Oh man I just love writing Alistair so much. I also really love how his character is developing. I love him long time.
"Tell me your secrets, and ask me your questions; oh, let's go back to the start. Running in circles, coming up tails, heads on a science apart." –Coldplay, "The Scientist."
"Next thing you'll be telling me it's like the Murder on the Orient Express and everyone did it." Donna said as their little group stepped out into the hall. Their investigation of the crime scene had yielded nothing but the morphic residue. The Doctor's suspicion of the Poet was growing by the minute, and she was trying to stay as far from him as physically possible.
Agatha Christie was waiting for them in the hall, and looked up. "Murder on the Orient Express?"
"Oh, yeah. One of your best." Donna gushed.
"But not yet." The Doctor said under his breath.
"Marvellous idea, though." Agatha mused, thinking.
"Yeah, tell you what—Copyright: Donna Noble."
"Anyway," The Doctor cut in. "Agatha and I will question suspects. Donna, you search the bedrooms, look for clues, take Alistair with you. Poet, you…" He waved a finger at her, frowning. "Just…follow them for now."
"Right," The Time Lady huffed. She liked her Doctor more. The bowtie one with the easy smile and the fish fingers and custard. "Follow the humans. That's a new one."
"What was that?"
"Nothing! Come along, Alistair." The Poet jerked her thumb up the stairs.
"Actually, I think Donna and I are leading." The ginger countered pluckily, giving her a cheeky smile. She glowered at him—he was enjoying it way too much for her pride.
The Doctor held out a large, comical, Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass to Donna. "Is that for real?" She asked incredulously.
"Go on. You're ever so plucky." He gave her a look to match Alistair's and she took the glass with no lack of sarcasm.
With the humans leading, the three made their way up the stairs. The house was classy and nice, with lots of polished wood. It was reminiscent of the Poet's TARDIS, only with less taste. They looked around at the top landing and silently split up. Donna went to the left, giving them a wave with the glass as she did. As they shuffled down the tight, dimly lit hall, trying not to trip over the runner, Alistair cast a suspicious sideways glance at his friend.
"So…what are you thinking?" He asked. It was a teasing question, but there was also concern. He knew that she was feeling something, though couldn't quite get down to the bottom of those complex Gallifreyan emotions. For him it was like swimming through syrup. It was kind of like that for the Poet, too.
"Well, that depends. What do you want to know?" She opened the first door in the hall and peeked in. It was empty, of course. All the guests were downstairs being questioned.
"What do you think of the Doctor? This Doctor, I mean, not the one you're all flirty with." He followed her in and knelt to look under the bed. "You seem…" He tried to find a word for her behaviour. "Uneasy around him."
The Poet chewed the inside of her mouth, flipping out her sonic and scanning around the bed sheets and bedside table. "It's a bit hard to describe. Time Lords have inherent telepathy with other Time Lords. Back in the day it was brilliantly helpful so we wouldn't go running into ourselves."
"Running into yourselves? Oh, right, because you're…"
"Time travelling. Travelling in pairs or more was easier in case we came across trouble, not to mention TARDISes typically need six pilots. Say we landed on Earth in this time period," She pointed to the floor. "And started gallivanting about. If we sensed that we were close enough to each other, only the other us were us from the future, then we could find the other us or avoid them. Generally we would avoid them, but if they found us first by accident, then we could simply do a nice little thing and they'd forget they ever saw us."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa." Alistair stood and waved his hands. "Stop. Whoa. You can mess with Time Lord's memories, brilliant, whatever. We shouldn't even be here. What are we doing? Let's go. Now. Let's just hop back onto our own time track and be on our way. You can go back to the normal Doctor and I can go back to not feeling like you're going to go into a PMT fit at any moment."
"That's not how it works…"
"You know what I mean. We aren't supposed to be here."
"Famous last words."
"Poet!" He snapped. Too surprised to say anything, she quieted down. "This is serious! I've been with you long enough to know that things could get seriously bullocksed up by being in the wrong time. So don't you brush this off." His voice softened. "It's okay to run away sometimes."
"Not for me." She returned coldly. "Not anymore."
There was a long, heavy pause. "Right." Alistair finally sighed, clapping his hands together. "Well, this room is clearly empty. Let's keep on." They left the room, keeping things as close to how they had looked as possible. "Do you still love him?"
The hall fell silent. The Poet tossed her screwdriver between her hands and tucked it back in her pocket. "I…" She sighed and gestured for them to keep walking. "We change when we regenerate. Whoever this is, it's not who I'm used to. Something's wrong with him."
"Wrong? What do you mean?"
"He's off, somehow. He's still alone. If my estimates are right on how far back we are, it's bad. It's very bad. It was bad for me, too." Her voice trailed off so she was talking mostly to herself. "Worse than you can imagine."
Alistair faltered. He seemed unsure of what to say. Fortunately, they came upon Donna, who was looking at her hand through the magnifying glass. She jumped when she saw them. "Oh!" She laughed. "Didn't see you there."
"Hi, I don't think we've met formally." The Poet was back to herself for the moment, smiling and sociable. She held out her hand. "I'm the Poet. This is Alistair."
"Yeah, good to meet you." Donna shook her hand and smiled conspiratorially. "The Poet, eh? Like the Doctor? You two from the same town or something?"
"You could say that." The Time Lady said. "You found anything yet?"
"Not a thing. This place is as empty as a library." They continued on in a group. The Poet cringed internally at the insult to her favorite room of any house or planet. "What about you two?"
"No, nothing. It all seems perfectly normal, so far." She sniffed the air. "Something or someone is smelling up the place, though."
"Don't look at me." Alistair said, putting his hands up.
"The Doctor does that." Donna commented offhandedly, brightly.
"Sniffs like that. Just sniffs. He did it earlier to tell…" She trailed off and frowned back at the other woman. "Er, never mind."
Alistair blinked and fell back to talk to the Poet. "What would he do that for?" He whispered.
"Same as me: to tell what year it is." She responded.
The conversation's impending danger was ended when they came to the door at the end of the hall. Donna tried the knob, but found it locked. "Well so much for that." She huffed.
"You won't find anything in there." A voice behind them made them all jump and turn. It was the butler, Greeves.
"Why not?" The Poet slipped her sonic from her pocket and scanned him, keeping the tech behind her leg. "Why's it locked?"
"Lady Eddison commands it so." He answered haughtily.
"And I command it otherwise." Donna said. She really was just as plucky as the Doctor had said. "Scotland Yard, pip pip. Why's it locked in the first place?"
"Many years ago, when my father was butler to the family, Lady Eddison returned from India with malaria." Greeves answer as he unlocked the door. "She locked herself in this room for six months until she recovered. Since then, this room has remained...undisturbed."
The Poet stepped forward first on habit, pushing the door open. It creaked on its hinges. The sonic sang lightly in the dim room, a little blue sprite, but she put it away. There was nothing in there. A square beam of white sun that came in through the window, over which hung thin drapes lit the room. There were a few shelves, a bureau, and a neatly made bed with a teddy bear. Everything was covered in a thick coat of dust. Cobwebs clung to a few corners and small spaces.
"There's nothing in here." Greeves said.
"Thank you for showing your talent for stating the obvious. How long has this room been empty?" The Poet strode unceremoniously across the floor, kicking up dust. She ran her finger across the taunt bedspread and rubbed it with her thumb.
"Forty years." Greeves glowered coldly at her.
"Why would she seal it off?" Donna pondered. "All right, I need to investigate. You just…butler off." Greeves left, and Alistair shut the door after them.
"Well, nothing seems…" The Poet dabbed the dust-covered finger on her tongue and smacked her lips. "Terribly off. There's still that morphic smell about, though. Quite distracting, that. Well!" She spun and clapped her hands. "Let's search for clues!"
They padded about the room, cooking up a fair storm until the room was almost foggy. Alistair opened the bureau, and it screeched in protest. "Empty." He informed them. "You know, maybe it's nothing. Maybe Eddison just wanted this place sealed up. Like, preserving memories or something."
"Maybe." The Poet picked up the teddy and squished its belly, peering into its eyes.
A faint buzzing sounded near the window that Donna was looking around by, and they looked to it. "1926, they've still got bees." She reached up to move the curtains. The buzzing became louder and more insistent. "Oh, what a noise! Okay, busy bee, I'll let you out. Hold on. I shall find you with my amazing powers of detection." She put the magnifying glass up to her eye and opened the drapes.
Outside the window was a wasp larger than a human. It was shiny and smooth, its stripes clearly defined. Long hairs bristled on its foot-long abdomen. Its wings were a silver blur behind it. Antennae swivelled angrily at the glass, and knobby legs dangled uselessly. A long, curved stinger arched from the end of its thorax. In one swift move, it lurched forward and smashed through the window, scattering broken glass across the room.
Donna screamed. "That's impossible! Doctor!"
The wasp jerked around the room, hovering over the bed and next to the Poet, who was marvelling at it. "Look at you, you beautiful thing!"
The insect lunged at her, missing her by an inch as Alistair pulled her aside. "Poet, come on!"
"I just want to talk to it!" She pleaded, but he tugged her away.
Donna held up the magnifying glass to face the wasp. The sun from the window refracted through it and burned the thing. It screeched in pain, and the three of them bolted out the door. She slammed it behind them and screamed for the Doctor again. The stinger stabbed through the door, missing her but lodging in the wood. At nearly the same moment, the Doctor and Agatha came running up the stairs.
"Doctor!" Donna exclaimed. "There is a giant…wasp!"
"What do you mean, giant wasp?" He asked.
"I mean a wasp, that's giant!" She snapped.
"It's only a silly little insect." Agatha scoffed.
"No, no," The Poet lamented at the loss of the insect. She was crouched by the stinger that had punctured the door and was running a gentle finger up and down the smooth surface. It was black and tough, like a beetle shell. "Look at this sting."
"Let me see!" The Doctor threw open the door and ran inside. He looked out the broken window. "It's gone. Buzzed off."
"But that's fascinating!" Agatha was staring at the stinger.
"D-d-don't touch it. Don't touch it. Let me." The Doctor hurried back over. He took a vial and stopper from his jacket. From the stinger he took a sample and observed it. "Giant wasps…well, there are tons of amorphous insectivorous lifeforms but…none in this galactic vector."
"I think I understood some of those words. Enough to know you're completely potty." The author said skeptically.
"Lost its sting, though. That makes it defenseless." Donna pointed out.
"Oh, a morphous insect this size should grow a new one in no time." The Poet observed.
"Uh, can we return to sanity?" Agatha asked, looking between the Doctor, whose expression was painfully suspicious, and the Poet, who had put a few fingers over her lips when she realised her mistake. "There are no such things as giant wasps."
"Exactly!" The Doctor said. "So…the question is, what's it doing here?"
Leaving the question open, they turned and started back down the stairs. The Poet wrenched the giant stinger from the door and carried it lovingly with her. Alistair raised an eyebrow, and she made a face back. "What?"
"Are you just going to carry that around all day?" He asked, half grinning.
"Why not?" She said brightly. "I've plenty of keepsakes back in the TARDIS."
"Where do you keep them?" A thought seemed to occur to him and he gave her a curious look. "Poet, do you have a bedroom?"
A scream from outside saved her from answering. They ran the rest of the way down and piled outside. Lying in the grass was one of the maids. A stone gargoyle was pressing her down, clearly crushing her. The Doctor and Poet knelt by her. She lifted her head to see them, and managed to gasp one last phrase in a dry, pained voice. "The poor, little…child."
They bowed their heads in respect. Alistair ran a hand down his bearded chin and breathed out his nose. Agatha looked to be in shock. A loud buzzing made them all look up. Above them, the wasp hovered. It watched them almost curiously before circling up and away.
"There! Come on!" The Doctor beckoned to them and sprinted back into the manor.
"Well, this makes a change." Donna said dryly as they ran in circles up the multiple staircases. "There's a monster, and we're chasing it."
"Story of my life." Alistair grinned as they followed the Time Lords.
"Can't be a monster. It's a trick. They do it with mirrors." Agatha said, though didn't sound altogether confident.
The group continued running around and then up another floor, slower and more ungainly in their formal wear. At the next hall, the Doctor skid to a halt, and the Poet almost tumbled into him, wincing and flailing her arms at her sides as her nose stopped just before his back. At an arch up ahead, a large wasps' bum was poking around defensively, new stinger shiny and sharp as ever.
"By all that's holy…" Agatha breathed.
"Oh," The Doctor gasped, staring with happiness at the new life form. "But you are wonderful."
In that one half second, the Poet took a moment to glance over and smile at him. Despite everything, he was still the Doctor. And she still loved him all the same for it.
Then the wasp turned to face them. It was having trouble navigating in the cramped corridor, but looked angry. "Now, just stop there." The Doctor said. The wasp disregarded him and charged stinger-first as it had before. They dove to thr ground in a large five-person heap. The Poet had to work exceedingly hard not to get anywhere near the Doctor, and it was starting to get annoying.
"Oi! Flyboy!" Donna held up her magnifying glass, which she had inexplicably kept around. At the sight of it, the wasp lurched away, and then turned and promptly buzzed away down the way they had just come.
"Don't let it get away!" The Doctor staggered up and bounded after it. "Quick, before it reverts back to human form!" They all reached the hall with the bedrooms that the Poet and Alistair had been in earlier. "Where are you? Come on! There's nowhere to run—show yourself!"
The doors along the hall all opened, and every one of the guests leaned out of their rooms to blink confusedly at him.
"Oh, that's just cheating." The Doctor sighed.
"Do you think Agatha can help us, then?" The Poet asked.
After the incident with the wasp, and dealing with Lady Eddison's grief about Miss Chandrakala's death, the guests had all decided that it was either Agatha Christie's or the Doctor's duty to help them. Now she and him lounged in the sitting room. Agatha had gone out to the gazebo, and Donna had followed shortly after. Alistair was being rather hounded by the young Mr Davenport, and was likely trying to give him the slip.
"Oh, she's just an author." The Doctor said. He straightened the cuffs of his brown suit. "A brilliant author, no doubt, but not Scotland Yard."
"Like you?" The words were out before she could think better of it, and they were dry and knowing. He looked at her with his wide, bulging eyes and raised eyebrow.
"Yeah." He said reservedly. "Like me." The conversation lapsed into silence for a moment before he spoke again. "So who are you, then, Poet? What's your story?"
"I'm just a traveller." She said lightly, leaning back in her chair. They sat next to each other with a circular end table between them. He leaned back as well, lolling his head to look over at her. "Seeing the sights, exploring and such. I can tell you are, too. You've got that look about you."
"Ah, well. I explore a bit more than just dinner parties." The Doctor said. Despite herself, the Poet laughed.
"Yes, I suppose that you do." She waved a finger at him. "That's a nice suit. It's missing a tie, though."
"Oh," The Doctor looked down at his open neck, blinking at the change in conversation. "Yeah, well, it's just a little dinner party. Not much for ties, anyway."
"You should try a bowtie." She suggested, and smirked at his look. "Oh, yeah. Bowties are cool."
He twisted his head to his chin was almost on his shoulder, and squinted at her. "Who are you, really? You seem familiar."
The Poet shifted. This is where you separate the girls from the women. "I've got one of those faces, you know. People always think they know me."
"No, no, it's more like…" He trailed off, searching for a proper analogy, then gave up. "Huh. Never mind, then. Just my imagination."
Alistair suddenly jogged into the room, looking a little out of breath. "Oh, sorry to interrupt. Poet, you want me to go put that thing back in the…" He glanced at the Doctor and stopped himself. "Back in our automobile?"
The Poet looked down at the stinger in her hands. "No. I like having it with me. Plus it could intimidate our wasp guest if that's the case."
"You don't find it unusual that the wasp's a person and an insect?" The Doctor asked as Alistair took a seat across from them on the sofa.
"Oh, no. Gosh no. This one time, I was in this baking contest in Surrey, and right in the middle of it all, this woman's cake absolutely exploded and it turns out she had almost put it into the oven with a real, living—"
"I think that's quite enough, Poet." Alistair said quickly. He waved a flat hand back and forth over his neck in a very clear, "stop talking, you crazy alien" move.
She huffed and pursed her lips in reply. Their conversation ended as Donna and Agatha hurried back in. The latter was holding a small, black leather box like a jewelry box in her hands. She set it on the coffee table. "We found this out in the garden. Looked like somebody had tried to dispose of it out a window."
Before they could inspect it further, Greeves walked in. "Would you like any refreshments?" They impatiently ordered their drinks, and the butler left.
The Doctor reached over and opened it. The box, though small, contained several layers of small tools set in red velvet that folded out as he opened it. "Ooh, someone came tooled up…the sort of stuff a thief would use…"
"The Unicorn—he's here!" Agatha exclaimed quietly.
"The Unicorn and the wasp." The Doctor muttered.
Greeves came back with a tray. "Your drinks, ladies and gentlemen."
The Doctor thanked him, and they took their drinks. Alistair drank a considerable amount of his wine in one go. The Poet set her lemonade aside; she wasn't all that thirsty, but the Doctor took a sip of his water.
"What about the science stuff?" Agatha asked. "What did you find?"
"Hm, Vespimorph sting." The Doctor plucked the vial from his jacket and flipped it around. The goo inside was the colour and viscosity of honey. "Vespimorphs have got hives in the Silifax galaxy."
"Again you talk like Edward Lear." Agatha gave him a funny, amused look.
"For some reason, this one's behaving like a character in one of your books." He mused.
"Come on, Agatha." Donna said encouragingly. "What would Miss Marple do? She'd've overheard something vital by now because the murderer thinks she's just a harmless old lady."
"Clever idea." Agatha said. "Miss Marple—who writes those?"
"Um, copyright: Donna Noble. Add it to the list."
"Donna." The Doctor said.
"Okay, we can split the copyright." Donna compromised, with a bargaining toss of her ginger-brown head.
"No, something's inhibiting my enzymes." He said. Now it was clear he seemed frozen in his seat, gripping the arms of the hard wooden chair until his knuckles were white. He jerked forward like he'd been pulled by the lapel and yelled out. "I've been poisoned!"
"What do we do? What do we do?" Donna stressed.
Agatha gave his water a sniff. "Bitter almonds—it's cyanide. Sparkling cyanide!"
"Oh, good lord." Alistair took a large gulp of his wine.
The Doctor heaved himself from his chair and ran to the kitchen in the next room. He staggered across the room and grabbed Davenport by the front of his shirt. "Ginger beer!"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I need ginger beer!" He released the boy and ran back around the island and slammed face first into the shelves. He threw them open and grabbed the ginger beer. After drinking a good amount of it, he dumped the rest over his head and tossed the bottle away.
"The gentleman's gone mad!" One of the maids exclaimed. The serving staff gathered in a corner, as though fearing what he might do next.
"I'm an expert in poisons, Doctor!" Agatha watched him in horror. "It's fatal! There's no cure!"
The Doctor spit out some of the beer in a fine, gingery mist. "Not for me. I can stimulate the inhibited enzymes into reversal. Protein! I need protein!"
"Walnuts!" The Poet grabbed the jar and practically threw it at him.
"Brilliant!" He shoved a bunch of them in his mouth and continued trying to speak.
"I can't understand you!" Donna cried. He was shaking one of his hands up and down. "How many words?" He held up a finger. "One. One word. Shake? Milk? Shake?"
"Uh, confetti!" Alistair tried. "Cocktail? Hot sauce!"
"Harvey Wallbanger?" The Doctor yelled. "How is Harvey Wallbanger one word?!"
"No!" The Poet snapped. "It's salt! He needs salt!"
Alistair made a noise of exasperation and ran to the shelves, where Donna and Agatha were also smashing about. "How's this?"
"What is it?" The Doctor gasped.
"That's too salty."
"That doesn't even make any sense!" The ginger cried.
"What about this?" Agatha jumped over with a jar. The Doctor mumbled in agreement, opened it, and drank a bunch of whatever was inside.
"What is that?"
The Doctor made another motion as he vapidly chewed the little fish. His hands were out, palms to them, waving madly. "What is it? What else?" Donna almost sang. "It's a song! 'Mammy!' I don't know, 'Camptown Races'?"
"'Camptown Races'?" The Doctor managed.
"Well, all right, 'Towering Inferno.'"
"It's a shock! Look! Shock! I need a shock!"
"Okay," The Poet said. "Goodness, I sure hope you don't remember this."
All at once she reached forward and touched the Doctor for the first time. With her hands on his cheeks, she yanked him forward into a messy kiss. It wasn't exactly pleasant—he tasted like anchovies and ginger. He stumbled up from the table as gold flashed very briefly where they touched. It was like an electric burst—the instantaneous, ultra-sensitive Time Lord sense as they both felt the double heartbeat of the other. As per the predicted reaction, he grasped her shoulders to at first pull her closer, and then quickly shove her away. He threw back his head, and black smoke billowed from his mouth. When it was all gone, he groaned.
"Ah! Detox." He ran his sleeve over his mouth. "I must do that more often." He looked at the Poet as though just seeing her. "You!"
"Me." She muttered, pressing her lips together.
"We need to talk!"
"Doctor!" Agatha stared at him with wide, shocked eyes. "You are impossible!" He clicked his tongue at her. "Who are you?!"
In the hours leading up to dinner, the Doctor and Poet wandered the grounds of the manor. She explained everything to him. What he already knew, and what he didn't know. He didn't want to know his future, but that was fine. She was aware of his dislike of knowing his own future, as evident by River. He was shown her TARDIS as proof, like the "first" time.
A few tears were shed. A few laughs were had. Many hugs and handshakes were shared. But most frequently of all, angry words were shouted across the misty, pre-storm garden. The words were hurtful ones, spoken in Gallifreyan and too insulting to put to the English language. The accusations were so foul, in such bad taste and often unfair to a fault, there was no direct translation. In these fits they stood away from each other, clenched their fists, threw their hands up, stomped and slipped in the wet grass. At one point the Doctor pushed her shoulder so she fell back a step. After another half-screamed exchange, she slapped him hard across the face. Things calmed down a little more after that.
Up in the lit-up mansion, Alistair and Donna sat in a windowsill and watched their friends mainly argue. "So, what's going on, exactly?"
"Well, the Poet's like the Doctor." Alistair said. "She's a Time Lord. Well, Time Lady. It's not a big difference."
"But isn't he the last one or something?"
"It's like they want us to believe that first." He shrugged with a wry smile. "But she and I, we're from the future."
"But, we're from the future." Donna pointed at herself. "Do I look like I'm from 1926, bud?"
"Ugh!" Alistair slapped his hands over his face and laughed. "It's so complicated! Come on, let's go get another drink before dinner."
"Now that I understand." She clinked their empty glasses together and they walked down to the kitchen.
Back on the garden, the Poet's thoughts were in turmoil. With all the wibbly-wobbly stuff happening, she thought that maybe this was supposed to be their first meeting. The un-reality of their "first" meeting would be because—well, they already knew each other! It felt right and proper. They had a few hours to talk about it properly instead of diving into a crashed ship filled with Weeping Angels before being able to discuss it.
"You know something," The Poet laughed. The mood of the conversation had oscillated back to "Creepily Cheery" for the third time. "That is the worst kiss we've ever had."
"Hey, hey!" The Doctor said. When he got agitated in a good way, his voice tended to go up an octave.
"Oh, right. Spoilers." They arrived at the manor and stood in the doorway. "I'm sorry, by the way, about keeping it from you." She finally said. "But you know what has to happen. This is not my first meeting with you."
"Right." The Doctor shoved his hands in his pockets. "The memory erasure. I can already feel the telepathy kicking in." He smiled wistfully. "I forgot how it felt not to be alone."
"Oh, Doctor." The Poet sighed. She reached up and placed her palm on his cheek. Even in the dim light, she could see her handprint. The corners of her lips quirked up in a soft grin. "My wonderful, mad Doctor. When aren't your poor hearts being broken?"
His smile in return was just as sad. Thunder cracked loudly over their heads, and as rain began to fall, they decided to go inside for dinner.