In which Kraglin washes windows, and Yondu acquires a pet.
Yondu is, contrary to his word, not returned to the office of first mate before the end of the week. Jora must be really mad at him – or else Dagada has yet to commit any grievous fuck-ups. Kraglin’s expecting him to gripe about it. He encourages it, even; eager for a chance to share some of Morlug’s poignant words regarding the first mate’s mother. But he’s only met with a sullen silence, and a palpable skyrocket in tension whenever Dagada’s name worms to the fore of conversation.
No container can withstand an exponential increase in pressure forever. And the Eclector’s old and brittle enough as it is. Eventually, Kraglin figures, something’s got to give.
And give it does. Violently.
Yondu’s due back from his latest solo today. Was due back. Technically, it’s not really today anymore – Morlug’s already sloped off to start her night shift, and the hangar is bustling with a bunch of disgustingly fresh and wide-awake next-cyclers. Worry-hour’s in ten, but Kraglin, washing the same window in the hangar observation pod for the seventeenth time in as many minutes, tries not to think about that. Sure, Yondu’s a little late. But that could be anything. Evading Nova patrols. Giving a Horde scavenger a well-deserving smack-down. (Kraglin has yet to meet an actual Hordesman, but he’s learnt enough about the rivalry between the two groups from Isla’s tales of barfights, firefights and worse to cultivate a healthy hatred.) Heck, for all Kraglin knows Yondu’s stopped off to do groceries – Shorro’s menu for this week is gross enough to warrant it.
And so. He scrubs.
Slap, goes the cloth on the fireproof, pressure-sealed glass. Squeak, goes the cloth when he smears it in a circle, suds streaming down his forearm. Splat, goes the cloth when he drops it into the bucket and unhooks the squeegee from his belt. The window gleams like a slice of wet sunlight. Morlug’d been right all those weeks ago. So Kraglin thinks, as he stretches on his toes, placing the squeegee’s tip as high on the window as he can reach, and drags it down in a messy wobble so he’ll have an excuse to go over it. There is something therapeutic about this.
One of the Ravagers on refill-duty, who has been observing his lack of progress for the past quarter of an hour, takes it upon himself to chip in. “Y’know, this pod’s got eleven other windows to clean.”
Yes, but none of them look out on Yondu’s empty bay. Kraglin isn’t about to admit that though, so he gives him a withering look, as if the man is being so unthinkably stupid that Kraglin can’t be bothered to explain why, and resets his squeegee.
Nine minutes. Those had better be some damn good groceries. And he’d better share.
Kraglin’s chronometer’s down to five (and his worry, which has been rising in indirect proportion, simmers somewhere around a fifty) when a familiar M-ship noses through the hangar’s forcefield and latches up into dock. The field seals behind it, tight as stretched clingfilm, and Yondu sets his controls and wanders into the craft’s bulbous main body as the system of pulleys and chains creaks it over to its customary hammock. Kraglin watches the hatch on the ship’s backside, waiting for it to pop open and for Yondu to pop out. He is, he acknowledges, a little relieved. Just a little.
But no hatch-popping occurs. Kraglin frowns. Yeah, solos wear you out like nothing else – but if Yondu’s actually fallen asleep on the floor of his cluttered ship, that’s a first. And quite impressive.
He and Kraglin haven’t gotten around to any more sex just yet – at least, not what Kraglin thinks as sex-sex, which is composed only of dicks being inserted into anuses. (Anusii?) Mostly because he’s had a teeny-tiny freak out whenever Yondu’s suggested it, and Yondu hasn’t forced the issue. From his sneering, he reckons Kraglin’s a wuss, and Kraglin’s gonna let him keep thinking that because it’s better than the alternative of Yondu discovering that Kraglin’s only nervous because he’s so damn excited, and he’s kinda terrified that he’s excited, and that he really, really doesn’t want to jizz before Yondu puts it in and get mocked for the rest of the week for being the horny teenager he is.
Just-teenager. Only a month to go now, before Yondu and Isla ought to quit teasing him for being a kid – although not even Kraglin’s optimistic enough to bet on that happening before he turns eighty.
Anyway. There’s been no sex-sex – but there’s been hands and mouths and a bit of old fashioned grinding, which are just as good. Kraglin’s learnt that Yondu’s as bad at blowjobs as he is at kissing but a goddamn wizard with his hands. And that he likes to be bitten (although he always complains about marks) and Kraglin likes to do the biting. And that the floor of an M-ship that’s seeded with trinkets, guns, old pre-plasma bullet rounds, and various other pilfered instruments of murder-come-torture, isn’t the most comfortable of places to kneel when you’re sucking someone off. Seriously. Who keeps their floorspace seeded with a goddamn stash of old-fashioned explosive charges and a detonator in lumbering-range?
If Yondu kips there, he’s gonna be stiffer than a board when he wakes. Which means he’ll be a total bitch to work with and the chances of casualty on deck multiply exponentially, both for Kraglin and any unlucky Ravager who gets on his nerves. Kraglin’d better go scoop him up. For the good of them all.
He props his squeegee over the top of the bucket, and hands them to the Ravager. “Here,” he says, shaking the unconventional gift until it’s taken. “Enjoy.” Then he saunters to the door, prods the biolock, and tramps wet footprints over to Yondu’s ship.
“Oi!” he calls, once he’s activated the external override on the hatch and let himself in. Sneaking up on Yondu’s tempting, but also a surefire way to get an arrow through the head. “Oi, Yondu! You alive?”
There’s a crunch from the wing to his right, and a muffled curse. Kraglin picks his way between a mound of half-powdered compactcarb cubes and protein squares, and a collection of ancient skrull bazookas that have had their safeties snapped off. He taps on the door. It opens. Yondu stands in it, looking frazzled but bright-eyed, and very much not asleep. He also looks… shifty. It’s not an expression Kraglin associates with Yondu, and so it puts him instantly on edge.
“Uh,” he says. “Is everything alright?”
“Fine,” replies Yondu. Scratches at his stubble, and rubs the back of his neck like he’s trying to iron out a crease. It’s not a tell, not quite, but…
“You… sure?” Kraglin asks delicately. There’s something in the storage space behind Yondu; something big and crate-like that wasn’t there the last time he cleaned… Yondu sidles forwards, filling the gap and blocking off his view.
“Yep. Hey, ain’t you supposed to be on night-shift?” Classic redirection. Oh no. He’s not getting out of this that easily.
“Weren’t ya supposed to be back hours ago?” Kraglin shoots in return. Yondu effects an innocent shrug.
“Got caught up in something.”
They stand in silence. Yondu’s fingers tap on his crossed arm, a rhythm to a song from a world far from Kraglin’s own, and he pretends to check his chronometer.
“What’s in the box?” Kraglin asks.
Yondu blinks like he has to place what Kraglin’s on about, then shrugs again. “Nothin'.” The reply is perfectly timed, perfectly toned. Rehearsed.
“Nothing,” repeats Kraglin. He injects his voice with dubiousness. Yondu leans his weight on the doorframe, so that Kraglin’s efforts to catch a glimpse of the object beyond are met with crackly red leather and sleek blue skin.
“Yep. Empty. Figured the boys in Storage could use it.”
‘Nothing’ takes this opportunity to growl. Yondu very almost winces.
“I think your Nothing’s hungry,” Kraglin says. Yondu narrows his eyes at him until Kraglin realizes that he’s not as funny as he thinks he is, and holds up his hands in apology. “Alright, alright. Keep your secrets. You and Nothing have a fun night, now.” He turns to leave. And makes it to the door before his passage is halted by a gruff sigh and the sound of a door being opened and propped with a canister of pressurized fire-foam.
“C'mon then,” Yondu says.
There’s a lot of things Kraglin would like to say. They all start and end with the same concept though, so he strips it to its barest components and blurts it for the galaxy to hear – “Why the fuck have ya brought a bilgesnipe on board?”
A blue palm slaps over his mouth. “Shut it!” Yondu hisses. Waits to ensure that Kraglin’s words haven’t percolated the M-ship and sent the refillers into hysterics, then scowls. “And grow a pair, would ya? S'just a baby.”
They examine the massive creature curled at the bottom of its cramped cell. Its fang-sharp horns and horn-sharp fangs; its back of bristling porcupine-spines. Its weighty ankylosaur bludgeon of a tail.
“Baby,” says Kraglin tonelessly. Yondu, the bastard, grins.
“With a face only a mother could love. But you gotta admit – it’s kinda cute.”
“It wouldn’t fit on your console,” Kraglin answers. But his head’s still spinning – at the size of the thing, which completely fills out Yondu’s storage space – no way did he wedge the container through the door; he must’ve popped the M-ship’s outer shell and rebuilt it around it. And at the sheer horror that he’s sharing a dimension with something this monstrous. Which brings him back to the question at hand – “The fuck’s it doing on your ship?” Or more importantly, on the Eclector. Because hell, if anyone finds out about this…
“Job,” says Yondu. “We’re passing Knowhere in three cycles – we drop off Baby with the Collector, pick up forty-hundred units, and go brag to Jora that we’ve made more in under a week than Dagada’s organized in a month.”
Kraglin gapes at him. “That’s it? That’s your plan for making first mate again?”
Yondu frowns. “What’s wrong with it?”
What can he say? It’s idiotic? Dangerous? Foolhardy and reckless and probably going to work, because this is Yondu, after all. Kraglin passes a hand over his eyes and consolidates his words before spewing them out.
“Look. It’s not that this ain’t a good bounty. Or a good job. Heck, if you had the resources, it’d be a doss. But…” He glances at that tail, one swing of which could bludgeon through the M-ship, cracking the slim pressure-panels like tree bark. Had Yondu really flown with this on board? “Look at this thing, Yondu! What if it wakes up?”
“It’s sedated,” says Yondu. Nothing’s mouth opens – aaaall the way, wide enough for a child to stand inside. Kraglin counts seven rows of teeth, each as long as his pinky, inwards curving and jagged edged. Sweat prickles his spine.
“That don’t look sedated to me! Shit, Yondu, let’s just tell someone –“ He starts for the exit, fumbling at the door latch. Yondu grabs his arm.
“No! Look – Krags, don’t you trust me?”
Oh, that’s just all kinds of unfair.
Kraglin unpeels the blue hand from his wrist finger by finger. “It ain’t you I have a problem with,” he says. Nothing cracks open an eye, grumbles in its voluminous throat, resettles. He and Yondu, frozen at the movement, slowly relax. “See? Ya can’t keep this thing here, Yondu. And – and this sounds fishy to me. What’s the Collector want with a bilgesnipe? Asgardians trade ‘em for the Cartel’s baiting matches all the time.” But Yondu when he has his mind set on something is less dissuadable than a bilgesnipe with a nose full of fresh blood-scent.
“I got enough tranqs to keep it under for a week,” he argues, spinning Kraglin and getting between him and the ship's hatch. “And c’mon, Kraglin! Forty-hundred units. And the look on Dagada’s face. Think about it!”
He makes valid points. But Nothing’s directly in Kraglin’s line of vision. All fourteen coiled, muscular meters of it. The stupefied twitch of its tail-club is hypnotic.
Yondu’s expression shutters. “I don’t need your permission.” He growls the word like it’s dirty. Kraglin reminds himself that Yondu’s not first mate yet, and that he doesn’t have to follow his orders. And that he’s not going to kill him. Probably.
“This is a bad idea,” he says. Drags his eyes from Nothing – difficult, given that he’s monopolized the entirety of the remaining floorspace – and fixes them on Yondu’s own in the vain hope that he’ll find a glimmer of his trepidation reflected there. “A really, really bad idea.”
“Pessimist,” Yondu accuses. Then checks around him (an action of habit rather than purpose, as they’re safely encapsulated within the M-ship with Nothing as their only witness) and promises in a rough whisper – “Look, do this for me – keep it to yerself for three days, that’s all – and ya can fuck me again, yeah?”
Dammit. Damn him for even thinking like that, damn Kraglin for considering it, and damn Yondu’s Nothing for being the sort of problem that not even mindblowing sex can fix. Kraglin stands his ground.
“No deal.” Then, before Yondu’s disappointment can twist into anger – “It ain’t you. I… I don’t trust this thing, Yondu. And I sure as hell don’t trust the Collector.”
“You ain’t an idiot then.” Yondu rests one hand on his hip, scrubbing at the skin around his eyebrows with the other like he’s trying to massage a headache away. “Okay. Here’s what we do. I give him his second round of tranqs. You head to storage and find some more – Doc’s old med crap that’s too strong to use, anything. If Baby wakes up again, we fetch Jora.”
It’s the best he’s going to get. Keeping a wary eye on Nothing – or Baby, whatever – Kraglin nods. Yondu’s relieved huff is as loud as its snores. He claps Kraglin on the shoulder, then hooks his arm over and grabs a fistful of leather collar to guide him along the gangway.
“Alright! Off ya go then. Meet back here in twenty!”
Kraglin’s tired – Yondu must be dead on his feet. But he’s also burning with a bright and frantic energy, and no way is Kraglin going to slope off to bunk and leave him alone with a bilgesnipe, baby or otherwise. Sighing, he hauls the hatch up and kicks the roll-out ladder until it does its job. The last he sees of Yondu, he’s slotting needle cartridges into a multi-function pistol, eyes fever-bright and humming that unknown song under his breath.