This is another story for my big table of Vila fic for fanfic100, written for the prompt of 'red'. 775 words, set pre-series.
Thanks to astrogirl2 for the link to Steve, don't eat it! which inspired this. :-P
How to Win Friends and Influence Space Rats
Vila let himself out of the storeroom feeling pleased with himself and looking suspiciously lumpy. Oh, no--he'd have to get past Rhino on his way back to the prison huts.
Rhino was the worst of the Space Rats on Correctional Facility One: tall, muscled, covered in intimidating tattoos, and mean with it. Her name came from her nose which hadn't been set properly after being broken: it was turned up and squashed back so that any view of Rhino was up her nostrils. Bad weather tended to drive her inside. Mbuka Ndali, who came from the Mandela system, had laughed when he first heard it, but when Vila had asked why, he'd just said it was the Greek word for nose. That made sense but it wasn't that funny.
"Whatcha got there, gook?" Rhino towered over him, and Vila swallowed nervously; he was the youngest prisoner on CF1 and small for fourteen. Rhino poked his chest, pushing him back a step and making a red patch blossom on his black and white striped tunic.
"Just fruit," said Vila.
"Ugh." Disgust at healthy food and lust for power warred in Rhino but it was an uneven battle. "Gizzit."
"But if I did, you wouldn't find out what I was going to do with it," Vila said slyly.
"It'll be better than fruit when I've finished."
Rhino thought, not a process that came easily to her. "You better be right, gook."
Back in his cell, or rather, the long wooden room he shared with 19 other prisoners, Vila added the fruit to that already in a large plastic rubbish bag which was inside three others for strength. That lot should do it. He lugged the bag over to the sink and ran some warm water into it. Now for the sugar which he'd nicked from the dinner table over a couple of weeks, augmented with the disgusting powder they made drinks from. Vila hesitated before throwing in the contents of three of his hoarded packets of raisins, but they were dried grapes, weren't they? Now for the yeast. It wasn't difficult to steal--not for Vila--but he didn't have any as such: they kept a close eye on it in the kitchens and if any went missing, the guards pulled the huts apart. Vila had the next best thing: some bread he'd let go very mouldy, and a sock to put it in for easy straining afterwards. He'd considered the relative merits of clean and dirty socks and decided on the latter as ... more yeasty. He knotted the sock and dropped it into the unappetising mix, then tied the top of the rubbish bags around a thin rubber tube lifted from the facility workshop.
Right. That was it. He shoved the bag under his bunk and pushed the tube through a hole in the wall.
Surprising how many people were interested in the results of his experiment in fermentation. All of the hut was there, plus Rhino and her boyfriend Spike who was named for the steel one that protruded from the top of his skull; Vila had never worked out whether it was personal adornment or a failed attempt on his life.
"Can't promise much on a first try." He hesitantly opened the bag and was relieved to find it smelled but almost but not quite like the wine sold in bulk on the Delta levels. He peered in and recoiled: there were unidentifiable lumps and what appeared to be a severed foot. Repressing a shudder, he pulled the sock out and dropped it in a bucket. "Suppose I'd better strain the rest through something."
"Or leave it the way it is and have sangria," said Aguilera. He eyed the sock. "I can see where the name came from now." Despite that, he eagerly held out a cup.
"Hang on," said Vila, conscious of the need for self-protection from this lot. "I'd better go first, just to be sure it's safe." He ladled some liquid into a mug and sipped it cautiously. It was sour but drinkable. He coughed. It was like olives probably: one of those tastes you had to be grown up to acquire. "Not a bad drop of red," he said casually, hoping his eyes weren't watering too much.
There was a rush, led by Rhino and Spike, who downed hers in one gulp. "Bloody hell," she said appreciatively and slapped her meaty hand down on Vila's shoulder, almost knocking him off his chair. "You're all right, gook."
Vila grinned; make yourself useful and you were in. "Yeah, you'd swear it was all of a week old."