Dying Alone

Prompt: #130 old age and #002 And when you die I'll be there for you.
Notes: Written for fffriday and 30angsts on livejournal.

Mal walked straight into Inara's shuttle, intent on finding out what she had been hiding from him the last few days. There was definitely something going on that he didn't know about and he never let a thing go on without his knowing. Not ever.

"Inara?" he called, not seeing her at first. As he moved further into the room, he finally made out her figure curled up in bed, the quilt pulled tightly around her and paused for a moment. "You alright?"

Silence.

Mal waited a little longer, but still there was no response. He finally made up his mind and walked over to the bed, leaning over Inara and peering down at her. Her eyes were closed and a trail of wetness streaked her face. She had been crying.

"Inara!" Mal gingerly reached out a hand and placed it on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"

She finally stirred, opening her eyes slowly and chewing at her bottom lip when she saw Mal towering above her. "Mal?"

"Yeah, darlin'. It's me," he answered, lowering himself to the bed and sitting down beside her. "You been crying," he said pointedly, gesturing at her tearstained cheeks.

He put his hand up to her face and carefully wiped away the tears with the pad of his thumb, all the time looking into her eyes and wishing that he could help her and take away her pain. Even if he had to take the pain onto himself to free her of it.

Inara pulled her gaze from his and sighed. "I…I've been thinking about things lately," she explained, too tired to defend herself against one of Mal's interrogations. She paused for a moment to pull herself up into a more comfortable position.

"What sorta things?" Mal asked. The concerned expression on his face deepened and Inara felt a twinge of regret jerking at her heart.

"I don't want to die alone," she started, nervously. It wasn't often that she confided in anyone and even less often that she admitted her deepest fears. It was supposed to be the other way around. She was the Companion. She was the one who was supposed to stay in control of every emotion that crossed her path.

"You ain't gonna die!" Mal argued. "You got plenty o' years left, yet. An' in any case, I wouldn't let ya."

"Mal. You can't save everyone. It's…it's just not possible," Inara paused to let her words sink in and swallowed with difficulty as the lump in her throat tightened and threatened to bring about more tears.

"Yeah, well I can try!" Mal stated determinedly, letting his hand wander over the bed sheets to clasp Inara's. He was surprised when she didn't pull away and squeezed his hand back, almost gratefully instead.

"I don't want to die, Mal. But I'm more afraid that I'll die alone." A fresh tear slid down her cheek and she gently took her hand back from Mal to cover her face.

Mal fell silent at her words. He didn't know what to do, what to say, how to act. He'd never been in a situation quite like this one before. "Well…uh…is there anything I can do?" he finally settled on, grimacing as the Companion finally let it all out, sobbing silently into her hands.

Inara glanced up at him, an unreadable expression crossing her face. Her makeup was ruined and her mascara ran in a line, marking her skin with blotches of black. "I…don't know," she replied, miserably.

"Hey," he said, reaching his arm around her shoulders and pulling her into his chest. "It'll be okay."

Inara slid her tongue over her upper lip, catching a salty tear. "It won't. It can't be."

"Yes, it can. I won't let it be any other way," Mal told her almost forcefully.

He leaned into her, his lips lingering over her for a moment before they met in a passionate kiss. Mal felt a stab of regret shoot through him and almost pulled away, as he tasted her. She tasted of cherries and salty tears.

The feeling fell away as months of tension was unleashed and took over all of his being.

Inara too, was caught up in a blind passion. She let herself drown in Mal, tears still falling freely and clung to him as if her life depended on it. The knot of sadness in her throat began to untie and she let her worries fade to the back of her mind as they tangled together in the sheets.

"Inara," Mal panted, pulling away for air. "You won't die alone," he reassured her.

"And why is that?" Inara asked, her lip curling up into a half-smile. The tears had dried on her face now, and calmness spread through her, taking its place where the fear and sadness had once been.

Mal gazed into her eyes, not answering at first. Emotion more intense than anything Inara had ever seen from him reflected off him and he smiled back at her, lovingly.

"I want to grow old with you."