BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

TUJIAOZUO

New Haven Chapter 7
Friday, January 4, 2008

(Previously called The Courtship Dance) Post-BDM; S/K, M/I: Mal, with Zoe and River in tow, go and fetch their wayward horse. However Simon sacrifices something to fix the situation, enlisting the help of Kaylee and Colter.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1239    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

"Boo."

Simon spun around as he had just gotten off of the mule, swiftly pulled into a hug by his little sister. Looking down, he wrapped his arms around the skinny little frame and hugged her tight. Sighing, his eyes shut as he relaxed. "Don't ever run off like that."

"You smell like dog." She scrunched up her nose to the scent. York, was on her shoulder, and flattened his ears to the odor as well.

A frown turned on his face. "River...."

"Relax, doc." Mal said while in stride. "She's dandy, just tucked herself away 'cause she had to git over somethin'...."

"Are you ok?" Pulling back, her brother's eyes looked her over with a critical gaze. "Is.... is there anything wrong?" Receiving the facial contortion of an annoyed teenager, he gave a critical expression, narrowing his eyes. "Do I need to run some tests..."

"There'll be no tests." The captain butted in as River wriggled free to skip over to Kaylee. "She's right 'n shiny."

"What was wrong?"

Licking his lips, he lied blatantly, shrugging his shoulders. "Hormones I reckon, you know those of the female persuasion." Whilst Simon pondered over the answer, he whistled to the psychic. "Albatross, girl talk can wait, go git ready."

"Ready for what?" The trauma surgeon asked warily.

"Your sister's gonna come with me and Zoe to fetch the horse." Turning, he followed Kaylee and River inside, where the ritualistic smell of the morning coffee, bacon, eggs and congee created the breakfast bouquet.

Inara looked up as River and Kaylee were chatting. "River?"

"Hi. Feeling better." The announcement was said over the shoulder as she trotted up the stairs.

Zoe arched a brow and looked to Mal, a hot cup of bona fide coffee in her hands. They may have been walking a thin financial line, yet they were blessed with real coffee beans. None of that synthesized stuff that could melt paint like they had up in the black. "Damn good cowboy, Sir, seeing as you can wrangle yourself that Lil' One."

"I know, didn't have ta put her on a lead or nothing, got the touch." He sidled up and grabbed two mugs, tossing one to Simon before handling the coffee pot and pouring himself some. "Soon as she comes down, you and I are takin' her to get back my horse."

"She know where Jai is?"

"Yes, also told me looks to be Jai's stuck and cold. So she'll be outta commission as it's all too likely she'll get sick." Mal sipped his coffee, tone shrewd. "Which is the problem of the day. Everyone gets to figure out how we're gonna buy another horse, seeing as we don't have the money but have to have said other horse."

"Did you find out anything regarding the horse thieves?" Simon asked as Kaylee came down and went over to Inara.

"They work for someone named Yutaka." Zoe informed. "Looks to also be a middle man goes by Eugene."

"Is there anyone in your rolodex of seedy criminals named Yutaka?" Simon, just as he set a newly filled mug of coffee down, had a plate of food handed to him via Kaylee, who patted his arm as she set down with her own plate to eat her rationed one slice of bacon, one egg, and little bowl of congee. He watched her, amazed that she was so unruffled about what had just occurred with River.

"No, this feller's new to my special friend list." Mal was clearly tense with the notion of a crook about. "We gotta put locks on the barn, meaning to do that but that's another coin related issue."

"I could do it probably." Kaylee told him after swallowing, sliding sideway in her chair, she looked up at all the expectant faces. "Been lookin' stuff up on the Coretex, dabblin' a bit with metalwork. Bet I could make it, find some scrap steel."

"Looks like you got yourself a job to do.... course we might not need a lock if we can't get a new horse. Might be the hitch that blows this little dream out of the proverbial water."

Inara and Zoe gave Mal concerned looks during which Kaylee lowered her head and Simon had a subdued staring contest with his plate.

"Oh I'm sorry. Forgot how to be cheery there for a moment." Sipping his coffee impatiently, he glimpsed at the stairs. "RIIIVEEER. You're not takin' the horse on a date!"

River came bounding down the stairs. "Here!" She was in a long skirt, combat boots, sweater, jacket far too large for her, and a pair of gloves as Boston followed. York was already in the kitchen begging for food regardless Zoe had given him a bowl of fresh cream. Skidding to a stop in front of Simon, she leapt up and stole his hat before stealing his slice of bacon. "Love you." The little voice cheekily announced as the hat dropped on her head and the bacon popped in her mouth. "Kaylee, watch him."

"Will do."

"Better, he's a handful." Floating over to the door, she snapped her fingers and on cue her shoulder cat vaulted up to resume his place.

"River, be careful." Simon cautioned.

"Eat your breakfast." She countered as Mal and Zoe followed her outside.

"I ain't gonna get you to leave the cat, am I?" Mal muttered as he walked next to her.

"Nope." River climbed up into the mule, taking the back seat as Mal and Zoe got in front. Boston took a seat in her lap, and she played with his ears as the mule lurched forward before setting a steady pace to the barn. "I should drive, know where to go."

"You will." Mal parked the mule and got out with Zoe. "Just be a moment."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kaylee, Simon and Inara all ate a late breakfast.

They were quiet after Malcolm's gloomy declaration of the ranch not working without another horse. It was a troublesome thought, one which had Simon daring to do something he had promised himself he would never.

"Captain's just hassled by all thats happened today." Kaylee finally spoke up, hoping to inject a hearty dose of optimism. "I mean... Jayne's out in the back acres, he's gotta horse, then there's Amos, makes two, just like we started out with."

"It's getting cold though," Simon explained from his basic understanding he had picked up talking to Mal "It's raining and the temperature's dropped. We should probably be out there right looking for sick cows. The captain told me a few days ago that when a storm rolls in when the weather changes you have to watch the herd for the ones that got ill, then you have to catch and administer a panacea. If you don't they'll get worse and you can lose a lot of animals very quickly."

"I wonder if we can barter anything for a horse." Inara pondered out loud. "There's not much left to sell, but there has to be something." There wasn't much left, in point of fact they had all sold a good deal of their own possessions. Ma Reynold's land had to be bought back, something that had caused Mal much frustration after touching down as he had assumed his old paperwork for the plot was still in warrant. Yet after the war any land that had no people settled on it had been taken into the Alliance custody before being turned back over to the planet's government. Albeit it was rather cheap land when they had purchased it (for Shadow had set the price low to encourage regrowth), it still cost coin the ranch and the rest of the acres. Unanimously refusing to sell Serenity, they had only kept things of necessity or sentimental value. Using the rest along with odd job money and savings to pay for land.

Simon's mouth formed a thin line. Getting up, he took his empty plate and mug to the sink. "Kaylee, would you mind coming to town with me?"

"Don't you gotta ride out 'n treat the sick cows?"

"I think this is more important."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mal pained at the sight of Jai.

His mare was neighing, frightened for she was stuck in the mud. River had located her, driving the mule herself after the stop a the barn. She and the captain in front, with Zoe in back along with the horse thieves for Mal saw fit to dump them out somewhere out in the lonesome prairie as punishment. They were a good five miles off of ranch property, parallel to the massive Switch Fork River that separated the prairie from the mountains. The river was swollen from the previous storm, a frigid deluge that had ripped trees off of the banks and turned the surrounding soil into a quagmire that had trapped the horse.

River, with her brother's hat threatening to fall into her eyes, drove the hover mule over the over the treacherous mud and right alongside the mare that was exhausting itself with trying to break free. Mal fingered a lasso as he reached out.

"You unties us, we could help." Gus told his captors.

"Yeah, we's... we's could." The other piped.

"You've caused enough damaged, just sit tight. In no time you'll be in the middle of the frontier and have plenty of time ta walk." He slipped the lasso over her head so it settled on her neck. Securing it to the mule, Mal then pulled free her lead from the mud. "Zoe, harness." taking off his hat coat and gun holster, he pulled off his boots and socks as well.

Zoe passed the cart harness over. "Careful, Sir."

"Careful as I can." Shouldering the tack, he jumped out to land alongside the horse and into mud that went up to his chest. The stinging cold gripped him, made him grit his teeth. "Ah....Huo de chang zhe shi bu yi-ge fa-liang tian." Taking Jai's lead, he rested his hand on her neck, feeling how it was soaked with cold sweat. "Hey, hey, come on darlin." He soothed. "Gonna git you out, dry you off and put you in a nice stall."

Hefting the harness, he began to put it on the trapped mare.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simon had saddled Amos.

He and Kaylee had cleaned up, as they had still be half dressed and muddy from the early morning spectacle, before heading out. Kaylee talked about everyone she knew in town, and he listened intently, fingering a little velvet pouch.

Kaylee took a deep breath, for he had yet to tell her what their were going to Pryor for. "So, you wanna tell me why we're makin' this trip?"

"We're going to get another horse and rig." He announced with an exhale, staring out as the town crept up the road. "I thought you might know someone, seeing as you probably are friends with half the town." The end was teasing, a way for him to sound casual regardless he was sacrificing something very dear.

Turning in the saddle Kaylee furrowed her brows. "You got money?"

"I have something to barter." He answered vaguely.

Noticing something in his hand as he gripped the reins, she finagled it out of the palm and opened up the pouch. The gold pocket watch fell into her own palm, and her eyes widened. "Simon, you can't give this up... This is..."

"It's an object." Simon pressed. "And it's worth enough for a horse."

"It's an heirloom, you said so yourself."

"I'd rather sell it then have something unfavorable happen. Besides, I don't use it, the only reason I would keep it was if I had...." He caught himself, not wanting to delve too far into the reverie of the possible future. "If I passed it on. However that's not as important as getting a horse." Pausing as they crossed the threshold from country to town, he eased Amos to a slower pace. "So, do you think you know someone?"

Gently tucking the pocket watch back into the pouch, she rested her back against his chest and held onto the saddle horn. She felt he was so selfless to give up his watch, brave too, and deserved a big kiss when it was all over. "Try the general store, Mr. Irving might know someone who deals in horses."

"Xie-xie ai-ren."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mal felt like his toes had frozen.

He was struggling to harness Jai, trying to do it quickly as she was acting fatigued. However the mud was cumbersome.

Zoe took off her coat, holster, and boots.

"I got it!" He shouted over the roar of the waterway and the rumble of the anti-gravity drive.

She jumped in on the opposite side, reflexes jerking to the cold. "No offense, Sir, but this mud looks ta out number ya."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Colter knew the Doc wasn't a rim boy.

He didn't look like one, didn't walk, talk or act like one. The Doc blended in a might better than he had when he had first come in, had some color in his face from the sun, wasn't so proper, yet it still showed. When he walked in, decked out in his navy shirt, faded red neckerchief, wool vest, gauntlets, pants, boots and straight legged chaps, he carried himself like some important apparatchik. Shoulders straight and head high when the others who came into town had the contrapposti tough cowboy prowl. Hadn't been long on a horse either, as those who were ranching since birth had bow-legs and his were unbent amd formed straight. That, and the boy had no pistol. Every drover on Shadow had a holster swinging on their hips except him.

However that little mechanic loved him something fierce.

He smiled under his bushy fu-manchu when they walked into his white-washed establishment. The young lady first taking a moment to eye the sweets in the glass jar that lined his counter. She was in some grey pants with a pink top and fleece lined coat, but none too happy. "Well Miss Kaylee, just saw you yesterday, got yourself a special occasion?"

"Well, Simon needed some help so I came 'long." She chirped, looking across the store and waving at Mrs. Irving.

Pressing his gnarled hands on the countertop, he gave a friendly smile. "Doc, didn't know anyone was sick and in need of your services, lest there's a child comin' in I dunno of."

"No, we're actually here because I need a little help." Simon explained. "Our outfit desperately needs another horse and rig." Digging into his pocket, he took out the pouch. "I don't have any money, but I have something I'm will to sell or barter. Kaylee thought you might know someone who sells horses."

Colter Irving jutted his jaw to the side."You ever bought a horse, Doc?"

"Um. No."

"Well there's a first time for everything." Taking off his apron, he kept talking. "Well, there's two horse ranches out in these parts. Figure you'll need somethin' of quality." Walking over, he took his hat and coat. Putting the worn hat on to cover up his receding hairline, he slipped on equally well worked coat. "May I see what you've got there for payment?" taking the pouch, Colter dumped the contents out into his hand. Letting out a low whistle, he read the calligraphy engraving and opened he watch up. "Looks like something of sentimental value, Simon Tam." He raised a brow, as 'Tam' was written in Chinese in the middle of the timepiece, the numbers circling it. "That's your name I reckon, unless you fleeced this offa someone, though I feel you ain't the type."

"It is." Simon spoke nervously, as he hadn't given out his last name in ages. The warrants were gone, nonetheless there was always the thought of the parliament re-issuing charges and making their life another hell. "It's um... it's about four hundred years old, family rumor is it came from the exodus on an ark ship."

Kaylee sadness came over her, as she wished Simon didn't give up the watch. He treasured it, he had told her so.

"Na shi zhou-ma. Yi-kuai de shi." the storekeep marveled, running his thumb across the gold. "One of them things that's passed down from father ta son?"

Simon merely nodded his head, remembering how his father had given it to him on his eighteenth birthday. It meant he was an adult, his father's words as he told him that he too had gotten it when he turned eighteen.

"You were in Horus and told that story this'd fetch enough money to buy a herd'a ponies. However, this surely isn't Horus." He gave the watch back "'Gonna take you to a man named Boss Tig. You tell him that it's an earth-that-was piece, exclude the fact that's yer name on the watch, and you're gonna ask fer five horses and three rigs. You two are gonna haggle down ta two rigs and three horses, you're gonna take that deal."

"Alright."

"Susan." Colter turned to address his wife. "Gonna help these two exchange for some horses, I'm takin' the truck 'n trailer, be back in two hours."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mal and Zoe finally got the harness on Jai.

The horse was weak as Zoe climbed back in the mule, River helping the second in command as the mud was like glue. Falling in, covered from head to toe in filth, she caught her breath before taking the traces and reins.

Mal waded through and got behind his horse. "River."

River spun the mule around so it was in front of the mare. Zoe tied the traces and reins to the back, watching the horse as Mal gripped the hip strap.

"Go!" He ordered.

The reader gently accelerated, pulling the horse towards dry ground whilst the captain pushed.

"Come on." He growled as he helped the poor mount. "Come on! Don't give up on me!" There was no friction in the mud, as when he dug his barefeet in they slipped. "HA! Jai ni zou!"

The horse broke free.

She neighed, and collapsed with an agonizing cry.

As soon as Zoe untied the reins and traces, River turned around and went back to Mal, Zoe pulling him out.

"You well, Sir?" She helped him to sit, as he seemed near collapsing himself.

"Whatdaya think?" He wiped off what felt like a foot thick layer of river mud. As soon as they were back to the horse, he jumped out. Going over he knelt next to the filthy, weak horse.

Then he saw her leg.

Shutting his eyes, he scorned God as he swallowed back his emotions. Rubbing her neck and ears, he bit down on his teeth.

River picked up his thoughts on what to do with a horse that was crippled. She hadn't known Jai had a broken foot, a horse's mind didn't know that. It just knew it was stuck near a river, hurting and cold. "No."

Zoe dropped her head sadly.

Mal's face slackened, seemingly void of emotion as he stood up went to get his pistol.

"I'll do it, sir." She got out and took out her gun, only getting a head nod as a response. Didn't seem right for a man to euthanize his own horse.

"River, get out." Mal ordered, walking away from the scene.

Zoe's gun went off, making everyone jump and their hearts sink.

"A-ya shang-di." The small crook whimpered.

She knew what was next on his agenda. "No." her face tensed defiantly.

His face erupted in rage, voice snarling. "De bu-zai xian-zai, wo shi bu jian-yi." As soon as she got down, he jumped into the mule and sped off till the craft was right over the Switch Fork waters. Turning, the captain faced the thieves as if he was back in the war and they had purple bellies. "This here's where you boys get out." He explained coldly, moving to the back and grabbing Gus.

They paled at the site of the white water. "But.... the prairie."

"Deserve what you brought upon me."

"We's.... we's told you everythin'!"

"WU MA SHI SI-WANG!" Gus was kicked overboard into the lethal water. Still bound like a tied sheep.

He grabbed the skinny one.

"SIR!" Zoe called out.

Malcolm didn't hear her.

*** *** *** TRANSLATIONS

congee: Rice porridge, a common food in chinese culture

Huo de chang zhe shi bu yi-ge fa-liang tian: Monkey's innards this is not a shiny day.

Xie-xie ai-ren: thank you sweetheart.

Na shi zhou-ma. Yi-kuai de shi: Be damned. Piece of history.

Jai ni zou!: Jai you move!

A-ya shang-di: Oh god.

De bu-zai xian-zai, wo shi bu jian-yi: Get out now, I was not suggesting.

WU MA SHI SI-WANG!: MY HORSE IS DEAD!

****

**As always, the writer appreciates all comments whether they be positive, negative, or suggestions.**

COMMENTS

Saturday, January 5, 2008 10:15 AM

LEIASKY


Aww, I felt the same as Kaylee with Simon giving up the family heirloom! Still a very fun and engaging story. Looking forward to the next part.

Saturday, January 5, 2008 8:01 PM

SERENITYRIDESAGAIN


Damn. Having been out west more n'once, I have to applaud the gritty, realistic style with which you write this. Characters remain spot-on and your storytelling is excellent. Shiny :)


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