An alternate 'reunion' story
Dr. Grace Holloway grimaced when she saw the flashing blue lights in her rear-view mirror.
Unfortunately, when she looked over her shoulder to double-check, they were still there. Definitely following her.
"Great; just what I need!" she kvetched, easing off on the gas and applying the brake as she pulled off to the sandy shoulder. The CHiP cycle pulled in behind her, the officer alighting and walking towards her, face obscured by his dark glasses.
Grace slumped down a bit in her seat, rolling down the window with one hand, then checking in the glove compartment for her registration with the other. The officer drew abreast of the window and she turned to smile gingerly at him as he leaned to look, already talking even as he removed his sunglasses. "Ma'am, you have a broken brake li--"
Quite suddenly, he stopped, his eyes narrowing. "YOU!"
Grace jerked in her seat in surprise.
"You stole my bike on New Year's Eve!"
Grace gawped. Now, suddenly, the man looked familiar: the wary blue eyes, the tight-lipped mouth...
"Oh my God..." she breathed in shock.
He placed a hand on the butt of his gun. "Ma'am, turn off the ignition and get out of the car."
As she complied, dazed, he grabbed her wrists and slapped on a pair of handcuffs.
"Hey!" she protested. "Look; I'm not some desperado!"
Even as she said it, the cop was pulling her by an elbow towards his cycle. Grace listened in disbelief as he called in for a cruiser.
Only then did he turn to her and inform her of her rights.
Nettled, she snapped: "Yes, yes; I know all that! What's the charge?"
The officer -- Judson, she saw, by the name tag -- began to tick off on his fingers. "Vehicular theft, assaulting an officer, speeding, driving to endanger... and anything else I can remember."
"Assaulting-- That was an accident -- I didn't mean for the gun to go off!" A moment later she winced. "When do I get my phone call?"
Grace hung up the receiver and turned away from the payphone to the officer waiting patiently nearby.
A phone call to her lawyer, who'd promised to be there as soon as possible.
Back in the holding cell, she slumped forward on the bench, shaking her head at the absurdity of it all. She'd not given a thought to the possibility that she'd ever see the officer that the Doctor and she had 'borrowed' the cycle from again. He'd just been there, an obstacle in the way, something to do an end-run around.
They'd been too busy saving the world.
But now the Doctor was gone, and reality had come crashing back into her life, with all its attendant banal truths.
And she was in jail.
Grace snorted. "Well, at least now not having a job won't be my biggest problem."
There was a jangle of keys as the gate to the cell block creaked open. "Dr. Holloway? Your counsel is here."
But it wasn't her lawyer who strode energetically to stand in front of her cell.
It was the Doctor.
Grace stared. Still wearing the same clothes, looking just as he had the day he'd left, scant weeks earlier, a deceptively-feckless Victorian fop. And smiling expectantly.
As Grace had settled back into her ordinary (albeit unemployed) life, integrating the chaotic events of the New Year's Eve adventure she'd shared with the alien Time Lord known as the Doctor, she'd found herself imagining somehow meeting him again, had wondered what she'd say.
Grace opened her mouth and the words just rolled right out. "*You* got me into this!"
The Doctor pulled a face and tutted. "Now, is that any way to talk to your counsel?"
"My counsel? You're not my law--"
He made shushing motions. "Well, I am until your Mr. Hodgeson gets here, so we haven't got much time." He pulled a pocket watch out of his waistcoat pocket and perused it. "Seven minutes, to be exact." Shutting the watch with a *snap*, he thrust it back into the pocket.
Indignation propelled her to her feet to glare at him through the bars. "D'you know what I'm in here for? For stealing that cop's motorcycle. The entire world was at stake, and they care about a stupid motorcycle, can you believe it?" She slumped. "Not that I told them why we took it. They'd just lock me up in the nearest psych ward."
The Doctor smiled sympathetically and patted at her hands where they were clutching the bars. "I know, Grace; I know. Some people have no sense of priority..." Even as he talked, he was reaching into a pocket and extracting a small leather case.
"So....how have you been?"
The Doctor glanced up, distracted. "Oh, fine, fine... Here and then, about and anon. And you?"
At loose ends, actually. "Fine. Great."
The Doctor glanced around furtively, then bent over the lock, inserting what looked like a glorified hairpin into the keyhole.
Grace stared. "Doctor... What're you doing?" she hissed.
He looked up at her, startled. "Why, getting you out, of course! Isn't that what friends are for?"
"Getting me out? What makes you think a jail-break is going to help me?"
The Time Lord stared at her, crestfallen.
"If you want to make yourself useful, why don't you go back and fix it so the cop who arrested me doesn't pull me over or something?"
He looked perturbed. "Grace, it doesn't work that way." He bent back to his work. "Besides, breaking out is so much more fun."
Grace blinked. "Fun? Fun for you, maybe!"
The Doctor straightened up, a twinkle in his eye. "Oh, you enjoyed yourself enough that evening; don't deny it!" He paused. "Well, apart from the bit where you died..."
Problem was, he was right. Dammit.
"Grace, it is partly because of me that you've ended up in this situation; I want to make amends. Now, you can stay in there..."
"Or..." The Doctor pulled at the door, and it clicked open several inches. Next, he reached into his waistcoat pocket, and with a smile, presented her through the bars a little yellow card. She took it and peered down at it.
GET OUT OF JAIL FREE.
Grace shook her head and smiled ruefully. "I'll be a fugitive," she protested, hesitating.
I was just getting used to normality again.
And as she dithered, Fate stepped in and lent her a helping hand. Again. "Hey! It's him! Her accomplice!"
The Doctor's head whipped around, his eyes widening at what he saw down the corridor. Grace peeked around the corner of the cell door to see that a fulminating Officer Judson was trotting towards them, gun in hand.
"Come on, Grace!" The Doctor held out a hand.
A moment later, she reached out and took it, and they ran.
She was never quite sure how they got out; it was all a blur of motion: Shouts, surprised faces. Bonnie and Clyde, Grace thought, breathless, as they rushed through the station.
As she ran, something in her chest loosened and fell away, and she laughed aloud.
It was just the regular chaos that the Doctor seemed to sow where ever he went, like a manic Johnny Appleseed of Anarchy.
They burst out of the station onto the sidewalk. With exquisite timing, a metro bus was just pulling up to the bus stop on the corner, and they dashed aboard just as the first officers bolted out of the station's front entrance.
Collapsing onto seats, the fugitives glanced back at the receding cops. "We'll have to get off soon, and find other transportation," the Doctor said, not even breathing hard.
Grace, gasping, looked at him questioningly.
"They may have the bus stopped in order to search for us," he explained.
Grace looked at him, somewhat stern. "You've done this before, haven't you?"
The Doctor grinned. "More times than I can count."
Several blocks later, the Doctor pointed out the window at the up-coming intersection. Another bus was pulling up to the bus shelter on the opposite curb.
He grabbed her hand. "If we time it just right..."
It worked perfectly: the other bus was caught at the light. They hopped on and took seats in the back.
"Did you see where this one was going?" the Doctor inquired.
Grace shook her head. "Sorry."
He smiled and leaned back to look out the window. "Doesn't matter, anyway."
Grace suddenly thought of something. "Where's the TARDIS?"
"Oh. North. A few hundred miles." He waved a vague hand.
She stared at him, suspicious. "You didn't lose it, or something, did you?"
The Doctor looked offended. "My own TARDIS? I should think not!"
"You left it up there and traveled all the way down here how? And why?"
He turned an unperturbed gaze upon her bemusement. "I wanted to see the redwoods. I miss them, sometimes." He smiled. "Besides, it's been a while since I hitch-hiked. You meet the most interesting people that way..."
Grace was willing to bet, though, that her companion eclipsed for pure eccentricity any of the characters she and the Doctor met in their hitch-hiking oddessy up the coast.
There was Jim Wallace the Third, the middle-aged air conditioner salesman from Spokane. Grace watched, bemused, as the Doctor listened, fascinated, his steady gaze never leaving their host as the man regaled them with each of his seven sales pitches in turn, each one aimed at a specific personality type, he explained.
A diffident bee-keeper named Anna Bealson gave them a ride from Myers Flat to Eureka. When the Doctor admired the crystal dangling above the dash, she came alive, chatting with her passengers at length about her collection at home.
A pair of oldsters driving a pick-up with an attached cab cover pulled over for them outside of Orick. A ride to Redwood National Park? Sure, but they'd have to ride in the back, with the dogs.
Three huge Dobermans stared back at them.
Grace thought they were joking, until the couple patiently explained that Trixie, Benjamin and Sugar were very well-trained. The Doctor was already scrambling aboard, chuckling as he was subjected to a thorough search n' sniff.
Grace gingerly joined him. Somehow the ridiculous, the undignified, were so much more palatable when *he* did it. He didn't seem to care how he looked, as he talked animatedly with everyone they met, regardless of who they were or where they were from.
Reminded her of a time when experience had been more important to her than image, too.
It'd been a while since she'd felt that way.
One of the dogs tried to stick its nose in her crotch, and she hurriedly sat down, smiling.
And then they were there.
Grace stood in the middle of the grove, staring up in awe.
"You've never been here before?"
She shook her head. "No. I've seen them in pictures, but that's all."
A dim, green-laced cathedral, faint sunbeams slanting down, was all Grace could think to use to describe it.
It fit. It was a naturally holy place. However you wanted to picture him or her, God lurked here.
"I see why you wanted to visit here," she murmured to the Doctor.
The Doctor smiled approvingly. "I've seen many wonderful things in my travels... But these trees are among the most amazing." And he strode forward.
Within seconds, he was out of sight around the enormous, wrinkled bole of the nearest redwood. "Doctor!" Grace laughed, hurrying after him.
He wasn't there.
He must be a faster walker than he looked. Grace hurried around the entire tree.
Grace put hands on hips, annoyed. "Doctor, what is this, hide-and-seek?"
Silence. In fact, the whole woodland was thick with silence, a carpet of almost oppressive quiet.
Grace cupped her hands around her mouth. "DOCTORRRR!"
The shout faded as soon as it left her mouth, swallowed up without an echo.
That was when the Doctor's head popped out of the side of the tree trunk. "Well, aren't you coming inside? I think the old girl would enjoy seeing you again."
Grace gawped, then let her gaze run up the trunk to where it vanished into a haze of green, hundreds of feet above.
His grin was dazzling. "I got the Chameleon circuit working again, Grace! Though in the end I think I *do* prefer it the other way. Still, it has its uses."
"I'll bet." Somewhat dazed, Grace glanced at the Doctor's out-held hand, and hesitated.
Then she stepped within.
It was the same as when she'd last seen it: Bric-A-Brac Central. Grace grinned, wondering what that said about the ship's owner.
Unwilling to let go of the past
Speaking of which....
Grace stuck her hands in her jacket pockets and ambled over to where the Time Lord was fiddling much too casually with the console, making a point of not looking her way.
"So, Doctor..." she said, facing him once again from across the console, peering at him through the slight distortion of the clear cylinder rising from the gleaming hexagonal console..
His shaggy head jerked up like a startled rabbit's.
"So...It was sweet of you to rescue me, Doctor. But what was all this *really* about?"
"Pardon?" he asked, blinking.
For a centuries old alien, he did the 'innocent look' awfully badly. "Come on," she laughed. "You really expect me to believe that you had to break me out of there, then hitch-hike three-hundred miles to the middle of a red-wood forest?"
Several expressions passed over the Time Lord's face in quick succession, before he finally settled on *sheepish*.
"Oh, dear," he said with a little rueful smile, leaning on the edge of the console. "I used to be so much better at this sort of thing..."
Folding her arms and raising an eyebrow, Grace let him squirm a bit. For him, that seemed to consist of leaning forward, velvet-clad shoulders slightly hunched as he perused the panel of controls as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world. Then she said, quietly: "You want me to come with you, don't you?"
The look he sent her as he glanced up again spoke volumes.
Grace shook her head. "Doctor, all you had to do was ask."
"I did. You said no."
And serve you right if I said no again. She took her time answering. "Well... That was then. This is now."
He stared at her for a few moments as if not sure what he'd heard, before his face broke out in a wide smile. "Grace..." he said, "come with me?"
Before she could even answer, he laughed, stepping back and raising his arms, gazing up at the sky-view, open above to the swirling star stuff of the local solar system. "There's so much I want to show you; so much you should see--!"
His burst of enthusiasm surprised a laugh out of her, lured out her last objection. "What about those 'great things' I'm supposed to do?" she joked.
I certainly don't feel very 'great' right now...
The Doctor suddenly calmed. No, that wasn't the right word; his excitement compressed itself back inside, showed itself as a jaunty carriage, a gleam in the eye.
The Doctor waggled an index finger. "Plenty of time yet for that, Grace! And I should know."
Oh, boy, she thought, raising an eyebrow. What have I gotten myself into? But the heaviness in her chest was long gone. It felt... It felt like Christmas morning. Presents to open.
Grace stood tall, arms folded, an answering gleam of challenge in her own eyes.. "Okay, Doctor. Then show me the grand tour."
His smile was pure merriment as he reached for the controls. "I thought you'd never ask!"