To say Joe was surprised when his Mobirates rang would be an incredible understatement. There was no conceivable reason for Marvelous to be calling. Either he'd succeeded and would shortly return to the Galleon triumphant, or he'd failed and Basco would shortly resume his larger-scale attacks in an effort to draw them out.
Joe hates that he can't imagine being pleased, or even slightly okay with either outcome.
Still, he can't ignore the call. It could be important. It must be important. He stops doing his push-ups immediately and rolls over to sit on his hip, grabbing his Mobirates off the table and flipping it open with a practiced twist of his wrist.
It's Marvelous, of course. All the others were accounted for. But there's something wrong with the Captain's voice. It's too breathy, exhausted and even the single word seems to tremble when it reaches Joe's ear. It also has a strange echoing quality to it that Joe recognizes as the effect caused by one holding the Mobirates a little too far from their mouth instead of properly to their ear.
Joe's heart shudders in his chest, he feels very much like it's on the verge of stopping altogether.
"Marvelous..." He stutters out, but his voice is damnably soft and he doubts Marvelous can even hear him.
"Don't speak, just listen." Marvelous insists, and the shaking in his voice is even more evident. Joe shudders to think that it's fear. "I'm not telling you to come. But I can't stop you either. It's your decision. Just... Just do what's best for the crew. The whole crew. For everyone, yourself too. Don't worry about me, okay? Just make the best decision. I know you will. I trust you. Joe, I lo--"
Marvelous' voice cut off suddenly with a snap and dead air that buzzed in Joe's ears, filled his head with an incomprehensible confusion. He stared blankly at the Mobirates, half hoping that Marvelous' voice would return, would finish what he'd started to say.
Joe stood up, suddenly full of purpose. "Navi! Track Marvelous' Mobirates. Find him, now!"
The bird fluttered into the main room, did a twirl around the post. "Why, why?" She asked and Joe was tempted to throw something at her.
"Just do it!" He settled on screaming at her, and it did the trick, as she dived sharply to the console and started tapping at the keys.
Don came into the room as Joe was pulling on his jacket, obviously alerted by Joe's raised voice. "What's going on?"
"He has Marvelous. I'm going to get him."
Don seemed momentarily frozen in shock, but he regained his senses quickly enough. "You can't."
"Don't, Doc. Don't you dare try to stop me."
Don moved, crossing the main room quickly to stand defiantly in front of the exit to the deck. He was wearing one of his aprons, had a small knife clutched in on hand as though he'd forgotten he was holding it. "I won't let you."
"He called me, Doc. Not any of you. He knows, he knows that it has to be me!"
The others started to drift in from other corners of the ship. Luka, damn her, surveyed the situation and immediately moved to stand by Don's side. Ahim followed suit, flanking him on the other side so they stood shoulder-to-shoulder, blocking the exit.
Gai dithered in the doorway, obviously unsure of who, if anyone he was supposed to side with.
Joe approached his crew, his heart pounding in his throat, choking him. "Move."
"No." Luka snapped. Joe snarled at her.
"We will not, Joe-san." Ahim's voice was shaking slightly.
Joe clenched his fists by his sides, frightened by his sudden desire to hit them all, to make them clear his way.
"I have to go. He needs me."
"Who?" Don countered, and Joe stopped cold. "Which one of them are you going to?"
A shudder ran down Joe's spine as he realized that there was no truthful answer that the crew would accept.
"Move." He repeated, having no other options. "Please don't make me force you."
"If you're going after Marvelous, we're coming with you." Don sounded so sure of himself.
Joe shook his head. "You can't."
"Why not?" Luka shifted, raising her hand, obviously wanting to approach Joe, smack some sense into him.
"Because Basco will kill you! He'll kill all of you to get to me, and I can't allow it. I can't let you get hurt because of me." Joe hung his head to hide his stinging eyes. "Marvelous told me to make the best decision for the crew. This is it. It's the only way to keep you safe."
"You cannot keep making these decisions for us, Joe-san." Ahim said softly.
"He'll take you from us again."
"Well maybe you shouldn't have come after me!" Joe snapped, the words escaping him before he could think better of them. Gai gasped from his corner. Don's eyes narrowed dangerously.
It was too late to call the words back, and Joe growled, though at himself or at them even he wasn't sure. "Now you're all in danger, terrible danger, just because of me. Marvelous is in danger. I have to fix this."
"Fine." Don spit, his voice so full of venom that it burned through Joe, left his heart feeling empty. "Go, then."
He stepped forward, got right into Joe's face. "Go, but you come back. You don't belong to him. I don't care what he said, what you promised him. Your priority is this crew. So you come back."
Don stalked away and Luka followed him.
"Found him, found him!" Navi screeched from the console.
Ahim approached Joe, reaching to take his hand gently. "Remember your promises, Joe-san." She lifted onto her tiptoes, pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. This close, Joe could see the tears edging her eye lashes.
For a moment, Joe wasn't sure if he was making the right decision after all, but then a small recess of his mind replayed Marvelous' words, with that frightening tremble.
He left the ship.
Marvelous is beginning to realize that maybe trying to hold onto his Mobirates after Basco had snapped it shut had been a mistake. Despite how numb his hands are, he can feel a shooting stab of pain radiating out from the last two fingers on his right hand, where Basco had wrenched them too far to pull the device from Marvelous' grip.
"Very sweet, Marvey-chan. I appreciate your unwavering trust in him. It suits my purposes nicely."
Marvelous gulped, tried to flex his hands and found they were nearly unresponsive. Not a good sign.
"Will he come?" Basco demanded suddenly, and Marvelous blinked up at him, pain and bone-deep weariness making him feel like he was sinking into amber. Another bad sign.
Basco snarled, lashed out, back handing Marvelous across the face. At first, Marvelous thinks his rings are incredibly, inhumanly cold. Then he realizes he's bleeding, and as the sting sets in he realizes he's crying. Not great gasping sobs, nothing so dramatic. Just a slow trickle of silent tears tracing their way down his cheeks.
"Will he come, Marvey-chan!" Basco sounded strangely desperate for someone so obviously holding all the cards, and Marvelous wonders idly just how deep this madness goes. Whether Basco had somehow convinced himself that he did truly love Joe. It seemed impossible, impossible for Basco, always composed, ever the master of all outcomes.
But then, nearly a year ago, Marvelous never would have guessed that his strong first mate could ever be reduced to the state Basco had left him in.
People, on the whole, were very strange.
"Answer me!" Basco shouted, crouching in front of Marvelous and grabbing him by the shoulders. The streak of pain that runs through Marvelous wakes him up a little. "Will he come? For me, or for you, I don't care. Will he come? Will the others let him?"
Marvelous looked up into Basco's eyes, held his gaze for a long moment, and slow realization came to him.
Yes, Basco truly did love Joe. Or at least he thought he did. He was deranged, certainly, and completely delusional. But at some point in the intervening months since they'd rescued Joe, Basco had come to truly believe that his feelings for Joe were genuine. He had come to love Joe, or at least the Joe in his mind, his idealized perfect idea of 'blue-chan', in a way that Marvelous had been sure Basco wasn't even capable of.
Marvelous feels ill, because what he sees in Basco's eyes at this moment he knows is mirrored in his own. A sick kind of fear at the thought of being without Joe.
"I don't know." Marvelous says honestly, and he closes his eyes, because the reflection is too much to handle.
Basco pulled away, Marvelous could hear him start pacing the floor, agitated. "He has to come. He has to." Basco muttered to himself, the words obviously not meant for Marvelous to reply to. "I need him."
Basco stopped in his pacing and Marvelous lifted his head when the very recognizable sound of a door being kicked down echoes around the empty space. They weren't alone, and Marvelous' breath catches in his throat as he waits to see who has come for him. As he waits to find out if he's about to watch one of his comrades die for him.
Basco draws his sword. He might be insane, but he was certainly not stupid.
Marvelous exhales with a strange relief, but still he finds he isn't surprised in the slightest when it's Joe who steps through an open doorway at the end of the room.
What does surprise him is that Basco literally drops the sword as Joe approaches. Everything is very, almost eerily silent except for the clattering of steel against concrete.
Joe and Basco seem drawn together. Not just Joe to Basco, but Basco to Joe. They even circle each other once, and for a second Marvelous isn't sure if they're going to fight or not.
But, again, he isn't surprised when it doesn't come to that. When Basco grabs Joe by the shoulders and pulls him close, when Joe doesn't even struggle, simply stumbles almost willingly into Basco's embrace. When Basco kisses him.
Marvelous turns away, closing his eyes and taking a shuddering breath. He's not surprised, but that doesn't mean he can watch it. Doesn't mean it will ever be okay.
It was probably only moments, but it feels like an age before there's a hand at Marvelous' cheek. A tremble runs through him, but he recognizes the touch. He opens his eyes to find Joe crouching in front of him, his fingers working diligently at untying the knots binding Marvelous' wrists.
Joe hushes him, and it makes Marvelous' heart ache that Joe won't meet his eyes. Maybe can't. Marvelous glances past Joe to find Basco watching them with his arms folded.
The cords fall away and Marvelous flexes his hands slowly, sucking in a hissing gasp at the immediate pain that shoots through them. Joe presses Marvelous' hands together, covering them with his own and rubbing gently, actually easing the pain somewhat.
"Come on," Joe chokes out. "Can you walk?"
Marvelous blinks, taking his hands away from Joe. He winces slightly at the pain in his shoulder, but his legs still feel undamaged. "Yeah."
Joe shifts, standing and moving to Marvelous' side to help him to his feet. Marvelous sways slightly, blood rushing to his head. Joe's arm is there around his waist, supporting him as they step away from the wall, moving slowly towards the door Joe had entered through.
Basco is there suddenly, standing in their way. Marvelous gasps slightly, but Basco isn't even looking at him. His focus is purely centered on Joe, his eyes lit up with something Marvelous can't even identify. There are too many emotions warring in Basco's eyes, though the rest of his face betrays nothing.
"You can't. Blue-chan, you can't leave me again." Basco says softly, reaching with one hand to touch Joe's hip. Marvelous turns away.
Marvelous can feel Joe gulp, can feel his breath catch in his chest. "Basco..."
Joe's grip on Marvelous' waist tightens slightly. Marvelous doesn't want to hear what Joe is about to say, but it doesn't stop the words from coming.
"I'll come back."
Basco stomped his foot, grabbing Joe's free hand and holding it tight between both of his own, his knuckles going white. "How do I know? How can... How can I trust you?" Basco's voice breaks in the middle, and Marvelous turns to look at him.
Joe bit his lip, and carefully pulled his hand free from Basco's grasp. He reached beneath his jacket and pulled out his Mobirates. Basco's eyes widened, and Marvelous found himself making the exact same expression.
"Joe..." Marvelous muttered softly.
Joe pressed his Mobirates into Basco's hands. Basco held onto the device like his life was tethered to it, his eyes shining as he looked down at it.
"I'll come back for that."
Basco stepped away, moved out of their path. Joe nodded and led Marvelous out of the building. Marvelous looked back just before they left, watched Basco lean back against the wall, still cradling Joe's Mobirates against his chest like it was his most cherished possession.
Marvelous still felt sick.