Blue Blood – Chapter Twelve A

I own no rights to Firefly nor do I receive any remuneration for my work.

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Serenity was not quite over-crowded when she broke atmo, and settled into a comfortable orbit over Argo. Braz Guilford and his family, including George Harwell, were on board, as was Mason Bickford and his family. Several of the plant employees who had come to know Jayne or River were also along.

River was sequestered in the passenger dorms as the preparations were made. The cargo bay had been scrubbed clean, and emptied completely. Several rows of chairs had been set-up for the guests, with folding tables stored nearby for the following reception.

Jayne was in the second shuttle, which he and River would be taking to a small retreat after they were wed, for their honey moon. The retreat was a rather exclusive vacation spot, and their stay had been a wedding gift from George Harwell.

Liam Greggs was on the bridge, having volunteered to keep watch during the festivities. Hollins would likewise be on duty in the engine room. The two had agreed that this was their way of gifting Jayne and River, and the couple had thanked them heartily.

Mal, sporting an ugly cut to his forehead, a swollen lip, and nursing a hand with bruised knuckles, was rehearsing his 'words', pacing nervously as he went over them.

Goldie, uninjured, was helping Jayne get ready, as was Simon.

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"Jayne, you can't wear your tie that way," Simon said, working to fix the problem. He only had one good eye at the moment, and the going was tedious. He also had a rather strong hangover.

"Simon, if it's too tight, I can't breathe!" Jayne objected.

"I can loosen it, once it's tied," Simon assured him. Goldie snorted.

"Calm down, kid. Doc's too afraid of his sister, and Kaylee, to do anything to stop this shindig."

"I am not afraid of them," Simon said with all the dignity he could muster. "I am merely cautious of stirring up an argument." Goldie snorted again, and Jayne chuckled.

"Might as well admit it, Doc," the big man smiled. "We're all scared of them." The three men all shared a laugh. Simon finished the tie, and slapped Jayne lightly on the shoulder.

"All set!"

"Thanks, Simon," Jayne rumbled. "I. . .I know this ain't. . ."

"Jayne, it's okay," Simon smiled. "She loves you. You make her feel loved, and safe, and special. How can I ask for anything more?"

"Thanks, Simon," Jayne said again. "That means a lot."

"You guys are killin' me," Goldie piped in. "This is supposed to be a momentous, happy occasion. Stop bringing it down!"

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"Nervous, mei mei?" Inara asked, as she lightly made-up River's face.

"Not at all," River lied smoothly.

"Me neither," Kaylee grinned. "I love this dress!"

"They are nice," Zoe agreed, smoothing her bridesmaid dress out.

"I wanted things to be perfect," River said softly, "and thanks to you, all of you, they are."

"We love you, sweetie," Kaylee beamed. "You know that."

"Yes," River nodded. "We all have love for one another. One big, happy family."

"Dysfunctional family," Zoe snorted. "Did you three give them a fit for. . ."

"I did!" Kaylee groused. "Of all the juvenile, thoughtless. . ."

"Boys will be boys," River smiled, and Inara snorted delicately at that.

"For as long as they live," she dead panned, and the women erupted into a fit of laughing and giggles.

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Everyone sat up, and the talking died down as Jayne made his way to the podium. Mal was already in place. Once they were set, Inara, watching from the passage way, started the music, and the bridal march wound softly but clearly through the ship.

First came Goldie and Zoe. Though Zoe was not the maid of honor, she was coming down the aisle with Goldie, so that the two could walk together.

"That's a nice dress," Goldie whispered, eyeing Zoe appreciatively.

"You clean up pretty good, yourself," Zoe smiled. The two walked slowly, and took their places. Next came Inara, on the arm of George Harwell, who had agreed to stand in as an usher.

Finally came Kaylee, the maid of honor, on Simon's arm. Simon was doing double duty today, as he would also walk River down the aisle.

The men were all adorned in tuxedos, while the women wore identical peach gowns, trimmed in a blush hue. Everyone looked great.

Finally, the big moment had come, and the crowd turned to see River standing in the passage way, dressed in a stunning white beaded gown, complete with veil. Simon looked at her, his eyes watery.

"Mei mei," he whispered huskily, "you are so beautiful!"

"Thank you, Simon," River replied, her face heating. She took his offered arm, and started slowly down the aisle.

As she walked with her brother, her eyes were on the man she was soon to marry. Jayne stood, open mouthed, looking at her. She fought the urge to giggle, and reflected on the winding path that had led them to this spot.

It had been a long trip, for both of them. Things hadn't always seemed to be working out, but somehow they always had. She knew that fate had placed them together, had put them where they stood today.

She loved this man, more than she'd ever imagined could be possible. And she knew, knew with certainty, that he loved her the same way.

They reached the podium, and Simon placed River's hand into Jayne's, taking his place alongside Goldie. Jayne took her hand gently, willing himself to be calm. They looked at each other, and then turned to Mal.

"Friends and family," Mal began. . .

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The reception was a good time, with everyone lending a hand setting up tables and breaking out food. As people ventured back and forth wishing lifelong happiness on the happy couple, Harwell eased up beside Mal.

"That's a handsome black eye young Tam's sporting," he smirked. "And you look very fetching, yourself, with that lovely weave."

"Thanks," Mal snorted drily. "It's a long story."

"I'm sure it is," Harwell nodded. "I assume that you'll be starting your new job in earnest tomorrow?"

"Bright and early," Mal nodded. "Need to ease into it some, I guess, get to know the men working there." Harwell frowned, and Mal looked at him.

"What?"

"Mal, several of the deputies Grippen had hired over the last six, seven years, quit today."

"Several? How many is several? In your math, I mean."

"Six," Harwell told him sadly. "I don't know if it's fear of a new boss, or sympathy for Miller. He was one of the six," Harwell added.

"Well," Mal sighed. "I guess I won't have so much gettin' to know to do, then."

"What will you do?" Mal looked at him and grinned.

"Know any men, or women, interested in a career in law enforcement? Honest, dependable, trustworthy? Good shots," he added with a smirk.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Harwell surprised him. "Young Greggs, your new hand? He has two older brothers. Both work in the logging industry. Good strong lads, and both with schooling."

"If they're anything at all like Liam, tell them to come see me tomorrow," Mal said at once. "That boy would fight a power saw." Harwell laughed.

"Well, he had to be that way to survive his brothers. He's the runt."

"I'll take them," Mal said at once. "I might have a word with Mister Bickford as well. See does he know anyone."

"Let me," Harwell advised. "I'll speak to all the commissioners who supported us. Ask each one to recommend one good man or woman. It's a good political move."

"Alright," Mal agreed. "I'll let you handle it. Just make sure they understand the need we're in. Things are going to be rough."

"I know," Harwell said sadly. "I know."

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"Young man," Braz Guilford said to Jayne, offering his hand. "And you, young lady," he added, with a brief hug and fatherly peck to the cheek. "I am very happy for the two of you. You've done a great deal for me, for my family. I'm not one to forget that kind of thing, either." He reached into his coat, producing a folded paper.

"This is the deed to a small ranch, five hundred acres or so, just two miles from the plant. It's off the beaten path, not even on the main roads. And there's a starter herd there, twenty head, or so. Perfect place for a young couple to have a home, and good place to retire, too." He held the paper out to them.

"My wedding present to you. Enjoy."

Jayne stared at the paper, then shifted his eyes to Guilford. Never had anyone done anything like this for him, save once. And that had been posthumous.

"Sir, I don't. . ."

"Don't say you can't," Braz warned.

"We accept, Mister Guilford," River managed to squeak out, taking the paper in her small hands. "Thank you." She hugged the old man tightly, kissing him on his cheek.

"Here now," he chided, seeing her tears. "That's no way to thank an old man, tearing up like that. I want you to have it, make a home of it. It was the first place I ever owned," he added, smiling. "It deserves the attention the two of you will give it. Made me the man I am today."

"We'll take good care of it, sir," a stunned Jayne finally managed. "I don't know how to thank. . ."

"Tut, tut," Guilford said, raising his hand. "I know what you've done, young man. And while it wasn't for me," he winked at River, who blushed, "it was to my benefit. This is my way of thanking you. May the two of you have many years of happiness there." He hugged each of them.

"Now, I need to circulate a bit. Been out of things for a spell." The old man hobbled away on his cane, River and Jayne watching him go.

"A home of our own," Jayne breathed. He looked down at River.

"I meant for us to have a place, anyway," he told her. "But this. . ."

"I know," she nodded. "It's a dream come true." She hugged him, standing on her toes to kiss him.

"We'll have to start the minute we get back," he told her, smiling. "If we want to be ready by winter."

"We'll make it."

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River stood on the catwalk and tossed her bouquet over the rail. It sailed through the air, and landed right in Inara's hands.

"Well, that looks prophetic," Simon murmured, as Inara's face turned three different shades of red. Kaylee twittered.

"Congratulations, Inara," Goldie smirked, and Mal shot him a dirty look.

"What?" Goldie asked, face the picture of innocence as Zoe drug him away.

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"Be safe, you two," Mal said, as Jayne and River stood at the shuttle hatch.

"Enjoy yourselves," Inara added with a knowing smile that made River blush again, and even Jayne looked a bit red faced.

"Get going," Mal ordered, and dogged the hatch behind them. He took Inara's hand, and the two walked to the bridge to watch the shuttle depart. Then Inara started the landing sequence to put the ship and their guests back on the ground.

All in all, it had been a good day.

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Late that night, Jayne and River lay asleep, entwined with each other. Suddenly Jayne was awake, sitting bolt upright in the bed before he even realized why.

River was huddled in the middle of the bed, crying, shaking. He wrapped his arms around her, and she fell into him, sobbing.

"Oh, Sean," she cried. "Fire, everywhere. Everywhere I look. And blood. So much blood."

"Was it a dream? River?" he asked. "Or did you. . ." River shook her head, not looking up.

"No, not a dream," she whispered. "Not even a nightmare. Coming. On it's way. Inferno. Fire and blood, Sean. Everywhere. Everyone. Fire and blood. An inferno that engulfs the world."

"Was it Argo? Astra?" Jayne asked, trying to get her to focus on something besides the images in her mind.

"No," her whisper was almost too low to hear. "But it will affect us all. It will call us to it, Sean, and we will have no choice but to go."

Jayne rocked her gently, long into the early morning, but his new bride would not be comforted.

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Okay, wondering why I did the chapters like I did. Well, it's like this. I'm superstitious. I mean really bad. So when it looked like I was gonna have thirteen chapters if I divided a very long chapter 6, I decided to call the new one 6A, so that technically I wouldn't have thirteen.

Which was a good plan. Right up until chapter twelve went so long that I had to divide it. Then I was back to thirteen again. Dang it.

So now there's a twelve A. Smart huh? Also confusing as all get out. Sorry about that. Shouldn't happen again. Hope you enjoyed this little installment in the Shade 'Verse. New story for Shade and Company coming soon, entitled, oddly enough, Inferno.

Till then, I will prob be doing a sequel to Last Spartan, and working on an all new fic, called Archangel. Until then, Happy Holidays, and thanks so much for reading!