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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jayne’s resourcefulness jeopardizes a sweet deal Mal has going with the good folk of New Beckley.
An absurdly fluffy (or feathery) little tale in honor of National Poultry Day!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 744 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Title: No Harm, No Fowl
Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss; I’m just messin’.
Rating: PG-15 for profanity
Setting: 2+ years post BDM.
A/N: A very-much tongue-in-cheek one shot written for the FireflyHolidays comm at LJ, in honor of National Poultry Day (March 19) and Joss’s thing about chickens. (I don’t know the nature of this thing, only that he has it. I'm not sure I want to know.)
No Harm, No Fowl
The first couple of years following Miranda, it had been all Mal could do to keep Serenity flying and out of harm’s way. Jobs were harder to come by than ever and there had been long spells when the Browncoat captain wondered if they’d be able to hang on.
That was until they’d found a new home with the folk of New Beckley.
The situation was what Shepherd Book would have called a Godsend, and even Mal, who still struggled with the idea that anything was the result of some Higher Power, was grateful and relieved he and his crew now had a home base to retreat to between jobs.
New Beckley was a small moon that had been terraformed only about forty years before, and much of the surface was still wilderness, with the inhabitants clustered around a few small towns and on scattered farms. The climate was temperate, the soil reasonably fertile and the settlers had been resourceful. They’d had to be.
Following two waves of colonization, the Great Alliance got sidetracked by the War for Unification and pretty much forgot about her ragged little stepchildren. Then Mal blasted the news about Miranda from the remains of Mr. Universe’s compound and all hell broke loose. Not exactly civil war, but certainly civil unrest and disruption. That the tiny world was located at the far edge of the Miesner Quadrant hadn’t helped, and supply vessels rarely came their way.
On a trip ‘round the outer rim, Serenity had picked up a wave for emergency medical aid. Inquiring further, Simon learned that the folk of New Beckley were dealing with an outbreak of Merton’s Disease, a measles-like illness that caused high fevers, often damaged sight and hearing and sometimes resulted in death if untreated.
The Council of Elders contracted with Mal to bring in the needed antibiotics and vaccines from the closest developed world and with Simon’s skill and care, the epidemic was contained. Most importantly, the young doctor managed to pull the twelve-year-old daughter of Elder Borlun Eklund back from the brink of death and the grateful farmer made Mal an offer he couldn’t refuse.
~ * ~ * ~
One evening about a week after young Hannah had risen from her sickbed, the crew of Serenity joined Eklund and his wife and daughter around a big plank table in the Eklund’s kitchen. The well-scrubbed tabletop was filled with a veritable feast the likes of which Mal’s crew had only dreamed about.
“I’ve invited you folks here to share in this meal by way of expressin’ Sara’s and my heartfelt appreciation.” He smiled across the wide table at his wife and daughter. “We owe you a lot.” The farmer nodded toward Simon, who looked modestly at his plate. “Without all you done for us folk here on New Beckley, most especially what Doctor Tam done for our Hannah, well, I hate to think where we’d be now.”
Mal shook the farmer’s work-hardened hand. “Well, we’re just glad we heard your wave, Elder Eklund, and were able to help out. Ain’t right for the Alliance to more or less abandon a settlement like yours. From, all we seen, seems you’ve managed to make this little moon damn productive.”
“True enough, Captain, but what we’re really lacking is a way to get our goods off-world where they can be traded for other things we need. New Beckley needs a way to bring in materials, machinery, supplies, things we don't have. My fellow Elders and I have discussed the situation and we’d like to ask if you’d consider serving as our link to the other Rim worlds.”
Mal’s jaw dropped and the other crewmembers looked at one another curiously, wondering what such an arrangement might entail.
“We don’t have enough trade to keep your ship working full time, and we understand you’ll need to supplement with other work. What we have learned from talking with your good folk is a little of how hard things have been for you and your crew of late.” The farmer smiled at them compassionately.
It hit Mal right off that Kaylee had spent an awful lot of time in the Eklund household over the past several weeks. Knowing what a chatterbox his girl mechanic could be, he looked pointedly at her. “Guess you filled ‘em in, did you, Mèi-mei?”
Kaylee smiled sheepishly. “Well, Cap’n, I guess I mighta…”
Jayne patted his wife’s hand protectively, his sharp look challenging Mal to chide her.
“She just spoke the truth, Sir,” Zoë affirmed.
“Well,” Mal observed with a tilt of his head, “never let it be said I was one for suppressin’ the truth.” He went on, “Kaylee’s right, Elder Eklund. We’ve had a right hard time of it these past few years. Wouldn’t a one of us mind takin’ things a bit easier, we had half a chance.”
The tall, lanky farmer stroked his full, graying beard, nodding in understanding. The folk of New Beckley knew the importance of interdependence and looking out for each other.
“You agree to settle here and help us out with our trade needs, we’ll pay your usual rates. You’d be free to work as you please between supply runs.” Eklund looked to Simon. ”We’d like to offer the young doctor a clinic in town. The Good Lord knows he’s proved his skill these past weeks and he’d have all the patients he can handle.”
Simon’s smile could have lit up the room, and River happily threw her arms around her brother’s neck. “See, Simon – you’re a hero, too! Get to use your skills, but better than Jiangyin. No bonfires.”
Eklund continued, “That meadow up the hill where your ship landed is pretty sheltered, Captain. The mountains keep the worst of the winter storms at bay and there’s a good spring for water. Soil up there’s pretty good, too, if you’re inclined to plant a garden. There’s also the old cabin you and you folk have been usin’. Might come in handy next summer when your mechanic delivers. Imagine you’ll need a bit more space.”
Mal looked at Elder Eklund quizzically. “What d’ya mean, when she delivers? What’s she deliverin?” He turned on his mercenary, his voice rising. “Jayne, what’s he sayin’? Your wife deliverin’ something I don’t know about?”
Kaylee blushed deeply and grinned up at the big man beside her. “More like deliverin’ someone, Cap’n,” she announced with pride. “Simon says it’s a boy, due around the middle of May.”
Jayne’s blue eyes twinkled. ‘Never figured I’d be anybody’s pa, but Kaylee tells me I’m wrong.”
“Well I’ll be damned!” Mal exclaimed.
River giggled. “See, all that noise was good for something.”
At that, the entire table erupted into laughter and congratulations to the parents-to-be, and Mal again clasped Borden Eklund’s hand. “We’d be pleased to accept your offer,” he replied warmly, the corner of his mouth curling into a grin as he leaned close to the farmer, “’Though the though a Jayne takin’ on diapers and midnight feedings plumb curdles my brain.”
Three months later…
Late one warm February day, Mal had wandered over from Serenity to give his merc a hand replacing a section of the cabin roof that was leaky. The transport work for New Beckley was working out well and they’d just finished a run to Greenleaf and back. Jayne had stripped out the rotting shingles and Mal passed stacks of new cedar splits up to the big man as he trimmed and fitted and nailed them in place.
Having finished the repair, the men took a break and settled themselves on a bench in the shade of the cabin, grateful for a respite from the heat of the mid-day sun. Jayne wandered inside and shortly returned with a jug of cider, which he shared with his boss.
With Jayne and Kaylee as the ship’s only married couple, it made sense for them to move into the little cabin’s single bedroom when they were dirtside.
“Truth to tell”, Mal said pointedly, “The rest of us’re sleepin’ a lot sounder without listening to the two of you carrying on every night.” He leaned closer to his mercenary. “I always figured breedin’ females didn’t have much interest in… ‘marital relations’. But then, Kaylee ain’t never done much else that’s typical…”
“You’re tellin’ me,” Jayne had chuckled. “Now that we’re getting some regular work and fresh fare for a change, well, Kaylee thought it might be nice to have everyone join us for supper tomorrow night in honor of River’s birthday. That’s if you don’t mind feedin’ on somethin’ other than protein bars and freeze-dried vegies. Woman’s even baked li’l Albatross a cake, although she’d kill me if it gets out I told ya.”
Mal shook his head in wonder, marveling at the impact domestic life had made on his gunhand. “We’ll be there, and I’ll do my best to keep the girl from sussin’ out Kaylee’s surprise.”
The savory smell of herbs and chicken filled the kitchen of the small cabin. Jayne Cobb, mercenary and hired muscle, was cooking.
An apron around his narrow waist, he carefully lifted the lid of a large cast iron cauldron and stirred the chicken stew that bubbled within. The savory aroma made his mouth water. He’d always been a fair cook for basic fare, but during the months that Shepherd Book had lived aboard Serenity, Jayne had learned a lot from the preacher with the peculiar set of skills, and to everyone’s surprise, he’d turned out to have some real talent in the kitchen.
Carefully raising a spoonful of the stew, the big man blew gently over the steaming broth until it was cool enough to allow him to slurp it in. He smacked his lips and cocked his head, considering what amendments might be required. “Needs more pepper and it still ain’t salty enough, but we’re getting’ there.” He smiled to himself and added both.
The kitchen area of the cabin was about the same size as the galley and dining area on Serenity, but outfitted with a big old cookstove. There was no electricity, but a spring-house nearby kept perishable foods cool, as well as chilling the formidable hard cider made by the locals.
Jayne and Mal had built a table much like the one on the ship, and when not in the Black, the crew often gathered there for evening meals. Playing hostess made Kaylee happy, especially with her husband helping with the cooking. As the others wandered in from Serenity, she hugged each of them as warmly as if she’d not seen them for a month.
Zoë’s face reflected amusement and surprise. “Looks like Jayne’s playin’ ‘Chef’ again. Last thing I’d’ve ever expected from that man.”
The big merc smirked at her over his shoulder, “Now Zo, you know I always been good at stirrin’ up somethin’.”
Kaylee placed a big bowl of hot rolls on the table and patted the softly rounded tummy under her top. “That you are, ni da mo!”
Mal palmed his face, mostly out of habit, then inhaled the scent of the stew. “Whatever it is, I gotta admit it smells real toothsome.” He craned his neck toward the stove and sniffed again. “Wonder what’s holdin’ up the doc? He and River were on their way over right after us.”
Simon’s crisp, polite knock signaled their arrival, and Jayne called out, “Well, come in already, unless y’r plannin’ on eating on the front porch.”
“Sorry we’re late," the young doctor apologized. “I was finishing up my list of supplies for the clinic. The Elders are eager to get it open and running and…”
River interrupted her brother, pirouetting to show off her new dress. “I was getting beautiful!”
“Well, that you are, li’l Albatross,” Mal affirmed, settling onto one of the benches after Zoë reminded him that he was in someone else’s house and not entitled to the head of the table.
Jayne dished up the stew into heavy brown bowls and Kaylee delivered them to the table, along with a jug of cider, cold from the springhouse. Stripping off his apron, the towering cook put an arm around his wife’s shoulders and welcomed their friends. “Glad you could all join us. Let’s dig in!”
For the first few minutes, little could be heard but the clink of utensils on crockery and contented slurps and murmurs as everyone devoured Jayne’s stew.
Mal smacked his lips, but a faintly quizzical look settled over his features.
”Ya done real good, ai ren!” Kaylee praised.
“This is delicious, Jayne,” Zoë smiled. “Wash wouldda loved it.”
“That’s cause the little man never met food he didn’t like!” Jayne teased.
Simon nodded. “It really is surprisingly good.”
“You mean, considerin’ I cooked it, right?” Jayne responded mockingly.
River shook her spoon between them and scolded. “Behave, boys. Don’t spoil my birthday with silly arguments! Send you to bed without any cake.”
“How’d you find out there was cake?” Kaylee was puzzled.
River pointed her forefinger at her head and wiggled it in a spiral, while looking at her friend like she was the crazy one.
“Fair ‘nuff,” Jayne said, then slurped down the remainder in his bowl. ‘Who want’s more?”
Mal piped up. “This is chicken stew, ain’t it?”
Five sets of eyes stared incredulously at Captain Dummy.
“Well, yeah. Thought that was pretty obvious,” Jayne responded. “Kaylee’s real tired of the packaged crap we usually eat, an’ since we was dirtside, I figured there wasn’t no reason not to go foragin’.”
“Foragin’ where?” Mal asked in alarm.
“Just around. I figured some fresh meat’d do her good.”
“Around, huh?” The captain bowed his head. Gos se. He just knew there was gonna be trouble. With Jayne, there always was.
The following day, Mal was reviewing paperwork in his cabin when Zoë’s voice came over the comm. “Sir, best come down to the bay. There’s a gentleman here to speak with you.”
Mal found the middle-aged farmer whose land abutted Elder Eklund’s standing just inside the bay door and looking obviously ill at ease.
“Good mornin’, Mr. Dirksen. What can I do for you?”
Dirksen proffered a work-roughened hand. “Good day to you, sir.” He shifted from one foot to the other, twisting his cap in his hands. “I just wanted to express my family’s appreciation for all you and your folk have done to help us out around here. You’ve really made a difference for us, Captain.”
“Well, that’s good to know.” Mal wished the man would get to the point. He had a definite hunch where this was heading.
The farmer hesitated. “We really are grateful, but there’s just one thing, sir.”
Oh hell, here it comes…
“I’m missin’ four good layin’ hens.”
“You think maybe a fox or coyote got ‘em?”
Dirksen winced. “No sir, not unless he was wearin’ a size fourteen boot.”
Mal’s eyes closed and he bowed his head.
…an’ the coyote was six-foot-four and possessin’ of a shotgun.
“That gorramned fool…”
Dirksen’s voice was stronger. “Captain Reynolds, I just wanted you to know stealin’ livestock’s somethin’ we take real serious around here.” His sun-browned face bore a mixture of anger and embarrassment. “Them was some of my best layers, too.”
I find that bèn de hún dàn, we’re having one serious conversation…
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Mr. Dirksen. Ol’ Jayne’s not real bright and lotsa places we go, it’s his job to scrounge up game an’ such. ‘Course, any sha gua oughtta know chickens ain’t wild meat. I assure you I’ll send him over this afternoon to make reparations for the theft, and I promise, ain’t gonna happen again.”
Farmer Dirksen nodded and the two men shook hands. “Thank you, Captain, and good day to you.”
As Dirksen walked away down the ship’s ramp, Mal cursed vehemently to himself, “Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze!”
Mal found the big merc up by the cabin, chopping firewood.
“Jayne, you an’ I need to have us a talk.”
Jayne spat and seated the axe in the splitting stump. “Sure thing, Cap’n. What’s up?”
Crossing his arms over his chest, the captain speared his merc with his grimmest, most Captain-y look.
“We got us a problem, a right serious problem, and that problem is on account a you an’ your so-called foragin’.”
Jayne looked puzzled. “Huh?”
“Where in the dì yù did them chickens come from?” Mal glared at the man.
The merc scratched the back of his neck. “Well, let’s see… seems like they was just wanderin’ round down in the woods near ol’ Dirksen’s place…”
“Didn’t occur to you they might have belonged to anyone, now did it?” How in Buddha’s name could the man be so dense?
His gunhand scowled defensively. “Weren’t like they was penned up or nuthin’. Plenty a places we go you got me foragin’ for fresh food and huntin’ for meat. What’s the ruttin’ difference?”
Mal sighed in utter exasperation. “The difference, you dimwit, is that this meat belonged to our neighbor, whose goodwill we depend on! I told Mr. Dirksen you’d be over this afternoon to make reparations. Them was four of his best layin’ hens you stewed up, Jayne. He wants money, you’ll pay what he asks..”
“But Cap’n…” Jayne whined.
“Bi zuie! The man wants coin, you’ll pay him. He wants labor, you’ll work. Whatever it takes to make Dirksen happy, you’ll do it, dong ma?” Mal fixed him with his “remember the airlock” stare.
“Yes, Cap’n” Jayne sulked.
Jayne Cobb grimaced and drove the pitchfork deep into the stinking pile of jumbled horse manure and straw. A cloud of flies rose and settled as he forked the foul stuff into a wheelbarrow. He stopped for a moment, leaning one elbow on the side of the stall and wiping the sweat from his smeared face with the back of his hand, then swiping the hand on his rank fatigues. The stink of horse manure, green and fetid, enveloped him. Still two more stalls to muck out after this one and it would be nigh onto dark by the time he was done.
Hell, much as his clothes stunk, he’d best go wash up in the creek and just walk home naked. No way Kaylee would let him back in the cabin like he was.
“Well, I sure done come a long ruttin’ way with m’life,” he grumbled. “Thirty years ago, I was shovelin' shit and here I am, still shovelin’ shit.”
He speared another forkful of manure and tossed it into the barrow.
“Ain’t never gonna eat chicken again.”
Mèi-mei = "Little Sister"
ni da mo = "you big devil"
ai ren = "sweetheart"
sha gua = "idiot"
bèn de hún dàn = "stupid son of a bitch"
liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze = "son of a drooling whore and a monkey"
dì yù = "hell"
Monday, March 19, 2007 10:47 AM
Monday, March 19, 2007 11:38 AM
Monday, March 19, 2007 1:58 PM
Monday, March 19, 2007 2:02 PM
Monday, August 22, 2011 3:53 AM
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