A/N: So, here we have the Doctor and Donna, between Forest of the Dead and Midnight, with the Doctor and Martha caught up in the events of Blink. But, this is a crossover, set in 1969. Enter Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk from the 1969 series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). (Apparently they did a remake later, but I've never seen it.) I'm setting this sometime after The Man from Nowhere, with That's How Murder Snowballs being the main episode that I plan to use in tying this together. And, please, if I mix something up, someone point it out to me!
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, and I make no money from this work of fiction!
Three weeks, four days, twenty-one hours, forty-two minutes, and twelve seconds since they'd been stranded in 1969. The Doctor debated being more accurate, but admitting every picosecond he'd been separated from the TARDIS hurt. It wasn't easy for a time traveller to be locked in one time, and it wasn't easy for a wandering alien to be restricted to one planet.
Sol 3—Earth—was one of his favourites, of course. Possibly the top of his list, now—even with the itch he had to get out and explore. Funny how that seemed to become worse when the cure was out of the question. He'd experienced something similar when he'd been exiled to Earth, back in his third regeneration, but that itch had at least been dulled by his job at UNIT, if only slightly.
Not that the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce had provided a particularly big challenge for him, not on its own, since most of what he'd found with them had been, well…. Not less exciting than what he could have found in a different galaxy, exactly, but more…. Predictable, perhaps, because he'd been reliant on whatever had crashed to Earth or whatever ingenious thing the humans themselves had been able to invent. Sure, they'd uncovered a number of things, but the Doctor had been relieved when his fellow Time Lords had at least granted him limited use of the TARDIS, even if he had kept getting sent back to Earth, pulled back into the 20th century like a yo-yo on a string.
But this time…. This time, the Doctor had known beforehand that his exile was coming. Not that it was really an exile; he'd gotten Martha, his current companion, stuck here with him. He'd known about the Weeping Angels at Wester Drumlins, and he'd tried to be careful, but somehow….
Was it a sign of his age that it had slipped his mind? They'd heard the tales of the disappearances, of course, but he hadn't connected it, not in time. Thankfully, that was a rare occurrence. Just as thankfully, he had the folder of information Sally Sparrow had given him tucked safely away in his pocket. He'd known that it was going to happen sometime, after all. Martha had been touched first, sent away to 1969 in the blink of an eye. And he had been on his guard, oh yes, but he'd known he'd be next. Evading them would have caused a paradox, and he wasn't up to dealing with one just yet.
But a paradox wasn't as easy to avoid as he'd led Martha to believe. He hadn't figured out how to track down Katherine Wainwright to convince her to write Sally Sparrow a letter, complete with photographs, let alone urge her to have her grandson deliver it at the time of her disappearance in 2007. He wasn't sure he could just leave it to chance, but if he did come across her, he couldn't be too convincing. The letter wasn't to be written until the 1980s. Plus, they had yet to encounter Billy Shipton, to convince him to take a message to Sally Sparrow, and to guide him into a new career of publishing—books, videos, DVDs—instead of law enforcement.
They hadn't had time to make the video for the DVD Easter egg, though he'd found a nice little recording studio in which to do it. He still had his sonic screwdriver and psychic paper, at least; breaking in wouldn't be a problem if they couldn't bluff their way in. He had finally decided to hand Billy a list of DVDs on which to hide the Easter egg, with a severe warning about the probable destruction of the greater part of the universe if he breathed a word of it to anyone. The detective inspector had kept his part of the bargain the first time, and all the Doctor had to do was make sure that no one dropped the ball in the beginning this time.
Fortunately, he and Martha had managed to get into Wester Drumlins to leave the writing on the wall, getting it just so, thanks to Sally's photographs. The current owners were still trying to sell the house, one they'd inherited and never inhabited, and he'd convinced them to try to increase its value by papering the walls—promptly volunteering to do it. Martha did her fair share of complaining over that, but she knew it had to be done by someone. And he had planned it, figuring out just how much glue to apply where to ensure that the paper would peel the way it did…. He'd enjoyed the calculations, but the papering itself was a bit too domestic for him.
It didn't seem that he could escape the domestic now, though. He spent his days holed up in the little flat they'd found, happily sending Martha out to work. It did take a bit of explaining to the curious neighbours, some of which were prejudiced against Martha for her colouring and the fact that an upstanding doctor such as himself would degrade himself in such a way by wedding a coloured woman. Martha had taken a certain amount of glee when concocting that cover story, though the Doctor wasn't sure why, and although he knew the comments stung, he'd always caught her failing to hide a grin when they overheard the whispers about the two of them being together.
He'd uncovered a wedding band in one pocket—how it came to be there, he couldn't say, but it was jumbled in with a few biodampers—and caused enough excitation and subsequent cooling of the molecules with his sonic screwdriver to readjust the ring to fit Martha's finger. She was a bit disappointed that he didn't have one, but he had managed to explain it away to the satisfaction of the neighbours. Most weren't so bad, accepting them for who they were and not blinking an eye about it.
Well, the majority did raise a few eyebrows over the fact that Martha was the one holding a job, but he'd fabricated a sordid tale about being a dissatisfied doctor who was longing to improve the tools of his trade, so he'd decided to invent a few things on his own. It explained his frequent trips to second-hand stores and scrap yards and the like, and he didn't mind being branded as eccentric. He was quite happy to take that as a compliment.
The clock on the wall read 6:59, the second hand just ticking past the three. It was slow—two minutes and thirty-eight seconds slow, actually, if he was rounding. Martha's alarm hadn't gone off yet. Had she set it? The Doctor turned his head to look at her. She was sound asleep, tightly wrapped in the bed sheets, hair tousled over her pillow, completely oblivious to the world. Perhaps it would be better if he programmed the alarm to set itself off at quarter to each day, he thought, but then she'd be after him for not letting her get her beauty sleep or some such nonsense.
Sighing, the Doctor got up to wake her. He'd had to do it earlier in the week, too. Of course, she claimed that that was because he'd taken the alarm apart and hadn't put it together properly, which was a complete and utter lie. Well, maybe he had removed one small piece for his timey-wimey detector, but it hadn't helped, so he'd replaced it. Then again, if he put it under the—no, no, it wouldn't work. He needed something else.
"Rise and shine, Martha. Brand new day," he murmured, touching her shoulder briefly to give her a gentle shake.
"Wha—?" Martha stirred, blinking blearily up at him. "What time is it?"
"Gone seven," the Doctor answered, knowing she wasn't in the mood for a precise answer.
"You were up again in the night, weren't you?" She stifled a yawn. "I heard you pacing. It must've been three in the morning."
"Half two, actually," the Doctor replied. "Didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry."
"Don't you ever sleep?" Martha asked, still not making a move to leave the relative comfort of the bed.
The Doctor smiled gently at her. "I'll start your breakfast while you get set for work," he said instead.
Martha frowned. "You burnt everything last time you tried."
"I'll watch it more carefully," the Doctor promised. He could tell from the set of Martha's mouth that she wasn't about to trust him. No matter; the worry would give her a bit of speed.
It wasn't as if he couldn't cook; he was just preoccupied. True, he was an expert at multitasking, but there were times when he was mulling over five or so different trains of thought at once, rather than sacrificing one to the menial task of toasting a bit of bread. And it wasn't as if they hadn't been able to clear the room of smoke without too much trouble. He had even figured out that he'd need an old tape recorder reel for his timey-wimey detector, so some good did come of the entire incident.
Granted, he still hadn't managed to convince Martha of that, especially not after she'd been cleaning egg off the ceiling, walls, kitchen curtains, cupboards…. He really hadn't remembered that one egg would make such a mess. He had known that boiling it dry while continuing to heat the egg would build up a fair bit of pressure—that was common sense—but he really hadn't thought it would go off with such a bang.
Fortunately for him, Martha was still tactfully not mentioning it, although she did glare at him every time he suggested that they could do with some more eggs, seeing as she needed her protein with breakfast. He planned to try needling her a bit next week; if he could surprise her, he'd be able to talk her into it in a matter of minutes—providing she listened to his spiel. At the very least, she'd probably agree to keep him quiet.
Toast, jam…. He'd been at this too long, really. He wasn't used to being cooped up. Wandering the streets of London didn't help much, but it was something. He could go looking for parts. Milk, juice…. Martha would understand if he was out late, and they did have two sets of keys. He could try pretending, if only for a moment, that the TARDIS was just around the corner, that they weren't separated, that the faint trace he felt in his mind wasn't of another TARDIS with a different one of his selves, either a past or future version. Either way, it wasn't a strong connection; it simply helped to ensure that he didn't run into himself.
Besides, he'd know the moment his own TARDIS landed, sent safely back to him by Sally Sparrow. Peanut butter, bac—burnt. Well, that was a bit of an exaggeration. Martha would just be eating a couple extra-crispy pieces of bacon this morning. She'd be after him for that, of course. She'd intended it as a treat, to satisfy a craving, and here he was, ruining it. She'd forgive him, of course. Always did. Hardly even held a grudge after he apologized for the seventeenth time. But he could still hear her ranting at him, wondering why she let him out of her sight, since no matter how accomplished he claimed to be, he still couldn't do a simple task like making a spot of breakfast….
He had been stuck in one place too long, no doubt about it.
"Brand new world out there, Donna," the Doctor said with a grin, looking at her from the other side of the console. "Well, new to you. Nyxa 4 has been renowned for years for its silver seas and, oh, beautiful sunrises. Stunning. Brilliant. Painter's paradise, really, and some of the prints, well…. Depending on the quality and grade, you could pay a pretty penny for one of them. Some of the holographic ones are cheap rip-offs, so I'd avoid those. You're better off sticking with a tried-and-true canvas type, actually, if something strikes your fancy. Better quality in the long run. Not to mention easier to explain, should anyone see it."
Donna gave him a weak smile. "Don't expect you'd let me keep anything too out of the ordinary," she said. She wouldn't admit it, but even after a couple of trips, she was still feeling the effects of their time in The Library. The Doctor was doing his best to cheer her up, she knew, and she did appreciate it, really, but…. She'd felt as if she'd spent a lifetime there. Married to a gorgeous bloke who adored her, with his cute stutter that never really went away, and raising their two beautiful children, Ella and Josh—but no. It was a lie. And the truth hurt.
She was doing her best to get over it. There were times when she could almost forget how much it hurt. And the way the Doctor was going on about this place, Nyxa 4, with its wondrous scenery, stretching beaches, silver seas, brilliant sunrises…. Well, she could move on. She could nearly lose herself in a sense of awe or the breathlessness of an adventure. And she loved it, every single moment of it, even…even the things that stung.
She'd welcomed the suggestion of taking a vacation. She hadn't gotten many before, not since her childhood. And she'd never been pampered. She'd never tell the Doctor, of course, but she wouldn't mind just one stint to see what it was like to be waited on hand-and-foot. Nyxa 4 had some great resorts, the Doctor told her. And if she wasn't satisfied, then he knew just the place to go. A little planet called Midnight, he said. Hadn't been there himself, but he'd heard stories. He was sure she'd love it.
"C'mon, Donna," the Doctor continued, picking up his long brown coat from where he'd slung it on one of the TARDIS's coral supports after their last trip. "Sunrise in two minutes; don't want to miss it!"
Donna pushed her ill musings aside and let a warm feeling fill her. This was what she wanted, this travelling, this exploring. A life of adventure. And if there were some stops along the way where the adventure wasn't of the life-and-death kind, then she welcomed a break. The worlds beyond the door of the TARDIS promised to be alien to her, and she'd be able to explore them with a child's wonder. What she found always seemed to take her mind off other things, anyway.
"Not on your life, Martian boy," she shot back, running down the ramp to join the Doctor at the door to the exterior world. She threw it open, rushing out without even looking—
—and promptly found herself standing in pouring rain. The Doctor strolled out to join her, and she wasted no time in demanding an explanation.
"Did you even look at the scanner?" Donna asked, the annoyance in her voice clear. "Some beautiful sunrise. You're a worse pilot than…than…." She trailed off, staring at the Doctor.
He had frozen outside of the closed TARDIS door, his hand still resting on its handle. He had his eyes tightly shut and stood so still that Donna wasn't sure he was breathing. She wouldn't have put it past him to not need to breathe, strange as he was, but even she knew something was wrong. He looked too pale.
A moment passed, then another, and suddenly his eyes flew open. Grinning at her, he began chattering away as if nothing had happened. She wasn't having any of it, so she slapped him. Sent reeling backwards into the side of the TARDIS, the shock silenced him. Taking advantage of that, Donna began her tirade. "Now look here, spaceman, you don't go on about taking me to these exotic places, get it wrong, and then freeze up the moment we're here! Not without an explanation. And you'd better have a good one, because I'll have your head if you don't. And don't you dare try to shrug it off, because I'll be after you until you explain something, and you'd better explain it well!" The Doctor opened his mouth, but she cut him off, adding, "And you'd better open that door, because I'm not exactly dressed for this weather, in case you didn't notice."
The Doctor let her back into the TARDIS, ignoring the fact that she had her own key, but waited outside. When she returned, wrapping her cardigan more tightly around her, she levelled him with a glare and said, "Well?"
"We're in London," he said. She couldn't place his tone, but thought it was most like his pensive one. "In 1969."
"And I'm not sure why." A frown pulled at the corners of his mouth for a second and then he'd schooled his features again. "But I expect we'll find out. Come on." He started walking off, and she had no choice but to follow him.
Money was tight. But for Jeff Randall, it always was. A little over twelve months ago, he had been partners with Marty Hopkirk. They had run their own detective agency and managed to get by for the most part, though he'd had to pay Jeannie, Marty's wife, with jewellery a few times in lieu of her salary. But Marty's luck had run out one night.
Jeff still regretted that he'd sent his partner to finish up checking what had been his case, and he blamed himself for what happened, silly as that may be. Marty, using skills honed from years in the business, had become suspicious. When some of his suspicions had been confirmed and things had begun to add up, well…. It wasn't a hit-and-run accident that had killed him, Jeff knew. He'd even managed to catch the murderer. But he wouldn't have been able to do that if he hadn't had help, and his informer knew the details quite well. It was Marty himself.
Jeff hadn't believed it immediately, of course. He remembered the phone calls clearly and his anger when he'd answered to hear someone impersonating Marty on the other end of the line. He'd asked for no more calls to be put through that night, but the phone still rang. He'd tried sleeping it off, thinking things would look better in the morning, but, well…. Marty had called him to the cemetery, and he'd gone there as if in a trance. Even the next morning, he hadn't been entirely convinced, but Marty had turned up again the next night. He'd insisted that he had been murdered.
Jeff had nearly been killed for uncovering the truth. Marty had saved him, but at a cost; he was doomed to be a ghost for a hundred years, walking the earth without returning to his grave, simply because he'd been caught out in the daylight. Finding himself with a surplus of free time on his hands, they had continued the business as usual…almost. Jeannie had no idea that Marty was back, since he'd chosen to appear to Jeff, and she had caught Jeff talking to Marty more than once. She'd thought he'd gone round the twist and even managed to have him committed. Sure, they'd muddled through it somehow, and Marty was still Jeff's secret informer, but rumours didn't die easily. Particularly when Scotland Yard became involved.
If he was perfectly honest with himself, Jeff would admit that a tiny part of him wanted something terrible to happen to someone. He wasn't proud of that part of himself, but he couldn't deny its existence, however insignificant it was. He lived off the misfortune of others. Murders, infidelity, disappearances…. If London didn't have more than its share of shameful incidents and horrors, then he wouldn't have a job.
Sure, there were times when he'd been called out to investigate strange occurrences—or ghosts, as the occupants of a few haunted houses had been convinced—but it never had been due to an actual ghost. Well, there was the one time, with Bugsy, who was a ghost as a result of a death wish; he'd sworn to kill his 'partner' who had gunned him down. Marty had been scared stiff when investigating the other ghosts, but Jeff figured he was too shocked to realize that the American gangster actually was another ghost to be afraid. Of course, considering Bugsy had been a bootlegger during the Prohibition in the States, whatever fear Marty had felt was justified. A ghost may not be solid to the living, but it was a different story with the dead.
It had been that particular case with Bugsy that showed Marty how little he knew about being a ghost. Over the past months, Marty had discovered and honed his skills, be it walking through walls, shaking coffee cups, or stirring up breezes. He did have a lot of free time on his hands, Jeff reasoned, and he wasn't always popping off to join the Prime Minister for lunch. Marty would stop by to see Jeannie frequently, but Jeff was the only one he could hold a proper conversation with. He had yet to run into another ghost since Bugsy, and the only other people who could see him were psychics. Jeff knew he wasn't the most open-minded sort of person out there, but if he hadn't seen people talking to Marty as Marty (rather than, say, Marty the park duck), he wouldn't have believed anyone really could be psychic.
"I think I might be on to something, Jeff."
Jeff jumped, looking up at Marty, who stood in front of his desk. "Talk of the devil," he muttered to himself. "What were you looking into now?" he asked, keeping his voice even. No need to get his hopes up.
Marty frowned at him, as if sensing his underlying scepticism. "I wasn't looking into anything. I overheard some people talking. There's something on the streets, Jeff, but the police haven't found anything and no one's been able to prove that anything's off. People are unsettled."
"Unsettled people won't pay for business," Jeff pointed out.
"Well, no," Marty allowed, "but they will when something happens. It's got to be something if they've called the police out."
"But evidently they never found anything, and I'm not likely to find anything new." Jeff watched Marty for a moment and decided to add, "But you don't normally want to go off chasing ghosts; why the sudden interest?"
"I'm worried about Jeannie," Marty confided, ignoring Jeff's choice of expression.
"Jeannie?" Jeff repeated. "Marty, it's fine. She's fine. There's nothing out there. I would have heard something before this if there was."
"Just promise me you'll keep checking on her," Marty pleaded. "They're saying that people have disappeared. I want her to be safe."
"Marty, you have to stop eavesdropping, because clearly you aren't catching the entire conversation. If people have disappeared, the police would still be looking for someone, I would have heard about it, and, if I was lucky, the family of the poor sod who mysteriously vanished into thin air would be crossing that threshold right now." Jeff gestured to the empty office doorway.
"I've got a feeling, Jeff," Marty protested, still worried about his widow. "I think those people were murdered."
"The last time you thought people were murdered, I nearly ended up in jail!"
"But I was right. I know what I saw then, and I know what I feel now. It's—"
"Feelings don't hold as much water as witnessing something," Jeff reminded him. "Pop off and investigate if you want, Marty, but I'm not doing anything from here." He picked up a handful of papers from his desk and shook them, pointedly adding, "The paperwork doesn't go away."
Marty went off, probably to check on Jeannie himself, and Jeff dropped the papers back to his desk. Half of them were bills, and he had to find a way to pay them somehow. If Marty's disappearances turned anything up, then he'd be grateful, he supposed, but until then, he had to figure something out without counting on an imaginary paycheque.