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A Flash of Gold

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“I’m supposed to go.” Rose knew it wasn’t a question, not in the Doctor’s mind.

“Yeah,” he replied, as cheerily as if she had asked if he wanted tea.

“To another world, and then it gets sealed off.” Rose thought that maybe voicing the daft plan aloud would help the Doctor realize that he was talking nonsense.

“Yeah,” the Doctor replied again, in that same cheery tone.

“Forever,” Rose said, hoping he would catch on to the dual meaning in that world. She had promised him forever, but she couldn’t do that trapped across the void from him. She let out an incredulous laugh. “That’s not going to happen.”

The building shook from the battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen. Rose had already lost one Doctor to the Daleks; she wasn’t about to lose this one too.

Before she could voice that thought though, Pete started moving forward and shouting orders. “We haven’t got time to argue. The plan works. We’re going. You too. All of us.”

“No, I’m not leaving here,” Rose protested.

Jackie stopped too. “I’m not going without her.”

“Oh my God. We’re going!” Pete yelled.

Jackie leaned toward Pete and yelled, “I’ve had twenty years without you, so button it. I’m not leaving her.”

Rose stepped up behind Jackie. “You’ve got to,” she whispered.

“Well, that’s tough!” Jackie yelled.

Rose took her mother’s hand. “Mum.” The computer continued its countdown in the background, but Rose ignored it. She looked straight at her mother and continued, “I’ve had a life with you for nineteen years, but then I met the Doctor, and all the things I've seen him do for me, for you, for all of us. For the whole stupid planet and every planet out there. He does it alone, mum. But not anymore, because now he's got me.” She noticed the Doctor walking behind her, but she ignored him in favor of focusing on her mother. She almost took a step back to stand by his side, but at the last second, she stepped forward and hugged her mum, letting that hug convey everything she was feeling that she couldn’t put into words. When she let her mother go, she pushed her toward Pete. “Go. Have a great life Mum. I love you.”

Behind her, the Doctor reached up to put a button around her neck, but she stepped forward to squeeze her mum’s hand as Jackie let Pete put a button on her neck. This caused the Doctor to miss, but it was already too late. Pete had pressed the button, and her mother was gone, but Rose was still with the Doctor.

Rose turned to face him and saw the button in his hand. “You were going to put that on me, weren’t ya?”

“Rose,” The Doctor whispered. “Once the bridge collapses, that’s it. You will never be able to see her again. Your own mother.”

Rose took the Doctor’s hand. “I made my choice a long time ago, and I’m never going to leave you. Besides, it wouldn’t have worked. Don’t you remember the last time you tried to send me away?” She didn’t notice the panic that flashed through his eyes as he remembered Bad Wolf and how it had almost killed her. She continued lightly, “So, what can I do to help?”

At that moment the computer chimed, “Systems rebooted. Open access.”

Realizing that if Rose had already torn the universe apart once to reach him, she would do it again, and that this time it might kill her, the Doctor decided he had no choice but to let her help. It was the only way he could even try to keep her safe. “Those coordinates over there,” he pointed, “set them all to six. And hurry up.”

“We’ve got Cybermen on the way up,” Rose called to the Doctor.

“How many floors down?” He replied, sprinting over to her.

“Just one.”

The Doctor quickly took over typing, and within a few seconds the computer said, “Levers operational.”

The Doctor smiled, and Rose said, “That’s more like it. Bit of a smile. The old team.”

“Hope and Glory, Mutt and Jeff, Shiver and Shake,” The Doctor said, his own smile widening in response to Rose’s.

“Which one’s Shiver?” Rose asked, glad to have their playful banter back.

“Oh, I’m Shake,” the Doctor replied seriously, handing Rose a magnaclamp.

They both put their magnaclamps on the walls by the levers. “Press the red button,” the Doctor said. “When it starts, just hold on tight. Shouldn’t be too bad for us, but the Daleks and Cybermen are steeped in void stuff. Are you ready?”

Rose glanced at the Doctor and nodded quickly, but when she looked back, she saw the Daleks approaching the window. “So are they.”

“Let’s do it!” The Doctor yelled, and they both forced their levers up, quickly grabbing onto their magnaclamps.

"Online,” the computer said.

Almost immediately, the vacuum of the Void began to pull, and Rose and the Doctor were lifted off their feet, but they both held firm to the magnaclamps. As the first Daleks were sucked in, the Doctor yelled, “The breach is open! Into the Void! Ha!”

A steady stream of Daleks and Cybermen were sucked into the Void. The more time went by, the faster everything was sucked in. Everything was going perfectly until a Dalek bumped Rose’s lever, causing the computer to say, “Offline.”

The suction decreased, and Rose leaned toward the lever, hoping to be able to pull it without letting go of her magnaclamp. She realized it was impossible at the same moment the Doctor yelled, “Hold on!” Ignoring him, she flung herself onto the lever.

"I’ve got to get it upright!” she yelled. Because she was facing away from the Doctor, he was unable to see the way her eyes lit up gold as she struggled, eventually forcing it back into place.

“Online and locked,” The computer declared. The suction picked back up, quickly pulling in the last of the Daleks and Cybermen.

“Rose, hold on! Hold on!” The Doctor yelled as the suction picked Rose up vertically.

The suction of the void picked up, and Rose found it harder and harder to hold on to the lever. But right as she thought she was going to have to let go, she found a little extra strength and tightened her grip. And if she appeared to glow slightly? Well, the Doctor put that down to his own imagination and relief as he heard the computer say, “Systems closed.”

The suction stopped, and they both fell to the ground. Rose collapsed, completely exhausted. The Doctor immediately sprinted over to her and scooped her into his arms. “Rose, are you okay? I thought I had lost you. You shouldn’t have done that, we would have found another way—"

He rambled on a mile a minute until Rose looked him in the eyes and whispered, “Shhh… It’s fine. I’m okay Doctor. Can we please just go home?”

Without another word, he picked her up and carried her to the TARDIS. Clearly relieved to have both her Thief and her Wolf safe, the TARDIS opened the doors for them, so the Doctor didn’t have to set Rose down to use his key.

“Thanks, Old Girl,” Rose whispered, brushing her hand along the door frame as the Doctor carried her in. Without a word, the Doctor dropped Rose onto the jump seat and started to send them into the vortex. When he was finished, he just stared at the time rotor. After a few minutes of silence, Rose softly called, “Doctor?”

“Hmm?” He replied noncommittally.

“What is it?” Rose asked.

“What is what?” He replied, turning around and bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“What’s bothering you?”

“Oh, nothing! Nothing bothers me!” He replied, jumping around the console. “So, where to next? We could go to—”

“Doctor!” Rose shouted. Once she had his attention, she continued calmly, “I just wanna rest. Maybe float through the vortex for a few days?”

“Oh, quite right! And that reminds me, you need to go to the med bay. I have to make sure everything is fine after that,” The Doctor replied.

“In the morning,” Rose grumbled, standing up. Silently, she asked the TARDIS to move her room a little closer. She needed to be able to make it to her room on her own if she wanted to convince the Doctor that a medical inspection could wait until the morning.

“No mornings in the TARDIS Rose Tyler!” The Doctor called.

Rose shook her head and stumbled to her room. She collapsed on the bed and fell asleep instantly, as the exhaustion of the day became overwhelming.

Back in the console room, the Doctor watched Rose disappear into the hallway. As soon as she was out of sight, he slumped against a coral strut. “I could have lost her today,” he whispered to the TARDIS. Her lights dimmed in sad agreement. She had seen the timelines, and most of them ended with her Thief losing her Wolf one way or another. “She should have gone with her mother, to Pete’s World,” the Doctor continued. At that, the TARDIS flashed her lights mauve. How could he possibly think that would be a better situation? “But she lost her mother and her best friend to that universe. What does she have left here?” The TARDIS gave him the telepathic equivalent of an eye roll at that. “Me? I’m no good for her. Just look at the situations I put her in. How many times this month have I almost lost her?”

At this point, the Doctor was belligerent, stumbling around the console room screaming up at the ceiling. The TARDIS flashed her lights green to remind him that Rose was safe and sound onboard and that she was sleeping. He quickly quieted down, even though he had a feeling it would take much more than him yelling to wake her up. The Doctor collapsed into the jump seat and put his head in his hands. “What should I do?” He asked the TARDIS, but she remained unhelpfully silent.

Chapter Text

“Take me back!” Rose yelled, pounding on the white wall in front of her. She continued pounding and crying until she realized that whatever she was pounding on was much softer than a wall. Slowly, Rose regained consciousness, only to realize that she had been pounding on the Doctor’s chest. He was sitting on her bed, slowly rocking her and murmuring quiet reassurances.

“Shhhh. It’s okay Rose. It’s okay,” the Doctor whispered, running a gentle hand through her hair.

“Doctor,” Rose sobbed.

“I’m here. I’m right here,” he repeated.

“Doctor, it-it was so real,” Rose whispered into his chest.

“What was so real?” he asked.

“My nightmare,” Rose replied. She puled back to look at him. “We were back in the lever room at Torchwood, and you slipped the button around my neck. I ended up in the other universe, but I came back, and everything happened like it really did, but I wasn’t able to hold on. I fell. But, instead of falling into the void, Pete caught me and took me to the other universe. I was just stuck, staring at a white wall. Mum and Mickey were trying to calm me down, but I just couldn’t.”

“At least you lived,” the Doctor replied quietly, pulling her back to his chest so he could run his hands through her hair. The soothing motions were less for her, and more to remind him that she was still with him, and that she was safe.

“Yeah,” Rose said, pulling back again, “but I was trapped across the void from you. I couldn’t get back. So what if I lived? It might even have been worse, being stuck over there with you over here.”

The Doctor suddenly looked very serious. “Rose, don’t ever say anything like that again. It would always be better if you were alive. Any universe would be lucky to have you in it.”

“But what about you?” Rose asked. “It’s not good for you to be alone.”

The Doctor shrugged, “I’d be fine, so long as I knew you were somewhere, alive and safe.”

“Doctor,” Rose sighed.

“No arguments. I’m going to go put the kettle on. You get cleaned up. Maybe after a nice cuppa you’ll be able to get some more sleep.” The Doctor fully disentangled himself from Rose and stood up. “Meet me in the galley whenever you’re ready.”

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

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Rose made her way to the galley. The Doctor was sitting at the table, the toaster in pieces in front of him. She sat down in front of the steaming mug he had made for her and sighed, “Doctor, what are you doing to the toaster now?”

“Well, I reckon that if I—” The Doctor started, before Rose cut him off.

“In English please,” she said.

“I was speaking English! Not that you would really be able to tell the difference. I could have been speaking French or
Sontaran or Draconian or –” he stopped when he noticed the look on Rose’s face. “Ah, you meant in non-technical terms.” She nodded. “Right, well, I figured that I could make the toast pop out higher.”

“And why do we need that?” Rose asked, sipping her tea.

“Well, I don’t know that we need it, but I can, so I thought I would,” the Doctor replied.

Rose shook her head but said nothing. Taking that as her consent to continue tinkering with the toaster, he picked the sonic back up. They sat there in silence for what felt like hours, but the Doctor knew was really only five minutes and twenty-seven seconds. Eventually, Rose set down her cup and broke the silence. “I need to stop by the flat.”

“That’s a good idea, let everyone know you’re still alive,” the Doctor replied, still tinkering.

“No.”

“What do you mean no?” The Doctor asked.

“If I just don’t show up again, they’ll count me as missing, presumed dead, right?” Rose asked.

“Well, yes, but you aren’t dead,” the Doctor argued.

“Yeah, but it’d be easier if I was,” she replied. Then, noting the look on his face, she quickly added, “Not really dead, but legally.”

“What are you talking about Rose?” The Doctor asked, shaking his head.

“I can’t ever go back to that life, not after this. And without Mum and Mickey, I have nothing tying me down there. It’ll be easier on everyone else just to assume I’m dead,” Rose shrugged.

“But Rose, just because you don’t want that life now doesn’t mean you won’t want it someday,” the Doctor argued.

“Doctor, I told you earlier, I made my decision a long time ago. I promised you forever and I intend to keep that promise,” Rose replied, taking one of his hands in hers.

“We don’t have to do it right now,” the Doctor replied, pulling his hand away to continue fidgeting with the toaster and not making eye contact. “Give you time to be sure, maybe change your mind…”

“I’m not gonna change my mind Doctor. And the sooner I do it, the easier it’ll be to move on.”

The Doctor sat in silence for a few minutes, but he knew Rose had made up her mind. “Okay,” he sighed, setting down the sonic. “I’ll land us just a minute or so after we left, so we don’t accidentally cross our own timestreams.”

“Are you sure you can do that Doctor? That’s pretty specific,” Rose replied, following him to the console room.

“As long as the TARDIS cooperates, I’m a wonderful driver. Isn’t that right old girl?” The Doctor said. The TARDIS lights flashed in her equivalent of an eye roll, and Rose laughed. The Doctor smiled at that. Even if she was laughing at his expense, it was good to see her laughing, especially considering how taxing the day was bound to be on her.

The Doctor set the coordinates for about five minutes after they left. That would give them a little time to get some stuff, but their time was still limited. They needed to be out of the flat before the bridge opened and began sucking things into the Void.

The moment they landed, the Doctor said, “Alright. I don’t want to rush this, but we don’t have a lot of time. When the younger me opens the bridge, we need to be out of here because we can still get sucked in.”

Rose nodded and stepped out, with him following behind. She went straight to her Mum’s room where all of the photo albums were kept. The Doctor stayed in the living room, intending to give her some space. But when five minutes had passed without a sound from Rose, he followed her. She was sitting on the bed, staring at her phone.

“My mum is still here,” she whispered quietly. “I could call her right now if I wanted to.”

“Rose,” the Doctor sighed. “You know you can’t do that. It would mess up all of the timelines and create a paradox.”

“I know,” she whispered, even quieter than before. “It’s just strange to think about.”

Unsure of what to do, the Doctor stood awkwardly in the door frame. A week ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated to hug her, but now…. Now things were different. He had always tried to convince himself that they were just mates and that that was why they couldn’t be together. He had tried to convince himself that she didn’t want more, so it didn’t matter what he wanted. And while she hadn’t said anything about her feelings to him, by staying with him, by choosing him over her own mother, she had made it perfectly clear that she loved him. But nothing could happen between them because she was human; she would wither and die, and he couldn’t watch that if they were anything more than friends. So, instead of comforting her, he said, “We’ve got about fifteen more minutes, if we want to be safe that is.”

“Right,” she said, standing up and shoving her phone into her pocket. She turned away from him to hide the fact that she was wiping away tears. “Would you mind grabbing mine and mum’s mugs? I think I’d like to have them.”

“Of course,” he replied quietly, leaving the room.

It took Rose a few trips, but soon she had everything she wanted. “Are you sure that’s everything you want?” The Doctor asked. “We still have a few minutes.”

“This is the most important stuff,” she shrugged, looking around at the photo albums, family quilts, and other assorted objects. “This is the stuff with the most meaning for me. And besides, if I cleared out the whole flat, people would find it suspicious.”

“If you’re sure…” The Doctor said.

“I am,” Rose said firmly. The Doctor threw the dematerialization lever, and Rose picked up a box of stuff. “I’m going to move all of this stuff to my room.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything as Rose left. She walked down the hall to where her room normally was, only to find another door where hers should have been. She kept walking, but for some reason, the TARDIS had decided to get rid of all the other doors. She couldn’t even get back to the console room. So, with a sigh, Rose walked back to the mysterious door. “Is this where you want me to go?” Rose asked. The TARDIS lights flashed once. “Alright,” she replied opening the door.

Inside was a perfect replica of her flat. Everything that she had been forced to leave behind had been recreated here. It even smelled like her flat, sort of like tea and a little too much hairspray. She set the box down on the table, only to have the rest of the boxes appear scattered on the floor. She wandered through the flat, noticing that the all of the rooms had been transferred over. The only difference was that her old bedroom had been replaced by her TARDIS bedroom. She made her way to her mum’s room and smiled. “Thank you,” she whispered to the TARDIS, placing a hand on the wall and making sure to send the ship all of her gratitude. The TARDIS hummed pleasantly in her mind, and Rose knew that while losing her mother hurt, she was right where she needed to be.

Chapter Text

The Doctor couldn’t sleep. Not that he needed much sleep, but he needed some. Normally when he couldn’t sleep, it was his own fault, with his mind unable to shut off after a long day. But not this time. No, this time it was the TARDIS’s fault. She wouldn’t let him find his own bedroom, and she would shock him if he dared to fall asleep where he was. But the worst part was the pictures. The TARDIS had taken to putting up pictures of Jackie Tyler everywhere. But, when he went to show Rose, they would be gone. He once asked the TARDIS if he was going crazy, but her only response was to pull up a picture of Jackie on the screen in the console room.

That was why, three weeks after the Battle of Canary Wharf, the Doctor was scanning for any tiny cracks in the walls between the universes. He might not be able to reunite Rose with her mother, but he just might be able to let them talk one last time. Rose had not been herself lately. She hadn’t been up for any adventures, so they had just been floating around the vortex for the most part. The only time they really landed was when Rose decided she wanted chips, and the Doctor failed horribly at making them, so they decided just to go out for them instead. It had been nice, and the Doctor even saw Rose smile, but he could tell it might be a little while before she would be okay again. He knew that what she really needed was comfort, but he couldn’t give that to her. Not with all of the new rules he had established for himself. She was still human and watching her mourn for her mother only reminded him how much it would hurt when he eventually lost her. So, he couldn’t get any closer. If he did, he knew the pain would destroy him.

The Doctor’s time senses told him that Rose had only been asleep for about four hours, so he was jumped when he heard a groggy voice behind him say, “Doctor, what are you doing?”

“Ah! Rose! What are you doing up?” The Doctor exclaimed.

She shrugged and moved to sit on the jump seat. “I couldn’t sleep was all. But you didn’t answer my question. What are you so invested in that you didn’t even hear me come in?”

“Nothing,” the Doctor lied.

“Doctor…”

“No, really Rose, I wasn’t doing—” At that exact moment, the TARDIS beeped. The Doctor stopped and looked at the screen. She had done it, she had found a crack. “Go get dressed.”

“What?" Rose asked. “Doctor, I’m not ready for an adventure just yet. If it’s something important I’ll just stay—”

“It’s not an adventure. It’s far more important than that. Just hurry, please,” the Doctor said, and Rose nodded and left the room.

Rose got to her room to see that the TARDIS had already laid out an outfit for her. Apparently, she was just as anxious for Rose to hurry as the Doctor was. Rose threw on her clothes, brushed her hair, and put on just a bit of makeup. She jogged out of her room and back to the console room, where the Doctor was wildly spinning in circles around the console, pressing buttons at random.

“Doctor, where are we going?” Rose asked.

“We’re going to orbit around a supernova,” the Doctor explained.

“Wait, we’re going to do what?” Rose asked.

“Orbit around a supernova,” the Doctor repeated.

“But why?” Rose asked as the Doctor stopped moving and went back to the screen.

“Because I’ve found a crack. It’s tiny, and it’s closing fast, but it’s still there,” he replied.

“What are we going to do with a crack?” Rose asked.

The Doctor pressed a button and said, “This.”

“Rose? Sweetheart?”

Rose spun around at the sound of that familiar voice that she was sure she would never hear again.

“Mum?” she asked, tears welling up in her eyes.

“You look like a ghost sweetheart. What’s going on?” Jackie said.

“Just a second,” the Doctor said. He used the sonic to solidify their images before adding, “There’s one tiny little gap in the universe left, just about to close, and it takes a lot of power to send this projection. We’re in orbit around a supernova. We’re burning up a sun just to say goodbye.”

Jackie stepped forward and reached a hand toward her daughter. “Can I?”

Rose looked back at the Doctor. He shook his head. “Still just an image. No touch.”

“Well can’t you come through properly?” Jackie asked, putting a hand on her hip.

“The whole thing would fracture. Two universes would collapse,” he explained.

“So?” Jackie asked.

That made Rose laugh through her tears, and she shook her head and whispered, “Mum.”

“Where are we?” The Doctor asked, changing the subject. “Where did the gap come out?”

“Bloody Norway,” Jackie complained. “Someplace called “Dårlig Ulv Stranden.”

“Dalek?” The Doctor asked, looking concerned.

Then Mickey stepped up from behind Jackie. “No, dårlig. This place apparently translates to something like Bad Wolf Bay.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Jackie said. “I just need to know how much time I’ve got with my daughter.”

“About two minutes,” the Doctor replied.

“Two minutes! But I can’t think of what to say,” Jackie exclaimed.

“Are you alright mum? Is everything good?” Rose asked. “I mean, I see you’ve got Mickey and Da—Pete, so things are alright?”

“Actually, there’s four of us now,” Jackie smiled. “Me, Pete, Mickey, and the baby.”

“You’re—” Rose asked, shocked.

Jackie nodded and placed a hand on her stomach. “About three months gone.”

“I’m gonna be a big sister,” Rose sobbed.

“Yes, you are. And I’ll make sure to tell him or her all about their brave older sister that’s off saving the universe,” Jackie said.

“Oh Mum,” Rose said, taking a step towards her mother.

“I know sweetheart I know. I love you too. And Doctor, you take care of my little girl.”

“I will Jackie, I promise,” the Doctor replied solemnly.

“And Rose, I need you to promise me something too,” Jackie said.

“Of course Mum, anything,” Rose said.

“I need you to promise that you won’t forget who you are. I don’t want this life to change you so much you aren’t the Rose Tyler I raised. You are good enough, just as you are. Don’t go thinking you have to be anything you’re not.”

“I won’t Mum. I—” before Rose could finish her sentence, the hologram faded away. For what felt like an eternity, Rose stared at the spot where her mother had been. Then she broke down and spun around so she could bury her face in the Doctor’s chest. He held her close as she cried. The rational, logical part of him told him that this was dangerous, holding her close like this. But the part of him that loved her, and hated to see her in pain, won out, and he decided that he would hold her like that for as long as she needed.

“What?” The Doctor yelled suddenly.

Rose pulled back to look at him, only to see him staring at something just behind her. As Rose turned around, a mysterious woman in a wedding dress yelled, “Oh!”

“What?” Rose yelled.

“Who are you?” The woman yelled.

“But,” the Doctor stammered.

“Where am I, eh?” The woman asked.

“What?” The Doctor repeated.

“What the hell is this place?” She asked, turning to look around the console room.

“What?” Rose and the Doctor exclaimed at once, turning to look at each other.

Chapter Text

“I said, what the hell is this place?” The mysterious bride yelled.

“You can't do that. I wasn't. We're in flight. That is, that is physically impossible! How did?” The Doctor glanced frantically between the woman and Rose.

“Tell me where I am. I demand you tell me right now. Where am I?” The woman yelled.

Sensing that the Doctor’s frustration would make him practically unintelligible, Rose decided to step in. “You’re someplace called the TARDIS. It’s a ship of sorts.”

“And how did I end up here?” She yelled again.

“It should be impossible. No, it is impossible!” The Doctor replied.

Rose turned to him and whispered, “Rude.”

“Oh! I know, you kidnapped me. Who was it? Who's paying you? Is it Nerys? Oh my God, she's finally got me back. This has got Nerys written all over it.”

“Who the hell is Nerys?” The Doctor exclaimed, throwing up his hands.

“Your best friend,” The woman replied, crossing her arms.

“Hold on, wait a minute. What are you dressed like that for?” The Doctor asked, and Rose rolled her eyes. Realizing that this scene just needed to play out, she sat down on the jump seat to watch the drama.

“I'm going ten-pin bowling,” she deadpanned. “Why do you think, dumbo? I was halfway up the aisle! I've been waiting all my life for this. I was just seconds away, and then you, I don't know, you drugged me or something!”

“I haven't done anything!” He exclaimed.

“I'm having the police on you! Me and my husband, as soon as he is my husband, we're going to sue the living backside off you!” She huffed. She started down the ramp before she seemed to remember Rose was there. “What about you, sweetheart? Did he kidnap you too?”

Rose shook her head and sighed. At that, the woman continued down the ramp. “No, wait a minute, don’t!” The Doctor yelled.

But it was too late, the woman had already thrown open the doors. They were still in orbit around the supernova, but the star had mostly died out by that point. It was still a beautiful sight, Rose thought, as she followed the woman.

Rose laid a hand gently on her shoulder. “This is a lot to take in, I know. I’m Rose, by the way.”

“But, but—” the bride stammered.

“You’re in space. Outer space,” the Doctor said. “This is my spaceship. It’s called the TARDIS.”

“How am I breathing?” she asked.

“The TARDIS is protecting you,” Rose replied.

“Who are you people?”

“Like I said, I’m Rose. And this is the Doctor. But we still don’t know your name.”

“Donna.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Donna,” Rose said.

Any calm that Rose had established with Donna was thrown out the window the moment the Doctor asked, “Human?”

“Yeah. Is that optional?” Donna asked.

“It is for me,” the Doctor shrugged.

“And what about you, blondie?” Donna asked.

“Nope. I’m as human as they come,” Rose replied. “But let’s just get you back to your wedding. Where is it?”

“Saint Mary's, Hayden Road, Chiswick, London, England, Earth, the Solar System,” Donna replied. While the Doctor set about setting the coordinates, Donna leaned into Rose. “Are you sure he didn’t kidnap you too?”

“I’m sure. I’m here because I chose to be,” Rose replied.

“Then why’ve you been crying?” Donna asked.

“I just lost my mum,” Rose replied, looking down at the ground.

The Doctor heard all of this and decided to intervene. “Right, Chiswick.” With that, he threw the lever and sent the
TARDIS into the vortex. While in flight, the Doctor started mumbling to himself. “I don’t understand that, and I understand everything. This this can't happen! There is no way a human being can lock itself onto the Tardis and transport itself inside.” He grabbed various instruments and began examining Donna. “It must be…impossible. Some sort of subatomic connection? Something in the temporal field? Maybe something pulling you into alignment with the Chronon shell. Maybe something macro mining your DNA within the interior matrix. Maybe a genetic…”

He was interrupted by a slap to the face.

“What was that for?” he asked, rubbing his cheek.

“Get me to the church!” Donna yelled.

“Right! Fine! We don’t want you here anyway, right Ro—Are you laughing at me?” The Doctor asked looking at Rose.

“No,” She lied, laughing through her tears.

The Doctor sighed, but it was more for show than anything. It was good to see Rose laughing after the morning she had had.

The TARDIS landed in a courtyard, and Donna muscled her way out. “I said Saint Mary’s. What kind of Martian are you?
Where’s this?”

The Doctor followed her out and turned to look at the TARDIS. “Something’s wrong with her. The TARDIS, it’s like she’s…”

Before the Doctor could figure out what the TARDIS was doing, Rose interrupted him. “Don’t you go blaming your driving on the TARDIS.”

“I am a fabulous driver Rose!” The Doctor protested.

“Oh yeah?” She asked, noticing that Donna had started circling the TARDIS.

“Yeah!” The Doctor insisted.

Rose kept her eyes on Donna as she listed some of the Doctor’s finest moments, “12 months late, Cardiff at Christmas instead of London, the whole thing with Queen Victoria, the parallel universe, the coronation—”

“Alright, alright, so I sometimes get things a little off,” the Doctor admitted. “But not this time. There’s actually something wrong with her. It’s like she’s…Recalibrating! She's digesting. What is it? What have you eaten? What's wrong? Donna? You've really got to think. Is there anything that might've caused this? Anything you might've done? Any sort of alien contacts? I can't let you go wandering off. What if you're dangerous. I mean, have you, have you seen lights in the sky, or did you touch something like something, something different, something strange? Or something made out of a, box of metal or. Who're you getting married to? Are you sure he's human? He's not a bit overweight with a zip around his forehead, is he? Donna!”

The Doctor noticed her walking away. He turned to follow her, but Rose put out a hand to stop him. She had this.

“Donna,” Rose whispered softly.

“Leave me alone,” Donna replied. “I just want to get married.”

“Come back to the TARDIS,” Rose suggested. “We can get you there.”

Donna shook her head. “No way. That box is too weird.”

“It’s bigger on the inside, that’s all,” the Doctor said.

Rose turned around to him and mouthed, “Not helping.” Then she turned back to Donna and said, “If you won’t come back to the TARDIS, let’s at least call your family and friends.”

“How do I do that?” Donna asked.

“Haven’t you got a mobile?” The Doctor asked.

Donna turned to him, “I'm in my wedding dress. It doesn't have pockets. Who has pockets? Have you ever seen a bride with pockets? When I went to my fitting at Chez Alison, the one thing I forgot to say is give me pockets!”

“You can use mine,” Rose suggested, pulling it out of her jacket pocket.

“It’s not some weird alien phone, is it?” Donna asked, eyeing it warily.

“Nope,” Rose replied. “Just a normal old twenty-first-century mobile. Does have universal roaming though.”

Donna didn’t actually listen to the rest of Rose’s reply. Once she heard it wasn’t alien, she began furiously dialling her
family’s number.

“This man your marrying. What’s his name?” The Doctor asked while Donna waited for her family to pick up.

“Lance,” Donna replied as her mother’s voicemail message started. She immediately tried to ring Lance.

“Good luck Lance,” the Doctor mumbled.

“Oi!” Donna shouted. Again, no one picked up. “They’re not answering,” she said quietly.

“Hey, let’s just get you to the church then,” Rose said, laying a hand on Donna’s shoulder. “No, no. I’m not going anywhere with you lot! No stupid Martian is going to stop me from getting married. To hell with you!” She said, sprinting off toward the street.

“I’m, I’m not, I’m not from Mars,” the Doctor replied lamely.

“Doesn’t really matter right now Doctor. I’ve got this horrible feeling that she’s in trouble. So we can worry about your Time Lord superiority later!”

When they caught up to Donna, they caught her trying to hail a taxi, but everyone kept driving past her. One even went so far as to yell, “Stay off the sauce sweetheart,” while another yelled, “You’re fooling no one mate!”

“Talk about the Christmas spirit,” Donna mumbled.

“Is it Christmas?” The Doctor asked.

“Well, duh. Maybe not on Mars, but here it’s Christmas Eve,” Donna replied.

“How come you’re getting married on Christmas Eve?” The Doctor asked. Rose elbowed him to signal that he was being
rude.

Donna just shrugged. “Can't bear it. I hate Christmas. Honeymoon, Morocco. Sunshine, lovely.”

While the Doctor and Donna were debating, Rose managed to hail a taxi. She pulled a bit of money out of her pocket, just to see if they will have enough. Spotting this, Donna stalked over, grabbed the money, and jumped into the taxi. “Thanks for nothing, spaceman! I’ll see you in court.”

It was at that moment that Rose spotted the trio of Santas with brass instruments. Glancing at the taxi Donna was speeding away in, Rose noticed that it too was being driven by a Santa. “Umm, Doctor?” Rose asked.

“What is it, Rose?”

“Do those Santas look familiar to you?” she asked.

The Doctor’s face paled as soon as he saw them. “Oh no.”

“And one was driving the taxi Donna got in,” Rose added.

Without another word, Rose and the Doctor turned and sprinted for the TARDIS.

“We’re going to have to fly her,” the Doctor explained. “I don’t do that much, and she’s probably not going to like it.”

“Well, we have to get to Donna. How can I help?” Rose asked.

The Doctor handed her a mallet and pointed to a button on the console. “Whenever I tell you, hit this button with this.”

“Oh no,” Rose argued. “I’m not going to hit her with anything.”

“Then you try to get Donna inside and I’ll do it,” the Doctor retorted as he started to fly the TARDIS in the direction the
taxi had taken off in.

It was relatively easy to find Donna, seeing as she had recently opened the window and started yelling, “Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Get me out! Help me! Help me! I'm being driven by a robot!”

Behind Rose, she heard the Doctor yell, “Behave!” This was followed by a dull thud, and Rose was sure the TARDIS was going to be mad at the Doctor later, but at the moment, most of her attention was focused outside the TARDIS doors on the hysterical woman in a wedding dress.

“Donna!” Rose called.

“You are kidding me,” Donna replied.

“Donna, open the door,” Rose said.

“Do what?” Donna asked.

“Open the door!” Rose repeated. “We’ve dealt with those Santa robots before. We need to get you away from them.”

Donna tried the door, but it didn’t budge. “I can’t, it’s locked.”

“Doctor, can you throw me the sonic?” Rose asked.

He tossed it to her and then asked, “Do you know the setting?”

Rose answered by way of unlocking Donna’s door and tossing it back to him. “Okay Donna,” she explained. “You should be able to open the door now. But you’re going to have to jump.”

“I'm not jumping. I'm supposed to be getting married!” she replied.

“Donna, I wish there was another way, but you are going to have to jump,” Rose explained.

The Doctor added, “Whatever that thing is, it needs you. And whatever it needs you for, it's not good! Now, come on!”

Donna looked at Rose. “Do you trust him?”

Rose glanced back at the Doctor and then turned back to Donna. “With my life.”

Donna nodded and then launched herself out of the taxi. Rose managed to haul her in, and they both sat there on the grating. The TARDIS slammed the doors shut and sped away without any input from the Doctor. They landed on a rooftop, and the TARDIS started spewing smoke. Rose thought it was more a punishment for the Doctor because of the hammer than an actual TARDIS malfunction, but she figured now was not the time to explain to Donna that ship was sentient.

“The funny thing is, for a spaceship, she doesn't really do that much flying. We'd better give her a couple of hours. You all right?” The Doctor said as they all filed out of the ship.

“Doesn’t matter,” Donna replied.

“Did we miss it?” Rose asked.

Donna nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well, you can book another date,” the Doctor shrugged.

Rose glared at him and sat down next to Donna on the ledge of the building. She put an arm around the woman’s shoulder and said, “I’m so sorry Donna.”

“Like spaceman said, we can book another date,” she replied.

“And you’ve still got the honeymoon,” the Doctor added.

Rose mouthed, “Not helping” at the same time that Donna said, “It’s just a holiday now.”

“Yeah. Yeah, sorry,” the Doctor replied.

“It’s not your fault,” Donna said.

“Oh, that’s a change,” he retorted.

“Doctor!” Rose gasped. “Rude!”

“Wish you had a time machine, then we could go back and get it right,” Donna said, choosing to ignore Rose.

Rose and the Doctor exchanged a look. They were a part of events now. There was no going back and crossing their own timestream, so Rose decided it was best to leave Donna thinking that they had no ability to travel in time.

The Doctor, however, was less subtle. “Yeah, yeah. But even if I did, I couldn't go back on someone's personal timeline. Apparently.” He noticed Donna shivering, so he took off his jacket and put it around her shoulders, taking a seat on the other side of her.

“God, you’re skinny,” Donna remarked. “This wouldn’t fit a rat.”

“Oh, and you better put this on,” the Doctor said, handing her a ring. He tried not to notice the look of longing on Rose’s face as he did so.

“Oh, do you have to rub it in?” Donna asked.

“Those creatures can trace you. This is a bio-damper. Should keep you hidden,” he explained. Placing the ring on her finger, he said, “With this ring, I thee bio-damp.”

“For better or for worse,” Donna snorted. Then after a pause, she asked, “So, come on then. Robot Santas. What are they for?”

The Doctor shrugged, “Ah, your basic robo scavenger. The Father Christmas stuff is just a disguise. They’re trying to blend in. We met them last Christmas.”

“Why, what happened then?” Donna asked.

“Don’t you remember? There was a great big spaceship over London? All the people standing on the roof?” Rose asked.

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

“We spent Christmas Day just over there, the Powell Estate,” the Doctor said.

“What were you doing there?” Donna asked.

“It’s where I’m from,” Rose explained. “We spent Christmas with my mum.”

“What happened to her?” Donna asked.

Knowing that they were venturing into dangerous territory, the Doctor quickly changed the subject. “Question is, what do camouflaged robot mercenaries want with you? And how did you get inside the Tardis? I don't know. What's your job?”

“I’m a secretary,” Donna explained.

The Doctor started scanning Donna with the sonic screwdriver. “It's weird. I mean, you're not special, you're not powerful, you're not connected, you're not clever, you're not important.”

Donna turned to Rose. “Do you ever want to punch him in the face?”

“I am very seriously considering it right now,” Rose replied before addressing the Doctor. “You would have said pretty
much the same thing about me when you met me, you know.”

“I-I didn’t mean it like that,” he stuttered.

“Yeah, well you’ve been pretty rude this whole day,” Rose said.

Eventually, Donna got tired of the whirring of the screwdriver and snapped, “Stop bleeping me!”

Looking at the results from the screwdriver, the Doctor asked, “What kind of secretary?”

“I’m at HC Clements. It’s where I met Lance. I was temping,” Donna explained. “I mean, it was all a bit posh really. I'd spent the last two years at a double glazing firm. Well, I thought I'm never going to fit in here. And then he made me a coffee. I mean, that just doesn't happen. Nobody gets the secretaries a coffee. And Lance, he's the head of HR! He didn't need to bother with me. But he was nice, he was funny. And it turns out he thought everyone else was really snotty too. So that's how it started, me and him. One cup of coffee. That was it.”

“When was this?” the Doctor asked.

“Six months ago,” Donna replied.

“Bit quick to get married,” the Doctor said.

“Oh come on then. How long did you two wait?” Donna asked.

“Oh, no no no no,” the Doctor interjected quickly. “We aren’t married. Not even together. Just mates.”

Rose winced at his words. She was sure that he felt something for her. After Krop Tor she half expected him to admit his feelings on the spot. What she wasn’t sure of was why he was so adamant to hide his feelings. By staying with him, she had made her feelings perfectly clear. It was his turn to make a move.

“You seriously are just mates?” Donna asked incredulously, turning to Rose.

Rather than agreeing or disagreeing, Rose just shrugged and gave a forced smile. Donna could interpret that however she chose.

Again changing the subject, the Doctor asked, “What does HC Clements do?”

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

“Keys,” the Doctor replied.

“Anyway, enough of my CV. Come on, it's time to face the consequences. Oh, this is going to be so shaming. You can do the explaining, Martian boy,” Donna replied, standing up and moving toward the door that led to the stairs.
“Yeah. I’m not from Mars,” the Doctor said again, to no one in particular as Rose was walking in step with Donna.

He followed a few steps behind and listened to Donna go on about the wedding. “Oh, I had this great big reception all planned. Everyone's going to be heartbroken…”

Chapter Text

When they arrived at the reception, it was in full swing, despite the missing bride. It took a moment for anyone to register what was going on, but once people realized that Donna had finally reappeared, the room fell silent.

“You had the reception without me?” Donna asked.

A man pushed his way through the crowd to reach her. “Donna, what happened to you?” he asked.

“You had the reception without me?” Donna repeated, a little louder and a little more upset.

The Doctor reached around Donna to shake the man’s hand. “Hello, I’m the Doctor.” Rose elbowed him to let him know that now was not the time. Donna needed to work this out before any introductions were made.

Donna turned to look at the Doctor and Rose. “They had the reception without me.”

“Yes, I gathered,” the Doctor said.

Rose reached out and placed a hand on the woman’s arm. “I’m so sorry Donna.”

“Well, it was all paid for. Why not?” A girl off to the side asked.

“Thank you, Nerys,” Donna snapped.

Then an older woman that looked to be Donna’s mother butted in. “Well, what were we supposed to do? You just disappeared. What the hell happened? How did you do it? I mean, what’s the trick. I’d love to know.”

They all started talking at once, overwhelming Donna. When it looked like the woman was about to start crying, Rose finally snapped. “Hey! Leave her alone. Can’t you see she’s upset? She’s clearly had a very stressful day. She missed her own wedding for goodness sake, and all you can do is yell at her? I don’t know who you think you are to treat her like that, but I won’t stand for it.”

Everyone backed down, looking a bit ashamed except for Donna’s mother. “Well who do you think you are little missy? Trying to tell her family and friends what to do?”

“I’m the person that found her and had been trying to get her back to you all, that’s who I am. And I seem to be the only person actually concerned with how she is feeling, so there,” Rose replied, standing her ground in the face of the woman’s anger.

At that moment, Donna burst into tears, successfully distracting her mum from Rose. She winked at the Doctor and Rose, letting them know it was all an act, but it clearly worked. Everyone who had been yelling at her moments before was now soothing her and doting on her. Rose and the Doctor took this as their cue to get out of the drama.

“Looks like Donna has this handled,” Rose remarked to the Doctor as they stood to the side, watching everyone slowly resume the party.

“Still good of you to stand up for her,” the Doctor replied.

“What else could I do?” Rose asked. “Just let them yell at her? I wasn’t kidding when I said she had had a rough day.”

The Doctor smiled at her. “That’s what I love about you,” he blurted out without thinking. Hoping to cover his mistake and distract her from his wording, he continued, “You always stand up for others. You can’t stand injustice in any form. Like that time in Cardiff, with Charles Dickens…”

Rose elbowed him with a smile. “That why you keep me around then? So you can just set me loose on people to yell at them?”

They both laughed at that, and they stood at the bar in comfortable silence for a minute before the Doctor asked Rose for her phone.

“Sure, but what do you need it for?” Rose asked.

“I want to do some digging into HC Clements,” the Doctor explained. Rose handed him the phone, and then settled in to quietly watch Donna dancing with the man from earlier, who was obviously her fiancé, Lance. After a minute, someone in the corner caught Rose’s eye.

“Doctor, look there. It’s the wedding photographer,” Rose whispered.

“Yes, I suppose it is. I don’t think getting your picture taken is the best idea right now though, Rose. You are trying to
convince the world that you’re dead,” the Doctor replied, still intensely focused on whatever he was reading about the company.

“No, Doctor. I don’t want to get a picture taken. I want to look at the pictures he already has,” Rose explained.

“Why? It’s not like we really know anyone here other than Donna, and she disappeared half—ohhh,” he replied, catching on midsentence. “You think he might have something that can help us figure out what happened.”

“Exactly. If he’s any good he probably has the whole thing on tape,” Rose replied.

They made their way over to the man. “Pretty strange wedding, wasn’t it?” The Doctor asked.

“Strangest wedding I’ve ever seen,” the man grumbled.

“It happened so fast, I hardly saw it,” the Doctor replied, hoping his assumption was correct. “I wish I could see it again to try to figure out how she did it…”

“Oh, don’t worry. I taped the whole thing. They've all had a look. They said sell it to You've Been Framed. I said, more like the News. Here we are,” the man said, showing the Doctor and Rose the tape. They watch Donna turn into a stream of glittering, golden energy and disappear from the screen.

“Can’t be,” the Doctor mumbled. “Play it again.”

The man rewinded the tape, adding, “Clever, mind. Good trick, I'll give her that. I was clapping.”

“But that looks like Huon particles,” the Doctor whispered, shaking his head.

“What’s that then?” the man asked.

“That’s impossible. That's ancient. Huon energy doesn't exist anymore, not for billions of years.” His eyes went wide as he looked at Rose and added, “So old that it can’t be hidden by a biodamper!”

The two of them took off toward the door, only to see robot Santas heading toward the reception hall. They turned around and sprinted for Donna. “Donna! Donna, they’ve found you.”

“But you said I was safe,” she replied.

The Doctor shook his head. “The biodamper doesn’t work. We’ve got to get everyone out.”

“My God, it’s all my family,” Donna gasped.

The Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand, and she took it as a sign that things were starting to return to normal between the two of them. What she didn’t know was that he was trying to keep her close because of what he had just learned about HC Clements. They were owned by Torchwood. Even though Torchwood had been destroyed, HC Clements had managed to stay open. And the Doctor had already almost lost Rose to Torchwood once. He wasn’t about to do it again.

“Out the back door!” He yelled, pulling Rose along as Donna followed behind. The Santas were waiting for them there though, so he changed direction, moving for a set of French windows. “Maybe not,” he said as they neared the windows, though when they looked through them, the robots were waiting there too.

“We’re trapped,” Donna said, but the Doctor wasn’t listening. He was far too focused on the remote control in one of the robot’s hands.

“Christmas trees,” the Doctor whispered, looking at Rose.

“What about them?” Donna asked.

“They kill,” the Doctor exclaimed before he began running around the room yelling, “Get away from the trees!”

Rose tried to let go of the Doctor’s hand to go spread the news to the rest of the room, but he held on tight. Luckily, Donna had taken up the job, and she was yelling, “Don’t touch the trees!”

“Get away from the Christmas trees! Everyone get away from them! Everyone stay away from the trees! Stay away from the trees!” The Doctor ordered.

“Oh, for God’s sakes, the man’s an idiot. Why? What harm’s a Christmas tree going to—” Donna’s mother, Sylvia, froze midsentence as the ornaments floated off the tree and began to hover in midair. She let out a quiet, “Oh.” It was then that the ornaments began flying around the room, exploding when they made contact with something.

Everyone began ducking under tables and chairs and anything else they could find. Rose tried to pull the Doctor under a table with Donna and Lance, but he spotted the Santas hovering near the bar. The Doctor got Rose’s attention and pointed toward the DJ’s booth. She didn’t know what his plan was, but he clearly had one, so she followed him over. “Under there,” he said to her, pointing under the table. “And cover your ears.”

Then, the Doctor turned toward the Santas and yelled, “Oi! Santa! Word of advice. If you're attacking a man with a sonic screwdriver, don't let him near the sound system.” With that, the Doctor jammed the screwdriver into the sound system and the noise began to overload the robots, literally causing them to break into pieces. Once he was sure they were out of commission, he removed the screwdriver.

He bent under the table to grab Rose’s hand. “A little warning woulda been nice,” Rose grumbled, rubbing her ears.

“I did tell you to cover them,” he protested.

“I was right under the speaker,” she argued. “I needed a little more than just my hands covering my ears.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes and bounced over toward the robots. In the background, Donna and her family were trying to calm everyone down and make sure they were okay.

“Look at that. Remote control for the decorations, but there's a second remote control for the robots. They're not scavengers anymore. I think someone's taken possession,” the Doctor muttered, mostly to himself.

“Never mind all that,” Donna said coming up behind him. “You’re a doctor. People have been hurt.”

The Doctor shook his head, still studying the robot’s head. “Nah, they wanted you alive. Look,” the Doctor said, tossing one of the ornaments to Donna. “They’re not active now.”

“All I’m saying,” Donna huffed, “is you could help.”

“Got to think of the bigger picture. There’s still a signal!” The Doctor exclaimed, sprinting out of the reception hall.

“There’s someone behind this, directing the roboforms,” the Doctor said.

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

“If we find the controller, we’ll find that out. Oooh! It’s up there. Something in the sky,” the Doctor said, continuing to scan the robot head. Suddenly, the signal vanished. “I’ve lost the signal. Donna, we’ve got to get to your office. I think this is where it all started. Lance! Is it Lance? Lance, can you give me a lift?”

“Please,” Rose added as they followed Lance to his car, though she knew the Doctor wasn’t listening. It was the first adventure they had been on in weeks, and he was excited. They never spent that long staying still. As much as they joked that trouble was just the bits in between, she knew that he couldn’t live without it. And contrary to what she had said that morning, an adventure was just what she needed. She hadn’t felt so much like herself since they arrived at
Torchwood all those weeks ago.

When they arrived at HC Clements, the Doctor immediately began running over and inspecting computers. He put on his brainy specs and started lecturing. “To you lot, this might just be a locksmiths, but HC Clements was brought up twenty three years ago by another organization.” The Doctor spared a glance at Rose as he clarified, “The Torchwood Institute.”

The shock on Rose’s face was clear, but Donna wasn’t paying her any attention. “Who are they?”

Quietly Rose answered, “They’re the reason I lost my mum.”

“They were behind the battle of Canary Wharf,” the Doctor explained. “Cyberman invasion. Skies over London full of Daleks?”

“Oh, I was in Spain,” Donna replied.

“They had Cybermen in Spain,” the Doctor said.

“Scuba diving,” Donna shrugged.

“The big picture Donna,” the Doctor sighed. “You keep on missing it. Torchwood was destroyed, but HC Clements stayed
in business. I think someone else came in and took over the operation.”

“But what do they want with me?” Donna asked.

“Somehow, you’ve been dosed with Huon energy. And that's a problem, because Huon energy hasn't existed since the Dark Times. The only place you'd find a Huon particle now is a remnant in the heart of the TARDIS.”

Rose motioned for the Doctor to continue. Momentarily confused, he looked at the expression on Donna’s face, and then realized that she was still struggling to put the day’s events together. Looking around for something to help, he picked up a mug and a pencil. “Say this is the TARDIS,” he said, holding up the mug. Then moving on to the pencil, he said, “And that’s you. The particles inside you activated. The two sets of particles activated and whap!” The Doctor dropped the pencil in the mug. “You were pulled inside the TARDIS.”

“I’m a pencil in a mug?” Donna asked.

“Yes, you are. 4H. Sums you up,” the Doctor answered distractedly. He sat down the mug and turned to Donna’s almost husband. “Lance? What was HC Clements working on? Anything top secret? Special operations? Do not enter?”

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

The Doctor then pulled up a schematic of the building on one of the machines. “They make keys, that’s the point. And look at this. We’re on the third floor.”

“But that can’t be right,” Rose mumbled.

“What can’t be?” Lance asked.

“These plans. There’s only one basement,” she explained.

“So? There’s only one basement,” Donna replied.

“But earlier,” Rose said, sprinting down the hall, “when we were on the lift, I noticed something. There’s a basement, but there’s also a lower basement.”

“Oh, gold star!” The Doctor exclaimed, grinning at Rose.

“Oh, ever since New Earth I try to notice if something is missing from the plans,” Rose smiled back. “Never know when you’ll run into another bunch of sneaky cat nuns or a bitchy trampoline.”

The Doctor smiled right back at her as they climbed into the lift.

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

“No,” the Doctor replied. “We’re showing you this building’s got a secret floor.”

“It needs a key,” Donna pointed out.

“I don’t.” The Doctor pointed the sonic screwdriver at the LB button. “Thanks, you two. We can handle this. See you later.”

Donna pushed her way into the elevator with Rose and the Doctor. “No chance Martian. You two are the ones who keep saving my life. I ain’t letting you out of my sight.”

“Going down,” the Doctor said.

“Lance?” Donna called.

Lance looked nervous. “Maybe I should go to the police.”

Donna pointed next to her. “Inside.”

Lance did as she said, and the Doctor smirked. “To honor and obey?” The Doctor asked.

“Tell me about it, mate,” Lance replied.

“Oi!” Donna interjected, glaring between the two men.

When the elevator arrived at the lower basement, the four of them stepped out into the eerie green hall. “Where are we?” Donna asked. “Well, what goes on down here?”

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

“Do you think Mister Clements knows about this place?” Donna asked.

“The mysterious HC Clements? I think he’s a part of it,” the Doctor replied, before noticing something in a recess of the hallway. His face lit up as he exclaimed, “Oh look! Transport!”

Lance and Donna eyed the Segways warily, but Rose happily climbed on one of the three. The Doctor stepped up behind her, and they began zooming down the hall. Rose craned her head back, around the Doctor’s shoulder, to ask, “You two coming or what?”

Donna and Lance each climbed on one and followed along. The Doctor was trying to maintain a serious composure, but the moment Rose and Donna made eye contact, they began laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of their situation. Donna was riding a Segway down a long dark hall in a wedding dress for goodness sake. Rose’s laughter was infectious, and the Doctor soon found himself giggling along too.

After a few minutes, the Doctor spotted a bulkhead door that said “TORCHWOOD. AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.” They stopped at this and the Doctor turned the wheel to reveal a ladder.

“Wait here. Just need to get my bearings. Don’t do anything,” the Doctor said. Then he pointed at Rose and said, “And don’t wander off.”

“Course I’m not going to wander off,” Rose huffed. “I’m coming with you.”

“No, you need to stay down here. Watch Donna,” he suggested.

“If this is Torchwood, who knows what could be waiting up there,” Rose argued. “And they want you more than they want me.”

“I don’t know about that,” the Doctor said. “We are public enemies one and two, but they never specified the order.”
Rose rolled her eyes, and he continued. “Besides, it’s easier for just one of us to get away if there are a bunch of Torchwood agents at the top. Which I doubt. Because Torchwood collapsed after Canary Wharf. This is just a remnant.”

“Five minutes,” she conceded, “or I’m coming up after you.”

“Aye aye captain,” the Doctor replied with a mock salute.

“You’d better come back,” Donna called after him.

“I couldn’t get rid of you if I tried,” the Doctor replied. “And besides, I’m not leaving Rose.”

As the Doctor started climbing up the ladder, Lance turned to Donna. “Have you thought about this? Properly? I mean, this is serious! What the hell are we going to do?”

“Oh,” Donna shrugged. “I thought July.”

The Doctor heard Rose laughing as he began to turn a wheel on the ceiling. It opened to the outside, and the Doctor climbed out. He suddenly found himself Thames barrier and only took a moment to process that information before climbing back down. When he was back with Rose, Donna, and Lance, he turned to them and announced, “Thames flood barrier right on top of us. Torchwood snuck in and built this place underneath.”

Donna exclaimed, “What, there's like a secret base hidden underneath a major London landmark?”

The Doctor turned to Rose and smirked, “Oh, I know. Unheard of.”

Rose shook her head and laughed, “Come on. I’m sure there’s more down here than just a ladder to the outside.” The four of them climbed back on the Segways and continued down the corridor until they reached a lab, full of tubes of bubbling liquid.”

“Oooh, look at this. Stunning,” he smiled. He looked at Rose and she looked a bit uneasy. “Are you okay?”

She shook her head. “I’m fine Doctor. Just feel a bit strange is all. Can’t quite remember if I’ve eaten today in all this mess. That’s probably it.”

The Doctor still look wary, but all he said was, “Okay. But if you start to feel worse, tell me, and we’ll get you back to the TARDIS.”

“I will,” she promised, giving him a reassuring smile.

In the mean time, Donna was wondering through the lab, looking at the tubes. “What does it do?” Donna asked.

“Particle extrusion,” the Doctor explained. “Hold on. Brilliant. They've been manufacturing Huon particles. Course, my people got rid of Huons. They unravel the atomic structure.”

Lance butted in at that point. “Your people? Who are they? What company do you represent?”

The Doctor shrugged, “Oh, I’m a freelancer. But this lot are rebuilding them. They've been using the river. Extruding them through a flat hydrogen base so they've got the end result, Huon particles in liquid form.”

“And that’s what’s inside me?” Donna asked.

The Doctor held up a container of particles with a knob on top and turned it. The liquid started to glow, and so did
Donna. If anyone had been paying attention to Rose, they would have noticed that she too was glowing, though in a softer manner. But all eyes were on Donna.

“Oh my God!” She exclaimed.

“Genius. Because the particles are inert, they need something living to catalyze inside and that's you. Saturate the body and then. Ha!” The Doctor jumped in realization. He was so focused on Donna that he didn’t notice Rose sit down out of sheer exhaustion behind him as he continued jumping around. “The wedding! Yes, you're getting married, that's it! Best day of your life, walking down the aisle. Oh, your body's a battleground! There's a chemical war inside! Adrenaline, acetylcholine. Wham! go the endorphins. Oh, you're cooking! Yeah, you're like a walking oven. A pressure cooker, a microwave, all churning away. The particles reach boiling point. Shazam!”

Donna reached up and slapped him.

“What did I do this time?” he whined, turning to Rose.

“You were being rude again,” she shrugged.

“Are you enjoying this? Right, just tell me. These particles, are they dangerous? Am I safe?” Donna asked.

“Yes,” the Doctor lied.

“Doctor, if your lot got rid of Huon particles, why did they do that?” Donna asked.

“Because they were deadly,” he admitted.

“Oh, my God,” Donna gasped, sitting down next to Rose.

“I’ll sort it out, Donna. Whatever’s been done to you, I’ll reverse it. I promise. Rose got tangled up with some Huon particles about, oh, a year ago, and look at her, she’s fine,” the Doctor explained.

“I did?” Rose asked.

“There were some at the Game Station,” the Doctor lied. “That’s what caused your short term memory loss.”

“Memory loss?” Donna exclaimed.

“Don’t worry Donna. There were a lot more Huon particles there, and Rose absorbed them much more quickly. You’ve had six months, so your body was able to adjust. You shouldn’t suffer any memory loss, and you will be just fine” the Doctor reassured her.

“Oh, she is long since lost,” a woman’s voice said from seemingly thin air. A wall slid up to reveal a room with a hole going all the way down to the center of the Earth. The voice continued, “I have waited so long, hibernating at the edge of the universe until the secret heart was uncovered and called out to waken.”

Lance took off, but the robots in black robes that were lining the walls turned and pointed their guns and the Doctor, Donna, and Rose. The Doctor appear unphased by this, strolling into the room. He peered down in the hole and muttered, “Someone’s been digging. Oh, very Torchwood. Drilled by laser. How far down does it go?”

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

“Really? Seriously? What for?” the Doctor asked.

“Seems a bit dramatic if you ask me,” Rose shrugged, forcing herself to stand up. She moved away from all the tubes, and suddenly felt better. It was like the air in that room had been suffocating her, but she didn’t even notice the feeling until she was away from them.

“Dinosaurs,” Donna suggested.

“What?” The Doctor asked, turning on Donna.

“Dinosaurs?” she repeated, a little less sure of herself this time.

“What are you on about dinosaurs?” the Doctor asked.

“That film, Under the Earth, with dinosaurs. Trying to help,” Donna replied.

“That’s not helping,” the Doctor shot back.

“Bit rude,” Rose said to him.

Before he could reply, the voice spoke again, in a mocking manner, “Such a sweet couple.”

The Doctor looked up to the ceiling and called, “Only a madman talks to thin air and trust me, you don’t want to make me mad. Where are you?”

“High in the sky. Floating so high on Christmas night,” the voice replied.

“I didn’t come all this way to talk on the intercom. Come on, let’s have a look at you!” the Doctor yelled.

“Who are you with such command?” the voice asked.

“I am the Doctor,” he said.

“Prepare your best medicines, doctor man, for you will be sick at heart,” the voice said, shortly before a bright light flashed, and a spiderlike creature appeared. It was reddish and hideous, and started hissing as soon as it had fully materialized.

“Racnoss?” the Doctor exclaimed. “But, that’s impossible. You’re one of the Racnoss?”

“Empress of the Racnoss,” the creature replied.

“If you’re the Empress, where’s the rest of the Racnoss? Or are you the only one?” the Doctor asked.

The Empress smiled menacingly. “Such a sharp mind.”

“That’s it. The last of your kind.” The Doctor turned toward Rose and Donna and continued, “The Racnoss come from the Dark Times, billions of years ago. Billions. They were carnivores, omnivores. They devoured whole planets.”

“Racnoss are born starving,” the Empress hissed. “Is that our fault?”

“They eat people?” Donna gasped.

Instead of answering, the Doctor asked Donna a question. “HC Clements, did he wear those, those er, black and white shoes?”

Donna laughed. “He did. We used to laugh. We used to call him the fat cat in spatz.” Her laughter died quickly when the Doctor pointed at the ceiling where a pair of feet were sticking pit of a web covering the whole ceiling. The feet were wearing black and white shoes. “Oh, my God!”

The Empress smiled. “Mmm. My Christmas dinner.”

“You shouldn’t even exist,” the Doctor yelled up at her. “Way back in history, the fledgling Empires went to war against the Racnoss they were wiped out.”

They then noticed Lance on the balcony with the Empress. He had a fire axe, and made a shushing gesture toward them, and he began to sneak up behind the Empress.

“Except for me,” the Empress replied to the Doctor.

“But that's what I've got inside me, that Huon energy thing. Oi! Look at me, lady, I'm talking. Where do I fit in? Why did I get all dosed up with these Huon particles? Look at me, you! Look me in the eye and tell me,” Donna yelled, hoping to buy Lance some time to take out the Empress.

“The bride is so feisty,” the Empress replied.

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

Lance started to swing his axe, and the Empress turned to hiss at him, then he lowered the axe and started to laugh. The Empress quickly joined in. “That was a good one,” he gasped between laughs. “Your face!”

The Empress smiled at him. “Lance is funny.”

“What?” Donna asked, looking at Lance.

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor said.

“Sorry for what? Lance, don’t be so stupid! Get her!” Donna yelled. Rose came up and put an arm around her.

“God, she's thick. Months I've had to put up with her. Months. A woman who can't even point to Germany on a map,” Lance complained.

“I don’t understand,” Donna said, looking at Rose for any answer that wasn’t betrayal.

“How did you meet him?” the Doctor asked.

“In the office.”

“He made you coffee,” the Doctor specified.

“What?” Donna asked.

“Every day,” Lance said, “I made you coffee.”

“You had to be dosed with liquid particles over six months,” the Doctor explained.

Donna’s face fell as she gave up any hope she had been desperately holding on to. “He was poisoning me.”

“It was all there in the job title,” the Doctor sighed. “The Head of Human Resources.”

“This time, it’s personnel,” Lance joked. While normally neither the Doctor nor Rose could resist a bad pun, this one was just cruel.

“But, we were getting married!” Donna exclaimed.

“Well, I couldn’t risk you running off,” Lance explained. “I had to say yes. And then I was stuck with a woman who thinks
the height of excitement is a new flavor Pringle. Oh, I had to sit there and listen to all that yap yap yap. Oh, Brad and Angelina. Is Posh pregnant? X Factor, Atkins Diet, Feng Shui, split ends, text me, text me, text me. Dear God, the never-ending fountain of fat, stupid trivia. I deserve a medal.”

Donna sniffled and turned into Rose’s embrace, sobbing quietly.

“Oh, is that what she’s offered you? The Empress of the Racnoss? What are you, her consort?” the Doctor asked.

“It’s better than a night with her,” Lance scoffed.

“But I love you!” Donna yelled, turning back to Lance.

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

“Who is this little physician?” the Empress sneered.

“She said Martian,” Lance answered.

The Doctor shrugged, noncommittally. “Oh, I'm sort of homeless. But the point is, what's down here? The Racnoss are extinct. What's going to help you four thousand miles down? That's just the molten core of the Earth, isn't it?”

Lance raised an eyebrow. “I think he wants us to talk.”

“I think so too,” the Empress replied.

“Well tough! All we need is Donna.” Lance said. Rose tightened her hug on Donna and glared at Lance and the Empress, just daring them to try and take Donna.

“Kill this chattering little Doctor man. And his little friend,” the Empress ordered the robots.

“Don’t you hurt them!” Donna yelled, pushing Rose off so she could glare at her former fiancé and the spider-thing he was leaving her for.

“No, no, Donna, it’s alright,” the Doctor said, moving to stand next to the girls.

“No, I won’t let them!” Donna exclaimed.

“At arms!” The Empress ordered.

“Ah, now, except,” the Doctor stalled while secretly fidgeting with something.

“Take aim!”

“Well, I just want to point out the obvious,” the Doctor said.

The Empress laughed. “They won’t hit the bride. They’re such very good shots.”

“Just, just, just, just, just hold on. Hold on just a tick. Just a tiny little, just a little tick. If you think about it, the particles activated in Donna and drew her inside my spaceship. So reverse it, and the spaceship comes to her,” the Doctor said, turning the knob on the Huon container that he had stored in his pocket. Rose suddenly felt the suffocating feeling again, until the TARDIS safely materialized around them. The moment they were in the ship, Rose felt better, even with the Huon particles in the container still active.

“Off we go!” The Doctor exclaimed, moving to the console and throwing the ship into flight. “Oh, do you know what I said before about time machines? Well, I lied. And now we're going to use it. We need to find out what the Empress of the Racnoss is digging up. If something's buried at the planet's core, it must've been there since the beginning. That's just brilliant. Molto bene. I've always wanted to see this. Donna, we're going further back than I've ever been before.”

The Doctor didn’t notice how distraught Donna looked, but Rose just sat down on the jump seat next to the woman. Rose knew there was nothing she could say to make the woman feel better, but she could at least let her know that she wasn’t alone. Rose had been there before, with her ex, Jimmy. It hadn’t been quite the same, for a number of reasons, but she at least could understand the sense of betrayal.

“We’ve arrived,” the Doctor announced. “Want to see?”

“I suppose,” Donna mumbled.

The Doctor finally looked at Donna and saw just how distraught she looked. Realizing he needed to cheer her up, he said, “Oh, the scanner’s a bit small. Maybe your way’s best.” He strolled to the TARDIS door. “Come on. No human’s ever seen this. You’ll be the first.”

Rose drug Donna to the door while Donna mumbled, “All I want to see is my bed.”

Ignoring the comment, the Doctor flung the doors open with gusto. “Donna Noble, Rose Tyler, welcome to the creation of the Earth.

“Now I’ve seen the full set,” Rose smiled.

“What?” Donna asked, confused.

“First place he ever took me was to see the end of the Earth. To watch the sun expand and blow up the Earth,” Rose explained. “And I was born on the Earth when it was just the plain old Earth, no exciting times. So now, I’ve seen the beginning, the middle, and the end.”

“Blimey that’s depressing,” Donna said. “Taking you to watch your own planet burn.”

“I had…some issues that I was still working through,” the Doctor replied, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably.
Rose laughed at that.

Donna shook her head and looked out. “Where’s the Earth?” she asked.

“All around us. In the dust. We've gone back four point six billion years. There's no solar system, not yet. Only dust and rocks and gas. That's the Sun, over there. Brand new. Just beginning to burn,” the Doctor explained.

“Puts the wedding in perspective,” Donna sighed. “Lance was right. We’re just tiny.”

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

“So I came out of all of this?” Donna asked.

“Isn’t that brilliant?” the Doctor replied.

The three of them sat in silence for a few minutes as they watched the dust float around them. Eventually, a large rock floated by and Donna added, “I think that’s the Isle of Wight.”

The Doctor, unable to stop lecturing for long, started back, “Eventually, gravity takes hold. Say, one big rock, heavier than the others, starts to pull other rocks towards it. All the dust and gas and elements get pulled in. Everything, piling in until you get—”

“The Earth,” Rose finished.

“But question is,” the Doctor mused. “What was that first rock?”

Donna pointed at what looked like a seven-pointed star floating through the dust. “Look.”

“The Racnoss,” the Doctor whispered. “Hold on. The Racnoss are hiding from the war. What’s it doing?”

“Exactly what you said,” Donna replied as they watched the rocks and dust begin to cling to the ship.

“Oh, they didn’t just bury something at the center of the Earth. They became the center of the Earth! The first rock,” the Doctor said as realization dawned on him.

Suddenly, something large shook the TARDIS. “What was that?” Donna yelled.

“Trouble,” the Doctor replied.

The TARDIS threw the doors shut and began shaking. “What the hell’s it doing? Donna yelled as they all made their way to the console where they could hold on.

“Remember that little trick of mine, particles pulling particles. Well, it works in reverse. They're pulling us back!” the Doctor replied.

“Well can’t you stop it? Hasn’t it got a handbrake? Can’t you reverse or warp or beam or something?” Donna asked.

“Backseat driver…” the Doctor mumbled.

“He didn’t exactly pass the test,” Rose added.

“Oi!” He exclaimed, before reaching under the console for something. “Oh! Wait a minute! The extrapolator!”

“Haven’t seen that thing in ages!” Rose gasped.

“It can’t stop us, but it should give us a good bump!” The Doctor explained. He hit a button and yelled, “Now!”

They landed with a jolt and filed out of the TARDIS. “We’re about two hundred yards to the right. Come on!” the Doctor whispered, moving down the hall.

“But what do we do?” Donna asked.

“I don’t know,” the Doctor replied. “I make it up as I go along. But trust me, I’ve got a history.”

He pulled out a stethoscope and started using it on a door while Rose and Donna shared a look at his statement. Donna asked, “But I still don’t understand. I’m full of particles, but what for?”

“There’s a Racnoss web at the entre of the Earth, but my people unraveled their power source. The Huon particles ceased to exist but the Racnoss were stuck,” the Doctor explained. While he was focused on the door, a couple of robots suck up from behind and grabbed Rose and Donna. Completely unaware, the Doctor continued, “They've just been in hibernation for billions of years. Frozen, dead, kaput. So you're the new key. Brand new particles, living particles! They need you to open it and you have never been so quiet.”

The Doctor turned around and realized that both women were gone. A flash of panic went through him. He was in a Torchwood facility, and he had let Rose get taken from him. The panic quickly solidified into rage. The Empress would pay for that. He soniced the door to reveal a robot, but he quickly dismantled it and took its robe and mask. His trick might not work, but he would try.

Back in the room with the Empress, Donna and Lance were strapped to the ceiling in a giant web, and Rose was being held by a robot off the side.

“I hate you,” Donna said.

“Yeah, I think we’ve gone a bit beyond that now, sweetheart,” Lance replied.

“My golden couple, together at last. Your awful wedded life. Tell me, do you want to be released?” The Empress crooned.

“Yes!” They shouted in unison.

“You’re supposed to say ‘I do’” the Empress chastised.

“Huh, no chance!” Lance called.

“Say it!” the Empress bellowed.

“I do,” Lance grumbled.

“I do,” Donna spat a moment later.

“I don’t!” The Empress exclaimed. “Activate the particles. Purge every last one!” Lance, Donna, and Rose all started to glow. “And release!”

The particles flew out of Donna and Lance, but Rose just began to convulse. The particles were a part of her. They couldn’t just be taken out. When the Empress deactivated the particles, Rose lost consciousness and went limp in the robot’s arms.

“The secret heart unlocks, and they will waken from their sleep of ages,” the Empress said.

“Who will? What’s down there?” Donna asked.

“How thick are you?” Lance exclaimed.

“My children, the long lost Racnoss, now reborn to feast on flesh! The web star shall come to me,” the Empress declared.

“My babies will be hungry. They need sustenance. Perish the web.”

“Use her, not me!” Lance panicked. “Use her!”

“Oh, my funny little Lance! But you are quite impolite to your lady friend. The Empress does not approve.” The Empress raised a leg and cut Lance loose, sending him down the hole.

“Lance!” Donna yelled as she watched the man fall to his death.

“Harvest the humans!” The Empress yelled as her spaceship descended on London and began to send out energy spikes
on the town. “Reduce them to meat. My children are climing towards me and none shall stop them, so you might as well unmask my clever little doctor man.”

The Doctor, who was dressed in a robot’s mask and cape, threw it off and said, “Oh well. Nice try. I’ve got you Donna!”

He pointed his sonic screwdriver at her, and the web began to fail. “I’m going to fall!” she screamed.

“You’re going to swing! I’ve got you,” he replied. She did swing, but the strand of the web was just a little too long, and she hit the wall underneath him. “Oh, sorry,” he replied.

“Thanks for nothing,” Donna grumbled.

“The doctor man amuses me,” The Empress crooned.

The Doctor leaned down toward Donna and whispered, “Go check on Rose. Don’t worry about the robots.” Then, he stood up and addressed the Empress, “Empress of the Racnoss, I give you one last chance. I can find you a planet. I can find you and your children a place in the universe to co-exist. Take that offer and end this now.”

“These men are so funny,” she laughed.

“What’s your answer?” The Doctor asked.

“Oh, I’m afraid I have to decline,” she sneered.

“Then what happens next is your own doing,” the Doctor replied.

The Empress laughed, “I’ll show you what happens next. At arms! Take aim! And—”

“Relax,” the Doctor interrupted, as all of the robots slouched.

“What did you do?” Donna asked.

“Guess what I’ve got, Donna?” The Doctor asked, pulling out a remote control. “Pockets.”

“How did those fit in there?” Donna asked.

“They’re bigger on the inside,” he replied. “But go check on Rose!”

Donna did as he said and climbed the ladder to the level Rose was on. When the robots had been turned off, she had been dropped onto the floor. Donna crouched down next to her and started shaking her. “Rose, Rose! Wake up!”

“Huh?” Rose asked groggily.

“Wake up!”

“What’s going on?” She asked, slowly coming back to reality. “And why do I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus?”

“Secret base under the Thames, those Huon particle thingies, the giant spider lady, remember?” Donna asked.

Rose shook her head out of the fog. “Oh, yeah, sorry about that. But you’re going to have to help me up. I feel terrible.”

Donna did, and then they turned toward the Doctor and the Empress.

“Roboforms are not necessary. My children may feast on Martian flesh,” the Empress said.

The Doctor smiled at that. “Oh, I’m not from Mars.”

“Then where?” The Empress asked.

“My home planet is far away and long since gone. But its name lives on,” the Doctor said. “Gallifrey.”

“They murdered the Racnoss!” She hissed.

“I warned you,” the Doctor called. “You did this.”

The Doctor took some of the ornaments from the reception and throws them at the ceiling. They explode, starting fires
and allowing the Thames to flood into the room. “No! No! My children! No! My children! My children!” The Empress screamed.

“Doctor! You can stop now!” Donna yelled, but he didn’t seem to be listening to her.

“Doctor,” Rose said in a normal voice. He shouldn’t have been able to hear her over the screams of the Empress, but he turned to look at her, and the trance he was in broke.

“Come on,” he said to the girls. “Time I got you two out.”

He grabbed Rose and helped her onto the ladder. Her strength was slowly coming back, and she was able to make it out on her own. In the background, they heard the Empress shout, “Transport me!”

The three of them made their way onto the Thames flood barrier, and Donna asked, “But what about the Empress?”

“She’s used up all her Huon energy. She’s defenseless,” the Doctor said. Almost immediately, they watched her spaceship get shot down. It fell in tiny pieces around Canary Wharf.

For a few minutes, the three of them just stood there in silence, with Rose leaning on the Doctor for support. Eventually though, Rose couldn’t take the silence. “There’s just one problem,” she said.

“And what is that?” the Doctor asked, tightening his grip on her waist.

“You’ve drained the Thames!” She laughed.

The Doctor rolled his eyes. “Come on. Let’s get you back to the TARDIS.”

Chapter Text

The moment she was inside the TARDIS, Rose felt better. She let out a sigh of relief and made her way toward the console, where she ran a hand along the time rotor in thanks. Rose had no idea how the TARDIS was doing it, but she knew that the Old Girl was the reason she was feeling better.

“Okay Donna,” the Doctor said. “Where to?”

“Home,” Donna replied. “My family will be worried sick.”

Once he had the address, he set the coordinates and landed them outside the Noble’s house. “Here you go, home sweet home.”

“Before I go in there, are you sure I’m okay?” Donna asked.

The Doctor gave her a quick once over with the sonic. “Yeah, all the Huon particles have gone. No damage, you’re fine.”

“Yeah, but apart from that, I missed my wedding, lost my job, and became a widow on the same day. Sort of,” Donna said.

“I couldn’t save him,” the Doctor said.

“He deserved it,” Donna said. After a pause, she added, “No, he didn’t. I’d better get inside. They’ll be worried.”

“Best Christmas present they could ever have,” the Doctor said. “Oh no, I forgot. You hate Christmas.”

“Yes, I do,” Donna said.

“Even if it snows?” He asked, raising an eyebrow before turning around and messing with the TARDIS. A bolt of energy flew from the top of the TARDIS into the sky, and it started to snow.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Donna exclaimed.

“Oh, basic atmospheric excitation,” the Doctor shrugged.

Rose hugged his arm, “Much better than the snow I got last year!”

“Hey,” he argued. “Technically that wasn’t me.”

They all laughed, and Donna said, “Merry Christmas.”

“And you,” the Doctor said. “So what will you do with yourself now?”

“Not getting married, for starters. And I'm not going to temp anymore. I don't know. Travel. See a bit more of planet Earth. Walk in the dust. Just go out there and do something,” Donna replied.

“Well, you could always…” the Doctor started.

“What?” Donna asked.

The Doctor looked at Rose and she smiled and finished the rest of his sentence, “Come with us?”

“No,” Donna replied quickly.

“Okay,” the Doctor said, slightly taken aback. Donna had seemed like the kind of person who would make a great companion, so it was surprising to hear her say no. Almost as surprising as when Rose had said no the first time. But the Doctor never asked
twice, and he was determined that Rose would be the only exception to that rule.

“I can’t,” she added.

“No, that’s fine,” the Doctor replied.

“No, but really. Everything we did today. Do you live your life like that?” Donna asked.

“No,” Rose said. “Trouble’s just the bits in between.”

“I think you do,” Donna argued. “And I couldn’t.”

“But you’ve seen it out there. It’s beautiful,” the Doctor countered.

“And it's terrible. That place was flooding and burning, and they were dying, and you were stood there like, I don't know, a stranger. And then you made it snow. I mean, you scare me to death,” Donna said.

“Right,” the Doctor said, unable to argue that point. He had let himself get carried away. He could have shown the Empress some mercy, but after she refused his offer, which he knew she would do, he showed none. After she took Rose away from him, even temporarily, he wasn’t prepared to give her any second chances. That was just the kind of man he was.

“Tell you what I will do though. Christmas dinner,” Donna said. “Oh, come on.”

“Oh, no. We couldn’t,” the Doctor said.

“You did it last year. You said so. And you might as well because Mum always cooks enough for twenty,” Donna argued.

“It’s me,” Rose said. “I just lost my mum. I’m not ready for all that domestic stuff, like Christmas dinners, without her.”

“Oh, Rose, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think,” Donna apologized.

Rose shook her head, “It’s fine. You were just trying to be nice.”

“We should get going,” the Doctor said. “It’s been a long day for us.”

“Am I ever going to see you again?” Donna asked.

“If we’re very lucky,” the Doctor smiled.

With that, Rose and the Doctor walked back into the TARDIS. Rose stayed in the door to wave at Donna until the very last moment. Once they were in flight, Rose yawned.

“I probably should get to bed,” Rose said.

The Doctor shook his head, “Not so fast. Something happened to you out there today. I need to do a full medical checkup.”

“I’m fine Doctor. Just tired,” Rose argued.

“Please, just a quick check up. Then we can float around in the vortex for as long as you like,” the Doctor said.

“Fine,” Rose said, making her way to the med bay. She hopped up on the exam table and let the Doctor poke and prod her with various instruments. “I don’t want to just float in the vortex though.”

“What?” the Doctor asked.

“Today was good. I felt like me for the first time in weeks. Moping around here isn’t helping anything. I want to get out there and save some planets. I think that’s what I need right now,” Rose said.

“Rose, are you sure?” the Doctor asked, setting down all of his instruments.

“Yes. There’s just one thing I want to do first,” Rose replied.

“Anything,” the Doctor said, moving over to the monitor to check out Rose’s results.

“I need to keep my promise to my mum. Keep myself grounded on Earth.”

The Doctor looked up. “I thought you—”

“I don’t want to go back to the Estate. My life isn’t there anymore. It’s here. But I was thinking, and there’s someone that kind of bridges those two worlds,” Rose explained.

“Who is it?” the Doctor asked.

“Do you think Sarah Jane would mind if I came to visit her sometime? I mean, she did say if I needed anything I could call, but I wasn’t sure if she was just being nice,” Rose said, looking down at her hands.

“I think Sarah Jane would be thrilled if you called,” the Doctor said. “She needs someone to talk about her adventures with just as much as you do.”

“Ok, good. I think I might call her in the morning. If I can ever go to bed, that is,” Rose said, pointedly looking at the Doctor.

He looked back at the monitor. Everything said she was in perfect health. The TARDIS had even run some scans on blood count that he hadn’t thought to yet. There was no explanation for why she had passed out earlier. “Everything looks perfectly fine,” the
Doctor said.

“I told you,” Rose said, hopping off the exam table. She pressed a kiss to his cheek and took off down the hall, yelling a quick “Goodnight!” before disappearing into her room.

“Goodnight,” the Doctor whispered back, placing a hand to his cheek. This woman was making it impossible to stick to his rules.

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

The next morning, the Doctor was already in the kitchen making breakfast by the time Rose woke up. “Morning Rose,” the Doctor said. Rose grunted in return, and the Doctor handed her a cup of tea. It was really appalling how addicted to the stuff she was.

About halfway through the cup, she regained the power of speech enough to say, “Thank you.”

The Doctor rolled his eyes. “So what do you want to do today?”

“I’m going to call Sarah Jane as soon as I finish this,” Rose replied.

“Are you sure you don’t want to just float around the vortex for a few days?” the Doctor asked.

“I’m sure,” Rose said. “I’m ready to get back out there. I didn’t choose to stay here so that I could mope. I chose to stay because of everything we do, whether it’s saving planets or seeing what all is out there. I’m ready to get back to it.”

The Doctor smiled. “As long as you’re sure.”

“I am.”

“Then go ahead and call Sarah Jane. I’ll finish breakfast up while you two talk,” the Doctor said.

Rose picked up her mobile and scrolled through the contacts until she found Sarah Jane’s number. The woman had said to call if Rose ever needed anything, but Rose still hesitated. What if the Doctor was wrong, and Sarah Jane had just been being nice?

The Doctor looked at her and was about to ask if she was sure, so Rose pressed the button to call Sarah Jane so that she wouldn’t have to keep convincing the Doctor that she was ready. The phone only rang twice before she heard Sarah Jane say, “Hello?”

“Sarah Jane?” Rose asked hesitantly.

“Rose?” Sarah Jane replied though Rose thought she almost sounded like she had seen a ghost.

“How are you?” Rose asked.

“I’m good,” Sarah Jane asked. “How long has it been for you since Deffrey Vale?”

“Oh, a couple of months I guess. How long has it been for you?”

“Oh, about a year, I guess,” Sarah Jane responded nervously.

“A year? So Canary Wharf already happened then?” Rose asked.

The line was silent for a minute before Sarah Jane asked quietly, “You know about Canary Wharf?”

“Yeah, we were there. Wh—you think I died, don’t you?” Rose asked.

“I saw your name on the list,” Sarah Jane responded.

“My mum ended up in a parallel universe. I decided there wasn’t much left for me in my old life, so I let them count me as dead. But I am very much alive,” Rose replied.

“Oh thank God!” Sarah Jane replied. “When I thought you were dead… It was just awful. I didn’t know how the Doctor would take it.”

“We’re both doing okay,” Rose replied. “But I was wondering if I could ask you a favor?”

“Of course,” Sarah Jane said. “Anything.”

“I got to talk to my mum yesterday, one last time, and she made me promise her I wouldn’t forget where I came from. And I already faked my death on the Estates because there isn’t anyone that I really need to stay in touch with there. So I was wondering if I could come visit you, from time to time? Just so that I could kind of stay grounded to Earth. And you know what it’s like travelling with the Doctor, so I wouldn’t have to make anything up about where I’ve been, and—”

“I would love it if you came to visit. I lead a pretty lonely life, since there aren’t many people that would understand everything I’ve seen, and it would be nice to have someone to talk to that gets it all,” Sarah Jane replied, cutting off Rose’s rambling. “And besides, I think we both owe each other a couple of stories. You said something about werewolves last time we met.”

“Thank you,” Rose replied.

“So, were you wanting to come visit soon?” Sarah Jane asked.

“As soon as you’ll have me,” Rose replied.

“Why not today? I’m not really doing much. There aren’t any pressing stories for me to go investigate,” she answered.

“Really? Ok, wonderful. When is it, for you?” Rose asked.

“Oh I’ve missed questions like that,” Sarah Jane laughed. “And it’s the thirtieth of March, 2007.”

“See you soon,” Rose said.

“Looking forward to it.”