Stand and Deliver by lurking_latinist
"Stand and deliver!" cried the Doctor, wondering how in the world he'd got himself in this fix.
Not that he had any issue, in principle, with... er... ad hoc redistribution. And he'd managed to convince the helpful (all too helpful) young Lieutenant Walters not actually to load the pistols, which was a comfort. No, it was just that he believed firmly—somewhere deep down in the common-sense part of his soul that he tried not to pay too much attention to—that there must have been a more straightforward way to recover the Jewel of Salena than this. There was no telling—as he'd tried to explain to young Walters—whether Lord Bollingbrook even had the thing in his carriage: it was entirely possible he'd sent it ahead from London with some trusted groom. If he had figured out how to use any of its mind-controlling psychic powers, after all, his servants might well by now be exceptionally loyal.
But it was too late now: Bollingbrook's coachman was reining in the horses, which had been frightened by his sudden shouting appearance in the night; his lordship was violently swearing inside the carriage; and a tall, elegant form appeared at the carriage window.
A tall, elegant, feminine form, that is.
The Doctor and Walters hadn't calculated on any witnesses, knowing that the notoriously curmudgeonly old peer hated country house-parties even more than he hated the Season in town. Nor was he notorious for his gallantries. Why on earth had he brought a woman with him? And what on earth were they going to do with her?
"What do you want with my father and me?" she demanded, in what he couldn't help noticing was a lovely, powerful voice. He was listening so intently that he nearly forgot to answer until he noticed Walters staring at him.
"Give us all your jewelry," he said.
"But a lady—" said Walters in his ear.
"If she's his daughter he's likely to have hidden it among her jewels. Do try to keep up," the Doctor hissed back.
Unfazed, the lady was removing a pair of brilliant earrings—emeralds, he thought, when they flashed in the lantern light—and a heavy necklace that revealed a strong, yet graceful throat. Bollingbrook's daughter must take after her mother. Whoever that had been.
"Well?" she said. "Come and get them!"
Warily, he drew his own horse up to the carriage. As he did so, the black mask he was wearing slipped. Fumbling to replace it, he heard the woman's quickly stifled gasp, and in a voice now—only now?—unsteady, she repeated, "Come get them."
As he reached out his hand, she did the same—but rather than depositing the emeralds in his hand, she seized his hand in her own grip, pulled him towards her, and kissed him, long and passionately.
It didn't feel like a kiss from a stranger in the middle of the night. It felt like—he didn't know what. It felt like something he wanted to understand better.
"Tomorrow night in the rose garden at Brookfields," she whispered as she pulled away. It was muffled and hurried, but he caught every word. Then, in an entirely different tone, she cried, "Sir! How dare you! Unhand me at once!"
As he stared bewildered, she released his hand. "Drive on," she said to the coachman, her voice a pattern of outraged fury. "Take us away from these villains!"
Lord Bollingbrook's plaintive voice trailed from within the carriage. "What is going on, Melody? Highwaymen? Devilish lucky they didn't get my signet ring..."
As the carriage rattled away, the Doctor became aware that his mouth was still slightly hanging open and that Walters was staring, and moreover that he had dropped the reins and his horse was quite happily grazing.
"I say," said the young soldier. "Playing the highwayman for a night—that's one thing. But dash it all, a lady's a lady!"
"She certainly is," said the Doctor. He shook his head, as if clearing it. "Tomorrow. In the rose garden."
Lord Bollingbrook's rose garden was walled, because of course it was.
"Give me a hand up," the Doctor said to Lieutenant Walters.
But Walters had a look in his eye like a spooked horse. "I shouldn't trust that woman, if I were you," he said. "I'm almost convinced"—he dropped his voice to a whisper—"I've seen her on the stage."
The Doctor entirely failed to react to this shattering revelation. "Then if she's not Bollingbrook's genuine daughter, she's probably after the same thing we are," he said, "which is what I thought. She could be a useful ally."
Walters shifted his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably. "I think she might be—er..." To a man of his own circle he would have had no difficulty in making his point clear, but the Doctor, much as he liked him, sometimes seemed to live in a very different world. "She has... intentions toward you," he summarized.
"How forward of her," remarked the Doctor—still unconcerned. "We've scarcely met." Then he flashed a dangerous grin that made Walters reconsider his whole character again. "I intend to give her much more opportunity," he said. "Now give me a hand up."
Shoved over the wall, landing with a thump on the smoothly cropped, dewy grass on the other side, the Doctor pulled himself together, brushed down his coat and waistcoat, and looked around for the mysterious lady.
He felt her presence before he saw her, a shadowy figure moving silently among the rosebushes. "Come inside," she said in a penetrating whisper. "But quietly."
He met her near the house. She took him by the lapels as if preparing to scold him, but in fact she apparently felt this was simply a natural position for conversation. "The jewel is in his study," she whispered. "Not his bedroom, thank heavens. There's a locked chest. You have tools, I hope?"
The Doctor nodded. He was finding it slightly hard to concentrate on anything but her presence. "You kissed me," he said at length.
"Very astute of you to notice," she said.
"Who are you? How do you know about the jewel? Why on earth do you trust me?"
She smiled brilliantly. "Suspicious, aren't you?"
He followed her through the back door—which she locked carefully behind them—through the empty kitchen, where she picked up a candle she had left burning, down the darkened hallways and into the study.
She said that, according to her best guess, the stone was kept in Lord Bollingbrook's desk. The Doctor sat without hesitation in his lordship's chair, took out a couple of small tools and began examining the desk drawers. Only one of them was locked with a heavy, elaborate lock, and the Doctor deduced that was the drawer in question—he didn't think their unwitting host had the creativity for a double bluff.
"This will take a few minutes," the Doctor said, still in a hushed voice. As he set to work, he added, "Let's get on the same page. What exactly do you want with this stone?"
"What would I do with it?" said the lady. "I don't care, you can have it. I just don't think Lord Bollingbrook ought to have it."
"Quite right," said the Doctor. "But—out of curiosity, you understand—why do you think I ought to?"
"Because I imagine you're either going to give it to properly qualified caretakers in its culture of origin or possibly throw it into the heart of a sun."
"You sound... very determined about that," observed the Doctor.
"I hate mind control," she said.
The lock popped open. The Doctor rubbed his hands together in satisfaction, only to see that the drawer's whole contents were a small jewel box—closed with another elaborate lock.
"Let's take it and run," she said.
"Hold on a moment," said the Doctor. "I'm in a rhythm now; if this is similar to the other one, I can have it open in a jiffy."
"Show-off," she said, leaning on the back of the chair.
He glanced up from his work. "By the way, you don't sound—pardon me if this is an odd thing to say—like you had the whole of your education in this era."
"That's right," she agreed.
"And I presume you're not Lord Bollingbrook's daughter."
"Brilliant deduction, Sherlock," she said, the anachronism confirming his suspicions still further. "But don't tell him that. Apparently there are several French opera singers in his past, any one of whom might be my mother. You'd never think it to look at him now, would you?"
The Doctor refused to be distracted. "Congratulations on your successful impersonation. But who are you? What's your game?"
"The same as yours, I suppose." She leaned over his shoulder, cheek to cheek; one of the loose curls at the front of her hair brushed his skin. "I'm just a little more subtle in my methods."
Well, perhaps he could be a little distracted. He turned his head, looking into her eyes.
At that very moment the door opened, revealing Lord Bollingbrook and—more importantly—a blunderbuss.
"Thieves! Burglars! — My own daughter!" the old man shouted. He made the two intruders raise their hands in the air. The Doctor had managed to conceal the box under the chair before Bollingbrook noticed; he would certainly observe it the instant he made any search, but it might buy them a few precious seconds.
"Father, I caught this man breaking in!" she announced, but her supposed father merely looked at her skeptically.
"I'm not so sure about you, my dear. Your story was plausible enough, but I wrote to Clémentine and she had never heard of you in her life."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows as blandly as he could manage, hands still in the air.
"Father!" screamed the lady, and fell on the ground, sobbing passionately. "As if it were not enough that maman should reject me—if you turn me away too—"
"Don't get hysterical, you lying little cheat," snapped Bollingbrook unpleasantly. But he turned to her—it was difficult not to look at her, the noise she was making—and took a step or two towards her.
As soon as he was well in her line of sight, she produced a tiny pistol from her cleavage and, from where she lay on the floor, shot him with a beam of light. It made a very satisfying zap sound, and he fell to the ground.
The Doctor couldn't help admiring her, especially once he saw Bollingbrook was still breathing.
"Come on," she said, removing the ties from the curtains. "Get him into the chair, and let's tie him up and go. You can finish the lock later."
The Doctor obliged.
"Do you know how he came to know of the Jewel?" the Doctor asked as he worked at the lock, in a private room upstairs at the Black Swan, with the lady watching intently and Walters standing by.
"Pure accident, I understand," she said. "He never spoke of it to me, but he was so fascinated with it that it was quite easy to tell where he kept it. He would go and visit it every evening, and he often spoke of his luck. I think he believed owning the Jewel was his destiny." She shuddered. "I think he might have used its power on his manservant, Griffiths. Will it wear off?"
The Doctor nodded. He finished a tricky part of the lock and then added, "Possibly not until the Jewel is removed from this temporal vicinity, but don't worry, it will be. There may even be a significant reaction of revulsion when the influence passes."
"Oh, good." The lady's wry smile was as brilliant in daylight as it had been last night. "That would do him good."
At last the Doctor popped the lock open and lifted the lid. There, on a blue velvet lining, lay not only the Jewel of Sarena—set into a signet ring—but also a magnificent necklace of rubies. The Doctor picked up the Jewel and wrinkled his nose at it, then turned to Walters. "Hold this, my dear fellow," he said, "and guard it with your life."
The lieutenant nodded, dumbstruck, and took the gem gingerly in his cupped hands.
The Doctor took the necklace and led the lady to one side, a little removed from Walters. "In payment for those emeralds," he said, offering her the necklace. "And—if I may?—in memory of that kiss?"
She touched the beautiful thing, impressed, but seemed hesitant. "This is really theft," she said. "And you never even took the emeralds."
The Doctor smiled. "Call it your inheritance. Or damages for being threatened with a blunderbuss. At any rate, I'm not keen on trying to return it."
"I would prefer never to see my lord again," she admitted. She touched the necklace again, thoughtfully.
"And these beautiful things deserve someone beautiful to wear them," he added.
At that she looked up at him, suddenly, and for a moment he wondered if he had been too forward—just because she wasn't from this time period didn't mean she couldn't have rigid etiquette of her own—but then her face bloomed with delight, and a little surprise, as if he'd fulfilled some criterion he hadn't known he was being judged on. "Oh, you are young," she said, incomprehensibly. "Young and sentimental! It's a good look on you," she added, before he could protest, and she let him fasten the necklace around her throat.
He had questions, still, but more importantly, he had the nape of her neck under his fingertips, smooth skin and lush curls, and asking questions wasn't what he most wanted to do.
He kissed her this time, and she welcomed it. For a moment they were lost in each other, a two-person universe all to themselves.
Then Walters coughed, and then again louder, and they remembered his existence and, somewhat more urgently, the existence of the Jewel. They sprang apart. The Doctor took the Jewel back into his own custody and bid a slightly hurried farewell to Walters—first making him promise not to take to highway robbery on any lesser pretext—"at least not without me," said the lady.
The Doctor gave her his arm as they left. As she took it, he whispered in her ear: "Need a lift? Any time, any place."
She smiled, not her brilliant joyous smile but the smile of a woman with a secret. "I've got my own transport, but thanks."
As they approached the wood where the TARDIS was concealed and she made as if to part ways, he turned to her and said, with sudden urgency, "Can I see you again?"
Her face was a picture of secretive delight as she purred, "Oh, you absolutely will."
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