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Horse Opera - Part 1 - A cook fanfic
Friday, February 17, 2006

After much prompting, this story carries on the Cook saga. It assumes that the BDM never happened, so, purists, look away now! It includes the characters Harriet and Little M, which you won't be familiar with if you haven't read my other fanfic.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1454    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

“*Goa yang jong duh goo yang*!” Captain Malcolm Reynolds could talk a blue streak when it was called for and right now it undoubtedly was. “Gorramit woman, how many times am I gonna have to say this? No pony in my ruttin’ cargo bay!”

“Aw Mal! It’s only tiny, it won’t make much mess and you ain’t even gonna notice it in this big ol’ space, if’n Little M shuts up about it for five minutes, that is…”

“I ain’t gonna notice it, ‘cos it ain’t gonna be here, is why!” Mal clattered up the stairs from the cargo bay towards Serenity’s kitchen, his small wife following hard on his heals. Once in the galley he began to fix himself coffee.

“But Mal,” Hat’s voice was combative, she was fixing for a proper row. Mal sighed and sunk his nose deep into the coffee pot. “Since you’re so clever and all, you just go on an’ tell me this… How’s the boy ever gonna learn to ride, we don’t teach him and let him practice some? You was ok, you grew up on Shadow, surrounded by horses and me the same on Pa’s ranch back on Zephyr. But our boy, all he’s got is this tin can we racket around in, I don’t believe he’s seen a real mule more’n five times in his life so far, poor little nipper!!”

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, scourge of the skies and all round cool customer, decided it was high time to put a stop to the argument before it got properly started. He growled with exasperation and, having poured himself a coffee, pulled out a chair and sunk down heavily into it, swinging his feet rebelliously up on to the table. His wife, in one swift movement, swatted them off again. He looked up at her resentfully. “He’ll learn good enough the way things are and you know damn well it. Hell, Zoë grew up on a boat and she rides well enough to my mind.”

“I fell off a time or two in my early days, fore I learned you’d best cling on some… We are talking about the riding of horses, ain’t we?” asked Zoë, somewhat cautiously, as she entered from the cockpit end of the galley. “’Cos there’s other kinds of riding came much more natural.” She too headed for the coffee pot.

“And she’s got some mighty fine skills. It’s all about the grip in the thighs,” added Wash, following her in. Mal, Zoë and Hat all paused as they tried to work out to just which kind of riding Wash was referring. He too paused dramatically and shrugged before heading over to the cupboard on a biscuit hunt, suggesting he knew exactly how ambiguous his last comment had been and found it funny. “You have to sit on a horse fierce or you get bucked off,” he explained.

“We can end this line of discussion right this minute, anyhow.” said Mal firmly. “Little M ain’t getting a nag, be it big, small or microscopic and that’s an end to it.”

“Aw Mal!” This time it was Wash. “That’s all the little lad’s talked about for weeks and weeks and seein’ as he can only say about five words, doesn’t the fact that two of those words is “pony” and “saddle” tell you something?”

“It surely do. It tells me that you all ‘ve been fillin’ his tiny head with a whole heap of ridiculous notions. Are we all set for the delivery, Zoe?”

“That we are, Sir. We’ll be comin’ up on the space station around noon, give or take a coupla minutes of my husband’s fine manoeuvring and we can trot on in, do the handover easy as winking.”

“*Nah may gwon-shee* . That’s what I like to hear.” Mal nodded. “Hat, you think you could take time out’a your busy schedule of makin’ my life a mockery and rustle up some lunch ‘fore then?”

Hat smiled. “Oh, I ‘spect so, *bao bay* , if you’ll go and find your son and heir. I ain’t rightly sure where he’s at and I likes to make sure he ain’t spendin’ too much time with Jayne.” Mal nodded and got up, pushing his chair respectfully back under the table.

As he left he deliberately brushed past his wife and briefly closed his eyes as a waft of her perfume engulfed him. They weren’t the sort for demonstrative affection, he’d said it a thousand times and she’d agreed, but he liked to feel she was there once in a while and she was so damn cuddly it was all he could do to keep his hands off. He really was turning into a sap, he reflected as he headed out for a tour of his ship. But not so much of a pushover that they’d ever talk him into having a domestic beast taking up space and stinking out his hold.

***

“Jayne, if you’re not going to actually, you know, help, I’m certainly not going to pay you.” Simon glared at the mercenary, who was supposed to be shifting boxes around the infirmary for a small fee, but was in fact, playing peek-a-boo with an increasingly giggly toddler.

“Hey, if yer wantin’ me to leave you to sort out yer medical doodads on yer own, I’ll count it as a kindness.” Jayne said a little huffily. “What yer payin’ me don’t exactly make my crotch twitch, Doc. Hell though, I’d like ta see how much work you’ll be gettin’ done with this here whelp as yer only help, is all. I’m keepin’ him occupied and outta yer way… wouldn’t expect no gratitude from you on that score though …”

Simon sighed, “OK, thank you so much Jayne for playing with the baby rather than lifting the heavy boxes.” he said, with no little sarcasm. He turned away and smiled as he delivered the sting. “It seems to me you’re awfully good at baby minding actually. Ever thought you might have opted for the wrong career?”

“’Ong ca’eer!” echoed Little M enthusiastically.

“Gorramit, I ain’t no nursemaid, I just got shiny miming skills,” griped Jayne.

“You think you could mime yerself doin’ sommat useful then?” queried Mal, as he stuck his head around the infirmary door. “Mornin’ Doc. Just lookin’ for the babe.” He nodded towards Little M who looked back at him somewhat seriously. “Come on, critter, yer Ma’s a callin’ for you.”

Mal scooped up his son, who wriggled up and clung round his neck, licking the side of his face like an affectionate puppy. Then he grasped his father’s face between his small hands and looked him dead square in the eyes.

“Horsey, Papa? Horsey!” He said somewhat querulously, a voice that intimated tears were just around the corner.

Mal, who has been smiling besottedly at his son’s display of affection, growled and ground his teeth. Shifting him onto his hip, he rumbled, “*Lao tyen yeh* , if it ain’t one member of my family jabberin’ at me it’s another. I swear I will wear one of Inara’s dresses and dance a quadrille before I allow a gorram jument, horse or other four legged pile of *niou-se* on my ship! *Choo fay wuh suh leh* ! Now let’s get you back to yer mother…”

As they stood listening to Mal’s retreating footsteps, Simon raised his eyebrows rather conspiratorially at Jayne. “Now that’s a sight I’d not be indisposed to seeing,” he said.

Jayne nodded his agreement. “Reckon as how we should put a pony on this boat, if it’s the last thing we do!”

***

“It’ll be good to see old Humbolt again,” Wash smiled reflectively. “When we were in flight school together, we used to tear it up something fierce.”

The crew was lunching in the galley prior to heading down to the space station to make the handover.

Jayne looked curious. “What’s yer definition of tearin’ it up?”

“Oh, you know,” Wash waived expansively, warming to his theme, “wine, women and song.”

“So far, bar the women, that sounds like a night I might even enjoy,” said Book, amusedly. He reached for the potatoes, kindly putting some on Kaylee’s plate before his own. She smiled her thanks.

“Yeah,” agreed Jayne, “don’t sound like much raucousness ensued, you ask me! You gotta live a bit when you tear it up, little man, get some trim, drink till you don’t recall nothin’, the whole caboodle!”

“My man likes his carousing to go somewhat slow,” said Zoë.

“But that don’t mean it ain’t carousing of quality,” added Wash, “ever heard of the tortoise and the hare, Jayne?”

Jayne look worried and a little intrigued, “is that sommat I oughta know about? Sounds kinda kinky!”

Wash raised his eyebrows knowingly, “you just go ahead an’ ask Inara!”

Jayne looked eagerly at Inara, who, pushing away her plate, said, “that was a fine meal, Harriet, thank you.”

“Well?” Jayne was all eager excitement.

“Now, Jayne,” Inara’s voice was deep and seductive, “I’ve told you time and again, a companion doesn’t discuss the intimate, and believe me, that particular manoeuvre is really quite intimate, details of her clients or practices.” She sat back looking smug. Jayne’s eyes boggled.

“Perhaps I would be a little out of my depth at one of your shindigs after all, Wash!” smiled Book.

“The tortoise and the hare, a fable or cautionary tale written by Aesop, by tradition a slave of north African, possibly Libyan, descent living in the period 620 to 560 BC.” said River without looking up from her plate. “It has never been employed as a euphemism or coded reference for sexual practices.” Jayne looked annoyed.

“Oh, Jayne,” said Kaylee kindly, but laughing slightly, “You didn’t ought to be so gullible. Inara get’s ya every gorram time.”

“Only ‘cos I got a healthy interest in gettin’ some.” said Jayne sulkily. “It’s all right for you married folks and companions, but I got needs.”

“Hey, who says us married folks is gettin’ any?” asked Mal, glancing at his wife, his mouth twitching.

“You won’t be gettin’ any supper, let alone anything else, you carry on like that,” grinned Hat, swatting at him.

“I’d just like to point out, I’m not married and I do alright,” put in Simon, to everyone’s shock, smiling playfully at Kaylee.

Kaylee smiled softly back at him, “that you do.” She agreed.

“Well, enough of this sexy talk,” grinned Wash, pushing back from the table and standing up. “You’re all animals. Now I’ve got a date with an old friend, so I’m gonna go dock this boat.”

*** The space station was its usual self, full of bustle and noise, street hawkers and con men. The crew, keen to stretch their legs and happy to have some time off the ship strolled comfortably through the din. Mal and Zoë took the lead, looking to get the handover done and quickly so they could enjoy the day, Mal, with some coin, looking to appease his family with gifts and Zoë thinking of finding a cheap bath. Jayne and the Preacher followed them, engaged in a complicated debate about which particular deviances the Church looked more lightly upon. Kaylee, her arm linked contentedly through Simon’s, nattered to River about buying her a new dress with their share of the take. Wash, Inara and Harriet brought up the rear, slowed as they were by the piece of thick cord Harriet held, attached to an errant Little M, who seemed inclined to linger over the more colourful stalls.

Suddenly Mal and Zoë stopped short. Up ahead were more Alliance soldiers than Mal could remember ever having seen before on the entire space station. Jayne careened into the back of Mal, knocking him forward. He turned to glare. Acting off his look, the rest of the team turned and huddled, pretending to examine a particularly decorative array of lamps on a nearby stool.

“*Jen dao mei* ! Tell me, Zoë,” said Mal as nonchalantly as he could, “d’you think it a coincidence that them there purple bellies is ahuddlin’ right where we’d fixed to meet Humbolt?”

“I ain’t sure, sir, but I am damn sure I don’t wanna find out.” whispered Zoë.

Wash meanwhile, who’d been fingering a lamp shade, drew back with a faint cry. “*Wuh de tyen, ah* ! Tell me that ain’t human? Ech!” One of the Alliance soldiers looked up at his cry and curiously decided to amble over and take a look at the commotion.

“Now would be a very good time to split up and get gone, I’m thinking,” said Book quietly.

“No argument here,” said Jayne who was already disappearing round the back of a stall.

Simon grabbed River’s arm, so hard she yelped, and began walking her very fast back down the avenue of shops.

Mal looked at Hat. “What we need is a diversion. Cry Baby mark 2?” he asked.

Harriet nodded “Cry Baby mark 2 it is.” she agreed and slipped Little M’s cord leash from around her wrist. The baby immediately scuttled off towards a sweet stall, Wash discreetly following, whispering “*Joo ta ma ya ming. Zuh Yi* and give my love to Hummers” softly to Zoë and pretending to admire some overalls at an adjacent lot. Hat turned her back on Mal and the others and headed for the Alliance soldier. By the time she reached him tears were pouring down her cheeks and she gripped his arm with the fervour of a terrified mother.

“Please sir, please help me!” she begged. “My baby … my *nyen ching dun* !!!” she sobbed.

The young and rather frightened Alliance soldier bent down to the tiny woman and said, “Please madam, calm down, what’s happened to your baby?”

“He’s lost!” Hat wailed. “I turned my back for … oh… just for a minute and he’s gone! Please help me find him. Oh! Buddha! What if the slavers get him? … *Ai ya! Hwai leh* …oh please … he’s so tiny…” she had fair soaked the shirt of the poor unfortunate officer, who, as expected, turned to his fellow comrades for help. Soon the entire contingent was gathered round Hat taking the rather vague details of Little M Hat chose to give and fanning out round the concourse to search. Every now and then a soldier would return with someone’s child and Hat would shake her head, “Nope! That ain’t him!” Little M, as the crew knew was a master in the art of escape and evade. Several terrifying experiences at various docks attested to that.

Mal leant casually against a pillar, “That’s my girl,” He said conversationally to Inara and Zoë “look at her go!”

“Doesn’t it ever worry you?” asked Inara slyly.

“Doesn’t what worry me?” Mal looked confused, “that my woman can get us outta a fix?”

Zoë caught Inara’s eye. “I think Inara means how disturbingly good your wife is at making with the histrionics, Sir.”

“She is alarmingly sneaky, I grant you,” said Mal, “but I kinda like it. Makes for an interesting life, don’t it?”

Inara smiled, “that it does. I’d put a hefty wager on a Little M getting his pony within the month!” she laughed.

“*Wei* , my woman’s wiles don’t work so good on me!” said Mal sententiously. Inara raised a sceptical eyebrow. Before the conversation could go further down this uncomfortable route, Mal said, “Zoë, let’s see if we can’t find our man, eh?” and they headed towards the food stall around which the purple-bellies had been circling.

***

“Well, he sure ain’t here. We’d know if he were, Sir. Apart from anything else he’d be pretty forcefully demanding to know what you’ve done with my husband right about now…”

Mal nodded. “You ain’t wrong, Zoë. Humbolt does tend to stand outta a crowd, so to speak. On account a the hair and the girth and all… come on, let’s us all get back to Serenity, Little M will of worked his way back to the cargo bay for sure by now!”

Zoë smiled, “That little chap always heads for the same place, don’t he, Sir? It’s gorram cute as a button how he knows to head home and all!”

“Yup,” Mal agreed, “he’s a rare gift, accurate as a gorram homing pigeon, saving always he ain’t distracted by no ruttin’ sumpter!”

***

Simon was having some trouble enticing River away from the stands. She currently appeared to appraising the silks on display in a vaguely autistic manner.

“Silkworms, the larvae of silkworm moths, eat for 30 days before entering the pupa stage.” She informed him.

“Great, great,” said Simon nervously, “but we really should be getting back to Serenity, River.”

Kaylee, who’d been looking back the way they had come said, “there don’t seem to be no purple-bellies followin’ us, but it’s as well to be safe.”

“Silkworm moths don’t eat, drink or fly. Silkworm moths just are.” River informed them dully.

“Fantastic.” Simon tugged at her arm. “They sound like they have all kinds of fun.”

“They don’t fly,” repeated River firmly and rather crossly as though she were speaking to a simpleton.

In a valiant effort to distract her, Kaylee asked brightly, “would you like me to get some of this red silk, River? I’ve got a little bit of coin left ... we can make you that new dress! Won’t that be all kinds of shiny?”

River looked towards the ceiling reflectively. “Got to have holes, silkworms breathe through their sides.”

Kaylee swiftly handed over the money and gathered up the bolt of silk. Taking River’s other arm, Simon and she successfully began to tow the now fairly compliant girl back to the ship.

“One of these days some concerned citizen is going to get curious as to why we seem to be kidnapping a young woman,” said Simon between his teeth and over River’s head, “and then we’ll be for it!”

“Not even!” said Kaylee gently. “River’ll just show them she’s nuts and they’ll get the idea. Won’t you, River honey?”

“My new dress is the hardened saliva of silkworms.”

“See?”

***

Several of the Alliance soldiers had now found Harriet a calming cup of tea and settled her down to await the discovery of her son in a comfortable chair at the eatery where they had first been gathered. The captain who had ordered the tea brought to her was just considering asking if there was a Mr Cute-blond-woman or whether she’d like to maybe do him the honour of accompanying him to a recital sometime. Life as an officer on a border space station was anything but exciting and attractive young women (even with a child in tow) were few and far between. His imagination was gathering pace. Say they didn’t manage to find her son; he would comfort her through her grief. His daydream had just got the part where she decided she was ready to “live” again, when he was rudely brought back to reality by one of his men whispering in his ear.

“They ain’t never come, Sir.” The private whispered less than romantically.

He turned his attention from the young woman before him. “What do you mean, Willard?”

“Sir, we placed a man behind the counter, but the blond guy never showed.” Harriet, seated composedly nearby pricked up her ears.

“Well,” the captain sighed, “I did tell the colonel I thought our approach too heavy handed, but he wouldn’t listen. This “Washburne” is supposed to run with the gang that were making the drop. Still, now we haven’t got the goods or the man. Not a good day, Willard, not a good day.”

“No, sir,” agreed the private, appearing less than bothered.

“Excuse me, but would you all be looking for this cute little lambkin?” Despite Harriet’s look of warning, Wash had wandered forward, towards the soldiers, carrying a tired Little M.

Hat leapt up as quickly as she could and flung her arms round Wash dramatically in an effort to hide his face. “Oh you found my son! Thank you, sir! Thank you!”

“Hat… What the *guay* are you doin’?” whispered Wash into her hair.

“Run!” was all she had the chance to whisper back before the captain said, “excuse me, sir…” and as Wash turned to him, his open face a study in polite assistance, “that’s him!”

The next few moments happened very quickly. Wash, his face registering the shock and confusion which must have been reflected on Hat’s own, was cuffed and bundled off back along the space station concourse by several of the troop. Unable to give herself away, Hat had to resist the urge to speak to Wash and the mute appeal in his eyes told her he understood her reticence.

The captain turned to Harriet. “Well this is a remarkably good day for us both, Miss. It seems you’ve found your son and we’ve found our man.”

Harriet hid her shock as well as she could. “This is indeed a lucky day for us all,” she agreed. “That man,” she gestured towards Wash, who was resisting arrest a little, “what’s it that you want him for? Was my baby in any danger?” she cradled Little M on her shoulder, every inch the protective mother.

“Don’t you worry about it, Madam.” The captain was suave. “We just want to question him about a little matter currently under investigation, but you’re lucky he doesn’t seem the sort to kidnap or you may never have seen your boy again.” He politely ruffled Little M’s already tousled head. “May I escort you somewhere? Perhaps we could get a beverage of some ….”

Harriet had quite suddenly had enough of this polite, but overly familiar captain. “Thank you for the offer, but I’ve got a captain of my own as’ll want to be seein’ his son is safe.” She smiled, still kindly, “so I’ll be gettin’ on home.”

***

“*Da-shiong bao tse shr la doo tze!* They did what??” Zoë’s consternation was acute.

“*Shi ah*. It seems they did.” said Mal, passing a weary hand across his face. “What I just can’t figure on is why!”

_____________________________________________

Goa yang jong duh goo yang = Motherless goat of all motherless goats Nah may gwon-shee = That’s all right then bao bay = sweetheart Lao tyen yeh = Jesus niou-se = Cow poop Choo fay wuh suh leh = Over my dead body Jen dao mei = Just our luck Wuh de tyen, ah = Dear God in heaven Joo ta ma ya ming. Zuh Yi = Watch your back nyen ching dun = Young one Ai ya! Hwai leh = Oh no, I’m ruined Wei = Hey Guay = Hell Da-shiong bao tse shr la doo tze = The explosive diarrhoea of an elephant Shi ah = yes

COMMENTS

Friday, February 17, 2006 8:07 AM

AMDOBELL


Yay, more Hat and Mal! *Wode ma*, it never goes smooth does it? But what I'm wanting to know is why they want Wash in the first place? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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