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Peace Offering

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"Have some tea," Crawford said without looking up. "Make me a cup as well."

"Yes, Captain," Ran said; he still hesitated in the galley's doorway for a few moments before coming in and putting two mugs of water in the heater. He fetched them out when ready and spooned in the instant tea, bringing it over. He sat down quietly beside Crawford, sipping at his mug.

"How's the study going?" Crawford said, looking back down at his calculations.

"It's good, thank you," Ran said. There was a pause and then, "Is it all right for me to continue?"

"Yes, of course," Crawford said, and took a mouthful of tea. It was too damn weak and nowhere near hot enough. "I told you. I don't go back on things, not when they're beneficial to me and my ship." He leant back and gave Ran as pleasant an expression as he thought would be believed. "You're right to keep your mind sharp. Nagi doesn't mind you in engineering; I think it does him good to teach you what he knows. It helps reinforce it for him as well."

"He doesn't need that," Ran said; he sounded like he wanted to stand up for a friend. Crawford imagined Nagi's teaching techniques. Sarcasm, he thought, ridicule. "He's qualified."

"After a fashion," Crawford said. "He's smart, smarter than a lot of people I've met, and he took to engineering like a natural. But not even the military gives formal ship's engineer qualifications to a minor."

Ran didn't argue, just drank his tea, looking like he really wanted to say something. Then, "Captain? How old was everyone when your Black Unit formed?"

"I was twenty-two when I got command of the Rose Cross, as she was then," Crawford said. "Schuldig was seventeen. The others were younger. We got Nagi about two years after that." He smiled at Ran's expression. "Psychics are useful early. Some people's abilities aren't as good as they age." He watched Ran store that away, like it would be useful some day, then deliberately turned his attention back to his calculations of how much he could afford to pay off the debt owed for the ship repairs. Gods rot, he hated being in the red. It made civilian life so depressing. He'd never had to worry about owing money in the military.

Ran was quiet, but seemed at ease. It was almost like he'd been before Nagi had started the brawl on-station. Before, Crawford corrected himself, he had crushed his too independent nav's spirit too much. He was getting soft, he thought, to care even the slightest amount. Mocking his own weakness, he stood and took a pack of biscuits from the cupboard, passing a couple over to Ran. He patted him on the shoulder as Ran picked one up. He didn't flinch - Some progress, Crawford thought, better for everyone.

"You never ask for snacks you'd like when we're ordering supplies," he said, keeping his voice casual. "You should I'll try to source them on station."

"They're not necessary," Ran said; he didn't, Crawford noticed, give the biscuits back.

"Keeping everyone content is necessary. Why do you think I let Schuldig bring that muck he calls tea aboard? And we get those gods-awful candies for Nanami. You let me know what you want, next time."

"Maybe I will," Ran mumbled as he sipped the too-weak tea. "If you're buying." It wasn't up to his earlier levels of cheekiness, Crawford thought, but it was a start.

It was ridiculous how cheering he found the thought of a nav being unforgivably rude to him again.