Takes place after Serenity but Wash is alive, because well…I feel like having him alive and this is my fic…you can't stop me…mwahaha.

Disclaimer: I don't own Firefly or Serenity or any of the characters…nope, not me…

"Why hello Inara, and what might you be doing down here?" Mal approached the seemingly distraught companion carefully. Her dark hair hung slightly disheveled and she jumped at his voice leading him to believe that either she was up to something or she had been thinking.

Straightening immediately and smoothing her curls she plastered a small smile on her perfectly made up face. "Hello Captain, I was just thinking," she said pleasantly with no hint of her real emotions. Well…he would just have to dig a bit deeper then.

"Really now, way down here in the cargo bay…" she didn't say anything and he decided to continue, "Well…what about?"

They stood staring at each other before Inara finally glanced away, "What I am going to do now."

Mal cleared his throat, "Thinking of leaving again?" he said it casually while trying to avoid her gaze.

"Possibly…" she attempted to move past him but found that he wouldn't let her. "The reason I came down here Mal was so I could have at least a few moments peace. Now please Captain, let me pass," she tried to squeeze past him but suddenly found herself backing up. Mal was gently maneuvering her until her back hit the wall and she had no way out.

"Now I ain't really one for talking 'bout feelings, but…gorram it Inara, why'd you leave in the first place?" his eyes searched hers, "And I don't want some sly answer of yours, I want the truth." He wanted to know, he had to know. It had hurt him more than she realized the day that she had left. Even now he could still see it clearly, hear her terse goodbye and then a swift kiss on his cheek. He could've sworn he'd saw a tear as she turned away, but it was probably his imagination. Days of trying to keep his head together, of trying to fight away the memories. Trying to get used to the thought that her shuttle was empty. He had walked in once without thinking, started to call out her name before he had realized what he was doing. The woman sent him into turmoil without even being there.

Trying to ignore the discomfort of something poking her between her shoulder blades she tried to look as sincere as she could…while at the same time trying to devise a way out of telling him the truth…or at least postponing it. "You never answered me when I asked you why you didn't ask me to stay."

Her dark eyes bored into his and he sighed, "Would you have listened to me? Would you? For some reason I doubt that, and I don't exactly like waistin' my breath. Not only that…but how'd you think I would feel when you walked out anyhow?"

Her eyes flashed dangerously, "You could have at least tried."

He placed one hand next to her head and leaned in close, fighting her intoxicating smell. "No 'Nara, I couldn't. 'Cause then you would've made a fool outta me."

"How can you be sure?" she said in a low voice that sent a familiar thrill down his spine. He shook his head trying to clear his mind.

"Stop it Inara," he snapped.

She looked up at him puzzled, "Stop what?"

He moved his hand away from her so quickly that she flinched, "You're little tricks."

Feeling anger welling up in her she let it out, "If I wanted to play tricks on you Malcom Reynolds I could have had you in my bed long ago. But I didn't…I didn't because…because…" she chocked herself off horrified. In her anger she had almost exposed the truth.

"Because what?" he asked obviously running out of patience.

Keeping her composure, Mal would have thought her completely in control as usual if he hadn't seen the hint of pain flash through her eyes. "Why did you leave Inara?" he asked softly. Gently he pushed a few tendrils of silken hair out of her face. She shivered slightly. It was time for the truth.

"I…I…I came to…care about you…more than…more than a companion should ever care about a man," she managed to stammer. Mal was caught off guard by her sudden loss of coolness and eloquence. He did not interrupt her and she kept going. "I…I felt things for you…that I should not have…feelings that I had never felt before…I have been with so many men…and none of them…none of them made me feel the way you did."

Mal regarded her carefully, her eyes were focused on the floor and he could tell that she was trying to fight her tears back. He knew then that she was telling him the truth. It felt as if the world was falling apart around him, he was hearing the words that he had always wanted to…but thought it was no more likely than Jayne acting somewhat civilized.

Inara was not finished however and she held up a hand to silence him before he could speak. This time she looked him straight in the eyes, "I have never had a man resist me the way you did Mal, I couldn't read you. One moment it seemed as if maybe…just maybe you returned those feelings…and other times…other times it was as if you didn't care for me at all.

She drew in a deep breath and a single tear that she could no longer hold in slid down her cheek. Hating for him to see her like that she plunged ahead angrily, "And then you slept with my friend…my fried Mal…and…and then I knew…I knew for sure that I loved you. It killed me, the knowledge that I had been there all along yet you turned from me and found solace elsewhere. That you obviously did not return the feeling…did not even know. That you did not care for me as I had hoped you did. I had to leave; I could not be around you anymore. Then…then you were going to tell me something…that maybe you did…did love me…but I couldn't let you…I did not want to hurt any more. God Mal…I love you…since I first saw through your rough…somewhat vulgar exterior I've loved you," and then it crumbled. All of her training, all of her elegance, all of her strength crumbled. Unbidden tears began to stream down her cheeks and she leaned her head against the wall trying to ignore his concerned look.

Suddenly Mal reached out to her, gently he moved closer until their bodies touched. Slowly he put one hand behind her head, tangling his fingers in her thick hair. Bringing her head towards his, his lips sought hers and he kissed her. He began to kiss away her tears and felt her arms wind around him. "I've loved you Inara, since the moment you stepped foot on my ship. At first I didn't realize it. I can be a bit thick you know. Then…then it was like, I couldn't breath when you walked into the same room. I couldn't…couldn't think. Every time something went wrong on a heist my thoughts were on you, if you were all right. If I pushed you away it was because I wanted to keep you safe."

"And I may have pushed you away…because of my job…a companion and love simply does not go together. It is dangerous, it is frowned upon. Can you deal with it Mal? With my job as a companion, can you still love me? Still call me your own?" she looked up at him, immeasurable sadness filling her. She would give it up if she had to. Being a companion was something that she loved but she loved Mal even more.

"If you'll promise me one thing," he pulled back so that he could look down at her.

"What is that?" she asked slightly suspicious, withdrawing her arms.

He smirked suddenly, "Next time some woman who claims to be my wife tries to kill me…don't go about kissin' her."

She scowled and slapped his arm playfully, "I did not kiss her!"

Suddenly something seemed to click into place, "You didn't kiss her…did you…" he mused, "I've been a fool haven't I?"

"Yes Mal, you have…but I must confess that while extremely annoying…I find that a rather endearing trait."

He smiled a genuine smile and pulled her roughly towards him, she pushed him away with a mock frown, "Now Captain, is this really appropriate?"

"Who the hell cares?" he asked with a grin before leaning down to kiss her neck.

She pushed him away again but this time she looked more serious, "Did you come down here for an actual reason?" she asked.

Frowning, he slowly shook his head, "Hmm…nope, don't believe I did."

A little while later they made their way towards the kitchen, only to run into a grinning Wash and a mildly amused looking Zoë. He tried to look serious but failed miserably. "Somethin' going on that I need to know about?" Mal asked.

"No, well yes actually, well done captain," with that Wash slapped him on the shoulder and continued on his way.

Zoë nodded, "Nice going Captain," she said seriously before following her husband.

"What was that about?" Inara glanced up at Mal but he shook his head.

"No idea."

Things would get even more confusing when they made it to the kitchen to find everyone staring at them. Jayne spoke first, "How long were you guys kissin'?" he grinned and leaned back in his chair.

A smiling and obviously pleased Kaylee added, "See Cap'n, that wasn't so hard now was it? Inara?"

River was watching them with her vacant looking grin and Simon looked like he normally did…except like he was holding back a laugh.

"Mal?" Inara prodded but he just shook his head.

"Somethin' going on that we need to know about?" Mal looked around at his crew and their expressions suddenly changed as each stared down at their plates. "All right, what's goin' on? Zoë? You want to explain this to me?"

"Not precisely Sir."

"Wait…you all knew, what? Mal!" Inara whirled on him and glared, "What did you do?" she hissed.

He held up his hands, "I didn't do a thing!"

Inara shook her head, he had to have done it… but he had been with her the whole time…so how…Oh…that was how. She suddenly remembered the object that had been poking her in the back, the button to the intercom…meaning the whole ship had heard…but Mal hadn't known that he had backed her into it. She could tell he hadn't. Wonderful.

Trying to maintain her calm she turned to Mal who still looked slightly confused, "The intercom."

Mal cursed silently, of course. The whole blasted ship had heard their confessions. This was not good. Taking Inara's lead he made his way to the table and together they sat down to the most awkward dinner known to human kind. It consisted mainly of Mal trying to squelch Jayne's crude jokes, ignoring Kaylee's squealing, trying not to notice Zoë and Wash's meaningful looks, and trying not to listen to Simon's slightly sarcastic comments and River's rambling. Overall it wasn't quite as bad as they had thought.

After escaping to the confines of Inara's shuttle, Mal fell onto her couch with a groan while Inara gracefully seated herself beside him. "So Captain Reynold's, would you care to have some tea?" she asked smoothly.

He seemed to be thinking for a moment then shook his head, "No thank you, bit to fancy for me," he drew Inara closer and she snuggled happily against him. He leaned down to kiss her, "I think I need to hear you say it again," he ran a finger down her bare arm.

"Say what?"

"I love you…"

"I love you too Malcom Reynolds…"

Please Review! I know it kind of dwindled at the end, hope it was okay.