A/N: It's been a while since I wrote a Firefly fic, but I realised it was a fandom that I never covered in my 'Christmas Miracle' series, so here it is. I hope I still have the skills required to write these characters convincingly...

Disclaimer: All recognisable characters from Firefly belong to Joss Whedon and other folks who aren't me. Any new characters belong to me.

A Firefly Christmas Miracle

It was supposed to be a good time, all family and fun. Little Kaylee had started in on the idea of having an old-fashioned Earth-That-Was Christmas a while back and Mal hadn't the want to fight her on it, so it seemed. Jayne could well understand that. All in all, they been through their fair share of rough times of late, 'twas probably about time they had something to celebrate.

Seemed Kaylee herself had plans to make the most of the mistletoe now her fancy doctor was so willin' and Zoe's little one was just about old enough to have idea what was going on these days. Even Mal and Inara seemed set on having a real good time of it together, whispering about gifts and such. Jayne didn't have no problem with it. Figured maybe somebody would think to get him something decent for the big day and there was talk of the best eats they could manage to gather for the meal and all. Christmas wasn't the same out in the black, but he had the beliefs that his Ma instilled in him, so why not celebrate if'n the rest wanted to?

Of course, a few days before the event itself, things started to go kinda sideways. It had started with the little Moonbrain. She was a lot more settled and just this side of normal ever since Miranda. Far as Jayne understood it, now she knew what all them pictures and riddles in her head was about, she handled 'em better, didn't get so bughouse crazy over the darndest things. She could fight too, shoot and punch her way outta trouble almost as well as Jayne could, better maybe, but he wouldn't ever tell her that. 'Course nobody was better at knowing when trouble was coming their way than lil' River, and come it did.

Old enemies were always a problem out in the black, not that the crew of Serenity didn't make plenty o' new ones too, but still. This time they were set to be all kinds of outnumbered if the hwun dahns caught up to them, and no amount of River's math nor the Cap'n's planning seemed fit to get them clear of danger.

"Going to get bad," said River, staring across the cargo bay at nothing Jayne could see.

"Always does," he remarked, strapping on another weapon. "Ain't no reason to fret. Seems to me, we do what needs to be done, then get us back here in time for some of that home cookin' Kaylee's been plannin' for gorram ever," he said, one side of his mouth quirked in a smile.

River fixed her eyes on him and smiled back, but not for long. She was more shook up about this fight than any other, which gave Jayne an uncomfortableness. Still, that didn't mean they couldn't come out alright in the end.

"Would be sad if he didn't get his gift from her," she said then, looking up at him from under her lashes.

As she approached, Jayne backed up a step. "You just quit while you're ahead, girly," he warned her. "This ain't no time for your games."

The worst of it was, Jayne was startin' to believe maybe she wasn't playing. River had certainly moved from girl to woman in the past year or two and he woulda had to be a fool not to notice, but when she fluttered her eyelids and made what sounded like suggestions to him, he knew better than to take her serious. Best case scenario, Mal'd space him for daring. Worst case, River herself would end up killing him in his sleep after the event. Far as Jayne was concerned, she was playing him to get him into trouble. Dumb as he may be, he wasn't that dumb.

"Get your gear together," he told her gruffly. "Cap'n'll want us ready when the time comes."

River nodded her agreement and when that time came, they were as ready as they could be. Even Zoe saddled up and played her part in the fight, knowing it'd take all the fire power they had aboard. Her and Mal alongside Jayne and River made a sight to behold, a force most wouldn't dare take on, but it wasn't enough and they knew it. Didn't mean they were going down without a fight though, and what a gorram fight it was.

When Mal went down hurt, Zoe fought hell and high-water to get him out safe. Jayne had no doubts that since she lost her husband, she was more set than ever on leaving no man behind. It was Jayne himself that told her to get gone, carryin' the Captain on her back as she ran, leaving Jayne and River to cover her and then make their own escape. 'Course, life just wasn't kind enough to let it be that simple.

Back to back, Jayne and River fought, firing off shots at just about anything that moved, swinging fists and feet at those that got close enough for that kind of fight. They seemed to be doin' okay, making their way over to the door that meant they was home free. Unfortunately, just when Jayne thought they were gonna make it, River got that look in her eyes that never led to anything good.

"What now?" he asked, back against the wall, breath coming in gasps after the force of running and the thrill of a good fight.

"Reinforcements," she told him, eyes darting to the left and then up. "Many more. Too many," she said with real certainty as she looked to Jayne.

He never once saw the crazy little woman defeated. She always had a way out, even when it seemed like the odds were stacked against 'em. Jayne never would understand exactly how her math always got 'em out of a tight spot, but it did, 'til now.

"C'mon now, girly. You can get us a way outta here."

She shook her head, so slightly he almost missed it, and then she was closer still, her hand behind his head as she stood on ballet pointes and kissed him good and hard on the lips. It was over before it'd hardly begun and Jayne hated knowin' just exactly what it meant. This was goodbye, prob'ly for the both of them.

As River suddenly spun away from him, runnin' back towards trouble, Jayne shook his head then took off after her. He sure as hell wasn't goin' down without a gorram fight.

There were bells ringing somewhere, not alarms nor nothin', prettier than that, real pretty. Jayne knew better than to think, when he made it past the end of times, he would land up any place good, anywhere with pearly gates, folks with wings at their backs, and such. That's why he thought it was awful strange to hear those bells, to hear childish laughter and girlish voices in the distance.

"Welcome back to the world, Jayne."

That voice he knew for sure, his eyes popping open to see Simon on one side of him and 'Nara on the other. At the foot of the bed was Kaylee, carrying Zoe's little one, and everyone was smiling.

"What...?" he began to ask, but the rest got lost when his head spun somethin' terrible the second he dared to move.

"It's probably best you stay still for now," the doctor advised, his hand on Jayne's shoulder. "Your body's been through a lot."

"But you made it," said Kaylee happily. "Just in time for Christmas. Kind of a miracle, actually, wouldn't you say, little one?" she asked Emma who giggled in her arms.

"A miracle?" Jayne echoed, his eyes flutterin' closed as he thought on it.

He didn't recall much. The fight, being outnumbered, Zoe escaping with Mal, and then... The memory of River's lips on his, the feel of her that close, it was burned into his mind for all time.

"Where is she?" he asked Simon then, eyes wide and brow furrowed. "She make it out?"

"She? You mean River?"

"Who else do I ruttin' mean, doc?" he growled. "She make it or not?" he asked again, angrier and more forceful than before.

Simon stepped back out of the way so that Jayne could see the little woman for himself, lying in the next bed over, sleeping sound enough. All the air went out of Jayne as he looked at her, silent, still, beautiful, and with no part of her missing from what he could tell, nor even too badly tore up. He heard the doc say something about Mal and Zoe being in their own rooms, recovering yet, but Jayne only had eyes for River right now.

"What you did was... quite incredible," said Inara then. "As River tells it herself, you proved to be quite the hero, Jayne. You saved her life."

"I did?" he checked, frowning harder still as he stared at River lying there beside him.

"I'm not surprised you don't remember," Simon admitted. "That was quite a bump on your head when you got back, plus the shock of everything. The memories may come back in time, or not, it's hard to say," he explained, "but either way, I want to thank you, Jayne," he said then, his hand back on the merc's shoulder, getting his attention at last. "I know we haven't always seen eye-to-eye, far from it in fact, especially where River is concerned, but... well, you brought her home to me, to us," he said, smiling at Kaylee who grinned back. "It truly was a Christmas miracle and I could not be more grateful."

"Uh-huh." Jayne nodded dumbly, feeling more than a little lost still.

It was almost a relief when he felt the darkness creeping up on him again,the world goin' away a while longer.

"There he is."

The next time Jayne saw light, the med bay was empty, save for himself and River. When he looked, he found her sat up in her own bed this time, watchin' him with smiling eyes.

"How long was I out?" he asked, unsure himself whether he meant this last time or all together.

"It's still the day of Christmas celebrations," River confirmed. "They missed most of the fun," she said, sighing then, eyes trained on the doorway - Jayne suspected she was listenin' into what was goin' on in the galley or some such. "Doesn't matter. They live to play another day," she said then, looking back at Jayne. "Feeling better?"

"Not so sure I know anymore." Jayne squirmed under her gaze, recalling all too clear the last moment he was with her, at least, the last one he recalled anyhow. "That fight..."

"Not worth remembering." River waved it away with one hand, her whole body shuddering, he guessed at the memory itself. "Just know that he was her saviour. Picked me up, pulled me out," she said, meeting his eyes. "Risked his own life for another. A true hero."

She talked more like a normal person these days, but still tended toward riddles and such that tied Jayne in knots. This was plain enough though. This was her tellin' him just what the others had, that he saved her life somehow, that he was some kind of real hero. Jayne wished he gorram remembered, but he didn't, not one bit. All he knew was that kiss that seemed so much like goodbye, and now here they was, at what felt like a strange kinda start more than an end.

"I, uh... I never bought you nothin' for this whole Christmas thing," he said, shaking his head as much as he dare.

River smiled so wide her face looked fit to split in two as she slid off the bed and moved over to his own. Leaning over, her long curtain of hair brushed against Jayne's chest as she levelled up her face with his, her hand reaching out to his cheek.

"Already have the greatest gift, right here," she said, head tilting as she looked at him.

"Mighta saved your ass, girly, but don't you go thinkin' that means I give a hump about ya," he said, smirking terribly. "I ain't the type for it."

Since he knew she could read the thoughts right outa his head, and prob'ly was right there and then, Jayne was sure enough she saw through his bad joke and stupid lie. When she bent to kiss him, he knew he was right, and hell, if it wasn't gonna to be a real nice Christmas aboard Serenity yet.

The End

A/N2: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings as is appropriate to you and yours :)