Characters: most of the PRE-Serenity Crew, Bob, Harry
Spoilers: Reference to War Stories (FF), Bad Blood (DF)
Word count: 1617
Summary: You never know where the Nevernever might take you.
Author's notes: Written for tigerkat24 who asked for TV!Bob and Firefly. Which was a bit tricky, so I hope you like it, Kat. :-) Um, might be a bit crack!ficish. This was very nearly called 'Out of the Nevernever, into the Firefly'. You're welcome. ;-)
The worst part of the experience, Bob had decided, was being sold. Really, being sold was so demeaning. Being given as a gift was pretty bad as well, but it was being sold that was the worst part. The upshot was that his new ‘owner’ (Harry, being still alive as far as Bob knew, was still his true owner) was very, very, very beautiful. And frequently naked, which was something Bob could definitely live with. Or un-live with, as the case may be.
Bob had trouble keeping track of time in the naked girl’s room. It had no windows, just a lot of draped curtains. At first he tried to count the days by assuming that when the girl slept or went to bed, it was night. However, he soon realized that this particular girl was prone to going to bed more than others. With many different people. He should have figured it out sooner, really, seeing as he was given to her as a gift in payment of her ‘services’. The services were another aspect of his new life to which he had no objections.
It was a strange world into which he had been dropped. The Nevernever was connected to all sorts of places, of course, but this wasn’t faerie or any of its affiliates. There was no obvious magic here. Everyone seemed to be from the American South, with a few exceptions in accent (the girl’s being one of them). Chinese was also used interchangeably with English (not a problem, it was one of the several languages Bob spoke). The most surprising part of whatever world he’d ended up in was that he was on a spaceship. He discovered this when the girl swept some curtains aside and proceeded to fly her brothel to ‘dock’ with something called ‘Serenity’.
“Ewww, Inara, where’dja get that?” A very energetic girl squealed, shortly after they had ‘docked’. She had come running in and the two girls had hugged and shrieked at annoying levels for a few minutes. Apparently it had been quite sometime since they’d seen one another.
Inara (the naked girl) picked up his skull and examined in. “A client. He said it was some sort of ancient good luck charm.”
“Really?” The energetic girl squeaked. She narrowed her eyes and stared into his sockets. “Sorta creepy, ain’t it? Like it knows what’s going on.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Kaylee,” Inara said. “It’s just a painted skull. A paperweight.”
“I thought you was fixin’ my engine, little girl,” a man’s voice said. Bob couldn’t see him from where his eyes were aimed.
“Right, right. I was just sayin’ hello, capt’n.” Kaylee waved to Inara. “Hello.”
The man walked into Bob’s view and gave Kaylee a one armed hug around the neck, then spun her out of the room. He was a tall man, probably just shorter than Harry. He had on a long brown coat. “Ambassador.”
“Captain,” Inara replied.
“I was working, Mal.”
“Good. Then you can pay me yer rent.”
“Life of crime not so lucrative this month?”
“Not as lucrative as the whorin’ business, apparently.” He took Bob’s skull from her and turned it over in his hands. Bob always hated the sensation of being spun around. “’Course, I don’t accept body parts as payment.”
“That’s funny, I seem to remember you giving them,” Inara drawled. She tweaked his ear and he slapped a hand to it protectively. Inara smiled. She reminded Bob of Bianca, only less pale.
“Dinner’s in half an hour, if you’re deignin’ to eat with us poor folk,” Mal said. He tossed Bob’s skull to her. Bob always hated that, too. “Leave Yorrick behind. Yes, I have seen a play.”
He left. Inara smiled down at the skull and set it on the table again.
Once she’d left for dinner, Bob took the opportunity to come out of his skull for the first time in several days. He hadn’t risked it for fear of what might be done to him in this unknown world. He wandered around the girl’s room and then, as an experiment, went through a wall. He found himself in outer space and stepped back inside, fast. After that, he decided to stay within the confines of the room. When he heard noise outside, he sent himself back into the skull. Another girl entered the room – neither Inara nor Kaylee. This one was younger and had wild eyes. She also seemed to be looking for him. She walked right over and knelt down in front of the skull, peering into his eye sockets.
“Went away again,” she muttered. “Hiding away, trapped in your head. Afraid of the world. Little cocoon. Can’t stay forever. They always find you. Gonna come out to play?”
Bob decided this child was probably unhinged and that he would just stay where he was. He was a bit disconcerted that she seemed to know he was in there, however. Perhaps she’d seen him walking around?
“Hrothbert of Bainbridge,” she continued. He jumped, startled. Jumped in a metaphorical way, of course. “No, wrong name. Lost it, changed it, made it something better. Bob. Two different people all inside one head.”
“How do you know my name?” he asked, staying in the skull but lighting its eyes up. She didn’t seem surprised. “Are you some sort of sorceress?”
“He’s coming for you,” she said.
She picked up his skull and carried it out of the room, under her arm, paying no heed to Bob’s objections. They traveled along a catwalk, down some steps, across a large cargo hold, through a hallway, up more stairs and into what Bob assumed was the dining area. He fell silent once there. Several people were crammed around a table, except for one young man who looked immensely relieved to see the girl arrive.
“River, where have you been?” he asked. “And what are you carrying?”
“That’s Inara’s skull,” Kaylee told him. “Well, not her skull, ‘cause it’s in her head. You’d know that, bein’ a doctor an’ all. Uh...Inara?”
“A client gave it to me,” Inara filled in. “She can have it if she wants. It doesn’t matter to me.”
“Can she not have it at the dinner table?” Mal objected.
“River, put your skull away, please,” the young man said, as though speaking to a small child. “You can play with it after dinner.”
“It has to be here,” the girl said. “He’s lost, have to send him home, have to keep him here to be found.” She sounded increasingly upset as she spoke.
“Alright, alright,” the young man soothed. “Can you put it on the counter?”
River went over to the indicated counter and hopped up, crossing her legs and setting Bob in the center of them.
“I...” the young man said.
“Just leave it, Doc,” Mal advised.
“It’s looking at me,” a burly man said.
“No it’s not,” Mal barked.
“Is too,” the burly man insisted.
“Switch seats with me, son,” another man said. He had grey hair and gave Bob a disapproving look as he sat down on the other side of the table.
“This is ridiculous,” Mal declared. He glared at Inara. “You had to bring the skull.”
“It was a gift!” Inara said.
“It’s still looking at me, ain’t it?” the burly man whined.
“Jayne, shut up!” Mal and Inara said together.
“Hello, Harry,” River said, above the noise.
Everyone turned to look at River and then looked in another direction. Bob wasn’t aimed the right way to see it.
“Uh...hi,” Harry’s voice said. “Sorry to – whoa!” Half of the table had produced weapons and were aiming it in the voice’s direction. “Um. I come in peace?”
Bob considered it safe to pop out of his skull. He did so and found Harry standing in a doorway, shield bracelet held up in front of him. He brightened when Bob appeared.
“Where have you been?” Bob demanded.
“I came as soon as I could,” Harry said. “It’s only been a couple of hours on my side.”
“It’s been several days, here,” Bob sniffed. “Three of which were spent lying in the sand in the middle of a desert.”
“It’s better than being on Mab’s shelf of trophies for all eternity,” Harry pointed out.
Bob shuddered. “I suppose so. You could have been quicker about returning for me.”
“The spell wouldn’t work until just a minute ago, I thought you were shielded,” Harry said. “You’re lucky I came at all. I could have given up.”
“Who the hell are you?” Mal demanded, interrupting the reunion. Bob found that the guns were wavering between Harry and himself. Those without guns just looked astonished. “How did you get on my ship? And how did you come out of that skull?”
“Toldja it was looking at me,” Jayne mumbled. Bob was not entirely sure how he’d managed to conceal the large weapon he was aiming at him.
“Portal,” Harry replied. “Ghost. Wizard. Didn’t mean to interrupt anything. I had to drop him off somewhere. Nasty faeries after me. Uh...I’ll just be going if I can have him back?”
River hopped off the counter and walked over to Harry, holding out the skull and blocking him from the guns. “Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden.” Harry shivered at the use of his Name. “Not alone as you think. Not everything dies.”
“Um, right,” Harry agreed. His eyes darted to Bob, who shrugged. Harry took the skull from her and smiled. “Thanks for looking after him. Hope he didn’t annoy you too much....uh, let’s go before they shoot me.” He turned and opened a portal back into the Nevernever.
“Thank you for a lovely experience, milady,” Bob said, bowing to Inara. “You are quite exceptional at your job.”
Inara’s mouth dropped opened as she realized his implications. She folded her arms and narrowed her eyes at him. ”Méiyôu mûqin de xiao gôu...”
Bob smiled and followed Harry back through the portal.
“What the Hell just happened?” Mal demanded.
River took her seat at the table. “Everyone has a family. Pass the bao.”