A/N: As this is a sequel to my story Patchwork, I am assuming that readers are familiar with both universes. While it is possible to read this story without reading Patchwork, I do refer to events in it, beginning with the first chapter, and therefore recommend that Patchwork is read anyhow. For Quantum Leap, this is set sometime after The Leap between the States and before Mirror Image. For Doctor Who, this is set after Planet of the Dead and relatively close to The Waters of Mars or immediately after Blink and before Utopia, depending on which Doctor you are following at any given moment.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, and I make no money from this work of fiction!
Right, things were going well so far, all things considered. And if the Doctor had stopped, he must have found something. Martha Jones jogged up to him, trying to catch
her breath, grinning at him. "Did you find them?" she asked, referring to the creatures they'd been chasing.
He just stared at her. It wasn't his don't-talk-right-now-I'm-concentrating stare, it wasn't his listening-to-things-she-couldn't-hear stare, it wasn't his coming-up-with-a-plan-to-foil-the-enemy stare, it wasn't his struck-by-past-memories stare, or even any of the others, it was just…. Well, if she was perfectly honest, he looked a bit disoriented.
Well, they'd lost those creatures, anyhow. It hadn't been five minutes, and she'd already forgotten the name of them. It would help if the name was in English, but as it was, it was hardly pronounceable. That was admittedly a bit of an exaggeration, though it sounded to her like the first half of the word was swallowed and the other half choked out, but the point still stood; the name wasn't memorable enough, especially when she couldn't repeat it in her head to remind herself what exactly it was.
It had helped a bit that the Doctor had described the creatures in question, but when she tried drawing comparisons, he'd frowned at her. Still, as much as the Doctor insisted they weren't chasing after leprechauns or brownies or what have you, from what she understood, they were essentially the same. So that was how she planned to think of them, and so long as she didn't tell him that, she'd be none the worse for the wear.
"Doctor," she started again, "are you all right?" He didn't answer her, at least not immediately as she had expected. She could see him looking around, trying to take everything in. He looked…. Well, he looked amazed, which wasn't new, except that they weren't anywhere particularly amazing, not if she compared it to what she'd seen before. They were back on Earth, after all. Even if they were smack dab in the middle of nowhere, right next to some ancient stone lines of some sort.
Okay, maybe it wasn't the middle of nowhere, seeing as they were in a sheep pasture. And, yes, if she stopped to consider the history, maybe these parallel standing stone lines were, as the Doctor would say, brilliant. But she wouldn't have minded if they could have made it a little further away from 1969 London than the Devon countryside.
He swallowed, and his gaze found her eyes again. "Yes, yes, I'm fine," he croaked.
"You don't look fine." She frowned at him. "Did something happen or something that I should know about?"
She was watching him every second, and now she saw something she had never thought she'd see. The Doctor was nervous, and it wasn't just a farce. "What do you mean?" he asked guardedly.
Oh, this was good. She wanted to relish it, but she was fearful herself now. As amusing as it was to see that particular expression on the Doctor's face, when he was wholly himself and not simply John Smith, something had to be wrong. "Oh, I don't know," she replied, trying to keep her tone relaxed, nonchalant. "Maybe time went a bit wibbly-wobbly on you?"
He should have grinned at that. She was using his words, after all. But he didn't. He just stared at her. And blinked. "We should be going," he said suddenly. Evasion. So maybe he was all right, after all. Well, as all right as a Time Lord could be when something that most certainly was not all right was happening.
He didn't start leading her somewhere, though. "If you say so," she agreed, "but I hope you can track them, because we'll have lost them by now."
The panicked look returned to his face. "You don't think you want to—?"
He left it hanging, and she wasn't sure what to say. Not this time. "Oh, um, well…. No, no, it's okay, we don't have to."
Now he looked confused. But only for a second. "But if we're supposed to—"
"Oh! You were asking if I wanted to—? Doctor, if you're not well, we shouldn't…. You said they don't really do any harm, anyway. Right? They just sort of move things around for a bit of fun? You know, keys and things, and people find them later?" His composure was slipping; he was starting to look panicked again. "We can deal with them after we sort this."
She had a feeling that she hadn't quite answered his question, and now she wasn't really sure what it was meant to have been, but the Doctor seemed to accept what she said. He nodded to her. "Lead on."
"You're kidding, right?" she asked. "I was following you. I'm not sure where we are."
"Oh, boy," the Doctor muttered, eyes looking heavenward.
"What was that?" she asked, not quite certain she'd heard right.
"We'll just head back the way we came," the Doctor reasoned, pretending not to hear her. "Find our way from there."
"But you said…." Martha shook her head. Something was off; that was clear enough. The Doctor could always find the way back to the TARDIS. Admittedly, she was certain he'd gotten it wrong a few times and just led her around a couple extra turns to disguise that, but she'd never seen him outright admit that he was lost, and he'd as good as done that. "Never mind." She'd just keep an eye on him and make sure that he hadn't come down with something.
At the very least, she could figure out why he was acting funny. He was walking differently, for goodness' sakes. He wasn't just strolling along at a leisurely place or running just slowly enough to allow her to keep up, and he didn't have his hands in his pockets, and he wasn't holding his sonic screwdriver up in front of him to give them some sort of direction….
One thing at a time. It was Earth, after all. Not some weird alien planet. That made the chances of something coming down to somehow suddenly possess the Doctor significantly slimmer. Not impossible, but definitely slimmer.
"There's a road up ahead," he called out after a few minutes. "We can follow it."
Normally, that would be excellent, especially considering what she'd just stepped in because she had been too busy watching him to figure out what was wrong to watch where she was going. But she was fairly sure they'd never crossed a road. "Maybe it's the other way," she offered, catching up to him. "I don't remember any road. Just a lot of hills and rocks."
"We can get directions," the Doctor pointed out. "Someone can tell us where to go."
That made no sense. "But we parked in the middle of nowhere. And unless you can disable that thing from here, no one's even going to be able to tell."
Now he was looking at her as if she'd lost it. "What thing?" he asked. And it wasn't indignant, it was…curious.
"The…. I don't know, the…the thing. The same thing you did with the watch." Martha shrugged. "You can't expect me to remember everything you say." But he was still looking at her, and she sighed. "The perception thing. Er…filter, that's it." The blank look remained. "Did you hit your head or something?" she asked. "I mean, I didn't see you fall, but…."
"Maybe," he admitted, reaching up to rub one side as if just realizing that it hurt.
"Let me look, then," she insisted. He jerked back when she came towards him, and she frowned at him. "Come on, you. You're not invincible. I've heard that you can fall down stairs when you're preoccupied." As John Smith, her mind added. As the Doctor, he could withstand temperatures that would….
That didn't mean anything. Just because she hadn't seen him get sick, didn't mean he couldn't. "Why are you so jumpy?" she asked. "Is there something you aren't telling me?" That must be it. "Doctor, I thought you trusted me. Haven't I proven that?"
"Of course I trust you," he said, smiling at her.
"Then stop being a baby and let me look at you."
He still looked wary, but he relented and went through the examination without further protest. But she couldn't find a thing wrong with him. And when she admitted it, he smiled at her again. "See?" he said. "Perfectly fine."
"Not quite," she scolded. "Because you still didn't know what I was talking about."
"You need to learn to describe things better," he rationalized. "That's all."
It wasn't, but Martha let it drop. She just followed the Doctor to the road, hoping that he'd let her in on what was bothering him. It had to be important if it had him acting like this, and she wasn't about to let him get away without telling her. Because he wasn't acting like himself, not really. And that worried her.
The last time he hadn't been himself, he'd fallen in love with someone else. And she'd had to watch it, and then she'd had to tear them apart, and the entire incident had left her heart in pieces. The Doctor had never said how much he remembered of that, and she knew enough not to ask. But this time, they weren't being chased by some alien Family who wanted to suck his life out of him, and they didn't have to hide. But something had caused him to change, just a bit, and it was the not-knowing that made her so fearful.
The minute the Waiting Room was occupied, an alarm had sounded. Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci was used to alarms, and usually he knew how to respond. But no one at Project Quantum Leap knew what that particular alarm was for, let alone where it was or how to turn it off—Ziggy included, which was particularly disturbing to Al. The parallel-hybrid computer wasn't one to let them down, and she had a complete schematic of the Project's buildings. Nothing changed without her knowing about it.
Until, it seemed, now.
"Gooshie!" Al hollered, storming into the main control room. "What's going on?" He'd asked before, and he hoped that now he might be able to get an answer.
But Gooshie was shaking his head. "I don't know, Admiral. Ziggy's running scans, but we can't pinpoint the source of the alarm."
Al sighed. Gooshie was an expert with computer systems, but even he couldn't work a miracle when Ziggy herself was incapable of something. The thought that Ziggy was incapable of anything didn't bode well for his nerves, but if Gooshie hadn't even been able to find anything preventing her systems from working, there wasn't any other option.
Al started muttering to himself, wishing he had a cigar. "Any words from Beeks about the guy in the Waiting Room?"
"Negative, Admiral," Gooshie replied. "Dr. Eleese and—"
"Yeah, Donna and Tina are still checking the building the old fashioned way, I know," Al interrupted, waving Gooshie off. "I'm going to talk to this guy, okay? If Beeks thinks he's calm enough. If he tells us anything, it might help us find Sam."
Gooshie nodded, but Al could tell that he was already distracted, typing frantically away at one of Ziggy's terminals. Sighing, Al headed to the Waiting Room. He met Beeks outside. "How is he?" he asked, jerking his head towards the door.
"He seems stable, Admiral," Dr. Verbeena Beeks replied. "No breakdowns and no threats."
"That's saying something, considering," Al agreed. With Beeks's approval, he went inside. The leapee didn't pay him any mind at first, still staring at his reflection in the table's mirrored surface.
Al cleared his throat, and the man looked up. He offered a wary sort of grin which looked out of place on Dr. Samuel Beckett's face. Sam's smiles reached his eyes. This man's did not. That, or it wasn't a true smile.
"Hello," the man greeted cheerfully. "Think you can tell me where I am and how I came to be here?"
"You're in the Waiting Room," Al answered.
"Well, I can see that. Been doing a lot of waiting," the man replied in the same cheerful tone. "Though I expect that's because you've been a bit busy."
"Don't concern yourself about it," Al said, knowing the man was referring to the alarm. "We've got everything under control."
"Oh, I doubt that," the man answered. "Because that sounds suspiciously like a reworked Ilantrian Four frequency detector when the main system's been shorted out and the backup's been a bit—" He stopped, seeing Al staring at him. "What, didn't you know that?"
"Who are you?" Al demanded, having a sinking feeling that he knew the answer. He stopped focussing on Sam's image—a habit he'd acquired when initially meeting the leapees so as not to judge them immediately; he'd started after the vampire fiasco, since Sam had been right after all—and saw the leapee for who he really was.
"Well, it's a bit rude of you to demand my name when you haven't given me yours," the man retorted. But then he grinned, and this time it did reach his eyes. "I'm the Doctor. And you are?"
Al opened his mouth and closed it again. "Al," he answered finally, thinking that maybe he ought to hold off calling on Gooshie for the moment. The man was busy, after all.
"Good to meet you, Al. Now," the Doctor pulled himself up on the table to sit, glancing down at his reflection as he did so, "I don't seem to recall dying, and I seem to be the same anyhow—teeth and all that didn't change this time around, which would make sense if I haven't—so I have a feeling that you know a lot better than I do why I—" He stopped, looked thoughtful for about fifteen seconds, and then licked his hand.
Al stared at him. The man did it again.
The man seemed to be savouring the taste for a moment before he focussed his gaze on Al again. "You know, I am rather impressed. When is this, 2000?" He sniffed, frowned, and shook his head. "Nah, can't be, not yet. No sign that the laws of physics have been thrown out the window and that time had to rework itself. Not recently, at any rate. Still. If you lot came up with something that'll nick the Vortex without completely destroying the travellers that you send through your primitive little transmat experiment, cloaking them for better integration, then I must congratulate you on your brilliance. Providing you figured this out yourselves. Though from the sounds of that alarm, you might have to convince me of that."
"You are the Doctor," Al stated, the memory of the last time he had met the man—alien, though Al kept forgetting that—still all too vivid in his mind. "But your mind's been Swiss-cheesed!"
"My mind's what?" the Doctor repeated. He looked offended.
"You've got holes in your memory," Al explained. "Gaps."
"My memory's fine, thank you very much," the Doctor retorted. "Only holes are the ones I put there." He didn't explain, and Al knew better than to ask.
"It's not," Al argued. "But that's natural. A side effect."
"My memory's perfectly fine," the Doctor repeated. "I was in 1983 with Martha, tracking a rouge pack of Tryl'c'ark through the Devon countryside when you interrupted me."
The last time Al had met the Doctor, the man had been alone. But even with all the Doctor had done to clean out Ziggy's files, he hadn't touched the first bit of evidence that they'd turned up about him and a Martha Jones helping to save a boy's life in 1969. He'd had his reasons, and Al couldn't remember them now, but he did remember one thing about the Doctor.
The man was a time traveller. Al had no doubt about that.
And being a time traveller, it seemed, had consequences.
The Doctor was at Project Quantum Leap a second time, but for him…. For him, it was the first time.
At least, Al thought, trying to be optimistic, they'd be able to find Sam now.
They did find the TARDIS, eventually. After heading in a different direction. But the Doctor had nearly walked right passed it, intent on something else—or at least that's what he insisted, but Martha wasn't so sure. Wouldn't he tell her what he'd been looking at, or at least insist on going off to investigate it first, if that were the case?
And then he tried opening it without his key. When he couldn't, he made a big show of letting her do it for him. And she would have, really, but something stopped her. "Doctor," she said, turning her back on the TARDIS and pocketing the key again, "maybe we ought to just go for a bit of a walk, yeah?"
He looked at her suspiciously. Martha sighed. She deserved that. "It'll…. We can talk."
"Yes," he agreed finally. "Don't suppose we need anything from in there." He nodded towards the TARDIS.
"No," she said, cursing the awkward conversation. He still wasn't acting right, and he wouldn't admit it, but she was sure she could catch him at it if she tried. Something they'd done must have had repercussions, she figured. Maybe the whole thing with the chameleon arch and John Smith and the Family…. Maybe it couldn't be suppressed as easily as the Doctor insisted.
Because as far as she could tell, John Smith—or some other human personality of the Doctor's—was bleeding through.
She could test that, though. Easily. "And it'd be a bit of a tight fit, if we both went inside," she added, nodding at the TARDIS herself.
He looked at it, studying it. "A bit of one," he agreed. But his tone of voice left Martha wondering if he was joking or not.
She started walking, and he followed. "What were those creatures again? I can't remember."
"Oh, it doesn't matter now," the Doctor replied, hands swinging a bit by his sides as he walked.
"Doctor," she started again, deciding the silence had gone on for too long, "why are you doing this?"
"Doing what?" he asked innocently.
"This. This…this entire thing! This act!" Martha stopped and threw up her hands. "I don't understand."
The Doctor looked at her for a moment. Finally he answered, "I'm acting because you are."
That threw her. "What's that supposed to mean? I'm not acting!"
"Sure you are," he replied. "You're concerned about me and trying to hide it, but you're failing miserably."
Okay, maybe she was wrong about bits of John Smith bleeding through. Besides, if that was going to happen, surely it would have happened before now. They'd spent enough time in 1969, after all, and she'd never noticed anything off then. At any rate, the Doctor seemed back to normal now. As normal as was normal for the Doctor.
"All right, I'm sorry, you win," she said, giving up. "But at least tell me why you stopped chasing those brownies earlier."
He gave her a look that she was sure he'd seen from her a thousand times. He had no idea what she was talking about. Scratch being normal, then. "The creatures, I mean. I know they're not brownies, but they sound like it." And she waited, knowing the Doctor would be itching to launch into a lecture about the creatures, telling her the pronunciation of their name again, looking exasperated as he did so, and going on to explain the difference between those creatures and real brownies, or at least what humans mistakenly called real brownies, and after he'd done all that and more, then he'd answer her question. If he remembered it. Which she figured he would, just not right away. It would take a minute or so. Or perhaps he just waited for her to process everything else first; it was hard to say.
But he didn't lecture her. "I'd thought I'd seen something else," he answered finally. "I was mistaken."
"So you're admitting you were wrong?" Martha clarified. That was rare.
"My eyes were playing tricks on me," he responded, smiling gently at her.
She grinned. "Must be getting old."
Why was it that every time the Doctor was starting to sound remotely like the Doctor, he went and said something completely unlike the Doctor? He wasn't still pulling her leg, was he? "Doctor," she said, hoping her tone would convey her exasperation with the situation.
Innocence again. Figures. "I'm serious."
"So am I."
"No, you're not." Martha sighed. "Look, maybe you don't want to tell me everything, but…. Doctor, if you trust me, you have to tell me something. I know something's off, and if you just tell me…. I may not be able to help, but…." She trailed off. He was looking a bit thoughtful this time. "I'll give you some time to yourself, yeah? And then you'd better tell me."
"Of course," he replied easily, smiling at her again.
She'd put it out of her mind for now. She wasn't sure she wanted to let him into the TARDIS—just in case something was wrong—but the TARDIS was the best indication that something was off. Providing that the Doctor wasn't completely bonkers with the whole the-ship's-alive thing.
Besides, if he wasn't the Doctor, they wouldn't be going anywhere, anyway.
The Doctor was just drifting in the Vortex. He'd had a long talk with the TARDIS, but…. He didn't want to admit it, but he felt uneasy. Things were starting to add up, and he wasn't entirely sure he liked the end result. He'd gotten used to this face, after all. And he wasn't all that rude. Well, yes, he was, but the same mouth that got him into trouble often got him out of it.
Or into deeper trouble, depending on the circumstances. But usually out of it.
He'd been keeping busy. It kept his mind off things. And then he'd set the TARDIS to random, and she had refused to take him. She'd tricked him. She'd taken off, yes. But she refused to go anywhere. She was punishing him. And he was trying to see if he could outsmart her without her knowing it, but, well, Time Lords and TARDISes being connected the way they were….
Something started ringing. The Doctor blinked. It wasn't the mobile Martha had given him. The TARDIS herself was fine, so no alarms there. But it was still nearby. Spying his coat lying where he'd slung it on one of the TARDIS's coral supports, he pulled himself to his feet and was soon rummaging through the coat pockets.
"Blimey, I need to organize this a bit better," he muttered. His face split into a grin when his hand enclosed on a small vibrating gadget that, to ordinary human eyes, may perhaps be described best as a cross between an alarm clock, Gameboy, and something else that had been reduced to an incomprehensible mess of wires. "Oh, I'd almost forgotten about you," he said. "Meant to put you away in the—oh, oh, what do we have here now, eh?" He squinted at the shaking screen, then flicked a switch to silence the alarm. And frowned. "Hold on. It hasn't even been that long, has it? Mind you, that's all relative, depends on your perspective." He checked the date on the screen. "Just a few months. They haven't even made it through the millennium yet."
Still staring at the screen, he walked back to the console. "Still, that's assuming that I made you sensitive enough to correlate the activities of two time travellers," he continued, talking to the machine as if that were the most natural thing in the world. He fiddled with it for a moment, then plunked it down into a slot on the console and checked the readout on the main monitor. "What's Sam up against, eh?" he asked, tapping the screen. "How's he facing his destruction this time?"
The screen, of course, did not answer his questions; the device he'd built may have been sensitive, but it had been a rushed thing, and he hadn't been able to equip it with everything he'd wanted. Not when he'd planned to leave a corresponding part in the 20th century, no matter how close to the 21st century it was, despite a cloaking device. There were some chances even he wasn't willing to take, not without reason.
Out of force of habit, he put his spectacles on, studying the screen intently, memorizing the information it displayed. His eyebrows rose as one before drawing together to form a tight knot. "Hold on, that's not right," he said, rereading the screen a third time. "I was at the Merivale stones in 1983 Devon that night, and Martha and I certainly didn't encounter anything dangerous there. We never managed to catch the Tryl'c'ark, but that's not…." He stopped. "But we didn't even…. So if…."
The Doctor abruptly began working the TARDIS's controls, setting the coordinates and talking to her as he went. "No arguments," he cautioned, pausing to look up at the column. "I don't really think we have time for arguments now. So let's just get this right, shall we? First try?" He smiled and patted her fondly. "Good girl. That's what I thought." He flicked a switch with one hand, fiddling with a dial with the other, and used his foot to push down another lever. The TARDIS jumped to one side as flight resumed, and he was reminded of why he never tarried in the Vortex if he could avoid it. Take-offs from mid-flight pauses were always rougher, though he doubted any of his companions would have believed it.
But he couldn't dwell on the past now. Well, not his personal past. Another part of time called. But first he just had to confirm some suspicions….