Notes: The characters aren't mine, and the story is! This is a pre-War Games story featuring Two, Jamie, Zoe, and some other familiar faces.
Zoe Heriot sat snugly in the chair in the TARDIS console room, reading a book on quantum physics. She had been traveling with the Doctor and Jamie long enough to pay no mind to the din that the two tended to create with surprising frequency. She had quickly learned to adapt to the antics of the displaced Highland piper and the equally-displaced… whatever-it-was the Doctor was—she was convinced he was a humanoid reptile of some kind. Noise was an unavoidable thing between those two, mainly because everything seemed to be a competition for them. This day had been no exception—
"Are ye sure that this is all there is t' this game, Doctor?"
"Well, yes and no. Cricket has several rules, but the basic idea is to hit the ball with the bat. Now, let's see you try to counter my bowling skills, shall we?"
"Och, I can counter yer bowling skills just fine!"
"Is that so!? Just you try it, then!"
The sound of the ball hitting the bat let out a resounding crack, which was then followed by a series of bounces as the ball escaped the sports room, rebounded as it sped down the corridor, and rolled to a stop past Zoe's feet and just in front of the console.
Zoe ignored it. How two adult beings, one of them twenty-four and the other four hundred and fifty-one, could act like a pair of five-year-olds was an utter mystery as far as she was concerned.
"…That was very well done, Jamie. Well done, indeed," the Doctor admitted. "In fact, hitting the ball outside the boundary is a guaranteed way to get the most points—four or six, depending on when the ball hits the ground. But one ball outside the boundary doesn't make you an instant expert at cricket. Let's try again."
"Shall I go get the ball?"
"Oh, let's not bother Zoe; I've got plenty of spares…"
Zoe was only vaguely aware of all this commotion going on; she continued to read her book in contentment until a new sound reached her ears—the sound of the TARDIS's telephone ringing.
More shouts and cracks of cricket balls meeting bats punctuated the ringing. Realizing that neither the Doctor nor Jamie would be stopping their game (assuming they could even hear it), she took the call herself.
"Hello?" she said, idly wondering who had the number to the TARDIS.
"…Hello," a man said, after a pause, as though trying to figure out who she was. He then made a guess, hesitantly. "…Vicki?"
"No; I'm Zoe," she said. "…There's no Vicki here, I'm afraid. Are you sure you have the right number?"
"Well, is the TARDIS?"
"Yes, it is," Zoe said, now wondering who Vicki was and what her role on the TARDIS had been.
"Oh, good," the man said. "Can I speak with the Doctor, please?"
"Well…" Zoe said, turning her head towards the inner corridor. There was the sound of another crack of cricket ball meeting bat, the sound of a crash, and then—
"Och, sorry, Doctor; I hope that wasnae an antique…"
"No, no; quite the opposite, in fact—it's from the 39th century. And there's plenty more where that came from. Let's continue."
"…I'm afraid the Doctor can't come to the phone right now," Zoe said. "…He's in a very involved game of two-person cricket."
She was met with silence, and, for a moment, wondered if she had lost the connection on the man spoke again.
"…I'm sorry, but did you say that the Doctor was playing cricket? The Doctor?"
"Believe me, it's an improvement from the rugby," Zoe said.
"…I imagine it is," the man said, sounding as though he had taken a moment to wrap his brain around the thought. "Once he's finished, could you tell him that Ian Chesterton wished to meet him in the headmistress's office of the City Science Academy in London? The date is the 31st of August, 1969, and it's two in the afternoon, Greenwich time."
"I'll be sure to tell him," Zoe promised.
"Thank you," Ian said. Before the connection was cut, however, Zoe heard him mumble, "Rugby?" in a most baffled tone.
Shrugging to herself, she placed the phone back just as the sounds in the sports room became rather heated.
"Alright, Doctor, ye've tested oot my batting skills enough; now I want t' see if ye can handle my bowling."
"Jamie, I think we should focus on your batting for now and have the bowling lesson tomorrow," the Doctor responded.
"…Ye're just afraid ye won' be able to hit the ball because I've thrown the shot put at the Highland Games, and ye think I'll throw the ball with the same amount of force!"
"I am not afraid!" the Doctor sputtered.
"Aye? Then let me bowl!"
There were the sounds of a struggle.
"Let go! …Jamie, watch out for the—!"
There was the sound of something falling over, and what sounded like three dozen cricket balls hitting the floor and rolling every which way.
"…Sorry…" the piper replied, sheepishly.
More cricket balls were starting to roll into the console room, followed by the Doctor and Jamie, who were struggling to gather them up.
"Terribly sorry to disturb you, Zoe," the Doctor said, with an apologetic look, as he saw that she was on her feet.
"Oh, don't worry; it wasn't because of this," she assured him. "I'd just been answering the phone."
"Someone called me?" the Doctor asked, surprised. "I don't give the TARDIS's number out liberally; who could have called this number intentionally?"
"It was a Mr. Ian Chesterton; he wanted…" Zoe trailed off as a look of joy blossomed across the Doctor's lined face.
"Old Chatterfield!?" he exclaimed. "Odd; I don't ever recall giving him the number… Oh, of course, my granddaughter must have…"
"Your granddaughter?" Jamie and Zoe echoed.
But the Doctor was already at the console, eagerly setting the dials.
"Imagine that—Ian deciding to call me; I wonder what he wanted to talk about after all this time…"
"I'm getting to that; he wants you to meet him at the City Science Academy of London, the 31st of August, 1969," Zoe said.
"Is that so?" the Doctor mused. "Something must be afoot…"
"Aye, but who is this chappie?" Jamie asked. "Can we trust him?"
"Oh, Jamie, I would trust him with my life," the Doctor said. "…Actually, I have—and on more than one occasion…"
The TARDIS now materialized in the back alley of the school, but even as they stepped outside, a man was heading towards them—calmly, though there was a spark of excitement in his eyes.
The Doctor was all smiles as he beheld the approaching man, who greeted them all and glanced at the TARDIS doors, as if expecting someone else to emerge from them.
The Doctor cleared his throat to redirect attention, much to the man's confusion.
"You must be Ian Chesterton," Zoe observed.
"Yes. And you must be Zoe," Ian said, looking back to the TARDIS in confusion. "Is the Doctor alright?"
"He's perfectly fine," Jamie said, indicating the Doctor, who extended his arms towards Ian with a broad grin on his face.
Ian stared at the Doctor in utter befuddlement.
"There must be some mistake…" he said.
The Doctor let out a mock sigh.
"Not a mistake, Chesterfield—an improvement," the Doctor said. "After everything I showed you—a craft that travels through time and space that's bigger on the inside and looks like a police box, Daleks and Aztecs and Sensorites, jaunts to ancient Rome and the Crusades—you doubt that man from another world can change his appearance?"
Ian now smiled.
"Though, if still you doubt me, do take a look at my old library card, won't you?" the Doctor said.
Jamie and Zoe caught a glimpse of a photo of a white-haired man on the library card as he handed it to Ian. Jamie recognized the man on the library card as the same one in some of Ben Jackson's old photos—photos of the Doctor before he had changed to the way he looked now.
"Truly remarkable," Ian said, looking from the library card to the Doctor. "But… You never mentioned…"
"Never mentioned that I could change my appearance?" the Doctor finished. "Yes, well, unfortunately, to do so involves a rather painful process, so it was one I never cared to go into. But I seem to have benefitted from this change—a much more spry body. And I am glad to no longer need that cane."
"Yes, that accounts for the cricket and rugby…" Ian said, prompting the Doctor to smirk mischievously.
"You were imagining my former self doing those things?"
"It was a very odd mental image," Ian said, handing the Doctor back the library card.
"But also an amusing one, I gather," the Doctor replied. "…And I really must update that card."
Jamie cleared his throat as he rolled his eyes, convinced that the Doctor never would update it.
"Oh, yes, of course," the Doctor said. "Ian, I want you to meet my current traveling companions—Zoe Heriot, you already spoke to. And this is James McCrimmon—Jamie, as we call him. Both of them are human, such as yourself."
Ian shook their hands and exchanged greetings before looking back to the Doctor.
"I am glad to see that you're not traveling alone," he said.
"…So am I," the Doctor admitted, sobering for a moment. He quickly regained his cheerful demeanor. "So, then; as Zoe here told me, you specifically requested my presence. While I am sure that you missed me as much as I missed you, I think it's safe to assume that you didn't call me here to reminisce."
"I'm afraid that's true, Doctor," Ian said, still marveling at his friend's changed appearance. "Barbara and I have been working at this academy for the last three years; I've been teaching chemistry, and Barbara is serving as headmistress here. And, up until this past spring term, everything was normal as can be."
The Doctor arched an eyebrow.
"And what started happening to changed that?"
"A mysterious disappearance and an annoying rash of robberies," Ian said. "We're much more concerned about the former, of course. Barbara has the full details; she's expecting us."
"Oh, yes, you wanted to meet in her office," the Doctor recalled. "It shall be nice to see her again, as well! Jamie, Zoe, come along; you'll both like Barbara, I'm sure of it!"
Once Barbara was eventually convinced that the dark-haired jester who was approaching her was indeed the same person as the white-haired grump she had first met in Totter's Lane, she warmed up to his new antics, as well as to Jamie and Zoe. Like Ian, she marveled at the Doctor's change for a moment before quickly getting back to the matter at hand.
"While it is wonderful to see you again, I do wish it was under better circumstances," she said. "Since the spring term, we have been through four physics teachers here at the City Science Academy. One of them was killed in a freak accident, and two of them quit without any notice. The most recent one vanished without a trace just as the term was ending—there was no note or anything to give us a clue as to where he had gone."
"We had the police come and investigate both during the death and during the disappearance," Ian added. "They couldn't come up with an explanation for either of them. Barbara and I discussed it, as well, and have been discussing it over the summer holidays. …And we both realized the last time we had to discuss an odd matter, the answer ended up having an… unearthly explanation."
"Yes, and I know exactly how that story ended," the Doctor mused. "…But you suspect that there is an unearthly entity at work here now?"
"Yes, and our feeling is growing with each passing day," Barbara said. "And if that is the case, we would certainly feel more at ease in regards to the safety of our staff and students if you were here to help. There are few who would believe us, and even if they would, there is little help that they could give us. We were hoping that you could spare us some of your time to look into our situation."
"My dear Barbara," the Doctor said, kindly. "You and Ian were the first to humanize me—something which, no doubt, influenced the person I eventually changed into, and something that opened my hearts, allowing me to appreciate the company of those I wouldn't have appreciated otherwise." He held Jamie and Zoe close to him, who both clung back. I could give you both all the time I had left, and it still wouldn't be enough to pay the debt I owe you."
"And to think I once said that gratitude would be the last thing you'd ever have," Barbara mused. "Doctor, we don't ask this of you to pay off any sort of debt."
"We're only asking this as a favor," Ian agreed.
"In that case, it's one that I'm more than willing to grant," the Doctor said. "As for Jamie and Zoe, I'll leave it up to them if they want to take any part in this."
"Of course we do!" Zoe said.
"Aye, as if we'd let ye go at it alone…" Jamie added.
"Then it could work out very easily," Barbara said, after thinking for a moment. "We still haven't managed to find a replacement physics teacher; you could take the position, Doctor. That would allow you to talk to the other teachers and access areas of the school that are restricted to the students."
"Which, I presume, you and Ian have already gone over, but would like my opinion on, as well?" the Doctor asked.
"Correct," Barbara said. "If there is something unearthly, your eyes would be better trained than ours."
"Don't dismiss your own skills of observation," the Doctor said, kindly. "Now, what about Jamie and Zoe?"
"Well, we could easily have Zoe enrolled as a student," Barbara said. "…As for Jamie… Well… I suppose we could have him enrolled as a student who returned to complete his education after taking a break for some reason or other. They could live in the dormitories with the other students and gather information from them."
"Live in the dormitories!?" Jamie and Zoe both exclaimed.
"Is there a problem?" Barbara asked.
"I'm afraid I've never socialized with other students before," Zoe admitted. "I was enrolled in the Elite Programme for my entire education; I was privately tutored."
"I'm certain that you'll fit in just fine," Barbara assured her. She then looked to Jamie. "And how about you?"
"Aye, all of my education was private, too," Jamie said, blushing. "But I wasnae in the Elite Programme."
"What program were you in?" Ian asked.
"Well, that doesn't matter, I'm sure," the Doctor said, wanting to save Jamie from embarrassment. "I'm sure you'll fit right in, just like Zoe will."
Jamie gave the Doctor a quick look of thanks; he normally didn't mind too much that he'd had no formal education while Zoe had received such an advanced one, but he wasn't so keen on letting Ian and Barbara know that this was the first time he had ever set foot inside a school. Had it not been for all of the Doctor's private lessons since meeting Jamie, the piper wouldn't even have been literate.
"Oh, and one other matter," the Doctor added. "I believe Ian was mentioning about a rash of robberies, as well?"
"As I mentioned, it's lower on our list of concerns," Ian said. "The robberies started during the previous term, as well—I presume one of our students got a little bit greedy."
"Well, that's no reason not to look into it if we get any clues," the Doctor mused.
"Aye, we'll watch oot for those thieves," Jamie added, enthusiastically.
"Thank you all for your help," Barbara said. "But do remember to be careful; we don't want anything to happen to you."
"The new term starts tomorrow," Ian added. "Shall I show you three around?"
"Oh, yes; that would be helpful," the Doctor said. "And tomorrow, the adventure begins!"