aibhinn_fics: (9/J/R OT3)
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Title: Mistaken Identities (1/2)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] aibhinn
Written for: [livejournal.com profile] honorh
Rating: PG
Pairing: Nine/Rose/Jack
Summary: A case of mistaken identity puts Jack and the Doctor smack in the middle of preparation for a coronation. Rose is amused, to put it mildly.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making any money. Please not to sue me.
Author's note: Written for the 2009 OT3 Ficathon. It's a bit late—and chapter 2 will be even later. [livejournal.com profile] honorh, I apologize. I hope you enjoy the fic so far! The prompt she gave me can be found at the end of this chapter. Many, many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] dameruth and [livejournal.com profile] jlrpuck for swift and thorough beta-reading. Ladies, you rock.



The celebration for the coronation of the Fifty-Third Empress of the Raelin Consortium was going swimmingly; a huge outdoor festival, taking up an area nearly the size of central London and lasting for the best part of a week before the coronation itself was to take place. People from all over the Consortium, including the outer planets, had come in for the once-in-a-lifetime experience, and were enjoying themselves thoroughly.

Or so the Doctor assumed. He couldn't be certain, because he and Jack were currently cooling their heels in a small, nondescript tent near the centre of the festival. A guard inside the tent ensured they had no way out.

"This is your fault," he told Jack firmly.

"Mine? How's it my fault?"

"I don't know, but I'm sure it must be. Maybe you flirted with the wrong person at the wrong time."

"I haven't flirted with anyone," Jack protested. "Except you and Rose, that is, and I haven't even done that since we left the TARDIS." He glanced over at the guard, who was standing impassively near the entrance to the tent, and lowered his voice. "Do you think she's all right?"

"I'm sure she is. She wasn't arrested, at any rate. Bless her penchant for wandering off; at least she's free. I wouldn't be surprised if she were finding a way to get us out of here."

"And if she's not?" Jack asked.

The Doctor flashed his best grin. "Then we get ourselves out of here, of course. I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve, and so have you. Don't worry, Captain. We'll be free and back in the TARDIS with Rose soon enough."

"I'm not worried," Jack said with an answering grin. "I wish I knew why we'd been arrested, though I have to admit, 'Please come with me' is much better than being thrown to the ground and handcuffed."

"Never known you to object to handcuffs," the Doctor observed.

Jack's grin turned naughty. "You've never known me not to, either. Though we could rectify that." He waggled his eyebrows.

A commotion from outside the tent caught the Doctor's ear: someone important seemed to be approaching, based on the commotion he could hear. "Maybe we're about to find out why we're here," he said. "Buck up, Captain. Give us your best con-man act. I'm about to talk our way out of this."

Jack nodded, tugging on the lapels of his greatcoat to settle it properly. "Yessir."

The Doctor hardly had time to register the honorific before a small, fussy man of about forty came in through the tent flap. He was short and balding and birdlike; he reminded the Doctor of nothing so much as a wren trying to find exactly the right twigs for its nest. "Well then, well then," the man said as he entered. Two well-dressed young men followed him in—not guards, nor fighters of any kind. Some sort of bureaucrat and his assistants, the Doctor decided. "Forgive me for taking so long. It's been such a mess, you know, trying to get everything organised, and something always goes wrong, and nobody can solve problems themselves, oh no, they have to find me, and what can I do but ask them what they think should be done? Sometimes I wonder if there are any competent people left in the whole of the Consortium. Have you been made comfortable? Would you like some water? Perhaps something to eat?"

The Doctor exchanged a glance with Jack. Not exactly what I'd expected to be asked. "No, thank you," he answered—politely, since the man was being more or less polite. "But I'd like to know why we're being held."

"Oh, you're not being held!" the man said with a fluttering laugh. "Oh, mercy me, no. Why would we hold you when we asked you to come? You're merely being kept safe from the crowds. If they knew you were here, you'd be mobbed!" He laughed again. "Now, just for formality's sake, may I see your identicards?"

The Doctor hesitated, wondering who exactly they were meant to be, but Jack pulled his psychic paper out of his coat pocket and flipped the cover open, handing it over. The man's eyes lit up when he saw it. "Oh, excellent!" he said enthusiastically, handing it back. "I've been a fan of your work for ages, simply ages. It's such an honour to have you here, Mr Eslatt." He looked at the Doctor. "And you must be Mr Comstad?"

The Doctor started to say 'no,' but Jack interrupted him. "Yes," he said. "We've come quite a distance to be here, and while we appreciate being kept out of the way of the crowd, perhaps we could go somewhere with a few more amenities? Like, oh, a place to sit?" He looked around the bare tent as though to emphasise the point.

The man blinked. "Oh. Oh! Yes! Yes, of course. Forgive me. And you'll be looking for your lady as well. We'd have escorted her with you, but we didn't see her."

The Doctor shot a look at Jack, who raised an eyebrow. A chance to find Rose—with the help of the locals. Not a bad gambit. "Yes, we are," the Doctor said, turning back to the little man. "She'd gone off to look at a few things at one of the stalls when your men found us. I've no idea where she is now."

"We'll find her, never fear," the man said with a smile. "Now: my name is Ernest Entarr, and I'm Her Incipient Majesty's Minister of the Arts. As such, I'm in charge of the festivities. It was my office that contacted you about coming to help us. Follow me, and we'll take you to your rooms so that you may freshen up before beginning your work—and of course we'll make sure we find your lady as well. I have to say, I'm terribly excited to see what you'll come up with. Your reputations are extraordinary." He turned to Jack. "I saw the choreography you did for the opening of the Third Ring Station. Brilliant! The melding of Old Earth style with the new traditions of the Consortium. I must say, I've never seen a zero-g ballet that touched me more. Never."

The Doctor found himself suddenly forced to fake a coughing fit to cover his laughter as the man's meaning penetrated. They thought Jack was a choreographer! A ballet choreographer! Serve you right, my lad, he thought gleefully.

"And of course, you, Mr Comstad, are most welcome as well," Entarr said, turning to him with a smile. "Her Incipient Majesty has loved your work for many years. She wore one of your designs to the Intersystem Ball two years ago, and maintains it is still her favourite gown. Her handmaidens have not stopped talking about the excitement of being able to wear livery that you've designed. We're so honoured to have you with us." He looked the Doctor up and down, nodding approvingly. "I should have realised who you were from the beginning. No-one else would wear something so avant-garde."

The Doctor's jaw dropped as Jack dissolved into his own fake coughing fit. A designer? He was meant to be a clothing designer?

That's it. We're leaving as soon as we find Rose.

"If you will come with me, please. And don't worry about the guards; they're only here to ensure your safety." Entarr turned and left the tent, obviously expecting them to follow. One of his assistants gestured respectfully that they should take their place directly behind the Minister—no doubt a place of great honour—and with a growl, the Doctor strode out of the tent, refusing to meet Jack's eye.

"Good job you wore the maroon jumper today," Jack told him as they emerged into the bright sunlight. "I'm not sure, but I think the black might have been a bit too avant-garde, even for their taste."

"Shut up," the Doctor growled.

***

Rose ducked under the awning of yet another shop booth and fanned herself with a hand, trying to put her thoughts into logical order while simultaneously shoving her panic away. Three hours, the boys had been missing. Three hours. And she'd not heard any sort of fuss, the way there usually was when one or more of them had been arrested; no shouting, or running, or blown whistles. Just—there one minute, gone the next, in the time it took her to go around the corner, buy a spangled aqua scarf and a hair pin, and come back.

So, either they weren't arrested at all and she'd just been missing them as she searched . . . or they were arrested so quickly and quietly that there wasn't any fuss.

It was the latter possibility that worried her. Quick and quiet arrests tended to involve being knocked unconscious, either by violence or by drugs, and also tended to be much more sinister than being arrested for simply wearing the wrong colour or paying with the wrong currency. Worst of all, those sorts of arrests weren't the kind that ended up in the local equivalent of the police station. God knew where they'd be, and whether she could ever find them again.

"Your pardon, my lady."

The voice beside her startled her, and she whirled. Standing there was a tall young man, no more than twenty or so, with a self-deprecating smile on his face. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you. You are the lady Rose Tyler?"

"Yes," she said warily.

"My name is Mical Bryen, and I've been sent to tell you that Mr Comstad and Mr Eslatt are safe and request the honour of your presence," he said. "We've escorted them to their—or, rather, your—apartments in the Royal Residence."

"Mr who?" she asked, frowning. Were these people she was meant to know? Someone the Doctor had been nattering on about, maybe?

The young man looked taken aback for a moment, then his face cleared. "Oh, yes, of course," he said. "I'd forgotten they're using other names, for privacy." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. "The Doctor and Jack Harkness," he said, looking up at her for confirmation. "Those are their identities for this project, yes?"

Identities? Project? What the hell are they up to? "Yes," she said, deciding if the Doctor had agreed to it, she'd better as well.

Mical looked relieved. "Excellent. We've been sent to find you; your men are anxious to know that you're all right. If you will accompany me, I'll see that you're reunited with them."

Rose hesitated, but there was really nothing for it. Even if this Mical was lying and she was being taken into custody, if she was taken to the same place, even the same building, as the Doctor and Jack, there was a chance they could escape and get out of here. Certainly a better chance than if she stayed here. "All right," she said.

They started off down the path between rows of booths, but before they'd gone more than a couple of steps, a pair of guards fell into step behind them. Rose shot them nervous glances. They didn't look as though they were escorting a criminal, but she knew better than to assume that meant anything.

"Oh, don't be concerned," Mical reassured her. "They're here as an honour guard, nothing more. Your slaves are in no trouble."

"Slaves?" she blurted, shocked.

"Yes, of course." He looked puzzled. "Have you given Mr Eslatt and Mr Comstad their freedom, then? I had not heard they'd been released." His mouth tightened into a line. "I've heard that freeing slaves is – common – in your province."

The disapproval was coming off him in waves, and Rose was certain she felt that same disapproval from the guards behind her. She didn't want to make any enemies, at least not at the moment, so she said carefully, "I have not freed anyone, no, but I don't like the word 'slave'."

Mical's face cleared. "Ah," he said. "Yes, I understand. Your servants, then. I must say, it's quite an honour to have them with us. The premier designer and choreographer in the Consortium! Everyone is thrilled that you've agreed to let them come."

Designer and choreographer? Laughter threatened to bubble up, but she shoved it down and forced herself to say, "It's an honour to allow them to serve Her Majesty."

"Her Incipient Majesty," Mical corrected. "Still, we thank you for allowing it."

They'd not walked more than fifty yards or so before they came to an odd-looking contraption: something that looked like an old-fashioned carriage, but instead of wheels, there was a pair of long poles attached to the front and back. Big, muscular men held the poles, supporting them. A litter, her mind supplied at last. Like the ancient Romans.

Mical bowed and gestured towards the litter. "This will take you to the Royal Residence, Lady Rose," he said. "Your sl—servants are there, waiting for you."

"Er," Rose said. The presence of the burly men—more slaves, no doubt—made her feel even more uncomfortable. "Thank you, but I'm quite happy to walk."

"Oh, no, Lady Rose," Mical said, aghast. "We couldn't let you do that! You are our honoured guest. It would be disrespectful in the extreme to allow you to walk so far! Please, for Her Incipient Majesty's sake."

It would be rude to refuse, Rose realised. Carefully, she settled onto the litter, leaning back against the cushions. The slaves hardly seemed to notice her weight, which made her feel at least a little better. Find the Doctor and Jack, and we can get out of here, she thought.

"Go," Mical said in a tone of command, and the slaves started forward, jogging in perfect step, like well-trained soldiers. It was a remarkably smooth ride, Rose thought, and gave her nothing to do but watch the scenery and think.

How, how, how had the Doctor and Jack managed to be mistaken for a choreographer and a fashion designer? And which one was which? I'd love to see the Doctor as a fashion designer, she thought, and this time she couldn't hold back a laugh. Maybe I could get him to design me a new outfit, though it would probably include black jeans and a black leather jacket. Jack wouldn't be bad at fashion designing, come to think of it, but that would leave the Doctor as a choreographer! Though he can dance, at least, so maybe that wouldn't be so bad . . .

If nothing else, it's a way to pass the trip to the Royal Residence.


TBC

(The prompt [livejournal.com profile] honorh gave me was: wacky hijinks lead to Rose having to claim the boys as her personal property. Again, smut would be nice, but it's not a requirement. Humor is. Do not want: angst.)
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