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Life or Death

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Pete's Universe... one week after Rose's goodbye

The ganger leaned back against the wall of her cell, sighing as her head made contact with the cold concrete. The book in her hands, The Order of the Phoenix, slipped to the floor as her hands found their way into her hair, and she took a deep breath.

Another day another relapse. They were occurring less frequently since her last conversation with the Doctor and the true Rose, but still every so often she felt that wave of anger and the sheer desire to murder anyone who came near her. Stabbing the Doctor had almost done it, almost gotten rid of her programming completely, but she supposed nothing could ever permanently undo Kovarian's work.

The first time it had happened had been mere hours after the gap between the universes closed, and she'd realized she was stuck there in Pete's world forever. They were on their way out of Torchwood, when suddenly her vision lined with red, and her hand found its way into her pocket, where she still had the gun tucked safely away. Pulling out the gun, she turned off the safety and prepared to shoot, aiming directly at Pete Tyler, simply because he was walking ahead of her.

It had been Mickey who spotted her first, he leaped forward and knocked her to the floor, and the weapon out of her hand. As she fell, she could feel the bloodlust leaving her, simply letting Mickey keep her pinned down as the weapon was taken away, and Torchwood guards ran to contain her.

She'd been in that cell in the Torchwood basement ever since. It wasn't so bad, she supposed. It was clean, with white walls and glass doors made of some bullet proof material from another planet. The mattress she slept on was the same color, but unlike most prison beds she'd heard about, it was rather comfortable. Her only complaint was that it only had one pillow, and she was a two pillow sort of person.

Other than that, her only problem was that it was remarkably lonely down there. Once a day, Mickey would visit her for a good hour, they'd talk, and he'd bring her books and things to pass her time, but he was the only one who kept her company aside from the people that dropped off her food.

 

It was unfortunately right around that time of day that she was relapsing into her murderous feelings when Mickey decided to pop by for a visit. Her vision was beginning to line red, and her hands had found their place in her hair, ready to tear pieces out when he appeared in front of her cell.

 

“Go away,” she hissed at him, pleading with herself to let go of the bloodlust. That wasn’t her anymore, she reminded herself. She wasn’t a killer. She no longer had a target. She never had to hurt anyone else again since she’d stabbed the Doctor.

 

“Rose, just breathe, you’ll get through it,” Mickey said softly.

 

“Stop being nice to me,” she protested as the worst of it began to pass, “I nearly murdered one of your best friends. For four bloody months we thought I’d killed him. That’s part of why I’m still locked in this bloody cell, isn’t it?”

 

A silence fell upon them, Mickey looking to the floor as they both mentally acknowledged it to be true. “Everyday I remember what I did,” she told him, “I remember the knife going in the first time, and thinking he needed more… And I remember the last time… The way he screamed… It’s in my nightmares…”

 

“He survived, though,” Mickey assured her.

 

“But what about what comes next?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

She sighed as the last of the relapse passed, and she slowly pushed herself off of her bed, walking up to the glass until she was leaning against it, “Kovarian will try again,” she told him, “I told the Doctor, but I don’t know how effective I was. She told me before she sent me off to kill him that she had plans in mind in case this failed. She’s going to try again and again until she can kill him, and one of these days she might succeed.”

 

Mickey hesitated before he spoke again, “Why are you telling me this?”

 

“‘Cause there’s so much I have to atone for,” she replied, swallowing nervously, “I have to make up for what I did to him. If I can save him from the next obstacle she throws at him…”

 

“There’s no way back to our world. How are we gonna get back?”

 

The ganger shook her head, “I don’t know,” she replied, “And maybe we won’t have to. For all we know, he’s already gone after her. He’s already won.”

 

Mickey smiled slightly, “I could believe that,” he said, tapping his foot on the floor, “But he’s got Rose back.”

 

“Yeah,” the ganger replied, leaning her head against the wall, “Wonder what they’re doing now.”

 

“Probably each other now that you’re gone,” Mickey joked.

 

The ganger was surprised to find herself laughing at the cheapshot, “Cheeky, I like it. You’re a lot nicer now that I’m not trying to kill your friends. I always did like you best.”

 

They shared a laugh for another moment, both sighing as they came down from it, and the ganger stared at him inquisitively, “But really, though, why are you so nice to me? I threatened to kill you, too.”

 

Mickey shrugged, “You changed, you’re more like…”

 

“Rose.”

 

“Yeah. We may have broken up, but she’s been one of my best mates since we were kids, and since she’s gone, and I’ll never see her again… You’re not bad company.”

 

The ganger scoffed, “Thanks, Mickey.”

 

“Welcome.”

 

“Hope the real me’s doing alright, though,” the ganger said, stepping off the wall, “Reckon I did some shit to her relationship with the Doctor.”

 

“Nah, they’ll be fine,” Mickey promised her, “Those two always find their way back. They’re like magnets, always attracted to each other.”

 

“But magnets can be repelled, too,” the ganger replied, “We can only wonder.”

 

“Yeah… We can only wonder.”

 

One week earlier in the Doctor’s Universe…

 

The Doctor and Rose stared ahead of them at the bride, neither one able to believe that she was there. The two blinked several times, looked at each other, then blinked again as the “what” exchange went on, eventually ending in an astounded, “We’re in flight,” protest from the Doctor, “That is… That’s physically impossible, how did-”

 

The bride was quick to interrupt them, shouting angrily at them as she looked about the console in confusion, “Tell me where I am! I demand you tell me right now, where am I?”

 

The Doctor and Rose looked at each other before the latter said, “How the hell do we explain the Tardis?”

 

“The what?” the woman replied, walking angrily around the console toward them.

 

“The Tardis,” the Doctor answered her, scratching the back of his head.

 

“The what?”

 

“It’s called the Tardis,” Rose explained, stepping toward the woman as she spoke in as calm a voice as she could muster given that she was still reeling from the goodbye to her mother, “It’s his spaceship.”

 

“That’s not even a proper word!” the woman protested, “It’s impossible! You’re both having me on, aren’t you? You kidnapped me, and now you’re having me on!”

 

“We’re not-” the Doctor started, but she was quick to interrupt him once more.

 

“Who was it? Who’s paying you? Was it Nerys? Oh my god she’s finally got me back, this has Nerys written all over it! I was halfway up the aisle!”

 

“Who the hell’s Nerys?” Rose asked.

 

“Your best friend,” the woman grumbled, as she paced about the console, assuring them she’d call the police as she ranted and raved before them.

 

Rose turned to the Doctor, “How the hell did this happen?” she asked quietly, watching the bride out of the corner of her eye, “How’d she get here?”

 

“I’ve got no idea,” he replied, “She just… appeared, it’s impossible, it’s-”

 

The blonde didn’t hear him. At that moment, the bride spotted the Tardis’s front doors, and made a beeline for them. Rose barely had time to shout, “Don’t!” before they were flung open, and the supernova they were still parked in front of shone brightly before them, a blur of pinks and yellows illuminating the people in the console room as they stared out at the supernova’s majesty.

 

As the woman stared out at it in shock, she was rendered completely speechless, not noticing when the Doctor and Rose cautiously approached from behind her, standing at either side of their new mystery guest, each taking in the awestruck, yet terrified expression on her face.

 

“You’re in space,” the Doctor said as the woman’s eyes wandered, “Outer space. Like she said, it’s my spaceship.”

 

“How am I breathing?” she asked, voice softening the more she looked out into the open space before them.

 

“The Tardis is protecting us.”

 

“Who the hell are you people?”

 

Rose cleared her throat, “I’m Rose, he’s the Doctor.”

 

“Who are you?” the Doctor asked in response.

 

“Donna,” she told them.

 

“Human?”

 

Donna gave them a nod, “Yeah… I’m guessing you’re not.”

 

Rose shook her head, “No, I am, he isn’t,” she told the bride, “Hence the spaceship.”

 

Donna barely acknowledged her response, simply telling them, “It’s freezing with these doors open,” before the Doctor shut the doors, and the three of them walked back toward the console.

 

“I don’t understand,” the Doctor began to babble, “And I understand everything- Rose, don’t look at me like that- this literally can’t happen! A human being can’t just latch itself onto the Tardis and transport itself inside!”

 

“How’s she here, then?” Rose asked as he reached into his pocket, and pulled out an opthamoloscope, looking into Donna’s eyes with it as he went.

 

“What is it? Some sort of subatomic connection? Something in the temporal field? Maybe something pulling you into alignment with the Chronon shell. Maybe something macro mining your DNA within the interior matrix. Maybe a genetic-” his rambling was cut off when Donna raised her hand, and slapped him clean across the face, “What was that for?”

 

Rose crossed her arms, “When you get in someone’s face with that thing, and they’re already buggered out from being unexpectedly taken to space, you might get slapped,” she told him.

 

Donna cocked her head to the side in agreement, “Would you just get me to the church?” she shouted at him angrily, her face nearly turning the color of her hair.

 

“Right! Fine!” the Doctor cried, reaching for the controls, “Don’t want you here anyway, right, Rose?”

 

The blonde smirked, a small part of her finding the Doctor’s frustration entertaining to watch, but the smirk was quickly wiped off of her face when she remembered who else deeply enjoyed it when he was miserable. Her doppleganger’s thoughts had been almost exclusively filled with ways to make the Doctor’s life worse, and from the minute they’d met to the minute she’d lost connection with Rose, that had been her only waking thought. The memory sent a shudder running through her. She was barely listening when Donna told the Doctor where the wedding was, and he sent them in flight.

 

As soon as they were rushing through the vortex, the Doctor turned around with a slight grin parting his lips, which quickly fell when he saw the blank, unseeing stare she was giving the floor. The time lord stepped toward her, and rested a hand on her arm, “Are you alright?”

 

She nodded slowly, “I’m fine,” she lied, “I was just… Remembering.”

 

The Doctor quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing as a noise from the centerpiece of the Tardis console captured his attention as they materialized somewhere. Hopefully that somewhere was Chiswick. Going by the still rather pissed off expression on the bride’s face, she wouldn’t be too happy with them if it was anywhere else.

 

Together, they walked back to the console, the time lord staring at the scanner in concern as the bride rushed for the doors of the ship. “I said Saint Mary’s!” she shouted at them from outside the Tardis, “What sort of a Martian are you?”

 

The Doctor ignored the comment, bringing the scanner round so it faced him as he looked at it worriedly, “Something’s wrong with her, the Tardis,” he told Rose, “It’s like she’s recalibrating… Digesting. What is it?”

 

“The Tardis eats?” Rose asked curiously.

 

“Not in the traditional sense, but yeah,” the Doctor replied, then without looking up, he shouted for their sudden guest, “Donna? You’ve got to think, is there anything you might’ve done, anything that might’ve caused this? Any sort of alien contacts? I can't let you go wandering off. What if you're dangerous. I mean, have you, have you seen lights in the sky...”

 

As he was speaking, Rose noticed at last that Donna had walked out of the Tardis, and was now making the very same rounds of the ship’s exterior that she had made the first time she’d seen the ship, “Doctor!” she cried, tapping the back of her hand against his arm as she alerted him to the fact that the bride was no longer present.

 

The time lord looked up, then he too realized Donna was no longer on board the Tardis, and he took Rose’s hand before he led them out of the ship, shouting Donna’s name as they went.

 

“Donna,” Rose called as the bride began walking away, the Tardis’s residents following closely beside her, “Come back with us, we can explain.”

 

“Well, we can explain the Tardis, at least,” the Doctor reminded her, “Donna, please-”

 

“Leave me alone,” Donna replied, staring straight ahead as they walked out of the alley they’d landed in, and onto a busy street, “I just want to get married.”

 

“Come back to the Tardis,” the Doctor begged, “We can take you to the church from there.”

 

“No way, that box is too weird. Besides, you already missed it once. We could end up on Mars!”

 

Rose shrugged, “Donna, it’s just bigger on the inside,” she protested, “I thought the same thing once, it just takes some getting used to.”

 

“So that’s all, then?” Donna asked, coming to a stop as she checked the watch on her wrist, “Ten past three, I’m gonna miss it.”

 

It was then that Rose was hit with an idea, reaching quickly into her pockets for her phone, grinning slightly as she pulled it out, and presented it to Donna, “Here, take my my mobile, tell them where you are.”

 

Donna stared at her apprehensively for a moment, then the mobile was snatched out of Rose’s hands, and she was hurriedly punching in a number, “We’re gonna need to get a cab, have either of you got cash?”

 

“No, haven’t you?” the Doctor asked while Rose simply shook her head.

 

The bride glared at him, then pointed to her dress, “I ain’t got pockets to put it in!” she shouted as she finished dialing the number, and put the phone to her ear.

 

The Doctor turned to Rose, then pointed at a nearby atm, “I’ll get us some cash, wait with her,” he told her, then upon seeing his companion nod, he ran off in the atm’s direction.

 

Rose waited as Donna spoke on the phone, looking on sympathetically at the other woman as she was unable to reach her family, being forced to simply leave them a message instead. “Mum, get off the phone, and listen,” she begged her mother, “I’m in… Oh, god, I don’t know where I am! I’m with this strange woman and her boyfriend-”

 

Rose blushed, but was quick to interrupt with, “He’s not my boyfriend.”

 

“He’s not her boyfriend, but I’m with them, and we’re on a street, and there’s WH Smith, but it’s definitely Earth…”

 

The blonde laughed before turning her gaze back to the Doctor, who was still waiting in the queue at the ATM, looking bored as usual at having to wait. The sight of him standing there doing the most mundane of things put a smile on her face. It was just days earlier that she thought she was going to have to bury him as he lay still in her arms, the ghost of an I love you at the edge of her lips.

 

She was so distracted by the memories of what had almost happened, that she barely noticed when Donna managed to get a tenner off of a woman passing by. It was only the bride’s cry of, “Taxi!” that finally brought her out of her stupor. Rose turned just as the taxi pulled over in front of Donna, and rushed to the bride’s side, barely sparing a glance at the time lord by the ATM.

 

“Donna, what are you doing?” she asked, “The Doctor’s getting money.”

 

Donna scoffed, “To hell with him, no Martian’s stopping me from getting to my wedding,” she told Rose as she opened the cab’s door, “And neither are you.”

 

Rose held the door open as Donna climbed in, “Well, I’m coming with you. Somehow you got into the Tardis, and until we figure out why, at least one of us is staying with you.”

 

The bride groaned, but she moved over to the other side of the cab as Rose got in, “What about your boyfriend?”

 

“He’s not- he knows where we’re going, he’ll find us,” Rose assured her, looking back to where the Doctor was leaving the ATM with cash in his hands, “Doctor, meet us at the church!” she shouted.

 

The Doctor looked as though he were about to protest, but she never heard what he said. At that moment, the cab driver hit the accelerator, forcing Rose to close the door as Donna barked a location out. “Blimey,” the blonde breathed, “Think you could’ve given me a warning, mate?”

 

She stared up at the back of the driver’s head, noticing that it was wearing some sort of Santa costume complete with velvety red fabric, and a white fur trim. The sight of it sent her memories reeling further back than their time with the ganger, all the way back to right after the Doctor had regenerated, and they’d faced the deadly robot santas… She shook herself out of that thought quickly. There was no way they’d attack twice, unless the Sycorax had returned… But Harriet Jones had wiped them out of the sky, hadn’t she?

 

“Never mind a warning, I’m late enough as it is. Oh, I look a mess…” Donna groaned as she took off her veil, holding the thin fabric in her lap as they pulled onto the freeway and interrupting Rose’s thoughts for the second time.

 

Rose glanced at Donna. Her hair was slightly disheveled from the brief fit of running with her and the Doctor, but other than that she still looked every bit the same as when she’d interrupted the near kiss between the Doctor and Rose. “You look fine,” she assured the bride, “Whoever he is, he’s lucky to have you.”

 

Donna smiled slightly, the first expression of happiness Rose had seen from the woman since she’d suddenly appeared on the Tardis, “Thanks, you don’t have to be nice to me.”

 

“No, I mean it, you look gorgeous. I’m sorry this happened to you.”

 

“Just my luck,” Donna muttered, then she looked up at the cab driver and shouted, “Hurry up!”

 

The merrily dressed driver did indeed accelerate, right past an apparently very important exit, “Hold on a minute. I said Chiswick. You've missed the turning. Excuse me, we should've turned off back there. We're going the wrong way!”

 

“Maybe this is just the way he knows?” Rose inquired, but something in her said that that was most definitely not the case. It was more likely than not that they were in danger, and since they were at a speed far too fast to jump out of the car safely, there wasn’t a way out.

 

Suddenly the taxi pulled onto a flyover, narrowly missing another car as it went. A well deserved honk was sounded from the car not a second later as Donna continued berating their driver, “What the hell are you doing?” she asked it, “I’m late for the wedding. My own wedding. Do you get that?”

 

“Donna, I don’t think it cares.”

 

“Turn around! Turn around right now! Are you deaf, or what?” Donna asked, reaching forward, and tugging at the driver’s hood, confirming Rose’s worst fears. It was indeed one of the Santa robots, one of the very same ones that had attacked them last Christmas.

 

“Shit,” Rose whispered quietly.

 

“Oh… my… god…” Donna said, freezing up for a moment before springing into action, “Get the windows down! Call for help!”

 

Rose nodded, then the two women rushed to get their windows down, but to no avail. In the end, Donna settled for banging on hers and screaming, “Help me!” over and over again, adding on a, “I’m being driven by a robot!” at the end. It wouldn’t help, people could barely hear her, and those that could see her simply gave her peculiar looks before moving on.

 

There truly seemed to be nothing they could do, until they heard a very familiar sound coming from somewhere behind them, “Oh, thank god,” Rose murmured as she turned around to see the Tardis flying just behind them on the highway. Just this once, she was actually flying, spinning around in the air, and occasionally slamming onto the road or bumping into the roofs of surrounding cars. But it was definitely heading directly toward them, they had hope of being rescued.

 

“You are kidding me,” Donna said as the Tardis pulled up by her side of the cab, and the doors opened to reveal the Doctor holding a string attached to something in the console room, presumably a lever.

 

“Open the door!” the Doctor shouted, reaching his arms out for the two women in the cab.

 

“Do what?” Donna asked.

 

“Open the door!”

 

Donna nodded, then she tried her hand at opening the door, a frightened expression appearing on her features when it wouldn’t budge, “I can’t! It’s locked!”

 

Locked doors had never bothered the Doctor before, and they wouldn’t bother him that day. The time lord simply brought out the sonic screwdriver and buzzed it at them for a second before they heard an unlatching sound, and the window on Donna’s side rolled down.

 

“Doctor! It’s one of the robot Santas!” Rose announced, crawling up beside Donna so he could see her.

 

“I know!” the Doctor cried, “Now open the door, you’ve got to jump!”

 

“We’ve got to what ?” Donna all but squeaked in shock.

 

“Jump!”

 

“I’m not blinking flip jumping! I’m supposed to be getting married!”

 

As if on cue, the robot santa stepped on the accelerator again, nearly throwing Donna against Rose. The two women prevailed against the sudden movement, and not a second later the Doctor and the Tardis caught up to them. The time lord turned the sonic on their robot driver, causing its hands to spark and lock on the wheel.

 

“Listen to me, you’ve both got to jump,” he told them.

 

“I’m in my wedding dress!” the bride protested, but she opened the door nonetheless, her arm shaking as she held onto it.

 

“You look lovely,” Rose assured her, “Just jump, I’ll be right behind you!”

 

“I’m not jumping on a motorway!”

 

“Whatever that thing is, it needs you, and whatever it needs you for, it’s not good, now jump!” the Doctor shouted, reaching his arms out for her.

 

Donna paused, then she looked at Rose, “You’ve known him a while, can I trust him?”

 

The blonde nodded hurriedly, “Yes! I trust him with my life! Now jump!”

 

Looking more nervous than ever, Donna let out a scream before she leapt the short distance between the cab and the Tardis, launching herself into the Doctor’s arms, nearly knocking them both over as they went. They quickly righted themselves, then the Doctor turned to Rose, and gave her a nod.

 

Rose didn’t hesitate to launch herself out of the cab, and into his arms. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite stick the landing as she crashed into him a little harder than she’d meant to, and the two fell to the floor. To be precise, she fell on top of him. She pulled away from him slightly, a hint of a smile growing on her face at the sight of the flush of color in his cheeks, then she rolled off of him as the Tardis doors slammed shut, and the ship spiraled back into the time vortex.











Chapter Text

The Doctor couldn't focus for a moment when Rose fell on top of him, and he lost all sense of thought. For a moment all he could feel was a delighted shock at the sudden contact, a hint of a smile growing on his features as she slowly began to pull away, but then all he could see was the woman with Rose’s face driving a knife into his gut as he screamed. He quickly parted from Rose, then ran back to the console, and sent the Tardis back into the time vortex.

 

A minute later he was ushering Donna and Rose out of the Tardis extinguishing a few small fires with an extinguisher as he went. “Out! Out! Out!” he cried to the two women, who quickly exited the ship in front of him.

 

As soon as the flames were put out, he too left the smoldering Tardis, and followed the bride and Rose onto the rooftop they’d landed on, “Funny thing is, for a spaceship she doesn’t do that much flying,” he commented, turning to face them, “We’d better give her a couple of hours. Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Rose replied at the same time as Donna said, “Doesn’t matter.”

 

“Did we miss it?” the Doctor asked.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, you can book another date,” Rose assured her, but Donna didn’t seem any happier by that news.

 

“Course we can.”

 

“You’ve still got the honeymoon,” the Doctor said.

 

“It’s just a holiday now.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, sorry.”

 

“It’s not your fault.”

 

Rose laughed, gently smacking the Doctor’s arm, “Now that’s a change.”

 

The corner’s of Donna’s lips perked up into a hint of a smile as she sat down on a nearby rooftop edge, “Wish you had a time machine, then we could go back and get it right,” she muttered.

 

The Doctor and Rose exchanged a knowing glance, as they walked to either side of her, and sat down, the former of the two removing his pinstriped suit jacket, and draping it around the bride’s shoulders as he went.

 

“God, you’re skinny, this wouldn’t fit a rat,” Donna said as the Doctor sat down beside her.

 

Rose laughed, “It’s all the running,” she joked as the Doctor reached into the pockets of his trousers, and pulled out a small object.

 

“You’d better put this on,” He told the bride, presenting her with what looked exactly like a wedding ring.

 

Rose quirked an eyebrow, “You’ve only just met, and you’re already proposing?” she teased him, fighting the small ping of jealousy the sight of him with a ring sent through her. Though she and the Doctor would eventually move on from their agonizing ordeal with the ganger, they were still so far off from it that the concept of him ever presenting her with a ring was foreign. It felt like something that would never happen.

 

The Doctor shook his head, “Those creatures can trace her,” he explained, “This is a biodamper. Should keep you hidden,” he added, sliding the ring onto her finger, “With this ring, I thee biodamp.”

 

“For better or for worse,” Donna joked, “So, come on, then. Robot santas. What are they for?”

 

“Last year he said they were pilot fish,” Rose said, “They weren’t what was really out to kill us, they were under the control of something else.”

 

The Doctor nodded, “Yeah, they were… see, Donna, the father Christmas stuff’s just a disguise. They’re trying to blend in. Like Rose said, we met them last Christmas.”

 

“What happened then?”

 

Rose looked up to the sky, remembering that day so long ago when he’d just regenerated and she wasn’t even sure if he was himself anymore. Before the ganger and everything had truly been sent tumbling head over heels into disaster. Before she’d had to watch him die in her arms. It was no more than a year ago, but it felt like a lifetime. Hell. Just a month and a half ago felt like a lifetime thanks to the ganger’s interference.

 

“There  was a great big spaceship hovering over London,” the Doctor told Donna, pulling Rose from her thoughts, “You didn’t notice?”

 

“I had a bit of a hangover,” Donna explained.

 

“Question is, though, what do the santas want with her, Doctor?” Rose asked, looking Donna up and down, “How’d she get into the Tardis?”

 

“I don’t know,” the time lord replied, pulling out the sonic, and scanning Donna as he spoke, “Lots of things could tell us. Donna, what’s your job?”

 

“I’m a secretary.”

 

The time lord nodded as he continued scanning her, “It’s weird, you’re not special, not connected… powerful…”

 

“Being rude again, Doctor,” Rose chimed in, watching the expression on Donna’s face go from mildly annoyed to pissed off like someone had flipped a switch as the Doctor spoke.

 

“Right, sorry,” the Doctor replied, putting the sonic back in his pocket, “What kind of secretary are you, then?”

 

“I’m at HC Clements. It’s where I met Lance, I was temping,” she told them, then she broke out into a story about how she and Lance met, about their relationship, and how it all led to her sitting on a rooftop with the Doctor and Rose. It had all started six months ago with a cup of coffee, and escalated into them walking down the aisle.

 

“What does HC Clements do?” Rose asked.

 

“Oh, security systems,  you know, entry codes,” Donna replied, “ID cards, that sort of thing. If you ask me, it's a posh name for locksmiths.”

 

“Keys,” the Doctor repeated, brows furrowing in concentration as he thought up what connections it all had to Donna’s appearance in the Tardis.

 

“Anyway, enough of my tragic backstory,” Donna joked, pushing herself into a standing position, “Come on, time to face the consequences. Oh, this is gonna be so shaming. You can do the explaining Martian boy. So can your girlfriend.”

 

“I’m not his girlfriend,” Rose protested as the Doctor helped her to stand.

 

“I’m not from Mars.”

 

“Whatever you say,”Martian boy, oh, I had this great reception planned,” Donna groaned as the Doctor opened the Tardis doors, allowing her to walk back inside,  “Everyone’s gonna be heartbroken.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Rose replied, resting a hand on Donna’s arm as she handed his suit jacket back to him.

 

“Yeah, well, can’t do anything about it now.”

 

The Doctor rushed back to the console as he put his jacket back on, “Right then, where is the reception?” he asked, preparing to program the coordinates into the monitor, hoping it would take them to the right place this time.

 

A few minutes later they emerged in Donna’s reception to find that the party was already in full swing. All around them people were dancing, barely noticing when the Doctor, Donna, and Rose stepped into the room. A big disco ball overhead beamed light in all directions, illuminating the party goers as they carried on without the bride, who had assumed just minutes earlier that they’d all be in tears over her absence.

 

The Doctor and Rose watched as Donna’s jaw dropped at the sight before her. One by one, the guests at the party began to notice her presence, except for one pair dancing at the center. A dark skinned man was dancing with a tall blonde, and he didn’t stop until the Christmas song playing slowly faded out to silence as the entire room stared at Donna.

 

“You had the reception without me?” the bride asked, seeming bewildered at the very thought of it though the evidence was right before her eyes.

 

“Donna, what happened to you?” the man asked as he separated from the blonde.

 

You had the reception without me? ” she repeated, the silence in the room growing louder by the minute.

 

The Doctor stepped forward, sensing the awkwardness, and introduced himself, “Hello, I’m the Doctor,” he said, then he cocked his head in Rose’s direction, “And this is Rose.”

 

The blonde gave an awkward wave as Donna turned to face them, “They had the reception without me!”

 

“Yes, we gathered,” the Doctor replied, an uncomfortable smile still present on his features.

 

“Well, it was all paid for, so why not?” asked the blonde the man had been dancing with.

 

“Thank you, Nerys,” Donna hissed bitterly.

 

“Well what were we supposed to do?” another older blonde woman asked, “I got your silly little message in the end. I'm on Earth? Very funny. What the hell happened? How did you do it? I mean, what's the trick, because I'd love to know.”

 

As soon as that woman spoke, everyone came for Donna at once with similar questions, each seeming to shout louder than the last. Rose gravitated toward the Doctor as the chaos intensified, slipping her hand into his as the party guests screamed louder and louder until suddenly, Donna burst into tears.

 

At first they were confused, wondering just why the hell she was crying after all this time, but they weren’t complaining. Her cries brought the screaming to a halt, and the man walked forward, and wrapped his arms around her, causing the crowd to cheer in delight.

 

“I’m guessing that’s Lance, then,” Rose said quietly, still leaning into the Doctor even though the crowd was now much less volatile.

 

Donna turned to face them as she embraced her fiance, and tossed them a wink as she continued to pretend to cry. The Doctor and Rose both grinned as they watched Donna reunite with her family. Hopefully her life was now getting back on track.

 

Not a minute later, someone shouted out for the music to continue playing, and a swingy Christmas song blared from the speakers. Donna was pulled out onto the dance floor, and the other guests soon followed suit, leaving the Doctor and Rose standing off awkwardly to the side watching.

 

The Doctor let go of her hand, “Rose, could I borrow your mobile?”

 

She nodded, fishing it out of her pocket, and placing it in his hands, “What do you need it for?” she asked as he flipped it open, and took his sonic to it.

 

“I need to know what H.C Clements does.”

 

“But Donna told us what they do. She said they were locksmiths.”

 

“I need to know more. It’s all gotta be connected somehow.”

 

Not a second later, her screen revealed five words that confirmed his suspicions, “H.C Clements, Sole Proprietor- Torchwood,” it read.

 

“Well, well, well,” he murmured, closing the phone and handing it back to Rose, “Our favorite place.”

 

Rose grumbled something about irony, then she looked out at all of the dancers, watching as people swung about either with their partners or in groups. Occasionally she’d spot a solo dancer mingling with the crowd, but for the most part, everyone was simply enjoying the party, enjoying being in each other’s company. A grin appeared on her face as she turned to the Doctor, “Do you want to dance?” she asked, holding out her hand, “Everyone else is dancing or drinking, and I have a certain memory of you not mixing well with alcohol.”

 

“Oh, Rose Tyler I could drink you under a table, I was pretending,” he replied, referring to the incident on board the Madame Du Pompadour where he’d pretended to be drunk in front of Mickey and the ganger to distract the clockwork droids, “But if you’re asking…” without another word, he took her hand, and led her out onto the dance floor, taking her into his arms as they swayed to the song that was playing.

 

Rose laughed in delight as he whirled her around, only laughing harder when she stumbled back into him, their bodies now pressed tightly enough together that she could feel his hearts beating in his chest, a four part beat she’d never tire of hearing. She pulled away slightly, the Doctor giggling as he brushed a stray piece of her hair out of her eyes, “That was your fault, you know,” she told him.

 

He only continued giggling as the faster paced song transitioned into a slow dance, and their sway slowed with it. The hand the Doctor had on her back pulled her ever so slightly closer, and she rested her head on his chest, listening to the double heartbeat in his chest as they swayed on the dance floor.

 

“I missed this,” Rose said softly, looking up at him cautiously, “Just the simple things. When we weren’t in danger, and we just danced, or read books, or snuggled in the library. This is what I missed the most.”

 

“Well, we’re not entirely out of danger.”

 

“No one’s shooting at us right now, we’re not dying,” she pointed out, “I think that counts as not in danger.”

 

“Oh, you shouldn’t have said that, something bad’s going to happen now.”

 

“Don’t be such a pessimist.”

 

“Me? A pessimist? I’ve never been a pessimist, Rose, name one moment where I’ve been a pessimist.”

 

“You said you were gonna die,” she reminded him, “But you didn’t. You came back to me. You’re dancing with me now. We’ve got a second chance.”

 

“I don’t intend on wasting it, but in my defense, I did technically die. I was dead for ten minutes and three point five seconds before my regeneration kicked in.”

 

“How the hell would you know that?”

 

“Time lord senses?”

 

Rose laughed, and a grin spread on his face at the musical sound of it, “I’m so glad you’re back, Rose,” he whispered, “I missed this, too.”

 

The blonde returned his smile, “We’ve got a lot to catch up on,” she sighed, “I know I technically saw everything that happened, but… We’ve got a month of adventures to make up for, among other things. When we’re ready, of course.”

 

The Doctor’s hearts beat just a little faster in his chest when she said that, causing a blush to rise to her cheeks as they continued swaying. The music swelled, and the time lord spun her around, bringing her back in smoothly this time as they continued waltzing about the dance floor, more musical laughter leaving Rose’s lips as they moved. It was so different from the laugh the ganger had always given him, he realized that now.

 

But thinking up the ganger, discussing his death had brought the memories to the surface once more, and again he felt the knife cut through him, his hearts coming to a stop just over an hour later… He backed away from Rose slightly, barely able to hear her when she asked him what was wrong, his mind was focused on something else.

 

It took him a moment to snap himself out of his thoughts, to pull himself away from those still fresh, dark memories, and see his surroundings again. It was this that allowed him to see the man with the video camera in the corner of the room, recording everything that was going on. An idea occurred to him… If this man was recording the reception… Had he also recorded the wedding itself? Donna had said she was halfway down the aisle...

 

“Doctor, are you alright?” Rose was asking him as he came out of his trance.

 

He nodded slowly as he pointed to the camera man, waiting until she turned and saw him before he spoke again, “He’s been filming all this,” he explained, “I’m thinking he might’ve recorded what happened during the ceremony.”

“Let’s ask him, then,” Rose suggested, tugging on his hand as she led him in the camera man’s direction.

 

As they approached, the Doctor called out to the man behind the camera, “Pardon me, have you been recording this whole time?”

 

“Depends what you mean by that,” the camera man replied, scratching his head.

 

“Did you record the ceremony?” the Doctor asked, “My friend and I, we missed it, we were wondering if we could see what all the fuss was about.”

 

The man nodded, “Oh, I taped the whole thing,” he told them, looking out at the people dancing around them, “They've all had a look. They said sell it to You've Been Framed. I said, more like the News. Here we are.”

 

With that, he hit a button or two, and pressed play, revealing to them the video of the ceremony. It started off normal, Donna and a man who was presumably her father were walking down the aisle, a smile was growing on her face as she walked until suddenly she began to glow a familiar looking gold. The glow grew brighter and brighter until Donna suddenly screamed, and in a blur of golden light, rose up into the air, and flew out of the church. They knew where she’d wound up from there.

 

The Doctor’s eyes widened in disbelief as he watched, “Can’t be… play that again?”

 

“Doctor, what is it?” Rose asked, placing a hand on his arm.

 

“Clever, mind,” the camera man said, playing the footage again for the Doctor, “Good trick. I’ll give her that. I was clapping.”

 

The video played again, and the exact same odd, golden glow appeared before Donna vanished, this time a look of clarity appeared on the Doctor’s features, “But that looks like Huon particles.”

 

“The hell are Huon particles?” Rose asked.

 

“They’re impossible,” the Doctor replied, “They’re ancient. Huon energy doesn’t exist anymore. Hasn’t for billions of years. It’s so old…” he looked over to where Donna and Lance were dancing happily, his eyes zeroing in on the ring he’d placed on her finger, “It can’t be hidden by a biodamper!”

 

“Shit,” Rose breathed as the Doctor ran toward the nearest window. The two looked out of it to see that the robot santas had followed them, and were now walking toward the building menacingly having found their target.

 

The Doctor quickly turned around, and raced toward Donna, Rose following close behind, “Donna! Donna, they’ve found you.”

 

“But you said I was safe,” Donna protested, parting from Lance.

 

“The biodamper doesn’t work,” Rose explained.

 

“We’ve got to get everyone out,” the Doctor added.

 

“My god, it’s my family,” Donna breathed.

 

The Doctor looked around for a moment, searching for the nearest way out, “Out the back door!” he cried, then the three of them and Lance raced toward the back door, but found more santas waiting for them outside.

 

“Maybe not the back door, then,” Rose muttered.

 

“Maybe not.”

 

“We’re trapped,” Donna said, panic rising in her voice.

 

It felt like all they could do was watch as one of the santas raised a remote control, then Rose turned around, looking for the one thing that had nearly killed them last year, Christmas trees. There were at least three or four in the room, each with the ability to kill.

 

“Doctor, the Christmas trees,” Rose said quietly, then he and Donna turned around as well, the time lord’s eyes widening in concern.

 

“What about them?” Donna asked.

 

“They kill,” the Doctor replied, then he ran toward a group of people standing by the nearest tree, “Get away from the trees!”

 

Rose quickly followed suit, “Get away from the Christmas trees!”

 

“Everyone get away from them!” the Doctor shouted, moving people aside as they prepared to take whatever assault the robot santas had planned, “Everyone stay away from the trees!”

 

The woman who had revealed herself to be Donna’s mother stepped forward, laughing as she spoke, “Oh, for god’s sake, the man’s an idiot. Why? What harm’s a Christmas tree going to… Oh…”

 

At that moment, the ornaments lifted off of the trees, pirouetting in the air for a second before they descended into chaos. The first exploded over the wedding cake, sending everyone running for cover. More exploded as the Doctor took Rose’s hand, and ducked behind the DJ’s sound desk, peeping his head over it cautiously to see the robot santas trickling into the room, lined up before him like they were waiting for him.

 

The time lord winked at Rose, then he reached into his pocket for the sonic screwdriver, and stood up, “Oi, santas!” he announced, stealing their attention, “Word of advice, if you’re attacking a man with a sonic screwdriver,” he picked up the microphone the DJ had abandoned in his run for shelter, and spoke into it, “Don’t let him near the sound system.”

 

With that, he jammed the sonic screwdriver into the aforementioned sound system, and pressed the button, causing an ear splitting noise to be emitted from the speakers. Rose covered her ears as she stood up, watching as the santas convulsed horribly before breaking into pieces. After a good thirty seconds or so, it was over, and the Doctor placed the sonic back in his pocket before he ran out to examine the robots, Rose quickly rushing to his side as they worked together to look at them.

 

“Rose, look at this,” the Doctor said after a moment of sifting through the robots’ various parts, and holding up two separate pieces, “Remote control for the decorations, but there’s a second remote control for the robots. They’re not scavengers anymore, I think someone’s taken possession.”

 

“But who?” Rose asked curiously as he held onto the second remote, setting the first one down on the ground lazily.

 

“I don’t know,” the time lord replied as Donna rejoined them at his side, “Where’d you get off to?”

 

“I was helping people,” she told him, “They’ve been hurt. You’re a doctor, you could help.”

 

The Doctor shook his head, “Nah, they wanted you alive,” he replied, picking up one of the ornaments, and handing it to Donna, “Look, they’re not active now.”

 

“All I’m saying is, you can help.”

 

“She’s right, Doctor. I’m sure we’ve got a minute-”

 

“Got to think of the bigger picture,” the Doctor said, continuing to examine the second remote, “There’s still a signal!” He was on his feet in an instant, running outside the reception hotel at a speed rivaling mach one. Rose, Donna, and even her fiance, Lance, were quick to follow, ignoring the shouts from Donna’s mother on their way out.

 

“There’s someone behind this, directing the roboforms,” the Doctor explained, mostly to Rose as they stood outside, the time lord took his sonic screwdriver out, aiming it up at the sky.

 

“But why is it me?” Donna asked, “What have I done?”

 

Rose gently rested a hand on her shoulder, “I’m sure it’s nothing you’ve done,” she told her, “It’s more than likely just a horrible coincidence, right, Doctor?”

 

“Right,” he replied, keeping his aim firmly at the sky, “We won’t find that out until we find the controller, though, ooh! It’s up there! Something in the sky…”

 

“Like what, though? Is it the Sycorax?” Rose inquired.

 

“Doubt it, not after what Harriet Jones did… Good guess, though.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

After a  moment, ambulances began to arrive, and the Doctor brought the sonic down in disappointment, “I’ve lost the signal,” he muttered disappointedly, then he turned to Donna and Lance, “Donna, we’ve got to get back to your office. HC Clements, I think that’s where it all started,” he looked at her fiance, “Lance? Lance is it? Could you give us a lift?”

 

Donna’s fiance looked apprehensive about it, but the bride gave him a look, “Oh, please, Lance? I just want to get this over with,” she begged.

 

The groom sighed, then he reached into his pocket, and pulled out his car keys, “Come on, it’s this way,” he told them, leading them over to a van reminiscent of the car the ganger had called a “blue rubbish bin,” that had belonged to Sarah Jane. Rose shivered at the memory as Lance unlocked his car, and the four of them slipped inside, with Donna in the passenger seat, and the Doctor and Rose in the back.

 

The two looked at each other as Lance pulled out onto the road, “What do you think it is?” Rose asked softly.

 

“I don’t know,” he admitted, “Won’t know until I see it. It’s definitely not the Sycorax, I can assure you.”

 

Lance pulled out onto the freeway, and Rose sighed, “What happened to you earlier? On the dance floor? You were fine, and then you just…?”

 

The Doctor shook his head, “It was nothing. I saw the camera and I realized we had an opportunity to find out what had happened.”

 

Rose looked into his eyes, the lie evident on his face. Even the Doctor with all of his skills could not quite manage to hide his feelings behind a poker face. There was an underlying look of fear in his eyes, and swallowing nervously, she asked, “Doctor, were you seeing her do it? Were you seeing her kill you?”

 

He remained silent in the wake of her question, saying nothing as the minutes passed. She knew his answer. He didn’t have to say it, she simply knew. She wasn’t surprised, but it didn’t hurt any less. It was another reminder of the painful amount of time that had been taken from them by the ganger, and according to the warning the ganger had given them just hours earlier, there was still a chance they’d lose forever.

 

After that, the pair didn’t speak a word, simply focusing on listening to Donna catch Lance up on all that had happened since she’d been suddenly taken halfway up the aisle. The tale with Donna’s obnoxious if not endearing personality telling it provided their entertainment until at last they reached a tall building, and Lance pulled into its parking structure.

 

“Right, then, team, no, not team, comrades… Oh, I’ve already had this argument with myself before, why do I even bother?” the Doctor mumbled to himself, “Let’s get a move on.”

 

“Where are we going, exactly?” Lance asked as the four of them stepped out of the car.

 

“Wherever her office is.”

 

“Third floor,” Donna replied, as they walked toward the main building, “We’ve got to get to the third floor.”

 

The group hurried into the building, rushing toward the lift, and up toward the third floor within a matter of minutes, “To you lot this might just be an ordinary locksmiths,” the Doctor explained, “But HC Clements was brought up twenty three years ago by the Torchwood Institute.”

 

“Who are they?” Donna asked.

 

“They were behind the battle of Canary Wharf,” Rose replied, crossing her arms over her chest, “Cybermen and Daleks invaded, caused all sorts of chaos. Course, we had other problems that day as well...”

 

“I was in Spain.”

 

“They had Cybermen in Spain,” the Doctor pointed out.

 

“Scuba diving.”

 

“That big picture, Donna, you keep on missing it,” the time lord observed, “Torchwood was destroyed, but HC Clements stayed in business. I think someone else came in and took over the operation.”

 

“And that’d be whoever’s controlling the santas, then?” Rose asked.

 

“Exactly.”

 

“But what do they want with me?” Donna asked, confusion growing on her face more and more by the minute.

 

“Somehow you’ve been dosed with Huon energy,” the Doctor explained, “And that's a problem, because Huon energy hasn't existed since the Dark Times. The only place you'd find a Huon particle now is a remnant in the heart of the Tardis. See? That's what happened. Say, that's the Tardis,” he picked up a coffee mug off of a nearby desk to prove his point, “And that’s you,” he added, picking up a pencil, “The particles inside you activated. The two sets of particles magnetized and wap! ” he placed the pencil in the mug, “You were pulled inside the Tardis.”

 

“I’m a pencil inside a mug?” Donna said incredulously, causing Rose to giggle at the mental image it conjured.

 

“Yes, you are, four H, sums you up,” the Doctor replied, “Lance?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“What was HC Clements working on? Anything top secret? Special operations? Do not enter?”

 

Lance shrugged, “I don’t know, I’m in charge of personnel, I wasn’t a project manager- Why am I explaining myself? What the hell are we talking about?”

 

The Doctor grinned, pulling out the sonic, and pressing it to a computer monitor, getting it to reveal a floor plan for the building, “You make keys, that’s the point,” he said, “And look at this. We’re on the third floor.”

 

“What’s so significant about the third floor?” Rose asked as the Doctor moved back toward the nearby lift.

 

The time lord said nothing as he soniced open the lift doors, and gestured toward the floor buttons, “Underneath reception, there’s a basement, yes?” he asked, not even waiting for the people with him to nod before he continued rambling, pointing at a floor called “lower basement,” as he spoke, “Then how come when you look on the lift, there's a button marked lower basement? There's a whole floor which doesn't exist on the official plans. So what's down there, then?”

 

“Are you telling me this building’s got a secret floor?” Lance inquired.

 

“He’s showing you this building’s got a secret floor, Lance,” Rose informed him, patting him on the back as she joined the Doctor in the lift.

 

“It needs a key,” Donna said.

 

“I don’t,” the Doctor replied, taking his sonic to the Lower Basement button, then he stood, “Right, then, thanks, you two. Rose and I can handle this. See you later.”

 

“Doctor-”

 

“No chance, Martian,” Donna protested, stepping into the lift with him and Rose, “You’re the man who keeps saving my life, I ain’t letting you out of my sight.”

 

The Doctor nodded, then he looked out at Lance, who still stood in the office floor, “Going down.”

 

“Lance?” Donna asked softly.

 

The groom pointed behind him, “Maybe I should go to the police.”

 

“Inside,” Donna commanded harshly, and without hesitation, Lance had joined them inside the lift.

 

“To honor and obey?” the Doctor joked.

 

“Tell me about it, mate,” Lance replied, earning him an, “Oi!” from Donna.

 

With that, the lift went down, bringing them closer and closer to the villain that awaited them at the bottom. Unbeknownst to them, though, they already had one in their presence, standing at their side in the lift, mere minutes were to pass before they would discover his true nature.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: The Runaway Bride: H.C. Clements

Donna, Rose, the Doctor, and Lance head to the couple’s office, where Lance betrays Donna, and the Doctor makes a clever escape. Rose notices the Doctor’s regeneration energy doing something odd to her as they go. They go to the Earth’s beginning, and are forcibly returned to H.C. Clements a few moments later, where Donna gets kidnapped and a recently traumatized Doctor defeats the Racnoss in a way he’s not proud of.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

The lift doors opened a minute later to reveal a tunnel lit in an eerie green color. For a moment, none of them were sure of what to say, but Donna wasted no time in breaking the silence.

 

“Where are we? What goes on down here?”

 

The Doctor shrugged, “Let’s find out.”

 

“Do you think Mr. Clements knows about this place?” Donna inquired as she looked about curiously.

 

“It’s quite likely,” Rose assured her as the Doctor walked about, “Considering it’s his building and all, someone’s got to have a key, right, Doctor?”

 

The Doctor shrugged, “Suppose so,” he replied, looking down the corridor, which seemed to go on forever, “I think he’s part of it.”

 

“Well, we’re down here, what now?” Donna asked.

 

The Doctor looked down the long tunnel, “Now we walk,” he said plainly as he began to move in that direction.

 

The others quickly followed suit, walking down the long tunnel into what felt like nowhere. Rose walked alongside the Doctor, observing the almost anxious look he had on his face as they carried on down the corridor, “Are you alright?”

 

He nodded, “I’m always alright.”

 

She sighed, the lie was more evident in his voice than it had ever been. He was still reeling from what had happened, not only with the ganger, but at the wedding… in Lance’s car… But so was she, and if she were being honest, she wasn’t doing any better than he was. “Doctor,” she protested, “Maybe it’ll help if you talk to me. I’m not her, I’m not going to hurt you.”

 

“I know that, Rose, but…”


“But?”

 

He paused for a moment, then his hand reached out for hers, lacing their fingers together as he spoke, “Listen, when we fix whatever’s wrong with Donna, once this is over, I promise, we’ll have that talk, but until then…”

 

She smiled weakly in understanding, “We wait.”

 

“We wait,” he replied, letting go of her hand as something off to the side distracted him. Rose felt a rush of disappointment run through her, until she realized he was heading for what looked like a ladder tucked off in the walls of the tunnel.

 

“Wait here,” the Doctor told them as he reached for the nearest rung on the ladder, “I just need to get my bearings. Don’t do anything.”

 

“You’d better come back,” Donna demanded him, but her brash tone was long gone. It almost seemed as if she were growing fond of the Doctor, and maybe she was. After the initial shock of being brought on board the Tardis wore off, she seemed much less angry toward them. It almost felt like they’d bonded in a way that none of them could describe.

 

“I couldn’t get rid of you if I tried,” the Doctor replied, grinning at her as he began to climb up the ladder.

 

It was then that Lance spoke up, reaching for Donna’s arm, “Donna, have you thought about this?” he asked, “Properly? I mean, this is serious! What the hell are we going to do?”

 

“Oh, I thought July,” the bride replied, causing Rose to snort as the Doctor began to descend the ladder.

 

“Well? What’s up there?” his companion asked.

 

“Thames flood barrier right on top of us. Torchwood snuck in and built this place underneath.”

 

Donna stared at him perplexed, “What, there’s like a secret base underneath a major London landmark?”

 

“Oh, I know, unheard of,” the Doctor replied sarcastically.


“It’s not just London. You should see New York,” Rose added as they continued walking down the corridor until they found a door bearing the Torchwood logo, “That looks promising.”

 

The Doctor quickly stepped in its direction, “Let’s see what’s on the other side.”

 

Upon opening the door, they found a rather large laboratory on the other side. The room was enormous, with almost cavernous ceilings and bright lights throughout. Nearest to them was a grouping of scientific equipment with several large containers of liquid, some bubbling, and some not, but all somewhat concerning to the group of four.

 

“Ooh, look at this,” the Doctor breathed as they walked into the room, “Stunning.”

 

“What’s it do?” Donna asked.

 

“Particle extrusion, hold on,” he replied, approaching one of the containers, and tapping it, “Brilliant, they’ve been manufacturing Huon particles. Course, my people got rid of Huons. They unravel the atomic structure.”

 

“Might be a good reason, then.”

 

“Might.”

 

For the second time, Lance spoke up, “Your people? Who are they? What company do you represent?”

 

“We’re freelancers,” Rose lied plainly, “Right, Doctor?”

 

The word correctamundo flashed in front of the Doctor’s mind, but remembering that he’d promised never to used it again stopped him, and he simply nodded as he picked up a smaller container full of the particles, “But this lot are rebuilding them. They’ve been using the river. Extruding them through a flat Hydrogen base, so they’ve got the end result, huon particles in liquid form.”

 

The other four nodded slowly, “So that’s what’s in Donna?” Rose asked.

 

The Doctor turned the lid on the container in his hands, causing the liquid inside to glow gold at the same time as Donna, eliciting a shocked, “Oh my god!” from the bride.

 

Rose crossed her arms, “Here comes the technobabble,” she said with a grin.

 

The time lord returned her grin, “Rose Tyler, you know me too well,” he replied, “See the particles are inert, they need something living to catalyze inside, and that’s you. Saturate the body, and then, ha!”

 

Donna stared at him blankly, “What?”

 

“The wedding! You’re getting married, that’s it! Best day of your life, walking down the aisle. Oh, your body's a battleground! There's a chemical war inside!”

 

“Doctor,” Rose warned, her eyes darting rapidly between him and the bride as Donna’s face began to match the color of her hair.

 

“Adrenaline, acetylcholine. Wham! go the endorphins. Oh, you're cooking!”

 

“Doctor.”

 

“Yeah, you're like a walking oven. A pressure cooker, a microwave, all churning away. The particles reach boiling point. Shazam!”

 

With that, Donna had had it, and before anyone could say anything, she raised her hand, and slapped him hard across the face.

 

“What did I do this time?”

Rose laid a hand on his arm, “Being rude, again,” she reminded him.

 

“Oh.”

 

Donna sighed, “Just tell me,” she begged him, “Are they dangerous? Am I safe?”

 

A hint of anxiety grew in the Doctor’s eyes, “Yes,” he answered, the lie hidden in his voice to those who didn’t know him, but unmissed by Rose.

 

His companion stared at him, remembering just minutes earlier that he’d said they unraveled the atomic structure, “If they’re not dangerous, then why did your people get rid of them?”

 

The Doctor looked at her, “Because they’re deadly.”

 

“Oh my god,” Donna breathed, horror lining her features as she covered her mouth.

 

“I’ll fix this, Donna,” the time lord promised her, “Whatever’s been done to you, I’ll reverse it, I’m not losing anyone else.”

 

“Oh, but she is long since lost,” a voice rasped from above them, causing the four heads in the room to turn to the ceiling in fright, as the wall near the laboratory rose up, revealing an enormous, seemingly endless pit in the center of the room, “I have waited so long, hibernating at the edge of the universe until the secret heart was uncovered and called out to waken!”

 

The words had only hung in the air for a second before Lance bolted for the laboratory door, racing out of it, and into the corridor away from them. “So much for till death do us part,” Rose quipped under her breath, causing the Doctor to giggle quietly, a sound which quickly stopped when they realized what else the wall had revealed, robots in black robes, pointing guns directly at them.

 

The Doctor stepped forward cautiously, peering over the edge of the enormous pit, “Someone’s been digging,” he observed, “Oh, very Torchwood. How far down does it go?”

 

“Down, and down, and down, all the way to the center of the Earth!”

 

“The hell do you need that for?” Rose asked, stepping forward so she was in line with the Doctor, “Where the hell are you?”

 

“High in the sky. Floating so high on this Christmas night.”

 

The Doctor stared back up at the ceiling, “Right, well, I didn’t come here just to talk on the intercom. Come on, let’s have a look at you!”

 

Rose put a hand on his arm as the creature taunted them again, “Doctor, are you sure about this?” she asked worriedly.

 

“We need to know what we’re up against,” he replied, taking her hand in his as what resembled a giant, red spider with a humanoid head appeared before them, thrashing and hissing about as it stared them down, “Racnoss…”

 

“She’s a what?” Donna asked from behind them.

 

“You’re one of the Racnoss! But that’s impossible.”

 

“Empress of the Racnoss,” the terrifying spider creature replied.

 

“Where are the rest of them, then?” Rose asked, sparing a glance at the Doctor, relieved to look at something that wasn’t the literal spider in front of them.

 

“Or is she the last one…?” the Doctor replied, his eyes briefly meeting hers, then he looked back at the empress, “That’s it! The Racnoss come from the dark times, billions of years ago. They were carnivores- no, omnivores. They devoured whole planets.”

 

“You’re kidding me.”

 

“I wish I was.”

 

“Racnoss are born starving, is that our fault?” the empress asked.

 

Donna appeared at the Doctor’s side, “They eat people?”

 

The Doctor pointed up at the ceiling, where a massive web had been spun by the racnoss, within its confines was the silhouette of a man, the only visible part of him being his black and white footwear that stuck out like a sore thumb, “HC Clements, did he wear those… black and white shoes?”

 

A weak laugh escaped Donna, “He did, we used to laugh,” she told him, “We used to call him the fat cat in spats…” It was then that she saw where he was pointing, “Oh my god!”

 

“Christmas dinner,” the Racnoss hissed.

 

“But you shouldn’t exist,” the Doctor protested, then he said to his companions, “Way back in history, the fledgling Empires went to war against the Racnoss they were wiped out.”

 

“How come she’s there, then?” Rose asked quietly, her eyes suddenly flicking to something just to the right of the Racnoss Empress. From somewhere off to the side, Lance had come out with an axe in his hands, his stance firm as he approached the creature, seeming ready to swing at will. As he drew closer to the creature, he made a shush gesture at them, and instantly the trio turned their eyes back on the Racnoss.

 

“All except for me,” the Empress said with what almost sounded like a cackle at the end.

 

Donna stepped forward, pretending to be confused as she attempted not to look at her fiance, “But that’s what I’ve got inside me, that huon energy thing,” she said, then noticing the Empress beginning to look in Lance’s direction, she raised her voice, “Oi!  Look at me, lady, I'm talking. Where do I fit in? How comes I get all stacked up with these Huon particles? Look at me, you! Look me in the eye and tell me.”

 

“The bride is so feisty.”

 

“Yes, I am! And I don't know what you are, you big thing, but a spider's just a spider and an axe is an axe! Now, do it!”

 

With that, Lance raised the axe high over his head, and the Racnoss Empress turned to face him in fear, but before he could bring the weapon down on her, he paused, and the look of fear on his face became a relaxed sort of happiness. A wicked laugh escaped both him and the Racnoss, and as Rose and the Doctor looked between him, the Racnoss, and Donna, they realized what was happening.

 

“Oh no,” Rose breathed quietly.

 

“That was a good one,” Lance said to the Racnoss, “Your face!”

 

“Lance is funny,” the Racnoss replied, staring dead on at Donna.

 

“What?” the bride asked weakly, seeming to not comprehend what was happening.

 

“I’m sorry,” Rose told her, resting a hand on Donna’s arm comfortingly, “We’ve been betrayed, you’ve been betrayed.”

 

“No, no, Lance, get her!”

 

“God, she’s thick,” Lance groaned, dropping the axe as he spoke, “Months I’ve had to put up with her! Months! A woman who can’t even point to Germany on a map.”

 

Donna shook her head, still in a state of either confusion, denial, or both, “I don’t understand.”

The Doctor turned to the bride, “How did you meet him?”

 

“In the office.”

 

“He made you coffee,” Rose told her, “Everyday, right?”

 

“She had to be dosed with the particles over six months,” the Doctor added, “It was all there in the job title. Head of Human Resources.”

 

“This time it’s personnel,” Lance joked, though he simply received scowls in return.

 

Rose scoffed, “Oh, you think that’s funny, then? String someone along like that and then dump them in the worse possible way?” she asked, “And then go along with the first spider that comes along? What can she possibly give you?”

 

Lance pointed to the time lord standing beside her, “It’s like he said, the big picture. What's the point of it all if the human race is nothing? That's what the Empress can give me. The chance to go out there. To see the size of it all. I think you understand that, don't you, Doctor?”

 

“Not like that,” the Doctor replied.

 

“Who is this physician?” asked the Racnoss.

 

“She said Martian.”

 

The time lord shrugged, shoving his hands in his pockets as he stepped closer to the massive pit in the room’s center, and stared into the endless hole, “I’m sort of homeless, but what’s down there?” he asked, “The Racnoss are extinct. What's going to help you four thousand miles down? That's just the molten core of the Earth, isn't it?”

 

Lance and the Racnoss looked at each other, “I think he wants us to talk.”

 

“I think so, too,” the Racnoss replied, then she looked at the robots lining the walls, “Kill this chattering Doctor man!”

 

Without even thinking, Rose rushed in front of the Doctor, guarding him protectively as she stared down the Racnoss. The feeling of when she’d seen him die just a week earlier was still simmering underneath the surface, it was too fresh for words. She wasn’t going to see him hurt again, not if she could help it. “Don’t touch him!” she shouted at the Racnoss, “Don’t you dare!”

 

“Rose, it’s alright,” the Doctor protested.

 

“No, no it’s not! I can’t watch this happen again!”

 

“At arms!” the Racnoss cried, causing the robots to point their guns at the Doctor.

 

“Don’t!”

 

“Take aim!”

The Doctor stepped forward, standing at Rose’s side as he attempted to interrupt her, “I just want to point out the obvious-”

 

“They won’t hit the bride,” the Racnoss assured him, “They’re such very good shots.”

 

“Just, just, just, just, just hold on. Hold on just a tick. Just a tiny little, just a little tick,” he protested, reaching a hand into his pocket as he spoke, and pulling out the jar of huon particles, “If you think about it, the particles activated in Donna and drew her inside my spaceship. So reverse it, and the spaceship comes to her.”

 

With that, he twisted the cap on the huon container, and just as the Racnoss called out the order for the robots to fire their weapons at them, the Tardis materialized around them, the console room view quickly shielding their eyes from that of the frightening looking empress.

 

The moment the Tardis appeared, the Doctor immediately set to work on getting them out of there, sending them flying into the vortex before anyone could say anything. Rose barely noticed him, she was occupied with an assault of memories of the Doctor’s death at Torchwood tower. For a moment it felt like it was happening all over again. It felt like she was on the floor with him, holding him as he slipped away, hearing him tell her he loved her, and their final kiss before his hearts-

 

“Rose?” the Doctor’s voice called out softly, snapping her out of her thoughts as she realized he was right in front of her, his eyes full of concern.

 

She feigned a laugh, “Sorry,” she said, brushing a piece of her hair behind her ear, “What’s happening?”

 

The time lord looked as though he were going to say something somber for a second, then he appeared to change his mind as a wild grin parted his lips, “We’re going further back than I’ve ever gone before,” he told her as he raced back to the console, not noticing the softly crying Donna on the jumpseat.

 

“How far’s that then?”

 

“To the Earth’s beginning. Four and a half billion years ago, whatever the Racnoss put at the core of the planet must’ve been there since then,” he said, beaming as he spoke, “See, Donna, I lied earlier. This is a time machine.” With that, he shifted a lever into place, and they were off.

 

Rose quietly approached the sniffling bride as they sped through the vortex, sitting down cautiously next to her on the jumpseat, “Are you alright?”

 

Donna laughed sarcastically, “Yeah, just dandy,” she muttered.

 

The blonde gave her a weak smile, “I know how you’re feeling right about now,” she told her, “I’ve been feeling the same way lately.”

 

“Yeah? What’d the Martian do? Ditch you for a tarantula?”

 

The two shared a trite laugh, “No, it’s a bit more complicated than that,” Rose replied, “About a week ago we-”

 

“Rose, Donna, we’ve arrived,” the Doctor announced, interrupting the women as he pointed to the scanner, “Want to see?”

 

Donna and Rose looked at each other, then back at him, “I suppose,” they said at the same time, both women slowly standing as the Doctor stared intensely at the scanner.

 

“Scanner’s a bit small,” he observed, “Maybe your way’s best.”

 

“My way?” Donna asked, her question being answered a moment later when the Doctor walked up to the Tardis doors, and reached out for them, looking back at them invitingly.

 

“Come on, no human’s ever seen this, you’ll be the first.”

 

“All I want to see is my bed,” Donna replied bitterly, but she and Rose quickly joined him at the ship’s doors as he opened them.

 

The Doctor chuckled lightly, “Donna Noble, Rose Tyler, welcome to the creation of the Earth,” he said as they stared out into the open space.

 

“Whoa,” Rose breathed as her eyes took in the sight before them. The sky was an array of pinks and purples, rocks floated about everywhere they looked, and off in the distance, the young sun shone brightly, illuminating the almost serene scene before them.

 

“We’ve gone back four point six billion years,” the Doctor explained, “There’s no solar system, not yet. Only rocks and dust and gas.”

 

Rose pointed to where she thought the sun was, “Remember when we watched the sun blow up?”

 

The Doctor grinned, “And now it’s brand new, just beginning to burn.”

 

“Where’s the Earth?” Donna asked.

 

“All around us, in the dust,” the time lord replied.

 

Donna scoffed as she stared out at the bits of the Earth that floated past them, “Puts the wedding in perspective. Lance was right, we’re just tiny.”

 

The Doctor shook his head, “No, but that's what you do. The human race makes sense out of chaos. Marking it out with weddings and Christmas and calendars. This whole process is beautiful, but only if it's being observed.”

 

“I can’t believe we came out of all this,” Rose said.

 

“Isn’t that brilliant?”

 

The Doctor and Rose beamed at each other, seeming to not notice Donna, the Tardis, or anything outside. For a moment, it felt like old times, like nothing had happened at all. In the week since Canary Wharf, moments like these were few and far between, and interrupted far too soon. Whether it was by the Doctor’s erratic mind, or by their own post traumatic stress, they were always set back in place far too quickly for their liking, and it saddened them more each time it happened.

 

This time was no exception, the Doctor and Rose’s smiles were cut short by Donna’s comment on one of the rocks, claiming it must’ve been the Isle of Wight. They’d both feigned laughter, then stared out into the abyss as if nothing had happened.

 

“Eventually, gravity takes hold,” the Doctor told them, returning quickly to lecture mode, “Say, one big rock, heavier than the others, starts to pull other rocks towards it. All the dust and gas and elements get pulled in. Everything, piling in until you get-”

 

“The Earth,” Donna answered.

 

“So, what was that first rock?” Rose asked, then almost as if she summoned it, a star shaped spaceship appeared from out of the dust, approaching the rocks slowly and quietly in the silence, “What the hell is that?”

 

“The Racnoss,” the Doctor replied, then he frowned, “Hold on, the Racnoss are hiding from war, what’s it doing?”

 

His question was very quickly answered by the ship itself as it began pulling in the rocks and dust surrounding it, burying itself in what would become the Earth. “It’s doing exactly what you said,” Rose told him, “They’re becoming the center of the Earth.”

 

Before the Doctor could say anything, there was a loud bang from within the Tardis, forcing them all to step back in shock. “The hell was that?” Rose asked.

 

“Trouble,” the Doctor replied as he slammed the doors shut.