In which Kraglin finally gets his turn at being the Big Damn Hero.
According to Yondu, whose voice isn’t so much gravelly as it is tarmacked and steamrolled, Baby’s due to be out for twelve hours. Possibly more, given the extra dose courtesy of Kraglin. Kraglin’s still not entirely comfortable reclining next to those massive jaws, lax as they are in sleep – but it’s for the greater good, and at the end of the day Yondu’s got it worse than him. So he sucks it up. Scoops a handful of gooey blood from Baby’s desiccated eye socket – leaving the syringe where it is in a burst of spite – and, with a grimace, lathers his leathers from neck to waist. Then he arranges himself, and waits.
It doesn’t take long.
There’s a creak from the end of the hall. A soft hum of warming blaster pistols. Then a depowering click, as Dagada scans the scene before him – an unconscious bilgesnipe, a gore-spattered rookie and the only sign of Udonta a motionless boot – and decides there’s no point wasting plasma. The pistols are slotted back into their holsters. Dagada pads closer. His boots squeak inches from Kraglin’s shoulders. Kraglin, facing the leathery tip of Baby’s snout, curls his fingers around the knife hilt and holds his breath.
And continues to hold it. Until Dagada completes his survey and, lifting his leg, makes to step over him.
Then Kraglin surges up, wrapping eel-like around Dagada’s calf. He pushes the blade against his thigh, firm enough to slit the leather.
“Move,” he says, “and say bye-bye to your femoral artery.”
This close, he can feel Dagada’s gulp. He chuckles, tapping long fingers up his inseam.
“Yeah, that’s right. I ain’t got no fancy Nova education like you, but I know what this sucker is. And right now, I can gouge it before ya can pull the trigger on your blasters –“ Dagada’s hands cease inching towards his belt. Kraglin smirks. “- So don’t try it. Now, how's about you take 'em outta their holsters and drop ‘em on the ground? Next to me, that’s right.” He waits until Dagada obeys. Then grabs one and holds it on Dagada, while he sleeves the knife and picks up the other. This, he jams against the back of Dagada’s head.
“Walk,” he says. Dagada walks.
Kraglin guides him around the bilgesnipe. Yondu’s silent – Kraglin only prays he hasn’t passed out. He shoves Dagada along, smacking him across the ears with the flat of the barrel when he slows to pick his way over the helices of Baby’s tail. What can he say? His crown’s smarting from that cracker of a pistol-whip; if he can’t return the favor, he can at least relish having Dagada at his mercy and unable to bully him back.
Kraglin halts them once the length of chain hooked through the pipe is swatting at Dagada’s belt buckle. “Now, tie yourself up to that. Nice and tight. That’s it.” He checks to make sure Dagada’s well and truly trussed. Of course, the man attempts a slip-knot – but Kraglin’s no idiot and patiently noogies the pistol against his temple until he does it right. Once he’s satisfied, he steps back.
“Ready!” he calls to Yondu. There’s no reply. Kraglin shakes himself. If there’s one thing his time with the Ravagers has proved, it’s that Yondu’s a tough bastard. One little bilgesnipe ain’t gonna take him down. Not for more than one count, anyway. “Ready,” he repeats for his own benefit. He yanks on the chain to ensure it’ll take their combined weight. The barrel gets pressed under the Dagada’s chin, so that if it’s jostled when they jump there’ll only be one head exploding.
Kraglin spares a last worried glance at Yondu’s boot – if the guy can’t pull himself out, this’s all gonna be for nothing. Then he wraps his arms around Dagada’s shoulders, and sweeps his legs from under him.
The chain snaps taut. Dagada drops, Kraglin wrapped around him like a lanky crab. A dig of the pistol dissuades the first mate from sabotaging their leverage by pushing off the floor again. At the other end of the pulley, Baby’s hind leg hoists like that of a Morag canine that’s found a fire hydrant to desecrate. The chain doesn’t creak – but the pipe does, alarmingly. Kraglin glances at it, sees the straining bolts, and yells –
Baby’s as light as she’s gonna get. If Yondu doesn’t take this chance…
Kraglin gushes relief like a broken engine valve as Yondu’s broken leg begins to emerge. It’s followed by a thigh, a belt, a rumpled leather trenchcoat, and finally, a pair of trembling shoulders and a head. Yondu drags himself from under the shadow of Baby’s ankle, just as the pipe gives out and deposits Kraglin, Dagada, several feet of chain, and a deluge of freezing phosphorescent blue coolant onto the floor.
Kraglin’s saved from the worst of the burns by his jacket. Dagada, with his shorn-off sleeves, isn’t nearly so lucky.
“Get off me!” he screams in Kraglin’s ear. “Degenerate filth!” Cold red scald marks grow over the tattooed flames like frost on a windscreen. Kraglin, wincing as a similarly raw patch makes itself known on his cheek, rolls to the drier side and struggles to his knees.
“Yondu?” he calls.
“M’good.” And he is. Yondu’s sitting slumped against the wall, coolant shivering harmlessly off his coat. There’s a few burns on his face and hands too, but nothing serious. Kraglin’s eyes drift to the broken leg, outstretched in front of him, and widen in sympathy. “Aw, don’t make that face. Ain’t so bad.”
Kraglin is, for some unfathomable reason, lured to touch it. But he knows he’d do more harm than good, and anyway, Yondu’s shaky scowl forbids it. He crosses to sit besides him instead, leaving Dagada to wriggle and whimper his way out of the puddle of coolant on his lonesome, the chain strapped around him in a corroded orange-iron straitjacket. “What we gonna do about him?”
Dagada freezes – and not just because the liquid caking his hair and face has started to crackle and solidify. His malevolent grey eyes flick to Yondu’s arrow, then narrow in preparation.
Oh, he knows the shitpile he’s in. There’s no escape from this: one whistle and he’s finished. Kraglin, for one, can’t wait.
But, after letting the silence simmer, Yondu scoffs and turns away. “Ain’t in no state to be dragging him to an airlock,” he says. Lets his head flop against the wall with a pained sniff; the hand hovering above his leg clenches and unclenches on air. “Captain’ll sort him out, I wager.”
Despite his aversion to corpse-wrangling, Kraglin’s tempted to volunteer. But there’s other things to fret about than vengeance. He leans in, tapping Yondu’s slumped shoulder. “And Baby?”
Yondu’s eyes open a slit. He surveys the heap of bilgesnipe, a mountain of piled muscle and claw that overflows their tunnel and spills into the one besides. The spines along her back rattle against the ceiling pipes, expanding and contracting with every slow breath. “Comm Jora,” he says. His voice rasps high in its register, whistles creeping around the edges of the words. “We can keep her in the low hold for now. I ain’t used no more tranqs than necessary, so we should be able to make the drop off on schedule.”
Kraglin nods. Then remembers he doesn’t have a wristpiece. He uses Yondu’s instead, plucking his hand out of his lap to prod at the customized controls. Dagada watches them darkly. Kraglin prays Yondu won’t notice, summoning a projected ledger of names that appears to be some sort of speed-dial. Jora is probably near the top, but he’s managed to invert the whole thing and is scrolling upwards from Horuz. But then the floppy wrist in his grip goes stiff, and Yondu pulls away.
“What you lookin' at?” he snarls. Dagada’s blistered brows raise.
“You tell me.”
Kraglin’s stomach sinks. They musta seen us. That’s what Yondu’d said, when they’d first found Baby missing. Whoever took her, they musta seen us. The dislodged hatch meant that Baby’d been evacuated vertically rather than squeezed through the main body of the ship – but in order to find her in the first place, Dagada had to have walked through the sleeping area. Dagada knew.
Why does it matter? Kraglin wants to yell. Why would anyone give a shit?
But then he remembers how Dagada’d followed him, singled him out to bait his trap – and how it had very almost worked. He gnaws his lip, considering. Then quietly reclaims Yondu’s wrist. Yondu lets him.
There’s Jora’s name. Right at the top, like he thought. Under it are Varra’s, and his own. Kraglin swallows. “Y’know, you’ve still got Varra’s…?”
“Shut up,” Yondu says, still glaring at Dagada. Dagada, who coughs out a laugh, sputtering coolant.
“Varra? You keep the contact of a dead man? Knew you were soft.”
Kraglin bares his teeth, jabbing Jora’s icon. “Yeah, Varra said that too. Keep it up, and you’ll end up the same way. Oh hey – Captain! Captain Jora?”
Jora picks up immediately, buzzing into view. She clocks his face – not blue, not Yondu – but barely pauses. “Report.”
Kraglin salutes. “Bilgesnipe’s accounted for, ma’am. Sedated and awaiting transport.” Then, on the offchance she’s more worried than she’s letting on: “My wristpiece’s broken. S’why I’m on Yondu’s. He’s fine, really – “
Jora ends the connection.
Kraglin drops Yondu’s hand with a sigh. “She always like that?”
Yondu’s not looking at him. “Yeah. Pretty much.”
There’s… nothing he can say. Kraglin’s never had a mother-figure – although he suspects that the insinuation that that’s what Jora is to Yondu will be met with violence, of the type which usually preludes grievous bodily harm. He’s got no words of consolation, or empathy. He nods instead. “Guess we hang around until the reinforcements arrive.”
Yondu’s eyes tighten where they’re fixed on Dagada’s tense form. Baby’s a forgotten mountain, faded, banished to the background as Yondu and Dagada dominate the fore. “Guess we do,” he says.
“This's weird,” says Kraglin, hopping onto the stool and resting his chin against his bent knee. There’s a thread, fraying around a patch of leather more maroon than red; it tickles when he inhales. “I mean, s'usually the other way around.”
Yondu twists on the gurney to face him, eyebrows cinching as he jostles his leg. Doc, busy setting the cast around it, makes an aggrieved noise under his breath. “Don’t get used to it,” he slurs.
Kraglin smirks. “Yessir.”
It’s the next morning. A bunch of nervy Ravagers had tiptoed around Baby, rolled her onto a tarp and attached it to the back of one of the loading vehicles from the Hangar bay – Kraglin assumes that’s how Dagada’d moved her in the first place. The tarp dragged and jerked across the uneven flooring, and Lizard-guy, enjoying a suspension-smoothed ride in the driver’s seat, jerked and flinched every time.
Funny, how he doesn’t seem so big any more.
Figs had shown up to help haul Yondu to the medbay. She hadn’t said a word to either of them, despite Kraglin’s half-hearted attempts at conversation. He’s barely seen her since the Varra incident. Since discovering that he was the catalyst he’s wondered if he owes her an apology after all – but it’d sound kinda trite, coming this late. And heck, Varra was the one who decided to go confront Yondu. It was practically suicide. Anyway, then was definitely not the time – not with Yondu sagging between them, and Dagada, blistered and shivering, glaring plasma bolts into their backs.
Dagada. He’s stretched out on the table besides, swaddled in anti-freezeburn patches from knuckle to elbow. Kraglin’s got one plastered over his cheek, and Yondu’s got two, one on the right half of his skull just below the implant and the other behind his ear. Aches like a bitch, if it’s anywhere as puss-filled as Kraglin’s. He’ll keep his bonny good looks though. They both will.
Dagada’s not going to be so lucky.
At Kraglin’s words he blinks awake – had probably be only pretending to sleep in the first place, to escape Yondu’s relentless snark – and treats them to equal scowls. ‘I won’t forget this’, he mouths.
“Sorry,” says Kraglin, cupping his ear. “Didn’t catch that.” Dagada’s scarred cheek hitches into a sneer. He rubs the bandage on his throat and, after a moment’s deliberation, looks directly at Kraglin and draws his finger across it.
Yeah. That’s not subtle at all.
Kraglin disguises his shiver, turning back to Yondu. “How long before you’re outta here? A certain person said something about, uh, a storage room. And some moonshine.” He can’t relay more details; Doc’s listening, and there’s Dagada to think about too. He’ll never be forgiven if their party gets busted. But when Yondu rolls his eyes and mutters ‘Isla’, Kraglin confirms it with a nod. He’s distracted by Doc, who punches the final staple into Yondu’s cast and gives it a warning rap.
“No alcohol. Not until the anesthetic's worn off.”
Yondu gapes at him. “What the – I told ya not to use none! Didn’t I tell ya? Y’know I don’t like being all fuzzy.” He casts a dirty look at Dagada. “Especially not across the row from him.”
Dagada bares his teeth right back. Kraglin steps in before a fight can break out. It’s only sporting to let Dagada recover enough to talk before siccing Yondu on him. “C’mon,” he tells Yondu. “You can walk it off and party after.” Doc looks like he might protest to that too, but when Kraglin purses his mouth over to one side and shrugs – it’s the best you’re gonna get – he relents.
“Alright. You’re off active duty until it heals though. No solos. No missions of any kind. And, after last time, I must remind you – a cast is not to be used as a bludgeon. Under any circumstances.”
Yondu swings to the edge of the bed and tests the weight of it in his hands. “Dunno. Reckon I could cave a coupla skulls with it.”
“And irreparably damage your joints as you do so,” Doc says. He’s got all four hands propped on his waist. Apparently, this isn’t the first time they’ve had this conversation. “Next time I see you in here, I’ll listen when you ask for no anesthetic. Perhaps that’ll teach you a lesson.”
Yondu grins. “I doubt it.”
If he keeps winding him up, Doc’ll make good on his promise. Kraglin kicks the gurney to get his attention, and thumbs towards the exit. Quartermaster’d had a whole bunch of crutches, but Kraglin hadn’t been sure which were in Yondu’s size. He supposes he’s skinny enough to do for now – although Yondu’s not likely to lean on him when there’s anyone else around. They’ll have to limp over to the storage deck before feeding Baby.
That’s gonna be fun.
Kraglin bids adieu to another eventful day and another… three? Four? Close death experiences. If Dagada turns to watch them leave, eyes narrowed in thought, Kraglin’s too busy thanking his lucky stars to notice.