*it's been several weeks since Mz. Pratt woke up aboard the IGP transport vessel. The ship trip was uneventful and pleasantly boring, as has her time here on Hydrus, where she's lived in a nest woven of living willow branches up in the crown of a weeping willow tree. A little bird, who she calls Wilson, has helped her find where local foods grow. Even though she'd been looking forward to a diet including a lot of fresh sashimi, she's found herself living mostly on indigenous fungus like shroom carrots and jelly strings, interspersed with the occasional handful of lollipop fruit and topping of spaghetti sauce plums* *due to the very humid but comfortable atmosphere, and the natural disinfectant nature of the water, her complexion and hair are clear and glowing. There is peace, there is quiet, no one yells at her... The only thing that's marred her peace at all is her tendency to miss when she pees and hit her foot, despite the warden's instructions. The occasional dice game and snark session with said warden, Charleen LaFitt, livens things up a little, as do Mz. Pratt's sporadic crayfish chases and encounters with Charleen's little adopted reptilian son, who tends to pop up in the most unexpected places*
Mz. Pratt: Shut up, Wilson. *stuffs more jelly strands into her mouth as she sits waist deep in the pool that she found them in, then adds a bite of spaghetti sauce plum to season the delicately sour, noodle-like fungus strands*
Mz. Pratt: *swallows her mouthful and reaches under the water to get more strands. Startled whoop as her fingers encounter a scooting shell, and then she's lifting a swimming abalone as she looks for the sauce plum that just went WEEEEEEEEEEE!* *grumble*
white kitty child: *perks black ears at her and offers the plum, very human dark eyes twinkling at her, one from a frame of black* Hi.
Mz. Pratt: *more startled whoop! Does, however, keep hold of her shellfish*
kitty child: *squeaks and hunkers down, his tail poofing despite its dampness*
Mz. Pratt: *once she's gotten over most of her startlement, she's blinking with puzzlement* Er... Where did you come from?
kitty child: *peeks at her uncertainly, his still poofed tail curling* I came with Auntie Natalie.
Mz. Pratt: ... Oh.
kitty child: *hopefully* I'm Cody the kitty. Auntie Natalie said you wanted somebody with spots like mine. *perks and reaches his free hand to the string on his blue board shorts* I can show you the spot on my butt!
Mz. Pratt: *very soft snerk* I believe you about that, Cody.
Cody: *cute little grin that lights his whole face* Okay. Are you havin' a bath? Can I call you Mama? I'm five, so I can swim!
Mz. Pratt: Actually, I was having lunch... *blinks at the second question, figuratively melting at the sheer cute* That's fine, Cody.
Cody: *scoots closer and offers the half-eaten plum as he slips into the pool* Can I eat with you? Ooooo. *sudden perked ears of interest as he notices the squirming abalone* What's that? Is it good to eat?
Mz. Pratt: It's a type of shellfish called an abalone. It needs pounding out before it's soft enough to eat.
Cody: Ohhh. *looks at the plum, then holds it in both hands and sniffs it* *more perk* Sour stuff c'n tenderize.
Mz. Pratt: I usually just soak it in a tea pitcher from one of the pitcher vines.
Cody: Ohhhh. *steps forward, and then meeps and looks down, his tail poofing again* Somethin's got my foot!
Mz. Pratt: *looks* Those are jelly strings. They're another type of food.
Cody: *blink blink* *then offers her the half-eaten plum*
Mz. Pratt: *will reach for the plum*
Cody: *gives it and makes sure she's got it, and then he's hunkering right down into the water, face and all. Grunts happen, his tail poofs again*
Mz. Pratt: *will move to help if it looks like Cody needs the assist*
Cody: *water flies as he falls onto his bum, and then he's spitting water and laughing as he holds up a huge clump of jelly strings* I got 'em!
Mz. Pratt: *laughs and moves to sit down* You did!
Cody: *squiggles over like the kitten he is, and lands on Mz. Pratt's lap* How do we nomph?
Mz. Pratt: *will grab a handful of jelly strings after making sure Cody won't fall, then she'll show the little boy how to eat the good nom*
Cody: *now looks more like a chipmunk than a kitten* Mmmm. Dis's gud noms. *finger in the mouth with the nom*
Mz. Pratt: *heart is figuratively melting all the more as she holds Cody and he eats the jelly strings. She'd been missing her little dog by the same name, but she knew he was in good hands with Dutch*
Cody: *squeak!* O_O
Mz. Pratt: *blink* Do I need to let you down?
Cody: *grabs his tail with his free hand and pulls it up to show her the crawdad on the end of it* O_O! *mouth too full for talk*
Mz. Pratt: Oooh. *will work on carefully removing the crawdad*
crawdad: *tries to get her fingers*
Cody: *swallows his mouthful* That's a nom. That's a lobster, right?
Mz. Pratt: It's a crawdad. Kinda similar to a lobster, though. *grins as she holds the snappy critter where it can't pinch her*
Cody: Do we gots to cook it? *sniff sniff. Nose crinkle*
Mz. Pratt: Yeah. The tail is really good when it's cooked.
Cody: *stuffs jelly strings smeared with plum into his mouth* Whatwe gunna do 'if 'im?
Mz. Pratt: I've got a willow basket in the water in front of my house that I keep the crawdads I catch in a day in until I can cook them. When I have enough, I use a pitcher plant and some of the sour plums to cook them that way. I haven't found much that would work for a fire and boiling them though...
Cody: De'don eat eapubber? *how's he even getting the words past that mouthful?*
Mz. Pratt: I tie them up so they can't pinch each other to death.
Cody: Ohhheeep! *stuffs food back in as his tail poofs again*
Mz. Pratt: After we finish eating, would you like to help me catch crawdads for dinner?
Cody: *eyes light up as he swallows* *nod nod nod!* Aunty Natalie's here, but she didn't come cuz she doesn't wanna scare you.
Mz. Pratt: *puzzled expression is a go* Scare me?
Cody: *more nodding* 'Cause you're scared of that other little kid.
Mz. Pratt: ... *thinking of her reaction to the warden's child* Ohhhh! No, that's more me not expecting anyone to be where I look next.
Charlton: *pokes his head out of the far side of the pool*
Cody: *tail POOF!*
Mz. Pratt: *yup. Just like that* *startled awk!*
Charlton: *standing there neck deep* You scared'a me?
Cody: *slips off Mz. Pratt and starts wading over to see if he can sniff that kid*
Mz. Pratt: *has facepalmed now that she's realized what's up* *to Charlton* No, you just startle me when you pop up suddenly like you just did.
Charlton: *one eye squinted shut as the taller child sniff sniffs his head, but his expression is very very blank* *what you said does not compute*
Mz. Pratt: *trying to think of how to simplify what she just said* *then* Suddenly, person surprises me.
Charlton: Butcha hear me comin'. *falls into the water as Cody sneezes*
Cody: *so much sneeze*
Mz. Pratt: Actually, I don't... *eeps at the sneezes*
Cody: *turns to look at her with flat ears and eyes wide with dismay and filling with tears*
Mz. Pratt: *moving to fuss over Cody*
Cody: I peed my pants!
Charlton: *bailing out!*
Mz. Pratt: Well, we should get you some fresh ones, then.
Cody: *clings* K'n we go ta Aunty Natalie?
Mz. Pratt: *nods and gently rubs a bitty back* Yeah. Let's go talk to her and get you some fresh pants.
Charlton: Git yer stuff. Yer time be up.
Mz. Pratt: *blink blink* My time's up?
Charlton: *just a voice in the long grass over by where Wilson's scolding* Ya.
Mz. Pratt: ...Huh. *looks to Cody* Is it okay if we go get my stuff first, then we can go see Natalie?
Cody: *uncertainly makes an "Idunno" sound, just like many little human kids his age*
Mz. Pratt: *soft chuckle* Well, let's be quick about getting my stuff, then.
Cody: *lets go of her and turns to wade out of the pool*
Mz. Pratt: *moves to follow, mentally going over what she brought and wondering about what she can leave behind*
Cody: *waits for her, and then reaches for her hand* Will we bring the pinchy things?
Mz. Pratt: *grin* Yeah. You and I worked hard to catch them. *plus she worked hard on that basket, and she's proud of it!*
Cody: *as he walks beside her* I only caught one. But it really caught me.
Mz. Pratt: It still counts.
Cody: *big grin as he splashes along through the shallows, and then a curious stare toward a ripple in the grass to one side*
Mz. Pratt: *looks that way as well, brows going up* Hm?
Cody: The other kid's comin' too.
Mz. Pratt: Oh. Okay. *nods* *realizing that Charlton wasn't really ever sneaking up on her. She'd seen the rippling in the grasses before, but because she hadn't paid attention, she'd gotten startled each time*
Cody: *attention turned to up ahead* That tree looks like a tent I saw.
Mz. Pratt: *looks to the tree she's been calling "bed" since she arrived* Oh?
Cody: Yeah. With walls 'n everythin'!
Charlton: *is the familiar sound of something snapping*
Mz. Pratt: *blink blink* Huh. *looks to the sound of snapping*
Cody: Did you break somethin'?
Charlton: Onee dis clam shell. *nom sounds*
Mz. Pratt: ... *soft snerk as she realizes that the snapping sound usually happens when the grass is rippling*
Cody: Kin I have a clam, Mama?
Mz. Pratt: *nods* *remembers clams being tasty food on Earth* Go ahead, Cody.
Cody: *lets go her hand and scoots toward the Charlton sounds. A meep follows from the grass. And then several other startled and dismayed sounds interspersed with Charlton's low voice*
Mz. Pratt: *soft chuckle, will move to grab her hairbrush and outfit in the meantime. Looks to her big blanket that also doubles as a towel, considering whether to bring it with. Then she's shaking her head and deciding it can stay behind for the next person*
Wilson: *flies up with shock as a tiny cougar scream comes from the clam hunting area*
Mz. Pratt: *glances that way* Cody, are you alright?
Charlton: He caught it.
Mz. Pratt: *chuckles* Good job, Cody!
Cody: It's like a big WORM! *holds it up over the grass for her to see*
Mz. Pratt: *soft snerk* That's the muscle. It's the part that tastes good when it's cooked.
Charlton: *from down in the grass* Cooked? No, you break dis... *clam vanishes back down into the grass and is followed by a snap* An den ya eat.
Mz. Pratt: Oh. That's different than what I've encountered.
Cody: Nomnommomnom... Dis'stuff.
Mz. Pratt: *moves to put her outfit on and put her hairbrush where it won't get dropped* Maybe bashing it with a rock a few times will make it softer?
Cody: Can we cook it with the pinchy things? Is it okay to eat these?
Charlton: Sure. Mama, she say, jes' don' eat does ones.
Cody: ...That's not a rock?
Mz. Pratt: ... *blinks and moves to see what Cody and Charlton are talking about* Which ones?
Charlton: *looks up, and then looks down into the water and points to what looks like a big rock so covered in algae and fungus as to be nearly invisible*
Mz. Pratt: *headtilt* What is it?
Charlton: A filter clam.
Mz. Pratt: Oooh. *small nod* Alright.
Cody: *sticks goopy and struggling clam into her hand from behind*
Mz. Pratt: *meeps and looks at what got stuck in her hand* *blinks at the fact that the clam shell's broken off, but there aren't any tooth marks on the clam itself* Huh.
Cody: Can we put it with the pinchies?
Mz. Pratt: I think so... They've got their claws tied so they can't pinch anything.
Cody: *bounces* Where's the basket? Can I help carryin' it?
Mz. Pratt: *soft chuckle* Let's go get it.
Cody: Okay! *back to the smaller child* Thanks for helpin' me catch the clam!
Charlton: *just murmured something in Louisiana French as he turns to look toward his slightly distant home*
Mz. Pratt: *waves to Charlton, will move to show Cody where the crawdad basket is*
Cody: *chattering away as he lugs the basket full of tasty creatures and fungus. He and his new Mama stopped a few times to add more things to the collection*
Mz. Pratt: *engrossed in conversation with Cody. Is very glad that she is able to walk as far as she and Cody have, and knows she never would've been able to before*
Charleen: *looks over from where she's sitting on the lower level of the two siluminum platforms that make her family's minuscule home. Her elderly husband is laying on his stomach beside her, sound asleep under the effect of the absent back rub she's been doing while talking to her visitor*
Natalie: *thirteen and a quarter foot tall, brown reptilian lady with a kindly and currently uncertain face under a pale yellow rain hat looks toward Mz. Pratt with gentle amber eyes*
Mz. Pratt: *looks up from chatting with Cody. Recognizes Charleen, and is pretty sure she knows who the tall person is* Natalie?
Natalie: *sweet smile as she indicates the toddler sleeping on her leg* Charlton... er.
Charleen: Said you wasn' scared a lizards, just derpy.
Mz. Pratt: *snerks!* Well, that's a fair assessment.
Natalie: *looks relieved* I'm glad to meet you face to face, friend. *hesitates a moment. Then, softly* Are you ready to move on?
Mz. Pratt: *nods* *then* Where am I going next?
Natalie: Would you like to tour part of the galaxy? Or settle down somewhere?
Cody: You're stayin' with us, right, Mama? *big anxious eyes*
Mz. Pratt: *nods to Cody* Yeah. *to Natalie* I'd like to tour for a bit, then if there's a place that feels right, I'll settle there.
Natalie: *nods* *quietly* Do you mind Belonging to me?
Cody: I do.
Mz. Pratt: Is that like honorary family? 'Cause I wouldn't mind that at all.
Natalie: Belonging is a legal arrangement. It means that I'm responsible for making sure you have what you need, and in return, I have a right to a fourth of your income.
Charleen: *silent frown of interest as she continues to rub the husband back*
Mz. Pratt: That sounds fair. *nods*
Charleen: 'N what if she don' got any income?
Natalie: Oh. I take care of her anyway. That's the point.
Mz. Pratt: Either way, it sounds fair to me.
Cody: *dancin' kitty after putting the basket down*
Natalie: *smiles* Are you ready to go? Our ship is waiting up above.
Mz. Pratt: *nods* I've got everything.
Charleen: *hand off husband to lean down over the edge of the platform and reach a hand* See ya roun'.
Mz. Pratt: *nods* Likewise, Charleen. *will reach to shake hands*
Charleen: *strong grip, and then lets go and gently cuffs her upside the head* Keep yer nose clean.
Mz. Pratt: *chuckles* I'll do my best to.
Natalie: *grasps forearms with Charleen when the burly woman turns away from Mz. Pratt, puts Charlton onto the lower platform, and then stands with a gentle swish of water and folds her chair into a small package*
Cody: *finds one last crawdad by having it object to being danced on* *and yes. Even soggy tails can poof, it seems*
Mz. Pratt: *moves to make sure Cody is alright*
Cody: *hunkers in the water to chase the critter, then holds it up triumphantly*
Mz. Pratt: *gentle smile for the kitty child* Good job.
Cody: *happy beam, and then carefully hands it over for claw tying*
Mz. Pratt: *quickly and carefully ties the claws of this latest crayfish catch* There.
Natalie: *offers her hand*
Cody: *looks and chirps, then uses one hand to grab Mz. Pratt's skirt while the other grasps the basket of food*
Mz. Pratt: *puts the crawdad in the basket, then she's squeaking a bit as her skirt is grabbed. She gets over her surprise quickly, however, and reaches for Natalie's hand*
Natalie: *that large and graceful hand is slightly warm. The grip is friendly and reassuring. Which is good, because the world just barfed sideways*
Mz. Pratt: *feels a bit ill now!*
Cody: *little chirp as he turns her slightly*
Mz. Pratt: *surprised sound as she realizes she's facing a toilet. One that's sea green and made of glass*
Cody: *helpfully* Youkin urp in there.
Natalie: *quiet chuckle from behind her*
Mz. Pratt: *snerk* I'm feeling better now that stuff's holding still.
Natalie: *foot scuff* I'm sorry it upset you. That's the gentlest teleporting method I know.
Mz. Pratt: *patpat for Natalie's hand* I've been through worse.
Natalie: *smiles, and then points to a puddle of rich blue fabric that's hanging over a towel rack in the next room* Is that the right colour?
Mz. Pratt: *looks, grin* Pretty!
Natalie: Do you want to take a shower before you put it on? *watches Cody skit skit away, leaving his shorts in the bin just outside the door*
Mz. Pratt: Yeah, that might be a good idea.
Natalie: *walks over and shows Mz. Pratt the hand held sprayer, and then the pot of nice smelling green stuff* Here's the shower, this is the cleaner. And you close this to keep your dress from getting wet.
Mz. Pratt: *nods her understanding* Alright. After I'm done showering and dressed, should I wait here?
Natalie: Oh no. This is our cabin. *pauses and looks down at herself* ...Would it bother you if I wash too?
Mz. Pratt: I don't mind.
Natalie: Oh, I'm glad. *hat and jumpsuit and boots go into the bin*
Mz. Pratt: *moving to disrobe* Should I put these in the bin, too?
Natalie: Do you want to keep them? Or should we send them back so that they can return to the growing bed?
Mz. Pratt: *blink blink* Growing bed? *curious now*
Natalie: *nods* Yes. Those are living fungus. They can merge back with the rest and go on growing.
Mz. Pratt: ... That is so cool. *grin* Send 'em back so they can keep growing.
Natalie: I'll put them into the container and bring them back in a couple of hours. *holds out her hand*
Mz. Pratt: *hands the garments over to Natalie*
Natalie: *takes them out, then eeps and laughs softly as a floofed Cody comes scooting back into the bathing room*
Cody: *bounces around, and then sets down a bright coloured stool before grinning up at Mz. Pratt with an air of having done something splendid*
Mz. Pratt: *soft chuckle* Let me guess, that's for sitting on?
Cody: *surprised, but nods* Yep!
Mz. Pratt: I've seen stools kinda like that before, back on Earth
Cody: *plunks on the floor in front of the stool and absently starts rubbing cleanser into his belly fur* Really?
Natalie: *back and gives them a smile before starting to scrub*
Mz. Pratt: *nods* Yeah. Some people like to sit while they shower, because they might fall otherwise. *pauses as she remembers something* *to Natalie* What are we going to do with the food Cody and I caught?
Natalie: *surprised* Oh. I gave it to the cook.
Cody: *soft cheer as he dances on his butt*
Mz. Pratt: Oh, okay. *nods and moves to get situated on the stool, will offer to scrub Cody's back*
Cody: *scoots back and purrs, his tail curling happily*
Natalie: *as she gets the sprayer and uses it* What would you like to do after this, Den?
Mz. Pratt: Well... I hadn't thought that far ahead yet.
Natalie: Do you want to spend quiet time in your berth? Are you hungry?
Mz. Pratt: *thinking* Oh. That's right. Cody and I were going to cook up the crawdads we caught... *has kind of gotten into the habit of snacking throughout the day, though she makes sure to have more of a meal before she goes to bed*
Natalie: Something will be ready when you're clean.
Cody: *just lifted an arm and turned toward Mama as she scrubs him*
Mz. Pratt: *will get Cody's back scrubbed, then it doesn't take long until she's also scrubbed clean and dry. After that, it's just a matter of getting dressed in the pretty, dark blue, ankle length sleeveless dress*
Cody: *gone and back! Holds out something small, made of soft, thickish material*
Mz. Pratt: *as she adjusts the top part of the dress* What's this?
Cody: *points to where Natalie's fastening something similar at the sides* It's for your butt.
Mz. Pratt: Oooh. *once she's finished adjusting the top of the dress so it sits comfortably, she'll reach for the offered underthings* Thanks.
Natalie: Does the lining in the top of the dress fit properly?
Mz. Pratt: *nods as she works out how to get the underwear on* Yeah.
Natalie: I bought you the full coverage modesty wrap. We can get the other style if you're more comfortable in that. *slipping on a pretty emerald green pantsuit as she talks*
Mz. Pratt: Naw. This one is comfortable.
Natalie: *smiles* I got all the shades of dark blue I could find.
Cody: *down on the floor, and just poked Mama in the arch*
Mz. Pratt: *about to thank Natalie, then she's squeaking as her foot gets poked* Awk!
Natalie: Whoops. There are shoes over there. *nods to where what look like socks are sitting just outside the bathing room door that leads to the rest of the cabin*
Cody: *uncertain look for Mama and Aunty*
Mz. Pratt: That tickled!
Cody: *wibble* I'm sorry.
Mz. Pratt: It's okay. You didn't know. *moves to give cuddles*
Cody: *snuggle, purrrrr. So soft and fluff, is his short fur after the bath*
Mz. Pratt: *more cuddles, then* Let's finish getting dressed.
Cody: Okay! *scoot!*
Mz. Pratt: *chuckles and moves to go put on a pair of shoes*
*there's jelly string salad to eat after this, and then a look at the big three point hammock that she'll be sharing with Cody. Meeting one of the Keylendar crew of the ship, and then battening down for a hyperspace jump follows. Sleep happens in response to the soft hum of the ship, and she sinks into the comfort of her new home and the warmth of the little kitty boy*
((Written with random_xtras))