-1Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.

From the Mist

Chapter One: Heat

Donna was missing. It had taken the Doctor a few minutes to figure out exactly what it was that was missing, and after some rifling around in his pockets and checking that everything was where it should be on the TARDIS control panel, it suddenly occurred to him that it was rather quiet. And Donna Noble was many, many things. But quiet? Not really one of them. Of course, it wasn't that he was complaining that she made noise; he rather needed it most of the time. There wasn't anything quite as stunningly lonely as the steady thrumming of the TARDIS by itself, with no-one there to break the silence except for him.

Lonely was the word that perfectly described it, but he never brought himself to say it out loud. If there was something else that he didn't particularly enjoy, it was being pitied. And he had been on the receiving end of pity looks before, mostly from female travelling companions. Susan in particular had always been quite adept at hitting him with pity looks, usually after he had done or said something to deliberately offend or drive away friends and allies. And considering how curmudgeonly he was when he was younger, those looks had irritated him far more then than they did now.

"Donna?" he whined, making his way to the stairs at the back. No reply. He frowned, making the glasses on his face shift. With an irritable swipe he removed them, slipping them in his jacket pocket for later.

"You there? Or… anywhere in general?"

Still nothing. With a sigh and a rather dramatic roll of his eyes, the Doctor started making his way down, letting the TARDIS tend to its' own business as he ventured forth. This wouldn't be the first time she had wandered off to find the kitchen and ended up getting lost. One time the Doctor had found her in the Zero Room, stuck floating weightlessly in the middle. She had been there for an hour or so.

It wasn't his fault there was a fascinating nebula outside at the time. Otherwise he would have noticed her absence sooner. Besides, she had been half asleep when he found her (the Zero Room had that effect on people), so she shouldn't have been that annoyed with him.

Having made his way downstairs, the Doctor took to popping his head into each room down the golden corridor stretching out in front of him. It would occasionally take him by surprise, the coral theme of the TARDIS. Some days he expected to open the doors and find the sterile white that all Time Lords so approved of waiting for him. But then he would just smile and get to work. Where was the fun in going with what everyone else approved of?

He found one door slightly ajar, light seeping through from inside. What looked like smoke wafted through, but any panic creeping into the Doctor vanished when he realised it was steam. The Doctor stepped through, and forced himself to stop at the door, hand still gripping the doorknob as he watched what was happening inside.

Donna Noble, with an iPod… dancing her socks of while she boiled up the kettle. And, to top it all off, her eyes were closed as she quietly sang along to something the Doctor had never heard in his life. And didn't really want to, considering some of the lyrics seemed pretty senseless.

Her eyes drifted open for a brief second when she whirled around, catching a glimpse of him stood in the doorway. She stopped in mid-twirl, stumbling across the kitchen and into a rack of pots and pans on the wall. With as much dignity as she could muster after such an incident, she straightened up, brushing imaginary dirt from her dress and jeans.

"Yes?" she asked, ripping the white headphones from her ears.

He wanted to laugh. He really, honestly, truly did. He wanted to laugh to the point where it was hurting his face not to. But still, through some miracle that he could only put down to Time Lord genetics, he managed to keep his face relatively straight.

"Um…"

Pinching his tongue between his teeth, the Doctor considered what he could really say about the display that had just been before him.

"…three sugars. Please."

The 'please' almost tipped him over the precipice of his self-control, and so he quickly retreated from the area and walked - as calmly and yet as quickly as he could - to the TARDIS control room.

And there, not knowing if he was safe from his companion's wrath but not really caring, the Doctor laughed harder than he had done in some time. Still chuckling away like a demented clown, he rounded the control panel, checking different readouts and adjusting random settings as he went. By he time he had circled the entire thing, Donna was stood at the top of the stairs with two mugs in front of her. The grin didn't leave his face. It honestly couldn't. Despite his best efforts, it just stayed there, shining in his companion's face like a torch.

"Ooo, tea. Thank you."

They both stood in silence for a moment while the Doctor sipped, keeping the mug in front of his too-smug-for-words grin so as not to incense the slightly flushed woman standing in front of him.

"You not… going to drink your tea?" he asked, keeping the mug in front of his mouth.

Donna seemed to consider her words with great care before replying. "I'm going to let you have this one."

"Sorry?"

"I'm going. To let you. Have. This one."

"Still not following, sorry."

"I mean-!" She caught herself in mid-shout, and calmed herself with a deep breath. "I mean, I'm going to let you do your little dance around the TARDIS, laughing your head off and making fun of me. Because I did it when you ate that fruit you thought was a banana and then-"

The Doctor's smile was gone, and the mug dropped from in front of his mouth. "Oh, now hang on, don't bring that up. It only lasted for a few days."

"Doctor, you were purple. Bleedin' purple! And it was four days."

"Yeah, a few."

"No, a few means three."

"A few can mean four as well. 'Few' isn't a set number."

Although he was beginning to think that 'few' sounded funny when you said it too much.

"Look, never mind. Just… have your fun and then we can get on with our lives. All right?" she finished, moving her head from side to side as she pronounced the 'T' in 'right' far too harshly.

For a few moments, the Doctor was silent, only the TARDIS engines providing any noise. Then the grin wormed onto his face.

"You were dancing very enthusiastically."

"Yeah, all right…"

"And you were singing with your eyes closed. Couldn't believe that."

"Right, yeah…"

"And the lyrics!"

"Ay. Nothing wrong with a bit of Girls Aloud."

"Well, I-" The Doctor stopped himself when he realised that he had no idea who (or what) Girls Aloud was. So he didn't really have any cause to complain about his music. He'd have to try it and see if he liked it.

With a dull thud, the TARDIS suddenly landed, the jolt making both the Doctor and Donna stumble a little, carefully cradling their cups of tea to prevent any spillages.

"What was that?"

The Doctor raced to the control panel (well, raced as fast as he could with a cup of scalding hot tea in hand), swivelling the monitor around to him.

"We've landed," he mused lightly, the words almost a murmur.

"Can we even do that? You know, without you in control?"

He frowned, slipping his glasses from his pocket and putting them on. There was something he was forgetting, something-

"THE COUNTDOWN!"

Donna leapt almost completely out of her skin, tea spilling down herself and onto the latticework floor below. Deathly silence permeated between them as they both stared at the spot on her dress where the tea had made contact. Slowly, Donna brought her gaze up to meet his.

"I'm going to get changed… and you will never make fun of the dancing thing again."

The Doctor nodded. "Sounds fair."

"Thought it would." She sighed. "So go on then. What did you mean, 'countdown'?"

"Well, after we left Oomplock-"

"The planet of the apes, you mean."

"No," he admonished. "They're nothing to do with humans."

"They had a flipping statue of liberty! With the face of a monkey!"

"Yes, but that was just because of the Galactuns that subjected them to-" he shook his head vehemently. "Look, they're nothing to do with Earth. Anyway!"

He thrust an authoritative finger into the air. "After we got back in the TARDIS, I set up a countdown to take us to another random location in a day's time."

"A day? It's barely been a few hours."

"Well, when you say a few-"

"Don't start again. But it hasn't been a day, I know that much."

"A Kallafrax day."

Donna rolled her eyes. "Oh, well, a Kallafrax day…"

He grinned at her, taking another sip of his tea. "Well, off you go then. Sooner you're changed, sooner we can-"

His words escaped him when the TARDIS lurched violently to the side, sending Donna tumbling backwards and the Doctor forwards until they both ended up on the leather chairs, clutching onto them for dear life. Their mugs of tea had since been dropped and hurled to the other side of the control room, their contents spread across the floor and the walls. Donna looked around the room frantically.

"What the hell was that?"

The Doctor swung his body forward and pulled himself up to the control panel. With a mighty tug he brought the monitor around.

"The TARDIS must have landed on some unstable ground."

"You said to me before that it couldn't do that. Sensors or something, that's what you said."

"I know, but the ground must have changed since we landed." He scowled. "Where are we?"

With another thundering quake, the TARDIS shook forward, straightening the room out. He grinned.

"Well, that's straightened it out. Shall we head out?"

A certain skip in his step, the Doctor bounded over to the support strut beside the door, scooping up his coat and wrapping it around him. His hand on the door, he stopped and looked back to Donna.

"Coming?"

She pointed to the monitor. "I thought the ground was unstable. That's what you said."

"Well, yeah, that's what I said. But now it's saying we're stable, so…"

"And you expect me to go out with tea all down my front?"

The Doctor took a breath, then thought for a moment. "Ah. Yes, good point."

A few minutes later (although he was sure she took ten minutes longer than she really needed to) Donna was ready with a fresh shirt and jacket. Grinning inanely, the Doctor opened the door wide for her, and they stepped out into the world beyond. Donna's gasp clued him into something strange before he took his first step out of the TARDIS.

"Bloody hell, it's hot out here!"

The Doctor nodded, grimacing at the way his glasses were steaming up. He removed them and put them away.

"Humid," he mused, looking around the barren landscape.

"It's like a desert," Donna said, removing her jacket and tossing it back into the TARDIS.

He couldn't agree more. In all directions it was cracked, sandy ground, stretching out as far as the eye could see to some distant mountains. The orange-red hue of the ground gave a certain hellish motif that made the Doctor wary, but nothing too bad. If his Doctor sense was really tingling they would have been back in the TARDIS by now.

"It looks like a desert," the Doctor said, taking in the landscape, "but the air's so… moist. It's more like a sauna or steam room. How does that work…?"

Donna, meanwhile, had wandered on ahead and turned around to face him. Shielding her eyes from the sun above, her gaze travelled up past his head and over the TARDIS, eventually settling on something behind them both.

"All right then," she said, nodding at it, "what's that all about?"

Hands in pockets, the Doctor followed her eye line until he had to walk around the TARDIS to see. A massive white complex rivalling any human skyscraper towered above them, four long tunnels sprouting out from the cylindrical centre. At the end of each tunnel lay a similar yet smaller cylinder, wedged firmly into the ground. The ground looked strained where the complex had managed to attach itself, painful cracks jutting out in every direction. It looked like it would collapse at any time.

The sunlight reflected harshly against the pure white of the complex, and the Doctor squinted as he studied it. He didn't recognise it, although it looked vaguely human in design. Shrugging off his coat, he turned back to the TARDIS and tossed it inside, landing with perfect precision on the support strut. The Doctor strode out into the sun, hands wedged in pockets as he walked to Donna.

Grinning, he hooked out his arm. "Shall we see who's in?"

She smiled. "Let's go and ring that doorbell, spaceman."

They jauntily made their way the hundred metres or so to the closest cylinder, being careful not to slip in any of the larger cracks. In fairness, they didn't seem anywhere near as severe up close, but the Doctor didn't fancy losing a foot in some unfortunate wedge situation. A hand, maybe. He had a replacement on standby, after all. Although he would look weird if he lost his left hand, because then he would have two right hands… he'd never be able to hold cards properly again. Not that he held cards that much anyway. But if he ever wanted to-

A loud clang of an alarm made the Doctor blink and look up to the source. Sirens flashed on the underbellies of the tunnels, and Donna pointed to the silhouettes that ran along the misted windows of the tunnels.

"Well, they look human. That's a good start, right?"

The Doctor sighed. "Yeah, but then they have all these questions, because you humans aren't half inquisitive things."

Donna looked at him. "Isn't that a good thing?"

He smiled a 100 watt smile. "Actually, yeah."

A few moments later, the alarms silenced abruptly. Above their heads, a metal door jutted outwards from the surface of the cylinder a few times before finally bursting open, the man inside almost falling out onto the ground before someone grabbed the waist of his jumpsuit and yanked him back in. The Doctor's smile remained as he marvelled over the comedy duo that was already making itself known to him. A tired, petite woman with greying blonde hair peered out of the door, scowling at them irritably.

"Wh… How-? What the hell are you doing there?"

Donna waved cheerily, and the Doctor followed suit.

"Just thought we'd go for a walk," she announced.

The Doctor nodded. "Yep. Looked out of the window today and thought-"

"-lovely day for a walk!"

Partners in crime, the two gave each other a little look before returning their attention to the flabbergasted woman above them.

"But… how are you even down there? The atmospheric turbulence…"

"Yeah, but we've got a box," Donna replied, nodding back from where they came.

"A box?"

"Police box, in fact," the Doctor added. "Atmospheric turbulence's got nothing on the fuzz!"

Her demeanour changed instantly, mostly her back; it stiffened as though someone had run some ice down her back.

"You're with the police?"

Before replying, the Time Lord looked at his companion. Could they pass for police? He shrugged.

"Yeah, why not?"

"I'm going to need some identification."

Removing her arm from where it was looped around his, Donna stepped forward, hands firmly planted on hips. "What, from down here?"

Though the Doctor had thought it impossible, the woman's back stiffened yet more. "Well, no. Of course not."

Donna shook her head and looked back to the Doctor, talking far too loudly as she went. "You'd think they'd treat a police inspection with more respect…"

"You'd think," the Doctor agreed with equal volume, deciding on a spur of the moment that he would be playing good cop in this little improvisation. Since he always ended up being bad cop in the real situations, he thought he had earned the right to be the good cop in make-believe.

As transparent as the Doctor thought they were, the woman above seemed to buy it, and stepped back inside. A few moments later, the door slammed shut by itself.

The Doctor and Donna looked at each other. He took breath, was about to speak, but then stopped himself.

He shrugged. "Suppose they just really don't like the police?"

Several more metallic clangs echoed out from the construct in front of them, and they took several cautious steps back, the Doctor's hand out in front of him in a mostly futile gesture. It always made him feel better, though. His open palm against the world. It could defeat anything, that hand.

A rectangular metal platform slowly began making its' way out of the cylinder at ground level. It continued going until it was a few metres out. Another started moving just above it, coming to a stop a quarter of a metre short of the bottom platform. This continued until there was a neat stairway leading up to the door.

Impressed, Donna smiled at the Doctor. "I would have been satisfied with a rope ladder."

With that, she strode up the stairs with all the confidence that the Doctor expected of her. His smile completely back (at least before he had to become John Smith, Doctor of Intergalactic Law Enforcement), he thrust his hands in pockets and wandered up until he was inside. The cool blue of the walls inside soothed his eyes somewhat as he entered. As his feet planted themselves firmly inside the building, the door slammed violently shut behind him, the echoing clang making his ears ring.

Unseen hydraulics banged and hissed from within the walls as the Doctor looked around the room. Circular, but not really big enough to encompass the five of them that comfortably. A doorway on his left was open, revealing the tunnel beyond. A nudge in the ribs brought his attention back to the real world, and he looked first to Donna, and then to the woman she was pointing to.

The tired woman sighed and stuck out her hand expectantly.

"Identification."

The Doctor stared at her blankly for a second. "Oh! Yes. Of course, yes." He whipped the psychic paper out of his jacket and into her face.

"There! You see? The Doctor and Donna Noble, Intergalactic Law Enforcement."

She cocked a sceptical eyebrow in his direction, while the man who had opened the door earlier looked idly around the room, hands in pockets. It always made the Doctor curious when people weren't interested in him. That sounded incredibly vain, but it was a fact that a person suddenly appearing in the middle of nowhere from a blue box usually attracted attention. Anyone who didn't pay attention to it was either stupid or had seen it all before. As it was, this man could be either.

"The Doctor," the woman said, the statement sounding nowhere near a question.

Her attention was no longer on the psychic paper, so he slipped it away.

"And… Donna," he said, nodding to his companion.

The woman ignored her. Donna didn't seem pleased.

"But it said your name was John Smith."

"Well, yeah, but most people just call me the Doctor. Well, they call me 'Doctor'. 'The Doctor' doesn't fit well into sentences. 'How are you today, the Doctor?'. See? Just doesn't work."

The man was staring at him now, frowning incredulously like he didn't know what the hell the Doctor had just said. He wondered if the TARDIS' translation circuit was working properly.

Their interrogator continued on. "And what exactly are you a doctor of?"

"Well… everything, really."

She smiled, and the condescending manner of it made the Doctor's jovial attitude feel that little bit more forced.

"You can't be a Doctor of everything."

"Maybe you can't, but I can."

The smile froze. "And why's that?"

He thought about it for a moment. "I'm brilliant."

Donna nodded. "He is, that's true."

His grin widened. "See? I've got references."

"And you," she said, moving onto Donna without missing a beat, "what exactly is your rank? It didn't say on the identification."

The Doctor slid a few feet away from conversation, knowing all too well what that kind of tone would get from Donna Noble.

As it was, Donna just smiled sweetly. "I'm sorry, what was your name?"

Her back straightened. "Melissa Tharsis."

"Well, Mel - can I call you Mel, darling? Of course I can - how about you stop asking us stupid questions, and go and make us a cup of tea?"

The good Miss Tharsis scowled. "A what."

Donna rolled her eyes dramatically, somehow using the rolling gesture to get even further into Tharsis' face. The voice remained as sickly sweet as before. "Tea? Cup of? Leaves in a bag that you put hot water through and get a nice drink? Ringing any bells in that tiny little head of yours, darling?"

"I know what tea is."

"Then what're you standing around here for? Get to work!" Her voice went up about a hundred decibels, making even the man in the jumpsuit flinch.

Lovely blonde Melissa, at a certain lack for words, simply scowled and stormed out of the room, her shoes clacking noisily against the metal floor as she went.

The man smiled. "Thank you for that."

And with that, he was gone as well, although at a far more lethargic pace.

"Are you coming? The boss is going to want to meet you."

The pair were silent for a moment, and simply looked to each other.

"The boss?" Donna asked.

"The boss!" he agreed, pointing a grand finger to the tunnel.

As smiley as he was while they strode along with all the confidence of Intergalactic Law Enforcement Agents, the Doctor couldn't stop the uneasiness tingling down the back of his neck. Almost as though something was watching… waiting… an ancient, primordial power…

Or it could have been the air conditioning. It was hard to tell.

--

(A/N: All reviews encouraged and welcomed!)