This Time Round: Plot and Loophole
By Vicky Jewitt

In which Polly has a night off with potentially disastrous
consequences for the inhabitants of the Round and there is even more
outrageous bending of the loophole. With intruders, mayhem, blackmail
and a fridge hanging over the proceedings. And another story in the
middle (with character commentary).

(This was meant to be a short story. It probably should have stayed
that way, but... it didn't. Since I hate frowning over whether or not
I should know who strange characters are, the main intruders are from
BBC/ Kudos show 'Spooks' - or 'MI5' to those elsewhere. But Doctor
Who content is still high.)

Part One: Loophole

"And I don't even know why I ended up doing this!" Polly wailed, head
down on the table.
The Second Doctor silently handed her a hanky while the First patted
her awkwardly on the back.
"There, there, stop making all this fuss."
Jamie was sitting on the edge of the table. "I don't see what the
matter is. You've been perfectly happy all this time -."
Polly looked up, sniffing. "But that's just it! I haven't! I never
asked to be the continuity cop. Out of everybody here, why pick on
me? Doctor Who's most with-it companion never gets to party. And no
one ever takes any notice of me anyway." She made a face.
"Well," said the Second Doctor, "somebody needs to keep an eye on the
guests here."
Polly blew her nose. "But why me? And it doesn't work - not now
they all know about the loophole. I don't see what the point is."
"You look good with a clipboard, love," chipped in Ben, perhaps not
very helpfully.
She looked from the First Doctor to the Second. "Doctor, surely one
of you could do something?"
The appeal to them didn't fail. Giving each other a suspicious look,
they both turned away, each determined to be the one to come up with
something first.
Eventually the First Doctor sighed and said, "Well, my girl, I'm
afraid it's your job and you can't shirk your responsibility, now can
"That's a bit harsh," objected Ben.
Jamie had found an abandoned biscuit and he nodded in agreement while
"I have it!" cried the Second triumphantly. "A night off, Polly!
How does that sound?"
She brightened a little. "Well, I was hoping for more - but it
sounds better than nothing, Doctor. Who's going to cover for me?"
"I will!" he promised stoutly and then elbowed Jamie. "And Jamie,
of course!"
Ben spluttered (even as Jamie choked on his biscuit). "You two!
You'll never manage to cover for Pol without making a mess of things!"
"Are you implying that I'm incapable?" demanded the First Doctor,
who disliked a slight to himself, even if it wasn't exactly himself.
Ben got confused.
Polly threw her arms around the Second and hugged him
enthusiastically. "Thank you, Doctor! Ben, what do you say to a
night out on the town?"
"What, here?" he said incredulously. "It's not up to your
She caught at his arm. "I don't care. Now, if you'll just wait
while I go and get ready-."
"At your service, Duchess," promised Ben, wondering if he would regret
it. He glanced back at the Doctor. "You'd better not muck this up,
you know."
He looked hurt. "Have some faith, Ben!"

Later, the Doctor was struggling to keep the sheets of paper on the
clipboard. "Oh - Oh dear! That's torn it!"
"Right in half," agreed Jamie, surveying Polly's precious list.
He thrust the clipboard at his companion and ran for some sticky
tape. On his return, he stuck the tape hastily over the torn paper.
"Oh. Now it's back to front." He turned it over, getting it stuck to
his thumb in the process. "Oh - I think I may have stuck two
different sheets together."
Jamie nudged the Doctor. "Hey, here's someone I don't recognise.
Better check the list."
"Oh, er, yes," said the Doctor, losing more sheets. "Oh, well, I'm
sure she's on here somewhere. We can't be too unpleasant, can we?
Come on in, Miss er -?"
She smiled and held out her hand. "Just call me Tess Durbeyfield."
"Durbeyfield?" frowned the Doctor. "That sounds familiar..." Then he
brightened. "Of course - I must have seen it on the list! Come on
She said coolly, "Thank you. Will I regret it?"
"Probably," he told her, still wrestling with the recalcitrant list.
Jamie snatched at flying pieces of paper and tried to straighten them
After a long moment, the Doctor coughed and whispered, "Jamie, I
don't think she was on the list..."
"I'll throw her out, shall I?" offered Jamie, although a second
glance at the middle-aged woman in the neat skirt and jacket at the
bar made him hesitate.
He sighed. "Well, better not, now we've let her in. It would be a
bit unkind when it was our mistake."

A tall gentleman with a dark hat and mask arrived and surveyed both
Jamie and the Doctor for a long moment. His disappointment was
clear. "Forgive me, gentlemen - I think perhaps I shall come back
another night!"
"Well, I like that, don't you?" said the Doctor indignantly as he
swept away.
Jamie shrugged, unconcerned. "I didn't like the look of him anyway.
Keeping his face all covered like that - and carrying a sword! We've
got enough troublemakers in here."
The Doctor found that amusing.

Meanwhile, Tessa turned to the ginger-haired young man next to her at
the bar. "Excuse me asking, but you're not ... evil ... are you?"
He turned with a scowl. "Look, whatever people have been saying,
it's not true!"
"I see," she concluded smoothly. "Just an innocent question, that's

"Can I have a screwdriver and a lemonade, please?"
Harry gave the Fifth Doctor a smile. "All working out now, is it?"
"Well," he said, reddening, "there's been a slight hiccup, but I
think if I buy her a drink we can sort things out again."
Harry glanced at Adric but neither of them said anything. Adric
wasn't in a position to criticise anyway. Nyssa hadn't arrived yet,
but it was a busy night and she was bound to turn up eventually. And
there was a fridge hanging over the bar, which looked like her
'Tess' looked the Fifth Doctor up and down and said, "I assume you
can't be evil."
"Er, no," he said, giving her a curious glance in return. "Have we
seen you in here before?"
She shook her head and laughed. "No, I'm a new girl around here.
Tessa, by the way."
"Nice to meet you," he returned politely before taking the glasses
and hurrying back across to the table where Tegan was waiting.

"Tess Durbeyfield?" echoed Sarah, on coming across to find out who the
stranger was. She surveyed the woman with obvious disbelief.
She smiled at her confusion. "No, not *that* Tess. It's just a name
I use sometimes. Tell me - I'm new here - who is it best to avoid?"

"What a charming chap," said the Doctor, later, beaming. "I don't
think I've spoken to so many interesting people for ages."
Jamie folded his arms. "But Doctor, should we have let them *all*
"Oh, I'm sure they didn't mean any harm," he said quickly. "Ah,
here's another."
Jamie tried to look stern and whispered, "Better keep him out just
so's we can tell Polly we did what she asked."
"Jamie," sighed the Doctor, "I don't think we can reasonably expect
Davros to take that well..."
"Oh, aye, no, maybe not, then."

Tessa found the first name on her list. "Nyssa, isn't it?"
The Trakenite eyed her cautiously. "Yes?"
"Merely some advice," she told her. "And before you find some
ingenious way to kill me, consider that I might be able to return the
Nyssa thought about it. "What did you want?"

Polly returned to the Round, laughing with Ben over some joke and then
surveyed the state of the place. Even given its usual crowd, it was
certainly fuller tonight. She gave the Doctor and Jamie a pleading
"It's his fault," said Jamie instantly. "He tore that list of
The Doctor directed a glare at his companion. "Now, Jamie, that is
hardly fair! Polly, I had some trouble with your list, but there it
is, back again and almost in one piece. Besides, I think we can
safely say that anyone who got in is a splendid addition to the
"Doctor," she scolded. "How could you?"
He looked away, guilt written across his features. "Oh dear. I
thought you might not see it like that. Oh, and there was a tall,
dark stranger who was obviously taken with you!"
"Was there?" asked Ben, depressed.
The Doctor nodded eagerly. "Oh, yes - he was most disappointed not
to see you!"
Ben drifted away and left Polly to it. She was frowning over the
list. "I think you've stuck these two pages back the wrong way
around, Doctor."
"Still, no harm done," said the Doctor, edging back towards the door,
nearly knocking over a dark-haired woman heading into the Round. He
jumped wildly and she apologised profusely.
She said nervously, "I couldn't help over-hearing - and I think you
might be wrong."
"I'm never wrong!" declared the Doctor. "Well, only now and then."
The woman said, "Please, I need to come in. Someone took advantage
of your confusion to get in here!"
"I don't think I've seen you before," pointed out Polly, flicking
through the remains of her list.
She coloured. "Well, no, you haven't. But surely the important
thing is to find the woman I'm talking about before she does any
"Oh, I'm sure she can't be that bad," the Doctor said, patting the
stranger's arm. "Not compared everyone else."
Polly nodded.
"You don't seem to understand," persisted the newcomer. "If you
don't try and stop her, you're going to regret it."
Polly sighed. "You shouldn't be here! And when we find your friend,
she will have to leave as well. If you'll just tell me her name -."
"Tessa Phillips," she told her. "And she's not my friend.
Technically, I've never even met her, but -."
Polly folded her arms. "Go away!"
"Isn't there any way I can come in and explain?"
"Not until you've been in a Doctor Who story," Polly informed her.
"You can't just appear in the Round like this."
She thought about it. "But if I wait until the next story and you
don't get her out of it, something terrible might happen. Will happen
- I'm sure of it. She's been planning this for a while."
The Second Doctor was never much of a stickler for rules, as he had
already proved tonight, so he looked hopefully at Polly.
She shook her head, tired and cross and in no mood for accepting such
a story from an interloper. What could be worse than their current
clientele? Even the supposedly good characters caused endless
trouble. Besides, it couldn't be done.
"Then there's nothing else for it," decided the Doctor, a bright idea
occurring to him. "Why don't you tell me who you are and I'll find
out if there's an author in here tonight. The author can quickly
rustle up a drabble or short story, post it while all this fuss is
going on and then Polly will have to let you in."
Polly stared at him, aghast. "Doctor! You can't do that!"
"Well, I think we'd be stubborn old fools not to listen to someone
who's come all this way to warn us," he argued. "Besides, it does
seem to be rather my fault..."

Vicky, who hadn't been able to find her way out of the Round lately,
had been sitting unobtrusively in a corner, heard the cry go up for an
author and instinctively hid under the table.
"There's one here," hissed a stray Ice Warrior, pointing with its
She realised that she was still only too visible and had to crawl out
The Second Doctor hurried over. "Now, could you quickly write me up
a short story about somebody who calls herself Ruth Evershed? She
says she's a Spook, which sounds exciting -."
"I was trying to write a story about the Fourth Doctor, Sarah and
Harry until I got stuck here," complained the hi-jacked 'author'.
"And it's just fan-fiction."
He nodded enthusiastically. "That's exactly what we need. We
haven't got time to wait for a book."
"A story about us?" asked Harry, pleased. "I say, I don't think
we've had one of those in a while. What was it about?"
She was easily distracted. "Well, it's set in 1812 and it's mostly
finished, except I'm having trouble getting from the middle to the
beginning of the end."
"There's no time for that!" said the Second Doctor crossly. "A story
about Ruth, please!"
She thought about it. "I could see her meeting the Tenth Doctor
between series -."
He was immediately at her elbow. "Me? Oh, yes, and what is this
going to involve?"
"Er, nothing much," she said, unnerved. "You're both a bit lonely at
the moment."
"Well, that's pretty much it -."
The Second Doctor was disappointed. "That doesn't sound very
exciting. Perhaps you could put a Yeti in it?"
Polly looked over from the doorway, "Ruth says, if it helps, she's
quite good at fishing out terrorists, but she's not keen on romance.
She says her fan fiction life has been busy enough on that front
lately. Not that I'm trying to encourage this kind of thing."
"Just let me write it," muttered Vicky. Why had she so foolishly
written herself into the Round?

Lost Spook
by Vicky (helpgetmeoutofhere) Jewitt

It was a grey Sunday in a nameless English town. Well, thought the
Doctor, it presumably had a name, but he enjoyed not knowing where he
was, for once. The quiet atmosphere of damp and gloom matched his
mood, although everyone else was sensibly keeping out of the fine

("Isn't anything exciting going to happen?" demanded the Second.
Sarah had come over. "Do I get to wear a period dress in the other

Everybody that was, except the dark-haired woman he was following.
She'd been standing by the riverside in a long, dark coat ever since
he'd got here. He'd walked all along the river path, over the bridge
and back and circled the nearby park and she hadn't moved. He was
beginning to wonder exactly what she was contemplating as she kept her
gaze on the riverside.

("Dear me," sighed the Second Doctor. "Dull grey, English weather and
nothing happening at all. I would have left by now!"
"Ssh," said the Tenth. "Let her get on and finish the thing!")

Ruth jumped violently as she was accosted by a young man in a pin-
striped suit with dark eyes and a manic smile. She edged away. "I'm
sorry - do I know you?"

("A manic smile?" echoed the Tenth. "Really? You think so?")

"Me? No," he returned. "Why, do you?"
She coloured, unsure of him. "No. Please. Go away - I'm waiting
for someone."
"Oh," he said softly. "So that's it, is it? You've been waiting a
long time. You sure he's coming?"
She stared downwards, unable to think of what to say. Had she been
discovered, so soon?
"You're shivering," observed the Doctor. "There was a little café in
that park."

("What about a Dalek hiding behind a tree?" suggested the Second
Vicky sighed. "Sorry. It's not that kind of story!"
He sulked.)

She continued to face the river. "I said I'm waiting for someone."
"Look, I can't leave you out here in the cold," said the man. "Be
reasonable. You'll only go down with pneumonia- cause endless
Ruth gave a reluctant laugh, her teeth chattering now. She knew she
should have walked away, tried to lose him, but she'd told herself she
was only seeing spooks everywhere and he'd soon go away. She knew she
should have listened to her instincts. As if she hadn't learnt enough
by now to know when she was under surveillance. "I suppose there's no
harm in that."
He beamed at her, pleased to have achieved his aim and marched her
off to the café.

"What do you want?" asked the woman as their tea arrived. She cupped
her hands around the mug, glad of its warmth.
He eyed her sternly. "I wanted you to think twice about what you're
"What I'm doing?" she echoed, bewildered and then said tightly, "I
made my decision - there's no other choice now."

("Manic smile!" said the Tenth, still offended. "And did you say
Vicky frowned. "No."
"Oh. Must have been someone else. Carry on, then.")

The Doctor shook his head. "There's always a choice."
"I don't think we should talk about this," she murmured, reading the
menu. "I might have a cake. How about you?"
He was beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake. It had been
known. "Ooh, good idea. Except - now that I come to think of it, I'm
not sure I've got any money on me. Not your actual current money,
that is."
"Oh," said Ruth, shaking her head. "I knew it! You were looking for
me, weren't you?"
The Doctor frowned. "I'm missing something, aren't I?"
"I don't know," said the woman, "but if you meant what you said, I'm
going to go outside. I think I saw a window in the gents."
He raised an eyebrow slowly.
"I walked round the building earlier," she explained. She passed the
menu back to him. A piece of paper resting on the top read: 'Meet you
at the bridge.'
She got up, fumbling in her bag, as if she was looking for a box of
cigarettes and disappeared outside. An elderly couple were taking
their time in placing an order, so he strolled off to the gents, where
he surveyed the window. Lucky this regeneration was handy for tight
spots ...

("Ha! You ARE calling me skinny!")

Ruth watched him approach the bridge. She was still unsure - friend
or enemy? Surely they knew better than to look for her? Then again,
she might have done the same. Just to be sure she had something to
live on.
"Look," said the stranger. "I think we've confused each other.
Let's start again. I'm the Doctor - and you are?"
She turned. Asking names? She had to bite her lip; this was all too
new and painful. "Oh, I'm no one."
"What were your parents thinking?"
She did laugh then.

("I can't believe I'm letting you do this," sighed Polly.)

"So, you - er - weren't thinking of ending it all in this dirty old
Ruth was startled now. "You thought -?" She coloured and felt
stupid. "No," she said. "No."
"So what did you think I was doing?"
She shrugged. "Looking for me?"
"Blind date?" he suggested cautiously.
Ruth nodded. Let him think that. She knew how to play a part by now
and immediately became embarrassed and confused, pushing her hair back
behind her ears and blushing.

("I can do a good wronged wife act as well," Ruth put in

"No," he continued. "That's not it. You know, I can't imagine what
you're really doing here. Well, I tell a lie, I could imagine quite a
few reasons, but I don't think they'd be right. Ever lost someone
important to you?"
"You have no idea," said Ruth.
He flashed a smile at her. "Thought so."
"You could say," she told him, "that I've lost myself. I'm trying to
find someone else to be."
"Are you on the run?"
She caught her breath. He'd recognised her. She'd said too much and
he'd recognised her.
"You are!" he triumphed and then gave her a serious look. "Innocent
or guilty?"
Ruth stumped him again. "Both."
"You can't be both," he objected.
She gave a slight smile. "I have to be."

"You're being enigmatic," he accused wryly. "I should probably let
you go?"
She met his gaze deliberately - were her eyes green? "I've got my
freedom, true. Yes. 'Liberty dear a thing /That is, they know
who give their lives for it.'"

("Dante," said Ruth, unable to help herself.
"Il Purgatorio," finished the Tenth, giving her a more interested
look. "The Dorothy Sayers translation, if I'm not mistaken. Poor Dot
had endless trouble with that!"
Sarah poked him. "You're making that up!"
"Not a patch on the original Italian," the Third offered in passing.
Ruth added, "Canto 1."
Harry was confused. "What are they talking about?")

"Ah," said the Doctor. "Good luck in finding paradise, then!"
She gave him another smile and then she left.
He shook his head, but she had answered his questions as best as she
could. She was lost, in purgatory, but for a just cause.
He decided it was time to find somewhere sunnier and hoped that she
would do the same.

"Thank you," said the Second Doctor, impatient but trying to remain
polite. "Although you needn't bother writing anything about me, let
me tell you."
The Tenth Doctor was more encouraging. "Oh, let her be. I've had
"I'll go and post it," said Vicky. "Then Ruth can come in."
Harry coughed, at her elbow. "So, this other story, about us - it
doesn't involve any dancing, does it? I'm afraid I've got two left
feet when it comes to that sort of thing."
"I did write about you once," muttered Vicky.
The Second Doctor heard. "Oh, you did, did you? Must have been so
exciting, it slipped my mind. What did I do, go shopping?"
"No, you went to a theme park," she admitted.
"Had a nice time," she finished in small voice. "It was only a
prologue. There were people crumbling to dust, if it helps."
Polly shook her head. Next time, she either wasn't having a night
off or she wasn't coming back...