Clean Living
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

On board Serenity, post-Miranda, as seen from a passenger's point of view.


 Clean Living

“Not more gorram passengers,” growled the big guy, as if I weren’t standing right there.

“Jayne,” said the captain, “please watch your mouth. The lady and I were negotiating.” Jayne did look at me then, and, bless his heart, I believe he tried to give me a menacing look. I smiled right into his eyes. Menace had taken on a whole new meaning for me after working for Lord Morrie.

“Like I said, captain, I can’t supply so much coin. But it’s a short trip and I can work my way. I was head of housekeeping at House Morrie.”

“It’s not law trouble, is it?”

“No. Just time to go.”

Jayne snorted. “Housekeeping? Serenity needs a bath?”

“You need a bath, Jayne. Serenity, on the other hand, could maybe use a pretty touch here and there, if only for one trip through this system. Can you pay four hundred?”

“All I got’s two seventy-five.”

“Two seventy-five then. And keep us smelling like roses.”

“Aw, go-se!” Jayne stomped off.

“Sir, you don’t need to do this. Thank you.”

We shook on it, and he made Jayne haul my one suitcase on board.


My room was in the passenger section. I guess our rooms were a little nicer than the crew rooms, but I’d hate to see what they got if that was so. I was sharing with a girl who was pretty far gone, name of Genji. We stowed our stuff and made jokes about luxury living, then she lay down. I picked up my book.

“So, when?” I asked her after a while.

“About a month. I’m having a boy.”

“How do you know if it’s a boy or girl?”

“I was indentured to a doctor. He liked to know what his servants were having, seeing as how he was usually having ‘em too.”

“You poor thing.”

“No, no. I’m just glad to be gone. This here’s my kid, no matter what gorram no good's his father.”

“Well, let me tell you about Lord Morrie.” We then commenced upon a very sympathetic conversation that took us all the way to dinner.


I was thinking that Jayne person would have calmed down by the time we ate. Silly me.

“So, cleaner,” he shot out of his mouth before I even got sat down all the way, “you gonna do the dishes?”

“Jayne,” Captain Reynolds said, “shut up.”

“It’s just, since she paid one seventy-five less than everyone else here–“

“Stow it right now, Jayne Cobb.”

“My name is Sheila,” I said. “And what I pay people is between me and the people. So I agree with your captain about you shutting up.”

Jayne looked around at me slow, that menacing look all over him again. “What did you just say to me, lady?”

I was about to repeat myself, but the darker woman said “Jayne. Don’t think it.”

I stuffed a laugh. The McCormicks, an older couple bound for the next system out to live with their kids, sat there, nervous. Genji kept on eating, looking unconcerned. She shot me a look sideways though, like she was trying hard to keep her snicker in her napkin.

“What I think,” Jayne said, “is that if a person rides this boat, they should pay. I don’t need no gorram flowers and cookies.”

“Well, that’s okay then. I don’t bake and I don’t see any gorram flowers here, do you?”I said.

Before Jayne could make another thing come out of his big mouth, the captain said real quiet: “Jayne. I’ve asked you to leave this table before. So you know how to do it.” Jayne took the hint and slammed his chair out, then took enough food for three people. Mrs. McCormick let out a breath.

“Mamn, I apologize for him. He isn’t fully civilized.” The joke worked a bit on her, as she smiled weakly. But she was well rattled. Her husband covered her hand with his.

“Perhaps we’ll eat in our bunk,” he said, “I’m suddenly tired.” They left fast. I felt bad for them: Not used to people like Jayne, that was clear.

And I thought: why, oh why, do the stupid ones always fix on me?


Well, I had to earn my keep. The kitchen did seem like the place to start, with all the old food artfully thrown here and there. Probably by Jayne, I thought.

“It’s so good to have someone give my girl some extra attention,” someone behind me said.

“Hello Kaylee,” I said. “Nice dinner.”

“You don’t have to start tonight. You might be tired.”

“Well, I’m not so much. I’m so happy to leave Potlatch I can’t rest right now. I conjure it’ll all hit me at once pretty soon.”

“Right. You go and go and then watch it, you’re down.”

“Truth.” I kept scraping at the crust at the back of the sink.

“We do clean that sometime. Just not all the time.”

“There’s always spots that get missed...You’re the mechanic, yes?”


“On Potlatch they don’t let women do that sort of thing.”

“Well, that’s ridiculous.” She pulled out some little piece of metal and wire and began fiddling with it. “Don’t be afraid of Jayne. He’s a good person somewhere in there.”

“He tries to get what he wants by looking mean.”

“Well, sometimes. And sometimes he is mean.”

“Would he hurt a woman?”

“Only if she hurt him first.”

I laughed a little, but I decided then and there that I’d trust that Jayne boy when space became the wide, Sargasso sea of ancient Earth-That-Was.


Genji and I were lazing in the common area. She had on a pair of sunglasses and was reading a recording about resorts on Osiris. I had my book out again.

“That’s a real book,” Genji observed. “What’s it called?”

“Wuthering Heights. It’s about a woman who doesn’t know a good thing when she’s got it.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“It used to belong in the master library at House Morrie.”

“And now it belongs to you?”

“One of the benefits of being Lord Morrie’s head housekeeper was that room. I read everything in it, over time.”

“So that one you just didn’t finish, huh?”

“Guess it just fell into my apron one day and I didn’t see.”

We were laughing so we didn’t hear anything. Then the Jayne creature was standing over us.

“Hard at work, huh, cleaner?”

I stood up. “In case you don’t know the difference between dirt and no dirt, I’ll help you out. This kitchen’s clean. I’ve been on it for three days. I am now resting. Which is none of your block head business.”

He leaned in and, so help me you’d think he’d have figured it out by now that it wouldn’t work, but he put on that look again. “I aint no block head.”

I kept looking right at him. “No. That would be an insult to blockheads all over the ‘verse.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

I squinted at him. “What the hell do you mean what the hell does that mean?! It’s one of the oldest comebacks around!”

“Well I aint never heard it. You made it up!”

“Are you insane? Or just so gorram dumb you can’t remember your childhood?” His brow furrowed. “Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to tax you,” I said.

“You got a mouth on you I aint even seen on whores, is what!” he shouted. We were standing toe to toe. Suddenly I noticed he had some pretty big biceps. I could also smell his breath, which was kinda interesting, like mint and saki all mixed up.

Genji cleared her throat. “Should I leave you two alone?”

He whipped his bullet head around. Genji was sitting there with her big belly front and center, and his whole attitude all at once fell. “Uh. Just–well–don’t leave yer gorram vid lying around!” He turned on his heel and stomped out.

“What was that supposed to mean?” I asked her.

Genji adjusted her sunglasses. “That was also one of the oldest lines in the ‘verse. The ‘do you want to be alone’ thing.”

I suddenly felt terrible.“I miss Hec,” I said.


“Hector was head groundskeeper at House Morrie. We met there.”

“How long were you together?” asked Zoe. She had a sad feeling about her, and I could see she wasn’t used to small talk.

“Four years.”

“Did you have children?” asked Mrs. McCormick.

I spooned some soup up and passed it to Inara. “No. Hec died before we could.”

Zoe pushed back her seat and got up. “Gotta go check the bridge,” and she left.

I looked at Kaylee, who smiled weakly. “I say something wrong?”

“She’s widowed too. It was pretty bad.”


Just then the whole ship shook like someone had picked it up and rattled it. The whole crew were up and out of the room fast.

“All passengers to your bunks,” Captain Reynolds spat over his shoulder.

Genji and I looked at each other, then did what he said. We barely made it without falling down. The ship seemed to buck up and down, is what I think happened from the way my stomach got left behind after each move. “You all right?” I asked Genji. She looked gray.

“It might be Doctor Wu. He could be after me. I didn’t exactly finish my contract.”

I laughed, although I did not feel funny. “Genji, it could be Lord Morrie. See, I may have done the same thing.”


“What’s happening?” I asked River. We hadn’t moved for fifteen minutes; were just floating in space.

“It’s a big angry ship, but it isn’t Alliance. They put us on a leash.”

“Dr. Wu,” moaned Genji.

River looked up and to the side, like she was listening to something. “Not a doctor. A—king?”

“Or a Lord,” I said. Kaylee told me River was a reader. Well, she was dead on.

“He’s the one angry. He came himself, on his ship.” River said.

“Go-se. I can’t go back.”

The communicator blared, and the captain said: “Sheila Branson-Chin, to the bridge.”

“That’s bad,” River said calmly, “he never lets passengers up there.”

“Get your brother, River. Genji’s sick.” I felt a sick feeling myself as I climbed the stairs.

On the bridge the captain, Zoe, Kaylee, and Jayne were standing in front of the wave unit. The captain turned around when I got there. “Miss Branson-Chin,” he said in a real hard, quiet voice, “who we just heard from is a certain Lord Morrie, who’s incidentally got us in his magnetic grapplers. Seems you got something of his. First, some rare books, really old. And second, you.”

“Like Reavers. What kind of space shit does that?” Jayne said.

My stomach finished dropping. I had to sit, but there was no chair. I used the floor.

“He’ll kill me.”

“Keep talking,” said the captain.

“I defied him. I said no to him. Then I ran. He’ll kill me in public, and it’ll take a long time.”

“What about us?” asked Jayne.

“Why’d you run?” asked Kaylee.

“Hector died four months ago. Morrie said he’d give me six months to grieve, and then I was to come to his bed. There was two months left. So I went to his library and got some books. I sold most of ‘em in town.”

Jayne’s eyebrows rose. “So you got more than two seventy-five?”

“Jayne.” said Zoe.

“I plan to set up a business, a farm or something! Without money, I’m dead.”

“Looks like yer dead with it, too,” snarled Jayne, “and us too! He’s got us twisting in space like a rabbit on a snare!”

“I won’t go back.” I felt light, sort of buzzy.

“Mal, give her to him,” said Jayne.

“Shut up, Jayne!” snapped Kaylee.

“It won’t matter. He’ll blast you out of the ‘verse because you helped, whether you knew it or not.”

“Sir, Kaylee needs to get on that grappler,” said Zoe.

“Thanks to you, my ship is trussed up where I never expected it to be. Just why should I not give you back?” asked the captain.

“Aint what she said enough?” said Kaylee.

I took a deep breath. “Alright. Listen. He uses—people. He uses kids. He does what the hell he wants with ‘em.” I felt like my head was floating on a string. “That’s why Hector and I didn’t want to have any. But that wasn’t all. My husband–hung himself.” I try so hard not to cry. But now and then... “He hurt Hector when he was a kid. Hec never got over it, he had nightmares, and headaches, and now he’s dead and that sick filth doesn’t even understand why. And I will die before I go back.” I was crying and breathing hard, but I didn’t care. Everybody was quiet.

“Well,” said the captain softly, “that puts a whole new spin on it.”

“What’ll he do with Genji?” asked Kaylee, so quiet I almost didn’t hear.

“He’ll treat Genji like a present on Christmas morning.” It felt like I was gonna see Kaylee’s dinner again. I reached for the locket around my neck.

“What’s that locket?” Jayne asked.

“Poison,” Zoe said. “You just touch it. Goes in through the skin.” Jayne made a move to grab it but the captain held him off.

“I disagree heavily with hurting children. As for you lying to us, we’ll deal with that later,” said the captain.

“I had to get off that moon. You could have told Morrie. I’m sorry.”

Jayne coughed, and I turned to him ready to fight, but something about his face stopped me. “There was this miner when I was a kid, lived by himself. He used to talk to us, ask us to go inside with ‘im. None of us did, but one day this real little kid went in. We never saw him again. His pop and my Uncle Marie went and called on the guy one night. Never saw him again, either. Haven’t thought about that in a long time.” There was a real long silence. Then the captain went to the comm unit.

“River,” he told it, “I need you on the bridge.”


The captain, Zoe, and Jayne were strategizing, Kaylee was in the engine room, and River was all curled up in the pilot’s seat, head down, like she was asleep.

I was still on the floor, holding my locket.

“We need to stall him until Kaylee figures out how to neutralize those grapplers,” the captain said.

I didn’t say what everybody was thinking: few but the Alliance had the power to neutralize those Reaver style grapplers. Serenity sure didn’t.

“Let’s just tell ‘im we’re sending her over. He won’t do nothin’ if he’s waitin’ for her to come on board,” Jayne said.

“That’ll buy us a few minutes. But he might notice when she doesn’t show up,” said Zoe.

Simon’s voice came over the comm.

“Inara. Please come to the infirmary.”

“What is it?” asked the captain.

“Genji’s gone into labor.”

“I’m on my way,” Inara answered from her shuttle.

“She’s only eight months gone!” I said. “She can’t have it now.”

“I suggest you let the doctor handle that,” said the captain, “You got other things to worry about here.”

“Sir, we need to talk him down,” said Zoe.

“Won’t work,” I said.

“Then we go over there ourselves,” Zoe adjusted the big shotgun on her thigh.

“Still won’t work,” I moaned, “he’s got a hundred men on that big boat.

“You gonna sit there and cry, or you gonna fight?” Jayne said. He was right, but I seemed to have lost the use of my legs. One and only one solution was presenting itself in my mind, and I didn’t want to think about it.

Then the ship shuddered again. “Another grappler,” said Jayne.

“Kaylee!” The captain shouted into the comm, “what do you see?”

“We need to figure some way to de-magnetize those things, and I got no idea how. We aint big enough to break free,” she sounded scared.

“Keep workin’ on it.”

“I don’t see no way, cap’n.”

“Keep workin’ on it. That’s an order.”

“Wash might’ve tried to twist away. He talked about that once, we ever got snared by Reavers,” said Zoe.

I sat up. “Captain, I got an idea.”

“That’s the spirit.”

“Let me go over.”

“Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose of our little plan?”

“What plan is that, sir?” asked Zoe.

“I may be able to talk to him for a bit. Stall him.”

“And then what?”

“Not sure yet.”

“What you’re saying is, you plan to go down for us,” said Zoe.

“If I can keep him occupied, you might get away.”

“You said we would not,” said the captain. Just then another wave signaled itself. I knew what to do. I got up and faced the screen.

“Lord Morrie,” I said. My legs felt like a protein dessert fluff.

“You bitch,” he said calmly, “I will see that you never steal again.”

“Stow it, you old pervert.” It was like someone else was using my mouth.

This seemed to have an effect. “Pardon?”

“You’re sick in your soul and in your head. You can’t hurt me anymore. The best thing I ever had, you already took. So what if we die. I’m not scared.”

"So what if we what?" the captain said.

Morrie stood up. “Well then, you little whore, you won’t mind if I shoot you down? Potlatch law says I can!”

“And you wrote a lot of Potlatch law. You are nothing.”

River said: “He’s going to die.”

“What?” said Jayne.

Morrie screamed.

“What’s going on?” said the captain.

“He can’t love, so his heart doesn’t work. He can’t breathe the right way,” said River.

“Lord Morrie?” But he wasn’t on the screen anymore. All I saw was the back of the bridge and all I heard was a bunch of yelling. Then someone stood up in our view.

“What the hell you doing on that ship?!” I yelled.

“Captain, I am Randall Kim, Lord Morrie’s Head of Security,” he said.

“Who are you?” said Jayne.

“He just told you, Jayne,” said Zoe.

“You told him who he really is. He doesn’t want to stay and listen,” River said.

“The stress of this excursion has apparently affected his Lordship’s health,” said Randall, “he is not expected to live.” In the background I saw three men carrying Morrie, limp, off the bridge.

“How'd you find that out so fast?” I asked. "He aint even in the infirmary yet!"

Randall laughed out loud. In the next instant the ship shook again. River pushed a few buttons and we were moving.

“Keep the books,” Randall said, and signed off.


He was pink, and he looked about a hundred years old.

“You told me you were only eight months gone,” I said.

Genji shrugged. “My job was cook, not accountant.”

“He’s fine,” said Simon, “a normal, full term boy.”

“I’m going to name him Malcolm Simon Kaylee Inara River Zoe Jayne Yang,” said Genji. River laughed.

“Can I hold him?” I asked. Genji handed him to me.

“He’s strong,” she said, “you can feel it. I’m happy to think he isn’t Dr. Wu’s. Wu’s a skinny little ugly thing.” I couldn’t help laughing too. Through my damn tears.

“He’s as beautiful as the sun,” River said.

“You are right, River,” I said, “He is. As beautiful as the sun.” I handed him back and took my leave. We were almost breaking atmo at Heinlein and I had to pack. In the hallway, acting like she wasn’t looking in on Genji’s baby, was Zoe.

“He’s a good one,” I said.

Zoe didn’t say anything. She fiddled with her gun.

“Genji’s going to come with me. I got enough money to set us up in something. Probably a store. We’ll run it, and someone else will clean it.”

Zoe’s mouth twitched a little smile at that one. “It’s good to have a baby around.”

I didn’t know what to say. “Your husband–“ I stopped, embarrassed.

“I said his name.”


“On the bridge. I aint said it since he died.”

“That might be a real good thing, then,” I told her gently.

“He was the best pilot I’ve ever known,” she said.

“We were lucky.”

“We were.” She reached over and squeezed my hand, then turned and left.


The cargo bay was busy. The whole McCormick clan had turned up to get their folks, and about seven little kids were in the way wherever you turned. Near the back some locals were looking at the shipment, stacks of that fine Potlatch wood that grows in the mountains. I tapped the captain on the shoulder.

“Here, “ I said, and handed him a copy of Sense and Sensibility, “that should get you a few things.”

He took it. “You all set?”

I nodded. “Thank you. I’ll never forget this.”

“Well, we might be back. Gotta stock up at times.”

“Anything you want, it’s free,” I said.

“Don’t say that too soon. Times can be hard. Anyway, I’d rather do business with people I know and trust. Get off that!” he yelled at a child who was climbing a sooty mule transporter.

It was clear to me that Captain Malcolm Reynolds wasn’t the sort who allowed touching overly much, so I gave him the biggest hug I could. When I let go, he looked all kinds of embarrassed. “Uh. Well. Safe journeys,” he said, and found some urgent business with one of his buyers.

Jayne was loading someone’s cart up with wood. I went over. “Jayne. I want to thank you.”

“For what?” He dusted his hands off. “I didn’t do nothin’”

“You were willing to fight him.”

“Yeah, well.” He spit on the floor. “Trash didn’t deserve to suck air.”

“I’m free for the first time in fourteen years.”

Jayne grinned. “Well. Don’t muck it up!” He extended his hand, and we shook on that, alright.

I got Genji and little Malcolm Simon all loaded up on a hired rickshaw, then we said our goodbyes. Kaylee kissed the baby but River just looked at him. “He’s going to do things,” she said in a hushed tone.

Inara gave Genji a little ivory charm. “This is for strength.”

“Here,” Simon handed me a sheet with pictures of babies and mothers on it, “make sure she does these exercises.”

“Doctor. You did a good job.”

“This was only my second delivery.”

“So far, so good.”

As we rolled down the ramp I saw Cap’n Malcolm go over to Jayne. “I got something to bring up with you,” I heard him say, “Uncle Marie?”


Tuesday, August 11, 2009 1:21 PM


sorry about the formatting! Argh!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:24 AM


Felt a little weird from an outsider's viewpoint but everyone was in character though I was a bit confused at the way in which the standoff was resolved, a little too conveniently but it worked which is the main thing. I had to laugh at the poor baby being given the name of every member of Serenity's crew! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 12:56 AM


Personally, I loved the last line best!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 7:48 PM


Not bad at all. the characterization was very good. I do agree with AMDOBELL that the standoff resolved too quickly...but it did work so that is what's important. All in all it was a very beliveable tale. Good work.


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Period of Adjustment
I tried a little Rayne, and I tried to write it with the Romantic Comedy format in mind. Hope you like chapter one.

Clean Living
On board Serenity, post-Miranda, as seen from a passenger's point of view.

A Poem for River
This poem is another description of River's experience