Characters: Maggie Morningway, Malcolm Dresden
Word count: 1720
Summary: “Oh, God,” a man at the table next to her groaned. “I hate magicians.”
Author's notes: This is very much a 'meet cute', but they're fictional characters and fictional characters always need a meet cute. Done for the amnesty challenge @ dresdenflashfic. I chose 'observation' as my theme.
Maggie Morningway pushed open the door and leapt inside, slamming it shut behind her. She looked through the glass to see whether she was being followed. She couldn’t get a good look outside and she didn’t dare open the door to look out again. She didn’t fancy getting mauled tonight. She turned around and discovered she’d thrown herself into a hole-in-the-wall dinner club of sorts. Not very big, not very full, but perfect for what she needed. That thing wouldn’t attack in a room of people. She’d just wait it out until it got bored. Its kind tended to be impatient. If they couldn’t get a good meal (read: wizard) quickly, they went in search of the next best thing.
She slipped off her coat and made her way to a table at the back of the room. She wasn’t dressed for the surroundings and a woman alone always got stares, but if you acted like you owed the place, it didn’t matter. She’d learned that from her brother. Who she really should call. But if she called Justin, it would be ‘where are you?’ and ‘why on earth would you go there?’ and ‘stars and stones, Maggie, you’re going to get yourself killed!’ and she thought it would do him good to sit there and stew for a bit.
A waiter came over and she discovered that she had dropped her purse in the chase. Well, she couldn’t even call Justin if she wanted to. She smiled at the waiter and batted her eyelashes and murmured something about not being ready yet. He backed off.
There was a commotion on the small stage at the front of the room. Someone was slipping a title card onto the little easel on the side.
“The Astounding Dresden,” she read.
“Oh, God,” a man at the table next to her groaned. “I hate magicians.”
He exhaled smoke from his cigarette right in her direction. She coughed pointedly, but he didn’t get the hint and proceeded to send another puff of smoke in her face. She narrowed her eyes, waved her hand under the table and the cigarette went out. He cursed, butted it in the ashtray and got another one out. Maggie rolled her eyes and blew out his match. Then she blew out the next six he lit until he finally gave up.
By this time, the Astounding Dresden was on the stage. He was young man, not especially handsome but pleasant to look at. He’d look better without the powder blue tuxedo. Maggie turned her attention from him to dig in the pockets of her coat. She just noticed the ‘one drink minimum’ sign. She managed to gather up a dollar. She knew she could just call Justin and he would send the car for her and she wouldn’t have to worry about getting kicked out. That really wouldn’t work with her ‘I am an independent adult’ plan, though. Her plans had a tendency to crash and burn, in general. The waiter shuffled her way again.
“You choose,” she told him, showing him the handful of change. She flashed him a smile again and he flustered and went to get her a drink.
“Let’s go,” the man next to her told his companion. “This guy’s a hack.”
Normally Maggie would agree. She didn’t have anything against magicians, but she didn’t ever feel the wonder others felt at seeing them. It was all fake and fake was nothing when you could do real magic. When real magic chased you down dark streets. The more she tried to ignore this guy though, the more she ended up watching his show in spite of herself. It wasn’t that he was really good. He did all his tricks seamlessly; things disappeared, the rabbit came out of the hat, rope was cut and was put back together again. There was nothing really outstanding about the way he did that part. It was his obvious enthusiasm that drew her in; the sheer love of what he was doing. He kept up a gentle patter with the audience and took the hecklers in stride, teasing back until they were the ones everyone was laughing at. And Maggie laughed too. For the entirety of his act, she forgot about the monster outside, didn’t wonder how she was going to get home and didn’t worry about what her brother would say when she got there. She just watched.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, and gave a bow.
Maggie gave him a hearty round of applause. The room wasn’t that full but his ovation was loud. He smiled, a nice smile, and left the stage. Maggie sipped her drink, which was warm by the time she got to it. A piano player started up on the stage and people got up to dance. She glanced at her watch and decided it was time to go. The thing should be gone by now.
“Oh, Hell’s Bells!” She cursed as she was drenched by a torrent of rain as soon as she stepped out the door.
The thing was gone (evidenced by her not being dead), but large rain clouds had moved in. She couldn’t walk this late at night anyway, even if she wasn’t on the opposite side of the city; it was just another thing that had gone wrong that night. She stepped back under the canopy and bumped into someone behind her.
“Oh, excuse me, miss,” he said, touching her elbow to make sure she didn’t trip. “I didn’t realize you were in reverse.”
She turned and smiled at him. “It’s my fault. I should beep or something.”
“I think you dropped something,” he said. He crouched down and retrieved it. “Your...knitting needle?”
Maggie flushed and took the object from him, putting back into the pocket of her coat. “Thank you. You never know when there might be a knitting emergency.”
He smiled. A nice smile. “I can imagine.”
He stepped to the edge of the canopy and looked out, then stepped back to stand next to her. She thought that was weird until she realized that he probably had transportation, unlike her, and was most likely waiting for it. She stood as though she was doing the same thing and her eyes slid sideways to see if he was buying it.
“You’re the Astounding Dresden,” she said.
“Yep,” he said with a nod. “Uh, Malcolm, actually.”
“Your parents didn’t put ‘the Astounding’ on your birth certificate?” Maggie teased.
“No. Though, if they did, I really wouldn’t have had much choice of professions,” he laughed.
“I don’t know, if I needed a lawyer, I think I’d like to have the Astounding Dresden on my side,” she mused. “You were really good tonight.”
He blushed and looked at his feet, either embarrassed by the compliment or unsure whether it was genuine. “Thanks.”
“No, you were,” she insisted.
He looked up at her, seeming to check her sincerity. He smiled again. “Thank you.”
There was bit of a long silence before she said, “I’m Maggie.”
More silence. Malcolm stepped forward again and looked upwards. “Came on quick.”
“Not from Chicago?” Maggie guessed.
“No,” he agreed. “Obvious, huh?”
“Only to the trained eye. How long are you here for?”
“I’m booked until Sunday.”
“Do you travel a lot?”
“Yep, all over the country.”
“You like it?”
“Yeah. I like traveling. I like flying.” He made an airplane gesture with his hand.
Maggie wrinkled her nose. “I’m afraid to fly. I’m afraid I’ll break something and the plane will crash.”
“It’s a pretty big thing,” Malcolm said. “You’re kinda small to go breaking it.”
“I could do it,” Maggie said, with certainty. “You don’t know me that well.”
He laughed. A taxi in search of occupants pulled up to the curb and the driver rolled down his window.
“Youse need a ride?” he asked.
“You can take it,” Malcolm offered. “I’ll get the next one.”
“No, no, you go ahead,” Maggie said.
“Are you waiting for someone?” he asked. He looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry, that wasn’t an appropriate question.”
“No problem,” Maggie said, hurriedly. “I’m not.” She cursed herself. That would have been a good out.
“Then you can have it,” Malcolm said, firmly.
“One of youse get in,” The cabbie barked.
“I don’t...” Maggie started. “I...” She stomped her foot in frustration and found her mouth just wouldn’t stop moving. “I was running earlier and I dropped my purse and I didn’t realize I’d dropped my purse until I got here and I don’t know where I dropped it and I can’t look for it now and I don’t have any money on me and I don’t know how I’m going to get home. And...” She threw up her hands. “It’s raining.”
Malcolm blinked at her a few times. “Get in, I’ll pay.”
“That’s ridiculous, you don’t even know me.”
“Well, I can’t go off and leave you here, can I?”
“I...well...you can. If you...wanted?” Maggie felt very discombobulated. It wasn’t a feeling she was used to.
“I don’t want to. I want to pay for you. It’s no problem. I’ll get the next cab and we’ll both get home safely.”
“Are you sure?” She asked.
“I’m sure,” the cabbie grumbled. “That I’m gonna drive off if one or both of youse don’t get the car now.”
“It’s fine,” Malcolm said. “Please.” He opened the door and looked pointedly at the back seat.
Maggie hesitated and climbed in. Malcolm walked around to the driver’s side, into the rain, and spoke low to the cabbie. All she caught was ‘keep the change’. He came back around to her side.
“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
“It’s no problem,” he said. He smiled at her. “Get home safe.”
“You too. Thank you!”
He closed the door and Maggie gave the driver her address. As they drove off, she turned in her seat to watch Malcolm out of the back window. He stepped out into the rain again, pulled up his jacket collar and started to walk down the street. She wondered if he didn’t have enough money for another cab. She should have offered to share hers with him. She would have, if she wasn’t so flabbergasted.
She turned back in her seat and settled in, getting her defense prepared for when Justin started to rant at her, but kept getting distracted. She hoped he made it to where he was staying all right. And had enough money to pay for it. Tomorrow she’d come back and give Malcolm the money he’d spent on her, she decided. She wouldn’t mind seeing his show once more.
Maybe he’d even smile at her again.