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Title: Of The Essence(aka The Temp, The Spaceman and the Flyboy)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Series: Doctor Who/TOC Files
Characters: Ten, Donna, OC
Word Count: 14,562
Rating: G (I believe)
Summary: The Doctor and Donna arrive on a ship taking refugees from a war zone and are naturally taken for stowaways. An old friend of the Doctor's then asks for their help to rescue members of his team on a hostile planet.
Notes: This story has been sitting on my computer for ages! I actually started it after seeing Donna's reaction to Jack in "Journey's End". It sat around unfinished until last year when my niece and nephew helped me past my block and worked on a plot on the way to a spring training game. It's un-beta'd so feel free to point out typos or any ohter errors you find. Disclaimer The Doctor, Donna and the TARDIS belong to the BBC. Alan Kelly is mine.



She listened as the door opened and the person entered. She couldn't see anything and the carpet muffled any footsteps so she just guessed where they were by other sounds in the room. She smiled at the thought of doing something so Spooks. Eighteen months ago, she never would have done something so daring-or foolhardy as her mum would put it if she knew. No, before that time, before that Christmas, the only news she worried about was what she found in the gossip pages. Now she knew to look at the bigger picture, to question things that seemed too easy.

When she saw the black boots pass close to the desk, she pulled her knees closer to her chest. Please keep walking. Please keep walking. No such luck. They stopped and Donna pressed back against the side of the desk. At that moment, alarms blared and she froze. She hadn't planned an escape route in case of alarms.

A hand grabbed her arm and pulled her out from under the desk. "C'mon, we have to go now!"

Donna looked up into a pair of gorgeous green eyes. The rest of the face wasn't so bad either. Do not go that way, Donna! This is important!

"If you're done gawping, move!" He yanked her out the door and ran down the corridor.

"What the hell are you doing?" she hissed. "I was fine where I was!"

"Oh, if you wanted to stay and be arrested--or more likely killed--you should have just said
so!"

That tone made her want to give him a piece of her mind, but she knew now was not the time to let rip. He was, after all, saving her. From what, she wasn't exactly sure, but at least he was including her. She heard more shouts and running footsteps heading in their direction. More guards. The man tried to push her behind him for protection in a very heroic manner, but she saw no weapons and wondered how he planned to fight back.

He pulled her closer.

"Hands!" she whispered as loud as she dared.

"Just hold on."

"What for?" He closed his eyes, which made her even angrier. "What do you think...you're doing?" She looked around and realized they were outside, somewhere close to the Thames. "Wha'? How did you..."

"Trade secret." He mimed buttoning his lips.

"Did your trade secret help you get what you were after?" She tried not to sound snide, but it didn't quite work.

"No, because somebody set off the alarms."

"Excuse me for not being a thief like you."

"I am not a thief!" he defended.

"Well, you are dressed in black," Donna shot back.

"So are you," he retorted.

"Well, black is...slimming," she said weakly. She waited to see if he would insult her regarding her weight.

"Look, not to sound condescending at all, but you'd better get home. The guards'll be out searching soon."

"What about you?"

"Not a problem. I have a way out."

"Another trade secret?" she asked with a smile.

"Yep."

Knowing she wasn't going to get anything else out of Mystery Man, she turned and headed back home. "Wait," she said as she thought of something else. Turning, she saw him simply vanish. "Why doesn't it surprise me? Drop-dead gorgeous bloke and he disappears."

*****************************

"There you go, smooth landing.” The Doctor grinned at her across the console.

“For a change.” Despite her words, she smiled. She still couldn’t believe that she, Donna Noble of Chiswick, was travelling through time and space. “So where are we?”

“Let me check.” He peered at the monitor. “Ooh, 2280, not a bad year. I’ve a few friends here.”

“Of course you do.” She followed him down the ramp and nearly bumped into him when he stopped. “What’s going on?”

The Doctor stood aside. “You’re leading the exploratory party.”

“You mean it?”

“I’ve already checked the atmosphere and gravity so the rest is up to you.”

Donna opened the door slowly and stepped outside. The TARDIS had materialized in a hallway made of metal. A spaceship! I’m on a bloody spaceship! Wait, don’t jump to conclusions. The Doctor’d laugh out the back of his head if you make a simple mistake like that. You need other proof. She took a deep breath. The air was different, stale. She smiled. She then rested a hand against one of the walls. It was warm and there was a constant vibration. She looked at the Doctor who was standing in front of the TARDIS. “It’s a spaceship. The air is recycled and I can feel the engine through the walls.”

“Ooh, well done. What direction shall we go in?”

“This is just storage. All the crew should be on the upper levels. So, um, up, I guess.”

“After you.” The Doctor motioned with his arm for her to go first.

They walked along the corridor looking for a way up. “What kind of ship is this?” Donna asked.

“I know you think I must be a walking encyclopaedia, but I can’t say based on just one corridor. It could be a freighter, a passenger ship, military carrier.” He ticked them off on his fingers.

“You couldn’t say.” Her sarcasm was lost on the Doctor.

“Not with any certainty, no.”

They had reached a service ladder and began to climb. “How many levels do we need to go up?”

“As far as we can,” the Doctor said from below. “It’s hard—“

“To say, yes, I get it.” Donna was thankful for her sensible shoes and slacks. She had learned that was the uniform if you travelled in the TARDIS. No matter where you landed, there was always running involved—and sometimes climbing.

The ladder ended at a hatchway and Donna struggled to get it loose. The Doctor reached up to help her and they were soon in a much wider corridor, one used for regular traffic and not for maintenance.

The Doctor was looking at her, waiting for a decision. She began to reason aloud. “Most ships would have a central room for the crew to relax as well as a lounge for passengers, right?” The Doctor nodded. “So that’s where we go.”

“But which way to the centre?”

“I don’t know. Do I have to think of everything?”

“Ow!” he said as she slapped his arm. “What was that for?”

He really is a skinny bit of nothing if a little tap like that hurt. “For having me on. You probably know exactly where we are.”

“I might do, yeah. This way.” He strode off.

So much for me making the decisions, thought Donna as she followed him through the
corridors.

They stopped when they saw a line of people against the wall, their meagre belongings beside them. Some of them looked at Donna with accusing eyes. One of the men yelled at the Doctor as he walked further up the hall. “Oi, no jumping the queue!”

The Doctor looked at the man. “Oh, hello. What’s it for?”

“What kind of a man gets in a queue without knowing what it’s for?” asked an older woman.

“When I see a queue, I just have to join in. I can’t help myself. You meet so many interesting people.”

“Where I’m from, it’s a major pastime,” added Donna. “Practically a way of life.”

The door at the front of the queue opened and a young woman in black fatigues stepped out. “OK, if your paper is numbered AQT200020 through AQT200035, you can go through,” she said wearily.

Those at the front of the line gathered their belongings and headed through the door. It put Donna in mind of Ellis Island.

“Um, hello,” the Doctor greeted the soldier.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to wait until the number on your pass is called,” she said barely looking at him.

“I don’t have one,” the Doctor stated.

That certainly got her attention. “Whoever let you through without a pass will get an earful from me when I find out their name.”

“What’s the big deal, anyway?” asked Donna.

“It cuts down on processing time. Lord knows I don’t need any more paperwork.”

“Processing for what?”

The woman looked at Donna as if she was thick. “The Alliance is granting refugee status to those forced from their homes due to the current upheaval.”

Donna looked to the Doctor.

“War,” he mouthed for her clarification. He faced the soldier. “Excuse me...”

“Lt. Madeleine Chase,” she supplied.

“Excuse me, Lieutenant Chase, but we don’t qualify as we were never on the planet,” he explained.

“Stowaways? In a war zone?”

“No, no, not stowaways,” the Doctor said quickly. “No, we just, um, landed on your ship.”

“You just landed and no one saw you? You just practically admitted to spying!”

“Ah, but for it to be considered spying, there had to have been intent.”

Great, he’s trying to be clever.

“So you had no intention of landing here, you just did.”

“Yep.” He grinned.

“Spy or not, you’re an unknown quantity and you get a nice, cosy cell in the brig until the ranking officer can speak with you.” She made sure the door slid closed again before “escorting” Donna and the Doctor to the brig. “Get comfy,” she said as she locked the door. “He won’t get a chance to see you until we’re in safe territory.”

After she had gone, Donna looked at the Doctor. “Another cell. I’m beginning to sense a pattern here.”

******************************

According to his fighter’s instrument panels, they were clear of the war zone and a few hours out from Jacsmira. He set his pilots on a rotation so there would always be someone on patrol. They were all relatively new pilots who were a bit in awe flying with him. They had even tried to get him in a talkative mood by plying him with drinks. In the beginning, he obliged by relating his first missions out of the Academy, but all they wanted to hear were his missions to the past.

Since the existence of the TOC and what it did had become declassified, he was able to tell them. That was also the reason he was here in the first place. The upper echelons were not willing to risk losing him on the front lines. It still rankled him as he was primarily a fighter pilot. Well, at least he was flying and not still on Earth as a trophy officer.

When he landed, he contacted Maddie Chase. “How’s the processing going?”

“Not bad, sir. We’re making good progress. There’s just this one couple that has me puzzled.”

“How?”

“They showed up with no forms yet claimed they were never on the planet. They denied being stowaways, having landed by accident, yet we haven’t found any ship and have no record of one even approaching.”

It couldn’t be. “Can you describe him?”

“He was skinny and babbled a lot and she was a redhead. They’re in the brig. I didn’t know what else to do with them.”

“I’ll stop and see them on the way. I’m not that far away. Everything else okay?”

“Yes, sir. I’ll contact you if there’s anything else.”

Alan knew the others of his team would want to know what was happening. [Guys, if you’re not in the middle of anything, join me. The Doctor’s here.] He didn’t get a response, but he didn’t really expect one as they were doing intelligence work. They’d get here when they could.

Alan arrived at the brig and could hear a familiar voice rattling off what seemed like a history lesson. “At least I don’t have to re-introduce myself.” The guard on duty saluted. “Has he been any trouble?”

“None,” the guard responded. “It’s like he was expecting it.”

“It does happen to him a lot.”

“You know him then, sir?”

“Yes, and he’s not one that needs to be locked away.” He held his hand out for the key.

The guard handed it over but hovered as Alan headed towards the cells. “There’s really no need. He’s not going to shoot me in an escape attempt.”

“I’ll, um, just wait out here, then.” He went back to his chair.

Alan opened the door and saw the Doctor pacing his cell, gesturing wildly with his hands. His companion looked like she was watching a tennis match as she followed his movements.

“Why am I not surprised?” he drawled.

The Doctor stopped and looked his way. “Alan!” he beamed. “I should have known the officer in question was you.” The woman cleared her throat. “Oh, Donna Noble, this is Col. Alan Kelly, a very good friend of mine.”

Alan looked up from the lock and got his first good look at the Doctor’s newest companion. “It’s you.”

Donna Noble seemed just as surprised. “Of course you’re a friend of his. You disappear just as mysteriously.”

“Without what I came for.”

“Don’t blame me that you’re a bad thief.”

“Again, you set off the alarms!”

“Children!” The Doctor stood between them. “I take it you know each other.”

“We met once before, yes.” Alan explained the encounter from his perspective.

“Hold on, Flyboy, that’s not the whole story.” Donna then told her side.

The Doctor listened patiently before saying anything. “To be fair, Donna didn’t know the alarm button was there. And,” he added quickly to Donna, “Alan did get you out of there.”

Alan felt like a chastised schoolboy. “Shall we start over?”

For an answer, she held out her hand. “Delighted to meet you, Colonel.”

“Alan, please,” he said as he took her hand. “Wipe that smug look off your face,” he directed at the Doctor without taking his eyes from Donna.

“I do not have a smug look on my face,” the Doctor denied.

“Oh, that was definitely a smug face. You have to keep an eye on him,” Donna told Alan conspiratorially, “or he’d never admit to anything.”

Alan laughed. “C’mon, let me show you some better accommodations.” They waved at the guard as they walked out. “He wasn’t going to give me the key at first,” Alan explained. “Thought you’d shoot me in an escape attempt.”

“Him?” Donna pointed her finger at the Doctor. “He hates guns and anyone who uses one.”

Alan wondered if she actually listened to what she said.

“There are some exceptions,” the Doctor said.

Alan led them to a spare room in the crew’s quarters. “It’s not the Ritz, but I think you’ll be comfortable,” he said as the door slid open.

Donna looked about as if she were contemplating a purchase. The Doctor barely gave it a glance.

“You know, I’m glad it’s you,” Alan said. “I could do with the company.”

“You’re on a ship full of people and you want company?” Donna questioned as she sat on the bed.

“But with them I have to be the officer they expect. If I do anything to blow off steam, it’ll make the rounds and be all blown out of proportion by the time the media gets hold of it.”

“It sounds like someone’s a little full of themselves.”

“Doctor, please.” Alan nodded towards Donna.

“Donna, you really need to learn about someone before you insult them. Alan here is the top pilot of the Alliance and one of the—if not the —most-decorated soldiers.”

Alan could feel his ears turning red.

“In terms of star factor, think Brad Pitt and David Beckham combined times ten.”

“Oh.” She looked at Alan with new respect. “Sorry. I just thought...”

“Since I was simply flying escort, I must be a nobody.”

“Not a nobody,” Donna said.

“I will admit I was wondering why,” the Doctor told him.

“Since the TOC went public, I’ve become ‘too valuable a property to be risked on the front lines’,” Alan quoted.

“And the others?”

“Eric’s still on the Dreadnought and Shannon and Ryan are gathering intelligence on Karifa.”

“That’s not right,” Donna declared. “Why should you be the only one restricted?”

“Believe me, I asked the same question without getting a satisfactory answer. At least I’m still flying. Care to see the rest of the ship?”

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