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Everyone Else Has a Purpose so What's Mine?

Posted on 03 Oct 2018 @ 4:18pm by Tabitha & Xiuling Brooke & Lucas Bird

Mission: I Don't Care, I'm Still Free

Luke had decided to try and catch both girls together with his offer, so the next day when he knew they were both guranteed to be in the galley he'd left his guns in his bunk and headed in. When he arrived Xiuling was laughing as she stirred a bubbling pan on the stove.

"Yeah, the leeks next," she said trying to contain her laughter when she noticed the figure in the doorway. "Hey Captain, using up the last of the rabbit tonight," she informed him with a smile.

"Can't wait," he replied, moving to sit on the dining table. "Can ye cook and listen?" no point beating about the bush after all.

"We can probably manage, right Tabitha?"

Tabitha's grin faded a moment after Luke's presence was made known, but she bobbed an affirmative all the same and scooped up the leeks she had been dicing, moving them to the pot in a couple of trips.

Xiuling smiled wider and looked back at Luke. "So what did you want to talk about?" she asked him, still stirring, stepping slightly to one side as Tabitha brought each handful of leeks.

"So um, we've really enjoyed having you guys here, I don't think any of us have eaten so well on a boat in a long time, if ever, the galley probably hasn#t been this clean since she came off the production line," he glanced between the two of them. He'd taken a long time considering what to say. All day in fact. "I'm going to be down a couple of crew after this run, and we were wondering if you two would be interested in maybe making this a more permanent arrangement?"

Xiuling had stopped stirring as Luke had finished talking, in shock more than anything else. After everything that had happened she'd figured he'd be glad to see the back of them. "Like, a job?" She glanced across at Tabitha, wanting to try and work out how she was feeling right now. This certainly hadn't been the plan they'd agreed on, and she wasn't about to agree to anything Tabitha didn't want.

The teen laid down the kitchen knife she had been using and, staring at Luke quizically, produced her notepad and pencil from her back pocket. She scrawled something on it quickly and padded over toward Luke, holding it up to show him.

nAsty mEn lEAvE?

Luke watched as Xiuling immediately looked to Tabitha to see what she thought, it was clear that although she may not have realised what she was signing up for at the time, that Xiuling was as dedicated to looking after her new friend and doing what was best for her as any blood relative could have been. Tabitha seemed to think for a moment, looking directly at him. It was a little unnerving, not that he'd ever admit that to anyone, but the fact that she put the knife down before coming over with her pad was definitely a positive. Her writing was hard to read, but after a moment of furrowed brow he nodded.

"That was a vague plan before you guys even got on the ship, but apparently I don't like having nasty men on my boat any more than you do," he smiled a little, the childlike phrasing of her query at odds with the almost constant haunted look in her eyes. "The second we make land I will be escorting them off, and they will never be welcome back," He glanced up at Xiuling, because he wanted to reassure her that she was safe here, and that becoming a member of his crew would mean he would protect them as much as was humanly possible, from every nasty man in the galaxy if he had to.

This was the answer Tabitha wanted to hear. She had formed a dislike of the hired gun and his companion ever since she had set foot on the Valkyrie and experienced their special brand of idiocy. She had a bit of a sixth sense for danger by now, the ability to read people on a level beyond their words instilled in her by five months of Reaver torture. Nick and Reeve were bad news. Leave aside for a moment the latter's name sounded like Reaver which made Tabitha jump every time someone said it, leave aside their general open idiocy and misplaced machismo, they referred to her with words like 'kid' and 'crazy' and while both of them were probably true they weren't things the little lady liked to hear. They were the difference between her staying around with the crew at mealtimes (albeit close to a door) or just taking her plate and vanishing. But that had all changed after the incident with Xiuling.

Tabitha hadn't said anything to her companion. Xiuling gave her the respect of not asking about the Reaver ship and Tabitha was going to give Xiuling exactly the same respect but despite apparently not being close by when the incident occurred (a good thing for Nick and Reeve) or when it had subsequently been discussed in secret Tabitha knew exactly what had happened. She had spent more time with Xiuling since. She had realised that their relationship was more than just a young adult looking after a damaged younger girl. Tabitha had to step up. She had done when they came aboard the ship and now she had to do it again. Xiuling had done so much for her and Tabitha was going to try to reciprocate as best she knew how. She already had some plans, but that would have to wait until the next port. For now the two were spending more time together and amazingly Tabitha had begun to laugh and joke again with the woman she now considered her older sister. She had even started sleeping in their quarters. She would be there if Xiuling needed her, of that she was determined. Her answer received she moved back behind the counter to face Xiuling. Most people would have simply turned on the spot that that meant showing her back to Luke and she wasn't that comfortable with him, not yet. She pointed to Xiuling, then to her own head and then to Luke, looking to Xiuling for an answer to her question which was something to the effect of what do you think about that?

"I think I want to hear more, if only because it's an actual job offer instead of throwing ourselves into the unknown all over again," she replied quietly, her attention on Tabitha rather then Luke at the minute. "I like it here, but if you don't want to, or can't stay then we'll go. I'm not going to ask you to stay somewhere you don't feel comfortable," in spite of what had happened, their cabin here felt more welcoming than their room in that settlement had. the rest of the crew's smile were more genuine, and the Captain obviously cared what happened and what kind of people he let on his ship. They could do a hell of a lot worse than here, and it wouldn't all be on her shoulders any more either. But she couldn't be selfish about this, she had to do what was best for Tabitha.

Fortunately, Tabitha had come to largely the same conclusion. With Nick and Reeve gone, there wasn't anyone she didn't like on the ship and anyone that she rationally believed would hurt her or Xiuling. Better the devil you know than the devil you don't she thought to herself, but there was one devil that still concerned her. Her pad and pencil still in hand she wrote something else under the message she had just shown to Luke and showed it to him again, taking a few steps and then leaning towards him at arms length so as not to get too close.

pRoMIsE no REAvERs?

Luke was almost holding his breath as he waited for them to finish talking, the non verbal communication from Tabitha easily understood and replied to before Tabitha moved back towards him with more words scribbled on her paper. He could feel an uneasy kind of sickness rising in his gut, she associated the black with being attacked by Reavers, and no matter how much he wanted to promise her that he knew he couldn't.

"I'm not in the habit of making promises I can't keep, Tabitha, no one can promise you that and if they did they'd be lying to you," he said with a slow shake of his head. Behind Tabitha, Xiuling's forehead creased in confusion and curiosity. Very quickly, Luke decided to elaborate. "But you should know, that unless you're in the core, it won't make a difference whether you're in the black or on land. They're hitting settlements just as much as they are ships these days," He knew it wasn't going to be what she wanted to hear, but he wasn't going to dig himself into a hole like that. If he promised and a week later they flew past a Reaver ship... "What I will promise, is that I will do my best to make sure we don't run into any,"

Behind Tabitha, Xiuling realised what her friend had asked, and she worried at her bottom lip as she stirred the stew while Luke very carefully answered the question. His decision not to promise the impossible was a good one, and she waited with baited breath to see what Tabitha's response would be.

Tabitha bobbed her head in acknowledgement. She looked down from Luke's face to his chest, not that she was looking at his chest in particular, simply that it was not his face and a place for her eyes to rest as she considered his response. He had done her the service of not lying, that was a point in his favour. He treated her like a young adult which was another. Of all the crew Tabitha felt that Luke was the one to be most wary of, not because he was a man but simply by the virtue that he was by far the largest and most powerful. But nothing much, except perhaps for Ella's slightly short temper gave her cause to worry. This was a closed group and all the lives she could imagine this had the smallest chance of unwelcome surprises. It made sense, especially as Xiuling was interested to hear more. Looking up, she turned the page of the notepad and wrote something on the back of the page she had previously been using. The page was torn off and left on the table for Luke to see.

dont RuN thEy wIll cHAsE yOU

Pausing for a moment to give Xiuling a double nod denoting her acceptance of the premise of staying aboard Tabitha returned to the stove, taking over stirring of the stew so Xiuling could talk details with the captain.

He looked down at the paper and took a deep breath, yeah he'd heard as much. At least she'd seemed to accept his answer.

Xiuling watched their interaction with interest, and when Tabitha came over and took over the cooking she took that and her nod as a sign that they should get talking about the conditions of their employment. She grabbed a glass and filled it with water before heading over to the table.

"So," she said, pulling a chair out and taking a seat. "What kinda job we talking about?" she asked with a smile before taking a sip of her water.

Lucas Bird

Xiuling Brooke



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