Resting Safe Beneath Your Skin
They all have wounds, and for the first time Marvelous is the only one who got off fairly easily in battle. Luka whisks Ahim away to soak their bruises, while Don rummages noisily through the first aid and mutters worriedly about needing to buy new materials. Marvelous sets the Galleon for Gao Lion's flying island, intent on using the cloud cover to hide from any Zangyack threats. That done, he turns to look at Joe, who seems to be concentrating very hard on standing. His face is already rapidly bruising purple, and his hand, the one that's been stepped on, is curled stiffly into a claw.
Marvelous pulls his jacket off, mouth twisting as he saw the grime at the back, and then he hangs it up before he says, "Yours too." Don looks up from the careful sorting of medicine and bandages and takes off his own, passing it gratefully to Marvelous. Joe rolls his shoulders and fails to hide the wince, although he does pull one arm out slowly and starts to painfully shrug the rest off. Marvelous takes pity on him and catches the jacket before it could fall to the floor. Joe's smile is lopsided, and it quickly twists in pain when Don takes over. Marvelous looks away.
It's been a while since he's stepped into the kitchen, but he thinks it's in poor taste to get Don to cook, tired and busy as he is. As much as he mocks Don's penchant for vegetables, salad and sandwiches are clearly the easiest and safest things to make at the moment. Marvelous fancies that he could perhaps boil some eggs too, and does so. Over the chopping of vegetables, he can hear Don clucking his tongue over Joe's hand. His voice is too low for Marvelous to hear at the moment, but Marvelous isn't too worried. If Joe's hand was really damaged, Don would be more frantic.
Ahim and Luka are out of the bath by the time he brings the food out, looking clean and hungry. Ahim claps her hands together and smiles in surprise while Luka smirks and makes a remark about putting Marvelous back on the chore list, but she says nothing about the quality of food, instead making sure that Ahim is settled before pushing vegetables and bread on her plate. Don has already hustled Joe off to bathe, and Marvelous follows.
The air in the bath is somewhat muggy from the heat, and the water is still hot from the steam that rises when Don slides one of the covers off. He strips first, showing a bruised shoulder and dark patches on his legs. Marvelous follows suit, tossing everything into a pile. He pushes Don aside when the doctor moves over to help Joe, saying, "Go and wash and soak," and Don gives him another grateful smile.
He isn't gentle with Joe. At best, he is quick about it, helping Joe to raise his arms one at a time to get his shirt off. The pants are easier, although he pauses to bitch at the boots, laces all tangled up in knots, and he threatens to cut them. Joe laughs shallowly, his stomach and waist an ugly mess of bruises to go with the ones on his face and his arms, and pulls at his hairtie with his good hand. The cascade of hair does nothing much to hide what's been done, but the slight hunch speaks much about Joe's feelings about them. Marvelous just pushes Joe down to the stool and helps with the scrubbing, cleaning away blood and dirt and grime. Joe hisses through clenched teeth, but Marvelous is relentless.
"You'll feel better the faster you get in there," he says, tilting his head towards Don, who is soaking in the wooden tub with eyes closed in bliss. Marvelous wonders if it would be better to tackle Joe's mass of hair now or later, sees him trembling, and decides not to. He pats Joe's shoulder when he's done, and finally gets down to washing himself.
Joe's hair is draped over the outside of the tub like a black waterfall. Marvelous never realizes until now how intimidating it must be to wash it, to make sure that nothing gets tangled. He starts with pouring warm water over everything, and then stops, perplexed at how to begin. Don comes to his rescue when he nudges him aside, smiling again and saying, "I'll take over from here." There's a towel slung over Don's shoulders to keep out the chill, and the doctor whistles as he sets Joe's hair to rights. Marvelous watches the both of them, studies the damp gold of Don's hair and the soft lines of Joe's closed eyes, and tries to feel relieved that they're there with him.
Later, they demolish the rest of the food, even though Marvelous hates vegetables. Ahim is already visibly wilting even as she struggles to continue serving everyone hot tea, and in the end Marvelous places a hand on her forearm and says, "It's enough." Ahim's smile is beautiful even in its weariness, and she gracefully sits next to him when he pulls her down. In minutes, the ex-princess' eyes are fluttering closed, and when she leans on Marvelous he lets her.
He's tempted to fall asleep right there and then too, but Marvelous loves his creature comforts more and when Don and Luka finishes the clearing up, he nudges Ahim awake and announces that they're all going to bed. Don shoots him a dubious look when he wraps an arm around Ahim's waist and begins to push her along with him, but Marvelous just rolls his eyes and says, "Everyone. My room. Now."
Luka gives a light whoop and bullies Joe into following them while Don trails behind, unsure of what's going on. He thinks he gets it when Marvelous pulls the covers off his bed and Ahim crawls in, too tired to care about the impropiety of the situation. Luka follows, padding around her newly-claimed territory before curling up and wrapping an arm around Ahim, giving a contented sigh. Marvelous climbs in too, and motions impatiently at both Joe and Don. For a moment, Joe looks as though he's not going to obey, until Don takes a note from Luka and shoves gently at the swordsman.
"Let's go to bed," he says quietly. Marvelous pulls one cover over the girls, tugs Joe next to him, and Don extinguishes most of the lights before he creeps up to Joe, pulling another blanket with him. In the near darkness, Marvelous feels for his crew; Ahim's princess curls try to snarl around his rings, while Luka's fine hair slips easily between his fingers. Don's gold hair shines dully in the starlight as he boxes Joe in, and Joe's own wrist is secured within his grip.
With one sigh, the crew falls asleep.