Author's Notes:
Doctor Who and all characters are the property of the BBC. I claim no credit and receive no remuneration; please don't sue me.

This story was written for the holiday challenge at dw_straybunnies, and thus incorporates: Ace/Girl of the Week, vampires, the Doctor vs. evil giraffes, Welsh myths, Care Bears trying to kill Eleven, Three-era Sarah Jane finding an Octopus in the TARDIS bathtub, Two/Martha Jones, Evelyn Smythe, Frobisher being a P.I., Six meeting Rani Chandra, the Meddling Monk, and ancient China. Oh, and I tried to write a serious story with all those elements. Sometimes I'm a little bit insane.

Oh, and sorry to fans of Evelyn and Frobisher--I don't know them well enough to write them, so they basically just got name-checked.

Turns out, “circus of the weird and wonderful” means “freak show.”

It’s not so bad. She’s the star. No fetching and carrying like with the Captain.

None of that other business either. Though it was only that one time.

Mostly he’d thought of her too much as a possession to notice she was a girl.

Is it wrong to miss him?

Sometimes she looks up at the stars and wonders, Ace, are you there? Should I have gone with you?

In these conversations, Ace never understands how frightening freedom can be, or the comfort Mags finds behind cold iron bars.

xxxxx

“I don’t think she’s going to be happy,” Ace says. She throws her jacket into the corner harder than necessary, and scowls like it wasn’t hard enough.

It’s the first full sentence she’s spoken since they left the Psychic Circus, and the Doctor considers it carefully.

“I mean,” Ace continues, “she finally gets away from that toe-rag, and what does she do? Signs up to belong to somebody else.” She turns pleading eyes towards him. “We can go talk to her again, Professor, yeah?”

His plans wouldn’t be impossible with Mags along, but they would have to be…adjusted.

“Can’t we?”

xxxxx

Mags isn’t the star just ‘cause she was first. No, she’s worked hard. Not just at mastering the change, either. She’s learned showmanship, the art of it, how to make the audience beg for more.

And she’s learned to be a wolf in the mind. To never back down.

So when Kingpin says the next stop is Volpana, she doesn’t flinch. And when the third village they come to turns out to be about to stake and behead three Wampyr children, she gives those villagers thirty seconds to run.

And she takes those kids with her.

Ace would’ve done it.

xxxxx

“Oi, Consonant Boy!” Ace yells, hands cupped around her mouth. “Bugger any horses lately?”

She ducks back down behind the barricade just before Culhwch’s laser blast sears the air.

“Goodness, Ace.” The Professor–or Myrddin Wyllt, as everyone keeps calling him here–raises an eyebrow. His eyes twinkle. “Are you pulling a Bambera?”

Ace’s mouth hangs open. “You think I’m flirting?

“Oh, nothing of the sort,” he says, all innocence. “It’s just… we meet a great many interesting people, and you don’t always get to tell them how you feel.”

And it stops being funny right then. “Go to hell.”

xxxxx

“Mags!”

The man skids to a halt in front of her. His hair flops over his forehead, sweaty from his mad dash, and he beams like a lunatic. “Oh, I thought that was you! Brilliant! Are you still with the circus then?”

He doffs an invisible hat, grinning like it’s a clue.

“You were good for Ace,” he says. “You really, truly were. And for me. You and the Captain–I saw what I shouldn’t become.”

He sprints away before she can say a word, and just before the Ursine Order of Caring rounds the corner, bellowing for his head.

xxxxx

“His monster is made of whispers,” the alien hisses, bending its long spotted neck down to survey the bound Doctor. “Smoke, shadows, chess pieces. It killed so many–Cassie, oh, Evelyn never forgave him…”

“Whatever your friends’re made of, it’s going to get spread all over this room if I throw this can,” Ace says from the doorway. “Let the Professor go.”

Its horns twitch. “Your monster is made of fire, and it burns inside, consuming–”

Ace’s eyes flare yellow, before fading. “Only person that should be scaring is you, Peabrain.”

She controls her monsters now.

Mags would be proud.

xxxxx

“Doctor,” exclaims Sarah Jane Smith, “there’s an octopus in the TARDIS bathtub!”

“Good heavens, is that old thing still there? I meant to deliver that ages ago. And it’s not an octopus, Sarah, it’s a Kraken.”

“Deliver it? Where?”

Cirque de Weordan. ‘Circus of the Weird.’” He rummages in his pockets and hands her a rather crumpled poster. Sarah Jane studies it, the wild snarling face with flashing eyes.

“Weird, from the Germanic wyrd, Norse cognate urĂ´r,” she says with a smirk, just to show him she can. “A conception of time as constantly changing and becoming, and destiny.”

xxxxx

“You don’t want to be doing that,” Ace says.

The man in the cassock straightens up hurriedly. “Is the time field leaking?”

“No. That bike’s in the shop.” Ace saunters over, leans on the motorcycle. “This one’s my girlfriend’s, and she’ll kill you if there’s a scratch.”

“Ah. Well, I was wondering–”

“No.”

“But–”

“He told me about you. Guess you still haven’t learned your lesson.”

“I could have made things so much better!” the monk snaps. The tone becomes wheedling. “Isn’t there anything you’d–”

“There’s choices I don’t understand. But they weren’t mine to make. Now scram.”

xxxxx

Two months since Kingpin passed the reins to Mags, but she’s kept her shift at the ticket booth. Partly to draw in her fans. Mostly, though, to people-watch.
Not that she’s watching for anyone in particular.

She sighs.

“You all right?” It’s that gorgeous woman who's on a date with Mag's favorite one tonight, this funny little man in checked trousers. He’d winked when he bought his tickets and said he was “playing hooky,” clinging to Dr. Jones' waist. "You've got that look."

“Just…lost in time.”

To Mags' surprise, she nods, her eyes grave. “Try not to stay too long.”

xxxxx

“It’s beautiful,” Ace breathes. “I mean–” she shrugs–“ ‘s bit creepy and all, but it’s beautiful.”

“One can learn a great deal about what people valued in life by the manner in which they treat their dead,” the Doctor agrees, tapping a ceramic soldier with his umbrella. “What they cling to, or let go.”

Ace narrows her eyes. “You’re trying to tell me something, aren’t you?”

“Ace, Ace, Ace, you grow more suspicious every day.”

“And don’t act like you’re not proud.”

The Doctor just smiles. “Shou Yuing is a lovely girl. The ninth-century gunpowder will make a splendid anniversary present.”

She hears the unspoken rest: But what else are you clinging to? What have you yet to let go?

xxxxx

The door reads ‘Frobisher, Private Investigator.’ Mags hesitates. Could he really find her?

It’s an odd feeling, hesitation. Familiar, but not. Like putting on boots she hasn’t worn in years.

She reminds herself that he’d come highly recommended from Byban and Zazlu, the pair of Whifferdills who’d joined Cirque de Weordan last year, and entered.

The room is empty except for an envelope with her name on it.

xxxxx

Mags: I wanted to see you again, but I can’t risk you getting more bound up in my temporal trail. See, there’s a war coming, and if the Professor thinks he can sideline me somewhere/when safe, he’s got another think coming.

I just want to know if you’re okay. I think sometimes–a lot of the time–I should’ve made you come with me. Us.

If you can, leave a message here. Frobisher’ll see it gets to me, someday.

Are you happy?


Mags finds a pencil in the desk, writes:

You rescued me. Then I rescued myself.

xxxxx

After Security hauls away the clown who was accosting the work-experience girl (“You’ll not fool me, foul fiend! I’ll discover what despicable experimentations you’re unleashing!”), Dorothy ushers Miss Chandra away to do some nice, relaxing filing. Rani looks thrilled; belatedly, Dorothy realizes that this was probably why Ms. Smith planted her here in the first place. Whatever happened to asking for information?

Shou Yuing is expecting her for dinner tonight, but there’s reports to read, edicts to issue, a grant application that won’t fill itself out–

“Ma’am?” A timid knock. Margot. Dorothy has a soft spot for her. Dresses like Marilyn Manson, but quiet as a churchmouse. “Letter for you.”

“Put it with the others.”

She watches Margot leave, the girl’s shoulders hunching as if she expects a blow.

Dorothy can’t rescue everyone. But if they let her, she will always try her best.

She pulls up the grant application on her computer, and starts writing.