A story for Boniblithe, who was the reason I joined in the game in the first place. I really really hope you like it, sweetie. *crosses fingers*
Fandom: Firefly, Star Wars, aside references to multiple others
Rating: PG for violence and glossed over references
The little girl poked the little boy. "Scoot over."
He poked back. "You scoot over."
"If either of you two grind my yarn into the dirt…"
"I have a better idea. Everybody stand up. Bear, Em, yes, Boni, you too, and pick up your carry bag."
"You are going to get the blanket dirty."
"Blankets wash. Okay, I sit here, you sit there and both of you in the middle. No dirt, happy crochet hook, everybody comfy?"
Both kids pouted. They shifted to glaring for a few moments, because both mothers were contentedly ignoring them, and even dramatic sighs weren't making an impression. Glaring, however, got boring even faster than staring at the campfire or the dark woods around them did. Besides, pouting was easier.
Boni said, "I still can't believe they dragged us out in the middle of the woods for a weekend."
"Bonding. Two young men playing Daniel Boone and running laps around two middle aged men stumbling through an unfamiliar forest. A sure-fire way to convince them of their natural and youthful superiority. And then one or both of our husbands will send them on a Snipe hunt and they'll learn the immortal truth."
"Experience and Treachery will always triumph over Youth and Exuberance."
"And they couldn't do this alone?" She tugged more yarn from the skein and continued, "I could be enticing you into the world of Yami no Matsuei. At home. On a couch. On carpet."
"What's I-E-R-C-E-N" spell?" the little girl asked.
"Never you mind, Em. Are you finished with your hot dog?"
"I am," the boy announced to the world in general, then took a final bite. "But I'm cold. I want my map blanket."
"Of course you do. And you will share, you hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am." He carefully shook out the blanket and tucked one edge around himself and the other around Em with supercilious care.
She looked down at her lap. "It has the states on it."
"Yeah, we live here," he poked between their shins, "and we flew in an airplane to get here, but I don't know where here is on the map."
Em looked at her mother and sighed, conveying without even resorting to an eyeroll just how incredibly dense boys could be. "New Jersey is right here," she said, prodding his far rib.
"My state is bigger."
"My state is better."
"And I think it's time for toasting marshmallows," Boni intervened.
"Oh absolutely." Cawti scrabbled in the cooler for the Sta-Puft bag.
"Not too close, sweetie. You just want a light brown even coat … " The marshmallow ignited, the sugar-fueled flames leaping to illuminate Bear's stricken face. Cawti blew and blew and blew, then examined the charred remains ruefully.
Boni said wryly, "Of course, there are other schools of thought."
Cawti narrowed her eyes as she handed her own evenly browned marshmallow over to her son and started flicking up blackened charred bits off the marshmallow corpse.
"I'm bored. I want to watch a movie," Bear whined.
The two mothers shot a Significant Glance ™ as Em took up the cry.
Boni set aside her crochet hook and asked, "How about a story instead?"
Em wiggled, her bouncing knees making California on the blanket shimmy, "Yeah, tell a story. With a princess."
Cawti turned from tossing the mallow briquette with an indulgent smile. "Once upon a time in a magical wood there was a princess…"
"An elf princess."
"But of course an elf princess … with a tiara of silver aspen leaves and a pink dress with ruffles and petticoats and silver slippers."
"Ruffles? In the woods?" Boni inquired sweetly.
"Magical ruffles, shush. Special no-snag, no-stain fabric. And the elf princess was walking through the woods in search of … of her …um …" she faltered, unnerved by three sets of eyes, Em's intent, Bear's skeptical, Boni's amused. "Right, her magic necklace, that let her talk to the animals. Because without it, she couldn't rule the land. And she walked the woods, and the streams, and the fields, but without her necklace she couldn't talk to the deer, or the fish, or the sheep to ask where her necklace was. So she was very sad."
"She needs a robot to help her."
"Thank you dear heart, but, no, we shan't be mixing genres this early in the evening. So the elf princess sat in a clearing in the woods and thought very hard about her necklace. She knew it had been taken…"
"By a robot?"
"There are no robots in this story at any point. Eat another marshmallow. She knew that her necklace had been taken from her room in the castle, right from the little table by her bed…"
"Mommy has a pink bed."
"So do I, but it's not the same pink. Mine has flowers."
"Well, the princess's pink bed has butterflies. And a table beside it where her necklace" she raised her voice to forestall any further interior design discussion, "was resting when it was taken. So she knew that whoever took it had to be able to fly, in order to reach her bedroom at the top of the tower."
"Or be a ninja," Bear offered.
"The ninjas are in the robot story."
"Okumph," he said through a marshmallow.
"Have you just given up toasting them?"
"What about the princess!" Boni wailed. Em hushed her mother.
"So since there are only a few creatures who fly, and only a few creatures who like sparkly things, and only dragons fit into both the sparkly things and the flying things groups, the princess, using logic, decided that the dragon must have taken her necklace."
"Is the dragon pink?" Boni asked.
"Please stop helping me. Okay, so the elf princess walked and walked and walked to the very edges of the Queen's land where fields of sheep gave way to thorny bushes and rocks with a funny smell…"
"Like someone pooted," Bear snickered.
"You are the only boy present and girls do not think poots are funny."
"Daddy thinks they are."
"Is Daddy a girl?"
"Um no." Chastened by his mother and quailing under Em's look of haughty disdain, Bear retreated back under the blanket.
"Right then, sharp pointy rocks and thorny bushes and she was really quite afraid and her feet hurt and her slippers broke on the hard ground and her dress tore on the thorns…"
"So much for no-snag, no-stain."
"Even Scotchgard has its limitations. She wanted to go home and take a nap on her soft bed with her fluffy pillow, but she was a big girl and she knew the necklace was her responsibility, so she had to get it back. So after much travail…um, hard work and climbing on rocks and scratches without a single band-aid or kiss to make it better, she stood at the entrance of the dragon's cave and called inside. And a deep booming voice answered and the shadows inside the cave moved as though something huge lumbered … um … walked heavily toward the cave opening, but she was very brave and she didn't run away and the dragon stood before her and said, big and boomy, 'Hello.' And she responded 'hello to you. You speak?' and he said 'I took a necklace and now I can talk to all the animals, but they all run away before I can say anything but hello. And I'm awfully lonely.' The princess said, 'well, actually, that's my necklace, but if you give it back to me, I promise I'll come and visit you.' And the dragon agreed and gave her the necklace and they had a nice cup of tea with smoked watercress sandwiches and deviled ham in avocado cups and then he flew her back to the castle. And everyone lived happily ever after."
The kids looked at one another, but it was Boni who said, "You suck."
"Dude, dragons go with princesses. There had to be a dragon."
"Tea parties need Mad Hatters. Dragons get slain."
"I refuse to hurt dragons!" Cawti said.
"We'll alert PETA."
Bear mumbled something. Cawti leaned down and made him repeat himself. "You forgot the hot lava."
"Hot lava?" Boni asked.
"Standing request." Cawti explained, "All stories must have hot lava. Like the diehard Remus/Sirius shippers, anything goes, so long as those two are a pair, even if only in the background."
Boni grinned at Cawti. "Required elements. The hazard of creating for a specific person…"
"This is why I fear challenges." She ruffled Bear's hair and said, "Sweetie, the hot lava was at the dragon's cave. They used it to toast the bread for their sandwiches and to keep the teapot warm."
Unmollified, he threw himself half into his mother's lap and gestured imperiously across Em to Boni, "Tell us a Star Wars story next." He glared up at his mother. “A good story.”
"A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, there was a merchant ship with a crew of four, two stunningly intelligent and creative women and their equally intelligent and well-behaved children who always said please and thank you."
"And remembered to flush every single time they went potty. And always washed their hands."
"That too. And this crew of four intrepid adventurers was cruising through the Orion Nebula on the way for a refitting stop on Alderaan."
"Alderaan blows up," Em announced.
"Yes, but this is before Alderaan blows up."
"Darth Vader blows it up," Bear added. Cawti put her hand over her son's mouth and nodded at Boni to continue, then grimaced and pulled her hand away. Bear stuck his tongue out again and grinned as she wiped her palm on her jeans.
"Two days out of Alderaan, they received a distress signal. There was no one else within communication range, so they dropped out of warp speed to see if they could help. When they came upon the source of the signal, all they saw was a ship without power floating in space, so they put on their space suits…"
"And the boy wears a vest."
"Like Han Solo. Mom, explain who Han Solo is."
Cawti choked on a marshmallow. Boni glared. "I know who Han Solo is, thank you. He shot first. Okay, fine, the boy wore a vest. Like Han Solo's."
"And the girls all have cinnamon buns in their hair," Cawti muttered around a mouthful of goo.
"I don't want cinnamon bun hair."
"How about a braid?" Boni asked her daughter and got a shrug in answer.
"Can I have cinnamon bun hair?" Cawti said. Boni glared.
Em answered for her, "Okay, you can, but I get a braid, a long one. That goes all the way to my feet. With ribbons it in. Purple ones."
"Can we get back to the story?" Boni asked. After a chorus of abashed "yes,ma'ams," she continued, "so the merchant crew crept aboard the ship and the two kids, being so very smart, went to the ship's computer and pulled the life sign readings and found that all the life signs, all the people, on board were grouped together on the bridge. So they quietly went through the abandoned ship, sneak sneak sneak, but before they could get there, a battle droid rolled in front of them and they hid behind walls and shot at it with their blasters, pitchew! Pitchew! Blam blam, Fwoosh! With lots of explosions…"
"Pandering to the audience," Cawti muttered.
"Like Lucas doesn't? She gets purple ribbons, he gets explosions. Anyway, lots of explosions and sparks and blam! The droid exploded and they went on toward the bridge where they looked in the window and saw that Senator Organa and his wife and their baby daughter…"
"That's really Leia," Em confided sotto voice to Bear, who rolled his eyes.
"…were all tied up with big ropes and in front of them was a Trade Federation official, you know, the guys with the hats? So, they couldn't really hear what he was saying, but they didn't really need to, because this is Lucas, so the little girl with purple ribbons in her braid very cleverly shorted the door lock and it slid open and they all dove into the room and hid behind the whatzits, the counters
with all the navigation controls on them, what's the word I'm looking for?"
"Oh, you're a lot of help. So they hid behind the control counters and shot their blasters at the droids. And while their mothers were making lots of noise and fuss at one end, the two kids crawled carefully to where the Senator and his family were tied up and untied them and crawled with them back behind the counter and out of the room and they ran quickly back to their own ship, leaving their mothers to cover their retreat. Everyone made it to the merchant spaceship, even though the baby was scared and crying the whole way. But when they got to their ship and looked out the …um …window?"
"Port, on ships; I would think the nautical conventions apply."
"Out the front port, or windshield, whatever, they saw that the scary droids had followed them, jetting through open space, so while one of the women piloted the ship away, the other went into the gun pods and kept the droids away until they could escape." She glanced at Bear, waiting patiently. "And the leader of the droids spun through space until he fell into the sun, which is close enough to hot lava for our purposes, and he melted."
Bear grinned, but Em said, "That didn't happen in the movies."
"Well, that's rather the point of telling the story, isn’t it? To fill in between the movies. Anyone else want a marshmallow or are we all sugared out?" She waited, then wrapped a twist-tie around the bag and tossed it in the general direction of the cooler.
Em tugged the blanket up to her chin and said, "My turn!"
"Okay, what do you want?"
"Pirates, hunh? No more princesses?"
Em glanced at Bear. "Well, the dragon was pretty lame."
"Did you know that your mommy ran with a space pirate?
"Oh I did, did I?"
Em eyed her mother dubiously. "I don't remember that."
"It was before you were born. She went adventurin'."
"Well, we all know that I aim to misbehave."
"Exactly, and there they were on a far off planet, lyin' in wait for the bad guys, her and the brave space captain…"
"You hush. Who's telling this story?"
"I await your words." Boni sat back smiling, fingers caressing her daughter's hair.
"The bad guys had the schoolhouse surrounded,"
"Interesting how we keep putting children in danger to heighten dramatic tension."
"Well, if the men were telling the stories, there'd be cleats and a scoreboard involved."
"Ah yes, the boys of summer."
"Can we please hear about the schoolhouse?" It was amazing how much Em could sound like her mother when she tried.
"The bad guys had the schoolhouse surrounded, because they wanted the computers that the students had. And the teacher had called for help, but there were an awful lot of bad guys, and only the local sheriff and his two deputies, and when Captain Mal and Zoe and Jayne and Miss Boni got there, they were still outnumbered, just not as badly. Bear, honey, stop poking me."
"I want to snuggle." He crawled over her, spilling out of her lap across her legs, too big to hold without arms poking awry. And Em followed suit, not much more gently, curling over her mother.
"So, yes, there was a firefight, but since we don't want to get too excited at sleepytime, we'll say that Zoe went down with just a little more shrapnel than her vest could stop, and your mother stood over her, emptying cartridge after cartridge to keep the villains from circling around while Mal and Jayne stood in the yard, daring fate and cheating death and taunting them with mangled clichés while the sheriff and his deputies crept 'round the back and narrowed the odds until they were even, then better than even, then done."
Cawti waited a beat, but neither child stirred. "Princess," she said. "Hot lava. Anyone want a popsicle? Right, they are asleep. So the rest of the story goes like this … Kaylee ran off with the youngest deputy, the one with the handlebar moustache, and returned home the next morning with grass in her hair and a goofy smile. Wash was so carefully solicitous of Zoe's bandaged gut that she finally snapped, swept his feet from under him and shouldered him onto their bed where he bounced and cried out, "Weave! Don't rip your weave!" until she crawled over him trapping his patting hands with her elbows and silencing his worry with kisses. Jayne slept deeply that night, dreaming first of schoolmarms who turned into spiders, their white crocheted shawls unraveling into spiderwebs, but then he bestirred himself and turned his mind to happier dreams, of guns that sighted themselves and of loose women with bright red ribbons in their garters. And Malcom and Boni got sweaty and gymnastic, both of them smelling of cordite and machine oil and a little dirty behind their ears and then afterward pulled on their clothes, ruefully eyeing the scrapes, the tears, the stains, but knowing that they'd been heroes that day. And he returned to his ship and crew while she went on, left him behind, still searching for home and finding it entwined in cotton yarn and baby fine hair and a mix of cat and dog fur."
"Hunh, good story."
"Thank you kindly."
Everyone snuggled atop a wool quilt older than any of them and under cheerful bright acrylic fleece while the stars overhead stretched into infinity and eternity rested on gently drooling cherubic lips. The campfire popped, punctuating Bear's soft snoring.
"We are both so very pinned, aren't we?"
"Yep, we'll just have to wait here for the guys to come back."
With only a little wiggling, they reached out to hold hands.
"Thanks for inviting me. This was fun," Cawti said.
With thanks to beadslut and cluegirl for beta and enabling, to ethrosdemon for letting me pick the person I wanted to write for, and to boniblithe herself, for letting me play with her.