Playing Parts - Part XI
Thursday, November 8, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Whitefall, and the performance for Patience. And maybe just a hint or two of what's to come soon ...


Act V cont – Whitefall

“Mal, you leave these folks to get ready and come and talk to me.”

“Talk?” Mal looked at Patience, at the air of fragility she had managed to convey to Theo when they said hello and shook hands.

“Humour an old lady.”

“Last time that happened I had to have the bullet removed.”

“Captain, we can cope fine,” Theo said, slapping him on the back. “I'm sure you have business to discuss.”

“Do we?”

“Maybe,” Patience admitted. “And even if we don’t, I have a fine old whisky you might like to try.”


“Go take your ease,” Theo said, grinning. “You are captain, after all.”

“Funny how my crew don’t seem to get that idea,” Mal muttered.

Which was how come he ended up sitting in Patience’s parlour on a chair stuffed with horsehair and covered in some shiny fabric, hoping he wasn't going to slide off and end up on the floor, minus his dignity.

He’d taken in his surroundings at a glance, then looked again in surprise, rapidly revising his view of her. Every single surface was covered in ornaments, and the woman seemed to have a penchant for china dogs. He could feel at least twenty pairs of hard glazed eyes were staring at him pityingly.

Patience herself poured two healthy measure of whisky, handing one to Mal. “Don’t worry. Ain’t poisoned,” she said, seeing the look on his face. “If I wanted to kill you I’d prefer to shoot you.”

“Good to know.” Still, he waited until after she’d taken a mouthful before sipping from his own.

“Course, I could’a put something bad around the rim. Just to make you uncomfortable.” She cackled a little as he stared at the glass. “Didn’t, so don’t get all uppity.”

“Shiny. And just so long as you ain’t planning on getting me drunk, either. I’ll work for you, but my body belongs to another.”

“Don’t like you that much. In fact, damn sure I don’t like you at all.”

“Also good to know.” He slid back on the chair until he rested against the high cushion. “Like to get things on a straight footing.”

She sat down herself, looking at him in a speculative fashion. “Yeah,” she said, sipping her drink.

Mal felt more than a little uncomfortable, as if he was being appraised, and filled the gap in conversation. “I was somewhat surprised to find you invited this troupe to play, though.”

“Think I ain't sophisticated enough?”

“Pretty much.”

“Mal, you ain't much of a judge of character, but this time you’re almost right.” She narrowed her eyes a little. “Truth is, I've heard about Hawkins. And what I heard made me curious.”

“In what particular aspect?”

“Oh, his past. There’ve been tales told.”

“Patience, you’re gonna have to be clearer on this.”

“He supported independence.”

“That I know. He told me himself.”

“Only there’s rumours he was a spy.”

“Rumours. That’s all.”

“He tell you that?”

“He did.”

“Hmm.” The old woman paused again.

“Patience, you got a problem, then you’d better spill it. He’s here to put on a play for you, that’s all. What’s all this about his past that’s got you all bothered?”

“Not bothered. And there’s nothing I got that he’d be interested in.” She smiled a little. “But I wanted to see whether what they said was true. Though I find it hard to conjure that man being able to do anything quietly.”

“That’s kinda the point, isn’t it? Being a spy? Not actually looking like one.”

“Guess maybe you’re right.” She sipped. “Still, was made me curious when he contacted us.”

“He called you?” Mal was surprised. “I thought you’d –“

“Me? Make the first move to a pansy-ass outfit like that?”

“That’s … odd.”

“So he didn’t tell you?”

“Led me to believe otherwise, that’s for sure.”

“That’s the thing about folks, Mal. Say one thing and mean another.”

“Yeah.” Mal made a mental note to have a little chat with Theo. “So what did he say?”

“Oh, just that they were out this way on a little tour, and did we want to be included. I was gonna say no, then …”

“You remembered the rumours.”


He put on what Freya had once called his ‘dumb-shit hick’ face. “Patience, you know, I'm grateful for your concern over my well-being, but I have a notion Theo Hawkins is just an actor. Whatever he used to do, well, we’re none of us the same as we were.”

“Not worried about you. Just interested, is all.” She finished her glass and put it down on the small carved wooden table by her hand. “You taking cargo?”

Back to business, Mal thought, and sat forward. “Depends. How big?”

“Crate. Just needs to get to Greenleaf.”

He shook his head slowly. “Might not be going by for a while. You might like to get someone else, take a more direct route.”

“It’s nothing that can spoil. Just some toys, trinkets and stuff.”

“Who for?”

“My son. For his kids and that shrew of a wife of his.”

Mal raised his eyebrows, wondering what her daughter-in-law could possibly be like if Patience thought her a shrew. “Didn’t know you had a boy.”

“Thought no-one’d take a gander at me long enough to get my drawers down?” She laughed, somewhat gratingly. “Told you you were no judge of character. I was quite a looker in my day.”

“That’s … nice.” He tried hard not to imagine this dried up crone in the throes of ecstasy, but couldn’t quite manage it. Barely able to control the shudder that tried to run through his frame, he stood up. “Mind if I take a look in the crate? Just to make sure there’s nothing else that might get us chased by the Alliance.”

Patience shrugged. “If you need. Don’t make no difference to me.” She got to her feet and crossed to the desk by the window. “Usual rate?”

“Didn’t know there was one.”

“There is. Though I'm figuring you still owe me.”

“What for?” he asked automatically, but he knew what she was talking about. She’d been the one to tell him where Freya was after Xavier Wing finished with her.

“Maybe I’ll collect on that another day,” she responded, smiling. Taking a grey metal box from the drawer, she counted a handful of coin into a leather pouch and tossed it to him. “When you get to Greenleaf, leave it at the port manager’s office. It’s all labelled – he’ll know what to do with it.”

“Sure.” He pocketed the bag. “Get it to Serenity and we’ll take it on board.”

“Don’t go thinking this makes us friends, though, Mal,” Patience warned. “You cross me and I’ll still shoot ya. Or even if you just look at me funny.”

“I'm taking that as a given.”

“Good.” She went back to appraising him.


“Not sure. Figure you’ve changed.”

“Changed? How?”

“Not sure of that either. Just … different. Can’t say you’re smarter, ‘cause you ain’t, but maybe more … cautious.”

“Permaybehaps it’s ‘cause I got me a wife and two kids, Patience. Does things to a man. Makes him … mellower.”

“Nope, that ain't it. Not at all.” She grinned suddenly. “Maybe you’re just getting older.”

“Happens to the best of us.” Mal turned towards the door. “You gonna pay him, Patience?” he asked, almost as an afterthought. “Theo, I mean. Given your views on handing over cash.”

“I did consider not,” the old woman admitted. “But if you give me a good show, I’ll stick to my end of the bargain.

“It’s Shakespeare, you know.”

“I read some, more’n once,” she said, surprising him. “Kinda prefer the stories about blood, though.”

“Really. You surprise me.”

If she suspected sarcasm she didn’t rise to it. “Favourite was Titus Andronicus. The sons getting chopped up and fed to the father, girl getting her comeuppance … always did want to see that.”

“This won’t quite be in the same vein.”

Patience laughed. “Figured that. But, hell, who knows? Maybe someone’ll get fed up and shoot the lead.”

“Then I’d take it as a kindness if you’d ask the audience not to bring their guns to the performance.”

“Gonna be carrying one myself.”

“Oh. Good.”


Patience sat in her large chair in the centre of the front row, the sharp lines of her face picked out in the glow of the torches set up all around the temporary stage, and waited. Every seat behind her was filled, and people were sitting on the hard ground, or lounging against the walls. Certainly seemed that everyone was just aching to get some culture.

She glanced down at the playbill in her hand, at the dramatis personae. Whatever the hell that meant. List of parts, far as she could see. But it also explained the scenes, and it looked as if this was taking place somewhere called Athens. Appropriate, she thought, glancing up at the planet hanging in the sky, just a crescent showing in the dark. Almost as if it was made for …

A hush descended on the audience as Theo Hawkins and another woman stepped out from inside the Firefly.

“Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour …”

Glancing to her left and right at the rapt faces either side, she settled down and watched the story unfold. As unsophisticated as she admitted to be, she appreciated the skill that went into creating characters who lived and breathed, and she found herself caught up. Even seeing Mal going through his lines was something of a revelation, although the costume he wore had her smiling. Looked like a dress. Something to bear in mind next time her hand was itching to shoot him. Maybe torture him a little with it first.

She recognised Freya as one of the young lovers, and her scenes with the other actress were like lightening captured in a jar, all power and electricity combined.

Then she forgot all about who was who, as Oberon weaved his spell over Titania, as Bottom came out from behind the trees with ears like a donkey and brayed at the crowd. She laughed at the play within a play, and it wasn't until afterwards, when the actors were bowing and relishing the applause, that she realised a number of the smaller parts were taken by other members of Serenity’s crew. Even Mal’s big mercenary had thrown himself into the role, growling with relish.

Theo stepped to the front, holding up his hands for quiet. “Thank you, thank you,” he said, his voice easily carrying to the back of the crowd. “It is always a pleasure to perform, but it makes us more than happy to know that you’ve enjoyed that performance. I wish we could stay, do another play for you, but we have commitments elsewhere. But I wanted to let you know that your appreciation of our craft makes this all worth while. Thank you.”

He got the biggest adulation of the night.

Patience sat back, a speculative look on her face. Hawkins might not be who he claimed to be, or maybe was more, but he knew how to play an audience. She let a smile curve her lips. Might be fun to see what he had in mind for Mal. Just to be friendly, of course.


Mal watched the old woman hand over another pouch to Theo, who slipped it somewhere inside his robes. They shook hands, and the actor bowed low over her fingers, brushing them lightly with his lips. Then, with a grand gesture, he turned and headed back inside Serenity.

“Borodin?” Hank murmured, standing at Mal’s elbow.

“Yeah,” Mal said. “And get everyone to hurry up with the reloading.” He was still eyeing Patience, her ‘boys’ standing close. “Wouldn’t put it past that woman to take it into her mind to claim a refund.”


Janith could feel her body getting ready. There was a tension, coupled with anticipation, like she felt with no man, even him. She’d said once that the pay-off wasn't the point, but what she had planned was going to make it all the sweeter.

“Janith?” Polka called through the locked door. “You okay in there?”

“Not … not really. Not feeling too good.”

“What’s up?”

“Probably just a bug. I’ll keep away from everyone, for a while, just in case it’s contagious.”

“Do you need a doctor? We could probably stop off at –“

“No, no,” she said hurriedly. “I'm not that bad. I’ll just stay in bed and keep warm.”

“You sure?”

“Positive. But I’d be grateful if you could let Mikel know. I … he’s better off staying in his own room for the moment.”

“He won’t be happy.”

“I don’t want him to catch it.”

“Okay.” Polka didn’t sound convinced, though.

Janith listened to the other woman’s retreating footsteps and smiled. It wouldn’t take much to keep the rest of the actors away from her, as terrified as they were of catching something that would keep them off the stage. And it gave her the perfect excuse to keep out of his way when they did touch down on Borodin. Didn’t want him to be forewarned. Not with what she had in mind for him.

to be continued


Thursday, November 8, 2007 3:33 AM


The plot thickens yet again. Looking forward to more, as always!

Thursday, November 8, 2007 5:25 AM


I am so hooked on this. Patience mellow? And she seems to know more about the whole Hawkins was a spy thingy than she's lettin on. Now it's a plot, within a plot, with a couple of sub-plots, lol. I love how this is developing! Great so far, as always!

Thursday, November 8, 2007 7:49 AM


Brava! Plot within a sure you aren't Jane Shakespeare?

Thursday, November 8, 2007 3:41 PM


"She’d said once that the pay-off wasn't the point..."

I *knew* the part of Janith was played by Saffron! This job smelled of her.

Btw, the image of Mal trying not to imagine Patience in the throws of passion gave me a case of the giggles! Hehe!

Sunday, November 11, 2007 9:24 AM


I get the feeling that as much as Patience doesn't like Mal she has even less time for Hawkins. Oddly enough I actually feel comforted that she is going to keep an eye on Hawkins to see what he has planned for Mal. This sparks that uneasy feeling I have had about Hawkins from the beginning which had started to die into the background, now I just know there must be some kind of sting. At first I was convinced that Janith was working her own angle but what if she and Hawkins cooked this scam up together? Hmm, curiouser and curiouser. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me


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