BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Old Habits - Part II
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Looking for a way to open the Methuselah safe, Mal and the others visit Magpie. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2181    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Magpie’s shop sat on the edge of polite Persephone society, in a street where the rest of the establishments catered to the more fleshy of personal pursuits. Nestled in between Madam Lau Cheng’s Palace of Mystery, and Carmichael’s Cat House, the more sedate sign declared it to be Maguire Repairs. Not that it stopped drunken potential patrons staggering in, dropping their pants and asking with a leer whether she could repair this. After a dozen or so had been taken to the nearest hospital with very private injuries, a second sign was added, beneath the first, stating ‘This is not a working girl concern’. It didn’t stop all the intrusions, but Magpie finally managed to learn restraint.

“Magpie inherited it from her father, and he from his. They were here long ‘fore the others,” Kaylee said gaily as they walked up the street. “She’s a genius when it comes to electronics. Kinda like me, ‘cept I’m more with engines.”

Jayne glanced at the women hanging out of the top windows of Schmidt’s Emporium, and even more out of the dresses they had obviously barely managed to get into in the first place. He swallowed hard. Several of them were calling him by name, and he could feel River sniggering in his mind.

Maybe I should have come with you, he heard. Kept you out of temptation’s way.

Aw, Riv, you know I ain’t interested. But I can’t help it if they recognise me. I ain’t exactly easy to miss.

Perhaps you should have gone in disguise. I imagine you kept several of these places in business.

He squirmed mentally. Moonbrain …

Yes?

He was saved from having to beg her to stop by Kaylee opening the door to the shop. “Here we are.”

“Lovely neighbourhood,” Freya commented, having to push Mal slightly so he’d follow his mechanic. “I’m sure your friend feels right at home.”

Mal gave her a withering look but forbore to respond. Instead he strode after Kaylee inside.

“You shouldn’t wind him up so much,” Zoe murmured.

Freya raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”

“He is the captain.”

“Can we not do this in the street?” Jayne asked, looking around a little nervously, ushering them into the dimly lit interior.

“I’m presuming that isn’t her,” Freya said softly as she stopped next to Mal, her eyes adjusting quickly to the gloom so she could see a somewhat elderly man sitting behind the counter reading a flexi-newsheet.

“You gonna keep this up all day?” Mal glared at her. “Only I’d kinda like to know so I can clear my schedule.”

“Probably.”

“Fine.” Mal’s lips tightened and he turned away. “Stoogie, how’s business?”

The old man looked up, rolled his tongue around his teeth then spat, luckily with considerable accuracy, into a brass jug on the floor. “Terrible poor,” he said, shaking his head. “Hard for an honest man to make a living nowadays.”

“Ain’t that the truth. Magpie in?”

Stoogie gestured over his shoulder. “She’s waiting for ya.”

Kaylee leaned into Freya. “Mags’ got little spy cameras all over the place,” she explained. “Prob’ly saw us coming from a coupl’a blocks away.”

“Really.” Freya looked around the shop, at the intense clutter, the source boxes with their innards spilling out, clocks that would never chime again, com systems so old they wouldn’t even fit Serenity … “Why?” she asked. “What’s she afraid of?”

“Not afraid,” said a female voice as Mal opened the door to the inner sanctum. “But I’m not crazy either.”

Freya glanced at Zoe and followed her husband. The first thing she saw was a long black coat hanging on a rack fixed to the wall, reminding her inexorably of a raven’s wings. Then there was the perfume. Gardenia, unless she was much mistaken, something her mother used to wear. A little further in and she could see the room, tastefully decorated in old, but good quality furniture. And finally Magpie herself, standing in the dead centre of a carpet that looked to be the finest Osiran, her hands clasped in front of her, a wide smile on her face.

“Mal!” she said, stepping forward.

“Magpie.” He didn’t back up, as much as he wanted to, even when she planted a kiss on his cheek and took his arm. This young woman unnerved him somewhat. Nowhere near as bad as Kaylee had made out, but enough that her adoration was deeply unsettling.

Freya felt her lips twitch at his discomfort, then turned her attention to the woman holding onto him with something like proprietorial ownership.

About Kaylee’s height, she was dressed in what appeared to be a frock coat with the sleeves removed, over a white t-shirt and tight black pants tucked into knee-high black boots. Her hair was also black, cut into a glossy crop that came to points in front of her ears. Spidery black tattoos showed at the edges of her cuffs and around her neck, and her eyes were outlined in thick mascara, both accentuating and enhancing, but it was the metalwork that truly grabbed the attention. Each ear was pierced with a multitude of rings from the lobe up the outer edge, and both her eyebrows sported spikes. Her fingers were covered in silver jewellery, including three articulated rings that would have done sterling work as knuckle-dusters. The only touch of colour on her person was a pair of bright scarlet lips. Oh, and the same colour nails on hands that were even now clasped around Mal’s arm.

“You set off metal detectors?” Freya asked before she could stop herself.

“I have been known to.” The young woman looked up into Mal’s face. “Mal, I’ve got a new piercing,” she said quietly, ignoring Freya. “Wanna see?”

“Um, not right now, no.” Mal tried a smile. “Magpie, this is Freya. My wife.”

Margaret Madeleine Maguire turned to see the tall woman who had accompanied her friends looking at her with a speculative eye. “Wife?” she asked.

“Yep. Remember? I told you about her. Several times over the last few years or so. In fact, every time I’ve come in here.”

“Have you? I don’t seem to recall –“

“Magpie.”

“Oh, all right. Yes.” She disengaged her hands. “Mrs Reynolds. How nice to meet you. Finally.”

“Magpie.” Freya let her gaze roam up and down the young woman. “Which came first?” she asked at last.

“First?”

“The distinctive colouration or the nickname?”

“Frey,” Kaylee hissed. “You don’t ask!”

“Why not?”

“It’s … it ain’t done.”

Freya raised one eyebrow. “You mean it’s just a happy coincidence?”

“She’ll get … tetchy.”

“Wouldn’t want that, now, would we?” Freya said, rather too nicely for the crew of Serenity. They knew what that tended to mean.

“Magpie here is gonna help us with our little problem, ain’t you?” Mal put in quickly.

“Problem?” Magpie’s ears metaphorically pricked up. “What kind of a problem?”

Kaylee stepped forward. “A Methuselah.”

The gleam in her eyes rivalled the reflections off her metalwork. “You mean –”

“Uh huh.”

“And you need my assistance.”

“Need to get something out of one, yeah.”

Magpie smiled. “I think I might be able to help you.” She reached out for Mal’s arm, but dropped her hand before it touched. “This way,” she said, crossing the room to the far corner, moving a curtain to one side to reveal a door set flush into the wall. “This is where the real business gets done,” she added. “The rest is all for show. And pin money.”

---

River smiled down at Caleb in his carry cot, his little arms waving in the air, then turned back to the Cortex. Mal had asked her to check out Claymore, and the party they were going to rob. So far she’d waded through pages of fluff, designed to make her desperately want a massage or a heat-therapy hot air jacuzzi, when all she was actually feeling was slightly sickened from the saccharin overload. If the pneumatically-endowed woman on the screen smiled in such a patronising way once more, she was going to put her fist through the centre of her face, and apologise to Mal later.

“Not sure about sending two women in,” her captain had said, adding quickly, “And I’d take it as a kindness if you didn’t say what’s on the tip of your tongue.”

She’d raised her eyebrows. “What could I possibly say?”

“That I'm a relic, a dinosaur, if I think they can’t take care of themselves.”

“Did I mention extinct reptiles?”

“You were about to. And I’d just feel better if we could con ‘em to let one of us in with them. Maybe Hank. He can sound Core-bred if he tried.”

“Simon could –“

“Simon ain't even stepping off the ship. There’s like to be Alliance supporters at this shindig, if not Feds, and I’m not putting him or you in harm’s way. So don’t even go trying to suggest that either, albatross.”

She’d stuck her tongue out at him and flounced away, hearing his laughter behind her.

Caleb gurgled and brought her back to the present. Reaching down, she lifted him into her arms, opening the front of her dress so she could feed him. As much as it surprised her, breast-feeding her son had a calming effect on her, although it seemed to have the opposite result with Jayne. Smiling at the memories of the previous night, and feeling Caleb start to suckle, she turned back to the Cortex.

Ah. Finally.

The Spa will be holding its annual charity fund-raising gala this weekend. Our especially invited guests will be able to sample all of our many delightful facilities, with all proceeds from the gaming tables going towards the Alliance Benevolence Fund, set up to give aid to those families who find themselves in need. In addition we will –

River stopped the screen, and went back. Oh dear.

“River, you know when Mal’s …Oh, hey, sorry.” Hank turned in the doorway to face the kitchen. “Didn’t know you were in here doing … that.”

“I’m feeding Caleb.”

“I know. Not that I saw anything. ‘Cause I didn’t.” He sounded anxious that she’d believe him.

“You’re as bad as the Captain,” River sighed, doing up her dress and rocking her son gently. “When he walked in on us the other day. I didn’t think he could go so red. You know, it’s perfectly natural. And I'm not ashamed of my body.” She looked at the pilot, who was almost jigging from foot to foot. “I'm decent, by the way.”

“I know. I didn’t say you wasn’t –“

“I mean, I’m dressed.”

“Oh.” He turned around. “Sorry.” He grinned, a little shamefacedly. “Just wanted to tell Mal we’re all fuelled up and ready to go.”

“He’ll be back soon.”

“Good.” Hank stepped forward and looked at the screen. “So, do you think they’re gonna let me in?”

River turned dark and luminous eyes on him.

---

Magpie’s inner inner sanctum was below street level, down a steep flight of stairs. The cellar was sheathed on all six sides with a thick layer of lead and steel, shot through with anti-surveillance wires, and she smiled as she led the way through a high-tech security door. “Don’t want anyone looking in, do I?”

Kaylee glanced up at Zoe. “You get the feeling Hank’d never make it this far?”

“With the way his claustrophobia’s been playing up? I doubt he would.”

“Still, it’s all in a good …” She came to a dead stop in the doorway, Zoe running into her from behind.

“What is it?”

“Wow.”

Inside was just about every illegal gadget any of them had ever heard of, and then some, but what grabbed everyone’s attention was the furthest wall, taken up by a huge screen showing a slowly changing starfield.

“That is so shiny. It looks real, don’t it?” Kaylee stage-whispered, her eyes wide.

“It is,” Magpie replied unexpectedly. “I'm picking up a feed off a satellite about thirty thousand klicks out. She turns sometimes, so I can get a view of Persephone, but that’s too pretty. Not like the real thing. I like this.”

“Still not got over that obsession yet?” Mal asked gently.

“It’s been twenty years, Mal.” She grinned. “I don’t think I’m going to, do you?”

“Guess not.”

“And I'm still waiting for you to make good on that promise, and take me out there.”

“Nothing to stop you, Mags. Plenty of ships willing to take on a passenger.”

“But I want you to take me.”

“Maybe one day.”

“Why not today?”

Freya crossed her arms, very deliberately, and Kaylee began to squirm a little.

“Hey, is this an Interceptor?” Jayne interrupted, picking up a small hand gun.

“That it is,” Magpie said, grinning at him. “Got it in lieu of payment just last week.”

“How much d’ya want for it?”

“You do not need another gun,” Mal said firmly.

“It’s an Interceptor, Mal.” Jayne held it up, sighting along its length. “Fires gas-propelled rounds, accuracy to within –“

“And how much do those rounds go for?”

“Well, they ain't cheap. But –“

“No buts. Anyway, you’ve got Vera. You persuade Magpie to part with this other gun, she’s gonna get jealous.”

Jayne gave him a withering look. “She’s just a gun, Mal.”

“I’ll remember you said that next time one of us needs to borrow her.”

“I think that’s why the man who owned it previous to me didn’t mind handing her over,” Magpie said with a laugh. “You stick with your Vera and Betsey and all the others. I wouldn’t want to hear you’d been killed because you ran out of some fancy bullets.” She looked up into Mal’s face. “Any of you.”

Freya had had enough. “Can you put him down, please?” she said, her voice a perfect example of pleasantness. “He’s not yours.”

Kaylee glanced at Zoe.

“Not mine?” Magpie raised one steel-pinned eyebrow. “I don’t see a sign.”

“Then maybe you need to look harder.” Freya nodded down towards the wedding band on Mal’s finger. “I think that makes it plain as day, don’t you?”

Magpie let go of Mal and stepped forward. “I've heard all about you,” she said, crossing her arms.

“Really.”

“Mmn. Dillon’s mentioned you. In passing.”

“Would that be Dillon Malfrey?”

“It would. He and my father were old friends.”

“Really.”

“Is that all you can say? Really?”

“No. It’s not.”

“Prove it.”

“How about … hands off my husband?”

“I don’t see him complaining.”

“He doesn’t have to. And you shouldn’t be chasing a married man.”

“Nor do I see him running away.”

Magpie and Freya squared up to each other.

“Think there’s gonna be a fight?” Jayne asked.

Zoe eyed the captain warily. “Hope not.”

“Maybe I should let Simon know to have the infirmary ready.”

“Might not be a bad idea.”

“My money’s on Frey.”

“I don’t know. Magpie’s younger …”

Jayne stared at her. “You got a death wish or something?”

Kaylee, however, wasn't having any of this. She pushed in between the two women, her hands on her hips. “Stop it! Both of you!” she said firmly. “There ain't gonna be no bloodshed here.” She glared at Magpie. “You know the Cap’s married. He’s always told you. And he ain't never encouraged you, ‘n’ you know it.”

“Kaylee, I –“

“No! You don’t say a word! ‘N’ you know damn well if the Cap did take you up on your offer, you’d be the first one to spit in his eye.”

Magpie looked suitably chastened. “Sorry, Kaylee.”

The young mechanic turned to look at Freya. “And you. You know this is just a game, so no need to get so knotted up about it. You’re just feeling ‘orney because … well, because.” She wasn't about to tell Magpie that Freya was a Reader, only her abilities were somewhat dulled since catching the measles. Not that she didn’t trust her, but it was one less person to worry about. She turned on Mal. “And you oughtta be ashamed of yourself, letting the situation go on like it has.”

“Me?”

“You. Not telling Freya, letting her find out like this.”

“You were the one told her!”

“And I shouldn’t’a had to. Married couples don’t keep secrets. Well, not like that.”

Mal was about to argue, then saw the look on Freya’s face. “No, well, maybe I shouldn’t’ve.”

Kaylee nodded. “Good. Now, can we get down to business?”

Magpie smiled. “I always did like you, Kaylee,” she said.

“Yeah, well …” Kaylee blushed. “The Methuselah?”

Magpie rubbed her hands together. “You know, I think I have just the thing.” She turned to a long workbench against the wall. “So who put you in the way of this job?” she asked, rummaging around in a box of parts. “’Cause I'm thinking you maybe need to have another word or two with him.”

“Badger,” Mal admitted.

She turned to stare at him, then at Freya. “You say you love the guy and you let him?”

Mal sighed. “Yes, okay. I was maybe a little insane at the time. But we need the work. And the cash. Can’t keep Serenity in the air without the cash, and we’re getting a little low on it right now.”

“But Badger? That man’d sell his own mother for a handful of credits.”

“Magpie, I know.”

“But Mal … Badger?”

“Magpie, if you don’t stop with the eyes and the voice, I'm going to put you across my knee and spank you,” Mal warned.

She brightened up. “Is that a promise?”

Freya cleared her throat, and Magpie quickly turned back to her boxes. “It’s in here somewhere …” she murmured, keeping her head down.

---

Business concluded – finally – Serenity’s crew stepped back outside.

“Should work, Cap,” Kaylee said, clutching a parcel to her chest. “And with the other gear I can rig up, should be no problem.”

“It’s pretty big,” Zoe commented.

“You’ll just have to carry a big purse,” Mal said. “Come on, better be getting back. We’ve got some planning to figure out.”

“Yes sir, Cap’n.” Kaylee grinned at him, then looped her arm through Jayne’s and started back down the street.

Mal went to follow but Zoe stopped him with a touch of her hand.

“What?”

She waited until the others were a few yards ahead. “Kendrick, sir,” she said softly.

Mal’s face hardened. “Ain't looking to talk on that subject, Zoe. You know that.”

“I do. And I understand why. But Freya’s not going to be so considerate if she finds out and you haven’t told her.”

“It was a long time ago.”

“And that’s why you jumped at his name, sir?”

“I didn’t jump. It was just … not heard it in a while.”

Zoe stepped closer. “You want to take my advice? From someone who knows and respects you? Who loves you as a friend?” She almost smiled at the shocked look in his eyes. “Tell her. It’ll go badly if you don’t.”

“You trying to tell me how to handle my marriage? Something I ain't asked you for?”

“No, sir. Just letting you know how it is.” Zoe turned and followed the others, leaving Mal to glare after her.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 6:48 AM

JOLY


I like how you build suspense, how Freya still gets territorial, and that Kaylee has come to develop an amzing back bone. Can't wait to see where it goes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 11:20 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


I love Kaylee with a backbone and I have really warmed up to Hank and Freya. Wonderful!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 11:34 AM

AMDOBELL


This was funny and I agree with Zoe, Mal needs to tell Freya about that snake Kendrick. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 5:38 PM

KATESFRIEND


And the pieces start to come together. What fun!

Friday, May 30, 2008 6:00 PM

SLUMMING


Is it wrong that I like Magpie? LOL A colorful character, to say the least. Good work!


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