For Old Time’s Sake.

by ladymako71 [Reviews - 5]

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  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, General

Author's Notes:
An idea that ran away with me.

Slogging a backpack full of weapons around could be tiring sometimes, she thought as she trudged back to where the Doctor had parked the TARDIS. He’d wandered off in a haze of curiosity and left Ace to her own devices. “All you have to do is find the control matrix and smash it. I know I can rely on you to do that!” He’d teased her with a grin. She had playfully punched his arm and took off in the direction he’d indicated. The Doctor had waited until he couldn’t see her anymore before taking off into the vortex towards the odd readings the TARDIS had picked up.

Ace had found the control matrix and with great delight had smashed the alien tech into a million little pieces. To be on the safe side, and because she couldn’t resist the urge, she’d blown up the shed the matrix had been hidden in as well. Nothing like a big bang for this girl! She grinned as she slung her pack onto her back and turned to go home.

Rounding the corner Ace saw the blue police box and smiled. She fished out her key, opened the door, and froze just inside the threshold. The TARDIS had decided to redecorate herself? “Coral Reef” was the term that came to mind as Ace took in the console room. “Donna, did I remember to put peroxide on that list?” She heard a woman’s voice ask. The owner of the voice popped into view from behind the main column and Ace found herself staring at an attractive young black woman.

“Oh! Sorry! …You are?” Martha asked. She took in the young woman in the doorway and noticed the key hanging slack from her hand. The key meant that the woman belonged in the TARDIS in Martha’s mind.

“Ace…you?” She was beginning to get an idea of what was going on, but before she could get her own answer another voice wafted in from the hallway.

“Oi? Martha? Have you seen…?” The Doctor’s voice trailed off when he saw the petite figure in the doorway. Head to toe in black. Hair pulled back from a cherub face, and the end of a baseball bat sticking out from the pack over her shoulder. “Ace?” Martha watched the myriad of emotions sweep across the Doctor’s features and started for the doorway.

“No offence, gorgeous,” Ace started, her usual cocksure attitude kicking in full force. “But I’d remember meeting you!” She smirked at the tall slender man staring at her. The look of initial shock on his face dissolving into one of bemusement as he held his hands out like scales.

“Gorgeous…Professor…Professor…Gorgeous,” he rattled on, weighing each word as he said it. Ace’s jaw dropped as the Doctor smiled at her. “Have to admit, Ace, I like ‘Gorgeous’ better.” He winked.

Martha chuckled into her hand, having seen the exchange. “I’ll go find Donna and let you two catch up,” she said as she held a hand out to Ace. “Nice to finally meet you. He’s told me some interesting stories about you,” she said as Ace took her proffered hand. Ace took notice of the genuine smile on Martha’s face as she shook hands. Martha saluted to the Doctor and left, leaving the Doctor and his former companion alone in the TARDIS.

“It’s been a while, Ace.” The Doctor smiled warmly.

“It is you?” Ace stammered. “The Doctor? My Doctor with the thing for question marks all over the place?”

“Three regenerations removed,” the Doctor replied. “And taller and slimmer and younger looking…”

“Three?” Ace stared at him, slack jawed.

“Rough living.” He shrugged. The Doctor was happy to see that that had gotten a bit of a smile from Ace as he watched her take it all in.

He rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, hands behind his back as he watched. He wanted desperately to simply rush over to her and hug the living daylights out of her. He knew her well enough though to know that she wouldn’t take to kindly to the idea herself until she was satisfied that he was indeed her Doctor.

“Um, this isn’t gonna…?” Ace started, waving her hands back and forth as she spoke.

“No.” The Doctor grinned. “This isn’t going to mess with the time lines…not too much at least…well…maybe a little.” Ace started laughing as the Doctor prattled on. “Why are you separated from me at the moment?” He finished.

“You asked me to destroy an alien monitoring matrix…”

“Ah!” The Doctor held up a finger as realisation dawned on him. “And you ended up getting stuck for three days here because I took a side jaunt to muck up some Zygon’s day!”

Ace raised an eyebrow. “Three days?”

The Doctor scratched at the back of his neck. “Well…if it helps. You did tell me you spent the time with some mates.”

“I don’t know anyone here,” she offered helpfully.

“Oi! Who am I then?” the Doctor exclaimed, clearly offended by her remark. “Okay, granted, the mug’s a tad different…a lot, but it’s still me.” Ace smiled broadly as the Doctor held out a hand to her. “So what do you say? Wanna humour an old man and grace him with your lovely presence for a couple of days?”

“If you’re sure…then yeah!” Ace grinned, taking his hand and letting him pull her closer.

“That’s not going to go ‘boom’ is it?” he asked suddenly, nodding at her backpack.

“Used it all to blow up the matrix,” Ace confirmed. “No nitro-9 at the moment.”

“Hold on?” He paused mid hug. “You mean you just blew it up? No smashing?”

Ace wrapped her arms around his slender waist and laughed. “I smashed it into about a million pieces. Then I blew it up…just in case and all.” She said as she rested her head against his chest. The sound of a double heartbeat echoing in her ear, made her smile.

“That’s my girl!” the Doctor cheered. He wrapped her petite frame in his long arms and placed a friendly kiss on top of her head. “I’ve missed you.” He murmured softly after a while.

Ace glanced up at the comment and decided to let it slide. She figured he wouldn’t tell her if she asked anyway, so she changed the subject. “I have to say Professor, you do improve nicely with age.”

“Oi…” Ace just roared in laughter at his low warning tone. “Still as cheeky as ever!” He chirped, taking her face in his hands and kissing her brow. Pulling back a little, the Doctor gazed down at her. “You want to go clean up?” He asked, wiping a smudge of dirt from her chin. “Room’s where it always was!”

Ace cocked her head and made a face of surprise before accepting his offer and heading deeper into the TARDIS. She found her room as easy as he’d said she would, and it looked surprisingly just as she’d just left it a few hours prior. Knowing a little about how the TARDIS worked, she accepted that the ship had arranged it that way for her. Ace quickly showered and changed. She smirked as she pulled out a favourite tee shirt. Her Doctor had hated it, but she wanted to test a claim he’d made once.

When he’d told her about regeneration, he had mentioned that everything changes, not just his appearance. She was keen to see what this new younger looking Doctor was like. Sure enough he hadn’t been kidding. Ace walked back into the console room and sat cross-legged on the jump seat. The Doctor looked up, spied the shirt, and started howling in laughter.

“If you ever run into a bloke named Captain Jack Harkness? Make sure you aren’t wearing that! Or if you are? Make sure he doesn’t try to make off with it,” the Doctor got out between laughing fits. “Or Martha for that matter.” He added after a moment.

Ace cocked an eyebrow at him. “The girl from earlier?” she asked. Thinking back to the skirt and loose flowing top Martha had been wearing. “She doesn’t seem like the type to get a kick out of a joke shirt about cavity searches.”

“Martha’s a doctor. Medical humour…especially warped medical humour, is right up her alley,” the Doctor explained.

Ace sat upright and grinned. “Ooo! She sounds like my kind of people!”

Nodding his head and laughing he said that the two would probably get along fine. Ace watched as his face suddenly fell. “Oh God…okay when they get back…”

“Alright Skinny, what have you sodded up this time?” Donna’s voice rang out from the doorway. Martha had found her and filled her in about Ace. Donna couldn’t resist the urge to tease him about it.

Ace looked over the Doctor’s shoulder at the two in the doorway, then back to him and bit back a laugh. He had a look of pure pain on his handsome face, his eyes closed as he slowly turned around to face his two companions. “I didn’t sod up anything Donna…” He muttered through gritted teeth. “It’s just a mild case of right TARDIS, wrong time period. Happens quite a lot actually.” That got curious glances from all three women as he continued.

“Doctor Martha Jones, Donna Noble. This is Ms Dorothy McShane…” Ace socked him in the shoulder causing him to grunt in pain. “I was getting to that bit!” He said turning to glare at her. “Anyway! Ms McShane, better known as Ace! She used to travel with me.” The trio exchanged waves. “Ace, you met Martha earlier, the redhead is Donna…the bane of my existence currently.” The Doctor grinned at her and waggled his eyebrows as he said it.

“OI! Someone’s gotta keep your skinny bum in line!” Donna defended.

“Since when?” The Doctor snorted.

“Actually, she has a point, Professor,” Ace offered from behind him on the jump seat.

His shoulders sagged as he turned the kicked puppy eyes on her. “Oh you traitor.”

“It’s true.” Ace shrugged.

“Professor?” Martha and Donna chimed in.

“I call her ‘Ace’, she calls me ‘Professor’,” the Doctor explained simply enough.

“I prefer ‘Skinny’,” Donna replied.

“Or ‘Bastard’ when you’re on a roll.” Martha snorted.

“When he’s being one.” Donna smiled sweetly.

Ace giggled and quickly averted her gaze as the Doctor spun on her. “Anyway…” He started, turning back to face Donna and Martha. “Ace is going to be with us for a few days, instead of hanging around waiting for me to show back up to pick her up.”

“How long do you leave the poor kid stranded?” Donna asked.

“Three days,” the Doctor muttered under his breath.

“Cor, you’re bloody hopeless!” Ace and Martha both laughed aloud as Donna and the Doctor glared at each other.

“Right!” the Doctor said, slamming a fist down on a large button. “Off we go!” He flipped a lever, pressed a complicated series of buttons, and threw the hand break in short order. The TARDIS jolted, causing Ace to loose her balance on the jump seat. She kept from falling and managed to make her way over to the railing that Martha and Donna were holding onto. Oblivious to Ace’s near tumble, the Doctor reached over with a toe to hold another button down.

Colour quickly rose up in Ace’s cheeks as she watched. “I’ll say he’s changed. He doesn’t pilot the TARDIS like that when I know him.”

“I have to admit, though…the view’s nice,” Donna commented.

“The tight suit definitely helps accentuate the musculature,” Martha added with a smirk. Ace’s cheeks turned an even deeper pink.

“Oh, now you’re just showing off, you poncey git!” Donna accused as the Doctor leaned heavily forward on the console to reach a lever. He spared her a glare over his shoulder before turning back to the console. “A dirty old man you are.” Donna muttered. The TARDIS jolted hard as it landed, throwing everyone inside.

“And a bloody lousy pilot,” Martha grumbled as she got up. “You two alright?” she asked as Ace and Donna got up off the floor.

“I think so,” Ace said, patting herself down to check for broken bones.

“Better then he’s going to be in a minute.” Donna winced as she rubbed at her hip.

Martha leaned over to look at the Doctor and noticed that he was wincing in pain. Sweat was beading up on his brow and Martha bit her lower lip. “That’ll teach you to pilot with your feet.” She admonished, gracefully stepping aside to avoid the swat he aimed at her.

Ace winced in sympathy while Donna smirked. The Doctor slowly righted himself, groaning slightly when he finally managed to stand fully upright. “Oh, that’s going to leave a mark.” He narrowed his eyes and glanced sideways at Martha as she patted his head and made teasing remarks about being more careful in the future.

“So where are we?” Ace asked.

The Doctor leaned over gingerly and swung the screen around to better read it. “Portsmouth. 1723. Oooh and I’m getting some funny signals that shouldn’t exist in this time period!”

Ace and Donna glanced between Martha and the Doctor with wide-eyed expressions while Martha rolled her eyes and let her head fall back in resignation. “Here we go again…” She groaned.

“Oh, now stop,” the Doctor admonished. Martha folded her arms across her chest. He chose to ignore it as he continued. “I have clued onto how humans have the stupidest ideas about melanin content in skin you know?” Martha raised an eyebrow this time. “Which is why when anyone asks…” He stated, turning to face all three women. “We’re family. Sister.” He said pointing at Donna. “Ward.” Referring to Ace this time. “And wife!” Martha gawked at him as he turned back to the console to print up false papers for them to back up their story. “By the way Ace? I suggest a proper dress this time. I doubt you’d be able to get away with breeches.”

Ace slumped her shoulders and groaned as she headed towards the wardrobe room. “He expects the swooning and fainting thing out of me, he has another thing coming…” Ace growled. Donna and Martha both chuckled as they followed her to change.

A little while later, and they had all met up back in the console room. The Doctor eyed the sack Ace had slung over her shoulder with suspicion. “There’s no nitro-9 in that, is there?” he asked.

“Maybe.” Ace smiled sweetly.

The Doctor just gave her a look and told her to be careful, whatever she had stashed in it. “Says the bloke who can’t fly his own ship without damn near castrating himself.” Donna muttered, causing both Ace and Martha to erupt into laugher.

“Anyway…Ladies?” He held his arm out for Martha and glared at Donna. “Shall we…oh wait!” He patted his waistcoat down for a brief moment, and then reached into an inner pocket. Producing two gold bands, he slid one onto his own finger and turned to Martha. “Mrs Smith?” He grinned, taking her left hand and sliding the band onto her ring finger. Martha shook her head and laughed before taking the Doctor’s arm again. “Right! Allons-y!”

It was midmorning in Portsmouth as they stepped out of the TARDIS. Martha glanced up at the windows to see if anyone was choosing just then to empty out their chamber pots, then down before her feet to make sure no one recently had. They’d landed in a tight alley between rows of houses. On the main cobblestone road, the Doctor suggested they head towards the port proper.

“That’s where this odd signal’s coming from?” Donna asked.

“Wha? Nah!” he replied. “That’s where the markets and that are. Everyone will be down there going about their morning routine!” The three women shook their heads in unison. “’Sides…I can’t get an exact fix on the signal, so we have a better chance of finding out where it is by mingling with the locals.” He added with a grin.

“Couldn’t have said that to begin with,” Donna teased.

The Doctor was about to retort when an un-kept young man came bolting around the corner, nearly bowling the four of them over in his haste. The Doctor had dragged them out of the way just in time and held them protectively against the wall. The sounds of men shouting wafted to them and they could all make out the same two words being said. “Press Gang.”

“The Royal Navy’s recruiting early this morning then,” Ace commented. She still held onto Donna’s arm as she risked leaning over a bit to peer around the corner. “Ooo, I’ll say they are!” Martha and Donna joined her and took in the sight of men in naval uniforms roughing up random men and hauling them off in carts.

“In a town like this, the Navy’s always open for business.” Donna commented.

“They’re a bit rough aren’t they?” Martha winced. “All that just to man the ships?”

The Doctor stood behind the trio, arms folded, and an incredulous look on his face. “I don’t have to explain to you what a press gang is?”

Martha glanced back at him and cocked an eyebrow. “You never saw Yellowbeard then?” Donna and Ace both snorted laughs as the Doctor rolled his eyes.

“Don’t star…too late.” He muttered as they began reciting lines from the movie between them. The restrictive nature of their period clothes had the three women gasping for air in about a minute from laughing.

“That’ll teach yas,” he teased, walking past them. “Ooow!” He was rubbing his arm vigorously where all three of them had landed solid punches. “Talk about vicious…coast is clear, come on.” He pouted.

The Doctor was still sulking when they arrived at the main market in town. Donna paused at one of the vendors selling baked goods and got a large sweet loaf to split between them as they ambled on. “So what are we looking for then?” She asked, tearing the loaf into four pieces and handing them out.

“Listening for more like it.” The Doctor replied. “If you hear anyone talking about anything that seems out of place for the era…I dunno, magic boxes or the like.”

“And ignore any comments that include ‘Police Public Call Box’.” Donna chimed in sweetly.

“Ha. Ha,” the Doctor retorted. “Anyway. It’s still early so whoever or whatever is lurking about that shouldn’t be on this planet might be waiting till nightfall to get up to no good.”

“Professor?” Ace asked. “Wouldn’t they have newspapers or the like by now?”

Martha clued onto what Ace was getting at and finished the idea. “Why don’t we get one of those and see if they have anything in it that suggests what we might be looking for?”

A large grin erupted on the Doctor’s face. “Oh you two are brilliant!” He was about to hug them both when another round of shouting interrupted him.

“Thief! Help!”

Donna and Martha saw a burly man running towards them and an older man lying wounded on the ground behind him. The Doctor and Ace focused on the thief barrelling towards them while Martha and Donna made their way to the stricken man. “It’s okay, we have you.” Martha cooed soothingly as she began checking the man’s injuries over. Donna reached into her purse and handed Martha her handkerchief. Martha held it to a cut on the man’s brow to stop the bleeding. Donna took over from Martha with the head wound as Martha focused on making sure that he was all right, if a bit roughed up.

Meanwhile, Ace crouched low and braced herself right in the thief’s path. She came up hard with her shoulder and knocked him clean off his feet. The Doctor held her back while placing a foot squarely on the stunned thief’s chest. “I’d hold still mate and wait for the authorities, unless you want me to set her loose on you again.” He smiled disarmingly. The thief was still trying to regain the wind Ace had knocked out of him and only nodded. Ace spied the money pouch the thief had stolen and wrested it from his hand.

“Oi?” She whistled to get either Martha or Donna’s attention. Donna looked up. “I think this is his.” Ace said and tossed the pouch to her.

Donna managed to knock the flying pouch into her lap. “That kid’s got an arm on her doesn’t she?” She shook her hand then handed the pouch over to the man. “Here you go, sir.”

The man thanked Donna and Martha as they helped him to his feet and looked over to where the Doctor and Ace had pinned the would be thief. “That girl…?” He stammered.

“Yeah, she’s a bit of a wild one,” Donna agreed. “She grew up with all older brothers.” The man just nodded his head as he watched Ace crack her knuckles threateningly at the thief as the local authorities showed to arrest him.

The Doctor and Ace joined Martha and Donna. The man eyed Ace warily while the Doctor checked the man over himself. “So besides the cut to the noggin, just bangs bruises then?” He asked Martha.

“Yeah, he’ll be alright with a little rest,” she confirmed.

“I’d like to thank you, Mister…?” the man stated.

“Hmm?” The Doctor looked confused for a brief second. “Oh sorry. Smith. Doctor John Smith.” He held his hand out to the man’s proffered one. “My lovely wife Martha, my sister Donna Noble, and ward Dorothy McShane.” He made sure Ace was out of punching range as he introduced his companions. “We just got into town.” He quickly added.

“My thanks again Doctor Smith. I’m one of the local innkeepers William Adams.” He replied. “I manage the Raven’s Rook inn just over there.” He added. “I’ll gladly put you up if you don’t have rooms already?”

The four of them glanced at each other and shrugged. “We’d like that, thank you,” the Doctor replied. William nodded again and turned towards his inn. He swayed a bit to his left as a wave of dizziness took over and Ace and the Doctor each grabbed an arm.

“Show me your eyes please Mr Adams?” Martha asked, peering at them. “I think you might have a bit of a concussion as well.” She grimaced.

“You know medicine?” William asked Martha, surprise clearly evident in his voice as he spoke.

“She started out as my nurse,” the Doctor answered quickly. “Didn’t take long to fall for her.” He added with a cheeky grin and Martha resisted the urge to take a swipe at him.

The Doctor kept a hold of William’s arm as they led him to the Raven’s Rook. Inside, a matronly woman came from behind the bar towards them. A look of concern on her face as she took in the sight of William. “Oh my God, what happened?” She asked.

“I was robbed. These kind people stopped the thief and assisted me.” William said gesturing towards his aids with a nod. “This is my sister Margaret Butcher, she runs the Rook with me,” he introduced.

Introductions and pleasantries were exchanged and William informed Margaret that the Doctor and his companions would be staying with them as a show of gratitude. Martha asked for a small glass of the strongest gin available so she could clean up the cut on William’s head, as William led them upstairs to the guest rooms. Margaret said she’d send it right up. William pointed out two rooms for them and let the Doctor and Martha help him to his own quarters.

A scullery maid showed at the door then with the requested gin and Martha dabbed a clean cloth into it. “This’ll sting a bit, but it will ward off any infection.” She said, and then gently applied the gin soaked cloth. William winced at the sting but held still. Martha had a closer look at the cut and informed it that it was a tiny nick. “Though they tend to bleed heavily and look a lot worse,” she added.

Ace knocked just then and said that her and Donna were going to go out and have a look around. “There anything you need before we go?” She asked. Martha asked for a cool damp cloth and the Doctor went with Ace to fetch it. In the room Ace and Donna were sharing, the Doctor soaked a hand towel in water before wringing it out. “I suppose Martha and I are sharing the room next door then,” he said conversely.

“Keeping up appearances and all, Skinny,” Donna teased.

The Doctor spared her a sideways glance. “I don’t think I need to remind you to be careful after this morning’s little escapade?” he asked.

“I’ve got the rugby full back here.” Donna joked, jerking her thumb towards Ace. “I think we’ll be alright.”

The Doctor chuckled and hugged them both before heading back to Martha and William. “Right, see you in a bit then.” He waved.

In William’s room, Martha accepted the damp cloth with a smile. She poured the rest of the gin on it in an effort to sterilize it and wrung out the excess into the washbasin. “Let that sit there to help with the swelling.” Martha explained as she helped William get comfortable on the narrow bed. “Just take it easy for the rest of the day, okay?” She added. “That was a pretty nasty knock you took.” William assured her that he would take her advice and let his eyes drift shut.

“Martha or I will be back in a little while to check on you.” The Doctor said as he and Martha excused themselves.

“So what now?” Martha asked once they were in the hallway.

“Let’s go check out our accommodations.”

“Why, Doctor Smith?” Martha teased. “It’s not even lunch time.”

The Doctor shot her a look and took her elbow as he led her to their room. “Very funny.” He said once inside. “I wanted to see if I could get a bead on that signal.” He added. He reached into his waistcoat and pulled out the sonic screwdriver and a newspaper.

“Where’d you nick that from?” Martha asked as he handed it over to her. He told her he’d spied it on a table downstairs. Martha went over to the bed and sat down on the edge. “At least it’s bigger then Dolly’s was.” She said taking in the rather sumptuous room.

“This is actually pretty posh,” the Doctor commented. “William must be feeling very grateful.” He fiddled with the screwdriver for a moment then started scanning with it. “See if there’s anything in the paper that might suggest what we’re looking for?” Martha began scanning the paper for anything suspicious while the Doctor adjusted the scanning frequencies on the sonic.

Downstairs, Ace and Donna saw Margaret struggling with a large basket of vegetables that had just been delivered. Ace dashed forward to help her with it. “I’ve got it, Mrs Butcher.”

“Careful, girl, it’s heavy…err, never mind.” She said when she saw Ace handle it rather easily. She showed Ace where to set it down then asked about her brother.

“Those two will have him right as rain in no time," Donna assured her.

“Oh, good.” Margaret sighed in relief. “I worry about him sometimes, never knowing when to look after himself.”

“They’re all like that.” Donna agreed and Ace chuckled. Donna added that her and Ace were going to have a wander around. “We’ll see you later then.” She said, heading for the door. Margaret waved at them as they left.

Outside Donna looked up and down the street, deciding on where to go first. “I’ve got a feeling we’ll be here overnight at the very least.” She said, looking towards where the TARDIS was. “Wanna get a couple of overnighters together?”

“Might as well,” Ace said.

They quickly found the TARDIS and while Donna opened it, Ace kept an eye out. Once inside they headed straight for the wardrobe room. Concentrating for a moment, Ace let the TARDIS know what they were after. The rails shifted around and produced a rack of clothing appropriate for the era in the right sizes. Ace noticed a bag that looked like a doctor’s satchel and shrugged. She added that to the bag they were packing for Martha and The Doctor. Once packed, Donna declared that they would take the bags to the Raven’s Rook. “Then we’ll go and have that nosy around.” She added.

Back at the inn, Martha scowled at the newspaper. “Tell me what’s off with this shipping schedule,” she said.

The Doctor took a seat beside her and pulled his spectacles out from his waistcoat. “Lemme see?” He glanced over it twice before seeing why Martha would think something was odd about it. “The Korjan…inbound from Denmark. Good eyes.” He praised. “Korjan is a Tallian term…and Tallians happen to be from the other side of the galaxy.”

“So what are Tallians?” Martha asked, reading the entry in the paper.

“Intergalactic salvagers,” the Doctor replied. “Pirates occasionally.”

“They picked the right place to pillage then didn’t they?” Martha snorted.

“We’ll see when they dock tomorrow,” the Doctor said. “I don’t get why I’d be picking up a signal though if the ship isn’t here yet.”

“They have operatives in town already?” Martha offered.

“Possibly.” The Doctor removed his specs and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “Although they tend to stick together, so I’m not sure.”

“You said Korjan is one of their terms. What does it mean?” Martha asked.

“Bounty.” Martha raised an eyebrow then turned to the knock at the door. Donna came in carrying a large bag, followed by Ace.

“Awright! Break it up!” she teased. “We figured that we’d be here at least overnight so we packed.” Donna told them as she set the bag down at the foot of the bed.

“The TARDIS gave us this too.” Ace said as she rummaged around for the medical satchel. “Looks more like a torture kit then anything to me Professor.” She said as she handed it over to him.

“Nah. Early eighteenth century medicine is just a little backwards that’s all.” He said as he checked the contents. Martha noted that he took a vial of something out and pocketed it. “We’ll take this with us when we go check on William later.” Martha nodded before informing Ace and Donna that they had found out what the alien signal might be.

“Tallians tend to be fairly harmless though. Right, Professor?”

“Mostly. But I want to know what this lot are up too,” the Doctor replied. “You can never be to careful.”

“So we wait until this ship pulls in then?” Ace asked.

“Pretty much. Till then the town of Portsmouth is ours to explore!” The Doctor grinned.

“Well then! Ace and I will go wander around,” Donna piped up.

“Meet back here around tea time?” Ace checked.

“Sounds good to me,” the Doctor answered.

“See you then,” Martha added. “And thanks for the bag!”

Ace and Donna left to explore and the Doctor suggested that he and Martha go check on William. They took the satchel with them and the Doctor applied a small plaster to William’s cut, while Martha gave him a couple aspirin for any pain. Leaving him to rest and returning the satchel to their room, the Doctor offered Martha his arm and they went off to explore for themselves.

Down at the docks Donna looked on at the ships with a sense of awe. “I can’t believe how small they actually were.” She commented looking at a couple of naval frigates lined up.

“Yet Britain became a major naval power with them,” Ace marvelled.

“I’ve probably got ancestors crawling all over the place here,” Donna said suddenly, watching naval personal bustling all around.

“Oh?”

“Yeah,” Donna said. “My family has a really long navy tradition.”

“Oh, neat!” Ace grinned. She watched Donna gaze fondly at the ships then spotted a dockside café. “There’s a café there? We can go have some tea and watch the ships if you want.” She offered.

Donna liked the idea and they set off. Once seated Donna began telling her how she always had an interest in Naval history. “It’s ingrained in me I think.” She joked. The two women eventually ended up trading stories of how they had met the Doctor and various adventures they’d shared with him. “So let me get this straight?” Donna queried. “The Doctor as you know him is an older bloke?”

“Older looking,” Ace clarified. “About forty-five…fifty-ish, and he’s shorter and a little portly.” She grinned. “He’s also got darker hair and blue eyes.”

“So…” Donna shook her head for a moment. “The one you hang out with looks older but is actually younger?” Ace nodded her head and Donna rolled her eyes.

“You should have heard when he explained regeneration to me the first time.” Ace smiled. “I was confused for a week, I think.”

“I don’t feel so bad now!” Donna laughed. “You should hear when he and Martha go off on some biology or medical thing! I trained to be an office worker thanks. Give me accounting or sales figures and I’m in me element. Those two start up and it’s like I might as well just sit in the corner and read Cosmo until they’re done!”

As Donna spoke, Ace leaned forward on the table. Darting her eyes back and forth and trying desperately to hide her grin, she asked what had been on her mind since stepping out of the TARDIS earlier that morning. “What’s the deal with those two? They lovers?”

“Oh, my God!” Donna stated, raising a hand before leaning over and mimicking Ace. “Right! Let me tell you about those two!” And Donna proceeded to regale Ace with all the sordid details about the Doctor and Martha and the soap opera that was their ‘non’ relationship. “…And then she walks the world…saving it single handily for that ungrateful sod and he wonders why she left him after it was all over!”

“You’re joking!” Ace stared at the older woman like she’d grown two heads. “He was completely oblivious?”

“Worse! He was piss terrified of her!” Donna explained. “He prattles on and on about how he can’t give a girl this and that, yeah whatever…then along comes Martha Jones, who doesn’t want this and that and in his mind is the perfect match, and he chickens out!”

“Oh, no! Poor Martha.”

“It gets even more entertaining!” Donna added. “Martha rejoined him on the TARDIS, and this is after I’ve been hanging out with him for a while and hearing all about the most fabulous wonderful Martha Jones…I get her side of the story in about ten seconds flat of just observing him around her. She never had to say a word,” Donna continued. “I immediately took her side and we’ve been enjoying watching him squirm ever since.”

Ace shook her head. “He still…?”

“Oh, he’s come out and said what he feels to her. Granted, he apparently took the long winded, round about way to do so.” Ace laughed at the mental image of her Doctor stammering like a confused fool. “She’s making him work for it though! And good on her too!” Donna said. “And good on her for putting her foot down when she originally left to finish school and take care of her family!”

“He really is an alien!” Ace laughed.

“Oh, God, tell me about it kiddo!” Donna agreed. Donna continued to tell Ace the whole sad story about the Doctor’s inability to emote anything, let alone feelings of affection and Ace found she was thoroughly enjoying the gossip session. Which when she thought about it for a moment was odd, seeing as Ace rarely saw any point to gossiping. But then this was about the man she cared for as a very dear friend and she couldn’t help but enjoy listening to tales of woe when it came to his love life. Donna had pieced together from past conversations with the Doctor that Ace might not know that his world was now obliterated and avoided any mention of it to her as she continued on with her story.

In the market area, the Doctor and Martha ambled on arm in arm and enjoyed the sights and sounds of 1723 Portsmouth. Martha was surprised that they didn’t receive too many odd looks or disapproving stares, being a mixed couple but said nothing. She was enjoying their small talk and didn’t want to ruin the ambiance with more serious discussion. She realised she didn’t need to bring the subject up when they got nearer to the merchant quarter. She saw several mixed race couples going about their daily routine and realised that she and the Doctor didn’t really stand out at all.

“In this day and age, a lot of the merchants in the port towns are black,” the Doctor piped up. “So we don’t stand out that much.”

“Reading my mind again, Mister Smith?” Martha teased, glancing up at him.

He flashed his dazzling grin at her. “Don’t have to. I can hear the gears grinding in that lovely mind of yours.” He chuckled softly as Martha gently shoved at him.

“By the way? I meant to ask you?” Martha said. “What’s that vial you stashed away earlier?” Her face lit up in a smirk when she saw his face turn in interesting shade of pink.

“Some stuff for me,” he quickly brushed off.

“What kind of stuff?” Martha asked. He knew by now that she wasn’t about to let him blow her off like he did in the past. He mumbled something that she didn’t catch. “What?”

The Doctor leaned in to her ear and whispered, “Contraceptive.”

“Oooh!” At least that explained the blush, Martha thought.

“For me,” he clarified when he saw that she was going to say she was already on one.

“So how does it work?” Martha asked. The Doctor would have been taken aback if she hadn’t been so clinical in her curiosity. Martha was in doctor mode and that made explaining the chemical to her a lot easier, for which he was grateful.

“Two drops added to a drink and give it about an hour or so to render me completely sterile.”

“How long does it last?” Martha inquired.

“About a week, give or take a day,” the Doctor replied. “And it’s a lot easier on my system than what you’re taking is on yours.”

“A week,” Martha repeated. “Damn, that’s some good stuff.” It was the Doctor’s turn to gently shove at her as they walked along. “So I take you have some plans for later then?” She teased, causing the flush to return to his handsome face with a vengeance.

“The TARDIS is the one that prepared the medical bag. I had nothing to do with it!” he defended.

“Liar.” Martha snorted. “I know the TARDIS can read your mind from a mile off.”

“Can we please change the subject?” the Doctor begged.

Martha held up her free hand in a sign of surrender. “Alright, fine…Prude.”

“I’ll show you ‘prude’, Ms Jones,” he muttered darkly.

“I’m sure you will,” Martha shot back, a sweet smile gracing her lips.

“Jack has completely and utterly ruined you hasn’t he?” The Doctor sighed. Martha just nodded in agreement which caused him to flop his head forward in defeat. “Remind me to find a way to bump him off later.” They both erupted into laughter.

Martha looked towards the darkening sky and realised the time. “The sun’s setting. We should probably head back.”

The Doctor took note of their surroundings in surprise. “Wow we’ve been wandering around for hours.”

“Which justifies the foot massage you’re giving me when we get back,” Martha informed him. “I hate cobblestones.” She added with a derisive snort.

They saw Ace and Donna walking towards them as they came upon the Raven’s Rook. The Doctor smiled warmly despite himself as he watched the two of them arm in arm laughing about something or other. The Doctor held the door for Martha and continued to hold it for Ace and Donna. As they passed, Ace reached out and punched his shoulder.

“What was that for?” he yelped, rubbing his shoulder. He immediately glared at Donna. “What have you been telling her?”

“None of your business.” Donna grinned, continuing in towards the table Martha had grabbed for them.

The Doctor spied William behind the bar and went to check on him. “Wild one, that ward of yours, Doctor Smith.” William chuckled, having seen the exchange at the door.

“I gave up ages ago trying to tame her.” He scowled. William could see that the scowl was a mere facade. “Anyway! How you feeling?” the Doctor asked, turning his full attention to his host.

“A lot better, thanks.” William smiled. “Although Margaret refuses to let me do anything more then serve drinks.” He huffed.

“Good on Margaret then!” The Doctor grinned. “Just remember to take it easy for the next couple of days. That knock to the head could give you trouble if you don’t!” He added good-naturedly.

“Margaret’s making sure I do, don’t you worry, Doctor Smith,” William told him. “Would you like me to have dinner and beer brought to your table?” He asked, ever the good host.

“Oh, yes, thank you,” the Doctor replied. “Could I also trouble you for a glass of water as well?”

“Sure thing. I’ll have that sent over as well,” William replied. “We got a nice side of beef in earlier today. Had that roasted up with some fresh vegetables? Hope that’s alright for dinner this evening?”

“Oh, brilliant! Look forward to that. Cheers!” The Doctor gave a salute off his brow and turned to join his companions.

He noticed two things immediately. Make that three, he thought. Martha had found them a square table. Martha, Ace, and Donna were all leaning in close and gossiping. And Ace and Donna were seated on either side of Martha, meaning he had to sit opposite her. He had the strongest notion that dinner was going to be an epic battle of him versus his companions. And the odds were stacked in his companions favour by the looks of things.

“Do try to keep the male abuse to a minimum please.” He ordered as he took his seat at the table. He glared at them in turn and hissed when his glare fell on Donna. Donna for her part smiled and waved at him while Martha and Ace roared in laughter. Issuing a last hiss, he informed them that William was having dinner sent to their table.

“How’s he doing?” Martha asked. “He looks better.”

“He still has a bit of a bump but I think he’s fine,” the Doctor replied. “I reminded him of the order to rest though and apparently Margaret will be more then happy to make sure he does.”

“Speak of the devil,” Donna piped up, sitting upright.

Margaret came to the table with a tray full of mugs. “Which one wanted water?” she asked as she placed large mugs of beer before each of them. The Doctor held his hand up and Margaret placed the water before him.

The scullery maid from earlier came up behind Margaret with two large plates, which she placed on the table. She excused herself to fetch the other two. Donna and the Doctor waited until the maid placed plates before Ace and Martha before digging in. Little was said as all four of them attacked their meals with gusto. Donna and Martha eventually ate their fill and still had quite a bit left over on their plates. They needn’t have worried about the food going to waste as the Doctor swapped his empty plate with Donna’s and Ace did the same with Martha’s.

Martha and Donna watched the pair with morbid fascination as they finished off the leftovers and gratefully accepted an offer of seconds from Margaret. “I know his excuse,” Donna stated, holding her mug to her lips. “What’s hers?”

“Nineteen and still growing,” the Doctor replied between bites. Ace just waved her fork at him in a ‘what he said’ gesture.

“Even I wasn’t that bad,” Martha said as she watched the second helpings quickly disappear. “Hullo…” Martha said quietly. “Looks like the evening crowd is showing up.” She said taking note of the rough burly characters slowly arriving at the bar.

“Let Ace and me finish up here and we’ll head up for the night,” the Doctor said, chewing on the last of his meal. “I want to get a plan working for tomorrow.”

“Oh, yeah,” Donna said. The Doctor’s words reminding them that they had a ship to keep an eye out for.

Martha looked over at the Doctor starting on his water and couldn’t help it. Waiting till she had his eye, she held a hand up and mimicked an eyedropper. She also mouthed ‘drop’ ‘drop’ and winked as she did it, causing the Doctor to glare playfully at her and mouth back that he already had. Donna was finishing the last of her grog and missed the exchange, but Ace hadn’t and she fully intended to tell Donna all about it later when they were alone.

“Shall we?” the Doctor finally said once Ace pushed her plate aside. He helped Donna and Martha from their seats while Ace picked up their plates.

“I’ll be right up, I just want to hand these over to Margaret,” Ace told them.

“Stay out of trouble,” the Doctor warned her.

“I’m just helping clean up,” Ace retorted, gesturing with the plates.

“And I said stay out of trouble,” the Doctor repeated, as he followed Donna and Martha up to their rooms.

Ace rolled her eyes, muttered under her breath, and marched off towards the kitchen. She was still muttering when she came to the half door. “Here you are Mrs Butcher. I’ll run back and get the rest.” Ace dashed back into the bar and stacked the mugs onto the last plate. She quickly brought those back to the kitchen and bid Margaret a good night.

“Thanks so much darling, you have a good evening too.” Margaret smiled as she took the last of the tableware from Ace.

She had almost made it to the stairs unscathed when a large hand clamped down on her shoulder. Ace rolled her eyes and counted to three before sending her elbow back with force and following it up with raising her fist into her would be assailant’s face. The hand fell from her shoulder and she heard a loud thump as she continued up the stairs.

Ace was still rolling her eyes over the encounter as she entered her room. The Doctor took one look at her and cocked an eyebrow. “Some sod tried to cop a feel and got an elbow in the solar plexus and a fist in the face for his efforts.” Ace stated, demonstrating as well what she had done.

“I said stay out of trouble,” the Doctor whined. “Oh, well, at least it was in self defence.” Ace shot him a glare, which he missed entirely.

“Jammies?” Donna offered, holding out their shared overnighter.

“Jammies would be fab, thanks.” Ace sighed. She took the nightgown Donna held out and went to change behind the dressing screen on the other side of the room.

Martha glanced between where Ace was and Donna getting her own nightgown out and rose to her feet. “I’ll be right back, because you have the most perfect idea in the world right now.” She stated, heading for the door.

“We’ll be right back, then,” the Doctor added, following her.

Ace heard the door close and peaked from around the screen. “You missed it at dinner!” she whispered enthusiastically.

“Missed what…?” Donna asked. Ace proceeded to tell her about the exchange she saw between Martha and the Doctor and Donna started laughing.

In the next room over, the Doctor glared at the wall shared with Ace and Donna’s room. “They’re just laughing! God, you’re paranoid,” Martha teased.

“You’ll never guess what they’re laughing about,” he said in a low dark tone. And he proceeded to tell her what he had heard them talking about.

Martha paused with the stays on her dress for a moment and planted her fists on her hips. “This morning I thought you were going to burst into tears of joy when she walked in the door. Now you look like you’re deciding if Ace is an enemy or not.”

The Doctor’s brows rose to his hairline as he turned to face her. “I would never think she was an enemy, Martha.” He appeared generally hurt at her accusation. “I’m just trying to figure out a way to warn myself about her meeting Donna without sodding up the time lines…too much.” He cracked a grin at the last bit. Martha’s shoulders slumped as she stared at him for a moment. She spied a small pillow nearby, grabbed it, and hurled it at his head. “It explains a lot now that I think about it!” He defended, deflecting the pillow easily.

“Just get changed so we can go back and work on those plans!” she said and continued fiddling with her dress.

“Aww, you’re no fun, Martha!” the Doctor teased as he began undressing.

“Neither are you,” she retorted, having finally removed the dress. “Good thing that stuff lasts a week, cause I doubt you’re going to be testing it out tonight.” The Doctor have her the kicked puppy eyes in an effort to get her to rethink her decision. The glare she shot him told him that the plan wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped.

Fifteen minutes later and they had reconvened in Ace and Donna’s room. Ace was curled into the armchair in the room while Donna and Martha sat up, side by side in bed. The Doctor stood at the foot of the bed lost in thought for a moment then he spied Ace’s small bag.

“Oi! Ask first!” Ace declared as the Doctor began rummaging through it.

“May I…” The Doctor paused dramatically. “…Remind you that I said I seriously doubt you’d be able to get away with breeches, this morning.” He teased, tossing the clothing he’d found buried in the bag to her. Ace caught them and tossed them right back at his head when he wasn’t looking. “I just want to borrow your sketch pad journal thing, that’s all.” He said, fishing out the book.

“Could have just asked,” Ace growled, snatching the bag from him and stuffing the clothing back into it. “’Sides, I might need to go sneaking around on this ship and it’ll be a damn sight easier in these, versus that dress.” Ace said ‘dress’ like it was a foul alien word to her.

“Good point actually…brilliant, even,” The Doctor muttered to himself. “Right, shift!” he warned just before flopping down on the edge of the bed. Martha and Donna both attacked him with their toes, before settling down to discuss plans.

It took them a little over an hour to draft several ideas. Satisfied that they had a plan A, as well as plans B through G, they called it quits. Martha was getting her feet massaged by the Doctor as they all chatted about this and that for a while longer. Ace was the first to start nodding off and they decided to call it a night. Ace weakly jabbed at the Doctor with her elbow when he picked her up to carry her to bed. “That’s for being nosy.” She mumbled and the Doctor laughed.

Donna shooed the Doctor and Martha out, insisting that she would finish tucking Ace in, then herself. Martha waved a hand then quickly moved it to cover up a yawn. Having seen them off, Donna tried to get comfortable on the hard mattress. She glanced over at Ace and marvelled that the girl was curled on her side, sound asleep. Donna shrugged and reached for the book she had brought with her and began reading instead.

Next door, Martha had crawled into bed and like Ace was soon fast asleep. The Doctor, seated at the large desk, watched her for a while before deciding to join her. Martha mumbled in her sleep when she felt his cool lips brush her shoulder. He just smiled as he laid back and adjusted for Martha when she curled into him.

The following morning Ace was ready and eager to get down to the docks and await the Korjan. Donna was less enthusiastic and made her views known as she tried to stretch the kinks out of her back. There was a brisk knock at the door followed by the Doctor bouncing in, followed by a less manic Martha. Martha saw Donna trying to work the knots out of her back and offered to help with those, while the Doctor eagerly paced around the room, making sure that his companions all knew the plan.

“We’ve got it, Skinny,” Donna said from the bed. “You flash ‘em the psychic paper, get us on board, and let the interrogations begin.”

“And if that fails and they’re up to no good, I get to wreak havoc!” Ace finished with a grin.

“Well then, that’s all settled.” The Doctor smiled. “I asked for breakfast to be sent up in a bit. We’ll head out after that.” Ace and Donna both gave him odd looks while Martha shook her head gently and smiled. “I had to get these from the TARDIS this morning?” He told them, pulling a pair of polarised sunglasses from his waistcoat.

“What do you need the sunnies for?” Ace asked.

“Tallians look human with one very glaring exception. They’re skin is bright purple. They have a holographic thing that let’s them blend in with other humanoids when they’re being sneaky and or hiding.” The Doctor explained. “However! Polarised lenses can see through the hologram tech they use and reveal who on board the Korjan is Tallian or not.”

“Polarised sunnies let you see through the hologram?” Ace asked. “I’m gonna have to get me a pair of those then,” she muttered to herself at the Doctor’s confirming nod.

A knock at the door told them that breakfast had arrived. Like the evening before, Martha and Donna ate their fill then watched as Ace and the Doctor easily took care of the left overs as well as their own breakfasts.

Ace took the tray downstairs as they were leaving. “Are you alright, girl?” Margaret asked in concern. “I heard that you had been accosted…”

“He accepted when I politely declined.” Ace grinned broadly. The Doctor took a firm hold of her elbow and gave it a hard squeeze. Ace glanced sideways before telling their hostess that they had to be off. Margaret just shook her head in wonder as she watched them leave.

“It was either that or get manhandled,” Ace said in self-defence when the Doctor finally let go of her arm. He merely chuckled and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, bringing her closer to place a loving kiss on her hair.

“Come on, our ship awaits,” he said as they headed for the docks.

Martha spotted it first. The Korjan was being tied off to the dock so they watched until the ship was secured before making their move. A woman, who had been waiting for the ship, quickly went up the gangplank and disappeared into the main cabin. The Doctor took out the sunglasses and studied the boson’s mate and lieutenant that had taken up position at the foot of the gangplank. “The boson’s human…and the lieutenant is Tallian.” He told his companions. “Ready?” He asked, tucking the sunglasses away and producing the psychic paper.

“And willing!” Ace grinned, rubbing her hands together. Martha and Donna both snorted a laugh and confirmed that they too were as ready as they could be.

The Doctor’s grin matched Ace’s as they strolled towards the Korjan’s gangplank. He flashed the psychic paper when the boson made to shoo them away. The boson looked at it confused but the lieutenant placed a hand on his shoulder and told him to remain on watch. “I’ll handle this man.” He replied curtly. “If you’ll follow me please.” He asked the Doctor and his companions.

“What’s it say?” Donna whispered into the Doctor’s ear.

“I know who you are.” He grinned. “In Tallian.”

The lieutenant led them right to the captain’s cabin. He asked them to wait while he informed the captain of their arrival. They didn’t have to wait long. “The Captain will see you now.” The lieutenant informed them, holding the door to allow them in. The woman who had come aboard as soon as the ship had docked was sitting at the desk across from the captain, both of them had wide eyed expressions on their faces as they looked at the Doctor and his companions.

“Morning, sir, ma’am. I’m the Doctor and these are my assistants,” the Doctor greeted as he introduced his companions.

The Captain rose and gestured to the chairs scattered around the room. “Have a seat please. I’m Captain Bergam, this is Mrs Jonahs,” he said. “How can I help you?”

The Doctor took out the sunglasses and noted that both the Captain and Mrs Jonahs were Tallian. Tucking them away again he got straight to the point. “I’m wondering what Tallians are doing this far from home, on such an isolated, pre-industrial world.” His grin was disarming but the look in his eyes warned that he was serious.

“You know of us?” Mrs Jonahs stammered.

“Like you, I’m not from this world.” He winked. “So what are you doing all the way over on the other side of the galaxy?” He directed at the Captain.

“We’re merely working a small shipping operation along with our sister crew.” Captain Bergam answered.

“Sister crew? There’re two Tallian crews here?” the Doctor asked in surprise.

Captain Bergam gestured with his hand to Mrs Jonahs. “My crew works the cargo vessel, while Mrs Jonahs’ crew handles the selling of the merchandise we ship.”

“Why?” the Doctor asked, utterly confused. “Why come here when there’s a whole galaxy out there to salvage and trade in?”

Captain Bergam sat heavily into his chair. Leaning forward he braced himself against his desk. “Because of the troubles back home.” The Doctor noted that Mrs Jonahs looked just as frustrated as the Captain at the statement.

“Troubles?”

“They’re calling it the ‘Conglomeration Fluctuations’," Captain Bergam explained.

“Ohhh!” The Doctor now understood why Captain Bergam and Mrs Jonahs would be so upset. “So you lot came out here to avoid that mess then?”

“Yes,” Captain Bergam replied. He touched a panel on his desk and a computer screen rose up from it. He also produced handwritten logs and handed them over to the Doctor, who passed them on to Donna to go over. “Our logs will tell you everything we’ve been doing these last three years.” He explained as the Doctor scrutinized the computer information.

Donna had Martha and Ace each take a log so she could compare them all at once. She didn’t find anything unusual as she scanned the different pages. “These are clean so far.”

“So’s this one,” the Doctor said. Looking Captain Bergam in the eye, he shook his head for a moment to clear his thoughts. “So you lot are basically on holiday while the major conglomerations wage war on the Tallian home world then?” Captain Bergam replied with a curt ‘yes’.

“But I picked up a signal, that’s what drew me here,” the Doctor explained.

“That would have been me,” Mrs Jonahs replied. “I occasionally monitor the transmissions to keep abreast with the goings on back home.”

“Anything of interest?”

“The regent Klaroch was assassinated,” Mrs Jonahs replied, her head tilted in reflection.

The Doctor winced, knowing what that meant historically. Taking a deep breath, he weighed his options. “Your lot are the only ones here?”

“On this planet, yes,” Mrs Jonahs answered. “There are thirteen other crews in the thirty-sixth sector working small scale operations while they wait out the fluctuations”

“So fifteen Tallian crews, like yours I’m assuming?” Captain Bergam nodded and the Doctor continued. “Just building up gold and silver stores until the coast is clear and you can go back to business as usual?”

“The largest crew of twenty six is working a small mining operation in the Centauri system,” Captain Bergam told them.

“We keep each other up to date with news we hear, and watch out for pirates,” Mrs Jonahs added.

“Have there been any?” Ace asked.

“Just two ships so far,” Mrs Jonahs answered. “Judoon platoons in the area were informed and the ships were rounded up. They were using illegal cloak technology.” Martha looked up from the logs at mention of the Judoon. “We are only doing what we can to get by until things settle down back home Doctor, honest.” Mrs Jonahs pleaded. “We aren’t interfering with history or anything. Just keeping a low profile until we can safely return to Tallia.”

“These are clean, Doctor,” Donna added, having finished up looking through the handwritten logs. “It also shows that the humans on board are paid fairly too,” she praised.

“And their story meshes as well,” he muttered. “Crews this size don’t stand a chance with the mess going on right now, you’re only doing what you can to survive then, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Captain Bergam and Mrs Jonahs replied in unison.

The Doctor rubbed at his chin in thought. “It’s kind of against the rules, but I don’t see any harm in it.” He sighed. “You said Regent Klaroch had just been assassinated right?” Mrs Jonahs shook her head ‘yes’. The Doctor drew a sharp breath in through his teeth. “Oh what the hell. I can tell you that you might want to get comfortable here for a while then.” He told them. “History says that the Regent’s assassination leads to a near bloodbath on Tallia that lasts for about ten years. Eleven years,” he quickly corrected.

“How would you…?” Captain Bergam started.

“Time Lord.” Looks of realisation dawned on both the Captain's and Mrs Jonahs' faces. “Just stick with what you’re doing and you won’t see me again!” He grinned, holding his hand out to Captain Bergam.

“Thank you, Doctor, we will,” Captain Bergam said with relief as he shook the Doctor’s hand.

“Sorry if we troubled you,” Martha said as she took Mrs Jonahs’ proffered hand.

“Not all,” the Captain replied.

“We were expecting to be investigated at least once,” Mrs Jonahs added. “I’m glad that it was you and not a squad of Judoon.”

“Oh, tell me about it,” Martha said. “That lot are downright scary.”

“Oh, they’re thick and bumbling!” The Doctor snorted.

“I have to agree with Miss Martha, I’m afraid.” The Captain said. “They have a strong dislike of Tallian crews…or so it would seem.”

“Thick and bumbling,” the Doctor repeated as he made a quick entry into the Captain’s computer. “And with that in place…not showing up here!” He said as he finished inputting a command that sent out a signal saying that the Tallians on Earth had been inspected and cleared.

“We won’t be investigated by them?” Captain Bergam queried.

“Nope!” the Doctor replied with a grin. “If they should pick up your signal and conduct a scan, that’ll pop on and let them know that you are cleared.” Snapping his fingers and pointing at the computer. “You’re as right as rain now, so long as you keep on with what you’ve been doing and don’t start any trouble.”

“Oh, thank you!” Mrs Jonahs gushed.

“No worries. We’ll be off then and let you get back to business,” the Doctor replied. “Cheers!”

Captain Bergam escorted them to the top of the gangplank and thanked them again for clearing them as legitimate, adding in a solemn vow that he would keep his end of the bargain as well.

“So they’re refugees?” Martha asked as they walked back towards the Raven’s Rook.

The Doctor scratched at one of his sideburns as he thought of an answer. “More like small business riding out economic woes.”

“What about the other crews they said were in the sector?” Ace asked.

“Captain Bergam’s computer is linked to theirs as well, so I checked them out and cleared those too.”

Donna heaved a sigh. “I have to say, this has been the easiest run in with aliens yet that I’ve seen with you.”

“Oh, come on! I don’t pick fights with everyone, you know!” he whined.

“Yes, you do!” Ace, Donna, and Martha replied in unison.

“Here we go with the ganging up on me again.” He muttered. The trio of women laughed all the way back to the inn.

“So what now?” Martha asked.

“We check out and I suppose get Ace back to me…the younger me,” the Doctor replied.

Clearing their bill had consisted of a hearty thank you from William and Margaret and a handshake. William said it should be a fair exchange of services rendered, him offering them rooms for helping him with the thief and the medical attention Martha and the Doctor had given him. Ace, Donna, and Martha had gone upstairs to pack their belongings and joined the Doctor downstairs as he was wrapping up with William.

They quickly made for the TARDIS and were soon far into the vortex and away from 1723 Portsmouth. Ace had changed back into the clothes she’d been wearing when she entered and had her backpack sitting next to the console.

“It’s been wonderful meeting you,” Martha said as she hugged Ace tightly.

“You too.”

“Take care of yourself,” Martha added as she handed Ace over to Donna.

“You’ve been good fun, kiddo.” Donna grinned, rocking Ace back and forth as they hugged. “Kick his arse when he needs it!” They all laughed when the Doctor growled from the console.

The TARDIS landed relatively softly and Ace turned to face the Doctor. “Thanks for taking me along, Professor.” She smiled. The Doctor stooped down and grabbed her into a bear hug, lifting her nearly a foot off the ground.

“Thank you again, Ace,” he murmured into her ear.

She leaned back a bit and placed a kiss on the tip of his nose, causing him to grin widely as he swung her around. Settling Ace back on her feet he took a quick look at his monitor and informed her that his younger self would be arriving soon. “About ten minutes.”

Ace picked up her backpack and slung it over her shoulder. She looked back from the door and waved one last time before heading out and closing the door behind her. Martha and Donna turned to look at the Doctor and saw him looking at the screen with a fond smile. “What becomes of her?” Donna asked.

“She goes on to join the Time Agency.” The Doctor smiled broadly. “Lives a long happy life of kicking arse and taking names.”

Martha and Donna joined him at the console and watched the screen as the TARDIS faded into the vortex.

Outside Ace waved as she watched one TARDIS disappear and set her bag down to await the arrival of another. She heard the grinding of alien engines and grinned as her TARDIS materialised across the street. The door opened and her Doctor came out looking a little sheepish as she dashed over to him.

“I got the date…oof!” He grunted as Ace flung herself into his arms and hugged him tightly. “You alright?”

“Wonderful!” Ace grinned.

“I left you here for three days and you’re wonderful? What did you do?” He glared at her, suspecting the worse.

“Nothing, Professor! Honest!” Ace laughed. “I just hung out with some mates and had a good time.”

“Really…?”

“Yes really.” Ace smiled as she hugged him again. “Although I am happy to see you again.”

“And I you, my dear.” The Doctor smiled, hugging her back. “Shall we?” He stepped back and held the door for her. Ace dashed back across the street to grab her backpack and came back, taking the Doctor’s hand as she entered the TARDIS. Within seconds the engines whined into life and the TARDIS was gone.

Fini.