I'm so sorry this took so long... *hides*
Chaos theory, fractals, Star Wars, and the butterfly effect.
Yes, that is a fractal. *grin*
The Drake Equation
“What happened to you?” Harry asks, when he sees Peter with that cut on his forehead.
“Tripped on the bus this morning.”
Harry just looks at him. “I can tell when you’re lying, Parker. It’s Flash again, isn’t it?”
Nice try, Peter. “Harry. . . It doesn’t matter.”
“Peter, you can’t just let him do this to you. He – ”
“I told him being held by him wasn’t quite enough to get me excited.”
“You did what ?”
Peter smiles for the first time that day. “Never seen Star Wars?”
* * *
Harry probably regrets the answer he gave that day, but Peter never has.
* * *
“Did you know that spacecraft are supposed to be silent? Because sound can’t travel in a vacuum?”
“Peter, why would anyone want to know that?”
“Who wouldn’t?” Peter asks.
The look on Harry’s face is a study in resignation. “Maybe this time, I’ll finally be able to tell Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo apart.”
Peter has to stop himself from smiling. He knows Harry knows. Or at least, he doesn’t think anyone could watch Star Wars thirty times and not be able to tell Jedi and general apart. Granted, it wasn’t Harry who’d wanted to watch the film on any one of those occasions, but he knew Harry was smarter than that.
“Use the Force, Harry-Wan Kenobi.”
The look Harry gives him then is one of the looks Peter wishes Harry would never give him. It’s one of the looks that makes him forget who he is, forget who Harry is, forget everything that says, this can never be.
“Sorry, sweetheart,” Harry says, smirking. “I haven’t got time for anything else.”
* * *
“Did you know that fractals are found everywhere in nature?” Peter asks, when he’s over at Harry’s place, and the both of them are seated at the study table in Harry’s room.
“Pete, you know I have absolutely no idea what they are.”
Peter smiles. That is a question he could spend the rest of the day answering. So he settles for explaining a particular kind of fractal he thinks Harry may have heard of.
“Peter, that movie has finally gone to your head.”
“Fractals are used in generating special effects in movies. One of the first movies to do that successfully was Star Wars.”
Harry laughs. “And here I thought you were going to tell me you’d decided to run away with an Alderaan Princess.”
Peter grins. “That would be a strange attractor.”
“Strange attractor.” Sceptical would hardly begin to describe Harry’s expression.
“It’s a fractal, too. One denoting impossible events. Things that aren’t meant to happen, but do. But sometimes they happen.”
“Like Flash ever learning to count past ten.”
Peter stifles his laughter and agrees.
“Like you ever getting bored of Star Wars.”
“Not in any future I can see.”
“You said sometimes they happen? Even when they’re not supposed to?”
There’s something different about the way Harry says that. Something that’s more intense than usual in his eyes. Peter knows it, but he can’t figure it out, so he nods, slowly.
“Like you and me.”
And right in front of Peter, chaos theory comes to life.
Near-disproportionate academic attention has been dedicated to the fourth attractor. The Mandelbrot Set, the Feigenbaum Fractal, the Lorenz Fractal – all famous examples of strange attractors. All capable of adopting an infinite number of different forms. All unpredictable. All completely inevitable.
Just like what’s happening now.
“Peter, you’re blushing.”
Peter swallows, involuntarily. “It’s – nothing.” He can’t quite explain, even to himself, why he’s reacting this way, and looks down at the table as he gets up from his chair. “I really should go.”
Harry moves to get up, too, and for one moment, Peter is allowed to think that everything is going to be all right, that Harry’s going to show him to the door, going to let him leave, and never talk about this again.
Unfortunately, in Peter’s experience, as in Obi-Wan’s, there has been no such thing as luck.
“Escape isn’t your plan,” Harry says, and his hands come down on either side of Peter, effectively trapping him between the table and Harry himself. Peter barely registers that Harry’s misquoting Darth Vader, but he’s too busy thinking that he now knows exactly what Luke Skywalker felt like approaching the Death Star, because he’s getting a very bad feeling about this.
“Peter,” Harry says, and his voice could be so much like a butterfly’s wings, because you’d never think that something so simple could bring about a storm. Lorenz certainly knew what he was talking about, thinks Peter, and he’d much rather think about the chaos theorist because he doesn’t want to think about how close Harry is. Or about what he’s going to do next. “You’re not running away from this.” Harry tips his chin up so he can look right into Peter’s eyes. “You’re not running away from this, and neither am I.”
If it wasn’t for Harry, Peter would be out of the door and far away by now. The instinct to do just this is only intensified when Harry rests his hands on Peter’s shoulders.
“Peter, your heart’s racing,” Harry murmurs, and Peter tears his gaze away. The urgency of the situation compels him to find his voice at last.
“Harry, I – I don’t – Stop –”
A purely mischievous smile. “Don’t stop?”
“Harry, it’s not funny –”
“Remember to breathe, Pete,” he says, and that’s all the warning Peter gets before Harry kisses him.
When Peter finally does remember to breathe, the first thing he does is tell Harry what he thinks.
“This is not going to work,” Peter says.
“Never tell me the odds,” Harry answers. “And you’re not Solo, Pete.”
“Quoting Star Wars at me isn’t going to solve anything,” Peter snaps.
“Tell me what you told me about Drake’s equation again?” Harry asks.
Peter blinks, and his head clears. This is a question he can answer. This is a problem he can do something about. “It’s. . . the formula for calculating. . . the number of intelligent, communicating civilisations in the galaxy.” His voice gathers speed as he rediscovers his confidence. “It’s said that the value of Drake’s equation doesn’t lie in the solutions it offers, but in the questions it gives rise to.”
Harry rests his hands on either side of Peter’s face, and all of a sudden, Peter forgets everything he’s ever learnt about Drake, fractals, and chaos theory.
“Here’s your answer.”
Then Harry kisses him.
When Harry finally breaks the kiss, he smiles.
“That’s two you owe me, kid.”
The future, Peter knows, is always in motion. He doesn’t need a Jedi Master from Dagobah to tell him that. But never before has he seen his future in terms of a choice so stark.
Do or do not.
One event can change time forever. From one event, infinite futures can be born.
In one world, Peter pushes Harry away, shocked. In another, he turns away in disgust, and never speaks to Harry again. In yet another, he freezes, and doesn’t move until Harry realises that he’s never made a mistake like this one. In still another world, Peter runs. And never sees Harry again.
In this world, Peter kisses Harry back.
And all his possible futures become this one.