When you’re running for your life, you don’t expect the person you’re running with to stop dead right in front of you so suddenly that you plough right into his back.
“Doctor!” Sarah Jane grabbed at his coat. “What is it? Are there more?”
“Have you seen this?” the Doctor swung around, a grin breaking onto his face. “Isn’t it marvellous?”
Sarah Jane glanced anxiously over her shoulder, but the road was clear. “What?”
The Doctor made a grand gesture to the building in front of him. “Wonderful.”
She stared at it, then at him. “It’s a bookshop.” She spun around at the rattling sound of metal-clad feet on the road. “Doctor, we don’t have time to–” She yelped in alarm as she was dragged sideways, through the open door of the shop. “Doctor!”
Insides, the shop was quiet and deserted and Sarah Jane hastily pushed the door shut and looked around. There were a couple of heavy chairs, so she threw her back into it and shoved one then the other across the floor to blockade the door.
“You could help, you know!” she said, as the Doctor spun in a circle, staring around the shop, an expression of giddy wonder on his face.
“No need, dear girl!” He chuckled. “Oh, this really is quite a splendid piece of technology, isn’t it?”
“Technology?” She straightened up, puffing, and that was when she noticed how big the shop was. Far, far bigger than it had seemed from the outside. Well, that was awfully familiar, wasn’t it? “Another TARDIS?”
The Doctor shook his head, his hat wobbling. “Oh no. I think it might be something far more dangerous.”
Sometimes, Sarah Jane wondered why they got on. But then again, sometimes, when she was hitting a robot alien with a piece of lead pipe, she knew exactly why.
“What is it?” she asked. “Will–” She pointed towards the window and the clunking shapes that were marching by. “Do you think it’ll keep them out?”
“I don’t know,” he said cheerfully, “but it’ll be fun to watch them find out.” He bounded over to the shelves on the far side of the floor, peering between them. “Hallo! Hallo? Is anyone there?” he dug about in his pocket, whipping out the sonic screwdriver. It buzzed in his hand as he scanned it along the shelves. “The energy readings are remarkable. I’m going to try–”
There was an odd feeling like static in the air and one moment there was no one but them in the shop, and the next, a man was standing between them as if he had always been there, a put-out look on his face.
Sarah Jane stared at him. Weird clothes, she was used to, especially people who looked like they should be taking tea with Jeeves or something. White-haired men popping out of thin air, not so much. “Where did–”
“Do you mind?” The new arrival snapped irritably at the Doctor.
The Doctor stared at him as if he’d seen Christmas morning. “There you are…” he breathed. “Good heavens, I didn’t think I’d ever see another one.”
The man glowered at him and made a sharp downward twist of his hand. The Doctor’s screwdriver vanished from his grip. “You could have knocked,” he said testily. “Honestly, prodding about like that is very bad form!”
“Dreadfully sorry! The Doctor’s beam was bordering on silly proportions. “Didn’t know how else to get your attention.”
Sarah Jane eyed the man warily. The Doctor said this place was dangerous and now magically appearing man were vanishing things right in front of her. The Doctor seemed very excited, but that wasn’t usually a very good barometer of threat level, because he could be equally excited about a fly in his soup or the end of the world.
She inched sideways towards the umbrella stand by the door, reaching for the walking stick there. It had a lovely big blunt silver knob on the top, very useful for giving people a sharp rap on the head, if needed.
“Well, I’m here now,” the man said. “What do you want?”
“Want? Oh, nothing at all! Only validation of a theory of conceptual psychic defences!” The Doctor clattered across the floor, bringing his face close to the man’s. “Instant teleportation as well! Do you have any idea how few species are capable of that?”
The man lifted his hand again and if he could make a sonic screwdriver disappear, it was entirely possible he could make a Time Lord disappear too. Sarah Jane charged forward, stick raised.
The air prickled and some… thing wrenched her to a halt, a hand around her upraised wrist.
“I don’t think sssssssso,” a voice hissed.
Behind her? All right then! She jabbed back hard with her elbow and kicked with a foot and felt the satisfying crunch of both of them making impact.
“Ow! Oi! Stop that!”
The Doctor burst out laughing. “Let the poor fellow be, Sarah Jane!”
Sarah Jane jerked her arm free and spun around, staring at another mysteriously appearing man. This one was all tall and lanky with bright red hair and looked like he’d borrowed his style from Sid Vicious, except for the sunglasses. He made a face at her, rubbing his middle.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake!” The first man was pinching the bridge of his nose. “Look, will you explain what you want here? Where on earth did you come from? And is it anything to do with those tin menaces running about outside?”
“We were hiding from them,” Sarah Jane said, then corrected, “Well, we were trying to and then he got distracted by your… is it your shop?”
The pale-haired man pursed his lips. “It is. And it was locked.”
“Maybe it wanted to help,” the Doctor said, though he ducked around the paler of the two men to approach the second one. “My word… two of you in one place. Remarkable. I didn’t think any of you were still earthbound.”
“Hang about–” Red-haired man sounded puzzled. “What do you mean ‘two of you’?” He jerked a thumb towards the other man. “Me and him, we’re nothing alike.”
“Really?” The Doctor peered at him. “Genus angelicus? Slight difference in energy, but much the same.”
Red and white exchanged wary glances.
“I beg your pardon.” The first man was starting to look worried. That happened a lot when the Doctor was about, Sarah Jane had noticed. She wondered if it was possible to develop immunity after a while. “How did you know that?”
The Doctor spun about with a smaller smile. “A good while ago, I crossed paths with one of yours. I look a bit different now, but I went back to see him.” He clasped his hands together in front of him. “Quite something, watching the construction of the universe, you know. Didn’t get too close, but there’s something about the energy…”
Red-hair hissed under his breath. “No…”
The Doctor turned, peering at him good-naturedly. “What?”
Red-hair ripped off his glasses and Sarah Jane squeaked in surprise. He might look human but his eyes were solid gold and looked just like a snake’s. He swept across the room, leaning right up into the Doctor’s face and the Doctor – for once – looked stunned speechless, his mouth opening and shutting. That was even more alarming than magically-appearing men.
“Doctor…?” Sarah Jane prompted, worried.
“Oh my word…” The Doctor sounded faint. “My goodness…” And suddenly, he had grabbed red-hair in a bone-crushing hug that yanked the man off his feet.
“Ngk!” Red-hair yelped, feet flailing.
“Marvellous job!” The Doctor gave him a shake. “Such a marvellous job! Alpha Centauri! Such a wonderful piece! And that nebula! The arrangement of the constellations! Fantastic!” He set the man down and before the poor man could escape, grabbed his hand and started pumping it enthusiastically up and down. “Such an honour.”
“…Crowley?” White-hair said gingerly. “Do you… know this man?”
Red-hair – Crowley, apparently – managed to yank his hand out of the Doctor’s. “Yeah, sort of.” He grimaced. “This little tyke almost crashed into me!” He bared his teeth, but it didn’t seem like he was angry. Almost like he was pleased. “Didn’t get too close, my arse. Almost took my bleeding head off, didn’t you?”
“I wasn’t that bad,” the Doctor said, beaming. He groped in his pocket and pulled out a shabby old notepad. “I don’t suppose I could bother you for an autograph, could I? For old time’s sake?”
A crash in the street outside made Sarah Jane whip around. She ran to the window, peering out.
“Doctor, we don’t have time for your fanclub!” she called back. “They’re starting to break in to some of the other buildings!”
“Nonsense.” The Doctor looked like a child on Christmas morning as the Genus Angelicus man scribbled something into his notebook. He was almost as red as his hair, his grin nearly as stupid as the Doctor’s. “Everyone has a moment for a fanclub.”
The pale-haired man hurried over to Sarah Jane’s side. “How many are there, do you know?”
“An army, apparently,” she replied. “Can you…” She tried to mimic his flicky hand gesture. “You know. Make them… go away?”
His lips twitched. “Possibly not so many in one go,” he said, though his brow furrowed. “Though your friend’s little device…” Another quick gesture and the screwdriver was back in his hand. He turned it over, peering at it. “I say!” He turned. “Young man!”
The Doctor turned his doting gaze from Crowley. “Hm?”
“You used this to tap into my psychic energy, correct?”
“Well, yes.” The Doctor gave Crowley an apologetic look then bobbed over to join the other man and Sarah Jane at the window. “It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of space travel.”
The man’s face lit up in a smile that made Sarah Jane stare. Whatever he was, he was almost glowing. “Do you think,” he said eagerly, “you could use it to… amplify it?”
“Amplify?” Sarah Jane echoed, then grinned. “You mean to make a mega….” She flapped her hand wildly and the man laughed.
“Yes! Precisely! With enough range and amplification, I expect I would be able to either disable them or dispatch them entirely!”
The Doctor gave Sarah Jane a nudge. “Didn’t I tell you this was a marvellous little place?”
She made a face at him. “You can be smug about it later. Right now, we need to save the world.”
He chuckled. “Quite so, quite so.” He turned his attention to the bookshop owner. “Mr. Fell, I presume?”
“If we are to work together in a professional capacity,” the man said with a flash of that bright, dazzling little smile. “You ought to call me Aziraphale.”
“I’m the Doctor.” The Doctor grinned, offering his hand, which the Genus Angelicus shook at once. “A pleasure to meet you, sir.”
“Likewise.” Aziraphale stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest.
The same static power surged around them and Sarah Jane staggered back as a sudden gust of air swept over her. “Wings!” she yelped, pointing. “He’s got wings!”
“Of course he does, my dear girl,” the Doctor said, laughing. “He is an angel, after all.”
Sarah Jane gaped at him. “No! A real actual proper angel? Like in the churches?”
“Yes. But as you said, no time for the fanclub now.” The Doctor held up his screwdriver. “Shall we save the world?”
Aziraphale’s smile blazed like sunlight. “I think we shall.”