Luka’s eyes briefly flicker away from her large and latest acquisition, but then return to the jewel as she resumes inspection. Furrowing her brow, she painfully squints at the tiny engraving in the band of the ring.
“Do you not hear that, Luka-san?” Ahim asks, expression startled. Rising from the couch, she leaves her current sewing project in a heap on the cushion.
“There it is again!” Ahim says, a bit more loudly this time. Now Joe and Gai are coming down the stairs, apparently ending a conversation. Or at least, the former was attempting to do so.
“ . . . no, no tire swing. And don’t give Marvelous the idea, either,” Joe says exasperatedly, seeming to be at the end of his patience. Ahim is hurriedly crossing the wooden floor in the direction of the stairs leading below, racing past them; Gai pulls back abruptly and even Joe has to lean back to avoid being hit.
“I am coming!” she says, only the tiniest hint of panic edging her voice. The sound of her footsteps echo as she descends, spurred on by whoever was making the call. Joe and Gai raise an eyebrow at one another.
“What was that about, Luka?” Joe asks. He receives no response other than the girl’s tongue poking between her teeth as she trains a lamplight on the same stubborn engraving.
Gai runs up to the kitchen table at which jewels, plastic gloves, and other assorted, necessary tools are scattered; waving his hand in her face, she drops everything in her hands and slams them on the table. He says, “Not talking doesn't help you read any better, Luka-san.”
Ignoring him, she answers Joe: “She heard something I didn’t, I guess.”
“What if someone needs our help?!” Gai exclaims, hands on his hips and expression, sunny-side up as he surveys them from atop a stool. Joe folds his arms, rolling his eyes.
“Where is Marvelous-san?” Gai gasps dramatically, waving his arms in an unknown pattern and finally pointing in the air, not unlike a hunting dog finally catching wind of its potential kill. “He could be in danger!”
Joe grabs him by the elbow. “This is why you can’t have nice things, Gai.”
“Hardly,” Doc pipes up, emerging from the kitchen with a bowl of some unidentifiable batter; he stirs it as he adds, “Marvelous is in the bath.”
Ahim makes haste down the long hallway toward her Captain’s quarters, seeing a door ajar; she reaches for the handle and can feel warm, humid air flooding through the gap. Pushing it open, she forgets herself, running completely into the room before saying, “Marvelous-san, I – eep!”
“Finally!” the Captain says jauntily, twitching his head to try to see; wet locks are plastered to his face, obscuring his vision. “I’ve been calling for minutes! Terrible response time.”
Ahim gulps, straightening her spine with the utmost grace but still avoiding his eyes. Though the bubbles are nearly overflowing the tub –though as she squints fascinatedly at the tile, she notices water on the floor- and therefore, covering him and his lack of clothing quite well, the air thickens in a way that has nothing to do with the steam. Cheeks reddening, she emits a cute sort of sound, something between a groan and a whine, before saying, “Oh goodness, Marvelous-san, you’re in the bath!”
“Obviously,” he says, waving his hand blithely. “I need your help.”
Clearing her throat and taking a step back, eyes glancing at him out of her peripheral vision, she nods once.
“My shampoo is in the kitchen,” he says, grinning at her. Now he can see her acute discomfort, the way her feet point in slightly; he finds it pretty damn adorable.
For a split second, she raises her eyes to his – the red painting her cheeks deepens in hue. “Erm, why is it there?”
Still wearing his masterful, brilliant Cheshire-grin, he splashes a bit of water at her before saying, “Don’t worry about it. Bring it here.”
Without responding, she glances at him once more, catching only the grin on his lips he cannot hide at her endearing behavior. The sound of water rising and falling sounds across the tile, against the walls and mirror; his muscled arm dangles over the edge of the porcelain bathtub and showers the floor with more water. Splashing at her again, she lifts the hems of her flouncy skirts and smiles, and then hurries out of the bathroom.
Reappearing in the kitchen, seemingly flushed, Ahim begins opening cupboards at random, not sure where to look. Luckily, Doc asks, “Looking for this?”
In his hand is the captain’s shampoo. He continues, “I saw it earlier this morning when I was making breakfast. I don’t know what it was doing in my kitchen, but tell him to keep it where it belongs.” Shaking his head, he hands it to her and she bows her head in thanks. With two hands she holds it against her chest, scurrying out into the main room again.
Luka is still inspecting the jewels with Gai hovering over her shoulder in awe, and Joe is playing cards on his own. He looks up as Ahim hurries back to the stairs, frowning.
He flips a card, seeming to be deep in thought.
A quiet knock sounds on the bathroom door – now the captain is lazily popping bubbles from the inordinate amount of bath soap he has used. So much, in fact, that it could possibly leak into the floor below if it overflows and seeps into the corners. Ahim steps quietly on the bath rugs, smiling again at his childlike fun.
“Awesome,” he says as she sets the bottle at the corner of the tub.
“You are welcome, Marvelous-san.” She is used to his lack of proper thanks. Brows furrowing, she looks around before asking, “Did you get yourself any towels?”
He sinks underwater, the crown of his dark, wet head visible for only a second before bubbles migrate over it. She folds her arms and waits for him to surface; it is likely he can feel her slightly exasperated stare. Perhaps he ran out of breath, for eventually he came up, sputtering, to say, “Should I have?”
“Please do not tell me you run from the bathroom to your bedroom soaked!” she exclaims, now standing on tiptoe as she goes through the linen closet.
“I don’t run,” he scoffs, stretching his arms above his head. Ahim cannot help glancing at his chest, where his large lock pendant rests, glistening. “I walk like the captain I am.”
“. . . Yes.”
One hand delicately balances three clean towels; her other covers her face. She is not sure whether to smile or blush.
“Oh, and Ahim?”
“I need a sandwich, I’m starving in here!”
Ahim sets the towels next to the tub and tilts her head at him. “We’re having dinner soon-”
“I’m wasting away, here,” he continues. “Sandwich. Captain’s orders.”
“Luka said it was rude to ask a lady to make you a sandwich.”
“Fair point. Then tell her to make me one.”
Pause. She looks as though she will admonish him, but turns on her heel and flounces out.
His grin is devilish as ever.
Luka turns her head away from her precious jewels to sneeze – Gai, unfortunately, doesn’t move fast enough.
The captain stuffs the entire sandwich into his mouth, despite Ahim’s protests; she makes a face as crumbs fall into the bathwater.
“’uka make sa goo’ sannich” he says.
“Actually, Doc made your food,” she corrects. “And he is not so pleased.”
Swallowing, Marvelous scoffs again. “I’ll still eat dinner.”
She takes the empty plate and sets it carefully upon the sink’s counter. Waiting expectantly as she turns to him, hands together, if he needs anything else. Truth be told, she wonders if this is a finable offense – the rules technically apply to everyone, not only when Luka announces them. Somehow, he manages to be charming despite his demands and heckcare attitude.
“C’mere, Ahim,” he says quietly. Seriously. She is startled at the change in his demeanor, but steps carefully toward the tub.
Waving his hand impatiently, he urges her on. It is not until she bends at the waist, looking into his eyes with a sincerely concerned expression, that he grabs her-
-And pulls her in.
A swell of water rises as Ahim lands, and loudly cascades over the sides of the tub, slapping the floor. They are a tangle of soaked limbs and her frills and skirts become water-logged, trapping his legs. The captain’s hearty laugh echoes in the tiny space as she flails and squeaks in equal fright and delight. Taking her shoulders, he pushes away the hair which is plastered to her furiously red face, still bearing his Chesire-grin. Finally, she calms, hands splayed across his chest like those of a terrified cat, scared to slip.
She raises her hand and for a second, he thinks he will be slapped.
Cupping her hand in the water, she futilely pours it on his head. He blinks.
“You still have shampoo in your hair,” she whispers. Smiling, she ruffles his locks and carefully steps out of the tub. Twisting her clothes in knots, she wrings them out, raining bathwater on his toned chest. He raises an eyebrow, leans back to watch, and when she finishes, she takes a towel for her own use.
“Remember,” she says, pausing at the threshold. “Dinner is soon.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he responds. “And tell Joe he’s next.”
Ahim barely has a second to contemplate how she will make it past everybody to her own quarters – she turns away from the open door and runs directly into Joe, face slamming into his chest.
She stumbles backward and he takes her forearm to steady her. Holding her at arm’s length, his eyes widen as he surveys her from head to toe, lingering (or perhaps she is imagining) on her collarbone (around there, maybe). Tightening the towel around her, she casts a wide-eyed look at the bathroom before fleeing. Joe feels droplets of water flick off the ends of her hair and land on his face.
“It’s not your turn yet,” Marvelous says, cocking his head toward his first mate with a smirk.
Joe takes efficient, quick strides into the bathroom and kicks the door shut behind him.
“I said, it’s not your – hey – Joe! – not my face!”