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Maccabeats Bootstrap: A Doctor Who Hanukkah Special

Chapter Text

“And...got it!”

The Doctor yanked the lever down and stumbled as the TARDIS shuddered and thumped as she landed. Her friends grabbed onto the nearest object to them to keep from falling over.

“Oops, sorry,” the Doctor apologised, standing upright. “She’s not usually like this. I think there may be something out there she doesn’t like.”

“So, what do we do, then?”

Ryan frowned at Graham upon his question.

“What do you mean ‘what do we do’? We do what we always do: take a look.”

“But if the TARDIS don’t like it, it could be dangerous!” Graham protested.

“Yeah, like all our other adventures have been safe,” Ryan scoffed. The Doctor smiled fondly.

“That’s the spirit, Ryan!” she said, bounding down the stairs. “Although, Graham is also right. We should be careful. Stay behind me.”

She threw open the doors, revealing...Earth? Her companions stepped out one by one behind her.

“But why would she not want to land on Earth?” the Doctor mused, taking a few steps forward. She whirled around when Yaz let out a squeal, toppling over, before the TARDIS started wheezing again.

“Yaz!” Ryan rushed to help her up. “You okay? What happened?”

The Doctor, meanwhile, was focused on the TARDIS.

“No, no, don’t do this, don’t leave us!” she begged, grasping at the box, fast dematerialising.

“I dunno,” Yaz said, accepting Ryan’s hand. “I was just getting out of the TARDIS and it was like I was kicked from behind!”

All three turned their attention to the TARDIS as it disappeared from view and the wheezing noise ceased.

“No, no, no!” the Doctor whined. “Come back! You can’t just leave us here!”

The TARDIS didn’t reappear. The Doctor growled, kicking her leg out to connect with a bunch of stones on the ground.

“So...what now?” Ryan wondered. The Doctor sighed, shaking her head as if shaking off her anger.

“Well, I suppose now we have to figure out where we are and how to get the TARDIS back.”

She crouched down to the gravel path, and the other three looked around for clues as to where they might have ended up. Yaz turned her nose up, sniffing repeatedly.

“I mean, it looks like Earth, but it doesn’t smell much like Earth.”

“Earth has a smell?” Graham raised his eyebrows.

“Everything has a smell, Graham,” the Doctor said, smacking her lips together and humming. “What does that tell you, Yaz?”

“That...we’re in a copy world or something, like with the Solitract. Looks like Earth, but isn’t Earth?”

“Very good! Twenty points to Yaz! You’re getting good at this!”

The Doctor grinned up at them. Yaz grinned back.

“So where are we?”

“Excellent question, Graham.” She took another taste of the dirt. “Judging by the taste, I think - I really hope I’m not right - but I think we’re in a Paradox Universe?”

“What’s that?” Yaz asked. The Doctor stood up.

“Well, you know parallel universes, yeah?” All three nodded. “Well, a Paradox Universe is a special kind of parallel universe, that’s created when a paradox has, or will happen. It’s sort of like a pocket universe, that only exists around the people inside of it.”

“What?” Ryan, Graham, and Yaz looked blankly at her.

“What do you mean ‘what’? That explanation was simple, what part didn’t you get?”

“Lost me at ‘paradox has or will happen’,” Graham said.

“Pocket universe,” Yaz and Ryan said. The Doctor sighed for a third time, looking around.

“Look, I can see a house just down the hill there. I’ll explain on the way down.”

 


 

By the time they reached the house, Ryan, Yaz, and Graham were fairly confident about what the Doctor was talking about, and where they were, given that this was the first time they were hearing about these concepts.

“Heh, this house looks like something from a children’s storybook.” Graham observed, amused as they climbed the porch.

“Looks a bit big to house just three people,” Ryan said. The Doctor paused, her fist hanging mid air. She turned around, pointing at Ryan.

“Very good point, Ryan. And assuming we’re the only four trapped in this Paradox Universe, the question is: why is the house so big? Any guesses?”

“This universe could just be really nice and be giving us lots of space,” Graham suggested.

“It’s a trap,” Ryan said.

“Or there are other people here,” Yaz finished.

“All wonderful suggestions, although I gotta say I like Graham’s best. Gonna give Graham five points. Good one, Graham.”

“What is it with you and points?” Ryan muttered, shaking his head. “What do we even get at the end? Is there an end?”

“Good questions, Ryan, but not entirely relevant at the moment. Hold onto those, and I’ll get back to you later. For now, let’s see which one of you was right.”

“And if we’re all wrong?”

“Well, we’ll figure that out when we get to it, won’t we?” The Doctor grinned at them. “So, the question now is: knock, or sonic?”

“Sonic,” all three of them agreed in unison.

The Doctor raised her sonic and quietly undid any locks keeping the door shut. The door swung open silently, and the four of them entered, closing the door quietly behind them. None of them dared to even breathe too loudly.

They all flinched at the sound of footsteps thundering down the stairs. The Doctor pushed the other three into the nearest room to hide, which just so happened to be the under-the-stairs cupboard. Squashed in together, they held their breath as whoever, or whatever, it was landed at the bottom and headed down the hallway towards them.

The Doctor opened the door, just a fraction, to see if she could see who, or what, it was. She gasped when she saw the figure move past, and, without any warning, she stepped out and followed mindlessly, as if possessed by some mind-control alien.

“Doctor!” Yaz hissed. She, Ryan, and Graham reached out to stop her, but weren’t quick enough. They tumbled out as fast as they could, scampering after her. They saw the figure disappear into a different room, the Doctor not far behind.

They quickened their pace to a run, catching up to the Doctor a few seconds after she disappeared into the new room. She’d stopped in her tracks two steps in, and Ryan, Yaz, and Graham nearly knocked her over.

“Doctor, you alright?” Yaz asked, becoming concerned when she saw the distressed look on the Doctor’s face. “What’s wrong?”

“Looks like you were right, Yaz,” Ryan said, nodding to the rest of the room. Yaz turned and saw ten other people sitting in the room, all staring at them. “Other people.”

“Doc?” Graham asked, turning to the Doctor. “What’s going on?”

The Doctor didn’t answer. She simply turned and left the room. Yaz, Ryan, and Graham looked at each other. Yaz nodded and followed the Doctor, while the boys stayed behind. Ryan shrugged.

“So, introductions, I guess?”

Chapter Text

It took Yaz a while to find the Doctor, but she eventually found the Doctor down by the lake, staring silently out over the water. She made sure her steps were loud enough that the Doctor would hear her coming, but not too loud as to disturb her moment.

She leaned up against the railing and stared out over the water alongside the Doctor. Her heart skipped a beat when she heard the Doctor sniffle and saw her lower her head out of the corner of her eye. She turned to the Doctor, reaching out a tentative hand.

“Doctor?”

“It’s not fair,” the Doctor choked out. Yaz rested her hand gently on the Doctor’s back.

“What’s not fair?”

The Doctor took a deep breath, looking up at her. Yaz’s heart skipped another beat when she saw the Doctor’s cheeks soaking wet with tears. She began rubbing her hand up and down the Doctor’s back comfortingly.

“You know how I’ve told you about regeneration and stuff?” Yaz nodded. “Well, just like with you, ‘n’ Ryan, ‘n’ Graham, I always had a friend with my previous faces. Someone to travel around with.”

“And?” Yaz prompted when the Doctor trailed off. The Doctor took a few shaky breaths before continuing.

“And...it never lasted. I always lost them in the end.”

“Did they all die?’ Yaz asked slowly, trying to pick the right words and tone of voice.

“Some,” the Doctor admitted with a sigh, turning back to the water. “Others left me, and some others got left behind. However it happened, it always happened.”

Yaz scooted closer to the Doctor, wrapping her arm around the Doctor while her brain pieced it all together.

“Hang on, are you trying to tell me that all those people back in there are past friends of yours?”

The Doctor nodded wordlessly. Yaz exhaled slowly.

“Wow. But aren’t you happy to see them?”

“‘Course I am,” the Doctor said flatly, swiping at her eyes. “I just...I know I’m going to have to say goodbye again, in the end. It’s not fair, for this universe to give them back, only to take them away again.”

Yaz didn’t reply, instead turning her body so she could manoeuver the Doctor into a hug. The Doctor reciprocated, clinging on to Yaz as if she might fade away if she ever let go. Yaz felt the Doctor’s body shake with a fresh wave of sobs, and she hushed the Doctor, gently rocking the both of them.

Eventually, the Doctor quieted and pulled away. She cleaned her face as best she could with her sleeve.

“Sorry I don’t have any comforting words,” Yaz apologised. The Doctor shook her head, smiling weakly.

“I think the hug was good. I feel a bit better now.”

“So you ready to go back in there?”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” the Doctor said, although the usual mischievous sparkle had returned to her eyes, so Yaz knew she was feeling better. Yaz laughed, grabbing the Doctor by the hand.

“Come on. Time for you to introduce me to your past friends.”

 


 

When they returned, they found Ryan and Graham lounging around with the Doctor’s other friends, laughing and having a good time. Yaz and the Doctor had made a pit stop at the bathroom to get the Doctor properly cleaned up before going back in. They both felt that her walking back in with tears and snot all over her face would bring the mood down significantly.

All heads turned as the Doctor and Yaz entered, the Doctor hanging back somewhat shyly.

“Okay?” Ryan asked Yaz. Yaz nodded.

“Okay.”

Both Ryan and Graham nodded.

“So, you gonna introduce me to everyone?” Yaz asked the Doctor. The Doctor hesitated, taking in all of the faces she had loved. She broke into a smile and stepped forward, her usual energy returning to her.

“Love to! Everyone, this is one of my new friends, Yaz. Yaz, this is Amy, Rory, River, Bill, Clara, Rose, Donna, Martha, Sarah Jane, and Luke, if I remember correctly?”

As she spoke, she motioned to each person. The first was a redhead, seated in the lap of a brown-haired and kind-faced man. The next two women had a mess of curls on their head. THe first of them had white skin, the second, black. After her was a short woman dressed in a cute blouse, a skirt, and leggings. Yaz liked her style. Next to her was a blonde girl in her mid-twenties.Next to her, there was an older redhead woman, then another black woman, rocking a leather jacket. The last two people were who Yaz assumed to be mother and son - a woman in her fifties, at least, and a young man in his early twenties. The young man nodded at the Doctor when she motioned to him.

“Nice to meet you,” Yaz said politely.

“You too,” they said. Yaz bit her lip.

“So, uh, which order did you travel with the Doctor? Like, who was first out of you lot, who was second, and everything?”

“Yaz!” the Doctor scolded. “Don’t be rude!”

Yaz looked affronted. “I’m not being rude! I’m just curious!”

“‘S fine, Doctor,” Rose said. “I would’a asked the same thing. Sarah Jane was the first out of us. I was after, altho’ not immediately after. The Doctor had a few more companions between Sarah Jane ‘n’ me.”

“I was after Rose,” Martha said.

“Then it was me,” Donna said.

“Then us,” Amy answered, motioning to both her and Rory.

“Then me,” Clara said.

“And then me,” Bill finished.

“Luke’s never travelled with the Doctor,” Sarah Jane said helpfully. “Got grounded by the Judoon after a run in with an alien called Androvax.”

“Judoon?”

“Space police,” the Doctor said.

“Huh. And what about you, River?”

“I was never one of the Doctor’s travelling companions,” she said, a slow smirk finding its way to her face. “But I was their companion in... other ways.”

Yaz looked between River and the Doctor. River was fully smirking and a blush was creeping its way up the Doctor’s neck. A few painfully silent beats passed before the Doctor cleared her throat.

“So, uh, tea?”

 


 

“Can I just say, I am loving the new face, sweetie,” River said as they all drank their tea.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake , River,” Amy moaned. “Can you save the flirting for later, for once in your life?”

“Amy, you of all people should understand why I can’t do that.”

“Wait, why Amy?” Yaz asked. River chuckled, and Amy sighed.

“She’s referring to how I’m her mother.”

“Wait, what ?”

“Long story,” Amy dismissed.

“Well, we have time,” Yaz argued.

“Well…” the Doctor interrupted. Yaz groaned.

“You have got to be kidding me. What aren’t you telling me?”

“Well, Paradox Universes take people out of their original universes, so in Rose’s universe, there is no Rose Tyler there right now. And in our universe, there is no Martha Jones or Sarah Jane Smith there right now.”

What ?”

“And, if we leave it too long, both universes could collapse, and quite possibly cause reality to collapse, and that would be really tricky to work out, so I’d rather prevent it from happening in the first place.”

What ?”

“The more you talk, the less I like Paradox Universes,” Graham complained.

“Look, I would have told you earlier, but you didn’t ask on the way down here, and there wasn’t exactly an opening for me to say anything until just now.”

Yaz looked around the room, expecting everyone to be as exasperated and frustrated as her, but they all looked amazingly calm, except for Ryan and Graham. Their faces reflected her feelings.

“Why are you not all freaking out?” she demanded.

“It’s always like this with the Doctor,” Martha calmly explained. “Having had our adventures, we’re just a little more used to it than you are.”

“So, you just sort of become...numb to this kind of stuff?” Ryan asked. Rory spoke for the first time since Ryan, Graham, and Yaz had arrived.

“Not numb, exactly. We just got used to it. It’s kind of like if you move house, or something big happens to you. At first it’s daunting and overwhelming, but you adapt to it, and it eventually becomes your new ‘normal’. So what used to overwhelm you doesn’t so much anymore.”

Yaz, Ryan, and Graham nodded as they took in the words. Clara stood up.

“So, what’s first Doctor?”

“Yes! Doing things! Excellent!” the Doctor jumped up, pulling out her special wall marker. “First things first. I need to know what date each of you were taken out of your universe.”

The room filled with protests as the Doctor started writing on the walls.

“Relax!” Graham said over the noise. “That’s a special marker. It’s not gonna hurt the walls.”

“Plus, we’re the only ones here in this universe, so it’s not like we’re going to get fined for vandalism,” Donna pointed out. The Doctor grinned at her.

“That’s the spirit, Donna! Now, the dates, please.”

The Doctor scribbled down the dates each of them had arrived.

“Now, what’s the date here in this universe?”

“2nd of December, 2018,” Luke said.

“Hmmm, so essentially in line with the other universes. Brilliant. That makes time really easy. Now, where did each of you turn up in this universe?”

She led them out of the house and told them to go stand in the places they’d entered the universe from.

“Let’s see...I’m going to need a map. Ryan, Yaz, go find me a map.”

“What about me?” Graham asked.

“I need you to go stand in the spot the TARDIS landed,” the Doctor said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Yep, that’s me, the Stand There Man,” he sighed, heading off to do as he was told.

“Oi, don’t complain! You have a critical role, Graham! You should be honoured I asked you instead of Ryan or Yaz.”

Graham didn’t answer, and didn’t look back.

 


 

A half hour later, the Doctor had marked down all the entry points on a map Ryan had found in the study. The Doctor sat down on the porch as all her friends came back to the house.

“What are you seeing, Doc?” Graham asked as the others crowded around. The Doctor turned the map around in her hands, squinting at the dots.

“Not sure yet. All I know is that these dots will tell me where the thing that pulled us all in, is. Just not sure how I’m going to work out the dots. Yaz, pencil and ruler, please.”

The Doctor used the pencil and ruler to rule lines between, around, and through the dots, trying to work it out. But no matter which way she tried, she just couldn’t figure it out. Most of the others had gone inside by the time she threw the pencil down. Only Yaz, Clara, and Luke remained.

“Why are the dots not cooperating? It’s like one of those impossible puzzles! If only I had the answer guide.”

She pouted, and Yaz rolled her eyes.

“Why don’t you take a break and let your subconscious work on it? The answer may come to you when you least expect it.”

“Yes, good idea,” the Doctor agreed. “A break might do me some good.”

She retrieved the pencil and headed inside. At the bottom of the stairs, Luke abruptly took the map from her hands.

“May I?” he asked when she held tighter.

“Luke, right, yes of course! You’re genetically engineered! Forgot about that bit. Give it a go, let me know if you come up with anything.”

Luke took the map and the pencil and retreated to the study. The Doctor and Yaz proceeded to the lounge, where she found all her friends exchanging notes.

“Oh, does she still stroke bits o’ the TARDIS?” Rose asked, sharing a meaningful glance with Sarah Jane.

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do that,” Graham said.

“Me neither,” said Ryan.

“I have,” Yaz said from behind the Doctor. The Doctor whirled around, alarmed.

“What? No I don’t!”

“Yes, you do!” Yaz insisted. “I've seen you, when you’re alone in the console room, petting it as if it’s a cat or something.”

She ,” the Doctor corrected sternly. “The TARDIS is a she .”

“Ah, so you’re not denying it,” Yaz teased, leaning against the wall.

“But I never confirmed it, either,” the Doctor said smugly, crossing her arms over her chest.

Yaz smirked. If that was the way the Doctor wanted to play, she’d bite. She pushed off the wall, commencing a slow pace around the room.

“Let’s examine the evidence, then, shall we? Past companions, raise your hands if you’ve ever seen the Doctor stroke the TARDIS at any time.”

Everyone’s hands went up.

“So, we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Eight eyewitness accounts of you stroking the TARDIS, nine, not including myself. Companions, did your Doctor ever deny stroking the TARDIS, or do it in secret?”

Everyone shook their heads.

“So, nine eyewitness accounts, and a unanimous agreement that you’ve never been shy about treating your time machine as a sentient being, and-”

“To be fair to them, the TARDIS is a sentient being,” Rory interrupted. Yaz raised her eyebrows.

“What?”

“Yeah,” Amy said. “There was this whole thing where the TARDIS matrix was taken out of the box and put inside a person and it used the person to talk and do stuff and whatnot, so yeah, the TARDIS is sentient and shit.”

“And I’ve had actual conversations with the TARDIS,” Clara offered. “The TARDIS is definitely sentient.”

“How come you never told me this?” Yaz asked the Doctor. The Doctor shrugged.

“You never asked.”

Yaz shook her head. “Anyway, back to the point: you have a history of stroking your TARDIS. Do you deny it?”

The Doctor slumped her shoulders in defeat. “No. But, in my defense, she likes to be stroked.”

“She’s not the only one,” River said lightly, taking a sip from her drink. The room erupted in various reactions, which dissolved into conversation once The Doctor made her way deeper into the room, sitting down next to Rose.

“So you got married in your universe,” Rose said. The Doctor sighed.

“Rose, I-”

“Hey, you don’t need to justify yourself to me, ‘s okay. Still got you in my universe. ‘M happy you found someone.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. An’ from what she tells us, she’s really happy she found you, too.”

The Doctor groaned, burying her face in her hands.

“What exactly has she told you?”

Chapter Text

The Doctor was in the middle of telling Rose about the time she met Van Gogh when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and came face to face with a grinning Donna.

“Think I solved your puzzle, Doctor.”

She handed the map over. The Doctor took it, confused.

“But how could you solve it? No offence, Donna, but you’re a human.”

Donna rolled her eyes as the Doctor opened the map.

“Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten about me being half human-”

“-half time lord!” the Doctor exclaimed upon seeing the writing. “Yes, of course! Donna, you’re brilliant!”

She jumped up, running from the room.

“Doctor!” Yaz called after her, running after the Doctor. She didn’t have to turn to know all the others had joined her in chasing the Doctor.

The Doctor ran up all three flights of stairs, climbed into the attic, pushed open the sunroof-thing, and climbed up onto the roof. Yaz climbed out after her, reaching her just in time to stop her from slipping and falling.

“What the hell, Doctor?”

“It’s Gallifreyan!” the Doctor said excitedly. Yaz looked at her blankly. “Oh, right! Gallifrey is my home planet! The dots help create a Gallifreyan word, and that’s going to lead us to whatever pulled us in!”

Yaz looked over her shoulder to see the writing on the map. It was just a bunch of circles. Pretty circles, but still just circles nonetheless. She’d seen similar ones inside the TARDIS.

“Oh! So that’s what those circles all over the TARDIS are! Your language!”

“Yep.”

“Wait, does that mean you’re speaking Gallifreyan right now? Do you always speak Gallifreyan?”

“No, not now. Sometimes I do speak Gallifreyan, but it’s not often.” The Doctor turned slowly on the roof, deciphering the writing and what if meant for the landscape.

“Have you ever spoken Gallifreyan while talking to me?”

“Yes.”

“But how come I only ever hear English?”

“Translation matrix in the TARDIS. Translates most languages for you.”

“But we don’t have the TARDIS with us.”

“Sticks with you for a while after you leave. Not entirely sure how long.”

“But how? How does it stick with you?”

The Doctor paused her observation of the map and landscape. “When you travel in the TARDIS, you get special little particles that stick to you, kind of like dirt would, except it kind of goes inside you, like medicine in your bloodstream, although that’s a really crude analogy, and it takes a while to get ‘flushed out’ and for the TARDIS translation to go away.”

“So, if you were to speak Gallifreyan now, would the others understand what you were saying? Or would the particles have had enough time to go away?”

“That’s a brilliant question, Yaz. Let’s find out.” The Doctor turned back to her former companions, all on the roof behind her, listening to her do her thing. “Raise your hand if you can understand me right now.”

River, Bill, Clara, Yaz, and Donna raised their hands. Rose, Martha, and Sarah Jane looked blankly at her.

“Fascinating!” the Doctor gasped. “So we know the translation matrix lasts for between three and eight years. That’s brilliant, that is! If Amy were here I could get a more accurate time frame. Where is she, anyway?”

“Wanted to spend some time with Rory,” Martha said. The Doctor nodded, then shook her head.

“Right. Back to the map.”

“But, Doctor-” Yaz began.

“Not right now, Yaz. I need to get this done before the light is gone. And if I just turn like this...aha! Right there!”

“What? What are you seeing?”

Yaz looked where the Doctor was looking, but she couldn’t see anything. The Doctor raised her finger and pointed.

“Can’t you see it? Those trees that curve in a semi-circle. There’s one missing.”

Yaz still couldn’t tell the difference. Still, she had learned it was better to just go along with it.

“So?”

“So, that’s the path that will lead us to the thing that pulled us in! Come on, let’s go!”

“Woah!” Yaz grabbed the Doctor’s arm. “It’s getting dark, and we don’t know what dangerous stuff is out there, especially at night. I think it’s best to wait until the morning. We do have time to wait until morning, don’t we?”

“I suppose,” the Doctor said, a little deflated. “I mean, technically speaking, we do have five days, at the very least. One night won’t kill anyone.”

“And what’s the most amount of time we have?”

“In theory, we could have months to figure out a way out. Realistically, I’d say it’s closer to twenty days at the most.”

“Good to know. Let’s go inside.”

 


 

Everyone was in bed, and the Doctor sat alone in the kitchen, lost in her own thoughts and a plate of marmalade sandwiches. She’d discovered her love of marmalade after an unfortunate incident involving peanut butter. She’d made Ryan, Yaz, and Graham swear not to tell anyone about the incident, ever .

She wondered if they’d kept that promise while talking to her old friends. She liked that they all seemed to like each other. She didn’t know how she would cope if they were fighting. She thought about what tasks she could give them to do in getting them out of this universe. But she couldn’t think of what jobs they should each had when she didn’t even know what jobs there were to be done in getting them home.

She flinched when a pair of hands settled on her shoulders.

“Relax, Doctor, it’s just me,” River said from behind her. The Doctor relaxed.

“Thought you were asleep.”

“No.”

There was a lapse in the conversation.

“Why aren’t you in bed?”

“I wanted to spend some time alone with you,” River admitted, lifting her hands to comb them through the Doctor’s hair. The Doctor breathed deeply, setting down her half-finished sandwich. That was a nice feeling. She liked it.

“Tha’s nice,” the Doctor murmured, leaning back against River. River chuckled.

“How are you feeling?”

“Relaxed.”

River laughed again. “I didn’t mean right now. I meant: how do you feel seeing a lot of your former companions all together, at once?”

The Doctor sighed. “I don’t know. I feel a lot of different things.”

“Like?” River prompted gently.

“On the one hand, I’m really happy to see everyone. I always like reunions, they’re always happy. But on the other hand, I’m sad. I’m sad about when the reunion will be over. I don’t want it to end, but I know it has to, eventually.”

“And?”

“And...I’m scared,” the Doctor confessed in a whisper, closing her eyes. She focused on River’s touch to soothe her. “I’m scared of the very real possibility that I’ll fail, and everybody will die, and I’m really, really scared that part of me wouldn’t mind that, if it meant I got to spend more time with the rest of you. I don’t want to become that, River.”

She didn’t even realise she was crying until she’d finished talking. She squeezed her eyes shut, pressing her head against River’s tummy for comfort. But River moved away. The Doctor felt even worse, until she felt River’s weight settling on her lap. She leaned forward as River’s hands went to the back of her head, fingers continuously pushing her hair backwards.

Her tears subsided quickly. When they did, she let her head move with River’s hands, as River guided her chin up. River caressed the sides of the Doctor’s face with her thumbs. The Doctor relaxed completely into her touch, closing her eyes again, only to open them again and squeak when River kissed her.

River deepened the kiss to quiet her, and the Doctor once again relaxed into River, unable to fight off the smile pulling at her lips. She felt River smile back, and she fought back the giggles bubbling up in her throat. Why did she want to giggle? This wasn’t funny. Laughter only happened when something was funny, right? She cursed herself for not being better at emotions.

But no matter how she tried, she couldn’t hold back her giggles forever, and River pulled away shortly after she began giggling, although she kept her face close to the Doctor’s. River and the Doctor looked at each other in complete awe and adoration of each other, still smiling.

“That was nice,” the Doctor whispered, shivering slightly at the feel of River’s breath on her face. It was an odd sensation, but one the Doctor welcomed. River hummed happily, before becoming serious.

“Do you trust me, Doctor?” River asked.

“Yes,” the Doctor answered without hesitation. “You know I do.”

“Then trust me when I tell you: you don’t have to fear becoming a monster.”

“But-”

River put a finger on her lips to hush her.

“As long as you have a friend, or a companion with you, you never have to worry about taking it too far. You never have to be afraid of becoming what you fear.”

River dropped her finger and the Doctor sighed.

“How do you know that?”

“I know everything, I’m your wife,” she said. Her comment elicited a smile. River smiled back.

“But how do you know ?” the Doctor asked again, her smile fading. River threaded her fingers back into the Doctor’s hair.

“Because I’ve seen it firsthand. What you’re like when there is, and isn’t a human around.”

“Eyewitness account?” the Doctor joked. River huffed a laugh, shaking her head.

“New face, same old humour.”

“Well it got the desired result, didn’t it?”

River laughed at the Doctor.

“My turn.”

“For what?”

“Desired results,” River said, going back in for another kiss.

 


 

The Doctor decided to use the rest of the night for some sleep. It had been almost two weeks since she’d slept, and even though she knew she could go at least three more weeks without sleep before it killed her, she decided there wasn’t much else to do. Besides, she didn’t know when she was going to be able to sleep again. May as well get some now so she could stay awake longer, if she needed to do so later.

She was awoken the next morning to the sound of music blasting through the house. She yawned and stretched, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, before getting up and going downstairs. She’d gotten a good five hours, and was feeling rejuvenated and ready to face the new day.

“Good morning, team,” she greeted happily, helping herself to some of the pancakes Rory was busy cooking.

“Did you sleep last night?” Yaz asked as the Doctor sat down next to her. The Doctor glanced down at the pyjamas she had chosen.

“Yeah. Why, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but I thought you didn’t need to sleep?”

“They do need to, eventually,” Rose chimed in helpfully. “Jus’ not as often or as long as the rest of us. Time Lord biology or wha’ever.”

“Time Lord?” Yaz raised her eyebrows at the Doctor.

“Name of my species. And Rose is right, I can go for a long time without sleep, but I do need some, sometimes.”

“What happens if you don’t?”

“I die,” the Doctor stated chirpily, shoving a large piece of pancake into her mouth.

“Is it just me or did she sound way too happy about that?” Ryan asked.

“You get used to it,” Clara said, walking in.

“Starting to think this may be a bit of a running theme,” Graham mused, going for the syrup. Clara laughed.

“So, what are we doing today?” she asked, sitting down with the Doctor.

“To find the the thing that pulled us in here in the first place and hopefully destroy it so we can get out of here.”

“And when that all goes to shit?” Amy wondered, getting up to get more pancakes. The Doctor looked deeply offended.

“What makes you think it’s all going to go wrong?”

“Because that’s the way it always is,” Sarah Jane said with a fond smile. “You make a plan, something happens, and the plan falls apart.”

The Doctor was lost for words. She couldn’t think of any arguments, and so resigned herself to eating her pancakes in silence. Although, she did make sure to look grumpy about it. But it was hard to be grumpy when Rory’s pancakes were so good and the music was happy and cheery and upbeat.

By the time she was finished eating, she was back to her usual, happy self. She took the plate up to the sink, rolling up her sleeves to clean it.

“Uh, Doctor, you don’t have to,” Rory interrupted. “Luke’s our assigned dishwasher.”

“Oh! Right! Okay!”

“Still don’t get why I have to stay behind and clean up,” Luke grumbled from the table.

“Because you didn’t have an argument good enough to get you out of it,” Clara said, collecting up the empty dishes near her.

“‘Putting me on dish duty is biphobic’ isn’t a good argument!” Luke said crossly. “It’s emotional manipulation, guilting people into letting you off!”

“Counterpoint, it is a good argument, because it worked,” Clara bantered back, grinning. “That’s the entirety of what makes a good argument, Luke, or have you forgotten what you learnt at school already?”

“I’m twenty-four!” Luke protested, his face becoming red. “I’m not a child!”

“Then stop whining about the dishes like one,” Clara said, giving him a pointed look. Sarah Jane placed a hand on Luke’s shoulder to keep him from saying anything more, so he settled for flipping Clara off and slumping back grumpily in his chair.

“If you like, Luke, we can wait for you,” the Doctor offered. Luke perked up.

“Really?”

“‘Course! Can’t run off without the smartest person here. Well, after me and Donna, of course.”

Luke grinned, jumping up, eager to get kitchen duty out of the way before they left. The Doctor turned to leave but paused when she remembered a question she had.

“Hey, what music is this? I like it.”

“Maccabeats,” Rory answered, smiling.

“Maccabeats. Cool name. I’ll be on the porch when we’re all ready to go.”

Chapter Text

The Doctor led her 13 friends down the hill towards the semi circle of trees, with one missing. Everyone was silent as they walked, all equally as excited and scared for what lay beyond the trees. She led them into the wood, along a path she found, stopping every now and again to check the map, to make sure they were going in the right direction.

She led them off the path, over some rougher ground, through some thick bushes, to a cave. The Doctor stopped again, searching her pockets.

“Come on, where did I put it…”

“You put it in your bum bag, remember?”

“Right! Thank you, Bill.” She dug around in the bum bag until she found her torch. “Right then. Onwards.”

She led them into the cave, only to find she didn’t need her torch. There were some fire torches, already lit, a little way in, which she motioned for everyone to take.

“Is someone else here, Doctor?” Yaz whispered as they ventured deeper into the cave. “I mean, torches don’t just light themselves and put themselves there.”

“I certainly hope not,” the Doctor whispered back. “I’m really hoping these torches are just the work of the Paradox Universe, and not of some other creature who’s here. I really don’t want to deal with that.”

“But what if the thing that pulled us here was an alien creature of some description?” Sarah Jane whispered from her right. The Doctor jumped.

Sweet Rassilion, Sarah! ” the Doctor hissed. “Don’t scare me like that! I thought you were further back! And to answer your question, yes I have thought of that, and I don’t like that possibility much so I’m choosing to ignore it until the last possible moment.”

“Why don’t you like it?” Yaz wondered. “I mean, you fight aliens all the time. What’s so bad about this that you don’t want to think about it?”

“Because Paradox Universes take a lot of energy and a lot of matter to create, and for a creature to be able to create one would already be an incredible feat of nature, but to be able to pull all of us in, too? That would have to be one of the most powerful, if not, the most powerful creature in all of creation. Not too fond of facing that.”

Sarah Jane and Yaz didn’t say anything else after that. The Doctor led them deeper and deeper, until they stepped into a big, round room in the deepest part of the cave. The Doctor motioned for everyone to put their torches in the holders around the room, and she stepped up to the cube sitting in the middle of the room.

The cube was approximately 30 by 30 by 30 centimetres, by the Doctor’s best guess, and as she got closer, her brow furrowed in concern. On each side of the cube, she could see a specific design, and on the wooden parts of the cube where the design wasn’t, she could make out Gallifreyan writing.

Clara stepped up, too, after she’d put her torch in the holder. The Doctor crouched down to take a closer look, but didn’t dare touch it.

“Hang on, is that-”

“I think it is, yeah.”

“But that’s not possible! Is it?”

“It shouldn’t be,” the Doctor said, shuffling around to inspect it further. She pulled out her sonic to scan it. This shouldn’t be possible, even in a Paradox Universe. This box shouldn’t even exist anymore. She widened her eyes at the results of the scan.

“Stay back, and don’t touch,” she barked out upon sensing everyone moving forward.

“Doctor, what is it?” Martha asked. The Doctor looked up at her friends, a solemn expression on her face.

"It’s the box I used to destroy Gallifrey, but not really. Just sent it off to its own little pocket universe. It’s a long story.”

The Doctor looked back at the box, not wanting to talk about it.

“How bad is it, Doctor?”

“Not quite sure, exactly, but I’d say it’s really bad,” the Doctor said, not taking her eyes off the box.

Yaz licked her lips, taking a step back to stand next to Ryan.

“So...what do we do?” Graham asked.

“Good question, Graham. The only answer I have is to get out of here as fast as possible.”

“But how do we do that?”

“I don’t know,” the Doctor said tersely. “We can’t use it or destroy it, otherwise the whole of history will be changed, for the worse. But we can’t just leave it, or the paradox will cause several universes to collapse.”

“Is possibility someone copied it and put it here a a test?” Graham suggested. The Doctor shook her head, standing up.

“It’s the real thing. Sonic says so.”

She lashed out, kicking the box. It flew across the room, hitting the wall, before landing with a thud . Everyone flinched.

No one dared say anything, watching as the Doctor stormed up to the box, clearly intending to abuse it some more. River broke off from the group hanging back, and moved forward to comfort the Doctor.

Yaz leaned in, to whisper in Donna’s ear.

“What exactly’s going on right now?”

Donna didn’t take her eyes off the Doctor. “She lost her home planet a long time ago, but it’s not really my story to tell. It’s hers.

Donna didn’t say anything more, and Yaz was left to stand in silence, while her brain tried to work out exactly what was going on. But trying to make sense of it all with so little intel made her head hurt, so she quietly took one of the torches and made her way out of the cave for some fresh air.

 


 

Yaz tossed rocks one by one down the hill as she thought about all she’d heard. It was all starting to make sense now, why the Doctor was the way she was. Yaz couldn’t imagine losing so much.

“Hey, mind if I join you?”

Yaz looked up and saw Bill standing next to her. She offered a small smile.

“Sure.”

Bill sat down next to her, and joined her in throwing rocks down the hill.

“You alright?”

“Yeah. Just trying to figure it all out.”

“I know. It’s a lot to get used to.”

Yaz looked over. “Did you ever figure it out? When you travelled with her, I mean.”

“The Doctor was a he when I travelled with them, and no, not really. But I never really asked. The Doctor was always a bit of a private person.”

Yaz hummed, letting the conversation lapse into silence. She picked it up again when she thought of something to say.

“What did the Doctor look like? When you were travelling with them, I mean?”

Bill smiled fondly.

“He was a grumpy, old, white-haired Scotsman,” she remembered. “Always wore this black and white suit, but never had a tie on.”

“Black pants, boots, and blazer, white shirt?” Yaz wondered

“Yeah, that’s the one.” Bill sounded surprised. “How’d you know?”

“When I met the Doctor, that’s what she was wearing.”

“Oh wow. I love women in suits.” Bill grinned. “Well, women in general, but women in suits is just woah .”

Yaz laughed. “I know what you mean. The first girl I had a crush on in high school wore these lovely velvet suits to school dances and stuff. Never worked up the courage to talk to her, though.”

“Oh wow, my heart would not have even been able to handle being in the same room as her! How did you manage to go to the dances?”

Yaz shrugged. “Guess I just wanted to see her, y’know?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Yaz asked abruptly. Bill raised her eyebrows.

“Why? You asking?”

Yaz blushed. “What? No? Maybe? I don’t know! I’m just curious, okay?”

“Relax, I’m just teasin’ you,” Bill laughed. “And yes, I do have a girlfriend. Her name’s Heather. She’s wonderful.”

Yaz grinned, her blush beginning to fade.

“Tell me about her.”

 


 

River was the one to carry the box back to the house. The Moment, the Doctor had called it. Yaz knew it mean the box was the moment the Doctor had sent Gallifrey away, and spent the walk home trying to figure out how the Moment could be an actual, physical object, rather than just an abstract concept.

She wanted to ask the Doctor about it, but she could tell the Doctor was too tense to be taking any questions. The last thing she wanted was to make the Doctor any more upset than she already was.

When they arrived back at the house, the Doctor disappeared into her bedroom, and River left the Moment in the study for the Doctor to get back to later. Amy and Rory disappeared onto the third floor. Luke and Sarah Jane went down to the lake. Clara, Bill, River, Rose, and Martha disappeared off to different rooms.

Yaz, Ryan, Graham, and Donna all decided to go back to the lounge. Graham got them some tea and biscuits from the kitchen.

“So, how long you lot been travelling around with the Doctor?” Donna asked.

“Couple months now, I think?” Ryan said. The others nodded.

“Yeah, couple months,” Yaz agreed, a question coming to mind. “Earlier, you were the one to solve the dots on the map. How’d you manage to do that, when even the Doctor couldn’t? And what did she mean when she said ‘half Time Lord?”

“She was referring to me,” Donna explained. “I’m half Time Lord. That’s how I was able to figure out the dots.”

Ryan’s eyes went wide.

“Woah! How?”

“Biological metacrisis,” Donna explained. “The combining of the DNA of two fully formed organisms.”

“Woah, that’s cool!”

“Yeah,” Yaz agreed. “But how exactly does a biological metacrisis work?”

“Can work in any number of ways. The one I experienced was like a big bang, and would you believe, happened with a severed hand!”

Donna launched into the story of how she had become part Time Lord. All three of them gave her their undivided attention.

“...and then he wiped my memory to save me.”

“Wow,” Graham breathed out. Ryan and Yaz nodded in agreement, taking a moment to process all the information they’d just recieved.

“Wait, but if you had your memory wiped, and remembering would kill you, how come you remember here?” Yaz asked after getting her head around it.

“Paradox Universe,” Donna said simply. “Its purpose is to sustain paradoxes.”

“But how many can it hold before it falls apart?” Graham wondered. Donna grinned at him.

“And that is the million dollar question. Truth be told, I don’t know, and I’m not keen to find out.”

“So don’t do anything that would create a paradox, yeah?” Graham offered. Donna nodded. Ryan leaned close to Yaz to whisper in her ear.

“Definitely part Time Lord, she is. Notice how she sounds just like the Doctor?”

Yaz snorted, and covered it up with coughing.

 


 

The Doctor didn’t join the others for dinner. No one asked where she was. They all knew she just needed some time. Over dinner they swapped stories about the Doctor. Sarah Jane shared her stories of her own little alien-fighting gang on Bannerman Road.

“Wait on,” Yaz cut in. “Did you just say Rani Chandra? As in Haresh and Gita’s daughter?”

“Yes,” Sarah Jane said, surprised. “Why, do you know her?”

“Yeah, she’s my cousin! Haven’t seen her in years, though. Ha, that’s so cool!”

Sarah Jane smiled warmly at her. “Yes, it is. She was one of the best I ever met. You should be proud of her.”

“Can you tell me about some of the stuff she did?”

Sarah Jane launched into several stories about how rani was a crucial part in saving the world. Yaz listened happily, leaning in close to hear what Sarah Jane was saying over the other conversations at the table.

After dinner, everyone split off, filtering into different parts of the house. Rose decided to go see if she could find the Doctor. She didn’t know if it was the best idea, but she’d never been able to leave the Doctor alone for very long.

She was surprised to find the Doctor in the study, staring at the box.

“Doctor?” she asked quietly from behind.

“Yes?”

“Nothin’, I jus’ thought that maybe you needed a friend right now.”

The Doctor turned around and Rose was taken aback by how sad she looked.

“That’s very thoughtful of you, Rose Tyler. Come in, then.”

Rose did as she was told and settled herself on the desk next to the box, facing the Doctor. She expected the Doctor to turn her attention back to the box, but instead, the Doctor stood up. She brought one hand up to cup Rose’s face, and she simply stared at Rose, a soft smile on her face.

“What’re you doin’, Doctor?” Rose asked quietly, afraid that if she were too loud she might break something special.

“Looking at you,” the Doctor said simply, her voice wavering slightly.

“Yeah, but why?”

“I…” the Doctor trailed off, unable to find the words.

She could only drink in Rose’s features, remembering the lines she’d seen before, and seeing the new lines that came with age and experience. Rose cut her off mid-thought, bringing her hand up the Doctor’s.

“Nuh uh, Doctor. Don’t do that to me. Not again. Say what you’re thinkin’.”

“What if I can’t find the words to say what I’m thinking?”

Rose giggled softly. “Well, I remember, once, you tellin’ the Daleks you had five billion languages you can speak. Surely at least one of those languages has words you can use.”

The Doctor broke into a smile, dropping her eyes and shaking her head before raising her gaze again.

“I don’t think you’d understand if I chose from another language. The translation matrix doesn’t work on you anymore.”

Rose took both the Doctor’s hands, raising them to the sides of her forehead. “Then let me see your thoughts. If you can’t say ‘em, why not let me see them?”

The Doctor hesitated. Rose waited. The Doctor lowered her hands, still holding onto Rose’s, deciding to say the words that were in her head.

“I think I’m brave enough to say it this time,” the Doctor said. Rose looked hopefully at her.

“Say it, then. Please.”

The Doctor took a deep breath, her eyes glistening with tears. “I’ve missed you so much, Rose.”

Rose didn’t say anything. She simply stood and wrapped her arms around the Doctor, holding tight. The Doctor hugged back, breathing in Rose’s scent, and she smiled against Rose’s shoulder.

“Wha’ is it, Doctor?” Rose asked, though she didn’t let go.

“You smell like chips,” she murmured. “You always smelled like chips.”

Rose giggled, pulling away. “Chips are good.”

“Yeah, they are,” the Doctor agreed, looking much less sad than she did when Rose came in. “Haven’t had chips with this new body, though. Not yet. I should do that when I get us out of here.”

“How you gonna get us out?” Rose wondered, tilting her head.

“Good question, Rose. The Moment, has a conscience. So, I’m thinking, if I can wake up the conscience, perhaps it can help us get out of here. Any ideas?”

“Huh.” Rose examined the box. “Dunno. Never woken up a conscience before.”

“Me neither. Should be fun trying.”

 


 

The next two days were spent trying to wake up the conscience. They tried everything from knocking on the box, to pumping electricity into the box, to playing catch with the box. Nothing worked.

By the third day, the Doctor was fed up.

She stormed down at seven thirty in the morning, marching straight over to the bluetooth speaker and yanking the phone out of it, tossing it into the living room.

“No more Maccabeats!” she declared, grabbing some toast and retreating back upstairs. She stormed back down at ten past eleven to shut off the music again. She glared around the living room.

“I gave very clear instructions to stop playing the Maccabeats ! Who is still playing it?”

All of them looked infuriatingly innocent.

Who ?” she repeated. No one answered. She pressed her lips together in an attempt to smile politely. “Fine. If that’s the way you want to do it.”

She grabbed Yaz by the wrist before she could react and marched her from the room.

“Doctor! What are you doing?”

The Doctor didn’t answer. She led Yaz up the stairs, into the study and pushed her down into the chair.

“Doctor, I know you’re upset, but-”

“Did you do it?” the Doctor interrupted, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Do what?”

“Play the music when I said not to! Did you?”

“No! It wasn’t me, Doctor!”

“Then who was it?”

“I don’t know! Why are you blaming me?”

“You were the closest to me, okay?” the Doctor snapped, putting a few steps between her and Yaz. Yaz waited a few beats, an idea coming to her head.

“You know, I didn’t do it, but I am a cop. I can help you find out who did.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the Doctor sighed. “I’m just overreacting, again. I’m just tense.”

“Which is exactly why you should do this.”

The Doctor turned around, confused by the suggestion.

“What?”

“You’ve been spending all your time trying to wake up the conscience. Maybe if you take a step back and let your subconscious take over, you could come up with the solution. And I think interrogating everyone to find the Maccabeats Culprit may be fun. What do you say?”

The Doctor broke into a smile.

“Yaz, you are brilliant!” She bounded over. “So, how do we do this?”

Chapter Text

“Why are we starting with Luke?”

“He’s the one of the youngest, after Ryan, of course, making him the most susceptible,” Yaz explained. “Plus, from what I’ve seen, he’s the most observant of the bunch, as well as the most honest. All of those qualities together mean he’s the most likely to know, and the most likely to confess.”

“Good thinking!”

“Thanks.” Yaz grinned at her, taking a step back. “There. That looks good. What do you think?”

“Looks a bit welcoming, doesn’t it?” the Doctor observed.

“We’re interrogating our friends, not criminals,” Yaz reminded her. “If we create a more welcoming environment, they’re more likely to be comfortable and let their guard down. If we were to make it cold and sterile, they’d be more likely to be defensive and closed off.”

“That makes sense. Very good thinking!”

“Alright. Let me do the talking, alright? Just follow my lead.”

“Okay!”

The Doctor grinned, eager to start. Yaz sent her to get Luke, which she did quite happily.

“Luke! Hey, Luke!”

“Yeah?” Luke looked up from his phone.

“Need your help with something. Come on!”

Luke followed without question. The Doctor had trouble suppressing a fist pump at how easy that was. She took him up to Yaz’s room, and had him sit down on the sofa with Yaz. She went and sat on Yaz’s bed, like Yaz told her to.

“Hey, Luke, I wanted to talk with you about something.”

Luke’s gaze darted between the Doctor and Yaz. “What about?”

“Relax, Luke, you’re not in trouble. I wanted to know about what Rani is like.”

“Oh! Right!” Luke looked relieved. “Well, she’s really nice. Sweet and caring. She always wanted to be a journalist, that’s how she came to be in Sarah Jane’s life. We tried to keep her out, but she’d too curious for her own good.”

Yaz laughed. “She was like that as a little girl. She was always getting in trouble for eavesdropping.”

Luke grinned. “She hasn’t changed. Although now she does it legally. She became a professional journalist when she finished school.”

“Good for her!” Yaz said. “What about what she likes? Like, her favourite colour, favourite music, favourite animal, stuff like that?”

“She likes journalism and aliens, mostly. As for her favourite things, I know she likes blue, and she loves musicals. She’s really into ‘Something Rotten’ right now. As for animals, aliens, I guess.”

Yaz laughed again. “Fair enough. I’ve never heard of ‘Something Rotten’. What’s that about?”

“It’s about Shakespeare. Basically, there’s this competing writer, Nick Bottom, and he tries to steal from Shakespeare, but in doing so, he ends up creating the world’s first musical. It’s a lot of fun.”

“That does sound like fun,” Yaz agreed. “What about you? What music do you like?”

Luke shrugged. “I don’t have a preference. My taste is all over the place.”

“What about the Maccabeats? What do you think of them?”

Luke shrugged again. “They’re okay, I guess. Their stuff is catchy, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.”

“Well, what about Queen?”

The Doctor listened in awe as the conversation continued. Yaz was smooth with her questions, so smooth that even the Doctor almost missed the interrogation questions. After a while, she finished with Luke and he left. The Doctor gaped at her.

“That was amazing!” the Doctor praised. “How did you manage to do that?”

“Lots of training and studying.” Yaz beamed at her. “The idea is to trick people into confessing. It’s not entirely ethical, but it is effective.”

“So, what’s the verdict?”

“He’s innocent.”

“Right, then. Who’s next?”

 


 

Yaz decided she wanted to go for Bill next.

“I had a conversation with Bill earlier. She’ll be easier to talk to.”

The Doctor agreed, and watched Yaz as she had a conversation-interrogation with Bill, like she did with Luke. However, unlike with Luke, the Doctor noticed Yaz becoming flustered at some points as Bill flirted with her. It was cute, and the Doctor watched on affectionately.

After Bill was Sarah Jane, Martha, Rose, Rory, River, Graham, Ryan, Amy, Donna, and finally, Clara. Yaz used the same technique on all of them, except Clara, who picked up on what she was doing right away.

“How did you know?” Yaz asked after Clara figured it out.

“I’ve read enough books and seen enough movies and TV shows to know what’s going on,” Clara said smugly. “So, if you’re going to interrogate me, do it right.”

Yaz raised an eyebrow at the challenge. “Alright then.”

The Doctor watched as she changed tactics and instantly became very intimidating. She did not envy Clara’s position. She wouldn’t want Yaz standing over her like that. Not in front of someone else, at least. Yaz went on for a while, eventually getting something out of Clara.

“I know it’s either Amy, Rory, Donna, or Rose,” Clara told Yaz. “But I don’t know who it is out of them.”

“Right. Thank you. You can go now, Clara.”

Clara got up and left the room without another word. The Doctor noticed her steps were a bit shaky, and the back of her neck bright red, even if she maintained her composure, and let down her hair to cover her neck. She felt bad for Clara, and wondered if she should go after Clara. But before she could decide, Yaz spoke.

“Right, so we know it’s either Rose, Donna, Amy, or Rory,” she said, marking their names down. “Now we just have to figure out who.”

“Mmhmm,” the Doctor said half-heartedly, looking at the door.

“Doctor?”

“Hmm?”

“You okay?”

“Yeah. Clara just seemed rather shaken. I’m just wondering if she’s okay.”

“Trust me, Doctor, she’s fine,” Yaz said knowingly.

“Mmhmm.”

“Look, I’ll go make it up to her if it’s bothering you so much, okay?”

“Okay,” the Doctor said, letting it go. She knew Clara wouldn’t do anything rash, so she decided to trust that Clara would be okay. “Right then, what do we do next?”

“We gather all our suspects and do a group interrogation. A proper one, not a covert one. But I’ll do it in a little while. Let it sit for a while. Meanwhile, Clara.”

The Doctor smiled.

 


 

In the Doctor’s opinion, they left the group interrogation too long, because the culprit had a chance to strike again. At five to eight the next morning, the Doctor thundered down the stairs to shut the Maccabeats off.

All four of the suspects were seated at the table, enjoying breakfast, in amongst those she and Yaz had eliminated. She watched Rose, Amy, Rory, and Donna carefully as she retrieved breakfast for herself.

She set her food down, going for the phone. She paid careful attention to who seemed most irritated by her shutting off the music, but no one gave any sign of guilt, much to the Doctor’s frustration. Still, she held back, calmly sitting down and digging into her food. She would find out who did it, if it was the last thing she did.

It may actually be the last thing she ever did, she realised mid-bite. Today was day five. Today was the day it started to get risky. Multiple universes could collapse today. That was a problem. An even bigger problem: she still didn’t know how to wake up the conscience.

On the plus side, she did have all day to figure it out, and there was no guarantee that today was the day that everything died. Still plenty of time to interrogate her friends. Three bonuses. Three was better than none.

She looked up when Clara and Yaz entered together.

“Hi! You okay after yesterday, Clara?”

“Huh? Oh! Yes! I’m fine! Thanks, Doctor.”

“What happened yesterday?” Luke wondered. Yaz and Clara exchanged a look.

“Clara got into a bit of a pickle,” Yaz lied. “Isn’t that right, Doctor?”

Yaz gave the Doctor a pleading look, and the Doctor wouldn’t know how else to explain it without giving her plans away, so she went along with it.

“Yes, that’s right.”

She could tell River didn’t quite believe her, but she could tell River the truth later. Once everything was worked out.

After breakfast, Clara, Yaz, and the Doctor managed to round up Rose, Donna, Amy, and Rory into the study, already set up with five chairs. The Doctor stood off to the side and Clara made herself scarce while Yaz did a proper ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ style interrogation on the four of them.

Yaz pulled the Doctor from the room after a little while.

“What are we doing? No one’s confessed.”

“Giving them time to decide to confess. Sometimes people just need to think a bit before coming forward. We’ll know who it was soon enough.”

Something clicked in the Doctor’s mind.

Time ! Of course!” The Doctor rested her arms on Yaz’s biceps. “Yaz, you’re brilliant! I know how to wake up the conscience!”

 


 

The Doctor reentered the study, carrying every clock she could find - the grandfather clock above the fireplace, all the clocks on the walls, everyone’s watches and phones, the microwave, everyone’s alarm clock, and a toy clock she’d found in the nursery.

“Right. Amy, Rory, Donna, Rose, your phones and watches,” the Doctor instructed, holding out her hand. The four of them handed the items over, watching with skeptical looks on their faces.

“What are you doing?” Amy asked.

“Getting us out of here, but never mind that, you have an interrogation to finish. Don’t mind me, Yaz, just gonna be over here, doing a thing. Carry on.”

Yaz waited until the Doctor had finished popping in and out of the room several more times to retrieve some cables, the rest of the larger clocks she couldn’t fit in her arms all at once, some Christmas lights, and a packet of biscuits. When the Doctor was busy fiddling around with all the stuff she had brought in, Yaz turned her attention to the group.

“So-”

“It was me,” Rory cut in, before Yaz could go any further. Both the Doctor and Yaz were caught off guard. “Well, technically, me and Amy. She’s the one who insisted on keeping on doing it.”

The Doctor narrowed her eyes at Amy. “Amelia Pond. I should have known you were behind this.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “Oh don’t give me that. I only did it’s because it a tradition in our house.”

“A tradition of playing music that isn’t supposed to exist for another seventy or eighty years?”

“Wait, what?” Yaz asked.

“I’ll explain later,” the Doctor dismissed.

“Bootstrap paradox,” Amy said simply.

“And how do you know that phrase?”

“River.”

The Doctor rolled her eyes, crossing her arms. “Of course it was River. But how is the Maccabeats’ music a bootstrap paradox?”

“Chanina Abramowitz,” Rory said quietly.

“What about him?”

“He’s...or at least he will be my great-grandson in a few years’ time."

A look of realisation crossed the Doctor’s face. “Oh, I see. Wait, does that mean you’re Jewish?”

Rory nodded. “And it’s Hanukkah in both this universe and ours, and we were celebrating. Maccabeats is a part of that.”

The Doctor’s expression softened. “Why didn’t you just say something, Rory?”

Rory shrugged.

“Didn’t feel like there was a need to. Plus, you were too busy getting us out of here.”

“Nonsense, Rory!” the Doctor said, sitting in Yaz’s chair. “It’s important to you, and if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.”

Rory smiled. “You’re softer than you used to be.”

The Doctor shrugged.

“New face, new rules.” She stood up, turning to Yaz. “What do you say when a case is closed and no charges are going to be pressed?”

“Case closed, no charges pressed?”

“Right then! Case closed, no charges pressed. Now Rory, if you’d be willing, I’d love to join in your Hanukkah celebrations tonight, and I’m sure the others would, too. But only if you’re okay with it.”

“I’d love that.”

“Excellent! It’s decided. Awake the conscience, figure out a way out of here, Hanukkah celebrations, and in the morning we leave!”

 


 

Martha entered the study, tea and biscuits in hand, as per the Doctor’s request. She nearly tripped over a cable as soon as she crossed the threshold, but stopped herself just in time.

“Got your biscuits, Doctor.”

The Doctor looked up from where she was neck deep in cables and timekeeping devices. She grinned at Martha.

“Thanks very much, Martha. Could you put them just over there?” She nodded over at an empty spot on the desk. “Kind of in the middle of this.”

Martha did so, and sat down in the chair to watch the Doctor work.

“How’s UNIT going?” the Doctor wondered as she worked.

“Yeah, really good! I’m now second in command.”

The Doctor gasped, gaze snapping back up. “No!”

“Yep.” Martha grinned.

“That’s so cool!”

“Yeah, it is. Got a good influence in the place. I like the job, too, so that’s a bonus.”

The Doctor smiled, resuming her work. “What about your family?”

“Same old, y’know. Except my grandparents died a few years ago, that was hard.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Thanks. But on the plus side, my sister got married and had a kid. Named him Ollie.”

“Awww, that’s sweet.” The Doctor smiled.

“Yeah. He’s really cute, I think you’d really like him. He says he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Makes us call him Doctor Ollie.”

The Doctor chuckled.

“Sounds like a great kid.” The Doctor looked up again. “Did you have anything to do with him wanting to be a doctor, Doctor Jones?”

“No, I think it was more you,” she said. The Doctor halted her work.

“What?”

“I’ve told Ollie stories about you, and naturally he wanted to be you. He thinks that becoming a doctor means he can be the you.”

The Doctor’s hearts melted, and she barely remembered she couldn’t sink onto the floor in the present moment.

“Martha Jones, that is the most adorable thing I have ever heard,” she said seriously. “When we get back, you tell Ollie that he can most certainly be me.”

Martha laughed, and they lapsed into a comfortable silence, Martha watching the Doctor work.

“What exactly are you doing?”

“Connecting all these timekeeping devices to the Moment - that’s what this box is called. You missed the bit where I told everyone else what this was. Then, if I can turn time either forwards or backwards enough on the clocks - I haven’t figured out which yet - I can wake the conscience up. Then it can help us get out of here.”

“I see. But what exactly is the Moment?”

“It’s the moment where I had to decide whether to destroy Gallifrey or save it,” the Doctor answered shortly. “This box is a physical manifestation of that.”

Martha nodded, processing.

“So the moment has already happened, then?” The Doctor nodded. “But by that logic, shouldn’t the box be nonexistent, or at the very least, void?”

“Yes. Strictly speaking, this box shouldn’t even exist with this new face. It should only exist in the same time period-”

“-as your face about to face the moment!” Martha finished for her. The Doctor started bouncing excitedly underneath the cables.

“Which means that, like us, the Moment has been taken out of that universe and dropped here along with the rest of us, meaning that while this is the cause of the Paradox Universe, something else, or someone else had to be responsible for putting it here in the first place, oh Martha Jones, you are brilliant, you are!”

The Doctor struggled to climb out of the cables, and Martha rushed over to help her out. Once out, the Doctor grabbed a biscuit and shoved it into her mouth, talking around her mouthful.

“Martha, gather everyone in the lounge room. We need an emergency meeting right now!” The Doctor bounced up and down, and ran from the room.

“Doctor, you forgot...oh never mind.”

Martha picked up the Doctor’s sonic and left the room to gather everyone up.

 


 

The Doctor gave all her friends their phones and watches back when they were gathered together.

“Don’t need these anymore.”

“But then how are you going to wake the conscience?” Luke asked. “I mean, you were using the clocks to move time to wake it up so we can get out of here. You were using the clocks for that, weren’t you?”

“Very good, fifteen points for Luke!”

“What?”

Ryan shook his head. “Don’t ask.”

“But as it turns out, we don’t need to wake it up!”

“But you said the conscience was the only way to get out of here,” Amy said.

“And you also said that we couldn’t leave or destroy the box otherwise everything would fall apart,” Bill added.

“But you also said we can’t use the box, otherwise everythin’ will fall apart, too,” Rose finished.

“Yes, I did say all of that,” the Doctor agreed. “But I overlooked maybe the most obvious thing about this box: that it shouldn’t be here in the first place!”

“Yes, we know,” River said. “But what has that got to do with not needing it at all? If it’s the cause of us getting sucked in, surely it has to be the solution to get us out of here.”

“Yes, yes, yes, I know that, but don’t you see? We’ve been ignoring the big question, which is why ? Why is it here in the first place? How did it get here in the first place? In Clara’s words, we’re asking the wrong question.”

“I never said that, Doctor.”

“You did in my subconscious. Long story, I’ll explain later.”

“I still don’t get wha’s going on,” Rose said.

“I think what the Doctor’s saying is that there’s something much bigger than just this box,” Sarah Jane suggested.

“Ten points for Sarah Jane, and yes I am keeping score, for all of you,” the Doctor clarified.

“Still not getting it,” Clara said.

The Doctor turned to draw on the wall, to explain her point.

“Well, the Moment exists at a certain point in time on Gallifrey. It’s a unique point in time, in that it’s fixed, but also in flux. It’s fixed because there is a specific moment where it belongs, but in flux because I can choose what happens in that moment.”

“What’s she on about?” Yaz whispered to Martha.

“Time,” Martha whispered back. “And how it works. It’s confusing, so don’t think too hard about it.”

“And, that moment exists in the timeframe of one of my faces who I call the War Doctor - again, long story, don’t ask - and by the Moment existing in the same timeframe as this, my thirteenth face, is what created the paradox in the first place.

“Now, for that to happen, the Moment would have to be metaphysically removed from that point in space and time, meaning that something - or someone - was behind this. Something, or someone, had to break into the most secure vault in Gallifrey, take the Moment out, and then somehow transport it across space and time to create this Paradox Universe. It was removed from where it was meant to be, and put here, like we were.”

“So, to recap,” Donna said. “We’ve been drawn into this universe by a moment taken out of time, and for that to be possible, there has to be a very powerful and very clever being behind removing said moment from time.”

“Thank you, Doctor Donna.” The Doctor smiled. “Very succinct recap. Twenty points.”

“My pleasure, Doctor.” Donna smiled back.

“So, what does that mean?” Yaz asked. “That we have to figure out who’s behind this in order to get home?”

“Something like that,” the Doctor said shortly, her smile disappearing as her eyes dropped to the moment again.

“But how are we supposed to figure out who’s behind it?” Ryan asked. “I mean, it could be literally anyone.”

“No, not just anyone, I’m afraid,” Sarah Jane said knowingly. “Like Donna said, whoever, or whatever did it had to be very clever and powerful, and there are very few species who could get into Gallifrey’s most secure vault, much less steal something.”

“You think the Time Lords are behind it?” Rose questioned. Sarah Jane nodded.

“I do. What do you think, Doctor?”

The Doctor swallowed, staring blankly at the box. Everyone waited patiently for her to answer. She moved abruptly, leaving the room. They all looked at each other.

“So, what now?” Graham asked. The Doctor’s past companions exchanged looks, and Luke stood.

“I’ll do it.”

“You sure about that, Luke?” Sarah Jane asked. He nodded.

“Yeah.”

Sarah Jane smiled softly at him, giving his hand a squeeze before he left the room.

“What’s going on?” Graham demanded. Yaz shook her head, smiling.

“He’s going after the Doctor, helping her calm down and everything.”

“Yeah, I knew that bit! I meant, what was the Doc going on about?”

A chuckle made its around the circle.

“It’s a long story,” all the past companions answered in unison.

 


 

Luke found the Doctor down the bottom of the hill, sitting amongst a patch of flowers, looking kind of pathetic. He sat down next to her, not saying anything. What was there to say? What was he supposed to say to comfort a person he barely knew? He didn’t know the answers to any of those questions, so he just sat there, offering his company to her.

The silence went on long enough that he began to pick flowers and thread them together to create a chain. He didn’t stop when the Doctor did finally speak.

“Did Sarah Jane send you?” the Doctor asked.

“Nope. I volunteered.”

The Doctor looked at him surprised. “Why?”

“Because I thought you might need a friend.”

Truthfully, Luke hadn’t known exactly why he had impulsively volunteered to go after her when he first stood up in the lounge room. But he’d had time to think about it on his way down, and during the silence before the Doctor had spoken. That was the answer he had come up with. It was the full truth; capturing all the reasons he followed her down to the patch, while also somehow being beautifully simple. He wondered if a word existed to describe such a phrase.

“But why you ?” the Doctor persisted. “I mean, no offence, Luke, but the others know me much better than you do. Why you?”

Luke shrugged. He didn’t know the answer to that question. He didn’t know if there was an answer to that question,at all, other than ‘just because’.

“I guess I just wanted to be your friend,” he said slowly, the answer coming to mind as he spoke. “I mean, back when I last saw you, I was just kind of Sarah Jane’s kid. We never actually got to be friends, like you were with my mum.”

“You wanted to be my friend?”

Luke finally stopped threading flowers together. “Of course I did! I always idolised you from the first story mum told me. A batty old alien running around the galaxy, saving people, and taking the time to make friends, I always wanted to be one of those friends. Now that I finally have the chance, I figured I may as well take it.”

The Doctor looked at him in awe. “You idolised me?”

“Still do.”

The Doctor broke into a smile, lifting her hand to touch Luke’s face.

“Oh, Luke Smith you were never ‘just Sarah Jane’s kid’. I mean, yeah, you were Sarah’s kid, but you were never just that. Could someone who was ‘just Sarah Jane’s kid’ help me save the world like you did?”

“Well, she did adopt a baby who aged from a couple of days to eleven years old in a matter of minutes, so yeah, I think so.”

The Doctor dropped her hand. “She did what now?”

“Long story,” Luke said with a smile. “But that can wait. Why’d you leave the room like that?”

The Doctor sighed. “Just like your mother, you are. She never let me get away with lashing out or being sad or anything like that, either.”

Luke huffed a laugh. That did sound like his mum. The Doctor sighed again.

“I guess I’m just angry,” the Doctor admitted, picking at the grass in front of her. “Dunno how much your mum told you, but ever since I sent Gallifrey off to that pocket universe, they’ve been trying to get back. I always say that they can’t come back, but they never listen, and I’m just tired of it. I wish they’d just stay there, safe and sound, instead of haunting me like this.”

“You miss them, don’t you?” Luke said quietly, placing a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder. The Doctor smiled weakly.

“Yeah, I do. Most of them, anyway. The High Council I don’t miss at all. Bunch of jerks, if you ask me.”

Luke laughed. “Gallifrey had crappy government, too, then?”

The Doctor managed a fuller smile. “Something like that.”

“Are you scared then?” Luke wondered. “Of the High Council being behind this, I mean.”

The Doctor’s smile faded, though she tried to give him another one. “You Smiths are infuriatingly perceptive.”

Luke barked a quiet laugh. “So that’s a yes?”

“Yeah. It is.” The Doctor sighed again, looking up and out into the distance. “I’m scared of what it means if they’re behind this, ‘n’ I’m scared of why you guys got pulled in, too. Strictly speaking, I’m the only one who should have gotten stuck here, but I’m not. I’m scared of what that might mean.”

Luke bit back a response, too scared to give his advice to the Doctor, and so settled for giving her shoulder a supportive squeeze. It’s not that he didn’t want to tell the Doctor what he was thinking, it’s that he was too scared. She was thousands of years older than him, and he knew she was way wiser, and probably already knew what he was going to say. Besides, it was kind of cheesy, he was a bit embarrassed to say it. So he sat in silence, until the Doctor spoke again.

“What are you wanting to say, Luke?”

“Huh?”

“You have words there, right on the tip of your tongue,” the Doctor said, turning her head. She tapped her finger against his philtrum “But for some reason you’re too scared to say them. What are you thinking?”

“I, uh,” Luke dropped his hand from her shoulder and looked away. “I was just thinking about something I learned one time when I was really, really scared, that helped me not to be so scared anymore.”

The Doctor looked up, intrigued. “What did you learn?”

“I learned that when I’m scared beyond belief, I only ever have to turn to my friends, because, when we’re together, my mates and I, we’re not scared. When we’re together, we can beat anything.”

When the Doctor smiled again, the smile was full and genuine and not at all forced.

“Thank you, Luke. I needed that.”

Luke smiled back. “Here.”

He joined the chain in a circle and placed the ring of flowers on the Doctor’s head. The Doctor gasped in delight.

“A flower crown! I’ve always wanted to do flower crowns! Never had time to, though. One time I almost did, but I got chased out by some very angry beavers. Never figured out what made them angry, though. Thanks, Luke.”

Luke’s smile grew to a grin. “So, do you have any ideas on how to get us all out of here?”

The Doctor jumped up, Luke following suit.

“As a matter of fact, I do. I’ll give you the list of things I’ll need while we walk back up to the house.”

Chapter Text

Back at the house, Luke collected up all the items the Doctor needed to build whatever she was building to get them home.

“What are you making?” Luke asked at one point, after giving the Doctor the last item on the list.

“A teleport,” the Doctor said, tinkering around with various parts. “I’ll get the coordinates for where the Moment was taken, put it back, and then I can use my sonic to summon the TARDIS, hopefully. It’s worked in the past.”

“But what about all of us? I mean, I doubt we can all use this teleport; it’s too small. What happens to us?”

“Well, hopefully, when I put the Moment back in its proper place, you lot will just sort of blip out of this universe and end up right back from where you were taken. When, I’m not exactly sure, but I’m hoping that it will be the same moment you left. If not, a couple of days after.”

“And if that doesn’t happen?”

“I’ll come back and get you.”

“But how will you know if we’re still stuck or not?”

The Doctor finally looked up.

“So many questions, Luke!” She scrunched up her face. “Although, don’t suppose I can be too hard on you. I ask lots of questions, too. Anyway, the answer is that I’ll leave you with a button, with two switches: red and green. If you’re home, you press green, and if you’re stuck, you press red. I’ll have a receiver so I can see which colour you pressed and I’ll know if I need to come get you.”

Luke left her alone after that, to build the teleport. It took the Doctor the rest of the day to build it, and by the time she was done, it was almost dinnertime. She exhaled slowly, proud of what she had achieved, although she felt the same sadness she had felt when she’d first seen all her friends again. She knew it was almost time to leave them, and she didn’t want to.

Before she could spiral, Rory poked his head in.

“Hey, Doctor, Amy and I are about to light the menorah, if you wanted to join us.”

“Right, yes. Hanukkah. Let’s go.”

The Doctor pushed her feelings away to participate with Rory and Amy. She was surprised to see only Luke and River in the room with Amy and Rory. She thought more people might like to join in. But then again, she and River were the only ones who had known Amy and Rory well. The others might not have felt close enough to want to join in.

She shrugged it off, joining the five of them standing around the menorah. Rory handed her a blue candle.

“Doctor, would you like to light the menorah?”

“Really?” Rory nodded. The Doctor smiled. “Yes.”

Rory smiled back. “Do you know how to do it?”

“I think so, yes. It’s from the left to the right, yeah?”

“Yeah, and put the shamash - that’s the one you’re holding - in the middle holder when you’re done. Whenever you’re ready, Doctor.”

Amy put six other candles in the level holders. Rory used the lighter he found in the kitchen to light the shamash. The Doctor carefully lit each of the candles, making sure to do it in the right order, before putting the shamash in the holder that sat a little above the rest of the candles.

Following this, She stepped back. “How’d I do?”

“That was good,” Rory assured her with a smile. She grinned.

“So, what do you do now?” Luke wondered.

“We let the candles burn,” Amy answered. “Rory says the prayers, and then Usually we sit down and watch the candles while we talk, or sing, but the singing’s kind of rare. Rory’s shy about his voice.”

“Because it’s bad!”

“Nonsense, you’re great at singing!”

“You’re just saying that because you’re my wife.”

“Fine. Sing now and we’ll let the Doctor and Luke judge.”

Rory gave her a pointed look. “Now you’re just trying to trick me.”

Amy looked the tiniest bit disappointed, but mostly amused. “Almost worked, though.”

Rory huffed a laugh, shaking his head. He then recited the prayers. The Doctor and Luke stood quietly. After the prayers, Rory down in a chair a few steps from the table the menorah was seated on. Amy sat down next to him.

“You two are welcome to join us, if you like,” he invited. “Although you don’t have to. The main part is over.”

The Doctor sat down on the chair next to Amy, and Luke joined them.

“So, Rory, I’ve been reading about Judaism and Jewish traditions and stuff, and I have some questions.”

“Fire away, Luke.”

The Doctor tuned out Rory and Luke as they began a discussion of Jewish traditions, instead studying Amy. Her face had gotten a few years older since she’d last seen her. A bit tireder, a bit sadder. But no loneliness, like she’d spied in the eyes of some of her other friends.

The Doctor debated about what to say to Amy. She missed Amy dearly, but she understood why Am had made the choice she had. She knew Amy lived a long and happy life, and that she would be okay. But it didn’t make it hurt any less. Before the Doctor could figure out what to say, Amy spoke.

“I’ve missed you, too, Doctor.”

“What?” the Doctor blinked at the words. “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “Just because you’re not saying words doesn’t mean you’re not saying anything.”

The Doctor softened, stilled in awe by Amy’s insight. She forgot how observant Amy was. She generally only remembered Amy’s vivaciousness, and playfulness, and snarkiness, and her smile. Her smile was so beautiful.

Amy was the one who initiated physical contact, taking the Doctor’s hands in her own.

“What are you doing?”

“What you always did with me when I was feeling sad or overwhelmed,” Amy whispered, resting her forehead against the Doctor’s. “I remember, when I was sad or overwhelmed, you’d sit me down, and hold my hands and put your forehead on mine and whisper comforting words to me. It always made me feel better.”

The Doctor smiled, huffing a laugh. She lifted her head to look into Amy’s eyes once again. She brought one hand up to touch Amy’s face, feeling tears burn her eyes as she remembered everything. Every adventure she ever had with Amy, from the moment she met Amy, right up until the moment Amy was snatched away from her.

She saw the spark of adventure in Amy’s eyes as she looked into them; the desire to go out and make the world just a little better, the deep, deep love that was hidden on the surface, but was revealed when the dirt was brushed aside. But, most of all, she saw the patience she knew Amy had always had. Even when she had given up waiting, the Doctor knew she had always held onto hope that maybe, just maybe the wait would be over soon. Amy’s eyes were the most beautiful the Doctor had ever seen, and it made her hearts hurt. It was like looking into the heart of a supernova, alive with colour and life.

“Oh, Amelia Pond,” the Doctor breathed in wonder. Amy smiled, momentarily ducking her head. The Doctor knew Amy understood why the Doctor was looking at her in the way she was. “Beautiful Amelia.”

Amy didn’t speak for a while, letting the Doctor have her moment. The Doctor ran her hand gently down Amy’s cheek, letting it fall into Amy’s again.

“I wish you could meet my daughter,” she said eventually.

The Doctor blinked, confused. “River? I’ve already met her, in case you’ve forgotten.”

Amy laughed, shaking her head. “I meant my new daughter. Rory and I adopted a baby a few months after ending up in New York.”

The Doctor melted. “What’s her name?”

“Idris. We named her that in honour of the TARDIS.”

The Doctor smiled softly. “So she’s a baby, then?”

“Yeah. Turning 5 in February.”

“I wish I could meet her, too.”

“Oh, and guess what her favourite food is!”

Amy’s eyes sparkled happily with a joke, and the Doctor thought about what it could be.

“Jammie Dodgers?” she guessed, remembering how much her 11th face had liked Jammie Dodgers.

“Good guess, but no. Her favourite snack is fish fingers and custard.”

The Doctor threw back her head and laughed. Of course it was fish fingers and custard. Amy laughed alongside her.

 


 

Yaz sat down on Clara’s bed as Clara closed the door.

“Rose said you wanted to see me?”

“Yeah.” Clara sighed, standing in front of Yaz. She kneaded her hands together nervously. “I’ve just been thinking about what happened yesterday, and I’m not sure that this is a good idea.”

Yaz’s face fell. “Why not?”

“It’s just...the Doctor’s going to get us out of here soon, and when they do, I’m going to back to being very-almost-dead, and I don’t want to do that to you.”

“It’s called a hookup for a reason, Clara,” Yaz reasoned, fighting the heartache setting in. “We get together for a night, or in this case, a couple of nights, and then we go our separate ways.”

“I know, I know.” Clara sighed again, sitting down next to Yaz. “I just...it’s kind of hard to keep it as just a hookup with you. You’re smart, and funny, and brilliant, and so incredibly beautiful, and I kind of want it to be something a bit more than a hookup.”

Yaz smiled and ducked her head, tucking her hair behind her ear when Clara complimented her.

“I feel the same way,” Yaz admitted, feeling emboldened after hearing Clara’s confession. She looked up at Clara, looking sadly at her.

“Then you know why we can’t do yesterday, ever again.”

“No, that’s not true!” Yaz protested. “We have at least twelve more hours together, we can-”

“And after that? What happens after that? You go away with the Doctor, and I return to my TARDIS with Me, and we never see each other again. I can’t do that, Yaz. Not to you.”

“I-I’ll find you again,” Yaz suggested desperately, grasping for straws. “I’ll find one of your Echoes, yeah? And I’ll go and fall in love with her, and we can be happy together. We can have what we can’t have here.”

Clara smiled sadly. “But you don’t even know if you could find me again.”

“I wouldn’t stop searching,” Yaz promised without hesitation. “Not ever.”

Clara softened. “And what happens if you end up not ever finding me?”

Yaz thought about it. What would she do if she ever gave up hope of finding Clara again? The thought hurt, but she pushed through to come up with an answer. She remembered her first girlfriend who she’d had in high school, and how she still missed her everyday. That’s when the answer came to her.

“Then I’d never forget about you. It’s not as good as being with you, but it might have to be good enough.”

A smile crept its way up Clara’s face, and Clara leaned in for a kiss. Yaz immediately raised her hands to grab the back of Clara’s neck and head, and held her close as she returned the kiss. She was pleasantly surprised to encounter a strawberry taste lingering on Clara’s lips.

“Clara,” she whispered in between kisses. “Have you been eating strawberries?”

“Mmhmm,” Clara hummed back, shifting her body to climb on top of Yaz, to guide her gently backwards until she was lying down, never breaking the kiss.

Yaz tried to push up and roll them over so she could be on top of Clara, but Clara blocked her, pulling away momentarily.

“You were top yesterday,” she breathed out. “My turn.”

Clara’s lips were back on Yaz’s before she could come up with any protests.

Not that she had any.

 


 

Following the Hanukkah celebration, the Doctor decided to go on a walk. She had previously forbidden leaving the house at night, fearing a repeat of the Desolation Incident. But, since then, she had discovered that the planet was empty of all life except for the fourteen of them, plus the plants outside. There were no other humans, no animals or other creatures, only the Doctor and her friends, plus a bunch of trees, grass, bushes, and flowers, plus rocks, sticks, and other stuff like that.

After finding out that it was safe, the Doctor had allowed her friends to go outside after nightfall, but only if they had the house in sight at all time. Since they were the only ones there, if someone got lost, their only hope of rescue would be each other. It wasn’t that the Doctor didn’t trust her companions’ abilities, it’s that she knew all too well how easy it was to get lost while searching for someone else who was lost, and how easily it could spiral into everyone getting lost with no way back. Plus, it would slow things down. She didn’t have time to be wandering around, looking for her lost friends.

The Doctor ambled down to the lake. She didn’t know exactly why she was drawn there, but she didn’t mind. Water was soothing, except for the times it was used to torture or drown her; water was far from soothing in those moments. But when the water was nice and still and calm, it soothed her. She knelt down, untying her boots, before slipping her socks off along with her boots. She scooted over to the edge of the dock and lowered her feet into the water, hissing quietly when the really cold water touched her bare skin.

But she didn’t mind too much; Time Lord biology meant she was more resistant to frostbite, hypothermia, and pneumonia. So she often used that to her advantage to enjoy cold temperatures most humans would be unable to cope with.

Left alone with her thoughts, the Doctor chose to think fondly on all her past companions, and all the good times she’d had with them. She liked to remember the happy memories above the sad ones. She smiled as she remembered their accomplishments in helping her save the world, and her heart filled again with love for them when she thought on their smiles, and their laughs, and the jokes they told.

“Are you thinking about River?”

The Doctor jumped at the sound of Sarah Jane’s voice.

“For the love of Rasillion, Sarah, stop sneaking up on me like that!”

Sarah Jane laughed softly, sitting down next to the Doctor. The Doctor tried to scowl at her, but she found it hard when she was still thinking about all the good times she’d had with her friends.

“No,” she answered after a silence. “I’m not thinking about River. I’m thinking about all of you guys.”

Sarah Jane tilted her head. “What about us, exactly?”

The Doctor looked at Sarah Jane.

“About how much I love you. All of you.”

Sarah Jane smiled. “I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all love you, too.”

“I know.” The Doctor smiled softly. She did know, how much they all loved her, but she never tired of hearing it.

As a child, she didn’t really have any friends, except for the Master, but he didn’t really count as a friend, per se. It was always nice to know she had friends on Earth, even if she did eventually have to say goodbye to them. But then, she supposed, that was the beauty of Earth: that even when she lost a friend, there was always someone else there, wanting to be her friend, so she would never have to run out of friends, until the end of time.

“Why are you out here?” Sarah Jane asked, following another silence. The Doctor sighed contentedly.

“I like looking out over the water. It’s nice and calming. A good way to wind down after a long day. You know, back on Gallifrey I’d often get in trouble with my mum and dad for staying out too late to just stare out over the water.”

Sarah Jane breathed a laugh. “Sky’s like that. She loves water. She says that water is like a never-ending book; that it holds so many mysteries under the surface, that you get to explore and learn about it, and get to know it, forever. Reading it forever, essentially.”

The Doctor tilted her head. “Sky. Is that the baby who aged eleven years in minutes?”

“Luke told you about her, then?”

“He mentioned her, yes. Didn’t give me a name, though. Nice name, though. Sky. I like it.”

Sarah Jane hummed happily. “Oh! She’s graduating high school at the end of this school year!”

The Doctor raised her eyebrows.

“That quick, huh? You have interesting children, Sarah Jane”

Sarah Jane laughed. “Yes, I guess I do. Side effects of travelling with you, I suppose.”

The Doctor wrinkled her nose. “Oi!”

Sarah Jane laughed again. “They may be a bit unusual but I wouldn’t have it any other way. They are truly wonderful.”

The Doctor softened. “If you ask me, I think they couldn’t have asked for a better mother. Takes a special kind of woman to raise alien children.”

Sarah Jane smiled, and the two let the conversation taper off. The Doctor picked it up again when she thought of something to say.

“Luke said something interesting when he talked to me earlier.”

“Oh? What did he say?”

“He told me there was a time when he was scared beyond what he could believe, and it was only his friends that made him unafraid. What kind of stuff would be happening on Bannerman Road that he would be proper terrified?”

Sarah Jane sighed, turning to look out over the water. “He must be talking about the Nightmare Man.”

“The what now?”

“The Nightmare Man,” Sarah Jane repeated. “There was this alien being who fed off people’s nightmares, and for some reason, he chose Luke as his vessel, and used Luke’s fear to travel from his home somewhere out there, to Earth.”

“So he used Luke as a portal?”

“I suppose you could say that, yes. Once here, he trapped Luke, Clyde, and Rani in separate nightmares to feed off of, and intended to do the same with the rest of the world. But the three of them, with a little help from K9 and Mr Smith, somehow managed to break down the barriers of dreams and together, they defeated the Nightmare Man.”

The Doctor looked impressed. “Wow, that is some serious skill. You picked a good team there, on Bannerman Road, Sarah.”

Sarah let out another laugh. “It was the other way around, Doctor. They chose me. Before forming the little team I have today, I was a closed-off, cold and bitter woman living alone, fighting aliens all by herself. They sort of just barged their way into my life, no matter how hard I tried to keep them out of it. They reminded me of what was truly important, what I’d missed by waiting for you and being resentful: a family to have adventures with.”

The Doctor was torn between laughing and crying. She settled for an apologetic look.

“I really am sorry I never came back for you, Sarah.”

“You did what you had to, Doctor. Plus, we all have to move on, in the end. I’m just glad you found others to stand by your side, and that you never forgot about me.”

The Doctor smiled, shaking her head. “Sarah Jane Smith, there is no way anyone could ever forget about you.”

“So I’ve been told.”

The Doctor’s attention snapped back to her, and she raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”

“Mmhmm,” Sarah Jane said with a joyful glint in her eyes. “By many lost aliens I’ve helped over the years. As for aliens I’ve had to stop, well, I have made sure they’ll never forget me.”

The Doctor grinned at her. “That’s my Sarah.”

“I think, particularly the Slitheen and Slitheen-Blathereen are unlikely to forget me anytime soon.”

“Slitheen-Blathereen?”

“They’re the descendants of an alliance marriage on Raxacoricofallapatorius, “ Sarah Jane explained, recounting the story of the time she met the Slitheen-Blathereen. The Doctor sat quietly and listened, happy that Sarah Jane was continuing on with the work she’d started, travelling around with her third and fourth faces.

The Doctor decided she could not possibly be any prouder of Sarah Jane. Her Sarah Jane.

Chapter Text

It had been five past one in the morning, the last time the Doctor had checked. She wasn’t sure how long ago that had been, not that she really cared - time was a construct anyway. Besides, she was busy painting with some acrylics and canvases she’d found while rummaging through the house a few hours earlier.

The time was once again called to her attention when she heard footsteps enter the bathroom, where she was set up. She glanced up at the clock and saw it was eighteen minutes to four. She tilted her head, but didn’t stop painting.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep, Bill?”

“How’d you know it was me?” Bill asked, moving further in.

“I memorise everything about the people who travel with me,” the Doctor said. “Their habits, their favourite things, their mannerisms, and what their footsteps sound like.”

“How do you have the time for all of that? You know, with the whole running-around-and-saving-the-universe thing.”

“I’m a Time Lord, remember? Time is kind of my speciality. Plus, I’m really observant.”

The Doctor muttered a curse under her breath when she messed up a stroke from her brush. She focused on fixing it while Bill talked to her.

“Yeah, about that, I thought people from Gallifrey were called Gallifreyans, and Time Lord was just like, a job title or something.”

“Yeah, that’s right. What about it?”

“It’s just, the other day, you said your species was called ‘Time Lords’. But if ‘Time Lord’ is just a job, wouldn’t your species or race or whatever be called ‘Gallifreyan’?”

“Yeah, I guess,” the Doctor said shortly, mixing a lovely brown colour on her palette.

“Then why didn’t you say ‘Gallifreyans’? Why’d you go for ‘Time Lord’?”

The Doctor sighed, pausing her activity.

“It’s a difficult thing to explain,” she said quietly.

“Said the lecturer who could explain to a bunch of twenty-year-olds why time is a construct,” Bill shot back. The Doctor smiled, ducking her head before looking at Bill.

“You really want to know?” Bill nodded. The Doctor sighed again, going back to her painting. “Back on Gallifrey there was a social hierarchy of sorts, where Time Lords were right at the top. We were the most revered members of society, and everyone wanted to be us. I suppose it’s comparable to middle-aged white businessmen being the top of the food chain on Earth.

“By calling all Gallifreyans ‘Time Lords’, I guess it’s kind of like my way of rejecting the hierarchy and remembering Gallifrey in a way that I like. Make sense?”

“Yeah.”

The conversation slowed to a halt after that, and Bill sat quietly, watching the Doctor paint. She couldn’t quite figure out what she was seeing, but it was pretty. The Doctor had painted a brilliant blue background - not unsimilar to the colour of the TARDIS - and she was busy painting circles, and dots, and lines, some overlapping and some standing on their own. Each cluster of circles and dots and lines were a different colour, but they didn’t clash. At the bottom of the canvas, the Doctor painted some slightly larger circles, and dots, and lines, all in white, as if she were writing a sentence with shapes.

The Doctor let out a pleased hum as she lifted her brush from the canvas and dropped it in the water. She turned to Bill, seeming surprised she was still there, and awake, but the surprise was quickly replaced with delight.

“Well, what do you think?”

Bill shrugged. “It’s pretty. But what does it mean?”

“It’s Gallifreyan!” the Doctor explained happily, pointing to each of the clusters of circles. “See, it’s all your names - yours is in green right here - and then a...just one of my thoughts below it.”

“What thought?” Bill wondered, curiosity piquing.

“‘S nothing,” the Doctor mumbled, before attempting to distract her by pointing out the others’ names, and the TARDIS blue background. Bill wanted to know what the white bit said, but she knew that the Doctor didn’t want to talk about it, so she let the Doctor distract her.

“Oh! I never asked: is this form I’m seeing the person form, the glass form, or the puddle form of you?”

“Puddle,” Bill said with a smile. “I was busy playing Scrabble with Heather when I was pulled in here. She is going to be pissed when I get back.”

The Doctor raised her eyebrows. “You can play Scrabble as a puddle person?”

Bill laughed. “You’d be surprised at what you can do as a puddle person.”

 


 

Rory and Amy teamed up at breakfast time to cook waffles for the group. The Doctor smiled as she watched them work together, going backwards and forwards without ever bumping into each other, as if they were magnets with the same pole, coming close but never touching. To her, it looked a bit like an intricate dance that was mesmerising to watch.

She listened to them banter as they cooked together, and laughed when they had a small flour fight. River stepped in at that point, scolding them for their antics, as well as the Doctor for not intervening. Amy reminded RIver of her mother status, leaving the Doctor to bear the brunt of River’s scolding. She managed to throw them a dirty look as River shook her head at the Doctor.

But the incident was quickly forgotten when the food was ready, and everyone dug into the wonderfully soft, and slightly crispy, waffles.

“Where are Clara and Yaz?” Graham wondered, glancing up at the clock hanging in the kitchen. “It’s half past eight and they’re still not up. Do you think they’re awake?”

“I’ll go check on them,” the Doctor said, leaving her now-empty plate on the table. “Don’t eat all the waffles.”

She pointed at Ryan, raising an eyebrow at him, and he looked indignant.

“Hey, why you looking at me?”

“Don’t you give me that, Ryan Sinclair. I know you sneak custard creams when you think I’m not looking.”

“Hey, Graham does it, too!”

“Oh, no, mate, don’t drag me into this,” Graham shot back, pouring more syrup on his waffles.

“Well, yes, Graham I know about. But unlike you, he asks before touching the custard cream dispenser. I have my eye on you, Ryan.”

She left the room before Ryan could protest further, and his defenses followed her down the hallway. She smiled and shook her head. Quite frankly, she didn’t blame Ryan; custard creams were delicious. It would just be nice if he asked first.

She climbed the stairs to the third floor, where she knew both Yaz and Clara had chosen a room. Yaz’s room came first, and the Doctor didn’t bother knocking before entering. If Yaz was still asleep, she intended to make as much noise as she could.

She swung open the door, and it thumped against the wall as she entered.

“Up you get, Yasmin Khan!” she said loudly to wake Yaz, halting when she saw Clara curled up in bed with Yaz. Yaz opened her eyes wearily.

“Wha’ time’s it?” she mumbled sleepily.

“Half past eight, but never mind that! Why is Clara in bed with you? Did she not like her own room?”

Clara groaned sleepily, stubbornly snuggling closer to Yaz. Yaz wrapped her arm tighter around Clara.

“More like she liked me too much,” Yaz murmured, letting her eyes flutter closed again.

The Doctor shook her head. “Unbelievable, Yaz. I leave you alone for five minutes and you go hook up with Clara!”

“Took a bit longer than five minutes,” Yaz said, a smirk crossing her face. “It was a bit closer to five hours. I’m not that bad.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.” The Doctor marched over, grabbing the duvet and yanking it off. Clara and Yaz yelped and squealed, grasping for the sheets.

“Doctor!” Yaz whined, snatching the duvet back from the Doctor to cover both her and Clara. “Don’t do that!”

“Well then don’t go around being naked in bed together!” the Doctor quipped. She clapped her hands twice. “Now, chop, chop, up and dressed. Waffles await. Can’t keep Ryan away from them forever.”

She turned and left the room, closing the door behind her. She debated putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, but decided against it. They’d be up long before anyone else came upstairs. She shrugged to herself and hummed as she trundled back down the stairs for some more waffles.

Yaz and Clara came down about a half hour later, just as everyone was finishing up. The Doctor had managed to save a handful of waffles for them, so they wouldn’t go hungry; an accomplishment she was quite proud of. Yaz and Clara were holding hands and looking as red as two very ripe tomatoes.

“What happened to you?” Martha wondered as they sat down. They didn’t answer, instead ducking their heads and focusing on eating their breakfast. Martha’s eyes swung around to the Doctor, as did everyone else’s.

“They were naked in bed together,” she stated simply, not looking up from cleaning the waffle maker.

Clara choked on her juice, and Yaz spit out her waffles. The rest of her friends had varying reactions, ranging from a loud laugh from Ryan, to an amused smile from Bill, to mild shock from some of the others.

“Doctor!” Yaz whined for the second time that morning.

The Doctor looked up. “All I did was answer a question. Do that all the time. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that that was a private matter!” Yaz snapped.

“Nobody here but us.”

“Doctor! I meant between Clara and me.”

“Me and Clara,” Clara corrected quietly. Amy snorted. Yaz glared at her, but the glare was short lived when she saw the playful smirk on Clara’s face. She softened, but still didn’t smile.

“Why aren’t you bothered by this?” Yaz asked Clara. Clara shrugged.

“It’s not really a big deal,” Clara said. “So we had sex. Who cares what the others think?”

Yaz looked down at her plate, blushing furiously. “But the Doctor, she saw us, you know…”

“Naked?” Clara finished for her. Yaz nodded, stuffing some more breakfast in her mouth. “Yeah, nakedness is kind of a running theme with the Doctor.”

Yaz swallowed her mouthful. “ What ?”

“Relax, I meant the Doctor being naked,” Clara assured her. “Don’t believe me, just ask River.”

“Oh, the stories I could tell,” River murmured, raking her eyes up and down the Doctor’s body. The Doctor gaped, almost offended.

“River!” she whined. “Nobody needs to know about...that!”

River merely smirked. “Why not? Everyone already knows we’re married. And you had no problem exposing Yaz and Clara, quite literally.”

The Doctor frowned, standing on her tiptoes to try and get as tall as she could, in an attempt to tower over River. It didn’t work, but she tried.

“River Song, you behave yourself, you hear, or I’ll...I’ll…”

The Doctor trailed off, unable to think of a suitable threat.

“Spank me?” River teased, booping her on the nose, only infuriating her further.

“I have a good mind to, yes!”

“How exciting.”

The Doctor scowled harder, feeling as if she might cry. She was trying to be scary, but it clearly wasn’t working. It was quite disheartening. River relented when she saw the Doctor’s distress. She sighed softly, taking the Doctor’s hands in her own, as the others began to filter into all different parts of the house.

“I’m sorry,” River apologised softly. “I didn’t mean to upset you, sweetie.”

The Doctor sighed, shaking her head. “It’s fine. I just kind of miss being able to intimidate you a little, and this body just has so many more emotions than my previous bodies, and I maybe overreacted, and-”

River cut her off with a kiss. The Doctor kissed back, hands sliding out of River’s to grab onto her shirt, pulling her as close as possible. River wrapped her arm around the Doctor, deepening the kiss. The Doctor felt as if she were floating in space: surrounded by stars, left breathless.

River broke the kiss, leaving the Doctor dazed. She gazed into River’s face, like she was looking at the most extraordinary sunset in the history of sunsets, before breaking into a goofy, lovesick grin.

“I’m not very scary, am I?” she giggled quietly.

“You’re about as scary as a newborn puppy,” River teased affectionately.

The Doctor wrinkled her nose in - what was River’s opinion - the most adorable way possible.

“Newborn puppy? Is that good or bad?”

“Good. You’re adorable.”

The Doctor grinned again. “I like adorable.”

“So do I,” River said with a smile. She kissed the Doctor again.

 


 

It was eleven o’clock when the time to say goodbye came. The Doctor had been dreading this moment since she arrived, and felt sick to her stomach now that she had to confront it, and go through with it.

She took her painting she had done that morning and rested it on top of the Moment, in hopes it would come with her. She left them to rest on the floor next to her as she waited in distress for what was to come. She stared at the machine she’d built, going over the plan again in her head, accounting for all variables.

“That’s a nice picture,” Luke commented, coming to stand next to her. She glanced down at the painting. “Did you paint it yourself?”

The Doctor nodded. “With some paints I found in the spare room.”

“Nice. What does it mean?”

“It’s Gallifreyan,” she explained tiredly. “It’s all of your names. Yours is in yellow.”

Luke studied it for a minute, before pointing at each of the colours, saying the names of all the companions. “So, that must mean...that one’s Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Rory, River, Bill, Yaz, Ryan, Graham, Clara, and mum.”

The Doctor looked impressed. “How’d you figure that out?”

“Genetically engineered boy genius, remember?” Luke flashed her a grin, making the Doctor smile back. “Plus, you can see the patterns in the circles, like each dot and line is a letter, and you can figure out the word once you figure out which way it goes around. Like, that bit there, is an ‘l’, there’s the ‘u’, there’s the ‘k’, and there’s the ‘e’. And from that, you can find the letters in the other words, and figure out who’s who.”

The Doctor looked at Luke in awe. “You are truly incredible, Luke Smith.”

Luke reached up and rubbed the back of his neck, grinning from ear to ear. “Thanks. Can’t quite figure out the white bit, though. Seems to be a bit more complex, like a more formal form of Gallifreyan. What does it mean?”

“Friendship,” River said quietly from behind the Doctor. The Doctor whirled around. “At least, that’s its most basic translation.”

Luke grinned. “That’s so cool. I wish I could stay longer and learn how to speak Gallifreyan.”

He was about to go on, when Sarah Jane called him over to the other side of the garage, leaving River and the Doctor alone.

“Thanks for not telling him the full meaning,” the Doctor said, taking River’s hands in her own.

“You should tell them,” River whispered, leaning her forehead against the Doctor’s. “I think they should know what they mean to you before they go.”

“They already do.”

“It won’t hurt anyone to remind them.”

“Except me.” The Doctor looked up at River. “It would make saying goodbye so much harder.”

“I know.”

River held her tight, and the Doctor buried her face in River’s shoulder, drawing strength from her wife’s closeness. She breathed deeply, letting the hug soothe her. She didn’t let go until River whispered in her ear.

“Everyone’s here. It’s time.”

The Doctor swallowed hard, but stepped back anyway, mustering every ounce of courage she had, to say goodbye to everyone. She started with Rose.

She and Rose stared at each other for a long moment, before Rose threw herself at the Doctor, holding tight. The Doctor hugged back, just as tightly, squeezing her eyes shut.

“Thank you, Doctor. For everythin’.”

The Doctor smiled, opening her eyes. “Say hi to Jackie, and Pete, and Tony. And also my clone.”

Rose giggled, letting go of the Doctor. “Will do. An’ you take care, now, okay, Doctor?”

“I’ll try. Goodbye, Rose.

“Bye, Doctor.”

The Doctor gave Rose her button, before moving onto Martha, then Amy and Rory, then Luke and Sarah Jane, Bill and Clara.

“Have you talked to Yaz?” the Doctor asked quietly. Clara nodded, avoiding direct eye contact.

“We know that what happened was a temporary thing, and that we’ll never see each other again, unless you were to stumble across one of my Echoes. We knew it was just a hookup.”

“And Yaz is okay with all of it?”

Clara nodded again. “Insisted we keep on...you know, even after I said we shouldn’t.”

“Okay.”

Clara looked up, surprised. “You’re okay with it?”

“Well, you two evidently know the costs of having done what you did, and are ready to accept the consequences, so yes, I am okay with it.”

Clara smiled, relieved. She threw her arms around the Doctor, and the Doctor hugged back.

“So you’re a hugging person now?”

The Doctor breathed a laugh. “Yeah. I am.”

Clara pulled back.

“I am sorry, Clara, for taking you out of your moment of death,” the Doctor apologised, looking down. “I know you’re pretty angry at me about that.”

“I forgive you, Doctor,” Clara said, placing a hand on her cheek. “And to be fair, I probably would have done the same thing if it had been the other way around.”

The Doctor lifted Clara’s hand to her mouth, and pressed her lips against it. “Goodbye, Clara Oswin Oswald.”

“Goodbye, Doctor.”

She came to the end of the line, where Donna stood, a sad smile on her face. The Doctor inhaled sharply, knowing what was coming.

“Donna…”

“I know what has to happen, Doctor,” Donna whispered. “Please don’t make it harder than it already is.”

The Doctor shook her head, tears filling up and spilling out of her eyes. “Donna, please.”

“These past few days have been so, so amazing,” Donna said, sliding her hands into the Doctor’s. “Getting to remember without dying, and make new memories. But you know I can’t remember this, if I’m to keep living.”

The Doctor choked back a sob. She closed her eyes, shaking her head again.

“Don’t make me,” she begged, to no one in particular. “Please.”

Donna dropped the Doctor’s hands, and instead wrapped her in a hug. The Doctor could feel Donna’s body shaking with her own sobs. She held Donna close, not wanting to let go, because when she did, she’d have to send Donna away, forever. Again.

They hugged for a long while, until Donna got control of her crying and broke the hug. She immediately found the Doctor’s hands again and held those. The Doctor still stood and cried, her hearts breaking over, and over, the longer she stood there.

“I’ve made my peace with this, Doctor,” Donna assured her in a quiet voice. “Please. Let me go.”

The Doctor felt River’s comforting hand on her shoulder, and she forced herself to act quickly before she became too overwhelmed with the pain of saying goodbye and backed out.

“Goodbye, Donna.”

“Goodbye, Doctor.”

She pressed the button into Donna’s hand (with a note attached for her mother, explaining what had happened), and lifted her hands to Donna’s forehead, squeezing her eyes and mouth shut tight as she took back Donna’s memories.

The Doctor caught Donna as she fell forward, and made sure the button was still in her hand before stepping back, turning to River for comfort. River held her, and kissed her, and comforted her. When the Doctor finally stopped crying, River reached for a tissue, passed to her by Yaz, to wipe the Doctor’s tears from her face.

“Guess it’s my turn to say goodbye,” River mused sadly. The Doctor managed a small smile.

“It’s never goodbye with you, River Song,” she said. “So let’s just say ‘until the next time’, yeah?”

River smiled back at her.

“Until the next time,” she agreed.

The Doctor stepped away from River, letting her hand linger in the air until she was standing by Yaz, Ryan, and Graham, lifting the Moment and her painting off the ground. She pulled out her sonic, before she paused.

“Have you said goodbye to the people you want to say goodbye to?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Ryan and Graham said. Yaz hesitated, before breaking off from the group and going over to Clara.

The Doctor watched as Yaz said a few parting words to Clara, and Clara to Yaz, and they kissed. It was a sweet, lingering kiss, even though it was short. When the kiss ended, Yaz chose to stand beside Clara, a decision the Doctor respected. She gave everyone else a few seconds longer to move, if they wanted to say any final goodbyes. When no one moved, she sighed, readying herself to say her final goodbye. She forced herself not to cry as she spoke.

“I guess this is it, then. You, all of you, are the building blocks of my heart, encoded in my DNA; you’re my light, my joy, my purpose, my life, until the end of time. That’s what the white writing on the painting is. Deep breath now, everyone.”

“Wait what?” everyone asked at once, as the Doctor sonic-ed the Moment.

In the blink of an eye, the Doctor found herself flung out of the Paradox Universe.

Chapter Text

The Doctor blinked, looking around at where she’d ended up. She instantly recognised where she was: on Gallifrey, inside the vault from where the Moment had been taken. She grinned, pleased that she had been able to skip over breaking into the vault. Now all she had to worry about was where her friends had ended up, and getting the TARDIS back, and breaking out of the vault.

But one problem at a time.

She put the Moment down, finally taking note of the people in the room with her. Yaz, Ryan, and Graham were with her, which was a relief. What she didn’t expect was to also see River, Martha, Sarah Jane, Luke, and Donna there, too. She pulled out the panel with the red and green lights she had in her pocket, and looked as Rose, Amy, Rory, Bill, and Clara’s lights flashed green to tell her they were safely back where they were supposed to be.

“Okay, so half of problem one solved,” the Doctor said to no one in particular, putting the panel back into her pocket. “Well, I say half, it’s more like a third. Second third is making sure Donna stays asleep, otherwise she’ll die. The third third is getting you all back to where you need to be, after we’ve put this back, and gotten the TARDIS. But one problem at a time.”

The Doctor didn’t wait for answer, picking the Moment back up, and putting it back in its casing. She scooped up her painting, leading the group to the door, pausing when she remembered Donna.

“We’re gonna need some way to move her,” she mused. “Any ideas?”

“Can’t you just get the TARDIS in here?”

“Ryan, brilliant!” the Doctor praised. “I’ll summon the TARDIS in the TARDIS parking lot! Well, I say parking lot; it’s closer to a storage area for TARDISes. Fantastic idea!”

“Wait, why can’t we just make it land in here?” Graham asked. “That way, we don’t have to move Donna far.”

She , Graham,” the Doctor corrected. “How many times do I have to tell you: the TARDIS is a she . And I’d love to, but this vault is specifically designed to be impossible to break into, so it has a sort of shield around it, blocking TARDISes, and just vehicles in general, from getting in.”

“A vault that’s impossible to break into, and yet it’s being broken into three times,” Yaz deadpanned. “How does that work?”

“Wait, why three?” Ryan asked.

“Once for whoever broke in to remove the Moment in the first place to create the Paradox Universe,” Yaz said. “Twice for us being in here right now, and thrice when a past version of the Doctor has to break in again to take it so they can do the whole ‘do I save, or do I destroy Gallifrey’ thing.”

“Quick as a whip, Yaz,” the Doctor praised, grinning from ear to ear. “Fifteen points. And yes, it should be impossible, but impossible things happen all the time.”

“You’re telling me,” Graham sighed. Martha covered her mouth to hide a laugh.

“So, if it’s impossible to break into, isn’t it also impossible to break out of?” Luke wondered. The Doctor pointed to him, smiling.

“Brilliant question, Luke. In theory, yes, but don’t worry. I’ve broken in - and out- before, I know how to get in and out without getting caught. Don’t think about it too much, it’ll hurt your head. Now, back to Donna. Any ideas on how to move her?”

“Our best bet is to carry her,” Martha said. “Unless there’s a wheelbarrow, or something, in here that you haven’t mentioned.”

“Nope, no wheelbarrow, sorry. Carrying it is. Ryan, Luke, get her up.”

“Why us?” the boys protested instantly.

“Physically speaking, you’re the strongest out of all of us, so between the two of you, shouldn’t be too hard. Chop, chop. Gotta get you all home as soon as possible.”

Ryan and Luke made no further protests, and hefted Donna up off the ground, putting each of her arms over their shoulders. They followed the Doctor and the rest of the group out of the vault.

She halted right outside the door, raising her sonic and pointing it at a little blue box on a far off wall. Sarah Jane nearly bumped into her.

“Oh wow,” she breathed upon seeing the multitude of lasers blocking their path. “What do those lasers do?”

“To Time Lords? They just give us really bad burns, we can make it through alive; our biology means it’s really hard for us to die, and we’re generally arrested long before we die from the burns. I don’t quite know what they do to humans, but I imagine you’d die instantly. Very fragile creatures, humans are.”

“Fun,” Graham muttered from behind her.

“I can hold it open from here, but only for forty-seven seconds. I could shut it off from the other end for longer, but it would take a while to disable it, and I don’t know how long we have.”

“Send Ryan and Luke through first,” Martha said. “Make sure you get Donna to safety. Then you go through, and take as long as you need to shut it off from the other end. If we need to hide, we can easily step back inside the vault.”

The Doctor looked impressed. As much as she disliked UNIT, she had to admit, their strategy-based plans could come in handy sometimes.

“Not too shabby, Martha Jones,” the Doctor said with a pleased nod. “Ten points.”

Martha laughed and shook her head.

“Thanks.”

“Alright. Luke, Ryan, you ready? Quick as you can, now.”

Luke and Ryan stepped forward, ready to get across the 30-or-so metres of corridor that lay in front of them. The Doctor took a breath, raising her sonic again, and it directly at the light blue box on the wall.

“Ready...go!”

Luke and Ryan walked as fast as they could, being very careful to not jostle Donna too much, fearing that too much jostling would wake her up and kill her. The Doctor forced herself to keep breathing as she counted the seconds, and watched Ryan and Luke use up a lot of the 47 seconds.

Thirty-nine...forty...forty-one...forty-two…forty-three...

They crossed the safety threshold at forty-three seconds, and the Doctor took off in a sprint down the corridor. She knew it was very difficult to run 31m in just four seconds, but she prayed that maybe, just maybe, these legs were fast enough for her to get across in time. She counted as she ran, just as fast as she could.

Forty-four...forty-five...forty-six...forty-seven!

She jumped, hoping the momentum would carry her over the threshold before the lasers burnt her. She cried out in pain as the lasers flashed back on, slicing right through her clothing and scorching her skin quite badly. The jump did propel her across the safety threshold, but a few seconds too late. She landed roughly, letting out an “oof” as she did.

Ryan and Luke put Donna down as gently as they could and turned their attention to the now injured Doctor.

“Doctor, you okay?”

“Owwwwwww,” the Doctor groaned, letting Luke roll her over onto her back. “Sweet Rassilon's sceptre, that hurts.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, letting Luke have a look over her.

“It doesn’t look good,” he concluded grimly. “Gonna have to get you patched up.”

“TARDIS has a med bay,” the Doctor panted, her face contorted in pain.

“Is she okay?” River called from the other side of the room. Ryan glanced at Luke, and Luke shook his head. Ryan gave River a thumbs up.

“She’ll be alright,” he lied. He turned to the Doctor as she struggled to stand.

“Woah, woah woah, what are you doing?”

“Gotta get everyone else across,” she said. “And give my past self a message, telling him to not get caught in the lasers.”

“You’re in no shape to-” Luke started, but was cut off by the Doctor.

“I don’t have time for this!” she almost growled, grabbing onto Ryan for support as she staggered to her feet. “I can do this. I can get everyone across. I’ll be fine.”

“But Doctor-”

“Not now, Ryan.”

Ryan and Luke exchanged a look at her harsh tone, but stood down. The Doctor was clearly not going to take ‘no’ for an answer, so they would have to make sure she didn’t die trying to save the others.

Ryan sighed quietly to himself, helping the Doctor stand. “How long will they have to get across when you shut off the lasers?”

“Two and a half minutes,” the Doctor said, her breathing slightly laboured from the pain. “Plenty of time. ‘S gonna take me a few to disable the lasers, though. Been millenia since I’ve done it.”

Ryan held her up, while Luke watched over Donna, making sure she stayed asleep. The burns hurt, but the Doctor pushed through the pain, to make sure her friends got across to the other side.

Three minutes in, Luke stood up straight, seeming incredibly interested in something further down the hallway.

“Doctor!” he hissed. “Someone’s coming! I hear footsteps!”

The Doctor paused and listened, hearing the same as Luke did. She swore in Gallifreyan, an untranslatable curse that Ryan didn’t understand, and then she motioned for Ryan and Luke to collect up Donna.

“Ten metres down the hall, there’s another little hallway on the left, that leads to the TARDIS parking lot,” she directed, pointing down the hall. “Go, I’ll be right behind you.”

Ryan hesitated. “Doctor…”

Go !” she hissed. Ryan did as he was told, picking up Donna and hastening down the hall towards the adjacent hallway. The Doctor turned to her friends, waving her hands to tell them to hide.

“Someone’s coming!” she said as loudly as she dared. River was the one to catch onto what she was saying, and pushed everyone back inside the vault, closing the door. The Doctor sighed in relief, hurrying down the hallway after Ryan and Luke, ducking into the hallway that led to the TARDISes just in time. She stumbled down the hall clutching her side, rounding the corner, again just in time to avoid being spotted.

She caught up to Ryan and Luke at the entrance to the TARDIS storage area. They stood, mouths agape at the sight. She grinned at them, panting from both the running and the pain, although the pain was easier to ignore with adrenaline flowing through her system.

“Pretty awesome, isn’t it? Come on, we need to get out of the direct line of sight.” She led them deeper into the area, knowing the perfect spot to summon her TARDIS. “Once we get Donna inside, the TARDIS can easily keep her asleep.”

As if on cue, Donna began to stir. The Doctor whirled around, resting her hands on the sides of Donna’s head, sending her back to sleep.

“There we go, Donna. Rest easy.”

She turned back around and led Luke and Ryan all the way to the back of the storage area, a place she knew very few people came, and where all the other sounds in the room echoed to. They’d hear if someone was coming. She pulled out her sonic, and raised it in the air, summoning her TARDIS. She had to wait a bit before she heard the familiar wheezing and groaning, but shortly after she heard it, it materialised in the room next to her. She smiled and lowered her sonic, going up to her TARDIS and placing her hands on the door.

“Sorry about the Paradox Universe, dear,” she said affectionately. “Thanks for coming.”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out her key, pushing the door open. The TARDIS hummed a “welcome back”, and the Doctor smiled at her, walking around the console, letting her hand trail along the edge. She always hated being separated from her TARDIS, and always loved when they were reunited.

“I’ve missed you. Gotta stop losing you.”

Luke and Ryan entered, and Luke nearly dropped Donna when he looked around.

“Wow!”

“Do you like it?” the Doctor asked, grinning as she spread her arms to show off her TARDIS.

“It’s amazing!” Luke said in absolute wonder. “Different from last time, though.”

“Yeah, well, she regenerates along with me. Redecorates to match my personality, type of thing.”

“That is cool,” Luke breathed, before shaking his head slightly. “Liked your last TARDIS better, though. Simpler design.”

The Doctor wrinkled her nose, offended. “Is that so, Luke Smith? Well, I’ll have you know this TARDIS has a biscuit dispenser !”

Luke shrugged, unconvinced. “Cool.”

The Doctor opened her mouth to defend her TARDIS further, but Ryan cut in.

“Shouldn’t we like, get Donna laying down or something and go back for the others?”

The Doctor relented. “Good idea, Ryan. Luke, this is far from over. We’ll be continuing this conversation. Anyway, bring her this way.”

The boys followed, and the Doctor led them down the console steps, stumbling slightly at the pain still lingering from the lasers, into a TARDIS corridor, and to the first door on the right. It was a bedroom, by the looks of it, but it immediately made the boys sleepy.

“What is this room?” Luke asked, laying Donna down on the bed.

“Essentially an anesthesia room,” the Doctor explained, motioning Luke and Ryan out of the room. “Keeps the occupants asleep for as long as they need. Donna will be safe in there. Come on then, back to the others.”

She doubled over two steps away from the room, and Ryan caught her before she fell.

“Should we stop at like, the med bay to get something to make you feel better, or something?”

“Good idea, Ryan,” she said, taking a deep breath to try and control the pain. Ryan supported her, and Luke trailed behind, as they made their way to the med bay.

Once there, the Doctor went straight for the cabinet, her fingers fumbling over a few bottles before she found the right one. She stumbled backwards, sitting herself on the table, her breathing incredibly laboured from the effort.

“Ryan, get a needle,” she instructed, her eyes closed.

“What?”

“A needle. Like the ones for injection. I need you to put this straight into my bloodstream.”

“Can’t you just swallow some pills, or something?”

“Could, but it takes longer for it to kick in, and, well it’s complicated. This will be much better.” She opened her eyes. “Trust me.”

“Okay then,” Ryan said with a sigh, picking up a needle with shaky hands. He passed it to Luke. “I think you should do this. My hands can get a bit shaky when I’m nervous.”

“Me?” Luke squeaked. “I can’t!”

“How come?”

“I’m squeamish,” he admitted quietly. Ryan bit back a laugh. He was very familiar with squeamish.

“My granddad’s the same, mate,” he said sympathetically.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Looks away at all the squeamish parts in ‘Call the Midwife’.”

Luke laughed at that.

“Boys, the shot, please,” the Doctor said, half ordering, half pleading.

“Right, yep,” Ryan said, taking the bottle from the Doctor. “Together, then? You hold her arm, I’ll put the stuff in her?”

Luke nodded nervously. Ryan figured out how to get the liquid from the bottle into the needle, and was fascinated to find it was purple.

“What is this stuff?”

“Painkillers and medicine stuff for Time Lords,” the Doctor said shortly. “Please hurry up, it hurts.”

Ryan went as fast as he could, and soon he was ready.

“So, uh, where do I put it?”

The Doctor pointed to a spot on her left arm, and Ryan got ready to inject her when she flinched away. Ryan paused.

“Doctor?”

“Don’t like shots,” she admitted. “But it’s the fastest way, so just get it over with.”

“You might wanna look away if you don’t like it,” Ryan suggested.

“Good idea,” she agreed, squeezing her eyes shut and turning her head away. Luke grabbed a hold of her hand and wrist to keep it in place for Ryan. He pushed the needle in, and the Doctor flinched again, whimpering. It was only a few seconds before the shot was done, and Ryan put a colourful bandaid over it, figuring the fun colours would distract the Doctor. Luke let go of the Doctor.

“Okay, done.”

As expected, the Doctor immediately looked over at her arm, her face lighting up at the colourful bandaid over the puncture wound.

“Hey! It’s a space bandaid! That is so cool!”

She grinned at them.

“Are the painkillers working?”

“Yep!” the Doctor said after a couple of beats. “I’m feeling better already. Now, to go and get the others.”

“What about your clothes?” Luke asked. The Doctor looked down at the tears in her clothing. She shrugged.

“Minor tears. Won’t slow me down. I can fix it later. Come on, you two.”

She left the med bay, Ryan and Luke in tow. Together, they exited the TARDIS and headed quitely back down the hallway, just in case whoever had been coming wasn’t gone yet. When they reached the laser grid again, however, they found they were alone, much to the Doctor’s relief.

She went back to the blue box to continue shutting off the lasers when Luke called her attention again.

“Doctor, what’s that? It wasn’t here when we left.”

She looked to where he was pointing, and saw, on the ground of the threshold, a little black rectangle. She furrowed her brow.

“It’s the Gallifreyan version of a walkie talkie. Wonder what it’s doing here. Perhaps whoever came down here dropped it.”

She shrugged, picking it up. Quietly, she pressed the one of the buttons, hoping to hear who was on the other end. Ryan and Luke stood silently, listening. The walkie talkie made a faint crackling sound, and nothing was to be heard for the first second.

Then, a sinister voice came through, making Ryan and Luke shiver, and the Doctor tense.

“Hello, Doctor, it has been quite a while.”

Chapter Text

“Not long enough,” the Doctor sniped. “What do you want, Chancellor?”

“A lot of things,” the Chancellor said conversationally. “But from you, Doctor, I want you to stop interfering with matters of the High Council. Leave Gallifrey, now.”

“Clearly you haven’t done your homework, ‘cause you know I can’t do that.”

“That’s where you’re wrong Doctor. I have done my homework, and even a little bit more. Speaking of, I think there’s someone who wants to say ‘hi’.”

The Doctor heard a soft grunt on the other end of the phone as the Chancellor ordered someone to speak, and her body tensed once again when she heard Yaz’s voice.

“Doctor?”

“Yaz, tell me he hasn’t hurt you.”

“No, not yet. But Doctor, Graham, Sarah Jane, and Martha are here, too.”

“Mum!” Luke cried out, and the Doctor turned to him, holding up a hand as a command for him to wait. She turned away, swallowing again.

“I’m coming for you Yaz,” she cast a glance over her shoulder at Luke, “all of you.”

Luke nodded in understanding, standing down, though his expression was pained. Ryan pulled him back a couple of steps to comfort him best he could. The Doctor turned her attention back to the Chancellor, making a mental note that River wasn’t there. She really hoped that meant River had gotten away.

“Surrender, Doctor, and I’ll let your friends go, unharmed.”

The Doctor tensed when she heard a thud on the other end. Her untempered wrath bubbled just below the surface, and she clamped down, tightly, on it. Now was not the time to let it out, no matter how it scratched at her just under her skin.

“What do you mean by ‘surrender’, exactly?” she asked carefully, gripping the walkie talkie so tightly her knuckles turned white.

“Bring the Moment to me. Come alone, unarmed, leave the Moment, and I’ll let you and your friends go in peace.”

The Doctor’s mind reeled. If he’d entered the vault where her friends had been hiding, then surely he’d have seen the Moment in its casing and wouldn’t be demanding she bring it to him. Unless one of them managed to hide it and lie about its whereabouts. She prayed that was the case, and it wasn’t a trap.

“Can’t do that,” the Doctor said shortly. The Chancellor sighed.

“Which of your friends should I start with, Doctor? Bring me the Moment, and no one gets hurt.”

Except the whole entire universe when they unleash the Nightmare Child .

The Doctor took a deep breath, keeping her anger at bay. No one was going to get hurt today. Not if she had anything to do with it. She exhaled slowly, taking time to think about what to say next.

“Why?” the Doctor questioned simply.

“Gallifrey will not fall,” the Chancellor answered meaningfully. “Not on my watch.”

So he knew something of what the War Doctor was to do. But he didn’t know the full story - how could he? It was impossible for anyone on Gallifrey to know what choice he had made, only she knew that. And she couldn’t tell him what decision she’d made back then; doing so could very well mess up the timeline. She had to tread carefully.

“Let’s make something perfectly clear, Chancellor,” she said, her voice alarmingly calm. “If anything happens to any of my friends, you’ll have me to answer to. Do you understand?”

The Chancellor laughed at her, and once again, her rage clawed at her, begging for some air. She silenced it.

Not yet .

“You don’t scare me, Doctor.”

“Well, then, that’s your second big mistake of the day,” the Doctor said, her voice wavering ever so slightly as she tried to calm the storm inside. “Because you should be very, very scared right now. You’re standing between me, and the people I love, and that is not a place you want to be. You have until I get there to change your mind.”

She dropped the walkie talkie on the floor and smashed it under her foot before the Chancellor could answer. Yes, she knew it was risky, but she also knew it gave her control of the situation. The Chancellor needed to know that she, not he, was in charge.

She turned to Luke and Ryan, taking them by their arms and marching them back towards the corridor that led to the TARDISes. She pressed the key into Ryan’s hand, giving clear instructions.

“Go back to the TARDIS, and stay inside. Don’t open the doors for anybody , except me. I’ll be back down as soon as I can with the others.”

“What are you gonna do?” Ryan wondered.

“Get the others back, put the Chancellor in his place, and get you all back home. Now, go.” Luke opened his mouth to object, but the Doctor beat him to it. “This is not up for debate, Luke. I’m going alone. Back to the TARDIS, wait inside. Now .”

Ryan and Luke backed down, and turned, walking back down the hall towards the TARDISes. The Doctor spun on her heel and turned and stalked off the other way.


“So, this is Gallifrey,” Martha mused. “It’s nice, even from inside a vault.”

Yaz hummed in agreement, walking along the front wall of the vault, running her fingers over the Gallifreyan carved into the walls. She wasn’t sure why there would be words engraved in the walls, but she liked it. It made the vault feel like a medieval castle, or something. It made it prettier.

Sarah Jane stood at the door to the vault, ear pressed to it, listening to whoever was on the other side. So far, according to Sarah Jane, none of the locks had been opened yet. Yet being the operative word.

“How long do you think we’ll have to stay in here?” Graham wondered, not talking to anyone in particular.

“I think the more pressing question is: is whoever’s out there behind the Paradox Universe we got stuck in?” Yaz said, tracing one of the smaller circles with her finger. She paused, turning to Graham. “If they are, I’d rather be safely stuck in here, than out there with them.”

Graham grumbled, but shut up after that. Sarah Jane gasped a few seconds later, and motioned at them to get back.

“The locks are being opened!”

The four of them hanging out at the entrance turned and ran towards the back of the vault, where the Moment was tucked away. The vault was quite big, lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves of valuable items, but they weren’t too long in length, so they reached the back of the vault in seconds, where River was examining the Moment in its casing.

“People are coming!” Yaz warned her when River looked up in confusion. River acted quickly, taking the Moment out of its case, and shoving it into a box underneath the nearest shelf. She grabbed Yaz, pulling her behind a statue to hide.

The five of them held their breath as footsteps echoed through the vault, coming closer and closer. When the footsteps halted, Yaz peeked out from her hiding place, to see who it was. One of them, who appeared to be a man of importance, all dressed in robes and fancy stuff looked into the empty casing where the Moment should have been. Behind him were a band of young, yet relatively muscular, teenage boys. At least, she assumed they were teenagers. She knew from the Doctor’s tales that regeneration could do weird stuff, including making them young again; children even.

“Told you, sir,” a ginger boy said. “Nothing to worry about. The Moment is still gone.”

The man in the robes sighed, letting his shoulders drop. He shook his head, smiling.

“I suppose I was being a bit paranoid. Come, boys.”

Yaz preemptively let out a sigh of relief as they walked away, but it caught halfway through, when, to her right, Graham sneezed. Everyone’s gaze snapped to him, glaring at him. He grinned sheepishly, mouthing the word ‘sorry’.

“Seize them,” the robed man commanded. Two of the boys yanked Graham out of his hiding place, bringing him before their leader. He looked Graham up and down, a mildly disgusted look on his face. Yaz and the girls stayed silent, watching and waiting.

The man in robes snapped his fingers, holding out his hand, and one of the boys gave him a silver device, which he used to examine Graham. A scan, Yaz realised. He was being scanned. The man in the robes actually smirked when he read the results.

“Human,” he said. “You must be with the Doctor. Tell me, where is he?”

“Right now, this moment?” Graham asked. The robed man nodded. “Don’t know.”

The robed man scowled. “Do not mock me, human.”

He slapped Graham and Yaz acted impulsively, jumping out of her hiding place.

Don’t touch him !”

The man in the robes looked up, surprised, then smiled. “Another one.”

Before she could react to his reaction, two of his boys grabbed her arms, dragging her forward. Yaz didn’t fight back, knowing she couldn’t take on all of them at once.

“How many of you are there, human? Don’t lie to me.”

Yaz hesitated, wondering how many of them she should reveal. Strategically speaking, at least one of them should remain hidden, to give them the upper hand. But it couldn’t be more than two, or the man with the robes wouldn’t believe her.

“Just four,” she decided eventually. “Me, Graham, Sarah Jane, and Martha.”

Martha and Sarah Jane stepped out from their hiding places, hands raised. The boys seized them. River stayed hidden, much to Yaz’s relief. She knew that River probably had the most experience with Gallifrey and Time Lord stuff, from what she’d learnt about the woman. She’d be the most strategic person to leave behind.

“Is that all of you?” the robed man asked, giving Yaz a chance to tell the truth without being hurt. But Yaz knew better than to fall for that trick. She looked him in the eye.

“Yes.”

“Good. Now, tell me, where is the Moment?”

“The what?”

“Don’t give me that. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Where is it?”

“Doctor has it,” Yaz said, telling the first lie that popped into her head. If the man decided to search the vault, he’d find the Moment, and they’d all be toast. Better to let him think the Doctor had it.

“Why would he do that?” the man wondered. “I’m assuming, since you’re all here, the Doctor was in here, too, at some point. Why didn’t he leave it behind?”

She ,” Yaz corrected. “Decided it was easier to just take it and give it to her past self, or whatever. She made us wait here to be safe while she did that.”

“She?” the man in the robes repeated, raising his eyebrows. “Interesting development.”

He studied Yaz for a moment, narrowing his eyes. “Are you lying to me, girl?”

“No.”

“Why should I believe you?”

“I have no reason to lie.”

He broke into a grin, and Yaz repressed a flinch as he brought his hand up and ran his finger tenderly down her cheek.

“I like you. I’ll try to avoid hurting you.”

He turned on his heel, motioning to the boys to follow, and they did so, marching Yaz, Graham, Martha, and Sarah Jane back out of the vault. Once over the safety threshold of the laser grid, Sarah Jane tried to fight back with her sonic lipstick, but the man in the robes quickly quenched her efforts, taking it off her with a laugh.

“A sonic device, and a lovely one at that. I think I’ll keep it.”

Yaz held her breath, waiting to see if the man would hurt Sarah Jane, but he didn’t. He simply pocketed her sonic and had the boys hold Sarah Jane a bit tighter. None of them dared speak, or attempted to struggle as they were taken off to who-knows-where. Yaz could only hope she’d made the right decision, choosing River to leave behind. She could only hope her plan worked, and she could only hope the Doctor would find them and rescue them before someone got hurt.


Yaz, Graham, Martha, and Sarah Jane sat against the wall, hands bound tightly behind their backs. The man in the robes had send most of the boys away after they’d been secured, and the only two who remained were the ginger boy, and a boy with a scar on his left cheek. Both of them were holding guns, or at least, that’s what Yaz assumed they were. They looked like guns, although they were much sleeker and more...alien than anything she’d ever seen on earth.

Whatever they were, they were enough to keep Yaz, Martha, Sarah Jane, and Graham quiet.

Time passed. The boys stood on either side of the four of them, occasionally switching sides. The man in the robes went in and out of the room, seemingly to talk with people just outside, and to keep them out. The sunlight shifted along the floor as the minutes ticked on. Funnily enough, Yaz noted, there seemed to be multiple sources of sunlight outside.

The robed man came back in after his third time leaving the room, and sat down in a chair. Yaz watched him, unable to do much else in her current predicament. The man pulled out what appeared to be a walkie talkie, and proceeded to fiddle with it, staring out the window.

A faint crackle came from the walkie talkie some time after, but in the silence of the room, everyone heard it. Yaz didn't need to look to know Graham, Martha, and Sarah Jane had all turned their heads to look at the source of the noise. Yaz gulped when the robed man smiled wickedly, holding the radio device up to his mouth.

“Hello, Doctor,” he said. “It has been quite a while.”

“Not long enough,” the Doctor sniped from the other end.  “What do you want, Chancellor?”

Yaz felt a surge of relief when she heard the Doctor’s voice on the other end; the Doctor’s voice always brought her comfort and hope.

“A lot of things,” the man - the Chancellor, the Doctor had called him - said. “But from you, Doctor, I want you to stop interfering with matters of the High Council. Leave Gallifrey, now.”

“Clearly you haven’t done your homework,” the Doctor answered, not missing a beat. “‘Cause you know I can’t do that.”

The Chancellor glanced over at the boys, flicking his eyes to Yaz as he gave a quick nod. Yaz was hauled to her feet and marched across the room to where the Chancellor sat while he spoke into the walkie talkie. There, she was made to kneel beside him, a gun trained on her to ensure she didn’t try anything.

“...I think there’s someone who wants to say ‘hi’.”

The Chancellor lowered the walkie talkie to Yaz. When she hesitated, he whacked her on the upside of the head, eliciting a grunt.

“Speak,” he commanded quietly. Yaz took a deep breath, complying.

“Doctor?”

“Yaz,” the Doctor said lowly, her voice pleading. “Tell me he hasn’t hurt you.”

“No, not yet,” Yaz said, leaving out the bit where the Chancellor hit her and Graham. “But Doctor, Graham, Sarah Jane, and Martha are here, too.”

She hoped the Doctor would pick up on the fact River wasn’t there; that River was safe, or at least away from the immediate threat. She heard Luke cry out for Sarah Jane on the other end, and she glanced over at Sarah Jane in time to catch the pained look on her face, hearing her son’s voice.

“I’m coming for you Yaz,” the Doctor promised, cutting through the stress mounting in the room. “All of you.”

Yaz nodded, even though she knew the Doctor couldn’t see her. The Chancellor gave the boys another nod, and Yaz found herself dragged back across the room and slammed roughly up against the wall, making her wince, before she was made to sit back down with the others.

“Surrender, Doctor,” the Chancellor demanded. “And I’ll let your friends go, unharmed.”

Yaz took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself after the ordeal, before refocusing on the negotiation.

“Bring the Moment to me,” the Chancellor ordered. “Come alone, unarmed, leave the Moment, and I’ll let your friends go in peace.”

Yaz’s heart skipped a beat. She’d lied to the Chancellor, saying the Doctor had the Moment, when she really didn’t. If he found out she’d lied, they were all as good as dead. She closed her eyes, sending up a silent prayer that the Doctor wouldn’t blow it.

“Can’t do that,” the Doctor said shortly after an agonisingly long silence. Yaz let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. They were safe, for now.

“Which one of your friends should I start with, Doctor?” the Chancellor growled maliciously, rising from his chair. Yaz felt her previous relief dashed against the rocks. “Bring me the Moment, and no one gets hurt.”

Another silence passed before the Doctor spoke again.

“Why?”

“Gallifrey will not fall!” the Chancellor nearly bellowed. “Not on my watch.”

Yaz, Graham, Martha, and Sarah Jane all flinched at his tone. Yaz forced herself to take deep breaths. Panicking and hyperventilating would not help. Beside her, she could feel Graham trembling. She shifted slightly, leaning her weight against him in an attempt to comfort him. When the Doctor spoke again, after yet another pause, her tone sent shivers racing up and down Yaz’s spine.

“Let’s make something perfectly clear, Chancellor,” the Doctor said in an alarmingly calm and icy tone. “If anything happens to any of my friends, you’ll have me to answer to. Do you understand?”

The Chancellor threw back his head and laughed, as if he’d just been told a joke. “You don’t scare me, Doctor.”

“Well, then, that’s your second big mistake of the day,” the Doctor said, her tone the same, except her voice wavered ever so slightly this time. “Because you should be very, very scared right now. You’re standing between me, and the people I love, and that is not a place you want to be. You have until I get there to change your mind.”

Yaz turned her head to look at the others, and they all looked as shocked and frightened as she did, not at the Chancellor, but at the Doctor.

Their heads whipped back around to the walkie talkie and Chancellor when a crash, followed by white noise sounded from the other end, before it went silent. It didn’t take Yaz long to figure out the Doctor must have smashed it under her foot. Yaz gulped again, her police instincts screaming at her that the Doctor had messed up the negotiation. She had to quiet her instincts, and convince them to trust the Doctor hadn’t put her in danger. Yaz doubted her own words when she saw the look of fury on the Chancellor’s face, and she shrunk back.

“Should we kill them, sir?” the ginger boy asked. The Chancellor considered a moment, before dropping his shoulders and shaking his head.

“We need them alive.”

Chapter Text

“Sir, what if the Doctor doesn’t come?”

The Chancellor turned, seemingly curious as to why his student would ask that. Yaz watched the interaction closely. The Chancellor looked confident as he answered the boy.

“She will come, don’t worry. The Doctor is notorious for showing up when their friends are in trouble.”

The Chancellor looked over at his prisoners, and Yaz averted her gaze, too afraid to meet his eyes.

“But suppose she doesn’t?” the other boy, the one with the scar one, pressed. “Hypothetically, of course, sir.”

Yaz held her breath as she felt the Chancellor’s eyes land on her, and tensed when she heard his quiet footsteps come over to her. A stick of some description found its way under her chin, forcing it upwards, until Yaz had no choice but to meet the Chancellor’s gaze. She forced herself to take deep breaths.

Clam, Yaz. Just breathe.

“We have our hostages. That will be enough.”

Yaz’s heart thudded in her chest, and she reflexively swallowed, the Chancellor’s meaning perfectly clear.

“Will we get to do that, sir?” the ginger boy asked, his voice far too enthusiastic for Yaz’s liking. The Chancellor chuckled - actually chuckled - at his student’s question.

“I think that would be a good learning experience,” he mused with a nod, finally looking away from Yaz. “Yes. You may, if we need to.”

“Thank you, sir!”

The Chancellor withdrew his stick-thing, and Yaz let out a long breath, dropping her head again, trying to calm herself. She didn’t know why the Chancellor had decided to pick on her, especially considering what he’d said back when they’d first been captured, but she knew she was going to be the first one to die if the Doctor didn’t show. She really wished she knew why the Chancellor was singling her out.

“You okay?” Martha whispered from beside her. Yaz nodded shortly, not raising her head to look at Martha. She only raised her head again when she heard Sarah Jane yelp. Yaz’s heart leapt into her throat, and her police instincts kicked in, and she fought back, needing to protect Sarah Jane.

“Hey! Let go of her! What are you doing to her?”

“Shut up, human,” the ginger boy snapped, kicking Yaz’s shin. “This is none of your concern.”

Yaz wanted to do more to help, but she knew better than to go up against two teens with guns, especially when she was restrained. Helplessly, she watched as Sarah Jane was taken to the Chancellor. She strained her ears to hear what was being said, but she couldn’t hear anything.

The only positive thing she could think of was that it was taking both boys to hold Sarah Jane in place, leaving the rest of them mostly unsupervised for the time being.

“Does anyone have anything that could be used to cut these restraints?” she asked quietly, to ensure they wouldn’t be heard.

Martha and Graham shook their heads, no. Yaz dropped hers and sighed. They’d have to sit and wait for the Doctor.


Ryan sighed, pushing the UNO cards to the side. He and Luke had already played thirty seven rounds, and they were both incredibly bored; there was only so many times they could play UNO.

“So, what now?” Luke wondered, resting his head in his hands.

“Dunno. Think the TARDIS has a games cupboard?”

“Dunno. Probably.”

The two lapsed into silence, staring off into nothing. Ryan thought about his nan, and Graham, and Yaz, and the whole kerfuffle they were in. He wondered if Yaz and Graham were okay. He hoped they were. He loved them. He wondered where the Doctor was, what she was going to do to get everyone back.

“We could go help her,” Luke mused boredly, as if reading Ryan’s mind.

“Huh?”

“We could go find the Doctor and help her get the others back.”

“But she said to stay put.”

“No,” Luke corrected, leaning forward, his eyes bright with excitement. “She said to stay in the TARDIS. If we flew the TARDIS to wherever the Doctor is, to offer assistance, technically, we wouldn’t be breaking any rules.”

Ryan’s eyes lit up. “Aw, that’s brilliant, Luke! Let’s do it!”

Luke grinned ear to ear, and Ryan was on his feet before Luke could even make a move to get up.

“Now, let’s see, how does she fly this thing?” Ryan wondered aloud, running around the console in the same fashion he’d seen the Doctor do many times before. “Maybe this button here?”

It didn’t work. Ryan kept pressing buttons, and pulling levers, and twisting things, in the order he thought he remembered the Doctor doing the same. But there were a lot, and he couldn’t, for the life of him, remember which order was the right order.

After his fifth attempt, the TARDIS had had enough, and hissed at him, spitting a custard cream out, to hit him right in the face. Ryan stumbled backwards, holding his face. He scowled at the crystal.

“I’m just trying to help the Doctor! You stay out of it!”

The TARDIS hummed angrily at him. Ryan opened his mouth to argue back, but Luke’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.

“You’ll make her angry. Here, let me try.”

Ryan stood back, happy to give Luke a go. Luke walked slowly up to the console, circling it; taking time to take note of every lever, and button, and twisty thing. When he’d finished his lap, he stood back, and nodded.

“Okay, I think I have an idea on how to do this,” he said more to himself than to Ryan. Ryan contentedly stood back and watched Luke work. He pushed, and pulled, and twisted, with a skill Ryan thought was on par with the Doctor’s. Or, if not, it certainly came close, in his opinion.

“And...gotcha!” Luke declared happily, pulling the last lever. Ryan expected the TARDIS to wheeze with the usual take off noise, but nothing happened. Luke’s face fell, and he looked over his work again.

“Maybe you missed something?”

“No, I’m fairly certain I got it all right…” Luke looked up at the crystal. “Did you have something to do with this?”

Again, the TARDIS hummed angrily. Luke stepped back, holding his hands up in mock surrender.

“We’re just trying to help the Doctor,” he pleaded. “I think she may be in over her head here. We don’t want her to fail; there’s too much at stake.”

The TARDIS hummed again, this time stubbornly, like a toddler who had been told it was time to put their toys away.

“Sarah Jane,” Luke tried. “Martha Jones. River Song . All their lives are in danger.”

The TARDIS didn’t answer, and Ryan thought Luke must have said the wrong thing, but then it happened.

The TARDIS groaned, and shifted, and the familiar wheezing sound filled the room.


Sarah Jane struggled against the boys as they dragged her over to the Chancellor. She didn’t know why the Chancellor had chosen her, nor what he was going to do, but whatever it was, she knew it wouldn’t be good. But, no matter how she tried, she still found herself standing before the Chancellor sooner than she would have liked. She gulped.

“Just relax,” the Chancellor said in a tone Sarah Jane thought was meant to be soothing, though it had the opposite effect. “This doesn’t have to hurt.”

The Chancellor raised his hands to the sides of her head, and she instinctively leaned back, flinching away when she realised what was happening.

“No. No!”

The Chancellor hushed her, pressing his hands against her head, much harder than the Doctor ever did. She tried to control her breathing, but it was hard to simultaneously focus on keeping the Chancellor out of her head, and taking deep, calming breaths. She worked on keeping the Chancellor out, deciding it was more important than keeping her breaths even.

Sarah Jane remembered the Doctor saying that if there was anything she hadn’t wanted them to see, she should just imagine a door. So, that’s what she did. The thoughts and memories she didn’t want the Chancellor to see, she put a door in front of.

She really should have known what happened next. She had already seen the Chancellor quickly revert to extreme and violent measures to get what he wanted. He saw the door, and Sarah Jane cried out in pain as he kicked the door down, looking at her thoughts and memories of Luke and Sky.

Why did that hurt? It’s not physical!

“A mother,” he mused. “Fascinating. Oh, and your son is here with you, how sweet.”

“Leave Luke alone,” Sarah Jane rasped out, barely able to form a sentence from the sheer amount of concentration it took to fight back. The Chancellor just laughed, continuing to explore. Sarah Jane kept on trying to fight back. She was only ever able to hold him off for seconds at a time.

But then he came to the door that blocked the memory of the Doctor, and the paradox universe. Even if Sarah Jane had failed at protecting all her other thoughts, she knew that these memories were too precious for him to get to; she couldn’t let him know that River hadn’t been captured, or where the Doctor was - or the TARDIS, for that matter - or any of it. It was too risky, and it would put everyone in danger.

Well, more danger than they were already in, anyway.

She managed to hold him off for almost a minute, even when he somehow made her head throb, and the rest of her body ache. He quickly became impatient and barked at the boys for something. Sarah Jane couldn’t hear his command. Everything was too loud and too sore and she had to keep him away from...the...m...memo…

Sarah Jane felt her body collapse beneath her as her head became fuzzy and quiet, and thinking became hard. She thought she had felt a sharp prick at her neck, but she couldn’t be sure. She couldn’t keep her defenses up any longer, and she was just sharp enough to see the door fade away in her mind, and the Chancellor walk through the memories she’d tried so hard to keep hidden.

“No,” she whimpered. At least, she thought she whimpered. She didn’t know if the word ever reached her mouth.

She felt him move deeper and deeper, lapping up all the information he needed from her. She saw him see the memories of the paradox universe, and what had happened there, and how they had gotten out, and the Doctor’s painting, and the Doctor herself, and River getting away through Yaz’s lie, and all of it .

She thought she was crying, but whatever the boys had done to her made her wonder if she was just imagining it. She couldn’t feel anything, she could barely see anything; it was like she didn’t exist anymore, and it was terrifying. She vaguely registered the Chancellor saying something to the boys - she thought it was to tell them to find River - and she found herself on the floor, just able to make out the ceiling through her squinted eyes and fuzzy vision.

She thought the Chancellor was done, that he’d end it once he’d gotten all the information, but instead, Sarah Jane felt him probe deeper, opening up a rift she’d never felt before, and it burned . She screamed, suddenly able to feel everything again. All his emotions, and so much pain  from...no, that wasn’t the Chancellor’s. It was coming from another source. It hurt, and she wanted to scream, and cry, and vomit, and die, all at once. It was so much.

It was too much.

“Get out of her head!” she heard the Doctor growl. “ Now !”

“Doctor?” she whispered.

“Shhh, Sarah,” the Doctor whispered back. “Just hang on. You’ll be okay.”

“Moment,” the Chancellor demanded of the Doctor. “Here. Now.”

“No,” the Doctor retorted. “I’m not sharing that. Get your own Moment.”

The Chancellor was not amused. “I said: Moment, here, now !”

“I’m on my way,” the Doctor promised, and Sarah Jane could have sworn she heard a threat in the Doctor’s voice. “Give a girl a minute!”

“Five minutes,” the Chancellor decided. “Then I’ll start hurting your friends.”

“Liar,” the Doctor hissed, in a tone so venomous it made even Sarah Jane flinch. “Look at her! She’s clearly in agony, and yet you promise you won’t hurt any of my friends until I get there. Let her go. Now, Chancellor.”

The connection was suddenly severed. The Doctor and the Chancellor both vanished from her head, and she was left with nothing but her own thoughts and a relievingly empty space where the Chancellor used to be. She gasped, gulping in air. She let her eyelids flutter closed, soaking up the cool, marble floor against her skin as the stuff that had made her fuzzy began to wear off.


The Doctor slumped against the wall as the Chancellor severed the telepathic bond with her and, very hopefully, Sarah Jane.

Bloody hell ,” she muttered, taking a little time to catch her breath. Once she had, anger again overtook her being. It was bad enough, everything the Chancellor had done before today, but just now, with Sarah Jane, was enough to make the Doctor decide to change her direction.

The door to the Chancellor’s classroom was just down the hall, and she could easily storm down there and rescue her friends before the Chancellor did anymore damage. But that wasn’t good enough for her now. She wanted, she needed to make sure the Chancellor knew who she was, and exactly why he shouldn’t ever stand in her way.

She stood up straight, rolling her shoulders back. She spun on her heel and marched back down the hallway, to retrieve exactly what she needed, to face the Chancellor.

Chapter Text

“Just four,” Yaz said. “Me, Graham, Sarah Jane, and Martha.”

Martha and Sarah Jane stepped out from their hiding places, hands raised. The boys seized them. River remained hidden, watching on silently. She knew what Yaz was doing - leaving her deliberately behind so she could do whatever needed to be done, which were to get the Moment to the right person, find the Doctor, and get her to wherever this Gallifreyan was taking them. In that order. River filed the list away, to go over again once she was safely alone.

That is, assuming this council member believed Yaz’s lie and didn’t look around.

“Is that all of you?” he questioned.

“Yes,” Yaz said confidently.

I like this girl, River thought, not for the first time since she’d met Yaz. I can see why the Doctor keeps her around .

“Good. Now, tell me: where is the Moment?”

“The what?”

“Don’t pretend you don’t know.” he snarled. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. Where is it?”

“Doctor has it,” Yaz lied. River thought she could have thought of a better lie, but, then again, she knew how hard it was to think under pressure. River watched the rest of the exchange, and the Time Lord, and who she assumed were his pupils, march her friends away to who-knows where.

Soon enough, River was left all alone. Slowly and carefully, she stepped out from her hiding place, taking a quick look around to make certain she was indeed, alone. Once satisfied, she smiled to herself and retrieved the Moment from its hiding place, and made her way to the front of the vault.

She peeked out, in time to see the last of the Gallifreyan boys disappearing around the corner. She let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding and pushed the door all the way open. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her sonic screwdriver, the one the Doctor had given her on Darillium. She pointed it at the little blue control box on the wall and disabled the lasers.

River sauntered through the laser zone with confidence, Moment in her arms, like she owned Gallifrey itself.

She continued her strut down the hallway, away from the vault, and smiled when she heard the laser beams reactivate behind her. She knew the only thing that could make her cooler was if she was wearing a pair of sunglasses. She wished she’d remembered her sunnies.

The first item on her list - find the War Doctor and give him the Moment - was easier than she thought it would be. She wondered how she would find him, but it turned out she didn’t need to worry about that.

She was just rounding a corner when she bumped into him, quite literally, sending them both sprawling onto the ground.

“Terribly sorry,” he apologised, helping her up. He stopped short when he saw what she was holding. “What are you doing with that?”

“Funnily enough,” River said, finding her balance. “Looking for you. I believe you were after this.”

She held it out to him, and he took it, a skeptical and untrusting look on his face.

“How did you know I was after this?”

River thought about what answer to give him. How much should she tell him, or should she tell him anything at all? She settled on an answer that she thought would suffice, for now.

“It’s a long story. A really long story.”

He still looked unconvinced, perhaps even more distrustful than he had, before she had spoken. “You seem to know me. How is that possible?”

“Again, long story. There’s not really much I can tell you.”

“But who are you?”

River considered her answer. She couldn’t tell him who she was, but constructing a lie about what she meant to his future selves would be just as difficult as telling him the truth about who she was. She settled for a throwaway answer, or at least, it would be for him. For her, it was much deeper and truer than he could ever know.

“A concerned bystander.”

“Will you at least tell me your name?”

River shook her head. “Spoilers.”

He looked at her, confused, but she stopped him before he asked anymore questions, pushing him gently down the hallway.

“Please, go and do what you have to. You don’t have a lot of time left.”

He looked conflicted, clearly wanting to ask more questions, but her warning won, and he turned to go.

“Whoever you are, just be out of here when it’s done.”

River couldn’t help but smile as he retreated. Even before he knew her, he cared for her. That was why she fell for the Doctor in the first place - the way they cared so deeply, even for people they’d never met before. She could only hope that one day she’d be as compassionate as the Doctor.

She waited until he’d disappeared around the corner before she turned to make her way back to the TARDIS, or to find the Doctor, whichever one came first.

River hadn’t made it ten steps before she felt a gun come to rest against her back.

“Are you River Song?”

She took a deep breath. Even though she always gave the impression of being unfazed by guns and threats, the truth was, it shook her to her core, every time.

“Who’s asking?” she questioned carefully.

“Chancellor.”

Fuck’s sake . River sighed inwardly. Of course the High Council is involved.

She debated trying to weasel her way out with a clever lie, but the voice coming from behind her sounded young. She knew from experience that young and with a gun often meant scared, or it meant extreme loyalty to whoever commanded them to take the gun. Either way - scared and armed, or loyal and armed - it was a dangerous combination, and River wasn’t willing to risk it.

“Yes, I am River Song,” she said truthfully, voice remaining calm. Panicking would not help.

A hand came to push her, making her stumble slightly; a command to walk. She complied. As she walked, letting the gunbearer guide her. She thought she would be taken to the Chancellor, which she thought might be quite useful, since the Doctor would probably go after him. She smiled as she realised she could reunite with the Doctor without the effort of trying to find her, herself.

She reviewed the situation: teenagers, probably, and no more than two of them.

She should be able to get the gun, or guns , more likely, off them with little difficulty. The issue was them striking back. She didn’t want to hurt them, they only sounded like children, and she never hurt children - a policy of the Doctor’s she’d adopted for herself. Perhaps she could distract them somehow?

They rounded a corner, and River paused, seeing a door blown in down the hallway. What had caused that? River’s mind raced with explanations, none of them good. Another rough shove brought her back to the present.

“Move it!”

River took a deep breath and resumed walking, her nerves growing as they approached the destroyed door. Her heart leapt into her throat, knowing exactly what - or more like, who - had caused the explosion.

Making a split-second decision, she took a deep breath, and whirled around, knocking the guns from the children’s hands, intending to drop, swipe their legs out from under them, and scoop up the guns herself. However, she didn’t anticipate one of them having a second gun with them, and as she dropped, she felt an explosion of pain against her shoulder. She cried out as she fell, landing on her back.

The boy who had shot her fixed her with a steely gaze, aiming his gun right between her eyes.

“Get up.”


Don’t like guns.

That’s what she had said to Ryan, Graham, and Yaz, right back on their first alien planet, while she was searching for the TARDIS. She’d told them there was a better way to do things; a nonviolent way. Later, they’d seen her bring explosives along when facing Tim Shaw again. She had assured them it was just a precaution, a ‘just in case’, if they found themselves needing to defend themselves. She’d managed to write off the contradiction that time.

But not this time.

This time there would be no hiding it. No, she didn’t want her friends to know who she really was; didn’t want them to know just how much darkness was inside of her. But she had to let them see. She had to if she wanted to punish the Chancellor for what he’d done to Sarah Jane. To all of them.

And she really wanted to punish him.

More than she wanted to keep the darkness hidden. It terrified her, that she held so much anger and hate inside of her that she would be willing to risk her friendships in the name of retribution. Or at least, it would terrify her if she let herself stop and think about it.

But she didn’t.

She didn’t, because she knew she would change her mind and revert to her original plan. The Chancellor would get away with what he’d done and she’d wonder everyday what would have happened if she had followed through and repaid him for his wrongdoings.

She marched up to the door, leading to the Chancellor’s classroom. She strategically placed the explosives on the door, her anger now an icy cold, just below her skin, waiting, dormant, for the right time to burst forth.

She moved back from the door, stopping when she was a safe distance away. She knew the Dalek fleet was above, firing on the planet over, and over, and over again. She knew each blast, each quake, each spot the gunshots landed. She’d visited this day so many times in her mind, she knew each moment, each second off by heart.

That’s how she knew when to detonate, so the High Council thought it was another Dalek missile, rather than one of their own, causing the chaos.

The second to the explosion ticked nearer, and the Doctor paused, her predecessor’s words coming to her.

Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind .

Kindness. Kindness, kindness, kindness. That’s what he had always been on about. And she knew he wanted her to be kind, like him. And she so desperately wanted to make him proud; the Doctor had always made a point to try to live better, to be better, than the previous face. To be everything the previous face would want them to be.

But the Chancellor didn’t deserve that. He didn’t deserve her kindness, or her mercy. He deserved pain, and suffering, and justice.

But isn’t that the point of kindness?

There were only three seconds left. She had to decide now. She could still back out, still get her friends out safe, without anyone getting hurt.

Two seconds . But the Chancellor deserved to be hurt. He deserved her wrath. Wasn’t it her duty as the protector of the universe to give the bad guys what they deserved?

One . But what would that make her, if she did go through with it?

Zero .

Chapter Text

It’s dark. Quiet.

No one is in the building, save for one man, dressed in all black, hood pulled up and over his head to hide his face. He slinks quietly through the shadows, keeping to the walls. Though it’s night, he knows people will be out, and he doesn’t want to risk them seeing him through the windows.

Granted, they’ll probably be too busy running from the gunfire, and explosions, and the like, to notice him, but he’s not chancing it.

Clutching the telecommunicator in his hand, he steps through the door of his classroom, not bothering to lock it behind him. He’ll be done before anyone comes. Or, if he’s not, he has his gun with him. The windows are darkened, so no one can see in. He’s safe. He steps up to his desk, void of everything but an apple, which he bites into as he lifts the top of the desk, turning it to reveal an interactive touch table.

He tosses the half-eaten apple away and wiped his hand on his cloak. He taps the table a few times, before he placed the telecommunicator device on it. Nothing happens for a minute, and then the air above the table flickers to life, lighting up as the hologram forms.

The man drops his hood, looking up at the hologram.

“You are the Chancellor of Gallifrey?” a harsh, staccato voice questions from the hologram.

“Yes, I am,” the Chancellor confirms. “I’ve done all you’ve said.”

“Show me!”

The Chancellor reaches below his cloak, into a bag attached to his waist, and pulled out a box, decorated with various designs - a different design on each face of the cube. He holds it up to the hologram.

“The Moment, just as you wanted.”

“You will bring the Moment to the teleport!”

The Chancellor nods once, slipping the Moment back into his bag. He’’’ take it in the morning, once he’s had a few hours to devise a plan on how to get it there, unseen.

“I obey, Dalek.”


Martha was sure she was the only one who had noticed the back door of the room when she, Yaz, Sarah Jane, and Graham were brought in. She hadn’t expected anyone else to notice it, though. They weren’t trained to spot other entrances, except perhaps Yaz, being a cop and all. Nevertheless, the door was well-concealed, always shrouded in shadows. It would only be noticed by someone actively looking for it, which Martha had been.

Not that it did much use to know of its existence.

Even if she somehow managed to make it to the door without being noticed, she’d be slowed down by her restraints. She didn’t know if she’d even be able to get the door open without the full use of her hands.

Still, she mused, it might come in handy a bit later, especially now since Sarah Jane had been tortured by the Chancellor. Martha didn’t know what exactly he’d done to her, but she could hazard a guess.

She sighed as Sarah Jane lay limply on the ground, eyes closed. If not for the rising and falling on her chest, and how she occasionally shivered, Martha would think she was dead. She glanced to her left, to Yaz and Graham. Graham had his head down, chin almost to his chest. Martha thought he might be crying, but she couldn’t tell. If he was, she didn’t blame him. Yaz was sitting directly upright, and Martha could see the cogs turning in her head, trying to come up with some sort of plan. Martha really hoped she didn’t do anything rash or impulsive.

She leaned her head back against the wall, allowing her brain continue formulating plans. She’d been thinking ever since they’d been captured, but so far, all her plans were no good. Some of them were decent, but the risk of casualties was too high. No, she needed a plan where nobody got hurt or killed; where they all got out alive, and most preferably, unscathed.

She didn’t have enough information about where they were, that was the problem. She could only look around the room so many times before she couldn’t get any more new information. And it wasn’t enough.

She allowed herself another sigh. The Chancellor spoke quietly into his walkie-talkie device, catching her interest.

“All pupils to report back immediately. The Doctor will try something, and I alone can’t withstand her. Repeat: report back immediately.”

Martha pulled her lips into a thin line. She sincerely hoped the Doctor would get in, and get them out, before the Chancellor’s students returned.

As if on cue, the door exploded inwards, with a loud boom ! Martha turned her head and squeezed her eyes shut to protect them from the dust that accompanied the blast. Martha opened her eyes a fraction as the dust settled, just in time to see the Doctor grab the Chancellor by the throat and slam him up against a wall.

Martha involuntarily gulped, her eyes darting between the Doctor, and Chancellor and the others - Sarah Jane, still weak and mostly unmoving, but now with a small smile on her face, Graham, whose head was up, staring at the scene, and Yaz, now stilled and sitting quietly, her eyes full of both hope and trepidation at the Doctor’s actions.

Martha was somewhat familiar with this side of the Doctor. She’d seen it on multiple occasions, most notably with the Family of Blood. He’d tried to hide what he’d done to them, but Martha was clever enough to sneak into the room when the Doctor had passed his judgement. But she’d never seen the Doctor get so...violent, for lack of a better expression. It concerned her.

“Let them go, Chancellor,” she commanded, her voice terrifyingly quiet. The Chancellor grinned, and then gasped when the Doctor tightened her grip. Martha couldn’t tear her eyes away. She wanted to call out, but didn’t know what she’d say.

“No.”

Martha chewed the inside of her cheek as the Chancellor's breaths turned to nothing more than mere gasps. He struggled against the Doctor, but she held tight.

“Please,” he wheezed. Martha squirmed. She knew she needed to call out, to stop the Doctor, but she was scared to, in case the Doctor’s wrath turned on her. But the Doctor would never hurt her...right?

“You don’t deserve to breathe,” the Doctor hissed. The conversation was quiet, but perfectly audible in the silence of the room.

The silence of the room. Martha furrowed her brow. She could hear the sounds of explosions and gunfire outside the room, so logically, she should have been able to hear them even when the door was closed. So why couldn’t she?

Her thoughts were interrupted when the Doctor threw the Chancellor down to the ground and stamped down on his chest, drawing a pained groan from the man. Martha was sure she’d heard the crack of ribs, also, and she winced. That would hurt for a long while.

The Doctor removed her foot, and pointed her sonic at him.

“Get up, release my friends, or I reduce your bones to dust beneath your skin.”

The Chancellor looked wary, scared even. “That’s a sonic device.”

“With thousands of years of upgrades programmed into it,” the Doctor sneered. “Now, move !”

Martha flinched, the Doctor’s command echoing off the walls like a gunshot. As the Chancellor slowly and pathetically crawled his way across the floor on his hands and knees, Martha could have sworn she saw the Doctor smirk. Was she actually enjoying this? No, she couldn’t be. That had never been the Doctor’s style, and the very thought of it made Martha feel sick to her stomach.

Before the Chancellor could reach the three of them sitting along the wall, however, the back door swung open, and close to two dozen boys swarmed in, all wielding weapons, which they proceeded to point at the Doctor. The Doctor didn’t so much as blink as she raised her sonic, ready to fight the teens. Martha’s eyes went wide. She couldn’t! She wouldn’t! Would she?

“Doctor!” she called out at the same time as another voice. The Doctor’s eyes momentarily flicked to Martha, before she turned around. Martha’s heart dropped into the pit of her stomach when she saw Ginger and Scar - the two boys who had been guarding her - standing there with River, who appeared to be injured. Martha’s heart sank. So much for River being their saving grace.

“Surrender, or the next one goes in her head,” Ginger ordered, although Martha noticed Scar seemed a bit more hesitant than his counterpart. She felt herself hauled to her feet by two of the boys who had come in through the back door, and dragged backwards about ten steps.

She glanced behind her several times to make sure she didn’t trip over her own feet Her attention was drawn back to the Doctor when she heard two pops as Scar and Ginger’s guns blew up in their hands, making them jump backwards. River fell with the sudden loss of somebody holding her up.

She looked around for the others. Sarah Jane was still on the ground, out for the count, Graham had been taken by the boys like she had, and the Chancellor had managed to stand up, and grab Yaz, and was now holding a knife to her throat.

Martha looked down as the ground began to shake, and behind her, when a chasm of sorts opened up, and she let out a short scream, when the most horrifying face she had ever seen appeared. It looked like a child’s, but was also like the face of a rabid dog. It gnashed its teeth, just barely coming short of the platform she and Graham were standing at the edge of.

“What is that ?” Graham spat, a mix of horror, terror, and disgust. Martha didn’t answer.

The boys had moved away from the two of them, standing a safe distance from the edge, their guns still trained on her and Graham, lest they try to get to safety.

“Is it going to eat us?” Graham whispered.

“I think that’s the idea, yes,” Martha whispered back, taking care that her feet didn’t accidentally slip over the edge, sending her plummeting to her death.

Martha caught the Doctor’s panicked eyes as they darted between the five of them. River, propped up against the wall, doing her best to nurse her wound, and be brave. Sarah Jane, now fully conscious, looking up at the Doctor helplessly. Yaz, with a blade pressed against her skin. Graham and herself teetering dangerously over the abyss where this...nightmarish child was kept.

All eyes turned to the Chancellor as he spoke, his voice still slightly raspy from the Doctor’s attack.

“You failed in your imperative, Doctor. Now watch your friends perish.”

Chapter Text

“Tixtithitalkall!” the Chancellor barks, slamming his ruler down on the boy’s desk. Tixtithitalkall jumps, his head shooting up. “Pay attention.”

“Yes, sir,” he sighs, dropping his head into his hand. “Sorry, sir.”

The Chancellor goes on with his lesson, and Tixitithitalkall - or Tix, for short, which he prefers - shrinks in on himself, feeling all his classmates glance at him and exchange whispers. He knows it’s because of the bandaid on his face, though he did his best to make sure it was hidden before he left the house this morning. He wishes they’d stop noticing and just leave it alone. It’ll only lead to questions he’s not willing to answer; that much he’s certain of.

He doesn’t remember what’s talked about, but he doubts it’s important; it rarely is. The Chancellor’s lessons are mostly just his opinions on everything that’s wrong with the High Council, rather than what it actually takes to be a part of the group. Tix knows he doesn’t have to listen to it to pass.

After the lesson, the only classmate who pays him any kind of attention catches up to him. He sighs. Zepothikrovripa only ever pays him attention when he wants something.

“What happened to your face?” Zepothikrovripa questions, backing him into a wall. Tix pushes him away to move past, but the other boy blocks his way. He slumps back, dejected.

“None of your business,” he mutters.

“Was it your dad?”

Of course it was his dad. Who else would it have been? His father finds any and every excuse to go after him. He always tries to keep his head down and follow the rules, but sometimes it’s not enough. Like last night, for instance.

But Zepothikrovripa doesn’t need to know any of that.

“So what if it was?”

“Gotta learn to defend yourself,” Zepothikrovripa says. Tix rolls his eyes, and again pushes past, this time managing to walk away.

“What’s it to you?”

“Nothin’. Just wanna see you try to fight is all. David and Goliath kind of thing, y’know.”

“You just want to see me killed,” Tix grumbles, picking up his pace. Much to his dismay, Zepothikrovripa keeps up.

“I don’t give a damn what happens to you,” he says with a sneer. “Just wanna see a good fight.”

“Then go fight a lion.”

“Oooh, touchy are we?” Zepothikrovripa taunts. Finally, his patience runs out. Tix stops and turns, glowering at him.

“Hey, Zepoth,” he says, using Zepothikrovripa’s nickname, “do me a favour?”

“What?”

“Go fuck yourself.”

With that, Tix turns on his heel, before Zepoth can respond. As he walks, he mutters a string of curses under his breath. He acts cordial towards the other boy in class, but the truth of the matter is, he detests Zepoth.

Zepoth is a bully, and he gets enough of it from his father. He doesn’t need it at school, too.

At the thought, Tix unconsciously raises a hand to touch the wound on his left cheek, put there by an angry and entitled man bearing a knife. Tix pauses at the doorway, not wanting to return home, not when that hell awaits him.

Quietly, he lets the door swing shut, and he turns on his heel and walks back the way he came. He’ll sleep in the corner of the classroom tonight. Sure, it’ll be uncomfortable, but anything will be better than facing his father again.


Zepothikrovripa, or ‘Zepoth’, as he’s better known to most, sneaks down the hall, a safe distance from the Chancellor. It must be close to midnight now, but people sleep less these days, with the war and everything.

Despite this, Zepoth thinks it odd that the Chancellor should be sneaking through the building in the middle of the night, covered by a thick cloak. He’s seen enough spy movies to know the Chancellor is hiding something.

And he’s intent on finding out what it is.

He pauses when he sees the Chancellor enter his classroom, and his mind races with a thousand possibilities of what the Chancellor could be doing. He waits until the Chancellor disappears completely before following. He knows of some good shadows to hide in, to watch what’s happening.

Quietly, he pushes the door open, thanking Rassilon that the hinges had been oiled earlier that day. He takes two steps in, and then he finds a hand clamp down over his mouth, and pull him back into the shadows. Instinctively, he struggles, until he hears a familiar voice hush him.

“Shut up, Zepoth!” Tix’s voice hisses in his ear. He calms down, pushing Tix’s hand off his face. They exchange a look, before turning to the Chancellor as a hologram appears. He takes it upon himself to put his hand over his mouth to stifle a gasp when an all-too familiar figure appears.

A Dalek.

“You are the Chancellor of Gallifrey?” its metallic voice questions.

“Yes, I am,” the Chancellor answers. “I’ve done all you’ve said.”

Again, Zepoth and Tix glance at each other. It’s dark, but they can see each other well enough to see each other’s horror. Neither of them know what to think.

“Show me!” the Dalek commands.

The duo watch as the Chancellor reaches into his cloak and draws out an odd cube, one the boys have never seen before, and holds it up to the hologram.

“The Moment, just as you wanted.”

The Moment? Tix and Zepoth turn to each other, looking for an answer, but either of them know what it is, nor what the Dalek would want with it, nor why the Chancellor would be willingly handing it over to the Daleks. They turn back to watch the rest of the exchange.

“You will bring the Moment to the teleport!”

The two watch as the Chancellor slips the Moment back into his cloak.

“I obey, Dalek.”

They shrink back as far as they can as the Chancellor turns and leaves the room.

“Fuck!” Tix whispers when they’re alone. “That was-”

“Yes, I know,” Zepoth interrupts impatiently.

“-with a-”

Yes , I know.”

“-and he’s going to-”

Yes, I know ! Get a grip, Tix!”

He raises his hand to strike Tix, and Tix recoils, his mouth snapping shut. Zepoth drops his hand.

“What do we do?” Tix asks when he’s recovered. Zepoth knows Tix isn’t fond of him, and he isn’t fond of Tix, but now that they’ve seen the Chancellor in the act of betrayal, they’re unwillingly joined together in whatever they decide to do about it.

Ever since being a toddler, Zepoth has endured being called a show-off, due to all the incredible, and sometimes dangerous, stunts he’s performed. But he’s the last of ten siblings; he has to do something to get his parents’ attention. All his other siblings have done really cool stuff, won lots of citizen’s awards and stuff, and for Zepoth, the Academy has been his only option to win any recognition of any sort.

Well, until now.

Now, with the Chancellor being caught red-handed committing treason, he finally has a chance to prove himself. He turns to Tix, smirking as a plan forms in his head.

“How would you like to be a hero?”


Tix and Zepoth swapped places with two other boys, grabbing the Doctor before she could react to her friends’ predicament. The Doctor made a move to use her sonic when her brain caught up, but Zepoth acted faster; grabbing her wrist and twisting, until she was forced to drop her tool. It clattered to the floor, and he kicked it away.

The Doctor looked around helplessly. Tix was surprised she didn’t try harder to break free. But, then again, helplessness often led to resignation.

“Please don’t,” the Doctor pleaded, holding the Chancellor’s gaze.

“My instructions were clear,” the Chancellor said icily. “You disobeyed. Now your friends’ lives will be exterminated.”

Tix and Zepoth gulped in unison, remembering what they had seen. They didn’t like the Chancellor’s choice of words. Neither did the Doctor, it seemed. She straightened up, curiosity piqued, and helplessness forgotten, for now.

“Exterminated?” she questioned, stepping forward. Tix and Zepoth pulled her back.

“I told you I would kill your friends if you didn’t bring me the Moment,” the Chancellor said, confused as to her sudden change in demeanour. “This isn’t news.”

“No, it’s not,” the Doctor agreed, her brow furrowing in deep thought. She looked down at her boots.

“Then why do you act so surprised?”

“Because of your wording,” she said, looking back up. “It’s weird; nobody uses the word ‘exterminate’ when talking about killing someone, well, except for the Daleks. There’s something I’m missing.”

Tix and Zepoth exchanged a look, waiting. The Doctor started to move around as she began to talk again, as if to pace, but they both held her in place.

“There’s something I’m missing here,” she repeated, her tone agitated and excited at the same time. “You asked for the Moment, saying Gallifrey won’t fall, which means you know about what’s supposed to happen next. But the thing is, you can’t know; there’s no way you’d be able to know until it happened, which means either you tore a hole in the fabric of reality - which I would have known about - to get back here, or someone, or something else told you about what was to happen. So, the question here is: who?”

“But who else aside from you, and us, could know what’s supposed to happen?” River asked from her spot on the floor. Her question earned her a knee to her wounded shoulder, making her cry out, slump down onto the ground, and curl up in a ball.

“You weren’t told to speak!” the boy growled as he kneed her.

Don’t you touch her! ” the Doctor snapped, so viciously that the hairs on Tix’s and Zepoth’s neck and arms stood up on end. Zepoth gripped the Doctor tighter, just as tight as he could. Despite her tone, she made no move to attack the other boy. Still, the other boy recoiled.

“That was a good question,” the Doctor continued, her tone grave, but gradually lightening with each word. “One I have a good answer for. See, Chancellor, I’m more observational than you give me credit for. As I came in, I noticed three things: one, that door over there in the corner. Almost not there, it’s so well-hidden. Perfect for sneaking, or an ambush, or say, whoever you’re working for, to get through.

“Secondly, I noticed that platform right there, where you have the Nightmare Child waiting, to gobble my friends up. The problem is, that’s not where the Nightmare Child is supposed to be, and there’s no way you could have moved It on your own; no being who can touch can move It, meaning you had to get help from someone, or something, that can’t touch.

“And thirdly, these two,” she jerked her head to either side; to Tix and Zepoth. Tix knew what was coming next, and so reached up to give her hair a sharp tug in an attempt to stop her. She grunted, her ramblings momentarily cut short.

“Shut up, ” he growled. He would not be ratted out by anyone, least of all by a stranger. He’d heard of the Doctor, yes, but he didn’t know them. To him, they were a stranger.

“What about them?” the Chancellor wondered. Tix squeezed her arm just as tight as he could.

“Don’t,” he warned lowly. He knew how painful it was to have bones broken, and knew how to do it, too. He didn’t really want to, of course, but better her bones than his. The Doctor ignored him.

“They were signing and whispering to each other, sneaking glances at you, which means they know exactly who you’re working for. And, whoever it is, is scary enough to make them keep quiet about it, rather than telling someone what they saw.”

Following this, the Doctor let out a pained cry as Zepoth pinched her, catching the most sensitive nerve ending in a Time Lord’s body - a spot right behind the ear - between his fingers. Her legs gave way and she fell to her knees, still held in place by Zepoth. He grabbed the same ear and hauled her back up. She scrunched up her face in pain.

“He said to shut up,” Zepoth hissed. He didn’t care for Tix; he only cared that she’d ruined their plan to take down the Chancellor and be hailed heroes. The Doctor swallowed, taking a few deep breaths.

Meanwhile, Tix gulped, taking deep, calming breaths, glancing between the Doctor and the Chancellor. The Chancellor caught his eye and gave him a look to say that they’d be talking about it later. Although, he doubted there’d be much talking involved. Tix began to hyperventilate, despite trying desperately not to. As time passed, his hold on the Doctor was less to keep her in place, and more to support himself. He didn’t even think that she didn’t try to get free, though she could have quite easily in his loose grip.

“Are you done yet?” the Chancellor sighed impatiently. “So I can get on with killing your friends?”

The Doctor laughed breathlessly, Zepoth’s hold on her ear still painfully tight.

“Ah, but if you were really going to kill my friends, you would have done it by now,” the Doctor said gleefully, smiling through her pain. “I know you, Chancellor, and you’d never let me go on this long, and let me stop you from doing what you wanted, unless you were forbidden to. All this? It’s just for show, to scare me, and them.”

“I can still hurt them,” the Chancellor growled, his tone akin to an injured animal trying to scare off predators. Yaz drew in a shaky breath and winced as the Chancellor held her tighter, and pressed his knife deeper into her skin. The Doctor twitched, as if to break free, only to gain control of her impulses before she tried.

“I don’t doubt it,” the Doctor answered mildly, although her eyes betrayed the fear she felt. “You’ve already proven that. But I wasn’t done yet. Still gotta do the big reveal. Honestly, quite rude interrupting me.

"Now, as I was saying, it’s the day I make the choice about what happens to Gallifrey, which means that one of the Daleks has already gone after Davros, after he was cast into the mouth of the Nightmare Child. Am I correct? Don’t bother answering, I know you won’t, but that doesn’t matter, because I already know I’m right.

“That means that Dalek Caan - that’s the name of the Dalek who followed Davros into the Nightmare Child - has the gift of prophecy, which means he already knows what’s going to happen, which means the only way you could know what would happen to Gallifrey is because Dalek Caan told you, which means you, Chancellor, are working for the Daleks.”

She grinned smugly as she finished talking. Tix fainted, his hyperventilating knocking him out cold. Zepoth acted quickly as the Doctor glanced down at his classmate to see what had happened, and let go of her ear, grabbing both her arms to hold behind her back. She didn’t resist, going so far as to almost relax into the touch, relieved she wasn’t in pain anymore.

“Oops,” she murmured. “Too much for the poor boy, I suppose.”

She turned back to the Chancellor. “So, all of that means you were taking the Moment to the Daleks. My only question is: why? They wouldn’t use it to save Gallifrey; they’d use it to destroy the planet.”

“Like you, you mean?” the Chancellor sneered. The Doctor didn’t react. That unnerved Zepoth slightly. She should have reacted. Maybe she did; maybe her expression changed, and he didn’t see it, but he expected her to at least try to pull herself free, but she didn’t. He didn’t like that. Calmness wasn’t a normal reaction to the present situation. Still, he didn’t loosen his hold on her. He would do as he was told and keep her where she was.

“Plus, it’s treason,” the Doctor went on, ignoring the Chancellor’s remark. “What did the Daleks threaten you with to make you scared enough to commit treason? No, wait.”

Her voice elated as she went on, and Zepoth held tighter, reminding her to stay put.

“That’s not it, is it? Oh, oh ! They’ve offered you something, haven’t they? What did they offer you? What could possibly be a good enough offer for you to betray Gallifrey? You know they’re not actually going to give you what they promised, right?”

The Chancellor didn’t answer, instead taking his knife away from Yaz’s throat and plunging it into her shoulder, eliciting a scream from her.

No! ” the Doctor shouted, lunging forward. Zepoth was able to catch her and hold her back.

“I told you, Doctor,” the Chancellor said, red-faced. “I can hurt them. You lot, let the Nightmare Child eat their ankles.”

“No!”

His classmates obediently moved to do his bidding. The Doctor writhed against Zepoth, fighting to get free. He held her firm, although with each jerk, she got her arm further out of his grasp, and he knew how hard he tried, he wouldn’t be able to hold her forever.

However, before the two friends of the Doctor could be fed to the Child, the hidden door blew open, and a loud, harsh voice interrupted.

“Enough!”

Everyone froze, turning to the intruder, including the Doctor. There, in the flesh was a Dalek, the same one he and Tix had seen in the hologram.

“Chancellor, you have failed!” the Dalek shrieked. The Chancellor dropped Yaz, backing away from the Dalek, pressing himself against the edges of the room.

“It was her!” he protested, pointing at the Doctor. “She stole it from me!”

“Did not!” the Doctor argued back. “You were the one who misplaced it when you made that bloody Paradox Universe!”

“I did no such thing!” the Chancellor said, surprised.

“Then who did?” the Doctor wondered aloud, before whispering her answer a few seconds later, her smile evident in her voice. “ Dalek Caan ! Of course! Oh, you brilliant Dalek, you!”

She laughed at herself. “First time I’ve ever loved a Dalek. Fancy that. Hmm, that would be a good title for a novel.”

“Silence!” the Dalek ordered. “You have failed, Chancellor of Gallifrey! You will be exterminated!”

“No, you don’t understand, she stopped me from getting it to-”

He cut himself off with his own scream. Zepoth let go of the Doctor.

“No!”

He grabbed the nearest object, jumping over the Doctor to get to the Dalek. Although he didn’t like that the Chancellor had betrayed them, he had still respected the man, and couldn’t let go of that respect, even after he’d found out what the Chancellor had been up to. The Chancellor had always been there for him when his parents hadn’t, and had always pushed him to do better, in both school and character. He couldn’t help but overlook this one misdeed.

“No! Don’t!”

He felt the Doctor’s fingers brush against his back as she tried to grab him, but she was too slow.

“Exterminate!” the Dalek commanded. Zepoth screamed as a white-hot pain ripped through his entire body. He was dead before he hit the ground.

Chapter Text

“No, no, no,” the Doctor whispered, kneeling by the dead boy. She cupped his face in her hand, desperately hoping for a sign of life. “Come on, regenerate, please, please, come on …”

The child showed no signs of regeneration. The Doctor fought back her tears. The Chancellor’s death she could deal with, he’d deserved it; although she wished she had been the one to kill him. This boy, though, he didn’t deserve it. He was just a kid. She couldn’t bear the deaths of children.

“You are the Doctor!” the Dalek accused from above her. She lifted her head, dropped her hand from the boy’s face, and stood.

“Yeah, I am,” she said coldly. “What’s it to you?”

“You will be exterminated!”

“No,” the Doctor said, her voice so harsh the Dalek recoiled. She stepped forward. “You won’t. You’ll die before you can even finish the thought to fire your laser.”

The Dalek continued to shrink back, and without breaking eye contact, the Doctor kicked her sonic in Martha’s direction, as she knelt down, hunched over Graham, lying on the floor. She made a motion with her hand for the other Gallifreyan boys to run. She didn’t have to turn to know they didn’t hesitate.

“Don’t run from me, Dalek,” the Doctor ordered, her voice seething with rage and contempt. “You killed a child.”

“He was a traitor,” the Dalek protested weakly.

“He was a child !” she growled. If Daleks could have flinched, it would have. The Dalek hit a wall. The Doctor smirked. She stepped closer, this time towards the right side of the Dalek, making it dodge to the left. She did it again, with the same result.

“You will be exterminated!” the Dalek shrieked fearfully. The Doctor stared into its eyestalk, her expression cold and hard, her smirk morphing into a sneer.

“You’ll have to escape the Nightmare Child first.”

With that, she jumped, and put her full weight behind her kick that sent the Dalek toppling over the edge of the platform, into the mouth of the Nightmare Child with a scream. She slammed down on the green button that closed the platform and let out a sigh of relief.

That was close.

She turned to her friends, all now free from their bonds, thanks to Martha sonic-ing them out of the ropes. She knelt down by Sarah Jane first.

“Sarah? Can you hear me?”

Sarah Jane nodded weakly, her eyes fluttering closed. “Just a bit sore.”

“I can help you feel better,” the Doctor offered. “But it would mean I need to get into your head. Is that okay?”

Sarah Jane shook her head, squirming to get away.

“No,” she whimpered.

“Hey, hey, I’m not going to if you don’t want me to,” the Doctor soothed. “Shh, shh, it’s okay.”

Sarah Jane settled, and the Doctor leaned down to press a kiss to her forehead. She didn’t want to let Sarah Jane go, but she had to check on Yaz. But Martha and Graham were there, surely she’d be fine.

“How is she?” the Doctor asked.

“Hurt,” Martha said, not looking at her. “It’d be easier to help her if I had supplies.”

“We can get her back to the TARD-”

“Doctor, shut up,” Martha snapped, glaring at the Doctor. The Doctor’s mouth snapped shut at her harshness. “She’s not going anywhere without a stretcher. And as for you, I saw that look on your face when you were up against the Chancellor. I think you’re better off not helping right now.”

Martha turned back to her work, and the Doctor lowered her head, gently laying Sarah Jane’s down on the ground. If Martha had seen her smile when she was making the Chancellor crawl across the floor, chances are, the others had seen her as well. She knew Sarah Jane had seen a bit of her darker side, but not Graham and Yaz. What did they think of her now? And Sarah had made it clear she didn’t approve of her being cruel or mean. Why should any of them want her there?

She glanced over at River, having managed to sit herself up again, but she looked away before River caught her eye. She shuffled backwards to give her friends space.

“Doctor,” River began quietly, but the Doctor shook her head.

“Please just leave it, River,” she said thickly, fighting a fresh batch of tears. She sat with her legs crossed, gripping her ankles tightly with her hands to distract herself from crying.

A short time later, a familiar, soft wheezing and groaning sound filled the room, and the TARDIS materialised at the front of the classroom. The doors opened and Luke and Ryan appeared.

“Looks like we missed the party,” Ryan observed.

“I told you two to stay where you were,” the Doctor said flatly.

“No, you told us to stay in the TARDIS,” Luke countered with a grin. “We still haven’t left it.”

The Doctor couldn’t quite bring herself to smile.

“Whatever. Everyone, in. Stretcher’s in the medbay, down the steps, third door on the left.”

She didn’t wait for her friends to do as they were told, and she knelt down next to the unconscious boy - Tix, if she remembered correctly - coming around. He blinked open his eyes, and recoiled at the sight of her. She was surprised, but didn’t follow him.

“You!” he spat. “You ratted me out to the Chancellor!”

“Not gonna hurt you,” the Doctor said, her voice still flat. “He’s dead.”

Tix’s  gaze slid over to the Chancellor, dead on the ground, and then onto the ginger boy who had died at the hands of the Dalek.

“I couldn’t save him. I’m sorry.”

He didn’t say anything. Instead, he turned and ran from the room. The Doctor sighed again, standing up, also heading for the door.

“Where are you going?” River asked.

“I gotta give myself the Moment,” the Doctor explained, not turning around.

“I already took care of that. Come back to the TARDIS.”

The Doctor complied, turning around, and stepping into the TARDIS. Martha, Sarah Jane, Luke, Yaz, Ryan, and Graham were already all down in the med bay.

“You should go join them,” the Doctor said impassively to River. “There’s stuff in there to help your shoulder.”

River hesitated. The Doctor knew she wanted to stay with her, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t that she couldn’t allow it; she could. It was that she couldn’t bear to have anyone else there with her. She felt she didn’t deserve it, not after so gleefully punishing the Chancellor.

Never cruel .

Except she had been.

“Go,” she instructed, though it was also a plea. She heard River sigh, but move past her nonetheless, heading for the medbay.

Joylessly, the Doctor punched in the coordinates for Donna’s place, putting the TARDIS on autopilot. She felt the TARDIS dematerialise, and she sighed again, resting her palms flat against the console, hanging her head.


It wasn’t easy patching everyone up.

Yaz’s injuries were simple enough. Martha was familiar with stab wounds and bullet wounds, and how to fix them. River was a bit more difficult. She’d been blasted with an alien gun, and those were always hard to fix, since Martha didn’t always know what kind of injuries she was dealing with. Fortunately, River had adequate knowledge of the type of gun used - how she knew, she didn’t say - and so was helpful in telling Martha exactly how to fix her up. Sarah Jane was the hardest. Martha had almost no experience in treating the aftermath of telepathic attacks, and even River had seemed stumped as to what to do. They’d settled for giving Sarah some pain relief medication.

“Right, you lot get some rest,” Martha instructed. “And I’ll be back in a little while.”

No one asked where she was going, and she suspected that was because they knew where she intended to go. Well, the former companions, anyway. She wasn’t sure if Yaz, Ryan, and Graham knew.

She found the Doctor in the control room, hunched over the console, her head hanging low, completely still. If not for her speaking, Martha might have thought she was a statue.

“Is everyone okay?” she asked softly.

“Yes.”

There was a silence, before the Doctor sighed, stood upright, went over to Martha and plopped herself down at the edge of the platform, her feet resting on the floor below. She looked up miserably when Martha didn’t speak.

“Go ahead, lecture me. I know that’s why you’re here.”

Martha really shouldn’t have been surprised. The Doctor had always been good at predicting her, and her motives, after he’d gotten to know her a little bit. She wasn’t sure why she thought it would be different between regenerations. She shook her head, banishing her surprise, and crossed her arms over her chest.

“What you did in there was reckless,” Martha admonished. The Doctor lowered her gaze again. “I understand why you did it, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that all of us nearly ended up dead. I don’t give a damn about whatever justice you thought the Chancellor deserved, you jeopardised the entire negotiation, and if it hadn’t been for that Dalek, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

“You always claim to have a duty of care to your travelling companions, and that duty should come above whatever you feel, you know that better than anyone else. You disregarded that responsibility today and it almost cost us dearly.”

Martha stopped talking, having run out of words. She watched silently as the Doctor, who seemed to have somehow managed to bow her head even lower than it had been when she’d began scolding her.

“I know,” the Doctor said, her voice barely above a whisper. “I’m sorry.”

Martha sighed upon hearing just how miserable and guilty the Doctor sounded. She uncrossed her arms and sat down next to the Doctor, reaching up to rub the Doctor’s back comfortingly.

“Ryan, Yaz, and Graham have never seen that side of you before, have they?” Martha asked after a short while.

The Doctor shook her head.

“You’ll have to talk to them about it at some point.”

The Doctor sighed again and nodded. Another silence elapsed before the Doctor finally looked at Martha.

“How long will it take everyone to get better?”

“Hard to say. Could be anywhere between a few hours and a couple of days. I think the stuff on the TARDIS will help, but it’s still hard to know.”

The Doctor nodded again. “Thanks. For fixing them up, I mean.”

Martha nodded, biting back on several passive aggressive comments that came to mind. The Doctor was clearly feeling guilty enough; she didn’t need to add to it. She looked up, and around, finally taking in the new interior of the TARDIS.

“You’ve redecorated,” Martha observed. The Doctor looked up too, a ghost of a smile crossing her face.

“Yeah, she did,” she murmured quietly. She turned to look at Martha, her eyes a bit happier than they had been before, although not the happiest Martha had ever seen them. “What do you think?”

Martha looked around again, then shook her head. “I don’t like it.”

The Doctor gaped, affronted. “Oi!”

“What?” Martha defended herself. “I just liked the other one better! Much more spacious. This one’s almost claustrophobic.”

“First Luke, and now you,” the Doctor grumbled. “Bet you won’t feel that way when I show you this!”

The Doctor jumped to her feet and bounded up to a particular point at the console. Martha followed, curious to see what the Doctor was talking about. She watched as the Doctor stomped on a pedal, and a single custard cream slid into sight. She grinned smugly, shoving the biscuit in her mouth. Martha couldn’t help but smile.

“Okay, I admit, that is pretty cool.”


The TARDIS landed far sooner than the Doctor would have liked. It’s not that she wanted this adventure to go on any longer than necessary - it had been a trying and tiring one - it was more that she didn’t want to have to face her friends again.

But she knew she had to, because she wasn’t physically strong enough to carry Donna into her house on her own. She’d have to get Ryan and Luke to do it.

Hovering just outside the door of the medbay, she caught Martha’s gaze when she peeked in for the umpteenth time. Martha gave her an expectant look, and the Doctor knew she couldn’t hang back anymore. Swallowing her nerves, she stepped in, although she avoided looking directly at any of her friends, still filled with shame from what had happened on Gallifrey.

“We’re at Donna’s house,” she said, staring past them at a basket lying around. “I can’t carry her on my own. Could you do it, Luke and Ryan? Please?”

Ryan, oblivious to what she’d done, moved immediately, tucking his hands under Donna’s arms.

“You coming, Luke? I’ll carry her arms, you can carry her legs.”

Luke hesitated, looking at Sarah Jane. Sarah Jane smiled weakly up at him, bringing her hand up to hold his.

“Go on. I’ll be fine.” Still, Luke hesitated. “It’s only a few minutes, Luke. I’m not going to die in that few minutes. I promise.”

Luke smiled at her comment, squeezed her hand, and went to help Ryan. The Doctor led the two boys out of the room, eager to have an excuse to get out of there. Even though she didn’t look at them, she spotted her friends’ looks out of the corner of her eye, ranging from disappointment to fear. She didn’t blame them.

Pausing outside the doors, she turned to make sure Ryan and Luke got Donna through the TARDIS doors without bumping her. She was interrupted by a familiar voice.

“Doctor?”

She turned, her face lighting up at the sight of her old friend.

“Wilf!” she greeted happily, bouncing on her toes. “Hi!”

Wilf grinned back, gawking as he took in her appearance. “You’re a woman now!”

“Yeah, I am! ‘S great, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” Wilf agreed, opening his arms. “Come here, you.”

The Doctor readily welcomed the hug.

“Oooh, I’ve missed you,” Wilf murmured, giving her a squeeze. The Doctor laughed, breaking the hug.

“Likewise.” The Doctor glanced away from him as Donna’s mum stepped out to guide Ryan and Luke into the house so they could lay Donna down. “How’s Donna been, while I’ve been away?”

Wilf’s happy expression faded, and he turned to look at the open door. He sighed.

“Happy,” he answered. “She’s got herself another temp job, she has good friends, and even someone who I think might be her boyfriend, or close to becoming her boyfriend.”

“You say all that as if it’s a bad thing,” the Doctor observed.

“It’s just…” Wilf trailed off to sigh again. He turned back to the Doctor. “I know she’s not as happy as she could be. That time she spent with you; that’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her. Now, she can only be content and comfortable.”

The Doctor nodded in understanding. She knew Wilf wished Donna could keep travelling in the TARDIS, exploring all of time and space, being adventurous and just happy . She wished it could be that way, too. But they both knew it couldn’t be.

“At least she has the mercy of not remembering,” the Doctor murmured, shoving her hands in her pockets. “She has no comparison of how happy she could be, if it was still a possibility.”

Wilf sighed for a third time, glancing back over his shoulder. “Yeah. Although, sometimes I see her kind of sad. Almost as if she knows there’s something missing, but she can’t think of what it is. But it’s always gone from her face as soon as it’s there.”

The Doctor took a deep breath, willing herself not to cry. Clearing her voice, she changed the subject.

“Were we gone long?”

“No.” Wilf shook his head. “Didn’t even know she was missing. She was taking a trip to the library today. Wasn’t supposed to be back for another hour at least. What happened, anyway?”

The Doctor felt a small swell of pride at her improved piloting skills. If she could get everyone back before anyone realised they were gone, it would save her a major hassle.

“A lot of my travelling companions, including Donna,” she nodded towards the house, where Ryan and Luke were now emerging, “got pulled out of this universe and stuck in a Paradox Universe. That’s a special kind of parallel universe designed to sustain paradoxes, which is why Donna was able to survive while there; remembering me and stuff.”

Wilf considered her a moment. Ryan and Luke walked past, back into the TARDIS.

“You had to wipe her memory again, didn’t you?”

The Doctor nodded, kicking a small stone with the toe of her boot. “She can’t remember. Not if we want her to stay alive.”

To her surprise, Wilf pulled her back in for another hug. She froze, but quickly melted into it, hugging him back.

“Thank you for bringing her back, safely.”

The Doctor nodded against his shoulder. “Always.”

The hug lasted as long as the Doctor dared let it. She eventually let go and stepped back, knowing if she stayed in the hug any longer, she’d never leave. She gently grabbed Wilf’s hands in her own, giving them a squeeze.

“Take care of her, yeah?”

Wilf smiled back. “Yeah. You take care of yourself, you hear now?”

The Doctor’s smile morphed into a warm one. “I’ll try. Goodbye, Wilf.”

“Until next time, Doctor.”

Chapter Text

When the Doctor returned to the control room, she found all her friends waiting there. Sarah Jane was seated on the floor, leaning against one of the hexagonal walls below the platform the console sat upon. Luke was seated next to her, refusing to leave her side. Martha sat near Sarah Jane. Graham was seated, like Sarah Jane, on the other side of the room. Ryan and Yaz sat either side of him. River was the only one standing, wandering around the console, observing and admiring it.

“Why aren’t you all in the med bay?” the Doctor asked. “You need to rest.”

“I like the control room,” Sarah said quietly, gazing up at the crystal. “It’s nice.”

“Doctor?” Graham asked quietly from his spot. The Doctor ignored him, shooting a smug grin at Martha. Martha rolled her eyes. The Doctor stepped up onto the platform, avoiding looking at Yaz and Graham.

“How’s your head, Sarah?”

“Sore,” Sarah sighed. “The medicine is helping, though.”

“That’s good.” The Doctor nodded, resisting the urge to go over to Sarah Jane. “So, next stop: 13 Bannerman Road? What do you say? Wanna get home?”

Sarah Jane nodded tiredly. The Doctor grinned.

“Doc…” Graham tried again. The Doctor again ignored him.

“13 Bannerman Road it is! Hold onto your h-”

Doctor !”

The Doctor’s head snapped around to Graham, his arms around the two younger members of Team TARDIS. The Doctor swallowed and looked at the ground in front of Graham.

“Yes, Graham?”

“I think I want to go home.”

The words hit her harder than she’d have liked. Of course, she should have expected it, hell she did kind of expect it, but it didn’t make it sting any less. Again, she swallowed, thickly.

“Oh.”

“Not forever,” Graham added hastily. “Just, for a while. I need time to figure things out.”

The Doctor nodded, shoving her hands into her pockets. Tears burned behind her eyes, but she fought them back. She would not cry, not now.

“Okay.”

“Yeah, me too,” Ryan agreed sorrowfully. The Doctor sighed internally, knowing the other two would have related the story to Graham. “Gotta take care of gramps, yeah?”

The Doctor nodded again, although she didn’t buy his excuse. She knew he was as confused and scared as Graham was. She tried, and failed to look at Yaz as she spoke.

“And you, Yaz? Home?”

“I don’t know,” Yaz answered softly. In a moment of boldness, the Doctor lifted her eyes to meet Yaz’s, and was greeted with hesitation. The Doctor was both confused and hopeful; Yaz shouldn’t be feeling hesitant to leave, and yet, she was.

“I don’t want to leave yo-this,” Yaz said, before smiling weakly. “Besides, it’d be kind of weird rocking up at home and work with an unexplained injury. I should probably stay until I heal at least.”

“You could stay with us,” Ryan offered, making the Doctor’s hearts sink again. “Could be good to take a bit of a break.”

Yeah,” Graham agreed. “You’re welcome with us.”

The Doctor felt as if she had been slapped.

You’re welcome with us .

Something about the way Graham said it, well, she knew how to read tones well enough to figure out what he was really saying.

We’ll never snap like that .

Yaz’s eyes darted between the Doctor, and Graham and Ryan. “I, uh…”

The Doctor saw a question in Yaz’s eyes. She could hazard a pretty good guess as to what the question was, but she still hoped that Yaz might ask it anyway, if it would make her stay. She licked her lips, holding her breath, waiting for Yaz to make her decision. Yes, the questions would be uncomfortable if she stayed, but it would hurt if Yaz left. The Doctor would rather discomfort than loss.

“Yeah, okay,” Yaz sighed, finally giving in. She nodded once, looking down at her feet. The Doctor sucked in a big gulp of air. “That could be good.”

She turned her back so her friends wouldn’t see the tear that escaped her eye and fled down her cheek. She took a deep breath, steadying herself.

“Sheffield, then,” she said flatly, setting the coordinates, and taking off, like she did every time. This time, however, there was no joy in flying the TARDIS.


The goodbye was virtually nonexistent, with Graham and Ryan leaving the TARDIS with little more than a passing ‘see you later’. Yaz lingered a little, as if she were about to change her mind, but, in the end, she went with the boys. The Doctor didn’t miss the betrayal that flashed through Yaz’s eyes right before she left the TARDIS. The Doctor didn’t blame her; she too felt she had betrayed herself by what she’d done on Gallifrey.

“13 Bannerman Road,” the Doctor sighed when the TARDIS doors closed behind Yaz, Ryan, and Graham. She again punched in the coordinates, but before she could push the lever, River’s hand came to rest on top of hers.

“They just need a bit of time, sweetie,” she whispered. The Doctor nodded shortly, chomping down on her bottom lip as she felt the next wave of tears. “You haven’t lost them.”

“But what if I have ?” the Doctor asked, hating how her voice wavered.

“You haven’t,” Sarah Jane said from her spot on the floor. “They’ll be back.”

“How can you be so sure?” the Doctor snapped. She winced. She didn’t mean to snap.

“No one can give up all of space and time, or aliens,” Sarah Jane said with a small laugh. “Believe me, I’ve tried.”

“She’s right,” Martha added, before the Doctor could rebut Sarah Jane. The Doctor looked up at Martha. She shrugged. “I left because you made me feel second best, not because I hated the adventure, and aliens, and all that. Hell, even joined UNIT. That should give you some clue that I didn’t want to give up all of time, and space, and aliens, as Sarah Jane put it.”

The Doctor lowered her head, remembering how badly she’d treated Martha. She’d never apologised to Martha for that, but try as she might, she couldn’t bring herself to utter an apology at that moment. She vowed to herself she would find a time to apologise before Martha left. Instead, she just nodded.

Beside her, River sighed, and moved so she was standing right behind the Doctor. She wrapped her free hand around the Doctor’s waist, and the Doctor obliged, melting into River’s embrace. River lifted her other hand from the Doctor’s and brought it up to comb it through the Doctor’s hair. The Doctor closed her eyes to enjoy the sensation, only to flinch as the memory of this same thing happening, while in the Paradox Universe. She remembered the conversation a little too well, and she whimpered, squirming in River’s grasp.

“Shh, shh,” River soothed, dropping a kiss to the Doctor’s jaw.

“I failed, River,” the Doctor whispered, unable to stop her tears. “I became t-the m-m-monster.”

River hushed her again.

“No, you didn’t,” River whispered. “You didn’t fail. We’re all out safely. You’re not a monster, you were scared.”

“That doesn’t mean it was right,” the Doctor choked out as quietly as she could, barely able to breathe between her sobs.

“No, it wasn’t,” River agreed, gently turning the Doctor around in her arms so she could cry against her shoulder. “But a very wise man once told me that bad people don’t care that they’re bad. The fact that you care is enough.”

The Doctor knew River was talking about her Eleventh face. He’d said that to her, quoting something he’d read on the internet. She couldn’t help but momentarily smile at her wife quoting her own words back at her. She squeezed her eyes shut and let herself cry.

She felt such deep shame for what she’d done; what she’d become on Gallifrey, and how it had ended in loss - the very thing she’d wanted to avoid. She’d lost that kid who went after the Dalek, and she’d lost her three newest best friends. Even if the latter loss was temporary, it still hurt.

She flinched again when she felt another pair of arms, and then another, and then another, wrap around her.

Martha, Sarah Jane, and Luke , she realised.

She’d forgotten they were there. They were turning it into a group hug. She almost stopped crying, embarrassed that they had seen her, but when she felt someone’s hand gently rub her back, she decided she didn’t care if her friends saw her cry. She knew they’d always love her and admire her, even if they did see her so small and vulnerable.

A smile tugged at her lips once again, amongst the tears, and this time it stayed there a bit longer than the last one.

Chapter Text

The Doctor used the cloth River had given her to wash her face. River had said it wouldn’t do too well to use her sleeves as tissues and then fly the TARDIS, with a face grubby with tears and snot, so River had taken her to the bathroom to get her to wash it all off. And the Doctor had to admit, it did work; she felt much better after giving her face a bit of a wash.

She dropped the cloth into the sink and sighed, looking at herself in the mirror. Her eyes looked puffy from crying, but aside from that, there was no evidence she’d been sobbing just a few minutes earlier. River came up behind her, wrapping her arms around her waist, and the Doctor sighed again. She dropped her head back, letting it rest River’s.

“Feeling better?”

“Yeah,” the Doctor said tiredly. “Should probably get back to taking everyone home.”

River hummed in agreement, although neither really wanted to go anywhere. It was nice how they were, just there, bodies moulded together, enjoying each other’s presence. The Doctor was the first one to break it, moving to go back to the control room, after a time, much to River’s dismay.

“13 Bannerman Road, Martha’s house, and then we can cuddle and kiss, okay?” the Doctor bargained. A slow smile spread across River’s face.

“Okay.”


The Doctor flew the TARDIS as gently as she could, to try to prevent Sarah Jane’s head from hurting even more. River followed close behind, helping, even though the Doctor didn’t need it.

“Yes, you do!” River bantered back, pressing a sequence of buttons the Doctor had never noticed.

“No, I don’t!” the Doctor said indignantly, continuing to pilot her ship. Yes, River may have been the Child of the TARDIS, but the TARDIS still wasn’t her ship. “I’m perfectly capable of flying her myself!”

“Says the one who always leaves the brakes on!”

The Doctor’s head shot up and she glared at River. “Again? Are you ever going to give it a rest?”

“As soon as you give the brakes a rest, yes.”

The Doctor sighed, exasperated, as she parked the TARDIS. She pointed at River.

“You keep it up, and you’re not going to get that kiss I promised.”

“Like you could follow through with that threat,” River laughed. The Doctor scowled. Her wife was right; she could never not kiss River, and she hated that River knew that.

“Oh, shut up,” the Doctor grumbled, flinging open the doors, stopping short when she was greeted by a small army of UNIT soldiers, all with weapons raised. The Doctor sighed again, stepping out of the TARDIS, and closing the doors behind her, raising her hands. She was about to start telling them off when the doors opened again, and Sarah Jane stuck her head out.

“Doctor what’s - oh, why is UNIT here?” Sarah Jane wondered.

“I was wondering the same thing,” the Doctor said, looking pointedly at the soldiers.

“Visual contact, Sarah Jane Smith is here,” one of the soldiers said. The Doctor and Sarah Jane spoke at the same time.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Am I wanted for something?”

“I can explain,” Kate Stewart said, stepping up, past the soldiers. Kate held out her scanner device, and smiled when the scan revealed two heartbeats. “Doctor.”

The Doctor offered her a glare, but couldn’t help but smile a little, too. After all, this was Kate, her friend.

“Lower your weapons,” Kate instructed. The soldiers obeyed, and the Doctor lowered her hands.

“Well, go on then,” the Doctor said, planting her hands on her hips. “Because I’m really tired of having guns pointed at me and my friends today.”

“Sarah Jane went missing about two hours ago,” Kate explained. “UNIT received a call from her supercomputer - nice computer, by the way - and we’ve been here trying to find her. Now I think it’s your turn to explain where the hell she went.”

“Paradox Universe and then Gallifrey,” the Doctor explained shortly. She frowned, a thought suddenly popping into her head.  “Wait a sec, what’s today’s date?”

“Paradox Universe?” Kate asked. “What’s that? And how the hell did you get to Gallifrey?”

“Ask Mr Smith, and ask Sarah Jane and Luke, in that order,” the Doctor said distractedly as invading Kate’s personal space. “Right now, I need to know today’s date.”

“2nd of December, 2018,” Kate said,  stepping away from the Doctor. The Doctor’s frown deepend, her features etched with concern.

“No, no, no, that can’t be right,” she murmured. “It can’t be...how did it happen? Why? And when ?”

“How, why and when did what happen, Doctor?” Kate interrupted. The Doctor looked up.

“It hasn’t happened yet,” the Doctor explained, or at least, she tried to explain. She reached into her pocket to retrieve a pen and some paper. “But when it does happen, I need you to call this number immediately.”

“When what happens Doctor?” Kate questioned snappishly. The Doctor looked up again.

“Sometime in the next three weeks, UNIT is going to be essentially shut down because of financial stuff,” the Doctor said. “Call the number I’ve written here, and hopefully it should help sort things out.”

Hopefully ?”

The Doctor thrust the paper into Kate’s hands, waving her hand dismissively. “Well, it starts a complicated process that can take months; like toppling over a domino on a really long stack of dominoes. I should have said ‘hopefully it helps sort things out efficiently’. Everything will work out, eventually. Well, hopefully. You never know with bureaucracy, and all that.”

Kate sighed. “You should probably be on your way, Doctor.”

The Doctor winced sympathetically. “Yeah. Sorry I can’t do more to help prevent UNIT shutting down. But you’re resilient and persistent, Kate. I’m sure you’ll be able to manage. Have a little faith in yourself, and the phone number I’ve given you.”

Kate nodded, pocketing the paper, before shooing the Doctor away.

The Doctor turned to go back to the TARDIS, seeing Sarah Jane and Luke already making their way up the driveway. She paused at the doors of the TARDIS, watching as a young blonde girl, who she identified as Sky, bolted from the house, throwing herself into Sarah Jane’s arms, wailing about how scared she had been.

Close behind Sky emerged two very familiar faces - Clyde and Rani, all grown up. The Doctor felt a wave of emotion roll over her, seeing them much older than the last time she had been here. She couldn’t help but stop and watch as everyone hugged each other, and Clyde and Rani appeared to scold Sarah Jane for disappearing on Sky.

Luke turned to point to her, and she smiled softly, offering a small wave. Their mouths dropped open, but she stepped inside the TARDIS before they could come up and say hello. It’s not that she didn’t want to stay and chat, it’s that she wouldn’t know what to say. Plus, she wasn’t really close to them. And she still had to drop Martha off.

She shook any thoughts of staying to talk from her head, and started back to the console, when fists pounded on the door, and an unfamiliar voice called out from the other side.

“Doctor, you come out this instant! Don’t you dare leave without saying bye to mum and Luke, properly.”

Sky. That was who the voice belonged to.

The Doctor smiled to herself. Obediently, she turned back, and opened the door again. Sky stood there with her arms crossed. Sarah Jane and Luke had made their way back, and Clyde and Rani stood behind the trio, looking expectantly at the Doctor. She flashed them a grin.

“Hi, gang, what’s up.”

“Say bye to mum and Luke,” Sky repeated. The Doctor managed to put on a semi-scolding glare.

“Come on, Sky, surely your mum raised you better than that. Where’s your ‘please’s’ and ‘thank you’s’?”

“Manners are used for requests,” Sky shot back. “Not for orders, which is what this is.”

The Doctor’s raised her eyebrows.

“You’re ordering me to say goodbye to your family before I leave?” the Doctor asked, amused. Sky nodded firmly. The Doctor chuckled.

“Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised,” she mused, sizing up Sky. “A girl who aged 11 years in just a few minutes is bound to be a bit pushy.”

Sky’s stern look dissipated. “They told you about that?”

The Doctor leaned against the doorframe and nodded. “Told me lots about you. Like that you’re 18, graduating this year, incredibly smart, loves strawberries, but hates pears - a very wise move, by the way - that you’re kind, and caring, and that you know exactly what you want, and that you’re sometimes a bit mischievous.”

“Well, who isn’t, TARDIS stealer,” Sky teased. The Doctor wrinkled her nose and gaped.

“Oi! I borrowed her! I was always going to return her.”

Sky laughed, and the Doctor grinned.

“Say bye to mum and Luke?” she asked, more politely this time. “Please?”

“Wouldn’t dream of leaving without doing that.”

“Except that you almost did,” Clyde muttered, drawing a snort from Rani. She pointed a warning finger at him.

“Oi, just because you’re grown up now, doesn’t mean you get to be mouthy with me.”

Rani and Clyde quietly snickered to themselves as the Doctor embraced both Luke and Sarah Jane, giving Sarah Jane a kiss on her cheek.

“Bye, Luke. Make sure to take care of Sarah. Goodbye, Sarah Jane. Keep being brilliant.”

“Always,” she promised, grabbing hold of the Doctor’s hand. “You take care of yourself, now.”

“I’ll try,” the Doctor promised, slowly moving backwards towards the TARDIS. She didn’t take her eyes off Sarah Jane until she was fully inside, the TARDIS swinging her doors gently shut. She exhaled slowly, stepping up to the console once more.

“So, Martha, your house?”

“Actually, I’m meant to be having dinner at my sister’s today. Maybe you can just drop me off there? Save me a few hours of boredom?”

The Doctor grinned. “Martha’s sister’s house it is.”

She paused over the controls, remembering her promise. She folded her hands behind her back, turning to Martha once again.

“Before we go, I did have something I wanted to, uh, say,” the Doctor said quietly.

“Go on, then.”

“I, erm, wanted to say I’m sorry,” the Doctor said, looking down at her shoes. “My 10th self, the one you travelled with, he was, well, er…”

“An arse?” Martha offered. Out of her peripheral, the Doctor could see Martha had her arms crossed. The Doctor nodded.

“Yeah. And I know he - I - always made you feel second best, and I treated you awfully, and I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for that. You deserved, well, you deserve so much better than that.”

“Damn straight I do,” Martha agreed solemnly. “Thank you, Doctor.”

The Doctor nodded once, exhaling slowly. She hadn’t expected Martha to forgive her for what she’d done. Had she hoped for forgiveness? Yes. But was she expecting it? No. She turned back to the console, not allowing herself time to feel the emotions swirling around inside of her. She’d have plenty of time for that later.

“So, your sister’s place?”


Ollie stared out the window. His aunty Martha was coming over for dinner, and he figured it must be almost time for her to come. All the previous times he’d been at the window, his mum had said Martha wasn’t due for another little while.

He looked up at the clock, even though he didn’t know how to tell time yet. It was a work in progress.

He turned back to the window when he heard an odd wheezing and groaning sound, kind of like the sound the car made when dad tried to start it up when it was broken down, but not quite like that. It was coming from out the front, so he thought he should go see what was making the noise while waiting for Martha.

He slid off the couch and wandered over to, and out the front door. He vaguely registered his mum calling out behind him, but he didn’t really hear her. He was too focused on the strange sound, and finding out what it was.

Out the door, he saw a strange blue box fading into existence, just across the road, like how sometimes the scene changed in movies and TV shows, blending into the next scene. Curiosity piqued, Ollie went to cross the road when he heard the familiar sound of tyres against asphalt, and he paused, waiting until the car had passed.

Then, he wandered across the road, to the blue box, now a solid object, sitting perfectly still on the footpath. He went up to it and put his hand against it. It felt like wood. He sniffed it. It smelled like wood. He licked it. It tasted like wood. It was a wooden box.

But Ollie had seen wooden boxes before; none of them faded into reality. This wooden box must be a trick, like the magician at the shops had been doing. He knocked on the wood, searching for the trick, and was surprised when it opened, revealing a very strange woman.

She was much bigger than him, with white skin and short yellow hair. She was wearing a fun combination of trousers that didn’t quite reach her ankles, a red t-shirt with rainbow stripes on it, and yellow suspenders. Her coat was long and grey on the outside, and dark blue on the inside, and came down to below her knees. She was the strangest woman Ollie had ever seen, but he liked her immediately. Only fun people wore fun clothes.

“Sorry, is this Tish’s place?” she asked. Ollie’s mum’s name was Tish. Maybe she was looking for his mum.

Then Martha appeared, and Ollie forgot about the strange woman for a moment. He jumped up, squealing as he flapped his hands. He loved his aunty Martha; she was super fun. She played with him, and never talked about boring grown up stuff with him, and she told him loads of cool stories about the Doctor and the magical blue box that travelled through all of time and space, and they’d play games as if they were in the box, flying away and fighting aliens.

Ollie stopped jumping and flapping, his mouth falling open as he suddenly realised what the box was.

“It’s the fly-box!” he shouted, shaking his fists. “It’s the fly-box! It’s the fly-box!”

Martha laughed, stepping outside and kneeling down to his height. “Yeah, it is. And that right there is the Doctor. She’s a girl now.”

Ollie’s fists slowed and he instead pressed his palms together rhythmically. Martha had always told him stories of the Doctor as being a boy, and now the Doctor was a girl? He wondered how that worked. Maybe it had something to do with the regeneration thing Martha told him about. However it worked, he wanted to be a girl, too. Whatever the Doctor was, he wanted to be.

“Girl!” he exclaimed, pointing at himself. Martha furrowed her brow.

“Uhhhh…” Martha glanced up at the Doctor for help. Ollie frowned. Was she not getting what he was saying?

“Girl!” he repeated, pointing to the Doctor, and then poking himself in his shoulders. Martha tilted her head. That meant she was confused. Ollie sighed, trying again. Martha shook her head, no, she still wasn’t understanding. Ollie growled in frustration. What was so hard to understand about what he was saying? It was perfectly simple. Dull grown-ups, and their silly reliance on sophisticated speech.

Fortunately, the Doctor stepped in, also kneeling down in front of him.

“I think he’s saying he wants to be a girl, too,” the Doctor explained. “Is that what you’re trying to say, Ollie?”

“Girl!” Ollie said happily, glad that someone finally understood. Martha nodded.

“I see,” she said. “Well, you can be a girl, if that’s what you want.”

Ollie nodded, giggling happily. He looked up when someone grabbed his arm. It was his mum. She scowled at him.

“How many times do I have to tell you, Ollie, don’t go wandering!”

Ollie frowned at her. He liked wandering, and he knew how to do it safely. In his less-than-humble opinion, she should back the fuck off. He knew he shouldn’t use that word; that it was a bad word, but in his defense, if his parents were going to use the word while he could hear them, then he should be allowed to use it. It was their fault for not being more careful with their language.

He saw the sky. It was grey, like it might rain soon. It rained a lot. He liked it; the rain was a nice sound, and he loved petrichor - the smell of dust after rain. He’d learned that word from a book in the library. He liked words. Having them in his head, of course, not speaking them. Words took a lot of energy to say. He preferred not to speak. He could, sometimes, but it always felt weird, so he chose to use other methods of communicating a lot of the time.

Communication. Like the telephone. His house was one of the only ones to still have landline. Everyone used mobile phones these days. Mobile phones were fun. Ollie hoped he could take one apart someday - without getting into trouble - to see what it was like inside.

“Do you want to see the inside of TARDIS, Ollie?” the Doctor asked. “That’s what the fly-box is called.”

Ollie turned his head, and nodded, bouncing on his toes. Martha managed to convince his mum to let go, and let Ollie go inside with the Doctor.

He stared in wide-eyed wonder at the inside. It was much bigger than the outside, and the lighting was soft and pleasant, not like the lights in the shopping centre, which were bright and they hurt. He followed the Doctor up to the control panel, stopping to look at the pretty hexagonal patterns that made up some walls.

“I like them too,” the Doctor said softly from beside him, her hand coming up to run over the pattern, next to his, although she was careful not to touch him. He liked that. He didn’t like being touched, unless he touched first. He moved up to the control panel, peeking at it, but he was too short to see it fully, even when he stood on his tiptoes.

“I could lift you to see, if you’d like,” the Doctor offered. Ollie considered a moment. That would mean she had to touch him, and he didn’t know about that. But he did really want to see the controls. He decided he would let her, but only after he’d gotten the first touch, to establish trust. He held his right hand up, out flat, and when the Doctor did nothing, he grabbed her wrist and put her flat palm against his, like a high-five frozen in the moment of contact.

Her hand felt gentle and kind, and Ollie decided she would be okay to lift him to see the controls. He took his hand away and nodded. The Doctor picked him up, his back to her torso, and showed him the controls. The panel glowed a nice orange colour, and there were lots of bits and bobs he really wanted to press, and he went to do so, but the Doctor pulled him back.

“Uh, uh, uh, no touching.” Ollie huffed. “You might press something that will make the ship take off, or do something wonky, and we can’t have that; not so close to your dinnertime.”

Ollie supposed she did have a point, he hated missing dinner, but he still wanted to push the buttons. He whined. The Doctor laughed.

“Maybe when you’re older, okay?”

Ollie considered, and decided it was fair. After all, he couldn’t reach the controls without someone lifting him, so if he were to push the buttons and fly the ship, he would have to be taller. He’d come back when he was taller. He squirmed, wanting to be put down, and his request was quickly granted. He wandered back out of the TARDIS, where Martha was still talking to his mum. She stopped when the Doctor stepped out, also, and they hugged. Hugs, another thing grown-ups did. Ollie thought it was ridiculous.

“See you later, Doctor,” Martha said. “Safe travels.”

The Doctor smiled and nodded, not saying anything in return. Ollie didn’t blame her. What was someone supposed to say in response to that? And why would people say things in conversation that didn’t allow for a good response? The world of sociability was as dizzying as when Ollie spun around one too many times.

“Good to see you, Tish,” the Doctor said after a silence, giving her a curt nod, which she returned. What was with all the nodding? Nodding was for saying ‘yes’, not for vague statements and comments that didn’t allow for a good response. Quite frankly, he had Had It with all of this social nonsense everybody else clung so tightly to.

The Doctor then knelt down to his height once again.

“Martha told me that when you grow up, you want to be me,” the Doctor said. Ollie used nods for their proper purpose - a yes; in this case, a yes of confirmation. “I just wanted to tell you, in person, that you can absolutely be me. All you have to do is learn as much about the universe as you can; it’s so vast and beautiful, and there are so many wonders out there, but never once believe that you know everything you can possibly know about it.

“Then, you also have to be as kind as you can be. You have to always try to help others, and always try to do the right thing. Never be cruel, or cowardly, and when you are, always make amends. Oh, and avoid pears, that’s an important one. Laugh at everything, love everyone, and just be brilliant.”

Ollie nodded again, a yes to show he understood. He would remember that. He would be all those things, and do all those things, and be the Doctor when he grew up. The Doctor grinned at him. Her teeth were nice. He wondered what toothpaste she used.

“Well, then, I best be off, Doctor Ollie.” Ollie clenched his fists in happiness. She had called him Doctor Ollie, just as he liked to be called. He knew Martha must have told her, but it didn’t make it any less exciting to know that he was already halfway to being the Doctor when he grew up - he already had the title, now all he had to do was do what the Doctor said he had to do, to be her.

“Go and be brilliant, okay?”

He cupped his hands, putting his right in his left. “Scoop.”

The Doctor’s grin faltered, not quite understanding.

“It’s about a scoop of ice cream after school,” Tish explained. “He’ll make me scoop-swear that we’ll actually go. It’s the strongest promise he can make.”

The Doctor’s smile returned, and instead of saying anything, she held her right hand up, palm out, and Ollie grinned back, putting his hand on hers. Martha took his other hand, pulling him back two steps as the Doctor went back inside her TARDIS, and a minute later, it faded from reality again.

Ollie went with his mum and Martha back into the house, only thinking about the day the Doctor would come back and let him pilot the TARDIS himself.

Chapter Text

Once in flight, the Doctor set the TARDIS to drift through deep space. Yes, she had to get River back to wherever she had been taken from, but this was probably the last time she would see River for a long, long time, and she wanted to spend as much time as she could with her. She turned, seeing River standing patiently below the platform, leaning against one of the hexagonal walls, smiling softly.

“Looks like it’s just me and you now, sweetie.”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” the Doctor said, walking slowly towards River. River waited, unmoving, for the Doctor to come to her. The Doctor halted at the edge of the platform, standing almost directly over River. River pushed herself up and took the few steps it took to reach the platform, looking up at the Doctor with a smirk.

“This is because you’re shorter than me now, isn’t it?” she teased. The Doctor shrugged innocently, though her eyes told a different story, one that aligned with River’s accusation.

“Maybe.”

River laughed, lifting her hands to rest on the Doctor’s hips. The Doctor cupped River’s face, smiling softly down at her.

“You’re so beautiful.”

“Shut up and kiss me.”

The Doctor didn’t hesitate, crashing her lips into Rivers’. The kiss was deep, and passionate, and went on for a while, and the Doctor almost laughed at one point, remembering how her 11th face had always been difficult when Amy and Rory kissed like this. She’d have to send something back in time as an apology for being so grouchy about it. Now she understood why they did it - it was bloody brilliant .

As the kiss went on, River pulled her down off the platform and spun her around, pushing her against the wall she had been leaning against, prior to the kiss The Doctor let out a breath with impact and broke the kiss to catch her breath, though their lips remained only millimetres apart.

“How did you do that?” the Doctor asked breathlessly, enjoying the proximity to her wife, and well, kissing her. “Kissing takes so much focus, how did you do two things at-”

She was cut off with another kiss. For once in her many lifetimes, the Doctor was more than happy to shut up. Her hands found their way into River’s hair, notably soft. She briefly wondered if River had had a shower while she was dropping off her other friends. She didn’t get a lot of time to think the thought, though, because in the next moment, River caught her bottom lip between her teeth, biting down gently.

The Doctor’s breath caught in her throat, a sigh slipping past her lips when she remembered to breathe again. Her fingers curled around River’s curls as River swiped her tongue along the lip just bitten, and she moaned softly, feeling River smile against her.

“Bedroom?” River whispered, drawing back like the Doctor had done before. The Doctor captured River’s lips in yet another kiss.

“Mmhmm,” she hummed, and together, she and River stumbled to her bedroom, never breaking the kiss.


Much later, the Doctor laid snuggled in River’s arms, absentmindedly playing with River’s hair.

“That was fun,” the Doctor murmured, still out of breath. River huffed a laugh, breath tickling the Doctor’s face, sending a shiver down her spine.

“Yes, it was. I’m down for another round, if you are.”

The Doctor shook her head, no. “That’s enough for me, thanks. Just wish I didn’t have to say goodbye to you.”

River lightly kissed her nose, giggling as the Doctor scrunched up her face. “It’s not the last time we’ll ever say goodbye, sweetie.”

“I know,” the Doctor sighed, propping herself up on one elbow. “I just really hate saying goodbye, and especially to you! Because it’s always ages before I see you again.”

River sighed, reaching up to tuck the Doctor’s hair behind her ear. “I know. Me too. But we both know nothing would get done if we stayed by each other’s side forever.”

“I know.” The Doctor pouted. “Still don’t like it.”

River giggled again, leaning up to give the Doctor a kiss on the lips. “You’re adorable when you’re pouty.”

The Doctor tried, but failed, to scowl at River. She could never not smile at being called ‘adorable’ by her wife. She flopped back onto her back.

“Guess we should get up, and let you get back to your heist, then,” the Doctor said.

“Yes, that would be wonderful,” River agreed, sitting upright. The Doctor followed her motion, although much quicker than River had, thinking of something.

“What exactly were you stealing, River?”

“Why do you ask?” River wondered, putting her clothes back on. The Doctor narrowed her eyes.

“Are you stealing something you know I wouldn’t approve of you stealing?”

“Sweetie, you don’t approve of me stealing anything,” River reminded her. The Doctor raised her eyebrows at River.

“River,” she warned. River rolled her eyes, pausing to drop a kiss to the top of the Doctor’s head.

“I promise, it’s nothing exceptionally bad. The person who owns it won’t even miss it.”

The Doctor nodded, satisfied.

“Okay.” She looked up and pointed her finger at River. “But if I have to bail you out, I am going to be disappointed in you, with a capital ‘d’.”

“So you would bail me out?” River teased. The Doctor rolled her eyes, but couldn’t stop her smile. She got up and slid back into her clothes.

“Don’t push it, River.”

“Never, my love.” River flashed a cheeky grin at the Doctor. “Well, unless it’s…”

Her eyes wandered down to the bed. The Doctor threw back her head and laughed.


Dropping River off wasn’t easy. There was loads more kissing, as well as some tears, but eventually, River got out the door to continue her heist. The Doctor left as quickly as she arrived, knowing that if she spend too long there, she’d end up following River in, and getting both of them in trouble.

The Doctor set the coordinates to drift through deep space once again, and once she felt the TARDIS slow to drift, she sighed, leaning against the console, palms flat against it.

Now that she was alone, she finally had time to think, and to feel everything she’d been trying to avoid thinking about. That’s why she liked to keep moving, to keep busy. If she kept her mind and body active, she didn’t have to think about things, but when she was alone, and not running, she had no choice but to think .

She had to think. She had to think about the Paradox Universe, and the Chancellor, and what happened to her friends, and what she’d done, and the Dalek, and the child she’d failed to save, and how Yaz, Graham, and Ryan had left her, and how she’d had to say goodbye to everyone all over again, and about all of the past pain that never really left her. Thinking about it all made her hearts ache, and, all alone in the TARDIS, she finally allowed herself to grieve, once more.

She bowed her head and let the tears flow freely, sobs coming out in short hiccups, shaking her body. She fell to her knees, unable to keep herself upright, and then down onto her side, unable to even sit upright. She cried for a long time, she cried until her eyes were dried, and then she cried more, without tears.

She didn’t feel that much better after crying. In fact, she felt empty, like the tears had washed away stuff she’d used to fill holes in her hearts. She sighed, having no desire to get back up. Sure, there was a universe out there that still needed saving, but she just didn’t have the will to do so.

Around her, the TARDIS hummed gently, filling her mind with a warm, comforting feeling, like a hug. The Doctor sighed again, letting her hand fall limply by her side and stretch out across the ground.

“Thank you,” she murmured. She and the TARDIS stayed like that a little while, simply enjoying each other’s presence; the TARDIS comforting the Doctor, and the Doctor quietly thanking the TARDIS every once in a while, whether by thought, word, or a simple, soft patting of the ground.

Eventually, the Doctor spoke again.

“I don’t know what to do,” she murmured. “I’ve lost my newest friends, and I know I can’t go after them; they need time, and I just don’t know what to do.”

The Doctor turned her eyes upwards, to the console. “I’m alone, and Amy said I shouldn’t ever be alone. Please, help me.”

The TARDIS was silent a moment, before pulling herself from the ‘hug’ she’d been giving the Doctor. The Doctor squeezed her eyes shut, dreading that she’d said the wrong thing, but a second later, she heard a soft thunk beside her. She opened her eyes, and saw the TARDIS had deposited her painting before her - the one she’d done in the Paradox Universe.

“You are the building blocks of my heart, encoded in my DNA; you’re my light, my joy, my purpose, my life, until the end of time,” the Doctor recited softly, letting her hand run across the surface. She sighed to herself, and then spoke to the TARDIS. “It’s nice, but I don’t see how it’s meant to help. My friends aren’t here anymore. It’s just me.”

The TARDIS said nothing. The Doctor sighed, finally pushing herself up into a sitting position.

“Oh, great, thanks,” she mumbled. “Real helpful.”

Grumpily, the Doctor picked up the painting, intending to fling it across the room, when a piece of writing on the back caught her attention. There’d been no writing on the back of the canvas when she’d started the painting. She stopped, turning it over in her hands to read it.

Chanina Abramowitz - the Williams Ponds xoxo

The Doctor’s mouth formed the shape of an ‘o’ as her brain pieced together what the TARDIS was getting at. The Ponds must have made something or written something for her in the past, that they intended to get to her through Chanina. She smiled, feeling a renewed sense of purpose.

“Oh, brilliant Amy and Rory,” she said, standing up. She dropped the painting on the floor, and typed in some generic directions, trusting the TARDIS would get her there - after all, the TARDIS always took her where she needed to go, and right now, she needed to go to a Maccabeats concert.

She whooped as she pushed the lever, and the TARDIS flung herself into the vortex. The trip didn’t take too long, and she found herself nearly thrown off her feet as the TARDIS landed, Fortunately, she was able to catch herself before that happened. Recovering from the near-fall, she leaned in and checked the screen.

14th December, 2018

Below it was a set of Earth coordinates, and the Doctor grinned, lifting her gaze to the middle crystal. The TARDIS hummed, and swung her doors open. The Doctor gave the console a few affection pats.

“Thanks, Old Girl. I’ll be back in a little while.”

She didn’t need to say the last bit, but she wanted to. She’d just lost everyone she cared about all over again, and promising her beloved ship she’d never wander too far from her brought her comfort. The TARDIS bleeped an “I know, now go ”, and the Doctor did as she was told.

Stepping out of the doors, the Doctor found herself inside a community centre of some description. She frowned. That couldn’t be right. Concerts didn’t happen in community halls, right? But, before she could go back into the TARDIS and double check where she was, the TARDIS closed her doors.

“Alright, alright,” the Doctor muttered. “I’m going.”

She looked around. She appeared to be in some sort of storage area. She sighed. Of course the TARDIS had to land in the storage cupboard, and not outside like a normal ship . She’d have a word with the TARDIS later.

She picked her way through the stuff scattered throughout, and reached the door after some rigorous effort, and tumbled out of the cupboard. Fortunately, she didn’t fall into anyone. She looked left and right, and saw a bunch of people making their way into what appeared to be the main hall. She followed, curious to know where she was.

When she stepped inside, it became clear she was at a wedding. She found a seat, trusting the TARDIS had brought her to the right place. She didn’t start any conversations with anyone, still not quite in the mood to do her whole new-adventure-lots-of-questions thing she always did. She just waited, sitting much stiller than she usually would.

Right before the wedding started, the Doctor spotted a person up on the stage who looked kind of like Rory. She wanted to call out, but realised in time he didn’t look enough like Rory to be Rory. Then it clicked: he must be Chanina Abramowitz, great grandson to the Ponds. She smiled to herself, sending another quick thank you to her TARDIS. She was about to get up and go talk to him, when the wedding started, much to her annoyance. Still, she didn’t want to cause a scene, so she sat through the wedding quietly.

To keep herself occupied, she mostly thought about non-wedding things as people were talking, and listened to the Maccabeats when they performed their songs, enjoying the music. She’d have to download some of their music to her TARDIS music library. After the wedding, the Doctor stopped by the snack table, to have a couple of biscuits, to get her energy back up. She felt much better after that wedding, and she knew she only needed a bit of sugar in her blood, and perhaps a nap, before she went on another adventure.

She was in the middle of stuffing a whole muffin into her mouth when someone tapped her on the shoulder. She whirled around, her cheeks ballooned out like a chipmunk’s, coming face to face with Chanina. She chewed vigorously, wanting to swallow as soon as possible.

“I’m sorry, but are you the Doctor?” he asked. The Doctor nodded, finally able to swallow enough of her food to speak.

“Chanina, yeah?”

He blinked in surprise. “Yeah, how did you…?”

“Travelled with your great grandparents,” she explained. “They left me a message, saying I should come see you.”

“But... how ? I don’t…”

“Understand, yeah, I know. It’s complicated, timey wimey stuff. Don’t really have time to explain it to you. Do you have something for me?”

Chanina nodded, reaching into his pocket, and pulling out a blue envelope. The blue was similar to the blue of the TARDIS, but a couple of shades darker. She didn’t mind, though; TARDIS blue was incredibly difficult to find. She took it from him, grinning.

“Thanks...hang on,” she stopped, narrowing her eyes at him. “How did you know to be on the lookout for me? And how did you know what I looked like?”

“Uh, my great grandparents, they passed down a bunch of photos, saying you would look like one of the photos, and told my mum and dad to make me memorise the faces and stuff.”

The Doctor grinned. “Oh, they are brilliant. Thanks, Chanina. Oh, also, great music, fantastic job.”

“Thanks,” he muttered, before making a hasty retreat. The Doctor tilted her head. Perhaps she had been a bit weird. She did have a habit of being weird. Maybe she should work on changing that? Nah, weird was fun, she decided with a shake of her head. So were letters. Letters were awesome. She wondered what the Ponds had written in this one.

Shrugging off the interaction, the Doctor looked around for a place to sit down and read. Spotting a chair against the wall of the hall, she plonked herself down in it, tore the envelope open, and pulled the letter out. The letter was a single page, and the Doctor couldn’t help but be just the tiniest bit disappointed. She had hoped Amy and Rory would write something longer. The longer it was, the longer she could put off saying goodbye completely.

Plus, why would anyone go to all the effort of passing a letter down through generations, only to make it just one page long? Such typical Ponds, with their short goodbyes.

Rolling her eyes, the Doctor shoved the envelope into her pocket and carefully unfolded the letter. Then, she leaned forward, and began to read.