Video Deteriora Sequor (executrix) wrote in jossverse_xover,
Video Deteriora Sequor

That SPECIAL Tarkna

Title: That SPECIAL Tarkna
Description: Firefly x AtS Crossover
Rating: Soft R
Word Count: About 2500
Pairings: Mal/Lorne, Kaylee/OMC
Summary: Mal finds out who wants all that cranberry juice. Kaylee doesn't get a statue.

Lorne knew that home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. And so, when the Evil Evil Things swarmed out and overcame the Not-Evil Evil Things, launching the process that shoved Earth into to the That-Was column, Lorne grabbed the last portal out. For want of anywhere better to go, he returned to Pylea.

It wasn’t all bad. Every year, a few more young people and cows joined him at the Pltz Grlb Conservatory of Music. Eventually, his Mom kicked the bucket, muttering to the end that she’d have lived to be 1200 if it weren’t for the aggravation he caused.

So there he was, a mere stripling of 603. There was a little more blue in his complexion and a little more purple in his horns, true, but as far as he was concerned, he could still cut the mustard. Or at least mix the Sea Breeze.

Numfar, ensconced for centuries as Vizier of VAT, had amused himself by imposing, and constantly ratcheting up, the customs duties on certain classes of imported materials deemed—by Numfar—to be inessential to the Pylean way of life. But you'd have to get up pretty early in the morning to be able to amuse yourself better than Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok Clan (although getting up earlier in the morning wouldn't get your panties into too much of a bunch).

Inara took one bonbon out of each of the satin- and velvet-wrapped boxes of confectionery sent by her admirers, and poured out the rest in the center of the table, which already contained a large measure of mass-market candy.

“Don’t eat too much of that stuff,” she told Kaylee and River (who already looked a little green around the gills). “You won’t have that youthful metabolism forever…” Then she went back to her shuttle to do 200 crunches.

Wash and Zoe each picked up a handful of whatever looked to have the lowest melting point and then headed back to their cabin.

River reached into one of the drawers inside the table and drew out a pincushion and a handful of skeins of embroidery floss. She braided together purple, green and gold threads, and then strung a dozen of the gold-wrapped chocolate coins into a necklace. She pierced each of them, in precisely the same spot over the plume on Duke Rodrigo XIII’s helmet, and knotted the strand between each pair of coins as precisely as for a pearl necklace.

“Pretty,” Kaylee said.

“Not for me,” River said, letting it drop over her friend’s head. “It’ll come in handy. For a while. Then you won’t want it.”

Mal walked into the dining area, carrying a Wave printout. “Aw, crap,” he said, shuffling through the diminished pile of sweetness. “Jayne took all the car’mels.”

“Why’s everything always my fault?”

“Law of large numbers,” Simon said.

“Children, children,” Mal said, unwrapping two lollipops and putting one in Simon’s mouth and one in his own. Then, with the lollipop in one hand and the printout in the other, he said, “Tomorrow, we’re goin’ to work.”

“I’m guessing, endemic cystitis,” Simon said, as to why, exactly, anybody would want that much cranberry juice.

“What’s this other stuff they want?” Mal asked, pointing to the printout.

“Vodka? It’s sorta like soju,” Kaylee said.

“Like that firewater you brew up? And they pay for that?”

“Those frickin’ geese of Wash’s drink Mudder’s Milk,” Jayne pointed out.

“Hey, Simon,” Kaylee said. “I hadda notice that you bought a box of candy for River and one for the crew. Didn’t buy none for your sweetheart ‘cause I guess you don’t got one.”

Simon closed his eyes and then opened them again, looking Kaylee straight in the eye. “I…no. You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m very sorry. You’re a wonderful girl and you have a good heart and you’re very pretty but…I don’t love you. And that’s probably…that definitely says more about me than about you. It’s my failing. I like you, but I hate it here, and you love your home. Kaylee, if I live that long, which I probably won’t, the first minute I can find someplace where River can be safe, and where I don’t have to be constantly awkward and out of my element and terrified and hungry and destitute, and more than occasionally hit in the face, I’m going there.”

"You couldda told me."

"I just did," Simon quietly informed her retreating back.

At the next bend of the corridor, Kaylee nearly collided with River, who said, "Don't mind him. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

“I’m not sure if you’re supposed to eat those, honey,” Kaylee said. “I mean, sure they’re on a stick like an Ice Planet an’ all, but…” Her own best guess was that you were supposed to put them in your trunk to kill moths.

"No, it's good," River said. "Subtly spicy."

They strolled through the marketplace. There was a booth with a puppet show, with a large and eager audience, and a busker, with his fiddle case open in front of him, being pointedly ignored. “I do not want a tablecloth,” she told one vendor, and “Neither of your siblings wishes to be rented by me,” she told another.

A handsome young man with bulging muscles and rippling light-brown hair led a platoon of youths in some sort of martial arts exercise. Kaylee smiled at him, and when he saw her, he dropped his gigantic broadsword and began to bellow.

"She has returned to us! The Cow Princess has been reincarnated!"

"How can you say this?" one of the merchants demanded.

"The necklace! Behold the amulets she bears!"

"Uh…this?" Kaylee asked, spreading it out on the palm of her hand. River gave a tight smile.

The citizens spontaneously formed into a twisting line, and began to perform The Dance of Cringing Servility (one, two, three, grovel! One, two, three, grovel!). Meanwhile, the young man swept her up in his arms and pressed a kiss on her by-no-means-unwilling mouth. He rendered up praise to the Gods, for the embarrassing familial characteristic had expressed itself in him, and it had been a long damn time without a Com-Shuk.

For generations, the tale of the Cow Princess had been a popular one: how a Handsome Man, who was also a bumpy monster, (making the saga especially suitable for representation by small troupes of strolling players), came to Pylea and She Who Looks Damn Shiny in A Silver Bikini was anointed as Ruler and fought the corruption of the priests.

In the end, the Cow Princess buggered off back home, as deae ex machina so often do, and the corrupt priests returned to power, because, well, they do that. But what Princess Cordelia hadn't known was what it means when a Champion craves tuna fish and Haagen Dazs. Centuries passed, and her many-generations-later descendant was Champion of Pylea.

Groo XVIII continued snogging Kaylee as a crowd gathered, and soon they were borne, on the shoulders of the crowd, to the Royal Palace. As if un-pricked by a reverse-motion Spindle, the dusty rooms were thrown open again, and Kaylee ascended the moth-eaten stair carpet to the throne, whose cushions looked like something had been living in them, so Groo sat on the cushion and Kaylee sat on his lap.

And word of her accession spread throughout the land. The priests sighed, and descended to the secret caves, where they unearthed the extra set of books they kept for when the Reformers swept through town.

{{The youth of today}} Lorne thought. {{No stamina.}} In honor of the very special occasion (it was Tuesday), they were drinking mint juleps out of silver vessels instead of Sea Breezes out of glass. A mere four (all right, served up in what Lorne suspected had once been a pair of matched bowling trophies) were enough to send Mal singing ("Take me where I cannot stand…") then sprawling and snoring in the reproduction Barcalounger that Lorne had paid a king's ransom for the local artisans to duplicate.

Again with the dark secrets, guiltguiltguilt, the broody pastries were catnip to Lorne, although this time beneath the coat of suede was a beige gabardine coat of paint in lieu of leather pants.

"I'm drunker than you needed to get me to take advantage of me," Mal said, waking up. "Waste of good contraband."

Lorne sat down on the chair of the arm and tugged on Mal's earlobe with his teeth.

"Those are…sorta interesting," Mal said, stretching out a hand horn-wards. "Can I touch 'em?"

"Oh, hell, yeah," Lorne breathed. "Gently, though." Lorne shivered with delight. Mal petted his horns and then leant in for a plum-fenugreek-ozone-tinfoil flavored lick.

If the buttons on his fly were an accordion, Mal thought he could almost figure out what tune Lorne was playing. Licking turned into sucking, one horn then the other until energy sparked between the two horns, now softened and flushed, emitting pulses of bright cerise.

"Oh, and Malba Toast?" Lorne said once he got his breath back. "I think you should know that around here, the way to a man's heart ain't through his stomach."

Simon thought that Book was being just plain unreasonable on the subject of compensation for private-practice physicians under the soon-to-be-implemented National Health Service. Particularly because he had been such a good sport about the free-exercise-of-religion-including-but-not-limited-to-Christianity clause.

"Whatcha doin'?" Jayne asked. "Turns out I can't com-shuk with the gals here, but we had a hoot tryin'."

"Drafting a Constitution for Pylea," Book said. "The new regime offers so many opportunities to benefit these people. We abolished slavery on Tuesday."

"Who the hell asked you, Padre?" Jayne said.

"Kaylee—Her Royal Highness—did," Simon said. "Well, after some prodding."

"Heard tell that she finally got a real man to do her prodding for her," Jayne said. "So you lost out on your chance to be a Prince in anybody's mind but yours."

"I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space," Simon said. "Even if it was someplace really small. Like your mind."

"Folk just want to be left alone," Jayne said. "Pair of you'll be lucky you just get rode out of town on a rail 'fore someone looks at the stick and thinks damn, it'd look better with a do-gooder nailed to it."

Morning broke, and Kaylee and Groo shared a light breakfast (pulpaego nectar, milk punch, creamed chipped zorgel on toast, purple-side-up eggs, and some leftover berynteea crumble from last night's after-banquet supper).

"Scoot now, honey," Kaylee said, as the Chief Butler, Head Housekeeper, Hairdresser Bearing the Royal Warrant, Prime Minister, Chief Hierophant, Hierophantic Sycophants, and assorted civil servants crowded into the Royal Bedchamber. "I gotta work."

"I am honored to have delighted you more than Lord Batta Rhys," Groo said, cinching his robe over his leopard breeches. "Whom I surmise to have been a previous consort."

Kaylee signed parchment after parchment. "What's this one?" she said, at random.

"I am humbly grateful that Your Highness has dignified that petition with her attention," Chief Hierophant Beldord said. "It's the proclamation of the Guckletaub Valley Cow Princess Kaylee Hydroelectric Project."

"Shiny!" Kaylee said.

The seventeenth suitor at the Princess' Hoi Polloi Constituency Surgery was a well-set-up young man with hazel eyes and a headful of springy curls. "It's about the Guckletaub Valley Hydroelectric Project," he said. "See here, I'm an engineer, and these plans are rubbish."

"Hydroelectric project? Why didn't I get to review that before you signed it?" Simon asked. "I'm the Minister of Health and Demon Services, aren't I?"

"It was during the Morning Audience," Kaylee said. "You didn't want to be in my bedroom then, you don't get to be in it now." She turned to the burly petitioner. "What's wrong with it?"

"Well, for a start, it'll destroy the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of your subjects. And every project the Beldord Construction Company has ever done has been marked by cost overruns, corruption, bribery, and defective quality."

"There's a solid gold statue of Your Loveliness specced in," the Chief Hierophant said.

"More likely to be billed out as solid gold and built out of insta-rust copper foil."

"Oh," Kaylee said. "Well, someone go get me that petition and I'll rip it up."

"It's too late, Your Clemency," the Chief Hierophant said.

The engineer glared at her until she dropped her eyes, unable to bear the burden of guilt. Then she stared straight at him, pointed, and yelled, "Off with his head!"

"Your Grace," Book said mildly, "Was that a well-considered decision?"

"Kaylee!" The Minister for Defense said. "Grow up!"

"Zoe, which one of us is the Princess around here, huh? You or me?"

"Gonna tell 'em to cut my head off? Won't go as easy as some."

"Princess, if Inara were here, do you think she'd be very proud of what you did?" Simon asked.

Kaylee pouted and looked down at the steps leading up to the throne. "Guess not. OK, tell 'em to lock the fella up in the dungeons for a coupla days, give him a good fright, then let him go."

Just at that moment, the executioner entered, bearing a bloodied axe and an invoice. "Sign here, please, Your Grace."

Kaylee, horrified, pulled the necklace over her head (it tangled in her hair, and then in her tiara), split open the gold foil on several pieces with her nail, and crammed the chocolate into her mouth. "Look! It ain't nothin' but candy! Stale candy!" she said indistinctly. "Go get Mal! Tell him to get me outta here!"

There was some confusion about whether this sudden abdication relieved everyone of the obligation to carry out any further orders.

"Told you you wouldn't want it after a while," River said, popping up behind the throne after a morning teaching The Dance of Increased Public Arts Funding.

Meanwhile, down in the dungeons, the morning shift ended and the guards went off. The victim picked up his head, put it back on, and went to a nearby tavern where several of his fellow rebels sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and kept the mulled ale coming until the next day he thought he might just as well have left his head in the dungeons.

"I don't know what came over me," Kaylee said. They were leaning over the railing on one of Serenity's catwalks. She stuck her hands deep in the pockets of her coveralls, found a pebble at the bottom of a pocket, and tossed it down to the floor of the cargo bay. "I'm doing it again!" she wailed. "There coulda been, I don't know, an ant or something down there, and I squashed it just because I could."

"I think you'd have to be a Jain to worry about inadvertently slaughtering ants," Book said. Kaylee flashed him a look. "No—J-a-i-n. It’s a highly scrupulous religious sect."

Kaylee shook her head. "I know lots of folk would call me not-a-good-person because I like to fool around when there's anyone to fool with, but I never thought I'd have to think I wasn't good."

"Well, as the syntax of that sentence just proved, these aren't easy questions."

"Maybe I shouldn't beat myself up, I mean, it's not like cuttin' off his head was keepsies or nothin' like that. I don't think he took it in such bad part."

"Kaylee, when you do something wrong in the future, you won't always be that lucky."

"That's OK, Shepherd," Mal said, walking toward them. "Mostly, absolute power gets you turned into an absolute statue."

After the hasty departure of the Cow Princess, a junta of hierophants picked up the reins of power. Construction on the Beldord Dam began immediately but somehow was never completed.
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