A/N: Thanks to browncoat2x2 for the beta!

Quit Your Life

Companioning was the only sure thing that Inara had ever done. It made her who she was and she didn't know who she would be without it. When it came to Mal, though, her immense training meant nothing. He ripped everything that she knew away, leaving her unsure about her entire existence. He had a part of her, not that he'd ever know it – he was too stubborn to ever notice – and it was because of him that the shields that Inara had constructed around herself were beginning to fall away…

Inara stared into her intricately painted china cup at the soggy, russet-coloured tealeaves that remained. She had hoped that the drink would calm her nerves and help clear her mind, but she was as foggy about things as she had been before, if not more.

Inara didn't know what to do. It wasn't the first time, but at least in the past, she'd had the support of the Guild, her family and her friends to help with her decisions. At the present time, she was losing control and feeling things she shouldn't be feeling and if that wasn't enough, there was no one who could assist her with her problems.

Heavy footsteps alerted Inara to the presence of another being and her line of thought was broken off and put to the side for a later date. Sighing, she tiredly watched the shuttle's entrance, waiting for the inevitable invasion that was no doubt about to ensue.

Within moments, her prediction came to life in the form of a dishevelled yet somewhat pleased-looking Captain.

"Inara?" Mal peered around the shuttle door at her, a bemused expression crossing his face at her irritated glare. "Can I come in?" He entered without waiting for her response and walked over to the couch.

"Mal! Don't sit down!" Inara grimaced as he sat, spreading the dirt and muck from his clothes onto her formerly unsoiled couch. Flecks of dirt and who knows what else etched its way into the cloth and random pieces of the same material fell, drifting slowly in circles before finally reaching the ground.

Mal jumped up as if he'd just sat down on burning coals and glanced at Inara his eyes full of sincere regret. Had Inara been in a better mood than her current one, she'd have found his behaviour rather amusing.

"Thanks a lot." Inara glowered at him – if looks could kill, Mal wouldn't have had a chance. "Do you know how hard it is to get stains out of that couch?" She moved over to the couch to examine the damage. "No, I don't suppose you do," she added, resignedly letting out another sigh and crumpling beat, onto the edge of her bed.

"Hey, are you okay?" Mal asked, clearly concerned. He traipsed over to stand by the bed, carelessly leaving a trail of debris behind him.

"Yes, I'm fine. Everything is shiny," Inara stated stonily, refusing eye contact and focusing instead on her freshly painted fingernails – they were a deep red colour and not a chip flawed them. Somehow, the lack of imperfections didn't comfort Inara as much as she had expected them to when she had originally applied the polish earlier that morning.

Mal saw through her words easily and moved to sit down next to her, intending on comforting her, and then interrogating her until she'd give in and tell him what was wrong. Remembering his filthy, dust-ridden appearance, he staggered at the last second to stop himself and fell clumsily to the ground despite his best efforts.

"Mal?" Inara momentarily forgot about her problems and burst out laughing. "Are you okay?" She grinned helplessly at him, unable to wipe the amused expression from her face.

Beside her, Mal haughtily pulled himself to his feet and brushed down his shirt with the palms of his hands.

"I meant to do that," he told Inara, who instead of being convinced by his far from likely story, collapsed into hysterics. It was at least a minute later that she was able to regain control and answer him.

"Sure you did, Mal. You always have very well planned-out schemes." Rolling her eyes, Inara lay back on the bed and attempted to catch her breath.

"I do! I do have very planned-out schemes!" Mal protested, resulting in another burst of laughter from the Companion. "Hey!"

"Mal. Do you not recall our second run-in with that jien hwo vixen you married – or the first run-in, for that matter?"

"Saffron or whatever her name really is, you mean?" Mal scratched his nose, reminiscing on the experiences that he'd had with the girl. Interestingly enough, both times that they encountered her one of them had ended up with a slight case of nudity and a near-death experience. The girl attracted trouble.

Inara rolled her eyes. "How many other vixens are there that you've married?" she said pointedly.

"Right…I knew that…" Mal chewed his bottom lip thoughtfully. "Yeah, I do recall." He finally answered, nodding his head slowly.

"So, you remember how badly it went? And do you remember how little all that planning that went into ensuring that Saffron didn't try anything, like stab you in the back again for example, was worth?"

"Fine! Maybe my plans don't all go to…plan. But I do have plans!" Mal argued weakly. He brushed his hand through his hair, knowing that Inara had the upper hand and would win the argument in the end. "Anyway, what's all this got to do with anything?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Nothing, really." Inara smiled. She took Mal's change of subject as an indication that she'd beaten him. She was right about him and his lack of ability when it came to plan making, after all.

"I seem to recall you being somewhat moody before," Mal hinted at, continuing on. He studied Inara carefully and awaited her response, sensing that she would tell him what had been bothering her if he behaved.

"You do?" The Companion took over and gave Mal a blank stare that seemed to suggest that he had assumed wrongly. He stared back, determined to get a decent answer out of her.

"Yes, I do recall. Care to enlighten me?"

"I…I'm just really tired." Inara lied.

Chinese Translations

Jien hwo - cheap floozy

A/N: I'll try to update this within the next few days, so there shouldn't be too long to wait. Let me know what you think please!