TITLE: Boppa
AUTHOR: Mnemosyne

Disclaimer: Not mine! Hannah, Megan and Sebastian belong to Katy Maree. Amy Beth is mine.
SUMMARY: Loose sequel to "Family Time." 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the ship, just one creature was stirring, and guess who's her kin? Rayne Christmas family!fic!
RATING: PG-13
SPOILERS: None! Happy fluffy futureverse
CHARACTERS: Jayne-centric, with Rayne-implied and lots of little Cobbs. :D
SPECIAL NOTE: This story falls somewhere between "Family Time" and Katy's "Gender Issues." (www. livejournal. com/community/rayneshippers/161701. h t m l)
NOTES:
I just couldn't resist a bit of Rayne family fun in celebration of Christmas. They're just too cute for words! I hope Katy doesn't mind me stealing her characters for the other Cobb children; I just desperately wanted to fit Amy Beth into this story, and it was the only way! hugs for Katy They're adorable, dahling:) Please don't be mad!


"Boppa?"

Jayne grunted, unwilling to wake up. "What?" he grumbled, crossing his arm over his eyes and settling back against the pillows. "Go back t'bed, sweet girl."

A small hand tugged on his thumb. "Boppa." The voice was more insistent this time. Only one little girl on this ship called him "Boppa". The same little girl who, at one-year old, had heard her older sister call him "Poppa" and hadn't been able to figure out how to pronounce that first P.

Groaning softly, Jayne dragged the arm down from his eyes and squinted through the dim half-light at his daughter. "Hannah doll, whatchoo doin' outta bed?" he mumbled. "Don'tchoo know Santa ain't gonna come iffen you ain't sleepin'?" He was glad Simon was safely tucked away with Kaylee and Sebastian, far away from the Cobb quarters, because his uppity brother-in-law would have a field day hearing him talk shop about Santa with an almost-but-not-quite-three-year old.

Jayne knew he'd said something wrong when the little girl's eyes flooded with tears and she stuffed the paw of her favorite plush puppy in her mouth and started sucking.

Sighing, Jayne hoisted himself into a sitting position against the headboard, careful to wake neither River, who was fast asleep beside him, nor Megan, who was whiffling softly in her crib at the foot of their bunk. River had been up way later than necessary, finishing her last minute wrapping and helping Kaylee get everything arranged neatly under the tree in the common room. Jayne had told her she should've done it all sooner, but she hadn't listened and now she was zonked out, exhausted. Megan had been asleep for hours, and Jayne for about half that, by the time River'd crawled into bed around one in the morning. A quick glance at the clock told him it was now just after three.

Gorrammit, why couldn't little girls run on the same timetable as everyone else?

"Now why you cryin', Hannah Lynn?" he asked softly, reaching over the side of the bed to lift the little girl into his lap. If she'd been Amy Beth, she'd have just crawled up into his lap without waiting for help; but Hannah was quieter than her tomboyish older sister. Quieter and more sensitive; hence the tears.

He smoothed her soft brown hair as she snuggled up against his chest. "Ain't you happy 'sgonna be Christmas in the morning? All them shiny gifts for you and your sisters and cousin Sebastian. And pounds and pounds of sugar." He smacked his lips. "Mm-mmm, good. Don't that sound good?"

Hannah turned her head so she could gaze up at him with wet brown eyes, still listlessly sucking on the paw of Stuffers the Puppy.

"Hey now, no cryin' eyes, dong ma?" He gave her a soft smile and ran a thumb over her cheek to wipe away some of her tears. She was just a little thing; smart as a whip, but tiny. His big paw looked massive near her baby face.

Hannah didn't seem to mind, leaning into his palm and sniffling, all big eyes and tears. "You jus' tell Boppa what's wrong and he'll make it all better, yeah?" he soothed. "You got monsters under your bed again? Need me to whollop 'em?" She'd gone through a period there where she was convinced a four-eyed monster with poison-tipped fangs and warty, green, slimy skin was living under her bed. It had been all he and River could do to get her into bed at night. As it was, she wouldn't fall asleep unless she could crawl up in bed next to Amy Beth and hug her sister as they slept. Amy Beth didn't mind; she liked to pretend she was a dragonslayer, protecting her sister from the evil wiles of a hideous scaly beast. She'd been quite disappointed when Hannah had gotten over the irrational fear and had started sleeping in her own bed again.

When Hannah shook her head fiercely and buried her face in his chest, he figured it must be something else. "You have a bad dream?" he asked, rubbing her back, mentally running down the litany of fears he'd encountered over five years and three children. He figured little Megan was lucky – anything he was liable to come across he'd already gone through with her two older sisters, so he was ready for everything. River always giggled and called him silly when he said that, and he couldn't begin to understand why. Made perfect sense to him.

Hannah shook her head. Nope, not a bad dream then. "Want a drink of water?"

Shake head.

"Story?"

Shake.

"Hannah girl, you're gonna have to tell me what's up, cuz I ain't a Reader like your ma."

With a miserable little phwup!, she tugged Stuffers' paw from her mouth and said, "Sanna."

Jayne frowned down at her. "What?"

"Sanna."

"You mean Santa?" She nodded, whimpering. "Why're you cryin' over Santa, pumpkin pie?"

The tears, which had been slow and quiet up to now, suddenly turned into a flood, and Jayne found himself holding an armful of sobbing little girl. "Sanna can't BWEATHE in space!" she wailed. For a toddler, Hannah had an impressive vocabulary; she was River's daughter all right.

But she had a set of lungs on her like a Cobb.

Jayne winced, glancing over at River and seeing his wife shift in her sleep. "Hey hey, Hannah, darlin'," he soothed, stroking the little girl's hair as she sobbed into his chest. "That what's got you all worked up? Cuz we ain't planetside for Christmas like usual? You're worried 'bout Santa?"

Another soft wail.

Jayne wanted to laugh, because really, it was that funny. But this was his Hannah girl, and she was such a tenderhearted little thing; she didn't even like him killing spiders for her. She'd scream and hide in her Auntie Kaylee's arms, then proceed to tell her daddy, "No, no, don't kill it, Boppa! Pu' it ou'side!" When they were out in space like this, she'd even ask him to keep it in a jar till they touched down somewhere. Course, not a jar she had to look at, 'cause spiders were icky.

"Sugarplum, you don't gotta worry 'bout Santa, dong ma?" he assured her. "He's been deliverin' out here in the black fer damn- darn near always, all right?"

"Bu.. Bu... No air!"

"Don't need it."

Hannah pulled back enough that she could look up at him with a puzzled, teary expression. "Needs to bweathe," she told him firmly.

Jayne nodded, all seriousness. "I know he does, baby child, but Santa's no dummy. He's got himself a souped up special EVA suit, all invisible, so's he can breathe 'tween moons."

Hannah sniffled as she considered him, obviously mulling this over. "Weindeer?" she asked speculatively.

Jayne was ready for this. "Yep, got 'em for the reindeer too."

"Even Wudolph?"

"Specially Rudolph. Gotta keep his blinker blinkering, right? Else how's the big fella going to see out there in the black?"

Hannah nodded, because of course it was very important for Santa to see as he flew along. "You sure, Boppa?" she asked, cuddling Stuffers up under her chin.

Jayne gave her his most authoritative nod. "Yep. Your momma told me." He knew this would work; River was the smartest person in the 'verse in their daughters' eyes. Hell, she was the smartest person in the 'verse in his eyes, too.

Hannah giggled and hugged Stuffers. "Yay!"

Jayne grinned. "Better now?" he asked. "No more tears?"

She shook her head happily as he ruffled her hair. "Nope."

"All right then. You head on back to bed now, and don't go wakin' your sister. You wants I should walk you?"

Hannah nodded, holding up her arms, Stuffers dangling from one tiny hand.

"Up we go," Jayne grunted, hoisting her up in his arms as he climbed out of bed. He wanted to whimper as he left the cozy blankets behind and his bare feet made contact with the cold floor. If it weren't so gorram unmanly he'd have minced his way back to the girls' room. As it was, he squared his shoulders and carried her out of the passenger dorm he occupied with River and little Megan and walked her the brief distance to the room she shared with Amy. Fears assuaged, she was already beginning to doze off on his shoulder as he carefully slid open the door to the passenger cabin and tiptoed inside, mindful not to wake Amy Beth.

He should have known it wouldn't matter, of course. This was Amy Beth, after all. Some people slept like a log, but Amy didn't even sleep like a small, frail twig.

"POPPA!" Jayne couldn't see down past Hannah's silky brown curls, but the exclamation was punctuated by a warm pair of arms wrapping around his legs. "Poppa, poppa, Santa was here! Santa was here!"

"Good for him," Jayne grunted, feebly trying to shake her off as he peered carefully around Hannah's dozing body to see Amy Beth grinning up at him with bright blue eyes and chocolate all around her mouth. "I see you ain't wasted no time gettin' into the gifts he left you, huh?" He silently cursed the candy industry to the seventh ring of hell.

Amy laughed giddily, spinning away from his legs in a perfect ballerina twirl. "Hannah!" she enthused, bouncing from foot to foot. "Hannah banana, lookee! Santa brought us gifts!"

"Amy, darlin', your sister's sleep-"

"Gif's?"

Jayne closed his eyes and hung his head as Hannah raised her cheek from his shoulder, voice a little slurred with sleep but otherwise awake.

"Gifts! They're all under the tree, and they're bright and shiny and red and green and blue and one's got GUNS all over it!" That'd be the one he wrapped himself to give to River. "Come on, let's go get Bastian!"

"Now Amy girl-" Jayne started to argue, but was cut off as Hannah squirmed out of his arms and plopped onto her bottom on the floor at his feet.

Giggling wildly, she popped up immediately, clapping her pudgy hands, Stuffers flopping wildly. "Boppa, 'stwue! 'stwue! Sanna can bweathe in space!"

Jayne sighed as his two little girls went streaking past him, tiny feet pattering on the bare floor. Really, he should stop them. He knew that. The rest of the crew was going to have his head on a platter for letting the pair of them run wild at three in the morning, and that wasn't even counting what River was going to do to him when she got shaken awake after barely two hours of sleep. But he was too tired and too old in the bones to go running after them like some spring chicken.

He heard them hammering on the door to Simon and Kaylee's bunk, and took some small comfort from the fact that he wasn't the only daddy who was going to have to deal with rambunctious progeny today. Maybe, if he was lucky, Santa had brought little Sebastian one of those rolling ball popper toys that looked like a vacuum cleaner. Then the little boy could spend hours and hours rolling it around the floor of the infirmary, helping his daddy stay tidy. Hours and hours and hours of clever, noisy fun.

Jayne grinned, stretched, and scratched the back of his head. Lucky for Santa, Jayne had thought ahead and bought one the last time they were near the Core. It was just what the doctor ordered, really. And honestly, it was the least Jayne could do to pay his brother-in-law back for giving Amy Beth that cute as a button red monster doll last year, the one that laughed when it got tickled. Amy loved that thing. Took it everywhere.

Every-gorram-where.

Around him, the ship was waking up. He could hear Amy, Hannah and Sebastian giggling about their gifts in the common room, Kaylee trying to shush them, Wash making a joke about two reindeer walking into a bar, and Mal roaring for everyone on the ship to shut the hell up, cause sane folk were trying to sleep.

Ah, Christmas. Best gorram day of the year.

THE END