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Of The Essence (2/?)

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: 1965
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.



The Doctor watched Donna interact with Alan. After their initial exchange, they seemed to get along like a house on fire—whatever that meant. There was nothing special about the ship itself, but Donna was enjoying her first visit to a spaceship where she didn’t have to hide.

They ended the tour on the bridge where they stood out of the way as the crew prepared for landing. It was all rather mundane, but the Doctor relished it for just that reason. One could only live adventure-to-adventure for only so long before growing tired. A stop like this would be just perfect. Because of that, he couldn’t help but feel it wouldn’t last.

“So, if we’re landing, why did you show us a room?” Donna asked Alan.

“A chance to freshen up without having to go back to the TARDIS. Knowing him, it’s probably about five levels down.”

“Six. You’ve travelled with him too?”

“I’m right here,” the Doctor told them even though he knew it wouldn’t make much difference. He was beginning to wish they were arguing again.

Lt Chase came over and saluted Alan. “All the processing is complete and we’ve radioed ahead to let Jacsmira know how many to expect.” She looked pointedly and the Doctor and Donna.

“Ah, even though you’ve already met them, I guess I should make introductions. Lt. Madeleine Chase, allow me to introduce Donna Noble and the Doctor, friends of mine. Maddie is one of the best officers on this ship.”

“Hello,” they both said. The Doctor loved how in synch they were.

“No hard feelings about before?”

“No, you were just doing your job,” the Doctor responded with a smile.

“I’ve almost gotten used to it,” Donna remarked.

“Best not to get into that,” the Doctor said quickly before Maddie could ask for more information.

“Will you be here long?” she asked, taking the hint.

“It depends. He doesn’t like staying very long in one place.” Donna nodded in his direction. “Afraid he’ll start taking root.”

The Doctor merely shrugged and smiled. How could he argue when it was close to the truth? There was so much out there to be seen and experienced, he couldn’t stay still for long. It was that wanderlust that drove him to leave and now, when he was getting sentimental in his old age, there was no home to go back to, just memories.

“Oi, Spaceman!”

He looked at Donna. “Sorry, what?”

“Alan was talking to you.”

“I need to report in, but once that’s done I want to find out about Shannon and Ryan. I should’ve heard back by now. I just thought you might want to tag along.”

“Two missing people in the middle of a war zone? Just try keeping me away.”

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

Donna followed the Doctor and Alan as they crossed the port into the base’s main building. All the personnel stopped what they were doing and saluted. It made her stand a bit straighter and walk with a bit of a swagger. For his part, Alan didn’t even bother returning the salute or it would’ve been locked in place the whole time.

The entered the commander’s office and Alan delivered his report including the arrival of the Doctor and herself.

“Very concise, Colonel. I wish all my officers knew how to keep to the point.”

“It’s a knack. Have you heard anything about Ryan or Shannon?”

“No, Alan. There hasn’t been any chatter.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.” Alan turned and headed for the door.

“You can’t use any Alliance property to go after them!” the commander warned.

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Donna had seen that look before. On the Doctor, it never boded well. She could only imagine what it meant with Alan.

“What was that all about?” she asked once they were outside.

“My brother and friend haven’t reported in, so we’re going after them.”

“What?” She stopped. “We’re knowingly going into a war zone to save people who may or may not be there?”

“Yep.” They kept walking.

She ran to catch them up. “Flyboy, did you ever think that this was just to get you out there?”

“They might be expecting me,” Alan replied, “but I doubt they’ll be expecting the Doctor.”

“People rarely do,” the Doctor remarked.

Alan stopped at a corner and made sure no one was around. “Hold on.”

Donna saw the Doctor take hold of Alan’s left arm so she grabbed his right. She tried to brace herself but before she knew it, they were in the TARDIS. “Wow.”

“Thanks.” Alan leaned against the jump seat by the console.

“You’re getting better,” the Doctor commented.

“Well, last time we were together, I had a good deal of practice.”

Donna had never liked it when people held conversations and left her out. “What last time?” The two exchanged a look. “What?”

“Do you remember Harold Saxon?” the Doctor asked.

“’Course. Prime Minister who killed the American president. Why doesn’t it surprise me that you were there?”

“There was quite a bit going on behind the scenes and Alan had to use his talents a lot.”

Donna had a feeling there was more to the story than they were saying. “Okay, so how do we find them? Since they were spying, we can’t really go door-to-door.”

“That’s easy,” said the Doctor as he fiddled with the controls. “We just use the TARDIS to close in on the machines’ unique energy signal.”

“How unique is unique?” The Doctor bandied words about so often that they sometimes lost their original meaning.

“Only six in existence,” Alan replied.

“That’s unique,” she agreed. A thought came to her. “What if they’ve been captured and their machines taken away?”

“They should still be in the general area,” the Doctor responded as he stood back from the console. “We’ll just need to do a quick recce when we land.”

“Your ‘recces’ always get us in trouble,” Donna stated.

“I wouldn’t say always,” the Doctor said nearly pouting.

Donna looked to Alan for support.

“It does seem inevitable,” he said diplomatically, “but I wouldn’t say always. Today, for instance.”

“Okay, I’ll give you that one, but what about your previous travels with him?”

“Let’s see. The first time I met him he was locked up.”

“Par for the course,” she commented.

“The less said about that...” The Doctor seemed a bit embarrassed.

“Then there was the ship I was captaining.”

“Ah, now, that was a good one. Fitz and I went to a tavern, found out what you were doing, and joined you.”

Recce in a pub, not bad. “Next?”

“I was lying in hospital undergoing burn treatment when he spotted me.”

“’Burn treatment’?”

“The ship I was travelling on was sabotaged and I was caught under burning wreckage.”

“That’s right. Peri and I wanted to check on survivors. This is fun. Give us another.”

Donna couldn’t help but laugh. It was probably rare for the Doctor to have a friend who travelled as much as he did.

“What was next? Oh, yes, this was a very fortunate encounter for me.” Alan looked at the Doctor. “Remember?”

The Doctor’s face was always amusing when he was thinking. Wait for it. Yeah, there it is. The Doctor’s tongue stuck out like a child in exaggerated thought.

“The alley after you’d been shot.”

Alan nodded.

Donna looked at Alan. “Your life’s almost as dangerous as his. How many more meetings before this one?”

“Three. Do you want me to continue?”

“To be fair, one of those doesn’t count,” interjected the Doctor.

“True. UNIT was called in.”

“You knew him when he was with UNIT?” Donna was amused by this. “They kept saluting him.”

“Bet that didn’t go over very well.”

“Not a bit. Didn’t like being called ‘sir’, either.”

“I wish I could’ve seen that,” Alan chuckled.

“Moving on. So next was Washington. No danger on that initial foray either.”

“Considering you were in a city under siege, that’s quite amazing.” Alan turned to Donna. “Two days later, the British burned Washington DC.”

“Of course they did. That leaves one more time.”

“OK, I think they had already been there two days before I met up with them. Declared enemies of the Crown, Britain’s most wanted. All a set-up, of course. Harold Saxon was actually a Time Lord and...” Alan never finished.

Donna looked at the Doctor and saw the anguish in his eyes. It was something with which he was still uncomfortable. “OK, there are some moments when we aren’t in near-immediate peril when we step outside the TARDIS, but you have to admit they are rare—comparatively speaking.”

“But that’s what makes it all so exciting,” the Doctor declared. “You never know what’s waiting outside.”

As the centre column stopped, announcing their arrival, Donna had to agree.

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

When they materialized, Alan had to keep himself from filling the others in his plan. Those two weren’t under his command. Donna would probably argue the point while the Doctor, well, the Doctor would just ignore him. In these cases, he deferred to the driver. “Okay, now what?”

The Doctor looked him over. “First off, I’d say you’d better change out of that uniform. We don’t need you attracting any attention to yourself.”

“Like you won’t,” Alan shot back.

“But I’m not a known enemy,” the Doctor returned.

“Not here, anyway.”

“Just go get changed.”

With a smile, Alan headed for the TARDIS wardrobe where he found some jeans, a navy t-shirt, and a worn brown leather jacket. Fairly comfortable, relaxed, and looking nothing like an Alliance officer, he returned to the console room.

“That was quick,” the Doctor said approvingly.

“As you know, not my first trip to the wardrobe.”

“All right then.” The Doctor grabbed his coat from the railing and bounded down the ramp to the door.

Alan held out his arm. “Miss Noble?”

She smiled and looped her arm through his. “You are too kind.”

They walked onto a once-productive field that was now pockmarked with craters; sure sign of a battle. Donna gripped his arm a little tighter.

“Any idea where we are?” the Doctor asked as he scanned the area.

“I can only go by reports, but I think there’s a small town over that ridge.”

“They’re not just going to accept three strangers walking into town,” said the Doctor as he walked towards the ridge. “We need to present ourselves as harmless.”

Alan picked up Donna in his arms.

“What do you think you’re doing, Flyboy?” She kicked her legs and twisted her body, nearly causing Alan to lose his balance.

“Don’t you remember spraining your ankle during our escape?”

“Typical, make the woman trip and fall. Why can’t it be you or the Doctor?”

“’Cause I’d look awfully silly carrying him.”

“Not as silly as him carrying you,” she said with a laugh.

The Doctor stopped and looked back at them. “I could do it, you know.”

“Never said you couldn’t, just that it’d look silly. Men don’t carry men like this unless they’re unconscious or dead.”

Alan smiled as he listened to their banter. It was as if they were best mates without any of the romantic undertones. Then, anything after Rose would be one-sided. “Poor Martha.”

“Did you say something, Flyboy?”

“Hmm? No, nothing.”

“Yes, you did. It’s okay, he can’t hear us.”

Alan could see the Doctor was ahead of them, already heading into the town. He sighed. “I said ‘poor Martha’ because of her unrequited love for the Doctor. You don’t...”

“With him? God, no!” She laughed. “We’re just mates, is all. I know all about Rose and I’ve met Martha. She’s moved on, gotten engaged.”

“Good for her.” Alan could see a small group of people had gathered to watch their approach. “Curtain up.”

Chapter 3

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