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The Princess of Cassiopeia III

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“Alright, so where are we goin' this time?” Rose's eyes were glittering with excitement, she was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet.

The Doctor grinned back at her as he twirled around the consoles, pulling levers and pushing buttons as he cheerfully replied: “To an adorable little planet in Cassiopeia III. Hold on tight!” The slightly rough landing (not a crash landing, as he would keep insisting, thank you very much) was accompanied by her breathless laughter, dissolving into quiet giggles when they picked themselves up from the floor. “They're having a huge festival at the moment,” he told her as he plucked his coat from a coral and slipped it on. “Something about honouring their princesses. Wear something nice.”

“Wha', you sayin' I don't always look nice?” she retorted, her tone snippy but accompanied by her usual tongue-in-cheek-grin as she disappeared towards the wardrobe.

The Doctor resisted the temptation to open the TARDIS door and take a peek outside; it had been ages since he'd last been here. His ship, however, hummed at him scoldingly when he reached for the door handle, so he just rolled his eyes and leaned against a coral with his arms crossed. She loved her pink-and-yellow human far too much. In response to that thought, she whirred at him indignantly and the Time Lord huffed and murmured: “Yes, yes, me too.”

That was when Rose descended the stairs in a light, pale rosé dress that fell around her body in folds that were not actually showing anything, but fluttered enough when she moved to stir anyone's imagination. With a cheeky smile, she teased: “Talkin' to yourself now, are ya?”

“To my ship,” he corrected with a fond pat to the coral behind him. “You, Rose Tyler, look stunning.”

She glanced towards the floor with a smile, her cheeks tinted pink, and hurried towards the exit with a murmured 'thanks'. Then, she turned around with a wink and a flourish as she exclaimed “Allons-y!” before pushing the door open and rushing outside.

Immediately, they were greeted by a wave of noise; music, chatter, laughter, the sound of a cheerful crowd. However, they hadn't even taken five steps outside when shouts rose over the general background noise.

The Doctor turned to look down the street they'd parked the TARDIS in, walls and buildings plastered with colourful flags and banners even though they were not all that close to the main event.

A bit further down, someone turned into the street in a run, looked around hastily and began to spurt towards them when she spotted the TARDIS, at a speed that was frankly baffling, considering the high heels on her feet. Orange curls bounced around her face and her short, white skirt fluttered around her legs as the reason for her haste became apparent. Behind her, a shouting crowd rounded the corner she'd come from, their exact words unintelligible over the noise.

The woman got closer, her heels clicking loudly against the street plaster as she half-waved in their direction. Rose turned towards the Doctor as she sceptically asked: “D'you know her?”

He shook his head slowly, his eyes narrowed as he tried to make out the features of the person coming towards them. “Don't think so,” he answered slowly. “I knew one of their princesses once, but that one was brunette.”

“She seems to know you, though,” Rose pointed out. “An' she's lookin' like she might need a lift.”

Before the Time Lord had a chance to reply, the princess reached them, stumbling at the last few steps and falling forward, right into his arms. He caught her reflexively and frowned; something was off about her, she felt wrong. Not only that she was very nearly as tall as he was; her shape, her weight felt off and his time sense was insistently tingling, trying to tell him something.

“Can we help you?” he asked carefully.

She patted his back gratefully, then straightened up and took a step back so he could see her face. There was make-up generously applied to her lips and eyes, but still, she seemed familiar somehow.

And then, with a wink that definitely stirred some memories, she said: “I'd love to linger, but what do you think about getting into that TARDIS and then talking?” With an American accent. And a voice that was very, very certainly, most definitely, absolutely. Not. Female.

Oh, Sh...akespeare.

His jaw dropping, the Doctor heard himself stammer, “J-Jack?”

“The one and only. Now come on. Hi, Rose, by the way,” she – no, he, most definitely he – ushered them both towards the TARDIS.

Pretty much on autopilot, the Doctor pushed the door open as he got pushed into the ship, Jack pulling Rose inside behind himself before door closed behind them again. Following that, there was a long, pregnant pause before the Doctor asked, very slowly and carefully neutral: “Jack. Why are you a Cassiopeian princess?”

Rose broke into giggles while the Captain sauntered up towards the console, skirt ends fluttering around his swinging hips until he unceremoniously flopped down on the seat and kicked his high heels off with a decidedly not feminine groan. The curly wig went next and while the man ran his hands through his own hair, making it stand up wildly, he replied: “That's... sort of a long story.”

The Doctor, slowly recovering from his initial shell shock and the constant stream of 'what' replaying in his head, responded drily: “At least I know that it won't end in a naked escape this time.”

“We didn't actually escape yet, that part might still come,” Jack pointed out without missing a beat, blue eyes twinkling mischievously as he reached behind himself to get to the zipper of the dress.

“Don't you dare,” the Time Lord threatened, shaking his head. “You didn't answer my question. What on Earth, pardon my language, were you doing on Cassiopeia?”

“Well, you left me!” Jack shot back accusingly, one finger pointed at the Doctor. “You look different, by the way, just to point out the obvious. I'm assuming I missed something.”

“A bit, yeah,” Rose agreed, coming up to join them at the console. “You don't seem very surprised, though. In fact, I'm sorta surprised you recognised 'im.”

Jack shrugged, looking a lot more himself even with make-up still in place. It didn't even look all that terrible – which was not the point , anyway. The Doctor shook his head while the Captain answered: “I researched a little. Had some time, after all. I don't know how much time passed for you two, since you don't look a day older than when we last met, Rose, but it's been... thirteen years for me, I think. I found some ancient records about Time Lords and... well.” He waved a hand in the Doctor's general direction. “I read about the regeneration thing and the blue box is kind of a giveaway. Nice hair, by the way.”

“Thanks,” the Time Lord responded slowly, reflexively running a hand through the aforementioned mess of brown hair. “You still didn't tell me why you're a Cassiopeian princess.”

“I'm not actually a Cassiopeian princess,” Jack admitted and the Doctor rolled his eyes with a murmured “oh, really now”. Deliberately ignoring the comment, Jack continued: “You missed an alien invasion. A minor one. Not really an invasion. Anyway, after I got back to Earth with a minor little glitch that caused me to end up stranded in 1869, I encountered a group of Cassiopeians and, long story short, convinced them to give me a lift.”

He stretched out in his seat, curling his toes now that they were free of the constricting high heels. “Wanted to get somewhere I could organise a space ship, and I knew one of the princesses from... anyway.” He grinned, eyes focussed on something only he couldn't see. “So she, because she's such a sweet, shy girl and hates all the attention at these parades, said she'd organise me a ship if I posed for her – reconsidering, I think that was a joke.”

“How'd ya blow your cover?” Rose asked curiously. “'cause they didn't seem all tha' thrilled to see you, honestly.”

The Captain shrugged sheepishly. “I got hit on and, uh, I accidentally flirted back. It's an instinct, I can't help it. Anyway, I found my spaceship, so that's okay.”

“What did you want one for, anyway?” the Doctor asked curiously, slipping out of his coat.

Jack, still in his disturbingly short white dress and bright red lips, rose from his seat and crossed the few steps of distance between them on bare feet to poke the Time Lord in the chest with his index finger as he snapped: “To find you , of course, because you left me on a satellite full of corpses . Originally, I just planned to teleport down and take a ship from Earth, but my Vortex Manipulator was acting up and I ended up millennia before that.” He huffed in irritation and crossed his arms in front of his chest. “So since space ships were obviously not an Earth thing yet, I had to find another way to get one, which ended up with me as a Cassiopeian princess.”

There was a moment of silence, only interrupted from muffled noises from the outside, until Jack declared: “Anyway, while the whole thing was fun, I've about had enough of this dress, so how about we get to the naked part of this escape story?”

He was still giggling as he fled up the stairs towards the interior of the TARDIS, indignant twin shouts of “Jack!” ringing in his ears.