Extra Cargo Ch. 6 -- Shopping
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A continuation of the puffy little story I started 5 chapters ago. This one is also true, well pieces of it. I made it PG-13 for language. If you want to start at the beginning Chapters 1-4 are posted together Chapter 1-4. And Chapter 5.


Chapter 6 -- Shopping With A Woman

Mal was used to women; they surrounded him on a daily basis. Serenity; the first mate, the mechanic, the Companion, and a teenage psychic. They surrounded him all the time; butting into his life and his affairs; but, not a one of them was a willing to go shopping with him and Caroline. No one was willing to go with him. Book was having lunch with some brothers that he had while he was at the Abbey and trying to see if he could beg or borrow some textbooks. Wash had zipped Zoë off somewhere so fast it made Mal’s head spin; something about wild passionate monkey sex and a bathtub. Simon and River were off with Kaylee looking for something for the engine and then going to get bedroom stuff with which to surprise Caroline. Jayne had been muttering something about grenades, booze, and sex; but, was just going to pick up some essentials and then help Kaylee and River with construction. And Inara, she’d left when they entered atmo, a client.

Mal was standing outside the cargo bay squinting against the sun holding the hand of a small girl in a rather dirty jumper. She was clutching a ragged horse that missing a leg. Anyone that would have looked at them would have seen a father and daughter out for a day in the town. For Mal it was something he never thought he would see – him being a father. He took one last look at the list that Kaylee and Inara had prepared before putting it in his overcoat:

Caroline (Dress (?), Overalls, Sweater, Shirts, Under garments, Socks, & Shoes) Pants (Mal really needed a pair or two; he was down to one pair without holes, tears, or blood on them)

“Well, little one. Lets go shopping? Gots lots of stuff to get today. Gotta get you some clothes.”

“Yep.” Caroline, holding Zoey under one arm and Mal’s hand with her right hand, looked out at the bustling dusty marketplace and thought that Hilliard didn’t look much different then Persephone. Lots of people going lots of places and lots of dust. Caroline was really excited Kaylee had said that the Cap’n was going to take her shopping for new clothes. She’d never had new clothes. Mostly her stuff had come from the Abbey; they gave used clothes to all the street children. When the ‘liance had taken her from her ma; they’d given her new clothes; but, ma made her throw them away. Said they was tainted. Dirty. Sumppin’ like that.

They walked through the marketplace, past the ships seeking passengers and cargo, past all kinds of stalls with all kinds of goods. Rug vendors, candle and incense vendors, vegetable vendors, and fruit vendors – Caroline saw blueberries, strawberries, apples, and lots of things she’d never seen before in all kinds of colors. They turned out of the market area, and into an area of permanent store fronts. There were lots of things in the window, all kinds of writing. Book had been teaching Caroline letters and words every morning. As they wound there way down the street she picked out letters; K, is for Kaylee, J is for Jayne, D is for dinosaur. They finally stopped in front a store that had big pink letters painted on the glass window.

“C, is for Caroline.” Said Caroline as she bumped into Mal; she hadn’t realized they were going to stop and it startled her. “Yep. Gotta get you sumpin’ decent to wear. Figure this is the best place; lest that’s what ‘Nara says.” He held open the door for Caroline and they both entered “Mrs. Le’s Fine Young Ladies Clothing.” Mal cringed upon entering this palace of pink and pastels and floral prints. It seemed every surface that could be covered was covered with pink ruffles, or lace trim, or flowers. Could this place get any worse? He was going to kill ‘Nara for suggesting this particular store. He was about to suggest that they go someplace else when he looked down and saw Caroline’s face. She appeared to be completely in awe and in love with the pink surroundings. Zoey was just dangling from her hand forgotten. Mal reached down and took the horse; Caroline didn’t even notice. He cringed again; internally this time when he saw Mrs. Le, at least he assumed she was Mrs. Le. She was an older Chinese lady dressed entirely in pink. A pink floral dress, pink slippers, pink hair bow, and a pink striped apron that said Mrs. Le’s across the pocket.

“Ni hao. I am Mrs. Le; can I help you?

“Uh, qu. I need some clothes for my daughter, Caroline.” He said pointing at Caroline.

With a look at Caroline who was gazing in wonderment and walking around the room Mrs. Le asked “Anything in particular, Xiān sheng?”

Feeling more and more uncomfortable in this palace of pre-adolescent femininity and frippery Mal pulled out the list and mutely handed it to Mrs. Le. “Not so sure ‘bout her needin’ a dress though.”

“Ahh, I see you need everything. You have come to the right place. Do you have any particular needs for certain types of clothing?”

“Ummm… sturdy; she tends to get into a lot of things.”

“I see. You sit there.” Responded Mrs. Le pointing at a delicate slipper chair covered in pink silk. “I will work with Caroline.” Mal sat. Mrs. Le walked over to Caroline and looked down at her, although not very far; because she was very, very petite. “Xin gan; I am Mrs. Le and I’m going to help you find some clothes.”

Caroline just nodded.

“Your ba’ is sitting over there. We are going to start at the inside and work out. Ok, Xin gan?”

Caroline looked over at where Mal sat and just nodded; she was totally overwhelmed by the store. Mrs. Le walked over to an ornate white-washed dresser; she opened the top drawer and pulled out neatly wrapped packages of undergarmets. “Which prints do you like? Horses, fairies, teddy bears, flowers?”

“I like the yellow flowers.” Caroline whispered. “Kaylee painted some like that on the dining room.”

Well, everything seemed to be going ok, Mal thought, no tantrums or such. That was good. Real good. Gave him a few minutes alone. Last couple of weeks, everything had turned upside down. It had been rough on all of them. Probably physically roughest on Simon. Boy was walking around with a black eye. It was pretty funny though; a fifty pound girl beating the gao-se out of the doc. Maybe this week would be smoother.

It had happened the afternoon after the whole spider-web incident. Caroline and the Shepard had finished with their lessons for the day; and her and River were drawing in the common area. They were using paper as their canvas’ too; not the walls or the floor, which was a miracle unto itself. Simon had cornered him and told him that he really thought Caroline should have a physical; living mostly on the streets of Persephone had exposed her to tyen shiao duh.

“Ok, go get Kaylee, she should be able to help calm the little one down. I’ll go get her horse. Let’s do this, get it over.” Mal told Simon and they both departed. Mal went and got Zoey, and came back through the common area. “Bao bei, come on.”

Caroline looked up from her picture, it appeared to a horse and a building of some sort. “Huh. Weishenme?”

“Gotta go see the doc.” As soon as he had said the word “doc” Caroline had gone into flight mode. She went for the door leading to the cargo bay. Mal had grabbed her by the head and hair; it was the only thing he could reach. Quickly grabbing her by the waist instead, and threw her over his shoulder in the fireman’s carry; trying not to hurt her.

Pain and not going anywhere near the infirmary were Caroline’s two primary aims. “Tamade hundan! Tsao ni zuzong shiba dai! In between the creative cussing, she had managed to get in a couple of good bites.

Sitting in the pink chair Mal moved his shoulder and winced as he felt the scabbing over the bite mark stretch. And he sank back into his thoughts and memory.

“Taint no need for language like that round here, little one.” Mal said putting Caroline down on the exam table in the infirmary, and swatting her lightly upside the head. “What did I say about biting?”

“Ain’t getting’ stuck, and bled by no swai doc. Ain’t happenin’.”

Mal had hoped that humor was the right tack to take out of this situation. “Handsome doc, she called you handsome.”

“Well, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t disagree with that.” Added Kaylee walking in the door of the infirmary; with Inara. “Xialia, bao bei, relax. Ain’t no one goin’ to hurt you.” Kaylee walked over and gave Caroline a hug. “It’s going to be ok.”

Inara walked over to the wall where Mal was standing. “I’m just here to provide moral support.” She didn’t specify to whom she was going to provide support.

“No, tain’t that chsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo doctor ain’t touching me! Ouch!” yelped Caroline as Mal stood up from his position against the wall smacked the back of her head, not so gently this time

“Caroline, I hear words like that again comin’ outta your mouth. You ain’t going to be sittin’ down for a month. Dong ma?” Barked Mal.

“Don’ wan no ruttin’ doc poking me.”

“Shh… honey, it’s going to be ok. Simon just wants to make sure that you’re all healthy-like.” Kaylee added soothingly.

“He sticks needles in River. Hurts her. Makes her cry.”

Simon jumped into the conversation “I’m just trying to make her better.”

“Ain’t doin’ nothing; but, causing pain. That don’ make no one better.”

Simon had no answer for that; so he reverted to Doctor. “Open your mouth; I want to take a quick look inside.”

It wasn’t getting stuck, so grudgingly Caroline opened her mouth with only one stern look from Mal. Without the facilities of a hospital Simon had to conduct the physical in a very primitive fashion – rim style. He actually had to poke and prod at Caroline, no nifty diagnostic tools. She was a little short and underweight for her age, needed to see a dentist; but, was pretty healthy overall. A slight wheeze in her lungs meant nothing much, just something to keep a watch on.

“Ok Caroline, last thing. You’ve been really good so far.” Simon said turning around and reaching into one of the drawers he drew out a small handful of things and a couple of vials. “I just need a blood sample.”

“Ain’ no doctor stickin’ at me with no needles.”

“Calm down bao bei, it’s going to be ok. Xialia.” Whispered Kaylee as Simon turned back around. Mal stood up again ready to intervene if the situation called for it.

Caroline was ready for Simon as he came prepared to stick her. She had Zoey clutched in her right arm; and left fly with her left. BAM, right into the side of Simon’s nose. The infirmary erupted into mass of tangled arms and legs. Caroline slid off the exam table and was trying to get away. Kaylee was trying to hold onto Caroline and go around the table to comfort Simon. Mal was trying to reach for a fighting Caroline through Kaylee and see to Simon at the same time, and Inara was trying to calm Caroline down.

“Píng xī! Quiet everyone!” roared Mal, sounding like a raging bull. “Kaylee, Inara see to Simon.” Caroline, come here. Now!” and he pointed at his feet.

Inara and Kaylee were attempting to help Simon stop his nose from bleeding; and were making a bigger mess of it then if they hadn’t done anything. Caroline saw the look in Mal’s eyes and recognized defeat – she went and stood where he’d pointed; hanging her head and holding a very droopy Zoey. Mal took Caroline by the shoulder and forcibly led her out the door. Just then Jayne poked his head around the door.

“What’s all the ruckus?”

Inara looked up at Jayne “A slight altercation between Caroline and Simon.”

“Huh, she didn’t want no swai doc pokin’ at her. Smart kid.”

“She didn’t want him takin’ blood.” Kaylee added in glancing up at Jayne.

“So mini-Mal beat the gao-se out of the doc, now that’s funny!” Jayne started chuckling as he went off to find the rest of the crew and spread the news. He found it infinitely funnier then when River had kicked him in the nether regions.

“Xiān sheng, Sir.” Mrs. Le asked, breaking Mal’s reverie “Shoes, do you have any preferences of the style?” As she held up a pair of brown sturdy combat style boots, and some pink sandals.

“Boots, more practical on a cargo ship then those fou-fou things.” Mal responded gesturing at the boots.

“Just a little longer, and you can both be on your way.” Mrs. Le said as if sensing Mal’s discomfort in this feminine sanctuary, she turned her attention back to Caroline and the racks of clothing.

Mal slipped quickly back into his thoughts and wondered about how Kaylee and Jayne were doing on the whole bedroom construction thing. Then his mind wandered back to the whole infirmary fiasco. Did he do the right thing spanking her? It’s what his mother would have done. Simon had been horrified by the fact he had hit her. Kaylee and Jayne had looked at Simon like he’d been from another ‘verse. River had said something about “Different place, different planet, different parent. No holes. Good.” Mal took that to mean that he had done the right thing; it was odd that it had taken Jayne and River’s acknowledgement to make him feel any better. Hearing Caroline cry had been so hard; he’d just held her afterwards. And rocked her; and told her that he loved her. Of course that was before the lecture that if she ever did anything like that again he would take a belt to her backside. Book, not Shepard Book, a text, he really needed to get a book on parenting. That was going to be the next stop, a bookstore. Well, after the stop at his tailor,

Mal opened his eyes again and saw a stack of clothing on the table. And he saw Caroline with a huge smile on her face staring at her reflection in the mirror. She was wearing light brown overalls, the same color as his pants; they even had a stripe on the side. Had some girly shirt under it and holding a sweater of some sort. If overalls made her happy; she was going to go nuts over the bedroom!

It looked like they were done picking out clothes. “Got everythin’ little one? Mrs. Le?”

Mrs. Le looked down at Caroline. “I think we do. Two pairs of brown overalls; one with a brown stripe just like her Ba’s. Five shirts, different colors and designs, one zip up sweater in bright pink, a coat with flowers on it, a dress in blue overall style with pink and yellow flowers on the bib, socks, tights, underwear, brown combat style boots, and dress shoes in black patent leather. Do you need anything else?”

Mal looked around helplessly “Uh, uh, uh…”

“Hair ribbons, a purse, watch, …” And she let her words trail off as she packaged everything up.

He looked at the pile of clothes and decided that he’d spent enough of his hard-earned credits in one place. “Mmm, I think we got everything. Xie xie ni.”

“Thank you, Xiān sheng.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Le.” Caroline added in. Mal looked down at her in complete surprise he hadn’t thought that she had any manners at all. Mrs. Le held the door open of her shop and smiled at the two of them as they left.

“Ok, little one. You want me to carry that? It’s pretty big.”

“Nope. Got it.”

“Ok, Lets go run the rest of this list down. Next stop tailor.”


They walked the short distance to the tailor. Mal was hoping that his pants were done. Gong had made him pants before; and he hadn’t changed sizes since then. Shi Gong ning, the young proprietress, glided up to the counter, much like Inara did, when they entered. She greeted them “Mr. Mal, you’re back. It’s been a while.” Gong (her given name) looked down at Caroline, “And who is this? My name is Gong. Would you like a candy?”

Caroline looked up at the woman in surprise; with the looks that Gong had been giving Mal Caroline wasn’t expecting her to be nice. “Qu, I would.”

Gong reached under the counter and came up a handful of brightly wrapped rice candies which she handed to Caroline. “Sit there short one; I am going to take your Ba’ back and do a final fitting on his trousers. Ok?”

Caroline nodded, sat down with all of the packages around her and started opening the first rice candy. “Qu. Xie xie ni. Thank you.”

Mal went into the back with Gong; still amazed at the manners that this child seemed to have at times. It was quite peculiar. He left Caroline sitting down in the front of the shop and headed to the back to try on his new pants.

Caroline sat in the chair at the front of the store holding Zoey, and eating sweet rice candies and thinking that maybe Mal could be her ba’. Jayne had said so; that meant something. Said she looked like the Cap; and kids were supposed to look like their parents.

Cap’n had whupped her yesterday. She’d told Jayne about it. Jayne had looked at her and said: “If you was growin’ up with me; ma woulda’ takin a belt to yer backside; not her hand. Ya can’t go ‘round hurtin’ people like that.” But, he had given her a hug; told her to stand up at dinner. It wasn’t fair, everyone got to tell her what to do; but, the new clothes were real shiny. And Kaylee had promised her a surprise when they got back on board this afternoon. And she didn’t have to stay inside today and practice writin’. Book was gone visitin’. It’s a good day; a real good day.

Why hadn’t her ma told her that her ba’ was alive? Didn’t make no sense. Ma had told her most things. Told her ‘bout the war. The ‘liance, and their camps afterwards. Told her bout Mal, and Zoë. Lots, about them. Why didn’t she say that he was her ba’?

Caroline was carefully putting the last of the pretty candy wrappers in her sweater pocket when Mal and Gong came out of the back. He was carrying a neatly wrapped package. Caroline was saving the wrappers, ‘Nara had made her a paper crane a few days ago; and these papers would make pretty cranes.

“Xie xie ni, Gong. I hope that we see you again next time we’re here.”

Thank you, Mr. Mal. Have a good day. Good bye little one!”

Mal added the package containing two pairs of pants to the growing stack; and they headed out with a final good by for Shi Gong ning. “One more stop before lunch. The bookstore.”

Caroline just looked up at him and nodded tucking Zoey under her arm as they headed down the main shopping street of Hilliard. She pointed at a vendor selling stuff on a stick off of his cart. “What’s that? They didn’t have that on ‘Sephone?”

Mal looked over “Molded protein on a stick. Prolly not very good.”

“Ma wouldn’t let us eat protein; said it was ‘Liance food. I’m real good at stealin’ from the market. Going to wash us. I thought washing was good? Kaylee and ‘Nara sure think so.”

“I think your ma was talking ‘bout brain washin. That ain’t good. Means you don’t got your own thoughts; just theirs.” Mal turned pensive as he thought about what Caroline had just said. Golensa would rather her daughter go hungry or turn into a thief instead of eating Alliance food, they musta’ really done a gorram job on her. Tamade hundans. “Ok, little one; here’s the book store. Tintagel. I need a book; and we should see if they’ve got one you like.”

Caroline opened the door to the small and crowded shop. A bell cheerfully jingled a welcome. It was a stereotypical used bookstore; right down to the cat sitting on top of a stack of books. There was an older gentleman sitting deep in the shadows smoking a pipe; and drinking a cup of tea. In a deep voice that didn’t sound like it got used a lot he asked the pair “Can ah hep you?”

Mal looked around, realized he wasn’t going to find anything in here by himself “I uh, need a book on parenting.”

“Got a few of those. Over the- ah.” He waved his hand in the general direction of a shelf. “Down on the bottom.” Caroline had walked over to the children’s section. Probably the only well marked area of the whole store. Someone had put a rocking horse in front of it. Mal set the packages down on the floor and walked over to where the man had waved. “Dr. Spock is always a populhr choice; the 128th edition of his book on school age kids is on sale. Half off.” Mal found the volume, slightly dusty and dog-eared; he opened and flipped through it quickly. It seemed like a good choice. “Little one, did you find something?”

“I want this one.” Caroline said holding up a really old book with only one cover. Mal looked at it apprehensively. “It’s got nice pictures, girl looks like ‘Nara.”

“Good choice.” Said the old man. “King Arth-ah and the Knights of the Round Table. It’s one of mah favorites. You may have it gōng zhǔ.”

Mal looked down at Caroline, not sure if she was going to remember her manners. Again she surprised him; her whole face was lit up. Thank you, Xiān sheng. It’s my first book.”

It hit him just then; at how little Caroline had. “Thank you, sir.” Mal paid for Dr. Spock and his advice. He really hoped it would help him!

Mal and Caroline wound their way through the streets until they reached a small noodle house for lunch. They talked while they ate. Mal thought they were making progress. Caroline seemed to be opening up to him. They talked about nothing at all, and everything. After they finished they walked back to Serenity. “You goin’ grocery shoppin’ with me later?”

“Do I got to do lessons today?”

“Should, gotta ask the Shepard.”

They walked the rest of the way back in companionable silence. Both of them lost in their own thoughts. Mal was wondering if Kaylee, River and Jayne had finished construction and if he would have his bunk back. And when would the next bump in this road of parenthood was going occur? His thoughts wandered on to business: How would the meet he and Zoë had set up for tomorrow afternoon with Lou Hiao tong go? They’d only done business together a few times. Some dangerous stuff, high paying; but, dangerous.

What was he going to tell Caroline? Yeah, your ba’ he’s a crook, a smuggler. Gao-se. A whole new wrinkle.

Ba’ – Father Bao bei -- precious/treasure Chsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo -- animal fucking bastard; Gao-se -- Crap Gōng zhǔ -- Princess Ni hao – Hello Píng xī – Quiet (as in settling a dispute) Qu -- Yes (lit. go) Swai -- Handsome Tamade hundan -- fucking bastard Tsao ni zuzong shiba dai -- Fuck eighteen generations of your ancestors Tyen shiao duh -- God knows what Weishenme – why Xialia - relax Xiān sheng – Sir/Mr/Teacher Xie xie ni -- thank you Xin gan -- Sweetheart


Wednesday, January 25, 2006 7:10 AM


With each installment, I fall even more in love with Caroline...I wouldn't expect any less of our favorite Captain's daughter;)
Thanks for bringing her to us! Please continue to do so [wink].

Wednesday, January 25, 2006 9:34 AM


Lovely and isn't Caroline quite the heart stealer already? I had to laugh out loud when she landed that punch on Simon though, I think Simon is going to need a *how to handle kids* book himself! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, January 26, 2006 2:00 AM


I love Mal's guilt over smacking his daughter, and the whole scene in the dress shop.

I'm really looking forward to the next one.

Friday, February 10, 2006 6:30 PM


I really like this series so far. I've been at this parenting thing for 16 years and I'm still learning.


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<A HREF="" Chapter 1-4</A>,
<A HREF="" Chapter 6</A>,
<A HREF="" Chapter 8</A>,
<A HREF="" Chapter 9</A>, and
<A HREF="" Chapter 10</A>.

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Thanks to Mal4Prez for beta-reading! I don't know what I would do without you to fix everything.

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