Redefining Normal by shinyjenni
Summary: After you've met the Doctor, you can't really go back. Liz knows this, and Grace is just learning.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Third Doctor, Eighth Doctor
Characters: Grace Holloway, Liz Shaw
Genres: General, Standalone
Redefining Normal by shinyjenni
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes: Thanks to persiflage_1 and ghost2 for beta reading! The first paragraph refers to Grace's appearance in the DWM comic strip, though you don't have to have read that to understand this. General Kramer, mentioned later on, is from Vampire Science. And the Scully references in the second paragraph are lovingly stolen from Angel.
OK, so the DNA thing was a bust, if by "bust" you meant "line of enquiry that nearly got you eaten by a shape-shifting hybrid monster" but that didn't mean Grace was just going to go back to her life like nothing had ever happened. That wasn't her style. Besides, she had the whistle thing now. If things got weird she could just call in the Doctor. Privately she'd resolved not to do that unless she really had to - she had her pride, after all. But still, it was sort of comforting to know she could, if she wanted to.
Back at the hospital, Grace kept her eyes open, looking for anything out of the ordinary. She started to get herself a reputation; people called her Scully, behind her back at first, eventually to her face. She just rolled her eyes and muttered that actually, Scully was the sceptic, pretended that she'd dyed her hair blonde because she preferred it like that, dammit, but the sniggering still hurt. Sometimes she wished she'd taken the Doctor up on his offer, if only to be able to talk to someone who knew it was all true. But she knew she'd've hated to leave her life on Earth. She loved her job, loved piecing people back together. It wasn't showy, zooming around the universe, defeating monsters and saving planets, but it was good work, necessary work, her work. So she kept going, saving lives, eyes open for the strange.
And one day she found something. Another death on her operating table, and she was going over what she'd done, looking for her mistakes, always trying to be better than she had been the day before, when she remembered something she'd seen without properly registering.
It was late by then, and though the hospital was never exactly quiet it was a bit less crowded than it would have been through the day - no visitors, for a start. With a bit of patience, and a lot of sneakiness, Grace managed to end up alone in a deserted morgue with the body of her patient.
"This is how horror films get started," Grace muttered to herself as she made the incision. "Oh, I hope I'm right about this, I really don't wanna get fired. Again." Then she spotted what she thought she'd seen before - a tiny glimmer of metal. Reaching for it, her fingers knocked a tiny switch and before her eyes the corpse shimmered and shifted and suddenly she was up to her wrists in alien.
"OK! Not human. Crap. Now what?" Grace felt for the switch again and pushed it back. Obediently the body shifted back into its human disguise and Grace pulled her hand out, hurrying the corpse back into its drawer and discarding her gloves.
Back in her office Grace had another souvenir from the adventures of the previous year: a small white card bearing a phone number and the word UNIT. She didn't like admitting she was out of her depth, but she figured that an alien corpse in the morgue, in disguise, probably qualified as a situation that required backup of some kind.
The woman Grace ended up speaking to, Kramer, agreed, and half an hour later there was a team of soldiers in her hospital, flashing their badges (discreetly) and requisitioning her corpse. She glared at them a bit, on general principles, but she couldn't resist the offer to go back to the base with them.
Four hours of sitting around drinking terrible coffee later, Grace had begun to regret that decision. She couldn't help feeling she was a little surplus to requirements. She wasn't a soldier, no-one needed a doctor and her prior experience with aliens wasn't exactly relevant here. She was about to call it a night when a polite young soldier appeared to fill her in.
"From what we can tell, he was alone," she explained. "Just some guy trying to make a living, not an invasion force or anything like that." Grace didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
"We're going to check out his apartment, just in case," the soldier went on. "Want to join us?"
No, thought Grace, I want to go home and have a bath and maybe a glass of wine and, oh yes, some dinner. But somehow what she found herself saying was, "Sure, why not?"
The alien ("his name was Jeremy," one of the soldiers told her; this seemed rather improbable to Grace, but she didn't argue) had lived in a cramped but neat basement apartment a few blocks into one of the more run down parts of the city. To Grace's untrained eye, it looked like a perfectly normal apartment, but the UNIT soldiers were intent on going all over the place with various doohickeys that buzzed and hummed and flashed. Grace found herself sitting on the steps outside with the scientist they'd brought along, an attractive, fifty-something Englishwoman named Liz Shaw.
"So what brings you to San Francisco?" Grace asked her, trying to make conversation.
"I was on a lecture tour," replied Liz in tones of deep annoyance. "I had a couple of days to spare, so I thought I'd come and see the sights, since I don't get out of Cambridge as often as I'd like, and then I got a phone call. 'Could you just drop in for a quick consult, it won't take long.' That was yesterday afternoon."
Grace made sympathetic noises. "So you're not a member of UNIT?" she asked.
"I was, back in the seventies. Now I'm - hah! - freelance. You never really leave UNIT. Consider that a warning." She smiled, taking the bitterness out of her words.
"Professor Shaw," called one of the soldiers, "we've got something." Liz grabbed her bag and hurried over to the cluster of soldiers, pushing past them to examine the object. Grace followed more slowly, on the off chance she could be useful.
Eventually Liz looked up and announced that whatever it was, it definitely wasn't a weapon of any kind. The tension in the room evaporated visibly. One of the soldiers asked what it was, but Liz shrugged.
"Too early to tell," she said. "But I’d say something of the order of a toaster. Or a fax machine." She cocked her head, frowning at the object. "It would help if I could see what I was doing. Can't we put the lights on?"
"They don’t seem to work, ma'am," the soldier told her apologetically. "He must've forgotten to pay the bill."
Grace wondered how high the bill must've been, if he'd had to keep recharging the device that made him look human - which must have been running down, or it would've been too well camouflaged for her to notice - and felt another pang of sympathy.
"In that case," said Liz, standing up authoritatively, the device cradled in her arms, "I'd better take this somewhere else for a proper look."
"Back to HQ, then," the sergeant said.
"I'd rather not," said Liz. "I've spent the last thirty six hours there, give or take. I need a change of scenery."
"We could take it to my place," Grace put in, glad there was something she could do at last. I may not be an expert on alien technology, she thought, but I do have electricity.
"Excellent," said Liz. The sergeant tried to protest, but backed down under the force of Liz's determination.
Back at Grace's house, she was once again relegated to standing in the background, occasionally passing things to Liz or making cups of coffee. Liz had dismissed the soldiers when they'd got there, the sergeant in charge wearing the expression of a man who knows he's in for trouble later but marginally prefers it to trouble now, and was tinkering with the device, which was in bits all over Grace's kitchen table.
"Dammit!" Liz swore as she dropped another piece, which fell onto the floor with a metallic thunk. She ran her hands through her hair and stood up. "This is going nowhere."
"Why don't you call it a night?" Grace suggested. "If you're right, working out what this thing is can wait 'til another day."
"Just what I was thinking," agreed Liz, beginning to pack the bits back into the box UNIT had loaded it into.
"I'll set up the spare room for you, if you like," Grace offered. "It's a bit late for you to be worrying about getting to your hotel."
"That would be wonderful," replied Liz, gratefully.
Liz left the next morning for the next stop on her lecture tour. Grace was just about awake enough to say goodbye, and when she was gone Grace found a piece of paper on her kitchen table with a phone number and the message "Look me up if you're ever in England."
"Well, I have always wanted to visit Cambridge..." Grace said to herself.
About a week later, Grace got an email from Liz that simply read "I was close, it was a photocopier". UNIT called her in more and more over the next few months, politely and apologetically at first, and sometimes she called them. When she got a phone call at three in the morning from a harassed sounding officer demanding that she be on the other side of the city five minutes ago for a consult, she remembered Liz's warning, and laughed and laughed.
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