After all the dancing around each other, something finally 'breaks/ snaps' in Inara. This is about one year after Nandi's death.

Rated: K for everyone

Chapter 1

This was not the way it was meant to be.

This was not how she had planned her things. Her life.

Inara looked at herself in the mirror in front of her.

And she had planned a lot. A lot had been planned for her.

She looked at her brown eyes that stood sad. There was no need to mask the sadness for anyone because she was alone in her shuttle. She allowed herself to let her guard down, for just a short moment. Because she needed it.

She breathed in deeply as she stared at her eyes again.

How can things go so differently from what you ever thought?

She closed her eyes at this. And why do I feel so vulnerable? She swallowed deep. She hated feeling vulnerable. She almost never felt vulnerable. But now she did. It wasn't something a Companion should feel. She should ALWAYS feel in control. She always WAS in control. Whatever her client thought. Or was to think. She was a master in manipulation in a way.

She couldn't face what she saw in her eyes so she let her head fall a bit and her eyes went to something on the floor.

Yes, she had known that things would change. That her life would change a bit the moment she had set foot on Serenity. She knew that her life wouldn't be the same the moment she saw and spoke with Mal. But she always thought that she could hold on to most of the things she knew. The feelings she knew. The walls she knew.

But she couldn't. For some reason, she couldn't anymore. She cared for the crew, that was a positive thing. But the other feelings…. Rules she had broken, her own rules and if only the other Companions would see her, would know.

Since she was on this ship, she had let her guard down so many times. She had been angry, had expressed her anger, mostly towards Mal. She had felt anything BUT serene and sometimes she had even shown that. He had broken through her perfect façade. He had stepped in her territory with his big, filthy, brown boots. On her property and bounced through her walls without even asking. Making her furious, stirring feelings inside her she didn't even know she had. And that wasn't positive at all! It had made her feel confused, sometimes she couldn't even concentrate! This was not a good thing. She was a Companion. She was slipping. Her training was slipping away. That was bad.

So it had been a very good decision to go back to the training house. Especially after… Inara remembered Mal looking at her, he wanting to say something and she stopping him before he could say those dreaded words. The effect of him taking Nandi to bed had on her was wrong. She had felt… How could she call it? Heartbroken?

How stupid could she be?! Of all the men that wanted her, offered her to live with them, wanted her to marry them. Why did she feel hurt when that insufferable one man did something like that? There had been only one option. And she wouldn't call it running away. She would call it going away. Leaving.

So she had left. And she had enjoyed giving lessons to the children. She had enjoyed seeing her fellow Companions again, having class around her again. But something was missing. And it just kept growing inside of her. A big emptyness. As if she was infected with something. And whatever she did, it didn't go away. It just became worse and worse.

And the worse part of all of this was that when she set foot on Serenity again, she felt whole again.

A tear loosened itself from her dark eyes and travelled slowly over her cheek. Leaving a wet and warm trail.

She closed her eyes again. She had fought herself so long. So many times. But it wouldn't go away. Maybe she had to cut it out of her body. She hated him. He infuriated her to no ends. There was no reasoning involved. Nothing of the sort. She had reasoned with herself so many times. She couldn't think clearly and it had gotten worse and worse. Like a disease.

She looked at her clock as she stood up. It was late in the evening. The whole ship was silent. But she felt anything but silent. If she couldn't sleep and find rest, he wouldn't either. She grabbed her green silken robe and put it over her and thightened it around her slender frame and over her white silken sleeping dress as she opened her door and marched towards Mal's bunk. This madness in her head would stop right now! And he would help her with it.

Without knocking she opened it roughly with a lot of noise to make sure that he heard her coming. When she touched the floor and turned on the light he sat up in his bed with sleepy eyes, fluttering them several times. She noticed that he had that annoying look on his face. That confused look. Some sort of dumb look, a –I don't know anything about anything and a what is happening look.-

'Inara?' He uttered surprised and half sleepy. He looked around him confused. 'Is something wrong?' He asked worried.

'Yes, something is wrong.' She snapped.

He suddenly had his eyes wide open. 'What is it? Does Wash know? Is…' He began as he pulled his blanket to him and began to crawl out of his bed.

'No Mal, it has nothing to do with Serenity.' She said annoyed.

He stopped and just put the blanket around his lower body as he looked surprised at her. His chest was naked. She wondered what else was naked. Her eyes drifted to the blanket he held around him. She forced herself to look at his eyes.

'You hate me right?' Inara said as she took a step towards him.

'Huh?' Mal uttered surprised. What was that woman ranting about now? First he wasn't sure if he was dreaming or if it was real, her barging loudly into his room in the middle of the night. Now she was asking weird questions?

'You heard me.'

'Inara, what are you doing? It's the middle of the night.' Mal uttered surprised. 'Did you hit your head or something?' He asked as his eyes travelled to her head, trying to make out a wound or some sort of bump on her skin.

'Yes you hate me.' Inara answered firmly for him, she almost sounded relieved.

'I-… Huh… Wha-?' Mal mumbled confused.

'That's clear then.' Inara concluded shortly in a firm voice.

'I don't hate you.' Mal said confused in a light voice with a deep frown in his brows.

Maybe he was dreaming? That this was some sort of parallel universe. Or maybe he was having a hallucination? But it had to be an annoying hallucination for the look on her face was angry. Why couldn't he just have a nice Inara-hallucination? Nope, that was probably to much to ask. She was standing there in her green silken robe over a flimsy nightgown.

'That will make things easie-.' Inara stopped in her sentence as the words out of his mouth finally made it to her fogged up brain.

'Wha-? No! That's not right!' She said suddenly angry as she pointed at him as if he had said something awful. As if he had insulted her.

Inara hallucination is not getting pleasant at all now, Mal thought as he raised his brows and looked up at her with big eyes.

She took one step towards him as her eyes fired at him. 'You DO hate me!'

His nostrils widened. The hallucination is getting dangerous now.

He scratched his head confused.

'I can think for myself.' He stated annoyed. 'At least, last time I checked.' Mal uttered a bit insecure, after all, this was a very weird situation.

He swallowed as he saw that her eyes had come into the firing fase now. He should feel a high alert red alarm bell going off by now in his body. He knew all her looks by now and had arranged them into different fases, but for some reason she kept coming up with new looks which didn't fit in his arranging pattern, which would confuse him again and this way, she would catch him off guard which would anger him and well… It would all become annoying to summarize it. She did have a sharp tongue after all, behind that sweet, skilled, trained, civilised façade of hers. And not to talk about those seemingly innocent big eyes she could put up which made his heart sink, his throat become dry and forget about all the reasoning he had in his head. This woman had a big toolbox filled with a too large amount of different tools to count which she used to do a lot of unpleasant, annoying things to him. And which she probably used to do a lot of pleasant… Very pleasant and nice things to her clients. He swallowed at that thought. He sometimes wondered why he always stood on the wrong side of the receiving end. Maybe he was born that way. Probably was, given the fact he didn't even come close to her rich, classy clients. Not that he wanted to ofcourse, but that was another subject.

'That's the problem! You can't think!' She barked at him.

Nope, that definitely wasn't a client-tool she was using on him right now. She must have had some sort of tool-lessons. The woman probably had mastered these tools by years and years of training since her child hood. He sighed.

'What are you rambling about woman? In the middle of the night? Barging into my bunk.' Mal said annoyed. 'Did you drink bad tea or something, or am I having an annoying hallucination? Because it would probably be one of you, you being good in annoying me and all.'

'Exactly!' She spat as if he had said something understandable for what she had been ranting about. 'That's just what I want to say. I am a Companion Mal. A Companion.'

Nope, there were no tools in that sentence. It seemed that she had lost her mind.

'You came all this way in the middle of the night to tell me that you are a Companion?' He asked her confused. 'How clearafying, I hadn't noticed that before.' He stated with a sarcastic undertone.

She made an irritated and impatient sound.

'I am a high Companion you are a…. hmpf…. Captain and that's all that we are. That's what I want to say.'

Mal scratched his chin and sighed out loud. This sure was getting tiresome. And he sure didn't like the 'hmpf' part in her sentence. 'I am glad you wanted to share that eye-opener you must have had moments ago with me.'

'No Mal! You don't understand.' She almost screeched. It was as if there was something begging in her eyes. She was suddenly in front of him and took his wrists and shook them as she looked him deep in his eyes. He was still sitting half dazzled on his bed and she was bending towards him, panic evident in her eyes.

Maybe she is sleepwalking with her eyes really wide open. Mal thought, still trying to find an explanation for her behaviour. That silk sure is thin. Mal pondered as his eyes were on her chest. He swallowed and forced himself to concentrate on her face and on what she was saying or ranting. Why is she still holding my wrists? He thought as he looked from her face to the small hands around his skin.

'I can't find rest!' She stated in slight panick. 'I can't… I can't explain it.' She let go of his wrists and turned away from him as she began to pace. 'It's this-' She put up her hands in the air and made fists. '-Nagging thing.' She turned around towards him at those last words.

She wanted to talk? Okay, he would try to listen.

'What thing?' Mal asked interested.

'Well that's the weird part.' She suddenly laughed. But it didn't sound glad. It sounded sad, and still a bit like she had lost her mind, which was something he should worry about given the fact that he knew her as the ever so controlled Companion who always had a quick comeback somehow.

'It has something to do with you. I can't explain it for myself, so I thought that if I tell you about it, it will go away.' She snapped. 'It will go away, won't it?' Her tone was suddenly soft and filled with worry. 'Ofcourse it will!' Her strong voice countered back.

'It's great that you're having a conversation with yourself. But where do I fit into all of this? Cause you're still not making any sense to me. And I really need my sleep.' Mal mumbled.

'Well I…' She began with her hands raised in the air. They suddenly fell to her sides. She didn't make sense to herself either. She raised one dark brow in a cringe.

He knew that cringe and swallowed. O, no, not that 's the –blame-someone-else-as-quickly-as-you-can cringe. And that usually was him. She probably hadn't learned that in her training, had she? Because she wouldn't blame her clients of anything. Maybe it was some sort of vent-reaction she had learned. Vent because she had to play nice and sweet all the time she was with a client. 'Vent on the lower species' her teachers must have told her, he could see it right in front of him, her as a little child with big brown eyes, sitting in a classroom on an open terrace filled with flowers and with a beautiful view on trees, grass and other nature. She would –ofcourse- sit at the first table, nearest to the teacher because she would be eager to learn. Eager, and curious.

She would look up at her teacher, a blond woman who would look down at her, with one finger raised in the air saying just these words. 'Vent on the lower species. That doesn't matter a thing. Never show any negative emotion or behaviour towards a client. NEVER. And remember this well, because it's VERY important.' And she had chosen him for that purpose. He was the lucky guy.

'It obviously is your fault that I feel like this, so you better find an answer and a solution.' She stated sternly.

Yep, he was right. It was like he was a second behind her all the time, being too late to respond to her all the time. Just a second. That was annoying too, especially when he was kind of sleepy, like now.

'Are you still there!?' She snapped sarcastic when he didn't respond instantly.

'Woow 'Nara!' Mal said warningly as he put up his hands in front of him in defence. 'I didn't do nothing!' Did I? He thought deeply. He didn't insult her, well this morning was the last time that he could remember, but that was too long ago now, so that really didn't count, did it?

She had put her arms crossed in front of her chest now. 'Serenity did something to me. I always was a serene and tranquil person with a lot of control. And since I met you, it's all squished up and turned upside down!' She spat these last words out.

'I am NOT like that Mal! I NEVER scream! I am a lady!' She screamed.

Are we arguing now? Or is she arguing with herself? If she is, is there any chance I can get out of this? Maybe hide myself before she really bursts? Mal withstood the idea to look around for a safe passage out of his bunk, away from her.

He raised his arm. 'Just a question… Are we fighting?'

'YES WE ARE!' Inara barked.

'Okay, just verifying.' He mumbled weakly as he moved back a bit instinctively. 'And what exactly is my part in this, because I still don't understand it.'

'That figures! Another negative thing about you: You're so slow! There are so many negative things about you!' She suddenly made a frustrated sound as she clenched her fists.

'I HATE YOU!' She shouted as she grabbed her nightgown and pushed it closer to her body and made her way towards the stairs. Before he could blink she had already dissapeared from his bunk.

He sat there for a while, frozen to his bed. Not able to move. He wondered if this had really happened with his mouth wide open, his eyes staring at one point in the distance.

'Huh?'

Whatever was wrong with her, he wouldn't let her get away with this, he thought angrily as he jumped up. He pushed his blanket away and walked quickly towards his trousers. He put on his shirt as he walked towards the stairs. He could be slow but she wouldn't get away with this! He thought angrily.

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Hope you liked it! Please let me know... I've got a few other chapters.....