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The Beginning of Forever

Chapter Text

“Doctor,” Rose said, grabbing her fiancé by the arm and pulling him into the alleyway beside the building.

“What is it?”

“I can’t go in there,” Rose said, glancing toward the building they were investigating.

“You can’t? I thought—”

“I am ready for the adventures and the trouble. But one of those guards is from the Estates, and he’d recognize me,” Rose explained.

“Yeah, and?” the Doctor asked, glancing at the man.

“And I’m supposed to be dead. Even if we were able to convince him it wasn’t me, we’d still cause a scene. Which is the opposite of what we want to do right now while we’re gathering intel,” Rose explained.

The Doctor was quiet for a minute. Rose could feel him in her head, trying to come up with a solution to the problem. “It’s okay, Doctor. You go in, find out what’s going on, get a client list, and get out. I’ll be waiting in the TARDIS, and when you get back, we’ll go interrogate people together.”

“But we’re supposed to be doing this together,” the Doctor sighed.

“And we will,” Rose said, smoothing down his lapels. “We’re just splitting up for a bit.”

“Are you sure?” He asked.

“Yes,” Rose smiled, pressing a quick kiss to his lips before saying, “Now go.”

The Doctor gave her another quick kiss and strode toward the building, coat billowing out behind him.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“John Tyler, Health and Safety. Don’t mind me,” the Doctor mouthed, flashing the psychic paper as he sat down in one of the cubicles. He could distantly feel Rose’s amusement at his choice of last name, so he knew she had made it back to the TARDIS. Their temporary bond wasn’t supposed to allow them to communicate over long distances, but the TARDIS helped Rose boost the signal, and he couldn’t be more glad. It didn’t feel right investigating without her.

”Stop thinking about me and pay attention,” Rose’s voice warned in his head, and he turned back to the woman.

“That's a three week course of pills for a special price of forty five pounds. We deliver within three working days. The box comes with 21 days worth of pills, a full information pack, and our special free gift, an Adipose Industries pendant,” the woman pulled out a small gold pendant and handed it to the Doctor. “It's made of eighteen carat gold, and it's yours for free. No, we don't give away pens, sorry. No, I can't make an exception, no.”

When the woman finished the call, the Doctor was still inspecting the pendant. “Right, I think I’ll need to keep this for testing. And I’ll need a customers list. Any way you could print one off?”

“Of course,” the woman smiled.

The Doctor popped up, “That’s the printer there?” he asked, looking over the cubicles.

“By the plant, yeah,” she said.

“Brilliant,” he said, sitting back down as she sent the command, popping up a few seconds later to ask, “Has it got paper?”

“Yeah, Jimbo keeps it stocked,” the woman replied.

Then Miss Foster walked in, and the Doctor ducked down as all of the employees stood. “Excuse me, everyone, if I could have your attention. On average, you're each selling forty Adipose packs per day. It's not enough. I want one hundred sales per person per day. And if not, you'll be replaced. Because if anyone's good in trimming the fat, it's me. Now. Back to it,” with that, she turned on her heel and strode away.

“Anyway, if you could print that off. Thanks,” the Doctor said. As he was about to leave, the woman pulled him back down and handed him a piece of paper. “Thanks, then. Oh, what's that?”

“My telephone number,” she replied.

“What for?” the Doctor asked, and he could feel Rose laughing at his genuine confusion.

“Health and Safety. You be health, I'll be safety,” she grinned at him.

“Ah, no no no no no,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m um, I’m engaged. Sorry.”

The Doctor quickly ducked away, sprinting to the printer only to see that nothing had printed. Groaning internally, he returned to her desk. “Me again,” he sighed.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Oh Doctor,” Rose giggled as they walked up the street. “How could you not tell that woman was flirting with you?”

The Doctor groaned, “She was working, and I was just investigating. Why would she be flirting with me?”

“You are a bit fit, you know?” Rose asked.

“Yes, well, I’ve also been known to miss very obvious signs that people fancied me,” he said, looking down at her. “Especially since I met this one girl.”

“Yeah?” Rose said, her tongue peeking out from between her teeth as she smiled.

“Yeah. Haven’t really noticed anyone else since I met her.”

“Is that so?” Rose asked. “She sounds pretty special.”

“Oh, she is,” the Doctor replied.

“And do you know how she feels about you?” Rose asked, enjoying their light banter.

“Oh, I think she might fancy me just a bit,” the Doctor replied. “Even though I did blow up her job.”

Rose laughed and gave the Doctor a quick kiss. “As much as I’m enjoying this,” Rose said. “We’re here.”

“Well, allons-y, Rose Tyler,” the Doctor said as they walked to the front door and knocked.

When the door swung open, Rose asked, “Mr. Roger Davey? We’re calling on behalf of Adipose Industries. Just need to ask you a few questions.”

Roger let them in, and Rose and the Doctor had a seat on his couch and asked him about his experience with Adipose.

“I've been on the pills for two weeks now. I've lost fourteen kilos,” he said.

“The same amount each day, or does it just average out that way?” Rose asked.

Roger shook his head, “One kilo exactly. You wake up, and it's disappeared overnight. Well, technically speaking, it's gone by ten past one in the morning.”

“What makes you say that?” the Doctor asked.

“That's when I get woken up. Might as well weigh myself at the same time. It is driving me mad. Ten minutes past one, every night, bang on the dot without fail, the burglar alarm goes off. I've had experts in, I've had it replaced, I've even phoned Watchdog. But no, ten past one in the morning, off it goes,” Roger explained.

“But there aren’t any burglars?” Rose asked.

“Nothing,” Roger said. “I’ve given up looking.”

“Tell me, Roger,” the Doctor said. “Have you got a cat flap?”

“Yeah, this way,” he said, leading them to it. “It was here when I bought the house. I've never bothered with it, really. I'm not a cat person.”

“No, I've met cat people. You're nothing like them,” the Doctor said, getting down on his hands and knees to examine the flap. Behind him, Rose snorted at the joke.

“Is that what it is, though? Cats getting inside the house?” Roger asked.

“Well, thing about cat flaps is, they don't just let things in, they let things out as well,” the Doctor explained.

“Like what?”

The Doctor turned around to look at Rose and Roger. “The fat just walks away.”

Roger led Rose and the Doctor out of the house. “Thank you so much Mr. Davey,” Rose said, shaking his hand.

“Yes, thanks for the help,” the Doctor said. “Tell you what, maybe you could lay off the pills for a week or so.”

As soon as he had said that, a little device in his pocket started beeping and he grabbed Rose’s hand and took off running. “Oh, got to go! Sorry!”

Rose and the Doctor followed the detector’s signal down the street. A little black van almost ran them over, and the detector went mad for a second, and the Doctor and Rose took off chasing it, but the van moved too fast, and they quickly lost the signal. With a sigh, they headed back to the TARDIS.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose were examining the pendant he had taken from Adipose Industries. “Fascinating… It seems to be a –”

“Bio-flip digital switch!” Rose and the Doctor exclaimed in unison.

“Hold on,” the Doctor asked, “how did you know that?”

Rose shrugged and hopped up to take a seat on the TARDIS console so she could swing her legs freely. “You were thinking it. Loudly.”

“So you’re just going to take all of my dramatic reveals now?” the Doctor asked, raising a brow at her.

“Nah,” she grinned. “Where would be the fun in that? It’s much better to randomly surprise you.”

“Well,” he said. “If you know everything I’m thinking, then what do you think I’m planning on doing next?”

Rose laughed, “Love, I don’t need to be in your head to know the answer to that!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

That was how Rose and the Doctor managed to spend an entire day locked away in a supply closet. As soon as they were sure all the workers were gone, they snuck up to the roof to use the electric cradle to get outside Miss Foster’s office. They both listened as she interrogated the journalist, but Rose happened to look up and across the room to the opposite door, where she saw a familiar face.

Rose hit the Doctor on the arm and pointed at the window, just as Donna noticed them.

“Donna?” the Doctor mouthed.

“Doctor? Rose?” Donna mouthed back.

“But what? What? What?” the Doctor mouthed, looking between Rose, who was staring in shock, and Donna.

“Oh. My. God.” Donna mouthed.

“But how?” the Doctor asked.

“It’s me!” Donna replied.

“Yes, I can see that.”

“Oh, this is brilliant,” Donna grinned.

“What the hell are you doing there?” The Doctor asked.

“I was looking for you two,” Donna mouthed back.

“What for?” the Doctor asked.

Donna started doing some weird hand signals that Rose couldn’t make out, but she quickly noticed that they had a few eavesdroppers on their own silent conversation.

“Are we interrupting you?” Miss Foster asked.

“Run!” The Doctor told Donna, sonic-ing the door locked as Rose used her own sonic to force the lift up.

The met on the roof, and Donna quickly hugged each of them in turn. “Oh, my God. I don’t believe it! You’ve even got the same suit! Don’t you ever change?”

“Yeah, thanks, Donna. Not right now,” the Doctor said.

“Not voluntarily,” Rose replied, smiling at Donna.

“Still here then?” Donna asked her.

“Yeah,” Rose smiled. “We had a bit of a rough patch five or six years ago, but he’s stuck with me now.”

“Forever,” the Doctor smiled back at her, pausing for just a moment in his work to secure the roof.

“And I didn’t think you two could get any sappier,” Donna sighed. Rose laughed and brushed a lock of hair out of her face before Donna screamed and grabbed her hand. “Is that a ring?”

“Yeah,” Rose grinned, letting Donna see it.

“Do aliens have different reasons for wearing rings?” Donna asked.

“Some might,” Rose shrugged, “but this one represents a very human reason.”

“And I thought you said you two weren’t like that,” Donna scoffed.

“Well, we weren’t at the time,” Rose replied.

“If you’re done discussing our love life, would you mind telling us how you got here, Donna?” the Doctor asked.

“Well, I thought, how do you find the Doctor? And then I just thought, look for trouble and then he'll turn up. So I looked everywhere. You name it. UFOs, sightings, crop circles, sea monsters. I looked, I found them all. Like that stuff about the bees disappearing, I thought, I bet he's connected. Because the thing is, Doctor, I believe it all now. You opened my eyes. All those amazing things out there, I believe them all. Well, apart from that replica of the Titanic flying over Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day. I mean, that's got to be a hoax,” Donna explained.

“Yeah, sorry about that,” Rose shrugged. “But at least we kept it from crashing into Buckingham Palace.”

“That was you two?”

Rose nodded, but the Doctor just asked, “What do you mean, the bees are disappearing?”

“I don't know. That's what it says on the internet. Well, on the same site, there was all these conspiracy theories about Adipose Industries and I thought, let's take a look,” Donna replied.

“Okay ladies, in you get!” The Doctor motioned toward the cradle he and Rose had been in earlier.

Rose climbed in, but Donna said, “What, in that thing?”

“Yes, in that thing,” the Doctor sighed.

“But if we go down in that, they'll just call us back up again,” she protested.

“No, no, no, because I've locked the controls with a sonic cage. I'm the only one that can control it. Not unless she's got a sonic device of her own, which is very unlikely,” the Doctor replied.

They started going down, but they weren’t even halfway when the cradle started sparking and began to drop quickly. Rose looked at the Doctor and said, “Why’d you have to say she wouldn’t have a sonic device?”

The Doctor managed to get them stopped, and said, “Hold on. Hold on. We can get in through the window.” He tried to use the sonic to unlock the window, but it was deadlock sealed. “Can't get it open!”

“Well smash it then!” Donna yelled, grabbing a spanner as she began to beat on the window. Just then though, Miss Foster started to use her sonic to cut the cabling. Donna started to fall, but Rose pushed her tighter into the cradle, and was just holding on by a broken end of the cable.

“Rose!” The Doctor yelled, reaching out for her.

“Doctor, it’s too heavy. I’m throwing off the balance,” Rose said.

“No, it’s fine,” the Doctor protested.

“Love, if I keep holding on, I’m going to tip it over and you’ll both fall out. I promise I’ll be fine,” Rose said.

“Fine?” Donna asked. “Do you know how long that fall is, blondie?”

Rose glanced down at the very long fall and replied, “I’ve survived worse.”

“You’ve survived worse falls than that?” Donna asked skeptically.

“Believe me, I’ve been through a lot since the last time you saw me. Just neither of you look down, okay?” Rose replied.

“Rose, please,” the Doctor begged.

“Doctor, I have to. I’ll be fine. You two just get to safety, and I’ll meet you inside.”

“But—”

“You knew things were going to be like this if we got back to travelling. It’s just how things work with me now. I won’t do it recklessly without a purpose, but this is the only way to make sure you two get out of this alive,” Rose replied. Then, before the Doctor could argue, she let go, whispering, “I love you.”

Donna watched Rose hit the ground. “What was that? How did you just let your fiancée do that?”

The Doctor just stared at Rose for a moment, in shock, before he took a deep breath and said, “I have to trust her. I don’t like it, but I do.”

When Miss Foster began trying to cut the other cable, the Doctor used his sonic to burn her hand, making her drop her sonic pen. He caught it and used it to get a window open, then he and Donna crawled through. They ran toward the call centre, where Miss Foster and her guards were waiting.

“Well then. At last,” Miss Foster smiled.

“Hello,” Donna said, clearly shaken by watching Rose die, but putting on her best nonchalant attitude.

“Nice to meet you, I’m the Doctor,” he said, twirling her sonic pen in the air.

“And I’m Donna.”

“Partners in crime,” the Matron grinned. “And evidently off-worlders, judging by your sonic technology. Sorry about your friend.”

Ignoring the jab about Rose, the Doctor said, “Oh, yes, I've still got your sonic pen. Nice. I like it. Sleek. It's kind of sleek.”

“Oh, it’s definitely sleek,” Donna agreed.

“Yeah, and if you were to sign your real name, that would be?” the Doctor asked.

“Matron Cofelia of the Five Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet. Intergalactic Class,” Miss Foster replied.

“A wet nurse, using humans as surrogates,” the Doctor said.

“I've been employed by the Adiposian First Family to foster a new generation after their breeding planet was lost,” she said.

“What do you mean, lost? How do you lose a planet?”

“Oh, politics are none of my concern. I'm just here to take care of the children on behalf of the parents,” Miss Foster shrugged.

“What, like an outer space super nanny?” Donna asked.

Looking vaguely disgusted, Miss Foster replied, “Yes, if you like.”

“So. So those little things, they're, they're made out of fat, yeah, but that woman, Stacy Campbell, there was nothing left of her,” Donna said.

“Oh, in a crisis the Adipose can convert bone and hair and internal organs. Makes them a little bit sick, poor things,” Miss Foster pouted.

“What about poor Stacy?” Donna exclaimed.

“Seeding a level five planet is against galactic law,” the Doctor whispered.

“Are you threatening me?”

“I'm trying to help you, Matron. This is your one chance, because if you don't call this off, then I'll have to stop you,” the Doctor warned.

“I hardly think you can stop bullets,” Miss Foster said as her guards raised their weapons.

“No, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on. One more thing, before dying. Do you know what happens if you hold two identical sonic devices against each other?” the Doctor asked, pulling out his own sonic screwdriver.

“No.”

“Nor me, let’s find out!” The Doctor grinned, pushing the two devices together and creating an awful noise.

Eventually, Donna stopped him and yelled, “Come on!”

The two of them took off for the supply closet he and Rose had been hiding in earlier that day. “Well, that’s one solution. Hide in a cupboard. I like it,” Donna remarked as the Doctor started throwing out mops and brooms.

“I've been hacking into this thing all day, because the matron's got a computer core running through the centre of the building. Triple deadlocked. But now I've got her sonic pen, I can get into it,” he said, opening the wall to reveal a computer system, and a rather amused looking blonde.

“Took you long enough,” Rose smiled.

“Rose!” The Doctor exclaimed, sweeping her into a bone crushing hug.

“I told you I’d be fine. Now come on, we have to stop her!” Rose said, getting the Doctor to release her.

As the Doctor started to work on overriding the machine, Donna looked at the two of them and said, “You look older.”

“Thanks, Donna,” Rose said sarcastically.

“Not like that,” Donna said. “It’s the way you act, the look in your eyes…”

“We’ve been through a lot since you last saw us,” Rose replied.

“Just the two of you?”

“No, we had a friend, Martha. She travelled with us for a while. But she decided it was time to get on with her life. Still visit her though,” Rose replied.

“I thought you were going to travel the world?” the Doctor asked.

“Easier said than done. It's like I had that one day with you, and I was going to change. I was going to do so much. Then I woke up the next morning, same old life. It's like you were never there. And I tried. I did try. I went to Egypt. I was going to go barefoot and everything. And then it's all bus trips and guidebooks and don't drink the water, and two weeks later you're back home. It's nothing like being with you. I must have been mad turning down that offer,” Donna laughed drily.

“What offer?” the Doctor asked.

“To come with you.”

“Come with us?” the Doctor asked.

“Oh, yes please,” Donna gasped.

“Right,” the Doctor said, looking warily at Rose.

I still like her,” Rose said in his head.

Me too,” the Doctor replied, and that settled it. If Donna wanted to come at the end of this adventure, they would finally have a new companion.

As Rose was about to say just that, the computer declared, “Inducer activated.”

“What’s it doing now?” Donna asked.

“She's started the programme,” the Doctor gasped.

The Doctor began working even more frantically, handing Rose and Donna each a handful of wires. “So far they're just losing weight, but the Matron's gone up to emergency pathogenesis.”

Donna gasped, “And that’s when they convert—"

“Skeletons, organs, everything. A million people are going to die. Got to cancel the signal,” the Doctor declared, taking out the pendant he had stolen and quickly dismantling it. “This contains a primary signal. If I can switch it off, the fat goes back to being just fat.”

He attached it to the machine, and it stopped for a moment before declaring, “Inducer increasing.”

“No, no, no, no, no. She's doubled it. I need. Haven't got time. It's too far. I can't override it. They're all gonna die!” He gasped.

“Breathe, Doctor. We just have to think, yeah?” Rose said.

“Is there anything I can do?” Donna asked.

“Sorry, Donna, this is way beyond you. Got to double the base pulse, I can't,” he whispered.

“Doctor, tell me. What do you need?” Donna asked.

“I need a second capsule to boost the override, but I've only got the one. I can't save them,” he said, stopping as Donna held up the pendant she had stolen. He grabbed it and used it to completely shut down the computer.

They all breathed a sigh of relief as everything stopped. Then there was a loud noise from above and Donna yelled, “What the hell was that?”

“It’s the nursery,” the Doctor replied.

“Wait a minute,” Donna said. “When you say nursery, you don’t mean a creche in Notting Hill.”

“Nursery ship,” the Doctor confirmed.

The computer lit up and declared, “Incoming signal,” before releasing a series of alien sounding noises.

“Hadn’t we better go and stop them?” Donna asked.

“Hang on. Instructions from the Adiposian First Family,” he said, listening to the instructions. “She's wired up the tower block to convert it into a levitation post. Ooo. Oh. We're not the ones in trouble now. She is!”

The Doctor took Rose’s hand and they ran to the roof. “What are you going to do then? Blow them up?” Donna asked as they watched the Adipose babies float into the sky.

“They're just children. They can't help where they come from,” the Doctor remarked.

“Oh, that makes a change from last time,” Donna snickered.

“I’m in a much better place now than I was back then,” the Doctor smiled, absently rubbing the ring on Rose’s finger.

“I bet you are…” Donna laughed as she waved at the Adipose. “Blimey, I’m waving at fat!”

“Actually, as a diet plan, it sort of works. There she is!” The Doctor exclaimed as Miss Foster floated in front of them.

She stopped at eye level and the Doctor said, “Matron Cofelia, listen to me!”

“Oh, I don't think so, Doctor. And if I never see you again, it'll be too soon,” she laughed.

“Oh, why does no one ever listen?” he asked, glancing at Rose before turning back to Miss Foster. “I'm trying to help. Just get across to the roof. Can you shift the levitation beam?”

“What, so you can arrest me?”

“Just listen. I saw the Adiposian instructions. They know it's a crime, breeding on Earth. So what's the one thing they want to get rid of? Their accomplice,” he said, stretching out a hand to her.

“I’m far more than that. I’m nanny to all these children,” she said, gesturing upwards toward the little Adipose babies.

“Exactly! Mum and Dad have got the kids now. They don't need the nanny anymore,” The Doctor said.

Rose saw the moment the Doctor’s words really hit her, just moments before the levitation beam was switched off. She watched the woman fall to the ground, and Rose winced, knowing exactly how that felt.

“You okay?” The Doctor asked, feeling Rose’s shiver.

“Yeah, it’s just that as a way of dying, falling isn’t my favorite,” she replied.

“Are you saying you’ve got a list of favorite ways to die?” Donna asked.

“Not a list, exactly,” Rose replied. “But there are some ways that are better than others.”

“You say that like you’ve experienced them.”

“Can we change the subject?” the Doctor asked, clearly uncomfortable.

“Doctor,” Rose replied. “If Donna’s gonna travel with us, she needs to know about my immortality.”

“Immortality?”

“Yeah,” Rose replied. “As it happens, it turns out I can’t actually die. Or at least, I can’t stay dead. The how and why are long and complicated and a story for another night, but that’s what’s important.”

“So earlier today, when you fell?” Donna asked.

“I died, yes. Was out about ten minutes, give or take,” Rose replied, leading the way to the TARDIS.

**********************************************************************************************************************

After they had waved at Donna’s granddad, she went off to bed. Rose was about to do the same when she realized that the Doctor wasn’t following her.

“What’s wrong?” Rose asked.

The Doctor didn’t say anything for minutes, but eventually he whispered, “You died today.”

“Doctor, I’m fine,” Rose said, taking his hand.

“But you died,” he whispered, turning to look at her, pain evident in his eyes.

Rose took his hand and held it up to her chest so that the Doctor could feel her heartbeat. “Feel that? That’s proof that I’m alive. That I’m okay. That it’s all okay.”

“But you died and I let you,” he whispered. “How could I let you do that?”

At that, Rose took a step back. “No. No. You don’t get to do that.”

“Do what?”

“Hold the monopoly on that guilt.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, taking a step toward her.

“I know how that feels,” she said.

“How could you possibly—”

“Do you know why I didn’t tell you about Bad Wolf the moment I remembered? Why I didn’t mention every time if was referenced? It was because I felt that guilt. I thought that if I told you, you would do something to try to take it out of me and get yourself killed doing it. Because I didn’t just let you die on the Game Station, I caused it,” Rose snapped.

“No you didn’t,” the Doctor argued. “I made that decision, not you.”

“Exactly,” Rose nodded.

“What?”

“That’s what I realized about Bad Wolf. And it’s what you need to realize about my immortality. Today, you didn’t let me die. It wasn’t a choice you made. It was one I made,” Rose said.

“But—”

“No. If we want to make this work, you’re going to have to accept that that is going to happen sometimes. I’m going to die, and what I need from you is for you to be there when I wake up. That’s all. I don’t need you feeling guilty over anything because it was all my choice. From dying to even becoming immortal in the first place. I made these decisions, so you can’t feel guilty about them.”

“Okay,” the Doctor agreed, far too quickly.

No. You don’t get to lie to me,” Rose said in the Doctor’s head. “Remember. I can feel it. And I get that it might take you some time to come to terms with it, but at least promise me you’ll try.”

Okay,” The Doctor agreed after thinking about it for a bit.

“Good,” Rose said, standing up on her tip toes to give the Doctor a quick kiss. “Now take me to bed, Doctor.”

Chapter Text

“So, Donna,” Rose smiled as the woman in question entered the console room. “First official trip in the TARDIS. All of time and space. Where do you wanna go?”

“Wait, I get to decide?” Donna asked.

“Of course, it’s your first trip!” Rose smiled.

“What are my options?”

“Anywhere and any when,” the Doctor smiled, crossing his arms as he leaned against the console.

“Uh,” Donna started, unsure where to start.

“Okay, Earth or alien planet?” Rose asked.

“Earth,” Donna replied instinctively.

“Okay, past or future?”

“Past,” Donna replied.

“Anything in particular?” Rose asked.

“Surprise me,” Donna said.

“I have an idea,” the Doctor said, running to the console and putting in the coordinates. He telepathically told Rose his plan, and she quickly agreed. They landed and the Doctor led the way out into the street. “Ancient Rome. Well, not for them, obviously. To all intents and purposes, right now, this is brand new Rome.”

Donna looked around quickly, taking it all in as she laughed, “Oh, my God. it's, it's so Roman. This is fantastic.” Rose and the Doctor laughed, and she continued. “I'm here, in Rome. Donna Noble in Rome. This is just weird. I mean, everyone here's dead.”

“Well, don’t tell them that,” the Doctor said, nodding and smiling at the few confused people that had heard Donna’s statement.

As Donna was turning to give the Doctor a witty remark, she finally noticed a sign. “Hold on a minute. That sign over there's in English. Are you having me on? Are we in Epcot?”

“No, no, no, no,” the Doctor started, preparing to give his traditional lecture on the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits.

Luckily for Donna, Rose beat him to it. “No, that’s the TARDIS. She’s telepathic, and sort of gets in your head and translates stuff for you. Not just the signs either. You’re speaking Latin right now.”

“Seriously?” She asked.

“Mhm,” the Doctor nodded.

“I just said ‘seriously’ in Latin?” Donna laughed.

“Oh yeah,” the Doctor replied.

“What if I said something in actual Latin, like veni, vidi, vici? My dad said that when he came back from football. If I said veni, vidi, vici to that lot, what would it sound like?” Donna asked.

“Well, I’m not sure,” the Doctor said after a moment. “You have to think of difficult questions, don't you?”

“I’m going to try it!” Donna exclaimed, grinning at Rose and the Doctor before turning to a merchant.

“Afternoon, sweetheart. What can I get you, my love?” the merchant asked.

“Er… Veni, vedi, vici,” she said.

“Huh?” he asked. “Sorry? Me no speak Celtic. No can do, missy.”

“Yeah,” Donna muttered before turning back to Rose and the Doctor. “How’s he mean, Celtic?”

“Welsh,” the Doctor replied. “You sound Welsh.”

“Well, that was unexpected,” Rose laughed. “You know I’ve been travelling with him over ten years and I never once thought to ask that!”

Thinking about another strange quirk of time travel, Donna asked, “Don’t our clothes look a bit odd?”

“Nah. Ancient Rome, anything goes. It's like Soho, but bigger,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Normally, I dress in appropriate clothes for the era,” Rose said. “The TARDIS will give you an outfit if you ask, or you can always raid the wardrobe room. But I didn’t know where we were going this morning, so I dressed normally. He’s usually right, but I usually think it’s fun to do a little bit of dress up.”

“You’ve been here before?” Donna asked.

“Yeah, got turned into a statue for a but, it all worked out in the end,” Rose shrugged.

“My Fortuna,” the Doctor said, kissing her hand and laughing before adding, “Also came a while before that. And before you ask, that fire had nothing to do with me. Well, a little bit. But I haven't got the chance to look around properly. Coliseum, Pantheon, Circus Maximus. You'd expect them to be looming by now. Where is everything? Try this way.”

“Not an expert, but there's seven hills of Rome, aren't there? How come they've only got one?” Donna asked, pointing to the singular mountain in the distance just seconds before an earthquake hit.

“Here we go again,” one of the shopkeepers said as he began to secure his wares.

“Doctor…” Rose said, glancing nervously at him.

“Wait a minute,” Donna said, looking up at the mountain. “One mountain, with smoke. Which makes this—”

“Pompeii,” the Doctor finished. “We’re in Pompeii. And it’s volcano day.”

The Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand and they took off toward the TARDIS, but when they got back to where they had left it, it was gone. “You’re kidding,” Donna exclaimed. “You’re not telling me the TARDIS has gone.”

“Okay,” the Doctor nodded, and Rose rolled her eyes.

“Where is it then?” Donna yelled.

“You told me not to tell you,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Oi! Don’t get clever in Latin.”

“Hold on,” the Doctor said to the girls as he made his way over to the nearest shopkeeper. “Excuse me. Excuse me. There was a box. Big blue box. Big blue wooden box, just over there. Where's it gone?”

“Sold it, didn’t I?” he replied.

“But it wasn’t yours to sell!” the Doctor exclaimed.

“It was on my patch, weren't it? I got fifteen sesterces for it. Lovely jubbly,” the man said, going back to his work.

“Who’d you sell it to?”

“Old Caecilius. Look, if you want to argue, why don't you take it out with him? He's on Foss Street. Big villa. Can't miss it,” the man replied, clearly tired of the Doctor.

“Thanks,” the Doctor mumbled before turning back to the girls. “What’d he buy a big blue wooden box for?”

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor took off to find Foss Street and left Rose and Donna on their own. “Come on,” Donna said. “We’ve got to warn everyone.”

“Donna,” Rose sighed. “We can’t.”

“What do you mean?” Donna asked.

“It’s a fixed point. There’s no stopping it or changing it,” Rose replied.

“Says who?” Donna asked.

“Says the laws of time and the universe,” Rose answered sadly.

“What happens if you break those laws? Is there some sort of universal police to stop you?”

Rose sighed. “That used to be the Doctor’s people. But they’re all gone now. It’s just him.”

“Great!” Donna exclaimed. “Then there’s no one to stop us!”

Rose grabbed Donna’s arm. “No. They were there as a much nicer way of stopping people from meddling with time. But some very bad things can happen when someone messes with a fixed point.”

“How do you know? Did the Doctor tell you that?” Donna asked.

“Because I did it once,” Rose replied, staring at her shoes. “I messed with a fixed point and almost lost the Doctor forever. And Pompeii is a much bigger fixed point than the one I tried to change. If we stop this, there’s no telling how much the reapers will destroy.”

“But—” Donna started, but the rest of her sentence was cut off as the Doctor ran back up to them.

“Foss Street is this way. Come on!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Another earthquake rattled Pompeii as the Doctor, Rose, and Donna entered Caecilius’s house. The Doctor grabbed a marble bust that was threatening to fall on the floor and yelled, “Whoa! There you go.”

“Thank you, kind sir. I'm afraid business is closed for the day. I'm expecting a visitor,” the man said.

“But that’s me, I’m a visitor. Hello,” the Doctor said, waving a little.

“Who are you?” the man asked.

“I am…Spartacus,” the Doctor replied.

“And so am I,” Donna added.

“Mister and Mrs. Spartacus,” the man nodded.

“Actually,” Rose said, taking the Doctor’s arm. “I’m Mrs. Spartacus.”

“Oh, then brother and sister?” the man asked, looking between the Doctor and Donna. “Yes, of course. You look very much alike.”

“Really?” All three of them exclaimed in unison.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not open for trade,” the man said, turning away from them.

“And that trade would be?” the Doctor prompted.

“Marble. Lopus Caecilius. Mining, polishing and design thereof. If you want marble, I'm your man,” Caecilius smiled.

The Doctor nodded and flashed the psychic paper. “That's good. That's good, because I'm the marble inspector.”

The older woman in the room gasped and turned to the young man lounging around drinking a glass of wine. “By the gods of commerce, an inspection. I'm sorry, sir. I do apologise for my son.” She poured the goblet of wine out.

“Oi!” he yelled.

“And this is my good wife, Metella. I must confess, we're not prepared for a—”

“Nothing to worry about,” the Doctor interrupted as he strode over to the TARDIS. “I'm, I'm sure you've nothing to hide. Although, frankly, that object looks rather like wood to me.”

“I told you to get rid of it,” Metella muttered.

“I only bought it today,” Caecilius protested.

“Ah, well. Caveat emptor,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Oh, you’re Celtic!” Caecilius exclaimed. “That’s lovely.”

“I'm sure it's fine, but I might have to take it off your hands for a proper inspection,” the Doctor said, stroking the side of the blue box.

“Although while we're here, wouldn't you recommend a holiday, Spartacus, Mrs. Spartacus?” Donna asked, staring at Rose.

I tried to tell her about fixed points,” Rose told the Doctor. “But she won’t listen to me.

The Doctor nodded and turned to look at Donna. “Don’t know what you mean, Spartacus.”

“Oh, this lovely family. Mother and father and son. Don't you think they should get out of town?”

“Why should we do that?” Caecilius asked.

“Well,” Donna began, “the volcano for starters.”

“What?” Caecilius asked.

“Volcano.”

“What ano?”

“That great big volcano right on your doorstep,” Donna exclaimed.

“Oh, Spartacus, Mrs. Spartacus, for shame! We haven’t even greeted the household gods yet,” the Doctor said, grabbing Donna’s arm and dragging the over to the alter.

“They don't know what it is. Vesuvius is just a mountain to them. The top hasn't blown off yet. The Romans haven't even got a word for volcano. Not until tomorrow.”

“Oh, great,” she snorted. “They can learn a new word as they die.”

“Stop it,” the Doctor growled.

“Listen, I don’t know what Blondie and your other friends let you get away with, but you’re not telling me to shut up,” Donna hissed. “That boy, how old is he, sixteen? And tomorrow he burns to death.”

“And that’s my fault?” the Doctor replied.

“Right now, yes.”

The conversation was cut short as a servant called, “Announcing Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of the City Government.”

“Lucius. My pleasure, as always,” Caecilius greeted the man in the cloak.

“Quintus, stand up,” Matella admonished her son.

“A rare and great honour, sir, for you to come to my house,” Caecilius said, extending a hand to Lucius, but Lucius didn’t shake it.

“The birds are flying north, and the wind is in the west,” Lucius said.

“Quite. Absolutely. That's good, is it?” Caecilius beamed.

“Only the grain of wheat will know where it will grow,” was the only response Lucius gave.

“There now, Metella. Have you ever heard such wisdom?” Caecilius asked his wife.

“Never,” she replied. “It’s an honour.”

“Pardon me, sir. I have guests,” Caecilius said as he turned to present the Doctor, Rose, and the Doctor. “This is Mister and Mrs. Spartacus and his sister, Spartacus.”

“A name is but a cloud upon a summer wind,” Lucius said.

“But the wind is felt most keenly in the dark,” the Doctor replied.

“Ah. But what is the dark, other than an omen of the sun?” Lucius asked.

“I concede that every sun must set.”

“Ha!” Lucius laughed, believing he had won.

“And yet the son of the father must also rise,” the Doctor finished.

“Damn. Very clever, sir. Evidently, a man of learning. But you,” Lucius said, turning to Rose. “You fear the task of the wolf.”

“I’m not afraid of the big, bad, wolf,” Rose replied, staring him down.

“Oh, yes. But don't mind us. Don't want to disturb the status quo,” the Doctor muttered nervously, like he always did when the Bad Wolf was mentioned.

“He’s Celtic,” Caecilius offered as an explanation for the Doctor’s strange behaviour.

“We’ll be off in a minute,” the Doctor promised.

“I’m not going,” Donna protested.

Ignoring them, Caecilius turned to a cloth covering something and said, “It’s ready, sir.”

“You’ve got to,” the Doctor argued.

“Well, I’m not,” Donna insisted.

“Please,” Rose begged.

“The moment of revelation. And here it is,” Caecilius said, pulling the cloth away to reveal a stone tile carved into a circuit board. “Exactly as you specified. It pleases you, sir?”

“As the rain pleases the soil,” Lucius said, nodding.

“Oh, now that's different. Who designed that, then?” the Doctor asked.

“My Lord Lucius was very specific,” Caecilius replied.

“Where’d you get the pattern?” the Doctor asked Lucius as he inspected the tile.

“On the rain and the mist and the wind,” Lucius replied cryptically.

“But that looks like a circuit,” Donna said.

“Made of stone,” the Doctor agreed.

“Do you mean you just dreamt that thing up?” Donna asked.

“That is my job, as City Augur,” Lucius replied.

“What’s that, then, like the mayor?” Donna asked.

“Oh, ha. You must excuse my friend, she's from Barcelona,” the Doctor laughed before turning to her and adding quietly, “No, but this is an age of superstition. Of official superstition. The Augur is paid by the city to tell the future. The wind will blow from the west? That's the equivalent of ten o'clock news.”

At that moment, a very pale, frail looking girl walked in. “They’re laughing at us. Those three, they use words like tricksters. They’re mocking us.”

“No, no, I'm not. I meant no offence,” the Doctor protested.

“I'm sorry. My daughter's been consuming the vapours,” Metella apologized.

“Oh for gods, Mother. What have you been doing to her?” Quintus asked.

“Not now, Quitus,” Caecilius barked.

“Yeah, but she's sick. Just look at her,” Quintus protested.

“I gather I have a rival in this household. Another with the gift,” Lucius remarked.

Metella held her daughter proudly and declared, “Oh, she's been promised to the Sibylline Sisterhood. They say she has remarkable visions.”

“The prophecies of women are limited and dull. Only the menfolk have the capacity for true perception,” Lucius replied.

Rose and Donna both bristled at that and Donna muttered, “I'll tell you where the wind's blowing right now, mate.”

A small tremor shook the room and Lucius said, “The Mountain God marks your words. I'd be careful, if I were you.”

Looking to diffuse the tension, the Doctor turned to the girl and asked, “Consuming the vapours, you say?”

“They give me strength,” she replied.

“It doesn’t look like it to me,” the Doctor replied, taking in her pallor and the fact that she could hardly stand on her own.

“Is that your opinion as a doctor?” she asked.

“I beg your pardon?” he asked.

“Doctor, that’s your name.”

“How did you know that?” he asked.

Then she turned to Donna, “And you. You call yourself Noble.”

“Now then, Evelina. Don't be rude,” her mother said.

“No, no, no, no. Let her talk,” the Doctor said, intrigued.

She turned to Rose. “My Lord Lucius was right to compare you to the wolf. But you do not fear it because you believe the path of the wolf to be lost to you. Do not give up hope.”

“What?” Rose asked, confused. Donna and the Doctor had gotten such obvious fortunes from this prophetess, but hers made no sense.

“You all come from so far away,” Evelina muttered.

“The female soothsayer is inclined to invent all sorts of vagaries,” Lucius snorted.

“Oh, not this time, Lucius. No, I reckon you've been out-soothsayed,” the Doctor smiled.

“Is that so, man from Gallifrey?”

“What?” the Doctor exclaimed.

“The strangest of images. Your home is lost in fire, is it not?” Lucius continued.

“Doctor,” Rose said, taking his hand in an attempt to ground him.

“And you, daughters of London,” Lucius said, looking at Rose and Donna.

“How does he know that?” Donna asked the Doctor and Rose.

“This is the gift of Pompeii. Every single oracle tells the truth,” he replied.

“That’s impossible,” Donna muttered.

“They are returning,” Lucius said, looking at Rose.

“Who is?” Rose asked, scared at the way he said that, her mind instantly flashing to Canary Wharf, a day she hadn’t really thought about in years. Daleks? Cybermen?

“Even the word Doctor is false. Your real name is hidden. It burns in the stars, in the Cascade of Medusa herself. You are a Lord, sir. A Lord of Time. And you are his goddess. Burning oh so brightly,” Evelina said, staring at the Doctor and Rose before she fainted.

“Evelina!” Metella exclaimed, catching her daughter before she hit the ground.

Rose and Donna helped Metella carry Evelina to her room, and they laid her in bed while Metella tried to take care of her.

“She didn't mean to be rude. She's ever such a good girl. But when the gods speak through her…” Metella said, unwrapping a bandage on her wrist.

“What’s wrong with her arm?” Donna asked.

“An irritation of the skin. She never complains, bless her. We bathe it in olive oil every night,” Metella explained.

“What is it?” Rose asked, stroking the skin.

“Evelina said you'd come from far away. Please, have you ever seen anything like it?” Metella begged.

“It’s stone,” Donna gasped, looking at Rose.

They both helped Metella bathe it in olive oil, though Rose doubted it would do much good. The Doctor briefly told her through their bond that he and Quintus were going to go investigate Lucius and the circuit he had requested. Rose hated that the bond wouldn’t stretch that far, but she knew she needed to stay with Donna to try to convince her they couldn’t go messing around with a fixed point.

Eventually, Evelina woke up and decided that Rose and Donna needed to dress like they belonged. Rose ended up in a pink dress and shawl, and Donna ended up in the same, but in purple.

As Donna twirled, Evelina giggled. “You're not supposed to laugh. Thanks for that. What do you think? The Goddess Venus?”

Evelina gasped, but the twinkle was still in her eye. “Oh! That’s sacrilege!”

“Nice to see you laugh, though. What do you do in old Pompeii, then, girls your age? You got mates? Do you go hanging about round the shops? TK Maximus?” Donna asked.

“I am promised to the Sisterhood for the rest of my life,” Evelina replied.

“Did you have any say in that?” Rose asked.

“It's not my decision. The Sisters chose for me. I have the gift of sight,” Evelina said, staring down at her hands, which were gently folded in her lap.

“Then what can you see happening tomorrow?” Donna asked.

“Donna!” Rose exclaimed. “You can’t—”

“Oi! Blondie! I don’t know what spaceman said to you to convince you that what he says goes, but I’m not having that, you hear me? I’m doing the right thing,” Donna argued.

“Please, Donna. You don’t understand,” Rose tried.

“Is tomorrow special?” Evelina asked, trying to figure out what could have the two friends fighting so.

“You tell me,” Donna replied. “What do you see?”

Evelina closed her eyes for a moment, then shook her head. “The sun will rise, the sun will set. Nothing special at all.”

“Look, don’t listen to Blondie here or the Doctor, but I’ve got a prophecy too,” Donna said. Evelina covered her eyes, and Rose quickly noticed the tattoos of eyes on the backs of her hands. “Evelina, I'm sorry, but you've got to hear me out. Evelina, can you hear me? Listen.”

“Donna, please,” Rose said.

“There is only one prophecy,” Evelina whispered.

“But everything I'm about to say to you is true, I swear. Just listen to me. Tomorrow, that mountain is going to explode. Evelina, please listen. The air is going to fill with ash and rocks, tons and tons of it, and this whole town is going to get buried,” Donna said.

“That’s not true!” Evelina yelled.

“I'm sorry. I'm really sorry, but everyone's going to die,” Donna said, laying a comforting hand on Evelina’s shoulder. “Even if you don't believe me, just tell your family to get out of town. Just for one day. Just for tomorrow. But you've got to get out. You've got to leave Pompeii.”

Before anyone else could say anything, a rumbling noise shook the house, and Rose, Donna, and Evelina rushed into the main room just as the Doctor and Quintus arrived. “Caecilius? All of you, get out.”

“Doctor, what’s going on?” Rose asked.

“I think we’re being followed,” the Doctor said, right before the grill covering the hypocaust flew off “Just get out!”

A huge creature of fire and stone crawled out of the hypocaust and stood staring at them all. “The gods are with us,” Evelina declared.

“Water. We need water. Quintus. All of you, get water. Rose! Donna!” The Doctor yelled.

One of Caecilius’s servants declared, “Blessed are we to see the gods,” and then was almost immediately turned to ashes by the creature.

Rose and Donna both rushed out of the room but were grabbed by members of the sisterhood before they could return. Rose cursed the range of the temporary bond when she was unable to call out to the Doctor because of the distance, but then she and Donna were knocked unconscious.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Donna woke up tied to an altar with a woman standing above her holding a knife. “You have got to be kidding me!”

“The false prophet will surrender both her blood and her breath,” the woman declared.

“I’ll surrender you in a minute,” Donna muttered. “Where’s my friend?”

“We had no need for her,” the woman declared. “And as she did not speak false prophesy, she did not require the ceremonial death that you do.”

“She didn’t do anything wrong, so you killed her first?” Donna exclaimed, looking over to see Rose, lying dead in the corner. Right as she was about to panic, she saw Rose gasp and sit up, before quickly laying back down and winking. Donna decided then and there that it didn’t matter how long that day ended up, when she got back to the TARDIS, Rose was explaining the whole immortality thing to her.

“You will be silent,” the woman declared.

“Listen, sister, you might have eyes on the back of your hands, but you'll have eyes in the back of your head by the time I've finished with you. Let me go!”

“This prattling voice will cease forever!” The woman declared raising the knife high above Donna’s chest.

“Oh, that’ll be the day,” the Doctor muttered, striding into the room, causing all of the women to look around.

“No man is allowed to enter the Temple of Sibyl,” the woman threatening to kill Donna exclaimed.

“Yeah, I had things under control,” Rose said, standing up and walking around to stand next to him.

The priestess gasped, “You were dead! How can this be?”

The Doctor turned to look at Rose and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze before turning back to the priestess, “Would you believe it if I said I was actually a goddess?”

“That’s sacrilege!” She exclaimed.

“Only if it’s not true,” Rose countered. “And you did just kill me yourself, but here I am, living and breathing.”

“Speaking of sacrilege,” the Doctor said, “that’s exactly what this is. Do you know, I met the Sibyl once. Yeah, hell of a woman. Blimey, she could dance the Tarantella. Nice teeth. Truth be told, I think she had a bit of a thing for me. I said it would never last. She said, I know. Well, she would.”

Rose had already moved over to Donna and used her sonic to undo the ropes that were binding her to the table.

“What magic is this?” the priestess asked, looking at Rose as though she was starting to believe the whole goddess thing.

“Let me tell you about the Sibyl, the founder of this religion. She would be ashamed of you. All her wisdom and insight turned sour. Is that how you spread the word, hey? On the blade of a knife?” the Doctor continued.

“Yes, a knife that now welcomes you,” the priestess said, pointing it at the Doctor.

“Show me this man!” a booming voice declared from behind a curtain.

“High Priestess, the stranger would defile us,” the priestess holding the knife gasped.

“Let me see. This one is different. He carries starlight in his wake,” the High Priestess said.

“Oh, very perceptive. Where do these words of wisdom come from?” the Doctor asked.

“The gods whisper to me,” the High Priestess replied.

“They've done far more than that. Might I beg audience? Look upon the High Priestess?”

Two sisters drew the curtain aside, revealing the High Priestess, who was completely made of stone.

“Oh my God,” Donna whispered. “What’s happened to you?”

“The Heavens have blessed me,” she replied.

“If I might?” the Doctor asked, and the High Priestess held out her hand. He touched it gently and asked, “Does it hurt?”

“It is necessary.”

“Who told you that?” Rose asked.

“The voices,” the High Priestess replied.

“Is that what's going to happen to Evelina? Is this what's going to happen to all of you?” Donna asked.

The priestess that nearly sacrificed Donna held out her arm to show Donna that it too was made of stone. “The blessings are manifold.”

“They’re stone,” Donna gasped.

“Exactly. The people of Pompeii are turning to stone before the volcano erupts. But why?” the Doctor mused.

“This word, this image in your mind. This volcano. What is that?” the High Priestess asked.

“More to the point, why don't you know about it? Who are you?” the Doctor asked.

“High Priestess of the Sibylline.”

“No, no, no, no. I'm talking to the creature inside you. The thing that's seeding itself into a human body, in the dust, in the lungs, taking over the flesh and turning it into, what?”

“Your knowledge is impossible,” the High Priestess declared.

“Oh, but you can read my mind. You know it's not. I demand you tell me who you are,” the Doctor said, his calm unable to mask the anger in his voice.

At that point, the High Priestess began speaking in two voices, simultaneously. “We are awakening.”

“The voice of the gods!” one priestess exclaimed.

Then all of the sisters began chanting, “Words of wisdom, words of power. Words of wisdom, words of power.”

“Name yourself. Planet of origin. Galactic coordinates. Species designation according to the universal ratification of the Shadow Proclamation,” the Doctor demanded.

“We are rising!” the creature said.

“Tell me your name!” The Doctor roared.

“Pyrovile,” it answered.

“What’s a pyrovile?” Donna asked.

“Well, that’s a Pyrovile, growin inside her. She’s a halfway stage,” the Doctor explained.

“What, and that turns into?” Donna asked.

“That thing in the villa. That was an adult Pyrovile.”

“And the breath of a Pyrovile will incinerate you, Doctor,” the creature roared.

The Doctor pulled a yellow water pistol out of his pocket. “I warn you, I’m armed. Donna, Rose, get that grill open.”

They went to open the hypocaust grill, and the Doctor turned back to the Pyrovile. “What are the Pyrovile doing here?”

“We fell from the heavens. We fell so far and so fast, we were rendered into dust,” the creature replied.

“Right, creatures of stone shattered on impact. When was that, seventeen years ago?” the Doctor asked.

“We have slept beneath for thousands of years,” it answered.

“Okay, so seventeen years ago woke you up, and now you're using human bodies to reconstitute yourselves. But why the psychic powers?”

“We opened their minds and found such gifts,” the creature smiled.

“Okay, that's fine. So you force yourself inside a human brain, use the latent psychic talent to bond. I get that, I get that, yeah. But seeing the future? That is way beyond psychic. You can see through time. Where does the gift of prophecy come from?”

“Got it open!” Donna yelled.

“Good, now get down,” the Doctor replied.

“What, down there?” she asked.

“Yes, down there,” he said before turning back to the creature. “Why can't this lot predict a volcano? Why is it being hidden?”

The priestess that tried to kill Donna gasped, “Sisters, I see into his mind. The weapon is harmless.”

“Yeah, but it’s got to sting,” he shrugged, firing it at the Pyrovile, who flinched. “Get down there!”

Once they were all down in the hypocaust, Donna exclaimed, “You fought her off with a water pistol. I bloody love you.”

“Hey, that’s my fiancé you’re talking to,” Rose laughed.

“This way,” the Doctor called, taking off down a tunnel.

“Where are we going now?” Donna asked.

“Into the volcano,” he replied.

“No way,” Donna gasped.

“Yes way,” he replied. “Appian way.”

“But if it's aliens setting off the volcano, doesn't that make it all right for you to stop it?” Donna asked as they walked.

“Still part of history,” the Doctor replied.

“But I'm history to you. You saved me in 2008. You saved us all. Why is that different?” Donna asked.

“It’s like I said earlier,” Rose explained. “This is a fixed point. That was something that was in flux.”

“How do you know which is which?” Donna asked.

“Because that's how I see the universe. Every waking second, I can see what is, what was, what could be, what must not. That's the burden of a Time Lord, Donna. And I'm the only one left,” the Doctor spat.

“How many people died?” Donna asked.

“Stop it,” the Doctor said.

“Doctor, how many people died?”

“Twenty thousand,” he replied.

“Is that what you can see, Doctor? All twenty thousand? And you think that's all right, do you? Both of you?” Donna asked.

Before Rose or the Doctor could respond, something roared, and the Doctor said, “They know we’re here. Come on.”

They made their way into a huge chamber filled with Pyroviles. “It’s the heart of Vesuvius,” the Doctor explained. “We’re right inside the mountain.”

“There’s tons of them,” Donna gasped.

“What’s that thing?” Rose asked, pointing at something in the distance.

“That's how they arrived. Or what's left of it. Escape pod? Prison ship? Gene bank?” The Doctor mused.

“But why do they need a volcano? Maybe it erupts, and they launch themselves back into space or something?” Donna asked.

“Oh, it’s worse than that,” the Doctor sighed.

“How could it be worse?” Donna asked.

Lucius was standing on the other side of the cavern, and he declared, “Heathens defile us. They would desecrate your temple, my lord gods.”

“Come on,” the Doctor said, taking Rose’s hand and walking into the cavern.

“We can’t go in!” Donna gasped.

“Well, we can’t go back,” he reasoned.

“Crush them, burn them!” Lucius roared.

A Pyrovile appeared in from of them, and the Doctor distracted it with the water pistol as they ran to the pod.

“There is nowhere to run, Doctor and daughters of London,” Lucius crowed.

“Now then, Lucius. My lords Pyrovillian, don't get yourselves in a lather. In a lava? No? No. But if I might beg the wisdom of the gods before we perish. Once this new race of creatures is complete, then what?” the Doctor asked.

“My masters will follow the example of Rome itself. An almighty empire, bestriding the whole of civilisation,” Lucius replied.

“But if you've crashed, and you've got all this technology, why don't you just go home?” Donna suggested.

“The Heaven of Pyrovillia is gone.”

“What do you mean, gone? Where's it gone?” the Doctor asked.

“It was taken. Pyrovillia is lost. But there is heat enough in this world for a new species to rise,” Lucius declared.

“Yeah, I should warn you, it's seventy percent water out there,” the Doctor said, hoping it would deter them.

“Water can boil. And everything will burn, Doctor,” Lucius said.

“Then the whole planet is at stake. Thank you. That's all I needed to know,” the Doctor said as he and the girls climbed into the pod and he sealed it with his sonic.

“Could we be any more trapped?” Donna asked. As the pod started to heat up, she added, “Little bit hot too.”

“See? The energy converter takes the lava, uses the power to create a fusion matrix, which welds Pyrovile to human. Now it's complete, they can convert millions,” the Doctor said, examining the circuits that Lucius had collected from all of the marble merchants in town.

“But can't you change it with these controls?” Donna asked.

“Of course I can, but don't you see? That's why the soothsayers can't see the volcano. There is no volcano. Vesuvius is never going to erupt. The Pyrovile are stealing all its power. They're going to use it to take over the world,” he explained.

“But you can change it back?”

“I can invert the system, set off the volcano, and blow them up, yes. But, that's the choice, Donna. It's Pompeii or the world,” he said.

“Oh my God,” she whispered.

“If Pompeii is destroyed then it's not just history, it's me. I make it happen,” the Doctor whispered.

“Doctor, the Pyrovile are made of rocks. Maybe they can't be blown up,” Donna asked, panicking.

“Vesuvius explodes with the force of twenty four nuclear bombs. Nothing can survive it. Certainly not us. Well, maybe Rose,” the Doctor mused, looking at his fiancée.

“Never mind us,” Donna said.

“Push this lever and it’s over. Twenty thousand people,” he said, staring at his hand on the lever.

“You aren’t alone this time,” Rose said, settling her hand over his. Donna looked at them both and added her hand to the pile. They all nodded at each other and pushed the lever.

The pod flew out of the volcano first, and all three occupants climbed out. They took off for the TARDIS. Along the way, Donna tried to tell all of the screaming people to go to the mountains, but no one listened to her as they all took off toward the beach. They finally made it to Caecilius’s house, and the Doctor strode past the family as they cowered in the corner.

“Gods save us, Doctor,” the man begged.

As the Doctor ignored him, Donna yelled, “No! Doctor, you can’t.”

Donna and Rose followed him into the TARDIS. “You can’t just leave them!” Donna exclaimed.

“Don't you think I've done enough? History's back in place and everyone dies,” the Doctor said, moving around the TARDIS, preparing to send them into the vortex. Rose stood frozen by the door.

“You've got to go back. Doctor, I am telling you, take this thing back. It's not fair.” Donna said.

“No, it’s not,” the Doctor agreed.

“But your own planet,” Donna reminded him. “It burned.”

“That's just it. Don't you see, Donna? Can't you understand? If I could go back and save them, then I would. But I can't. I can never go back. I can't. I just can't, I can't.”

Finally, Rose moved, walking up to the console and stopping the dematerialization sequence. “Donna’s right.”

“What?” the Doctor asked, turning to look at her.

“Today’s a bad day,” she said. “I’ve had plenty of those, believe me. And just ask Martha, on those days, the story I told was usually the one about the gas mask zombies. Do you know why? Because that was one of the few days where everybody lived. I needed that reminder on those days because I felt like I had failed. But on those days, one of the things that really helped was a question. Just one question that Martha would ask me. Do you know what that question was?”

“What?” the Doctor asked, unsure why she would bring up the year that never was.

“She would ask me how many people lived because of me. Not how many died. So Doctor, yes, twenty thousand people are going to die today. But how many are gonna live?” Rose said, staring him down.

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor, Rose, Donna, and Caecilius’s family stood on a hill as they watched Pompeii burn. “It's never forgotten, Caecilius. Oh, time will pass, men'll move on, and stories will fade. But one day, Pompeii will be found again. In thousands of years. And everyone will remember you,” the Doctor said.

“What about you, Evelina? Can you see anything?” Donna asked.

“The visions have gone,” Evelina replied.

“The explosion was so powerful it cracked open a rift in time, just for a second. That's what gave you the gift of prophecy. It echoed back into the Pyrovillian alternative. But not any more. You're free,” the Doctor explained.

“But tell me. Who are you, Doctor? With your words, and your temple containing such size within?” Metella asked.

“Oh, I was never here. Don't tell anyone,” the Doctor said.

“The great god Vulcan must be enraged. It's so volcanic. It's like some sort of volcano. All those people,” Caecilius muttered as the Doctor, Rose and Donna slipped into the TARDIS.

“Thank you,” Donna said.

“You were right,” the Doctor said.

“Yeah,” Rose agreed. “Thank you for reminding me of what’s important. I’m finally learning the rules for real, and it’s easy to get caught up in them. I get why the Doctor’s always been so fond of us humans.”

“Speaking of humans…” Donna said, “I think you owe me an explanation of what happened to you. I mean, you’ve died twice in the past two days. That’s not normal, but you’re treating it like it’s just a minor inconvenience.”

“It’s been a long day…” Rose protested.

“No,” Donna said. “I need an explanation tonight.”

Rose sighed, “Okay. I’ll meet you in the library in a minute. I’m going to go make some tea and call Jack.”

“You’re making a phone call?” Donna asked.

“I really should have called him last night,” Rose sighed. “But I’ll explain all that in a minute. Just, go get changed and meet me in the library in twenty minutes.”

Donna left, and the Doctor turned to Rose. “Are you sure? I know you’re tired.”

“I’m fine,” Rose said. “And Donna does deserve an explanation.”

“I just don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with,” he sighed.

“Doctor,” Rose replied. “I’m not the one who has issues with me dying. I’m fine, and I’m just going to explain it all to Donna. You don’t have to come if it’ll make you uncomfortable.”

“I know I promised to be okay with all of this,” the Doctor whispered, hugging Rose and holding her close, “but it’s hard. I mean, Donna’s right. You’ve died twice in two days. That’s a lot. And I’m not letting you out of my sight for the rest of the night. So I’m coming with you.”

“Well, then you make the tea while I talk to Jack,” Rose smiled, disentangling herself from her fiancée and taking off down the hall.

Chapter Text

“Talk, blondie,” Donna said as soon as Rose walked into the library.

“It’s a long story,” Rose said, sitting down on the couch and holding her tea close to her chest.

“I’ve got time,” Donna replied.

The Doctor sat next to Rose and held her close as she said, “Well, I should probably start at the beginning. I started travelling with the Doctor when I was 19, and I was about as ordinary as you could get.”

“You, Rose Tyler,” the Doctor interrupted, “were never ordinary.”

“Hush, I’m telling this story,” she said swatting his arm away. “But, like I said, I was ordinary. I had grown up on the Estates with a single mom, I never got my A-levels, and I was working in a shop. Then the Doctor swept in and changed my life. Things were great. We had been travelling together for a little over a year when it finally happened though. We were facing something that was too big, and he sent me away in the TARDIS. Without asking me first.”

“I promised your mother I would always get you home,” he said. “I was keeping my word.”

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t having it,” Rose continued. “So I ripped open the heart of the TARDIS and looked into it. Then I…sort of became a Time Goddess and came back and saved everyone.”

“You became a goddess?” Donna exclaimed, spitting out her tea in shock.

“It wasn’t on purpose!” Rose protested. “I just wanted to save the Doctor, and that was just how it happened.”

“It was horribly dangerous,” the Doctor added. “And I doubt the TARDIS would ever let anyone else do it, though it would probably kill you first.”

“I should have died,” Rose said. “That sort of power is too much for anyone. But the Doctor took it out of me, and sacrificed himself.”

“He sure looks alive to me,” Donna noted.

“Yeah, but that’s not what he looked like when I met him,” Rose said. She silently asked the TARDIS for a picture, and one appeared on the table next to the couch. Rose picked it up and looked at it. It was the one from Cardiff, when she, the Doctor, and Jack had met Mickey, just before the Game Station.

She handed it to Donna. “That’s him. In the leather jacket.”

“With those ears?” Donna gasped. “No way that’s spaceman!”

Rose giggled, “Hey, why does everyone always go after the ears? I liked those ears!”

“You’re a little biased, love,” the Doctor said, kissing her on the cheek.

Unable to be distracted, Rose took the picture back and said, “Yeah, that’s the Doctor. Time Lords have this trick where instead of dying, they can change their face. It’s really useful, but would be much more so if it wasn’t always a surprise to the people around them.”

“Hey!” the Doctor exclaimed as Rose lightly elbowed him. “Most companions never see a regeneration, so what’s the point in telling them?”

Rose rolled her eyes, but looked back at the photo. “Anyway, he took the power out of me, and died doing so. So this Doctor turned into this Doctor,” Rose said, pointing at the picture and then at the man next to her. “He also locked away my memories of it so I wouldn’t remember anything.”

“It could have killed you,” he said.

“And we kept travelling. Just the two of us, unaware anything had changed. But right after we met you and had that run in with the Huon particles, my memories started coming back. I remembered being the Bad Wolf, that was the name of the goddess, and I remembered what had happened to get rid of that power. I knew I couldn’t tell the Doctor though, because I couldn’t be responsible for killing him again.”

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I had to,” the Doctor said.

“But you won’t,” Rose said, poking him in the chest for emphasis, “because we’re done with all that self-sacrificial nonsense, right?”

“No promises,” he said, kissing her sweetly.

“Oi!” Donna yelled. “Get a room!”

“Right, sorry,” Rose said, turning back to Donna. “Anyway, Bad Wolf was coming back, but I was keeping it a secret. Then the Doctor picked up Martha, and things were rough for a little while. We didn’t get along, and the Doctor and I hardly spoke. Then came the year-that-never-was.”

“The what?” Donna asked.

“Do you remember that time that Harold Saxon was elected Prime Minister?” Rose asked.

“Yeah, and then he shot the President, then his wife shot him. That was a crazy day,” Donna laughed.

“Except it wasn’t a day,” Rose explained. “It was a whole year.”

“I think I’d remember that,” Donna protested.

“Well, time reversed, so it technically never happened,” Rose said. “He was actually a Time Lord called the Master, and he was hell bent on destroying reality. He created a paradox and enslaved the human race. He held the Doctor captive for a year, and Martha and I walked the Earth telling stories about the Doctor. Until I died for the first time. The Master recorded it, and showed it to the Doctor to break his spirit. But what the Master didn’t know was that I woke up a couple of hours later. Martha and I came up with a plan to keep the Master in the dark, and we ended up reversing time so that none of it had ever happened. But I still died 114 times in that year.”

“So you’ve died 114 times?” Donna asked.

“117, now,” Rose said, “But I always come back.”

“But, how?” Donna asked.

“Bad Wolf,” Rose shrugged. “Or at least, that’s the best we can figure. I’m still finding out how Bad Wolf changed me. I know I can’t die, I’m telepathic, I’m weirdly connected to the TARDIS, and sometimes I just know things I shouldn’t.”

“And you’re just fine with all of this?” Donna asked the Doctor.

“I don’t like the fact that Rose dies, if that’s what your asking,” he replied. “But I do love the fact that Rose’s forever and mine are going to match up. One of my greatest fears was that I would have to lose her one day, but now I won’t.”

“That’s just…that’s mad. You’re both mad, the pair of you!” Donna explained. “How did I end up travelling the universe with a bloody Martian and his immortal girlfriend?”

Knowing that Donna was still just processing, Rose just laughed while the Doctor exclaimed, “How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not a Martian!”

“Okay spaceman,” Donna laughed.

The rest of the evening went by smoothly. All of them trying not to think about just how many lives had been lost in Pompeii. Occasionally Donna would ask a question about their lives or the places they had been, but no more heavy stuff. Donna was content for the moment with the answers she had gotten, but she also wasn’t going to hesitate to ask if she thought of anything new.

Chapter Text

When Donna entered the console room the next morning, everything was shaking, and the Doctor and Rose were laughing as they clung to the console for dear life.

“Where are we off to today?” Donna asked when the shaking stopped.

“No idea,” Rose smiled.

The Doctor nodded. “Set the controls to random. Mystery tour. Outside that door could be any planet, anywhere, anywhen in the whole wide universe. Are you all right?”

Donna laughed nervously, “Terrified. I mean, history's one thing but an alien planet?”

The Doctor shrugged, “I could always take you home.”

“Yeah, don’t laugh at me,” Donna chided.

“I know what it's like. Everything you're feeling right now. The fear, the joy, the wonder? I get that,” the Doctor said.

“What, seriously?” she asked. “After all this time?”

“It never goes away,” Rose smiled. “I’ve spent a third of my life on this ship and I still fell that crazy mix of emotions.”

“Why do you think I keep going?” the Doctor asked.

“Oh, all right then,” Donna smiled, turning toward the door. “This is barmy. I was born in Chiswick. I've only ever had package holidays. Now I'm here. This is so—I mean it's—I don't know, it's all sort of—I don't even know what the word is.”

Donna stepped outside, and the Doctor followed. At the TARDIS’s insistence, Rose waited until two heavy winter coats appeared on one of the coral struts, and she grabbed them and followed the others outside.

“Oh, I’ve got the word,” she heard Donna mutter. “Freezing.”

“Snow! Oh, real snow. Proper snow at last. That's more like it. Lovely. What do you think?” the Doctor asked giggling and bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet.

The superior Time Lord biology that kept him from getting cold was a bit annoying, Rose thought as she handed one coat to Donna and put the other on herself.

“Look at that view,” he gasped, staring out at the frozen mountains surrounding them.

“Yep. Beautiful, cold view,” Donna muttered as she put her coat on and flipped up the hood.

“Millions of planets, millions of galaxies, and we're on this one. Molto bene. Bellissimo, says Donna, born in Chiswick. All you've got is a life of work and sleep, and telly and rent and tax and takeaway dinners, all birthdays and Christmases and two weeks holiday a year, and then you end up here. Donna Noble, citizen of the Earth, standing on a different planet. How about that Donna?” the Doctor asked.

“Much better thanks to Rose,” Donna grinned from inside the massive furry coat.

“Comfy?” he asked.

“Yep,” she replied, then turned to Rose and asked, “Does he not need one?”

Rose rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t get him started on his how his Time Lord biology is superior to that of us apes.”

“Hey!” the Doctor protested. “I haven’t said anything like that in ages.”

Rose and Donna laughed, and the Doctor was about to say something else when a rocket flew over their heads. “Rocket, blimey,” Donna said, staring after it. “A real, proper rocket. Now that's what I call a spaceship. You've got a box, he's got a Ferrari. Come on, let’s go see where he's going.”

“Hey!” Rose and the Doctor exclaimed in unison in defence of the TARDIS, but Donna didn’t hear them as she was already quickly following the rocket.

They were only a few steps from the TARDIS when Rose heard it. Well, felt would be a more accurate term. There was a song, but she couldn’t hear it exactly. It was more of a pulsing feeling on the edge of her mind. The sorrow of the song was starting to affect her mood, but when she looked at the Doctor and Donna, but neither of them seemed to notice anything, so she kept going. They were halfway across a rock bridge when they Doctor stopped and asked, “Hold on, can you hear that? Donna, take your hood down.”

“What?” Donna asked as she did so.

“That noise is like a song. Over there,” the Doctor said, taking off toward something half buried in the snow.

The closer they got, the more overpowering the feeling was for Rose. She followed the Doctor and dropped to her knees in front of an Ood. The song was focused there, but she could tell that it was radiating from somewhere else.

“What is it?” Donna gasped as she caught a glimpse.

“An Ood. He’s called an Ood,” the Doctor explained.

“But its face,” Donna gasped.

“Donna, don't. Not now. It's a he, not an it. Give me a hand,” the Doctor said, turning to Rose as he dug out a stethoscope.

“Sorry,” Donna muttered.

“Hey,” Rose whispered to the Ood, running a hand over his head in a reassuring manner. “It’s okay. We’ve got you. I’m Rose, and this is the Doctor. Have you got a name?”

“Designated Ood Delta 50,” it replied weakly.

“You’ve been shot,” the Doctor remarked.

“The circle,” Delta 50 said, turning to look at Rose.

“Yeah?” Rose asked, sensing that this Ood didn’t have long left, and wanting to make sure it got to say what it wanted to say.

“The circle must be broken,” he whispered, staring straight at Rose.

“Circle? What do you mean? Delta 50, what circle?” the Doctor yelled.

“Shh,” Rose said to the Doctor. “Gentle.” Then she turned back to the Ood. “Can you tell us about the circle? We’ll do our best to help, but we don’t know what’s going on.”

“It must be broken,” the Ood whispered before sitting up, its eyes flashing red as it roared.

The Doctor jumped back and tried to pull Rose with him, but she stayed where she was, holding one of Delta 50’s hands as he collapsed and took his last breath.

“He’s gone,” Rose whispered.

“We were too late,” Donna sighed. “What do we do? Do we bury him?”

“The snow will take care of that,” the Doctor replied, helping Rose up as they started to walk away.

“Who was he? What’s an Ood?” Donna asked.

“They're servants of humans in the forty second century. Mildly telepathic. That was the song. It was his mind calling out,” the Doctor said.

“I couldn’t hear anything,” Donna said.

“I heard since we left the TARDIS,” Rose replied.

“An Ood isn’t strong enough to have that kind of telepathic range,” the Doctor protested.

“Maybe something’s amplifying the signal,” Rose suggested. “Like last time.”

“Last time?” Donna asked.

“Yeah,” Rose replied. “Last time we met the Ood, they were being telepathically controlled.”

“Controlled by what?” Donna asked.

“Long story,” the Doctor shrugged.

“Long walk.”

“It was the Devil,” the Doctor replied.

“If you're going to take the mickey, I'll just put my hood back up,” Donna replied.

“No,” Rose said. “He’s serious. It was the Devil, or some form of it. That was actually the first creature to predict my death.”

“Predict your what?” Donna asked.

“Back then we didn’t know I was immortal,” Rose replied. “So it was a lot scarier then.”

“Must be something different this time, though. Something closer to home,” the Doctor mused, trying to change the subject. As they crossed a hill, he saw something and took off running, saying, “Ah ha! Civilisation.”

The three of them tagged onto a tour group and ran up as the guide was introducing herself as Solana.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry. Late. Don't mind us. Hello. The guards let us through,” the Doctor said.

“And you would be?” Solana asked.

“The Doctor and Rose Tyler, and our associate Donna Noble,” the Doctor said, flashing his psychic paper.

“Representing the Noble-Tyler Corporation PLC Limited, Intergalactic,” Donna said, looping her arm through Rose’s.

“Must have fallen off my list. My apologies. Won't happen again. Now then, Doctor Tyler, Mrs. Tyler, Ms. Noble, here are your information packs, vouchers inside. Now if you'd like to come with me, the Executive Suites are nice and warm.”

Behind them, a beeping sound echoed through the compound and the Doctor said, “Oh, what’s that? That sounds like an alarm.”

“Oh, it's just a siren for the end of the work shift. Now then, this way, quick as you can,” Solana said, dismissing the Doctor.

Donna, Rose and the Doctor shared a suspicious glance as they followed Solana in. She took her place at the podium, surrounded by Ood. “As you can see, the Ood are happy to serve, and we keep them in facilities of the highest standard. Here at the Double O, that's Ood Operations, we like to think of the Ood as our trusted friends. We keep the Ood healthy, safe, and educated. We don't just breed the Ood. We make them better. Because at heart, what is an Ood, but a reflection of us? If your Ood is happy, then you'll be happy, too. I'd now like to point out a new innovation from Ood Operations. We've introduced a variety package with the Ood translator ball. You can now have the standard setting. How are you today, Ood?” Solana said.

“I’m perfectly well, thank you,” one Ood replied.

“Or perhaps after a stressful day, a little something for the gentlemen. And how are you, Ood?” Solana asked another Ood.

“All the better for seeing you,” the second Ood replied in a husky, feminine voice.

“And the comedy classic option. Ood, you dropped something,” Solana said to a third Ood.

“D’oh!” It exclaimed in a Homer Simpson voice.

“All that for only five additional credits. The details are in your brochures. Now, there's plenty more food and drink, so don't hold back,” Solana said before leaving the room.

The Doctor quickly made his way over to her podium and turned it on, showing a map of the galaxy. “Ah, got it. The Ood Sphere, I've been to this solar system before. Years ago. Ages. Close to the planet Sense Sphere.”

“When was that?” Rose asked.

“My first body,” he replied. “Back with Susan, Barbara, and Ian. But let's widen out. The year 4126. That is the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire.”

“4126? It's 4126. I'm in 4126,” Donna said, staring at the screen in shock.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” the Doctor asked.

“What's the Earth like now?” Donna said, staring at the map and trying to see if she recognized anything.

“Bit full. But you see, the Empire stretches out across three galaxies,” the Doctor replied.

“It's weird. I mean, it's brilliant, but. Back home, the papers and the telly, they keep saying we haven't got long to live. Global warming, flooding, all the bees disappearing,” Donna noted.

“Yeah, that thing about the bees is odd,” the Doctor said.

“But look at us. We're everywhere. Is that good or bad, though? I mean, are we like explorers? Or more like a virus?” Donna asked.

“Sometimes I wonder,” the Doctor mused.

“I wish I could argue with that,” Rose said, “but looking around at these Ood, I’ve gotta agree.”

“What are the red dots?” Donna asked, pointing at the map.

“Ood distribution centres,” he replied.

“Across three galaxies? Don’t the Ood get a say in this?” Donna asked before marching over to the nearest Ood and gingerly tapping him on the shoulder. “Er, sorry, but er. Hello. Tell me, are you all like this?”

“I do not understand, Miss,” the Ood replied.

“Why do you say Miss? Do I look single?” Donna roared.

“Back to the point,” the Doctor said as Rose giggled.

“Yeah. What I mean is, are there any free Ood? Are there Ood running wild somewhere, like wildebeest?”

“Or just Ood that get to make decisions for themselves. Ones that don’t work for humans,” Rose said, noting that they were a little more sentient than wildebeest.

“All Ood are born to serve. Otherwise, we would die,” the Ood answered.

“But you can't have started like that. Before the humans, what were you like?” Donna asked.

The Ood looked at Rose, much like Delta 50 had. “The circle.”

“What do you mean? What circle?” the Doctor asked.

“The circle. The circle is—” the Ood started, but it was cut off by Solana reappearing and ordering all the Ood to hospitality stations.

The Doctor held up a map of the complex. “I've had enough of the schmoozing. Do you fancy going off the beaten track?”

“Rough guide to the Ood Sphere? Works for me,” Donna smiled.

Rose held out her hand for the Doctor to grab and said, “Allons-y.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor, Donna, and Rose made their way to a secure part of the facility and the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver to open the gate. They all watched as a group of Ood was marched across the compound, being whipped if they were unable to keep up.

“Servants?” Donna asked. “They’re slaves.”

“Last time we met them,” Rose sighed. “I didn’t even ask. I never thought…”

“That’s not like you,” Donna remarked.

“We had to let them die. Otherwise the Devil would have escaped across the universe,” the Doctor reasoned.

“Still,” Rose said. “We owe them. And we need to figure out where that song is coming from.”

“It stopped though,” the Doctor said. “When Delta 50 died.”

Rose shook her head. “No, it didn’t. It’s still going. Quieter now, but still there.”

Donna pointed over to one of the other buildings, “That looks like the boss.”

“Let’s keep out of his way,” the Doctor said, and the three of them went off in the opposite direction to explore.

Donna stopped in front of a door while the Doctor and Rose kept walking. She let out a sharp whisper to get their attention and pointed it at the door. As the Doctor fished the sonic out of his pocket he asked, “Where’d you learn to whistle?”

“West Ham, every Saturday,” Donna shrugged.

They all walked into the room filled with lots of blue shipping containers. “Ood Export,” the Doctor said. Then he pointed at a crane dangling from the ceiling. “You see? Lifts up the containers, takes them to the rocket sheds, ready to be flown out all over the three galaxies.”

“What, you mean, these containers are full of?” Donna asked.

Rose shuddered as the Doctor replied, “What do you think?”

The Doctor opened one to see lines of Oods standing at attention, not talking, hardly breathing. “Oh, it stinks,” Donna muttered. “How many of them do you think there are in each one?”

“Hundred? More?” the Doctor said.

“A great big empire built on slavery,” Donna whispered.

“It’s not so different from your time,” the Doctor said.

“Oi, I haven’t got slaves,” Donna protested.

“Who do you think made your clothes?” the Doctor asked.

“Is that why you travel round with a human at your side? It's not so you can show them the wonders of the universe, it's so you can take cheap shots?” Donna asked. “Blondie, I don’t know how you do it.”

“Believe me, he used to be worse,” Rose chuckled. “Always going on about us stupid apes.”

“Sorry,” the Doctor apologized to them both.

Rose took his hand and telepathically told him that she was just giving him a hard time, and Donna said, “Don’t, spaceman.” The Doctor smiled at the use of the nickname, knowing it meant all was forgiven. Then Donna turned her attention back to the Ood. “I don't understand, the door is open, why don't you just run away?”

“For what purpose?” One of the Ood in front said.

‘You could be free,” Donna replied.

“I do not understand the concept,” the Ood said, tilting its head sideways.

Donna turned to Rose and the Doctor. “What is it with that Persil ball? I mean, they're not born with it, are they? Why do they have to be all plugged in?”

“Ood, tell me. Does the circle mean anything to you?” the Doctor asked.

Rose jumped as a massive telepathic wave hit her and the Ood said in unison, “The circle must be broken.”

“But what is it? What is the circle? The Doctor asked.

“The circle must be broken.”

“Why?” The Doctor asked.

“So that we may sing,” they all replied together.

Just then an alarm started blaring. The Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand and took off running, saying, “Oh, that’s us. Come on.”

Rose let go of the Doctor’s hand so they could turn corners faster in the tightly packed room. Donna stopped and grabbed Rose’s hand. “There’s a door,” she said, just before a bunch of guards opened the door and grabbed both the women, throwing them into a partially filled container.

They both sat there on their hands and knees, staring at the Ood as one-by-one their eyes went red. “Oh, no you don’t. What have we done? We’re not part of that lot,” Donna yelled. “Tell them, Rose.”

But when Donna looked at Rose, she saw that Rose had gotten to her feet and was staring at the Ood. She took a step forward, and Donna grabbed her hand to pull her back. This caused Rose to look back at Donna, but her eyes weren’t their normal brown. They were glowing golden. Donna shrunk back against the doors, yelling to be let out, but that was the only noise or movement in the container. Rose and the Ood all stood perfectly still and quiet.

Eventually, a door opened, and Donna ran out to the Doctor. She hugged him and he smiled, “There we go, safe and sound. But have you seen Rose?”

Donna pointed back to the container, where Rose and the red-eyed Ood were still standing. “Shoot to kill,” one of the guards said, eyeing the Ood.

The Doctor dashed forward and grabbed Rose’s hand, pulling her, unresponsive, out of the warehouse. “Rose?” he asked as soon as they were safely outside.

She blinked, coming out of her daze. “It’s not an outside force,” she said, shutting her eyes on trying to remember.

“What?” The Doctor asked.

“The thing causing the red eye. It’s of Ood origin. I knew what it was, for a minute. I was connected to it,” she replied. “But it’s gone now. I can still hear the song, but for a minute there, it was almost as strong as the TARDIS’s song, when I’m hanging out near the heart.”

“How were you connected to it?” the Doctor asked.

“I don’t know,” Rose replied. “It’s like they were asking me for help, but now that I’m not near them, it’s gone. I can’t explain it.”

“But your eyes,” Donna said. “They were, they were gold!”

“Bad Wolf,” the Doctor whispered, looking nervous.

“Bad Wolf won’t hurt me, Doctor,” Rose said. “And we can figure out that later. Right now, we need to figure out what’s up with the Ood. Is it some kind of evolution?”

The Doctor turned to Solana, who had followed them out of the warehouse. “Solana, the Ood aren't born like this. They can't be. A species born to serve could never evolve in the first place. What does the company do to make them obey?”

“That’s nothing to do with me,” she replied.

“Oh, what?” Donna snapped. “Because you don’t ask?”

“That’s Doctor Ryder’s territory,” Solana replied.

“Where's he? What part of the complex? I could help with the red eye. Now show me,” the Doctor said, pulling out his map.

She looked at it and pointed at a small area. “There. Beyond the red section.”

“Come with me. You've seen the warehouse. You can't agree with all this. You know this place better than me. You could help,” the Doctor suggested.

Solana hesitated for a second then turned and yelled, “They're over here! Guards! They're over here.”

The Doctor, Donna, and Rose took off for where Solana had pointed.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“This way,” the Doctor said, using he sonic to unlock a door. “Oh, can you hear it? I didn’t need the map. I should have listened.”

As soon as the door opened, the song got stronger. Rose had to fight back tears as the emotions in the song overwhelmed her. She followed the others in, and the Doctor locked the door.

“Hold on. Does that mean we’re locked in?” Donna asked.

“Listen. Listen, listen, listen, listen,” the Doctor shushed Donna. “Oh, my head.”

“What is it?” Donna asked.

“It’s the Ood,” Rose replied. “They’re singing.”

The three of them looked at the cages and cages of Ood, crouching and huddling together, doing their best to stay away from the humans.

“They look different to the others,” Donna noticed.

“That’s because they’re natural born Ood, unprocessed, before they’re adapted to slavery. Unspoilt. That’s their song,” the Doctor explained.

“I can’t hear it,” Donna said, looking at Rose, hanging onto the bars of the cage, tears running down her face.

“Do you want to?” the Doctor asked.

“Yeah.”

“It’s the song of captivity,” the Doctor warned.

“Let me hear it,” Donna insisted.

“Face me,” the Doctor instructed, putting his fingers on her temple and closing his eyes. “Open your mind. That’s it. Hear it, Donna. Hear the music.”

Suddenly, Donna could hear the song, and she began to understand why Rose was crying as tears began streaming down her cheeks as well. She tried to listen for a minute, but it quickly became too much for her. “Take it away.”

“Sure?” the Doctor asked.

“I can’t bear it,” she whispered, and the Doctor put his hands back on her temple to take away the temporary telepathic abilities.

“I’m sorry,” Donna said.

“It’s okay,” the Doctor reassured her.

“But you still hear it?” Donna asked. “Both of you?”

“All the time,” the Doctor nodded, placing an arm around Rose’s shoulder.

Overhead, they heard the sounds of the guards trying to open the door. “They’re breaking in,” Donna yelled.

“Ah, let them,” the Doctor growled, opening the cage and moving in toward the Ood. He and Rose crouched down in front of them. “What are you holding?”

“Please,” Rose whispered. “Will you show us? I promise, we’re friends. We’re not going to hurt you.”

One of the Ood looked at Rose and tilted its head, trying to determine her intentions. Obviously deciding that she was safe, the Ood held out his hands and opened them. Inside was a tiny little brain.

“Is that?” Donna asked.

“It's a brain. A hind brain. The Ood are born with a secondary brain. Like the amygdala in humans, it processes memory and emotions. You get rid of that, you wouldn't be Donna any more. You'd be like an Ood. A processed Ood,” the Doctor explained.

“So the company cuts off their brains?” Donna asked.

“And they replace it with a translator,” Rose growled.

“Like a lobotomy. I spent all that time looking for you, Doctor, because I thought it was so wonderful out here. I want to go home,” Donna whispered.

Before Rose or the Doctor could reply, the door to the building came crashing down, and a bunch of guards filled the room. The Doctor pulled the door to the cage shut and yelled, “What you going to do, then? Arrest me? Lock me up? Throw me in a cage? Well, you're too late. Ha!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

About twenty minutes later, the Doctor, Donna, and Rose were all handcuffed to some pipes in the president’s office. “Why don't you just come out and say it? FOTO activists,” Halpen sneered, looking at them.

“If that's what Friends of The Ood are trying to prove, then yes,” the Doctor replied.

“The Ood were nothing without us, just animals roaming around on the ice,” Halpen shot back.

“That’s because you can’t hear them,” Rose snapped. “They weren’t mindless beasts. They’re intelligent. But you take all of that away from them.”

“They welcomed it. It's not as if they put up a fight,” Halpen protested.

“You idiot. They're born with their brains in their hands. Don't you see, that makes them peaceful. They've got to be, because a creature like that would have to trust anyone it meets,” Donna yelled.

“Oh, nice one,” the Doctor nodded in approval.

“Thank you,” Donna replied.

“The system's worked for two hundred years. All we've got is a rogue batch. But the infection is about to be sterilised. Mister Kess. How do we stand?” Halpen asked.

A voice through a radio said, “Canisters primed, sir. As soon as the core heats up, the gas is released. Give it two hundred marks and counting.”

“You’re going to gas them?” the Doctor asked.

“Kill the livestock. The classic foot and mouth solution from the olden days. Still works,” Halpen shrugged.

Before the countdown could be completed though, an alarm started going off. “What the hell?” Halpen asked, moving outside with Dr. Ryder and Ood Sigma to find out what was going on. He came back in and announced, “Change of plan.”

“There are no reports of trouble off-world, sir. It's still contained to the Ood Sphere,” Dr. Ryder informed him.

“Then we’ve got a public duty to stop it before it spreads,” Halpen said.

“What’s happening?” the Doctor asked.

“Everything you wanted, Doctor. No doubt there'll be a full police investigation once this place has been sterilised, so I can't risk a bullet to the head. I'll leave you to the mercies of the Ood,” Halpen said, turning to leave.

“But Mister Halpen, there's something else, isn't there? Something we haven't seen,” the Doctor reasoned.

“What do you mean?” Donna asked.

“A creature couldn't survive with a separate forebrain and hind brain, they'd be at war with themselves. There's got to be something else, a third element, am I right?”

“And again, so clever,” Halpen sneered.

“But it’s got to be connected to the red eye,” the Doctor reasoned.

“It won’t exist for very much longer. Enjoy your Ood,” Halpen said, leaving with Dr. Ryder and all of the guards.

The three of them struggled for a few minutes fruitlessly. Neither Rose nor the Doctor could reach their sonic screwdrivers. “Well, do something. You're the one with all the tricks. You must have met Houdini,” Donna said.

“These are really good handcuffs,” the Doctor protested.

“Oh well, I'm glad of that. I mean, at least we've got quality,” Donna huffed.

Before anyone could reply to her, the door opened and three red-eyed Ood entered. “Doctor, Rose, Donna, friends,” the Doctor yelled repeatedly.

“The circle must be broken,” Donna chanted.

Rose just looked at the Ood, her eyes glowing golden. She didn’t say anything audibly, but the Doctor stopped yelling and turned to look at her when he felt the telepathic conversation in the room. The Oods’ eyes suddenly flashed gold before returning to their normal, not glowing, color. “Friends,” the Ood said calmly.

Rose’s eyes returned to their normal color as well, and she smiled at them. “Thank you. Now, would you mind helping us out of these handcuffs? We’re here to help, but we’re a little stuck.”

“Of course,” the Ood replied, before taking off their handcuffs.

“Thank you,” the Doctor said. The three of them ran out and tried to find where Ryder and Halpen had gone. They wandered around aimlessly until they saw Ood Sigma, Halpen’s personal Ood, standing in front of them. His eyes were a natural color, and he nodded at them to follow him. They did, and he led them to a warehouse. They all four ran inside, and the Doctor finally figured out what was missing. “The Ood Brain. Now it all makes sense, That's the missing link. The third element, binding them together. Forebrain, hind brain, and this, the telepathic centre. It's a shared mind, connecting all the Ood in song.”

The three of them turned to see Halpen holding a gun. “Cargo. I can always go into cargo. I've got the rockets, I've got the sheds. Smaller business. Much more manageable, without livestock.”

“He’s mined the area,” Dr. Ryder said, looking at them for help.

“You’re going to kill it?” Donna asked.

“They found that thing centuries ago beneath the Northern Glacier,” Halpen explained.

“Those pylons,” the Doctor noticed.

“In a circle,” Donna added.

“The circle must be broken,” Rose whispered.

“Damping the telepathic field. Stopping the Ood from connecting for two hundred years,” the Doctor growled.

Halpen ignored the Doctor and instead turned to Ood Sigma. “And you, Ood Sigma, you brought them here. I expected better.”

“My place is at your side, sir,” the Ood replied, moving over to stand next to him.

“Still subservient,” Halpen noted. “Good Ood.”

“If that barrier thing's in place, how come the Ood started breaking out?” Donna asked.

“Maybe it's taken centuries to adapt. The subconscious reaching out?” the Doctor mused.

Then Dr. Ryder spoke up, “But the process was too slow. It had to be accelerated. You should never give me access to the controls, Mister Halpen. I lowered the barrier to its minimum. Friends of The Ood, sir. It's taken me ten years to infiltrate the company, and I succeeded.”

“Yes, yes you did,” Halpen said, grinning at Dr. Ryder before flinging him over the barrier and into the brain, which absorbed him quickly.

“You murdered him,” Donna gasped.

“Very observant, Ginger,” Halpen said, pointing a gun at them. The Doctor tried to push the girls behind him, but Rose stepped in front. “Now, then. Can't say I've ever shot anyone before. Can't say I'm going to like it. But er, it's not exactly a normal day, is it? Still.”

“Leave now,” Rose said, her eyes glowing golden and her voice taking on an echoing, ethereal quality. “Leave now, and I will stop the natural consequences of your actions.”

“Dear God,” Halpen muttered. “It’s contagious.”

He fired a few rounds into Rose, but the bullets all disappeared into a golden mist before they hit her.

“Would you like a drink, sir?” Ood Sigma asked.

“I think hair loss is the least of my problems right now, thanks,” he replied.

Ood Sigma moved to stand in front of the humans. “Please, have a drink, sir.”

“If, if you're going to stand in their way, I'll shoot you too,” Halpen said, choking on each word.

“Please have a drink, sir,” Ood Sigma repeated, more forcefully this time.

“Have, have you poisoned me?” Halpen choked out.

“Natural Ood must never kill, sir,” Ood Sigma replied.

“What is that stuff?” The Doctor asked.

“Ood graft suspended in a biological compound, sir,” Ood Sigma replied.

“What the hell does that mean?” Halpen asked.

“Oh dear,” the Doctor muttered.

“Tell me!” Halpen roared.

“Funny thing, the subconscious. Takes all sorts of shapes. Came out in the red eye as revenge, came out in the rabid Ood as anger, and then there was patience. All that intelligence and mercy, focused on Ood Sigma. How's the hair loss, Mister Halpen?” the Doctor asked as Halpen reached up and pulled away a fistful of hair.

“What have you done?” he gasped.

“Oh, they've been preparing you for a very long time. And now you're standing next to the Ood Brain, Mister Halpen, can you hear it? Listen,” the Doctor said calmly.

“What have you done? I’m not—” the rest of his sentence was lost as his face went blank and he dropped the gun. Then he reached up and pulled all of the skin of his head before coughing up the tentacles on the front of an Ood’s face.

“They, they turned him into an Ood?” Donna asked.

“Yup.”

“He’s an Ood,” Donna repeated still in shock.

“I noticed,” the Doctor replied.

Halpen sneezed, and a small hind brain fell out into his hand. Ood Sigma stood next to him and said, “He has become Oodkind, and we will take care of him.”

“It's weird, being with you. I can't tell what's right and what's wrong any more,” Donna whispered.

“It’s better that way,” the Doctor replied. “People who know for certain tend to be like Mister Halpen.”

Then, a beep sounded as the Doctor remembered the explosives. He dashed over and deactivated them all. “That’s better.”

“Ood Sigma,” Rose said, her eyes still glowing golden. “Would you allow me the honour?”

“It is yours, Bad Wolf,” Ood Sigma replied.

Rose flipped the switch, and the song of the Ood filled the chamber. Rose’s eyes went back to their normal brown, and she wobbled on her feet. The Doctor dashed over and caught her before she could fall.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Do you not remember?” the Doctor asked.

“Everything’s kind of hazy,” she admitted. “And I’m not sure I trust what I can make out. Halpen didn’t turn into an Ood, did he?”

The Doctor nodded over to Ood Halpen, standing there with his palms lifted to the sky. Donna giggled and exclaimed, “I can hear it!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“The message has gone out. That song resonated across the galaxies. Everyone heard it. Everyone knows. The rockets are bringing them back. The Ood are coming home,” the Doctor smiled as they stood in front of the TARDIS with Ood Sigma.

“We thank you, Doctor, Donna, and Bad Wolf. Friends of Oodkind. And what of you now? Will you stay? There is room in the song for you,” Ood Sigma offered.

“Thank you,” Rose said. “But we can’t stay. And I have a feeling you know that.”

Ood Sigma nodded, “We do. But we also know that your song is not always an easy one, so we offer you a choice.”

“Thank you,” Rose said.

“What about you, Donna?” the Doctor asked. “Still want to go home?”

“No, definitely not,” she said, shaking her head.

“Then we’ll be off,” the Doctor said, snaking an arm around Rose.

“Take this song with you,” Ood Sigma said.

“We will,” Donna replied.

“Always,” Rose and the Doctor replied in unison, grinning at each other.

“And know this. You will never be forgotten. Our children will sing of you all, and our children's children, and the wind and the ice and the snow will carry your names forever.”

The three of them stepped into the TARDIS, and Rose and the Doctor started the dematerialization sequence.

“Okay,” Donna said. “There was a lot to unpack there, but first of all, Rose, what was that, back there?”

“Well, I don’t remember all of it. Not clearly at least. It was sort of like watching someone else pilot my body, but through a fog,” Rose explained. “But I do know it was Bad Wolf.”

“But why would Bad Wolf come out now?” the Doctor asked.

“Bad Wolf is connected to all of time and space in a really unique way,” Rose replied. “And I don’t remember exactly, but I think I remember feeling the Ood being connected the same way. That’s why I never stopped being able to hear their song. They sort of, brought out the Bad Wolf. I can’t explain how or why, but they did.”

“But we’ve met Ood before and that didn’t happen,” the Doctor protested.

“I hadn’t really practiced my telepathy at that point,” Rose shrugged. “It’s like a muscle, and I had never exercised it before. Now though, I’m getting pretty good. And I don’t think my shields were triggered because the Ood meant me no harm.”

The Doctor let out a frustrated sigh and raked his fingers through his hair. Rose grabbed one of his hands with both of hers to stop him. “Hey, we learn what Bad Wolf is up to when its time for us to figure that out. But Bad Wolf is made up of me and the TARDIS, so it’s never gonna get us into something we can’t handle, yeah?”

“Yeah,” the Doctor agreed.

Chapter Text

“Oh yes! That sounds lovely!” Donna gasped.

“Really?” the Doctor pouted. “A beach? We could go see the seven moons of Andorica or the star set on Justinia or—”

“You heard the lady,” Rose giggled. “The beach it is.”

“You two are so boring!” the Doctor protested.

“Hey, I can fly this thing without you if you want us to drop you off somewhere more exciting,” Rose offered, her tongue peeking out of her smile.

“Fine,” the Doctor sighed. “We’ll go to the beach.”

“Yes!” Donna exclaimed.

Rose’s mobile started ringing in her pocket and she stepped off to the side to answer it. “Hello?”

“Rose?” Martha asked.

“Hey, what’s up?” Rose asked, sitting on the jump seat, ready for a quick chat with her best friend.

“Sorry, but this isn’t a personal call. I’m bringing you back to Earth for an official UNIT assignment. Meet me behind the ATMOS factory. It’s April 26th. 2008, by the way,” Martha replied.

“Be right there,” Rose replied before hanging up. “Looks like the beach is going to have to wait.”

“Why?” Donna asked.

“Because an old friend needs some help.”

Rose put in the coordinates and landed the TARDIS exactly where Martha was expecting it. Before she could leave the TARDIS though, she realized she had forgotten her sonic. “I’ll be right back,” she said, dashing into her room.

The Doctor and Donna both stepped out of the TARDIS where Martha was waiting for them. “Doctor,” Martha said with a nod.

“Martha Jones,” the Doctor replied, crossing his arms across his chest.

Donna stared at the two, trying to judge their relationship, but before she could say anything, Rose came bounding out of the TARDIS and tackled Martha with a hug.

“Oh, I’ve missed you!” Martha replied, smiling as she returned the hug.

“Has it really been four months?” Rose asked.

“Sorry,” Martha replied, finally letting Rose go. “You know I wouldn’t have called if it wasn’t an emergency.”

She turned to the Doctor and laughed, “Oh, you get on over here too!”

The Doctor gave Martha a hug and said, “It is good to see you, Martha. Even if it’s only been about a week for us.”

“A week!” Martha exclaimed. “You’ve only been engaged a week?”

Rose shrugged. “We’re back to travelling. A lot’s happened in a week. Remind me to catch you up later. But for now, the only thing you need to know is we got a new companion. Martha, meet Donna. Donna, this is Martha.”

“Donna?” Martha asked. “Have I heard that name before?”

“Yeah,” Rose smiled. “This is the Donna from the Christmas spider.”

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Donna,” Martha said, shaking her hand.

“You too,” Donna smiled. “Rose has told me loads about you.”

“I dread to think,” Martha deadpanned, looking over to Rose.

“All terrible things,” Rose grinned.

“Well, Donna,” Martha grinned. “I’ve got some stories on them if you’d be interested.”

“Oh, no. This does not sound like a good idea,” Rose said. “Nope. No way.”

“Give me your phone,” Martha said. “I’ll add you to the groups.”

“The groups?” Donna asked, handing over her mobile.

“Yeah, we’ve got some group messages so all the companions can keep in touch. One of them has Rose in it, just so she doesn’t throw a fit about being left out, but the other is just us humans,” Martha replied.

“Hey! If Jack counts as human than so do I!” Rose argued.

Martha shook her head and laughed.

“Dr. Jones,” a man’s voice barked. “This is a serious mission, not a middle school sleepover."

“Sorry, Colonel Mace,” Martha said, turning to face the man.

“I trust it will not happen again.”

“Colonel Mace, was it?” Rose asked.

He ignored her and turned and marched back to a van.

“Sorry about him,” Martha said as they all followed him slightly more slowly. “He’s a good man, he is, but he’s very militant. My boss, Kate, is on vacation this week, and she’s the one who makes sure that science stays in charge around here.”

“Colonel Mace,” Martha said as they entered the van, which was actually a high tech mobile command unit. “If you’d allow me to make the proper introductions?”

“Alright, Dr. Jones,” he sighed.

“Colonel Mace, this is the Doctor,” Martha said.

“Sir,” he said, his hand snapping to his head in a salute.

“Oh, don’t do that,” the Doctor sighed.

“But it's an honour, sir. I've read all the files on you. Technically speaking, you're still on staff. You never resigned,” Mace said.

“What, you used to work for them?” Donna asked. “You had a real, proper job?”

“Yeah, long time ago. Back in the 70's. Or was it the 80's? But it was all a bit more homespun back then,” the Doctor said, glancing around at all the high-tech equipment.

“Times have changed, sir,” Mace replied.

“Yeah, that’s enough of the sir,” the Doctor shuddered.

“Come on, Doctor. You’ve seen it. You've been on board the Valiant. We've got massive funding from the United Nations, all in the name of Home World Security,” Martha replied.

“A modern UNIT for the modern world,” Mace said, as though repeating a slogan.

“What, and that means arresting ordinary factory workers, in the streets, in broad daylight?” Rose said, thinking back to the scene outside the factory that Martha had only sadly glanced at.

“Yeah, it’s more like Guantanamo Bay out there. Donna, by the way. Donna Noble, since you didn't ask. I'll have a salute.”

Colonel Mace looked at the Doctor, who nodded, and then saluted Donna, saying, “Ma’am.”

“And this is Rose Tyler,” Martha said, nodding at Rose. “Also known as the Bad Wolf.”

“Bad Wolf?” Colonel Mace exclaimed, eyes going wide as he saluted her. “I wasn’t aware—we—it’s really an honour, ma’am.”

Rose looked at Martha, confused. “You’re a bit of a legend round here yourself,” Martha laughed. “There were some UNIT soldiers and high-ranking officers locked up on the Valiant, and stories of you reached them. I’m afraid they’ve taken it a bit far, but don’t worry, I’m working on setting the record straight.”

“Hey,” Rose exclaimed, elbowing Martha playfully in the ribs.

“Dr. Jones, is that any way to treat such an honoured guest?” Mace asked.

Rose turned to him and said, “Martha is my best friend. And any stories you’ve heard about me? They wouldn’t have been possible without her. So I expect you to give her the same respect you’d give me. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, saluting her.

“And get used to a little bit of goofing around. It’s how we work. And if you want out help, you do it our way,” Rose said.

“Yes, ma’am,” he repeated before turning back to some monitors, much less self-assured than he had been a few moments before.

“Now, tell me. What’s going on in that factory?” the Doctor asked, smiling at his fiancée who grinned right back at him.

“Yesterday, fifty-two people died in identical circumstances, right across the world, in eleven different time zones. Five a.m. in the UK, six a.m. in France, eight a.m. in Moscow, one p.m. in China,” Mace said.

“You mean they died simultaneously?” the Doctor asked.

“Exactly. Fifty-two deaths at the exact same moment, worldwide,” Mace said.

“How did they die?” Rose asked.

“They were all inside their cars,” Mace replied.

“They were poisoned. I checked the biopsies. No toxins. Whatever it is, left the system immediately,” Martha added.

“What have the cars got in common?” the Doctor asked.

“Completely different makes. They're all fitted with ATMOS, and that is the ATMOS factory,” Martha replied.

“What’s ATMOS?” Rose asked.

“Oh, come on. Even I know that. Everyone's got ATMOS,” Donna snorted.

“Let’s go inside the factory and we can show you,” Martha suggested, leading the way out of the van and into the facility. When they got in, they walked along the catwalk above the factory floor and Martha explained, “Stands for Atmospheric Omission System. Fit ATMOS in your car, it reduces CO2 emissions to zero.”

“Zero? No carbon, none at all?” the Doctor asked.

“And you get sat-nav and twenty quid in shopping vouchers if you introduce a friend. Bargain,” Donna added.

“And this is where they make it, Doctor. Shipping worldwide. Seventeen factories across the globe, but this is the central depot, sending ATMOS to every country on Earth,” Colonel Mace explained.

“And you think ATMOS is alien?” the Doctor asked.

“It’s our job to investigate that possibility. Doctor?“ Mace said, showing them the way to an office with an ATMOS device laying on the table. “And here it is, laid bare. ATMOS can be threaded through any and every make of car.”

“You must’ve checked it before it went on sale,” the Doctor noted.

“We did. We found nothing. That's why I thought we needed an expert,” Martha replied.

“Really, who’d you get?” the Doctor asked, putting on his brainy specs and looking around, oblivious to the smirks his friends and fiancée were giving him. He finally turned around, and Rose watched as realization dawned on him. He quickly turned away, but Rose could feel his embarrassment through their bond. “Oh, right. Me, yes. Good.”

“Okay. So why would aliens be so keen on cleaning up our atmosphere?” Donna asked as soon as Mace and Martha left to go oversee the rest of the evacuation of the facility.

“A very good question,” the Doctor nodded.

“Maybe they want to help. Get rid of pollution and stuff,” Donna suggested.

“Do you know how many cars there are on planet Earth? Eight hundred million. Imagine that. If you could control them, you'd have eight hundred million weapons,” the Doctor whispered.

When Mace and Martha came back, Donna had wandered off, and Rose was sitting on the table, watching the Doctor as he examined the ATMOS system. “Ionising nano-membrane carbon dioxide converter. Which means that ATMOS works. Filters the CO2 at a molecular level.”

“We know all that, but what's its origin? Is it alien?” Mace replied, leaning next to the Doctor, getting between him and Rose.

“No. Decades ahead of its time. Look, do you mind? Could you stand back a bit?” the Doctor said.

“Sorry, have I done something wrong?” Mace asked.

“You're carrying a gun. I don't like people with guns hanging around me, all right?” the Doctor snapped.

“If you insist,” Mace said, leaving the room.

“Tetchy,” Martha commented.

“Well, it’s true,” the Doctor replied.

“He’s a good man,” Martha said.

“People with guns are usually the enemy in my books. You seem quite at home,” the Doctor noted, not looking at Martha.

“Doctor!” Rose gasped.

“Like I said, it’s true,” the Doctor shrugged.

“You know, I carried a gun for a year. Does that make me the enemy?” Rose asked.

“No, Rose. You know—that’s different,” he stammered.

“How so?” she asked.

“Well…”

“It's all right for you. You can just come and go, but some of us have got to stay behind. So I've got to work from the inside, and by staying inside, maybe I stand a chance of making them better,” Martha replied. “And besides, do you see me carrying a gun?”

The Doctor sighed. “You’re right, both of you. I guess I just don’t like it. All of this is reminding me a bit too much of that year.”

“I know,” Rose said, laying a comforting hand on his arm, right where he could see her engagement ring to remind him just how much had changed since then.

“Oi, you lot. All your storm troopers and your sonics. You're rubbish. Should've come with me,” Donna said, bursting into the room with a folder.

“Why, where have you been?” the Doctor asked.

“Personnel. That's where the weird stuff's happening, in the paperwork. Because I spent years working as a temp, I can find my way round an office blindfold, and the first thing I noticed is an empty file,” Donna said, holding it up.

“Why, what's inside it?” the Doctor asked.

“Or what's not inside it?” Rose corrected.

“Sick days,” Donna explained. “There aren't any. Hundreds of people working here and no one's sick. Not one hangover, man flu, sneaky little shopping trip, nothing. Not ever. They don't get ill.”

Coming back into the room, Mace gasped and said, “That can’t be right.”

“You’ve been checking out the building, should have been checking out the workforce,” Donna said smugly.

“I can see why they like you,” Martha grinned.

“Mmhm,” Donna smiled.

“You are good,” Martha laughed.

“Super temp,” Donna shrugged.

“Dr. Jones, set up a medical post. Start examining the workers. I'll get them sent through,” Mace ordered.

“Come on, Donna, Rose. Give me a hand,” Martha said.

Donna and Rose followed Martha into the records room, where she started pulling all of the employee files. “Do you think I should warn my mum about the ATMOS in her car?” Donna asked.

“Better safe than sorry,” Martha replied.

“I’ll give her a call,” Donna said, turning to leave the room.

“Donna. Do they know where you are? Your family. I mean, that you're travelling with the Doctor?” Martha asked.

Donna stopped and said, “Not really. Although my granddad sort of waved us off. I didn't have time to explain.”

“You just left him behind?”

“Yeah.”

“I didn't tell my family. I kept it all so secret, and it almost destroyed them,” Martha whispered.

“In what way?” Donna asked.

“They ended up imprisoned. They were tortured. My Mum, my Dad, my sister. It wasn't the Doctor's fault, but you need to be careful. Because you know the Doctor. He's wonderful, he's brilliant, but he's like fire. Stand too close and people get burnt,” Martha replied.

“I didn’t tell my mum at first either,” Rose said. “And it ended up with my boyfriend being accused of my murder.”

“What?” Donna asked.

“It’s better now, with two people piloting the TARDIS, but sometimes she still has a mind of her own. I ended up coming back a year late,” Rose explained. “You’ve got to let people know so they don’t worry.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Doctor,” Donna called as she and Rose finally caught up to him.

“Oh, just in time!” the Doctor exclaimed, grabbing Rose’s hand. “Come on, come on, we're going to the country. Fresh air and geniuses, what more could you ask?”

“I'm not coming with you. I've been thinking. I'm sorry. I'm going home,” Donna said, causing him to stop in his tracks.

“Really?” he asked.

“I’ve got to,” she whispered, shaking her head.

“Oh, if that's what you want. I mean, it's a bit soon. I had so many places I had wanted to take you. The Fifteenth Broken Moon of the Medusa Cascade, the Lightning Skies of Cotter Palluni's World, Diamond Coral Reefs of Kataa Flo Ko. Thank you. Thank you, Donna Noble, it's been brilliant. There was so much we could have done together,” the Doctor said. “You're, you're just popping home for a visit, that's what you mean.”

“You dumbo,” Donna said, as Rose cackled off to the side.

“And then you’re coming back.”

“Know what you are? A great big outer space dunce,” Donna laughed.

“Yeah,” the Doctor sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Ready when you are, sir,” Jenkins, the soldier that was going to accompany them, said.

“What's more, you can give me a lift. Come on. Broken moon of what?” Donna asked as they moved out to the jeep.

“I know, I know,” he sighed.

“Sir, there’s only three seats,” Jenkins said.

“That’s alright,” Rose said, climbing into the Doctor’s lap. “The Doctor and I can share.”

“Oh, you two are disgusting,” Donna laughed.

“We’re going to investigate a child genius. He’s the one behind ATMOS. Runs his own school for other child geniuses,” the Doctor said.

“Sounds like your idea of a perfect day,” Rose grinned.

**********************************************************************************************************************

After dropping Donna off, Jenkins began to explain a little about their destination. “UNIT's been watching Rattigan Academy for ages. It's all a bit Hitler Youth. Exercise at dawn and classes and special diets.”

The ATMOS in the car said, “Turn left.”

“Right, one question. If UNIT think that ATMOS is dodgy—”

“How come we've got it in the jeeps? Yeah, tell me about it. They're fitted as standard on all government vehicles. We can't get rid of them till we can prove there's something wrong,” Jenkins laughed. “Drives me around the bend.”

As they turned around a corner, Rose laughed and said, “Nice one.”

“Yeah, timed that perfectly,” Jenkins laughed.

“This is your final destination,” the ATMOS declared.

The three of them got out of the car to find Luke Rattigan standing in the middle of a lawn as other students in orange sweatpants and sweatshirts ran laps around him.

“Is it PE? I wouldn't mind a kick around, I've got me daps on,” the Doctor said, bounding up to Luke.

“I suppose you’re the Doctor,” Luke said with a distasteful glance at the man.

“Hello,” the Doctor grinned.

“Your commanding officer phoned ahead,” Luke informed him.

“Ah, but I haven't got a commanding officer. Have you? Oh, this is Rose, and this is Ross,” the Doctor said.

“Good afternoon, sir,” Jenkins said.

“Nice to meet you,” Rose smiled.

“Let's have a look, then. I can smell genius! In a good way,” the Doctor said, practically skipping inside the school, dragging Rose along with him.

As soon as they were in the lab, Rose grinned at the pure joy radiating off the Doctor when he saw some of the inventions in the room. She could also feel his mounting concern at their purpose as he put on his brainy specs and said, “Oh, now, that's clever. Look. Single molecule fabric, how thin is that?! You could pack a tent in a thimble. Ooo! Gravity simulators. Terraforming, biospheres, nano-tech steel construction. This is brilliant. Do you know, with equipment like this you could, oooh, I don't know, move to another planet or something?”

“If only that was possible,” Luke said, not meeting the Doctor’s eyes.

“If only that were possible,” the Doctor corrected. “Conditional clause.”

“I think you’d better come with me,” Luke hissed, his face contorting with rage. They walked to another room, this one more of a lounge area with a huge purplish box in the corner. “You're smarter than the usual UNIT grunts, I'll give you that.”

“He called you a grunt. Don't call Ross a grunt. He's nice. We like Ross. Look at this place,” the Doctor rambled.

“What exactly do you want?” Luke asked.

“I was just thinking. What a responsible eighteen year old. Inventing zero carbon cars? Saving the world,” the Doctor pondered.

“Takes a man with vision,” Luke said, shrugging noncommittally.

“Mmm, blinkered vision. Because ATMOS means more people driving. More cars, more petrol. End result, the oil's going to run out faster than ever. The ATMOS system could make things worse,” the Doctor replied, turning back to face Luke.

“Yeah. Well, you see, that's a tautology. You can't say ATMOS system because it stands for Atmospheric Emissions System. So you're just saying Atmospheric Emissions System system. Do you see, Mister Conditional Clause?” Luke exploded.

“Don’t get told no very often then, do you?” Rose snorted.

“You stay out of this!” Luke snapped at her.

“Don’t tell Rose what to do,” the Doctor roared. “She’s brilliant.”

Rose laid a hand on his arm to tell him that it was okay.

“I’m still right though,” Luke grumbled.

“Not easy, is it, being clever. You look at the world and you connect things, random things, and think, why can't anyone else see it? The rest of the world is so slow,” the Doctor whispered.

“Yeah,” Luke agreed.

“And you’re all on your own.”

“I know,” Luke replied.

“But not with this. Because there's no way you invented this thing single handed. I mean, it might be Earth technology, but that's like finding a mobile phone in the Middle Ages. No, no, I'll tell you what it's like. It's like finding this in the middle of someone's front room. Albeit it's a very big front room,” the Doctor said, tossing the ATMOS at Jenkins and moving to stand in the large purple box.

Rose joined him and asked, “What is it, Doctor?”

“Yeah, just looks like a thing, doesn't it? People don't question things. They just say, oh, it's a thing,” the Doctor said, looking around it.

“Leave it alone,” Luke yelled.

“Me, I make these connections. And this, to me, looks like a teleport pod,” the Doctor said, pressing a button and disappearing.

Rose and the Doctor were suddenly standing on a spaceship, surrounded by tiny people in suits with very large helmets. The people suddenly noticed them, and one yelled, “We have intruders!”

“How did they get in? In-tru-da window?” The Doctor asked, before pressing a button. “Bye-bye!”

Rose and the Doctor teleported back to the Rattigan Academy and came out of the teleport pod, running. “Ross, get out! Luke, you've got to come with me.”

Before the Doctor could lock the controls on the teleport pod, one of the strange creatures managed to teleport in. “Sontaran! That's your name, isn't it? You're a Sontaran. How did I know that, hey? Fascinating isn't it? Isn't that worth keeping me alive?” the Doctor said, trying to buy them all a little time.

“I order you to surrender in the name of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce,” Jenkins said, holding up his gun and pointing it at the Sontaran.

“Well that's not going to work. Cordolaine signal, am I right? Copper excitation stopping the bullets,” the Doctor explained.

“How do you know so much?” the Sontaran asked.

“Well…”

“Who is he?” the Sontaran asked Luke.

“He didn’t give his name,” the boy explained.

“But this isn't typical Sontaran behaviour, is it? Hiding? Using teenagers, stopping bullets? A Sontaran should face bullets with dignity. Shame on you,” the Doctor said.

“You dishonour me, sir,” the creature exclaimed.

“Yeah? Then show yourself,” the Doctor ordered.

The Sontaran took off his helmet to reveal a vaguely potato-shaped creature. “I will look into my enemy’s eyes!”

“Oh my God,” Jenkins muttered.

“So it was aliens,” Rose muttered.

“And your name?” the Doctor asked.

“General Staal, of the Tenth Sontaran Fleet. Staal the Undefeated.”

“Oh, that's not a very good nickname. What if you do get defeated? Staal the Not Quite So Undefeated Anymore But Never Mind?” the Doctor cringed.

“He's like a potato. A baked potato. A talking baked potato,” Jenkins muttered.

“Now, Ross, don't be rude. You look like a pink weasel to him,” the Doctor said as he picked up a squash ball and racket. “The Sontarans are the finest soldiers in the galaxy, dedicated to a life of warfare. A clone race, grown in batches of millions with only one weakness.”

“Sontarans have no weakness!” Staal yelled.

“No, it's a good weakness,” the Doctor argued.

“Aren't you meant to be clever? Only an idiot would provoke him,” Luke said.

“No, but the Sontarans are fed by a probic vent in the back of their neck. That's their weak spot. Which means, they always have to face their enemies in battle. Isn't that brilliant? They can never turn their backs,” the Doctor explained.

“We stare into the face of death,” Staal insisted.

“Yeah, well, stare at this!” The Doctor yelled, bouncing the squash ball off the back of the teleport pod so that it hit Staal in his probic vent. “Run!”

Rose, the Doctor, and Jenkins ran as Staal fell to the ground. The immediately got into the jeep and sped away.

The Doctor took the radio in the car and said, “Greyhound Forty to Trap One. Repeat, can you hear me? Over.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Why’s it not working?” Jenkins asked.

Rose hung up her mobile with a frustrated grunt. “My calls are going through to Martha, but she’s not picking up!”

“It must be the Sontarans. If they can trace that, they can isolate the ATMOS,” The Doctor said.

“Turn left,” the ATMOS instructed.

“Try going right,” the Doctor suggested.

“It said left,” Jenkins protested.

“I know, so go right,” the Doctor said slowly, as though he was speaking to a child.

“Rude, Doctor,” Rose said.

“Rose, this is important.”

“But being nice won’t hurt,” she replied.

Jenkins tried to go right, but the car didn’t listen. “I've got no control. It's driving itself. It won't stop.”

The Doctor tried to sonic the ATMOS, but it didn’t work. “The doors are locked. Deadlocked,” Rose said as she tried to sonic them open.

“We’re headed for the river,” Jenkins gasped.

“ATMOS, are you programmed to contradict my orders?” the Doctor asked.

“Confirmed,” the box repeated.

“Anything I say, you’ll ignore it?”

“Confirmed.”

“Then drive into the river. I order you to drive into the river. Do it. Drive into the river,” the Doctor yelled.

Just before the reached the river, the car stopped and they all climbed out and ran. “Get down!” A few sparks erupted from the ATMOS, but then everything was quiet.

“Was that it?” Rose asked.

“That’s a bit disappointing,” the Doctor noted.

“Come on,” Rose said. “Donna’s house isn’t far from here. Let’s go pick her up and solve all of this.

A few minutes later, they were all standing on her front doorstep. “You would not believe the day we’re having,” the Doctor sighed as she opened the door. Donna followed them to the street where the Doctor was inspecting the family car.

“I'll requisition us a vehicle,” Jenkins said.

“Anything without ATMOS,” Rose sighed.

“And don't point your gun at people,” the Doctor added.

At that point, a man came out of Donna’s house yelling, “Is it him? Is it him? Is it the Doctor? Ah, it's you!”

“It’s you!” Rose exclaimed, immediately recognizing him as the one person that stayed in London during the whole Titanic debacle.

“Oh, it is you!” the Doctor grinned.

“What, have you met before?” Donna asked looking between her grandfather and her friends.

“Yeah, Christmas Eve. They disappeared right in front of me!” he exclaimed.

“And you never said?” Donna asked.

“Well, you never said,” he protested. Then he turned back to Rose and the Doctor. “Wilf, sir, ma’am. Wilfred Mott. You must be some of them aliens.”

“Yeah, but don't shout it out. Nice to meet you properly, Wilf,” the Doctor said, shaking his hand.

“Oh, an alien hand,” Wilf giggled.

“Not quite an alien,” Rose said as she shook his hand. “Rose Tyler, born and raised human.”

“Nice to meet you too,” Wilf smiled.

“What is it, Doctor?” Donna asked as Rose went back to dialing Martha.

“Sontarans. But there's got to be more to it. They can't be just remote controlling cars. That's not enough,” The Doctor sighed. Then he turned to Rose and asked, “Is anyone answering?”

“Hold on,” she said as the phone finally picked up.

“Rose Tyler,” Martha said over the phone.

“Hold on, Martha. You need to tell Colonel Mace that we know what it is. It’s the Sontarans. The Doctor said they’re in the file. This is a Code Red. But if they're inside the factory tell them not to start shooting. UNIT will get massacred,” Rose said. “We’ll try to get back as quickly as we can.”

“Code Red Sontaran. Gotcha,” Martha said, hanging up.

“She got that?” the Doctor asked.

“Yeah, but something’s wrong,” Rose said.

“What’s wrong?” the Doctor asked.

“I don’t know,” Rose said. “But I know Martha, and something didn’t feel right about that phone call. She didn’t even say bye before hanging up. We’ve got to get back there, and quickly.”

The Doctor tried scanning the ATMOS, and Donna said, “But you tried sonicing it before. You didn't find anything.”

“Yeah, but now I know it's Sontaran, I know what I'm looking for,” the Doctor said.

Wilf turned to look at Rose, who was biting her thumbnail, nervously. “The thing is, Rose, that Donna is my only grandchild. You got to promise me you're going to take care of her.”

“She takes care of us,” Rose said, flashing Donna a smiled. “And we take care of our friends. That’s how it works on the TARDIS. It’s why we need to get back.”

“Takes care of you both? Oh yeah, that's my Donna. Yeah, she was always bossing us round when she was tiny. The Little General we used to call her,” Wilf chuckled.

“Yeah, don’t start,” Donna muttered.

“And some of the boys she used to turn up with. Different one every week. Here, who was that one with the nail varnish?” Wilf asked.

“Matthew Richards. He lives in Kilburn now. With a man,” Donna sighed.

Donna was saved from any more reminiscing as some spikes appeared out of the ATMOS. “Whoa. It's a temporal pocket. I knew there was something else in there. It's hidden just a second out of sync with real time.”

“But what’s it hiding?” Donna asked.

Donna’s mum wandered up muttering, “I don't know, men and their cars. Sometimes I think if I was a car…” She stopped suddenly when she noticed the Doctor. “Oh, it's you. Doctor what was it?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” he said, noncommittally.

“What, have you met him as well?” Wilf asked.

“Dad, it's the man from the wedding. When you were laid up with Spanish flu. I'm warning you, last time that man turned up it was a disaster,” Sylvia exclaimed.

Suddenly, the spikes started emitting some weird sort of gas and the Doctor yelled for everyone to get back.

“That should stop it,” the Doctor said as he soniced the car.

“I told you. He's blown up the car! Who is he, anyway? What sort of doctor blows up cars?” Sylvia exclaimed.

“Oh, not now, Mum,” Donna said.

“Oh, should I make an appointment?” She asked as she stormed off.

“That wasn't just exhaust fumes, Some sort of gas. Artificial gas,” the Doctor said.

“And it’s aliens, is it? Aliens?” Wilf asked.

“But if it's poisonous, then they've got poisonous gas in every car on Earth,” Donna gasped.

Wilf started to get in the car, but Rose stopped him. “Don’t. The cars can control themselves once ATMOS is in them. I don’t want you getting locked in.”

The car suddenly slammed shut, and gas started coming out of the exhaust pipe. They quickly noticed that it was also filling up the car. “Good thing you didn’t let me in there,” Wilf said as they all looked around the street as the gas began pouring out of every car.

“It’s the whole world,” the Doctor muttered.

Chapter Text

“Get inside the house,” the Doctor told Sylvia and Wilf. “Just try and close off the doors and windows.”

Jenkins drove up in a black cab. “Doctor. This is all I could find that hasn't got ATMOS.”

“Donna, are you coming?” Rose asked as the Doctor climbed into the car.

“Yeah,” she said, starting to slide in next to Rose.

“Donna. Don't go. Look what happens every time that Doctor appears. Stay with us, please,” Sylvia pleaded.

“You go, my darling,” Wilf smiled.

“Dad!” Sylvia exclaimed.

“Don't listen to her. You go with Rose and the Doctor. That's my girl,” Wilf smiled as Donna climbed into the cab. “Bye!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Jenkins dropped the three of them off outside the base. “This air is disgusting,” Donna gagged.

“It's not so bad for me. Go on, get inside the TARDIS.” Before she could leave, the Doctor grabbed her and held out something to her. “Oh, I've never given you a key. Keep that. Go on, that's yours. Quite a big moment really.”

“Yeah, maybe we can get sentimental after the world's finished choking to death,” Donna said. “But what about you, Rose?”

Rose coughed but shook her head. “I’ll be okay. And even if I’m not, it’ll be fine. What’s important right now is that I find Martha.”

“And you, Spaceman? Where are you going”

“To stop a war,” he yelled as he and Rose took off for the mobile command unit. As they burst through the doors, he yelled. “Right then, here I am. Good. Whatever you do, Colonel Mace, do not engage the Sontarans in battle. There is nothing they like better than a war. Just leave this to me.”

“And what are you going to do?” Mace asked.

“I’ve got the TARDIS. I’m going to get on board their ship,” he replied.

Rose had been scanning the room since they came in, and her eyes finally landed on Martha, who was sitting in front of a computer, hunched over her phone. “Martha!”

The woman in question looked up guiltily and slammed her phone in her pocket. It was in that moment that Rose realized she wasn’t the real Martha Jones. Everything about her was just…off.

Doctor,” Rose telepathically told her fiancé. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I know that’s not Martha. I’ve seen her in the middle of a war. Spent a year like that. And I am positive that’s not my best friend.”

The Doctor looked over to Martha and took a second to look her over. “She’s a clone. Reduced iris contraction, slight thinning of the hair follicles on the left temple. We can’t let her know we know, though. I have a feeling these humans are going to do something stupid.”

Is Martha okay, though? Like the real Martha Jones” Rose asked.

Yes,” the Doctor replied immediately. “They need to keep her alive and unharmed so that they can access her memories. But we can’t go looking for her now. We have to just pretend they’ve tricked us and see if we can figure out what their plan is.”

“Come on,” the Doctor said out loud. “You too, Martha. Like old times.”

The three of them sprinted to where the TARDIS should have been, only to find an empty alleyway. “But where’s the TARDIS?” Not-Martha asked.

“Taste that, in the air. Yuck. That sort of metal tang. Teleport exchange. It's the Sontarans. They've taken it. I'm stuck on Earth like, like an ordinary person. Like a human. How rubbish is that? Sorry, no offence, but come on,” the Doctor pouted.

“So what do we do?” Not-Martha said.

“Well, I mean, it's shielded. They could never detect it,” The Doctor said.

“Which means they’ve got someone on this inside,” Rose said. “Martha, have you seen anyone acting strangely?”

“No,” Not-Martha replied. “But I’ve just been with Colonel Mace and the rest of the officers. There’s hundreds of people running around here.”

“Well, then we’ll just have to be careful. Look for anything out of the ordinary,” the Doctor said.

“But, I meant to ask. Where’s Donna?” Not-Martha said as they made their way back to the headquarters.

“Oh, she's gone home. She's not like you. She's not a soldier. Right. So. Avanti!” The Doctor yelled as he started sprinting and ripping off his coat.

“Change of plan,” he yelled as he burst into the control centre.

“Good to have you fighting alongside us, Doctor,” Mace said.

“I'm not fighting. I'm not-fighting, as in not hyphen fighting, got it? Now, does anyone know what this gas is yet?”

“We’re working on it,” Not-Martha replied.

“It's harmful, but not lethal until it reaches eighty percent density. We're having the first reports of deaths from the centre of Tokyo City,” one of the officers in the room answered.

“And who are you?” The Doctor asked.

“Captain Marion Price, sir,” she replied.

“Ah, Marion,” the Doctor grinned, looking over at Rose. “Good name.”

The woman stared back blankly, so Rose said, “That’s my middle name. Just ignore him when he gets like this.”

“Jodrell Bank's traced a signal, Doctor, coming from five thousand miles above the Earth. We're guessing that's what triggered the cars,” Mace interrupted.

“The Sontaran ship,” he sighed.

“NATO has gone to Defcon One. We're preparing a strike,” Mace said.

“You can't do that. Nuclear missiles won't even scratch the surface. Let me talk to the Sontarans,” the Doctor argued.

“You're not authorised to speak on behalf of the Earth,” Mace said.

“I've got that authority. I earned that a long time ago,” he said, jamming his sonic into the controls. “Calling the Sontaran Command Ship under Jurisdiction Two of the Intergalactic Rules of Engagement. This is the Doctor.”

“Doctor, breathing your last?” Staal asked.

“My God, they're like trolls,” Mace gasped.

“Yeah, loving the diplomacy, thanks,” the Doctor said to Mace before turning his attention back to the screen where he could see the Sontarans. “So, tell me, General Staal, since when did you lot become cowards?”

“How dare you!” Staal roared.

“Oh, that’s diplomacy?” Mace muttered under his breath.

“Doctor, you impugn my honour,” Staal said.

“Yeah, I'm really glad you didn't say belittle, because then I'd have a field day. But poison gas? That's the weapon of a coward and you know it,” the Doctor taunted. “Staal, you could blast this planet out of the sky and yet you're sitting up above watching it die. Where's the fight in that? Where's the honour? Or are you lot planning something else, because this isn't normal Sontaran warfare. What are you lot up to?”

“A general would be unwise to reveal his strategy to the opposing forces,” Staal said.

The Doctor nodded in understanding. “Ah, the war's not going so well, then. Losing, are we?”

“Such a suggestion is impossible,” Staal argued.

“What war?” Mace asked.

“The war between the Sontarans and the Rutans. It's been raging, far out in the stars, for fifty thousand years. Fifty thousand years of bloodshed, and for what?” the Doctor asked.

“For victory. Sontar-ha,” Staal said, starting a chant that quickly made conversation impossible.

“Give me a break,” the Doctor muttered, using the sonic to change the channel to kids television.

Colonel Mace strolled over to the chair that the Doctor had started lounging in and said, “Doctor. I would seriously recommend that this dialogue is handled by official Earth representation.”

Ignoring Mace, the Doctor changed the channel back to the Sontarans. “Finished?”

“You will not be so quick to ridicule when you'll see our prize. Behold. We are the first Sontarans in history to capture a TARDIS,” Staal said, showing the Doctor the TARDIS.

“Well, as prizes go, that's noble,” the Doctor said. “As they say in Latin, Donna nobis pacem. Did you never wonder about its design? It's a phone box. It contains a phone. A telephonic device for communication. Sort of symbolic. Like, if only we could communicate, you and I…”

Rose rolled her eyes at the Doctor’s thinly veiled hints to Donna and sent the woman a quick text, hoping it would keep her calm: Stay where you are. We’re working on something, but the Doctor has a plan and he’ll need your help. We’ll call when it’s time.

Rose looked up from her phone when the Doctor got up and started looking at Not-Martha’s clipboard. “There's carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, but ten percent unidentified. Some sort of artificial heavy element we can't trace. You ever seen anything like it?” Martha asked.

“It must be something the Sontarans invented. This isn't just poison. They need this gas for something else. What could that be?” The Doctor muttered.

“Launch grid online and active,” Captain Price called.

“Positions, ladies and gentlemen, Defcon One initiatives in progress,” Mace ordered.

“What? I told you not to launch,” the Doctor said.

“The gas is at sixty percent density. Eighty percent and people start dying, Doctor. We've got no choice,” Mace argued.

“Launching in sixty, fifty nine, fifty eight, fifty seven, fifty six. Worldwide nuclear grid now coordinating. Fifty four, fifty three,” Captain Price counted down.

“You're making a mistake, Colonel. For once, I hope the Sontarans are ahead of you,” the Doctor told him.

“How do you know that stuff isn’t explosive?” Rose asked. “You could just be blowing up the whole bloody planet!”

“God save us,” Mace whispered, ignoring Rose and the Doctor.

When the timer hit zero, nothing happened. “What is it? What happened? Did we launch? Well, did we?” Mace asked.

“Negative, sir. The launch codes have been wiped, sir. It must be the Sontarans,” Captain Price declared.

“Can we override it?” Mace asked.

“Trying it now, sir,” Captain Price replied.

“Missiles wouldn't even dent that ship, so why are the Sontarans so keen to stop you? Any ideas?” The Doctor asked, looking at Not-Martha.

“How should I know?” Not-Martha replied.

Rose couldn’t help the flare of anger at that response. Did the Sontarans really think Martha wouldn’t even try to come up with a suggestion? Martha was clever, and this clone was not. The Doctor, sensing her anger, took her hand to reassure her that they would find Martha, the real Martha.

“Enemy within. At arms. Greyhound Forty declaring Absolute emergency. Sontarans within factory grounds. East corridor, grid six,” Jenkins called over the radio.

“Absolute emergency. Declaring Code Red. All troops, Code Red,” Mace yelled.

“Get them out of there,” the Doctor told Mace.

“All troops, open fire,” Mace said, ignoring the Doctor.

“Guns aren't working. Inform all troops, standard weapons do not work. Tell the Doctor it's that cordolaine signal. He's the only one who can stop them,” Jenkins said before his line went dead.

“Greyhound Forty, report. Over. Greyhound Forty, report. Greyhound Forty, report,” Mace called, but there was no answer.

“He wasn't Greyhound Forty. His name was Ross. Now listen to me, and get them out of there!” the Doctor said, his voice starting as a whisper but quickly rising to a scream.

Mace looked at the Doctor for a few seconds, considering, before he nodded and said, “Trap One to all stations. Retreat. Order imperative. Immediate retreat.”

After a few minutes, Mace declared, “They’ve taken the factory.”

“Why?” the Doctor asked. “They don’t need it. Why attack now? What are they up to? At times like this I could do with the Brigadier. No offence.”

“None taken,” Colonel Mace replied. “Sir Alistair’s a fine man, if not the best. Unfortunately, he’s stranded in Peru. A family vacation or something.’

“Launch grid back online,” Captain Price declared before it quickly went down. “They're inside the system, sir. It's coming from within UNIT itself.”

“Trace it. Find out where it's coming from, and quickly. Gas levels?” Mace said.

“Sixty six percent in major population areas, and rising,” Captain Price replied.

Mace, the Doctor, and Rose all made their way into the tiny office Mace had for himself in the mobile control unit. “Why are they defending the factory only after we were inside?” Mace whispered.

“Because they wanted UNIT here. You gave them something they needed. Something now hidden inside the factory. Something precious,” the Doctor said, glancing at Rose.

“We've got to recover it. This cordolaine signal thing, how does it work?” Mace asked.

“It's the bullets. It causes expansion of the copper shell,” the Doctor declared.

“Understood. I'm on it,” Mace said, leaving the room.

“For the billionth time, you can’t fight Sontarans!” the Doctor called after him. The Doctor sighed, but then shut the door and looked at Rose. “It’s time to call.”

Rose handed the Doctor her phone and he quickly dialed Donna. “What’s happened? Where are you?” Donna screamed into the phone.

“Still on Earth. But don't worry, we've got our secret weapon,” the Doctor said.

“What’s that?” Donna asked.

“You.”

“Oh. Somehow that's not making me happy. Can't you just zap us down to Earth with that remote thing?” Donna asked.

“Yeah, I haven't got a remote, though I really should. I need you on that ship. That's why I made them move the TARDIS. I’m sorry, but you’ve got to go outside,” the Doctor said.

“But there's Sonterruns out there,” she protested.

“Sontarans. But they'll all be on battle stations right now. They don't exactly walk about having coffee. I can talk you through it,” the Doctor assured her.

“But what if they find me?” Donna asked.

The Doctor sighed, “I know, and I wouldn't ask, but there's nothing else I can do. The whole planet is choking, Donna.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“The Sontarans are inside the factory which means they've got a teleport link with the ship, but they'll have deadlocked it. I need you to reopen the link,” the Doctor said.

“But I can’t even mend a fuse!” Donna protested.

Rose, who had been listening to the whole conversation, took the phone away from the Doctor. “Donna, stop talking about yourself like that. You’re brilliant. You can do this, I promise.”

“Okay,” Donna said. After a few seconds of silence, she said, “There's a Sonterrun. Sontaran.”

“Did he see you?” Rose asked.

“No, he’s got his back to me,” Donna said.

The Doctor took the phone back from Rose. “Alright, Donna. If you go into the first storage room on the right, there should be an air vent right next to the door. Open that up and you’ll find a mallet. On the back of his neck, on his collar there's a sort of plug, like a hole. The Probic vent. One blow to the Probic vent knocks 'them out.”

Rose smacked the Doctor in the arm and mouthed, “What have I said about using mallets for ‘percussive maintenance?’” All the Doctor could do in response was shrug.

“But he’s going to kill me,” Donna said, bringing them both back to the matter at hand.

“I'm sorry. I swear I'm so sorry, but you've got to try,” the Doctor said.

Rose looked out the window to see Not-Martha watching them. Rose gestured to the Doctor that she was going to go talk to her, and she silently slipped out of the room.

“What’s he up to?” Not-Martha asked.

“Oh, we’ve been checking up on old friends. He’s talking to Sarah Jane now, I think trying to get K-9 to analyse this gas or something. When things got technical, I zoned out,” Rose lied.

“Do you think they’ll figure it out?” Not-Martha asked.

“No idea,” Rose shrugged. “But come on, what’s been going on out here?”

“I think he’s about to do something stupid,” Not-Martha said, gesturing toward Colonel Mace.

As soon as he yelled, “Counter attack!” Rose knew she had to agree with Not-Martha.

“I said, you don't stand a chance,” the Doctor yelled, hanging up on Donna and bursting into the room.

“Positions,” Mace said, tossing gas masks to Rose and the Doctor. “That means everyone.”

“You’re not going without me,” Not-Martha declared.

“Wouldn’t even think about it,” Rose replied.

They all put on their gas masks and followed Mace out to a table that was littered with a variety of weapons. “Latest firing stock. What do you think, Doctor?”

“Are you my mummy?” The Doctor asked, looking around.

“If you could concentrate,” Mace growled.

“Yeah, Doctor,” Rose said. “If you won’t take this seriously, then maybe you should go to your room.”

Rose and the Doctor started giggling, but the look Mace was giving them shut them both up fairly quickly. “Thank you,” he said before turning back to the weapons. “Bullets with a rad-steel coating. No copper surface. Should overcome the cordolaine signal.”

“But the Sontarans have got lasers. You can't even see in this fog. The night vision doesn't work,” the Doctor protested.

“Thank you, Doctor. Thank you for your lack of faith. But this time, I'm not listening,” Mace said as he took off his gas mask. “Attention, all troops. The Sontarans might think of us as primitive, as does every passing species with an axe to grind. They make a mockery of our weapons, our soldiers, our ideals. But no more. From this point on, it stops. From this point on, the people of Earth fight back, and we show them. We show the warriors of Sontar what the human race can do. Trap One to Hawk Major. Go, go, go.”

A roaring sound filled the air as it started to clear. Rose and the Doctor looked up to see a giant ship hovering in the air overhead. “It's working. The area's clearing. Engines to maximum,” Mace ordered.

“It’s the Valiant,” the Doctor exclaimed.

“UNIT Carrier Ship Valiant reporting for duty, Doctor. With engines strong enough to clear away the fog,” Mace said smugly.

When the air was finally clear enough to take off the gas masks, the Doctor laughed and said, “Whoa, that’s brilliant!”

“Getting a taste for it, Doctor?” Mace asked.

“No, not at all. Not me,” the Doctor replied, walking away.

Rose did her best not to look at the ship. Logically, she knew it was UNIT property, and it really had nothing to do with the Master, but it still brought back bad memories. Mace commanding the Valiant to fire at the ATMOS factory didn’t do much to lessen those negative connotations.

When the coast was clear, they all ran into the factory. The Doctor quietly told Donna to hold on but put the phone away quickly when Not-Martha caught up to them.

“Shouldn’t we follow the Colonel?” Not-Martha asked.

“Nah, you, me, and Rose, Martha Jones. Just like old times,” the Doctor said before following the sonic screwdriver’s instructions down a hallway. “Alien technology, this-a-way.”

Rose and Not-Martha followed the Doctor down a series of deserted stairs and hallways. “No Sontarans?” Rose asked.

“Nah,” the Doctor replied. “Can’t resist a battle.”

They opened the door at the end of the hall to find the real Martha Jones unconscious on a table. “Martha!” Rose gasped, running to her friend’s side.

“Oh, Martha, I'm so sorry,” the Doctor said. He took her pulse as Not-Martha put a gun to the back of his head. “Still alive. And am I supposed to be impressed.”

“Wish you carried a gun now?” Not-Martha asked.

“Not at all,” the Doctor replied.

“I've been stopping the nuclear launch all this time,” Not-Martha gloated.

“Doing exactly what I wanted. I needed to stop the missiles, just as much as the Sontarans. I'm not having Earth start an interstellar war. You're a triple agent,” the Doctor grinned.

“When did you know?” Not-Martha asked.

“About you? Oh, right from the start. Reduced iris contraction, slight thinning of the hair follicles on the left temple. And, frankly, you smell. You might as well have worn a T-shirt saying clone. Although, maybe not in front of Captain Jack,” the Doctor shrugged. “Of course, Rose has known even longer than me.”

“I knew from that phone call you sent,” Rose said. “I’d know the real Martha Jones anywhere. You might be a clone, but you’re a really poor copy.”

“It’s a bit sad. You’ve got all her memories, but you weren’t able to fool her best friend. Cause Rose could tell by the way you were acting. She didn’t need all of the biological cues. Even plugged straight into Martha, you weren’t able to imitate her convincingly. Well, maybe you were convincing enough for UNIT. That's why the Sontarans had to protect her, after all. To keep you inside UNIT. Martha Jones is keeping you alive.“

The Doctor took the headpiece off the real Martha, and the fake one collapsed. The real Martha gasped and sat up. Rose quickly hugged her and said, “Shh, it’s okay, Martha. I’m here. I’ve got you. You’re fine. You're fine.”

“There was this thing, Rose. This alien, with this head,” Martha gasped.

“Sontarans. They’re behind this whole thing. Still trying to figure out what it is they want,” Rose said as the Doctor answered her phone.

Martha glanced over to see her clone. “Oh my God,” she gasped. “That’s me.”

“A clone,” Rose replied. “She’s been pretending to be you. That’s why they had you all plugged up. So that she could access your memories.”

The Doctor tossed Martha his coat as he went to work on the teleporter. Rose and Martha both went over to sit by her dying clone.

“Don’t touch me!” Not-Martha hissed.

“It's not my fault. The Sontarans created you, but you had all my memories,” Martha said.

“You’ve got a brother, sister, mother, and father. And her, and Jack, and Sarah Jane, and Luke,” the clone gasped, looking at Rose.

“That’s right,” Martha said. “And if you don’t help me, they’re going to die.”

“Not her and Jack,” Not-Martha replied.

“I suppose that’s true. But they’ll be miserable, dying again and again from that gas,” Martha replied.

“You love them,” Not-Martha said.

“Yes. Remember that?” Martha smiled.

From inside the teleporter, the Doctor growled, “The gas. Tell us about the gas!”

“He’s the enemy,” Not-Martha said.

“Then tell me. It's not just poison, what's it for? Martha, please,” Martha begged.

“Caesofine concentrate. It's one part of Bosteen, two parts Probic five,” Not Martha gasped.

“Clonefeed. It's clonefeed!” The Doctor exclaimed.

“What’s clonefeed?” Martha asked.

“Like amniotic fluid for Sontarans. That's why they're not invading. They're converting the atmosphere, changing the planet into a clone world. Earth becomes a great big hatchery. Because the Sontarans are clones, that's how they reproduce. Give them a planet this big, they'll create billions of new soldiers. The gas isn't poison, it's food,” the Doctor yelled.

“My heart,” Not Martha whispered. “It’s getting slower.”

“There’s nothing I can do,” Martha replied.

“In your mind, you've got so many plans. There's so much that you want to do,” the clone said, staring at Martha.

“And I will. Never do tomorrow what you can do today, my mum says, because—”

“Because you never know how long you've got. Martha Jones. All that life,” Not-Martha said, smiling, before she took one last breath and died.

Rose helped the real Martha gently lay down the clone as the Doctor brought Donna down from the Sontaran ship. “Right, Martha, Rose, are you two coming?” the Doctor called.

“What about this nuclear launch thing?” Martha asked as she and Rose joined the Doctor and Donna in the teleporter.

“Just keep pressing N. We want to keep those missiles on the ground,” the Doctor replied.

Donna glanced between real Martha and the clone. “There’s two of them!” she exclaimed.

“Yeah, long story. Here we go. The old team, back together. Well, the new team,” the Doctor grinned.

“We’re not going back on that ship!” Donna yelled when she saw the Doctor put his hand on the teleport.

“No, no, no. No. I needed to get the teleport working so that we could get to here,” the Doctor said, pressing the button and causing them to reappear somewhere else. “The Rattigan Academy, owned by—"

The rest of the sentence was interrupted by Luke Rattigan aiming a gun at them all and demanding, “Don't tell anyone what I did. It wasn't my fault, the Sontarans lied to me, they--they—”

The Doctor ripped the gun out of Luke’s hand and tossed it away muttering, “If I see one more gun…”

The three women followed him out of the room and into a lab. “You know, that coat sort of works,” Donna said, grinning at Martha.

“I feel like a kid in my dad's clothes,” Martha admitted.

**********************************************************************************************************************

It was about ten minutes before the Doctor finally remembered to explain what he was doing as he ran around building a machine.

“That's why the Sontarans had to stop the missiles. They were holding back. Because caesofine gas is volatile, that's why they had to use you to stop the nuclear attack. Ground to air engagement could spark off the whole thing,” he said.

“So I was right. It was explosive,” Rose said.

“Sort of, yeah,” the Doctor said.

“So they would have set fire to the atmosphere?” Martha asked.

“Yeah. They need all the gas intact to breed their clone army. And all the time we had Luke here in his dream factory. Planning a little trip, were we?” the Doctor said, looking at Luke.

“They promised me a new world,” Luke protested.

“You were building equipment, ready to terraform El Mondo Luko so that humans could live there and breathe the air with this. An atmospheric converter,” the Doctor said, taking the device outside.

“That's London,” Donna gasped. “You can't even see it. My family's in there.”

“If I can get this on the right setting…”

“Doctor, hold on,” Martha said. “You said the atmosphere would ignite.”

“Yeah, I did, didn’t I?” The Doctor said, pressing a button on the device and sending a fireball up into the atmosphere. “Please, please, please, please, please, please, please.”

Eventually, the fire in the atmosphere cleared, and the blue sky was visible again. Rose let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding.

“He’s a genius,” Luke breathed.

“Just brilliant,” Martha agreed.

“Oi!” Rose said, smiling despite her protest. “His ego’s big enough as it is, thank you.”

“Now we’re in trouble,” the Doctor muttered, picking up the device and running back inside. He carried it into the teleport. “Right. So, Donna, thank you for everything. Martha, you too. Oh, so many times. Luke, do something clever with your life. Rose… Rose, I love you.”

“You’re saying goodbye,” Donna said.

“Sontarans are never defeated. They'll be getting ready for war. And, well, you know, I've recalibrated this for Sontaran air, so…” the Doctor said, looking anywhere but at Rose.

“You’ll kill yourself,” Donna protested.

“Like hell you will,” Rose said, pushing into the teleport and trying to take it away from the Doctor.

“Just send that thing up on its own. I don't know. Put it on a delay,” Martha suggested.

“I can’t,” the Doctor said, looking at Rose and pleading with her to stay.

“Why not?” Donna asked.

“I’ve got to give them a choice,” the Doctor said.

“Doctor, please,” Rose argued.

“Rose,” he said. “You know I have to.”

“Then let me. Can’t die, remember?” Rose said, tears filling her eyes.

“I can’t risk that,” the Doctor said.

“And I can’t risk you dying for good,” Rose said, grabbing the atmospheric converter from him and shoving him toward Martha before quickly teleporting away.

Martha held on tightly to him. “Donna, help me hold him!”

“No, you have to let me go. I have to stop her!” the Doctor struggled.

“Doctor, she can do this!” Martha argued. “She’s stronger than you think. If anyone can make it out of this, it’s her.”

“Martha—”

“No. Listen to me. I’ve been through hell with that woman. She’s made it out of things I can’t even imagine. And I don’t like her dying any more than you do. But I’ve learned that when I trust her, things turn out alright. And I’m not going to stop trusting her now. She’s earned that much.”

“Martha please,” the Doctor cried.

Before Martha could launch into another rant about how loving Rose meant trusting that she was smart enough to make her own decisions, Rose was back in the teleport machine.

“Rose?” The Doctor asked, sprinting forward to hug her tightly. “How?”

“I did what Martha said,” Rose smiled.

“What?” Martha asked.

“I put it on a timer. But I went up with it, to offer them a choice. They said no, so I set the timer and teleported back,” Rose explained.

“I never even thought—” the Doctor muttered.

“I know you didn’t,” Rose said. “You were fully prepared to sacrifice yourself. But I wasn’t having that. You and I are getting married, mister. No getting out of that now.”

The Doctor grinned and pulled Rose in for a quick kiss before Martha and Donna wrestled her away to each give her a hug and let her know that Doctor wasn’t the only one that was glad she survived.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“How were they?” Martha asked as Donna came back into the TARDIS after visiting her family.

“Oh, same old stuff. They're fine,” Donna replied.

“Well that’s good. My family knows about everything and still freaked out about it all. Honestly, it was ridiculous,” Martha sighed.

“Oh, come on. Francine was just worried cause you were in the middle of it all. That’s what mums do,” Rose grinned.

“Oh, you’re lucky I didn’t tell her about that stunt you pulled with the teleporter. She’d have talked your ear off about keeping yourself safe,” Martha laughed.

“I knew what I was doing!” Rose protested.

“Still, it’s like you said: ‘Mums worry.’ And my mum has decided that you’re an honorary Jones now, so she’s going to be all overprotective of you too,” Martha grinned.

“So, you going to come with us? We're not exactly short of space,” Donna asked Martha.

“Oh, I have missed all this, but, you know. I'm good here, back at home. And I'm better for having been away,” Martha said.

“At least stay the night. I’ve got so much to catch you up on, and you’ve barely gotten to know Donna!” Rose pleaded.

“I don’t know…”

“I haven’t even told you about how the Doctor and I can communicate telepathically…” Rose teased.

“You can what?” Martha asked.

Rose shrugged. “I’ll only explain if you stay the night. We’ll have you back in time for work tomorrow, I promise.”

“Fine!” Martha exclaimed. “You win!”

Rose grinned, but before she could gloat, the TARDIS started shaking as it took off.

“What are you doing?” Martha asked. “I told you I’m not going on an adventure!”

“This isn’t us,” Rose protested, struggling to stay upright as the TARDIS threw them all about. “The TARDIS is doing this on her own. But she won’t tell me what she’s up to.”

Chapter Text

“What the hell’s it doing?” Donna yelled as the TARDIS threw them all around.

The Doctor, barely hanging on to the console replied, “The control’s not working. Rose, is she telling you what’s going on?”

Rose, who seemed to be having the hardest time of all of them staying upright, just said, “No. She just says that we need to trust her.”

With one final bang that caused Rose to fall and hit the back of her head against the console, the TARDIS finally came to a stop. “Is everyone okay?” The Doctor asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Martha replied.

“No thanks to this ship of yours,” Donna grumbled.

“Rose?” The Doctor asked.

“Yeah, I just hit my head. Give me just a mo’,” Rose replied, wincing in pain.

“Let me see,” the Doctor said, squatting down next to her on the TARDIS grating. He gently ran his hand through her hair and pulled it back, a little bit of blood on his palm. “You’ve got quite a lump, and it’s bleeding a little, but you should be alright, given how fast you heal.”

“And the TARDIS wouldn’t seriously injure me,” Rose replied.

“I don’t think the Old Girl had anything to do with this,” the Doctor said.

Rose raised an eyebrow at the Doctor as he helped her up. “You don’t? How long have you been traveling with her? She has something to do with just about everything.”

“Are you two gonna stand there all day or are we gonna go see where the TARDIS brought us?” Martha asked.

Rose grinned and sprinted to the door. They all four stepped out into a dark tunnel filled with junk. “Why would the TARDIS bring us here?” the Doctor muttered.

“Oh, I love this bit,” Martha giggled.

“I thought you wanted to go home,” Donna teased.

“I know, but all the same, it's that feeling you get—”

“Like you swallowed a hamster?” Donna asked. Martha laughed and nodded.

“Don't move! Stay where you are! Drop your weapons,” A soldier yelled, pointing his gun at the Doctor.

They all four raised their hands in surrender. “We're unarmed. Look, no weapons. Never any weapons. We're safe,” the Doctor said.

“Look at their hands,” one of the soldiers said. “They’re clean.”

“All right,” the first soldier said. “Process them. Him first.”

Two of the soldiers grabbed the Doctor and marched him over to a machine. “Oi, oi. What’s wrong with clean hands?” the Doctor asked.

“What’s going on?” Martha asked.

“Leave him alone,” Donna called.

“Doctor, do you know what that machine is?” Rose asked as the soldiers shoved one of the Doctor’s arms in the machine.

“No, but something tells me this isn’t about to take my blood pressure. Argh!” He yelled as something pinched his hand.

“What are you doing to him?” Donna asked.

“Everyone gets processed,” the first soldier replied.

“It's taken a tissue sample. Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. And extrapolated it. Some kind of accelerator?” the Doctor wondered as he pulled his hand out. There was a small cut across his palm.

“Are you alright?” Martha asked as Rose fished through the Doctor’s coat pocket until she found a bandage.

“You’re better at this than me,” Rose said, handing it over to Martha who wrapped up the Doctor’s hand.

“What on earth? That’s just—" Whatever else the Doctor was going to say was cut off when a pair of glass doors opened, and a woman stepped out of the brightly lit chamber. She was short and blonde and dressed in combat boots and trousers as well as a plain green t-shirt.

“Arm yourself,” the soldier said, handing a gun to the woman.

“Where did she come from?” Martha asked.

“From me,” the Doctor replied, staring at the girl.

“From you? How? Who is she?” Donna asked.

“Well, she’s um, well, she’s my daughter,” the Doctor whispered.

“Hello, Dad,” the girl smiled.

“Your daughter?” Rose asked, taking a step back from her fiancé in shock.

“You primed to take orders? Ready to fight?” the soldier asked the girl.

“Instant mental download of all strategic and military protocols, sir. Generation five thousand soldier primed and in peak physical health. Oh, I'm ready,” she replied.

“Your daughter?” Rose asked again, glancing quickly between the two of them.

“Well, technically,” the Doctor replied. “Progenation. Reproduction from a single organism. Means one parent is biological mother and father. You take a sample of diploid cells, split them into haploids, then recombine them in a different arrangement and grow. Very quickly, apparently.”

“Something’s coming,” the Doctor’s daughter warned.

“It’s the Hath!” The soldier exclaimed as the Doctor’s daughter and the three soldiers all began firing at the newcomers, who fired right back.

“Get down!” the girl yelled, and the Doctor, Donna, Martha, and Rose all crawled to hide behind some of the debris in the tunnel.

“We have to blow the tunnel,” the soldier said. “Get the detonator.”

“I’m not detonating anything,” the Doctor replied, not noticing as one of the Hath grabbed Martha.

Rose did notice, however, and she followed her friend. “Blow the thing!” the soldier yelled again, and the Doctor’s daughter hit the button, causing a huge explosion that took down the tunnel.

“Rose!” the Doctor screamed, noticing her on the other side of the tunnel just before it got sealed off.

“And Martha,” Donna exclaimed.

“You’ve sealed off the tunnel,” the Doctor said, spinning around to face his daughter. “Why would you do that?”

“They were trying to kill us,” she replied.

“But they’ve got Rose and Martha,” the Doctor protested.

“Collateral damage. At least you've still got her. He lost both his men. I'd say you came out ahead,” the girl shrugged.

“They’re our friends,” Donna replied. “And they’re not collateral damage, not for anyone. Have you got that, GI Jane?”

“I’m going to find them,” the Doctor said, turning toward the TARDIS.

“You're going nowhere. You don't make sense, you two. No guns, no marks, no fight in you. I'm taking you to General Cobb. Now, move,” the soldier said, pointing his gun at them.

**********************************************************************************************************************

On the other side of the tunnel, Martha woke up slowly. “Rose?” she asked, noticing Rose a few feet away. She scrambled up and over to her friend, only to notice a huge boulder on her chest. As she rolled it off, she muttered, “You’ve got to be kidding me. How many times are you going to die on me in the middle of a war zone?”

Before Rose could wake up, Martha noticed a bubbling sound and looked up to see an injured Hath. She walked over to him and said, “Hold on, I've got you. Is it your arm, yeah?”

The Hath made a bubbling sound.

“Is that a yes?” Martha asked, and the Hath nodded. “Let me examine it. Keep still. Still, yeah. No move.”

Rose sat up with a gasp behind her. “Nice of you to wake up,” Martha teased.

“Sorry about that,” Rose said, not sounding sorry at all as she came to sit next to Martha and the Hath.

“Half fish, half human? How am I supposed to know? Is that a shoulder? Feels like a shoulder. I think it's dislocated,” Martha mused, looking at the Hath.

Before she could do anything, more Hath arrived, these armed. Rose put up her hands in surrender, but Martha didn’t move from her patient. “I'm trying to help him. I am a doctor and he is my patient, and I'm not leaving him. Now, this is going to hurt. One, two, three.”

Martha moved his shoulder back into place as the Hath cocked their weapons, but the Hath they had just helped bubbled an explanation and they all let down their guard.

“Now, then. I’m Doctor Martha Jones, and this is Rose Tyler. Who the hell are you?” Martha asked as they followed the Hath down the tunnel.

One of the Hath bubbled an explanation, but Rose and Martha just looked at each other and shrugged.

“Just like old times, huh?” Martha asked.

“Nah,” Rose shrugged. “Last time we were actually on an adventure together, in the TARDIS, we sort of hated each other. This is much better than old times.”

Martha laughed, and the two girls followed their strange new friends back to their base.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“I’m Donna. What’s your name?”

“Don’t know. It’s not been assigned,” the girl shrugged.

“Well, if you don’t know that, what do you know?” Donna asked.

“How to fight.”

“Nothing else?” Donna asked.

“The machine must embed military history and tactics, but no name. She's a generated anomaly,” the Doctor shrugged, looking anywhere but at his daughter.

“Generated anomaly. Generated. Well, what about that? Jenny,” Donna suggested.

She paused for a second to consider it, and then she smiled. “Jenny. Yeah, I like that. Jenny.”

“What do you think, Dad?” Donna asked the Doctor.

“Good as anything, I suppose,” he replied.

“Not what you’d call a natural parent, are you?” Donna teased.

“They stole a tissue sample at gunpoint and processed it. It's not what I call natural parenting,” the Doctor spat back.

“Rubbish. My friend Nerys fathered twins with a turkey baster. Don't bother her,” Donna laughed.

“You can't extrapolate a relationship from a biological accident,” the Doctor replied.

“Er, Child Support Agency can,” Donna muttered.

“Look, just because I share certain physiological traits with simian primates doesn't make me a monkey's uncle, does it?” the Doctor asked.

“I’m not a monkey,” Jenny said. “Or a child.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So the Doctor’s got a daughter,” Martha mused. “What are you gonna name her?”

“I’m not gonna name her,” Rose replied.

“You’re not?” Martha asked.

“She’s the Doctor’s daughter, and she should already have a name by now. It’s been a couple of hours,” Rose replied. “I’m not gonna show up and try to change everything.”

Martha stopped and looked at Rose. “Does it bother you that he had a daughter without you?”

Rose shook her head. “No. He’s been a father before. He had two kids on Gallifrey. I get it. And it’s not like he had her with another woman. I’m just nervous, I guess.”

“Nervous about what?”

“What if she doesn’t like me?” Rose asked. “I mean, I’m not her mum. What if she asks the Doctor to choose between us?”

“That’s not gonna happen, Rose,” Martha insisted.

“I could never make him choose between me and his daughter. I mean, if she’s biologically his daughter, then she’s a Time Lady. He’s not the last one anymore. I can’t take that away from him,” Rose said.

“But what if she does like you?” Martha asked.

Rose smiled subconsciously. “That’d be nice.”

“Would you want to be her mum?”

“I don’t know,” Rose replied. “She’s not exactly a kid. She doesn’t need me stepping in and trying to take care of her. She can clearly take care of herself.”

“That’s not all a mum does,” Martha argued.

“I don’t want to just walk into her life and try to be her mum, and end up making her resent me. That would just put me in the same position I’m worried about being in,” Rose protested.

“Okay,” Martha said. “But on an unrelated note, I have a question for you.”

“Alright, shoot,” Rose said.

“When you sick a couple of months ago, and my mum ended up babysitting you, did that make you uncomfortable?”

“No! Of course not!” Rose exclaimed. “It was great. Your mum is wonderful, and it was nice having someone take care of me.”

“Even though you are a grown adult that is fully capable of taking care of herself?”

“Yea---wait. Martha!” Rose exclaimed as she realized what her friend was doing.

“I’m just saying. You should give it a chance. You’ve got the opportunity to be a mum, without having to worry about taking care of a baby, and without having to worry about your kid growing old and dying long before you,” Martha said.

Rose sighed. “I would love to be her mum. But I don’t want to mess things up for the Doctor.”

“You won’t, I promise,” Martha said.

“You can’t know that,” Rose replied.

“That girl would be lucky to call you mum. And I’m gonna be Aunt Martha,” she said with a smile that Rose weakly returned.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So, where are we?” What planet’s this?” the Doctor asked.

“Messaline,” the soldier that had captured them, who had finally introduced himself as Cline, said. “Well, what’s left of it.”

“But this is a theatre,” Donna said.

“Maybe they’re doing Miss Saigon,” the Doctor joked.

“It's like a town or a city underground. But why?” Donna asked.

An older man with a beard approached them before the Doctor could give Donna an answer. “General Cobb, I presume?”

“Found in the western tunnels, I'm told, with no marks. There was an outbreak of pacifism in the eastern zone three generations back, before we lost contact. Is that where you came from?” Cobb asked.

“Eastern zone, that's us, yeah. Yeah. I'm The Doctor, this is Donna.”

“And I’m Jenny,” the girl said, smiling.

“Don't think you can infect us with your peacemaking. We're committed to the fight, to the very end,” Cobb said.

“Well, that's all right. I can't stay, anyway. I've got to go and find my friends,” the Doctor said.

“That's not possible. All movement is regulated. We're at war,” Cobb argued.

“Yes, I noticed. With the Hath. But tell me, because we got a bit out of circulation, eastern zone and all that. So who exactly are the Hath?” the Doctor asked.

“Back at the dawn of this planet, these ancient halls were carved from the earth. Our ancestors dreamt of a new beginning. A colony where human and Hath would work and live together,” Cobb explained.

“So what happened?” the Doctor asked.

“The dream died. Broken, along with Hath promises. They wanted it all for themselves. But those early pioneers, they fought back. They used the machines to produce soldiers instead of colonists, and began this battle for survival,” Cobb replied.

“There’s nothing but earth outside,” Donna said, peeking out a window. “Why’s that? Why build everything underground?”

“The surface is too dangerous,” Cline replied.

“Well, then why build windows in the first place? And what does this mean?” Donna asked, pointing to a plaque on the wall that said ‘60120717.’

“The rites and symbols of our ancestors. The meaning’s lost in time,” Cobb sighed.

“How long’s this war gone on for?” the Doctor asked.

“Longer than anyone can remember. Countless generations marked only by the dead,” Cobb said solemnly.

“What, fighting all this time?” Donna asked.

“Because we must,” Jenny replied. “Every child of the machine is born with this knowledge. It's our inheritance. It's all we know. How to fight, and how to die.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So, this is home then?” Martha asked as the Hath stopped at their home base. They looked over at another one of the progenation machines, but none of the Hath tried to force them to shove their hands in.

Both women waited nervously as their new friend, whom they had named Peck, explained to the others that they had helped him. For a moment everything was quiet, but then the Hath started petting the two women, and Rose and Martha just looked at each other and laughed. Then one of the Hath drug them over to a map and pointed at it. “Right, so we’re here?” Rose asked.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Does this show the entire city, including the Hath zones?” the Doctor asked, pointing at the holographic map that Cobb had pulled up.

“Yes. Why?” Cobb asked.

“Well, it’ll help us find Martha and Rose,” the Doctor replied.

“We've more important things to do. The progenation machines are powered down for the night shift, but soon as they're active, we could breed a whole platoon from you two,” Cobb said.

“I'm not having sons and daughters by some great big flipping machine. Sorry, no offence, but you're not. Well, I mean, you're not real,” Donna said to Jenny.

“You're no better than him. I have a body, I have a mind, I have independent thought. How am I not real? What makes you better than me?” Jenny protested.

“Well said, soldier. We’ll need more like you, if we’re ever to find the Source,” Cobb smiled.

“Oooh, the Source. What's that, then? What's a Source? I like a Source. What is it?” the Doctor grinned.

“The Breath of Life,” Cobb replied.

“And that would be?”

“In the beginning, the great one breathed life into the universe. And then she looked at what she'd done, and she sighed,” Cline replied.

“She,” Jenny smiled. “I like that.”

“Right, so it’s a creation myth,” the Doctor nodded.

“It's not myth. It's real. That sigh. From the beginning of time it was caught and kept as the Source. It was lost when the war started. But it's here, somewhere. Whoever holds the Source controls the destiny of the planet,” Cobb argued.

Ignoring him, the Doctor pointed his sonic at the map. “Ah! I thought so. There's a suppressed layer of information in this map. If I can just…” He pointed the sonic again and more tunnels and chambers appeared on the map.

“What is it? What’s it mean?” Donna asked.

“See? A whole complex of tunnels hidden from sight,” the Doctor said.

“That must be the lost temple. The Source will be inside. You've shown us the way. And look, we're closer than the Hath. It's ours,” Cobb exclaimed, pointing at a room that had just appeared on the map. “Tell them to prepare to move out. We'll progenate new soldiers on the morning shift, then we march. Once we reach the Temple, peace will be restored at long last.”

“Er, call me old-fashioned, but if you really wanted peace, couldn't you just stop fighting?” the Doctor asked.

“Only when we have the Source. It'll give us the power to erase every stinking Hath from the face of this planet,” Cobb growled.

“Hang on, hang on. A second ago it was peace in our time. Now you're talking about genocide,” the Doctor exclaimed.

“For us, that means the same thing,” Cobb shrugged.

“Then you need to get yourself a better dictionary. When you do, look up genocide. You'll see a little picture of me there, and the caption will read, over my dead body,” the Doctor said, glaring at Cobb.

“And you're the one who showed us the path to victory. But you can consider the irony from your prison cell. Cline, at arms,” Cobb ordered, and Cline pointed his weapon at the Doctor and Donna.

“Oi, oi, oi. All right. Cool the beans, Rambo,” Donna protested.

“Take them. I won't have them spreading treason. And if you try anything, Doctor, I'll see that your woman dies first,” Cobb threatened.

“No, we’re, we’re not a couple,” the Doctor protested.

“I am not his woman,” Donna insisted.

“Come on. This way,” Cline said, gesturing with his gun.

“I'm going to stop you, Cobb. You need to know that,” the Doctor warned.

“I have an army and the Breath of God on my side, Doctor. What'll you have?” Cobb laughed.

“This,” the Doctor said, pointing at his brain.

“Lock them up and guard them,” Cobb ordered.

“What about the new soldier?” Cline asked.

“Can't trust her. She's from pacifist stock. Take them all,” Cobb ordered.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose was pointing at the map, when suddenly new tunnels popped up.

“That’s a new map. There’s a different set of tunnels,” Martha said.

“And a lot of those rooms weren’t there before,” Rose added.

One of the Hath pointed excitedly at one of the rooms. For a minute, the room was abuzz with the gurgling sounds of the Hath talking as they celebrated something. The Hath started clapping the two women on the back before they all grabbed weapons and marched out of the room.

“But we didn’t do anything!” Martha called after them.

Rose glanced nervously at the retreating figures. “I’m not so sure about that. I think we might have just started a war.

**********************************************************************************************************************

As soon as they were locked in the cage, Donna noticed another plaque on the wall, this one reading 60120716. “More numbers,” she said. “They’ve got to mean something.”

“Makes as much sense as the Breath of Life story,” the Doctor muttered.

“You mean it’s not true?” Jenny asked, her face falling.

“No, it’s a myth. Isn’t it, Doctor?” Donna replied.

“Yes, but there could still be something real in that temple. Something that's become a myth. A piece of technology, a weapon,” the Doctor said, pacing about the cell.

“So, the Source could be a weapon and we've just given directions to Captain Nutjob?” Donna asked.

“Oh, yes,” the Doctor replied.

“Not good, is it?” Donna sighed.

“That's why we need to get out of here, find Rose and Martha and stop Cobb from slaughtering the Hath. What, what are you, what are you, what are you staring at?” the Doctor asked, staring at his daughter who was smiling at him.

“You keep insisting you're not a soldier, but look at you, drawing up strategies like a proper general,” Jenny laughed.

“No, no,” the Doctor insisted. “I’m trying to stop the fighting.”

“Isn’t every soldier?” Jenny countered.

“Well, I suppose, but that's, that's,” the Doctor fumbled. “Technically, I haven't got time for this. Donna, give me your phone. It’s time for an upgrade.”

The Doctor pulled out the sonic screwdriver and used it to give Donna universal roaming, but Jenny just grinned harder. “And now you’ve got a weapon.”

“It’s not a weapon,” the Doctor protested.

“But you're using it to fight back. I'm going to learn so much from you. You are such a soldier,” Jenny laughed.

“Donna, will you tell her?” the Doctor sighed.

“Oh, you are speechless. I'm loving this. Rose would love this. You keep on, Jenny,” Donna giggled.

The Doctor sighed and tried to call Rose, but she didn’t answer, so he called Martha. “Doctor?” Martha asked when she picked up.

“Is Rose there? Is she alright?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m here, love,” Rose replied.

“I tried calling you,” he said.

“Sorry, I think my phone must’ve fallen out of my pocket when the TARDIS flew us here,” she replied.

“As long as you’re both okay,” he sighed.

“We’re good, but what about you?” Martha asked.

“And Donna? And your daughter?” Rose added.

“I’m fine, Donna’s fine, and Jenny’s alright too,” the Doctor replied. “That's the woman from the machine. The soldier. My daughter, except she isn't, she's, she's. Anyway. where are you?”

“We’re in the Hath camp,” Martha said. “We’re both okay, but something’s going on. The Hath are all marching off to some place that’s appeared on this map thing.”

“Oh, that was me. If both armies are heading that way, there's going to be a bloodbath,” the Doctor sighed.

“What do you need us to do?” Rose asked.

“Just stay where you are,” the Doctor said. “If you’re safe there, don’t move, do you hear?”

“Fat chance of that. Love you,” Rose said before the line went dead.

“She hung up on me,” the Doctor sighed.

“You did try to tell her to not do anything while you saved everyone. You really think she’d go for that?” Donna asked.

The Doctor just glared at her until he heard a soldier outside yell, “To war!”

“They're getting ready to move out. We have to get past that guard,” the Doctor said.

“I can deal with him,” Jenny said.

“No, no, no, no. You're not going anywhere,” the Doctor said, putting an arm out to stop her.

“What?” she asked.

“You belong here with them,” the Doctor said.

“She belongs with us. With you. She's your daughter,” Donna argued.

“She's a soldier. She came out of that machine,” the Doctor shot back.

“Oh yes, I know that bit. Listen, have you got that stethoscope? Give it to me. Come on,” Donna said, reaching a hand out to him until he put a stethoscope in her hand.

“What are you doing?” Jenny asked and Donna put the stethoscope on both sides of her chest.

“It’s all right. Just hold still. And Doctor, come here. Listen, and then tell me where she belongs,” Donna said, holding the stethoscope out to him.

The Doctor listened as Donna moved the stethoscope from one side of Jenny’s chest to the other. “Two hearts,” he whispered.

“Exactly,” Donna smiled.

“What’s going on?” Jenny asked, looking between the two of them.

“Does that mean she's a, what do you call a female Time Lord?” Donna asked.

“What’s a Time Lord?” Jenny said, tilting her head sideways.

“It’s who I am. It’s where I’m from,” the Doctor replied, his face devoid of all emotion as he stared blankly at her.

“And I’m from you,” she nodded.

“You're an echo, that's all. A Time Lord is so much more. A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering. Only it's gone now, all of it. Gone forever,” the Doctor whispered.

“What happened?” Jenny asked.

“There was a war,” he replied.

“Like this one?”

“Bigger,” he said. “Much bigger.

“And you fought and killed?” Jenny asked her dad.

“Yes.”

“Then how are we different?”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Peck had stayed behind from the fighting with Martha and Rose. He looked at the map and rotated it so that it was in three dimensions. They were now able to see that the temple had a pointed roof and went deep into the earth. “There’s even more? In 3D. Oh, you're a clever Hath. So this is where everybody's headed? But look, those tunnels sort of zig-zag. If we went up and over the surface in a straight line, we'd get there first,” Martha smiled.

Peck bubbled and shook his head. “Why not?” Rose asked.

Peck brought up a graph on the screen.

“Are these readings for the surface? Well, it doesn't look too bad. Nitrogen and oxygen about eighty twenty. That's fine. Ozone levels are high, and some big radiation spikes. But as long as we’re not out there too long, we should be okay,” Martha said, looking at Rose.

Peck bubbled his disagreement, but Rose argued, “We have to find our friends.”

Peck bubbled again, but this time it didn’t sound so much like a disagreement. “Come on then,” Martha said, leading Peck toward the tunnel to the surface.

When they got to a staircase that had a hatch to the surface, Martha and Rose stopped to look at Peck. “You can stay down here and live your whole life in the shadows, or come with us and stand in the open air. Feel the wind on your face. What's it going to be? It's up to you. But nothing's going to stop us,” Martha said as Rose pushed open the hatch and climbed out onto the planet’s dark, cold surface.

Both girls pulled their jackets tighter around them as Peck followed them out.

“I knew you couldn’t resist it,” Martha grinned.

Peck bubbled and Rose gasped in mock shock. “Peck! Language!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Jenny peeked her head out between the bars of the cell and grinned, whispering, “Hey.”

“I'm not supposed to talk to you. I'm on duty,” Cline replied.

“I know. Guarding me. So, does that mean I'm dangerous, or that I need protecting?” Jenny asked, batting her eyelashes.

“Protecting from what?” Cline asked, turning to face her.

Jenny shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. Men like you?” She kissed him and took his pistol, then pointed it at him. “Keep quiet and open the door.”

As he did, Donna turned to the Doctor and laughed, “I’d like to see you try that.”

They tied him up and snuck out to a staircase. As they rounded the corner, then noticed a guard. “That’s the way out,” the Doctor said. Jenny raised the pistol and moved toward him, but the Doctor grabbed her arm to stop her. “Don’t you dare.”

“Let me distract this one. I have picked up a few womanly wiles over the years,” Donna said, tossing her hair over her shoulder.

“Let’s save your wiles for later. In case of emergency,” the Doctor said as he pulled a clockwork mouse out of his pocket and sent it out toward the guard. When he stopped to pick it up, Jenny snuck up behind him and karate chopped him in the head knocking him unconscious. “I was going to distract him, not clobber him!” the Doctor protested.

Jenny shrugged. “Well, it worked, didn’t it?”

The Doctor looked at Jenny and said, “They must all have a copy of that new map. Just stay there. Don't hurt anyone.”

He ran off until he found a map, then came back and picked up the girls. They followed it until they reached a tunnel filled with junk. “Wait. This is it. The hidden tunnel. There must be a control panel,” the Doctor said, scanning around with his sonic screwdriver.

“It's another one of those numbers. They're everywhere,” Donna said, looking up at a plaque that said 60120714.

“The original builders must have left them. Some old cataloguing system,” the Doctor shrugged.

“You got a pen? Bit of paper? Because, do you see, the numbers are counting down. This one ends in one four. The prison cell said one six,” Donna said as the Doctor fished a pen and paper out of his pocket.

“Always thinking, both of you. Who are you people?” Jenny asked.

“I told you,” her father sighed. “I’m the Doctor.”

“The Doctor. That’s it?” Jenny asked.

“That’s all he ever says,” Donna replied.

“So, you don't have a name either? Are you an anomaly, too?” Jenny asked.

“No.”

“Oh, come off it. You're the most anomalous bloke I've ever met,” Donna laughed.

The Doctor finally found and got into the control panel, so in an effort to change the subject he said, “Here it is.”

“And Time Lords. What are they for, exactly?” Jenny asked, not falling for it.

“For? They're not, they're not for anything,” the Doctor replied, confused.

“So what do you do?” Jenny asked.

“I travel through time and space,” the Doctor replied simply.

“He saves planets, rescues civilisations, defeats terrible creatures. And runs a lot. Seriously, there's an outrageous amount of running involved,” Donna laughed.

The Doctor got the panel open right as they heard Cobb yelling behind them. He turned to Jenny and Donna and grinned, “Now, what were you saying about running?”

The three of them took off through the door, not stopping until they reached a hallway filled with lasers.

“That’s not mood lighting, is it?” Donna asked.

The Doctor tossed his clockwork mouse into the beams, and it disintegrated immediately.

“No, I didn’t think so,” Donna muttered.

“Arming device,” the Doctor said, dashing off to find a control panel that would let him switch it off.

Donna glanced up and saw the numbers 60120713. “There's more of these. Always eight numbers, counting down the closer we get.”

“Here we go,” the Doctor exclaimed as he finally got into the control panel.

“You'd better be quick,” Donna said as she heard footsteps back the way they had come. “The General.”

Jenny turned to run toward Cobb and the Doctor stopped her. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“I can hold them up,” she said.

“No, we don’t need anymore dead,” the Doctor replied.

“But it's them or us,” Jenny protested.

“It doesn't mean you have to kill them,” the Doctor retorted.

“I’m trying to save your life,” Jenny said.

“Listen to me. The killing. After a while, it infects you. And once it does, you're never rid of it,” the Doctor told his daughter.

“We don’t have a choice,” she argued.

“We always have a choice,” he said.

Jenny hesitated and glanced between the corridor leading to Cobb and her father. As she turned to run toward Cobb she called, “I’m sorry.”

“Jenny,” he called after her, but she had already ducked out of sight. Then he turned to Donna and said, “See, I told you. Nothing but a soldier.”

“She’s trying to help,” Donna argued.

As the Doctor got the lasers turned off, he yelled, “Jenny, come on. Jenny leave it! Let’s go.”

The Doctor and Donna ran across the hallway. As Jenny came back into sight, he yelled, “Jenny, come on. That’s it!”

“Hurry up,” Donna called, just before the lasers reappeared.

“No, no, no, no, no, no. The circuit's looped back,” the Doctor exclaimed.

“Just zap it back again,” Donna told him.

“The controls are back there,” the Doctor protested.

“They’re coming,” Jenny called as she heard Cobb and his men behind her.

“Wait. Just. There isn't. Jenny, I can't,” the Doctor muttered, staring sadly at his daughter.

Jenny smiled and stretched, tossing her weapon away. “I'll have to manage on my own. Watch and learn, Father.”

Jenny backflipped through the lasers, managing to avoid all of them. An idea suddenly popped into the Doctor’s head and he muttered, “Jericho Street Junior School under 7s gymnastic team. She got the bronze.”

“What?” Donna asked.

“Nothing,” he replied, right as Jenny reached them, entirely unscathed.

“No way. But that was impossible,” Donna said.

“Not impossible. Just a bit unlikely. Brilliant! You were brilliant. Brilliant,” the Doctor said, grinning as he hugged her.

“I didn't kill him. General Cobb, I could have kill him but I didn't. You were right. I had a choice,” Jenny laughed.

On the other side of the lasers, Cobb yelled, “At arms.”

“I warned you, Cobb. If the Source is a weapon, I'm going to make sure you never use it,” the Doctor said.

“One of us is going to die today, and it won’t be me,” Cobb replied as he started firing bullets at them.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So, her name’s Jenny,” Martha said as the three of them made their way across the planet’s surface.

“I told you she’d have a name before we ever got to her,” Rose replied.

“Yeah,” Martha said. “But the Doctor was being weird about her on the phone, don’t you think?”

“Maybe he told her about me, and she doesn’t want anything to do with me, and he was just nervous about telling me that,” Rose shrugged.

“That is the most ridiculous, paranoid statement I’ve ever heard,” Martha said. “First of all, that’s a real stretch from what he actually said. Second of all, do you think the Doctor has anything to say about you that isn’t good?”

“He’s seen me at my best and my worst,” Rose replied. “So he definitely knows all the bad stuff.”

Martha rolled her eyes. “And that man is so ridiculously in love with you that he doesn’t even see it.”

“You’re wrong, Martha,” Rose said.

“During that year, I told you he loved you, and you said the exact same thing. Was I wrong then?”

“No, but—“ Rose started.

“And remember when you were worried the Doctor wouldn’t forgive you for being a soldier, and I told you that it wasn’t him that seemed to have any issue with it, that it was you? Was I right then too?”

Rose sighed. “Yes, you were.”

“So why can’t you trust me on this? I know you. Both of you. And I also know that any child of the Doctor’s is going to absolutely love you,” Martha smiled.

“Okay,” Rose said. “I’ll try to stop worrying about it.”

“Good. And it can’t be much farther,” Martha said before she slipped down a slope and into a bog. “Help me! I’m sinking! Help me!”

“Peck, hold my legs,” Rose said as she stretched out to reach Martha. She was just barely able to reach her, but as soon as she had a grip, Peck started to pull both women out. Once Martha was out, they all laid there on the slop for a minute, catching their breath. Rose turned to Martha and laughed, “Try to be a bit more careful. I don’t know what I’d do without my best friend to tell me when I’m freaking out over something dumb.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So you travel together, but you’re not together?” Jenny asked Donna.

“What? No. No. No way. No, no, we're friends, that's all,” Donna said. “But he is with Rose. They’re actually engaged. I think he said it’s been a week.”

“Rose,” Jenny said. “That’s one of the friends we’re trying to find, right?”

“Yeah,” Donna said. “She’s the blonde one. She’s brilliant. Keeps your dad in line.”

“Do you think she’s gonna like me?” Jenny asked.

“Oh, I know she is,” Donna grinned. “Just you wait.”

“She’ll be like my step-mother,” Jenny said.

“Oh, don’t say it like that,” Donna protested.

“Why not?”

“I dunno. Step-mothers get a bad rap in stories back on Earth. That’s where I’m from, by the way. And Rose, and Martha,” Donna said.

“But do you think she’d want to be my mum?”

“I do,” Donna smiled. “You’re brilliant, and you’re just like your father. And I might not get it, but she seems to love his skinny alien butt, so I’m sure she’ll love you too.”

Jenny grinned back at Donna then took off down the hall. “Come on. Let’s get a move on!”

“Careful, there might be traps,” the Doctor called.

“Kids. They never listen. Oh, I know that look. I see it a lot round our way. Blokes with pushchairs and frowns. You've got dad-shock,” Donna laughed.

“Dad-shock?” the Doctor asked.

“Sudden unexpected fatherhood. Take a bit of getting used to,” Donna replied.

The Doctor shook his head. “No, it’s not that.”

“Well, what is it then? Having Jenny in the TARDIS, is that it? What's she going to do, cramp your style? Like you've got a sports car and she's going to turn it into a people-carrier?” Donna asked.

“Donna, I’ve been a father before. Back on Gallifrey,” the Doctor said.

“What?” she asked. “Does Rose know?”

“Yes, Rose knows. It’s Rose I’m worried about,” the Doctor said.

“What, you think she’ll have a problem with you having a kid without her?”

“No,” he said with a sigh. “It’s just… Rose can’t have kids. We talked about it before, and she said she didn’t want one. Well, really she said she didn’t want to get her hopes up and then not have one. And Jenny isn’t exactly traditional. What if the only kind of kid she would want was a baby? She’s not exactly going to get to raise Jenny. What if it just makes her regret what she can’t have, and then she leaves me? I can’t lose her, Donna.”

“Oh, Doctor,” Donna sighed, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll tell you something. Something I've never told you before. I think you're wrong.”

Before he could reply, Jenny ran back into the corridor. “They've blasted through the beams. Time to run again. Love the running. Yeah?”

“Love the running,” the Doctor grinned, but this time Donna was able to see the anxiousness behind it.

They all took off toward the temple until they reached a dead end. “We’re trapped!” Donna exclaimed.

“Can’t be. This must be the Temple,” the Doctor said, running over to a red wall. “This is a door.”

Donna glanced up and saw a sign that said 60120712. “And again. We’re down to 1-2 now.”

“I’ve got it!” the Doctor yelled as he opened a control panel.

“I can hear them,” Jenny called.

“Nearly done,” the Doctor called.

“These can’t be a cataloguing system,” Donna said. “They’re too similar. Too familiar.”

“They’re getting closer,” Jenny called back to her dad.

“Then get back here,” he replied.

“Not yet,” she said.

“Now! I got it!” he yelled as the door slid open.

They all ran through and Jenny yelled, “They’re coming. Close the door.”

As the door shut, Jenny turned to her father and said, “That was close.”

“No fun otherwise,” he grinned.

“It’s not what I’d call a temple,” Donna said, looking around.

“It looks more like—”

“Fusion drive transport. It’s a spaceship,” the Doctor finished for his daughter.

“What, the original one? The one the first colonists arrived in?” Donna asked.

“Well, it could be, but the power cells would have run down after all that time. This one's still powered-up and functioning. Come on,” he yelled, leading them up a flight of stairs.

They could all see a door being sawed through. “It's the Hath. That door's not going to last much longer. And if General Cobb gets through down there, war's going to break out,” Jenny said.

The Doctor dashed over to a computer and pulled out his brainy specs. “Look, look, look, look, look. Ship's log. First wave of Human/Hath co-colonisation of planet Messaline.”

“So it is the original ship,” Jenny said.

“What happened?” Donna asked.

“Phase one, construction. They used robot drones to build the city,” the Doctor replied.

“But does it mention the war?”

“Final entry,” he read. “Mission commander dead. Still no agreement on who should assume leadership. Hath and humans have divided into factions. That must be it. A power vacuum. The crew divided into two factions and turned on each other. Start using the progenation machines, suddenly you've got two armies fighting a never-ending war.”

“Two armies who are both now outside,” Jenny noted.

“Look at that,” Donna said, pointing to a display screen that read 60120724.

“It’s like the numbers in the tunnels,” The Doctor said.

“No, no, no, no. But listen, I spent six months working as a temp in Hounslow Library, and I mastered the Dewey Decimal System in two days flat. I'm good with numbers. It's staring us in the face,” Donna said.

“What is?” Jenny asked.

“It's the date. Assuming the first two numbers are some big old space date, then you've got year, month, day. It's the other way round, like it is in America,” Donna replied.

The Doctor gasped, “Oh! It's the New Byzantine Calendar!”

“The codes are completion dates for each section. They finish it, they stamp the date on. So the numbers aren't counting down, they're going out from here, day by day, as the city got built,” Donna explained.

“Yes. Oh, good work, Donna,” the Doctor smiled.

“Yeah. But you're still not getting it. The first number I saw back there, was sixty twelve oh seven seventeen. Well, look at the date today,” she said, slowly for emphasis.

“Oh seven twenty four. No,” the Doctor gasped.

“What does it mean?” Jenny asked.

“Seven days,” the Doctor muttered.

“That’s it. Seven days,” Donna agreed.

“Just seven days,” the Doctor shook his head.

“What do you mean, seven days?” Jenny asked, still not following.

“Seven days since war broke out,” her father explained.

“This war started seven days ago. Just a week. A week!” Donna gasped.

“They said years,” Jenny argued.

“No, they said generations. And if they're all like you, and they're products of those machines,” Donna explained.

“They could have twenty generations in a day. Each generation gets killed in the war, passes on the legend. Oh, Donna, you're a genius,” the Doctor exclaimed.

“But all the buildings, the encampments. They're in ruins,” Jenny protested.

“No, they're not ruined. They're just empty. Waiting to be populated. Oh, they've mythologised their entire history. The Source must be part of that too. Come on,” the Doctor said, leading them down another tunnel.

“Doctor!” a voice yelled, and he turned around to see Rose running at him. He scooped her up into a hug.

“Rose,” he whispered gently before setting her down with one final squeeze. “And Martha! Oh, I should have known you wouldn't stay away from the excitement.”

“Donna,” Martha said.

“Oh, you're filthy. What happened?” Donna asked looking at the two of them.

“We, er, took the surface route,” Rose explained.

Martha nodded at Rose, then turned to introduce Donna and the Doctor to Peck. Rose turned to Jenny. “So, I think I heard the Doctor call you Jenny?”

“Yeah,” the girl smiled, suddenly nervous. “And you’re Rose? Dad’s fiancée?”

Rose nodded. “Yeah, I am. It’s good to actually meet you.”

“It’s good to meet you too,” Jenny said, ducking her head and avoiding eye contact as they both stood there awkwardly.

Martha looked between the two women, standing there looking oh so similar, and she sighed. “You’re both being absolutely ridiculous. If I didn’t know better, Jenny, I’d say you were Rose’s kid rather than the Doctor’s. One of you, just talk.”

“Martha,” Rose chastised her friend.

“Rose, we talked about this. She might be the Doctor’s daughter, but you’re the closest thing she’ll ever have to a mum,” Martha replied.

“You talked about being my mum?” Jenny asked, suddenly looking at Rose.

“Well, um, yeah. But only if you wanted me to be. I know I’m not biologically your mum, and I don’t want to mess things up with you and your dad, but…” Rose paused for a second before finally meeting Jenny’s eyes, “I’d really love to be your mum.”

Jenny threw her arms around Rose in a hug. “Oh, I’d love that!”

“You would?” Rose asked.

Jenny nodded. “Yeah. I was worried you wouldn’t want to be my mum. And Dad was too.”

“How did you?” the Doctor asked.

“I heard you and Donna talking,” Jenny replied. “I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable and ask you to be my mum or anything, and Dad was worried you wouldn’t want to be my mum cause I’m not a baby and you can’t raise me or something.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Rose said, looking between Jenny and the Doctor. “This is perfect, actually. With a baby, we’d have to be so careful and stay out of trouble. But you, Jenny, you can keep up and take care of yourself. “

“And I can run,” Jenny added.

“That is important,” Rose said, smiling. “We do a lot of running. That was actually the first thing your father ever said to me.”

Before the conversation could continue, they heard General Cobb below them shout, “Positions!”

“That's the General. We haven't got much time,” the Doctor explained.

“We don’t even know what we’re looking for!” Donna protested.

“Is it me,” Martha asked suddenly, “or can you smell flowers?”

“Yes. Bougainvillea. I say we follow our nose,” the Doctor said, grabbing Rose’s hand as she grabbed Jenny’s to take off running.

They eventually found themselves in a small area of the ship filled with flowers. In the middle of it all there was a glowing, golden orb on a pedestal.

“Is that the Source?” Donna asked.

“It’s beautiful,” Jenny whispered.

“What is it?” Martha asked.

“Terraforming. It's a third-generation terraforming device,” the Doctor whispered, moving closer to get a better look at it.

“So why are we suddenly in Kew Gardens?” Donna asked, gesturing toward the flowers.

“Because that's what it does. All this, only bigger. Much bigger. It's in a transit state. Producing all this must help keep it stable before they finally—” the Doctor’s explanation was cut short as both armies approached from opposite sides. “Stop! Hold your fire!”

“What is this, some kind of trap?” Cobb asked.

“You said you wanted this war over,” the Doctor said.

“I want this war won,” Cobb growled.

“You can't win. No one can. You don't even know why you're here. Your whole history, it's just Chinese whispers, getting more distorted the more it's passed on. This is the Source. This is what you're fighting over. A device to rejuvenate a planet's ecosystem. It's nothing mystical. It's from a laboratory, not some creator. It's a bubble of gases. A cocktail of stuff for accelerated evolution. Methane, hydrogen, ammonia, amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids. It's used to make barren planets habitable. Look around you. It's not for killing, it's bringing life. If you allow it, it can lift you out of these dark tunnels and into the bright, bright sunlight. No more fighting, no more killing. I'm the Doctor, and I declare this war is over,” the Doctor said, picking up the sphere and smashing it into the ground where it shattered, releasing a glowing gas.

Everyone watched as the gas rose and spread out, filling the ship and beyond, trying to escape to the surface. All of the soldiers on both sides, Hath and human, laid down their weapons. All of them except Cobb.

“What’s happening?” Jenny asked, tugging on her mother’s arm.

“Exactly what’s supposed to happen,” Rose explained. “The gasses are going to reach the surface and start terraforming. Make this planet habitable.”

Jenny smiled up at her mother, but Rose had her eyes trained on Cobb. She saw as he raised his gun toward the Doctor, and she dove in front of it. The Doctor caught her and laid her down on the ground. “Mum,” Jenny sobbed.

Rose reached her hand up to Jenny’s face. “It’ll be fine, I promise,” Rose whispered through gasping breaths.

“But, but I just met you. You’re supposed to be my mum,” Jenny sobbed.

“I know,” Rose smiled. “And I will. I know I only just met you, but I love you, Jenny,” Rose whispered before she died.

Jenny clutched Rose while Martha and Donna tried to console her. The Doctor turned with rage toward Cobb, who was being held by the other soldiers.

The Doctor picked up a gun and pointed it at him. “You just made a big mistake.” He held the gun to Cobb’s head for a minute before putting the safety on and dropping it. “I never would. Have you got that? I never would. When you start this new world, this world of Human and Hath, remember that. Make the foundation of this society a man who never would. And the woman that you just shot? She wouldn’t either. Remember that. And know that you are so lucky that I have her. Because the man I was before her? Well, there’s no guarantee that he wouldn’t have.”

The soldiers took Cobb away as the Doctor turned back toward Jenny. “She’s gone, Dad. How can she be gone?”

“Shh, it’s okay, it’s gonna be okay,” the Doctor said, pulling Jenny into a hug.

“But it’s not!” Jenny yelled. “She’s dead. She was supposed to be my mum. I wanted to get to know her. I know I said I’m not a child, but I want my mummy.”

“Shh, Jenny. Watch,” the Doctor said, looking at Rose.

She sat up with a gasp and Jenny pulled away from the Doctor to hug Rose. “Mum? How?”

“I told you,” Rose smiled, hugging Jenny right back. “I told you everything would be okay. It’s a bit of a long story, and I promise I’ll tell it all to you. But first, let’s go home.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Martha and I are going to go clean up,” Rose said, standing outside the door to the TARDIS.

“That’s it? That’s how you all travel?” Jenny asked, staring at the little blue box.

“Yup,” her father said, looping an arm around her shoulders. “That’s the TARDIS. Now why don’t you follow your mother inside and check the Old Girl out.”

Jenny grinned at her father and followed Rose inside. She looked around in shock at the size of the place. Rose was leaning against the console.

“But, but it’s—”

“Yeah?” Rose asked.

“It’s bigger on the inside!” Jenny exclaimed.

“Love that bit,” the Doctor said, coming up behind her.

“Me too,” Rose smiled. The TARDIS lights flashed brightly overhead and Rose laughed. “The TARDIS is happy to meet you Jenny. Though she’d also like a bit of credit for your existence, what with bringing us here and all.”

“Wait, what?” Jenny asked, looking between her parents.

“Your mother has a very special relationship with the TARDIS. The two of them talk all the time. You get used to it after a bit,” the Doctor shrugged.

“I’m gonna go get cleaned up,” Rose said, moving toward the hall. “Doctor, can you and Jenny put us in the vortex?”

“Can do,” the Doctor smiled. “And would you meet us in the med bay when you’re through?”

“I’m fine, Doctor,” Rose protested.

“While I thank you for reminding me that I should probably give you a check up since you died today, I was actually meaning for Jenny. There are some tests I wanna run,” the Doctor said.

“Of course,” Rose said, “see you all there in a bit.”

As Rose, Donna, and Martha all made their way to their own rooms to get ready, the Doctor started preparing the TARDIS for flight. “Jenny, love. Push that button there and hold that lever study. Yeah, just like that.”

Jenny smiled at her dad, and the Doctor couldn’t help but grin back. He had a daughter, and Rose loved her. Now that they were bonded, even just with the partial bond they had, he knew she meant it when she said she loved Jenny. He didn’t have to worry about losing either of the women. He was broken out of his reverie when Jenny said, “Come on, Dad. We don’t want Mum to beat us to the med bay.”

The Doctor showed her the way and sat her down on the bed in the room. He quickly took a sample of blood and told the TARDIS to check and make sure that she was healthy and stable, and to investigate his hunch.

“Hello you two,” Rose said, finally entering the room. “How are those tests going?”

Behind the Doctor a monitor dinged. “Just finished,” he said.

Rose joined him to look at the screen, and Jenny tried, but she couldn’t make out any of the strange circles on it.

“Is that?” Rose asked. “Why is my name on there? I thought you were running tests on Jenny?”

“I am,” the Doctor said. “The TARDIS says she’s perfectly healthy. But I also asked for a quick DNA test.”

“That still doesn’t explain my name being up there,” Rose protested.

“Yes it does,” the Doctor replied.

“How?”

“You remember when you fell and hit your head on the console earlier?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Well, I checked your head, and you were bleeding. I had a bit of your blood on my hand. And they stuck my hand into the machine to take a genetic sample. It’s supposed to be of one parent, but there happened to be DNA of two people on my hand,” the Doctor explained.

“So you mean?”

“Rose, you’re Jenny’s biological mother, same as I’m her biological father,” he smiled.

“Really?” Jenny exclaimed, bouncing off the bed.

“Really,” the Doctor grinned.

“How’d you know to check for that though, Dad?” Jenny asked.

“Well, remember when you were somersaulting through those laser beams?”

“Yeah.”

“I was very much reminded of a 19-year-old girl who once looked at me and said, ‘Jericho Street Junior School under 7s gymnastic team. I got the bronze,’” the Doctor explained looking at Rose. “And once I had made that connection, I couldn’t help seeing all the similarities. But I didn’t want to mention it to either of you until I was sure.”

“So you’re my real mum,” Jenny said, hugging Rose.

“Oh, sweetie, I’d have been your real mum, genetics or no,” Rose smiled. “But I do love that I’m biologically your mum.”

“And I was right again,” Martha called from the doorframe.

“What do you mean?” the Doctor asked.

“When those two first met and were acting uncomfortable around each other, I said if I didn’t know better, that I would think Rose was Jenny’s mum. And I was right,” Martha grinned.

“You always are,” Rose laughed.

“Finally, you’re getting it!”

“Yeah, but Martha and I were talking,” Donna said, joining Martha in the doorway. “You three need some time together as a family. Get to know each other, you know.”

“What are you saying?” Rose asked.

“Drop us off at home,” Donna said. “I think I can take about a week with my family before I’m begging you all to come and get me.”

“But you’re going to have to tell the whole Companion Club soon,” Martha said. “And Mum. Cause she’ll kill you if she finds out you had a daughter and didn’t tell her.”

Rose smiled, “I think I might have a plan for that. And it won’t involve you staying with your family for more than about a day, Donna.”

“Oh, thank God,” Donna laughed.

“Come on, let’s get you all home. I’ll call you with details once they’re finalized,” Rose said, leading the whole crew back to the console room.

Chapter Text

“I’ll see you all soon, yeah?” Martha asked as Rose, the Doctor, and Jenny dropped her off at her flat.

“Yeah,” Rose replied, giving Martha a hug. “As soon as I’ve got everything planned, I’ll text you the details. But I’m sorry we didn’t get to catch up like we had planned.”

“It’s fine, Rose. You have other priorities now. You’re a mum,” Martha said, grinning at her friend.

“Yeah,” Rose said, unable to help the wide grin that spread across her face as she looked back at Jenny. “I am.”

“Have fun and don’t do anything stupid, yeah?” Martha said, finally leaving the TARDIS.

“No promises,” the Doctor called back to her, right before the TARDIS doors shut.

Rose helped her family put the ship into the vortex, but she was unable to hold back a yawn. “Tired?” the Doctor asked, smiling at her.

“I’m fine,” she protested, but the second yawn she let loose gave her away.

“Come on, it’s been how long since you slept? Two days?” the Doctor asked.

“I don’t even know anymore,” Rose admitted.

“And I’m sure you’re a little tired too, Jenny. Seeing as you’ve never actually slept before,” the Doctor said looking at his daughter.

“I could sleep, yeah,” she shrugged.

“Right,” the Doctor said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s go find Jenny a room and we’ll all get some sleep so we can do something fun in the morning.”

“The TARDIS says she’s already got Jenny a room together,” Rose said, leading the way.

The room in question was just a few doors down from Rose and the Doctor’s room. Rose almost laughed when she first walked in. It looked almost like her room on the TARDIS had looked at first, but instead of everything being pink, it was TARDIS blue. And instead of the bookshelves filled with magazines and knick-knacks , there were textbooks and weird technical gadgets.

“I love it!” Jenny exclaimed. “But how did the TARDIS know?”

“She’s telepathic,” the Doctor replied. “And as long as you stay on her good side, things are great.”

“How do you get on her bad side?” Jenny asked as she wandered the room, picking up books and flipping through them.

“Upset your mother in any way,” the Doctor replied immediately. “Your Aunt Martha and I learned that the hard way.”

“What’d you do?” Jenny asked.

“That’s a long story, and I think it should wait for the morning,” Rose replied. “I can’t stay up that long.”

“Alright,” Jenny agreed halfheartedly.

“Goodnight, Jenny,” Rose said, giving her daughter a hug.

The Doctor kissed her on the forehead. “Goodnight, love.”

“We’re right down the hall if you need anything,” Rose said.

“Okay. Goodnight guys,” Jenny said.

“We love you,” Rose smiled as she shut the door behind her.

Rose and the Doctor got ready for bed in silence that night. Both were lost in thought about how the day had gone. But as soon as they were both laying in bed, facing each other, the Doctor whispered, “We’re parents.”

“I know,” Rose said, grinning back at him. “I can hardly believe it.”

“Me either,” he said, kissing her on the forehead.

“Do you think I’m gonna be a good mum?” Rose asked.

“Of course,” the Doctor said, pulling back to look down at her. “How could you doubt that?”

Rose shrugged. “I dunno. I guess it’s just that most women have some warning. Nine months to read all the books and talk to people about it.”

“You’ll be fine. And I bet half of that reading is about how to keep a baby alive. We don’t have to worry about that with Jenny,” the Doctor replied.

“I know,” she sighed. “I just wish I could talk to Mum, you know? I mean, I can’t even imagine what she’d say right now.”

“Well,” the Doctor said, stroking Rose’s back as she laid up against him with her head on his chest. “If you were to show up with Jenny, she’d probably yell at me about having some weird alien grandbaby and ask why I didn’t introduce her to Jenny when Jenny was a baby.”

“She would miss that part,” Rose said. “But I think she’d love Jenny, just as she is.”

“I do too,” the Doctor whispered into Rose’s hair.

“I just, I miss her so much,” Rose whispered.

“I’m sorry, Rose. I’m so, so sorry.”

“’S not your fault,” Rose said through her tears.

The Doctor didn’t reply, so Rose repeated herself. “It’s not. We both made our choices. And I wouldn’t give up our life together for anything.”

“I love you, Rose Tyler.”

“I love you too, Doctor.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose woke up in the middle of the night with a surge of panic. She wasn’t sure what was wrong, but the TARDIS told her she needed to get to Jenny—now.

“What’s wrong?” the Doctor asked blearily, having fallen asleep himself.

“Jenny,” Rose said, dashing out of the room, the Doctor not far behind her.

She threw open Jenny’s door to find her daughter crying in her sleep and muttering something. Rose rushed over to her bed and sat down on it, quietly whispering for Jenny to wake up.

“Mum?” Jenny asked as she woke up.

“Shh, I’m right here,” Rose whispered.

Jenny threw her arms around Rose and started crying, much harder than she had been in her nightmare. “Mum,” she sobbed.

“Shh, Jenny. Everything’s fine. I’m right here. Your dad’s here. Everything’s gonna be alright. Now, what was your nightmare about?”

“Nothing. ‘S fine. Everything’s fine,” Jenny said, pulling back and wiping her tears.

Rose wasn’t convinced, so she asked again. “C’mon sweetie. What was it about?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jenny insisted, not meeting Rose’s eyes.

“Talking about them helps,” Rose replied. “I’ve had my fair share of nightmares, and they only get worse when you bottle them up inside.”

Jenny thought about her mum’s words for a second then whispered, “You died. Back on Messaline. But you weren’t waking up.”

“Oh, love,” Rose sighed. “I’m sorry you had to see that. I wish there was something I could tell you to make it easier.”

“It doesn’t get easier,” the Doctor said, sitting down on the other side of Jenny. “Watching your mum die.”

“Then how do you stand it?” Jenny asked, turning to her dad.

“I trust your mother. And she says she’ll always come back. So I try my hardest to trust her. Sometimes it’s hard, but I know that trusting her to do impossible things is the only thing I can do. And she’s very good at doing impossible things,” the Doctor said, and Jenny let out a watery laugh.

“Budge up,” Rose said, lifting the covers and crawling up next to Jenny.

“What’re you doing?” Jenny asked.

“When I was little and I would have nightmares, my mum would always stay with me. She said she wouldn’t let the bad dreams get to me,” Rose said. “And so that’s what I’m gonna do for you.”

As the Doctor climbed into bed on the other side of his daughter he shrugged and said, “Why not?”

“Thank you,” Jenny whispered, curling into her mum’s side.

“I love you,” Rose whispered, kissing her daughter’s forehead before the whole family fell back into a much more peaceful slumber.

**********************************************************************************************************************

The next morning, Rose Tyler woke up to an empty bed in an unfamiliar room. She grinned to herself as she remembered the events of the previous day and set off in search of her family. Her family. Her smile grew wider as she thought about the fact that she could say that. It wasn’t just her and the Doctor anymore. It was her, the Doctor, and their daughter.

The TARDIS led her first to the kitchen where she had a cup of tea waiting for Rose, but she found the excitement of seeing her daughter made the tea unnecessary. She still took it with her though as she followed the TARDIS’s instructions to the Doctor’s workroom.

There she sighed happily at the scene in front of her. The Doctor was sitting on the floor in a pair of pyjama pants and a t-shirt, his normally styled hair unbrushed while their daughter laid on her stomach in front of him, her hair pulled up in a messy bun. Between the two of them sat a dismantled toaster and they were arguing about what they could make it do.

“Oh God,” Rose sighed, leaning against the doorway. “There’s two of you! I’ll never have a properly functioning appliance again!”

Both of their heads snapped up as they looked guilty. “I thought the TARDIS was gonna let me know before you woke up,” the Doctor said. “I know you hate waking up alone.”

“I don’t mind,” Rose said. “Honestly. And besides, our priorities have changed.”

Jenny grinned up at her mom. “We think we can rig up this toaster so that it can put pictures and images on the side of the toast.”

“You’re as bad as your dad,” Rose giggled, sitting down next to them. “But is this the plan for the whole day? Taking apart my fully functioning appliances?”

“Nah,” the Doctor said. “This is just gonna be what Jenny and I do while you waste all your time sleeping.”

“Well then, what are we going to do today?” Rose asked, turning to her daughter.

“I actually have an idea,” the Doctor said. “It won’t take long, but I wanted to wait until you woke up.”

“What is it?” Rose asked.

“Well, on Gallifrey, parents had a certain telepathic bond with their children. It was normally automatic through the Matrix and the looming process. But with Jenny, because it’s all different, we’ll have to do it manually. If you want, that is.”

“What is it?” Jenny asked.

“Well, a parental bond is somewhere between a temporary and full marriage bond in strength. We’ll be able to communicate and roughly sense each other’s feelings across great distances, but we’re also able to put up walls and hide things, so it’s not too invasive,” the Doctor explained.

“Okay,” Jenny nodded, sitting up. “How do we do it?”

“Close your eyes, and put your fingers on each of our temples,” the Doctor explained. “And Rose, do what I do. I can set everything up, I just need you all in position.”

They did as he said, with Rose mirroring the Doctor and placing her fingers on one of Jenny’s temples. The whole process was very similar to the temporary bonding process, but this time, Rose could feel not only the Doctor, but also Jenny. The bond snapped into place and Rose dropped her fingers.

“There we go,” the Doctor said, telepathically to his little family.

Jenny gasped in delight at the sensation. Rose, however, used the first moments of the bond to realize that Jenny was starving. “Let’s go make breakfast,” Rose suggested. “Your father and I can answer any questions you have while we eat.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

While they cooked and ate, Rose and the Doctor told Jenny everything she wanted to know, starting with the story of how her parents met and how Rose became immortal. As they finished breakfast, however, Jenny’s attention turned to her father. As she started to ask questions about the Time Lords, Rose realized that it was a conversation held just between them, as actual Gallifreyans.

“Hey, why don’t you two go to the library,” she suggested. “I’ll clean up here and then make some phone calls I need to make.”

“Are you sure?” Jenny asked.

“Yeah,” Rose said, kissing her daughter on the forehead. “You two are the Time Lords. Go let your father tell you everything about your heritage. And I need to make these phone calls. We do have a party to plan.”

“Oh yeah, we have to meet everyone tonight,” Jenny sighed.

“Tonight?” Rose asked. “Why tonight?”

“You promised Aunt Donna she wouldn’t have to spend more than a day with her family,” Jenny replied.

Rose laughed, “We’re in a time machine. A day for Donna could be a year for us. And that was actually what I was thinking. We could have this party double as an introduction for you and a first birthday party. That way we have a little time together as just our little family.”

“That sounds perfect, love,” the Doctor said, standing up and kissing Rose on the cheek as he led their daughter to the library.

Rose smiled and pulled out her phone, dialing Sarah Jane first. “Hello?” her friend said over the phone.

“Hey, Sarah Jane,” Rose smiled.

“What’s up?” the older woman asked.

“I was just wondering what you were doing on April 28th?” Rose asked.

“Not much,” Sarah Jane said. “Why?”

“Well, I know it’s a lot to ask of you, but of all our friends, you have the biggest house, and the Doctor and I have a bit of a surprise, but we know everybody’s gonna be upset if we tell you all separately, so we were hoping we could have a little party? Just the companion club and maybe the Jones’s?” Rose asked hesitantly.

“Are you all getting married? Or are you already married?” Sarah Jane asked immediately.

“No,” Rose laughed. “Believe me. You will be there for the wedding. This is something that was a bit more of a surprise. We weren’t planning on it, but it’s wonderful.”

“Oh go on, just tell me,” Sarah Jane said.

“Nope. Not telling anyone,” Rose said.

“So not even Martha knows?” Sarah Jane asked, and Rose could tell her friend had an eyebrow raised in disbelief.

“Well,” Rose sighed. “Martha was there for it. But she’s sworn to secrecy. And depending on when this call went through, she probably doesn’t even know yet.”

“Ah, the curse of time travel…”

“But will you host it?” Rose asked. “You don’t have to do much. Just let everybody come over.”

“Of course, Rose. You don’t even have to ask. You know you’ve always got a home here if you need it, even if you only need it for parties,” Sarah Jane smiled.

“Thank you, Sarah Jane.”

“Anytime, Rose. But I’ll let you go so you can invite everyone. See you soon.”

“Bye,” Rose said as she hung up.

Knowing her next call would likely be longer, Rose dialed the number and put it on speaker phone as she started doing the dishes. “Rosie!” the voice on the phone exclaimed.

“Hey, Jack.”

“Is this a good call or a death call?”

“Both?” Rose replied with a laugh.

“How can it be both?” Jack asked.

“Well, I died twice yesterday. Once in a tunnel collapse and once when I got shot,” Rose said.

“Still not seeing the good here.”

“Well, the Doctor and I have a surprise. Be at Sarah Jane’s house on the 28th if you want to find out what it is,” Rose replied.

“So that’s it? That’s all you’ll tell me?” Jack asked.

“No. I’m only telling you this though to warn you. We’re going to introduce you to someone. But when we say no flirting, we mean it. It’s not like usual, where we just kind of roll our eyes and half-heartedly say ‘Jack…’ This time we really mean it,” Rose said.

“Are they cute?” Jack asked.

“Doesn’t matter to you,” Rose shot back.

“Oh, come on, Rosie,” Jack sighed.

“I mean it, Jack. This person is off limits from your flirting. I hope, when you find out who they are, that you won’t even want to. But then again, you still flirt with me, even if we know you don’t really mean it. But none of that, now, you got it?”

“Alright, I’ll go along with it,” Jack sighed.

“Thank you,” Rose said, smiling. “But you can’t tell anyone that the surprise is a person. I’m not telling anyone else anything because I trust them to behave appropriately.”

“Oh ye of little faith,” Jack laughed.

“Oh, I’d say I’ve got good reason,” Rose laughed.

“How long’s it been for you?” Jack asked. “Since I last saw you at Christmas?”

“About a week,” Rose shrugged.

“Only a week?” Jack asked. “And you’ve got a surprise already?”

“It’s been a crazy week,” Rose replied. “And it’s gonna be a while on our end before the actual visit, what with the time machine and all. I’m just making plans now.”

“Why wait?” Jack asked.

“Because,” Rose laughed. “You’ll understand soon.”

“Just tell me, Rosie. Please,” Jack begged.

“Nope,” Rose laughed. “And I’m hanging up before you can say anything else.”

She hung up quickly but laughed when the caller ID came up a moment later saying Jack was calling back. “I said no, Jack!”

“But please?”

“No, and if you don’t stop calling to beg I’ll stop answering your calls!” Rose laughed.

‘Oh, fine,” he pouted.

“Bye Jack.”

“Bye Rose,” he said, still sounding like a small child who hadn’t been given his way.

Rose sent a quick text to Donna and Martha with the plan, reminding them to keep it a secret. She also told Martha to invite her family. With all of that done, Rose rushed off to the library to find her fiancé and daughter.

Chapter Text

“Well good morning to you two,” Rose smiled, walking into the kitchen to find the Doctor and Jenny whispering across the kitchen table. “Anything you want to share with the class?”

“Dad!” Jenny hissed. “Does she not—”

“Shhh. Jenny!” the Doctor cut her off quickly.

“Okay, so I was kidding earlier, but now you have to tell me,” Rose laughed, grabbing a cup of tea and taking a seat at the table.

“Nothing,” Jenny replied far too quickly. Rose shot her back a look to let her know that she hadn’t fooled her. “Fine. But it’s a surprise. Go get dressed if you want to find out.”

“Hmm…” Rose said, taking a slow sip of her tea. “I think I’ll sit here and enjoy my tea first.”

“Muuuum,” Jenny whined.

“What?” Rose asked innocently, hiding her smile behind her mug.

“Please go get dressed,” Jenny begged.

“You two aren’t dressed yet either,” Rose pointed out.

“Yeah, but I know exactly what I’m gonna wear. And Dad never changes so,” Jenny pointed out. “Please. The TARDIS even promised to behave today. We think.”

“Oh, alright,” Rose sighed, setting her mug in the sink. “Don’t know what’s gotten into you all today though.”

An hour later, Rose met Jenny and the Doctor in the console room. The TARDIS had insisted on her wearing a red and black polka-dot rockabilly dress, and seeing Jenny’s yellow one, she had a pretty good idea of when they were going. She just didn’t know why.

“Are you going to tell me where we’re going yet? Or why it’s such a big secret?” Rose asked.

The Doctor looked up and gaped at her. Last time she had worn a dress like that, she had worn a jacket over it, but this time she was perfectly comfortable wearing just the halter top. And it didn’t hurt that she knew he’d react like that.

“Nope,” Jenny replied, popping the p just like her dad did. “Still a surprise.”

“Oh, fine,” Rose sighed. “And I felt us land, so I have a feeling we’re already there. Can I go out now?”

The Doctor and Jenny both nodded before following her out the doors. “Is that?” Rose asked quietly as she looked up at the man onstage.

“Today is Monday the 28th of October 1957, and we’re in the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Los Angeles, California,” the Doctor explained.

“And that’s,” Rose whispered again, eyes shining with excitement.

“I told you, if you’re going to see Elvis, you see him in the late 50’s, the Doctor shrugged.

“But, why are we here? We never really tried again after the whole coronation debacle,” Rose said.

“Happy Birthday, Mum,” Jenny smiled.

“Wait, is today?” Rose asked.

“Your 31st birthday,” the Doctor nodded.

Rose pulled her family into a hug. “Thank you both so much.”

“You’re welcome, Mum,” Jenny said.

“Happy Birthday, love,” the Doctor whispered, pressing a kiss to her head.

After the concert, they went out for burgers and fries and milkshakes. She and Jenny argued about Rose calling them chips, with Jenny insisting that they were in America so you had to call them fries. As they stumbled back to the TARDIS, still debating it, Rose smiled to herself, sure that she couldn’t imagine a better way to spend her birthday.

**********************************************************************************************************************

They had meant to go to the planet of Siopa, but somehow they had ended up in a normal Earth shopping mall in the early 2000s. Jenny didn’t mind of course, she was happy to see anything. Rose followed her bouncing daughter around with a grin as the Doctor grumbled and carried all of their bags, following a good distance behind them.

“What’s with this?” Jenny asked her mum, stopping at one of the kiosks in the middle of the mall.

“Oh, God. I haven’t thought about monograms in ages,” Rose laughed.

“Yeah, but what are they?” Jenny asked. “What are the letters?”

“They’re you’re initials. The first one is your first initial, then your last initial is in the middle, and your middle initial goes on the end,” Rose explained.

“I don’t have a middle initial,” Jenny sulked.

“Or a last one,” Rose sighed.

“I thought I’d just be Jenny Tyler,” she asked, confused.

“Well you can be. We just never talked about it. And I wasn’t sure if you wanted to be Jenny Smith. That’s the last name your dad usually uses at least,” Rose said.

“Dad hasn’t gone by John Smith, like ever, in my lifetime,” Jenny argued. “He’s always John Tyler. And besides, Smith doesn’t actually mean anything to our family. It’s just a made up name. But Tyler does.”

“Alright then, that solves that, Miss Tyler,” Rose laughed.

“But I still need a middle name,” Jenny said.

“I don’t know, what do you want it to be?” Rose asked.

“What would you have named me?” Jenny asked. “If I didn’t already have a name by the time we actually, properly met?”

“I didn’t let myself think about it,” Rose sighed. “I wasn’t sure you’d even like me, and I was determined not to be overbearing. Besides, I knew your father would have given you a name by the time I met up with you all again.”

“But Dad didn’t even name me Jenny,” the girl protested. “Aunt Donna did. I want my middle name to be something that was actually picked out, for me, by my parents.”

“Well, let me think—” Rose started.

“I’ve got an idea,” the Doctor said, finally catching up to them.

“You do?” Rose asked.

“Yeah, and I think you’ll like it,” he said, looking not at Jenny but at Rose. Then, very quickly he added, “At least, I hope you’ll like it. I hope it’s not too much.”

“Well, go on then,” Rose said, elbowing him.

He took a deep breath and quietly breathed out, “Jaqueline.”

Rose was quiet for a minute as tears welled up in her eyes. “Oh, oh no. It was too much,” the Doctor panicked. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—”

“It’s perfect,” Rose said, smiling through her tears as she put a hand on the Doctor’s to reassure him.

“Am I missing something?” Jenny asked.

“Jaqueline was my mum’s name—your grandmother,” Rose explained.

“Then there it is,” Jenny said. “I’m Jenny Jaqueline Tyler.”

“Perfect,” Rose grinned.

“Now, what should I get monogrammed?” she asked, looking at the vast array of t-shirts, hats, and bags on display at the kiosk.

“Do you really need more stuff?” the Doctor groaned as Rose and Jenny laughed and set out to get their daughter a cute, monogrammed headband that was the kind of thing that would only ever fit in in 2000s era Earth.

Chapter Text

As soon as the TARDIS landed in Sarah Jane’s backyard, Rose opened the door just enough to slip out. She scanned the assembled crowd, her eyes glancing over Martha and Donna, who were standing together grinning. Finally, her eyes locked on Jack and she pointed at him.

“Remember what I said,” she warned. “No flirting. None. No winking or ‘Hi, Captain Jack Harkness’ or any of that.”

Jack stared at her in shock at the forcefulness, but Martha just laughed. “I’d listen to her if I were you. Rose and the Doctor might actually find a way to kill you for real if you cross the line now.”

“Seriously? Who is this person?” Jack asked.

“So it’s a person?” Francine asked. “That’s the surprise?”

“We’re sworn to secrecy,” Martha grinned, elbowing Donna as the two giggled.

“Well go on then,” Sarah Jane said. “Let’s meet this mystery person.”
“Okay,” Rose said, unable to stop the proud grin spreading across her face. She pushed open the TARDIS door, and the Doctor escorted Jenny out. Jenny stood with her shoulders back and tension radiating off of her. “You alright?”

“Of course,” Jenny replied, smiling tightly at her mother.

“Come on. You’re more nervous now than you were when we met the King of Antasei last month,” Rose said, ruffling Jenny’s hair teasingly.

“Stop it, you’re messing up my hair,” the girl complained ducking and stepping back towards her father. “Tell her to stop.”

The Doctor just laughed, “She’s just teasing you. But really, you are more nervous now than you were then. That was royalty.”

“Yeah, but it didn’t matter if they liked me,” Jenny mumbled.

“Everybody here is gonna love you,” Rose said quietly, taking Jenny’s hands in hers.

“I can back Rose up on that,” Martha called.

Jenny turned and her face lit up at the sight of Donna and Martha. “You guys are here!”

“Of course we are,” Donna replied.

“Is anyone going to tell us who this is?” Francine asked, crossing her arms.

“Right,” Rose smiled. “Jenny, this is everyone. We’ll do individual introductions in a minute. I almost forgot how many of you there were! Everyone, this is our daughter, Jenny.”

“Your daughter?” Sarah Jane asked, jaw dropping.

“Yes, and before you yell at us about raising a daughter and not telling any of you, I just have to say she was born fully grown. She’s only a year old,” the Doctor said defensively, warily eyeing Francine.

“A year exactly,” Rose finished, slipping her arm around her daughter’s shoulders.

“So this is a birthday party!” Donna exclaimed.

“It is,” Rose agreed. “and we’ll tell you the full story later, but for now, don’t you all actually want to meet her?”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose stayed near Jenny at first, just to make sure she was okay. It took a minute for her to warm up to everyone, but soon Jenny was her usual, bright, bubbly self, charming the room, so Rose stepped back to let her shine. It turned out she didn’t have to worry about Jack, he took on the role of uncle proudly, and had already threatened to beat up the first boy that broke her heart. To which the Doctor paled and said, “No. No no no no no. No boys. Not anytime soon. You’re too young for that.”

Rose zoned out as the two men bickered and Jenny laughed, but she was quickly pulled back to reality when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to see Sarah Jane and gave the woman a quick hug.

“So you’re a mother now?” Sarah Jane smiled warmly.

“Yeah,” Rose replied. “And I’ll probably be calling you quite a bit, asking for advice now.”

“Not Francine?”

“Her too. But you’re the only one who really gets it.”

“Gets what?” Sarah Jane asked.

Rose laughed, looking over to where Jenny and Luke were talking animatedly. “Gets what it’s like to one day not be a mother, then to suddenly have a half-grown child. It’s a bit of a shock sometimes. I definitely wasn’t prepared.”

“It is hard sometimes, not having any practice. But you’ll be fabulous at it, Rose. It’s clear the girl adores you,” Sarah Jane said, bumping Rose with her shoulder.

“Right now,” Rose said, huffing. “She’s only a year old. But what about when she’s a teenager and decides she hates me? I don’t know what I’ll do then!”

“And I don’t either. I don’t think any mother does.”

“You don’t think any mother what?” Francine asked, walking up to the group.

“Knows how to cope with a teenager who hates them,” Sarah Jane finished.

“I certainly didn’t. And you wouldn’t think it, not with the little peacekeeper she’s become, but Martha was the worst of my three. Oh, the fights we got into! But they grow out of it, eventually. You just have to survive those years. You even miss them a bit when the kids are out of the house. Because you might have been fighting with them, but at least you were with them,” Francine shrugged. “Sorry, not dealing well with being an empty nester. It was nice when Martha had to come live with me for a few months after her flat got destroyed…”

“Well, I’m not sure if Jenny’s ever gonna leave. For good at least,” Rose replied.

“Kids always leave home,” Francine replied.

“But when home means all of time and space?” Rose countered. “It’s easy to get addicted to. And she is our daughter. I doubt she’ll ever be content to sit still for long.”

“She does seem to have quite a bit of energy,” Francine laughed, looking over to the girl who was bouncing on the balls of her feet as she told some story about some adventure they had had.

“You’re telling me,” Rose chuckled. “Last week she got up at two am and reprogrammed a lamp in order to give it artificial intelligence. Do you have any idea how terrifying it is to wake up to your lamp turning on and talking to you?”

“Just like her father then,” Sarah Jane smiled.

“Oh yes. No appliance is safe from the pair of them.”

“Mum!” Jenny yelled across the room. “Can we have cake now?”

“But she’s still a child, just like any other,” Francine called as Rose turned to the TARDIS to get the cake that she and Jenny had baked the night before.

**********************************************************************************************************************

When Rose returned, they had all moved into the dining room, where Jenny was sitting at the head of the table, looking like a queen holding court as she enraptured their friends with yet another story. She sat the cake down in the kitchen and stood in the doorway watching her daughter. The Doctor slipped an arm around her waist.

“That’s our daughter,” he whispered into her hair, sounding awestruck.

“We’ve had her a year. How are you still surprised she exists?” Rose whispered back.

“Oh don’t pretend you’re not still in awe of her. Don’t forget, I can feel you up here,” he said tapping his temple.

Rose laughed and wrapped her arms around him for a hug and they stood there listening to Jenny. As soon as she finished her story, Rose swooped in with the cake, determined to get “Happy Birthday” in before Jenny told yet another story. She was honestly a little impressed Jenny had managed to keep their attention that long, but she did have her father’s gob.

Jenny grinned up at her parents as she blew out her candle, not wishing for anything. She already had everything she wanted.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure we can’t convince you to come?” Jenny asked, clasping her hands together and begging Martha.

“No,” the woman laughed. “I have actual work to do, keeping the Earth safe while you all are off having your adventures.”

“But it’s a time machine, Aunt Martha. You wouldn’t miss work or anything,” Jenny protested.

“Oh no, I fell for that once before. You all go and have fun,” Martha said, giving Jenny a quick hug and shoving her toward the TARDIS. “And happy birthday, sweetie.”

“Thanks, Aunt Martha,” Jenny sighed, leaning against the doorframe before she turned to Jack and Luke who were also still hanging around the yard to see them off. “What about you boys?”

“I have work too,” Jack said. “Sorry, kid.”

“And your mother would kill us,” Rose said, looking at Luke.

“But I help her with stuff here all the time!”

“But she’s here to watch you and keep you safe. She’s not going to let you go gallivanting off in the universe when she has no idea where you—" Rose stopped as realization dawned on her face. “I get it. I get why my mother was the way she was.”

“They do say you eventually turn into your parents, but blimey, that’s a terrifying thought,” the Doctor huffed, wrapping an arm around her waist.

“Hey, you know you loved my mother, deep down at least,” Rose protested.

“I will neither confirm nor deny that statement,” the Doctor said, pressing a kiss to Rose’s head as everyone else laughed.

“So nobody’s coming?” Jenny asked.

“Oi! What am I?” Donna called from inside the TARDIS.

“Well I knew you were coming,” Jenny protested. “I was just trying to see who else I could get on board.”

Rose gently nudged Jenny inside as she and Donna argued. Rose gave one last wave to her friends before shutting the door, and Rose, Jenny, and the Doctor sent the TARDIS into the vortex.

**********************************************************************************************************************

What is it? What was on the psychic paper?” Rose asked the Doctor as he flew around to console, setting the coordinates after sliding the paper back into his pocket.

A message,” he replied.

From who?” Jenny asked, unable to stay out of her parents’ telepathic conversation.

I have no idea,” the Doctor replied, fear and anxiety echoing over the bond.

“Okay, where are we?” Donna asked as soon as they landed.

“Books. People never really stop loving books. Fifty-first century. By now you've got holovids, direct to brain downloads, fiction mist, but you need the smell. The smell of books, Donna. Deep breath,” he explained as they stepped out of the TARDIS. “The Library. So big it doesn’t need a name. Just a great big The.”

“It’s like a city,” Donna gasped, looking off a balcony at buildings upon building of books.

“It's a world. Literally, a world. The whole core of the planet is the index computer. Biggest hard drive ever. And up here, every book ever written. Whole continents of Jeffrey Archer, Bridget Jones, Monty Python's Big Red Book. Brand new editions, specially printed,” the Doctor explained. “We're near the equator, so this must be biographies. I love biographies.”

“Only because you know they’ve probably got at least twelve books on you and you want to point out everything that’s wrong in them,” Rose laughed.

“Hey!”

“Oh, she’s got you there, spaceman,” Donna laughed as she idly picked up one of the books near her.

“Way-ah! Spoilers,” the Doctor explained, taking the book away from her.

“What?”

“These books are from your future. You don't want to read ahead. Spoil all the surprises. Like peeking at the end,” the Doctor explained, setting it aside.

“Isn't travelling with you one big spoiler?” Donna countered.

“I try to keep you away from major plot developments. Which, to be honest, I seem to be very bad at, because you know what? This is the biggest library in the universe. So where is everyone? It's silent,” the Doctor said, looking around. He went to a computer and soniced it.

“Maybe it’s a Sunday?” Donna suggested.

“No, I never land on Sundays. Sundays are boring,” he countered.

“Well, maybe everyone’s really, really quiet,” Donna suggested.

“Yeah, maybe. But they'd still show up on the system,” the Doctor said.

“Doctor, why are we here? Really, why?” Donna asked.

“Oh, you know, just passing,” he shrugged.

“No, seriously. It was all let's hit the beach, then suddenly we're in a library. Why?” Donna asked. Then she turned to Rose and Jenny. “Do you know?”

“No,” Rose said. “But I do know we’re not just passing. He got a message. But I don’t know what it said.”

Before any of the girls could get him to actually tell them the message he exclaimed, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

“What is?” Jenny asked, peering at the screen.

“Scanning for life forms. If I do a scan looking for your basic humanoids. You know, your book readers, few limbs and a face, apart from us, I get nothing. Zippo, nada. See? Nobody home. But if I widen the parameters to any kind of life, a million, million. Gives up after that. A million, million,” the Doctor explained.

“But there’s nothing here. There’s no one,” Donna exclaimed.

“And not a sound. A million. million life forms, and silence in the library,” the Doctor sighed.

“But there's no one here. There's just books. I mean, it's not the books, is it? I mean, it can't be the books, can it? I mean, books can't be alive,” Donna said, reaching slowly for a book.

“Welcome,” a voice behind them declared, causing all of them to jump guiltily.

“That came from there,” Donna said, pointing back the way they came.

“Yeah,” the Doctor said, following her, Rose, and Jenny.

A tall white sculpture turned to face them. It had a small, feminine face and voice, the only humanlike things about it. “I am Courtesy Node seven one zero slash aqua. Please enjoy the Library and respect the personal access codes of all your fellow readers, regardless of species or hygiene taboo.”

“That face,” Donna gasped. “It looks real.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” the Doctor said casually.

“A statue with a real face, though? It's a hologram or something, isn't it?” Donna asked.

“No, but really, it’s fine,” he replied.

“Additional. There follows a brief message from the Head Librarian for your urgent attention. It has been edited for tone and content by a Felman Lux Automated Decency Filter. Message follows. Run. For God's sake, run. No way is safe. The library has sealed itself, we can't. Oh, they're here. Argh. Slarg. Snick. Message ends. Please switch off your mobile comm. units for the comfort of other readers,” the node said.

“So that's why we're here,” he said, nodding at Rose before turning back to the node. “Any other messages, same date stamp?”

“One additional message. This message carries a Felman Lux coherency warning of five zero eleven,” it replied.

“Yeah, yeah, fine, fine, fine. Just play it,” he said.

“Message follows. Count the shadows. For God's sake, remember, if you want to live, count the shadows. Message ends,” it said.

“Everyone?” the Doctor said.

“What is it?” Rose said as she felt fear echoing over the bond.

“Dad, what’s wrong?” Jenny asked.

“I’m not entirely sure. I have an idea, but… Just stay out of the shadows,” he warned as they started walking toward the stacks.

“Why, what’s in the shadows?” Donna asked.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So, we weren’t just in the neighbourhood,” Donna said to the Doctor.

“Yeah, I kind of, sort of lied a bit. I got a message on the psychic paper,” he said.

“That’s what they said,” Donna said, pointing to Rose and Jenny. “But aren’t you gonna let us see?”

The Doctor held out the psychic paper with a message that said, The Library. Come as soon as you can. X. “What do you think? Cry for help?” the Doctor asked.

“With a kiss? I doubt it,” Rose said. “Sounds like it’s probably someone we know.”

“Could it be Uncle Jack?” Jenny suggested. “He probably could find a way to send a message to the psychic paper, and I bet he’d sign it with a kiss.”

“That does sound like Jack,” Rose said. “But I know his handwriting and that’s not it.”

“So we have no idea why we came. You just got a random message and followed it?” Donna asked.

“Yeah, that’s just what we—”

Everyone when silent as the lights in the hall started going out.

“What’s happening?” Donna asked.

“Run!” the Doctor declared, grabbing Rose’s hand. They tried to escape through the nearest door, but it was stuck.

“What, is it locked?” Donna asked.

“No, jammed. The wood’s warped,” the Doctor explained.

“Well, sonic it. Use the thingy,” Donna yelled.

“I can’t, it’s wood.”

“What, it doesn’t do wood?” Donna asked.

“Hang on, hang on. I can vibrate the molecules, fry the bindings. I can shatterline the interface...”

“Oh, let me,” Jenny said, pushing her dad out of the way and kicking the door open. They all ran inside and the Doctor used a book to jam the door shut.

The Doctor turned around to see a small, floating security camera. “Oh. Hello. Sorry to burst on you like this. Okay if we stop here for a bit?”

The camera fell to the ground. “What is it?” Donna asked, poking it with her foot.

“Security camera. It switched itself off,” the Doctor explained.

The Doctor started trying to sonic the camera as Rose looked around. “Are we safe here?”

“Of course we’re safe. There’s a little shop,” the Doctor replied. Rose looked up to see the sign for the shop right as the Doctor yelled, “Gotcha.”

A series of protests scrolled across a panel on the camera. “What’s that?” Jenny asked.

“Oh, I'm sorry. I really am. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. It's alive,” the Doctor said.

“You said it was a security camera,” Donna argued.

“It is. It’s an alive one.”

“Is that what the life forms in the library are?” Jenny asked. “Security cameras?”

“Not a million million of them,” he sighed.

The message on the camera changed as it said, “The library is breached. Others are coming.”

“Others? What others?” Donna asked, scrolling up to another node. “Excuse me. What does it mean, others?”

“That's barely more than a speak your weight machine, it can't help you,” the Doctor argued.

“So why’s it got a face?” Donna countered.

“This flesh aspect was donated by Mark Chambers on the occasion of his death,” the node replied.

“It’s a real face?” Donna asked.

“It has been actualised individually for you from the many facial aspects saved to our extensive flesh banks. Please enjoy.”

“It chose me a dead face it thought I'd like? That statue's got a real dead person's face on it,” Donna muttered, shell-shocked.

“It's the fifty-first century. That's basically like donating a park bench,” the Doctor replied.

“It’s donating a face!” Donna exclaimed.

“People donate their organs all the time,” Rose said. “They’re not using it, so they might as well do some good with it.”

“So you don’t think it’s creepy?” Donna asked.

“No, I definitely do. But that’s just cause I was raised in the 20th century, same as you. I’m trying to rationalize it for me as much as you,” Rose replied with a shiver.

“No, wait, no,” the Doctor said, grabbing Rose and Donna by the arm and pulling them back to the centre of the room.

“Oi!”

“The shadow, look,” the Doctor said, pointing at a large triangular shadow on the floor.

“What about it?” Donna asked.

“Count the shadows,” Rose replied, her eyes scanning the room.

“One. There, counted it. One shadow,” Donna replied.

“Yeah, but what’s casting it?” Rose asked.

“Oh, I'm thick! Look at me, I'm old and thick. Head's too full of stuff. I need a bigger head,” he yelled hitting himself in the head.

Behind them, a light went out.

“The power must be going,” Donna said.

“This place runs on fission cells,” the Doctor said. “They’ll outburn the sun.”

“Then why is it dark?” Donna asked.

“It’s not dark,” the Doctor said.

“That shadow,” Rose said, looking back to the floor. “It’s gone.”

“We need to get back to the TARDIS,” the Doctor said.

“Why?” Jenny asked.

“Because that shadow hasn’t gone. It’s moved,” he explained.

Behind them, the node started to yell on repeat, “Reminder. The library has been breached. Others are coming. Reminder. The library has been breached. Others are coming. Reminder. The library has been breached…”

A door blew open with a bright flash of light and six people in spacesuits came through. The one in front adjusted a polarizing visor so that her face was visible. She smiled at the Doctor. “Hello, sweetie.”

“Get out,” the Doctor roared.

“Rude,” Rose called from behind him.

“All of you. Turn around, get back in your rocket and fly away. Tell your grandchildren you came to the library and lived. They won't believe you,” the Doctor warned.

“Pop your helmets, everyone. We've got breathers,” the woman declared, taking off her helmet to reveal a mass of reddish-blonde curls pulled back into a ponytail.

“How do you know they’re not androids?” Another space-suited woman called.

“Kissed an android once. They’re rubbish,” she replied.

“Who is this? You said we were the only expedition. I paid for exclusives,” A man called, taking off his own helmet.

“I lied, I'm always lying. Bound to be others,” the woman shrugged.

“Miss Evangelista, I want to see the contracts,” he declared, turning to the woman that had asked about androids.

“You came through the north door, yeah? How was that, much damage?” the curly haired woman asked.

“Please, just leave. I'm asking you seriously and properly, just leave. Hang on. Did you say expedition?” the Doctor asked.

“My expedition, I funded it,” the man explained.

“Oh, you're not, are you? Tell me you're not archaeologists,” the Doctor groaned.

“Got a problem with archaeologists?” the woman asked.

“We’re time travellers,” Jenny declared, bounding up next to her father. “He points and laughs at archaeologists.”

“Ah,” the woman said, smiling at Jenny and laughing. “Professor River Song, archaeologist.”

“River Song, lovely name. As you're leaving, and you're leaving now, you need to set up a quarantine beacon. Code wall the planet, the whole planet. Nobody comes here, not ever again. Not one living thing, not here, not ever. Stop right there. What's your name?” the Doctor said, pointing at another one of the people on the expedition.

“Anita,” she replied.

“Anita, stay out of the shadows. Not a foot, not a finger in the shadows till you're safely back in your ship. Goes for all of you. Stay in the light. Find a nice, bright spot and just stand. If you understand me, look very, very scared. No, bit more scared than that. Okay, that'll do for now. You. Who are you?” he asked, turning to another person.

“Er, Dave,” he replied.

“Okay, Dave—” the Doctor started.

“Oh, well, Other Dave, because that's Proper Dave the pilot, he was the first Dave, so when we—” the Doctor cut Other Dave off right back.

“Other Dave, the way you came, does it look the same as before?” he asked as they peered down the hall the six people had come down.

“Yeah,” he started before shaking his head. “Oh, it’s a bit darker.”

“How much darker?” the Doctor asked.

“Oh, like I could see where we came through just like a moment ago. I can't now,” Other Dave explained.

“Seal up this door. We'll find another way out,” the Doctor ordered, turning back into the room.

“We're not looking for a way out. Miss Evangelista?” the man who funded the expedition said.

“I'm Mister Lux's personal everything. You need to sign these contracts agreeing that your individual experience inside the library are the intellectual property of the Felman Lux Corporation,” Miss Evangelista said, turning to the Doctor, who had re-joined Donna and his family.

“Right, give it here,” the Doctor said, taking them from her and distributing it to everyone.

“Lovely, thanks,” Donna said as the four of them ripped up the contracts.

“My family built this library. I have rights,” he declared.

“You have a mouth that won't stop. You think there's danger here?” River said, turning to Rose before immediately correcting herself and looking at the Doctor.

“Something came to this library and killed everything in it. Killed a whole world. Danger? Could be,” he snorted.

“That was a hundred years ago. The Library's been silent for a hundred years. Whatever came here's long dead,” River replied.

“Bet your life?” the Doctor asked.

“Always,” she grinned.

“What are you doing?” Lux asked, looking toward other Dave and effectively breaking up the conversation.

“He said seal the door,” Other Dave replied.

“Torch,” the Doctor yelled, ripping Mr. Lux’s from his hand.

“You’re taking orders from him?” Lux asked.

“Spooky, isn’t it?” the Doctor asked, and Rose wasn’t sure if he was talking to Lux or the room at large as he shined his torch into the recesses of the room. “Almost every species in the universe has an irrational fear of the dark. But they're wrong, because it's not irrational. It's Vashta Nerada.”

“What’s Vashta Nerada?” Donna asked.

“It's what's in the dark. It's what's always in the dark. Lights! That's what we need, lights. You got lights?” the Doctor yelled.

“What for?” River asked.

“Form a circle. Safe area. Big as you can, lights pointing out,” the Doctor said.

“Oi, do as he says,” River called.

“You’re not listening to this man?” Lux asked incredulously.

“Apparently I am. Anita, unpack the lights. Other Dave, make sure the door's secure, then help Anita. Mister Lux, put your helmet back on, block the visor. Proper Dave, find an active terminal. I want you to access the library database. See what you can find about what happened here a hundred years ago. Pretty boy, you're with me. Step into my office,” River called, striding over to a desk and pulling things out of her bag.

“Professor Song, why am I the only one wearing my helmet?” Mr. Lux asked.

“Because I don’t fancy you,” River replied, winking at Jenny who burst into giggles.

“Probably I can help you,” the Doctor said, standing by Proper Dave at the terminal.

“Pretty boy. With me, I said,” River called.

“Oh, I’m pretty boy?” the Doctor asked in surprise.

Rose rolled her eyes and whispered, “Find out who she is, yeah? I’ve got the weirdest feeling about her.”

The Doctor nodded at Rose and squeezed her hand as he walked past her. Jenny took his place by Proper Dave and started helping him with the terminal.

“Don't let your shadows cross. Seriously, don't even let them touch. Any of them could be infected,” the Doctor said.

“How can a shadow be infected?” Other Dave asked.

“Excuse me, can I help?” Miss Evangelista asked Anita and Other Dave.

They shared a look and snickered. “No, we’re fine,” Anita said.

“I could just you know, hold things,” she suggested.

“No, really, we’re okay,” Other Dave replied, and Miss Evangelista went to stand on the edge of the circle.

“Couldn’t she help?” Donna asked.

“Trust me. I just spent four days on a ship with that woman. She's er—” Other Dave started.

“Couldn't tell the difference between the escape pod and the bathroom. We had to go back for her. Twice,” Anita explained.

“Doesn’t give you an excuse to be mean. She’s just trying to help,” Rose said. Before Anita or Other Dave could defend themselves, Rose continued, “She’s already gotta put up with this Mr. Lux all the time. She needs someone to give her a break.”

On the other side of the room, the Doctor reached River. She was holding a small, TARDIS blue book with eight squares on the cover. “Thanks,” she said.

“For what?” the Doctor asked.

“The usual. For coming when I call,” River shrugged.

“Oh, that was you?” the Doctor asked.

“You're doing a very good job, acting like you don't know me. I'm assuming there's a reason,” River said, raising an eyebrow.

“A fairly good one, actually,” the Doctor replied.

“Okay, shall we do diaries, then? Where are we this time? Er, going by your face, I'd say it's early days for you, yeah? So, er, crash of the Byzantium. Have we done that yet? Obviously ringing no bells. Right. Oh, picnic at Asgard. Have we done Asgard yet? Obviously not. Blimey, very early days, then. Whoo, life with a time traveller. Never knew it could be such hard work. Look at you. Oh, you're young,” River rambled.

“I’m really not, you know,” he replied.

“No, but you are. Your eyes. You're younger than I've ever seen you,” she whispered.

“You’ve seen you before, then?” the Doctor asked.

“Doctor, please tell me you know who I am,” she pleaded.

“Who are you?” the Doctor asked.

Behind them, a ringing noise started to sound. “Sorry!” Jenny called. “That was us. We were trying to get through the security protocols and I think we set something off.”

“Doctor? Doctor, that sounds like—” Donna started.

“It is. It’s a phone,” he replied, dashing over to the terminal.

“We were trying to call up the data core, but it’s not responding. Just that noise,” Proper Dave said.

“Then I tried to steal Mum’s sonic to see what I could do, but I just made it louder,” Jenny sighed.

“We’ll get you a sonic of your own soon enough,” Rose said, patting Jenny on the shoulder.

“But it’s a phone,” Donna exclaimed.

“Let me try something,” the Doctor said, fiddling with the sonic. The ringing stopped, but the screen just said Access Denied. “Okay, doesn't like that. Let's try something else.”

He kept fiddling with it, and then the screen changed, showing a little girl in a living room. “Okay, here it comes. Hello?”

“Hello. Are you in my television?” the girl asked.

“Well, no, I'm, I'm sort of in space. Er, I was trying to call up the data core of a triple grid security processor,” the Doctor replied.

Rose pushed her way to the front. “Is there anybody home with you? Your mummy or your daddy?”

“I can get my dad,” she offered.

“That’d be lovely,” Rose smiled.

“I know you. You're in my library,” the girl said.

“Your library?” the Doctor asked.

“The library's never been on the television before. What have you done?” the little girl asked.

“Er, well, I just rerouted the interface,” the Doctor explained right before the screen went back to the Access Denied screen.

“What happened? Who was that?” River asked.

“I need another terminal. Keep working on those lights. We need those lights!” the Doctor replied.

“You heard him people,” River ordered. “Let there be light.”

The Doctor wandered over to the other terminal where River had unpacked her bag. He started to work on the computer, but he got distracted by her diary. As soon as he picked it up, she snatched it out of his hands. “Uh, uh,” she warned. “Sorry, you're not allowed to see inside the book. It's against the rules.”

“What rules?” he snorted.

“Your rules,” she replied, just before books started flying off the shelves.

Rose, who had been watching River and her fiancé, turned her head as Miss Evangelista screamed. She and rushed over to the girl. “Are you alright?” Rose asked.

“What's that? What's happening?” Miss Evangelista asked, covering her ears as her eyes darted across the room to follow the flying books.

“It’s alright. The Doctor will fix it,” Donna said as she and Rose comforted the girl until she calmed down.

“See, we told you he’d fix it,” Rose said when a few seconds had passed since the last book flew off the shelf.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpered. “I don’t mean to always be in the way.”

“No, you’re not in the way,” Rose said.

“You offered to help with the lights,” Donna suggested.

“They don't want me. They think I'm stupid because I'm pretty,” she whimpered.

“Course they don’t,” Donna said. “Nobody thinks that.”

“No, they're right though. I'm a moron, me. My dad said I have the IQ of plankton, and I was pleased.”

“See, that’s funny!” Donna laughed.

“No, no, I really was pleased. Is that funny?” Evangelista said, turning to Donna.

“No, no,” Donna said, shaking her head before making up some reason to go check on Jenny.

“I used to think I was stupid, you know?” Rose said.

“Really?”

“Really,” Rose nodded. “I travel around with him all the time, and he’s a genius. It’s hard not to feel stupid next to that sometimes.”

“Oh,” Evangelista said.

“But you want to know what I learned?”

“What?”

“I learned that you just have to find what you’re smart about. Everybody’s got something. Cause the Doctor? He’s rubbish at people and emotions. I always have to remind him when he’s being rude cause he just can’t see it. That’s how I learned I’m smart about people. I understand them, and am pretty good at figuring them out,” Rose said.

“What am I smart about?” Miss Evangelista asked.

“I don’t know,” Rose shrugged. “That’s something you have to find on your own.”

At that point, more books started flying off the shelves, and Rose made her way back to her family.

“What's causing that? Is it the little girl?” River yelled.

“But who is the little girl? What's she got to do with this place? How does the data core work? What's the principle? What's CAL?” the Doctor asked.

“Ask Mr. Lux,” River suggested.

“CAL, what is it?” the Doctor asked.

“Sorry, you didn't sign your personal experience contracts,” Mr. Lux shrugged.

“Mr. Lux. Right now, you're in more danger than you've ever been in your whole life. And you're protecting a patent?” the Doctor roared.

“I’m protecting my family’s pride!” he exclaimed.

“Well, funny thing, Mr. Lux. I don't want to see everyone in this room dead because some idiot thinks his pride is more important,” the Doctor replied.

“Then why don’t you sign his contract?” River asked, raising an eyebrow. After a second of silence, she laughed and added, “I didn’t either. I’m getting worse than you.”

“Okay, okay, okay. Let's start at the beginning. What happened here? On the actual day, a hundred years ago, what physically happened?” the Doctor asked.

“There was a message from the Library. Just one. The lights are going out. Then the computer sealed the planet, and there was nothing for a hundred years,” River explained.

“It's taken three generations of my family just to decode the seals and get back in,” Lux added.

Behind them, Miss Evangelista called, “Er, excuse me?”

“Not just now,” Mr. Lux yelled.

“There was one other thing in the last message,” River said, glancing up at Lux.

“That’s confidential,” he hissed.

River grabbed Lux’s arm and stared him down. “I trust this man with my life, with everything.”

“You’ve only just met him!” Mr. Lux argued.

“No, he’s only just met me,” River said, looking sadly at the Doctor.

“Er, this might be important, actually,” Miss Evangelista called.

“Give us just a second, okay?” Rose yelled back.

“This is a data extract that came with the message,” River said, handing something over to the Doctor.

“Four thousand and twenty-two saved. No survivors,” he read.

“Four thousand and twenty-two. That's the exact number of people who were in the library when the planet was sealed,” River added.

“But how can four thousand and twenty-two people have been saved if there were no survivors?” Donna asked.

“That’s what we’re here to find out,” River said.

“And so far, what we haven’t found are any bodies,” Mr. Lux said right as a scream tore through the room.

Rose looked around and did a quick count of those present. “Miss Evangelista!” she yelled as she noticed the open panel along the back of the room.

“Everybody, careful. Stay in the light,” the Doctor said.

“You keep saying that. I don't see the point,” Proper Dave said.

They all entered the room carefully, and they saw a skeleton in rags, draped across a chair in the middle of the room.

“Where is Miss Evangelista?” Rose asked.

River pressed a button on her suit to activate her comm unit. “Miss Evangelista, please state your current position.”

Her voice echoed back from the skeleton, and River picked up a lit comm unit off the collar. “It’s her. It’s Miss Evangelista,” River whispered, her eyes suddenly scared. She glanced quickly at Rose, then the Doctor before putting the comm unit back.

“We heard her scream a few seconds ago. What could do that to a person in a few seconds?” Anita asked.

“It took a lot less than a few seconds,” the Doctor muttered.

“What did?” Anita asked.

“Hello?” Miss Evangelista’s voice came from the comm unit.

“Er, I'm sorry, everyone. Er, this isn't going to be pleasant. She's ghosting,” River whispered.

“She’s what?” Donna asked.

“Hello? Excuse me. I'm sorry. Hello? Excuse me,” Miss Evangelista’s voice continued.

“That’s, that’s her,” Donna whispered. “That’s Miss Evangelista.”

“If we can still hear her, can we save her?” Jenny asked.

“No,” River said quietly. “It’s just a data ghost. She’ll be gone in a moment.”

“Sorry, where am I? Excuse me?” Evangelista whispered.

“Miss Evangelista, you're fine. Just relax. We'll be with you presently,” River replied.

“What’s a data ghost?” Donna asked.

“There's a neural relay in the communicator. Lets you send thought mail. That's it there. Those green lights. Sometimes it can hold an impression of a living consciousness for a short time after death. Like an afterimage,” the Doctor explained.

Jenny turned to her mother in horror, and Rose just wrapped her arms around her daughter. For all that Jenny had been born into a war, her year with her parents had re-sensitized her to death, and this was just gruesome.

“My grandfather lasted a day. Kept talking about his shoelaces,” Anita said.

“She’s in there,” Donna whispered.

“I can't see. I can't. Where am I?” Evangelista cried.

“She's just brain waves now. The pattern won't hold for long,” Proper Dave said.

“But she’s conscious. She’s thinking,” Donna said.

“I can't see, I can't. I don't know what I'm thinking.”

“She's a footprint on the beach. And the tide's coming in,” the Doctor explained.

“Where are those women? The nice ladies. Are they there?” Evangelista asked.

“What women?” Lux asked.

“She means us,” Rose said, letting go of Jenny and stepping toward River. “Can she hear us?”

“Yes, go ahead,” River said.

“Hello, are they there?”

“Yeah, hello, we’re here,” Rose said.

“But she’s dead,” Donna whispered.

“We can help her," Rose whispered back.

“The other lady, is she with you?”

Rose nudged Donna and she said, “Yeah, I’m here too.”

“What I said before, about being stupid. Don't tell the others, they'll only laugh,” she begged.

“Of course we won’t,” Rose said.

“Don't tell the others, they'll only laugh,” she repeated.

“We promise we won’t tell them,” Donna replied.

“Don't tell the others, they'll only laugh,” Evangelista said again.

“We’re not going to tell them," Rose insisted as the light started to blink.

“She’s looping now. The pattern’s degrading,” River said.

“I can't think. I don't know, I, I, I, I scream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream. Ice cream,” Miss Evangelista said.

“Does anybody mind if I?” River asked. When no one said anything, she took it as agreement and switched off the comm unit.

“That was, that was horrible. That was the most horrible thing I've ever seen,” Donna said.

“No. It's just a freak of technology. But whatever did this to her, whatever killed her, I'd like a word with that,” River said.

“I’ll introduce you,” the Doctor said, leading them back into the other room. “I’m going to need a packed lunch.”

“Hang on,” River said, rifling through her bag and picking up her diary in the process.

“What’s in that book?” the Doctor asked.

“Spoilers,” she replied.

“Who are you?” the Doctor asked.

“Professor River Song, University of—”

The Doctor cut her off and hissed, “To me. Who are you to me?”

“Again, spoilers,” she said as she handed him a lunch box. “Chicken and a bit of salad. Knock yourself out.”

He stared at her for a moment, but she gave nothing away. Eventually he gave up and bounded to his feet. “Right you lot. Let’s all meet the Vashta Nerada.”

As the Doctor scanned the floor with his screwdriver, River walked up to Rose. “Did I hear Jenny call you Mum?”

“Yeah.”

“So you’re Rose Tyler,” River said.

Instead of answering, Rose replied, “You know him.”

“Oh God, do I know that man. We go way back, that man and me. Just not this far back,” River laughed with tears in her eyes. “He hasn't met me yet. I sent him a message, but it arrived too early. This is the Doctor in the days before he knew me. And he looks at me, he looks right through me and it shouldn't kill me, but it does.”

“If you know him, and you know Jenny, how come you don’t know me?” Rose asked.

“Spoilers,” River replied.

“Yeah, you say that, and you act like you don’t know me. Like you’re surprised to see me. But then I catch you looking at me when you think I can’t see you,” Rose replied. “You’ve got to tell me.”

“I can’t,” River whispered.

“Yeah, but it’s like the Doctor when we were travelling with Martha. Only this time I’m better at catching those subtle glances,” Rose said.

“No it’s not,” River said. “I’m not secretly in love with you,” River replied.

“You said secretly,” Rose said, crossing her arms and looking sideways at River. "You’re not a future incarnation of his, trying to throw us off, are you? Can he even regenerate into a woman?”

“Yes he can, in theory. Not that I’ve seen it,” River replied. “But no, I’m not him, and things are much more complicated than you can imagine.”

“But—” Rose started, but she was thrown off as the Doctor bounded to his feet.

“Okay, got a live one. That's not darkness down those tunnels. This is not a shadow. It's a swarm. A man-eating swarm,” the Doctor said as he tossed a chicken leg into the shadows, but it was cleaned to the bone by the time it hit the ground. “The piranhas of the air. The Vashta Nerada. Literally, the shadows that melt the flesh. Most planets have them, but usually in small clusters. I've never seen an infestation on this scale, or this aggressive.”

“What do you mean, most planets? Not Earth?” Donna asked.

“Mmm. Earth, and a billion other worlds. Where there's meat, there's Vashta Nerada. You can see them sometimes, if you look. The dust in sunbeams,” the Doctor replied.

Rose shivered as Donna said, “If they were on Earth, we'd know.”

“Nah. Normally they live on road kill. But sometimes people go missing. Not everyone comes back out of the dark,” he replied ominously.

“Every shadow?” River asked.

“No, but any shadow,” he replied.

“So what do we do now?” River asked.

“Daleks, aim for the eyestalk. Sontarans, back of the neck. Vashta Nerada? Run. Just run,” the Doctor said, unconsciously reaching for Rose’s hand as he said that last bit.

“Run? Run where?” River said, glancing around.

“This is an index point. There must be an exit teleport somewhere,” the Doctor replied, looking at Mr. Lux.

“Don't look at me, I haven't memorised the schematics,” he huffed.

“Doctor, the little shop. They always make you go through the little shop on the way out so they can sell you stuff,” Donna exclaimed.

“You're right. Brilliant! That's why I like the little shop,” the Doctor grinned.

“Okay, let’s move it,” Proper Dave said.

“Actually, Proper Dave? Could you stay where you are for a moment?” The Doctor said as his face fell.

“Why?”

“I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry. But you've got two shadows. It's how they hunt. They latch on to a food source and keep it fresh,” the Doctor explained.

“What do I do?” Proper Dave asked.

“You stay absolutely still, like there's a wasp in the room. Like there's a million wasps,” the Doctor said.

“We’re not leaving you, Dave,” River said.

“Course we're not leaving him. Where's your helmet? Don't point, just tell me,” the Doctor said.

“On the floor by my bag,” Proper Dave said as Anita moved to grab it.

“Don't cross his shadow. Thanks. Now, the rest of you, helmets back on and sealed up. We'll need everything we've got,” the Doctor said.

“But Doctor, we haven’t got any helmets,” Donna replied.

“Yeah, but we’re safe anyway,” he replied.

“How are we safe?” Donna asked.

“We're not. That was a clever lie to shut you up. Professor, anything I can do with the suit?” the Doctor asked.

“What good are the damn suits? Miss Evangelista was wearing her suit. There was nothing left,” Mr. Lux said.

“We can increase the mesh density. Dial it up four hundred percent. Make it a tougher meal,” River suggested.

“Okay,” the Doctor said as he used the sonic to fix Dave’s suit.

“Eight hundred percent. Pass it on,” the Doctor said.

“Gotcha,” River said, holding something up.

“What’s that?” the Doctor asked.

“It’s a screwdriver,” River replied.

“It’s sonic,” the Doctor exclaimed.

“Yeah, I know. Snap,” she said as she moved on to adjust everyone’s suits.

“With me, come on,” the Doctor said, dragging Donna and his family into the shop.

“What are we doing? We shopping? Is it a good time to shop?” Donna asked, staring at the things in the room.

“No talking, just moving. Try it. Right, stand there in the middle. It's a teleport. Stand in the middle. Can't send the others, TARDIS won't recognise them,” the Doctor said.

“No,” Rose said, stepping off the teleport. Jenny moved to do the same thing, but Rose pushed her back on.

“You don't have suits. You're not safe,” the Doctor argued.

“You don't have a suit, so you're in just as much danger as I am and I'm not leaving you,” Rose said. “Actually, I’m probably safer than you.”

“If you guys are staying, so am I,” Jenny said.

“No, you can fly the TARDIS, so you go get her,” Rose suggested.

“But—” Jenny started, but the Doctor hit the button to send Donna and Jenny away.

“You should’ve gone,” the Doctor said.

“When has sending me away ever worked out in your favour, love?” Rose asked, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Doctor,” River said, running in. “And Rose.”

They followed her into the main room where Proper Dave now only had one shadow.

“Where’d it go?” the Doctor asked.

“It's just gone. I looked round, one shadow, see,” he said.

“Does that mean we can leave? I don't want to hang around here,” River said.

“I don't know why we're still here. We can leave him, can't we? I mean, no offence,” Mr. Lux suggested.

“Shut up, Mr. Lux,” River and Rose hissed at the same time.

“Did you feel anything, like an energy transfer? Anything at all?” the Doctor asked.

“No, no, but look. It’s gone,” he said, turning in a circle to prove his point.

When he was facing away from the Doctor, the Doctor said, “Stop there. Stop, stop, stop there. Stop moving. They're never just gone and they never give up.” He scanned the shadow. “Well, this one’s benign.”

“Hey, who turned out the lights?” Proper Dave asked.

“No one, they’re fine,” the Doctor replied.

“No, seriously. Turn them back on,” Proper Dave said.

“They are on,” River repeated.

“I can’t see a ruddy thing,” Proper Dave insisted.

“Dave, turn around,” the Doctor said.

Dave turned, and his visor was completely dark. “What's going on? Why can't I see? Is the power gone? Are we safe here?” Proper Dave asked.

“Dave, I want you stay still. Absolutely still,” the Doctor said, but Dave jerked slightly. “Dave? Dave? Dave, can you hear me? Are you all right? Talk to me, Dave.”

“I’m fine. I’m okay. I’m fine,” Proper Dave insisted.

“I want you to stay still. Absolutely still,” the Doctor repeated.

“I'm fine. I'm okay. I'm fine. I can't. Why can't I? I, I can't. Why can't I? I, I can't. Why can't I? I—” Proper Dave said.

River was the first to notice his comm light blinking. “He’s gone. He’s ghosting.”

“Then why is he still standing?” Mr. Lux asked.

“Hey, who turned out the lights? Hey, who turned out the lights?” Proper Dave repeated on a loop.

The Doctor leaned in closer to Proper Dave to get a better look, and River yelled, “Doctor, don’t!”

Ignoring her, he said, “Dave, can you hear me?”

“Hey, who turned out the lights?” Dave replied right before a skull fell forward in his helmet and Dave grabbed the Doctor by the shoulders. “Who turned out the lights? Hey, who turned out the lights?”

“Excuse me,” River said, zapping the suit with her sonic so that it let the Doctor go.

“Back from it! Get back. Right back,” the Doctor yelled, pushing everyone as far from the suit as he could.

The suit lurched forward slowly and River remarked, “Doesn’t move very fast, does it?”

“It’s a swarm in a suit,” the Doctor replied as he watched the shadows coming off the suit multiply and grow. “But it’s learning.”

“What do we do? Where do we go?” Mr Lux yelled.

“See that wall behind you? Duck!” River yelled pulling out a gun and firing it at the wall, causing a large square to disappear.

“A squareness gun!” the Doctor exclaimed.

“You don’t know Jack do you?” Rose asked.

“Do I know Jack,” River smirked before becoming serious again and yelling, “Everybody out. Go, go, go. Move it. Move, move. Move it. Move, move.”

They ran through the library until they were satisfied that they had lost the suited swarm. Everyone except River, Rose, and the Doctor were lying on the ground, trying to catch their breaths. The Doctor had piled up some books and was standing on them as he tried to sonic one of the lights. “Trying to boost the power. Light doesn't stop them, but it slows them down.”

“So what’s the plan?” River asked, holding up her screwdriver to help. She thought better of her question and shook her head. “Do we have a plan?”

“Your screwdriver looks like mine,” the Doctor said.

“Yeah,” River replied, as though talking to a small child. “You gave it to me.”

“I don't give my screwdriver to anyone,” the Doctor replied.

“Well, it’s not yours. It’s mine. You made it for me, and then gave it to me,” River replied.

“I don’t just make people screwdrivers,” the Doctor retorted.

“You do for some people. You made Rose one,” River replied.

“Well, Rose is different,” the Doctor replied.

“And how do you know I’m not different too,” River countered.

“Who are you?” Rose asked.

“What’s the plan, Doctor?”

“I teleported Jenny and Donna back to the TARDIS. Jenny should have flown it to us. She’d be able to find us, even after we’ve moved,” the Doctor replied.

“But?” River asked.

“How do you know there’s a but?” he asked.

“Because I know you,” she replied. Rose shrugged in agreement.

“They’re not there. I should have received a signal. The console signals me if there's a teleport breach,” the Doctor replied.

“And I’d know if my daughter was in the TARDIS. That’s the sort of relationship we have,” Rose said.

“Well, maybe the coordinates have slipped. The equipment here's ancient,” River sighed.

The Doctor ran over to a node. “Donna Noble and Jenny Tyler. There should be a Donna Noble and Jenny Tyler somewhere in this library. Do you have the software to locate their position?”

The node turns its head to show Jenny’s face. “Donna Noble and Jenny Tyler have left the library. Donna Noble and Jenny Tyler have been saved.”

Rose gasped and grabbed the Doctor’s arm as it repeated those two sentences over and over.

River grabbed Rose’s hand. “How can it be Jenny? How is that possible?”

The Doctor reached up a hand to trace his daughter’s face as the suited swarm appeared at the end of the stack they were hiding in. “Doctor, we have to go!” Rose yelled. “We can’t save her if we get eaten!”

They all took off running until their little group was cornered between a dark set of shadows and the swarm in a suit.

Chapter Text

River hit another wall with her squareness gun, and the group followed her into the room. “OK, we've got a clear spot. In, in, in! Right in the centre. In the middle of the light, quickly. Don't let your shadows cross. Doctor,” she said, looking at him as he crouched on the floor, trying to scan the shadows.

“I’m doing it,” he huffed.

“There’s no lights here. Sunset’s coming. We can’t stay long. Have you found a live one?” River asked.

“Maybe. It's getting harder to tell,” he said before whispering to his sonic, “What's wrong with you?”

“Do you want to use mine?” Rose asked.

“No good, yours is the same as mine. If mine won’t work, neither will yours,” he said.

“We're going to need a chicken leg. Who's got a chicken leg?” River asked. Other Dave pulled one out and handed to her, and she immediately tossed it into the shadow. “Thanks, Dave. Okay. Okay, we've got a hot one. Watch your feet.”

“They won't attack until there's enough of them. But they've got our scent now. They're coming,” the Doctor said, pacing around the room.

“Oh, yeah, who is he? You haven't even told us. You just expect us to trust him?” Other Dave asked River.

“He’s the Doctor,” she replied.

“And who is the Doctor?” Lux asked.

“The only story you’ll ever tell, if you survive him,” River shrugged.

“You say he's your friend, but he doesn't even know who you are,” Anita argued.

“Listen, all you need to know is this. I'd trust that man to the end of the universe. And actually, he’s been,” River laughed.

“He doesn’t act like he trusts you. And who is she? Do you even know her?” Anita said.

“There’s a little problem. They’re time travellers. So am I. This is a little out of order. He hasn’t even met me yet.”

“And her?”

“I’m working really hard to avoid spoilers that could unravel the entire universe here. Just trust me when I say it’s safest not to ask me about her,” River sighed, looking at Rose.

Rose had been watching River this whole time. When River looked at her, she almost thought she saw recognition in her eyes, but the other woman looked away so quickly Rose couldn’t tell. River was definitely hiding something, but Rose wasn’t sure what. Trying to cover up the awkwardness of Rose overhearing her conversation, River leapt to her feet and dashed over to the Doctor. “What’s wrong with it?”

“There’s a signal coming from somewhere, interfering with it,” he grumbled.

River sighed in relief. Rose might have overheard her, but the Doctor was single minded enough that he wasn’t paying her any attention. “Use the red settings,” she suggested.

“It doesn’t have a red setting,” he argued.

“Well, use the dampers.”

“It doesn’t have dampers,” he growled.

“It will do one day,” River taunted.

The Doctor took River’s screwdriver in his hands and turned it over. “So, some time in the future, I just give you my screwdriver?”

“Yeah,” River shrugged.

“Why would I do that?”

“I didn't pluck it from your cold dead hands, if that's what you're worried about,” River snorted.

“And I know that because?”

“Listen to me. Jenny’s missing, and so is Donna. You’re angry, and I understand. But they’re going to be fine. And you need to be less emotional, Doctor, right now,” River said.

“How do you know they’ll be fine? How do you know anything?” he growled.

“Because your future is my past. And Jenny is a part of that. And I haven’t noticed any sort of time ripple signalling that my past is changing. So we’re going to get her back. And if we get Jenny back, then we’ll get Donna back too. But you need to focus. Because there are six people in this room that are trying to stay alive. Focus on that. Dear God, you're hard work young,” River muttered.

“Young? Who are you?” he asked.

“Oh, for heaven's sake! Look at the pair of you. We're all going to die right here, and you're just squabbling like an old married couple,” Lux huffed from behind them.

River’s face screwed up in disgust. “Please never say that again Mr. Lux.” She turned to the Doctor and sighed. “Doctor, one day I'm going to be someone that you trust completely, but I can't wait for you to find that out. So I'm going to prove it to you. And I'm sorry. I'm really very sorry.”

River leaned forward and whispered something in the Doctor’s ear. It was just one word, but it caused him to leap backwards and glance quickly between River and Rose in a panic. Rose felt the Doctor’s walls fly up. Whatever River had told him, he didn’t want her to know.

“Doctor. I know it’s a lot to take in. Especially for where you are in your time stream. And it’s more complicated than it seems, but are we good?”

“More complicated than it seems? There’s only one scenario in which I would—where you would—”

“One scenario that you can think of right now. But you trust me. I’m family,” River insisted. “So, are we good? At least for right now?”

The Doctor closed his eyes and took a deep, steadying breath. “Yeah, we’re good.”

“Good,” River smiled, taking her screwdriver back and stepping away from him.

“Know what's interesting about my screwdriver? Very hard to interfere with. Practically nothing's strong enough. Well, some hairdryers, but I'm working on that. So there is a very strong signal coming from somewhere, and it wasn't there before. So what's new? What's changed? Come on! What's new? What's different?” the Doctor shouted to the room at large, trying to distract himself from what River had told him.

“I don’t know, nothing. It’s getting dark?” Other Dave asked.

“It's a screwdriver. It works in the dark. Moon rise. Tell me about the moon. What's there?” the Doctor called.

“It's not real. It was built as part of the Library. It's just a Doctor Moon,” Lux said.

“What’s a Doctor Moon?” Rose asked.

“A virus checker. It supports and maintains the main computer at the core of the planet,” Lux explained.

“Well, still active. It's signalling. Look. Someone somewhere in this library is alive and communicating with the moon. Or, possibly alive and drying their hair,” The Doctor muttered as he continued to adjust the settings on his screwdriver. “No, the signal is definitely coming from the moon. I'm blocking it, but it's trying to break through.”

Suddenly, River jumped as a hologram of Donna appeared in the middle of the room. “Doctor!” River exclaimed, and the Doctor spun around to see what she was looking at.

“Donna!” Rose and the Doctor yelled in unison before they both disappeared.

“That was her. That was Donna! Can you get her back? What was that?” River rambled, radiating something between nervousness and excitement.

“Hold on, hold on, hold on. I'm trying to find the wavelength. Argh, I'm being blocked,” the Doctor grumbled.

“Professor?” Anita called from behind them.

“Just a moment,” River replied, her focus still on the Doctor.

“It's important. I have two shadows,” Anita said, her voice shaking.

“Okay. Helmets on, everyone. Anita, I'll get yours,” River said, walking slowly and carefully around the room to get Anita’s helmet and tossing it to her.

“It didn’t do Proper Dave any good,” Anita moaned.

“Just keep it together, okay?” River said.

“Keeping it together. I'm only crying. I'm about to die. It's not an overreaction,” Anita retorted.

“Hang on,” the Doctor said once Anita had her helmet on. The Doctor pointed his sonic at it and the visor went black.

“Oh God, they’ve got inside,” River exclaimed.

“No, no, no. I just tinted her visor. Maybe they'll think they're already in there, leave her alone,” the Doctor suggested.

“Do you think they can be fooled like that?” River asked.

“Maybe. I don't know. It's a swarm. It's not like we chat,” he shrugged.

“Can you still see in there?” Other Dave asked.

“Just about,” Anita replied.

“Just, just, just stay back. Professor, Rose, a quick word, please,” the Doctor said, stepping to the side of the room, as far as he could get from the others without leaving the light.

“What?” River asked.

“Down here,” he said, crouching behind a desk, pulling Rose down with him, gripping her hand as though he was worried he’d lose her if he let go.

“What is it? What’s wrong Doctor?” Rose asked.

“Look, you said there are six people still alive in this room,” the Doctor said.

“Yeah, so?” River asked.

“Then why are there seven people?” Rose gasped, looking around the room quickly.

“Hey, who turned out the lights?” the suited swarm called.

“Run!” the Doctor yelled, taking Rose’s hand and dragging her out of the room.

“Hey, who turned out the lights?” the swarm called as it staggered after them.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“You’ve done so much in seven years, Donna,” Doctor Moon said as he idly flipped through the photo albums on the coffee table.

“Sometimes it feels more like seventy,” Donna chuckled. “Mind you, sometimes it feels like no time at all.”

“Can I just say what a pleasure it is to see you fully integrated?” Doctor Moon smiled before he faded out of existence like a computer glitch.

“No, the signal's definitely coming from the moon. I'm blocking it, but it's trying to break through. Donna!” the Doctor exclaimed, appearing where Doctor Moon had been just moments before. But just as quickly as he had appeared, he was again replaced by Doctor Moon.

“Sorry. Mrs Angelo's rhubarb surprise. Will I never learn?” Doctor Moon chuckled.

“Oh, the Doctor. I saw the Doctor,” Donna gasped.

“Yes, you did, Donna. And then, you forgot,” Doctor Moon smiled.

The look of confusion on Donna’s face was replaced with a soft smile. “Doctor Moon. Oh, hello. Shall I make you a cup of tea?”

“That would be lovely,” he smiled.

When Donna returned to the room, however, Doctor Moon was nowhere to be seen. Her daughter was sitting on the floor with some kind of Play-Doh, making a little humanoid figure. “Mummy, I made you!”

“Oh, that’s nice, Ella. Where’s the face?” Donna asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Did you see Doctor Moon? Did he leave?”

Before Ella had a chance to answer, Donna’s husband Lee walked in, just home from work. “Daddy!” both children exclaimed, rushing up to give their father a hug.

“Hey! Hello, you two. Come here. Big hugs. Big Daddy hugs,” Lee grinned.

“Look what I made,” Ella said, holding up her doll.

“Oh, it’s Mummy,” Lee smiled.

“Er, it hasn't got a face. Did you see Doctor Moon?” Donna asked.

“No. Why, was he here?” Lee asked.

“Yeah, just a second ago. You must have passed him…” Donna’s voice tapered off as she looked outside to see a woman in a black Victorian dress walking away.

“You alright?” Lee asked.

“Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. It's just…”

“Just?”

“Nothing. It's been a long day, that's all. I'm just tired,” Donna replied.

Suddenly, Donna was laying in bed with Lee. “You okay?” he asked at the puzzled look on her face.

“I said I was tired, and, and we put the kids to bed, and we watched television,” Donna insisted, as though trying to convince herself that those things had happened. Suddenly, there was a sound downstairs. “Was that a letter?”

“It’s midnight,” Lee insisted.

“Go and see what it is,” Donna insisted.

Lee left and Donna looked out the window. Standing in front of her house was the woman from earlier. Donna could now see that the woman was wearing a dark veil in addition to her Victorian dress. Donna was still standing at the window when Lee got back.

“The world is wrong,” he said.

“What?” Donna exclaimed.

“For you. Weird, though. Dear Donna, the world is wrong. Meet me at your usual playpark, two o'clock tomorrow,” Lee read.

Donna glanced out the window to see the woman walking away. “Nutter,” she whispered even as she decided she would go check it out.

As soon as she had decided to go, Donna found herself at the park with her kids. The woman was sitting on a bench with a girl that Donna immediately recognized. “All right, you two, off you go. No fighting,” she said to her kids, not taking her eyes off the blonde girl.

“Aunt Donna!” Jenny exclaimed, throwing her arms around Donna’s neck as soon as the kids were gone.

“Jenny? What? Where have you been?” Donna asked.

“In and out of the hospital,” Jenny shrugged. “Doctor Moon keeps finding me, so I don’t know how long we have.”

“Doctor Moon keeps finding you? Why would he have to do that? Are you alright?” Donna asked.

“Come sit down and we’ll explain everything,” the woman in black said.

“I got your note last night,” Donna said, sitting next to Jenny.

“No, you didn’t,” the woman replied calmly.

“I’m sorry, what?” Donna asked.

“You didn’t get the note last night,” Jenny explained. “You got it a few seconds ago. But as soon as you decided you were going to come, you showed up here. That’s how time works. More like a dream than reality.”

“You’ve suspected that before, haven’t you, Donna Noble?” the woman in black asked.

“How do you know me?” Donna asked the woman.

“We met before, in the library. You were kind to me. I hope now to return that kindness,” the woman said.

“Your voice. I recognise it,” Donna whispered, trying to figure out how she knew it. It wasn’t immediate recognition like Jenny, but then again, she had known Jenny since the girl was born.

“Yes, you do. I am what is left of Miss Evangelista,” the woman said. “I suggested we meet here because a playground is the easiest place to see it. To see the lie.”

“What lie?” Donna asked.

“The children. Look at the children,” Evangelista said, but Donna ignored her. Some part of her knew she wasn’t going to like what she saw.

“Why do you wear that veil? If I had a face like yours, I wouldn't hide it,” Donna said instead, trying to change the subject.

“Aunt Donna,” Jenny said. “Please, look at the children.”

“It’s alright, Jenny,” Evangelista said before turning back to Donna. “You remember my face, then? The memories are all still there. The library, the Doctor, me. You've just been programmed not to look.”

“Sorry, but you’re dead,” Donna said.

“In a way, we're all dead here, Donna. We are the dead of the library,” Evangelista replied.

“Well, what about the children? The children aren't dead. My children aren't dead,” Donna argued.

“Your children were never alive,” Evangelista countered.

“Don't you say that. Don't you dare say that about my children!” Donna roared, jumping to her feet.

Jenny jumped up as well and ran to give Donna a hug. “I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.”

“Look at your children. Look at all of them, really look,” Evangelista said, and Donna pulled away from Jenny to look. There were only the same two children everywhere. Just copies upon copies of Ella and Joshua. “They're not real. Do you see it now? They're all the same. All the children of this world, the same boy and the same girl, over and over again.”

“Stop it. Just stop it. Why are you doing this? Why are you wearing that veil?” Donna asked, ripping it off. Underneath, her face was stretched and skewed in a horribly unnatural way.

“What happened to your face?” Donna asked.

“Transcription errors. Destroyed my face, did wonders for my intellect. I'm a very poor copy of myself,” Evangelista replied with a shrug.

“Where are we? Why are the children all the same?” Donna asked.

“The same pattern over and over. It saves an awful lot of space,” Evangelista said.

“Space?” Donna asked, puzzled.

“Cyber space,” Jenny replied. “We’ve been saved to the library’s computer. Something about the teleport.”

“Your physical self is stored in the library as an energy signature. It can be actualised again whenever you or the library requires,” Evangelista added.

“The library? If my face ends up on one of those statues…”

“You remember the statues?” Evangelista asked.

“Wait, no, just hang on. So this isn't the real me? This isn't my real body? But I've been dieting,” Donna moaned.

“What you see around you, this entire world, is nothing more than virtual reality,” Evangelista explained.

“So why do you look like that?” Donna asked.

“I had no choice. You teleported. You're a perfect reproduction. I was just a data ghost caught in the Wi-Fi and automatically uploaded.”

“And it made you clever?”

“We're only strings of numbers in here. I think a decimal point may have shifted in my IQ. But my face has been the bigger advantage. I have the two qualities you require to see absolute truth. I am brilliant and unloved,” Evangelista said.

“If this is all a dream, whose dream is it?” Donna asked.

“It's hard to see everything in the data core, even for me, but there is a word. Just one word. Cal,” Evangelista replied.

“But whoever’s dream it is doesn’t want us finding out. They send Doctor Moon after me every time I get out. I last longer with Evangelista, but he always finds me anyway. Wants me to forget about Mom and Dad. Even tried to convince me that I had other parents. That didn’t go over well though,” Jenny sighed, her face going dark as she remembered being introduced to a nice, older couple who thought Jenny was their teenage daughter with schizophrenia. She felt a little bad for yelling at them, but no one could replace her parents, and she wouldn’t take easily to anyone trying. Doctor Moon hadn’t tried that trick again.

Before Donna could reply, Ella fell off a swing and yelled, “Mummy, my knee!”

Donna rushed over to Ella and leaned down next to her to look at her scraped up knee. “Oh! Oh, look at that knee. Oh, look at that silly old knee!”

“She's not real. They're fictions. I'm sorry, but now that you understand that, you won't be able to keep a hold. They are sustained only by your belief,” Evangelista said.

“You don’t know that. You don’t have children,” Donna argued.

“Neither do you,” Jenny whispered.

“Donna, for your own sake, let them go!” Evangelista exclaimed as Donna grabbed Ella and Joshua by the hands and started dragging them away.

“Mummy, what did the lady mean? Are we not real?” Ella asked.

“Where are we going?” Joshua added.

“Home!” Donna huffed, ignoring Jenny and Evangelista trying to argue with her.

As soon as she had said the word, the three of them were back in their home. Everything has a slightly red tint to it and there was an alarm blaring. “That was quick, wasn’t it Mummy?” Joshua said.

“Mummy what’s wrong with the sky?” Ella asked, looking out the window.

Donna was still holding both her children’s hands as she drug them over to sit on the couch. “Mummy, you’re hurting my hand,” Joshua whined.

She let go and pulled them both into a tight embrace. “You just, you just stay where I can see you, all right? You, you don't get out of my sight.”

“Is it bedtime?” Ella asked.

Suddenly, they were in the children’s bedroom, and both children were tucked up in bed. Trying to ignore the mounting panic she felt as she understood exactly how that had happened, she said to the children, “Okay. That was lovely, wasn't it? That was a lovely bedtime. We had warm milk, and we watched cartoons, and then Mummy read you a lovely bedtime story.”

“Mummy, Joshua and me, we're not real, are we?” Ella asked.

“Of course you're real. You're as real as anything. Why do you say that?” Donna asked.

“But, Mummy, sometimes, when you're not here, it's like we're not here,” Joshua chimed in.

“Even when you close your eyes, we just stop,” Ella added.

“Well, Mummy promises to never close her eyes again,” Donna said, turning away for just a moment. When she looked back, both children were gone. “No! Please! No, please! No! No, no! No, no!”

She rushed down the stairs in a panic. Lee was waiting at the bottom. “Donna? What's happening?”

“I don't know, but it's not real. Nothing here's real. The whole world, everything. None of it's real,” Donna sobbed, grabbing onto her husband.

“Am I real?” Lee asked.

Everything around them started to blur as an intense white light washed over everything. “Of course you're real. I know you're real. Oh God, oh God, I hope you're real,” Donna said. Then Lee started to be pulled into the light, away from Donna. She reached out for him and yelled, “I'll find you. I promise you, I'll find you!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

The group were running through a walkway to just another one of the library’s many buildings. The Doctor stopped. “Professor, Rose, go ahead. Find a safe spot.”

“It's a carnivorous swarm in a suit. You can't reason with it,” River argued.

“And I’m not leaving you,” Rose added. “We’re in this together.”

“Please, Rose. It could be dangerous. And I just need five minutes,” the Doctor said.

“Go on, River. Get everybody somewhere safe. We’ll be right behind you,” Rose said.

River hesitated as she looked at Rose, but she finally nodded and started backing away. As she left, she pointed at them and said, “Two minutes and I better see you all! Rose, I trust you to get him out when he’s too stupid to live.”

The suited swarm burst through the doors just as River and the others left. “Hey, who turned out the lights?”

“You hear that? Those words? That is the very last thought of the man who wore that suit before you climbed inside and stripped his flesh. That's a man's soul trapped inside a neural relay, going round and round forever. Now, if you don't have the decency to let him go, how about this? Use him. Talk to me. It's easy. Neural relay. Just point and think. Use him, talk to me,” the Doctor ordered.

“Hey, who turned out the lights?” the swarm repeated.

Rose grabbed the Doctor’s hand. “We should go, Doctor.”

He shook his head, still not taking his eyes off the suited swarm as it slowly stepped closer. “You came to the library to hunt. Why? Just tell me why?”

“We did not,” the swarm answered, using Proper Dave’s voice.

“Oh, hello,” the Doctor replied.

“We did not,” it repeated.

“Take it easy, you'll get the hang of it. Did not what?” the Doctor encouraged.

“We did not come here,” the swarm said.

“Well, of course you did. Of course you came here,” the Doctor protested.

“We come from here.”

“From here?” the Doctor asked. Rose tightened her grip on his hand. The door behind them, the one River had left through, was now completely obscured by shadows.

“We hatched here.”

“But you hatch from trees. From spores in trees,” the Doctor argued.

“These are our forests.”

“You’re nowhere near a forest,” the Doctor said.

“These are our forests,” the suited swarm repeated.

“You're not in a forest, you're in a library. There are no trees in a—” the Doctor stopped as realization dawned on him. He finished quietly, “library…”

“Doctor, we can’t go behind us. They’re covering the door,” Rose whispered.

“Books. You came in the books. Microspores in a million, million books!” the Doctor exclaimed, squeezing Rose’s hand to let her know he understood. “Oh, look at that. The forests of the Vashta Nerada, pulped and printed and bound. A million, million books, hatching shadows.”

Doctor!” Rose hissed over their bond as she watched the shadows creep closer and closer to them.

“Thing about me, I'm stupid. I talk too much. Always babbling on. This gob doesn't stop for anything. Want to know the only reason I'm still alive? Always stay near the door,” the Doctor said before sonicing a trap door in the floor beneath them. He and Rose clung to the support structs as they swung their way across.

Eventually, they made it to where River and the rest of the group were. River was pacing back and forth nervously, chewing on her thumbnail. When Rose and the Doctor walked in, River threw her arms around both of them. She seemed to realize her mistake when they both tensed, and she pulled away quickly, moving to the other side of the room. The Doctor went to work on checking out Anita, who still had two shadows. Rose and River hung out on the other side of the room.

“You know, it’s funny. I keep wishing the Doctor was here,” River said quietly.

“He is here, River,” Rose replied.

“Yes and no,” River sighed. “You know when you see a photograph of someone you know, but it's from years before you knew them. and it's like they're not quite finished. They're not done yet. Well, yes, the Doctor's here. He came when I called, just like he always does. But not my Doctor. It’s like if you were expecting him, but instead ol’ Big Ears showed up instead. It’s still him, but it’s not right. It’s like there’s something missing.”

Rose started to nod for a second before she said, “Wait, how do you know this isn’t my first Doctor?”

River paled a little. “Um, spoilers?”

“Come on. Half the time you act like you don’t know me, then the other half you act like you’ve known me all your life,” Rose said.

“There’s a lot that happens for him between where you are and where I am. Things he can’t know about. But I know them all. I wish I could tell you, but I can’t,” River sighed.

“Okay,” Rose sighed.

“You’ll just drop it?” River asked uncertainly.

“Normally, I wouldn’t. But I have a feeling that you won’t tell me anything good. And as long as I don’t know the future, it can still change. Maybe you and I can actually be friends,” Rose shrugged.

“Yeah, maybe,” River smiled.

Before either of the women could say anything else, the Doctor yelled, “Safe!”

“What?” Anita asked him.

“Safe. You don't say saved. Nobody says saved. You say safe. The data fragment! What did it say?”

“Four thousand and twenty-two people saved. No survivors,” Lux repeated, confused.

“Doctor?” River asked.

“Nobody says saved. Nutters say saved. You say safe. You see, it didn't mean safe. It meant, it literally meant, saved!” The Doctor exclaimed, bounding over to a terminal where he pulled up an archive file from the day everyone went missing. “See, there it is, right there. A hundred years ago, massive power surge. All the teleports going at once. Soon as the Vashta Nerada hit their hatching cycle, they attack. Someone hits the alarm. The computer tries to teleport everyone out.”

“It tried to teleport four thousand twenty-two people?” River asked.

“It succeeded. Pulled them all out, but then what? Nowhere to send them. Nowhere safe in the whole library. Vashta Nerada growing in every shadow. Four thousand and twenty-two people all beamed up and nowhere to go. They're stuck in the system, waiting to be sent, like emails. So what's a computer to do? What does a computer always do?” The Doctor asked.

“It saved them,” Rose replied breathlessly, grinning at her fiancé.

“The library. A whole world of books, and right at the core, the biggest hard drive in history. The index to everything ever written, backup copies of every single book. The computer saved four thousand and twenty-two people the only way a computer can. It saved them to the hard drive.”

Overhead, an alarm started blaring. “What is it? What’s wrong?” Lux asked.

“Autodestruct enabled in twenty minutes,” the computer replied.

“What’s maximum erasure?” River asked, looking at the error message on the screen.

“In twenty minutes, this planet's going to crack like an egg,” the Doctor replied.

“No. No, it's all right. The Doctor Moon will stop it. It's programmed to protect CAL,” Lux argued.

Right as he said that, the terminal they were working on went blank. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” the Doctor yelled, hitting the side of the screen.

A voice overhead declared, “All library systems are permanently offline. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

“We need to stop this. We’ve got to save CAL,” Lux exclaimed.

“What is it? What’s CAL?” the Doctor asked.

“We need to get to the main computer. I’ll show you,” Lux said.

“It’s at the core of the planet,” the Doctor said.

“Well, then. Let's go,” River said, pointing her screwdriver at the library’s logo in the middle of the room It slowly opened to show a beam of light. “Gravity platform.”

“Oh, I can see why he likes you,” Rose grinned. River just shrugged and grinned right back.

The Doctor, Rose, River, Lux, Anita, and Other Dave all jumped onto the gravity platform and descended to the Data core. There was a giant globe in the centre of the room surrounded by a glowing energy. Ignoring the computer’s warning of autodestruct in 15 minutes, the Doctor stared in awe at it. “he data core. Over four thousand living minds trapped inside it.”

“If we want them to stay alive, we better get moving, Doctor,” Rose suggested.

The Doctor found an access terminal as a little girl’s voice said, “Help me. Please, help me.”

“What’s that?” Anita asked.

“Was that a child?” River gasped.

“The computer's in sleep mode. I can't wake it up. I'm trying,” the Doctor said, typing furiously.

River was scanning the data core and she said, “Doctor, these readings…”

“I know. You’d think it was dreaming…”

“It is dreaming, of a normal life, and a lovely Dad, and of every book ever written,” Lux whispered gently.

“Computers don’t dream,” Anita argued.

Lux pulled a lever and a door opened as he said, “No, but little girls do.”

Inside the room there was another node. This one had the face of the little girl that was in the computer. “Please help me. Please help me,” it begged.

“Oh my God,” River gasped.

“It's the little girl. The girl we saw in the computer,” Anita said.

“She's not in the computer. In a way, she is the computer. The main command node. This is CAL,” Lux explained.

“CAL is a child? A child hooked up to a mainframe? Why didn't you tell me this? I needed to know this!” the Doctor exclaimed.

“Because she's family! CAL. Charlotte Abigail Lux. My grandfather's youngest daughter. She was dying, so he built her a library and put her living mind inside, with a moon to watch over her, and all of human history to pass the time. Any era to live in, any book to read. She loved books more than anything, and he gave her them all. He asked only that she be left in peace. A secret, not a freak show,” Lux said.

“So you weren’t protecting a patent, you were protecting her,” the Doctor said.

“This is only half a life, of course. But it’s forever,” Lux whispered, staring at Charlotte’s face.

“And then the shadows came,” the Doctor nodded.

“The shadows. I have to. I have to save. Have to save,” CAL mumbled.

“And she saved them. She saved everyone in the library. Folded them into her dreams and kept them safe,” the Doctor smiled.

“Then why didn’t she tell us?” Anita asked.

“Because she's forgotten. She's got over four thousand living minds chatting away inside her head. It must be like being, well, me,” the Doctor chuckled.

“So what do we do?” River asked.

“Easy! We beam all the people out of the data core. The computer will reset and stop the countdown. Difficult. Charlotte doesn't have enough memory space left to make the transfer. Easy! I'll hook myself up to the computer. She can borrow my memory space,” the Doctor explained.

“Difficult. It’ll kill you stone dead,” River argued.

“Yeah, it’s easy to criticize,” the Doctor muttered.

“It'll burn out both your hearts and don't think you'll regenerate,” River said.

“I’ll try my hardest not to die. Honestly, it’s my main thing,” he said.

“No, you’re not doing it,” Rose said. “You have a finite number of lives. I don’t. I’ll do it.”

“No, Rose. We don’t know that you’ll always come back. And something like this…”

“She’s my daughter too,” Rose said before collapsing to the ground.

The Doctor stared in shock at River who was still holding a blaster. River put it away. “She’ll be fine. Something like this won’t keep her down long. And you weren’t going to be able to stop her if she was up and kicking. You and I both know that.”
The Doctor stared in horror at her, but the computer announcing that there were only eight minutes remaining gave him enough of a boost to ignore it for now. “Shut up. Now listen. You, Other Dave, and Luxy boy, back up to the main library. Prime any data cells you can find for maximum download, and before you say anything else, Professor, can I just mention in passing as you're here, shut up and never, never, pull a stunt like that again.”

“Who said you didn’t tell me to?” River shot back before rushing out of the room with Lux and Other Dave.

“What about the Vashta Nerada?” Anita asked.

“These are their forests. I'm going to seal Charlotte inside her little world, take everybody else away. The shadows can swarm to their hearts' content,” the Doctor shrugged.

“So you think they're just going to let us go?” Anita asked.

“Best offer they’re going to get,” the Doctor replied.

“You're going to make 'em an offer?” she asked.

“They'd better take it, because right now, I'm finding it very hard to make any kind of offer at all. You know what? I really liked Anita. She was brave, even when she was crying. And she never gave in. And you ate her,” the Doctor said, pointing his sonic at her to clear the visor and reveal a skull. “But I'm going to let that pass, just as long as you let them pass.”

“How long have you known?” The suited swarm that used to be Anita asked.

“I counted the shadows. You only have one now. She's nearly gone. Be kind,” the Doctor replied.

“These are our forests. We are not kind,” the swarm said.

“I'm giving you back your forests, but you are giving me them. You are letting them go,” the Doctor instructed.

“These are our forests. They are our meat,” the swarm said, stretching an arm toward the Doctor and sending shadows toward him.

“Don't play games with me. You just killed someone I liked. That is not a safe place to stand. Especially considering that my impulse control is currently lying dead at my feet. I’m not exactly in a forgiving mood. I'm the Doctor, and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up.”

There was a pause, and then the shadows began to withdraw. “You have one day,” the swarm said before allowing the suit to collapse.

“Oh Anita,” River sighed from the doorway.

“I'm sorry. She's been dead a while now. But I told you to go!” the Doctor said.

“Lux and Other Dave can manage without me, but you can’t,” River sighed before punching the Doctor hard in the face.

**********************************************************************************************************************

When the Doctor woke up, he was handcuffed to a pipe. Rose was now propped up next to him, but she still hadn’t come back, so it couldn’t have been long that he was unconscious. He looked over to see River adjusting some wires. “Oh, no, no, no, no. Come on, what are you doing? That's my job.”

“Oh, and I'm not allowed to have a career, I suppose?” River asked, raising a brow at him.

“Why am I handcuffed? Why do you even have handcuffs?” The Doctor asked, straining against them.

“Spoilers,” she said with a wink.

“This is not a joke. Stop this now. This is going to kill you! I'd have a chance, you don't have any,” the Doctor said.

“You wouldn't have a chance, and neither do I. I'm timing it for the end of the countdown. There'll be a blip in the command flow. That way it should improve our chances of a clean download,” River said calmly.

“River, please, no,” the Doctor begged.

“Please, Doctor. Trust that I know what I’m doing. I’ve known since I was a little girl that I was going to jump around your timeline. You’ve always known about things I’ve done, or will do. Which means you’ve always known about this. So this is supposed to happen. I trust you. The future you. The one that I saw just yesterday, who knew exactly where I was coming. There’s nothing you can do,” River said. “Just trust me like I’ve always trusted you.”

“You could let me do this,” the Doctor whispered.

“If you die here, it'll mean I've never met you,” River said.

“Time can be rewritten,” he replied.

“Not those times. Not one line. Don't you dare. It's okay. It's okay. It's not over for you. You'll see me again. You've got all of that to come. You and me and Jenny and--and a whole lot of other people. Time and space. You watch us run,” River smiled.

“River, you know my name,” the Doctor said, ignoring the computer as it started to count down from ten. “You whispered my name in my ear. There's only one reason I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could. It was supposed to only be Rose. I can’t pretend to know why it was you too…”

“In your own words from earlier, ‘Shut up,’” River said. “It’s not always what it seems, Doctor.”

“But—”

“Spoilers,” She said with a grin before connecting the two cables.

There was a blinding light right as Rose regained consciousness and River died. Rose immediately grabbed the Doctor’s sonic from where it sat at River’s feet and used it to unlock the handcuffs. She jumped up and tried to check River’s pulse, but she was gone.

“What happened?” Rose asked.

“River shot you so you wouldn’t do it, then she knocked me out and did it herself,” he whispered.

Rose looked at River. “There’s no data ghost.”

The Doctor’s head shot up and he fumbled for River’s screwdriver, opening it to reveal—nothing… He had hoped that future him would have left a way to at least save part of River. Upload her into the computer to stay with Charlotte. But apparently not.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Any luck?” Rose asked Donna as she stared at the computer.

“There wasn't even anyone called Lee in the library that day. I suppose he could have had a different name out here, but, let's be honest, he wasn't real, was he?” she sighed.

“Maybe not,” Rose said, giving her friend a hug. “I’m sorry, Donna.”

“I made up the perfect man. Gorgeous, adores me, and hardly able to speak a word. What's that say about me?” Donna asked.

“That you’ve dated some real jerks that didn’t deserve you,” Rose replied. “But I believe you’ll find the right man for you one of these days. We do have all of time and space, after all.”

At that point, the Doctor and Jenny joined them. They no longer had River’s diary. The Doctor had decided that he didn’t want spoilers after all. “How are you?” Donna asked him.

“I’m always alright,” he shrugged.

“Is all right special Time Lord code for really not alright at all?” Donna asked.

“Why?” he replied.

“Because I’m all right too,” she said.

“Come on,” Rose said, wrapping an arm around her daughter. “Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

“Doctor,” Rose sighed.

“What?” he asked innocently, even though he was avoiding her eyes as he dashed around the TARDIS.

“It’s been three weeks and you still haven’t told me what she said.”

“What who said?” he replied.

“River. And don’t say it was nothing, or that it doesn’t affect me. You haven’t been able to look me in the eye since the Library. So just tell me. We can figure this out together,” Rose pleaded.

“I can’t. I-I’m sorry Rose. If I say it, it becomes a fixed point. A time loop we’re headed for,” he replied.

“But you already know it. She already said it. So isn’t it too late for that?” Rose asked.

Before he could answer, he was saved by Jenny and Donna entering the console room. “So spaceman, where are we off to today?” Donna asked.

“No idea,” he grinned, throwing the randomizer and the dematerialization lever. As soon as they stopped, he ran out the doors. “Oh, smell that air. Grass and lemonade. And a little bit of mint. A hint of mint. Must be the nineteen twenties.”

“You can tell what year it is just by smelling?” Donna asked.

“Oh yeah,” he grinned.

“Or maybe that big vintage car coming up the drive gave it away,” Donna smirked.

They all watched as the butler gave the professor and the vicar instructions about the party that afternoon. Rose could practically feel Jenny vibrating with excitement. She just loved crashing parties. Donna too seemed thrilled at the idea as she whispered, “Never mind Planet Zog. A party in the nineteen twenties, that's more like it.”

“The trouble is, we haven't been invited,” The Doctor sighed. Then he grinned wildly and pulled the psychic paper out of his pocket and waved it about. “Oh, I forgot. Yes, we have.”

Half an hour later, the Doctor knocked on the TARDIS door. “We’ll be late for cocktails,” he called.

Donna stepped out in a black and gold beaded dress. “What do you think? Flapper or slapper?”

“Flapper. You look lovely,” the Doctor said.

Jenny stepped out a few moments later in a soft, pink dress. As she adjusted her little hat, she turned to the Doctor and said, “What do you think, Daddy?”

“It’s perfect sweetheart,” he grinned. “But where’s your mum?”

“Right here,” Rose said, stepping out in an asymmetrical, rose coloured dress. The Doctor just stared at her with his mouth open and she grinned, glad to have been able to distract him from whatever River said. She slipped one gloved arm through the crook of his elbow and said, “Come on. I think someone said something about cocktails.”

As they walked up to the lawn, they heard a short Indian woman say to a footman, “Look sharp. We have guests.”

“Good afternoon,” the Doctor said.

“Drinks, sir? Ladies?”

“Sidecar, please,” Donna said.

“Lime and soda, thank you,” the Doctor said.

“A south side for me, please,” Jenny said.

“I’ll have a Mary Pickford, thank you,” Rose said, grinning at the footman.

“May I announce Lady Clemency Eddison,” the butler called across the lawn as an older woman walked across the lawn toward them all.

“Lady Eddison,” the Doctor said with a small bow.

“Forgive me, but who exactly might you be, and what are you doing here?” she asked.

“I’m the Doctor, this is my wife, Mrs. Rose Tyler, my sister, Miss Jenny Tyler, and our dear friend Miss Donna Noble, of the Chiswick Nobles,” he explained.

Sensing that Donna was about to do something over the top, Rose bobbed a small curtsey and simply said, “Good afternoon, my lady. It’s a pleasure.”

The Doctor pulled out the psychic paper and showed it to her. “We were thrilled to receive your invitation, my lady. We met at the Ambassador's reception.”

“Doctor, how could I forget you? But one must be sure with the Unicorn on the loose,” Lady Eddison whispered conspiratorially.

“A unicorn? Brilliant. Where?” the Doctor gasped, looking around.

“Doctor,” Rose chided him good naturedly. “I’m sorry about him. Always has to make jokes. But I’m afraid we’ve been abroad recently. What is the unicorn?”

“The Unicorn. The jewel thief? Nobody knows who he is. He's just struck again. Snatched Lady Babbington's pearls right from under her nose,” Lady Eddison explained.

“Funny place to wear pearls,” Donna muttered.

Lady Eddison was spared from having to respond to that by the butler announcing the presence of a young man pushing an older man in a wheelchair. “May I announce Colonel Hugh Curbishley, the Honourable Roger Curbishley.”

“My husband, and my son,” Lady Eddison said by way of introduction.

“Forgive me for not rising. Never been the same ever since that flu epidemic back in eighteen,” the colonel said.

“My word, you are super ladies,” Roger said, glancing quickly at the three women.

“Oh, I like the cut of your jib. Chin, chin,” Donna said.

The Doctor sighed, but just extended a hand toward Roger. “Hello, I’m the Doctor. This is my wife, Rose, sister Jenny, and friend Donna.”

“How do you do?” Roger replied.

“Very well,” the Doctor replied.

“Your usual, sir?” the footman said to Roger, handing him a drink.

As the family moved on to greet other guests, Roger could be heard saying, “Ah. Thank you, Davenport. Just how I like it.”

“How come she's an Eddison, but her husband and son are Curbishleys?” Donna whispered.

“The Eddison title descends through her. One day Roger will be a lord,” the Doctor explained.

“Robina Redmond,” the butler announced as a fashionable young lady joined the party.

“She's the absolute hit of the social scene. A must. Miss Redmond,” Lady Eddison exclaimed, greeting the woman.

“Spiffing to meet you at last, my lady. What super fun,” Robina smiled.

“Reverend Arnold Golightly,” the butler called.

“Ah, Reverend. How are you? I heard about the church last Thursday night. Those ruffians breaking in,” Lady Eddison said.

“You apprehended them, I hear,” her husband added, approval clear in his voice.

“As the Christian Fathers taught me, we must forgive them their trespasses. Quite literally,” the Reverend said.

“Some of these young boys deserve a descent thrashing,” Roger huffed.

“Couldn’t agree more, sir,” the footman, Davenport, added quickly.

“Typical. All the decent men are on the other bus,” Donna grumbled.

“Or are taken,” the Doctor said, grinning at Rose. He tried to focus on the present, where he and Rose were together, but his smile grew strained as his mind returned to the task it had been on the past three weeks: trying to figure out what could possibly separate him and Rose and convince him to marry River.

What is it?” Rose asked him telepathically. The Doctor just shook his head in response, unwilling to reply telepathically lest some of his thoughts slip through.

“Now, my lady. What about this special guest you promised us?” Roger said to his mother, oblivious to Donna’s comment.

“Here she is. A lady who needs no introduction,” Lady Eddison said, gesturing to a vaguely embarrassed looking woman.

“No, no, please, don't. Thank you, Lady Eddison. Honestly, there's no need,” the woman said before smiling and saying, “Agatha Christie.”

“What about her?” Donna asked.

“That’s me,” Agatha replied.

“No, you’re kidding!” Donna gasped.

“Agatha Christie. I was just talking about you the other day. I said, I bet she's brilliant. I'm the Doctor. This is my wife Rose, sister Jenny, and friend Donna. Oh, I love your stuff. What a mind. You fool me every time. Well, almost every time. Well, once or twice. Well, once. But it was a good once,” the Doctor rambled.

“You’re a rather unusual couple,” Agatha noted.

“Oh, how so?” the Doctor asked.

“No wedding ring,” Agatha noted, pointing at the Doctor’s hand.

“Oh. Oh, you don’t miss a trick!” the Doctor exclaimed.

Rose rolled her eyes. “Ignore him. He’s trying to get himself out of trouble.”

“How so?” Agatha asked, raising a brow.

“He was tinkering with the car the other day because he can’t leave well enough alone, and he somehow managed to drop his ring in it. Now he can’t find it anywhere,” Rose lied convincingly with a chuckle. She’d have to remind him that he can’t go introducing her as his wife if he doesn’t have some proof to back it up. He seemed to pick up on her hint though as he rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment and shrugged.

“Ah, and here I thought we might have had an adventure on our hands,” Agatha said, viewing the couple sadly.

“Mrs Christie, I'm so glad you could come. I'm one of your greatest followers. I've read all six of your books. Er, is, er, Mr. Christie not joining us?” Lady Eddison asked.

“Is he needed? Can't a woman make her own way in the world?” Agatha snapped.

“Don't give my wife ideas,” the Colonel chuckled.

“Now Mrs. Christie, I have a question. Why a Belgian detective?” Roger asked.

The Doctor grabbed the Colonel’s newspaper and said, “Excuse me, Colonel.”

The rest of the party discussed the disappearance of Professor Peach while the Doctor scanned the newspaper. He leaned toward Donna and his family and whispered, “The date on this newspaper…”

“What about it?” Donna asked.

“It's the day Agatha Christie disappeared,” he explained. “She'd just discovered her husband was having an affair.”

“Oh, the poor woman,” Rose sighed.

“You'd never think to look at her, smiling away,” Donna noted.

“Well, she's British and moneyed. That's what they do. They carry on. Except for this one time. No one knows exactly what happened. She just vanished. Her car will be found tomorrow morning by the side of a lake. Ten days later, Agatha Christie turns up in a hotel in Harrogate. Said she'd lost her memory. She never spoke about the disappearance till the day she died, but whatever it was…” The Doctor tapered off.

“It’s about to happen,” Jenny finished.

“Right here, right now,” he added.

“Professor! The library! Murder! Murder!” the housekeeper screamed, tearing everyone’s attention away from the newspaper as everyone rushed inside.

**********************************************************************************************************************

When they all reached the library, the Doctor immediately made a beeline for the body. “Bashed on the head. Blunt instrument. Watch broke as he fell. Time of death was quarter past four,” he noted as he examined it before jumping up and ruffling through the papers on the desk.

“A bit of pipe. Call me Hercules Poirot, but I reckon that's blunt enough,” Donna said dryly as she saw it laying discarded a few feet away.

The Doctor, Rose, and Jenny all noticed Agatha pick up a small scrap of paper from the grate and put it in her purse, but the Doctor telepathically warned them not to say anything. He wanted to see what she would do with it. “Nothing worth killing for in that lot. Dry as dust,” he muttered as he left the desk.

“Hold on. The Body In The Library? I mean, Professor Peach, in the library, with the lead piping?” Donna said.

At that point, the rest of the party managed to force their way around the staff and into the library. “Let me see,” Lady Eddison demanded.

“Out of my way,” her husband roared, wheeling himself in.

“Gerald?” Lady Eddison gasped.

“Saints preserve us,” Reverend Golightly whispered.

“Oh how awful,” Robina muttered.

“Someone should call the police,” Agatha said, seeming to be the only one in the room that wasn’t completely in shock.

“You don't have to. Chief Inspector Smith from Scotland Yard, known as the Doctor. My family and Miss Noble are the plucky young girls who help me out,” the Doctor exclaimed, flashing his psychic paper quickly.

“I say,” Lady Eddison muttered.

“Mrs. Christie was right. Go into the sitting room. I will question each of you in turn,” the Doctor said, dismissing them all, Agatha leading them out.

“The plucky young girls who help you out?” Donna growled.

“No policewomen in 1926,” he shrugged, laying on his stomach to examine something.

“I'll pluck you in a minute. Why don't we phone the real police?” Donna asked.

“Well the last thing we want is PC Plod sticking his nose in, especially now I've found this. Morphic residue,” the Doctor said, holding up a pen that was dripping with some sort of thick, dripping goo.

“Morphic? Doesn’t sound very 1926,” Donna said.

“Sounds alien,” Rose replied. “Any idea what kind?”

“No. There’s plenty of species that leave it behind when they genetically recode,” he explained, bottling some of it up.

“So the murderer’s an alien?” Donna asked.

“But they’re masquerading as a human?” Jenny added.

“Exactly,” the Doctor said.

“Yeah, but think about it. There's a murder, a mystery, and Agatha Christie,” Donna grinned.

“So? Happens to me all the time,” the Doctor shrugged.

“No, but isn't that a bit weird? Agatha Christie didn't walk around surrounded by murders. Not really. I mean, that's like meeting Charles Dickens and he's surrounded by ghosts at Christmas,” Donna laughed.

“Well…” the Doctor drawled, grinning at Rose.

“Oh, come on!” Donna exclaimed.

“It was our second date,” Rose said, leaning on the Doctor’s arm.

“When you walked out in that dress, that was the moment I knew I was a goner,” he said before placing a quick kiss on the tip of her nose.

“Okay, enough flirting. There’s been a murder, remember?” Jenny asked, skipping outside.

“Next thing you know, you'll be telling me it's like Murder On The Orient Express, and they all did it,” Donna muttered.

“Murder on the Orient Express?” Agatha asked, appearing from around the corner.

“Oh, yeah, one of your best,” Donna said.

“But not yet,” the Doctor said, tugging on his ear nervously.

“Marvelous idea, though,” Agatha replied thoughtfully.

“Yeah. Tell you what. Copyright Donna Noble, okay?” Donna added behind her hand to Agatha.

“Anyway. Agatha, Rose, and I will question the suspects. Donna and Jenny, you search the bedrooms. Look for clues,” the Doctor said before telepathically adding to his daughter, “Any more residue.

The two of them started up the stairs before the Doctor pulled a comically large magnifying glass out of his pocket and handed it to Donna. “You’ll need this.”

“Is this for real?” she asked, warily eyeing the thing.

“Go on, you’re ever so plucky,” he grinned.

She’s gonna make you regret that,” Rose chimed in telepathically.

His grin just grew wider as he said, “Right then. Solving a murder mystery with Agatha Christie. Brilliant.”

“How like a man to have fun while there’s disaster all around him,” Agatha said with disgust.

“Sorry, he has a bit of trouble processing emotions,” Rose said, elbowing him and shooting him a look that said, “Rude.”

“Sorry, yeah,” he replied sheepishly.

“I'll work with you, gladly, but for the sake of justice, not your own amusement,” Agatha said, leading him and Rose into the sitting room.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose and Agatha were on opposite ends of the room, in the best positions to view the potential suspects. Agatha was taking notes, but Rose was just keeping an eye on them to see if she could pick up on anything the Doctor missed.

“Now then, Reverend. Where were you at a quarter past four?” the Doctor asked, pacing the room.

“Let me think. Why yes, I remember. I was unpacking in my room,” Reverend Golightly explained.

“No alibi, then,” the Doctor noted.

“You were alone?” Agatha asked.

“With the Lord, one is never truly alone, Doctor?” Golightly smiled.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“And where were you?” the Doctor asked Roger Curbishley.

“Let me think. I was--oh, yes. I was taking a constitutional in the fields behind the house. Just taking a stroll, that's all,” he replied.

“Alone?” Rose asked.

“Oh, yes, all alone. Totally alone. Absolutely alone. Completely. All of the time. I wandered lonely as the proverbial cloud. There was no one else with me. Not at all. Not ever,” he explained quickly. Rose and the Doctor shared a look at that, but decided not to say anything as they let Roger go.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Where were you?”

“At a quarter past four. Well, I went to the toilet when I arrived, and then er-oh, yes, I remember. I was preparing myself. Positively buzzing with excitement about the party and the super fun of meeting Lady Eddy,” Robina replied.

“We’ve only got your word for it,” the Doctor noted.

“That’s your problem, not mine,” she shrugged.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“And where were you, sir?” the Doctor asked the colonel.

“Quarter past four? Dear me, let me think. Ah, yes, I remember. I was in me study, reading through some military memoirs. Fascinating stuff,” he replied, though the look on his face led Rose to believe it was something very different from military memoirs. “Took me back to my days in the army. Started reminiscing. Mafeking, you know. Terrible war,” he continued, the look on his face getting further and further away.

“Colonel, snap out of it!” the Doctor exclaimed.

“I was in my study," he said, still sounding very far away.

“No, no, no. Right out of it,” the Doctor ordered.

“Oh, sorry. Got a bit carried away there,” he replied sheepishly.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“And where were you at a quarter past four, my lady?”

“Now, let me see. Yes, I remember. I was sitting in the Blue Room, taking my afternoon tea. It's a ritual of mine. I needed to gather strength for the duty of hostess. I then proceeded to the lawn where I met you, Doctor, and I said, who exactly might you be and what are you doing here? And you said, I am the Doctor, and this is my wife Rose and my sister Jenny and—”

“Yes, yes. You can stop now. I was there for that bit,” the Doctor said, cutting Lady Eddison off quickly before she tried to go back through the whole afternoon.

“Of course,” she said, before hiccupping quite loudly. “Excuse me.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor and Agatha were both pacing back and forth while Rose sat on the couch and watched them.

“No alibis for any of them. The Secret Adversary remains hidden. We must look for a motive. Use ze little grey cells,” Agatha said.

“Oh, yes, little grey cells. Good old Poirot. You know, I've been to Belgium. Yeah. I remember I was deep in the Ardennes, trying to find Charlemagne. He'd been kidnapped by an insane computer,” the Doctor said absently.

“Doctor?” Agatha asked.

“Sorry,” he replied.

“Charlemagne lived centuries ago,” Agatha pointed out.

“I’ve got a very good memory,” he replied.

“Well, either none of the people we interviewed do, or they all lied to us, and I'm going with the latter” Rose said.

“What?” Agatha asked.

“Not a single person told us the truth,” Rose said. “Or at least, not all of it. They’re all terrible liars.”

“Well do you know who did it?” Agatha asked.

“No,” she sighed before looking up at the Doctor. “I could tell they were lying, but I couldn’t tell what about. Other than Lady Eddison. I could tell you that it was definitely not tea that she was drinking… Maybe Donna’s right. Maybe it was everybody.”

They all sat in silence for a minute before Agatha said, “For such an experienced detective, you missed a big clue.”

“What, that bit of paper you nicked out the fire?” the Doctor asked.

“You were looking the other way,” Agatha gasped.

“Yeah, but I saw you reflected in the glass of the bookcase,” he shrugged.

Agatha pulled it out and handed it to him. “You crafty man. This is all that was left.”

“What’s that first letter? N or M?” he asked.

“It’s an M. The word is maiden,” Agatha explained.

“Maiden! What does that mean?” he asked.

“We're still no further forward. Our Nemesis remains at large. Unless Miss Tyler and Miss Noble have found something,” Agatha sighed.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“Doctor!” Donna screamed as the Doctor, Rose, and Agatha all ran to where she was. “It’s a giant wasp!”

“What do you mean, a giant wasp?” the Doctor asked.

“I mean, a wasp, that’s giant!” Donna exclaimed.

“It’s only a silly little insect,” Agatha laughed.

“No, when Aunt Donna says giant, she means enormous. Like person sized,” Jenny explained, looking between her parents before gesturing toward the large spike protruding from the door behind her. “I mean, look at its sting.”

“Let me see,” the Doctor said, pushing open the door, only to find an empty room. “It’s gone. Buzzed off.”

“But that’s fascinating,” Agatha whispered, leaning closer to inspect it.

“Don’t touch it, don’t touch it. Let me,” the Doctor said, scooping some of the morphic residue off and then putting it in a test tube. “Giant wasp. Well, tons of amorphous insectivorous lifeforms, but none in this galactic vector.”

“I think I understood some of those words. Enough to know that you're completely potty,” Agatha muttered.

“Lost its sting, though. That makes it defenceless,” Donna smiled.

“Oh, a creature this size? Got to be able to grow a new one,” the Doctor replied.

“Can we return to sanity? There are no such things as giant wasps,” Agatha pleaded.

“Exactly. So. The question is, what’s it doing here?” The Doctor said, looking around the room quickly before he heard a loud scraping sound followed by a thud and a scream. The five of them all ran outside, only to find Miss Chandrakala crushed beneath a stone gargoyle.

Rose was the first one to her, and she immediately held the dying woman’s hand. Mis Chandrakala looked over to Rose and whispered, “The poor little child.”

As soon as she had died, they heard a buzzing and the Doctor shouted for them to follow it. They all took off inside and up the stairs after it.

“Hey, this makes a change. There's a monster, and we're chasing it,” Donna said.

“It can't be a monster. It's a trick. They Do It With Mirrors,” Agatha reasoned.

They finally stopped in the upstairs corridor, face to face with the wasp. “By all that’s holy,” Agatha gasped.

“Oh, but you are wonderful. Now, just stop. Stop there,” the Doctor exclaimed.

“Oi, fly boy!” Donna exclaimed, holding the magnifying glass up to threaten it. It immediately flew around the corner to escape.

“Don't let it get away! Quick, before it reverts back to human form. Where are you? Come on. There's nowhere to run. Show yourself!” the Doctor yelled.

Every door in the hallway opened up and a different guest stepped out. “Oh, that’s cheating,” the Doctor pouted.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“My faithful companion, this is terrible,” Lady Eddison sobbed.

“Excuse me, my lady, but she was on her way to tell you something,” the footman said.

“She never found me. She had an appointment with death instead,” she gasped dramatically.

“She said, ‘the poor little child.’ Does that mean anything to anyone?” the Doctor asked.

“No children in this house for years. Highly unlikely there will be,” the colonel said with a glare toward his son.

“Mrs. Christie, you must have twigged something. You've written simply the best detective stories,” Lady Eddison begged.

“Tell us, what would Poirot do?” the Reverend asked.

“Heavens sake. Cards On The Table, woman. You should be helping us,” the colonel growled.

“But, I’m merely a writer,” she protested.

“But surely you can crack it. These events, they're exactly like one of your plots,” Robina said.

“That's what I've been saying. Agatha, that's got to mean something,” Donna said.

“But what? I've no answers. None. I'm sorry, all of you. I'm truly sorry, but I've failed. If anyone can help us, then it's the Doctor, not me,” Agatha said, getting up and storming out of the room.

Everyone sat in shocked silence for a moment, but eventually, Rose stood up. “Let me handle this.”

She made her way into the garden, where she found Agatha sitting in a gazebo. “You know, the Doctor might be able to go on and on about morphic residue and galactic sectors, but knowledge isn’t all it takes to solve a mystery like this,” Rose said, sitting down next to her.

“Careful, it almost sounds like you’re insulting your husband,” Agatha sighed.

“Oh I certainly am,” Rose laughed. “He’s brilliant and I love him, but there are some things he’s just rubbish at.”

“What, like cooking and cleaning?” Agatha snorted.

“No, he’s actually a surprisingly good cook,” Rose smiled. “When he doesn’t get distracted and catch the whole kitchen on fire at least.”

“Then what?” Agatha asked.

“I meant what I said earlier. He’s not very good at processing emotions. Which means he’s not always the best at reading people and understanding motives. He sometimes misses things that are obvious to the rest of us,” Rose explained.

“He seems pretty good at loving you,” Agatha sighed. “I mean, the way he looks at you…”

“You would not believe how long it took us to get to this point. Years of him dancing around it, making me feel like he didn’t care at all. Because he was scared, and maybe a little worried I didn’t feel the same way, I don’t know. It was a mess. And he might love me now, but he won’t talk to me,” Rose said, kicking a rock with her foot.

“What do you mean?” Agatha asked.

Rose sighed. “Something happened, about three weeks ago. And it got him really worried. But now, instead of talking to me about it, he just goes off on his own and avoids me. All I want to do is make it better. But if he won’t tell me what’s wrong? There’s nothing I can do.”

“I’m sorry. The two of you just seem so close. Almost like you can talk with just a look,” Agatha sighed. “My husband…”

“Right,” Rose said. “Sorry, I didn’t come out here to make you feel worse. I came out here to remind you that we need your help. There’s a reason your books are the best.”

“If only. Try as I might, it's hardly great literature. Now that's beyond me. I'm afraid my books will be forgotten, like ephemera. Hello, what's that? Those flowerbeds were perfectly neat earlier. Now some of the stalks are bent over,” Agatha said, moving into the flower box and picking up a small case.

“There you go. Brilliant,” Rose smiled, walking back inside with Agatha to show the Doctor the box.

He opened it to find a lock picking set. “Ooh. Someone came here tooled up. The sort of stuff a thief would use.”

“The Unicorn. He’s here,” Agatha gasped.

“The Unicorn and the wasp,” the Doctor grinned.

“Your drinks, ladies. Doctor,” Greeves said, entering the room with a tray and handing them all a drink.

“Very good, Greeves,” the Doctor said as Greeves left the room.

“How about science stuff. What did you find?” Donna asked.

“Vespiform sting. Vespiforms have got hives in the Silfrax galaxy,” he explained.

“Again, you talk like Edward Lear,” Agatha said, shaking her head and looking at Rose, who was perched on the Doctor’s armrest. Rose just shrugged and laughed a little.

Completely ignoring her, the Doctor continued, “But for some reason, this one's behaving like a character in one of your books.”

“Come on, Agatha. What would Miss Marple do? She'd have overheard something vital by now, because the murderer thinks she's just a harmless old lady,” Donna said.

“Clever idea. Miss Marple? Who writes those?” Agatha asked.

Jenny, love, when you get the chance, pull Donna aside and tell her which of Agatha Christie’s books have been published by now. There’s only a few so far, and right now she’s on her way through Agatha’s whole repertoire…” Rose told her daughter.

“Donna,” the Doctor said suddenly, grabbing Rose’s hand.

“Okay, we could split the copyright,” Donna sighed, thinking he was chiding her for making another comment about an unpublished book.

“No. Something's inhibiting my enzymes. Argh! I've been poisoned!” he exclaimed, doubling over in pain.

Donna immediately stood up and looked at Rose. “What do we do? What do we do?”

Agatha stopped and smelled the Doctor’s drink. “Bitter almonds. It’s cyanide. Sparkling Cyanide.”

The Doctor staggered down the stairs into the kitchen where he grabbed the footman. “Ginger beer!”

“I beg your pardon?” the footman asked as the Doctor let him go and continued stumbling into the kitchen.

“I need ginger beer!”

“The gentleman’s gone mad,” the cook exclaimed.

The footman handed the Doctor a ginger beer and he downed it quickly.

“I'm an expert in poisons. Doctor, there's no cure. It's fatal. I’m so sorry,” Agatha said, looking to Rose.

“Not for me. I can stimulate the inhibited enzymes into reversal. Protein. I need protein,” he gasped.

“Walnuts?” Jenny asked, handing her dad a bag.

“Brilliant,” he said, filling his mouth with as many as he could.

He started miming for something else, but no one could tell what it was. “I can't understand you. How many words? One. One word. Shake. Milk shake. Milk? Milk? No, not milk? Shake, shake, shake. Cocktail shaker. What do you want, a Harvey Wallbanger?” Donna asked.

“Harvey Wallbanger?” the Doctor asked.

“Well, I don’t know,” Donna yelled.

“How is Harvey Wallbanger one word?” he shouted back.

Rose grabbed his arm. “Me and Jenny, yeah? Tell us what you need. It’ll be easier.”

Salt,” he replied. Jenny handed him a bag of salt, but he shook his head. “Too salty.”

“Too salty?” Jenny gasped. “You want salt, but salt is too salty?”

Rose handed him a jar of anchovies. He looked at it and downed the contents. “Shock” he yelled telepathically.

Jenny and Rose both looked at each other, unsure what to do, before Jenny had an idea and reached in his pocket, pulling out his sonic. She quickly adjusted the setting and jabbed him in the side, giving him an electric shock that wracked his whole body. Suddenly a cloud of smoke erupted from his mouth.

“Detox. Oh my. I must do that more often,” he said before turning to Jenny. “Also, what was that for?”

She shrugged and grinned, her tongue peeking out at the corner like her mum’s. “You wanted a shock. Didn’t know if you meant emotional or electrical. Figured without a warning, it could be both.”

“You enjoyed it far too much,” Rose chastised her, but her grin gave away that she actually enjoyed it as much as Jenny.

“Doctor, you are impossible. Who are you?” Agatha asked, shaking her head.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“A terrible day for all of us. The Professor struck down, Miss Chandrakala taken cruelly from us, and yet we still take dinner,” the Doctor said dramatically as they all sat in the dining room eating soup.

“We are British, Doctor. What else must we do?” Lady Eddison sighed.

“And then someone tried to poison me. Any one of you had the chance to put cyanide in my drink. But it rather gave me an idea,” the Doctor said.

The Reverend looked up at him. “And what would that be?”

“Well, poison. Drink up,” the Doctor grinned, pausing for dramatic effect as everyone stared at him in shock. Then he added, “I've laced the soup with pepper.”

“Ah, I thought it was jolly spicy,” the colonel said, continuing to eat.

“But the active ingredient of pepper is piperine, traditionally used as an insecticide. So, anyone got the shivers?” the Doctor asked, glancing around.

Almost on cue, there was a crash of thunder and the windows blew open, extinguishing the candles and sending the room into darkness.

“What the deuce is that?” the colonel yelled.

“Listen, listen, listen, listen,” the Doctor said as he started to hear a buzzing noise.

“No, it can’t be!” Lady Eddison gasped.

“Show yourself, demon!” Agatha yelled.

“Nobody move. No, don’t! Stay where you are!” The Doctor yelled, but everyone was panicking and they all took off around the room as chaos ensued. When he was finally sure the wasp was in the room, he yelled, “Out, out, out!”

The Doctor, Rose, Jenny, Donna, Agatha, and Greeves all rushed out of the dining room. The Doctor grabbed a sword from where it was hanging as decoration on the wall. “Not you, Agatha. You’ve got a long, long life to live yet.”

“Well, we know the butler didn’t do it,” Donna joked.

“Then who did?” The Doctor asked.

When they all stepped back into the dining room, things were a mess. The colonel was on the floor, his wheelchair on its side. Lady Eddison reached to her neck and gasped, “My jewellery. The Firestone, it's gone. Stolen.”

The footman looked horrified. “Roger,” he whispered, and everyone followed his gaze to see Roger with his face in his soup and a knife in his back.

“My son! My child!” Lady Eddison wailed.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“That poor footman. Roger's dead and he can't even mourn him. 1926? It's more like the dark ages,” Donna sighed as she entered the drawing room.”

“Did you enquire after the necklace?” Agatha asked.

Rose, who had followed Donna in, nodded. “Lady Eddison bought it back from India. It's worth thousands.”

“This thing can sting, it can fly. It could wipe us all out in seconds. Why is it playing this game?” the Doctor muttered, pacing the room.

While Agatha and the Doctor debated what the Vespiform could want, Rose grabbed Jenny and pulled her into a tight hug.

“What’s this for?” Jenny asked, returning the hug with confusion.

“Seeing Lady Eddison like that… She just lost her son, and I couldn’t help thinking…”

“I’m okay, Mum. I’m right here. And I can take care of myself,” Jenny whispered, squeezing her mum tighter.

“I know that. But it doesn’t mean I don’t worry. I’m your mum, that’s my job,” Rose said.

“I love you, Mum,” Jenny whispered.

“I love you too,” Rose said, finally letting Jenny go.

She turned around just in time to hear the Doctor say, “Plenty of people write detective stories, but yours are the best. And why? Why are you so good, Agatha Christie? Because you understand. You've lived, you've fought, you've had your heart broken. You know about people. Their passions, their hope, and despair, and anger. All of those tiny, huge things that can turn the most ordinary person into a killer. Just think, Agatha. If anyone can solve this, it's you.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“I've called you here on this Endless Night, because we have a murderer in our midst. And when it comes to detection, there's none finer. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Agatha Christie,” the Doctor said as he addressed the assembled party.

“This is A Crooked House. A house of secrets. To understand the solution, we must examine them all. Starting with you,” Agatha paused for dramatic effect, pointing her finger around the room before she finally spun around and said, “Miss Redmond.”

“But I’m innocent, surely?” Robina asked sweetly.

“You've never met these people, and these people have never met you. I think the real Robina Redmond never left London. You're impersonating her,” Agatha said.

“How silly. What proof do you have?” Robina laughed.

“You said you'd been to the toilet,” Agatha said.

“Oh, I know this. If she was really posh, she'd say loo,” Donna exclaimed.

Agatha picked up the lockpicking case from earlier. “Earlier today, Mrs. Tyler and I found this on the lawn, right beneath your bathroom window. You must have heard that Miss Noble was searching the bedrooms, so you panicked. You ran upstairs and disposed of the evidence.”

“I’ve never seen that thing before in my life,” Robina protested.

“What’s inside it?” the colonel asked.

“The tools of your trade, Miss Redmond. Or should I say, the Unicorn. You came to this house with one sole intention. To steal the Firestone,” Agatha said.

Immediately dropping her posh accent for a cockney one, Robina said, “Oh, all right then. It's a fair cop. Yes, I'm the bleeding Unicorn. Ever so nice to meet you, I don't think. I took my chance in the dark and nabbed it. Go on then, you knobs. Arrest me. Sling me in jail.”

Robina pulled the Firestone out from her dress and tossed it to the Doctor as Donna asked, “So is she the murderer?”

“Don't be so thick. I might be a thief, but, well, I ain't no killer,” Robina shot back.

“Quite. There are darker motives at work. And in examining this household, we come to you, Colonel,” Agatha said, again doing her trick with the pointing and pausing for effect.

“Damn it, woman. You with your perspicacity. You've rumbled me,” the colonel said, standing up from his wheelchair.

“Hugh, you can walk. But why?” Lady Eddison gasped, looking at her husband.

“My darling, how else could I be certain of keeping you by my side?” the colonel replied.

“I don’t understand,” Lady Eddison said.

“You're still a beautiful woman, Clemency. Sooner or later some chap will turn your head. I couldn't bear that. Staying in the chair was the only way I could be certain of keeping you. Confound it, Mrs. Christie, how did you discover the truth?” he said, turning to her.

“Er, actually I had no idea. I was just going to say you're completely innocent,” Agatha replied awkwardly.

“Oh. Oh,” he said, looking equally embarrassed.

“Sorry,” Agatha shrugged.

“Well. Well, shall I sit down then?” he asked.

Agatha nodded and said, “I think you better had.”

“So he’s not the murderer,” Donna piped up.

“Indeed, not. To find the truth, let's return to this,” Agatha said, holding up the Firestone. “Far more than the Unicorn's object of desire. The Firestone has quite a history. Lady Eddison.”

“I’ve done nothing!” the woman protested.

“You brought it back from India, did you not? Before you met the Colonel. You came home with malaria, and confined yourself to this house for six months, in a room that has been kept locked ever since, which I rather think means—”

“Stop, please,” Lady Eddison begged.

“I'm so sorry. But you had fallen pregnant in India. Unmarried and ashamed, you hurried back to England with your confidante, a young maid later to become housekeeper. Miss Chandrakala,” Agatha continued.

“Clemency, is this true?” the colonel asked.

“My poor baby. I had to give him away. The shame of it,” she sobbed.

Rose immediately reached for Jenny’s hand. Jenny squeezed it in return and looked up at her mother with a smile, just to reassure her that she knew Rose would never give her up.

“But you never said a word,” the colonel whispered.

“I had no choice. Imagine the scandal. The family name. I'm British. I carry on,” she replied.

“And it was no ordinary pregnancy,” the Doctor said, standing up and squeezing Jenny’s shoulder for much the same reason as Rose.

“How can you know that?” Lady Eddison gasped.

“Excuse me Agatha, this is my territory. But when you heard that buzzing sound in the dining room, you said, it can't be. Why did you say that?” he asked.

“You’d never believe it,” Lady Eddison said, shaking her head.

“The Doctor has opened my mind to believe many things,” Agatha replied.

“It was forty years ago, in the heat of Delhi, late one night. I was alone, and that's when I saw it. A dazzling light in the sky. The next day, he came to the house. Christopher, the most handsome man I'd ever seen. Our love blazed like a wildfire. I held nothing back. And in return he showed me the incredible truth about himself. He'd made himself human, to learn about us. This was his true shape. I loved him so much, it didn't matter. But he was stolen from me. 1885, the year of the great monsoon. The river Jumna rose up and broke its banks. He was Taken At The Flood. But Christopher left me a parting gift. A jewel like no other. I wore it always. Part of me never forgot. I kept it close, always,” Lady Eddison explained with a sigh.

“Just like a man. Flashes his family jewels and you end up with a bun in the oven,” Robina muttered.

“A poor little child. Forty years ago, Miss Chandrakala took that newborn babe to an orphanage. But Professor Peach worked it out. He found the birth certificate,” Agatha explained.

“Oh, that’s maiden. Maiden name!” Donna exclaimed.

“Precisely,” Agatha replied.

“So she killed him?” Donna asked, clearly a little put out at not having found the murderer yet.

“I did not!” Lady Eddison protested.

“Miss Chandrakala feared that the Professor had unearthed your secret. She was coming to warn you,” Agatha continued, ignoring Donna.

“So she killed her,” Donna suggested.

“I did not,” Lady Eddison repeated.

“Lady Eddison is innocent. Because at this point, Doctor,” Agatha said, motioning for him to take over.

“Thank you. At this point, when we consider the lies and the secrets, and the key to these events, then we have to consider it was you, Donna Noble,” the Doctor said, dramatically pointing at her.

“What? Who did I kill?” Donna asked.

“No, but you said it all along. The vital clue. This whole thing is being acted out like a murder mystery, which means it was you, Agatha Christie,” the Doctor said, spinning to face her.

“I beg your pardon, sir?” Agatha asked.

“So she killed them?” Donna asked, clearly at wits end.

“No. But she wrote. She wrote those brilliant, clever books. And who's her greatest admirer? The Moving Finger points at you, Lady Eddison,” the Doctor said.

“Don’t, leave me alone,” she whimpered.

“So she did kill them,” Donna said.

“No. But just think. Last Thursday night, what were you doing?” the Doctor asked.

“I was I was in the library. I was reading my favourite Agatha Christie, thinking about her plots, and how clever she must be. How is that relevant?” Lady Eddison replied.

“Just think. What else happened on Thursday night?” the Doctor prompted, looking straight at the Reverend.

“I’m sorry?” he asked.

“You said on the lawn, this afternoon. Last Thursday night, those boys broke into your church,” the Doctor replied.

“That's correct. They did. I discovered the two of them. Thieves in the night. I was most perturbed, but I apprehended them,” he replied.

“Really? A man of God against two strong lads? A man in his forties? Or, should I say forty years old, exactly?” the Doctor said.

“Oh my God,” Lady Eddison gasped.

“Lady Eddison, your child, how old would he be now?” the Doctor asked.

“Forty. He’s forty,” she replied.

“Your child has come home,” he said, gesturing to the Reverend.

“Oh, this is poppycock!” the Reverend laughed.

“Oh? You said you were taught by the Christian Fathers, meaning you were raised in an orphanage,” the Doctor stated.

“My son. Can it be?” Lady Eddison whispered, staring at him in awe.

“You found those thieves, Reverend, and you got angry. A proper, deep anger, for the first time in your life, and it broke the genetic lock. You changed. You realised your inheritance. After all these years, you knew who you were. Oh, and then it all kicks off, because this isn't just a jewel. It's a Vespiform telepathic recorder. It's part of you, your brain, your very essence. And when you activated, so did the Firestone. It beamed your full identity directly into your mind. And, at the same time, it absorbed the works of Agatha Christie directly from Lady Eddison. It all became part of you. The mechanics of those novels formed a template in your brain. You've killed, in this pattern, because that's what you think the world is. It turns out, we are in the middle of a murder mystery. One of yours, Dame Agatha,” the Doctor explained.

“Dame?” Agatha asked.

“Oh. Sorry, not yet,” the Doctor shrugged.

“So he killed them, yes? Definitely?” Donna asked, sounding exhausted.

“Yes,” the Doctor nodded.

“Well, this has certainly been a most entertaining evening. Really, you can't believe any of this surely, Lady Edizzon,” the reverend said, his voice sounding strange.

“Lady who?” the Doctor asked, amusement in his voice.

“Lady Edizzzzon,” he replied.

“Little bit of buzzing there, Vicar,” the Doctor said, gesturing to his throat.

“Don’t make me angry,” the Reverend warned.

“Why?” Rose asked. “We won’t like you when you’re angry?”

“Damn it, you humanzz, worshipping your tribal sky godzz. I am so much more. That night, the universe exploded in my mind. I wanted to take what wazz mine. And you, Agatha Christie, with your railway station bookstall romancezz, what'z to stop me killing you?” he buzzed.

“Oh my dear God. My child,” Lady Eddison whispered.

“What'zz to stop me killing you all?” he asked as he transformed into a giant wasp.

“Forgive me,” Lady Eddison whispered, taking a step closer to her son.

“No, no, Clemency, come back. Keep away. Keep away, my darling,” the colonel said, pulling her back.

Agatha grabbed the Firestone from the Doctor. “No. No more murder. If my imagination made you kill, then my imagination will find a way to stop you, foul creature.”

Agatha ran out of the room, and the Doctor, Donna, Rose, Jenny and the Vespiform all followed her out to the driveway.

“Wait, now it’s chasing us!” Donna gasped.

“Over here! Come and get me, Reverend!” Agatha yelled, hopping in her car and driving away.

“Agatha, what are you doing?” the Doctor asked.

“If I started this, Doctor, then I must stop it.”

“Come on,” the Doctor said, hopping into another car with Donna and his family.

“You said this is the night Agatha Christie loses her memory,” Donna said as they drove after her.

“Time is in flux, Donna. For all we know, this is the night Agatha Christie loses her life and history gets changed,” he said.

“But where’s she going?” Donna asked.

“The lake!” Rose yelled. “Time might be in flux but history is still on track!”

When they arrived at the lake, Agatha was holding the Firestone up and the Vespiform was staring in a trancelike state at her. “Here I am, the honey in the trap. Come to me, Vespiform.”

“She’s controlling it,” Donna whispered.

“Its mind is based on her thought processes. They’re linked,” the Doctor explained.

“Quite so, Doctor. If I die, then this creature might die with me,” Agatha replied.

“Agatha, please, don’t,” Rose pleaded.

“Don't hurt her. You're not meant to be like this. You've got the wrong template in your mind,” the Doctor yelled at the Vespiform, trying to talk it down.

“It’s not listening to you,” Donna huffed before taking the Firestone from Agatha and chucking it into the lake. The Vespiform followed it in. “How do you kill a wasp? You drown it.”

“Donna, that thing couldn't help itself,” the Doctor pouted.

“Neither could I,” Donna snapped back.

The water bubbled purple as they all watched. “Death comes as the end, and justice is served,” Agatha muttered.

Murder at the Vicar's rage. Needs a bit of work,” the Doctor sighed.

“Just one mystery left, Doctor. Who exactly are you?” Agatha asked before she suddenly doubled over in pain.

“Oh, it's the Firestone. It's part of the Vespiform's mind. It's dying and it's connected to Agatha,” the Doctor exclaimed.

Agatha glowed purple for a moment, but then her colour returned and she slumped over, passed out but still very much alive.

“He let her go. Right at the end, the Vespiform chose to save someone's life,” the Doctor smiled.

“Is she all right though?” Rose asked, examining the poor woman.

“Of course. The amnesia. Wiped her mind of everything that happened. The wasp, the murders,” the Doctor shrugged.

“And us,” Donna added. “She’ll forget about us.”

“Yeah, but we've solved another riddle. The mystery of Agatha Christie. And tomorrow morning, her car gets found by the side of a lake. A few days later, she turns up in hotel at Harrogate with no idea of what just happened,” the Doctor replied.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“No one’ll ever know,” the Doctor sighed as they dropped a confused Agatha Christie off at the Harrogate Hotel.

“Lady Eddison, the Colonel, and all the staff. What about them?” Donna asked.

“Shameful story. They'd never talk of it. Too British. While the Unicorn does a bunk back to London town. She can never even say she was there,” the Doctor explained.

“What happens to Agatha?” Donna asked.

“Oh, great life. Met another man, married again. Saw the world. Wrote and wrote and wrote,” he smiled.

“She never thought her books were any good, though. And she must have spent all those years wondering,” Rose sighed as they all turned back into the TARDIS.

“The thing is, I don't think she ever quite forgot. Great mind like that, some of the details kept bleeding through. All the stuff her imagination could use. Like, Miss Marple,” the Doctor said, grinning at Donna.

“I should have made her sign a contract,” Donna huffed.

“And where is it, where is it, hold on. Here we go,” the Doctor said, pulling up a grate in the console room and pulling out a trunk. “C. That is C for Cybermen, C for Carrionites—”

“That’s in the console room?” Rose exclaimed. “You said you were gonna put it in a storeroom!”

“It’s stored, it’s in a room,” the Doctor shrugged, tossing Rose the little green ball.

Donna looked at her curiously and Rose said, “Witches, with Shakespeare. Honestly, ask Martha about it. I was passed out for a lot of it.”

Donna shook her head as the Doctor continued rummaging through the trunk.

“Christie, Agatha. Look at that,” the Doctor smiled, handing Donna a paperback edition of Death in the Clouds with a wasp on the cover.

“She did remember,” Donna smiled.

“Somewhere in the back of her mind, it all lingered. And that's not all. Look at the copyright page,” he smiled.

“Facsimile edition, published in the year five billion!” she gasped.

“People never stop reading them. She is the best selling novelist of all time,” the Doctor grinned.

“But she never knew,” Donna sighed.

“Well, no one knows how they're going to be remembered. All we can do is hope for the best. Maybe that's what kept her writing. Same thing keeps me travelling. Onwards?”

“Onwards,” Donna smiled.

**********************************************************************************************************************

That evening, Rose found the Doctor in the library, sitting on the floor and staring into the library. “Penny for ‘em,” she said, sitting down next to him.

“Hmm?” he asked, looking up at her. It took a few seconds for recognition to really dawn on him.

“What are you thinking about?” she said, taking his hand.

“Nothing,” he said, looking down at their entwined hands.

“You’re thinking about whatever it was that River said.”

“It doesn’t matter,” he said.

“It clearly does,” Rose said. “And I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me.”

“Rose—”

“No, Doctor. I don’t want a marriage like Lady Eddison and Colonel Curbishley’s. One that requires lies just to keep it going. I thought we agreed to actually talk about things. That was how we started this relationship at least,” Rose sighed.

“Rose,” he sighed, but she just looked at him unflinchingly. “Alright, I’ll tell you.”

“Thank you,” she smiled.

“But I swear, I don’t know how or why or what—”

“It’s okay, Doctor. Whatever it is, we’ll figure it out together.”

“She knew my name,” he sighed.

“Your name? Like, like—”

“The one that only you know.”

“Did she know both names or just the family name?” Rose asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I pushed her away the moment I knew what she was saying. The more I heard the more that had to happen.”

Rose was silent for a minute as she thought it over. “Did she say anything else about it?”

“What?”

“Did she give you any other clues?”

“Other clues? Rose, she didn’t even know you! That was enough to terrify me!”

“No, Doctor. She said she didn’t know me. But she didn’t act like I was a stranger. And she did know that she could kill me and I’d be fine, and that that was the only way to stop me from taking her place. That sure seems like someone who knows me.”

“But how could she know you, but also know that name. I can only tell my wife that name,” the Doctor replied.

“Jenny knows it,” Rose protested. “It’s her name too. Maybe we encounter another progenation machine somewhere.”

“She wasn’t a Time Lady. I’d have known,” he argued.

“Well, sorry that I’m trying to come up with something. But are you sure she didn’t say anything else?”

“She just said, ‘It’s not always what it seems,’” he replied, shaking his head. “But what does that mean?”

“It means that we shouldn’t worry about it,” Rose said, standing up. “At least not yet.”

“But Rose—” he protested, looking up at her.

“Doctor, we don’t know what this is gonna mean. We don’t know what’s gonna happen. But what we do know is that you once almost let your fears about what might happen in the future stop us from being happy and being together. Are you really gonna put us through that again?”

The Doctor thought about it for a moment. He had been pushing Rose away for weeks. And for what? So that he could internally panic about something that might happen? Rose was right, as always. It was more important to live the good times than to dread the future. So he took Rose’s hand, stood up, and kissed her, deciding that whatever the future might hold, he would do his best to keep this woman right here, in his arms, where she belonged. No time travelling archaeologist would be able to stop them. They were the Doctor and Rose Tyler, the stuff of legends.

Chapter Text

Donna and Jenny had disappeared somewhere into the depths of the market, but Rose didn’t mind. They’d probably be fine, and as long as they stayed together, Jenny would be able to let her parents know if something was horribly wrong. And it was nice, having a little time alone with the Doctor. Especially since he had gotten over his constant fear of the future. He seemed determined to live their lives to the fullest and ignore anything to do with River Song.

“Oh, ho, ho!” the Doctor laughed, handing Rose a mug of some mysterious foamy liquid.

“What is it?” Rose asked, sniffing it experimentally.

“You are going to love it,” he reassured her. “One, two, three!”

Rose took a sip, and was meant with a warm, sweet, taste. “Oh, this is lovely!”

They continued to wander through the market, stopping and looking at things as they went. The Doctor got distracted haggling over the price of something for the TARDIS, so Rose kept wandering on her own, making sure to keep him just in sight.

“You want to buy shukina? Or peshmoni? Most beautiful peshmoni in all of Shan Shen?” a saleswoman asked.

“Er, no thanks,” Rose said, quickly moving past the woman.

A young woman in a gold and black dress motioned her over. “Tell your fortune, lady. The future predicted. Your life foretold.”

“Oh, no thanks,” Rose smiled.

“Don’t you want to know if you’re going to be happy?” the fortune teller continued.

“I’m already happy,” Rose smiled, glancing back at her fiancé where he was still haggling animatedly.

“You got gold hair. The reading’s free for gold hair,” she insisted.

With one last glance at the Doctor to reassure herself that he would be busy for a while, Rose shrugged and said, “Oh, why not?”

She followed the woman into the tent. The incense in the room was strong but oddly calming as Rose took a seat at the table. The woman grabbed her hands and started to examine her palms. “Oh, you fascinating. No, but you good. I can see a man. The most remarkable man. How did you meet him?”

“Aren’t you supposed to tell me that?” Rose chuckled.

“I see the future. Tell me the past. When did your lives cross?”

“Well,” Rose laughed, “I guess it was when he blew up my job.”

“But what led you to that meeting?” the fortune teller pressed.

Rose wasn’t sure why she was telling the woman, but she just felt the need to keep talking as she was suddenly lost in a flashback to that moment in the basement. “Well, I had to take the lottery money down to Wilson. He didn’t answer though, so I went wandering through the basement. Ended up surrounded by shop dummies,” she said, her voice trailing off before she suddenly came back to herself with a jolt. “Oh, sorry.”

“It's the incense. Just breathe deep. That day at work, having to take the lottery money. What choices led you there?” The fortune teller asked.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be working that night. I was on the early shift. But Ashley asked me to take over for her, and I said yes,” Rose shrugged.

“Your life could have gone one way or the other. What made you decide?” she said, leaning toward Rose threateningly.

“I don’t know, I just did,” Rose replied.

“But when was the moment? When did you choose?” the fortune teller said, grabbing Rose’s wrists.

Rose knew something was wrong, but she wasn’t able to stop. She just felt like she had to keep talking. “It was after lunch. I had been talking with Mickey, and I knew he wasn’t gonna be around that night. There was a match on. So I just decided to say yes.”

“So you said yes. But what if you said no? What then?”

“Let go of my hands,” Rose said, starting to pull back.

“What if it changes? What if you said no. What if you could still say no?” the woman asked, holding on to Rose even tighter as something jumped onto her back.

“Stop it,” Rose said. “What's that? What's on my back? What is it? What, what's on my back?”

“Make the choice again, Rose Tyler, and change your mind. Say no. Say no, and never meet that man. Say no and change the world.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“So, Rose, will you do it?” Ashley asked, leaning over a rack of clothes. “Please?”

“Ashley I’m exhausted, sorry. I just wanna go home and have a cuppa and go to bed. ‘Specially considering I work the early shift again tomorrow. Why don’t you try and ask Cindy?” Rose suggested.

“Fine,” Ashley sighed. “I’ll try her.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

“I've been phoning your mobile. You could've been dead. It's on the news and everything. I can't believe that your shop went up!” Mickey yelled, storming into the flat.

“I’m all right. Honestly, I’m fine,” Rose insisted as Mickey came barrelling in. “I wasn’t even there.”

“You weren’t?” Mickey asked. “Earlier you said you were thinking of taking over Ashely’s shift.”

“Yeah, decided against it,” Rose shrugged. “Good thing too.”

“Do you know what happened? What caused it?” Mickey asked.

“No, nothing seemed off today at work,” Rose shrugged.

“What're you drinking, tea? Nah, nah, that's no good, that's no good. You're in shock. You need something stronger,” Mickey insisted.

“Honestly, I’m fine,” Rose replied, settling further into the couch. “Like I said. I wasn’t there.”

“Now, come on, you deserve a proper drink. We're going down the pub, you and me. My treat. How about it?”

“Is there a match on?” Rose asked.

“No, I’m just thinking about you, babe,” Mickey said, throwing his hand over his heart and feigning hurt.

“There’s a match on, ain’t there?” Rose asked, smiling at her boyfriend’s antics.

“That's not the point, but we could catch the last five minutes,” Mickey admitted.

“Go on, then. I'm fine, really. Go,” Rose said. “I need to get some rest tonight. Since I don’t have a job I start job hunting first thing.”

“If you’re sure,” he sighed.

“I am,” she said, giving him a quick kiss. “Now go.”

“Bye. Love you,” Mickey called.

“Yeah, love you too,” Rose said, turning back to the telly to watch the news on the accident at Henrik’s.

“Official statements are claiming that there were no casualties, though many bystanders are reporting having seen a body being wheeled away. The scene has been closed off by UNIT officials, and no information regarding the cause of the explosion has been released,” the newswoman said, standing in front of the ruined building.

“I still think you should sue for compensation,” Jackie said, sitting down next to her daughter.

“I wasn’t even there, Mum,” Rose argued.

“Still. What if it was a gas leak? Could have been building up all day, and you had to work in it. Who knows what that could do to your health?” Jackie said before tapering off as she stared at Rose’s back.

“What is it?” Rose asked. “Why’re you looking at me like that?”

“There’s something on your back. It’s-it’s—“ Jackie was cut off by the phone ringing. She looked down at it in surprise, then back up at Rose, but she could no longer see anything.

“What?” Rose asked, looking at her own back but not seeing anything. “What is it? What’s on my back?”

“Dunno. Just thought I saw something, but I don’t anymore,” Jackie replied as she picked up the still ringing phone. “Must be the stress, getting to me. Does stress work like that? Can it be contagious?”

Rose rolled her eyes at her mother’s antics as Jackie talked to Bev, who was more than happy to engage in Jackie’s melodramatics.

**********************************************************************************************************************

“I’m headed off to do a bit of late night shopping. I’ll see you later, love,” Jackie said as she made her way out of the flat.

“Bye Mum,” Rose said, hardly sparing her mother a glance as she kept flipping through channels.

“Bye sweetheart,” Jackie said, shutting the door behind her.

Less than an hour later, Rose heard screaming outside. She looked toward town, only to see smoke rising. There were busses turned over in the streets, and people were running from town. Immediately, Rose dialled her mother, but there was no answer. She tried Mickey as well, but his phone also went straight to voicemail. Not knowing what to do, Rose barred the door and settled in for the night, praying that her mother and Mickey were okay through whatever was going on.

**********************************************************************************************************************

A month after the Autons took over, a month after the death of her mother and boyfriend and 75% of the rest of the world, Rose was finally getting off work at the oil refinery. The Autons had decided that they needed humans to do some of the work in the creation of new plastic because they were just so good at it. So they decided to spare a quarter of the population following their invasion. All the humans left worked 16 hour shifts to convert Earth into a more friendly world for the fleeing Autons.

As she started to stumble home, she saw a bright light flash in a nearby alleyway. Even though she was exhausted, Rose couldn’t help seeing what it was. As she turned into the alley, she saw a familiar face and her heart skipped a beat. “Mickey?”

“Hello, Rose,” Mickey grinned at her. He looked a bit older, but Rose hardly noticed as she threw her arms around his neck.

“How? How are you here? You were dead. I saw your body. They-they killed you on your way home from the pub,” Rose whispered into his neck.

“Well, I guess I am dead,” Mickey shrugged. “In this universe at least.”

“In this universe?” Rose asked, pulling back. “What are you on about?”

“Listen, Rose, this was never supposed to happen. Any of this,” Mickey said.

“Well, yeah, it’s awful. Don’t have to tell me that,” Rose replied.

“No, Rose, you don’t understand. There’s this man, he’s called the Doctor. And he was supposed to stop it,” Mickey said.

“Well, why didn’t he?” Rose asked.

“Because in this universe, he died in Henrik’s.”

“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned this universe, as though there was some other universe out there,” Rose said, pulling her jacket tighter around her as she crossed her arms across her chest.

“There are loads of other universes out there, Rose. Trust me, I’ve been through plenty, looking for you. Well, you and the Doctor,” Mickey replied.

“I don’t know any doctors, Mickey.”

“That’s the problem. You were supposed to meet him the night Henrik’s blew up. He was supposed to save your life, and that was what made him decide not to die in the explosion. And it was a good thing too, cause it turned out Henrik’s wasn’t the centre of the Nestene Consciousness’s operation. He was supposed to still be alive to stop it. And you were supposed to be with him,” Mickey said. Then, as an afterthought he added, “Well, you and me were supposed to be there. But I wasn’t really much help.”

“Mickey, there was nobody that could stop this. They’re aliens,” Rose sighed.

“So’s the Doctor,” Mickey shrugged. “There’s loads of aliens out there. The Doctor’s one of the good ones, even if I didn’t always like him.”

“What, so you’re saying you’re from another universe?” Rose asked.

“Yes and no,” Mickey replied, his eyes on her back.

“What does that mean, yes and no? And why are you staring at my back? Why is everyone always staring at my back? There’s nothing there. I think I’d know,” Rose huffed.

“It’s complicated,” Mickey said, glancing around awkwardly.

“And I wouldn’t understand?”

“No, it’s just probably something we shouldn’t talk about here,” he replied.

“Where else should we talk about it?” Rose asked. “Cause there’s nowhere private, not anymore. The Autons have us living three families to a flat so we can snitch on each other if someone starts talking about doing something.”

Mickey opened a manhole cover in the alleyway. “This way.”

“You want me to go down there just to talk?” Rose asked with a bitter laugh.

“No,” Mickey replied. “But these sewer tunnels will get us somewhere we can talk.”

With a sigh, Rose followed Mickey down into the sewers. Eventually, they came up in a warehouse where people in labcoats were running around. A woman in uniform saluted Mickey as they came in. “Sir.”

“Really,” Mickey said. “There’s no need. I’m just the tin dog of the operation.”

“What does that mean?” Rose asked as she followed Mickey into the building.

“He says things like that a lot. Never explains what any of them mean. Just be glad he isn’t talking about casual nexuses or something,” the woman said.

“I’m Rose,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Captain Erisa Magambo,” the woman replied. “You’re a very important woman from what Mickey’s said about you.”

“Oh, I’m nothing special,” Rose said, staring at her feet. “He’s just biased cause he’s my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend? He never mentioned…”

“Cause we’re not together anymore, not in the proper universe at least,” Mickey replied.

“We’re not? But—”

Mickey just shrugged and laughed. “I couldn’t compare to the Doctor. But it was alright. Guess we were always meant to be more like brother and sister.”

“Mickey, what’s going on?” Rose asked.

Mickey turned to Captain Magambo. “I’m going to show her around, explain things. I’ll let you know when we’re ready.”

Mickey led Rose over to a blue police box that had a number of wires hooked up to it. “What is it?” Rose asked.

“Go take a look inside,” Mickey suggested, gesturing for her to go in.

The moment Rose stepped inside, the console lit up for just a moment. Rose stared in awe at the room that was so much bigger than it had any right to be. Somewhere in the back of her mind she heard singing, but as soon as she tried to focus on it, it was gone.

“That’s the first real sign of life we’ve seen from her. But figures, she always liked you best,” Mickey laughed.

“She?” Rose asked, looking around the room as the lights slowly dimmed.

“Yeah, the TARDIS is sentient,” Mickey said. “At least, that’s what you and the Doctor always said. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space. It used to always be lit up like that, but since the Doctor died, we think it’s dying too.”

“It belonged to the Doctor?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” Mickey replied. “He was Time Lord. The last one. The rest all got killed in something called the Time War.”

“If he was so special, what was he doing with me?”

Mickey turned away from staring at the console to look at Rose. “He thought you were brilliant. And you are. I travelled with you all for a little while, and you were incredible, especially since you didn’t grow up knowing about aliens. You were just good at it the travelling, the running, the saving people.”

“I’m not that special Mickey,” Rose insisted, shaking her head.

“But you are though,” he said. “You’re special enough that changing one decision in your life created an entire alternate reality.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know how you asked about why everyone was staring at your back?” Mickey asked, and Rose nodded. “Well, there is something there. Problem is, you can’t normally see it. But we’ve found a way to show you, if you want.”

“Oh, go on then,” Rose said, and Mickey led her out of the TARDIS into a circle of mirrors and lights.

“We don't actually know how the TARDIS works, but we've managed to scrape off the surface technology, enough to show you the creature,” he said.

“It’s a creature?” Rose asked, glancing at her back nervously.

“Just stand right there,” Mickey instructed.

Captain Magambo cleared her throat and called, “Out of the circle, please.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Mickey said, stepping just outside.

“Can’t you stay with me?” Rose asked, looking at Mickey, who just shook his head.

“Ready,” the captain said. “And, activate.”

All the lights around Rose lit up, one by one. She closed her eyes against the sudden brightness. “Rose, babe, just open your eyes.”

“Is it there?” Rose asked.

“Open your eyes and you can see for yourself,” Mickey called back.

“I can’t,” she whimpered.

“Come on, Rose,” Mickey said. “You are the strongest person I know. I’ve seen you laugh in the face of Dalek. You can open your eyes. Whatever it is, it’s a part of you now.”

Rose slowly opened her eyes and looked in the mirror. A giant beetle was clinging to her like a backpack. She stared in horror as it slowly shifted, moving its pinchers as it too struggled against the bright light. “What is it?”

“We don’t know,” Mickey replied.

“Oh, yeah, thanks then,” Rose said, still unable to take her eyes off of it.

“It feeds off time, by changing time. By making someone's life take a different turn, like er, meetings never made, children never born, a life never loved. But with you, it's—” Mickey started.

“I never did anything important!” Rose yelled.

“Yeah, you did. You decided to take over Ashely’s shift, and that led to you taking the lottery money to Wilson, and then getting trapped by Autons, and then meeting the Doctor. Because you never met him, the world changed around you,” Mickey replied.

“Can you get rid of it?” Rose begged.

“Can’t even touch it,” Mickey sighed. “It seems to be in a state of flux.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Dunno. Just sounds like something the Doctor would say,” he shrugged.

“Mickey, I’m not the one that’s special. It’s this thing,” Rose argued.

Mickey shook his head. “No, there's more than that. The readings are strange. It's, it's like reality's just bending round you. And it’s not cause of that. We're getting separate readings from you. And they've always been there, since the day you were born.”

“What can I do?” Rose asked.

“Well, I didn’t come here for this. I came looking for our original universe cause we need your help. Yours and the Doctor’s. The stars are going out, all of them, in all the universes, and we can’t stop that on our own,” Mickey replied.

“But what can I do?” Rose sobbed. “Just, turn it off, please.”

Mickey nodded at Captain Magambo and she said, “Power down.”

The lights all went off and Mickey ran into the circle and pulled Rose into a hug. “It's still there, though. What can I do to get rid of it?” Rose sobbed into his shoulder.

“You’re going to travel in time,” he grinned at her.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Mickey and UNIT quickly got Rose ready to travel in time. They put her in a jacket with lots of wires plugged into it, leading into the TARDIS. Mickey tugged on the jacket and asked her, “Ready?”

Rose took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. “Was I happy?”

“What?” Mickey asked.

“In this other universe. The way things were supposed to go. Was I happy?” she clarified, talking quietly.

“I don’t know,” Mickey replied honestly. “I was in another universe myself. We got caught up in another universe, one where my Gran was still alive. Parallel me died, and I took his place. I only saw you once after that. There were these things called Cybermen trying to cross the void into your universe. I helped stop them. Your mum ended up coming to the other universe with me cause Pete was still alive there but she was dead. The walls between universes got sealed up, and we couldn’t cross over anymore. So I won’t lie and say I know you were happy. But I do really believe you were. You chose to stay with the Doctor cause you loved him, and any idiot except you two could see that he loved you too.”

Rose started to ask more questions, but a scientist came up behind Mickey and cleared his throat. “Right. The TARDIS has tracked down the moment of intervention. Friday, the fourth of March, 1:08 in the afternoon. You were talking to Ashley about taking her shift, but decided against it. You need to take it. That’s the most important thing,” Mickey said.

“Keep the jacket on at all times. It's insulation against temporal feedback. This will correspond to local time wherever you land,” Captain Magambo said as a scientist put a watch on Rose’s wrist. Then she handed Rose a glass of water. “This is to combat
dehydration.”

Mickey led Rose back to the mirrors. “From here on, you’re on your own.”

“I don't want to see that thing on my back,” Rose protested. “I thought you said that box could travel in time.”

“It can,” he said. “Or at least it could. But it’s dying, and none of us know how to fly it. But the mirrors are just incidental. They bounce chronon energy back into the centre which we control and decide the destination.”

“So it’s a time machine,” Rose said, warily eyeing the circle.

“It’s a time machine,” Mickey insisted.

“If you could?” Captain Magambo said, gesturing for Rose to step into the circle. As soon as she was in the middle, the captain called, “Powering up!”

“How do you know it’s going to work?” Rose asked.

“Well,” Mickey shrugged. “We don’t. We’re just guessing. But this is our only shot.”

“Brilliant,” Rose huffed.

“Just remember, make yourself take the shift,” Mickey said.

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“That’s up to you,” Mickey replied.

“So I should just run up to myself and have an argument?” Rose asked.

Mickey snorted. “Yeah, no. I’ve had an argument with you before. I doubt that’ll work.”

“Then what?”

“You’re brilliant, Rose. Especially at this sort of thing. You’ll figure something out,” Mickey said with a smile.

“Activate the lodestone,” the captain called.

“Good luck, babe,” Mickey called.

“Thanks,” Rose grumbled.

“Hopefully I’ll see you soon. You and the Doctor, alive and as it should be,” Mickey said with one last smile at Rose.

The world faded out for Rose as Magambo yelled, “Activate!”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose appeared in the street just outside of Henrick’s. The building was still there, untouched by the explosion or the short battle with the Autons. People were wandering the streets, going about their business casually. Rose started to laugh as she realized it had actually worked. Then she glanced down at the watch she had been given. It said 1:05. “Three minutes?”

Rose took off for Hendricks, still unsure what she was going to do. She walked in, hoping to find herself or Ashely. Two minutes passed before she finally spotted Ashely making a beeline for her younger self. Right as Rose thought panic would set in and she’d miss it, she noticed a woman standing just in Ashley’s path holding a cup of coffee. Rose darted behind her and gave her a little shove, just enough to get her to drop her coffee before she darted into a clothing rack to hide. She had somehow managed to time it perfectly so that the woman spilled coffee all over Ashley. She felt a little bad about it, but she had also seen what the future would be like if she didn’t intervene.

From her hiding spot, Rose couldn’t see herself or Ashley, but she was able to hear them.

“Rose, will you please take my shift?” Ashley begged. “Today just keeps getting worse and worse.”

“What happened?” Younger Rose asked as she took in Ashley’s stained clothes.

“Some lady spilled her coffee on me. It’s just—please take my shift. Today’s been bad enough,” Ashley sighed.

Older Rose glanced down at her watch. 1:08. It was the moment of truth. Time to see if younger her was going to react to Ashley’s misfortune the way she thought she would.

“You know what, yeah,” Rose shrugged. “It’s not like I’m doing anything tonight. There’s a match on, so Mickey’ll be at the pub.”

“Oh thank you,” Ashely said, right as older Rose suddenly started to feel faint.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose woke up in the fortune teller’s tent as the beetle fell off her back. “What the hell is that?” Rose yelled, jumping up and looking at it in horror.

The fortune teller had fallen on her back and was scrambling out of the tent, looking at Rose in horror. “You were so strong. What are you? What will you be? What will you be?”

As soon as she had exited the tent via the back entrance, the tent swung open and the Doctor ran in. “Rose, is everything all right?”

She threw her arms around him and buried her face in his neck. “Oh, Doctor,” she whispered.

“What was that for?” he asked. “I just felt you getting farther and farther away on our bond and thought I should come find you.”

“I don’t know what’s going on here,” she said, gesturing to the beetle that was lying dead on the floor, “but it’s not right.”

The Doctor picked up the beetle and set it on the table, pulling out his brainy specs to take a look at it. “So, tell me what happened.”

“Well, I was just wandering through the market. You were haggling, and I knew it would be a minute. Then this fortune teller stopped me. Offered to read my future for free because I had gold hair. I just decided to go with it for a lark, since I don’t really feel like I need my future told. But then she kept asking me about you, and about how we met. I don’t know why I kept answering, but I think it was some sort of drug in the incense. Then that beetle thing climbed on my back, and suddenly I was reliving the day we met, without my memories. And I chose not to take over Ashely’s shift, so we never met, and you ended up dying in the explosion. Then the Autons took over and the world was just wrong,” she said, shaking her head.

“How’d you fix it then?” the Doctor asked. “Cause this thing is one of the Trickster’s Brigade. Changes a life in tiny little ways. Most times, the universe just compensates around it, but with you? Great big parallel world.”

“That’s exactly how,” Rose said. “Mickey, like our Mickey that’s living in the parallel world. He ended up there. Had this whole set up to fix things. Wired up the TARDIS to some machines and everything.”

“But the parallel universes are sealed off,” he argued.

“I dunno,” Rose shrugged. “He said something about how he was looking for his original universe cause they needed our help. Said the stars were going out. I didn’t really pay attention cause I didn’t know what he was talking about. But I have a feeling we’ll be seeing him soon.”

“Let’s find Jenny and Donna and get out of here then,” the Doctor said, standing up and taking Rose’s hand. He quickly sent their daughter a telepathic message to meet them at the TARDIS, an he led her outside the tent. Rose froze as soon as she got out and looked around though. The Doctor followed her gaze to the nearest sign. It said Bad Wolf. Every sign they saw did. And as they sprinted back to the TARDIS, they found even her familiar writing had been replaced with the words Bad Wolf over and over again.

“Is this you?” the Doctor asked, looking at her.

Rose shook her head. “I can’t just do that,” she said. “I don’t know what’s going on any more than you.”

“Mum, what’s happening?” Jenny asked, running up to her parents with Donna in tow, all of them staring at the words on the outside of the TARDIS.

“I don’t know,” Rose said honestly, knowing that the words Bad Wolf randomly appearing rarely meant they were headed for something good.

Chapter Text

As soon as the TARDIS landed on Earth, the Doctor strode out, muttering to himself as he approached a milkman. “It's fine. Everything's fine. Nothing's wrong, all fine. Excuse me. What day is it?”

“Saturday,” the man replied, looking at the Doctor as though he was mad.

Thankful he hadn’t done something really odd like ask what year it was, Rose followed the Doctor out as he said, “Saturday. Good, I like Saturdays.”

“Do you really think that was Mickey?” Rose asked. “Like our Mickey?”

“Yeah,” he nodded.

“But he’s in Pete’s World, and I thought we couldn’t travel between universes anymore,” Rose replied.

“Exactly. If he can cross from his parallel world to your parallel world, then that means the walls of the universe are breaking down, which puts everything in danger. Everything. But how?” the Doctor asked, striding back into the TARDIS.

Seconds after Rose shut the door behind her, the TARDIS began to shake. Everyone grabbed the nearest coral strut and hung on for the few seconds it lasted. “What the hell was that?” Donna asked.

“Don’t know,” the Doctor said, before looking at his fiancée. “Rose?”

“The Old Girl says it wasn’t her,” Rose shrugged.

“Well, then it came from outside,” the Doctor said, moving back to the doors and throwing them open. Everyone crowded around behind him, staring out at the empty void.

“But we're in space. How did that happen? What did you do?” Donna exclaimed.

The Doctor ran back to the console and checked it. “We haven’t moved. We’re fixed. It can’t have. No. The TARDIS is still in the same place, but the Earth has gone. The entire planet. It’s gone.”

Donna started pacing back and forth in the TARDIS, getting more and more upset by the second. “But if the Earth's been moved, they've lost the Sun. What about my Mum? And Granddad? They're dead, aren't they? Are they dead?”

“And Sarah Jane and Luke, and Aunt Martha, and everybody!” Jenny exclaimed, turning to look at her mother.

“I don’t think they’re dead,” Rose said soothingly.

“How do you know that?” Jenny asked her mum.

“I don’t, but I just have a feeling. And usually, those are right. I don’t know if it’s intuition or Bad Wolf, but I’m gonna trust it,” Rose said before making eye contact with the Doctor and adding telepathically, “Because I don’t know what I would do if it wasn’t.”

“There's no readings. Nothing. Not a trace. Not even a whisper. Oh, that is fearsome technology,” the Doctor mumbled, staring at the console, but Rose knew he understood based on the telepathic wave of sympathy she got from him. She knew this was just his way of coping by trying to fix the problem.

“So what do we do now, Dad?” Jenny asked, looking over his shoulder.

“We’ve got to get help,” he replied, starting to set the coordinates.

“From where?” Donna asked.

“I'm taking you all to the Shadow Proclamation. Hold tight,” he said, throwing a lever.

“I thought that was a document? Like a constitution?” Rose asked.

“Is someone gonna tell me what it is?” Donna said, crossing her arms and looking at them.

“Posh name for police. Outer space police. They made the rules, so we just named them after the group,” the Doctor explained. “Now, Jenny press that button there, and Rose, hold that lever steady. Here we go.”

They landed in a long, plain corridor. A platoon of Judoon was waiting to greet them, guns at the ready. “Sco bo tro no flo jo ko fo to to,” the leader demanded.

“No bo ho sho ko ro to so. Bokodozogobofopojo,” the Doctor replied. Immediately all the Judoon stood at attention. “Moho.”

As they followed the Judoon away, Jenny and Donna both shot Rose a confused look. She shrugged in return. The TARDIS wasn’t translating for her any more than she was for them. The TARDIS just really did not like Judoon.

**********************************************************************************************************************

An hour later, the four of them were in a large room, watching a silver-haired woman pace the room. The girls were all sitting on the steps, having been continuously ignored by all present. “Time Lords are the stuff of legend. They belong in the myths and whispers of the Higher Species. You cannot possibly exist,” the Architect said, staring at the Doctor.

He sighed, “Yeah. More to the point, I’ve got a missing planet.”

“Then you're not as wise as the stories would say. The picture is far bigger than you imagine. The whole universe is in outrage, Doctor. Twenty-four worlds have been taken from the sky,” she replied.

“How many? Which ones? Show me,” he demanded, following her over to the screen.

Jenny jumped up to follow her father over, but Rose held her back. The Doctor had warned them not to mention that Jenny was a Time Lady and that Rose was…whatever she was. He didn’t exactly trust the Shadow Proclamation, and he wasn’t about to have them using his family.

“Locations range far and wide, but all disappeared at the exact same moment, leaving no trace,” the Architect said, pointing to the list of planets.

“Callufrax Minor. Jahoo. Shallacatop. Woman Wept. Clom. Clom's gone? Who'd want Clom?” The Doctor turned to look at Rose and she just screwed up her face and shook her head.

“Nope, don’t even want to think about Clom,” she laughed.

“What’s Clom?” Jenny asked, sure she hadn’t heard about that one from her parents.

“Twin planet to Raxicoricofallipatorius,” Rose replied. “Met an Absorbaloff from there. Not a memory I want to relive.”

Ignoring the Rose and Jenny, the Architect continued. “All different sizes. Some populated, some not. But all unconnected.”

“What about Pyrovillia?” Donna asked.

The Architect scowled and looked at the Doctor. “Who are these females?”

“Donna. I'm a human being. Maybe not the stuff of legend but every bit as important as Time Lords, thank you. Way back, when we were in Pompeii, Lucius said Pyrovillia had gone missing,” Donna snapped.

“And this female’s gonna slap ya if you keep calling her female,” Rose growled.

“Rose,” the Doctor said, warningly. He really did not need the Shadow Proclamation finding out about the Bad Wolf, and he could feel her control slipping. She was doing a good job of hiding how scared she was about her friends from Donna and Jenny, but he knew that even though she was pretty sure they were fine, the longer it took to find them the less sure she was.

Rose held up her hands in mock surrender, turning her attention to the Judoon that said, “Pyrovillia is cold case. Not relevant.”

“How do you mean, cold case?” Donna asked.

“The planet Pyrovillia cannot be part of this. It disappeared over two thousand years ago,” the Architect argued.

“Yes, yes, hang on. But there's the Adipose breeding planet, too. Miss Foster said that was lost, but that must've been a long time ago,” Donna added.

“That's it! Donna, brilliant. Planets are being taken out of time as well as space. Let's put this into 3-D,” the Doctor said as scaled holograms of the planets began to appear around the room. “Now, if we add Pyrovillia and Adipose Three…”

“Something’s missing,” Jenny said, jumping up and looking at the holograms. “I can’t explain it, but it just looks like something’s missing.”

“You’re right,” the Doctor said, looking around. “Hmmm…. Something missing. Where else, where else, where else? Where else lost, lost, lost, lost. Oh! The Lost Moon of Poosh.”

As the last planet appeared, the holograms began realigning themselves. “What did you do?” the architect asked.

“Nothing. The planets rearranged themselves into the optimum pattern. Oh, look at that. Twenty-seven planets in perfect balance. Come on, that is gorgeous,” he grinned.

“Oi, don't get all spaceman. What does it mean?” Donna asked.

“All those worlds fit together like pieces of an engine. It's like a powerhouse. What for?” the Doctor muttered to himself.

“Who could design such a thing?” the Architect asked.

“Someone tried to move the Earth once before. Long time ago. Can't be…” The Doctor said, suddenly looking at Rose with panic shining clearly in his eyes.

**********************************************************************************************************************

Rose and Donna went back to where they had been sitting on the stairs. Rose had given up on trying to keep Jenny with her, mostly because she sensed that the Doctor needed her near him right then. There was only one thing Rose had ever seen put that kind of panic into his eyes.

Suddenly, an albino woman offered a tray to her and Donna. “You need sustenance. Take the water, it purifies.”

“Thank you,” Rose smiled.

“There was something on your back,” the albino said, looking curiously at Rose.

“How do you know that?” Rose asked.

“You are something new,” the albino replied simply.

“What do you mean?” Rose asked nervously.

“There is something of the wolf about you, just below the surface,” the woman said quickly, bowing to Rose before scurrying up the stairs.

“Wait,” Rose called, but the woman was gone.

“Donna, come on, think. Earth. There must've been some sort of warning. Was anything happening back in your day, like electrical storms, freak weather, patterns in the sky?” the Doctor yelled.

“Well, how should I know? Er, no. I don't think so, no,” Donna replied.

“Oh, okay, never mind,” he sighed, starting to pace the room.

“Although, there were the bees disappearing,” Donna said.

“The bees disappearing. The bees disappearing. The bees disappearing!” he exclaimed, jumping up.

“How is that significant?” the Architect asked.

“On Earth we had these insects. Some people said it was pollution or mobile phone signals,” Donna explained.

“Or, they were going back home,” the Doctor grinned.

“Hold on. I’ve been traveling with you for how long, and you never mentioned that bees are alien?” Rose said, standing next to her fiancé.

“Don't be so daft. Not all of them. But if the migrant bees felt something coming, some sort of danger, and escaped? Tandocca,” he rambled, taking off in the direction of the TARDIS.

“The Tandocca Scale,” the Architect nodded.

“Tandocca Scale is the series of wavelengths used as a carrier signals by migrant bees. Infinitely small. No wonder we didn't see it. It's like looking for a speck of cinnamon in the Sahara, but look, there it is. The Tandocca trail. The transmat that moved the planets was using the same wavelength, we can follow the path,” the Doctor explained.

“And find the Earth?. Well, stop talking and do it,” Donna ordered as they followed him into the TARDIS.

“I am,” he replied. “We're a bit late. The signal's scattered, but it's a start.”

He stuck his head out the door to address the Architect. “I've got a blip. It's just a blip, But it's definitely a blip.”

“Then according to the Strictures of the Shadow Proclamation, I will have to seize your transport and your technology,” the Architect said.

“Oh, really? What for?” he asked.

“The planets were stolen with hostile intent. We are declaring war, Doctor, right across the universe, and you will lead us into battle,” she smiled.

“Right, yes. Course I will. I’ll just go and get you the key,” he said, ducking back into the TARDIS.

The Doctor dashed back to the console and started putting in the directions for following the blip to the Earth. “Now do you see why I couldn’t let them find out you were a Time Lady, Jenny? Or that your mum was…special?”

“They thought you were going to lead them into war? Do they honestly know anything about you?” Jenny asked.

“I’ve fought in a war before, you know that,” he said quietly. “And if I’m right, which I hope I’m not, it was against the same beings that took the Earth.”

Before anyone could reply, Rose looked at the time rotor. “It’s stopped.”

“What do you mean? Is that good or bad? Where are we?”

“The Medusa Cascade. I came here when I was just a kid, ninety years old. It was the centre of a rift in time and space,” the Doctor explained.

“So, where are the twenty-seven planets?” Jenny asked.

“Nowhere. The Tandocca Trail stops dead. End of the line,” he said, bowing his head and leaning on the TARDIS console.

“Come on,” Rose said, quietly slipping up behind him and wrapping her arms around him. She pressed her face into his shoulder blade and said, “You never give up. Not when people need you. And they do. All the people of those 27 planets. And maybe even the universe. Our friends are down there, and you never let our friends down. So come on. What are we going to do?”

Suddenly, Rose’s mobile starting ringing. “Phone!”

“The only people that could possibly have that number are all on Earth,” Jenny exclaimed.

“It’s a signal,” the Doctor grinned.

“Can we follow it?” Rose asked.

“Oh, just watch me,” the Doctor grinned, plugging Rose’s mobile into the TARDIS console. “Got it. Locking on.”

Suddenly, the TARDIS started to spark and bang around. “We're travelling through time. One second in the future. The phone call's pulling us through,” the Doctor explained, pressing buttons to try to help the TARDIS out.

When he pulled a mallet from under the console, Rose immediately grabbed it. “What have I told you about these?” she huffed before turning to the console and running a soothing hand along it. “It’s okay, Old Girl. I won’t let the mean man hit you.”

“Rose!” the Doctor whinged.

She rolled her eyes and read the screen, announcing the TARDIS’s countdown. “Three, two, one.”

Suddenly, the shaking stopped as the twenty-seven planets popped into existence around them. The screen now showed all of the planets, with the Earth centered on it. “Twenty-seven planets. And there's the Earth. But why couldn't we see them?”

“The entire Medusa Cascade has been put a second out of sync with the rest of the universe. Perfect hiding place. Tiny little pocket of time. But we found them. Ooo, ooo, ooo, what's that? Hold on, hold on. Some sort of Subwave Network,” the Doctor said, typing on the console. Suddenly the screen split into four parts, with them on one corner, Jack on another, Martha on yet another, and Sarah Jane on the last corner.

“Where the hell have you been?” Jack asked.

“Sorry, Jack, you’re a hard man to find,” Rose grinned, her tongue pocking out of the corner of her smile.

Jack, however, didn’t smile back. “Doctor, Rose. It’s the Daleks.”

Behind him, a woman said, “Oh, he's a bit nice. I thought he'd be older.”

“Oi, he’s taken,” Rose said at the same time that a man behind Jack said, “He’s not that young.”

Ignoring them all, Sarah Jane said, “It's the Daleks. They're taking people to their spaceship.”

“It’s not just Dalek Caan,” Martha added.

Suddenly, the scanner went blank. “Oh, we’ve lost them,” Donna sighed.

“No, no, no, no, no. There's another signal coming through. There's someone else out there. Hello? Can you hear me?” the Doctor asked.

“Mickey?” Rose asked, hopefully.

“Your voice is different, and yet its arrogance is unchanged,” a voice called from the darkness before a hideous face finally filled the screen. “Welcome to my new Empire, Doctor. It is only fitting that you should bear witness to the resurrection and the triumph of Davros, lord and creator of the Dalek race.”

“Doctor?” Donna asked, noticing how rigid he had gone.

“Have you nothing to say?” Davros taunted.

“It’s alright. We’re in the TARDIS, we’re safe,” Jenny said, taking her dad’s hand.

He pushed her behind him, desperate to get her away from the camera. It was too late for Rose, and besides, there was a good chance the Daleks already knew about her. But he could protect Jenny a little bit longer.

“But you were destroyed. In the very first year of the Time War, at the Gates of Elysium. I saw your command ship fly into the jaws of the Nightmare Child. I tried to save you,” the Doctor muttered, unable to take his eyes off Davros.

“But it took one stronger than you. Dalek Caan himself,” Davros said, pointing behind him to the monstrous Dalek behind him. Dalek Caan was no longer inside his shell, and his Dalek self was mangled to the point of looking wrong, even for a Dalek.

“I flew into the wild and fire. I danced and died a thousand times,” Dalek Caan laughed.

“Emergency Temporal Shift took him back into the Time War itself,” Davros explained.

“But that's impossible. The entire War is timelocked,” the Doctor argued.

“And yet he succeeded. Oh, it cost him his mind, but imagine. A single, simple Dalek succeeded where Emperors and Time Lords have failed. A testament, don't you think, to my remarkable creations?” Davros grinned.

“And you made a new race of Daleks,” the Doctor spat.

“I gave myself to them, quite literally. Each one grown from a cell of my own body,” Davros said, opening his shirt to reveal his ribs, bare but for a few nerves and his internal organs. “New Daleks. True Daleks. I have my children, Doctor. What do you have, now?”

“After all this time, everything we saw, everything we lost, I have only one thing to say to you. Bye!” the Doctor said, throwing a lever and disconnecting the signal as the TARDIS flew off.

The four of them stepped out of the TARDIS onto an empty street. “It’s like a ghost town,” Donna whispered.

“Sarah Jane said they were taking the people. What for? Think, Rose. When you met Mickey in that parallel world, what did he say?”

“That the stars are going out. But I wish I knew what he meant,” Rose huffed.

Suddenly, the Doctor’s face broke into a grin as he stared at something behind Rose. “Well, why don’t you ask him?”

Rose turned around to see Mickey standing at the other end of the street, holding the biggest gun she’s ever seen. He slung it around his back as he smiled, and the two of them took off toward each other. Before Rose could reach Mickey though, a Dalek screamed, “Exterminate!”

The shot just barely grazed her, but the energy was enough. Rose knew it would kill her as she fell to the ground. Vaguely, she registered something blowing up the Dalek, but she couldn’t move enough to look and see what had happened.

Kneeling next to her, Mickey sobbed, “Hey, babe. I’ve got you. You’re gonna be fine.”

“Mickey,” she grinned.

“Hi,” he laughed as tears started running down his face. “This isn’t exactly how I pictured this going.”

“It never is,” Rose muttered weakly.

The Doctor raced over and scooped Rose up. “Into the TARDIS. All of you.”

Mickey followed the Doctor in, noticing that Jack was there, holding a rather large gun himself. He must have been the one to take out the Dalek. He also briefly noticed two other women, but he was far more focused on Rose. “Can you save her?”

“No,” the Doctor said, laying Rose down on the grating.

Jenny sat down behind Rose and scooped her mum’s head into her lap. She was fighting hard to keep it together, and the Doctor pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’ll be okay, sweetie.”

“I know,” Jenny whispered.

Donna was hugging Jack, and the Doctor wasn’t sure if it was for comfort, or just an excuse to hug Jack, but he wasn’t in the mood to warn either of them off something as normal for them as flirting as he watched Rose’s lifeless body.

“Aren’t you going to do something?” Mickey screamed. “That’s Rose! You promised you would keep her safe.”

“Mickey, there’s nothing I can do,” the Doctor said. “It’s up to her now.”

“Up to her? Doctor, she’s dead!” Mickey exclaimed, gesturing behind him to her to prove his point.

Suddenly, a large gasp made Mickey turn around and stare in shock.

“Sorry about that,” Rose said to Mickey, before turning to Jack and scrunching her nose up in disgust. “Daleks. Not my favorite way to die.”

Chapter Text

“What just happened? Rose?” Mickey muttered, glancing between the three people he knew, looking for an explanation.

“I know you said that never gets easier,” Jenny said, looking at the Doctor as she helped her mum up, “but it still really sucks every time.”

The Doctor pulled Jenny in for a hug and kissed her forehead. “I know sweetie, I know.”

“What is happening?” Mickey exclaimed, louder this time.

“Sorry about that,” Rose shrugged. “A lot has changed since we saw you. But it’s really good to see you, Mickey.”

Rose hugged Mickey, and after a moment of stunned silence, he hugged her back. “It’s good to see you too, babe, but you were dead.”

“Yeah, happens occasionally,” Rose shrugged. “You get used to it.”

“No, you don’t!” the Doctor and Jenny exclaimed in unison while Jack just shrugged in agreement.

“But, how?” Mickey asked.

“Remember, back when he had his last face? When he sent me home and the only way to get back was by opening the heart of the TARDIS?” Rose asked. When Mickey nodded, she continued, “Well, turns out temporarily merging with the TARDIS and becoming a time goddess changes a person. Can’t stay dead, and I haven’t aged a day.”

“Bloody hell,” Mickey muttered under his breath.

“Don’t worry about it,” Rose reassured him. “I’m fine. And it really is all for the best. You remember the question I asked you, in that parallel universe?”

“About if you were happy?” Mickey asked.

“Yeah,” Rose said. “And you were right. I am happy. I am so happy Mickey.”

“That’s good, yeah,” Mickey said, smiling again.

“Well, aren’t you gonna introduce us?” Donna asked.

“Right, Mickey, this is Donna, she travels with us now. Donna, this is my best mate, Mickey Smith,” Rose said, doing the introductions.

“Nice to meet you,” Donna said, shaking Mickey’s hand.

“You too,” Mickey agreed.

“Jenny, this is Mickey, and Mickey, this is—” Rose was cut off when the TARDIS started to shake. The lights all went out and Rose looked up and said, “We’re in some kind of chronon loop. I think it’s the Daleks.”

“Quick, Mickey, Jack, tell us everything you know about what’s going on,” the Doctor said.

“There's a massive Dalek ship at the centre of the planets. They're calling it the Crucible. Guess that's our destination,” Jack said.

“You said these planets were like an engine. But what for?” Donna asked.

“Mickey, you've been in a parallel world. That world's running ahead of this universe. You've seen the future. What was it?” the Doctor asked.

“It’s the darkness. The stars were going out,” he replied. “One by one. We looked up at the sky and they were just dying. Basically, we've been building this, er, this travel machine, this, this er, dimension cannon, so we could get help. You were all we could think of, Doctor. Anyway, suddenly, it started to work and the dimensions started to collapse. Not just in our world, not just in yours, but the whole of reality. Even the Void was dead. Something is destroying everything.”

“In the parallel world, you said something about me. Something about my timelines,” Rose said.

“The dimension cannon could measure timelines, and it's, it's weird, Rose, but they all seemed to converge on you,” Mickey shrugged.

“Could that be Bad Wolf?” Rose asked the Doctor.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” he said, pulling her in for a hug and kissing her forehead. Suddenly, the scanner beeped behind them. “The Dalek Crucible. All aboard.”

From outside, they heard a Dalek call, “Doctor, you will step forth or die.”

“We'll have to go out. Because if we don't, they'll get in,” the Doctor said.

“But you said nothing could get through those doors,” Mickey said.

“You’ve got extrapolator shielding,” Jack added.

“Last time we fought the Daleks, they were scavengers and hybrids, and mad. But this is a fully-fledged Dalek Empire, at the height of its power. Experts at fighting TARDISes, they can do anything. Right now, that wooden door is just wood,” He said sadly. Rose took his hand and smiled up at him.

On his other side, Jenny took his other hand. “Then we do this together.”

As they started to walk out, Rose’s hand slipped out of the Doctor’s. “Rose?”

“Just a mo’,” she muttered, staring at this time rotor. If anyone had seen her face, they might have noticed that her eyes were glowing gold as she stepped toward the dark console. “Go on, I’ll be right out.”

Deciding that it must be Rose reassuring the TARDIS as part of their special bond, the Doctor led the others out. But as soon as everyone else was out, the doors snapped shut. Rose suddenly came to her senses and ran to the door, banging on it, pulling it and pushing it, trying to get it open, but it wouldn’t budge.

“Doctor!” she yelled.

“Rose? Rose what happened?” he yelled back.

“Did you lock the door?” she asked.

“No, I didn’t do anything thing,” he said, stopping his frantic banging and pressing a hand against the door, praying for it to open.

On the other side of the door, Rose mimicked his posture. “I’m not staying behind,” she muttered fiercely.

Spinning on the Daleks, he yelled, “What did you do?”

“This is not of Dalek origin,” the creature replied.

“Stop it, please, stop it. She’s my-she’s my---Just let her out! Please,” he pleaded.

“This is Time Lord treachery,” the Dalek replied.

“Me? The door just closed on its own,” the Doctor argued.

“Nevertheless, the TARDIS is a weapon and it will be destroyed,” the Dalek said before a trapdoor opened under the TARDIS and it dropped out of sight.

“What are you doing?” the Doctor screamed. “Bring it back, bring her back!”

As he yelled at the Dalek, the Doctor pulled Jenny close to keep her quiet and telepathically said, “Don’t mention that you’re a Time Lord or that you’re my daughter. They’ll just ignore you to the same extent they ignore the rest of the companions. And don’t mention my relationship with your mother. I don’t want them to be able to use that against us.

Silently, Jenny nodded into his chest and took a deep breath to compose herself as her dad asked, “What have you done? Where's it going?”

“The Crucible has a heart of Z-neutrino energy. The TARDIS will be deposited into the core,” the Dalek replied.

“You can't. You've taken the defences down. It'll be torn apart!” the Doctor yelled.

“But Rose is still in there!” Mickey yelled.

“Let her go,” Jack growled.

“The female and the TARDIS will perish together. Observe. The last child of Gallifrey is powerless,” the Dalek declared as projection of the TARDIS appeared, sinking into a yellow, molten sea.

“Please. I'm begging you. I'll do anything! Put me in her place. You can do anything to me, I don't care, just get her out of there!” the Doctor begged, tears streaming down his face as he held Jenny close. Both of them could still feel Rose in their head, and they could feel her panic.

“You are connected to the TARDIS, now feel it die. Total TARDIS destruction in ten rels. Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one,” The Dalek counted. On the screen, the TARDIS vanished. “The TARDIS has been destroyed. Now tell me, Doctor. What do you feel? Anger? Sorrow? Despair?”

“Yeah,” the Doctor replied, though he hardly noticed what he was saying. He and Jenny could both still feel Rose in their heads, but she felt different. Neither of them could really explain it. But at least she was there. Neither her nor the TARDIS had been destroyed. Now they just had to hope that their girls had a plan.

“Then if emotions are so important, surely we have enhanced you?” the Dalek asked.

“Yeah? Feel this!” Jack yelled, pulling a small gun from his pocket and aiming it at the Dalek.

“Exterminate!” The Dalek shot Jack and he fell to the ground.

“Oh my God. It killed Jack,” Mickey muttered.

“Mickey, come on. Leave him,” the Doctor said, letting go of Jenny and whispering to her, “Go with Donna, please.”

“First they kill Rose, now Jack? Come on Doctor, do something,” Mickey growled.

“There’s nothing I can do. I’m just going to try to keep the rest of you alive. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” he said to Mickey.

“Escort them to the Vault. They are the playthings of Davros now,” the Dalek that had been tormenting them said to another Dalek.

When they reached the Vault, the Doctor was herded away from Jenny, Donna, and Mickey. “Activate the holding cells,” Davros declared, spinning around in his wheelchair, looking more decrepit than the Doctor had ever seen him. From above, two lights shone down, one on the Doctor and one on the others. “Excellent. Even when powerless, a Time Lord is best contained.

“Still scared of me, then?” the Doctor asked.

“It is time we talked, Doctor. After so very long,” Davros said, avoiding the question.

“No, no, no, no, no. We're not doing the nostalgia tour. I want to know what's happening right here, right now, because the Supreme Dalek said Vault, yeah? As in dungeon, cellar, prison. You're not in charge of the Daleks, are you? They've got you locked away down here in the basement like, what, a servant? Slave? Court jester?” the Doctor asked.

“We have an arrangement,” Davros replied, shifting uncomfortably.

“No, no, no, no, no. No, I've got the word. You're the Dalek's pet!” the Doctor crooned.

“So very full of fire, is he not. And to think you crossed entire universes, striding parallel to parallel to find him again. Hoping he could help you,” Davros said to Mickey. “But he can’t even protect his friends.”

“Leave him alone,” the Doctor growled.

“He is mine to do as I please.”

“Then why am I still alive?” Mickey asked. “Why are any of us still alive?”

“Yeah, remind the crazy alien to kill us, why don’t you?” Donna muttered under her breath.

“You must be here. It was foretold. Even the Supreme Dalek would not dare to contradict the prophecies of Dalek Caan,” Davros said, gesturing to the corner where Dalek Caan sat in a busted shell, his soft, pink, deformed Dalek body on full display.

“So cold and dark. Fire is coming. The endless flames,” Dalek Caan cackled.

“Ugh, what is that thing?” Donna asked.

“The last of the Cult of Skaro. Mickey, you’ve met him before. At Canary Wharf. But it flew into the Time War, unprotected,” the Doctor explained.

“Caan did more than that. He saw time. Its infinite complexity and majesty, raging through his mind. And he saw you. All of you,” Davros said.

“This I have foreseen, in the wild and the wind. The Doctor will be here as witness, at the end of everything. The Doctor and his precious Children of Time. And one of them will die,” Caan said, cackling more wildly than before.

“Was it you, Caan? Did you kill Rose? Why did the TARDIS door close? Tell me!” the Doctor roared.

“Oh, that's it. The anger, the fire, the rage of a Time Lord who butchered millions. There he is. Why so shy? Show your companions. Show them your true self. Dalek Caan has promised me that too,” Davros grinned.

“I have seen. At the time of ending, the Doctor's soul will be revealed,” Caan prophesized.

“What does that mean?” Jenny asked.

“We will discover it together. Our final journey. Because the ending approaches. The testing begins,” Davros declared.

“Testing of what?” the Doctor asked.

“The Reality Bomb,” Davros said, his smile growing maniacally wide as he turned toward a screen showing a bunch of humans in a sort of pen. “Behold. The apotheosis of my genius.”

“Four, three, two, one, zero,” a Dalek declared. “Activating planetary alignment field.”

“That's Z-neutrino energy, flattened by the alignment of the planets into a single string. No, Davros. Davros, you can't! You can't! No!” the Doctor yelled.

On-screen, a green beam appeared, and the humans slowly atomized from their heads to their feet.

“What happened? Doctor, what happened to them?” Donna asked.

“Electrical energy, Miss Noble. Every atom in existence is bound by an electrical field. The Reality bomb cancels it out. Structure falls apart. That test was focused on the prisoners alone. Full transmission will dissolve every form of matter,” Davros explained.

“Who are you calling miss? What, do I look single?” Donna said, focusing on that rather than the reality of the situation because reality was just a bit too much for her at the moment.

“Not now, Aunt Donna,” Jenny muttered. “Not now.”

“The stars are going out,” Mickey said as it all began to make sense.

“The twenty-seven planets. They become one vast transmitter, blasting that wavelength,” the Doctor explained as it all started to make sense to him.

“Across the entire universe. Never stopping, never faltering, never fading. People and planets and stars will become dust, and the dust will become atoms, and the atoms will become nothing. And the wavelength will continue, breaking through the Rift at the heart of the Medusa Cascade into every dimension, every parallel, every single corner of creation. This is my ultimate victory, Doctor! The destruction of reality itself!” Davros cackled.

Suddenly, Martha appeared on the screen. “This message is for the Dalek Crucible. Repeat. Can you hear me?”

“Put me through,” the Doctor instructed.

“It begins as Dalek Caan foretold,” Davros said.

“The Children of Time will gather and one of them will die,” Caan said in a false whisper.

“Stop saying that. Put me through!” the Doctor ordered.

“Doctor, I’m sorry, I had to,” Martha said.

“Oh, but the Doctor is powerless. My prisoner. State your intent,” Davros ordered.

“I've got the Osterhagen Key. Leave this planet and its people alone or I’ll use it,” Martha said.

“Osterhagen what? What's an Osterhagen Key?” the Doctor asked.

“There's a chain of twenty-five nuclear warheads placed in strategic points beneath the Earth's crust. If I use the key, they detonate and the Earth gets ripped apart,” Martha explained.

“What? Who invented that? Well, someone called Osterhagen, I suppose. Martha, are you insane?” the Doctor asked.

“The Osterhagen Key is to be used if the suffering of the human race is so great, so without hope, that this becomes the final option.”

“That’s never an option,” the Doctor argued.

“You didn’t see what it was like for people, just normal people, during that year, so don’t argue with me, Doctor!” Martha snapped. “Especially because it’s more than that. Now, I reckon the Daleks need these twenty-seven planets for something. But what if it becomes twenty-six? What happens then? Daleks? Would you risk it?”

“She’s good,” Mickey muttered.

“Who’s that?” Martha asked.

“Mickey, Mickey Smith.”

“What? Like Rose’s friend?” Martha asked.

Before Mickey could reply, Jack popped up on the screen as well. “Captain Jack Harkness, calling all Dalek boys and girls. Are you receiving me? Don't send in your goons, or I'll set this thing off.”

“He’s alive?” Mickey asked.

Behind him, the Doctor quickly noticed another familiar face. “Jackie?” he exclaimed. “And Captain, what are you doing?”

“I've got a Warp Star wired into the mainframe. I break this shell, the entire Crucible goes up,” Jack explained.

“You can’t! Where did you get a Warp Star?”

“From me,” Sarah Jane said, stepping into the frame. “We had no choice. We saw what happened to the prisoners.”

“Impossible. That face. After all these years,” Davros muttered.

“Davros. It's been quite a while. Sarah Jane Smith. Remember?”

“Oh, this is meant to be. The circle of Time is closing. You were there on Skaro at the very beginning of my creation.”

“And I've learnt how to fight since then. You let the Doctor go, or this Warp Star gets opened,” Sarah Jane said.

“Don’t imagine I wouldn’t,” Jack said, waving the small, diamond looking thing about.

“Now that’s what I call a ransom,” Mickey said appreciatively.

“And the prophecy unfolds,” Davros said.

“The Doctor's soul is revealed. See him. See the heart of him,” Caan said.

“The man who abhors violence, never carrying a gun. But this is the truth, Doctor. You take ordinary people and you fashion them into weapons. Behold your Children of Time, transformed into murderers. I made the Daleks, Doctor. You made this.”

“They’re trying to help,” the Doctor protested.

“Already I have seen them sacrifice today, for their beloved Doctor. The Earth woman who fell opening the Subwave Network,” Davros said.

“Who was that?” he asked, not sure he wanted to know the answer.

“Harriet Jones. She gave her life to get you here,” Mickey explained.

“How many more? Just think. How many have died in your name? The Doctor. The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame. This is my final victory, Doctor. I have shown you yourself,” Davros said, throwing his hands up in victory.

Somewhere else in the Crucible, a Dalek ordered transmats, and suddenly Martha, Jack, Sarah Jane, and Jackie appear inside the containment field.

“Don’t move, all of you. Stay still,” the Doctor ordered.

Jackie quickly looked around and then turned on the Doctor. “Where the hell is my daughter?”

“Jackie, I’m sorry, I’m so, so—” the Doctor was interrupted.

“Miss Tyler died along with the TARDIS. The Doctor was unable to save either of them,” Davros said, enjoying the tensions being built up between the companions and the Doctor.

“Not, not Rose,” Martha said, looking between all of her friends quickly, but none of them able to meet her eyes.

Jenny, tell your grandmother that Rose is alive. Be discreet. But I worry what she’ll do if she doesn’t find out. The others will hopefully figure it out soon enough, but I’ve never really been able to predict Jackie Tyler…” the Doctor telepathically told his daughter.

Jenny pulled Jackie into a hug and whispered in her ear, “You can’t react to what I’m going to tell you. It’s very important that you don’t, but Rose is alive. We’re not sure where she is, but we’re really hoping she has a plan.”

Jackie squeezed Jenny tightly in thanks and stayed there for a moment before pulling back to look at Jenny. “Who are you? Have we met before?”

“No,” Jenny replied.

“Are you sure? Something about you seems really familiar,” Jackie protested.

“Believe me, I’m sure,” Jenny replied, looking away quickly. Of all the times she had imagined meeting her grandmother, it certainly never involved Daleks.

“The final prophecy is in place. The Doctor and his children, all gathered as witnesses. Supreme Dalek, the time has come. Now, detonate the Reality bomb!” Davros exclaimed.

“You can't, Davros! Just listen to me! Just stop!” the Doctor pleaded.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha! Nothing can stop the detonation. Nothing and no one!” Davros crowed.

A familiar whoosing noise echoed through the vault.

“But that’s impossible!” Davros exclaimed.

Martha let out a sigh of relief and dropped her head sideways on to Jack’s shoulder. “Based on the looks on everyone’s faces, I thought you all might have meant she died for real.”

Suddenly, the TARDIS doors flew open and Rose stepped out, lit from within and behind by a glowing light. The Doctor felt his heart clench as he was momentarily thrown back into his last body, the last time she had looked like that.

With her voice echoing from the power, Bad Wolf said, “You will not destroy this universe or any other. The only thing you will destroy is yourselves.” She closed her fist and the Z-neutrino energy reversed its course, taking its effect on the Crucible rather than the universe. With another wave of her hand, the forcefields dropped and everyone was free. She continued flicking her wrist, but the Doctor was unsure what exactly she was doing.

At this point, Rose had stepped out of the doorway, leaving it free. “Everyone, into the TARDIS. Hurry,” the Doctor ordered.

“Not without my daughter,” Jackie replied.

“Please, Jackie. I’ll get her. Just get inside. I don’t want to be the one responsible if something were to happen to you,” he pleaded, and Jackie finally let Mickey pull her inside.

“Rose, you have to let go of the power, it’ll burn you,” he pleaded.

“Oh Doctor,” Bad Wolf said, placing a hand on his cheek. “You don’t think I’d do anything to hurt her, do you? Last time she wasn’t ready for the power, she couldn’t let it go on her own, but now, now she can. As soon as she knows you’re safe.”

“I am. I’m safe. Now please, Rose, come back to me,” the Doctor whispered, taking her hand.

Bad Wolf smiled and nodded before letting out a deep breath of golden energy. Rose collapsed and the Doctor picked her up and carried her into the TARDIS. Everyone tried to swarm him, but Jack was able to keep everyone but Jenny back.

“She’ll be fine. I’m sure. I just need to do one thing before I get you all out of here,” the Doctor said, laying Rose on the jump seat. He opened the door again and leaned out. “Davros? Come with me. I promise I can save you.”

“Never forget, Doctor, you did this. I name you. Forever, you are the Destroyer of the Worlds!” Davros yelled as the energy reached the Vault.

There was no time left, so the Doctor rushed back inside and dematerialized the TARDIS. As soon as they were in the vortex, he heard a groan from behind him.

“Rose?”

“Doctor?” she asked, sitting up with Jenny’s help. “What happened? I remember the door shutting, but everything is a little fuzzy after that.”

“Bad Wolf,” he replied. “But how do you feel?”

“A little tired, but mostly fine. You’re not about to regenerate on me, are you?”

“No, I’m not. You let go on your own this time,” he replied.

“Good,” she smiled. Behind him, the Doctor heard Martha cough pointedly. Rose just smiled and said, “Fine, Martha, come give me a check-up. I know you won’t rest until you have.”

“Can you blame me?” Martha asked as she made her way over. Then, motioning to the Doctor, she added. “Jenny, go help with whatever he’s doing. Your hovering isn’t going to help.”

Jenny grumbled, but she did. As Martha gave Rose a check-up similar to the ones she gave her after missions during the year-that-never-was, Jenny and the Doctor checked the space surrounding what had been the Crucible.

“Looks like you’re fine, but I still think you need a med-bay check-up,” Martha said.

“Later, there are probably a million more important things right now and I’ll be fine,” Rose said, brushing her off.

“Fine? I thought you were dead!” Jackie exclaimed from the other side of the console, where she was being held back from rushing Rose by the combined might of Jack and Mickey.

“Mum, I’ll be—wait, Mum?” Rose exclaimed, her eyes landing on Jackie and actually processing for the first time that her mother was actually in the TARDIS. She immediately jumped up and lunged across the room into her mother’s arms.

“Careful!” Martha, the Doctor, and Jenny all gasped, but Rose ignored them.

“Mum, how are you here?” Rose asked, her face still buried in her mum’s neck.

“You think that Torchwood was running an operation to get back to your universe and I wasn’t going to come find you?” Jackie asked.

“But what about Pete and the baby?”

“They’re here too,” Jackie said. “I remembered that you mentioned an old friend of the Doctor’s to try calling next time things went crazy, so I sent them to Sarah Jane’s while I came looking for you.”

“They’ll be fine with Luke, Mister Smith, and K-9,” Sarah Jane said.

“You brought them here?” Rose asked.

Jackie nodded her head decisively. “When I found out it was possible, I decided I wasn’t going to be separated from any of my family anymore. And Tony deserves to know his big sister.”

By this point, Rose was crying happy tears. “Tony?” She laughed. “I have a baby brother?”

“He’s three now, so not so much a baby anymore,” Jackie said. “I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

“Speaking of meeting people,” Rose started, turning toward Jenny, but she stopped when she noticed Jenny shaking her head furiously.

Is this like the first time you met Sarah Jane, Jack, and the Joneses?” Rose asked her daughter mentally.

This is bigger than that,” Jenny insisted. “This is your mum, mum.”

Jenny, she’s gonna love you. If anyone should be worried, it’s your father,” Rose laughed.

Maybe introduce Jenny last, love. Let your mum figure out that it’s been a bit longer for you and let her warm up to the idea a bit,” the Doctor suggested, taking a step away from Jackie as subtly as he could.

Rose shook her head, but she turned instead toward the rest of her friends. “Mum, I’m sure you remember Jack, he came round to visit back before the Doctor regenerated. And, I guess you’ve met Sarah Jane now. And this is Martha, she travelled with us for a bit and we got really close. She’s now a doctor that works for UNIT. And this is Donna, she travels with us now. I have a feeling you two will get on,” Rose said, pointing at each person in turn.

Suddenly, Jackie grabbed Rose’s left hand. “Is that?” She squeaked.

Rose looked at the TARDIS blue engagement ring on her finger. “Yeah, the Doctor and I are engaged,” she said with a smile.

“How long did it take him?” Jackie asked, examining the ring.

“It certainly wasn’t rushed,” Rose chuckled nervously before adding as nonchalantly as she could, “But we don’t really have to rush, seeing as I’m actually immortal and all.”

“Immortal?” Jackie said, her eyes flying to Rose’s face.

“Yeah, turns out looking into the heart of the TARDIS changes a person,” Rose shrugged. “But I’m glad of it. Now I won’t ever have to leave the Doctor alone.”

“How old are you now, then?” Jackie asked, terrified her daughter had aged hundreds of years since she last saw her.

“I’m 31,” Rose replied.

“I wish I looked that good at 31,” Jackie snorted before sobering up again. “I’ve missed so much though, 10 whole years!”

“I’ve missed you so much, mum,” Rose said.

“I’ve missed you too, sweetheart,” Jackie said.

“And I hate to spring this on you, but I’ve got one more surprise for you,” Rose said, turning to Jenny, who nodded her consent. “This is—”

“Doctor, what are you doing up there?” Jackie asked, having turned to notice the Doctor, who had scaled some of the coral in the console room.

“Uhhhh,” he said. “I’m just trying to be out of reach.”

“Out of reach? Why?” Jackie asked.

“He’s dramatic,” Rose sighed. “But mum, I really want to introduce you to Jenny, your granddaughter.”

“My-my,” Jackie said, lost for words, glancing between Rose and the Doctor.

“I know she seems old, but she was born this age. It’s really complicated, but she came from a machine that took a genetic sample of me and the Doctor and produced a fully grown child. She was an accident, but the best accident we ever could have asked for,” Rose smiled, pulling Jenny near her.

“Uh, hi Gran,” Jenny said, nervously twirling her ponytail.

Jackie immediately pulled Jenny into a hug, and Rose left the two of them to talk while she coaxed the Doctor down.

“I hate to interrupt the reunion, but what about all the planets?” Sarah Jane asked. “They’re stuck in the wrong part of space.”

“Actually, most of the planets are back where and when they belong,” the Doctor said, moving back to the console. “Bad Wolf was busy. In fact, there’s only one planet left. And guess which one it is?”

“Earth,” Rose smiled, her tongue peeking out of the corner of her mouth.

“And we can put it back,” he said, typing on the scanner. “Torchwood Hub, this is the Doctor. Are you receiving me?”

“Loud and clear,” a woman replied. “Is Jack there?”

“Can’t seem to get rid of him,” the Doctor joked. “Jack, what’s her name?”

“Gwen Cooper,” Jack replied.

“Tell me, Gwen Cooper, are you from an old Cardiff family?” the Doctor asked.

“Yes, all the way back to the 1800s,” Gwen replied.

The Doctor nodded and turned to Rose. “Ah, thought so. Spatial genetic multiplicity.”

Rose laughed, “What he means is we met one of your relatives on a run in with Charles Dickens. But it’s great to mee you, Gwen.”

“Yeah, it’s a funny old world,” the Doctor said. “Now, Torchwood, I want you to open up that Rift Manipulator. Send all the power to me.”

“Doing it now, sir,” a man replied, and Rose guessed it was the famous Ianto from all of Jack’s stories.

“What’s that for?” Gwen asked.

“It’s a tow rope,” the Doctor replied before typing some more and saying, “Calling Luke, Mister Smith, and K-9. Come on, Luke, shake a leg.”

“Is Mum there?” Luke asked as soon as he appeared on the scanner.

“Oh, she’s fine and dandy,” the Doctor replied.

“Yes! I’m here! Are you alright?” Sarah Jane said.

“I’m fine, Mum,” Luke said.

“And are Pete and Tony there? Jackie’s here and she said they’d be coming to our house,” Sarah Jane asked.

“Yeah, they said they were related to Rose, and I wasn’t sure about letting them in, but Tony’s just a little kid. I couldn’t leave them to the Daleks. They’re downstairs now,” Luke said.

“Good boy,” she smiled.

“Now, Mister Smith, I want you to harness the Rift power and loop it around the TARDIS. You got that?” the Doctor said.

“I regret I will need remote access to TARDIS base code numerals,” Mister Smith replied.

“That’s what K-9 is for. K-9, can you give Mister Smith the base code?”

“Master. TARDIS base code now being transferred. The process is simple,” the metal dog replied.

“Now then, you lot. We've got the Torchwood Rift looped around the Tardis by Mister Smith, and we're going to fly Planet Earth back home. Right then. Off we go,” the Doctor said as he, Jenny, and Rose took their positions around the console.

When they finally got Earth back where it belonged, everyone started making their rounds, hugging each other in celebration. But Rose pulled the Doctor aside. “What is it?” he asked.

“You know how the TARDIS said we’d know when it was the right time to finally get married?” Rose asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “What about it?”

“I think it’s the right time,” Rose replied.

“What, really?” he asked, his eyes shining.

“Everyone’s here, or at least somewhere we can pick up. My mum’s here, Mickey’s here. I think they’re what we were supposed to wait on,” Rose smiled.

“Well then, Rose Tyler, Allons-y,” her very soon to be husband said with a grin.

“Oi, everyone!” Rose yelled. “The Doctor and I have an announcement!”

“What kind of announcement?” Sarah Jane asked as soon as everyone had quieted down.

“We’re getting married,” Rose smiled.

“Yeah, we know,” Martha said before gesturing to herself, Sarah Jane, and Jack. “The three of us were sort of there for the proposal.”

“No, we mean we’re getting married now. Everyone we love is here now, or at least somewhere we can easily get them from. So why wait?” Rose said, dragging the Doctor to the console with a grin.

Chapter Text

Everyone stood in a sort of shocked silence before Donna finally exclaimed, “It’s about time!”

That broke the spell holding everyone still and soon everyone was rushing them to congratulate them. Finally, Martha, the voice of reason, asked, “Have you all planned any of this?”

“Well, er, no,” the Doctor replied.

“Who’s going to officiate? Will it be Gallifreyan or human? Where is it gonna be? When is it gonna be?” Martha asked.

Rose laid a hand on her friend’s arm. “We’ll figure that out. You just get to calling your family and give them a head’s up.”

Doctor,” Rose said, telepathically. “I have an idea about an officiant, but I don’t actually know him, so I don’t know if he’d want to do it,” Rose said.

Who is it?” The Doctor asked, unsure who Rose might have in mind that she wouldn’t know.

The Brigadier. You’ve always talked so highly of him, I thought it might be nice.

The Doctor kissed Rose on the forehead. “It would be perfect.” He then turned to Sarah Jane. “Would you mind making a phone call for me?”

Once the Doctor had explained his plan, Sarah Jane was thrilled. She had seen the Sir Alistair a few months earlier but hadn’t let on about the Doctor’s relationship. She decided against telling him on the phone as well, mostly because she doubted he would believe she was serious. Even if she had been in love with the Doctor as a young woman, the idea of any of the Doctors that Sir Alistair had known getting married was absurd, and even though he knew how much the Doctor could change through regenerations, this Doctor was quite a change from any that he had known.

“Hello?” came the voice on the phone.

“Hello Sir Alistair,” Sarah Jane said with a smile.

“Sarah Jane Smith, to what do I owe the pleasure?” the man said.

“I actually was hoping to ask you for a favour. On behalf of the Doctor, that is.”

“A favour? After he just saved us all? At least, I’m assuming it was him that got us out of that mess,” the Brig chuckled.

“Yeah, I guess you could say he helped,” Sarah Jane laughed.

“Well then, what can I do for him?”

“He was hoping you’d officiate a wedding,” Sarah Jane replied.

“A wedding? Whose wedding?”

“Well, sir, you know the groom, he’s a mutual friend of ours, but I’m afraid you haven’t had the chance to meet the bride yet,” Sarah Jane replied cryptically. “But don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll love her.”

“Well, if the Doctor’s asking, I’ll do it, but I’d really like to know who’s getting married,” Sir Alistair said.

“Believe me, sir,” Sarah Jane said, glancing at the couple as the fielded questions from their friends and set to planning, “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Alright then, keep your secrets. But when is the wedding?”

“Um, well, now,” Sarah Jane replied. “They didn’t exactly plan it, despite having been engaged just under two years. But they decided that now is the perfect time, so we’re all going along with it.”

“Then I’ll go put my uniform on,” the Brig chuckled. “I’ll admit, I’m quite curious about this whole affair now.”

“Thank you, Sir Alistair. It’ll mean a lot to them,” Sarah Jane replied.

After hanging up, she turned to the couple. “He’ll do it.”

“Perfect timing,” the Doctor said. “Now, here we are on Bannerman Road. Let’s get Luke, then we’ll be on to get the Joneses, then we’ll stop by and get Wilf, then we’ll get Alistair.”

Jackie was already out of the TARDIS before the Doctor could finish speaking. Rose stepped out into the attic where Luke was sitting with Mr. Smith and K-9. “Did my mother come through here?”

“Yeah,” Luke said, looking a bit shaken, but that was a common reaction to Jackie Tyler. “She’s downstairs now.”

“Thanks Luke,” Rose said, ruffling his hair before becoming mock-serious. “Now, you and K-9 run into the TARDIS. The Doctor and I are getting married, and your presence is requested at the ceremony.”

“Really?” Luke asked excitedly.

“Really,” Rose smiled, giving him a hug. “Now get in there and keep Jenny company.”

Once Luke was inside the TARDIS, Rose took a deep breath before heading downstairs. She still wasn’t sure how to be around Pete. He looked like her dad, and he was married to her mum, but he wasn’t her dad. He had made that clear the first time they met in Pete’s World. And now she had a little brother. She had always been an only child, so she had no idea how to be a big sister. Having had Martha and her family might have helped, but they were adults, and Tony was a toddler. Before she even reached the bottom of the stairs, she could hear Jackie fussing over Tony. Pete was trying to reassure Jackie that they were both fine, but Jackie had managed to mostly hold it together the whole time they were on the Crucible, so Rose couldn’t fault her for losing it a bit then. It also helped her take those final few steps into the living room because it felt so normal. As she stood off to the side watching them, Rose couldn’t help but wonder if this sight would have been normal to her already if she had listened to Pete and the Doctor and just gone to Pete’s World at Canary Wharf.

Quickly shaking off that thought, Rose made her way into the room. She wouldn’t give up Jenny or her life with the Doctor for anything.

“Hi Pete,” Rose said with a bit of a strained smile.

“Rose!” Pete exclaimed, quickly pulling her into a hug. It was so unlike him the last time they had met that she just froze. Quickly realizing she was uncomfortable, Pete let her go. “Sorry about. Jacks talks about you so much and has told me so many stories about you that I sometimes forget you aren’t actually my daughter. Especially after your brother.”

“Speaking of her brother,” Jackie huffed, hoisting the toddler higher on her hip before turning her attention to hip and saying in a sweet voice, “You wanna meet your sister, don’t you?”

“Hi Tony,” Rose smiled, waving a little at him, still a bit unsure what to do with a kid that size. Sure, she had met Keisha, Leo’s baby a few times, but something about this felt inherently different.

“Rose?’ Tony asked, glancing between his mother and his sister a few times for confirmation.

“Yes, love, it’s your sister Rose,” Jackie reassured him.

His little face lit up and he reached for his sister. “Rosie!” He exclaimed, leaping out of his mother’s arms and into his sisters.

“So you’ve heard of me then?” Rose asked, laughing awkwardly.

“Heard of you?” Jackie snorted. “The only bedtime stories he ever wants to hear are about you and the Doctor.”

“Well, I guess I’ll have to share a few new ones then, won’t I?” Rose said, suddenly calmer. Something just felt right about being with her brother. Sort of the way things felt with Jenny after they talked things out the day she was born.

**********************************************************************************************************************

When Rose finally got her family onto the TARDIS, she hunted down Jack. “Hey, I was thinking,” she started.

“Oh?” Jack asked suggestively, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Oh, shut it,” Rose laughed. “I was just thinking that if this was a normal wedding, you’d be allowed to invite a plus one.”

“What are you saying Rose?”

“I’m saying you should invite Ianto. I’ve heard so much about him, I think it’s about time we meet him,” Rose said.

Jack looked unsure. “Are you sure? This seems like more of a family thing.”

“I’m positive. I’ve been dying to meet him for ages, the way you talk about him. And what better time to introduce us than a wedding?”

“Rose—”

“Listen, you don’t have to, it’s up to you. But if you decide you want to, just tell the Doctor and we’ll pick him up. But I want to let you know he’s more than welcome,” Rose smiled.

“Thank you,” Jack said, pulling her into a tight hug.

“Just think about it. But I have to go, Francine is likely to kill me for doing this all last minute, but I ought to at least face her,” Rose laughed, turning toward the TARDIS doors. They had just landed in the Joneses house.

Martha and Rose were the first two out the door. Francine hugged them both tightly before pulling back and looking at Rose seriously. “Now? Of all the times to get married, you choose now?”

“Well, technically it’ll probably be sometime far in the future,” Rose said awkwardly. “The TARDIS is picking the time, we just picked the planet.”

Francine shook her head and headed into the TARDIS, the rest of the Jones family following after her.

“Who are you?” She asked Jackie, who was sitting on the jump seat with Tony. Francine looked surprised to meet someone new as they were headed off to Rose’s wedding.

“I’m Rose’s mother,” Jackie replied, staring down Francine.

“Hmmm….” Francine replied, eyeing Jackie. Rose knew that Francine had a hard time understanding how Jackie could have gone to the parallel world without Rose. It was different for her. Francine had never had to accept that Martha wouldn't eventually end up back home after her adventures with the Doctor, and even if Martha had decided to travel the stars for the rest of her life, Francine still had children to look after. For her, she had so many things that would keep her at home, it was hard for her to see how Jackie hadn't abandoned Rose. Rose had wanted Jackie to go and live her life with the love of her life. It didn't matter how many times she had explained that--Francine just saw how much Rose had missed Jackie and had taken it upon herself to protect Rose.

Jackie eyed her right back. Rose let out a sigh. While she was sure the two women would get along scarily well eventually, they both tended to be rather protective of Rose, and she could feel a fight brewing.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye on them,” Martha whispered.

“You’re the best, you know that?” Rose asked, smiling at her friend.

“Well, I have been told I’m a star,” Martha grinned back, laughing.

**********************************************************************************************************************

The Doctor had also sensed some of the tension and declared that the console room was too full, and had therefore sent everyone deep into the TARDIS for a moment of peace. He had picked up Wilf, and even Ianto after Jack asked him to, and he was finally alone for a moment.

The Doctor was pretty sure the TARDIS had never been so full. Ten years ago, he’d have griped about the domesticity of having so many families on board, and he likely might to keep up appearances, but deep down, he was thrilled. And alone, he couldn’t help but smile. After Gallifrey had been destroyed, he had thought he’d be alone forever. But now, listening to the sounds of laughter, arguing, and everything in between echoing through the TARDIS halls, he realized he had more of a family here than he ever had had on Gallifrey.

“What are you smiling about?” Sarah Jane asked, slipping quietly into the room.

“Nothing,” he said, trying to lie.

“Come now, Doctor. You can’t believe that’s going to work on me,” she laughed.

“It’s just… Did you ever think this was possible? Back when you travelled with me?” He asked, deciding that Sarah Jane had known him long enough that it was indeed pointless to lie.

“No, I don’t think I did,” she replied. “I fancied myself in love with you back then, but I never could have pictured you getting married, especially surrounded by all this family. You act like such a lonely man. But look at you. You've got the biggest family on Earth.”

Sarah Jane stepped forward and hugged him before saying, “Come on, let’s go pick up Sir Alistair. He’s going to need a bit of time to wrap his mind around the fact that you’re the one getting married.”

“You didn’t tell him?” The Doctor asked, pulling back.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t think he’d believe me. The you that he knew never would have dreamt of getting married, so I decided that he needed to see it to believe it,” she laughed.

“Well then, Sarah,” the Doctor said, moving to the console and throwing a lever. “Allons-y!”

As she made her way to the door to greet her old friend, Sarah was briefly aware of the sounds of yelling from somewhere in the TARDIS, but she ignored it. In the hour everyone had been on board, there had been a surprising amount of yelling, but from her short experience with the women, it seemed pretty par for the course for Donna and Jackie. She opened the door to see the Brigadier General standing there in full dress uniform.

“Hello, Sarah Jane,” he said.

“Hello sir,” she replied. “Welcome aboard the TARDIS. I’ve got to warn you it’s a bit mad in here right now.”

He chuckled as he followed her in, and then stopped and looked around. “He’s redecorated,” he noted.

“Yeah, it grows on you, but I’ll always prefer my TARDIS,” Sarah laughed.

“Have you seen the Doctor?” Rose asked, wandering into the console room.

“He was here when we landed, but he disappeared,” Sarah Jane said, shaking her head.

“I think he’s back on the run,” Rose sighed. “I’m not sure what Martha said to them, but now Mum and Francine are thick as thieves and trying to find him. I tried to tell him that they probably just want to talk to them, but he’s convinced he’s in for a slap.”

“If he keeps hiding from them, he probably is,” Sarah Jane laughed.

Rose nodded in agreement, but the Brig looked shocked. “Someone wants to slap the Doctor?”

Rose jumped, clearly just noticing him. “Probably not, but he’s paranoid,” she replied, stretching a hand out to him. “I’m sorry, I ought to introduce myself. I’m Rose Tyler, and it’s an honour to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you from Sarah Jane and the Doctor, and it means a lot that you’re going to officiate my wedding.”

“Ah, so you’re the bride,” Sir Alistair responded, shaking her hand. “Well then, congratulations.”

“Thank you,” she smiled. Before she could say anything else, the sound of footsteps echoing down the hall reached them. “Sorry, the sounds like Mum and Francine. I really ought to go. I’ll see you later?”

“If we see the Doctor, we’ll try and hold him captive here for you,” Sarah smiled.

“You’re a lifesaver,” Rose smiled, disappearing into the hallway.

“Well, she seems like a sweet girl,” he said.

“Oh, Rose is the best,” Sarah Jane agreed. “I’m not sure girl is the right term though. She’s a bit old for that.”

“Old? She couldn’t be much more than twenty!” He exclaimed.

“Try thirty-one,” Sarah Jane replied. At the shocked look on his face, she continued, “Keep in mind we are on the TARDIS. Nothing is exactly normal around here, and Rose is no exception.”

“Did you say Rose?” the Doctor asked, peeking his head in. “Has she already checked in here?”

“She has,” Sarah Jane replied.

He let out a relieved sigh and made his way fully into to the console room. When he reached the Brig, he held out his hand. “Hello Brigadier, or should I say Brigadier General now? Anyway, sorry I wasn’t here when you got on board, I was trying not to get slapped into my next regeneration.”

“Why are you so convinced Jackie’s going to hit you?” Sarah Jane asked.

“Last time she saw her daughter, she was twenty-one. Now, she’s thirty-one. She’s bound to blame me for that, and I haven’t forgotten the Tyler slap,” the Doctor replied, placing a hand to his cheek.

“That was because you took her daughter away for a whole year with no word!” Sarah Jane replied. “This is different. The separation wasn’t your fault. And Rose is fine. The only reason she might slap you is cause you keep running from her.”

The Doctor paused to think but didn’t say anything. After a moment, Sir Alistair said, “Alright, Doctor, maybe you’ll tell me since Sarah Jane won’t. I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting the bride, but who is the groom?”

The Doctor’s face absolutely lit up. “Me.”

“You? You what?”

“I’m the groom,” the Doctor beamed.

“I’m sorry, what?” the Brigadier asked, still flustered.

“I told you that you wouldn’t believe me. If I had called and said, ‘The Doctor’s getting married, will you officiate?’ you would have thought I was mad and hung up,” Sarah Jane said.

“I-I just, are you being serious right now, Doctor?” he asked.

“Yes, yes I am,” he replied.

“You are what?” Rose asked, coming back into the console.

“Serious that I’m going to marry you,” he said, looking at her with a dopey grin.

“Well, you better be. Our daughter will be quite put out if you changed your mind now. She’s having far too much fun helping everyone find outfits in the wardrobe room,” Rose said, coming up to him and giving him a quick kiss. “Speaking of which, she has decided that you are wearing the tux, Tux-Of-Doom or not.”

He sighed dramatically but didn’t argue. He had already been planning on wearing it. It was a special occasion after all. The most special occasion.

“Did you say daughter?” Sir Alistair asked. “Doctor, you have a daughter?”

“Yes, Jenny. You’ll meet her later, and I’m sure you’ll love her,” he replied.

Rose took a quick look at the Brigadier. He was clearly trying to keep it together, but apparently, he was still struggling to process it all. “Sarah Jane, do you want to take Sir Alistair to the library? It’s pretty quiet in there now, and I’m taking someone to the kitchen to talk to my mother so she doesn’t decide to kill him before the wedding.”

Sarah Jane agreed, and took him to the library. Rose kept a tight grip on the Doctor’s hand the whole time. “Do I have to?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied aloud. “Doctor, Mum loves you and missed you too. And I really need you two to get along. She didn’t seem mad at you at all, at least, not until you started hiding from her… So please, play nice. For me.”

“Okay,” he agreed, placing a kiss on her forehead. “For you.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

In the wardrobe room, Jenny was being unusually quiet. Donna was the first to notice it, having spent quite a bit of time with her niece during their adventures.

“Is everything okay?” Donna asked her quietly.

“Of course it is,” Jenny replied, far too quickly, as she pulled out another dress from one of the racks. “What do you think about this one?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Donna said.

“What is Jenny avoiding?” Martha asked, sneaking into the conversation.

“Nothing!” Jenny exclaimed.

“It’s something, you’re far too quiet,” Donna said.

“Come on,” Martha urged. “You know you can tell us anything.”

“It’s stupid,” Jenny replied, shaking her head.

Martha grabbed her shoulder and turned Jenny to look at her. “It isn’t stupid if it’s bothering you. And if you are being ridiculous, sometimes you just need someone to help you see it. I’ve done that for your mum plenty.”

Jenny looked down at her feet as she thought about it, but finally gave in. Mum had always said that Aunt Martha gave good advice. “It’s just… What if things change? I never thought they would when mummy and daddy got married, but everyone is acting like it’s such a big deal that I can’t help but think that maybe I’ve got something wrong. I’ve never known people before they got married before. I just… I just don’t want things to change.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Martha sighed.

“Jenny, you know I love you, but that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Donna snorted. “Your parents are as good as married already. The only reason any of us are making a big deal is because it’s a big old party. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing is inherently changing today. Donna’s right, your parents do already act like their married. This is more of a formality for them. And certainly nothing will change when it comes to you. They love you more than anything,” Martha smiled.

“Thanks guys,” Jenny said, hugging her aunts. “I knew I was being ridiculous, but I just couldn’t help it…”

“Don’t worry about it, Jenny. You get it from your mother. Sometimes you just need someone to talk you down. And I’ll always be here to do that for you,” Martha said.

“Same goes for me, sweetie,” Donna said before turning back to the rack of clothes in front of them. “Now, let’s pick you out a dress.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

In the kitchen, Jackie and Francine were sitting at the table, three cups of tea on the table.

“Three?” Rose asked, looking at the women.

“We just want a word with him,” Francine said.

“Don’t worry about it love,” Jackie added.

Rose eyed them warily, but they looked calm, not upset. While Jackie had been taking the lead in the hunt for the Doctor, the calm setup seemed far more like Francine’s style. She was about to insist on staying, but then Jenny’s voice echoed down the hall, calling for her.

“I’m going to see what Jenny wants, but I do expect to find him in one piece,” Rose said. The Doctor looked at her, slightly nervous, and she gave him a quick kiss and said, “You’ll be fine.”

With that, Rose left, and Francine motioned for him to sit down. “Calm down, Doctor.”

“Yeah,” Jackie said. “You don’t need to be so uptight.”

“Unless there’s something we don’t know,” Francine said, staring him down.

The Doctor looked taken aback. “What?” He exclaimed.

“You’ve been avoiding me at all costs, so you must have something to hide,” Jackie said.

“What would I have to hide?” he asked.

“Have you been treating Rose well?” Francine asked.

“Of course I have!” he exclaimed.

“Then why have you been running away from me?” Jackie yelled.

“Because I’m the reason you haven’t been with your daughter all these years!” he yelled right back, before realizing what he had said and freezing.

Jackie froze too, then asked, “What do you mean?”

“She could have gone to Pete’s World with you, been safe, known her brother, all of that. But she wasn’t cause she stayed with me,” he replied calmly.

Francine coughed lightly. “I know I didn’t know Rose back then, but I feel I’ve gotten to know her rather well since then. And if there’s one thing I know about Rose, it’s that she’s no damsel in distress. All of her choices are her own.”

“Of course they are,” the Doctor replied. “But I promised Jackie I’d always bring her home, and I couldn’t do that.”

Jackie snorted. “For such a clever bloke, you really don’t get it, do you?”

“What do you mean?”

“I figured it out ages ago, Doctor. For Rose, home isn’t with me anymore. It’s here. And I can’t pretend I understand it, but she loves you. Yes, I’ve missed her, but I trusted that she was where she wanted to be. And you did make sure we got to say goodbye. As much as I wanted her with me, I knew she’d never have been happy without ya,” Jackie said.

“So—you aren’t mad at me?” he asked.

“Of course not ya lump,” Jackie smiled.

“Then why were you chasing me around the TARDIS?”

“Well, someone had to sit you down and remind you that if you broke Rose’s heart, you’d regret it,” Francine replied.

“And since we both were planning on it, we thought we might as well do it together,” Jackie added.

“Believe me,” the Doctor said. “I can’t imagine breaking her heart, but if in some way I ever do, I’ll deserve everything I have coming to me.”

“Good, I’ll hold you to it,” Francine said. “Rose might not be my daughter, but I love her like she is anyway.”

“Now, come here,” Jackie said, pulling the Doctor in for a hug. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve missed you.”

The Doctor smiled as he hugged Jackie back. Then, so quietly that only she could hear—so he could deny it later, he whispered, “I’ve missed you too.”

**********************************************************************************************************************

Once he, Francine, and Jackie had finished their tea, the Doctor went off in search of Rose. The TARDIS helpfully led him to the garden.

“What are you doing in here?” he asked.

She glared at a rose bush as she answered. “I’m trying to decide on flowers for my bouquet, but nothing is right.”

The Doctor looked around at all of the flowers, trying to see what he thought might be nice, even though he really didn’t think he cared. But when his eyes landed on a small, champagne coloured daisy, he remembered a conversation he and Rose had had with someone oh so many years ago. I think I have an idea,” he suggested, dragging her to the console room.

He quickly input some coordinates but was determined not to let her see where he was taking them. “No peeking,” he said. “I promise, you’ll know as soon as we get there.”

She rolled her eyes but gave in. He seemed excited, so she was willing to go along with it. Honestly, he seemed to care more about the flowers than she did, so she’d go along with whatever he wanted—as long as it wasn’t a rose. That was just a bit too obvious. When they landed, the Doctor opened the door and gestured for her to go first. She stepped out on to the pale blue sand and looked out at the champagne coloured sea and knew exactly where the Doctor had brought her.

“Barcelona,” she sighed happily.

He took her hand and led her into town, eagerly searching for the woman who had given them a flower the last time they were there. “A pink and yellow flower for my pink and yellow Rose,” he said, pressing a kiss to her head.

As they reached the stall, the woman grinned. “I knew you would be back. And exactly a year later, too. So tell me, are you married now?”

“Not yet,” the Doctor said. “First we need some of your lovely flowers.”

Rose and the Doctor bought a small bouquet, and the woman just grinned smugly at them. They walked back to the TARDIS, holding the bouquet between them in order to make sure all of the flowers were properly pink and yellow. As they walked in, Rose immediately heard her mother calling for her, demanding that she start getting ready.

“These are perfect, Doctor,” Rose said, putting them to her nose and taking a deep breath to inhale their scent. “Thank you.”

The Doctor pulled her in for a short, sweet, kiss. “Anything for you,” he whispered. “Now, go get ready. I’ll get us in place and round everyone up, and then I’ll see you at the altar."

Chapter Text

“Jenny, you take Tony,” Rose said, handing her brother to her daughter. “Just make sure he doesn’t drop the rings.”

“I still can’t believe you and dad have just had these,” Jenny said, looking at the simple silver bands with Gallifreyan engraved on the insides.

“Your father has had them,” Rose laughed. “I didn’t know anything about them. Apparently he had a feeling that when I decided it was time, we’d just do it right away, and he wanted to be prepared, so he had them specially made not long after we got engaged.”

“Dad actually thought things through ahead of time?” Jenny joked.

“Don’t give him such a hard time,” Rose chuckled. “He does occasionally.”

“Shouldn’t have left me alone with companion club so long today,” Jenny grinned.

“I’ll keep that in mind in the future,” Rose grinned wryly. “Now go on. I’ll be out in just a minute.”

Jenny hugged her mum one last time and did as she said, taking Tony outside the TARDIS. They were holding the wedding on the same planet Rose had promised to stay with the Doctor forever. The others had all gone on outside and were waiting. They weren’t doing bridesmaids or groomsman, just Jenny as the flower girl and Tony as the ring bearer. The Brig would officiate the human part of the ceremony, and the Doctor would take care of the Gallifreyan part, with Jenny helping where needed.

The only people left in the TARDIS were Rose and Jackie.

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so, so proud of you,” Jackie said, pulling Rose into a tight hug.

“Thanks, Mum. I’m so glad you’re here.”

“I know today isn’t the day to bring up the bad times, and I won’t even mention his name, but after all that, I worried today wouldn’t ever come. Even when you were dating Mickey, I was never sure you’d really be this happy. I always hoped you’d find someone you loved as much as I loved your father, but I really worried you’d never really feel safe enough to let yourself love anyone like that. But with the Doctor, much as I worried about him when you met, I can see that you do love him. And he loves you too, love,” Jackie said, tears pooling in her eyes.

“I know, mum. He really is everything I ever needed. With the Doctor, I’m good enough, just as I am. And there is no part of me that’s worried he could ever be like Jimmy. I mean this both literally and figuratively, but they’re not even the same species,” Rose said, crying a little herself.

“I’m sorry I missed so much,” Jackie said, “but I’m glad I can be here for this.”

“Mum, would you give me away?” Rose asked. “I know that traditionally it’s the dad that does it, but you’re the one that’s always been there for me. Also, I know I’m not property to be passed on from one person to another, but I sort of appreciate the gesture.”

“Oh love,” Jackie cried, pulling Rose into another tight hug. “Of course I will!”

They made their way through the TARDIS, but when they got to the console room, Rose stopped. “Go on out and wait for me, Mum. I just need a second with the TARDIS.”

Normally, Jackie would have mumbled something about talking to spaceships, but today she just smiled and nodded, stepping out to let Rose do what she needed.

Rose made her way over to the console and put a hand on the rotor. “Well Old Girl, when I first came aboard did you ever think we’d end up here?”

The TARDIS replied and flashed her lights and Rose laughed. “Right, right, time ship, you definitely knew this was a possibility. But you could’ve told me. Would have saved loads of heartbreak, you know?”

The TARDIS didn’t reply, and Rose knew it was because she didn’t have to. After the year-that-never-was, the TARDIS had explained that they had needed to grow up and come into their relationship on their own for it to work. And despite all the pain and uncertainty of the time, Rose was thankful for it. There was no question or doubt in her mind now. They had had to work for this, but that made it all the sweeter. Rose pressed a kiss to the console and tried to push all of her thanks, appreciation, and love toward the TARDIS. “Thank you for everything,” she whispered.

With that, Rose stepped out of the TARDIS and took her mum’s arm before beginning to make her way down the makeshift aisle toward the Doctor.

**********************************************************************************************************************

When Rose stepped out of the TARDIS and took her mother’s arm, the Doctor actually stopped breathing until his respiratory bypass kicked in and reminded him. She was gorgeous. He couldn’t believe he was lucky enough to be marrying her. After the Time War, when he was the last of his species, he hadn’t believed that he would ever have good things in his life again. He was certain he didn’t deserve it. He was still sure he didn’t deserve the angel walking down the aisle towards him, but he had learned better than to mention that to her. He wasn’t sure anyone could possibly deserve her. She had saved him, taken the broken husk that he was after the Time War and brought him back to life. And now, he had not only her, but their daughter, who was standing beside him, holding on to her uncle’s small hand.

When Rose met his eyes, all thoughts left his mind and he grinned back at her uncontrollably. He couldn’t help it, his happiness was just overflowing. It felt like ages that it took her to finally reach him, and it felt like the blink of an eye. When Jackie and Rose reached him, Jackie gave Rose a kiss on the cheek and passed Rose’s hand onto the Doctor as Rose handed her bouquet to Jenny. She turned to walk down to her seat, then stopped, turned back, and kissed the Doctor’s cheek too before finally sitting next to Pete.

Sir Alistair cleared his throat and began, “We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of the Doctor and Rose Tyler. While I don’t yet have the pleasure of knowing Miss Tyler, I do know the Doctor well enough to know that she must be something really special. The two of you will never have an easy life, constantly travelling and saving the universe, but what does that matter, so long as you’re together? Anyone can see how much you love each other, so hold on to that, through the good times and that bad. The Doctor has told me that you’ve chosen to say your own vows, so Doctor, when you’re ready, you may begin.”

“Rose Tyler, my pink and yellow human,” he said with a soft smile, turning to face her. “When I first met you, I was so broken. I thought all hope was lost, and couldn’t see much point in going on. Then you showed up in my life again and again. A part of me thought that there must be something special about you, that you’d constantly bump into me, but I had no idea. When you first turned me down, I was devastated. Plenty of potential companions had turned me down over the years, but I was always able to brush it off. Until you. No, I knew I couldn’t go on without you, so, in a unique moment for me, I asked again. And it was the best decision I ever made. I realize now I was already in love with you, though I’d never have admitted it at the time. And I only fell more and more in love with you every day. I may have messed up along the way, and taken far too long to admit it, but I have loved you this whole time. I wish I could promise you now that I won’t mess up, or be an idiot about any of this anymore, but I can’t do that. I know myself too well. I’ll probably mess up more times than I can possibly imagine, but as long as you’re by my side, I know things will turn out right. So, while I can’t promise to always get it right, here’s what I can promise you: I will love you with both my hearts till the day I die. They’re yours, Rose Tyler. Forever.”

Then Sir Alistair turned to Rose. “Rose, when you’re ready.”

“My Doctor,” Rose smiled. “When I stumbled into that shop basement that evening, I had no idea that my life was going to change. I didn’t know what I was missing. This life, with you, it’s a better life. And I don't mean all the travelling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don't matter. You showed me a better way of living my life. And I know it might be dangerous, and maybe a bit mad, but as long as you’re with me, it doesn’t matter where or when we are, I’m right where I want to be.

“I never thought I’d have a love like this. You know my past, and the stupid things I’ve done. But I think everything that I’ve been through made me who I am, and led me to here. And I’m so, so happy. I’ve got you, and our daughter, and our friends. I still sometimes can’t believe it. But then you take my hand, and tell me to run, and I know that everything is just as it should be. I love you Doctor; I love you so much.”

“Thank you for sharing your vows with us,” Sir Alistair said before turning to Tony and bending as much as he could. “Now, can I have the rings?”

Tony looked at Jenny for permission, and the whole audience laughed. “Yeah, Tony, you can give them to him,” Jenny whispered, and Tony thrust them towards Sir Alistair, who thanked him with a laugh.

Sir Alistair passed one ring to the Doctor, and said, “Doctor, do you take Rose Tyler to be your wife?”

“I do.”

“Then place this ring on her finger.”

“Rose Tyler, with this ring, I thee wed.”

“And Rose, do you take the Doctor to be your husband?”

“I do.”

“Then you can place the ring on his finger.”

“Doctor, with this ring, I thee wed.”

“Then, by the power vested in me by UNIT, I now pronounce you man and wife,” Sir Alistair said before stepping over to the side so the Doctor could finish the ceremony with the Gallifreyan tradition.

“Sorry everyone, but you all aren’t going to understand this next bit,” he shrugged. “It has to be done in Gallifreyan, and the TARDIS doesn’t translate that.”

Jenny stepped forward and pulled a small length of red fabric from her pocket. The Doctor took Rose’s hand and Jenny wrapped the fabric across their joined hands.

Both of you, repeat after me,” Jenny said before launching into the traditional Gallifreyan wedding ceremony.

Today, I, Rose Tyler, pledge myself to you. But I do not just pledge my today to you. I pledge you all the rest of my days, and I will stand by you for all of yours. Your past is my past and your future is my future. On this day and in all days, I am yours and you are mine. As we join our timelines into one, we join ourselves as one as well. I seal this pledge by giving you my name.

Today, I, the Doctor, pledge myself to you. But I do not just pledge my today to you. I pledge you all the rest of my days, and I will stand by you for all of yours. Your past is my past and your future is my future. On this day and in all days, I am yours and you are mine. As we join our timelines into one, we join ourselves as one as well. I seal this pledge by giving you my name.

Once they had finished, the Doctor leaned forward and whispered his name into her ear. Part of it she had heard, when they had made the temporary bond, but part of it was new. This was his full name. He had never told it to anyone else, and never would. The Doctor reached his free hand up to her temples and she mirrored him. Having done her research, she knew what she had to do. The two of them worked silently to weave their timelines together. It didn’t feel like it had when they had created the temporary bond because this time they were working with that existing structure, strengthening it into something that could never be broken.

Finally, as the last of the full bond settled into place, they dropped their hands and opened their eyes. Jenny unravelled the ribbon from their hands and gave both of them an end of it.

Switching back to English, she said, “Well, I guess since I finished the ceremony, it’s my job to say it, so, you may kiss the bride!”

The Doctor swept Rose into a deep kiss, but did try to keep it chaste, given that their daughter was standing there, as well as Rose’s little brother. All of their friends cheered as Jenny handed her mother back her bouquet and the Doctor and Rose ran back down the aisle and around the TARDIS to where the reception area was set up.