In which the wild Morlug is appeased, Kraglin gets his tube out (not like that), and we prepare to advance into the second phase of the story.
“Go fuck yourself.”
Pause. Breathe in. Breathe out.
“Morlug, can I talk to you?”
“Go fuck yourself on Udonta’s fucking arrow.”
Swallow. Decide not to comment.
“I’m gonna talk to you. Are you gonna listen?”
“Go fuck yourself on Udonta’s arrow and light yourself on fire.”
Right. Kraglin sighs and rests his good side on the wall next to the storage bunker. Morlug, ever the wizard with the Eclector’s temperamental hatches and panels, has squeezed into one of the supply closets and effectively barricaded herself in by pulling the circuits out of the opening mechanism. She’s got the know-how to put them all to rights again. Kraglin doesn’t. But he reckons he’s tenacious enough to make up for it – and thankfully, she didn’t have the foresight to realise that her fortress could also act as a prison. Right now, she’s only got two options – to listen, or come out and smack him. Both, Kraglin believes, are productive outcomes.
“So, I said some shit that I didn’t mean,” he begins.
“Go fuck yourself on Udonta’s arrow, light yourself on fire, and…” She trails off. Kraglin waits, then raps his knuckles on the wall besides his head.
Morlug sniffs. “Just run out of insults.”
“Oh.” Kraglin tries for encouraging. “Hey, you were doing really well until now. Not too inventive. But visual, y’know?”
A wet snort. “Toss yourself in the engines.”
“There! See?” There’s another quiet sniff. Kraglin sandwiches his ear to the wall and prays she isn’t crying. “Morlug? M'sorry.”
“Nothing for you to be sorry about,” Morlug says. Her voice, however, contradicts; it’s snotty, stodgy, and far from stable. “S’the way the universe works, right? Everyone else’s out for themselves. Don’t see why you should act any different.”
“I was just sayin' that crap, Morlug. None of it meant nothing.” He takes a breath. Decides to plough ahead. You never know: occasionally, honesty really is the best policy. “Look – I was scared, okay? I was scared. Because I thought I was gonna leave. I couldn’t have no good memories – good memories of you! – holding me back. Can ya understand that? Can ya at least try?”
There’s a silence. Then –
“Toss yourself in the engines and chop off your ballsack.”
“- She told me to tie my balls around my neck and garrote myself, but then she opened the door and punched me in the face, and I think that after that she felt a lot better.”
Doc, swabbing the raw hole where the tube had sat with something that smells like it should be used to clean high-grade industrial equipment, rolls his eyes. Isla grunts in disbelief. “I’m gonna resurrect the betting pool if ya carry on like this.”
Isla, at least, has forgiven him from skipping out on her mid-shift. He thinks she has, anyway. Although if she drops him off in Yondu’s bed again, she’s really only doing them favors.
Kraglin waits until Doc’s finished then rolls onto his other side, feeling the entire gaunt panel of chest muscles protest, and forlornly presses his swollen cheek against the pillow. Morlug’s chipped one of his teeth. He’s a little bit proud, but in too much general pain to do much about it. He’s just glad he’s finished his final shift for the day. Eight blissful hours of downtime stretch between him and the next day-cycle. Kraglin intends to put them to use.
By sleeping. That’s what he means. Definitely by sleeping. Because he’s not looking forwards to getting fucked by Yondu. Not one bit. Nope. Kraglin’s a doer, a giver; he doesn’t lay there and take it, and he absolutely doesn’t get hard at the thought of firm bulk pinning him down and calloused blue hands on his hips…
…And perhaps this isn’t the best time to be entertaining those thoughts. Kraglin snaps his eyes shut, waits until he’s certain his breathing’s not picked up, and rolls himself slowly off the medical pallet.
“You good?” Isla asks, distracted by a blip on her wristpiece.
“Peachy,” says Kraglin. Lets his arm flop against his ribs for the first time in recent memory, and makes a stiff circle with his shoulder-socket. “Thanks for stopping by.”
“No problem. Saw you wonderin' round with that puffy lip and figured I’d find out who’d put it there.” Ah, sweet Isla and her obsession with gossip. The woman’s a mine of Ravager-trivia that ranges from useless to blackmail-worthy. Which reminds him –
“Uh, I know I ain’t s'posed to ask after people’s planets and stuff…”
“That’s right,” Isla says. Hunches over her wristpiece and jabs its buttons with new ferocity. “Although I figure a ‘but’ is coming.”
“It ain’t about you. I was wondering if you knew what Yondu – what Udonta is?”
That has Isla glancing up. “Udonta?”
“Ya don’t know?” Okay, is there some secret he’s missing out on? Kraglin gnaws his lip, catches the scab by accident, and regrets it.
“No? I mean, he said he weren’t Kree, but there’s a lotta blue folks out there and I ain’t too great with species recognition, so…” Isla snaps the cover over her wristpiece’s holographic display, effectively snuffing the beacons. She looks up at him, and seems to come to a decision.
“Centaurian,” she says. “He’s Centaurian.”
…Whatever the hell that means. Kraglin strives to appear comprehending. “Right.”
Isla smirks. “You ain’t got a clue what I’m saying, do you?”
“Well, it ain’t my story to tell… And heck, I don’t know half of it. Keeps his cards to himself, does that one.” But Kraglin knows Isla, and can see when she’s itching to spill a secret a mile off.
“Go on,” he prods. “I'm not gonna go mouthing off, or nothing. Besides, if everyone else already knows…”
Isla has never been adept at resisting bait like that.
“Extinct,” she blurts, as Doc finds a new stack of medical equipment to clean. Kraglin jumps, the plosive staccato stresses of the word echoing like cymbal-crashes. “They’re all extinct. And they was planetbound at that. Practically primitive. Whole tribe of Terrans butchered by Badoon, and not one of ‘em ever crawled off that mudball except Udonta himself.” Her voice lowers. “At least, not that we know of.”
That’s… not what he’s expecting. Kraglin gawps, catches himself, and clacks his mouth shut. "Shit,” he says. Can’t think of anything else. He doubts Yondu’d want sympathy, and he doesn’t know how to give it anyway.
“Shit indeed…” Isla startles, and jabs the back of his hand with a studded finger. “Hey, don’t tell him I told you, or nothin'.”
Badoon slaughtered a lot of races, before the Empires banded to halt their advance. Alpha-Centaurii, wherever that may be, has faded into the endless reel of names that scroll over the Nova recruitment holovids – we could’ve saved them, if only we’d had more soldiers. All bullshit, of course. Fact of the matter was, no Empire cared so long as the Badoon were only picking off planetbound Terrans; when the threat encroached on their own territories, that was when they acted.
Hypocritical rich fuckheads, the lot of ‘em. Not that he’d have gone swanning to the rescue of the Centaurians, nor any other race for that matter – but at least he doesn’t pretend that he would’ve done had circumstances been different.
Kraglin’s mind rewinds, trawling to when Isla’d first found him. Standing by a porthole. Straining for the speck of a homeworld that’d long receded. Leaving Hrax had been devastating enough – to know that his planet was an empty husk, scoured of everyone he could ever call his own… Unimaginable. Kraglin can’t begin to understand, so he doesn’t try to. He settles a hand on his stomach, where a visceral and unfamiliar bolt of guilt is solidifying; guilt for being too impatient for Yondu to talk in his own time, guilt for having ever wondered in the first place.
It’s not his place. Even if every other man, woman, and non-gender affiliated individual on the damn ship knows. Kraglin should’ve waited.
He slides into his bunk and relishes being able to curl up on his side without worrying about squishing the tube. He’ll forget about this, he decides. He’ll pretend he never asked, until his mind convinces him that it’s true. It’s with that thought that he drifts off to an uneasy sleep.