Disclaimer: The BBC owns Doctor Who (worse luck for us fans who want more!) I am just borrowing them.
Summary: More whimsy, I'm afraid. Ace is having trouble sleeping…
Once Upon A Time…
Ace hit the pillow with her fist, trying to beat it into something that might be considered comfortable. The thread at the side unravelled under the abuse and a yellowish feather flew up. She sneezed violently.
How many of the Professor's companions had slept on this anyway, she wondered. Didn't he know that you were supposed to replace them every three months?
Oh, that was toothbrushes.
But still, it ought to be applied to pillows too. Then she'd stand a decent chance of having a good night's kip for once.
It wouldn't hurt the TARDIS to provide new bed set for every companion.
And besides which, it was way too hot in here to be your typical English night. Or for that matter, an Iceworld night.
With an exaggerated sigh she flung back the covers and left the room. The corridors of the TARDIS often played tricks on her, relocating at a whim and she'd end up in the Cloisters rather than the Control Room. But tonight it seemed as if the old police box knew the girls patience was at an end, and the walk was uneventful.
The Doctor was leaning over the console so far his feet were off the ground. She watched them wave about precariously for a moment before speaking.
"Professor, you couldn't find us a new pillow, could you?"
The Time Lord jumped at the sudden noise and rolled off the console, landing in an untidy, rumpled tangle on the floor. "Ace, must you creep up on people?"
She slouched over to him, and begrudgingly helped him to his feet. "I only asked for a pillow."
But the Doctor was already pouring over the console once again.
She sighed and resigned herself to lumpy pillows for the rest of her life. But there was something else she wasn't going to put up with.
"You couldn't turn the heat down while your under there…doing whatever it is, could you? It's a bit hot in here."
"Hmmm?" His head was now half way into the console itself.
"The heat, Professor!"
"What?" He looked around, "oh, the heat. The environmental controls are playing up. Nothing to worry about."
"That's easy for you to say." She sulked, "you're not trying to sleep."
But no sympathy was forthcoming; his head was already buried back in the Controls.
She sighed and slumped against the console to watch him. She noticed he had a strange looking stain on the back of his busy jumper. It appeared to be curry. Did Time Lords eat curry?
Sparks flew out of the console and the Doctor shot up. He saw her watching and his expression changed from one of surprise to casualness.
She couldn't resist twisting the knife a bit, "having trouble, Professor?"
"Not at all." He replied airily, "everything appears to be fixed."
Ace cocked an eye at the sparks and smirked.
He frowned at her; "Shouldn't you be asleep."
She shrugged, "can't sleep."
The Doctor brightened the malfunctioning environmentals apparently forgotten, "then what you need is a bedtime story."
She looked horrified. "Think I'd rather stay up, Professor."
But taken by his own idea, he settled back on the console, "I used to have quite a talent for this… Now, let's see…" He tapped his fingers against his lips, thoughtfully. "Ah! Once upon a time…"
"Oh that's good, Professor, very original."
He cocked an eye at her; "there was girl, who lived in a galaxy-"
"Far, far away?"
"She was given a box, which according to legend, held the Key to the Time Lords."
"Time Lords? That's your lot, right?"
"Yes, but she was told never to open the box, or the secrets it contained would be released."
Ace frowned, "I know this one, her name's Pandora."
But the Doctor ignored her, his eyes set on another time, another place… "Its secrets were not for the eyes of those who wished harm to the people of Gallafrey. The might of a thousand worlds pursued her across the realms of space, and through dimensional gates, but she refused to relinquish the box. They chased her for over ten millennia, until she died."
"And what happened to the box?"
"No one knows. Perhaps she entrusted it to another." And he smiled.
She grinned back. "I'd stick to your day job if I were you, Professor." She yawned, "thanks anyway. I think I can sleep now."
And she did.
Ace turned over in the bed, silently promising herself five more minutes. Her foot struck something hard at the bottom of the bed. She lifted her head up to see what it was.
It was a box.
Carved from deep red wood and inlaid with gold and silver, the patterns endless and paradoxical. Two snakes entwined, swallowing their own tails.
It was beautiful.
She sat up hurriedly, her heart racing, even though she knew it had only been a story. She reached out for it.
The Key to the Time Lords...
And pulled back. It wasn't to be opened, was it?
But she meant no harm to Gallafrey.
Maybe just a peek…
She picked it up and slipped off the catch. It cracked open no more than 3 millimetres; just enough for her to peer inside. A swirl of lullaby music twinkled out, a pretty sound. She stared into its depths and could just make out a dark shape. She slipped her fingers in and pulled the Doctors secrets out.
And broke into a smile.
It was a playing card.
The Ace of Hearts.
© T S "NORTHERN STAR" FENN