Author's Note: Before this gets started, thanks should be given to 10Whovian (the Beta of the story) who also helped me come up with the idea for this plot, since I was seriously unable to decide which alien should face the Wrath Of Snape and am seriously lacking in science skills :p Updates should be fairly regular, as with the prequel, and the story will definitely be finished because I hate leaving them on cliffhangers indefinitely (and also because I have been threatened to be hunted down by the Master if I fail to be reliable...)
Hope you enjoy the new story for the new year! And if you haven't read the prequel "Strange New World", I strongly recommend you do - this story will otherwise not make sense. As with the last story, this one will be set in an alternate universe.
1. The quiet before a storm.
"There we go!" the Doctor exclaimed, landing the TARDIS with a flourish, though not without a few bumps and scrapes along the way. "A nice long holiday, just what we needed. Told you we could have one without being attacked!"
Donna snorted. "What about the Maloftites? One of them tried to choke me to death!"
"Oh, that…that was just a misunderstanding," the Doctor dismissed, fiddling with the screen on the control panel. "Cultural differences and all that."
"I asked one of them for an explanation," Severus revealed, smirking. "He claims that they are a highly advanced society and could not withstand your uncouth way of eating."
"Fork in left hand, knife in right, elbows in, mouth closed," Donna rattled off, looking annoyed, "I did all of that – what more could I do?"
Severus' smirk deepened. "Apparently, forks are considered very backward."
"So what was I supposed to do, eat with a knife and impale myself on it?"
"Actually," the Doctor said vaguely, "I think you were supposed to wish the food into your mouth."
"Oh shut up, Space Boy, this is no time to be funny!"
The Doctor finally looked up, his expression one of confusion. "No, I wasn't being funny. Didn't you see that little square next to your plate? That was a Brain Wave Feeder – it literally feeds you using your brain waves."
"Then why did they give me cutlery and why didn't you tell me any of this?"
Severus smirked. "Cutlery was obviously a backup of sorts, although apparently they need to be better trained to withstand its 'uncouth' nature. And," he added, "I failed to mention it because I needed to be entertained somehow during a boring formal function."
"Fantastic. Idiots, both of you!"
"Yes!" the Doctor exclaimed, bouncing upright and grinning from ear to ear.
"What is it now?" Donna demanded.
"I've checked the TARDIS controls, watched a bit of TV – it wasn't brilliant, but then it was a soap – and we're in the twenty first century, Earth."
Severus' eyebrows climbed to his hairline. "You didn't know this?"
Donna glared at him. "Oh, didn't you know? He sets the controls at random sometimes. I'd have told you, but I needed to be 'entertained somehow'."
Severus sighed, looking truly exasperated. "You hold a grudge better than the Dark Lord himself."
"No, I hold a grudge better than you. Now get going, Plant Boy. I want to see where we are."
The Doctor ran to the door and flung it open, all but bouncing into the new atmosphere. Severus looked at Donna in amused exasperation, slight smile on his lips. "Is he like this whenever we land somewhere?"
"Yeah. He's like some sort of energetic, out of space humanoid spring. You couldn't squash him if you tried."
"Good old Earth!"
"See?" Donna quipped, grinning. "He's already rambling."
They watched in amusement as the Doctor strolled forwards, hands in pockets, and inspected a tree nearby before turning his face up to look at the sky. "Brilliant, absolutely brilliant!" He breathed in deeply. "And a nice clear day, too. I tell you, I've seen more of them than I can count but it never gets old…" he trailed off as he turned around, noticing them watching him. "What?"
"Oh, nothing," Donna said innocently. "Let's just go and find the nearest town. I need some shoes."
"Oh…really? You don't want to find a landmark or a famous person…re-invent something?"
"No," Donna repeated. "I want shoes. Heels, since you two are both so tall. I feel like a midget in these flats."
Severus smirked. "You would put Filius to shame."
The Doctor stared at her. "Really? Heels?"
Donna gave him The Look.
"Alright…I suppose we could spare some time for that," the Doctor coughed, much to Donna's amusement.
Donna held out her arm and the Doctor obediently linked his with it, still looking around with a look that suggested he was thinking hard. Donna held out her other arm, and Severus frowned at it.
The taller man began to look distinctly uncomfortable. "It is improper."
Donna rolled her eyes. "And insulting me every five minutes isn't? You have a weird idea of chivalry." But when he continued to stand there, she didn't press the matter.
"Trees," the Doctor counted, "cool breeze, birds, hills – blimey, there are a lot of hills – we must be…north."
"North," Severus repeated drily. "Where, exactly?"
"Well…" the Doctor span in a little circle, taking Donna with him, though she was too used to this absent minded behaviour by now to complain. "The air is fresh and getting cold, very few cars." He jumped up and down several times. "Good, solid gravel paths – I like that, very good grip, gravel – a few young people…" he broke off as a huge clump of teenagers walked past. "Alright…a lot of young people."
He glanced around, noticing that the path they were on seemed to lead upwards into a forest of sorts. A path forwards and to their left led to a long, solid looking bridge overlooking a river, while a hill directly in front of them snaked upwards and out of sight. Another group of teenagers started up the hill, chattering and laughing. No one seemed to have noticed them and the decidedly out of place TARDIS.
"We're in Durham."
Severus looked doubtful. "Are you certain?"
"Oh yes. And there's always the regional news, which is helpful. I saw a few seconds of it when I was watching the TV," the Doctor admitted.
"So you didn't really know where we are from just looking," Donna teased.
"Well…to a certain extent." The Doctor suddenly found a nearby tree very interesting.
"Yeah, yeah," Donna said jokingly, before giving his arm a jerk and saying, "come on! Those shoes won't buy themselves, you know!"
She happily pulled the Doctor up the giant hill in front of them, Severus on her other side and walking slightly further ahead due to his long strides. Teenagers still surrounded them in every direction, some of them hiking up the hill at unbelievable speeds.
"You know," Donna puffed, "this is really making me realise that I need to do some exercise."
Severus snorted. "Was the running throughout your adventures not a hint?"
Donna studiously ignored him. "Why are there so many children? They're everywhere, it's like they're the only people around!"
"Oh," the Doctor pointed, "hang on, I see a professor."
"A professor?" Donna repeated, craning her neck to see who the Doctor meant. "How do you know he's not just a temp or a banker or something?"
"Because," Severus answered, before the Doctor could reply, his voice slow as though he was talking to an idiot, "we are in Durham. Therefore, we are near a university which, rather unsurprisingly, explains the sheer amount of students and one single man dressed in a suit. Since a majority of the students appear to be coming from that direction," he pointed behind him and down the hill, "we can assume that there is a residence of sorts at the bottom of the hill, and that the professor is either a live-in member, or enjoys the scenery."
Donna glared at him. "Yes, alright. You don't have to write me an essay."
The Doctor chuckled. "He does have a point."
"Don't you go encouraging him, Doctor!" Sheepish silence followed as they reached the top of the hill and found themselves on a road, walking towards a roundabout. "I'm glad that hill's over," she added, eager to change the subject. "I think my legs were about to fall off."
"Hang on…" the Doctor glanced at a nearby tree, seeing a poster stuck to it. "It's election time! I love election time – you never know just who you're going to get."
"You do," Severus quipped.
"Well, yes, but sometimes it's made interesting by things you don't read about in the history books. Like this…" he peered closely at the poster. "I have no idea who that man is."
"But if he's running for Prime Minister shouldn't he be mentioned in the history books?" Donna asked. "It'd make sense, wouldn't it?"
"History is written by the victor, Donna. So whoever wins this election may very well not want this man to be known about. The question is why… usually if they want to ruin someone's reputation they just send out a bucket-load of propaganda but this…" he stared at the picture of the uncommonly handsome man on the poster, "is something else entirely."
Suddenly, the Doctor stiffened, his expression intense. Severus stared at the Doctor, beginning to look obviously confused.
"What is it?" Severus demanded.
"It can't be…" the Doctor murmured, spinning around wildly, his eyes searching every surface, nook and cranny for something. "But it's too faint to tell…and it could be nothing, I mean, I've been wrong before."
"About what?" Donna asked.
The Doctor's eyes continued to narrow as he searched their surroundings before he gradually began to keep walking again. "I can't be sure, something - someone that I've met before… and if it's who I think it is, we might be in trouble. Big trouble."
Donna sighed, wondering when they were ever going to have more than a few weeks at a time without some sort of trouble. No matter how small, they always seemed to manage to get themselves into a tight situation, and now was no different. Although…
Donna tried in vain to fight back the apprehension that was gradually burning its way up her throat. They had had a good run, lately. They had only had one or two incidents, nothing major. And knowing the Doctor, she thought as they walked along the sunny road in silence, whatever happens next could very well be colossal just to make up for the peace they had enjoyed.
Somehow, she knew the holiday was over.