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Curiouser and Curiouser (1/7)

Title: Curiouser and Curiouser
Characters: Seven, Ace, Romana, Original
Word Count: 3092
Rating: PG
Summary: The Doctor and Ace arrive in Victorian London and cross paths with a former companion and an old enemy
Notes: OK, this is yet another story version of a sim done by "Dr Who & Co". This time I have names! These are the ones whose creativity you are about to enjoy. John, Romana, Heather, Lynn, JenK, Cody, FifthDrFan, Flameress, Doctor6master. (If I skipped anyone, I apologize). This was first posted on FFN on 3/20/02



CURIOUSER & CURIOUSER




It was a busy morning amidst the infamous London fog. Carriages were clattering by on cobblestones; vendors were peddling their wares; newsboys shouting out headlines trying to sell papers; as well as the everyday hustle of a major metropolis.

It was no surprise that no one heard the grinding of old machinery or saw as a large blue cabinet appeared in an alley. A man stepped out wearing a suit that could blend in almost anywhere, yet set him apart. He looked about as if to get his bearings. "Ace?" he called.

"Professor, I don't like this dress! Can't I wear trousers instead?" came a voice from inside the box.

The man universally known as the Doctor--except where Ace was concerned-- replied, "I'm sorry, Ace, but your usual attire just isn't as. . . inconspicuous as my own."

"Fine." A young teen-aged girl stepped out dressed in a light blue frock in the late-Victorian style.

The Doctor smiled impishly. "You look quite the lady, Ace."

Ace shrugged and mumbled a thank you. As she lifted the hem of her dress, the man noticed she was still wearing her Doc Martens. He walked across the street but stopped suddenly, leaned on his ever-present umbrella and stared into the crowd. Ace followed him and casually asked, "So, what are we doing here?"

The Doctor watched as an elegantly dressed woman attempted to blend in with the crowd. "No, it can't be. . ."

"What can't be?"

"Over there. That's Romana." The woman in question ducked into a doorway and removed something from under her wrap.

Ace looked but didn't see her. "Where?"

"But I never brought her here. At least I don't think so . . . Suddenly, I can't quite remember."

"Aren't we going to say hello?" Ace watched as Romana waved around a translucent stick, seeming to listen to it. "What's that magic wand she's got?"

The Doctor finally turned to Ace and grinned. "Yes. Indeed we will." He turned back and saw Romana frown before returning the tracer to its hiding place. "That's the tracer. She must still be looking for the Key to Time." He started after her.

"The what?" questioned Ace as she followed.

The Doctor saw Romana head back into the crowd. "The Key to Time. It's used by the Guardians to maintain the balance between order and chaos. Because it is so powerful, it was broken into segments, neither one of the Guardians knowing where all the pieces were. A few regenerations ago, the White Guardian had Romana and I recover the segments. Balance was restored and the Key was broken apart once more." The Doctor looked at Romana. "Wait, there's something wrong. She's acting strangely."

Romana was glancing about worriedly before she disappeared once more into the throng. The Doctor and Ace finally caught up with her in a dead-end alley.

"Romana! It's all right! It's me!" the Doctor called.

Romana didn't hear, but pulled out the tracer once again and pointed it at a nearby doorway.

"Hey, hang on!" cried Ace. Romana jumped in surprise upon hearing the voice. She looked about and her gaze soon fixed on the Doctor. "Maybe she hasn't met you yet," Ace said quietly to the Doctor.

"Perhaps not. But, still . . ." He watched as Romana hid the tracer. "Romana, trust me. There are no segments here. Something else is going on."

While the Doctor was talking to Romana, Ace looked up at the street sign on the wall: Baker Street W7. She smiled. From somewhere she could hear a violin.

Romana was stunned. "Who. . ? Doctor. . ? What are you doing here?"

"Of course it's me," he replied with a broad grin. "And I could ask you the same question. "I never brought you here--"

"Yes, but it's not you, the one I'm traveling with."

Giving the two Time Lords a quick look, Ace wandered back to the main street. She glanced about and saw that it looked pretty much the same as it did in her time--except for the horses. She soon found herself standing in front of 221 and shook her head. This is too much. She also noticed that the violin was stronger here.

Romana and the Doctor were still trying to puzzle out what happened as they, too, walked out onto the street. "When I was him he never brought you here."

"But you did. The mind does get a bit foggy at your age."

" 'Foggy'? I'm the sharpest I've ever been. Just ask Ace. He shouldn't be acting behind my back like this. . ."

"And there is a segment here. Unless the tracer is malfunctioning. I'm just having trouble pinpointing it."

"It must be malfunctioning. I remember with perfect clarity finding each and every segment. There is no segment here!" He stopped by Ace.

"There must be. The tracer wouldn't lie!"

"Neither would I! Don't you trust me Romana?"

A young flower seller approached hoping for a sale. "Posey o' vi'lets fer the ladies, guv'nor?"

Romana had the tracer out and was approaching him but stopped in mid-step. "No. How do I know you're really the Doctor? You aren't supposed to cross your own timestream."

"That doesn't mean it hasn't happened before," he muttered.

"Fresh vi'lets. Only tuppence." She either didn't understand or care about what they were saying. She was only determined to sell her violets.

The Doctor doffed his hat to her. "Hello. I'm afraid we're rather occupied just now." Disappointed, the flower seller went off in search of another sale. The Doctor turned back to Romana. "Please. . . Shall we make a list of things I'm not supposed to be able to do?"

"Hope you brought a lot of paper," commented Ace.

Romana shot her a glance. "If you're here, then something must have happened to the one I was with."

The Doctor, looking inward, said, "No. Somehow, somewhere, he's here. But something's not right."

Ace heard the music and felt drawn into 221. She went through the foyer and into the front hall. There was a door on her left marked "A" which meant that "B" was upstairs. She sat down on the steps, which creaked slightly, and she winced, hoping the musician hadn't heard. With a smile, she wondered how long it would be before the Doctor realized she was gone.

Romana had the tracer out once again, convinced there was a segment in the vicinity. "All right, I'll humor you," the Doctor told her. "Let's see where the tracer takes us."

"Sounds like it's strongest just to the west of here."

"Yes. Just inside this building." He went inside, followed by Romana.

Ace was still sitting on the stairs. "Hey, Professor," she said quietly.

The Doctor pointed with his umbrella. "Up these stairs, I think."

"After you, Doctor," said Romana.

The Doctor went past Ace who slowly got to her feet and followed. Romana, in the rear, still had the tracer out, listening. They stopped in front of the door to the first floor flat. "Let me guess. The segment is somewhere in 221B?"

With a frown, Romana held the tracer to the door. "The signal is still faint, but it seems that way."

The Doctor knocked on the door with the handle of his umbrella. The music came to a crescendo and a voice called out, "Come in!"

The three entered the room and the Doctor made introductions. "Hello, I am the Doctor and these are my friends Ace and Romana." Ace dropped a curtsey. The man did not turn around, but continued playing the violin.

"Is that who I think it is?" Ace whispered to the Doctor.

"No, but he'd like us to think so."

While still facing the windows, the man asked in a bored tone, "Is there something I could do for you?"

The flower seller, whose curiosity had been aroused by the strangers' conversation, followed at a discreet distance. They had apparently lost something and were searching London. Something to do with that wand the older woman was waving about. They turned onto Baker Street and the young girl walked on ahead. She hadn't been here for some time yet she knew exactly what building they had entered. But why? She waited then went inside and followed them upstairs. Can it be that he's back? Why? She stopped on the landing just out of sight and listened, smiling when she heard his voice. Yep, that's him.

One of the women was speaking, sounded like the older one. "Old Earth lore. Looks characteristic of the Conan-Doyle novels in your library."

"Actually, would you mind if we just. . .wandered around a bit?" asked the Doctor.

The man turned around and eyed the Doctor. "I might."

"My friend thinks you might be in possession of something she lost. I, myself, am dubious, but it would set her mind at ease."

The man's mouth twitched into something resembling a smile. "In my rooms?"

"Well, yes. That's what she seems to suspect."

"Surely you are joking."

Romana took out the tracer and pretended to just look at it. The ticking sound became louder. As she walked closer to the man, it grew even louder. "Curiouser."

Ace wandered about the room, looking at the knickknacks and curios, trying to resist the urge to touch--and losing. She felt the Doctor watching while her hand was in mid-reach. She turned and looked at him. "What?"

"Ace, just be careful."

The occupant watched them calmly. "May I offer you something?"

"No, thanks," said Ace.

"No, thank you," the Doctor replied. "If we may just look around for a few more minutes, then we'll leave you in peace."

The resident walked towards the mantle. "Is this. . .item of any particular value?" He picked up a grey pipe.

"No, not really."

"Oh, but it apparently is."

"And I can assure you, even if we do find it, we shall leave it here. We would just like to know where it went. As I said, we merely wish to put our minds at rest."

Romana, who had taken the tracer to the bookshelf where it got louder, turned to the Doctor. "We will?"

"Indeed," replied the Doctor with a look in her direction.

The lodger watched Romana as she neared a small ivory snuffbox. He hid his interest by filling his pipe with tobacco from a Persian slipper resting on the mantle.

Ace, bored, announced, "I'll just be out front," and went back down to the street. She accidentally bumped into a tall, frail-looking man who was trying to blend in. He sighed, looking at the theatre across the street. "You all right, mate?"

"I hear France is lovely this time of year," he said, facing her.

"Yeah. You sure you're all right?"

"One cannot be all right when one has none left," he said somewhat cryptically.

"Sounds like something the Professor would say," Ace remarked with a nod towards 221B. "He loses me sometimes. 'S'all right though. Being lost with a friend isn't that bad."

"Yes," he said with a smile. "And here's mine," he said as a well-dressed young woman joined them.

Back in the flat, Romana pulled the Doctor aside. "Have you forgotten our mission?"

"Not at all. I remember it perfectly. I also remember that it is already complete. And none of that completion was accomplished here."

Romana shot a suspicious look in the tenant's direction. "But it's not complete to me. Your memory must be faulty."

"Is this really necessary?" commented the resident to the Doctor as he returned Romana's gaze with an icy one of his own.

"It is of the utmost importance," declared Romana.

"Please, Romana. Trust me, it's not here."

"I really don't understand you at all, Doctor." She pocketed the tracer. "You're not telling me something."

"You're right, I'm not."

"If you are quite finished, I'm sure the door is operative," said the denizen from his position by the fireplace.

"It's quite simple, Romana," continued the Doctor, ignoring their host. "When I traveled with you, we found the Key. All of it. Not one piece was here. However, I can't tell you where they actually were found. You know that. You just have to trust me."

With hands on her hips, Romana demanded, "Then why is the tracer detecting it?"

The Doctor sighed knowing Romana would not let go the argument. "Fine. Fine. Try it. If it is here, then revert it to form."

The man looked at Romana and the tracer. Why won't they just leave? Now she and the Doctor were going through his personal items. Damn! They're getting too close!

Romana walked alongside the bookcase, the tracer in her hand. "Well?" the Doctor questioned. "I hate to say 'I told you so', but. . ."

The ticking sound of the tracer grew louder. "Must you do that?" growled the lodger.

The Doctor tried to ease tempers. "Mr. Holmes, please, just bear with my friend one more moment."

With a shocked, almost fearful look, Holmes faced the Doctor. "I beg your pardon? What makes you think that's my name?"

"Come now. Living at this address, all the," he waved about with his hands, "accoutrements, what else would you be called?" The tracer had centered on a lion-shaped bookend. The Doctor gave Romana a quick glance before turning back to Holmes. "Just let her try something."

" 'Try something'?" questioned Holmes.

Irritated, the Doctor looked at Romana. "Well? Get on with it."

With one eye on his ivory snuffbox, Holmes demanded, "Kindly refrain from touching--"

Romana took the lion off the bookshelf and turned it over in her hands before touching it with the tracer. The lion glowed and morphed into a hexagonal crystal. She shot the Doctor an I-Told-You-So glance.

"What? That can't be. Not unless. . ."

"Are you quite finished?" asked Holmes as he fidgeted with his pipe.

"Good day, sir," said the Doctor, doffing his hat. Romana looked oddly at the Doctor and nearly jumped when he grabbed the segment out of her hand and dropped it in his pocket. "Sorry about this. C'mon, Ace," he added as he walked out the door.

"You're acting odd, Doctor," said Romana as she followed. "And I'm not Ace!"

Once his visitors had gone, Holmes went to the desk, took something out of a drawer, and then followed them down to the street.

Outside on the street, Aced called the Doctor over. "Hey, Professor!" She turned to her newfound friend and introduced him. "This is the Professor, and--sorry, I didn't catch your name."

"Um, yes, I'm afraid we don't have time for pleasantries just now, Ace."

"He's always acting like that," Ace said apologetically. "But I really didn't catch your name."

The man smiled gently. "Ah, you really don't know, do you? It's Oscar. Oscar Wilde." He gave her the green carnation from his buttonhole. "Good-bye, Miss Ace." He then left with his lady friend.

Holmes followed them onto the street and approached the Doctor. "Do you mind?"

"Yes, of course. How rude of me." He reached into one of his many jacket pockets and pulled out a small coin purse. "That should be more than enough with which to replace the bookend," he said as he handed it over.

Holmes pulled out a revolver and fired, missing the Doctor but hitting the pavement near his feet. "Great Rassilon!" exclaimed Romana as she ducked for cover.

The Doctor ignored the shot and kept walking. "Can you adequately explain who you are?" called Holmes after him. "And why you're here?"

The Doctor stopped and retraced his steps to face Holmes. "I'm the Doctor. I'm sure you've heard of me. I'm rather infamous back home."

"He's bats. Absolutely bats," muttered Ace.

"In fact, you probably heard about me in school."

"Is that so?" questioned Holmes. "Well, I'm afraid I must have overlooked you."

"Professor, can't you go anywhere without someone shooting at you?"

"I'm sorry, Ace, I should have mentioned it before. Mr. 'Holmes' here comes from Gallifrey, just like Romana and myself."

"Oh."

The Doctor turned to Holmes. "Fine then. Play the fool. I'm sure you're quite good at it." With that final remark, the Doctor walked away. Ace took off after him.

"What was that, Mr. Holmes?" asked Romana.

"Nothing you'd be interested in." He watched her leave as well.

The three arrived at the TARDIS. "Professor, how many more of your guys did you tick off?"

"Quite a few," answered Romana. "He did go on trial at one point."

"I mean, between that Master creep and the Railyard, is there anyone from your planet that likes you? Apart from her, of course," she added, indicating Romana.

" 'Railyard'? Don't think I've heard of him before."

The Doctor turned to Romana. "It was lovely to see you again, but I must take this segment back to where I originally found it."

"But, Doctor, we need that segment for the Key. To put order to the Universe, or isn't that important enough for you?"

"If you try to take it with you, we will never find it, and it won't end up here, so, as you can see, the Faction will have a field day." Romana just looked at him. "Surely you took Paradox Avoidance at the Academy? It's a required course, for Rassilon's sake!"

Romana sighed. "Then explain to me what is it doing here, in this time?"

"It's quite simple." He ignored Ace's snort of disbelief. "You leave here. You find all the segments--when and where you're supposed to." Romana crossed her arms and glowered. "When you finish, they will disperse again. Someone finds--or steals--one and gives it to Holmes. Now we find it and I put it back. All neat and tidy."

"Sounds like that Earth custom where they hide the quail eggs," scoffed Romana.

"Yes, something like that." He grinned suddenly, pulled a paper bag out of a pocket and offered it to Romana. "Jelly baby?"

Romana frowned then looked at the TARDIS. "Wait a minute. If you've forgotten, you're still not supposed to be here. At least not in the same time and place as my Doctor."

"Yes, yes, you're right," he said somewhat distantly.

"I'm getting out of this dress," declared Ace as she headed inside the TARDIS. "See ya 'round, Romana."

"Ace, take this with you and put it somewhere safe." He handed her the segment and she went inside. "Now Romana, let's see where I've got to. . .

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