Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

A Companion’s Lot

A Companion’s Lot

by Mara

Summary: Shortly after Inara joins the crew of Serenity, she has a run-in with Jayne, which makes her think about her career and her place in the crew.

NOTES: This was slightly inspired by a discussion on firefly_over_30 about the
role of Companions. Thanks for the beta go to Captain Average, the superhero
with faith in Joss Whedon. In case you don’t recognize it, the title is
paraphrased from Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, _The Pirates of Penzance_.

* * * * *

Inara stood in the doorway to her shuttle, examining every detail of the decor,
from top to bottom and side to side. Her training had been rigorous in all
aspects, but physical environment was one that she considered particularly
important. Especially when the planets she would be visiting out on the fringe
were not the most…civilized.

While Serenity was in transit, Inara used the opportunity to redecorate and
revamp her working and living quarters. Her clients were sure to appreciate the
touch of luxury, she thought as she stepped over to a wall to critically examine
a wall hanging in subtle tones of burgundy and gold. That fray along the upper
left would need to be repaired immediately, or the whole piece replaced, she
decided as she tilted her head slightly to one side to see it better.

She turned to consider the view from the side of the small room and was pleased.
The lighting was soft enough to flatter most complexions, but not so dark as to
look depressing. Draped and hanging fabrics covered the most dilapidated
elements of the shuttle, softening the hard edges and subtly relaxing the mind.
Sniffing, she decided that the scent in the air was just a bit strong, and in
the future she’d tone it down a bit, perhaps replace it with something less
aggressively floral.

A rustling at the shuttle’s entrance was barely audible over the string quartet
she had been listening to, but it interrupted her contemplation. She turned
quickly, but showed no other reaction when Jayne stepped into the shuttle. This
was due, once again, to her thorough training–if a one-eyed hunchback had
staggered in, in theory, she would have done no more than perhaps raise a
shapely eyebrow.

In fact, as she considered the figure in front of her, she thought briefly that
a one-eyed staggering hunchback might be a thoroughgoing improvement on Jayne–
especially if said hunchback could hold a coherent conversation.

He’d obviously made an effort to clean up, which she supposed showed rudimentary
intelligence, but the look in his eyes showed little more than that. Careful
handling would be required with this one if she didn’t want to irreparably
damage relations with a dangerous and contentious crewmate.

‘A Companion’s lot is not an ‘appy one,’ her mind informed her, misquoting the
old song for at least the thousandth time since she’d joined the guild.

“Hello,” she said, when he paused in the entrance, apparently speechless.

He was emboldened by her speaking to him, and stepped quickly toward her.
Forcibly restraining the urge to step backward, she looked up at him,
expressionless, knowing that anything else might encourage him.

“Well?” he asked, looking a little bit confused.

“Well, what?” Probably best to play stupid until she came up with a better plan.

His eyes narrowed, and apparently he sensed he was being made fun of in some
way. “What do you do?”

“I help the Captain gain access to planets that won’t negotiate with the working
class.” Obtuseness and obfuscation were powerful weapons, she thought.

“Not that. I mean, what do you do in here,” he waved a general hand around the
shuttle’s interior, “for your…customers?”

“That depends on many factors,” she said, moving away to sink gracefully into a
chair, one specifically placed so that there were no nearby seats.

He looked around and then chose an intricately carved wooden chair, practically
perching on the edge of its cushioned seat. “What kinda factors?” His knee was
practically bouncing in excitement.

She smiled at Jayne, now that she’d moved away and he’d made no hostile moves.
“That depends on what they need me to do, how long we are contracted for, their
planet of origin…”

If it would help, she thought, she was perfectly capable of sex with Jayne. By
law, Companions always chose their clients, but there had been times when, for
various reasons, she had been with men with more repulsive personalities and
appearances. Unfortunately, all her instincts told her that was exactly the
wrong thing to do in this situation. Once she worked for a member of the crew,
things could only go downhill.

“What can you do for me?”

She stomped firmly on a sudden flare of temper. “Jayne, you’re a crewmate, not a
client. It would be inappropriate.”

In a flash he was standing, and between temper and a touch of fear, she had
difficulty staying still. But through force of will, she left her arms resting
in her lap, and simply tilted her head up to look at him, willing her body
language to calm him down.

“Inappropriate? Hell, what about you and the Captain? D’you just like him
better?” He loomed over her, but she felt a twinge of sympathy for the less-
than-complex man.

“I have done nothing with Captain Reynolds,” she said, her voice low and calm.

“Y’expect me to believe that?”

Jayne looked honestly befuddled, and she sighed. “Only because it is the truth.”

“Then why’re you here?”

“We’ve covered that. My status as a Companion will allow all of you to trade on
a great many additional planets.” She allowed her face to soften just a little.
“I’m sorry if you misunderstood. I’m sure you haven’t ever had a chance to talk
to a Companion before.”

He still loomed, but looked uncertain how to react. She’d best move quickly, she
judged, to keep uncertainty from shifting to anger.

“I’ll bet you didn’t have too many Companions on your world,” she said, pitching
her voice at its most soothing.

“Well, no, not exactly.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot and she watched
carefully for the moment he was most uncertain.

“Companions are not quite what you think. The Captain teases me by calling me
Ambassador, but he’s right in a way. Please, sit down.” She waved at the chair
he’d been sitting on, and rose herself. “Would you like something to drink? I
believe I still have some of that new brandy they’re growing on Ceres II.”

She’d timed it perfectly and Jayne found himself seated with a glass of brandy,
a piece of chocolate, and a beautiful woman making an elegant amount of fuss
over him.

Watching him drink, Inara winced a bit. She’d intended that brandy for a client,
but if it helped her keep the peace, it was all in a good cause.

After a few minutes of her feeding him, Jayne began to feel uncomfortable, just
as she’d planned. All the things she used to make her clients feel at ease could
work the opposite way. As soon as possible, she changed the music to a piece
guaranteed to give almost anyone the jitters within a few minutes. Inara was
accustomed to it, as well as to schooling her features, but Jayne began to
fidget.

He was outmaneuvered and outclassed, and if he couldn’t be certain how it had
happened, he could be certain it was true. She was finally able to chivvy him
out the door, unsure what had happened, but convinced it would be easier to find
sex someplace else.

When he was gone, casting one last wistful glance over his shoulder at her–
well, at her chest, actually–she occupied her hands in tidying up.

Her mind wandered, though, to what life was going to be like on Serenity.
Obviously, she was moving out of her accustomed circles, away from people who
knew her and her place in the world.

If she were completely honest with herself–as a Companion needed to be–she
wasn’t certain what the Captain thought of her and her job. He hid his thoughts
and beliefs amazingly well under insults and foolish talk, although she doubted
most people ever noticed that it was only a cover for much deeper things. It
wasn’t often she encountered someone who left her so befuddled, who was such a
challenge to understand.

Wash and Zoe, on the other hand, didn’t particularly care what she did, as long
as she wasn’t working for the Alliance. And Wash certainly wasn’t going to cause
her any trouble–that was obvious from the first moment she saw him look at Zoe.
At least, it was obvious to anyone with years of training in body language, she
amended.

Kaylee, of course, wasn’t generally interested in anything that didn’t involve
engines, but she showed signs of being intrigued by Inara. A sweet child, she
thought with a smile.

Just as she’d put everything back in order, Inara heard the sounds of someone
entering the shuttle.

She whirled around, this time unable to completely school her features, and
Malcolm grinned at her. Hands up in mock surrender, he stepped past the door
hangings. “Whoa. I’m unarmed.”

A laugh and a scowl fought for dominance on her face. “What do you want?”

“Is that any way to greet a man, your Captain I might add, who’s come here for a
friendly visit?” He strolled in and began a circuit around the shuttle as she
watched, exasperated.

Hands on her hips, she glared at him. *This* man didn’t need to be coddled or
worked, she could play it straight. “Not you, too.”

Malcolm’s strolling came to an abrupt halt and he rotated on his heel,
expression confused. “Me too, what?”

“Expecting services rendered because I’m aboard your ship. I just sent Jayne
packing and my rule is the same as when we made our arrangement: I don’t work
for the crew.” She crossed her arms.

“Jayne? Jayne was here?” He seemed stuck on that, then looked at her. “That’s
why you thought *I* was here? I just came to see how your renovations were
going.”

She flushed. “I’m sorry. It’s just that Jayne only left a few minutes ago.”

“You compared me to him? I think I’m insulted.” Now, he was smirking, arms
crossed in an imitation of her stance.

Inara sighed, wondering why this man could so easily disrupt years of training.
She let her hands drop back to her sides, and tried to regain her usual calm.
“My apologies for the misunderstanding. The renovations are going well and
perhaps I should get back to them.”

“Don’t let me stand in your way.” He meandered back toward the door.

“Captain?”

“Yes?” He paused and half-turned.

“Next time you come to visit, do you think could knock before you walk in?”

“I’ll sure…think about it.”

“Get out.”

He made it all the way out the door before sticking his head back in. “This has
been a test of the emergency bitch system. Had this been an actual bitch-”

“Out!”

He chuckled and was gone. Inara sank down on her couch and took a few deep
breaths. Obviously, life aboard Serenity was doomed to be anything but peaceful.

–end–

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