A Worthy Replacement


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Scene Title A Worthy Replacement
Synopsis While preparing for the holiday season, Margaret Smith drops a bomb on the people she's looked to as her own kids.
Date December 22, 1890

The Smith Inn

The holiday season is in full swing not just for the city of New York, but for The Smith Inn. It is a time that family comes to town to visit or out-of-towners to come enjoy the sights of New York for a change of pace and that means a full house. It also means a lot of work to make sure the inn is ready. Already pine wreaths decorate the door and hang in various spots within the inn. Lengths of holly and ribbon-laced pine boughs draped across the fireplaces, with taped candles flickering softly.

"Alright… watch out for the roof! Remember last year… you men dented my tin ceiling, with that monster you all found." Arms crossed Margaret Smith, the inns owner, watches as Timothy and Malachi ease the lush pine tree that will take up the sitting room for the next few weeks.

"Rub it in, why don't you." Murmurs the tall handyman, head ducked down in embarrassment. Though Timothy also turns his head enough to gives Malachi a smirk of amusement.

"Don't think I didn't see that, Mr. Renolds." Margaret snaps, tho her tone is in no way sharp and a smile plays at the corner of her mouth.

Kaylee just watches all of this where she sits at one of the dinning room tables, a needle in one hand so that she can thread popped corn and cranberries on a length of string. Her head just slowly shakes with a grin. Long fingers deftly spear another cranberry, before pushing it along the line, her fingers already stained red, not that she ever minded. "Mis-ter Renolds… it is the same every year. She tells you not to get a tree too big and every year you have to push that luck." Glancing up and giving him a matter of fact look, then lets her gaze drift to the trees. "I see it is no different this year."

"Tradition," declares Timothy with a grin. "Besides, the inn deserves a good tree."

"We wanna make a good showin' of holiday cheer, Missus Thatcher," Malachi says, helping Timothy out as usually, "The roof'll recover," he adds to Margaret, his own amusement clear. And it is tradition.

Deborah sits quietly by Kaylee, sitting up a little straighter as Timothy comes in, but she's working on the other end of that string, helping Kaylee get the strands ready. She doesn't say much, demur and gentle as she is, but there is a smile on her face for the banter.

"And who's pocket will those repair costs come from." Margaret counters giving Malachi a bland look. "It won't be mine this time. I only did that once, fair warning." Chin lifting and her cream colored knitted shawl is tightened around her shoulders, the inns owner leads the procession to the sitting room, the area before the large bay windows having been cleared out so that the tree can take the place of honor.

"Careful now, Malachi." Timothy settles into the much more serious business of getting the tree in place. It was always a tricky affair getting the tree to stand straight.

Kaylee never seems to miss the way Deborah reacts with Timothy in the room, her gaze shifting to the quiet woman, who is the stereotype of how woman were expected to act. The telepath has never been able to get that act down, which might be why she pulled Timothy's attention.

A quick glance to make sure the others are not too close, Kaylee leans towards Deborah and asks softly, "You decide what to get, Timothy for Christmas yet?"

"It won't e'en need any! You'll see, Miz Smith. I think we really got the size right this year…" Malachi does go about helping to steady the tree, getting it to stand right and all. Maybe without needing ropes to anchor it this time.

Deborah looks up at Kaylee at that question, and her gaze flicks to the man in question before coming back to Kaylee. "I haven't, not yet. I… it's difficult." To figure out something that will attract his attention, she means. Not that she'd ever really say that. But it isn't hard to figure out, even without telepathy. "What would you get him, Kaylee?" It may be a plea for help on how to be more… like what he wants. Which has been Kaylee for a while now!

Margaret seems unconvinced, but she settles on the edge of one of the chairs to watch their progress. She has been looking paler lately, her dark brown hair has been showing more and more strands of gray, making her hair seem much lighter then it is. Though she tries to hide it, she's been getting tired more often in the day and needing to sit.

The average life expectancy in those times was in the forties. Margaret was fifty years old this year and it seems time was starting to finally catchup to her. Her life etched in fine lines on her face.

There is a small smile on her lips as she watches Timothy drop down to his knees and then his side, shimmying under the thick boughs to where the cut truck sits in the stand. "Hold it steady!" He calls out, voice muffled by the thick pine, fingers twisting the eyebolts til they dig into the bark.

Brows tic up at Deborah and her question, Kaylee stares at her for a moment, before looking back at her work, since they were nearing the end of the garland. "He had been hinting at what he wants." beyond her finally accepting his bid to court her. "There is this hat he keeps mentioning, we say it last time we went down to the market." Her tongue wets her lip, a bit of popcorn giving a crunch as she adds it to the string.

"I could show you where it is?" Kaylee glances at the younger woman, a brow lifting in a questioning manner, a small smirk on her lips.

"I got it!" Malachi's arm is into those branches well past the elbow… it's all sort of comical, as these two try to tame this tree they dragged home. It is possible, of course, that the comedy is all part of the tradition. "How's it lookin'? She crooked?" This, he seems to be asking of the women in general.

But Deborah is too focused on what Kaylee's saying to really be looking at the tree, so it's up to someone else to guide them. To Kaylee's last words, though, she nods a few times, excitement slipping through before she's able to tame it back again. "It would mean a lot to me if you would," is what she ends up saying, and her gaze slips back over to Timothy, softening as it does. "I just wish…" But whatever she was going to say, she lets it go unsaid with a bit of a sigh.

"That he's get a clue?" Kaylee finishes for her. Red tipped fingers, reach out to touch the girls wrist. "Don't worry, Deborah. He'll notice sooner or later, he's a man, I don't think he'll be able to take rejection too much longer. I am amazed he has lasted this long."

"Hey!" This from Timothy, who is peeking at them from under the shadows of the tree. "How about giving us a moment of your time, ladies and tell us is it crooked?"

A roll of eyes go to Deborah, before Kaylee lays the needle down and climbs to her feet, heels of her shoes clicking on the hardwood. "Um…" Eyes narrow and her head tilts to one side, judging the angle. Finally, she lifts a hand and motions the tree to one side. "A little to the left. More… I think…"

"It is canted funny from where I am sitting." Margaret adds critically, in her matriarchal way. "Honestly, Mr. Gibbs… hold steady that tree is waving all over the place."

Deborah nods there, a smile coming to her face, sweet. She would have laughed, had it been just them. "He's stubborn," she says, which seems to be a trait she likes in him, even if it's what's making their situation the most frustrating at the moment. But she looks over at the call, her head tilting some. "Just a little more," she adds to Kaylee's instruction as her brother starts to shift it a bit.

It's Margaret that gets a playful grumble from Malachi, though. "I need about three more inches on my arms for all these branches," he states, but he tries to correct it for her view, too, and once it's in the right place, to keep it there while Timothy anchors it in.

There is a sigh from Kaylee, "Let me help…. I swear." Moving to step over Timothy's legs, hands gathering the fabric of her skirts to lift them just enough to allow her to do so. "You men are so helpless without the help of a woman," she quips, grabbing the other side of the tree, so that it finally steadies. Leaning to one side, Kaylee flashes Malachi a grin.

"Up to you, Miss Gibbs." Timothy calls from under the tree poised to do that last of the tightening. "Straight or not?"

"You know… it warms an old woman's heart to have you all here." The words come out of the blue from where Margaret sits watching the shenanigans. "It's been like havin' kids of my own." She sighs softly, expression saddening, her voice filled with emotions as she says softly, "William would have liked all of you." Her eyes drop to the hands in her lap, even they show the signs of her aging.

"Helpless! What an insult," Malachi says, although he grins right back at her. It makes Deborah lift her eyebrows a bit. That smiling better not mean… what she thinks it means! How awkward would that be. But when Timothy calls for her, she looks at the tree itself, and she takes a moment for judging before she nods, "I think it looks good there. You picked a good place for it." She adds the compliment in there, just sneaking it in.

When Margaret starts, both the Gibbs look her way, but it's Deborah who reaches over to rest her hand on the older woman's. "You've been so good to all of us, it's been… wonderful to have a family again. Malachi and I have never been sure we'd ever be able to properly thank you."

Looking up, eyes are shiny with tears and Margaret pats the girls hand gently. "You can thank me, by working hard for Mrs. Thatcher when I'm gone. No more running for you two, you stay here and live your life."

"What?!" This is from Kaylee, who's grip slips from the tree so she can turn to stare at the inn's owner. Timothy as well is scooting out from under the tree, which Malachi will find is fairly secure now, though not straight.

"What are you talking about?" This from the tall handy man.

Margaret looks solemn as she looks at the four people that she treated like her own kids for all those years. "I talked to the doctor. I know you all noticed that I have not been myself." Hand move to fold in her lap again and she sits a little straighter. "I am not doing so good, he said… maybe a year." Her dark brown eyes, move to look at Kaylee, "I want Mrs. Thatcher to take over the inn. She's done a fine job helping me and I think she will be a perfect replacement."

Reaching out, the woman takes Kaylee's hand, pulling the stunned telepath closer, who drops to her knees next to the woman's chair. "And… I want you to stop pining over a man who is not coming back." Aged fingers, curl around the hand still bearing the gold wedding band. "You don't want to spend your life as I have, you should settle down with someone real and have children. I've seen you with them, you'll do good as a mother."

For Kaylee's part there are no words, she can only stare at Margaret.

Malachi can't really let go of the tree. It's shock, really. He doesn't know what to say. Looking between Margaret and Kaylee, and then to Timothy, he just looks lost for a moment. Margaret has been their pillar to lean against, after all.

And Debroah, too, she echoes that solemn expression. And she seems supportive of the idea of Kaylee taking over, and sympathetic to Margaret's situation… it's those last words of advice for Kaylee that have her withdrawing from the situation. A handkerchief is pulled out as a tear slips down her face and she just quietly slips to another room. Easy to miss. After all, if Kaylee stops waiting for Joseph, it seems a foregone conclusion where she'd end up.

Malachi frowns as Deborah slips out, but he doesn't follow her, not just yet. He looks back over to Margaret, and frankly, he looks downright torn.

Movement out of the corner of her eye has, Kaylee catching Deborah's leaving, brows ticking upward. She looks to first Timothy who watches her expectantly, then to Malachi. Swallowing, Kaylee extracts her hand from Margaret's slowly. "Can… can I have time to think?" The stress of what the older woman said, finding it's way into her voice.

It was a lot to ask the telepath, to give up all that hope. But at the same time…. Margaret was right.

Climbing to her feet, Kaylee looks just as torn as Malachi. "I — I am flattered but…" I don't belong here. The words don't reach her mouth, stalling as they should. There was no way to explain what the problem was without looking insane.

Blinking away the tears that started to form, Kaylee takes a step away and hurries towards the stairs, dodging Timothy's attempt to stop her. The telepath needs to think, she can't do that there, with everyone staring.

In that moment, she feels more out of place then she ever has.

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