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don't forget to bathe your clown

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There’s no night or day on the Lor Starcutter, so you and Marx go to bed pretty much whenever you want, though usually at the same time as the other. You dim the ship’s lights to give the illusion of nighttime, and enter your bedroom, in which Marx has seemingly taken up permanent lodging. You’d root around in storage to find him his own bed, but you have to admit, you’d miss him curling up next to you, his thin form slowly rising up and down in his sleep. All too frequently, you imagine yourself draping an arm around him, or even pressing a kiss to the back of his head (what a thought!), but obviously suppress the urge. It’s just a little crush. Just a result of his physical proximity and his contagious laughter and his incessantly flirty nature. A natural response to what you might interpret as his feelings for you.

Today, you lean a little too close to him while getting into bed, and catch a whiff of his hair. You jolt backwards, disgusted, pointing an accusatory finger at Marx’s mess of tangly curls.

“Marx,” you say. “Your hair smells like shit.”

“Does it?” He shakes his head back and forth, hair jumping in all directions. His hat keeps it concealed all the time, so you hadn’t really noticed it before, but if you’re being honest? It’s a goddamn rat’s nest. And that’s an insult to your friend Daroach.

“You don’t ever wash it, do you.”

“Nope!” He sounds way too proud of this fact. Fucking feral gremlin.

“All right! That’s it.” You jump out of bed, grasping Marx’s hand. He protests as you tow him towards the bathroom, then fling open the door and gesticulate dramatically at the shower. “You’re not sleeping in my bed until you wash it.”

“But—”

“Nope! Sorry, dude! This is going to keep me up unless you do it now.”

Before he can get another word in, you pull the door shut. Marx is quiet for a second. You slump down beside the door, content to wait as long as you have to.

“What do I do?” he asks slowly.

“Get in the shower, grab that shampoo on the shelf there, put it on your head, wash it out, dry off, and come out.”

There’s a pause, then the rustling of fabric that tells you Marx is taking off his clothes. You try very, very hard not to picture the scene in your head. The water turns on, then you hear a yelp, and it turns off again very fast.

“You have to leave it running for a sec before it gets warm,” you call.

Marx doesn’t answer. Water again, then a minute later it’s back off. Shuffling footsteps make their way towards the door.

“I don’t know how to wash my hair,” Marx whines.

“Have you really never done it before??”

“Not in a shower.”

You vaguely recall the absurdly long, bubble-bath-saturated baths he used to take every month or so. Okay, you guess that figures. You sigh. “You want me to teach you?”

“Fuck yeah,” comes his voice, and he’s about to pull the door open, but you hold tight to the knob.

“Nope! I’m not coming in there until you put something on!”

“Clothes?? In the shower???”

“I have swim trunks. Lemme grab them.”

“Who wears swim trunks in the shower!!”

“I do.”

“That’s weird. Do you really care that much about not seeing me naked, Maggie? Come on, we’re buds—”

“It’s just awkward,” you say. It’s the honest answer. It’s also the fact that, if you’re going to be helping him, you’re gonna need to be in there too, and you sure as hell are not doing that naked.

“Fine. Go get your swim shorts.”

You run off and come back a minute later with some extra pairs, opening the door just slightly to toss a couple through. Back in your room, you change quickly, already regretting your promise to help your friend. Staring at your swim-trunks-clad self in the mirror is reminding you just how much you like to keep completely covered at all times. Being shirtless doesn’t make you dysphoric anymore, but that doesn’t mean you’re entirely comfortable with it. Then again, if you trust anyone to make you feel okay about it, you’ve gotta admit it’s Marx.

When you finally enter the bathroom, Marx is standing there in hot pink shorts, grinning. He is exactly as much of a twink as you’ve always imagined (not that you’ve imagined him shirtless a lot. not at all) and you can see his eyes scanning your body. You’re not quite as skinny as him, but you don’t have much fat or muscle. He’s seen you without your hood before, too, but his gaze still lights momentarily on the fuzzy cat ears that grow out of the top of your head. Your darker skin also makes your numerous scars more conspicuous, and you suddenly feel very self-conscious.

Marx claps, and you jump, following him into the shower. Fortunately, it can fit two people without feeling claustrophobic, but there’s something very, uh… interesting about being this close to him in this setting. You’ve gotta admit, he is pretty damn cute. Very cute. As you watch him fumble with the tap, you can see how how his prosthetics are attached to his shoulders, and the old scarring around them. You tear your eyes away from his face and arms and focus instead on helping him with the shower. Marx hisses as soon as the freezing droplets hit his shoulder, but relaxes as the water quickly becomes warmer.

“First, you just have to get wet,” you tell him, as if that isn’t already pretty obvious.

He nods, tries and fails to run his fingers through his hair. It’s so fucking tangled. You’re so glad you’ve got a good brush.

“This enough?” asks Marx after a second. The water is clinging to the surface of his hair; everything underneath is still dry.

“Nope.” You take the showerhead, turn it onto high, and blast it at his head. He yelps, but it seems to be doing the trick—he’s absolutely soaked now, hair and all.

“Can I touch you?” you ask once you’ve replaced the showerhead.

“Yeah!” he says, a little too eagerly.

You comb your fingers through his hair, trying to untangle some of the worst knots. It works only partially—you’re still gonna need to use a proper comb, but for now this is good enough, you think. He’s a little shorter than you, and the angle is a little weird, but hey, you think you can make it work. You take your shampoo bottle from the shelf—both of you have curly hair, so it’ll work nicely—and squirt about half of the entire thing onto his head.

“Close your eyes,” you say, and mix it in, rubbing it into his scalp. His pink locks turn frothy and white with the sheer amount of shampoo you’ve added, but it seems to be doing the trick. Marx has this big, goofy grin on his face that only widens when you scritch your fingers across the back of his head.

“You can do the rest,” you say, removing your soapy hands from his curly mass.

His face falls. “Uh, what do I do?”

“Just try to get the shampoo everywhere.”

As you rinse your hands, he tangles his fingers into his own hair, imitating the motions you were making. Even with his sometimes-clumsy prosthetics, he’s not doing a bad a bad job at all.

“That’s probably enough. Time to wash it out!”

You gesture him back under the showerhead. The shampoo flows from his head in long, white waterfalls, and you put your hands back in his hair to help him get it all out. Every time your fingers touch his you get a little rush, and then instantly feel embarrassed about it. Just focus, Magolor.

You end up focusing a little too hard, keeping your fingers combing through his hair long after all the shampoo is gone. You have to admit, it feels really nice. And judging by Marx’s face, he’s not about to tell you to stop.

Right. You should probably brush it now. Or maybe you should’ve done that before? You never have this problem with your own hair—it behaves itself, unlike Marx’s. You take a comb from the shelf and, very gently, start to pull at Marx’s knots. He groans a little, sometimes taking in a sharp breath, but otherwise keeps admirably still as you work your way through.

“Is that it?” he asks, somewhat disappointed, as you put away the comb.

“Nope. Conditioner time.”

You produce another bottle, pour some of its contents onto Marx’s head, and repeat the mixing and rinsing process you did with the shampoo. Man, you don’t want to stop either. You want to slide your hands down his neck and back and feel his smooth, wet skin. But of course you’re not going to do that.

But after the conditioner is washed out, you haven’t turned off the shower. It’s like you’re waiting for some excuse to keep standing here, inches away from your friend, or maybe to get even closer.

Fortunately, Marx provides you with one.

“While we’re here,” he says, with a smirk, “should I, like. Clean the rest of me? Why just stop at hair?”

A fantastic idea. He is a stinky little jester after all. You make to hand him a bar of soap, but he just kind of looks at it.

“You wanna help with that too?”

He is not being subtle, is he? It’s the perfect excuse to get your hands all over his body. You feel your face grow even warmer, but it’s not like you’re going to refuse. You push a container of lotion into his hands.

“You can use this to wash your face.”

Marx squirts some out and begins to lather it over his face while you start on his shoulders. You don’t really need to wash his arms, his head is already clean, and everything covered by pants is rightfully off-limits, so there’s not really all that much surface area left. He’s very warm, and his heartbeat is quick and pattering as you make your way down his chest, grabbing a washcloth and cleaning off the soap and the dead skin as soon as you’re done with an area. He giggles quite a few times, especially as you clean his sides, but never stops you, even as your fingers linger just a little too long on his back, or his hips. You go all the way down to the tips of his toes, and finally— finally —he’s all clean. Your hands are electrified—this is almost too much.

“Wow!” cries Marx as you straighten up. He’s practically glowing, though whether this is a result of elation or of newfound cleanliness you can’t be sure. “Holy shit! Thanks!”

“No problem,” you reply, and wonder if your friend can feel how hot your face is. He’s certainly flushed too, though it seems like it’s more from sheer excitement.

Marx presses a lazy hand to your chest, and there’s your heartbeat beginning to pound again. “Right! Now it’s my turn to wash you!”

As much as you want to feel his hands sliding over your own skin, you have to turn down the offer. “Nice try, but I already took a shower today.”

“Ugh, fine.” His fingers trace your collarbones, then move down to your top surgery scars. “What are these from?”

“Oh, I, I used to have like, boobs? And then I got them removed.”

“Oh. Cool.” He offers no more commentary than that, evidently understanding the implications there, and, thankfully, not particularly caring. “Damn. I feel great!! We should do this more often!”

“It’s up to you from now on to manage your own personal hygiene!!”

Marx makes a pouty face. He has not yet removed his hands from your chest, and you don’t think you’ll be able to think straight until he does. “Aww, come on, Maggie. It’s more fun this way.”

“Yeah, but it takes more time.” And more water. You reach out and turn off the shower before you forget.

“It’s worth it,” he asserts. “Shit, now I’m freezing. Let’s get out of—”

His attempt at an exit is cut short when he slips on a neglected bar of soap, and almost goes flying, but you reach out and grab him before he can hit the wall. Oh shit, now you are very close indeed—your stomachs are touching, your arms are cradling his back and his are around your neck. Okay, okay, breathe, Magolor. It’s all good. You caught him.

A thought enters your mind and refuses to leave. This would be the absolute perfect time to kiss him, and by the way Marx’s panicked face morphs into a grin, that is exactly what he expects you to do. And your brain is screaming for you to lean in and press your lips to his. But you are kind of a coward. So you blink, pull your arms away, and leave the shower, grabbing a towel on the way out.

 

Once dry, Marx’s hair is nothing less than beautiful. It’s poofy and frizzy and bright pink, and you keep coming up with excuses to touch it—just making sure it’s all dry, just untangling any last knots. It’s so transparent. But at least your friend doesn’t mind. In fact, he obviously enjoys it.

And as you slip back into bed, changed back into your pajamas, you can’t stop thinking of the texture of Marx’s skin pressed to yours, his soft, bouncy hair, the way he smiles at you. It keeps you awake and you hate it and love it. And most of all, you’re suddenly gripped with the sudden urge to tell Marx how you feel.

You shake him awake, breathless, your heartbeat sounding like the loudest thing in the room. He peers at you, then sits up when he sees your panicked face.

“Something wrong?”

“I—” How the hell do you articulate this? It is late and you’re not thinking straight, a sentiment that’s multiplied when Marx reaches out and places a hand on your thigh—probably just an attempt to calm you down, but it only succeeds in making your head spin faster. So you just kind of blurt out, “How would you feel if I told you I was in love with you?”

Marx’s curious face turns instantaneously into a mischievous grin, and your stomach turns upside down.

“I literally thought you’d never ask,” he whispers, scooting even closer to you, barely trying to contain his sheer glee. You can feel his fingers very clearly through the fabric of your pajamas, his other hand hovering by your shoulder. You lick your lips.

“You feel the s—”

“Dumbass! We literally share a bed! Did you really think we weren’t a thing already?”

You feel a long ramble coming on—something about how you’ve been agonizing over this all night, how you thought all his flirting might’ve been ironic, how you do share a bed, yes, but that’s not necessarily a romantic thing—but before you can even get a word out, Marx’s arms are around your waist and your mind goes absolutely blank as he pulls you into a kiss. He is so very warm, and so very close, a perfect bundle of vibrating energy that molds itself to your form. You instantly reciprocate, lifting your hands and running them through his marvellously clean hair for about the fifth time tonight, and he tastes like toothpaste and smells like your favorite soap.

You never want to stop, but you do, eventually, laying down with your arms still around him, legs tangled together, lips inches away from his. You don’t think you’ll be able to sleep at all, but hey, at least you’ve cleared something up. Something absolutely wonderful.

“You’re not bad at kissing at all,” he whispers with a smirk. “Where’d you get the practice?”

“Yeah, I, uh… had a boyfriend a while ago.”

“Really!!” Marx’s eyes light up. “Holy fuck, you never told me that—who??”

“Taranza,” you mutter.

“You dated Taranza??” shrieks Marx, and you’re about to tell him to keep his voice down when you remember that you’re the only ones on the ship. Unless, well, the ship itself is listening. Which would be something of a weird prospect.

He can definitely feel your blush at this distance. “Yeah, we uh… had a little thing years and years ago. Before he got close with Sectonia and all that.”

“Damn. Guess you like your boys with sharp teeth, huh.”

He bites you on the nose, just in case you needed another reminder of how pointy his fangs are, and it’s just such a Marx thing to do that you’re not sure whether to yell or to giggle. You end up doing both, rubbing your nose with the back of your hand. But, well. It doesn’t hurt that much, and your friend—wait no, your boyfriend?? lover?? you’re gonna have to come back to that question—knows it.

“What’s he do with all those hands, huh?” asks Marx, wiggling his eyebrows.

“He gives very good hugs.”

“Oh, I’d imagine.”

“Shut up!!”

“What! I’m just agreeing with you!”

“I don’t like the way you phrased that.”

“It’s only dirty if you make it, Maggie!” he sings. “Hey. Wanna see what I can do with my hands?”

“What.”

He reaches up and scratches behind your ears. Oh fuck, it’s your weak spot. You absolutely melt, all the tension draining out of your body. You cuddle closer to Marx, squishing your cheek against his.

“Hell yeah,” he says softly, and brushes his lips against yours again. “Hey. Hey. Can you purr.”

“Do you really think I’m a cat??”

“Yes! Can you purr?”

Before you can answer the question, Marx switches the position of his fingers, and man you did not realize that ear-scritching could feel this good. You can’t help but let loose a kind of contented hum, and your companion’s grin widens.

“Don’t even try to deny it! That’s absolutely a purr!!”

“Okay. Fine. Maybe you’re right.”

Marx presses his face into your chest to better feel the low thrumming in your throat. His hair tickles your chin, and you giggle. You allow yourself to kiss the top of his head, breathing in his newly clean scent.

“Forgot to say this before,” Marx murmurs, voice muffled, “but I love you too, Maggie.”

There’s nothing you can say to that right now, nothing that’s not already been said, so you let your close embrace communicate your feelings, squeezing him tight until he feels like the only thing in the universe.