So, hello everyone.
It has been a long time. Last year was hectic. I had mental health issues on top of health issues as well as the most intense year of university. Thankfully this year doesn't look too bad with the workload and I'm hoping to have extra time to work on my stories.
I want to say how much I love everyone that has commented this past year because it was amazing, so many times I have been driven to open this and work on it. The only reason it didn't go further was because I did not write up to a standard I felt comfortable, I was majorly depressed and I didn't want it to show in this story.
I am back though and I want to say now, I am not ever planning on giving up on this story. It is my baby and I am determined to finish it, no matter how long that takes.
Chapter 27 – Control
"You must be the reaper," Harry said tiredly, he ran a hand through his wild hair as he took in the sudden appearance of the woman before him.
She was young, surrounded by a black aura. Her fiery red hair standing out greatly against the darkness around her. He features were soft, almost hypnotic as she gave Harry a sad smile. A calming sensation crept over Harry's being as the icy feeling of death surrounded him.
"Master," the woman said. "I am Tara." She made no move to offer her hand, nor interact with Harry beyond her gentle words.
"You – I – you don't have to call me that," Harry finished helplessly. A pang of grief encased Harry's heart at the term.
Tara tilted her head to the side, "It is required," she said firmly.
Harry licked his lips, "okay then," he finally said. He was unsure of how to continue, beyond Death telling him the reaper would appear, he knew nothing of what to expect.
"He said it was not time for you to begin moving souls," Tara offered, seeming slightly amused about the awkward silence that had arrived. "You will, however, need to advise reapers that require it."
"What – what does that mean?" Harry asked, his hand ran through his hair again. He was glad that this meeting was taking part in the early morning, yet he was also conflicted as he knew that he would then have to hold this information for the rest of the day.
"Reapers are exchanged almost constantly," Tara offered, her tone calm and gentle. "Elder reapers are given the opportunity to pass on as new reapers are brought to replace them. He does require a… mentoring period," Tara's tone took an entertained tone as she continued. "Not all new reapers find the answers they need then. They learn the basics of soul collecting but there are always more difficult circumstances. It is your duty to aid them if needed."
"How am I meant to know?" Harry asked, feeling frustrated.
"You will just know," Tara responded, not helping Harry's level of frustration. Noting the growing frustration, Tara then offered, "you have a link with Death. You are the Master of Death. You will know what to do when the situation requires it."
"I – fine," Harry sighed. "So reapers will just appear when they need help?" he asked, whilst it was not ideal, Harry admitted that it wasn't that bad of a job to have.
"Indeed," Tara said. "You also have another duty," her voice trailed off slightly as she finally looked away from Harry. Her calming presence dissipating somewhat, in its place a gently nervousness probed at Harry's mind.
"He mentioned that you may not be happy about this –" she frowned. "He wanted – He said that he hoped it will wait but it's unlikely."
"What is it?" Harry asked, dread growing in his stomach.
"Some souls require judgement," Tara said softly. "Not all easily decided as good or bad. It will likely be done in advising a reaper at this point," she offered. "However there are more complex situations. Normally they would be the ones where either you or Death will collect the soul."
"What does judgement mean?" Harry asked, trying to fight the slight nausea that appeared. "Like heaven and hell?"
"Not entirely," Tara said with a flicker of amusement. "More often than not, souls are cleansed and allowed to move onwards. Some are damned, some are given time to recover or refresh, then most are reborn. Few are retired, although I believe that is normally done after they have been reborn a number of times. It will be your duty to decide what happens before the souls are reborn."
"That –" Harry started.
"Not all souls. He had hoped that this duty will wait but with him not being around, you have to be prepared," Tara explained gently, taking Harry's protest. "Most souls are easy to deal with, reapers are given a kind of guide on how to judge souls. Those they are unable or unsure of will then be your responsibility. I would recommend you read and understand the guide yourself," she suggested.
"I – ok – how –?"
Tara rolled her eyes, "you should will them to appear. It is your duty to understand, any documents or information you need will appear if you want them."
Harry nodded, he felt out of his element. He was unsure of just what he needed to do and it felt like too much for him to deal with.
"I must apologise Master," Tara said, a faraway look in her eyes. "I must tend to business, one of my souls are ready to be collected. If you require any further assistance I have been told to listen for your call."
Without even waiting for a response, the young woman disappeared. Harry was left with the icy feeling suddenly disappearing along with her as everything she had said was left to sink into Harry's mind.
Taking a quick glance at the time, Harry resolved to dealing with his new duties later as he began to prepare for the day ahead.
"I'm not sure about this Tony," Bruce hissed. He was currently standing in Harry's living room. Tony had woken him, complaining that the man had been isolated for too long. Once woken and dressed, Bruce was then dragged from the Stark Tower and to Harry's house, where Tony had promised the scientist food and human interaction.
"It's just Harry," Tony shrugged.
Bruce shifted his weight slightly, "no offence to either of you but I don't know him. I don't want to either."
"You cannot keep yourself locked away in the lab," Tony said firmly.
"Funny, before you met him you would have happily done the same thing," Bruce muttered under his breath.
"Tony!" a child's voice squealed. Bruce watched in horrified amusement as a yellow-haired child ran into Tony's legs and seemed to try and strangle them.
Tony laughed as he pulled the child off his legs and lifted him into the air.
"Do you remember Brucie?" Tony asked the child.
"You helped my daddy," Teddy said softly.
Bruce went to nod and agree with the child when the words died in his throat. The yellow hair that had been present was now a vivid blue.
"Ah, yes," Tony mumbled, seeing Bruce's open mouth. "Why don't you go fetch your dad?" he asked Teddy as he placed him back on the ground.
Teddy nodded, giving Bruce a look of confusion.
"Yep," Tony said.
"It changed –"
"It did," Tony nodded, he put his hand on Bruce's arm and directed him to the couch.
"How?" Bruce asked, looking at Tony.
"It's a complicated story," Harry said, causing Bruce's attention to snap towards the British man. "Tony," Harry said, his eyes meeting the American's. "Entertain Teddy please."
"Of course," Tony nodded. He felt slightly bad knowing that Bruce would prefer him around throughout this conversation but he felt like Harry would know the best way to break it to the man.
"We have not really talked," Harry mused once Teddy and Tony had left the room and made their way upstairs. "I would apologise for that but I know our first meeting left us both feeling uneasy."
"We have –"
"Talked," Harry finished for the man. "Yes, no more than necessarily though. Quite frankly I am conflicted on telling you all of this," Harry admitted. "Whilst I know you are not a bad person –"
"You know of the Hulk," Bruce said with a nod. "I understand that. I'm a danger to –"
"It isn't that you're a danger," Harry interrupted. "There are risks, I will not pretend otherwise. It is just a personal secret, one I was hesitant to tell Tony."
Bruce sat back, his mind racing, "it has to do with Teddy and his hair?"
"Yes," Harry nodded. "That is the reason you're here. Teddy has – he – I don't know how to phrase it in a friendly way," Harry admitted.
"Just try?" Bruce suggested. "There isn't much you could say that would scare me away."
"Teddy cannot control when his hair changes. Not yet," Harry started.
"How is that possible?" Bruce asked.
"I'm sorry but I cannot tell you yet," Harry said with a sad smile.
"Ok," Bruce nodded, reining his curiosity in.
"Typically it is only intense emotions that cause the changes," Harry said. "Recently, it's been any change in his emotions. Part of it is my own fault," Harry admitted. "I helped him hide it without really giving him a lot of access to attempt to control it. It is something I am working on. He hit a milestone with it, he started to change his eye colour. I feel like it set his progress back even more and –"
"Why are you telling me this?" Bruce asked. He couldn't wrap his mind around the concept, this child could change his hair colour, ok that is strange but eye colour is completely different.
"Tony mentioned you have some techniques that you learnt, ones that help control your emotions," Harry said. "I am offering an exchange. I can guess that I know of techniques you will not have encountered and you'll know ones I am unaware of. I was hoping we could help each other."
Bruce doubted it. He had travelled a lot and nothing worked brilliantly. He knew he couldn't leave the child as he was though. It was a horrible feeling letting your emotions control yourself.
"How would this work?" Bruce asked with a sigh, even though he had reached his decision, he was not yet confident saying it out loud.
Harry gave the older man a soft smile, "I would offer myself as your guide in the techniques but I'm not a master of them myself. I can advise you in the beginning but then I would probably do more harm than help. If you don't mind I would rather introduce you to a friend of mine. She is amazing," Harry's smile changed to a full one as he thought of Hermione. "If she cannot help then I don't know who else would be able to," he finished honestly.
"I'm not –"
"You don't have to decide right now, as I said, I can help you start. I can't guarantee how helpful I will be but we can at least narrow down a few techniques you haven't tried and work from there. If you then feel comfortable enough, I can give you my friends contact details," Harry said. "As for Teddy, I would really appreciate it if you could try and teach him a few of the techniques you had encountered on your travels. It is important that he learns to, not necessarily mask his gift, but to control it when required."
Bruce's eyebrows raised, "you would feel comfortable with my around your child?" he asked.
Harry's smile dropped slightly at Bruce's question. He faintly recalled Remus' words after he had discovered Tonks was pregnant; "If, by some miracle, it is not like me, then it will be better off, a hundred times so, without a father of whom it must always be ashamed!"
It was with a steely tone that Harry responded, "I do not doubt you. A man I once knew had a similar… condition as you. He viewed himself as an outcast because he was not like the rest of us," Harry felt somewhat pleased at the small wince Bruce made. "He hated himself so much that he denied himself the joys of life," he continued. "He avoided people he loved and even went as far as feeling the need to run from his family because he felt he was a danger."
Bruce stayed silent, now feeling unable to even look at Harry.
"In the end," Harry said in a soft voice. "That man became one of the bravest men I knew. He managed to fall in love and have a wonderful son. Bruce," Harry said, prompting the man to look at him. "Even though he was terrified that he would hurt someone, he never did. He died in order to save the people he loved. So yes, I feel comfortable with you around Teddy. I do not doubt that you'll be able to remove yourself from the environment if you feel like you need to. I just hope you feel comfortable enough with yourself to be around him. It's easy for me to say, but you don't have to be scared of yourself."
Harry let the conversation stop there as Bruce stared at the man in shock. He had repeatedly opened and closed his mouth in an attempt to vocalise the mass swirl of conflicting emotions and thoughts that overtook him.
"I should probably make sure those two haven't destroyed Teddy's room," Harry said softly after several long minutes of silence. He offered Bruce another warm smile before leaving the man alone on the couch.
I think next chapter might focus on Bruce a bit more. I'm not sure if I want him and Teddy to have a meditation interaction yet. Maybe just a bit of bonding between them? I'm not sure just yet.
Also, I'm wanting a chapter up next weekend but I don't feel comfortable enough making that promise. It is my current goal but life can be horrible sometimes.