Words. They could bring happiness or pain. They were used every day without a thought, an integral part of human nature and life.
Usually, the words Mal said to Inara were of the hurting variety. He would say things and insult her, not because he didn't like her but because he felt quite the opposite.
He knew that it was only words that provided the barrier between what they were and what they could be (should both of them – him, especially – lose the harshness in their words for each other).
Due to Inara's job as a Companion, more than what they had was not allowed. The easiest way to avoid any heartache was to deny everything and lie.
It was ironic, really. They were constantly at each other's throats, wishing for a break to get through to the other and really make a connection that didn't involve hurt and pain and deception. Sometimes it seemed impossible to change their relationship in that sense.
All they had to do was drop the words and insults.
When Mal looked at what they had, he could sometimes see through the tension on the surface to what lay beneath: they could actually have something together, something real.
They could have something more than this.