I hate to say it, but the inspiration for this piece came from Disney's Mulan. I do love that movie and the scene where she tries to take a private bath and is rudely interrupted by the other soldiers is priceless.
Living as a boy had its downfalls. One of the main ones that Deryn found especially annoying was how the men onboard the Leviathan had absolutely no concept of privacy. They changed their clothing, showered, farted, spitted and even pissed in front of one another like there was no tomorrow.
At first this had been very embarrassing and it still made Deryn blush whenever her crewmates stripped their clothes off in front of her, yet she was starting to get used to it. As long as she wasn't expected to waltz around half naked like the rest of them.
Therefore it was obvious to say that bathing was terribly difficult while onboard.
The ship had a few showers located near the aft end of the vessel which were used by everyone. Water was a valuable commodity so the shipwrights had equipped the Leviathan with only six individual shower stalls. They were small, drafty little things with only curtains between them to hide behind.
Due to the water shortage, showers had to be taken quickly. And with the scarce amount of free time they were given every day as well as there only being six stalls, the place was usually crowded with men waiting their turns to wash up.
In order to avoid the crowds, Deryn found it best to bathe during the wee hours of the morning. Most of the crew was asleep giving her plenty of privacy and warm water to use. She tried to make it there at least once a week and tonight was a fine enough time to do so.
It was almost 0200 hours when her lizard alarm woke her. Deryn patted the creature on the head to urge it back to sleep before collecting her clothes and towel and heading for the showers.
The night was cold and clear. She could see the stars glinting in the sky and her breath formed into clouds as it passed out of her nose.
A good night for a hot shower! She thought as she finally made it to the stalls and began to undress.
As always, there was no one else bathing at this early in the morning, so she left her clothes on one of the benches by the door and started the water running in the closest stall.
Like everything on the ship, the water was heated by the beastie's gastric chambers. It was a bit warmer than human body temperature and smelled like the steamy insides of the ship. Unlike the drinking water that was carried in barrels, this water was salty and slightly yellow in color.
It didn't matter a wee bit to Deryn. She happily jumped into the warm spray and began to scrub her skin with her military issued soap and sponge. It was so delightful that she even began humming a bit and would have continued to do so if she wasn't interrupted by a loud booming voice in German.
"Ich denke, dass jemand dort."
Which Deryn roughly translated to: "I think someone is in there."
"Wer sonst würde jetzt hier zu sein?"
"Who else would be here now?"
She froze. That last bit had been in Alek's voice. What the hell was he doing here at this time of night!
The voices continued to jabber away in unrecognizable German. She heard one of the men pull into the stall next to hers and turn on the water. Terrified, Deryn stood stock still and prayed that the men would shower and leave before even realizing that she was there.
Unfortunately, she had no such luck.
"Dylan? Is that you?" Alek said.
She didn't say anything. Perhaps if she didn't respond Alek would assume she was a different crew member and leave her alone.
"Dylan? What's the matter?"
She turned the water on stronger.
"I know you're in there. I can recognize your clothing on the benches."
Damn it! She shouldn't have left her clothes in such an obvious place.
"Ummm. Hello, Alek." She finally managed to say to him. He wasn't visible thanks to the curtain between them, but Deryn could make out his bare feet in the gap between the curtain and the floor. A closer look determined that he probably wasn't wearing pants above his bare ankles.
"You….you know, I really can't talk right now." She grumbled nervously, hoping that her voice was still low enough to be considered masculine.
Alek hesitated a moment before answering.
"Very well." He said softly and to her relief she noted his feet disappearing from view. She heard him open up another stall and turn the water on to start his own shower.
Deryn waited half a minute longer to make sure Alek was fully immersed in his shower before shutting the water off in her own and tiptoeing from behind the curtain. She didn't have time to fully dress herself with Alek still in the same room as her, so she snatched her towel and wrapped it tightly around her naked body before reaching for her clothes and attempting to exit. Yet as soon as she turned around, her outstretched arm knocked into something warn, wet and hairy.
It was Otto Klopp. Naked, Otto Klopp.
Thank God she was able to stop herself from screaming. She did, however, drop all her clothing on the ground.
"Guten tag, Mr. Sharp!" The man exclaimed. With some effort due to his large size, the mechanic leaned down to retrieve Deryn's clothes from the floor. She immediately averted her eyes, realizing all too quickly that she had seen far too much of Klopp.
"Uh…Thank you." She mumbled before grabbing her clothes back from him.
"You no get dressed?" Klopp asked her in broken English. His eyes were flickering up and down her towel wrapped form.
"No." She said, and without bothering to explain further, she tried to exit the room. This task proved to be impossible since Klopp did not move out of her way and she was not about to touch him to push him aside.
"Would you…?" She tried to motion him to scooch but he didn't understand her. Instead he stuck his hand in front of her face, clearly displaying a small bottle of soap.
"Eh?" He asked her then tried to gesture to her to take the bottle.
"He isn't interested, Klopp." Another voice chimed in German. The stall that had been beside her opened to reveal the head and torso of Alek's other man, Bauer.
"Nonsense!" Klopp snorted. "He just doesn't understand me."
On the contrary, Deryn could understand their German fairly well, but she couldn't speak too well back to them. Nor did she want to speak with them right now anyways.
"Excuse me!" She said in English and reached out to the most decent spot on Klopp's body, his shoulder, and tried to push him out of her way. The man wouldn't budge a squick. In fact, he even stepped closer to her so that his large tummy was almost brushing against her side.
"You must try soap!" He insisted.
Deryn was about to puke when Alek opened up the curtain to his shower. Naturally her eyes strayed to his body, which was heavenly drenched in water that shimmered delightfully in the glowworm lamps and steam of the bathroom. She shouldn't have stared but blisters, he did look lovely like that.
"Sorry, Dylan." Alek laughed. "Klopp is very opposed to the military soap on this ship. He thinks he is doing you a great favor by offering up his….his….er…I suppose you'd call it a form of soap."
It took Deryn a second to register what he had said because she was too busy gawking at him. She instantly realized she was looking at things she shouldn't be and turned her blushing face away from Alek.
"Soap?" She asked Klopp. This time she actually focused on the small glass bottle in his hand. It was faintly pink in color and the bottle was shaped like a rose. The man opened it for her and a strong sugary scent shot into the air. Deryn sneezed.
"You love?" He asked.
No, she didn't love. It was disgusting. Like something her mother used to spray in the rubbish bins to mask the scent of rotting garbage.
Deryn covered her nose and shoved Klopp's outstretched arm out of her face. Surprised, the man looked slightly upset.
"I no understand! This best soap!" He shouted.
Alek and Bauer were doubling over in laughter.
"He purchased the bottle from a street vendor in Istanbul!" Alek was able to say between his giggles. "He insists that we use it and we keep telling him that he is using lady's soap."
Klopp was shaking his head with disapproval and crossing his arms.
"My skin soft!" He declared. He then pointed to the military bar of soap in Deryn's hand and made a very annoyed 'feh' sound.
"You don't have to listen to him, Dylan, the man is very stubborn." Alek said while giving Klopp an irritated glare.
Klopp seemed to finally understand that Deryn would not be using his stinky lady's soap and turned away from her toward another one of the showers.
Deryn was happy to see him go. She wrapped her towel closer to herself and continued on her way to the door.
"Why are you bathing so late at night?" Alek asked her, completely ruining her escape yet again.
"I could be asking you the same thing." She muttered to him.
Alek suddenly looked very ashamed.
"Volger doesn't approve of our using the ship's showers. We arranged to come here at a time while he was asleep."
Deryn frowned. She was in a hurry to leave. Alek was completely undressed still and she didn't know how long she could stand there without looking at him. Yet she was interested to know why Volger would care where Alek and his men bathed.
"He believes that the water is contaminated with Darwinist filth and that we'll become ill from using it."
Deryn rolled her eyes.
"That's ridiculous. The water that comes out of the beastie is cleaner than any lake or rain water. It's probably even purer than your nasty Clanker pipe water with all its lead and mercury content."
Surprisingly Alek nodded in agreement. "It also is warm. A lovely trait that we find greatly superior to the cold drinking water he insists we use instead."
Well, she already knew Volger was crazy and this just further proved her point. It also meant that Alek and his men would be sneaking out to bathe like her and that she had to be more careful in the future.
"He is an odd bird." Deryn said to describe the count.
"Indeed. Well, I must finish rinsing my hair, Mr. Sharp, if you don't mind." Alek gave her a quick grin before completely shutting the curtain around himself. Her face flushed again when she realized she hadn't even noticed that Alek had soap in his hair. She told herself that was because she had been trying hard not to focus on him, yet part of her wondered if she had just been focusing on something other than his hair.
Deryn shook her head quickly back and forth to rid her mind of dangerous thoughts. It was early in the morning and she needed to get back to her room before the sun started to rise and the crew started waking up. This whole event had been a very close call. It looked like she may have to take up Volger's idea of bathing in cold water in her room. At least that way she would never have to see Klopp naked again.