Title: True Colors (8): Justification
Author: Hakase <3
Series: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger
Summary: Every one of them knew that when Elite Forces Commander Don Dogoier walked by, it was in everyone's best interest to show proper respect.
Previous Parts: 1) Suspicion (link)
2) Curiosity (link
3) Opportunity (link
4) Relaxation (link
5) Interludes: Settling In (link
6) Affirmation (link
7) Resignation (link
Footsteps echoed down the hallway, slow and steady, causing each and every Zangyack soldier to scurry to the side and stand at strict attention. News travels fast on a ship, and there wasn't a single person on board who hadn't heard what had happened. And every one of them knew that when Elite Forces Commander Don Dogoier walked by, it was in everyone's best interest to show proper respect.
It helped that he was no longer dressed in contrasting plaids, the ridiculous ties and argyle socks tucked away where nobody could see. His outfit and velvet coat had been traded in for the black and gray military uniform, cut exactly to his size so that it perfectly hugged every line of his body. His blond bangs were pinned back tightly on one side, the rest of the curls having been tamed down to little more than unruly waves.
He kept his face stoic, nodding at the appropriate action commanders as he passed. Nobody followed him, thankfully, and he was able to pause for a few minutes by a large window that overlooked the Earth below. Behind him he could hear the hallway slowly return to life, and traffic resumed as normal, as long as he didn't make eye contact with anyone.
This wasn't how he'd wanted things to go.
When he pressed himself to come up with an alternate, realistic ending to the events of the day before, he found himself at a loss. While he'd made a name for himself in the Zangyack military for his strategic plans, the only other option he could visualize was the defeat and execution of the entire Gokaiger crew. And, had he not returned to the Zangyack when directed, he would have fallen with them.
The thought felt like an ice pick in his heart. He'd betrayed them. There was no doubt about that, no escaping that truth now that it was so evident. If he thought back to all the times they'd saved each other, fighting as one...
No. He shut his mind away from the past, at least, for the time being. Don knew that he had to be a perfect picture of stone-cold military professionalism for what was coming next. He could get away with a lot, sure, but if he pushed things too far it could all crumble apart.
He wasn't willing to lose anything more. Not today.
The Earth shone up at him, all glimmering blue and green, and he took a deep, quiet breath. It's now or never. Squaring his shoulders, he turned and walked through the back-at-attention hall of soldiers to the bridge of the Gigant Horse.
When Marvelous woke, it was with a splitting headache. He groaned, trying to fight back the pain long enough to remember where he was. The last thing he could really recall was being bound and gagged in a Zangyack transit ship, chained up in a corner to keep him away from the rest of his crew. As his mind processed the memory, his heart nearly sank to the pit of his stomach. Maybe, he thought to himself desperately, if I open my eyes, it was all just a dream.
He opened his eyes slowly, bit by bit, so that the sudden light didn't make his headache any worse. At first all he saw was light, but then his eyes began to adjust and the picture faded into that of the interior of somebody's room. The room was sparsely furnished, colored in cold grays, with almost no decoration on the walls or any of the various surfaces. Marvelous couldn't help but think of Joe's room in the galleon, always kept meticulously clean of any sort of individuality.
His heart sank further when he remembered that Joe had been Zangyack military.
He was on the floor, prone, but with fewer bindings than when he'd last been conscious. Two heavy manacles were around each of his wrists, tying them together with one long chain running to a heavily-reinforced eyelet in the nearest wall. His legs were unbound entirely, and his gag was gone as well.
Something in his memory pinged, and he brought one slightly-shaking hand up to check his throat. Sure enough, his neck was ringed with the same kind of electric collar he'd freed Joe from nearly two years ago. His stomach heaved and he leaned his suddenly-sweating forehead against the metal wall, trying desperately to cool down and keep from vomiting until there was nothing left in his belly.
His freedom was gone. A fate worse than death.
Don nodded to the two Goumin stationed outside the door to his room. He hadn't argued when the Emperor had demanded that his chamber be guarded at all times – he couldn't afford to argue, not now. There was far too much at stake to risk messing it up now. He took a deep breath, screwed up his courage, and entered his room.
It was a far cry from what his old room had been, back in the years before he'd started his solo mission. This one was larger, more luxurious, far more fitting of a fleet captain than a simple commander. It was sparse, and that would change in time. But right now, there was one very important possession that was waiting for him.
Marvelous' face was pale, more pale than Don could ever remember seeing it. But the expression was hard and cold, and he could feel his heart seize up at the reminder of how badly he had betrayed his captain. How he'd betrayed the entire crew. He froze in mid-step, unsure if he could pull the courage together to walk any closer.
“What's wrong?” Marvelous asked icily, his words thick with irreverence. “Too much of a coward to face your prisoner?”
Each syllable hurt like a dagger in his chest, and with the door securely locked behind him, Don let the pain show on his face. “I might be,” he admitted quietly, then forced his legs to walk forward until he was just outside Marvelous' reach. “I'm not sure many people would fault me for it.” He slowly sat down on the floor and folded his legs.
The former captain grunted and looked away, outright refusing to meet Don's eyes. “More than you might think.”
Don had been struggling with how much to tell him. How much to say up front, what to hide, what to dance around, all in the hopes of making things as easy as possible. But now, with Marvelous so obviously hurt, all he could think of doing was telling him everything. That maybe, if he was completely truthful, he could possibly be forgiven someday.
“I'm off-duty,” he said quietly, keeping his eyes fixed on the far wall out of respect for Marvelous' pride. “Until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Whatever you ask me, I'll answer. Honest.”
There came a light snort as an immediate response, followed by a long silence. Part of Don – the Doc part, he noted with a small amount of concern – wanted to fidget restlessly with something. But the soldier in him had already taken over, and he kept himself quiet and still and waited for Marvelous to reply properly.
Minutes went by, and then, “Why.” It was only one syllable, but it sounded like it was choking him just to say it aloud.
“Because I'm a soldier,” was Don's immediate response, not even thinking to ask for clarification on what the question was actually about. “Because if I hadn't done what I did, we all would have died.”
“How long?” Marvelous shot back, like he'd been expecting the answer. “How long have you been a soldier? The whole time?” He kept his eyes low, staring intently at the floor.
Don nodded. “Ever since the beginning. They placed me on that planet for an independent assignment, assuming that any renegade or pirate activity in that area would likely go to an isolated, unaffiliated mechanic for assistance.” They'd been right, of course, even if the crew had been the first victims to take the bait in nearly a year of careful waiting. “After Luka's first contact with me, I ran the plan by my immediate superior for approval before climbing aboard the galleon.”
Marvelous laughed. The sound was bitter and hollow, something Don recognized from confrontations against Basco. Ice built up in the pit of his stomach as he remembered their conversation from their vacation at the hot spring. “So it wasn't real, was it? Any of it?”
“That's not necessarily true,” Don said quietly, keeping his own eyes cast down towards the floor. For all he knew, the two of them were staring at the same spot. “I took on a persona for the crew, that much is true. But the best characters have a basis in reality, Marvelous. And, eventually...Doc became more a part of me than I was a part of him.”
The former captain snorted and shifted his gaze to the wall. “Bullshit. If Doc was a part of you, you wouldn't have sold us out to the Zangyack.”
The cold bit in Don's stomach shot up to his heart and he leaped to his feet. “There was no selling out!” he yelled down at Marvelous, before he caught himself and remembered to keep his voice low. “If anything of what happened down there could be called that, it was that I gave up what was the best time of my life in exchange for yours.”
Marvelous, however, had no desire to keep their conversation quiet. He looked back up at Don and their eyes met with a challenging fire. “You betrayed us,” he growled, his expression all stone and anger. “You betrayed the crew. There is no way you can rationalize that!”
In a flash Don was on his knees, covering Marvelous' mouth with his hand and pushing him down beneath him on the rough carpet. “Why do you think you're here?” he asked in a harsh whisper, his voice sounding foreign even to himself. “Why do you think you're even still alive, rather than strung up on a pike for a public execution on that planet's surface?”
There was a brief pause, for less than a second, before Marvelous reared back and tried to stretch his mouth wide enough to bite at Don's hand. But Marvelous was still used to Doc, not the Zangyack soldier Don Dogoier, and Don easily held Marvelous' jaw still. Instead, the former captain made do with glaring at Don angrily.
“I have rank and station here,” Don hissed. “Nothing I've ever cared about. I lived day to day in the military because I was good at it. No other reason.” Each word felt like it was tearing bits of his own heart with it, all things he'd thought a million times over but never had the courage or the opportunity to say. “I've put my career, my reputation here in jeopardy because of you. And personally, I think it's worth it.” Slowly, carefully, he removed his hand from Marvelous' mouth, somehow keeping himself from wincing when he saw the bright red marks his fingers had left behind.
“Am I supposed to be impressed?” Marvelous spat, his eyes still burning with rage. “I won't be the one who bows down to you. Give me half the chance and I'll-” His voice broke, finally, a sob welling up from his throat.
Don recognized it far too well, and that understanding brought tears to his own eyes. “You'll what?” Half of it was a challenge, but the other half was a plea. A silent, desperate plea.
“...and I'll kill you.” The words were quiet, broken, and lacked all the conviction his anger had previously held.
But words still held meaning, and Don felt the world beneath him fall away, if just for a second. He was free-falling, floating, anchorless, and then he snapped back to reality and remembered that Marvelous was chained and prone beneath him.
“Try,” he finally said, the word choking its way from his throat. “You're not going anywhere, after all.” He stood and quickly walked outside of the chain's reach, turning his face away so that Marvelous couldn't see the tears that were freely running down his cheeks.
Silence stood in the room with them for several long moments. Eventually Don heard the gentle rustling of the chain as Marvelous crawled back to sit against the wall. He was tempted to turn around, to gaze at the face that had given him so much support. But he kept his back turned and headed over to the unfamiliar bed in the corner.
He was a coward, after all.
The lights were low, but not all the way off. He'd never heard an explanation for it, but Marvelous imagined it was so that even if a soldier were surprised in the middle of the night, he would still have the advantage of being able to see properly. It was the sort of practical thing he could imagine the military doing, which made it easier for him to believe.
Marvelous couldn't sleep. Not just because of the persistent light, but because his body simply refused to let him rest. He had a hundred questions still swirling in his head, all things he wanted to ask and hear the answers to, if he could trust Don to actually tell the truth. Sure, his former engineer had said he'd be honest, but Marvelous couldn't exactly trust his word anymore.
The look on Don's face as he'd lost control popped into his mind's eye. He couldn't shake it, that initial shock and fear he'd felt at seeing such an emotion underneath the blond waves. It wasn't right, but it had been real. Terrifyingly real. And he couldn't help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, it hadn't all been a lie.
“Doc,” he said quietly, into the not-quite-darkness, not entirely sure that his captor was awake. “Why am I here? Why aren't I dead?”
The silence remained, stretching through the large room until Marvelous was sure that he couldn't possibly have been heard. Then, as clearly as if they'd been talking normally, he heard a whisper come from the bed in the corner.
“Because I love you.”