No Shoes, No Coat, No Pair of Socks
She came aboard the ship with nothing, though social convention (which is gab-gab-gabbling in everyone's head) says that she should have something, and it has to cover her in at least two parts, over the parts the gun-man wants to see especially bad and over the parts that Mother always said that should only be touched for washing, even though Simon had said that it was perfectly natural for a girl to touch them herself to relieve tension. Simon had even tried to show Mother that part of the textbook, but she had been Opposed to Such Things and Not Having That Conversation with Simon. Nor River.
But that was a thing of the past, a time before the D'Arbanvilles and their endless dinner parties. Right now she is here, and she has nothing.
Nothing. No ident card. No books. No bra. No blanket. No stuffed animals. No hairbrush. No shirt. No dresses, no scrubs, no underwear, nothing here and nothing there; no shoes, no coat, no pair of socks, nothing at all for the girl in the box...
Somebody gives her a blanket. It is scratchy, and came from sheep, and moths want to eat it. River waggles a finger through a moth-munchy-made hole, and pretends to chew the corner. "Baaa!" she says, and then remembers that moths don't say Baaa.
"Doctor Tam?" says the pretty girl on the table. She is a pretty-pretty girl, pretty inside and out, and not too keen on social convention. She is Not Opposed to Such Things, and woulda smacked River's momma upside her head for being a priss, if she and River's momma had squabbled on the playground about what girls were supposed to be like, just like Kaylee had smacked Lillette Dupree upside the head for saying girls were supposed to keep their skirts down and their hands out of the toolkit.
"I thought maybe she'd need some clothes..." Pretty-pretty girl has a bundle of things in her mind, things she's grown out of, or doesn't think she can wear under her coveralls or when she's got her hands in the toolkit. And oh, she wants to Have That Conversation with Simon, but he's got Too Much on His Plate, and has No Time For Girls, not even pretty-pretty ones, not even pretty-pretty ones he threatened to let die.
He didn't mean it.
There's a conversation going on above the theta level, and it's buzz-buzz-buzz like little bees, or maybe that's the sound that moths make, and the stone-silk woman is there with the bundle of clothes from Kaylee's mind, and River's suddenly wearing them: cheap cottons and synthetics in bright pinks; tight pants and little skirts and all manner of things that River didn't even know were options.
The shoes don't fit, though.
Stone-silk woman, who is as cool as a Manichaeist's cucumber except where Wash touches her, goes away and comes back and she has big boots that will fit River's feet. And River puts them on, and suddenly, she's tough. She can kick shit in these boots.
She still doesn't have an ident card, and she misses her books and tapes and stuffed animals. But she's got clothes and shoes and a brother--and freedom.
It's a fair trade.