|Helen gets a certain kind of customer. She ain't like Rose or
Chari, pretty, delicate little things. She's not Adam, so lithe,
his smile tempting and wicked. Rose and Chari, they get men who want
to hold something delicate in their hands, and maybe twist it a
The kind of men who want something exotic and different, shiny like the
fancy blown-glass baubles Nandi has hanging from the parlour
And Adam...well, it's hard to resist Adam, even if men, or women, don't
really swing that way.
But Helen's sturdy. She ain't some little flower. She ain't ugly neither, none of Nandi's girls are, but when she looks in the mirror, she sees a rough kind of pretty, the sort of looks that're made for barn dances and town fairs. She's strong, which her customers tend to like. Her shoulders are broad, making her good for hauling water when the pumps run down. Not all the girls can pull their weight in chores when times get rough.
Her customers tend not to want anything fancy or kinky. She's not like Emma, who has her collection of whips and toys. She's not Amy, who can hold pretty conversation, enough so the men can pretend they're not just there for sex.
No, Helen's the kind of whore that a man wants when he's looking for a good, healthsome romp. The kind that makes men think about springtime and bonfires, and maybe even making a family. Wholesome, fun, no games.
She attracts men in a certain mood, and she can see it on their faces when they walk into the house. They look over the options, the girls and boys lounging and talking. They linger on Rose, or maybe Emma, who, even in her dress, looks imposing. They dart over the boys, their eyes reluctantly sliding back a few times. And then they settle on Helen. Their bodies relax, and they smile more certainly, because she's exactly what they're in the mood to get.
Sometimes, they like her so much they think maybe, just maybe, they could like her for a good long while. She's had marriage offers, usually from well-meaning men who are a little too lonely on their homesteads. Women are scarce out here, and men...they're not all complete bastards. Not all are like Rance Burgess.
She's never said yes, though. Helen's hips are broad, what her mamma used to call 'child-bearing' hips. She knows men like to hold onto them tight as they take their pleasure. But her hips'll never push out a baby. She got sick as a girl, all feverish and shaking. Doctor, such as he was, said she was lucky she lived, and later on, they took a look up inside her and said she'd never have babies.
And it don't matter what they say, men out here, they want their women to have kids. They have lands and businesses and knowledge to pass on. Towns and colonies need to be maintained.
Men might say they love her. They might paint pretty pictures in their heads of Helen working at their sides in the fields. They might imagine nights full of sex from a professional, but without having to pay for it first. It don't matter how nice those imaginings are though, 'cause Helen knows they're thinking of sons too.
Still, part of what would make her a bad wife makes Helen a good whore. No matter what, she'll never be in the kind of bind Petaline got into.
She's not all that surprised when Nandi tells them she's hiring someone to help out with the situation. Petaline ain't giving up that baby without a fight, even Helen can see that. And she can see Nandi has some kind of stubbornness in her about the thing too.
Not that Nandi's stubbornness is a bad thing. She's helped most of them out of one kind of bind or another.
Helen ain't real smart. She ain't stupid, not like poor Lucy, who wouldn't understand most things if they bit her on the nose. She reads now and then, but she doesn't have the head for business Nandi has. But even with her limited smarts, Helen can tell this thing is going to turn into one big mess.
She ain't real happy about that. Petaline is her friend, and she respects Nandi, but it's more than that. This is the best job she's ever had. It's way better than working as a serving girl, where men think sex comes free with their drinks. She wouldn't have set foot near this place, back before Nandi took over. But when Nandi came with an offer, Helen knew enough that it was a good thing.
Helen remembers real well the day that Nandi offered her a job. There ain't many options out here for woman without a husband. Men, they ain't real fond of women setting up businesses, even the whoring kind. So, even before they met, Helen had heard all about Nandi.
Before Nandi, Helen had been working in a dive of a bar. The owner had been scum, and with the wages she made, she'd known that soon enough she'd be whoring just to keep the little room where she lived. Or on her back with no choice in the matter. Men don't take kindly to a serving girl who don't spread.
One night Nandi had come in, looking around like she owned the place, and the men had started rumbling. She'd just ignored them and looked over all the serving girls, one by one, eventually nodding at Helen.
Helen had thought about it for second. It was clear as day what Nandi would offer. The decision hadn't been too hard. She'd followed Nandi out the door.
She'd taken the job because it was better than what she had. There was something nice, too, about having a decent place to live. Helen hadn't expected, though, to learn all she did from Nandi. She hadn't expected the house to hold people who would become a family of sorts.
And, like most people, she ain't real fond of things threatening that family. It's the first stability she's known since before her mamma up and died, leaving her high and dry.
So, she's a little pissy about Petaline getting herself knocked up, more angry with Nandi for making it into a crusade, and mostly real mad about Rance Burgess and his kind. Figures that he would think he's got ownership of the baby, even though Petaline's been carrying it around all these months.
Typical that Petaline'd do all the work just for him to get even more gain out of life.
Course, it don't matter how mad Helen is with Petaline and Nandi, she'll side with them. It ain't like she has other options, and even if she did, she doubts she'd take 'em. Nandi taught Helen most of what she knows about her job, and saved her from a life that would have ended in the gutter sooner than later. She ain't gonna leave her after that.
Nandi's taught all her girls and boys, but one thing she never got far into was guns and fighting. There were some basic lessons, but most of them could take care of themselves, at least enough until Nandi came running to talk sense into whatever fool was causing trouble.
But they ain't an army. They ain't enough to stand against Rance Burgess.
So, Helen hopes that Nandi can pull off a miracle, 'cause they're going to need a big one.
The mercs Nandi hires don't look much like a miracle when she sees them, but Helen's seen worse. Far worse. She skims over the men and the girls, looks at the Companion, Nandi's friend, with envy, and then takes in the woman with the gun.
She wonders if she could have been that kind, armed to the teeth and walking like she owns the ground her feet tread on.
Helen knows for a fact Nandi doesn't have much in the way of money to pay these mercs, but she figures they'll work it out in trade, at least partly. Her suspicions turn out right -- the biggest of them starts talking about sex almost right away.
He looks at his options, sizing each of them up, and Helen ain't real surprised when he comes over to her, his eyes looking her up and down. The big ones tend to like Helen too, as though they're afraid the other girls might not be able to give them what they want without breaking a little.
She smiles at him, and then his hand is on her shoulder and he's yelling at Nandi, his boss, anyone who's listening,
"This one could sex me ok."
She wants to roll her eyes at the wording, but she's used to it. She is, after all, there for the pleasure of men.
Dutifully, she giggles at the man when Nandi gives the go ahead.
Later, after she's bedded him for the first time, and learned his name is Jayne, she cleans up in a corner of her room. He's on the bed, sprawled and breathing deeply, asleep to the world. He's got his guns on the bedside table.
She's never seen someone treat an object the way he treated those guns. It's not like she hasn't seen guns before. Most of the men carry them, but none of them look like Jayne's do. She's used to guns that are rusty and careworn, or flashy, shiny things that are displayed to show money and power.
Jayne's guns aren't fancy, but they're clean, and even Helen can tell they're in good working order. They make her think of Nandi's collection, the one she keeps mostly out of sight so as not to scare some of the girls, or give the customers stupid ideas.
That first night, while she's learning the contours of his body and giving him something to encourage him to work hard on their behalf, she thinks he isn't much different from most men. 'cept that it's them that's hired him rather than the other way around. He likes sex, he's filling up on it while he can, and he's mostly focussed on getting everything he wants.
It's the next day that Helen learns about the weapons and what he'll want from her during the fight. She likes the way he prepares for the violence they all know is coming, and how he trusts her to keep her head.
It's during the preparations for the fighting that she realises that for all his lack of grace and class, he treats her in a way that's real different from most of the men who've been in her bed.
Theirs is a business transaction, and she's accustomed to that. But there's none of the judgment that usually comes with it. She's used to thinly-veiled superiority from customers. Or, at best, they cover the sex with pretty words like 'marriage' and 'love', as though that will make them -- and her -- feel less dirty. They're never truly comfortable with her. She's something to be used or felt sorry for. Her job sets her apart from other women.
There's none of that with Jayne. He takes what she has to offer and trades it for his own skills. When they're not fucking, he talks to her straight about what's going to happen. He doesn't mince words, and he tells her what she needs to know.
They're just two people, trading what they have to get by.
She learns things from him too, and that ain't usual. The most she's ever learned from a man is how to take his money.
She learns the basics of how to shoot a gun, and she learns there are men who ain't secretly disgusted by what she does, men who don't think they want to rescue her.
He tells her she's passable with her aim, a natural, and that she'll get better with practice. Then he makes a few suggestions as to the kind of gun she should pick up for herself when he and the rest of the crew leave.
He's a brute. He takes what he wants from the girls and he ain't gentle about it. His words make even her cringe sometimes, and during the fight, she sees that he likes it more than is normal.
But he treats her as what she is, nothing more, nothing less.
She does the same for him. She keeps him happy between target practice sessions. His sense of humour is crude and dirty, easy for her to accommodate. So, she makes him laugh, almost right to the fighting. It also keeps her mind off what he calls the 'imminent violence'.
It keeps her from thinking they should have up and run when the captain made the offer to take them all away.
Then comes the fighting and dying, and Petaline getting to keep her baby. The house gets smashed up pretty bad in some parts, and Helen knows they'll be breaking their backs to fix it up again.
Petaline slots herself right into Nandi's position, and it's clear as day who's going to be running the house now. Helen plans to have a few words with Petaline about making sure that next time there's trouble they all can look after themselves, with no need to call for outside help.
When Nandi's buried, when they've all cried and cursed Rance Burgess, the mercs and the Companion prepare to leave. Helen takes her turn saying her thanks. She'd thank them more if Nandi were still alive, but there ain't much to be done about that now.
Jayne grins at her before he walks away, like he's storing remembrances of her and what she did with his body.
Later, Helen listens to Lucy's heartbroken sobs and tries not to think too much about loss. She keeps the sadness at bay by going down and helping Adam clear out some of the mess left in the house. They'll be closed for a few days at least while they make everything passable again.
They work next to each other, and if he hears her occasional sniffles, she's grateful he doesn't say anything. He's grim and determined. She wonders how long it'll be before his sly humour will make them all laugh again.
It's after she's fixed up her room as best she can that Helen
the time to think about it all and what it means. Eventually, she
takes the memory of how Jayne was with her and folds it away, locked up
tight with the memories of Nandi and all she taught her. Then she
squares her shoulders, puts some money down her blouse, and goes to buy
herself a decent gun.
Disclaimer: Whedon and Mutant Enemy own Firefly. I am not making profit from this fic-writing endeavour.
Spoilers: This story is totally spoilery for Heart of Gold. I've even used one of the lines. Also, the story is completely based around one of the non-regular characters in this episode. I wrote it before I'd seen the episode (I'd read the script). So...be warned.
Summary: Helen gets a certain kind of customer.
Notes: Yeah. You know you're obsessed with Firefly when you're writing fic based around a minor character from an episode that was never aired. Gorram Fox.
Unovis was kind enough to indulge me. She beta read this story, and I'm intensely grateful.