Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 4

In which Isla may have accidentally played matchmaker.

His bunk is number thirteen.

Kraglin has the sense to double-check, though his eyes are hot and prickly and he can't stop yawning. Stress fucks up your sleep schedule, and the stress of running for your life does so like nothing else. Being given eight hours in which his orders amount to nothing more than 'rest' has made his body kick into hibernation mode. But there it is – plain as day. Block D4, bunk n#13. Kraglin locates the correct bed, part of a stack of five cots that look as narrow as his prison bed and about as comfortable. Then he climbs the ladder, and all but falls into its stiff-mattress'd embrace.

Finally – finally – he shuts his eyes.

And opens them again four hours later, when the telltale creak of the ladder is the only warning he gets before a body (or possibly, an entire M-ship) crashes down on top of him.

"Th'fuck's th's -?" someone complains, words slurred into one. "If thas you, Varra, I'mma put m'fuckin arrow inyer guts…"

That's as far as they get.

Kraglin, remembering only that he's wanted alive but preferably dead by the biggest crime syndicate on Hrax, flails awake with a holler and starts swinging.

His punches connect. There's an 'oof' as he finds the guy's stomach, and another as he socks him in the jaw. His attacker flails back, saved from being flung off the bed only by the smack of his skull against the ladder. The sound isn't what Kraglin's expecting. It's… dull somehow. Like metal struck plastic instead of bone. Still, the attacker's reaction is fitting. Knees brush Kraglin's stomach as the guy curls up, head tucked to his chest and cradled between big blue hands.

"F'ckin hell," he moans.

Now that the assassination attempt has been averted, Kraglin's adrenaline dips enough to let sense swim back. With it comes the realization that the Kree guy he's just assaulted doesn't look especially assassination-inclined. And that he has a familiar coat, bundled at his feet and kicked to the cot's far end. A Ravager-red coat. One that's… noticeably bloodstained.

Kraglin gulps. All his self-imposed rules about toeing the line and keeping his head down until he finds a nice, quiet little satellite to jump ship? Flushed away, whirling into the infinite cosmos like shit from a primitive ship that ain't yet developed matter converters. This is the cell on Hrax all over again. Only worse – so much worse. Because this time, he's actually done something to warrant a shanking.

The only consolation is that the other man seems as surprised as he is. An arm uncurls from over his forehead, and Kraglin finds himself the target of a baleful red eye. "Who th'fuck're you?" asks his uninvited bedmate. Kraglin's swallow sticks to the inside of his throat.

"I'm, uh, not supposed to tell ya my name," he edges out. "Not for a month, they said."

He gets an uncomprehending blink for his troubles. And – hell, is it just him, or does this guy look tired? Like, seriously tired? The bags beneath his eyes would make decent hanger bays.

Comprehension dawns in a sluggish burst. "Y'rth'greenie. Y'ain't dead yet?"

Kraglin tries for a nervous smile. "That's me. And I'm still kicking. Sorry t'disappoint." The smile isn't returned. Kraglin's fingers start picking at the edge of the pillow. "Um. I'm sorry?" he tries. "About, y'know." A wave of the hand, to encompass whatever blunt head trauma he inflicted while half-in the land of nod.

"Shut the fuck up," groans someone from the bunk above, but Kraglin isn't interested in them.

The red eye narrows. "Had worse."

Kraglin believes it. What little skin that isn't hidden beneath the guy's polo neck is sprinkled with scar tissue. Fella looks like he's been fed through a rocket engine backwards. He spies red beneath the remaining protective hand, and thinks for one awful moment it's blood: that he's cracked him open and his brains are leaking out onto the pillowcase. He doesn't know how Ravagers handle those who kill their own – whether they laugh it off, or if there's punishment in store. But he sure hopes this guy doesn't have anyone who'll miss him.

Then the fingers uncurl, and Kraglin sees that what he'd thought was scrambled, bloody grey-matter is a crystal implant, driven like a chisel into the man's crown. And remembers that Kree bleed blue, anyways. He relaxes. Not a murderer today.

Then abruptly tenses as the Kree-guy starts talking again, still in his rasping somnambulist's slur. "Th'fuck're you doing in m'bed, greenie?"

"Your bed?" Kraglin shakes his head, and holds up his watch. "It's mine – look, says so, right here."

They consider the flashing digits together. Kree-guy is the one to state the obvious. "Says yer in C-block."

Kraglin clicks the watch off and pinches his nose again. "I can see that."

"This's D."

"I'm aware."

A pause.

"Th'fuck're you doin' in m'bed?"

…And they're back to where they started. The man, if possible, sounds more pissed than before. Kraglin holds up his hands, closes his eyes until he feels ready to face this situation, and attempts an explanation. "There's this… this person. Lotsa piercings. Calls themselves Isla."

"Fucking Isla," grumbles Kree-guy. At least they agree on one thing.

"Right. So, they – xir?"

A tired huff. "She."

"She did somethin' to my schedule. I pissed her off, I think. I…" Perhaps mentioning how said pissing-off occurred isn't the wisest idea? Isla's sensitivity about her homeplanet, wherever it may be, might not be something she wants to share. Kraglin snaps his mouth shut, and finishes with an anticlimactic shrug. "So, well… Here I am."

There's no answer from Kree-guy. There is, however, a drawn out groan from one of the bunks opposite. It's echoed by the person above, who tosses something that rebounds off the bedpost with a boot-like thunk. "For the love of God… Shut up…"

Kree-guy's expression sours so fast Kraglin almost dives for cover. "You shuddup, Varra!" he roars. Then, after listening a second to ensure that the shocked silence remains that way, spits out a series of unintelligible lizardy clicks and collapses face-first, hard enough to make the springs creak.

There's no retaliation from the bunk above. That can't be good – for the Kree or him. And hell, after today, Kraglin doesn't want to be making any more enemies than he already has.

He curls up where he sits, plastering himself against the wall. His baggy socks crimp Kree-guy's thigh. "D'you think you could budge over?" he whispers. "I can get out, if ya climb down first…" The look on Kree guy's face informs him that he's just committed a breach of etiquette equivalent to asking for seconds at a Xandarian banquet. Kraglin backs down. "Or, or you could just… stay there. Yup. Sounds good."

"Shuddup, m'sleepy." Kree guy rolls onto his side, treating Kraglin to a waft of B.O. Those freaky eyes slip closed. "I'll kill Isla n'the mornin'," he mumbles. "An' if ya fuckin' wake me up, I'll whistle."

Whatever that means.

There's no time to ask though. Kree guy steals all the blankets, rolls the pillow to his side of the bed – blocking off the last conceivable escape route between the ladder and the bedpost. Then he puts his scarred head down and promptly starts snoring.

Kraglin stares at him. Then at the chronometer, which is informing him that he only has four hours left before his next shift. "Fuck," he says.

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