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some more Maggie and Sterling

Don't ask me why. I think sometimes I just want to step outside the team's world a little bit. And see who these guys are, without the complicating factor of Nate around.


Title: overture in the aftermath
Ficverse: Leverage
Series: Silver and Gold
Rating: Gen / PG-13
Length: 1900 ish
Characters: Maggie, Sterling, OC (Maggie's office assistant)
Teaser: She took a patient breath. “Jim, why did you send me flowers?”
Notes: What happens after Second David? A lot of cleaning up, that's what.
Developed into a bit of a series, links to the other installments at the end.
Disclaimers: not mine.
Warnings/Spoilers: up to The Second David Job. Do I need to warn it's Sterling and Maggie, and therefore hardly anyone's cup of tea? Not romance, though, if that makes it any better.

Feedback: go for it. The good, the bad, the ugly....



Less than a week after she’d punched Blackpoole – after helping to rob him blind – Maggie was back at her desk. It was surreal, and a little ... anticlimactic. She didn’t condone crime, she didn’t; Blackpoole was a special case, emphasis on the special, because of Sam. A case which only thieves seemed willing or able to deal with. No one else got hurt, or even robbed, not really; she wouldn’t have gone along with it if there were any chance of that.

But right now, sitting here at her desk with piles of paperwork to wade through, she couldn’t deny it had been ... fun. And satisfying as hell.

Of course, the museum was a mess. Dr Lloyd was this close to quitting at least once a day; the press was everywhere, and the cops were everywhere else. And it was her job to help sort out this mess, the irony of which had not escaped her. But that was just Nate, wasn’t it, in some form or other? He stormed through her world in his own bubble of insanity, leaving a wake of chaos – and her, to pick up the pieces and rebuild once again.

She sighed, and focused on moving paper from the in-tray to the out-tray. No doubt about it, when it came to paperwork, thieves had the better deal.

“Maggie?” Her assistant nudged the ajar door to her office further open. “Darling, I think you have an admirer.”

The words didn’t register for a moment – because what on earth was the Rembrandt doing filed under the same policy as the Van Eyck? – but when they did, she looked up to see both his hands full of flowers.

“They just arrived.” His delight was more than making up for her momentary confusion. He placed the bouquet on the desk in front of her, the delicate yellow of the blooms in their vase flooding the room with their own sunshine. “Is there a lover we don’t know about? How could you hold out on me? I need juicy details!”

“Yellow roses are for friendship, Julio,” she said absently, reaching for the card as he looked on avidly, ready to pounce. “Everyone knows that.” This was an unexpected gesture, especially considering Nate was supposed to be busy covering tracks, and going to ground until all this blew over. Maybe he’d become more thoughtful than she’d given him credit for – not that that changed anything.

“Please. What are friends for?” At her look, Julio threw his hands up. “Alright, alright. But I will start rumors if you don’t tell me all about it later.”

She raised her eyebrow in mock irritation. “In the meantime, perhaps you can find me those files I asked for?”

When he closed the door after him, as requested, it dawned on her that the handwriting on the envelope was not Nate’s, not unless he’d changed that along with so much else. She broke the envelope open, and drew a surprised breath.

NICELY DONE
– JIM


She looked up at the closed door, as though the departed Julio could somehow shed some light on this, then at the pale golden glory of the blossoms.

A sudden thought had her reaching for her schedule; sure enough, there it was, little over an hour away: IYS meeting. She narrowed her eyes and picked up her phone.

He answered after a few rings. “Sterling.”

“Jim,” she said pleasantly.

“Ah, Maggie,” he replied, as warmly as he ever said anything. “I wasn’t expecting to talk to you until later this afternoon. There’s nothing wrong, is there? Are you rescheduling our meeting?”

“I didn’t realize it would be you.” She said it drily. She hadn’t forgotten the threat in his voice outside the two Davids room (or “vault”, at his insistence), and she didn’t know what he was doing yet, but one thing she did know: the only way to avoid losing was refuse to play. Years with Nate had drilled that lesson home, not that playing mind games had ever been that appealing in the first place.

“Well, I’m rather top dog on this case around here. It’s amazing what negotiating the return of $150 million in insured items and dispatching corrupt CEOs will do in terms of clout.”

“I’m sure.”

“So if you’re not rescheduling, why did you ...” he asked, and then broke off. “Because of the flowers,” he surmised.

“They just arrived.”

“You like them?” It was, for all the world, just a friendly question. He didn’t sound nervous, or devious, or ... anything but simply glad she’d got them.

“They’re beautiful,” she said honestly. “But why?”

“‘Why’?” he echoed noncommittally.

She took a patient breath. “Jim, why did you send me flowers?”

The silence was a touch longer than she was comfortable with, but when he spoke he didn’t seem uncomfortable at all. “I thought they’d speak for themselves. A simple peace overture. I may be a self-serving bastard, but I don’t hold foolish grudges. We’ve worked well with each other in the past, our career paths will cross in the future – this mess alone will take months to clean up. I don’t want that relationship to be adversarial. There’s no reason for it to be, as far as I’m concerned.... Hence, flowers.”

Well, that was all perfectly straightforward. “You did threaten me.”

He dismissed this airily. “That was then. And I wasn’t threatening so much as giving you an out. It would have been a shame for Nate to drag you down with him in his own insanity.”

Maggie felt her lips twitching with a real, if bemused, smile. “And the card?”

He laughed. He actually laughed. “Ah, well. Regardless of how it played out, you did your part magnificently well. I can admire that.”

That wrung an answering laugh from her, much to her surprise. “And if it had played out differently? If you hadn’t come away with returned masterpieces and more clout than ever?”

His amusement was unapologetic. “I’d still admire it. I probably wouldn’t have sent flowers, though.”

“Well, I appreciate the honesty.... And the flowers.” As she said it, she discovered she really meant it. All of a sudden, the friendship Nate used to have with this man was not so inexplicable.

“Good. Since you have me on the phone now, is there anything I can bring to the meeting to help things along?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. If you could compile a list of independent experts to verify the authenticity of the returned pieces, who would be acceptable to IYS and their clients, we can start that process almost immediately. The sooner the better.”

He paused, listening to everything she wasn’t saying. “I can do that,” he said eventually. “But I hope you’re not asking just because you’re worried about our confidence in you.”

“No,” she said a little too quickly. “I mean – it would be understandable –”

“Maggie, I have complete faith in your integrity and ability to verify these pieces.” He said it matter-of-factly, but it soothed a little something Maggie hadn’t noticed had been sore. Her credibility wasn’t as important to her as Sam ... but it was still important.

“Thank you,” she said, softer than she intended. She quickly gathered herself and returned to the point. “But I’d still like independent verification. Given the exposure of this whole episode and what happened with Blackpoole, we need to take every precaution we can to allay your clients’ fears and maintain the reputation of IYS and the museum. We will also be bringing in outside consultants, and make the process as transparent as possible. I can’t see you insisting on anything less, any more than we would.”

“True,” he said. “I’ll have the list of our preferred consultants. Other than you, of course.”

She laughed again. “Thank you. With some luck and a lot of work, we may just have this whole thing sorted out in under a year. I can’t imagine the volume of paperwork over on your end.”

“It’s hell,” he said wholeheartedly. “Another reason why I will never, ever forgive him. He did it on purpose.”

He didn’t sound wrathful so much as ... resigned. “You could always quit,” she suggested teasingly.

He snorted. “Anyone who thinks winning doesn’t cost anything is an idiot. It just doesn’t cost as much as losing. Of course, the cost of losing is just speculation on my part. I wouldn’t know.”

“No, of course not. You know, loss is considered to be an excellent character-building experience.”

“I’ll pass.” Just as she was speculating whether he was inherently droll or if his accent just made him sound that way, he abruptly switched gears on her, just caustic enough to sting. “Well, this is all getting very cosy, but pleasant as this little light flirting is, I do have a lot to get through this afternoon.”

“I’m not –” Oh, crap. She was. With Sterling. Then again, he was too. Never backpedal: another valuable lesson from living with Nate Ford for twenty years. It got you nowhere you wanted to be. She had no reason to be embarrassed. “You’re right, that will never do. We’ll keep it strictly professional.”

There was another pause. “Er ... I’m alright with pleasant,” he said, sounding unsettled and a little rueful. Served him right, the weasel.

“I’ll see you soon, Jim,” she said pleasantly, and hung up, the flowers catching her eye. After a moment, she leaned forward, closed her eyes and flared her nose a little. The fragrance was sweet and mellow and subtle, and her lips curved with pleasure. They were beautiful.

“So?” Julio stuck his head around the door, waving some files as his excuse to enter.

Maggie looked up and smiled, eyes flickering to the card and back to her assistant, then waved him in. “Just a diplomatic gesture from Sterling at IYS, since we’re going to be spending a lot of time with them on this. He’s coming for the meeting this afternoon.”

“The man’s got good taste in diplomatic gestures, I’ll give him that, even if he is a complete ass. He’s totally accessorized the color of your hair.”

“Julio, did you know that yellow roses used to smell terrible?”

He gave her a look, then leaned over to smell the flowers. “So what changed?”

“They cross-bred and cultivated them until the scent was as sweet as any other. Persistence and expertise and time, that’s all it took.”

“Darling, if that’s supposed to be a metaphor....”

She smiled and shook her head. “Just a good lesson. Our relationship with IYS could do with a little attention and cultivation right now.”

“I could chat him up when he arrives.”

“Well who could possibly resist that?”

“No man I’ve ever met. It’d be taking one for the team, but anything for the world’s greatest boss.” He grinned, and she returned it.

“Let’s start a little slower. Maybe for now just avoid calling him an ass to his face.”

“I defer to your expertise. Will you need backup in the meeting this afternoon?”

Maggie glanced at the flowers again. “No.... I think I’ll do just fine, actually.”





Silver and Gold series:
lit up by the skylightWatching her, he remembered the first time she became Maggie.
overture in the aftermathShe took a patient breath. “Jim, why did you send me flowers?”
a question of costIf he didn’t dial this time, he was a bloody coward.
onwards and upwardsHe raised an eyebrow at her in that way he had to know was so annoying, just in case she’d missed his point. “Now that that’s out of the way – what is it?”
this kind of liabilityShe’d started calling him James and so help him but he loved the way that sounded. He held onto that, the all-of one second of it, even as her expression changed when she noticed his.
concerns of contactHe’s free, currently not wanted. Make no contact.
measuring precautionSterling strode down the gallery’s familiar corridors, forcing himself not to break into a run.
hold and releaseSitting out on the balcony of James Sterling’s LA condo for the fourth day of being stashed away to keep her from being possibly abducted by some psychotic international crimelord Nate had openly declared war on, Maggie once again concluded that, all things considered, she was glad she hadn’t argued.
as neededIt was all wrong, everything was wrong, everything he was doing here, today, was wrong.
of twos and threesSterling opened the door of his condo and leaned against it. “Hi,” he said, in undisguised relief.
confessions“Hey,” Maggie said softly, with a welcoming smile so natural that he had to remind himself, again, that he was not coming home. He was just coming to collect his daughter. Blame it on jetlag.

Comments

( 15 speakses — have a speak )
deepbluemermaid
Jun. 27th, 2010 10:22 am (UTC)
Ooh, this is fascinating and very well done. I don't normally read Sterling or Maggie focused fics, but I'll try anything that you write :)

The dialogue is great - I can really hear it in the actors' voices, especially Sterling!
themonkeytwin
Jun. 28th, 2010 06:18 am (UTC)
Thanks! I think it's one of the best compliments I get, when people say they can actually hear the actor/character saying it. Of course, it helps that these guys have such distinctive voices, especially Sterling.

There's just something about this relationship which intrigues me. Maybe it's just so many unknowns to play with, I don't know – I've got so much room to play! :)
rayhne
Jun. 27th, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
I really like this. It does put a new slant of Sterling coming to the team to rescue Maggie.
themonkeytwin
Jun. 28th, 2010 06:31 am (UTC)
Thank you. I was always interested why she just accepted his word that Nate's being there was above board, etc. I don't think there's a lot there, but there's some kind of relationship. Add to that, everyone seems to have a little thing for Maggie, why not Sterling? I can see it annoying him, too. Which immediately makes it appealing. Anything to get under that man's skin and find out what's going on in there.... :D
rayhne
Jun. 28th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
I just love the interplay between the two of them.
themonkeytwin
Jun. 28th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)
Exactly! Show gives us so much potential....
fleurlb
Jun. 28th, 2010 09:41 am (UTC)
Really enjoyed this. It's something that I definitely could see happening, since Sterling definitely would be one to play the long game and also give credit where credit was due, so long as the deserved credit didn't come at his expense. Plus, everyone *hearts* Maggie. :)
themonkeytwin
Jun. 28th, 2010 07:36 pm (UTC)
The relationship is just intriguing to me. They're so different, yet definitely evenly matched. And for all his faults, Sterling has always struck me as an inherently honest character (very much unlike Nate). Even the way he goes at criminals is quite straight-up, in contrast to Nate's sneakiness. Which is a very interesting point of connection with Maggie's trait of honesty. So yeah – I'm curious to see how this will play out, too. :)
lmx_v3point3
Jul. 28th, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
I really love your work. Your Sterling voice is spot on. Excellent. I especially like this:

~the only way to avoid losing was refuse to play. Years with Nate had drilled that lesson home, not that playing mind games had ever been that appealing in the first place.~

because Nate is undoubtedly a hard person to get along with, and yet she *married* him, so she must have had a way of handling him. This makes so much sense and fits very nicely into her character in the show.


~You know, loss is considered to be an excellent character-building experience.~

Oh Maggie, you haven't heard. Sterling Always Wins! :D
themonkeytwin
Jul. 28th, 2010 11:43 pm (UTC)
and yet she *married* him

I know, right? That fascinates me about her. She is such a strong woman, which is one of the reasons I feel just fine about putting her up against Sterling. Who WAS friends with Nate (however much Nate wants to retcon that part of his life).

And then Sterling is so fun to play with ... I don't know. They are just so interesting to me! First PB, now this and the crack!verse that keeps tempting me – am I just a weirdness magnet for fic? I don't even know.

Oh Maggie, you haven't heard. Sterling Always Wins!

Hee! We'll see how that goes....
atatteredrose
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:43 am (UTC)
\o/

I unabashedly admit to a kink for both Sterling and Maggie, and finding them unexpectedly in the same fic makes my heart all aflutter :) The show might only have sketched their characters, but fleshed out by such veteran actors these two are like rocks in the Leverage stream, holding up against all the twists but refreshingly human-sized when you need a break from all the uber-crazy of the team.

I LOVE that this sets them firmly within the context of a believable relationship, now with a few kinks post-Two Davids. I double-love that for all the games played explicitly between them, there's still something going on just under the surface, in the fact that they were flirting (even just a little) without noticing. My favourite bit - Maggie has just reminded herself to never backpedal, and immediately makes Sterling do a little backpedaling of his own.
themonkeytwin
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
Ha! You're welcome for fluttery hearts :) (And I LOVE that icon!) Before writing any of these, I did a cursory search to see if anyone else had written them together, but didn't find anything. And I do like playing and exploring where others haven't....

And yes, exactly on the way the characters a sketched, and the getting away from the uber-crazy. Writing these, there's a very clear sense that Nate brings out a particular side in these two (ESPECIALLY Sterling), and only that side, which becomes all we get to see. Away from him, there's MUCH less stress. Neither of them are as defensive, and they have a couple of downright mellow beats.

I don't make it clear in the post (because I'm difficult that way, it seems), but if you want more of these two, it's becoming an ongoing series, sort of. The tag "fic series: silver and gold" is the one you want. lit up by the skylight comes before and a question of cost comes after. Just doing my bit, you know how it is. Someone has to get more Maggie and Sterling out there! :D

reminded herself to never backpedal, and immediately makes Sterling do a little backpedaling of his own.

I love that bit, too. One of the many reasons I have absolutely no qualms about letting her go one-on-one with him. She can handle herself and then some!

Edited at 2010-12-27 06:16 pm (UTC)
im_ridiculous
Feb. 4th, 2013 10:58 am (UTC)
OK. Round 2.
Or, Once More With Context ;)

So the first thing that really strikes me reading back over these first two installments, is just how well you've captured both their voices. Really, really lovely! And I mean, that was already evident from the fact that just reading these with no context whatsoever still gave me a not-entirely-inaccurate picture of them both. Coming back to read now that I've met them both... well. Just perfect.

And I love the play between the two of them here - the falling into it, almost, before they knew really know what's happening, but then it's kind of happening and-- hang on what the hell is happening now??. hee. And I also really love the moment you gave Sterling - his first Maggie moment - that it was her look in a moment of pain and strength and fear that broke through that barrier for him. Why do I love that so much? Because heart of gold, baby, that's why. It strikes me as a terribly compassionate response for that breakthrough to come then for him. Oh Sterling. Bless. Hardarse, but not all hardarse. In spite of himself. heehe

Here, I love the gesture of the flowers: romantic, really, say what he likes about yellow's-for-friendship, I mean let's be honest. Not that that's what Sterling would have been telling himself though. :) But also, in his conscious mind, simply a pragmatic gesture to smooth things over and show no hard feelings (and also, y'know, hey, Maggie, sorry we were on different sides in that one, are we ok? We're ok right? ... What? It's not like I care... jeez...) It's so Sterling. Such a superficially nice and simple gesture that's actually a complicated and layered thing to do.

Bless. ;)
themonkeytwin
Feb. 4th, 2013 01:43 pm (UTC)
Re: OK. Round 2.
HEY YOU :D:D

I love the play between the two of them here - the falling into it, almost, before they knew really know what's happening, but then it's kind of happening and-- hang on what the hell is happening now??.

Right? This charms me so much about their relationship – or, I guess, about their characterisations, that I went ahead and made a point of slightly-unwitting connection between them, that capacity for play they both have. I mean, obviously it's much more pronounced with Maggie; with Sterling, it just comes out in flashes, in a smirk, a pause of appreciation, a puckish instinct for the soft target which he'll then poke but not eviscerate (providing that's not his goal). But in this relationship, I think I just instinctively decided that there would be this undercurrent of curiosity, of desire to play with the other, that neither have acknowledged to themselves until this point, and have sort of starved into the smallest possible profile on their horizons (but could never quite banish), if that makes sense?

And then it's like this is their first real, actual conversation with each other where they're finally interacting directly – that's not about work, or in the framework of hospitality with Nate in between them – and suddenly BAM FLIRTING. I mean, even starting with sending the flowers, as you pointed out – it's that what happens if I do *this*? OMG FLIRTING BAIL BAIL BAIL ... wait I liked that....


It strikes me as a terribly compassionate response for that breakthrough to come then for him.

And, given what we know of his backstory now, so much more loaded. I mean, I figured even he has holes in his armour for genuine human vulnerability – and, well, Maggie is *Maggie*, she sort of just effortlessly slips under people's defences anyway just by being who she is, somehow? And I still don't think he'd have that depth of automatic compassion for anyone in the same position, but that the breakthrough happened on more layers even than I thought. Which probably made him even less happy about it! And yet slightly less determined to evict that sense of connection. I ... think. BUT ANYWAY. YES. COMPASSIONATE FOR SURE, IN SPITE OF HIMSELF, is what I'm agreeing. ;)


Not that that's what Sterling would have been telling himself though. :)
a superficially nice and simple gesture that's actually a complicated and layered thing to do.


Haha, exactly. I mean, lordy, the layers to this gesture – play the game, smooth the way, make this painless, slyly profess admiration (who knew Maggie could be that devious? I mean, Nate, sure, but Maggie?), *poke* and see what happens on a new, limited level of relationship (nothing too out of his control!), possibly a belated gesture of that same compassion, a gallantry, an "I understand why you did this" and "you don't even want to KNOW what I'd have done in your place," a "I like you ... friendship...?" – Very few of which would he actually admit to himself, and NONE of which he'd extend to anyone but Maggie.


So yeah, my shippy brain for these two, let me show you it.... I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HERE. *clings*
im_ridiculous
Feb. 5th, 2013 09:18 am (UTC)
Re: OK. Round 2.
Ok - yes to all that. *high fives* *victory lap* *drinking from the keg of glory* *presentation of finest muffins and bagels in all the land*

YES TO ALL OF THAT.

it's that what happens if I do *this*? OMG FLIRTING BAIL BAIL BAIL ... wait I liked that....

um... LOL!!!!!! \o/ And YEEEEES!!!!! EXACTLY that. :D :D :D

AND ARE YOU KIDDING ME, WOMAN?!?! I'M SO GLAD TO BE HERE!! THANK FOR HAVING ME HERE!!! FUUUUUUUUUUN!!!! :D :D :D

*aaaaaaand next installment. CLICK!*
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