Word Count: 1074
Characters/Pairing: Inara. Ten. Implied Mal/Inara.
Spoilers: Vague allusions to events of Doctor Who Series 2
Crossover: Firefly/Doctor Who
Summary: This is almost, kinda, sorta, maybe like a prologue of sorts if there were to be a series of Inara/Ten adventures following this. That is not to say there will be. Not at all. Almost definitely won't be. But Time is a funny thing…
Author's Note: Never thought I'd do it, but here it is. Not only my first Doctor Who fic, but my first Crossover fic too. I blame it all on goldy_dollar *G* Also, thanks go to her for the beta!
"Inara Serra!" came an enthused voice from behind her, and Inara turned to regard the man who stood there in a brown pin-striped suit, long brown coat and sneakers, grinning from ear to ear and looking rather pleased with himself.
Drawing in a breath to calm her emotions, she stood from her crouch slowly, eyeing him warily. "I'm sorry, have we met?"
"Oh, once, before…" the man said, scratching behind his ear, fighting a smile as though he knew the punch line to a particularly obvious joke. He gave a tilt of his head, motioning for her to look beyond him to the tall blue box sitting next to a tree at the roadside. A blue box Inara was sure had not been there before. A blue box she had seen once, a long time ago.
"I knew a man once…" she started, eyes wide as she took him in. "He fl—he had a box like that."
"Same one," the he confided, shoving his hands into his pockets, smiling as he bounced on his heels. Inara looked at him skeptically. "What?" he asked defensively, then his mouth dropped open in an 'Oh!' of realization, as though suddenly remembering. "Right! Different face," he exclaimed, drawing a circle in the air around his face with one finger. "Still me, though." His gaze flicked away a moment and he shrugged slightly. "Well. Mostly." His eyebrows waggled as he flashed her a manic grin.
"Different face—What do you mean?" Inara asked distrustfully, slowly walking around him, studying him for anything familiar.
He tugged his ear again. "Bit of a trick, sort of, well, no, not really, but… Regeneration…'s a Time Lord… thing." He drew out the word 'thing', clucking his tongue for emphasis, smile still dancing around his lips as he watched her scrutinize him.
"Time Lord?" she asked, startled. "Then you're—"
"The Doctor," he agreed, smiling wider. "And you are Inara Serra, First Class Companion known the universe over…" His words faded as her face closed off and he frowned, hand tugging at his hair, looking over his shoulder as though searching for someone else. "Aren't you? I was sure I had it right this time… You look like her. Are you sure you aren't—"
"I'm not a Companion anymore," she said quietly. "I'm—" Her voice cracked, eyes falling to the stone that she had been kneeling in front of before she'd been interrupted. What was she now? Not a Companion; not crew. Not a lover, not a thief… Not even a widow, not really…. What was she now? "I'm not 'anything' right now," she said at last, finding no label adequate. It had been less than a week, but already she was feeling the weight of a lifetime without him ahead of her.
The Doctor followed her gaze, mouth opening and eyes going wide as he stepped up to the stone, a pair of spectacles suddenly appearing in his hand from within the depths of his overcoat. "You did it," he said as he put on the glasses and read the name inscribed there, turning to face her with a surprised look. "Didn't you? You gave it all up for him."
Letting out a slow breath, Inara nodded. "Yes. Yes, I did. Against all better judgement," she laughed fondly, catching a tear on her finger before it could fall. She crouched in front of the stone again, brushing the letters with her fingers.
"What happened?" the Doctor asked.
"He died," she said softly.
The Doctor opened his mouth to speak but hesitated, closing it again as he thought the better of it, shifting uncomfortably.
"What is it?" she said, looking up at him.
Emotion, deep sadness and pain, flashed across his face, feelings Inara recognized all too well. "Was he worth it?" he asked softly, and she didn't need the training of a Companion to know that he was asking the question out of more than just curiosity.
He'd lost someone too.
Drawing in a deep breath she turned back to the stone thoughtfully. "I don't know," she replied honestly. "But I know I wouldn't trade anything for the time we had together," she added resolutely.
"Time," the Doctor whispered to himself. "It all comes down to time." He nodded, then— "But now you're all alone…" he pointed out, looking at her, confused.
"Yes," she agreed, her hair stirring in the soft breeze around them. "But for a time, I wasn't."
The Doctor seemed to ponder that, his gaze far away. "For a time I wasn’t either," he said, sadness in his voice. Then he blinked, as though coming to a sudden realization, and he let out a small huff, almost a laugh. "For a time, I wasn't either." His face split into a grin suddenly, and he drew in a deep breath, eyes sparkling. "So…!"
"So?" she echoed, questioning.
"So, Inara Serra, ex-pirate, former Companion and currently 'not anything'…" He gave her an expectant, curious look, motioning with his head ever-so-slightly toward the TARDIS. "What do you say?"
Inara turned away as his meaning became clear, placing her hand on the grave marker, considering. The last time she had met this 'man' he'd made her this same offer. Her choice back then had been her career, but now… What did she have to tie her to this life now, she wondered, her eyes lingering on the name beneath her hand. Only this. "Will I be able to come back?" she asked finally, running her fingers over the rough stone.
"Whenever you want," he promised.
She looked back at the TARDIS, then up at the Doctor. With a last caress of the stone, she stood and faced him, nodding slowly. "Take me out of the world," she whispered, almost a plea.
The Doctor's smile faded, but he nodded back and held his arm out for her, smiling gently as she took it and he led her to the TARDIS. "There's still a lot of beauty in the universe," he promised, pausing at the door to stare up into the great expanse of the sky. He brought his gaze back to hers. "Still a lot of life."
Inara met his gaze. "Show me," she said and he smiled, giving a slight shake of his head as if awed anew by the mystery that was humankind.
"Once more around the Universe!" he exclaimed, lips widening into a grin, and swung the door in.