Part 1 - The Nine and Ten

-1-

Dana remembered his mother. Not many of the orphans did so he considered himself lucky. He remembered his life before the Child Reclamation Act made it illegal for whores and criminals to keep any offspring they bore. He remembered being hungry and afraid all the time, hiding in closets while his mother worked, knowing she didn't really love him. Some of the whores and other assorted criminals went to their graves trying to keep their bastard children from Alliance hands. Dana's mother dropped him off outside a fed station early in the morning on the day the law went into effect.

-2-

Salvatore had already come to accept the nickname Sally by the time Parliament passed the law that took him away from his mamma. Accepting the name, however, did not stop the large boy from beating the living hell out of anyone who made fun of it. Word spread quickly around the packed Alliance orphanage that Sally Damiani was not to be messed with by those who valued all their teeth and full use of their limbs. The reputation stuck solid throughout all his many years there and he wouldn't have had it any other way. He liked being feared. Being feared meant never being bothered.

-3-

Before the feds came, Ace's ma used to tell the girl she won her off a poker game she hadn't even been playing in. Sperm Donor--that's what the woman always told Ace her daddy's name was--had been on a hot streak, laying down a straight, flush, and full house all in a row. The man who'd already paid for Ace's ma's time that evening used it as a marker to stay in one more round. He lost, two pair against four aces. Sperm Donor got everything and an evening with Ace's ma. Ace's ma got Ace and always maintained she came out the real winner that night.

-4 & 5-

Right after the twins were born, their mama couldn't remember which one she'd wanted to name Meredith and which one she'd wanted to name Frances, which was the girl and which was the boy. Whatever the doctor gave her to dull the pain of delivering the twenty pounds of twins had worked far too well. She couldn't feel anything below her waist and her brain was numb clean through. The twins thought it was funny, sometimes, that she got his name and he got hers. They used to giggle about it under their covers until their mama came in to tell them to hush up and go to sleep. But then the brothel got raided and all the hidden children were taken away. In the orphanage, Merry and Frankie weren't even allowed to sleep in the same barrack, let alone the same bed. Each one ached with missing the other giggling underneath the covers.

-6-

No one could pronounce Jan's name and it made him all kinds of furious. Yahn he would insist, over and over again with clenched fists and jaws, but the orphanage officials still ended up saying it Jan, like the girl's name, every morning at roll call. They didn't listen and they didn't care. Jan's mom may have been a whore, but at least she knew how to say his rutting name.

-7-

When asked where her name had come from, Hunter liked to tell people that she was born while her mama'd been on safari on one of the jungle planets, that the name came from the big game hunt she was participating in when she went into labor. The other children in the orphanage always scoffed. Why would a pregnant whore be on a safari? Taking part in a big game hunt, no less? They called Hunter a liar. She was, of course, but the girl still resented the fact that she couldn't get anyone else to believe her favorite lie. Maybe, she reasoned, the flaw in her fib was that she didn't know the truth. Lying without a truth to cover up is just shooting in the dark.

-8-

Kelly Green was just a gorram funny name. Didn't matter how much teasing he caught over it, Kelly would always think so. That was his way. Foolish boy could find good in anything. As the son of a whore, a resident of an overcrowded Alliance orphanage since before he could remember, and a male named Kelly, he had to have that sort of outlook just to get by.

-9-

Murphy was named for the Alliance soldier who pulled her out of the burning brothel. She had a name before, of course, just couldn't remember what it was, was too young to remember. So she became Murphy after the soldier who saved her from the fire his company started during the massacre, Jean after the nurse who treated her for smoke inhalation, and Gold after the Heart of Gold, the place where her mother was slaughtered. Gold wasn't too special though. Most of the young children "rescued" from that particular establishment received that particular surname. They were envied in the orphanage because there were so many of them that sometimes it seemed like they might even be a family.

-10-

Jayne Cobb left home at the age of eighteen and had been drinking, whoring, and killing his way across the 'verse ever since. Throughout all those years, he rarely had an urge he didn't sate in a timely manner or a thought outside of his own enjoyment and wellbeing.

A crazy naked girl popped out of a box and everything changed.

Not quite five years down the line, he found himself not only in love with and married to the moonbrain, he also found himself staring at her in shock while she protectively cradled the almost imperceptible swell of her pale, naked stomach. "River-girl," Jayne managed to breathe, reverently falling to his knees at their bedside, "You sure?"

She gave him that "you're such a boob" look usually reserved for her prissy brother before chirping, "Tests have been taken. Hormone levels correlate to gestational state." With a loopy, child-like smile, the woman looked out from behind a veil of long, dark hair and asked, "Can we call her Ten?"

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Author's notes -

Procrastination takes on such entertaining forms. Review, please, so that I can feel like I actually accomplished something tonight instead of just making up excuses not to write my paper ;D