Marvelous found himself uncommonly pleased with how well the crew adjusted to having Basco in their midst, himself included. Basco deserved some of the credit, of course. He was intelligent enough not to try and make himself too at home. He didn't eat at the table with them by his own request, Joe brought him his meals in his quarters. Their quarters, Marvelous thinks they've become, though Joe still spent the occasional night in Marvelous' bed, leaving Basco alone.
In fact, Basco rarely left Joe's room at all, and when he did it was mainly at Joe's behest, and he would wisely excuse himself whenever Don was around.
Don, for his part, was taking the situation surprisingly well, or at least quietly, though Marvelous still caught him shooting Basco an occasional steely glare.
Not to say that Marvelous completely trusted Basco. He kept a close eye on the man's interactions with his first mate, and made sure Navi stationed herself on the treasure chest each night to keep watch, just in case. But it seemed his caution was unnecessary. The bird reported no disturbances, and Marvelous noticed only the slightest strange tenderness in Joe, and only when Basco was sitting beside him. For the most part Joe was exactly how Joe should be; his quiet, serious, unwaveringly loyal first mate.
Confrontations with Zangyack were still inevitable, as their accidental adopting of Basco didn't shake Marvelous from his conviction to find the Greatest Treasure, but he was pleased to notice that the addition of another wanted fugitive to his ship didn't invite any more attacks.
These were the only times Basco reminded Marvelous of the way he used to be, a magnificent pirate. He insisted that he fight beside them, if not as a comrade then at least for the sake of his own pride. Joe didn't like it, his face made that quite clear to Marvelous, but he allowed it.
Marvelous found that he was content with the way things were going. He slept more easily than he had in some time, was no longer woken in the middle of the night by an almost childish fear that Joe was missing.
And when he looked at his Joe, sitting beside Basco on the love seat, perfectly at his ease as he handily won match after match of poker, Marvelous reflects that there really was no way this could have resolved itself any better.
He just hated how badly Joe had been hurt to make them all see this twisted new sense and logic.
Marvelous just fiercely hoped that having Basco, his old enemy, his betrayer, on board the ship wasn't doing a great offense to his own past Captain. That it wasn't disrespectful to the memory of AkaRed.
This fight was not going at all the way they usually did. Joe didn't understand what was so different, why Zangyack was throwing so many more Goumin and Sugoumin at them. Two Commanders were shouting orders, at least as best they could when they weren't being set upon by one or more of the pirates.
"Attack, by order of His Highness, Waruzu Giru-sama!"
Joe froze. He hated himself in that moment, finding he couldn't move, couldn't even turn to see, didn't have to. He knew that voice, even distorted by mechanics, the inhuman purr.
Basco's voice shook him out of his distraction and he managed to spin and bring his sword around to block an incoming strike from a Sugoumin. The force of the blow sent him stumbling back a few steps. Basco was there suddenly, cutting down the Sugoumin with a triumphant laugh before turning towards Joe with a manic grin that faded quickly at the look on Joe's face.
Basco glanced over his shoulder to see what had so distracted Joe and frowned. "Barizorg... Blue-chan, that machine is nothing. The Prince's lap dog."
Joe shook his head, but he didn't have time to explain his strange fear as the battle was met again, and Basco was forced away from him.
The tide seemed to be turning, the fight was beginning to balance, the pirates were beginning to win.
Joe was too far away when it happened, but he started to wade through the Goumin to try and prevent it anyway. He wasn't sure if he could fight Barizorg, not with what he knew, not after that strange lingering dream he'd had of Sid after he was injured. But he had to try, he had to stop the cyborg before he reached his obvious goal of their furiously fighting Captain.
Marvelous spun, Joe cursed when a blinding flash of red left Marvelous without the protection of his suit. Barizorg was there, lifting his sword, preparing to strike the distracted and defenseless pirate. Joe was still too far away. He drew his gun as the sword flashed, and he screamed, only realizing too late that someone else was closer to Marvelous, was moving rapidly to intercept.
A streak of red-tinged black cut in front of Marvelous as the sword came down.
Basco collapsed to the ground at Barizorg's feet.
Joe screamed and started firing his gun, and Marvelous started shooting too. The cyborg took two steps back, several hits from both angles struck him. With a roaring rush, the Zangyack flag ship streaked out of the sky to hover over them.
Barizorg turned, turned his single robotic eye on Joe though the more immediate threat was Marvelous only a few feet away. There was something in that silent stare that made Joe's blood run cold. A knowledge. A recognition.
No retreat was ordered. The cyborg simply disappeared, teleported aboard the ship above before it shot off again, leaving its soldiers and Commanders at the mercy of the pirates. Joe ignored the fighting, striding through the frenzy of his comrades cutting down the remaining soldiers.
Marvelous was on his knees at Basco's feet. Joe threw himself to the ground, grabbing Basco's shoulders and lifting his head into his lap.
"Basco." He stammered over the name, ran a hand through the streak of white in his hair. There was too much blood, the sword had struck him high on the chest, cut across his throat. Basco's skin was pale, his eyes wide and shining, but he somehow still had a smirk on his lips. It was dark and mocking with the stain of blood coloring his mouth, the trickle of red creeping down his chin. "Basco..."
Basco coughed, blood splattering. Joe's heart hammered in his throat and he found he could barely whisper. "Why?"
"Couldn't... Couldn't let Marvey-chan get hurt." Basco gulped and shuddered in Joe's arms. "You'd be... upset."
"You, you stupid..."
Basco lifted one hand, clutched weakly with trembling fingers to Joe's ponytail. "Blue-chan."
"I love you."
Joe's throat closed around whatever he was going to say. He looked up, staring around wildly for someone to help, for Ahim or Don to come patch Basco up, and everything would be okay again.
Basco coughed again, weaker this time, and Joe looked back at his half-lidded eyes, glassy and dark. "No... No." Joe shook him as if it would help, would break him out of his obvious shock, wake him up. "No." A desperate sob tore at his throat as tears started to fall, hard and fast, sprinkling over Basco's face.
"I'm sorry, blue-chan." Basco's voice was hardly a whisper. A choked gasp and another full body spasm. A shaking breath that rattled in his throat. "I'm so sorry."
"You're going to..." Joe found he couldn't lie to him, he knew all along that he couldn't. Not now, not ever. "You're dying."
Basco smirked slightly, his eyes closing.
"Please, don't. Don't leave me." Joe whimpered, clutching Basco's head to his chest. "I love you."
Joe hated using the word. Truly he hated the word, even if he felt the requisite attachment. He had spoken it exactly once before, to Sid. It had been quick and quiet and too rushed. It had been the last thing he said to Sid before leaving on his first, what would be his last mission as a Zangyack soldier.
He didn't trust the word, coming from him. It was a curse. He was cursed.
But right now, he knew in his heavy heart that it was too late. Nothing worse would befall Basco now.
"I love you."
Basco gasped and coughed. His body shook, and his eyes opened wide and momentarily clear.
"Joe..." As ever, the sound of his real name seemed foreign to Basco's mouth, sounded strange in his voice. But this time it was full of untold meaning. Joe realized that Basco was letting him go, in this last most final way. Telling him that he wasn't blue-chan anymore, and never would be again. Captive, pet, companion, partner, possibly even lover. These had all been what defined blue-chan. Blue-chan would pass on with Basco.
Basco's head rolled back and his body went still after one last spastic kick of his legs, one last bone-chilling gasp. He died with a knowing smirk on his face, as if he was simply off on another adventure. A pirate to the end.
It was Marvelous' idea to take Basco's body into space, to give him a proper space pirate's burial. Even Don didn't protest, in fact his hatred of the man must have died along with him, because he was the first to agree.
Gai told them the planet they took him to was called Saturn. Marvelous remembered liking the planet and its showy rings, and Don told them all that it was a good choice. A gas giant, it had a good enough gravity well to pull Basco in and keep him.
Marvelous didn't remember any of the good ceremonies, and he didn't think anyone had any words to say. As funerals went, it was quick and quiet, and as soon as Basco's body was gone Joe retreated to his quarters to be alone. He hadn't said a thing since they'd boarded the Galleon, and Marvelous, while worried about him, wasn't about to press. He had no problem with letting Joe mourn.
He was surprised that Joe came out that same night. He'd expected Joe to stay locked away for the better part of a day. Joe had a hard time expressing emotions when other people were present, and Marvelous understood the need to express something after such a loss.
Marvelous had heard everything Basco and Joe had said in those last moments, and almost felt guilty, as if he now had private information that was none of his business. He didn't doubt for a moment that either of them had been anything but truthful. It hurt, certainly, Joe had never told Marvelous he loved him. He had to admit that he was jealous, but he thinks he might understand. Joe wasn't good with expressing himself, and Marvelous knew in his heart that Joe did love him, even if he never said as much out loud.
Joe sat down in his usual spot at the table, and Ahim rushed to set a place for him, having left the table empty. She too hadn't expected him to sit with them so soon.
They all sat down to the meal that Don and Gai had prepared for them. Ahim poured them all tea.
Marvelous managed to keep his attention off the food long enough to give Joe a long searching look.
Joe's eyes were red, but dry. Occasionally a slight tremble came over him, made his hands shake, but he controlled himself quickly enough that Marvelous is fairly sure that none of the others even noticed.
They ate quietly. Joe himself broke the tense and somewhat sad silence. "Are we returning to Earth?"
Marvelous nodded. "We, uh. We have a treasure to find, right?"
Joe looked at him, and smiled slightly. It was weak and there was a darkness in his eyes that belied the attempt at mirth. "Right."
Marvelous knows Joe is putting on an act. It's not entirely unlike something Basco would do, had done many times in the past, when he and Marvelous had been Akaki Pirates. Marvelous wonders if Joe is doing it on purpose, or if Basco had simply colored Joe's life as irreversibly as he had Marvelous' own.
Marvelous reached across the table, set his hand on Joe's and gripped gently. He's not sure if Joe is ever going to be completely the way he had been before Basco, but he thinks he is willing to adjust, to accommodate this change in his first mate.
He held the memory of Basco; his old friend, his ex-crew mate, his once enemy, and in the end a man who had given his very life to protect the heart of the man he'd grown to love. And he swore to honor it.
It was exactly what a pirate should do.