Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 39

In which there is an ending. Possibly even a happy one.

The sun is shining. A sun, at least. Which, Kraglin isn’t sure – it’s got a name, but it’s something long-winded and tricky that contains too many consonants, and Yondu laughs at him every time he fluffs pronouncing it.

Captain and First Mate stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the furthest stretch of the satellite’s harbor, watching M-ships skitter across the sky like bluebottles around a dungheap. Daylight streams through the indigo-blue artificial atmosphere and catches Yondu’s implant, splitting to red through the dim crystal. The air tastes clean and rust free. Kraglin, smacking his lips, discovers that he dislikes it.

Trezgalar smolders above. The ramparts have been cracked like eggshells, the rebels butchered at their stations. Every cubby, every storage locker and docking bay, has been stripped, searched, and stripped again, until only the foundations lay bare. There’s scrap metal to patch the Eclector’s hull, more to flog to the black market. A few thousand units’ worth of goods – cal-cubes and antibiotics and the like. They can keep what they need and sell the surplus once they reach Knowhere. Should easily make enough to cover running costs and losses – and add to that the massive artillery stockpile that’d been moldering in the rebels’ basement…

M-ships are working through a maladroit battle formation. Galleon’s bustling. Even the engine core's been replaced – courtesy of the mechanics at this station, who have been living under the rebels a short enough time to feel gratitude rather than resentment for the folks who liberated them. Said liberation was completely accidental, given that this satellite’s listed as ‘deserted’ on all official Nova records. But heck, who’re they to turn down a free overhaul?

Kraglin’s run the calculations. The Ravagers have a fully stocked fleet, enough guns to blast the Horde to smithereens the next time they cross paths, and a whole new frigate to break in. Statistics show: life couldn’t be better.

Only now things are settling, there’s enough time to think, and there’s enough time to mourn.

Not that Ravagers do that, of course. But Kraglin, watching Yondu stare at his fleet with that unreadable expression of not-sadness, sticks his hands in his pockets and finds something he’d forgotten about in the chaos of the last couple of days, and gets hit by the sudden impulse to do something nice.

“Here,” he says, keeping his voice low so the Ravagers assembled around the dock don’t hear – Yondu’s new bridge crew: Isla (whom Yondu has yet to say more to than a barked order, but as she’s alive, Kraglin figures she’s forgiven), Dixie, Horuz, Stinky-foot, Lizard Guy (whose name is Jax, or something of the like) and a heavily-bandaged and uncommunicative Morlug. He holds out the Hrax-marble. It’s cool and smooth against his palm. Not even the sun can bring a glint of color to its drab grey surface, although it’s blazing bright enough to make Kraglin’s ship-accustomed eyes ache. “It was the only one I saved. From her collection, y’know? Now I dunno if you wanna, uh, put it on your console or something –“

Yondu gazes at him for an incalculable moment. Then grabs the offering, and lobs it at the M-ships circling high above. Kraglin winces.

“- Or you could do that. Either way.”

Yondu shades his sight with the throwing hand, squinting at the bright clouds until the grey speck has hit the peak of its parabola and dropped past the line of the dock. “Thanks,” he says. Kraglin blinks.

“You’re welcome?” He leaves the question hanging. For once, Yondu delivers – but his answer isn’t especially fulfilling.

“That felt… good.” He chuckles, still staring at the horizon, although something tells Kraglin his gaze is fixed on no visible point. Perhaps on the galleon, orbiting invisible out past the satellite’s moon. Or elsewhere, buried in the murk of the past. It might have to do with a cage – or a lesson given to two young Ravagers, one yellow and one blue; a lesson imparted and memorized but never quite learnt. When Yondu speaks, it’s rough and raw. “As if I’d want a reminder of that old hag clutterin' up my M-ship.”

Is he lying? Or is this a residue of that lingering animosity, that relationship soured out of jealousy and paranoia? Whatever the answer, Kraglin’s not going to know until Yondu tells him. And that ain’t likely to occur at any time this century.

Kraglin sucks on his cheek. He bids Jora a heartfelt good-riddance, and – after a tentative touch unleashes neither the arrow nor Yondu’s scowl – treats his captain’s shoulder to a firm squeeze.

Yondu says nothing. The gesture isn’t reciprocated, nor is it leaned into. But the captain doesn’t shrug him off. Just stares straight ahead, as if Kraglin’s presence has faded into the static of his mind, while the blunt lines of his profile are softened by the clouds shadowing the sun. Kraglin swallows. Yondu’s never gonna be the easiest to read – however, there’s a niggle in the back of his brain, whispering that this is a moment that the Ravager’s captain might wanna savour alone. Just him, his ghosts, and the endless sky.

With a final squeeze, Kraglin breaks away and slopes to join the others. He’s halfway there before he hears a quiet exhalation. When he peers over his shoulder, he’s in time to see the tension slip from Yondu’s back. The captain’s head tilts up, implant a glossy carnelian stripe, and he shuts his eyes to let them be baptized by the first dusting drizzle of rain.

The End.
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