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06 July 2007 @ 01:07 pm
 
Oi, this is horribly late. RL intruded and it couldn't be helped. :(

Title: The Fence

Author: live_brave

Disclaimer: Neither Firefly nor Doctor Who belong to me. I’d be living in a much nicer apartment if they did.

Spoilers:  General spoilers for S3 of Doctor Who through Shakespeare Code. Takes place between the series and BDM for Firefly.

Rating: PG

Prompt: Inara declines an invitation to be the Doctor’s next companion.

Characters: Mainly Inara and the Doctor, although most of Serenity’s crew make an appearance toward the end.

Author’s Notes:  I haven’t written a fic in quite awhile so I struggled a bit but I had fun nonetheless. This ended up being significantly longer than I’d planned but it’s good for me to get off my duff and write something. :D My sincerest apologies that this is so late – that pesky RL can be so intrusive. A big thanks to

ninamazing for the awesome beta!

*

 

This wasn’t what Inara had planned, but she’d long ago discovered that when it came to Serenity and her crew there was a large gap between what was planned and what actually occurred.

Maybe if that houzi de pigu would quit being so zhou ma wan gu, climb down off of his high horse, and just…

Inara frowned, trying not to clench her jaw in irritation. Only Mal could incite such language from her, something that seemed to have become a regular occurrence lately, much to her dismay. But, while blaming Mal admittedly made her feel better, it didn’t solve matters. It certainly wasn’t going to find a buyer for the Lassiter, which was why she was currently sitting in a rather sketchy back alley bar instead of enjoying the amenities that Taranis had to offer.

She sighed and swirled her bottle of Tsingtao absentmindedly as she watched the other patrons come and go through the heavy wooden door of the bar.  She’d had to pull numerous strings and call in more than a few favors in order to find someone willing to even think about fencing the Lassiter. Maybe there was something to be said about mundane cargo – even little wobbly-headed geisha dolls, eerie though they were – particularly if one already had a buyer lined up. Valuable merchandise meant nothing if one couldn’t sell it. But one of her clients on Asteria had finally been able to suggest the fence she was supposed to be meeting – a man by the name of Cole Pancost. This was a meet-and-greet only, not all that different from what she did with her own clients from time to time. She wasn’t going to negotiate the details of this sale herself, but if Pancost showed interest in the Lassiter she could contact Mal and have him finalize the deal.  She would be more than happy to show him that his gallant pigheadedness was for naught and that she could be just as useful in his line of work as she was in her own. 

Inara took a sip of Tsingtao and wished, not for the first time, that this was the sort of place that served something other than beer and rot-gut. It was the sort of bar where Jayne would be quite comfortable and Mal would fit in if he gave the effort, but Inara felt like she stood out even in the trousers and patchwork coat she had borrowed from Kaylee.

She watched the activity in the bar for another twenty minutes before she decided that she had probably been stood up. But before she had a chance to leave, a new customer coming through the door who attracted her attention. He stopped a few feet in and stood with his hands shoved in his trouser pockets, surveying the room. Even with his tie loosened and his suit slightly rumpled he looked at least as out of place as Inara felt; he was far cleaner and better looking than the rest of the clientele. 

When his gaze met Inara’s his face lit up with a smile that made him look impossibly boyish. Inara thought it was rather endearing although unexpected. It took her a moment to realize that he was directing it at her because he was the fence she was supposed to meet.

“Miss Serra,” he greeted her when he had approached her table.  His accent was clipped, declaring him to be from one of the nexus of planets just outside the Core.  It was a change from the back-world drawl she had been expecting to hear, but she thought it gave him a more distinguished air.

Inara stood to shake his hand. “And you must be Cole Pancost.”

An expression that looked suspiciously like confusion crossed his face but only for the briefest of moments and then it was gone. “Yes, I must be. Cole Pancost – that’s me.” He frowned. “Ooh, that rhymed.” He shook his head and his frown was replaced once more with a smile.

“Would you like something to drink?” Inara offered as he slipped into the seat across from hers.

“Oh, why not?” he replied.

Inara gestured to the barman to get her another Tsingtao. When she looked back at Mr. Pancost she found he was watching her with an expression she was familiar with. She’d used it herself often enough. It was one that was emphasized over and over at the Academy, that allowed you to get the make of a man in the time it took to introduce oneself. It wasn’t as difficult as it sounded. Eye contact, posture, nervous habits, confidence, stance, presence – they could all tell you as much about a person in one minute than he could tell you about himself in an hour.  To Inara, it was second nature; she used it whenever she met someone. It was habit in the same way that Mal or Zoe entered a room and immediately knew where all the exits were, who might cause trouble, and which position would be the easiest to defend if a fight broke out.  She wasn’t used to other people using that same gaze on her but she also wasn’t going to let him see her discomfort.

“Well?” she asked with a slight smile.

Mr. Pancost replied with a raised eyebrow and a polite ‘thank you’ to the waitress who delivered his drink. He didn’t seem to mind being caught in the game. “Your people don’t know you’re here.”

Whatever she had been expecting him to say, it had certainly not been that non-sequitur. “No,” she answered, hoping that honesty really was the best policy. “I thought it better to see if you were interested first. If you are, I’m sure we can arrange a deal to everyone’s satisfaction.”

“I don’t suppose you have the, uh, item with you.”

Inara pulled out a small vid-screen still of the Lassiter and handed it to him. “I’m afraid this will have to do for now.”

Mr. Pancost slipped on a pair of black-rimmed glasses as he took the picture from her. He hummed appreciatively. “This can’t have been easy to get a hold of. Let’s see – early 26th century, so that means only two in existence. Very valuable.” He glanced at her over the picture. “Why do you want to sell it?”

Inara had never sat in on one of Mal’s deals before but it always been her assumption that fences weren’t there to talk you out of selling. “It is doing us little good.”

A light of realization came on behind the man’s eyes. “Ah. A bit of crime.” He nodded, tugging on one earlobe. “Involved in a bit of crime myself now and again. Not, you know, on purpose, but it sometimes slips in. Slippery thing, crime. Can’t be helped.”

Inara nodded slowly. This Mr. Pancost was certainly not what she’d expected when Commissioner Langley had mentioned him. She’d imagined someone closer to Badger – rough, shrewd, man heng. But the man sitting across from her was quick and intelligent, a xue zhe if she was any judge.  And she was certain that he was not Cole Pancost.

“Are you interested?” she said as he set down the vid still and took a sip of his beer. Even if he wasn’t who he claimed to be it couldn’t hurt to ask.

He raised his eyebrows and set the bottle down. “No. Lovely antique, but I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’ve got no one to sell it to and I’m not much a collector myself.” Then the man leaned forward and smiled at her. “But you already knew that, didn’t you, Inara?”

“I suspected as much. Who are you?”

“A traveler. We’ve met, actually. Before.” He said the word as though it meant something to her, as though it had a weight and history of its own.

“I don’t remember you and I have an excellent memory.”

The man nodded happily before leaning back in his chair and cradling his hands behind his head. He seemed to be enjoying himself, like they were playing some sort of game that he knew he would easily win, as only he knew the rules. “It would’ve been, oh, nearly five years ago by your time. The Quingming Festival on Sihnon – the incident in Baynnur Square between you and a client.”
   
Inara remembered that day all too well. She had been young and foolish, not paying attention to the signs that were clearly there, warning her about her client’s erratic behavior. She’d never felt so alone as she did that day surrounded by hundreds of people, all oblivious to what was happening to her. If it had not been for the intervention of a reveler at the festival she might not have lived to give the client his justly deserved black mark in the registry.  The stranger had helped her back to House Madrassa, left his revels to make sure she received proper medical attention. He’d held her hand while her wound was sutured, made her laugh when it was all she could do not to cry, and told her that not everyone’s war wounds made such handsome scars.

“How do you know that?” she demanded. “Who are you?”

He leaned forward, his thin face intent. “How’s that handsome scar of yours?”

Inara stared at him. Only one person outside of House Madrassa knew how she got that scar and this wasn’t him.  She was sure it couldn’t be him. “Doctor?”

He waggled his fingers at her in a half-wave. “Hello.” He smiled sympathetically. “Don’t let the face fool you; it really is me. Death can do funny things to a person. Well, to a Time Lord, anyway. Everyone else it just sort of…uh, kills,” he finished lamely. He glanced at her over the top of his glasses before taking them off and stowing them in his breast pocket. “Well, I didn’t die, not really, just regenerated. Changed the outside to save the whole kit and caboodle. It’s a trick that Time Lord’s have, a sort of cosmic ‘get out of jail free’ card.” He paused. “Do you believe me?” 

Inara considered this for a moment. She’d known he was a ‘Time Lord’ though he never really explained the full meaning of that. But to be honest, a man who could change his appearance so wholly – well, it still seemed far more natural somehow than the Reavers. He might look different but she suspected that he was still ineffably the Doctor, whatever that meant.

“I do,” she said at last.

“Brilliant!” the Doctor said. He clapped his hands on his knees and practically vaulted to his feet.  “Let me walk you back to your ship, for old time’s sake.”

“But I’m supposed to be meeting Cole Pancost,” she protested. “The real one. And as lovely as it is to see you again, Doctor, the crew needs to find a buyer. It would be good for morale, and Mal, the captain, he…” She trailed off, trying not to think about what Mal would say if he found out about her little scheme.  Things were still tense between the two of them and she had hoped that if he didn’t have the sale of the Lassiter hanging over him he might stop brooding for five minutes.

“Ah,” he nodded then scratched the back of his head uncomfortably. “Well, I’m fairly sure Cole Pancost won’t be showing. Very sure. Positive, actually.”

Inara watched him carefully. “And why would that be?”

“He was killed. Shot, as it were, during a bank heist.”

Inara started. “That’s terrible.”

“He was the one pulling the heist.”

“Oh.” Her eyes narrowed. “How do you know this?”

The Doctor shuffled a little as if he couldn’t decide whether the tap-dance he was about to perform would be verbal or physical. “I might have been there.” He held up his hands in a placating gesture. “I had nothing to do with it, just happened to be there, completely random. Innocent bystander and all that.”

Inara got to her feet. There was no point sitting there all day if her contact wasn’t coming. “I find it very hard to believe that anything you do is random, Doctor.”

“Possibly,” he conceded with an innocent smile before he went serious again. “But I still had nothing to do with Mr. Pancost’s unfortunate demise. It was the Reintons of Arneb IV.”

Inara found she didn’t really want to know any more than that.

 

*

 

On the walk back to Serenity, Inara told the Doctor about how the Lassiter had come into their possession and he told her about his latest traveling companion – a doctor in training – who was off visiting her family for a little while. She found he really was not so different from the man she had first met on Sihnon. He was still charming, eccentric, as chatty as an Alballi washerwoman, and brimming with barely-constrained manic energy.  And although she wished she could have come through with a deal for the crew, she could hardly say that the day had been a complete loss.

“You know,” the Doctor said, when they reached the ship. He rocked back and forth from heel to toe and back again as he glanced up at Serenity. “If you ever tire of this wanton life of crime, you could always come with me.” His grin made it apparent that his idea of a ‘wanton life of crime’ was a lot more fun than Inara thought it was. “To travel, not in an official Companion capacity. I mean, not ‘Companion’ companion – little ‘c’ companion.”

“I know what you meant. That’s sweet of you to offer, but I…I don’t think I can leave just yet.” She smiled bracingly. “Besides, I actually try to stay away from any illegal activities that the crew find themselves in. This was a one-time thing. Well, more like the second half of a one-time thing.”

“Complicated.”

Inara sighed. “You have no idea.”  

The Doctor studied her for a moment before he nodded toward the ship. “This life – it’s a long way from Sihnon.”

Inara lifted one shoulder in a delicate shrug. “Home is where you make it.”

He smiled sadly and said, “You’re right. Of course you’re right. Not always easy though.”

The pain in his eyes was almost palpable and Inara wondered what had happened to cause him such grief. She reached out and gently touched his arm. “No,” she agreed. “But worth it, I think.”

The Doctor opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted when Shepherd Book came down the ramp.

“Inara, I didn’t know you were back.” Book’s eyes flicked to the Doctor then back. “All’s well?”

She nodded. “Of course. Shepherd, I’d like you to meet a friend of mine…” She trailed off, not knowing how the Doctor would prefer to be introduced. There really wasn’t an etiquette guide for introducing strange alien men to one’s friends.

The Doctor grinned at her before he offered his hand to Book. “John Smith. Dr. John Smith.”

Book shook his hand. “It’s a pleasure, Doctor.” He turned to Inara. “The rest of the crew should be returning momentarily.” He glanced behind her. “Ah, immediately, in fact.”

The Doctor and Inara moved to the side to allow Wash through with the mule as Book walked up the ramp to help him unload the cargo.  Zoe and Kaylee were right behind him, both laden down with parcels.  Zoe gave the Doctor a wary look as she passed, but Kaylee stopped in front of them, a welcoming smile in place.

“Hey, ‘Nara. You missed a great carnival.” She nodded at the small stuffed owl that was perched on the top of her packages. “Jayne won me a stuffed animal at the ring-toss. And almost took the Captain’s eye out with an air rifle.”

“’T were a gorramn accident,” Jayne muttered as he rambled passed them and up the ramp. “Nobody got hurt. Much.”

“You’re damn lucky I got good reflexes,” Mal yelled after him as he brought up the rear. He gingerly touched a painful looking bruise above his right eye before his attention was brought back, first to the Doctor and then Inara. “Bringing clients back to the ship now, are we?”

“Not that it’s any of your business,” Inara said, striving for a light tone, “but no. The Doctor here is an old friend whom I happened to run into.” She turned to the Doctor. “Doctor, this is Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of Serenity, and Kaylee Frye, the ship’s mechanic.”

“Lovely ship you’ve got here, Captain,” the Doctor said with a friendly grin. “Don’t see enough Firefly-classes these days.”

Mal looked caught between pride and belligerence at the Doctor’s praise. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and shifted his weight. “Yeah, well…thanks.” He shot an annoyed glance at Kaylee. “That merchandise ain’t gonna stow itself.  Go on. Work to be done.”

Kaylee glared at him. “Got no cause to be mean ‘bout it.” She favored the Doctor with a particularly friendly smile. “Nice t’ meet you, Doctor.” She glared at Mal one last time, sniffed irritably, and stomped away.

“Better go make sure I ain’t got a mutiny on my hands,” Mal said. “And Inara, I didn’t--”

“I know,” she said softly. She nodded toward the ship. “I’ll be in momentarily.”

Mal stared at her for a moment before he nodded.  “Well…see you inside then. Doctor.”

Inara and the Doctor watched silently as he trudged up the ramp. As soon as he was out of sight the Doctor turned to her with a mischievous smile. “Well,” he drawled in a sing-song voice.

Inara held up a warning finger. “Don’t start.”

But the Doctor obviously wasn’t one to take warnings seriously. He started rocking toe-to-heel again, his hands clasped behind him. “I can see why this life appeals to you.”

She sighed breezily. “It has its charms. He is not one of them.”

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” he replied with a knowing smile.

Inara ‘hmmed’ non-committally.  His words struck a cord though and they both knew it. She said the only thing she could think of: “Shakespeare.”

He raised his eyebrows before nodding. “Mmm, marvelous chap. Brilliant, in fact. And a snappy dresser.”

Inara tilted her head to the side as she looked up at him. “Should I ask you how you know that?”

“Best not to, perhaps.”

“Perhaps.”

No sooner were the words out of her mouth then she found herself enveloped in a tight hug. Just as suddenly, the Doctor let go and stepped away from her. “You are an extraordinary woman, Inara Serra. Absolutely extraordinary.”

With that he stuck his hands in his pockets and strolled away, whistling a jaunty tune. He glanced back once, just before he turned the corner, and waved.

Inara waved back and watched as he disappeared from sight. She stood there a moment before turning back to the ship. Mal met her at the top of the ramp.  “Ready to go?” he asked.

Inara nodded and offered him a reassuring smile. “Absolutely.”

 

 

The End

 

             

Chinese Translations:

houzi de pigu: monkey’s ass

zhou ma wan gu: damn stubborn

man heng: vulgar 

xue zhe:  scholar

           

 

           

 

 

             

           

 

           

           

 

 

 
 
Current Mood: stressedstressed
 
 
 
locker_monster: Different Kind of Companionlocker_monster on July 6th, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC)
That was awesome. You totally got the characters down. It also felt like the Doctor and Inara have met before. Their interaction and the way Inara reads the Doctor, you can tell they have a history, even if the two of them will never meet. Well, except in fanfic. ;-)

Can I ask which incarnation of the Doctor Inara met before? I always ask this, but I always love the fics where Inara meets the Doctor again after a regeneration.
Steph: fivelive_brave on July 8th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Hmm, I sort of had it in my head that she met Nine, but only because I really don't know the other incarnations. :D Glad you liked it!
hypercazhypercaz on July 7th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
much love!! Very good fic, ah, excellent in fact. ;)
Stephlive_brave on July 8th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :D
Purpleyin/Hans: whomissyvortexdv on July 7th, 2007 11:46 pm (UTC)
So much fun and excellently crafted crossover. :D
Stephlive_brave on July 8th, 2007 04:43 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks! Glad you liked it! And I love your icon. :D
JK, Action Archivist Wannabeashavah on July 25th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is lovely. Beautifully done, and I love the way he just sort of made his way into the situation and picked up fairly well what he was supposed to be doing there, but didn't quite get it right. And I love the story of how they met before. :-D