Standing on the cold beach, Rose stared at the Doctor’s clone. She could feel the difference in him, feel his mortality, feel the strangeness that wrapped around his timeline, so terribly short. She looked back at the Doctor, knew what he was trying to do. Why don’t you see?
“You don’t understand what he’s giving you,” Donna started.
“No,” Rose said, in a tone that brooked no argument. “I'm not staying.”
“But,” the Doctor started, then stopped as the look on her face had him snapping his mouth shut on anything else he might have said.
She stalked past the Doctor and Donna and into the TARDIS. She paused for a moment in the doorway and said, “I love you, Mum.”
Jackie said, “I love you too, Rose,” then waved back, eyes sad but understanding. With her other hand, she was already pulling out a phone. As the door to the TARDIS shut behind Rose, Jackie turned and started walking down the beach, not wanting to watch it leave.
The half-human Doctor moved forward.
When the Doctor put up his hand in warning, Donna started to say, “Oh let him come, if Rose won't stay, he needs us,” but it came out, “Oh, let him come, come come come hum ho hum.”
“It's started,” said the Doctor. “This metacrisis... Donna...” Too little time. Too many crises, too little time.
As the half-human Doctor realized what he meant, he said, “Well then you definitely need me.”
Realization dawned in Donna's face as she felt her brain starting to overload. “Oh no. I know what you want to do...” She stared at the Time Lord in horror. “No. I’m not going back. You can’t, don’t make me go back.”
“I don't have a choice,” said the Doctor. “You'll die.” I can’t just let you die. He started to lift his hand.
His clone swung without warning, fist connecting abruptly with the Doctor’s head. The half-human Doctor glared at his progenitor, knocked out cold on the sand, and said, “There's always a choice, you git, you just don't have the balls to make it.” Dragging the Time Lord into the TARDIS, he said, “Donna? Come on now.”
“You're not going to erase my memories,” she said. “No. I'd rather die.” She had a flash of who’d she’d been, before she met him. Before she’d become him. No. Better to end it.
“Just get in the bloody TARDIS,” he yelled back, his voice rising into her exact cadence. “No one is erasing anything. But we. have. to. leave. now.”
She stepped into the console room behind him, and leaned heavily on one of the coral struts. Rose was nowhere in sight. The half-human Doctor dumped his alter ego on the floor unceremoniously, and started hitting the TARDIS controls.
Donna groaned, “My head...” It blazed, felt like a volcano spilling over with information, burning like magma.
He looked over at her. “One more sec, love. Then I can give you a hand.”
“Promise you'll let me keep sheep sleep deep...” she started, and then fell to her knees on the grating.
He whapped the console with the mallet and then knelt in front of her.
Putting his hand to her temple, he looked into her eyes with enormous fondness and said gently, “Donna Noble. You know, we make a great team, you and I. The Doctor!Donna. Bloody fantastic. Wish I could stay. Tell that stupid git to go and kiss the girl. Now close your eyes.”
She nodded, closed her eyes and bowed her head, too far gone in the maelstrom inside her head to focus on what he was doing. He reached over to the TARDIS console and hit the combination of buttons that popped the centre console open, then shifted so that he could see both Donna and the Vortex at the same time. She started to slump, and he wrapped his free arm around her shoulders, tucking her head against his neck.
The golden light flooded out and surrounded them both, and he threw his head back, surrendering.
Donna sank to the floor, unconscious, the gold flickers tracing up and down her body.
On the beach, Jackie Tyler stumbled as the noise of the TARDIS disappearing faded. On the phone, she could hear her husband saying, “Jacks?”
She managed to say, “Come and get me,” as pain lanced through her head, and she dropped the phone as a flood of memories rushed in. She turned and stared at the spot where the TARDIS had vanished, her hand over her mouth, and then closed her eyes, letting the memories spin out slowly.
As she began to understand what she was seeing, her expression softened and she murmured, “Oh, Rose.”
A long time later, she remembered the dropped phone.
The Doctor awoke to a splitting headache. Memory flooded back, and he sat up too fast, looking around wildly. The console was open; he crawled over and pulled it shut. Donna lay on the floor, her face pressed against a crumpled blue suit, motionless. His hand went to her forehead and he frowned. A swirl of tiny gold particles escaped her mouth.
He said, gently, “Donna?”
Her eyes opened, no trace of the vortex within, and he breathed a sigh of relief. She said, sleepily, “Last thing he said...” she frowned and looked momentarily disoriented. “He said to tell you to go and kiss the girl.”
“Where is he, Donna? What happened?”
She frowned. “He gave me a hand. 's fine now. Just need to...” and she was out again, asleep, another puff of gold coming out of her mouth.
He shed his coat and jacket, tossing them over a strut of the TARDIS. It took him a few minutes to work Donna up into a position where he could move her. Finally resorting to a fireman's lift, he slowly walked back to her bedroom, and arranged her as comfortably as he could on her bed. The tumult was gone from her mind, her body shifted into the closest thing to a healing coma he’d ever seen a human do. Nothing to do but leave her and let her heal.
No sign of the clone anywhere, except for the wrinkled pile of blue suit... and trainers... He gave me a hand... Oh. A wave of conflicting emotions passed through him, relief warring with sadness as he reverently picked up the now-empty suit. He debated for a moment putting it back in the wardrobe, but then folded it into a tidy pile, set the shoes on top, and left them on the jump seat. Donna’s sleepy words echoed in his head. Go and kiss the girl.
He walked out into the hallway and focused on Rose, then opened the next door he came to, to find her sitting cross-legged in the middle of a large bed that had never been in his room before. She looked at him with an intensity he'd never seen in a human. Except her, when the Bad Wolf was in her crossed his mind, but no golden light was in her eyes, just a glowering dark intensity.
“Never. Do. That. Again.” Her voice was steely.
He frowned. “Which?”
“Make decisions for me without consulting me. You don't have all the information, I don't care how smart you are.”
“No,” she said. “You don't get to argue that point now.” She stood up and walked over to him. Punctuating her words with a finger jabbed at his chest, she continued, “You need to start asking questions. You haven't asked the right questions.”
He frowned again. “And what are the right questions, Rose Tyler?”
She said, pacing, “One. How old am I?”
He blinked. “I... I don’t know offhand. I'd have to have more information about the time flow in the alternate universe.”
“Two. How did I find you?” she continued, without clarifying.
“I... You said the Dimension Cannon...”
“Didn't stop to ask how I was able to get something like that working, did you?” she said, and then continued. “Three. Why was I able to fix Donna's alternate universe? How did I know?” she asked.
He stopped. “You said it could measure timelines... but that shouldn’t be possible unless... Torchwood?”
“They couldn't have begun to do what we did without me,” she said. “But you're missing the most important questions of all.”
He frowned. “Tell me.”
“How many times have I died, Doctor?” she asked.
He looked at her in alarm. “You're not like Jack... I'd know if you were like Jack...”
Her volume rose. “Doctor, how many hearts do I have?”
His eyes widened. “I'd know... I'd have to know...”
He really looked at her. Then he dropped to his knees in front of her and put his ear up to her chest. His hand flew up to her forehead... warm to him, not the radiant heat of most humans, but warmer than him. He stood back up, a hand on either of her shoulders, scrutinizing her like an alien life form he’d never before encountered. She waited. He peered close, and then startled her by licking her cheek. A hint of a smile started working at the corner of her mouth.
“You look the same... if you died... if you changed... but you taste... more than human.”
“You wouldn't have known me,” she said. “You had to know me.”
“But...” he started.
“You were going to leave me behind. Because he's human. You never stopped long enough to look at me.”
His breath went out of him. “Oh Rose... It all happened so fast.”
“And the things you said to him... He did what had to be done. How many times have you done the same with the Daleks? I've done it myself. Do you think that little of yourself? Of me? He had the guts to say what needed to be said and do what needed to be done, but there's no way he could have been my match, you would have stranded me in another universe with a short-lived mortal, because you didn't take the time to ASK. Did you leave him there?”
He blinked. “You don't know... Oh Rose... Donna was starting to fail, after you came on board. I think he sacrificed himself to keep her whole. I was going to have to take her memories to save her life.”
“Forgetting, of course, that she'd rather die than lose them?” Rose said, putting herself in Donna’s place.
“Died or lost her memories, it would amount to the same thing. I reckoned the world was a better place with her in it, memories or no. Selfish of me, maybe.”
“What did he do?” she asked.
“Knocked me cold, dragged me on board, opened the TARDIS. All I know for certain is that Donna isn't dying now and he's nowhere to be found. She says he gave her a hand.” He let the significance of that sink in for a moment.
She looked away. “I could have loved him...” she said. “But I would have lost him. And whatever you said, he wasn’t you.”
He caught her chin with a gentle hand, and stroked her cheek. “Do my choices make a little more sense in that context?”
“It's not about making sense,” she said. “Sometimes you just have to take the chance.”
He stroked her hair. “Rose Tyler, I love you.”
A tear ran down her cheek. “Was that so hard to say?” she asked.
“You have no idea how hard it was not to say it before,” he said, and then leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips. “How many times have you died?”
“Twice,” she said. “The first time I woke up, the second heart was there. The second time, I knew how to get the dimension cannon to help me see the timelines, and my body temperature was lower than it should be, my reaction time faster... They got the second one on video, it's not as dramatic as your regeneration, but it was clearly Vortex derived. Same gold puffy thingies we saw when you regenerated.”
“Bad Wolf,” he said.
“Bad Wolf. I didn't have the tools or genetic samples to do an in-depth comparison, I don't know how much I've changed or how much I will change. But you didn’t know before, because the change didn’t really get noticeable until the first time I died. Might have happened sooner, but someone pulled the Vortex out of me...” She smiled at him then, wryly.
“That whole time you were with me... Me lecturing you on the frailty of humanity.” He gave a disbelieving laugh. “All the while you were on the cusp of... this.”
“How is Donna?” she asked.
“Sleeping off some variant of regeneration sickness in her room. Best to leave her undisturbed. The ship is going to land in Cardiff out of phase and charge for a while.”
“I'm still angry with you,” she said. “Did you know it’s 2014 in Pete's world last I checked? How long I worked to find you again?”
He pulled her close. “I'm sorry. I was stupid. Forgive me.”
“Only if you promise to never,” she punctuated the words with a tap of a balled fist against his chest, “ever, ever do that to me again,” she said, burying her head against his shoulder.
He held her close, rocking her a little. “Not if I can help it. Oh Rose, I missed you so, so very much. When I thought I had to leave you... it ripped my hearts out. If you knew how fast I moved when Donna told me ‘Bad Wolf’...”
She looked up at him. “Be nicer to yourself. No more ripping your hearts out. I don't care how much you think you deserve it.”
She put a hand up to his temple, and he gasped as she opened her mind. His hand went to her temple, and he felt something empty inside of him fill, felt the changes in her, all of them. His knees started to buckle and they sank onto the bed together as he continued to follow the threads of her time away from him, traced the changes back to the day of his ‘birth’ into his tenth self. To the moments before, to the kiss where he took in the power of the vortex and knew her mind, the two of them together with the power of the vortex healing and changing her. How could he not have known? Lost in the haze of regeneration, hidden from him by the vortex itself? I did this resonated through his mind, and hers, and he felt her amusement and... gratitude?
Not just you. We. It.
He pulled back. Time had passed, he couldn't quite grasp how much, which was almost terrifying. They lay side by side on the bed, clothed still. Her eyes opened and met his. “I...” he started.
“Have to run some tests,” she finished.
“That, yes. Just... I have to know. You saw...”
She nodded. His mind had been just as open to her. “You've been alone so long,” she said. “even when you were surrounded by people.”
He nodded, then rolled off the bed and onto his feet. “Walk with me?” he asked.
“Since you asked,” she said. “You're going to have to start getting used to having equal partners, I think.”
He grinned. “Gladly.”
He was mildly shocked when she unceremoniously stripped naked in the infirmary. “You don't have to...”
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Of course I don't. But you’ve got to work out what has changed. I'm not having you worrying about whether you're reaching under my shirt or not. I have no idea what a Gallifreyan woman looks like in the particulars, I just know my body's been changing a bit, and I figure you'll have an easier time telling if it's not all covered with fabric. And the number of tests I’ve had done at Torchwood... don’t have all that much body modesty left. Couldn’t afford it.”
She hopped up on the exam table and sat there, feet dangling. He swallowed. “That makes... sense...” he said.
“Please don't tell me you're suddenly body conscious,” she said. “You never have been before.”
He said quietly, “You've never stripped naked in front of me before.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“That doesn't count,” he said. “You were sick. Bleeding.”
“And human,” she supplied. “And in your warped world view, off limits. Does this mean I'm not off limits any more?”
The smouldering look he gave her elicited a delighted giggle and a radiant smile. “Go on,” she said. “Run your tests.”
He nodded, took a deep breath, and got to work. The full body scan revealed the second heart, respiratory bypass, new brain structures. The DNA scan was strange. Human DNA, with Gallifreyan structure. He knew hybridization was possible, clearly, but this... It was not like the DoctorDonna, but something else entirely. She was not, strictly speaking, Gallifreyan, and the original material was all there, just... augmented. She was clearly still Rose Tyler, but if she'd already regenerated, she was much more, besides.
“Tell me what you're finding?” she asked.
Absently, he reached out, touched her temple and let her look. Out loud he said, “How much do you know about genetics?”
“Not much,” she said. “My focus on Pete’s world was all on temporal mechanics and dimension shifting. I didn’t have any basis for comparison to even bother trying to figure out what was happening on a cellular level.”
“Time Lords have a triple helix, with chromosomes in triples instead of pairs,” he said. “But that’s oversimplifying. Functionally, at any given time, we have only part of any given chromosome set in play, like humans. But there’s a third string in the helix of each that runs through the fourth dimension, and a third chromosome in each set, it tends to stabilize the structure, helps it resist damage on a day to day basis...and when regeneration is triggered, there’s a bit of a scramble among the three, and the end result is a new combination of active genetic material, which is why all the superficial changes you saw in me happened, and why there’s some personality change. Some Time Lords have a great deal of control over that process, Time Ladies seem to be innately better at it, for example. You... still have your 46 chromosomes that you started with... but you’ve developed a third string on each helix.. plus an extra of each of the 23 basics, although not much of that is active unless something specific like, oh, needing an extra heart or regeneration happens, which is where it gets interesting, and it’s almost all based on what you already have. So there’s less that can change for you, it’s mostly still what you were born with. The way Time Lords were born in the first place, they worked as much genetic variety into the three arms of the helix of any given chromosome as they could and keep us still healthy. So I have a lot more variety, but still within a range. The only material that is new to you is that which is necessary to make you... compatible.”
“Compatible... with you... Am I fertile?” she asked. “With all that changing?”
He blinked, then looked at the scan. “Probably. But last I knew, I wasn't. Takes a great deal of medical fuss to cause a Gallifreyan pregnancy.”
She raised an eyebrow. “My mother warned me about men who said they couldn't get someone pregnant.”
He laughed. “She would. But why would I suddenly become fertile?”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “Why would I suddenly become what I've become?”
He blinked. “Right. Um. Gotcha. I haven't... I don't know if I’m fertile or not.”
“If the Vortex and the Bad Wolf can do this to me, I can only assume they've done something to you, too.”
He studied her scan. “Looks like you have the same overall number of chromosomes as I do, the helical structure is similar enough.” He looked at her, eyes guarded. “Would you bear my children if you could?”
“Would you want me to?” she responded.
“I...” He stopped. “If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have said I'm never doing that again. But things changed. Yes. Yes, I think I would.”
“Then I'm not worried about it one way or the other,” she said. “Anything more you need to find out?”
“Will you come back to my room?” he asked. “This part of the ship is... impersonal.”
She smiled. “I thought you'd never ask. Is Donna still...?”
He nodded. “I should check on her, won't take but a minute.”
She picked up her clothes, and walked naked to his room. He stared after her for a long moment, lost in thought, then followed after.
He could hear the shower running when he got into his room, and smiled. Rose Tyler, in my shower. Naked. Life had thrown him a lot of strange situations, but this was... not as vicious as life had been of late.
Then he realized she was... singing? His smile broadened. How long has it been since I heard Rose Tyler singing?
He pondered this for a moment, then she called out, “Care to join me, Doctor?”
Oh. Why, I do believe... Yes. I do care to. He stripped off his clothes quickly, and opened the bathroom door.
The TARDIS had apparently been busy. His shower had expanded, deepened, and become white marble instead of the ubiquitous coral-and-gold of most of the rest of the ship. A translucent silk curtain hung across, not entirely obscuring Rose beyond it.
He asked through the curtain, “Your redesign idea?”
She said, “Nope, it was like this when I came in. You going to join me?”
He pulled the curtain aside, and stepped in. Water was spraying in from all sides, up and down the walls, pooling in the wide, square basin. He grinned. “It's like standing inside a dishwasher. Fantastic. Hasn’t been like this in years!”
He looked down at Rose, who was studying him, her eyes trailing up and down his naked body. A soft smile played at his lips, and he said quietly, “This is different, isn't it?”
The water slicked her hair and ran in rivulets down her body. She flashed him a wide grin and said, “Thank God. Would have gone balmy if I’d had one more minute of ‘the same’. Wash my back?” She handed him a cloth and soap.
“I'd love to,” he answered. “It's a lovely back, by the way.”
She turned her head and grinned at him. “Thank you. I'm rather attached to it.”
He passed the slick soap over her skin briefly. She said with a hint of mischief, “You missed a spot.”
“Oh, sorry,” he said. “Best be thorough, then.”
With that, he brought the soap up to her neck, and methodically started working his way across, then down her back. “You're stronger than you were,” he said, noting the defined muscles under his fingertips. “Thinner, too.”
“Lousy chips on that side. Something weird with the potatoes, or the oil, I don't know. And I kept busy, our early efforts with the Dimension Cannon didn't always drop me in safe places. After the first time I died, Pete insisted I do more training. Oh, that's lovely.”
He'd set the soap down and was massaging her shoulders. “I hate the thought of you dying,” he said. “Even if it did trigger...”
“The changes that would make you stop treating me like a stupid ape?” she supplied.
“You never were,” he said. “I just... I should have asked. I should have looked closer. I should have taken the chance. How I could forget... Your mind doesn’t feel like a Time Lord.”
She leaned forward into the spray, resting her head on her arms against the wall as he worked down the muscles of her back. He picked the soap back up and slicked it over her lower back and the flare of her hips. His hands worked deftly, and he murmured, “You are so beautiful.”
His touch lightened, his hand tracing the curves of her lower back and coming to rest on her bottom. She arched a little under his touch, and his breath caught. “I've been in love with you for so long,” he said.
“Are you going to finally let me in?” she asked. “Let me be with you? Stop pushing me away?” She stood up straight and turned, the water cascading down her breasts and belly.
He bent, kissing her in the spray, drinking the water from her lips, their bodies pressed close together. She felt, rather than heard, him say, Come in, Love, as he surrounded her with a mind-glow of golden pink radiance.
She pulled back after a moment, looked up at him, and said, “Doctor? How long are you going to stay with me?”
He smiled, and said expansively, “Forever,” enunciating each syllable as if they were their own separate words.
She grinned back, and said, “Then take me to bed, please?”
His face broke into a delighted smile. “Your wish is my command.”
They stepped out of the shower into a gust of warm air that dried them quickly and made Rose laugh.
He threaded his fingers with hers, and led her back into the bedroom. As they got close to the bed, he tugged her tango-style into his arms with a flourish. She flowed against his body with a low, sultry chuckle. Her right hand strayed up to his head, her fingers laced through his hair, and she used the leverage to bring him down to kiss her.
His hands slid down her back, her left hand snaked around to his bum. When her tongue darted between his lips, something deep inside him unlocked. With a growl he lifted her, turned, and deposited her on the bed, still kissing her. Laying her back, he followed her mouth until his body lay on top of hers, his erection growing between them, against her thigh. She groaned and ground her hips against him, reaching blindly to pull him even closer.
He leaned a little and sucked on her earlobe, his hand finding her breast, her nipple. She writhed in response, shifting with her hips, wrapping a leg up over his, moving just so until he was nearly at her entrance. He started to reach down to touch her clit, when she said through clenched teeth, “I want you in me, please, now.” Wrapping both legs around him, she pulled him in every way she knew how.
He did not resist, taking only a moment to get enough leverage to slide all the way in at once. He stayed there for a long moment, savouring the feel of her around him, slick and hot. Every nerve in his body seemed focused on that point of connection. He could feel her muscles pulsing against him, feel how perfectly she surrounded him, how perfectly he filled her.
She arched against him, and he started to move. Her hand strayed up to his temple, and his eyes widened as he felt what she was feeling. Struggling for the smallest semblance of control, he used the link to experiment with what felt the best for her, this angle more than that, that pressure.. yes... there...
As he found a rhythm, her other hand traced circles down his spine, her feet came up, caressing his bum, her pelvis rocking to meet him. In her mind, a white point of light was growing, intensifying, and he picked up speed, his hand coming up to her temple as well.
It flared between them, heat and sensation and the feedback loop of her pleasure and his, and he lost control completely. She threw back her head, and a last shred of awareness in him realized that despite the fact that her hand was now roving over his skin and his was no longer at the touch point, the connection remained between them like a living thing. His pace was near frantic, his hands and mouth flying over her body, touching here and there, kissing, nipping, licking as she clung to him, orgasm rocking through her in waves, until the connection blossomed fully and he emptied himself into her.
Shuddering, he lay on top of her, his head next to hers, his lips brushing against her ear, one finger tracing along her arm to her fingertips. He wrapped his hand around hers, and kissed her cheek, feeling the little shuddering aftershocks they both had. I love you love you love you love flowed between them along the connection.
Her voice was a surprise when she finally spoke out loud. “You make love,” she said with a tinge of amusement, “like you fly the TARDIS.”
“If that had been flying the TARDIS, I'd have used a mallet, and we'd have been flung across the room,” he said. “Would have been totally inappropriate.”
“What do you call that?” she said, and he felt her tweak the connection, the word this floating along it, and the concept of a mental wallop sliding behind it.
He closed his eyes and smiled, pressing his nose against her cheek. “I call that a promise.” bond unbreakable foreverlove mine
She explored the connection, looked into his mind for more elaboration of what it was. He felt her reaction shock amazed forevermine marriage? ohh as he helped her see what it meant to him.
He said quietly, “I meant forever.”
She turned her head and kissed him, “So did I.”
He slid a little bit to one side, so that all his weight was not on her, his hand still tight with hers.
She felt a little trace of worry from the connection, and he said aloud, “Do you forgive me?”
“Do you promise to stop leaving me?” she asked.
He nodded against her ear. “Never again. I promise.”
She freed her hand from his and stroked his hair. Down the link he felt her wrap him in forgiveness.
Out loud she said, “I can't stay mad at you.”
They both jerked awake a few hours later.
Rose sat up and said, “What was THAT?”
It felt for all the world as if their brains were harp strings that someone had just plucked. They were both vibrating from it, and he sent out tendrils of awareness to find...
“How well can you sense timelines?” he asked.
She closed her eyes. “What is that?'
He ran a hand over her stomach. “That, my dear, was a new timeline thwacking rather abruptly into place.”
She looked down. “That's... fast...”
He showed her what he was seeing in the vortex, the fine, sparkling golden threads running through her that were coming together in a knot low in her belly. A whole new universe of possibilities contained in a cell that had just divided, and divided again.
She let her fingers wind with his, resting on her belly. “You okay about it?”
Better than okay amazingwolfgoddess mine came back to her along the link, flavoured with awe and joy and astonishment.
“Are you?” he asked aloud.
Her response came back flavoured with joy and trepidation and a tiny regret at how fast this had happened, but the underlying thought was lovesweetmine impossible joy
She lay back down, and they faced each other on the bed, just looking into each other's eyes.
“I can't believe...” she said. waited so long missed you finally here
“I know,” he said. “Thank you for being brilliant enough to tell me no.”
“So,” she said conversationally, “This means we're going to be parents?”
He gave her a misty smile. “Looks like.”
“I guess your people didn't have the situation where a woman thinks she's having stomach cramps and ends up having a baby instead. They all just knew it right off, eh?”
He got a strange look on his face. “Actually, surprise offspring weren't that unusual, because very few people were even bothering with pregnancy as a form of reproduction, and most offspring did not create as much individual impact as this one could.”
“You weren't born?” she said, curious.
“Loomed,” he answered.
“Then you don't know what a Time Lord pregnancy is supposed to be like?” she asked.
“The TARDIS will help,” he said. “And you're not wholly Gallifreyan. I suspect it will be rather more similar to a human pregnancy. I doubt it will give you much trouble.”
“How about Time Lord babies?” she asked. “Anything radically different I should know there?”
“Time Tots?” he said. “Precocious by Earth standards. They become conversational sooner but adolescence takes a whole lot longer. Some of us never leave it.”
“Please tell me you don't really call them Time Tots... I thought to be a Time Lord or Lady you had to go to school for a million years?”
He shrugged. “The school doesn't exist any more, and the fact that you regenerated without training... then again, you did look into the Vortex. Beats me. What should we call them, if not Time Tots?”
“It's a baby,” she said. “It is one baby, isn't it?”
He looked. “Yep. Just one. Better that way.”
“You seem remarkably unconcerned,” she said.
“Excitement overload,” he explained. “I'm so far past overwhelmed and overjoyed, that I've circled back around to nonchalant.”
His eyes glazed over for a split second, and she caught the edge of what had his attention. “Better get dressed before you go see her,” Rose said. “Maybe take a quick shower too. Don't think Donna will like it if you go in there smelling like sex.”
He nodded and got up. Rose lay in the bed with her hand over her stomach, letting the swirl of feelings and futures drift around her until she fell back asleep.
Reminder: the whole series is complete, if you want to read more, the link to whofic is in the series description.
Donna was pacing by the time he got to her room, tears streaming down her cheeks as she flung one thing after another across the room.
He noted that she’d not broken anything, but it might take her weeks to pair up her shoes again. He stood in the doorway for a moment before she saw him, and then she was in his arms and pounding against his chest with her fists, her words spilling out in an incoherent jumble of grief and loss. He was able to parse the words, “Why” and “Stupid”, but most of it was just sobs. He wrapped his arms around her and leaned his head against the top of hers and murmured what comfort he could.
After a few minutes her sobs died down and she pulled away and said, “He did it, didn’t he? Sacrificed himself for me. No, it’s more than that...” Her hand stole up to her head. “He changed me more, didn’t he?”
“May I?” he asked, reaching out.
She nodded. He made the connection and looked briefly. Then he said, “He used the vortex and my genetic material to grow the extra structures your brain needed to cope. He wasn’t having any trouble with it, not the way you were. You should be able to hold the consciousness without damage now.”
“So what, I’m Time Lord now?” she asked.
“Have to ask the infirmary, but my feeling is that you are more Time Lord now than you were with the original metacrisis. Still human enough to be Donna, though. Wouldn’t have it any other way.” He smiled.
“Why did he do that?” she asked. “Why was he willing to die?”
“Donna, you’re extraordinary. The only thing that might have stopped him from helping you that way is if Rose had picked him and we’d gone before the crisis hit.”
She looked down for a moment and then said, “I can almost hear him in my head saying ‘two is too many Doctors, but the universe needs the DoctorDonna.’” Donna blinked. “Rose... is she...”
The slightly goofy look on his face sent Donna’s eyebrows up, and she said, “So you got off your arse then, did you?”
“You could say that,” he said, looking flustered. “Seeing as she’s now, er, pregnant.”
“What? How long did I sleep?” Donna asked shrilly. “I wasn’t out that long... was I? And is that even possible with a human? I mean it must be if she is, but how would you even know? It takes days, a week or two even, and I can’t have been out more than a day, if that. Wait, was she pregnant before she came on board...no, you’d not have that look on your face, you crazy spaceman. Oh, I cannotbelieve...”
“If I can get a word in edgewise,” he said when she paused for breath, “The reason she wasn’t willing to stay is that she’s no longer completely human herself. And it shouldn’t be possible, interspecies issues aside, I am not supposed to be fertile, let alone able to impregnate a human woman, but whatever changed her, changed me too. It happened during the regeneration before I met you.”
“Haven’t you heard of condoms?” Donna asked. “I mean, is it even wise with as long as you two have been apart, knocking her up thirty seconds after she gets back?”
He looked misty. “I don’t think procreation is about wisdom, most of the time. Wise doesn’t really have anything to do with it. But we took long enough beforehand to establish that neither of us would be upset if a child resulted. And we were aware of the changes in her enough so that we were not especially surprised.”
“How do you even know?” she asked, then blinked. “Oh. Is that....”
He nodded. “Seeing the timelines?”
“What did it feel like when that happened?” she asked, then quickly clarified at the alarmed look on his face. “Oh, not the sex you perv, when that timeline showed up.”
“Like my brain had been plucked like a string,” he said. “They’re not usually that strong, but this is more personal than the majority of such things.”
She looked bemused. “I think... I think that’s what woke me up.” Then she looked a little perturbed. “Does that make me.. what, an aunt? Or would it be an uncle since I have some of your... your brother’s... Oi, I’m not part father now, am I? Oh, that would just be so wrong.”
He laughed. “Why don’t we leave it at Aunt Donna and call it good?”
“Fair enough, Spaceman. Bad enough you knocking someone up, making me a parent in the same moment seems rather presumptuous.” She smiled. “But Aunt Donna– I think I can live with that. How’s Rose taking all this?”
“Well, once she got over chewing me up one side and down the other for nearly abandoning her, she’s actually seeming quite pleased with the whole thing,” he said.
“You going to marry her?” Donna asked. “Since you knocked her up and all?”
He looked sheepish. “According to the customs of my people,” he said, “we already are.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re telling me your people consider sex a binding contract?”
“It’s a little more than just sex,” he started indignantly, but her eyes had closed and she’d cocked her head to one side.
He waited for her to access the memory that must be there. Her eyes flew open and she said, “Oh! Oh.” Then as all the implications settled, “Ohhhh.”
“Yeah,” he answered.
“So is that necessary for your people to have remote telepathy, rather than the Spock stuff?” Donna asked. “Wait, no, he and I were communicating telepathically...”
“The bond isn’t just telepathy,” he said. “And no. But with humans, that kind of contact helps.”
Then he thought at her, can you hear me now?
She said, “Of course I can hear... oh.” Like this, came back to him, quietly.
“It’s not that much different from speech,” he said. “Without touch, I can’t just wander around inside your head, it’s very voluntary. In fact, the only reason to use it instead of speech is that it has a longer range and is more private. With touch, I can do more. But I don’t need to touch Rose to make the stronger connection with her any more.”
“Just so long as you aren’t going into my brain without asking,” she said. “Still don’t quite trust you after what you almost did to me...”
He nodded. “How are you feeling? I’d like to run some tests...”
She sighed. “All right. But I’m keeping my clothes on. Been enough naked for one day on this ship. Clearly.”
“Of course,” he said. Then he realized that his double must have shown up nude, and blushed. “And Donna?”
“I’m very, very glad you are still you. What I thought I would have to do... it broke my hearts.”
“About that, Doctor?” she said, her voice quiet and almost angry.
“I’d rather have died. Don’t you even think about taking my memories away. EVER. That’s not your decision to make.” She held up a hand to stop his protest. “No. Never.”
“I couldn’t... I was going to lose Rose, and everyone else who mattered to me, and I didn’t want you to die. I couldn’t just let you die. I’m sorry. But if I had to choose between him and you... I choose you. And I’m glad he did too.”
“You’re pretty stupid for a spaceman, you know,” she said. “None of us wanted to leave you alone.”
He smiled at this. “And you will never know how truly grateful I am.”
The Doctor and Donna didn’t talk much while he ran the tests. He would start to say something, she would murmur, “Yeah,” and then they would move on to the next scan. Not because they were talking telepathically, but because she was simply coming to the same conclusions as fast as he was.
Rose watched them from the doorway for a little while without interrupting. Finally she cleared her throat, and both turned to face her. “So, then, how are you, Donna?” she asked, a little hesitant, a little awkward.
“Time Lord... Lady, I guess. Not fully, of course. And we won’t know for sure about some of it until I bite it. Not looking forward to that bit, no I am not. But the genes.... as far as we can tell most of the third row in the triple helices comes directly from him. It’s like... he pasted that bit on when he opened the vortex. I’m hoping that doesn’t mean I’ll come back a skinny bloke if I kark it, but it does mean that if I do regenerate, I’ll probably change. And from what happened with you, regeneration seems more likely than it did for either him or me before. Doctor says you died twice and never changed?”
Rose nodded. “Little things changed. Moles and stuff. My teeth are straighter, I’m guessing regenerating fixed some of the overbite I got from thumb-sucking. Lost that tattoo.... But I still have to dye my hair blonde, and my eyes are the same colour and my face is pretty close to the same. Most people attributed it to me getting older, losing my puppy fat, but there are some differences that only I would know because, well, I’m the only one who really knows what the inside of my mouth is supposed to be shaped like. But I guess we have some bit of choice in the matter, conscious or not. I didn’t want to look different. He’d never have believed it was me.”
The Doctor looked at her and said, “That wouldn’t be a problem now, with the link. Not that I want you to change, but you need not fear it.”
“You telling me you’re not terrified of regenerating again?” Donna asked with a snort. “After what you did to avoid changing the last time?”
He looked down. “I’d just gotten Rose back. And for me, there’s a fundamental personality change with each incarnation. And the last thing we needed right then was me spending fifteen hours blowing golden smoke rings while you lot tried to save the universe without me.”
Rose peered past the Doctor’s shoulder at the results. “So if Donna wants children, ever, is she going to be able to have them?”
“Who says I want them?” Donna snapped.
The Doctor gave her a gentle look. “You did.”
“That was before. If I’m capable of regenerating, I’m right where you were, pre-Rose. Aren’t a lot of eligible quasi-immortals running around, although... that Captain Jack, you said he’s immortal, but he’s human, right? You’re like my brother, or father, or something, I don’t know what at this point, besides the fact that you’re too skinny. And I certainly don’t want them now, last thing we need is to turn the TARDIS into a nursery. One is plenty. I’ll borrow yours when I have the urge to play auntie. And you don’t even know if I’m capable of having a child with a human.” Donna waved her hand as if to dismiss the concept out of hand. “I’m going to take a good long time to get used to this whole Time Lord business before I go looking to mate. There is no hurry, especially not with you lot getting up the duff in the first five minutes.”
Rose couldn’t help giggling at the Doctor’s completely gobsmacked expression. “Please,” he said, “never use that phrase again.”
“What, up the duff? Should I say she has a time-bun in the oven? Joined the pudding club? Knocked up?”
“She’s in an interesting condition,” the Doctor shot back. “Pregnant with my child. Blessed. Radiant.”
Rose laughed outright. “I don’t know, time-bun in the oven has a certain ring to it.”
Donna grew serious. “You know we should probably make some changes around here. Can’t have Her Radiance being tossed to the floor every five minutes.”
“It shouldn’t be an issue for months yet, should it?” Rose asked. “Although... what about that background radiation... it’s harmless, right?”
The Doctor frowned. “Normally, yes. But when the cells are new and in a state of flux... I’m not going to make you live in a zero room for the next ten months, but even post-regeneration it’s safer to let the new cells have a chance to... ripen for a bit before exposing them to the wibbly wobblies of the space-time continuum.”
“Are you saying we shouldn’t travel?” Rose asked. “Until when?”
He shook his head. “Occasional travel is fine. You are exposed to more harmful radiation on a cross country flight, and pregnant humans do those occasionally without worrying about their offspring. But maybe we should look at going some of the mellower places, staying longer. Since we’re no longer having to pack it all into your tiny human lifespans, there’s no need to rush from adventure to adventure.”
Rose and Donna looked at each other. Donna said, “You know the rush is a big part of the reason we love travelling with you.” Then she sighed. “But yeah, I can understand wanting to take it easy for a while. We just saved the omniverse, we’ve earned a holiday, right? Any ideas? Something tropical? Warm? Some place I can sunbathe, but with, you know, an atmosphere? And no monsters?”
He shuddered for a moment, remembering Midnight. “Yeah, I’m fond of planets with atmospheres. Sunbathing... sunbathing... you know, maybe we should go some place... warm. With bananas. And coconuts. And beaches.”
Rose frowned. “As long as they’re warm beaches. In the tropics. And not named after wolves.”
The Doctor lit up. “Did you know, Rose Tyler, that when humanity went out to the stars, they found a cluster of planets in one system, several with no axial tilt, perfect, blissful spring days, warm oceans, sandy beaches... All bare sand and rock and water when you lot got there, the interplanetary cruise lines took one look and terraformed the lot as resort planets. Called the system the Bahamas.”
“That has potential,” Rose said. “What’s the catch? Revolution? Invasion? Disease?”
He grinned. “No catch, really. But I happen to know that about five hundred years after the terraforming was complete, one of the companies went bankrupt. Whole planets went into foreclosure. Then the bank went under, a disaster on the founding colony. Place was lost to history for a good thousand years. Not that it was all that important to history after that.”
“Any native population?” Rose asked.
“Not really, they mostly shuttled them in from one of the bigger planets in the system. The help were all Ood by the time it went belly up. The gravity there was pretty light for a human colony. Sounds good in theory, but can get a little awkward. Hard to play cricket for one, the land area required is simply too great to be practical. Oh, and it's a problem for humans who like to travel to live permanently on a low grav planet. Messes with bone density too much.” He shrugged.
“You’re telling me that this place has no population, is essentially a paradise, and you know a 1000 year span when there are no politics at all?” Rose said. “Hardly your usual hangout.”
“Sounds boring,” Donna said. “I could do with boring for a bit. Let’s go.”
“We gonna be trapped there?” Rose asked. “If I hate it or there’s some monster or something, will we have to stay there?”
He shook his head. “Occasional travel is fine. I just... we could spend a few weeks there, recuperating, think all of us need that. Maybe longer if we like it. Live in the TARDIS, camp on the beach.”
“We still out of phase with Cardiff?” Rose asked. “I think I’d like to do some shopping first.”
Donna looked thoughtful. “You got null time food storage options on the TARDIS, right?”
The Doctor blinked. “Yeah.”
Donna grinned at Rose. “We can buy hot food, things we like, store them already hot... just take them out when we want them. Easy peasy. Fresh food, no cooking especially, you know, if I had a null-time shopping bag...”
Rose grinned back at Donna. “Then the chips will be hot and crispy. For weeks. Forever, even. I like her, Doctor.”
He looked from one to the other. “This... is going to take some getting used to. In a good way. One null-time, dimension-shifted, bigger-on-the-inside, ultra-light shopping bag, coming right up. Don’t forget the milk.”
He turned and walked out of the infirmary, tapping his palm with his screwdriver absently.
Donna turned to Rose and asked, “You really okay with that?” She nodded at Rose’s belly.
Rose smiled. “I’m floating. I feel like I should be panicking, knocked up the first time we shagged, after him almost leaving me, but I’m not. It feels like I’m where I should be, and it’s the first time in a long time that has been true. It was so many years in that other universe...”
Donna looked sad for a moment, “I don’t know whether to be relieved that I’m still me, or sad about the human doctor. But when I start to feel sad... it’s like, he’s with me. And he would have been heartbroken without you, after you made that choice. But I think... I think I feel him, here,” she said, gesturing to the left side of her chest. “And I know I feel him here,” she said, putting a hand on her head. “It’s the damnedest thing, having a Doctor inside your head.”
Rose laughed sharply. “True.”
Donna said quietly, “I can feel how he felt about you. Oh, don’t worry that I’m going to make a pass at you or something. It’s just that... the half-human Doctor was the Doctor, mentally, if not physically, all the memories, all of it, and out of all those memories, all the people he’s ever loved, you’re like this beacon standing out from all of them. The look on his face when I told him who’d helped me in that godawful alternate reality, yeah, you remember all that... He was so afraid of the dimensions collapsing, but underneath it was the first real sparkle I’d seen in him for all the time I’d known him. Didn’t realize until the moment he let down his guard at the idea of you coming home how much of himself he’d held back from us all. He loves you, the Doctor, in any form. You’re not my type, but then again, neither is the Doctor, not in that way, and God knows I love him dearly. And the part of me that is him, loves you too.”
She paused, and Rose just waited. “I never had a sister. Or a brother for that matter. But you two... I don’t think there’s any better word for it.”
Rose said softly, “I have a brother, but he’s so little, and I’ll never see him again, and I’ve never had a sister, neither. I... would be honoured to count you as a sister, Donna Noble. Are you going to be content to stay with us, even if we put down roots for a little while?”
Donna grinned. “If I get bored, I’ll grow a TARDIS and skip for a while. But right now, surf, sun, chips and coconuts... it sounds delish. Never could get himself to sit still long enough for a good laze.”
“You can grow a TARDIS?” Rose asked. “I thought that was impossible any more?”
Donna grinned. “I’ve got so many ideas... think I can grow one in a few months. Tweak this, push that, and boom, the thing grows to the power of fifty-nine faster.”
“What to the power of fifty-nine?” Rose asked.
Donna frowned. “Let’s just say that instead of taking, say, twenty-five hundred years to get a fully functioning ship, I think I can do it in about... ten months. Give or take. Depends on where I grow it, too.”
“Do it,” Rose said. “It’s always terrified me that there is only one TARDIS and one Doctor. We should have backups.”
“That why you got up the duff so fast?” Donna teased. “Backups?”
Rose laughed. “That was a happy accident. Or rather, a happy we-didn’t-try-to-stop-it. Bet you if you let him help you grow a new TARDIS he won’t even be bored.”
“What about you?” Donna asked.
Rose shrugged. “Library. Got a lot to learn before I can keep up with you two. You got the Time Lord consciousness dropped whole into your head. I’m having to grow it the slow way. ‘Spect I’ll be reading. A lot.”
Donna looked thoughtful. “You know, he and I can help you with the learning. A lot of it we can just give to you, mind to mind.”
Rose considered this. “All the same, I think I’d rather start out slow. Might let you guys force-feed the boring stuff. But I want to earn it, as much as is practical, right?”
Donna grinned. “Easier not having a whole lot of choice in the matter. Good for you, by the way, for not letting him run over you like a steamroller back in Pete’s World. Good for me, too, I suppose.”
“If I’d still been human...” Rose said. Then she looked down. “I think I would have let him. It would have been so tempting... but it wasn’t really until after my first regeneration that I kicked Torchwood into finding me a way back. Otherwise, I would have been a Doctorless, TARDIS-less Time Lady in a universe Time Lords were never meant to live in. I still don’t understand quite why it used to be possible to go back and forth and is now ‘impossible’.”
Donna said, “The Time War... his memories aren’t clear, you can look yourself some time, but I think it took the full resources of the Time Lord culture to create the kind of environment which would even allow inter-dimensional travel in the first place. And that was all locked away. So much was lost. If it hadn’t been so completely necessary, it would be one of the greatest crimes in the multiverse. But what they were planning... was worse. He had to do it. He had to be the executioner, and he was right to do it, but the cost...”
Rose reached out along the link to her Doctor, sending out a simple wave of lovecompassion understanding without giving any context. She blushed at the surpriselust growlminelove that came back to her. She asked Donna, “Isn’t it odd to have all those memories in your head when you didn’t live them?”
“I mostly have to go looking for them if I want to see them,” said Donna. “It’s not like it must be for him, with them cropping up unbidden...and they’re not my memories, but a story about someone I care about. So I hurt for him, but they don’t damage me, if that makes sense. And a lot of it...we’ve spent a lot of time talking during our travels. Or it’s about people that I’ve only ever seen in his memories. Places I’ve never been. At some point I’m going to sit for a while and just process, but there’s a knack in this Time Lord brain for compartmentalizing, for setting aside the things that are not currently relevant. He takes that to an extreme at times, almost pathologically so. Mostly, the memories just are. Before... before the human Doctor helped me, it was too much, my brain hurt it was so full.”
Rose closed her eyes. “I know that feeling. Looking into the Vortex was like that, it was so much I didn’t remember until... until today, really, how strong that was. The Vortex and the Doctor together helped me create myself... set all this in motion.”
“And Jack,” Donna said. “Speaking of whom, shall we go visit ol’ Jackie-boy before we take off? Once himself gets done with our bags?”
Rose grinned. “Why not?”
The Doctor found them in the library a few hours later, Donna explaining the book-skimming techniques to Rose. They were surrounded by stacks of books on physics, genetics and temporal mechanics. Rose sat with her arms wrapped around one knee, the other leg crossed under her in an old high-backed, red velvet wing chair. Donna was perched on an ottoman in front of her, waving her hands around as she talked. Both were laughing.
He cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows. “Should my ears be burning?” he asked.
They both looked up at him, and burst out in a round of new laughter. He sighed, and said, “Made a bag for each of you. Wasn’t sure what you wanted them to look like, so I went with an ordinary shop bag. Except this won’t tear, it’s waterproof, and it won’t feel heavy. There’s a false bottom here,” he said, pointing to the apparent real bottom of the bag. “Pull here,” he gestured, “And it lifts up. Set your purchases in gently. First in is last out. We can transfer the lot to TARDIS storage when you’re done shopping.”
Rose looked thoughtful. “Would be right useful to have a purse and a picnic basket like that. Like your pockets. Is that why your bananas never get squashy?”
He grinned. “Right!”
“How much stuff can we put in there?” Donna asked.
He looked bemused. “As much as you want to. If it fits in the top of the bag, it will fit in the bottom.”
“But how full can we pack it?” Rose asked.
“How big is the TARDIS?” he asked.
She blinked. “So you’re saying I could climb in there myself?”
“Only if you wanted to be mistaken for an empty shop bag and chucked into a garbage dump until some archaeologist puts you in a museum 50,000 years from now for me to fetch you back out again,” he said. “Seriously, don’t do it. Time doesn’t pass in there. At all.”
She got a sudden chill and nodded. “Point taken. Any trick to getting things back out?”
He said, “Things don’t go into stasis until you let go of them, and they come out of stasis when you touch them again. They’ll stay there, but the more stuff you put in on top, the farther down the first things you put in will be pushed. But hot things will still be hot, as soon as you touch them they’ll have time again, so if you, for example, poured boiling oil into the bag, you would get a nasty burn reaching in, and it won’t just pour out, it has to be scooped or pulled. So be careful. Best to have things in insulated containers if you can. Don’t just dump the chips in bare.”
Rose nodded. Donna looked at the bag thoughtfully. “I might tinker when we get back. You want to come with us, Doctor?”
He looked at the women in front of him. “You two go on. I’ve got some shopping of my own to do. Go have girl time, or whatever you call it.”
Rose took her bag and headed back toward the console room, brushing a kiss on his cheek as she passed. His face softened as he watched her go.
Donna smiled and said, “Shopping?”
He said. “Close enough. I’ll be making it myself, but I’ve got to hunt down the materials inside the TARDIS. Been a while since I saw that particular storage room.”
“Let me guess,” she said. “Minerals. And metals. And a wee little smeltery.”
“You going to explain to the TARDIS how to make a safe seat for Rose for when we’re in flight?” Donna asked.
“Best be for all of us, last thing she needs is me landing in her lap when things go pear shaped,” he said absently.
He blinked, and then smiled a goofy smile. “Never liked pears, but she’ll look lovely, won’t she? All round and pink and yellow.”
“Or brown, if she lets the blonde grow out. Chemicals not good for the baby, I suspect.”
“If she wants yellow hair, she can have yellow hair.”
Donna said, “Oh, yeah. Right,” as the method surfaced in her brain. “I'd best go catch up with her. You think about baby equipment, we might want to buy some...”
He shook his head. “TARDIS can make it better. Too hard to anchor the ready bought stuff, better to grow it.”
Donna nodded. “All the same, I think I’ll do a wee bit of shopping for the wee one. Don’t know when we’ll be back this way.”
“Don’t let them catch you stuffing a pram into that bag,” he said. “you lose the bag, you lose everything in it.”
“Next time, link the bags directly to TARDIS storage, yes?” Donna said. “Then we don’t have to worry about museums.”
He blinked. “You’re brilliant.”
She grinned. “I am, aren’t I?” she said, patting him on the cheek before she went to catch up with Rose.
The Plass sat under a grey mid-morning sky, mostly empty. Rose and Donna walked out of the TARDIS and looked around. “Down to the quay to get a bite to eat?” Donna asked.
“More than a bite,” Rose laughed. “Quite a bit more.”
They walked past the water tower and were halfway down to the Mermaid Quay when Jack Harkness caught up to them. They jumped a little as an arm was flung around each of their shoulders without warning, but his merry, “Good morning, ladies!” short circuited Rose’s urge to duck away and strike a defensive pose.
Instead she turned and gave him a hug, saying, “Good morning yourself. We were going to look you up, after chips.”
Donna said, “I’ll have one of those, too,” and Jack obligingly gave her a friendly squeeze.
He pulled back and said, “So, what brings you to my part of the space-time continuum? We caught materialization on the monitors.”
Donna gestured at the empty bags and said, “Just stocking up. We’re going on holiday.”
“Yeah? Anywhere I’d like?” Jack asked with a bit of a leer.
Rose smiled. “The Doctor tells me it is warm and has bananas, coconuts, beaches and no people.”
Jack grinned. “Sounds like fun. Any idea what century?”
“Nope,” Rose said. “But I do know they call it the Bahamas.”
“I’m assuming the system, not the local version?”
Rose nodded. “Might be staying there a while.”
Jack looked curious. “What, no gallivanting off to save the universe?”
Donna rolled her eyes. “Not so much, not until the baby comes.”
Jack’s eyebrows went up, and his eyes darted between Rose and Donna until Rose raised her hand, looking vaguely sheepish.
He whooped and swung her around in a circle, then stood back and looked at her. “Early yet, you two move fast. Or have you been gone longer than it seems? I’m assuming the human Doctor...”
At the look on their faces, he said, “Okay, clearly I have some catching up to do... can we go somewhere and sit down and you can tell me the whole story?”
Rose said, “Yeah, that would be good. It’s a... really complicated story.”
Ten minutes later, they were ordering their food. Jack raised an eyebrow at fifty orders of chips take away, in addition to their lunch. He raised it even farther as Rose had him hold the bag and it didn’t get heavier as she loaded the chips in. He peered in the top and blinked when he saw the false bottom of the bag lifted, the packets seeming to disappear as they dropped in. Curious, he reached in, felt a packet, lifted it out, then put it back again. “I want one,” he exclaimed.
Donna grinned at him and said, “Best be nice to us, then.”
They sat down with their food, and Donna asked, “So, chronological order, or you want to ask questions and we’ll answer them?”
He thought for a moment. “I’ll ask. If that isn’t the new Doctor’s baby, is it the original Doctor’s baby?”
“How is that even possible?” Jack asked.
“How are you possible?” Rose tossed back. “Because whatever made it possible, started at the same time you became immortal.”
“So the baby’s half Time Lord? Or you’re Time Lord?” he asked.
“Close enough for procreation,” she said. “Died a couple times in Pete’s world. Regenerated, but apparently whatever makes Time Lords change isn’t part of what’s going on with me. Something about triple helices, and where my third comes from. Every regen brings me closer to Time Lord physiology, though.”
He nodded. “Then the new Doctor...”
Donna looked down at her plate, and pushed a chip around. “He’s gone.”
“Died saving me from neural overload. The metacrisis was killing me. He used the Vortex to change me, and it... fully incorporated him into me, as far as we can tell. Not like that, you perv,” she said, shooting him a look at the question he was obviously about to ask. “Just... he changed my brain, and genetically I’m different. More Time Lord than I was before, still human enough to be me. We don’t know if I’ll regenerate, he couldn’t have, but if I can, I will probably change a lot more than Rose did in hers. Not rushing to find out, mind you.”
Jack gave a small, understanding nod. “So you’re telling me that the Doc suddenly has TWO Time Ladies travelling with him?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” Donna said. “He and Rose didn’t waste any time either. He didn’t know what was going on with Rose... and tried to leave her with her mother and the other Doctor in Pete’s World.”
“Oh, he didn’t.” Jack said. “Bet that went over like a lead balloon.”
“A lead zeppelin, even,” Rose said. “I wasn’t having it, he hadn’t even taken the time to notice that I’d grown a second heart and was busy foisting me off on his clone because he thought I was still human.”
“And when you chose him over Handy Andy...”
“I just walked back onto the TARDIS, wasn’t going to discuss it, not with the retroclosure sealing the universes off again.”
Donna started where Rose left off. “Then I started having problems, and Handy knocked the Doctor out cold, dragged him onto the TARDIS and saved my life.”
Jack whistled. “Hoo boy. I would have paid money to see that.”
“It would have been funny, if he hadn’t essentially died doing it,” Donna said. “Doctor says I woke up lying on an empty suit. He was just gone. But I can feel... everything he was and felt and did, if I try. And he saved me. The Doctor was going to wipe my memories to save my life, take everything I’ve done with him, every bit of the wonder, and lock it away. But Handy, as you so aptly call him... he said he was going to give me a hand. It was more like he gave me the extra brain space to keep not only my memories of the Doctor, but the entire Time Lord consciousness.”
Jack looked thoughtful, then said, “So Rose is knocked up, you all have a plan for that?”
“We need to minimize our vortex travel for a while,” Rose said. “So we’re doing a big shopping now, food and equipment and such, then going off to laze on a beach until we get bored there.”
“Any of you ever delivered a baby?” Jack asked. “Been at a birth? Been a parent?”
Rose shook her head. “I assume we’ll come back to civilization for the birth. Don’t know which civilization, but one of them. I’ve been helping with my little brother. But Mum had a c-section with him.”
“I’ve spent more hours than I can count minding kids, when I was a teen, it was my pocket money,” Donna said.
“It’s not the same,” Jack said. He pondered for a moment. “You think there’s a chance in hell the Doctor could land back here in a few days, once you’ve had the baby?”
Donna and Rose looked at each other. Donna said, “With three of us flying the TARDIS, the chances are very, very good we can land where we want to.”
“Then make that four of us flying the TARDIS,” Jack said. “I’ve got some... stuff... here, but I can take a few days of local time. I have been a parent several times. Even been pregnant myself. You all need me.”
Rose looked curious and Donna looked appalled. “You are... male, right?” Donna asked.
Jack said, “100%. Had a temporary uterine implant at one point. Do remember I’m not from around here.”
“Right,” Donna said. “You’re a Yank. Thought they were wired the same.”
He sighed. “I’ll tell you my story later. We’ll have time.”
“We need to check with the Doctor about you travelling with us,” Donna said. “I don’t think either of us objects...”
“He invited me, the last time he dropped me off,” Jack said. “Besides which, I suspect the two of you could overrule him just fine.”
Rose giggled and grinned at Donna. “We outnumber him. This could be fun.”
“You ladies have shopping to do... I’ll meet you at the TARDIS in an hour or so,” Jack said, getting up.
Donna watch him go, and smiled. “That is one good-looking bloke.”
Rose laughed. “It’s his trademark.”
Donna looked thoughtful. Then she stood. “Shopping?”
By the time they returned to the TARDIS, they’d been shopping for three straight hours. They found the Doctor and Jack both on their backs under the console. “Guess that’s a yes, then,” said Rose. She looked around. “Is it just me or is the console room bigger? It is.”
The Doctor stood up and looked around. “Decided to do some upgrades while we’re sitting on the power source.” The room had an overlarge, empty feeling to it, as if it were not yet finished.
“Almost got it, Doc,” Jack called out from under the console. “You ready?”
The Doctor said, “Give us a five minute delay.”
“Right,” Jack said. Something clanked, and he crawled out, then stood up. “Starting... now. Recommend we all go outside. Bring your bags.”
They all walked out. “How long will it take?” Jack asked, looking back at the blue box.
The Doctor shrugged. “Could be ten minutes, could be three hours.”
“Come downstairs with me then,” said Jack.
They started towards the lift, and turned just in time to see the TARDIS windows flash briefly golden.
“Thirty seconds it is,” the Doctor said, pulling out a glowing key. “That’s the benefit of doing this kind of refit here.” They walked back, and he grinned as he opened the door. “Let’s see what the old girl has done for us.”
The coral struts, which had been slightly dingy, were so clean and bright that they almost glowed. The whole thing looked polished, and instead of hugging the console, the space spread out, the dome looked taller and wider by a factor of four, and instead of the console occupying the centre of the space, it looked as if the room had been inflated beyond it. The console was about the same distance from the door it had always been, but the space beyond it was now vast. The familiar walls gave way to darker materials in the new space.
“Did we get the viewer circuits working?” the Doctor asked. Jack tapped a button on the familiar console, and the upper half of the dome disappeared, to reveal a view of near-Earth space. Donna grinned and Rose clapped her hands.
They moved into the wide expanse of floorspace. The grating remained only in the immediate vicinity of the console. Beyond that, a smooth floor, which looked almost like a wood floor, but for the fact that there was not a single straight line anywhere. Mahogany, cherry, maple, oak and pine coloured patterns spread out in circles and loops. It looked like wood grain, almost. Or cork. Rose knelt down and put a hand on it. “Is this... coral? The floor?”
The Doctor smiled. “Isn’t it gorgeous? And she grew it in Gallifreyan. She used to look like this, bigger, even, before the Time War. After, we both patched up best we could and never stopped running long enough to bother with a full refit.”
Rose looked again and recognized in the swirls some of the writing of the Doctor’s native language. “Are the walls coral too?”
He nodded. “Darker though, I wanted it to be more cosy.”
There was a little sitting area, with a settee, a leather couch, a glider rocker and an overly upholstered recliner sitting off to one side in the large space, surrounding a low table. All looked like ordinary furniture, until one looked closely at the base and realized that they were not just sitting on the floor, but appeared to have grown from it. Jack saw Rose looking at it and said, “They all have flight harnesses.”
The console seemed the same, but there was an alcove next to the sitting area in which many of the controls were duplicated, only instead of surrounding a central column, they lined the alcove instead. Donna ran over to it and ran her hands over the controls lightly. “Should have done that a long time ago,” she said.
“What is it?” Rose asked.
“Single pilot console,” Jack said. “So someone can fly this thing while anchored. I had the TARDIS cook it up after he complained he couldn’t fly from the centre console while harnessed to something.”
“Takes all the fun out of it,” the Doctor muttered.
Along one section of wall was a short work surface, with a few cabinets. The Doctor walked over and said, “For quick access to food.” He opened one cupboard, which was not so much empty as full of absolute nothingness. Nothingness with a shelf cutting across the middle.
Rose absent-mindedly handed the Doctor her bag while continuing to take in the changes. “I think you need this stuff for it.”
He started hauling food out, and tucking it into the cupboard. It took a surprisingly long time to empty the bag, and he said, “Definitely going to link these to the cupboards.”
When he was finished, he said, “Now think about the food you bought, and think about one item you want. Then put your hand on the cupboard.”
Rose did so, and when she opened the cupboard, a banana sat on the little shelf. She smiled. “If I don’t want to eat the banana right now, I can just push it back in?”
The Doctor took the banana and said, “I want the banana, but yes, you can put things in as easy as taking them out. Oh, and we updated some of the kitchen specs, Jack had some nice ideas.”
He moved to the work surface and ran his hand over it. The plain work surface top revealed red circles. “You can heat something here if you need to.” He passed his hand over another part, and a blender popped up. “Figured we’d need a way to make daiquiris, what with going to the tropics.” He tapped the work surface and the blender disappeared. Another hand wave, and a black box appeared. “Like a microwave,” he said, “But doesn’t make the meat rubbery. You need a kitchen gadget, just ask. Ask the TARDIS, that is, not me, I don’t know where she keeps everything.”
A sink appeared to be permanently mounted. “There’s a slightly more conventional fridge over there,” he said, pointing below the null-time cupboard. “And dishes down there,” he pointed to the cabinets under the work surface. “There should be a much better kitchen farther in, but this will be good for casual.”
He pointed at a door near the sitting area. “Loo.” Then at another door. “Library. Had her move it closer, since Rose will be wanting it so much.” Then he gestured at the hallway. “Your rooms and the rest of the TARDIS are back that way. The zero room is next to the library.” Rose and Jack looked blank.
Donna explained, “It’s the ‘neutral’ room. No radiation, no gravity. You can program in a little bit of light so you don’t go balmy. But it’s the one place on the TARDIS which won’t throw you off your feet in a bumpy landing. Probably the safest place for you, Rose, when we leave this place. But you’ll only need it when we’re in flight. Take books.”
The Doctor continued almost seamlessly, “The pool has its own room now, and it should be fancied up. There’s a warm spring in there. And the wardrobe should be expanded, with clothes for all three of you, now. Four, if you count the baby, but I haven’t asked her to fill that section yet.”
“Maternity clothes?” Jack asked.
The Doctor nodded. “And we can always get more.”
Rose pointed at Donna’s bag. “Got them.”
“Does the wardrobe have a storage room near it?” Donna asked. “We should unpack this bag in storage.”
The Doctor nodded. “Let’s go see.”
The multi-level wardrobe had expanded, shifted, and organized, with smaller sections labelled for each of them, the larger, old wardrobe visible behind them, and an empty bay, clearly waiting. Donna began removing items from her bag. The Doctor watched, bemused, as a variety of baby furniture came out, followed by clothing, and other gear. Jack took each item from Donna as it came out, and sorted them, handing clothing to Rose to be put away, and muttering at some of the baby equipment.
He said out loud to the Doctor, “We’ll have to adapt some of that to the TARDIS, the last thing you need is that Pack ‘n Play flipping over on a rough landing.”
Donna frowned and said, “That’s not for the TARDIS, it’s for the beach, or wherever else we go. This is for the TARDIS,” and she carefully pulled out a large car seat.
“Did anyone see you putting that in?” the Doctor asked.
“Give us some credit,” Rose said. “We packed a trolley with it, then went back behind the store to put things into the bag.”
Jack nodded. “That we can work with, I suspect the TARDIS will simply grow over the connectors.”
Donna pulled out a second, smaller car seat. “This one is for ground transport.”
Jack grinned at her. “Good thinking.”
“Storage space is not a problem here. Finding new stores can be a problem,” Donna said, pulling a folding pram out of the bag. Jack looked at it. “Don’t suppose you got a front pack or backpack...”
Donna handed both over silently. Jack turned them around in his hands, then said, “Eh, I’ll make something better. Any chance of me finding a sewing machine on board?”
The Doctor looked bemused, and said, “Explain it to the TARDIS.”
Jack sighed. “Right.”
Donna pulled out a stack of books, and handed them directly to the Doctor. “For the library.”
He flipped through the top one. “That’s really the current state of obstetrics in this century?” he asked.
Jack took the book, and flipped through more slowly. “You really need me,” he said, handing the book back to the Doctor.
Rose frowned. “Oi, don’t think the two of you are going to be in charge of this process. Pregnant woman, right here. My body.”
They both opened their mouths and Donna held up a hand. “Later. Plenty of time to talk about this.”
Another stack of books came out, and the Doctor said, “Anything but books left in there?”
Donna set the stack down, and reached in again, then pulled out a case of disposable nappies. “That’s your timeline for getting us back after the baby is born.”
Jack stacked it with the other baby supplies.
Donna pulled out a satchel. “That’s full of baby toiletries. Someone should tinker with it so it’s lighter when full.”
“Will do,” said the Doctor, absently, picking up another of the books. “That it then?”
Donna felt around inside the bag. “I think so.”
She handed the bag to the doctor, and he loaded the books back in.
The wardrobe was located at a corner junction of two hallways, one went deeper into the ship, the other was the way back to the console room. The doctor pointed down the hallway they hadn’t seen. “There be dragons,” he said. “Or at least the rest of the ship. Pool should be down there somewhere. And some other places. Storage. Other things. We can explore later. She rearranged a lot.”
As they walked back towards the library, they opened each of the doors in the hallway. There were three on either side. The first room on the right was very generic and simple, the Doctor simply said, “Guest room.” The first room on the left was empty, but had two doors, one at the far side of the room, one to the right of the door.
The next door down the hallway revealed a large bedroom, the other side of the door they’d seen previously, with an expansive bed and an archway leading back into a bathroom. Rose smiled. “Ours?” she asked the Doctor.
He nodded. Across the hall, the door opened onto a masculine room with a large bed and as with most of the living quarters on the TARDIS, a bath beyond it. Jack grinned and said, “Mine!” He patted the wall and said, “Thank you, old girl! Just the way I left it.”
Closer to the console room, on the left side of the hallway the door opened to reveal Rose’s old room, completely unchanged. She smiled and said, “Thoughtful, but I think I’ll redecorate this. Turn it into a private sitting room.” The last room, across the hallway, was Donna’s, just as she’d left it.
The Doctor deposited the books in the library, and said, “Is everyone done with their shopping?”
A round of assent, and he opened a very plain door next to the library. “Rose, this is the zero room.”
She looked past him into the most boring grey space she’d ever seen. There was no floor, no walls, it looked like she thought the inside of an egg must look. “I’ll have those books back now,” she said, and started past him. As her foot left the main room floor, she drifted upward and yelped.
The Doctor moved in carefully and helped stop her tumble. “No gravity,” he reminded her. “Best not to move too much.”
She looked ever so slightly green. “My stomach doesn’t want to stay where it belongs.”
He brought the sonic up and said, “Hold still.” He held the screwdriver to her earlobe, ran it briefly up and down, and her nausea disappeared.
Donna handed the books in, and Rose looked at them ruefully. “Tell me it’s not a long trip.”
“It’s not a long trip,” the Doctor repeated. “We’ll have you out in a wink.”
Thirty minutes later, the door to the zero room opened, and Rose said, “How do I get over there now?”
She was floating cross legged in the middle of the air, surrounded by books. The Doctor said, “You could always throw the books behind you.”
She raised an eyebrow, and gathered the books, starting to spin a little. He held onto the door frame and reached in. She grabbed his hand and pulled, and a moment later he helped her to stand. “Be prepared,” he said. “When you step out of the TARDIS, there will be a bit of a shift as the gravity changes.”
“Done that before,” she said. “What’s the gravity here?”
“Half of Earth’s,” he said. “Approximately.”
She grinned. “That could be fun,” she said.
He grinned back. “Yes, it certainly could. I’m keeping the TARDIS at one gee, for your bones, though, since we’ll sleep here.”
Jack and Donna were waiting for them at the door to the TARDIS.
“So what’s this place called?” Donna asked.
The Doctor blushed a little. “Rosamundi.”
“Rose’s world?” Donna asked. “Really? Or were you responsible for that?”
“Well, back on Earth, there is actually a little island called Rose Island in the Bahamas. I remembered this place because of her. There are, oh, a hundred and fifty terraformed planets and planetoids in this system.” The Doctor fiddled at the console for a moment. The dome shifted to reveal a model of the local solar system. “There are a number of planets over here,” he gestured, “that tend to stay, for the most part, close enough to each other to be cheap to travel from one to another in better times. The population centre is Nassau, that Earthlike planet over there, and at .95 of Earth’s gravity and seventy percent water, it is very Earthlike indeed. It has a number of moons, also terraformed, also quite populous.
He pointed to another section. “These here are farther out, cooler planets, they have been terraformed too, but they are more “Northern” in feel and they have long, cold winters. Not so populous, but very popular with tourists when tourism is a going concern.”
“We’re here,” he said. “About as far as one can get from Nassau and still be on the warm side of the Goldilocks zone. There are three smaller planets. Not a lot of mineral resources, all three were purchased by the Majestic Cruise company, which went bankrupt in the 42nd century — over-invested in the Ood slaves.” Donna and Rose both winced, and he paused. “I suppose that makes their collapse rather our fault, not that I’d change it.”
Then he made a sweeping gesture, pulling the view out, briefly, and then bracketing a large swath of stars. “That entire sector lost the capacity for manned space flight in the Great Catastrophe, and now, in the 45th century, the cruise industry hasn’t come anywhere close to recovering, and won’t for another seven hundred years or so. Even then, it will be strictly local stuff, and with lots of planets closer to home, why would they bother with stuff this far out?” The view shifted again to the Charan system.
“It will likely be another twenty-two hundred years before interstellar cruises take an interest again, if they even remember it’s here, there’s a lot of flux in those timelines. The Ood were the servants for the cruise line, so when they left... I think one of the three cruise planets has a colony currently on it, but it’s rudimentary at best. Rosamundi is mostly... a beach. Lots of beaches. With lots of coconuts.”
“And bananas,” Rose said. “Any other life forms?”
“Dolphins,” the Doctor said. “There should be a decent ocean biosphere, smaller mammals, birds, non-irritating insects, lots and lots of plants. Mainland’s a bit different, but here on the island, it’s very tame.”
“Let’s go then,” Donna said. “’Nuff talking about it.”
Rose skipped over to the door, then paused. “Temp?”
“Twenty-seven degrees Celsius,” the Doctor said. “Just enough breeze to fly a kite.”
Rose grinned and flung the door open.
The TARDIS had landed on a dune overlooking a long stretch of creamy sand. Waves rolled in slow motion, tall and majestic, then spread slowly across the sand. A planet hung large in the sky, partially lit by a golden sun. Rose stepped down onto the sand, and laughed at the giddy feeling of being half as heavy as she was used to being. She walked forward and turned. Another planet was visible behind the tree line, it looked smaller, not much bigger than a harvest moon, half lit by the sun, half visible in a haze of reflected light from the other two planets.
The Doctor called out, “Watch the tides, they’re big. Notice how wide the beach is...”
Rose grinned and ran across the sand, noticing how much easier it was than in Earth’s gravity.
The rest followed her out.
They played on the sand and in the water for hours. The water was warm, warmer than the air, even, and only slightly saline. The Doctor tasted the water and said, “That’s practically the same as human blood.”
After a few hours, they were all stretched out on blankets on the beach, in bathing suits, eating a meal and drowsing in the warm afternoon sun.
Donna sipped coconut water from a green coconut out of a straw, a large white hat on her head and sunglasses on. She lay on her stomach, sketching equations in the sand.
Rose lay with her head on the Doctor’s lap, letting him feed her from a bowl of fresh fruit, and asked, “How long is a day here, anyway?” She was wearing a blue bikini, relatively modest as bikinis went.
The Doctor, sitting in ridiculous aqua swim shorts with large white flowers on them, fed her a piece of sweet pineapple and said, “27.6 hours. But it shouldn’t get very dark, not with that lot hanging about.” He gestured upwards.
“So what’s the deal with them?” Jack asked. He wore navy trunks, and was eating a fish he’d caught, sliced into neat pieces, sashimi style with rice from the TARDIS. “They’re not tidally locked, the three must be sort of orbiting each other... Must get some interesting weather...”
“It works out that most of the time there’s at least one of them in the sky,” the Doctor said. “And they’re bright, because they’re water planets too. The weather... there’s some, but they built in controls that keep it within a tolerable range. Automated systems, designed for the life of the planet. Can’t make money if your cruise planet is constantly having hurricanes.”
“I’m surprised there aren’t interests who want them just for the water,” Jack said.
“There are at least three planets in this system that have seas twenty thousand feet deep spanning a hundred percent of the planetary surface, with minimal salinity,” the Doctor responded. “These? Are chump change in the water market.”
“Hard to believe with all that, that this system would lose space flight,” Jack said.
“It was the Daleks,” Donna answered. “They took over in this part of the Galaxy, and when they were destroyed, they took most of the higher tech with them.”
“How many times do we have to kill those things?” Rose asked. “I’ve gotten to the point where I just assume some have escaped, somewhere, somehow. Even now, did we really get all of them?”
The Doctor sighed. “I know. It’s like whac-a-mole, with extremely dangerous Nazi robot moles. We just keep whacking. I hate it.”
“So how long have you been coming here?” Jack asked.
The Doctor smiled. “It’s been a vacation planet of choice for some time. Before the crash or after, depending on whether I wanted company or not. In local time... I timed it for us to land a hundred years after I last visited. In personal time... I started coming here after Canary Wharf. When you lot,” he gestured at his companions, “were off visiting family or whatnot.”
They were silent for a moment, remembering.
Then Jack broke the tension by asking, “Think I can talk the TARDIS into making me a surf board?”
Moving Rose’s head gently off his lap, the Doctor bounded up with a grin and disappeared into the TARDIS.
A few minutes later, he came back, a surfboard under each arm. The boards looked rather abused, clearly having been used before. He hefted one at Jack, who grinned and ran out into the surf. Rose rolled onto her stomach to watch.
Donna looked up, and said, “Now that’s entertainment.”
Jack had clearly spent some serious time surfing, and the lower gravity allowed for both great wave height and for staggering tricks. The Doctor was no slouch, but it was profoundly incongruous to see him in his flowered trunks and nothing else, frolicking in the waves like a madman.
He saw Rose watching, and waved vigorously. Too vigorously, he ended up falling off the board backwards. Rose yelped and started to get up when he resurfaced, climbed back onto the board, and caught the next wave back. She shook her head and lay back down.
Donna said, “I think I need a drink,” and disappeared into the TARDIS.
She emerged a little while later with a shopping bag. Rose looked at her curiously, and Donna pulled out first a tray, then a pitcher filled with a frothy, pale yellow slush, a bottle of rum, and finally a number of glasses.
“Banana daiquiri?” she asked Rose.
“Hold the rum,” Rose answered.
“That’s why they’re not already mixed,” Donna said. “Banana icee for you. Rum flavoured, no alcohol.”
Rose grinned as Donna filled a glass with banana slush, then reached into the bag and pulled out an umbrella and a straw.
“You’ve clearly been hanging out with the Doctor.”
Donna put her fingers to her lips and blew a shrill whistle. Jack and the Doctor came running ashore on the next wave, looking vaguely concerned until Donna yelled, “Daiquiri?”
Jack grinned. “I’ll take mine hold the banana slush.”
“That’s just a glass of rum,” Donna said, frowning.
Jack grinned. “Has to be strong for me to even feel it. Stupid superhealing liver. Have to drink fast to get a buzz.”
The Doctor smiled and said, “I’ll have mine the proper way.”
“I don’t know,” Rose said. “I’ve seen you drunk on daiquiris before.”
He held up a finger. “Correction. You’ve seen me act drunk on daiquiris before. I could drink the rum straight and it wouldn’t do much other than taste nice. Well, that’s not quite right. I can get tipsy, but it’s a matter of choice. Activate the right set of enzymes, and poof. Sober. But the time you’re thinking about? That was an act.”
“Pretty convincing act,” Rose said.
“Had to convince the court,” the Doctor answered. “And if I recall, I was trying to push you back to Mickey at that point. More fool me.”
Rose sipped her virgin daiquiri. “Ah. That explains a lot.”
Donna pulled a chunk of coral out of the bag. “So, anyone want to help me grow this thing?”
She took a long pull of daiquiri, and then turned it over in her hand. “It should be finished just about the time Rose’s baby is.”
Jack took a large swig of rum. “You can grow a TARDIS in nine months?”
“Ten,” the Doctor and Donna both answered in unison.
Rose frowned. “Human pregnancy is nine months...”
“Gallifreyan children grow a little slower,” Donna said. “But maybe you’ll be lucky and your uterus will be bigger on the inside.”
Rose looked vaguely alarmed. “That might not be a blessing when it’s time for the baby to come out.”
The Doctor looked thoughtful for a moment. “Actually, with the longer days here, if we go by local time, she’ll be pregnant approximately two hundred sixty days. On Earth, human pregnancy is roughly two hundred sixty-six days. So in absolute terms, yes, longer pregnancy, but fewer days.”
Donna looked at her drink. “Yep, still feel the alcohol, although maybe not as much...” She took a deep breath and concentrated inward, then looked startled. “Blimey, that’s an abrupt way to sober up. You say it’s voluntary?”
The Doctor nodded.
“So what do you need?” Jack asked.
Donna looked at the figures she’d been scribbling in the sand. “The Eye of Harmony is the hard one. Can’t have that, won’t have that, will have to make do. Does the TARDIS still have a cloister room? Can she have one?”
The Doctor frowned. “I’d have said no... but then again, you lot are all three impossible things before breakfast...”
“You thought that the other Doctor could grow a TARDIS in Pete’s World,” Rose said. “I assume he didn’t have one...”
“Would have been tricky, but maybe not impossible,” Donna said. “We were giving him hope.”
“I’ve been growing the coral myself,” Jack said. “Makes a nice paperweight.”
“The coral... is only part of what goes into a TARDIS,” Donna said. “You need the block transfer mathematics, which the other Doctor was perfectly capable of doing in a pinch. Are you, Jack?”
He frowned. “I’m good with numbers, but good enough to generate matter out of pure thought? Not so much.”
“But the Vortex, and the Eye of Harmony....” Rose said. “It needs those...”
“You would have helped provide that,” Donna said. “We’ve got this TARDIS, so hopefully we won’t have to tap into the Bad Wolf in you.”
“You will NOT while she’s pregnant,” the Doctor said, without heat but without any doubt that it was not open for discussion.
Donna turned the piece of coral over in her hands. “We need to find a way of isolating it, reducing the ability of it to disappear mid-growth.”
The Doctor looked out to sea. He pointed. “Saline solution, trace minerals, and if you can persuade the local fauna to assist, a rich sonic environment should create enough interference that it won’t go gallivanting off unexpectedly.”
Donna looked thoughtful. She drained her glass, and looked at the coral again. “So, Spaceboy, you going to make me my own sonic screwdriver? Or do I get to use yours?”
The Doctor pulled it out of a pocket in his swim suit, turned it over in his hands a few times, and then said, “I’ll give you this one. I’ll go make myself another one.”
Rose coughed politely. He looked at her and said, “You want one too?” She nodded.
Jack gave a cough and the Doctor said, “No, don’t even ask.”
“Aw, but all the cool kids...”
“If I give you a sonic, you’ll reactivate your vortex manipulator.”
Donna perked up. “He has a vortex manipulator?”
Jack looked from the Doctor to Donna and got a very thoughtful look on his face.
“He was using it to run con games when I met him,” the Doctor said. “Damn near wiped out life on Earth, which would have created a hell of a grandfather paradox for him.”
“So when do I get let off probation for that?” Jack asked. “I’m more than two thousand years old and I’ve died thousands of times. At some point would you please consider cutting me a bit of slack on something that happened when I was a kid? And I’ll remind you I’m here voluntarily. To help you. To help Rose. It’s not like I’m going to trot off just because you give me the means to fix my watch.”
Donna said, “He has a point.”
“I trust him,” Rose said.
The Doctor looked from one to another, and tossed Donna the screwdriver. “You think he should be able to time travel, you fix it.” He stalked off to the TARDIS.
Rose got up slowly, brushed a bit of sand off, and followed the Doctor.
Jack sipped his rum, and then said to Donna, “If you’re not comfortable...”
Donna was looking at his wrist thoughtfully. “You know... with that...”
“We could shorten the coral growth incubation period to weeks for us.”
“What, you going to go back in time and drop it off?”
Donna grinned. “Why not? There’s a long time where it just has to get bigger. And if we were to, say, go back a year, two, maybe, make friends with the local dolphin population...”
She set the piece of coral down on the sand next to her, and peered at the sonic screwdriver. “Should be.... yes!” With that, she pointed the screwdriver at the coral. It shimmered, and lines crazed through the surface of it. Then something odd shifted, and it seemed to turn itself inside out without actually moving. When she turned the screwdriver off, the coral was humming slightly, and seemed to almost pulse.
“Now hand over your wrist,” Donna said. Jack scooted close and obediently stuck his hand out. She flipped the manipulator open, thumbed the settings on the sonic, then applied the sonic to the manipulator, then punched in coordinates.
“Ready?” she asked. “I’m assuming you want to come with?”
“You kidding?” he said. “Hell yeah.”
She gave him a huge grin. “We’ll get along just fine, Captain Jack. As the Doctor would say, allons y!”
With that, she picked up the coral, then used the heel of her hand to smack the button on the manipulator.
When they materialized, they lurched, sliding into a heap on their backs on the sand. The beach was undisturbed, the TARDIS was nowhere to be seen. There was only one planet hanging in the sky, and it was only a thin, pale crescent on the horizon in the morning sunlight.
When the jarring effects of unencapsulated time travel had worn off, Donna climbed to her feet. “Come on, we’ve got to see if we can call some dolphins.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Jack said.
Donna looked around the beach for a moment, and found a broken, empty coconut shell. She tweaked the sonic screwdriver, and then carried it and the shell out into the water. The water was calmer than it had been when they had first arrived on Rosamundi, she assumed due to only one planet being in the sky. The tide was out, and she was able to walk out quite far to get to water that was waist high, and moved up and down only slightly as waves that had not yet broken passed. Jack followed her out, curious. She put the sonic against the shell of the coconut, and turned it on.
“What are you making it do?” Jack asked.
“Sending out a pitched call in common Dolphinese,” Donna said. “Mostly a ‘come and play’.”
“You think there are any close enough?” he asked.
She closed her eyes and cocked her head to one side. “In fact, a pod is coming,” she answered. “This detects as well as sends. Time Lord language gifts. Wizard!”
Jack watched, bemused, as a pod of dolphins appeared farther out to sea. Donna appeared to be listening, then said, “We need to walk about a mile that way,” she said, pointing down the beach. “It’s rockier there, and less risky for them. Also, they say there’s a cove, and a better site for growing coral.”
She straightened and opened her eyes. “That... was so cool. Come on!”
She grabbed his hand and ran back to the beach, setting a brisk pace in the direction she’d pointed.
Fifteen minutes later, they crossed a sand jetty and found a cove lined with lichen-covered rocks. Picking their way down the rocks, they found the water dropped abruptly into chest-deep warmth, and the pod of dolphins was there waiting.
Donna handed everything but the coral to Jack in the bag, and when one of the dolphins swam up to her, she put out a hand and stroked the large melon.
“It... he’s talking to me,” she said absently. Then she was silent for a long time, in rapport with the dolphin in front of her.
Jack was almost startled by her voice when she finally spoke. “I’ve explained what the baby TARDIS needs, and they’re happy to do it. They think it’s interesting. Well, it is interesting. They’re willing to keep a few dolphins close, to sing to it while it grows.”
She held the coral out, and the dolphin took it gently and swam to the middle of the cove, depositing it in the water.
“Are we going to be able to get it back out when we need to?” Jack asked, curiously.
She nodded, then gasped as each of the dolphins in turn came up to her, nosing under her hand. “They’re all saying hi... do you want to see?”
She reached up, and he bent his head to let her touch his temple.
The images were a jumble, and it took him a moment to realize his brain or Donna’s was translating a mostly sonic picture into a visual analogy. The dolphins were so alien, but once he’d made sense of their sonar images, there was something far more intriguing in the link. He could feel Donna, feel the bright power of her consciousness, the underlying human and overlay of the Doctor, blended into something new with a brilliant admixture of Vortex energy. He staggered for a moment, and said, “What... are you?”
He felt a hesitation, then felt the dolphins fade out of the link as she brought a second hand up to the other side of his head. Then he heard a strangely dual voice in his head say, we could say the same about you.
He could see her underlying insecurity, the fear that everything about her might change someday even more than it already had. There was also an undercurrent of interest from her, not just the intellectual curiosity the Doctor had expressed, but a basic human attraction. He felt her looking into his head, heard her gasp as she saw the deaths, the reincarnations, and felt a very human curiosity peering deep into the structure of his mind.
Her hands dropped away from him, and she looked up. “You’re odd,” she said matter-of-factly.
He drew in a huge breath and realized that he’d let the bag start floating away. He grabbed it, and said, “I’m odd? So says the human Time Lord.”
“No, I’m serious,” she said. “I think the Doctor was wrong about what you are. And I think, well, I’m almost sure I know at least three ways to fix you, though I’m not sure if I really want to do any of them.”
He cocked his head, and said, “Can we discuss this on dry land? Or at least let me put the stuff down?”
She nodded. “Dry land is good.”
They waded until they found a sloping section of rock that was easy to climb, then walked back to the sandy beach. Once they’d gotten clear of the rocks, Donna sat down on damp sand, and Jack sat next to her. He leaned back on one elbow, stretched out on the sand and crossed his ankles.
“So, fixing me,” he said.
She shifted a little, turned so she could see his face, and wrapped her arms around one knee. “You’re not quite a fixed moment in space and time,” she said. “That’s a simplified way of saying that the universe checks every so often to see if it has Jack Harkness in it, and if it doesn’t, it fixes the ‘problem.’ It is... jarring... for a pure Time Lord to look at someone in whom the universe has taken such a personal interest.”
“You say for a pure Time Lord.”
“I find you rather pleasant to look at,” she said, with a smile. “But I can remember how jarring it was for the Doctor. In any event, there are three approaches to correcting your immortality that I can see. Two of them involve the Vortex. One of them involves flying a ship into the heart of a star. But that’s really not open for discussion, so let’s look at the other two.”
“The Vortex... at the heart of the TARDIS,” Jack said. “So far it has turned Blon into an egg, turned Rose into a goddess and a Time Lady, killed Handy outright while making you more Time Lord...”
“And it could do a couple of things to you,” she said. “I’m not including the option where it kills you outright. But it could transform you, turn you human again, with a normal lifespan, if someone helped that process, or it could turn you into a Time Lord of sorts yourself, the way it did to Rose. You’d have fewer chances to revive than you do now, and your revivals might change you, but you’d gain a lot, including the ability to understand temporal travel better, better language skills, a more stable neurochemistry...”
“I like my neurochemistry just fine,” he said. “I’m not ready to die, not right now.”
“There’s this other thing,” she said. “The Doctor doesn’t talk about it because he has assumed for a very long time that it is unfixable. But part of the spate of recent problems has come from the fact that the Time War destroyed so much, and to fix what has gone wrong, he’d need at least five other Time Lords working with him to re-establish an Eye of Harmony. With a functioning primary Eye, it would be possible to travel between universes safely again. And the TARDIS would be less vulnerable.”
“And he has three Time Lords now.”
“The baby will be a fourth eventually. You could be a fifth. And it is likely that my biology has shifted enough that in order to ever have a child, I’d need to have that child with a Time Lord who was not the Doctor. Which is currently impossible.”
“Are you propositioning me?” he asked.
“Is that a problem?” she retorted.
He blinked. “Normally, not. But... I’d like to think about it for a while. There’s no rush, not for any of us, not right now. I get the feeling that you don’t do casual.”
She laughed. “No, Ms. Intensity, that’s me.”
“Right at the moment, I’m not really available for anything more than casual,” he said. “I have a primary relationship back on Earth that has become... important. But human loves... are temporary, because human lives are temporary.”
“And you don’t love her enough to become human again for her?” Donna asked.
“Him,” Jack corrected absently. “I love Ianto, but...”
“Not enough to give up immortality, yet,” she said. “Or is it that you don’t swing...”
“Oh, I swing,” he said. “Swinging is my middle name. I’m the champion swinger of a hundred worlds. I’m very flexible. Oh, and no, it wouldn’t faze me if you regenerated into a skinny bloke. I’ve been in love with the Doctor in every form I’ve seen him in.”
She blinked at the implication and started to ask, but he said, “Yes, I could probably even fall in love with you, although I don’t know you that well yet. It’s pretty clear why the Doctor thought you were extraordinary.”
“You were so standoffish...” she said. “And from the Doctor’s memories, that’s really unusual. You flirted with Jackie Tyler. You flirted with Harriet Jones. And practically everyone else you ever met. Except me.”
“You’re part Doctor. And the Doctor has never had much patience for that side of me,” he said bluntly. “And before that, I didn’t know what to make of you, and you were his companion, which never bodes well for my chances.”
She laughed outright. “The Doctor never had much patience for that side of himself. Tolerating it in you would have opened doors that he wasn’t willing to have to try to shut again. And there was Rose.”
Jack sighed. “There was Rose. Been in love with her too, but she only has eyes for the Doctor.”
Donna looked him up and down. “You know, if you live long enough and time travel enough, eventually the universe will be full of you and you will have been able to love everyone. You might even learn to love yourself. Because you really are love. The seers on old Gallifrey would have taken one look at you and called you Eros or Philia. Or Erophilia. You would have taken on the name of the Lover.”
“Probably. Or they would have chased me out for being an aberration in their sexless thoughtocracy.”
She laughed. “That too. The two are not mutually exclusive.”
“So, seriously, you lot are going to be reviving the Time Lord race?”
She shrugged. “Remains to be seen. I’m not sure... See, the Doctor destroyed the Time Lords for a very good reason. He isn’t sure it’s a good idea to bring them back, but it’s a bit different, isn’t it, if we make a new one from scratch? Raise’ em up right, like?”
He thought about the Master, and shuddered. “When they went wrong... they went so, very wrong.”
She obviously was remembering the same thing. “Oi. That’s... I hadn’t looked at that one before. That’s grim. You thinking about the Master then?”
He nodded. “That’s when I lost track of how many times I’d died. Thousands is a low ball estimate. Because it’s hard to say whether that year happened or not, deaths-wise. And I was buried alive once. So I haven’t included those in the total.”
“It happened, for you,” she said. “Any guesses if you include those?”
“Could be hundreds of thousands. Could be millions.”
She shuddered. “I’m surprised you’re still holding on to immortality at all.”
“Life is still interesting. I’m not ready to die. When I am ready to die, I usually don’t have the option. By the time I have the chance of the option, I’m not ready to die any more.”
She laughed. “You could last a long, long time thinking like that.”
“So what would we do, theoretically?”
“I’d open the TARDIS, and you would look into the heart. From what I understand of the process, you might have some control over it, but you would also be putting yourself at the Vortex’s mercy, to a certain degree. The Doctor and I would probably both have to be there to help control it, to buffer it and to keep what happened to Rose from happening to you. If you’re doing this to ‘fix’ your immortality, you can’t rely on your immortality to allow you to survive it. There’s not a guarantee that it would leave you the same man, in fact there’s almost a guarantee that it won’t.”
“Changed a lot,” Donna said. “It wasn’t immediately obvious to the Doctor, but by the time she’d been through a couple regens? She’s grown a lot and not just the way humans do over time. We’ve been left more, those touched by the Vortex, and what happened to me and Handy... it was Vortex-based even if it wasn’t looking into the heart.”
“You really have all his memories,” Jack said. “That must be...”
“Something I’m still trying to grapple with,” she said. “But it’s not as hard as it sounds.”
“Are you going to leave my vortex manipulator intact?” he asked.
“Will you use it minimally and responsibly?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Then I will,” she said, “On one condition.”
“Don’t use it to leave until I have my own TARDIS.”
He nodded, slowly. “I can understand that. And I’m not planning on leaving until Rose gives birth, maybe a few weeks after that.”
“Do you want to go back?” she asked.
He studied her for a long moment, a speculative gleam in his eye. “We don’t really have to hurry back,” he said. “The manipulator will take us back to the point we left.”
“You propositioning me, Jack Harkness?” she asked. “Now, after all that? What about casual? And taking it slow?”
“Got a problem with that?” he asked lazily, stretching out on his back with his hands behind his head, and sending a sly grin her way.
“No. No, not really,” she said with an answering grin. “I’m assuming you’re up for intense but not permanent, with an option for later, once your human obligations have run their course?”
“Could be forty or fifty years,” he said. “I’ve had relationships that lasted decades.”
“Time traveller, me,” she said. “We’re hanging out in the future. We’ll set something up, you call or leave time coordinates and I’ll come back and get you when you’re done. You take as long as you want, won’t be that long for me. We can talk children or not down the road, if we decide to take a permanence option. Who knows? I might not be able to stand you after ten months here.”
“Oh, I’m hurt,” he said. “Me? I’m the easiest guy in the universe.”
“Clearly,” she drawled, and for a split second he could hear the Doctor in her voice. Then she blinked and said, “Oi, sorry. He gets out at the oddest times.”
He threw his head back and laughed. She said, “You think that’s bad, when he was popping up with my voice, it was bloody ridiculous. And the look on his face when he realized he was doing it...”
Her voice trailed off, and she looked away from him.
“You miss him?” Jack asked.
“He was around for hours, just hours. But he was... brilliant. And he was me and him and it was amazing. Fantastic. And now he’s in my head but it feels like my best friend is gone, even though my best friend is still there. He’s just... busy, and it’s different, and I’m different, and Christ, I was a temp. From Chiswick. And now it feels like I’m part God. He’d never say it you know, but he’s nearly at that level. The only thing that stops him from it is his own good heart. And I never quite got that about him until I had all this inside me. The Lonely God, they’ve called him. Among other things. He’s not omnipotent or omniscient, but he’s closer than anyone alive. And his human self was... he was such an amazing man, and he saved me. He sacrificed his life for me. He made it so I could stay what I am now, and not forget... I was going to have to forget everything that ever happened between me and the Doctor. And now I am the Doctor and will be for a very long time and I don’t know what to feel about that, except that I’m overwhelmed.”
She wiped her face with the back her hand and looked surprised to find that tears were streaming down her cheeks. He sat up and scooted closer to her on the sand, putting an arm around her. She leaned against him, and he kissed her forehead. “It’s pretty overwhelming,” Jack said quietly. “But being around the Doctor always is.”
“And he’s in my head now. Will I always be overwhelmed? No, I know I won’t. There it goes, ask and answer myself. He’s got ways of compartmentalizing, I’ve already done a lot of that, I just need to do more. It’s just if I let myself think about it, then I start talking about it, and then it gets away...”
He stopped her with a finger against her lips. “Here,” he said quietly. “A distraction. I’m good at distraction.”
She looked up at him and grinned. “You’re very distracting,” she said.
“Want me to distract you more?” he asked.
She nodded, and he kissed her. When he pulled back a minute later, she still had her eyes closed. All she said was, “That was... You’ve had a lot of time to perfect that, haven’t you?”
He chuckled. “A whole lot.”
She leaned forward, eyes still closed, and said, “Do it again.”
Rose followed the Doctor into the TARDIS, and said, “I want you to teach me how to make a sonic.”
He started to object, then thought better of it. “I can show you...” He started to reach for a control on the central column, still only wearing his swim shorts and a pair of sandals.
She put a hand over his. “In a minute,” she said. “You seemed angry out there.”
He stood back up straight. “I’m not,” he said. “It’s just that... I’m not used to a relationship of equals. Not yet. And Donna is already there. You’re fast approaching it intellectually, you’re already there emotionally. And Jack... Jack is older than I am. Even if I’m pretty sure that he’s only been out in the world for about a hundred and fifty of those two thousand years he claims, he’s been alive so very long. And will likely be around long after I’m dust. If anything, I’m angry at myself.”
“Stop that,” she said. “If I can forgive you, and Donna can forgive you, you damn well better start forgiving yourself.”
He looked at her for a long moment, then a smile crept out. “Rose Tyler, have I told you in the past hour how much I love you?”
She pretended to think about it, then started to grin. “Not as such, no.”
He reached out and brought her close with a hand around her waist. “I,” he started, then dropped a kiss on her forehead, “love you,” and he nibbled on her ear, “this much.” With that, he kissed her mouth and let his emotions flow like a river down the link to her.
She pulled back for a moment. “Maybe we should start making screwdrivers... and maybe we can screw after that.”
He groaned a little and bent his knees a tiny bit in frustration. She wasn’t sure whether it was for the pun or for getting back to work.
“Oh, fine,” he said. “First, you’ve got to remember that the TARDIS can create matter through block transfer functions. They basically turn pure mathematics into matter.”
“That’s how it can make new rooms and furniture and stuff so fast, right?” Rose asked.
“Almost anything,” he said. “Theoretically people can be made through block transfer, but it’s so complex it’s very easy for things to go wrong. I think the Master used that once to skirt the regen limits. Maybe more than once. And he certainly went wrong.”
She nudged him across the link for more about the Master, and then shuddered as he showed her. “I see your point.”
“In any event, it’s not hard for the TARDIS to make basic tools. The templates, the equations are all there, I just have to ask, and poof, a little while later, a screwdriver pops out. I’ve been working on adjustments to the template in my spare time for a while, so we’ll see how it comes out.”
“That’s why you were willing to give Donna your old one?” she asked. “You’d been planning on making an improved model.”
“She’ll make her own soon enough. So will you. They’re pretty personal, once you understand the theory. Look through the link while I do this,” he said, and he turned to the console.
She found it surprisingly easy to split her attention between her eyes and the link, and she watched as his hands flew over the console. He was using his psychic connection with the ship at the same time, to refine the commands and define parameters. She gasped when the concept he’d been throwing around, “block transfer equations” suddenly made sense. She found herself mentally flipping through an archaic-looking filing cabinet in his head, looking at the different equations and what they meant.
She murmured out loud, “Card catalogue? Really? I’d think you’d be digital by now.”
He shot a feeling of slight annoyance down the link, and the mental card catalogue morphed abruptly into a computer screen. “Better?” he said out loud. “I rather like the aesthetic of flipping through cards.”
“It just struck me as funny,” she said soothingly. “Continue, please.”
“Done already,” he said, turning back to her and gently nudging her out of the mental library she’d been browsing. “How are you feeling?”
She grinned. “Like my head is stuffed with thoughts.”
He smiled. “We could stuff you with other things.”
“Oi,” she said. “You know how to romance a girl.”
“Would you like romance?” he asked. “I’m perfectly capable...”
“Think you’d need more clothes than that, to start,” she said, looking pointedly at his flowered trunks.
“Hmmm...” he said. “How about less clothes, then a kip, then more clothes and romance. And then less clothes again?”
“That,” she said, “sounds like a plan.”
“We could dispense with clothes entirely for the duration,” he said. “It would be practical.”
“If we had no one with us. Never took you for a nudist,” she said.
“Right. Well, I’m practical.”
“I think we were going to start with less clothing?” she said, and taking his hand, started back towards their bedroom.
He grinned, and followed.
Donna and Jack lay on the sand snogging for a long time. He wasn’t pushing anything, and she was enjoying the kissing too much to worry about pushing it any farther herself. It was the tide that finally pulled them out of it, a large wave sent them running back up the shoreline.
When they got up to dry sand, they stopped, laughing and panting. Donna said, “Pity about that wave, that was fun.”
He pulled her back into his arms and said, “We don’t really have to stop, you know.”
She smiled up at him and said, “I know, but we kind of do.”
He dropped a kiss on her forehead and his hand trailed down her back. “You sure?”
She had a sudden rush of self consciousness as his fingers grazed her bum. All her body anxieties and self doubt intruded for a moment, and she frowned and pulled away. “I... You’ve been with so many people,” she said. “Probably a lot prettier than me. I know my body isn’t...” She was suddenly surprised that the thoughts hadn’t intruded earlier, and a little Doctor voice in her head said, Because I’m here reminding you you’re fantastic.
Jack put a hand up to her lips, and with his free hand, he put her hand to his temple. “Look at what I have to show you.”
She made the connection with him, and saw him holding an old woman in his arms, kissing her forehead tenderly.
She pulled away, and he said, “That was a lover of mine. She grew old when I didn’t. It didn’t stop me from loving her. Your body is lovely, because it is part of who you are. And the fact that you will not wither that way in so short a time... it makes you that much more interesting. If I wanted to bang a model, I’d be in New York or Paris, not Cardiff and travelling with the Doctor. If there is anyone in the universe who truly understands ‘Beauty is only skin deep’, it’s me. And I don’t pick my lovers based on ancient Earth stupidity about what constitutes an acceptable female body shape. You’re lovely. Don’t diminish yourself and don’t diminish me by thinking I couldn’t be with you based on something as irrelevant as the shape of your ass. Which is fine, by the way. More than fine.”
She stared at him for a long moment, and then pulled him down into a kiss. Then she pulled back and said, “I still don’t know if I’m biologically compatible with humans anymore or not. And it would be... rushing things excessively to get pregnant right now.”
He grinned. “Contraception came a long, long way by the 51st century. And I mastered the biotechniques for keeping my sperm count at zero... about one thousand, nine hundred and eighty seven years ago. And if you’re worried about anything else, my current condition cures anything catchable pretty damn fast.”
“The TARDIS would cure it even if you weren’t immortal,” Donna said. “Wasn’t worried about that. But you’re sure... haven’t you had children, you said?”
“The circumstances which prevent me from controlling my fertility are rare, and do not currently apply. It’s mostly a problem in the four hours after regeneration, and I’m days out,” he said. “I have had children. Do have a living daughter and grandson, back in 2009. Outlived several others.” For a moment, his true age showed, just a little, around his eyes. Then he smiled. “You’re not at risk.”
She pulled him back down for another kiss.
Several hours later, after swimming out to see where the dolphins had put the TARDIS coral, they gathered up their things. Donna stashed them in the shopping bag, then Jack wrapped his arms around her and hit the return button on the vortex manipulator.
The dizzying lurch sent them laughing into a heap on the beach below the TARDIS. Donna looked around and said, “We’re just going to have to walk back down there now.”
“How big is that thing going to be now?” he asked.
“Dunno,” she said. “Bigger than a breadbox. Oh look, the daiquiris are still cold! Let’s go look at the coral later, with the Doctor and Rose.”
He grinned. “Fair enough.”
He walked over to the blanket and picked up her glass. “Second verse, same as the first?”
“Aye aye, captain!” she said, with a cheesy salute.
Sitting on the blanket, he poured her another daiquiri, poured himself some more rum, and patted the blanket next to him. She took her drink and sat down next to him. She held up the glass. “To... things being easier for a while.”
He clinked glasses with her and said, “I’ll drink to that.”
She leaned against him companionably, sipping her drink and watching the tall waves come in. The afternoon sun was warm, only the faintest trace of a breeze stirring the air on the beach. When her drink was gone, she yawned. Jack stretched out on the blanket and put his arm out invitingly. She smiled, then snuggled up against him. She was asleep in minutes.
Rose and the Doctor were just starting to think about getting dressed when the TARDIS made it known that the screwdrivers were finished. The Doctor slipped into his suit without thinking about it, and Rose threw on a sun dress to follow him out to the console room.
Pulling the screwdrivers out of the console, he frowned at one of the console displays. “That... shouldn’t be possible,” he muttered.
“What?” Rose asked.
He pointed at a screen. “That. That’s the signature another TARDIS might make, almost. Complex space-time event, but it’s not right.”
“Donna was going to grow one,” Rose said, “But she said ten months...”
He tossed her a screwdriver, shoved the other two absently into his pocket, and headed for the door. She looked at the sonic, then set it on the console and followed him out.
He pulled up to a stop in front of her so fast she smacked into his back. Looking past him, she laughed.
Jack lay on his back on the beach blanket, Donna stretched out with her head against his shoulder, asleep, one of her legs thrown up over one of Jack’s. Jack was awake, stroking her hair, a bemused expression on his face.
She could feel the Doctor start to gather himself to bellow, and she tugged at his elbow, and sent along the link, Don’t. they’re consenting adults.
He sent back, I don’t want her hurt.
She murmured, “I don’t think it’s her you need to be worried about. Don’t think he knows what hit him.”
“Seriously, Doctor, let it go. What about this other TARDIS signal?”
He settled for walking casually up to the blanket, and watching Jack jump when he said, “So, Jack. Any idea why I’m detecting another TARDIS?”
Jack regained his composure quickly, and nudged Donna. “Think it worked,” he said, when she opened an eye to look at him. “Doctor says he’s picking it up on scan.”
Donna gave the Doctor a catlike smile and sat up. She looked over at the TARDIS and said, “Might be easier if your TARDIS moves down the beach a ways. You get that remote circuit working yet?”
“Too much power drain,” he said. “I’ll just fly it down, show me where.”
Jack climbed to his feet and brushed stray sand off his mostly bare legs. Donna was already starting down the beach with Rose, a towel wrapped around her waist. The Doctor leaned over and said under his breath to Jack, “If you hurt her, I will show you exactlywhy they call me the Oncoming Storm.”
“Down boy,” Jack said back. “She’s perfectly capable of inflicting that doom on me herself. And unlike most women, she’s likely to be around for long enough that staying on her good side is just plain good survival tactics.”
“You’re immortal. You don’t have to worry about survival tactics,” the Doctor said bluntly.
“She has some ideas about that. Might not have to stay immortal after all. I might,” Jack said, “even have some choices about it.”
“That’s... interesting. You know, she wants a husband and children,” the Doctor said. “Has, as long as I’ve known her.”
“And she’s now part you, and has a lot longer to make those choices. Give us a little credit that, just maybe, we might be capable of making these decisions for ourselves,” Jack said, with a bit of heat.
A few hundred feet down the beach, Donna and Rose had stopped, and were now looking back at the two men with interest. Donna leaned over and said, “Shoulda brought popcorn for this one.”
Rose snorted and said, “Next thing they’ll be seeing who can piss higher. He’s acting like your big brother. It’s cute.”
The Doctor turned away and said, “I’m serious, Jack, you need to tread carefully.”
“And you need to back off,” Jack answered. “I’m going to be here for a while. We’re going to see how it goes. If it goes well, I’m going to take care of some things on Earth, and then travel with her. I know what she wants, and I’m not in it for a quick fuck. I’m actually hoping it goes well, if you must know, not that it is any of your business. Sex is cheap. The chance for a relationship that might last more than a human lifetime? I just lost two of my people back at home, and you better damn well believe I’m watching my step. Did it occur to you that she deserves more than the life of the Lonely God? So do I. Hell, so do you, and I’m happy for you. I won’t ask you to be happy for us, but I will ask you to keep an open mind.”
The Doctor ran his hand through his hair, then loosened his tie and looked at Jack. Finally he said, “Oh...oh, hell. Good luck with it. For both your sakes.”
Jack grinned and started forward to give the Doctor a hug, but desisted at the warning hand the Doctor raised.
They started down the beach to catch up with the waiting women, the Doctor still shaking his head slightly in consternation. He shot Donna a look, and she said, “Oi. We’re on a beach. He’s hot. So sue me.” Donna took Jack’s proffered arm, and they led the way back to the baby TARDIS’ cove.
Rose stifled a laugh, took the Doctor’s hand, and they followed.
As they walked down the beach, Rose pointed out to sea. “Look, dolphins!”
The pod of bottlenose dolphins seemed to be keeping pace with them deliberately, jumping and leaping and doubling back so as not to get too far ahead.
They came up over the jetty, and Donna clapped her hands together in delight to see a mound of coral rising a little way out of the water in the middle of the little cove. She pointed. “Told you we could grow it faster,” she said, looking at the Doctor.
He frowned. “Not that much faster, what did you do, go back a year?”
She grinned and pointed at Jack’s wrist. “Vortex manipulator. Had a lovely, lovely day of it. Swam with dolphins. They were helpful.”
The Doctor looked as if he was ready to go into the water in his pinstripe suit. He shook himself a little and said, “Back in a few with the TARDIS. That...” he pointed at the lump of coral in the cove, “should be impossible. And it’s beautiful. Gorgeous. You’re brilliant, Donna. Truly brilliant.”
Rose smiled at his enthusiasm, and followed him back to his ship.
Donna shed her sandals and towel on the rocks, and made her way down to the water, Jack following close behind. They were quickly surrounded by dolphins, chittering and brushing up against Donna’s hands. She caught snippets of thoughts from them... singingcoral growbig stories tell stories feedhungrystone, each word or phrase coming from a different dolphin. After a few minutes of the confusing jumble, she yelled, “One at a time!”
A male swam up to her and waited while she put both hands on his melon. Then he clearly showed her the coral, small first, then bigger and bigger, taking nourishment from the seawater and the sea bed, but clearly not getting enough of something. Sings a hungry song asks for stories need help came to her, and curious, she moved closer to the mound of coral.
The sea bed seemed shallower as she approached, and she found that she was only waist-deep in water, despite the tide being still fairly high. She could feel a humming energy coming from the coral, and she reached out to touch it.
Jack kept her from falling in as she staggered from the impact of the contact. She brought her other hand up and spread both palms across the rough white surface, his arm around her waist keeping her from collapsing onto it entirely. He said, “Talk to me, Donna. What is it?”
“Can’t...” she said through gritted teeth. “It’s... can’t talk... have... to... teach.”
She felt the young TARDIS downloading a massive amount of information from the Doctor’s memories. From block transfer mathematics to the Rassilon imprimatur itself, she felt a huge rush of information flowing through her brain, into the great undifferentiated block of coral mass in front of her. She realized then that the part they could see, just a little more than waist high and five or six feet across, was only a small portion of the coral mass that spread down into the seabed, and even that was only a tiny fraction of the total multidimensional volume.
The coral was starting to shake and vibrate, and it was only Jack that stopped her from being knocked off her feet completely. They didn’t even hear the TARDIS materialize almost on top of them, seemingly on the surface of the water. Jack braced himself, legs apart, one arm around Donna from behind, his other hand stroking her hair as she hung her head over the coral. Neither of them realized that the dolphins had completely disappeared, swimming out to sea the moment Donna touched the coral.
The Doctor peered out of the TARDIS doors, then disappeared again. He reappeared a moment later in swim trunks, squatted down and pointed a sonic screwdriver at the coral. Then he hopped down into the water, and put a hand to Donna’s head. He closed his eyes for a moment, then moved to the other side of the coral. He put his hands down on the coral, too, his head dropping forward until his forehead touched the pebbled surface.
Rose slipped down into the water more gracefully, and said to Jack, “Do you understand what’s happening?”
He shook his head. “Not really.”
“They’re, oh, call it downloading, to the baby TARDIS,” she said. “Most of what it needs to know in order to build enough systems to talk to Mum TARDIS over here and get the rest. He’s showing me some of it, but he won’t let me join the link. I don’t have a lot to contribute yet.”
He nodded. “I’m holding her up,” he said. “Should I keep doing that?”
Rose closed her eyes. Opening them again, she said, “If you can let her down so her head is touching, it might be easier on both of you. In a little bit, they might want to use your mechanical skills to help transfer some power between them.”
Jack lowered Donna until her cheek was pressed against the coral. Rose and Jack watched the other two commune with the coral for nearly an hour. He was startled when a small blaze of golden light jumped from the Doctor’s TARDIS and from Rose into the coral. The Time Lords stepped back and opened their eyes.
“That was really cool,” Donna said. “When that Vortex energy jumped...”
Rose was flushed and breathing hard, her eyes wide. “I’m not sure cool is the word I’d use for it. I think I need a drink. Or a shag. Or something.”
The Doctor was staring at her as if she’d grown three heads and a tail. Then he shook himself a little and passed the sonic over her. “That... shouldn’t have happened, theoretically,” he said. “But it didn’t deplete you.”
“Can’t deplete the infinite,” she said, unfazed. “You of all people should know that.”
He blew out a puff of air. “Still... no more of that while you’re pregnant, please, Rose. It’s terrifying.”
“I’m still only a day or so along,” she said. “Most people wouldn’t have a clue for weeks.”
“Just humour him,” Jack said. “He’s looking out for you and the baby. It should be encouraged.”
Donna leaned against Jack, and looked back over her shoulder up at him. “Thank you for holding me up,” she said. “I’d probably have road rash on my face if you hadn’t caught me.”
“Any time, doll,” he said. “So what now?”
The Doctor put a hand down on the coral and said, “Now, I think we should stand back.”
Rose hopped back up into the TARDIS. Donna and Jack stepped back in the water, a step or two, then they were half-swimming for shore as the ground under them shifted. The Doctor sat on the TARDIS floor, legs dangling out of the doorway, watching as the coral in front of him shifted, twisted, and reared up out of the seabed. Rose sat next to the Doctor, watching. “What is it doing?” she asked.
“Best I can describe it, it is encapsulating. Creating an outer shell in this dimension, and forming the rooms that will become the space for his crew.”
“His?” she asked.
“Given that there are only two, I thought it best to make the second one male,” he said. “Gender isn’t laid down until relatively late in the growth process.”
Donna and Jack were sitting on the rocky shore, watching. The Doctor got up and went inside, calling out to Rose, “Hang on,” as he flew the TARDIS gently through normal space over to the rocky beach. The younger TARDIS trailed after them.
Rose asked, “Are you towing it?”
As the ship landed, the Doctor peered out the door, and grinned. “You’re a brilliant, smart, clever little TARDIS, aren’t you?” he cooed. The still-shifting coral was now sitting on a rock next to them. “You are going to have such fun, aren’t you, love?” He stepped out of the TARDIS and patted the new one fondly. Donna and Jack were picking their way across the rocks to join them.
Jack said, “So, you going to have to install a lot of systems?”
The Doctor shook his head. “Young TARDIS like this, it’s all in flux. Like with me, just after a regeneration, growing new parts just means knowing the equations for them. My TARDIS can be forgetful, sometimes even lazy. If she doesn’t have to make something, she’s just as happy to accept after-market parts. A new TARDIS like this, the only limits are power. Which is a serious limitation given the absence of the Eye of Harmony, but we’ll manage to get him to the Rift in Cardiff, and he’ll be able to make anything he needs that we’ve got the equations for. And then you’ll have a time ship of your own, DoctorDonna.”
She looked away. “Mostly wanted to see if I could, you know. I still want to travel with you, if you’ll have me.”
Rose said gently, “Having a second car is always a good option.”
“Thought about what you’d like it to look like?” the Doctor said. “Soon as it gets enough energy, it will have a fully functional chameleon circuit, but you don’t necessarily have to use it.”
“Too bad it can’t be, you know, small enough to fit inside your TARDIS,” Donna said. “Sort of a spare.”
The Doctor frowned. “It’s not usually done... weird timey wimey stuff happens when you have two TARDIS ships occupying the same location.”
“Yeah, but having them occupy the same space isn’t the same as having the exterior of one sitting in a room inside another, right?” Donna asked. “It might actually help your TARDIS if they managed to talk to each other. Might make it more stable, not less.”
“I... don’t know. Not a clue. Last time someone landed a TARDIS in my TARDIS, they got confused and it took forever to sort it out,” the Doctor said. “Let me see how much power the old girl’s got right now, it’s all moot until we know what we’ve got to work with. Should be almost full.”
He went back through the open door and came back out with a large cable. “I set it so that she stops giving power through this at the halfway mark. Let’s see what Junior can do with a bit more juice.”
He handed the cable to Donna, who looked at the plug and then at the socket-less seething lump of coral in front of her. Hesitantly, she held the end of the cable out and pressed it gingerly against the coral. The end disappeared into the mass, and the Doctor’s TARDIS began to thrum.
It was almost disappointing to Donna, Rose and Jack when the coral stopped seething and became a dull stone, almost indistinguishable from the other stones that surrounded them. The Doctor clapped his hands and said, “There you go! It’s working!”
“Oh, the chameleon circuit!” Donna frowned. “So how does one go inside?”
The Doctor smiled and said, “One waits until one is invited.”
He ran his finger along the top of the stone, brightening when he found a recess. He stuck his fingers inside, and then pulled out a small metal tab. “When this glows, you can go inside.” He handed it to Donna. “Your TARDIS, your key. But I wouldn’t disturb it for a while... it’s busy making the interior functional.”
“How long?” Donna asked.
“Somewhere between three hours and three months,” he said. “Don’t know, haven’t raised a baby TARDIS myself before, and I don’t think anyone ever has since the Eye was gone. Not this far, anyway. Oh look, your friends are back!”
They followed his gaze, and saw the dolphin pod swimming back into the cove. One of the dolphins made a clear “come hither” gesture with his head, and Donna climbed back down to the water’s edge, and put a hand on the dolphin.
She smiled, and then walked back up. “They’ve asked for more seeds,” she said to the Doctor. “They liked the song the growing TARDIS sang, and if I understand correctly, now that they’ve heard our song, they think they can keep them happy here in the water.”
He considered for a long time. “There’s a risk. I don’t like the idea of leaving TARDIS coral loose, but I don’t think there’s anyone else who could do what we’ve done. And the coral life form was part of the mass genocide of the Time War, my TARDIS was the only of her kind, as I’ve been the only of mine for so long. Perhaps if we let it grow naturally, instead of accelerating it the way we did here...”
As he spoke, the hum of the mature TARDIS changed, and they turned to see a cascade of coral pieces tumble out of the door.
“Guess she made the decision for us,” Rose said, laughing. “Help me get these into the water.”
“We shouldn’t put them all in one cove,” Donna said. “I’ll ask the dolphins to spread them out.”
They made a makeshift bucket brigade, the Doctor handing coral to Rose, who passed to Jack, who passed to Donna. Dolphins swam around her, and as she placed a coral piece carefully in one dolphin’s mouth, another swam in to replace it as the carrier dolphin zipped off. She realized after a few minutes that she’d given far more pieces out than had been in the original pod. She paused for a moment to ask one of the dolphins and her eyes went wide at the response.
“We have dolphins from this entire hemisphere here,” she called up to the Doctor. “And they’re passing half the chunks to pods from the other side of the world when they come in range. This is apparently a near-religious event to them, the sharing of the singing stones.”
“They’re like pollinators,” he said. “Or seed eating birds.”
“Or Christians taking communion,” Rose said. “I wonder if in a thousand years, dolphins will still be the official planters of TARDIS coral.”
The Doctor felt a timeline shift. “I think you can be certain of that. Look.”
Donna and Rose both saw the timelines, and in that moment of temporal awareness, they noticed something else just as Jack’s watch beeped.
“There’s a... what is that? It looks almost like a time rift forming,” Jack said, looking at his watch.
The Doctor opened his eyes first. “That... is a timey wimey ball of STUFF.”
“Bad stuff?” Rose asked.
“Not necessarily,” Donna said. “It’s like this area just got many orders of magnitude more temporally complex. Which for a planet of TARDIS coral... is exactly what the little ones need.”
“Is it safe for the baby?” Rose asked.
“We’ll keep an eye on it,” the Doctor said. “I’m not seeing fractures or ruptures, just stuff. And... the TARDIS certainly likes it. She’s charging back up, even with Junior attached.”
“That makes my brain hurt,” Jack said. “She just sent out a couple hundred pieces of herself, making this area temporally complex, and now she’s feeding off that temporal complexity?”
“Timey wimey wibbly wobbly,” Donna said. “Don’t think about it too hard or she’ll be feeding off of the rupture in the universe when your brain implodes.”
The Doctor brushed his hands off and said, “Rose? Shall we resume our evening plans?”
“Yeah, I’m hungry,” she said. “You buying?”
He grinned. “After a fashion. Have I ever shown you the Bistro room?”
She gave him a radiant smile back. “No, I don’t think you have. How formal?”
“We’re the only diners,” he said. “How formal do you want?”
“Your suit for you, can’t have you in a tux, now, and I’ll find... something.”
They walked into the TARDIS, and Donna watched them go. “Picnic?” she asked.
“Or I could cook,” Jack replied.
Donna smiled. “Works for me. How long do you need?”
“Console room, one hour?” Jack said. “And casual. My brain is too tired for anything more involved.”
“Must be odd for you,” Donna said. “Surrounded by the three of us. You’re usually the smartest one in the room, aren’t you?”
His expression was wry. “It’s a new challenge. And when you’ve lived as long as I have, that’s mostly delightful. And partly exhausting.”
She leaned against him a little and said, “We could try something less... mentally stimulating you know, later.”
He grinned. “I’d like that. I also like that I know where I stand with you. You’re much less ambiguous than the Doctor ever was.”
She laughed. “It’s the human side of me. I never was much for beating about the bush.”
He considered her for a long moment, and then said, “Donna Noble, this could be fun. In fact, it already is.”
She walked into the TARDIS and said, “See you in an hour.”