Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Fandom: Firefly/Angel crossover
Rating: PG-13 (default)
Length: Short story (a little over 7,000 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Feedback: Concrit adored! If you see something that can be improved upon, please let me know.
Written for: random_urges Rare Pairing Ficathon. Request was from bookishwench and was for either Angel/Inara or Spike/Kaylee, finding some comfort in each other, and chocolate cake (real food!), with no non-con.
Notes: Takes place post-OiS, pre-comics, and I used Spike/Kaylee, because, really. Who could resist that? Many thanks to the flist for putting up with my whining and moaning constantly about this fic, the Hubby for his excellent suggestions, and bigsciencybrain for making sure it didn't suck before I posted it.
Angel and Illyria paid their two bits apiece and walked behind the curtain. Both Angel's hands clenched into fists, and Illyria's eyes flickered to blue before she controlled herself and went back into Fred guise. Five hundred years of living with Spike and Angel had softened her speech patterns. "We've found him. Now what?"
"Now we get him the hell out."
Wearing only a loincloth, Spike hung shackled by his wrists, waist, and ankles in a cage. His matted, bicolored hair hung to his shoulders and obscured his eyes. He was thinner than Angel had ever seen him. Cuts and bruises testified to the abuse he'd been subjected to...and he was vamped.
"They have not fed him." Under stress, Illyria went back to her old way of talking.
"I'm aware of that," Angel flared. "He's drugged, too; I can smell it on him. Can you open it?"
For an answer, she grasped the thick padlock in her hand and twisted it off. "It is electrified," she said. "Stand away." He stepped back, and she ripped the door from its hinges.
"Hurry. All that noise'll bring someone running."
She ducked under Spike's outstretched arms and snapped the shackles at his feet first, then the one at his waist. Meeting Angel's eyes over Spike's shoulder, she tore the final chains away. Spike fell forward into Angel's arms and didn't even hesitate. He sank his fangs into Angel's throat and drank deeply, but they didn't have the time for him to feed as much as he needed to. Angel had to remind himself to be gentle as he made Spike disengage. "We have to go. Can you walk?"
Spike's features went back to human. "Back door," he gasped. His legs could barely hold him up.
"I would like to do some violence here," Illyria said.
"Wouldn't we all. No time for revenge. Maybe later," said Angel, as shouts and pounding feet came from the front. "Right now? We run."
They escaped out the back, Angel supporting Spike on one side as he staggeringly attempted to keep up. Sounds of angry pursuit faded behind them as they ducked through alleys and finally shook off their last persistent hunter over the roofs. They jumped down onto the dirt floor of an alleyway by the market. Spike collapsed, breathing in great gulps of air that did him no good whatsoever.
Angel dropped to his knees next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Illyria, he's got to eat."
"On it." She disappeared into the crowd, returning a short while later with her hand clamped around the snout of a struggling piglet--and some clothes for Spike as well. Angel was glad to see some color return to Spike's face after he drained the pig dry, and he seemed stronger as he put the clothes on, as well, although the actual effort of donning them seemed to wear him out.
"There is a Firefly class ship going to Greenleaf looking for passengers. We would do well to book passage on it," Illyria said. "They are taking off very soon." She looked with concern as Spike's head lolled back against the side of the building. "They have a doctor."
"All right," Angel answered. "I think it's better if we split up. We'll book Spike on that one and get ourselves on something else headed the opposite direction; that way, hopefully, anyone chasing him will come after us instead. Can you buy a couple of live sheep in the market and get him a bag packed? We'll go talk to the captain of the Firefly." He shook Spike a little. "Spike?"
"Don' wan' split up..."
"We'll meet you in a couple of weeks after we're sure we've thrown them off." Angel heaved him to his feet, and they made their way over to the Firefly that Illyria had mentioned. Angel knew the ship by reputation, at least, although he'd never had occasion to use it. The Captain and crew were known to take on not-quite-legal jobs and keep their mouths shut, which was a plus in this case.
The smile of the girl at the ship slipped a little when she saw them approaching, and she seemed relieved when he asked for the captain, after a brief explanation. She scampered inside and came out a few minutes later with a tall man in a long brown coat with a pistol tied to his leg.
He stuck his hand out, and Angel shook it. "I'm Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Kaylee tells me you want passage to Greenleaf for your friend here and a couple of sheep?"
"Well, it's a little more complicated than that." Angel looked over his shoulder. A commotion had started at one end of the marketplace. "Do you have a place we can discuss this out of the way of people? Privately? And I'd like to speak with your doctor as well."
"Your friend is lookin' a mite peaked," Mal commented as they followed him into the ship.
"He's been kidnaped and drugged, and I want to get him out of here as soon as I can, before the people that did this to him catch him again."
They stopped in the infirmary, and Spike collapsed onto the table with his arm over his eyes. "Light hurts," he muttered. "Still don' wan' split up."
"Simon!" Mal hollered. A dapper-looking guy wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and a brown striped vest appeared in the doorway. He had better posture, Angel noted, than anyone outside a military academy had a right to. Mal nodded toward Spike. "See what you can do for him."
"Wait--" Angel said, as the doctor grabbed Spike's wrist and looked at his chronograph. "Oh, go se..."
Simon frowned and adjusted his grip, then tried Spike's other wrist. His frown deepened, and he tried his neck instead. "Captain..."
"Tha' won' do ya much good, mate. Can' ge' pulse if there ain' a hear'bea'..."
Simon backed away from the table, his eyes wide. Angel put his hand over his face. "Spike, go to sleep."
"'Fraid won' wake up..."
"You'll wake up."
"Wake uppa big pile o' dust, 'll haunt you resta your bloody unlife..."
"I can live with that."
"'kay...So ver' tired..." Spike's arm slipped off his eyes as he fell unconscious.
The Captain's expression was thunderous, and he put his hand on the gun he wore on his hip. "You wanna tell me what that whole exchange was about? 'Cause if it means what I think it means, there ain't no ruttin' way we're takin' him anywhere."
The girl who'd met them at the airlock poked her head into the room. "Cap'n? There's someone up front with a couple of really cute little sheep, says she knows these two and wants to know what to do with the livestock?"
"We'll pay you triple the going rate for transporting a passenger, plus whatever your rate is for livestock. In advance." Angel did some quick thinking. "And after you get him to Greenleaf, you can keep the sheep."
"What am I gonna do with a couple of gorram sheep?" Mal asked. "No, Kaylee, you can't keep 'em as pets." Her face fell.
"Sell them, eat them...Keep them and sell the wool off and have a sustainable income and make Kaylee happy. Up to you." Kaylee looked outraged at the "eat them" suggestion. "But I promise you, Spike won't be a danger to you or anyone on your ship."
"The extra coin is mighty tempting." Mal's expression was thoughtful. "But your 'promise' don't mean much of nothin' at all when we're out in the middle of the black with a vampire. That is what he is, right?"
"That's not poss--" Simon started.
"He's movin' around, walkin' and talkin', without a heartbeat, scared he's gonna wake up a big pile of dust. Vampire, Simon. Why we still talkin' about this?" Mal turned to Angel. "I suppose the sheep are a blood supply for him? He need anything else?"
"Wait, what?" Kaylee said. "He's a vampire, and he's going to suck the sheep's blood? I'm not sure I'm okay with that..."
"Well, not suck it as such, no," Angel said uncomfortably. "Part of the reason we picked your ship, Captain Reynolds, is because you have a doctor on board. One who can do the requisite blood-drawing from the sheep. It won't hurt them," he assured Kaylee. "That's why two. They only get used every other day, and a sheep has a lot more blood than a vampire needs."
"I'm a doctor, not a vet," Simon objected.
Mal's mind seemed to be made up. "For triple the going rate, in advance, you can find a sheep vein once a day, doc." He eyed Angel. "He causes me a lick of problem, though, and out the airlock he goes, without no refund, either. I won't like it, but I'll do it. We clear?"
Angel swallowed. Banking on Spike's good behavior was iffy at the best of times, but he didn't have much choice in the matter. "For what it's worth, he'll need an invitation to get into anyone's room. It's a thing."
"Shiny. What do you want me to tell him when he wakes up?"
"We'll send him a wave, let him know where we're going to hook up."
"Should he be restrained or anything?" Mal eyed the obviously fresh marks on Angel's neck. "Don't want him wakin' up all disoriented-like and takin' a bite out of the crew before he know's what's what." Kaylee bolted out of the room at that statement.
Angel's hand went reflexively to the wound. "This was a special circumstance. He was starving, and I was ready for him. He's been fed; it should be all right." He and Mal started out the door. "That being said, it might not be a bad idea to have some blood waiting for him, just in case."
A statuesque woman joined them on their walk. "What's this I hear from Kaylee about us taking on a vampire as a passenger, Sir?"
"And a couple of sheep. Ain't they the cutest damn things?" Mal said as they clapped eyes on them in the cargo bay, along with Illyria, holding them leashed beside several bales of hay, a couple of water barrels, and a suitcase. One sheep had a brown face and legs, while the other was all white, and they were smaller than average--they were, indeed, very cute. "Little bells on their necks and everything. Three times the going rate for a passenger in advance, Zoe, plus for the livestock. Not sayin' no to that."
"Your call, Sir. I'll ask Jayne if he's got any wooden stakes handy." Her expression was deadpan as she left.
"She always that excitable?" Angel handed over the cash.
"She frequently stops me from doin' things that ain't altogether bright." Mal counted the money. "I hope I don't regret this."
Angel and Illyria stood outside the door as it lifted up and closed. "I worry for him," she said.
"Vampires?" Wash asked. They all sat around the kitchen table. Mal was interested to note who was surprised...and who wasn't. Inara, River, and Book were taking the news as a matter of course, while Jayne, Kaylee, and Wash were in various states of freaked-ness.
Wash continued. "Okay, I think my head just exploded. You'll be scraping my brains off the bulkheads for weeks. And I'm noticing a distinct lack of surprise among some of the crew," he said to Zoe and Mal. "Most notably, my wife, who's been remarkably closed-mouthed about the whole vampires-are-real thing."
"We seen stuff in the war," Zoe said. "Stuff you can't talk about without the aforementioned exploding heads. Or a visit to the place with padded walls and sleeves that fasten in the back."
Mal clapped Simon on the shoulder. "Nearly had to give the doc here a shot myownself when he figgered out what we was dealin' with."
"Yes, well, dealing with a patient with no vital signs isn't something they teach at the Medacad." Simon was still slightly shaken, although he'd recovered most of his aplomb. This was promptly destroyed by River's next statement.
"Monsters in the Academy," she said. "Far underground, but I could hear them anyway, roaring in my head, pinned like insects to cork, fighting to be free. They weren't any more successful than the rest of us."
Simon stared. "You never said--"
She gave him her patented you're-such-a-boob look. "You wouldn't have believed me."
"I notice you ain't all that shocked," Mal said to Inara. "They teach you about servicin' vampires in Companion school?" She opened her mouth to answer and he lifted his hand to stop her. "Never mind; I don't wanna know." He turned to Book. "And I guess they teach Shepherds all about demons and such."
"Something like that." Book didn't elaborate.
"And why're we transportin' a vampire again?" Jayne said.
"Three times the going rate for a passenger we don't gotta feed, and we keep the sheep."
"I'm in. We get to eat 'em?"
Kaylee punched him on the arm. "Jayne!"
"Ow! What?" He rubbed the spot. "Ain't often we get food with our food. I'm just sayin'. You know I'm right, right, Mal?"
"I tend that way," Mal answered cautiously, scooting away from Kaylee, "but ain't nothin' been decided. Sheep can be sickly things, and I'm pretty sure Simon don't wanna be a vet."
Simon's expression turned panicked for a moment, but whether that was at the thought of doctoring sheep or the thought of what Kaylee would do to him if he agreed was an open question. He quickly controlled his features and said, "Oh, I don't know. I already work on Jayne."
It took Jayne a second to get it. Then, "Hey!"
"On that note, I think I'll go check on my undead patient. If you'll all excuse me..." Simon rose and fled as gracefully as he could.
"Jayne, you don't get to eat the sheep until our passenger is gone," Mal said. Kaylee smacked him. "Ow!"
A vampire constitution was good for something, Spike thought to himself as he woke up. He wasn't in the cage anymore; he could smell that much. What had happened?
His abused memory slowly came back. Angel and Illyria had found him. Had he bitten Angel? Great, that wanker would never let him live that down. Starving, though, not really in his right mind. They'd wanted to split up...
He opened his eyes and sat up. He remembered the infirmary, and the earnest young man in the vest, who was eyeing him warily and holding a mug out. "They said you'd be hungry when you awakened."
Spike took the mug, sniffed it, and grimaced. "They weren't wrong. I hate sheep, though." He drank it anyway. "Bloody disgusting stuff. Don't suppose you've got any otter...?" The doctor's deer-in-the-headlights look told all. "No, didn't think so. Pity. So," he said briskly. "Am I allowed out? Or am I stuck in hospital until we get to...Where are we going?"
"Greenleaf. You've got a room in the passenger dorm. Your friends packed you a bag."
"Green--Bloody hell! And where did they go?"
"They said they were going the other way to throw whoever was after you off."
"So the sodding poofter gets to head toward the Core with a beautiful girl, probably on a luxury liner, and I get sent to the ass-end of the solar system in a tin can." Spike heaved a grumpy sigh. "Fan-bloody-tastic. And typical."
"They're going to wave you and set up a meet later. You were in pretty bad shape when they brought you in." The doctor led him toward the passenger area. "Don't let Kaylee hear you call Serenity a 'tin can,' by the way. She'll throw a wrench at your head."
"Noted. Kaylee's the cutie in the coveralls, right? Was a bit befuddled when Angel brought me in. Didn't get everyone's name." The memory came percolating up of the Captain hollering for the doctor. "You're Simon, right?"
A head crowned with wild brown hair poked out of one of the rooms. Big brown eyes regarded Spike steadily. "River..." Simon said.
"Not to worry," she answered. "What was once evil now battles against it for justice and Christmas and puppies. And love, although the love is long lost and sometimes he's not sure what he's in love with anymore." She tilted her head. "It's become habit."
"Something like that," Spike said.
She smiled innocently. "Have you come to dance with me?"
He recoiled. "Not in particular." It had been a very long time since he'd danced with anyone, in any sense of the word.
She turned the smile to Simon. "I like him. He's effulgent." Her head disappeared back into her room while Simon stood there blinking.
"That was odd," he commented as they continued down the hallway.
"You have no idea," Spike answered, somewhat freaked. River reminded him of Dru. Only, not evil. He wondered if she'd made it off Earth-That-Was...
He only half-listened to Simon as he explained, "This is your room. Dinner's in a couple of hours. You've got the run of the ship; Jayne's got a weight bench in the cargo bay, and we play horseshoes and other games as well, that you're welcome to join in."
"Right." Spike sat on the bed and opened the suitcase, staring in consternation at the Hawaiian shirts and khaki cargo pants that his erstwhile partners had packed for him. "I am so going to kill them when I see them again," he muttered. "Slowly."
"O-kay. I'll just...leave you to it, then," Simon said. "Anything you need?"
"A decent wardrobe," Spike said sourly.
Kaylee puttered around the kitchen putting dinner together, since it was her turn. It didn't pain her none to admit that their new passenger made her a mite nervous, although it surprised her some that the news that vampires were real creatures didn't flip her world upside down as much as she'd thought it would.
He'd been pretty messed up when his friend had brought him on, and maybe that helped. He wasn't invincible; in fact, he looked pretty normal. No cape. No fangs even.
But she'd borrowed a cross pendant off the Shepherd, just in case.
She went to open the fridge and noticed a note stuck to it with a magnet. Upon closer examination, it proved to be a recipe for mutton stew. She yanked it off and crumpled it up, chucking it into the recycler and swearing in Chinese under her breath.
The others filed in as she set the table, including their new passenger...who wound up in the seat next to hers. His face, remarkably, had nearly healed, and he was a lot handsomer than she'd thought when she'd first seen him. He even pulled her chair out for her, which she wasn't sure how to react to. She settled for giving him a smile, which he returned, doing a thing with his tongue and his teeth, which in turn made her knees a little weak. His eyes went briefly to the cross she wore, then back up to her face, and he lifted his scarred left eyebrow and actually smirked.
Made her feel all manner of silly. And they hadn't even spoke yet. She blushed and looked at her plate.
Jayne, in his typical blunt fashion, took the bull by the horns. "So. Vampire, huh? Ain't you supposed to have fangs?"
"You don't want to see them," Spike said. "Wouldn't like to put anyone off their supper."
"Speakin' of supper, you eat human food at all?" Jayne shoveled in a mouthful and reached for a roll.
Spike eyed the protein, which Kaylee had attempted to make appetizing. "Only when it's worth eating." Something in her expression must have given away her hurt, because he tried to cover. "Oh, it's not that, luv. Vampire taste buds ain't geared toward food like this. Has to be spicy to make an impression. I'll show you tomorrow night, yeah?"
"Okay," she said, mollified. "I do my best with what we have, but sometimes that ain't much."
"Can you turn into a bat?" Wash asked, waving his chopsticks. "Because that would just be neat." Zoe elbowed him. "What?"
Spike put his face in his hand. "Bloody Dracula. No, I can't do that."
Kaylee had just started thinking to herself that this vampire was just like regular folk when he turned to her and said, "There aren't any other vampires like me, pet. You see another vampire, you run like hell in the other direction."
"I was curious about that," Book said. "Why don't you kill people?"
"Why don't you?" Spike shot back.
"Because it's wrong. Most of the time. We're instructed by the Lord not to do murder." He frowned. "Of course, man's definition of 'murder' seems to be fairly fluid."
"Well, I did a rather daft thing a few centuries ago. Went and got my soul back. Do that after over a hundred years of senseless slaughter and see what it does to you."
Jayne shrugged. "I've kill't plenty o' folk. I don't cry into my pillow at night about it."
"Well, there's a big difference between hardening yourself to it over time and having a conscience thrust upon you all of a sudden."
"That's so," Mal acknowledged. "I was a bit confounded, first time."
"I wasn't. Imagine thinking it's all fun and games...and then finding out it's not. A hundred years too late." Even Jayne was quiet as they all contemplated that. "So, yeah. I don't snack on people anymore. I'm not one that can fool myself into thinking it's the demon doing it, not me."
"Wouldn't need to feel guilty if you weren't responsible," River said. "The kill was unnecessary, and you could have eaten without playing with your food first. Didn't. Ergo, guilt."
Spike touched the side of his nose. "Give the girl a kewpie doll. If I--"
The ship shuddered, and an alarm blared. Nervous glances shot around the table, and Wash, Mal, and Zoe stood up and headed to the cockpit without a word. River put her hands over her ears and chanted, "Two by two, hands of blue," and Simon looked very alarmed and hustled her out. Jayne went toward the crew quarters, presumably to weapon up, while Kaylee jumped to her feet and ran back to the engine room to make sure her girl was all right.
That left Book, Inara, and Spike sitting at the table. "I do feel almighty useless at times like this," Kaylee heard the Shepherd say as she left.
"You've got something that belongs to us, Captain Reynolds." The cold voice matched the emotionless face that stared back at them over the connection. "We'd like it back."
"All I got in my cargo bay is a couple of sheep," Mal protested. "I didn't know they were stolen, else I wouldn't have taken them on board."
"Not the sheep." The words you moron were unspoken, but clear as a bell anyways. "The passenger that came on with them."
"Last time I checked, people wasn't property," Mal said carefully. "Leastaways, not on the planet we just come from. You tellin' me different?"
"Your passenger isn't strictly 'people.' Now, you can let us board, or we can blow a hole in your hull and get it back that way. It's up to you."
"All right, all right. Don't get your britches in a knot." Mal hit the disconnect.
"Captain?" That was Simon's voice over the intercom. "River's gone practically catatonic. What's happening?"
"Tama de...Wash, give me a visual of that ship." It was triangular, smaller than Serenity, with a big gun slung underneath that looked more than capable of doing what the man had threatened.
"I guess his friends heading off in the other direction didn't fool those guys," Wash said.
"What's the plan, Sir?" Zoe asked.
"Spike's passage was bought and paid for, and he ain't done nothin' to hurt us. Far as I can see, these hun dans ain't official, or, at least, they ain't shown me anything telling me I'm required by law to do as they say." Mal clenched his fist. "And I don't cotton well to bein' browbeat."
"That's certainly so." Zoe's voice was dry.
"That's just a two-man boat, ain't it? Here's what we'll do..."
Spike stood between Jayne and Mal in the cargo hold, shoulders slumped and wrists shackled--apparently. Inara's skill with makeup had provided a pair of nasty-looking bruises on his face. The two men who came into the cargo hold took note of this, and one lifted his eyebrow. "He gave us a little trouble," Mal said.
"Won't be sorry to see him go," Jayne put in. "The whole blood-suckin' thing was a mite creepifyin'."
"We're glad you decided to be reasonable about this, Captain," the taller one said, while the shorter one took a pen-sized rod out of his suit pocket with a blue-gloved hand. It extruded a filament from each end and began making a high-pitched noise that Spike was pretty sure Mal and Jayne couldn't hear, but which his vampire ears picked up just fine. The sheep began panicking as well. Oh, shit... "Captain, Jayne, get out!" he shouted, leaping towards the men.
They hadn't expected him to resist, and he got the chain of the cuffs around the shorter one's throat and yanked hard, causing him to drop his infernal machine. Mal and Jayne stumbled backwards, noses beginning to bleed, and Spike released his adversary and dove at the device. He snatched it up and snapped it in half, but while he was doing that, the other man had pulled out a similar contraption.
Zoe's gun roared from the catwalk, twice. Both men dropped with gigantic holes in their heads, and Spike grabbed the second device and broke it as well.
Then they all stood there, staring at each other and panting. "What in the name of suoyou de dou shidang was that?" Mal asked, blood still streaming from his nose.
They'd spaced the bodies and sent the men's ship spinning off into the black. Now they sat around the kitchen table again. Mal and Jayne had finally stopped bleeding, and Simon fingered the pieces of one of the devices with a disturbed expression.
"It's a hemoresonator. I thought they were illegal. They are illegal."
"Need that in Captain-dummy-speak, doc."
"It uses sonic vibrations to destroy cellular walls. Specifically, blood cell and capillary walls." He gestured at the reddened cloths that Mal and Jayne had used to stanch their noses. "It kills messily, painfully, and quickly."
Mal turned to Spike. "You wanna tell me what they want you for? Because I didn't sign up for getting my gorram blood dissolved when I took you on."
Spike's hands had angry welts on them from where he'd touched the hemoresonators. "I'm not sure."
"That ain't good enough." Mal was obviously pissed.
"All I know is that someone drugged my blood one night, and I woke up in a cage. People in lab coats poking and prodding at me, sticking me with needles. Then, I guess they got tired of that, and they put me on display like some sort of zoo animal."
"Oh, that's awful!" Kaylee exclaimed.
"I'm fairly certain they were watching me then, too, observing my reactions as they put different drugs in my food, gave me different sorts of blood to drink. Then..." Spike swallowed. "They stopped feeding me altogether. That was all kinds of bad."
"What exactly happens to a vampire that doesn't eat?" Wash said. "Because, I'd hate for something to happen to the sheep..."
"It doesn't kill us. We slowly go insane. Hallucinations, voices in our heads, the whole nine yards." He shuddered. "I really didn't need to go through that again. And if we go too long without eating, then the condition is permanent. So, long answer short, I think they want their guinea pig back."
"They didn't cut into your brain or anything, did they?" Simon asked.
"Not that I remember. Plus, vampire healing. It wouldn't last if they did. Why?"
"The Alliance has a bad tendency to be meddlesome where they ought not," Mal said. "And they're almighty persistent when they want something back."
"I've put you all in danger. Might be best if you just dump me off on the nearest planet and have done with it."
"We can't do that!" Kaylee protested.
"Why not?" Jayne asked, crossing his arms.
"I got paid for the job, I do the job, Jayne," Mal said. "That ain't negotiable." Jayne grumbled, but subsided. "Wash, keep a closer eye on the space around us, make sure don't no one else sneak up."
"Is Wooly and Bully okay?" Kaylee said. "That thing didn't hurt them, did it?"
They all stared at her. "Wooly...and Bully? Do I want to know?" Zoe asked.
Mal put his face in his hand. "They're fine, little Kaylee."
At least that dissolved some of the tension in the room.
Spike rummaged through his suitcase the next morning, hoping against hope that someone had gotten him something decent to wear. Styles may have changed over the centuries and galaxies, but, he grumbled, black was always "in." Hawaiian shirt. Hawaiian shirt. Flannel. Who the bloody hell had packed this? Must have been Angel; only he would be so cruel.
He got to the bottom of the bag and found a surprise. Both his companions knew about his food fetish, but he revised his opinion of who had packed it. Had to have been Leery; Angel wouldn't care enough to buy real cocoa and actually put it in the bag. Why the silly bint had bought such outlandish clothing was a question for the ages. Maybe the marketplace had a limited selection...
Finally settling for something a bit less loud than the rest, he wandered toward the kitchen with the cocoa. He found Kaylee slamming utensils around and swearing in Mandarin. As a spoon flew past his head, he said, "Whoa, pet! What's got your knickers in a bunch?"
"Oh! I didn't hear you come in, Spike." Flustered, she pushed her hair back behind her ear. "I just--gah!" Apparently, she had trouble sustaining anger, because she just sighed and gave him the saddest look. "Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Pretty? Good grief, no." Her face fell even further, and he rushed to clarify. "You're beautiful, luv." There was the smile that lit up the whole ship, although tears lurked around the edges of it. "Why? Someone insult you this morning? Want me to hit him?"
She gasped out a laugh. "No, that ain't necessary. Don't know if you've noticed, but I carry a little torch for the doc?" At his nod, since he'd have to have been blind to miss it, she continued. "We was sittin' in the crew lounge this mornin' after breakfast...and he told me I had a 'great personality.' And then he wondered why I got mad."
Spike's jaw dropped at the idea that any man would be so utterly stupid as to use interplanetary code for "ugly as a box of toads" to a girl's actual face. "Did he mean anything by it, or is he really that clueless?"
"Oh, he's really that clueless. And I know that, and it's a silly thing to get kerfuffled about, but I did anyhow. And then I come into the kitchen and found this thing on the counter." She handed him a piece of paper.
"'Mongolian Lamb with Scallions,'" Spike read aloud. Kaylee had named the sheep... "Well, that's just mean." Funny, he didn't say out loud, but mean.
"Jayne tweakin' me, is all. But I didn't need to see that right after I had a fight with Simon."
"Maybe this'll make you feel better." He handed her the packet of cocoa and was rewarded by the sight of her eyes going absolutely huge. Then she flung herself into his arms and gave him a gigantic hug.
She remembered, after a few seconds, that she was hugging a vampire, and she disengaged and looked shyly at the floor. "A-are you sure you want me to have this? I mean, chocolate ain't somethin' we see every day out here..."
"Kaylee, pet, I wish I had more to give you. Stuck out here in the black, heading to a nowhere planet, with ridiculous clothes and no beer...and you just made up for all of it."
"Aw, Greenleaf's nice, and them clothes ain't so bad. Wash wears shirts like that all the time."
"What, you don't think they look dork-tastic?" She shook her head, smiling, and he continued, "Last time I had to wear a shirt like this, I attempted to commit suicide by jumping chest first onto a stake." He grinned ruefully. "I missed. Five hundred years ago and I still remember."
She elbowed his ribs. "Well, good thing. Who'd bring me cocoa otherwise? Also, you said something about teaching me to cook food you'd actually eat. How does that work, anyway? I thought you ate blood?"
"Need the blood for sustenance. Just eat food because I like it." He perused the spice shelf. "Ah, here we are..."
Something he'd said earlier about a lack of beer suddenly clicked. "Oh! Be right back. Don't go nowhere."
He puttered about for a few minutes, putting ingredients together. She came back with a glass jug of clear liquid, grabbed a pair of mugs out of the cabinet, and poured a generous measure into each. "It ain't beer, but maybe it'll do?"
Spike swallowed a mouthful before he realized what it was, and nearly choked. "That's some strong...stuff you got there. Where'd it come from?"
"Brew it myself in the engine compartment. You like it?"
He took a longer, slower sip. "This is the best I've had in a long while." Which wasn't technically a lie; high alcohol content covered a multitude of sins, and he'd never been one for high-class booze to begin with.
Cooking with Kaylee promised to be fun.
The hooch soon distracted them from their cooking duties, and they moved their business to the kitchen table. Kaylee stared owlishly at her glass. She was starting to hit the "angry" stage of drunkenness. "So, Spike...Is your boss a kewu de lao baojun who gives you the thankless assignment of keeping the boat in the air...and no money, parts, or tools you need to do the job right? And then blames you when things go wrong?"
Spike was feeling the effects himself. The girl was a master moonshiner, she was. Of course, he'd never admit to Angel being his boss no matter how drunk he got, but... "'Go do this, Spike,'" he said in a mocking tone. "'But I won't actually trust you to do it on your own; I'll be checking up on you to make sure you don't screw it up, even though you never do.'"
"And even though he don't even know which end of a wrench to hold hisownself." She nodded, sagely and drunkenly.
"So, whassa nice girl like you doin' on a ship like this?"
"Aw! You think I'm nice?"
"You've got a teddy bear on your pocket, pet. 'Course you are."
"Glad someone thinks 'm nice," she grouched. She pointed her finger in his face. "Tell me this, Spike...'s a funny name. You think it's appropriate to kiss a girl what's jus' waitin' for you to do it? When she's droppin' hints alla time?"
"Appropriate? I should think it'd be required." Spike poured them another round.
"Stupid Core-type doctor-y person." She picked up her glass and took a drink.
"Maybe he's sly." He was rewarded by a spit-take of monumental proportions, followed by a coughing fit. He pounded her on the back until she recovered.
"Yanno...that would 'splain a lot. I mean, he don't hardly even look at Inara, and she's...well, look at her."
"Oh, I have. She's something, all right." He lifted his glass in a toast. "Like you better, though. You're all, all wholesome. And stuff. Remind me of someone I knew, once upon a time, at a evil law firm."
Her eyes went dreamy, and she rested her chin on her hand. "Tell me I'm pretty again. I like to hear you say it."
He put his fist on his chest, closed his eyes, and declaimed: "'You walk in Beauty, like the night/ Of cloudless climes and starry skies;/ And all that's best of dark and bright/ Meet in your aspect and your eyes...'"
"Oooh. That's--that's real pretty, that is."
"Chap named Lord Byron wrote it. Glad someone can appreciate my Victorian upbringing." He snorted. "Not like Illyria ever does."
"What, that girl that brought the sheeps? You'n her ain't got a thing?"
"'You are beneath me, half-breed vermin,'" he said, taking care to get her inflections just right. "Beneath them all, I am. Was never good enough. Or bad enough. Or something."
"Eyes like that and magic cheekbones, and the hair, with the arms...and you ain't got a girlfriend?" She grinned at him roguishly. "Ain't sly yourownself, are ya?"
"Could prove to you just how not-sly I am, if you like."
"I think I'd like that ver' much."
Mal walked into the kitchen on his way to the cockpit and stopped abruptly. "Hey! We gotta eat on that table!" He really hadn't needed to see his mechanic on top of a vampire, half-tearing his shirt off, both of them kissin' each other like a world was gonna end if they quit. "Kaylee!" No reaction. "Kaywinnit Lee Frye!"
"Mph? What?" She half-disengaged and looked over her shoulder. "Oh, hi, Cap'n." She gave him a little wave, and he had an unpleasant flashback to the first time he'd seen her, with Bester...
"Why is my mechanic kissin' a vampire?"
She giggled, and he realized, with horror, that she was plastered. "Have you seen him? Be kinda silly for me to not be kissin' him, dontcha think? He's shuài, and he's nice and thinks I'm mêilì--"
Mal glared at Spike, who had gotten up onto his elbows. "You takin' advantage of her, you se mi mi de ren hump?"
Unrepentant, Spike looked up at Kaylee. "Seems to me she's the one on top, here, Cap'n."
That was so. And while Kaylee had just about taken Spike's shirt off, Mal noticed that she was still decently covered herself. He put his face in his hand. "You're both grownups. If you're gonna be doin' that sorta thing, at least do it in private. Or...not on the kitchen table. Dong ma?"
Kaylee giggled again. "Yessir, you pianzhi de jiuchayuan. Sir."
Mal headed toward the bridge, swearing under his breath.
Even Jayne's managing to leave another mutton recipe at her spot at the table didn't dampen Kaylee's good mood as they all sat down to dinner. She wasn't completely plowed anymore, but she still had a nice glow that she knew she was going to pay for later. At this point, she didn't care much. Spike had drunk his blood beforehand, and he helped her serve, in a gallant way. Mal glared at them, the memory of finding them on the table still fresh in his mind, but was soon distracted by how scrumptious the food smelled--and tasted.
And when she brought out real chocolate cake? The meal was declared an absolute triumph. She felt her ears turning red at that. "Well, if it weren't for Spike, I wouldn'ta had the cocoa for the cake, and he helped me with the protein..."
"Psh," Spike said. "You knew what to do. I just showed you a couple of new tricks, is all. Hell, I didn't even pack the chocolate."
"But you didn't have to share it." Kaylee leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He grinned back at her, and she nudged him with her shoulder and gave him a grin of her own.
She was gonna miss him when he left them at Greenleaf.
They landed at the docks in the evening, and Spike stood in the cargo hold with his bag beside him, getting ready to get off. "You sure you'll be okay?" Kaylee asked him.
"Right as rain, pet. Angel and Illyria'll meet up with me in a couple of days, and we'll be off adventurin' before you know it. Maybe I can cross paths with you again sometime."
"I'd really like that."
"Me too." He tilted her chin, and her arms went around his shoulders. They exchanged a smoldering kiss as the others looked on with various expressions. Simon, in particular, looked as though he'd just eaten something that tasted very, very bad. Spike met his eyes over Kaylee's shoulder and lifted his eyebrow. Best make your move soon, mate, he thought. She won't wait for you forever.
He broke the kiss, squeezed Kaylee one last time, and slung his bag over his back, giving them all a sketchy salute. "Ta very much for the ride, Captain."
"No problem," Mal said. "Wouldn't mind doin' business again sometime."
"I'll have a chat with Angel." He turned and disappeared into the marketplace.
His first self-appointed task was to find himself some decent clothes. After that...well, he was pretty much free to do whatever he wanted until he met up with Angel and Illyria.
A pair of objects in a toy-vendor's booth caught his attention, and he picked them up, grinning. He didn't even haggle over the price.
Kaylee dropped down into her bunk with a sigh. It'd been a long day, but Mal had let her buy some much-needed parts for her girl, and she'd spent the better part of it doing some repairs.
She tittered at the thought of how easy it had been to talk Jayne out of eating the sheep. He'd apparently been roped into helping Simon with the blood-drawing over the last several days, and, far from holding a grudge, Wooly and Bully had developed affection for the big mercenary. He confessed that they'd visited with him when he lifted weights; and, she noticed after Spike walked away, they were standing on either side of him, nudging his hands with their heads and asking for ear-rubs. Which he was providing.
So, the sheep had been sold to a petting zoo, and everyone was happy.
She pulled her shirt off over her head and turned to toss it onto her bed--then stopped abruptly with a little gasp.
Two plush sheep, one all white, the other white with a brown face and legs, sat on her pillow, with pink ribbons tied in bows around their necks. A note in flowing script read:
You made what could have been an unbearable trip into something I actually enjoyed. I'll never forget you, pet.
"Aw!" She sat on the bed and hugged the sheep to her. "I'll never forget you either, Spike," she said softly.
suoyou de dou shidang: All that's proper
kewu de lao baojun: Horrible old tyrant
se mi mi de ren: Lecherous
pianzhi de jiuchayuan: Stubborn disciplinarian
Credit for the translations goes to Eudiamonia and her Chinese Cheat Sheet.