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Back below the ship, Aurora wasted no time extracting herself from her armor, dropping her breast plate to the ground with a careless clank.

Every time Mary had worked with the other girl, Aurora had never been anything less than diligent in the removal of her clothes after battle, methodically folding the cloth bits and polishing the metal bits. This time though, it was all hasty unlacing and torn fabric, as though Aurora was bent on clawing until she reached bone.

Mary had sometimes felt like clawing her own skin off in frustration after a loss—but never after a win, as Aurora was now.

"The hell's wrong with you?"

"What's wrong with me? That... That MAN, that's what!"

Mary ducked as a belt was lobbed at her head. Normally she'd be cursing like an air pirate at such an act, but all Mary could do was repress a chuckle. Little miss COG was losing it.

Across the room, Crank looked up from where he was extracting himself from that heavy mech contraption of his. As impressed as Mary was with the engineering involved in Crank's suit, she couldn't stand how slow the damn thing moved.

"In case you didn't notice, we won," Crank said, eye-roll audible. "So don't go blaming me for your hissyfit"

"Not you!" Aurora shot him a glare, and then turned the glare upwards. For a moment Mary thought she must be glaring at the Gods. "That ingrate up there! Our sorry excuse for an employer. If I did not know any better, I would venture to say that he was trying to secure my death with his faulty battle commands!"

At that, Mary threw back her head and laughed. "He's a rookie! What were you expecting? A battle master sent to you from that God of yours?"

Aurora growled in preparation to retort, but Crank interrupted her. "He got us a win, didn't he? His battle logic is rough around the edges, but the man's got talent."

The crude locker room looked like it was welded into the ship as an afterthought, rusted lockers sown in amongst the pipes like a bad patch job. Aurora steadied herself against a metal pipe as she tugged off one of her boots and chucked it in the vicinity of Crank, who had the common sense to ignore the girl altogether.

"I swear it by the God, that man shall rue the day he crossed me if he ever again forgets my talent and reduces me to cliff bait for Crank."

Crank snorted. "Hey, don't spit on the lad's strategy, it worked. I sent a few suckers flying and you're no worse for wear."

Aurora just huffed and went back to flinging her clothes all over the floor. When she was finally down to her bloomers and undershirt, she fisted her hand in those too, ready to tear them off, but then seemed to think better of it. Her eyes dropped to the floor, breathing still frantic with rage as she surveyed her handiwork of strewn armor.

"Feel better now, Princess?" Mary asked, smug.

She deserved the garment Aurora swiped from the floor and threw in her face. The cloth was blue and white, striped. The fabric was high quality, and Mary often enjoyed the way it bunched around Aurora's middle during battle. Mary's grin only broadened as she waved the shirt in Aurora's face.

Aurora shoved Mary back, pressing the garment to Mary's chest. "Keep the wretched thing, keep all of it. Sew it into your bandoleer or your hair or whatever it is you do with all the scavenged scrap cloth your outfit is so obviously constructed from."

Mary faltered, her face burning under the knowledge that Aurora had ever given Mary's appearance any thought. The COG follower never payed any mind to anything but herself and her perceived duty, too self-righteous to even speak to lowly Mary, except maybe to quote scripture at her.

"Quit floundering and take it," Aurora instructed, her sincerity of the sternest variety. "I know you like the color."

The bright blue of Aurora's battle clothes was very beautiful, and Mary would be lying if she said she hadn't eyed it enviously before.

"The hell are you going to do next battle then? Charge out there in your underthings?" Mary blurted.

Mary caught sight of Crank raising an eyebrow at her from across the room and her urge to murder rose as quickly as the blush to her cheeks.

Aurora didn't falter. "Why, I shall purchase new armor, of course. A set that's not tainted with the memory of being commanded as though I am a mere lamb meant for slaughter.”

How privileged must one be to have the agency to buy a full set of armor any time they saw fit? Mary certainly couldn't afford to, nor did she have any desire to buy expensive, beautiful battle clothes. Beauty was a luxury, one Mary wasted no time on.

Straightening, Aurora still managed to look dignified in her underclothes, posture perfect and beautiful face permanently fixed in a severe expression. Aurora gave Mary a once-over, nose in the air as she appraised Mary from head to toe. "I expect to see those linens woven into that monstrosity of an outfit next time I see you. Put everything to good use—the clothing... it was expensive."

And with that, she marched out of the room, perhaps to go scold their rookie captain in her bloomers.

Mary was left too flustered to rush after her in hopes of bearing witness to that train wreck. She covered her face with one hand, as if that would stanch her embarrassment, and shoved the knuckles of her other hand into her mouth, biting hard enough to leave marks. She needed to pull herself together. There was no reason that she should be so affected by Aurora of all people taking interest in her. Hell, how was noticing Mary's makeshift clothing and love of color taking interest in her? Anyone could see that.

"Damn, you got it bad, girl."

Mary's scowl instantly found Crank where he was sitting on the bench, amusement infuriating. She had forgotten he was there. "Fuck off, Gear Head. I do not."

Crank only laughed. "Can't fool me, girlie. I saw the way you were shooting the captain dirty looks when he was ordering the girl into danger."

"I—wasn't—I—you're lucky I don't fire a rocket down your throat right now."

"Relax, Miss Prissy likes you too."

Mary had to swallow about a million retorts which all contained every swear word in her vocabulary, and even then she couldn't bring herself to ask him how he knew.

"She looks at you in the middle of battle, firing those rickety rockets of yours, as if she's looking right at God himself, like there's light shining off of you and she has to shield her eyes." Crank shakes his head. "Fucking creepy if you ask me."

The information floored Mary, and she wasn't sure whether to pummel Crank for the lie or beg him for more details. Eventually, she managed a, "How?"

"How do I know?" He grinned. "You see a lot from the back of the arena."

She knew taking Crank's word for it could be disastrous, but she didn't care. Crank was as much of a friend as she'd ever had, she could trust him. Mostly. "If you're bullshitting me, I'll destroy you."

"As amusing as it was watching you trip over yourself to bicker with her every moment, it's getting pretty fucking irritating. Just ask the lass out already."

"Mind your own fucking business," she snapped, her threat diminished by the redness on her face.

Mary couldn't decide if she was thankful for his prying or not, and she supposed she would decide after she found out whether or not his assumptions were correct. For now, she settled for kicking over a scrap of his discarded armor as she stomped past, Aurora's clothing bundled in her arms.

"Don't come crying to me if she rams her spear through your heart!"