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A Storm is Warning in the Skies

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It said something about her life that she could be cleaning tables one minute and facing off against an alien the next. Or at the very least, she thought, it said something about life in Cardiff.

Typically, strange men bumping into her in the café received either a tight smile or a hard slap, depending on their motivations, but in this case Iona Jones wasn’t quite sure how to react. For one he wasn’t a customer, for another, he seemed to be busy chasing a disturbingly purple something through the shop.

A disturbingly purple, hairy, drooling something.

Though as a bonus, it wasn’t a something that she’d seen before, unlike the Weevils she seemed to be regularly chasing off the bins out the back, which stunk to high heaven and had yet to get the message. Some bright young spark in Cardiff should be working on something to deal with them, they’d make a fortune.

The man muttered a half apology before he was off after the purple thing and Iona only hesitated for a moment before she ran after him, following them through into the back room. Unfortunately for the pair, the back door was made of fairly solid metal and wasn’t about to give in. Not even to a big angry hairy purple thing.

There was no way that thing was anything but an alien. Unless someone had decided to cross breed a Burmese Mountain Dog with a Polar Bear, by way of an anteater and then dye the resulting pup purple just for the hell of it.

Iona frowned, glancing around, searching for something that she could use to deal with this particular unwanted guest, very aware that the man, whoever the hell he was, seemed to be woefully unprepared for this particular face off. She finally spotted something that might survive the encounter and actually have something of the desired effect; Douglas’ treasured slow cooking thing. Or rather its inner metal bowl.

She grabbed it, stepping further into the room, hefting it high before she brought it down hard on the back of the thing’s head, just as it got a grip around the man’s throat. It collapsed, falling onto its side to lie motionless on the floor.

Iona eyed the bowl for a moment before replacing it on the shelf; she honestly hadn’t expected the thing to go down quite that easily, before offering the man a hand up. “Are you alright sir?”

The man grinned, “Perfectly fine thank you.”

He brushed past her, walking back out into the cafe, without even a second look at the thing that had attacked him.

“Umm, sir, what about the…?” Iona pointed at the heap of purple fur.

“The what…” He peered at the thing before grinning again, shrugging, "It’s not a problem.”

“It attacked you.” Iona pointed out, dropping the polite sir in her disbelief. Did this guy really think he could just waltz in, get attacked by something then just waltz back out like nothing had happened?

“Nah, once I sort this out he’ll be no trouble, you won’t even know he was here.” The man smiled, clearly expecting her to just accept his explanation.

“Apart from the huge dent he left in the door you mean.” That she was probably going to get hell for when Douglas got back from his extended lunch break. He wasn't the most communicative of bosses.

The man frowned, glancing back through the archway, “Oh yeah, that really is quite a dent isn’t it? Oh well, nothing I can do about that, sorry. I’ll just be off, things to do, places to see.”

“Hey!” Iona pulled off her apron, tossing it onto the counter before hurrying after him, out of the cafe, ignoring her boss’s indignant yell. She’d never meant to keep working there as long as she had anyway.

“You can’t just come running in like that and then just walk away like nothing happened.”

“Yes I can, just watch me.” The man kept walking, so Iona did too, no way was she letting this guy out of her sight, not until he explained exactly what had just happened.

“You going to keep following me?” They were a full three streets away when he finally stopped, turning to face her, clearly annoyed that she hadn’t just left him alone.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Iona shrugged, not quite sure how to answer, because she wasn’t quite sure why herself; maybe she just wanted to know what was going on, or maybe she really had lost her sense of self-preservation like her sister kept claiming. It didn’t matter though; she wasn’t letting this guy go until she had answers.

“That’s not an answer.”

“No it isn’t.”

He frowned at her, before grinning suddenly, “Okay then, I’m The Doctor.”

Iona blinked, thrown by his sudden change in demeanour, “I tell you I’m not going to stop following you, refuse to tell you why and you’re just fine with that?”

“Yup.” He said, bouncing slightly on the spot, his facial expression suggesting that at that moment, she was very easily the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen.

Iona swallowed, mentally telling herself that he was just doing it in an effort to make her stop following her. “Alright then.”

He quirked an eyebrow, his grin widening, “Let’s try that again shall we, I’m The Doctor.”

Iona felt herself blush, but she ignored it, “Iona Jones.”

“Iona, like the Scottish island Iona?” Apparently, knowing her name only made her even more fascinating, God Rhiannon was going to kill her if she ever found out about this.

“Yes, Iona like the island.” Her parents had set her up to have to answer that question for the rest of her life. Clearly she’d done something in a past one.

“Come on then, Iona-like-the-island, there’s work to be done.” He turned, starting down the street once more, leaving Iona no choice but to follow.

“Hang on, that thing, back in the café, what was it?” She jogs a little to catch up to him, thankful that she’d chosen to wear her flat shoes today rather than her favourite black heels. As much as she loved them, she couldn’t run in them.

“What that thing? It was just a figment.”

“A figment.” Iona repeated, trying to relate the rather satisfying clunk that had come with smacking the thing over the head with the bowl to the idea that it hadn’t actually been real and failing miserably.

“There’s this device right, can create the things that you imagine.” The Doctor explained, more patiently than she had expected, “Someone around here has gotten hold of it and they’re the ones who created that thing.”

“So, it’s a figment of someone’s imagination made real, not a real thing.” Iona said.

The Doctor nodded, stopping to pull something out of the inner pocket of his leather jacket, “Exactly.”

Iona eyed the object in the man’s hand, a small long cylindrical object with a blue end, wondering what exactly it was meant to do, “How are you going to find this device?”

The Doctor grinned, waving the object at her as though it held the answers to life the universe and everything, “Sonic screwdriver, with this I can home in on the signal that is unique to that device, so long as it stays on that is.”

Iona nodded, not really understanding, or believing his explanation, but going with it anyway.

He fiddled with the device for a moment before he turned it on, the end lighting up as it started to hum and he grinned, charging off down the road, at a speed that Iona could just keep up with.

 

It took them almost two hours to track down the source of the signal from the device, with The Doctor getting turned around in the back streets and running into other signals that somehow interfered with his device. Iona wasn’t sure how much of that was true and how much was typical male bravado to cover for being wrong, but she went along with it anyway.

The source of the signal was a small terraced house in Cathays, a student let if the state of the place was anything to go by. The Doctor didn’t bother knocking on the door, turning the sonic screwdriver on the lock instead, barging in.

He seemed to like doing that.

There was a couple making out on the sofa in the communal lounge and Iona offered them a weak apologetic smile as she past, following The Doctor down the main corridor and up the stairs. It seemed some student had gotten hold of the device that The Doctor was looking for.

Which, Iona figured, explained the thing that had appeared in the café; whoever had imagined that thing had to have been either under four or high.

The Doctor kicked in the first door on the left of the stairway, storming in through the cloud of sweet smelling smoke that drifted out. Iona winced, waving a hand in front of her face, thinking that whoever was in that room had to be well and truly wasted. Probably wouldn’t even remember them having been there, come the morning. That or they’d decide that it had all been a bad trip.

Iona was just about to venture further into the room when The Doctor reappeared in the doorway, waving his find in the air.

“That’s it?” Iona eyed the small gold and grey trapezoid, with its multitude of flashing blue buttons. It wasn’t exactly how she’d pictured a device that could bring imaginary things to life would look. It looked a bit, tacky really.

“That's it.” The Doctor grinned, leading the way back down the stairs and out of the front door, having pocketed the device and his sonic screwdriver.

“So...that’s it, no more crazy beasts appearing in Cardiff and attacking men in leather jackets.” Iona broached, as she fell into step with The Doctor once more.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, but yeah, that’s it for any mischief caused by this little device.” The Doctor tapped his pocket, “It’s turned off now, so our friend the purple beast, is long gone now.”

Iona chewed on her bottom lip, considering, “Could we check?"

He stopped, turning to face her, "Check what?"

"That the, figment, is gone?"

He frowned, "I just told you, it's long gone."

Iona shrugged, "So you say."

He shrugged, "Well, you can go check if you like, I'm off, things to do."

Iona swore, moving quickly to cut him off, "Look, at least come with me, it's been hours, you've got to be hungry."

His eyebrows rose, "So?"

"It was in the cafe, where there's food." Iona said.

He stopped, looking at her for a moment before he grinned, "All right then."

 

It took Iona ten minutes to convince Douglas to let them have some food and a drink, pointing out that even if she was fired, she was still owed a week's wage and he could always take the cost of of that, but eventually he allowd Iona to make two plates of beans on toast and two coffees.

"There you go." Iona slid one of the plates across to The Doctor, along with a knife and fork.

"Beans on toast." He said grinning, before clearing the plate in less than five minutes while Iona watched, cradling her coffee mug. He didn't seem so different from most of the men she'd known, but at the same time, she couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't like them. It wasn't just the device he'd found, or the way he'd reacted to it all, it was his eyes and the way he looked at her.

You’re an alien aren’t you?”

The Doctor stopped, looking up to fix Iona with a look, “What makes you think that?”

Iona shrugged, “You seem to know a lot about stuff, what with the figment and that device you found, that’s all.”

“And that makes me an alien?”

Iona hesitated for a moment, chewing on her bottom lip before she shook her head, “No, but you don’t exactly have a normal heartbeat.”

The Doctor’s eyebrows rose, “How’d you notice that?”

“I felt your wrist, when I helped you up before.” She motioned towards the door through ot the back.

The Doctor grinned, “Did you now? I’m impressed.” He stopped, hesitating, the weight of his gaze making Iona feel uneasy, “Tell you what, Iona Jones, how would you like you come with me? See alien worlds.”

Iona blinked, “What?"

"You're right, I'm an alien and I've got this ship you see. A living ship that travels in space and time."

Iona snorted, shaking her head, "You're having me on."

"No I'm not." The Doctor grinned, “Come on, I’ll show you.”

 

Iona trailed after The Doctor, suddenly nervous. Here she was, average grades, criminal record, living in a city that she barely recognised any more and she was willingly walking away from all of that, to travel with some alien bloke she barely knew.

“Come on, it’s not far.” The Doctor called and Iona automatically quickened her step, drawing level with him once more, pushing back her doubts as they turned a corner into a dead end alley.

Iona frowned, slowing, glancing around; searching for anything that might be the transport he had mentioned. There was a dumpster, overflowing with rubbish, a pile of blankets and a big blue box that looked a bit like the old police boxes she vaguely remembered seeing in one of her history textbooks. “Doctor?”

He kept walking, pulling what looked like a Yale key out of his pocket as he approached the police box, “Here we are.” He slid the key into the lock then pushed the door open dramatically before motioning for Iona to precede him.

She walked forwards, heart hammering in her chest, circling the police box warily before moving towards the open door, hesitating in front of The Doctor for a long moment before stepping over the threshold.

“Oh.” Iona stopped a few steps in, giving herself a moment to take in just what she was seeing. The inside of the police box was immense in comparison to the outside and that was just the room she was standing in. A door on the far side, which lacked a partner on the outside of the box, suggested that there was even more to the interior than what she could see.

Iona edged a little further up the entrance ramp, turning to look back at the door and the rather smug Doctor before moving towards the console that took up the whole of the centre of the room, it’s central section reaching up to the roof and down through the floor. Various dials and mechanisms littered the top of the console, along with a selection of screens and a few tools that looked no different than the ones she herself owned.

“So?” The Doctor finally followed her in, letting the door swing shut behind him as he pocketed the key, his grin wide and expectant.

“So, what?” Iona said, quirking an eyebrow, refusing to give him what he wanted.

The Doctor motioned at the room with his hands, raising his eyebrows, “What do you think?”

Iona chewed on her bottom lip for a moment before shrugging, “It’s definitely alien.”

“And?” The Doctor prompted, his grin slipping a little.

“And, impressive.” Iona provided, fighting not to laugh as The Doctor visibly deflated, not getting the response he had been expecting. She waited a moment, before giving in, “What were you expecting me to say?”

“It’s bigger on the inside.” The Doctor said, “That’s what they almost always say.”

“They.” Iona repeated, turning serious, remembering how lonely he had seemed when she’s first seen him, “They as in, other people like me?”

The Doctor watched her for a moment before answering, “Yeah, why did you think you were the first?”

Iona laughed shaking her head, “No, it's just that you seem like someone who’s been alone for a while.”

The Doctor looked away, shrugging as he toyed with one of the switches, “I’ve had a lot of companions over the years, most of them human, some aliens and some others too, just decided I wanted to travel alone for a while, that’s all.”

Iona nodded her understanding, resisting the urge to ask why, suddenly all too aware of the air of loss that seemed to gather around him. He’d tell her if he wanted; she wouldn’t push. She chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, toying with a few possible comments before settling on one, “It is bigger on the inside, seen as you mentioned it, which is a bit unusual, unless you’re Mary Poppins.”

The Doctor looked up at her sharply, “It’s called a TARDIS, Time And Relative Dimensions In Space and she’s nothing to do with Mary Poppins.”

“Only point of reference I could think of, off the top of my head, sorry, I promise never to mention that name ever again.” Iona said, nervous again, cursing herself for not thinking before speaking.

“Good.” The Doctor straightened, his full attention back on Iona, “So, Iona, like the island, where do you want to go?”

“Where do I want to go?” Iona echoed, glancing back towards the door, surprised to be asked; though why she was surprised she couldn’t even begin to explain.

“We can go anywhere. Anywhere in all of space and time." He stopped, considering for a moment before he spoke again, "Almost anywhere, but you wouldn’t want to go to any of those places anyway. So, where do you want to go?”

Iona stared at him blankly for a moment, trying to think of a way to explain that she had no idea where she wanted to go, just some where else. “Surprise me.”

“Right then.” The Doctor grinned, clapping his hands together before spinning around, hands moving across the console in front of him, twisting some switches and flicking others, “I know just the place.”

Iona swayed, grabbing the console to stay upright as the TARDIS shuddered, the mechanisms within the central pillar moving up and down in time with a strange whirring noise. She was unsurprised to see that The Doctor had no such issues, moving easily around the console as he directed the TARDIS to take them wherever it was that they were headed. The whole trip only took a few minutes, though standing in the TARDIS Iona wasn’t absolutely certain that they had actually gone anywhere. A window, she decided, would be a nice addition.

As the motion of the TARDIS stopped, The Doctor rounded the console to peer into the screen, flicking a few switches before he seemed to be content with what he could see.

“Here we are.” The Doctor grinned, motioning towards the door, “Would you care to take a look?”

Iona hesitated, glancing between The Doctor and the door before she moved, slowly making her way towards the door. She stopped in front of it, pressing her hand against the wood; or whatever it actually was; taking a deep breath, bracing herself for whatever was to come, before pulling the door open and stepping out, onto the roof of a building. The very edge of the roof of a building.

Iona froze, squeezing her eyes shut; mentally counting to ten before opening them again, she was still standing right on the edge of a roof. She swallowed hard before taking a step back and around the TARDIS, not stopping until she reached the middle of the roof, a safe distance from the drop.

“Whoa.” The Doctor’s voice drifted to her from beyond the bulk of the TARDIS and she started laughing. Here she was, trusting this man, this alien, that she had known for all of twelve hours and he’d parked them on the edge of a roof without even knowing. Another metre to the left and she would have stepped out into open air, though, she supposed, it would have been as much her own fault for not looking before she stepped out of the door.

“What’s so funny?”

Iona shook her head, waving a hand, struggling to get herself under control, “You parked us on the edge of a roof and you didn’t even realise.”

“And that’s funny is it?” The Doctor questioned, sounding doubtful.

“No,” Iona said, shaking her head, finally managing to stop laughing, wiping at the tears running down her cheeks,“It really isn’t.”

“Ah,” The Doctor nodded, “I see.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, throwing him an exasperated look, “No, you don’t.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes, “Yes, I do. You just met me and you barely know me, but you trusted me anyway and I almost got you killed. Now you’re having a slightly hysterical moment and are begining to seriously question your own sanity. Do you want me to take you home?”

Iona blinked, lowering her hand, shaking her head and swallowing hard against the pain that that word still brought. “No.”

The Doctor watched her for a moment before he nodded, though his expression made it clear that he was going to remember that particular reaction for a later time, “Ok then.” He grinned then, crossing his arms over his stomach and nodding towards the skyline, “What do you think?”

Iona followed his gaze, unconsciously taking a step forward as she finally took in the details of her surroundings. They were on the roof of a fairly low building, with carbon copies ranging around it before, on the horizon, skyscrapers started to reach into the clouds. Small ships flew around, lanes seeming to exist without any visible sign of demarcation and the familiar sounds of a busy city drifted up to them from the streets below. Or at least she guessed that there would be streets below them, she didn’t want to look to check; it was a long way down.

The Doctor’s grin widened impossibly as he moved to stand at her side, “Brilliant isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Iona said, “My first alien planet and you bring me somewhere that, minus the floating cars, could be London,” she stopped, frowning for a moment, before turning slightly, suddenly suspicious, “unless of course, this is London, just in the future.”

“You really think I’d do that?” The Doctor challenged, clearly affronted by the very idea of it.

“Yes.” Iona returned, standing her ground, he had after all, made a number of comments about her being a stupid backward ape during their initial meeting. It was possible that he would attempt to palm off future London as an alien planet, though she hoped he wasn’t.

The Doctor muttered something under his breath, pouting, “We’re on another planet, far in the future, the Earth’s long dead, this isn’t London. Nor is it Ipswich.”

Iona snorted, “Ipswich?”

The Doctor sniffed, shifting his weight, “There’s a New Ipswich on New Earth.”

Iona’s eyebrows shot up, but she didn’t comment, she’d probably insulted his honour enough for today, “So where are we then, exactly?”

“We are on the planet Thrope, the year is 5,002,300,62 and this is the city of Lenand.” The Doctor provided, if somewhat grudgingly.

Iona blinked, brain trying to calculate just how far in the future that was while at the same time trying to calculate the likelihood of skyscrapers still existing so far in the future. She gave up in the end, closing her mouth and offering her companion an apologetic smile, “That, is amazing.”

The Doctor grinned, nodding, “Isn’t it just? The human race, still going, even after all this time.”

“Still building skyscrapers,” Iona said, nodding towards the ones on the horizon, “out of too much glass.”

“Nothing wrong with that.”

“No, I suppose not.” Iona allowed, noticing that these particular glass towers lacked the level of glare that many of those in her own time seemed to generate. She stood silently contemplating their surroundings for a long moment before turning, hunting the roof for any sign of a way down. This wasn’t something that she could fully appreciate from so far away.

Spotting a doorway, Iona hesitated, glancing at The Doctor, “Is it alright to go down?”

The Doctor nodded, “Oh yes, no point bringing you here if we don’t mix with the locals a bit, wander, get a real feel for the place. That’s the real fun of it all.”

Iona raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. It seemed to her, from what she knew of him so far, that for him it was all about the excitement, the adrenalin rush, or whatever his kind had that was the same. He was in it for the danger, maybe he hadn’t always been, but right now, at this time, that was what he wanted. To feel alive.

 

Iona started feeling a little edgy about five minutes into their wanderings.

At first, they had just seemed to blend in with the crowd, neither of them wearing anything too different from what the locals were, the current fashion seeming to be such a mishmash of stuff that Iona’s smart skirt, practical flats and top didn’t stand out anymore than The Doctor’s casual look.

Now though, she was starting to feel the weight of some people’s gazes, noticing more often when someone would slow as they past, or double take. Something was making people notice them and not in a good way.

“Doctor.” Iona reached out, tugging on his sleeve, not wanting to draw anymore attention to them, but not wanting to walk into something either. This was all still so new to her and she wasn’t sure how she’d cope if her first alien planet turned out to be her last, though she supposed she wouldn’t really have to worry about coping with anything if that were the case.

The Doctor was frowning, but he didn’t slow in his stride, even as he reached out and took Iona’s hand in his, “I think I might have miscalculated a little.”

Iona stumbled slightly, dread building in the pit of her stomach, “Meaning?”

“We might be in trouble,” The Doctor said, before grinning, “but don’t you worry Iona Jones, there’s not much that can stop me and as long as you stay with me, I’ll keep you safe.”

Iona swallowed, fighting the urge to tell him that that wasn’t exactly reassuring. Especially not when he hadn’t even explained why exactly they might be in trouble. Or even what kind of trouble.

The Doctor led her on, down the street and around the corner, doubling back, heading for the safety of the TARDIS and she's almost relieved, only there’s a group of people in front of them, blocking the way, dressed in what Iona has a very bad feeling might be a uniform. All of them dressed in exactly the same clothes, practical, plain clothes, with holsters on their hips.

Iona grimaced. She could recognise police just about anywhere.

 

The police manhandled them down a side street and into what looked to Iona to be the back door of one of the tower blocks, all the while ignoring The Doctor’s ongoing rant. She’s not all that surprised though, they’re all doing everything they can to avoid touching either of them, resorting to prodding them with the ends of their weapons whenever The Doctor stops.

Whatever it was she and The Doctor were being locked up for, she had the feeling it was more to do with who and what they were, than what they’d done. Unless of course these people had a huge issue with people arriving on roofs.

“Look, I’m sure this is all just a huge misunderstanding.” The Doctor said, still trying to blag his way out, “One day we’ll all look back and laugh.”

Iona sighed, taking pity on the poor young woman who had clearly been charged with checking them in and seemed to have a problem with seeing them, without The Doctor talking as well, “Doctor, I don’t think they care.”

“Doesn’t look like it does it?” The Doctor agreed, sounding slightly rueful, “Not exactly the impression I was aiming for, your first trip.”

Iona snorted, “I didn’t realise you were aiming for any particular impression.”

“Well, I wasn’t, not exactly, just a general atmosphere really.”

Iona gave The Doctor a look, thankful when he took the hint and shut up. It made the last few procedures that they were put through prior to being shuffled off into a cell in the basement a bit easier to stand.

Or at least, as bearable as having an alien scanner waved at you and being glared at could be. There was also the bonus that none of these people seemed to think searching them would be a good idea. Probably because that would entail touching them and as both she and The Doctor were apparently ‘unclean’, having to touch them would have been the final straw that broke the camel’s back for these people.

 

Iona slumped down on the bench that ran the length of one side of the cell, mentally cataloguing the similarities between this cell and the one she’d been stuck in after the girl in Top Shop had caught her that time. “My first ever alien planet and they’re xenophobic.”

“Now they are, a hundred years ago they weren’t.” The Doctor said, perching on the edge of the bench as he eyed the cell critically. “A window might have been nice.”

“That doesn’t actually help, you realise that, right?” She ignored the last comment, they were after all, in a basement. A window would have been somewhat out of place.

The Doctor sighed, leaning back against the wall, “Really easy thing to do you know, getting the timing a little bit out.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment. She was a youngest child, she knew a lame excuse when she heard one. She sat considering the wall for a long moment before she spoke again, it didn’t seem worth holding a grudge right now, “How can a race become xenophobic in a hundred years?”

“The same way your lot could go from having huge hulking computers that took up whole warehouses to tiny laptops that’ll fit in the palm of your hand in fifty. Progress.”

“Progress?” Iona echoed.

“Progress.” The Doctor said, waiting a beat before giving in and answering Iona’s real question, “They had some issues a while back, with breeding. All that variety out there, all of it readily accessible to the youth of today, they didn’t see the point in keeping to their own kind, thought it was a waste. Only problem was, not all species are compatible and even if they are, the resulting bundle of joy doesn’t always look all that human.”

“Oh.” Iona said, frowning at the wall, “So, basically, what you’re saying is that you brought me to the human supremacist planet?”

The Doctor scowled, looking for a moment like he was going to point out all of the issues with that statement, before he gave in, nodding, her interpretation was close enough apparently, “Yeah.”

Iona considered that for a moment, “Well, it’s nice to know that even on a human supremacist planet I’m considered alien, it explains the majority of my adolescence.”

The Doctor laughed, “You should be worshipped here, you’re the only real human here. The most human of them on this planet still have about ten percent alien DNA.”

Iona snorted, “Maybe you should tell them that, I can’t see they’ll listen though.”

“Nope, can’t see they will.” The Doctor agreed, pulling his sonic screwdriver out of one of his pockets, “So what do you think Miss Jones, you want to blow this joint?”

“People really need to read the evil overlord list.” Iona commented, unable to keep herself from returning his grin. The man was incorrigible. “Yes, please do break us out of this prison cell.”

 

Once The Doctor had persuaded the lock to open for them it had taken them a little over an hour to get back to the TARDIS, narrowly managing to avoid being recaptured, mainly by making the people chase them face the prospect of actually having to touch them. It was one of the rare instances in Iona’s life when she’d had a man disgusted by her very presence rather than jumping at the prospect of a quick grope.

They tumbled back into the TARDIS, The Doctor still mid lecture, describing one or another of his past adventures that this reminded him of. Which wasn’t exactly a good omen for things to come, even as he insisted that he wasn’t always being chased off planets.

“Right then, time to move on I think.” The Doctor moved to the console, repeating his previous actions, only turning one of the knobs a little more this time. Iona had no idea what that would mean in the grand scheme of things and was a bit scared to ask. As much as she would like to know what those knobs and dials meant, to the point that ordinarily she would have already demanded to know, it was a bit too likely that she would regret asking in this case.

Instead she just clung onto one of the supports, managing to stay more or less upright throughout the trip.

The Doctor stepped away from the console, turning to face Iona, smiling cheerfully. “Right, so, where to now?”

“Where are we now?” Iona questioned, she’d thought he’d already decided on a destination, what with them having already moved and all.

“Oh, we’re in the Time Vortex, which is as close to a specific location as I can give you I’m afraid.” The Doctor answered, all too casually.

“The Time Vortex?”

The Doctor nodded, “Yup, it’s the thing the TARDIS moves through to get to most places. Don’t get me wrong, she can move though normal space too, it just takes a bit more power that’s all.” He stopped, eyes narrowing for a moment, “And it tends to give her a spot of indigestion.”

Iona’s eyebrows rose, but she decided not to comment. The TARDIS was alive, she couldn’t argue with that, though she still couldn’t quite get her head around it, so maybe the ship did get indigestion from travelling in normal space. God, even her thoughts were starting to get a little confusing.

“So, we’re just floating, in the time vortex?” Wherever that was.

“Yup.” The Doctor nodded, crossing his arms over his stomach and leaning back against the console.

Iona hesitated, considering that for a moment, “So, could we just, stay here, in the time vortex I mean, for a bit?”

The Doctor looked surprised, “We could yeah, but why would we want to?”

Iona shrugged, motioning at the console room around them, “I haven’t even explored in here yet, seems like there’s a bit to explore.”

The Doctor looked amused, “You want to explore the TARDIS?”

“Yes.”

“You want to explore the TARDIS because you think that’s a safe option.”

“No,” Iona stopped, “well, maybe, a bit. But I’ve never been in an alien ship before, seems like a shame not to explore her.”

The Doctor laughed, “Right then off you go and while you’re at it, have a good think about where you want to go next.”

 

It would take days to fully explore the TARDIS Iona decided, after spending two hours trying to re-find the kitchen, which she was sure wasn’t in the same place as it had been, but the TARDIS was so much of a maze she couldn’t be certain.

She’d found the wardrobe, happily spending a good hour in it exploring the selections of clothes before gathering up her selection and heading back to the empty bedroom she’d found before. It had then been a matter of finding a bathroom, with a shower and a lock on the door; though in the end a lock on the door had wound up being an agreement with the TARDIS that she would make sure The Doctor didn’t walk in on her.

Once she’d been clean and in fresh clothes she’d decided to go back to the kitchen, where she’d left The Doctor when she’d started her wanderings, which she’d now finally managed to find.

“I take it back.” Iona said as she dropped into one of the chairs at the table, “It’s immense on the inside.”

The Doctor looked up from his book, which looked disturbingly like a Harry Potter book, only she was fairly certain that the seventh hadn’t been published yet, not that it really effected him though, travelling in time as he did, “Fantastic isn’t she?”

Iona nodded, hesitating for a moment before asking the question that had been drifting to the forefront of her mind since she’d failed to find the kitchen around the fourth corner, “Do the rooms move?”

The Doctor’s grin widened, “She's been playing with you then?”

Iona sighed, “Apparently.”

The Doctor laughed, “Don’t worry, it means she likes you. Otherwise she could have just left you wandering lost for the rest of your life.”

Iona blinked, “Oh.”

The Doctor nodded solemnly, before grinning again, almost bouncing in his seat, “So, have you decided where you want to go?”

Iona shook her head, “I’m afraid I don’t know of all that many alien planets.” She paused, looking down at her hands for a moment, “Where have you been? I mean, recently, not, don’t name everywhere you’ve ever been.”

It was The Doctor's turn to look away at that, examining his tea cup, “No where hugely exciting, the Titanic, the eruption of Krakatoa, last days of the Huluian republic, start of the Indoit rebellion. That kind of thing.”

Iona’s eyebrows shot up, “They all sound like disasters.”

“Turning points, events that will be remembered for years to come.” The Doctor corrected, “Haven’t you ever heard someone say that they wish they could have been to Woodstock, or seen Queen’s last concert before Freddie died or anything like that?”

Iona shrugged, “I had a friend who always regretted never having seen Kurt Coban perform.”

“There you go, see, I can do all of that. Name a historic event, something you learned about at school, something that you were always interested in and I’ll take you there, you can see it for real, not just read about it in some musty old textbook.”

Iona shook her head, “I’d rather go somewhere else, see something really alien, or something that hasn’t happened yet.”

“Why? What’s wrong with the past?”

Iona shrugged, “You can’t change it, it’d be depressing. I mean, I always thought Pompeii was interesting, but if you took me there I’d know. I’d spend the whole time thinking ‘all these people are going to die and there’s nothing I can do’.” She stopped, considering, “We couldn’t could we? I mean, our being somewhere in the past, it wouldn’t effect the future?”

“That’s a bit of a complicated question.” The Doctor said, “If we went somewhere, say Pompeii like you just said, so long as we didn’t try to change the future we wouldn’t effect it and it wouldn’t effect us. You could say that we’d already be a part of it. So the answer to your question is yes and no.”

Iona rolled her eyes, “That’s about as clear as mud. But I think I get what you mean, it’s like circular logic. We were already there, so it already happened.”

The Doctor pulled a face, “Close enough I suppose.”

Iona sighed, poking him in the leg with a foot, “Okay then, take me to see something really alien, just make sure they aren’t going to burn us at the stake or anything this time.”

The Doctor grinned. “I know just the place.”

 

Iona stood on the cliff top, eying the sea, shivering in her hugely inadequate outfit of choice. She really needed to stop taking The Doctor’s word as gospel, he was wrong far too often and she kept getting caught unprepared. This was their fifth trip since the now infamous encounter on the xenophobic planet.

“When exactly are we?” Iona yelled, struggling to be heard over the wind, faintly amused by the fact that even he was struggling to stay upright.

“1878.”

Iona waited a beat, hoping that he would expand upon that particular statement, before giving up, The Doctor was in love with vague and mysterious statements, just as much as he was in love with his own superiority at times. “Where are we?”

The Doctor grinned, motioning at their surroundings, “The Isle of Arran, Scotland.”

Iona blinked, taking a moment to be thankful that they hadn’t ended up on Iona, he would have spent far too much of the time commenting on it if they had and too little being concerned by whatever near disaster they had walked into the middle of. Still, a Scottish island over a hundred years before she was born wasn’t terrible; she’d never even been to Scotland in her own time anyway.

“Tell me, Miss Jones, what do you know about the Isle of Arran?” The Doctor questioned, still grinning.

“It has the only nineteen hole golf course in the world?” Iona said, vaguely remembering having read that somewhere.

The Doctor’s grin slipped, just a little, with that statement, which she decided, counted as a win. He really shouldn’t ask her stupid questions expecting a decent, meaningful answer. Especially not when he knew full well that she’d only left Cardiff twelve times in her whole life prior meeting him and ten of those times she hadn’t even made it out of Wales.

“Stone circles.” The Doctor said after a moment, nodding in land, “Whole lot of them.”

“Made by aliens?”

The Doctor rolled his eyes, “No, humans, very bright, very ingenious for their time, humans. Though some of the ones elsewhere were made by aliens.”

“Right.” Iona nodded, putting that statement down as yet another leading comment that she would never completely understand. She looked down at her clothes, worn jeans and a purple vest top over a brown shirt, wincing. Somehow she doubted the locals would be all that impressed with her if she started wandering around dressed as she was.

“I think maybe I should get changed.”

The Doctor eyed her outfit, “Might be an idea yeah.”

Iona rolled her eyes and muttered a few choice remakes about his ancestry under her breath as she jogged back over to the TARDIS, hoping that the wardrobe room would have something that she could wear to suit the situation, not that it ever didn’t, she just wondered sometimes if there was a limit to its magical abilities. That or maybe The Doctor was always picking up girls of about the same size. But she wasn’t going to touch that thought.

 

Twenty minutes later Iona ambled back out of the TARDIS, dressed more appropriately in a long dress and working boots, her hair tucked up in a bun and a shawl drawn around her shoulders to keep in the warmth.

“Took you long enough.” The Doctor commented, standing up from his perch on the edge of the cliff and brushing himself down idly.

“Well at least I’m not going to get us shot or anything now.” Iona threw back, eyeing The Doctor’s own, unchanged attire, “Though you’re still going to draw a few looks.”

“No, they’ll just hear my accent and decide it must be an English thing.” The Doctor grinned triumphantly, clearly proud of the fact that no matter where they went, he had an answer for everything.

“Right.” It wasn’t worth pointing out that it was more likely that they’d just decide he was a bit wrong in the head and not worth the effort of a correction. It pretty much meant the same thing anyway.

The Doctor kept grinning, offering Iona his arm, “Come on, it’s a little bit of a walk, but it'll be worth it, promise.”

Iona snorted, shaking her head, but taking his arm anyway. She was getting used to his oddities.

 

A bit of a walk turned out to be a few miles, over rather variable terrain. Thankfully though, it remained dry at least, something that Iona knew was fortunate. Rain was one of those things that was common place wherever you went in the British Isles, or so the tales went.

The view though, more than made up for the walk, just as The Doctor had promised, though if she hadn’t been as big a fan of scenery as she was he’d probably have been facing a rebellion. Iona stood on the rise overlooking the moor land and its collection of stone circles, watching The Doctor as he explored, his grin impossibly wide.

He was an alien, who could travel through space and time. He could go back in time to when these circles were being built, talk to the people who built them, maybe even help them build them, yet he seemed to love just being here, seeing the stones as they were now. Just like any tourist from her time.

Iona smiled, shaking her head. She could imagine what people would say if they knew that she’d up and left with a strange alien man who quite literally never stayed in one place; that and a thing for danger.

“Iona, I’m just off over there, don’t you go wandering off.” The Doctor motioned towards a stand of trees to the east, where, if his interest was anything to go by, there was probably something even more fascinating hidden and Iona signalled her understadning before she moved down the rise towards the circles.

She sat down on one side of one of the larger stones, where it was sheltered from the wind and a bit warmer for it. She was happy to leave the energetic exploring bit to him; he seemed to like it better that way sometimes anyway.

 

“There, you see, perfectly capable of spending more than an hour somewhere without doom ensuing.” The Doctor said, a little over an hour later, as he lent against Iona’s chosen stone, his shoes mud laden from his little wander.

Iona groaned, “You couldn’t have waited until we were back at the TARDIS before saying that?”

The Doctor rolled his eyes, “So pessimistic you.”

“With good reason.” Iona said as she stood, taking a moment to brush herself down before she moved around the stone towards the path that they’d used earlier.

“We could go find that golf course.” The Doctor said, patting the stone fondly as he moved to catch up with Iona.

“Does it even exist yet?” Iona questioned, not sure of the answer herself. She’d never really understood the attraction of golf.

The Doctor shrugged, “Dunno, we could still check though, discover the answer.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, “Because knowing whether a golf course existed yet would be such an interesting piece of information.”

“Oh yeah, one day in the future, you’ll be sat in a pub somewhere, doing one of those quizzes with your mates and the winning question will be ‘when was the nineteen hole golf course on Arran built’.” The Doctor stopped frowning, seriously considering his own question for a moment before he shook his head, “Anyway, that question will come up and, if it does, you’ll regret not finding out for yourself.”

“Or, I could look it up on the internet when I next have access to it.”

“Absolutely no sense of history you.”

Iona rolled her eyes, “Perfect sense of history, just no interest on the existence or non-existence of golf courses in particular eras. And, it’s getting dark.”

“So it is.” The Doctor stilled once more, craning his head back to look up at the sky. “Give it an hour or so and you’ll see more stars in the sky than you ever have before, on Earth that is.”

Iona snorted, “I come from Wales Doctor, I’ve been to places just as remote as this on holiday, seen all those stars clearer than you ever can in Cardiff or Newport.”

“Oh, but there’s a whole century of industrial pollution between then and now, makes all the difference, you'll see.”

“Won’t the view be even better back at the TARDIS?” Iona pressed, starting to shiver as the day grew cooler, the breeze that bit more chilly.

The Doctor smiled, all too aware of Iona’s ulterior motives, “Come on then.”

He started off again, at a quicker pace, making it as far as the top of the rise before he stopped; turning back towards the circles. Men’s voices drifted to them on the breeze, coming from the direction of The Doctor’s hidden circle, along with the desperate sounding bleating of a sheep.

“Doctor.” Iona questioned, keeping her voice low, a sense of dread building in her stomach. She’d known something would happen to ruin the peace, it almost always did with The Doctor, it was one of the reasons that she’d taken to only wearing practical shoes, no matter where they were.

“Strange.” The Doctor said, crouching down just on the other side of the rise, just out of sight of the approaching men. Iona hesitated for a moment before following suit, inwardly cursing him as she did so.

“This isn’t going to end well is it?”

The Doctor grinned, “Nope.”

Iona sighed, closing her eyes and burying her face in the grass.

 

Iona squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself not to throw up, wincing as the men in the centre of the circle of stones and blazing torches cheered; the sheep’s cries of terror ending just as abruptly as its companion’s had.

“Very strange.” The Doctor muttered from beside her, gaze fixed on the now dancing men.

“I realize there are plenty of people, even in my time, who believe that the Scottish, Welsh and Irish are still into animal sacrifice, but I didn’t think anyone actually was.” Iona said, voice low, watching the men with more than a little wariness. It wasn’t all that long ago that she’d been a sacrifice herself, an experience she hoped to never repeat, and if anything she felt more affinity with the sheep than the men.

“You’re right, they’re not, well besides a few odd people here and there, they’re not.” The Doctor agreed, frowning at the continuing festivities.

“Great.” Iona muttered, silently wondering if it was too late to just get up and leg it back to the TARDIS. But then, she didn’t have a key, so she’d just be stuck waiting for The Doctor. Better to stay with him, even if that did mean possible bodily harm and the threat of mortal peril.

The Doctor was grinning again, eyes glittering with excitement and suddenly Iona wasn’t so sure that this would end well for the men in the circle, or whatever they were, either. “They’re making sacrifices to an ancient God, only it’s not one that anyone on Earth ever worshipped, which means, whoever these people are, they don’t belong here.”

“So, what, we talk to them, find out where they’re from and take them home?”

The Doctor seemed to hesitate for a moment before he nodded, “Something like that, yeah, so long as they stick to just sheep.”

Iona shuddered, not liking the under current to his voice, he knew something that she didn’t. Something that he wouldn’t tell her, even if she pressed him. Not that she was sure that she really wanted to know whatever it was, especially as she had no doubt that whatever it was, it was unpleasant.

 

Iona’s eyes widened, her scream muffled by the hand over her mouth. Damnit, she’d been so close to getting away, how hadn’t she seen him hiding in the brush? So much for getting help to rescue The Doctor, though on an island like this, she probably would have been hard put to find someone who wasn’t involved in this whole mess.

“Hush lass, I’m not going to hurt you.” The man whispered, pulling her back into the brush, out of sight of the group of men who’d been chasing her. “I’m going to let you go, but don’t scream now, or they’ll find the pair of us, you understand?”

Iona swallowed, giving him an exaggerated head nod of understanding, hoping that he was telling the truth, not just lying to get her to go along a little easier. Not that she was much of a burden to a man of his size.

“There now.” The man offered her a reassuring smile, all crooked yellow teeth, his eyes crinkling a little at the corners. He looked every bit the weathered young farmer.

“If you don’t mind me asking, who are you?”

The man raised an eyebrow, eying her, making it clear that he was wondering exactly the same thing, “My name’s Lachlan McDonald, if I may have yours miss?”

“Iona Jones, it’s a pleasure to meet you Mr McDonald.” Iona answered automatically, even as she mocked herself. Polite even in the face of danger, her father would be proud.

He chuckled, shaking his head, “Call me Lachlan, my da’s Mr McDonald. Besides, under the circumstances, seems we may as well be working off first names.”

Iona smiled, offering the expected formal confirmation, “Best you call me Iona then.”

He nodded, turning solemn as he glanced back in the direction of the circles, to where The Doctor was probably even now being tied up by the men who’d caught him. “Strange things been happening of late on the island, been a worry to us all.” He said, obviously testing the waters; seeing how much Iona knew.

“Strange things?

“Aye, sheep going missing, not that there’s many of them as it is, not all that much sheep grazing around, plus a few of the villagers have been acting strangely. Most of us just thought it was people getting uppity though, times are changing and all.”

Iona nodded, vaguely understanding what he meant. It was one thing reading about things in history books; it was a whole other matter actually seeing them happen. “You think it’s something more sinister though?”

He nodded again grimly, “Been a few people gone missing now, none of ‘em fishermen or likely to have gone on the ferry, one of my neighbours found a, body, yesterday as well. Not many people die of anything but natural causes on the island.”

Iona winced, she got the impression that it hadn’t been a whole body that’d been found, but Lachlan was being sensitive to her feminine qualities; which was something that was very likely to start annoying the hell out of her very soon.

He seemed to hesitate for a moment, taking in her appearance, before he spoke again, still keeping his voice low, even now that the men had moved on, “Look, lass, this isn’t the place for you.”

Iona gritted her teeth, silently cursing that fact that she was in the nineteenth century and a girl. The Doctor needed her help and she intended to give him it, only now she was going to have to do so while trying to convince a nineteenth century man that she could handle herself perfectly well, thank you very much.

“They’ve got my," she hesitated, seartching for a way to describe her relationship with The Doctor, one that wouldn't give Lachlan the wrong impression, "travelling companion Mr McDonald and I have every intention of helping him get free of them.” She gave him a look daring him to question her, hoping that she was coming across as haughty enough that he’d decide it wasn’t worth the effort to correct her, or better yet, that he’d decide that she could handle herself.

He sighed, looking put upon in a way that suggested that she’d just done something that reminded him of his mother; never a good thing in her experience. “It’s dangerous Miss Jones, those men are cold hearted murderers. You’d be better leaving it to me and mine.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, “No offence, Mr McDonald, but it looks to me like you’re acting alone. Surely you would appreciate an extra pair of eyes, even if they do happen to belong to a woman?”

He hesitated for a long moment, seemingly gauging her intention before he sagged a little, “Very well then, if you’ll not be convinced otherwise. Just be sure to remember the danger.”

Iona nodded, biting her lip to keep from making a sarcastic remark. She’d already been more than a little forward.

He motioned for her to follow him, “Your companion should be safe for now. They seem to like it to be dark when they conduct their business. My farm’s not far from here, best we head there and have a plan prepared for dusk.”

 

The McDonald’s land, it turned out, bordered the land the circles were on, stretching to the coast and a few miles north of where Iona had run into Lachlan. The farmhouse its self sat on top of a small hill, overlooking the sea, perched just above another stone circle, which sat on a small plateau part way up the hillside. Lachlan’s father, Robert; though he insisted on Bobby; had been the one to send Lachlan to investigate the goings on at the circles.

“Time was,” Bobby said, “worst that happened on the island was a lad getting cursed for moving one of them stones.”

The more Iona listened to the two men talk, the more she started to suspect that they were speaking something other than English, probably some form of Gaelic, but she couldn’t be certain. She couldn’t ask them, not when she was clearly speaking to them in the same language, nor could she ask The Doctor, as he was presently otherwise occupied. She’d just have a deal with it, along with everything else.

“Cursed?”

Bobby nodded solemnly, “There used to be another circle, to the north of us, big stones like them on the moor, just the two stones of it left now though. Some poor fellow’s wife decided it was a good lot of stone and bid him use it in building their new house. He managed it too, hauled down five of the stones and got ‘em up the hill, knocked ‘em to pieces and used them as part of the house facing.

The cost weren’t worth it though, no matter how pretty it looked. Cost them both of their sons and himself his life, so it did. Cliff collapsed on one of the boys, the other drowned out on the waters on a clear day with his da. Left the wife no one but herself.” He shook his head sadly.

Iona winced, she wasn’t hugely superstitious herself, but she could understand why something like that might drive a person to be.

“Here you go love.” Lachlan’s mother Mary, a homely old soul who clearly ran the household, trundled back into the room, pushing a tea trolley, handing Iona a cup and saucer before taking her own and leaving the boys to help themselves. “Don’t believe everything he tells you, I’ve heard near twelve versions of that tale.”

“Thank you for the tea Mrs McDonald.” Iona smiled, hiding it politely behind her cup as she took a sip of tea. Mary McDonald went a long way to explaining why Lachlan had taken her own behaviour in his stride as well as he had.

“Be that as it may, no good ever comes of messing with those stones.” Bobby continued, undeterred by his wife.

“It is a terrible thing, all these people vanishing like they are.” Mary allowed, throwing her son a concerned glance. “Doesn’t make any sense neither, time was, David Duffy wouldn’t hurt a fly, now here you are, saying he’s one of them taking off with people and murdering them for no good reason.”

“Hmmmm.” Bobby hummed his agreement, taking a slurp of his highly sweetened tea. How exactly he could even taste the tea through the five sugar cubes Iona didn’t know.

“I saw him with my own eyes, plain as day.” Lachlan replied, shaking his head, clearly as disturbed by it as his mother was.

“They took your travelling companion?” Mary turned her attention to her guest, gaze sympathetic.

Iona nodded, taking another sip of tea before she answered, “We were visiting the circles, he’s always been interested in things like that. He wandered off to look at that far circle, the one in that grove of trees? We were just leaving when they jumped him, just like that.

It was dark and I was a few yards ahead of him, so I thought they hadn’t seen me, so I was trying to get away to find help, only they caught sight of me just as I made it to the path.”

Lachlan nodded his agreement, “I caught her running past that clump of trees by the stream, lucky I did as well. They were almost on her.”

“Very fortunate.” Mary agreed solemnly, reaching out to pat Iona on the knee gently, “You poor thing, getting dragged out to this soggy, windy island by that man of yours then getting attacked.”

“I owe your son a debt, ma’am.” Iona managed a weak smile, resisting the urge to correct the woman. She’d just have to let them think whatever they wanted to. Better that than correct them, especially as she had no doubt that at some point there would be a conversation with the ferryman who would inform the nice Mrs McDonald that he’d had no such passengers as the ones she was describing.

“You’ll have to get back there at dusk, if you’re to rescue Miss Jones’ man.” Bobby said, giving his son a pointed look that Iona decided to ignore. She had no one else to turn to, so she’d put up with some meaningful looks between the two men, knowing that their ideas weren’t going to get them anywhere.

Lachlan nodded, “I figure I’ll go in there, yelling up a storm, let Miss Jones, small thing she is, sneak in and cut her man free.”

Iona blinked, startled by how simple his plan was, “That’s it?”

“Simple’s always best lass.” Bobby replied sagely as he poured himself another cup of tea.

“There’s a ruin on the moor, not far from the circles, once you’ve got your man free, it’d be the best place for you to head there. I’ll finish up my part then make my way around to you.” Lachlan concluded, before standing and walking over to the sideboard that took up most of the far wall, retrieving a box of bullets from a draw, “And if all else fails, I’ll have the old gun to scare them off with.”

Iona’s eyes widened, but she didn’t say anything. There wasn’t really anything that she could say to that really. She was just going to have to hope that rescuing The Doctor didn’t get her or Lachlan killed and that once he was rescued, The Doctor would know what to do.

 

Iona winced, sawing at the ropes that were keeping The Doctor pressed against the stone, fighting to stay focused on the task at hand instead of looking up as a man cried out. Lachlan could take care of himself, he’d be fine and he certainly wouldn’t appreciate it if Iona got them caught because she was concerned for him.

The rope was thicker than it had any right to be, though as it seemed to be fisherman’s rope she supposed she shouldn’t be so surprised. She’d been on a ship once, an old galleon that had been visiting the Welsh port where they’d been on holiday. The ropes on it had seemed huge to her younger self, thicker than her arm had been at the time and strong as hell; which while admirable, was just down right inconvenient when you had to cut someone free of it.

The rope finally gave way, dropping to the floor, allowing The Doctor to stand, his attention fixed on the men rather than his companion. As usual, the dangerous thing was always more interesting. Even when said dangerous thing was six men who only ten minutes ago had been uttering promises to chop him into pieces as an offering to the ancient gods.

“Doctor.” Iona hissed, grabbing his arm and pulling, “Now isn’t the time.”

The Doctor scowled, glancing back towards where Lachlan was struggling with the men before he nodded, letting her drag him off towards the shelter that Lachlan had told her about. Hopefully they wouldn’t have to stay there long before the Scot joined them.

The run was hard, the grass long and the ground boggy as they got close to the tumbled down farm buildings, but they made it without being seen, thanks to the darkness and Lachlan’s continued diversion.

The Doctor muttered something about apes running into situations unprepared as he slumped against one of the walls inside the ruin, already reaching into his pocket for his sonic screwdriver, ignoring Iona's indignant snort.

“You got captured by the insane humanoid aliens. I on the other hand made friends with the locals.” Iona said, between breaths as she hunched down further against the wall, wincing as the sound of men's voice drew nearer. In hindsight, running away to the broken down farmhouse was very horror movie cliché and not exactly the best idea, even if it had been the only idea at the time.

“They’re not humanoid aliens, they’re parasites inhabiting humans.” The Doctor said, fiddling with his sonic screwdriver, unaffected by the poor lighting.

“Parasites inhabiting humans, who are preparing to sacrifice a bunch of humans and some sheep to the ancient gods.”

The Doctor stopped his fiddling for a minute to grin at her, “Yup, fantastic isn’t it?”

Iona blinked, frowning at him, “There are times I worry for your sanity.”

The Doctor just kept grinning, pulling something out of one of his pockets and waving the sonic screwdriver over it. “Sanest person you’ll probably ever meet, me.”

Iona snorted, “I really hope not.”

“I’ll have you know, Iona Jones, that I, clever as I am, have a plan.”

“Is it a cunning one?” Iona deadpanned, wondering if it was too late to ask him to take her back to where she’d been when he’d first stumbled into her.

“Oi, none of that you.” The Doctor said, glaring at her for a second before turning back to his project.

It was at exactly that moment that Lachlan stumbled into the ruin; gun in hand, blood running down the side of his face. Iona winced, clenching her hands to stop herself from reaching out to him. She might owe him, but she didn’t owe him enough to give him the wrong idea.

“Lachlan McDonald.” He introduced himself, smiling at The Doctor, not bothering to offer his hand.

“I’m The Doctor, nice to meet you Lachlan McDonald. That was a very nice diversion by the way.” The Doctor said, without once breaking his focus on the tiny box like object in his hand.

“Thank you.” Lachlan replied, more to be polite than because it was needed. It made Iona remember what her grandmother used to say about manners not being what they once were; the old hag had been right about that at least.

“If I might ask sir, what is it you’re doing?” Lachlan questioned, eying The Doctor’s collection warily.

“Saving us all.” The Doctor said, grinning.

Lachlan frowned, glancing at Iona who could only shrug. This was what The Doctor did, she couldn’t explain it, he’d just have to wait and see it for himself.

“There done, now I suggest you both cover your ears.”

Iona automatically did as he said, motioning for Lachlan to do the same when he hesitated, flinching when The Doctor threw the box over the wall, in the direction of the circles. He crouched down next to her, covering his own ears, while still grinning cheerfully.

Barely a minute later a loud squealing noise started, accompanied by a bright light that The Doctor hadn’t thought to warn them about, before it cut off after ten minutes, plunging them into sudden darkness.

The Doctor stood after a moment, wandering casually out of the ruined building and out towards the circles, stopping to pick up the spent box as he did. Iona followed, with Lachlan close behind, wary but trusting that The Doctor knew what he was doing.

In the centre of one of the circles, all six men were sprawled, clearly unconscious, their noses bloody and their mouths hanging open, malformed lumps that looked like giant slugs hanging half out of them, unmoving.

“There you see, I told you, I'm clever me.” The Doctor grinned at Iona, ignoring Lachlan’s blank stare.

Iona sighed, shaking her head. He was quite brilliant, she had to admit, but he was just as insane.

 

The Doctor nodded towards the bag of parasite remains in Lachlan’s hand as they stood on the bluff outside the McDonald’s farm house, the sun just beginning to peak over the horizon. It had been a long night, gathering up the dead parasites in her shawl before making up a story to tell the men who had woken with no memory of what they had been doing for almost two weeks.

Lachlan had helped a bit, though he had clearly disapproved of lying to the men, even if he’d admitted he could see the sense of it. He’d avoided The Doctor like the plague though, clearly disturbed by his general demeanour of cheerfulness.

They’d retreated to the farmhouse after that, accepting their offer of a bed for the night. Now though, they were off, leaving the dead parasites in Lachlan’s capable hands to dispose of as he pleased. He’d made it clear that he wanted rid of them as soon as possible and in a way that ensured they wouldn’t cause trouble in the future.

His idea of how to do so, however, wasn’t exactly what Iona had expected.

Iona stared at him for a moment, “So, you’re going to dig a hole in the centre of the circle, dump the parasites’ bodies in it then fill it up and dump stones on it?” They were standing looking down at the circle of boulders that sat not far from the farmhouse, where Lachlan planned to bury the bodies, content that that way they’d be gone for good.

Lachlan nodded, “Field’s needed clearing for a while.”

Iona blinked, trying to think of a sensible reaction before she gave up, shaking her head, “I so don’t want to know what that’s going to lead to in the future.”

The Doctor grinned, “Absolutely nothing, other than a misidentification by Archaeologists.”

“Well, that’s ok then, isn’t it.” Iona said, making her opinion clear.

Bobby snorted, “That lot never listen to us anyway, it’ll not make a jot of difference to ‘em in the end. They see a thing, define it from what they see and that’s that. They won’t be told either, you tell ‘em ‘that used to be five stones’ and they say ‘no I’m afraid not old chap’.” The old man nodded firmly, “It’ll just be another thing us islanders know that they ignore for their own purposes. No harm’ll be done lass, I promise you.”

Iona smiled at him, reaching out to squeeze his arm, “That’s good to know, thank you sir.”

He chuckled, patting her hand, “No worries, good to see one of you southern lot with manners.”

Iona flushed faintly, ignoring the fond look The Doctor threw in her direction.

“Best we be off then.” The Doctor clapped his hands, grinning, moving to shake hands with both father and son in turn, “It’s been a pleasure.”

Iona let Bobby hug her, dropping a fatherly kiss on her cheek before handing her off to his son who encompassed her in a bear hug, despite her protests. “Been a pleasure Miss Iona.”

Iona smiled weakly up at the large Scot, “Goodbye Lachlan, thank you for everything, and please pass on my thanks to your mother for her hospitality.”

He grinned nodding as he motioned that she should to catch up to The Doctor who was already a good few metres away, “Good luck to you.”

Iona turned back offering him one last smile and a wave, silently thinking that she’d need more than luck to survive travelling with The Doctor. Especially if he kept this up.

 

Iona woke up on a beach, a familiar one, or at least, once upon a time it had been. It wasn’t somewhere she had ever expected to see again.

Last that she remembered, she’d been curled up on her bed in the TARDIS, it had been a month since the encounter on Arran, a month filled with exploring various alien market places and a quick trip to Brighton so that Iona could grab a piece of rock and phone her sister.

The Doctor had collected a variety of parts, claiming that he might need them to fix the TARDIS one day, and tried to win their running bet regarding the quality of non-earth coffee. He had thus far, failed spectacularly, coming close to surrendering in the face of the beverage that the people of the Republic of Kainteel in the year 300,600,4 called coffee.

It had actually, according to The Doctor, tasted like a mix of pig manure, motor oil and sardines.

She had been generally relieved to not have to run away from yet another angry alien or rescue The Doctor from yet another situation his mouth had gotten him into and better yet, she hadn’t been abducted herself in over a month. So she decided to put that particular week down as a win.

Now though, slowly pushing herself upright, Iona couldn’t help but wonder if that had been a mistake. Looking around cautiously, Iona froze as she realised that she wasn’t alone.

Iona stared at the young man for a long moment before she started to giggle hysterically. She had seen a lot of things travelling with The Doctor, but this, this topped them all.

Here she was, stood on a beach that had never in her experience ever been this sunny, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, ten yards from a man who could easily be her own twin brother. Only, she didn’t have any brothers, let alone a twin.

“Hello.” He had waited until she stopped laughing before he had spoken, looking just as surprised as she was, shifting uncomfortably under the glare of the sun.

Iona wiped at her eyes, offering him an apologetic smile, it couldn’t have been nice, being faced with her having a giggling fit on a beach that was familiar as it was alien. Then again, she wasn’t really sure that he was actually there, or if he was actually human, or anything really.

She absolutely no idea what was going on and with no sign of either The Doctor or the TARDIS, it didn’t look like help would be forthcoming either. She just hoped that wherever he was, The Doctor was having a more interesting encounter than she was.

“Hi.” She managed after a long moment, before glancing around searching for somewhere that they could sit. For one thing, it would be comfortable, for another, it gave her something to do to distract herself from the rising panic.

She spotted a bench and motioned silently for him to precede her, thankful that she’d decided against the sandals that morning, she couldn’t abide by the feeling of sand between her toes; or anywhere really.

They both sat; at opposite ends of the bench, sitting in awkward silence for a long moment before he seemed to decide that, as he had spoken first before, he should be the one to open the conversation once more. “My name’s Ianto, Ianto Jones.”

“Short for Ifan?” Iona questioned, smiling when he made a face at the very suggestion.

“No, just Ianto.”

“Iona Jones.” She returned, shrugging when he raised an eyebrow, “I can’t explain that choice, so don’t ask me to.”

He smiled, “You travelling with The Doctor?”

Iona considered that for a moment before shrugging, “If you mean a tall, daft bloke with a fondness for leather jackets and long sleeved t-shirts, with really big ears and a northern accent, then yes, I am.”

“Brought you trouble as well then has he?”

“Oh God yes.” Iona nodded, relieved to suddenly have an outlet to vent to that wasn’t The Doctor himself or the TARDIS, who seemed to just find Iona’s rants amusing, so far as she could tell at least.

Ianto laughed faintly, “It is fun though.”

Iona wrinkled her nose, “Maybe.”

Ianto rolled his eyes, clearly unimpressed, “So, you’re what, an alternate version of me?”

“Or,” Iona threw back, “you are an alternate version of me.”

“Right.” Ianto said, eyebrow raised. “Either way, we’re basically the same person.”

Iona frowned at him, “How do you figure that?”

Ianto sighed, “You have a sister called Rhiannon.”

“Older sister. Married to Johnny.”

“Davies, they have one kid.”

“David and one on the way, if the last conversation I had with her is anything to go by.”

“You called her from Brighton.”

Iona scowled, “Dad died in a road traffic accident.”

“In 2002, yeah.” Ianto filled in, deflating a little, suddenly finding his hands fascinating.

Iona sighed, “Ok so, basically the same person yeah, but not exactly the same person.”

Ianto considered this for a moment before he nodded, giving in to her reasoning, “No, because that would be far too creepy, all things considered.”

Iona gave him a warning look, “Wouldn’t it just.”

Ianto rolled his eyes and Iona had to fight the urge to stick her tongue out at him. Thank God she didn’t actually have a brother, Rhiannon alone was bad enough.

“So…” He said, gaze fixed on a point somewhere out to sea, clearly lost as to what exactly to say.

“When people ask, about growing up, about…dad, what do you say?” Iona blurted, not really thinking beyond the fact that it was just the two of them and who better to ask to judge her actions than herself…or the closest thing to herself she was ever likely to encounter.

Ianto flinched visibly, “Why?”

“Because of that.” Iona replied, knowing that he would get her meaning.

Ianto sighed, shaking his head, “I never say much and people don’t really ask.”

Iona ducked her head, smiling ruefully. It was true, if he was anything like her, she’d found that she was one of those people that never really got noticed. Her coffee might be good, she might always be well presented and be fairly bright, but she’d never been outstanding in anything.

Never been anything memorable.

“I always tell them that dad was a master tailor.” She admitted, Rhiannon’s critical voice echoing in her head even as she said it.

He smiled and it wasn’t a nice smile, there was an edge to it that made her wince, “Me too, not that anyone thinks anything of that. Or if they do it’s rarely good.”

“Rhiannon would say that’s your own fault for lying.” She said, staring at the footprints they’d left in the sand. There’s no breeze either. It’s perfectly still and it’s sunny still, nothing like the real place. It should be windy and cold and horrible, but maybe this place, wherever it is, is trying to tell her something about herself.

She kicked idly at the sand, shrugging unable to meet his gaze and at a loss as to what to say. It was one thing, lying to people she didn’t know, it was a whole other thing lying to herself; even if that self was male and normally resided in another universe, parallel to her own; if he really existed at all.

“It’s not like it’s really a lie.” He’s the one to break the silence and she doesn’t envy him that, “Not really.”

Iona’s nose wrinkled and she shook her head faintly, “Only it is.” She argued, “I mean that was before I, we, were even born. It’s not like I,” She stopped cursing silently before correcting herself, “we, have any actual memories of him working in his shop, or bringing work home, or any of that.” She sighed, rubbing her temple; this whole situation was giving her one hell of a headache.

“He worked at Debenhams, that’s all I ever remember him doing and he always hated it when mum mentioned before.” She added after a moment, when he still hadn’t reacted.

“Because he hated working there, but he kept working there because we needed the money.” Ianto said quietly. “If the shop hadn’t stopped making money, he never would have given it up. If Mum hadn’t gotten pregnant, he wouldn’t have given it up.” It’s a rather brutal comment, but nothing that she didn’t already know. That she hadn’t already considered.

Iona winced, “Maybe that’s why Rhiannon always hates me mentioning it.”

“Yeah.” Ianto nods, “Especially now, with kids of her own and everything.”

“If she knew what I was really doing, now, she’d say I was insane.” Iona commented after a moment, offering him a faint smile, trying to break from the dark turn that their conversation had taken.

Ianto laughed, nodding, “Yup, she would. As it is she’s going to give me a huge lecture when I finally turn up on her doorstep again.” Iona laughed, nodding in agreement before they both fell silent.

They shared a comfortable silence for a while, each lost in their own thoughts, before Iona spoke, finally asking the question that she’d never quite been able to answer herself, honestly.

“Are you ever going to go back?” She asked, the words barely a whisper.

Ianto stiffened for a moment, glancing at her quickly before looking away, “Yeah, I think so.”

Iona smiled faintly, “Me too.” She agreed, relieved by the confirmation of her feelings. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy all of it, travelling with The Doctor, making a difference; it was just that she couldn’t see it as a ‘forever’ thing. She couldn’t see it as all her life would ever be. Plus, she misses Earth too much to keep going too long.

They sat like that, exchanging the odd question or comment for a few hours, until, tired out and hungry, Iona fell asleep.

 

When she woke, she was back on the TARDIS, lying on top of her covers, still fully dressed.

She lay like that for a while, considering what exactly it was that she had experienced, sitting on that beach, before she moving, hauling herself upright and setting off in search of The Doctor. Typically, the kitchen or the console room were the best bets. On this occasion he was in the kitchen.

"There you are. You took your time." The Doctor looked up at her over the top of his book. He was sitting in one of the chairs, his boots on the table, reading a book that Iona didn't recognise.

Iona stared at him suspiciously, crossing her arms over her stomach and leaning against the door frame. "So, what exactly happened then?"

"What exactly happened when?" He asked, making a point of turning a page of his book.

Iona rolled her eyes, "You know what I mean."

He kept reading, not answering for a full five minutes before he finally gave in, throwing the book onto the table and lowering his feet, turning so that he was facing her, clasping his hands together and resting them on his knees. "Yes I do."

"So?"

"We were invited."

"Invited where?"

"Exactly."

Iona sighed, shoulders sagging, "That isn't an answer."

"No, it isn't." He grinned, leaning back and crossing his arms over his stomach, watching her.

"I wish you wouldn't do that."

"Do what?"

Iona glared at him, "You know exactly what I mean."

"You say that a lot."

Iona was starting to wonder if she wouldn't be better off beating her head off a brick wall. "Doctor."

"Alright, fine, we were sent an invitation, don't ask me who by, because I don't know. The TARDIS received it and at that moment, we were there."

Iona frowned, "Where?"

The Doctor shook his head, "It doesn’t have a name, not as you humans think and it’s not any one place. It’s different for everyone. But, when you’re there, you learn stuff, answers to questions you never thought you wanted to ask. Whoever you meet there, they give you the answers, or help you find them yourself.” He stared at her, making her feel as though he could see every part of her, "There's more, but I can't tell you and even if I did, it might not be true. Like I said, it's different for everyone."

Iona watched him, waiting for him to expand on what he'd said, or preferably, make what he'd said make more sense, but he didn't. He just sat there, watching her for a long time before he grinned, standing and pulling her with him as he headed out of the room.

"I think I know exactly the place to take you Iona Jones." He announced, making it clear that the subject of the invitation and just what her excounter had been, was closed. He'd told her all he was going to. Had explained as much as he ever would.

 

“Here we are.” The Doctor grinned at Iona, motioning towards the door, “Step out of that door to find some of the finest markets in this part of the galaxy.”

Iona snorted, “You’re never going to find something that tops coffee you know, no matter where you take me.”

“Ye of little faith. Come on, time’s a wasting.”

Iona rolled her eyes, following The Doctor down the ramp and out into the dusty street. The TARDIS door clicked shut behind her as she stood silently taking in their surroundings, watching the people moving on past them, unconcerned by the blue box that had appeared in their midst.

They didn’t look so different than the humans of her own time with their caramel skin and dark eyes, but they all had six fingers on each hand and their gait as they walked past wasn’t one that Iona herself could imitate.

“Come on.” The Doctor tugged her forwards, leading her down the street and towards the greater mass of people at the end, where it ran into what had to be one of the main thoroughfares.

“Where are we going?”

“Market place, of course.” The Doctor said, grinning.

“Right.” Iona kept hold of his hand as they entered the flow of bodies, not wanting to risk losing him, even if, so far, this seemed to be looking like an uneventful trip.

It didn’t take them long to reach their destination, The Doctor determinedly weaving his way through the crowd to reach one of the stalls, where an old woman was boiling something in a large pot over an open fire, looking like something out of the documentaries on foreign markets that Iona had watched on TV at home. Only, the woman had three eyes, twelve fingers and a tail.

“Doctor?” Iona asked, pressing in closer to him, noting that the smell coming from the pot in no manner resembled coffee.

“Ah, patience.” The Doctor smiled at the old woman, holding up a small pouch, which must have come out of one of his pockets, in offering, “Two mugs of your best.”

The old woman eyed them for a moment before she nodded sharply, taking the pouch before filling two mugs with the concoction from the pot and holding them out in offering.

Iona hesitated, glancing at The Doctor before reluctantly taking one of the mugs, smiling her thanks to the old woman. She sniffed it, fighting the urge to flinch as the smell hit her. It wasn’t a smell she had ever associated with coffee, or at least, not good coffee. Throwing one more glance in The Doctor’s direction Iona took a sip, wincing and fighting not to gag as the liquid made contact with her tongue.

She swallowed hard, forcing a smile for the old woman before glaring at The Doctor, who was happily downing the contents of his own mug. Iona held out her own silently when he finished, ignoring his disapproving look. He could drink whatever he wanted; she, on the other hand, was only going to drink things that she could actually palate.

The Doctor emptied her mug before returning both to the woman, bowing at the waist in what was clearly a display of gratitude, before he turned away, walking Iona further into the marketplace. As usual, The Doctor remained untouched, an island in the middle of the steam of people, while Iona herself was jostled by everyone who passed.

“It’s a fascinating culture,” The Doctor started into one of his lecturers, ignoring the few odd looks thrown their way by traders as they passed, “lots of weird little quirks, like, for instance, the fact that if you’d copied me back there she would have taken it as a grave insult, but from me, it was a mark of sincere gratitude.”

Iona winced, The Doctor would bring her to a planet with a complicated culture and not warn her about it before hand. There were times when she was almost certain that he set up his companions to take a fall, just so he could play the saviour. “Where exactly are we? You never said.”

The Doctor paused frowning before he grinned, turning to look at her, “No I didn’t, did I?”

“You’re not going to either are you?” Iona pressed, flinching as a short red man almost elbowed her in the thigh before she was forced to swerve to avoid a woman and her small gaggle of children, cursing as she had to push her way through the crowd to catch up to The Doctor. “Could you at least tell me what not to do while we’re here? I realise you might feel differently, but I, personally, would prefer not to spend another night in a prison cell if I could help it.”

“They don’t have them.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, “They don’t have prison cells?”

“Nope.” The Doctor confirmed easily navigating the last few metres of the marketplace, “And I wouldn’t worry, they’re used to travellers dropping in, just as long as you don’t make the same mistake more than once you’ll be fine.”

“What if I don’t know I’ve made a mistake?” Iona muttered, dodging around a stall and jogging across a tiny square of open ground, stopping as she reached the little side alley The Doctor had found. The Doctor was still, a rarity, as he looked around, his gaze taking in every detail of his surroundings, his grin slowly being replaced by a frown. “Doctor?”

He shook his head, “Something’s not right.”

Iona looked around, before sighing, it wasn’t like she would be able to spot anything, she didn’t even know where they were, let alone what could be wrong with what she was seeing.

The Doctor started walking again after a moment, further from the marketplace and its bustle, down a series of roads, his frown growing ever deeper as they went.

“Doctor?”

He stopped in the middle of a small plaza, “There’s something wrong, something that shouldn’t be happening, it’s too quiet.”

Iona frowned, taking in their surroundings; the few natives watching them warily or just ignoring them as they continued their daily lives, the dark stone buildings, dusty pavement and slightly off blue sky. Nothing exactly screamed ‘I don’t belong’, other than herself and The Doctor. Or at least, nothing did until one of the natives stumbled and fell to her knees, drawing The Doctor to her side instantly. The woman was clearly unwell, her skin and eyes equally dull and even kneeling, she was swaying, seemingly only half aware of her surroundings.

Iona stepped closer to them, stopping short as The Doctor fussed over the woman, expression grim, “Doctor, is she..?”

The Doctor nodded, not turning his attention away from the woman, “She’s sick, but she shouldn’t be.”

Iona bit her lip, fighting the urge to ask him how he could be so sure. In her experience, people got sick, regardless of timing.

The Doctor hesitated for a moment before he seemed to make a decision, lifting the woman into his arms and standing, “Come on, we need to find a hospital.”

 

Iona thanked the man who given them directions to the only hospital in the city, doing her best to ignore the way he kept looking at the woman in The Doctor’s arms. It was all too clear that the natives were aware of the illness, the man had refused to give directions unless Iona had spoken to him, once he had had it confirmed that Iona hadn’t touched the woman. That wasn’t a reaction that Iona had experienced before, disinterested, yes, she’d seen that, but avoidance at the possible price of a person’s life, no.

Iona watched the man hurry away, before turning and leading The Doctor on, through the maze of buildings until they reached the dead ground that the man had described. The hospital building, in all of its worn glory stood on he far side, set a good distance from any of the surrounding buildings.

They crossed the open ground quickly, Iona passing The Doctor to push open the door for him, squinting in the near darkness of the entry hall.

“Hello? Is there anyone who can help?” The Doctor called, lowering the woman into one of the chairs set against the far wall, while Iona stood eying their surroundings critically.

“I think St Helen’s back at home looks more inviting than this place.” Iona said, venturing towards one of the archways leading away into the bowels of the hospital while The Doctor headed for one of the others, repeating his hail.

“Someone should be here by now.” The Doctor said, peering down another of the hallways, “I mean, this place, at this time, wasn’t cut out for anything beyond coughs and sneezes, but you’d have thought someone would be here at least, manning the doors.”

Iona nodded absently, taking a few steps beyond the archway, straining to hear any signs of life, “This is vaguely disturbing.”

“Apologies.” A young man dressed in clothes that closely resembled the scrubs that Iona had seen doctors at home wearing appeared from one of the other corridors, looking rather harried. “You require assistance?”

“This woman does.” The Doctor confirmed, motioning to the woman he’d carried in even as he eyed the man critically.

The man nodded quickly, crossing the room to examine the woman, never quite making eye contact. It only took a moment for him to step back from the woman, the look on his face enough to confirm Iona’s suspicions about what was wrong with the woman.

“You know what’s wrong with her?”

He hesitated for a moment, his gaze fixed on the floor before he nodded, looking up at her, “Yes, many in the city have become sick.” He turned to The Doctor, “Could you carry her to a room?”

The Doctor nodded, stepping forward, “Of course.”

 

The man led them up a flight of stairs and into a small ward, which smelt exactly like a number of the alleyways in Cardiff close to the nightclubs tended to late on a Friday night. Iona flinched, covering her mouth and nose with one hand, blinking back tears while The Doctor remained unmoved, following the man’s instructions. He laid the woman out on the sole free bed in the room before stepping back and following the man back out of the ward and into a room across the hall, which, if appearances could be believed, was an office, or possibly a consultancy room.

“Please,” The man motioned to the chairs, “seat yourselves.”

Iona hesitated, watching The Doctor for a moment before she sat down in one of the chairs against the wall, sensing that The Doctor was unlikely to sit just yet. There was something else going on here, something that the young man didn’t seem to really want to tell them.

“How many people are sick?” The Doctor asked, just as the man had settled himself into the chair on the other side of the desk.

“Thirty.” The man replied, eyeing The Doctor warily, clearly uncomfortable with the fact that he had remained standing. Maybe it wasn’t her who was going to be making all the cultural blunders this time.

“How bad is it?”

The man frowned, shaking his head, “You are not of this world, why do you wish to know?”

“Because I can help.” The Doctor replied.

“You are a medic?” The man asked.

“I’m better than a medic, I’m The Doctor.”

The man frowned, considering The Doctor’s words for a moment before he nodded, “We know the cause of this illness, but we know nothing of the illness its self. We have not found any known illness that would cause such symptoms as this.”

“You know what caused this?” The Doctor asked, his voice soft.

The young man nodded again, “A man, a stranger, came to the market place and offered a metal canister for trade. The trader accepted, not knowing the danger, four days later, he died of this sickness. He and his family were the first.”

“A stranger?” Iona said sagging back into her chair, watching as The Doctor paced.

“Yes, he was coloured much as you are and wearing,” the man hesitated, searching for the right word, “a period jacket, from ancient times on Sol Three, like I have seen in history books.”

“Coloured like us?” The Doctor pressed stopping so that he could met the man’s nervous gaze.

He nodded, “Yes, pale skin, dark hair, blue eyes, like both of you.” His expression turned wary once more, “You say you can help?”

“Yes, we mean you no harm, I promise you.” The Doctor was quick to reassure the medic, softening his expression, “I’m sorry that your people are suffering because of one man’s mistake.”

The man looked from one of them to the other before he nodded, standing, “I will tell the elders that you wish to help.” He bowed to them before hurrying out of the room, leaving them alone.

The Doctor moved to the window, clearly settling in for a wait and Iona curled up on the chair, taking the chance to get some sleep while she could.

 

Two hours later, according to Iona’s watch, the man reappeared with an old woman, who eyed Iona and The Doctor in turn before nodding stiffly. “You claim to be able to help other worlder?” She addressed The Doctor, seemingly deciding that Iona was of little importance.

“I can help.” The Doctor corrected, meeting the woman’s gaze.

She sniffed, clearly unimpressed by The Doctor’s haughty manner, “We shall see.” She turned to the young man, “See that this one is taken to the wards, tell the other medics of his wish to help.”

Having said her piece the woman ambled back out of the room without another word, the man bowing solemnly and remaining so until she was out of sight. He then turned to The Doctor, “I will take you to the main ward, where the most senior medics are working.” He frowned at Iona, “Your companion...”

“Iona, you should go back to the TARDIS.”

Iona frowned, stepping towards him, “But I could…”

“Please.” The Doctor asked, though there was an edge to his voice that made it clear that it wasn’t so much of a request as an order and Iona’s frown deepened.

“Ok.” She allowed finally, recognising that it wasn’t the time for any arguments, not when lives might be at stake.

“Thank you.” He said, reaching out to squeeze her hand gently before he turned back to his guide, motioning for him to lead on. Iona watched them go, remaining in the office doorway for a long moment before starting to make her way to her own destination.

 

Finding her way back to the TARDIS was easier than she’d expected, all she’d needed to do was follow the general flow of foot traffic to the marketplace and then find the entrance that she and The Doctor had used. She did her best to ignore the weight that she could now sense behind the natives eyes as they followed her progress, her brain replaying what she’d heard.

She wondered how many of them knew what had caused the illness, or rather who and whether as a result they would look on any stranger coming to trade with them who was pale skinned, blue eyed and dark haired as a possible danger. It wouldn’t be fair if they did, but at the same time, she wouldn’t blame them if they did.

She had, after all, spent a good few years hating every wasp she had seen after one had stung her, though that wasn’t really the best comparison. She frowned, slowing her pace as she reached the blue box, reaching out to open the door, only to remember that she couldn’t. The Doctor had locked it, he always did and he was the only one with a key.

Iona groaned, her shoulders slumping, mentally cursing The Doctor. He could order her back to the TARDIS if he wanted, but he should damn well remember that she didn’t have a key. She was sorely tempted, for all of five seconds, to kick the mock wooden door, before she remembered that the TARDIS was alive and was in no way at fault.

Blushing furiously, Iona turned away from the TARDIS, chewing on her bottom lip and considering her options.

She could explore some more, though, with nothing of worth on her person and no real understanding of the culture, she wasn’t too sure how good idea that would be. Her only other real option was to go back to the hospital and The Doctor. Or possibly…

She turned back to the TARDIS stepping closer and placing a hand against the door, “I don’t suppose you could open for me could you? I know I’m not The Doctor and I don’t have a key, but I’ve been travelling in you for a while now and, well, um, he keeps telling me that you like me.” She waited for a moment, “Please?” Still nothing.

Iona sighed, leaning her forehead against the door for a moment before turning and starting to make her way back to the hospital.

The worst he could do was yell at her.

Well, no, the worst he could do was leave her behind when he left, but she didn’t think he’d do that.

 

In the end Iona gave up trying to find The Doctor and instead lent a hand to any of the harried medics who were tending the sick. It reminded her of a few different viruses that she’d heard snippets about, though she couldn’t be certain if she was right.

The medics, while they appreciated the help, would chase her off every few hours, insisting that she rest, even if they would not, not while they still had patients to see.

The hospital was full, it’s supplies stretched to their limits, but nothing seemed to be working. Iona had seen the number of bodies that were being carried away, covered with a blanket to hide their faces and still more were being carried in, showing signs of the illness that had so worried The Doctor.

It was horrifying. She’d seen things she couldn’t have imagined, travelling with The Doctor, the good and the bad, but this was the worst, so far, so much caused by one man’s mistake.

Iona stumbled into one of the few clear corridors and lowered herself into one of the chairs, wiping at her eyes wearily, fighting the urge to cry. She’d spent two hours helping one of the medics tend a group of children, only to have to watch them fade away, their bodies ravaged by the illness. They’d been so young and so trusting. Iona shuddered, closing her eyes and leaning her head back against the cool stone wall behind. She was so tired.

 

“Iona.” She jerked awake at the sound of The Doctor’s voice, frowning up at him groggily, too tired and achy to be relieved that she’d finally found him, or rather, he’d found her.

“Iona, look at me.” The Doctor crouched down in front of her, expression solemn and Iona frowned at him.

“I am.”

“Iona.” The Doctor breathed her name, making her frown deepen.

“Doctor?”

His expression softened as Iona’s brain finally caught up with her surroundings, noting his hand on her arm and the concern in his eyes and she swore, violently, her body trembling.

“Hey, none of that.” The Doctor scolded her, squeezing her arm.

Iona shook her head, meeting his gaze steadily, ignoring the wetness on her cheeks and her body’s many other betrayals, “I’ve been helping them, I’ve seen how quickly this thing kills.”

The Doctor shook his head, his grip on her arm painful, “Iona Jones, you are going to be fine, I swear, I’ll fix all of this, you’ll see.”

Iona swallowed, fighting the urge to laugh hysterically, “Because you’re brilliant?”

The Doctor grinned, relaxing his grip, “Exactly.”

 

Time ceased to have any meaning to Iona as the muscle pains started and a rash appeared on her torso. She was aware of the medics attending her and in her more lucid periods she was all too aware that her condition was just adding to their problems.

Her rash was the same as the one all of the native patients she’d seen, but none of them had shown signs of stomach pains or sore throats, though at first they had been happy to consign that to a side effect of the vomiting.

The Doctor visited rarely, seemingly having decided to spend as much time as he could working to find a way of combating the illness if not finding an actual cure. There was a part of her that knew she should appreciate that, should be glad that he was trying to help her, but she was all too aware of just how ill she was and just how alone.

It had been different, the other dangers she had faced travelling with The Doctor, they’d been either more immediate or less life threatening. Lying in a hospital bed on the planet that she didn’t even know the name of, that she couldn’t even place in time relative to her own, slowly getting sicker and weaker, edging ever closer to the darkness, she was terrified. She could die and no one would know, she’d just wind up another missing person who was never found; who had never made enough of a mark on the world to leave anything worth remembering.

In her fevered dreams, she thinks she’s home again, only it’s not the same as when she left. Things are easier, there’s less pain there and she’s as close to content as she’s ever been in years, for a time, then all of her nightmares play out before her.

She wakes, crying, to find The Doctor holding her hand and muttering nonsense, his expression pained. She lies in the bed, her sweat cooling on her skin even though she felt like she was burning. She was too hot, her muscles ached and she just wished it would all stop. “Why are you still here?”

The Doctor went quiet, searching her face for a moment before he spoke, “You need to rest.”

“This is all your fault.” She said, glaring up at him with what little strength she could muster, frustrated when it failed to earn her the desired reaction, whatever that was.

“You need to rest.” He reiterated, not letting go of her hand, “Keep your strength up.”

Iona shook her head, not caring that none of her thoughts made sense, not caring that under normal circumstances she would never even think of saying anything like that to him. She was scared, sick and in pain and it was his fault. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t think why it was his fault, all that mattered was that she had someone to blame, someone she could take her fear out on.

“You brought me here, this is your fault, all of it.” She frowned, blinking hard as her sight darkened for a moment, dots dancing in her vision, before she fought against her body’s desire to sleep, fighting to keep talking; to keep at least one foot in the land of the living, “You never gave me a key.”

The Doctor stilled at that, his expression becoming pained, “No, you’re right, I’m sorry.”

Iona frowned up at him, thrown, before she shook her head, fighting to grasp what little focus she had, “I’ve seen you kill people and not care, but now you’re sorry for forgetting a key? You don’t make sense, you’re all contradictions,” she struggled over the long word but felt a measure of pride when she managed to say it, though she wasn’t absolutely certain she’d used it in the right way, “you twist and turn and your moods wander and you’re like a child and an old man.”

Iona frowned, falling silent for a moment, gaze wandering up to the ceiling, which was an odd colour, or it looked different, not just grey like stone should be, but she was on an alien planet so maybe stone wouldn’t be grey. Her thoughts wandered progressively further until a slight pressure on her hand reminded her that she was meant to be saying something and her stomach was throbbing. Iona groaned, curling in on herself, fighting the thing that was restraining her hand. “I’m dying and he’ll forget me, forget we ever travelled.”

“Iona.” A man’s voice drifted to her from somewhere close by, but she couldn’t gather the strength to look and see where, or who the voice belonged to. Her stomach itched, but so did her sides and her back and her hips, so many places and so much effort would be required to give in to that urge so instead she just closed her eyes, huffing little breaths, a mixture of pain and frustration.

 

She woke again to a familiar sensation, she’d had jabs at school and she’d never minded them as much as some people had. One girl had cried, she remembered faintly, terrified of the needle. This seemed more important though, like it was more than just another thing to moan about having to live through.

She forced her eyes open, blinking blearily as she rolled over frowning up at the man stood over her, grinning like a maniac. “What?”

“It’s ok, you can go back to sleep.” He patted her on the arm, or at least she guessed it was him, she wasn’t aware enough to be certain that there wasn’t someone else there.

“What?” She repeated, still baffled.

“Iona.” She finally managed to focus on his face and it was familiar, The Doctor, she thought, “You’re going to be fine, just like I said.”

She nodded vaguely, thinking that it seemed the appropriate response, the world dimming around her once more as she gave in to her body, sliding back into sleep, aware of a gentle touch on her brow before her dreams took over.

 

“She wakes.”

Iona looked up, managing a smile as The Doctor wandered into the small ward, his hands shoved deep into his pockets. “I’ve been awake for a while now I’ll have you know.” Iona returned, ignoring the look the woman medic who had checking on her threw in her direction. She wasn’t going to bring up anything that she’d said while delirious, nor was she going to apologize and The Doctor, being The Doctor, wouldn’t either. Or at least, she hoped not.

The Doctor smiled, seating himself sideways on her bed next to her sheet covered legs, “I bet you have.”

Iona watched him for a moment before she spoke, asking the question that had been bothering her for as long as she’d been lucid, or at least, the whole time she’d been lucid and had not been guiltily analysing all of the other things she’d said, “You found a cure?”

“Yup.”

“Just like that.”

“Just like that.” The Doctor agreed, not breaking eye contact and Iona sighed, exasperated.

“We were here for three whole days and you didn’t find anything, then I get sick and hours later you appear, magical cure in hand.”

She wasn’t special, she knew that, she wasn’t his first travelling companion and she wouldn’t be his last, thank god. He needed someone, if even just to keep him company. But the point was, her getting sick, it didn’t have anything to do with his finding a cure, or at least, it shouldn’t have.

“Coincidence.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, “You don’t believe in coincidences.”

“No, I don’t but,” The Doctor frowned, gaze drifting off to one side as he considered, “No you’re right I don’t and that was a lie. You getting sick was the final piece of the puzzle.”

Iona waited patiently for him to elaborate, but he didn’t, typically. “Ok, so?”

The Doctor blinked before finally looking at her again, “Sorry what?”

Iona sighed, “Me getting sick, was the last piece of what puzzle?”

“Oh, right, well, I couldn’t figure out what it was, besides ‘foreign’, it’s not an illness that these people were ever recorded as having suffered from, so I didn’t think they could. Not that I’d even considered it as a possibility, what I was seeing didn’t fit. Then you got sick and it was something I recognised, it just has slightly different symptoms in them than it does normal humans.”

“Oh.”

The Doctor snorted, “That’s it? Just ‘Oh’.”

Iona glared, “What else were you expecting?”

“Confirmation of my cleverness.” He grinned, ducking when she threw one of her pillow at him.

“Arse.” Iona muttered, slumping before she lowered her gaze suddenly finding her sheet much more fascinating. She hesitated, awkward, before she spoke again, “Thank you.”

The Doctor’s smile softened, “Least I could do.”

Silence reigned for a while until The Doctor’s attention wavered, “Well, you’re going to be just fine, a bit of bed rest and you’ll be back to your old self.” The Doctor grinned, bouncing on his heels, “So, I’d best leave you to rest, just wanted to make sure you didn’t think I’d abandoned you or anything.” He patted Iona on the hand before he turned on his heel and headed off, whistling. He was really was a strange one.

The medic watched The Doctor leave, waiting until he was out of hearing before she turned back to Iona, moving to stand beside the bed. The woman reached out to pat Iona on the arm, offering her a reassuring smile even as Iona could tell she was preparing to give some bad news.

“What is it?” Iona shifted her weight, watching the woman warily.

“It will be some time before you are completely healthy, but the drug that your companion created has given you immunity to the illness should you encounter it again.”

Iona frowned, confused, so far the woman hadn’t told her anything she hadn’t already guessed, “There’s something else, isn’t there?”

“There will be, scarring.” The woman almost whispered the last word ducking her head, clearly upset by what she had said.

Iona blinked, hesitating for a moment before she pressed the woman, careful not to say anything that might upset the woman, clearly there was some cultural issue with scars. “From the sores?”

She nodded, “Yes, there is nothing that can be done, with what we have available.” She kept her gaze fixed on the bed sheets rather than Iona’s face, her own cheeks flushed pink.

Iona chewed on her bottom lip, considering what the most appropriate response would be carefully before she spoke, “But, I’ll live.”

The woman looked up startled, starring at Iona for a long moment before she finally understood Iona’s meaning. She smiled weakly, inclining her head, “The scars are, sufficient cost, for life.”

Iona smiled, nodding, “They are.”

 

“Iona.”

She jumped, startled by the sound of his voice, nervously pulling the blanket tighter around herself and keeping her gaze fixed on the outside world. A part of her had half expected to learn that he had already left, that he’d run away from the planet once he’d done what he could. He wasn’t one for consequences, The Doctor, but it wasn’t much of a surprise. He didn’t live in a world where consequences existed.

He flitted in and then flitted out again; barely letting his feet touch the ground. In all the time she’d been travelling with him, they hadn’t stayed anywhere for a more than a few days and typically the longer they stayed the bigger the disaster that kept them there.

“Hey.” He stepped up beside her, reaching out to grasp her hand and she was all too aware of his focused attention.

She swallowed hard after a moment, turning her head to look at him, “I’m surprised you’re still here.”

“Where else would I be?”

Iona raised an eyebrow before laughing faintly, shaking her head and turning back to the window.

“Iona,” he squeezed her hand, drawing her attention back to him, “there’s something you should have.”

“What?”

He held up a chain, a familiar looking Yale key hanging like a pendant, “Should have given you one before.”

Iona stared at the key for a long time, disbelieving, before she reached out to take it, scratching it idly with her thumb nail and continuing to avoid his gaze.

He stood, hands behind his back for a while before he cleared his throat, “So, you coming?”

Iona blinked, looking up from her examination of the key to stare at him, “Now?”

The Doctor grinned, “No time like the present.”

Iona hesitated, silently running through all the arguments for staying, just a little longer, not least the fact that she was barely recovered from an illness that had come so close to killing her. She closed her eyes, gripping the key in her hand, “Alright.”

“Fantastic.”

 

Iona made The Doctor wait while she said her farewells to the hospital staff and the few other survivors that she’d spent time with, ignoring his impatient dancing. He could wait, just this once, he could wait for her.

It took longer to get back to the TARDIS than it should have, once they’d left the hospital, Iona all too aware of her own continued weakness and fighting not to yell at The Doctor as he deliberately slowed his pace. He wasn’t considerate enough to think to stay on the planet a little while longer, to let her get back to full health, but he felt generous enough to pace himself for her benefit. He really was such an arse.

Once they were in the TARDIS The Doctor was quick to move to the console, hitting buttons and levers in a flurry of motion.

“Doctor?”

“Hold on, there’s one trip we need to make first, but once that’s done, the universe is at your feet Miss Jones.” The Doctor said, without even bothering to look at her, the words lacking his normal enthusiasm.

Iona grabbed onto the rail as the TARDIS shuddered in a way that she had never experienced before and she knew in that moment that she had reason to be worried. Wherever it was they were going, whatever reason The Doctor had for going there, it was going to bad.

The TARDIS shuddered to a stop just moments later, seeming to almost sigh, then The Doctor was moving, jogging down the ramp and to the doors. “Stay here.”

Iona gritted her teeth, forcing herself to catch up with him, refusing to take orders from him. “Doctor,” she stilled as she stepped out of the TARDIS, eyes wide, “we were just here.” She breathed, heart beating fast in her chest.

“I said, stay inside.” The Doctor said, without malice.

Iona frowned, reaching out to grab The Doctor’s arm, “Doctor, what are we doing here?”

“Where?”

Iona rolled her eyes, “Doctor.”

“I’m not going to do anything.” The Doctor said, sounding oddly defensive.

“So why are we here then?”

The Doctor sighed, exasperated, “We’re here, because I want to see him, the person who almost changed history.”

“And then?”

“And then, nothing.”

Iona raised an eyebrow, making her opinion of that statement clear.

“Whoever he is, someday, he’s going to make another mistake like this, if he hasn’t already and I might not be there to fix it.” The Doctor said, moving forward into the crowd, leading Iona on towards the place that they’d been told about. The place where it had all started.

“You might not be there.” Iona threw his own words back at him and The Doctor nodded his expression grim.

“I want to see his face, that’s all. I want to see his face and know it for when we next meet.”

Iona chewed her bottom lip, considering, before she nodded. Whoever this man was, his actions had almost gotten her killed, had killed dozens of the people who were moving around them now. There should be some kind of punishment for that, or at the very least, he should know, should one day be told just what he’d done.

At the same time, Iona couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, once upon a time, The Doctor had caused something similar himself, but had never known. Or maybe he did know, maybe that was the real reason he was here. The truth was, she didn’t know, would never know and she ached with that knowledge.

It didn’t take long for them to reach the market place and Iona was already scanning the crowd for anyone who fitted the description they’d been given, aware of The Doctor doing the same.

In the end though, it was she who saw him; just a split second glimpse of his face; he was turning the corner, leaving the marketplace and his deadly present behind, his coat just as distinctive as they’d been told it would be. The only thing Iona could think was; because of that man, I almost died, so far from home, and he doesn’t even know.

 

Eventually they got back into the swing of things, but Iona couldn’t help but feel that maybe she had been right, when she’d finally been able to admit to herself, on that sunny beach with her male counterpart by her side, that she missed Earth a lot.

It was with that thought haunting her after the particularly stressful encounter with a race of humanoid sea rats that seemed to come so soon after the plague planet, that she came to a decision.

Iona stepped into the console room, dressed in the clothes she’d been in when they’d first met, all that time ago, a bag over her shoulder full of the small collection of personal effects she’d obtained on their trips.

“You won’t believe what the TARDIS has just picked up, there’s this signal coming from somewhere…” He trailed off as he finally turning to look at Iona, taking in her clothes and the bag on her shoulder and the TARDIS key that she was holding out to him. “I gave that to you.”

Iona smiled weakly, “So you can have it back, I won’t be needing it where I’m going.”

The Doctor shook his head, “Do you mean…?”

Iona took a deep breath before she nodded, “Take me home.”

The Doctor lowered the tool he’d been using to fiddle with part of the console, his grin fading. “You sure?”

Iona nodded, fighting not to fiddle with the handle of her bag, “I spent a long time thinking that I was alone, when I wasn’t. I was running. Coming with you, wandering through time and space, it’s been horrible and amazing at the same time, but I think I’ve done enough running.”

The Doctor watched her for a little longer before he smiled, nodding, “Alright, it’s been good though.”

Iona smiled, “It’s been fantastic.”

The Doctor grinned, bouncing off around the console, setting their course, “It’s has been fantastic, Iona Jones. Oh and you can keep the key.”

 

Bloody London. He’d dropped her off in bloody London. On the upside, it was the fourth of March 2005, if the newspapers she'd seen were anything to go by, which meant he'd dropped her off a year after she'd left to start travelling with him.

Iona sighed, rubbing at her eyes with one hand warily. She shouldn’t be so surprised, after all, she’d seen evidence of The Doctor’s navigation skills throughout the year or so she’d spent travelling with him. London was at least, on the right landmass and close enough to where she had wanted to be that she would be able to get there within a day.

Provided she had any money that was. She grimaced; it had been a while since she’d had to worry about that, maybe a bit too long considering how long it had taken for her to remember that it was an issue to be considered.

Now, she just needed to find a cash point so that she could check her balance and just hope that there was still some money in her account. If not, she was pretty much screwed, she didn’t even have enough change in her purse to call Rhiannon and if she attempt to reverse the charges Rhi, or rather Johnny, would hold it against her for years.

Not that she wouldn’t do it if she had to; she just wanted to avoid it if possible. Her sister already had plenty of blackmail material thank you very much.

She turned on the spot, searching for any hints as to where she was and spotting a sign for the underground down one of the side streets. That was good; an underground station meant a map and very possibly a cash point.

 

Somehow, she had no idea exactly how; she still had over a hundred quid in her bank account. Thankfully that was also enough to get her a ticket that would get her from James’ Park to Paddington and from there she would be able to get a train to Cardiff.

It also left enough spare that she wouldn’t starve in the meantime, while leaving enough for her to get a bus to Rhiannon’s, so long as the fares hadn’t gone up too much while she’d been away.

She still needed to come up with some story to tell Rhiannon, but she’d think of that later, during the two and a half hour train journey. The small collection of nic-naks in her bag would help to back up her story as well, or at least she hoped so.

Once she made it to Paddington, she found she still had an hour to kill before her train was due to leave and very little interest in using them to do anything touristy. She’d seen a lot in the past year, good and bad, most of which had held a much greater sense of wonder for than London now did.

Retreating to one of the café’s close to Paddington Station, but far enough away that she didn’t have to put up with all of the other travellers, she ordered some food and her first real coffee in almost six months; which she fully intended to savour; before settling into a chair at one of the window tables, with an open view of both the outside world and the interior of the café.

It was strange, watching the people around her, knowing what she now knew but having absolutely no one to share it with. Even once she was back in Cardiff, seeing her sister again, she wouldn’t be able to tell Rhi anything. I met this man and went travelling with him, in time and space. Yeah, that didn’t sound even vaguely crazy.

Iona sighed, taking a sip of her coffee and smiling, savouring the bitter flavour. Finally, real coffee, that tasted just like it should, or close enough. None of that super sweet stuff The Doctor had insisted she try, or the weird dry, more like tea, imitation coffee that she’d found in one of the markets they’d visited. God, she’d missed coffee.

She ate her food, content to read one of the newspapers she’d found in the rack by the door, catching up on recent events, glancing at the time every so often to make sure she didn’t miss the train. She left a tip for the waitress as she made her way out of the café and down the street towards the station, glancing idly over her shoulder, suddenly feeling like she was being watched.

Which made no sense; why would anyone be watching her?

Iona hurried her steps, the entrance to the station just visible, all too aware of how empty the streets around her were; that and the sound of booted feet on the pavement behind her.

Iona broke into a run automatically, so used to it after her time with The Doctor, unfortunately, they’d been expecting her to try and get away. Two men appeared out of one of the alleyway, grabbing her before she had time to react.

 

“Let me go.” Iona screamed, kicking out at the soldiers holding her, struggling harder as she caught sight of the syringe in the third man’s hand. “Let me go!”

“I’m afraid we can’t do that Miss.” The man replied, flicking the syringe casually before depressing the plunger a little. “There are questions we need answered and you,” He smiled at her, “are going to answer them for us.”

Iona screamed, a mixture of rage and fear, before biting into the arm of one of the men holding her, desperate to get free. The man swore, shaking her, but he didn’t let go, despite the blood dripping off his arm.

The man with the syringe tutted, moving forwards clearly unmoved by her struggles, neatly avoiding her legs as he pushed the needle into her upper arm, depressing the plunger quickly before withdrawing. “There, that wasn’t so bad was it?”

Iona glared at him, uttering a sting of curses, making it clear exactly how she felt about what they were doing to her even as she started to feel the effects of whatever drug it was he’d injected her with. Her vision started to blur, her limbs growing heavy, making it hard to focus, to keep fighting.

She was only half aware as she was hauled across a road and into a waiting van, putting up only a token struggle. She should have stayed with The Doctor, kept travelling for just a little longer before giving into her homesickness. Maybe if she had, he would have actually managed to drop her off in Cardiff and this wouldn’t be happening.

 

Iona groaned, blinking and fighting the urge to throw up everything she’d eaten, still feeling more than a little muzzy from whatever drug it was they’d used on her. She really missed her old boring, dead end life.

At least back then she’d known why she was being beaten on, or screamed at and had known exactly how to react. Contrary to common belief, there was a set of rules that everyone followed on the estate, a set of lines you didn’t cross unless you wanted everyone to come down on you.

Right then though, she had absolutely no idea why she had been drugged and shoved into the back of a van, other than a niggling feeling that it might have something to do with The Doctor. Which would be just typical.

“Welcome to Torchwood Miss Jones.”

Iona frowned, squinting against the light to look up at the woman stood in front of her. A rather blonde woman, in a smart skirt suit and smiling one of those fake reassuring smiles; she was clearly one of those people who followed all of those new managerial style approaches. Probably swore that she knew everyone’s names and claimed to be concerned for the well being of all of her staff.

“Torchwood?” Iona repeated, remembering hearing that name back home in Cardiff, typically when something strange happened, or someone just wanted something to blame for their own bad luck.

“Yes Torchwood, I would have thought, coming from Cardiff, that you would have at least heard of us.”

Iona frowned at the woman, unsurprised that this was apparently another English woman who didn’t like the Welsh, or maybe it was just the Torchwood based in Cardiff that she didn’t like. It was hard to tell.

“I’ve heard the name, it doesn’t mean anything to me though.” Iona shrugged, wincing as the movement pulled on her wrists. They’d cuffed her to a chair, how friendly.

“The Torchwood Institute exists to deal with alien threats.” The woman provided, lifting her chin a little higher as she spoke.

“Alien threats? What do I have to do with aliens?” Iona widened her eyes, offering the woman her best guileless look. It didn’t take a genius to realize that whatever it was that they wanted Iona for, it wasn’t good. For her or The Doctor.

“Don’t play with me Miss Jones, you’re a known consort of the man, or should I say, alien, known as The Doctor.” The woman nodded to one of the soldiers, who stepped forward, displaying the contents of a folder, all stills from cameras in various places that Iona and The Doctor had visited. Most of them were from Cardiff or Brighton though.

“You know my name, but I don’t know yours.” Iona said, making sure not to look bothered by the fact that these people had clearly been following her for a while. She hoped that they hadn’t bothered her sister, Rhiannon always hated it when Iona’s ‘trouble’ turned up on her doorstep.

“You can call me Ms Hartman.” The woman smiled, as condescending as ever.

“So kind of you.” Iona returned the smile with a matching one of her own.

“According to our records the being known as The Doctor, number one enemy of the Institute, likes to travel with a companion.” Ms Hartman said, ignoring Iona’s sarcastic remark.

“So…” Iona raised an eyebrow.

“The Doctor and his companion, which until recently was you I believe,” she pointed at the folder with a perfectly manicured hand, “only, it seems to me, that he’s left you behind.” Ms Hartman’s smile was cold, her opinion of the Welsh girl she’d had her men pick up clear. It’s not the first time Iona’s had a look like that one directed at her.

“Maybe I chose to leave him.” Iona returned, knowing that denying that she had ever been with a person called The Doctor, alien or not, would be a waste of time.

Hartman shrugged, “That’s of no concern to us. The fact that you may be a source of concern, however, is.”

“You think I’m a threat?” Iona stared at the woman in disbelief, trying to figure out where they had gotten that idea. It wasn’t like she was actually that good at anything herself, she couldn’t build bombs or anything like that. What kind of a threat did they think she could be?

“You have consorted with the enemy Miss Jones, what’s to stop you from doing the same again?”

“Last I checked,” Iona met Hartman’s gaze steadily, “we weren’t at war with anyone.”

“Oh, but we are Miss Jones, the British Empire lives in constant threat from above. Your Doctor is just one of the many enemies that we have to defend ourselves from.”

She took it back, Iona decided, The Doctor was actually quite sane, this woman on the other hand, was deluded. “I suppose there’s nothing I can say?”

Hartman smiled, “You can tell us everything that you learned during your time with The Doctor.”

Iona shook her head, laughing bitterly, “No way am I going to tell you anything.”

“I didn’t think you would and even if you had, we wouldn’t have ever let you go.” Hartman gave Iona one last smile before nodding to the guards to precede her out of the room, “Well, it’s been a pleasure Miss Jones, someone will be along to show you to your new accommodations soon enough.”

Accommodations, brilliant, she was going to be Torchwood's prisoner.

“So you’re just going to keep me here?” Iona questioned, just as Hartman reached the door.

Ms Hartman turned; smiling in a way that Iona was fairly sure would make even a shark nervous, “Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’?” She paused, seeming to consider something before she met Iona’s gaze once more, “Besides, you’ve travelled in time and space, I’m sure that could come in handy, one day.”

Iona glared at Hartman, understanding the woman’s unspoken threat. If she did anything to cross them, they wouldn’t hesitate to be rid of her. She was a backup plan, something for them to keep control of so that, maybe, one day, they could control The Doctor. Or at the very least try to. Iona couldn’t see him taking them threatening her well and if he didn’t like something, well, he wasn’t called The Oncoming Storm for nothing.

“Until further notice, you, Iona Jones, will be working for the Torchwood Institute. If you cooperate with us, we will give you back some of your freedom, but let me be clear on this, you belong to Torchwood. There’ll be no leaving for you.

“Besides, as far as we can tell, you’ll be much better off. You’ll be settled, employed and well paid. There aren't many people with records like yours who can say that are there?” Hartman smiled sweetly before turning away once more and stalking out of the room.

Iona waited until Hartman had left the room before she sighed, slumping back into the chair; it didn’t look like she was going to be going home to Cardiff anytime soon.