“The Doctor I knew,” she grumbled as they ducked through a small cobblestone back alley, “would not have run from a challenge like that.”
“So I’ve turned over a new leaf,” he shrugged, one hand clamped to his head to keep the hat from flying off. “Now, the last time I was in Milan - ah!” He grabbed her wrist without warning and yanked, as they spun into an alcove.
“Yes?” she asked, eyes traveling up the stone wall in front of her.
“Er,” he said, rolling one lip lightly under his teeth. “Well, actually, the last time I was here, it was a Celtic fort. But the time before that, this was a back entrance into the main hall of the Weaver’s Guild.”
“Well, at the moment, it appears to be a wall,” she pointed out as the boots of the Neo-Imperial soldiers rang on the pavement behind them.
“So it would appear,” he sighed. He swung around, smiling broadly. “Would any of you gentlemen know where the door that used to be here has gone?”
The lead officer blinked at him, one hand reaching for the blaster pistol on his hip. “No. Now, are you coming with us, or not?”
“None of that,” snarled the man - barely more than a teenager, really - next to him. “He insulted me, and I will have my honor restored!” He clicked his boot-heels together. They’d have been astonishing reproductions from the Habsburg period if they hadn’t been made of dark purple vinyl.
“Really more Prussian than Austrian, that one,” the Doctor said under his breath.
“You see! More insults!” The man-boy started forward, tossing a dueling sword at the Doctor’s feet. “On your guard, street dog!” It looked more like a 20th-century fencing rapier than an authentic 18th-century weapon; perhaps the New Austrians were slipping up on a bit more than just their footwear.
“I’d really rather not,” the Doctor started. A vehicle stirred above them; the first officer glanced upwards and smiled. Backup, most probably.
Sarah Jane rolled her eyes. “All right, then,” she said, scooping up the sword and sliding it from its scabbard. Her first assessment had been spot on; it was a pretty good match for a fencing blade. Sharper, of course.
“What?” said both officers at once; the Doctor was slightly out of synch with them.
“I’m his duelist,” she explained, testing the heft of the blade. “You can’t expect a lord of his rank to fight his own duels, can you?”
“I most certainly can,” growled the offended officer.
She shrugged. “Too bad.” Trying to remember her last fencing lesson, she faced him, blade level. “En garde!”
“That was hardly necessary,” the Doctor complained.
“It was only to first blood,” she reminded him. “He’ll have a scar he’ll get to show off to his comrades for decades.”
“His commanding officer isn’t about to let him forget he got it from a mere slip of a girl.” They came around the corner. “Ah, there she is.” And indeed, there was the dark blue box, just behind the giant holo-sign for the cathedral.
“Who are you calling a girl? Anyhow, that’s his problem, not mine. You’d think they’d be over that sort of stigma by now.” She patted the sword, slung at her hip. “And I had a wonderful teacher,” she added, smiling up at him.
He paused, one hand on the TARDIS’s door. “I suppose you did, at that.” He smirked. “Shall we go somewhere at little less violent this time?”
“I think I could enjoy that,” she agreed, following him in.