Such A Long Shot

"Tell her, Mal. Come clean." Those were the words that started it. They were also the words that made Mal certain that any future ideas Wash might throw in his direction, he'd be best to duck or jump cleanly over without touching lest they poison him. For he had done exactly as Wash suggested in this case and told Inara how he felt.

He told her how he got dizzy in her presence and at times that he wished – prayed to a God that he no longer believed in – for things to be different between them. There was certainly passion between them and it was burning brightly, rarely wavering.

It was not a passion that had fully developed however. In its early stages, or maybe their relationship was in a later stage than they thought, it had them both crazy with and about each other. Insults were the logical medium through which to output their innermost feelings. What they had could never truly reach its full potential and surround them with flames. It wouldn't be right considering... Well. Everything, really. It was too complicated. They both knew it.

But Wash. Wash had gotten it into Mal's mind that maybe it wasn't such a long shot. Wash had told him, "try". And so he had and Wash was at fault for landing him in this mess.

"Mal," Inara said, her dark eyes searching his. "I'm flattered, really. But-"

"But what?"

"But do you really mean it?"

"Huh?" He scratched his head. "Do you want me to mean it?"

Another struggle. They were at a standoff and one of them had to give in for there to be progress. Or one of them had to back down and let things return to how it was before. The only sound was their breathing and it was much louder than it should have been.

And then there was a burst of static from the intercom, followed by Wash's voice. "Mal, need you. Looks to be trouble up ahead; trouble of the Alliance variety."

They stared at each other a moment longer and Mal opened his mouth to speak.

"Go," Inara said, freeing him. "It sounds important."

Though he hesitated, he gave her a quick nod. With a sudden burst of energy, he raced to the bridge and back a few steps with his connection of sorts with Inara. That's how it always was. Any movement forwards sent them back a few more paces. Their timing was never right.

This time, though, Mal had someone to blame.