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Every Song Must End

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Rose Tyler smiled as the Doctor took in their surroundings. It had been her turn to choose where to go and although he had whined and winged, she had held her ground and kept their destination a secret. He had done it so many times to her; it was good to be able to turn the tables, so to speak. And after everything that had happened with Donna, the Doctor deserved a nice surprise.

Rose knew that he still felt guilty for what he had had to do to his friend, but as time passed, that guilt had faded into the background and he had begun to properly enjoy life again. And Rose was extremely grateful for that fact. She missed Donna terribly but she had missed the Doctor even more. She had hated to see him so closed off. But now, as he looked around the snow-covered streets of Victorian England, he had that trademark grin on his face. The one that made it impossible for you to not smile back.

‘Proper snow,’ he said, nudging Rose’s shoulder with his as they walked through the marketplace. ‘Proper London snow.’

Rose giggled and pushed him away before he accidently knocked them into the aforementioned London snow. ‘Well, it’s really the only place I know the coordinates for,' she told him, 'so until I learn more and can take us somewhere more exotic, London will have to do.’

But the Doctor didn’t seem to mind the un-exoticness of Rose’s chosen location. ‘Nothing wrong with London,’ he said, his grin unfaltering. ‘Proper London snow, can’t beat it! What year is it?’ he asked, looking at the buildings around them.

Rose bit her thumbnail (the one on the hand that wasn’t clasped tight in the Doctor’s) and looked around her, hoping for a clue as to their exact date. She had been aiming for the London Frost Fair of 1814 (the Doctor had mentioned it once in passing and Rose, instantly captivated by the idea, had then looked it up properly) but she was fairly certain that she had overshot it a bit.

They walked passed a man reading a newspaper and Rose managed to get a quick glance at the date. ‘1851,’ she said, answering the Doctor’s question. ‘‘Bout Christmas time,’ she added (that part was easy enough to figure out – the carol singers kind of gave it away).

But the Doctor was on to her. ‘You just read that newspaper, didn’t you?’ he said, more teasingly than accusingly. ‘You had no idea what year it was.’

‘No, I did,’ said Rose even though she knew that the Doctor was seeing right through her. ‘1851. Great year. I thought you’d like it.’

‘Really? So what’s so great about 1851?’

‘Well, it’s… it’s…’

‘It’s…?’

‘Oh, all right fine, you got me,’ she sighed, rolling her eyes at the Doctor’s smug smile. ‘But considering I’m still new at the whole flying the TARDIS thing, I think I did pretty good. Right century at least. And right place. Besides, you’ve been doing this for 900 years and even you still get the date wrong sometimes.’

The Doctor chuckled. ‘All right, fair enough. You did good.’ He placed a quick kiss to the side of her head. ‘I’m very proud.’

Rose smiled at that.

‘So, what year were you aiming for?’ he asked.

But Rose didn’t get to answer. She was interrupted by a woman calling for help.

‘Doctor! Doctor!’

Both Rose and the Doctor whipped around to face the direction in which the shouts were coming from, surprised and confused. Not that it was terribly unusual for some to be calling for the Doctor… but they had only landed a couple of minutes ago and they couldn’t even see whoever was calling for them. They were too far away.

How did they even know the Doctor was here?

But when it came down to it, how this person knew the Doctor was here didn’t matter. The fact was, they did. And that they needed his help. It only took a couple of seconds for them both to snap into gear and start racing towards the sounds of the woman’s cries.

‘Doctor!’

It didn’t take long to find the woman who was the cause of the noise. She was a young black woman with dark curly hair. Rather pretty, Rose thought.

The woman was backing away from the building she was next to, fear evident on her face. ‘Don't worry, don't worry,’ said the Doctor as he and Rose reached her. ‘Stand back. What have we got here?’ The doors in front of them rattled ominously and a snarl came from whatever creature was causing it.

‘That sounds a bit bigger than a stray dog,’ commented Rose, eyeing the door nervously.

‘Okay, We've got it,’ said the Doctor to the woman (who didn’t look too pleased to see him considering she had been shouting for him). ‘Whatever's behind that door, I think you should get out of here.’

‘Doctor!’ shouted the woman again, still calling for help.

The Doctor and Rose shared a curious glance. ‘I'm standing right here,’ said the Doctor and he gave the woman a little wave. ‘Hello.’

The woman’s fear (which, now that she had had a better look at the woman’s face, Rose had decided to downgrade to apprehension) was momentarily replaced by a look of annoyance. ‘Don't be stupid,’ she said. ‘Who are you?’

‘I'm the Doctor.’

‘Doctor who?’

‘Just the Doctor.’

The woman rolled her eyes, even more annoyed than before. ‘Well, there can't be two of ya.’ Her eyes focussed on something behind them and Rose turned to see a man running towards them. ‘Where the hell have you been?’ shouted the woman.

‘Right then. Don't worry,’ said the newcomer and he pushed passed the Doctor to stand between him and the still rattling door. ‘Stand back. What have we got here?’

‘Hold on, hold on,’ said the Doctor. ‘Who are you?’

The man turned to face them and stood up a little taller. ‘I'm the Doctor,’ he said and Rose’s eyes widened in shock. ‘Simply, the Doctor. The one, the only,’ he gave a wink, ‘and the best. Rosita, give me the sonic screwdriver.’

The man – the Doctor, apparently – held out his hand to the woman. She handed him a screwdriver but was too quick for Rose to get a proper look at it.

Rose looked to the Doctor – her Doctor – hoping for an explanation but he looked just as surprised as she did. ‘The what?’ he asked, trying to get a better look at the screwdriver.

But something else had caught Rose’s attention. ‘Hold on, did you say Rosita?’ she asked.

But the man (Rose made a mental note to refer to him as the Other Doctor until she thought of a better way of distinguishing him from her Doctor) and Rosita just ignored her. ‘Now quickly, get back to the TARDIS,’ said the Other Doctor to Rosita.

‘Back to the what?’ asked the Doctor, his voice a little higher than before. He took a step forward but the Other Doctor ushered him back again.

‘If you could stand back, sir. This is a job for a Time Lord.’

‘Job for a what lord?’

Rose was glad that she wasn’t the only one confused. This man wasn’t one of the Doctor’s previous incarnations, so that meant that the obvious explanation was that he was a future one. But then why didn’t he recognise his past self? And where was Rose’s future counterpart? Unless, of course, the man was an imposter and this was a trap. It wouldn’t have been the first time that that had happened but somehow, Rose didn’t think it was the case this time.

Suddenly the doors finally gave way and both Doctors backed up in unison. Rose stared at the creature that had been responsible for all the ruckus. It’s body looked like it may have belonged to a dog (a very big dog) but the face was that of a Cyberman.

‘Oh, that's different,’ said the Doctor just as the Other Doctor said, ‘Oh, that's new.’ Then, also in unison, they each brandished their screwdrivers and shouted ‘Allons-y.’

Rose spared a fleeting thought about how odd it was that the Other Doctor’s sonic screwdriver looked exactly like a normal one but quickly returned her focus to the Cyber-creature in front of her. ‘What is it?’ she asked.

‘I've been hunting this beast for a good fortnight,’ said the Other Doctor. ‘Now step back.’

But the beast in question didn’t seem to be interested in attacking them. Or maybe it just recognised the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver as a threat. With another snarl, it leapt away from them and began crawling up a nearby wall. Now that Rose could see it properly, she was rethinking her earlier “dog” description. She wasn’t sure what sort of animal it was; only that it was big and had a lot of fur.

‘Some sort of primitive conversion,’ said the Doctor, ‘like they took the brain of a cat or a dog.’

‘Well, talking's all very well,’ said the Other Doctor, a bit pompously, and he turned to his companion. ‘Rosita?’

‘I'm ready,’ she said and she handed him a coil of rope.

‘Now, watch and learn,’ said the Other Doctor. He began to swing the rope above his head in circles and Rose realised it wasn’t just a rope; it was a lasso. She and the Doctor stepped back a little to avoid getting hit. The Other Doctor threw the lasso at the beast on the wall and the rope looped over its head.

‘Nice shot,’ said Rose.

She thought she heard the Doctor mumble under his breath, something about being able to use a lasso just as well as the other man could, but Rose was distracted by the Other Doctor. He may have lassoed the beast but he had by no means caught it. The Cyber-creature continued to climb the wall and the Other Doctor, still holding the rope, was dragged off his feet.

Rose didn’t miss the Doctor’s little smile before he ran in to help him. ‘I've got you,’ he shouted. He grabbed hold of the rope behind the Other Doctor but the beast was stronger than it seemed. It just kept climbing up the building, barely fazed at all by the two men it was lifting off of the ground. Rose considered maybe adding her own weight to the rope but she doubted that it would do anything apart from give her rope burn so she decided against it.

‘You idiots!’ shouted Rosita as the two Doctors were pulled up he wall of the building.

‘I don’t know about you, but I think I’d rather take the stairs,’ said Rose, looking up at the window that the Cyber-creature had just gone through.

Rosita grabbed an axe that had been resting by a wall nearby and led the way into the building. They ran up the stairs and reached the top floor just in time to see the two Doctors being pulled along the floor towards another open window that the cyber-creature was just about to jump out of.

Why hadn’t they let go of the rope?

Rosita was right; they were idiots.

Moments before they were pulled out of the window, Rosita swung the axe down and cut the rope. The two men carefully got to their feet and immediately started laughing. Rose rolled her eyes as she tried to fight down her own smile of amusement.

----

‘Well, I'm glad you think it's so funny,’ said Rosita as they made their way back to the alleyway in which they had met. The two Doctors were still laughing at their failed attempt at catching the Cyber-creature. ‘You're mad. Both of you. You could've got killed.’

‘But evidently we did not,’ said the Other Doctor and then he walked to stand beside her and faced the Doctor and Rose. ‘Oh, I should introduce Rosita. My faithful companion. Always telling me off.’

‘Well, they do, don't they?’ said the Doctor and Rose nudged him with her elbow. The Doctor gave her a look of pure innocence and Rose couldn’t help but give a smile.

‘Well someone has to,’ she said.

But Rosita didn’t seem so amused. ‘Now I'll have to go and dismantle the traps,’ she said to her Doctor. ‘All that for nothing. And we've only got twenty minutes till the funeral, don't forget. Then back to the TARDIS, right?’

They started to walk away but Rose couldn’t resist asking, ‘Funeral?’

‘Oh, long story,’ said the Other Doctor, turning back to them. ‘Not my own, not yet.’ He let out a grunt as he stretched his limbs, obviously still sore from being dragged through a building. ‘Oh, I'm not as young as I was.’

‘Well, not as young as you were when you were me,’ added the Doctor and the other man gave him a confused look.

‘When I was who?’

‘You really don't recognise me?’

The Other Doctor shook his head. ‘Not at all.’

‘But you're the Doctor,’ said the Doctor, looking his future self over. ‘The next Doctor. Or the next but one. A future Doctor anyway.’ He backed up a few paces as the other man opened his mouth to speak. ‘No, no, don't tell me how it happened. Although, I hope I don't just trip over a brick. That'd be embarrassing. Then again, painless. Worse ways to go. Depends on the brick.’

Thankfully, the Other Doctor interrupted. Rose didn’t like thinking about how her current Doctor was going to die.

‘You're gabbling, sir. Now might I ask, who are you, exactly?’

An array of different emotions flickered over the Doctor’s face before his grin returned. ‘I'm, er, I'm just. Smith. John Smith.’ He nodded to Rose. ‘And this is my girlfriend, Marion. We’ve heard all about you, Doctor. Bit of a legend, if I say so myself.’

The Other Doctor stood up a little straighter at this. ‘Modesty forbids me to agree with you, sir. But yes. Yes, I am.’

Rose rolled her eyes. It wasn’t too hard to believe that this was a future version of the Doctor… But where was future-Rose? And why didn’t he recognise them?

As if reading her mind, the Doctor voiced the question. ‘A legend with certain memories missing. Am I right?’

The Other Doctor’s smile faded. ‘How do you know that?’

‘You've forgotten me.’

The Other Doctor just stared at his past self for a moment. ‘Great swathes of my life have been stolen away,’ he explained finally. ‘When I turn my mind to the past, there's nothing.’

‘How far back can you remember?’ asked Rose.

‘Since the Cybermen. Masters of that hellish wall-scuttler and old enemies of mine, now at work in London town. You won't believe this, Mister Smith, Miss Marion, but they are creatures from another world.’

The Doctor and Rose looked at each other, both trying to give off an air of surprise at the Other Doctor’s statement.

‘Really. Wow,’ said the Doctor but he failed to get the tone right.

‘Unbelievable,’ added Rose, also not quite hitting the mark.

But the Other Doctor didn’t seem to notice. ‘It's said they fell onto London,’ he said, ‘out of the sky in a blaze of light.’ He looked down, lost in thought (or possibly trying to remember). ‘And they found me. Something was taken. And something was lost.’ He looked back up and the Doctor and Rose. ‘What was I like, in the past?’

‘I don't think I should say,’ said the Doctor, his happy curiosity gone. ‘Sorry. Got to be careful with memory loss. One wrong word…’

‘It's strange, though. I talk of Cybermen from the stars and you two don't even blink.’

Maybe he had noticed their lacklustre reaction after all.

The Doctor deflected his future self’s observation by taking the opportunity to try and jog his memory. ‘Ah, don't blink. Remember that? Whatever you do, don't blink?’ The Other Doctor just stared, blankly. ‘The blinking and the statues? Sally and the angels? No?’

‘You're a very odd man.’

The Doctor’s brow furrowed. ‘I still am. Something's wrong here.’

But it seemed that now was not the time to find out what. The Other Doctor had just remembered where he had been heading off to before Rose had stopped him. ‘Oh, the funeral!’ he said, jumping a little. ‘The funeral's at two o'clock. It's been a pleasure, Mister Smith, Miss Marion. Don't breathe a word of it.’

He went to rush away again but the Doctor called out to him. ‘We can come with you. Help out.’

‘It's far dangerous,’ said the Other Doctor, turning to face them again. ‘Rest assured, I shall keep this city safe. Oh, and, merry Christmas.’

Despite all the questions buzzing in her mind, Rose smiled at that. ‘Merry Christmas, Doctor,’ she said and the man ran off towards the funeral he was so anxious to attend.

The Doctor and Rose waited a moment and then followed.

‘Why didn’t you tell him who we are?’ asked Rose in a whisper as the Doctor’s future self unknowingly led them through London town. 'Why change my name?'

‘Like I said, got to be careful with memory loss,’ said the Doctor. ‘Don’t want to accidentally trigger something. Could cause irreparable damage. No, best not to let him know who we are just yet.’

‘So, you went with Marion?’

‘Mm-hmm. Middle names are great. They make it so easy to think of an alias on the spot.’

‘Pity I don’t have two like Mum does,’ said Rose. ‘Then I won’t have to keep using the same one.’

The Doctor shrugged. ‘Ah well, never mind. At least I won’t get the name wrong at the wedding.’ He chuckled at the memory of her father’s botched wedding vows before he realised what he had just said. He stopped walking and whipped his head round to face her, eyes wide in panic. ‘That wasn’t… I didn’t mean… not that I wouldn’t… one day, maybe, but…’

Rose let him flounder a bit more before putting him out of his misery. She placed a finger to his lips, effectively silencing him. ‘It’s okay, Doctor. I know what you meant.’ She lowered her finger and leaned up to replace it with her lips in a quick kiss.

‘Right. Good,’ he said after she had pulled away, his voice an octave or two higher than usual.

Rose bit her lip to stop herself from laughing and turned to continue their pursuit of the Other Doctor. A moment later, she heard the snow crunching behind her, letting her know that the Doctor had snapped out of it and was running to catch up with her.

Luckily, the Other Doctor hadn’t gotten far and they slowed down to keep a safe distance away from him and Rosita. ‘So where do you think I am?’ asked Rose, once again whispering. ‘Future me, I mean. Do you think maybe I’m Rosita?’

‘Well, it is a bit of a coincidence,’ said the Doctor. ‘Rose and Rosita. Maybe you can regenerate and whatever’s causing my memory loss is affecting you too.’

But Rose could tell that he didn’t really believe his own words. ‘What are you really thinking?’ she asked and the Doctor looked down at her, his eyes unsure and a little bit frightened. ‘Tell me,’ she insisted when he didn't answer.

He took her hand and gave it a squeeze. ‘He said that something had been taken,’ he whispered. ‘That something was lost.’

Rose just nodded her understanding and squeezed the Doctor’s hand a bit tighter. She wasn’t sure what she could say. She couldn’t deny the Doctor’s suspicions, not when they seemed so likely.

Without letting go of each other’s hand, the two of them silently continued following the Doctor’s future self to the funeral. Rose just hoped that it wasn’t her own.

Chapter Text

A horse-drawn carriage slowly made its way up the snowy street. Men all dressed in black silently followed it. Standing off to the side, watching the display, were the Other Doctor and Rosita, quietly whispering to each other. And, watching from just a little way behind them, were the Doctor and Rose.

‘So, whose funeral is it?’ whispered Rose.

‘Don’t know,’ answered the Doctor. ‘Seems like a valued member of society, whoever they were. Oh hold on.’ He nodded to the two people in front of them and Rose watched as Rosita angrily whispered something to the Other Doctor and then walked away.

‘They said they were going back to the TARDIS after this,’ said Rose.

The Doctor nodded, obviously thinking the same thing she was. ‘Follow her,’ he said. ‘I’ll keep an eye on him.’ He nodded to his future self.

Rose was just about to set off when she reconsidered. ‘Maybe you should follow Rosita,’ she told the Doctor. ‘I mean, it’s probably not good, is it? You and your future self being together? Doesn’t some sort of time disturbance happen when you touch yourself.’

The Doctor raised an eyebrow and Rose cringed at her unfortunate choice of phrasing.

‘I mean, when you touch your future self,' she tried again but paused when she realised that that hadn't sounded much better. She gave the Doctor a playful whack on the shoulder as he started to snicker. ‘Oh, shut up, you know what I mean. There’s a special name for it.’ The Doctor was properly laughing now so she gave him another whack. ‘Get your mind out of the gutter.’

After a moment, the Doctor managed to control his laughter. ‘Sorry,’ he said through one last chuckle. ‘You’re referring to the Blinovitch Limitation Effect, yes?’

‘That’s the one,’ said Rose, relieved that she had been making sense and hadn’t just embarrassed herself for nothing.

‘Well, I have met other versions of myself before so it would probably be fine, but maybe you have a point. Okay new plan, I’ll follow Rosita, you follow me… er, the other me.’ He went to move but then he paused and turned back to Rose. ‘Be careful,’ he said and he gave her a quick (but tight) hug before rushing off to catch up to Rosita.

Rose smiled after him for a second before turning back to face the street. The funeral parade had passed now and the Other Doctor was moving again. Rose followed him as he walked around the house that the hearse had just come from, no doubt the residence of whomever had died. It wasn’t hard to work out that the Other Doctor was trying to break into the lavish house.

While the Other Doctor went around the back to break in that way, Rose headed for the front. She glanced around her, making sure that no one was watching, and then used her sonic screwdriver to let herself in. She shut the door behind her and made her way to the back door where she could hear the Other Doctor fiddling with the lock. She opened the door and the Other Doctor straightened up at the unexpected interruption. ‘Wotcha,’ she said, smiling at the look of surprise on his face.

‘How did you get in?’ he asked.

‘Front door. Why didn’t you just use your sonic screwdriver?’

‘I was,’ said the Other Doctor, holding up the same screwdriver as before. Rose had been right, it was just an ordinary screwdriver.

‘How's it sonic?’ she asked.

The Other Doctor faltered. ‘Well, er, it makes a noise.’ He tapped it against the doorframe, making a few thunk sounds. ‘That's sonic, isn't it? Now, since we're acting like common burglars, I suggest we get out of plain view.’ Rose stepped aside to let him in. She was a tad worried about the whole not-sonic screwdriver thing but he did have a point. Best to get out of sight.

‘So, what are you investigating, anyway?’ she asked as the Other Doctor started to search the house.

‘It started with a murder,’ he said, searching through to contents of a drawer.

‘Whose murder? The one who was in that hearse?’

The Other Doctor shook his head. ‘No, that was Reverend Aubrey Fairchild. This is his house. He was also murdered, yes, but he wasn’t the first.’

‘Who was the first?’ asked Rose, looking over the contents of a desk, not really knowing what she was hoping to find.

‘Mister Jackson Lake, a teacher of mathematics from Sussex. He came to London three weeks ago and died a terrible death.’

‘Cybermen?’

‘It's hard to say. His body was never found. But then it started. More secret murders, then abductions. Children, stolen away in silence.’

‘Children?’ asked Rose, appalled, and the Other Doctor nodded, solemnly. ‘So why are you searching the Reverend’s house then?’

The Doctor went to answer but then paused. ‘You ask a lot of questions,’ he said instead.

Rose shrugged. ‘It’s what I do.’

The Doctor stared at her for a few seconds, unsure, but then carried on. ‘The Reverend was the pillar of the community, a member of many parish boards. A keen advocate of children's charities.’

‘But why would the Cybermen want to kill him?’ asked Rose. ‘And what's this got to do with Jackson Lake?’

The Other Doctor paused again, looking at her with an odd expression. ‘It's funny. I seem to be telling you everything, as though you engendered some sort of trust. You seem familiar, Miss Marion.’

‘Just call me, Marion,’ said Rose. She had always hated being called "Miss". It reminded her of all the times she had gotten in trouble as a kid and her Mum had given her a scolding.

‘But how do I know you?’ asked the Other Doctor.

Then Rose noticed something that may explain everything. Something this future Doctor had hanging from his jacket. ‘Is that a fob watch?’ she asked, pointing to the silver object.

The Other Doctor looked down at it, confused. ‘Is that important?’

‘Might be,’ said Rose, trying to keep her expression neutral. ‘Have you opened it?’

The Other Doctor thought for a moment. ‘I don’t remember. I suppose I must have at some point. It’s broken I think.’

Rose reached for the watch. ‘Can I?’

The Other Doctor nodded and handed it to her. Rose held her breath as she pressed down on the catch and the watch opened… and all the inner cogs and other workings spilled out onto the floor. ‘Maybe not, then,’ she said, slightly disappointed, and then she looked at the Other Doctor apologetically. ‘Sorry. Guess it really was broken.’

‘It was more for decoration,’ he said, looking at the cogs on the floor. Rose quickly bent down and swept the pieces into her hand and gave then to him.

‘So, back to investigating?’

The Other Doctor gave her another curious look before stuffing the remains of his watch in his pocket. ‘Just look for anything different,’ he said. ‘Possibly metal. Anything that doesn't seem to belong. Perhaps a mechanical device that could fit no earthly engine. It could even seem to be organic, but unlike any organism of the natural world.’

Now that she had some idea what they were searching for, Rose went back to the desk she was looking at before. The items on it still seemed pretty ordinary so she tried another one. This desk had a cover so she opened it up.

And what she found definitely wasn’t ordinary.

‘Doctor, I got something,’ she said as she pulled out two small metal cylinders from the drawer. ‘What are they?’ She handed one to the Doctor but he didn’t seem to recognise it.

Rose looked down at her own cylinder. ‘Maybe there’s a button somewhere to open it,’ she said, pressing her fingers against the metal in random places.

She'd been right, there was a button... but it didn’t open anything. She pressed down on the base of the cylinder and a light shone out of the other end, casting a projection onto the wall beside her. ‘It’s like a video camera,’ she said as she looked at an image of what looked like an old textbook… or at least, the picture pages of one. She squinted a bit to trying to focus on the pages that were flicking past at speed. ‘Or a hard drive. Looks like a history book on London.’

She looked to the Doctor but he seemed even more confused than she was. It seemed it was her turn to do the investigating.

‘These are obviously Cyber-technology,’ she said, ‘but why are they here? And why would Cybermen need them anyway? Surely, they would already know all this.’ She considered this for a moment. ‘Unless they’re memories are damaged too. Maybe they’re low on power or just can’t find the right technology or something? It is 1851 after all. Oh, I’m getting good at this.’

The projection turned itself off and she turned to the Other Doctor but her smile fell at the look on his face. He was sitting down on a chair, looking more than just confused now. He looked almost frightened. ‘Doctor?’ she asked. ‘Are you okay?’

‘I'm fine,’ he said but it was obvious that he was lying. The hoarseness of his voice was a dead giveaway.

‘No, you’re not. What's wrong?’ she asked, kneeling down in front of him and resting a hand on his knee. He stared at the hand for a second, as if he wasn’t sure he wanted it there. Rose tried not to let it show how much that hurt. It wasn't his fault, she reminded herself, he just didn't remember her.

‘I've seen one of these before,’ he finally said, looking back to the metal cylinder in his now shaking hands. ‘I was holding this device the night I lost my mind. The night I regenerated.’ He paused, as if remembering something awful, and Rose gave his knee a comforting squeeze. ‘The Cybermen,’ he continued, ‘they made me change. My mind, my face, my whole self. And your friend was there. Mister Smith…' He lifted his gaze to meet hers. 'Who are you two?’

‘We want to help, I promise,’ she said, holding back a sob. ‘Let us help you. But it’s probably best we find the Do- Mister Smith. He’s better at this sort of thing than me.’

Slowly, the Other Doctor nodded and Rose removed her hand from his knee and stood up. ‘We should go back to the TARDIS,’ he said, also getting to his feet. ‘I’m guessing I’m right to assume that your friend followed Rosita back there while you followed me.’

Rose gave him the cheeky smile that she reserved just for him (well, not for this him - not yet anyway). ‘No fooling you, is there?’

The Other Doctor let out a chuckle at that but he was still clearly reeling from the memories of the night he regenerated. Rose’s smile fell at the thought and she frowned as she remember her earlier questions. ‘But what are the Cybermen up to?’ she asked, mostly to herself. She looked down at the cylinder in her hand. ‘And why were these things here? Maybe there’s something else here too.’

She looked around the room and saw a door. Maybe it led to a cupboard. She walked over and opened it and then immediately closed it again. ‘Okay, we need to run now,’ she said, grabbing the Other Doctor’s hand.

‘Why?’ he asked. ‘What’s in there?’

Rose didn’t need to answer his question. The Cyberman crashing through the door did it for her. ‘Delete,’ it said with its mechanical voice and, together, Rose and the Other Doctor ran out of the door that led into the hall. Rose used her sonic screwdriver to lock it behind them. Not that it would do much good, but it made her feel a bit better.

They were halfway up the hall when another Cyberman appeared in front of them.

‘You will be deleted.’

They ran back the way thy had came only to come face to face with the first Cyberman. ‘Stairs!’ shouted Rose and she ushered the Other Doctor ahead of her.

As the ran to the stairs, Rose noticed a sword mounted on the wall. She grabbed the handle and yanked the weapon from its braces. ‘Keep going,’ she shouted to the Other Doctor. ‘I’ll hold them off.’ She was more than a little surprised when he did as she asked. Usually he hated it when she put herself in harms way.

But she didn’t have time to ponder it. The Cybermen were advancing. ‘Look, whatever you’re doing here, you need us alive,’ she told them as she used the sword the block their attacks. ‘We can help you get out of this century. That’s what you want, isn’t it? You want to go somewhere more advanced to repair yourselves?’

‘Delete,’ said the nearest Cyberman as it swung it’s arm toward Rose again. She once more used he sword the hold it back.

The offer of help tactic obviously wasn’t working so maybe it was time to try something else. ‘I was there at the battle at Canary Wharf,’ she said. ‘I helped send you lot back into the void. So how did you escape?’

But the Cyberman didn’t back down. If anything, it increased the pressure of its arm, causing Rose to fall back against the stairs as she struggled to keep her sword steady. Acting on instinct, she lifted her leg and kicked the Cyberman away from her. It didn’t fall back as far as she had hoped it would but it was enough for her to scramble to her feet. She went to run up the stairs and saw that the Other Doctor hadn’t left her like she had thought he had. He was standing a few stairs up from her, looking terrified.

‘Keep moving,’ she shouted and then turned back to the Cybermen who were almost on her again.

‘It’s me you want,’ she said to them as she backed up the stairs, once again blocking an attack with the sword. ‘Leave that man alone. You need me, not him.’ It was her last line of defence – she couldn’t let the Cybermen reach this Doctor, not while he was so vulnerable - but even that didn’t seem to be working.

Or maybe it was working a little too well.

Rose had finally made it to the landing but, a couple of second later, so had the Cyberman. It knocked her backwards, sending her to the floor, and she lost her grip on the sword. She looked over to it. There was no way she would reach it n time to fight off the two Cybermen that were now towering over her. ‘Delete,’ they said and Rose tried scooting backwards across the floor.

Then, just as the Cybermen were ready to strike, a bolt of electricity shot from somewhere behind Rose, electrifying her attackers. She turned to see that the Other Doctor was pointing the metal cylinder at them, which is where the energy bolt was coming from.

‘See? I told you it opened somehow,’ she said as she quickly got to her feet and picked up her sword, just in case.

The two Cybermen fell to their knees and Rose let out a surprised yelp as, a second later, their heads exploded and the energy bolt coming from the cylinder switched off.

‘Knew you’d get there eventually,’ said Rose, clapping a hand on the Other Doctor’s shoulder. Her expression softened. ‘Thank you.’

‘It’s what I did last time,’ he said, looking down at the cylinder. He still looked so scared.

Rose wrapped an arm around his shoulders, giving him a half hug. ‘It’ll be okay,’ she said, comfortingly. ‘Whatever’s happened to your memory, we’ll fix it.’

The Other Doctor looked up to face her and now there was gratitude shining in his eyes amongst the fear.

‘Thank you.’

----

It was dark by the time Rose and the future Doctor walked through the alleyway that led to the future TARDIS. Up ahead, she could just make out the silhouettes of two people – the Doctor (Rose’s Doctor) and Rosita. The Doctor must have been able to hear their footsteps because, a moment later, his head shot up and in an instant he was running towards them, Rosita right behind him.

As soon as he reached her, the Doctor wrapped his arms around Rose in a tight hug. ‘Woah, mind the sword,’ she warned, holding the sharp object away from him but using her other hand to pull him closer to her. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed that Rosita and the Other Doctor were sharing their own embrace.

The Doctor pulled away from the hug. ‘What have you got a sword for?’ he asked, eyebrows furrowing.

Rose shrugged in a way she hoped came off as casual. ‘Had a little run in with a couple of Cybermen. I’m fine,’ she added at the Doctor’s worried look.

‘She was more than fine,’ interrupted the Other Doctor. ‘She was brilliant. She saved my life.’

The Doctor’s worry faded and he looked down at her with pride instead. ‘That sounds like her.’

Rose shrugged casually again, though she couldn’t hide the happy smile she always got whenever the Doctor looked at her like that. ‘Yeah, well, then he saved mine so I guess we were both pretty brilliant,’ she said.

The Other Doctor waved off her praise and turned to Rosita. ‘You were right,’ he told her. ‘The Reverend Fairchild's death was the work of the Cybermen. Is the TARDIS ready?’

‘Oh, she's ready,’ replied Rosita, smiling.

Suddenly, the Doctor’s face lit up in excitement. ‘Oh, Rose you have got to see this,’ he said as he grabbed her hand and dragged her towards where the TARDIS was no doubt kept.

----

They reached a large yard and the Doctor stopped running, looking at Rose expectantly. ‘Well, where is it?’ she asked looking around the yard. The only thing of any interest she could see was a huge balloon.

‘Ah, there she is,’ said the Other Doctor as he and Rosita caught up to them. ‘My transport through time and space.’ He gestured towards the balloon and Rose’s jaw dropped.

‘That’s the TARDIS?’

The Other Doctor nodded.

‘Ask him what it stands for,’ said the Doctor, practically bouncing up and down on his feet.

Rose couldn’t help but smile. The Doctor’s good mood was contagious. ‘Okay, what does it stand for?’ she asked, turning to the Other Doctor.

‘T A R D I S,’ he answered with a smile. ‘Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style.’

‘Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style,’ repeated the Doctor. ‘Isn’t that brilliant?’

Rose let out a bark of laughter. ‘Yeah. Yeah, I like it.’

Rosita rolled her eyes at the Doctor’s childlike grin. ‘He’s been like this ever since I showed him the TARDIS earlier.’

‘And why shouldn’t he be?’ said the Other Doctor. ‘The TARDIS is a magnificent sight. And once London is safe, she and I will depart.’ He walked over to where a man was just finishing up some maintenance work on the balloon. ‘Thank you Jed,’ he said, giving the young man a wad of cash.

Rose raised her eyebrows. She had never known the Doctor to actually carry money around with him. She turned to her Doctor, questioningly, but he didn’t look shocked by his future self’s actions. In fact, he looked like he had some theory turning around in his head and the cash had just proved it.

Jed left and the Other Doctor looked up at his "TARDIS". ‘Think of it,’ he said, wistfully. ‘The time and the space.’

‘The perfect escape,’ agreed the Doctor but his earlier excitement had faded, replaced by a look of sympathy. ‘Do you ever wonder what you're escaping from?’

The Other Doctor’s smile faded too. ‘With every moment.’

‘Then do you want me to tell you? Because I think I've worked it out now. How you became the Doctor. What do you think? Do you want to know?’

The other man hesitated for a moment before giving a small nod.

----

The Doctor insisted on going somewhere more comfortable so he led them into the nearby stables. ‘This is where you live?’ Rose asked the Other Doctor, noting all the luggage that was laying around.

‘A temporary base,’ explained the Other Doctor, ‘until we rout the enemy. The TARDIS is magnificent, but it's hardly a home.’

Rose frowned at that. That didn’t sound like the Doctor at all. But the mention of “routing the enemy” reminded her of the metal cylinders they had found back in the house. ‘Oh, I almost forgot, we found two of these at the house,’ she told the Doctor, handing him one of the devices. ‘It’s like a hard drive or something. Has a bunch of information on London’s history.’

‘Infostamp,’ said the Doctor but he didn’t seem too surprised at Rose’s discovery. And then he pulled something out of his pocket… a small metal cylinder identical to the one Rose was holding. ‘Snap.’

‘Another one,’ said the Other Doctor, staring at the infostamp. He had that haunted look on his face again. ‘Where did you find it?’

‘In Mister Jackson Lake’s luggage,’ answered the Doctor, nodding at the suitcases on the floor.

‘Jackson Lake?’ asked Rose. ‘The bloke that was murdered? What’s his luggage doing here?’

‘Evidence,’ said the Other Doctor, his troubled expression unchanged.

Rose turned to her Doctor and saw that he also looked troubled, but not in the same way as his future self. It was like he knew something of vital importance… but was afraid to say it.

‘He wasn’t murdered,’ he finally said.

‘But he must have been,’ said the Other Doctor, although he didn’t look so sure any more.

‘Let me explain,’ said the Doctor, softly, and he sat down on a table by the wall. The others sat down in front of him, the Other Doctor still looking terribly confused. ‘The story begins with the Cybermen. A long time away, and not so far from here, the Cybermen were fought, and they were beaten. And they were sent into a howling wilderness called the Void, locked inside forever more. But then a greater battle rose up,’ Rose bowed her head, remembering the battle he was referring to – the battle in which they had lost Donna, ‘so great that everything inside the Void perished. But, as the walls of the world weakened, the last of the Cybermen must have fallen through the dimensions, back in time, to land here. And they found you.’

‘I fought them, I know that,’ said the Other Doctor, a little impatiently. ‘But what happened?’

‘At the same time, another man came to London. Mister Jackson Lake. Plenty of luggage, money in his pocket. Maybe coming to town for the winter season, I don't know. But he found the Cybermen too. And just like you, exactly like you, he took hold of an infostamp.’

‘But he's dead,’ said the Other Doctor. ‘Jackson Lake is dead. The Cybermen murdered him.’

‘You told me no body was ever found,’ Rose reminded him.

‘And you kept all his suitcases,’ added the Doctor, ‘but you could never bring yourself to open them.’

‘Can I see your watch again?’ Rose asked the man who she was starting to suspect wasn’t the Doctor at all. He tentatively did so and Rose turned it over to see the initials she had seen on it before but hadn’t paid any attention too. ‘J. L,’ she whispered. ‘Jackson Lake. This is Jackson Lake’s watch.’

‘Jackson Lake is… you, sir?’ asked Rosita, staring at her friend in confusion.

‘But I'm the Doctor,’ said Jackson, looking up at the Doctor and Rose, his eyes begging them to make sense of it all for him.

The Doctor obliged.

‘You became the Doctor because the infostamp you picked up was a book about one particular man,’ he said and he pressed the button on the infostamp that he had found in Jackson’s luggage. A projection appeared on the wall, much like the one in Reverend Fairchild’s house, but this one showed the image of an old man with white hair. ‘The Cybermen's database. Stolen from the Daleks inside the Void, I'd say, but it's everything you could want to know about the Doctor.’

The image changed to show a slightly younger man, an untidy mop of dark hair on his head and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. The image kept on changing, showing a different man each time, but Rose knew that they weren’t different men at all. They were the Doctor.

Not too long after the Doctor had regenerated into his current body, Rose had asked about how many times he had changed his face and what he had used to look like. After a bit of persuading (which may or may not have involved the shameless batting of eyelids on Rose's part), he had shown her photos of his eight faces that she had never met.

It wasn’t until long after they had started their relationship that he had showed her the ninth - the face he had worn during the Time War.

A face that also seemed to be missing from this collection.

Finally, the projected image changed from the man with short-cropped hair and a leather jacket to the one in pinstripes who was holding the infostamp. Jackson and Rosita turned to face the Doctor, identical looks of shock on their faces.

‘That's you,’ said Jackson.

The Doctor nodded and turned the infostamp off. ‘The one and the only,’ he said, repeating Jackson’s words from when they had first met him. ‘You see, the infostamp must have backfired. Streamed all that information about me right inside your head.’

Jackson was taking all this as well as expected… which was to say that he was not taking it very well at all. Rose moved over to sit next to him and rubbed his shoulder comfortingly. It must be so hard to discover you were not the person you thought you were.

‘I am nothing but a lie,’ he finally croaked out.

‘Don’t say that,’ whispered Rose. ‘Everything you’ve done, investigating and protecting London. That was all you.’

‘And what about the night you met Rosita?’ said the Doctor in the same reassuring tone. ‘You saved her life, remember? And you built a TARDIS! Not an actual TARDIS, mind you, but still…’ He gave Jackson an impressed grin. ‘That’s brilliant!’

But Jackson still looked troubled. ‘And what else?’ he asked.

The Doctor’s smile faded. ‘There's still something missing, isn't there?’

‘I demand you tell me, sir. Tell me what they took.’

The Doctor’s eyes were filled with sympathy and sadness when he said his next words.

‘Sorry. Really, I am so sorry, but that's an awful lot of luggage for one man.’

Rose looked around at the suitcases. It did seem a lot. Almost like it was a whole… Oh. It was a whole family’s luggage. Jackson’s family.

Something was taken. Something was lost.

She stopped rubbing circles on Jackson’s shoulder and wrapped her arm around it instead. No wonder he had wanted to forget.

‘Because an infostamp is plain technology,’ continued the Doctor. ‘It's not enough to make a man lose his mind. What you suffered is called a fugue. A fugue state, where the mind just runs away because it can't bear to look back. You wanted to become someone else because Jackson Lake had lost so much.’

A church bell rang in the distance and Rose looked up at the sound.

‘Midnight. Christmas Day,’ said Rosita.

‘I remember,’ whispered Jackson and he shrugged out of Rose’s grasp, his eyes full of unshed tears. ‘Oh, my God. Caroline. They killed my wife. They killed her.’ He leant forward and started to cry into his hands. Rosita was quick to take up Rose’s previous position of comforting her friend.

Rose wanted to try and help as well but the sound of beeping distracted her. All three of the infostamps they had found were making the noise, the ends lighting up as well, but there could be more beeping heard from nearby. The Doctor rushed over to a suitcase and started searching through it. ‘Oh, you found a whole cache of infostamps,’ he said as he pulled out a belt holding more of the metal cylinders.

‘But what is it?’ asked Rosita. ‘What's that noise?’

At first, Rose thought that Rosita was just talking about the beeping, but then she noticed it. Not too far away was the unmistakable sound of marching.

‘Activation,' said the Doctor. 'A call to arms. The Cybermen are moving!’

Chapter Text

Rose followed the Doctor out onto the street where the sound of marching had come from. But it wasn’t Cybermen.

‘Kids,’ gasped Rose as she watched what looked like half the children of London being led through the streets. ‘What do they want kids for?’

The Doctor didn’t answer, he just ran towards the man leading the children. ‘Can you hear me?’ he asked the man. ‘Hello?’ He waved a hand in front of the man’s eyes but got no response. The man and the children continued to march.

The Doctor reached into his pocket and got out his sonic screwdriver. I’m sorry but you seem to have something in your ear. Now, this might hurt a bit, but if I can just…’ He aimed the sonic at the earpieces on the man’s head. They looked a little different from the ear pods that Rose had seen but there was no mistaking the Cyber-technology.

Rose saw something move out of the corner of her eye and turned to see the Cyber-creature that they had been chasing before. ‘Doctor,’ she warned, tapping him on the shoulder. ‘Looks like the Cybermen have a guard dog.’

The Doctor looked towards the creature and then put his sonic back in his pocket. ‘Can't risk a fight. Not with the children.’

Rose nodded. ‘We’ll just have to follow them. Wait until we get a better moment.’

Jed (the man who had been repairing Jackson’s “TARDIS”) walked up to them, staring at the children walking past. ‘They all need a good whipping, if you ask me,’ he said. ‘There's tons of them. I've just seen another lot coming down from the Ingleby Workhouse down Broadback Lane.’

Rose resisted the urge to snap at the man for the whipping comment and instead focussed on the second part of his sentence. ‘Broadback Lane?’ she asked. ‘Where’s that?’

‘I’ll take you,’ said a voice from behind them and Rose and the Doctor turned to see Rosita standing there. ‘It's this way.’

----

Rosita led them to Broadback Lane and the three of them followed the children to the workhouse. The children stopped and Rose was about to suggest that maybe this was their best chance to try and save them but then the doors to the workhouse swung open. Two Cybermen marched through them. Some of the children tried to run away but more of the Cyber-creatures from before appeared and rounded them up. Maybe now was not their best chance at escape after all. Rose was starting to worry if that chance had been and gone.

The man who had been leading the children ordered them through the doors and, looking even more terrified than before, the children obeyed.

‘That's the door to the sluice,’ said Rosita. ‘All the sewage runs through there, straight into the Thames.’

Rose made a face. ‘Sewerage? Why bring the kids here?’

‘We won’t know until we get into the building,’ said the Doctor, eyeing the two Cybermen at the door. ‘And this way’s too well guarded.’

They stood up from their hiding position, intending to go search for a better way into the workhouse, but the Doctor stopped and stared down at the sword that Rose was still carrying. ‘Why do you still have that?’ he asked. ‘Not going to be much use against Cybermen.’

‘Oi. Served me well, this sword has,’ said Rose. ‘Now come on, we’re wasting time.’

The Doctor nodded in agreement and the three of them walked out into the alley... and straightaway came face to face with two Cybermen.

‘Whoa! That's cheating,’ the Doctor told the Cybermen, ‘sneaking up. Do you have your legs on silent?’

The Cybermen didn’t reply.

Another figure walked into the alley but she wasn’t a Cyberman. The woman wore an expensive looking red dress and was most definitely human. And judging by the look in her eyes and the smugness of her smile, she wasn’t one of the nice ones.

‘So, what do we have here?’ she asked as she walked over and stood in front of the Cybermen, facing the Doctor, Rose, and Rosita. She didn’t look at all surprised or bothered by the metal giants behind her.

The Doctor either didn’t notice or didn’t care about the woman’s lack of surprise at the situation. ‘Listen. Just walk towards me slowly,’ he told her. ‘Don't let them touch you.’

‘Oh, but they wouldn't hurt me, my fine boys. They are my knights in shining armour, quite literally.’

But the Doctor still wasn’t giving up. It was one of the things Rose loved most about him, his willingness to help anyone. ‘Even if they've converted you, that's not a Cyber speech pattern,’ he said. ‘You've still got free will. I'm telling you, step away.’

The woman still didn’t move. ‘There's been no conversion, sir. No one's ever been able to change my mind. The Cybermen offered me the one thing I wanted. Liberation.’

Rose understood the need to be free, especially from the twisted rules of this age, but siding with the Cybermen was going a bit far. This woman obviously had no idea of who she had allied herself with.

‘Look, whatever they’ve promised you, they won’t deliver on it,’ she said to the woman. ‘If you really want to be free, come with us.’

‘Oh, I don’t think so,’ said the woman, looking Rose up and down with disgust.

‘But who are ya?’ asked Rosita and the woman’s look of disgust grew.

‘You can be quiet. I doubt he paid you to talk.’

Yep, this woman definitely wasn’t one of the nice ones. Rose would have punched her if it weren’t for the two Cybermen standing so close.

The woman turned to the Doctor. ‘More importantly, who are you, sir? she asked. ‘With such intimate knowledge of my companions.’

‘I'm the Doctor,’ he answered. Rose could tell by his hardened tone and the dark look in his eyes that it was more of a warning than an introduction.

‘Incorrect,’ said one of the Cybermen, speaking at last. ‘You do not correspond to our image of the Doctor.’

‘Yeah, but that's because your database got corrupted. Oh, look, look, look. Check this. The Doctor's infostamp.’ He threw the infostamp to the Cyberman, who caught it with ease. ‘Plug it in. Go on. Download.’

The Cyberman looked up from the infostamp in its hand. ‘The core has been damaged. This infostamp would damage Cyberunits.’

The Doctor didn’t look surprised. ‘Oh, well. Nice try,’ he said.

The Cyberman did something to the infostamp. ‘Core repaired,’ it said a second later. ‘Download.’ It plugged the infostamp into its chest and Rose waited as it took in the information. It only took a few seconds.

The Cyberman unplugged the infostamp and looked towards the Doctor. ‘You are the Doctor.’

The Doctor gave a little wave. ‘Hello.’

‘You will be deleted.’

Rose had been expecting that. She made to step in front of the Doctor to shield him but he lightly grabbed her shoulder to stop her. He stepped forward, putting her behind him instead. ‘No, no. Oh, but let me die happy,’ he said to the woman in red. ‘Tell me, what do you need those children for?’ Rose knew that he knew what he was doing. He was appealing to the woman’s sense of pride and trying to draw her plan out from her. It was amazing how many people needed to gloat over their plans before finishing them.

And this woman was no exception. ‘What are children ever needed for?’ she said. ‘They're a workforce.'

‘Workforce for what?’ asked Rose stepping out from behind the Doctor so that now they were side by side.

‘Very soon now, the whole Empire will see. And they will bow down in worship.’

‘And it's all been timed for Christmas Day,’ said the Doctor. ‘Was that your idea, Miss…?’

‘Hartigan,’ said the woman, finally introducing herself. ‘Yes. The perfect day for a birth, with a new message for the people. Only this time, it won't be the words of a man.’

Rose groaned inwardly at how cryptic Miss Hartigan was being.

‘The birth of what?’ asked the Doctor.

‘A birth, and a death. Namely, yours. Thank you, Doctor. I'm glad to have been part of your very last conversation. Now, delete them.’ That last part was directed to the Cybermen and the metal giants moved forward, menacingly.

And then they suddenly stopped as they were hit by a bolt of energy. The Cybermen shook as the electricity overcame them and they fell to the ground. It was just like what had happened to the ones at the Reverand’s house. Well, apart from the exploding heads thing.

Rose looked up from the Cybermen on the ground to see Jackson Lake standing behind them holding an open infostamp. He closed it and lowered his arms and Rose noticed that he wore a whole belt of infostamps, slung over his shoulder and across his body like a soldier would carry ammunition.

‘At your service, Doctor,’ said Jackson and Rose beamed proudly at the man.

‘Good show, Mister Lake,’ she said, resisting the urge to clap her hands together.

‘Shades! Shades!’ shouted Miss Hartigan and the happy moment was broken.

‘Run!’ shouted the Doctor, grabbing Rose’s hand. ‘Come on!’

They began to run out of the alley, hoping to escape before the Cyber-creatures – Cybershades, Rose corrected herself – heeded Miss Hartigan’s calls, but Rosita stopped and turned back.

‘One last thing,’ she said and that was all the warning Miss Hartigan got before Rosita punched her in the face. The woman fell to the ground and Rosita ran back to join the Doctor, Rose, and Jackson.

‘Can I say, I completely disapprove,’ said the Doctor but it didn’t sound like he overly meant it.

Rose let out a laugh. ‘I don’t.’

----

They didn’t stop running until they were sure that the Cybershades weren’t following. Finally, they stopped and leant against the wall of the alley they were in.

‘That stronghold down by the river,’ said the Doctor. ‘I need to find a way in.’

‘I'm ahead of you,’ said Jackson. ‘My wife and I were moving to London so I could take up a post at the university. And while my memory is still not intact, this was in the luggage.’ He handed the Doctor an official looking document. ‘The deeds. 15 Latimer Street. And if I discovered the Cybermen there, in the cellar, then…’

‘That might be our way in,’ finished the Doctor. ‘Brilliant.’

‘There's still more. I remember the cellar and my wife but I swear there was something else in that room. If we can find that, perhaps that's the key to defeating these invaders. So, onwards!’

Jackson purposefully strode down the alley towards Latimer Street. Rose couldn’t help but be impressed at how brave he was being. It seemed that Jackson Lake didn't need all his memories to decide who he was.

----

When they got to 15 Latimer Street, Rose was annoyed but not surprised to find the cellar guarded. At least they knew Jackson was on to something.

And he obviously wasn’t prepared to let one measly Cybermen stand in between him and the truth. He aimed another infostamp and the energy bolt shot out the end, hitting the Cyberman dead on.

‘Nice one,’ said Rose.

As soon as the Cyberman was motionless on the floor, the Doctor ran into the cellar and up to the device in the centre of the room. The device was a couple of feet tall and looked more like something Rose would have suspected the Daleks of owning rather than the Cybermen. But one thing was for sure, it definitely wasn’t of Earth origin.

‘It must've been guarding this,’ said the Doctor, looking the device over. ‘A Dimension Vault. Stolen from the Daleks again.’ Rose gave herself a mental pat on the back for recognising the Dalek technology. ‘That's how the Cybermen travelled through time. Jackson, is this it? The thing you couldn't remember?’

Jackson thought for a moment. ‘I don't think so. I just can't see. It's like it's hidden.’

Rose walked up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. ‘It will come,’ she said, soothingly. ‘Your memories won’t stay lost forever.’

‘Not enough power,’ shouted the Doctor and Rose turned to face him. He stood up from the Dimension Vault and crossed the room to where the Cybermen’s secret tunnel was. The secret tunnel that would hopefully lead them into the workhouse where the children were being held.

----

The secret tunnel did lead to the workhouse (even if they had to go through the sewers) and when they got there, Rose let out a gasp at what she saw. Down below in the workhouse there were dozens of children working on a huge mechanical device. Cybermen watched and guarded them.

‘Those poor kids,’ whispered Rose.

‘What is it?’ asked Rosita, staring at the thing the children were working on.

‘It's an engine,’ answered the Doctor. ‘They're generating electricity, but what for?’

‘We can set them free,’ said Jackson, reaching for an infostamp but the Doctor stopped him.

‘We will,’ he said, determinedly, at Jackson’s look of shock. ‘But if we’re going to stop the Cybermen and set the children free, we need to know what we’re up against.’

----

They found their way to what looked like a control room. The Doctor put on his glasses and read the readings from a sort of computer panel on the wall. ‘Power at ninety percent,’ he said. ‘But if we stop the engine, the power dies down, the Cybermen'll come running. Oh. Hold on.’ The reading on the screen went static-y and made a high pitch whining noise. The Doctor tapped it with his knuckles. ‘Power fluctuation. That's not meant to happen.’

‘It's going wrong?’ asked Jackson.

‘It’s not going to backfire or anything is it?’ asked Rose. ‘Maybe we should have gotten the children out back there?’

The Doctor peered at the screen in front of him. ‘It's weird,’ he said. ‘The software's rewriting itself. It's changing.’

‘Changing to what?’ asked Rose but before the Doctor could answer, the control panel exploded, causing them all to jump back.

‘Whoa!’ shouted the Doctor. ‘What the hell's happening? It's out of control.’

‘You all right?’ Rose asked him. He had caught the brunt of the explosion.

He waved her off. ‘I’m fine.’ His eyes flickered over her form for a moment, checking to make sure she was fine too and then went back to the control panel that was still intact. It seemed that it hadn’t exactly exploded, more of just made a big bang with lots of sparks.

‘It's accelerating,’ said Jackson, reading the screen over the Doctor’s shoulder. ‘Ninety six percent, ninety seven.’

‘When it reaches a hundred, what about the children?’ asked Rosita. ‘Marion’s right, we should’ve got them out of there.’ Rose had a fleeting thought to let Rosita know that Marion wasn't her real name but decided it wasn't important. She could clear that up later.

The Doctor nodded, obvious worry in his eyes, and then shot off back down the way they came. ‘Come on!’

----

By the time they got back to the work area, an alarm was sounding and the Cybermen were advancing on the children. The Doctor, of course, just ran straight in, putting himself between the Cybermen and the scared kids. Rose was right behind him. Jackson zapped one of the Cybermen with an infostamp and then passed the rest to Rosita.

The Doctor, Rose, and Jackson shouted for the kids to run as Rosita took care of the remaining Cybermen. ‘Rosita, get them out of sluice gate,’ shouted the Doctor once there were no more active Cybermen in the room. ‘Once you're out, keep running. Far as you can!’

Rosita did as she was asked and the rest of them ushered the kids into a neat line and guided them towards where she was waiting at the gate. As the last of the children were running out of the work area, the Doctor went to check on the engine. Rose left him to it and started searching for any kids that had decided to hide rather than run. She had just about declared the room childfree when Jackson’s terrified shouts interrupted her search.

‘Doctor, my son!’

Rose ran up to him and looked up to where he was pointing. Up on a higher ledge was a little boy. ‘They took my son,’ continued Jackson, looking up at the boy with wide eyes. ‘No wonder my mind escaped. Those damned Cybermen, they took my child! But he's alive. Frederick!’

The Doctor had joined them and was also staring up at Jackson’s son. ‘Come on!’ he shouted, beckoning the boy to them.

But Frederick didn’t move.

‘He’s too scared,’ sad Rose and suddenly Jackson was a blur of movement.

‘Stay there!’ he shouted to his son, running towards the stairs. ‘Don't move! I'm coming.’

Something on the engine exploded and Jackson was sent flying backwards, hitting the ground with an ‘oof’. Rose and the Doctor ran over and helped him to his feet. ‘I can't get up there,’ he cried once he was standing again. ‘Fred!’

Rose looked to the stairs, or rather, what was left of them. There was no way they were getting up that way. And the engine was rattling and steaming even worse than before. She didn’t know a lot about engines (even though Mickey had repeatedly tried to teach her) and even less about ones of this design, but she knew enough to know when something was going to blow up. ‘Doctor, how long until that thing explodes?’ she asked.

‘Not long,’ he answered, eyes flittering around the room, looking for a way up to Jackson's son. After a few seconds, his eyes lit up with hope and he held out his hand to Rose. ‘Sword,’ he said.

Rose didn’t ask questions; there wasn’t time. She handed him the cutlass that she had brought with her and the Doctor ran over to where a rope was tied to a fixture on the workhouse floor. He grabbed the rope with one hand and used the other to swing the sword below him, freeing the rope from its anchor. The laws of physics did their thing and the rope and the Doctor shot upwards. Rose almost let out a cheer when he landed on the platform next to Frederick.

Rose clutched onto to Jackson’s arm as they anxiously watched Frederick climb onto the Doctor’s back like one would for a piggy back ride. Once Frederick was holding on tight, he Doctor used the rope in his hands to swing over to the ledge on the opposite side of the room, just as the part of the engine behind them exploded. Rose had to admit, the Doctor always seemed t have impeccable timing.

Jackson sprinted to them as soon as they had made it back down to ground level, Rose following close behind. ‘Merry Christmas,’ the Doctor told him with a smile as he handed Frederick over.

Rose smiled at the father hugging his son tight for a moment before she playfully poked the Doctor in the ribs. ‘Told ya that sword would be useful.’

More explosions came from the engine and Rose, the Doctor, and Jackson all silently agreed that it was best if they got as far away from it as possible.

They took the tunnel that led to Jackson’s house and it wasn’t long until they were back in the cellar where this whole thing had started from. The Doctor paused to take something from the Dimension Vault that was still in the middle of the room and then they headed for the street outside.

Rose was the first one onto the street and so hers was the first jaw to drop. Towering above all the buildings of London, was a gigantic Cyberman. Though, it looked quite a bit different than a usual Cyberman.

‘It's a CyberKing,’ exclaimed the Doctor, coming to a standstill next to Rose.

‘And a CyberKing is what?’ asked Jackson.

‘It's a ship. Dreadnought class. Front line of an invasion. And inside the chest, a Cyberfactory, ready to convert millions.’

The CyberKing began to walk, taking slow but heavy steps, and the streets filled with the sound of screaming. People were running. Including the Doctor. Rose and Jackson followed him until he stopped at a junction.

‘Just head south,’ he told Jackson. ‘Go to the parkland.’

‘But where are you going?’ asked Jackson.

‘To stop that thing.’

‘But I should go with you.’

‘You have your son,’ said the Doctor but Jackson still looked unsure.

‘And the Doctor’s got me,’ said Rose, moving forward to stand next to the Doctor and face Jackson.

Jackson gave them a small nod. ‘God bless you,’ he said and the Doctor and Rose turned and ran down the street.

‘So where are we going?’ asked Rose.

‘The TARDIS.’

----

‘When you said we were going to the TARDIS, I thought you meant our TARDIS,’ said Rose as she watched the Doctor scramble into the basket of Jackson’s balloon. The sound of explosions from somewhere across London made her jump and she almost dropped the piece of the Dimensional Vault she was holding. The Doctor held his arms out and she passed the item to him as well as another belt of infostamps that they had scoured from Jackson’s luggage.

Now that her hands were free, Rose went to climb into the basket too but the Doctor stopped her. ‘I need you to untie the balloon,' he said. 'Plus the extra weight wouldn’t be good.’

‘Are you calling me fat?’ asked Rose, teasingly, as she climbed back down from the edge of the basket.

‘Wouldn’t dare,’ he said with a cheeky grin and he leaned down to give her a quick peck on the lips. ‘Now, let her loose.’

Rose struggled with the ropes tethering the balloon for a moment, silently wishing she still had her sword, before she finally got the knots free. ‘Good luck,’ she shouted as the balloon and the Doctor started to rise into the air.

‘Go find Jackson,’ he yelled back. ‘And for God’s sake, keep yourself safe!’

Rose chuckled as she imagined him muttering to himself about his jeopardy friendly girlfriend before she ran out of the yard, heading south.

----

Rose found both Jackson and Rosita out on a street. Jackson was still clutching his son protectively. ‘Where’s the Doctor?’ he asked as soon as Rose came to a stop beside him, resting her hands on her knees and bending over in exhaustion. She hadn’t realised how much running she had done today. After a few more ragged breaths, she straightened up and pointed up at the sky.

‘It's the TARDIS,’ gasped Jackson at the sight of the balloon floating up towards the CyberKing. ‘She's flying.’

‘Who the hell is that?’ asked one of the people who had gathered on the street to watch the spectacle.

‘He’s the Doctor,’ said Rose, proudly.

For a minute or two, the balloon just hovered near the “head” of the CyberKing and Rose knew that the Doctor was giving it a choice. A choice that the CyberKing had obviously refused. Suddenly a blue beam of light came from the basket of the balloon and hit the CyberKing straight on. The Doctor must have used the infostamps. The light faded and at first it didn’t look like it had had done anything… but then the huge Cyberman began to sway as small explosions started to erupt within its body.

‘He's killed it!’ shouted Jackson. ‘Whatever he did, he's killed it.’

Rose suddenly had a terrible thought. That thing was huge and it was heavy and how much would it destroy if it fell to the ground?

Rosita was obviously thinking the exact same thing. ‘But it's going to fall!’ she shouted and then all Rose could hear were people screaming as they ran, hoping to get out of the way of the falling CyberKing.

But Rose stayed where she was. She knew the Doctor and she knew he would have planned for this. But after a few seconds, Jackson grabbed her arm and ushered her along with him and Rosita.

They hadn’t made it far when another blue light came from the balloon (this one more of a circular vortex than a bolt of electricity), causing everyone to stop and stare up at the sky once more. A second later, the CyberKing vanished, leaving the balloon hanging in the air alone.

‘Well, I'd say he used that Dimension vault to transfer the wreckage of the CyberKing into the Time Vortex, there to be harmlessly disintegrated,’ said Jackson and Rose and Rosita gaped at him. ‘Oh, I've picked up a lot,’ he chuckled, surprised at his own deductions, and then handed Frederick over to Rosita.

Jackson ran over to the nearest lamp post and jumped up onto the ledge below it. ‘Ah, but here. Ladies and gentlemen,’ he called to the crowd. ‘I know that man, that Doctor on high. And I know that he has done this deed a thousand times. But not once. No, sir, not once, not ever, has he ever been thanked. But no more. For I say to you, on this Christmas morn,’ he turned to shout up at the sky, ‘bravo, sir! Bravo!’

The people on the street started cheering and Rose smiled as she too joined in with the round of applause. Jackson was right; the Doctor hardly ever got the thanks he deserved (granted he usually disappeared before anyone could give it to him) and it was nice to see that that wouldn’t be the case this time. And it was even nicer to be a part of it. She brought two fingers to her mouth, letting out a whistle as the crowd continued to applaud the man she was proud to call her partner.

----

Later, when the Doctor had come back down to Earth, they had decided to show Jackson what a real TARDIS looked like. Rosita had offered to look after Fredrick and they had made their way to the marketplace in which Rose had landed the TARDIS the previous day.

Rose and the Doctor shared an amused smile as Jackson took in the sight of the interior of the time ship.

‘Oh my word. Oh. Oh, goodness me. Well. But this is, but this is nonsense,’ Jackson giggled, eyes wide in amazement.

‘Well, that's one word for it,’ chuckled the Doctor.

‘Complete and utter, wonderful nonsense. How very, very silly. Oh, no. I can't bear it. Oh, it's causing my head to ache.’ He rushed back out of the doors shouting a chorus of ‘no, no, no’ as he went. ‘Oh, gracious. That's quite enough.’

After a moment, Jackson sobered up and looked at the Doctor and Rose with fond sadness. ‘I take it this is goodbye.’

The Doctor nodded solemnly. ‘Onwards and upwards.’

Rose stepped forward and kissed Jackson on the cheek. ‘Take care of yourself. And Frederick and Rosita.’

‘I have a feeling that Rosita will be the one taking care of me,’ said Jackson and Rose couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped her. She had no doubt that Jackson was right on that fact. ‘Must you go so soon?’ he asked, looking up at the Doctor. ‘I know you and I know you never stay but,’ he straightened his shoulders, ‘I put an offer to you, sir. Christmas dinner.’

Rose’s smile faded a little. She had almost forgotten it was Christmas. She suddenly realised that she hadn’t celebrated it – or any other holiday - since that night after the Doctor had regenerated. And that was years ago now.

‘Like you said, you know me,’ the Doctor told Jackson and Rose nodded solemnly. The Doctor didn’t do that sort of thing. Not anymore.

He held out his hand to Jackson. ‘Jackson, if anyone had to be the Doctor, I'm glad it was you,’ he said and the man gave a grateful smile as he took the Doctor’s offered hand and shook it.

With one last ‘Merry Christmas’, the Doctor and Rose walked back into the TARDIS. Rose wasn’t sure if she was happy to leave so soon but knew better than to try and convince the Doctor to stay. He didn’t stick around to do domestics. And most of the time she was fine with that, really, she was.

But sometimes she wished they could celebrate Christmas properly for once.

Chapter Text

The Doctor glanced at Rose out of the corner of his eye as he walked up the ramp to the console. In the past twenty-four hours they had met a brilliant man, helped him unlock his memories, and reunited him with his son. Not to mention they had saved Old London Town. And the Doctor had even got a standing ovation for it. But despite all that, Rose wasn’t smiling. Which was strange seeing as not five minutes ago she had been.

He had noticed the exact moment her mood had changed of course. It had been when Jackson had mentioned Christmas dinner. She must have been remembering having Christmas dinner with her own family and how she never would again. The familiar guilt that appeared whenever the Doctor thought about that had threatened to make an appearance so he had declined Jackson’s offer and made his usual escape to the TARDIS.

He sent them into the vortex and risked another glance at Rose. She gave him a smile but he could still see the sadness in her eyes.

Still… nothing that another adventure couldn’t cure.

‘So, where to now?’ he asked as he flicked random switches on the console. ‘Oh, it’s my turn to choose isn’t it?’ He said it as if only just remembering but he shot Rose a cheeky smile that would gave him away. ‘I was thinking maybe we should visit the Lost Moon of Poosh, seeing as it’s not lost anymore. Great swimming pools on Poosh, I hear. How about it, then? Poosh?’

Rose gave a little shake of her head but her smile had become a bit more genuine now. But a moment later, it was gone again. ‘I dunno, swimming doesn’t seem right for Christmas,’ she said, letting a little bit of the sadness that was in her eyes creep into her voice.

But the Doctor wasn’t giving up that easily. He currently held the record for the Cheering Rose Tyler Up awards and he was determined to keep it.

‘It is in Australia. Oh, have I taken you to Australia yet? We could go climb Sydney Harbour Bridge.’

His smile fell when he noticed that his enthusiasm wasn’t working as well as it usually did. Time to try another tactic. ‘Do you want to get back?’ he asked, his tone more serious now. ‘We could tell Jackson we changed our minds.’

Rose looked up, surprised. ‘You’d do that?’

The Doctor shrugged. ‘If you wanted to. I should have asked you before but I thought… you didn’t look like you like you were in the Christmas dinner mood. I thought maybe you were remembering Christmas with your Mum and Mickey.’

‘I was.’

The Doctor nodded at the confirmation and looked down at his shoes as he fought down that guilt again. A hand took his and he looked up to see that Rose was now standing right in front of him. ‘I don’t want to go back,’ she said and the assurance in her eyes told him that she wasn’t just talking about going back to see Jackson. ‘It’s just that I always used to love celebrating Christmas and it's been a while since I’ve been able to. I don’t even know when Christmas is anymore and I’m just worried that I’m forgetting…’

She trailed off and now she was the one looking towards the floor.

‘Forgetting what?’ asked the Doctor, squeezing her hand a little. She looked back up at him, her eyes seeking reassurance. But reassurance of what?

‘Forgetting what it means to be human,’ she answered at last and this time there was no fighting the guilt that came at the sound of those words. ‘Mum said it would happen. Once she was gone.’

The Doctor immediately let go of Rose's hand and wrapped his arms around her instead, bringing her close against his chest. It was only a second before she returned the embrace. ‘She was wrong,' he told her. 'You won’t forget what it means to be human.’ He pulled back so he could see hers face and used his thumb to wipe away the few tears that had spilled down her cheeks. ‘I don’t think you could if you tried. And if celebrating Christmas is what it will take to assure you of that fact, then we can celebrate it every day.’

Rose let out a little laugh and used the back of her hand to brush away the tears that the Doctor had missed. She was clearly embarrassed but for the life of him, he couldn’t understand why. ‘Every day might be a bit much,’ she said. ‘Just once a year is enough.'

‘Once a year it is,’ said the Doctor, putting on an extra helping of his usual enthusiasm. He bounded around the console and pushed a few buttons on the keyboard. ‘How about we get the TARDIS to remind us?'

‘What, like a Christmas alarm?’ asked Rose. The Doctor was a little offended by the amount of disbelief in her voice. ‘You can do that? Even on a time machine where time is relative and any day could be Christmas?’

‘Of course I can,’ he said, smiling a little at her attempt to imitate him with her last sentence. ‘And I can set it so that it is in sync with your personal timeline. When it’s Christmas for you, it’s Christmas for the TARDIS. Well, near enough anyway. It’s bound to be a bit out due to any time when your timeline is out of sync with the TARDIS.’

‘Like when the Weeping Angels sent us back to 1969, you mean? It was weeks for us but only a couple days for the TARDIS.’

‘Exactly.’ The Doctor finished the necessary calibrations and then stood up a little straighter. ‘There we are.’

Suddenly his vision went yellow as Rose lunged into his arms, causing her hair to fly up into his face before finally settling back to it’s proper place at her shoulders. ‘Thank you,’ she whispered into his chest. She pulled away from him and the Doctor was glad to see that there was no longer any sadness in her eyes. He allowed himself a smug smile. That Best Person at Cheering Rose Tyler Up title was still his. ‘Can we set ones for other holidays too?’ she asked, distracting him from his thoughts.

‘We can indeed. Just maybe not birthdays,’ he added and was relieved when Rose nodded her agreement. Even though he was beyond happy that Rose could now be with him forever, her lengthened lifespan was still a bit of a sore spot for him. He took a reluctant step back from her so he could better access the TARDIS controls to add another holiday alarm. ‘Easter is a bit tricky seeing as it doesn’t have a set date,’ he said and then paused for dramatic effect. ‘But it’s going to take more than that to keep me away from all that chocolate.’ He gave Rose a wink and she gave him the laugh he had been asking for.

‘Thank you,’ she said again. ‘I didn’t expect this much.’

The Doctor furrowed his brow at that. 'Why not?’

‘Well, it’s sort of domestic, isn’t it?’

Oh, that’s why not.

‘Nah, not really,’ said the Doctor, trying to brush off her reasoning that he knew was quite justified. He paused and turned his head to face her. ‘It’s very human though. And you are so human.’ She gave him a grateful smile and he held her gaze for a few moments before directing his attention back to the scanner. ‘Any other holidays?’ he asked once he had successfully added Easter to the list.

‘Halloween could be fun,’ she said almost at once.

The Doctor grinned and set up the alarm. Halloween could be fun. Eating candy, watching scary movies, hanging spider webs off of everything in sight…. what was not to love? Not to mention the costumes.

‘Any others?’ he asked, mainly to distract himself from picturing Rose in certain Halloween costumes that were popular for her time period.

Rose thought for a moment. She opened her mouth to say something but then closed it again, seeming to reconsider whatever she was about to say.

But the Doctor was having none of that.

‘Did you think of another one?’

Rose shook her head and blushed. She actually blushed. It was rare that she did that these days. Now he was curious.

‘It’s silly,’ she finally admitted. ‘I never even really celebrated it anyway. The ones you’ve already put in are enough. More than enough actually.’ She gave him a grateful smile but the Doctor wasn’t to be distracted.

‘No, go on,' he pushed. 'Tell me what you were going to say. You've got me all curious now.’

Rose considered his request for a few seconds before she gave in. ‘Okay, but just to be clear, I don’t actually want to celebrate this one. It’s not really my kind of holiday and it’s certainly not yours.’

‘Just tell me what it is,’ said the Doctor with fake impatience as he wound his arms around her waist.

‘Valentine’s day,’ she said and the Doctor froze. Maybe he should have let that one remain unsaid.

He brought one of his hands up to his ear to tug on it nervously, a habit that this body just couldn’t seem to shake. ‘That one is a bit… I mean, if you want to, I suppose… but…’

‘Doctor, it’s okay,’ she said, cutting off his failed attempts at forming a sentence. ‘I meant it when I said I don’t want to celebrate it. I don’t know why I even thought of it in the first place. I was just trying to think of holidays and it just sort of popped into my head, that’s all. And I don’t want you to feel like you have to do these things for me.’ The honesty in her eyes meant that the Doctor could breath again and he returned his hand to her waist. ‘How about we just stick with Christmas, Easter, and Halloween for now?’

The Doctor nodded gratefully. It wasn’t that he had anything against the day itself… it was just that that particular Earth tradition was a smidgen (or a light year) out of his comfort zone.

Rose leant up and gave him a quick kiss and all the tension that had appeared at the mention of Valentine’s Day melted away.

‘Can I make one request?’ he asked once he had pulled away from the kiss.

‘Anything.’

‘Can we sometimes spend these days on places that aren't Earth. There are so many planets that have their own versions of Christmas and then there are all the ones that humans colonise in the future. There’s these fields of singing flowers on Lolamaysia that know every Christmas song ever written and why are you looking at me like that?’

Rose giggled at him. ‘I love you,’ she said but she didn’t answer his question. Or maybe that was her answer. Either way, she definitely deserved another kiss.

‘I don’t need to celebrate them on Earth,’ she said after 30 seconds of tender snogging. ‘We can spend the whole day on the TARDIS for all I care. I just want to acknowledge them I guess. I want to remember where I'm from.’

‘Rose Tyler, I will never let you forget where you're from,’ he vowed. She gave him another grateful smile and then stepped out of his embrace. He was about to complain but then she started flicking switches on the console.

‘So, you said something about the Lost Moon of Poosh…?’

The Doctor gave her his best grin and moved over to help her set the coordinates. ‘Oh yes! Best swimming pools in the universe, coming right up!’

‘I suppose I’d better go get changed then,’ said Rose, sauntering across the room away from him. ‘Might finally wear that bikini I bought.’ She threw him a cheeky smile before she walked through the door and disappeared down the corridor. The Doctor knew exactly which bikini she was referring to (it was dark blue and was held together by thin strings that were just begging to be untied) and the thought of her in it had him instantly chasing after her, all thoughts of Earth holidays forgotten.

Two days later the TARDIS told them that it was Easter and that there was a wormhole in the middle of London.

Chapter Text

The Doctor sat at the table of his workshop trying to fix the TARDIS coffee machine that had broken that morning. Well, that was what it would look like he was doing to anyone else anyway (almost anyone else). What the Doctor actually was doing was brooding. He knew he was doing it and he knew that Rose would see it on his face, hence the hiding in the workshop.

Rose had been trying to help him out of his mood for five days now but he still couldn’t bring himself to let her. He just couldn’t stop thinking about the prophecy that he had been given on their last adventure. The words still echoed in his head.

‘Your song is ending… It is returning. It is returning through the dark and then… then he will knock four times.’

There was no doubt in the Doctor’s mind that the prophecy was genuine. Carmen (the woman who had given him the prophecy) had proved herself to be a pretty reliable psychic. And there was also no doubt in his mind that his song ending meant his death, or at least this regeneration's death. It wasn’t the first time he had been told those words. Ood Sigma had mentioned that his song was ending. But he had brushed it off at the time – put it in the back of his mind.

But that had been when he had had Donna to help keep the fears away. Now that it was just him and Rose, those words just brought back all the old fears of how they could lose each other.

The Doctor and Rose hadn’t taken on another companion since they had lost Donna. But to be fair, they hadn’t really met anyone that would fit into their lifestyle. Christina had been nice enough for a jewel thief (although the Doctor was in no position to judge someone based on their thievery – that would make him the biggest hypocrite in the universe) but the Doctor turned her down because of three reasons.

Reason one: She and Rose had clashed a bit. And Christina forcibly kissing him had not helped.

Reason two: After what had happened to Martha and Donna, the Doctor didn’t want to risk something similar happening to anyone else. He didn’t even want to put Rose through the dangers of his life but he knew that she wouldn’t have it any other way (and the selfish part of him didn’t want to let her go).

And reason three: He was quite enjoying having some alone time with Rose again. He had almost forgotten how good it felt not having to share her (and there was that selfishness again). And it was even better now that he wasn’t holding back. It was great to be able to kiss her (amongst other things that kissing led to) whenever he wanted and not have to worry about if it was right or who would see.

But how long would that time with her last?

The Doctor sighed and took off his glasses. There was no point even pretending to repair the coffee maker. His mind was too preoccupied with worry. ‘Given up?’ asked a voice from the door and he looked up to see Rose leaning against the doorframe.

‘Yeah,’ he admitted, looking back to the coffee machine.

She walked in and sat next to him at the table. ‘You ready to talk about it?’

‘The coffee maker?’

Rose nudged his shoulder with hers. ‘You know that’s not what I meant.’

The Doctor sighed again and rubbed his eyes with his fingers. It seemed that brooding alone was no longer an option. ‘I know,’ he said. ‘I just can’t stop thinking about what Carmen said.’

‘Me neither,’ she admitted and the Doctor straightaway put an arm over her shoulder and pulled her in so her head was resting in the crook of his neck. Though this may have been more for his benefit than hers.

‘I hate prophecies,’ Rose continued. ‘I mean, a warning is all well and good but prophecies… they just seem so absolute. Like there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.’

The Doctor swallowed the lump in his throat. ‘Yeah.’

‘I’d rather not know.’

‘Me too.’

There were a couple of minutes of silence as they both just sat there, lost in thought. ‘I don’t want to lose you,’ Rose finally whispered.

The Doctor pulled her closer (if that were even possible) and closed his eyes. ‘You won’t,’ he vowed. ‘I’ll regenerate but I’ll still be me.’ Another lump threatened to lodge itself in his throat at the thought of regenerating but he swallowed it down. He liked being this him. He didn't want to change.

‘I know that and I’ll still love you,' said Rose, helping ease his worry just a little, 'but what about before that?’

The Doctor opened his eyes and pulled away just enough so that Rose could look up at him. Her gaze was filled with such sadness and fear and kindness that it almost broke him. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked.

‘You’ve been hiding for almost a week now, ever since you heard the prophecy. I’m worried about you. I’m worried that you’re going to spend whatever you have left hiding in this workshop. I… I miss you.’

The Doctor pulled her back towards him at those words, wrapping his other arm around her to complete the embrace. The truth was, he missed her too.

‘And I want to help you,’ she continued. ‘But I can’t if you don’t let me. Please let me help.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered. ‘I didn’t mean push you away. I’m just… scared. The past few years in this body have been some of the best in my life and I don’t want them to end.’

‘They won’t,’ promised Rose. ‘Not if you don’t let them.’

The Doctor pulled away again, but this time it was so he could crash his lips against Rose's. She squeaked in surprise but melted into the kiss nonetheless. When he pulled away, the Doctor gave her his best grin. Because she was right. She was absolutely right. The best years of his life weren’t over yet. The prophecy handn't specified a time, it had just said that his song was ending. But how long does something take to end? One could argue that your life starts ending the day you are born. His song may be ending but it hand't ended yet. He still had time left, however little.

And he didn’t want to waste a moment of it.

‘Have I ever told you how brilliant you are?’ he asked her.

‘You may have mentioned it,’ she said with the beginnings of a cheeky smile.

‘Good because you are so brilliant. And because you’re so brilliant, I’m taking you somewhere special. Right now.’

He stood up and held out his hands for her to help her up. ‘What, now?’ she asked as he pulled her to her feet. ‘As in now now?’

He released one of her hands but kept the other tight within his grasp. ‘Yep. Now now.’

He began dragging her towards the console room, maybe running a bit quicker than was necessary. ‘There’s this great restaurant that overlooks the Sunrise Nebula,’ he said. ‘One of the most beautiful sights in the universe and I have made us a reservation. Well I haven’t yet but that’s just semantics. And the best thing about this restaurant - apart from the nebula, of course - the chips! The best chips in the universe and that is proven fact. There have been studies. You’ll love it, Rose. Come on, there’s no time to waste.’

Chapter Text

‘The red planet,’ shouted the Doctor with a grin as he flung open the TARDIS doors. Rose gave him a smile and hoped that he wouldn’t notice the half-heartedness of it through her helmet visor. It wasn’t that she wasn’t thrilled to be on Mars, she was… it was just that they had already visited a dead planet not too long ago and that hadn’t exactly been the best of times. The Doctor had been even more eager to seek out adventure in the month since that place. Ever since that woman had given him the prophecy of his death.

Your song is ending.

At first, Rose had been glad of the Doctor’s decision to enjoy life rather than hide in the TARDIS, but it hadn’t taken her long to realise that he had merely swapped hiding for running. And if there was one thing the Doctor was good at, it was running. They had barely had more than a few hours (if any) between trips for weeks now and Rose was more than a little tired. She may not have needed as much sleep these days but she needed more than ten hours a week.

At the moment she was getting eight at best.

This was why she hated prophecies. All they did was make you worry about the future and distract you from the things that mattered. She knew she should talk to the Doctor but she was scared he would go back to hiding. At least this way he was smiling.

A hand clasped hers (as much as possible with the bulky spacesuits), drawing Rose from her thoughts. ‘Come on, let’s go explore,’ said the Doctor, tugging her hand slightly as he stepped forward through the red dirt.

This time Rose smiled properly and she quickened her pace so that she matched the Doctor’s stride. ‘So what’s on Mars?’ she asked, looking around. She couldn’t deny that the planet had a sort of beauty about it but after the first few minutes, it just seemed like one big canvas full of nothing but red. Sure there was a few rocks here and there… but mostly it was just red.

‘Well, it depends what year we’ve landed in,’ answered the Doctor.

‘You didn’t check?’

The Doctor reached a hand up to tug at his ear but lowered it again when he realised that his helmet was in the way. ‘I may have skipped that step. But that’s okay. More fun this way.’ He nudged his elbow into her side playfully and Rose let out a giggle. She couldn’t deny that not knowing their destination usually made their trips more fun… but it had gotten them in trouble plenty of times too.

Rose pushed the thought aside. When had she become such a worrywart?

Since you heard the prophecy, a treacherous part of her mind answered.

Rose shook her head to clear it and then focussed her on what was happening now. She idly wondered if she was the first human to walk on Mars.

Eventually, she and the Doctor came to a huge crater in the planet’s surface. It was quite impressive but Rose was more interested in what was in the middle of it. It looked like a base of some kind. And right next to it was a rocket that was most definitely of Earth design.

Not the first, then. But Rose didn't mind. She didn't travel to be the first person to see and do things, she just wanted to see and do them. She travelled for the joy of the experience.

‘Oh, beautiful,’ exclaimed the Doctor, looking down at the base.

Rose opened her mouth to agree with him but all that came out was a small grunt of annoyance as something that felt suspiciously like a gun was poked her into her back.

‘Rotate slowly,’ came a robotic voice from behind them and the Doctor and Rose obeyed. Rose almost laughed out loud at the sight of the little robot that was standing behind them. It was only a couple of feet tall and looked like it had a handle sticking up from the back of it, a bit like one of those wheelie suitcases. The robot didn’t have legs – it had caterpillar tracks instead, presumably to help with Mars’s tough terrain - but it did have arms and hands. One of which was holding the futuristic looking weapon that had been poking into Rose’s back a second ago.

Rose and the Doctor put up their hands in a show of surrender.

‘You are under arrest for trespassing. Gadget gadget,’ said the robot and this time Rose did laugh.

----

Unsurprisingly, the robot had taken them to the Base in the middle of the crater and it wasn’t long before the Doctor and Rose were stood in front of a woman who was obviously in charge. She had a stern face and fading blonde hair and she held herself the way commanding officers usually did – all serious and proud.

And she was also pointing a gun at them.

‘State your names, ranks, and intentions,’ she demanded.

Her gun was trained on the Doctor so he decided to answer first. ‘The Doctor. Doctor. Fun,’ he said, answering all three questions in the order that they were asked. He saw Rose’s lips twitch, fighting a smile, before she too answered.

‘My name’s Rose, I don’t have a rank, and yeah, I’m in it for the fun too.’

Their answers didn’t seem to have impressed the woman but she didn’t have a chance to demand any more from them before a man (who looked like he may be from the Pakistan region) ran into the room, staring at the Doctor and Rose like he couldn’t believe they existed.

‘What the hell?’ exclaimed the man. ‘People. People on Mars. How?’

‘They was wearing these things,’ said the young woman who had taken the Doctor and Rose’s spacesuits when they had first entered the Base. ‘I have never seen anything like it.’ She spoke with a German accent. It seemed that the organisers of this mission were big on diversity. Good for them.

‘What did Mission Control say?’

‘They're out of range for ten hours with the solar flares.’

‘If we could cut the chat, everyone,’ said the Commander/Captain/Boss-lady.

‘Actually, chat's second on my list,’ said the Doctor, ‘the first being gun pointed at my head.’ He reconsidered his ordering system. ‘Which then puts my head second and chat third, I think. Gun, head, chat, yeah. I hate lists. But you could hurt someone with that thing. Just put it down.’

‘Oh, you'd like that,’ said the Boss-lady, not putting the gun down.

‘Can you find me someone who wouldn't?’

The woman didn’t answer him but he could see it in her eyes that she conceded his point. ‘Why should I trust you?’ she asked instead.

‘Because I give you my word. And forty million miles away from home; my word is all you've got.’

The woman finally lowered her gun. The Doctor was about to thank her but then she said, 'Keep Gadget covering them,’ and he reconsidered his gratitude.

‘Gadget gadget,’ said the robot, keeping its gun trained on them.

‘I see where he got his name,’ said Rose, nodding to the robot.

But the Doctor was more focussed on the young man beside the robot, the one whom Boss-lady had directed the order to. He was wearing a peculiar set of mechanical gloves.

‘Oh right, so you control that thing,’ said the Doctor as realisation hit him. ‘Auto-glove response.’

‘You got it,’ said the man, speaking with a heavy American accent and more than a touch of arrogance, ‘To the right.’ He moved his right hand and the robot moved to the right (still keeping it’s gun trained on the Doctor and Rose). ‘And to the left.’ He repeated the movement, this time with his left hand, and the robot turned back to the left.

‘It's a bit flimsy,’ said the Doctor, mainly to wipe the smug look that the man's face. It worked.

‘Gadget gadget,’ said the robot.

‘Does it have to keep saying that?’

‘I think it's funny,’ said the man, now glowering at the Doctor.

‘I hate funny robots.’

‘Oh, you do not,’ scoffed Rose. She turned to the young man. ‘I like it. I’d like it a whole lot more if he wasn’t pointing a gun at me though.’

The man’s scowl softened and he opened his mouth to reply but closed it again when a woman’s voice came through the Base’s communication system.

‘Excuse me, boss. Computer log says we've got two extra persons on site. How's that possible?’

‘Keep the Biodome closed,’ said Boss-lady, speaking into a hand-held device. ‘And when using open comms, you call me Captain.’

Okay, it was Captain Boss-lady then.

‘Yeah, but who are they?’ asked the woman but Captain Boss-lady cut off the transmission. The room fell into silence for a few moments before the Base team resumed trying to figure out where the Doctor and Rose had come from.

‘They can't be a World State flight, because we'd know about it,’ said one of the men, this one was Australian. ‘Therefore, they’ve got to be one of the independents, yeah? Was it the Branson inheritance lot?’ The last question was directed at the Doctor and Rose. ‘They've talked about a Mars shot for years.’

The Doctor was still eyeing the gun in the robot’s hand and had finally lost his patience with all this. It was his turn to ask the questions.

‘Right, yes, okay, you got us,’ he said, spinning round to face the man. ‘So, I'm the Doctor, this is Rose, and you are?’

‘Oh, come on,’ scoffed Captain Boos-lady. ‘We're the first off-world colonists in history. Everyone on planet Earth knows who we are.’

‘You're the first?’ he asked, looking around at the people in the room. ‘The very first humans on Mars? Then this is Bowie Base One.’ The Captain said the name of the Base with him and now the Doctor had no doubt of who she was. He turned to Rose. ‘Number one. Isn’t that brilliant? Founded July 1st, 2058. Established Bowie Base One in the Gusev Crater.’ He turned to the Cpatain, now with pride in his eyes. ‘And you are Captain Adelaide Brooke. How long have you been here?’

The question was open to everyone but it was Adelaide who answered. ‘Seventeen months.’

Seventeen months? That would make it...

‘2059,’ said the Doctor. ‘It's 2059, right now.’

Adelaide was looking at him like he was a bit unhinged but he didn’t notice. He was too busy rambling off the names of the rest of the team. There was Deputy Edward Gold (the Australian man), Tarak Ital, MD (the man from Pakistan), Nurse Yuri Kerenski (he hadn’t spoken yet but the Doctor knew him to be Russian), Senior Technician Steffi Ehrlich (the German woman), Junior Technician Roman Groom (the young American who was operating the annoying robot), and Geologist Mia Bennett (she was American but came from Asian decent).

His face fell as he realised the significance of the year. It was 2059. The year they died. All of them. And even worse, it was a Fixed Point in time. He couldn’t save them.

He looked around the room at the people who were staring at him like he was a madman (which, to be fair, wasn’t that far from the truth) and he tried not to let his sorrow show on his face. Some of these people were so young. Roman was barely out of his teens and Mia was just twenty seven years old. His eyes zeroed in on the space between her and Yuri, or rather, the lack of space. He recognised the way they gravitated towards each other. They were a couple.

Unconsciously, the Doctor moved closer to Rose.

‘As I said, Doctor, everyone knows our names,’ said Adelaide.

The Doctor turned to face her with newfound respect. ‘Oh, they'll never forget them. What's the date, today? What is it? Tell me the exact date.’

He inwardly groaned as Adelaide gave him the answer he was dreading. November 21st, 2059. The day Bowie Base One was destroyed by a nuclear blast.

‘Doctor?’ asked Rose, noticing his distress.

‘Is there something wrong?’ asked Steffi, catching on to the reason behind Rose’s worry. It seemed that the Doctor wasn’t as good as hiding his emotions as he used to be.

‘We should go,’ he said and he grabbed Rose’s hand and stepped away from the group. He turned back to face them. ‘We really should go. I'm sorry. I'm sorry with all of my hearts, but it's one of those very rare times when I've got no choice. It's been an honour. Seriously, a very great honour to meet you all. The Martian pioneers.’

He moved forward and shook each of their hands (except for Roman, whose hands were still in the gloves) and then patted Gadget on the head. Finally, he got Adelaide Brooke. Shaking her hand didn’t quite seem enough so he did something that he very rarely did, he saluted her. Not a mock salute or one done out of condescending imitation. A proper honest salute. ‘Thank you,’ he told her but then paused as he remembered there were two members of the team that he hadn’t met. ‘Hold on, there's the other two. Margaret Cain and Andrew Stone.’

If he was going to leave them to die, he should at least meet them properly. He owed them that.

Ed moved over to a computer and switched on the communicator. ‘Maggie, if you want to meet the only new human beings that you're going to see in the next five years, better come take a look,’ he said.

A dreadful snarling sound was what came in answer and the people in the room all looked at each other with uncertainty.

‘What was that?’ asked Mia.

‘Oh, we really should go,’ said the Doctor to himself as he watched the team try and get a visual on the Biodome.

Rose leaned closer so she could whisper to him, ‘What’s happening?’ she asked.

‘I don’t know,’ he replied. And that was the problem. He didn’t know. No one knew. And the curiosity was killing him.

‘But you said it was one of those times where you couldn’t do anything, so this is a Fixed Point, yeah?’

The Doctor nodded, eyes focussed on the Base team.

‘I'm going over,’ said Adelaide with the leadership that the Doctor had always admired. ‘Doctor, with me.'

Oh, that wasn’t good.

‘Yeah, I'm sorry. Er, I'd love to help, but we’re leaving right now,’ he said and he ran over to retrieve his and Rose’s spacesuits.

‘Take their spacesuit, lock them up,’ Adelaide ordered and Steffi obeyed.

That really wasn’t good.

‘This started as soon as you arrived,’ continued Adelaide, fixing the Doctor with a look that was not to be argued with, ‘so you're not going anywhere except with me.’

----

The Doctor walked through the Base tunnels with Adelaide, Tarak and Gadget. They were on their way to check out the Biodome. Rose was still in the Central Dome with the others. ‘I've read all that stuff about you, Captain Adelaide,’ he told the woman who, after the events of today, would become legend. ‘But one thing they never said. Was it worth it, the mission?’

‘We've got excellent results from the soil analysis,’ said Adelaide but that wasn’t what the Doctor had meant.

‘No, but all of it,’ he pushed. ‘Because they say you sacrificed everything. Devoted your whole life to get here.’

‘It's been chaos back home,’ she said after a pause. ‘Forty long years. The climate, the ozone, the oil apocalypse. We almost reached extinction. Then to fly above that, to stand on a world with no smoke, where the only straight line is the sunlight?’ She turned her head to face him as they walked. ‘Yes. It's worth it.’

The Doctor grinned. ‘That's the Adelaide Brooke I always wanted to meet. The woman with starlight in her soul.’

But Adelaide was no longer looking at him. ‘What's that?’ she asked, nodding at something up ahead. The Doctor followed her gaze and his eyes fell on the motionless figure that was slumped on the tunnel floor not far from them. He immediately ran towards it, Adelaide and Tarak right beside him.

‘It's Maggie,’ said Adelaide.

Tarak kneeled down beside Maggie. ‘Don't touch her!’ warned the Doctor.

‘I know the procedure,’ said Tarak as he put on a pair of latex gloves, like the ones a surgeon would wear. ‘Maggie, can you hear me?’ he asked, rolling her over. Adelaide shone her torchlight so that they could see Maggie’s face. ‘It's okay, she's still breathing. She's alive.’ He activated his communicator. ‘Yuri, I've got Margaret Cain, head trauma. I need a full medpack.’

‘I've got it. Medpack on its way,’ replied Yuri over the comms.

It was only a matter of minutes before Yuri arrived with the promised medpack and a stretcher. Ed was with him.

‘Don't touch her,’ the Doctor warned them. ‘Use the gloves.’

‘Do what he says,’ said Tarak. ‘Get her to Sickbay. Put her in isolation.’

‘We're going on to the Biodome,’ said Adelaide and she started to give out orders. ‘Tarak, with me. Yuri can take care of her. Ed, go back. Gadget, stand guard. Keep an eye on this area.’

‘Gadget gadget.’

‘Captain, you're going to need me,’ insisted Ed despite the annoyed look on Adelaide’s face. ‘Andy is the only other crew member out here, and if that wasn't an accident, then he's gone wild.’

‘You've deserted your post,’ said Adelaide. ‘Consider that an official warning. Now get back to work.’

And with that, she walked off, effectively ending the discussion. The Doctor gave Ed a sympathetic look before he followed her and Tarak down the tunnel towards the Biodome.

----

They had just reached the Biodome's airlock when Steffi’s voice came through the comms. ‘Captain, that sound we heard from the Biodome. I've run it through diagnostics. According to the computer, it's, it's Andy. It registers as the voice print of Andy Stone.’

‘Understood,’ replied Adelaide. ‘Double check, thanks.’

Tarak announced that the air pressure had stabilised and the three of them walked into the Biodome. The light from their torches swept through the dark room, briefly illuminating various plants that lived there. ‘Andrew?’ called Adelaide, her voice echoing through the silence. ‘Andrew Stone? It's Captain Brooke. Andy, report. I need to see you. Where are you?’

But there was no answer.

The Doctor noticed a computer terminal and he ran up to it. With a little help from his trusty sonic, it didn’t take him long to use it to get the lights back on.

‘What's that device?’ asked Adelaide, nodding at the sonic.

‘Screwdriver,’ he answered, pocketing it.

‘Are you the Doctor or the janitor?’

The Doctor shrugged off the comment. ‘I don't know. Sounds like me. The maintenance man of the universe.’

Adelaide still didn’t look convinced. ‘You stay with me,’ she told him. ‘Don't step out of my sight.’ She turned to her teammate. ‘Tarak, go to External Door South. Make sure it's intact.’

Tarak gave a small nod and headed towards the south door.

‘Quite an achievement,’ said the Doctor, examining the plants that were growing around him. ‘First flower on Mars in ten thousand years. And you're growing veg!’

Adelaide was already walking down the aisles between the plants so he ran a little to catch up with her.

‘It's that lot,’ she said, obviously referring to her team. ‘They're already planning Christmas dinner. Last year it was dehydrated protein, this year they want the real thing.’

The Doctor smiled. ‘And quite right too.’

Adelaide didn’t look like she agreed much with the sentiment but the Doctor had become distracted by a tweeting sound above him. He looked up and his smile grew even more.

‘You've got birds!’

‘It's part of the project,’ said Adelaide, ‘to keep the insect population down.’

The Doctor lowered his gaze away from the birds and refocused his attention on the task at hand. ‘Good sign,’ he told Adelaide.

‘In what way?’

‘Well, they're still alive.’

Whatever was left of his smile fell at that. The birds were alive now but they wouldn’t be tomorrow. None of the Mars colonists would be.

Yuri’s voice coming through the comms brought the Doctor out of his internal melancholy.

‘Captain, good news,’ he said. At least somebody was happy. ‘It's Maggie. She's awake. She's back with us.’ His next few words were obviously directed at his patient as he asked her what happened.

‘I was just working,’ said Maggie. ‘Then I woke up here.’

‘What about Andy?’ Adelaide asked into her communicator. ‘We can't find him. Was he all right?’

‘I don't know. I just…’

She trailed off. The poor woman must have had quite a knock to the head to lose her recollection of the event. Either that or she had had a nasty shock.

‘If you remember anything, let me know straight away,’ said Adelaide.

‘Yuri, does she know how she ended up in the tunnel?’ came Ed’s voice.

‘And keep the comms clear,’ said Adelaide, her voice rising a little in anger. ‘Everything goes through me, got that?’

The Doctor was starting to sense that there was a backstory to the tension between her and Ed. A backstory that no one would ever know.

The comms fell silent once more and the Doctor and Adelaide resumed their task of looking for Andy. A few more minutes passed with no luck and the Doctor was just about to ask Adelaide if they should go and check in with Tarak when Yuri’s panicked voice broke through the silence.

‘This is Sickbay. We have a situation. Maggie's condition has... I don't know. I don't know what it is. It's water, just pouring out.’

‘Yuri, calm down,’ said Adelaide, very professional-like. ‘Just tell me what's happened to her.’

‘The skin is sort of broken around the mouth,’ said Yuri. The Doctor could tell that he was struggling to keep his voice even. ‘And she's exuding water, like she's drowning.’

The Doctor and Adelaide stopped as they took in what Yuri had described. Something terrible had happened to Maggie and, by the sounds of it, it wasn’t caused by anything human.

‘Tarak, this area's unsafe,’ Adelaide said into her communicator. ‘We're going back.’

No answer came back so she tried again.

Still no reply.

‘TARAK?’ shouted Adelaide, her own fear finally showing.

When still no answer came, Adelaide bolted back the way they had came. The Doctor was right behind her. Hopefully whatever had gotten to Maggie hadn’t found Tarak yet.

----

It was Adelaide who spotted Andy first. The Doctor almost ran straight passed her as she stopped suddenly to look down one of the rows of plants and slowly walk down it.

Once he had backed up a bit and caught up to her, he matched Adelaide’s slow pace and peered over her shoulder. He shone the torchlight ahead of them and then he understood why, after all that running, Adelaide had suddenly decided to take the cautious approach. Not far ahead of them was Tarak but he wasn’t alone. Andy was there too. And from what the Doctor could see, he looked a lot like how Yuri had described what had happened to Maggie. The skin around his mouth was cracked like dry clay and water poured out from his outstretched hand.

Tarak was kneeling in front of Andy, getting soaked from head to toe by the water and shaking violently.

‘Andy, just leave him alone,’ said the Doctor, as calmly as he could manage. He didn’t want to aggravate whatever had taken over Andy’s body. Maybe there was a chance that Andy was still in there.

Adelaide, however, had other ideas.

‘Step away from him,’ she said, raising her gun towards Andy. The Doctor immediately lifted a hand, urging her to lower the weapon.

‘I can help, I promise,’ he said but Adelaide just spoke over the top of him, once again ordering Andy to let Tarak go.

‘Stop, or I'll shoot.’

‘Andy, I'm asking you to take your hand away from him and listen to me.’

The Doctor and Adelaide finished their sentences at almost the exact same time and then they both fell silent, waiting for Andy’s response. He was facing them now and they could see that his eyes were pure white with a tiny black dot in the centre of each. They looked almost empty.

Finally Andy lowered his hand away from Tarak. ‘There now, that's better, hmm?’ said the Doctor, hoping that Andy could still be reasoned with. ‘So, you must be Andy. Hello.’

Suddenly Tarak’s head snapped up and he turned to face them as well. The lower half of his face was cracked and his eyes were now identical to Andy’s.

The Doctor backed away a step; whatever was happening to the crew, it was being transferred through the water. ‘We've got to go,’ he whispered, urgently. Adelaide gave a huff of frustration and lowered her weapon before they both turned and ran towards the airlock for the Biodome. They didn’t need to look behind them to know that Andy and Tarak were chasing them.

'Set the seals on maximum,’ instructed the Doctor once they had reached the airlock. Adelaide went straight to the control panel and the Doctor pulled the door closed just as Andy and Tarak caught up to them. Andy lifted his arm and sent a jet of water spraying towards them but it just bounced off the outer door of the airlock. The Doctor eyed the seals worriedly, his eyes scanning for any breach that could let the water in. Thankfully, he found none.

The water stopped spraying and the Doctor and Adelaide peered through the small window to see Andy slowly walking up to the airlock. He banged a hand against it to test its strength. Or maybe it was just out of frustration.

‘Captain, we need you back here,’ said Steffi’s voice through the comms. She didn’t sound panicked but the Doctor's mind immediately jumped to the worst-case scenario.

Adelaide’s mind, it seemed, had done the exact same thing. ‘Just tell me that Maggie is contained,’ she said. ‘Can you confirm, Ed?’

‘Confirmed. She's locked in,’ said Ed and the Doctor breathed a sigh of relief. Rose was still safe.

For now at least.

He longed to ask her for himself but he doubted Adelaide would appreciate him hijacking the comms to check in on his girlfriend.

‘Keep surveillance till I get back,’ Adelaide told her team. ‘And close down all water supplies. All pipes and outlets. Don't consume anything. Have you got that, everyone? That's an order. Don't drink the water. Don't even touch it. Not one drop.’

Outside the airlock, Andy smiled sinisterly at them. As if he knew that he would get to them eventually. That was the thing about water, it was relentless but it was patient.

And it always won.

‘Can you talk?’ the Doctor asked but neither Andy or Tarak answered.

The Doctor turned the conversation back to Adelaide but didn’t take his eyes away from the two people outside. ‘Human beings are sixty percent water, which makes them the perfect host,’ he told her.

‘What for?’

‘I don't know. I never will.’ He tore his gaze away from the window. ‘Because I've got to go. Whatever's started here, I can't see it to the end. I can't.’

But he wished he could.

Chapter Text

Rose stared at Margaret "Maggie" Cain through the clear wall of the Medical Dome’s isolation room. As soon as Yuri had told them about the woman's transformation, Ed had run out of the Central Dome to go and see for himself and Rose had followed. She didn’t given him the choice to send her back.

‘Has that door got a Hardinger seal?’ asked Adelaide as she and the Doctor ran into the Medical Dome. Rose almost cried with relief at the sight of them.

‘You all right?’ she asked the Doctor as soon as he was standing beside her. He gave her a nod and they both looked back to Maggie who was eyeing them with an expression that made Rose shiver.

‘No, just basic,’ said Ed, answering Adelaide’s question.

‘Then the moment she heads for the door, we evacuate. Got that?’

Ed nodded and then moved over to read Maggie’s scan results. ‘Pulse is low. Electrical activity in the brain seems to be going haywire.’

‘Can she talk?’

‘Don't know,’ answered Yuri. ‘She was talking before we noticed the change, but…’

‘Maggie, can you hear me?’ Adelaide asked Maggie. ‘Do you know who I am? Your commanding officer, Captain Adelaide Brooke. Can you tell me what happened?’

Maggie didn’t answer.

The Doctor then decided to take a shot at the questioning. He made a few strange sounds that the TARDIS didn’t translate (Rose figured that whatever language he was speaking in, it was really old).

‘What language is that?’ asked Ed. Him, Adelaide and Yuri were all staring at the Doctor in various states of confusion.

‘Ancient North Martian.’

‘Don't be ridiculous,’ scoffed Adelaide.

But Ed was less sceptical. ‘It's like she recognised it,’ he said.

Rose looked back to Maggie. Her gaze was now fixed solely on the Doctor. Ed was right, she did recognise the language. ‘So whatever she is now, or whatever’s taken over her… it’s been here a long time,’ she summarised. She turned to the Doctor. ‘Do you recognise it?’

The Doctor shook his head, still looking at Maggie. ‘Her eyes are different from the others’,’ he said. ‘They're clear, like she's closer to human.’

‘Not close enough for me,’ said Ed, looking sadly at what used to be his friend.

‘Where do you get your water from?’

It was Adelaide who answered. ‘The ice field. That's why we chose the crater. We're on top of an underground glacier.’

‘Tons of water. Marvellous,’ said the Doctor, his tone suggesting that it was as far from marvellous as you could get.

‘But every single drop is filtered,’ said Yuri. ‘It's screened. It's safe.’

‘Don’t look too safe to me,’ said Rose.

‘If something was frozen down there,’ said Ed. ‘A viral lifeform held in the ice for all those years.’

‘Look at her mouth,’ said the Doctor and Rose returned her focus to Maggie. ‘All blackened, like there's some sort of fission.’

‘And look at the water,’ added Rose, nodding to the cascade of fluid pouring out of Maggie’s mouth. ‘It’s like she got a never-ending supply or something.’

The Doctor nodded. ‘This thing - whatever it is - doesn't just hide in water, it creates water.’

‘And the water will consume you,’ said Maggie, her voice echoing. It almost sounded like there were multiple voices coming from her mouth, all saying the exact same thing at the exact same time.

‘Okay, that’s a little creepy,’ said Rose, taking a small step backwards.

Maggie just smiled.

‘She’s absorbed the language,’ said the Doctor.

‘So much water in your so solid shapes,’ continued Maggie. ‘Water. Always reaching to be free. You will drown in the Flood. Everyone drowns.’

Rose supressed a shiver at her words. How the hell were they supposed to fight water?

‘The Flood? Is that you?’ the Doctor asked Maggie (or whatever had consumed her). ‘Is that your consciences?’

But Maggie had fallen silent again.

‘Just tell me what you want,’ he tried instead.

He got an answer but it wasn’t from Maggie. ‘She was looking at the screen,’ said Yuri. ‘At Earth. She wanted Earth. A world full of water.’

Why was Rose not surprised?

‘Captain, with me,’ said Ed and he and Adelaide turned away from Maggie and walked over to the other side of the room to have a whispered conversation.

But their words weren’t quite hushed enough for Rose not to hear them.

‘I'm sorry, but it's an unknown infection and it's spreading,’ said Ed. ‘That demands Action Procedure One.’

‘Do you think I don't know that?’ said Adelaide and even though she was facing away from her, Rose could tell that she had her eyebrows raised.

‘I think you need reminding.’

Surprisingly, Adelaide backed down. ‘Yeah,’ she agreed.

‘Well, at least I'm good for something,’ said Ed and Rose remembered how disheartened he had looked every time Adelaide had snapped at him. There was definitely a history between those two.

‘Now and again,’ Adelaide admitted, a twinge of cheekiness appearing in her voice.

‘That's almost a compliment,’ said Ed with an almost smile. ‘Things must be serious.’

It was at this point that the Doctor decided to interrupt. ‘Sorry, sorry,’ he said, running over to them, ‘but, Action One, that means evacuation, yeah?’

Adelaide nodded. ‘We're going home.’ She raised her communicator to speak to the rest of the Base crew. ‘This is Captain Brooke. I'm declaring Action One. Repeat to all crewmembers, this is Action One with immediate effect. Evacuate the base.’

After a minute to let everyone take in her words and start the appropriate procedures, she raised her communicator again. ‘Steffi, what's your estimate on shuttle viability?’ she asked.

‘It's a nine month flight,’ answered Steffi. ‘It'll take us at least three hours to load up everything we need.’

‘You've got twenty minutes.’

Good luck, Steffi, thought Rose dryly.

‘And give me a report on Andy and Tarak.’

‘Still in the Biodome tunnel. They're just standing there, like they're waiting.’

‘Keep an eye on them. And make that twenty minutes fifteen.’ Adelaide lowered her communicator and headed for a cabinet. She opened it up and started unloading a number of first aid kits, no doubt intending to pack them up to take with them. ‘Ed, line up the shuttle. Go straight to ignition status.’

‘Doing it now.’

‘But what about Maggie?’ asked Yuri.

‘She stays behind,’ said Adelaide, her voice losing it’s hard edge that it usually displayed. ‘We've got no way to contain her on board. Close this place down. I want the power directed to the shuttle.’

The TARDIS could contain her, thought Rose and she opened her mouth to say as much but then stopped when she remembered what the Doctor had said about not being able to change anything. What if whatever had happened to Maggie was the fixed point?

She looked up at the Doctor, questioning, but he just shook his head sadly and walked up to Adelaide.

‘Thank you, Doctor. Your spacesuits will be returned. And good luck to you,’ she said, anticipating his comment about having to leave.

But the Doctor surprised her.

‘The problem is, this thing is clever,’ he said. ‘It didn't infect the birds or the insects in the Biodome, it chose the humans. You were chosen. And I told you, Adelaide, water can wait. Tarak changed straight away, but when Maggie was infected it stayed hidden inside her, no doubt so it could infiltrate the Central Dome. Which means…’

‘Any one of us could already be infected,’ finished Adelaide. ‘We've all been drinking the same water.’

‘And if you take that back to Earth, one drop. Just one drop.’

He didn’t have to finish that thought. Everyone in that room knew what the Flood could do to Earth and how fast it would spread.

‘But we're only presuming infection,’ said Adelaide. ‘If we can find out how this thing got through. When it got through.’ She walked away from him and returned to organising the evacuation. ‘Yuri, continue with Action One. I'm going to inspect the ice field.’

She left the room and Rose looked up at the Doctor. He had a troubled look on his face. ‘We should leave,’ he said, though he sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than Rose. ‘We really should.’ After a couple more moments of internal struggling, he made his decision. ‘Then again, checking the ice field wouldn’t hurt.'

Rose fought back a smile. She should have known that the Doctor wouldn’t be able to walk away – fixed point or no. He could never resist a good mystery.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her out the room, giving Yuri a wave goodbye as they left. Rose looked back, worried about leaving Yuri on his own, but he was busy gathering any medical supplies they would need for their flight home.

‘So you’ve never come across this species before, then?’ she asked the Doctor once they were out of the Medical Dome. ‘The Flood?’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘Never heard of it.’

‘But you said this was a fixed point. Or is the Flood just the beginning?’

He didn’t answer. He just gripped her hand a little tighter and quickened his pace so that they could catch up to Adelaide.

----

The trip down to check on the ice fields (which would have been made a lot shorter by the addition of bikes, as the Doctor kept insisting) had revealed that one of the water filters had busted earlier that day and the spare hadn’t fit. That meant that the rest of the crew were in the clear and could leave. Which meant that the Doctor and Rose could too.

Rose still wasn’t quite sure what about this moment was fixed but she was starting to get the impression that Captain Adelaide Brooke was rather important to the future of human space exploration. To be honest, Rose wasn’t that surprised. Despite her somewhat overbearing attitude, she was rather inspiring.

‘Now get to your ship,’ said the woman in question, handing Rose and the Doctor their spacesuits. ‘I'm saving my people, you save yourselves.’

She went back to help the rest of the team with the evacuation process. Rose thought they all looked very professional and capable and she didn’t doubt that they would be able get off this planet in record time.

Or at least, she wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the way the Doctor was looking at them. All sorrowful and guilty. She knew that look. That was the look he gave people he couldn’t save.

Rose’s heart fell as she realised why the Doctor had been so insistent to leave straight away. ‘They don’t make it out, do they?’ she whispered.

The Doctor didn’t give her an answer but she hadn’t expected one. His silence was confirmation enough anyway. The crew of Bowie Base One died this day and if they didn’t, the future history of the human race could change. Or worse, a paradox would happen. And Rose knew the sort of damage a paradox could cause. She had seen it once before and she never wanted to see it again.

Now it was her turn to look on at the people in the room with sadness and guilt. Each one of them was brilliant in their own way. She wished there was something she could do.

A minute or two went by as Rose and the Doctor just watched the crew, neither one of them being able to bring themselves to leave.

Suddenly Adelaide put her hand up, silencing the hubbub that had been caused by the evacuation proceedings. The crew fell silent and paused their tasks and now Rose could hear an insistent beeping coming from one of the computers.

‘It's the module sensors,’ said Ed, reading the screen, and the rest of the team gathered around to see for themselves. ‘Exterior twelve. The cameras are down, but there's pressure on top of the module. Two signals right above us.’

‘That means they're on the roof?’ asked Steffi and everybody looked up at the ceiling with unease.

‘How did they get inside the Dome?’ asked Yuri.

‘They used the maintenance shafts,’ said Ed.

‘The shaft's open and they haven't got spacesuits,’ said Mia. Rose didn’t miss the way that she gripped Yuri’s hand for comfort.

‘They breathe water.’

‘But they'd freeze,’ countered Steffi.

‘They've got that internal fission,’ said Yuri.

It was Mia who asked the question that everyone was thinking. ‘But we're safe, they can't get through, can they?’

As if to answer her question, the roof creaked ominously. Rose unconsciously shifted a little closer to the Doctor.

‘This place is airtight,’ said Roman but it sounded like he was trying to convince himself as much as the other members of the crew.

‘Can it get through?’ asked Steffi. She wasn’t panicking but there was no mistaking the fear in her voice. ‘Ed, can it get through?’

‘I don't know,’ answered Ed, the only one still looking at the computer screen. ‘Water itself isn't motile, but it has some sort of persistence.’

‘Everyone, listen to me,’ said Adelaide, taking charge of the situation. She pointed at the ceiling. ‘That's ten feet of steel-combination up there. We need all the protein packs or we're going to starve. Now keep working. Roman, watch the ceiling. Ed, get to the shuttle. Fire it up.’

‘I can carry more than this lot, Captain,’ said Ed but Adelaide wasn’t having any of it.

‘That's an order!’

Ed gave a nod and a little sigh. ‘Captain,’ he said. Rose could see the admiration in his eyes that was shining through the annoyance.

The crew returned to evacuation procedures and Rose leaned in to whisper to the Doctor, ‘Is there nothing we can do?’

‘I wish there was,’ he whispered and Rose could tell from his eyes that he meant it. ‘Come on. We’ve got to go.’

They gave the crew one last mournful look before they silently left the room. Neither one of them noticed Adelaide watching them go.

----

The Doctor and Rose had put their spacesuits back on and were ready to leave Bowie Base One, but when the Doctor pressed the button to open the outer airlock door, an error message flashed up on the screen.

Access denied.

He tried again.

Access denied.

Rose was just about to ask what they should do, when Adelaide’s voice suddenly echoed through the tiny room.

‘Tell me what happens.’

Rose wasn’t surprised that she had figured out that the Doctor knew what was going to happen. He as good as told her that he was a time traveller when they were checking the ice fields.

‘I don't know,’ said the Doctor in little more than a whisper.

‘Yes, you do. Now tell me.’ Her tone left no room for argument.

But the Doctor tried anyway. ‘You should be with the others,’ he said but Adelaide ignored him.

‘Tell me!’ she demanded. After a small pause where no one said anything, she spoke again. ‘I could ramp up the pressure in that airlock and crush you.’

It was an empty threat and they all knew it.

‘Except you won't,’ said the Doctor. ‘You could have shot Andy Stone, but you didn't. I loved you for that.’ Rose swallowed down the bit of hurt that came with hearing him say those words to somebody else. This wasn’t the time to be selfish. ‘Imagine you knew something,' continued the Doctor. 'Imagine you found yourself somewhere. I don't know, Pompeii. Imagine you were in Pompeii.’

Rose reached out and took his hand. It had been about a year since they were in Pompeii but she knew he still felt guilty of what he had to do that day.

‘What the hell's that got to do with it?’ asked Adelaide, not understanding the significance. Well, how could she?

‘And you tried to save them,’ continued the Doctor. ‘But in doing so, you make it happen. Anything I do just makes it happen.’

Rose squeezed his hand, silently telling him that she didn’t agree. Pompeii was not his fault and neither was this.

Their conversation was interrupted by Steffi calling for Adelaide but the Captain stayed where she was.

‘You're taking Action One,’ said the Doctor. ‘There are four more standard action procedures. And Action Five is?’

‘Detonation,’ replied Adelaide and Rose bowed her head as she realised the final fate of the people inside the Base.

‘The final option,' said the Doctor. 'The nuclear device at the heart of the Central Dome. Today, on the twenty first of November 2059, Captain Brooke activates that device, taking the base and all her crew members with her. No one ever knows why. But you were saving Earth. That's what inspires your granddaughter. She takes your people out into the galaxy because you die on Mars. You die today. She flies out there… like she's trying to meet you.’

Adelaide either didn’t believe him or didn’t want to.

‘I won't die. I will not.’

‘But your death creates the future.’

‘Help me,’ she said and Rose could see the struggle on the Doctor’s face. He always prided himself on never being able o refuse those two words. ‘Why won't you help, Doctor? If you know all of this, why can't you change it?’

‘I can't,’ said the Doctor, his voice thick with emotion.

‘Why can't you find a way? You could tell me-'

‘I'm sorry, but I can't. Sometimes I can, sometimes I do. Most times I can save someone, or anyone. But not you. Your death is fixed in time forever.’

‘You'll both die here too.’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘No.’

‘What's going to save you?’

‘Captain Adelaide Brooke.’

There was a heavy pause before Adelaide unlocked the airlock. ‘Damn you,’ she said and then she left, answering Roman’s cry of ‘WATER!’

With tears in her eyes, Rose led the way out of Bowie Base One.

Adelaide had left the comms on in her rush to help her crew so Rose and the Doctor could hear everything that was going on in the Central Dome. Rose selfishly wished that she couldn’t. She didn’t want to hear the crew die.

But she didn’t have a choice.

Steffi was first. Something had happened and she had become trapped. She must have been somewhere near a computer because suddenly a young girl's voice joined those of the crew. Steffi was playing a message from her children. Rose cried silently as she listened to Steffi being consumed by the Flood, her daughter’s voice still playing in the background.

‘Can we turn the comms off?’ Rose asked the Doctor but he didn’t answer. Rose doubted that he even could at the moment. She had never seen him look so guilty.

The shuttle prepared for lift off behind them but that just made Rose cry harder. The crew were so close to saving themselves. It wasn’t fair.

But it had to happen.

Roman was the next to die. The man who had at first seemed so full of youthful arrogance bravely told his Captain to leave him before the Flood took him over. One drop was all it took.

Listening to these people being picked off one by one and not being able to help... Rose imagined that this was what hell would feel like. And she knew it would be so much worse for the Doctor. She squeezed his hand harder before she was forced to let it go so that they could climb out of the crater. It wasn't a steep incline and it only took a couple of minutes for them to reach the top.

Then came the worse news of all. Maggie (or the thing that was now using her body) had gotten to Ed and the shuttle was down. Adelaide told Ed to get out he refused.

‘Too late,' he told her. 'They want this ship to get to Earth. Got no choice. Hated it, Adelaide. This bloody job.’ He let out a groan of pain, trying to fight the Flood. ‘You never gave me a chance. You never could forgive me.’

Rose didn’t know what Ed had done to need Adelaide’s forgiveness. And she never would. A moment later, the shuttle exploded, sending flaming debris flying across the crater. It also sent both Rose and the Doctor flying forwards a few feet.

Rose picked herself up and turned to the Doctor who was just getting to his feet. Satisfied that he was unhurt, she turned and started to head towards the TARDIS. She had taken a good ten steps before she realised that the Doctor hadn’t followed. She turned to see that he was exactly where he had been standing before, but now he was facing the other direction, staring at the Base inside the crater.

‘Doctor!’ she shouted but he didn’t move.

Rose hurried back to him and grabbed his hand. She had no idea how long they had until Adelaide initiated Action Five. By the sounds of the panicked voices coming through the comms, it wouldn’t be long.

‘Doctor, we have to go,’ she tried again.

‘I should be able to help them,’ he whispered, not looking away from the Base.

‘You can’t. It’s fixed. Remember Pompeii.’

She hated bringing that up but she had to snap him out of this. They had to get to the TARDIS.

‘But we did save someone in Pompeii. Maybe we can do it again.’

‘You saved a family that had no record of having had died. But this is different. You said that the whole crew die today. I knew you don’t want that to be true, I don’t either, but we can’t change it. If we do, everything changes.’ When the Doctor still didn’t move, she tried something else. ‘Your people – the Time Lords – this is what they did, yeah? They protected the timelines.’

‘But they’re all gone,’ said the Doctor, his voice taking an odd tone that worried Rose far more than his previous silence. ‘I’m the only one left. That power is mine and mine alone. I should be able to use it.’

‘To change history? Bend time to your will?’

‘Yes!’

Rose almost took a step back at the angry determination in his voice.

‘Then how are you better than the Master?’ At her words, the Doctor finally turned to face Rose and she could see that she was finally getting through to him. ‘You can’t rewrite history,’ she said, softly.

There was a small pause before he finally gave a small nod. ‘Not one line,’ he whispered.

He took a step away from the crater's edge and Rose would have cried with relief if it weren’t for the fact that she was still crying over what she was hearing through the comms. Yuri was gone too now.

It only took a few minutes for Rose and the Doctor to make it to the TARDIS. As soon as the Doctor closed the doors behind them, Rose took off her helmet. Adelaide and Mia had just agreed to detonate the nuclear device that would kill both them and the Flood. She didn't want to hear that.

The Doctor didn’t take his helmet off; he just silently moved to the console and pulled down the lever. The TARDIS wheezed as it took them away from Mars.

Once the central column stopped moving and they were safely in the vortex, there were a few minutes of silence where the Doctor and Rose just stood there, trying to process what had just happened.

It was the Doctor who spoke first. ‘Sometimes I hate being a time traveller,’ he said. There was nothing but defeat in his voice.

Rose understood what he meant. Just like there were some days where everybody lived, there were also days where everybody died. She walked around the console and put a gloved hand on the Doctor’s shoulder.

‘It wasn’t your fault.’

Chapter Text

It had been two days since Rose had seen anything outside the TARDIS walls. Two days since the Doctor had even suggested doing something that involved going further than the galley or the library. Two days since Rose had seen him smile.

It had been two days since Bowie Base One.

Rose bit her thumbnail as she stared at the unmoving central column. She was more than a bit worried about the Doctor and she was sure that if he would just get out of this blue box and get a taste of adventure again, it would help. And, to be honest, it would help Rose too. She was sick of sitting and dwelling on what had happened. She still felt incredibly guilty for leaving those people to their doomed fate on Mars, and she doubted that guilt would be disappearing any time soon, but she also knew that hiding from the universe was not the way to deal with it.

She just had to remind the Doctor of that fact.

Making up her mind, she stepped forwards towards the console and started the dematerialisation procedures. She wasn’t going to let the Doctor do this to himself. She had wanted some rest, but not like this. Not at the expense of the Doctor’s sanity.

It was less than a minute before the man in question came skidding into the console room, no doubt having noticed the TARDIS' change of movement. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked.

Rose turned round to face him. He still had dark circles under his eyes and his hair lay flat on his head (and wasn’t that a good a sign as any as to how far he had fallen) but at least he had showered and put on his usual suit today. ‘We’re going out,’ she said, simply. ‘Need to stretch my legs a bit.’

The Doctor opened his mouth to argue, no doubt intending to tell her that the TARDIS was infinite and she had plenty of room to stretch her legs, but Rose cut him off. ‘Please, Doctor. We can’t hide in here forever. Just a small trip, that’s all I’m asking.’

He took a moment or two to think about it and eventually let out a sigh of defeat. ‘Maybe, you’re right,’ he said just as the central column stilled and the TARDIS landed.

Rose walked up to him and leant up to kiss his cheek. ‘Thank you,’ she said before taking his hand and leading him to the doors. They stepped out of the TARDIS and Rose stopped at the sight in front of her. The TARDIS was standing in a small clearing in the middle of a forest.

That wasn’t right.

It must have shown on her face because the Doctor soon asked, ‘Not what you were expecting?’

Rose shook her head. ‘I was aiming for Cardiff, 2009. I thought we could go visit Jack. I’m sure I set the coordinates right.’

The Doctor sniffed. ‘Well, happens to the best of us.’

Was he teasing her?

Well that was an improvement from moping… and Rose would take whatever improvement she could get. ‘So, should we see where we are, then?’ she asked, smiling up at him. The Doctor’s lips twitched up into his own almost-smile and Rose almost punched the air in celebration. It was still early days but she was sure that he would be back to his usually energetic self in no time.

Their hands still entwined, the Doctor and Rose headed off to explore wherever they had landed.

----

It turned out that where they had landed had been England, 1562... and it hadn’t taken long for them to find trouble. There seemed to be a serious Zygon (big orange aliens with lots of suckers who could take on the appearance of anyone they met) incursion and the Doctor had been determined to find out what they were up to. Yet another small sign that he was getting back to his old self.

The Zygons didn't seem to have any distinguishable plan but the Doctor and Rose soon realised that it had something to do with Queen Elizabeth the First so they had decided to go with the divide and conquer approach. The Doctor had been tasked with getting closer to the Queen to protect her/make sure she wasn’t a Zygon, while Rose had scouted the castle grounds, searching for any clue as to what the Zygons were up to/where their base was.

That had been a week ago.

Now Rose was wandering through the exact same forest in which they had originally landed in, desperately hoping she was heading in the right direction towards the TARDIS. She had spent the vast majority of the past week in prison, having been captured by the Queen’s guards not hours after her and the Doctor had split up. She had no idea where she had been imprisoned but thankfully it hadn’t been too far from the castle. At first she had been worried that she wouldn’t be able to find her way back, but she had met a man - who had not exactly seemed like the law abiding citizen type but, given Rose’s circumstances, that was probably best - and he had pointed her in the right direction.

Of course all of this meant that she had not made much progress in finding what the Zygons were up to. Hopefully the Doctor had had better luck and hadn’t got himself chucked in prison too.

Something caught Rose’s eye and she stopped to get her bearings. She definitely recognised this part of the forest. The TARDIS was close.

With a new sense of hope, she quickened her pace, now certain she was heading in the right direction. The TARDIS should be in a clearing just… about… here!

Except it wasn’t.

The small clearing that Rose was positive had housed the TARDIS a week ago was now empty. The Doctor must have moved her.

Rose huffed in frustration. She was rather hoping that she wouldn’t have to go searching the castle grounds again. She didn’t fancy another run in with a bunch of uptight guards with pointy sticks. She was still sore from spending almost a whole week in that dingy cell. 16th century prisons weren’t exactly known for being comfortable accommodation venues, after all. And even when she had managed to get comfortable enough to actually nod off, Rose had soon been awakened again by recurring nightmares that she had long since thought had vanished from her subconscious.

Rose shook her head to clear it. No use worrying about that now. If the TARDIS wasn’t in the forest then she had no choice but to go searching for the Doctor.

She was just about to turn and head for the castle, guards or no guards, when the sound of the TARDIS engines filled the clearing.

Thank God for that.

Rose turned and watched with relief as the TARDIS materialised in the exact same spot it had done a week ago. She ran towards it but she didn’t even have enough time to make it to the door before the Doctor was stepping out, a slightly dazed expression on his face. As soon as he saw her, however, his face broke out into a grin. It took him less than two seconds to close the distance between them and lift her into a tight hug.

‘You okay?’ he asked once he had put her down.

‘Bit sore,’ Rose admitted, ‘but I suppose spending a week in a damp prison cell will do that.’

The Doctor frowned at that. ‘Prison cell?’

Rose gave him a curious look. She had thought that he would have figured out that she had been captured (either by royal guard or by Zygon) and she had just assumed that he would have been at least trying to free her.

But it seemed that that was not the case.

‘Where did you think I was?’ she asked.

The Doctor’s brow furrowed even further, like he was concentrating really hard. ‘I don’t know,’ he finally said, slowly.

Now Rose was a little worried. ‘Okaaay,' she said. 'Well, did you at least find out anything about the Zygons?’

His smile returned at that. ‘Zygons, yes! That’s fine. Everything’s sorted.’

Rose gave a little sigh of relief. ‘Good. Sorry I wasn’t much help. What were they up to?’

‘Haven’t the foggiest.’

And she was back to being confused.

‘What?’ she asked.

The Doctor just shrugged. ‘The details are a bit hazy,’ he said, ‘but I know that we don’t have to worry about the Zygons. At least, not until the next time we meet them.’ Rose’s uncertainty must have shown on her face because suddenly the Doctor’s hands were on her shoulders. ‘Don’t worry,’ he told her. ‘The Zygons are not here anymore. I promise.’

The honesty in his eyes was all the reassurance she needed. ‘Okay,’ she said and the Doctor’s grin returned. It was so good to see him smile again. Rose fleetingly wondered what had happened in the past week to change his mood so drastically but was distracted from that line of thought when the Doctor leaned forwards and gave her a slow and loving kiss.

Rose moaned at how good it felt and reached up to run her fingers through the Doctor's hair. It had been far too long since they had held each other this way.

‘My love?’ asked a shrill voice from somewhere behind them and the Doctor broke away from the kiss in an instant, his eyes wide with panic.

Rose turned to face the owner of the voice and saw none other than Queen Elizabeth the First herself standing at the edge of the clearing, accompanied by three guards. She looked just as shocked as Rose was.

But the Queen’s shock quickly turned to anger. ‘Guards!’ she shouted and the three men moved forwards menacingly. 'Arrest my husband!'

‘Doctor?’ asked Rose, hoping for some sort of explanation as to the Queens words. Or rather, just that last one.

‘And I think I may have married Queen Elizabeth,’ said the Doctor, speaking so quickly that the whole sentence sounded like a single word.

Well, that answered that question.

Rose didn’t have time to form a proper response before the Doctor was taking her hand and pulling her inside the TARDIS and away from the guards with the nasty looking spears. He moved to the console at once and sent them straight into the vortex but Rose just stood by the door, processing what he had just said. He had married another woman. And of course it just had to be the Queen, didn’t it? She was cultured and sophisticated and important and everything Rose wasn't.

It all felt so very familiar.

Except, last time, the Doctor and Rose had not been in a relationship. Sure, it had hurt like hell to see him fall for someone else but she had known that she had had no claim on him. But this time it was different. This time they were together and the betrayal hit Rose deeper than those guards’ spears ever could have done.

She had really thought that he had meant it all those times he had said that he didn’t want anyone else but her. She had trusted him.

Suddenly she was very angry.

She walked up to him purposefully. He opened his mouth to say something but she didn’t give him the chance.

Slap.

The Doctor, to his credit, didn’t dispute the violent reprimand. ‘Rose,’ he began but then seemed to come at a loss as to what to say.

But that was all right because Rose had loads to say.

She decided to start with, ‘You married Queen Elizabeth!’

‘It certainly seems that-’

‘You married Queen Elizabeth! A whole week I was in that prison and all that time you were playing Casanova!’

The Doctor’s head snapped up at that. ‘I wasn’t playing Casanova,’ he said, half defensive, half desperate. ‘I was trying to draw out the Zygons and I had to get close to Elizabeth to do that.’

‘Well job well done on that one because you friggin’ married her! Can’t get much closer than that.’

‘Rose-’

‘No, don’t you “Rose” me. You married another woman! You can’t even tell me that you love me but as soon as a Queen – crowned or otherwise – comes along, suddenly all your worries about domesticity fly out the window!’ There were tears streaming down her face now but Rose couldn’t find it in her to care. She had thought that she was fine with the Doctor not being able to say those words to her. She really had. She had thought that she understood he just wasn’t ready or that he just didn’t do that sort of thing. But knowing that he had been willing to marry the Queen made her think that maybe that she had been wrong. Maybe it was just her that he couldn’t say those words to.

The Doctor lifted a hand towards her cheek, obviously intending to brush away her tears but Rose didn’t let him. She took a step backwards and turned her head away slightly. But not enough so that she missed the flash of hurt in his eyes.

‘But I’m sure I had a good reason,’ he said, his eyes pleading her to listen.

Rose crossed her arms in front of her. ‘Oh, this should be good.’

The Doctor faltered for a moment, that concentrated look back on his face. ‘Well, the thing is, I can’t actually remember the reason,’ he said. ‘But it must have been a good one.’

Rose huffed in annoyance and disbelief.

‘Rose, I would never want to hurt you,’ he continued. ‘I don’t know why I did this but it must have been beyond my control. I mustn’t have had any other choice.’

The honesty in his gaze made Rose falter. ‘Do you think she drugged you or something?’ she asked, her anger fading slightly as concern started to take over. ‘And that’s why you can’t remember?’

The Doctor's gaze shifted a little so that he was now staring just over her left shoulder, as if he was unable to look her in the eye. ‘No,’ he said, a little awkwardly, almost like he wished that the answer were that simple. ‘I doubt anything from the 16th century could have that effect on me. I think I must have wiped my own memory. And I only do that when I have a really good reason. Like a paradox-preventing reason.’ His eyes refocused on hers and Rose could see that he was telling the truth.

But just because he wasn't lying, didn't mean that everything was okay.

‘Paradox preventing?’ asked Rose, trying to work out how him marrying the Queen and then erasing all memory of it could prevent a paradox. If anything, marrying Elizabeth the First would cause one.

‘Well, I have been known to run into myself every now and then,’ he explained, ‘and when that happens I usually have to forget everything that I did so I don’t use my foreknowledge to change events.’

‘So, you met your future self?’

‘Quite possibly.’

‘And then married Elizabeth the First?’

‘Yeeeah,’ he said, tugging on his ear like he always did when he was nervous or unsure about something. ‘Not really seeing the connection at the moment but I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually.’

He gave her a forced attempt at his usual grin but Rose wasn’t giving in to it. ‘So, basically, I have to wait, God knows how long, to know if I should be angry at you or not?’ she summarised.

The Doctor's smile faded. ‘Looks that way,’ he said, tentatively, like he was worried of her reaction.

And he had good reason to worry.

Eyes narrowing, she lifted her hand and slapped him on the same cheek she had done a few minutes ago.

‘Ow! What was that one for?’ he cried.

‘Just in case the Virgin Queen has lost her nickname,’ said Rose and she stalked off into the corridors of the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor staring dumbly after her, still rubbing his cheek.

Chapter Text

One of the advantages of Rose’s DNA changing was that her body didn’t need as much sleep as it used to. And this was something that she had been very grateful for over the past few days.

This was mainly because of two reasons. The first of which being that she didn’t have to spend as much time in an empty bed. She was still angry with the Doctor for marrying Queen Elizabeth and had started sleeping in her old room again. Everything here still looked exactly had it done back then, right down to the pink fluffy sheets, and Rose wasn’t sure if it was comforting or depressing. She had naively thought that she would never need to come back here except perhaps in search of some long forgotten trinket or article of clothing.

She had thought wrong.

How could the Doctor have betrayed her like that?

In all honesty, she did believe him when he said that he must have been roped into marrying the Queen somehow, and she knew how guilty he felt for doing it... but it was just so infuriating how she had to wait for answers. And she knew she couldn’t blame him for that... but that just infuriated her further. Because she had every right to feel betrayed. Her boyfriend had married another woman. But the awkward situation meant that her anger couldn’t be justified until they knew the whole story. The Doctor could have been forced to marry the Queen under the threat of death but she didn’t know that for certain. How could she be sure that this wasn’t just another case of the Doctor’s head being turned by a pretty royal who was besotted with him? Memories of standing alone on a broken spaceship kept racing across her mind. Her mum had berated her for forgiving him so easily that time - kept telling her that if he did it once he could do it again.

Maybe she had been right.

And the worst thing was that the Doctor couldn’t even tell her. Whatever he’d done wrong, if anything, he couldn’t remember doing it. And that just made Rose feel guilty as well as angry. She knew it was unfair to give him the cold shoulder for something that he may or may have not done but she had just felt so hurt and she needed an outlet. She couldn’t hold it in for the next however many years it took to find out the truth.

The second reason why Rose was glad for her lessened need for sleep was because of her nightmares. They had started back in Elizabethan England and at first, Rose had just assumed that they had just been a side effect of not enough sleep combined with the psychological trauma of what had happened on Mars. But now she wasn’t so sure. Now she was having them every time she fell asleep and each dream was more vivid than the last.

Tonight's dream was no exception.

Rose cried out in fear as she saw the Master reaching out to her, his body illuminated in a strange blue light. He was calling for her, as if willing her to take his hands so he could pull her closer.

‘Oh, Rosie. My sweet Rosie.’

Rose tried to back away but she couldn’t seem to move.

‘Rosie.’

He had a mad glint in his eyes and his lips were turned upwards in a smug smile. Rose knew that smile well. Something bad always happened whenever he wore it.

‘Rose.’

She couldn’t go through this again.

‘Rose!’

This time it was the Doctor's voice calling for her and Rose bolted upright, awake and gasping for breath as she tried to shake off the hands that her were holding her shoulders. The owner of the hands loosened his grip at once and Rose looked up to see the Doctor’s worried face.

‘You were screaming,’ he said, his eyes scanning over her, checking for any sign of injury.

‘Just a nightmare’ she assured him before slumping back down on the bed. She turned away from him, signally that she didn’t want his company (that was a lie, she wanted nothing more to be able to hide herself in his embrace but she couldn’t bring herself to do that), but he didn't leave. After a couple of minutes went by without either one of them moving, Rose figured that maybe it was time to talk properly about their situation.

‘It’s not the first time, you know?’ she said, her voice sounding oddly loud in the otherwise silent room.

‘The nightmare?’ he asked and the bed creaked as he shifted himself into a more comfortable position behind her.

‘No. Well, yes, that too… but I was referring more to us.’ When he didn’t ask for any more clarification, she continued. ‘Jimmy, my first boyfriend, the one before Mickey…’

She trailed off and she heard the Doctor let out a sound that was almost a growl. He knew how badly Jimmy had treated Rose. Well, he mostly did. Now it was time to tell him the rest.

‘You said he left you 800 pounds in debt and then ran off with another woman,’ he said, almost making it sound like a question. He wasn’t an idiot, he must have sensed what Rose was about to tell him.

But she still needed to say it out loud.

‘Yeah, he did,’ she said, still not turning around. ‘But not before I walked in on them together. I finished work early that day and went back to his flat and they were on the couch…’

She trailed off again. She didn’t think she needed to explain further. The bed creaked again (had it always been this noisy?) and she felt the Doctor put a hand on her shoulder. She finally sat up and looked at him.

‘Rose, I would never want to hurt you that way,’ he said, his eyes pleading her to believe him.

‘Then why did you?’

The Doctor’s eyes flickered down to the sheets for a second before he managed to bring them back to hers. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I just needed to get close to her to find out what the Zygons were up to. And then I thought she was one of them but I had to be sure so I did the first thing that popped into my head and I proposed. Now that I think about it, it was a terrible idea but I honestly thought she would say no. And then it turned out that the Zygon was actually the horse and we ran into the forest and then my memory is a bit hazy after that.’

Once the words had started, they had just kept tumbling out of his mouth, faster and faster, and by the end of his speech, Rose was having a bit of trouble keeping up.

‘Do you remember marrying her?’ she asked.

‘I remember standing next to her in front of a vicar. There was someone throwing flower petals. And I remember the… the kiss.’ He cringed but he carried on. ‘I remember she kissed me. But… she didn’t mean anything to me. Not like that, anyway. You, on the other hand, mean everything. Rose, I am so sorry. I could never say sorry enough. And regardless of the reason behind my actions, you have every right to hate me… but please believe that I never wanted her. I only want you.’

She took a few moments to take in all he had said. It still hurt but, looking in his eyes now, she could see that he was punishing himself more than she ever could. ‘Okay,’ she said, at last. ‘I believe you.’

Relief shone in his eyes. ‘Thank you,’ he whispered.

Rose gave a small nod, not quite sure of what to do now. She believed him and she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt – for now at least – but she wasn’t quite sure what the next step was.

Thankfully the Doctor had his own ideas of what that step should be. He leaned in closer, angling his head to kiss her but stopped, seemingly unsure if she wanted him to continue. Rose closed the gap between them and they both sighed into the first kiss they had shared in over three days. Neither of them deepened it and after they pulled away, the Doctor laid down on his back and pulled Rose to him so that her head was resting on his chest. She felt him place a soft kiss to her hair.

‘I missed this,’ he said.

‘Me too,’ she admitted. ‘I haven’t slept properly in over a week without you.’

‘The nightmares?’

That wasn’t entirely what Rose had meant but she nodded nonetheless.

‘Want to tell me about them?’

‘The Master,’ she finally said and then snuggled a little bit closer to the Doctor. She was very grateful when he tightened his arm around her protectively. ‘They’re not the same as the ones I used to have.'

The Doctor’s thumb started rubbing comforting circles on her shoulder like he usually did when they were curled up together like this and Rose paused, taking a moment to focus on the touch she had missed so much and using it to give her strength to continue. ‘In these ones he’s just standing there,’ she explained, deciding to skip the part about the flames, ‘calling to me. Or sometimes he’s just laughing. In a way, they’re worse than the ones than I used to have. Those ones just used to be memories but now... it almost feels like he’s haunting me.’

Rose shivered and the Doctor brought his other arm around her. ‘He’s gone. He can’t hurt you anymore,’ he said. He made it sound like a promise and Rose found that her anxieties eased a bit. She knew that, regardless of what had just happened between them, the Doctor would do everything in his power to protect her. And she would do the exact same thing for him.

Which is why she lifted herself out of his grip and propped herself up so she could see his face properly. There was something in his eyes that worried her. And she was fairly certain that it wasn’t anything to do with Queen Elizabeth or the Master. What ghosts was he facing?

‘What’s wrong?’ she asked him.

‘It’s nothing,’ he said but Rose wasn’t letting him brush it off that easily.

‘No, come on. I can tell when there’s something bothering you. What is it?’

The Doctor was silent for a few moments but finally answered. ‘It’s like what you said, about being haunted.’ He shifted his eyes to hers and she could now see the hint of fear in them. ‘I’ve been seeing Ood Sigma – like a mental projection of him. Since just after Mars. I think he wants me to go see him but…’ He didn’t finish but Rose understood. He was scared.

‘You think this is about the prophecy,’ she said, softly.

The Doctor nodded. ‘He was the first one to tell me that my song was ending. What if this is it?’

Rose laid her head back down on the Doctor’s shoulder and wrapped her arm around his chest. ‘What if it’s not? We won’t know unless we go see him. It might be important.’

She heard the Doctor gulp. ‘I know,’ he finally said. ‘I know we have to. Doesn’t make it any easier though.’

‘I know,’ said Rose. ‘But I’ll be right there beside you the whole time. I’m not going to let this you go without a fight, prophecy be dammed.’

The Doctor chuckled at that and, for a moment, it was like the past few days had never happened. It felt like a great weight had been lifted off of Rose’s chest. She was still worried about what had happened between the Doctor and Queen Elizabeth but, for now, she just wanted to forget about it. If the Doctor’s song was ending, she wasn’t going to spend what little time she had left with him arguing. They both deserved more than that.

She felt the Doctor place a kiss on the crown of her head and she lifted herself up to look at him. ‘So, I guess we’re going to the Ood-sphere, then.’

‘We will,’ he said but he didn’t move. Instead, he lightly trailed the back of his knuckles down Rose’s cheek and then cupped her face with one hand. He lifted his head to close the gap between them and give her another slow kiss. He pulled away just enough so that his breath ghosted across her lips. ‘Tomorrow.’

Chapter Text

The Doctor stood staring at the doors that would lead him out of the TARDIS and onto the Ood-sphere. He knew Ood Sigma was out there waiting for him but he just couldn’t seem to move his legs to go greet him. The Ood’s words from last time they had met still rang in his head.

‘I think your song is ending soon.’

What if this was it? What if this was the beginning of the end? His end.

A hand grasped his and the Doctor turned to see Rose looking up at him, her face the picture of strength and reassurance. If it weren’t for her, he doubted he would have been able to bring himself to do this so soon, if at all. He was sure that he would have run and put it off for as long as he possibly could have.

He gave her hand a squeeze in gratitude. Not just for the reassurance but also just for being there with him. After what he had done, he wouldn’t have blamed her for packing her bags and asking to be dropped off on the nearest planet. But instead she had done something that was just so Rose. She had forgiven him.

He truly didn’t deserve her.

For the millionth time in the past three days, the Doctor tried his hardest to remember just how he could have done what he did. He had married another woman! Queen Elizabeth the First, to be precise. He must have had no choice in the matter. There was just no other explanation. He would never have done something to hurt Rose like that unless there was too much a stake not to. Perhaps their lives were under threat? Perhaps the whole universe? Considering that it seemed fairly likely that his future self was involved, it wouldn’t be too much of an assumption to make.

The Doctor scrubbed his free hand down his face and let out a sigh. ‘Best get this over with,’ he said and together, he and Rose walked out onto the snowly landscape on which they had landed. Sure enough, Ood Sigma was waiting for them, a few feet in front of the TARDIS.

‘Thank you for answering the call so quickly,’ said the Ood, ‘but I’m afraid you may have still delayed too long.’

The Doctor shrugged, trying to pull off an air of nonchalance. ‘Well, you know how it is. Been busy.’

‘You will come with me.’

Ood Sigma gave them a bow and turned to walk away from the TARDIS. The Doctor and Rose shared a worried glance before following.

It only took a few minutes worth of walking before an impressive looking city came into view. The Doctor heard Rose’s breath catch and he understood why. The city was beautiful! ‘Magnificent,’ he said, smiling for the first time since landing on the Ood-sphere. ‘That is truly splendid. You've achieved all this in how long?’ he asked the Ood.

‘One hundred years,’ answered Ood Sigma.

The Doctor’s smile dropped. ‘Then we've got a problem. Because all of this is way too fast. Not just the city, I mean your ability to call me. Reaching all the way back to the sixteenth century. Something's accelerating your species way beyond normal.’

‘And the Mind of the Ood is troubled.’

‘Why, what's wrong?’ asked Rose, finally looking away from the city and facing Ood Sigma.

‘Every night we have bad dreams.’

----

Ood Sigma led them into a cave that looked like it may have been some sort of temple. The circle of Elder looking Ood sitting around a fire in the centre of the cave added weight to the Doctor’s suspicions.

‘It is returning,’ one of the Elder Ood was saying as the Doctor, Rose and Ood Sigma walked into the cave, ‘and he is returning, and they are returning, but too late. Too late. He has come.’

At the last sentence, all the Ood in the circle turned their heads to face the Doctor.

‘Creepy,’ muttered Rose, only just loud enough for him to hear. Normally he would have cracked a smile at that but he was too focussed on what the Elder Ood had been saying. It sounded an awful lot like a prophecy. Another one.

The unease that the Doctor had already felt doubled.

‘Sit with the Elder of the Ood and share the dreaming,’ instructed Ood Sigma and both the Doctor and Rose knelt down on the ground to join the circle.

‘So. Right. Hello,’ said the Doctor, a bit awkwardly, and Rose gave a little wave.

‘You will join. You will join. You will join,’ chanted the Ood and the ones on either side of the Doctor and Rose held their hands out. The Doctor took the Ood’s hand in one of his and Rose’s in the other and, when the circle was completed, his forced smile was instantly wiped off his face. Now he could see what the Ood had been dreaming about. And they had every reason to feel troubled about it. It was a vision of the Master, his head thrown back with insane laughter.

The Doctor wrenched his hand out of the Ood’s grip and turned to face Rose. He could tell that she had seen it too. Her face suddenly looked terribly pale against the warm firelight. ‘That was in my dream too,’ she said, her voice shaking a little. The Doctor wrapped an arm around her shoulder and brought her closer. ‘Well, one of them, anyway. But it was exactly the same. How is that possible?’

‘He comes to us every night,’ said one of the Elder Ood. ‘I think all the peoples of the universe dream of him now.’

‘That man is dead,’ said the Doctor. He winced as he realised that it had come out as a bit of growl.

‘There is yet more. Join us.’

The Doctor reluctantly took the Ood’s hand again. He was surprised and more than a little proud when Rose took the hand of the other Ood and joined the rejoined circle too.

‘Events are taking shape. So many years ago, and yet changing the now. There is a man. So scared.’

This time the Ood showed them a vision of another man, and on any other occasion, the Doctor would have been thrilled to see him. But the fact that he was somehow involved with whatever was going on here sent a chill down the Doctor’s spine.

‘Wilfred. Is he all right?’ he asked the Ood. ‘What about Donna, is she safe?’

If she was involved in this too… well, he didn’t want to think about what could happen to her.

‘The lines of convergence are being drawn across the Earth,’ said the Ood. ‘Even now, the king is in his Counting house.’

The vision changed again, this time to one of a rich looking black man being photographed by the press. There was a young girl by his side, probably his daughter.

‘I don't know who they are,’ said the Doctor and he turned to Rose, questioningly. She shook her head. She had never seen them before either.

‘And there is another,’ continued the Ood.

The vision changed once more and the Doctor’s (already considerable) fear increased tenfold. This time the image showed a very familiar face. It showed Rose. In the vision she was unconsciousness and being dragged by two people in dark robes or hoods.

The Doctor squeezed the real Rose’s hand. All of this was to do with the Master and the Doctor was not going to let Rose fall into that man’s clutches again.

‘We see so much, but understand little,’ said Ood Sigma. ‘What is the connection between these people and Rose?’

‘I don’t know about Wilf or the two other people,’ answered the Doctor, truthfully. ‘But Rose was… It wasn't her fault, she was…’ He fought back a growl of frustration. How could he explain what had happened the last time that they had met the Master? He couldn’t with words, that was for sure. ‘The Master, he's a Time Lord, like me,’ he told the Ood. ‘I can show you.’

The visions changed again, this time to memories of the past - memories that the Doctor had never wanted to relive. They were memories of Harold Saxon and The Year That Never Was. But the worst thing was that they were not the Doctor's memories.

They were Rose’s.

The Doctor gritted his teeth as he saw the Master lock Rose up in an isolated room and taunt her for over a year. That image was followed by flashes of her time as Rose Saxon. There were snippets of a private wedding and then an of even more private honeymoon before the vision abruptly cut off when Rose let go of the Ood’s hand and scooted back a little on the ground.

‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘The Master… he…’ She brushed a stray hair out of her face as she took a moment to strengthen her resolve. ‘He faked a life for himself,’ she continued, ‘a long time ago. Set himself up to become Prime Minister of Great Britain. That’s on Earth,’ she explained to the Ood. ‘He went inside my mind and changed it. Made me his wife. I stood at his side while he conquered the Earth and killed millions.’

The Doctor rubbed his thumb over hers comfortingly as she told her story. It had been so long ago but he knew how painful the memories still were for her. ‘I reversed everything he'd done so it never even happened,’ he told the Ood. ‘Only a few people even remember it. But I burnt his body. The Master is dead.’

‘And yet, you did not see,’ said the one of the Elder Ood.

‘See what?’

Another vision appeared, this one of a manicured hand picking up a ring from the dirt beside the Master’s funeral pyre. There was no mistaking the Gallifreyan symbols on the ring. It must have belonged to the Master. But that would mean…

The Doctor’s eyes widened in fright. ‘Part of him survived,’ he gasped. ‘We have to go!’

He went to get to his feet but the Ood stopped him.

‘But something more is happening, Doctor. The Master is part of a greater design, because a shadow is falling over creation. Something vast is stirring in the dark.’ Suddenly all the Ood’s eyes turned red. ‘The Ood have gained this power to see through time, because time is bleeding. Shapes of things once lost are moving through the veil, and these events from years ago threaten to destroy this future, and the present, and the past.’

‘What do you mean?’ demanded the Doctor.

‘This is what we have seen, Doctor. The darkness heralds only one thing. The end of time itself.’

The Doctor didn’t wait to hear anything more. He hauled Rose to her feet and together, they sprinted back to the TARDIS. As much as the Doctor wanted to take Rose and keep her as far away from the Master as possible, he knew he couldn’t. If the Ood were right, and they most certainly were, then there was too much at stake to just run away. He had to find the Master and stop whatever his plan was. He had to stop him from bringing about the end of time.

Chapter Text

The TARDIS landed with its usual groaning noise. This time it was Rose’s turn to stare at the door with uncertainty. She didn’t want to go out there. They were on Earth, 2010. Christmas Eve. The Doctor had calculated that this was the most likely time that they would find the Master. And that was the last thing that Rose wanted to do.

But what she wanted to do didn’t matter. She had to. The whole of time was at stake.

She made a step towards the TARDIS doors but stopped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to see the Doctor looking at her in a way that was a little too familiar. He wanted her to sit this one out.

‘I know you don’t like staying on the side lines,’ he began, ‘but, please – just this once – stay here.’

And this time Rose almost wanted to agree with him. She wanted nothing more than to stay as far away from the Master as possible. But there was one thing that was stopping her. Something that she couldn’t ignore.

‘I’m not leaving you to do this alone,’ she told the Doctor. ‘I’m not the only one who suffered at his hands. And he used to be your friend. I know how hard this must be for you.’

Something that Rose wanted to call love shone in the Doctor’s eyes for a moment before the concern returned. ‘He stopped being my friend a long time ago,’ he said. ‘I have no illusions that we could go back to how we were, even if he is the only other Time Lord out there.’ Rose opened her mouth to protest but stopped when the Doctor gripped her hand in his. ‘Please, Rose,’ he begged. ‘Just stay here. You don’t have to face him again. I promised that I wouldn’t let him hurt you again and I intend to keep that promise.’

There were a few tense moments where they just stared at each other before Rose finally admitted defeat. ‘Okay,’ she agreed.

The Doctor let out an audible sigh of relief and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. ‘Thank you,’ he said, softly.

He made to leave but turned around at the last minute and walked back up to her. She didn’t have time to ask him what he was doing before lifted his hand to the back of her head and brought his lips to hers. ‘Stay here,’ he whispered once he had pulled away from the kiss. ‘Stay safe.’

This time he did leave and Rose sat down on the jump seat to begin her nervous wait for him to return.

She waited five and a half hours before she decided she couldn’t take it anymore and left the TARDIS.

----

Rose had no idea where the Doctor may have been (she should really ask him to carry a mobile phone on him one of these days) so she had decided that the best place to start would be to go see Wilf. He had been in the Ood’s visions and that meant that somehow he was connected to whatever was going on here. Night had fallen by the time she had gotten into the right area of Chiswick and she was more than a little jumpy. A stray cat had darted across an alley a few blocks back and she had had her sonic screwdriver out in an instant, pointing it at the animal threateningly. She hadn’t been entirely sure how it would have helped her fight off the imagined assailant but she had seen the Doctor do it before so there must have been something in it.

To be fair, she had good reason to be a little on edge. The Ood’s visions had shown her held captive by people who, more than likely, were in league with the Master. And that was a situation that Rose was keen on avoiding. So if overreacting to every little sound she heard meant that she would be ready if anyone were to try and take her, so be it.

It was such a pity that tranquiliser darts made no such sound.

Rose cried out, more out of surprise than pain, as she felt the sharp tip of the dart hit her neck. She pulled it out and stared at with blurry vision before she fell to the ground and all went black.

----

Rose groaned as she woke from a groggy sleep. She sat up and rubbed the spot on her neck that was unusually sore. It wasn’t until she took in her immediate surroundings – a damp room that was lit only by candles and torches – that she remembered what had happened.

Well, that explained her sore neck. The bastards had shot her with a tranquiliser dart. So much for avoiding the Ood’s vision.

‘Mrs Saxon,’ said a woman's voice, making Rose jump to her feet. She wasn’t alone in the room. Along with Rose, there were about seven other people, most of which standing in the shadows at the edges of the room, making a circle.

‘You’re a hard woman to find,’ continued the woman who had originally spoken. She was middle-aged with blonde hair and dressed in sophisticated black clothing. She turned to the woman next to her, an older looking woman with fair hair and a serious face (Rose recognised her as the woman who had picked up the Master’s ring in the Ood’s vision). ‘Miss Trefusis, if you will prepare.’

Miss Trefusis gave a curt nod and left the room.

‘Who are you lot, then?’ asked Rose, looking around the room at the others. ‘What’s all this about?’

She didn’t get answer.

‘Make her kneel,’ said the blonde woman who was obviously the leader of the group. One of the people behind Rose grabbed her arm and tried to force her to the ground. When Rose resisted, another person joined in and she had no choice but to succumb. But they couldn’t stop her from glaring at the woman in front of her. ‘There are those of us who never lost faith,’ explained the woman. ‘And in his wisdom, Harold Saxon prepared for this moment. He knew that he might die and he made us ready. Tonight, Mrs Saxon, he returns.’

Rose tried not to shiver at those words but she suspected that she had failed in that regard. Thankfully no one noticed. Miss Trefusis had returned. She held out the Master’s ring.

‘As it was written in the Secret Books of Saxon, these are the Potions of Life,’ said the blonde woman as the ring was put into a bowl that was on a stand in the centre of the room.

‘The Secret Books of Saxon?’ asked Rose. ‘Seriously?’

Even in death, the Master was overdramatic.

An array of unpleasant looking liquids were also poured into the bowl and Rose decided that now was her only chance to try and stop this. These people obviously had no idea of who the Master really was. They didn’t understand the threat he posed.

‘Look, I don’t know who you lot think Harold Saxon is,' she said, 'but, trust me, you don’t want to find out. He will kill all of you without a second thought. Please, whatever you’re doing, just stop.’

But she was once again ignored.

‘Miss Trefusis, the catalyst,’ said the leader of the group and Miss Trefusis moved towards Rose, her expressionless face revealing no indication of her intent.

Rose tried to get to her feet but she wasn’t quick enough. Miss Trefusis grabbed the back of her head with one hand and used the other to wipe a tissue across Rose’s lips.

‘What was all that about?’ asked Rose as Miss Trefusis walked back into the centre of the room.

‘You were Saxon's wife. You bore his imprint. That's all we needed. The final biometrical signature.’

‘Please, you don’t know what you’re doing,’ Rose begged but it was no use. Miss Trefusis dropped the tissue into the bowl and a flash of light erupted from it. The blond woman backed up a couple of steps, obviously not expecting such a violent reaction. Soon the beam of light that was coming from the bowl turned into a swirling vortex.

‘Please, stop this,’ Rose tried again. Maybe it wasn’t too late. ‘If the Master comes back, he will kill all of you.’

But the woman’s shock at the burst of light had faded and she now looked more resolute than ever.

‘We give ourselves that Saxon might live,’ she said. Her words were more than just a promise made in retaliation of Rose’s plea; they were an offering.

Rose watched in horror as a light appeared in the centre of each of the bodies around the room and flowed into the vortex in the middle. It was like it was sucking their very life force from them.

‘Don’t do this,’ begged Rose. ‘He’s lied to you. Saxon isn’t even his real name!’

‘And this was written also,’ shouted the woman as she and the others lowered themselves to their knees, arms stretched out wide, ‘for his name is the Master!’

At the woman’s declaration, a figure formed in the centre of the vortex – a figure that Rose had hoped never to see again. Rose scrambled to her feet and stared in shock at the half naked form of the Master.

‘Never. Never. Never. Never. Never dying,’ he said, his eyes displaying an insanity that shocked even Rose. ‘Never dying! Never dying! Never dying! Never dying!’ He threw his head back as he laughed… he looked exactly how he had done in her dream.

After his inane laughter had died down, his eyes focussed on Rose. ‘Oh, Rosie,’ he said, holding his hands out to her. ‘My sweet Rosie. Did the widow's kiss bring me back to life?’

Rose couldn’t seem to move, she was frozen in fear. All the nightmares she had had over the past week had suddenly become frighteningly real.

‘Can't you hear it, Rosie?’ continued the Master as he placed his hand on his ears, as if trying to block out some incredibly loud sound. But Rose couldn’t hear anything – just the swirling wind of the vortex. ‘The noise? The drumbeat louder than ever before. The drums. The never-ending drums.’ He lowered his hands back down to his sides. ‘Oh, I have missed them.’

Suddenly the contents of the bowl started sparking ominously.

‘No!’ cried the Master before looking back up to Rose. ‘Something’s wrong. The bio signature has been contaminated. What have you done?’

‘Did you really you would be the only one to ever kiss me?’ asked Rose, proud of how steady her voice sounded despite the fact that she was trembling inside.

‘But it would take more than mere human,’ he spoke the word like a curse, ‘to contaminate…’

Realisation dawned on him and he opened his mouth to say something more but he didn’t get the chance. More sparks erupted from the bowl, so intense that they almost blocked the Master from Rose’s view entirely.

Now would probably be a good time to get out of there.

Finally, Rose’s legs started working and she didn’t look back as she ran out of the room. She had no idea what was happening but she assumed that the Doctor’s DNA had gotten in the way of the bio signature that had been collected from her lips and now the Master’s resurrection was going haywire. With any luck, it would backfire completely and Rose could get out of the building (which looked to be some sort of prison) before the whole place went up in flames.

But when had Rose ever been that lucky?

She was almost out of the building when the explosion happened. The force of the blast sent her flying forward through the air and she landed face first on the ground. Bricks from the prison wall rained down on her and for the second time that night, Rose lost consciousness.

----

The Doctor walked back into the TARDIS in a foul mood. He had been out almost all night but he had found no trace of the Master or the woman who had picked up his ring.

‘Rose?’ he called out as he closed the door behind him and walked up to the console. He expected her to come running into the console room but after a minute or two had gone by with no sign of her, the Doctor began to worry. He briefly considered going searching for her in their bedroom or the library but decided it would be quicker to do a scan of the TARDIS. He had a nagging feeling that he shouldn’t be wasting time with a fruitless search.

Thirty seconds later the console beeped and confirmed what the Doctor had feared. Rose was no longer on the TARDIS. He growled in frustration. He knew he should have come back sooner. What the hell was he thinking staying out so long? Of course she would have gone out to try and help him. She was never one to stand by and do nothing. He should have known better than to leave her in the TARDIS. He had been trying to protect her from what the Ood had foreseen but, in doing so, he may have made it happen.

He grabbed the TARDIS phone and dialled Rose’s number. He let out another frustrated growl when it went straight to voicemail. He slammed the receiver down and headed back towards the TARDIS doors, his coat billowing behind him. He had to find Rose before the Master did. He just hoped he wasn’t too late.

----

Joshua Naismith watched the video that was playing on his laptop. It was footage of Broadfell Prison from the previous night. The prison had been destroyed in an explosion that nobody knew the cause of. Well, almost nobody. For Joshua had good intelligence that the prison had been where a man had been brought back into this world. A man who could make all of Joshua’s plans become reality.

The door to the study opened and he cast his eyes away from the computer screen to watch his daughter, Abigail, walk in. ‘I think we might be in luck, darling,’ he told her as she placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned down to get a better view of the laptop screen. ‘It's last night's footage from Broadfell Prison. Take a look at this.’

Joshua skipped the video to the most interesting part. At first the image showed nothing but the bright flames that had engulfed the ruins of the prison, but then a silhouetted figure ran across the camera’s view. The figure ran too fast to be distinguishable in any way but Joshua was almost certain of who it was.

‘Someone survived!’ gasped Abigail. ‘Do you think it's him? Oh, that would be such a Christmas present.’

Joshua chuckled. He got up out of his chair and turned to face his daughter. ‘You just leave it to-’ He was interrupted by a knock on the door. ‘Come in,’ he called and two men in sharp suits entered the room. They were carrying an unconscious woman in their arms.

Abigail almost squealed in glee and Joshua’s smile grew. ‘Is she still alive?’ he asked and the men nodded. ‘Good. If we wish to gain the help of Harold Saxon, it will be most useful to have his wife in our care.'

He instructed the men to tie Mrs Saxon up and to let him know when she regained consciousness. Then he and Abigail walked out of the study and into Joshua’s favourite room. It was the biggest room in the house and was beautifully lit by the sun that shone through the domed glass ceiling but that wasn’t why he loved it so much. The reason why Joshua liked this room above all others was because of what was inside it. His master project.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he addressed the scientists in the room, ‘it seems help is at hand. Christmas is cancelled. Prepare the gate.’

Chapter Text

Shortly after leaving the TARDIS, the Doctor had gotten wind of a strange explosion that had occurred just a few hours beforehand and decided that that would be the best place to start looking for either the Master or Rose. Strange inexplicable happenings were both of theirs specialities after all.

When he had gotten to the building site, the sun had just risen in the sky and the flames that had engulfed the prison were little more than embers. He searched the rubble, hoping that he was wrong and that Rose had not been here when the explosion had happened. He found no sign of her but he felt no relief. If she wasn’t here then where was she?

Then he noticed an odd smell in the air. He couldn’t describe it but he had no doubt what had caused it. Whatever the Master had done to come back had left trace of energy. It was so faint that it would be undetectable to humans but the Doctor’s superior senses had no problem picking up the trail.

A trail that would lead him straight to the Master.

----

A few hours later, the Doctor was standing on a hill overlooking a rubbish dump by the docks. The smell of the rotting trash was strong but he could still smell the energy trail underneath it. The Master was definitely here.

Suddenly a series of loud bangs echoed across the dump, the sound of metal being smacked on metal. There were four of them.

The Doctor fought down the bit of panic and focussed on pinpointing where the sound had come from.

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

There! He couldn’t see the source of the noise but now that he knew where it was coming from, he wasted no time in turning on his heel and heading towards it. He was halfway there when he spotted him – the Master – standing atop of a small hill just ahead. The Doctor skidded to a halt and the two men just stared at each other for a moment before the Master let out an angry cry.

The Doctor almost backed up a bit. The Master had always been a bit overdramatic but he had never resorted animalistic screaming.

Then, suddenly, the Master leapt into the sky and away from the Doctor. And it wasn’t a normal leap either – no simple hopping a few feet forwards and hitting the ground running. No, the Master soared up high until he was little more than a black dot in the sky and then practically flew over the hill he had been standing on and disappeared over the other side.

The surprises just kept on coming today, it seemed.

The Doctor didn’t have time to ponder it. It didn’t matter how the Master could do that, all that mattered was that the Doctor had found him. Now he just had to stop him.

He ran over of the hill on which the Master had previously been standing on and it wasn’t long before he found the the man in question waiting for him. The Doctor stopped again, wary of a trap. He couldn’t afford to be caught off guard; he still had to find Rose.

The Master started chuckling menacingly, increasing the Doctor’s suspicions of traps. His skin flashed blue and, for a second, his skeleton could be seen before everything returned to normal. Well, normal apart from the insane look in his eyes. Whatever the Master had done to bring himself back had obviously gone wrong and now he was burning out his own life force.

But the Doctor wasn’t too worried about that at the moment. The Master could burn his own life force up all he liked as long as he didn’t lay a finger on Rose.

Or cause the end of time itself. It would be preferable if that didn’t happen either.

‘Where’s Rose?’ shouted the Doctor, not moving any closer (it still could be trap).

The Master didn’t answer him; instead he bolted (feet on the ground this time) in the other direction. The Doctor once again made chase but he didn’t get very far. A group of people got in his way, led by a familiar face.

‘Oh, my gosh, Doctor. You're a sight for sore eyes,’ said Wilf as he and the rest of the group (who all looked to be about Wilf’s age) approached.

‘Out of my way!’ shouted the Doctor, not caring how rude he sounded, but it was too late. The Master was nowhere to be seen. The Doctor growled in frustration and then turned back to Wilf. ‘Have you seen Rose?’ he asked him, cutting off a little old woman who was already speaking.

‘No, why? Isn’t she with you?’ asked Wilf.

‘She’s missing,’ said the Doctor, his anger at his chase being interrupted slowly fading.

‘Oh my word,’ said Wilf, picking up on the Doctor’s worry. He turned to his friends. ‘Right you lot, we still have work to do. We’ve found one of our targets but the other is still M.I.A. Young, blonde girl, the one I told you about. Well come on, don’t just stand there.’

The group all nodded and then dispursed. The Doctor leaned closer to Wilf so that he could keep his voice low enough for the lingering few pensioners not to hear. ‘You told them who I am? You promised me.’

‘No, I just said you were a doctor, that's all,' Wilf assured him. 'And might I say, sir, it is an honour to see you again.’ He saluted and then ushered the Doctor away from the docks and after the group of people who had just left. ‘Wait up,’ he called after them. ‘You can give us a lift.’

‘Wilfred, I’m sorry but I really don’t have time for this,’ said the Doctor but he followed the man anyway. ‘I have to find Rose.’

‘The Silver Cloak will find her,’ said Wilf, reassuringly. ‘We found you, didn’t we? But I need to talk to you. It’s important.’

‘Silver Cloak?’ asked the Doctor, confused. ‘And how did you find me, by the way?’

Wilf started to go into a story about how this person talked to that person who had seen another person but the Doctor cut him off. ‘Look, it doesn't matter. Well done on finding me, it’s not an easy task, but I really should be out there looking for Rose too. Things are happening, Wilfred. Terrible things and I’m afraid that Rose is caught up in the middle.’

‘Wouldn’t have anything to do with a blonde man with crazy eyes?’ asked Wilf and the Doctor froze. Of course! Wilf had been having the dreams too. He was somehow involved in this as well. The Doctor almost smacked himself for not thinking of that sooner. He rocked his head back and forth as he debated within himself as to what to do.

‘Okay,’ he finally agreed. 'I'll come with you. But not for long.'

----

One extremely awkward minibus ride later (complete with unwanted advances by Wilf’s friend, Minnie), the Doctor and Wilf were dropped off outside a café. ‘What's so special about this place?’ asked the Doctor as Wilf led him inside. ‘We passed fifteen cafes on the way.’

Wilf didn’t answer him, instead he greeted the girl behind the counter with a friendly ‘Afternoon’ and ordered a coffee for each of them.

‘Oh, we had some good times, didn't we though?’ he said with a smile once he and the Doctor were sat at table, steaming mugs in front of them. ‘I mean, all those ATMOS things, and planets in the sky, and me with that paint gun.’ He mimed shooting the aforementioned paint gun and then chuckled to himself. The Doctor got the impression that he was avoiding whatever it was he really wanted to talk about.

‘You mentioned a man with crazy eyes,’ said the Doctor, prompting him. He didn’t have time to reminisce. He needed Wilf to get to the point so that he could get back to finding Rose and stopping the Master.

Wilf's smile faded. ‘I keep seeing things, Doctor. This face at night.’

Suddenly the Doctor had a very suspicious thought. ‘Who are you?’ he asked.

Wilf looked a little taken aback at the question. ‘I'm Wilfred Mott.’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘No. People have waited hundreds of years to find me and then you manage it in a couple of hours.’

‘Well, I'm just lucky I suppose.’

‘No,’ the Doctor said again, ‘we keep on meeting, Wilf. Over and over again like something's still connecting us.’

‘What's so important about me?’ asked Wilf, still not understanding what the Doctor was talking about. He reminded the Doctor so much of Donna in that moment, never seeing how special she truly was. It seemed that that particular trait ran in the family. Or maybe it was just a flaw of the whole human race.

The Doctor scrubbed his hands down his face. He hadn’t meant to be so rude. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘There’s just so much going on. Rose is missing and the Master is out there and…’ He turned away and sniffed. ‘And I'm going to die.’

Wilf did;t seem to know what to say to that. ‘Well, so am I, one day,’ he said after a moments pause.

‘Don't you dare.’

‘All right, I'll try not to.’

The Doctor let out a huff of laughter at that, grateful for Wilf's attempt at cheering him up. ‘But I was told,’ he continued. ‘He will knock four times. That was the prophecy. Knock four times, and then…’

He didn’t need to finish that sentence.

‘Yeah, but I thought, when I saw you before, you said your people could change, like, your whole body,’ said Wilf.

‘I can still die,’ explained the Doctor. ‘If I'm killed before regeneration, then I'm dead. Even then, even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away… and I'm dead. And Rose… What?’ Wilf had become distracted by something outside the café window. The Doctor turned and saw Donna standing beside a parked car on the other side of the street.

This must have been what Wilf had really wanted to talk about.

‘I'm sorry, but I had to,’ he said when the Doctor turned back to glare at him. ‘Look, can't you make her better?’

‘Stop it,’ snapped the Doctor. He really didn’t need the extra guilt right now.

‘No, but you're so clever. Can't you bring her memory back? Look, just go to her now. Go on, just run across the street. Go up and say hello.’

‘If she ever remembers me, her mind will burn, and she will die!’

And he wouldn't let that happen.

Donna’s voice carried over from where she was still stood beside the car, shouting at a traffic warden. The Doctor couldn’t help but chuckle at that.

‘She's not changed.’

‘Nah,’ agreed Wilf. ‘Oh, there he is.’ He pointed to a man who had just walked up to Donna. ‘Shaun Temple. They're engaged. Getting married in the spring.’

‘Is she happy? Is he nice?’ asked the Doctor, remembering all too well how Donna's last engagement had ended.

‘Yeah, he's sweet enough,' said Wilf. 'He's a bit of a dreamer. Mind you, he's on minimum wage, she's earning tuppence, so all they can afford is a tiny little flat. And then sometimes I see this look on her face, like she's so sad, but she can't remember why.’

‘She'll be fine,’ said the Doctor, trying to convince himself more than Wilf. ‘She’s got him.’

‘She's making do.'

‘Aren't we all?’

Wilf backed down and the Doctor knew that he had won. ‘You didn’t need me for this,’ he continued. ‘The other me stayed behind to look out for her, surely you’ve seen him.’

Wilf nodded. ‘Yeah, used to talk to him quite a bit. But he left shortly after Donna met Shaun. I guess he thought that he wasn’t needed anymore. He went off to help that UNIT lot.’

The Doctor nodded in understanding. He knew how hard it must have been for the other him to stay in one spot, forever being reminded of what he had lost. He didn’t really blame him for leaving as soon as he thought he could.

‘Is there really nothing you can do?’ asked Wilf, mournfully, as he watched Donna and Shaun drive away.

‘I wish there was,’ said the Doctor, truthfully. But there wasn’t. And he wasn’t about to risk Donna’s life by trying.

Wilf nodded in defeat. ‘Well, I suppose I should let you go find Rose,’ he said. ‘I’ll keep the Silver Cloak looking for her too.’

‘Thank you,’ said the Doctor, getting up from his chair and heading towards the door.

‘Good luck,’ Wilf shouted after him but he was already gone.

----

By the time the Doctor found the Master again, night had fallen. He was back near where he had started, in an abandoned shipping yard.

This time the Doctor didn’t worry about any traps; he just strolled determinedly forward. Even when the Master started shooting bolts of energy from his hands, the Doctor’s pace didn’t falter.

At least, not until the third bolt of energy hit him square in the chest.

It felt like a lifetime but, finally, the energy faded and the Doctor fell to his knees. The Master rushed forward and caught him but a moment later, let go and let him fall the rest of the way to the ground.

‘I had estates,’ said the Master, crouching down a foot or so away from him. ‘Do you remember my father's land back home? Pastures of red grass, stretching far across the slopes of Mount Perdition. We used to run across those fields all day, calling up at the sky.’ He sat down on the dirt and scowled. ‘Look at us now.’

But the Doctor wasn’t interested in reminiscing. ‘Where’s Rose?’ he asked, still slightly winded from having being struck by the Master's energy bolt.

‘Ah, our lovely little Rosie,’ said the Master, almost tauntingly. ‘She brought me back but it went a bit wrong. That’s your fault by the way. It’s your fault and I am so hungry.’ He looked out across the yard, his scowl back in place. ‘That human Christmas out there. They eat so much. All that roasting meat, cakes and red wine. Hot, fat, blood, food. Pots, plates of meat, and flesh, and grease, and juice, and baking, burnt, sticky hot skin. Hot. It's so hot.’

‘Stop it,’ snapped the Doctor. ‘What have you done with Rose?’

The Master ignored him, or at least the Doctor really hoped he had. ‘Sliced. Sliced. Sliced,’ he continued, sounding crazier by the second. ‘It's mine. It's mine. It's mine to eat and eat and eat.’

‘Stop it,’ tried the Doctor again. ‘This is bigger than just you or me.’

Finally the Master fell silent.

‘I've been told something is returning.’

The Master rolled his eyes. ‘And here I am.’

‘No, something more,' said the Doctor with a growl of frustration and pain. 'I was told the end of time.’

The Master put his hand to his head. ‘It hurts,’ he said. ‘Doctor, the noise. The noise in my head, Doctor. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Stronger than ever before. Can't you hear it?’ He crawled forwards and placed his fingers on the Doctor’s temple. ‘Listen, listen, listen, listen. Every minute, every second, every beat of my hearts, there it is, calling to me. Please listen.’

And as the Master’s mind touched his, the Doctor could hear it. The sound of drums that the Master claimed had been plaguing him all his life.

No wonder he went mad.

The Doctor pulled away with a gasp.

‘What?’ asked the Master.

‘I heard it. But there's no noise. There never has been. It's just your insanity. What is it? What's inside your head?’

The Master began to giggle manically. ‘It's real,’ he said as if the Doctor had just given him his salvation. Perhaps he had done. ‘It's real. It's real!’ He leapt up into the air and away. It was one of those unnaturally huge leaps that he had done earlier but this time he used energy bolts from his hands to propel himself. The Doctor struggled to his feet and set off after him.

He didn’t have to go far, the Master was still in the same yard, standing atop of a mound of dirt. ‘All these years, you thought I was mad,’ he shouted. ‘King of the wasteland. But something is calling me, Doctor. What is it? What is it? What is it?’

Suddenly a bright light surrounded him. It was coming from a helicopter. A second later, a similar light shone down on the Doctor as well. Before either pf them could even shield their eyes against the light, two ropes dropped from the helicopter and two men climbed down. One of the newcomers grabbed the Master while the other stuck a needle in his neck.

‘Don't!’ shouted the Doctor. He couldn’t afford to lose the Master again.

He ran forward and suddenly a burst of gunfire cut across his path. Whoever these men were, they had come prepared for a fight. But the Doctor kept running, determined to reach the Master who was now being hauled up into the helicopter. Deep down, he knew it was too late but he didn’t care. He had to do something.

‘Let him go!’ he shouted.

His answer came in the form of a sharp pain surging through his back and the Doctor let out a strangled cry before he fell to the ground and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Rose had been awake for a few hours before she had finally been introduced to her hosts. She instantly recognised them as the two strangers in the Ood’s vision. The man was named Joshua Naismith and the young woman was his daughter, Abigail. Rose still didn’t know much about what part these two were destined to play in "the end of time” but if she were to hazard a guess, she would say that they were the sponsors. The house she was being held in was huge and tasteful and the machine in the room in which Rose was currently situated just screamed look at all my money. Naismith even had his own team of scientists operating it. Rose very much doubted that the giant machine (which was apparently called “the Gate”) was of human origin.

But the question was, were Naismith and his daughter?

The doors opened and Rose craned her head around to face whoever had walked in, the ropes securing her rubbed painfully against her skin as she did so.

It was Naismith.

‘My dear, Rose,’ he said as he walked over to stand in front of her. ‘I have a surprise for you.’ She really didn’t like the sound of that. ‘It is time to reunite you with your love.’

Rose fought to keep the worry from showing on her face. If they’d captured the Doctor, then there went her best chance of getting out of here.

The doors opened again and Abigail entered the room, followed by two men who were wheeling in another man who was securely fastened to a chair. But it wasn’t the Doctor.

‘Mr and Mrs Saxon together again at last,’ said Naismith with false sentiment.

The Master winked at her and Rose scoffed. ‘Believe me, there is absolutely no love shared between me and that man,’ she told Naismith. She knew that saying that would not get her out of there - Naismith wasn’t just going to let her go - but it was worth it just to see the smug smile fail from the man’s face.

Naismith turned to the Master and then nodded at another man in the room. ‘If you would, Mister Danes.’

Mister Danes nodded and walked over and undid the strap that was covering the Master’s mouth, allowing him to speak.

‘I'm starving,’ were the first words that came out of his mouth.

Naismith ignored him. ‘You've my daughter to thank for this. It's all her idea. She heard rumours of Harold Saxon, his disciples, his return. It's the sort of thing she finds rather thrilling.’

‘And I was right,’ said Abigail, barely containing her glee. ‘He's back. The very man we need, and he's here. Oh, this is going to be wonderful.’

‘And why should I help you?’ asked the Master. ‘What’s in it for me?’

Naismith turned his head towards Rose, a sinister smile playing on his lips. The Master’s eye’s lit up as he realised what his reward would be.

‘When do we start?’

----

When the Doctor woke up, it was daylight again. It had officially been over twenty-four hours since Rose had gone missing. And to make matters worse, there was no longer enough of an energy trail left to follow the Master. It had disappeared along with helicopter and the men who had taken him. But why had they taken him? And who were they, or, probably more accurately, who did they work for? It wouldn’t have been UNIT; they wouldn’t have knocked the Doctor out. Same thing went for Torchwood (Jack’s Torchwood anyway), so it must have been some other third party that wanted the Master.

Just great, thought the Doctor. As if there wasn’t already enough going on.

The Doctor slowly walked away from the derelict shipping yard and back to the TARDIS. He had to find Rose and the Master and he only had one hope left.

----

Wilfred Mott looked down at the gun in his hand. It was his old service revolver that had never been used for its intended purpose. Wilf was very proud of the fact that he had not killed anyone during the war. The gun in his hand had never fired a fatal bullet.

But now it seemed that that might be about to change.

He had been warned, by a strange woman whom he knew nothing about other than she seemed to know the Doctor, that there was a time coming where he will have to bear arms. Wilf wasn’t an idiot; he could put two and two together. This warning that the woman had given him had something to do with the prophecy that the Doctor had mentioned – the one that had told of his death.

A thunk sound came from his bedroom window and Wilf looked up to see the Doctor outside, walking back to that blue box of his. Think of the devil. Wilf hastily (but safely) put the gun in his pocket and hurried out of the house.

‘I lost him,’ said the Doctor as he strolled purposely up towards Wilf. ‘I was unconscious. He's still on Earth, I can smell him, but he's too far away.’

That all sounded very important but Wilf had bigger concerns. ‘Listen, you can't park there,’ he said, pointing to the TARDIS which was in plain view. ‘What if Donna sees it?’

‘I’ll move it in a sec,’ promised the Doctor, 'but I need your help. You're the only one, Wilf. The only connection I can think of. You're involved, if I could work out how. Tell me, have you seen anything? I don't know. Anything strange, anything odd?’

‘Well, there was a…’ Wilf tailed off, remembering the strange woman and how she had told him not to tell the Doctor of her appearance. He wasn’t sure why, but he trusted her.

‘What? What is it?’ asked the Doctor. ‘Tell me.’

‘Well, it was... No, it's nothing.’

But the Doctor wasn’t giving up. Wilf had never seen him look so desperate. ‘Think. Maybe something out of the blue. Something connected to your life. Anything.’

Actually, there was something.

‘Well, Donna was a bit strange,’ Wilf told him. ‘She had a funny little moment, this morning, all because of that book.’

‘What book?’ asked the Doctor, grabbing hold of whatever Wilf could give him.

‘Hang on a minute, I’ll show you.’

Wilf ran inside and retrieved the book, thankfully avoiding any questions from Donna or Sylvia. ‘His name's Joshua Naismith,’ he said as he handed it to the Doctor who was waiting just outside the back door.

‘That's the man,’ said the Doctor, a tiny bit of hope now shining in his eyes. ‘I was shown him by the Ood.’

‘By the what?’

‘By the Ood.’

‘What's the Ood?’

The Doctor waved the question away. ‘They're just the Ood. But it's all part of the convergence. Maybe? It may be touching Donna's subconscious. Oh, she's still fighting for us, even now. The Doctor Donna.’

Wild didn’t understand half of what the Doctor had just said but he understood enough to know that he had good reason to be proud of his granddaughter at that moment.

‘Dad, what are you up to?’ came Sylvia’s voice and, a second later, she emerged from the house. Her eyes narrowed as soon as she spotted the Doctor. ‘You. But... Get out of here.’

Wilf felt a stab of guilt for how this daughter was speaking to his friend. He didn’t blame her of course, not when seeing the Doctor could end Donna’s life, but he still didn’t think the Doctor deserved the harshness of her words.

‘Merry Christmas,’ said the Doctor and Sylvia’s eyes softened a bit.

‘Merry Christmas,’ she replied, her tone a bit friendlier now. ‘But she can't see you. What if she remembers?’

As if to illustrate her point, Donna’s voice echoed from somewhere just inside the house.

‘Mum, where are those tweezers?’

‘Go,’ urged Sylvia, looking at the Doctor with panic in her eyes.

The Doctor nodded in agreement. ‘I'm going.’

But Wilf couldn’t let him go alone. ‘Yeah, me too,’ he said, following him around the side of the house and out the gate.

‘Oh no, you don't,’ said Sylvia, chasing after him. ‘Dad, I'm warning you.’

Warning noted.

‘Bye, see you later,’ he told Sylvia without turning around.

The Doctor turned the key in the door to his blue box but just before he opened it, he turned to face Wilf. ‘You can't come with me,’ he said.

‘You're not leaving me with her,’ countered Wilf, nodding at his still shouting daughter.

The Doctor looked to Sylvia and then back to Wilf. ‘Fair enough,’ he said and then led the way into the TARDIS.

----

Naismith and his daughter walked back into what Rose had decided to call the “Gate room” (not very original considering that the Gate was the main feature of the room but she wasn’t really in the mood to try and think of anything better). The Master walked behind them, bound by a straightjacket. It suited him, thought Rose but she wondered just how long he would be wearing it. She had seen first hand what this man could do and she doubted that he could be so easily contained.

But at the moment, he didn’t look like he particularly wanted to escape his confines. And that was what worried Rose most. What plan was ticking away in that insane mind of his?

Naismith instructed one of the scientists to activate the Gate, a demonstration for the Master’s benefit, and the giant machine lit up with energy.

‘That's not from Earth,’ said the Master, confirming Rose’s earlier suspicions about the Gate.

‘And neither are you,’ said Naismith. ‘A perfect combination, don't you think?’

So it looked like the Naismiths were human then.

One of the scientists approached Naismith. He looked a little nervous. ‘Er, excuse me, sir. If I could check the basement? We're getting fluctuation on the power cords.’

‘Of course,’ said Naismith and relief shone in the scientist’s eyes. He asked another scientist, a woman who didn’t look nervous in the slightest, to help him and the two left the room.

Naismith nodded to Mister Danes and the man moved forward to remove the Master’s straightjacket. Once free, Naismith gestured to the table in the room and the two men sat down.

‘The Gate was found inside a spaceship buried at the foot of Mount Snowdon,’ explained Naismith. ‘It was moved to an institute known as Torchwood, but when Torchwood fell… let's just say, I acquired it.’

Rose almost rolled her eyes; she should have known that Torchwood would have been involved somehow.

The Master smiled at Naismith. ‘I like you.’

‘Thank you.’

‘You'd taste great.’

Everybody in the room, including Rose, looked a little scared at the Master’s remark. Even Naismith’s smile fell.

‘Mister Danes?’ he asked.

‘The visitor will be given food,’ said Mister Danes and some servers walked in carrying a great big silver dish. They placed it on the table in front of the Master and lifted the lid. On the dish was a whole roast chicken. Rose almost groaned at the sight. She hadn’t exactly been receiving quality meals since she was brought to the house.

Her appetite soon disappeared though when the Master grabbed the meat and devoured it with no regard for table manners. He just ripped the meat off the bone with his hands and shoved it into his mouth. The chicken was gone within the minute.

‘Anyway,’ said Naismith, looking a little nauseous at the Master’s display, ‘the device came equipped with it's own power supply. A Nuclear Bolt.’ On the other side of the room, a scientist walked into one of two glass chambers. Once inside, he pressed a button and the scientist in the other chamber could now open the door and walk out. It seemed that one chamber had to be locked for the other to be unlocked which meant that there was always a person inside. ‘One technician remains in charge of the feedback twenty four hours a day,’ continued Naismith, confirming Rose’s theory, ‘and the power feeds through to the Gate, where it encourages some sort of cellular regeneration. Miss Collins was our test subject. She carried some burns as a result of an accident when she was a child, down her left side. If you could?’

One of the scientists, Miss Collins, walked up and showed the Master her arm. Rose strained her neck so that she could see around the people blocking her view. She only managed to catch a glimpse of the woman’s skin but it was enough to see that there were no burns.

‘The Gate mended her,’ said Naismith and Miss Collins rolled her sleeve back up and went back to her post.

‘So this machine heals people?’ asked Rose.

Naismith turned and looked at her like he had forgotten she was there. ‘Precisely,’ he answered once he had schooled his features.

‘But what do you want it for?’ asked the Master.

Naismith turned back toffee him. ‘We calculate that if this device can be fully repaired by your good self, it can restore the body forever. Hence it's given title. The Immortality Gate. Because that's what I want. Not for me, but for my daughter. I want her never to die. My gift to her. She will be immortal.’

He approached his daughter and she smiled at him before facing the Master. ‘Abigail. It means bringer of joy,’ she said, full of pride and self-importance.

Both Naismiths turned back to face the gate. They missed the Master conspicuously sniffing the air. But Rose didn’t. And she didn’t miss the look the slightly worried look in his eyes either.

That was when she realised it. The Doctor was here.

She tried not to let it show on her face, lest the Naismiths grew suspicious, but hope was bubbling within her. Maybe at last she could get out of this chair and do something to stop whatever the Master was going to do. Because he was definitely up to something. The worried look she had seen his eyes had turned into determination as he typed away on the computers that were connected to the Gate. Somehow, he was going to use Naismith’s project to his own advantage.

----

‘We've moved. We've really moved!’ exclaimed Wilf as they walked out of the TARDIS and into the stables of Joshua Naismith’s home. He had handled his first trip in the TARDIS admirably well but the Doctor still didn’t feel comfortable bringing him into this.

‘You should stay here,’ he told Wilf.

But Wilf responded to the warning the same way he had responded to all the others.

‘Not bloody likely.’

‘Fine,’ huffed the Doctor, not in the mood to argue further, they were wasting enough time as is. He turned back to the TARDIS and pointed the key at it. A second later, the blue box disappeared. ‘Just a second out of sync,’ he explained, noticing the shocked look on Wilf’s face. ‘Don't want the Master finding the TARDIS. That's the last thing we need. Come on.’

He led the way out of the stable and from then on, their journey was a lot slower. Numerous times they had to duck behind something to hide from the guards who were patrolling the grounds. The Doctor wondered what Naismith had inside the house that warranted so much security. Whatever it was, it was probably the reason why he had taken the Master.

But had he taken Rose too? Was she somewhere in that mansion?

The Doctor noticed a small door in one of the walls that was thankfully unguarded. The sonic made quick work of the lock and he and Wilf hastily made their way down the set of stairs that lay beyond.

They soon came across a room that was occupied by a mass of technology that was way beyond human knowledge. Well, human knowledge of this century at least. There were also a woman in the room – a scientist. She looked human but the Doctor knew better.

‘The man's a miracle,’ said the woman, oblivious to the Doctor and Wilf who were just outside the doorway. She was obviously talking to someone through a communication system - someone who was presumably monitoring the main Gate. ‘All the systems are slotting back into place.’

The genius who she was referring to could only be one person – the Master.

‘The shatterthreads have harmonised,’ she continued, ‘the fibre links intensified and the multiple overshots have triplicated.’

‘Nice Gate,’ said the Doctor, strolling into the room. Wilf followed him, a little more shyly.

‘Don't try calling security,’ the Doctor told the scientist, ‘or I'll tell them you're wearing a Shimmer. Because I reckon anyone wearing a Shimmer doesn't want the Shimmer to be noticed, or they wouldn't need a Shimmer in the first place.’

‘I'm sorry? What's a Shimmer?’ asked the woman, playing dumb.

But the Doctor didn’t have time for that. He pointed his screwdriver at her and the shimmer disappeared, revealing her as the green spiky alien that she was.

‘Oh, my Lord. She's a cactus,’ said Wilf.

‘Miss Addams?’ came a man’s voice from the communicator but Miss Addams didn’t reply, she was too busy eyeing the Doctor, half suspicious, half annoyed (the annoyed part was probably due to Wilf’s “cactus” line).

Suddenly the computers made a series of beeps that sounded a lot like the Gate had been activated. The Doctor ran to check the readings. He had been right. ‘He's got it working, but what is it? What's working?’ he said, mainly to himself.

‘What are you doing here?’ came the voice of the man who had been speaking through the communicator before. He had just walked into the basement. The Doctor glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and pointed the sonic screwdriver at him.

‘Shimmer!’

The man’s shimmer faded, revealing him to be the same sort of alien as the woman.

The Doctor finally tore his gaze away from the computers, there was nothing more that he would get from them. It was time to start asking questions.

‘Now, tell me quickly, what's going on?’ he asked the two aliens. ‘The Master, Harold Saxon.’ The spiky alien just looked confused. ‘Skeletor, whatever you're calling him,’ growled the Doctor, his patience wearing thin, ‘what's he doing up there?’

The computer beeped and the Doctor moved back to it, hoping that maybe it would say something new and helpful.

‘But I checked the readings,’ said the male alien who was yet to be named. ‘He's done good work. It's operational.’

‘Who are you, though?’ the Doctor asked him and his fellow scientist.

‘Here they call us Addams and Rossiter,’ said the woman, Addams.

‘And this is your Gate, yes?’

Addams nodded. ‘We are Vinvocci. We're a salvage team. We picked up the signal when the humans reactivated it. And as soon as it's working, we can transport it to the ship.’

‘But what does it do?’

‘Well, it mends,’ said Rossiter. ‘It's a simple as that. It's a medical device to repair the body. It makes people better.’

‘No, there's got to be more,’ said the Doctor. Why would the Master be helping fix a simple healing machine? He usually aimed so much higher than that. ‘Every single warning says the Master's going to do something colossal.’

‘So that thing's like a sickbed, yes?’ asked Wilf.

‘More or less,’ replied Addams.

‘Well, pardon me for asking, but why is it so big?’

‘Oh, good question,’ said the Doctor, mentally smacking himself for not thinking of it. He turned to Rossiter and Addams. ‘Why is it so big?’

‘It doesn't just mend one person at a time,’ scoffed Addams.

‘That would be ridiculous,’ added Rossiter.

‘It mends whole planets.’

The Doctor’s eyes widened. ‘It does what?’

‘It transmits the medical template across the entire population.’

Now that sounded like something the Master would want.

Without another word, the Doctor ran out of the basement.

----

Rose didn’t like the victorious look that was on the Master’s face. The Naismiths didn’t notice it, they were too busy basking in their own victory, but Rose had known better than to take her eyes off the Master. He had gotten the Immortality Gate working and had been rewarded by being strapped back into his straightjacket. But he hadn’t struggled once.

He had done something to the Gate, Rose was sure of it. But what? And why? And how could she stop it when she was tied to a chair?

‘Joshua, turn it off,’ she said, eyeing the Gate that was now rippling with energy. If all she could do was plead for her captors to use their common sense then that was what she was going to do. ‘You can’t trust the Master. He wouldn’t have just repaired it for you without doing something to it. Every second that thing is on, it’s putting you and your daughter in danger.’

Naismith turned to her. ‘The Gate shall be checked before it is used to it’s full advantage,’ he said and the Master smirked behind him.

‘Listen-’

‘Turn the Gate off right now!’

Rose stopped mid-sentence as she heard the shout come from just beyond the doorway. She turned her head just in time to see the Doctor run into the room. She smiled as she felt a new surge of hope flow through her.

But that smile dropped as soon as the guards in the room all pointed their weapons at the Doctor.

‘No, no, no, no, no,’ said the Doctor, coming to a halt. His eyes flickered over to where Rose was sitting and she saw the relief that shone in them. He must have been so worried.

She knew the feeling.

‘Whatever you do, just don't let him near that device,’ continued the Doctor, nodding at the Master.

The Master rolled his eyes. ‘Oh, like that was ever going to happen.’ And, just as Rose had suspected, he threw the straightjacket off like it was nothing more than a thin sheet. What Rose wasn’t expecting however was the great leap he took across the room and into the middle of the Gate. What looked like lightning had shot out of his hands as he did so, almost like it was propelling him along.

The Master turned to face them all, his smile even more victorious than before. ‘Homeless, was I?’ he said. ‘Destitute and dying? Well, look at me now.’

‘Deactivate it,’ the Doctor shouted at the scientists who were monitoring the Gate. ‘All of you. Turn the whole thing off!’

But no one moved.

‘He's inside my head,’ said Naismith as he scrunched his eyes shut. Rose looked over at everyone else in the room. They all had similar expressions on their faces. Well, all the humans did at least.

The Master must have been doing something to them.

The Doctor obviously thought so too. ‘Get out of there!’ he shouted at the Master and he ran towards the Gate.

The Master lifted his hand and another one of those lightning bolts shot out of it and towards the Doctor. ‘Look out!’ screamed Rose even though she knew very well that the Doctor had seen it. He skidded to a halt and the energy bolt hit the floor just in front of him, sending him flying backwards a few paces.

‘You all right?’ asked Rose.

‘I’m okay,’ he said as he got to his feet and then stumbled towards her, still a little unsteady on his feet. ‘What about you?’

His fingers struggled with the ropes that bound her to her chair. ‘I’m fine,’ she replied, ‘but Wilf’s not. Go see to him.’

The Doctor looked over at Wilf who had just walked into the room. He wore the same pained expression as the rest of the humans.

‘Doctor! Doctor, there's, there's this face.’

‘Help him,’ urged Rose. ‘Whatever is happening to them isn’t happening to me. You can get me free later.’

The Doctor looked back to her, his eyes showing the struggle going on in his head. He knew she was right but he didn’t want to admit it. But, after a tense few seconds, he gave in and rushed to Wilf’s side. ‘What is it? What can you see?’ he asked him.

‘Well, it's him,’ said Wilf, pointing a shaking finger at the Master. ‘I can see him.’

And it wasn’t just the people in the room that were affected. The news anchor on the television was having the same problem. The shot changed to the view of the President of the United States. He also wore the same expression. He was seeing the Master in his head too.

‘Doctor, what’s he doing?’ asked Rose.

‘I don’t know,’ he said, panic evident in his voice. He ran over to the computers that controlled the Gate and tapped a few buttons. ‘I can't turn it off.’

‘That's because I locked it, idiot,’ said the Master, still inside the blue energy of the Gate.

Locked. With a start, Rose remembered something else that was locked. ‘Doctor!’ she shouted, getting his attention. She nodded at the two glass chambers that were attached to the Gate. ‘Over there!’

The Doctor nodded and ran to the chamber. He got in the vacant one and instructed Wilf to take the place of the scientist who was in the other. Once they were both inside, the Doctor did something with the controls but, to Rose’s disappointment, the Gate kept operating.

At least Wilf seemed to be okay now. He was no longer holding his head in pain and his eyes seemed to have gained focus again. ‘Radiation shielding,’ the Doctor told him unknowingly answering Rose’s question of Wilf’s improved state. ‘Now press the button. Let me out.’ After a bit of a hurried explanation of how the chambers worked, Wilf pressed the required button and the Doctor rushed back out into the centre of the room.

‘Fifty seconds and counting,’ taunted the Master.

‘To what?’ asked the Doctor.

The Master just grinned that insane grin of his. ‘Oh, you're going to love this.’

Somehow, Rose doubted it.

The Doctor ran over to the two Naismiths who were still struggling. ‘What is it, hypnotism?’ he asked. ‘Mind control? You're grafting your thoughts inside them, is that it?’

‘Oh, that's way too easy,’ said the Master, thoroughly enjoying every moment of the Doctor’s panicked confusion. ‘No, no, no. They're not going to think like me, they're going to become me. And, zero!’ The countdown ended and a wave of energy came from the Gate, like a ripple moving across the whole room and beyond. As soon as this happened, everybody who had been affected by whatever the Master had done started shaking their heads so quickly that their face became nothing but a blur.

‘You can't have,’ gasped the Doctor, moving back a step. He was now standing directly in front of Rose, his back to her like he was shielding her. Rose knew him well enough to know that that was exactly what he was doing. But shielding her from what?

‘What is it?’ asked Wilf, still in the glass chamber. He had a phone in his hand now. Rose briefly wondered who was on the other end of the line but the thought flew from her mind when the people in the room finally stopped moving their heads and their faces became clear once more.

But they were no longer the same faces that they had been before. Now each and every one of them wore the face of the Master, right down to the crazy glint in their eyes.

‘Doctor? She's starting to remember,’ said Wilf, pointing to his phone. He must have been talking to Donna. Rose could only hope that the failsafe that the Doctor had placed in their friend’s mind would protect her. And she could tell by the worried look in the Doctor’s eyes that he was thinking the exact same thing. Because, right now, they could do nothing else to help her.

‘What is it?’ Wilf shouted at the Master. ‘What have you done, you monster?’

‘Oh, I'm sorry, are you talking to me?’ asked the Master.

‘Or to me?’ asked the Master who, a minute ago, had been Joshua Naismith.

‘Or to me?’ asked the Abigail-Master.

‘Or to me?’ another Master asked.

The security guards all lifted the visors of their helmets, revealing themselves to also be the Master.

‘Or to us?’

And it wasn’t only the people in the rom who were now the Master. The newsreader wore his face too. ‘Breaking news,’ he said. ‘I'm everyone. And everyone in the world is me.’

Even the President of the United States had changed.

The original Master strolled out of the gate. ‘The human race was always your favourite, Doctor,’ he taunted. ‘But now, there is no human race. There is only the Master race.’

He began to laugh and soon the other hims joined in, the sounded echoing around the room - around the whole world.

This was worse than any nightmare Rose had ever had. At least in her nightmares there had only been one Master. But now there were millions of him. Billions. Every single human on planet Earth now had the body and mind of the insane Time Lord... and they had no way of stopping him.

Chapter Text

The final day of the Time War

Rassilon, Lord President and rightful ruler of the Time Lords, strolled purposefully towards the chamber in which the other members of the High Council were waiting for him. Hopefully they had something useful to tell him - something that would tip the scales in his favour. The Last Great Time War was drawing to a close and, one way or another, Rassilon was hell-bent on being the victor.

He wasn’t so worried about the Daleks, he had a plan that would see to them (and to every other insignificant race who dare think themselves equal to the Time Lords). True, he still hadn’t worked out all the logistics of the plan but he was determined. And when Rassilon wanted something, he damn well got it.

But there was still one man who could put a spanner in the works. One man who could ruin Rassilon's great plan.

‘What news of the Doctor?’ Rassilon asked the room at large as he sat down at the head of the table.

‘Disappeared, my Lord President,’ answered the Chancellor.

That was not the news that Rassilon was hoping to hear.

‘But we know his intention,’ added the Partisan. ‘He still possesses the Moment, and he'll use it to destroy Daleks and Time Lords alike.’

Rassilon bit back a growl. Of all the weapons that the Doctor could have decided to use, it just had to be the Moment, didn’t it? The most powerful weapon ever created. And Rassilon knew that the Doctor would use it if he felt he had no other choice to save the universe. The sentimental fool. Didn’t he realise that the universe was worthless without the Time Lords?

‘The Visionary confirms it,’ said the Chancellor and all eyes turned to the old woman at the other end of the table.

The Visionary just stared off into the distance. ‘Ending, burning, falling,’ she said. ‘All of it falling. The black and pitch and screaming fire, so burning.’

‘All of her prophecies say the same,’ continued the Chancellor. ‘That this is the last day of the Time War. That Gallifrey falls. That we die, today.’

‘Ending. Ending. Ending. Ending!’

An awkward silence fell over the High Council at the Visionary’s words. It was the Partisan who spoke first. ‘Perhaps it's time,’ she said. ‘This is only the furthest edge of the Time War. But at its heart, millions die every second, lost in bloodlust and insanity. With time itself resurrecting them, to find new ways of dying over and over again. A travesty of life. Isn't it better to end it, at last?’

Rassilon stood and focussed his steely gaze on the woman. ‘Thank you for your opinion,’ he growled and then lifted his gauntlet-covered hand. The gauntlet glowed bright blue and the Partisan screamed as she dissolved into nothing but mere atoms.

‘I will not die!’ shouted Rassilon. ‘Do you hear me? A billion years of Time Lord history riding on our backs. I will not let this perish. I will not.’ He sat back down, satisfied by the fear that was now showing in the rest of the Council’s eyes.

The Chancellor was the next one brave enough to speak. ‘There is, um, there is one part of the prophecy, my Lord,’ he said. He rose from his seat, trying and failing to hide his nerves, and handed a piece of paper to Rassilon. ‘Forgive me, I'm sorry. It's rather difficult to decipher, but it talks of two survivors beyond the Final Day. Two children of Gallifrey.’

This got Rassilon’s attention. He looked to the Chancellor with interest, eager to find some solution to the Visionary’s prophecies of doom. ‘Does it name them?’ he asked.

‘It foresees them locked in their final confrontation, The Enmity of Ages, which would suggest…’

‘The Doctor!’ spat Rassilon. Of course it would be him. And if this prophecy foretold a confrontation between two Time Lords, then there could only be other candidate. ‘And the Master.’

‘One word keeps being repeated, my Lord,’ continued the Chancellor. ‘One constant word. Earth.’

‘Earth. Earth. Earth,’ chanted the Visionary.

‘Planet Earth. Indigenous species, the human race,’ said the Chancellor, and, as he spoke, a hologram of the planet in question appeared in front of them on the table.

Rassilon stood, staring at the projection. ‘Maybe that's where the answer lies,' he said. 'Our salvation. On Earth.’ The rest of the Council glanced at each other, some uncertain, some hopeful. ‘But what’s the connection? How does one of the Doctor and Master’s regular squabbles affect the War?’

‘We are unsure, my Lord,’ said the Chancellor.

Rassilon banged his fist on the table, causing a few members of the Council to startle. ‘There must be a connection!’ He sat back down and thought for a moment, ignoring the dubious looks that the Council were now giving each other. ‘The Untempered Schism,’ he finally said and the hologram above the table changed to show the Schism. ‘That's when it began.’

The Chancellor seemed to have caught on to his train of thought. ‘History says the Master heard a rhythm,' he said. 'A torment that stayed with him for the rest of his life.’

Rassilon knew the stories well. ‘A drumbeat. A warrior's march.’

‘A symptom of insanity, my Lord,’ countered the Chancellor.

The Visionary had stopped chanting and now she was tapping her long fingernail on the table.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

‘A rhythm of four,’ realised Rassilon. ‘The heartbeat of a Time Lord.’

His lips curved up into a cruel smile. This was it. This was how he would accomplish his great plan. This was how the end of time would begin!

----

The Doctor glared at the Master, because, at the present moment, that was all he could do. He was currently strapped to a sort of chair/trolley and was unable to move. One of the straps covered his mouth so he couldn’t even speak. After the Master (Masters) had gotten over his (their) insane triumphant laughter, they had been quick to restrain the Doctor and his friends and put them in a separate room, away from the Gate.

The Doctor was still angry at himself for failing to protect the others but consoled himself with the fact that it at least had taken three Masters to take him down. Wilf and Rose unfortunately had been easier targets, having been already locked in a glass chamber and tied to a chair respectively. Now they both sat opposite him, securely tied to their chairs. The Master hadn’t bothered to gag them. It seemed that treatment was reserved just for the Doctor.

The Master (the original) circled his three prisoners before finally settling at Rose’s side. The Doctor furrowed his eyebrows in anger, hoping the Master would see the Oncoming Storm swirling in his eyes.

The Master just smirked. ‘I see you gave into temptation,’ he said. ‘She’s rather good isn’t she?’ He stroked Rose’s cheek with his finger and she flinched. She was trying so hard not to show it but the Doctor knew her well enough to see how scared she was.

The Doctor struggled against the ropes holding him. ‘Don’t touch her!’ he snapped. The material covering his mouth muffled the words but the anger behind them was received loud and clear.

‘Oh relax!’ said the Master. ‘I have no intention on carrying on with that charade. It was fun while it lasted but bigger and better things await.’ He grinned manically. ‘Now then, I've got a planet to run.’

He moved over to a screen on the wall and addressed his other selves through the open communication link. ‘Is everybody ready?’ he asked.

‘Six billion, seven hundred and twenty seven million, nine hundred and forty nine thousand three hundred and thirty eight versions of us,’ said the Master who used to be Joshua Naismith. He was still in the Gate room. ‘Awaiting orders.’

The screen changed and the Master who was now President of the United States appeared. ‘This is Washington. As President of the United States, I can transfer all the United Nations protocols to you immediately, putting you in charge of all the Earth's defences.’

The screen changed again to show yet another Master.

‘UNIT HQ, Geneva reporting. All under your command, sir.’

And again.

‘And this is the Central Military Commission here in Beijing, sir, with over two point five million soldiers, sir.’

‘Enough soldiers and weapons to turn this planet into a warship,’ said the original Master, turning to face the Doctor. ‘Nothing to say, Doctor? What's that? Pardon? Sorry?’ He inched closer as he continued his taunts.

‘You let him go, you swine,’ said Wilf.

The Master was undeterred by Wilf’s words. ‘Oh, your dad's still kicking up a fuss.’

‘Yeah? Well, I'd be proud if I was.’

The Doctor tried not to let it show how much that meant to him. Wilf was such a kind, brave, good man and the Doctor would have been more than proud to have him as a father.

The Master took a few menacing steps towards Wilf.

‘You touch him and you’ll have me to deal with,’ said Rose, bravely.

The Master stared at her for a second and then burst into giggles. ‘You? I had you in my power for eighteen months. You’re no threat to me.’

‘I think you’re forgetting who shot you.’

The Master’s giggles stopped and his smile fell. The Doctor prayed that he wouldn’t just snap and decide to get rid of Rose permanently.

The sound of a phone ringing broke the tension in the room. Everyone looked to each other, confused. Everyone except for Wilf who looked down at his pocket worriedly.

‘But that's a mobile,’ said the Master.

‘Yeah, it's mine,’ said Wilf with a forced chuckle. ‘Let me turn it off.’

The Master walked over to him. ‘No, no, no, no, no. I don't think you understand. Everybody on this planet is me. And I'm not phoning you, so who the hell is that?’

'It's nobody. I tell you, it's nothing. It's probably one of them ring-back calls,’ insisted Wilf as the Master started frantically searching his pockets.

But it wasn’t a phone he pulled out. It was a gun. Why the hell did Wilf have a gn in his pocket?

The Master tossed the gun to floor, making Rose jump a little, and then resumed searching through Wilf’s pockets. At last he found the phone.

‘Donna,’ he read the Caller ID. ‘Who's Donna?’

‘She's no one,’ said Wilf, unable to hide his worry anymore. ‘Just leave it.’

The Doctor was less worried. If Donna hadn’t become the Master then that meant that the failsafe he had placed in her mind had worked. And that meant that she would be safe from the Master. He winked at Rose to let her know this but unfortunately the Master was blocking him from doing the same for Wilf.

The Master answered the phone and listened to whatever Donna was saying on the other end. He lowered the phone and placed his hand over the speaker. ‘Who is she?’ he asked them. ‘Why didn't she change?’

‘Well, it was this thing the Doctor did,’ answered Wilf. ‘He did it to her. The Metacrisis.’

The Master rolled his eyes. ‘Oh, he loves playing with Earth girls.’ He turned towards the screen on the wall. ‘Find her,’ he snapped at his other self. ‘Trace the call.’

Donna was still calling for her Grandad through the phone. The Master held it up to Wilf’s ear. ‘Say goodbye to the freak, Granddad.’

‘Donna, get out of there!’ Wilf shouted into the mobile. ‘Just get out of there. I'm telling you, run! Run, sweetheart, that's all. Run for your life!’

There was a few seconds pause where the worry in Wilf’s eyes grew more and more. ‘Donna?’ he asked. ‘What's happening? Are you still there?’ Thankfully, she was. ‘Look, I'm telling you to run, Donna,’ Wilf told her. ‘Just run, sweetheart. Just run.’

Donna was obviously starting to remember things she shouldn’t because now Wilf was telling her not to think about it, his voice urgent and frightened. The Master was loving every minute of it.

But his smile soon disappeared when the line went silent. Wilf was assuming the worst and was on the verge of tears but the Master knew that something was up. He turned to face the Doctor and the Doctor winked.

The Master strode over to him and removed the strap covering his mouth. ‘Did you think I'd leave my best friend without a defence mechanism?’ the Doctor told him and Wilf stopped his sobbing.

‘Doctor? What happened?’ he asked.

‘She's all right,' the Doctor reassured him. 'She's fine, I promise. She'll just sleep.’

Both Wilf and Rose’s eyes shined with relief.

The Master, it seemed, had already moved on from Donna. ‘Tell me,’ he said, leaning in a bit closer, ‘where's your TARDIS?’

The Doctor just glared at him. ‘Like I would tell you.’

‘Where is it? Tell me!’

‘Do you really think I would give you the power to torment the universe? I mean, look at the state you’re in? You used to be so brilliant. You still are, in a way… but for all your genius, you still can’t see.’

‘See what?’ spat the Master.

‘That you don’t have to own the universe, you just have to see it.’

The Master backed off a bit. ‘Would it stop, then?’ he asked. ‘The noise in my head?’

‘I don’t know,’ the Doctor answered truthfully. He had always just assumed that the drums weren’t real but now he knew that he had been wrong. He had heard them. Where were they coming from?

‘What does he mean?’ asked Wilf. ‘What noise?’

‘The drums,’ answered Rose, looking warily at the Master.

‘It began on Gallifrey,’ said the Master, now moving over to sit in a vacant chair, ‘as children. Not that you'd call it childhood. More a life of duty. Eight years old. I was taken for initiation, to stare into the Untempered Schism.’

‘What does that mean?’ asked Wlf.

‘It's a gap in the fabric of reality,’ explained the Doctor. He remembered it well, despite the many many years that had passed. ‘You can see into the Time Vortex itself. And it hurts.’

‘They took me there,’ continued the Master. ‘In the dark. I looked into time, old man, and I heard it… calling to me. Drums. The never ending drums.’ He closed his eyes. ‘Listen. Just listen to it.’

‘No one can hear anything,’ said Rose. ‘It’s just you.’

The Master’s eyes snapped open and he turned his head to look at her. ‘You’re right,’ he said and he got up from his seat, his manic smile returning. ‘It is just me. But now, now there are six billion versions of me. Everyone on Earth can hear the drums now. Imagine. Oh, yes!’

He started laughing but stopped as his body glowed blue again, briefly showing the skeleton within.

‘The Gate wasn't enough,’ said the Doctor in realisation as the Master crumpled to the floor. ‘You're still dying.’

The Master looked up at him. ‘This body was born out of death,’ he said through the pain. ‘All it can do is die.’

A couple of seconds later, he recovered and got to his feet once more. ‘But what did you say to me?’ he asked the Doctor. ‘Back in the wasteland? You said the end of time.’

‘I said something is returning. I was shown a prophecy.’

The Master’s eyes were alight with insanity and newfound purpose. ‘What if I'm part of it? Don't you see? The drumbeat is calling from so far away. From the end of time itself. And now it's been amplified six billion times. Triangulate all those signals. I could find its source. Oh, Doctor. That's what your prophecy was.’ He stepped back and held his arms out wide. ‘Me!’ One of his outstretched hands suddenly came flying towards the Doctor’s face, slapping him across the cheek. ‘Where's the TARDIS?’

This was bad. The Doctor could see that any chance he had of reasoning with the Master had just disappeared.

But that wasn’t going to stop him from trying.

‘Just stop,’ he told the Master. ‘Just think.’

The Master was thinking. Just not the way that the Doctor wanted him to. He turned to the guard and then nodded to Wilf. ‘Kill him,’ he said. ‘And if the Doctor still doesn’t cooperate,’ he nodded at Rose, ‘kill her too.’

The Doctor opened his mouth to try and change the Master’s mind (he wasn’t above pleading when Rose’s life was on the line) but then he properly noticed the guard for the first time. He had his helmet on, hiding his face, and big gun in his hand that was now pointed at Wilf but that wasn’t what caught the Doctor’s attention.

The Doctor closed his mouth, the pleading could wait for when it was needed.

‘I need that technology, Doctor,’ said the Master. He was now standing right next to the guard but he still hadn’t noticed. ‘Tell me where it is, or the old man is dead.’

‘Don't tell him,’ Wilf told the Doctor at the same time as Rose started shouting at the Master to leave Wilf alone. They hadn’t noticed what was so special about the guard either.

‘Shut it, Blondie,’ the Master snapped at Rose before turning to the Doctor again. The guard still had his gun trained on Wilf’s head, seemingly waiting for the instruction to fire. ‘I'll kill him RIGHT NOW!’

‘Actually, the most impressive thing about you is that after all this time, you're still bone dead stupid,’ said the Doctor.

The Master was not impressed at the remark. ‘Take aim,’ he said to the guard.

‘You've got six billion pairs of eyes, but you still can't see the obvious, can you?’

Just like the Doctor knew he would, the Master gave in to the bait. ‘Like what?’ he asked, annoyed.

‘That guard is one inch too tall.’

The Master span round to face the guard but he wasn’t quick enough. The guard raised the butt of his gun and smacked it against the Master’s head, causing the Time Lord to fall unconscious to the floor.

The guard took off his helmet to reveal his green spiky face. ‘Oh my God, I hit him,’ said Rossiter, looking shocked and slightly scared at what he had just done. ‘I've never hit anyone in my life.’

Addams ran into the room. Her shimmer was not activated either. ‘Well, come on. We need to get out of here fast,’ she said and Rossiter immediately moved over to start freeing the Doctor. Addams went to Wilf and started working on the ropes.

‘God bless the cactuses!’ said Wilf.

‘Friends of yours?’ Rose asked the Doctor and Wilf.

‘Sort of,’ answered Wilf as he got out of his chair, now free from the ropes that had held him there. Addams moved to untie Rose but the sound of the Master’s voice made her falter.

‘This prophecy of yours, Doctor, where did it come from? Doctor?’

It was the Master in the Gate Room talking through the communication link. It was only a matter of seconds before he would realise that something had gone wrong and sent more Masters to investigate.

Addams had realised this too. ‘Come on!’ she shouted. ‘We've got to get out.’

‘There’s too many buckles and straps,' said Rossiter.

‘Just… wheel him,’ said Addams, and, to the Doctor’s horror, she moved away from Rose who was still very much tied to her chair. Wilf was trying to get her free but Addams pulled him away. ‘We don’t have time. We can’t carry her in her chair, we have to leave her. Come on.’

Rose’s eyes widened in fright at that. The Doctor imagined his eyes would have looked much the same. ‘No!’ he shouted. ‘Take her with you. Leave me!’

But Rossiter and Addams weren’t listening. Addams continued to drag Wilf away from Rose and Rossiter moved behind the Doctor’s chair and began wheeling him out of the room.

‘I’m so sorry, sweetheart,’ Wilf shouted to Rose as he was pushed out the door.

The Doctor couldn’t see Rose anymore, he was being wheeled in the other direction, towards the door that Wilf and Addams had just disappeared through, but he could hear her.

‘Don’t leave me,’ she cried. ‘Please don’t leave me alone with him. Not again. Please! Doctor!’

She sound terrified. And she had good reason to be. God knew what the Master would to her when he woke up.

‘I’m coming back,’ the Doctor called to her before the door to the room swung shut behind him. He turned his attention to Addams and Rossiter. ‘You take me back,' he demanded. 'Take me back right now! I’m not leaving her.’

‘We have to,’ said Addams. ‘If we stay, we’re all dead. I’m sorry.’

But the Doctor was beyond listening to reason. ‘Then you leave me here too,’ he said. ‘Because I am NOT LEAVING HER!’

‘Which way,’ said Rossiter, ignoring the Doctor and talking to Addams.

‘This way,’ she said and led them in the direction that the Doctor knew led to the basement.

‘No, no, no, no, no,’ said the Doctor. It was time to try another tactic. ‘The other way. I've got my TARDIS. I can use it to stop the Master.’

And to save Rose.

‘I know what I'm doing,’ insisted Addams, not changing their direction.

So much for that, then. Back to angry shouting it was.

‘Just listen to me!’

The chair he was strapped too jolted uncomfortably as it was pushed down the stairs that led to the basement. The Doctor ignored the pain and continued to shout at the two aliens who were responsible for it.

‘I need to go back!’

He wouldn’t let Rose go through the Master’s torment again. He had promised her.

‘He’s right,’ pleaded Wilf. ‘We can’t just leave her with that monster.’

They entered the basement and at last Rossiter set the Doctor’s chair down. For a few blissful seconds, he thought that they were going to free him but then a few guards appeared at the door, guns ready.

‘Gotcha,’ said one of the Masters.

‘You think so?’ asked Addams and she pressed a button on her watch.

Suddenly a bright green light engulfed them and the Doctor could taste the undeniable electricity in the air. A teleport.

‘No, no, no, no, don't!’ he shouted.

But it was too late.

The Doctor, Wilf, Rossiter and Addams disappeared from the basement of Naismith's mansion and reappeared in a spaceship orbiting the Earth, a few hundred miles away from the Master.

And a few hundred miles away from Rose.

Chapter Text

Rose struggled against her ropes that had only been slightly loosened by the attempt to free her. Maybe if she could get herself free before the Master woke up, she could get away.

No such luck.

The Master groaned as he slowly got to his feet. Another few Masters, these ones in guards’ uniforms ran into the room.

‘Find them,' the original Master told them and they quickly left again. The Master was about to follow them when he noticed Rose. ‘Oh hello,’ he said, a bit shocked to see her still there. The shock didn’t last long however and soon he was smiling again. ‘Leave you behind did they?’ he asked, now going for a mock attempt at sympathy.

Rose didn’t answer. She refused to give in to his teasing or show her fear.

But the Master must have seen it anyway. He smiled again and then ran over to face the screen on the wall. ‘Master, report!’ he said.

Another Master appeared on the screen (the one who had been Naismith). ‘They’ve teleported.’

‘Open the teleport and follow him!’ shouted the original Master and the other him repeated the instructions into a separate communicator, obviously talking to the guards who had gone after the Doctor.

Rose held her breath as she waited the agonisingly long seconds for news.

‘Teleports been disabled from the other side,’ said the Master on the screen. Rose wasn’t sure if she was relieved or disappointed. Relieved because the Doctor and Wilf were safe… or disappointed because they weren’t coming back.

Rose shook that thought from her head. The Doctor was coming back. He wouldn’t just leave her here, she knew he wouldn’t.

‘He's still up there,’ said the Master. ‘Target practice. Turn everything you've got to the skies. Find me that ship. And prime the missiles.’

Rose saw the Master on the screen grin before the image changed to show a different Master, this one at UNIT HQ.

‘But you can’t!’ shouted Rose.

The Master turned to her, eyebrow raised. ‘Why not?’

‘The Doctor’s the only one who can help you and you know it. You need him.’

Not that Rose thought the Doctor would help the Master in any way… but she had to say something!

The Master scoffed. ‘Oh please. Why would I need him when I have a whole planet full of me? I think six billion of us are worth more than one Doctor.’

‘Wouldn’t bet on it.’

The Master’s smile fell into a scowl. Rose would have smirked if it weren’t for the fact she was terrified of what he would do next. ‘Find him and fire the missiles,’ he said, coldly, to the Master on the screen behind him.

But Rose had been right; the Doctor had outsmarted the Master. All six billion of him.

‘Lost him,’ said the Master from UNIT.

The original Master’s scowl deepened and he whipped around to face the screen. ‘What about teleport coordinates? I need that information!’

The Master from the Gate Room reappeared on the screen. ‘He cut the link before we could get them.’

The Master growled in frustration. ‘Then cut it from this side,’ he said. ‘Permanently. Strand him up there.’

The relief that Rose had felt at hearing the Doctor was safe faded in an instant. Yes, he was still safe (for now, at least) but now he had no way back. He couldn’t help her. She was on her own with six billion copies of her worst nightmare.

----

By the time night had fallen, Rose had been given food and water and then been moved to the Gate Room so the Master could keep an eye on her. He had spent the last few hours preparing all six billion of his other selves to focus on the drumbeat inside his head. He figured that if they all focussed on the exact same thing at the exact same time, they could find the answer. It reminded Rose of when the human race had used the same method to defeat him.

She wished she had a plan like that now.

‘Night has fallen,’ said the original Master whom was in the Gate Room with Rose. ‘Are we ready?’

‘Every single one of us is prepared,’ said another Master through the communication link.

The Master closed his eyes and tilted his head back slightly. ‘Then we listen. All of us, across the world, just listen.’ An eerie silence fell over the room, one that Rose suspected carried over the whole world, as the Masters focussed on the noise inside their heads. ‘Concentrate,’ said the Master. ‘Find the signal.’

His eyes snapped open. ‘There! The sound is tangible. Someone could only have designed this. But who?’

‘The sound. It's coming from above,’ said the Master on the communication system.

The original Master looked up and Rose followed his gaze, a tiny bit disappointed to see only the glass-domed ceiling.

‘It's coming from the sky!’

The Master ran out to the balcony. Rose heard him order the guards to go find whatever had caused the signal and then he strolled back into the Gate room, obviously pleased with himself.

‘It’s all coming together, Rosie,’ he said.

A few minutes later, reports started coming in from various Masters of a shooting star that fell to Earth (that must have been what the Master had seen out on the balcony). Then, more reports from the group of Masters who had gone to the landing site.

‘It's a diamond, sir,’ said one of the Masters in question. ‘Oh. The most impossible diamond. You won't believe this. It's a Whitepoint Star.’

A Whitepoint Star? Rose had no idea what that was but it obviously meant something to the Master for his eyes widened in disbelief for a moment before he started laughing madly. Rose was reminded of her nightmares again but pushed the thought aside.

‘So is it a star or a diamond?’ she asked, confused.

The Master didn’t answer, he just kept laughing, his body flashing again, making it look like an x-ray.

‘Well, what is it?’ she tried again.

Finally the Master calmed down and looked at her.

‘It’s home.’

----

The Doctor growled in frustration as he worked tirelessly at the wires of the Vinvocci spaceship. He had stopped Rossiter and Addams from flying the ship away from Earth but in dong so he had stranded them in orbit. The ship had little to no power left and the Master had destroyed the teleport system in Naismith’s home. Now the only way back to Rose was to get the ship moving and progress was agonisingly slow.

And every second he spent stuck up here was a second that Rose was in danger. He didn’t even know if she was still alive. And if she wasn’t… well, then maybe it was a good thing that his song was ending. He didn’t want to be the man who had broken his promise and failed to protect her.

‘Aye, aye. Got this old tub mended?’ asked Wilf, appearing from one of the ship’s corridors and coming to sit next to him. The Doctor was thankful for the distraction from the dark thoughts that were threatening to suffocate him.

‘Still working on it,’ he said. ‘Just trying to get us some more power.’

Wilf gave him a nod and then turned to face the window. ‘I've always dreamt of a view like that,’ he said. ‘Hee hee. I'm an astronaut. It's dawn over England, look. Brand new day.’ After his moment of giddiness of being in space, he sobered. ‘My wife's buried down there. I might never visit her again now.’ He turned to the Doctor, a sad look on his face. ‘Do you think he changed them, in their graves?’

The Doctor didn’t have an answer to that, at least not one that Wilf wanted to hear, so he said the next best thing.

‘I'm sorry.’

‘No, not your fault.’

‘Isn't it?’ asked the Doctor as he abandoned the ships wiring and turned to face the window as well. There wasn’t much more he could do from here anyway and after hours of working, he needed a break.

‘1948, I was over there,’ said Wilf, looking back to the view of Earth and pointing to the landmass that was Middle-east. ‘End of the Mandate in Palestine. Private Mott. Skinny little idiot, I was. Stood on this rooftop, in the middle of a skirmish. It was like a blizzard, all them bullets in the air. The world gone mad.’ He paused, lost in memory, and then shook his head as if he thought himself silly. ‘Yeah, you don't want to listen to an old man's tales, do you?’

‘I'm older than you,’ said the Doctor.

‘Get away,’ said Wilf, obviously not believing him.

‘I'm nine hundred and… actually I lost count a while ago.’

‘What, really, though?’

The Doctor almost laughed. ‘Yeah.’

‘And Rose, she’s…’

‘Younger,’ said the Doctor, not really wanting to get into the age difference between him and his girlfriend at the moment. He turned back to the window; desperately trying not to think about where Rose was and what she might have been through in the past few hours.

‘Nine hundred years,’ murmured Wilf, once again bringing the Doctor out of thoughts better not dwelled on. ‘We must look like insects to you.’

The Doctor turned back to face him. ‘I think you look like giants.’

And it was true. The human race may have individual lifespans that disappeared in the blink of an eye but they still did so much. They each achieved greatness in the smallest of ways and, together, they built an empire vaster and longer lasting than any other species in the universe. Indomitable, that was them.

But for all their greatness, there were still some things that the Doctor wished they hadn’t achieved.

‘Listen, I, I want you to have this,’ said Wilf, holding out his gun. He must have picked it up during their escape. ‘I've kept it all this time, and I thought…’

The Doctor barely glanced at the weapon. ‘No,’ he said.

‘No, but if you take it, you could-’

‘No,’ said the Doctor again before he realised something. ‘You had that gun in the mansion. You could have shot the Master there and then.’

‘Too scared, I suppose,’ said Wilf.

The Doctor disagreed. It wasn’t cowardice. It was mercy. And it was what made Wilf so brilliant.

‘I'd be proud,’ said the Doctor.

Wilf looked confused. ‘Of what?’

‘If you were my dad.’

Wilf looked slightly embarrassed by that but still humbled. ‘Oh, come on, don't start.’ His expression became serious again. ‘But you said, you were told he will knock four times and then you die. Well, that's him, isn't it? The Master. That noise in his head? The Master is going to kill you.’

The Doctor swallowed down the lump in his throat. ‘Yeah.’

Because Wilf was right, the Doctor knew he was. Ever since he had heard that rhythm in the Master’s mind, he’d known that that was what the prophecy was referring to.

Wilf held the gun up again. ‘Then kill him first.’

‘And that's how the Master started,’ said the Doctor. ‘And I won’t be like him.’

They stared at each other for a moment before Wilf finally lowered the gun, conceding the Doctor’s point.

But he soon came up with his own.

‘If the Master dies, what happens to all the people?’ he asked.

The Doctor looked back at the Earth, mainly to avoid having to look Wilf in the eye. ‘I don't know.’

But Wilf wasn’t buying his lie. ‘Doctor, what happens?’

‘The template snaps,’ he finally answered.

‘What, they go back to being human?’ asked Wilf. The Doctor nodded. ‘Then don't you dare, sir. Don't you dare put him before them.’ He held the gun out to him again. ‘Now you take this. That's an order, Doctor. Take the gun. You take the gun and save your life. And please don't die. You're the most wonderful man and I don't want you to die.’

Wilf was practically sobbing now. The Doctor wasn’t sure what he had done to earn such loyalty but he was grateful for it. He just wished he could say something to let Wilf know how much it meant to him. It was ironic how good this him was with words and yet could never say the ones that meant the most.

‘A star fell from the sky,’ said a voice, making Wilf startle and the Doctor furrow his brow in anger. It was the Master. He was speaking through the communication channels. Probably an open broadcast. ‘Don't you want to know where from? Because now it makes sense, Doctor. The whole of my life. My destiny. The star was a diamond. And the diamond is a Whitepoint Star.’

The Doctor’s eyes widened. Whitepoint? But that could have only come from one place.

‘And I have worked all night to sanctify that gift,’ continued the Master. ‘Now the star is mine. I can increase the signal and use it as a lifeline. Do you get it now? Do you see? Keep watching, Doctor. This should be spectacular. Over and out.’

The communication ended and it took a few moments for the Doctor to realise that Wilf was speaking to him.

‘… he doing? Doctor, what does that mean?’

‘A Whitepoint Star is only found on one planet,’ said the Doctor, his voice thick with so many conflicting emotions. ‘Gallifrey. Which means it's the Time Lords. The Time Lords are returning.’

‘Well, I mean, that's good, isn't it?’ said Wilf. ‘I mean, that's your people.’

The fear that the Doctor had felt over the last couple of days seemed like a mere speck on anxiety compared to what he was feeling now. He always chose to remember the best of his people but he hadn’t forgotten the worst. And at the end of the Time War, the Time Lords had equalled the Daleks in their malevolence. So, no, it wasn’t good that they were back. At least, not if they were coming back like this.

The Doctor took the gun from Wilf’s hand and sprinted to the flight deck. He was going to get this ship back to Earth and stop the Master. Even if it killed him.

Chapter Text

Rose watched nervously as the Masters worked to create a pathway between Earth and Gallifrey, which was where the diamond (and the noise in his head) was from.

When she had first realised that the Time Lords could be coming back, Rose had been happy. She had thought that maybe the Doctor could finally get the closure he had needed for so long. But now all she felt was a sinking feeling of foreboding. Since the last time they had met the Master, the Doctor had opened up a bit about the darker side of his people. He had told her that while most of his race were peaceful and good (if a little dull), there were still some that were capable of great evil. And most of that evil was brought out by the Time War. Apparently the Time Lords had become so desperate towards the end that they had resorted to the same methods of the very beings they were fighting.

And implanting a maddening signal into the mind of an eight year old was a desperate act if ever there was one.

For the first time since Rose had first met the Master, she felt sorry for him. All these years his people had manipulated him and he hadn’t realised. Even now she doubted that he understood the full extent of what had been done to him. It wasn’t an excuse and she still hated and feared him… but she couldn’t help the stab of pity she felt at the same time. What could the Master have been if the Time Lords hadn’t done this to him?

Probably not much different, she supposed. But he may have at least been easier to reason with. Perhaps been more willing to see a better way.

Bringing her focus back to what was and not what could have been, Rose saw that the Master had placed the diamond in the centre of the device that he had set up to establish the link to Gallifrey. He had modified the Immortality Gate to create a pathway.

One of the Masters pressed a button in one of the glass chambers that was attached to the Gate and the room filled with a rhythmic beeping - the drums inside the Master’s head.

‘We have contact,’ said the original Master and that foreboding feeling that Rose was feeling doubled. She fidgeted in her seat (as much as the ropes would allow) but the Master was calm as anything as they waited for something to happen.

Two minutes later, the sound of one of the Masters (the one from UNIT HQ) came through the communications system.

‘Sir, we've got a fix. A hundred and five thousand miles in orbit.’

For a second, Rose thought he was talking about the Time Lords, but then her stomach dropped as she realised that he had meant that they had found the Doctor. He was in a spaceship that was moving very fast, according to the UNIT Master.

The original Master turned to Rose and sneered. ‘I don't need him,’ he said. ‘Any second now, I'll have Time Lords to spare.’ He turned back to address the Master at UNIT. ‘Take him out. Launch missiles!’

‘No!’ cried Rose and she struggled against her bonds. But she knew it was no use. Even if she could get free, there wasn’t anything she could do from here to help the Doctor.

‘Launch missiles,’ the UNIT Master repeated and Rose closed her eyes, praying to every deity she didn’t believe in that the Doctor would be able to escape the attack. He was clever and he knew that the missiles would be coming. He wouldn’t have revealed the spaceship’s location if he hadn’t planned for this.

At least, that was what Rose kept telling herself, over and over again as the Masters at UNIT launched a second wave.

Then came the news she had been hoping to hear.

‘He's heading straight for you.’

‘But too late,’ said the original Master and Rose opened her eyes. ‘They are coming.’

The Master who had been Naismith walked over to the window, a nervous look on his face. ‘I think I should warn you,’ he started but the original Master cut him off, far too distracted by the impending arrival of the Time Lords. The Gate was glowing bright white now.

Suddenly, a great crashing noise came from above and Rose had to duck her head down to shield her face from the glass that was falling from the shattered domed ceiling. Thankfully, the worst of it missed her.

When the sound of glass shattering had stopped, Rose lifted her head and opened her eyes to see what had caused it to break in the first place. It was the Doctor. He must have jumped out of the spaceship. He had cuts all over his face and he seemed unable to get up but, amazingly, he was still alive. Rose was torn between wanting to yell at him for being such a reckless idiot and wanting to kiss him for making it back to her.

And then she noticed the gun in his hand. It was the same one that the Master had pulled out of Wilf’s pocket. She had wondered where it had gotten to. But why did the Doctor have it? Surely he wasn’t going to use it? He hated guns.

The Doctor lifted his head and met her eyes for a moment. There was so much desperation in them but still the relief at seeing alive her shone through. She imagined that her eyes would have looked much the same.

She was about to open her mouth to say something, maybe something witty about “dropping in”, but she abruptly closed it again. The bright white light that was coming from the other side of the room had lowered in intensity and the Gate was totally gone now, replaced by the pathway between Earth and Gallifrey. And in the middle of that pathway were five figures dressed in red regal robes.

Time Lords.

Two of them had their hands covering they’re faces but it was the one in the middle that grabbed Rose’s attention most. He had a staff in one hand and a metal gauntlet covered the other. He was obviously the leader.

‘My Lord Doctor. My Lord Master,’ he said, stepping forward. ‘We are gathered for the end.’

End? What end?

Oh.

It wasn’t the Master who was going to bring about the end of time. It was the Time Lords! This was how they intended to win the war, by erasing everything. The Doctor had been right, they had become like the Daleks.

The Doctor turned his head so that he was now facing the people whom he had lost long ago. ‘Listen to me. You can't!’ he begged.

The lead Time Lord’s face darkened. ‘It is a fitting paradox that our salvation comes at the hands of our most infamous child,' he said.

‘Oh, he's not saving you,’ said the Doctor. ‘Don't you realise what he's doing?’

The Master jumped into action at that. ‘Hey, no, hey!’ he said, pointing at the Doctor. ‘That's mine. Hush.’ He looked back up to face the Time Lords. ‘Look around you,’ he told them, holding his arms out wide. ‘I've transplanted myself into every single human being. But who wants a mongrel little species like them, because now I can transplant myself into every single Time Lord. Oh, yes, Mister President, sir, standing there all noble and resplendent and decrepit. Think how much better you're going to look as me.’

Rose mentally kicked herself for not realising that the Master would try something like this.

The President of the Time Lords – Rassilon, Rose remembered - lifted his hand and the metal gauntlet that he wore on it glowed blue. Suddenly all the humans whom the Master had transformed started shaking their heads again, like they had done when the Gate had first been activated. They’re faces blurred and when they finally stilled, everybody was back to normal. For a second, Rose felt relieved but then Rassilon commanded everyone on their knees and she realised that the human race had merely been handed over to a new dictator.

One by one, the humans obeyed and knelt on the floor. Rassilon’s eyes fell on Rose still bound to her chair but he must have been satisfied with her current position because a second later, he looked back to the Master.

‘No, that's fine,’ said the Master, trying to regain control of the situation, ‘that's good, because you said salvation. I still saved you. Don't forget that.’

Rassilon ignored him. ‘The approach begins,’ he said as the room started to shake.

‘Approach of what?’ asked the Master.

‘Something is returning. Don't you ever listen?’ said the Doctor from his position still on the floor. ‘That was the prophecy. Not someone, something.’

‘What is it?’

‘They're not just bringing back the species. It's Gallifrey. Right here, right now.’

As if brought forth from the Doctor’s words, a fiery red planet appeared in the sky above Earth - far closer than any planet should be to another. And it was getting closer. At the sight of it, the humans in the Gate Room seemed to forget Rassilon’s earlier command and started running out of the room in panic.

But there was one man who was running in the opposite direction.

‘I’ve got you, sweetheart,’ said Wilf as he pulled at the ropes at Rose’s wrists. ‘I’m so sorry I left before.’

‘It’s fine, I understand,’ said Rose, almost sighing in relief as one of her hands was freed.

A banging sound came from across the room and Rose and Wilf looked up to see a man trapped in one of the two glass chambers. ‘Can you get your other hand out?’ Wilf asked Rose and she nodded. He gave her a grateful smile and hurried over to the chamber. ‘All right! I've got you, mate. I've got you.’ He got into the vacant chamber and pressed a button. The “locked” sign flashed over Wilf’s chamber and the man in the other rushed out, eager to get away from the madhouse that had become of the Naismith Mansion.

The Master was still trying to talk his way out of being on the wrong end of Rassilon’s wrath.

‘But this is fantastic, isn't it? The Time Lords restored.’

‘You weren't there in the final days of the War,’ said the Doctor. The pain on his face made Rose double her efforts of freeing herself from the remaining ropes that held her. He needed her. ‘You never saw what was born. But if the Timelock's broken, then everything's coming through. Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-have-been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-weres. The War turned into hell. And that's what you've opened, right above the Earth. Hell is descending.’

‘My kind of world,’ said the Master.

‘Just listen!’ snapped the Doctor. ‘Because even the Time Lords can't survive that.’

‘We will initiate the Final Sanction,’ said Rassilon. The resolution in his eyes made Rose pause for a moment. Those were the eyes of a man who could not be swayed in his decision. ‘The end of time will come at my hand. The rupture will continue until it rips the Time Vortex apart.’

Even the Master was shocked at that.

‘That's suicide.’

‘We will ascend to become creatures of consciousness alone,’ said Rassilon. ‘Free of these bodies, free of time, and cause and effect, while creation itself ceases to be.’

‘You see now?’ the Doctor asked the Master. ‘That's what they were planning in the final days of the War. I had to stop them.’

The Master, it seemed, had finally admitted that he had lost the power he had had a few minutes ago. ‘Then, take me with you, Lord President,’ he said to Rassilhon. ‘Let me ascend into glory.’

But not even the Time Lords wanted the Master.

‘You are diseased,’ said Rassilon, ‘albeit a disease of our own making. No more.’ He raised his gauntlet again, threateningly.

Rose had just managed to free herself and she jumped from the chair and went to run into the centre of the room, not sure how she was going to stop Rassilon but knowing that she had to try something, but stopped when the Doctor suddenly got to his feet and pointed the gun at Rassilon. Rose had only ever once seen him like this, so desperate and ready to kill. That had been back in his last body when he seen a Dalek again for the first time since the Time War.

But this time, he seemed reluctant to fire his weapon. Of course he was. He wouldn’t have been the Doctor if he could just shoot someone without hesitation. He hadn't shot that Dalek back in Utah and Rose didn't think he would be able to shoot Rassilon. Not unless he absolutely had to. Which is why Rose decided it was best to keep her distance for the moment.

‘Choose your enemy well,’ said Rassilhon. ‘We are many. The Master is but one.’

The Master did not have the same reluctance against killing as the Doctor did. ‘But he's the President. Kill him, and Gallifrey could be yours,’ he told the Doctor.

That was the wrong thing to say. The Doctor whirled around and trained the gun on the Master.

‘He's to blame, not me,’ said the Master, pointing at Rassilon, before realisation hit him. ‘Oh, the link is inside my head. Kill me, the link gets broken, they go back.’ But he knew the Doctor well enough to know the struggle that was going on within him. ‘You never would, you coward,’ he said, tauntingly. ‘Go on then. Do it.’

The Doctor span around again to point the weapon at the Time Lords.

‘Exactly,’ said the Master, triumphantly. ‘It's not just me, it's him. He's the link. Kill him!’

‘The final act of your life is murder,’ said Rassilon. It seemed he knew the Doctor well too. ‘But which one of us?’

‘Doctor?’ asked Rose, nervously. She wanted to go up to him and hold his hand but she knew it was best to wait. She could only imagine what he was feeling right now. It must have been something close to what he had felt when he had pressed that button and ended the Time War the first time. ‘You don’t have to do this.’

The Doctor had his back to her but she saw his shoulders relaxed a little at the sound of her voice. He took a few moments to consider what he was doing and then he turned around once more, the gun pointing at the Master. ‘Get out of the way,’ he said.

It took a few seconds for the Master to realise what the Doctor was saying but he dived out of the way just as the Doctor fired the gun. The bullet hit the diamond that had created the link to Gallifrey and the device it had been resting in exploded. The room started shaking again as the pathway lost stability. The Time Lords and Gallifrey were getting pulled back to the Time War.

‘The link is broken,’ shouted the Doctor. ‘Back into the Time War, Rassilon. Back into hell.’

Rssilon was livid. ‘You'll die with me, Doctor,’ he growled and raised his gauntlet again.

The Doctor just stood there. ‘I know.’

Rassilon pointed his finger at the Doctor and the gauntlet started glowing. Now, Rose did move. ‘No!’ she shouted as she ran to the centre of the room and stood in front of the Doctor. But no sooner had she got there, the Doctor had grabbed her by the waist and twirled them around so that he was now between her and Rassilon. He held her tightly and Rose wasn’t sure whether if it was out of need for comfort and support or just to stop her from getting in the way of Rassilon’s weapon again.

It was probably both.

‘Get out of the way,’ came a voice from behind her and Rose turned to see the Master now back on his feet. He looked almost as angry as Rassilon did but she didn’t have long to ponder on his expression before the Doctor was pulling her to the side and to the ground, out of the Master’s path.

The Master thrust his hand forwards and a blast of energy burst from it, hitting Rassilon square in the chest. ‘You did this to me!’ shouted the Master as he took a step forwards and sent another bolt of energy towards Rassilon, this time from the other hand. ‘All of my life! You made me!’

His body was glowing again but the Master kept advancing on his foe. ‘One! Two! Three! Four!’ he shouted in time with his attacks and in time with the drumbeat that had been put in his head. The light from the pathway was blinding now and Rose was forced to shield her eyes. The last thing she saw was Rassilon falling to his knees as the Master entered the pathway. When the room finally stopped shaking, she opened her eyes again. The Time Lords and the Master were gone and, judging by the clear view of the sky, so had Gallifrey.

Rose looked up to the Doctor, he looked just as shocked as she was. The Master had saved them. ‘We’re alive,’ she said, not sure of how to put her relief into words.

‘We’re alive,’ parroted the Doctor, still looking at where Rassilon had stood moments ago. Then he looked down at her and the shock in his eyes turned into giddy relief. ‘We’re alive,’ he repeated before crashing his lips to Rose’s. After a couple of moments, he broke the kiss and started peppering smaller ones all over her face, all the while repeating the same two words over and over like a mantra. ‘We’re alive. We’re alive.’

Rose let out a small laugh (more out of sheer relief than anything) and lifted her hands to cup the Doctor's face. She used her thumb to wipe away a tear that had escaped down his left cheek. ‘You’re alive,’ she said and this time, she was the one who initiated the kiss. They had done it. They had beaten the prophecy!

Knock, knock, knock, knock.

The Doctor and Rose froze.

Knock, knock, knock, knock.

They slowly broke apart and turned in unison to face the source of the noise.

Knock, knock, knock, knock.

It was Wilf. He was still locked into the glass chamber that was attached to the Gate. He was knocking on the door to get their attention.

Knock, knock, knock, knock.

And he had knocked four times.

‘They gone, then?’ he asked. ‘Yeah, good-o. If you could let me out? Only, this thing seems to be making a bit of a noise.’

Rose was the first to get up. Now that she had been pulled out of her reunion with the Doctor, she could hear the noise that Wilf was referring to. It did sound quite ominous. A bit like the sound you hear when you get too close to electricity pylons. She walked over to inspect the door of Wilf’s chamber. She knew she couldn’t unlock it without locking herself in the other so her first instinct was to grab her sonic screwdriver. Her hand was halfway to her pocket when she realised that she had lost it at some point over this whole ordeal. She wasn’t sure if she had dropped it when she had first been kidnapped or if it had been taken from her when she was unconscious but, either way, it was gone.

She turned to the Doctor, who had only just walked up to the glass chambers, a defeated look on his face. ‘Do you have your screwdriver?’ she asked him.

He nodded. ‘But we can’t use it. The Master left the Nuclear Bolt running. It's gone into overload.’

‘And that's bad, is it?’ asked Wilf.

From the look on the Doctor’s face, Rose guessed that it was worse than bad.

‘All the excess radiation gets vented inside there,’ explained the Doctor, nodding to the chamber that Wilf was in. ‘Vinvocci glass. Contains it. All five hundred thousand rads, about to flood that thing.’

Rose bit back a gasp. If that happened while Wilf was still in there… no she couldn’t let that happen.

‘Oh. Well, you'd better let me out, then,’ said Wilf.

‘Doctor, why can’t we use the sonic?’ asked Rose, desperate for a way to get Wilf out.

‘It's gone critical,’ he said. ‘Touch one control and it floods. The sonic would set it off.’

‘I'm sorry,’ said Wilf.

Rose turned to face him. ‘You have nothing to be sorry for,’ she said, resolutely. ‘There was another man in here and you saved his life by taking his place. Don’t ever apologise for that kind of bravery.’

The Doctor nodded. And then took a step towards the door of the vacant chamber. Rose grabbed his arm to stop him. ‘Let me do it,’ she said.

‘No,’ said the Doctor, forcefully. ‘You’ll die. I can regenerate.’

‘I might regenerate too.’

‘I’m not taking that chance.’

‘Neither of you have to take that chance,’ said Wilf. ‘Look, just leave me. I'm an old man. I've had my time.’

‘We’re not going to leave you in there,’ said Rose. ‘We’ll just have to think of another way, that’s all.’

‘Rose, there isn’t time,’ said the Doctor, softly. ‘I have to do this.’

Rose turned back to him and held his gaze. She could tell by his eyes that he had already gone through every possible scenario and that this was the only option they had left. He didn’t want to die, she knew that, but she also knew that he was not going to let Wilf die instead.

Finally, she gave a nod and let go of his arm. He gave her a small smile and turned to face the chambers.

‘No. No, no, please, please don't,’ cried Wilf as the Doctor got closer to the chamber. ‘No, don't! Please don't! Please!’

‘Wilfred, it's my honour,’ said the Doctor, humbly, before he went into action mode. ‘Right. Better be quick.’ He grabbed the door handle of the vacant chamber. ‘Three, two, one.’ He opened the door and rushed inside. As soon as the door was closed, he pressed the button inside and the door to Wilf’s chamber unlocked. Rose practically pulled the old man out of it and sealed the door behind him. Not a moment after, the Doctor’s chamber was flooded with a horrible red light and he opened his mouth in a silent scream of agony.

Rose wanted to pull at the door or to break the glass and get him out of there but she knew that there was nothing she could do. The Doctor squeezed his eyes shut and slid down the side of the chamber and onto the floor. He curled himself into a ball, holding his head in his hands. Rose was selfishly grateful that she could no longer see the pain etched on his face.

Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, the red light faded. The Gate had lost all power now and the door to the Doctor’s chamber unlocked itself. Not even thinking about the possibility of any left over radiation, Rose yanked the door open and crouched down next to the Doctor. He slowly lifted his head to look at her.

‘Hello,’ he said, a little surprised.

‘Hello,’ Rose repeated in disbelief. The Doctor was alive and he was still him. He was still the skinny man with great hair whom she had been living with for the past few years. She took his hands in hers and helped him to his feet and out of the chamber.

‘Still with us?’ asked Wilf.

The Doctor looked back to the chamber and the back to Wilf. ‘The system's dead. I absorbed it all. Whole thing's kaput.’

Wilf smiled, relieved. ‘Well, there we are, then. Safe and sound. Mind you, you're in hell of a state. You've got some battle scars there.’ He pointed to the Doctor’s face that was indeed covered in scars. The Doctor let go of Rose’s hand and rubbed both of his over his face as if to scrub the scars away.

And that was exactly what happened. When the Doctor’s face was visible again, it was as if none of those cuts or scrapes had ever happened. Rose’s relief disappeared in an instant. The Doctor hadn’t regenerated… but he would. He was still dying.

Wilf looked shocked and a little scared. ‘But they've... Your face. How did you do that?’

The Doctor looked down at his hands that were now also free of any injuries he had gotten from falling through the glass ceiling. He looked up to face Rose, his eyes sad and apologetic.

‘It's started.’

Chapter Text

It took much longer for the Doctor to regenerate this time. Or maybe he was just fighting it more. Either way, it meant that he had time to do a few things before he went. And what he wanted to do was say goodbye. Not just to Rose and Wilf, but to everyone. All of his companions. He had asked Rose if she had wanted to join him but she realised that this was something that he should do alone and decided to stay in the TARDIS.

Before he left each time, he would tell her exactly who he was visiting but after the first five or so stops, Rose lost track. It didn’t matter to her anyway. These were the Doctor’s last few hours and he deserved this chance to visit all the people who had made his life special. Despite not knowing much about those people, Rose found herself feeling an extreme amount of gratitude towards them just for being there for the Doctor at some point in his life. She made a mental note to make sure the Doctor told her all about them properly one day.

The Doctor walked back into the TARDIS after visiting someone who had used to work at UNIT with him (Jo, was it?) and went straight back to the controls. ‘Just a couple of quick errands before we go see the next one,’ he said.

‘Errands?’ asked Rose.

‘Mmhm. Very important.’

Rose decided not to push him for a more direct answer. She just didn’t have the energy.

The errands that the Doctor had had to make were mercifully quick. The longest they stayed in one place was five minutes. The TARDIS made its usual wheezing sound as it landed again. ‘Here we are,’ said the Doctor with forced cheeriness. It may have even been believable if it weren’t for the slight groan of pain that escaped him at the end. He recovered quickly and then held his hand out to Rose. ‘You’ll want to see this one,’ he told her.

Rose took his hand. ‘Why, where are we?’ she asked him as she allowed him to lead her away from the console.

‘You’ll see.’

He opened the doors and they walked out into an English churchyard. The sun was shining and the church bells were ringing. Rose opened her mouth to ask what they were doing here but stopped when the sound of laughter echoed across the yard. She looked towards the church and saw a very familiar redhead wearing a white dress – just like she had been the first time the Doctor and Rose had met her. But this time, Donna Noble had made it all the way down the aisle and was now standing hand in hand with her new husband who looked at her with nothing but love in his eyes.

‘Is he…?’

‘Nice?’ the Doctor finished for her. ‘According to Wilf he is. And if Wilf says he’s nice then that is good enough for me.’

Rose smiled. ‘Me too.’

She looked over all the smiling guests and her eyes fell on a man who was watching from the other side of the yard, much like she and the Doctor were. Rose knew the reason he was keeping his distance, it was for the same reason that they were. He didn’t want Donna to remember him. As if sensing she was watching, the Metacrisis Doctor’s eyes locked onto Rose’s and he gave her a small smile. She returned the smile and added an awkward wave.

The sound of Wilf and Sylvia approaching distracted her for a moment and when she looked back, he had gone.

‘And here you are, eh?’ said Wilf as he and Sylvia came to a stop in front of the Doctor and Rose. ‘Same old face. Didn't I tell you you'd be all right? Oh! They've arrested Mister Naismith. It was on the news. Crimes undisclosed. And his daughter. Both of them, locked up.’ He sobered a bit and his expression became more serious. ‘But I keep thinking, Doctor, there's one thing you never told me. That woman. Who was she?’

‘What woman?’ asked Rose. She had obviously missed something while being tied to a chair for the better part of two days.

The Doctor gave her a look that promised her answers later and then turned to Wilf. ‘I just wanted to give you this,’ he said as he pulled an envelope out of his coat pocket and handed it over. He nodded towards where Donna was laughing with her husband and some of their friends. ‘Wedding present. Thing is, I never carry money, so I just popped back in time, borrowed a quid off a really lovely man. Geoffrey Noble, his name was. Have it, he said. Have that on me.’

Now Rose understood why the Doctor had to run all those errands. She felt an enormous swell of pride for him in that moment. He had given Donna a wedding present that only he could give: a gift from her father.

Sylvia almost burst into tears at the sound of her late husband’s name, obviously touched. Wilf stroked her back comfortingly and mouthed ‘thank you’ to the Doctor. He wasn’t crying but there was still so much emotion in his eyes.

The Doctor nodded his understanding and Wilf and Sylvia walked back to the church to give Donna her present.

‘What was in the envelope?’ Rose asked the Doctor once they were alone again.

‘Lotto ticket.’

Rose just stared open mouthed at him for a few seconds before she burst out laughing. ‘Couldn’t think of anyone who deserves it more,’ she said, deciding that, just this once, the universe could let them abuse they’re time travelling privileges.

The Doctor smiled too – his first proper smile since he had absorbed the radiation that was now slowly killing him. ‘Me neither,’ he agreed.

Wilf and Sylvia had obviously just realised what the present was too, judging by the excited smiles they had on their faces. They turned back to face them and Rose gave them a small wave. They waved back but Wilf must have sensed that it this was goodbye because his smile faded and he gave them a salute. The Doctor gave him a small smile in return and then took Rose’s hand.

‘Come on,’ he said. ‘Time to go.’

Rose gave an understanding nod and followed him back to the TARDIS. She was glad that he had brought her with him for this visit. It was good to know that Donna was going to have the brilliant life she deserved.

Once inside the TARDIS, the Doctor moved over to the controls and sent them away from England. But not too far away. They were now in orbit above planet Earth. ‘Just one more person to say goodbye to,’ said the Doctor once the central column had stilled.

‘Who?’ asked Rose.

'You.'

He looked up at her then and she knew that his pained expression was because of more than just the radiation poisoning.

Rose fought back the tears that she had been keeping at bay for the past couple of hours. ‘This isn’t goodbye,’ she said. The words for her benefit just as much as the Doctor’s. ‘I’ll still be here when… when…’

She couldn’t seem to finish her sentence but luckily the Doctor understood. ‘I know you will,’ he said. ‘And I’m so grateful for that. I’m so grateful for you.’ He walked around the console to stand in front of her and he took both her hands in his. ‘All the things I’ve been through in this body. Being trapped underneath a black hole with no TARDIS. Losing Jenny and then Donna. Mars. I don’t know how I would have gotten through all that without you. So thank you. My Rose. Just… Thank you.’

Rose lost her battle against the tears at that. She couldn’t find any words to match his so she kissed him instead. At first it started off as sweet and chaste but when the Doctor let go of her hands and wrapped his arms around her, bringing her closer, it soon turned into something more desperate. This was their last kiss - for this Doctor anyway - and they were going to make it count.

When the need for air kicked in, Rose reluctantly broke away. ‘I’m going to miss this you,’ she said. ‘We’ve been through so much together and I know we’ve still got so much more to come… but I will always remember this part of our lives.’ She smiled through the tears. ‘We made a good team, didn’t we?’

The Doctor nodded and matched her smile. ‘The best.’ He looked down at his hand. It was now glowing gold.

It was time.

He looked back up at her, his smile gone. ‘You’d better stand back,’ he said.

Rose desperately wanted to stay where she was and hold his hand but she knew she couldn’t. He was right; she should be standing back for this. His whole body was starting to glow with the beginnings of regeneration energy now and it was only a matter of seconds before it totally overcame him.

‘I love you,’ she sobbed as she took a few steps backwards. She needed to tell him one last time before he changed.

The Doctor gave her a pained smile. ‘Quite right too,’ he said.

Rose would have chuckled at that if she weren’t crying so much. She gave a shaky nod of agreement instead.

‘And I suppose, if it’s my last chance to say it… Rose Tyler-’

He didn’t get the chance to finish his sentence before the golden light fully engulfed him.

This regeneration was far more explosive than the last one Rose had seen and she stumbled back a bit as she shielded her eyes. The regeneration energy coming from the Doctor was so forceful that the console room shook violently and small fires started to break out. The coral struts began to come apart and Rose jumped out of the way of one of the falling pieces but she lost her footing in her haste and went flying towards the grating, hitting her head on the console on the way down.

The bright light of the Doctor’s regeneration energy was still filling the room as Rose closed her eyes and lost consciousness. She didn’t get to see the new man standing at the console shouting, ‘Geronimo!’