Banner by locker_monster. As a birthday gift. Because she wins! *G*
Title: Moments (1/1) Firefly/Doctor Who Crossover
Disclaimer: I don’t own Firefly or Doctor Who, which is probably for the best, as I would probably exploit everyone shamefully. Muha!
Keywords: Doctor(Ten)/Inara, mentions of Rose
Summary: The most repressed alien ever seeks out the help of a professional to deal with his emo. No, really. If there is some sort of fandom hell, I’m probably headed for it.
Spoilers: Firefly through the BDM, Doctor Who through The Runaway Bride (i.e. there are Doomsday references).
Words: 3, 201
Hugest thanks to browncoat_2x2 for the encouragement and the beta. And for assuring me that I probably wasn’t completely insane.
Fear. Loneliness. They're the big ones, Rose. Some of the most terrible acts ever committed have been inspired by them. We're not dealing with something that wants to conquer or destroy. There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive... wormhole refractors… you know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.
-The Doctor, ‘Fear Her’
It should be shocking. The appearance of a blue box—seemingly from out of nowhere—was certainly not something one saw every day.
It was, however, something Inara had seen before. Not that she’d expected to see it again—and certainly not in her shuttle on Serenity.
She had just enough time to lock the shuttle door before the box fully materialized. It really wouldn’t do if someone (namely, Mal) came bursting in.
The TARDIS gave one last whining moan and then solidified. A second later, the door creaked open.
Inara didn’t recognize the man who emerged, but he casually stuck his hands in his pockets and glanced around the shuttle. “Ah, right place.” He gave the door behind him a quick pat. “Here we are, then. Hello! Been a while, hmm? Just thought I’d… pop in. For a visit.”
“Bit rude, though, isn’t it?” said the man, scratching at his chin. “Dropping in unannounced. Sorry.”
The stranger pushed off the TARDIS and wandered around the shuttle, bending down every few steps to study something.
“I—uh,” Inara said. “Are you looking for something?”
She vaguely considered that “Who the hell are you?” might have been a better question. But the man straightened, sheepish look on his face.
“Looking for something?” he repeated vaguely. “Funny you should say that.”
“Well, are you?”
“I like it,” the man said, nodding at her shuttle. “Creates… a certain aura. Passion. Tranquility. Harking back to basic human instincts. Mind if I check under the bed?”
“What? No!” Inara said. The stranger moved in that direction and she cleared her throat. “I mean, yes!”
He froze, a pair of glasses dangling in his fingers, halfway hooked into his nose. “I’m sorry?”
“I mean…” Inara took a breath, and fixed him with a steady stare. “Who are you? I knew a… a man—he traveled in a ship like yours, but you’re not… he’s not…”
“Don’t you remember? I’m the…” the man trailed off, holding up one hand. “Hang on—no, no, no… I’ve been through a regeneration cycle. Blimey, I’m getting old. Memory is not what it used to be. And to think I’d forget something like regeneration—big old spaceship, sword fight to the death—my hand got chopped off, my own hand!”
Inara glanced at the hand he was wriggling.
“Of course,” he continued. “Grew back, didn’t it? And I like my hand. It’s a good hand. Opens… doors. And other things. Anyway.” He paused, and met her eyes. “I’m the Doctor.”
Inara blinked. Slowly, she eyed him up and down—pin-striped suit, wiry frame, youthful and charming smile—and raised her eyebrows.
“Hmm. I don’t think so,” Inara said
“No, it’s—it’s… it’s this thing we do—I do—Time Lord thing…”
“Uh, huh,” Inara said. She reached his side, and grabbing him by the elbow, dragged him back towards his ship. “Well, whoever you are, you can’t, unfortunately, park your blue box in the middle of my shuttle.”
“Just… just hold on,” he said. “I can explain—”
“Yes, and I have a schedule,” Inara said, even if that wasn’t remotely correct. She hadn’t had a schedule for longer than she cared to admit.
She opened one of the doors and pushed him inside, stopping abruptly when she caught sight of the interior.
It looked the same.
She swallowed hard, and tried to school her face into a neutral frown.
He casually leaned against the door just inside the TARDIS, the look on his face annoyingly smug. Inara set her teeth, suddenly quite certain this was a man who was used to getting what he wanted.
She eye-balled him, and finally said, “I’ve met the Doctor. Back on Sihnon—”
“—when you were still at the House Madrassa,” he finished. “Oh, about four years ago now. Got you into a pack of trouble back then.”
“Yes, you—he—I mean…” Inara trailed off, and finally said, “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself.”
“I don’t doubt that at all, Inara Serra,” he said. “In point of fact, I remember you being quite helpful. Not many humans can say that.”
Inara almost smiled. What she didn’t say was that the man she’d met back then had been remarkably different. He’d been older, sadder—almost desperately so.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” said the man (the Doctor?) and he sounded sincere. “I just—I needed… there might be… I’ll go. If you want, I’ll leave. I shouldn’t have barged in.”
Inara shook her head, admitting to herself that she was intrigued. Life onboard Serenity—it was many things. Darker, of late. It seemed like they couldn’t speak to each other above a whisper, they couldn’t laugh in case it made something break. She thought it might be better if she had clients—something to lose herself in. But she couldn’t quite do that to Mal, not yet, not when things were so uncertain.
So she stood back and let him enter her shuttle again.
“Does it really seem so impossible?” he said, giving her a thoughtful look she couldn’t quite decipher. “Time machine. Aliens. You’ve seen them. You know it’s real. So I can change what I look like, that’s all.”
“Woe duh ma, that’s all,” Inara repeated. She eyed him again. “Can you change back?”
Dismay came into his eyes, and he cleared his throat and turned away, eyes darting around the shuttle for something to focus on.
“I’m sorry,” Inara said. “I—uh… I didn’t realize…” What? Inara thought. It bothered her that she couldn’t read him. “Let me make some tea.”
Tea. Good. That was a neutral topic. The Doctor brightened considerably, and turned back to her, silly grin back on his face.
“I died,” he said. “Kicked the bucket. Circled the drain. Kaput.” He paused, evidently pondering all the ways one could describe death. “But Time Lord’s have this thing. I changed my whole body to stay alive, but it’s still me. Well, new everything—new face, new personality, new… overcoat,” he added, after a pause. “Is that an artifact from earth-that-was?”
Inara opened her mouth slightly, surprised by the abrupt change in topic. She followed his gaze, and found him looking at a small Buddha statue. She suspected he knew perfectly well where it came from.
“India,” Inara said. “It’s an old… companion artifact. Handed down by generations. It’s… it’s a mark of prestige.”
The Doctor “hmmed” appreciatively, and accepted the mug of tea she held out for him. “Must be hard,” he said. “Leaving… all that behind. I’m sorry.”
She opened her mouth to reassure him, and then closed it again. What would be the point? She didn’t ask for it last time. And she’d always thought she’d done right that day, even if so many others had died.
“I’ve found a home on Serenity,” she said instead. “These people are my family.”
“Of course,” he said. “Of course you did.”
There was some sort of longing in his voice, and Inara tilted her head to study him. The tea burned her fingers, but she didn’t set it down. Why had he come? This wasn’t a man who formed ties. This was someone who swept in to save the day, and swept out again without blinking, leaving the consequences in the hands of someone else.
Something must have happened. She studied him, torn between her curiosity and her training as a companion.
“Must be lonely,” she finally said. “Traveling around in that ship on your own.”
He bowed his head, staring down into his mug of tea. “I’m not always—in fact, I just had—I lost…” He paused, taking a moment to gather himself before continuing. “I’ve traveled with a lot of people, you know. But none of them ever—and now she’s gone.”
Things fell in place in Inara’s mind, and she took a step closer to him, close enough so that she could see the tea leaves floating in his mug.
“She must have been very special to you,” Inara said, keeping her tone light. The Doctor looked tense enough to jump back into his ship and never come back. She cleared her throat. “I—we, that is, the crew… we’ve lost people, too. Just recently.”
The Doctor swiveled his gaze around to stare at her. Deathly still, he said, “Traumatic deaths?”
“I don’t see how that’s relevant,” Inara said. “But yes.”
The Doctor held one hand over his lips, and Inara opened her mouth, but the Doctor shook his head.
Whispering, he said, “Thought I was in the right place, but when I couldn’t find anything…”
Slowly, he pulled something out of his pocket—a screwdriver?—and then bent down, lifting the flap overhanging the bed. The screwdriver made a strange whirring noise, and the Doctor’s head disappeared.
He yelped, and then popped up again, backing away. A moment later, something whizzed out from under the bed, flying through the air and crashing into the wall on the other side of the shuttle.
Inara gasped. “What—”
“Parasite,” the Doctor said grimly. “Well, nearest explanation, anyway. Feeds off depressed energy. I’ve been tracking it for a while.”
Inara opened her mouth to reply, but the thing shot through the air again, aiming for the Doctor’s head. He ducked. It crashed into her Buddha statue instead.
The statue shattered across her floor.
The Doctor winced. “Sorry. I’ll pay for—”
“Look out!” Inara yelled.
The Doctor pressed a button on the screwdriver. A buzzing noise accompanied a blinking blue light and the parasite stopped short, curling up in a ball and crashing to the floor.
The Doctor breathed in heavily and then shut off the screwdriver, putting it back in his pocket.
Inara took a shaky step forward. “Is it… is it dead?”
The Doctor looked appalled. “Dead? The sonic doesn’t have that sort of power. More like an advanced lock-pick, really.”
“Oh,” Inara said. “Then I should… the crew—they don’t even know… if it’s dangerous, I have to warn them…”
“They’ll be fine,” said the Doctor dismissively. “It’s unconscious. Can’t hurt you now. And even if it could, what would you tell them?”
He watched her closely. Inara hesitated, and finally said, “The truth.”
“Ah,” said the Doctor, raising his eyebrows. “The truth. I see.”
Inara decided against arguing. “It’s an alien, isn’t it?”
“Yep,” said the Doctor, popping the ‘p.’ “It feeds off suffering. Traumatic deaths, losses… it likes that. Makes it impossible to move on. Just… sucks you dry until there’s nothing left.” He gave the motionless alien at his feet a disgusted look. “Drives people to suicide.”
Inara rubbed her arms, chilled. “But you can stop it.” She looked at him. “You can stop it, can’t you?”
“If I just…” the Doctor pointed the screwdriver at the thing. In a menacing voice, he said, “I’ll give you once chance. One chance to leave this ship and let these people alone.”
There was a long, pregnant pause, and then the Doctor scratched the back of his neck.
“Usually sounds more impressive when I’m not speaking to an immobile lump,” he admitted. “But the point still stands.”
“It’s… a fluffy immobile lump,” Inara corrected. “It’s almost… cute.”
“Cute or not,” the Doctor said, “this is not something you want on your ship. Have an extra paper-weight hanging around?”
“I—yes,” Inara said. Suddenly suspicious, she glanced at the small creature on the floor and then back at the Doctor. “Why?”
“It needs to be stopped,” he said simply.
“But…” Inara trailed off. “It’s defenseless.”
The Doctor looked back up at her, eyes resolute and remorseless. Inara shivered.
“I leave this thing alive and it will keep feeding,” he said. “Keep… trespassing on grief, exacerbating pain… no one deserves that.”
She saw him bend down to untie his shoe, and she turned away, closing her eyes. She winced at the dull splat that followed moments later.
“Well! There we go,” said the Doctor cheerfully. He hopped back into his shoe, and Inara tried not to stare at the bloody underside. “Problem solved. All taken care of. Cheerio. I’ll just be off, then.”
There was a wet squelch as he moved back to the TARDIS and Inara had to swallow past the lump in her throat.
“Did that help you?” she said.
The Doctor paused, hands in his pockets, and slowly turned around. “Pardon?”
“Killing that thing—did it make you feel better?” said Inara, raising her eyebrows. “And don’t tell me that parasite was the only reason you came. I’m a Companion, Doctor, not an idiot.”
He gave a ghost of a smile. “I thought Companions chose their partners very carefully.”
She raised her eyebrows. “How do you know I’m not?”
He drew in a breath. “Well, blimey, now I’m nervous. Feel like I ought to take a test or have an audition.”
“Well,” Inara said. “I am very good.”
They shared a laugh, and Inara felt… free. It had been a very long time since she’d taken on a client. And she’d be lying if she said she didn’t miss it. (Not that this was exactly the same, but she dismissed that for the time being).
“I usually only take on humans—” He flashed a cheeky grin and Inara rolled her eyes before continuing. “—but certain exceptions could probably be made in dire circumstances.”
“Ah, a pity case,” said the Doctor. “How flattering.”
“Please,” Inara said. “Don’t insult the integrity of my profession.”
“Right, of course, never,” said the Doctor. He turned serious. “‘Companion.’ Interesting word, innit? Implies many things. Friendship. Comfort. And… yet. At the end of the day, you’re still alone, aren’t you?”
“Stop it,” Inara said.
He blinked at her in bewilderment.
“Turn it off,” she said gently. “Just for a moment. You’re not alone. Not right now.”
He gave a slow nod and reached up to undo his tie.
Mental note, Inara thought, alien sex—not so different from other sex. No strange parts or rituals. It was almost… too bad. She bit the inside of her cheek to hold back a smile.
They lay on their backs, staring at the ceiling and listening to the quiet. Old Companion platitudes ran through her head—comforting words, wisdom—but nothing struck her as right. What to say to someone who surpassed her by centuries, who had witnessed things she could only dream of?
The Doctor was completely still. For the first time, he wasn’t fidgeting or bouncing. He just stared at the ceiling, quiet and unmoving.
She turned her head slightly to look at him. The rustling of sheets sounded unbearably loud. “What are you thinking about?”
“Barcelona,” he said, after a moment. “We never went.”
Inara had no idea what he was talking about, but decided to proceed carefully.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Inara tried gently.
He opened his mouth, and then closed it again, pinched look on his face. “She’s gone,” he said, finally. “Not… dead—just, gone. It wasn’t her choice, but there was nothing I could… anyway. Hardly the first person I’ve lost. She was just, she…”
“You loved her,” Inara stated.
The Doctor closed his mouth, and focused on the ceiling again.
There was a heavy silence, and Inara cleared her throat, oddly affected. “We have… quarters—crew quarters. If you want to say for a while. I can talk to the Captain.”
Even as she finished the last bit, Inara winced. How would she ever begin to explain any of this to Mal?
The Doctor inhaled sharply and said, “Fine. I’m fine. It’s better this way. On my own.” He paused and digested that. “And I should get going—back to the TARDIS. Gets cranky after she rests in one place too long.”
He moved to sit up and then stopped. “That’s not very gentleman like, though, isn’t it? Popping in like this and then heading out again—”
“No, that’s, uh… that’s fine,” Inara said, feeling her face flush.
“I should—I owe you—” He stopped, and then sheepishly said, “There’s not a very good way to phrase any of this, is there?”
“It’s alright,” Inara said. “Believe me, Doctor, I knew what I was getting into.”
He gave an absent nod. “Yeah.”
He held her eyes for another moment and then pushed himself to his feet. Inara averted her gaze as he picked up his clothes.
“Blue,” he said, suddenly, startling her.
She glanced over, finding him with his shirt half-buttoned and his arms inside his pin-stripped jacket. His tie hung loosely around his neck.
“Blue—that’s a good colour, isn’t it?” he continued. “I like blue. My TARDIS is blue.”
“New suit,” said the Doctor, grinning. “Now there’s an idea. New suit. New beginning. What do you think?”
Inara felt her lips curl in response. She rolled over and groped around for a robe. When she turned back around, the Doctor had finished dressing, and he stared at her speculatively.
“Blue’s very chic,” he said. “Sort of… Goth chic, at any rate. I’ve been wearing almost the same thing every day since I regenerated, and that—that can get problematic on washing day—”
“Doctor,” Inara interrupted. “I’m not sure that’s… I don’t know if that’s an answer.”
He blinked. “No,” he said. “No, suppose not. Still…” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Still… I like blue.”
He turned to go into the TARDIS and then paused again, turning back around. “Thank you,” he said.
“You were the one who saved us from that… alien thing,” Inara said. “I should be thanking you.”
“Nah,” said the Doctor. “Little thing like that? Didn’t stand a chance against you. You humans are a more resourceful lot than you get credit for.”
Inara forced a smile. “Doctor, try and… just—be careful. Don’t… do anything idiotic.” She paused. “She wouldn’t want that for you.”
Her words would probably have as much effect as swatting at a fly on a hot day.
But he nodded absently, eyes far away. Without another word, he opened the TARDIS and disappeared inside.
Wind blew through her hair as it dematerialized, and Inara sat up straighter, hugging her covers closer to her chest.
With the TARDIS gone, there was no indication he’d ever been there. Nothing except a broken statue and a bloodied mess of feathers on the floor.
Just like the last time she’d seen him.
No, Inara thought, not like the last time. She rose to her feet and set about cleaning up the broken pieces of her Buddha statue. This time she had Serenity, and she would see to it that they got through the coming weeks, months—until they could laugh freely again.