Series: Altered History
Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (attempted murder, emotionally constipated characters)
Summary: The Library left a mark on both Eight and Donna. They each realized they had feelings for the other, but felt unable to act on them. How will meeting Agatha Christie and his nearly dying change their dynamic?
Disclaimer: Utterly not mine. Just taking things from canon, mixing in Big Finish stories, and adding a healthy dose of my imagination.
Dedication: cassikat, for getting me interested in the Eighth Doctor in the first place. tardis_mole for being an awesome beta. And bas_math_girl for encouraging me to continue the series and keep posting.
Author's Note: Started during NaNoWriMo when I suddenly found “Echos on Oodsphere” finishing two chapters sooner than I expected (leaving one flashback bit out in the original draft), and to keep me going. I had to figure out on the fly what else I needed to write, and figured out later where the ideas would fit.
Once again, please make sure you've read the earlier installments: The Runaway Bride, Prophecies and Pompeii, Echoes on Ood Sphere, and Time Trials. Otherwise you'll have no context for why Donna is traveling with Eight.
Originally, I was not going to include “The Unicorn and the Wasp” as one of the DT-era stories moved into this series. However, when the flashbacks in the last story stopped naturally at the end of “The Christmas Invasion” and did not continue to the needed final flashbacks, I knew I needed one more story. So the idea from my beta of using some brief flashbacks of things needed to show the evolution of Eight and Donna's relationship turned into a full-blown story. I think it works better this way, because it prepares for the rest of the series. I did rewatch the episode before posting, to catch any details I previously missed. Mind, the American DVDs have terrible closed captioning for the episodes; a lot of lines are presented incorrectly.
And this is not Eight's first time investigating a murder. If you can get hold of a copy of “Max Warp,” I highly recommend it. It's basically “Top Gear in space meets Agatha Christie”. PM's own description of the story.
Canon Error Reset Alert Note: You might have noticed that I developed a habit of giving the date for when a chapter is set wherever possible. Well, when I looked up when Agatha Christie disappeared so I could give the date, I was stunned to learn that RTD allowed a writer to place it during the summer and not the near winter when it actually happened. I know Doctor Who is known for bad writing, but this made me face-palm myself. So... I'm adjusting the setting to the historical date, and adjusting the events and scenes as needed. Also, the sheer number of historical research fails were abnormally high in this episode even for Doctor Who. Hence a lot of adjustments in addition to the season change.
Altered History: Chasing Unicorns and Wasps
Started November 22, 2018
Finished January 6, 2019
Chapter Two: Mysteries Afoot
December 4, 1926
The Doctor and Donna rushed ahead of everyone else. Only Agatha and Greeves kept up. The butler gave directions as to where the library was, and they quickly arrived. The Doctor found Professor Peach lying on the ground motionless, blood seeping from his head. He promptly knelt by the body.
“Oh, my goodness,” Greeves breathed.
“Bashed on the head with a blunt instrument,” the Doctor noted aloud to the ladies, who also knelt near the body. His eyes drifted to the professor's wrist and tapped it. “His watch broke as he fell. Time of death was a quarter past one.”
As he stood and looked through the papers on the desk, Donna knelt by an object with some blood on it. “A bit of pipe. Call me Hercules Poirot, but I reckon that's blunt enough.”
In a reflected surface, the Doctor noticed Agatha finding a piece of burnt paper in the grate and putting it in her bag. But he said nothing about that. “Well, there's nothing worth killing for in this lot. Dry as dust.”
Donna stepped right beside him, the weirdness of the situation hitting her. “Hold on. The Body In The Library? I mean, Professor Peach, in the library, with the lead piping?”
He was about to answer when the other guests forced their way in.
“Let me see,” Lady Eddison said.
“Out of my way,” the Colonel demanded.
But then they all saw it for themselves. “Gerald?” Lady Eddison cried.
Golightly trembled. “Saints preserve us.”
“Oh, how awful,” whispered Miss Redmond.
Agatha attempted to calm everyone. “Someone should call the police.”
“You don't have to,” said the Doctor, drawing out the psychic paper again. This was the perfect timing. “Chief Inspector Noble from Scotland Yard, known as the Doctor. Mrs. Noble is the plucky young assistant who helps me out.”
Lady Eddison looked again at the paper, but saw what he wanted her to. “I say.”
“Mrs. Christie was right that this is a police matter. Go into the sitting room,” the Doctor ordered, ignoring the tension he felt coming from Donna. “I will question each of you in turn.”
Agatha looked at him with a brief look of disbelief, but she saw no reason to challenge it. “Come along. Do as the Doctor says. Leave the room undisturbed.” She then led the others away and closed the doors behind her.
As soon as the doors closed, Donna turned on the Doctor, even though she kept her voice quiet. “The plucky young assistant who helps me out?” she repeated.
“Donna, there were no policewomen in 1926,” he defended himself as he knelt again to look at the body from different angles. “Had to use some excuse to have you help me, and aren't all the female helpers plucky? And please, don't use those words you used earlier. They don't help you with fitting in.”
“I'll pluck you in a minute,” she growled. “And as the daughter of a retired policeman, I finally get to correct you on the history of my country.”
That made him look up in confusion.
“There were women police officers in 1926 and had been since World War 1,” Donna continued, sharp and blunt since his assumption had hit a nerve. “The first woman to attain the rank Sergeant was promoted in 1919, and she had to be on the force for at least two years before that, as a Constable. Most of them were limited to clerical or secretarial duties, but some were drivers or even assistants on sensitive cases involving female or child victims.”
He was taken aback by her venom. Not to mention discovering she knew more than he did. “Oh. Sorry.”
Donna sighed. “In any case, why don't we phone the real police?” she added, her anger lessening a little.
Something caught his attention and he grabbed collection tools from his satchel. “Well, aside from the fact that telephones didn't become popular or affordable, even for the rich, until after World War II? The last thing we want is PC Plod sticking his nose in, especially now I've found this. Morphic residue,” he explained after scraping the tiny sample of organic material off the floorboards. He stood to show her while he reached for his sonic.
“Morphic? Doesn't sound very 1926.”
“It's not. It's left behind when certain shape-shifting species genetically re-encode,” he explained as he scanned it.
She looked back at the doors. “The murderer's an alien?”
He hemmed and hawed slightly. “What it means is that one of that lot is an alien in human form. They may or not be the murderer, but they were present in this room close to the murder. Oh, I'm going to need to scan this with the TARDIS' instruments. The sonic isn't powerful enough,” he admitted as he found a way to store the material safely.
Donna's mind was racing. “Yeah, but think about it. There's a murder, a mystery, and Agatha Christie.”
“So, it's a strange event. Happens to me all the time.”
“No, but isn't that more than a bit weird?” she insisted. “Agatha Christie didn't walk around surrounded by murders. Not really. I mean, that's like meeting Charles Dickens and he's surrounded by ghosts at Christmas.”
The Doctor thought about it as he tucked the now protected evidence away. “True. Wonder if I'll ever meet him.”
Donna laughed. “Oh, come on! It's not like we could drive across country and find Enid Blyton having tea with Noddy.” She paused, suddenly feeling a childhood dream coming back. “Could we? Noddy's not real. Is he? Tell me there's no Noddy.”
The Doctor grinned. “Well, I don't know if there's a Noddy. Shall we see if we can find Enid Blyton after this?”
“Yes!” she enthused as they went to the door.
Outside the library Agatha was standing in a build-in area with a bench – a rather convenient spot for changing shoes after going outside, as evidenced by the boots stored underneath – waiting for them. She stepped out as Donna added to the Doctor, “I never know what you're going to say next. I mean, next thing I know, you'll be telling me it's like Murder On The Orient Express, and they all did it.”
“Murder on the Orient Express?” Agatha asked, intrigued.
“Ooo, yeah. One of your best,” Donna praised.
“But not yet,” the Doctor whispered to her.
Agatha looked strangely at them, but the idea was simmering in her head already. “Marvellous idea, though.”
Donna was embarrassed at showing herself up in front of two people whose opinions she valued. However, she hid it well. “Yeah. Tell you what. Copyright Donna Noble, okay?”
The Doctor's lips twisted into a grin that he had to fight off. “Anyway. Agatha and I will question the suspects. Donna, you search the bedrooms. Look for clues. Including more residue,” he added sotto voce as he searched his satchel. “And you'll need this.”
Donna looked at the large magnifying glass in his hand, and fixed him a dubious look. “Is that for real?”
He saw her reluctance, and wondered if he had accidentally insulted her again. He gave a pleading look. “Please, please, please, Donna. You're ever so plucky.”
She sighed, unable to hide that his particular look was hard to resist. “Please be careful using that look on someone else,” she requested as she took the magnifying glass and headed upstairs. And thanked the heavens that he had not plucked it out of one of his trouser front pockets.
The Doctor watched her a for a few seconds. It dawned on him that she had seemed rather affected by him. Did he dare hope? Well, not that he could act on it at present. So he refocused his attention with some cheer. “Right then. Well, I've solved murder mysteries before, but never with someone who creates them. This will be different.”
Agatha glared at him. “How like a man to have fun while there's disaster all around him.”
She suddenly reminded him a lot of Donna, and was glad that his dear companion was not in earshot. “Sorry, sorry, sorry.”
“I'll work with you, gladly, but for the sake of justice, not your own amusement,” Agatha promised, scathingly, before she walked toward the main part of the house.
“Yeah,” he breathed. “At least you won't be taking the mickey out of me half the time.”
Donna spent a while looking through each of the rooms, all while one person after another went to speak with the Doctor and Agatha. But she found nothing.
It left her with plenty of time to think about what had happened since arriving at Eddison Manor, and all between her and the Doctor. The looks he had given her, the way he pleaded for her to investigate, and how he nearly used the phrase 'we're not married' when Agatha had said 'couple'. It was all making her heart race.
She had not believed it possible that her alien best friend could return her feelings. But everything that had happened, including some of his reactions from before the Library and even while there, was leaning in that direction. And it was not flirting. He had to know he had her attention, so he was not really flirting with her. Never really had, except in a playful tease over something she had said. Which suggested he was very serious, whatever his intentions were.
But what could she expect from him? And, given his people's strange history, did he even know what he wanted?
When her hand found a locked door, she was startled out of her thoughts. None of the rest of the doors were locked, after all.
“You won't find anything in there,” Greeves said.
Donna nearly jumped. She had not heard him approaching. Although given her thoughts it was no surprise. She covered herself with a question. “How come it's locked?”
“Lady Eddison commands it to be so.”
“And I command it to be otherwise,” she ordered. “Scotland Yard. Pip, pip.”
Greeves went to the door with a key.
As he unlocked the door, Donna continued her line of questioning. “Why's it locked in the first place?”
Greeves paused in the process and looked at Donna. “Many years ago, when my father was butler to the family, Lady Eddison returned from India with malaria. She locked herself in this room for six months until she recovered. Since then, the room has remained undisturbed.”
He opened the door, and Donna stepped inside. It looked like a child's bedroom, even with the drawn curtains casting everything in faded light. A lamb toy sat at the foot of the little bed, looking sightlessly at the wall.
“There's nothing in here,” Greeves said.
Nothing obvious, Donna corrected silently. “How long's it been empty?”
Odd. “Why would she seal it off?” She turned to Greeves, because she had something to say to him even if he might be a suspect despite being in the sun room with them. “You know, I'm certain that you were no less than an under-butler at the time. You look the right age, and all that talk about your father? That's meant to tell me that you know nothing and that I'm wasting my time asking you. I understand that you're loyal to the family and that is a good character reference for Lady Eddison. However, there's no way to know now what is or isn't relevant to the murder of Professor Peach. So, the Doctor and I will have to look into any secrets we find. Understood?”
Greeves paled, but nodded.
Satisfied that she made her point, Donna added, “All right, I need to investigate. You just buttle off.”
Donna motioned him out and closed the door so she could look around undisturbed. Her attention was drawn to the lamb toy. It was faded from the light that had slipped in through the curtains, and it felt like cheap faux fur. It had that gritty feel that old toys like that tended to get.
Her musings were disturbed by hearing the faint sounds of an insect buzzing around. “1926, they've still got plenty of bees.”
It continued, getting louder.
She moved toward the source, which sounded like the window. “Oh, what a noise. All right, busy bee, I'll let you out. Hold on, I shall find you with my amazing powers of detection,” she added, putting on a mock French accent for her own amusement and looking through the magnifying glass.
But when Donna pulled the curtains open they revealed a giant wasp outside. She pulled the magnifying glass away, but it only made it a little less large.
She gasped, backing away from the window and ending up against the opposite wall. She screamed as it smashed through the glass. “That's impossible,” she muttered as she moved to avoid the wasp, which left her backed up to the broken window as the wasp had moved too close to the door, cutting off her escape route. “Doctor!” she screamed.
Just as the wasp seemed ready to strike, Donna got an idea, remembering those boys who liked to burn ants with magnifying glasses. She held up the magnifying glass to the broken window, focusing the bright sunshine onto the insect. It recoiled in pain, which, after several seconds, gave her the opening to run to the door and yank it open.
“Doctor!” Donna screamed again as she closed the door behind her. She could distantly hear running. But she screamed as the wasp's sting burst through the wooden door. But the wasp didn't. Yet that mercy didn't comfort her.
The Doctor and Agatha rushed up the stairs towards her. “Donna, what's wrong?” he asked, looking over her with his eyes to check for injuries.
“There's a giant wasp,” she gasped.
“What do you mean, a giant wasp?” he asked, puzzled.
“I mean, a wasp that's giant.”
Agatha al-but laughed. “It's only a silly little insect.”
Donna never liked being dismissed, and it stung – no pun intended – worse coming from one of her heroes. Her irritation came out, full force. “When I say giant, I don't mean big, I mean flipping enormous! Look at its sting,” she said, pointing at it.
The Doctor and Agatha then noticed the narrow log of wood-sized object sticking through the door, and both went wide-eyed.
Naturally, the Doctor's curiosity rose. “Let me see.”
Of course, he opened the door to find only the room and the broken window. “It's gone. Buzzed off. Although it's not here to threaten you again, Donna. That's something.”
Any comment Donna might have made was stopped by Agatha moving towards the broken off sting. “But that's fascinating-”
“Don't touch it!” the Doctor commanded. “Don't touch it. Let me.” He knelt and grabbed another test tube from his satchel, along with a clean collecting item. But he had to keep the stop in his mouth. “So it's a giant wasp,” he mused aloud as he collected the gunk oozing from where the sting had broken off from the wasp. The stopper made his words sound distorted. “Well, there are many amorphous insectoid lifeforms, but none in this galactic vector.”
Agatha made a noise of confusion, but still spoke. “I think I understood some of those words. Enough to know that you're completely potty.”
Donna had to smile a little at the appropriate word. It fit the Doctor. “Lost its sting, though. That makes it defenceless.”
The Doctor shook his head as he finally took the stopper out of his mouth and closed the vial. “Oh, a creature this size? It has to be able to grow a new one.”
Agatha made another brief incoherent sound. “Uh, can we return to sanity? There are no such things as giant wasps.”
“Tell that to the Japanese,” the Doctor remarked as he put away the sample. “They have three species of hornet large enough that most Humans would call them nightmare fodder. Now, you're right that there shouldn't be any giant wasps here in England right no. So, the question is, what's it doing here?”
He led them out of the room, musing the whole way. “Now, I need to run tests on both this and the sample I took from the murder scene. It will identify the species and tell me what the creature is capable of. Then I can better access what precautions we need to take and what might be our killer's motive.”
“Doctor, are you listening to yourself?” Agatha asked. “There cannot be such a thing as a giant wasp.”
“You saw that sting!” Donna retorted. “How do you account for that-”
They heard a scream and a heavy thud. “That's coming from outside,” the Doctor said as they raced in its direction.
They got outside to find Miss Chandrakala lying under a stone gargoyle that had fallen on top of her. Even Donna could tell that it had to have been pushed over. They knelt beside her, but there was nothing that could be done to save her.
Agatha's hand on her forehead briefly brought some life to her face. “The poor, little child,” the housekeeper breathed, and then died.
Before any of them could speak, they heard buzzing from above. They all looked up.
“There!” the Doctor shouted.
The wasp had grown a new stinger already, and flew back inside.
“Come on!” the Doctor commanded, leading the ladies back the way they came.
As they ran back up the stairs, Donna had to remark on the turn of events. “Hey, this makes a change. There's a monster, and we're chasing it.”
“It can't be a monster. It's a trick,” Agatha insisted. “They do it with mirrors.”
But once in the upstairs corridor where the little bits of stairs reminded them that the house had been built on a hill, she changed her tune as they saw it breaking in from above them. They watched as the new stinger appeared first, with the rest of it's giant abdomen coming in after it. “By all that's holy,” she breathed.
The Doctor took a few seconds to admire it. “Oh, magnificent, isn't it?” It was not a species he had seen before, and he had met some that were more humanoid in appearance.
Then the wasp fully entered the hallway. It faced them and buzzed menacingly.
The Doctor held up a hand. “Now, wait, wait, wait! Stop, now!”
The wasp lunged at them, forcing them to the floor to duck. It scraped the wall with its stinger and missed them. Barely.
Donna was not about to be attacked again. “Oi, fly boy!” she called out before holding up the magnifying glass.
The wasp paused, as if remembering the burns from before, and almost instantly retreated down the hall out of sight.
“Don't let it get away!” the Doctor cried, popping to his feet. “Quick, before it reverts back to human form.” He led the ladies from the landing down one bit of stairs into a guest wing. “Where are you? Come on! There's nowhere to run. Show yourself!”
Every door opened and someone Human stepped out of each room. Everyone not a servant who had been in the sun room, except for Lady Eddison and the Colonel, were accounted for.
“What happened?” they heard Lady Eddison's voice call distantly from behind them. “Hugh, did you hear that shouting?”
The Doctor groaned after the Colonel's indistinct reply could also be heard from that direction. “Oh, that's cheating,” he complained as he turned to walk away. Ignoring that Davenport had appeared from the same doorway as Roger, five seconds after and with slightly disheveled hair.
“You really expected it to play by some rules?” Donna asked as she followed him. “Especially given some of the beings you've dealt with?”
Chapter Three: Blowing Threats Away