'Incoming in five... four... three... two... one...'
A shadow faded into existence on the lawn, solidifying, becoming Fey.
Anji supported her. 'Anything wrong?'
Fey shook her head. 'I've been through worse, believe me. But the first person to make a joke about mind probes is going to get a sound thrashing.'
'Right behind me.'
'PLOT development imminent,' Compassion reported. 'PLOT Hole opening in twenty...'
'Izzy, are you sure-?'
The fish girl nodded. 'Yeah. Yeah... Not sure I'm not gonna freak, though.'
'Which is the expected response...' Compassion observed. 'Ten...'
'Are *we* sure about this?' Sam said to the yard at large.
Anji considered this. 'No.'
The air rippled with silver light-
-And the PLOT Hole opened.
The Doctor stepped through, wiping himself down.
'Doctor...?' Izzy asked tentatively.
The Doctor nodded. 'I know, Izzy. I know.'
Izzy closed her eyes, nodded in understanding.
The PLOT Hole collapsed in on itself.
But not before someone else had come through it.
Blonde streaks in her ginger hair, blue eyes sparkling, wearing an improvised bikini made from strips of torn denim, with a pair of wristbands and a pair of trainers completing the ensemble, a bow and quiver slung across her back.
Sam closed her eyes, fighting down the bile - the anger - inside.
Close to an alter, so close... but so, so different.
This was the original. The one they'd known all their existences.
Izzy's body. Izzy's /original/ body.
But it wasn't Izzy.
It wasn't her behind those blue eyes, that heart-shaped face.
Was - /should have been/ - but was /not/.
Visible changes... toning the body, exercising it, defining the muscles. Invisible changes... subliminal clues, little gestures, unconscious moves...
Like, yet not like. Different, yet not different.
Sam glanced over at Izzy - at /their/ Izzy, the fish girl - saw her watching the newcomer, her golden eyes gleaming.
Watching the girl who'd stolen her body.
She looked around the yard, taking it all in. 'So *this* is Earth. Looks a lot bigger on TV, y'know?'
Destrii raised an eyebrow. 'Tough audience. You'd think people would be more impressed by a miracle resurrection...'
Chang Lee shrugged. 'Been there.'
'Done that.' Sam said.
'Bought the postcard.' Fitz finished.
Destrii raised her other eyebrow. 'No kidding. So where /was/ the little stick insect? Didn't see /her/ when handsome over there brought me in Inside...' She nodded at the Doctor.
'I'm here,' Izzy said, stepping to the front of the group. 'And that's rich, coming from a sociopathic body-thief.'
'Uh-huh. So what happened, beautiful? Finally ran out on the Doc?'
'Hardly.' Izzy's voice carried dark undertones. 'You know the guys you were running from, Inside - you remember them, you stole my body to escape them, after all? They finally managed to track you down...'
She crossed her arms. 'Actually, they finally managed to track _me_ down - they /did/ think I was you, after all - and dragged me back to whatever hellhole you call home.' Izzy regarded Destrii calmly. 'And the Doctor - being the Doctor, and general all-around hero - tried to track me down by finding where they'd come from.
'Thing is, thanks to your little bait and switch, your hunters'd been chasing /my/ trail instead - so the Doctor ended up back where we'd met you - back on Ophidius... and found /you/, instead.' Izzy thought about this. 'Sort of like putting in the video and realising you're watching "Spock's Brain" instead of "The Trouble with Tribbles". Especially when you /know/ you burned all your copies of "Spock's Brain" in the first place...'
Fitz blinked, and turned to Sam.
'Star Trek fan reference.' Sam murmured under her breath. 'I'll show you the DVD afterwards. If Izzy hasn't burnt it first.'
'War of the Fangrrls...' Fitz murmured.
Destrii gave Izzy a once-over. 'Mm. You know, Izzy, you're really letting those magical curves of mine go. Meanwhile, /some/ of us have to make do with something we got on sale.'
Izzy gave her a vicious smile, showing her pointed teeth. 'It's not /my/ fault you decided to trade this in.'
The other girl leaned back. 'Mm. But put in a little effort, a little elbow grease, and soon enough you can get even the most clapped-out lemon purring like a tiger. But if you've got a sucker behind the wheel, there's no way you're getting it off the blocks, no matter /how/ smooth it goes...'
Izzy shrugged. 'What can I say? Everyone wises up sometime. Having your body stolen - and then *disintegrated*, in front of your eyes - tends to do that, you know?'
'I prefer "trade-in". Besides, I still got the better of the deal - the guys after me weren't exactly masterminds. A quick bait and switch on Ophidius, when I got the chance, and no-one would be the wiser.'
'Apart from the Doctor.' Izzy pointed out. 'And the rest of the gang.'
'No-one who matters.' Destrii shrugged. 'But what the hell. I'm back and I'm proud, so /someone/ up there likes me.'
'Just a shame about everyone down /here/.' Izzy retorted. 'I mean, once you see someone disintegrated in front of you - having stolen your body, and let's face it, you tend to remember stuff like that - you usually don't think they're going to make a comeback. Not Inside, at any rate.'
'And yet, here I am.' Destrii smiled slowly. 'Besides, it never stopped the Green Goblin.'
'I'm never going to be able to enjoy "Spider-Man" again, am I?' Izzy said rhetorically. 'You really /are/ evil, you know that, Destrii?'
'Sticks and stones, sweetie, sticks and stones.' Destrii said. 'Taking all this rather well, aren't you?'
Izzy shrugged. 'A little work, a little elbow grease... 'Course, some people can't be trusted with /anything/. Like other people's bodies.'
Destrii raised an eyebrow. 'Speaking from experience? Please, do you really think I want to walk around in Stick-Figure Barbie's bod for the rest of time?'
'Why not?' Izzy shot back. 'After all, /I/ ended up looking like the Creature From The Black Lagoon.'
'If you're *that* desperate to get out, beautiful, I'll be happy to oblige.'
'Don't think I haven't considered it.'
'Touchy... Well, while you think it over, maybe I should see about breaking this bod in.' Destrii nodded in Fitz's direction. 'Maybe with Tall, Thin, and Angsty over there.'
'Sorry,' Fitz said, 'but I make it a habit never to go out with homicidal body-swapping aliens. Even if they _do_ look like the Queen of the Jungle.'
'Your loss, handsome. Or how about Short, Sweet and Cute?' Destrii said, gesturing at Chang Lee. 'He's got that whole street kid look going for him.'
'No /way/, lady.' Lee snapped. 'Believe me. Already risked my soul God knows how many times, but I ain't risking it on you.'
Destrii looked at him from under her lashes. 'Oh, you wouldn't be risking your /soul/...'
'Please. You're giving us Doctor-drooling fangirls a bad name.' Sam said.
The Doctor quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing.
'Got a little score to settle, first, blondie.' Destrii said. 'Small matter of the Doc blowing me off and getting me killed. Once we get that out of the way...'
'I didn't get you killed.' the Doctor said quietly. 'You managed that quite well on your own.
'Killing a Mobox's heart-mate... oh, that's /right/, you never knew who killed you. Seems familiar... You killed B'rostt's heart-mate - and for that, B'rostt killed /you/.'
'Some people - and Mobox - just get in the way...' Destrii shrugged. 'But now I'm back... what're you gonna do about it?'
'Me?' The Doctor's voice became low, soft. 'Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You're still needed, Inside. We still need to find out how you came back, what you're doing on the Mobox's homeworld, what you want with me... the story still needs you.
'And you still need *it*... don't you? Your way out. Your way back. Your own body returned.' The Doctor stepped closer to Destrii. 'You think I - or the story - can offer you that.
'I'm going to do absolutely nothing, Destrii.
'But the moment you kill another person, the moment you harm someone else, the moment you lay a finger on someone - anyone - else... I will know.
'I will come for you.
'Run as far as you can, little one. Run to the end of time, to the end of eternity, if you can - but I will find you.
'And I will give you over to whatever justice awaits.'
Destrii's face was pale, trembling.
'Do we understand each other?'
Destrii nodded mutely.
'Very well.' The Doctor opened the TARDIS door. 'The TARDIS should have a room for you... somewhere.'
Destrii looked around her, at the faces surrounding her, then lifted her head and walked forward.
She paused on the TARDIS's threshold. 'Yeah?'
'The "Do Not Disturb" signs are there for a reason. Should you ignore them, I will not be held responsible for the tenants' actions.'
Destrii blinked, shrugged, set her shoulders, and walked inside the TARDIS.
The Doctor let out a long, juddering, breath. 'That wasn't /quite/ the way I expected this to go...'
'Smooth, Doc,' Lee observed. 'Me, I wouldn'ta told her 'bout the "Do Not Disturb" signs, but I'm a bastard like that.'
'What if she ends up being a companion?' Anji interrupted. 'She /is/ the one most likely to know where Izzy is, after all. Because if she /does/-'
'-that means she'd get an Adaptation.' Izzy finished. 'Gordon Christ, that's all we need. A homicidal sociopath with superpowers...'
'More basic than that. A homicidal sociopath as an official companion. As one of /us/.' Anji said. 'Think about that for a moment.'
She let it sink in.
'And here I thought we were gonna be able to get away from homicidal psychos...' Lee said finally.
'What gave you *that* idea?' Compassion said.
Lee shrugged. 'I dunno. Blind optimism?'
'I'd be cautious, for the time being.' the Doctor said. 'She's still on "recurring character" status at the moment.'
'So... we're not gonna try getting Izzy's body back?' Lee said. 'I mean, she /did/ steal it in the first place...'
'Wouldn't work.' Compassion said. 'The moment they went back Inside, they'd switch back - changes in /home/ Insides override changes Outside.'
'Have I mentioned what a comfort you can be sometimes, Cam?' Fitz asked.
'And it's just /perfect/ for us, besides...' Fey said dryly. 'No. I think she'll wait to see if she can get her body back permanently before she does anything rash.'
'And until then, we get to babysit our very own psycho.' Sam said flatly. 'Joy.'
'Doctor,' Izzy led him away, lowered her voice, so none of the others could hear, 'We /saw/ her disintegrated in "Ophidius" - we /both/ did. How did she come back? /Is/ it her? "Our" her? Could she-?'
The Doctor was already shaking his head. 'I don't know, Izzy. I wish I did, but I don't. We'll find out soon enough - but until then...'
'One more thing.'
'Why is...' Izzy hesitated. 'I... I don't... Doctor...' Big yellow eyes turned on him. '/Why?/'
'Because...' The Doctor paused. 'Because she doesn't care. Because the only thing that matters to her is getting what she wants. Because she'll do anything - short of destroying herself - to achieve her goals.'
'So... not like Compassion, then.'
'Oh, Compassion cares. Even if she won't always admit it. Destrii, on the other hand...' The Doctor shook his head. 'She's totally secure in her own identity - in her own world. But other people only mean something to her for how they can be used.'
'Or abused.' Izzy said quietly.
The Doctor nodded. 'She could survive your bodyswap without blinking an eyelid - what matters is that /she's/ free, right? She's escaped.' He shook his head. 'Destrii is a sociopath - a _true_ sociopath - by _any_ clinical definition. One of the most callous I've ever encountered.'
'Even...?' Izzy left the question hanging.
'Nyssa is homicidally psychotic. The difference is small, but it /is/ there.' the Doctor said. 'But the end result is still the same.'
The Doctor nodded.
Izzy sighed. 'And it seemed like it was going to be a sane month, for once...'
'They're the most dangerous kind, I've found.' The Doctor placed his hands in his trouser pockets. 'Izzy... Is there anything you want me to do?'
'Nothing I could ask you for,' Izzy said quietly. 'Just... be careful. Suppose that's all I /can/ ask, really.'
'Ask not of others what you will not ask of yourself...' the Doctor murmured.
Izzy chuckled, a little sadly. 'I learned /that/ one off by heart... And yeah, I wouldn't ask you to do anything _I_ wouldn't do.' She gave him a quick grin. 'Besides, you can't tell me Compassion hasn't heard every last word.'
'What-' The Doctor double-took, and slapped himself on the forehead. 'Stupidstupid*stupid* Doctor! /Audio/ sensors! /This/ is why people keep calling me a congenital idiot!'
Compassion turned to face them, and gave them the smallest of smiles.
There was a brief and terrible silence whilst the others simply *stared* at the Doctor.
Finally, Fitz shook his head. 'Damn. I *knew* we should have cut his caffeine intake...'
Copyright 2002 Imran Inayat.