Series: Altered History
Genre: Doctor Who
Author: T'Kel Paris
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 basmathgirl 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 / Chapter Five
Altered History: Chasing Unicorns and Wasps
Started November 22, 2018
Finished January 6, 2019
Chapter Six: Resolutions and Revelations
December 4, 1926
From Chapter Five:
“What'zz to stop me killing you all?” Golightly said before he transformed into the wasp.
“Forgive me,” Lady Eddison cried, moving towards him.
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.
The Doctor and Donna followed her immediately, and heard the wasp follow them.
“Wait, now it's chasing us,” Donna cried.
“It's chasing Agatha,” the Doctor said as they hurried outside, and shut the main door.
Agatha pulled up in a car and hit the horn. The Doctor and Donna hurried toward her as the wasp burst out.
“Over here! Come and get me, Reverend,” she called out.
“Agatha, what are you doing?” pleaded the Doctor.
“If I started this, Doctor, then I must stop it.” With that, Agatha drove off.
“Come on,” the Doctor said. He led Donna to another car and quickly turned it on.
The time travelers watched as the wasp hesitated briefly, and then followed Agatha. They gave chase to both.
“For a chase, this doesn't feel very fast,” Donna remarked after a minute or so.
“This as as fast as these cars are able to go,” the Doctor explained, fighting against the engine to get all the speed he could out of it.
“You said this is the night Agatha Christie loses her memory?”
“Time is in flux, Donna. For all we know, this is the night Agatha Christie loses her life and history gets changed.”
That alarmed Donna. “But where's she going?”
They could see Agatha dodge a pass-by attempt by the wasp, and then they saw her pass a signpost for Silent Pool.
“The lake,” the Doctor realized. “She's heading for the lake. What's she doing?”
Agatha drew to a stop and got out of the car. Stepping away from it she called out to the wasp that had been Golightly. “Here I am, the honey in the trap. Come to me, Vespiform.”
Donna hopped out the instant the Doctor stopped the car. “She's controlling it.”
“Its mind is based on her thought processes. They're linked,” he explained.
“Quite so, Doctor,” Agatha said with the calmness that so many had when they were facing a death to save others. “If I die, then this creature might die with me.”
The Doctor hurried in front of her. “No, no, no! Listen to me! You're not meant to be like this. You've got the wrong template in your mind.”
Donna could see that the Vespiform was gearing for an attack. “It's not listening to you,” she pleaded with the Doctor.
At the next motion like an attack Donna grabbed the Firestone from Agatha and threw it into the lake. The Vespiform followed it immediately, forcing them all to duck, and sank beneath the water.
The water started bubbling purple within seconds. Donna took a deep breath, feeling some of the tension flee her shoulders. “How do you kill a wasp? Drown it, just like his father.”
The Doctor turned horrified eyes on his companion. “Donna, that creature couldn't help itself.”
“Neither could I,” she defended herself. “I thought it would kill you. I couldn't let it.”
He could think of no words in the face of her tearful expression, and so he watched the bubbling continue for a bit.
“Death comes as the end, and justice is served,” mused Agatha.
The Doctor knew what the reference was, even if it had not yet been written. “Murder at the Vicarage. Needs a bit of work,” he admitted when Donna gave him a little look reminding him of all her goofs throughout the day.
Agatha turned with a small, curious smile. “Just one mystery left, Doctor. Who exactly are you?”
But before he could even react Agatha doubled over in pain. He caught her, dropping to the ground and looking at the water. “Oh, it's the Firestone. It's part of the Vespiform's mind. It's dying and it's connected to Agatha.”
They both watched as Agatha glowed purple for a few seconds. Then the bubbling stopped, and the purple vanished from sight. She returned to a more normal color and sagged in his arms, unconscious.
“Remarkable,” the Doctor breathed. “He let her go. Right at the end, the Vespiform chose to save someone's life.”
Donna, relieved that her favorite author was spared, wondered, “Is she all right, though?”
“Of course,” the Doctor realized. “The amnesia. What we just saw wiped her mind of everything that happened. The wasp, the murders.”
“And us. She'll forget about us,” Donna noted sadly.
“Yeah, but think about it. We just solved another riddle. The mystery of Agatha Christie. And tomorrow morning, her car gets found by the side of a lake. And ten days later, she turns up in hotel at Harrogate with no idea of what just happened.”
Within what was a short time for them, they had delivered Agatha to a point outside the Harrogate Hotel. They managed to be out of sight when she woke and began her confused walk to the place to get help.
“No one except us will ever know,” the Doctor explained quietly, leading Donna back to the TARDIS.
Once inside and with the doors closed, Donna continued her questions that she had held back while they had made sure Agatha was fine and journeyed to her known destination. “Lady Eddison, the Colonel, and all the staff. What about them?”
“It's a shameful story,” he explained, putting his satchel on its designated hook. “They'll never talk of it. Too British. While the Unicorn hurried back to London town. She can never even say she was there.”
“So the title died with Lady Eddison?”
“Well, let's quickly find out. Roger did have a wife,” he mused. “Let's see what St. Catherine's House says.”
“You can use the TARDIS to scan their records?” Donna asked, eyes wide. “But it's no longer open in my time. It's all just the National Archives now, in a different place.”
“She can examine history archives without being right in the building, Donna,” the Doctor explained.
Several seconds later, the scan of a small newsclipping appeared on the screen. Donna gasped as she took in the words. “She was pregnant when he died! He might not have known.”
“But the title lived on through his son, named after him,” the Doctor said, voice heavy from this discovery, even with the hint of relief. “So Lady Eddison and the Colonel got to have a child in their home after all. So some good came from that arrangement. If Davenport was allowed to remain, and Greeves probably ensured that, then he likely devoted himself to serving in his memory.”
While he turned off the scanner, Donna asked, “What happens to Agatha?”
The Doctor smiled. “Oh, she had a great life. Met another man, married again. Saw the world. Wrote and wrote and wrote.”
“She never thought her books were any good, though. And she must have spent all those years wondering. I think that's awful.”
“The thing is, Donna, I don't think she ever quite forgot. Great mind like that, some of the details will keep bleeding through. All the stuff her imagination could use. Like, Miss Marple,” he reminded her.
Donna sighed. “I should have made her sign a contract.”
“Would never have been binding,” he pointed out, heading to one of the bookcases tucked away on the edges of his control room. “And, where is it, where is it, where is it?”
“What are you looking for?” Donna asked.
“Something I remember having and keeping on one of these shelves. Ah! Christie, Agatha. Take a look,” he said, holding out a paperback edition of Death in the Clouds. Prominent on the cover was a wasp.
“She did remember,” Donna exclaimed, happy to see something good came out of the day.
He grinned. “Somewhere in the back of her mind, it all lingered. And that's not all. Look at the copyright page.”
Donna took the book, and opened it to the copyright page. She noted the cover art information, but that was not what captured her attention. “Facsimile edition, published in the year five billion!”
The Doctor's smile grew reflective. “People never stop reading them. She is the best selling novelist of all time.”
“But she never knew,” Donna said, handing back the book.
He shrugged. “Well, no one knows how they're going to be remembered. Not even Time Lords. All we can do is hope for the best. Maybe that's what kept her writing. Same thing keeps me travelling.”
The silence that followed signaled that the delayed conversation from after the detox kiss had returned. And it would not rest until they concluded it somehow.
The Doctor took a deep breath, and exhaled loudly. “I-I-I need... I need to tell you something. I need to tell you the truth about how I feel.” He winced, wishing his nerves weren't complicating matters by making a mountain out of his stutter. It was bad enough at the best of times.
Donna's eyes were wide, and she had to struggle to breath. Yet she remained silent and still.
“And that kiss you gave me, told me that you feel the same. But I need to say it...” He stopped, as if snagged on something unseen. Which was what it felt like. “I-I-I love... I love...”
She watched as he struggled through the stutter and his nerves at the same time. She had seen and felt all sorts of reactions, and she knew she would be doing the same. A tiny smile crossed her lips because he was rather adorable in his flustered state. Not even her own nervousness could prevent that thought.
“For Rassilon's sake, I can't even get the words out!” he snapped, his feet dancing him about a bit before he made himself stand still and look right at her. He took another breath and shoved the words out before his annoying stutter could snatch them away again. “I love you.”
Donna sucked in a breath. He did feel the same! She felt faint from relief, and yet no less worried.
He almost passed out with relief, except that he was shaking too hard. “There. I've said it. Why does this seem scarier than many of the threats I've faced?”
“You said yourself that many emotions were unacknowledged by your people,” Donna said softly, managing an attempt at a smile. “So, it's natural that you don't know where to begin with coping with them. Maybe that's part of why you keep encountering people from the Isles.”
“You mean that damp rock you call home?” he asked, a tiny tease on his lips.
“Oi! At least we get a rain fall!” She had to swat at his arm, but there was little force behind it. Just a low-grade version of her glare. But the tiny grin belied its intent. “You know what I mean. We're not exactly the best at expressing ourselves. We use sarcasm, slang, and all sorts of ways to avoid coming out and directly saying what we mean. And all in the name of manners.”
“No wonder I thought a number of your politicians could have been reincarnations of long-dead Time Lords,” he laughed. But he almost instantly lost the humor. “We can't let this lie any longer, can we?”
She shook her head. “Because what does the mind do when you tell it to not focus on pink elephants? All it thinks about is pink elephants.”
“Is there a joke in there about the first name you gave me?”
She laughed. “Didn't intend it.” And then she sobered. “How long has it been for you?”
The Doctor thought about it as he motioned for her to sit on the pilot seat. He sat on the floor as an answer finally came to mind. “Hard to pinpoint the start. I wasn't exactly in a mindset to want to welcome someone in when we met. I'd just come from helping the Eleventh me see off Rose Tyler for the last time, in the middle of danger to Earth.”
“The Cybermen and Daleks thing you mentioned?”
“Remarkably, yes. Unusual for me to jump only about six months into the future of the same planet from one adventure to another. What I did know about you was that somehow your timeline held a number of fixed points for mine.”
“So there's a clear sense between a natural and an unnatural fixed point? Which is what told you that River Song's claims rang false?”
“Oh, I don't doubt she was remembering the timeline that was, and so for her she spoke the truth. But with you? I still felt the echoes of the previous timeline, that said that it was too soon to meet you. You almost immediately reminded me of Lucie, and that was painful. It was as if I got to see what she could have been had she lived.”
“But we're not the same, are we?” Donna asked, a little uneasy about the comparisons. “I'd hate to feel like I'm always in the shadow of someone else.”
“No, no, no. You had very different backgrounds and that means you look at the world differently. And Lucie was still so young. Might be why she held me on a pedestal in her mind. But you? Even if you admire someone it doesn't stop you from calling them out for even small things, and you manage it with a different touch compared to someone barely in their 20s. I don't know what could have been with Lucie, but it's possible that as she grew she found different things she wanted. Things that would have ultimately parted us anyway.”
“But she died before she got the chance to find out,” Donna voiced the unspoken thought. It was plain as day in his eyes. “Was that something you pointed out to Rose, this girl who apparently fixated on the two future yous?”
“Yes. She was even younger than she wanted to admit. Whether I was supposed to or not, I saw the proof in her mother's flat. It's not healthy for someone so young to limit themselves before determining enough about themselves to be confident that a path with someone so much older is the one they're committed to. I don't have to wonder about that with you; you've lived long enough by your people's standards to know what you do and don't want.”
“Well, that explains the differences between Lucie and me. But it doesn't tell me when you knew or when you think the feelings started.”
The Doctor looked away as he thought, aware that his cheeks were flushed. He needed a few seconds, and he knew Donna would grant them.
“I know I felt protective of you from the rooftop onwards. Despite what I said, I did sense something special about you but I couldn't understand it. The more I talked with you the more... intrigued I was. And it felt like parts of my psyche that had died with Lucie and Alex were reviving. I laughed more than I had in a long time, and I felt a joy in exploring that had been lacking for just as long. But as for a particular instant when they started? Donna, I don't think I can give you that. To quote one of your favourite novels, I was in the middle before I knew I had begun.”
It took every bit of restraint Donna had to not giggle at hearing a line from Mr Darcy quoted to her. It was every reading girl's dream, and she was not going to let a dream ruin this. “When did you know? Was it when Prince Rudolph tried to marry me to Death?”
“No. The Library, when I thought you were dead. Although the implications of my feelings did not occur to me until after you described real love to me.”
Her eyes widened. “You're going to have to explain that one, Sunshine.”
“I figured I would. Professor Smug-”
“No, it was either 'Smug' or 'Snog', depending on what she was doing.”
Donna fixed a sharp look on him. “Let's not speak ill of the dead without cause or occasion.”
“Fine, fine, fine. Professor Song was trying to convince me to trust her, and Lux thought we were bickering like an old married couple. Well, I took offence to that and let them both know how much. In the process I came to admit aloud that if I were to choose a Human for a wife, I would choose you because you were good for me and never asked me to do something I knew was bad for time. Something she, for all her talk of 'my rules', didn't grasp until the end.”
“So your realisation was about the same time mine was?”
His eyes snapped to meet hers, curious.
Donna blushed. “I was scolding myself for going and falling for an alien who might not be capable of returning the feelings right after I left the kitchen to rest. I know I noticed you on the physical level from early on, but I was getting married, which made it easy to ignore that. But as I started to see your commitment to duty, your compassion for those in need, and your belief in me... I must have started falling for you in earnest while we were still dealing with the Racnoss. Why else was I so scared by you?”
They were both quiet for a bit, musing on the similarities of their fears.
“So... what do you want to do?” he finally asked.
“What do you want to do?” Donna retorted. “It has to be mutual, or whatever this is between us won't work. And it seems like a lot of people haven't cared what you want. But I do.”
“So we both want the best for the other? Isn't that, by your standards, a good thing?”
“Yeah,” she answered, quietly. “I don't want to cause problems for you. Will your family accept me?”
He thought about it. “I don't know, but I do know that I won't let you be ripped from me without a fight. The High Council did it once, when they were concerned over how close I was to another companion.”
“Given Leela marrying one of your own, they can't have too much to say. Although it might grate them to see me with you, do you think?”
His lips briefly twitched as he imagined the reactions from certain members of the High Council. “Maybe. But given how few of us are left and that no attempts have been made to marry me off since I found an out for Romana and myself, I doubt they have the stomach to do much about it.”
“Wait,” Donna said, suddenly. “Ohila. She looked at me strangely. You don't think... she foresaw... this, do you?”
The Doctor pursed his lips. “I've had enough of prophecies concerning me. Whether she did or not, I want our decision not to be influenced by that. What I'm more concerned about is that being with someone much older than you will be a problem. Ohila said she could help Andred and Leela have a child, but I don't know if that will work for us. Never mind the dangers involved for you.”
“You're thinking of children already?!”
“Can you blame me?” he teased mildly. “Ohila must have been preparing me for another wife, and I did not think I could possibly find someone who made the idea seem... agreeable. And yet how can I promise anything to anyone? Being a companion means the risk of having to sacrifice yourself for the greater good, and I can't even have the luxury of such a sacrifice on my part will end my life. So, I'm left with living with the grief. And there's been one other concern weighing on me: what if being with me in that way is what leads to your death? After all, she might act to harm you if we change how we are with each other. I'm not sure how I could live with that after everything else.”
Donna thought about it. And took a deep breath. “I can't let those fears rule us, and you can't either. I might die anyway. I can live with it, because it's the same risk I've been taking the whole time I've been travelling with you. Being... together-together, if you will, doesn't change that. We can either live in the belief that the universe is a cruel place and we need helmets to survive, or we can work towards a happier outcome, putting up a huge fight against anyone or anything – especially her – that tries ending this... thing we have on anything other than our own terms. Avoiding this because of fear means we'd be missing out on an added layer to what we already have. When I look back on my life, the things I didn't do weigh on me even more than the things I did do.”
The Doctor stared at her with huge eyes. “Even more than the things you regret doing?”
“Yes. If you can promise me that you won't go off the rails from losing a lover who's going to leave your life far too soon compared to your lifespan, then I'm happy to give us a chance.”
The smile he was treated to softened his resistance. “How would you go about helping me avoid that?”
“By giving you so many good memories to hold on to, by giving you good reasons to go on. That experience will help you find additional reasons to live and laugh and love again.”
“Doing good in your memory? Living to carry on your legacy?”
She nodded. “So, can you promise that? You talk like you're also afraid of costing me something, but there's no assurances for Humans, either. We never know if something will happen to us or to a loved one. It's not a reason to hide away and lose a chance at happiness, even for a time.”
He smiled warmly. “I can promise that. So... Onwards?” he asked, holding out his hands.
Donna smiled softly, taking his hands. “Onwards.”
The hope filled the room, and they could hear the TARDIS chiming. It sounded rather like wedding bells. He laughed. “I have a cheeky ship.”
Donna joined in the laughter as she stood. “She wants the best for you,” she suggested. “She just has an unusual way of showing it.”
He pushed himself to standing with a smile. “She does like to take care of me and help me find the right people. Even if I don't see it that way at the time.”
Their laughter faded as their gazes connected again. She could not recall the last time she felt the draw with anyone, and he was distinctly reminded of what happened before he and Grace parted ways. It felt natural to both to lean in for a first proper kiss between them.
But before their lips could meet the TARDIS lurched suddenly. Alarms went off all over the control room as the pair were knocked off their feet. And the rotor had a distinct green tinge to it, with a very low menacing sound coming from it.
THE END... FOR NOW...
TO BE CONTINUED IN “Supersonic Gravidity”...