A.N. Several times in the Namesake series, I make reference to Jamie breaking his collar bone while jumping on the bed. This little ficlet wrote itself.
Relevant back story: Little Zoe (age 11) is the daughter of Zoe who died at the beginning of the Namesake series and was adopted by Mal. Mal and Inara have two other children: Cole (5) and Michael (3). Simon and Kaylee have 4-year-old twins named Genny and Jamie.
Jayne loved waking up the kids in the morning. Most of the others complained about having to fight the kids into their morning clothes and getting them to brush their teeth. It wasn't some sick, twisted pleasure he got from getting them to comply, but rather those cute puppy eyes, the creative, ridiculous complaints, and the bright morning hugs. Those kids were hilarious and also, if they gave Jayne too much trouble, he could just send them to their parents. He had the prime role as the favored uncle on Serenity. Given the choice, he'd have never signed onto a ship with kids, but now, he didn't ever want to leave.
He stopped by Little Zoe's room first. She was the eldest, and if he didn't say hi to her first, there'd be too much chaos to see her at all. He always figured that she'd stay his favorite, but the more he got to know the other kids, the more he realized he was capable of having equally strong, equally powerful, equally loving, but completely unique relationships with all of them.
He knocked softly on Little Zoe's door. She was eleven now, and it didn't feel right just letting himself in. He heard the shuffling inside the room and a few minutes later, Zoe slid the door open, wrapped in a fuzzy pink robe and those bright red slippers that she never took off. She smiled softly at him, then raised on her tiptoes to give him a hug.
"Michael's in here," she said, yawning and twirling one of her braids around her finger. Michael was her three-year-old little brother and he was prone to crawling into bed with anybody willing to cuddle him.
"Is he sick?" Jayne asked.
"Don't think so."
"You know you're supposed to put him back in his own bed when he does that," Jayne said.
"He's getting stealthy," Zoe replied. "I didn't even know he'd come in 'til I woke up just now."
Jayne shook his head, but let it drop. Little Zoe was just as likely covering for her brother as she was telling the truth, and it was getting harder and harder to tell when she was lying.
Michael was curled up on the pillow, holding onto one of Zoe's stuffed dinosaurs. He was awake, but hadn't made a peep, which wasn't entirely unusual. Jayne plopped on the bed hard enough to shake the mattress and Michael smiled and snickered silently. Reaching over to tickle Michael's belly, he managed to get a little squeak out of the boy. Michael held Jayne's hand over his head and wriggled to free himself. He was pretty spry and could weasel himself out of anything. He only ever got caught if he wanted to.
"Tickle monster," Michael whispered with a giggle and Jayne tickled him again, then scooped him up in one arm and set him on his hip.
"Let's let Little Zoe get dressed," he said to Michael, and headed for the door.
"Kiss!" Michael said, reaching out for Zoe.
Little Zoe pinched Michael's face and planted a giant raspberry on his cheek. Then she jumped up on Jayne's arm and kissed his cheek as well. There wasn't much downside to waking up the kids.
Michael was pretty easy to dress compared to the others. He always seemed to know exactly which t-shirt he wanted to wear on any given day. He'd picked all his clothes out himself. There were no hand-me-down, seeing as Michael's five-year-old brother wore all his clothes to dust. Jayne had never met a boy more destructive with clothing than Cole. The only thing hard about Michael was keeping shoes on his feet. When River went barefoot, Michael wanted to be barefoot. Anytime they left a planet, they did a shoe count.
The other good thing about waking up the kids was it was the best time to hear Michael talking. That kid could spin a yarn, but as soon as they went upstairs for breakfast, he'd go mute for the day. Occasionally, he'd use a hand-sign, but they were trying to force him to use his voice. The next few minutes, Jayne wouldn't have to force anything. Michael was on a roll.
"We took a trip to Persee-see, but the gravity was broken," Michael rambled. Persee-see was how he said 'Persephone.' Serenity was headed there now. "No one could find their feet, and we went all to the sides and the tops and the bottoms. And we were flying through the ship. I had a cape, but I took it off so it wouldn't get caught in the engine. Aunt Kaylee worried my cape would get caught in the engine. It was a good cape. It was red. Red cape. Then gravity came back."
Michael's eyes twitched and he looked at his hands, falling silent. It was a weird way for him to end a story. Jayne tied his shoes and then sat back on his heels, waiting to see if Michael would kick them off, but he just stood there with a hand on Jayne's shoulder, keeping balance.
"Why didn't you sleep in your own bed last night?" Jayne asked him.
Michael looked away from him, then walked across the room and picked up one of his trucks and ran the wheels up the wall. "Gravity broke."
It was always better to leave Michael playing than to carry him around while getting the other kids ready. Genny and Cole were a handful and going in with two empty hands was the best strategy. He went to Jamie's room first. Jamie was quick, quiet, and always compliant. The first thing he wanted in any morning was to give his mom and dad a hug, and he'd do anything to see them faster. On the flip side, Simon and Kaylee had the hardest time getting him dressed in the morning because once he saw them he was content to stay in his pajamas. Jayne had learned that the only way to get a smile out of Jamie in the morning was to say 'Let's go see your folks.'
Jamie wasn't in his bed, nor was his mattress. It wasn't altogether surprising. Cole, Genny, and Jamie had taken a recent interest in building mattress forts and it was always a toss-up where they'd be found the next morning. Captain had made a rule that all forts must be built in one of their three rooms, which helped considerably. Cole's room was also empty and missing a mattress, which left Genny's. Jayne tapped on the door and let himself in.
The bed frame was tipped on its side, creating a wall around the two leaning mattresses. Sheets were draped and taped to the mattresses with purple masking tape just under four feet high - as high as Cole could reach. They'd gotten in trouble for sneaking about at night and taking tape from the storage locker, so Kaylee had gotten Genny her own roll of tape. No one wanted to stifle their creativity. The three of them had used the tape to spell out their names on the sheet. Jayne could hear them whispering inside.
Poking his head over the top of the sheet, he looked down at them and said "Boo!"
Genny screeched and Cole covered his face. They'd been sitting cross-legged on the floor. Jamie lay by the wall, flat on his back, with a pillow under his head and a sheet pulled up to his shoulders. His face was red and puffy like he'd spent the night crying and Jayne's whole demeanor changed.
"Jamie, you alright?" he asked, already tearing back the sheets and moving the bed frame.
Genny stood protectively between Jayne and her twin. "He's fine. We're fine. We can get ourselves ready."
Both Genny and Cole looked guilty as sin. Jayne knocked the two mattresses aside, effectively dismantling their fort, so he could get a closer looks at Jamie. The boy's face was flush and his eyes were full of tears.
"Feeling sick?" Jayne asked tenderly, pressing the backs of his fingers against Jamie's cheek.
Jamie shook his head. When Jayne touched his shoulder, he cried out in pain. The boy was hurt.
"Genny, call your daddy," Jayne said. Genny bit her lip and bounced on her feet nervously, so Jayne warned again. "Genny."
"No," she whimpered. "He's fine ... Jamie."
Jamie rolled onto his knees suddenly and tried to scoot away. Jayne caught him gently around the waist, and Jamie let loose an ear-splitting scream.
"Shh," Jayne soothed, pressing Jamie's face against his shoulder. "Hold still and I'll get you to your daddy. Where are you hurt?"
"Everywhere," Jamie wept, pumping his knees to get away, then crying out. Jayne worried he'd hurt his spine or his neck and he didn't want the kid paralyzing himself.
"Stay still," Jayne said. He figured it must be the kid's shoulder or maybe a rib by the way he was favoring his left side. He took Jamie's elbow and moved it gently next to his torso so that his arm went across. "Does that hurt too much?"
Jamie shook his head.
"Now take the other arm and hold that one in place," Jayne instructed. Jamie did as he was told, and for a moment Jayne just held him, trying to keep his head on straight. He hated finding the kids sick in the morning, and he'd never found one broken.
"Is everything alright?" Zoe asked, dashing into the room. "I heard screaming."
Jayne took a calming breath. It wouldn't help Jamie any if he panicked. "Zoe, take Michael upstairs and send down the Doc."
Zoe looked concerned, but she bit back her questions and did as she was told. Jayne turned his attention back to Jamie.
"I'm gonna lift you up," Jayne said. "I'll carry you to the Infirmary. Daddy's gonna meet us there."
"Uncle Jayne," Genny said mournfully as Jayne lifted Jamie. Genny was strangely terrified of the Infirmary and anything inside.
"Genny stay here. Cole, go back to your room."
"I want to stay with Jamie," Cole said. He was always protective of his little friends.
"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Jayne asked him directly.
Cole looked at Genny and they both shook their heads.
Jayne met Simon on the stairs and he felt Jamie shifting.
"Don't reach out," Jayne whispered, pressing one finger on Jamie's wrist so he wouldn't put too much pressure. Jamie lolled his head and moaned miserably.
"Hey, little man. What happened to you?" Simon said gently, cupping Jamie's chin and kissing his forehead. Jamie relaxed but he didn't volunteer any information.
"He broke something," Jayne said. "Not one of them has a word to say on the matter."
"Did this happen last night or this morning?" Simon asked Jamie, but Jamie didn't answer. Simon kept one hand on Jamie's leg as he led them into the Infirmary. He directed Jayne to set Jamie on the table while he set up the scanner.
Jayne set the boy down and wiped the tears from his eyes, then leaned so close their foreheads were touching.
"You'll be alright, here with your daddy," Jayne told him.
"Yes, thank you," Jamie whispered.
"Wanna tell me what happened?"
Jamie swallowed hard and shook his head. He was clutching his arm and he looked like he might hurl if he were poked too much.
Jamie nodded, and his brow furrowed like he'd been given an important mission. His face scrunched up and he looked like he might confess what happened, but then he said softly, "I love you, Uncle Jayne."
Jayne smiled, smoothed Jamie's hair away from his face, and kissed him softly.
"Love you too."
Genny was sitting in her closet crying when Jayne came back. Jayne didn't bother with words. He scooped her up and swayed gently on his feet, rocking her in his arms.
"I'm sorry" she said between sobs. Jayne started to think he was wrong, leaving her there alone, but he couldn't think of what he might have done better. If he'd made her and Cole come with him and sit on the couches while he tended to Jamie, he was sure Genny would still be crying.
"I forgive you," Jayne told her. Genny had a huge heart, just like her mom, and she took responsibility for any hurt suffered by anyone in her presence. Telling her she wasn't to blame just didn't work. "I still love you to pieces."
She hugged him tight and cried her little tears on his shoulder. Not bothering to get her out of her pajamas, Jayne went next door to Cole's room. Cole was laying down on the bare springs of his bed frame using a shoe for a pillow and hugging his own arm like it was injured. He lifted his head when Jayne entered and swallowed miserably.
"Are you hurt?" Jayne asked Cole. Keeping Genny balanced on one hip, he reached for Cole's wrist and Cole surrendered his arm easily. He was probably just being sympathetic to Jamie's injury, since he'd had a broken arm before and knew what it felt like.
"It's been a scary night, hasn't it?" Jayne asked.
"Your daddy may want to chat about this later, man-to-man."
Cole's little face scrunched up, but Jayne grabbed his elbow before he could roll away.
"It's okay. I'll stay with you the whole time. Come here. Hold on to me," Jayne assured, putting his arm around Cole and lifting the boy onto his other hip. When they were smaller, it was much easier holding two at once, but now their legs were getting long.
Moving carefully so he didn't drop them, Jayne kissed them both on the top of the forehead, and told them, "I got you safe and sound."