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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - HUMOR
The crew takes a look at one of the simpler pleasures in life.
Post-series, Pre-Serenity,and Better Days/Those Left Behind.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1610 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
For Bytemite, and also thanks to my brother, without whom this sugary event would not have been possible. (All blame--and the bill--goes to them).
Post-series, Pre-Serenity,and Better Days/Those Left Behind.
ICE CREAM SOCIAL
“Why do they call it Tropical Banana-Mango Fantasy?”
Wash enjoyed the proprietary silence that came attached to his rhetorical question. Looking around, he continued on into it: “I mean, Tropical Banana-Mango? Least of all Fantasy.”
He was warming up, placing his commas like a philosopher. “Could they add another word to the ridiculous length of that title? And how is ice cream supposed to be so many things—sure it is a complex interaction of sugars and dairy, fruit in my case, frozen with the most modern technology a crappy Rim world like this could supply. But wherein lies that mysterious quality?”
“Close the sermon please,” murmured Book, craning his neck to see the nearby stalls.
“Yeah, some of us’s waitin’ on ice cream.” Jayne was hunched over on a crate, watching the line hungrily, waiting to take over any of the crew’s designated spots in line. Possibly before they were finished with their place-tokens, if it were a less auspicious day than it had so far been. Newest letter from his ma, though, reminded him that politeness was an auspicate itself.
But Wash wasn’t about to spare them his epiphany. “No, no, I get the point. Fantasy means it’s whatever you make it. “And,” he said, gazing lovingly on the neon-loud ice cream, “I make this a very good day.”
Jayne decided to rain in: “Kinda clashes with yer shirt, don’ it?”
Mal agreed. “What doesn’t?”
Zoe returned, and Wash glanced at his wife’s ice cream.
As first mate, she had to set an example for the crew. And she had done it, as always, in fine understated style, asking the sweets-hop (disgruntled) for the something extra below the counter. Two bits put down any fuss he might have made for scooping out the quality from the secret tubs.
“Is that chocolate?” asked Wash, incredulous.
“Real chocolate? Not the malt stuff.”
“Honey.” Zoe’s tone left no doubt as to what topped her waffle cone.
There was a state of general interest among the crew, most of whom were still sitting around on crates waiting for the line to go down. It was all right—no hurry, no rush. For once. Day off and there was money in their pockets and(for the most part) smiles on their faces. Or at least not frowns. Zoe made it louder, into an announcement.
“This is, I will have you know, the real stuff.”
General admiration abounded. Zoe knew her stuff.
Wash seemed a little amused. “Bāo-bei, chocolate? You proud?”
Zoe leaned in carefully around his Tropical Banana-Mango Fantasy to kiss his cheek. “You bet I am.”
Kaylee looked like a girl in a candy store. Which she almost was, being a young woman allowed ice cream for the first time in six months. Ships had a distinct lack of ice cream, a downside to being inseparable from her baby, Serenity.
“Whad’d I get, huh? Guess, Simon.”
“No, really I—“
“Ahm…” He decided to play. Her eyes hung on him in the small pause. “Something pink.”
She squealed and gave a little jump. “Eeeee!” Beaming, she looked him very seriously in the face and said “Now guess the flavor.”
Simon was stalling, and Kaylee took the opportunity.
“Isn’t this great? Cap’n goes’n the first job we really get, that goes really right, that nobody gets hurt, that we actually get paid for…” In Simon’s opinion she was starting to sound droll. “…we come down here and get ice cream to celebrate.”
Simon smiled back. She was so very excited. “Yes, it’s been a very long time since I---or I’m sure any of the crew, have had ice cream. It is quite generous.” He meant it. Turning to his right he could see Mal leaning up against a post, his face not quite so harried as it usually was. Still watchful,untrusting of some vague threat hidden in the lunchtime crowd milling around the dimly-lit warehouse. Then more slowly, quietly: “Paid out of his own share.”
“Now,” she said brightly, returning satisfied to the question. He bit this time…almost.
“Um…something causes the pink.”
“It’s what’s in it.”
“Just strawberry?” she said in the same tone she did when edging out Serenity’s lesser points. Strawberry. The idea of just.
Jayne Cobb was proud. His ma had taught him right. While the rest of the crew were shellin’ out hard-earned cash for ice cream packed into tubs like cryo food, Jayne knew where his heart lay. Soft-serve.
He had returned with not just any soft serve, either. Jayne’s choice was its holy grail—-choco-vanilla twist.
“I uh, I like mine ‘cause it’s all twirly on top.” He emphasized this with an astute motion intended to convey the essence of soft ice cream.
Kaylee looked over. “Jayne, that’s sweet.”
“It’s ice cream, woman. This is serious.”
Mal had nearly finished his ice cream. Vanilla served as well as it could, wasn’t distracting. Anyway, there was more to see; for instance, his crew. And not just the misbehaving, injured, nabbed-by-feds, tired, cranky parts neither. The funny ones. Zoe was halfway through her fancy chocolate, having almost missed her mouth watching the mystical encounter that was Wash-with-Banana-Mango-Fantasy.
“Its…almost an art form,” she breathed, awed.
Mal was also glued to the show. He nudged her and leaned over, whispered, “Hey, if I was you, I’d be starting to get jealous.”
They both lost it.
Wash remained unfazed and continued to imagine himself on a tropical island, one he’d never seen outside of the print on his shirts.
Jayne jerked a thumb over at the doctor’s selection. He’d just come away from the counter, and was sitting on one of the crates. “And what’s that?”
“French vanilla.” Simon looked for a moment like he was going to explain, but Jayne didn’t give him the chance.
“Is that like, imnitation----the fakey stuff?”
Simon looked down at the cone. “It’s…made with…supposedly, a higher concentration of the authentic bean…if they even have that in this place.” River watched him as he tried it, gingerly. He made a face, which both of them had been expecting . The rating was not surprising either. “Ehhh….yup. Mmmm. Preservatives, corn syrup. And a nice aftertaste of caramel colorant.” Jayne snorted, proud of his own twiddly concoction. It was delicious, and he knew exactly how it would taste. Like vanilla and chocolate, mixed.
“All I know is,” he paused and looked around as if considering whether to let the words out of his mouth. “Anything French comes extra.”
Simon didn’t answer.
River had drifted off to join Book in line. She passed Inara, who turned on her elegant heels to make sure the girl got to the preacher before making her own way over to the crew. Inara remained standing. The silk in her dress couldn’t take creasing, and the crates seemed to be of a very rugged kind of plastic.
Mal looked up from his ice cream, a single large scoop of plain vanilla. It wasn’t like he was eating it, anyway. He put his mouth to better use, Inara thought, slightly bitterly. He was keeping a word and an eye on them all, till the ice cream was eaten-- and until all were safely back again in the ship, cooped up in the imaginary safety of Serenity’s bulkheads and afterburners. Any particular kind would be wasted on him.
“You didn’t get some kinda fancy drink? Margarita-flavored or anything?” There were only small teeth in the remark, acquired from long stints of standing around a canvassing with an alcoholic-drink-sipping, fancy-looking Companion pretending to give him some respectability. Inara thought the symbolism quite nice.
Especially as margaritas seemed to be the only name for a mixed beverage that managed to stay in his head.
“They only had cones.”
“And you said nothing?”
Jayne couldn’t believe his eyes.
He was going to repeat the same fēng kuáng de conversation again with the younger sibling.
The even loonier one.
He just couldn’t resist. The girl genius had come back with something that had originally been a generous scoop of peppermint. Now it was covered in everything the blame sweets-hop would put on it. Syrup, candy, marshmallows, chopped nuts, sprinkles, coconut—crowned by a cherry and a ridiculous powdering of colored sugar. The entire thing looked like a Christmas tree had gotten in a fight with an avalanche of whipped cream, lost, and was now balanced very precariously on the edge of a sugar-cone island, though she had so far managed to carry this island back safely from the stall. He wondered if it was going to be a repeat scenario of the ice planet; hit and miss from orbit. That had been amusing. This would just be a mess. Simon apparently had the same thought and asked her what it was.
As if he was the village idiot.
She explained her indulgence further, very slowly:
“Which only comes but once a year.”
Jayne leaned over. “Heh. Good thing it ain’t tomorrow then.”
Derrial Book, thinking about his front-of-the-line choices with the small section of his mind not occupied with other, less lighthearted choices, admitted she had a point. Double Dutch Caramel-Brick Swirl was apt to stick to the gums and the waistline.
Then she had walked off with a sugary abomination.
Were he younger, getting even would be on the menu. Now, it was just to make his choice and bide his time. Ice cream was an innocent pleasure, but he hadn’t given it a thought in his more innocent days. He added ice cream to the very lengthy list of things wasted on the young.
Lichee was pleasant enough, and as light as he could go. Besides, he was certain the laughter in her eyes had not been directed at him. Directly.
Inara’s eyes wandered over the cone. To think of a Companion eating an ice cream cone was an exercise in rhetoric. Simple rote. To think of her eating one, again, an exercise in laughter control.
His smile was winning this time. Apparently vanilla had agreed with his constitution.
“You gonna finish that?” He smiled sweetly at her. She then realized he hadn’t slept in two days. Seemed very fuzzy around the edges, fading fast. That was just like him, both to come out to keep an eye on them and to not have enough sense to do it when he wasn’t a danger to himself. The man was about to fall over.
“An’ I say again. That—n—n’ you. That’s funny.” A pause as he tried to put the two together. Dunno why, but it is.” He sagged on the crate, outright beaming at her. Inara decided to put a label on it.
“You’re drunk. Sleep-drunk, sugar drunk, I don’t care what drunk.”
Wash couldn’t take it anymore. He leaned over, conspiratorially, and whispered loudly, “Beats flyin’ drunk.”
The Companion rolled her eyes to show exactly what she thought about both statements. With what semblance of mystique she had left she turned around and began to attempt to eat her ice cream. Then she noticed the puzzling fumes. Very faint, and sweet, almost like a margarita.
“I didn’t order anything alco—” and she turned just as there was a Captain-sized thump amid the chuckling of the mutinous first mate and her hubby, that turned to outright laughter as soon as he was down.
Mal was laid out on the crates—eyes closed, body completely relaxed. His smile remained unshaken.
Wash looked up at her, attempting a straight face.
“Yours wasn’t. His is.”
Zoe elaborated. “Well, maybe just a little bit stronger. Brandy. Moonshine. Mostly pure grain alcohol. Less taste that way.” Zoe wiped her hands with the napkin Wash gave her. There was a gentle pride in her voice as she took them from him with satisfaction. “I told you, honey. I know my stuff.”
Inara knew none of them would ever live this down when he came to, even the ones who hadn’t been involved. “Three shots.”
“Oh,” she answered softly. “Eating it that fast, he’ll be out a week.”
“That’s the idea,” said Zoe. “Somethin’ like it.”
Wash checked Mal’s sleeping face, then up at Inara. “Looks kinda peaceful, out like that. Imagine, the man didn’t want ice cream.”
Inara cast about for a comment. “It’s given him some levity. Questionable, but it’s still there.”
Wash turned to Zoe. “Only part that didn’t work out is my Banana-Mango-whatchamacalit is gone. Ah, well.”
She smiled a tiny smile at him with her eyes. “We’re going somewhere better.”
Where she always meant.
“Back to the ship.”
Kaylee was worried about the upturned boots until she saw the grins on the turncoats’ faces and something approaching a smirk on Inara’s. “Huh. Was celebratin’, he didn’t even know it.”
Simon looked too. “It does always have a way of catching up to him.” They went over to give Wash and Zoe a hand.
This time around, there was no ice cream apocalypse.
To Jayne’s utter surprise, River had eaten every bite neatly. There was no trace of the concoction by the time Book returned from his contact in the neighboring stall. Eating lichee ice cream had taken down his credibility considerably, and he was relieved to be back where they didn’t take him seriously anyway. Ice cream was the rule of the day, and there had clearly been a few adventures while he was out. Captain was down and there was no sign of the diabetes potion River had left the stand with just minutes earlier. Jayne swore it existed.
“Shoulda seen it, preacher. Was somethin’ to see.”
“Oh, I’m sure it was.”
Book made a mental note never to consume edibles with either the pilot or his wife. Clearly, there was still a war on. Shots had been fired, and taken, hard.
“I just hope the rest of us aren’t in for more of the same. There’s quite a lot to see here already.”
The supine Mal also caught River’s attention.
“He’s going to have a headache,” she observed.
Jayne wondered how she could overlook the obvious. “I think he’s got two already.”
Kaylee laughed as Wash and Zoe struggled to shift Mal off the crates. “They’re heavy when they’re drunk, arn’t they?” She was clearly delighted with the entire picture. “Simon, help ‘em, yeah, help‘em—--mean old man like that’s made a’ rocks and gunmetal. Heavier n’ a horse. A dumb one,” she said purposefully over Mal’s unresponsive face, jutting out her chin and finally pitching in herself as well just as Zoe bodily heaved most of Mal’s weight onto her shoulders. First mate Zoey Alleyne Washburne strode purposefully out of the warehouse, because her Captain was not in a position to walk out by himself.
Wash hovered alongside, cringing as Mal’s hair barely cleared a stall. “Careful, now. Won’t you—won’t you hit his head? I mean, there’s posts.”
“Nah,” Zoe said, walking and smiling. “He won’t feel it.”
They were outside, making their ungainly way back to the ship over an uneven field—Mal slung between Zoe and Simon—when River made her second pronouncement on the afternoon.
“Ice cream holds all time together.”
“You bet. Now what was it that you asked the hop at the counter for?” Book would be back, perhaps, if his dignity would ever let him.
“I told you. Christmas.”
Thursday, January 7, 2010 9:02 PM
Friday, January 8, 2010 7:05 AM
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