Summary: The Doctor and Ace are mistaken for a stage magician and his assistant. The Doctor is enthusiastic about it. Ace is not.
Notes: Written for kalirush
"You only told me not to play the spoons," the Doctor protested.
Ace clenched her hands into fists. "Because I didn't think that telling you not to saw me in half was necessary."
Despite the audience cheering for the Doctor to saw Ace in half, she wasn't backing down. It was typical of the Doctor that they'd ended up on a stage, in front of an audience, having a whispered argument.
She'd only let him out of her sight for five minutes. During that time he'd been mistaken for a stage magician. She could only imagine how, since he hadn't explained. Not only had he not set them right, he'd introduced her as his assistant. And somehow no-one cared how they were dressed.
But the audience were liking the Doctor's magic and his patter. He'd started off with some tame tricks: finding small objects from behind her ear, then going onto finding them from behind the audience's ears.
Once he was back on the stage he'd done some juggling. And then he'd gone for a big trick and announced he was going to saw his assistant in half. Even though running away would have been the better option.
"But sawing someone in half is impressive," he insisted "And this crowd need something impressive."
Like a real magician, she didn't say. Like the real magician they were expecting. As much as she was amused by his small tricks, she was less convinced about his ability to perform the big ones. "Have you ever actually sawn someone in half before?"
"Well..." He prevaricated for a moment before admitting, "Not as such, no."
Which was exactly the sort of thing she was worried about. Give him a saw and a person and who knows what would end up happening. Actually, he'd probably play the spoons on her, if she hadn't stopped him from doing that in advance. She folded her arms. "I'm not going to be your first."
"Ace, don't you trust me?" He looked hurt.
She was not going to let him manipulate her.
"The equipment's all here." He indicated the box, off stage. It was painted in bright colours and was long enough for a person to fit in, with their head dangling at one end and their feet at the other. "All you have to do is to stay out of the way of the saw."
"That's all, is it?" She filled her tone with as much sarcasm she could muster.
"Oh, yes." He appeared to take her tone at face value. "The trick's really all done by the assistant."
She narrowed her eyes. "How do you know? Are you a member of the magic circle?"
"Yes," he said, and then frowned. "Maybe. I think my membership might have lapsed."
She rolled her eyes.
But his eyes lit up as if he'd had an amazing idea. "I know, why don't you saw me in half?" He followed it up by leaning forward and whispering, "I trust you."
Some days, she hated him.
He grinned at her. Then before she could say yes or not, he beamed at the audience as he explained what was going to happen next. He didn't stop his patter as he pulled the box onto the stage and got inside. "Now, saw me in half, Ace."
When she picked the saw up she discovered it was large and surprisingly heavy. Although she also noticed it was blunt: it would struggle to cut through paper. She frowned at it, then turned to the Doctor for confirmation.
He nodded. "I'm ready."
She wasn't, but she couldn't stand there holding it all evening. There was a groove halfway along the box, and she fitted it into that. And nearly dropped it. There was nothing beneath the saw but air. Which meant the box was really two boxes. But why could she see the Doctor's feet at the other end? They were definitely his shoes and he was wiggling his feet.
She gave him a questioning look, to which he smiled. "Carry on, Ace."
Having no choice, she did. She'd never sawed anything before, and wasn't sawing anything now. But she knew enough about how it looked to make sure it was realistic.
When she was about halfway down, he complained, "Ooh, it tickles."
The audience oohed appreciatively, but she ignored him and carried on.
When at last the saw reached the bottom, it was easy for her to drop it beneath the box, then hold it up in the air with a "Ta da!". There was some polite applause.
"Push the boxes apart," the Doctor said in a low voice. "Prove you've sawed me in half."
She did as she was told, and the applause grew louder. But not loud enough to mask the argument off-stage. In the wings on her left were two men. The shorter one was the man who had been expecting a magician. The other was dressed in a top hat and tails. As she watched, his hat shifted on his head and from beneath it came a white paw.
She stepped closer to the Doctor's head. "The real magician's here. We have to go." She pushed the boxes back together, as if they were ending the trick as normal. But as he climbed out, she turned to her backpack, which she'd dumped at the back of the stage.
"We're going to disappear." Fortunately, there was still enough applause that their conversation wouldn't be heard.
"Ace..." His warning tone was unmistakeable.
"Trust me." Two could play at that game. Besides, she wasn't going to explode anything, much as that would have been fun.
As the applause faded, the Doctor took a step towards the front of the stage and bowed. "Thank you, you've been a great audience. And now, for my final trick, I shall make myself and my assistant disappear."
Technically, she was performing this trick, but now wasn't the time to dispute that. She stepped forward to stand beside the Doctor and waved. With the other hand, she dropped a bottle at their feet. The impact released a puff of smoke, which only took a couple of seconds to cover them.
It would have better if it had gone off with a bang, but there was only so much she could do in one minute with just the chemicals she had with her. But it was enough to cover their escape through the curtain at the back of the stage. Once there they exchanged glances and ran back to the TARDIS before anyone could catch them.
"That was not quite how I expected it to go," he said in a master of understatement.
"I'll have to experiment with that." She was still thinking about her smoke bomb. "Very handy when you need to run away."
"Branching out?" he asked, glancing over at her from the console.
"Yeah." Of course she still liked exploding things, but smoke bombs could be fun too. "But promise me no more sawing anyone in half, Professor."
"I'll try not to."
She gave him a look, to which he grinned and said, "Now you know how to saw someone in half, if the situation should arise."
Which she'd make sure it didn't. If only he listened to her more often they wouldn't end up in these situations. "About that." She wondered over to the console. "How did that trick work? How did you fit into one box but have your feet in the other?"
He tapped the side of his nose. "A magician never reveals his secrets."