BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

DESERTGIRL

Underground - Chapter 2
Thursday, June 7, 2007

In which Book gets a tip on a job, River discovers some information the others really should know, Jayne finds something he wants, and Simon puts his foot in his mouth.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2391    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Summery – Book gets a tip on a job, River discovers some information the others really should know, Jayne finds something he wants, and Simon puts his foot in his mouth.Disclaimer – They all belong to Joss, I just enjoy hanging out in their midst.

Pairings - all the traditional M/I; K/S; Z/W; Jayne/Anyone in a skirt; River’s in everyone’s minds and Book is trying to keep them all straight, plus throw in a few OC’s for good measure. In other words its all fairly cannon.

Setting – During the series, in between Trash and Heart of Gold

This story is a hundred times better because of all the wonderful betatype advice given to me by Mal4prez. I throw many thankyous in her direction.

My story line indicates 9 segments, prologue chapters 1-7 and an epilogue. I have included more about the storyline and my motivation for writing in my blog.

If you haven’t read the beginning, I recommend starting at the Prologue

******

Underground Chapter 2

Shepherd Book walked up to the old farmhouse with River just as the sun was setting in the clear western sky. Behind the house, fields stretched out for several miles, upon which a hundred fine horses grazed lazily. The rolling fields ended in the steep incline of a mountain range. The white farm house was situated at the edge of town, at the end of a narrow lane. It looked big for a vicarage. Perhaps Wormfood had found himself wealthy. It was obviously the home of his old friend though. On the lot next door, instead of a house was an exceptionally well kept garden and behind that a small orchard. Book could not help thinking how much Kaylee would enjoy seeing this garden. She would enjoy even more grazing in that orchard. Book smiled to himself.

“Thou shalt not take what does not belong to you,” River’s voice descended on the Shepherd. “Garden’s bounty would have to be shared or it’s poison. Steal the forbidden fruit and you are cast out. Says so in your book. ‘Sides nothings ripe.”

“That is very true, youngling, but Wormfood grows food to give away. It is his way of serving God. There would be no stealing in his eyes. Plus, it’s not nice to read people’s thoughts. Look - there he is.” Coming down the porch stairs was a tall man with long white hair braided into a plait at the back of his neck. He seemed to be about the age of Shepherd Book, or perhaps a bit younger. His skin had been fair, but looked as if it had weathered many a season under the hot sun.

“Derrial,” he called as he walked toward them, arms outstretched.

“Wormfood, it’s good to see your still feeding the masses.” Book gestured to the garden and then around to the house. “Your garden is as beautiful as I imagined, and so is your home.”

“It’s not my home. I just rent a room from one of my parishioners. She’s a widow with three girls. It’s much more agreeable than living alone at the vicarage.”

“Yes, you never were one for solitude, were you?”

“No fun to grow food without anyone to share it with. And you know I am much better at growing food than cooking it. That was always your task of choice.” Wormfood grinned and his voice took on a sarcastic note. “I bet you’re using all the gardening techniques I taught you in that tin can you’ve been flying around in.” Then, noticing River for the first time, he asked, “Who is this wisp of a thing?” He gestured towards River, who was engrossed in watching a bee busying itself on an orange blossom.

“This is River; she’s a very special shipmate of mine. I thought an evening in the fresh air would be good for her. I hope you do not mind an extra guest.” Book emphasized the word ‘special’ in his request and caught Wormfood’s eye. The other Shepherd nodded obviously understanding what Book meant and knelt down beside her. Wormfood visibly changed his voice and his body language so that he projected tranquil acceptance.

“River, I am Shepherd Stevenson, would you like to come inside and meet the girls?”

She looked up at him and smiled “Growing flowers. Four lily’s of the valley. One is just a bud, trying to pick her color. One tall and strong, supports the others. One’s damaged, crushed but recovering, ready to be picked and fly away before she’s smashed again. The last is poison, doesn’t know it, a pestilence that could cause blight, but not yet, could be prevented with the right fertilizer.” River looked up at the eyes of Shepherd Stevenson, her eyes wide with anticipation. He, in turn, looked at her blankly, causing her to burst into giggles. “Wormfood,” she said, and then her giggles erupted into full blown laughter. “Collect the leavings, rot makes good.”

“Come on my dear.” Shepherd Book helped her up and turned her towards the house. “Lets us go meet our hostess.” Together they followed Wormfood around the side of the house and into the kitchen. “Sharla, I would like you to meet my dear friend Derrial. And this is River, one of his shipmates,” Wormfood announced as the walked in through the doorway. The kitchen was mixed with aromas. Book had been missing smells like these since he shipped out on Serenity. Abby kitchens had often smelled this rich and full of bounty. Aboard Serenity, he could approximate real food, using the spices he had brought with him. But there is only so much one can do with blocks of protein. The majority of the scents came from the south facing wall, upon which hung rows and rows of herbs which were drying for storage. Adding to the complexity of the aromas were the pots and woks covering each of the six burners on the stove. The table was filled with fresh vegetables; some had been chopped already, others were waiting. Permeating the complex bouquet was the warm smell of bread that was baking in the oven. Book felt immediately at ease.

Standing by the stove was a middle aged woman. Her curly brown hair had hints of gray, and her frame showed the signs of a lifetime of hard work. Her eyes, however, sparkled as she turned and looked at her guests.

“Shepherd Mathew Stevenson, how many times have I told you that guests should be brought in the front door and received in the parlor?”

“And how many times have I told you, Sharla Trine, that the kitchen is comfort? True friends and those in need of love are benefited more by a warm and busy kitchen than a stuffy ole parlor.”

Under her breath Sharla muttered “men,” but she smiled as she did so. River smiled as well and wandered between each of her elders to the stove and began to smell each of the pots.

“You’re cooking a fine meal, Miss Sharla. May I help you?” River’s coherent speech took Shepherd Book off guard. Sharla was about to direct River to chop vegetables, when Book came out of his daze and intervened. He remembered the last time River had used a knife – Jayne still had the scar.

“River, does not do well with knives, perhaps she could stir something?” Book spoke with urgency, grabbing the girl and directing her away from the table. “Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea,” he added softly. “River has a brain injury, she’s unpredictable.”

“Never you mind, Shepherd. I have raised three girls grown and helped a whole heap of others along the way. River and I will be just fine. Now you Shepherds go out to the garden and talk for a while. We’ll call if you are needed.” With that Sharla shooed the two men out the door and back into the garden.

***** Sharla watched the two friends enter the garden then turned to River, “Now dear, the sauce in the back left corner is very delicate, could you stir it for me so it doesn’t clump?”

River smiled at her chore and set to work stirring the sauce. She stirred some of the other pots on the stove for good measure as well. “Like being in the kitchen. Mother said it was forbidden. Kitchen was for servants, not for ladies. But I am sneaky. Ms. Choe let me test the deserts.” Rivers grin grew and it seemed she had become momentarily absorbed in the memory.

“Your Ms. Choe seems like a very smart woman.” Sharla said as she added chopped mushrooms to a wok on the right corner of the stove.

They both turned as a girl about River’s age walked into the room carrying a basket of eggs. “Ma, there’s only six today. I am not sure why Scarlet isn’t laying. ‘haps something set her off. Who’s this?” She stopped short at the sight of the strange girl at the stove. Recovering quickly, she set the eggs on the table, for her mother to inspect.

“Sorla darling, this is River. Remember I told you a friend of Shepherd Stevenson’s was coming to dinner. River flies with Shepherd Book. I think you’re about the same age.” Turning toward River she asked, “How old are you dear?”

“Age is irrelevant, a systematic construct left over from earth-that-was, allowing people to create a field of relevance around the events in their lives.” River continued to dutifully stir the pots on the stove as she spoke.

“Right,” Sorla said slowly as she sat down to chop the peppers and mushrooms that had been laid out on the table. “Well, my name is Sorla. I’m fifteen. My sister Ashti is nineteen. You won’t be seeing her this evening ‘cause she’s off with her beau again. This is the third time this week they’ve walked along the lake, an’ we don’t even know who he is. Ashti won’t tell us. Mama doesn’t like that, do you, Mama?”

Sharla stopped adding bok choy to the wok for a moment and said. “It ain’t right.” She shook her head. “He can’t be a good one if he’s not good enough to bring home to the family. Still, she’ll have to learn that on her own. I can’t be tellin’ a young one who to love. I just pray nothing bad happens to her while she’s learnin’.”

“Flies attracted to the ripe fruit. Have to be careful or they’ll ruin the crop.” Sharla and her daughter both nodded at River’s statement. Although from the look on her daughters face Sharla could tell she understood what their guest was talking about as much as she had.

“You won’t see Mira this evening either,” Sorla went on, obviously not really paying attention to whether their guest was listening. “Mira’s the eldest. She’s part owner of the Dancing Boar. Every night she slings swill till dawn. You should hear some of the stories she tells. She talks of bar fights and doxies…I get all the best gossip from her. Mira says it’s amazing what news people will spill once they’ve had a few glasses of greyslish.”

“My daughter Mira, she’s a smart one,” Sharla continued. “At eighteen she convinced the owner of the Dancing Boar that he was getting old, and wouldn’t he like to train someone to tend bar and work the tavern just the way he liked it done? She was right; he’s in his late seventies and was happy to have the help. A year later, after he got used to her, she offered to buy the bar from him.

“The contract says she gives him seventy percent of her wage every week for five years and then the bar’s hers. That was over four years ago. The deal was he could continue to coach her, although he really hasn’t done much coachin’ for the past several years. Mostly he just comes down from his room above the bar, and entertains the folks with his stories. Mira makes a point of asking him questions so that he still feels needed. She’ll never kick him out, even after she’s done payin’ off the bar. They is too good of friends, and he with no family to speak of. She’s like a daughter to him. She’s always lookin’ after people, my Mira.”

“Katra lives here too, although you won’t see her this evening either. She came by earlier and grabbed some bread and cheese. Mama did I tell you that? She said she had some things to do this evening, and said not to wait dinner for her.”

“No, you didn’t tell me that, Sorla.” Sharla glared at her daughter for a moment. Turning to River she muttered, “I don’t know who is going to eat all this food. Perhaps we should send some of this back to that space ship of yours youngling. I `spect you don’t get much fresh food out in the black, do you?” Sharla looked at the young girl next to her stirring the pots. The pause in the conversation grew awkward while they waited for River to respond.

River stared into the plum colored sauce that she slowly stirred. “Rainbows of protein,” she finally said. “Kaylee likes fruit. Zoë likes chocolate, although she doesn’t say it. Inara drinks spiced tea. Herbs and spices make a meal, so the preacher says.” She turned her head and went back to staring at the sauce. “Tasty, purple whirlpools, even Jayne would like.” She smiled at the women in the kitchen.

Sorla gave her mother a questioning look, but Sharla smiled at her daughter. To River she said, “I’m glad it will be eaten, we’ll send the leavings home with you and your Shepherd. It will be good to give the food to those that would enjoy it. I love cooking so much I often forget how much I am making. Mira’s always working. Katra doesn’t eat enough even when she is here at meals. Got the weight of the world on her, our Katra does.”

“Katra rents a room like Shepherd Stevenson,” Sorla told River. “Katra’s Da used to own a ranch about an hour’s ride to the north of here. About three years ago, he found a vein of gold in a canyon on the eastern side. We all thought that they had it made. Even us townies were excited, cause of all the jobs a mine would bring. We should have known when Katra’s mama died two weeks later that gold was cursed. They should have left that gold alone, even if the town needed the money.

“Trouble started when Katra’s Da had to sell shares in the mine in order to get the money to work it. He trusted two young men from Tritan City. Vetch Mahogan and Datron Howard were their names. They seemed nice enough, but they had a way about them, seemed a bit slimy if you know what I mean.” River nodded although she never looked up from the sauce. It was enough of a gesture to make Sorla think River was interested.

“About a year ago, someone shot Katra’s Da. Shot him in the back in his own parlor. There is no evidence to prove it was them, but everyone in town knows it. Katra was lucky they didn’t kill her too. She hid in the attic, so they didn’t know she was there. I think the fact that they need her is all that’s keeping her alive. If they didn’t need her, we would have found her dead in the canyons, on a long winter night.”

“Technically those two liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze each own thirty percent. Katra’s Da had the controlling interest at forty percent. They’ve voted together and shut her out of decision making since her father died. Roster was able to convince them to do right, but Katra doesn’t have a hold over ‘em.

“Legally, they have to pay her forty percent of each shipment,” Sharla continued. “but we know the mine is producing ten times what they are crediting her for. They’re digging that mine dry and going through people like lan dong xi.

“What they want is to legally claim Katra’s share of the gold. The best way to do that is for one of them to marry her. If she dies now, her shares go to the church, but if she is married her shares would go to her husband. Poor thing doesn’t even feel safe riding out to her own house alone. That’s how come she rents a room here. But that’s enough gossip for one evening. Sorla why don’t you and River go set the table.” Sharla could tell her guest was not really paying attention anyway. Sharla had never met someone who could lose herself in a pot of bubbling plum sauce the way this girl did. It was a touch unnerving.

**********

Outside the two Shepherds knelt in the garden, pulling weeds and thinning carrots.

“Two or three more weeks I think and we’ll have tomatoes. Peas ‘ill be ready about the same time I’d wager.”

“You’d be amazed at the number of credits you can get for a fresh tomato, some places in this ‘verse,” Book replied casually as he pulled weeds. He had plenty of time for his friend to get to his point. They had already talked of saints and sermons, life on board Serenity, and life on Trythes.

“So this captain of yours? He an easy going sort?”

“Depends what you mean by easy going. He has his issues that drive him to insolence, and he is happy to look the other way if a law is being bent for a bit of profit, or if someone’s being wronged. But he’ll fight to the death to defend any on his crew.” Book moved over to the next row of carrots. “Why do you ask?” he added.

“Just gathering facts before I lay out my cards.” Wormfood glanced up at his friend. “There’s some doings around these parts that just ain’t right.”

“You mentioned that it would be easy to pick up cargo here in Lonepine.”

“There’s more to it than cargo. God needs help to do his work here in Lonepine these days.” Wormfood continued to pull weeds as he spoke. “There was a gold mine discovered here a few years back. The family that owned it couldn’t manage it, needed backers to get equipment. But the backers they chose turned on ‘em. Killed the father, has the daughter living in fear.

“These two scum buckets aren’t going to disappear till there’s nothing left in that mine. Right now they have three shifts of workers. But it’s hard work and it’s not the locals who have volunteered. We never see the workers either. Even living out at the mine, under normal circumstances some would come to town occasionally. I’ve been asking around and I’m certain many have no choice but to dig. Most have been stolen from off world.

“How would that captain of yours feel about repatriating some spiders?”

“Spiders?” Book questioned his friend. He wanted to make sure they were talking about the same thing. He got a nod in reply.

Spiders had been the term they had used in the abbey when they talked about escaped slaves. It sounded like Wormfood was up to his old tricks again.

Back on Persephone, Wormfood had used his gardening not only to feed the poor but to help slaves escape from cruel masters. It was an activity he and Book had always agreed upon. No human being should ever be the property of another. They had not been the only ones that thought so. Many of the brothers in the Southdown Abbey had helped liberate the downtrodden. Wormfood had just been a ringleader.

Back then, Wormfood was always filling barrels with vegetables and fruits to be shipped to needy settlements around the ‘verse. Occasionally, he simply would fill a barrel with a human. Once the relief supplies had cleared customs and tariffs had been paid, their transporter would open the special barrels and deliver the sorry soul to a space port. One of the brothers had particularly enjoyed creating forged documents. He had been an artist before he joined the church. The escapees they helped started new lives with new identities, and what ever coin the abbey could spare.

“So just so we’re clear,” Book asked his friend. “You want me to see if my captain would be willing to transport some of these spiders to their rightful homes?”

“Or at least set them on their way. Just like old times my friend.” Wormfood stood and brushed the dirt from his knees. “Let’s go see if dinner’s ready; I’m getting hungrier by the minute.

********** Dawn was breaking outside the Dancing Boar. Mira stood in the doorway, watching the clouds begin to turn pink. She always stopped whatever chore she was performing and watched the dawn break. It was her favorite time of the night; everything was quiet and peaceful. It seemed as if all the world’s troubles had been put to bed with the people that carried them.

She was almost finished closing up for the night, the floors had been swept and the dishes washed. The evening had been a fairly quiet one. There had been no brawls to break up, nothing was broken. Mira liked evenings like these. Soon she would be going home.

Just then, the quiet was broken by a large man trying unsuccessfully to sneak down from the upstairs rooms. ‘They never stay very long’ Mira thought to herself. ‘Although, this one stayed longer than most.’

“Enjoy the girls this evening?” she said, startling the man. He reached for the gun at his side, but didn’t draw it. He obviously hadn’t seen her standing in the doorway.

“You’ve some fine whores here.” He hesitated, obviously intending on saying her name, and then realizing he didn’t know it.

She supplied it for him. “Mira,” she said. “You with that ship that parked itself over in Benton’s Wood?”

“Yup, that’s it.”

“I met several of your ship mates last night. Sent a bunch of ‘em over to the lake for a bit of privacy, if you know what I mean.”

The man smiled knowingly. “Name’s Jayne,” he said “You the owner?”

“Somethin’ like.” Mira enjoyed the way his mouth twitched when he spoke. He was well built, obviously a mercenary. She noticed the weapon concealed around his ankle, as well as the one in his waistband. She liked the way he moved, as well as the way he looked at her.

“Well, like I said, mighty fine place ya got here. I’ll be back again.” He placed his hands in his pockets and strode out the door.

‘Yup, he’ll be back’ she thought to herself. ‘But not for the whores.’ She smiled as she continued to close up.

*******

‘Now that’s a woman,’ Jayne thought as he walked through the woods towards Serenity. As far as the whores went, the ones in Lonepine were not first rate. Despite what he had told Mira. He had had plenty of whores and those three were just ok; worth the money, but just ok. Mira on the other hand, seemed like she was a live one.

He hadn’t seen a woman quite that fine in a long time. He’d tried not to stare at her, but the knife sheathed between her cleavage had impressed him. It was well hidden. Most people, he was sure, would have missed it. But Jayne was a connoisseur of fine weapons, as well as fine women. Her skirts had accentuated full hips that swayed just a bit as she spoke. There was probably a knife strapped to her thigh as well, if not a pistol. Though, something about her did not strike him as the pistol sort. He tripped over a root in the path wondering what it would take to get her skirts above her waist so he could find out without getting sliced to bits. ‘Yup,’ he thought as he walked. ‘A fine woman indeed.’

“If we don’t leave now, we’ll miss the fish bitin’.” Jayne had not realized that he was already that close to Serenity. He had been so preoccupied thinking about Mira he hadn’t been paying attention until he heard Kaylee’s voice.

As Jayne came around the bend in the path, he spied Kaylee half dragging a reluctant and slightly dazed looking Simon out the airlock. In her other hand she carried two fishing poles and a tackle box.

“What if River wakes up… I can’t!” Simon pulled her back into the ship.

“She’ll sleep for ages, you saw how late it was when her and the Shepherd got back last night. ‘Sides it’ll be nice to have some time alone by the lake.” Kaylee gave Simon her puppy dog eyes, obviously hoping that would convince him to hurry along.

“She’ll wake up and be worried; she’ll wonder where we are. I’ll just wake her up and we can all…” He turned to go back in the ship.

“No she won’t, you’re the worrier. She’ll be busy getting ready to go to the ranch. Did you forget the Shepherd told us she’d been invited to ride out to some ranch with that girl her age? It’ll be good for her to hang around with some kids.”

“But we can’t go to the lake. That bartender last night said that lovers go spend time at the lake. I would never presume to….”

“Fine!” Kaylee yelled and stomped down the ramp without him.

“Good one doc,” Jayne said as he walked past the stunned looking Simon and onto the ship. “One of these days you’ll learn not to pass up a good thing when it stares you in the face.” Then chuckling, he stopped walking and looked at Simon. “Nope, take that back, you’ll never get that foot out of your mouth.”

Chapter 3

COMMENTS

Thursday, June 7, 2007 11:59 PM

AMDOBELL


Loved this and somehow I don't see Mal wanting to just stop at smuggling one or two slaves out on his ship. I'm thinking they need to take back that gorram mine for the rightful owner. I loved Jayne's comment right at the end. Poor Simon, he tries so hard to do right he can't stop tripping over his feet. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, June 8, 2007 3:29 AM

MAL4PREZ


Arrrg! It ate my comment! You'd think I'd know to save a copy before clicking the button...

Anyway, you do so well at coming up with those bizarre yet fitting River lines. They make me smile the second time reading too: "...allowing people to create a field of relevance around the events in their lives" LOL!

What's more, in this fic you manage to work in all the BDH's, and create OC's that are refreshing and interesting, and put them in an enjoyable setting. (Sorla's house makes me want to go home and play in my garden!) You have so much going on here; I know it's taken a lot of work, but it's worth it!

Kudos desertgirl!

Friday, June 8, 2007 8:49 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Hmm...just hope Book can have a chat with Mal ASAP about their related missions. Certainly would help things along if Katra didn't have to boogie off planet...less she wants to run just to get the money and a new life.

And both Tams were in fine form here, desertgirl! River was at her cryptic best and Simon once again shows just how stupid propriety is sometimes:D

BEB

Monday, October 15, 2007 11:55 PM

WYTCHCROFT


just came back and read this - slipped past me in my lurker days. i was NOT dissapointed!:) might take a while - but i'll catch up on the rest!:)

i love that you don't rush the pace.


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