Blue Blood – Chapter One

I own no rights to Firefly, and write only for my own pleasure.

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"Do I have to?"

"Yes, and no more whining!"

Jayne sighed as he gave in, and started dressing. River was behind a dressing screen, but he knew she'd know if he didn't start getting ready.

"I don't see why I have to go!" Jayne sulked, and River's head popped out from behind the screen

"Because you love me," she smiled sweetly.

"That ain't fair," Jayne groaned, attaching the suspenders to his suit pants. "You always use that to make me do things I don't want to do!"

"Poor baby," she teased, ducking back behind the screen. "You know how important this is to Mal. It isn't often, these days, that he asks much of us. One simple dinner, with good manners and nice clothes, will not kill you, Sean."

"Besides," she continued, walking out from the screen, "it's a chance for us to dance, and I thought I'd wear this." Jayne looked up at her, and his mouth dropped open.

River was wearing the same green dress she'd worn the first night they'd gone out. She hadn't worn it since. He was pleased to note that the dress still fit just right in all the right places.

"I was worried it wouldn't still fit," she was saying as his brain started working again, eyeing herself critically in the full length mirror.

Since they had yet to find another house, everyone was still living aboard ship. Ships, rather. Jayne and River now shared a cabin on the Companion, the newest ship in the Reynolds line.

"Wouldn't fit?" Jayne asked. "Why wouldn't it fit?" River shot him an appreciative glance.

"You always know just what to say," she told him, walking over to where he stood and planting a kiss on his still open mouth. She drew back, finally, frowning.

"I've gained weight," she pouted, and he laughed.

"So?"

"No woman likes to gain weight, Jayne," she told him, eyes rolling. He grabbed her and drew her into his arms.

"I don't care 'bout your weight," he growled softly in her ear, and she shivered. "You're the most beautiful woman in the 'verse." She giggled.

"Sweet talker."

"Is it working?" he asked hopefully.

"You're going," River told him, smile gone in an instant.

"Fine," he grumped, and finished dressing.

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"Nice of you to come, Captain," George Harwell said as Mal and Inara walked into the banquet room.

"Appreciate the invite, sir," Mal smiled, taking the offered hand.

"And how are you, Miss Serra," Harwell asked.

"I'm fine, thank you, Mister Harwell," Inara smiled beautifully.

"I've told you, all of you, it's just George," Harwell chided gently. "Feel free to meander. The food's over there," he pointed to a long row of tables, "and seating is first come first served. There's no formality here, tonight. Just the company family. And that includes all of you," he smiled.

"That's kind of you, sir," Mal said. "We like that."

"As do I, Captain," Harwell smiled again. "As do I."

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"Kaylee, we're going to be late."

"I'm coming!" Kaylee called, and Simon resisted the urge to roll his eyes. She'd been saying that for twenty minutes. Then, suddenly, there she was.

"I. . .um. . .wow," Simon finally managed. Kaylee was wearing a thin strapped gown of blue silk which accentuated every curve she had. Her hair was bundled atop her head, with a few wisps hanging here and there simply adding to the effect.

"Like it?" Kaylee asked.

"Oh, do I like it," Simon breathed.

"Simon, I thought you said we was gonna be late!" Kaylee said, when Simon didn't make any move toward the door.

"Late?" he asked, as if in a daze. "Late for what?"

"Simon!"

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"I don't see why I have to go!" Butler 'Goldie' Tarrant groused as he and Zoe walked across the yard toward the banquet.

"Because you work for me, and I work for Mal, and he said we were going," Zoe told him, smiling faintly. She reached up to straighten his collar, her hand touching the skin of his neck as she did so.

Goldie froze at the contact. It felt as if an electrical arc had passed between them. He looked over to Zoe, and found she was looking back at him, the look mirrored on her own face.

"Zoe, I. . ."

"Not now," Zoe ordered. "Let's get to the dinner." Instantly the stoic Captain Washburn was back, and Goldie sighed.

"Aye, aye, Captain," he muttered, and missed Zoe's faint smile.

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"You look fine," River told Jayne as he stopped to check his suit in the reflection of a large window near the office door.

"I do?" he asked with a grin, and River couldn't help her giggle.

"Too much ego, methinks," she elbowed him gently, and he smiled.

"Woman like you can give a man an ego, baby girl," he told her, and she blushed furiously. Even after a year together, the words never failed to please her.

"You know," Jayne continued, looking down at the most important person in his life, "we could just skip dinner, and go straight to dessert." River's face contorted into a frown at once.

"You're going."

"Fine."

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The dinner, really a Thanksgiving party/dinner/dance for the employees and 'friends' of Guilford's Inc., was actually a good shindig, Jayne decided. He and River had danced, the food was good, and the company was first rate. He had watched as Goldie had finally convinced Zoe to join him on the dance floor, and chuckled a little at the older man's stiffness.

Zoe had found it amusing as well.

"I won't break, you know," she smiled slightly as Goldie delicately touched her.

"Never thought it," he nodded. "Just being. . .careful, that's all."

"Careful?" Zoe snorted. "Feels more like you're trying to keep your distance."

"That too," he nodded. "Just wanted to behave proper, that's all," he added when she frowned.

"Proper, huh," she mused. Moving closer, she rested her head on his shoulder, hugging him tightly to her.

"How's that for proper?" she asked in his ear. He was glad she couldn't see his face.

"Um, fine," he stammered. "Good and proper, sure enough," he added with a chuckle, and felt her shudder with a barely contained laugh.

"Now, let's dance. Like you mean it."

And he did.

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At the 'party', Mal was finally able to meet Mister Guilford himself. Though still recovering from a horrible beating he'd suffered at the hands of Zhang's henchmen, the old man was getting around fairly well.

"I'm told we owe you a great debt, Captain Reynolds," Guilford said, shaking Mal's hand firmly.

"There's no debt, sir," Mal assured him. "We just took the job as was offered us."

"Which no one else was willing or able to do," Guilford nodded. "And in doing so, saved a company I worked all my life building. A company that will one day belong to my daughter and son-in-law," he added. "That puts me in your debt, Captain."

"I'm just glad it worked out so well, sir," Mal replied truthfully. "For us, too. We have a chance to make a home here, working for your company. That was worth fightin' for, to us."

"Yes, there's little in the 'verse can compare to home and family, Captain," Guilford nodded in agreement. "George tells me that he considers you part of the Guilford family, and I feel the same way. Whatever we can do for you, please don't hesitate to tell us."

"I'm obliged for that, sir, and I will. Right now though, we're doin' good. We gotta find us a new house, mind, but we're looking. Thinking on maybe getting a piece o' land and building our own, truth be told. Just trying to find a place nearby, and with enough room for a shop, and a landing pad for the ships."

"Have you considered doing so right here?" Guilford asked, and Mal gaped in spite of himself.

"By right here you mean. . .?"

"Right here, on the grounds," Guilford replied. "I own a rather large chunk of real estate around here, Captain. Land was cheap when I started in business, and I didn't want my options limited, so I bought all I could get. Nearly ten thousand acres, all told."

"That's a large chunk, sure enough," Mal chuckled.

"Well, it's settled then. I'll tell George, and you and he can select a place that suits your needs. We'll have it deeded over to you. Say, one hundred acres?" Mal's surprise must have been evident on his face, because Guilford chuckled.

"Come, Captain, is that enough? It's the least I can do for you, seeing as you not only saved my business, my daughter's inheritance, but also collected a touch of payback for me on the men who nearly put me out of commission. Permanently."

"Sir, I don't. . .I don't know what to say," Mal finally stammered.

"Say it's a fine idea, sir, and I'll take you up on that," Guilford laughed.

"It's a fine idea, sir, and, yes, we accept." The two shook hands.

"Now, go and dance with your lovely lady," he admonished. "This isn't the time for business, and it's my fault. And ask her to save one dance on her card for me."

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"Hundred acres?" Jayne asked later, when Mal told the assembled crews about their windfall. "Man, that's a piece o' land, right enough!"

"Ain't it?" Mal agreed. "All we need do now is pick out a place for a house, and a shop. Once we get them built, we'll build a pad, so that we can set the ships down at home, when they need servicing."

"House?" Inara asked, and she, River, and Kaylee shared a dreamy look. "That sounds wonderful."

"And with it here on the grounds, it'll be safer than if it were away, somewhere," Jayne added.

"Will we build one big house?" Simon asked. "Like the one we had before?"

"I think that's some'at we'll all need to decided on, a'fore we start," Mal answered thoughtfully. "We can do that, or everyone can build their own. Makes me no never mind, long as we're all happy with the outcome."

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Even as the crew reveled in their good fortune, a ship was landing on Astra. As the ship settled onto the docks, two men in identical blue suits waited patiently. In minutes, their two comrades, also wearing matching suits of blue, emerged.

"You made good time," the larger of the waiting pair said as the two new arrivals approached them.

"It was a long trip," the smaller of the two newcomers told him. "Our target is here?"

"No, but she will be, sooner or later," he was informed. "We have not been idle while awaiting your arrival. Both the primary and secondary targets serve as crew aboard a Firefly class transport which makes a run between here and one of the moons, usually once a week, often twice."

"It will be problematic to take them on the moon, itself," the large one continued. "Here, they will not have so many friends, and the city will help conceal our activities. We will watch for them to arrive, and take them here."

"The Tam subject is the primary," the smaller one noted with a glance at his partner. "The secondary is a man we pursued during the war. He is, without doubt, a dangerous individual. And he will not be cowed by our presence." Briefly he explained what had happened on Persephone.

"Caution is indicated," the larger of the two new arrivals nodded. "Thus we take the Tam subject, regardless, and the male unknown if possible."

"Correct."

"Then let us begin preparations."

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"That's it, Zoe," Jayne called out, securing the last of the crates they'd be hauling on this run.

"Okay, Jayne," Zoe replied from the catwalk. "Make sure we're tied down, and get the ramp up. I'll tell River we can lift off in five."

"She already knows," he said softly, chuckling.

Yes, she does, he 'heard' River add. He shook his head at that. Even after two months, it still amazed him that they could communicate in such a way. And it was more than just words, they'd discovered. The 'link' between them was more active now, and had led to some rather startling discoveries in their intimacy.

Each one could feel what the other felt, when they were in such close contact. Coupled with their own senses, it sometimes was almost overwhelming. But at the same time, he had to admit, it also made for some mind-boggling. . .

Zhang fu should concentrate on his job, or might get hurt, River's voice chided, making him smile. Plenty of time to dwell on pleasurable uses of our new talent once we are in the black.

Once we're in the black, I'll be dwelling on it, all right, he sent back, and could feel her giggle run through his mind.

Must be patient, she told him. Can't crash BaBa's ship, or we'll get into trouble.

They had not yet shared their discovery with anyone, not even Simon. For one, it was a little bit too private, and both like their privacy. For another, it was something they were still working out. Until they had, they wanted to keep it hidden.

Jayne smiled as he closed the ramp. Life was good, he decided. He had a good job, with good people who were like family. And the woman of his dreams.

What could top that?