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.
Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four
Altered History: Chasing Unicorns and Wasps
Started November 22, 2018
Finished January 6, 2019
December 4, 1926
Donna entered the sitting room to find the Doctor and Agatha being very quiet. Agatha sat while the Doctor stood, each staring ahead without really seeing. Lightning had returned outside, although there wasn't the snowfall of before “That poor footman. Roger's dead and he can't even mourn him. 1926? It's more like the dark ages,” she remarked as she walked next to Agatha, grateful to live when she did.
Agatha came a little to life then as Donna began to sit. But before the writer could speak, the Doctor did. “1926 was the dark ages when it came to gay rights, Donna. Their actions were illegal and carried the death penalty.”
Donna paled. “No wonder Roger was warning him. And why Greeves looked so dismayed. Oh, and Greeves came to speak with me, to clear his own name since what happened could have cost him his job. When the drink ingredients aren't needed for a party like in the sun room, they're kept in the Butler's parlour. Only he, a few senior servants, and the family have access to it. He said the only person seen anywhere near the area was Roger.”
The Doctor nodded absently. “Not a surprise. Davenport might be a risk-taker, but he's not stupid. That would have impossible for Roger to protect him from.”
“Well, it helped that Davenport is Greeves' grandson. Explains why someone so young has the position he does, right? Although I can only imagine how worried the butler is over the entire thing.”
Heartily confused since 'gay' meant something completely different to her, Agatha finally asked Donna, “Did you inquire after the necklace?”
Donna nodded. “Lady Eddison bought it back from India. It's worth thousands.”
“This creature can sting, it can fly. It could wipe us all out in seconds,” the Doctor mused aloud. “Why is it playing this game?”
“Every murder is essentially the same,” Agatha commented, thinking hard and once again gazing at nothing. She was unaware of Donna looking at her, listening intently. “They are committed because somebody wants something.”
“Yes, but what does a Vespiform want?”
Agatha let out a brief scoffing noise. “Doctor, stop it. The murderer is as human as you or I.”
The Doctor came out of his mental fugue and his eyes lit with an idea. “You're right. Oh, I've been so caught up with giant wasps that I've forgotten. You're the expert here,” he added, sitting across from them on the other sofa.
“I'm not,” Agatha insisted, resting her head against her hand. “I told you. I'm just a purveyor of nonsense.”
“No, no, no,” the Doctor said, moving to kneel beside her. “There are plenty of people who write detective stories, but yours are the best. So why? Why are you so good, Agatha Christie? Because you understand. You've lived, you've fought, you've had your heart broken. You know about people. Their passions, their hope, and despair, and anger. All of those tiny, huge things that can turn the most ordinary person into a killer. Just think, Agatha. If anyone can solve this, it's you.”
Her hand had drifted away from her head as he spoke, thoughts clearly churning in her head. Lightning flashed, making her face look very pale. But a determined gleam came into her eyes.
Then she stood. “I need to see the Professor's belongings.”
As soon as Agatha felt ready, all the suspects were summoned to the sitting room. Including Greeves and Davenport. It provided enough room, and meant it was harder for anyone to leave suddenly. Lady Eddison sat on the same sofa as earlier, with the Colonel beside her in his wheelchair. Golightly sat across from them, and Robina on a chair behind him at the card table. Also behind him was Donna, although to the side.
The Doctor stood in front of the fireplace, letting the warmth sink in, to inform everyone what was happening. His trusty satchel was back at his side as well, just in case. “I've called you here on this endless night, because we have a murderer in our midst. And when it comes to detection, there's none finer. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Agatha Christie.”
He then sat beside Donna, who had grown hungry and found a snack – that he checked first with the sonic to ensure she was safe from a poisoning attempt, even if he doubted it would happen – to nibble on. He had to motion that he was not hungry to avoid – for the time being – explaining the social connotations of accepting food from her. They had no time to get into that mess, let alone discuss whatever was happening between them.
Agatha, having stood to the side while the Doctor spoke, came to stand before the fireplace, hands clasped behind her back. “This is a crooked house. A house of secrets. To understand the solution, we must examine them all. Starting with you, Miss Redmond.”
All eyes went to Miss Redmond, who started from the attention. “But I'm innocent, surely?”
“You've never met these people, and these people have never met you,” Agatha noted. “I think the real Robina Redmond never left London. You're impersonating her.”
“How silly,” Miss Redmond laughed. “What proof do you have?”
Agatha smiled, like she had a trick up her sleeve. If her dress had them. “During questioning, you said you'd been to the toilet,” she repeated, stressing the final word.
Donna, not quite noticing the wincing reaction, perked up. “Oh, I know this. If she was really posh, she'd say loo.”
Agatha picked up the locksmith's case, which the Doctor had laid slightly out of sight yet easily within reach. “Earlier today, Miss Noble and I found this on the flowerbed, right beneath your bathroom window.”
Robina proceeded to take a large sip from her wine glass.
“You must have heard that Miss Noble was searching the bedrooms, so you panicked,” Agatha speculated. “You ran upstairs and disposed of the evidence.”
“I've never seen that thing before in my life,” the young lady insisted, putting down the glass.
“What's inside it?” Lady Eddison asked.
Agatha opened it and showed the room the two levels of the box. “The tools of your trade, Miss Redmond. Or should I say, the Unicorn.”
Even the Doctor turned in awe amidst the gasping of the others. “I didn't see that coming,” he whispered to Donna.
“You came to this house with one sole intention. To steal the Firestone,” Agatha accused.
The woman who had claimed to the Robina Redmond was silent for a few seconds, and then suddenly changed her accent to Cockney. “Oh, all right then. It's a fair cop. Yes, I'm the bleeding Unicorn,” she admitted, standing and walking over towards the Colonel. It convinced the Doctor to stand as a precaution. “Ever so nice to meet you, I don't think. I took my chance in the dark and nabbed it.” She plucked the Firestone out from under her dress, from what the era used as a bra. “Go on then, you knobs. Arrest me. Sling me in jail.”
She tossed the necklace at the Doctor, who easily caught it and sat back down beside Donna to investigate it.
“So, is she the murderer?” Donna asked.
“Don't be so thick,” the Unicorn snapped, leaning against the Colonel's wheelchair with one hand. “I might be a thief, but I ain't no killer.”
“Quite,” Agatha agreed, and continued while the Unicorn moved to another chair. “There are darker motives at work.” She set down the case and added, “And in examining this household, we come to you, Colonel.”
“Damn it, woman,” the Colonel growled after several long seconds of being looked at by everyone, including Lady Eddison, with suspicion. “You with your perspicacity. You've rumbled me.”
The Colonel stood, easily. Even the Doctor's mouth slackened.
“Hugh, you can walk,” Lady Eddison exclaimed. “But why?”
“My darling, how else could I be certain of keeping you by my side?”
“I don't understand,” Lady Eddison said, still in disbelief.
The Colonel took her hand. “You're still a beautiful woman, Clemency. Sooner or later some chap will turn your head. I couldn't bear that.”
Lady Eddison leaned her head against his hand.
“Staying in the chair was the only way I could be certain of keeping you,” he added. His wife's tears stopped and she looked warmly at him, showing that her affection for him ran far deeper than his fears told him.
Suddenly he took his hand back after looking Agatha's way. “Confound it, Mrs Christie, how did you discover the truth?”
Agatha's eyes were as wide as anyone's. “Er, actually I had no idea. I was just going to say you're completely innocent as you have no motive for killing your own son.”
The silence that followed was profound. But not as much as the Colonel's shock. “Oh. Oh.”
“Sorry,” Agatha said, meaning it.
“Well,” the Colonel attempted, seeking the right words. “Well, shall I sit down then?”
“I think you better had,” she agreed.
As he did, Donna was the first to speak, wanting to check with Agatha. “So he's not the murderer.”
“Indeed, not. To find the truth, let's return to this.” Agatha accepted the Firestone from the Doctor's outstretched hand. “Far more than the Unicorn's object of desire. The Firestone has quite a history.” She paused for a few seconds, considering all that Donna had told her about the earlier search before turning to the next person of interest. “Lady Eddison.”
“I've done nothing,” Lady Eddison insisted, pretending she had not been transfixed with anxiety a few seconds before.
Agatha's voice went rather gentle considering the circumstances. “You brought it back from India, did you not? Before you met the Colonel. You came home with malaria, and confined yourself to this house for six months, in a room that has been kept locked ever since, which I rather think means-”
The whole time Lady Eddison had her eyes closed and was looking away. “Stop, please,” she interrupted, pleading.
“I'm so sorry.” And Agatha meant it, but there was the murder of the Eddison heir among other matters that had to be solved. “But you had fallen pregnant in India. Unmarried and ashamed, you hurried back to England with your confidante, a young maid later to become housekeeper. Miss Chandrakala.”
The Colonel was in shock. “Clemency, is this true?”
Lady Eddison's tears and clear shame was confirmation enough, even before she spoke. “My poor baby. I had to give him away. The shame of it.”
“But you never said a word.”
“I had no choice. Imagine the scandal. The family name. I'm British. I carry on,” she explained, grabbing her glass to fortify her.
“And it was no ordinary pregnancy,” interjected the Doctor, finally speaking aloud for the first time since introducing Agatha.
Lady Eddison started. “How can you know that?” she gasped in horror.
“Pardon me. Agatha, this is my territory,” he said, motioning for the chance to speak. He continued. “Lady Eddison, when you heard that buzzing sound in the dining room, you said, 'It can't be'. Why did you say that?”
“You'd never believe it,” she said, after few seconds' hesitation.
“The Doctor has opened my mind to believe many things,” Agatha said, sitting down to hear the story.
Lady Eddison needed a few seconds before she could speak of it. “It was forty-one years ago, in the heat of Delhi, late one night. I was alone, and that's when I saw it. A dazzling light in the sky. The next day, he came to the house. Christopher, the most handsome man I'd ever seen. Our love blazed like a wildfire. I held nothing back. And in return he showed me the incredible truth about himself. He'd made himself human, to learn about us. This was his true shape. A giant wasp. I loved him so much, it didn't matter.”
She paused to gather breath for the worst of the memories. “But he was stolen from me. 1885, the year of the great monsoon. The river Jumna rose up and broke its banks. He was taken at the flood. But Christopher left me a parting gift. A jewel like no other. I wore it always. Part of me never forgot. I kept it close. Always.”
The Unicorn scoffed. “Just like a man. Flashes his family jewels and you end up with a bun in the oven.”
While there might be truth to the comment, Agatha chose to ignore it. “A poor, little child. Forty years ago, Miss Chandrakala took that newborn babe to an orphanage. But Professor Peach worked it out. He found the birth certificate.”
“Oh, that's maiden. Maiden name,” Donna realized.
“Precisely. So I looked at Professor Peach's belongings and papers. Which, and I'm so sorry to have to bring another family shame to light, brings me to your late son, Roger.”
“What does he have to do with this?” the Colonel snapped. “He's dead.”
“I had wondered why you would say that there were not likely to be children anytime soon in this house,” Agatha began. “Only after the implications of a brief conversation between the Doctor and Mrs. Noble became clear to me did one letter in the professor's belongs make sense. He may have been researching for his book, but he was also sent here to this party, Lady Eddison, to investigate your son's dealings with one footman, Davenport.”
The footman paled, and only years of training kept him from falling over in the face of the scrutiny before him.
“Gerald was sent to investigate Roger?” Lady Eddison cried. “By whom?!”
“Friends of Roger's wife's family.”
“He was married?” the Unicorn asked, eyebrows reaching for the ceiling.
“You both knew the truth about your son,” Agatha continued, looking gently at the grieving parents. “But the honoured name of Curbishley and the Eddison title each had to go on; it is the duty of the heir to ensure that. So you found a daughter of family friends who was not quite taken in society the way her family wanted; a young woman Roger liked and respected. He agreed to marry her to do his duty, but friends of her family who perhaps wanted her to marry elsewhere saw something to wonder at in the marriage. And these were political enemies of Roger, angry that someone so young had made it to the position he had. I believe they anticipated Mrs. Curbishley would be present, but they did not know that she would be away visiting her dying grandmother.”
Donna was still unclear. “So did Lady Eddison kill him to protect one or both of her secrets?”
Lady Eddison exclaimed, “I did not!”
“Here is the thing, Lady Eddison, and what Roger's enemies did not count on,” Agatha continued. “Professor Peach had a long history with you and your family, and he was your friend since childhood. Another letter he received, from his wife, showed that he did not wish to create the scandal Roger's enemies wishes for, that he saw no reason for you to suffer because of what sort of man Roger was. Which rather makes me think that he may have been the one who put the certificate in the fire, probably having discovered it by accident. To protect you from dealing with the public learning of your youthful shame. Though we shall never know. But in any case, Miss Chandrakala feared that the Professor had unearthed your secret,” Agatha mused aloud. “She was coming to warn you.”
“So she killed her,” Donna said, as close to a question as she could come without sounding like the young people who always spoke as if they were asking questions.
“I did not,” Lady Eddison repeated, just as fiercely, distraught.
Agatha shook her head. “Lady Eddison is innocent. Because she has even less motive to kill Roger. Although Roger may have worried about the Professor's intentions and the presence of an inspector at his family home. He had been protecting Davenport from being dismissed and both of them from being punished criminally, as Davenport is under the legal age.”
The whole room sucked in a breath. Davenport looked ill, especially in the face of his grandfather's glare.
“But Davenport – when he was instructed to gather the Professor's things – saw evidence of what the Professor was here for and told Roger,” Agatha continued. “Because I fear Roger, all to protect the family and Davenport, was the one who placed the poison in the Doctor's drink.”
The remaining guests, the hosts, and Greeves all looked at Davenport in horror. The footman was looking at his boots, yet he sensed that he was about to be commanded to speak before he saw his grandfather's tense nod giving the command. “Roger told me to not worry, that he would ensure that the investigator would not reveal the secret. I didn't know what he planned, or I would have begged him to not risk death for a different reason.”
“Doctor, you are the only one not surprised by this,” the Colonel said after the room was silent for several seconds. “Even your wife is horrified.”
“I grew up in a family that had servants,” the Doctor explained, ignoring the curious look from Donna. “I know how servants are expected to behave, and who should have access to what. I knew that one of the guests would not be able to put the poison in my drink without attracting attention. Which meant that my poisoner lived in this house, and was perhaps not the killer of the Professor or housekeeper.”
Agatha decided to adjust the direction of the talking. “But whatever the Professor's intentions or Roger's, it means that the murderer is neither Roger nor Davenport. Nor is it Greeves, as he has witnesses to his whereabouts for each murder. Because at this point... Doctor,” she said, clearly yielding the floor to him. She was uncertain and felt that he had likely come to some conclusions, probably because of the child part of the tale.
“Thank you,” he said, standing and returning to his previous place in front of the fireplace. The previous time he had enjoyed the dramatic opportunity the reveal had presented. However, here he felt a need to modify. Especially given who he had to mention first. “At this point, when we consider the lies and the secrets, and the key to these events, then I have to look at the trail of clues. First, I bring attention to you, Donna Noble.”
Donna started. “What? Who did I kill?”
He held up a hand before she could become indignant. “No, but you said it all along. The vital clue. This whole thing is being acted out like a murder mystery. That got me thinking back to you, Agatha Christie.”
“I beg your pardon, sir?” Agatha said, not sure if she was being accused, or of what.
“Doctor, where are you going with this?” Donna asked.
“Think about it, Donna. She wrote those brilliant, clever books. Which leads me to ask who's her greatest admirer?” Now he could turn on the dramatic touch. “The moving finger points at you, Lady Eddison,” he continued, miming the title he referenced.
“Don't,” Lady Eddison snapped. “Leave me alone.”
“But Agatha just said she was innocent,” Donna reminded him.
“No, wait, wait, wait. Follow my questions. Last Thursday night, what were you doing?” he asked Lady Eddison.
She was taken aback, but answered promptly. “I was, uh, I was in the library. I was reading my favourite Agatha Christie, thinking about her plots, and how clever she must be. How is that relevant?”
“Just think. What else happened on Thursday night?” he continued, turning to look directly at Reverend Golightly.
The vicar started from the sudden attention. “I'm sorry?”
“You said in the sun room, this afternoon. Last Thursday night, those boys broke into your church,” the Doctor reminded him.
Golightly nodded, remembering the incident. “That's correct. They did. I discovered the two of them. Thieves in the night. I was most perturbed. But I apprehended them.”
“Oh, really?” the Doctor questioned. “A man of God against two strong lads? A man in his forties? Or, should I say forty years old, exactly?”
Lady Eddison's eyes fixed on the vicar. “Oh, my God.”
“Lady Eddison, your child, how old would he be now?” asked the Doctor.
“Forty. He's forty,” she breathed, barely able to take her eyes off the Reverend to answer the Doctor.
“Your child has come home,” he announced.
Golightly scoffed. “Oh, this is poppycock.”
“Is it? You said you were taught by the Christian Fathers, meaning you were raised in an orphanage,” the Doctor explained to everyone.
“My son. Can it be?” Lady Eddison wondered aloud, hope in her eyes.
This was the big reveal that he had been hoping to deliver. Only it was a bit different than he had expected, but what else did you expect from a murder mystery? “You found those thieves, Reverend, and you got angry. A proper, deep anger, for the first time in your life, and it broke the genetic lock. You changed. You realised your inheritance. After all these years, you knew who you were. Oh! And then it all kicks off, because this isn't just a jewel,” he added, taking the Firestone from Agatha. “It's a Vespiform telepathic recorder. It's part of you, your brain, your very essence. And when you activated, so did the Firestone. It beamed your full identity directly into your mind. And, at the same time, it absorbed the works of Agatha Christie directly from Lady Eddison. It all became part of you. The mechanics of those novels formed a template in your brain. You've killed, in this pattern, because that's what you think the world is. It turns out, we are in the middle of a murder mystery. One of yours, Dame Agatha.”
“Dame?” Agatha asked, puzzled.
“Oh. Sorry, not yet,” he said, giving Donna a little glance to tell her he did not do it deliberately.
Donna felt only a little better about her own mistakes, but she wanted to be clear. “So he killed them, yes? Definitely?”
“Yes,” the Doctor said, confidently. He kept looking at Golightly as Agatha stood, struggling to deal with the revelations she had not figured out. Especially the idea that her imagination had helped create the events of the day.
Golightly laughed. “Well, this has certainly been a most entertaining evening.”
“Entertaining?!” exclaimed the Unicorn, aghast. The whole room looked at her in surprise at the outburst. “What a sick comment to make! Either you're a Roman or you are the murderer!”
The Reverend shook his head, looking at the hopeful Lady Eddison and ignoring all the other attention. “Really, you can't believe any of this surely, Lady Edizzon.”
The Doctor knew everyone heard the change in his voice. “Lady who?” he asked, urging a repeat.
“Lady Edizzzzon.” This time it was clear he was not entirely in control of how he sounded.
“Sounds like a bit of buzzing there, Vicar,” the Doctor commented.
“Don't make me angry,” Golightly snapped, and then stood.
“Why? What happens then?” the Doctor challenged him, even though he saw Donna nervously get out of her chair, abandoning her food, and move to his side.
“Damn it, you humanzz, worshipping your tribal sky godzz,” the Reverend declared imperiously. “I am so much more. That night, the universe exploded in my mind. I wanted to take what wazz mine. And you, Agatha Christie, with your railway station bookstall romancezz, what'z to stop me killing you?”
As he spoke, he started glowing purple, and his head occasionally moved to look to the left, without his control.
The Unicorn hurried to the other side of the room with a scream, just as Lady Eddison stood. “Oh, my dear God. My child.”
“What'zz to stop me killing you all?” Golightly said before he transformed into the wasp.
“Forgive me,” Lady Eddison cried, moving towards him and holding her arms out.
But the Colonel drew her back, to a corner where the Unicorn, Davenport and Greeves were also trembling. “No, no, Clemency, come back. Keep away. Keep away, my darling.” It didn't stop the Unicorn's screaming, or Lady Eddison's pleas.
But Agatha grabbed the Firestone during the commotion and held it up as she stood by the door. “No! No more murder. If my imagination made you kill, then my imagination will find a way to stop you, you foul creature,” she declared, and ran out of the room with the Firestone.
Chapter Six: Resolutions and Revelations