Out of order post - to be read after Hook/Cyd Cargo Bay post
JP with @sail3695
The entire flight back, Penelope made good on keeping her mind clear of anything. She was relaxed, sleepy, and content - all the exhilaration of the impending storm’s winds blending with a mighty fine beach tussle had wound down. That was as far as her mind wandered - just on the present as she navigated the night sky. Not even an image of the sun-kissed pretty boy made it through. Now though, she sat in the pilot’s chair of the docked shuttle for a moment after stretching out fully only to end up looking at her tanned wrist. The only sound she could hear was the ticks of the engine cooling, but her mind played the sound of the ocean.
Bound about her wrist was white line tied into a square knot. It contrasted nicely, she thought, as she traced over the sporadic pattern of blue laced in. And it was a nice cord, at least 3/8 inch and double-braided. A sailor’s line, Gavin had explained as he tied it on. She wouldn’t have expected less of a seasoned regatta sailor, and it was pretty. But even as he looped it on, tying the off end in a butterfly knot so the frayed ends dangled down, she couldn’t help but think what she could use the line for.
And here she was again, allowing herself just a minute to wonder. Maybe it was just in her vagabond nature... Or maybe she wasn’t meant for romantic notions like the hope of returning to the planet soon to see a certain face, like the youngest Skye. She might have gently scolded the captain for unintentionally trying to snuff that out by being honest, but she agreed with Cal to some degree. Helen said she hadn’t met the right fella yet. But it was more the opposite; she met the wrong fella first, and that was enough. Wouldn’t go around ruining the fun for anyone else though, whether it was a drunken night of passion that left marks or innocent dates along the seaside harbor town.
The cord easily slipped loose with a gentle tug on the release of the line, the fantasy of the previous hour or so falling away with it. Moments were best left simple, otherwise the perfection of them got all mucked up. She sighed, that gentle smile returning as she lifted herself up from the chair and made her way to the exit, winding the length of cord around her fingers.
Abby waited a good long while fer the door’s echo tah fade an’ die. Such an abrupt sound; ain’t no way tah muffle when heavy metal strikes heavy metal an’ them locks engage. Best tah do it quick an’ have an excuse all ready if’n she was tah come face tah face with the Cap’n. Or worse yet, tha doc.
When Penelope stepped down onto the catwalk though, she caught a curious sight for the time of night wandering through the cargo bay. Abbs was headin’ towards where she’d made a room for herself. Penelope might not of thought nothin’ of it considering how restless the girl seemed to be had she not been carrying a duffle bag and the sound of the ship closing up from below hadn’t been what made her look down in the first place.
Leaning against bars with folded arms on the guardrail, Penelope held the line in a palm all-but forgotten about as she called down. “Thought the doc and cap’n alike ordered ya on bed rest, missy.”
If the gently amused tone of her voice wasn’t indication enough, mayhaps the grin on her slightly sandy face was enough to tell Abby she was only teasing. Penelope understood more than most the need to be able to move around at-will, and she hadn’t heard the self-scolding Abby’d given herself, so she was all smiles. As was usual. “Need any help with that bag you’re luggin’?”
When nobody showed, Abby had counted her blessin’s an’ started across tha cargo bay. Though her pi gu
complained with ever’ step, the girl kept movin’. The fella in them spy shows had somethin’ tah offer ‘bout findin’ cover, but when yer out in tha open such as she was, best move was tah act natural ‘bout bein’ there an’ jest movin like yah owned tha place. So, she walked, Queen Of The Deck, knowin’ where she’s goin’ an’ bein’ all in charge.
Leastways, til tha sound ‘o’ Pen’s voice brought tha house ‘o’ cards spinnin’ asunder.”Thought the doc and cap’n alike ordered ya on bed rest, missy.”
That much was true, an’ ever’body ‘cept Perfessor Marquina was there tah hear it. Odds was powerful long against her makin’ it. She seen that now. Busted, she was. Straight up.”...When you’re a spy, you have to have a plan for mission failure. It may be time to face the music, but you can at least call the tune…”
Abby looked up. Pen was standin’ at tha rail, a right cheshire cat grin on ‘er as she gazed down. She seen the mischief in the woman’s eye, an’ conjured that a positive. Mayhaps she wasn’t gonna spend the night gettin’ lambasted by both the Cap’n and the Doc.
The fun on Pen’s face become nigh on infectious. Abby set her load down an’ thawed her hands in tha air. “Yah got me. Fair an’ square.”“Need any help with that bag you’re luggin’?”
“Lighter’n it looks,” the girl slung her duffel once again to her shoulder. “Got a few clothes I’s short. So, yah haulin’ me afore tha Cap’n?”
Pen gave a fair chuckle at the response, leaning back the full length of her arms as her hands held tight to the bar. The felt good to stretch out the joints after sittin' a spell in the cockpit, but that wasn't what she was focusin' on. Considering, or at least pretending to, but she shrugged. “Don’t see no need on rousin’ the Cap’n, I reckon…”
She went back against the rail with an elbow, head tilted a bit. “We never got tah sit around, and I see ya done gone and got half a tan there without me. Couldn’ta done that this late at night. Where abouts you goin’ clothes shoppin’ after dark when them Skyes and us coulda had a trip out ‘fore going to Greenleaf? Think they were green for it.”
Abby conjured best not tah answer that’n where them Skyes was concerned. She moved tah her shoppin’ instead. “Met a fella,” she give a smile. “I gotta limp up there tah tell yah or yew comin’ down here?”
The mention of a fella had Penelope’s grin spreading, but she didn’t tease - not about that. Instead, she tapped the handrail once and said: “Be down in a sec.”
It didn’t take the pilot long since she went a little faster than her usual casual stroll, all interested in this story as she was. When she reached the landing and crossed over the base of the cargo hold to join Abby, she stopped to place one hand on her hip and held the other outstretched for the bag. The line she’d been holding got tucked away in her pocket. It didn’t even occur to her that she’d left a nice bit of cuddlin' for sleep, and here she was wide awake and ready to hear details. It'd been a while since she'd had a friend, but that'd come to her later on. “Give it here. I ain’t gonna tell the doc or Cap’n, but can’t rightly go lettin’ you stay on your feet any longer. You can tell me all about this fella on the way to bed.”
Not one tah make disobedience her way, Abby did as she’s told. “Thank yew,” she said as tha duffel slipped onta Pen’s shoulder. “I’m back this way.” She set off, limpin,’ thought if anyone asked she’d swear its’ gettin’ better. “Met this fella, name ‘o’ Thomas,” she told the tale as they headed past the medbay. “We had a couple drinks. He’s busted flat, so I paid…”
“This story is already promising…” Pen teased amicably, following only behind Abby. Since she was well practiced in strolling, it wasn’t an issue of slowing down at all. It also let her assess Abby’s condition without being obvious. She'd have somethin' to say if the girl resisted, but she wasn't putting up a fight. “Drinks ended up in a shoppin’ trip?”
“Well...yeah...but not what I ‘spected. I’m up this way.” Abby turned fer tha starboard passage. They’s only a couple rooms set fer passengers on this side. Aftmost of ‘em all was a small compartment got shelves fer storage of beddin’, towels, an’ cleanin’ supplies. The deckhand slid the door an’ made her way past the shelves. “My room,” she nodded. “But Thomas...felt all bad ‘bout me buyin’ his drinks. Turns out his fam’ly runs a marine outfitter business. They got boat parts an’ stuff fer crew...includin’ clothes.”
“That all sounds pretty straightforward.” Penelope passed the duffle over at the doorway, but didn't give her answer immediately. She spoke after a moment of mulling it over, eyes roving the small space idly as she considered, but the smile returned to her tone as she added: “Don’t explain that li’l smile you flashed when you said you met a fella though.”
Abby set the duffel aside, With her hand on the bulkhead fer steadyin’, she lowered herself onta the bunk, a smile creepin’ up that even the few quick stings of pain couldn’t snuff. “Pen...he was so….nice,” she propped herself inta a corner. “Kinda smartassed...we teased each other tha whole time. But...he wants tah keep in touch, an’ take me sailin’ next time we’re here.”
Seein’ Abby all soft over what seemed to be an innocent enough night out had Penelope feelin’ right happy for her. She leaned back against the door frame, foot lifting to hold her balance there, not wanting to get any sand in the small room. “That’s mighty nice. Reckon it was worth the risk of gettin’ caught by the doc or cap’n… “
But then her smile faltered for a moment, and her brow knit. The pilot reached up to rub some sand that’d been itching now that it was dryin’ off the back of her neck beneath her hair. She was thinkin’, replaying Abby’s story. “Ya went out for drinks by your lonesome, then ended up meetin’ a fella who took ya clothes shoppin’...”
Then her hazel eyes looked back up with concern, not quite putting together any suspicious activity and rather favorin' worry instead. “If you’re hurtin’ enough to need some drinks, ya know the doc would give ya somethin’, right? Ain’t no reason to be proud, Abbs. You took a bullet.”
Abby shook ‘er head, wipin’ tha air with a hand. “Weren’t nothin’ like that, I promise.” She pulled her ident card. “So much happenin’ fer me of late...bounced off my old boat an’ ever’thin’ here on China Doll, I clean fergot it’s my birthday. Eighteen’s legal fer a drink on New Melbourne. Thought I’d try me one, then see if’n I could find some socks an’ unders.”
“It’s your birthday?” Penelope’s concern melted into surprise, creases of her wide eyes rounding full at the news. “Why didn’t ya say somethin’ at dinner? Bet Hook woulda made you a right nice cake.”
“Kinda fell outta tha habit ‘o’ celebratin,” Abby said. “Last few years on Mariposa...that’s muh old boat...my Uncle Bob weren’t pickin’ hisself up after Aunt Lupe passed. Spent much of my time keepin’ him an’ his boat together. Fer true I didn’t conjure the day til my ident slipped outta muh pocket.” She regained her smile. “But it was nice.”
“Well…” Penelope hesitated, not wanting to wipe the smile off Abby’s face but she felt a bit protective of the younger girl. “I’m glad it turned out nice, I am, but Abbs… it ain’t safe for a girl to go off to a bar alone for a drink. ‘Specially port towns like this ‘un. You were mighty lucky to have found a nice fella… even if he did help ya shop for nickers.”
The last comment got a twitch from Penelope’s lips, the firmness of her tone softening to hopefully relay that she wasn’t scoldin’ but more expressing concern. All she meant was kindness in her smile, and worry. Abby didn’t seem to know a whole lot about the world, even as grown as she seemed at times. “Next time ya want to go out for drinks, make sure someone you trust is with ya, okay?”
Abby heard Pen out. Fer a moment, she thought tah give tha Colt on ‘er hip a pat an’ say somethin’ all spy soundin’ like “I wasn’t alone.” Dirk Piston woulda said that, she’s sure...when he wasn’t wastin’ pages nailin’ women spies. She seen the look in Pen’s eye, and conjured the care she’s tellin’ was all true an’ honest. One thing she knew fer sure was that kinda concern...fer somebody like her...was somethin’ she’d treasured in her life. “I promise,” she offered a solemn nod.
“Good.” Penelope grinned brightly at that. She was big on promises, and knew that not everyone kept theirs like she tended to do, but she immediately believed Abby. “So how ya going to go about keepin’ in touch with this sailor boy name 'o' Thomas?”
She hadn’t moved from the door frame, but her posture had relaxed, and she was genuinely interested in knowing Abby’s plan. It wasn’t a ‘have you thought about this’ continuation of seriousness, but rather more supportive - just as she’d been about Isaac’s little bloomin' romance. It made her feel good to know that people had them, to see young love.
“Tole him I’m savin’ up fer a cortex,” the girl said. “Git a few good runs under muh belt an’ hold mah money back, shouldn’t take me too long afore I’m sendin’ him pitchers ‘o’ what I draw.” Her smile faded a touch, til her face took on a serious cast. “Pen...can I ask yew somethin’ sorta personal?”
It had been quite some time since Penelope was willing to share anything about herself, and the question threw her off-guard just a little only in that she immediately knew the answer. “Of course, Abbs.”
The deckhand’s eyes dropped as she struggled over her words. “Yer few years older’n me,” Abby worked herself toward the courage tah come out with it. “Yah’ve...yah’ve….kissed…..a fella or two?”
Penelope found herself having to rein in the laugh of surprise that almost made its way out. She definitely didn’t want Abby to feel laughed at, especially given this was obviously a big moment for her, and she certainly wasn’t doing such a thing. Here she was, covered in sand and salt from doing quite a bit more than kissing on a beach, and being asked so shyly if anything more innocent than that had ever happened in her life.
“One or two,” Penelope managed to answer after a moment of thinking of how to say it, absently fidgeting with the length of line in her pocket. At her age, she should be able to remember the number, and probably could if she allowed herself to think on those perfect moments, but it was easier to leave them as they were. “Did this happen with Thomas?”
Abby seen Pen’s own tribulation. She’s all set tah apologize fer such a rude question when the pilot come back and landed right on the point. “No,” she answered kinda glum, “but it coulda. We’s right there...close up. I seen it in his eyes an’...I wanted it. Knew I was gonna do it….an’ then I backed off.” She shook ‘er head as her eyes come up, lookin’ fer answers in Pen’s own. “Fer tha life ‘o’ me I can’t figger what ‘twas pullin’ me back.”
“I’d like to say that I knew, so I could help ya.” Penelope said gently, with a tilt of her head, and she meant it. If she weren't covered in beach, she might have gone to sit on the bed with Abby here for comfort. “My best guess would be nerves on account of what’s next and how far expectations go after that. But…”
She kicked at the floor lightly with the toe of her foot she’d been using for propping, immediately regretting it as she felt sand loosen from her shoe. The brief frown at the little bit of sand turned up and was gone away into a smile. “Since you’re still smilin' and frettin’ all account of this fella, reckon he is the good sort to not mind waitin’ till you figure that out either way.”
“I like ‘im, Pen,” Abby’s smile come up again as she spoke. “I like ‘im. Only been kissed once afore, an’ we’s caught by muh Uncle Bob ‘fore we could try one proper. But,” she thought on it as she kicked the boots off, “I s’pose I should stop worryin’ bout tahnight. Thomas was...jest a good guy all ‘round. We poked fun on one t’other, talked alot, an’ laughed a ton.” She chuckled as she caught Pen’s eye. “Guess I best work on that cortex, huh?”
It was easy to get caught up in the happiness bubbling up out of Abby talkin’ about this fella Thomas. Penelope returned the grins easily as anything. Seeing the conversation was winding down, she slinked up off the door into a stretch, resting a cheek against her upper arm as she let the motion come down so her hands held her elbows over her head. “My sister says it’s good to have goals to work towards - usually in not such a nice way, but… I think it’d be somethin’ good to work towards. ...If ya are as stubborn as I think ya are, and wouldn’t take a loan from a friend, 'course.”
Pen...from the moment she first seen her, Abby knew straight up the heart what drove their pilot. Jest here as they was, with her listenin’ tah Abby tell of situations a grown woman might find naught but a chuckle from. Yet here she was, takin’ her younger all serious an’ now offerin’ the help ‘o’ cashy money so’s Abby could reach out to a fella she jest met. “That means tha world tah me,” her smile held as she shook her head. “Thing worth havin’s worth workin’ for. Thank yah, but I’ll be stubborn this time, if’n yah don’t mind.”
“I figured you might say that,” Penelope’s smile didn’t fade as she let her arms fall down to her sides. “Can’t say I disagree, Abbs. Can’t say I disagree at all. But, I’ll let you get that rest you were supposed ta be gettin’ hours ago, ‘fore your night on the town with a nice young fella.”
She winked at that, and made to go for that shower she promised herself before bed. “Night, Abbs. I would say sweet dreams, but I reckon you’ll have those no problem.”
“Night, Pen.” Abby reached for the bedside lamp. “An’ thanks.” As the door slid shut, she cut tha light. After a slow riggle outta her clothes, Abby tucked inta her bunk. She’d only been on this boat fer a few days, but it never stopped amazon’ her ‘bout the kind ‘o’ people she’s sailin’ the black with during this new chapter in her life. Somethin’ tah be said for driftin’ off tah sleep as yer countin’ the possibilities.