Author's Note: One shot from Inara's POV about events through the series and movie. It was sparked from a comment Mal made in Serenity, the pilot episode. It was really late when I wrote this, so I don't know how much sense it makes.
Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, Inara, and Mal don't belong to me.
"Thought you were leavin', anyhow."
He had made it a statement, as if there were no question that she would be leaving as soon as she could. It had changed since that day, the day that River and Simon first came aboard Serenity. Since that day she had never truly thought about leaving.
Oh, she made mention of it. She felt the need to push him, and would never admit to herself the why of it, and it worked. They fought like two dogs after the same bone…or an old married couple…but what made them argue was always pulsing just underneath the surface.
Sex. Lust. Desire. Passion. Want.
Her training faltered around him. He always made her feel so raw, so bare. Wasn't it funny that her career required her to be nude almost constantly, but it was only Malcolm Reynolds that made her feel naked?
Her composure was never lost completely. She worried when he was away. Through his jobs- when he got held hostage, shot at, tortured… She wished he would just stick to the wobbly-headed geisha dolls, where the only dangerous thing about the caper was the embarrassment attached. But he wasn't that type of man.
She'd felt jealousy for the first time when Saffron was on board. Felt justified when the seemingly innocent Mrs. Reynolds betrayed them. Felt fear when he lay unconscious on his bunk's floor. Felt undone when her lips brushed his so gently. And felt anger at his stupidity. Feelings she denied existence when he looked at her questioningly.
She came the closest to breaking when they'd been forced to abandon him on Serenity. Left him to die alone…down with his ship. She'd felt as if her heart had been left with him, and he would never know. It had taken time to convince Jayne that turning the shuttle around was best for everyone. The relief at seeing him open his eyes was overwhelming. But the moment passed.
It was at the Heart of Gold that it happened. Seeing him come from Nandi's room so early in the morning, his expression satisfied until he saw her watching. Putting on the mask of indifference. She hadn't even known she was crying until her knees gave out and she slid to the floor. She felt broken.
It was later, in one of those precious moments above the cargo hold, that she thought of it again. It was there in the dark, just the two of them together…It was the expression in his eyes as he was looking at her.
Wishes. Need. Intimacy. Truth. Love.
She made it a statement. Said it so matter-of-factly that she knew she had to go through with it. She couldn't stay on Serenity anymore, not with him and the unspoken way she felt. The way she wasn't supposed to feel.
He had closed his eyes the night she announced that Sheydra was awaiting her arrival at the Training House, but he hadn't said a word. They avoided each other until her final day on his ship. He didn't look at her when she whispered good-bye, and she didn't look back as she descended the gangplank…even when she could feel his eyes on her.
It became awkward when the Operative came. He had said it so simply. She was his greatest weakness. Deep in her heart, she had wanted to believe it. She hadn't though, until he had come for her. All loud and noble and willing to die to keep those he loved safe. He was so infuriating.
And she loved him for it.
"Ready to get off this heap, back to civilized life?"
It wasn't a statement. He was asking her a question.
"I, uh…I don't know."
She was really saying 'no,' and he knew it. The smile on his face said so.