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Jack sat on the floor next to the console with the metal circlet on his head, waiting for the moment when the Doctor would pull energy from him to give to Rose. If he did so, that was. He hoped Rose wouldn’t need it, but if she did, he was more than happy to provide it. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had pulled life force from him, and Rosie was someone worth it, unlike the thing that possessed that girl or Abbadon.

 

Suddenly, the Doctor switched on his part of the machine. He flinched, but stayed silent as he watched Rose with wide, fearful eyes. There was a flash of golden light and the process seemed calmer, but only marginally so.

 

Finally, the Arch shut itself down and released from Rose’s head.  She fell back against the seat and the Doctor rushed to release her from the belt that was holding her in place. Jack yanked the circlet off his head and got up, rushing to her himself.

 

“Is she alright, Doctor?” Jack questioned worriedly.

 

“Medbay,” he snapped and carried his wife out of the console room.

 

The Doctor immediately placed his unconscious wife on the nearest bed as they entered the medbay. Jack was right behind him, and, having had to help the Doctor with Rose twice before, went straight for the full body scanner and turned it on.

 

They watched several laser lights moved up and down the unconscious form on the table in just a few seconds. As soon as the lasers were finished, the Doctor went straight to her and checked her pulse in an effort to reassure himself while the results were being compiled.

 

“A bit slow,” he murmured to himself. A second later, the machine beeped and he turned toward it. Jack came up beside him to look at the screen before he remembered that he wouldn’t be able to read it.

 

The Doctor stared at the information for about ten seconds before Jack asked, “What’s wrong with her? Did it work?”

 

“Yeah,” he breathed out. The Doctor’s face broke out in a grin. Suddenly, he turned, grabbed Jack, planted a kiss right on his lips, and hugged the immortal man. “Mwah! It worked!” he nearly shouted in his excitement.

 

Jack, who was caught up in the Time Lord’s infectious enthusiasm for a moment, hugged back and laughed before he opened his eyes and saw the still form on the gurney. “Uh, Doc? So, why’s she unconscious, then?”

 

“Her brain is still sorting itself out. The same thing happened to me when I used the Arch,” the Doctor said, pulling back and returning to Rose’s side. “But, because the process is different, it’s presenting as a post regenerative coma.”

 

“So, she’ll come out of it just fine, then?” Jack questioned worriedly.

 

“Oh, yes, but there’s something we can do to help it along,” the Doctor told him. “You wouldn’t happen to remember how Rose takes her tea, would you?”

 

#######

 

Rose was snuggled up in the bed she shared with the Doctor, all comfortable and warm. She’d had the oddest dream, but it had felt so real. A person should not be allowed to be in that much pain when in a dream state. She also swore she tasted tea and wondered why she’d gone to bed without brushing her teeth.

 

She became aware of a pair of male voices speaking in low tones and picked out the Doctor’s quite easily. Wondering who else was on the ship, she opened her eyes and immediately closed them, groaning. The light was bright. Why was the light bright like that? It was rarely more than an amber glow in the bedroom.

 

At her groan, both voices ceased speaking and the side of the bed lowered with the weight of someone sitting on it. She tried opening her eyes again and found the light to be more bearable, blocked as it was by a skinny Time Lord in a brown, pinstriped suit.

 

“Hello,” he softly said and brushed a strand of hair back from her face.

 

“Hi,” she replied automatically. “Oh, can you turn that light down just a hair, Sweetheart?” she directed to the ship, which lowered the light level a bit. She received an apologetic hum from the ancient time ship, except it was intertwined with a soft, barely heard melody.

 

She saw Jack behind the Doctor and realized her dream was actually reality. She’d been through the Chameleon Arch. “Did it work?” Rose asked shakily and the Doctor began to chuckle.

 

“Oh yes, my Love.  You wouldn't be able to ask that if it hadn't. That was the single most terrifying experience of all my lives,” he admitted.

 

“Worse than when I almost fell into the Void?” she questioned, knowing that he had awoken several times from nightmares about that. He got a dark look in his eyes and she realized she had actually said that out loud. Okay, brain to mouth filter was needing a bit of adjustment, there.

 

“Close, but this was definitely more agonizing, hearing you in so much pain,” he told her and ran his hands up and down her arm as if to reassure himself that she was still there. She felt goosebumps rise on her skin as his hand passed over her and shivered.

 

She went to sit up, but as soon as she moved, her hand brushed against the velvety duvet she was laying on, which felt incredibly good. She ran her hand over the fabric again, with her whole palm making contact. “Ooh,” she breathed out, running her hand back and forth over the fabric. She moved to the pillow, then down over the clothing that was on her. She realized that she was still wearing the dress she had gotten married in. The lace felt rough against her skin.

 

“This is different,” Rose said, lost in the way everything felt different. The Doctor chuckled, which snapped her attention back to him and away from how everything felt against her skin.

 

“I know,” he empathised. She sat up all the way and he hugged her. He felt so warm and smelled so good. He felt too warm.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked, looking at him hard. He looked different, not by much, but it was like he was more detailed.

 

“Am I okay? You were the one that just changed species.” the Doctor replied incredulously.

 

“You’re so warm,” she told him and felt his forehead. That led her to tracing the freckles over his face that seemed to stand out more and the Doctor closed his eyes in pleasure before he grabbed her other hand and placed it on the exposed skin of her chest.

 

“I’m the same as I always was,” he told her softly. “You’re cooler now.”

 

“I’m like you,” she whispered. She put her other hand on her chest so she could feel the beat of her hearts. She had two. She focused on the feeling. Each heart was a little bit slower than her single, human heart was. One beat just ahead of the other, so that both together felt like lub, lub, dub, dub, with a small break before the next round.

 

It was the extremely comforting rhythm she’d slept with for several months, but it felt odd from inside her chest. Not something you think about all the time: the rhythm inside your chest.

 

“You’re like me. Two hearts,” he agreed softly. A memory came to mind, so vivid she could see the disrepair of the room they were in at the time.

 

“I-I’m.” Oh, she was having trouble spitting it out. She gestured at her chest and started laughing.

 

“Rose?” Jack, who had been a silent observer before, asked worriedly.

 

Oh, god, Rose, just spit it out already , she thought to herself. “I’m beating out a samba!” she finally forced out, and the Doctor, who’d been smiling at her laughter, shook his head and rolled his eyes, but she could see from his expression that he thought the reference was funny as well.

 

She stopped laughing when she focused on the rest of the room. The walls looked different and some of the items in the room were a different shade than she remembered from just a few hours before.

 

“Everything looks different,” she said as she went to get up to look at the wall closer. As soon as she swung her legs off the other side of the bed from where the Doctor was sitting, a toe got caught in the lace of her dress’ top layer and she fell to the floor painfully, ripping the piece of lace a little.

 

Both men immediately rushed over to help her up. “I’m fine,” she protested once she was upright. “Just a little clumsy, I suppose.” Part of her thought she’d be a bit more graceful or something.

 

“Well, that’s to be expected,” the Doctor told her. “You’ve just changed. Essentially, you’re newly regenerated without the excess energy. Everything’s going to be a bit different.”

 

At his words, Rose’s eyes widened and she turned to look into the mirror on the vanity that had once been in her room to find that she looked-exactly the same. Her cheeks were a little more pink, maybe, with her hair a yellower tint, but she was sure that was because of how her vision had changed and not how her appearance had actually changed.

 

“I wanna see the rest of the TARDIS,” she said.

 

They walked together back to the console room, Rose leaning on the Doctor a little as she was still a bit wobbly.  She was seeing things that weren't visible to her before.  They had always been there, she supposed, but it was disorienting to see an odd glow in the coral or feel a new air current that had gone completely unnoticed to her previously. A low, almost melodious humming noise started just after they left the bedroom and Rose was trying to figure out where it came from.

 

“How do you feel, Rosie?” Jack asked, still a bit worried about her.

 

“Actually, I feel amazing.  There's this humming. A bit like the TARDIS, but differ-” she began and gasped as she turned to look into the Doctor’s eyes. “It's you! Oh wow, that's incredible!”

 

“Yep,” the Doctor replied happily. “I’m guessing that it started back when we left the room?” he deduced. At her nod, he explained, “Your telepathy is coming back.” They turned the corner and walked into the console room, where the Chameleon Arch was still hanging from the ceiling.

 

“Wow, look at that!” she added as she gazed at the time rotor.

 

“What?” Jack wondered, not understanding what she saw that was different. Rose’s hand was reaching into the air as if she could touch something floating in the air.  Her eyes were wide and her mouth open in awe at whatever she was seeing.

 

The Doctor, however, knew exactly what she was seeing that was so different. The Time Rotor was surrounded by wispy bits of pure time energy  To the temporally sensitive, it presented much like golden smoke spiraling in the air.

 

“It will take you a little while to get used to your new senses, Rose. You can see a wider spectrum of colours now, and you'll start to develop your time sense. I'll help you, Love,” her husband assured her.  She felt his mental caress stronger than ever before coming from the place in her mind that was softly humming against her consciousness.

 

“Humans usually have five senses.  How many do you have, Doc?” Jack wondered.

 

“Twenty seven.  But your senses aren't usually something you really have to think about, they just happen.  Now, since we have a lovely bit of honeymooning to do, we can take everything nice and slow, alright, love?” he explained.

 

“Yeah, let’s do that,” Rose replied as she felt something else new start. She felt dizzy for a moment as she felt the ship drifting.  She realized then, that when they were on a planet, she would feel it turning, the way the Doctor told her he could when they first met.  The air smelled different, felt different and there was something near her that felt extremely unnatural.  

 

It was all a bit overwhelming.

 

“Oh my god, Jack.  Is that you? I’m sorry!” Rose exclaimed when she realized the strange sensation was coming from him.

 

“Right, I forgot.  I have to tamp down my time senses around him.  Are you alright?” the Doctor asked worriedly.

 

“Yes, it's just, umm, uncomfortable?   Maybe since I've never been like this and not been around him, it isn't so bad for me?” she suggested.  Despite her other senses telling her he was flesh and blood, her new senses made him seem like a statue in the middle of a busy room. It made her sad. After everything Jack had done for them, he’d even died earlier for her mother, and she was having to get away from him for the moment.

 

And it was all because of what she’d done to him.

 

“That makes sense.  And I sincerely hope that you two will come visit me often, but if I'm going to make things difficult while you're acclimating, why don't you drop me off back in Cardiff?” Jack told them.

 

“There's also the fact that your time senses haven't fully developed yet, but I'm sure if we hang around him often enough, we’ll both get used to it,” the Doctor added.

 

“Thank you for being here with us, Jack.  For this and for the wedding,” Rose said as she hugged her friend tightly.

 

“Yes, thank you, Jack.  I was very glad you were here during all of that,” the Doctor agreed and moved to pilot the ship back to the Torchwood Hub, just after they had picked him up earlier that day.

 

“Anytime.  Just make sure and come back once in awhile?  I've got your number, Rosie, if we get in over our heads around here,” Jack replied.  He could feel the change in her body temperature when she hugged him.  He was used to differences like that with all of the different species he'd met, but it was disconcerting to note the change in a friend.

 

The time ship landed with a bump and Jack walked to the door before adding over his shoulder, “And if the two of you ever change your minds about that three way…”

 

“Jack!” Rose and the Doctor shouted, making Jack laugh loudly before leaving the ship.

 

Jack continued chuckling to himself as he listened to the TARDIS engines wheezing behind him, to take his friends off on their honeymoon.

Chapter Text

After Jack left, the Doctor took Rose to the galley and made her a plate of her all time favorite comfort food: chips, just like she liked them. As he did so, he answered a handful of questions Rose had. Things like what some of the colours were called and what the gold smoky mist was. He had expected her to start asking sooner, but he had quickly realised that she was a bit overwhelmed with the changes.

She was looking at everything like it was the first time she'd seen it, which, he supposed, it was sort of the first time she'd seen it. She'd just gone through something like a regeneration, minus the appearance change. He wondered if there would be any changes to her personality. It was possible, but too soon to tell.

He placed the plate in front of her and sat down on the other side of the table to watch her first bite of her favorite meal with her new, superior taste buds. Just as she was about to pick up a chip, he realized that those new taste buds might not like spuds quite as much.

"Mmmmm," Rose groaned in a deep throated noise that went straight to his groin. He immediately chastised himself. He had better control than that, perfect control, even. She was not ready yet. He would wait for her to come to him.

"Good?" he asked, hiding his reaction to her reaction.

"Oh, yes. Different, but good. There's all these little flavors and bits of texture I never noticed before!" she enthused. "God, I didn't realize how hungry I was."

"It's been a bit since you've eaten," the Doctor told her. "Also, you can eat more now. I mean, you'll need to eat about the same amount, but you can eat more at one time and go longer between meals if you want."

"Really? Oh, that explains why I've often thought you were a bottomless pit," she teased, popping another chip in her mouth.

"Oi!" he protested.

"So, um, I got the two hearts and sight and stuff, what else did I get?" Rose wondered.

"Everything," he explained to her. "You've got it all. Down to the genetic level, you're no different from a standard Time Lady."

"Except what I know," she muttered in a soft voice. He was sure he wasn't meant to hear it, but it confirmed that she was definitely the same in that regard. She still thought little of her education.

"Yes, but trust me when I say that you did not want that kind of education," he told her. "It was long, terminally boring, and lasted eighty-five years."

"Yeah, that's a bit-wow," Rose said.

"I skipped as much as I could get away with," he added, causing Rose to laugh.

"So did I. Rebel even in your youth, I see," she teased.

"Oh, yes, always," he agreed with a wink and a click of his tongue. "But you are brilliant, Rose Tyler, Time Lady or human."

Rose blushed, and ran her fingers over the skin on the back of his hand. He turned it over and threaded his fingers with hers. That's when she noticed the burn on the cuff of his Oxford. "You've got a little burn," she told him.

He looked down in surprise. "Aww, and I like this shirt too," he complained.

"Knowing you, you've probably got more somewhere, or that can be fixed. Neither of us kept our clothes nice today and I need to get changed before I tear this dress some more," she commented and reached down for another chip. She found she'd already eaten the entire small plate of chips. Damn. They never lasted long, but that was ridiculous. "Well, that's that."

"A new record," the Doctor joked.

"Hush, you," she chided. "So, where to first?" she asked and the Doctor shook his head.

"Nowhere right now. Your previous telepathic shielding was adequate, but now that your abilities have changed, you're going to have to relearn how to do that before we can leave the TARDIS. I also want to work on some of your time sense first." Rose groaned at that. "I know, but you're going to thank me later. Besides, some of the lesson plans I have for you could be quite fun."

A few minutes later, Rose stood in front of the mirror on the door of their personal wardrobe, staring at her reflection when the Doctor came up behind her.

"You haven't actually changed appearance wise, you know," he teased.

"Nothing at all?" she asked to be sure. "Not even in colouring?"

"Not even colouring," he confirmed. "You were perfectly healthy before, so there's no change in your appearance at all." He put his hands on her bare arms and slid them down. Rose shivered in response to the contact and remembered that she was still in her wedding dress and they had just gotten married.

As soon as that thought came to her, the Doctor pulled back. Her first thought was that he didn't want her anymore. That was always her first thought, but she almost instantly dismissed that, because she'd felt his desire when she was eating.

She turned around and got up on her toes to press a kiss against his lips, a little harder than she meant to, but she went with it. The Doctor kissed back and melded his body against hers, but he did it carefully, as if she were made of glass. Her nerves tingled everywhere his skin met hers.

"It's our wedding night," she whispered against his lips.

He undid the corset-like strings at her back in answer.

#######

The Eye of Orion, so the Doctor told her, was the most restful place in the universe. Something to do with positive ions. He had deemed it the perfect location for her to get used to her new senses and relax for their honeymoon. Rose was currently lounging on the soft, white sands of a beautiful beach. The sun was warm against her cool skin, that she was assured wouldn't burn like a human's now.

She closed her eyes and allowed her other senses to take in her surroundings. There was a light breeze flowing off of the water, carrying a light, salty mist over the shore. There were a few other people vacationing here as well. They weren't telepathic, but Rose could now sense that they were there in a vague way. She could feel the slow turn of the planet beneath her, that was one of the oddest things to her at the moment, something that almost made her feel dizzy or seasick, and would take a while to get used to.

The turn of the planet was the one thing she'd felt with her new senses so far that felt truly alien. Everything else up to that point had felt as if it were almost super human or magic. When she stepped out of the TARDIS for the first time, she'd nearly fallen over with the sensation that was much stronger outside of the timeship than within. Rose was glad that the Doctor had chosen a slower planet for her first time out.

Rose smiled when she felt the presence of her husband approaching, his gentle mental caress reminding her of their activities the night before.

"The loveliest sight in all the universe is my beautiful Rose, in a blue bikini, on a warm, sunny beach," he told her softly as he sat down beside her and handed her an icy, purple drink.

She hummed happily at the compliment and sipped the welcome refreshment that the Doctor claimed would be easy on her. "Mmm, blueberries?" she asked.

"Oh, you can do better than that," he chastised with a click of his tongue.

Rose rolled her eyes at him for pushing her while they were relaxing, but it was an interesting new skill for her so she smiled and closed her eyes as she took another sip. "Blueberries, blackberries, bananas, of course. And coconut water?" she guessed.

"Much better. And exactly right, my lovely, new Gallifreyan," he praised.

"I suppose you never really had to get used to it, because it was always there for you. Feeling the planet turn is still making my stomach flip," Rose complained.

"Well, Gallifrey was a very large and slow moving planet, so when I started travelling, it was sometimes a bit disconcerting on the smaller ones. It wouldn't have been as hard for me as for you right now though, since I was used to feeling something like that all my life. If it's still bothering you later, I can give you something to help settle your stomach," he assured her.

"I'll manage. Need to get used to it sometime. For now, I need a distraction. What's on the agenda for today in my lessons?" she asked, giving him her teasing grin.

"Mmm, as much as I loathe the idea of leaving your side right now, when you look so scrumptious, I did have something in mind. Communicating at a distance was difficult for you when we were helping Jack. Your mind is much stronger now and I think we should practise. It means I'll have to get a fair distance away for an accurate test," he explained.

"Alright, if it means I can hang around here longer," she said with a smirk.

"I'll be doing all the legwork, but you'll be doing the mental work. Give me twenty minutes, then I want you to reach for me mentally and make contact. When we did it on Earth, I made the connection, this time it will be up to you," the Doctor insisted.

"Got it. Twenty minutes, starting the time sense timer on your signal," she told him, lying back in the sand and closing her eyes.

"Three, two, one," he whispered and kissed her before starting off to get some distance between them.

She giggled at their little game. One of the first things they had done in her learning was to have her realize that she could keep track of the passage of time very precisely. She teased him about using the kitchen timer, but he then proceeded to distract her very thoroughly and made them late for their dinner reservation, simply to prove a point.

The time passed quickly and Rose tried to reach along their bond for her husband. It wasn't as easy as she thought it would be. When he was nearby, she could always feel that pull towards him, but with the Doctor so far away, it was just the tiniest thread, but she was pretty sure that she found it. Giving a mental nudge, she said, "Doctor? Can you hear me?"

She felt surprise back from him, which was a little unexpected. Did he think she would be rubbish at this?

"Where are you?" he responded.

"On the beach, of course, just where you left me. Where else would I be?" she told him. That was an odd question. He hadn't told her to go anywhere during this experiment.

Rose felt a slightly different nudge in her mind a moment later that surprised her. "Rose? Did you lose track of the time or decide to take a nap?" the Doctor asked.

"What are you talking about? I just spoke with you," she answered.

"No, love, you didn't. What did the other person say to you?" he asked her worriedly.

"He asked where I was and I said that I was still on the beach where you left me. Should I get away from here?" she asked, feeling his anxiety mixed with her own fear over having contacted some stranger's mind instead.

"No, stay there. I'm coming, but I'll keep us connected. Don't allow anyone else in. Whoever it was shouldn't be able to find you," he assured her.

Rose glanced around the beach, just in case. She wasn't alone, but there weren't a lot of people there either. It was possible that someone looking for her at the beach might guess who they had spoken to. How had she accidentally contacted someone else? The Doctor never said anything about being able to speak telepathically to random people without touching them. Neither of them should have been able to. Gallifreyans were touch telepathic. Rose chewed on her thumb nail nervously as she waited for her husband to come back.

"Calm down, it was an understandable mistake," an unfamiliar voice sounded from behind her.

Rose turned quickly, frightened of who this person might be. Who she saw was a man, about as tall as her husband, but with blonde hair and strikingly gentle eyes. He was wearing striped trousers, a cream coloured jacket, a jumper, and a button shirt as well. Considering how warm it was outside, his choice of clothing didn't quite fit. It was then that she noticed a stick of celery pinned to his lapel.

"Why in the world are you wearing a vegetable?" she questioned, suddenly finding that far more interesting than who he might be.

The man looked down at the celery, then back at her and laughed. "All that worrying I felt from you, and that's what you ask?"

"Felt from me? Who are you?" she asked, realizing that she had forgotten the vulnerability of her situation.

"Yes, felt from you. It's quite simple, my dear, you said it yourself when you contacted me. I'm the Doctor," he told her and she knew instantly that it was true, even if she couldn't have felt his presence. This man simply radiated Doctorness.

"Oh my god! Are you from the future? Is there another me here?" she gasped, worried about causing a paradox through her own accident.

"No, no, don't worry. I've met myself plenty of times before. And, as I'm sure I could never forget someone as lovely as you, I am most certainly from your Doctor's past," he said as he moved to sit beside her on the sand. "Now, I don't suppose I could have a name or title to go with your beautiful face?"

Rose blushed at his blatant flirting. She could only guess that he realized from the depth of their connection that her relationship to him in the future was more than just a friend. "Rose, Rose Tyler," she answered.

"Well, Rose Rose Tyler, you are quite the mystery indeed. Clearly very close to me, seemingly a Time Lady, but with a name that sounds like anything but. Something you've adopted in your travels?" he guessed.

"Nope," she replied more confidently. She could see the light of curiosity in his eyes. Recognized it from her husband and knew that she could fall into a similar teasing banter that was so familiar. "The name my parents gave me," she told him and he looked at her in clear confusion.

At that moment, the Doctor, wearing brown, pinstriped trousers, a matching suit jacket, and a blue button shirt with an open throat, came running down the beach. He paused a moment as he took in the sight of his younger self and groaned. "Oh, that's what happened!"

"Yup," Rose said, popping the final consonant the way he often did.

"You could have told me," he grumbled, tapping his temple. "I've been running like mad to get back here."

"Oh, come off it. You told me you were keeping the connection open. I might not have said anything, but you could feel that I wasn't scared anymore," she argued.

"She has got a point," the blonde haired Doctor added.

The older Doctor rolled his eyes and sat down next to his wife. "Yes, well, as jeopardy friendly as she is, the fact that she wasn't worried doesn't necessarily mean that I shouldn't be," he responded. The other two laughed and Rose instinctively reached to entwine their hands together.

The younger Doctor narrowed his eyes as he took in the matching wedding rings on their hands. It was a very human custom, and just one more thing to add to the mystery of this woman.

"Don't even try. You'll never figure it all out," the pinstriped Doctor teased when he saw his younger self's confusion.

"I'm going to forget all of this anyway. Surely you can explain it," he argued.

"Forget?" Rose asked.

"That's how Time Lords prevent creating paradoxes when learning things out of time. Our minds hide the knowledge away until it's safe. Otherwise I would have known you from this day when we met later in my life," the older Doctor explained.

"And how is it that you don't know that?" the younger Doctor wondered. His sensitive hearing had definitely picked out a double pulse when he startled her earlier, that meant that she had regenerated at least once. Unless she was from one of the three new blood houses.

"Complicated?" she suggested.

"Way beyond complicated. The short answer, that will really only confuse you even more, is that she used to be human until a few days ago," the brown suited Doctor informed his younger self.

"What?!" the blonde Doctor exclaimed. "How? They let you do that?"

"Do they ever let us do anything?" the older Doctor replied.

"They?" Rose wondered.

"Time Lords," both Doctor said at the same time. One with annoyance; the other with a deep sadness and Rose remembered that this younger Doctor wouldn't have been through the War yet.

"They're going to forcibly regenerate us again," the younger Doctor complained. Rose made a mental note to ask the Doctor in her timeline about that when the other one was gone.

"You let me worry about what will and won't happen," the older man replied calmly. "And trust me, she's worth it."

The Doctor in cream regarded Rose for a moment. "Human two days ago? I'm sure the species change has been difficult."

"Yes. Not as difficult as I expected overall, but some things've been a bit unexpected. That's why we were practising the telepathy thing," Rose replied.

"Now, not to be rude," the older Doctor began.

"But you will be," Rose interjected with a smirk.

"That's me, rude and not ginger. Anyway, as nice as it is to revisit the crickety-cricket stuff, and the stick of celery… Brave choice celery, not many men can pull off a decorative vegetable," he rambled. Rose laughed while the other Doctor scowled at him. "Yes, well, you're probably not alone here. Nyssa and Tegan nearby?"

"I imagine they are off shopping or some nonsense," he said dismissively, not wanting to leave yet. "Have I ever been ginger?" he asked hopefully.

"Not yet," the one with sort-of-brown hair grumbled.

"Oh, well.

"We are on our honeymoon. Lovely human tradition, that. I quite like the idea. And my Rose still has to get used to all of these new senses before she goes diving into any more trouble. Can't have her suddenly distracted at a key moment. So, if you don't mind," the older Doctor prompted.

"Well, if only to prove that I was not always rude," the blonde Doctor said with a look at his older self. "I shall not intrude on your honeymoon any longer. I look forward to the day when I meet you properly, my dear," he told her and kissed the back of her hand sweetly.

"Goodbye, Doctor. It's been great to meet this you," she said to the blonde man who stood up from where they all sat together. As he walked away, Rose studied him from behind. "Mmmm. Three for three."

"Three for three what?" the Doctor wondered.

"Three bodies, three great smiles, three nice bums," Rose explained and laughed at the jealousy written on his face. "And you were charming!" she teased her husband.

"I'm always charming!" he argued. At her raised eyebrow, he rubbed the back of his neck. "Sometimes charming?" Rose laughed and shook her head when another question came to mind.

"How comes you both sounded the same in my head?" she asked. ""Cause, in my head, you sound like you, but he also sounded like you."

"That's interesting. But we've got the same mental signature," he answered. "Your mind must have perceived him as me and automatically changed it. There's no actual audio in telepathy."

She glanced over to where the other Doctor could still be seen in the distance. "Does one of us have to leave?" she questioned.

"No. We'll have to avoid too much telepathic contact at a distance while he's still here," the Doctor told her as they watched the other disappear over the hill.

"What did you have in mind instead, then?" Rose wondered.

"You're dressed for swimming. Give me a moment and I'll join you for that," he told her as he started to take off his trainers and socks.

"Then I can admire that bum for a while," Rose joked. The Doctor looked up and gave her a wink. By the time she stood up, he was already running into the water, splashing with each step.

She followed him and by the time she was deep enough to swim, he had disappeared completely under the waves. Knowing exactly what he was planning on doing, she rolled over on her back to float, making herself the perfect target. Just as she expected, a second after she settled, he popped up from the deep with a shower of water, right into her trap. Rose shoved a wall of water at him.

After giving her a broad grin, he dove back under the water and thought to her, "Time for the next lesson. You have a respiratory bypass now. You can hold your breath much longer, so follow me."

Rose didn't feel like she could hold it any longer than she used to, but willing to give it a try, she took a deep breath and dove after him. The water didn't sting her eyes the way she expected when she looked around for him and spotted him easily a few metres away. When he saw her coming, the Doctor swam just a little faster to make her chase him. She got only a couple of meters before she felt the desperate need to take a breath.

"I can't," she told him and raced back to the surface.

She was gasping a bit when he joined her. "Thought you said I could hold it longer?" she pouted.

"You can, just like I do in the tub," he said, waggling his eyebrows.

Rose blushed crimson thinking about the times he disappeared under the bubbles. That was truly miraculous for her and she considered the benefits such a talent could have for pleasing him as well. She sent him a rather lurid image of her thoughts and he laughed out loud.

"So how do I do it? Because I really felt like I needed to breathe," she asked.

"It's an instinct for those of us that are born with it, switching to our bypass. I think we just have to keep trying until your body does it and you can feel the change yourself. Let's try just staying still underwater without chasing each other around," he suggested.

At her nod, they both took a deep breath and dove beneath the gentle waves. They still had to make a little effort to keep in one place underwater, but it was easier for Rose to pay attention to her body's reactions. Each time they went underwater, Rose held off the instinct to reach the surface a little longer. The fourth time they sunk into the sea, she felt a little flip in her throat and the urge to gasp seemed to fade. She focused on that feeling and tried to see if she could intentionally change it back and forth a few times.

"I think I've got it now," she told him with a smile.

The Doctor pulled her up against him and kissed her deeply. The act felt different underwater. Rose got a bit lost in the feeling of his tongue stroking against hers and when he suddenly tickled her, she sucked in a mouthful of water. As she started to panic, her husband pulled her back up to the surface.

Rose coughed in the fresh air at the surface where he held her securely.

"That wasn't very nice," she gasped as her airway cleared.

"You were doing well. I just wanted to test your reflexes with it," he told her.

"I think it's safe to say that my brain still has a few human reflexes ingrained," she replied.

"I'm sorry, Love. I didn't think about that. That was a very nice kiss, though. How about another of those?" the Doctor requested in apology.

Rose hummed and returned her lips to his, taking a deep breath in through her nose before he sank them both back into the waves.

Chapter Text

Several hours later, the Rose and the Doctor were in the nearby village, sitting on the edge of a small fountain. The Doctor had told Rose they were going to observe people for a while. Rose didn't understand why. Watching people required patience, something which the Time Lord tended to lack. Before she met the Doctor, she had enjoyed watching people in the middle of London on her lunch breaks and seeing tiny glimpses into their lives.

A dozen people were wandering the center of the town. It was a very peaceful and relaxing place to be, but not somewhere she would want to stay for too long.

"This isn't exactly the best place for people watching," Rose told the Doctor, who sat beside her.

"No," he agreed, "but it's perfect for our purposes."

"What purposes?" Rose questioned.

"You are going to pick a person and tell me something about their morning," he stated matter of factly, as if he were telling Rose to tell him what color their hair was.

"The signature Sherlock parlor trick? I dunno all that sort of stuff, so how am I supposed to do that?" she wondered.

"You're going to see it. Sort of," he told her. At her incredulous look, he added, "Your time senses are still developing. Before they get strong is the best time to start learning how to control them. We'll start with something simple, just what someone was doing a few hours ago, then slowly work up to more complex things, like seeing multiple possibilities and timelines that no longer exist."

Time senses were another thing that reminded her she was no longer human. Since she'd changed, she saw golden mists in the TARDIS and occasionally around the Doctor, who had explained that the mists were how they perceived pure, uncontrolled Time energy. The only part of her new senses that felt human-ish was keeping track of how much time had passed. She'd known people who were good at that, though she herself had been bad at figuring out when only five minutes had passed.

"Just something simple, right, like what they had for brekkie or if they had a lie-in or something, yeah?" she confirmed.

"Yep. Something simple, anything at all," he answered.

"Okay, so how do I do this?" she asked.

"I haven't the foggiest," he told her.

"What?!" Rose exclaimed before she noticed his amusement. "Oh, haha. Very funny. For half a second there, I thought you were serious about not knowing how to begin." It wouldn't have been the first time. When he was teaching her how to know how long had passed, he had only told her that it just happened and they spent an hour being frustrated before she could tell him when a single minute had passed.

"I was serious, kind of," he said, defending himself. "It's a bit different for everyone, even regeneration to regeneration. A few regenerations ago, the ability to read timelines was very strong for me. Didn't even have to try. I'd just look at someone and know things about their past and future. Really hard to suppress, and let me tell you, it drove me half mad! Would often just spout what I'd seen to people."

Rose listened to his ramblings with fascination and not a little bit of trepidation. She just hoped her time sense didn't wind up being that strong. She couldn't truly comprehend it: to see everything that was, is, and would be.

"That's what I see. All the time. And doesn't it drive you mad?"

The Doctor had either realized how that could affect her, or had felt her fear at his words, because he stopped rambling on about how strong his time senses were in different bodies and focused on her. "I'm sure yours won't be quite that strong. If your perception of Time was that strong, we'd know it by now," he assured her. "It won't be very long before we know just how strong your senses are. Now, back to the task at hand. Ooh, I don't think I like that phrase, 'task at hand.' Like I said before, pick someone, anyone. Tell me anything about their morning."

Rose stared at him with wide eyes for a few seconds, wondering if there was anything else he was going to say before he gestured toward the rest of the square. She turned her gaze to the scenery around them and slowly scanned the area, trying to choose someone.

After a moment, she realized that some of the people seemed to have an aura around them. Thin little bands of color like her cousin Mo's friend used to say people had. She concentrated on that line around a woman that looked to be in her forties.

But nothing happened, so she turned her attention to someone else, who seemed to have a more blue color. But she couldn't see anything different, no matter how hard she concentrated on them.

"Rose, Love, relax a bit. You won't get anywhere tensing up like that," the Doctor voice broke through her concentration. He took her hands and opened them up, exposing the half moon shapes on her palms where she'd been clenching her hands in concentration.

"The sense you're trying to use should come effortlessly, like breathing. Shutting it out is supposed to be harder," he explained. "What are you seeing that you're focusing on?"

"There's these bands of color around some people," she started explaining.

"No, that's not it," the Doctor interrupted her explanation. "Those are auras. They're just energy, like mirages in the desert. Are you trying to see, like with standard human senses?" he wondered.

At Rose's embarrassed nod, he gave her hands a gentle, reassuring squeeze. "This seems to be one of those things that aren't instinctive for you. The first person you noticed, just watch them."

Rose looked at the middle aged woman again. She was wearing a greenish dress and was trying to get a young boy to eat. A girl who had to have been his sister sat beside him and ate quietly.

The Doctor noticed who she was watching. "Now, start telling me about her."

"But I don't know anything about her. I don't see anything," she protested.

"Yes, you do," he told her in a manner that allowed for no argument. "You see a woman, having lunch with two kids. Start from there. Describe her. Think about how her day has gone."

"Okay. She's middle aged, I guess. That dress is ugly, but nice and her hair, makeup, and nails are done up, so she's concerned with appearances. The boy is a handful, but the girl is quiet. Probably that way with most things, but the girl can get mean if she really wants. All girls can." She relaxed and started going deeper into her observations. "The Mum's not good with them. So worried she's going to mess this up. She never wanted children. Now she's got twins. She doesn't get to see them often? Or, she's not their mother."

Rose could practically see the scene. She'd known some kids in situations like that. "They spent most of the morning fighting over getting him to clean his room. She can't tell him to do anything because she's not his mother. Oh, wait, how did I know that? Was I right?" She turned to the Doctor, who was grinning at her.

The scene could have easily been Mum having a bad day, but she was certain that what she said was right. She couldn't have told anyone how she knew it, though.

"Oh, yes. She's their godmother. Their parents died two weeks ago, and she took them in because she agreed to do it when they were born. Great job." He put his arm around her and she leaned into his shoulder happily. That wasn't so bad. "Now, on the heels of that success. do it again, but this time will be a little harder. The little girl over there." He pointed to a girl who was playing in the water of the fountain that they sat on. "Tell me if she's an only child and, if not, how many siblings she has."

There were two more specific questions he had about the little girl before she finally got one right. From there, they looked into the recent history of three more people before he made the task harder with a time limit.

"The man that just came out of the restaurant over there. What did he just eat?" the Doctor asked her. "You don't have much time this time. He's walking away."

She managed to get that one right, at least. The old man just had a turkey-like sandwich, which was what he had every day at the same place. Rose realized that she got the right answers when she didn't think too hard on it.

After a few more people, the Doctor declared her to be proficient in that particular task and moved on to history further back. Rose was starting to get a headache and couldn't see anything the same way.

"That's okay, Rose, you did very well today," he told her.

"Really?" she asked, surprised. She thought she'd failed rather spectacularly for the most part on something that the Doctor had said was instinctive.

"Oh, yes. You're getting a crash course and are doing brilliantly with it," he praised. "We can do the details later."

The wind picked up and the Doctor turned his gaze up to the sky. "It's gonna rain soon. We should head back to the TARDIS." Rose agreed and followed her husband out of the little town and back to the blue box they called home.

Once inside, they both went to the console and started moving the TARDIS away from the Eye Of Orion.

"You know, I've got a great idea for our next lesson," the Doctor said. You need to learn about temperature. How about we head to Woman Wept?"

Rose groaned and moved and gave him her best 'I've got something better in mind' look. "Or, we can take a break from the work and play for a while." She slid her hands under his jacket and kissed him lightly before she began to lead him down the hallway.

###############

Rose hummed happily as the Doctor sucked harshly on her neck, clearly planning on leaving a mark. She rewarded him by digging her fingers into his thick hair and massaging his scalp.

"Ready for something new?" he mumbled deeply against her skin.

"I thought we were going to play, not give me another lesson," Rose complained.

"Oh, I guarantee that you'll enjoy this," he told her with a filthy grin.

"Okay. Can't imagine much more than what you and I have already done, to be honest," she admitted.

"Well, since your change, I've been quite gentle with you. I'm sure you've noticed," the Doctor began.

"Yeah, treating me like I'm made of glass or something," she agreed. "Thought I was supposed to be less breakable now."

"There are a few reasons for that. First, you are very precious to me, worthy of gentle handling," he said with a soft caress from her cheek down the side of her neck. "Second, I didn't want to overwhelm you with the increased intensity of your senses. But most of all, there are a few new quirks to your changed physiology that I didn't want to trigger until you were ready. Care to try?"

"With you? Anything," she sighed. "You gonna explain first or just show me?" Rose wondered. She trusted that he wouldn't hurt her, but was a little worried that whatever it was might surprise her in a way that had her pulling away from him if she didn't know what to expect.

"Well, showing you is the plan, but not with your eyes," he told her and held up his tie in a way that indicated he wanted to blindfold her. He'd done it before, increasing her attention on her other senses, so she nodded her assent quickly and he immediately began to undo the strip of cloth from around his neck.

The Doctor tied the blindfold over her eyes snugly and urged her to lie back on the bed. She felt every bit of fabric brushing across her skin as he removed her clothing. She shivered a bit when he breathed against her skin and surprised her with little kisses every so often.

"Back in a minute," he whispered into her ear and she heard him leave the room completely. Rose was a bit confused and worried briefly, but felt him reassuring her telepathically and tried to focus her attention on her other senses.

Her sense of smell detected pheromones from both of them in the air, but nothing out of the ordinary. She could feel her husband's excitement about whatever it was he had planned for her. And it was a minute down to the second when she heard him returning to their bedroom.

"I'm going to stimulate your senses intensely, Rose. Push your new limits a bit," he whispered in her ear as he leaned over her. He was still dressed and he chuckled at her mental frustration over that fact. "Patience. Relax and let me do this for you. If it's too much, let me know."

Rose gasped and stiffened when she suddenly felt the cold, wet touch of an ice cube being dragged across her skin. It moved up her arm, leaving a wet trail behind it. The Doctor slid it over her sternum before circling a spiral over her right breast. Rose was expecting that the cold would begin to hurt against her skin before long, but while it was a sharp contrast to the temperature of her skin, she didn't find it unpleasant at all. She moaned when he moved the ice cube over to her other breast and took her cooled nipple into his mouth. His tongue felt blazing as he flicked it against her roughly. His teeth nipped at her, harder than he ever had before, but not breaking the skin. Something about his roughness was awakening a primal urge deep inside her.

"Doctor," she pleaded, arching her body towards him.

"Shhh, we've a long way to go yet," he told her as he tossed what was left of the melting ice cube aside and ran his hands over her body from her shoulders down to her hips in an effort to keep her from squirming too much.

He rustled through the items that he had brought into the room for a moment, then opened a bottle of some kind. Rose could smell some kind of essential oil and tried to analyze the scents. She couldn't name them and decided that it must be something alien to her.

"What is it? Smells lovely," she wondered and sighed as her husband began to rub the oil into her skin. He started with her feet and slowly worked his way up her body.

"Something from the third planet of the Batrox system. There's a flower that grows there, lovely purple little blossoms. The seeds are crushed down and, when rubbed into your skin, it heightens the sensitivity of your touch receptors. Makes you feel everything even more," he explained and gently scratched his fingernails down her sides.

"Oh my god! Why doesn't that hurt?" Rose gasped and writhed on the bed beneath him.

"Your body can take a lot more now. Also, remember how I told you that Gallifreyan women were made to be able to handle the spines that the men used to have. They may not be there anymore, but your new physiology is still built to respond to rough. Tell me if it gets to be too much, Love," he warned her and continued scratching against her skin along her inner thighs.

Rose moaned in ecstasy as she realized what he was doing just as he slid a finger inside her. Every scratch and nip made her insides throb more and more. She could hear his breathing becoming heavier as he smelled her arousal growing in intensity. His hearts were beating incredibly fast against her sensitive skin and she knew that there had to be something in her change that was calling to him on a level that her human body could never have accomplished, being a different species and all.

The Doctor growled against her skin in a way that reminded her of the sound of his purring, but instead of contentment, this was need. He rubbed his body against hers as he slid up to position himself over her. He took the blindfold off and gave her a passionate kiss before pulling away and resuming their activities.

Hooking his elbows behind her knees, he had her spread wide and plunged into her more forcefully than he had ever dared before. Rose cried out in shock, then gasped as she felt an entirely new sensation. The bumps on him had always felt like a massage from the inside, but the ferocity of his movements this time made them scrape against her tender flesh. The throbbing she felt earlier intensified around him and it was the Doctor's turn to moan.

"Yes, oh Rose. You feel so incredible, my Love," he mumbled against her neck.

She tried to figure out what was happening and realized that she now had some kind of ridges along her insides that swelled against him as he roughly claimed her. She hadn't felt this before and guessed that it was something about his scratching both inside and out that had triggered it. The feeling was so different from what she was used to, she was so sensitive to every movement now. Her muscles started to quiver as she felt her climax building, but her husband suddenly slowed and gentled his touches, not wanting it to be over just yet.

"No! Please don't stop! So close, oh my god, Doctor," Rose pleaded desperately.

"I won't stop. I don't want this to ever stop. Once you finish though, you'll be too sensitive to continue, so let's not rush this, my beautiful Rose," he told her soothingly, kissing her neck as he ground his hips against hers.

Rose scraped her nails down his back, earning herself another sexy growl and it wasn't long before he couldn't hold back anymore. The Doctor increased both his speed and forcefulness as he pushed them both over the edge. Through their telepathic connection, the explosion of their physical pleasure was enough to trigger each other simultaneously. When it was over, he held her tightly with his face buried in her neck for a few seconds, breathing hard in her ear. He then kissed her softly and left her body to lay down beside her.

He smiled at his wife as she curled contentedly into his side. She sighed and surprised herself when a happy purring noise came from her own throat. The Doctor chuckled at her reaction and pulled her tighter against him before snuggling down for a nap.

"You've been holding out on me, Time Lord," Rose teased softly.

"Never again," he responded sleepily.

Chapter Text

By the end of the fifth day after Rose's transformation into a Gallifreyan, she'd learned how to pick details from several days into a person's past with little effort- once she'd figured out how to do it in the first place. She also knew how to see the big picture of a person's life, how to cut off her Time senses completely if she needed to, and even how to see the most likely, almost immediate possibilities of people with simpler timelines. She was having difficulty seeing what could be. Possibilities branched out exponentially from even a simpler timeline and she didn't have the mental discipline necessary to properly weed through them.

The Doctor had said that was one of the hardest parts of having time senses, and that she'd get it eventually. He'd also declared that enough time had passed that he was certain her senses were fully formed and probably the strongest they'd ever be.

She was on the weaker side for a Time Lady, but strong for someone who had never actually gone through the Ceremony of the Untempered Schism. Rose knew that the ceremony was essentially looking into Time itself, which led to her wondering if the time she looked into the TARDIS counted. The Doctor said she was human at the time and it wouldn't have the same effect. He quickly followed that up with a very stern declaration that she wasn't to open the console, because she would die if she pulled that stunt again.

Among her other abilities she'd discovered were better reflexes and better problem solving. Being a Time Lady was like eating Krillitane oil, on steroids. If she knew how to do something brainy, she could do it all in her head, and quickly too. Unlike the Krillitane oil, though, it'd never fade, which wasn't a bad thing.

Since she could cut her ability to see timelines completely and control her reactions to various stimuli, they could go out somewhere and when that wasn't almost guaranteed to be calm, which was great news for both of them. Rose was rather burnt out on five days of intensive learning, and the Doctor was going a bit stir crazy. He wouldn't admit to it, of course, but Rose knew it. She felt it too.

So, of course, when they went to pilot the TARDIS to somewhere random, a circuit board from a keypad that had been made compatible with the machinery via the magic of jiggery pokery had to short out with a spectacular shower of sparks. With it, one sixth of the console went dark.

"Oh, come on!" the Doctor shouted at the console as soon as the sparks started flying. "You had to do this now?"

Rose hissed, looking at the burns on her hand from the sparks. That was one of the downsides of having stronger senses. It hurt badly. At her hiss, the Doctor was immediately at her side, taking her hand to examine it.

"It's just a little burn," she told him, trying to pull her hand out of his. "You get them all the time and they're fine in a couple hours."

"That's me," he told her simply.

"I'm fine," she protested, pulling away. "It doesn't even hurt anymore." It wasn't really a lie, the moment she decided that she wasn't going to show the pain, the pain went away, replaced with a light throbbing.

"Rose, please just let me look," he said and she knew from the look in his eyes that, for his sanity, she'd better let him see. She held out her hand and let him peer at it.

He hummed while inspecting it. After what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, but Rose knew without having to think about it, was only three and a half seconds, she asked, "So, Doctor, am I gonna survive?"

He looked up at her with a small smile. "Yeah, I think you'll live. Just. Was touch and go there for a bit."

"Well, I'm glad I have my Doctor on call," she punned and the Doctor gave her a wink.

"It really doesn't hurt?" he asked, curiously.

"No, well, not anymore," she answered. "'S weird, though. Hurt worse than it would have before, then suddenly, just a bit of throbbing sensation in time with my heart-hearts," she corrected.

"Interesting," the Doctor mused.

"There's nothing wrong, is there?" Rose worried.

"No, no. You're fine. Perfect even. But of all the things you could have figured out instinctively, pain management is not one I expected. I hadn't planned on teaching you how to control pain yet. Well, obviously not, you need pain to control pain, but now I don't have to."

"But didn't you once say that pain is supposed to tell you when you're hurt or going too far?" Rose questioned.

"Right you are. Some pain management is good for keeping one's head clear when you're in a life or death situation, though," he explained.

Rose had to acknowledge the truth of that statement. She filed away pain management in her mind as one of her "superhuman" abilities. It wasn't quite the same, but she knew of people who were capable of pushing pain back in their minds so they could keep going. It had required a strong force of will: what people termed, "mind over matter," though.

She wondered what else she'd learn she could do.

"Now, what exploded?" the Doctor wondered, looking over the section of the console that had gone dark. "Rose, come here," he said, waving her over. As soon as she was on the other side of him and looking down at where he was pointing, he launched into lecture mode.

"Now, you know how to fly her, but you don't know how to fix her, which could come in handy in the future, you never know. Now, this is part of the dimensional stabilizers. You see here how this wire is darkened, but the insulation is intact? The wire needs to be replaced now, as do this one, this one, and these two chips. None of them are the cause of the sparking, though."

He was a good teacher, and she loved to listen to him talk, but she really needed a break from the around the clock learning.

"What's wrong?" the Doctor asked suddenly, having felt her distress.

"I, um, I just-" she started, knowing she probably looked like a deer in the headlights. "Well, it's been five days now."

The Doctor nodded in confirmation, but looked wary.

"Nearly every waking moment, and there have been a lot more of those than I'm used to, has been spent learning something." On average, she was awake twenty-three out of every twenty-four hours since she'd changed. "Even when we eat or- make love, which is brilliant, really, really- um yeah, back on task. Even then, there's still something to learn. And I just wanna take a break from the learning, okay? You can teach me all about-" She waved a finger at the shorted out console. "-later, yeah?"

She couldn't tell whether the Doctor was amused or concerned. Knowing him, it was probably a bit of both. Then he grimaced and said, "I went a bit too far with it, didn't I? Of course I did. You're overwhelmed, but you were doing so well and I just- oh, I'm sorry."

"It's okay, I've needed to learn those things, and quickly. Breaks are nice, though, yeah? A little bit of us time," Rose replied.

He stared at her for a moment before grinning. "Well, Rose Tyler, Tell you what, You go off and have a little bit of downtime. I'll get this fixed up in a jiffy- well, not actually a jiffy, a jiffy is the time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum, but it'll be about 2 hours, give or take. I'll come get you when I'm finished, and we can head out to find ourselves some minor trouble."

"Are you sure?" Rose queried. "I can help some. Have learned a thing or two over the last few years, me."

"Oh, yeah. A bit of meditative maintenance is a must once in awhile, and the old girl needs tender care." At that moment, he received a shock from the console, which Rose refrained from commenting on, barely. The Doctor's ego had taken enough of a blow with her refusing a lecture. He'd pout if she teased him.

"Okay, but remember, I don't like my Doctor crispy, so don't you get shocked too much," she ordered him, pointing a finger for emphasis.

"Ah, don't worry about that, can get hit by lightning and bounce back up, remember?" Yeah, she remembered alright, and she didn't ever want him to go through that again.

She made her way to the galley to get a drink, then to the library and her favorite seat, where she picked up the copy of 'David Copperfield' she'd been reading in her spare time and dove into the heavy, thousand-ish page book that she was halfway through. She thought it was easier to pick up the book than she was used to, but she hadn't touched it in over a week, so she couldn't be sure.

Later, she reached for her glass and found it to be empty. She wondered how long she'd been sitting there. The answer came to her immediately and she was shocked. It had been an hour, fifteen minutes, and thirty-three seconds since she'd picked up the book. It had been half read, and she only had ten pages left to read.

She'd just read close to five hundred pages in seventy-five minutes. How the hell had she managed that?

She looked through that section of book. Had she somehow skipped a bunch of pages? She didn't think so, the story made sense, but one never knew. But no such luck. As far as she could tell, she'd read them all.

Maybe it'd been longer than she thought. It was her internal sense of the passage of time that she was basing it on, and time inside the TARDIS when it was inside the Vortex was different. But where was the Doctor, then?

That thought worried her and she was about to use their telepathic link to make sure everything was okay when she caught sight of the clock on the mantle, ticking away. It matched up with her senses and she was forced to believe that she'd read that book at the rate of six point sixty-seven pages per minute, or about nine seconds per page.

Blimey, forget superhuman. That one was just alien.

He mother's words that day at Canary Wharf came to mind again and Rose sighed guiltily. The second her mother was gone, she'd changed her species and proved her prediction true. Her mother would freak out if she knew just what Rose had done right after her wedding.

She realized then that she'd pushed for the change right then at least in part to run from the grief of the loss of her mother for the second time. Not that she regretted it, at all, but it had been handy to have something else to focus her attention on.

She pulled her knees up to her chin and let herself feel the grief of losing her mother. Maybe some downtime wasn't the best thing at the moment. After a minute and a half, she heard the Doctor come into the library and sit down beside her on the couch. She kept her face hidden from him.

"Rose?" he asked softly and put his hand on her back. His thumb hit bare skin and she could feel his worry and self loathing seep through the flimsy barriers in her mind. He asked her what was wrong without saying anything and she let her barriers down so he could feel all of her conflicting emotions.

"Oh, Rose, I'm so, so sorry," he whispered and pulled her onto his lap to hold her better. After a short time, he said. "Remember, if it's too much, you can always change back."

She smacked his arm where she could reach and pulled her face up to look at him properly, trying to look as intimidating as a person could with tears on their cheeks.

"I swear, if you say something like that again, I will throw that machine into a supernova."

The Doctor held his hands up in surrender. "Okay, okay, I won't anymore."

#######################

They exited the TARDIS wearing the same clothing they had donned the last time they visited ancient Rome. This time, the Doctor promised that there would be no genies and neither of them would be turned to stone. He sincerely hoped that he could also avoid another trip to the Colosseum.

The Doctor led his wife down the dusty streets as they walked arm in arm toward the Senate. "The year is 44 BC and today is the 15th of March. Ringing any bells?" he questioned.

"Didn't they call the 15th the Ides of March or something?" Rose replied thoughtfully. History was never a strong subject for her in school, but she seemed to remember her husband having read something to her at some point about it.

"That they did. Today is a very important day with regards to one Julius Caesar," he informed her.

"That's where I've heard that before. You read that Shakespeare play to me about this. Why are we here? We're not going to interfere or anything, are we?" Rose wondered.

"Certainly not. You've seen first hand the effects of altering a fixed point. The assassination of Julius Caesar is certainly that. Why I've brought you here, is so that you can feel just what it's like to witness something like that. I want you to recognize the approach of a fixed point, as well as its passing. We may, at some point, be present for events that you don't recognize the way you do this one. And you need to know when it is safe to intervene or not," the Doctor explained.

"Alright. Why was his death a fixed point anyway?" Rose asked. She could certainly accept that someone as important as Caesar dying would be an important historical event, if preventing the death of Pete Tyler was enough to bring down Reapers.

"As is always the case in politics, he had supporters as well as people who opposed him. After his death, the people that liked him started a series of civil wars. His death marked the end of the Roman Republic and changed the way the world worked in this time period dramatically," he told her as they approached their destination.

Rose paid more attention to her new senses and the feelings that came with them than the actual actions taking place. The scene was violent and bloody. She didn't want to miss learning the sensations that she had come here to experience by being distracted by the graphic events happening in front of them. She had felt a tension around them just before it had all occurred. Rose knew that was one of the feelings her husband had wanted her to remember. Then, when Casca made the first thrust with his dagger toward the dictator, there was an almost painful snap, as the events were locked into the timelines around them.

The Doctor squeezed his wife's hand in support as she experienced these sensations for the first time. It was something that all Time Lords were conditioned to keep away from. It was why he couldn't be around Jack when he had regenerated. The sensation of fixed points were extremely uncomfortable to time sensitive beings and while he didn't want to cause Rose any distress, she might need to know what these feelings were, if they came across something important in their travels.

Most of the people on the streets had run home and locked themselves inside before the assassination was completed. The couple left the scene just as the conspirators fled the area as well.

"Are you alright, Love?" he asked, pulling her into his arms and rubbing her back soothingly.

"Yeah. Had to pick one that was so violent?" she questioned.

"Well, a lot of the strongest fixed points involve someone's death, or many people's deaths. If a person is still alive, even an important discovery that is fixed, could be flexible enough to just happen on another day. Those aren't as obviously felt and would have been harder for you to sense. I'm sorry," he explained regretfully.

"No, I get it. Tried to focus on my time sense instead of watching them stabbing him. Are we about done here? Once again, Rome isn't turning out to be my favourite place," she told him.

"Let's head back to the TARDIS and change into something a little more our style and I'll take you somewhere else," he responded and took her hand in his. No matter what tragedies occurred around them, their hands would always fit together perfectly.

Chapter Text

The Doctor and Rose stepped out of the Tardis and started walking down the alleyway to the street.

"1937. Great year. The Golden Gate Bridge was built. Brilliant feat of engineering, that was. Amelia Earhart disappeared this year over the Pacific under mysterious circumstances. King George the Sixth will be crowned in nine days. 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' is released and Tolkien published 'The Hobbit.'"

They rounded a corner. and his voice took on a sombre timbre as Rose saw an airfield with several airships on it. "We are at the Frankfurt airfield and it is the third of May. In three and a half hours, the Hydrogen lifted airship, the Hindenburg, takes off for its sixty-third flight with ninety-seven people aboard. In three days, the hydrogen ignites, causing the death of thirty-five of those people."

Rose's hearts began to beat faster. She'd seen the old video of the ship catching fire and the man crying out, "Oh, the humanity." That event was set to happen on the other side of the ocean in just a few days. And if that wasn't bad enough, she remembered other airships that she once thought were beautiful.

"Why are we here?" she questioned the Doctor sharply.

"Because, my dear Rose, at this moment, there are ninety-eight people with plans to board that ship for the Transatlantic flight to New York," he explained. "And you are going to figure out the flux moments in the fixed event."

"Huh?" Rose couldn't properly tell things that were going to happen in minutes, much less days from then. "But, I can't, I-"

"Yes, you can. This is different from reading the timelines, but it is related. You're not trying to get anything specific. You're looking for timelines where all possibilities end."

"Where all-oh. You mean no matter what, those people die," she commented with heavy hearts.

"Yeah. The thing about this event is that not everyone who died has to. The crash of the Hindenburg is fixed in where and when, not who. You see, airships have been operating commercially for thirty years now. Tens of thousands of people have crossed the Atlantic ocean in them, but it's known that they aren't the most stable form of transport."

"People seem to be awfully forgiving of just how many disasters have happened with these ships," he continued. "The USS Akron crashed, costing seventy-three lives four years ago, and that's just the worst of a couple dozen accidents over the past thirty years, with only a little over two thousand flights."

"That's a rather high percentage of flights to go bad. And the Hindenburg stopped all that," Rose remarked.

"Right. This crash took place in full daylight, in a heavily populated area, and was filmed. Herbert Morrison's reaction helped as well. It's just as well, the technology is already technically obsolete. Pan Am has flying boats capable of making the trip across the Atlantic safer, cheaper, and faster, but international politics have kept it from being used for what it was designed for."

Rose looked at the airfield and the silver shapes that sat on it, remembering a world where they were still around into the next century and in common use. "Well, if the crash is a fixed point, how comes there's zeppelins in use where Mum is? I thought fixed points always had to happen?" she wondered, despite herself.

"For the same reason Cybermen were created on that Earth and not another planet in the Solar System and the TARDIS doesn't work. It's a different universe, with a different timeline. They probably figured out the use of helium and hot air early on."

"Right," Rose replied, eager to move the conversation somewhere else but death and parallel worlds.

"Oh, Rose, I didn't think," the Doctor realized, running his hand through his hair. "I just wanted to show you how to tell when you can save someone."

"Yeah, well, let's do this," she said steely and started walking forward again. He watched her walk away for a moment before he jogged to catch up with her.

"I'm sorry, Love. This was a thick move. We can go somewhere else to-" He stopped speaking when she rounded on him suddenly.

"You just said there's an extra person getting on board. Even if that wasn't the case, I've already been confronted with it and hiding from it isn't going to make it better." The Doctor looked miserable in that moment and she sighed. "I know what was going through that head of yours," she told him, reaching up and tapping his forehead for emphasis. "You got an idea on something that you could teach me about seeing future events and got excited. I forgive you, but I still gotta be mad for a bit, alright?"

"Deal," he agreed, nodding his head sharply and looking a bit better.

"So, how do we do this?" she asked and he snapped back on the task they had come for like they'd never had a disagreement, taking her hand and leading her to the gate. He produced his psychic paper and got them through quickly.

"Okay, you can see the timelines, you just can't sort through them yet. But here, you don't have to sort through the possibilities, because, in a fixed death, every possibility ends the same way," he lectured.

"The end of their timeline," Rose said to show she understood. "So, all I gotta do is look at the trees and see which ones have less possibilities and end abruptly."

"Right you are!" he responded happily. "Trees, huh?"

"Yeah, timelines branching off at every decision made. It's like a tangled forest in my mind," she told him.

"Never thought of it like that. Always thought of it as a web myself. That's how we were taught to think of it, as a web. Tangled forest could work, though. Ah, here we are. Give it a try." They had arrived in the area where the crew was working on getting the ship ready.

"What about the passengers?" Rose asked.

"When we leave here, we can go over there. There's close to two crew members for each passenger, though, so you're more likely to find what you're looking for here," he replied.

"Going easy on me, then?" Rose questioned.

"Maybe. You've not had great success with seeing what could be yet." He was unapologetic about that. It only made Rose more determined to get this right.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself enough to see the timelines clearly. She saw flashes of a young man working on an engine; an older man cooking; a young man around her age trying to convince his father that he should see the world before settling down with a wife.

Then, a handful of possibilities started standing out. The man working on the engines burning. The young man with wanderlust gets lucky and escapes the ship through a window just before the flames get him. A tall man in his thirties was- would be- sent to the bow in an attempt to redistribute weight and him and the nine men sent with him all lose their lives. Many timelines that came to her could easily go either way. It was mostly a matter of chance.

Her mind was swimming and she couldn't figure out which timeline belonged to which person any longer. It was too much. She couldn't do this yet. There was too much pain, too much-

"Rose, relax," the Doctor ordered her in a soothing voice. "Stop looking." His tone helped ground her a little bit and she was able to pull her mind back to the present, though part of it may have been him calming her telepathically.

When she opened her eyes and looked at him, he asked, "What did you see?"

"I can't, I don't know. I-" she started helplessly.

"It's okay. I think you were trying too hard, trying to look at too much, or maybe you're too emotional for this right now." At her glare, he started explaining. "Most of my people couldn't properly look at time unless they were completely objective when they did so and you, Rose Tyler are an emotional creature."

"Well, if that's true, then this is all for nothing and a large part of my time senses are useless," she told him. "And that is not something I'm prepared to give up on just yet. We just started."

The Doctor grinned and wrapped his arms around her. "There's my Rose."

In his arms, Rose delved into the timelines, this time, keeping to one 'trunk' at a time and looking at the whole picture. She whispered her findings in the Doctor's ear as she went. Before long, she'd identified six people who, no matter what, were going to lose their lives in a few days.

"How do you do this, Doctor? How do you look at people and know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are going to die soon?"

"You either stop looking, stop caring, or you find another way that I've never tried," he admitted. "Never stop caring."

"What are you two doing?" a man with a thick German accent interrupted the two of them. They pulled apart and looked at the man. "This is a secure area. The passenger lounge is-"

"No. Sorry. Not passengers," the Doctor interrupted the man quickly, reaching for the psychic paper again. After he flashed it at the man in uniform, he asked, "Who do we see about getting a list of the crew members and passengers?"

"Inspectors who are hugging on assignment?" he asked suspiciously.

In a bit of quick thinking, Rose looked around like she was trying to see if anyone was in earshot. "Office romance," she mock whispered and immediately felt her husband's amusement.

The German guard looked her up and down appraisingly before he dismissed her and turned back to the Doctor. Good. Just like she planned. Use the stereotypes of the era to be nearly invisible. She listened to the two of them discussing a possible smuggling operation and the guard took them off to get a copy of the list.

Fifteen minutes later, they were walking right up to the Hindenburg, list in hand. People were busy around them, stocking the ship for the next three days. Rose stared at the airship in awe. It was a bit smaller than the one they used to escape the blowing up of the Cybermen's conversion plant, but still extremely large. It wasn't anywhere near as beautiful as the one owned by the insanely rich John Lumic, either.

She wondered what her mother was doing. Did she have a boy or girl? How were she and Pete getting on? Stop it! she told herself. You're supposed to be saving someone!

The Doctor let her take the lead and she walked right into the airship. Almost immediately, she bumped into an older man, who was pulling a cart down the hall. From him, she got a flash of a wife and two children, but she knew he had a high possibility of surviving the crash. She had a few more encounters with people, one of whom's end was fixed squarely for six years from then, as a prisoner in a concentration camp. He was also not meant to be on the ship when it took off.

She wanted nothing more than to warn him, but knew she couldn't, even if she could get him to believe her. She looked down at the list of names, all of them, feeling horrible. She needed to save one person and couldn't save more than that. How did she choose? How would she live with that choice?

"You don't," the Doctor whispered and she snapped her eyes over to him. What the hell did he mean? "You can't just look at people and try to choose someone to not get on the flight. It doesn't work that way. Not here, at least. Not in a fixed event. Here, you have to let Time itself choose."

"But, I've been agonizing over this," Rose protested.

"I know, and I shouldn't be saying this now, but I can't stand to see you agonizing over this. Rose, look at the list of names." He gestured at the list and she, once again, looked at them. Once again, nothing jumped out at her. "There are ninety-eight people who intend to get on this airship today and fly off to New York," he hinted and Rose finally saw it: There were only ninety-seven names, as history said there should be.

"Who's the extra then?" she asked.

"You tell me," he responded.

Her mind could only come up with one possibility. "Stowaway." she said and he grinned at her before wrapping his arms around her. A thought came to her and she pulled back to look suspiciously at him. "Hold on, you knew this before we even got off the TARDIS, didn't you?" she accused.

"I once came across a report about a stowaway on the Hindenburg. A young woman named Arnulfa. Remembered it when I was looking for the right fixed event just a few hours ago and got curious."

"I've never heard of that," Rose told him.

"You wouldn't. This was-is a luxury ship. They don't want that sort of thing getting out," he explained. "Let's go find her."

It turned out that Arnulfa was seventeen and wanted to go to America to get away from her abusive father. They took her to the security office, so the report that the Doctor saw would get written, then took her away from the airfield. They wound up taking her to New York themselves, provided she never tell anyone how she got there.

On the sixth of May, 1937, she looked up at the sky and watched the airship she had stowed away in start to land. Before it could, it looked like it had a weight problem. Then, in a display out of Hell itself, the Hindenburg caught fire.

From then on, she was convinced that the two people who found her that day were angels come to save her and she was meant to do something worthwhile with her life. She became a nurse and helped save people in turn.

##########

Rose walked into the expansive wardrobe, on the hunt for something to dance in. She needed higher class, but not too upscale. It had to be revealing, but not too much skin shown. The dress had to also be something that would work well with flats, because if they didn't find trouble, they were likely to create it if they got bored. From three-ish years of experience, she knew that the more upscale the party, the more likely they were to get bored.

She was excited for the promised party. They hadn't crashed a party in a while. In fact, the last time they'd attempted to go to one, it was on New Earth. She shuddered at the vivid memory. It wasn't a trip she liked thinking about, to say the least, even if it had led to her current state.

She chose a simple, black dress that went nearly to the floor on her. It was sleeveless and had a V shaped neckline that showed off cleavage without being slutty. The skirt part was just loose enough so that she could run if need be and long enough, she could wear trainers under the dress and, except for her toes peeking out when she stepped forward, no one would notice.

Instead of trainers, she grabbed a pair of almost flat, comfortable shoes in black velvet with a silver buckle. She'd be able to dance around and run without her feet hurting from them. The ensemble was finished with a thin, silver bracelet that looked like it could go with the chain she always wore around her neck and her favorite hoop earrings.

Happy with her look, she walked back to the console room, humming in time with the TARDIS. When she got to the nerve center of the time ship she called home, she was greeted with a sight that was always welcome: the Doctor's bum. The Time Lord was bent over, putting a piece of floor grating back in place. He was wearing his blue suit, which looked a bit dressier than the brown one, though she couldn't say why. Maybe because it was brighter.

He stood up and turned around. "Enjoying the view?" he asked.

"Yes, yes I am," Rose replied and the Doctor gave her a wink. "So, where are we?" she wondered. She knew that they weren't in the Vortex because of the feeling of the movement of the TARDIS through space.

"We are orbiting Earth right now," he answered. "Wanna take a peek at your planet from above before we head to the shindig?"

"Sure." Earth from above was one of her favorite sights. Before she could get to the door for a peek, a loud horn sounded and the TARDIS shook, throwing the two of them to the floor. Debris flew through the air to pelt them.

"What?!" the Doctor exclaimed.

Rose looked over to see him on his knees between the console and the jump seat, looking down at one of those life rings from ships. Not spaceships, but ships that sail on water. But they were in space. Well, they were supposed to be in space anyway. She went to get up off of the grating and gaped at the huge front end of a massive ship sticking through the side of the console room.

"What?!" the Doctor exclaimed again, staring at the bow of the ship in horror.

The sound of a large bell echoed in the TARDIS as Rose stood up, using the console to steady her movements. The Doctor picked up the life preserver just as she saw the name on it.

It proclaimed that the ship's name was Titanic.

"What?!" they both exclaimed at the same time. Rose looked back to the ship's bow in horror.

"Oh, hell, no. Doctor, please tell me that we're not the iceberg."

"It wasn't the TARDIS," he replied grimly. The Doctor hopped off of the floor and adjusted several controls. Suddenly, the Tardis walls reformed, which pushed the ship back outside where it belonged. Then he quickly moved the TARDIS to the inside of the Titanic, so they could see what was going on.

As he did that, Rose brushed herself off as best as she could. If something had happened, they wouldn't have time for cleaning off properly.

The Doctor strode off purposefully past the console, grabbing her hand on the way to the door and the two of them stepped outside of the timeship into a cupboard. The foghorn sounded loudly, but not as loud as it had when part of the ship was inside of theirs. She pulled a larger piece of debris out of his hair and the two of them stepped out into the hallway of the Titanic and started to wander.

"Wait. You were here. Are we gonna run into you again?" Rose asked.

"How did you know that?" the Doctor wondered as they moved down the hall.

"When we first met, you told me to forget you, so I did a bit of research. Met a guy who studied you as a hobby. He had some pictures and drawings, one of them was the Titanic and last you in a suit. The assassination of Kennedy, Krakatoa, and so on."

"Hmm. Might have to meet this fella. People researching me never ends well." Boy did she know. She remembered those people from that little group who were looking for the Doctor. "Still, this looks like the first class area, and I was never anywhere near here."

When they reached the main area, passengers were dressed to the nines, as would be expected, but something seemed off. That's when the two of them noticed a small, red-skinned, spiky looking alien in a tuxedo walking by. The Doctor and Rose looked at each other in shock before taking in the other incongruities in the room. There were statues of golden angels, futuristic computer displays and a few other aliens around the room.

As Rose took in their surroundings, the Doctor moved to look out the nearest window and silently called her over with a mental nudge. Whatever ship they were on, it was currently orbiting the planet Earth.

"Right," the Doctor sighed.

"Well, that explains a lot," Rose agreed.

A voice announced to the ship, "Attention all passengers. The Titanic is now in orbit above Sol Three, also known as Earth. Population, Human. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Christmas."

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"Well, Looks like we aren't going to a party," the Doctor spoke after a moment. "The party came to us."

"We're covered in dust, Doctor, we should get cleaned up quickly before we join the party," Rose pointed out. With that, the Doctor looked her up and down, realizing she was right, they were both dusted with a fine, mostly white powder with a few chunks in their hair.

Having changed into his tuxedo, the Doctor led his wife back to the main area where people were congregating. Rose had changed her dress as well, having gotten a lot of dust over the black fabric. Her new dress had an asymmetrical, flared hemline, and was a deep navy colour.

The Doctor and Rose went over to a screen on a nearby wall and watched a recording of a bald man with a thin moustache sitting behind a desk.

"Max Capricorn Cruiseliners. The fastest, the farthest, the best. And I should know because my name is Max," the man recited and his gold tooth sparkled brightly.

"He seems like your typical, slimy CEO," Rose commented as they walked through the crowded room. Her husband hummed his agreement while taking in their surroundings.

"Merry Christmas, sir, ma'am," a steward said politely.

"Merry Christmas," the Doctor replied.

Rose decided to use her new time senses to try and read a few of the people around them. What little she could see was extremely worrisome. "Doctor, why do most of the possibilities for these people end so suddenly?"

"Something bad is definitely coming, as usual. Let's see what we can find out," he responded as they passed by a businessman who was angrily yelling into his communication device. The Doctor approached what appeared to be a robot designed to look like a golden angel.

"Evening. Passenger fifty seven. Terrible memory. Remind me. You would be?" he asked the machine.

"Information. Heavenly Host supplying tourist information," it responded.

"Good, so, tell me, because I'm an idiot, where are we from?" he prompted, glad to be able to get information without arousing suspicion about how they had come on board.

"Information. The Titanic is en route from the planet Sto in the Cassavalian Belt. The purpose of the cruise is to experience primitive cultures," the robot replied.

"Primitive?!" Rose snapped, but stopped at a look from her husband as he was still trying to get important information and it really wouldn't do any good to argue with a machine anyway. She did feel his agreement with her sentiment that humans were not primitive, despite his last incarnation's penchant for calling them stupid apes.

"Titanic. Who thought of the name?" he questioned.

"Information. It was chosen as the most famous vessel of the planet Earth," the golden angel informed them.

"Okay, but do you know why it was famous?" Rose interjected.

"Information. All designations are chosen by Mister Max Capricorn, president of Max, Max, Max…" the machine added, but began to stutter and repeat itself in a loop.

"Ooo, bit of a glitch," the Doctor commented as the steward ran over to shut the robot down.

"It's all right, sir, we can handle this," the man insisted, calling over a few more employees to help take it away. "Software problem, that's all. Leave it with us, sir. Merry Christmas. That's another one down. What's going on with these things?" he added under his breath as they carried the malfunctioning equipment towards the lift.

"Hmm, that's a bit odd, wouldn't you say, Sarge?" Rose commented, glad to be investigating a proper mystery. It had been far too long.

"Keep 'em peeled, Lewis," he replied, though she could feel his growing tension despite the lighthearted banter.

She watched a man who was practically attached to his communications device bump into a waitress who looked a little older than her, though you could never tell with non human species. He immediately blamed the accident on her, and she did the only thing she could in that kind of job, she apologized and bent down to pick up the shattered glass.

And they said Earth was primitive. It seemed to her that people were basically the same no matter where or when or what colour or shape they were. Between the feeling that she would probably like this woman and the long ingrained teachings from her mother, she bent down to help the woman.

"What a tosser. I can't believe the nerve of 'im," she grumbled sympathetically

"It's no trouble madam, I can manage," the blonde woman said quickly and apologetically.

"Of course you can, but it's nice to have a bit of help once in awhile, yeah? I'm Rose, by the way, Rose Tyler," she introduced herself as she set broken bits of glass down on the tray and held out her hand.

"Astrid, ma'am. Astrid Peth," she replied taking the hand offered her.

"Merry Christmas, Astrid. This is my husband," Rose added as the Doctor joined them in cleaning up the shards of glass from the floor.

"Merry Christmas, sir," Astrid said in acknowledgement.

"Just Doctor, not sir," he told her with a smile.

"Are the two of you enjoying the cruise?" she asked.

"Oh, definitely! Just finishing up our honeymoon," he replied with a fond look to his wife.

"That's so nice," Astrid said with a dreamy gaze in her eyes.

"What about you? Long way from home, Planet Sto," the Doctor prompted. He knew that Rose had unconsciously followed the pull of the timelines toward is woman. Her best chance of survival was with them and he was proud of her instincts. He wondered a bit at that thought. Rose had often been drawn to the right people during all of their adventures. Had there always been in inkling of those senses in her or would this just intensify her innate abilities even more?

"Doesn't feel that different," Astrid grumbled. "I spent three years working at the spaceport diner, travelled all the way here and I'm still waiting on tables."

"No shore leave?" he wondered, fairly sure that there was some sort of requirement for interstellar cruise workers to be allowed to leave the ship during their travels.

"We're not allowed. They can't afford the insurance. I just wanted to try it, just once. I used to watch the ships heading out to the stars and I always dreamt of... It sounds daft," she told them shyly.

"Not daft at all! I ran off with this one for the same reason," Rose responded with a wink.

"You dreamt of another sky. New sun, new air, new life. A whole universe teeming with life. Why stand still when there's all that life out there?" the Doctor agreed, knowing that feeling all too well.

"So, you two travel a lot?" Astrid asked interestedly.

"All the time. Just for fun. Well, that's the plan. Never quite works," he admitted.

"Must be rich, though," Astrid said, immediately dismissing the possibility that she could do the same. The Doctor and Rose glanced at each other and immediately made a decision.

"Oh, no, we aren't rich. Don't have to be," Rose told her.

"Haven't got a penny. Stowaway," the Doctor added as if he were telling the woman a great secret. His voice was just low enough that none of the people around them would hear.

"Kidding?" Astrid responded incredulously.

"Seriously," the Doctor said.

"No!" she exclaimed in a low voice, obviously not wanting to give them away.

"Oh, yeah," the Doctor replied.

"Came here to crash the party," Rose joked. The second she felt the Doctor's amusement, she realized what she did and groaned internally. He had her punning now.

"How did you get on board?" the waitress wondered.

"Accident. We've got this, sort of, ship thing. We were just floating along, getting ready to set the coordinates. Bumped into the Titanic. Here we are. Bit of a party. I thought, why not?" the Doctor rambled.

"We were gonna go to a party anyway," Rose added, "So it all worked out. Bit of a swanky affair."

The waitress looked back and forth between the two of them for a moment before she leaned in and whispered, "I should report you." Her voice and manner both spoke of her being in on a secret, though, and they knew she wouldn't.

"Well, if you feel you have to" Rose teased. It was the right thing to say, apparently, because the woman smiled.

"I'll get you a drink on the house," she told them and walked off.

"I like her," Rose told the Doctor.

"Reminds me a bit of you," he told her.

"Really? Pretty little thing like her?" Rose felt a little stab of jealousy. Astrid was beautiful.

"Pretty, yes, but I wasn't talking about appearances. The basic type of job: services, dreaming of something better, but not believing it could be, and she's generally a good person, just like you."

"Generally?" she queried, raising an eyebrow.

"Wellll, everyone has their moments," the Doctor replied, rubbing the back of his neck. "What drew you to her?" he asked suddenly in an attempt to change the subject.

"I dunno. Mess on the floor? Woman being berated for something not her fault? Thought she could use a friendly face," Rose answered.

"Nothing Timey?"

Rose looked thoughtful for a moment and stared after their new friend. "Huh, I hadn't noticed it consciously. We need to keep her close," she realized as she looked at Astrid's timelines.

"It would be best. Anyone else in the room like that?" her husband prompted and Rose started to look around carefully.

"That couple over there, a few employees, ugh, that tosser that was yelling at Astrid," she listed, unhappy with some of the things she saw. Luckily, everything there was in flux, even the event, whatever it was, could still be prevented.

"Now, Rose, remember what I told you before about making decisions like that? It isn't up to you to choose who's meant to be where. We try to give everyone the most opportunities for the future," he told her and with a nod, they strolled toward the table where the couple she had noticed were eating.

"Who said anything about choosing? I don't like it, that's all," she retorted before she realized something. "Hey, just how much do you know about everything before it happens?"

Her eyes met his and for a moment, she could see his years. "More than I want to. I try to suppress my abilities a little, to make life more interesting."

The moment was broken by raucous laughter from a group of people walking away from their table and the pair looked upset at whatever they had said. The couple were heavy-set and wearing purple, sparkling cowboy outfits. Rose and the Doctor slid into the booth with them.

"Just ignore them," the man told his partner soothingly.

"Something's tickled them," the Doctor said to the couple.

"They told us it was fancy dress. Very funny, I'm sure," the woman complained and attacked her food. Rose knew that behaviour and had done it herself once or twice: using food as a comfort. In her case, it was usually chips.

"They're just picking on us because we haven't paid. We won our tickets in a competition," the man said proudly.

"I had to name the five husbands of Joofie Crystalle in By the Light of the Asteroid. Did you ever watch By the Light of the Asteroid?" she asked. Rose knew that, depending on how much of a fan the woman was, this could be an invitation to talk about the show.

"Is that the one with the twins?" the Doctor asked and she wondered how he knew that. "It's insanely popular. Would be hard not to know," he defended himself. Rose raised an eyebrow at that and sent her amusement. "What? Stop it."

"That's it. Oh, it's marvellous," the woman said delightedly.

"But we're not good enough for that lot. They think we should be in steerage," the man continued, bringing the conversation back to what they were talking about before.

"Ugh," Rose responded in sympathy. "Just 'cause you got lucky doesn't give them the right to bully ya."

"Well, can't have that, can we?" the Doctor said and reached into his jacket pocket. Out came the sonic screwdriver, which he pointed under his arm at those who were laughing. The cork in their bottle of champagne suddenly came loose and the people at the entire table were drenched in the spraying alcohol.

"Did you do that?" the woman asked, her eyes wide.

"Maybe," the Doctor commented with a sniff as he slipped his sonic back into the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket. Rose smirked at him and he gave her a wink.

"We like you," their new friend told them with honest thanks.

"We do," her partner agreed. "I'm Morvin Van Hoff. This is my good woman, Foon."

"Foon. Hello, I'm the Doctor, and this is my lovely wife, Rose," he replied, shaking both of their hands in greeting.

"Oh, I'm going to need a Doctor, time I've finished with that buffet," Foon said as she reached for more food. "Have a buffalo wing. They must be enormous, these buffalo. So many wings."

Rose stifled a giggle at the thought of real buffalo covered in tiny little chicken wings and sent the mental image to the Doctor.

"Attention please. Shore leave tickets Red Six Seven now activated. Red Six Seven," a voice announced to the room.

"Red Six Seven. That's us. Are you Red Six Seven?" Foon wondered.

The Doctor and Rose exchanged a look and quickly decided. The Doctor pulled out his psychic paper as he said, "Might as well be."

"Come on, then. We're going to Earth," Morvin told them excitedly.

"You take me to the strangest places, Doctor," Rose whispered to him jokingly.

They made their way to an older man who was calling out for people to go to the planet below. "Red Six Seven. Red Six Seven. This way, fast as you can." Just as they were about to join the group, Astrid came by with a tray that held two glasses of champagne.

"I got you that drink," she told the Time travelers.

"How would you like to see an alien world?" Rose whispered and Astrid's eyes widened. The Doctor took the tray from her and set it down on the nearest surface before taking her arm.

"We've got you a treat," he told her in a low voice.

"Red Six Seven departing shortly," the old man called. The Doctor pulled out his battered leather case and showed him the psychic paper.

"Red Six Seven, passengers 57 and 58, plus one," he said confidently. The man in charge seemed too distracted by the sudden rush of people coming at him and didn't question how there could be a plus one on a ship like this.

"Quickly, sir, please, and take three teleport bracelets if you would," the man replied dismissively.

"I'll get the sack," Astrid whispered to them worriedly.

"Come on, Astrid," Rose urged her.

"Brand new sky," the Doctor added as he dangled the teleport bracelet in front of her temptingly. Astrid stared at the bracelet for a split second before she took it and snapped it on.

"There you go," Rose praised. She knew from experience that it could be a difficult decision to make.

"To repeat, I am Mister Copper, the ship's historian, and I shall be taking you to old London town in the country of UK, ruled over by good King Wenceslas. Now, human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws, and his wife Mary," the man announced. The Doctor was looking confused at his rambling and Rose's eyes had gone wide. The rest of the people simply listened closely as he continued, "And every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner like savages."

Rose's jaw dropped open. 'No wonder Earth's invaded so much if the nearby systems in this time think those sorts of things!' Rose thought to the Doctor.

"They generally don't,' the Doctor replied back. Out loud, he called to Mister Copper, "Excuse me. Sorry, sorry, but, er, where did you get all this from?"

"Well, I have a first class degree in Earthonomics. Now, stand by," he replied just as a short, red alien came up to the group, out of breath. He barely came up to Rose's mid thigh, was covered in spikes, and wore a suit, complete with tails.

"And me! And me! Red Six Seven!" the little alien exclaimed, waving his red ticket.

"Well, take a bracelet, please, sir," Mister Copper said, handing one of the teleport bracelets to the short, red, man. At least Rose was sure he was a male. One never could tell with previously unknown species. One thing Rose was sure of, he couldn't go down into a crowded street looking like that.

"But, er, hold on, hold on. What was your name?" the Doctor questioned.

"Bannakaffalatta," he barked his name.

"Okay, Bannakaffalatta. But it's Christmas Eve down there. Late night shopping, tons of people. He's like a talking conker." Rose slapped her hand to her face at his rudeness and the Doctor realized what he said. "No offence, but you'll cause a riot because the streets are going to be packed with shoppers and parties and-"

And the world changed. The teleport felt like she walked through fire, followed by an icy shower. She shivered when the scenery changed. Suddenly, they were standing in the middle of a London street, not far from where Rose had her encounter with the Santa dressed robots the first time. The remarkable thing, though, was that the street was completely empty.

"-Oh," the Doctor stopped and looked around. So much for his protestation about Bannakaffalatta.

"What?" Rose spoke, turning around. The street was creepy. It was never that empty, not even in the middle of the night.

Mister Copper, the people from Sto, and Bannakaffalatta noticed nothing wrong, however. "Now, spending money. I have a credit card in Earth currency if you want to buy trinkets, or stockings, or the local delicacy, which is known as beef. But don't stray too far, it could be dangerous. Any day now they start boxing," Mister Copper told the group.

"Very good," the little alien that Rose had taken to calling Banna in her mind said. She was sure that he was a man of few words, which was odd, considering his long name. Not the longest she'd ever heard, though. The Doctor's given name was about twice as long.

"It should be full. It should be busy. Something's wrong," the Doctor babbled.

"Yeah," Rose agreed. "There should be so many people in this street that we have trouble moving around."

"But it's beautiful!" Astrid exclaimed.

"Really? Do you think so? It's just a street. The pyramids are beautiful, and New Zealand."

"I guess it's got a bit of a charm to it," Rose responded, feeling homesick. This was the first time she'd been in London since their stay in 1969, if you didn't count the trips to pick up her mother. They hadn't left the flat that time, though.

"But it's a different planet. I'm standing on a different planet. There's concrete and shops. Alien shops. Real alien shops! Look, no stars in the sky. And it smells. It stinks! Oh, this is amazing. Thank you!" Astrid exclaimed, nearly dancing in the street and Rose remembered her internal dialogue the first time she'd stepped into the past.

She still loved stepping on a new ground and never really got properly used to it, but it wasn't quite as exciting as it had been in the beginning. Seeing her home through the eyes of someone that had never been there and was from an entirely different place made her realize one of the many reasons why the Doctor took people with him. It made her laugh, despite knowing something very wrong was going on.

"Yeah? Come on then, let's have a look," the Doctor said and started walking off. He picked up Rose's hand along the way and she had to jog a little bit just to keep up with his much longer legs.

"Oh, look, there's a person, finally," Rose pointed out when they hadn't gone far down the street. An old man stood in the newsstand, watching them come up.

"Hello neighbours!" he called out when they got close. Rose waved at him and was just about to ask him what happened when the Doctor beat her to it.

"Hello, there. Sorry, obvious question, but where's everybody gone?" the Doctor asked the elderly gentleman in the paper booth. He was watching a small television, since there wasn't anyone around to buy anything.

"Oh ho, scared!" he replied.

"Right. Yes. Scared of what?" the Doctor wondered. Was there some other crisis going on that they needed to take care of as well?

"Where've you been living? London at Christmas? Not safe, is it?" the man suggested.

"Has something happened to make everyone worried?" Rose asked him.

"Well, it's them, up above," he replied, pointing to the sky. "Look, Christmas before last we had that big bloody spaceship, everyone standing on a roof. And then last year, that Christmas Star electrocuting all over the place, draining the Thames."

The Doctor and Rose looked away nervously as they realized how true it was that the last few Christmases on Earth had been rather worrisome in London.

"This place is amazing," Astrid gasped.

"And this year, Lord knows what. So, everybody's scarpered. Gone to the country. All except me and Her Majesty," he continued, saluting the television as if it contained the Queen herself. The news anchor announced that the Queen refused to leave the palace. "God bless her. We stand vigil."

"Well, between you and me, I think her Majesty's got it right. Far as I know, this year, nothing to worry about," the Doctor assured him just before all three of them vanished right in front of him. They found themselves back on the ship just as abruptly as they had disappeared from it earlier.

"I was in mid-sentence," the Doctor complained.

"Yes, I'm sorry about that. A bit of a problem. If I could have your bracelets," Mister Copper told them, collecting all of the teleport bracelets back into a little box.

"Apologies, ladies and gentlemen, and Bannakaffalatta," the steward announced to them politely. "We seem to have suffered a slight power fluctuation. If you'd like to return to the festivities. And on behalf of Max Capricorn Cruiseliners, free drinks will be provided."

"Thank you," Foon said appreciatively as she and her husband headed back to their table.

"That was the best. The best!" Astrid squealed and jumped around happily before slipping back off to work. She couldn't afford to be caught after getting away with the quick trip to a new world.

"What sort of power fluctuation?" the Doctor questioned, sure that this had to be related to the problems with the golden hosts and the impending trouble.

The steward waved them off dismissively with some useless comment, prompting the Doctor and Rose to do some investigating of their own. They approached one of the screens displaying the same advertisement as before and the Doctor used his sonic to unfasten the frame so he could access the controls. Rose gasped and looked out the window when her husband switched the display to show that the ship's shields were offline. She pulled him closer to her and the window to point out the asteroids that were heading straight for them.

Chapter Text

 

The Doctor stared at the meteoroids for half a second, seeing so much destruction if the shields weren't raised immediately. The possibilities were narrowing at an astonishing rate. He pulled himself from the gruesome images in his mind and ran back to the computer in the wall and set it so that he could call the bridge. 'Come on, come on, come on Aha!' he thought as he worked.

"Is that the bridge? I need to talk to the Captain. You've got a meteoroid storm coming in West zero by North two," he called to the bridge, speaking frantically.

"Who is this?," a voice, presumably that of the Captain's, demanded.

"Never mind that, your shields are down! Check your scanners, Captain! You've got meteoroids coming in and no shielding!" he explained.

"You have no authorisation. You will clear the comms at once," the captain ordered. Oh, why did they never listen? He thought it was the face, but maybe it was the voice.

"Yeah? Just look starboard!" he exclaimed as one of the other employees showed up to escort him away. He looked around for Rose and noted that she was headed for the stage where someone was singing with a microphone. Oh, his wife was brilliant.

"You've got a rock storm heading for this ship and the shields are down!" he insisted to the man who was pulling him away from the computer and out of the room so that he wouldn't cause a riot. He telepathically urged Rose to hurry and warn everyone off the ship as he tried to wrestle away.

"Please listen, everyone. You all need to get to the lifeboats immediately," Rose began to announce, but was pulled off of the stage by security. She only hoped it was enough. Rose tried to continue warning everyone, but the man that was restraining her put his hand over her mouth.

"Look out the windows!" the Doctor shouted from the doorway he was being pulled through. Their ruckus had attracted the attention of the passengers they had spoken to earlier, and they seemed to be following in an attempt to help.

"If you don't believe me, check the shields yourself," the Doctor tried telling the steward reasonably.

"You've got to get everyone off the ship. Please!" Rose added, now being restrained next to her husband.

"Sir, I can vouch for him!" Astrid cried over the noise.

"Look, Steward, they've just had a bit too much to drink," Morvin called out, hoping they'd at least release the couple.

Mr. Copper, the man who was in charge of the trip to Earth, interrupted the situation with his concerns, "Sir, something seems to have gone wrong. All the teleports have gone down."

"Not now!" the steward shouted at him dismissively.

The shouting and arguments continued ineffectively until the explosions began. The entire ship shuddered violently as the rocks blasted their way through the unprotected hull. The Doctor grasped Rose against him tightly, hoping to protect her from flying debris and sparks.

"It's alright, sweetheart," Morvin told Foon soothingly.

"Shush. It's stopping," the Doctor whispered as he listened for any further threats. Hearing nothing, he looked to his wife, "Are you alright, love?"

"Yeah. What about the rest of you?" she responded.

"Fine, I think," Astrid answered as they helped her up from the floor.

"Bad name for a ship. Either that or this suit is really unlucky," the Doctor grumbled.

"We are tossing that tuxedo into a black hole," Rose agreed. Between facing Cybermen, deadly viruses on New Earth, and now this, it would be worth the effort to find a luckier suit.

"Er, everyone. Ladies and gentlemen, Bannakaffalatta. I must apologise on behalf of Max Capricorn Cruiseliners. We seem to have had a small collision," the steward announced, trying to take control of the situation.

"Small?" Morvin questioned incredulously.

"Do you know how much I paid for my ticket?" the businessman from earlier demanded angrily.

"If I could have silence, ladies, gentlemen. Please. Quiet! Thank you. I'm sure Max Capricorn Cruiseliners will be able to reimburse you for any inconvenience, but first I would point out that we're very much alive," he insisted.

Astrid called the Doctor over to look at Mr. Copper's head. He had been cut during the commotion earlier and the Doctor checked to make sure that he would be alright.

"She is, after all, a fine, sturdy ship. If you could all stay here while I ascertain the exact nature of the situation," the steward continued. He reached to open the door behind him and Rose's eyes grew wide.

"Don't!" she cried and dove to pull him away, but she didn't make it in time. The vacuum of space began to pull on all of them.

The steward was immediately ejected from the ship, but Rose felt her arm suddenly gripped tight as her feet left the floor. The Doctor had one hand holding his wife's upper arm in a vise grip, his other arm wrapped around a nearby grab bar. Everyone else in the room was trying to find something to hold onto.

"The panel in front of you. Hit the red button," the Doctor instructed telepathically, worried that Rose might not hear him over the rushing wind around them. She pressed it immediately and the force field over the doorway sealed.

"Oxygen shield stabilised," the computer announced.

He held Rose tightly against his chest as they both fell to the floor. Their hearts were racing from the panic of Rose almost being pulled from him once more. "Everyone alright? Astrid?" the Doctor asked, stroking his wife's hair and reassuring himself that she was still with him.

"Yeah," Astrid answered.

"Foon? Morvin? Mr. Copper? Bannakaffalatta?" he continued his role call.

Everyone nodded and the little red alien responded, "Yes."

"You, what was your name?" he asked the annoying businessman who had joined their little group.

"Rickston Slade," he replied.

"You alright?"

Slade nodded. "No thanks to that idiot."

"The steward just died!" Astrid chastised him.

"Then he's a dead idiot," Rickston countered.

Rose glared at him and the Doctor could feel her ready to pounce on him, but interrupted, "Alright, calm down. Just stay still, all of you. Hold on."

The two Gallifreyans got up from the floor to take a look at the damage out the doorway. There was debris floating everywhere, including bodies of passengers and crew. Rose felt a shiver run down her spine as she considered how they had failed in preventing this disaster despite knowing it might happen.

"Stop, Rose. There were timelines where it was prevented, but none of them may have been from something that we did. We are not responsible for this happening, but we can help the people still alive right now," the Doctor told her privately. She had never known just how aware he was of impending danger through their travels before and was only now realizing what a burden that foreknowledge could be to your conscience.

Rose nodded and wiped the tears from her face.

"What happened? How come the shields were down?" Astrid asked, coming up behind them.

"I don't think it was an accident," the Doctor replied.

"It wasn't," Rose added darkly. The disappearance of so many timelines abruptly had her on edge.

"How many dead?" Astrid wondered, saying out loud one of Rose's thoughts.

"We're alive. Just focus on that," he told Astrid directly. The comment was also meant to be for Rose as well. "I will get you out of here, Astrid, I promise." Astrid kept staring out at the debris and bodies. "Look at me. I promise." She finally tore her eyes away from the scene in front of her, looked at the Doctor and nodded. "Good. Now, if we can get to Reception, I've got a spaceship tucked away. We can all get on board and-" He abruptly stopped that thought. "Oh."

Rose who had already diverted her attention to the other people in the room and was trying to figure out a way to reception through the mess, turned to see what he'd seen. "Oh," she echoed. The TARDIS was adrift and floating lazily among the debris from the accident. How the hell were they supposed to get off the ship now?

"What is it? What's wrong?" Astrid insisted, trying to figure out what was so bad.

"That's my ship over there," the Doctor answered.

"Where?" Astrid wondered, craning her neck as if that would help her see it.

"There. That box. That little blue box," he explained.

"That's a spaceship?" Astrid questioned disbelievingly.

"Oi, don't knock it," the Doctor protested.

"Don't let what you see from here fool you," Rose told her. "Doctor, how are we gonna get her back now?"

"It's a bit small," Astrid commented.

"It's also a bit distant," the Doctor replied, defending his ship. "Trouble is, once it's set adrift, it's programmed to lock onto the nearest centre of gravity, and that would be the Earth." Right about then, the Time ship's lazy tumbling stopped and the box oriented itself so that the bottom was facing Earth. It then dropped into the atmosphere.

"So, teleports? We get to the teleports, go back down to Earth, get the TARDIS, come back up and rescue the people who are still alive!" Rose exclaimed. The Doctor turned to her with that special toothy grin of his that she couldn't help but return.

"Rose Tyler, you are brilliant!" he exclaimed, he took a couple steps away, towards where reception was, then spun around, grabbed her, and snogged her properly, but quickly. "More where that came from later," he promised and Rose blushed.

"Looking forward to it," she flirted back as he was leading the way. The Doctor turned his head enough to throw her a wink.

"Except," Mr. Copper interrupted their little celebration, "the teleports went down just before the crash."

Rose felt like her little happy bubble deflated. "Well, so much for that," she grumbled.

"Oh, that can be fixed," the Doctor said, waving off the problem. "Probably. The accident doesn't seem like it was an accident, so the teleports going down when they did was likely on purpose. If it was sabotage, then they should be fairly easy to fix. Couple minutes and bada boom! We're outta here."

Finding an interface where he could tap into the comm channels, the Doctor tried to contact the bridge. "Deck twenty two to the bridge. Deck twenty two to the bridge. Is there anyone there?"

"This is the bridge," sounded the voice of a young man.

"Oh hello, sailor. Good to hear you. What's the situation up there?" the Doctor asked, keeping his tone light.

"We've got air. The oxygen field is holding, but the Captain, he's dead. He did it. I watched while he took down the shields. There was nothing I could do," he told them despondently. "I tried. I did try."

"Of course you did. My name's Rose, and you were just speaking with the Doctor. What's your name?" Rose assured the young man, hoping to calm his panic.

"Midshipman Frame," he replied.

"Nice to meet you, sir. What's the state of the engines?" the Doctor asked him, giving his wife a grateful look for being so good with people.

"They're er. Hold on," Frame answered, but cried out a moment later.

"Have you been injured?" the Doctor questioned worriedly.

"I'm alright," he insisted. "Oh, my Vot. They're cycling down."

"That's a nuclear storm drive, yes?" the Doctor reasoned, trying to think of the best way to keep the ship from crashing into the planet below.

"Yeah."

"The moment they're gone we lose orbit," the Doctor explained for Rose's benefit.

"The planet," Midshipman Frame gasped.

"Oh, yes. If we hit the planet, the nuclear storm explodes and wipes out life on Earth. Midshipman, I need you to fire up the engine containment field and feed it back into the core," the Doctor instructed, squeezing Rose's hand in assurance. He could feel her concern, but it certainly wasn't the first time they had faced the possible destruction of her home planet.

"This is never going to work," Frame argued, though they could see from the computer access that they had, that he was trying to do what the Doctor had said.

"Trust me, it'll keep the engines going until I can get to the bridge," the Doctor told him and ended the communication to address the people with them.

"We're going to die!" Foon realized. Rose turned to her and put a hand on her shoulder just as Mr. Copper spoke up. She worried that they were all going to start freaking out.

"Are you saying someone's done this on purpose?" he asked.

"We are. We're going to die!" Foon started freaking out.

"No, no, we aren't," Rose told her, trying to sooth her. "We'll get out of this."

"We're just a cruise ship," Astrid started and the Doctor and Rose could both see the beginnings of panic stirring among the group.

"Okay," the Doctor said, then repeated the word louder. "Shush, shush, shush, shush, shush." When everyone quieted down, and he had their attention, he began speaking rapidly, outlining his plan, such as it was.

"First things first. One. We are going to climb through this ship. B." He caught himself. "No. Two. We're going to reach the bridge. Three. Or C. We're going to save the Titanic. And, coming in a very low four, or D, or that little iv in brackets they use in footnotes, why. Right then, follow me," he ordered.

He turned away and strode confidently, as if he were sure that everyone would just fall in line. Usually, that's exactly what would happen. At the moment the group needed someone to take charge, he'd step right in and start issuing orders. There was often one person who was more likely to question, though. In this group, it was the one Rose would have predicted. Rickston Slade, the one used to being in charge.

"Hang on a minute. Who put you in charge and who the hell are you anyway?" he demanded.

The Doctor spun around and told them all the truth. No lies, half truths, or omissions. This group was mixed species of a civilization with advanced space travel, there was no need to pretend he was any less than he was.

"I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm nine hundred and three years old and I'm the man who's going to save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below." He pointed at Rose, who he'd been inching past as he talked. "This is Rose, She's a Time Lady and the nice one of the two of us. If I'm not with you, she's in charge. You got a problem with that?" He directed the last words directly at Slade.

"No," he answered simply, looking a bit scared.

"In that case, allons-y!" he told them, walked back past Rose, and grabbed her hand.

"That was-hmm." Rose cleared her throat and sent her arousal at him, biting her lip. The Doctor looked at her incredulously for half a second.

"Really?" he asked telepathically.

"Oh, yes," she replied back. The Doctor answered with a humming noise in the back of his throat and she could feel that he was pretty chuffed with himself.

They came to a door that was piled with stuff on the other side. Both of them pushed the door open so the others could get through.

"Careful. Follow me," he told everyone else. The stairs were full of metal beams and wires poking out of the walls.

"Rather ironic, but this is very much in the spirit of Christmas. It's a festival of violence. They say that human beings only survive depending on whether they've been good or bad. It's barbaric," Mr. Copper told everyone in the stairwell.

Rose rolled her eyes at the completely inaccurate information.

"Actually, that's not true. Christmas is a time of, of peace and thanksgiving and-" the Doctor stopped himself as he realized what he was saying. "What am I on about? My Christmases are always like this."

"It does seem to be becoming a tradition with us," Rose commented. "Gelth, Sycorax, Racnoss. Blimey. When we're done here, we need to have a quiet, non-world threatening Christmas."

The Doctor moved some beams out of the way and revealed one of the Host.

"We've got a Host. Strength of ten. If we can mend it, we can use it to fix the rubble," the Doctor announced to everyone.

"We can do robotics. Both of us," Morvin said, indicating his wife and himself.

"We work on the milk market back on Sto. It's all robot staff," Foon explained.

"See if you can get it working," the Doctor told them before he turned his attention back to the pile in front of the group. "Let's have a look."

"It's blocked," Astrid pointed out.

"So what do we do?" the Doctor asked her. Rose recognized a test when she saw it. The two of them would often test people in their travels, but had yet to come to an agreement on someone to take on more than one trip.

"We shift it," Astrid replied.

The Doctor grinned at her. "That's the attitude," he praised before turning to the other people in the group. "Rickston, Mister Copper, and you, Bannakaffalatta. Look, can I just call you Banna? It's going to save a lot of time."

"No. Bannakaffalatta," the short, red man insisted.

The Doctor nearly groaned. "Alright then, Bannakaffalatta. There's a gap in the middle. See if you can get through," he told him.

"Easy. Good," Bannakaffalatta agreed and began moving through the hole in the piles.

"This whole thing could come crashing down any minute!" Rickston complained.

"Oh, of all the stupid-, will you just quit complaining for a minute and help?" Rose shouted at him.

"Bannakaffalatta made it," he called from above.

"I'm small enough, I can get through," Astrid declared and without waiting for agreement from anyone else, started climbing through the hole.

"Me too. We can work at it from both sides. Lessen the weight from up top a bit," Rose added, following the young waitress through the opening in the rubble.

"Careful," the Doctor warned.

"I'm fine," Astrid called from the other side.

"Don't worry, Doctor," Rose added.

"Thing is, how are Mister and Mrs Fatso going to get through that gap?" Rickston argued.

"We make the gap bigger. So start," the Doctor snapped at him, clearly losing patience.

Morvin and Foon worked on repairing the host robot in the stairway, as the Doctor and Rickston tried to clear the way through for them.

"We can clear it from this side. Just tell me if it starts moving. Bannakaffalatta, what's wrong?" Astrid said, but turned from her task when she saw the little, red alien wheezing heavily on the floor.

"Shush," he told her, watching where Rose was still working nearby and hoping she wouldn't hear.

"What is it?" Astrid whispered.

"Can't say," Bannakaffalatta answered.

"Are you hurt?" she asked.

"Ashamed," he admitted, looking away.

"Of what?" she wondered, surely he couldn't be ashamed of not being strong enough to help clear the path.

"Poor Bannakaffalatta," he told her as he lifted his shirt to reveal cybernetic parts of his body.

"You're a cyborg," Astrid gasped and glanced back toward Rose to see if she had noticed their conversation yet. It didn't look like it, but they couldn't have known that Rose's sense of hearing was far superior to theirs. She had heard the whole thing, but was pretending not to notice since they didn't seem to want to share the information for the moment.

"Had accident long ago. Secret," Bannakaffalatta explained.

"No, but everything's changed now. Cyborgs are getting equal rights. They passed a law back on Sto. You can even get married," Astrid assured him. She didn't seem to consider him any less of a person because of it.

"Marry you?" he teased.

"Well, you can buy me a drink first. Come on. Let's recharge you. Just stay there for a bit," she responded reassuringly.

"Tell no one," he insisted.

"I promise," Astrid replied and went back to helping Rose clear the opening for the others.

Rose considered telling her husband about Bannakaffalatta's condition telepathically, but didn't want to distract him right now. She decided to just keep it in mind and bring it up to him if necessary.

"What's going on up there?" the Doctor called to them.

"I think Bannakaffalatta and I just got engaged," Astrid answered, making both girls giggle.

"Almost done!" Morvin shouted to them.

"Good, good, good. Mister Frame, how's things?" the Doctor asked, once again calling the bridge.

"Doctor, I've got life signs all over the ship but they're going out one by one," Frame responded fearfully.

"What is it? Are they losing air?" he wondered.

"No. One of them said it's the Host. It's something to do with the Host," the Midshipman told him.

"It's working!" Morvin said excitedly.

"Kill," the robot announced ominously.

"Turn it off!" the Doctor demanded. Everything had been working out too smoothly. Of course the robots would try to kill everyone.

"I can't, Doctor!" Foon shrieked and the couple came running up the stairs away from the host.

"Kill. Kill. Kill," it droned, marching up the stairs after them.

"Go!" the Doctor shouted, urging them ahead of him and hoping that they'd cleared enough of the opening for them to fit through. "Quickly, go upstairs!"

"Run, darling, run!" Foon cried.

"Foon! Foon!" Morvin urged her to safety.

"Rickston, get them through!" the Doctor ordered as he tried to slow the advancing robot.

"No chance," the businessman responded and dove through the hole himself.

"Rickston!" Mr. Copper shouted angrily.

"You bloody coward!" Rose added and moved to help pull the others through.

"I'll never get through there," Foon insisted.

"Yes, you can. Let me go first," Mr. Copper told her, hoping to help pull her from the other side.

"It's the Host, they've gone berserk," the Doctor shouted.

"Then turn it off or get up here, Doctor! I can't keep this ship from crashing without you!" Rose demanded, catching a glimpse of him facing it down before reaching to pull Foon through the opening to relative safety.

Chapter Text

Rose took hold of one of Foon's hands, while Astrid took the other. They pulled as hard as they could to get her through the opening quickly.

"Now I'm stuck!" she shouted as her hips caught on the debris.

"Come on, you can do it!" Astrid cried.

They both pulled harder and Morvin helped push her from behind, but the extra effort began to dislodge some of the pieces that were supporting the whole pile of junk.

"It's going to collapse," Mr. Copper warned as he tried to hold everything still. He found a long metal bar and used it as a lever to pull the opening wider. "Rickston, vot damn it, help me," he cursed.

"No way," the coward replied, keeping well back from the whole ordeal.

Once Foon was safely through, they all worked on pulling her husband through as well.

"Morvin, get through!" the Doctor insisted as the robot got ever closer.

"A little help would be good, Doctor!" Rose called to her husband when Morvin got stuck as well.

"Mister van Hoff, I know we've only just met, but you'll have to excuse me," the Doctor told him as he pushed forcefully on the man's behind. The extra shove was enough to get him through quickly.

"That's it. We've got you. Doctor, come on, get through," Astrid urged.

"Information override! You will tell me the point of origin of your command structure!" the Doctor demanded of the Host in front of him

"I can't hold it!" Mr. Copper cried.

"Come on, Doctor! Stop mucking about!" Rose shouted from where she was helping to support the crumbling pile of debris. She was a bit stronger now, but not that strong, and this metal was heavy.

"Information. Deck thirty one," the robot responded obediently.

"Thank you," the Doctor said as he ducked through the gap and away from the current threat. "Thank you. Let go!"

Rose and Mr. Copper jumped away from the pile of rubbish, dropping the heavy weight on top of the pursuing Host, and crushing its head. They all breathed a sigh of relief and continued on their way through the ship.

The group of survivors came to an observation room with large windows and a long buffet table, still filled with food. It seemed a safe place to rest for a few moments as there didn't seem to be any robotic Hosts nearby.

"Morvin, look. Food," Foon called excitedly.

"Oh great. Someone's happy," Rickston grumbled.

"Don't have any then," Morvin countered as the rest of the group all grabbed some plates.

"Mister Frame, are you still there?" the Doctor spoke into a nearby intercom to check with the situation on the bridge.

"Yes, sir, but I've got Host outside. I've sealed the door," the young man responded worriedly.

"They've been programmed to kill. Why would anyone do that?" the Doctor wondered.

"That's not the only problem, Doctor. I had to use a maximum deadlock on the door, which means no one can get in. I'm sealed off. Even if you can fix the Titanic you can't get to the bridge," he told the Doctor despondently.

"Yeah, right, fine. One problem at a time. What's on deck thirty one?" the Doctor replied, deciding to deal with the problem of getting to the bridge after he found a way to keep the people alive and the ship from crashing into the Earth below.

"Er, that's down below. It's nothing. It's just the Host storage deck. That's where we keep the robots," Midshipman Frame answered.

The Doctor pressed a few buttons on the computer to scan the decks and nothing seemed to penetrate deck thirty one. Shielding like that was unlikely for something as mundane as a storage area. "Well, what's that? Do you see that panel? Black. It's registering nothing. No power, no heat, no light," the Doctor told Frame.

"I've never seen it before," he replied.

"One hundred percent shielded. What's down there?" the Doctor questioned.

"I'll try intensifying the scanner," he responded, doing the best he could while locked on the bridge.

"Let me know if you find anything. And keep those engines going," the Doctor told him before cutting the transmission.

Rose brought over a plate of nibbles to share with her husband. It had been a while since their last meal, since they had been planning to eat at the party they were heading to. Their advanced physiology meant that neither of them needed to eat for the moment, but it was best to take advantage of the opportunity while it was there.

"Thank you, Love," he said, kissing her swiftly on the cheek. They sat on the floor next to each other and Astrid sat across from them as she too had a snack.

"So, you look good for nine hundred and three," Astrid commented, prompting a snort from Rose as she almost choked on her food.

"You should see me in the mornings," the Doctor joked.

"Okay," Astrid replied.

"What?!" Rose gasped.

"I mean, not like that, obviously. I mean, you're his wife, of course. And, I might be engaged." She looked over at Bannakaffalatta, who was watching her. Rose thought he would have blushed if he could. "If he's a Time King, does that make you a Time Queen?" Astrid rambled nervously, clearly hoping that she hadn't ruined her chances of her new friends taking her on a trip somewhere.

Rose laughed slightly and shook her head. "He's a Time Lord, which I suppose would make me a Time Lady?"

"Well, technically, to get that title you'd have to go through the Academy. But since there isn't an Academy anymore, it's as good a title as any. Of course, I'd consider you my Queen any day," he replied with a loving smile.

They fell into a comfortable silence for a bit and Rose asked her husband privately, "Is there anything we can do to fight those robots? Shut them down when we encounter them?"

"Good thinking. If I've got the parts in my pockets, I might be able to rig up something to transmit an electromagnetic pulse. Would shut down anything electronic in the immediate area," he replied.

"Might be a small hitch with that. He seemed to want to keep it a secret, but Bannakaffalatta is a cyborg," Rose informed him.

"Ooh, good to know. I'll see what I can patch together," the Doctor told her as he began to dig through his transdimensional pockets for useful items. He sonicked open a nearby computer station when he decided what parts he was missing to create a directional EMP.

"Doctor, it must be well past midnight, Earth time. Christmas Day," Mr. Copper realized.

"So it is. Merry Christmas," the Doctor replied, waving his sonic before he turned his focus back to the device he was building.

"This Christmas thing, what's it all about?" Astrid wondered.

"Long story. I should know, I was there. I got the last room," the Doctor quipped.

"Oh, you're so full of it," Rose called him out. She then turned back to the group of people and said, "It's a special time for celebrating with your family and giving each other presents."

"But if the planet's waking up, can't we signal them? They could send up a rocket or something," Mr. Copper suggested.

"They don't have spaceships," the Doctor informed him.

"No, I read about it. They have shuffles. Space shuffles," he insisted.

Rose laughed slightly and the Doctor questioned, "Mr. Copper, this degree in Earthonomics, where's it from?"

"Honestly?"

"Just between us," the Doctor promised.

"Mrs. Golightly's Happy Travelling University and Dry Cleaners," Mr. Copper admitted.

"You, you lied to the company to get the job?" Astrid gasped.

"I wasted my life on Sto. I was a travelling salesman, always on the road, and I reached retirement with nothing to show for it. Not even a home. And Earth sounded so exotic," Mr. Copper told them.

"Exotic?" Rose asked incredulous that anyone would consider the Earth anything but a backward little place compared to the things the Doctor had shown her.

"To people who are unfamiliar with it. Why do you think I hang around so often?" he admonished her.

"How come you know it so well?" Astrid asked Rose.

"Was born there. Spent nineteen years of my life there until an alien came along and whisked me away to see the universe," she said teasingly.

The Doctor grinned widely and hummed, sending his wife a telepathic caress.

"The thing is, if we survive this, there'll be police and all sorts of investigations. Now the minimum penalty for space lane fraud is ten years in jail. I'm an old man. I won't survive ten years," Mr. Copper lamented.

They were startled from their thoughts by a loud bang on the doors to the room and the Doctor quickly tucked the parts he was working on into his pocket.

"A Host! Move! Come on!" he shouted, urging everyone through the opposite doors and into a restricted area.

The room was enormous, opening all the way down to the engines, which were currently struggling. The heat from below was stifling and where there had previously been a bridge across to the other side of the room, there was only a collapsed beam lying precariously over the gap.

"Is that the only way across?" Rickston asked, angry that he was being further inconvenienced by this trip.

"On the other hand, it is a way across," the Doctor said, trying to point out how much worse the situation could be.

"I could try to find you a chain to swing on, or would you prefer to climb down and find another place to walk across?" Rose snarked, her patience with the man vaporizing in the heat of the room. He narrowed his eyes at her, but didn't say anything more.

"The engines are open," Astrid commented, trying to change the subject.

"Nuclear storm drive. As soon as it stops, the Titanic falls," the Doctor explained.

"But that thing, it'll never take our weight," Morvin pointed out fearfully.

"You're going last, mate," Rickston sneered. Rose hated to admit it, but she privately agreed, but only because there'd be a higher chance of everyone getting across safely. The bridge was really thin and made of fallen debris.

"It's nitrofin metal. It's stronger than it looks," the Doctor informed everyone.

"All the same, Rickston's right," Morvin spoke up. "Me and Foon should-"

He took a step forward to glance down at the open engine far below. The thin metal gave way almost instantly and he fell. Rose screamed his name at the same time Foon did and both her and the Doctor rushed forward to keep Foon from following in an attempt to catch her husband. Dimly, she heard Rickston either gloating or panicking and Mr. Copper yelling at him.

How the hell did she not see that coming? She hadn't noticed anything abnormal. There was no sudden end to his tree indicating an end that had to happen, no high possibility of futures ending soon. His tree looked the same as anyone's. She'd thought everyone with them was going to live.

She was wrong.

"Bring him back! Can't you bring him back? Bring him back, Doctor!" Foon was screaming.

"I can't. I'm sorry, I can't," the Doctor told her, holding her.

"You promised me!."

"I know. I'm sorry, I'm sorry," the Doctor replied. She didn't even need to glance at him to know he hadn't seen it coming, either.

"Doctor, Rose, I rather think that those things have got our scent," Mr Copper pointed out. Rose turned around and saw the shadows of the angel shaped Host coming closer.

"Oh, crap. We've got to get the door closed," she said and went to the door to push it closed. She was glad that the angels seemed to move slowly.

"I'm not waiting!" Rickston called out fearfully and got out on the bridge.

"Careful. Take it slowly!" the Doctor yelled.

Suddenly, it felt as if the whole ship shook, and Rickston, who was nearly halfway across the narrow bridge already, fell to his knees.

"Oh, Vot help me," he cried out.

"You're okay. A step at a time. Come on, you can do it," the Doctor encouraged as they all heard the Host coming closer. He pulled out the parts for the device he was making and set back to work on it, muttering to himself.

The angels were chanting, "Kill," over and over in a calm, robotic voice.

"Have I mentioned lately, how much I hate computer voices?" Rose said, remembering all the various ones they'd come across. On a good day, they were annoying.

"They're getting nearer," Mr Copper pointed out unhelpfully as the heavy and partially unhinged door was pushed back into its frame.

.

"Rose!" the Doctor called and tossed his sonic at her the second she turned toward him. She caught it just as he told her to, "Seal us in."

"You're leaving us trapped, wouldn't you say?" Mr Copper protested.

"Never say trapped, just inconveniently circumstanced," the Doctor called back. "Rose I need that back as soon as possible!"

"Gimme a mo'!" She was sealing the broken door, it took a bit. "Don't worry, Mr. Copper. Big as this place is, there's multiple ways outta here."

"I'm okay!" Rickston called.

"What a shame," Rose muttered as she finished. She took the sonic back to the Doctor as quickly as she could instead of tossing it back. It was one thing to toss it toward her, where it would just fall to the floor if she didn't catch it, but another to toss it toward the open engine. As soon as he had it in his hand, he stuck it in the machine he was making.

Rose turned to the rest of the people. Foon was sobbing and trying to come up with a plausible reason that her husband could still be alive. Rose didn't want to know what kind of pain that was, Astrid had her and the Doctor was bent over his device, so she was going to direct everyone else across the bridge.

The tosser's cheer when he got to the other side was her cue.

"Bannakaffalatta, you're up," she told the little alien.

"Bannakaffalatta small," he agreed and hopped onto the bridge.

"Be careful!" she called out to him, just as the robots started hitting the door.

"They've found us," Mr. Copper said fearfully.

"Rose, get across!" the Doctor called without looking up from his work.

"Go, Mr. Copper," she told the old man. "Astrid, you too. Get going."

"No, but we-" Mr Copper started.

"We've got no other choice," she interrupted him.

"What about the two of you?" Astrid worried.

"We're coming," Rose assured her. "Only so much that can hold, yeah?"

"Come on, Mister Copper," Astrid told the older man. "We need to go." The two of them began to pick their way across the bridge.

"Rose, go!" the Doctor yelled.

"Fat chance," Rose denied. "I'm not crossing that bridge without you." She could feel his exasperation.

"Fine. Foon, you've got to get across right now," he told the grieving widow.

"What for? What am I going to do without him?" she cried hysterically.

"Doctor? The door's locked!" Rickston's voice came from the other side of the chasm.

"I know, I know, Foon," Rose said soothingly. "But would he want you to stay here?"

"He don't want nothing. He's dead!" she yelled.

"Doctor, I can't open the door. We need the whirling key thing of yours," Rickston called out, more insistently.

The Doctor looked over his work and called out, "Two ticks!"

"Foon, listen. I know you feel that way now, but life goes on after loss. Me Mum lost my Dad when I was just a baby. She felt the same, but now she's got a husband she's happy with and a baby on the way to boot. Please. Come with us." Finally, Foon nodded and walked over to the bridge.

She'd just stepped on it when it shuddered and the sound of metal scraping metal was heard.

"Too many people!" Bannakaffalatta yelled. He was almost across with Astrid not far behind and Mister Copper just behind her.

"Oi! Don't get spiky. Keep going!" the Doctor yelled.

"Keep her off before she gets us all killed!" Rickston yelled.

"Says the one all the way across!" snapped Rose.

"It's going to fall," Astrid exclaimed as the structure shuddered.

"It's just settling. Keep going!" the Doctor told her. He thrust the screwdriver at Rose. "Get across and get that door unlocked."

"Don't you need it?' Rose asked.

"Nah. I'm almost finished here."

At the same time, they both realized that the pounding at the door had gone quiet.

"What?" Rose asked, staring at the round window, which clearly showed no angel shaped robots were on the other side. Everyone else stopped their progress and looked at the door as well.

"They've stopped," Astrid said.

"Gone away?" Bannakaffalatta wondered.

"Why would they give up?" the Doctor wondered.

"Never mind that. Keep coming," Slade ordered.

"Yeah. They're up to something, everyone keep going," Rose said.

"I'm afraid we've forgotten the traditions of Christmas. That angels have wings!" Mr. Copper realized. They all followed his gaze and saw, to their horror, the angel shaped robots floating in midair.

"We need that EMP, Doctor!" Rose called.

"EMP, No!" Bannakaffalatta yelled.

"What's taking so long?" Rickston called. "It's just an EMP!" Everyone else ignored him at the moment.

One of the host dinged and said, "Information. Kill." The Host all removed their halos, which she thought was rather telling.

"Arm yourself, all of you," the Doctor ordered, clicking two pieces together of his device. "Just gotta connect the power!"

Everyone grabbed bits of pipe and rods of steel just in time to start batting away the halos that were suddenly flying at them from all directions. Rose dropped the Doctor's sonic back in his hand and stood over him as he finished the EMP. As usual, two ticks was taking a lot longer than two ticks.

Mr. Copper had taken a hit in the side, and Rose's arm had a trail of blood where she was grazed when two came at her and the Doctor at once.

"Aha!" the Doctor said and stood up triumphantly, only to duck as a halo zipped right at him. He aimed the device at the line of robots.

"Doctor stop. Bannakaffalatta cyborg!" he yelled.

"We know Banna, Don't worry!" Rose yelled as the Doctor pressed the button. An energy wave went out and short-circuited two of the Host, which sent one plummeting down into the engine core. The other landed on the catwalk closer to the side the Doctor and Rose were on. A second wave took out the third one, and it took a third blast to take out the fourth.

"Bannakaffalatta, okay!" he was checking himself out.

"Oh, yes! Directional electromagnetic pulse to take out the circuitry. Built on the fly. And forty-five years too early. That's what took it so long, Rickston Slade. Trying to save the life of one of our own while stopping a bunch of Host." He started across the bridge that was finally free of other people. Since no one was after them at the moment, he was able to pick his way across the rubble quickly and without a care.

"He's a cyborg," Rickston realized.

"So?" Rose challenged as she started across the bridge.

"Secret out," Bannakaffalatta said in a low voice. "How you know?" he asked the Doctor, who was stepping over the metal form of the robot.

"Rose overheard your discussion and told me when the idea for a way to take them out came up."

"I don't mind," Mr. Copper assured the red alien. "When I was a salesman, I used to sell replacement parts. They'd always give me a bed for the night in the cyborg caravans. Good people."

"We have a couple cyborgs at the milk market. Could always count on them," Foon said. "Morvin would-" She started crying again.

"How comes it was a big secret?" Rose asked, trying to pick her way through the still shifting metal.

"Cybermen. Here they started on a different planet in the same system. It's given a lot of societies a fear of part robotic sentient beings," the Doctor explained.

Rose went to step on the robot to get over it, but realized it was moving.

"Doctor, it's not so dead," she warned and backed up, tripping in the process and falling on her rear.

Chapter Text

Rose went to step on the robot to get over it, but realized it was moving.

"Doctor, it's not so dead," she warned and backed up, tripping in the process and falling on her rear.

"Information. Reboot," the robot announced as it stood threateningly in front of the Doctor. Rose was still behind it, on the other side where she'd tripped and fell among the sharp debris from the crash that the bridge they stood on was created out of. He could tell she'd been hurt, even without their link. There was blood running down her arm and he wondered how bad it was and if there were any other injuries.

"It's just a cut, Doctor," Rose assured him as she was picking herself back up. The Doctor relaxed at that, able to turn his full attention to the robot that caused it. His immediate impulse was to turn the thing back off and shove it over the side, but he kept his finger hovering over the button on his device, not yet using it. He needed more information about what was going on.

"Use the EMP!" Rickston shouted.

"Just hang on a minute!" Rose shouted back, sensing that the Doctor had something different in mind first.

"Hold on. Override loophole. Security protocol ten. Six six six. Er, twenty one, four, five, six, seven, eight. I don't know, forty two? Er, one!" the Doctor rambled desperately.

"Information. State request," the Host finally answered at the last number.

"Good. Right. You've been ordered to kill the survivors, but why?" he questioned.

"Information. No witnesses," it replied.

"But this ship's going to fall on the Earth and kill everyone. The human race have nothing to do with the Titanic, so that contravenes your orders, yes?" the Doctor suggested, hoping to divert the machines from their current course.

"Information. Incorrect," the thing responded coldly.

"But why do you want to destroy the Earth?" he wondered.

"Information. It is the plan," came the reply.

"What plan?" he demanded.

"Information. Protocol grants you only three questions. These three questions have been used," the Host informed him.

"Of bloody course!" Rose cursed.

"Well, you could have warned me," the Doctor protested.

"Information. Now you will die."

The Doctor couldn't allow it to go any further and finally pressed the button on his directional EMP before pushing it off of their makeshift bridge. This gave them all time to cross the rest of the way safely before more angels could come.

Once across, Foon stopped and stared into the chasm for a moment before Rose took her arm supportively and they all walked out of the heat of the room open to the engines and back into a passenger area.

"Right. Get yourself up to Reception One. Once you're there, Mister Copper, you've got staff access to the computer. Try to find a way of transmitting an SOS. Astrid, you're in charge of this," the Doctor instructed, handing his directional EMP to the young waitress. "It'll take out a Host within fifty yards but only what's in the radius. Make sure Banna's behind you when you set it off."

"Bannakaffalatta," the spiky man protested.

"Right, Bannakaffalatta. It's got just a couple shots, then it needs sixty seconds to recharge. Got it? Might wanna get that charged right now. Foon, take this," he added, giving her his sonic screwdriver. "I've preset it. Just hold down that button, it'll open doors. Do not lose it! You got that? Now go and open the next door. Go on, go!"

"Ok, Doctor," she responded, but was still having trouble motivating herself after her loss.

"Mr. Copper, you're going to need this. I need you fighting fit," the Doctor told him when he pulled a first aid kit from a nearby storage cabinet. The man nodded and moved to follow Foon and Rickston toward the next door. Astrid and Bannakaffalatta were looking at the couple suspiciously.

"You're talking as if you're not coming with us," Astrid stated.

"There's something down on deck thirty one. We need to find out what it is," the Doctor replied.

"This is what we do, Astrid. Don't worry," Rose assured her.

"What if you meet a Host?" she worried.

"Well, then we'll just have some fun, won't we, Rose?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," she replied. It was almost a certainty that they would meet up with some of the angel robots.

"You two really do this kind of thing all the time?" Astrid questioned.

"Not by choice. All we do is travel. We're just travellers. Imagine it. No tax, no bills, no boss. Just the open sky," the Doctor replied. They had already decided to ask her to come with them for a trip or two. This was a quick feeler to see if she'd say yes later.

"Different ground beneath your feet and you're never bored," Rose added with a smile.

"Sounds wonderful," Astrid sighed dreamily, then looked down to the small, red skinned man that took hold of her hand.

"Hey, don't worry about what comes after just yet. Once everyone is safe, we'll make sure everyone gets where they need to be, yeah?" Rose assured her.

The entire ship shook terrifyingly, prompting the Doctor to make contact with the bridge. "Mister Frame, you still with us?"

"It's the engines, sir. Final phase. There's nothing more I can do. We've got only eight minutes left," the young man replied despondently.

"Don't worry, we'll get there," he insisted.

"But the bridge is sealed off," Midshipman Frame argued.

"Yeah, yeah, working on it. I'll get there, Mr. Frame, somehow," he told him before moving back to the others. Foon had gotten the door open and it looked clear ahead for the moment. "All of you, look after each other, just like we've been doing. And we'll see you again, I promise."

"And Rickston, just pretend to be a decent person for a little while, yeah?" Rose added with a glare. The man scowled a bit at the insult but nodded as he looked away.

The Doctor and Rose went back across the bridge as quickly as they dared while the rest of the group moved on. They moved three levels before they came across Host that they couldn't pass without being seen. They were finally caught in the galley, where they ran into two of the angels. They both turned to run the other way, but found their escape blocked by two more angels. The Doctor picked up a saute pan and Rose found a meat cleaver.

"What bloody good is this gonna do?" she asked herself and dropped it in favor of a rolling pin. She could at least use its weight to push a Host aside or break something off it.

"Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Security protocol one. Do you hear me? One. One! Okay, that gives me three questions. Three questions to save my life, am I right?" the Doctor spoke quickly.

"Information. Correct," one of the angels answered and Rose groaned.

"No, that wasn't one of them. I didn't mean it. That's not fair. Ca-" Rose slammed her hand over his mouth. She knew it hurt, but she needed to get him to shut up and think before speaking for once.

"They're not gonna kill us while we ask the questions," she hissed before she released his mouth.

"Yes, right," he agreed. "How did you get to be so clever?"

"Information, all Heavenly Host are programmed to meet the highest standards of service," the robot responded.

"Oi! He wasn't talking to you!" Rose growled.

"Blimey. One question left. One question to save us. So, you've been given orders to kill the survivors but survivors must therefore be passengers or staff, but not us. We're not passengers nor are we staff. Go on, scan away. You must have bio-records. No Doctor and Rose Tyler on board. We don't exist on the ship, nor are we inhabitants of the planet below. Therefore, you can't kill us. Therefore, we're stowaways, and stowaways should be arrested and taken to the nearest figure of authority. And I reckon the nearest figure of authority is on deck thirty one. Final question. Am I right?"

Rose realized she was holding her breath when the Host replied that the Doctor was correct. She let out the stale air in a relieved sigh.

"Brilliant! Take us to your leader!" the Doctor exclaimed. He then leaned into Rose and said, "I've always wanted to say that." He sounded incredibly smug.

"You've said it before," she reminded him. "Right before we went to Downing Street."

"No, I said, 'Take ME to your leader. Completely different," he retorted as they were led right to where they wanted to be: deck thirty-one, where the room nothing could scan was.

#########

Several decks above them, Astrid, Mr. Copper, Bannakaffalatta, Foon, and Rickston entered the reception room, taking out another one of the Host. Astrid immediately went to a power point and charged the device in case another Host came in.

The rest of them fanned out, looking at the mess left in the room that had been pristine not that long before. Foon sat down, breathing heavily and started crying softly. Rickston wandered, kicking papers around lazily. Mr Copper started taking the Host they had just shut down apart to disable it before it could reboot like the one that the Doctor disabled previously had.

Astrid was just about finished recharging the device the Doctor had cobbled together when she felt a small hand on her shoulder. She looked over to see Bannakaffalatta holding out a teleport bracelet to her. He was wearing one as well.

"Doctor, Rose, Save."

"Oh, Bannakaffalatta. I want to, but they don't work," she told him.

"No power," he said.

"Yeah," she replied. "Mr Copper said they weren't working."

"Get power," he said simply.

"Mr. Copper?" she called.

"Yes?" the old man answered, looking up from the wiring he was looking into.

"What exactly was wrong with the teleports?" she wondered.

"There were power fluctuations before it shut down completely," the old man answered. "Now that I think about it, there is a main cut off on the bridge that shuts down power to all teleportation when the ship is in motion. If the captain did this, as the evidence suggests, then getting them to work would only require a power source."

"Power source?" Bannakaffalatta asked, pointing at the power point Astrid was still knelt down by.

"I'm sorry. That's not nearly enough power," Mr. Copper said.

"Are we going to get off this ship?" Rickston questioned.

"And go where?" Mr. Copper asked. "The only place close enough for the teleports to get to is Earth, where we would be no better off if the ship crashes."

"Wait a minute, the Bridge still has someone on it, if we could get-" Astrid started.

"The robot," Foon spoke up suddenly. "The power cells hold enough of a charge for a couple trips. Or should. Depends on when it was last topped up." Everyone looked at the grieving woman and Astrid went over to hug her.

"Oh, Foon, you're brilliant."

With their combined skills, it didn't take them long before the power cells were removed from the Host and attached to the teleport system. Even Rickston had helped with flipping the heavy, metal angel over so they could get to the hatch where the cells were located. They all held their breath as the console was switched back on and, being the one who knew the teleport system the best, Mr. Copper was the first one to cheer when he saw the display.

Astrid slipped the teleport bracelet on and announced to everyone that she was going to go find the other two members of their party.

"Bannakaffalatta come. Bannakaffalatta save," he told Astrid and held up his wrist, which still held the teleport.

"Do we have the power?" Astrid asked Mr. Copper.

"We have power for two teleports. That's one there and one back. If Bannakaffalatta goes, you will only be able to get to deck thirty-one, not come back," he explained.

"That's all I need. Ready Bannakaffalatta?" she asked the short, red Zocchi.

"Bannakaffalatta ready."

"Good luck," said Mr Copper as he activated the controls. Astrid and Bannakaffalatta disappeared in a bluish white light.

###########

The Doctor kept up a steady stream of commentary as they walked down to deck thirty-one. Suddenly, he asked Rose, "How's that arm?" He couldn't see it from where he was and knew it had been bleeding freely for a bit.

"It's just a little cut," she told him. "Looks worse than it is." She looked down at her arm. "It's stopped bleeding. That's so odd," she added.

"What's so odd?" he wondered.

"Oh, just another thing that looks different. First time I've seen my own blood since the change. Looks a bit orangey."

"Your blood chemistry is different now, so it is a bit more orangey," he explained, teasing her word use. "Oh, look, we're finally on deck thirty-one."

They walked out of a stairwell and into a cavernous room, which looked like it was connected to the area they had been with the bridge. A quick glance over the railing confirmed the presence of the open engine and a glance upward showed the bridge they had crossed earlier.

"Wow. Now that is what you call a fixer upper. Come on then, Host with the most, this ultimate authority of yours. Who is it?" he asked.

One of the host opened a pair of doors and he recognized the chamber instantly. "Oh, that's clever. That's an omnistate impact chamber," he explained for Rose's benefit. "Indestructible. You can survive anything in there. Sit through a supernova. Or a shipwreck. Only one person can have the power and the money to hide themselves on board like this and 'I should know, because-'" he started quoting, hoping to draw the man responsible for close to two thousand deaths would come out before he was responsible for billions more.

He felt not only his own shock, but that of his wife's as well when a large cart about the size of one of the nearby forklifts came out of the chamber. There was a familiar head inside, hooked up to all of the machinery.

"At least he's not a trampoline," Rose thought to him and he agreed with the sentiment. This man had used technology in a way that it was never meant to be used to extend his life.

He tried to ignore the fact that he'd used technology on Rose to extend her life as well. After all, she didn't need a life support system as Cassandra and Max Capricorn had, so it was completely different.

"My name is Max," the more machine than person finished the quote and gave his grin, complete with flashing gold tooth.

"It really does that!" both Rose and the Doctor exclaimed.

"Who the hell are these people?" he asked the Host angrily.

"I'm Rose, this is the Doctor," Rose introduced them.

"Hello!" the Doctor said jovially, waving the hand that wasn't in hers.

"Information. Stowaways," the Host at Rose's elbow answered.

"Well, y-" he started.

"Kill them," Capricorn ordered the Host and the angels immediately moved toward the two time travelers. Something was about to happen, he couldn't tell what, but he needed to buy a bit of time for it to happen.

"Oh, no, no, no. Wait, but you can't. Not now. Come on, Max. You've given me so much good material like, how to get ahead in business. See? Head? Head in business? No?" the Doctor laughed jokingly.

Rose dropped her forehead into her hand and groaned.

"Oh, ho, ho, the office joker. I like a funny man. No one's been funny with me for years," Max Capricorn responded.

"I can't think why," the Doctor commented under his breath.

"A hundred and seventy six years of running the company have taken their toll," the half man, half machine replied.

"Yeah but, nice wheels," the Time Lord countered.

"No, a life support system, in a society that despises cyborgs. I've had to hide away for years, running the company by hologram. Host, situation report," Max told them before turning his attention to his robot minions.

"Information. Titanic is still in orbit," it responded.

"Let me see. We should have crashed by now," he shouted as he wheeled closer to where the engines could be seen. "What's gone wrong? The engines are still running! They should have stopped!"

"And why is that? Why are you trying to destroy an innocent planet?" Rose demanded.

"Yeah, I don't understand. What's the Earth got to do with it?" her husband added.

"This interview is terminated," Max announced coldly.

Rose caught a glimpse behind some of the storage boxes of someone small and red. Bannakaffalatta and Astrid had apparently joined them. She hoped that they could find a way to help.

"No. No, no, no, no, no. Hold on, hold on, hold on. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. I can work it out. It's like a task. I'm your apprentice. Just watch me," the Doctor stalled. "So, business is failing and you wreck the ship so that makes things even worse. Oh, yes! No. Yes. The business isn't failing, it's failed. Past tense."

"My own board voted me out. Stabbed me in the back," Max growled.

"What back would that be?" Rose questioned.

The Doctor glanced at Rose with a wink before continuing his analysis, "So, you scupper the ship, wipe out any survivors just in case anyone's rumbled you and the board find their shares halved in value. Oh, but that's not enough. No. Because if a Max Capricorn ship hits the Earth, it destroys an entire planet. Outrage back home. Scandal! The business is wiped out."

"And the whole board thrown in jail for mass murder," he concluded with an evil grin.

"While you sit there, safe inside the impact chamber," the Doctor said as he and his wife watched their friends approach the wheeled contraption from behind. Capricorn had no idea the others were there, despite one of the access panels being opened.

"I have men waiting to retrieve me from the ruins and enough off-world accounts to retire me to the beaches of Penhaxico Two, where the ladies, so I'm told, are very fond of metal," he told them smugly.

"Oh, that's just- You're a head, in a box. How would you-?" Rose started. "Ugh."

"So that's the plan. A retirement plan. Two thousand people on this ship, six billion underneath us, all of them slaughtered, and why? Because Max Capricorn is a loser," the Doctor countered, crossing his arms over his chest.

"I never lose," he argued.

"You can't even sink the Titanic!" the Doctor taunted him.

"Oh, but I can, Doctor. I can cancel the engines from he- he- he-," the cyborg stuttered momentarily before shutting down completely and closing his eyes.

"Nice work, you two!" Rose exclaimed happily to their friends.

Astrid and Bannakaffalatta peeked out from behind Max Capricorn, smiling brightly. They were all pulled from their congratulations by the sound of an alarm and the computer announcing, "Engines closing."

"Time for a last minute rescue, eh Love?" the Doctor suggested, offering Rose his arm.

Chapter Text

 

 

"Time for a last minute rescue, eh Love?" the Doctor suggested, offering Rose his arm.

"Of course," she replied, taking it. She had no clue what his plan was, and he wasn't offering any details, but she was sure it'd be interesting if nothing else.

"Your authority has changed. Take us to the next highest authority, which should be the officer on the bridge," he ordered the angels.

Astrid and Bannakaffalatta watched as the golden angels took hold of their friends and started blasting their way through the decks of the ship towards the bridge. The computer was announcing the demise of the Titanic ominously around them.

"What are we going to do?" Astrid asked her companion.

"Have ship docked. You come?" Bannakaffalatta suggested hopefully.

"We could contact the others from there. Maybe they could teleport out as well?" Astrid thought as she took his hand. He nodded as they ran back to the area where passengers' vehicles were docked on the ship.

Rose clenched her eyes shut as the robots holding them broke through yet another ceiling into the floor of the bridge, where a very surprised Midshipman Frame was awaiting them.

"Deadlock broken," the computer announced.

"Ah, Midshipman Frame. At last," the Doctor greeted the shocked man.

"It's good to finally put a face to the name," Rose said.

"Er, but, but the Host," he stammered.

"With the controller dead, they divert to the next highest authority, and, to them at least, that's you," the Doctor explained.

"There's nothing we can do. There's no power. The ship's going to fall," he told them despondently.

"Don't give up. Never give up," Rose told him. The poor man looked terrified and it didn't help that he was covered in blood and obviously hurt.

"Titanic falling," the computer announced, as if they hadn't noticed that yet.

"What's the rest of your name?" Rose asked in an attempt to ground the man who was near panic.

The Doctor looked around the controls, familiarizing himself with them quickly while he set up whatever he was planning. "Rose, drag that black cable with the rings over here," he called.

"Alonso," the midshipman answered as she pulled the cable over.

The Doctor froze and stared at the man. "You're kidding me!" Rose stuck the end of the cable in his hand and he plugged it in.

"What?" Alonso asked. Rose was wondering that as well.

The Doctor dropped the cable and went behind the wheel, grinning. "That's something else I've always wanted to say. Allons-y, Alonso!"

"Really?" she asked, receiving a laugh and a wink as an answer. Suddenly, she remembered the moment he'd figured out he liked the word allons-y and how he'd liked the idea of meeting someone named Alonso.

The Doctor spun the ship's large steering wheel that was reminiscent of the ones used on sailing ships. Just about every alarm that could sound was blaring a warning. Rose could see the ship start burning from the heat of entry into the Earth's atmosphere. If she didn't know the Doctor as well as she did, she'd think he was crazy. Well, he was crazy, but she knew there was a reason why he seemed intent on crashing the ship even faster.

Adding to the insanity surrounding them was the fact that everything had seemed to slow down. Not really though, more like she was seeing and processing more faster. She thought it was adrenaline, but they'd been in dangerous situations before that moment, like when the angels were throwing their halos. Except she'd been sure they were going to survive that. She wasn't so sure this time, and that made all the difference.

"Rose, turn on that scanner!" he yelled over the roaring noise of entry and she hit the button. A map came up, showing where they were going, and if she was reading that right, they were about to crash right into…

"Buckingham Palace?" she gasped incredulously and the Doctor groaned.

He snatched up the handset from the communication system in front of him and started pressing a series of numbers. "Oh. Hello. Yes. Could you get me Buckingham Palace?" he asked whoever was on the other end of the line. After three seconds where she could feel his impatience and panic, he yelled, "Listen to me. Security code seven seven one. Now get out of there!" He slammed the handset down and held onto the wheel, keeping it steady.

"Come on, Come on, Ignite!" he yelled, all his focus on what he was doing.

The whole ship was shaking, threatening to come apart and the view outside the windows had become nothing more than fire streaming past. Suddenly, the Doctor's plan clicked in her mind. She hoped it worked. She couldn't pick anything up from the timelines, which was disconcerting, to say the least. She couldn't think of anything she could do and, for the moment. All she could do was hang on.

"Engines active. Engines active," the computer suddenly declared and Rose laughed. The engines had started.

But that was only part of the battle. The moment the engines started, the Doctor pulled back on the wheel as hard as he could. A few agonizing seconds later and, even with the ship's artificial gravity still online, the center of gravity shifted a little, then a little more and Rose could tell it was working. But the scanner still looked like they were going to hit Buckingham Palace.

They must have turned just enough so that the wind would catch more of the ship, because the whole ship echoed with the stress on the hull and they were almost thrown backwards with the shift as the ship finally pulled up and away from the Palace.

All three people on the bridge cheered and as soon as he could let go of the wheel, he was bragging. "Used the heat of re-entry to fire up the secondary storm drive. Unsinkable, that's me!"

Rose grabbed the lapels of his tuxedo jacket and kissed him hard. "You're brilliant, you are," she told him, not caring if it inflated his ego. After the day they'd had, it was worth it. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer.

Then came a groaning noise that made them remember they weren't alone. They pulled apart and looked down guiltily at Alonso Frame, who they knew was badly hurt, but he was smiling.

"We made it," he said happily.

"Not all of us," Rose said, remembering Morvin falling to his death, the Steward before him, and all of the other people they hadn't been able to save. "Come on, let's take a look at you," she told Alonso.

Luckily, while the young midshipman was in a great deal of pain, the physiology of his people meant that the bullet that had shot him had missed major vessels and barely missed organs. The Doctor cauterized the wound and told him that they'd have to leave the bullet in him for the moment, that he could get better care than the Doctor could give on the ship when the rescue came.

After that, they went down to the reception room, where Mr Copper, Rickston Slade, and Foon were gathered. When they got there, they heard Astrid talking on the comms. "Bannakaffalatta is taking me to see more planets! We're so glad that you're all ok."

"Yes, well, it was rather exciting, wasn't it?" Mr. Copper replied, not sounding particularly happy with just how terrifying the experience had been.

"You two running off to elope then, Astrid?" Rose interjected.

Astrid giggled and Bannakaffalatta answered, "Explore first, married later."

"Sounds like a plan. Good luck to you both!" the Doctor called to them.

"The engines have stabilised. We're holding steady till we get help, and I've sent the SOS. A rescue ship should be here within twenty minutes. And they're digging out the records on Max Capricorn. It should be quite a story," Midshipman Frame told everyone.

"They'll want to talk to all of us, I suppose," Mr. Copper said despondently.

"I'd have thought so, yeah," Frame agreed.

"I think one or two inconvenient truths might come to light. Still, it's my own fault, and ten years in jail is better than dying," the older man admitted.

The Doctor, who had grabbed two of the teleport bracelets, one for himself and one for Rose, grabbed a third one and Rose grinned at him. She'd had the same thought as well.

Rickston Slade came up to the two of them. "Doctor, Rose, I never said thank you." The two time travelers nodded at the man.

"You're welcome," Rose answered. Maybe he was worth something afterall.

And then, of course, he spoke again. "The funny thing is, I said Max Capricorn was falling apart. Just before the crash, I sold all my shares, transferred them to his rivals. It's made me rich. What do you think of that?"

Rose had more than had enough of the man. "What do I think of that? I'll tell you what I think of that! I think a whole helluva lot of people just died, and you're smiling and bragging about having made a lot of money off of it!"

Slade's cell phone like device rang. He shook his head at her and pulled it out of his pocket. "Salvain. Those shares. I want-"

She grabbed it from him and tossed it across the deck as hard as she could throw it. It went a lot further than she expected and shattered.

"What do you think you're-" he started indignantly.

"I've known people like you, people who care more about money than life. Max Capricorn was one of them and I've known several others. Trust me, you do not want to end up like any of them did. Every single one of them were twisted so far as to have become something monstrous." As she spoke, she jabbed her finger at him and he slowly backed up as she advanced on him. "Don't think I didn't see that you were on this trip alone and conducting business while you were supposed to be on vacation. Forget your godforsaken shares and make a real connection with an actual person!"

She turned around and started walking back to the Doctor, who she noticed was barely suppressing his laughter. Mr Copper stood there next to him looking amused as well.

Rickston Slade seemed to have recovered his voice, because when she got nearly to the Doctor, he called out, "You will pay for that Vone, and all the contacts in it too!"

"Oh, yeah, I'd like to see you try!" she shot back and continued walking. The Doctor, who was wearing the teleport bracelet, held the second out to Rose. She took it and snapped it around her wrist.

"Of all the people to survive, he's not the one you would have chosen, is he?" Mr. Copper asked her. Rose shook her head, glancing at the now widowed Foon Van Hoff. "But if you could choose, Rose, if you decide who lives and who dies, that would make you the monster."

Rose remembered about the death she'd caused, and the man who could no longer die because she hadn't wanted him dead. Maybe she already was a monster.

She'd apparently projected her thought, because the Doctor took her hand, sent her a wave of assurance, and quickly changed the subject. He held the third teleport bracelet he'd picked up from the console to the older man. "Mister Copper, I think you deserve one of these."

No one objected to the older man escaping the ship. He'd be listed among the dead from the disaster and no one would ever know he'd lied. Just before Mr. Copper worked the controls for the last time, Alonso Frame saluted the three of them. They nodded in acknowledgement and disappeared.

The trio landed not too far away from the TARDIS, yet it might as well have been on the other side of the city, because they'd materialized on the other side of the water from the police box, which they could see from where they were.

As they were walking, Mr. Copper recounted what he could remember about this area of the Earth from his limited studies. "So, Great Britain is part of Europey, and just across the British Channel, you've got Great France and Great Germany."

"No, no, it's just, it's just France and Germany. Only Britain is Great," the Doctor corrected.

"That it is," Rose added with a grin.

"Oh, and they're all at war with the continent of Ham Erica?" the elderly man questioned, now unsure of his sources.

"What? No. Not unless something really surprising has happened since we've been away," Rose told him.

"No. Well, not yet. Er, could argue that one. There she is. Survive anything," the Doctor announced when they had finally reached the TARDIS.

The ground was slowly being coated in a thin layer of snow falling from the dark sky above them. It made Rose's hearts clench at the thought of the last time she and the Doctor had stood together in the falling snow after he had regenerated. They were telling her mum about the danger being just the bits in between and she gripped his hand tighter for support.

"You know, between you and me, I don't even think this snow is real. I think it's the ballast from the Titanic's salvage entering the atmosphere," Mr. Copper commented, reminding Rose even more about that night. That had been ash from the Sycorax ship rather than snow.

"Yeah. One of these days it might snow for real," the Doctor replied, sending a wave of love and support to Rose as he felt her sudden shift of emotion.

"So, I, I suppose you'll be off," Mr. Copper wondered.

"The open sky," the Doctor sighed.

"And, what about me?" he asked.

"Oh, you don't want to travel with a couple of newlyweds. No fun at all, really," the Doctor assured him.

"What am I supposed to do?" the man questioned. He was surely glad to be away from prosecution by the authorities, but he didn't seem to relish being abandoned on an alien planet either.

"Give me that credit card," the Doctor prompted.

"It's just petty cash. Spending money. It's all done by computer. I didn't really know the currency, so I thought a million might cover it."

"A million? Pounds?!" the Doctor asked incredulously.

"Oh my god!" Rose gasped.

"That enough for trinkets?" Mr. Copper questioned sheepishly.

"Mister Copper, a million pounds is worth fifty million credits," the Doctor explained.

"How much?" he breathed, sure that he had misheard the conversion.

"Fifty million and fifty six," the Doctor told him more specifically as he ran the calculations in his head.

"I've got money," the old man realized in shock.

"You've got a lot of money," Rose added.

"Oh, my word. Oh, my Vot! Oh, my goodness me. Yee ha!" Mr. Copper shouted excitedly as he danced in a happy circle.

"It's all yours. Planet Earth. Now, that's a retirement plan. But just you be careful, though," the Doctor insisted.

"I will, I will. Oh, I will," he assured them.

"No interfering. I don't want any trouble. Just, just have a nice life," the Doctor told him as they watched him skipping away from them happily.

"But I can have a house. A proper house, with a garden, and a door, and. Oh, Doctor, Rose, I will make you proud. And I can have a kitchen with chairs, and windows, and plates, and…" he called back to them.

"Mr. Copper! Where are you going?" Rose questioned.

"Well, I've no idea," he responded, but continued away, not bothered by the fact at all.

"No, neither do we," the Doctor said, taking Rose's hand and leading her into the TARDIS. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Copper."

Rose walked slowly up the ramp to the jump seat and sat there silently as the Doctor sent the ship into the vortex. He sat beside her and took her hand in his, waiting for her to start talking.

"Care to tell me what's bothering you, love?" he asked finally.

"Bunch of things, really," she began, picking at a tear in her dress. "The not-really-snow reminded me of that night after the Sycorax, with mum. I miss her so much."

"I know," he sighed, wrapping his arm over her shoulders. "I wish-"

"Don't. I love our life, Doctor. I wouldn't choose any differently. But I can't help missing her, yeah?" Rose assured him.

"Alright. Anything else? Something that I can help you with?" the Doctor wondered.

"What Mr. Copper said about choosing who lives and who dies," Rose admitted. She was still feeling like maybe she was a monster for making just those sorts of choices sometimes.

"We can't help those things, Rose. If you really think that the split second choices you've made would make you a monster, then what does that make me, hmm? You keep insisting that I'm such a good person, but Rose, I've been doing this for centuries. Have you ever made the choice about which civilian to bring into shelter or not based on whether you liked them? That's what he meant. You, My Love, are the most compassionate person that I've ever known in all my lives. It's one of the things that I love most about you," her husband insisted.

"What about Jack?" she whispered.

"You weren't entirely yourself in that moment, Rose. You saw everything, past and future, when making that decision. I can only assume that means that the universe is a better place for having Jack in it forever. Not sure how he rated getting that package over giving it to yourself, but it seems we found a way around that problem anyway," he answered, teasing a little in the hopes of shifting the conversation away from melancholy thoughts. The Doctor squeezed her a little tighter and kissed the top of her head.

"Guess so. At least I'll have plenty of time to redeem myself, now," Rose sighed, letting her feelings of guilt slide away for now.

"Rose, the fact that you are thinking about things like this so much, just goes to show that you have the strength of conscience to make the difficult decisions that we are faced with in our travels. You could never be a monster," he insisted, looking into her eyes and sending her telepathic waves of sincerity and assuredness.

Rose kissed him deeply in thanks before taking his hand and leading him toward their bedroom for a shower to wash away the sweat and grime from their most recent adventure.

Chapter Text

Are you sure you're ready for a new companion?" the Doctor asked Rose as they laid in their bed. His fingers were slowly drawing the circles, lines, and dots that made up the written form of his language on her ribcage. She still didn't know what he was saying for sure, but she found it to be a comfort.

"Yeah, it's time," she replied. "We've been knocking about alone for almost two years now. And we were gonna take Astrid along for a bit, but she found adventure on her own. Wonder how they'll get on?"

"Oh, brilliantly, I expect. Banna's gonna treat her like royalty," the Doctor answered.

"Bannakaffalatta," Rose teased, barking out the name like the Zocci man had.

"Oh, not you too," he complained. His fingers stopped their circuitous path and dug into her sides, tickling her. He only continued his torture for a moment before she told him to stop.

"And there was that woman with the wedding dress. Dana or something like that," Rose said after a moment.

He wrapped his arms back around her waist and told her, "Donna of the very ginger hair."

Rose giggled at that. "Figures you'd remember her like that."

"I like it being just the two of us," he told her, moving his hands to less innocent areas.

"Me too," she assured him. "But something tells me it's not so good for us to be just us for too long. And I miss showing people-"

She gasped when he dug his fingernails into tender flesh and scratched her. It wasn't long before she was gasping for other reasons.

######################

They agreed on a series of tests for people. First of all, the person had to catch their attention on a trip. After that, they could go to the past of their own planet, the future, or somewhere else altogether and meet people who were really alien to them. If they worked out after all three of those criteria, which could usually be done in two trips, then they'd ask the person to come along on a more permanent basis.

But selecting someone to come along wasn't easy. Selecting someone they both agreed on was harder.

################

Silmafrax Apla Hilta was a beautiful place. The social structure, not so much. They had a strict caste system that had men at the top of every level of society and even the highest woman had to listen to a middle class man. It wasn't time for everything to change yet. Even Rose could tell that without trying much, but the seeds for change were being sown.

They had found a young woman, Alecai, who stuck out to them. She was stronger willed than most women and they decided to take her somewhere where women were treated equally.

Alecai was taken right back home after her first trip. She was progressive for her time, but taking her to see the future of her own planet was too much for her.

###############

After stopping an assassination on Lan Kil that would have thrown the entire system into even greater chaos, they invited the man who created the diversion along with them. He, like all his people, had eyebrow ridges that protruded just a bit too much to say he looked human. He was too old to be properly young, but too young to be called middle aged and seemed to have a level head on him.

They had thought they found a great companion in Childra. He properly enjoyed the past, listened to what they had to say, and even wandered off when it was appropriate to do so. The last point, the Doctor grumbled about and Rose inwardly cheered, but when it came time to ask him to stay on, he asked to go home instead. He missed his family.

##########################

Another time, they had let the TARDIS pick the coordinates and wound up on Olnado, which was a small planet that was the seat of power in the Plesandious constellation. The Plesandious constellation was in the same part of the Universe as the Kasterborous constellation, or so the Doctor told her when they stepped out of the TARDIS to a cool night. He looked up at the sky and pointed out a blank spot in the otherwise star filled sky.

"That's the center of Kasterborous," he told her solemnly. "That's where-" Rose wrapped her arms around him and held him until they both felt someone else come up to them.

"Time Lords," the woman hissed. "Get off of my planet!"

It was a rare thing for them to be recognized by species on sight. It was the first time it happened to Rose since her change. "How did-" she started, but the Doctor stopped her quickly when he touched her.

He approached the woman slowly. "Hello, I'm the Doctor, this is Rose. Our TARDIS brought us here, and whenever that happens, there's something that needs doing."

The woman stared at him, then she looked at the TARDIS. "You're the Doctor. Your Capsule is stuck like that, right?"

"Yep, that's me, Doctor, Police Box, TARDIS," the Doctor said, rocking back on his heels. Someone who didn't know him would think him happy, but Rose knew better. She didn't need any kind of telepathic link with him to see the tension underneath.

"You're the Doctor of War," she accused and the Doctor stopped moving.

"What?" Rose questioned. This had been the first time she'd heard that.

"There are legends of the Doctor of War in this part of the cosmos. He never carried a weapon, but would drop onto your world and tear it to pieces," she told Rose without taking her eyes off the uncharacteristically silent man. "Is that why you're here?" she asked fearfully. "The legends also say you would listen to reason if someone talked to you. Are you here because of the Tioki?"

"No," he spoke shortly, breaking the impersonation of the statue that he was doing. "The War is over. The Time Lords were never at war with you." When the woman relaxed, he asked, "Tioki? What's your leader doing that has you sure I'm here to stop it?"

"The Tioki sees what we all see. The War is over and the core of Kasterborous is black. She thinks the Time Lords are gone and we can take their place."

The Doctor scoffed at that. "Your civilization'll collapse long before you could ever-" Rose elbowed him. "What?"

"You don't tell people their civilization will collapse," she admonished telepathically at the same time she said out loud, "Rude."

"What? It's true of every civilization that ever rises," he replied.

"Yeah, but she knows you can go to the future, for all she knows, you've seen it. It's one thing to know, it's another to KNOW."

The Doctor nodded. "Okay, yes, that was a bit rude of me, wasn't it?" He then took another step toward the woman and began interrogating her. "What's your name?"

"Lona."

"Hello Lona. This Tioki of yours, how does she plan on doing...that?" he asked distastefully.

"And how could it happen?" Rose wondered.

It turned out that the people of Olnado were time sensitive, as the Gallifreyans were, though they'd never acquire the level of technology to truly be masters of Time and Space. The Tioki was conducting experiments in time travel with a capsule, as traveling through the Vortex without one would do harm to a person over time.

The experiments weren't as dangerous to timelines as some early ones conducted by humans, thanks to the time sensitive nature of the people of Olnado, but they were exceedingly dangerous to the people themselves and the places they travelled to and from.

Time travel needed a lot of energy, and the capsules would often destroy the places where they landed. If, they didn't, the people would often not be able to go home, as the capsules energy output would harm them more than simply using a Vortex manipulator.

The Doctor and Rose, with Lona's help were able to put a stop to it, but owing to the knowledge of the people, they were only able to stop the dangerous experiments.

Before they left, Lona told them to watch for what wasn't where it was supposed to be. The statement left them confused, but they both remembered it. Lona was time sensitive herself.

########################

A quick trip to Lianatedu saved the local people there from a nasty disease carried by a time traveler from their own future. After that trip, they brought along a woman named Kali at Rose's suggestion. Kali was a firecracker, in Rose's opinion, and she loved that about her.

Unfortunately, once on board, Kali became more interested in the Doctor than in the trips, and Rose had to stop herself from shoving the woman out the door when she took her right back to where she came from.

########################

The Doctor was beneath the grating in the console room, busily working on some wiring, while Rose scrolled through data on the monitor. The TARDIS was giving her a list of odd happenings to help her choose their next destination. Not much of it interested her at all, but she came across one that was happening in London, around her time and decided that maybe they could give that one a try. They hadn't been back to her home in quite a while afterall.

"Adipose," Rose said allowed as she read over the summary that the ship was giving her.

"It means fat. What are you reading?" the Doctor wondered.

"Some company in London. They're selling these diet pills, yeah? 'Adipose Industries, the twenty first century way to lose weight. No exercise, no diet, no pain. Just lifelong freedom from fat. The Holy Grail of the modern age. You just take one capsule, once a day for three weeks, and the fat just walks away,'" she read to him. "Sounds a bit sketchy to me."

The Doctor hummed his agreement as he thought over what she said. "You want to look into it, then?"

"I think so. We could go under cover. Infiltrate and investigate," she giggled teasingly.

"Infiltrate? You really want to go that route? Couldn't we just do what we usually do?" he asked with a frown. The Doctor climbed up out of the hole in the floor and sat on the edge of it.

"You mean barge in there asking a million questions and get ourselves arrested?"

"Well," he began, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Tell you what, you go poking around where you shouldn't be. I'm going to get myself in there inconspicuously and find out what I can. We'll see who gets more information in one day," Rose challenged.

"I accept your challenge, Dame Rose, and the winner gets to choose our next destination," the Doctor replied, standing next to her and kissing the back of her hand formally.

Rose giggled at him and shook her head before turning back to the computer. The TARDIS managed to arrange a job for her in the Adipose call centre, selling pills over the phone. She thought that seemed like a pretty good cover for herself. Low enough that no one would pay much attention to her, but she would have access to client information and phone numbers. She might even be able to get into some of the offices and search filing cabinets.

"While you fly us to the right date, I'm going to get changed for my new job," she told him as she walked toward their bedroom.

"Job? Ugh, that's a dirty word, Rose Tyler!" he called to her, but piloted the TARDIS to their destination as requested. He did his own bit of research on Adipose Industries while he waited for her. There was definitely something odd about this place.

When Rose walked back into the console room, the Doctor's breath caught in his throat. She was wearing a pencil skirt that matched his suit perfectly, a light blue blouse, and she was carrying a pair of stiletto heels. Her hair was tied up in a loose bun, a few curls framing her face loosely.

"There is no possible way that I can allow you out of my sight wearing that," the Doctor informed her. He walked around her appraisingly, not wanting to miss a single angle of the sight she presented.

"It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but the TARDIS refused to give me anything else that would be appropriate in an office. And I certainly can't wear these shoes in here without getting caught in the grating on the floor," Rose complained, but she smirked at the effect her outfit was having on her husband.

"I think the Old Girl is taking your side in this little competition. She either doesn't want us to split up at all, or she wants me completely distracted by thoughts of every man in that office staring at my wife," he told her, still staring at her shapely behind in the very fitted skirt she was wearing.

"Well, good luck, then. I've got work to do," she responded with a wink over her shoulder and headed for the doors. The TARDIS was parked just outside of the tall building that housed Adipose Industries, and Rose took a moment to put on her shoes. She had the psychic paper tucked safely in her pocket for proof of who she was according to what the TARDIS had set up ahead of time.

The Doctor watched appreciatively the way her ridiculously high heels made his wife's hips sway as she walked into the building and took a moment to regain his wits before closing the door behind him and heading for the back entrance. He opened the door easily with his sonic, and strolled down the hallway to find an empty office where he could access their computer system. Coming across a security guard, the Doctor reached into his pocket for the psychic paper, but couldn't find it.

"I'm the Health and Safety inspector," the Doctor informed the young man.

"I need to see your identification, please. This is a restricted area," he replied.

"Of course, just seem to have misplaced it," the Doctor told him with a nervous smile as he searched through all of his pockets. Telepathically contacting his wife, he asked, "Rose, do you know what happened to my psychic paper?"

"You mean this psychic paper? Did you need it, love?" she responded smugly.

"It would seem that I left it in the car. I'll just go and get it, shall I?" he told the security guard sheepishly. The young man crossed his arms and nodded before walking the Doctor back to the nearest exit.

"You did that on purpose. Now I CAN'T investigate anything in the building," he pouted telepathically.

"You don't have another one of these things?" she argued.

"Why would I need another one? It's not like I would ever lose it or anything," he replied logically.

"Oh, I dunno, in case maybe I needed to use it for something?" she countered.

"Yes, fine. Enjoy your day at work. I'll just have to find something else to do," he told her as he stomped back to the ship.

Rose endured her brief training session and several hours of trying to sell pills over the phone. She didn't worry too much about the people she was selling them to since they'd likely have this whole thing taken down before their orders were ever processed. At her first opportunity, she wandered through the building, looking for useful files or information about where things were stored in the building. She managed to find out the location of the boss' office, snagged a box of the little necklaces they were giving all the customers, and found a bottle of the pills to take back to the ship with her. The Doctor could probably analyse their contents to get a better idea of what these things were. It wasn't long though before she had to get back to her desk or she'd be discovered.

On her way through the cubicles, she spotted a very familiar ginger woman looking around the room appraisingly, and grabbed her arm. Rose pulled Donna back to her desk before saying anything and sat them both down. The whole way, Donna was protesting being dragged along, but her mouth dropped open in shock when she finally realized who it was that was pulling her.

"Oh my god!" Donna whispered excitedly, squeezing Rose's hands.

"Donna? What are you doing here?" Rose whispered back, glancing around them to make sure the other employees weren't going to say anything about this strange woman talking with her.

"Rose! This is brilliant!" Donna nearly squealed, but still managed to be whispering. "It's me!"

"Yes, I can see that. But why are you here?" Rose asked again.

"I was looking for you and the Doctor," she replied.

"What for?" Rose wondered.

"I read it on the internet. Looking at this place, I thought, that's weird. So I came to check it out, thinking the two of you would probably get involved if there's alien trouble about," Donna rambled.

"Ok, I get it. I've been trying to get some information from the inside here. What was your plan?" Rose questioned.

"Thought I'd get a list of customers and find out how these things work. 'Cause pills like that never work properly. It's always some kind of scam, but if these people are really losing weight with this, then something alien's gotta be behind it," Donna explained.

"That's a brilliant idea, Donna. Let me print out a list and we can check it out tonight. I've got to be here for another couple of hours, but as soon as I'm done, we can follow up with your plan. The Doctor will be thrilled to see you again, Donna," Rose assured her.

Chapter Text

Donna Noble was, for a lack of a better word, searching. A little over a year before, she thought she had it all figured out, Then she found out that that bastard, Lance, had been poisoning her all along and that aliens were real, not just something out of those shows on the telly.

The people who had saved her and stopped the aliens from destroying Earth had offered to have her come along with them. At the time, she'd been so hurt, and tired, and they both had a deep sadness as well, so she had turned them down.

After a few days, she'd realized she'd been daft to turn down their offer. She felt restless. Temping didn't pay much, but she'd been working the past six months straight while she'd stayed with her mum following her dad's death, so she had some funds saved up.

She was gonna travel the world, see sights, and have a life worth living, just like she'd told the Doctor and Rose.

Her mother scoffed at the idea. "You're gonna be a professional bum, then? Hiking about the globe doing menial labour for enough quid to make it to the next place? Mark my words, Missy, you'll be back here within a couple weeks."

Her grandfather was more supportive. "You've had a funny old time of it, Sweetheart. If you feel you need to do this, go for it. Just you make sure to call us often and let us know you're okay, alright?"

So she traveled. It wasn't what she expected and the thrill just wasn't there. After two months, she showed back up on her mother's doorstep. She only stayed away so long in determination to show her mother up. Since then, she'd been looking for the adventure that had escaped her.

When Donna had found Rose, or the other way around, she was ecstatic. Her plan worked after all! After a short conversation with the blonde, she'd left the Adipose building far happier than she'd been in well over a year. They'd meet later.

##########

Rose finished out her day, keeping up the pretense of actually working for the company in case she needed the guise another day or two. By the end of the day, she was bored out of her mind, wanted to throttle several people and could feel the Doctor's frustration, though she refused to contact him in case she broke his concentration on something.

When five p.m finally came, she couldn't get out of there fast enough. Grabbing the pendants, the list she'd printed out, and a couple of stacks of post-its, she went across the street to the little eatery where she'd told Donna to meet her.

"There you are, Blondie," Donna said, standing up as soon as she walked in the door. Rose knew she was rearing to go.

"Hold on a minute, Red," she replied as she went to grab something for her and the Doctor. She was a bit peckish. Rose only needed to eat half as often as she used to, but she'd used her lunch break to gather more intel. "You eat yet?" she asked Donna.

"I was just gonna grab something when I got back home," Donna said. And there it was, Rose knew that look, had it herself growing up. Though Donna had a better, more stable environment growing up, as an adult, she was used to not being able to afford to eat at a nice place like the one they were at. Her opinion of the woman went up. She couldn't help it, but she felt people that didn't know what it was like to have to save up for just a special meal weren't as compassionate.

"Donna Noble, pick your dinner. Anything, it's on me."

XxXxXxXx

The Doctor was frustrated, to say the least. Rose took the psychic paper and he'd been seen and likely reported by the security guard, so having a poke about the building wasn't happening.

Research wasn't getting him much of anywhere. Adipose Industries had started about six months before and all the usual paperwork had been pushed through pretty fast for what he knew about the usual red tape to start any business where people put things into their bodies. All he could find about how the pills worked was some technical sounding jargon designed to sound good to a people mostly ignorant on such subjects. "Synthesised mobilising lipase, bound to a large protein molecule that breaks up the triglycerides stored in the adipose cells? Really? What's with the scienc-y way of saying that it makes the fat 'walk' away?" he complained.

He couldn't hack into the Adipose servers. Apparently, anything with actual information on it wasn't actually connected to the internet. He really needed to get into the building. Damn it, he had to have more of that psychic paper around somewhere.

By the time he found some, it was decided that Rose would be selecting their next destination, which was alright by him, but he still wanted to win the challenge. She'd be coming back soon. In fact, she should have already been back. He was parked right next to the building, so it wasn't like she had to commute.

Commute, he hated that word. It was too much like job.

He sent her a quick query, and she told him she had a surprise and was on her way, but wouldn't say anything more on the matter. He stood in the console room, waiting impatiently and trying to make it seem like he wasn't waiting on her when she came in, which would be any second.

Finally, the door creaked open, and Rose came in he kept his back to her and acted like he was busy. Rose leaned against the console next to him. Something smelled good.

"You can quit acting like you're not impatient," she told him smugly. Well, there went that. He looked over at her and grinned when he saw that she was holding out a stack of Post-its. They had the Adipose logo on the top, but they'd work just fine.

"Brilliant! I needed some more of these!" He enthused. He immediately took a pad off the top of the stack, wrote out an idea on it, and stuck it to the console. "Also, my paper back," he demanded, holding out his hand and wiggling his fingers.

Rose rolled her eyes and pulled out the battered leather wallet.

"Thank you," he said and replaced it with the piece he'd found while she was gone. "There, you have yours and can find a nice holder for it, and I have mine."

"Oh, you found more. You coulda just used this to get in earlier."

"No, I couldn't. Only found it eight minutes ago," he replied.

"Thank you. I also brought tea," she said, showing him the bag.

"Oh, brilliant surprise. You're on form today, Mrs. Tyler," he praised and pulled her in for a kiss. He'd been thinking about ducking under that skirt all day. The jump seat was at the perfect height to-

"That's not the surprise," she told him as soon as his lips met hers. "Look to the doors."

He pulled back quickly. "What?" He looked over. And there was Donna Noble of the fiery ginger hair he coveted, standing almost exactly where she'd been standing the first time she appeared in his TARDIS out of nowhere. "What?"

#####

Rose watched the second meeting of Donna and the Doctor and tried not to laugh. It was almost identical to the first.

"What?" the Doctor asked, confused when he saw Donna standing on the walkway leading from the doors to the console.

"Oh, don't start that again, Spaceman," she admonished.

"Did you get more huons in you or something?" he asked, shocked.

"You numpty," Rose teased. "She was investigating Adipose too. Figured we could all do it together."

The Doctor turned back to Donna. "Well, it's good to see you again. We were discussing you not that long ago, actually," he told her and held his arms out, grinned, and swept her up in a hug.

"Oh, my God. I still don't believe it. Wow, you're skinny and you've even got the same suit! Don't you ever change?" she said, looking down at his clothing. Rose snorted.

"Yeah, thanks, Donna," the Doctor relied in an annoyed tone.

"You don't get to laugh, missy. What are you matching himself now?" Donna added, looking up and down Rose's work attire.

"Well… He's got a blue suit too," Rose informed the woman she was sure was going to be traveling with them next. She could see the woman's timelines, and they snaked around like a time traveler's tended to, but she couldn't see a single event that wasn't set already, not even ten minutes in the future, when she was reasonably sure the three of them would still be in the TARDIS, eating and talking. Granted, she was rubbish at seeing the possibilities of the future, but she should still be able to pick out a few things.

It was like trying to see anything in the Doctor's future, which was rather like a dog chasing their tail: utterly pointless and headache inducing.

"Oh, yeah, two suits," Donna snarked.

"Multiples of each, thank you. Why mess with perfection?" he asked in defense.

"You haven't seen how good that body looks in denim," Rose said in a low voice, mostly to herself.

"No, thank you," Donna replied. "Far too skinny for my tastes."

Oh, this was the beginning of a beautiful thing.

"Why don't we eat and get caught up?" Rose suggested, holding up the bag of food and walking toward the corridor.

"I thought you were going to travel the world?" the Doctor wondered.

"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. I lasted two months with trips like that. It's nothing like being with you."

"Turned him down the first time too," Rose told them as she entered the galley just ahead of the others. She began setting up the meals for all three of them. "Instantly hated myself for it."

"So, Donna, what had you investigating Adipose?" the Doctor asked behind her while he mentally sent Rose his love.

"I was looking for the two of you and 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. The two of you opened my eyes. All those amazing things out there, I believe them all. I've been on another planet and seen it 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," she babbled.

"Actually, that was real," Rose said. "Dig in."

"Really?" Donna asked, sitting down at the spot Rose had placed her order.

"Oh, yes, we were there," Rose answered.

The Doctor had latched onto a different part of what Donna had said. "What do you mean, the bees are disappearing?"

Donna shrugged. "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."

"Why were you looking for us?" the Doctor wondered and Rose smiled at her sometimes clueless husband.

"Because I was mad for turning down that offer," Donna answered.

"What offer?" The Doctor wondered.

"To come with you," Donna replied.

"Come with us?" the Doctor said slowly.

"Oh yes, please," Donna eagerly said and Rose had to hold in a snort.

The Doctor's mouth opened and shut for a second, and Rose inwardly cheered that Donna had managed to stop his gob. "What just happened?" he asked Rose.

"I think Donna just got herself invited to be our next companion," Rose told him, unable to keep the amusement from him.

"But, but, I don't ask twice."

"Did for me," she countered.

"That's you." Bless. Even his mental voice would go a bit squeaky.

"She invited herself along, just accepted the invite we gave her from before. And if that doesn't settle it for you, try to see what she's doing next week."

"Oh." he realized.

"Yeah."

"I mean, if that's okay with you two. If the offer's still on," Donna added uncertainly, looking back and forth between the couple who were just looking at each other.

"It's brilliant," the Doctor told her. "We'd love to have you on board."

"Of course the offer's still on," Rose assured their new friend.

While they ate, Rose pulled out the box of pendants and laid it on the table. "For some reason, they're giving these away to everyone who buys a pack of those pills with their first order, and there's no substitutions, even for the men who won't wear jewelry. I was told to tell them to give the pendant to a lady in their life. And it's weird, yeah, because-"

"It's real gold," Donna finished. As soon as the box was in front of her, Donna had reached in and pulled out one of the necklaces with the pill capsule charm.

"Exactly," Rose said.

"Why's that so weird?" the Doctor wondered. Both women looked at him. "What?"

"You don't buy jewelry for your wife?" Donna asked. "Yeah, you're wearing matching rings, I figured it out already. Happy for the both of you, but blokes, human blokes, that is, are generally expected to buy little trinkets for their ladies."

"What she's getting at," Rose interjected, "is that the capsule itself without the chain, even if only gold plated, would cost close to what they're selling the pills for. Even if they got some kind of a discount, which is usually very small in the precious metals industry, it's bad business."

"And that is not gold plated. Far too heavy for it. It's also quite ugly. I don't know of anyone who'd actually wear it unless they were into partying." Donna finished.

The Doctor looked between the both of them. "How do you two know that?" he questioned them.

Donna and Rose just glanced at each other and shrugged. "We're women," Donna replied.

"I know my gold and silver," Rose replied. "Was always told if a bloke got ya fake jewelry, he wasn't worth it." It was a lesson she didn't listen to, believing that maybe the guy just couldn't afford it and that it was the thought that counted.

The Doctor just shook his head and moved on. "So they really, really want these in people's hands," he deduced. "How many are in this box? Ten? How many boxes were there?"

"There were only a dozen boxes, but that was in the office building. "S not where they ship the stuff out from," Rose answered.

"Well, we need to take a close look at this pendant and see why they want it out there so badly," the Doctor said. He grabbed one of the pendants and went to get up, but Rose pulled him back down.

"Finish eating first," she told him.

"Yes, sir," the Doctor replied cheekily and Donna laughed.

##########

After they were finished, the three of them headed off to the console room, which was the closest place the doctor had equipment that he could examine the pendant with. The first thing they noted was that the capsules all swiveled, like real medicine capsules did. This suggested that it would come apart. The inside held what vaguely looked to be computer type parts, but nothing from Earth in that time that Rose knew of.

"Oh, this is fascinating. Look at this, Rose." She looked, even though she had no idea what she was looking at. Maybe she'd learn something. "Seems to be a bio-flip digital stitch, specifically for starting nanites. I'd love to get my hands on one of those pills and look them over. You didn't happen to see any, did you?" He asked.

"If I had seen some of them, I would have brought you a pack," Rose told him.

"Yeah, but if there's nanites in the pills. That sounds really dangerous. 'Cause I've read about how nanites. If something goes wrong in their programming they could take apart the planet," Donna reasoned.

"Nano anything is incredibly dangerous," Rose agreed, remembering gas mask zombies. "Really anything is dangerous if done wrong, but nanotechnology is also incredibly helpful too."

"Without the nanites themselves, it's impossible to know for sure which one this is. Seeing as we were led here, though, I'm willing to say it's likely a bad thing. I really need to get into the building to be sure, though."

Donna proposed that they go in the morning and hide, but Rose, who had quickly reviewed the security procedures, found a hole which she could exploit. She was down as an employee, after all. She could just walk in.

##########

"Where is it that we're going?" the Doctor questioned. He wasn't used to being led, he was used to leading everyone else. Now it was Rose who was getting them into places and leading. It was a bit disconcerting, and somewhat arousing. Down boy, he admonished himself.

"The boss' office. It's on this floor. Lady named Foster is in charge. I thought we could hide out in her office and maybe overhear some important meetings or something," Rose answered as she guided her husband and Donna through the maze of hallways.

Once they reached the office, Rose gestured to the door handle for the Doctor to sonic the lock and get them inside. It would be so much easier if she had her own sonic. Maybe she could ask the TARDIS about how to get one of her own, but she figured the Doctor probably spent days or weeks making his and she'd just have to make due. There was a closet in the office, just big enough for the three of them to squeeze inside and they only had to wait a half hour or so before they heard people enter the room.

"This is ridiculous," a young woman protested.

"Sit there," Ms. Foster demanded. Rose recognized her voice and whispered to the others to let them know who it was.

"I'm phoning my editor," the woman warned angrily.

"I said sit."

"You can't tie me up," she argued and they could hear a couple of other people moving around the room. They presumed that some of Ms. Foster's security people were doing the physical work of apparently tying the young woman to a chair. "What sort of a country do you think this is?"

"Oh, it's a beautifully fat country. And believe me, I've travelled a long way to find obesity on this scale," Ms. Foster replied. The trio in the cupboard listened closely as it seemed like she might be about to outline where she came from, and if they were lucky, her plans as well.

"So, come on then, Ms. Foster, those pills. What are they?" the young woman asked.

"Well, you might just as well have a scoop, since you'll never see it printed. This is the spark of life," Ms. Foster revealed. Rose guessed that she must be some kind of reporter, snooping about, since she mentioned an editor and printing.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" the reporter wondered, confused by the so called scoop.

"Officially, the capsule attracts all the fat cells and flushes them away. Well, it certainly attracts them. That part's true. But it binds the fat together and galvanises it to form a body," Foster explained.

"What do you mean, a body?" she questioned, sounding disgusted by what that might do.

"I am surprised you never asked about my name. I chose it well. Foster. As in foster mother. And these are my children," she replied. They could hear some movement and an odd squeak, but looked to each other to try and decide what to do next.

The Doctor quietly clicked the door to the closet open and tried to peer through the crack without being seen. Rose tucked herself beneath him and looked as well. There seemed to be some kind of little, white thing wobbling around on her desk.

"You're kidding me! What the hell is that?" the reporter shouted.

"Adipose. It's called an Adipose. Made out of living fat."

Donna had enough of being left out of what what going on in the office and tried to look out the door as well, but she was nearly the same height as the Doctor and the couple were blocking the view almost completely.

"But I don't understand," the woman argued, despite seeing the little creature with her own eyes.

"From ordinary human people," Ms. Foster explained.

It was at that moment, that Donna lost her balance. She tried to grab onto the Doctor and Rose's shoulders to steady herself, but it only resulted in all three of them tumbling out onto the floor of the office. Rose was on the bottom of the pile, Donna half on top of both of them, and they all looked up into the slightly shocked faces of Ms. Foster, the young woman tied to a chair, and two security guards.

"Can I help you?" Ms. Foster questioned haughtily.

"Oh, no, we'll just…" the Doctor began, gesturing toward the door before he tugged both women with him out into the hallway, sonicking the lock behind them.

"What about that reporter?" Donna asked as she tried to keep up with them.

"Don't look like they're gonna hurt her now. We can go back and check on her later, if we get out of this ourselves," Rose replied assuringly. They'd never leave someone in trouble if they could help it, but at the moment, it looked like security would be more likely to hurt them.

"It is always like this with you two, isn't it?" Donna huffed as she continued to chase them into the stairwell.

"Just like old times!" the Doctor called back to her happily.

The Doctor started leading them upwards and Rose stopped him by grasping his arm firmly. "Where are you going?"

"To the roof?" he suggested.

"Got a helicopter waiting for us up there, have you? Are you trying to get us trapped?" Rose questioned.

"Well, I, um," he stuttered and rubbed the back of his neck. He couldn't really refute her logic, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

"Right, down," Rose sighed as she and Donna started running down the flights of stairs. The Doctor followed them, again feeling like he had lost leadership status on this adventure.

Above them, they heard the security guards entering the stairwell, and glanced up to see them and Ms. Foster spotting them over the railings. She held a pen, pointed towards them like a weapon and shouted, "This ends, now!"

Chapter Text

Rose looked up the stairs to see Miss Foster, or whatever her name really was, looking back down at them through the center of the boxy spiral of the stairs. Their pursuer held a pen that was pointed towards them like a weapon and shouted, "This ends, now!"

The very tip of the pen shaped device glowed with a bluish white light and they heard a noise a bit like what she'd hear with the Doctor's sonic before the door next to them locked. The tip shifted a little bit, and with a flick of her fingers, her sonic pen let out a higher pitched whine and it felt like a wave of heat hit them.

"What the hell is that?" Donna yelled as she backed away, looking like she was going to be sick.

The Doctor pulled his sonic screwdriver back out and aimed it at her. When he depressed the button, she let out a yelp and dropped the pen. She held her hand and looked at the Doctor in barely disguised anger as her sonic pen fell.

On instinct, they both reached out to grab the pen from midair. Rose reached out as far as she could, but the pen barely grazed the tips of her fingers. The Doctor, who was a step below her on the stairs and had a longer reach, grabbed it, yelled, "Thank you!" to the woman above, and started back down the stairs.

"Since when do we thank the evil woman?" Donna asked as they exited the stairwell.

"I was being facetious!" the Doctor exclaimed and locked the door behind them. It wouldn't stop the woman and her guards, but it would slow them down just a little. As he walked down the hall with the others following, he looked down at the device he'd caught from Miss. Foster. "A sonic pen!" he exclaimed in delight. "I thought so. You don't find many sonic devices like this in any place or time. Most of them are weapons."

"Like the squareness gun?" Rose wondered, remembering the blaster that Jack had when they met him. She hadn't seen him since the day she changed, she remembered with a pang of sadness. She'd talked to him at least once a week for her, though, and felt she was ready to see him in person.

"Precisely," the Doctor replied as they came up to the area where she'd been 'working' as she gathered information.

"So, what? It works like your sonic?" Donna asked.

"Close enough," the Doctor replied. "Good guess. Mine's more advanced, of course," he added.

"Ah, 'of course,'" Donna snarked.

"Boys and their toys," Rose told Donna. "You should see him when Jack's around."

"Who's Jack?"

"Family," Rose answered.

"A friend," the Doctor said at the same time. "And don't. Just don't."

"Jack's a friend who I'm really close to and consider almost family. If and when you meet him, just keep your wits about you. He's such a flirt," Rose told Donna.

They were almost halfway across the floor when Miss Foster came out of the lifts with her guards behind her. She marched right up to the three of them as if she didn't have a care in the world.

"Well, then. At last," she said in a deceptively pleasant voice.

"Hello," Donna greeted boldly. Rose thought that she was going to be brilliant at their life.

"Nice to meet you, I'm the Doctor and before I'm accused of rudeness, again, let me introduce my lovely wife, Rose, and our friend, Donna," the Doctor greeted.

"A gang of troublemakers. And evidently off-worlders, judging by your sonic technology," Foster deduced.

"More like intergalactic, sonic wielding, meddling kids, well not so much kids anymore," Rose said and cringed. It got the point across, but she sounded like the Doctor.

"Oh, yes, I've still got your sonic pen," the Doctor said as if he had just realized that he had it. "Nice. I like it. Sleek. It's kind of sleek." He showed it to Donna, like he was asking her opinion.

"Oh, it's definitely sleek," Donna declared.

"Love how it blends in," Rose complimented. "No one would ever suspect it."

"Yeah, and if you were to sign your real name, that would be?" the Doctor asked the woman, making a signature type motion with the pen.

"Matron Cofelia of the Five Straighten Classabindi Nursery Fleet. Intergalactic Class," she introduced herself haughtily.

"A wet nurse, using humans as surrogates," the Doctor realized.

"I've been employed by the Adiposian First Family to foster a new generation after their breeding planet was lost," she explained as if that excused the whole matter.

"What do you mean lost? How do you lose a planet?" he demanded.

"Oh, politics are none of my concern. I'm just here to take care of the children on behalf of the parents," Matron Cofelia replied dismissively.

"What, like an outer space super nanny?" Donna questioned.

"Yes, if you like," she said, pleased with the title.

"Yeah, a right Mary Poppins, you are," Rose snapped at her. "And I'm sure there's absolutely no risks for these human surrogates you're using?"

"Not normally, no. But, in a crisis the Adipose can convert bone and hair and internal organs. Makes them a little bit sick, poor things," she admitted.

"The poor things? That's despicable!" Donna shouted.

"Seeding a level five planet is against galactic law," the Doctor warned.

"Are you threatening me?" she asked, amused and still feeling that she was in the position of power as her security guards kept their guns trained on the intruders.

"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 insisted.

"I hardly think you can stop bullets," she told him confidently and her security guards lifted their guns threateningly.

"Seriously? You guys are ok with all this? She just admitted to being an alien, from another planet, making fat babies out of people, and you aren't taking our side on this?" Rose questioned.

The two guards glanced at each other nervously for a moment before their boss told them, "A thousand pound bonus for the first one to kill them."

As they steeled their resolve to pull the triggers, the Doctor shouted, "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?"

"No," she replied confusedly at his non sequitur.

"Nor me. Let's find out," the Doctor said as he moved the tips of both his sonic and hers together. Rose grabbed Donna's hand in preparation to run and braced herself for what was likely to be ear splitting.

At the painful sound, the ladies dashed down the hallway, the Doctor right behind them. He and Rose both heard her say that she was going to advance the birth plan as they ran away.

"Advancing the birth plan. They have a million people on those pills, and Foster said she wanted a lot more just earlier today, like more than twice as many people a day," Rose told the Doctor and Donna as they ran.

"No, no, no!" The Doctor exclaimed.

"What?" Donna asked, confused and out of breath as the Doctor took out his sonic to start scanning all around.

"There's not enough people for their plan," Rose explained while the Doctor scanned. "And they can convert bone and such in a crisis."

"No," Donna realized as the Doctor got whatever signal he was searching for.

They ran to the basement area, where the Doctor found a closet. He opened the door and threw out the ladder and mops inside.

"Well, that's one solution. Hide in a cupboard. I like it," Donna commented.

"It should be here," the Doctor said, almost finished moving items out of the small space. He stepped back and looked at it fully. He went to scan it when Rose stepped in and started knocking on the walls. The back wall wiggled a little bit when she hit it. They went into the somewhat cramped space and shut the door behind them so no one would instantly see them.

They quickly figured out that the wall slid back. Behind it, was a big, green, complicated looking machine. The Doctor instantly put his glasses on and went to work on it, sonicing it and muttering to himself.

"The Matron's got a computer core running through the centre of the building aaaaannnd I don't have all day to hack this thing. I'd need even more time than that because it's triple deadlocked! But wait, I've got this!" He held up the Matron's sonic pen. "I should be able to get into it!" He used it on the machine. "Aha!" He exclaimed when the lights started blinking.

"So, you're tellin' me her sonic can get through deadlocks and yours can't?" Rose teased.

"No, her sonic can get through these deadlocks because they are her own, and maybe a few others with the same sort of setup. It's very specific coding and we're about to have company," he changed the subject. "Okay, then. She's wired up the whole building. We need a bit of privacy."

After messing with and cutting a few wires, he held two ends together and twisted them. Rose felt a bit of static and heard the guards that had been chasing then fall to the ground on the other side of the door.

"Just enough to stop them. Why's she wired up the tower block? What's it all for?" the Doctor questioned, mostly to himself. Without him doing anything, the lights suddenly started changing.

"Inducer online," the computer informed them.

"Right," the Doctor spoke, fully concentrating on the task at hand.

"Inducer activated."

"What's it doing now?" Donna asked.

"The program that makes the fat baby things just started," Rose told her.

"Inducer transmitting."

"So far they're just losing weight, but the Matron's gone up to emergency parthenogenesis," the Doctor explained.

"And that's when they convert-" Donna started.

"Skeletons, organs, everything. A million people are going to die. Got to cancel the signal," the Doctor said, starting to speak in incomplete sentences, the first sign of stress for him. He pulled one of the pendants out of his pocket and pulled it apart so he could use the technology inside to cancel out the signal.

"This contains a primary signal. If I can switch it off, the fat goes back to being just fat," he explained for both Donna and Rose's benefit as he attached the bit of pendant to the machine. For a moment, the lights shut off, and all three of them released a collective sigh.

"Inducer increasing," the computer informed everyone and Rose swore her hearts stopped.

"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!" the Doctor babbled, freaking out at the fact that a lot of people were about to die and there was nothing he could do. His state of distress leaked through their bond to one another, causing Rose to start to panic a bit as well.

"Need what?" she croaked out, willing to try anything if it saved a million people who had done nothing wrong beyond wanting to lose a few pounds.

"Is there anything I can do?" Donna asked, concerned.

"Sorry, Donna, this is way beyond you. Got to double the base pulse, I can't!"

"Doctor, tell me. What do you need?" Donna said slowly, keeping her head in the face of the crisis.

"I need a second capsule to boost the override, but I've only got the one. I can't save them," he said dejectedly. As soon as she realized he needed a capsule, Rose went to search her pockets, only to realize the only one she had was empty save for the psychic paper in a new billfold.

Suddenly, Donna lifted her hand up. Out of it dropped one of the capsule pendants from its gold chain. The Doctor just stared at it for a second before he grinned. And took it from her. He quickly pulled it apart and slammed it into another spot on the inducer. To their relief, the program shut off and stayed that way.

"Oh, Donna, that was brilliant!" Rose squealed and hugged the ginger woman in the cramped space. "I didn't think to bring one with me!"

"Oh, well, I didn't really, either. Was just holding one when we left the TARDIS and didn't know where I could set it down, so it just, you know, went in my pocket," she said, stunned.

They all heard a really loud noise in the sky. And reflexively looked up, even though they were in a cupboard in one of the lowest areas of the building.

"What the hell was that?" Donna wondered.

"Uh, oh," Rose whispered. "It's her bosses."

"The Nursery," the Doctor added.

"When you say nursery you don't mean a créche in Notting Hill," Donna confirmed.

"Nursery ship," the Doctor clarified.

The computer lit up green again and for a moment They all thought the inducer was starting yet again. Instead, it informed everyone that there was an incoming signal, which was followed by orders. It was obvious that Donna wasn't understanding what the orders were, as she looked back and forth between the two Time travelers in confusion.

"Hadn't we better go and stop them?" she asked impatiently.

"Hang on. Instructions from the Adiposian First Family. She's wired up the tower block to convert it into a levitation post. Ooo. Oh."

"We've got to stop them," Rose said and opened the door to the cupboard.

"What's wrong?" Donna wondered when they went into the nearest lift in hopes of getting to the Matron fast enough.

"We're not in trouble anymore, but the Matron is!" the Doctor explained as they went up.

On the roof, they stopped and watched the massive and low flying ship in awe. Thousands of the tiny, white babies were floating in the air up to the ship, each one looking like a little marshmallow with arms and legs.

"What you going to do then? Stop 'em? Take 'em somewhere?" Donna wondered.

"Nope, they're going home to their parents," the Doctor said.

"Awwww, they're cute," Rose cooed at the little babies. "Aren't you the cutest wittle invasion ever?" Behind her, she heard the Doctor chuckle at her antics.

"But people probably died," Donna pointed out.

"They're just children. They can't help where they come from," the Doctor told her.

Rose had been waving at the little marshmallow looking babies when she heard Donna exclaim that she was waving at fat.

"Actually, as a diet plan, it sort of works," the Doctor commented.

"I know people who would have willingly helped them," Rose said before she saw the Matron. "There she is! Matron!" The Doctor and Donna rushed to the edge of the roof with her. The Matron was hovering under the Adiposian children.

"Matron Cofelia, listen to me!" the Doctor called out.

"Oh, I don't think so, Doctor. And if I never see you again, it'll be too soon," she said in the belief that she'd still won.

"Oh, why does no one ever listen? I'm trying to help. Just get across to the roof. Can you shift the levitation beam?" The Doctor held out his hand, trying to bridge some of the distance.

"What, so that you can arrest me?" the Matron asked in amusement.

"They're gonna kill ya!" Rose yelled desperately. She could see that this woman's possibilities to live were few and dwindling fast.

"I think not," she replied.

"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," the Doctor explained.

"I'm far more than that. I'm nanny to all these children," she told him and readied her control of the levitation beam to take her the rest of the way to the ship.

"Exactly! Mum and Dad have got the kids now. They don't need the nanny anymore!" the Doctor yelled.

They saw the moment she realized what was going to happen. Unfortunately, the realization came too late. The beam of light around the woman shut off half a second later. The actual effects of the beam took a bit longer to completely shut down, leaving Matron Cofelia suspended in midair with the full knowledge that she had seconds to live and nothing could be done.

The Matron dropped with a scream that was cut off at the end. Both the Doctor and Rose stared down at her until the ship took off. They looked at each other, then over at Donna, who had turned away from the gruesome scene.

"You alright, Donna?" Rose asked softly.

"Yeah," Donna said, meeting her eyes. "I'm alright. Just needed to not look at that."

"I understand," Rose told her and led her away from the edge of the roof. "Unfortunately, in this case, there was nothing we could do for her."

#######

They were walking out of the Adipose Industries building when the Doctor pulled out the sonic pen he'd gotten from the Matron. He went towards the trash bin he saw, but stopped himself before he could toss the device away. Rose had her own paper. A sonic device wasn't out of the question. The screwdriver could still be his own thing.

Decision made, he put the pen shaped sonic back in his pocket. He wanted to go over the settings first to make sure she'd have what she needed. It'd be a great surprise for his wife, who hadn't seen him pull it out. She was telling Donna about the Scooby Doo house.

The reporter they'd seen in Foster's office came out the door behind them, still tied in the chair. "Oi, you three. You're just mad. Do you hear me? Mad! The whole lot of you! And I'm going to report you... for madness!" When she was finished her rant, she waddled further from the building, not bothering to ask for help with the ropes.

"You see, some people just can't take it," Donna commented.

"No," the Doctor agreed.

"And some people can. So, then. TARDIS! Come on!" Donna said and started toward the alley where the time ship was parked. Rose chuckled at the enthusiasm their new companion showed.

"I wonder what they'll come up with as the story for this one," Rose mused.

"Who knows. Humans. So gullible," the Doctor replied shaking his head.

"Oi!" Donna protested.

"Get used to that. He likes to throw around proper insults when he's stressed," Rose told her as they entered the alley. Donna had moved the car to the more secluded spot after they had eaten because the parking spot she had been using had a meter.

"Oh, you should see my mum. Talk about insults. This is gonna be brilliant. I've been ready for this!" She walked over to the boot of her car and the couple could see that the inside was full of suitcases of all shapes and sizes.

"Moving in, Donna?" Rose joked.

"I packed ages ago, just in case. Because I thought, hot weather, cold weather, no weather. They go anywhere. I've gotta be prepared!"

"You've got a, a hatbox," the Doctor said in confusion as the ginger woman plunked a hatbox in his hands.

"Planet of the Hats, I'm ready!"

"You know, the TARDIS has everything you'd need," Rose explained to her.

"Yeah, but probably not in my size, or it pinches or whatever. I'd rather have my own clothes," Donna denied and pulled out a large rolling case. "I don't need injections, do I? You know, like when you go to Cambodia. Is there any of that? Because my friend Veena went to Bahrain, and she- You're not saying much," Donna realized.

"No, it's just. It's a funny old life, in the TARDIS," the Doctor said.

"You don't want me."

"I'm not saying that," he told her.

"We just wanna be absolutely sure you know what you're getting into," Rose explained. "It can be fun, but not always. You've seen what our life is like and it scared you before."

"But you asked me. Would you rather be on your own? Of course. Newlyweds, right?"

"No, well, we are newlyweds, but we've been looking for someone to come with for a while. Also, the last time we asked someone aboard, it got complicated. Rose wound up kicking her out."

Rose snorted at the memory of the moment the Doctor finally figured out why Kali was acting like that.

"We just want a mate," the Doctor finished, making sure Donna knew.

"Doctor, Donna wo-"

"You just want to mate?" Donna yelled incredulously, interrupting Rose.

"I just want a mate!" the Doctor yelled back and Rose started laughing.

"You're not mating with me, Sunshine!" Donna screeched. "What the hell are you laughing about, Blondie?"

"He. He means-" Rose started.

"A mate. I want a mate," the Doctor stressed.

"Well, just as well, because I'm not having any of that nonsense. I don't do that sort of thing. I mean, you're just a long streak of nothing. You know, alien nothing and if you wanna get your jollies out with a human, you've got Rose for that."

"Wellll, Rose isn't human-" the Doctor said and Rose groaned loudly. That was not how she wanted Donna to find out.

"Really?" she said.

"What do you mean Rose isn't human?" Donna questioned. "She said she was. Were you lying?"

"No, I changed since we met you," Rose answered quickly. "It's a long story, and I'll tell you soon, but, basically, I'm like him now." Donna looked shocked and some of Rose's insecurities were starting to get the better of her.

"Am I gonna change like that? Cause I don't wanna change. I wanna be human. I like being human."

"No!" both Rose and the Doctor assured her.

"This was a special circumstance," Rose explained. "It was done on purpose. You're not gonna be anything but human."

"And it was not easy to do," the Doctor added.

Donna relaxed. "Okay, then. Whew! You had me worried there. I mean, I've already gone through time and was on another planet and, alright. Not gonna change."

"Well, there we are, then," the Doctor said and stepped toward the TARDIS.

"Let's get this stuff loaded," Rose commented and picked one of the suitcases up.

"I can come?" Donna asked hopefully.

"Course you can, yeah. I'd love it. Know the Doctor loves showing off to new people. Blimey. I've got more strength now, and I can barely pick this thing up. What ya got in here?"

"Car keys!" Donna exclaimed.

"What?" the Doctor asked. "Why?"

"No, I've still got my mum's car keys. I won't be a minute." Donna took off and the Doctor shook his head as he watched her incredulously.

"Are you sure?" he asked Rose.

"Oh, yes. This is gonna be brilliant," she answered, laughing. She took the extremely heavy case into the TARDIS.

###########

Mickey Smith (though his official identification said Ricky, a fact he still grumbled about) was looking around at the people who were gathered in the streets after the spectacle of the ship in the sky and the small, white blobs floating up to it.

He'd seen the ship take off and knew that the Doctor and Rose wouldn't stick around long. He needed to find them as soon as he could. Even if they did stick around, he didn't have much time anyway. His watch told him that he had a mere ninety-five seconds before the automatic recall function brought him back.

"Damn it Babe. Where are ya?"

A ginger haired woman came up to him suddenly. "Listen, there is this woman that's going to come along. A tall blond woman, called Sylvia. Tell her that bin there, all right? It'll all make sense. That bin there." She pointed at the bin she was talking about and took off, obviously in a hurry.

"Sorry, lady," he said. "I've got no time." He walked away from the crowd a bit so that fewer people would notice when he disappeared.

##########

Donna returned to the TARDIS to find all of her luggage had been brought inside. The aliens she would be travelling with were standing together by the controls, talking softly to each other.

"Off we go, then," Donna announced her presence before they started making out or something.

"Ah! Here it is. The TARDIS. It's bigger on the inside than it is on the outside," the Doctor began.

"Oh, I know that bit. Although frankly, you could turn the heating up," she interrupted him.

Rose laughed at her attitude, sure that they'd get along just fine. "Our body temperature is a bit lower than yours, but we can have the ship adjust the temperature in your room and wherever you decide to relax and stuff."

"So, whole wide universe, where do you want to go?" the Doctor asked her, changing the subject away from their different physiology. Rose hadn't seemed to want to discuss her changes with Donna for the moment.

"Oh, I know exactly the place," Donna replied quickly.

"Which is?" he wondered. Most of his companions let him choose their first trip.

"Two and a half miles that way," she told him.

Rose looked at her curiously for a moment. Donna's excitement at making this change in her life was palpable. "We saying goodbye to someone?" she guessed.

Donna winked at her and when the Doctor nodded that they were in position, she moved to open the door. She was a bit surprised to see that they were not on the ground, but hovering over her granddad's favourite stargazing spot. That alien must have read her mind. She waved vigorously to the man below when he spotted them in his telescope.

Rose and the Doctor stood right behind her and joined in the wave as the man excitedly waved back and danced around. After a moment, they closed the doors and flew off on their first real adventure with their new companion.

Chapter Text

Just after dematerializing, Rose took Donna deeper into the ship so they both could change out of their businessy outfits. The Doctor had told her through their bond that he expected to see her in it again later when they had some time alone, which got him a wink as she left the console room. Surprisingly, they weren’t gone very long. Both of them had quickly changed their clothes. Rose into her typical jeans and a hoodie, and Donna into a multicolored, but mostly blue and purple shirt that looked like Jackson Pollock took a swipe at it.  

 

The Doctor decided to take Donna for a trip somewhere on her own planet in the past for her first planned and proper trip in the TARDIS, and he had the perfect place picked out for it. Rose was working the console with him, and between the two of them, the flight was smoother than it would have been with him alone. It still jostled, though. Donna was off to the side, holding on. It wouldn’t take her long to get her balance on the old time ship.

 

The TARDIS landed with a bump, and he rushed over to his Janis Joplin Coat. He loved that coat, even though the arm was being a bit stubborn at the moment. Rose grabbed the swinging fabric and helped him get his other arm in.

 

“So, where are we?” Donna asked.

 

“I have no idea,” Rose admitted. “Why don’t you step outside and find out?”

 

Donna opened the door and stepped outside into an alcove that was curtained off. The Doctor and Rose followed her out into the cramped space. He pushed the curtain back and smiled at the curious look on their new companion’s face. The three time travelers stepped out into the sunshine and looked around.

 

What they saw was a typical street in millions, even billions of cities across the cosmos. The narrow street was lined with market stalls on both sides, backed up against tall, sand colored block walls. Rose had closed her eyes and jumped really quickly to get a sense of the gravity. She’d recently started the habit as a way of trying to identify the mass and speed of a planet when she didn’t know where they were. With time, she’d be able to do it without the little jump.

 

“Hmm, feels like Earth,” Rose commented. “Where and when are we?”

“Ancient Rome! Well, not for them, obviously. To all intents and purposes, right now, this is brand new Rome,” the Doctor declared.


“Oh, my God. It's, it's so Roman. This is fantastic!” Donna exclaimed.


The Doctor laughed and Rose groaned. “Rome? Should we be here again?” she asked mentally so Donna wouldn’t hear. She rubbed her arms and shivered.  


“It’s fine,” he assured her. “Last two times we were here, we showed up for a specific event. This time, we are just coming here to be here.”


Donna stood in front of them, looking around. “I'm here, in Rome. Donna Noble in Rome. This is just weird. I mean, everyone here's dead,” she realized.


“Well, don't tell them that,” the Doctor admonished her.


“Hold on a minute. That sign over there's in English,” Donna noticed. She turned back to glare at the two Time Lords behind her. “Are you having me on? Are we in Epcot?”


“No, no, no, no. That's the Tardis translation circuits. Just makes it look like English. Speech as well. You're talking Latin right now.”


“Seriously?”


“Yeah,” Rose said. “Works on just about everything.” She was being quiet. Rose would have normally been enthusiastic about showing Donna something. She had been before they left the TARDIS. Even when Mickey had come, she’d delighted in showing him around, even when she hadn’t wanted him with them.


“I just said seriously in Latin!” Donna exclaimed.


“Oh, yeah,” the Doctor replied to Donna.


“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 wondered.


“Wow, there’s a question I’ve never thought to ask,” Rose commented. “Course I only know English.”


“I'm not sure. You have to think of difficult questions, don't you?”


“I'm going to try it,” she told them and walked over to one of the sellers.


“What’s wrong?” the Doctor asked Rose, who was rubbing her temples..


“I don’t know. I can’t see ‘em. Why can’t I see ‘em? What’s wrong with my time sense?” she asked in distress. It was a mark of how much it was upsetting her that she had replied without telepathy.  


“What do you see?” he whispered urgently. It didn’t make any sense.


“All the possibilities are gone. They’re just gone. It looks like everyone’s gonna die. Every single person in this street, but that can’t be, ‘cause nothing that killed everybody ever happened in Rome, right?”


He pulled her in, wrapping his arms around her in a comforting gesture. He normally scaled back his senses so he could be surprised more often. It wasn’t something Rose was used to doing. To try to get an idea of what she was talking about, he let the sense that allowed him to see potential futures work and looked around.


What he saw was horrible. As Rose had explained, all potential futures were non existent for every single person he saw except Donna, Rose, and himself.


“Okay, It’s not you. Something’s really wrong here. Block your time sense. It’ll keep you from getting a headache. There’s about a day before whatever happens. We’ll get it figured out,” he told her. He knew instantly when she did so, because he could feel her relax a little bit.


“Aren’t you two just adorable?” Donna said when she wandered back from her fact finding mission.


“I am many things, but adorable is not one of them,” the Doctor protested. They weren’t going to tell Donna just yet. Let her enjoy the trip for a bit.


“She said we’re adorable, not you, but you are pretty adorable,” Rose teased. Her smile wasn’t completely true, though he doubted that anyone who didn’t know her would be able to tell.


“He said I sounded Celtic. How's he mean, Celtic?” Donna wondered.


“Welsh. You sound Welsh. There we are. Learnt something,” he explained.


“Don't our clothes look a bit odd?” she asked.


“Nah. Ancient Rome, anything goes. It's like Soho, but bigger,” he declared.


“Oh, you just don’t want to wear the tunic again,” Rose commented.


“You've been here before then?”


“Mmm. Several times. Once did the Gladiator thing. Got turned into a statue. 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.”  He kept hold of Rose’s hand as they walked around. It wasn’t long before they came to a piazza.


“Not an expert, but there's seven hills of Rome, aren't there? How come they've only got one?” Donna observed.


There was a minor earthquake and all of the vendors tried to hold on to their wares so less would break.


“Wait a minute. One mountain, with smoke. Which makes this-” Donna started.


“Pompeii,” both Gallifreyans realized.


“We're in Pompeii. And it's volcano day,” the Doctor added.


“That explains everything,” Rose said.


The three time travellers ran back to where the TARDIS had been, but when they pulled back the curtain, the alcove was completely empty.


“You're kidding!” Donna shouted. “You're not telling me the Tardis has gone.”


“Ok,” the Doctor replied as his mind whirled with possible solutions to their current problem.


“Where is it then?” Donna demanded.


“You told me not to tell you,” he answered.  Rose rolled her eyes and ran back to the man Donna had spoken to earlier.


“Oi. Don't get clever in Latin,” Donna growled at the Time Lord.  If there was one thing the Doctor had learned about their companion, it was that when she was scared, she lashed out angrily in defence.  He followed Rose to where she was asking questions.


“Excuse me,” Rose greeted the vendor with a smile.


“Yes, Love?”


“Yeah, there was a big, blue box, just over there a few minutes ago.  Would you know what happened to it?” Rose questioned.


“Sold it, didn't I?” the vendor asked as if it were obvious.


“But it wasn't yours to sell,” the Doctor protested.


“It was on my patch, weren't it? I got fifteen sesterces for it. Lovely jubbly,” the vendor told them proudly.


“Who bought it, and what for?” Rose asked, anger seeping into her voice. He agreed with the emotion at that point. So many people had tried to take the TARDIS, and it never ended well.


“Old Caecilius and hell if I know why. 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.”


“Thanks,” the Doctor said sarcastically and took off in the direction that the vendor had pointed, leaving his wife and their companion to try to catch up.


##########


“Oh, damn his long legs,” Rose complained as soon as she realized they had lost the Doctor.


Donna was panting beside her. “He moves quickly, doesn’t he?”


“Built for running this time around,” Rose told her.


“How do you mean, this time around?” Donna asked.


Before Rose could answer her, she saw the Doctor running back toward them.


“Ha! I've got it. Foss Street's this way,” he told them, pointing in the right direction before he turned to lead them.


“No! Well, I found this big sort of amphitheatre thing. Back there. We can start there. We can gather everyone together. Maybe they've got a great big bell or something we could ring. Have they invented bells yet?” Donna babbled.


“What do you want a bell for?” the Doctor asked confused.


“Donna, We really shouldn’t-”


“To warn everyone. Start the evacuation. What time does Vesuvius erupt? When's it due?” Donna asked quickly.


“It's 79AD, twenty third of August, which makes volcano day tomorrow,” the Doctor answered.


“Plenty of time. We could get everyone out easy!” Donna exclaimed.


“Donna, we can’t,” Rose said.


At the same time, the Doctor told her, “Yeah, except we're not going to.”


“But that's what you do. Both of you. You save people,” Donna said, looking between the Doctor and Rose in confusion.


“Not this time. Pompeii is a fixed point in history. What happens, happens. There is no stopping it,” he explained in irritation.


“Says who?” Donna snapped.


“Says me,” the Doctor spoke quickly in the tone of voice he used with people he thought were being particularly thick.


“What, and you're in charge?” Donna asked incredulously.


“TARDIS. Time Lord. Yeah,” the Doctor listed, moving his head side to side as he argued.


“Donna. Human. No,” Donna replied in the same manner, exaggerating the movements the Doctor made in a mocking manner. “I don't need your permission. I'll tell them myself. You let him talk to you like that, Rose?”


“No, but he’s right. We can’t interfere with this,” Rose said, finally able to get in a word edgewise between the bickering human and Time Lord. “It’s a big moment in history. There’s nothing we can do to change it.” She looked around, restarting the sense she had shut down for a moment. Most people around them still had their possibilities cut off, but not everyone around them. Some had a few chances to survive, and two people, a couple, had the full, tree branch like bloom of beautiful possibility. The lack of futures  timelines around her made her head start throbbing, so she pushed the sense back again.


“You stand in the marketplace announcing the end of the world, they'll just think you're a mad old soothsayer. Now, come on. TARDIS. We are getting out of here,” the Doctor declared and turned back toward where the TARDIS had been taken to.


“Well, I might just have something to say about that, Spaceman,” she yelled at him.


“Oh, I bet you will!” he shot back.


They never noticed the woman following them.


##########


The time travellers found the house they were looking for and could sense that the TARDIS was inside.  As they entered, the ground began to shake again and they could hear a man inside shout, “Positions!”


The Doctor was leading the way and caught a marble bust, just as it was about to fall on the floor.


“Whoa! There you go,” he exclaimed and handed the statue to the man in front of him.


“Thank you, kind sir. I'm afraid business is closed for the day. I'm expecting a visitor,” the man replied apologetically as he placed the bust back into its small alcove.  He was dressed in a deep purple, clearly a display of wealth at this point in history.  His hair was gray, but he seemed energetic for his apparent age.


“But that's me, I'm a visitor. Hello,” the Doctor responded and shook the man’s hand.


“Who are you?” he asked, clearly not trying to be rude, but definitely expecting a very different visitor.


“I am Spartacus,” the Doctor replied, prompting a groan from his wife.


“And so am I,” Donna added cheekily.


“Mr. and Mrs. Spartacus,” the man acknowledged.


“Oh no, no, no. We're not, we're not married. This lovely lady here is my wife, Rose,” the Doctor explained quickly, pulling her against his side.


“We're not together,” Donna agreed.


“Oh, then brother and sister? Yes, of course. You look very much alike,” the man decided.


“Really?” the Doctor and Donna questioned incredulously as they looked at each other.  Rose giggled quietly between them.  They acted like brother and sister sometimes, so why not?


“I'm sorry, but I'm not open for trade,” the man said quickly, clearly hoping that they would leave before his expected guest arrived.


“And that trade would be?” the Doctor asked.  He couldn’t leave without the TARDIS.


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


“That's good. That's good, because I'm the marble inspector,” the Doctor told him and showed the psychic paper as proof.


“By the gods of commerce, an inspection. I'm sorry, sir. I do apologise for my son,” a woman gasped as she overheard their conversation.  Her son was drinking from a goblet and the woman snatched it away, dumping the contents into the fountain nearby.


“Oi!” he protested.


“And this is my good wife, Metella. I must confess, we're not prepared for a-” Caecilius explained, but the Doctor cut him off.


“Nothing to worry about. I'm, I'm sure you've nothing to hide. Although, frankly, that object looks rather like wood to me,” he said as he pulled Rose and Donna over to the TARDIS where it stood proudly on display in the room.


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


“I only bought it today,” Caecilius said in his defense.


“Ah, well. Caveat emptor,” the Doctor replied quickly.


“What’s that?” Rose asked him silently.


“Buyer beware,” he answered.


“Oh, you're Celtic. There's lovely,” Caecilius commented, clearly hoping to get on the inspector’s good side.


“I'm sure it's fine, but I might have to take it off your hands for a proper inspection,” the Doctor told him.


“Yeah, can’t be too careful with this sort of thing, you know?” Rose agreed.


“Although while we're here, wouldn't you recommend a holiday, Spartacus?” Donna suggested.


“Don't know what you mean, Spartacus,” he responded with a warning look at their companion.


“Donna,” Rose added in warning.


“Oh, this lovely family. Mother and father and son. Don't you think they should get out of town?” Donna insisted, clearly trying to convince them to let her warn people about the upcoming danger.


Rose took a moment to look at the timelines of this small family.  Most of their chances ended the same as the rest of the people, but there was a small possibility that they might all make it out alive.  She was pulled from her considerations by the rest of the conversation.


“Why should we do that?” Caecilius asked.


“Well, the volcano, for starters,” Donna answered abruptly.


“What?”


“Volcano,” Donna repeated clearly.


“What ano?” Caecilius wondered.


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


“Oh, ladies, for shame. We haven't even greeted the household gods yet,” the Doctor interrupted and pulled both of them towards the small statues nearby.


“Donna you’ve got to stop this.  This isn’t the way,” Rose told her.


“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,” the Doctor explained.


“Oh, great, they can learn a new word as they die,” Donna growled at them.


“Donna, stop it,” the Doctor demanded angrily.


“Listen, I don't know what sort of kids you've been flying round with in outer space, but you're not telling me to shut up. That boy, how old is he, sixteen? And tomorrow he burns to death,” Donna argued.


“And that's my fault?” the Doctor countered.


“Right now, yes,” she snapped.


“Donna, please!  Trust me, you do NOT want to find out what will happen if you mess around with a fixed event.  It was-” Rose tried to explain.


“Announcing Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of the City Government,” a voice announced, cutting their conversation short.


“Lucius. My pleasure, as always,” Caecilius greeted.


“Quintus, stand up,” his wife ordered their son.


“A rare and great honour, sir, for you to come to my house,” Caecilius greeted the haughty man that was accompanied by several servants.  He held out his hand in greeting as well, but it was not accepted.


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


“Quite. Absolutely. That's good, is it?” he agreed without knowing what he was agreeing to.


“Only the grain of wheat knows where it will grow,” Lucius replied.


“There now, Metella. Have you ever heard such wisdom?” Caecilius prompted.


“Never. It's an honour,” she responded politely.


“Pardon me, sir. I have guests. This is Spartacus and his wife, Rose, and er.. Spartacus,” Caecilius announced.


“A name is but a cloud upon a summer wind,” Lucius said, clearly trying to be enigmatic.


“But the wind is felt most keenly in the dark,” the Doctor answered, having played this type of game before.


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


“I concede that every sun must set,” the Doctor told him, the other man laughing at winning their little battle of wits, but the Doctor continued.  “And yet the son of the father must also rise.”


“Damn. Very clever, sir. Evidently, a man of learning,” Lucius admitted.


“Oh, yes. But don't mind me. Don't want to disturb the status quo,” he said dismissively.


“Since when?” Rose asked under her breath.


“He's Celtic,” Caecilius explained with regard to the Doctor’s use of Latin.


“We'll be off in a minute.”


“I'm not going,” Donna protested.


“It's ready, sir,” Caecilius told Lucius, clearly moving on from introductions and back to their own business.


“You've got to,” the Doctor insisted.


“Well, I'm not,” Donna argued.


“Please, Donna, we can’t change it,” Rose pleaded with her.


“The moment of revelation. And here it is,” Lopus Caecilius announced dramatically as he unveiled his work.


The Doctor began to pull Donna toward the TARDIS as Rose looked back toward the others and gasped at what she was seeing.  The stone tile on display looked like some kind of computer circuit.  There was something terribly wrong with this.


“Doctor!” she called and his brows furrowed as he saw what she was looking at.


“Exactly as you specified. It pleases you, sir?” Caecilius asked, clearly proud of his work.


“As the rain pleases the soil.”


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


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


“Where'd you get the pattern?” the Time Lord questioned Lucius.


“On the rain and mist and wind.”


“Right.  I’ll bet you did,” Rose said sarcastically.


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


“Made of stone,” the Doctor added.


“Do you mean you just dreamt that thing up?” Donna asked, clearly disbelieving it was possible.


“That is my job, as City Augur,” he responded haughtily.


“What's that, then, like the mayor?” Donna questioned.


“Shh,” Rose chastised Donna with an elbow in her side.  Their new companion needed to learn the art of blending in very soon, or they’d be spending the volcanic eruption in a prison cell and getting buried along with the rest of them.


“Oh, ha. You must excuse my friend, she's from...Barcelona,” the Doctor said out loud before he turned to Donna. “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,” he explained for both Donna and Rose’s benefit.


“They're laughing at us. Those three, they use words like tricksters. They're mocking us,” Evelina accused, pointing at the trio near the TARDIS. She was pale, sweaty, and swaying.


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


“No, I’d never mock like that,” Rose denied.


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


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


“Not now, Quintus,” his father admonished.


“Yeah, but she's sick. Just look at her,” he pointed, defending his sister.


“I gather I have a rival in this household. Another with the gift,” the city Augur deduced.


“Oh, she's been promised to the Sibylline Sisterhood. They say she has remarkable visions,” the girl’s mother said proudly.


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


“I'll tell you where the wind's blowing right now, mate,” Donna protested.


“Funny, of humans, I always thought the opposite was true,” Rose muttered.


When she finished speaking, a small earthquake shook the house, not much more than a tremor.


“The Mountain God marks your words. I'd be careful, if I were you,” Lucius warned.


“Evelina, are you okay?” Rose asked, walking over to the girl, who looked like she was going to fall over any second.


“Consuming the vapours, you say?” the Doctor asked Metella and Evelina.

“They give me strength,” Evelina declared.


“It doesn't look like it to me,” the Doctor replied, concerned.


“Is that your opinion? As a Doctor?” she asked and Rose, the Doctor, and Donna all stiffened in shock


“I beg your pardon?” the Doctor asked, trying and failing to keep the shock out of his voice.


“Doctor. That's your name,” she informed them.


“How did you know that?” he wondered. His voice went up in pitch a little.


The girl’s eyes slid over to Donna. “And you. You call yourself Noble.”


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


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


“I want to hear what she has to say,” Rose added.


Evelina made eye contact with her and Rose held her breath, waiting for what she was going to say about her. “You are of two identities. The soft flower, and the feral Wolf. You all come from so far away.”


“The female soothsayer is inclined to invent all sorts of vagaries,” Lucius claimed, trying to pull attention from the young girl.


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


“Is that so, man from Gallifrey?” he shot back smugly.


“What?” the Doctor spoke, shocked once again.


“But- how?” Rose blurted out. How was it that two different people in one place were popping off information like this?

“The strangest of images. Your home is lost in fire, is it not?” Lucius asked. He looked right at Rose. “Your home still exists, but is no longer where it was.”


“Doctor, what are they doing?” Donna asked with a bit of fear in her voice.


He looked at her. “And you, daughter of London-”


“How does he know that?” Donna asked.


“This is the gift of Pompeii. Every single oracle tells the truth,” Lucius answered.


“That's impossible,” Donna denied.


“And, yet, it’s happening right in front of you, yeah?” Rose said.


“Doctor, there is something on your back,” he said.


“There’s noth- What?” he asked.


“And you, daughter of London. He is real.”


“Who, who’s real?” Donna asked.


“You will soon have a pack, Wolf,” Lucius said to Rose last.


Evelina had one more thing to say. “Even the word Doctor is false. Your real name is hidden, known only to one other. It burns in the stars, in the Cascade of Medusa herself. You are a Lord, sir. A Lord of Time. As are you, Lady,” she finished, with her finger pointed at Rose. As soon as the last word left her mouth, her eyes rolled and she dropped to the floor.

Chapter Text

After Evelina passed out, Lucius had made some remark about her being weak before he took the marble circuit piece and left.

The Doctor went to investigate the seers, because they really should not be able to do what they had. Humans had some latent abilities, but it was rare and usually so limited as to be useless. Between that and the electronics design close to two millennia before it was invented on Earth, something was wrong with time here, and they needed to find out what was going on. It might affect the fixed point.

Rose stayed with Donna in order to keep her from trying to change history. They could question one of the soothsayers, Evelina, directly when she woke up. Metella had assured them it wouldn't be long.

"She didn't mean to be rude. She's ever such a good girl. But when the gods speak through her," Metella told them sadly as they waited for Evelina to come around.

"What's wrong with her arm?" Donna wondered.

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

"That looks like more than irritation to me," Rose told her worriedly.

"What is it?" Donna asked as both of the time travellers examined the girl's arm more closely.

"Evelina said you'd come from far away. Please, have you ever seen anything like it?" Metella questioned, clearly hoping they would be more educated on a possible cure.

Stroking the area lightly, Donna gasped, "It's stone."

"I'll check with my husband. He's a Doctor as well as a marble inspector," Rose assured her.

When Evelina awoke, her mother left her to rest with the two visitors for a while. She provided Rose and Donna with more appropriate clothing, since the Doctor had skipped dress up for this visit. Rose wore a lovely, blue toga with gold trim and sat next to the young lady while Donna changed. She emerged wearing a purple toga to join them and tossed the scarf over her shoulder dramatically. Evelina laughed at her actions.

"You're not supposed to laugh. Thanks for that. What do you think? The Goddess Venus," Donna said, striking a statuesque pose.

"Oh, that's sacrilege," Evelina gasped.

"Really, Donna, impersonating a goddess can get you into quite a lot of trouble," Rose told her with a wink.

"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," she replied. That was the way things were done and she was confused why Donna didn't seem to know that.

"Do you get any choice in that?" Donna questioned.

"I think you're a bit early to start women's lib," Rose whispered to her friend.

"It's not my decision. The Sisters chose for me. I have the gift of sight," Evelina explained.

"Then what can you see happening tomorrow?" Donna asked her.

"Is tomorrow special?" the young girl wondered.

"You tell me. What do you see?" Donna prodded.

"I'm curious as to what you see as well," Rose said.

Evelina closed her eyes, focusing as she'd no doubt been taught. "The sun will rise, the sun will set. Nothing special at all," she declared.

"Look, I've got a pro-"

"Donna!" Rose exclaimed and pulled her back away from the girl. "Give us a mo, Evelina. We'll be right back." She half drug Donna to the other side of the curtain.

"Get your hands off me. What the hell do you think you're doing, Blondie?" Donna protested.

"Donna, I'm serious, you need to stop this right now. We can't change things. They wouldn't even believe you anyway."

"Just this one family. Have them get out of town, just for tomorrow until they can see for themselves," Donna protested.

"They won't leave, not on your word. Evelina's a known prophet. She says nothing's happening tomorrow, and everyone's going to take her word for it over a random stranger."

"Tomorrow, that mountain is going to explode. The air is going to fill with ash and rocks, tons and tons of it, and this whole town is going to get buried, including this girl. Do you think that's right?"

Neither of them had seen the girl pulling away from them on the other side of the curtain where she had been listening. She covered her eyes with her hands, which had eyes drawn on the back of them as well.

"No, it's not right, I hate it. I want to save everyone too, Donna, but it can't be done!"

"Why not?" Donna demanded. "The volcano blows, yes. A lot of people die, I get that, but why can't we save some people. A neighborhood. This family, maybe? Does it have to be everyone?"

"It's not everyone," Rose revealed.

"It's not?" Donna asked, stunned.

"Everyone in the street where we landed, yes, but there's a couple I saw when you were arguing with the Doctor. Their living past tomorrow is fixed. None of their possibilities end here. And this family...there's a chance, but we have to be careful."

"There's a chance? Wait, how do you know this?" Donna questioned suspiciously.

"Time Lord doesn't mean we travel through time, Donna. The Doctor and I can see timelines. Past, present, and possible futures. The Doctor's even mentioned being able to see other timelines that are no longer gonna happen if he concentrates on it, but I don't know how to do that yet, nor am I really good at the other stuff."

"What, so you can see the future? That's bonkers. You can tell what's gonna happen to people?" Donna questioned. She was shocked and was that scared? Yes, it was definitely scared.

"No, not like that. That's a soothsayer and prophesy is a bit dangerous. It's more like great big things or random little details and you have to concentrate to really see anything. I'll explain more later when we have time. We need to question Evelina and I get the feeling we don't have much time." Rose went to go back to the young seer, but turned back to regard Donna. "You won't say anything else, yeah?"

Donna hesitated for a moment before her shoulders slumped. "Yeah," she finally replied and followed Rose back to the girl.

Evelina was sitting on the bed, with her hands covering her eyes, whispering, "There is only one prophecy."

"Evelina, are you okay?" Rose asked as she sat down next to the girl. She took her hand off her face and gave Rose a soft smile.

"Yes, ma'am," she said politely. "I'm much better now."

"Do you feel up to answering some questions for us?" Donna asked with concern.

"Yes, I can," she answered, turning her gaze on the ginger woman. She didn't smile at her. Evelina looked suspicious of Donna.

"When did you first start to see the future? And what happened the first time?" Rose began.

"A year ago, I was cleaning the grill of the hypocaust. I saw a fight in the piazza. The next day, I saw that fight happen. That's when I knew I'd be going to the Sisterhood."

Before Rose could ask another question, there was a loud thumping noise all around them, prompting everyone to gather in the main area of the house. Rose knew that it was probably something involving her husband, since she could feel his anxiety at the moment.

"What is it? What's that noise?" Metella questioned nervously.

"Doesn't sound like Vesuvius," Caecilius replied.

"Caecilius? All of you, get out!" the Doctor called as he ran inside, turning to look behind him. Quintus followed quickly and ran to his mother's side.

"Doctor, what is it?" Donna asked him.

"I think we're being followed," he answered.

"And, as usual, it isn't by something friendly," Rose added.

The rumbling noise came closer and the grill over the hypocaust suddenly burst into the air. A wave of heat filled the room as whatever was following the Doctor and Quintus approached from below.

"Just get out!" the Doctor warned. Instead, everyone in the room stood there and stared as the floor near the hypocaust cracked. It was only seconds before a creature made of stone smashed its way through the floor. The rock man looked about one and a half times the height of the Doctor and nearly touched the ceiling in the room. It looked like the stone was held together with molten rock.

"Alright everyone. Move!" Rose ordered, but apparently the family wasn't ready to leave their home. "Donna, you too. Out!"

Donna shook her head. "But what about you?"

"The gods are with us!" Metella proclaimed, she looked ready to fall to her knees and begin a devotional.

"Nevermind out!" the Doctor decided. "Water. We need water. Quintus. All of you, get water. Donna! Rose!"

Rose looked around quickly for anything that would hold water. She spotted a plant nearby in a round jar. She picked it up and overturned it, but the plant's root system had grown larger than the jar's opening and didn't come right out.

"Blessed are we to see the gods!" one of the slaves of the house cried out, throwing his hands in the air. His so called god blew on him, his breath a pillar of flame that turned the man into ash nearly instantly.

"Talk to me. That's all I want. Talk to me. Just tell me you are. Don't hurt these people," the Doctor pleaded with the creature, trying to distract it before it could hurt anyone else. "Talk to me. I'm the Doctor. Just tell me who you are."

Quintus returned with two buckets and handed one of them to Rose just as the root ball popped out. The bucket was larger, so she used it instead. They scooped water from the fountain in the middle of the room and tossed it onto the creature. It moaned loudly before crumbling into shards of rock on the floor. None of them noticed that Donna hadn't returned.

"What was it?" Caecilius questioned, breaking the shocked silence.

"Carapace of stone, held together by internal magma. Not too difficult to stop, but I reckon that's just the foot soldier," the Doctor rambled in reply.

"Doctor, or whatever your name is, you bring bad luck on this house," Metella accused fearfully.

"I thought your son was brilliant. Aren't you going to thank him?" the Doctor responded, then pulled Rose close to his side. "Still, if there are aliens at work in Pompeii, it's a good thing we stayed, right Rose? Where's Donna? Donna? Donna!"

"Oh my god, where is she?" Rose gasped when she couldn't see their companion anywhere.

Evelina admitted to having told the Sisterhood about Donna's false prophecies. She told them where the Sisterhood was located, but refused to follow. As the Doctor and Rose approached, they could hear Donna shouting inside.

"The false prophet will surrender both her blood and her breath," a woman announced angrily.

"I'll surrender you in a minute. Don't you dare!" Donna shouted back.

"You will be silent," the woman demanded.

"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!" Donna cried out.

Rose slipped quietly into the room and snuck around the side, where she wouldn't be seen.

"This prattling voice will cease forever," the woman decreed as she raised her ceremonial knife over Donna's head.

"Oh, that'll be the day," the Doctor interrupted as he strolled casually into the room.

"No man is allowed to enter the Temple of Sibyl," the woman informed him.

"Well, that's all right. Just us girls. 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. You all right there?" he babbled distractingly.

"Oh, never better. Where's your other half?" Donna replied.

"Oh, you know, around. I like the toga."

"Thank you. And the ropes?" Donna asked.

"Yeah, not so much," the Doctor commented as he used his sonic to free their companion. Donna jumped up off of the table as soon as the ropes had loosened.

"What magic is this?" the woman gasped.

"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 chastised the woman.

"Yes, a knife that now welcomes you," she shouted, but as she lifted her knife threateningly, Rose grabbed it from behind and took it from her hands. She tossed it away and stood beside her husband and friend.

"It ain't gonna happen sister," Rose told her coldly. "Tarantella?"

"Fast folk dance done in a big group," the Doctor explained quickly, trying not to laugh at the jealousy he could feel coming from her.

"Show me this man," an elderly voice called from farther into the room.

"High Priestess, the stranger would defile us," the woman argued.

"Let me see. This one is different. He carries starlight in his wake and a wolf by his side," the High Priestess insisted.

"Oh, very perceptive. Where do these words of wisdom come from?" the Doctor questioned.

"The gods whisper to me," she replied. They could vaguely see her through the veil-like curtains surrounding the platform where she sat. Something wasn't quite right.

"They've done far more than that. Might I beg audience? Look upon the High Priestess?" the Doctor requested formally.

Two of the sisters went over to the veil separating them from their priestess and pulled it back so that they could see her. She looked like a person, but made of the same kind of stone as the creature they had stopped at the villa.

"Oh," Rose realized. This person was either one of the stone creatures taking over the sisterhood, or maybe one of the sisters turning into stone. Either was likely. This woman's skin was the same color and texture as Evelina's.

"Oh, my God. What's happened to you?" Donna asked with compassion and a bit of disgust that she couldn't hide.

"The heavens have blessed me," she explained.

"If I might?" the Doctor asked, indicating that he'd like to examine her. She readily held out her arm, almost as if she was starving for touch, Rose thought.

"Does it hurt?" the Doctor asked.

"It is necessary," she told him.

"Could imagine it hurts like hell," Rose whispered to Donna, who nodded her head in agreement.

"Who told you that?" the Doctor asked.

"The voices," she said simply.

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

"How far along are all of you?" Rose asked them.

The head sister, eager to show off her piousness came forward and pushed up her sleeve so that Rose and Donna could see how she was changing as well. "The blessings are manifold," she said proudly.

The others followed her lead and showed off various body parts that were changing. On most of them, it was just their forearms. For others, it went all the way up past their elbows. Apparently, it was starting in a place that was thinnest.

"They're stone," Donna realized.

"Every single one of them is changing," Rose added.

"Exactly. The people of Pompeii are turning to stone before the volcano erupts. But why?" the Doctor questioned.

"This word, this image in your mind. This volcano. What is that?" the high priestess interrogated him.

"More to the point, why don't you know about it? Who are you?" the Doctor questioned.

"High Priestess of the Sibylline," she answered.

"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?" the Doctor prompted.

"Your knowledge is impossible," she said incredulously.

"Oh, but you can read my mind. You know it's not." He stepped forward and took on his familiar air of authority. "I demand you tell me who you are."

When the priestess spoke, her voice was deeper, and seemed to be double layered. "We are awakening!"

"The voice of the gods," the Sister who had spoke the most so far exclaimed.

All of the sisters dropped to their knees and began rocking back and forth, chanting. "Words of wisdom, words of power. Words of wisdom, words of power. Words of wisdom-"

"Name yourself," the Doctor ordered. "Planet of origin. Galactic coordinates. Species designation according to the universal ratification of the Shadow Proclamation."

"Get ready to run, Donna," Rose whispered to her.

"Yeah, I figured that much out, thanks," she whispered back.

"We are rising!"

"Tell me your name!" the Doctor yelled.

"Pyrovile," the high priestess finally declared in a screech.

Immediately, the sisters began chanting the name as they rocked on the floor.

Chapter Text

Rose and Donna stood there, looking around at the rocking women chanting the name of the species they were becoming. The Doctor watched the High Priestess, ignoring the chanters.

"What's a Pyrovile?" Donna asked.

"I imagine she's one," Rose said.

"Well, close. That's a Pyrovile growing inside her. She's a halfway stage," the Doctor lectured.

"What, and that turns into?"

"Rock men," Rose blurted out.

"That thing in the villa. That was an adult Pyrovile," the Doctor elaborated.

"And the breath of a Pyrovile will incinerate you!" the rock woman threatened.

The Doctor had sort of prepared himself for something like this and pulled a small, yellow water pistol from his pocket that he'd filled at the house. He positioned himself between the thing that used to be the high priestess and his companions.

"I warn you, I'm armed. Rose, Donna, get that grill open," he instructed.

"What for?" Donna questioned.

"Don't ask, just do it. When he gives directions like that, he's got a plan," Rose told her, moving to open the grating.

"What are the Pyrovile doing here?" the Doctor demanded.

"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?" he reasoned.

"We have slept beneath for thousands of years," she corrected.

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

"We opened their minds and found such gifts," she told him.

"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?" the Doctor wondered.

As he spoke, Rose and Donna lifted the grate out of the way and Rose immediately put her finger to her lips to keep Donna from speaking as she told the Doctor that they'd gotten the grate open. He then quickly told her what to do.

"Get down there," Rose whispered to Donna.

"What? Down there?"

"Yes, down there," she repeated.

"What about the Doctor's plan?" Donna asked.

"This is the plan."

"How do you know?" Donna questioned again.

"We're not human, Donna. We don't need to say it out loud. Now get in there," Rose whispered.

As they started to climb into the steaming hole, the apparent second in command shouted, "Sisters, I see into his mind. The weapon is harmless!"

"Yeah, but it's got to sting," the Doctor retorted before shooting the half Pyrovile.

The Doctor quickly followed his wife and friend down into the hypocaust, spraying the creature behind him all the way. Rose immediately jumped into his arms when he landed and held him tightly.

"You fought her off with a water pistol. I bloody love you!" Donna cheered.

"Me too," Rose added and kissed him on the cheek.

"Thank you, ladies. This way," he instructed, keeping a tight hold on his wife's hand.

"Where are we going now?" Donna questioned worriedly.

"Into the volcano," he replied.

"No way," she protested, but continued to follow. After all, where else could she go to escape?

"Yes, way. Appian way," he responded, preening over his little joke.

Rose rolled her eyes. "I will be so relieved when we leave here and you stop with all the Latin and Roman jokes."

They walked together through the sweltering tunnels and Donna took the opportunity to ask her questions. "But if it's aliens setting off the volcano, doesn't that make it all right for you to stop it?"

"Still part of history," he told her curtly.

"But I'm history to you. You saved me in 2008. You saved us all. Why is that different?" she protested.

"Some things are fixed, some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed," he answered, clearly unhappy with her continued pressure on him. This was why he always avoided fixed points. His conscience couldn't handle the guilt of leaving so many people behind, but he couldn't do anything to save them.

"How do you know which is which?" Donna wondered.

"Let me, Love," Rose interjected. She could feel him becoming more and more anxious about her questioning. "Donna, as Time Lords, we can see all of the possibilities around everyone and everything. It's like, the way things have to be for the universe to hold together. A long time ago, when I was still human and didn't understand these things, I tried to change something in my own history. See, my dad died when I was a baby, and the Doctor took me back to see him. I tried to save his life. But you see, because him being alive would have changed my whole life, I never woulda met the Doctor and gone back to save him. It created a paradox. And everything started to just go insane. There's like, these creatures that come and try to destroy whatever caused the problem, so that the whole universe doesn't get destroyed."

"So, because we know about Pompeii and it being destroyed made our modern world the way it is, we can't change it without changing whether we come here to change it?" Donna reasoned.

"Exactly! Knew you were brilliant!" Rose beamed.

"That was a very good explanation," he acknowledged and hugged his wife from the side as they kept walking. He could feel that it was painful for her to recount her father's death, but it had been an important lesson for her about time travel. He never should have taken her there to begin with, really, but he could never deny her anything. "They know we're here. Come on," he added as they approached their goal.

##########

After Lucius and several Pyroviles caught up to them, the three of them wound up climbing into the small capsule that held the six marble circuit boards the Doctor had seen. He closed the door between them and the aliens and they were truly stuck.

"Could we be any more trapped?" Donna grumbled after the door came down.

"It's getting hotter," Rose noticed, fanning herself in an attempt to stay cool before she remembered she could control how she felt and how her body responded to the heat.

"Yeah, they're trying to cook us out of here," the Doctor said dismissively as he looked over the control panel. "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."

"But can't you change it with these controls?" Donna wondered.

Rose had learned enough over her nearly four years of traveling the universe and listening to the Doctor's technobabble to be able to piece together the gist of what he'd said with the help of her new, insanely faster Gallifreyan brain. The Pyroviles were taking the energy of the volcano that should have been erupting and using it to change people. She put her hand over her mouth when she realized the horror of what really had to happen..

"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!" the Doctor exclaimed

"But you can change it back?" Donna asked desperately.

"Yes," Rose croaked out finally.

The Doctor turned his gaze on her apologetically. He knew that she'd pieced it together already and knew what had to happen. He took her hand in his as he explained everything to their companion. "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."

At his words, Rose wrapped her arms around him from the side, not saying anything. She didn't need to. She could see that it had hit Donna, and the Doctor could feel her swirling emotions, which were all that needed to be said.

"Oh, my God."

"If Pompeii is destroyed then it's not just history, it's me. I make it happen."

"It's us, Doctor," Rose spoke up in determination. "I won't let you do this alone."

"Doctor, Rose, the Pyrovile are made of rocks. Maybe they can't be blown up," Donna pointed out.

"Vesuvius explodes with the force of twenty four nuclear bombs. Nothing can survive it. Certainly not us," the Doctor replied apologetically.

"Never mind us," Donna said bravely.

"'S not the first time we've blown ourselves up," Rose recalled.

"I don't think we're gonna get out of this one, Love," the Doctor sighed. He gestured at the lever right next to the three of them. "Push this lever and it's over. Twenty thousand people."

He put his hands on the lever and Rose put hers next to him before she leaned her head on his shoulder. To both of their surprise, Donna put her hands over the Doctor's, not having room to put her hands directly on the bar.

They all pushed down together in silence, then the world went mad.

The pod shot up into the air, sending them to the floor with the force of it. They grabbed onto each other desperately as the small, spherical room tumbled over and over and Donna and Rose were both screaming. Finally, the pod came to a halt and the three of them crumpled to the floor. Miraculously, none of them seemed to have any major injuries, though they were all going to be very sore.

The Doctor was the first up, he popped open the hatch and stepped outside into the sunlight.

"It was an escape pod," he said, stunned.

"Uh, Doctor. We need to Run!" Rose said, seeing the ash coming.

The time travelling trio ran through the streets, against the flow of people that were running towards the beach. Clearly they were hoping that the water could save them from the fire raining down upon them, but Donna recalled reading about how many had died by the water.

"Don't. Don't go to the beach. Don't go to the beach, go to the hills. Listen to me. Don't go to the beach, it's not safe. Listen to me," she tried to warn people. If they got high enough, they'd be away from the toxic gases that would suffocate them all. She tried to pick up a crying little boy to protect him, but his mother snatched him away, angrily.

"Come on, Donna. There might still be a chance to make a difference," Rose assured her as she pulled their companion back toward the TARDIS.

"Gods save us, Doctor!" Caecilius cried as he and his family cowered in the corner of the room. The ground shook and there was hot ash floating through the air all around them.

The Doctor opened the door to the time ship, but was held back by his wife before he could enter.

"Wait, Love. I know you're blocking it. It hurts to see so many timelines ending, but take a look at this one family. Please," she insisted.

He sighed and closed his eyes before doing as she asked. It became very clear to him, that there could be a wonderful future for these people, but only if he took them out of there. No one would be harmed by their continued timelines, in fact, Quintus would become a physician and save dozens of lives himself.

"Come with me," he said, offering a hand up to Caecilius.

Rose and Donna helped them all into the TARDIS and they relocated to the top of a nearby hill, where they would be safe. Together, they watched as the city below them burned and they were all deeply saddened by the loss of life.

"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 told them, putting on his brave face.

"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, though most of them didn't understand what he was talking about.

"But tell me. Who are you, Doctor? With your words, and your temple containing such size within?" Metella questioned, clearly wanting to thank them for saving them.

"Oh, we were never here. Don't tell anyone," he answered.

"The great god Vulcan must be enraged. It's so volcanic. It's like some sort of volcano. All those people," Caecilius commented as he stared out at the burning ruins.

They took the opportunity to slip back into the ship and take their leave, the Doctor staring at the controls sadly. He sent the ship into the vortex, so that Donna could get some sleep before their next adventure.

"Thank you," Donna said.

"That was you, Donna. You were the one to insist on us making a difference. We can't always, and it's hard to accept, but thank you for making us try," Rose told her proudly.

"Yeah. You were right. Welcome aboard," the Doctor added.

"Yeah," Donna responded with a smile.

Their companion excused herself for the night and Rose held out an expectant hand to her husband. "Come on. We need to talk."



Chapter Text

 

If there was anything he'd learned about people in his long life, it was the fact that the words, "We need to talk," were never good ones to hear, even in the best circumstances. Those dreaded words being uttered by someone who was as good at reading him as Rose was wasn't helping anything either.

"Something upset you terribly back there," Rose said bluntly once they reached their bedroom. "I mean, after something like that, you're supposed to…" She trailed off, unable to finish that. No matter what, all those people were going to die, but the knowledge didn't make it any easier. "But this is worse than that," she finished.

"I'm fine. Perfectly fine," he countered.

"No, you're not. Will you show me?" Rose questioned softly.

"Show you what?" the Doctor asked.

"What's going on in your head."

Instantly, he stilled, staring at her with a shocked expression that would have been comical if the discussion weren't so serious.

"What? Why?"

"Because it might help, to talk about it. That helps people a lot; sharing the burden, yeah? But we've got the whole telepathy bit, so I can really understand."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"I just can't, Rose." When she kept staring him down, he shifted and added, "I couldn't do that to you."

"Doctor, don't shut me out right now." She reached up and pulled one of the many pieces of ash out of his hair.

"It's not- Look, I- I just can't let you see any of it. It'd be very, very bad," he told her, backing away.

"It's the war, isn't it?" Rose asked.

He nodded and closed his eyes against the onslaught of emotions surrounding his memories of the war. He had made a promise to the universe to be a doctor, fix things, make the universe a better place. But in the war, he had destroyed so much. He broke that promise.

"Rose, it's one thing to know, and another to see it. Why I'm the only one of my kind left."

Rose took his hand and told him as she had years ago, "There's me. There will always be me. I know you feel like it was all your fault, Doctor, but I will never blame you for making the choices you did. I know you. I know that in your hearts, you thought it was the only option."

"You know how bad the nightmares are. I couldn't possibly," he argued.

"Would it be easier to just tell me?" she offered.

"No, but you wouldn't just see it. If I shared it with you telepathically, you'd feel all of it, Rose. I don't want you to be hurt by the War," he explained.

"It hurts me more to see you suffering alone, Doctor. I want to help. Together, maybe it won't hurt either of us as much," Rose assured him. "And maybe it will help me."

"Promise me that if we do this, you'll tell me to stop if it gets to be too much?" he insisted.

At her nod, they reached for each other's temples and closed their eyes. A second later, she opened them again, but it wasn't her Doctor's chocolate brown eyes she was looking into. They were still brown, but the irises had a gray rim. His hair was gray. Not entirely gray yet, there were still enough of the darker hairs to tell that he would have had dark brown hair if that body were younger. The hair was also spiked up, much like his current incarnation favored, but it wasn't deliberate, she could tell this Doctor just didn't care about his appearance that much and hadn't combed his hair.

He was dressed much like he had been when Rose first met him, though his jacket was a lighter colour of leather and he was wearing a scarf.

"It's still me, Rose," the Doctor said softly, or as softly as he could with the gravelly voice.

"If course it is, silly, who else would be here in this dusty ol' head of yours." The Doctor smirked at that. "Speaking of dusty…"

She looked around and, while she couldn't see the details in the distance, she saw the unmistakable shape and color of the TARDIS. They were standing in a desert and sand was everywhere. By the Doctor's feet, a worn sack laid on the ground.

"It looks so real," she commented.

"It was," he said. "Gone now."

"Where are we?" she asked. Looking up, she saw two suns and a couple of moons. "I thought we were going to be in the War?"

"We are," the Doctor replied sadly. "This is the last day. Arcadia has fallen."

"But there's nothing going on?"

"We're also in the middle of a desert. No one to fight here. What do you think were the weapons for the Time War? Guns and cannons? Tanks and explosives?"

"Well, partly, I also imagine time travel was used in some way."

"Oh, yes. Anything you could imagine was a weapon. Projectile weapons, lasers, explosives, there were biological and chemical weapons. Organic and inorganic beings designed for destruction. The worst weapon of all, though, was Time. We're capable of rewriting a timeline and remembering the old one. It's something everyone who has ever traveled in Time has acquired to varying degrees, but Gallifreyans were born with it. "

"Now, imagine remembering the same event a dozen different ways. One time, your side loses in a standard firefight; another time, their side loses to explosives; one time through, the enemy takes your people out with gas. You remember dying over and over and over. Now multiply that by hundreds, even thousands of battles. Most of our people were losing their minds. We were having trouble telling what was real from what had been, but was real no more."

He stopped for a moment, squeezing his brown and grey eyes shut, making the wrinkles around his eyes deeper. "I was at Arcadia when the city fell. The Citadel is close to falling as well. The Daleks are taking advantage of what was once our greatest strength, our ability to see Time in many ways. Time is burning, we're losing our minds, and our Time senses are our biggest weakness. I've shut out the majority of mine."

She could tell he was reliving the War, as he was speaking in present tense. Being there, in his mind, she could feel the madness pressing against them, his pain and frustration as well.

"In desperation, the Time Lords resurrected one of the founders of our society, Rassilon. But he's going to-"

Suddenly, the world changed, and Rose was thrown into a completely different scene. She was looking at the world through the eyes of the Doctor as an old friend of his, Romanadvoratrelundar, known as Romana to him (or Fred, if he was in a particularly whimsical mood, something that rarely happened in that life), explained that the council had decided to go over her head and enter the Tomb of Rassilon to resurrect him. The action automatically deposed her so that their founder could re-take his place as Lord President.

The scene changed again. Rassilon standing tall and proud in front of a large group of Time Lords, who, despite the war, still managed for the most part to put on ceremonial robes to welcome the man most of them revered as a god.

The Doctor scoffed at the scene before him. These were Time Lords, damn it! The man before them was nothing more than a half mad, ruthless Time Lord.

Make that fully mad.

Panic. Desperation. Fear. He was running through the remains of the Omega Arsenal, looking for the one weapon which his people hadn't been able to bring themselves to use: the Moment. It was either the entire universe or this constellation, there was no other choice. They'd all gone mad. He picked up the box he found in the center of the room and stuck it in the sack.

This war had gone on long enough.

NO MORE

They were in an old barn, and Rose was viewing the scene from outside of the Doctor again. He put down the bag he'd been carrying across the desert and opened it, revealing the ornate box. He was muttering to himself, then a noise was heard outside and he turned from the box and went to look out the door to make sure no one was coming to stop him.

"Where are we?" Rose wondered.

"Where I was going in the desert. This is where I did it," he said in his gravelly voice, turning around to look at her. "That is the single most dangerous weapon that has ever been made, not a chair," he pointed out.

"We're in your head, why not both?" she responded, getting up from the box anyway. "You know, a weapon shouldn't be this beautiful."

His salt and pepper eyebrow went up as he looked her over. "That's a rather interesting look you have there."

She looked down at herself. The outfit she'd put on in Pompeii was gone, instead, she was wearing a cream sweater and tunic that went nearly to her knees and stockings. Everything was torn and fraying. She didn't know whether she was wearing grunge or post apocalyptic. She also had very curly and much longer hair.

"Yes, it is," she replied, unconcerned.

"I know what you're doing," he accused.

"Of course you do. And it's working."

"I don't need you to distract me."

"Yes, you do. You needed to calm down, my Doctor."

He stiffened up. "Don't call me that," he ordered.

"Why not. It's the name you chose."

"It's the name I don't deserve. I gave it up in this life. I'm a killer, Rose, not a Doctor." He spat out the last word, like it cost him everything to say it and Rose realized that the personality he had at the time was in the forefront. With that realization, she looked deeper at him and gasped at what she saw.

Every personality he'd ever had was still in his mind and would always be, not just the memories. The older selves were pushed back and hidden at regeneration, rejected in favor of the newer lives. The one he was using at the moment was the darkest of them all. She caught flashes of key battles in the War. Strategies. Daleks killing children in red robes. His family. No more.

The Doctor brought her back to the barn quickly. "Rose? I'm sorry, I didn't mean to- Do you need-?"

"I see you," she blurted out. "All of you." He was old, much older than even he thought. There was so much darkness. She caught glimpses of moments where he'd had to kill people before the War. But there was so much light too. Little moments like helping a child find its parents and bigger ones, like his need to stop invasions.

She imagined she'd have been truly shocked if she hadn't have met him the way she had. He'd been indifferent to Wilson being dead and had been carrying a bomb, yet at the same time, he went out of his way to save her.

The brightest lights always cast the deepest shadows.

She looked away for a moment, unable to meet his eyes and saw the box. It had transformed from a cube that looked like a puzzle box into a gold diamond shaped box with a large, red ruby on top of it that looked like a flower, specifically a rose.

"And there it is, primed and ready to go. Just one press, and half of Kasterborous is gone, along with so many species. I'll wake up in the TARDIS a different man. I still don't know how I wound up in the Old Girl. She was miles and miles and miles away." His voice had no emotion in it. He was trying to separate himself, and her, from the act as much as he could. There was no hiding the fear, though. Layers of fear, old and new, overwhelmed them both.

He walked over to it mechanically. "Goodbye," he croaked out and put his hand on the button.

They both blinked back into awareness with tears in their eyes. Rose could see not only the pain in his, but his fear as well, fear that she would now hate him for all that he had done.

"I love you," she choked out and he just stared at her for a few seconds in shock before he pulled her to him in a desperate kiss.

Instantly, he was on top of her, both of them grasping at each other's clothing. They were still covered in the dust and ash from Pompeii, but neither of them cared. Clothes were torn, but nothing removed entirely. It was barely half a minute before he pushed deep inside her roughly.

She scratched her nails down his back harshly, making him gasp. He growled as his teeth sank into the muscle of her shoulder. Rose wrapped her legs around him, pulling him in closer as he buried his pain and fear inside of her.

His rough handling and the scraping of the little bumps on his erection were triggering her arousal ever higher. Rose could feel the desperation in him. He felt like he was going to explode if he didn't release this tension somehow, so she projected her feelings toward him. Feelings of love, acceptance, desire, and her own pleasure building from his actions. The Doctor whimpered in response, the sound conflicting with his violent thrusts, but she knew that it was reassuring him.

He projected back to his wife, his eternal love and gratefulness for her in his life. The loop of their passions being sent back and forth built at an exponential rate until both of them screamed their release. The Doctor collapsed next her and their hands entwined before they both fell asleep lightly.

##########

"I can practically hear you thinking," the Doctor said, keeping his eyes closed. "And not telepathically, either. You're stiff and restless, which is something you shouldn't be. Should I be worried?"

"Doctor?" Rose asked worriedly. "About what they said? The prophecies, I mean. What do you think they mean?"

He rolled over and pushed the lock of her hair off her cheek and back behind her ear. "I think that you shouldn't worry about them."

"But, I mean, we've been given a few different ones lately, and there's got to be a reason why. I'm trying to figure it out, but I don't have enough to go on." She sighed. "I hate prophesies. They make me feel as if I have no control over my own life."

"Which is why you should ignore them, Rose," the Doctor told her. "Prophecies are, usually, useless at best. Most aren't real or could have been real, but something changed. They're almost always so vague as to be useless until some event that passes by and everyone goes on about how so and so's prophesy came true."

"But they said-"

"Oh, I know what they said. I remember, but really, something on my back? That could be my mole, which isn't exactly a surprise, you know. Found it minutes after I got this handsome face. It could be a 'kick me' sign. It could be anything, and we won't know until the events pass. And the one about Donna. It obviously is telling her that someone wasn't a figment of her imagination, but that's all we can know right now. Could be talking about fictional characters like Robin Hood, for all we know."

"Robin Hood's real?" Rose's curiosity was peaked, which was no doubt what the Doctor had intended.

"Of course he isn't," the Doctor teased her. "Made up."

"That last one wasn't all that vague, Doctor," she reminded him seriously. "Pack only means one thing: family. All my family's gone," she reminded him, not that he needed the reminder. "All I can think about is children, but you said you're supposed to be unable to father children like that. Or was that when we were different from each other?"

The Doctor looked into her eyes. Bad day that was. Seemed like all his horrors were going to be visited on him that day. Did Rose change her mind after all and decide she wanted a baby? It'd be like her, to want to make sure he wasn't alone if something happened to her. The thing was, all his family was gone and not just in another world and he couldn't imagine ever subjecting himself to that kind of pain again.

"No, no, that's still not possible," he told her.

"How not possible?" Rose asked.

"I-um. Well, there would be a chance, if I tinkered with both of us a bit, just a little bit, but-"

"But not the normal way," Rose finished.

"What's normal anyway? In the Haragrax-"

"Doctor, I just wanna know about the chances of a plain, boring sperm meets egg and baby grows pregnancy," she interrupted, not giving him the chance to ramble out of the conversation.

"Zero," he said with conviction.

"Have you checked?"

"Well, no, why would I? I can't, and you're the same."

"Doctor?"

"Yes?" he answered cautiously.

"Check. Please," she asked of him.

He sighed. "Okay, I'll check, but not right now. Right now, I just want to hold my wife."

##########

When they woke up from their nap, he made love to her gently before they finally went to the medbay so he could scan both of them for Rose's peace of mind.

"Lay down," he instructed her, pointing to the bed that she'd been scanned on before. She hopped up and got into the position, watching the scanner move over her to her abdomen before the light turned on. She waited in silence while it scanned and moved back in place.

"You can breathe, you know," the Doctor told her, making her realize that she was, indeed holding her breath. "Come here and look. This is interesting."

She looked at what appeared to be a model of her own body, but it looked odd to her, nothing like what she was used to seeing. "What's all this?"

He began pointing out various organs, showing her how most of her organs had a duplicate, which explained why she was slightly heavier and her midsection wasn't as soft as it was before the change. Apparently, it was something he explained just after her change, but she was still a bit overwhelmed at the time and hadn't properly retained it.

"What's this?" she asked, pointing to a shapeless blob. She knew exactly what it was, due to its placement, but she wanted to hear how he explained it.

His ears turned a bit red and she fought to keep a straight face and her amusement from him. Then he smirked and she knew he'd figured out just what to say.

"Oh, that's evidence."

"Of?" she pressed.

"A good time, but then you knew that already, didn't you?"

"Oh, well, it was worth a try. Your ears turned a lovely shade of red, though," she teased before she turned serious. "So, Doctor?"

"Alright. Now, that little blob of evidence also helps us determine what could happen without me having to be scanned."

"Are you sure you don't need to be scanned?"

"Yes, Rose, I am very sure I don't need a more recent scan. But, basically, you don't have to worry. Zero chance without some tinkering."

"Fine. I'll go make us all some breakfast, then we're setting the controls to random for today," she told him, heading for the galley.

As she left, the Doctor wondered what she really thought of the news. He tried to get a sense of her emotions, but it was a bit of a jumble with everything that had happened in the last twenty four hours.

 

Chapter Text

 

"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 explained to his companions.

"Long overdue," Rose added, threading her arm through his and squeezing tightly. She had known a long time ago, on an impossible planet that what humans were doing to the Ood was wrong, but so much happened that day. In the end, they couldn't save the ones that were there and they hadn't come across them again until today.

"We thank you, Doctor and Wolf, friend Donna, friends of Oodkind. And what of you now? Will you stay? There is room in the song for you," Ood Sigma asked them.

"Oh, I've, I've sort of got a song of my own, thanks," the Doctor replied.

"I think your song must end soon," Sigma told him.

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Rose questioned.

"Every song must end. Fear not, Wolf. There are symphonies yet to come," he assured her.

"Yeah. Er, what about you? You still want to go home?" the Doctor asked Donna, hoping to shift the conversation away from even more prophecies. He knew they always worried his Rose.

"No. Definitely not," Donna answered. She had been so afraid earlier. Disgusted by what people would do for power, and how blindly others would follow them. Now, she could see what Rose had meant when she said that they were needed. That they could help everywhere they went.

"Then we'll be off," the Doctor announced.

"Take this song with you," Ood Sigma insisted.

"We will," Donna responded with a smile.

"Always," the Doctor told him, taking his wife's hand reassuringly. He could feel her thoughts swirling chaotically again with the new warnings they'd been given. It was fear, but never for herself, she would always worry about him.

"And know this, Doctor and his Wolf, friend Donna. You will never be forgotten. Our children will sing of the trio, and our children's children, and the wind and the ice and the snow will carry your names forever," Sigma said as they walked through the doors of the TARDIS, on towards their next adventure.

##########

A month after Donna helped them free the Ood, Rose and Donna had grown closer. The two of them would often gang up on the Doctor, to his eternal grumpiness. Rose thought Donna was just like her mother, caring, but not taking any flak from anyone. She wasn't like her mother in that she accepted that Rose used to be human, and then wasn't.

They'd kept introducing Donna to everyone as the Doctor's sister, which, as anyone who spent more than fifteen minutes with the two of them could attest to, was a fairly accurate description of their relationship. The two of them fought and poked at each other just like siblings.

The Doctor started teaching Rose more complex things that she could do, like how she could analyze the chemical makeup of things she tasted (beyond the ingredients used to make her smoothies) or, with concentration, hear from a much further distance. He also had her work with him on the TARDIS at times. No longer could she just hang out on the jump seat while he worked. The lessons were never boring because the Doctor preferred a more practical approach to teaching, which was how Rose still learned best.

But she had to stop him sometimes when he started to overdo things. She was still human in her mind, if not her physical brain or anything else and needed breaks from the barrage of information. Of course, she knew a few tricks to distract him from technical stuff every now and then. Donna accidentally walked in on a few instances of them doing more than repairs beneath the grating in the console room.

##########

They hadn't been at the party in the 1920's that Agatha Christie had attended for long before the first body was found. The three of them were examining residue from a giant wasp's sting when the Doctor revealed that it wasn't from their galactic sector.

"The murderer's an alien?" Donna asked.

"Yep. And from far away," Rose answered.

"Which means one of that lot is an alien in human form," the Doctor deduced.

"Oh, lovely, a shapeshifter," Rose commented. "Could be anyone."

"Yeah, but think about it. There's a murder, a mystery, and Agatha Christie," Donna said.

"So?" the Doctor asked. "Happens to me all the time."

"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 reasoned.

"Well."

"Ah, my first trip into the past," Rose told her. "Charlie was so skeptical. And they weren't ghosts, really, more like a different kind of alien." She laughed at the shocked look Donna wore.

#####

"Er, copyright Donna Noble. Add it to the list," Donna joked-sort of, with Agatha Christie.

Rose sat there, feeling a bit lightheaded. She then started to breathe rapidly, out of her control. "Doctor," Rose gasped. "Something's wrong!"

"What?" he got up quickly, putting his own drink down. He moved to drop right in front of her and put his hands to her temples. "Show me," he ordered.

How the hell was she supposed to show him! She was starting to panic, but the Doctor got what he needed to know anyway.

"Something's inhibiting her enzymes. She's been poisoned," he said in a dark voice.

"What do we do? What do we do?" Donna asked fearfully as Agatha sniffed Rose's drink.

"Bitter almonds. It's cyanide. Sparkling Cyanide," she announced, looking at Rose sadly.

With that, the Doctor unceremoniously picked Rose up as if she weighed nothing and left the room. "It's okay, Love, you're gonna be okay," he promised as he took her to the kitchen.

At the kitchen, the Doctor sat her down on a counter and called out, "Ginger beer!"

"I beg your pardon?" one man asked incredulously about the same time Rose bent over in pain and began breathing rapidly.

"I need ginger beer. Where is it? I'll get it myself!" The Doctor started looking around while a few other people acted indignant, and one called him mad. No one asked what was wrong with Rose.

"Okay, Rose, I'm gonna give you stuff, and you need to eat and drink it, no matter what it is, okay?" the Doctor asked as he found a bottle of ginger beer.

"Yes, just do it!" Rose answered.

"Drink." He handed her the bottle and Rose tipped it up, drinking as fast as she could. "That's enough." He took the bottle from her and poured it over her head.

"I'm an expert in poisons. Doctor, there's no cure. It's fatal," Agatha told him. "I'm sorry."

"Not for us. I can stimulate the inhibited enzymes into reversal. Protein. I need protein." He started looking around for the right thing and Rose hoped he wasn't going to shove the raw beef right behind her into her mouth.

"Walnuts?" Donna asked, holding out some.

"Brilliant, you are. Rose, hold out your hands" The Doctor put a bunch of walnuts into her hands. "Eat all of these as quick as you can. Now, I need something salty."

"What about this?" Donna asked, holding up a paper bag.

"What is it?" the Doctor asked quickly.

"Salt," Donna said. Well, if you wanted salt, salt was the way to get it, Rose thought, almost finished munching on the walnuts.

"No, too salty," the Doctor told her, still looking around.

"Oh, that's too salty," Donna said sarcastically and put the bag down.

"I'm trying to save my wife's life, here! It has to be right!" the Doctor exclaimed.

"What about this?" Agatha questioned, holding up a jar.

"What's that?" both Donna and Rose asked at the same time.

"Anchovies," Agatha replied.

Rose groaned, both in pain and at the thought of eating the tiny, preserved fish. She was really starting to get dizzy. "Doctor?"

"I know, Rose, I know. This'll be the last thing you have to eat, I promise and really soon, you'll feel much better. Just quickly and try not to taste it." She downed what he gave her, but not tasting it was easier said than done. When she ate enough, the Doctor had her stop.

"What now?" she asked, gasping and trying not to throw up. Please let this work, I don't want to leave him alone.

The Doctor took her head head in his hands and put his forehead to hers, speaking softly. "I know, Love, I know, and I'm sorry, but if you don't relax and let it work, you're going to lose the baby."

Her whole body stiffened up with shock. "What?!" she nearly screamed before her whole body spasmed, her head went back involuntarily and a thick cloud of dark smoke came pouring out of her mouth.

"I've never seen that from the outside before. Looks like Sam Winchester's been busy again," the Doctor commented mildly.

Rose was coughing and leaning against the counter as he said that. As soon as the urge to cough stopped, she felt a lot better and stronger. She stood up, turned around, and smacked the Doctor across his face, hard enough to make her mother proud.

#####

The Doctor held his cheek and stared at the fuming woman in front of him. Damn, that hurt, but he deserved it.

"You-you said, you promised! You said 'zero chance!' Zero, not tiny bit, nor in a month. Zero! You said you didn't-couldn't-" she growled in frustration and stormed out of the kitchen.

"She's pregnant?!" Donna exclaimed.

"No! I just said that 'cause she needed a shock!"

"Go after her, you prawn!" Donna yelled and shoved him.

He ran after his wife. "Rose! Rose! You're-" He caught up to her, just after the first turn in the hallway. She was sitting on the floor against the wall, crying.

"Pregnant, I know," she sniffed. "It's okay, It's okay. Not what I wanted, but we can make it work, we can do this-"

"No, you're not." he said gently. "You never were. I- Ow! Quit hitting me!" She slugged him in the shoulder.

"You deserve a whole helluva lot more than that. Which is it?!" she yelled at him.

"You're not pregnant, I promise. What I said before is true. Zero chance!" He backed up so she couldn't hit him again.

"Then why, why would you say such a thing?"

"It's all I could think of that'd be a complete shock and would jump start the detox."

"Well, that definitely did it! Oh, my God, I really thought I was gonna be a mother!"

"I'm sorry, Rose, I really am," he said.

"Yeah, well, don't do that again, ever," she ordered.

"I promise."

"Just so's we're clear. I don't want kids. I don't see myself wanting kids, yeah?"

"Yeah, got it." Internally, he breathed a sigh of relief. Not that kids with Rose would be a bad thing, she'd be a great mother, he still maintained, but he really, really couldn't do it again.

"And you're scanning yourself when this is over," she demanded.

"But-"

"No buts. It only takes a minute, do the damned scan."

"Yes, sir."

"Ugh, I'm covered in ginger beer!" They both started laughing, mostly out of relief.

"You all made up?" Donna asked, peeking around the corner. Agatha came out behind her.

##########

Made up didn't mean forgotten, though. It was a week before the Rose would let the Doctor touch her intimately again. He deserved the punishment. Really, he deserved a lot more than that, but was glad when she'd decided he'd had enough. An innocent kiss had turned heated and he was glad their companion was asleep and not going to walk in on the two of them, because he pushed her right there against the wall in the hallway outside the galley and didn't intend to move from the spot until they were finished.

##########

He walked into the console room just in time to hear Donna ask Rose, "How do you do that?"

"How does she do what?" the Doctor wondered.

"Fly the TARDIS. Can you teach me?" Donna asked.

"I-er," the Doctor started.

"I don't see why not?" Rose jumped in. "The basics anyway. Wouldn't want something to happen and you be stranded in another time away from your home."

"She wouldn't be. Emergency Program One will take any companion to the time and place they're meant to be," he pointed out and immediately wished he hadn't. If looks could kill, he'd be dead and his ashes scattered across the constellation by then.

"Why, exactly is that program even still there?" Rose demanded.

"Why wouldn't it be?" he defended, shifting.

"Yeah, I suppose so," Rose agreed. "You really need to start telling people that could happen and I wanna see the hologram later," she added in his mind. It wasn't an unreasonable request, so he sent his agreement.

He went over to the console. "Okay, Donna Noble, ready for your first lesson?"

Somehow, they wound up letting Donna actually drive through the Vortex. The ride was very bumpy, but she was doing it.

"I can't believe I'm doing this!" Donna shouted gleefully.

"No, neither can I. Oh, careful!" He hit the console with the mallet and pulled a lever before letting Donna take over again.

"How many times? Quit hittin' the console with the mallet!" Rose shouted over the sounds of the TARDIS careening through the Vortex.

"It works. Left hand down. Left hand down! Getting a bit too close to the 1980s."

"What am I going to do, put a dent in them?" Donna asked sarcastically.

"Well, someone did!" the Doctor replied.

Rose's mobile rang out, playing 'The Bad Touch."

"Hold on. What the hell is that?" Donna asked.

"You and me, baby, ain't nothin but mammals," Rose was absentmindedly singing as she fished the phone out of her pocket.

"Jack," the Doctor said, narrowing his eyes at the mobile phone in Rose's hand.

"Oh, you love him," Rose chided.

"Yeah, but why did you have to pick that song?" he complained.

Laughing, Rose answered the phone. "Hellooo handsome!"

"Jack?" Donna asked beside him. "Rose has mentioned a Jack before."

"He's…oh, you're gonna figure it out soon," he told her when he heard Rose ask when and where they needed to meet him.

Chapter Text

Jack and his team at Torchwood generally kept an eye on unusual things happening on Earth. Knowing how important this time period was in human development, he felt it was his duty to protect his own history. Once he was free of the idiots who had previously been controlling Torchwood, Jack rather liked his little group.

Lately, he had been keeping an eye on something called ATMOS. It was supposed to be some kind of filtering device that reduced the carbon emissions in your car to nothing. It generally came with a GPS device as well. Of course, it peaked the interest of the people who never looked at the big picture, but Jack could tell something was up with this thing. They were practically giving them away, wanting every car in the world to be using it. That was yet another red flag to him, and he decided it was time to have a look around where these things were being manufactured.

Jack and Gwen were just about to enter the building undetected, when a couple of army trucks skidded to a stop right in front of the main doors and a slew of UNIT troops stormed out. Jack rolled his eyes.

"What the bloody hell are they doing here?" Gwen asked indignantly.

"Same thing as us, only their methods are somewhat less subtle," Jack explained.

"You two! Freeze!" a soldier shouted at them and they were escorted into the trailer that was set up as their mission control.

Upon coming face to face with the man in charge, Jack and Gwen both revealed their Torchwood identifications.

"You know, UNIT has all the finesse of a bull in a china shop. We were about to infiltrate quietly to maybe get some answers before raising the alarm," Jack told him.

Colonel Mace was tall and slim, standing with a clear air of authority over the situation. "Well, we have everything under control now. There is no need for your little group to be involved," he told Jack haughtily.

"Right. Under control, huh? And what have you learned so far?" Jack questioned.

"That is classified!" Mace deflected.

"Really? I think it's time to call in a specialist," Jack said with a smirk as he reached into his pocket for his mobile.

"We have several scientists at work on this problem. What are you doing?" the Colonel asked in confusion as Jack phoned Rose.

Jack merely held up a finger as he waited for her to answer. "Hellooo handsome," he heard Rose greet him, laughing.

"Hey Rosie! We've got a bit of a situation on Earth and I think it would be best if your husband got involved. UNIT seems to be in a bit over their heads," Jack told her, prompting a glare from Colonel Mace.

The Colonel knew that there was something important going on in the conversation, given the direction that they were on Earth. Of course UNIT knew of extra terrestrials, dealt with them often, but he wasn't exactly sure who Jack was talking to. He listened as their location coordinates were relayed, and had an inkling as to who was being summoned when Harkness also mentioned the date and time in the directions.

Jack led the Colonel and Gwen back outside of the trailer to wait for the Doctor to arrive, crossing his arms over his chest and refusing to answer any questions put to him.

Moments after he called up Rose and the Doctor, the TARDIS materialized right in front of them. The door opened, and out stepped Rose, followed closely by the Doctor and a redheaded woman he didn't know.

"Wow, Doc, I've never known you to be so punctual. I expected it to take at least ten minutes, maybe an hour, possibly a day to get here. Did Rosie drive?" he joked.

"Actually, no," Rose answered, looking slightly apprehensive.

He stayed still for a moment, knowing this had been the first time since the day she became a Time Lord- Lady that she'd actually been in the same place and time as him. He didn't know what kind of instincts his fixed pointedness would bring out in her. The Doctor, having dealt with Time senses for centuries, had run, but he didn't know if he could take it if his best friend who he considered family were to run.

Rose moved forward a few steps, then grinned the full Rosie grin, tongue in teeth and all, before she ran up to him and hugged him. "It works, Jack. I can shut it out completely," she whispered in his ear, mindful of the company.

"I'm glad to hear it, Sweetheart," he whispered back.

Donna watched Rose tentatively walk up to the really rather handsome man as if she were scared, then suddenly finish closing the distance between them in a run. An older man, dressed in full military uniform, complete with medals and all, stood to the side and watched the reunion of the two friends with disdain. A shorter woman with black hair and severely straight bangs rolled her eyes at the borderline inappropriate display before she started talking into a communicator to someone named Ianto.

The military man then turned to look at her and the Doctor, appraising the two of them for a moment before settling on the Doctor. "Doctor, it is nice to finally meet you properly." He saluted and the Doctor grimaced.

"Wish I could say the same. Don't salute," the Doctor responded.

"But it's an honour, sir. I've read all the files on you. Technically speaking, you're still on staff. You never resigned," the Colonel replied.

"What, you used to work for them?" Donna questioned. She couldn't quite imagine the Doctor with an actual job.

"I thought you worked with them. Working for them, that seems a bit domestic," Rose teased, moving back to his side. For some reason, her voice took on a different tone when she said that phrase. She almost sounded Northern.

"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 told them, wrapping an arm around his wife's shoulders. He looked around at all the military trucks and troops that were running back and forth with growing concern.

"Times have changed, sir," Colonel Mace responded proudly.

"Yeah, that's enough of the sir," the Doctor protested.

"Hey, Doc, you're the one who set them on the path to begin with," Jack interrupted.

"Why do you know about all that?" the Doctor questioned, unsure of how he felt about their friend keeping such a close eye on his past incarnations.

"Well, I had a lot of time waiting for you. I did need to make sure that I caught a version of you that would know me. That meant checking in on just about every Doctor report that I could find. Love the scarf, by the way," Jack explained, adding in a wink toward Rose.

"I'm just glad you didn't talk to any of them," the Doctor grumbled.

"Come on, I was a Time Agent. I know better than that," Jack told him. "Anyway, the reason I called you. There's this thing I was investigating, positive that it's not human in origin. Gwen and I were about to sneak into the factory here, when UNIT decided storming the place was a better idea. Before they kicked us to the curb, I thought you ought to know what was going on."

"I did usually have to argue quite a bit to get the Brig to keep the guns at bay. What's with all this stuff, then?" the Doctor asked Colonel Mace.

"A modern UNIT for the modern world," he told them plainly.

"What, and that means arresting ordinary factory workers, in the streets, in broad daylight? It's more like Guantanamo Bay around here. Donna, by the way. Donna Noble, since you didn't ask. I'll have a salute," Donna interrupted.

The Colonel looked to the Doctor confusedly. He wasn't sure who the woman was, but he knew that he ought to listen to the revered Scientific Advisor. The Doctor nodded that he should obey the fiery ginger's demands and he snapped off a quick salute. "Ma'am. May I ask?" he added with a nod toward Rose.

"Thank you," Donna said in response to the salute.

"Ah, this is Rose, my wife. Best stay on her good side as well," the Doctor informed him.

Colonel Mace raised his eyebrows at the mention of their relationship. It was well known that the Doctor liked to have human companions with him, one Rose Marion Tyler among them, but there had never been any indication that anything romantic happened between him and his friends.

He added another salute to her, just in case. "Rose Tyler, it's a pleasure to meet you as well. I've also read your file, of course."

"Of course you have." Rose leaned into the Doctor and asked, "I have a file?"

"Everyone has a file. Donna will have one by the end of the day, and it's only been four days since she came with us linearly."

Jack stepped forward to shake Donna's hand. "Jack Harkness, ma'am. Pleasure to meet another companion of the Doc over here."

"Jaack," the Doctor protested.

"What? I'm just saying hello. Oh, and this is Gwen," he said, pointing at the dark haired woman, who waved at them.

"Hello," she said quickly before turning back to her conversation. "I'll get back to you when Jack…"

"That's all you need, Jack. Now, tell me, what's going on in that factory?" the Doctor questioned.

"Yesterday, fifty two people died in identical circumstances, right across the world, in eleven different time zones," Mace began, leading the group into the factory. "Five a.m. in the UK, six a.m. in France, eight a.m. in Moscow, one p.m. in China."

"You mean they died simultaneously," the Doctor pointed out.

"Exactly. Fifty two deaths at the exact same moment, worldwide," he confirmed.

"I guess from your interest, there was something odd about how they died other than the timing?" Rose asked him.

"They were all inside their cars," Mace answered.

"There's far more to it than that, Doctor. I've got access to all the reports. Cause of death was listed as poison, but there were no toxins found in the bodies. And all of these cars were equipped with ATMOS," Jack added.

"What's ATMOS?" the Doctor wondered.

"Oh, come on. Even I know that. Everyone's got ATMOS," Donna groaned.

"We don't live on Earth, Donna. Bit out of the loop," Rose reminded their friend.

"ATMOS stands for Atmospheric Omission System. Apparently, if you fit ATMOS in your car, it reduces CO2 emissions to zero," Gwen explained as if she doubted it.

"It works too," Jack added.

"Zero? No carbon, none at all?" the Doctor asked incredulously.

"And you get sat-nav and twenty quid in shopping vouchers if you introduce a friend. Bargain," Donna said enthusiastically. It really was. She'd introduced half the street to it for those vouchers.

#####

Rose narrowed her eyes at Donna's proclamation. "And just how much does Atmos, sat-nav, and twenty quid in shopping vouchers run?"

"Not nearly enough," Jack replied as they were walking through the factory. "Best I can tell, it's just enough to cover the cost, if that."

She could see why some people would be looking into it. Make it irresistible to ecologically conscious people and bargain hunters alike, push it on as many people as possible, and the company could control everything quickly, kill a lot of people, or both. There had already been fifty-two deaths that they knew of.

There were still several of the UNIT soldiers rounding up the employees and holding them at gunpoint as they marched them out of the factory. Rose shivered with the visual. She'd had enough guns pointed at her to know what the workers must be feeling.

"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," Mace said, leading them through some thick plastic curtains into another area that looked like it was meant for testing the devices.

"And you think ATMOS is alien," the Doctor confirmed.

"It's our job to investigate that possibility," Mace replied.

"That's why I'm here," Jack said. "I'm pretty sure this kind of tech isn't supposed to be available to the public for a while."

They walked around a table that had a clear mock up of a muffler on it and a device about the size of a notebook, but was curved a little and had holes. There were several other parts of the system laying over the table, but most of the people who'd have knowledge of mechanical parts paid more attention to the biggest piece.

"And here it is, laid bare. ATMOS can be threaded through any and every make of car," Mace told them.

"You must've checked it, before it went on sale," the Doctor commented, looking at it.

"We did. We found nothing," Mace replied.

"Tosh looked it over too after it went on sale, and she couldn't find anything at first, but she said that there were some strange readings she couldn't make sense of," Gwen informed them.

"Strange readings?" Mace asked doubtfully.

"Yes. We've got better equipment, you know," Jack bragged.

"Alien equipment," Mace shot back.

"So? Alien equipment performs well."

"Really? What kind of readings?" the Doctor asked, interrupting the innuendo laced argument.

"Mass seemed to fluctuate, but none of us could tell anything else. That's why I thought we might need an expert, but our expert got called in a bit early," Jack explained, with emphasis on the 'our.'

"Really. who'd you get?" the Doctor asked curiously. Everyone stared at him and Rose chuckled before it finally clicked for him. "Oh, right. Me. Yes. Good," he said, a bit embarrassed.

A soldier came and got Colonel Mace, leaving the Doctor, Donna, Jack, Gwen, and Rose with the ATMOS device.

"Okay. So why would aliens be so keen on cleaning up our atmosphere?" Donna wondered.

"A very good question," the Doctor praised.

"Maybe they want to help? Get rid of pollution and stuff?"

"That sort of thing's not been my experience," Rose said sadly.

"Nor mine," Jack agreed. "Not before interplanetary relations were normal, anyway."

"It'd be a change," Gwen added and Rose nodded in agreement.

"So, there's no chance it could be a good thing?" Donna asked.

The Doctor leaned against the table and looked Donna right in the eyes. "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."

Chapter Text

The Doctor, Rose, and Jack were left alone in the quality control room after Donna had gone to have a look around. Gwen went with her. He and Jack were tossing technical information back and forth and explaining to Rose whenever they could. The Doctor had pulled apart various ATMOS parts when Colonel Mace came back in. Even with his sonic, he couldn't detect what would have caused the mass fluctuations that Jack's team had found.

"The fluctuations could have been a glitch in the equipment you used to scan," he murmured. He caught the smug look the Colonel pointed at Jack and decided to add, "Or maybe there was something else nearby that interfered with the readings."

"I had the same thought. Scanned it with this and got the same odd reading." He held up his arm with its ever present Vortex manipulator and the Doctor scoffed at it.

"You scanned it, with a bracelet," Mace said incredulously.

Jack flipped the cover open so he could see the tech inside. "It's not the size of the tool, Colonel, it's how powerful it is and how you use it."

"Yeah, you would say that, wouldn't you?" the Doctor joked. Honestly humans, well, if one could really count Jack as a human any more. That was something that could be debated.

He turned back to the task at hand, thinking out loud as he normally did. "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 asked, coming in closer to look over the Doctor's shoulder.

"No. Decades ahead of its time," the Doctor answered testily, still bent over the device. He looked over to the colonel, pointedly looking at his hip. "Look, do you mind? Could you stand back a bit?"

"Sorry, have I done something wrong?" he asked as he stepped back a little.

"You're carrying a gun. I don't like people with guns hanging around me, all right?" he explained.

Mace stared back at the Doctor coldly. "If you insist," he said before he walked out of the room again.

"Bit rude, weren't ya?" Rose said, leaning against the lit up table.

"Well, it's true," the Doctor defended himself. "People with guns are usually the enemy in my books."

"He is just trying to do his job and you should relax some," Rose told him. She walked behind him and put her hands on his shoulders, kneading the flesh there. "Now, what's got you all tensed up?"

"Something's wrong? Can't you feel it?" he asked her.

"No. I've got everything blocked because of Jack."

"I'd like to point out that I'm armed," Jack said. "But, I also give an amazing neck massage," he offered, wiggling his fingers. The Doctor was tempted to take him up on his offer. Rose was always just a little bit off from giving a good massage when he was tense. Any other time, she had magic fingers.

"Yeah, well, I know you're not gonna start shooting unless you see no other choice," he told their old friend. "Besides, I know you'd die for her if need be. Hell, there's a bit of your energy in her. You're linked. Can't say that about him." He then pointed at Jack sternly. "But that doesn't mean I approve."

"Rosie, you hear that?" Jack asked with a huge grin on his face. "You've got a bit of me in you!"

Rose started giggling and the Doctor rolled his eyes at the two of them.

"Oi, you lot!" Donna called, opening up the clear curtain and saving him from more innuendo. "All your storm troopers and your sonics. You're rubbish. Should've come with me." She waved a folder at them.

Gwen came in on her heels. "Jack, if Donna ever needs a job, we're hiring her." She pointed her finger at him before he could react. "No arguments."

"Ooh, what'd you find?" Rose asked, leaning forward to see what Donna held in her hand. It was a thick binder.

"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 bragged, waving the file folder around.

"Why? What's inside it? Or what's not inside it?" the Doctor wondered, reaching forward to take the folder from the excited ginger before she could brain the Welsh woman next to her with it. Mace came back in, curious as to what was happening.

"Sick days. 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!" Donna exclaimed, wiggling back and forth as she listed off each possibility.

"That can't be right," Mace said.

"You've been checking out the building. Should've been checking out the workforce," Donna said proudly and the Doctor couldn't help but smile at her. Rose and Jack did also.

"Good job, Donna. You ever need a job, Ianto could use some help with the office work. He makes the coffee, though," Jack clarified.

"Don't poach my companions," the Doctor said, absolutely not whining.

"Super temp," Donna said with a smug grin.

"We'll need to set up a medical post. Start examining the workers," Mace decided.

"Well, you get your medical staff set up for that. Donna and I will help get the workers organized," Gwen told him.

The three left the room for the time being, leaving the Doctor and Rose with Jack again.

"So this, this ATMOS thing. Where'd it come from?" the Doctor questioned.

"Kid named Luke Rattigan. Child genius," Jack added with an eyeroll. "Invented the Fountain Six search engine when he was twelve years old. Millionaire overnight. Now runs the Rattigan Academy. A private school, educating students handpicked from all over the world."

"A hothouse for geniuses. Wouldn't mind going there," the Doctor responded.

"Ugh, bunch of snotty brats who think they're better than everyone else because of their test scores?" Rose commented. She was much more confident in her abilities now, but she had struggled a lot in school and dropped out.

"So, you want to borrow my wheels, is that what I'm getting from this?" Jack asked him.

"You don't want to come with us?" Rose questioned.

"Nah. I'm going to snoop around a bit. UNIT has missed something here, I'm sure," Jack insisted, tossing his keys to the Doctor. "All of UNIT's cars have probably got ATMOS installed in them."

"Why would they do that?" the Doctor asked incredulously.

"Standard on all government vehicles. No way I wanted it in ours. We've got better software anyway."

###########

"You are not coming with us. I want to talk to this Luke Rattigan, not point a gun at him," the Doctor argued after telling the Colonel that they were heading out to the Rattigan Academy.

"It's ten miles outside London. How are you going to get there?" Mace countered.

"We're taking Torchwood's vehicle," Rose informed him.

"According to the records you travel by TARDIS," Mace responded.

"Your records are wrong, then. I had a yellow car, named Bessy. Have you got her nearby? So, if there is a danger of hostile aliens, I think it's best to keep a super-duper time machine away from the front lines," the Doctor insisted, not liking the way this man was speaking to his wife.

"I see. Then you do have weapons, but you choose to keep them hidden," Mace insisted.

"Yeah, the TARDIS is not a weapon. She is an extremely advanced, sentient, spaceship. Weapons hurt people," Rose snapped at him.

"Now, we will be back before long, but Jack is staying here. He has my wife's mobile number, should you need to relay any information," the Doctor interrupted, stepping between Rose and the Colonel before the man earned himself a Tyler slap.

"Sir," he answered curtly, with a salute.

"I said no salutes," the Doctor called after him as he left.

"Doctor, Rose," Donna called breathlessly as she ran into the room.

"Oh, just in time. Come on, come on, we're going to the country. Fresh air and geniuses, what more could you ask?" the Doctor told her, his excitement bubbling over.

"I'm not coming with you. I've been thinking. I'm sorry. I'm going home," Donna replied, shaking her head to ward off his rambling.

"What?" Rose gasped. She had been blocking all of her extra Time Lord senses with Jack around, but she eased them back just enough to take a look at Donna's timelines. This sudden change in her attitude seemed off, and Rose wanted to make sure their friend was alright. What she saw, actually made her sigh in relief.

"Really?" the Doctor questioned sadly.

"I've got to," Donna insisted.

"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," he told the ginger fondly. Rose stifled a giggle behind her hand, as Donna just shook her head at the oblivious alien. "Thank you. Thank you, Donna Noble, it's been brilliant. You've, you've saved my life in so many ways. You're... you're just popping home for a visit, that's what you mean."

"You dumbo," Donna teased.

"And then you're coming back," he realised.

"Know what you are? A great big outer space dunce. How in the world did you ever decide to settle for this one, Rose?" Donna continued.

"Oh, he's not so bad. Most of the time," Rose responded.

"Oi!" the Doctor protested.

Rose and Donna linked arms as they walked toward the Torchwood SUV. Donna called over her shoulder to the Doctor, "What's more, you can give me a lift. Come on. Broken moon of what?"

"I know, I know," the Doctor grumbled.

##########

Far above, in the Sontaran's ship, General Staal, of the Tenth Sontaran Fleet gave the order to capture the leader of Torchwood. From their intelligence of the recent altercation of the humans with the Sycorax, if Torchwood was involved, their weaponry would be used rather than the primitive atomic weapons that UNIT held.

##########

Jack was walking around the factory, looking for anything the UNIT drones might have missed when two of them came up to him.

"Mr. Harkness?" one of them asked.

"Not now, I'm busy," Jack replied, waving the two soldiers off.

"Just one question. You are the head of Torchwood, right?" the same soldier asked.

"Yes, I am. Why?" Jack asked.

"Colonel Mace wants to see you."

"Well, that makes a change. Where is he?" Jack said.

"Come with us," the other soldier said and, without waiting for an acknowledgement, turned around and started walking off.

Jack tried making small talk with the men as he followed, but they weren't up for it. "Okay, you two are taking the drone thing a bit too far," Jack joked as they led him into a room. Truth be told, he was getting a bit uneasy. These two were too focused on their work.

"So, what's the Colonel doing all the way down here?" Jack asked, stepping into the room the soldiers indicated. He was watching for anything particular that smelled like a trap. Something he could pinpoint.

"He asked to see you," one of the soldiers replied. He was really starting to get creeped out, even the most focused soldiers didn't act this wooden.

"Why? Has he found something? Where is he?" Jack demanded when he saw the Colonel wasn't in the room, instead, there was a metal device and a large tank. Both looked familiar. He couldn't place the tank, but the metal device was definitely designed for restraining someone.

"Okay, I'm leaving now. If Mace wants me, he can come find me himself." He turned to do just that, but the soldiers blocked the door. He made to shove them aside, but before he could take more than a step toward them, both aimed their weapons at him.

"Really? Is that the best you can do?" he taunted them. "I'm not afraid of a gun, you're gonna have to do a lot better than that."

"A noble sentiment," a voice sounded behind him and he turned to see who was there. Before he could ask the Sontaran what the hell he was doing there, he was hit in the back of the head.

Chapter Text

"Why do I let you drive anywhere?" Rose groused as the Doctor made another turn that was a bit too fast, following her directions from a map displayed on a small screen.

"What? I'm a brilliant driver," he protested, wincing a bit as he skidded off the road a little.

"Right. At least I have a seatbelt in here," she teased.

They pulled up outside an old stone building just as a group of students came running around the corner, all dressed in matching t-shirts and shorts. There was a young man standing nearby, supervising the group as they passed.

"Big ol' place in the country. I bet this cost a fortune," Rose commented as the Doctor parked the large vehicle right in front.

"Is it PE? I wouldn't mind a kick around, I've got me daps on," the Doctor commented as they approached the one they assumed was the child genius they were looking for.

"I suppose you're the Doctor?" he responded with clear disdain.

"Hello," the Doctor replied with a friendly smile and wave. He knew they wouldn't be welcome here. This was likely the source of the problems and no one would want them poking around.

"Your commanding officer phoned ahead," Rattigan told them.

"Ah, but I haven't got a commanding officer. Have you? Unless, of course, you count my wife. This is Rose."

"Hello. This is quite the school," Rose commented, taking her husband's hand.

"Let's have a look, then. I can smell genius! In a good way," the Doctor added, gesturing for the young man to lead the way.

Luke Rattigan lead the couple through the school on a brief tour that eventually had them in a laboratory. The Doctor rushed into the room to take inventory of everything before he was stopped from examining anything.

"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, ooo, I don't know, move to another planet or something?" the Doctor concluded. None of this belonged on Earth in this time period. There was now absolutely no doubt that this boy had off-world help. Most likely, he was being manipulated and thought he was going to become very powerful from the assistance of his new 'friends.'

"If only that was possible," he replied, poorly hiding his shock at having been discovered.

"If only that were possible. Conditional clause," the Doctor corrected.

The boy narrowed his eyes. "I think you'd better come with me," he said, irritation showing.

As they followed, Rose observed, "You don't normally correct people like that."

"I wanted to see what he would do," the Doctor told her as they walked into a large room with a swimming pool and a huge, black, cube like structure that, at first glance, looked like art, except inside the circular opening, there was a keypad.

"You're smarter than the usual UNIT grunts, I'll give you that," Rattigan said, crossing his arms in the middle of the room. He looked angry that they were there, which was unsurprising.

The Doctor gasped theatrically. "We're not grunts! We're...Look at this place," he said, changing his tactics and letting the boy think whatever he wanted to think about who they were.

"What exactly do you want?" Luke said, still holding his stance. Legs spread slightly, arms crossed, he looked like a teenager arguing with his parents.

"I was just thinking. What a responsible eighteen year old. Inventing zero carbon cars? Saving the world?" the Doctor answered.

"Things most people your age only dream of being able to do, before they go back to their telly and game consoles," Rose added.

"Takes a man with vision," Luke bragged, still angry.

"Mmm, blinkered vision," the Doctor disagreed. "Because ATMOS means more people driving. More cars, more petrol. End result, the oil's going to run out faster than ever."

"Like that water car," Rose remembered, snapping her fingers. "I was reading this thing once about a car that was created to run on water, just fill it up with tap water. They thought that if the car had gone into production, that Earth would have more water problems than we do already."

"Exactly," the Doctor said, smiling at her proudly. "The ATMOS system could make things worse."

"Yeah. Well, you see, that's a tautology," Rattigan said, pointing at the Doctor. "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?" he taunted, looking every bit his age.

"Someone needed a good slap growin' up," Rose muttered. She was only a few years older than him, but she knew she'd have never gotten away with that kind of behavior. This boy, because that was what he was, was one step away from a tantrum.

"It's been a long time since anyone said no to you, isn't it?" the Doctor asked darkly.

"I'm still right, though," he said petulantly.

"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 said, trying to placate the boy.

"Yeah." Luke loosened up a little.

"And you're all on your own," the Doctor added.

"I know."

Rose was microseconds away from stepping forward and giving the brat a piece of her mind when she felt the Doctor prod at her mentally. It made her pause long enough for the moment to pass and the Doctor to start talking again.

"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," the Doctor deduced and he walked around the room, waving his hands around. He moved toward the black cube and said, "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."

"What is that thing?" Rose asked. "All I know is it isn't some kinda art. Unless art has keypads and hums, which, really, who knows?" She shrugged.

"Yeah, just looks like a thing, doesn't it? People don't question things. They just say, oh, it's a thing, so everyone just leaves it be."

"Leave it alone!" Rattigan ordered just as the Doctor stepped into the round opening of the cube.

The Doctor completely ignored his order and acted as if he hadn't spoken at all. "Me, I make these connections. And this, to me, looks like a teleport pod."

"Oh!" Rose said in realization. "Wait!" she called out too late. The Doctor had already pressed a button and disappeared.

"Where the hell did he go?" Rose shouted at Luke. She walked forward and grabbed the front of his shirt.

"They'll take care of him, just as they'll take care of you," he bragged, not scared at all. "It's such a shame too. You're so pretty. Mouth's a bit big, but that could be-"

Slap!

He stumbled backward, holding his cheek. "If anything happens to him, anything at all, I swear you'll never touch-"

The Doctor showed up, running out of the teleport. He waved his hand wildly, waving them back. "Rose, get back! Luke, you've got to come with me." He turned to sonic the controls of the teleport, but just before the keypad sparked, a small humanoid shaped being with blue and gray armour came out of the teleport.

"Sontaran! That's your name, isn't it? You're a Sontaran. How did I know that, eh? Fascinating isn't it? Isn't that worth keeping me alive?" the Doctor rambled quickly. He just needed to stall the alien long enough from firing on them to figure out the plan and knock it out.

"How do you know so much?" he demanded.

"Well," the Doctor stalled.

"Who is he?" the Sontaran asked Rattigan.

"He didn't give his name," the young man replied defensively.

"But this isn't typical Sontaran behaviour, is it? Hiding? Using teenagers? A Sontaran should face their enemies with dignity. Shame on you," the Doctor interrupted.

"You dishonour me, Sir!" the Sontaran replied indignantly.

"Yeah? Then show yourself!" the Doctor prompted.

"I will look into my enemy's eyes!" the Sontaran exclaimed. When he removed his helmet, Rose realized the reason for the shape of the upper part of the armour. The Sontaran looked like a potato. He, because she was sure he was a he, looked like he had no neck and was uneven shades of brown.

The Doctor, as usual, seemed unfazed by the Sontaran. "And your name?"

"General Staal, of the Tenth Sontaran Fleet. Staal the Undefeated," the Sontaran introduced, adding the nickname proudly.

"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 asked, provoking the short warrior.

"Nah. It'd probably be Staal the Defeated and Dishonoured," Rose joked, knowing it wasn't a very good nickname, but that was the point.

The Doctor had picked up a squash racket and a ball. He pointed the racket at Rose and said, "Good one!" before he started bouncing the ball on the racket like a paddleball, without the rubber band.

"You shall not test me, female!" Staal roared.

"Isn't it true?" she shot back. "I've never heard of you before today, but what little I've picked up so far suggests to me that you'd be dishonoured if defeated."

"It's true. Don't deny it," the Doctor told the Sontaran, still bouncing the ball. "Now, 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," he began lecturing.

"Sontarans have no weakness!" Staal protested.

"No, it's a good weakness," the Doctor replied, assuring the alien that he admired him in some way.

"Aren't you meant to be clever? Only an idiot would provoke him," the boy, standing off to the side, spoke up suddenly.

"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 enthused.

"That'd make retreat a bit hard," Rose commented.

"Sontarans never retreat! We stare into the face of death," Stall explained proudly, drawing himself up to his full, if short, height.

"Yeah? Well, stare at this," the Doctor said and suddenly, when the ball was in the air, he swung the racket, firing the ball toward the teleport, where it ricocheted right into the vent he'd been talking about in the back of the Sontaran's neck. Before the Sontaran hit the floor, the Doctor grabbed Rose's hand, and the two of them took off out of the mansion and into the Torchwood SUV.

"Sontarans, what are Sontarans doing here using a teenager?" the Doctor asked as he was driving down the Road. Once again, Rose wished she knew how to drive, though this time, the Doctor was doing a better job of not killing them.

"Whatever it is, they needed him to distribute their technology, but what are they doing with ATMOS? There's nothing there."

Something Rose had said must have put a course of action in the Doctor's mind, because he suddenly declared. "I need to see another ATMOS. In a car preferably."

"You think you can find something now?" Rose deduced.

"Oh, yes."

##########

Back at the mansion, Luke yelled in frustration that the meddling people from UNIT didn't have ATMOS installed in the vehicle they were using. It should have been in all of the government fleets without exception.

The Sontarans seemed to know who the Doctor was, which had them advancing their plan. Four hundred thousand cars would have to be enough.

##########

Jack was being tied down on the device next to the tank and had a metal circlet on his head much like the one the Doctor had used on him when Rose was changed. The lid of the tank was open and it was filled with a thick, green liquid.

"The service here sucks. See if I come back again!" he told the two soldiers as they strapped him in "The good places, they all have a safe word!"

No matter what he said, nothing seemed to phase the four of them, and he wondered what was going on with them. Were they robots? Hypnotised? Clones? Clones weren't out of the realm of possibility, especially for Sontarans.

"Okay, so, who are you, and why are you doing this?" he asked, not really expecting an answer.

"I am Commander Skorr of the Tenth Sontaran Battle Fleet. Known as Skorr the Bloodbringer and we are going to use this planet as a clone planet."

"Okay, now what'd you do to these two?" he wondered, feeling a slight buzzing through the contraption on his head.

"Simple hypnotic control, as with the factory drones. But with you, we need something more complex."

"Well, I'm a complex man," Jack said, struggling to get out of his bonds. They were really tight.

He saw a hand, dripping the green ooze, come out of the tub. A very familiar hand that he'd known for close to two centuries. "Oh, you didn't, you aren't?"

"We have cloned you. The copy will take your place," Skorr told Jack, who started struggling more.

"It is inadvisable to struggle. You will only weaken yourself. You cannot get out."

"What are you doing?" Jack asked, panicking. If Sontarans wanted him for something, it wasn't good.

"Completing mental transfer. The clone needs full memory access."

"This isn't gonna work," Jack warned them as a second Jack Harkness came out of the goo and pulled an umbilical out of the back of its neck.

"You will sleep, boy. Sleep, and keep the memories alive. Memories we can use in battle."

Jack's last thought was that the Doctor and Rose should know immediately that he wasn't himself. They'd feel it.

##########

A few minutes later, the cloned Jack put on the World War Two era trenchcoat that the original Jack Harkness was so fond of. He wondered why the man needed two different ways to keep his trousers upright. Both a belt and suspenders was a bit overkill.

"Ready and waiting to advance the great Sontaran cause, sir."

"Then go to work," his commander ordered.

Chapter Text

Rose pointed out the road they had dropped Donna off on. "Might wanna pick Donna up, or at least see if she's ready."

They pulled down the little road Donna lived on and pulled up in front of a house. Rose had no clue which one was the house Donna lived in, but the Doctor apparently did, because he walked right up to one of the houses and knocked on the door.

"How do you know where Donna lives?" she asked.

"Her address is right there on her identification," the Doctor answered.

"When would you-? Did you go through her stuff?!"

"No! Learned not to do that a long time ago. On Pelamon, she opened her wallet and I saw it," he explained.

"How do you remember things like that? I can't-" she started.

"Yes you can. You just need to learn." The Doctor lifted his hand and knocked on the door again, a bit harder.

"I'm coming, I'm coming," Donna's voice sounded from the other side of the door. When it opened, Donna's irritated face turned into a smile. "All done with the fresh air and geniuses, then?" she asked.

"For now," the Doctor responded. "Good news, It is aliens!" he exclaimed.

"Uh, Doctor-"

Donna stepped out of her house and closed the door. "You mean to tell me-," Donna started in a low, angry voice, "-that there is alien technology in our car? That we use, every single day."

"Oh, Donna," the Doctor said in his 'you dribbled on your shirt voice. "You're surrounded by technology that originated on other planets every day."

"Yeah, when I'm on other planets!"

"No, Donna, he means right here. There's lots of technology here, in use by humans, that's not from Earth, or the idea isn't from Earth."

"It's not much different than your fireworks, which were invented on the other side of the world," the Doctor butted in quickly. "Technology migrates. Didn't you say you had an ATMOS system?"

"That's a tautology," Rose teased.

"Could be worse. At least it's not a conditional clause," the Doctor replied, causing Rose to laugh. Donna just rolled her eyes. "Which car's yours, Donna?"

After Donna waved him toward the right vehicle, the Doctor went to work and Rose quickly explained what happened at the school.

"So what do these Sontear Runs want?" Donna asked.

"We don't know yet. That's why the Doctor's got the top half of his body stuck in your car."

"He's skinny enough to get lost in there."

An older man came out of the house and headed in their direction, calling, "Is it them? Is it them? Is it the Doctor and Rose? Ah, it's you!"

Rose looked at him and realized that they'd met him just a little while ago, when they were with Astrid from the Titanic. "Oh, my god," she gasped.

"Who? Oh, it's you," the Doctor commented, looking up from the engine.

"What, have you met before?" Donna questioned, taking in their surprise.

"Yeah, Christmas Eve. They disappeared right in front of me," Wilf explained.

"And you never said?" Donna snapped at him.

"Well, you never said. Wilf, sir. Wilfred Mott. You must be one of them aliens," he introduced himself and shook the Doctor's hand.

"Yeah, but don't shout it out. Nice to meet you properly, Wilf. This is my wife, Rose," the Doctor replied.

"Oh, an alien hand," Wilf said in awe as he stared at his own hand for a moment in shock. "I take it you're alien too?" he asked Rose. "You're a rather lovely alien."

"Gramps!" Donna exclaimed.

"What? I'm old, not dead," he protested. "Though, I'm a bit out of your age range, aren't I?"

"That's true, Wilf, you're far too young," Rose said, laughing. "You sound like Jack." She then realized something. "Oh, I've got to call Jack and tell him what's going on."

The Doctor went back to examining the device in Donna's car. There were several different frequencies that Sontarans liked to use. He was sure he could trigger some kind of access to the device if he could just find the right one.

"Anything yet, love?" the Doctor asked Rose whose mobile was held to her ear. She shook her head.

"So what are these Sontorans?" Donna questioned.

"Sontarans. They made these ATMOS things. But there's got to be more to it. They can't be just remote controlling cars. That's not enough. Is anyone answering?" he rambled as he tried to work out what their plans might be.

"Finally! Jack, here's the Doctor," Rose sighed and handed her husband the mobile.

"Jack, it's Sontarans. I know you've got weapons that could deal with them, but UNIT certainly doesn't. We have to play this carefully. But if they're inside the factory tell them not to start shooting. UNIT will get massacred. I'll get back as soon as I can," the Doctor told him.

"Sontarans. Got it," Jack replied simply before hanging up.

The Doctor was underneath the bonnet of Donna's mother's car, looking at the ATMOS device in situ.

"But you tried sonicking it before. You didn't find anything," Donna pointed out.

"Yeah, but now I know it's Sontaran, I know what I'm looking for," the Doctor said.

"The thing is, Doctor, that Donna is my only grandchild. You've got to promise me you're going to take care of her," Wilf pleaded

"She takes care of us," the Doctor told him honestly.

"Yeah. Takes a lot to keep that one out of trouble," Rose added.

"Says you, Ms. Jeopardy-Friendly," he argued.

"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 responded proudly, making Donna blush.

"Yeah, don't start," Donna said, embarrassed.

"And some of the boys she used to turn up with," Wilf continued, undeterred. "Different one every week. Here, who was that one with the nail varnish?" he asked Donna.

"Matthew Richards. He lives in Kilburn now. With a man."

As the Doctor tried the next frequency with his sonic, several large spikes suddenly sprung from it. Everyone jumped back in shock and stared at it for a moment.

"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," the Doctor explained.

"But what's it hiding?" Donna wondered.

"Ooh, Donna, you're getting good at this," Rose praised.

An older woman, about halfway between Donna's and Wilf's ages, came out of the house and stalked up to them, looking angry. "I don't know, men and their cars. Sometimes I think if I was a car. Oh, it's you. Doctor what was it?" she rambled, pausing when she recognized the couple.

"Yeah, that's me," the Doctor answered distractedly.

"What, have you met them as well?" Wilf asked, not sure how she would know them.

"Dad, it's the couple from the wedding. When you were laid up with Spanish flu. I'm warning you, last time that they turned up it was a disaster," his daughter told him, clearly irritated.

"Oi!" Rose protested. "It wasn't our fault. We stopped them!"

"Let it go, Love, it's okay," the Doctor said in her mind.

"No, it ain't, It's-Doctor!" She pointed under the bonnet, which had white smoke coming out from the spikes that he had revealed earlier.

The Doctor spun around to see what was going on. "Get back!" he ordered and aimed his sonic at it. "That'll stop it," he said as he put the device back in his pocket.

Then, the device gave off a small explosion and the smoke began to pour from it.

"I told you. He's blown up the car!. Who is he, anyway? What sort of doctor blows up cars?" Donna's mother complained, yelling much like her daughter.

"Oh, not now, Mum," Donna snapped, moving to see if she could help her friends somehow.

"Oh, should I make an appointment?" Sylvia huffed before going back into the house.

"That wasn't just exhaust fumes, Some sort of gas. Artificial gas," the Doctor decided, trying to analyse the chemicals in the air.

"And it's aliens, is it? Aliens?" Wilf questioned, almost excited by the prospect.

"But if it's poisonous, then they've got poisonous gas in every car on Earth," Donna realized.

"I should tell Jack," Rose said as she began to dial his number again.

Wilfrid decided to do his part in helping with the problem and would get his now smoking car out of the way. "It's not safe. I'm going to get it off the street," he told them as he shut the door.

Before he could even try to start the engine however, the doors locked and the car started itself, spewing more of the dangerous gas from the exhaust pipe. The Doctor immediately tried to open the doors with his sonic and Rose gave up on trying to phone Jack as she joined the effort to free Donna's granddad from the car.

"Hold on! Turn it off. Granddad, get out of there!" Donna shouted.

"I can't! It's not locked! It's them aliens again!" he called back to her through the glass.

"What's he doing? What's he done?" Donna's mother shrieked as she ran back outside to see what all the commotion was about.

Looking around them, they could see that all of the cars on the street were now emitting the toxic fumes. It was likely happening across the entire globe.

"They've activated it!" the Doctor announced, though it wouldn't mean anything to Sylvia.

"Doctor! It's going inside the car too. We've got to get him out of there," Rose informed her husband as they wrestled with the doors and pounded on the windows.

"He's going to choke! Doctor!" Donna wailed helplessly.

"It won't open! It's the whole world," the Doctor growled in frustration. He dove back under the bonnet to try and disconnect the device enough to stop the gas from getting inside, but nothing seemed to make a difference.

"Help me. Get me out of here!" Wilf called to them, clearly almost passing out from the gas now.

Sylvia ran back into the house for something. Rose wondered what she might have that could help, but the Doctor and Donna didn't even seem to notice that she'd gone. Rose had almost pulled the passenger window down a crack and tried to pry her fingers into the edge enough to open it. She watched in horror as Wilf's eyes closed and he slumped over.

"Doctor!" Donna cried desperately. "He's going to choke. Doctor!"

"It won't open!" the Doctor yelled from under the bonnet. He stepped back and started looking for a different way to get the older man out when the bonnet slammed down suddenly and Sylvia Noble shattered the glass of the windshield with an axe.

"Well, don't just stand there. Get him out!" she ordered.

After Wilf was pulled from the car, he thanked everyone for saving him.

"I can't believe you've got an axe," Donna said incredulously.

"Burglars," her mother explained.

The smoke from the cars was coming nearer and getting thicker.

"Get inside the house. Just try and close off the doors and windows," the Doctor told Donna's family.

"Donna, this is pretty rough. Are you coming or would you rather stay here with your family?" Rose asked, making it obvious she wouldn't judge if Donna wanted to stay.

"I'm coming," Donna answered.

Her mother had other ideas, though. "Donna. Don't go. Look what happens every time they appear. Stay with us, please."

"You say that like you think it's us doing it," Rose accused and Sylvia huffed.

"You go, my darling," Wilf spoke up before Donna's mother could shoot her obviously scathing remark at the time travelers.

"Dad!" she protested.

"Don't listen to her. You go with them and help them fix this. That's my girl."

Donna smiled and hugged her grandfather before climbing into the back of the Torchwood SUV, waving goodbye to him as they pulled away from the Noble's house.

Chapter Text

"The air is disgusting," Donna moaned as they got out of the Torchwood SUV.

"It's not so bad for us," he replied.

"Speak for yourself. I'm tempted to see just how long my respiratory bypass can last," Rose told him. The air tasted nasty, and she couldn't identify what was in the fog coming out of the cars.

"Respi-what?" Donna asked

"Respiratory bypass," the Doctor couldn't help but correct.

"I'll explain when this is over. It's part of the Time Lord superior biology," Rose answered, then scrunched up her nose. "No, never doing that again."

"Doing what?" both Donna and the Doctor asked.

"I thought the superior biology comment was fun. Wanted to do it forever, but when I get a chance to, it's not nearly as fun as I'd hoped it be," Rose complained.

The Doctor shook his head and Donna laughed, then coughed, reminding the pair that their friend was having problems.

"Go on, Donna, get inside the TARDIS. Oh, I've never given you a key. Keep that. Go on, that's yours. Quite a big moment really," he rambled as he handed their companion her own TARDIS key. It made Rose think about when he had given her a key during another invasion of Earth, when he had a different face. She had immediately found a chain to wear it around her neck.

"Yeah, maybe we can get sentimental after the world's finished choking to death," Donna responded distractedly as she unlocked the door to get out of the thickening smog.

"Good idea," the Doctor replied, though it was clear that his ego was a bit bruised by her lack of enthusiasm.

"Where are you two going?" she asked as he took Rose's hand and started leading her back to where UNIT was set up.

"To stop a war," he stated ominously.

Rose nodded to Donna to let her know that they'd be fine and she should get inside for now.

As soon as they entered the room, they both paused a moment to look at what appeared to be Jack, but clearly wasn't. Even with most of her time senses blocked, she could still always feel Jack's presence like a blip. Even halfway across the room, she could smell the difference in him. Jack, as a fifty-first century human, smelled really, really good. It'd gone to her head at first. This "Jack" stunk. Not like dirty stink, but like there was something wrong with him.

The Doctor urged Rose to act naturally as they continued toward Colonel Mace.

"Where the hell is MY Jack, and what the hell is that?" Rose asked him telepathically, unable to keep the anger she was feeling from seeping through. She could tell it affected the Doctor when she saw one of his hands clench like hers had.

"A clone. The Sontarans clearly aren't aware of Jack's unique temporal signature or they wouldn't even have tried," he replied.

"Is the real Jack alright?" she questioned.

"Probably. Let's play along for now. We'll find him," he answered.

"Right then, here we are. 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 us," the Doctor announced brightly.

"And what are you going to do?" Mace asked cautiously.

"I've got the TARDIS. I'm going to get on board their ship," he replied, though Rose knew that wasn't the plan or they would have gone earlier.

They both noticed Jack typing something into his mobile. The Doctor and Rose approached him and urged him to go back outside with them. Rose let her husband take the lead on what to do about this clone. She was terribly worried about their friend and was having trouble pretending that this thing was really Jack. When they got back to the spot where the TARDIS had been parked only a few minutes ago, the space was empty.

"But where's the TARDIS?" the Jack clone asked, badly pretending that he didn't know what had happened to it.

"Taste that, in the air. Yuck. That sort of metal tang?" the Doctor prompted.

"Reminds me of that time with the Isolus, yeah?" Rose asked.

"Well, similar kinds of energy involved. 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!" he exclaimed, earning himself an eye roll from Rose.

"So what do we do, Doctor?" Not-Jack questioned.

"Well, I mean, it's shielded. They could never detect it," the Doctor told them.

Rose wondered a bit at just how far he was going to push this. He was almost accusing in his tone, but he had said they were going to play along.

"What?" Not-Jack asked worriedly.

"I'm curious, Jack, have you called your team?" he wondered.

"No, why?"

"Maybe they could help us figure out what this stuff is?" Rose interjected, waving her hand around to indicate the gas floating around them. "I mean, Torchwood must have better equipment than UNIT."

"Right, I should do that. But, where's your friend? Aren't you worried about Donna?" Not-Jack asked, trying to change the subject.

"Oh, she's gone home. She's not like you. She's not a soldier. Right. So. Avanti," the Doctor announced. Jack would have been slightly put off by being called a soldier, but the Sontaran clone loved the term.

As they walked back to the mobile command center, Rose asked the Doctor, "How can you be so calm about this? Jack's-"

"Immortal," the Doctor reminded her. "And even if he wasn't, this Sontaran duplication method is a lot like the Nestine method for the original."

"Keep the original alive to maintain the copy," Rose remembered.

"Exactly, he's probably asleep," he assured her. "Change of plan," he announced when they stepped through the door of the mobile unit.

"Good to have you fighting alongside us, Doctor," Mace said, brightening up a bit.

"I'm not fighting. I'm not-fighting, as in not hyphen fighting, got it?" he told off the military man. "Now, does anyone know what this gas is yet?"

"Tosh and Owen are looking into it now," Gwen spoke up.

"We've also got people analyzing it," Mace responded.

One of the other military people came over and gave them a report. "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."

"And who are you?" the Doctor wondered.

"Captain Marion Price, sir," the man answered, snapping to attention and giving him a salute.

"Oh, put your hand down. Don't salute," the Doctor scoffed.

The man immediately put his hand down. Rose could tell he was unhappy with the fact that the Doctor didn't return the salute, so she nodded at him and gave him a smile. Captain Price smiled back and went back to work.

"Jodrell Bank's traced a signal, Doctor, coming from five thousand miles above the Earth. We're guessing that's what triggered the cars."

"That sounds like a ship in orbit," Rose deduced.

"The Sontaran ship," the Doctor confirmed.

"NATO has gone to Defcon One. We're preparing a strike." Mace informed the Doctor.

"You can't do that. Nuclear missiles won't even scratch the surface!" the Doctor exclaimed.

"If Torchwood won't use the weapon they used Christmas '06, we'll have no other choice," Mace declared, looking pointedly at Smelly Jack.

"The Doctor's right, all you'll do is escalate the situation. Sontarans do love a fight," Not-Jack said with an unsettling smile. That was another thing they got wrong. Real Jack's smile was alway disarming, flirty, never unsettling. "I'll have it set up. It'll take some time, but would actually be effective."

"It's good to have you finally agreeing to work with us, Harkness," Mace said, warming up to the man since his decision to do things his way.

"We can't just shoot them out of the sky!" Rose protested, remembering what had happened the previous time that weapon had been used.

"You can't use that, Jack. Let me talk to the Sontarans," the Doctor demanded.

"You're not authorised to speak on behalf of the Earth," Mace declared coldly.

"I've got that authority. I earned that a long time ago," he shot back and walked over to the communications system.

Rose glared at Mace and took a step closer to him with her hands on her hips. "That man has spent longer than you and your parents together have been alive defending this planet. Maybe you should add in your grandparents ages too to the amount of time he's put in. If anyone has the authority to speak for this planet, in this time zone, it's him," she hissed and turned away to see what the Doctor was up to.

"Calling the Sontaran Command Ship under Jurisdiction Two of the Intergalactic Rules of Engagement." A Sontaran popped up on the screen.

"Doctor, breathing your last?" the Sontaran gloated.

"My God, they're like trolls," Mace suddenly exclaimed. Rose covered her face with her hands trying to keep from either laughing or smacking the man, she couldn't tell which one she wanted to do more.

"Yeah, loving the diplomacy, thanks," the Doctor admonished with an eyeroll. In the same breath, he turned back to the screen and told the Sontaran, "So, tell me, General Staal, since when did you lot become cowards?"

"Oh, he's gonna get us killed," Gwen moaned behind her at the same time Rose barked out a laugh.

"How dare you!" the Sontaran who was apparently the same one they'd met at the academy cried out indignantly.

"Oh, that's diplomacy?" Mace retorted.

As the Doctor and Stall traded barbs with one another, Rose heard a very low conversation going on behind her between Gwen and the Jack clone.

"Jack, we can't use that. The fourth laser was destroyed at Torchwood One. We'll never get it working again without the right parts," Gwen informed him.

"Right," Jack said, as if he'd forgotten. Rose was pretty sure he never knew that detail in the first place. "We'll keep UNIT thinking we have it, but with most of us gone now, it's taking a long time to set up."

"But what about-" Gwen started.

"Don't worry. This'll work."

On the screen, the Sontarans started chanting, "Sontar-ha. Sontar-ha. Sontar-ha. Sontar-ha. Sontar-ha."

The Doctor made an exaggerated eye roll that took most of his body to do. "Give me a break." He reached into his jacket and pulled out his sonic. When he activated it, the screen changed from a bunch of chanting Sontarans to a cartoon.

"Oh, look Rose, it's Tommy Zoom!" He grabbed her hand and pulled her closer, making it so she had to sit on his lap. He immediately reached into her back pocket where she kept her mobile. The action tickled and Rose squirmed until the Doctor pulled his hand out of her jeans, victoriously holding the small plastic.

"You coulda just asked me for it," Rose teased.

"Where's the fun in that?" the Doctor asked.

"Doctor. I would seriously recommend that this dialogue is handled by official Earth representation, not by a pair of childish people flirting."

"You say that like it's a bad thing!" The Doctor groaned. "Ugh. Time to adult again. Up you get, Rose."

Rose hopped off the Doctor's lap and watched him slip the mobile he'd taken off of her in his jacket pocket and grab his sonic, ready to face the Sontarans again.

"Finished?" he asked nonchalantly, leaning back on the chair he sat in.

Stall bristled. "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!"

The Doctor was, unsurprisingly, unsurprised. They'd known where the time ship had been taken right from the beginning. "Well, as prizes go, that's Noble."

Rose knew this tactic. The Doctor must have made sure Donna could see him or at least hear him. She wondered what the Doctor's plan was.

"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."

With the TARDIS far away, Rose caught both what the Doctor had actually said and what the words meant. His Latin was actually translatable to "grant us peace."

"All you have communicated is your distress, Doctor."

"Big mistake though, showing it to me. Because I've got remote control," the Doctor gloated.

"Cease transmission!" Stall barked and his image cut off.

"Ah, well."

"That achieved nothing," Mace said angrily.

"Oh, you'd be surprised," he responded with a wink at Rose.

"What are you up to?" she asked.

"You haven't figured it out yet?" In answer, Rose just raised her eyebrows. "Well, try to figure it out. It's really quite obvious."

"To you, maybe," she retorted. Really, this wasn't the time for one of his lessons.

##########

Donna stood in the console room looking at her phone. "Who the hell do I call, Spaceman?" she shouted before it hit her.

Duh. She put in Rose's number.

"Rose, what's happened?" she said quickly when it was picked up.

"Not Rose. Though I can see where you woulda gotten the idea that I was," the Doctor's voice answered cheerfully.

"Where are you?" she asked.

"Still on Earth," the Doctor replied in a lower voice. "I can't really talk right now, but I need you to sit tight for a little while. You're safe where you are." The line then went dead.

"Well, thanks, Spaceman. That was so helpful," she said to no one in particular.

##########

"Who the hell are you texting?" Gwen asked Jack. "You've been on that damned thing all day."

"That would be none of your business," Jack responded cockily.

"Well, if you're exchanging nudies with Ianto again, make sure you send them to the right phone and not mine by accident. Last time, Rhys found a picture of you starkers on my mobile and I heard about it for ages."

Rose laughed. "Are you sure it was an accident?" she asked.

"Oh, I'm sure, but I'm also sure he just doesn't care."

"He doesn't," Rose said laughing. "There was this one time, we needed a diversion, so Jack stripped and-"

The mobile in question rang out and she picked it up with an apology to Rose, knowing it was one of the other members of their team calling back to report on a development. When she heard Tosh's voice on the other end, she made a writing motion and Rose handed her a pen and some paper that had been laying off to the side.

"Doctor, we've got that analysis," she called. When the Doctor came over, she told him and Rose, "The gas is forty-three percent carbon monoxide, Twenty-five percent various hydrocarbons, twenty-two percent nitrogen oxides, but there's ten percent that's still unidentified. There is an artificially created heavy element. We don't know what it is, but similar samples have been found with Sontaran involvement before."

"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 wondered.

"Harkness, how's the progress on the PentaLaser?" Mace called.

"Ready in just a minute, Sir," Jack called back.

"Sir? You hate him," Rose accused.

"Yeah, but if it makes life a bit easier…" Jack said and shrugged.

"What? I told you not to launch!" the Doctor said angrily.

"The gas is at sixty percent density. Eighty percent and people start dying, Doctor. We've got no choice. If we don't have that laser soon, we'll have to send up nuclear weapons. Harkness how long on the weapon?"

Jack looked up from his mobile and told him, "Two minutes, twenty-nine seconds until it's ready, on your command."

"Taking too long, Harkness," Colonel Mace warned.

"Hey, I've only got a team of five now. It takes a while," Not-Jack who was horrible at acting like Jack said defensively.

"No, you can't!" the Doctor exclaimed.

"Doctor, if I don't do this, they send up nukes and the Sontarans destroy the planet," Jack explained loudly, nodding over to Mace, who had his back turned to them at the moment, looking at a screen.

"Sixty-two percent density on average i the cities worldwide. People are already dying," Mace informed them. "Be ready when I give the signal, Harkness."

"And what if destroying the Sontaran ship doesn't stop the cars?" Rose blurted out. "What then?"

"She's got a very good point. You're making a mistake, Colonel. For once, I hope the Sontarans are ahead of you," the Doctor rebuked the Colonel, who walked off to the other side of the room. As soon as the man was out of earshot, even if he had amazing hearing, the Doctor turned to Jack and ordered, "You are not to blow up that ship."

"It's okay, Doctor," Gwen cut in. "The fourth control unit of the PentaLaser was damaged when the Cybermen came. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't use it."

With that knowledge, Rose relaxed a bit. She'd been tense, even though, logically, Not-Jack the stinky Sontaran clone wouldn't blow his masters up.

"See? Nothing to worry about. We're buying you time to work your Doctor magic," Jack said confidently, patting him on his back before he walked away, barely acknowledging Rose.

"Yeah, less than 2 minutes." Rose mumbled.

"Plenty can be done in 2 minutes," the Doctor replied. "And it's more than that. NATO would still have to approve the nuclear option, and sending up those takes some time."

"They'll push it through. They may even have authorisation already, because of all the people dying," she reminded him.

Suddenly, one of the soldiers in the factory came over the radio.

"Enemy within. At arms. Greyhound Forty declaring Absolute emergency. Sontarans within factory grounds. East corridor, grid six."

This set off a flurry of activity on the room even before Colonel Mace declared a Code Red.

"Get them out of there!" the Doctor exclaimed, but Mace ordered his troops to open fire.

"Guns aren't working. Inform all troops, standard weapons do not work!" the man who'd spoken before shouted in a panic. "I don't think the bullets are leaving the-" The man's voice cut off suddenly.

"Greyhound Forty, report. Over. Greyhound Forty, report. Greyhound Forty, report," Mace demanded urgently.

"I'm willing to bet that man's mother didn't name him Greyhound. What was his name? Do you even know who you just ordered to his death?" Rose snarled at him angrily. The Doctor had warned them not to fight the Sontarans.

"Now listen to me, and get them out of there!" the Doctor shouted, causing Colonel Mace to jump nervously.

"Trap One to all stations. Retreat. Order imperative. Immediate retreat," he commanded into the radio.

After listening to a few reports coming in from his troops, Mace informed them, "They've taken the factory."

"Why? They don't need it. Why attack now? What are they up to? Times like this, I could do with the Brigadier. No offence," the Doctor rambled in frustration.

"None taken. Sir Alistair's a fine man, if not the best. Unfortunately, he's stranded in Peru," he replied.

"Old friend of yours?" Rose asked and at his nod, made a mental note to try and meet this man her husband admired so much.

"Why are they defending the factory only after we were inside?" Mace questioned.

"It's possible they just wanted to show their superiority with the weapons, but I think there's more to it than that," Rose commented, exchanging a knowing look with her husband. "Jack is inside, isn't he?"

The Doctor gave her a tiny, almost imperceptible nod. "Of course! You gave them something they needed. Something now hidden inside the factory. Something precious," the Doctor agreed.

"Whatever it is, we've got to recover it. How are they stopping the bullets from firing? One of the soldiers said all of their guns just locked up completely," Mace asked him.

"Cordelaine signal causes the bullets to expand," the Doctor explained quickly.

"Gas levels?" Mace questioned the room.

"Sixty six percent in major population areas, and rising," the same man who'd been giving them information on the gas reported.

"Harkness?"

"Ready on your command," the clone called.

"Fire."

Not Jack pretended to speak into his mobile. Of course, as Rose, the Doctor, and Gwen all knew ahead of time, nothing happened.

"Fire Harkness!"

"There's a problem," the Jack clone said. "The PentaLaser was damaged in the Cybermen attack. We thought we got it working again-"

"Get it working! Price, get on with Geneva and tell them we may need the nuclear option after all," he ordered before turning back to the Doctor. "This signal, how does it work?" Mace asked.

"Copper excitation. It causes the bullets to expand. That's why you can't-"

"Excellent. I'm on it," the Colonel responded and dashed from the room.

"For the billionth time, you can't fight Sontarans!" the Doctor called after him, throwing his hands in the air and running them through his hair in agitation when the man completely ignored him.

Rose placed a supportive hand on his arm and he gave her a tight smile before pulling her mobile out of his pocket. "Time to make our own move," he told her.

Chapter Text

Took us ages, but here's a chapter. A bit longer than usual, and some interesting changes within the story. We hope you like it!

XxXxXxXx

The Doctor called Donna on Rose's mobile again and assured her that they had a plan. "But don't worry, I've got my secret weapon."

"What's that?" Donna questioned through the speaker phone.

"You," he informed her, prompting a groan from their ginger friend.

"Oh. Somehow that's not making me happy. Can't you just zap us down to Earth with that remote thing?" she pleaded.

"Yeah, I haven't got a remote, though I really should. But 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," he told her.

Rose considered just how useful a remote like that would be. It certainly would have helped on Krop Tor, when the TARDIS had fallen into the pit. She would have to remind the Doctor to work on that later.

"But there's Sonterruns out there," Donna argued.

"Sontarans, but they'll all be on battle stations right now. They don't walk around having coffee. I can talk you through it," he assured her.

"You can do this, Donna. You're brilliant," Rose added.

"But what if they find me?" she asked, clearly terrified of this plan.

"I know, and I wouldn't ask, but there's nothing else I can do. The whole planet is choking, Donna," he insisted. He knew that she had that bravery inside of her. It was their friend's lack of confidence in herself that held her back. He only hoped that pushing her like this would allow her to see that she could save the world just as much as the rest of them.

Both he and Rose sighed in relief when she finally asked, "What d'you need me to do?"

They talked her through how to defend herself against the Sontarans, by hitting them in the back of the neck, and how to reestablish the teleport link from the ship. Donna doubted herself more than once, but gained confidence after knocking one of the aliens unconscious.

"Oh, you are brilliant, you are," the Doctor praised her as Rose clapped her hands for their friend.

"Shut up. Right. T with a line through it," she responded, dismissing any praise despite it all.

Rose tapped her husband on the arm when Colonel Mace strode back into the small office they were sequestered in. It wouldn't do for anyone else to know what they were doing with Donna on the ship.

"Got to go. Keep the line open!" he told Donna before hiding the mobile back in his pocket.

"There's something you need to see," Mace said just before he led them outside the mobile command center into the thickening, acrid smoke.

"Ugh," Rose complained when she smelled the stench of the smoke. It was absolutely disgusting and she was sure if she'd still been human, she might have gagged at the sudden change in smell. As it was, her new physiology didn't have an automatic gag reflex.

Outside, there were a bunch of soldiers waiting with rifles in hand. Each one wore a gas mask. The people standing in the swirling clouds of smoke were half visible or would disappear and reappear in a very creepy manner.

"I said you don't stand a chance!" the Doctor yelled at Mace angrily when he saw the armed soldiers.

"Positions. That means everyone!" Mace ordered, completely ignoring the Doctor's words as he tossed a pair of gas masks at them. The Doctor looked his over quickly and donned it. Rose stood there, looking at the gas mask and remembering the night they had met Jack.

"Latest firing stock, what do you think, Doctor?" Mace said proudly, breaking Rose out of her musings. She quickly slipped the device over her head and took deep breaths of the filtered air, glad to be rid of the taste of the gas even though she was sure it wouldn't hurt her or the Doctor no matter how thick it got.

The Doctor winked at Rose through the mask, then turned to Mace and replied, "Are you my mummy?"

Rose, who'd been debating a similar joke herself, followed up immediately with "Muuuummmmyyyyy." The Doctor pointed at her and laughed.

Mace, as expected, wasn't amused. "If the two of you could concentrate for a moment." He held up the rifle again. "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.

"And there's the pesky matter of the armour they're wearing. They're a warrior race. If you even think for a moment that your little bullets will-" Rose added, but was interrupted by Mace.

"Thank you, both of you, thank you for your lack of faith. But this time, I'm not listening."

"It'd be a change if you would!" Rose shouted back, stepping forward on impulse, but the Doctor stopped her.

"Nothing we do will stop him," he told her in a low voice, resigned to what was about to happen.

Mace pulled off his gas mask so he could be heard by everyone. "Attention, all troops! 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!" He held a military radio which was much larger than it had to be, up to his mouth and shouted, "Trap One to Hawk Major! Go, go, go!"

"Oh, I get it" Rose realized.

"Oh?" the Doctor asked.

"It makes sense why he's so keen to do it this way. Earth is visited all the time. Recently, there have been so many worldwide events. They want to be able to fight back on their own. Need to be able to. 'I'm not interfering because you've got to handle this on your own. That's when the human race finally grows up. Just this morning you were all tiny and small and made of clay. Now you can expand,'" she reminded him in his own voice.

He nodded slightly, but she couldn't tell what he thought of her realization.

Helicopters came overhead and the downwash from the blades began to clear out the fog from the ATMOS devices. Everyone, including the Doctor and Rose, pulled off their gas masks and looked up at the sky at the sight. It was just five ordinary military helicopters, but they were hovering over the scene in a specific pentagon formation.

"It's working! The area's clearing!" Mace shouted over the noise from the machines.

"Woah, that's brilliant!" the Doctor said enthusiastically.

"Getting a taste for it, Doctor?" the Colonel asked knowingly.

The Doctor's face fell and he regarded the military man with one of the most serious expressions he'd had all day. "No, not at all. Not me." he told the human man. How anyone could have a taste for the carnage of war was beyond Rose.

Mace shook his head and held a radio up. "Fire at will!" he ordered.

Green beams shot from each helicopter, meeting in the middle before continuing in the direction of the ATMOS factory.

Rose and the Doctor both gasped with recognition. This was the same laser that Torchwood had fired at the Sycorax. The same one they thought Jack's team was going to fire at the Sontarans.

And UNIT had a version set up for air to ground use. A simple adjustment, and they'd be able to use it on ships above. It wasn't nearly as big as the laser Torchwood used, though, nor anywhere near as powerful, which was the main thing. It wouldn't be able to be used on anything outside the atmosphere. That was something at least.

"You've got a PentaLaser?" Rose asked the Colonel, appalled.

"Oh, yes. It's difficult to deploy, but with well trained pilots and advanced enough GPS technology, we can have a steady enough platform that it can be deployed anywhere. We're designing an aerial rig so that the entire device can be handled with one vehicle," he explained with pride. "The East and North are secure. Doctor, Rose?" he asked, inviting them to join him before he rushed off.

But the Time Lords had no intention of following the Colonel. "Donna, hold on. I'm coming," the Doctor told Donna through the mobile he pulled from his pocket again.

The Doctor and Rose both stiffened slightly when Not-Jack joined them in the corridor. They were heading away from the UNIT soldiers and he looked at them curiously.

"Shouldn't we follow the Colonel?" he asked.

"Nah, you, Rose, and me. Just like old times!" the Doctor exclaimed as he took Rose's hand and used his sonic to scan for the Sontaran technology that he knew was hidden somewhere in the building. "Alien technology, this way!"

"Did you finally scan for alien technology? After all this time?" Rose gasped teasingly.

He rolled his eyes and tugged her with him. The trio walked down the deserted hallway in silence. Rose and the Doctor were trying to hide their anger over what had been done to Jack, but knew that they would find him and fix all of this soon.

"No Sontarans down here. They can't resist a battle. Here we go," the Doctor announced with false cheer as they reached a door at the end of the hallway. He used his sonic to override the electronic lock on the door and they entered the room.

Jack was lying on an examination table, unconscious, but definitely the real Jack. Rose dashed to his side and checked him over. The Doctor joined her, more knowledgeable in what to look for in this situation.

"He'll be fine, Rose. Just a tick," he assured her as he looked over the device attached to their friend's head. They both froze when they heard the gun click behind them.

"Am I supposed to be impressed?" the Doctor asked without even turning around.

"Wish you carried a gun now?" Not-Jack said smugly as they turned to look at him.

"Not at all," he replied.

Rose spun around, facing the clone of of her old friend. "Put that damned thing away," she growled at him. "How much of the real Jack's memories are in you? My Jack would never have pulled a gun on either of us."

She didn't need the Doctor's warning through their bond about being careful. It was obvious that this Jack would be more likely to be able to harm her if he'd already pulled a gun.

Before not-Jack could answer, They heard the cocking of another gun and everyone looked over to see Gwen holding hers on Jack.

"Yeah, just what we need, even more guns," the Doctor groaned.

"I knew something was wrong, so I practically lay out an invite to innuendo, and you didn't even respond. Whatever you are, leave him or I'll kill you!" Gwen warned, nearly shouting.

"Oh, Gwen, only you would think to kill me to save me," the real Jack said from behind Rose with a chuckle.

"What?" Gwen asked, looking back and forth between the Jack standing, holding a gun and the one sitting down, dressed in a white hospital gown with wires coming from his head. "Jack, did you go back in time again?"

"Nope," the Doctor answered, popping the 'p.' "That one is a Sontaran clone. Not a very good one, I'm happy to say."

"When'd you figure it out?" the Fake Jack asked.

"What, about you? Oh, right from the start," the Doctor answered.

"We were still on the other side of the room when we figured it out," Rose confirmed.

"Reduced iris contraction," the Doctor began.

"You stink!" Rose blurted out. "Like, really, really stink. Jack always smells so-" she stopped herself and cleared her throat.

"Fifty-first century hormones," the real Jack explained in a somewhat amused voice, though she could hear he was in pain.

"Which brings us to the biggest tell of all," the Doctor added, bringing them back on track. "Jack here is from the fifty-first century. I could hold my breath and close my eyes and still tell the difference between the two of you from the other end of a street." He regarded the clone for a moment after telling his half truth. "But you didn't know that, did you? Normally, you'd have had all his memories, but some things haven't gotten through to you like they would have if Jack were a normal human of this time. But there was enough, wasn't there? Enough to do what you needed. Probably didn't even realize you were missing anything. That's why the Sontarans felt they had to protect the real Jack, so he could feed you the information needed to keep the weapons from going off for as long as possible. Jack Harkness is keeping you alive, isn't he?"

Without changing his expression, he reached over to the electrodes that were attached to Jack's head and unceremoniously ripped them off. Jack gave a yelp at the pain and looked like he was about to pass out for a moment before he recovered.

The clone of Jack didn't fare so well. He dropped to his knees, curling up in pain and breathing hard. The gun slipped out of his fingers and fell to the floor. As soon as it hit, Gwen went over and picked it up to get it out of the reach of the clone. As she did so, she never took the muzzle of her weapon off of him.

"Jack!" Rose exclaimed and hugged her old friend. As her arms wrapped around him, she took a deep breath of the spicy scent Jack usually had. "Yep, definitely my Jack," she said in a softer voice.

"You can sniff me anytime, Rosie," he answered, giving her a squeeze. He then gently pushed her back and got to his feet, stepping toward the clone.

Just then, Rose's mobile rang. The Doctor fished it out of his pocket and flipped it open quickly. "Oh, blimey I'm busy. Got it?" he said quickly into the phone. "Okay, now take off the covering. All the blue switches inside, flick them up like a fusebox. And that should get the teleport working." He went over to the teleport pod sitting in the corner of the room and began working on it, talking with Donna.

Jack walked over to his double and looked down at him for a second with an unreadable expression before he got to his knees. "Hey, there good lookin'," he greeted the other Jack.

"Stay away from me!" he yelled, terrified.

"I'm not gonna hurt you," Jack assured his other self. "Remember who really made you this way. Now, I need your help."

Fake Jack shook his head furiously. "I can't."

"Yes, you can. Remember our team? Our daughter? Our grandson? They're all going to die unless you help."

Rose gasped. Jack had a daughter and grandson? Really, she should have known. As old as he was, but he never talked about them. It was like finding out the Doctor had been a father once all over again. A reminder of how much time they'd both lived without her. And how much they had both lost.

"The gas! Tell us about the gas!" the Doctor yelled from the teleport he was working on.

"You're the enemy," the fake Jack responded darkly. "I'll never tell you."

Jack got his attention. "Then tell me. What's the gas?" When the Jack on the floor hesitated, the real Jack pleaded. "Jack, please, just tell me. What's it used for?"

The other Jack hesitated for just a moment longer before he nodded his head and answered, "Caesofine concentrate. It's one part of Bosteen, two parts Probic 5." His breathing started to get even more laboured and he looked like he was in incredible pain.

"Clonefeed! It's clonefeed!" the Doctor shouted.

"Oh," Jack said in realization.

"That doesn't sound good," Gwen chimed in. She had lowered her gun upon the realization that the clone of Jack wasn't going to cause anyone harm. She dropped down next to him and started to pull him into her lap.

"Sontarans are clones, so, food for the Sontarans," Rose guessed. "They wanna colonize the planet?"

"More like amniotic fluid for Sontaran clones. That's why they're not out right invading, they're converting the atmosphere. Changing the planet into a clone world. Earth becomes a great big hatchery. Give 'em a planet this big, they'll create billions of new soldiers," the Doctor lectured, going back to work on the teleport. Rose wondered what was taking him that long.

She walked over to the teleport, away from the emotional scene in front of her. "Is there anything we can do for him?" she asked quietly. The Doctor looked up from the display, gave her his 'I'm sorry' look, and shook his head, never stopping his constant, quiet chatter on the mobile with Donna on the other side.

"My heart... It's getting slower," the new Jack announced from the floor.

"Is there anything we can do, Jack?" Gwen asked in a broken voice.

"He's dying. Go to him," the Doctor whispered in her ear.

"What about-?" Rose started, but the Doctor already anticipated her question.

"The Sontaran programming will override the memories. My presence will only be even more distressing."

Rose went over to both Jacks and Gwen and knelt down on the other side of him. She took his hand and held it. His skin was extremely hot and he was sweating.

"The darkness," he suddenly blurted out. "It's coming, isn't it?"

Jack swallowed and gave the tiniest nod.

"You've-you've died before. I remember-I-I don't-"

"Shh, shh, it's alright. Don't focus on that," Rose told him, speaking in a calming voice. At least she hoped it was a calming voice. "Think of a good memory."

"Remember back on Boeshane?" Jack prompted.

"The peninsula," the other Jack recalled. "Was just a kid. I modeled."

"They stuck our mug on all those posters," Jack added.

"The first one from there to get in the Time Agency," the other Jack said weakly, smiling. "They called us the Face-"

His eyes closed and Rose felt his grip on her hand go slack as he died. She looked over to the original Jack, mostly to make sure he was still there and saw him standing there, staring at the body that looked just like him with a tear running down his cheek. Gwen was in a similar state as Jack: crying silently and trying not to show it as she extricated herself from her position underneath the dead man.

Rose herself was in a state of shock. She'd just watched Jack die, except Jack wasn't dead, because he was standing there, but he was lying on the ground. Her mind kept going around, trying to resolve the paradoxical scene in front of her. Something in her wanted to get away from the scene, very far away.

She was standing up to do just that when she felt the Doctor's cool fingers on the side of her head and a calming sensation. A moment later, her perception shifted, and she realized she'd lost her hold on the time senses she'd been suppressing.

"It's okay, you're okay, now," he told her telepathically so the others wouldn't know just how close she'd come to bolting from her own stupid mistake. "You are not stupid, and it was not your mistake," he stressed. He then held up his finger and walked back to the teleport, pulling his sonic back out of his pocket.

A moment later, Donna appeared, calling out "-tor!" Then she saw the Doctor and asked him, "Have I ever told you how much I hate you?" before she wrapped her arms around his waist, happy to be back off the Sontaran's ship.

He quickly started pulling her off of him. "Hold on, hold on. Get off me, get off me! Gotta bring the TARDIS down," he explained before he sonicked the teleport. "Everyone who's coming, get a move on!"

Donna, curious about what half the occupants of the room were staring down at, finally caught sight of the body on the floor. "But there's... two of them."

"Yeah, long story," the Doctor answered dismissively as he ushered her back inside the teleport. "Gwen? You coming?" he called and the woman inquestion looked up at her name. The Doctor gestured for her to get inside the teleport pod.

"Jack, we need to go," Rose said softly and the immortal man finally tore his eyes from the duplicate of himself on the floor.

"Don't cry, Rosie," he told her, wiping his thumb over her cheek. "It's over now."

"Oh, and Jack, cover that rear up. No one wants to see that!" the Doctor called.

"I wanna see that," Donna protested quietly and Rose knew that Jack had heard it when the corner of his mouth curled up.

"You heard the lady," Jack said and stepped into the teleport, still wearing nothing but the hospital gown.

The Doctor shook his head, but said nothing more about it. "Here we go. The old team, back together! Well, the new team."

"We are not going back on that ship!" Donna warned.

"No, no, no. No. I needed to get the teleport working so that we could get to…" The Doctor began as everyone joined him in the teleport chamber and he pressed the controls. There was a flash of light before found themselves in a new location. "Here! The Rattigan Academy, owned by," he continued and they were faced with the frightened teenage genius pointing a gun at them.

"Don't tell anyone what I did! It wasn't my fault, the Sontarans lied to me, they," Luke Rattigan rambled, his hands shaking.

"If I see one more gun," the Doctor grumbled as he plucked the weapon from Luke's grip and tossed it aside.

Rose watched her husband as he dashed madly around the laboratory, collecting items and assembling something. She could feel something from him, an anxiety and maybe guilty feeling, but he was hiding it. Knowing him, he had a plan now and she wasn't going to like it. She just needed to find out what it was and point out the alternatives that he was completely overlooking, as usual.

"That's why the Sontarans were so keen on controlling you, Jack. They didn't want the humans to use missiles and they could keep control over any weapons from Torchwood with you. Because, caesofine gas is volatile, ground-to-air engagement could've sparked off the whole thing," the Doctor babbled manically, giving further proof to Rose that he had a plan she wouldn't like. It was just like when they faced the Cybermen and Daleks, before he tried to send her away.

"It would have ignited the atmosphere?" Jack questioned.

"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 explained.

"They promised me a new world," Luke admitted.

"And you believed them? Some genius," Rose snapped.

"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, holding up the device he had been working on adjusting.

Everyone followed as the Doctor ran outside with it, still fiddling with it.

"That's London. You can't even see it. My family's in there," Donna told them sadly. Rose wrapped an arm around their friend in support. She knew the Doctor would save the world and he wasn't doing anything self destructive yet, but she had a feeling it was coming.

"If I can get this on the right setting," he mumbled, then smiled as he looked at his work.

"Doctor, hold on, you said the atmosphere would ignite," Jack interrupted. He knew the Doctor wouldn't do anything like that, but needed more of an explanation than he was getting.

"Yeah, I did, didn't I?" he replied and pressed the button on the atmospheric converter. He pulled Rose tightly to his side as he watched the sky start to burn. She jumped a bit and squeezed him in return. "Please, please, please, please, please, please, please," he whispered as they watched the atmosphere aflame.

There were a few very tense minutes before the flames extinguished themselves and a blue, sunny sky was revealed. Rose squealed and pulled him into a kiss. She became very concerned when he deepened it and she felt a wave of guilt from him.

"He's a genius!" Luke gasped in awe.

"Never doubted him for a minute," Jack beamed.

"Now we're in trouble!" the Doctor shouted as he grabbed the atmospheric converter and ran back into the school. Rose stood in front of him with her arms crossed as she watched him making more adjustments to the device, she knew this was the moment he had been trying to hide from her. Some stupid, self-sacrificing decision that he wouldn't let her help with.

"Right, so... Donna, thank you. For everything. Jack, you too. Oh... so many times. Luke, do something clever with your life," he rambled, avoiding eye contact with his wife as he tried to think of a way to keep her from following him.

"You're saying goodbye," Donna realized.

"Sontarans are never defeated. They'll be getting ready for war. And, well, you know, I've recalibrated this for Sontaran air, so," he explained.

"You're gonna ignite them," Jack completed the thought.

"You'll kill yourself," Donna said obviously.

"You bloody idiot," Rose growled at him.

"Rose, don't. You know I have to give them a chance to back down," he argued.

She marched right in front of him and pulled the device from his hands, placing it on the table behind her. "You were going to just leave me here. Don't deny it! I could feel it from the moment you worked out a plan. You knew this would happen, but not once did you tell me, maybe ask if I had another idea. It always has to be you! Like it or not, Doctor, we are partners and I'll not have you throwing your life away and leaving me just because you're too proud to ask for help," Rose shouted angrily as tears streaked down her face.

"There isn't another option! Do you think I haven't run every single possibility through my formidable mind to think of another solution?" he argued.

"Just send that thing up, on it's own. We can rig up a delay switch or something," Jack suggested. "I'll go!" he began, but stopped when they heard the teleport sequence start up.

"What are you doing?" the Doctor demanded of Luke, who was standing inside the pod with the converter.

"Something clever," he told them before pressing the button and disappearing onto the Sontaran ship.

The Doctor ran to the controls in a futile attempt to stop the young man from killing himself. "He's locked the controls. It'll take a while to break through," he announced, but before he could decrypt the lock, the Sontaran ship exploded overhead.

The group all stared out the window for a moment before Rose whacked her husband over the head angrily.

"Yes! Alright, I'm a moron. Got it," he responded.

Chapter Text

After the ship blew up, The Doctor, Rose, Donna, Jack, and Gwen realized something important: The teleports no longer worked, and they were far from the factory where their vehicles were.

Sighing, Gwen pulled her mobile out of her pocket and asked Jack how to contact UNIT. A few minutes later, she announced that they were sending a jeep to pick them up.

She spent the time waiting, worrying about Jack. Physically, he was fine, of course. He always was. Bloody immortal. Mentally, he'd just been kidnapped and watched a version of himself die, so there was no way he could be okay. She rubbed his back in what she knew had to be a pathetic attempt at comfort, glad that Rhys was nowhere around to see her rubbing the almost naked man's back.

Rose was still angry with the Doctor for his stunt. She might not have known the Sontarans as well as he did, but she knew they wouldn't have taken the chance the Doctor offered. She couldn't even remember a time where the bad guy took the chance. She loved that he gave them a chance, but it wasn't anywhere near worth killing himself to do so, especially when she could think of at least two other alternatives without even trying.

She was also worried about Jack. She kept coming back to the image of him lying on the floor, dying slowly. She knew he'd died before- she'd even seen it once, on the day she married the Doctor, but this was different. This time, he wouldn't be coming back. The thing was, it wasn't even him, just a clone with a lot of his memories.

It didn't stop her from sneaking glances at him to reassure herself he was still alive, though.

Donna was also ticked off at the Doctor. If Rose hadn't smacked him upside the back of his head already, she would've done it. Her anger warred with her mourning of the young man who'd just gone on the Sontaran ship and died and the worry about her family. Her grandfather was of special concern. He was getting up there in age and she wanted him around as long as possible.

With both the Doctor and Jack brooding, though for different reasons, the group was quiet.

When the UNIT jeep got everyone back to the ATMOS factory and the TARDIS, Donna asked to visit with her family before they went anywhere else. Knowing that she'd have wanted to check on her own mum, Rose readily agreed before anyone else could say anything. Not that anyone else would have said any different.

"Could I come along for a while?" Jack, now fully dressed and in the World War II trench coat he'd originally worn when he first met them, requested, fairly sure that Rose would agree at least. "Just a trip or two."

"Course you can!" Rose agreed, throwing her arms around his neck excitedly.

"Sure your team won't mind?" the Doctor asked, putting his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels.

"Nah. Told Gwen that I was taking a little vacation," he replied with a wink.

"Right, because running for your life is so relaxing," Rose teased.

"You ain't even joking! Couldn't we make a trip to some kind of alien spa planet, where the massage boys have got four hands or something?" Donna suggested, wiggling her fingers in a horrible imitation of a massage.

"Ooh, I know just the place!" Jack began.

"No, Jack. I think I can come up with something a little less X rated than your version," the Doctor interrupted.

"First, let's make sure Donna gets to visit her family before we go anywhere. And I'll help look through the spa planet options," Rose insisted before the Doctor could absentmindedly take them into the Vortex.

Donna wasn't gone very long. While she was gone, the three seasoned travelers found a nice, relaxing destination with a spa Donna would love and a rather unique geological feature Rose and the Doctor both wanted to see as soon as Jack told them about it. Apparently, he'd wanted to go there, to visit the nightclub that took up one quarter of the Leisure Palace, but had never gotten a chance to.

The door opened, and Donna came in, holding her key. "You know, you'd think I was fourteen sometimes," she grumbled in a low voice.

"That's mums for ya," Rose replied, pushing down her bit of sadness at the reminder of her own mother. "She's worried. It's only natural."

In an attempt to change the subject, the Doctor stepped in and turned attention to Jack. "Now, before we take off, you need to know some things. This one here likes to think himself a bit of a Casanova." He pointed at Jack.

"Oh, that's where you're wrong, Doc," Jack interrupted, leaning against the console. "Casanova thought he was me."

"Aaaannndd, he's -" the Doctor started, ignoring Jack's cocky tone. Before he could finish, however, he was interrupted again.

"Our friend, family," Rose finished firmly. "Yeah, Jack might be a flirt, but he's a great guy," she told Donna and Jack came up behind her, hugging her.

"Aww Rosie, I knew you loved me," he said, kissing her cheek. He let go quickly.

"'Course, I do, you numpty," she responded. "'Course, he's also a lecherous old man," she continued, ignoring his protest and the Doctor's snicker. "If he ever gets too flirty for ya, just tell him you ain't interested or to stop, and he'll stop, I promise."

The Doctor snorted at that. "I tell him to stop all the time, and he never stops flirting with you."

"I was never told you weren't interested," Jack countered. "In fact, I seem to recall being told to buy you a drink first. And there was that one time-"

"And, we're off!" the Doctor suddenly said, slamming down the last lever of the dematerialization sequence he'd already started. Everyone held on as the Rotor began moving and the TARDIS shuddered, signalling its entry into the Vortex.

"Two? Three?" the Doctor asked Rose suddenly.

"Two and we'll see what happens," Rose responded.

"Two what?" Donna asked.

"How long we'll be there," Jack responded. "When traveling, I never stay in one place for more than a few days, unless I have a damned good reason."

"Yeah and we all know why," Rose joked and immediately ducked out of the way of Jack's lunge. He kept going, and in seconds, he was chasing her out of the console room, both of them laughing.

As soon as they disappeared down the hallway, Donna turned to the Doctor. "Um, Doctor, who exactly is Jack?"

The Doctor laughed a little. "Donna Noble, you have to ask the hard questions, don't you?" He sighed and thought for a second. "Pick just about any descriptive, and it would have probably fit him at some time. Flirt, clown, cheat, show off, but loyal, brave, smart, and fun all fit as well. When we first met him, he was running a con. Saved Rose's life at the time."

"Sounds a bit all over the place."

"No, not really, just complex," the Doctor responded.

"But who is he to you and Rose? 'Cause, I don't get it. They act like, I don't know, like they grew up together? Brother and sister? Then there's the flirting, but I know you, Spaceman. I've seen the way you act when another man pays too much attention to her, but I see none of that now. Not that I'm judging or anything. You're all adults, but-" She stopped when the Doctor started chuckling. "What?"

"No, nothing like that. Jack's just a really, really close friend. Though Jack wouldn't mind," he mused. "And I sometimes suspect that Rose wouldn't mind if I-"

"Nope, nope, don't wanna hear any of that," Donna interrupted, throwing up her hands. "Sorry I asked." She narrowed her eyes at him. "You did that on purpose," she accused and the Doctor didn't deny it.

"In all seriousness, though. Jack's had a horrible day and Rose is trying to get his mind, and I suspect her own, off of it."

At his words, Donna remembered that Jack had been in a hospital gown and there had been another one of him, but she hadn't seen him long. She was about to ask what had happened when it hit her like a ton of bricks. The other Jack had been dead. It hadn't clicked at the time. She'd been rushed away to the chaos at the mansion in the country.

The Doctor nodded at her. "Allons-y, Donna Noble. You've got a couple days of relaxation to pack for."

As soon as she left, the Doctor sighed and leaned back against the console. He went to fiddle with a little, blue knob he'd installed just for the purpose of fiddling with, but the knob, that wasn't connected to anything, shocked him. At the same time, there was a surge in the disapproval he'd been feeling from the ship ever since he came back, but that moment was the first time he'd been alone.

"I know!" He exclaimed. "I know I screwed up. Rose has already made her feelings known quite well."

##########

Rose breathed deeply of the lavender scented air that surrounded them. She and Donna were currently being massaged to bonelessness in the serene environment of the spa. Everything was pristine and white, the sunlight from outside filtered through the protective windows of the entire complex. Despite all of that, the softness of the light and lightly scented air was extremely relaxing.

Donna moaned softly as another knot in her muscles loosened and Rose smiled over at her.

"What do you think, Donna? This trip a little more your speed?" Rose teased.

"You said it, Spacegirl. This would be my goal. Travel the universe and compare every spa to see which is the best," Donna told her, not even opening her eyes.

"Well, nice as this is, I think that would get a little boring after a while. I like to explore new places and they won't even let us outside here," Rose responded.

"Yeah, but you can't go outside exploring a space ship either," Donna argued.

"Suppose. But there's plenty to explore inside. I'm not really an 'obey the keep out sign' type of girl," Rose laughed.

"I've learned that much about you two. I wanted to ask you though, the Doctor didn't explain it very well. What is it with you and Jack?" Donna asked.

"What you mean?" Rose wondered.

"I mean you and him act like brother and sister one minute, then you're flirting with each other like no tomorrow, but it doesn't bother your husband at all," Donna explained.

"I do think of Jack like a brother. And believe me, the flirting used to bother the Doctor plenty. He's just come to realize that Jack won't stop doing that with me, but nothing will ever come of it really. He trusts me, and he trusts Jack. Jack used to travel with us and he and the Doctor worked well together. Called ourselves Team TARDIS," she told her with a laugh at the fond memories before the Game Station.

"Alright. Not much more of an explanation than your husband gave, but I guess that's all I'm going to get. The Doctor said he saved your life when you first met him? How did that happen?" Donna questioned, ready to listen to a story.

Rose laughed. "Well, it started with us chasing something dangerous and mauve that crashed into London during the Blitz, and me trying to help a little boy by accidentally grabbing onto the rope from a barrage balloon," she began and told Donna the entire story of how Jack first came to travel with them after his ship exploded.

##########

The four of them met up for dinner that night before going their separate ways again. Jack was going to hit that nightclub and might not be coherent in the morning. He invited Donna along, but she blushed and said she was knackered and was going to go to bed.

Neither of them said anything about how little Rose spoke to the Doctor.

Rose, who hadn't been swimming in a while, despite having a pool on the TARDIS, got into her bathing suit and dived in. She swam laps back and forth, practicing with her respiratory bypass, something she didn't use nearly enough. It had been just shy of a year since she'd changed, and she was only just starting to get used to some of the things that were different about her body.

As she swam, she thought about the things that had happened that day: Jack's mortal doppelganger; the Doctor, once again, trying to get himself killed. What the hell was his problem? Hadn't they gotten past that?

When she couldn't hold her breath any longer, she surfaced just before the end of the pool and pushed her hair out of her eyes. Immediately, she saw the Doctor standing there, right at the edge of the pool where she would have stopped had she gone all the way to the edge. He wore only his oxford and a pair of swimming trunks, which was something she'd never seen outside of the TARDIS, if you didn't count when he was human for a couple of months.

"Nice use of respiratory bypass," he praised.

She noticed that he had a bottle of wine and two glasses sitting next to him. "You know, glass by a pool is usually a very bad idea," she told him, nodding at the glasses. "As is drinking."

He bent down, picked up a glass, and smacked it against the ledge of the pool, making Rose wince. Instead of the crashing sound she'd expected from experience, the glass made a dull tinking noise.

"Toranti glass, developed on the twenty-eighth century. Doesn't break, well, it can still break, but not like the glass you're familiar with. When it breaks, it breaks much like a plastic cup. Long lines and it holds together in one piece. The bottle's the same. All the benefits of plastic without the detractors, like the taste." He scrunched up his nose.

"You think you're so impressive," she teased, though her hearts weren't in it. He was acting like nothing had happened and it just made her angrier at him.

"You're still angry," he realized.

"Ya think?" She swam over to the ramp that went down into the pool and stepped out, dripping water. "After what you did today? What were you thinking?"

The Doctor looked around and noticed a couple of women had just entered the pool room. He put the wine bottle in the crook of his arm and held both glasses in the same hand. He extended his free hand out to Rose and wiggled his fingers.

"I've gotta dry off a bit before we go anywhere," she told him, grabbing a towel from the back of the lounge chair where she left it.

"Nah, you don't need it." He led her to a small alcove with a half wall that provided a bit more privacy. Behind the wall sat a hot tub. It was round with steps across the front quarter and was still, but when the Doctor stepped in, it immediately started bubbling. He removed his shirt, draping it over the half wall, sat down at the other end, and opened the bottle.

Rose hesitated for just a moment, but decided she was being stupid. He obviously wanted to talk to her and thought the setting would help relax her. She stepped in after him, sat down in the warm, relaxing water, and accepted the glass from him. She could smell that it was a sweet wine, made from something other than grapes.

"Is that pineapple?" she asked and tasted it. As she thought, it was sweet, and she could taste the high alcohol content as well as the sugar, yeast and other ingredients that had gone into it, changed by the chemical process of fermentation.

"Close enough. It's actually a fuzzy little fruit from about ten light years thataway." He pointed over his shoulder. "Prized by humans for being so similar to the pineapple of Earth."

"Why did I have to keep you from dying today?" she asked bluntly, not feeling like listening to his gob right then.

"Our way of life is dangerous. You know that," he replied quietly.

"Don't. You know exactly what I'm talking about. There's dangerous situations and then there's tryin' to commit bloody suicide!" she growled at him. "I thought-I dunno what I thought." She looked away from him for a moment and shook her head. "Are you ever gonna stop tryin' to leave me?" she blurted, hating the way her voice cracked when the words came out.

"Leave you? Why would I leave you?" he asked coming closer. "I don't want to leave you. Rose?" He cupped her cheek with his hand and gently turned her head so she'd look at him.

"You were gonna sacrifice yourself and you knew it too, sayin' goodbyes to everyone. But you weren't savin' anyone. If I hadn't stopped you, you would've blown yourself up an' I'd be alone, for no reason."

"I had to give them a chance," he replied apologetically.

"I know, but we both know they'd have never taken it."

"I had to try," he said at a near whisper. He sat back and poured more of the wine into his glass. Even with himself closed off from their telepathic link, she could feel the sorrow he always had when life was lost.

"It's one of the things I love most about you," she told him sincerely. "That you'll give anyone a chance."

"Yeah?" he asked, brightening up a little.

"Oh, yes. Gave me one." She grinned and started moving toward him. She didn't move quite as gracefully as she had wanted to in the water, but it was still seductive, she hoped. She climbed into his lap, straddling his waist, but when the Doctor leaned forward for the kiss he thought he was getting, she pulled back.

"Next time, take a second to put a delay on the device, yeah? We go up together, give them a chance and leave before it explodes."

"Yes, ma'am." He leaned forward and kissed her soundly, but, to her surprise, pulled back and put his forehead to hers. "I love you," he whispered and let down his guard so she could feel it as well.

He so rarely actually said the words. Rose kissed him softly, repeating his sentence back to him one word at a time between pecks. The kisses changed into a heated embrace and Rose ground down on him, forgetting they weren't in the most private of places at the moment.

The Doctor gasped and pulled back again. "Rose, we're not alone," he reminded her.

The reminder gave her a devious thought. "That's half the fun," she whispered in his ear and nibbled on the lobe. She then started moving down his neck, across his chest, and finally, she took a deep breath and went underwater.

"What are you-? Ooh," the Doctor groaned when her mouth went around him. It was something she had thought of doing before, but had never gotten around to it. After a second, his hips started moving slightly and she could feel his pleasure. His hand went to the back of her head and he put his fingers through her hair.

She discovered that putting her mouth on him underwater wasn't nearly as easy as she had expected. Every few seconds, little air bubbles would escape her mouth as her lips slid over the vestigial bumps on his length. Lubrication was an issue as well. One would think under water would be more slippery than in the air, but it wasn't. It washed away the natural lubrication from her mouth.

Suddenly, the Doctor's pure pleasure turned into near panic. He sat up a little straighter and pushed her hair down to keep it underwater. Rose didn't know what was going on at first and was about to ask him when she heard, distorted through fast moving water, Jack's voice.

At that moment, she had another impish thought and sucked his length hard, twirling her tongue around him. He squirmed a bit and kept her in place with a warning squeeze on her shoulder.

"You guys are gonna love this. There's this sapphire waterfall, and they take you out in this truck to see it. There's protective shielding from the xtonic rays, but they say the view is spectacular!" Jack told the Doctor excitedly.

"Yup," the Doctor squeaked. "Sounds great, Jack. We can do that tomorrow then."

"Something wrong, Doctor?" Jack questioned, acting like he didn't know exactly what was going on.

"No! No, nothing at all. Why do you ask?" he responded gritting his teeth to keep from groaning at the magnificent things Rose was doing to him with her tongue.

Jack eyed the two glasses of wine by the hot tub and asked, "Where's Rose?"

"Hmm? Oh, umm, ladies' room," the Doctor lied.

"Right, well, see you tomorrow, Doc," Jack replied and walked back around the barrier that separated the hot tub from the main pool area.

The Doctor sighed with relief and pulled Rose up out of the water, giving her a chastising look. "We are taking this elsewhere before I do something that will make them have to drain the water from this pool," he insisted.

Rose licked her lips teasingly and the Doctor growled as he pulled her against him for a fierce kiss. They both gasped when they heard Jack laughing behind them, his head poking out from the entrance.

"Caught ya!" he laughed and left them to their play. He had a date to get to. Lovely couple.

###############

"Let's give her one more chance before we go," the Doctor said the next day and walked over to a courtesy telephone.

"Donna, last chance." He listened for a moment. "Sapphire waterfall. It's a waterfall made of sapphires. This enormous jewel, the size of a glacier. Reaches the Cliffs of Oblivion, and then shatters into sapphires at the edge. They fall a hundred thousand feet into a crystal ravine," the Doctor said in a voice that held wonder. Rose had never been able to deny that voice, not even when it was gruffer and Northern.

"Oh, come on. They're boarding now. We need someone to occupy Jack. Not like that. Four hours, that's all it takes."

"You be careful, that's Xtonic sunlight," he warned.

"All right, I give up. I'll be back for dinner. We'll try that anti-gravity restaurant. With bibs."

"Nah. Taking a big space truck with a bunch of strangers across a diamond planet called Midnight? What could possibly go wrong?"

"You did not just say that," Jack groaned.

Chapter Text

 

The Doctor, Rose and Jack all took their seats in the bus that would take them to see the Sapphire Waterfall. It reminded Rose of the seating in an airplane, though she hadn't ever flown in one before. Her mum couldn't afford anything like that, but she'd seen what the inside of a plane looked like anyway, thanks to the telly. There weren't many passengers with them, so they could spread out a bit if they wanted, or switch seats to go chat with the others.

The hostess came over to greet them, as she had for some of the others already and handed them each a packet.

"That's the headphones for channels one to thirty six. Modem link for 3D vidgames. Complimentary earplugs. Complimentary slippers. Complimentary juice pack and complimentary peanuts. I must warn you some products may contain nuts," she recited officially.

"That'll be the peanuts," the Doctor replied.

"Enjoy your trip," she acknowledge with a false smile.

"Oh, we can't wait. Allons-y," he told her enthusiastically.

"I'm sorry?" she asked, unfamiliar with what he just said.

"It's French, for let's go," he explained.

"He's a bit of an expert in languages," Rose told her.

"Fascinating," the hostess replied and impatiently moved on to repeat her spiel about the complementary stuff to the other passengers.

"Someone doesn't like her job," Jack spoke up.

They listened as the older man behind them lectured the young woman with him about the details of the planet and their tour, while making ridiculous demands of her. Rose wondered how the poor girl could stand it, but guessed that he was her employer or something and she was just trying to keep her job. The man leaned forward to introduce himself.

"Hobbes. Professor Winfold Hobbes," he said, offering his hand.

"I'm the Doctor. Hello," he replied, shaking his hand with a grin.

"It's my fourteenth time," the professor bragged.

"Oh. Our first. This is my wife, Rose, and our friend, Jack," he added.

"And I'm Dee Dee, Dee Dee Blasco," the young girl added, offering her hand in greeting as well.

"Don't bother the man. Where's my water bottle?" Hobbes interrupted dismissively.

"Oh, it's no bother at all," Rose insisted, taking her hand. "Lovely to meet you, Dee Dee."

"An absolute pleasure. Captain Jack Harkness," Jack introduced himself when he took the woman's hand, kissing the back of it and making her blush.

"Jack," Rose and the Doctor sighed exasperatedly.

"I don't mind," Dee Dee said shyly as Jack threw her a wink.

"Ladies and gentlemen, and variations thereupon, welcome on board the Crusader Fifty. If you would fasten your seatbelts, we'll be leaving any moment. Doors," the hostess announced as everyone settled in. The doors slammed shut abruptly, followed by the shields over the windows as she continued, "Shields down. I'm afraid the view is shielded until we reach the Waterfall Palace. Also, a reminder. Midnight has no air, so please don't touch the exterior door seals. Fire exit at the rear, and should we need to use it, you first. Now I will hand you over to Driver Joe."

"Driver Joe at the wheel," a voice sounded over the intercom. "There's been a diamond fall at the Winter Witch Canyon, so we'll be taking a slight detour, as you'll see on the map. The journey covers five hundred klicks to the Multifaceted Coast. Duration is estimated at four hours. Thank you for travelling with us, and as they used to say in the olden days, wagons roll."

The screen at the front of the vehicle displayed the detour route and Rose worried a bit at that. Usually, when something out of the ordinary happened around them, it meant that trouble would come with it. This was supposed to be a relaxing trip, but between past experience and a niggling at her time senses, she knew something was coming.

Rose looked around her and slowly released her grip on the majority of her senses: the ones that Jack's presence grated at. His fixedness was there: a giant ball of hopelessly tangled messy timelines. As she slowly allowed herself to feel the timelines around her, she started feeling better about being able to be around him without having to feel on guard. She hadn't gone to panicking like she had in that basement, nor did she feel like she had to get away for her own sanity.

"Rosie, you're being awfully quiet," Jack spoke worriedly. "Aren't claustrophobic, are you?" Rose shook her head, eyes still closed.

"She's trying to relax her senses," the Doctor told Jack, having realized what she was doing early on. Rose knew he had been helping her through it since he figured out what she was doing.

When Jack didn't seem to loom over everything else in the small cabin, she opened her eyes and looked at the timelines of the other passengers in the cabin. None of them were destined to die for sure, though the woman at the front had far fewer immediate possibilities than the others. Something was coming, she just wasn't sure what.

She looked over at Jack, and, just as the Doctor described, it hurt to look at him. She decided not to tamp down her senses again, as a reminder of what she'd done to him.

"Got it figured out, Rose?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," she told him and smiled reassuringly.

"For your entertainment, we have the Music Channel playing retrovids of Earth classics. Also, the latest artistic installation from Ludovico Klein. Plus, for the youngsters, a rare treat. The Animation Archives. Four hours of fun time. Enjoy," the hostess announced as multiple videos, holograms, and general noise all started to play around them.

It was an assault of the senses and Rose was sure that someone who was epileptic would have had a seizure right then and there. They all knew why earplugs were part of the standard package handed out to each of them.

The Doctor, Rose, and Jack all looked at each other in agreement before the Doctor took out his sonic and shut it all off.

"Well, that's a mercy," they heard the old professor behind them say a second after everything quieted down.

The Hostess then started walking down toward them.

"Uh, oh, someone's in trouble," Rose teased in a very low voice so that only the three of them would hear. Beside her, Jack snickered.

"I do apologise, ladies and gentlemen, and variations thereupon. We seem to have had a failure of the Entertainment System," the hostess told everyone, quite put out by the inconvenience.

"Oh," the Doctor pouted for a second, as if he had nothing to do with it.

"But what do we do?" a woman, who appeared to be about middle aged, asked from toward the back of the cabin.

"We've got four hours of this? Four hours of just sitting here?" her husband complained.

"Tell you what. We'll have to talk to each other instead," the Doctor suggested with a smile.

It wasn't long before the couple was happily exchanging stories with Jack and the Doctor, their son looking particularly bored.

Rose was chatting with Dee Dee, away from Professor Hobbes. She wanted to get some idea why the girl put up with such a grouch.

"I'm just a second-year student, but I wrote a paper on the Lost Moon of Poosh, Professor Hobbes read it, liked it, took me on as researcher, just for the holidays. Well, I say researcher. Most of the time he's got me fetching and carrying. But it's all good experience," Dee Dee explained.

"Not exactly research experience. All you're learning is how to minimize his complaining," Rose countered. "Did they ever find it?"

"Find what?" she asked.

"The Lost Moon of Poosh," Rose clarified. It wasn't the first time she had heard someone mention losing something enormous.

"Oh, no. Not yet," she replied.

"Well. Maybe that'll be your great discovery, one day. Just gotta make your own name for yourself, yeah? Here's to Poosh," Rose told her, offering her glass for a toast.

"Poosh," Dee Dee responded, clinking their glasses together.

##########

"So, Doctor," Jack started when the couple turned around to complain about their son's apparent lack of interest in anything or anyone aboard the bus. "Rose won't talk to me about it, but how's she doing with the whole-" He stopped speaking and looked around at their company. "-Human turned Time Lady thing," he finished in a much lower voice so no one would hear them.

"Better than I expected," the Doctor admitted. "She's had some...issues."

"What kind of issues?" Jack asked, concerned.

"There's been a few times where she's burnt out, but that's entirely my fault," the Doctor replied, shrugging as if it weren't a big deal when Jack knew he beat himself up over it every time it happened.

Jack knew he didn't want to talk about it, but Rose wouldn't speak about it and Jack had a vested interest in making sure she was okay. He'd push the old Time Lord if he had to.

"Something tells me that's not entirely your fault. She'll have to start telling you sooner when she's getting worn out. Now, what else?"

The Doctor sighed. "There has been a few times, always when she's learned something else she could do, that she-" he paused with a pained expression that was fleeting.

"She freaked out, didn't she?" Jack asked softly. Early on, he'd done the same. It had led to several rather painful attempts to see how far his apparent immortality could go.

"That's as good of a way to describe it as anything," the Doctor replied.

"I confess I called the two of you for more than just the Sontaran thing. I wanted to see how she was doing. From our conversations, I couldn't tell what I would have found when I saw the two of you again. For all I knew, she could have been losing her mind slowly or she could have become even more like you, sonic screwdriver and all." He looked over to Rose, who was speaking animatedly with the young woman, Dee Dee. "She's just...like always," he finished musing.

"Oh, I just remembered," the Doctor said, reaching into the inner pocket of his jacket where he kept the sonic. He pulled out a small pen. It was black with silver metal accents. "This is for Rose. Haven't had much time to work on it, but just finally got it where I want it. Remember the Adipose incident?"

"Yeah. Gwen still refers to them as fat babies. Good job on that, by the way, Jack replied, knowing that the Time Lord had been keen to change the subject.

"Thank you. Anyway, the woman in charge, Matron Cofelia, had this little ditty." He wiggled the pen. "Gave me some trouble, it did, but I was able to get it from her and it came in handy later on."

Jack was about to ask what it was, because it obviously wasn't just a pen, but the Doctor beat him to the explanation. His explanation was weird, though. It sounded like the Doctor was in a commercial. "It pretty, it's sleek, and it unlocks almost any door. This sonic pen has two thousand three hundred and twenty-eight of the most useful settings from my own sonic and-" He clicked the back end of the pen, which like many pens, made a small ball point tip come out. "Writes if you need it. The pen part won't work in anti-gravity, though. Pens were never good for that."

Jack chuckled. "So, when are you gonna give it to her?" He nodded to the woman in question, who was deep in conversation with Dee Dee.

"Meant to give it to her last night, but I got distracted." Jack sniggered and he rolled his eyes.

"I did too. Had fun with this l-"

"No, no, no. I do not want to hear anything about your conquests." The Doctor's forehead then became creased in confusion. "I thought Rose said you were with Ianto Jones? The fifty-first century might be a bit more relaxed, but I'm pretty sure adultery is still a no-no."

"What kinda guy you take me for?" Jack responded. "We're not monogamous, but we're usually together. 'Yan doesn't do guys, though, so we have an agreement: I wind up in a different time, and-"

"Ianto doesn't-but," Rose said from the seat in front of them, having had come back from her discussion with Dee Dee while they were talking. She was backward in the seat, on her knees, and very confused. -"But you. What?"

He just laughed at them. "Oh, I am all man," he told them.

"Yes, we knew that," the Doctor joked, grinning at a very confounded Rose. "Shame that wasn't a bigger distraction."

"Okay, I'm confused. How comes he's with you then? I was there when you asked him out, and he seemed interested enough."

"He says I smell good," Jack explained, waggling his eyebrows. Rose had said the same thing many times.

"Ah, of course. Fifty-first century hormones," the Doctor commented.

"Okay. Off the topic of Jack's sex life. I just heard something interesting from Dee Dee," Rose spoke up. "Doctor, have you ever heard of the Lost Moon of Poosh?"

"No, I haven't. Poosh. That's a funny name. Po-osh," he replied, sounding out the word.

"Apparently, it was an uninhabited moon orbiting the gas giant Poosh, named after some god or something like that, but here's the thing, Poosh was almost twice the size of Earth and no debris was ever found."

"Maybe we should investigate that next," Jack said. "But first, this lady is eying me up."

Rose giggled, "Have fun Jack." The Doctor just shook his head, but even the stuffy old Time Lord couldn't keep from smiling.

##########

The Stewardess brought everyone their meals, which all looked like a microwaved dinner for one. At that moment, Rose was sitting with Sky, who looked depressed and had been sitting on her own. The Doctor was talking to Dee Dee and Professor Hobbs and she had no clue where Jack was beyond toward the back of the bus. She could hear his voice once in awhile.

"Oh, no, I'm here with my husband, Jack and Donna, but Donna's not here. She stayed behind in the Leisure Palace. How about you?" Rose asked in response to her question about whether she was alone or not.

"No, it's just me."

"I've not done that. Like having someone to share the experience, myself." She stabbed at the meat on her tray and looked at it closely. She didn't know what it was, but knew from past experience that there was a chance she didn't want to know.

"I'm still getting used to it. I've found myself single rather recently, not by choice," Skye told her.

"Been there. What happened?" Rose wondered and put the meat in her mouth. It was tender, but weird, and she was sure it belonged in the same category of meats as bologna and hot dogs.

"Oh, the usual. She needed her own space, as they say. A different galaxy, in fact. I reckon that's enough space, don't you?"

"Yeah, probably. One of my exes went to another universe. Last I heard of the other, he was in prison. Life goes on, but I've got the Doctor now. You'll find the right person in time," she assured the other woman.

Sky took a bite of the meat on her tray. "Oh, what's this, chicken or beef?" she wondered.

"Spam," Rose answered.

"Spam?"

"Shit posing as meat," Rose explained, which made Skye laugh a little.

##########

About halfway through their trek to the sapphire waterfall, Professor Hobbes decided to display his research on the planet to everyone via slides through the projector. The Doctor was kind enough to repair it for that function at least. Everyone paid close attention, even the teenager, Jethro, that didn't seem to want to be there at all for most of the trip.

"So, this is Midnight, do you see, bombarded by the sun. Xtonic rays, raw galvanic radiation. Dee Dee, next slide. It's my pet project. Actually, I'm the first person to research this. Because, you see, the history is fascinating. Because there is no history. There's no life in this entire system. There couldn't be. Before the Leisure Palace Company moved in, no one had come here in all eternity. No living thing," the Professor explained.

"But how do you know? I mean, if no one can go outside," Jethro, questioned.

"Oh, his imagination. Here we go," his mother complained.

"He's got a point, though," the Doctor interjected.

"Yeah, I mean, life takes all kinds of forms. Just because things we're familiar with can't live here, doesn't mean nothing does," Rose agreed. She'd seen far too much to discount anything happening completely.

"Exactly. We look upon this world through glass, safe inside our metal box. Even the Leisure Palace was lowered down from orbit. And here we are now, crossing Midnight, but never touching it," Hobbes agreed.

Everyone paused and looked at each other in confusion when the transport rattled to a stop. Rose, Jack, and the Doctor exchanged a look. Rose and the Doctor both had known something was going to happen, but had been waiting for a sign of it to come.

"We've stopped. Have we stopped?" Jethro's mother, Valerie, asked.

"Are we there?" her husband Biff added.

"We can't be, it's too soon," Dee Dee argued.

"They don't stop. Crusader vehicles never stop," Professor Hobbes insisted.

The hostess started walking up the aisle from her place in the back of the bus. "If you could just return to your seats. It's just a small delay," she tried to assure them. She then went to a small intercom device on the wall and started talking in it.

Since most everyone was seated already, watching the lecture, only the professor had to sit down. A few people grumbled.

"And so it begins," Rose said under her breath. Both the men on either side of her could hear her.

"Yep," the Doctor replied.

"Wait. What are the two of you talking about?" Jack whispered. "Did you know something was going to happen here?" he asked.

"I suspected," the Doctor replied.

"When we were told about the diamond fall, that's when I suspected. 'S why I decided to try to use my time sense," Rose told him.

Behind them, the other passengers were discussing whether or not it was a pit stop or if they'd broken down.

The hostess got off the intercom and announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, and variations thereupon. We're just experiencing a short delay. The driver needs to stabilise the engine feeds. It's perfectly routine, so if you could just stay in your seats."

The Doctor, who knew a thing or two about engineering, stood up quickly and went directly to the door separating the cockpit from the rest of the bus. Jack, who also knew a lot and had even been allowed to work on the TARDIS without the Doctor's supervision, also stood up to find out what was wrong.

"Could you both please take your seats?" the hostess asked, obviously annoyed at the two of them.

The Doctor pulled his psychic paper out of his pocket and showed it to her quickly. "There you go. Engine expert. This is my trainee. Two ticks."

Without waiting for another word from the woman, the Doctor opened the door of the cockpit and walked right in, with Jack on his heels.

"I'm sorry, sir. if you could just sit down. You're not supposed to be in there," the hostess called out ineffectively.

"Don't worry ma'am. We won't hurt anything," Jack told her and winked before closing the door quickly.

Chapter Text

The compartment was small with just enough room for the Doctor and Jack to step inside and move a bit, though both men were tall and the Doctor's hair brushed the ceiling.

"Sorry. If you could return to your seat, sir," one of them said, turning around. "Jack? So you came after all!"

"Of course I did and it was fun, but now I'm here and on the clock, so to speak. So Joe, Claude, what happened?" Jack asked. He had started out flirty and ended the sentence all business.

"We're stabilising the engine feeds. Won't take long," the driver told him, flicking some switches to look busy.

"Er, no," the Doctor disagreed, calling them out on the lie. "Because that's the engine feed, that line there-" He tapped the indicator. "-and it's fine. And it's a micropetrol engine, so stabilising doesn't really make sense, does it? Sorry. I'm the Doctor, I'm very clever. So, what's wrong?"

"We just stopped. Look, all systems fine, everything's working, but we're not moving," the other man explained in frustration.

The Doctor scanned with his screwdriver while Jack looked at various instruments. "I don't see anything on the indicators," Jack said. "That doesn't rule out a problem with the systems, though."

"You're right, but it's not that. No faults," the Doctor replied and put his screwdriver away. "Let's see. Joe and Claude, right?" he asked them, pointing at the driver before the person in the passenger seat. When they nodded, he shook each hand in turn and said, "Nice to meet you."

"Procedure would have you sending for rescue, right?" Jack asked.

"Did just before you came in. Rescue truck will be sent out," Claude told him.

"ETA?" Jack asked.

"About an hour," the driver responded.

The Doctor had an idea. He wished it were Rose with him, but he could share what he saw with her later. "Well, since we're waiting, shall we take a look outside? Just lift the screens a bit?"

"It's a hundred percent Xtonic out there. We'd be vaporised," Joe balked, scared at the idea.

"They do have a point there, Doc."

"Nah. Those windows are Finitoglass. They'd give you a couple of minutes," the Doctor explained.

"Ooh, we could really see out there," Jack said with excitement, but the crewmen kept hesitating.

"Go on, live a little," he goaded the two of them.

They looked at one another and decided to do it. All three humans gave a one syllable exclamation when they saw it.

"Oh, that is beautiful," the Doctor breathed out as soon as the shield was fully raised. He took in every detail of their surroundings, knowing that neither he would never see the view again and it was unlikely anyone else would.

"Look at all those diamonds," the mechanic said in wonder. "Poisoned by the sun. No-one can ever touch them."

"Just don't ever tell Jackie. She'd try and get one at least," the Doctor joked before he remembered that she wasn't around any more. He pointed at Jack and ordered, "Don't ever tell Rose I said that."

"No problem there," Jack readily agreed.

"Mother in law?" Claude asked, knowingly.

Jack chuckled. "Isn't it always?"

"Great woman. Helluva smack." He then changed the subject. "Driver Joe, you said we took a detour?"

"Just about forty kliks to the west," Joe confirmed.

"Is that a recognised path?" he wondered.

"No, it's a new one. The computer worked it out on automatic," he replied.

"No one else has been here? That's fantastic," Jack said and the Doctor swore he heard a bit of sarcasm in the last word.

"We're seeing something no one else has ever seen," the Doctor pointed out, still staring out at the diamonds.

Suddenly, the mechanic leaned forward, pointing in the opposite direction of where the Doctor was looking at the moment. "Did you just-? No, sorry, it's nothing." He quickly leaned back into his chair and tried to act like nothing happened.

"What did you see?" the Doctor barked out.

"Just there." He pointed again. "That ridge. Like, like a shadow. Just, just for a second.

"What sort of shadow?" the Doctor pressed, but before he could get an answer out of the man, who was starting to freak out a little bit, an alarm began beeping.

"What's wrong?" Jack questioned, craning his neck to get a look at the warning.

"Xtonic rising. Shields down," Joe explained as he flicked the switch that would lower the shields. Their time was up.

"Look, look! There it is, there it is! Look, there!" Claude exclaimed, trying to see it longer as the shield went down.

"I see it!" Jack exclaimed, pointing in the same direction.

"Where? What was it?" the Doctor asked frantically, trying to see it too, but the shields closed too fast.

"It moved so fast," Jack told him.

"Like just something shifting. Something sort of dark, like it was running," Claude said.

"Running which way?"

"Towards us."

At the same time, Jack answered with, "This way," backing up the story.

They were on a planet with nothing organic on it that wasn't protected by special glass and metal. It had no air, and the very light was poisonous. There wasn't anything the Doctor was familiar with that could be living out there, though something living underground was technically a possibility. What was more likely was that Claude's mind had played tricks on him and, as had happened many times, one person said they'd seen something had another convinced.

But Jack has never been one to give in to group hysteria. There was also the matter of those timelines. Whatever was going to happen would be soon, and he didn't have a good feeling about it.

Driver Joe had become uncomfortable with the conversation. "Right, gentlemen, back to your seat. And, er, not a word. Rescue's on its way."

"You don't mind if I stick around, just for a little while, do you?" Jack asked flirtatiously.

"Jack," the Doctor warned.

"What? I know these guys," Jack defended himself.

"I kinda worked that out for myself," he shot back. Seriously, sometimes Jack would go just a bit too far.

Jack pulled him to the back of the cockpit and told him in a whisper, "I know what I just saw has something to do with whatever you and Rose are sensing and I wanna see if there's more information I can get."

He nodded, impressed. "Don't have too much fun, Jack Harkness. Thank you for the once in a lifetime view, gentlemen." With those words, he stepped out of the cockpit and closed the door behind him.

"That the boss you were telling us about last night, Jack?" Claude asked as soon as the Doctor stepped out.

"Yep, that's him," Jack responded.

"He's gorgeous," Claude said.

"That he is. And unfortunately, happily married," Jack replied.

##########

As soon as he closed the door, he was accosted by a blonde woman, but not the blonde woman he'd hoped it would be.

"What did they say? Did they tell you? What is it? What's wrong?" Sky asked, too quickly for him to answer.

"Oh, just stabilising. Happens all the time," he told her in an effort to calm her down.

"I don't need this. I'm on a schedule. This is completely unnecessary," she complained.

The hostess was also nearby and annoyed. "Back to your seats, thank you," she ordered before heading into the cockpit herself.

"Find something interesting?" Rose asked. She was seated right where he left her and was the picture of relaxed. But he knew it was false. She was tense and ready for a fight. He knew she'd been trying to get hints on what was happening through her new senses, but he also knew she'd never properly figure it out. They were too intertwined with events and the next forty minutes or so of everyone's timelines were a complete blur.

"Oh, there's always something interesting. What about you?" he asked as he was sitting down next to her.

"Oh, you know, just sitting here. Nothing going on," she said out loud. In his head, she told him, "It's about to happen, or is starting already." He nodded in acknowledgement.

"Excuse me, Doctor, but they're micropetrol engines, aren't they?" Dee Dee spoke up suddenly, leaning forward. In her seat.

"Now, don't bother the man," her boss chastised.

Dee Dee, not paying the old man any mind for once, explained, "My father was a mechanic. Micropetrol doesn't stabilise. What does stabilise mean?" Oh, he had to have a properly brilliant one on board, didn't he? If they didn't have Donna and Jack, he'd invite her along. He might still if she continued to prove brilliant. Well, he'd ask Rose first. Still wasn't used to that.

"Well. Bit of flim-flam. Don't worry, they're sorting it out," he assured her.

"So it's not the engines?" the old professor questioned him, cutting off another question from his assistant.

"It's just a little pause, that's all." He was trying to keep more people from asking questions he didn't have the answers to yet.

"How much air have we got?" he mused.

"Shit," Rose said under her breath. "Worst question ever." He knew exactly what she meant. People were already on the edge of panic. The device meant to save their lives on the trek wasn't working right and someone just had to mention a possible problem with air.

"Professor, it's fine," he told the professor, trying not to show his irritation with the disagreeable human.

"What did he say?" Valorie spoke up suddenly and loudly.

"Nothing," he called back.

"Are we running out of air?" she asked fearfully.

"No, it's okay, really," Rose answered, trying to get things to calm down before they escalated further.

"I was just speculating," professor Hobbes defended himself, having apparently recognized what he had started. As he was speaking, the hostess came back out of the cockpit.

"Wonder what Jack said that has her looking so scandalized?" Rose wondered as the others began questioning her about the air situation.

"I don't even want to know," he replied.

As the hostess tried to get everyone to calm down and everyone else tried to get answers, the Doctor pinched the bridge of his nose. This was almost as bad as the entertainment system, well half as bad, but very dangerous. Everyone but the hostess, the professor, and Dee Dee were working themselves up over the air.

"SHUT IT!" Rose suddenly yelled over the din, holding the fingers of her left hand to her temple and her right hand pointing in the almost universal "one minute/second/tick" gesture. The cabin went quiet instantly and everyone looked at her.

"Air is life. I get it, I do, but think people. We still have electricity. This thing's built like a ship, yeah? I've been on enough ships to know that the systems have backup after backup. There's nothing wrong with the air. Will you all just relax?"

"She's right, and if you don't believe her, Dee Dee's got something else to say that'll convince you," the Doctor added and gestured at the woman who'd been trying to get a word in while people were freaking out.

Dee Dee's eyes got wide as she realized everyone had turned their attention to her. "Oh. Er, it's just that, well, the air's on a circular filter, so we could stay breathing for ten years," she explained.

"There you go. And I've spoken to the Captain. I can guarantee you everything's fine," he finished.

Just as everyone was finally calming down, two knocks could be heard from outside.

"Every time," Rose muttered.

"What was that?" Val asked.

"It must be the metal. We're cooling down. It's just settling," Professor Hobbes assured her.

"Rocks. It could be rocks falling," Dee Dee suggested.

"What I want to know is, how long do we have to sit here?" Biff complained.

From the other side of the transport, another two knocks sounded.

"What is that?" Sky questioned.

"There's someone out there," Val decided.

"Now, don't be ridiculous," Hobbes chastised.

"Like I said, it could be rocks," Dee Dee said, trying to reassure her before the whole group started panicking again.

"We're out in the open. Nothing could fall against the sides," the hostess argued.

The Doctor and Rose looked at each other thoughtfully as they considered what kind of trouble they might have run into this time, but didn't engage in any of the speculations thus far. The tension in the room only increased when the next pair of knocks came from outside.

"Knock, knock," the Doctor commented.

"Who's there?" Jethro replied with a grin.

"Really, boys?" Rose sighed.

"Is there something out there? Well? Anyone?" Sky asked, but no one knew the answer for sure. Theory said it was impossible for anything to be alive outside on this planet, but the current circumstances seemed to say otherwise. She became even more agitated when the next knocks came. "What the hell is making that noise?"

"I'm sorry, but the light out there is Xtonic. That means it would destroy any living thing in a split second. It is impossible for someone to be outside," Hobbes insisted haughtily.

"Lifeforms that you know of. It is possible that there is a form of life that doesn't fit into your definitions and logic. That's what exploring is all about, yeah?" Rose argued.

The Doctor went over to the hull and listened, trying to find out if anything could be heard from outside. When he heard nothing, he pulled out a stethoscope he kept in his pocket, partially as a joke and partially because it was useful in certain situations.

"Sir, you really should get back to your seat," the hostess told him, but, once again, he ignored her. Why did she even keep trying?

"Hello?" he asked. Two thumps sounded again, but faster.

"It's moving," Jethro commented, just before the emergency exit door rattled.

"It's trying the door," his mother said.

"There is no it. There's nothing out there. Can't be," Hobbes protested angrily.

"Evidence, right there. Don't get angry at the truth," Rose admonished him.

There was more rattling, followed by more thumping from outside in several different places. It seemed to the Doctor to be trying to find its way in, and apparently to everyone else as well, because they all started talking over each other and worrying again. Of the humans on board, only Dee Dee seemed to be calm, trying to assure people that the doors were far too hard to open to be penetrable.

"It's almost as if whatever's out there wants us to be scared," Rose said in his mind, trying not to make the situation worse.

"Maybe. Maybe not, but it couldn't do better," he agreed.

Then Biff Cane approached the door and both the Doctor and his wife tried to dissuade him from doing what he was obviously planning to do: knocking on the wall. In response, he received the same three knocks back right on the other side, as if it were copying him.

Of course, that just made everyone even more scared. Well, mostly everyone. He felt a glee. Here was a heretofore unknown creature that could survive the Xtonic rays from the sun and was intelligent enough to mimic.

"All right, all right, all right. Everyone calm down," he ordered everyone in a raised voice.

"No, but it answered. It answered! Don't tell me that thing's not alive. It answered him!" Sky exclaimed, backing as far away from the door as she could.

"Sky, hey, Sky, relax a bit, okay? Freakin' out ain't gonna help anything," Rose said in a comforting tone of voice, following her to the other side. She was scared too, but there were more people inside than the thing outside.

"No, no! Why are you so calm about this?" she questioned. Her voice went higher with each word.

More knocks sounded and Sky turned her attention to the roof, where they had come from.

"I really must insist you get back to your seats," the Hostess tried one last time.

Rose groaned and was about to tell her to stuff it when Sky blew up. "No, don't just stand there telling us the rules! You're the hostess. You're supposed to do something!"

Everyone else seemed more into watching Sky's meltdown than focusing on their fear of what was on the other side of the hull, so the Doctor, confident in Rose's ability to be able to calm the woman down enough to at least stave off the next round of hysteria, knocked on the wall four times.

Just when he thought he wasn't going to get an answer, four more knocks came from outside, in the same rhythm as he'd set.

"What is it? What the hell's making that noise? She said she'd get me. Stop it. Make it stop. Somebody make it stop!" Sky suddenly yelled and Rose grabbed her arms.

"Who said they'd get you?" Rose asked.

"My ex, just before she left, this is her!" The woman's pupils were wide open in fear and she was shaking.

"No, it's nothing to do with her," Rose assured her. "She's in another galaxy, far, far away from you."

"Then what the hell is that thing?" she asked, tears streaming.

"I don't know. No one knows." Sky began to sob. "We'll figure it out, okay? We're all in the same boat, or bus."

##########

Inside the cabin, Jack was looking over data, trying to figure out if something had manipulated the cruiser to go the path it had taken.

Not long after the Doctor left, the hostess came in.

"Captain Jack Harkness," he introduced himself.

"You should get back to your seat, Sir," she rebuked him.

"No can do, I'm working," Jack responded.

"What are you doing?" she asked him. "Why have you let him into the computers?" she questioned the other two.

"I'm only looking into potential reasons for our current mess, unless you want to sit here longer than you have to," he told her, then, noting her reactions to him and her sour demeanor, set to rile her up. "Then, I plan to have myself a good time with the fellows over here. You can join in too if you want. We'll have us a party."

She froze and stared at him for a moment before turning back to Joe. "What's going on here?" she asked through clenched teeth.

"Nothing, and by that I literally mean nothing. No faults, no fuel problems, navigation errors, nothing. We've decided on telling the passengers it's a micropetrol stabilization issue," he explained. "Rescue will be here before long."

She nodded, then turned back to Jack. "The mechanics back at the Palace can do that job and are qualified for it. You should return to your seat."

"Yeah, they probably can," Jack admitted. "But you won't find another human as qualified as me in code around here." She huffed. "Shame, we coulda had fun, beautiful." He winked at her and she appeared perfectly scandalized, which was his intention.

She stormed out of the cockpit and Jack chuckled. "That gets rid of her."

"Careful, she's a monster riled up," Claude said, joining in the laughter.

Later, Jack found that the system had indeed been messed with and that there had been no diamond fall after all. Then the thumps began.

After trying, unsuccessfully to get the two men to open the shields to see if he could see anything, he went to leave the cockpit of the cruiser. As he touched the door, the world exploded, and he was sure he wouldn't be able to come back from that one.

He was finally going to die.

##########

Rose felt the world turn cold right before the cabin shook like they were being thrown by a giant. The lights went out and she knew no more.

##########

After the cabin shook, the Doctor took stock of himself quickly. "Arms, legs, neck, head, nose. I'm fine. Everyone else? How are we?" No one answered. "How are we? Everyone all right?" he asked again. No one seemed to be panicking and he saw no signs of distress. His ears were ringing and he was sure no one else would have been able to hear him if his own ears were that bad.

People had started questioning what happened and the Hostess handed out torches, as the main lights had gone off, at the same time part of the entertainment system switched back on.

"Never mind me. what about her?" he heard the teenage boy ask and he turned around to see Rose sitting on her knees by the front row, which had been ripped up. Nearby, Sky was standing up shakily, a stream of blood running from her forehead.

But all he could see was Rose.

"Rose?" he asked, but got no response. She didn't even acknowledge him. "Rose?" he tried again and knelt down in front of her. He took her hands and felt that they were human temperature, which was a high fever for their shared physiology. He also couldn't feel her at all telepathically.

"Rose?!" he yelled, shaking her slightly.

Dimly, he heard the hostess on the intercom, then, suddenly, a bright light filled the room. A body fell through it, most of its clothing charred away from Xtonic radiation before the door closed again.

"Is that the driver? Have we lost the driver?" one of the passengers asked.

"Oh, my god. How's he still breathing?" another asked.

"The cabin's gone," the Hostess realized, staring down at the charred remains.

Chapter Text

The Doctor stared at his old friend for just a moment, tamping down his instinctive revulsion at the timelines surrounding him before he turned back to his wife, who was unresponsive, just sitting on the floor. He could dimly make out everyone else asking about the cabin and the body lying on the floor.

 

“Rose? Can you hear me?” he asked desperately. “Are you hurt?” He looked into her eyes, devoid of their usual sparkle. “Are you okay?”

 

“Are you okay?” she repeated, in a listless voice.

 

“Of course, I- Rose, why are you repeating everything I say?” he asked, and she repeated it without any emotion.

 

Instantly, the people behind him started talking over one another and Rose’s head finally moved, staring at each person as she repeated what they were saying. The Doctor watched all of this in horror. Whatever they were dealing with had not only destroyed the cabin, killing the men inside, but had also started controlling Rose. It was a powerful creature. Or creatures. There might have been several, but he doubted it.

 

Kneeling down in front of her, he checked her over. In addition to the fever, her skin was clammy, her pulse wasn’t nearly as strong as it should have been, and even her pupil dilation was not observable.

 

“I’m speaking to the entity who is inside Rose Tyler. You’ve made a mistake. This is your one warning, and you’re only getting it because the person you inhabit would want me to. Leave her, of your own free will, or I will make sure you leave,” he ordered whatever non corporeal being was holding his wife.

 

As he expected, she just stared at him, repeating his words. He could have sworn he saw a smirk as she did so. As he spoke, the humans gathered on the other side of the bus had quieted down, but as soon as he quit speaking, they started back up again, speculating among themselves.

 

“What are you doing? Is the repeating learning?” he asked himself as he stood up, not getting nor expecting an answer.

 

The stupid, scared humans wouldn’t shut up. He needed to think. He needed to save his wife. It was when Jethro repeated the number six three times with a smile that he lost it on them.  

 

He stomped over to the group. “That is enough! Do you think this is a game?!” he shouted angrily. He looked in Jethro’s eyes. “You don’t even know what your little amusement means. History lesson: the number six hundred and sixty-six is attributed to the Emperor Nero through Greek Isopsephy, precursor of numerology. The Romans used it as a way to speak out against their leaders without the leadership knowing what it meant.”

 

As he spoke, he noticed Jack wake up on the floor, though no one else saw him. Jack looked around, confused for a moment, then his eyes landed on Rose.

 

“Rosie?” When Rose repeated what he said, his eyes widened. “Doc, what the hell’s wrong with Rose? Is she repeating everything?”

 

“Yes. Something’s in her,” he quickly replied and went back to her.

 

“What are you? How the hell did you survive being outside?” Biff questioned suspiciously.

 

“And what happened to your clothes?” Val added with a quick glance downward.

 

“The radiation vaporized my clothes and I can’t really explain how I lived, I’m just glad that I did.  Don’t suppose I could borrow your coat, Doctor?” Jack asked, grabbing the Doctor’s coat anyway. The Doctor didn’t even notice since he was too busy worrying about Rose.

 

“Alright, I think it would be best if everyone backed away from them so that he can try to stop whatever is happening to Rose,” Jack told the other passengers calmly as he buttoned the few buttons on the long, brown coat. While he knew that the buttons didn’t go down nearly far enough, the coat overlapped so Jack would be covered.

 

The Doctor could hear the others continuing to argue with Jack, but he had more important things to worry about for the moment. Knowing his old friend would do his best to keep the others calmed down, he could focus on his wife.

 

“Whatever you are, whatever you’re planning, it stops now,” he threatened, staring down at the body of his wife.

 

He was pacing and running through his options, partially to himself, when when he noticed something: She’d started talking with each of them, instead of following right behind.

 

“Doctor?” Jack spoke up.

 

“I hear,” he replied.

 

One by one, each human checked to see if they were still being repeated, getting more frightened when she kept up with each and every one of them.

 

“How can she do that? She's got my voice! She's got my words!” Val asked, freaking out.

 

“Come on, be quiet. Hush, now. Hush. She's doing it to me too,” her husband said.

 

“Just stop it, all of you. Stop it, please,” the Doctor asked of them. “Jack?”

 

“Come on, guys. That’s enough. Something tells me it’s not a good thing for any of us to be feeding-whatever’s got Rose.”

 

The Doctor sat on his heels and gazed into his wife’s eyes. “Now then, Rose. You’re not Rose, you’re something else inside Rose’s mind. You know exactly what I'm going to say. How are you doing that?”

 

He remembered a game he’d seen children the cosmos over play. The younger one would repeat what the older one said and the older one would try to trip their younger sibling up. Was this creature that fast, or did it know ahead of time what they were going to say? Did it pluck it from his mind as he thought it?

 

Better test it. Learn its abilities. “Roast beef. Bananas. The Medusa Cascade. Bang! Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness, Donna Noble, Mickey Smith, TARDIS. Shamble bobble dibble dooble. Oh, Doctor, you're so handsome. Yes, I am, thank you.”

 

“Really, Doctor?” Jack asked. “Then again, it’s tempting. Oh, Jack, I wanna-”

 

“Jack!” he shouted, glaring at the immortal man. “Do not continue that,” he warned. “Okay. First she repeats, then she catches up. What's the next stage?”

 

“Next stage of what?” Dee Dee asked.

 

“That's not her, is it. That's not your wife any more,” Jethro deduced.

 

“Oh, my God, she’s gone!” Sky said and held her hand to her mouth.

 

“She’s still there,” the Doctor asserted.

 

“How would you know?” Sky asked.

 

“Because she’s got a very strong mind and I believe in her. Now, be quiet, all of you. I need to concentrate.”

 

He leaned forward, so he fell all the way to his knees in front of her, placed his fingers against her temples, and closed his eyes as he entered her mind. Instantly, he was met with cold and darkness where there should have been warmth and light. He couldn’t feel Rose at all.

 

Something rushed at him, and any last doubt he had of this being’s intentions vanished.

 

##########

 

At first, Rose knew nothing. Slowly, she regained her sense of self, but not even the feeling of her own body. She was only consciousness. She couldn’t tell up from down, how long it had been, anything. It was the one of the scariest things she’d ever experienced, though she’d had similar done to her before.

 

After a few moments of panic, she organized her thoughts into a linear chain of events and remembered that she’d been on the planet Midnight. The tapping was interesting and a bit scary, but she’d been terrified of what she knew the people on board would be capable of. The whole setup was like one of the ever popular horror movies. The setup was perfect: a group of people removed from civilization.

 

She’d been trying to calm down Sky, knowing that she’d be the most likely to set off a chain of horrible events that had the potential of spanning the cosmos when it struck. She had training against psychic attacks, but she was new to it and whatever had been causing the knocking had entered her so quickly, she had no time to stop it. She realized she was trapped in her own mind and a spark of hope grew. If she was in her mind, then she had a chance of getting it out.

 

First thing first: she needed to get some control, even if it was a tiny bit. As it was, everything in Rose was wide open for this thing to take. If she could get part of who she was locked away from the creature, even if it was insignificant, it’d be a start and easier to get more.

 

She seemed to have access to her own thoughts and memories, just nothing physical, including awareness of what was happening outside of her own mind.



##################



Jack glanced worriedly at his friends with the fervent hope that the Doctor could save his wife from whatever being had taken her over.  He realized quickly, however, that he had his own problems in dealing with the frightened humans.

 

“For the last time. Nothing can live on the surface of Midnight,” Professor Hobbes continued to insist.  Rose had stopped repeating everyone, now that the Doctor had moved the battle into their minds.

 

“Professor, I'm glad you've got an absolute definition of life in the universe, but perhaps the universe has got ideas of its own.  Now, The Doctor and Rose have dealt with a lot of strange things in their lives and I trust him to get her out of this,” Jack responded.

 

“But what if she’s dangerous or something?  What if when it’s finished with them, it takes over the rest of us?” Val argued.

 

“What’s he doing anyway?  That’s just weird,” Biff added.

 

“We should throw them out,” the hostess suggested.

 

“What?!” Jack shouted.

 

“I beg your pardon?” Hobbes asked incredulously.

 

“Can we do that?” Val questioned hopefully.

 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Everyone just hang on a minute,” Jack said, hoping to get everyone to stop and think about just what they were suggesting.  Would these people really murder the couple behind him?

 

“That thing, whatever it is, killed the driver, and the mechanic, and I don't think she's finished yet,” the hostess argued.

 

“Look, I’m just as upset about their deaths, believe me, but killing more people is not the way to fix this,” Jack told her.

 

“How are you even alive?  You should be dead with them.  Or is all of this your doing?” she questioned.

 

At the very thought, all of them looked at him suspiciously and he knew that there would be no winning them over any time soon.  Time for plan B, and he reached under the coat.

 

“Where the hell did you get that?!” the hostess gasped, staring at the blaster in Jack’s hand. “Weapons aren’t allowed anywhere on the planet!”

 

“I always keep a spare where it can’t be taken.  Even if all of my clothes are gone.  And believe me, this is not the first time it’s happened.  Now, if all of you just stay over there and leave my friends here to deal with this thing, whatever it is, then I won’t need to use this,” Jack warned them.

 

“And what if that thing takes over both of them? Then what?” Dee Dee challenged him.

 

“Then, if I have to, I’ll shoot them both.  For now, we give them a chance to fix this, and wait for the rescue truck that’s on the way,” Jack replied, glancing at the Doctor and Rose worriedly.  He hoped with everything he had that they all came out of this alive.

 

Chapter Text

The Doctor had been in his wife's mind hundreds of times and it had never been like this. All of the light and warmth that she always shone with was nowhere to be seen, but he refused to lose hope. His Rose was still here somewhere.

The being that had taken over attacked him instantly, but the Doctor had trained for this and had centuries of experience defending himself against telepathic attacks. As such, he deflected it all easily. He could sense that the creature fully intended to take over both he and his wife, ultimately destroying every living thing that had invaded this planet before moving on. There would be no compromise here, leaving him with the only option of finding Rose's consciousness and destroying this thing before it could hurt anyone else.

It was dangerous for Rose for them to be fighting inside of her mind, but he couldn't risk trying to lure it out of her without knowing if her own mind was still here and ready to take over all of her vital bodily functions once it was gone. Turning to a distant corner, he saw a faint glow and went toward it. Rose was curled up in a ball, protecting herself from the cold darkness that surrounded them both.

"Rose! I'm here," he assured her, reaching out to pull her back.

"Doctor? Where is it?" she asked, her voice small and fearful. "I can't see. It's so dark."

"What do you remember?" he asked, needing to know what she knew.

"I was talking to Sky, trying to calm her down. Suddenly, everything went dark and I was here. I thought I was in my mind, but you're here." She looked around. "Explains why I haven't been able to get control."

"We are in your mind," he told her. "We will have to work together to save you and everyone else. It wants to kill everyone here and back at the resort," he explained. "And that's just for starters."

"But, I don't know how," she argued.

"Follow my lead. We can do this together," the Doctor insisted, taking her hand. The moment he did so, their connection flared up and he pulled her essence closer to his. Brightness flared and the Doctor showed her how to push back against an attack that was already within one's defenses.

Together, they managed to push the darkness that was the manifestation of the creature to the very edge. The Doctor was glad that Rose was able to help him once she saw how they could fight back. He wasn't sure that he would have been able to manage it on his own. As a team though, they managed to overpower the being and force it out of her mind. They felt the creature retreating, screaming, but surely there was nowhere for it to go?

"You were brilliant," he told Rose. "And as much as I'd rather stay here, we've got to go back to the real world. Things were - tense when I left and we're in a rather vulnerable state while this connected," the Doctor explained to Rose.

The couple gasped as they left the confines of her mind and real sensory input returned. They looked around the cabin. All of the humans were staring at them fearfully and they noticed that Jack was standing between them and the other passengers with a small gun of some kind. They wondered just what had happened to prompt that.

"Doctor?" Jack questioned warily.

"Yes, Jack. I'm fine. We're both fine. It's gone," the Doctor answered, pulling Rose to sit in his lap on the floor so he could hug her and reassure himself that she was safe.

They clung to each other physically and mentally as they sat silently on the floor. The couple barely noticed when the rescue truck arrived, but were easily guided by Jack. They refused to let go of each other for the entire trip back to the resort.

Back at the Leisure Palace, Donna rushed up to them. "Now, see, I said it'd be no fun, and you all had to go get stuck for hours," she teased before she noticed the looks on their faces and the way Rose and the Doctor clung to each other. Her grin fell and she asked Jack, "What happened?"

################

After ensuring that the Leisure Palace would be closed, so that the entity that lived on it, or its friends, if it had any, wouldn't attack anyone again and couldn't get off the planet. The four of them stepped inside the TARDIS and the Doctor quietly sent them into the Vortex.

He reached his hand out to Rose, who was sitting on the jumpseat. She took it without a word and started following him. Before the two of them walked out of the console room, the Doctor turned back to Jack and said, "Would you put some clothes on? I want my coat back."

It wasn't his usual manner of mentioning Jack's state of undress, which usually had some minor amusement. That alone let Jack know just how frayed the old Time Lord's nerves were.

"Have fun, kids," he replied, trying to lighten the situation. That got a small half smile out of him and the Doctor shook his head. Rose nodded and gave a small smile as well before they left the console room. "Well, that's them gone." He turned to Donna, who was looking at him speculatively. "What?" He had a feeling he knew where this was going to go.

"You're wearing the Doctor's big coat."

"You're just now noticing this?" he asked, mildly offended.

"No, Donna replied, shaking her head quickly. "The Doctor said to put on some clothes. Are you-?" she blushed and didn't finish the sentence.

"Totally naked under this coat," he confirmed for her.

"Right. Think I'll just," Donna trailed off as she gestured down the hall toward her room.

"Want some company, Red?" Jack questioned.

"Well, I umm. I mean, look Jack. I think you're really handsome and all that, but not sure we're even on the same bus," Donna told him.

"I'm on everyone's bus," he said with a wink.

"Jack, I'm looking for something a little more permanent, yeah?" Donna admitted.

"I understand. You change your mind, give me a call. See you in the morning, Donna," he replied, respecting her decision with a nod.

Donna headed to her room quickly, cursing herself for turning him down, but knew that someone like Jack would never settle down and be monogamous. She wanted to have someone love her and get married. Then again, one night might not be too bad. Well, it was worth some thought anyway.

###########

As they silently walked down the corridor, Rose could hear the usual, almost lyrical sound that she had come to associate with the Doctor at the edge of her consciousness. Except it was much stronger than it usually was with only their hands touching.

"You feel it, too, right?" she asked the Doctor. He didn't need to ask what she was talking about.

"Yes. What we did back there, it was...intimate," the Doctor explained in a quiet voice. "We were bound closer than we'd ever been before. It's sure to leave traces."

"What kind of traces?" Rose questioned. While a closer link with the Doctor wasn't unwelcome, she'd always been weary of telepathy.

"Honestly? I don't know the full extent. Obviously, we feel each other more now, but other than that, It could be just feeling each other for a longer period of time before it fades. Or maybe it's a permanent effect."

They reached their room, and the Doctor let go of her hand as he opened the door. She felt their connection weaken, but it was still stronger than it usually was when they were clothed.

"How can you not know?" she asked. He'd been teaching her so much about telepathy, she assumed he knew everything about it.

"It's different for each type of telepathic species, Rose. My people didn't form connections like this often and I can't exactly-" He got that faraway look he had whenever he discussed his home and she hugged him, reminding him that he wasn't alone. "Anyway, it'll take time and distance to know the consequences of today, and I'm not letting you out of my sight long enough to test it."

"Consequences?" she asked, leaning back. "That's kinda negative sounding, yeah?"

"You're not much on the telepathy," he pointed out.

"Well, guess it comes from watching too much nonsense on the telly, yeah? My experiences with you have been very nice. That thing today not so much," she added.

The Doctor pulled her tightly against him and rubbed her back as they both took comfort in each other again. It was over and they were safe now.

"Tell you what, why don't we just spend some quiet time exploring this?" he suggested.

Rose nodded and they took a few minutes to get ready for bed before snuggling together with her head on his chest. She caressed his mind with her own once they had settled and smiled when he started to purr softly. She invited him to wander through her thoughts and memories for a bit. Memories of her happiest times travelling with him and he shared a few of his own in response.

She couldn't help but feel curious about his travels before she joined him and he sensed her question without her even forming it completely. At that, he invited her to look into his own memories. He guided her towards the good ones. No need to think about the more heartbreaking ones right now. He shared some of his adventures with Susan, Jamie, Sarah Jane, and gave her a glimpse at the faces that he used to wear. He could feel her happiness at his rare openness with her. He tried not to actively hide things from her anymore, but with so many centuries of history behind him, finding a place to start was difficult. He preferred to just live in the present for the most part.

As she continued to explore, he pondered just what this deeper connection might mean. He had heard of some of the bonds that other species had with their spouses, but Time Lords weren't all that sentimental. He didn't know of any recorded bonds like this. They could have been hidden from history by the stuffy old Lords that were in charge of everything, he supposed. Perhaps a bit of research later might help, but the thought of just exploring what might happen with him and his wife was exciting.

Ready to move on from this little stroll down memory lane, the Doctor shifted his attention towards memories formed between him and Rose during their honeymoon. He smirked when Rose gasped at his change in mood, but felt her agreement with thoughts of recreating some of the situations. Eager to experiment with how it might change with their deeper connection. Right, experiment. This was purely scientific.

"Right. I'll get your sexy specs, Doctor," Rose giggled.

##############

Jack didn't sleep much, and the night after their adventure on Midnight was yet another long, lonely night for him. Some vacation. Saving Rose and the Doctor from being thrown out on the surface of an airless planet that'd vaporize them, and they never did get to see the sapphire waterfall.

He hadn't been away on his vacation long, and he was ready to get back to his work. Or maybe he was eager to get back to Yan. Rose could make a mean cup of tea, but he missed the man's coffee. Yeah, that was it. That and his warmth.

He was in the galley making himself some breakfast when the Doctor and Rose walked in, smiling. Whatever had happened after leaving the console room (and he was pretty sure carnal activities were included) had brightened them both up.

Of course, they could just be hiding what they were feeling. The Doctor was a champion at that, and Rose was rapidly learning the game all immortals, semi-immortals, and various long lived beings would eventually learn.

Damn. That was a depressing thought.

"Breakfast, Lord and Lady?" he asked jokingly.

"About time you showed some manners," the Doctor teased back while Rose groaned. The lovebirds were going to be okay.

"You like it." He stopped joking with them and turned to the more serious task at hand. "Listen, guys, This has been fun, but I've gotta get back to my people, they're gonna miss me soon."

"You know we can get you back not long after we left, right?" Rose asked, worried.

"Have you forgotten twelve hours, twelve months?" he reminded her, and this time, it was the Doctor groaning.

"I'm never gonna live that down, am I?" he asked.

"It's not your people that are gonna miss you, 's the other way around, ain't it?" Rose asked quietly. When Jack nodded, she added, "Ianto?"

"Yeah, damn it," he finally admitted.

"Well. We'll get you back to your paramour," the Doctor promised him. "As soon as Donna gets up. Won't dare try that again."

"Try what?" Jack asked confused.

They told him the story of the time they tried going out to dinner while Donna slept, which led to the ginger with a temper being left behind on Callinay for two days when they didn't know she'd left the ship looking for them. They were all laughing when the subject of the story walked in.

"What's so funny?" she asked.

They all just laughed harder.

#########

"Okay, get Jack back to his...people, and then, I dunno, we still owe Donna a trip to the antigravity restaurant, don't we?" The Doctor babbled as he walked around the console, fiddling with buttons, knobs, and a weird looking spinning contraption he didn't remember seeing from his first sojourn on the old time ship.

"What, you're leaving?" Donna asked dejectedly.

"Yeah, it's time, I guess," Jack replied, standing by the handrail, ready to grab on once they got going.

Suddenly, the rotor started going and the Doctor and Rose both jumped into action.

"That's not right."

"What's up?" Jack wondered. So much for going home.

"None of the controls are working!" Rose exclaimed and hit several buttons in succession.

"What's going on?" Donna asked.

"No clue!" the Doctor shouted. "But it's - that's not me. Do you feel it Rose?"

"She's excited," Rose replied. "Where are you goin' old girl?"

"Who?" Donna asked.

"The TARDIS!" they both shouted at once.

"How can a ship be excited?" Donna questioned.

"She's alive," Rose shouted and fell to the floor with a particularly violent jolt.

"She's - oh, nevermind. Freaky alien things," Donna grumbled.

"You'll get used to it!" Jack shouted, getting excited as well.

The ship stopped and fell silent.

"Let's see where we are," Rose said, picking herself up off the grating nearby the jumpseat.

The four of them stepped out in what looked like a rough hewn tunnel.

"Why would the Tardis bring us here, then?" the Doctor asked, looking around.

"Oh, I missed this," Jack said, grinning.

"Thought you were all gung ho to go home?" Donna wondered, still wishing he'd stay so she'd have another chance at him.

"Yeah, but there's this feeling you get," he replied.

"Like you swallowed a hamster?"

Rose began speaking in a low, breathy voice, taking in the underground. "It's that rush. Anything, anything at all could be on the other side of those doors. Good or bad. So you step out, wondering what's there, fight or flight already really close to being triggered. You know you'll find something new: see something you've never seen before and when it's time to leave, when whatever you've been brought to do is taken care of, there'll probably be a mad dash back home, where you'll burst through the doors, laughing."

"Wow, I want your experience," Jack whispered and she glanced at him, noticing his flushed appearance. She grinned at him, her flirty grin with her tongue poking out.

"Of course, that's only when it's good." She winked at him and turned her attention back to her surroundings. "This place is a dump," she observed, all flirtiness gone.

Just as they started to move around to get their bearings, a group of people wielding rifles ran in.

"Don't move! Stay where you are! Drop your weapons!" a young man ordered. The four of them held their hands up instinctively.

"We're unarmed. Look, no weapons. Never any weapons. We're safe," the Doctor quickly said, trying to get the barrels of the weapons pointed away from them.

"Look at their hands. They're clean," another soldier said in confusion.

"I've got a bad feeling that might not be a good thing," Rose whispered.

Chapter Text

"We're unarmed. Look, no weapons. Never any weapons. We're safe," the Doctor quickly said, trying to get the barrels of the weapons pointed away from them.

 

"Look at their hands. They're clean," another soldier said in confusion.

 

"I've got a bad feeling that might not be a good thing," Rose whispered.

 

###########

 

“Alright, process them!” one of the soldiers ordered the others. “Start with her.” The other two soldiers moved toward Rose and the Doctor stepped forward, trying to get in between them.

 

“What’s wrong with clean hands?,” he questioned. “And what’s processing?”

 

“You’re next,” one of the two filthy soldiers answered and shoved the Doctor to the side, unbalancing him. He stepped back in an effort to stay upright, but hit a chunk of rock as he moved and fell.

 

Rose had immediately moved to help him stay upright, but wasn’t fast enough to keep him from falling over and hitting some torn metal on his way down. The metal tore through the Doctor’s shoulder. She quickly turned him to look at the wound when he winced in pain, but the soldiers pulled her away and towards an ominous looking machine.

 

“Wait! What are you doing to her?” the Doctor demanded.

 

“Let her go!” Jack shouted, moving forward to help, but Cline stopped him.

 

Rose wrestled uselessly as the two men forced her hand into the machine and it clamped down on her arm to hold her in place.  Her eyes met the Doctor's as they both considered all of the possible things this might do.  She shouted loudly when she felt something take a large tissue sample from the back of her hand.

 

“What the hell was that for?!” Rose growled at the men responsible for her sudden predicament.

 

“What're you doing to her?” Donna questioned.

 

“Everyone gets processed,” one of them answered.

 

“It's taken a bit of me! Ow ow ow ow ow ow!” Rose shouted as the contraption finally let her go and she fell into the arms of her husband.

 

The Doctor examined her hand and saw a smear of blood along with a y-shaped cut.  He knew it would heal quickly, thanks to their advanced biology, but it still had to hurt quite a bit. He turned his attention back to the machine that seemed to be working hard on doing something with Rose's tissue sample.

 

“What is it doing? Extrapolating it? Some kind of accelerator?” he guessed. He was a bit worried whenever anyone got a sample of Time Lord TNA. He could never be sure they wouldn't try something dangerous with it.

 

There was suddenly a humanoid shaped shadow behind the frosted door of the machine, drawing everyone's attention.  It slid open to reveal a petite blonde woman, who appeared to be about the age of twenty.

 

“What on earth? That's just…” the Doctor gasped.

 

“Did that thing just do what I think it did?” Rose asked, holding tightly to the Doctor's hand.

 

“Arm yourself!” one of the soldiers instructed, handing her a rifle. The woman took it and immediately checked it for readiness.

 

“Oh my god. She is too perfect,” Jack nearly squealed.

 

“Don't even think it, Harkness,” the Doctor growled, taking in all of the similarities between this girl and his wife.

 

“Where did she come from?” Donna wondered.

 

“From Rose. That's what the machine does.”

 

“That's what I thought. She's my daughter,” Rose said nervously.

 

The girl turned to Rose with a bright smile and sparkling blue eyes. “Hello mum!”

 

“You primed to take orders? Ready to fight?” the young man in charge asked Rose’s daughter.

 

The girl began speaking quickly, in a manner not like her mother at all. “Instant mental download of all strategic and military protocols, sir. Generation five thousand soldier primed and in peak physical health.” She then smiled and finished off with a very Rose thing to say. “Oh, I'm ready.”

 

The Doctor’s hearts were breaking a little. Rose had been adamant that she hadn’t wanted children, and here she was, a mother, without him. He didn’t want to be a father again either, but if Rose had wanted, he would have.

 

And that daughter just happened to have been forced on her and was a soldier to boot. He tried to get a gauge on how Rose was feeling, but she was hiding her thoughts on the matter and he couldn’t get a read on her from her expression beyond nervous.

 

The girl hoisted the weapon she’d been given and went to the barricade with the other soldiers just as the others found their voices.

 

“I thought that's what that machine might be, I'd only heard of them before. That is Rosie’s daughter,” Jack said, still smiling like Christmas had come early.

 

“Mmm. Technically,” the Doctor replied, still staring at the girl and trying to get a read on his wife. Her pulse was elevated and she’d started chewing her thumb again.

 

“And how is she technically her daughter?” Donna asked.

 

“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,” he said, looking away from the girl as he lectured their friends.

 

“But don't you see, Doctor? She is exactly what I pictured a child from the two of you would look like,” Jack told him excitedly.

 

“But she's not from the two of us. Just me,” Rose interrupted, some of the hurt she was feeling coming through in her voice.

 

“Something's coming,” the new young woman said as she saw the shadows of approaching people on the wall.

 

Guns started firing and the soldier who seemed to be in charge shouted, “It's the Hath!”

 

“Get down!” Rose’s daughter warned, urging the travellers to take cover as shots were fired from both sides.

 

The opposing soldiers appeared to be bipedal fish of some kind, wearing a breathing apparatus that contained a bright liquid.

 

“We have to blow the tunnel. Get the detonator,” the human soldier ordered.

 

“I'm not detonating anything,” the Doctor argued, holding his wife protectively.

 

Jack moved to help one of the injured soldiers nearby, but was grabbed by one of the Hath and pulled to their side of the room.  Rose’s daughter grabbed the detonator and jumped back behind the bit of cover that they had.

 

“Blow the thing! Blow the thing!”

 

“Jack! No. Don't!” the Doctor shouted.

 

The roof collapsed with the explosion, sealing Jack on the other side with the fish soldiers.

 

“You've sealed off the tunnel. Why did you do that?” the Doctor demanded.

 

“They were trying to kill us,” the new young girl argued.

 

“But Jack is on the other side!” Rose cried.

 

“Collateral damage. At least you've still got these two. He lost both his men. I'd say you came out ahead,” she reasoned, fire shining in her bright blue eyes that reminded the Doctor of his previous incarnation.

 

“His name’s Jack. And he's not collateral damage, not for anyone. Have you got that, GI Jane?” Donna growled angrily.

 

“We’ve got to go find him, Doctor,” Rose insisted.

 

“You're going nowhere. You don't make sense, you three. No guns, no marks, no fight in you. I'm taking you to General Cobb. Now, move,” the soldier in charge told them, gesturing with his gun that he was quite serious.

 

#####

 

On the other side of the tunnel, Jack was alone with the hath that had grabbed him.

 

“Hello, Captain Jack Harkness,” he said automatically, grinning. He hoped his friends were alright.

 

#####

 

The Doctor, Rose, Donna, and Rose’s daughter were being led further underground, likely to General Cobb. The one in charge, who they learned was called Cline, led the way, with the Doctor and Rose following, hands held, though it pained him to hold her hand with that arm.

 

Rose hadn’t even noticed, which showed just how disquieted she was. He wanted to reach out to her mentally, but couldn’t without letting her feel his own inner turmoil, which would help nothing. He wished she wasn’t blocking him from feeling her.

 

The girl walked behind them, beside Donna and in front of the other two soldiers, who were acting as rear guards.

 

“I'm Donna. What's your name?” Donna asked the girl, trying to make conversation.

 

“Don't know. It's not been assigned,” the girl answered and ahead of them, they heard Rose gasp.

 

“Well, if you don't know that, what do you know?” she questioned. The girl wasn't even an hour old yet, but she knew language and, apparently military protocol and strategy.

 

“How to fight,” the girl answered, as if it were obvious.

 

“Nothing else?” Donna pressed. The girl had to know something.

 

“The machine must embed military history and tactics, but no name. She's a generated anomaly,” the Doctor explained.

 

“What about you, Mum? Got any names picked out?” Donna questioned Rose.

 

Rose froze at her words. “I-I don’t. I never thought-”

 

“Move it!” one of the soldiers behind them shouted, startling them.

 

“Oi! Can’t you see she’s havin’ an emotional moment here?” Donna barked at them.

 

“Donna, we're their prisoners,” the Doctor reminded her.  

 

The group started moving forward again and Donna thought for a moment.  The girl needed a name. “Generated anomaly. Generated. Well, what about that? Jenny,” she said, working out a name.

 

“Yeah, I like that. Jenny,” the girl replied,  grinning happily.

 

“What do you think, Mum?” she asked Rose, who, frankly, looked like she should have been sitting alone in a bathroom with a test in her hand.

 

Rose turned to her daughter and told the girl, “You can have any name you want, I guess. Well, how about that. You get to choose your own name.”

 

“No list of names in mind? Most girls I know have a bunch of names for their kids lined up,” Donna commented.

 

“They stole a tissue sample at gunpoint and processed it. It’s not like this was something she was prepared for.  Rose never wanted children,” the Doctor informed her shortly, pulling his wife closer to his side and rubbing her arm.

 

“I’m sorry, Rose.  I didn’t mean to be insensitive, but planned or not, she’s your daughter,” Donna apologized.

 

Jenny watched her mother and the Doctor curiously.  The programming she had been given told her about the natural methods of procreation, but that the machines were perfectly acceptable.  She wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about, but she’d only learn by observing along the way.

 

Suddenly, her mother focused on her and smiled softly. “Jennifer Jacqueline Tyler,” she whispered.

 

“But I thought my name was Jenny?” she asked in confusion.

 

“Jenny is a diminutive for Jennifer,” the Doctor lectured.

 

“And the other bits?” Jenny questioned. “Do I need three names?”

 

“Do you not like it?” Rose questioned worriedly.

 

“Jenny, your Mum and I came from a place where three names are common. Tyler is a family name and I’m assuming Jacqueline is your grandmother’s name?” Donna deduced.

 

“Yeah,” Rose answered in a rush of breath. The Doctor pressed a kiss to her temple before the soldiers rushed them again.

 

Following the lead of Cline and his soldiers, they entered what looked like an auditorium of some sort.  There were people running everywhere with tactical information and some kind of loudspeaker announcing updates.

 

“So, where are we? What planet's this?” the Doctor asked.

 

“Messaline. Well, what's left of it,” Cline answered.

 

“But this is a theatre,” Donna protested, indicating the stage at one end of the room.

 

“Maybe they're doing Miss Saigon,” the Doctor joked with her.

 

“It's like a town or a city underground. But why?” she wondered.

 

Their conversation was cut short by the arrival of an older man who was appraising them sternly.

 

“General Cobb, I presume,” the Doctor said in greeting.

 

“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?” he queried.

 

“Eastern zone, that's us, yeah. Yeah. I'm The Doctor, this is my wife, Rose, and our friend, Donna,” the Doctor told him, letting them believe whatever they wanted to.  Though it was odd that they hadn’t clued into the fact that they were off-worlders based on his asking what planet this was.

 

“And I'm Jenny,” the young girl interjected.

 

“Don't think you can infect us with your peacemaking. We're committed to the fight, to the very end,” General Cobb warned.

 

“Well, that's all right. We can't stay, anyway. We’ve got to go and find our friend,” the Doctor told him.

 

“That's not possible. All movement is regulated. We're at war,” he insisted.

 

“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, hoping to collect as much information as he could so that they could put a stop to whatever was happening.

“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 told them.

 

“So why are you lot fighting, then?” Rose wondered.

 

“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.”

 

“There's nothing but earth outside, why's that? Why build everything underground?” Donna questioned, pointing to the windows that were completely blocked.

 

“The surface is too dangerous,” Cline told her.

 

“Well, then why build windows in the first place? And what does this mean?” she pressed, looking curiously at the prominently displayed plaque with a long string of numbers on it.

 

“The rites and symbols of our ancestors. The meaning's lost in time,” Cobb answered.

 

“How long have you all been fighting?” Rose asked.

 

“Longer than anyone can remember. Countless generations marked only by the dead,” Cobb said dramatically.

 

“Why though?”

 

“Because we must. 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,” Jenny told her mother.

 

“Oh, Jenny, that's no way to live your life,” Rose sighed.

 

“It's the only way I know,” Jenny responded.

 

“I used to think the same. Well, not fighting and dying, but thinking that there was no more to life than what I knew. There’s so much more to life than fighting and dying. We'll teach you a better way,” Rose promised.

 

Meanwhile, the Doctor was trying to get more information on their situation. “Does this show the entire city, including the Hath zones?” he asked the old general.

 

“Yes. Why?” he responded.

 

“I told you, I’m gonna find Jack and get out of here,” the Doctor told him.

 

“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 the three of you.”

 

“You’ll do no such thing,” the Doctor said in a dark voice, glaring at the man.

 

Donna was indignant. “I'm not having sons and daughters by some great big flipping machine!” She turned to Jenny. “Sorry, no offence, but you're not. Well, I mean, you're not real.”

 

“Donna!” Rose exclaimed.

 

Jenny stepped closer to Donna, crossed her arms, and glared at her. “I have a body, I have a mind, I have independent thought. How am I not real? What makes you better than me?” she questioned the ginger woman.

 

“Well said, soldier,” the general praised. “We need more like you, if ever we're to find the Source.”

 

The Doctor and Rose both perked up at his words. There were so many things it could be, usually not good. “Ooo, the Source. What's that, then? What's a Source? I like a Source. What is it?” the Doctor asked.

 

“Ten quid says it's a big, powerful thing,” Rose chimed in as soon as her husband quit speaking, happy to have something else to focus on.

 

“Oh, no. Sucker’s bet right there,” he responded, shaking his head and smiling at his wife.

 

“The Source is the Breath of Life,” the general replied poetically.

 

“And that would be?” the Doctor prompted when he didn’t continue.

 

Cline was the one to reply this time, “In the beginning, the great one breathed life into the universe. And then she looked at what she'd done, and she sighed.”

 

“She. I like that,” Jenny sighed with a smile.

 

“Right. So it's a creation myth,” the Doctor reasoned.

 

“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 as the Doctor continued scanning their electronic maps with his sonic.

 

“Alright, myths are usually based on something tangible.  So this Source is important to both sides and you’re both trying to find it, yeah?” Rose interjected, hoping to stop them from fighting each other.

 

“Ah! I thought so. There's a suppressed layer of information in this map. If I can just,” the Doctor mumbled, working on releasing the code that was concealing another layer of the maps.  Everyone moved to look at the new sections as they came into view.

 

“What is it, what's it mean?” Donna questioned.

 

“See? A whole complex of tunnels hidden from sight,” the Doctor announced proudly.

 

“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 cheered. “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 suggested.

 

“Only when we have the Source. It'll give us the power to erase every stinking Hath from the face of this planet.”

 

“Hang on, hang on. A second ago it was peace in our time. Now you're talking about genocide,” the Doctor hissed angrily.

 

“For us, that means the same thing,” Cobb replied proudly.

 

“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 insisted.

 

“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,” the general ordered.

 

“Oi, oi, oi. All right. Cool the beans, Rambo,” Donna protested as the surrounding soldiers grasped her arms.

 

“Take them. I won't have them spreading treason. And if you try anything, Doctor, I'll see that your women die first,” Cobb told him before moving off to organize their attack.

 

“You don’t know the meaning of the word peace! You just want to get rid of anything different from yourself,” Rose shouted as she was being dragged away.

 

“Come on. This way,” Cline said as he tried to pull the Doctor away.

 

“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?”

 

“This,” he replied, tapping the side of his head, indicating his brilliant mind.

 

“Lock them up and guard them,” Cobb ordered.

 

“What about the new soldier?”

 

“Can't trust her. She's from pacifist stock. Take them all.”

 

Cline led the three time travellers and Jenny down several corridors before reaching a large cell.  They were all locked inside before they started to discuss any plans for escape.  Donna took note of another large plaque with numbers listed on it.

 

“More numbers. They've got to mean something,” she commented.

 

“Makes as much sense as the Breath of Life story,” the Doctor sighed.

 

“You mean that's not true?” Jenny asked sadly.

 

“No, it's a myth. Isn't it, Doctor?” Donna replied.

 

“Yes, but there could still be something real in that temple. But like Rose said, myths are usually based on something. Something that's become a myth. A piece of technology, a weapon,” he rambled.

 

“So the Source could be a weapon and we've just given directions to Captain Nutjob?” Donna realized.

 

“Oh, yes,” the Doctor confirmed.

 

“Not good, is it?” Donna asked.

 

“That's why we need to get out of here, find Jack, and stop Cobb from slaughtering the Hath. But before we get to any of that, are you alright, love?” he questioned, realizing that Rose had been far too quiet since they’d been locked up.

 

“It’s nothing,” she answered, not meeting his eyes.

 

“No, there’s something wrong, bad enough you’re hiding it from me, and we can’t face this properly when you’re this upset.  Are you hurt, Rose? Or is it -?” he insisted, guessing that her sudden parenthood was probably messing with her thoughts and distracting her.

 

Rose finally looked up and met his gaze.  He could see in her eyes that, yes, it was Jenny that was the source of her current distress.

 

“Pack,” she whispered and sent him images of the memory from Pompeii when they were told some disturbing prophecies. “You will soon have a pack, Wolf,” Lucius said to Rose.

 

He squeezed her hands in support. “I know that you didn’t want -,” he began.

 

“No, it’s not that.  I mean, I didn’t, but this is different. It’s not like we have to stop running and deal with diapers and crawling and night feedings or anything. Got lucky there, yeah? But if I was gonna be a mum, I would want it to be with you,” she explained, her eyes slightly glassy. Finally, she let her barriers around her emotions down and he could feel her again. Fear and sorrow dominated, with a touch of anger.

 

“But Rose, I am here with you.  And I always will be,” he told her.   

 

“Let me take a look at that cut, make sure it’s not infected or anything, yeah?” he offered, trying to change the subject and began scanning her hand with the sonic.

 

“You can talk! What about your shoulder,” Rose protested, reaching around to take a look at where he had been hurt earlier.

 

“What?” the Doctor gasped as he looked at the results.  Her cut was healing, and not infected, but the smear of blood on her skin wasn’t from her as he originally thought.  It was his own, from trying to help him after he fell.  But that might mean - he looked curiously at Jenny and immediately moved to scan her as well.

 

“What are you doing?” Jenny questioned, looking warily at the device he pointed at her.

 

“Why are you scanning her, Doctor? Am I alright?” Rose asked him, suddenly worried that maybe he had detected some kind of illness that might have been passed on to this poor girl.

 

“What?” he asked, looking back at Rose suddenly.  “Yes.  Yes, of course you’re alright. But, oh gods.”

 

The Doctor sat hard on the bench suddenly when he saw the results on his sonic. Rose suddenly jumped to his side, terrified of what might have thrown him so completely.  Was Jenny dying? What could possibly be going on?  She couldn’t figure out anything from the maelstrom of emotions pouring off of her husband and was even more confused when he simply thrust his sonic into her hands to show her what the scans of Jenny had shown.

 

“I’m afraid this doesn’t mean much to me, Doctor.  I just see a normal Gallifreyan scan, yeah?” Rose told him.

 

“Right, sorry,” he said suddenly, finally organizing his thoughts enough to speak again.  “The blood on your hand, where they took the tissue sample to make Jenny, isn’t yours.  It’s mine.”

 

He could see the moment Rose connected what he had just said with his recent actions.  She suddenly looked at him with hope in her eyes.  “You mean, a bit of you got thrown in there as well?” she asked. She turned her head to look at Jenny so quickly that had she been human still she might have hurt herself and finally saw it. Her face was less like hers and more like a certain Doctor wearing celery. “Oh, my God! I see you in her!”

 

“Oh yes,” he told her breathlessly and they both broke into beaming smiles as she leapt into his arms for a hug.

 

“So, you’re my dad?” Jenny asked with wide eyes.

 

The Doctor and Rose both pulled back just enough to look at her. “Oh, yes,” he said, grinning. As one, the Time Lords both held out a hand to their daughter, who took them in her own hands. The couple pulled her closer so they could hug her between them.

 

Standing to the side, Donna watched the family bonding with tears in her eyes. That was what she wanted, minus the born as an adult child. She’d begun to think it wasn’t possible.

 

Chapter Text

“I can’t tell you how much I hate to break up this love-in, but should we be worried about Jack?” Donna interrupted.

 

The Doctor and Rose looked at each other for a moment to consider all the facts.  They could still sense that he was alive nearby, but that didn’t tell them if he was in friendly company or not.  They also had to find some way of stopping this war somehow and he might have been able to get some valuable information.

 

“I’ll try calling him. We know he’s alive, but we need more information than that,” Rose announced, pressing the speed dial for Jack and setting it to speaker so that they could all hear. To her chagrin, all she got was an automated message saying that the number couldn’t be reached.

 

“Well, there goes that idea,” Donna said and slumped against the wall. “Wait. How do you know he’s alive?”

 

“He’s immortal, of course he’s alive,” the Doctor responded quickly. “Wish I’d’ve thought to do his phone too.”

 

“He’s-?” Donna started, squeaking. “Okay, okay. Should've expected something odd about him,”

 

“Who’s Jack? Oh, wait, is it that person who was with you when I came along?” Jenny asked interestedly.

 

“No!” the Doctor barked suddenly. “I mean, yes, that’s him, but no, just no.” He shuddered.

 

“I’m confused,” Jenny said, looking between her parents.

 

“That is such a dad thing to do right there,” Donna commented, trying not to laugh. “Oh, honey, your dad’s worried about you flirtin’ with the pretty boy.”

 

“Trust me, Doctor, with Jack’s fixedness, that won’t be a problem,” Rose said, rolling her eyes.

 

“Doesn't stop you,” he responded with a groan.

 

“It's Jack,” she said, which explained everything.

 

“Okay, so, we can’t contact Jack. That leaves getting out of here,” Jenny said, putting them all back on track. She looked out the bars down the hall. “I don’t see anyone right now.”

 

“Could use someone to Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Donna commented.

 

“Obi-Wan Kenobi? What’s that mean?” Jenny asked.

 

“It’s a reference to mind control,” Rose explained.

 

“Donna, we can’t just...Obi-Wan Kenobi someone,” the Doctor scoffed.

 

“Well, you’re telepathic, ain’t you?” she retorted.

 

“It doesn’t work like that,” he argued. “You can’t just wave your hand and go-”

 

Rose had a thought. “Obi-Wan!” she exclaimed.

 

“Rose, you know better-” the Doctor started.

 

“No, not mind control, Princess Leia's hologram!” she interrupted.

 

“Who’s Princes Leia?” Jenny asked. “Can I meet her?”

 

“She’s not real, just a story,” the Doctor replied quickly.

 

“Oh, we’ve got to get you versed in the Star Wars universe,” Donna enthusiastically said.

 

“That guy sent a message to Jack’s Vortex manipulator. Can we?” Rose finished her thought.

 

“Oh, I can do one better,” he responded, grinning. “Hand me your mobile.” He held his hand out and she passed it to him. “Uh, we’ll have to stop off somewhere and get you a new one,” he said, right before taking his sonic out and using it to reprogram it.

 

“Of course you will,” she sighed. She’d just finally gotten that one properly set up.

 

“All I have to do is set up the frequency to match that given off by Jack’s own space hopper, annnnddd- Voila!” The Doctor finished his task with a grin and tossed the device back to her. “Green button,” he helpfully supplied when she looked down at her mobile, unsure of how to use it.

 

The mobile buzzed, then Jack’s voice slowly said, “Who is this? And how did you contact me?”

 

“The Doctor did something to my mobile and now it can call your Vortex manipulator,” Rose quickly explained.

 

“Hey there, Rosie!” Jack greeted her cheerfully a second later.

 

“Glad to hear that you’re in good spirits.  We’re locked up,” Rose reported.

 

“So, situation normal then.  Is everyone alright?” he asked.  “I was worried about you back there.”

 

“Yeah, Donna, the Doctor, and I were just getting better acquainted with Jenny.  That’s our daughter, by the way, and not just mine, but the Doctor’s too! I’ll tell you all about it later, but we need to find a way to stop this war, Jack.  What have you got?”

 

“I'm in the Hath camp and something's going on. The Hath are all marching off to some place that suddenly appeared on their maps,” Jack told them.

 

“Oh, that was me. If both armies are heading that way, there's going to be a bloodbath,” the Doctor groaned.

 

“I’ll do what I can to try and dissuade these guys or at least keep with them to try and break it up a bit, but we have a serious language barrier problem.  Even the TARDIS isn’t translating for me,” Jack explained.

 

They could see one of the other soldiers coming toward them and Rose decided that was the best time to end their conversation. “We’ve got company. Stay safe, Jack.  We’ll find you once we break out of here,” Rose told him and ended the call.

 

There was a sudden increase in noise and they could hear the soldiers marching off into battle. One came into view at the end of the hall of cells and stopped, apparently guarding them.

 

“They're getting ready to move out. We have to get past that guard,” the Doctor sighed.

 

“I can deal with him,” Jenny spoke up, sure of herself.

 

“No, no, no, no. You're not going get involved in this,” the Doctor protested.

 

“Why not?” she asked, defensively.

 

“Because, right now, you’re a soldier. I’m not letting you get involved,” the Doctor replied in a heated voice.

 

“Doctor! She needs to start sometime,” Rose spoke up, admonishing her husband.

 

“Jenny knows this place better than any of us,” Donna chimed in. “And, she’s one of you, a female Time Lord. Isn’t she supposed to get involved?”

 

“What's a Time Lord?” Jenny asked.

 

“It's our species. The Doctor and I aren't human. Well, I'm not anymore. Humans only have one heart, but we've got two,” Rose told Jenny, taking her hands and placing them on her chest to feel them beating on both sides.

 

Jenny’s eyes grew wide and she moved them to feel her own, matching her mother's.

 

“It's odd that she has two actually, normally Time Lords don't get a second heart until they've regenerated once. But given your unusual creation and your mother's different genes as well, who knows what kind of mishmash that machine put together,” the Doctor rambled.

 

“Doctor! We can worry about her genome later. Right now we need to get out of here and she wants to help,” Rose insisted, knowing that he was trying to distract everyone from the idea of Jenny participating in this war in any way.

 

“A Time Lord is so much more than just the genes and biology. A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering. Only it's gone now, all of it. Gone forever,” he protested, his voice growing strained with the pain of remembering the war.

 

“What happened?” Jenny asked when they all grew quiet.

 

“There was a war,” Rose told her, squeezing her husband's hand in understanding.

 

“Like this one?”

 

“Bigger. Much bigger,” he sighed heavily.

 

“And you fought, and killed?” Jenny questioned.

 

“Yes.”

 

“He doesn't want you to have to do that. Jenny, fighting is horrible and should always be a last resort, not something to be rejoiced the way you heard them. There is almost always another option, please remember that,” Rose explained. She needed Jenny to know that her father wasn't rejecting her in not wanting her to help, but worried that the soldier programming might take over and she would end up killing someone.

 

The Doctor shut his eyes and leaned back against the wall for a moment, fully aware that all three women were watching him. He took a deep breath in and let it out slowly before opening his eyes and looking at the woman who was apparently his daughter.

 

“Okay. One chance, just one. No bloodshed,” he warned.

 

Jenny bounced a little on her toes and grinned. The Doctor thought she was going to squeal and hug him, but she surprised him. His daughter put on a serious expression and walked over to the bars.

 

“Hey,” she called out. The soldier they recognized as Cline looked around to see if there was anyone else around before coming over to them.

 

“I'm not supposed to talk to you. I'm on duty,” he told her in a low voice.

 

Jenny wrapped her hands around the bars and pressed herself closer. “I know. Guarding me. So, does that mean I'm dangerous, or that I need protecting?” she teased and the Doctor’s jaw dropped.

 

Was she-flirting?

 

Cline leaned in closer. “Protecting from what?” he asked as Jenny reached out an arm to touch him.

 

“Oh, I don't know. Men like you?” she coyly asked and grabbed the guard’s jacket lapel to pull him in, kissing him. As soon as he was distracted, she took the pistol from his hip and pressed it into his side.

 

“Keep quiet and open the door,” she ordered in a sweet voice.

 

“I’d like to see you try that,” Donna laughed as the guard nervously opened the door.

 

“She gets that from you,” the Doctor grumbled to Rose.

 

“Me? Are you sure about that? Because that looks like you,” she retorted and followed their daughter outside. “Believe me, Donna, he’s done plenty of that kind of thing.”

 

They made their way down the corridors, carefully watching for more soldiers.  Knowing that they needed to be quiet, the Doctor kept his arguments telepathic. “What do you mean that looks like me? I would never,” he protested.

 

“Oh really? Lynda with a Y? Reinette? The tree that called me a prostitute? Or how about the princess on that planet where we went just a couple weeks ago? You’re always flirting,” Rose thought back to him angrily.

 

The Doctor wanted to bring up Adam in response, but other than Jack (who he did actually like), he realized that the list of girls following him around was probably longer than the pretty boys that he used to tease her about.  And since he regenerated, there really hadn’t been any at all that she had tried to catch the attention of. In fact, she’d been downright hostile to a few. The Doctor decided that if he had any hopes of sleeping in their room that relative night, he should probably drop it.

 

“There’s a guard at the bottom of the stairs,” Rose whispered.

 

Jenny automatically reached for the pistol she had gotten from Cline, but Rose shook her head to indicate it was a bad idea before the Doctor noticed.

 

“Let me distract this one. I have picked up a few womanly wiles over the years,” Donna suggested, flipping her hair behind her shoulder. When she stepped forward with a sway, the Doctor stopped her.

 

“Let's save your...wiles for later. In case of emergency,” the Doctor told her and pulled a wind up mouse from his pocket.

 

He set it on the floor and caught the attention of the soldier just long enough for Jenny to jump in and knock him out from behind.

 

“I was going to distract him, not clobber him,” the Doctor argued.

 

“Oh, shut it.  Distract him long enough to do what?  We had to knock him out or he would have given us away.  Unless you’ve got a new put-them-to-sleep setting on your sonic, she did exactly what we needed. He’ll live,” Rose said assuredly, walking past the unconscious guard.

 

The Doctor picked up the translucent map the soldier had been holding and sighed.  They were ganging up on him now.  Why did he always travel with women? He was completely outnumbered now with his wife, his daughter, Donna, and his TARDIS.

 

Wait. This is it. The hidden tunnel. There must be a control panel,” he told the ladies when he caught up with them at a panel that looked different from the rest of the wall, but not quite like a door.

 

“It's another one of those numbers. They're everywhere,” Donna commented as she pointed out the digits on a plaque over the nearby archway.

 

“The original builders must have left them. Some old cataloguing system,” the Doctor replied dismissively.

 

“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 added.

 

“Always thinking, all of you.  Is this what you do then?” Jenny wondered.

 

“Well, sort of.  We often find ourselves in difficult situations and need to think our way out.  And you’ve got a really good point, Donna.  The numbers are odd.  I’d say they were for navigating the area, but long numbers like that would be a bit difficult for that kind of thing, yeah?” Rose answered.

 

The Doctor handed Donna a little notebook and golf pencil from his pocket and she jotted down the numbers that she remembered.  At the same time, the Doctor found the control panel he’d been looking for and started working on it with his sonic.

 

“And Time Lords. What are they for, exactly?” Jenny asked, thinking back to their discussion earlier about her parents.

 

“For? They're not, they're not for anything,” the Doctor replied incredulously.

 

“So what do you do?”

 

“We travel through time and space,” he told her.

 

“They save planets, rescue civilisations, defeat terrible creatures. And they run a lot. Seriously, there's an outrageous amount of running involved,” Donna interjected.

 

“We don’t try to find trouble.  We just sort of stumble into it more often than not,” Rose added.

 

“Got it!” the Doctor exclaimed as the door finally opened and he hurried the ladies through.  They could hear Cobb and the other soldiers getting closer. “Now, what were you saying about running?”

 

The Doctor shut the door behind them and sonicked it closed, but he was pretty sure that they’d be a bit more violent in opening it than he was and not just try to unlock it.  Running around the corner, they were suddenly faced with crisscrossing lasers blocking their path.

 

“That's not mood lighting, is it?” Donna questioned.

 

The Doctor tossed his wind up mouse toward them and with was immediately destroyed in a flash of sparks.

 

“Don’t know about you, Donna, but I’m not in the mood for dying,” Rose responded.

 

“Arming device,” the Doctor said as he moved to work on the control box nearby.  

 

“There's more of these. Always eight numbers, counting down the closer we get,” Donna commented and jotted down the new set of numbers on her list.  “You'd better be quick, Doctor,” she added as the sounds of the soldiers breaking through the door echoed through the hallway.

 

“The General,” Jenny gasped and started heading back.

 

“Where are you going?” the Doctor called after her.

 

“I can hold them up,” she assured him, holding up her pistol.

 

“No, we don't need any more dead,” he insisted.

 

“But it's them or us,” she argued.

 

“Jenny, listen.  I know that the information that they filled your head with says that you have to fight, but your father and I can almost always find another way.  You don’t need to kill anyone.  A distraction, a block in their path to slow them down, that type of thing,” Rose told her, grasping her arm firmly.

 

“We don't have a choice,” Jenny responded, shaking her head.

 

“We always have a choice,” the Doctor told her.

 

“I'm sorry,” she called over her shoulder as she ran back towards their pursuers.

 

“But Jenny!” Rose cried.  She didn’t follow, hoping that their daughter would remember what she said and find another way.

 

The Doctor was almost finished hacking the computer system that controlled the lasers and called out to her, “Jenny, come on!”

 

“I'm coming,” she called from a distance.

 

When the lasers turned off, Donna raced through the passageway and the Doctor pulled Rose along with him as well.  But he called out to Jenny on the way, “Jenny, leave it! Let's go.”

 

They could hear gun shots from around the corner and Rose pulled back against her husband’s grasp. “We can’t just leave her, Doctor!”

 

“Jenny, come on!” he urged, but forcefully pulled his wife clear of the lasers just before they came back on and Jenny appeared on the other side.

 

“No, no, no, no, no, no. The circuit's looped back,” he cursed.

 

“Do something, Doctor! We can’t leave Jenny with them,” Rose shouted frantically.

 

“Zap it back again,” Donna told him.

 

“The controls are back there.”

 

“They're coming,” Jenny said nervously.

 

“Wait. Just. There isn't. Jenny, I can't-,” he stuttered as he struggled to think of a solution.

 

“I'll have to manage on my own. Watch and learn, Father,” Jenny answered and took a running start to flip and somersault her way through the lasers, landing firmly on her feet right in front of her parents with a smirk.

 

“No way. But that was impossible,” Donna gasped incredulously.

 

“She gets that from me,” Rose said with a proud smile.

 

“Brilliant! You were brilliant. Absolutely brilliant,” the Doctor praised.

 

“I didn't kill him,” Jenny blurted out. “General Cobb, I could have killed him but I didn't. You were right. I had a choice.” Just then, the General showed up on the other side of the laser grid with a group of soldiers.

 

“Time to go,” Rose said and shoved Jenny and Donna ahead of her.

 

“At arms,” Cobb ordered his men calmly. Each one did as they were told and lifted their weapons.

 

“Come on, Doctor!” Rose shouted.

 

The Doctor stood his ground. “I warned you, Cobb. If the Source is a weapon, I'm going to make sure you never use it,” he told the soldier darkly.

 

“One of us is going to die today and it won't be me,” replied Cobb. He pointed in a non verbal order and the Doctor had to run from the onslaught.

Chapter Text

The Doctor jogged up to his family and friend. "It'll take a bit, but they'll get through just like we did," he warned them.

"Better make use of that head start, then," Rose responded. "You've got the map, which way?" The Doctor began leading them through the passages.

"And what's it like, the travelling?" Jenny asked Donna excitedly as they continued down the corridors, following the map.

"Oh, never a dull moment. It can be terrifying, brilliant and funny, sometimes all at the same time. I've seen some amazing things though. Whole new worlds," Donna told her.

"Oh, I'd love to see new worlds," Jenny sighed dreamily.

"You will. Won't she, Doctor?" Donna said, breaking the Doctor from his thoughts.

"Hmm?" he asked.

"Do you think Jenny will see any new worlds?" Donna prompted again.

"Of course she will," Rose said, rolling her eyes.

"You mean. You mean you'll take me with you?" Jenny asked with hope.

"Well, we can't leave you here, can we?" the Doctor agreed.

"Jenny, after all of that talk about being a family back in the cell, how could you think we'd leave you behind?" Rose assured her.

"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! Come on, let's get a move on," she said excitedly before running on ahead of them.

"Careful, there might be traps!" the Doctor warned as his daughter's ponytail bobbed around the next corner.

"Kids. They never listen," Donna joked before she noticed that the Doctor had dropped his pretence as soon as the young woman wasn't looking. "Oh, I know that look. I see it a lot round our way. Blokes with pushchairs and frowns. You've got dad-shock," she declared.

"Yeah, that's about the size of it," Rose muttered and Donna noticed that she looked much the same. She was chewing on her fingernail and looking like she might be sick.

"Dad-shock?" the Doctor questioned.

"Sudden unexpected fatherhood. Take a bit of getting used to," Donna explained.

"See it all the time. Heard Mickey's dad was like that," Rose added.

"Mickey?" Donna asked. "What happened?"

"Old friend. Mick's dad pulled a runner when we were kids," Rose answered, finally pulling her fingernail from her mouth and crossing her arms defiantly.

"No, it's not that," the Doctor protested. "It's not," he repeated to Rose, imploring her to understand. He'd already said it, hadn't he?

"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 questioned.

"Donna, I've been a father before," the Doctor informed her quietly.

"What?" Donna squeaked, looking to see if Rose knew that fact as well. At her nod, Donna turned back to the Doctor in shock.

"It's not that. I mean, yes, it hurts to look at her, knowing what she'll never have and the reminder of the people I lost, but if Rose is happy about us having a daughter together, then that could never bother me. It's… well, it's more about what they did to her. She was forced to give her DNA to create a child against her will, Donna," he explained, his eyes getting moist at the very thought of it all. "I don't know how I'd react if it were me."

"I never thought of it like that," Donna responded, looking worriedly at Rose.

"Doctor, look at me," Rose insisted. His eyes met hers before she continued. "I understand what you're saying. Yes, it was scary, and I didn't want them to do it, but I'm alright. You checked me with your sonic, yeah? It's over, I'm not traumatized by it, and now there's another Gallifreyan around. I think that's fantastic."

He took her hands in his tightly, searching through their telepathic connection to gauge the sincerity of her assurances. He saw that she had been scared by what the machine might do to her, but didn't feel the violation by it that he thought might be there. What they had done to her was illegal on most planets, including his own. Forcing someone to contribute to the looms against their will was a serious crime on Gallifrey and he showed that to his wife, explaining his anger at what they had done to her.

"I understand, but I'm ok. Now let's fix this mess so that they aren't forcing anyone else into those bloody things," Rose told him.

"Then why do you look so unhappy with this?" Donna questioned, looking at the younger woman.

"Donna, I never wanted to be a mum. I'm pretty against it, actually, you know that. Don't even like kids, so how am I gonna be the mum she needs?" She sighed and stopped moving. "God, I can't even ask my mum for advice, not that she'd have any for this!" She ran her hands through her hair in frustration and ignored the hand the Doctor had reached out in an attempt to comfort her. Suddenly, her whole demeanor changed. "It's done. No use cryin' 'bout it." She straightened up and started moving fast toward their daughter.

"Rose-" the Doctor started, but stopped speaking as his wife disappeared ahead of them. He sped up and took off after her.

"That's not gonna be pretty later," Donna murmured, shaking her head. "Oi! Spaceman! Wait up!" She took off at a run. Bloody aliens could move.

Donna, the Doctor, and Rose caught up to Jenny as she was peering around a corner. "Anything down there, Sweetheart?" Rose asked.

"Who's Sweetheart?" Jenny asked, looking around for another person.

"You are," Rose responded as Donna barked out a laugh. "It's a nickname, an endearment for someone you care about. My mum called me the same."

Jenny thought for a moment. "All these names and shared names, how do you know who you're talking about?"

"You just-do?" Rose responded, unsurely.

"You'll get used to it," Donna assured the young girl. "People will call you all kinds of names."

"And you can always go by a title later on, like I do," the Doctor added. "Ah, you've gone a bit too far. This way."

The little group made their way through the maze of hallways to what the map indicated should be the entrance to the temple. The door was hidden, but the Doctor found a way through, as usual. There were more of those strange numbers along the way, and Donna swore she saw something familiar about them. They made it through the hidden passageway just before Cobb and his men caught up with them and the Doctor sealed the door behind them.

"Oh, that was close," Jenny sighed in relief.

"No fun otherwise," her father teased.

"It's not what I'd call a temple," Donna commented, taking in their surroundings.

"Doctor, come look at this," Rose called to him.

"It looks more like-" Jenny began, but the Doctor spotted what his wife had found.

"Fusion drive transport. It's a spaceship."

"What, the original one? The one the first colonists arrived in?" Donna questioned.

"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 told them.

They could hear both armies cutting their way through the doors and rushed to the computer. Finding the ship's log, they discovered that the mission commander had died and the remaining crew couldn't agree on who was then in command.

"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," the Doctor concluded.

"Two armies who are now both outside," Jenny pointed out worriedly.

"We don't have much time left. We have to find whatever the Source is," Rose said, starting to look around the place.

"Look at that," Donna called, pointing to a large digital display on the wall.

"It's like the numbers in the tunnels," the Doctor realized.

"Have you figured it out, Donna?" Rose wondered, feeling a section of the wall.

"I think I have. 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," she told them.

"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," she explained.

"Brilliant!" Rose squealed and hugged her.

"Oh! It's the New Byzantine Calendar," the Doctor realized.

"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."

"Yes. Oh, good work, Donna," the Doctor praised.

"Yeah. But you're still not getting it. The earliest number I saw back there, was sixty twelve oh seven seventeen. Well, look at the date today," Donna prompted.

"Oh seven twenty four? But that would mean-?" Rose said in shock.

"Seven days," the Doctor answered.

"That's it. Seven days," Donna agreed.

"What do you mean, seven days?" Jenny questioned.

"This war started a week ago? How is that possible?" Rose asked.

"They said years," Jenny protested.

"No, they said generations. And if they're all like you, and they're products of those machines," Donna argued.

"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 told her.

"But all the buildings, the encampments. They're in ruins," Jenny insisted, still unable to believe it.

"Are they though?" Rose interjected. "Yeah they're filthy and torn up from all the fighting and stuff, but not worn, like they'd been used for their proper purposes before all this."

"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 agreed and went further into the ship.

"But I don't get it. How comes Cobb is old?" Rose wondered, following close behind. "If he's just a few days old, shouldn't he look younger?"

The Doctor stopped and looked at Rose, brow furrowed, then his eyes widened. "Oh."

"Maybe he was cloned from an older guy?" Donna suggested and the Doctor shook his head.

"All soldiers are progenated to peak abilities," Jenny replied.

"You don't make an old soldier," the Doctor confirmed.

"Doctor!" Jack's voice called. They looked over to see Jack and one of the Hath behind him, following him. It stopped, staring at the group of human-looking people in fear. "It's okay," Jack assured him. "They're like me."

The creature looked at him and bubbled. As Jack had said, its communication didn't translate. Rose wondered why that was. Obviously, the humans could speak to the hath a mere week before.

"Fortunately, there's no one else like you, Jack," the Doctor teased.

"It's such a shame, too." Jack came closer. The Hath followed him, but stayed on the other side of Jack.

"Oh, you're filthy!" Donna blurted out, rushing over. The Hath backed up a step at her motion. "What happened?"

"Oh, you know, took a more direct route. This planet's got potential, but it's not really habitable here," Jack explained. He then looked at Jenny. "Good to see you again, Jenny, right?" he asked, smiling and pointing at the girl. Jenny stared at him, mouth slightly agape.

"Jack," the Doctor warned in a low, growling voice.

"Relax," Rose whispered in his mind, trying to calm him. The Doctor looked at her incredulously. "She's just a couple of hours old. Jack would never-"

Suddenly, they heard the general ordering his troops through the halls and any other concerns were momentarily wiped from their minds.

"Ok, so not much time to find this thing before Cobb does," Rose pointed out.

"We haven't even got a clue what we're looking for!" Donna groaned in frustration.

"Find what?" Jack wondered.

"'The Source.' That's what it's called anyway, or 'the breath of life,'" Rose answered, rolling her eyes.

"Sounds suitably mystical," Jack responded. "And let me guess, whoever finds it, wins?"

"Got it in one," Rose said with a tongue click and point in his direction

"It smells awfully flowery for a ship. Air plants generally have less pollen producing members," Jack noticed as they heard Cobb come closer.

"Yes. Because of allergies," The Doctor responded slowly. His eyes widened. "Oh. Bougainvillea. I say we follow our nose." He grinned at Rose, took her hand, and dashed off, sure the others would follow.

They went through a doorway and entered a room full of life. Vines hung from the walls, plants sprung up from most of the surfaces, spilling into the walkways.

Rose was just about to make a declaration of awe when the Doctor spoke in a low voice right by her ear, "So, wild garden, created by gas, on a spaceship. Rose Tyler, have I managed to impress you yet?"

Her first instinct was to to deny it, based on his words alone. No matter how impressed she was, she'd tell him otherwise. This time, though, the tone of his voice and look on his face kept her from doing so. "I'll show you what I think later," she promised in a near whisper.

The Doctor hummed and leaned in a little when Donna's voice rang out, "Get a room!" The pair jumped and looked back at the friends and family they'd momentarily forgotten.

"You two are so adorable," Jack said, grinning as he walked past them to a glowing globe on a pedestal in the center of the room. Wires ran to it from all directions.

"Is that the Source?" Donna asked.

"I'm gonna go with, yeah," Rose answered.

"It's beautiful," Jenny sighed, walking up to it in awe.

.

"Terraforming sphere, early version of the tech," Jack said, walking around it.

"Third generation," the Doctor added as he stepped up to it.

"So why are we suddenly in Kew Gardens?" Donna wondered.

"Because that's what it does. All this, only bigger. Much bigger. It's in a transit state," the Doctor explained. "Producing all this must help keep it stable before they finally-"

From both ends of the room, humans and hath filled filled the room, weapons ready.

The Doctor put his hands out to his sides, one palm toward each army. "Stop! Hold your fire!" he shouted.

"What is this, some kind of trap?" Cobb asked angrily.

"You said you wanted this war over," the Doctor argued.

"I want this war won," Cobb insisted.

"You can't win. No one can," the Doctor told him firmly. "You don't even know why you're here. Or, perhaps some of you might?" he accused with narrowed eyes. He then raised his voice louder, to make sure everyone heard him. "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!"

In his element, he held the glass globe up in the air for a moment before hurling it at the ground with enough force to smash it open. The gases inside began to swirl and rise toward the vents leading outside. Everyone in the room watched in awe and put their weapons on the ground. All except the general.

"What's happening?" Jenny wondered.

"The gases will escape and trigger the terraforming process," the Doctor explained.

"What does that mean?"

"It means a new world," he assured her while taking his daughter into his arms for a hug.

Rose watched as the swirl of gases escaped from the broken globe and floated into the air. She opened her time senses to the multitude of possible timelines flowing from this moment. It was beautiful. All the potential that stemmed from this moment. The forest of healthy timelines. A true peaceful coexistence for these people could finally come to pass, but there was something wrong, something darker that could bring harm caught her attention and Rose tried to focus on the immediate future.

"No!" Rose shouted as she dove to pull the gun from Cobb's hand.

Everyone started shouting as the gun fired randomly through the room. The Doctor held Jenny protectively in his arms and Donna was huddled on the floor nearby. There was silence through the room as everyone checked to see if anyone was hurt before the collective sigh of relief came.

"Rose, how did you know?" Jack questioned.

"I was just looking at all the potential timelines. It was beautiful. But then I saw he was going to shoot the Doctor and Jenny might have jumped in front and I had to stop it before, before-" Rose rambled and her husband let go of their daughter and ran to her side before she broke down, remembering the possible events she had seen. He usually tried not to look at things like that because they could be so disturbing. And usually there were far too many possibilities to predict things like this. It was amazing that she had even seen it. She shouldn't have been able to, not something so close to their own timelines.

"It's alright, love. We're all safe, everyone is fine," he assured her, stroking her back soothingly.

Jenny stood by her parents and watched curiously. She had gotten a flash of something similar to what her mother had mentioned and was indeed ready to jump in to save her father from the shot. Apparently this was something that Time Lords could do and she would need to ask them more about it later.

Light started streaming from the windows as the gasses did their work and everyone turned toward the sight that they hadn't seen before.

"That would be the beginning of the terraforming," Jack told everyone, grinning. "I've never seen it in person before."

"A new world. It's beautiful," Jenny sighed, amazed.

Cobb went to take off, but Jack grabbed him and forced him to his knees with his arms behind his back. "What do we do with this one?" he asked the Doctor.

The Doctor looked down at the man who'd been about to shoot him with a blank face. "You're one of the original colonists, aren't you?" he questioned. He knew the answer, but wanted the general to admit it for the rest of the people.

"Let go of me," Cobb demanded, wriggling in Jack's grasp.

"After you tried to kill my friend? Not a chance," Jack answered. "Now answer the question."

"Yes," Cobb admitted after a moment. The crowd around them began murmuring after his response.

"How is that possible?" the boy, Cline queried.

"Seven days. Just seven days since this war broke out," Rose quickly spoke up. "Seven days of killin' each other. Over what? Do any of you know what happened? Why this war's really bein' fought? Or are you just goin' along with what the old man fulla hate said?"

The people of Messaline, human and hath alike, shifted uncomfortably. All the humans stared at Cobb, waiting for him to refute the claim.

"What happened?" Jenny asked when he didn't.

"The Hath betrayed us," Cobb spit out, still trying to pull away from Jack.

"Got that much, yeah? Go on," Rose prompted.

"After the commander died, they wanted to be the ones to terraform the planet. I caught one trying to start the process. It attacked me. I did what I had to do."

"So you progenated a bunch of soldiers to keep it out of Hath hands," the Doctor finished.

"Exactly! They couldn't go down as the creators!" Cobb exclaimed, acting relieved.

"So, what, you started a war, created a bunch of people just to be killed, for what, braggin' rights?" Rose asked incredulously.

"That would be typical of most wars," the Doctor muttered.

"Then how comes you didn't know where it was?" Rose wondered.

It seemed that Cobb decided he'd had enough of being interrogated in front of the people he'd been leading and his enemies. He managed to twist out of Jack's grip and tried to run, but Cline and a soldier standing next to him caught him again.

"Let me go!" Cobb shouted, when the boys both held tighter, he added, "I'm your commanding officer! You will listen to me!"

"If I'm right, and I usually am about this sort of thing, I think you've been relieved of duty," The Doctor told him grimly. He then raised his voice to speak to the whole room. "When you start this new world, this world of Human and Hath, remember him." He pointed at Cobb. "Remember that this colony was meant to be a peaceful coexistence between you. Make the foundations of this society cooperation rather than pettiness." The Doctor turned away from him and toward his family and friends.

"Get him outta here," Jack quietly told the boys who held Cobb as soon as the Doctor's back was turned. "Well, government overthrown, new one already in the works. Looks like we're done here," he told Donna and Jenny, gesturing at the Hath and humans, who had met in the middle. The Hath had all taken devices out that resembled tablets and the humans were reading from them.

"But, Mum's question- I want to know too. Why didn't he know?" Jenny protested.

"Yeah, me too," Donna added. "It's only been a week. Doesn't make any sense."

"There was a whole new, unfamiliar city and the maps got corrupted," the Doctor said. "I'd wager that the 'pacifist outbreak' Cobb talked about was a handful of people from the original crew who encrypted the map."

"So that's why they threw us in the brig and didn't want Cline talkin' to us," Rose realized.

"Probably wanted to keep the kid from learning the truth," Jack finished. "They seem to be talking amongst each other well, but shouldn't we have been able to talk to them?" Jack wondered. "Or are the translator circuits on the fritz?"

"The translator circuits are perfectly fine," the Doctor scoffed. "You talked to them just fine." They don't have speech that air breathers can mimick."

"Translator circuits?" Jenny questioned.

"Oh, yeah, The TARDIS makes it so that you can read almost any language and talk to almost any species wherever we go. It's brilliant," Rose told her enthusiastically.

"The TARDIS?" Jenny asked in confusion.

"Oh, honey, you're gonna love this," Donna said, grinning.