Closing Doors

Prompt: #029 Space and #033 House of pain

Notes: Written for joss100 and 30angsts. This is also a (very) late birthday present for ccke. (Hope you like!) Thanks to browncoat 2x2 and voicelesssong for beta-ing! You guys are awesome!

"I need some space, Mal!" Inara told the stubborn captain of Serenity, glaring at him from across the room with an intensity he could only wish to equal. "You can't keep coming here uninvited and expect me to be okay with it! It was one thing when I was renting out the shuttle on Serenity, but now it's just intolerable!"

She gestured around herself at the place she currently resided in and had called home for the past two months – a lavishly furnished cottage on Shea, one of the nicest little planets she'd found on the rim. It was small, peaceful and picturesque – everything that the rustic ship, Serenity, was not.

There were no Alliance outposts on the planet either, which was an added bonus as far as Inara was concerned, after Miranda and her loss of faith in the government. This was her home and hers alone. She was not going to let Mal or anyone else destroy her newfound haven by continuously appearing at her door without warning! She wasn't!

And yet, here was Mal, doing exactly that.Honestly, he could be so infuriatingly clueless sometimes! She had left Serenity to get away from him again, to distance herself from the almost-relationship that they had. But he had followed. They were getting nowhere together and it was driving her to the edge of space and back.

Maybe he was having trouble letting go a second time. Maybe he just liked to annoy her. Inara didn't know. And she didn't care. Not a bit. She forced herself to believe the lie, that she wanted nothing more to do with Mal, and continued to glare at him.

Inara watched as Mal shook his head in exasperation and began to pace the width of the room restlessly. "So this is how it's gonna be, is it?" he stated matter-of-factly. "I come to visit, we fight, I leave, an' then it all starts over again? Is that it?" He paused to look Inara in the eye, searching her face for an answer or maybe, if he was very lucky, something more.

"Mal!" Inara scolded him angrily, pushing aside his question. "All I'm asking for is some privacy. It's not much to ask is it?" She glared at him again, wishing that things could be different. She had expected their usual fighting and bickering to ease up after she had returned to Serenity, but it hadn't, and so she had left.

At least that's what she told herself. In reality, she'd left because nothing had happened between them. Mal had been stubborn in his ways and seemed intent on going back to the fighting.

Despite her futile attempts to escape from Mal and the frustration of her relationship, he wouldn't leave her. Whether it was one of his unexpected visits or through a dream, he haunted her day and night. He was always on her mind, pushing at the boundaries she'd put up and forcing his way to the front despite her best efforts. He was driving her insane!

She needed space! He was suffocating her and every breath she took seemed to take more effort than the last one. "Mal. I don't want to see you here again," she told him icily, making up her mind. If she let Mal back into her life, it would also mean letting in the past and she didn't want to make a decision she would regret later.

She sighed and watched as Mal nodded slowly, his face falling and a hurt puppy dogexpression taking over. It was pathetic, really. And she couldn't help but feel sorry for him. He had come all this way to see her and all she could do was push him away. Yes, she had reason to do it – perfectly good reasons – but he was just so miserable looking and it was because of her.

Cursing the emotions that were churning her stomach, Inara sighed and watched as Mal headed out the door. He glanced back at her and for a moment, their eyes met, an intense wave of everything unspoken between them filling the atmosphere. With a sad nod of goodbye, Inara broke free of Mal's gaze and turned away.

She reached up to wipe away a single tear that had fallen down her cheek as the door quietly clicked shut.