Serenity Dinning Room
The Doctor and Ace were alone at the table, talking softly. Ace slurped another spoonful soup and grinned.
"Thanks Professor," she said.
"You're welcome Ace." The Doctor smiled over his own bowl. "What's so funny Ace?"
She laughed. "Here you are, Times Champion, Oncoming Storm, yadad, yadda, and you're made me chicken soup."
"And that reminds me of my grandma," Ace said playfully.
"What can I say, I have layers," the Doctor shrugged.
"Well, that's a truth." They turned. Mal was standing in the hatchway frowning.
"Ah, Captain," the Doctor said. "I was wondering when you'd show up. Please take a seat. Have some soup…" His eyes twinkled mischievously. "…and we'll chat about strings and ceiling wax…"
"And other fancy stuff," Ace chimed in helpfully.
"Yes, that's right."
Mal sat his arms folded. "You lied to us doctor."
"No I didn't. You just never asked," the Doctor responded. Ace snorted and rolled her eyes. That was a familiar response.
"It ain't exactly the sort of question that often needs asking."
"Professor, what's he on about?"
"Well when Simon was poking around healing my wounds, I'm sure he couldn't help but notice several minor details…"
"Like the double pulse," Mal said.
"For example," the Doctor nodded. "It changes nothing."
"How exactly do you figure that," Mal asked. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ace tense, her body loose and ready for action. She was dangerous, this Ace, dangerous like Zoe, and loyal too. "You're a gorram alien Doc!"
"Yes, I am, but that only matters if you want it to matter. Besides, as soon as you drop us off we'll disappear, and you'll never see or hear of us again."
"That brings up another point. How do you know the Shepard?"
"Oh Derrial and I go back a long way," the Doctor smiled. "You really should have some soup."Haven
The Tardis was where they left it, so many months ago. It was waiting quietly in a shady spot. "Hello, old girl," the Doctor muttered.
"What's that?" Kaylee wanted to know, pointing at the big blue structure.
"That's my Tardis," the Doctor said proudly.
"What's a Tardis?"
"I like being asked questions," the Doctor said. "Go on, ask me another."
Kaylee rolled her eyes. "Alright Doctor, why are the Captain and Simon so cautious of you?" The Doctor stopped suddenly and fixed her with a penetrating gaze. He seemed to be looking for something deep in her soul. Finally he reached and took her hand and placed it against his wrist. She felt his pulse; there was something odd about it. It took her a few seconds to realize. She gasped and stepped back in shock. The Doctor watched her, not anxious just curious. What would she do? She took a deep breath and let it out. She met his eyes. "Oh, shiny," she smiled. He grinned proudly in return, as though she was a star pupil who had just passed a very difficult test.
"Yes," he said. "I always thought so." He turned to greet the approaching Shepard. "Hello, Derrial."
"You know Shepard, I don't think I've ever heard anyone call you by that name."
"No, that's because I like my first name even less than the Doctor like his."
"Oh what is your name Doctor?"
The Doctor smiled. "Now that would be telling." Kaylee nodded and walked away.
"See you later, Shepard," she called over her shoulder.
The Doctor glanced at Book, amused. "Personally, I'll never get used to calling you Shepard."
"But I am a Shepard."
"Yes, of course," the Doctor didn't sound convinced.
"If you're a Doctor, then I'm a Shepard."
"Good answer," the Doctor said but his mind was elsewhere.
"You want to leave," Book said. "Your mind is already racing through the vortex."
"No offense," the Doctor said. "Haven is a wonderful place but…"
"You're a wanderer. You hate being in one place for very long."
"Well, I do have things to do, places to go, worlds to save…"
"Plots to hatch," Book suggested.
"You of all people have no business lecturing be about plots and schemes."
"Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time I saw to those plots." With a tip of the hat the Doctor was gone, heading towards the Tardis…
"After you Ace," the Doctor gestured to the Tardis door.
"Are you sure you'll both fit in there," Inara asked.
"Dimensionally transcendental," River mumbled.
"What she said," the Doctor nodded at River. "Besides, I'm sure we can squeeze in." There was a twinkle in his eyes.
"What I want to know, is what you two will be up to inside that box," Jayne said, leering. Ace smiled at him and winked before stepping inside, the Doctor right behind her. He stopped at the doorstep and turned. He doffed his hat, and then he was inside and the door slammed closed.
Mal turned to the Shepard. "How exactly do you know him," he asked, but was interrupted by a strange sound emanating from the tall blue box. Everyone but Book and River stared shocked, as with a wheeze and a groan the Tardis vanished.
Book smiled at Mal. "I'll explain later," he said.
Far away, in the deep blackness of space, a small metal box floated. End over end it drifted in the solar currents, lost on the cosmic tides. There was no opening, no hinges key or lid. It was solid and unbreakable. Perhaps it would float a thousand years before someone found it. Then it would be studied, prodded and poked, but no method known to any race across the cosmos could open it. Not until it was ready, when the time was right. For now it drifted alone in the black, waiting…