Title: True Colors (4): Relaxation
Author: Hakase <3
Series: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger
Spoilers: Episode 32 (One Power)
Summary: It should have felt wonderful, should have been sent shivers through his entire body, but all he felt was regret weighing down on his lungs, crushing the breath from him.
Previous Parts: 1) Suspicion (link)
2) Curiosity (link)
3) Opportunity (link)
Gai's boisterous voice rang through the galleon as he and Ahim marched their way into the common room, each struggling with two large paper bags filled with groceries for the crew.
“What took you so long?” Luka asked as she shuffled a deck of cards for yet another game of solitaire.
Taking a moment first to set his bags down on the table, Gai then reached to nervously scratch at the back of his neck. “Ah, well, you see-”
Ahim stepped forward and set her bags down as well before folding her hands neatly across the front of her ruffled dress. “I have good news for everyone,” she said earnestly, her smile beaming from one cabin to the other. Marvelous walked over from the control console, where he'd been looking at something on the screen, Joe paused his situps, and even Doc took a break from rearranging the fridge to come out and hear Ahim's announcement. “We will be taking a trip to a local hot spring!” the former princess said joyfully, and smiled at each crew member in turn while waiting for their reactions.
“A hot spring?” Doc was the first one to respond, fiddling anxiously with the rolled-up sleeves of his shirt. “What's the point of that?” Ahim opened her mouth to answer, but it was Marvelous who cut her off with his own explanation.
“Relaxation,” the captain said simply, his arms folded and expression set to one of vague approval.
There was a general murmur of understanding from the crew as their minds flew to recent events. It hadn't been that long ago when Basco had thoroughly trounced the entire lot of them. Not only had the privateer laid them out flat, he'd made it perfectly clear that he was only letting them live so that his own task of collecting the ultimate powers would be that much easier. After all, once the Gokaiger had acquired them all, Basco would just have to waltz in and defeat them again. The physical wounds they had suffered that day were nothing compared to the damage done to their pride.
And even though Doc had managed to create something as powerful as the Gokai Galleon Buster, it was still a painful reminder that their own personal power was falling short of what was actually needed to keep up their way of life. If anything was needed now, just after they'd pulled off the last of their bandages, it was a chance to properly relax.
Joe nodded first, followed by Luka, Doc, and eventually Gai, although his had a nervous smile still attached. “We could all use a bit of a vacation,” Ahim said simply, voicing what was going through each and every one of their heads, and most of the anxiety in the room disappeared. One by one the crew scattered again, with Doc starting to unload the four full bags of groceries into the galley.
Idly shuffling through the cards, Luka threw a quick look over at Gai. “How'd this come about, anyway?”
“There was a very nice man running a booth at the supermarket,” Ahim answered promptly. “I gave him my tickets from buying the groceries and he let me spin a little box.”
Doc paused in mid-load and nodded. “The lottery booth. I've seen those before.” Behind him, Gai was squinching his face shut in preparation for what was coming next. “But those sorts of trips are usually the grand prize! And you got it in one spin?”
The princess shook her head demurely. “The thirty-seventh.”
Silence hit the room like a brick wall as nearly every single crew member fumbled what they were doing, and Gai figured that it was the best time as any to follow up. “So...we need a bit of help bringing up the other twenty bags of groceries.”
The galleon was safely anchored to the bottom of a disused quarry on the other side of the mountain, and the crew disembarked and hiked the last mile to the secluded hot spring and its attached hotel. There was a conveniently cleared path that wound around from the quarry through a fairly gorgeous section of forest, which eventually became a stone-cobbled path before dumping them on the front porch of the hotel itself.
Ahim took care of checking the group in, and it wasn't long before the crew was shown to the two rooms they had reserved for them to occupy during their stay. It was quickly decided that Luka and Ahim, for the sake of propriety, would have their own room, and that the four boys would share one amongst themselves. Only once futons were properly appropriated between the rooms did they start to truly settle in.
“See, this is what we really needed,” Marvelous said with a confident grin as he passed out the hotel-provided yukata to each of the other boys in the room. “Quiet time spent somewhere far away from everywhere.”
Gai made a strained little sound as he unfolded his yukata, a simple white affair adorned with light gray cranes. “I was excited about this at first,” he said slowly, inspecting the garment as an excuse to keep his eyes busy elsewhere. “But I've been sorta wondering if it's a good idea to take a vacation when the Zangyack are still out there, you know?”
Joe shrugged out of his blue jacket and walked over to hang it up neatly on the rack by the door. “If something that bad happens, we can always leave,” he said with simple confidence. “Until then, we can relax a bit.”
The rest of the room nodded in agreement once before they busied themselves with dressing into their yukata. Doc ducked into the closet, pink tinging the tops of his cheeks as he hid himself while changing clothes. While the look hadn't been particularly exclusive, Marvelous felt a small warm flutter in thinking that it had been meant especially for him.
There hadn't been very much between them as of late. Apparently after the afternoon spent searching alone together, Joe had said something oblique enough to frighten Doc away from any intimate moments for nearly three days. At that point they simply didn't have time, and then after the brutal beatdown from Basco the entire crew had spent all of their time in the common room, reassuring themselves in each other's company.
Marvelous was of the opinion that crew camaraderie was all very well and good, and even desirable, but it would have been damn more convenient to have had some time to get his shy engineer alone for even a short snog or seven. Perhaps this brief vacation would relax the entire crew enough to get things at least partially back to normal.
As the captain was fiddling with the tie around his waist, he noticed that his first mate was giving him a vaguely odd look. He paused long enough to match Joe's gaze, the two friends regarding each other silently until the message was properly conveyed. Grinning, Marvelous finished tying the belt and strode over to place a reassuring hand on Joe's shoulder. “Of course I am,” he said aloud, knowing full well that nothing else in their conversation had been voiced. “How could I not?”
Gai frowned in confusion from the other side of the room. “How could you not what?” The words were barely out before Doc stumbled out from the closet, dressed in a light green yukata with his street clothes folded neatly in his arms.
“It's nothing,” Joe said, shaking his head briefly before leaving the room. Gai followed, fumbling with the belt as he went through the door, and Doc dumped the clothes in the corner before tagging along. Marvelous left last, watching his crew walk in front of him, still grinning his cheshire smile all the way to the hot spring.
The hot spring is divided into two sections, Gai explained to the crew, to observe the modern decency of men and women bathing separately. Marvelous made a smart remark about the amount of steam obscuring any real vision anyway, before untying his yukata and striding out into the steaming water fully naked. Gai nearly had to scrape his jaw up from the floor before Joe followed suit, although with much more decorum than the overeager pirate captain had displayed. Back in the changing room, Gai carefully showed Doc how to tie the towel properly around his waist before the two more modest members joined the rest in the water.
It didn't take long for the hot water to take effect, and soon any conversation the four young men had in mind faded into relaxed sighs and bubbles just under the surface.
Marvelous had propped himself up against a rock in one corner of the spring, smoothly shaped just right to comfortably support his shoulders, and was lazily watching the steam rise up and into the early evening sky. His stomach rumbled lightly and he thought of food, and then his eye caught sight of a blond shock of curls smiling happily across the spring, and his thoughts turned to much naughtier things.
It was at that point that Gai was suddenly beside him, closer than the captain would have ever expected of the earthling, although it was obvious that Gai was taking great care to not cross any societal boundaries between the two of them. “Marvelous-san,” the younger boy said in a conspiratorial voice, “how familiar are you with hot springs trips?”
Marvelous let himself slide a bit lower into the water and glared up at Gai for a long, weighty moment. “I'm here, aren't I?”
Gai shook his head in what he must have believed to be a discreet manner. “No, I mean...what happens on hot springs trips. You know...typically.”
Recent thoughts of activities with the ship's engineer came to mind and Marvelous raised one eyebrow as far as it would go. “What are you saying, Gai?”
“These sorts of trips,” Gai continued on in his quiet voice, completely oblivious to how badly he had just been misunderstood. “Are a classic starting point for relationships.” He accompanied this with a sly smile and a few winks, and Marvelous wondered if Doc's so-called secret had actually ever been safe at all. But before he could find the right words to breach the subject, Gai had given him a pat on his shoulder and retreated back towards the entrance to the spring, leaving the captain alone with his now-muddled thoughts.
The moon was high in the sky, sitting at a neat crescent well past midnight when Marvelous rolled out of his futon and onto the tatami floor. Taking care not to make too much noise, he crept to his feet and walked out of the hotel room and down the hallway to the large balcony that overlooked the mountainside. The air was crisp, but not cold, and the night was clear enough that he could see all the way down the mountain and into the city below.
He leaned against the railing and looked out into the distance, skimming over the skyline briefly before turning his eyes back to the stars. For as much time as he'd spent watching and navigating by the stars, it was always disturbingly odd to see them from the surface of a planet, any planet, and Earth was no exception. The angles were wrong, the perception skewed, and it tended to knock him just as far off balance as a well-placed right hook.
The railing steadied him, however, and his mind was free to wander to other thoughts, like the words Gai had spoken in the hot spring earlier that day. Marvelous didn't find himself as concerned with the stability of their 'secret', as it were, as much as he mused over Gai's actual wording. Sure, he'd given his activities with the ship's engineer plenty of thought, ideally when no one else was looking and could see the predatory grin he knew would spread across his face, but he'd never really stopped to think about what all of it meant. Gai had given a name to it all, a 'relationship', and it had knocked Marvelous off guard as badly as the stars did.
Up until this point, the only thing on Marvelous' mind, when it had come to encounters between him and Doc, was that it was fun and he certainly didn't mind the activity. If the opportunity arose for the two of them to be more open about things, he was absolutely sure he'd scandalize the shy blond (and likely the rest of the crew) with his teasing advances. He even had a few planned away, should the time come.
But classifying the whole thing as a 'relationship' was a step he wasn't sure he was ready to take. It meant time and consideration outside of lustful tumbles, and feelings and emotions he wasn't quite prepared handle again. It meant responsibility, both to himself and to his partner. It meant taking something seriously, something that wasn't fighting or hunting for treasure.
Marvelous snorted to himself at that last thought. He knew that there were people out there who would happily classify 'relationships' as treasures to hunt endlessly for. He just didn't think he was one of them.
A small, dark shape flitted briefly across the moon, and Marvelous heard the soft sound of the balcony door being slid aside, followed by a handful of timid, slippered footsteps. Rather than turn around and look, he let his head hang loosely from his neck and waited for the visitor to say the first word.
“Can't sleep?” Doc's voice was quiet enough that it nearly blended in with the ambient sounds of nighttime, the perfect volume to avoid being overheard by anyone who wasn't standing on the balcony with them.
Marvelous shook his head from side to side. “Can't you?”
The door slid shut as softly as it had opened. “I heard you get up.”
“Well, I'm fine.” The words came out far more harshly than he had intended, and he winced at the thought of hurt spreading across Doc's face as a result. “I mean, no need to worry.”
The younger man shuffled forward and placed his hands on the railing, holding it gingerly as he looked up at the crescent moon. “You can talk to me, if you want,” Doc said, a bit of his optimism creeping into his voice. “I'm happy to listen.”
Marvelous looked over to the pale, slender hands as they fidgeted lightly with the wood of the railing. The engineer spent enough time working on the ship and other mechanics that his fingers should be calloused and rough, but in the moonlight they seemed to be as soft as the skin on the blond's cheek. Curious, he tested this theory, reaching out with one hand and placing it over Doc's and stroking the skin lightly with his thumb.
“It's soft,” he said and, not at all bothering to elaborate, grabbed hold of the hand to pull Doc smartly into his arms. The engineer's eyes grew wide but he complied, and soon Marvelous found himself nibbling lightly at the skin of Doc's neck, reigning back the urge to leave little bruises as he worked his way up higher.
Little gasps came from Doc's mouth, and as Marvelous heard them he felt his more troublesome thoughts drifting away, leaving him in comfortable bliss. His hands, initially wrapped around the blond's small waist, slid around to find the open folds of the green yukata and slipped underneath to dance across Doc's stomach.
Doc responded with a choked breath and wrapped his arms around Marvelous' hips, pulling the captain closer as he buried his face in the soft black hair behind Marvelous' right ear. The older man felt something in the pit of his stomach catch fire, and he gave a rumbling groan and pushed himself as close to the blond as he could manage, pressing together bits of exposed skin around the collars of their yukata. The engineer's breath was hot against the side of his head, and he felt his own breath hitch as Doc began to nibble his way up the outer rim of his ear.
Everything was fine, everything was perfect, everything was exactly as it should have been until the blond bit down across the top of his ear. It should have felt wonderful, should have been sent shivers through his entire body, but all he felt was regret weighing down on his lungs, crushing the breath from him, and he pulled away and shoved Doc aside in the same motion. His vision went dark and he clung to the railing desperately, depending on it to keep him standing and save him at least a little bit of dignity.
Marvelous shut his eyes and saw the face behind his eyelids, alternating between soft smiles, throes of ecstasy, and that bitter smirk that had haunted him for years. The picture was far too clear now, and for a moment he felt sick.
He never heard any sound of his crewmate hitting the wooden floor and somehow understood that it meant he hadn't hurt him too badly. But there was too little sound, a lack of any sort of reaction, that made his heart grow even icier from the thought of what had just happened. For a moment he contemplated raising his head, holding Doc tight, and apologizing, and then his stomach roiled again and the idea fled his mind.
Seconds passed, maybe even minutes, and then the soft voice came again, gentle and far more understanding than it had any right to be. “It's him, isn't it?” Doc asked quietly. “Basco.”
Marvelous let his forehead fall to the railing with a light thump. “...it's stupid. I'm stupid.”
The pale hands crept onto the railing again, although this time they were wringing themselves worriedly as Doc spoke. “I wouldn't say that. It's obvious he meant a lot to you.”
A flash of rage rolled through Marvelous and he slammed his hands angrily against the railing. “He shouldn't have! I should never have trusted him, and I'm an idiot for ever believing a word that came out of that bastard's lying mouth!” Pain shot up from his palms and he grimaced, but focusing on the pain helped him keep the tears at bay, and that was far more important to him at the moment.
“You couldn't have known,” Doc continued stubbornly, letting go of his hands to grip at the railing instead. “That's what betrayal is. Not knowing you can't trust someone until it actually happens.”
A tremor shook at each of Marvelous' knees and he let his grip on the railing slide as he sank further down towards the floor of the balcony. “I should've known better,” he said weakly, the words sounding as feeble to his own ears as they felt in his head. “Maybe then...AkaRed...”
Warm hands appeared at his shoulder and hip, steadying at first before creeping around his midsection, pulling him gently backwards to lean against the blond's kneeling form. His first impulse was to push away, pry himself upwards and stand proudly on his own two feet, but that urge dissolved when he felt the warmth of Doc's cheek pressed against his own. For the first time in far too many years, Marvelous felt comfortable, even safe, cradled in somebody else's arms.
Doc lowered the two of them gently to the floor, the engineer's back against the railing for support, and the two clung together tightly as the captain finally began to cry.
It was quiet out in the clearing Joe had found, and that had made it perfect for a refreshing bout of training early in the morning. At least, it had been early in the morning when he'd first started going through his paces, practicing each form with the graceful ease that comes naturally after years of concentrated training. There was always a tiny voice in the back of his mind, asking him if he really needed that extra bit of practice, if there was anything he could really stand to gain from it, especially given how often the pirate crew ended up fighting on the Earth's surface.
But he always shoved that voice down and trained anyhow, knowing that he had nothing to lose from the practice except time. And with the entire crew laying back and relaxing in the same place, time was something he finally had to spare. So when the sun began to beat down on the back of his neck, making it impossible to ignore the sweat that was rolling down underneath his shirt, he realized that it was likely well past noon and perhaps time to find himself something to eat.
The quieter sounds of civilization began to grow as Joe walked back to the hotel, from the scratching of a broom against cobblestones to the hushed voices walking around the garden. He looked over and saw Luka and Ahim's smiling faces, chatting away merrily as they wove their way around the perfectly manicured shrubbery. Ahim noticed him first and waved, with Luka soon following suit, and he gave them both a polite nod before rounding the corner of the building.
He nodded to the hotel employees in turn as he made his way back to the room he was sharing with the other male members of the crew, not thinking to hesitate as he opened the door. Of course, this meant that he got a fair eyeful of his captain sitting on the tatami floor, yukata spread wide open and his hand tangled in a mess of blond curls bobbing diligently between his legs. With reflexes honed over years of training, including that morning, Joe pulled the door shut quickly and quietly. Then, he waited.
It was a decent hotel, nothing shabby or exquisite, but the walls were still thin enough that Joe was painfully aware of when his captain had reached release. He gave them a few more minutes, waiting until he could hear the faint scraping sounds of feet against tatami, and opened the door again.
Somehow he'd managed to catch them again, although this time was a far less compromising position than the last. Both Doc and Marvelous were standing, robes left open, and the blond's hands were in the process of roaming carefully over the smooth skin of Marvelous' chest. At the sound of the door opening he jumped, moving to grab at the edges of Marvelous' yukata briefly before seeing that it was Joe who had entered the room. The engineer's cheeks, already flushed pink from activity, reddened to a brilliant scarlet, and he gave a sharp squeak of fear and pulled his yukata shut before pushing Joe aside and running from the room.
Joe watched him go, hearing a small selection of mumbled excuses before Doc disappeared down the hallway and around a corner, and he couldn't help but give a small smirk at the engineer's jumpiness. He reached out to close the door before turning that same smirk on his somewhat disheveled captain.
“Aren't you supposed to knock before entering a room?” Marvelous grumbled, giving Joe a grumpy sneer as he tied the robe back into place.
“Not if it's my room I'm entering,” Joe countered, and moved over towards the closet. His yukata was neatly folded there, and he began to peel the sweaty clothes from his body in preparation for a proper bath.
Marvelous snorted, but it was a defeated sound that meant he was willing to drop the subject. “I told you I was going to take advantage of this trip,” he said somewhat defensively, referring back to their silent conversation from the day before. “Let me know if there's a better place to do that, yeah?”
A half-comfortable silence fell over the room as Joe finished changing into his yukata, and he turned to see Marvelous leaning against the far wall, eyes averted out of respect for his friend. “You two just might want to be more careful, that's all.” The words tumbled out before he had a chance to check them, and Joe desperately hoped they hadn't sounded too out of line.
The captain folded his arms obstinately, looking up at his first mate through the bangs of his mussed hair. “Or what? He's the one who wants to keep it secret, not me.”
Joe sighed and crossed his arms, just as much in his own defense as it was consciously mimicking Marvelous' actions. “Not much of a secret if I know about it. Does anyone else?”
A shadow flickered over Marvelous' face and he looked away. “Gai might. Maybe.”
“That's over half the crew, Marvelous.”
Silence filled the room again, this time significantly less comfortable than before. Joe watched as his captain began to sort through his thoughts, each one affecting a different expression on his face, and he wondered exactly what was going through Marvelous' mind. Several long minutes passed before Marvelous finally sighed and looked Joe in the eye. “It's still not my call to make.”
Joe shrugged and looked away. “Maybe so, maybe not. But if the rest of the crew finds out without either of you telling them?” The first mate paused, conflicted in his decision to keep talking. He knew this word would hit hard and deep, but at this point he couldn't help but believe the wound was worth it. “They'll feel betrayed.”
Marvelous shut his eyes and lowered his head, each hand gripping the opposite elbow so tightly Joe was worried he'd rip the thin yukata to shreds. He stayed that way for nearly half a minute, keeping Joe on edge, before finally loosening his grip and nodding once, never looking back upwards.
It was enough for Joe. He turned around and exited the room, making sure to close the door slowly behind him, partially out of respect for Marvelous, and partially because he had noticed Doc fleeing down the hallway as he'd left. It was obvious the engineer had been listening at the door, but Joe wasn't about to call him out on it. Instead, he walked towards the hot springs to clean up and relax. That was what they were there for, after all.
The next morning was an occasion for a hearty, traditional Japanese breakfast, complete with rice, fish, and soup. Doc remarked on the oddity of having dinner-type foods in the morning, while Joe noted that it meant one would be well-fed with plenty of protein and carbohydrates to start the day. After breakfast the crewmates packed their bags and bid the hotel and hot springs one final goodbye before heading out the door and back to the quarry where they'd parked the galleon for the weekend.
They climbed the ropes together and walked into the main room of the galleon, dropping bags here and there as temporary holding spots for their stuff while they reacclimated themselves to their normal living space. Navi chirped greetings to all of them in turn, making sure to fill them all in on the nothing that had happened in their absence. Luka and Ahim huddled together on the couch, paging through a new magazine while Gai tried to angle himself properly behind them to see what exactly it was they were looking at. Joe leaned back onto his workout bench, not quite in the mood to exercise yet, but sure that he would be sometime soon, and Marvelous went straight to his chair and sat down with a grin directed towards Navi and their chest of keys.
Doc was the last to enter the main cabin, clutching his bag tightly to his chest and looking around as if it were a strange new space. After confirming that each and every one of the crew was, in fact, in the room, he straightened up and walked straight up to Marvelous' chair.
He stood there for nearly three whole seconds before Marvelous realized that something was a little off, and the captain dropped his hand from the chest to look up at the engineer. “What is it?”
The blond took a deep breath, leaned over, closed his eyes and planted a firmly unmistakable kiss right on Marvelous' somewhat surprised lips.
Joe had been watching the whole time, but the awkward moment lasted long enough for Luka, Ahim, and even Gai to notice what exactly was going on. The newest member gave out a small squeak, which then grew to a shrill squeal as Marvelous grinned through the kiss and eagerly grabbed the back of Doc's head to pull them into an even deeper kiss.
“Oh my,” Ahim said, cheeks tinging with pink as she raised a dainty hand to cover her smile.
“It's about time,” Luka agreed, leaning back and crossing one leg over the other while she watched the show.
The kiss ended and Doc pulled back, just slightly, so that the two were giving each other the devious sort of look normally reserved for mischievous lovers. Their faces were flushed pink and red and Marvelous didn't wait any longer to stand up, hoist the blushing engineer over his shoulder, and carry him off to his own private quarters.
Secrets didn't last long on pirate ships, indeed.