River had a new "issue."
Simon smiled as that word popped into his mind.
One night after Miranda, River had come floating into the field medic tent where they had set up recovery cots. She wandered around the whole crew, reciting the muscles, organs, and bones that had been damaged during the fight.
She had had to circle the captain's bed five times before she was done with all his injuries. She finally finished and wandered back out.
Everyone was quiet for a moment, then Jayne said, "That girl has issues."
Simon was about to get angry when he realized that Jayne hadn't said it maliciously, it was simply a fact. Kaylee is cheerful, Mal is noble, River has issues. So, Simon bit back the sarcastic dig he had been about to say and lay back down.
Ever since then, although he never said it aloud, Simon often used the term in his head. Now, in addition to the past "issues," she had gained a new one. She randomly laughed.
True, in her long list of problems, laughter shouldn't rank high, but this wasn't normal laughter. She'd be wandering around the ship or sitting in the mess drawing. He'd even caught her at it while she was flying, which was when he'd begun worrying.
Now, his hand hovered over her door, trying to decide if asking her flat out or quiet observation would be better.
She took the decision away when she called out, "I'm going to bed now, Simon, unless it's an emergency, please wait until tomorrow."
Simon sighed, "Alright, goodnight." But as he was walking away he could hear her quietly giggling to herself. Quiet observation it was then.
Over the next few weeks as he watched, he saw her laugh while doing the dishes, laugh while flying, laugh while lying on the catwalks.
Yet, he never saw her doing anything wrong. The dishes got done well and quickly, she expertly guided the ship through space, pushing buttons and performing scans and other stuff that Simon didn't understand, but pilots did.
She seemed fine. Maybe she was just happy and uncontrollable laughter was what happened when one had no control over one's emotions. And she certainly did seem happy. He didn't want to ruin it with worry and tests, so he let it go. And he got used to it, or at least he got used to not worrying about it.
That all changed when one night he was in the kitchen making dinner. Jayne was sitting at the table with his knives, which meant that Simon was pretending he couldn't see him. But then, out of nowhere, Jayne burst out laughing.
The sound of it surprised Simon as much as the suddenness. Simon had never heard Jayne laugh like this, he was used to his grinning or a low chuckle now and then, but this was throw your head back, full throated laughter coming from Jayne. Weird.
Half way through dinner, River giggled.
Mal sighed, "Now, River, I didn't say anything 'cause the Doc said you probably couldn't control it, but all this giggling is going to drive me round the bend."
Still giggling, River got out, "Sorry Cap'n."
"Aww, lay off 'er, she's just havin' some fun."
Simon turned to Jayne with narrowed eyes. "Why are you defending her? Does this have anything to do with the thing you found so funny before dinner?"
"What'd I find funny?"
"I don't know! That's my point exactly! You're laughing, River's laughing and I don't know why!"
River patted Simon's arm to calm him. "Poor Simon, never could stand being left out."
"What am I being left out of, mei mei?"
River smiled brightly, "Nothing! You just think you are. I don't know the cause of Jayne's laughter, his humor is his own."
"Then why are you laughing?"
"Laughing is better than crying." She said cheerfully.
It didn't make Simon feel better. He couldn't tell by her tone if she meant she felt like crying or if she was simply stating the unrelated fact that laughter is better.
As Simon thought and the others picked at their food, no one saw River and Jayne lock eyes and although they both tried to keep it in, they both burst into laughter at the same time.
"Great, now they're doing it in unison." Mal exclaimed.
River looked only the tiniest bit apologetic, "Sorry, Cap'n, I'll try to keep my giggles confined to my room."
Jayne jumped in, "Hell, I'll laugh when and where I want to. You may control a lot on this boat, but you are not the captain of involuntary expressions of happiness and good humor."
Now they were staring at him again. "What?"
The Captain shifted, "That was um, I don't know . . ."
"Riverish?" Zoe helped her captain.
"Ya, ya, that's it, Riverish. River, you teaching him your language?"
"Teaching is not an appropriate form of data transfer for a brain such as Jayne's. Modeling and repetition is much more effective."
While the rest of the crew tried to figure out if she was insulting Jayne, he meanwhile burst out laughing. River perked up and looked at Jayne, he met her eyes for a moment until she laughed, too.
"What!?" The whole crew asked.
"Jayne brain!" River got out between laughs.
Mal gave her a look, "Did you two smuggle lots of drugs on board . . . and take all of them at once?"
River looked contemplatively at the captain, "I am currently on seven different medications. However, I don't believe that audible mirth is a typical side effect of any of them."
Mal and Simon simultaneously sighed, not being able to tell if River had actually missed the point or if she was deliberately messing with them.
"Aww, come on Simon, Cap'n, they aren't doing any harm, leave 'em alone." Kaylee had never needed a reason to be cheerful and she didn't think they should need one either.
Zoe nodded, "It's kind of nice to hear laughter again, even if the synchronized giggles are a mite disturbing." She even offered a small smile at River and Jayne, who returned it, looking victorious.
Mal and Simon both grumbled, but Inara headed them off, "Really Mal, they're only laughing. I imagine if they were plotting a mutiny, there would be a lot more furtive glances and rubbing of hands with maniacal glee . . . and the rest of us would be in on it."
After that, neither Simon nor Mal could come up with any argument that didn't make them sound like cranky old men, so they let it drop and everyone returned to eating.
Later that evening, River and Jayne were sitting on the couch in the mess, not too close to each other, but not far either.
River, as usual, started the conversation. It was easier for Jayne to pick up a mental call than to send one, even though he was getting better at it.
"So, they all know now."
"Not really, they know we both laugh, not the why of it. 'Sides, it ain't like we were hidin' it, they's just unobservant."
"They think you've gone crazy as well."
"Hell, might be I have. Let you into my head, didn't I?"
River grinned and scooted closer, laying her head on his shoulder, "You don't mind that I'm in there anymore."
Jayne tilted his own head to rest on top of hers, "Nah, not no more. I kinda like it. Who knew you could be so hi-larious."
"You're awfully funny, too. So, if you don't mind me in your head, how about in your . . ."
Jayne sat up straight again and looked down at her upturned face, frowning now. He spoke outloud, "Into my what?"
River reached up a hand to smooth away his frown lines and smiled devilishly, "Bed . . . or pants, I wasn't sure which one would be received more favorably."
Jayne sighed in relief, "I thought you were gonna come up with some, 'in my heart' go se and I'da have had to run outta here quick like." Jayne finally returned River's grin, "Fer the record, either of 'em work good for me." With that, Jayne stood up and swept River up into his arms, walking down the hall to his bunk.
When he put her down to open and go down his bunk's ladder, River looked at the top of his head wistfully. Careful not to broadcast it, she thought, "I'll settle for your bed for now, but I will have your heart. No power in the 'verse can stop me."
AN: Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!! I got nominated for Best of Rayne (three times!!) I'm so excited. My name is sitting there alongside all my favorite writers, which is the weirdest cool thing ever. I love all my readers and my nominators and so I decided to finish up this quick fic that was sitting there going nowhere for a long time as a thank you present. It was apparently going to be longer, since I labeled it "Part 1," but I don't remember what my original idea was, so I fluffed it up (I'm not a fluffer, though) and got it out here. Enjoy!