Characters: post-movie crew
Word count: 610
Summary: Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.
Author's notes: Written for amalie_marjorie who gave me the prompt of 'giggles'. Post-movie fic.
After Wash’s death, the ship seemed very quiet. It wasn’t that Wash made so much noise, it was just that everyone was grieving in his or her own way. Mal didn’t mind the quiet so much, except at meal time. Instead of raucous, joyful occasions, they were sombre and serious. No one seemed to know what the protocol was – if they should go on like normal or take some time to mourn.
Mal knew his crew were coping well enough. Kaylee and Simon had each other and Inara was there if Zoe wanted to talk. She rarely did. Jayne never showed much complex emotion, but he seemed to be punching things a lot more. And River...well, who knew what River was feeling or thinking. Mal preferred to be alone and that’s how he was left.
They were all gathered in the mess, making dinner in the same stoic way that had been the norm lately. Mal set the table and Inara and Kaylee were working on the food. Jayne and Zoe were both cleaning guns at the table, while Simon read a book and River sat crossed-legged on the counter, observing the scene quietly.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash as Kaylee dropped a dish on the way to the table. The food went everywhere and Inara, following closely behind, slipped with a shriek and went down on her backside. The plate of bao she had been holding flew up in the air, and the buns came down pell-mell, one hitting Mal in the head and another deflected off the butt of Zoe’s gun, landing in Jayne’s lap. Another bounced off Simon’s plate into his nose and still another was caught neatly in River’s hand.
There was silence as everyone stared at the mess. Then River started to giggle. Not in a manic, crazy way. Like a normal human being amused at a situation. Mal wasn’t sure he’d ever heard that from her before.
Kaylee joined in and Inara let out a loud snort, which set Mal off. Simon looked bewildered for a moment, which only made Kaylee laugh harder. Then Jayne started to chuckle and Simon joined him. Then, finally, Zoe cracked up and laughed the loudest of all.
Once started, none of them could seem to stop. Anytime someone came close, he or she would just be set off again by the others. Mal’s attempt to get Inara on her feet ended with him on the floor and that made the situation ten times worse.
Mal’s sides were aching and he could barely breathe. He couldn’t help but think that this was something Wash would love. But it didn’t make him sad.
The laughter eventually died down and the food was cleaned up, but the heavy feeling from before seemed to have vanished.
As Mal sat down in the pilot’s seat after a salvaged, very light dinner, for the first time he felt like he wasn’t an impostor stealing someone else’s job. River joined him, curling up in the opposite chair.
“More room now,” she said.
Mal knew what she meant.
He knew that things weren’t suddenly going to be all better. But down the hall, he could hear the rest of the crew chatting with one another – without the hushed tones they’d been using before. Every once in awhile, the sound of laughter reached his ears and he smiled to himself. Maybe things weren’t all better. Maybe they never would be. For the moment, though, they were all right. And he could be content with that.