredom and disdain in his voice was immense.

Tochiro strained the mulled wine through a little mesh sieve that could never catch all the spice dust. He didn't exactly care. A powerful, shapeless need to escape had overtaken him. “Quietly and sedately, yes. Like adults do.”

The wine smelled nice, nicer than wine usually smelled to Tochiro, and he was proud of it. Even if it was more than likely only half right.

"The adults down below are making so much noise I can't sleep,” Tadashi pointed out. He'd moved to stand by the door again, and followed Tochiro out into the corridor.

“Pairs of adults prefer to be quiet,” Tochiro said, adjusting his grip on the tray. It wasn't heavy, but his hands felt stupid.

Tadashi was quiet for a bit. “Can't I go with you?”

“Absolutely not.”


Tochiro swiveled his head around. “I left you a little nip in the bottom of the pot, and if you lemme alone now it'll still be warm. That'll help you sleep, right?”

A flicker of delighted mischief played over Tadashi's face. The promise of something grown up and illicit proved too tempting. He pulled in his enthusiasm at the last instant, waved a hand and looked off to the side. “I guess. And it can be our secret, right?”

“Exactly.” Tochiro took off again. He'd take a service elevator to abbreviate the trip and avoid other hangers on.


Knock, knock, knock.


“Harlock. It's me. It's Tochiro.”

“Ah. Come in, then.” He sounded drowsy.

Tochiro braced the tray under his ribs and opened the door. Harlock was looking out the latticed window that spanned the back wall, out into space. The door shut itself.

“You plan on being up for a while?” Tochiro slid the tray onto the desk. It wasn't always easy to know when he could just ask, ‘How are you?’

“I don't plan on it.” He'd shucked off his cape and gloves, so he might have started to wind toward bed. Maybe.

“Well, don't just stand there staring into literal space when you have a holiday guest.” Tochiro put on an affronted tone and snatched one of Harlock's hands. His face fell. It was cold, really cold.

Hours later, blood retreating from the extremities wasn't an encouraging thing to observe. Did Harlock plan to stand here for however long and just will himself out of this?


Harlock didn't let himself be towed, but he did sort of drift to the bed and sit on the edge. Having held everything together for so long after snapping once, he was petering out. Tochiro brought him a mug and made him hold it with his cold hands.

“Thank you.” Harlock said it in the same gentle way he thanked Tadashi for his meals. He stared into the cup and breathed the steam and Tochiro started to worry.

It was a dangerous proposition, invoking someone's nostalgia in a time of crisis. The promise of safety and familiarity could all too often feel like a cruel tease. Cold comfort was a terrible thing.

He took his own drink and hopped onto the bed. He didn't need an invitation. Soon, they were both drinking in the familiar, appreciative silence Tochiro told Tadashi adults preferred.

It was good, even if he couldn't tell if it was good mulled wine.

“I wanted to apologize,” Harlock said suddenly. “For losing myself the way that I did. I should have had the presence of mind not to speak to you the way I did. At the very least.”

Tochiro shrugged and drank more. “It's okay. I've said stuff to you I didn't mean.”


“Do you really not care if you destroy yourself?”

Harlock drew half a breath. “Yes. No. I do care. I do.”

He looked so frayed that Tochiro felt immediate guilt.

“I'm glad.” Tochiro drained his cup and stared into the pink sheen at the bottom. “I know we gotta die someday, but if I lose you I don't want it to be because you just don't care.”

The sugar-drowned wine wasn't dry enough to make his throat pinch like it did.

“You have my word that that won’t happen.”

“Same.” Tochiro watched him sidewise through the gap behind his glasses. Harlock's breath displaced the steam in short intervals, and he’d stopped drinking. Neither seemed like a great sign. “Ah, well, anyway. I didn’t come in here to make you feel bad.”

“You haven’t.”

“Good.” Tochiro set his cup - very carefully - on the bed and pulled his legs up to cross them. He reached into one of the pockets on his jacket. “How about some music, since we’re having our own separate Christmas party?”

Harlock drank and made a thoughtful sound. “You’re drunk enough to play already?”

Tochiro was grateful his face turned colors when he drank. He turned the harmonica over in his hands. “I’m only shy about it when everybody’s around, you know. You don’t care if it’s bad.”

“It’s not bad,” Harlock said behind a controlled smile.

“It’s hard!” Tochiro shook the harmonica at him so hard that he almost upset his cup. He muttered and hopped up to put it safely on the table by the bed.

“I’m sure it is.” Harlock drank more and steam parted around his face when he breathed into his cup.

Sometimes, he was really-


“You know anything about music?”

“From when I was much younger, yes.”

“Know how any Christmas songs go?”

A rare look of apprehension floated to the surface of Harlock’s expression before his usual coolness subsumed it. “I know Silent Night.”

“Good, so do I!” Tochiro returned to the edge of the bed. “Finish your drink and I’ll pour you one that’s hotter after we’re done.”

“Done with what, exactly?” Harlock asked. He swallowed the rest of his drink anyway and let Tochiro take his cup to the table.

“I’m gonna teach you to play it.” Tochiro pressed the harmonica into Harlock’s hands and watched his face. “What? Is my mouth gross or something?”


“Good.” Tochiro climbed up and leaned on Harlock’s side to walk him through the notes - and turn the harmonica right side up in his hands. Harlock’s chest expanded and contracted in shallow, irregular breaths as worrying as his chilled hands. “Here.”

He walked him through the notes and the simple mechanics. The result was predictably terrible.

“Don’t blow so hard.”

An accidental chord cut itself short. “I’m not.”

“Who knows how to play harmonica here? Try again. Fill your lungs up all the way before you start.”

The music improved only marginally, but the music wasn’t the point. He let Harlock struggle through the song, egged him on over not pacing himself. It took a little while, but his breath eventually found a rhythm he struggled to put into the song.

Once satisfied, Tochiro reclaimed his harmonica and flashed all his teeth. “See? It’s hard to get right, even if it’s simple.”

Harlock had his eye on the carafe on his desk. “I never doubted you. Besides, I know how to sing it, not play it.”

Tochiro put his back to Harlock to hide the wobbly thing his smile did and went to refill their cups. “I, uh, can’t really imagine that.”

“It was a long time ago.” Harlock took his refilled cup and set it aside only long enough to get his boots off. He just left them by the bed, which was fine. Tochiro had no room to judge.

“Still.” Tochiro tapped the side of his mug and considered his friend. It wasn’t easy to imagine Harlock ‘a long time ago.’ To pack him down into a body that was anything but larger than life, to erase the scar and replace his missing eye.

“Still,” Harlock agreed.

Tochiro joined him on the bed again, and they drank more. They emptied and filled their cups a few more times, Tochiro filling the time between drinks with bars of Silent Night or his particular brand of rambling chatter that Harlock always suffered for some reason.

When all that remained of the wine was a bittersweet spice smell hanging in the room, Tochiro settled into playing in the languid, unguarded way he did when sufficiently drunk. Normally he’d be playing for the crew, but this was fine. It was more than fine, really.

It was so fine he didn’t notice Harlock going ragdoll until he slung his long legs over his knees and lied down.

He sputtered. “Hey.”

Harlock opened his eye a bit and smiled. “Yes?”

“I can’t get up and go to bed if you’re gonna use me as a footrest.”

A slow blink. Fatigue was catching up and pulling him down. “I don’t mind.”

Tochiro cleared his throat. “I didn’t ask that.” His gaze wandered to the stars. “Whatever. Everybody’s making too much noise to sleep anywhere else anyway.”

“Mm.” The wordless agreement came moments later, when Tochiro had already started to play again. Before long, his breath came deep and even and the tension left his features. "But it's loud here, too, isn't it? Louder than normal. I can hear the engines very clearly, for instance, and the exhaust in the ducts. It's been like that for a while, now. Like being in the hangars."

Tochiro put on a sheepish smile. "Ah, that. Yeah. I softened up the sound dampening before I came down." He made his smile wistful. "Just for your quarters, though. I like it sometimes, being able to listen like this. The Arcadia has her own voice and heartbeat, just like any ship. When I can hear that clearly enough, I know I can't possibly be anywhere else."

"Ah." Harlock had his eye shut, either ready to sleep or unwilling to let its set and movement betray him. "Yes. That is good."

There was no more playing, just listening and lying for a while. The low, cyclical thrum of Arcadia's engines wrapped itself around them. Tochiro really did love the sound.

"Hey," Tochiro said, sitting up again.


"How are you?"

Harlock breathed in, out. A big sigh. "I'm weary, my friend, but I'm well."

"Figured as much," Tochiro said as he extracted himself from under Harlock's legs.

"Are you going to bed after all?" Harlock asked. He neither moved nor opened his eye.

Tochiro crawled to the head of the bed, dragging Harlock's hand with him. It was warm as blood now. "Nah. I'll take your pillow as a tax for getting your dusty feet on me, though."

With one deft motion, he swiped the pillow out from under Harlock's head. Harlock's lips quirked up a little, but he didn't open his eyes until Tochiro shuffled over and pulled his head onto his knee. His mouth fell and his eyelids lifted.

"Can't let my friend sleep with no pillow at all," Tochiro said, his smile very wide and more than a little drunk. He stuffed the pillow between his back and Harlock's headboard. "Say."

Turning his face to one side, Harlock closed his eye again. "Yes?"

"You know how to sing Silent Night in German, right? Or English?"

"I learned it in German."

The smile Tochiro had calmed started to creep back onto his face. "But not Japanese?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Then I will perform it for you," Tochiro announced. The wine was definitely working, now. He only wished it made him lazy and drowsy and even like it did Harlock. "You're not allowed to say no."

"I wouldn't."

A weird little laugh bubbled out of Tochiro, and he cleared his throat to disguise it. He started to sing, quietly but not bashfully. Harlock was the perfect audience ofr a shameless performance, cool but not chilly, finally peaceful.

It was a good song for tonight. Clear skies, the light of the stars, and peaceful sleep.

Arcadia hummed around them, the stars rolled by, and Tochiro sang. Old comforts, old friends in new places, and two voices to keep Harlock firmly anchored in the present moment. No Deathshadow, no fire bursting windscreens and blasting away bodies, no pain, no heavy form in his arms, just here. When Harlock's breathing settled into the steady rhythm of sleep, his face was slack and peaceful. Tochiro let his voice drop and drop and fall silent.

Soon, Tochiro would sleep. For the time being, the moment was a little too sweet to leave behind for drunken dreams.

"Merry Christmas, my friend."