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Fraggle Fic: A Wandering Heart

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Slackbot, Apr 25, 2011.

  1. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Here's the latest report on my Fraggle breeding program, and it's titled...

    *****

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 1: Rainy Day
    by Kim McFarland​

    *****

    It was a dark and stormy day. Despite being cave dwellers the Fraggles were aware of this, because a column of rain was falling through the well in the Gorgs' garden and into the pond in the Great Hall in the cavern below. Fraggles loved water, whether flowing or falling, and they cheerfully incorporated this novel element into their water games.

    Janken was sitting on the arch, watching the Fraggles in the pond. He felt no urge to join in. He had swum earlier that day, and just didn't feel like doing it again. Before long the entertainment value of watching others splash around wore thin, and he walked down the arch and away.

    Hands in the pockets of his yellow sweater, he wandered toward the cave that his mother Mokey, and his aunt Red shared. En route he met Mokey in the tunnel. She was leading her seven-year-old daughter Sage by the hand. Sage was a ball of bluish-green fur like Boober, her father, but much more energetic and cheerful. "Janjanjan!" she called.

    He said, "Hi, Sage! Where're you two going?"

    "I'm going to get a radish for dinner, and Sage is going to help me select just the right one," Mokey answered.

    Sage told him, "Papa wants a big one, but it needs to fit in the oven. Just this big." She held her hands wide apart.

    "That big, huh? Can I help carry it?"

    "I can carry it by myself!" she declared.

    "I could use your help getting some for the pantry," Mokey answered.

    They never actually needed him to gather radishes, he knew, but it was always a good idea to have extra food on hand. "It's raining out," he said conversationally as they walked up the tunnel.

    "Oh, well," Mokey said, trying to look cheerful, but Janken could tell she didn't want to go out in the rain. No Fraggle minded getting wet, but mud was another matter.

    **

    The three of them stopped before they went out into the garden. Mokey and Janken removed their sweaters, as fur dries faster than clothing and is easier to clean. Sage was wearing only the feathers, flowers, and other decorations she stuck in her braided hair. They left their clothes just inside the tunnel, then went out into the garden.

    The rain was coming down in heavy drops, quickly plastering their hair down and soaking their fur. It was a warm rain, though, so they were comfortable. As expected, the loose soil of the garden had become mud, which splattered up onto them as the raindrops struck. Worse, their feet stuck in deep mud puddles, which sucked at their feet and made it hard to walk.

    Mokey said to her daughter, "You know what kind of radish Boober wants. Pick out a good one for us."

    Sage splished about in the mud, inspecting the radishes one by one. She found a large one that she liked, and held out her arms, comparing it to the size Boober wanted. It was easily triple that. Janken watched with amusement as she gazed longingly at it for a moment longer, then regretfully moved on. He would have picked it himself, but it was too big for one Fraggle to carry.

    A little further down Sage found a radish that she approved of. She said to Mokey, "Let's get this one, Mama!"

    "All right. Pick it," Mokey answered.

    Sage put her arms around it and tried to lift. Her feet sank into the mud. Janken was about to help her when the radish suddenly came loose. She stumbled, fell over backwards, and landed in the mud with a squelchy plop. The radish still clutched to her chest, she said, "Ewwwww!"

    Both Janken and Mokey grinned as they helped her up. Her back and the back of her head were completely coated with mud. Mokey said, "Never mind, the rain will wash that away."

    "Yeah," Janken said as he tugged at another radish. It resisted. He pulled hard, careful not to repeat his sister's performance. After a minute the radish worked loose, and he began dragging it through the mud by its greens.

    They brought the radishes to the entrance of Fraggle Rock, then stood and waited for the rain to wash the mud off of them and the vegetables. Sage and Mokey did their best to work the mud out of her hair and fur. Janken said to Mokey, "I still haven't decided what job I want."

    "You don't have to rush," Mokey told him. "You help me bring radishes from the garden, and you help Boober gather what he needs for his home remedies and do the laundry, and you explore with Gobo and his uncle Matt, and you help other people. It's not like you're sitting around doing nothing."

    He sighed. "I keep busy, but, well, it's like I'm just copying other people. I'm not doing anything that's me."

    Sympathetically she said, "I see what you mean. Have you asked The Trash Heap for advice?"

    He shrugged. "I know what she'd tell me to do. Sort it out for myself. And she'd be right. I need to decide what I'm going to be. I just don't have any clue what that is yet."

    She patted his back, splat splat on his wet fur. "Don't worry, I know you'll find something that's just perfect for you if you just keep looking."

    **

    When the three were clean again they entered the passageway. Mokey and Janken carried the radish Janken had picked, as it was a large one, and Sage carried her prize, which was bigger around than she was, by herself.

    Mokey and Janken placed the big radish in the pantry, and Sage hustled over to Boober's kitchen, calling out "Papa Boober! I got your radish!"

    "That's perfect," he told her as she set it on the cutting block in the center of the room. Seeing how wet she was, he asked, "Did it grow in the swimming hole?"

    "It was raining. We got all muddy, so we stayed outside until the rain cleaned us and the radishes off again," she explained.

    "Oh, okay."

    "Bye," the little girl said, and ran out to the great hall. If she was already soaked through, she was going to do some swimming!

    Janken dodged out of his little sister's way, then entered the kitchen. "Hi. Need an extra pair of hands?"

    "Sure. You could chop these up," Boober said, pointing with a knife at some wild onions on the cutting block. "Bulbs and greens both."

    "Okay." While Janken got another knife Boober took out a deep pan. He placed the radish in it and began peeling the reddish-pink skin in strips, giving it a striped appearance. He was finished by the time Janken had chopped up the onions. "What else?" Janken asked.

    "I've got everything else ready," Boober said as he mixed the onions with some other dried, chopped herbs and drizzled them on the radish. "Oh, you could bring that to Red."

    Janken looked in the direction Boober nodded. It was a small pitcher with a cup for a lid. He glanced inside. Blueberry juice. "Sure. She'll like this."

    "And make sure she's resting. If she isn't, come get me."

    "I will," Janken promised.

    **

    Janken went into Red and Mokey's cave. It was also partially his home; he had spaces to sleep in all of his parents' caves. That had been fun when he was little, always having the choice of where to spend the night, and they all welcomed him, but lately it was starting to feel kind of... well, childish, not having a place of his own.

    Red was asleep in her bed on the floor, curled around Poncle, her week-old daughter. She had had to give up her comfortable hammock last winter, when her pregnancy started throwing her balance off. The increasing risk of a nighttime spill wasn't worth it, and Boober had ordered her to sleep in a more stable bed. As uncomfortable as it was to lie on a bed on the ground, she had to admit he was right. Even if it hadn't become a problem when she was pregnant, there was no question of risking sleeping in a hammock with a baby.

    Janken was debating whether to awaken her when she heard his footsteps and opened her eyes blearily. Janken said softly, "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, Red. I just brought some juice from Boober."

    "Oh, thanks," she said.

    Janken poured her a cup. She held it in one hand, the other around the baby, trying to avoid awakening her. She had recently learned two of the most undeniable facts of motherhood: When your baby sleeps, you sleep, and waking it up is an act of masochism. She always had some water on hand, but Boober kept her supplied with juices and radish bars to keep her energy and morale up. She drank, then handed the cup back to Janken and said "Thanks" again.

    "How do you feel?" Janken asked.

    "Tired. Not as sore as before. I'll be playing rock hockey in a few days." Poncle was beginning to squirm and make little noises. Red picked her daughter up and held her to her chest, where she found what she wanted.

    Janken grinned. "If you try Boober will glue your blanket to the floor with you under it."

    "Don't I know it. He never ordered Mokey around like that."

    "He didn't have to."

    And Mokey was bigger than Red and had an easier time having babies, Red thought. Both times she had been up and walking around in a few days. It wasn't fair. But Red was starting to understand why Mokey had been so flaky for a few weeks after Janken and Sage were born. There was something about seeing this little creature that had grown inside you, knowing that one day it would walk and talk and be an actual person. She had always understood the process intellectually; now she felt it in her gut, so to speak. She could gaze at Poncle for hours, just feeling her warmth and watching her breathe.

    After a few minutes she said, "Could you pour me some more? This is thirsty work."

    "Sure." Janken handed her another cup. She took it with her free hand and drank.

    Soon Poncle stilled. Having had her fill, she was content just to rest. Janken said, "Would you like me to take her for a while?"

    "Yeah. That'd be great," Red said. "I've had plenty of the miracle of life and not enough of the miracle of sleep."

    Janken smiled. He lifted Poncle out of Red's arms, supporting the tiny Fraggle's head in one hand and body with the other. The baby began to fuss, but quieted again when Janken held her to his chest. The warmth and familiar smell of his fur reassured her.

    **

    Janken carried Poncle into the Great Hall. Though her eyes were closed—Fraggle babies' eyes opened when they were a few weeks old—he could tell she was still awake. She was making little movements with her arms, legs, and tail, and pressing her face to his fur. When she was asleep she went completely limp.

    "Hey, Janken."

    He looked up. Mica, a gray Fraggle his age, had come up to him unnoticed. "That's your little sister?"

    "Yeah. I'm taking care of her so Red can sleep."

    "That's sweet of you."

    "Eh, it's no big deal. She's just been fed, so all I have to do is be ready when the other end needs cleaning."

    "Yuck."

    "Yeah." He shrugged.

    Mica thought that he could feign a casual attitude as long as he wanted, but the way he held the tiny bundle of brown-and-blonde fluff close, stroking her face and playing with her fingers and toes, said otherwise. They had been close friends as long as they could remember; she could tell when he was bluffing. After a few minutes she asked, "Can I hold her?"

    "Sure."

    Janken gave her the baby, but as soon as Mica was holding her Poncle began to squirm and whine. Janken said, "She doesn't recognize you. Here, sit closer to me."

    "All right," Mica said, scooting over.

    "Now turn partway toward me so she's between us." He put one arm around Mica. Poncle wriggled a little more, then settled down again. Janken said, "At first she didn't want anyone but Red and Gobo to hold her. This is how we got her used to the rest of us—hold her so she can smell someone she knows, and she'll get used to the other one."

    "I never would have thought of that," Mica said.

    "Me neither. I don't know who came up with that trick."

    They sat together, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, holding the baby between themselves. When Poncle went limp, Janken said quietly, "She's asleep."

    "Yeah," Mica said softly. After a pause she added, "You'll make a good father some day."

    "You too," he replied. "Well, except you'll be a mother."

    "It's nice of you to help Red out like this."

    "Oh, I don't mind. I don't have anything better to do," he said wryly.

    She understood his problem. He had talked with her about it. They were close enough to talk about almost anything, including things that it was hard to bring up with a parent. Sympathetically she said, "I know. But you'll find something."

    Quietly he said, "I sure hope so."

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken, Sage, Poncle, and Mica are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Sage, Poncle, Mica, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
    GopherCoffee and muppetfan24/7 like this.
  2. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Yay! New story!

    It's really great to see how you develop the individual factions of Fraggledom and still keep them connected.
    The scenes with Mokey, Janken, and Sage were funny... Especially Sage's enthusiasm for both the radish gathering and then she's off to the swimming hole/pond.
    The scene with Red and Ponkle was cute, nice to finally see her maternal side. And the line about the two truths she learned was high truth.
    The scene with Janken and Mica was a good ending... Didn't know Mica was a female Fraggle, good to finally meet her.

    Thanks and hope to read more soon.
    And happy birthday to a great writer.
    *Leaves radish flan and sorbet, since that seemed to be such a hit on Battle Radish.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  3. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Heh, Sage is a typical Little Kid: all gung-ho over whatever she's interested in at the moment, then switching interests at the drop of a radish. It's fairly easy to herd her in the right direction, at least.

    I got the bit about sleeping when the baby sleeps from Beowulf's Children, a novel by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Stephen Barnes. I didn't really understand it until I visited my sister's family on the weekend after their first child was born... and that visit was also the inspiration for the pic in which Red threatens to kill someone, she doesn't care who, if she doesn't get some sleep.

    Finally meet Mica? Er, I haven't used her before now. I created her for this story, and the only time she's appeared before today was in a pic I posted to dA and haven't linked here. Has she been sneaking around behind my back?

    Thanks for the radish desserts! They're very... radishy. I can honestly say I've never had any birthday treats like 'em in my life.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  4. bazingababe24

    bazingababe24 Member

    This is a lovely first chapter. I hope Wem shows up at some point. He knows firsthand what Janken is struggling with, and it would be sweet to see them interact.

    I wasn't aware that it was your birthday, Slackbot! Your name didn't show up under Today's Birthdays. I hope you had a great one today!:)
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  5. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Heh, do you think I'd leave Wembley out? Heck, do you think he'd let me? We'll see him before long, I promise. (Note: this doodle dump has some teasers for the upcoming chapters.) :coy:

    Yeah, I noticed I didn't make it onto the forum's birthday list. The forum hates me. I'll go eat worms now. On the other hand, everyone who read Kevin & Kell yesterday knew about my birthday! And, yes, it was a good one. Some coworkers gave me a b'day cupcake from Whole Foods, and I came home to find my Facebook page and E-mail box full of greetings. That'll do me fine. :flirt:
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  6. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 2: Take 1
    by Kim McFarland​

    *****

    There were many Fraggles in Fraggle Rock. Nobody had ever bothered to count them; guesses ranged from dozens to several hundred. All agreed, however, that however many there were, it was the right number.

    It would seem impossible, if anyone had given much thought to the matter, to find vacant caves close to the heart of the colony. But it happened anyway, so Fraggles accepted it as an unexplainable fact of life, on a par with the appearance of the Fraggle Moon and the passages deep underground that led to Outer Space.

    Janken and Mica had found just such an empty cave. It was a medium-sized room, with a flat floor and shelflike formations at waist height along most of the walls. They looked all around, then at each other. After a quiet moment, he said, "What do you think?"

    "It's just right... and it's a little eerie. Not scary, just... did you know this cave was here?"

    "I never saw it before in my life."

    "Wow."

    In a low voice Janken said, "If Mokey saw this she'd say the Rock was providing for us, just like it provided for her and Red right after they decided to move in together. That sounds flaky, but at times like this I see how she can believe that, you know?"

    "Yeah." She stopped looking around and took his hand. "Whether or not it was meant for us or it's just here, I think we should take it."

    "Yeah."

    "Let's get our stuff."

    **

    Janken's belongings were spread among his parents' three homes. The first one he visited was the closest; Red and Mokey's cave. He hadn't slept here much in the past few years. The cave was snug for three, so when Sage was born he had started spending most of his time with Wembley, Gobo, and Boober. Now he only slept over when Red needed help with her baby.

    When he entered Red and Mokey were playing with Poncle. The little Fraggle, now ten days old, was still blind. Her eyes wouldn't open for another week or two. She was too young to do much besides eat, sleep, cry, and make messes, but that never discouraged anyone from gleefully babbling baby talk at her. They looked silly, Janken thought, but so what? Silly is good.

    Red was still in bed. Poncle's birth had been rough on her, and Boober would not permit her to risk further harm by straining herself. That she actually followed his orders with only token backtalk was taken as proof that he was right. Boober had confided to Janken that when she started complaining and trying to escape he'd consider her recovered. She had put her hair up in pigtails again, which, Janken thought, was a good sign.

    Now Mokey was singing to the baby, a soft, silly ditty about thimble beetles and rumble bugs. Janken nodded to her and Red, unwilling to interrupt the song, then went to his corner and picked up the few items of clothing that he kept here. He left the bedding; with a messy baby in the room, they could always use a spare. Then he sat down by Mokey, listening to the song and looking at Poncle.

    After Mokey finished Red asked, "What's up, Janken?"

    "I've found a new cave. Mica and I are moving into it today," he told both Red and Mokey.

    Mokey said, "That's wonderful! You must be so excited, moving in with your best friend!"

    "Yeah, I am. And a little nervous, I guess."

    Red told him, "You'll be fine. Where is it?"

    "It's not far. Take the right tunnel as you leave here, then go on outward from the Great Hall for a minute, and it's on the right. I'll show you after we move in."

    Mokey said, "All right. I hope you two will be as happy as we are!"

    Red quipped, "At least, after the first few days."

    Janken grinned. He had heard all about Red and Mokey's housewarming battle, which had culminated in the invention of the hammock-thwack. It had been a while since Red's hammock had been used to slingshot anyone into the pool in the Great Hall. "I think we'll get along a little better than that."

    **

    Janken visited Boober next. Boober was sitting back with his feet up, a teacup in hand, gazing at the clothesline that crossed his living space. He always found watching laundry dry relaxing. Janken didn't understand that, but then there was so much not to understand about Boober. In the end, you just accepted him for the oddball he was.

    "Want some tea?" Boober offered.

    Janken almost said no, but then he changed his mind. "Thanks, yeah."

    Boober poured a second cup. Janken took a sip. It was something minty, made with sweetwater. He said, "I've found a place to live. It's close by. I'll show you where it is when we're settled in."

    Boober nodded. "I had a feeling you'd find a cave of your own soon. 'We', you said?"

    "Yeah. I'm moving in with Mica."

    After a pause, Boober said "Oh," into his teacup.

    Janken recognized that oh-so-neutral tone of voice: pretending to pretend that nothing was wrong, and doing it badly enough that his opinion came through loud and clear. "Yeah. I really think that this'll work. We really like each other."

    "I know you do. I hope you're happy together." Boober put his teacup down, then went over to a box he kept on a shelf. He rummaged within it for a few moments, then turned back and gave Janken a double handful of packets of folded paper. Janken sniffed them. They were teas. Boober liked to make his own blends from dried leaves and herbs. Janken recognized these as some of his favorites. They could be stirred into cold water and let sit for a few minutes, which was good, as not many Fraggles besides Boober had the equipment or knowhow to boil water. "Thanks."

    "You're welcome. Come back for more."

    "I'll come back whether you have tea or not," Janken said with a warm smile.

    "Good. My door's always open."

    "No, it isn't," Janken teased. The curtain that Boober used as a door was often drawn.

    "If it's closed, open it," Boober told him.

    "I will."

    The two hugged. Then Janken went over to his bed. He didn't have much more in this room than that. He put his clothing down, wrapped the collection of tea packets in that, then made a bundle of the bedding. "See you soon," he said.

    "See you," Boober said.

    Janken left. Boober sat back at the table and put his feet up again. Anyone who looked in on him would assume he was laundry-gazing, but his eyes, hidden by his cap, were closed. Laundry was not on his mind now. Janken, rooming with a girl? Boober had not expected that. Maybe it would work out, but Boober doubted it would. Still, it was Janken's life; he had the right to take his own chances and make his own mistakes.

    **

    Janken's third stop was Gobo and Wembley's cave. Janken had his own sleeping nook here, and it was where, up until now, he had slept most nights. Wembley and Gobo were sitting in their own nooks, Gobo strumming his gourd guitar and Wembley playing his bongo drums. Janken put down the bundle he was carrying, got the ocarina from the back of his sleeping nook, and joined in. Gobo and Wembley grinned at him, welcoming him to their jam session.

    They played a light, improvised tune. Any of them could have sung as well; all Fraggles had a gift for improvising lyrics. However, to sing would be to take control of the music, and they were enjoying it as a simple, cooperative tune.

    When they finished Gobo put down his guitar and asked Janken, "What's up with the luggage?"

    "I've found a new cave. It's time I got out on my own."

    "Really? Where?" Wembley asked.

    "It's just a few minutes from Mokey and Red's cave. It's really nice, and about the same size. Ought to be plenty of room, since we don't have a lot of stuff to clutter it up," Janken explained.

    "We? Who are you moving in with?" Wembley asked.

    "Mica."

    "Oh," Wembley said, surprised.

    "Come on, I expected that from Boober, not from you," Janken said. "Mica and I've been best friends since I can remember. Why shouldn't we move in together? You two did."

    "Yeah, I guess you're right," Wembley said.

    Janken started gathering his things from his nook. "Besides, well, it's kind of like testing the waters."

    "Well, good luck," Gobo said. "Need any help?"

    "Nah, I'm fine," Janken said. He tied the edge of his blanket, on which he had put his possessions, together, then swung it over his shoulder like a sack. Then he paused. "I'll really miss sleeping here, though."

    "We'll miss you too," Wembley said softly.

    Wembley climbed down the ladder. Janken put down the cloth and hugged his father. He thought, even though he would only be moving a few minutes away, he'd miss him. It really felt like he was leaving home now.

    Wembley asked, "Need help carrying your stuff?"

    "No, but thanks," Janken said. He swung the cloth back up onto his shoulder and said, "See you later!"

    "Good luck!" Gobo said again.

    "You too," Janken replied with a grin. Then he turned and left.

    **

    When Janken returned to the new cave Mica was already there. She had few possessions, and had only had to go to one place to gather them, so she had been back for a while. Wryly she said, "My mother didn't much like me moving out."

    "My fathers thought it was kinda funny too," Janken replied. "I guess it's a parent thing."

    "Yeah, guess so," she agreed. "I had some ideas how to set up in here."

    "Go on."

    "Well, first, do we want to split the room in half or not? Your half, my half?"

    He glanced around the room, then at her. "Do we need to?"

    "I'd rather not."

    "Me neither. Do we want one bed or two?"

    There were two obvious spots for beds on the shelflike formations. One was bigger than the other. She nodded toward it and said "I think that's big enough for us both."

    "Okay."

    He sounded a little hesitant, but then, she realized, so did she. She grinned sheepishly at him. "Big step, isn't it?"

    "Yeah." He smiled back at her. "I brought both my beds. There'll be enough to make one bigger one."

    "I can sew two blankets together to cover."

    "Sure. I'll set it up. You can put other stuff out."

    "Okay."

    Mica set out her and Janken's possessions on the flowstone shelf. There wasn't much; most Fraggles didn't accumulate a lot of possessions. She had a kit with thread, yarn, needles, and the like; her family worked with cloth. Janken had his ocarina and some teas. Both had some clothes and a few miscellaneous keepsakes. Not much to set up housekeeping with, she thought, but that would come with time.

    Janken laid the two sleeping mats—basically very thick blankets—side by side. They could be sewn together, he thought. He covered each with a blanket and put a pillow at each end. And, well, that was all there was to do.

    Janken glanced over at Mica. She was looking back at him. He said, "I guess that's pretty much it."

    "Yeah."

    There was another awkward pause. Then he said, "Except,"

    "Except what?"

    He put his arms around her and kissed her. After a moment of surprise—he had never kissed her before—she put her arms around his waist and kissed back.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken, Poncle, and Mica are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Poncle, Mica, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  7. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Very nice chapter. It's coming along well and I await the next installment. :excited:
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  8. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks. This story is a little slow in starting off 'cause I have to establish the situation and characters, but I promise it'll pick up soon. Maybe next chapter, depending on how much you like a certain pink-haired, falsetto-voiced Fraggle, and if not then, the one after.

    Really.
    GopherCoffee likes this.
  9. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 3: Niven's Laws

    by Kim McFarland

    *****

    Janken looked at the book he had just finished. He had written every page himself, printing in a careful, steady hand. He had even sewn the binding. Mokey had shown him how and, he thought, the end result looked pretty good. The pages were tight and in order; he'd checked twice.

    He had been working on it for days and days. Mica thought that he had never invested so much time and effort into any one thing as he had that book. He had recopied whole pages before sewing it together because he was dissatisfied with his handwriting.

    It was finished. There was nothing more to do to it. He'd checked it so many times he could no longer read it, he could only see the words. He was just dithering, he admitted to himself. He told Mica, more to force himself to act than to inform her, "I'm going to give this to her now."

    "Good luck. Now go," Mica said. She reached out and tugged his tail gently. He grinned at her, then, book in hand, left.

    He traveled through winding rock corridors. The Storyteller lived on the edge of the main colony in an oddly-decorated cave. It was one of the few caves with an actual door. Janken had always wondered about that; even Boober only had a curtain blocking the entrance to his home. He had long ago written it off as a personal quirk.

    He tapped on her door. She called out, "I'm coming, I'm coming." Before she had finished saying that she opened the door. "Oh, Janken, come in!"

    He did. Her home was, as usual, decorated with piles of paper and pictures of Gobo's Uncle Matt. The pictures stayed the same, but the paper formations moved and changed from day to day like living things. The Storyteller asked, "What would you like to hear today?"

    "Actually, I brought you something," he said, and held the book out to her. Her eyes widened with surprise as she took it. She opened it and looked at the list on the first page, then smiled. He watched as she turned pages, reading the first lines of each section to see which tale it was.

    Janken was the Storyteller's most regular customer. Ever since he was little he had loved coming to her for tales of history and fantasy. Many of them had already been written down; he had spent many hours here reading her books and scrolls when she felt under the weather or her voice was tired. But not all of them were on paper, and in any case a written story couldn't compete with a spoken one. A storyteller made the tales come alive.

    Even so, stories ought to be written down, Janken thought, so they would not be lost. He said, "These are the stories you told me about 'the boy' when I was little. I guessed you were making them up for me, and I really liked them, so I wrote them down."

    "You've been doing that all this time?" she asked, surprised.

    "Well, no. I only started writing them down two Fraggle Moons ago. But I've gone over them in my mind many times, so I remember them pretty well. My favorite was the one about the thimble beetle. Did you make those stories up?"

    "Yes, I did," she told him. "I thought you'd like stories about a little boy like yourself."

    "Or like my great-uncle Matt?" he asked with a smile.

    She smiled back. She had patterned the boy after her childhood memories of Matthew Fraggle. Who better to be the hero?

    "I thought so. I also came to ask you about something else."

    He suddenly looked nervous, she saw. "What is it?"

    "Well... I really like stories, and I'd like to tell them myself. Would you teach me?"

    Surprised, she asked, "Do you want to be my apprentice?"

    "Yes."

    She lifted her glasses and looked at him. She shouldn't be so startled, she thought. He had heard most of her tales more than once. He used to tell her stories of his own, back when he was little. If she had had ever considered taking an apprentice, he would have been the first Fraggle to come to mind. She said, "Then tell me a story."

    "Um, all right," he said. "Which one?"

    "How about The Great and Wondrous Blundig?"

    "Okay." He started to sit down in his usual spot, a cushion on the floor opposite the storyteller's chair. She said, "No, this time I'll sit there. You take the chair."

    "Oh, um, okay." He sat in the Storyteller's chair.

    She lowered herself to the ground—with some effort; she was not a young Fraggle—and then said, "Go on."

    He felt weirdly self-conscious. It seemed wrong for him to be sitting here, in her chair. He began, "The Wondrous Blundig was already a legend back when legends were still being made. Nobody knew where she would come from or what she would look like, but everyone knew that when she came she would replace the ruler of Fraggle Rock.

    "The legend had been around for so long that nobody believed it would happen in their lifetime, and lived their lives as if she were only a story. They survived in the rock without singing or dancing, concerned only with safety and survival.

    "When she finally did appear, the leader of the Fraggles didn't believe she was real. He believed her to be an upstart using the legend to seize power, and imprisoned her and her companions, No-Neck and Roughchin. But the legend said that she would move the Sacred Boulders, so to prove that she was a fake he made her try. When, at her command, the boulders did move, his people abandoned him and made her their leader.

    "Instead of commanding them, as the previous leader had, she showed them how Fraggles were meant to live. She taught them to laugh and dance and sing, to take joy in life instead of merely surviving, and to lead themselves and each other rather than having rulers and laws. They saw that this was a better way to live, and when she was done and left them again the old leader didn't try to take back his role. Even he was happy living for pleasure rather than power, as all Fraggles should.

    "Nobody knew where Blundig and her companions went afterward. They may have spread the good word to other Fraggle colonies."

    Janken stopped. When the Storyteller didn't speak immediately, he began to feel embarrassed. He knew that that hadn't been a good telling at all. It was too short. He had repeated words and used awkward phrases. But, worst of all, it was merely an account rather than a story, telling the listener what happened rather than showing them. No dialogue, no flavor, no life. When the Storyteller spoke, you didn't see her and hear her words, you saw and heard her story. He said, "Sorry, that wasn't very good at all."

    "It wasn't bad," she said kindly.

    "Thanks, but I can't really think when I'm trying to tell a story. When I'm writing things down I can stop and think how to say it, but... I guess I talk first draft." He shrugged , then got off the Storyteller's chair. "Maybe I could write down the stories you tell that aren't already written down?"

    "That would be fine. And maybe you can practice telling some more."

    "Yeah, thanks," he said with a weak attempt at a smile.

    **

    He walked quickly back to his cave, his hands clasped behind his back. He could hardly believe how bad his try at storytelling had been. He'd told stories before and done much better, but they had only been short flights of fancy he had made up. It was easy to tell stories out of your own brain. But a storyteller passed on all forms of Fraggle lore, fiction and fact and everything in between. It was important that it be remembered, and who would remember a dull recitation like his? A storyteller had to capture the listener's attention, otherwise he was just wasting everyone's time.

    **

    Mica was there when he came back in. She had a loaf of bread. "Boober brought this by. How did it go?" She turned to him and saw his expression. "What happened?"

    "She liked the book. As for me learning to be a storyteller, that's no good. I just can't tell stories well enough."

    "Did she say that?" she asked.

    "No. She didn't have to. I could hear myself. I can write her stories down, at least."

    "That's not what you really want to do, though."

    "No. But I guess I've got to settle for what I can get. Being a helper," he said, disappointed with himself.

    "I'm sorry." She hugged him. After a second he put his arms around her shoulders, but there was no real warmth in the gesture. There never was.

    She was beginning to wonder if this was a mistake.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken and Mica are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Mica, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  10. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Another good addition.

    Yep... Struggling with not feeling completely satisfied with the execution of the plans you clearly saw how they should happen in your head... Been there, still am. But at least you'll be the Storyteller Fraggle's helper Janken, so that's a start.
    And an ending where Mica's wondering if moving in together was a mistake? O-o, we needs more please!
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  11. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Heh, Janken's got some soul-searching in his future. Poor guy doesn't know what he wants to be, only what has always been good enough but is beginning to pall. Trying out new things, and some of them are bound to end in failure. We all know what that's like; we were all adolescents once. (And don't tell me if you still are, or, worse, are yet to be. I don't need to feel any older than I already do!)

    On a side note, I have finally heard Janken's voice: Nathan Lane doing a slight falsetto. No mannerisms, just the voice itself. It sounds perfect to me.
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  12. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Happy Friday the 13th!

    *****

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 4: Silent Heart
    by Kim McFarland​

    *****

    Janken came home with a board and some papers. Mica looked up from her sewing. "Hi, Jan."

    "Hi."

    He sat down, got out some clean paper, and began writing on it, glancing back and forth between that and the sheets he had brought in, which were covered with small, nearly-unreadable writing. This had become a daily ritual: Janken went to The Storyteller and took notes as she told a story, then came back to write it out while it was still fresh in his mind. Mica would wait until he finished to talk to him.

    Janken had learned to write fast by abbreviating words, only scribbling down enough letters to remind himself of what they were, so he wouldn't have to interrupt The Storyteller's flow. At first it had been hit-and-miss, but he was getting the hang of it now. Occasionally there were spots where he simply could not decipher his notes, but he had gotten confident enough to fill those gaps after The Storyteller had reminded him that the important thing was the story itself, not her specific words.

    When he copied a story out he could hear it again in his mind. Perhaps, he thought, the stories would keep at least some of their flavor in printed form, so others might want to read them. And, he hoped, maybe by studying her style he could absorb some of it and learn to be a storyteller himself.

    **

    When he finished he laid the sheets of paper out, with a smoothie on each corner to hold them flat while the ink dried. Then he looked around. Mica was gone. He hadn't noticed when she left.

    He looked at the item of clothing she had been sewing for the past handful of days. It was a winter coat made of heavy cloth, with knitted cuffs and hood made of pink Fraggle wool. Winter was over half a year away, but it was never a bad idea to get a head start. He wondered who it was for. Many Fraggles had pink fur.

    Mica came back in and saw Janken looking at the coat. She said, "Hi. Good story?"

    "Yeah," he told her. "Nice work. Who's this for?"

    "Rumple. His coat was falling apart by the end of last winter."

    "Oh."

    "I overheard some Doozers saying that they heard music in the tunnels."

    "The Minstrels?"

    "Yeah. They'll be here soon, if we can already hear them."

    "Yeah!"

    **

    Soon the sound of music wafted into the Great Hall. Soft and gentle, it filled the cavern like the scent of the first flowers of spring and lured the Fraggles from the tunnels.

    The five minstrels strolled unhurriedly into the Great Hall as they played their tune. Two of them were Fraggles: Cantus, their leader, playing his two-threaded magic pipe; and Brio, with her small, bell-like cymbals. The Fraggles didn't know what the other three were; they had never encountered other members of their species. Murray, who played a guitar, was a lanky, green-furred creature. Balsam was a smallish, leathery being who played drums, and Brool was a large, toothy, furry creature with a surprisingly light voice and a delicate hand with an unnamed string instrument.

    The Fraggles listened quietly and appreciatively to the music. Wembley noticed that there was something different about it this time, something sparkly-sounding, but he couldn't tell where that came from.
    When that finished Cantus lowered his pipe and said, "Greetings, Fraggles of Fraggle Rock."

    Wembley piped up, "Greetings, Cantus! What brings you here today?"

    Cantus answered, "My path led here, and I followed it."

    Murray nodded, thinking to himself that Cantus never ran out of ways to say "Just because."

    Watching from the window of their room, Mokey told Red, "They have a new minstrel!"

    Red looked down. "Huh? It's the same five."

    "When Brool turns this way, look at his shoulder."

    Janken was watching from one of the entrances to the Great Hall. The arrival of the Minstrels was always a joyous event for the music-loving Fraggles. On the greatest occasions Cantus drew things out of them that they had not known possible. He was more than a musician to them; he was also a respected sage.

    Soon the Minstrels were sitting on the side of the pond. They all began playing a tune. It was quiet and a little vague, as if they only knew part of it. Before long a young, pink Fraggle began playing a flute. She was hesitant at first, but when Cantus nodded approval she continued with more assurance.

    Instruments began appearing in the hands of other Fraggles. Wembley went to his cave to fetch his bongos and Gobo's gourd guitar. Up in the room she shared with Red, Mokey began playing a reed horn. Red couldn't play her drum because she was holding her baby daughter, so she sang.

    Janken hurried back to his cave and got his ceramic ocarina. When he returned he listened to the flow of the music for a few moments before joining in. Mica, who was singing, recognized the sound and looked back to see Janken standing against the stone wall, gazing at the minstrels as he played.

    The music went on for several minutes, developing in complexity as more voices and instruments were added to the mix, each strengthening the original theme. Then, by consensus, the music ended with a chord that filled the Great Hall like a wave of warmth.

    Cantus spoke. "We have wandered farther than I can describe, and played this same tune everywhere we went. It is always different, and yet always the same."

    "What's it called?" Wembley asked.

    "I cannot name it, because I did not create it. It creates itself anew every time it is played."

    Murray said in an aside that could be heard throughout the cave, "I call it Stone Soup."

    There was a chuckle of comprehension. Cantus nodded amused agreement.

    The Minstrels set their instruments aside and took off their backpacks to rest from their journey while chatting with the Fraggles. Janken saw Brool reach over to his shoulder, lift something off his backpack, and set it on the Doozer bridge behind himself. The Doozers who had been watching stared in surprise at what they saw: a young Doozer, one whose puff of blue hair was not covered by a helmet and who wore a sash instead of a tool belt. She also wore a diagonal back scabbard which carried a Doozer-sized traverse flute.

    After a moment of awkward silence one of the resident Doozers, a redheaded female, said, "Are you a Doozer minstrel?"

    "I'm a Minstrel-in-training, yes."

    The Doozer who had spoken first turned back toward her fellows. "See? Doozers can make music too!" She turned back and held out her hand. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Cotterpin."

    "Hi, Cotterpin. I'm Reed," The two shook hands.

    "Wanna come visit the Doozer Dome? Everyone else thinks Doozers can't do anything but work all day. I bet you'll blow their minds!"

    "Sure!"

    The two Doozer girls rode off in Cotterpin's vehicle.

    Cantus watched them go, nodding approvingly. Then he glanced over at Janken, who had been hanging back and listening quietly. "You have been standing there since we arrived, but I have not heard your voice once."

    "Uh... I just wanted to listen," Janken stammered.

    Cantus told him, "To sing one must first listen. Listen to both what is without and what is within."

    "I don't really sing," Janken said, embarrassed.

    "Everybody sings, though not all sing in words," Cantus told him. "Once you find your song, you never stop singing it."

    "I'll do that when I can," Janken said, more for something to say than because he actually believed. He wanted to hear Cantus talk more than he wanted to say anything himself.

    **

    The Minstrels stayed in the Great Hall for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Other Fraggles came and went, bringing them food and, often, carrying their instruments, hoping that a tune would start. It always did. Janken watched in wonder as, over and over, some Fraggle would play a simple melody, offering it the way a child offers a flower or a newly-found smoothie, and the minstrels would join in, elaborating on the simple theme without overpowering it, somehow making it more itself. Janken stayed the whole time, listening and trying to think of a tune to give to Cantus, but he couldn't. He didn't have the gift for music that most Fraggles did. He had not even found his song.

    That thought made him ashamed. Any Fraggle could sing from the heart. All of his family could. It was as natural as swimming: don't think about it, just give your heart a voice, and out comes the truth. He remembered many beautiful songs sung by all of his parents. Even Sage made up little ditties. Yet Janken had rarely been able to do that, not while anyone else was listening. That was one reason he liked the ocarina: if he was playing a flute, nobody could expect him to sing.

    Cantus had a beautiful voice, Janken thought, as rich as aged wood. And though he was an elder, he had not faded or weakened the way most Fraggles did; he seemed to grow ever brighter, his colors as vivid as campfire flames. And though he moved slowly and was always calm, his songs were filled with a fierce joy.

    **

    As the evening wore on Janken worked up the nerve to speak to them. "How did you become minstrels?"

    The six minstrels—Reed had returned from her visit with the local Doozers—exchanged glances. Cantus answered, "There is only one way to become a minstrel, and we have each done it differently."

    "Is it a calling? Something you have to do because you're the only one who can?"

    Murray laughed and said to his fellows, "Hey, the rumors we've been planting have finally gotten around!" He told Janken, "Kinda yes and kinda no. There's gotta be something to start with. You can't be a minstrel if the music isn't deep inside you. But after that you have to work hard at it. It's more than just playing pretty tunes."

    "I understand," Janken said seriously. "You all travel throughout the Rock—do you go outside the Rock?"

    Cantus replied, "We have never found the end of the Rock. It may be that it does not end, it only changes."

    "My family has told me stories. How you got my aunt Red to find her song. How you made Gobo realize that everyone sings the same song. How you showed Junior Gorg that he could be the next King of the Universe. You did all that with music, but it's not only music."

    Murray said, "You're gettin' it, kid."

    "I don't understand it all. I don't even understand enough to ask what I'm missing."

    Cantus said, "You are looking past the surface. That is good. Perhaps you will find the answer."

    "That's what I'm trying to do," Janken said politely.

    Cantus nodded. "It is late, and the answer is very long, young Fraggle. We will still be here in the morning."

    Janken could take a hint. "Thank you. I'll come back tomorrow."

    Janken left, leaving the six Minstrels alone. As they set up their tents and sleeping bags, Murray said to Cantus, "What do you think of that kid?"

    "I think he has potential."

    "Potential for what? He didn't sing a note all day. He didn't even play his flute very much."

    "It took me longer than one evening to find my destiny. It'll take him some time to find his. He must take the first step, and soon."

    **

    Hands in his sweater pockets, head full of music, Janken walked back to his and Mica's cave.

    She was holding the coat she had been making, but she was not working on it; her needles and other tools were still in their box. She said, "Hi."

    "Hi."

    She just looked at him as if she wanted to say something but could not find a way to start. He asked, "What's wrong?

    She sighed and put down the coat. She said, "Jan, this isn't working the way we wanted it to. Now I know why."

    "Mica?" he said softly, and sat beside her.

    She said, "I saw how you looked at Cantus. You've never looked at me like that."

    Janken looked away. He could not deny it. She was his closest friend, and he could not lie to her. He said, "It's just a crush. I'm not going to do anything about it. It's not like he'd be interested in me anyhow."

    She laid her hand on his. It was warm. "I know. But ever since we moved in here you've been down. I think it's because we're trying to force something that isn't going to happen. Janken, you don't really love me, not that way, because I'm female."

    He closed his eyes for a long moment. Then he looked at her hand, still on his. He said, "You're right. Mica, I really tried, and I really wanted to, but... I guess I was just pretending, hoping that would make it real. I'm sorry. I feel like I was using you."

    "You weren't," she said softly. She picked up his hand and held it between hers. "You never lied to me. We didn't know whether you're single-sexed or not. Well, now we know."

    "If there was any girl I could love, it'd be you," he told her.

    She smiled, a little sadly. "We do love each other. Just not that way."

    "Yeah," he said.

    She put an arm around his back. They leaned together, their heads touching, and were quiet for a while. Eventually Janken asked, "What do we do now?"

    "We stop pretending."

    "Should I move out?"

    "Do you want to?"

    He shook his head. "I like being with you. I really do."

    "Yeah, me too. And I don't want to move back in with Mom."

    He laughed softly. "I wouldn't move back in with my parents. I'd feel like such a kid. And I'd hate to live by myself. I'd miss you like crazy."

    "I'd miss you too."

    They stopped talking again. There wasn't much more to say. Sometimes it was better just to be quiet together.

    The moment was broken when his stomach growled. Mica giggled. Janken said, "I guess I forgot to eat."

    "It must be love, then," she teased.

    "Ha ha." He squeezed her hand, then cut a slice off the loaf of bread that Boober had given Mica earlier. He ate that, then said, "I'm going to get some radish for a sandwich. Want some?"

    "Sure."

    He left, then came back a few minutes later with a radish from the pantry. He sliced that up into thin discs and made a pair of sandwiches. They both ate, thinking about different things.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken, Mica, and Reed are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Mica, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  13. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    You know... I like the addition of Reed, the first Doozer minstrel.
    The story's hit that point... And I'm awaiting to read whatever's next.

    BTW: How does the Blustering Bellowpane Monster from the episode You Can't Do That Without A Hat differ from Mergie (a character it was recycled into) from Muppet Videos' Neat Stuff To Know and To Do?
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  14. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I figure that somewhere out on the far edge of the bell curve there would be a Doozer who could be a minstrel. There has to be, to counterbalance Boober the Fraggle drudge. And of course Cantus would invite her into the group; he's all about drawing all the people of the Rock together with music. Now he can die happy.

    "That point"? That sounds ominous.

    I never saw "Neat Stuff To Know and To Do", so I can't offer any opinions on the BBM/Mergie puppet.
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  15. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Well, there are pics of both at the Muppet Wiki, just thought I'd ask given the added info they provided.
    Thanks for your help. :)
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  16. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    If you're allergic to hugging, you might want to skip...

    *****​

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 5: Long Goodbye
    by Kim McFarland​

    *****

    Janken did not sleep well that night; he had too much on his mind. He awakened before the Ditzies became active, so the caves were still dim.

    Without waking Mica he left the cave and went out to the Great Hall. As usual, it was littered with Fraggles who had bedded down wherever convenient. Off to one side the Minstrels had made their camp. Their sleeping bags and pup tents were arranged in a circle. And, Janken noticed, they were breathing in synchrony, each one in a different pitch. Even asleep, they made music. Grinning, he continued across the hall.

    He pushed through the curtain to Boober's cave. Of course Boober was still asleep. And, Janken saw, Wembley was here too. Gobo must be off somewhere, Janken thought. Wembley didn't like being alone at night, so when Gobo was away he usually stayed with Boober.

    Janken crossed the cave, his bare feet making no sound on the smooth rock floor. The pantry and kitchen were on the other side of Boober's room. While he was waiting, Janken thought, he might as well make himself useful.

    **

    The sounds from the kitchen did not awaken Boober, but eventually the scents did. His eyes, hidden by his nightcap, opened, and he wondered who was cooking this early. Clearly someone had been in there for a while, to have fired up the wood-burning stove to cook. He sat up, turned to set his feet on the floor, sat there muzzily for a moment, then stood and stretched his back. Now officially awake, he padded over to the kitchen. Janken was at work at the oven. Surprised, Boober said, "Oh, hi."

    "Hi, Papa. I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. I hope you don't mind."

    "No, no, that's fine," Boober said. He wandered back out and over to a cupboard. He took down a cup filled with peeled twigs, selected one, and chewed on one end for a minute to separate the fibers into a brush. He scrubbed his teeth with it, then rinsed his mouth out with water.

    After he changed out of his bedclothes and put on his hat and scarf he nudged Wembley. The green Fraggle blinked at him. Then he sniffed the air. Breakfast. Sufficiently motivated, he sat up, yawned, and stretched. "Hi. Whatcha cookin'?"

    "Nothing. Janken's making breakfast."

    Puzzled, Wembley asked, "Janken? Why?"

    Boober shrugged. "He was here when I woke up."

    "Oh."

    Wembley yawned again, and Boober, after a brief struggle, did too. "Get up, you're making me sleepy!"

    "Okay, sorry," Wembley said. He got out of bed and glanced around. Boober pointed at the laundry line, where a clean banana tree shirt was hanging. He would not allow one of his family to leave his home in dirty clothes.

    Janken brought in a plate with a thick omelet, cooked the way Boober preferred—with mushrooms, slivered radish, and herbs folded in—and a plate of sliced fruit and quickbread. He went back and returned a moment later with a teapot. They each took some of the food and poured themselves tea.

    After a few bites Wembley said, "This is good."

    "I learned from the best," Janken replied, nodding to Boober.

    "You got something on your mind, Janken? You've seemed kind of, well, quiet lately," Wembley said.

    "It's that obvious, is it?"

    Boober said, "Since you moved out you haven't been your usual bouncy self."

    "Me and Mica, it didn't work out like we hoped," Janken told him with a sigh. "I mean, it's all right, but..." He stared into his teacup.

    Boober got up and went to the pantry. When he came back he had a box of ginger cookies. He put one on Janken's plate.

    Janken smiled. He understood the message: Tell me what's bothering you. I'll listen. He said, "Mica and I aren't a couple. We tried to be, but it just didn't work. My fault. I just can't get interested in her that way. I'm single-sexed."

    "I'm sorry it didn't work out. She's really nice," Wembley said, patting Janken's back sympathetically.

    "Thanks," Janken said. He noted that neither Boober nor Janken looked surprised. He leaned his chin in his hand and said, "It's not just that. I tried to become The Storyteller's apprentice, but I'm no good at the telling part. I mean, I'm really bad. It seems that these days all I'm finding out is what I can't do and not what I can!"

    "Well, you're a good cook. And The Storyteller told me that you're a great scribe," Wembley told him.

    "I can copy other people," Janken said. "I can copy someone else's recipes and write down what someone else said and help someone else carry radishes and... I don't know, I ought to be happy. I can do all sorts of useful stuff, but that's not what I want to do. I'm disappointed with myself."

    "You're the only one who is," Wembley said softly.

    Janken smiled ruefully. "I don't know about that. I let Mica down, that's for sure."

    Boober said, "Jan, you can't help what you are. None of us can. You can't fight yourself or pretend not to be something you are. You'll tear yourself apart if you try."

    Wembley nodded. "Yeah. When Boober-"

    Boober overrode him, raising his voice slightly. "Life's crummy sometimes. But you'll find something that you want to do. You just need to keep trying new things. You'll screw up some of them, but so what? If you don't take chances you'll never go anywhere."

    Janken took a small bite out of the cookie. He chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then told Boober, "I wish I was more like you."

    Startled, Boober glanced at Wembley, then at Janken. He twisted a finger in his ear, then said, "Wha'?"

    Janken smiled. "Yeah, you don't hear that a lot, do you? But, look. You love doing laundry, so that's your job. You love cooking, so you do that too. And the same with your remedies. That's the stuff you want to do more than anything, and nobody else does, so you do it instead of dancing and singing and playing all the time, and who cares what anyone else thinks. You made a spot for yourself in the world just by being yourself. I wish I could."

    "Well, um, uh..." Boober was at a loss for words.

    Wembley said, "Jan, you just need to find out what's right for you. Boober's right, you gotta keep trying, and don't worry too much if something doesn't work out. When you finally figure it out, it'll be worth it all."

    "Thanks, Papas. I know you're right. I just don't feel that way right now."

    Boober asked, "Do you need someplace to stay?"

    Janken shook his head. "No, Mica and I are going to stay roommates. We're still good friends. Just nothing more."

    "That's good. Isn't it?" Wembley asked.

    "Yeah. She's sweet. Um, can I use the kitchen some more? I'd like to make something for the Minstrels."

    "Sure, go ahead," Boober said.

    Janken went off to the kitchen and busied himself. Wembley said in a low voice, "Gee, I feel sorry for him. I wish I could tell him what to do."

    "He's got to work things out for himself. He's not a child any longer," Boober replied.

    "I wouldn't want to be in his socks...and, come to think of it, I never was. I've never wondered who my family was or what I was gonna be. It must feel terrible."

    "What about when you were trying to decide on a job?"

    "I wasn't really worried about it. It was you all making me decide. Heh, see what I mean? Before I could get upset about it by myself, Gobo pushed me into finding my job. And almost all my life I've been best friends with him and Mokey and Red and you, so when we grew up we all just eased into being a family. It's like I never had to even go looking for what I needed, it just kinda fell into my hands like a ripe berry."

    "What poetic imagery. You ought to tell Mokey."

    "Anyway, well, I just hate to see him sad."

    Wembley got out of his chair and began to pace restlessly. Boober leaned back in his chair, propped his feet up on the table, and sipped his tea. "He's growing up. Things are going to be rough for him no matter what. That's what growing up is for. Life isn't all swimming and singing and berries."

    "Yeah, I know. But still, I still wish there was something I could do."

    "Let him grow up, then. And be there when he needs someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on."

    "Yeah," Wembley said.

    Sometimes Wembley wondered how Boober could be so blasé. But it wasn't as if Boober didn't care; he just knew that you can't avoid being unhappy sometimes, and it wasn't the end of the world. And when you're sad you could go to Boober, and somehow you felt better because you knew that however bad you felt, he understood because he'd felt worse, and it'd be all right in the end because if he could survive it anyone could. Impulsively he put his arms around Boober and hugged him from behind.

    Boober let out a startled squawk. Tea sloshed out of his cup. He lost his balance, and the chair tipped backwards and crashed to the floor with Wembley underneath. Boober exclaimed, "Wembley! Warn me when you're going to do something like that!"

    Wembley struggled out from beneath the chair back, which slapped to the ground, jarring Boober again. Helping Boober up, he said, "Sorry! I just wanted to give you a hug, that's all."

    "There are hugs and there are wrestling holds. Do me a favor and ask Red to explain the difference between them."

    **

    Janken, after making sure that Papas Wembley and Boober hadn't maimed each other, brought some omelet, fruit, quickbread, and sweetwater to the Minstrels. As he offered it he said, "Thank you for answering my questions yesterday."

    "I sense that you have more," Cantus said.

    "Well, yeah, but you're here to play music, not to be quizzed by me. I'll leave you alone today."

    Cantus nibbled a piece of quickbread, then said, "The answer to your question is both larger and simpler than you imagine. You may only understand it by seeing it for yourself."

    "My question?" Janken asked, puzzled. He thought back. "Why you all do what you do, traveling around and spreading music?"

    "That is a part of it, yes."

    "How would I see that for myself?"

    "By seeing what we see and listening to what we hear."

    "You mean, come with you? I'm no minstrel."

    "This is true. You do not have the heart of a minstrel. Very few do. We do not travel the same path—but, perhaps our paths may run together for a while." Calmly he took a sip of sweetwater.

    "Leave here?" He wouldn't be the first Fraggle to leave Fraggle Rock. He wouldn't even be the most adventurous. Great-Uncle Matt had spent years exploring Outer Space all by himself. He had even taken Janken up to the surface. Those little adventures had been fun, but there was a big difference between visiting another world for a few hours and leaving home for who knows how long. Sometimes they didn't see the Minstrels for hundreds of days!

    Cantus said, "We will be moving on this afternoon. If you decide to join us, be ready to leave then."

    "I... thanks," Janken said, and dashed off.

    Murray watched the purple Fraggle retreat, then remarked, "We've never had a roadie before."

    **

    Janken rushed back into Boober's cave. "They've asked me to go with them!"

    "The Minstrels?" Wembley asked, surprised.

    "Yeah!"

    "To be a Minstrel?" Boober asked in disbelief.

    "No. Cantus said I wasn't one. But last night I was asking him why they travel around, and today he said that if I came with them I'd find out! And they're leaving this afternoon! What'm I gonna do?"

    "What do you want to do?" Boober asked.

    "I wanna go, but—leaving here for so long? I've never left the Rock for more than a few days! But I want to know what it's like in other places. But why did Cantus ask me? He must have some reason! I don't know what to do!"

    Wembley put his hands on Janken's shoulders. "Janken. You're wembling."

    Janken stopped jabbering. "Oops."

    "Do you want to go?"

    "Well, yeah. But I don't know when I'd be back. Maybe not before the Festival of the Bells!"

    In a soft voice Wembley said, "You wanna go, but you're scared too."

    Janken stared into his father's eyes. Then he said, "Yeah. What should I do?"

    Boober said, "You're a big Fraggle now. If you want to go, go."

    "I don't have good enough camping gear..."

    Wembley said, "Gobo does, and I know he'd lend it to you."

    Janken was quiet for a moment longer. Then he said "Thanks," and left.

    **

    Gobo had spent the night in Red and Mokey's room. He didn't exactly savor being awakened every few hours by a hungry, dirty, or simply restless baby, but Red had to deal with that every night. She needed both sleep and moral support, and if there was one thing he knew about Red, it was that she hated admitting weakness, especially to him. She had given up sports, which were practically her reason for living, this year, and she was hurting and tired and frustrated. He wouldn't make it any harder on her by waiting until she admitted she needed help. Besides, even a crying baby was lovable. Even in the middle of the night, with a full diaper. He kept telling himself that.

    Janken poked his head in. Red was asleep, and he did not see Poncle. He walked in and saw Gobo sitting on Mokey's bed, holding the baby. She was asleep. Gobo looked like he had not had much sleep himself. Janken asked in a soft voice, "How is Red?"

    Gobo whispered back, "Asleep. Let's keep it that way."

    Janken nodded agreement. He asked, "Can I borrow your camping gear?"

    "Sure. Where are you going?"

    "I'm not sure. Cantus asked me to travel with them, and I want to go."

    That startled Gobo. "Really?"

    "Yeah."

    "Well... you'd be gone a long time then, won't you? They may not come back 'til the Festival of the Bells."

    "I know." Janken gave Gobo a pleading look.

    "This is really sudden, but... sure. Take whatever you need."

    "Thanks!" Janken couldn't hug Gobo without wakening Poncle, so he settled for taking him by the shoulders and pressing his cheek to his.

    "Get Wembley to help you pack. He knows what my best equipment is."

    "I will! Thanks!"

    Janken left in a hurry. Gobo sat there quietly, thinking. Then he patted Red on the shoulder. When she opened her eyes and turned toward him he said, "Guess what?"

    **

    Janken had packed what he would need for the trip. Sleeping bag, rope, pickaxe, flint and brightstone, and other necessities in as small and light a pack as possible. He had found the rest of his family—Mokey and Sage had slept in Wembley and Gobo's room to give Gobo and Red some alone time last night—and explained it to them. They were surprised at first, then supportive. Mokey was, at least. All of his parents believed he ought to go. They must be right, he thought. He felt better about it now. He could do this.

    Now he was coming back from the Storyteller's home. There was only one more person to tell.

    He found Mica alone in the cave they shared. She said, "Boober brought this for you." She nodded at a pair of socks.

    Janken had to smile. "That's Boober. Mica, I've got to tell you something."

    "Are you going somewhere?" she asked, glancing at the pack he was carrying over one shoulder.

    He put it down. "Yeah. Mica, The Minstrels asked me to come with them."

    "They did?" He nodded. "You're going."

    "Yeah. If I didn't, I'd always wish I had."

    She stood and looked him in the eyes. After a moment she said, "You'll be gone a long time, won't you?"

    "I guess so."

    "I'll miss you."

    "I'll miss you too."

    There was nothing else to say, so they hugged each other one last time.

    **

    When Janken and Mica went back into the Great Hall the Minstrels were packed up and preparing to move on. Janken was about to go to them when he saw the Fraggle in the swimming hole. "Red?"

    "Thought you'd sneak past me, huh? Not a chance!"

    She was holding Poncle, who seemed perfectly comfortable in the water. He asked, "How did you sneak past Boober? If he saw you out of bed he'd have a fit."

    "It's all right. Dear old Boober doesn't want me walking around, so Gobo carried me piggyback and Boober brought Poncle. Boober even gave me permission to swim! I haven't been in the water for a week!"

    "Just float quietly and don't strain yourself," said Boober.

    Red splashed a handful of water at Boober, then shot Janken a pleading look. "You're gonna leave me alone with this guy?"

    "Sorry, Mama Red."

    "How long are you gonna be gone?"

    "I don't know. Cantus comes here for every Festival of the Bells, so I'll be back then if we don't come back sooner."

    "That's almost a year," Red said softly. "Are you sure about this?"

    "I'll never know if I don't give it a shot."

    Red smiled a little sadly at him. "Well... be good. Be fantastic!"

    Grinning widely, he set his backpack on the ground and put his sweater on top of that. Then he lowered himself into the water so as not to alarm Poncle with a noisy, turbulent splash. He gave his aunt and little sister as much of a hug as he could. "Next year I'll play rock hockey with you."

    "I'll beat ya."

    "You kidding? I'm gonna be on your team." He ruffled Poncle's wet hair. "When I see you again, you'll be a lot bigger," he murmured.

    A splash behind him interrupted his farewell. "Janken!"

    He looked over. Sage was dog-paddling toward him. She grabbed him around the chest and said, "Do you have to go?"

    "I'll come back. I promise," he told her.

    "You're gonna be gone so long."

    Red said, "Sage, sometimes people do things that are hard because it's worth it. Don't be sad."

    Sage played her trump card. "Poncle needs a big brother. She'll miss you!"

    Janken had to smile. "I think what Poncle needs is a big sister. That's you."

    Sage stared at him, taken by surprise by the new concept. Her, a big sister? She had always been the little sister.

    "Will you tell her about me so she'll know who I am when I come back?"

    Reluctantly she said, "Okay."

    He hugged his sister tightly for a moment, then said, "I've got to go now. Goodbye."

    "Bye-bye," she mumbled.

    He smiled at her again, then got out of the water. He put his sweater on over his wet fur, as when the weather was warm Fraggles were as comfortable wet as dry, and put his pack back on.

    "Are you ready?" Cantus asked.

    "Yes," Janken said. He was a little nervous, but he was no longer unsure.

    "Then let us go. Farewell, Fraggles, until we meet again."

    The six minstrels raised their instruments and began their trek. After a backward glance, Janken followed them. When they turned a bend in the tunnel, soft music echoed after them.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken, Mica, Sage, and Poncle are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Mica, Sage, Poncle, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
    GopherCoffee and muppetfan24/7 like this.
  17. Just wanted to say that I love this story and all your Fraggle fics I've read so far. I'm also wondering, what do you think of the idea of Scooter and Janken adopting a child? Would it be a Fraggle or a Muppet?

    Also, how is Mica's name supposed to be pronounced? I've been reading the story out loud to myself, and I've been pronouncing it "Mee-ca."
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  18. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Thanks, I'm glad someone's enjoying these silly things and isn't getting too put off by certain story elements. ;)

    I've never thought about Scooter & Janken adopting a child. At the present time (the end of "Masks;" the last few fics have been flashbacks) they're still learning about each other and are definitely are not at the "life partner" stage. But assuming that they stay together... I don't think there are many Fraggle children who need parents, as the way I have things figured out Fraggles don't tend to appear by accident, and since the whole colony is an extended family I think there would be others willing to take in an orphan. (Where were Gobo's and Matthew's parents?) And I can see those potential parents being very leery about taking a baby Fraggle out of the colony to be raised in the huge, weird, unFraggly world outside. However, there are children in the foster care system who really need the stability of a home, and I can see them making one part of the family, especially knowing about Gonzo.

    I pronounce "Mica" like the stone, with the I sounding like "eye." However, you have my permission to use an alternate pronunciation. I won't tell her.
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  19. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    A Wandering Heart
    Part 6: Musical Interlude
    by Kim McFarland​

    *****

    As the Minstrels walked the tunnels they played their instruments softly. Each one played for a while, then rested, except for Cantus; he played his pipe continuously. Somehow, he never seemed to tire.

    Janken, walking with them, paid close attention to the Minstrels' music. It was soft, and meandered like the tunnels did. It made him think of a chain of thought, moving logically from one thing to the next, sometimes in unexpected ways. Who were they playing for? He did not want to ask; he did not want to interrupt the music with his voice. They must just be playing for themselves. After all, if a Minstrel couldn't enjoy music for its own sake, who could?

    They moved slowly, so Janken got a good look at the caves they passed through. These were rougher than the ones he were used to, with a sandy finish to the rocks. The cave floor was coarse and gritty under his feet. They crossed many areas so dark that the only light came from their lanterns. There were a lot of things growing in the lighter caverns. He noticed a cluster of edible mushrooms, and gathered them.

    After a time Cantus stopped playing and held up a hand. "Wait," he said softly.

    The other minstrels lowered their instruments and stood still. They all had faraway expressions, their eyes unfocused. What were they doing? Oh, Janken, thought. What was Cantus always telling people to do? Janken listened to the sounds in the cave around them. He heard nothing in particular: distant animal noises, dripping water, and the wind moving through the tunnels.

    After a minute Cantus nodded, satisfied, and they lifted their instruments and resumed their trek.

    **

    The tunnels darkened as they traveled farther and farther away from the colony. Murray had taken point, and Janken saw that they were all glancing around, mindful of their environment. Whenever they passed an intersecting tunnel or entered a large cave they stopped playing, and Murray or Brool looked in before they moved on.

    They were halfway through a large gallery when Janken heard a low growl. It was barely noticeable over the music, but they heard it too, and stopped playing. It came again, and sounded closer.

    Cantus stepped to the side of the group to face the sound. Urgently Murray told Janken, "Do what we do, and, no matter what, don't run away."

    Murray was untying Cantus's bedroll from his pack. Brio already had hers in her hands. They heard the growl again, and it was definitely approaching. Anxiously Janken said, "Shouldn't we get away from that?"

    "We can't. It can run faster than we can, and it knows these tunnels better than we do. Just keep cool," Murray told him.

    Something burst out of the tunnel. In the moment that Janken could see it he got the impression of something with no eyes, too many legs, and a dagger-lined mouth as wide as a moss-clam. Cantus spread his arms. His long sleeves blocked Janken's view. At the same time, Murray and Brio raised the bedding, which they had unrolled, and flapped the fabric in front of themselves. All of the minstrels screamed together except for Reed, who played a shrill blast on her flute.

    Bewildered, the beast skidded to a stop. It snarled at the Minstrels, then backed away. When it reached the tunnel mouth it turned and fled.

    Eyes wide, Janken asked "What just happened?"

    Cantus answered calmly, "That creature was hungry, and expected us to do something about it. We convinced it that we would be more trouble than it was worth."

    Rolling Cantus's bedding up again, Murray said, "We bluffed it. Look as big as possible and make a lot of noise, and it thinks that we're something bigger and meaner than it is."

    "Oh," Janken said. He began to shiver from delayed shock. That thing would have eaten them if it could. If they hadn't fooled it, they'd be dead right now!

    Murray said, "Calm down, kid. That doesn't happen a lot. Usually cave beasts just stay away from us."

    "Why?" Janken asked.

    Cantus turned back and raised his pipe, which he had still been holding when the creature had come. "This is a magic pipe. Playing it wards off most threats."

    "Oh." That must be why they played their music as they traveled, Janken thought. He had wondered why they hadn't taken the opportunity to rest.

    Cantus continued, "You must always listen. Listen to the voices of the caves and the creatures within. They will tell you whether the creatures are hunting, or protecting their homes, or simply frightened."

    Brool, who rarely spoke, said, "If they're hunting and they come after us, we scare them off. If they're frightened or angry, we can go around them."

    "I understand," Janken said. He was still shaky, but the Minstrels were all calm, so this must be normal for them, he told himself. Thankfully, it had all happened so quickly that he hadn't had time to lose his nerve. He'd have looked like a fool in front of Cantus. If he survived.

    Within minutes the bedding was packed up again, and they moved on.

    **

    When the group came to a small, open cave the stopped and set down their packs. The cave floor was clean and the dish-shaped pile of rocks in the center was obviously a fire pit. Janken could smell a fresh, running stream nearby. He said, "Give me your canteens and I'll get some water."

    "Thanks, kid," Murray said as he took out a metal bottle. The others gave Janken their canteens—no two alike, he noticed—and Janken went off to find the water he sensed. It would have been easier if he could have heard the running water, but his ears were still buzzing from the shriek of Reed's flute.

    He found the water, a thin stream flowing down a wall. It wasn't quite a waterfall, he thought as he held bottles underneath it; more a vertical stream. And, he noticed, there were edible plants growing around it. He thought, Why not?

    After he filled all the bottles he took off his sweater. He found young, tightly-curled ferns and savory mushrooms and even a duganberry bush. He gathered everything that was edible, leaving the rest of the plants unharmed so they would regrow quickly, and made a bundle of it in his sweater.

    When he returned to the cave, they Minstrels had already set up their beds and those who had pup tents had put them up. A fire was burning in the pit. Janken handed the full canteens back to their owners, then said, "I found some things to eat."

    "Nice," Murray remarked, looking at the edibles. "We can't gather along the way because our hands are busy."

    "Yeah, I figured." As Janken spitted the mushrooms three to a stick, the Minstrels took the ferns, berries, and other edibles and began eating. Except, Janken noticed, for Brool and Reed. They ate from their own supplies. Janken was not surprised. He had never known Doozers to eat anything but food pellets, whatever those were—they looked like seeds to him—and Brool had carnivore teeth. He held the handful of sticks over the fire to roast the mushrooms, then passed them around as well.

    The group ate, supplementing the fresh food with bread and other edbles from their packs. Afterward they picked up their instruments and, to Janken's surprise, traded them. Cantus handed his pipe to Murray, and Murray gave his guitar to Brio. Brio passed her cymbals to Brool, who gave his guitar to Balsam. Cantus accepted Balsam's bongo drums.

    They began playing, and the music sounded strange. But, Janken realized, strange only by comparison to their usual music. With Murray leading the tune, it sounded... Janken knew that there must be some eloquent way to describe it, but he did not know enough about music to call it anything better than "different." He sat quietly and listened, thinking that it was a privilege to witness something that perhaps nobody outside their troupe had heard.

    He noticed their expressions. Brio was concentrating; she seemed less comfortable on the guitar than she was with her cymbals, though to Janken's ear she still sounded very good. Brool and Balsam's faces were hard to read; Brool's was mostly covered by thick fur and Brio's face was stiff and leathery. Murray and Cantus were both smiling, enjoying themselves. Cantus closed his eyes; he did not need to see the others, only to hear them.

    When they stopped Murray grinned at Janken. "Surprised?"

    "Yes," Janken admitted. "I didn't know you played other instruments."

    "To play as one, you must understand the whole," Cantus said.

    Reed said, "We Doozers call it cross training. If the whole work team knows every job, then they can build together that much better."

    "Oh, yeah, that makes sense," Janken said.

    "Although I'm a little handicapped in that department..."

    "Can only play your flute, huh?"

    "Well, that and the Magic Horn."

    Janken looked at her. She didn't seem to be joking. Murray held the horn so the mouthpieces were close to Reed. She chose one—her mouth was too small for both—and blew. Though nobody was fingering the horn, it played a short, lively tune.

    When it finished Reed said, "That's my song. The Magic Horn can play anyone's song. Why don't you try it?"

    Janken remembered a story that his parents had told him. "Only if you already know your song, though?"

    "Yes. The horn can only play the music you already know." Cantus said.

    "Then it wouldn't work for me. I don't know my song," Janken said, and looked away.

    "You don't?" Reed said, surprised. Seeing Janken's expression, she said, "Aw, I'm sorry. You'll find it."

    "I hope so. Maybe I'll find it while traveling with you."

    "That's the spirit," Murray said. "Say, you brought your ocarina, didn't you? Why don't you sit in with us?"

    "Thanks, but I'm not in your league."

    Cantus said, "Few are, but what of it? Music is not only to be listened to, it is to be made. Music played in joy is worth listening to."

    The Minstrels began playing again. Janken took his ocarina out of his backpack, but could not bring himself to play it that evening.

    *****

    Fraggle Rock and all characters except Janken and Reed are copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken, Reed, and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (negaduck9@aol.com). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.
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  20. The Count

    The Count Moderator Staff Member

    Mmm, a new segment of fiction, just what the doctor ordered.

    Have to say that the previous chapter with the goodbyes was particularly well-written, Mika's goodbye was the one I liked the most.
    Not surprised the minstrels ran into a cavé dweller (Shpot the MST reference?), those things are almost always running into Fraggles... Or is it the other way around...
    The jam session was a treat to read, it shows the characters still connected in that zen-ness where you say something that says everything and nothing at the same time.

    BTW: Though I'm a Scooter+Sara supporter, I have enjoyed your stories and the relationships presented within. It could be "offputting" to some, but the way in which you've written all your fics has not come across in a "put-offish" manner, which is why I keep reading your work.
    Thanks for sharing and have a good day. ;)
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