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Star Hopping

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The salty air of the cold Norwegian beach stung as Rose drew in a deep breath. She stared at the human Doctor, who was staring right back, and tried to concentrate on the reassurance his hand being in hers brought. Yet her mind went back and forth between he’s gone and he's here. She couldn't keep to one thought! Even her emotions warred between absolute frustration and dizzying confusion.

“Will he-” Rose pursed her lips and tried again. “Is he gonna be alright? Donna’s with him, so he will be, yeah?”

“In time.”

“What about you?" Rose didn't know what she wanted to ask, her thoughts still too jumbled to figure out exactly how she felt or what she needed. "You're still...you?”

“I'm still me. Same memories, remember?” He tightened his grip on her hand, but otherwise seemed calm with their situation.

He knew, Rose thought then, he knew this was going to happen. It was the only reason why he wasn't upset. “Then why-” she stopped when it hit her. Of course he wasn't upset, this was what he decided, the both of them! “Right, it’s you. I know that, it’s why I kissed ya. It’s-" Rose sighed, closing her eyes for a moment, then glared at the human Doctor. ”I'm angry, that’s what. He just left without saying anything.”

“I don't think he wanted to interrupt,” the Doctor said, tucking in his chin, his voice lined with apprehension.

Her anger settled when she realized she wouldn't have wanted to interrupt either, especially if their roles had been reversed. “That doesn’t matter, he should have said something, anything,” she replied flippantly.

The Doctor tugged on his ear with his other hand. He flashed her a quick thoughtful frown. “Would you have heard him? We were a bit busy,” he said, somewhat too smugly for Rose.

Rose gazed back at the spot the TARDIS once occupied, ignoring his comment. She didn't want to think about the kiss and how part of her wanted his lips back on hers. The other Doctor was gone and she wasn't with him. Her lower lip quivered as sadness replaced her anger. “What happens if Donna leaves him? Does he think I'm just gonna forget him?” Rose looked down, touching the bottom of her nose with the side of her free hand, trying to keep herself from crying. She let her hand fall once she felt composed and looked back at the Doctor. “And what about you? Being left behind? The TARDIS was your home!”

“I’ve done without before,” he said, his tone dry and serious.

That didn't feel like an answer to her. “You don’t mean that!" She shook her head. "Or…I dunno, it’s not right." Her mind replayed the words; He needs you, that's very me. "What if he needs me?” She couldn't keep it in. She looked away from the Doctor as her tears fell.

“Rose, this was always going to happen.” He let go of her hand and immediately she wanted it back. He placed his hand on her upper arm, and her shoulders drooped a little, feeling relief from the simplest of contact. “You’d get old or maybe one day you’d want to stop, because either you were tired or you began to notice your attention slipping. Or someone died because you weren’t fast enough. Then he’d have dropped us off and you'd never see him again. But you’d be without your mother, father, and baby brother.” He took a breath and tilted his head for a second, and said with humor back in his voice, “Or probably not so baby brother by then. He might have kids, you'd miss out on being the lovable and preferred aunt.”

She looked back at him, her anger coming back, hoping he saw the same intensity in her eyes that she felt in her heart. “I told him, I told you, I'd made my decision long ago.”

“I know. Here we are. You're keeping your word.”

Her feelings finally decided on absolute frustration. “Fine then, what about you? What happens if you get tired? Or bored? You gonna just leave without saying anything? How are you any different then?”

“Like this.”

His hand came up and cupped her cheek at the same time he leaned in and kissed her. It felt more like a continuation of the same passionate kiss from moments before than a new one. His hand dropped from her cheek and he wrapped his arms around her. Her arms went up around his neck, a hand curling around his head. Even frustrated, she couldn't help but want this. She had missed him too much to think about much else.

It was easier to stop thinking and let herself enjoy it, at least for a little while.

“Most peculiar.” An unfamiliar female voice rattled around them. Startled, Rose and the Doctor broke apart. Somehow sand had become metal and the sky had become glass walls that looked out into a stratosphere. A setting sun burnt the sky orange, a hint of blue peeking from the top as it transitioned into space. “My Seers tell me you two are to be the instruments of my Empire’s downfall, yet all I see is insipid lovers cuddling one another.”

Rose glanced around the room, instincts looking for the quickest exit. She put aside her frustration and longing, ready to face more trouble. Soldiers completely covered in black armor with heavy phaser guns surrounded them. Her mother was nowhere to be seen. The only exit, an automatic door, sat to her right. Her attention finally came to the source of the voice. High above them, atop a metal dais, sat a humanoid woman on a simple silver throne, dressed in an extravagant gown.

The Doctor peered up at the woman with furrowed brows and a raised upper lip, and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Insipid? That’s a new one. I’ve been called lots of things: rude, unpredictable, crass, self-absorbed, destroyer of worlds, clever. But never insipid.”

Rose leaned into the Doctor’s shoulder. “What just happened? I've never experienced a transmat like that before. You think my mum’s been taken?” She narrowed her eyes at the woman on the dais. “Do you know them?”

“No, I haven't a clue. And I doubt they took your mother," he whispered to Rose before loudly addressing the mysterious woman once again. “But it looks like we’ve been pulled across space because we've been prophesied to cause some downfall of a governmental institution and they wish to have words. I’m guessing? That right? Or maybe not words, but our necks? Punish us for some crime we have yet to commit?”

The woman atop the dais gave him a nod, her movement stiff. “Correct. The Imperial Confederacy of Magnus Pyoo will not be destroyed by a pair of rambling idiots.”

The Doctor scrunched up his face. “Pyoo? You're Pyoos? No wonder I didn’t recognize you.” He looked back to Rose, his eyes now wide and full of excitement. “They were destroyed in the other universe centuries before I was born due to a millenia of internal conflict, could never get a thing right. Never seen a Pyoo before. This is fantastic!”

Rose took a step closer to the Doctor, pinching his sleeve. “So you don’t know anything that can get us out of this?”

He grinned at her. “Nope! Well, I've read about them at the Academy, heard the legends and so on, never got the chance to actually meet them in person. This is wonderful!”

“Yeah, and they brought us here to punish us, remember?”

“That won’t be a problem.” He addressed the alien woman again. “Will it? We haven’t done anything yet to punish us for, so give us a little slap on the wrist and send us back home. No harm, no foul!”

The woman atop the dais stood, her posture as rigid as her voice. “No, that is not the way we handle prophecies. Our Seers foresee our problems and we seek them out and utterly destroy them. You will be eradicated.” She walked forward, each step heavier than the last. “I admit I was curious to see the two humans who could cause the end of our magnificent reign. I have yet to determine how it would be even remotely possible for the two of you.”

Rose and the Doctor exchanged an incredulous look. Rose pondered, how many governments had they overthrown before? Was it seventeen or nineteen? The Doctor lifted his chin to the Pyoo woman and, almost happily, replied, “Get to know us, you'd find out. And like they say, never judge a book by its cover. We’re full of ideas, wisdom, and information that you won’t find anywhere else in this universe.”

The soldiers surrounding them took a step closer and it caught Rose's attention. Rose grabbed the Doctor's hand and whispered to him, “Don’t think we can talk our way out of this one.”

He leaned sideways to get closer to her, though his eyes scanned the room. "If we’re going to be punished for our brilliantly clever abilities, why not show them exactly what we’re made of? Hmm?”

She squeezed his hand. Her grin formed at the same time as his. This at least felt right. They had been thrown into an impossible situation somehow. Though it had been years since they had done this, just the two of them and not on a grand universal scale, it felt like it had been only yesterday. That gave her courage to face their impending execution. “Right, Stuff of Legends?”

“That’s us!”

“You two be silent!” The woman bellowed; her face contorted in fury and annoyance. As they had been speaking she had descended the dais and now stood a few feet away from them.

The Doctor sighed. “You really should have gotten to know us.”

In a quick flash of movement the Doctor took out his sonic and pointed it to the ceiling. He yelled, “Rose, get down!” and turned it on.

Rose ducked right when a group of pipes lining the ceiling burst open. Thick white gas overtook the room in seconds. The soldiers shot blind. The sound of bodies hitting the floor mixed with that of the Pyoo woman bellowing orders, among them, “STOP SHOOTING!”.

“Doctor, the door!” Rose held out her hand and the Doctor took it.

Together they ran, hunched over, towards the closed automatic door. Rose worried that it would remain closed, but when they approached it, the doors slid open with a hiss. They left the room and out into a stark white hall, with no sign on the walls where they should go next. Without much thought, Rose took a right and the Doctor followed her lead.

They rounded corner after corner, with no change to the architecture. Any door they saw remained closed for them. Rose could hear the sound of footsteps behind them, getting louder with each passing second. The Doctor yanked her into an alcove she hadn’t seen. They had to jam into it so that they remained out of sight and in the dark. The tight space meant that their bodies were flush against the other. The Doctor's arms were around her, pressing her even closer to him, chest to chest. His touch felt hot on her back, even through layers of clothes.

They stared at one another while a group of soldiers ran past them.

A corner of her mouth rose in a half smile. Their escape felt like old times. “That’s more like it. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.”

His hold on her tightened and he ducked his head, his eyes full of excitement. “Oh, no worries. You’re human, it’s not every day the love of your life splits in two.”

That brought her down to reality. She didn’t want to think about how there was another him out there without her. “Who says you’re the love of my life?” Rose joked, trying to defuse her unease.

“I’m not!?” the Doctor exclaimed, his brows furrowing in disbelief.

One got used to an abrupt change in pace when working for Torchwood. Going from one mission to the next, day after day, made this scenario familiar and almost comforting to Rose. Teasing the Doctor made her feel content. She still had a lid tightly screwed on her frustration. She could figure things out after they got home. She just didn’t want to think about their complications as they ran from people trying to kill them.

“There they are!” a soldier yelled as he pointed to their location.

“Come on!” the Doctor urged.

Rose and the Doctor rushed out of the tight space as best as they could, fumbling over each other. Unfortunately, the same soldier who had found them blocked the mouth of the alcove. Rose got ahead of the Doctor and, in a dash, butted the soldier in the chest with her shoulder, avoiding his large gun. The soldier stumbled, giving them enough time to grab each other’s hand and run.

The soldier regained his composure and shot at them with a volley of blasts, each missing their target.

“We must have really pissed them off in the future,” Rose yelled as a laser blast barely missed her head.

“It’s what we do best, eh?” The Doctor looked over to Rose and gave her a quick wink.

They ran into an intersection where they could only go left or right. Rose immediately ran to the right, but the Doctor released her hand and went left.

“Over here!” the Doctor said.

Turning around to look back at the Doctor, she found him looking at a large closed door at the end of a short hallway. “It’s a dead end!” Rose yelled.

The Doctor reached out with his hands to feel the contours of the door, his ear pressed up against it as if he were listening. Rose walked up next to him and studied the door for half a tick. The Doctor took out his sonic and scanned the door. “I know, but this door is -”

“Airlocked, sealed, and bolted, with double casing, unlike any door we’ve seen so far, must be some sort of an exit. Still a dead end with a whole army of people with guns behind us.”

The Doctor stopped his scanning, his noisy sonic silent as he stared at Rose. His eyes swept over her and Rose knew her knowledge shocked him. She’d learned so much by being with him but even more without him. He’ll have to get used to it.

“Good thing you had a spare,” Rose said, trying to lighten the mood.

“What?” He raised an eyebrow at her.

“Your screwdriver.” She pointed to the sonic in his hand. “You had a spare laying about? Or did you nick his when he wasn’t looking?”

“Oh!” He looked down at his sonic. “Oh! No. No, he still has his own. I lost the original screwdriver not long after I -” He swallowed, then turned around and went back to scanning the door. “After destroying the first one in an accident, well, not so much an accident as collateral damage, I made a couple more just in case I needed another. Came in handy, don’t you think?”

A grin threatened to emerge as she said, “For your hand, yeah?”

The Doctor preened and glanced over to Rose. “I’m the handy spare hand!” he said, with hint of a silent laugh in his voice.

Someone behind them shouted a command. They sounded close.

“Doctor!” Rose pleaded.

The Doctor moved his sonic to a small indentation on the door and held his sonic to it for a few seconds. The sonic’s noise changed pitch and a clang sounded from inside the door.

“There!” the Doctor declared and pocketed his sonic.

The door busted open, breaking off from its hinges and flying out into the naked stratosphere. As the change in pressure sucked the air from the hallway, Rose dug her heels into the floor to keep her balance. She reached for the Doctor and he took her arm, keeping them grounded. Nothing but sky, and the land far below, stretched before them.

Rose peeked over the edge. “Now what do we do?”

The Doctor turned to her and placed his hands on her upper arms, ducking his head to meet her eyes. “Rose, do you trust me?”

She searched his face and saw the gravity of his question in his eyes. She knew he was about to do something absolutely crazy. “‘Course, always,” she said earnestly.

He turned them towards the open sky. He grabbed her forearm and she did the same, grasping onto his clothes. “Whatever happens, don’t let go,” he said gravely.

The soldiers rounded the corner and shot at Rose and the Doctor, their aim still missing their mark.

“Jump!” yelled the Doctor.

With that, they jumped. It seemed more like falling to Rose. The air rushed past her and she found it hard to breathe. She held on to the Doctor with all her strength. She'd never fallen from such a height before. In the past, she’d had to jump from a tall building once or twice while on a mission but it was never like this. She glanced over to the Doctor and he met her eyes, squeezing her forearm in reassurance.

Rose looked down and saw the ground approaching at a speed too fast to comprehend. Panic rose up from her chest and into her throat. In that second her grip on the Doctor loosened, her hand slipping from his forearm. The Doctor twisted her clothes, trying to keep a hold of her. His eyes focused on their connection, gripping as tight as he could, but the space between them grew wider. The Doctor looked over to Rose, his eyes wide and his lips apart, fear etched on every feature of his face. She tried to mimic him, clutching at his clothes, her fingers working tirelessly for purchase.

Then he let go.

Her heart raced and her body seized up. In the second he let her go, he caught her hand and pulled. Hard. Her body then moved to collide with the Doctor’s. She slammed into him and his arms went around her in that moment, hugging her to him. He whispered in her ear, "I got you."

Because of the force of their collision, they now spun uncontrollably, twisting and turning. She was going to be sick.

A flash of orange light shattered around them and Rose heard the sound of glass popping. Their descent slowed. Another flash of light shattered, with more popping sounds, and their descent slowed considerably. Then another and another until they passed through leaves and branches. They met the ground, tangled together, with an “Oomph!”

The Doctor got to his feet first and offered his hand to her. She took it, giving him her thanks, and stood, patting dirt from her jeans. They then studied each other, looking for injuries. Rose didn't feel any pain, besides a few aches from their landing, and apart from his mangled and dirty suit, the Doctor appeared fine.

"Are you hurt?" he asked.

"No. You?"

"Nope!"

Rose smiled, relief flooding her. “I can’t believe we made it.”

The Doctor’s face softened and he beamed at her, “Me too!”

Her smile turned into a grin. He reached out at the same time she raised her hands to embrace him. His arms encircled her and, for the first time since she saw this new him, they were hugging as if nothing had changed. As if there had never been a choice needed to be made or a separation that took place. They were alive and that was all that mattered. In this second, nothing had to be complicated. She buried her face into the nook of his neck. He squeezed her.

But then she registered what he said and pulled back. “Wait, what do you mean?”

He let her go and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I was only about ninety, ninety five percent certain that we weren't falling to our deaths. Didn’t know if they had implemented digital nets. From what I read at the Academy, Pyoos high society liked to live in the upper atmosphere. Figured the rich and powerful would want to take every precaution in case one of them fell.”

She lifted her chin and smiled wanly, exasperated by his reply. “Oh, so you just you being you then.”

He lifted his brows, a corner of his mouth raised in a cheeky smile. “I would say the one and only but.”

Movement above them had Rose studying the skies, stepping away from the Doctor. Black dots poured out of the intricate network of floating buildings in the sky. They moved about in a group, like bees or a flock of birds. “And would you say you're ninety five percent certain those things are coming for us?”

“What things?” the Doctor asked. Rose nodded to the sky, her eyes still trained on the clouds of black dots coming closer towards them. The closer they got, the more their forms were defined. Blacks dots soon turned into groups of soldiers on speeding black hover bikes. The Doctor glanced up to the sky and frowned. “Oh, those.” They caught each other’s eyes. “I’m fairly certain they are,” the Doctor stated flatly.

Rose surveyed the surrounding trees, which continued on for as far as she could see. Their tangled grey trunks formed a blackened abyss. “Can the forest provide cover?”

The Doctor turned around, in a full circle, taking in their environment, then stepped close to Rose. “With their technology, not for long, but it’s the best chance we've got.”

“Right.” She held out her hand and he took it, entwining their fingers. She stroked his hand with her thumb, thankful for the comfort he gave her. They fled into the forest, their silhouettes consumed almost immediately.

To be Continued

Chapter Text

The Doctor, with one hand gripping Rose’s, batted a branch out of his face with the other hand. They had been running for almost ten minutes. Overhead he could hear the soldiers’ hoverbikes zoom past them. Behind him he heard the soldier’s footsteps, stomping through the forest.

After the other him had dropped them off, he wished they could have relaxed. Maybe they could’ve gotten to know each other again in peace. Rose could’ve shown him more of Pete’s World’s London. He hadn't seen much the last time they were here and since this was home now, he wanted to know everything that was different. His gingerbread warning no longer applied.

And thinking of things that were different, his thoughts turned to Rose.

“You’re not saying much,” he observed. He gave her a sideways glance and noticed her stoic expression. Had he done something wrong?

“Been through this enough to know talking could get us discovered, or killed,” she said, her voice taking on a hard edge he didn't like. There was a story behind those words, he could tell. He squeezed her hand to comfort her.

“Before you’d chit-chat,” he reminded her, hoping to bring out happier memories.

“Before I was just gallivanting across the universe, having a laugh,” she retorted. Her bitterness oozed from her words.

Not good. He had no clue what he done wrong or what he said to offend her. They'd done this plenty of times in the past, and they were happy memories. He wanted to give her that again, especially because of what happened on the beach. “This could be fun. We could,” he swallowed, glancing around the bleak and smelly forest, “we could make this fun." He tilted his head to the side. "Minus the people trying to kill us.”

They noticed the soldiers coming around a group of trees to their right at the same time. He pressed himself against a tree, out of sight of the soldiers, yanking Rose along with him. He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her to him, much like he did in the alcove.

“Shh,” he whispered. Rose’s expression, furrowed brows and a tight frown, told him she didn't like him yanking her about.

He heard the soldiers as they crept behind them, searching through bushes and piles of dead leaves. When the soldiers’ footsteps drew near, he caught Rose’s eyes and looked down to the ground. Standing up they were too exposed; sitting down might help. She nodded and they shifted to the ground.

Once they were sitting on the wet, muddy floor of the forest, the soldiers’ footsteps sounded weaker, as if they were walking away. His attention then turned to Rose. She sat with her back to him. He’d parted his legs for her to sit between. His arms were around her, one arm resting under her breasts. Her head leaned on his shoulder and he turned his cheek to touch her hair. He longed to hold her closer, to kiss her ear, and to caress her soft skin. Her warmth seeped into him and the urge to kiss her surged through him.  

He thought of their kisses on the beach. After Canary Wharf his wayward thoughts had brought to mind all the things he would never be able to experience with her. He had imagined long kisses, waking up together, and cuddling together in bed after a day of traveling. Now, with a human body and no longer bound to rules, he was eager to do those things. Eager to do everything with her.

But Rose might need time. He hoped kissing her would show that he wasn’t going to act like he had before. He would be there for her, for as long as she wanted. But after both kisses on the beach, there was still a worrisome distance between them. Perhaps he had made a mistake somewhere along the way? Human romantic relationships were horribly complicated, and this was his first go at it. He'd watched his human companions in relationships. He'd read books, seen things on the telly and in the movies, so he thought he knew enough. But then again...

A twig snapped close by, ripping his attention back to their predicament. They needed to get away from this area. Looking around, he spotted a denser group of trees farther off in the distance.

He brought his lips to Rose’s ear and whispered, “When the coast is clear, run for that copse of trees, the ones with the grey bark.”

She nodded, and he wondered if she had seen the trees before he did. She turned her head towards him, whispering, “You’ll be right behind me?”

He took a deep breath, relishing the feel of Rose in his arms. “No other place I’d rather be.”

A loud explosion rang in his ears and the soldiers near them took off in the opposite direction, towards the blast.

"Now!"

Rose got up first and dashed for the copse of trees and he followed. He threw a glance over his shoulder and saw a small fire, with smoke coming from one of the soldier's armor. A phaser gun must have backfired. Rose must really be his lucky pants.

They ran for twenty minutes, zigzagging through the trees. He ran ahead, leading the way. Not until he could no longer hear the engines of the hoverbikes and footfalls of the soldiers did he slow down to a walk.

Rose patted her sides and her bum. “I got mud all over me. Do you know if this is dangerous?”

He pushed a few bushes aside and imagined her in a bin bag, still as beautiful as the day he first saw her. “Oh, don’t be ridiculous, you look lovely.”

“Yeah, but is it dangerous?” she said, sounding miffed.

“What, the mud?” He stopped and turned to look at her fully and saw mud caked on the sides of her jeans and her backside. He fingered some of the mud that clung to his trousers and gave it a whiff and a careful lick. He spat out the mud, making a face. “Nah, the mud here’s just like Earth mud, a bit slimy and sticky, but practically harmless, so long as you don’t eat it.”

Rose mirrored his expression, her face scrunched up in absolute disgust. They continued on and Rose asked, “You know where we’re going?”

“I have an idea, took a quick look when we were falling. There might be a town just beyond the next bend,” he said, hoping that he was going in the right direction. If the town didn't appear soon, he'd have to tell her they might be lost.

“Won’t they think to look for us in town?”

“Probably, but we’re too exposed out here in the forest. The town might give us some options.”

“Maybe some sympathetic townspeople will hide us out?” Rose pondered.

“Option 1, which is one more option we have in town than out here.”

“Right.” Rose sounded short of breath. “Are you having difficulty breathing too?”

He gasped for air and realized Rose must have seen him breathing heavily. “Yes, I am. This human body is complete rubbish. If I were still a full Time Lord this type of air would be a breeze, pun intended.”

“Why the difference? We could breathe when we were up there.” Rose pointed to the floating buildings lining the sky.

He nodded, studying the black and grey forest wasteland. He couldn't see even a speck of green or brown. “I believe after centuries of political conflict and war they had ultimately polluted the lower atmosphere and moved to the upper atmosphere.”

“Thought you said you didn’t know anything about them?”

“Well, it’s different when you read about something rather than going by actual experience. The books on Gallifrey did mention the Pyoos’ penchant for higher living. And now I know why. They need a purer source of oxygen.” He scrunched up his face in disgust as he took a deep breath, tasting for the elements. “The air down here is full of carbon dioxide and krypton.” He frowned when he realized the danger they were in. “We’ll need to get off this planet and soon, before any sort of damage can set in.”

They stared at one another, acknowledging their dilemma. The Doctor didn't want to disappoint Rose. He searched the ground for something he had read about centuries ago at the Academy. The Pyoo system had been almost completely wiped out except for the outlying planets. Various species that were decidedly not Pyoos but shared similar biological components had colonized those planets.  

He went over to a crooked tree and bent down. He brushed aside rotting vegetation and found a grey weed, barely budding. He tore it from the ground, roots and all.

Rose came up beside him, as he had hoped, and asked, “What’s that for?”

He stood and turned to her, light on his feet. “If the Pyoos are more adapted to breathing their artificial air, which is also easier for us to breathe, then they must have hired different species to work on the surface to build their floating fortresses, since it’s cheaper than orbital construction. Those species might not be so friendly to strangers, so it'd be best to have some sort of back up plan.”

“Yeah, and that being?”

He held up the pathetic budding weed. “Mynox! It’s an ingredient to a sleeping potion for people that breathe this type of air. Also works on people from the Pyoo system that don’t breathe in this air. Perfect little non-lethal weapon for this occasion!”

“What else do you need?”

He pocketed the weed and looked around for more. “Just a bit of this and that. Probably have them in my pockets.”

Rose smiled and he wondered what caused it. “Still got those transdimensional pockets?”

The Doctor decided to flirt. Usually it came naturally to him when he was with Rose. But this time he made a conscious choice to do so, hoping to get Rose to smile for him again. “How else could I keep all my very manly parts concealed?”

Rose tucked her chin and raised her eyebrows. “Your very manly parts?” she asked, holding back a laugh.

“My very manly parts,” he affirmed, feeling that he had failed at making an effort but must continue on.

To his surprise, Rose stood in front of him. She looked up into his eyes with a soft smile and spoke in a low, seductive voice. “So what happens if you don’t wear something with transdimensional pockets?”

“You’ll be given a very vulgar show,” he replied, mimicking her husky tone. He crossed his metaphorical fingers that she didn't remember the incident with the Sycorax. He’d fought in jim jams belonging to Howard, which did not have transdimensional pockets. But that was during a crisis and not when he was alone with her.

She ducked her head, her smile gone, then stepped away from him. After a moment’s pause, she walked past him and continued on in the direction they had been walking moments before. He stepped into stride beside her. She smiled again and said, “One of these days you’ll have to wear a regular suit to prove it.”

“Prove it?” he repeated, indignant that she suggested such a thing. “I thought you trusted me!”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “With my life, yeah. Not so much with your claims of superiority. You forget Doctor, I’ve been on my own for three years, I’ve seen things in this universe that I bet even you’ve never heard of.”

Smirking, he gazed at her and asked, “Yeah? Try me.”

Rose stopped walking and grabbed his hand. “Doctor!”

He followed her line of sight. Just behind the thinning trees in front of them, buildings made of metal and brick huddled together to form their destination. “We made it to town.”

Soldiers on their hoverbikes zoomed into the decaying hamlet. There were also a few on foot who entered from the main gate, where they were setting up a check point.

The Doctor and Rose kneeled together behind a tree as the last of the sun dipped below the horizon. The town’s perimeter was open. No walls or gates enclosed it, but the soldiers pouring into the town posed a problem.

Rose turned to him and he met her eyes, “How do you think we should get in?”she asked. Without waiting for him to answer, she looked away and pointed to an area a few meters south. “It looks like it’d be easy getting in through that group of buildings there.”

“Yeah. Yup, should be.” He stared at her, thinking again about how much she had changed. She could have done this on her own. “I mean,” he cleared his throat, “should be easy getting in through there.”

They stood, took each other’s hands, bent low, and rushed to the opening Rose had indicated. They put their backs to the grease- covered wall of one of the buildings. Keeping to the wall, they maneuvered around large trash containers, trash bags, and rusted metals until they were inside the town.

They stayed within an alley in the shadows. Piled next to them was a collection of empty bins, which they ducked behind if a soldier walked by. They kept to the corner, watching people going about their business.

The Doctor saw Pyoos in gas masks squatting besides street lamps and broken vending machines. They were barely keeping their heads up. Trash littered the streets in the form of balled up paper, plastics, bottles, and broken vials. Dirt and grime dripped down walls and fogged up windows.

Warehouses filled this part of town. The welding from inside the warehouses echoed out into the street as a noisy chorus. At the far edge of town, a large red rocket stood as white gas drifted and dispersed into the air from below the ship. A few blocks down, shops with flickering signs replaced the warehouses. Pipes and thick wire boarded over the shop's windows.   

“I don’t think we’ll find any sympathetic people here,” he said sombrely.

Rose lifted her top lip in disgust and horror. “This is awful. I wouldn't blame them if they started a revolt. Is that what happened in the other universe?”

“In so many words. I’m going to hazard a guess and say their Seers, which isn't something Pyoos had back in the other universe, have something to do with their success here in this universe.”

“I’m going to do the same thing, hazard a guess: it’s why we ended up getting involved, isn't it?”

For Rose? If she asked, of course he’d get involved. Normally he'd let a society take care of themselves. In the past he usually only got involved when his enemies forced his hand. Though the Pyoos trying to kill them would apply in this case, if he could stop them from trying, he'd leave them be. But, for some reason, that didn't feel right. Thinking on what he should do and what he had done in the past left him with too many possibilities to consider for the moment. “No use trying to figure that out now. If we don’t get air that we can both breathe soon, we'll be in a bit more trouble than we already are.”

A group of spacesuit-wearing people walked by. “How about we get one of those suits, or a pair, really.” She looked over to him. “Could help us blend in.”

He smiled. “Exactly what I was thinking.”

“So how do we get ahold of a pair of spacesuits?”

“We could steal one, but they might need it to survive in this atmosphere.” He glanced around the corner of the alley, looking at the variety of people in spacesuits. “Though if we could get one to malfunction, our unsuspecting victim would have to get a new one. Spacesuits tend to be finicky in this part of the universe.”

“How does that help us?”

“See that store, right over there, with the purple inscription?” He pointed a thumb to the farthest shop down the street.

Rose peered over him and around the corner, then leaned back against the alley wall. “Yeah.”

“It’s a suit store. We'll force our unsuspecting victim to buy a new suit, put the shop owner and our victim to sleep using the Mynox, then steal a new suit and our victim’s transport ID.”

“Why their transport ID?”

“See the rocket off in the distance, on the other side of town?” Rose nodded and he continued. “That’s a common transport ship. Not everyone here is Pyoo.” A Judoon in a spacesuit passed the alley. “The workers probably come from other planets or space stations using that Ferrari. I don’t think the people who work here want to live in a place where they can’t breathe.”

“That’s why we're not just stealing from the shop, to get someone’s transport ID?”

“Yup.”

“But if we only steal one ID, how are we both going to get on board?”

He caught her eye. The best plan he could think of to escape Pyoo was to make themselves less conspicuous. The soldiers were looking for two people, not one. “Easy, we’ll be sharing a suit.”

She shook her head. “I-I’m sorry, we’ll be what?”

He swallowed, hoping she didn’t get the wrong idea. Although thinking about Rose and him in close quarters did have a very nice appeal. “If we get one large enough for us both-”

“Right, got it,” she interrupted then took a deep breath and ended up coughing. He patted her back, moving his hand up her spine after she finished. “Sounds like a plan. We escape then come back with the cavalry, if we find one, and stop the Pyoo?” She sounded much more confident than she had before.

He took that as Rose asking him to get involved. “I don’t think we have a choice, if they want us dead. So two birds, one stone.” He tilted his head. “Granted that their Seers don’t look our way again.” He pulled out his sonic and craned his neck to scrutinize the street. “Now we just have to figure out how to get close enough to use the sonic on a suit.”

Rose put a hand on his arm and he looked her way. “Hold on, I got an idea.” She scooped the mud from the side of her jeans and held it in her palm.

He pocketed his sonic. “Here, let me.” The Doctor took the mud ball from Rose. “Nice one, by the way.” He beamed at her and she smiled back. He held up the ball with the tips of his fingers and turned away from Rose to study it. “If we get this into one of the filtering systems on the right suit, it'll be like throwing a spanner in the works, quite literally.”  

Rose snickered and the Doctor wanted to know what he said to have her make that sound. He wanted to hear it again. He’d missed that sound the most after he’d lost her. He’d missed her.

“Alright, so which one will be our unsuspecting victim?” Rose asked.

He searched the nearby area, spotting a few Ood and Ogrons, but nothing large enough for them to both fit in. He stepped onto the walkway, an arm’s length away from Rose. A door on the same side of the street opened in front of him and he escaped back to the alley and turned to Rose.

“That one, about three heads taller than I am with the protruding chest and shaded domed helmet? That’ll help us stay concealed. Plus the filtration system is located on the back.” He sniffed then juggled the mud ball between his hands. “Wait for them to pass and then we'll hide behind those bins.” He nodded to the cluttered pile of empty bins.

“Ready when you are.”

Their prey passed the alley and the Doctor took aim. He threw the mud ball and grabbed Rose’s hand to rush behind the empty bins. Rose peeked from the top and the Doctor followed her lead. The suit-wearing individual twirled on the street, trying to reach the filtration system. The Doctor saw that he’d barely made the throw. Part of the mud was smeared just below the mark. Somehow some mud got in and caused enough damage to make the owner dance in a circle on the streets.

Electric sparks shot out from the filtration unit. After making a loud crackle, it completely fell from the suit. The owner stopped twirling and looked down at the broken unit. The owner raised its head and spied around for the culprits who had caused this malfunction. Giving up, the suit-wearing individual picked up the broken filtration unit and went on their way.

Rose turned to the Doctor. “That was hard to watch.”

“Ehh, not my best. Usually my fastballs are on target.” He glanced up at the night sky. He wanted to impress Rose and hoped that would shave off some of the distance between them. He figured he might try for a little boasting and an excuse. “It’s the air, it has to be. I struck out Babe Ruth back in 1919.”

“Oh! I think they’re headed for the shop,” she informed him. He realized Rose hadn’t paid attention to his boasting.

He focused on their victim, who walked slowly towards the suit shop. “Let’s try the rear. There should be a backdoor.” He stood and held out his hand to Rose.

She took it with a smile. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were having fun sneaking about.”

He scratched behind his ear and frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose, you could say, it’s not every day I get to play spy.”

The Doctor stared as Rose pressed herself against him and patted the lapels of his suit. “Come on then Bond, we got a suit to steal and a transport to catch.”

He wanted her do that again when they weren’t in a bit of trouble.

To be Continued

Chapter Text

Rose breathed in deep, trying hard not to cough. With breathing becoming such a task, she knew time was running short. She watched the Doctor sonic the back door of the spacesuit shop, thinking about how they’d almost gotten caught crossing the street. They’d waited until the soldiers were spaced out enough to rush across. At the last minute a soldier had landed his hoverbike near them. They’d had to run behind a vending machine before dashing into another alley and making it here.

A hoverbike zipped across the sky and Rose looked up. “Any time now, Doctor.”

“Would you like to do this?” the Doctor retorted, but sped up the sonic nonetheless.

The door popped open, with a creak, and the Doctor grabbed it. He ushered her inside with a wave of his hand. “See, no need to get impatient. In you go.”

She smirked as she walked through the door. “Yeah, you do know your timing, don’t you?”

He tilted his head to the side. “Well,” he said, drawing out the word.

Rose heard the Doctor close the door while she gazed curiously at the interior of the shop. Spacesuits of different sizes and shapes hung from the walls or were stacked on top of each other in corners or in rows that made aisles. Some of the suits hung like they had people still inside them. She jumped when the Doctor took her hand.

“Jitters?” he asked.

“No,” she replied, still looking at the hanging suits, “just admiring the shop. They’ve got like, what, hundreds of suits in here. But the Pyoo in the street, with the gas masks, they looked barely alive. If they just gave some of these away, it could help so many people.”

He came closer and whispered, “But then they’d make no money.” His sarcastic tone told Rose he was just as incensed.

Creeping towards the front of the shop, she looked down at their interlocking hands. Since the TARDIS had left this universe, her thoughts of the other Doctor leaving her had intermingled with the comfort this Doctor gave her. They’d hardly gone a few minutes without some sort of contact.

But it didn’t help that he kept mentioning the past. On her own she lost a lot of people either under her command, or fast friends she made during missions. During one of her first assignments she had met a bloke, sweet, young, and naive, but so strong and courageous. Flirting with him - no, not him, with Jason, and not paying attention to her surroundings, got Jason killed. A Sontaran had shot him in the back. She glanced at the Doctor and wondered how he could hold all the people he lost within him.

Then she thought about the other Doctor, knowing he had the same pain inside him. What if he was alone right now? She closed her eyes, trying to clear her mind and focus on the present.

The Doctor, kneeling, urged her to go down with him behind a set of piled up suits. Grateful he got her message about being yanked around, she went down to her knees. Once out of sight, she and the Doctor observed their plan at work. She saw the shop clerk, a Pyoo without a gas mask, and their “unsuspecting victim” chatting in a language she didn’t recognize. They were at the front of the store and a counter stood between them. A cube device that looked to be the cash register sat on the counter. A glowing keyboard floated above it. Where the ceiling met the front wall, a device buzzed. It blew the shop clerk’s hair in all directions and Rose guessed it could be an air conditioning unit.

The Doctor leaned towards Rose. “As soon as our unsuspecting victim puts on a new suit we’ll take them both by surprise and throw some sleeping bombs in their direction.”

She looked at him, her brows tilted upward. “Sleeping bombs?”

“The ones I’ll be making with the Mynox.” He let go of her hand and dug around in his pockets.

“Since when did you carry stuff to make bombs?”

He frowned thoughtfully. “I suppose I might have a little bit of Ace in me this time around,” he said, piling the contents of his pockets on the floor. They were a jumbled mix of wires and computer chips, though Rose was sure she saw a toy car somewhere in there.

“Ace?”

“Old companion of mine, surely I’ve mentioned her before?”

“You mean like you did with Sarah-Jane.”

He stopped unloading his pockets and stared at her. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it, then looked down, then back up. “Right, sorry, long story short, she had an affinity with things that went boom. Worked out nicely for me at the time.” He sniffed then looked back down and shuffled through the pile. His eyes, though trained on his work, softened. He smiled, a hint of sadness filtering through. “When we get back I’ll tell you the whole story.”

When they traveled before, they had often spoken of a variety of things. After Sarah-Jane, he sometimes spoke of his other companions. Rose knew of Polly Wright, Leela, Jamie McCrimmon, Romana the Time Lady, Turlough, and Peri Brown. But none of the others. That he wanted to share the whole story about one of them caught her off balance. That was new. And different. She didn’t know what to make of it.  

“That’ll be -- that’ll be nice. Something to look forward to after all this.” She blew out a chuckle and grinned. “Thanks.”

He glanced at her, smiled sweetly, then went right back to work, rushing to make his bombs. His tongue curled around his upper lip as he used the sonic to weld together two pieces of computer chips.

“I’ll go check out the rest of the shop, make sure there’s no one else about.” She stood, staying low, before the Doctor could say anything. She made her way to the other side of the shop, away from the Doctor and the two they were going to sleep bomb.

Among the lonely and unused suits, Rose checked for anyone else in the store. The small enclosure made it easy to determine there was no one besides the four of them. She stopped and touched one of the suits and felt a rubbery, pliable substance under her fingers. The material reminded her of one of Tony’s old toys. It’d been weeks since she last saw her younger brother. He’d waved her goodbye while she drove off to Torchwood to begin her dimension hopping.

She wondered what her mother was doing. She’d probably cursed up a storm, being left alone on Bad Wolf Bay. Rose’s cheek twitched in an ill attempt at a smile. Her mother should be alright, she’d handled Cybermen and Daleks before. A lone beach shouldn’t break the great Jackie Tyler. But Rose’s heart twisted with worry. How long would it take for them to get home? She looked over at the Doctor kneeling while he hid behind spacesuits and made bombs. That’s where she wanted to be. At his side.

Their suit-wearing scapegoat, as she liked to call him, headed for the dressing rooms. She dashed behind a hanging suit to hide. Guilt flooded her for what they were about to do, but they had no other choice.  

She went back to the Doctor and knelt beside him. Two glass globes filled with white powder and some mashed together circuitry sat ready at his knees. That it only took him a few minutes to make them didn’t surprise her in the least. “There’s no one else, just us.”

The Doctor nodded. “Good.” He put the last pieces of extra wires back in his pocket and put a hand on her back, pulling her to him. “Now, once our unsuspecting victim comes back from the dressing room, I’ll throw these two and a cloud of gas should form. It’ll instantly put the clerk and our unsuspecting victim to sleep. Then we’ll nab the transport ID, a new suit, the same as what our victim is wearing, jump inside, and make our way to the rocket.”

“We’ll make sure they’re both alright, yeah? I don’t want to accidentally kill them or anything.”

“We won’t, but if it makes you feel better, we’ll do a quick check to make sure they’re fine.”

Their scapegoat came out of the dressing room, with the helmet of the suit firmly in place, and walked to the front counter. “Yeah, and what about the helmet?”

“What helmet?”

“The helmet’s on. How is he going to inhale the sleeping gas if his helmet’s on?”

He took a peek at their scapegoat. “Oh.” He glanced back at her. “Oh! Well, the filtration unit won’t be able to filter this type of gas. I thought I told you they’re finicky in this part of the universe.”

“Yeah, but you left that out.”

“Now you know,” he said, turning his head away. He rubbed his ear as he stared at nothing. “Anyway, he’ll be safer that way, since he needs to the suit to survive long term in this environment and the gas won’t cause any sort of mechanical failure like the mud.”

“Alright.” She looked at the front of the shop, going over the plan in her head. “We should close the shop, and hide them in case anyone looks in through the windows.”

He nodded vigorously. “Good idea.” He caught her eye and tucked in his chin. “Ready?”

Their escape by throwing things was going to be another odd tale to tell Tony. “Yup.”

The Doctor picked up both sleep bombs, turning them over with his fingers. He drew his arm back and threw the first one. Before it landed, he switched the other bomb from one hand to the other then threw that one. Both bombs hit the counter between the two at the front of the store. Gas blossomed from the shattered glass. It overtook their scapegoat and the shop clerk in seconds, before either of them could react. The gas cloud stayed contained at the front of the store, with only the long counter peeking out.

Grinning, the Doctor turned to Rose. “There we go! I knew it must be the air, that was dead on.” He looked back to the gas cloud. “Ha! Eat your heart out, Babe Ruth.” He wrinkled up his nose and turned back to Rose. His voice lost its exuberance as he said, “Oh, that sounds weird. And painful. Why would anyone want to make a common phrase out of that?”

Rose grinned back at him, feeling utterly smitten. She looked at the gas cloud, which was clearing enough for her to see the result of the bombing. She should have known. The two at the front were coughing, not asleep. Convulsing from the string of coughs, their scapegoat had taken off the suit’s helmet. The shop owner held his body upright with his hand pushing down against the counter.

Her smile gone, Rose leaned closer to the Doctor. “Think you should wait before celebrating, Doctor.”

His grin disappeared. “What?”

Rose pointed with her chin to the two coughing, and the Doctor jumped to his feet.

“It’s not working,” she stated, standing up.

The Doctor glanced at her, then back to the front. “Yes, I can see that. Thank you very much,” he exclaimed, his voice sharp and snide.

“Oi, don’t get tetchy with me. We just gotta figure something out,” she chided.

“I don’t have time to make another bomb. The air conditioning unit must have somehow lessened the potency of the gas.” He dived both of his hands into his hair as he looked around. “We can salvage this. Just need to think!”

Rose looked back and forth between him and the two at the front and came up with a plan. “Do you have any more of that Mynox stuff?”

“It’s in the powder.”

“Do you have any of the powder left?” she asked, trying to get to the point.

“Yes, in my pocket,” he said bitingly.  

“Give here.” She held out her hand.

The Doctor grabbed the powder from his pockets, collected in a small plastic bag, and handed it to Rose. “Careful with that.”

She clutched the bag of powder in her hand. “And where are their noses? Somewhere in the center, like a human?” she asked.

“Sort of, yes.” His eyes widened and he turned his attention to her. “You’re not going-”

Ignoring the Doctor, she jumped over the pile of spacesuits they were hiding behind.

“No, no, no, hold on! Rose!” the Doctor yelled at her, but she refused to listen.

Rose ran towards the two at the front, who were still coughing from the gas. She dumped the contents of the bag into one of her hands and tossed the bag to the floor. She then climbed another set of suits, using them as leverage to jump and slide along the counter. Her sudden presence between the two aliens surprised them. As they stared at her dumbfounded, she blew the powder in their faces. They both dropped to the floor, apparently asleep. Or so she hoped.

She dropped down from the counter and made sure not to inhale the gas or the powder, just in case. Clapping her hands free of the remaining powder, Rose glanced between the two of them. She bent down to check on their scapegoat, feeling for a pulse. The white scaly skin felt hot, and she closed her eyes when two strong beats pushed back under her fingers. Standing straight, confident the alien was okay, she saw the Doctor close by.

With a thunderous expression on his face, he pointed his sonic at the air conditioning device. The sonic whirred and the gas cloud around them disappeared within seconds. She breathed in gratefully.

“Do you know what you just did?” he asked, his tone murderous.

“It’s fine,” she said, feeling confident with her actions.

“No, it’s not ‘fine’! You could have died! Inhaling Mynox is fatal to humans. Why do you think I didn’t do a stunt like that myself, seeing as I’m now half human? Would you like it if I endangered myself so easily, hmm? Died and left you here, alone?”

Rose stepped closer to the Doctor. “I’m sorry I scared you.” She shook her head, knowing he was being unreasonable. “But it worked, yeah?” She raised her chin, knowing she had to say more. “I’ve done plenty of things on my own, things I’ve had to risk my life for, things I would do again if I had to. That’s what we do.” How could he be so mad when they had just jumped from a building floating in the sky hoping there would be nets to catch them?

He glared at her, barely moving. Then he swallowed, his anger melting from his features. "Just promise me you'll be more careful.” There was a brief pause. “I don't want to lose you."

The fear in his eyes washed away her anger. "Okay." The Doctor being blunt with her, and specifically about her, was also different than before. Rose wanted to kiss him then, to pull him to her and never let go. Instead, thinking about the other Doctor and how he would never be blunt with her, she looked down at the sleeping duo. “Will these two be alright?”

“Yeah.”

She spotted the missing helmet from their scapegoat’s space suit. “Here, help me get them into the cupboard. Or maybe the dressing rooms.”

Rose picked up the scapegoat’s helmet and the Doctor joined her. Together they put the helmet back on. After securing it in place, the Doctor checked the suit to make sure it was functioning. He grabbed the single transport ID, a square plastic card with a face and name on it, from one of the space suit’s pockets. Rose noticed how the Doctor did each task silently. Even when they dragged the sleeping aliens into the dressing rooms, he kept quiet.

After the two sleeping beauties were safely and comfortably hidden, the Doctor disappeared into the store. Rose figured he went to get their new suit they’d be sharing. She looked around the front of the store, at the counter, and noticed that it appeared to be like any old Earth store. After catching the rocket, how would they get back to Earth? Obviously the rocket wouldn’t go all the way, so they’d have to take another transport.

Rose walked around the counter and tapped the register. The glowing keyboard sprung to life, floating at her fingertips. She couldn’t make out the language but her time working at a shop gave her an idea on how to open the safe, wherever that was. She typed in a few things and luckily got it on the first try. Just below the counter, a drawer opened up from what had been a clear unmarked wall moments before. She stuffed as much paper money she could into her pockets.

“What are you doing that for?” the Doctor asked.

Rose turned and found the Doctor standing close, with a large clunky suit in his arms. “Figured we’d need the money after we got off the rocket, to pay for the next transport.”

“I could’ve just used the sonic and got us unlimited credits. No reason to steal cash.”

“It’s the same thing, isn't it?”

“Well,” he said, “that depends on who you ask.”

“Give me the sonic then, I’ll pay back the money I took in credits. We still might need the cash.”

“Oh, alright. It’ll be our backup plan of our backup plan, in case we can’t secure a ship along the way.” He reached into his breast pocket and took out the sonic.

She grinned at him, chuckling. “You mean steal.”

He handed her the sonic, brushing his fingers against her palm. “That’s one way of putting it.”

Rose clicked the sonic, looking for the right setting. She knew this one by heart, having done it so many times in the past. She then pointed the sonic at the cube register and a resonating sound filled the shop for a few seconds.

She glanced over to the Doctor, who put their domed helmet on the counter. He placed the transport ID into the front pocket of the new space suit then spread it out on the floor.

“I’ll close the shop,” she informed him.

Rose went to the single entrance of the shop and, using the sonic, locked it. She noticed a bar in the corner and hooks drilled into the side of the door. Placing the bar into the hooks, she finished securing the entrance. She turned off the blinking sign and went back to the Doctor.

The Doctor turned to face her. “Righto!” He frowned, narrowing his eyes in thought. “Ugh, didn’t I say I wouldn’t say that word before?”

Rose laughed. “I don’t remember.”

He admonished her in a jovial tone, “Shame on you, Rose Tyler, forgetting every little detail of every little thing I’ve ever said in the past. Ready to suit up?”

Rose rolled her eyes and smiled. He probably mentioned that to Martha or Donna and didn’t want to make it obvious. She looked between the suit and the Doctor. “How are we doing this?”

He spread out the suit, its feet flat on the ground and ready to be stepped into. “Easy, I’ll get in first, start up the systems, the exoskeleton inside the suit will make it rigid enough for you to climb in and secure the helmet on.” He held out his hand for the sonic.

She gave him the sonic and replied with a devilish grin, “So I’m top, you’re bottom?”

The Doctor turned to her and smirked. “Best possible position for you and me. Unless you want bottom?”

She bit her bottom lip, smiling. “No, I’d rather be top. Though maybe later I can be bottom, yeah?” she teased. She didn’t mean anything by it, but wondered if their flirting had more weight to it now since both their feelings were out in the open.

He stopped fiddling with the suit, caught her gaze and in a low voice, said, “Wouldn’t have it any other way.” He stared at her and Rose felt a rush of blood run through her body. The way his eyes darkened for only a moment felt like a promise. But then his demeanor changed, from serious to lighthearted. “Okay, here we go!”

The Doctor turned his attention back to the space suit. He stepped into it, matching his feet to the feet inside of the suit. He crouched down and pointed the sonic at a paper-thin device attached to the inside, turning it on. He immediately stood and waited. The suit grew and grew, overtaking the Doctor. When he could no longer be seen, he shouted, very cheerily, “Come on in, Rose Tyler!”

Rose raised her brows, noticing the difference between the size of this suit and the suit worn by their scapegoat. “Is this suit bigger?”

“I got the large,” he said, from inside the suit. “He’s wearing the small.”

Rose climbed the counter, trying to see the Doctor. “Won’t they notice the difference?”

“Nah, people here are so down and out I doubt they’d notice if the planet were collapsing right under their noses, let alone one worker out of hundreds.”

Rose watched the Doctor pressing buttons on that paper-thin device, his sonic back in his pocket. The inside of the suit had barely enough room for the both of them. Pressing her lips together, she prepared herself for the inevitable. She put one foot on the shoulder of the suit and her hands on the rim of the neck and pulled herself towards the opening. Momentum took over and she ended up banging her head on the other side of the rim. “Ow.”

The Doctor looked up at her. “Need help?”

“No, I got it,” she grumbled.

She pulled herself up and turned herself around, pulling her legs into the suit first. As Rose sank into the suit, her crotch collided with the Doctor’s face.

She looked at him. “Sorry!”

“Mmmf.” He planted his hands on her waist and pushed her away. “That’s alright.” He slid his hands down to her hips and guided her body. “Turn this way Rose.” Her bum now came face to face with the Doctor. Arms shaking from keeping herself up, she felt relief when he guided her legs and planted her feet on something solid. “That’s it, lean into me.”

Her bum was now leveled with his chest. “Won’t I crush you?”

“I’ll shift a bit to the left.”

Rose grabbed the domed helmet from the top of the counter and attached it to the rim of the neck. She then leaned into the Doctor as he shifted, so her back rested atop his right shoulder. Pressing his face into her side, he typed something into the paper-thin device. A rush of cold air blew into her face and she could breathe without coughing.

Now if only she had room to relax. “Bit close for comfort.”

“Hmm,” he replied, seemingly distracted.

Wanting to get this part of their journey over with, she got right down to business and ignored the dopey tone of the Doctor’s voice. “Who’s arms?”

A second’s pause and the Doctor replied, “I’ll be arms and legs, you be head. Let’s try walking. Now give me directions and I’ll walk us where we need to be.”

She had no idea how this was going to work. She could see outside the tinted glass domed helmet, but no one would be able to see inside. With the Doctor as hands and feet, and her as the eyes, she had no idea how they were going to interact with their surroundings. She’d trust the Doctor; usually that worked. “Okay, go straight.”

He took one step and they almost tipped over.

“Woah!” Rose cried.

“Let’s try again,” the Doctor said as he straightened them out.

After taking a deep breath, Rose said, “Go straight, then turn right, then left.”

They were able to take two steps, but then they tipped to the side. Rose used her body weight to straighten them out, and the Doctor joined in.

The Doctor let out a disappointed grunt. “Oh, Rose, you can do better than this! No one will believe we’re a Nicloxan at this rate.”

“I’m not the one driving this thing!” she retorted. But his words reminded her of something she’d rather not remember. “Wait, our ‘unsuspecting victim’ was a Nicloxan?”

“Ye-p, heard of them?”

A Nicloxan spy, working for Torchwood, whom Rose had never met, died trying to save the Earth from an invasion a year ago. Though Rose had never seen her face, they had chatted often on her cell phone. Grac’ba had even invited Rose to her wedding. It would have taken place a few weeks after the terrorist attack that killed her. “I’ll tell you about it later, when you tell me about Ace?”

“Yeah,” he replied in a whisper.

He must have read between the lines. So much had happened in the three years they were apart. They had so much to catch up on. A nervous bubble circled in her stomach at the thought of them talking about it all.

“Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?” the Doctor asked.

Rose nodded, determination reviving her spirit. “Go straight.” He stepped forward with a wobble. “Keep going straight.”

He took another step and almost lost balance. It was their best attempt so far.

The Doctor sighed, his disappointment clear. “That’s good enough. I’m sure we’ll perfect it on the way.”

Rose looked down at the Doctor. “So out the back then head for the rocket?”

“That’s the plan,” he said as he glanced up at her. They shared a smile and the Doctor wrapped an arm around her waist. With a squeeze he declared, “Allons-y, Rose Tyler!”

To be Continued

Chapter Text

Rose’s jacket rubbed against the Doctor's ear as he took another step. He could only hear muffled sounds outside the suit and Rose’s wonderful heartbeat. The same heart beating at almost double the speed even though he was doing all the walking. Well, more like jogging, but inside a large Nicloxan spacesuit.

“Keep going straight. We’re almost there,” reported Rose.

He huffed and kept at it. His own single heart raced, taxed with holding their balance and trying to get to the rocket. He rushed towards their goal before they were either caught or missed their flight. By his count he regenerated into this body about five hours ago. More like five hours, seven minutes, and forty-three seconds ago. Gratefully, he had a full Time Lord brain and a half-human body. However his new part human physiology mixed together an unusual bunch of cells to feed his impressive Time Lord noggin. That meant he needed sleep to acclimate to the new workings of his biology. He wondered when Rose had slept last.

“Turn right and stop after, um, three steps,” Rose instructed him.

“We’ve made it to the rocket?”

“Yeah, bunch of people ahead of us though. There’s a line.”

Rose told him to step forward every few seconds, and his heart beat increased. Him getting nervous was something new. Normally during these types of situations he kept calm. Not being able to regenerate probably had something to do with it. The recent memory of Rose’s almost fatal stunt at the shop plagued him. He could have lost her again so soon after getting her back. He concentrated on stepping forward. He didn’t want to go down the road of what could have beens.

“ID,” asked a deep muffled voice. The Doctor froze, waiting for Rose’s directions.

Rose looked down at him. She shifted when she did, enough for him to look up at her fully. “Doctor!”

“I heard. Are they to our left or right?”

“Left.”

He pulled out the transport ID from the outer pockets of the suit and handed it blindly to the left. A pair of thick fingers took it.

“Clear,” said the same deep voice after a few seconds.

The Doctor held out his hand instead of trying to retrieve the ID. Someone slapped the ID back into his palm. “You’re lucky I didn’t close the doors ten minutes ago. There’s a lockdown in place and this will be our last flight for the next two days.”

“Should we talk to him?” Rose whispered, even though he’d sound proofed the suit before they left the shop.

“Nah, best we keep quiet and let our body do the talking.” The Doctor made the Nicloxan sign for thank you, wiggling all ten of his fingers.

“Yeah, yeah, get!” the rough voice said, clearly agitated.

“Keep straight, then left after five steps. There’s a ladder for the rocket,” said Rose.

“Oh, that’s gonna be fun,” he said with not even an ounce of excitement.

As he thought, once they were at the ladder, they fumbled. He missed the steps on each attempt. On their fourth try he grazed a stair, slapping his foot on the ground. They tipped forward before they used their combined body weight to straighten themselves.

“Is anyone watching?” he asked.

“No, I think we’re okay,” she assured him.

He finally got the hang of climbing the stairs without seeing. He climbed four stairs before Rose grabbed his shoulder. He looked up and saw her staring at something with wide eyes.

“Okay, maybe not,” warned Rose.

“What’s going on? What do you see? Soldiers?”

“Yeah, at the top, just the one though.”

“Act normal, we’re almost there so there’s no need to be antsy. I’m sure it’s just precautionary. They’ll see we’re all by our lonesome and let us pass.”

“Easier said than done when we’re stuck together in this cramped suit,” she complained. Rose squirmed, moving her back to adjust her position.

“Come on now, Rose, we’ve been through tighter spots than this,” he joked. They needed a good pun right now.

She snorted. “How did I know you were going to say that.” He could hear the smile in her voice. That brought his nerves under control.

“Halt!” another deep but muffled voice commanded.

He stopped and Rose held her breath.

“You seen two pink humanoids in blue recently?”

“Rose,” he whispered, then realized he needn’t, “swivel the helmet to look like we’re shaking our head ‘no’.”

“Okay,” she agreed breathlessly.

He tilted his head back to watch her work. She placed her hands on the edges of the domed helmet and twisted it back and forth, creating the look of someone shaking their head.

“Alright, you can enter,” the deep voice commanded, sounding absolutely bored.

“Are there more stairs?”

“No, you can go straight. Then right in two steps.”

“We’ll need to find a seat somewhere secluded, since our knees bend a bit high. Well, my knees to be precise. They don’t exactly match with our suit, it’ll be a dead give away. Walking is one thing, but sitting? Besides, my legs, my very athletic legs mind you, are a bit too thin for a Nicloxan.”

“Alright, keep going straight then, I see a seat in the back. It’s behind an Exxilon.”

“Exxilon? They tend to be...malodorous.” He extracted his arm from one of the suit sleeves and took out his sonic. He typed a few buttons on the panel inside the suit, which he had taken and reattached from the outside, using his sonic when it gave him trouble. “I’ll close the vents and filtration unit to keep out the smell. We’ll cycle our air inside the suit for now.”

“I was wondering about that. These being space suits and all.”

“These suits were made to be multipurpose. It’s why they’re finicky, too many functions loaded onto a tiny little mainframe.”

“No such thing as a free lunch then,” she said, shifting to look down at him.

He glanced back up at her. “They could have thrown in a free trip to Midnight with each sale. That would have been a better deal,” he said, his contempt clear in his voice.

The Doctor wasn’t sure why he’d mentioned Midnight. He didn’t particularly want to remember it. Fifty days had passed since that day on Crusader 50. The recurring number fifty didn’t go unnoticed by him. Now he was on another transport, though this time he was stuck in a suit with Rose Tyler. It could be worse. He needed to remind himself that this could be much worse. He closed his eyes to ward off the memory of Rose at the shop, jumping into fatal gas.

“Alright, we’re at the back,” declared Rose.

He opened his eyes and focused on their current task. “How are the seats arranged?”

“Facing the cabin.”

He tried to imagine what she described. “We’re facing the tail?”

“Yeah. The seat’s to the left.”

“Alright, here goes.”

He pivoted to the right. They wobbled and the Doctor grabbed on to Rose, keeping her in place. Once they were still, he tried to bend down. He moved slowly, not knowing where he would meet the seat. An edge of something solid brushed past his bum and he almost lost their balance. He shot right up, causing them to stagger. Rose gave him a look. He shrugged one shoulder then tightened his hold on her. He wondered what the other passengers, if they were looking, made of their attempt. He scooted backwards then bent down again, careful not to pitch them forward. Finally his bum meet the chair.

“There we are, all snug as a bug in a rug!” he exclaimed happily.

“You mean a really big bug in a small rug?”

“I take it from your avid complaints about our current confinement, the size of our interior is bugging you?”

She tutted. “You’re on a roll with the insect thing aren’t you?”

“Someone has to stay merry as a cricket during a crisis.”

“Are you done?” She smiled down at him.

“Yeah.” He loosened his hold and felt his way to her hand. He caressed it before putting his arm back into the suit sleeve. “How are you holding up?”

Rose wiggled, her body moving against his. “Staying like this is gonna give me a cramp.”

“We shouldn’t be in the suit much longer.” The more her body stayed in contact with his, the more discomfort he felt. One type of discomfort he didn’t mind. The other, not so much. “And I know what you mean, already my shoulder is going stiff. We’ll need a decent masseuse when we’re done. I know a few places we could visit on our way back to Earth that can take care of all our aches and pains.” If he could be the one to massage her, all the better. But he’d wait for her to ask. He thought of the places he mentioned, when reality struck. “Well, back in the other universe I did, they might not exist here.”

She gazed down at him. “Like Midnight?”

A pang of relief and terror went through him. “Really, it doesn’t exist in this universe? You’ve checked?”

“Had to, we were looking for you. We found your coordinates, but we couldn’t find the planet to coordinate a jump.”

He glanced away from her and stared at the inside control panel. “Can’t say I’m disappointed. About Midnight, not about you being unable to reach me. It would have been nice, seeing you there.”

“I tried contacting you when you were on the planet. Something must have happened.”

He contemplated what Rose must have gone through to try and reach him. The broken space truck and the mysterious organism might have blocked a reliable connection. He rubbed his forehead, trying to think of something to tell Rose. He didn’t have it in him to relive that day just yet. “Mmm, the food was awful. Couldn't quite figure out the source of their meat. That tells me they had to cut back and buy something questionable from some questionable seller.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Plus the tours were awful. Not worth the money. I’d blame it on the planet, they probably had to move to a more advantageous location.”

“Doctor.” The seriousness of her voice told him she knew something more had happened.

He wrapped his arm around her again, more for his comfort than hers. “I-”

“Ladies, gentlemen, and variations thereupon, we will now begin lift off. Please stay in your seats at all times.” A loud voice from a speaker cut him off.

The Doctor didn’t know if he could handle another situation like Midnight. He was mortal now, he had to cull certain risks and certain tendencies. He wouldn't have jumped into that fatal gas and Rose shouldn't have done so either. Why take such a risk? Risks were only acceptable when the odds were favorable. Their jump, the suit stealing, those were fine.

He swallowed, thinking about the incident on Midnight again. The words on the speaker were the same as those of the stewardess who’d saved his life. It'd been fifty days since Crusader 50. These incidents were striking. He didn’t want to believe in fate. But Donna, his creation, Caan's prophecy, and everything since the beach were adding up. Now there were reminders of Midnight. Something else must be at play. Was it the Pyoo Seers?

“Do you know where we’re going?” Rose asked.

He focused on answering, he could think about the odds later. “The speaker didn’t specify, could be a nearby planet or space station.”

The seat under him vibrated as the rocket took off. The change in pitch forced them to lean to the left. In seconds they broke orbit and leveled out.

The Doctor tried to get comfortable with Rose Tyler angled across his right shoulder. He moved his shoulders up and down, to no effect. “I’m just happy we didn’t get caught. Classic retreat and reorganize, though our retreat could have been smoother. But all in a days work, eh?”

Rose laughed, the rumble of her mirth passing through to him. It was an altogether pleasant feeling. “Should have seen some of mine when I worked for Torchwood. Doesn’t matter how you do it, so long as you get out alive.”

Worked? “So you’re not going to work for them anymore?” he asked.

“Didn’t plan on being back here. I cleared out my desk and everything.” The cheerful mood created by Rose’s laugh evaporated. “The whole point of the dimension cannon was so I could come back. Didn’t work until the stars went out.” Rose stilled and her body stiffened. “I forgot this you didn’t know. I told the other one,” she muttered.

He breathed in deep. He had brought up a delicate subject inadvertently and didn’t know how to fix it. “It’s alright, I’m sure there isn’t much I missed between then and now.” He tried for nonchalance and hoped it was the right course. “I’m sure Torchwood will take you back.”

She looked down at him. “What about you?”

He looked up at her. “What about me?”

“What are you gonna do?” she asked.

“Oh, I’ll grow the TARDIS. Since this is a new universe and I’m a new me, can’t be the same old life anymore, can it?” He looked away, thinking on all the things he could do once they got back. “Maybe I’ll check out the differences between this Earth and the other one. See if they found the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Or I might do a fair amount of traveling and find it myself.” Rose scooted away from him. He glanced up and found her staring out the domed helmet. “Rose?”

“It’s nothing.”

He regarded her blank face with regret in his single heart. What had he said to make her upset? Did she still think he’d leave her? “Of course, I won’t be on my own. We’ll do those things together, if you, well, if you want to come.”

“I won’t-” She started passionately before the words died on her lips. He imagined she was about to declare that she wouldn’t leave him. “Yeah, I want to come with you,” she said finally, much more subdued.   

He pushed down the elation he felt at her answer. She continued to stare out the helmet, seemingly a million miles away, or possibly in another universe. The right words continued to elude him. He searched for them in his giant, magnificent brain of his. “I’m sorry,” he said when he could think of nothing else.

“For what?”

He leaned away from her, turning to look up at her as best as he could. “I was supposed to say something else, wasn’t I?” He swallowed, nervousness rattling his insides. This time it had nothing to do with being able to regenerate. “The first time I’m in a human relationship and I cock it up completely within the first twenty four hours.”

She looked back at him, confusion writ on her face. “What do you mean?”

“I can’t get anything right, can I?”

She shook her head. “No, that’s not it.”

He furrowed his brows, sharing her confusion, and touched her hip. “Rose?”

“You said ‘human relationship’.” She found his eyes and held them. “And you didn’t mean friends either. You meant like a couple, didn’t you?”

He wasn’t going to hide from this. “I did.”

She turned away from him and looked back out of the domed helmet. She bit a nail, remaining still and silent for a few moments. “When do you think we’ll get home to Earth?” she asked, her voice casual and light.

Ah, so they were going to ignore it for now. If she wanted to play at normal, he’d play along. He was great at playing along. “I thought you wanted to liberate the Pyoo?”

“Yeah, I meant after?”

“Well, depending on what type of transport we can snatch, and based off of the location of Pyoo from Earth, I’d say, maybe, roughly, five years? Four? Since, by your calender, humans didn’t leave Earth for another hundred years or so, we’ll have to rely on non-human space technology. Though if I can grow the TARDIS somewhere safely, I could get us home faster. You know the drill, a flip of a lever and home sweet home.”

“That’s good,” she said, a smile coming to back to her face and voice. “Just need to find a safe place then.”

They gazed at one another and he watched as her smile grew. What did she think of their relationship? Wasn't their declaration of feelings and kisses an indication of them being a couple? Was there more to it? Some kind of contract he didn't know of? Why was this so difficult?

A deep exhaustion swept over him. He wondered if he could sleep with her on his shoulder. He wished they could find a nice bed so he could hold her as he slept. His eyes drooped from the lightheadedness of fatigue.  

The rocket shook, causing the suit to sway. He grabbed Rose to steady them. The shock of the tremor woke him and his fears of a rehash of Crusader 50 came back to the surface. “Something’s not right.”

“I take it this isn’t regular turbulence?” she asked.

The rocket shook again and panicked murmurs sounded outside the suit.

“No, usually these types of rockets have built in shock absorbers. We wouldn’t feel normal space turbulence.” The rocket quaked again, more violent than the last. “These shakes are too precise. They're happening every two point five seconds, almost like gunfire from another ship.”

Rose peered through the domed helmet. “The people are all standing, crowding the windows to get a look at something.”

The rocket quaked, almost forcing them from their seats. The Doctor knew that they had to leave because the rocket would soon be destroyed or boarded. He didn’t want them to be here for either.

“We need to stand. Push forward.”

Rose did as he instructed and leaned forward, giving them enough momentum to stand. The rocket shook just as they were on their feet.

“Rose, we need to get to the airlock, where is it?” he asked, his voice urgent.

“It’s right here, to our left.” The ship shook again. This time a loud explosion sounded from somewhere near the cockpit. “Good thing you wanted to sit in the back.”

“Our luck has been very fortuitous lately, hasn’t it?”

A loud boom went off nearby, nearly knocking them off their feet. Frustrated he couldn’t see, he glanced up at Rose. She wore a look of terror as she watched the goings-on outside the suit.

“We can think about that later, yeah?” she said, almost breathless.

“Right, left!” He turned left to make their way to the airlock.

He took two steps when Rose called out. “Stop, the door’s just in front of us.” She looked down at him, her face lined with concern. “What about the others?”

“Are any of them wearing spacesuits?”

Rose twisted to look behind her. “I can’t tell, everyone is crowding together. Some of the rocket is blocking the view.”

He clenched his teeth together. Frustration seethed inside him. With everything else going on, he couldn’t even save them. “There’s nothing we can do. Where is the hatch? The seal to open it?”

“To the right of the door.”

He fumbled blindly for the hatch. He grabbed hold of it as soon as his fingers found the lever. He pulled down, optimistic it would open without a security code. A hiss and a click informed him he was right.

“You’ll have to step over the ledge.”

“How many steps until we’re inside?” he asked.

“Only one.”

He climbed over the ledge, thankful he didn’t botch it on the first go. He heard the doors hiss closed behind them once they were inside. The rocket shook again, accompanied by a metallic shriek echoing all around them.

“The other hatch is to the right,” Rose informed him, desperation tinting her voice. He reached out with his right hand, feeling for the next hatch. “You sure about this? Won’t we get torn apart by debris or fired on by the other ship?”

Her question reminded him of what he had to do next. He took out his sonic and worked fast on the inside panel. “I’m rerouting power from our air systems to the frankly inadequate propulsion systems of the suit. We’ll push off from the ship and then jettison the rest of the way.”

“What about our air?”

“We’ll still have about a day's worth.” If their luck won out, someone would hopefully pick them up. “Our only chance of survival is out in space.”

“Yeah, not arguing that,” she said, glancing down at him.

He met her eyes. Death, the finality of it, loomed close. He had only experienced this feeling a few times before and even now it frightened him. Did his companions feel like this each time they ran into trouble with him? His heart raced thinking he might not live the human life he wanted. “If this doesn’t work, Rose-”

“Stop that and get us out to space already,” she interrupted.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, smirking. Her refusal to give up or even allow him the thought of giving up steadied his racing heart.

He pulled open the second hatch. The airlock depressurised the area, howling as it did so. Rose’s weight lifted off him and he drifted upward as gravity no longer held them down. After he heard a clang and a hiss, he felt for the door, and found it open. Urgently, yet calmly, he floated out into space. He grabbed onto the side of the rocket. He bent low, with his feet to the ship, and pushed off, allowing them to glide away.

“Blimey, the other ship is massive,” Rose exclaimed as she looked out into space.

Unfortunately the size of the suit prevented him from sharing the domed helmet. He looked up and gazed past Rose to the domed helmet, but saw nothing but the stars and darkness of the universe outside the suit. “You'll have to describe it to me once we’re not in danger of it.”

The Doctor tapped the inside panel, turning on the propulsion. The suit pushed them onward. The sounds of the battle grew fainter. He sighed, feeling confident that they were safe. He looked at the stars, soaring by in a blur, and caught Rose's eyes. He wrapped his arms around her as they floated inside the suit. Though her back was to him, he felt content enough to sleep.

A large explosion went off behind them, cascading into a silent storm of destruction. The force of the explosion hit them, propelling them forward. Rose screamed and he held her tighter. They kept gaining speed, spiraling faster and faster into the depth of space.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

Rose grabbed the Doctor’s arms that were tightly wrapped around her. She closed her eyes from the impact of the blast and the ensuing chaos. In a maelstrom of spins and turns, the suit streaked across the stars. The violent turns rattled her and the Doctor. With each new twirl Rose’s stomach made its own jumps, leaving her feeling nauseous.

The twists and turns slowed. Their impacts with the walls of the suit softened yet still forced the air from Rose’s lungs. The Doctor held her tighter, spreading his fingers to hold more of her, trying to keep her stationary. She bunched the fabric on the sleeves of his suit with her fists.

Rose counted as the turns eased and leveled out. She reached fifty before they finally settled. They then drifted peacefully in the empty expanse of space.

“Rose?” the Doctor called out.

She opened her eyes, hearing the question in his voice. “I’m fine.” He loosened his grip and she turned to look down at him. His arms were around her hips, his face near her center. He looked worn, his hair shooting in all directions and his clothes frayed. His eyes were heavy with exhaustion but he seemed uninjured. “Where are we? Do you know?”

His hands slid up to the small of her back, prompting her down. “Come down from there so I can get a good look at the stars.” She let him guide her and floated down to his level. He didn’t let go of her, keeping his arms around her. In his embrace she watched him look up and stare out of the domed glass helmet.

“Oh,” he said rather lamely.

“What? What is it?” She looked up, seeing the stars in patterns she didn’t recognize.

“Isn’t this just wizard,” he said with a hard edge.

Rose looked back at him. She watched as his Adam's apple bobbed. “Are you gonna tell me or just make vague comments about everything?”

“We’re right outside the Pyoo system, floating around in the middle of nowhere.” He met her eyes. “Well, not nowhere, this is, this is definitely somewhere. But not a somewhere that people often travel.”

“So that means-.” She shook her head, trying to come to terms with their predicament. He pulled her closer, his eyes not leaving hers. “Is there no hope then?” she asked.

“There’s always hope. We’ve still got-” He shifted her to one side, keeping her in his arms, while he checked the inside panel behind her. He grinned after the panel beeped twice. “Oh, brilliant! Would you look at that!?”

She looked over her shoulder at the panel. The small screen showed odd block-shaped letters that she couldn’t read. “Can’t make it out, what’s it say?”

“We’ve got almost two days left of air. That’s more than I estimated. There’s our hope!”

She turned and smiled at him. “Our luck hasn’t run out then!”

He shifted her back between his arms. “Yes. And speaking of, remember what I asked you earlier? About our luck? Ever since we were sucked from Bad Wolf Bay, things have happened more to our favor than not. Maybe we’ve been a little too lucky lately?”

“You think something else is at work, don’t you?”

“Has to be. Granted, we’re in the middle of space in a single spacesuit with the possibility of us dying out here before anyone can discover us, but we’ve been able to evade the most impossible scenarios so far: the jump, the soldiers in the forest, finding the suit we need, it malfunctioning perfectly, and so forth. The universe doesn’t let people off so easily, even for us.”

He was right. Even with her experience at Torchwood, their survival since Bad Wolf Bay was odd. Knowing the Doctor, he never spoke unless he knew more, yet something told her this time he didn’t. “You don’t have a clue as to what though?”

“Unfortunately, no, I don't. I’ve got theories. But theories based on what facts I do have won’t help us now. We’ll just have to see what’s in store for us in the next two days.”

“If we survive than that means something or someone is rooting for us?”

“Could be. It might even be as simple as the Pyoo Seers making a prophecy and now fate is making sure it comes true. But that means all the other people they executed would have been protected too. And I’m still not convinced there is such a thing as fate anyway.”

“I don’t believe in fate, rather make my own.” If there was such a thing as fate, that meant it had been fate that had separated them in the first place. And fate that had separated her from the other Doctor. “So two days?”

“Yup, two days.”

“What do we do until then?”

He tucked in his chin and gazed at her. His eyes darkened ever so slightly. His hands travelled further up her back, pressing her closer. “We should sleep. Your eyes are bloodshot and technically I’m still in my regeneration phase, best I sleep for a few hours.”

“What, like this?” Rose had never slept in zero gravity before. She’d slept in a variety of odd places in her time since she met the Doctor, but had yet to experience this. She didn’t know if she liked it.

“Nothing wrong with sleeping in zero gravity. It does the mind and body good. I used to have a Zero Room on the TARDIS that acted like open space. Made use of it from time to time.”

“What happened to it?”

“Had to eject it, long story.” He let her go to rub the back of his neck, his eyes turned downward, looking lost in thought. “Though, oddly enough, the room used to smell like roses.”

Rose smirked and rolled her eyes. “Are you trying to imply something? Because that’s awful, even for you.”

He gazed at her, placing both his hands on her back. “What? It’s the truth! Besides, roses smell wonderful,” he said, his voice lowering with each sentence. “That room was very relaxing.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. His flirts and compliments were too transparent as of late. That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to play along. “You must really have a thing for flowers then.”

He smiled and tilted his head to the side. “Well, there is one in my arms that I happen to love.”

Her breath caught on the word love. This was the second time he’d used that word with her in the span of a day. Rose stared at him and he didn’t break her gaze. His fingers nudged deeper into her jacket, closer to her skin. She glanced at his lips, knowing she could kiss him if she wanted. When she met his eyes again, his face was closer, his lips angling towards hers. It would be so easy to fall headfirst into their relationship.

Her shoulders stiffened when she thought back to his declaration on the rocket. He believed they were already in a romantic relationship. Maybe they were. They were more than friends. Yet each time she thought about what they were to each other, she thought about him and how he left her. Three times he’d done so. Would he do it again? How could they be in relationship when she couldn’t be sure? How could she get close to someone only for them to leave her like that? He can’t regenerate, he could die, she could lose him that way too. Rose didn’t know what they were and she couldn’t dwell on it now. She would when she got home. She leaned away from him and peered down at their arms, his wrapped around her. “We gonna sleep while holding each other?”

Looking back at him, she saw a frown lining his face. “It’s the most comfortable position available to us at the moment. Plus it’ll help us keep warm,” he said matter-of-factly.

She thought back to the time he opened the doors of the TARDIS while they were in space. A group of space dolphins played nearby and one came right up to the ship. She reached out to touch the creature and felt something like ice under her hand. The Doctor then went on about the temperature of space and the effect it had on creatures like the dolphins. She knew the suit regulated their temperature somewhat. It most likely wouldn't be enough to keep them cozy. And it had been almost seventy-two hours since she last slept. “Yeah, alright.” Rose wrapped her arms around him, snaking them under his embrace. She then placed her head on his chest near his shoulder. She sighed, feeling safe nestled close to the Doctor. “Can barely remember the last time I slept for more than a kip, so this will be good, yeah?”

“Hmm,” he grunted, sounding as if he were already half way asleep.

The Doctor threaded his fingers together behind her back. After a moment, his arms relaxed. By threading his fingers together, his arms stayed wrapped around her as he slept. Rose did the same, wanting to make sure they remained connected. She listened to the sounds around her. The suit’s air regulator hissed every few seconds. The panel behind her beeped at regular intervals. The Doctor breathed in and out. Rose relaxed, feeling his chest rise and fall under her.

Easy. It would be, wouldn’t it? She could go on as if there were no other Doctor and start the relationship she’d always wanted. She’d even forgotten, when they were on the Rocket, that another him existed. It had only been a few seconds, thinking about how she was finally back with the Doctor. They were doing what they had always done before, getting into trouble, meeting new people, and getting out of trouble. In that moment she was incredibly happy.

She hated herself for it. She hated that she forgot the other Doctor.

Yet no matter how much she hated herself for forgetting, she was grateful to be with this him. Being in his arms, feeling the warmth of his body, felt wonderful. She could feel every part of him and she loved it.

Her eyes grew heavy. Why did she hate herself again? This was so nice. So good...

She shivered from the cold. Her eyes refused to open; she wanted to go back to sleep. The cold snapped at her limbs. She forced her eyes open and saw the Doctor, his hands on her shoulders, pushing her away from him. With his brow creased and his eyes wide, he looked worried.

Her back touched the suit and the inner panel. She glanced around, then back to the Doctor. “Huh? What’s wrong?”

The Doctor swallowed. “Nothing! Absolutely nothing. Just a bit hot. Well, maybe not hot, warm? Enough to be uncomfortable. Because it’s warm, and I’m not used to the heat, the human temperature of the heat. I mean, a hot body temperature.” He looked up and swallowed again. “No, that’s not it. What I mean to say is that I’m not used to a body needing a higher temperature than thirty two degrees.”

She noticed the sweat on the Doctor’s temple. “Are you sure you’re alright? Haven’t got a fever or anything?” She shrugged off his hold and floated close to him.

“Rose, I’m fine. I’m-”

Her body bumped into his, right as she placed a hand on his forehead. She didn’t expect to feel his hard cock against her stomach. “Oh,” she said. Rose dropped her hand from his forehead and glanced down. She quickly looked back up.

“Yes, ‘oh’,” he said with a sour voice. He rubbed his chin, looking at everything but her. “This is quite embarrassing, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it have been better if you left it and kept your distance?”

“Nothing to be embarrassed about Doctor. It’s perfectly normal." She licked her lips and didn’t move away from him. His hardness, evident between them, captivated her. "Don’t Time Lords get stiffies?”

“Oh, well, ah, that’s a, well, that’s not something-” He took a deep breath then sighed. “Not normally no, we’ve, uh, evolved past the need for this type of unconscious bodily function. We can, of course, have them, but it’s always done on a conscious level.”

They’d never had this type of conversation in the past. “You have to will it up?”

“Obviously not with this body.” He met her eyes, narrowing them in curiosity. “How do humans deal with this type of random occurrence?” He squirmed and she felt his cock shift. Her bottom lip dropped as she gasped. “I’m starting to understand Jack more, if some human men have these wanton,” he pushed his lips back in a frown, “‘stiffies’, as you call them.”

She smiled and tilted her chin up, thinking back on what he said to her recently. “And what about those transdimensional pockets? I thought they were supposed to hide your very manly parts?”

“Yes, well, I may have exaggerated slightly.” He ducked his head and stared at her. He smirked. “Or I, more accurately, completely lied.” His eyes darkened. “About the pockets covering them, not about them being very manly.”

Rose laughed, concentrating on the feel of his hardness against her. “I won’t disagree with you there.”

The Doctor preened, smirking. “Of course you wouldn’t.” He took a deep breath and his smirk disappeared. He swallowed for the third time and played with an ear. “Now I, uh, need to figure out how to get rid of it so we can go back to sleep.” He scratched the back of his head as he looked at her through his eyelashes. “Do you, perhaps, know of any tricks that could help, ones that are relatively easy and won’t add to my humiliation?”

She squished down her disappointment. Disappointment? Why was she disappointed?  "Yeah, Mickey used to-”

“Right, never mind. I’ll figure it out on my own,” he interrupted, looking away from her.

“You asked.”

“That’s before you started talking about your ex-boyfriend’s penis habits.”

Rose shook her head, holding back a giggle. “You’re ridiculous, you know that?”

“Is this amusing to you?” The Doctor glared at her. “I’m mortified about something I have no control over and you call me ridiculous?” He sighed. “Everyone’s having a go at me today, aren’t they?” he mumbled.

“I told you, you don’t need to be. All blokes go through this, I thought you knew?”

“This is something of a rude awakening, in more than one way.” He nodded his head vigorously.  “And! And it’s not like I can do anything about it. A tad inconvenient, don’t you think, when we’re stuck together in a small, tightly confined spacesuit?”

She blinked. “I could help.”

“What?”

She realised what she said only after she said it. They stared at one another. Rose’s breath quickened and her heart raced. Why had she said that? She gazed at his bottom lip and grabbed his hips, pulling him closer to her. The tingling between her thighs had her yearning for him to be inside her. She wanted to continue. “I could, you know, help. Get rid of it. The, um, the stiffie. If you want me to.”

The Doctor’s lips parted and he glanced at her mouth. His tongue darted out to wet his lips. Rose stared at the action, transfixed. She slid her hands up his back and angled her head to kiss him.

His lips crashed into hers, kissing her passionately. She bunched the fabric of his suit in her fists, overcome with want. His arms went around her, pressing her to him. Heat traveled throughout her body, pooling at her center.

She let go of the fabric of the suit and slid her palms across his back. She felt his fast heartbeat, beating for her. His hands on her back caressed her through the thick leather of her jacket. His touch felt the same. His lips parted and she tasted him. His taste was the same. His lips, moving with hers, felt the same. So easy to forget.

If they were going to die, floating in the nothingness of space, at least they could experience being together like this.

The suit trembled, but Rose ignored it. The Doctor seemed to do the same as his hands moved down to her bum. He groped her, pushing her higher so she aligned with him. She wrapped her legs around him and he pressed closer. She cupped his face, without breaking their kiss. He thrust his hips upward, his hard cock meeting her center through their clothes. She moaned at the contact.  

Then gravity returned to the suit and pushed her down. They broke their kiss just in time for the suit to tumble down a slope. They spun around and around, smacking into the suit with each pass. Rose cried out and shut her eyes, much like she had in space. They crashed at the bottom of whatever hill they had fallen upon.

“Steady!” The Doctor kept his hold on her as the suit stilled. She opened her eyes and found herself on top of him. They held their gaze, stunned.

Before they could assess what happened, grey smoke filled the suit. She coughed, waving her hand in front of her. Something smelled rancid. “Doctor, the smoke!”

The Doctor stared at her for half a second, then yanked out his sonic, pointing it behind her at the inner panel. “The suit’s fine, it’s-”

Her burning feet caused her to look down. “On fire!”

“What?!”

“Look!” She pointed to the legs of the suit and the fire that was eating away at the suit material.

“There’s air outside. We can go out.” They watched as the material burst into bigger flames. The fire popped from the feast the spacesuit provided. “We need to get out!” the Doctor yelled.

Rose scrambled from on top of him and pried the domed helmet off. She crawled out with the Doctor close behind her. They stood and found themselves in some kind of landfill, boxed in by rusted metal walls. Behind them a large inferno roared. Rose looked back at the suit they had shared and saw it being slowly devoured by flames. The fire became larger and hotter, as if they were moving towards it. She looked down to the floor and her eyes widened.

“Doctor, the floor is moving!”

He glanced down then back at her. “Let’s climb to the top of that hill.” He nodded to the two kilometer high pile of trash in front of them. Its peak was the farthest point from the inferno. “There should be some sort of exit up here.”

He held out his hand and Rose took it. They raced up the hill of trash, losing their footing a few times. Rose glanced behind her at the inferno midway through their trek and could no longer see their suit. The moving floor kept them close to the fire, even though they moved as fast as they could climbing the hill.

An echoing creak filled the room and Rose and the Doctor looked up. The ceiling parted in two, metal doors opening to allow a large crane to dip into the room. An electrical bolt zapped the crane as it went through an invisible shield. Out beyond the crane and the ceiling Rose could see the great expanse of space. That must have been how they got here.

The crane emptied its burden and debris fell into the room. Since Rose stood a step behind the Doctor, she saw a metal beam falling in his direction.

“Doctor!” she yelled as she rammed into him from behind, pushing him out of the way of the metal beam. The force of her action caused them to tumble down the hill of trash and stop right before the fire.

“You alright?” the Doctor asked, sweating from the heat.

“Yeah, you?” she replied, trying to catch her breath.

“I will be once we’re out of this dump,” he said as he got to his feet.

Rose smiled at him. She loved his ability to keep his spirits up in any situation. He held out his hand and she took it.

“Up we go again,” he said, as they avoided the lick of flames on their heels and climbed up the hill.

The air within the room stank, but she took in large gulps of air to keep herself moving. She rushed to escape the ever-present danger of the moving floor and the inferno waiting for them.

“Careful. I thought I saw broken glass,” the Doctor said, pointing to something under her feet.

Rose stumbled to her knees. Catching a glimpse of a lifeless eye under her hands, she sprang up and continued on. “I think I saw I severed head back there,” she said, wrinkling her nose.

“This is a garbage freighter, you’ll see just about anything in here.”

They finally made it to the top.

The Doctor let go of her hand and searched the peak. “There should be a door somewhere on one of these walls. They have to inspect the room occasionally, for maintenance, that sort of thing.” He turned in a circle. Another creaking noise echoed around them. “I want to get out of here before we have to reenact a scene from Star Wars.”

Rose scanned the area but only saw the rusted metal of the walls and the oddities of the trash under their feet. The Doctor climbed over to the left side of the hill and Rose went right. The moving floor moved a large piece of a spaceship near the farthest right wall. In doing so, it uncovered a ledge attached to the wall, big enough for a person, a humanoid person, to stand on.

“Doctor! There’s a ledge here,” she called to him as she made way towards the ledge. As soon as her feet touched the unmoving, solid floor of the ledge, Rose sighed in relief. She turned to watch the Doctor rush to her, over the mess of the landfill. Her heart clenched with worry and she held out her hand, wanting him safe with her on the ledge.

He closed the gap and grabbed her stretched out hand. She pulled him up to safety.

“The exit must be close by.” He took out his sonic and scanned the wall. A panel, hidden within the wall, popped open to their left. “Hah!” The Doctor changed the setting of his sonic. Working the panel, the sonic emitted a different sound Rose recognised as the one he used to pick locks.

A hidden door slid open further to their left, revealing a stark white hallway. The Doctor made his way to the door then extended his arm, ushering her inside first. Rose dashed into the hallway. The Doctor followed and the door closed behind him.

“We’re out of the suit and breathing. Does that count as lucky?” she asked, panting.

The Doctor walked up to her. He stood over her with gentle eyes and, with the back of his fingers, caressed her cheek. “That depends. You’re not hurt?”

“No, I’m not.” His fingers on her cheek were softer than she expected. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head towards his hand. His soft caress soothed her worries. Her eyes shot open when her stomach tightened at a sudden and unwanted thought. “You’ve never done this before.” She took his hand touching her cheek, stopping his movement. “It’s-It’s different.”

“Does that matter? If it’s different?” He dropped his hand from her hold and stepped away.

“Yeah, if you turn out to be someone else.” Wouldn’t it be easier if he wasn’t the Doctor? It would simplify things. She could find a way back to him, the real Doctor, and not have to worry about another one. Not worry about a Doctor that could die.

He put his hands in his pockets and leaned away from her. “I’m always a little different each time I regenerate, new body, new personality.” She flinched, knowing what he said was true. He narrowed his eyes at her. “You didn’t seem to mind it much the last time,” he said, anger clear in his voice.

She closed her eyes, remembering that moment when he’d changed his face, and shook her head. Then anger filled her. She opened her eyes and shouted. “I did mind! It was really difficult for me, seeing you change!”

He glared at her, accusation in his eyes. “Oh, no, you’re right. You gave up on me, how could I forget, hmm!?”

Her anger boiled over and she wanted to shout again. He was missing the point! “I’m not going to give up on you, alright, so quit your whining!”

“Then why tell me it matters? Trying to put distance between us again after you offered me a hand job, or was that an offer for something else?”

Distance? Was that what she was doing? “That’s not it! How could you even say that?!”

It’d only been a day since she saw the TARDIS disappear. Since he left her, again! “I’m-” Three years since she was torn from the Doctor. Three years of being alone, saving the Earth. Three years of losing people she cared about. And now twenty four hours since he left her and she found out this Doctor was mortal. That she could lose him even after she lost the other him.

“I’m scared!” she cried. “‘Cause I could be happy with you!” Tears blurred her vision. “How could I be happy with someone else when he’s still out there! How can I be happy when I know the other Doctor could be alone, right now, and I can’t reach him?”

How could I be happy knowing I could lose you all over again?

His shoulders dropped. The anger drained from his face. “Rose,” he whispered, coming closer to her. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I haven’t been fair to you. We haven’t been fair to you.” He took her hand into his. “I am different. I’m another regeneration based off my previous one. The first me you met liked two sugars in his tea, then the next me liked four and hated pears. I don’t know if I’ll like two or four sugars yet or if I’ll enjoy- No, no, I don’t think I’ll like pears.” He ducked his head and caught her eyes. “The point is, I’m still me and I still have the same feelings that the others had, especially for you.” He let go of her hand and tucked her hair behind her ear. “The other me was willing to sacrifice his own happiness to make sure you would have yours and be able to stay with your family. I can do so much now, with a human life. I can show you just how much I love you.” He cupped her face with both hands. “We both want you to be happy, Rose.”

Her anger rose to the surface once more before sizzling out. “No, that’s not right. He shouldn’t have just decided that! He shouldn’t-” Rose thought of Bad Wolf Bay and asking them both that question. She finally understood why the other Doctor hadn’t said it. All three of them had made a choice. Her tears spilled from her eyes and fell on the Doctor’s hands. “I know you’re the Doctor. I’m sorry, I-”

“You don’t have to apologize. Come here, ” he interrupted, pulling her into a hug.

She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face into his chest, crying in earnest. He patted her back and made soft noises to calm her. Everything that she had pushed back, or aside, or buried under heart came gushing forth.

The Doctor pulled her with him as he backed into a wall. Her tears stopped with the sudden move. Her quick ability to focus was a habit she’d learned from working at Torchwood.

“Did you hear that?” he whispered.

She pulled away from him and looked up and down the hallway. “Hear what?” She glanced at Doctor. His red face and bloodshot eyes told her he must have been crying too.

Her thoughts were cut off when a loud tapping noise echoed from down the hall. As it got louder, a rasping howl accompanied the tapping. And it was getting closer.

“Oh, now what?” the Doctor asked.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

The Doctor’s hands slipped away from Rose as she stepped out of his embrace. She stared at the unlit passage of the hallway, a few metres down. The noise came from the dark. The tapping and rasping howl sounded in tempo, one after the other. He turned towards the sound, instinctively stepping in front of Rose to protect her.

“Now I can hear it. Do you know what it is?” Rose asked as she looked at him. She stepped closer, standing at his side.

He met her eyes. “I have no idea,” the Doctor said, shaking his head.

“Whatever it is, it’s coming for us, yeah?”

“Unless they’re coming to check on the garbage chute, then they most likely are.”

“They could be friendly, or, I don’t know, sympathetic maybe?””

With wide eyes, he tilted his head. Almost two days of constant moving, dodging, and running into trouble took a toll on his mood, especially after the conversation he’d just had with Rose. He flippantly said, “Could be the Yeti. And I’ve met the Yeti. Well, robot Yetis. At this point, I’m prepared for anything.” He turned to look behind them and saw a steel door sealing the other end of the hallway. “And we can’t leg it to safety, the hallway ends behind us and the only way open is towards whatever,” he turned back to face the noise, “or whoever is coming.”

“We're trapped then,” Rose said with an edge of finality. They stared, fixated, at the dark, as the noise continued to grow closer. A moment later, a large and rough silhouette appeared in the darkness. Rose grabbed his sleeve. “Hold on, I think I know what it is.” He looked at her and she nodded to the silhouette. “It’s a Bah’lik.”

He raised an eyebrow. “A what?”

Rose faced him. “Bah’lik,” she repeated. “They’re sort of like the opposite of a Judoon. They can be friendly though.”

“You mean they’re career criminals?” he asked.

Rose shrugged. “Sort of.”

“Never heard of them,” he said with a sniff. A thought came to him. “And if I never heard of them...do you know if they’re indigenous to this universe?”

“Yeah, they might be. Haven’t seen them anywhere else.”

Impressed at how much Rose knew, the Doctor beamed. A small part of him felt indignant that he wasn’t the most knowledgeable person around. But a larger part of him was excited by the prospect. Even in the middle of trouble, his heart felt lighter. “First Pyoos and now a species that doesn’t exist in the other universe. This is fantastic!” He leaned closer to Rose and bumped her shoulder. “I knew coming to Pete’s World would be worth it!”

Rose leaned away from him with a frown. “Oi!”

Before he could reassure her, a voice cut through the hallway. “Where’d you two come from?” the Bah’lik bellowed.

The newcomer stood before them, close enough for the Doctor to finally see the details of this new alien. The Bah’lik was round, yellow, with crab-like claws for arms and hands. One claw-hand held a rather large gun.

The Doctor squinted and rubbed the back of his neck. “Would you believe me if I said the backdoor?”

The Bah’lik looked between him and Rose, bewildered. “Bu-but that’s impossible. We did the scans! That spacesuit we scooped contained no living biological matter!” he sputtered. With one of his clawed hands, he reached into a bag that hung from his utility belt and pulled out a mobile scanner. He turned it on and two blue lasers swirled around Rose and the Doctor. The lasers disappeared and the mobile scanner beeped pathetically. “That’s odd. You two still come out as non-living biological matter!” The Bah’lik studied the both of them, his face contorted in disgust and anger. “What the hell are you two?

“Humans,” the Doctor tucked in his chin, “for the most part.” He watched the Bah’lik put away the scanner. “Your scans probably couldn’t differentiate between me and Rose since we were both in the same suit and instead of showing an error, it read as non-living. Plus, I’m hardly a typical human that your scans are used to. Let me ask, what would you have done if it the scans showed signs of life in the suit?”

“Called up the authorities,” the Bah’lik replied. The Doctor and Rose shared a glance. They were fortunate to have escaped being picked up by the Pyoo authorities. “You two needed help?” the newcomer asked.

“You could say,” Rose said with a breathy laugh.

“What about signaling? You put out a distress signal?”

“No,” the Doctor said.

“No, we didn’t,” said Rose.

The Bah’lik’s bright yellow skin turned orange. “If you had, that would have saved me the trip of coming down here! I had to check why someone accessed incinerator number 50!” he yelled. “You know how much of a pain it is walking all the way down here? I’ll be paying for it all week, right in the back!”

“We didn’t have one,” the Doctor replied, hoping to calm him down. “That is, we didn’t have a long range communication system.” The Doctor fiddled with his ear, trying to remain casual. “The, um, suit might have been just a tad on the lower end.” He let go of his ear and put his hands in his pockets. “And even if we did have one, we didn't have enough power to both send out a signal and keep the oxygen systems running.”

The Bah’lik looked them up and down, his face stoic. The newcomer took a step closer, narrowing his yellow eyes. “Wait a minute, a suit without a long range communication system? That a suit from Pyoo?” He pointed a clawed hand at them, poking the air. “You two come with me.” He then held up his other hand, pointing his gun squarely at them. “When I order ya, you better listen.”

The Doctor glanced at Rose and she pursed her lips. The Bah’lik turned his back on them and walked down the hallway. He headed towards the darkened part of the passage and they followed.

The Doctor took Rose’s hand, wanting the reassurance that she was by his side. He had a sinking suspicion the Bah’lik knew they were on the run from the Pyoo government. He hoped that wasn’t the case. Yet with their current record, he was probably dead on.

The Bah’lik walked to a computer panel attached to the left wall of the hallway. He stopped in front of it and, without looking, pointed his gun in their direction. With his free claw-hand he pushed a few buttons and the screen lit up. On the screen a human, looking either exhausted or bored, stared back at them.

“Greg, pull up that alert. I think we got the two escaped prisoners from Pyoo on board,” the Bah’lik asked, sounding rather put out.

Sometimes the Doctor hated it when he was correct. “Do you really need to do that?” he whined.

“We’re not trying to steal from ya or anything. We’re just passing through,” said Rose, trying to sound placating.

“Right, we’re just passing through,” the Doctor agreed. “Keeping to ourselves. No harm, no foul! If you’re wary, you can search us if you like.” He nodded and glanced over to Rose, before looking back at the Bah’lik and continuing. “You can drop us off at the nearest space station.” Thinking fast when the Bah’lik shook his head, he realized they were on a duopoly freighter. Most likely Greg and this Bah’lik were its only crew. “We’ll make ourselves useful on the way, since we know a thing or two about freighters.” He lowered his voice, putting on a persuasive tone, “Must be hard doing it all alone, with only Greg for company.” He smiled and leaned back and forth on his heels.

The Bah’lik finally turned to face them. He poked his gun at the air in their direction. “You two shut it or you can go back into Incinerator 50!”

The Doctor gulped and caught Rose’s eyes. They stared at each other. They did not want to go back into the incinerator. Rose caressed his hand with her thumb and he sighed. He turned his attention back to the Bah’lik.

The screen changed from Greg’s face to a document lined with text and pictures. “Here’s the alert, Ulreigh,” Greg said from the speakers. Ulreigh turned to the screen, reading the alert. “When you coming back? I’m bored up here all alone,” Greg grumbled.

As Ulreigh read the alert, the Doctor did the same. He could read Pyoo; it was something he picked up from the Academy. Besides the picture of both him and Rose, it gave a thorough description of their appearance. It also listed their crimes against the Pyoo government, most of it made up. There was a warning at the bottom that they were dangerous and not to be trusted. He gave up on any hope of future tries at coaxing their way out of trouble.

Ulreigh sighed, a great gust of visible air streaming out of his nose and mouth. “After I toss these two into a holding cell,” he said, dejected. “I was right, they’re the bloody escaped prisoners.”

Greg made another appearance on the screen. “Aye, well, at least we’ll get the reward money,” he said, sounding like he wasn’t paying attention at all.

“Not worth the trouble. See ya soon.”  With his free claw-hand, Ulreigh pushed a button and the screen turned off. Then he turned to face the Doctor and Rose, looking stern. “Don’t go yammering about wanting me to let the two of ya go. I’m trying to straighten out my life so I’m not doing anything illegal. You got it?” He poked his gun at the air again.

“Crystal,” said the Doctor.

“Yeah,” said Rose.

“Now follow me.” Ulreigh turned and walked down the hallway, further into the unlit passage. He stopped and said over his shoulder,  “And no funny stuff! I’ll be happy enough to spray ya with knockout juice instead of letting you have your wits.”

The Doctor and Rose followed Ulreigh. They stayed close to him as they continued farther into the darkness of the corridor. As Ulreigh walked, he panted. The noise echoed in the hall, sounding like a rasping howl. The tapping came from Ulreigh’s limp that the Doctor hadn’t noticed before. The Bah’lik looked worn and torn, with scars lining his exposed skin. The Doctor felt a wave of pity for him. A career criminal wanting to make his life better must have had to fight tooth and nail for a stable life. He didn’t blame him for not letting the two of them go.

Soon they came to a part of the hallway that was lit. Doors lined the walls and after they turned a corner, the hallway split into many different paths. They turned another corner and came upon a set of large doors. Ulreigh stepped through as the doors slid open and the Doctor and Rose followed. Inside the room were cells with glass doors, and each cell had a cot attached to one of the walls. They had arrived at the freighter’s version of a holding center.

Ulreigh herded them into one of the cells. He locked it once they were inside, and dashed out of the room as fast as his bulky form could carry him.

The Doctor let go of Rose’s hand and she walked deeper into their cell. He looked up at the ceiling, studying the frame of their cell’s glass door. “Seems like we always find ourselves here,” he whispered.

“Figured it was only a matter of time before we ended up in someplace like this,” said Rose.

He grunted in agreement. “I’ve still got my sonic, don’t think he realised I had it.”

“That’s good, means we can break out,” she said, as she zipped open her leather jacket.

He watched as Rose fanned her body with her jacket before shaking himself out of his lust-fueled stupor. “The question is, should we?”

She stopped fanning herself and furrowed her brows. “You’re not serious, are you?”

He swallowed then came closer to Rose, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Freighters like this don’t come equipped with shuttles or have any sort of transmat capabilities. If we escape now, there is literally nowhere to go. Ulreigh will just track us down. And going by how grumpy Mister Ulreigh was, I’d take it he wouldn’t appreciate running around trying to recapture us.”

“What about escape pods?”

He nodded. “Good thinking.” He glanced up at the ceiling, contemplating their options. A creak reverberated through the walls. “Best not though. We’d end up in the same situation as we were in the suit, drifting in space until someone picks us up. And it’s no use trying to overtake the ship. These freighters are awfully slow. Half the Pyoo fleet will be on us before we make it to the nearest space station.”

“What about our luck?”

“Mm, what about it?” he asked, half lost in thought, his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth. He ran through all the possible escape methods that were safe. He didn't want to risk Rose’s life, or his own, any more than he had to.

“We got picked up once before, by this freighter. Won’t we get picked up again if someone is controlling our fate?”

She was right. Their luck would probably win out in any scenario they encountered. He now knew for certain that someone was pulling their strings, and he didn’t like it. “Possibly, though I’d rather not bank on it. As you said before, I’d rather make my own fate.” He looked to Rose and decided on a plan. “We’ll be able to hear it when they dock at a space station, which they should if they’re going to turn us in. We’ll break out then and make our way onto the station, then commandeer another docked ship before anyone realises we’re not where they left us.”

“So we wait?”

He nodded. “Ye-ah.”

“Alright, think I can get onboard with that.” Rose sat on the cot, looking relieved to be off her feet. He sat next to her and they leaned back against the wall. She zipped her jacket back up then looked over her shoulder to him. “Not used to you always making plans like this. We’ve been planning a lot lately.”

“Well,” he sniffed, “I gotta be more cautious now that I’m part human, remember? No more regenerations.”

Rose looked down at her lap, to her fidgeting hands. Tears welled up in her eyes. “Yeah, like I could forget.”

Immediately he wanted take back his words. He hadn’t realised they would upset her this much. This was the third time in less than two days that he felt wholly inadequate for a human relationship. “I’m sorry.” He put an arm around her shoulders.

She leaned into his embrace, resting her head on his shoulder. “Nothing to apologize for.”

He thought about how nervous he had been during their escape in the suit. “Didn’t realise how much we both relied on my regenerations for when things turn...ugly.”

“Now you’re just like the rest of us. Human.”

“How do you ever manage it? This body is absolute rubbish. It thinks on its own, it’s inefficient with running and dealing with poisons, not to mention the smell.”

Rose laughed, a wholehearted laugh. She looked up at him and smiled. “You smell fine to me.” She laughed again and he couldn’t help but grin.

“Hmm, I like that,” he said.

“What?”

“Your smile.”

Her eyes twinkled with adoration. “I like your smile too,” she said softly.

Hope flared in his heart. “You’re not scared anymore?”

Her smile disappeared and she looked back down at her lap. “No, I’m terrified.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“No.”

He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly. They sat in silence. He didn’t know what to do for Rose except stay by her side and hold her. She played with a few strands of hair and the Doctor thought about Canary Wharf.

That day had been one of the worst days of his life. He’d had plenty of bad days: losing Susan, losing Jamie and Zoe, losing Adric in the worst possible way, losing Tegan and Turlough, thinking Peri had died, losing Charley and Romana, the Time War, the Master, and then losing both the TARDIS and Donna on the same day. To even think about Donna felt taboo. He didn’t want another day of sorrow, not when he was given the gift of living a life with Rose Tyler.

He realised he was terrified too. He couldn’t protect Rose or the people he cared about anymore, not like he used to. But he couldn’t wrap himself and her up in a mattress. Trouble was what they did, as Rose had reminded him recently. Yet now he was scared of trouble. It scared him before, on the Crucible. He thought about all the things that Dalek fleet could do and he acted out based on that fear. Now that he had a clearer head, he knew he shouldn’t have done it. But it seemed human fear had a powerful pull.

The thought of losing Rose and being left behind, alone, was his strongest fear, with the most pull. Dying with her, together, if that was where they were headed, kept his fear at bay.

No, he shouldn’t travel down that rabbit hole. All he wanted to think about was Rose. Not his past, not his current limitations, but Rose and being reunited with her at last.

Looking at Rose he noticed that her face was tear stained and her make up smudged. He pushed down the urge to kiss her, to dry up those tears and smooth clear her ruined make up. He wanted to see her smile again.

But this wasn’t the time or the place to indulge those desires.

That didn’t stop his thoughts from turning to what happened in the suit. Caressing her arm, he started to imagine what would happen if he did kiss her. She would wrap her arms around him as their lips touched. He would then pull her onto his lap, to deepen the kiss, to taste her. His hands would roam her back as hers would comb through his hair.

The Doctor’s cock twitched and he stamped out his fantasy. It would be overtly obvious if he got a stiffie now, with Rose leaning into him like this.

The freighter shook and it snapped his attention back to their predicament. Rose sat up as the ship trembled after the shaking. The walls of their cell muffled the sound of a loud blast. Then another, just before the freighter shook once more.

“Are we under attack again? It sounds the same,” Rose asked, standing up from the cot.

The Doctor jumped to his feet. “Yup! Looks like our luck is still giving away Get Out of Jail Free cards.”

He took out his sonic and rushed to the cell door. He pointed it to the lock and clicked on the sonic.

“That means a change in plans, yeah?” Rose asked as she came to his side.

“Oh, definitely. It’s the same ship as the one that destroyed the rocket. I can tell by the blasts. We’ll need to find another suit, or suits, and high tail it out of here and back into space,” he said.

“It’s going to destroy the freighter, isn’t it?”

He stopped the sonic and glanced at Rose. “Your guess is as good as mine.” He turned back to the cell door and resumed his sonicing. “It’ll take more firepower to destroy a freighter of this type than it did the rocket, so maybe they’ll give up and leave. But I’m not taking that chance.”

“I don’t get it, why destroy so many ships in the Pyoo system? People must know about their Seers, right? And how the Pyoo Queen, or leader, whoever she was, is going to kill them as soon as they find them?”

“That’s a brilliant question. Maybe we can ask them if they don’t kill us first,” he said, feeling exasperated by her questions.

Rose, of course, ignored him and continued on. “There has to be something more to it. Perhaps they’re the ones pulling our strings?”

“Or it could all be one, big, giant coincidence,” he said, agitated. Begrudgingly though, he admitted to himself that she was right. Something more was at play with both the rocket and the freighter being attacked by the same ship.

“No, I don’t think it is,” Rose said with absolute confidence.

The freighter stopped shaking. The blasts quieted, leaving the cell still and silent as the moment they arrived inside it.

The Doctor clicked off his sonic. He stared at the ceiling. “They’ve stopped.”

“Did they give up?”

Another creak echoed in the walls, followed by metal banging against metal. A cascade of sounds, none of them of the blaster variety, reverberated through the walls. A chill went up the Doctor’s spine as he thought back to his trip to Midnight. He wondered if a creature similar to what attacked them on Midnight was onboard the freighter. He and Rose followed the sounds in the walls, until it took them to the main door of the holding center.

The main doors slid open and two grungy humanoids stepped through. They were obviously not crew members of the freighter. In fact, the blood stains on their trousers told the Doctor they were much more dangerous. They wore technology not native to the Pyoo system and gas masks on their heads. The only clean items between the two were silver armlets with a logo the Doctor couldn’t make out.

The Doctor put away his sonic. He crossed his metaphorical fingers that the two humanoids hadn’t seen the action.  

The two dirty newcomers came right up to their cell door. The Doctor put his arm out to shield Rose, who grabbed his arm, pushed it down, and slid her hand into his.

“Oi, look what’s in here, two prisoners,” one of them said. He was the shorter of the two.

“That’s rare for a garbage freighter,” said the other, who was thinner than the short one.

The Doctor leaned towards Rose. “Judging by their clothes and weapons, I’d say these two are pirates,” he whispered.

“Space pirates,” she said, staring at the Doctor. She turned back to look at the two humanoids. “Why does that not surprise me?” she whispered back, her voice dripping with exasperation.

“Say that louder sweetheart?” asked the shorter one.

“I said I’m not surprised. That you’re pirates,” said Rose, loudly. “That’s right, you’re pirates, aren’t you?”

With a crooked smirk, the shorter one came closer to the cell door. “That we are, sweetheart. The best pirates this galaxy will ever see! We’re the only ones known to have escaped those damned Pyoo Seers!”

“That’s enough Ricket, don’t go telling that to strangers,” said the thinner one.

“But we’re taking them, aren’t we, Rob?” asked Ricket.

“Why? What purpose is there in taking us with you?” the Doctor asked, a slight panic causing his single heart to beat faster.

“You two could be valuable, if you’re locked up on a garbage freighter,” said Rob.

Both space pirates laughed boorishly then made ridiculous faces, sticking out their tongues.

Rose stepped forward. The Doctor tried to pull her back, yet he was unable to stop her. “No, you’re not. You’re not taking us. You destroyed that rocket, killing all those innocent people. The last thing I’ll do is come with ya,” she said, her voice stern and full of anger.

“Don’t you preach to us. We do what we like. And those people-”

“Ricket!”

Ricket deflated. “Right, right.”

Ricket and Rob then reached behind them and pulled two long canisters out from their belt. The Doctor recognized the labels on them immediately.

“Oh, no. Absolutely not. You’re not using that on us. We’ll come peacefully,” said the Doctor.

“Use what?” Rose asked, turning to him.

As Rob broke opened the cell door, the Doctor backed away, pulling Rose along with him. “It’s an oxidized chloroform mixture that renders the target unconscious. It could be dangerous if too much is used on humans.”

“The knock out juice?”

“Heh, you must have met our old buddy Ulreigh. He used to love calling it that,” said Ricket.

Used?” asked Rose.

“I’m warning you, don’t come closer,”commanded the Doctor, anger underlining each word.

“A threat? With what?” asked Rob, smirking as he pulled down his gas mask. Ricket did the same. “Take a nice nap on us.” They held up the canisters, pointing them directly at the Doctor and Rose.

The Doctor grabbed Rose, holding her close to his chest, and turned his back on the two space pirates. Rose clung to his neck and head, pulling him down into her embrace, his face covered by her body.

He heard the canisters go off with a hiss. Their attempts to shield each other from the juice failed. The Doctor grew light-headed, then a great invisible weight pushed him down, and the cell grew darker..

And darker...

Darkness engulfed the Doctor and his head throbbed. He tried to force his eyes to open but they remained shut tight. He felt the ground below him and there was dirt under his fingernails. He was on a floor somewhere. He tried to open his eyes again. Finally he saw a blackened ceiling above him. It was different than the ceiling of the freighter's holding cell.

He rubbed his eyes. “Ugh, that’s one for the books. Last time I’m letting anyone near me with knock out juice.” He rolled to lay on his stomach. “Rose?” he called.

No one answered.

The Doctor pushed himself up and stood, looking around the new grimy jail cell he found himself in. “Rose?”

She wasn’t there. Instead, just outside the metal bars of his cell door, a guard stood watching him.

He rushed to the metal bars and demanded, “Where’s Rose, what did you do with her?”

The guard stood silent and unmoving.

His heart raced with panic and dread. Anger soon followed. “Where have you taken her?”

The guard stayed silent.

He knew what space pirates did to the women they captured. Every single scenario of what they could do to her raced through his mind. Tears threatened to emerge, hot anger rushed through his veins. “Answer me!” the Doctor yelled.

The guard blinked and said nothing.

Frustration and indignation boiled inside him. He clenched his jaw and stared daggers at the guard. He tried a different approach. “Why are you standing watch? Isn’t it enough to throw me in here instead of having to babysit?”

The guard didn’t answer. The Doctor studied the alien. The guard’s humanoid features mixed with that of a bear, or a bearlike creature. He focused on the guard’s nose and recognized the color and shape of it.

The guard’s silence must have had a meaning, since both Ricket and Rob were talkative. This pirate must have had orders from above.

“So that’s it, isn’t it? You’re keeping a tight lip, not spilling any of the beans, staying quiet to not give anything away? Hmm?”

The guard remained silent.

Fear now overtook his anger. If they had hurt her, or worse yet, killed her, he wouldn’t know what to do with himself. He thought back on Rose telling him she was terrified. He remembered the look on her face when he spoke of his mortality, when she said she was scared to be happy with him. He remembered how dejected she was when running through that dead forest and how she promised to tell him about where she heard of Nicloxans. He thought back on how she was easily willing to think of him as not the Doctor. Rather belatedly he realised what all that meant. She was terrified of losing him just as he was terrified of losing her.

He recalled one of the first questions she asked after the TARDIS disappeared. You gonna just leave without saying anything?

The urge to reassure her overtook both his fear and anger. A calm settled in his core. The Doctor had a mission: save Rose then tell her he wouldn’t ever leave her side again.

“Tell me where Rose is and no harm will come to you or your ship. If you hurt her-” He tripped on his words as images of Rose being hurt filled his thoughts. He started again. “Don’t believe me? Scan my biology. You’ll see I’m something else entirely. I’m something this universe has never seen before and never will again. I’m part Time Lord. Less than two days ago I destroyed an entire race of beings so powerful they could conquer all of space and time. A little pirate ship like this, just a passing blip roaming the stars, is nothing to someone like me.”

The guard laughed, with an incredulous expression on his face.

“Fine,” the Doctor bit out, his anger skimming the surface of his voice. “Fine. If that’s how you want it.” He sat on the cot attached to the wall and crossed his arms and legs. A moment later, he asked, “Tell me, was one of your parents a Peladonite Aggedoran?”

“Yeah? Why?” asked the guard, finally speaking.

“Oh, no reason.”

The Doctor sat in silence, staring at the opposite wall, pointedly away from the guard. In this universe probably no one knew of the real origin of the Curse of Peladon. He kept himself from smirking. With casual precision, he hummed the same Venusian lullaby he had before, so long ago.

“Hey, stopp…” the guard called out before dropping to the floor, asleep.

The Doctor glanced over at the sleeping guard and stood up. He pulled out his sonic, relieved he still had it, and pointed it to the lock on the cell door. The lock popped open with ease and the Doctor stepped out.

He looked down at the guard, who slept soundly. “That’ll keep you quiet for some time.”

Bending down, the Doctor unhooked one of the weapons, a laser gun, attached to the guard. He then hooked the weapon over his own shoulder. He shoved away his hate for guns and weapons, knowing he needed it to save Rose. That was all that mattered. Save Rose.

He went over to the nearest computer panel, located on the wall next to the main door of the detention area. He pointed his sonic at the panel and went to work on the computer. He found Rose easily. She was in the next detention area, three sections down from here. He reprogrammed the blast doors, sealing off the detention areas from the rest of the ship. He then programmed the doors between here and Rose to auto-lock on a timer. They would start as soon as he walked out the main doors of this detention area. They would then lock behind him each time he walked through a new door.

He then went over to a naked area of the wall and used his sonic on the paneling. A single metal panel fell off, and the Doctor grabbed wires from within the wall. He pulled out a computer chip from his pocket and attached it to two wires. He then opened the gun and rewired it. With his sonic, he welded his own device onto the laser gun, turning it into a non-lethal stun gun.

Satisfied with his work and his plan, he stepped out of the main door and headed off to rescue Rose.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

Rose shifted in her chair. After sitting on it for the past half hour, the hard wood of the seat made it hard to concentrate. Her time with the humanoid interrogator felt dragged out, as if she’d been sitting for hours. Trained by her time with the Doctor and Torchwood to make the best out of these situations, she kept her eyes and ears locked on the man sitting before her.

“Now that you know about us and about that rocket we destroyed, we want to know about you.” Her guard leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Where did you come from? Do you work for anyone?”

“No, we don’t work for anyone.” She shook her head, thinking about what she should reveal and what she should hold back. “Though I used to work as a, well, as an operative for an organization called Torchwood. They work to defend our planet against hostile aliens.”

Her guard raised an eyebrow. “Ever killed?”

She looked down at her hands and remembered dozens of faces wearing their last expressions. “Yeah, had to.” She raised her chin, trying to conceal her heavy heart with a stoic face.

The doors behind the guard slid open. The Doctor rushed in, holding a large laser gun and wearing a look she recognized as the Oncoming Storm. For a moment she could have sworn she saw a flash of blue eyes and leather before her.

The guard turned in his seat to see who had entered. “What the-”

The Doctor didn’t say anything, but pulled the trigger and shot the man. The guard fell to the floor in a heap and Rose immediately got down on her knees to check on him, feeling for a pulse. She sighed when she found it, beating slowly but steadily. The Doctor walked over to them, his red Chucks coming into view. Rose, angered and surprised by the Doctor’s actions, looked up at him, hoping he saw the fury in her eyes.

"You shot him!"

"I'm rescuing you," said the Doctor.

"I didn't need rescuing!"

He held out his hand for her to take. "I don't know if you noticed, but we've been captured by pirates, brought aboard their ship, and separated. And if I remember correctly, you weren't so keen about them onboard the freighter," said the Doctor, sarcasm and exasperation clear in his voice.

Rose took his hand and he pulled her to her feet. Standing, she let go of his hand. "But you don't just go shooting people! They could help!"

"They destroyed that rocket! They killed those innocent people!" yelled the Doctor.

“Yeah, and some of those people were building death camps! They aren’t just pirates, they’re rebels, fighting against the Pyoo government. We can help them stop the Pyoos,” said Rose, trying to remain calm.

“They’re pirates, Rose! Pirates! They spread chaos and destruction and you want to join their merry band of killers to use them against the Pyoos? What makes you any better than them?!”

She glanced at his gun, then met his eyes, narrowing hers. “And what about you? You used a gun to rescue me, what’s so different about using the pirates to stop the Pyoos?”

He stared at her. “What about Ulreigh?” asked the Doctor, some of his anger gone.

“What about him?”

“You noticed the blood on the trousers of Rob and Ricket, and how they talked about their old friend? I’ll bet you anything they killed him.”

Rose shut her eyes at his words, Ulreigh’s face popping up in her mind. With her hands balled into fists, she opened her eyes and lowered her voice. “I’m not talking about joining them, just helping them with the Pyoos.” She took a step closer to the Doctor. “It’s not like I want this, but what other choice do we have? You saw that alert, no one is going to help us now.” She took a breath. “We can work with them and then go home, without worrying about people chasing us.”

“And just let the pirates take over the system? The means don’t always justify the ends. I understand that more than anyone.” A loud bang sounded down the hall and the Doctor looked back, over his shoulder. Then came another, louder, bang. The Doctor looked back at Rose. “We can discuss this later, after we’ve gotten somewhere safe.”

“Fine,” said Rose, shaking her head.

“Come on.” The Doctor grabbed her hand.

Together they ran out of the detention area and down the corridor. She let go of his hand and sprinted faster, through the rusting metal halls of the pirate ship. The Doctor kept up and they ran side by side, turning corners and past doors. At a T intersection they took a right and found a group of pirates blocking the way. They all had laser guns pointed directly at Rose and the Doctor.

“Woah! Not that way,” yelled the Doctor, skidding to a halt. He turned around, almost losing his balance, and ran, Rose following close behind him.

Back at the T intersection they continued straight, heading down the left pathway, past the corridor they entered from. Further down, the corridor swerved left. As they came around the bend, they were stopped by another group of pirates, all with laser guns pointed and ready to shoot.

“Not that way either,” yelled Rose. They both stopped dead in their tracks.

They turned away from the pirates, running back the way they came. Rose breathed harder, exhaustion weighing her down. The short amount of rest she’d had over the last few weeks was catching up to her.

“Why aren’t they shooting at us?” asked the Doctor breathlessly.

“Our luck?” quipped Rose. From speaking with the guard, she knew that the pirates wanted them for a reason. This time, Rose was sure it had nothing to do with their luck.

At the T intersection they turned down the corridor towards Rose’s detention area. Rose looked behind her and saw the pirates chasing after them, but still not using their guns. Right as they came to the detention area, they were blocked yet again. This time a group of pirates led by a woman with a hand on her hip stood in their way.

Rose and the Doctor stopped a metre away from the woman. The pirates that had been giving chase blocked the path behind them. They were trapped.

Rose studied the woman leading the pirates in front of them. She wore mostly greys and blacks. The design of her armor and trousers was like that of the Pyoo Empress and the Pyoo soldiers. And she was tall, almost as tall as the Doctor.

“There’s nowhere to go, you two. Drop the weapon,” said the woman.

The Doctor dropped the laser gun. “Who’re you?”

“I’m the Captain of this ship, but that’s also my name.” The Captain lifted her other hand and studied her nails, ignoring them for a second. She flicked her wrist dismissively and then looked back at Rose and the Doctor. “It’s something we have in common, isn’t that right, Doctor?”

“I have nothing in common with you,” said the Doctor, his voice low and menacing.

“No, you’re wrong. I know we have lots in common,” said the Captain, with all the confidence in the universe that she was right.

A chill went up Rose’s spine. Something about this woman seemed off. “What are you going to do with us?” asked Rose.

“I’m interested in a truce.”

“Why? What for?” asked the Doctor.

The Captain tutted. “Stop being hostile. I don’t have to be your enemy.” She spoke as if they were children.

Rose’s gut told her that they should play along for now. “Doctor, let’s listen to her.” She looked over to the Doctor and wished she could speak to him in private. The guard had treated her nicely when he questioned her. He’d offered her water and told her all about their goals as pirates. When she brought up the rocket, he had been quick to tell her why they destroyed it. Rose didn’t like this Captain. Her flight or fight instincts flared whenever the Captain made eye contact. Rose was picking up two different signals from the group of spacefaring deviants. Something wasn’t right.

The Doctor glanced at Rose. “Alright,” he said after a few seconds. He then looked back at the Captain. “We agree to your truce.” He raised his chin in defiance. “What do you want from us? Need new cooks and looking to recruit? I have to say I’m a horrible cook. And Rose here, well, she unfortunately inherited her mother’s nut loaf. You’re better off eating carbon fiber.”

Rose rolled her eyes at the insult, knowing full well that the Doctor liked her cooking. And he was a fabulous cook.

The Captain stepped closer. “I’ve been watching the two of you ever since you were brought on board.” She tilted her head back to look down her nose at them, smirking. “I saw that alert from Pyoo. It’s a pack of lies, isn’t it? I would know, since I’m a Seer myself, though I no longer work for The Imperial Confederacy of Magnus Pyoo.”

Rose breathed in deep. That might be way she didn’t trust the Captain. No one should have the ability to know the future and change it for their benefit. That had been one of her earliest lessons from traveling with the Doctor. It’s best to leave the future be.

“So that’s how you escape their detection,” said the Doctor.

“Hmm. Yes.” The Captain took another step closer, this time in Rose’s direction. The Captain locked eyes with Rose. “As Rose here knows, I want to stop the Pyoo government. I also know you two could be the ones to finally stop them.”

Rose returned her stare, stomping down her impulse to either run or sock the Captain in the eye. “Could be? I thought we are the ones who were gonna stop them, it’s why they’ve been trying to kill us,” said Rose.

The Captain frowned, raising her brows in pity. “That’s the rub, unfortunately, and something only a Pyoo Seer would really know. Our predictions can be faulty, even downright wrong. Though normally they’re only vague. It’s the Empress who takes no chances, even with innocent people.”

“And yet you do the same, abusing your power for your own gain,” yelled the Doctor.

The Captain stepped away from Rose and stood in front of the Doctor. “Ultimately my, well,” she opened her arms to gesture to her crew, “our goal is to destroy the Confederacy. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.”

“If I had a penny for every time I heard that, I’d be the richest man in the universe by now.”

The Captain sighed and walked back to her pirates. She turned to look at Rose and the Doctor. “Have it your way then. You don’t trust us and I don’t trust you, either of you. Not yet anyway.”

“Not yet?” asked Rose.

“Yes, not yet. I want to see if you two are really as dangerous as my premonitions tell me. If you do a small favor for me, a sign that I can trust you, I’ll be willing to let you two help me defeat the Pyoo.”

“And how are we to know if you’re trustworthy?” asked the Doctor.

“I haven’t ordered you shot yet.” She put both hands on hips and grinned, tilting her back to look down at them. “I could, you know, order every single one of my men and women to ravage Rose while you watch. I’ve got, hmm, almost two hundred crew members? It would be fun for them, I know. I could even do the opposite, I could make Rose watch as my crew have their way with you. Or I could just do both, one after the other.”

Rose moved forward, furrowing her brows in anger. “That’s not a choice! You’re threatening us to do whatever you want!”

The Captain shrugged. “It’s more than I give to others.”

“If you move even one finger to hurt Rose-”

The Captain held up a hand and the crew behind her pointed their weapons at Rose, silencing the Doctor. “Follow me to the bridge. You two can give me your answer there, after I show you what I want you to do.”

The Captain turned on her heel. The pirates behind her parted, making way for her to walk towards her destination. The pirates behind the Doctor and Rose pushed them forward.

As they marched along the rusted corridor, the Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand. Her shoulders sagged with relief from the contact. Their arguing forgotten, all Rose wanted was to be safe, with her Doctor beside her. Then a strange sensation tickled her mind, like a calming rush of adrenaline.

“Rose, I don’t know if you can hear this. I’ve got no clue if this body is capable of telepathy, but I have to try. You won’t be able to reply, so just listen.” Rose glanced over at the Doctor, who was looking straight ahead. “Depending on what they want us to do, I may have to think fast. It could be dangerous or very dangerous or so dangerous that it won’t matter what we do, we’ll be dead anyway. I need you to be ready, even without a signal, to run to safety.” She pursed her lips tight, anger coming back. She would not leave him, even if the price for that was death. “We’ll leave together,” the Doctor looked at her, “or not at all.”

The anger disappeared as quickly as it came. Rose smiled and squeezed his hand twice. She hoped that showed she heard him and understood his request. The fact he added the last bit eased her in ways she doubted she could ever communicate to the Doctor. The sentiment that he wouldn’t leave her this time went a long way in healing the broken part of her heart, the piece of her that had broken when the other Doctor left.

Rose hadn’t had the chance to think about admitting her fears to this Doctor. She felt lighter now that she had told him. Yet she still needed time to process what had happened on that beach. She’d lost one Doctor but gained another. The Doctor both left her and stayed with her, only this one was mortal. There was so much to think about. But time wasn’t something she currently had.

The Captain stepped onto a lift with a few pirates, one of whom Rose recognised as Rob. The pirates behind them pushed Rose into the lift next, followed by the Doctor. They rode the lift upwards, a heavy silence filling the small space. Rose kept hold of the Doctor’s hand, determined not to let go.

The lift stopped and the doors slid open, revealing a command center, polished and new. It was round in shape with four consoles spread evenly throughout the room. They were manned by at least eight different people. There were two layers, the inner circle lower than the outer. Most of the walls were a smoky grey. They reflected the white lights of the computer screens that floated in the air. On the opposite end of the room was an enormous view screen. The Captain didn’t miss a beat as she walked onto the bridge.

“Bilek, take us to the planet,” commanded the Captain. She made her way to the captain’s chair in the middle of the busy room. A small woman typed furiously at one of the consoles and the image on the view screen shifted. Stars began to streak by, blurring from view as the ship flew to the planet in question.

“What planet?” asked the Doctor, still following close behind the Captain.

“Solos,” said the Captain. She stopped in front of her chair and sat down. Taking something from the arm compartment, the Captain looked at the Doctor.

“Solos?! Why Solos? There isn’t anything there that could tempt you. They’ve got no technology, the Solonians are a race of warriors and farmers-”

The pirate ship came to a stop and a brownish-green planet came into view on the screen. An armada of impressive ships that shone like silver surrounded the planet. The sight caused the Doctor to stop speaking. He stood, his mouth hanging open slightly, staring at the view screen. Rose watched the Doctor, concerned about what this might mean for him.

“They were a race of warriors and farmers. You should really brush up on your history, Doctor,” said the Captain, who sounded as if she were holding back a laugh.

Rose ignored her and kept her eyes on the man beside her. “What’s wrong, Doctor?”

“Are those ships from Earth?” asked the Doctor, looking at the Captain.

“Earth ships? Of course not, the old Earth Empire left Solos billions of years ago.”

The Doctor paled.

“Doctor?” asked Rose, her concern turning to worry.

“What about Earth?” he asked.

“You mean New Earth?” asked the Captain.

Rose looked back and forth between the Doctor and the Captain. “Doctor, if she’s talking about New Earth, doesn’t that mean…”

The Doctor turned to Rose, looking at her with furrowed brows, his eyes intense. She didn’t know what to make of his expression.

“Oh, did the Pyoos take you two out of time as well? They’ve done that occasionally in the past, though not very often. They don’t really know how to work the technology,” said the Captain, sounding bored. “To save you from asking, the old Earth blew up with its sun about five hundred thousand years ago.”

Memories of the Earth as it burned filled Rose’s mind. It was her first adventure with the Doctor. He took her to the future, to the year five point five slash apple slash twenty six. Even if they found a quick way home, home wouldn’t be there anymore.

Rose leaned closer to the Doctor, whispering. “It’s okay, yeah? We still got the TARDIS coral.” The intense expression didn’t leave his face. “Doctor?”

“If they have time technology, the Pyoos are much stronger than I originally thought. Very few species have ever developed time technology, and even stolen, that kind of technology poses a risk to more than just a planet, or a solar system. They could devastate their entire galaxy and anything that surrounds it. It’s like your nuclear weapons on Earth. Once shown how powerful it could be, most agreed to never develop or use it again. I don’t think the Pyoos are rational enough to stop using their brand of justice.” He lifted his eyebrows and a bit of humour appeared in his expression. “Why do you think I was so harsh with Jack about his Vortex Manipulator?”

“You two, pay attention, or I’ll have you both shot,” commanded the Captain.

Rose narrowed her eyes at the Captain but turned to face her. The Doctor did the same. They both stared daggers at the woman who commanded the pirates.

“That’s better.” She pointed the something she took from her chair at the view screen. The image changed to a close-up of the ships surrounding Solos. “As you can see, there is a fleet of ships between us and the planet. The ships attack anyone who gets too close.” She clicked the remote in her hand and the view screen magnified the ships further. One large silver ship now took up the entire screen. “As for the ships themselves, they run on autopilot. Their crews are now crazed cannibals, eating anyone who happens to be caught by them.”

“What, like zombies?” asked Rose.

The Captain frowned at Rose. “Here, see for yourself.” She clicked the remote twice and the view changed again, this time to a video from a body camera.

Screams muffled the ripping and tearing of the clothes and flesh of the wearer. The cannibals themselves looked to be some combination of human and insect. They had green mutated hands that were now pinchers and most only had one human eye, the other a yellow insectoid. Their dirty clothes hung from their body, torn from their mutations.

Rose pressed closer to the Doctor. She wrapped her arm around his, folding into his side as best she could to shield herself as she watched the video.  

“They aren’t zombies, Rose,” he said, his voice solemn.

“What are they then?” she asked, looking up at him.

“Solonians, trapped between stages of their evolution. Something is preventing them from evolving.”

“That’s what our scientists say,” the Captain added, turning off the video with a click of her remote.

“How long have they been like this?” asked the Doctor.

“About fifty years, at least by what we know. They could have been like this for longer.”

The number fifty had been popping up a lot lately for Rose. It was like before, with the words Bad Wolf. She wondered if the Doctor had experienced the same repetition with the number.

“It’s no wonder they attack and eat anyone that boards their ships. They’re hungry.” The Doctor turned to Rose. “Imagine, just for a second, being in a highly aggressive state, but confined in a place with no naturally occurring food source. Eventually you’ll have to start eating what you can just to survive.”

“That’s horrible,” said Rose.

“Very observant Doctor. I would wager you’re right. That still doesn’t solve our problem,” said the Captain, standing from her seat.

He looked back at the Captain. “And that is?” asked the Doctor, venom oozing from his words.

“Getting to the surface of the planet. From our scans, there is technology down there, and I want it.”

“What for?” asked the Doctor.

Rose saw a twitch in the Captain’s lips before she smirked at them. “Defeating the Pyoo.” The Captain shook her head. “We’ve been talking about this since the beginning, keep up,” she admonished him.

Rose glared at the Captain, every fiber of her body telling her that the Captain was lying. Rose suspected the Captain didn’t want to defeat the Pyoos, or did, but not for the greater good. Unfortunately, Rose didn’t know that for certain.

“If you want to defeat the Pyoos the best way to do so would be to help the Solonians,” the Doctor pleaded. “The rotation of their planet around their sun takes two thousand years, with each season lasting five hundred years. Each season the Solonians evolve, to adapt to the surface of the planet changing. What season is it for Solos? Summer?”

“Yes, it’s summer,” said the Captain.

“That’s what I thought.” The Doctor moved closer to the Captain, taking Rose with him. “The Solonians during this season evolve into beings that exist on a higher plane, interacting with the lower one, the one we exist on, to escape from the frequent firestorms. They’re extremely powerful, powerful enough to take down the great and mighty Imperial Confederacy of Magnus Pyoo with a snap of their fingers.” The Doctor snapped his fingers in demonstration. “They can be reasoned with, if we help them evolve properly, we can ask them for help. That should be our main goal, not scraps of metal that you think will add to your power in this corner of the universe.”

“I want the technology on the surface of the planet, not matter what you say,” said the Captain. “But I’ll keep your request in mind, and if you agree to work with us, maybe I’ll do as you suggested.”

The Doctor went rigid, his jaw clenching and shaking. “The fog on the surface of the planet makes it impossible for humans to breathe down there,” said the Doctor. His tone was even, though there was a bite to his words.

“I have plenty of oxymasks.” The Captain put her hands on her hips and stared at them, her chin raised. “One last time: Doctor, Rose, do you agree to help me get past these ships so I can make it to the surface? Or would you like me to do good on my threat? After my crew were done with you, I’d let the Pyoo government decide your fate. As you know, you two have a rather nice price tag over your heads.”

Rose watched the Doctor, waiting for him to make his move or to talk to her again using his telepathy. She still believed that using the pirates to defeat the Pyoos was their best chance. But now she knew they would have to deal with the pirates too. Add the Solonians to the mix and it seemed to Rose that they were never getting home.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

The Doctor clenched his fists as he glared at the Captain. The crew on the bridge all wore laser guns. It felt like they were back in the Pyoo throne room, ready to be executed. Were all Pyoos this power-hungry, or was it just the Pyoo Empress and the Captain? If they were a power-hungry species, that would explain their downfall in the other universe. Being stuck within their own planet, their penchant for power must have corrupted enough of the population that they wiped each other out.

But that train of thought did nothing for him and Rose now. When they first entered the bridge he noticed a console behind him had a red button, most likely an emergency shut-off. In a power failure, it would prevent a power feed that could destroy the ship. He was pretty sure it wasn’t the self-destruct button; it was too exposed. That was one way out, if he could get to it. He might even be able to think of another way out if given more time.

He hated to admit it, but Rose was right. Without a TARDIS and on the run from this sector’s main authority, they didn’t have much choice. Even if they found someplace safe to grow their baby TARDIS, they would have to live as hermits. He didn't want that for him and Rose. They needed the pirates. Working with these mavericks also gave them the best opportunity to find out more about them. That way he and Rose could put an end to their ultimate plan. Granted, he didn’t know their ultimate plan, but he was pretty sure it had to do with putting the Captain in the Empress’s seat.

To work with them or to escape wasn’t a decision he could make alone.

He relaxed his hands and reached out for Rose. She dropped her arm that was around one of his and immediately took his hand, entwining their fingers.

The Doctor turned and looked at her. “Rose, I know you can’t answer, but since you squeezed my hand twice the last time, I took it as a sign you heard me.” She met his eyes and her bottom lip dropped slightly, telling him she heard. “What do you think? It was your idea to work with these pirates. And if you’re wondering about them keeping their word, honestly, I wouldn’t trust the Captain as far as I could throw her, so if we agree we’ll need to stay on our toes.” He ducked his head, leaning closer to Rose. “Or shall we try to escape? On that console over there behind you is a big red button and you know how much I like big red buttons. I could talk my way over there and press it. I believe it will turn off the main power on the ship, leaving it with minimal systems operating. The ensuing chaos would give us enough time to get away.” He glanced over at the console with the button, then back to Rose, who kept her eyes on him. “It’s up to you. If you want to try our hand at piracy, nod, and if you want to try escaping shake your head.”

Without hesitation, she nodded once.

The Doctor looked back at the Captain. “We agree to your terms,” said the Doctor, his voice hardened by his anger. “Though you could have just asked nicely, no need to threaten us.”

Rose took a step closer to the Captain, not letting go of his hand. The Doctor, unexpectedly, felt her fury through their link. “Though you better keep your word. If any harm comes to us you’re gonna regret it.”

“I don’t see how.” The Captain crossed her arms. “Now how do we get to the surface of the planet?”

“Right, I’ll need to see the specifications of the ships as well any data you have on their attack pattern, all that jazz. It would be better if I could get flight patterns from the last few attempts on your part to board them.” The Doctor went to one of the computer consoles and pressed a few buttons, trying to find information. He kept his eye out for anything he could use later on. Rose came up to his shoulder and watched as he fumbled his way around.

The Captain followed him as he went to another console. “Use that console over there,” she said, pointing to the console on his left. “My science team compiled the ship’s information not too long ago.” The Captain stopped at the opposite side of the console and stared at him as he worked. “We’ve tried just about everything, so I’m eager to see what the two of you will come up with.”

He looked up at the Captain and raised his left eyebrow. “You haven’t tried using me yet, so of course your scientists couldn’t figure it out. I’ll have it sorted in a few minutes.” He looked over to Rose, wanting to know her thoughts. “Rose?”

She stared at the display above them, a white screen floating in the air, shaking her head. “Still can’t read the letters. Tell me about the ships?”

The Doctor changed the display to blueprints of the Solonians’ ships. He read the screen, zooming in on different sections of the blueprints. “It seems they are OTV ships, that’s Orbital Transfer Vehicles, with added weaponry. They’re just floating there on standby. Whatever the Solonians had planned, whether to escape the planet or from whatever that’s stopping them from evolving, they didn’t succeed.”

“What type of scanners do they have?” asked Rose.

His eyes widened when he read the next passage. He turned to another part of the blueprint to verify that he wasn’t mistaken. “Oh, oh, this is beautiful!” He glanced at Rose and smiled before looking back at the display. “They’re using a communication device similar to what my people used!” He smirked, pride warming his heart. “The Solonians have done very well for themselves.”

“What’s the type, then?” asked Rose.

“It’s a modification of a Hypercube.” He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his specs. He put them on to better see all the details of the information before him. “It’s a cube that contains a Time Lord's thoughts and speech. But the Solonians have developed them as a way of controlling their ships. Of course, in their current state they wouldn’t be able to use the technology. That’s why they’re just sitting there, no one can give the ship directions.”

“I’ve never heard of Time Lords or Hypercubes. You’re talking nonsense,” complained the Captain.

The Doctor frowned at the leader of the pirates. “And with that attitude of yours I’ve just lost any inclination on my part to explain it to you.” He went back to reading the display. “You asked that we find a way to the planet’s surface and that’s what we’re doing.”

Rose pointed to the display. “Doctor, look there, what’s that?”

He zoomed to where she had pointed and studied the device attached to the top of the Solonian ships. “Hmm, that looks like a Zeta Ray amplifier with a trifold capacitor for multiphoton input.” He looked at Rose. “There’s your scanner.” He smiled and she returned it with a smile of her own. “Now that’s impressive. Very impressive.” He peered over to the Captain, his smile disappearing. “I can see why you want their technology. It’s more advanced than anything else in this part of the universe.”

“Zeta Ray? Is that sort of like an X-ray?” asked Rose.

He looked back at Rose, which was more enjoyable than looking at their captor. “Yup! Only it’s a higher form of electromagnetic radiation, something most civilizations never discover. Usually people only go up to gamma rays and leave it at that.”

“So it’s a super scanner,” said Rose, another smile blooming on her face.

“To put it crudely.”

“The ships can detect anything then, right?”

“Right!”

“At Torchwood, we have these scanners that detect when someone with a weapon approaches our base of operations. Maybe we just need to approach them without weapons?” asked Rose.

“We’ve tried that,” said the Captain, interjecting into their conversation. “It didn’t work and I lost three crewmen.”  

The Doctor ignored the Captain and began typing on the keyboard attached to the console. Rose had given him an idea. “No, Rose is right. Those scanners could detect a dust mite halfway to New Earth. And they have safety shielding to minimize the radiation output, so it’s harmless to biological life forms. We need to trick the scanners, make them think there is nothing to worry about and worm our way through.”

The Captain sighed. “Again, our scientists have tried that. Those scanners are impossible to trick.”

The Doctor continued typing, zooming into the circuitry of the scanners. “I’ve learned a thing or two from Rose recently, and that’s nothing is impossible even if you think it’s impossible.” He flashed the Captain an annoyed expression and pulled up another display. “And I have a tad bit more knowledge than your scientists when it comes to this type of technology.” He turned on another display, which appeared in front of him, floating next to the first display. “I’ll have bypassed the scanners before you can say Bob’s your uncle.”

“Maybe we can try a reverse signal, bounce it back to them?” said Rose.

The Doctor paused his typing and stared at Rose. “That’s,” he beamed, “that’s brilliant! Oh, Rose, you keep on surprising me. I love it.”

She laughed. “Thanks.”

He went back to his typing, adjusting his plan to reverse the signal. “Now, we’ll need to slither our way in by sending out a signal that contains no heat signature or radiation output. We’ll need to use a smaller ship, a ship this large would cause a feedback loop that would make the reverse signal useless and give us away.” He addressed the Captain. “Do you have a shuttle or a transport ship?”

“We do. When can you have the reverse signal ready?” said the Captain.

He brought up three more displays. “I’ve already started making it. Once the smaller ship is ready, I can send the data over to it.”

The Captain turned and headed to her chair. She stood in front of it and looked at the main view screen. She pressed a button on her remote and the screen changed to that of man inside a large warehouse. “Hampton, ready a transport ship and head towards Solos.”

“Yes Captain!” said Hampton, the man on the view screen.

The Captain faced the Doctor and Rose. “We’ll be testing your idea and if it works, I want you both to join me on my trip to the planet.”

The Doctor had been curious about the Solonian cities. So far their technology almost rivalled that of the Time Lords. He didn’t object to going down to the planet, but felt apprehensive. He could no longer breathe the air on Solos, plus it put himself and Rose in danger. He hated feeling so mortal.

The view screen changed to that of a small ship in space. The Doctor glanced up from his work every few seconds, taking in the bridge, its crew, and the Captain. Soon he’d have to come up with a plan to escape, take out the Pyoo, and take out the pirates all in one fell swoop. He couldn’t take them on separately. Individually, they were too powerful. If they defeated the Pyoo government while still in custody of the pirates, the Captain would know they had betrayed her. If they defeated the pirates, the Pyoo government would know where to find them. Escaping would lead to being on the run from both the Pyoo and the pirates. Their best bet was the Solonians and their evolved form, who could defeat any foe with a thought.

The overhead speakers crackled. “Hampton here. Captain, on your orders I’ll head to Solos.”

“Doctor?” asked the Captain, glaring expectantly at the Doctor.

Rose looked between the Captain and the view screen. “Wait a minute, the reverse signal is just a theory, he could die!” said Rose.

“If he dies, one of you dies,” the Captain stated casually. “Doctor?”

The Doctor turned to Rose and touched her arm. “It’ll work, Rose,” he whispered. He caught Rose’s eyes and nodded, then turned to the Captain and glared. “Sending the signal data now.” He pressed a button on the console.

The Captain focused on the view screen. “Hampton, have you received the reverse signal?”

There was a pause. “Yes, Captain! I’ll activate it and approach the planet.”

“Good,” said the Captain, a smirk lining her face.

“Heading to Solos,” relayed Hampton.

The small transport ship approached the fleet of Solonian orbital ships. The Doctor was certain that the reverse beam would work. That didn't stop a small pang in his stomach igniting his nerves. He clenched his teeth and waited, watching with trepidation. The ship inched forward with every passing second.

Rose took his hand. She brushed his thumb with hers and the small pang of his stomach lessened. He was always stronger with her than without.

The transport ship flew directly at the Solonian fleet. When they were almost nose to nose, the Solonian ships stayed still. They sat in space around their planet, without a twitch from one of them.

Both the Doctor and Rose sagged with relief.

“That’s enough Hampton, return to the ship,” commanded the Captain.

“See Rose, I told you it would work,” said the Doctor, giving her his best smile.

“Still made my heart race like you wouldn’t believe,” said Rose.

“Funny you say that, ‘cause I never understood that human phrase until recently.”

“Enough with the chit-chat,” commanded the Captain, silencing their conversation. She then pointed to various crew members on the bridge. “Rob, Ricket, Mumu, Bilek, Henry, and Jen, you’re coming too.”

“Righto, boss boss!” said Ricket cheerfully, coming out of a nook in the bridge the Doctor hadn’t noticed.

The crew members headed to the Captain, who waited for a moment before walking towards the lift. The Doctor followed the group with Rose by his side. The Captain got into the lift, surrounded by her crew members. Before they could enter after them, Rose’s stomach grumbled loudly. Everyone stopped and stared at Rose.

Rose played with one of her earrings, avoiding eye contact with anyone nearby. “We, um, haven’t eaten in a few days.”

The Captain sighed, exasperation pouring out of her. “You’ll be useless like that,” said the Captain. She turned to her right-hand man. “Rob, escort these two to the mess hall and pick up some to-go packs, then meet us in the transport bay. You’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“Yes, Captain!” Rob stepped out of the lift. It closed behind him. “Follow me,” said Rob as he started off in the opposite direction, across the bridge.

They followed Rob into another lift, which was near the nook Ricket had been hiding in. The doors closed behind them and they began their descent in silence. The Doctor knew they needed food and water. The Pyoo Empress had abducted them two days ago from Bad Wolf Bay. The last time they’d had anything was in the Pyoo forest, where they drank from a safe-looking tree leaf. The Doctor felt hungry as well, but thankfully he still had some of his old Time Lord endurance.

“Do you think we could stop by the loo on the way?” asked Rose.

Rob groaned. “Really? I hope for your sake you’re not messing around.”

An idea came to the Doctor. “Actually, I need to use the loo too.”

Rob looked between the two. “Fine, but you both only get two minutes.”

The doors of the lift opened and Rob stormed out. They followed him down a brightly lit corridor. It wasn't as rusted and dirty as the holding cell corridors, but still unkempt. After a few minutes walking, they entered the dining hall. It had rows of tables scattered throughout, and the floor was littered with uneaten food. The Doctor’s red chucks stuck to the floor, causing a crackling sound as he walked. He hated to think about the state of their facilities.   

Rob stopped at the far corner of the dining hall, near a single door. “Here it is,” he said as he gestured to the door with his hand. “I’m going to get your to-go packs, but my eyes will still be on you. I’ll be back in four minutes. If you try to run or give me trouble, I’ll hit you both with knockout juice again.” He took off towards the large column dispenser in the middle of the hall.

“Ladies first,” said the Doctor.

She smirked at him. “When did you become a gentleman?”

“I’ve always been one, maybe you just never noticed.”

“You wish.” She walked past him, opening the door to the loo. “Be right out.”

As he waited, the Doctor looked back at Rob, who was using a device on the column. He wondered why Rob had joined these pirates. The crew all seemed loyal to someone who almost eagerly endangered their lives. If any of them felt dissatisfied with the Captain, he might be able to convince them to turn against her. That was one way they could defeat the pirates.

The door opened and Rose walked out, looking refreshed and cleaner. “All yours.”

“Ta,” he said as he stepped into the room. It was exactly as he pictured it, dirty and smelly. Bracing himself, he wondered if he would ever get used to his new body, it was so needy. After he took care of it, he cleaned up. Looking in the mirror, he noticed the frayed ends of his suit, with dried mud crusting on parts of his trousers. Dirt lined his skin. He splashed his face with water, wishing he could have nice long hot shower instead. With one last look at his appearance, he fixed his hair then turned and studied the room.

When Rose had asked to use the loo, he’d realized he could use that excuse for more than one purpose. He wanted to break into the ship’s systems, like he had in the holding cell. Taking out his sonic, he found a panel on the wall near the door and soniced it open as fast as possible. Rob would be back in forty-seven seconds, so he couldn’t waste another moment. The wall panel popped open to reveal a small computer terminal. Holding his sonic in his mouth, he broke apart wires, connecting some and disconnecting others. Finally, with twenty-three seconds left, the computer terminal came to life. It showed him every detail of the pirate ship. Luckily, he was a very fast reader.

After taking in as much as he could, he soniced the panel back on the wall. The Doctor stashed his sonic back in his pocket and opened the door. He stepped out to Rob glaring at him impatiently. Rose pushed herself off the wall to his right and stood by his side. He slid his hand into hers.

“Ready when you are,” said the Doctor.

“We’ll be late if we don’t hurry,” said Rob testily.

They followed Rob as he made his way back to the lift. Once inside the lift, they continued downward at least five levels before stopping. Rob then led them down a cleaner-looking corridor. Eventually they came to a large transporter bay, the warehouse they’d seen on the main screen of the bridge. There were three small transport ships lined up to one side, with two large metal doors on the other side.

The Captain waited outside one of the transport ships, her hands on her hips, tapping her feet. As they approached her, she walked up the ramp of the transport ship. They followed her inside. At the front of the small transport ship, there were two pilot chairs, one of them occupied by Ricket. Rob tossed the to-go packs at the Doctor and Rose, who caught them. Rob then sat down in the other pilot’s seat. Behind the pilot chairs, benches lined the cabin walls. The other crew members sat on those benches, waiting for them. They sat down at the end of one, with the Captain sitting on the opposite side, watching them.

The ship took off, flying out into space from one of the two metal doors. As they headed towards Solos, the Doctor opened his to-go pack. He slurped the juice of the to-go pack, which tasted like rhubarb and beef, with an accompanied straw. He glanced over to Rose, who was drinking her food as well.

He noticed a box between two of the crew members, Mumu and Jen. It probably contained their oxymasks. He would need to wear one once they were on the surface of the planet. Rose had survived years of life-threatening trouble and he wasn't sure how he’d survived two days. It niggled in the back of his mind, constantly, that he was mortal now. The niggling unbalanced him, causing him unnecessary worry. He had to shed this fear, and the sooner the better. He looked back at Rose and found himself, again, amazed by the woman next to him. If this kept up, he’d be more in love with her than he thought possible.

Solos came into view through the pilot’s window. The Doctor remembered his time on the planet, in the other universe, hundreds of years ago. He had been sent as a messenger boy with Jo, by his people. It ended up being one hell of an adventure. But the Solonian people would have been wiped out if not for his and Jo’s interference. He wondered what happened in this universe without him or the Time Lords.

He looked over to the Captain, who was still watching them intently. “I was under the impression that Earth was going to terraform the planet, wiping out the Solonians in the process. What changed?” asked the Doctor.

“I can’t figure you out Doctor. You’re lacking in some regards but almost superior in others, even though you come from the past.” The Doctor refused to answer that obvious bait. The Captain sighed peevishly after a moment. “A man named Sondergaard led a rebellion. Fortunately for him, a mutiny on board the orbiting space station happened at the same time. He was killed liberating the planet, something I don’t plan on doing when I liberate Pyoo.”

“No, you’ll just take the Empress’s place, brandishing your own form of tyranny,” said the Doctor.

The Captain cooed mockingly. “That’s harsh, Doctor.”

The Doctor stared at the Captain, contempt for her filling him to the brim. He took Rose’s free hand.

“Back in the other universe I helped Sondergaard figure out that the Solonians were stuck between evolutions when I was in my third body. Well, I had help. My people sent me there to give a Solonian tablets that recorded their cycle.” He felt a stab of melancholy. “It’s a shame Sondergaard died, he was a good man. I would’ve liked to have seen him again.”

Rose gave him a sympathetic look, squeezing his hand to show she heard.

“I’m quite curious, what are you two to each other?” asked the Captain. “Lovers? Partners? Cohorts?”

They both looked at Captain, then to each other. “Oh, that!” said the Doctor. “Rose here is my wife.”

Rose shot him a confused look. He caressed her thumb with his, mirroring the habit she often did when they held hands. “Well, you are. Remember that time on Hypress III when we took part in the binding ceremony? Or on the planet Nioben, when we had to dance with the Breenree tribe? I can think of about a dozen more instances where we were unintentionally married.” Her expression changed to that of a scowl and he could feel her irritation seep through his telepathy. “What? It’s true. Plus there were times when we had to, or we’d have been killed. I didn’t say anything to you before because I didn’t, well, I didn't want to start that conversation. Besides, the Captain is already using us against each other, might as well give her a reason to make sure we stay together.”

Rose shook her head, narrowing her eyes at him, looking extremely exasperated. In fact, he felt it stronger than any other emotion from her so far. She turned to the Captain. “Yeah, he begged me to marry him.”

The Doctor smirked at Rose’s reply. Then the memory of Donna, when they first met, came to him and his smirk disappeared. He quickly thought about something else.

“We made it past the ships, Captain,” called Rob.

The Captain stood, and went to the front, stopping beside Rob. “Good, keep going.”

Everyone watched as they continued closer to the planet. Soon the pilots’ window was ablaze as they entered the atmosphere, diving straight down. Clouds blocked their view before they burst through them. The green and brown landscape then sprawled below them. Speckled between plains of greenish-brown were great silver cities with towering buildings and spiraling roadways.

The transport ship flew towards the closest city. As they came closer, the foggy terrain became apparent. The cities, sparkling and grand from above, looked less and less magnificent. Towers bent to one side or the other. Some buildings had outright collapsed. The roadways were mostly dead ends, their paths fallen to the city underneath.  

Between two half-decaying buildings, the transport ship landed. The crew stood and grabbed their gear. Some had large backpacks, others had small messenger bags. Bilek opened the box the Doctor had noticed before and passed out the oxymasks. Their to-go packs discarded, the Doctor and Rose put on their masks. They followed the pirates out of the transport ship and into the foggy Solonian city.

Rose moved her hand around the fog. “This is the stuff that’s deadly to us, yeah?”

“Yup! The fog is really a poisonous mist, made when the sunlight hits the planet’s surface. It’s foggy every day on Solos,” said the Doctor.

“We’ll still be able to pick up the best technology with our elite Dromine scanners, even in this fog!” boasted Ricket.

“Ricket!” yelled Rob.

“What, they’re one of us now, aren’t they?” asked Ricket, seemingly put out.

“Everyone stay together,” said the Captain. “I don’t want any of you to die on me today.”

The Doctor looked at the Captain with revulsion. “That’s just as bad as saying ‘no turning back.’ What is it with people and cliché phrases?”

The walked down an empty city street, street lamps fallen from disuse and corrosion. The group stayed together, with Henry leading, and Rob and Ricket flanking them. The fog made it hard to see where they were going, but they continued onwards.

With the level of technology and advancement of the city, the Doctor wanted to spend days taking it all in. In the other universe the Solonians kept to farming and hunting between ascending to a higher plane during the summer. Here they somehow shedded their simpler ways for grand cities and powerful spaceships. The building structures even reminded him of Gallifrey. If only he could talk to a Solonian.

“Doctor, what’s that noise?” asked Rose. He didn’t hear anything. “It sounds like someone’s hurt.” Rose stopped walking. “Or more than just a someone.”

The Captain stopped and everyone did the same. “Rob, Ricket, keep your eyes out for any Solonians,” she commanded. “Henry, fall back, I don’t want any surprises.”

Henry, though, didn’t move. He called back to them. “Captain, I see them, they’re odd, like they’re--AGH!”

Along with Henry's screams, the Doctor heard the ripping of clothes and the loud snap of breaking bones. Then came moaning and the sound of dragging feet. Henry’s screams died, replaced with the echo of something devouring flesh.

“Henry!” yelled the Captain.

Out of the fog, human Solonians, without any evidence of evolving, came shuffling towards them. Their mangled arms hung from their sockets or their arms were completely missing. Some had open wounds, though the blood around the injuries had long dried up.

“I don’t like the look of that, boss boss! We better go this way, less sound coming from there!” yelled Ricket, pointing to the path on their right.

The Doctor grabbed Rose’s hand and pulled her close to him. “Rose, remember when you thought the Solonians on the ships were zombies?”

Rose looked up at him. “Yeah, why?”

“I think we finally found actual zombies.”

Rose inhaled deeply. “First pirates, then zombies. Today really must be our day,” she said, sounding more annoyed than terrified.

Zombies shouldn’t exist. The Doctor had seen a lot of things but zombies had yet to make his list. There had to be an explanation. Something was keeping them animated. It was most likely linked to whatever was keeping the Solonians on the OTV ships from evolving. The Doctor groaned. Whatever was going on, it was a mess he and Rose had to clean up.

“Everyone, follow Ricket!” ordered the Captain.

They all rushed to follow Ricket down the street to their right. Less than half a kilometre later, a group of Solonian zombies came into view, blocking their way. The zombies moaned and shuffled towards the group, looking hungry and desperate.

“Are we surrounded?” cried Bilek.

The Doctor and Rose looked behind them and saw more zombies.

“They’re blocking the way back to the ship!” yelled Jen.

More zombies came out from alleyways and opened manholes. The group huddled together, the pirates aiming their weapons at the undead Solonians. The fog revealed more of them coming from every direction. And the zombies headed straight for the Doctor and Rose.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

Grabbing a cold rock, Rose pulled herself up onto the peak of a pile of rubble. The group had rushed to a nearby demolished building to escape the onslaught of zombies coming at them in all directions. With a concerned expression, the Doctor took her hand immediately and helped her to stand. He then wrapped an arm around her as they looked down at the sight before them. Zombies surrounded them, and more and more zombies were coming out of half-standing houses and rusted hover cars. Rose noticed that not all the zombies were walking, some were crawling because they had no legs.

“Jen!” yelled Rose to the blonde girl standing below her. “You’re Jen, right? You gotta watch your feet, some of the zombies are headed in your direction!”

“Thanks!” yelled Jen as she turned and shot a crawling zombie near her ankle.

The group huddled together, watching as the zombies scaled the pile of rubble, getting closer by the second. Mumu shot a zombie, who’d been an arm’s length away from her. The zombies continued on as if nothing had happened. With the group standing still, the slow-moving zombies seemed to be moving incredibly fast.

“Rose, stay close to me, don’t leave my side,” said the Doctor, panic clear in his voice, as he frantically scanned the area.

“That’s what I’m doing!” she retorted, but clung to him tighter.  

“Ricket, can you make it through by yourself?” yelled the Captain.

“Yeah, boss boss, I could,” said Ricket, his usual bravado gone.

“Then clear us a path and find somewhere safe for us to head to,” the Captain commanded, her voice harsh with reproach.

Ricket nodded, shooting the zombies below him and rushed down the pile, skipping as he went. He shot two more zombies before turning into an alleyway that had been hidden by the fog only moments prior.

“Bilek, distract the zombies. Get them away from the path Ricket just took,” ordered the Captain.

The Doctor stepped forward. “We should stick together!” he yelled.

Rose grabbed the Captain’s elbow. “You can’t send him to die like that!”

The Captain yanked her arm away from Rose. “Would you rather I send you?”

The Doctor pulled Rose back to his side as Rose continued to stare daggers at the Captain. She would rather try anything else than sacrifice someone so willingly.

“Then keep your mouth shut,” said the Captain. “Go Bilek! Now!”

Bilek paled, took a deep breath, and turned. He shot three zombies with his laser gun then jumped down, shooting the air,  the nearby buildings, and broken down hover vehicles. The commotion caused half the oncoming zombies to head for Bilek. He jumped over the zombies he shot, then dashed to a group of them, shooting every zombie he saw. Even before the zombies surrounded him, he wore a horrified expression that told everyone watching he knew what was coming.  

“That’s not right,” whispered Rose, shaking her head.

The Doctor caressed her back before taking her hand.

“This way,” commanded the Captain, who took off, following Ricket’s path. Rob stayed close to the Captain’s heels. The rest of the group then went after Rob. Bilek’s dying scream rented the air as soon as everyone had made it to the alleyway. There, Ricket had left a series of dead zombies every few metres or so. The group followed the trail, winding their way through half-fallen buildings and cramped passageways. Once they caught up to Ricket, the group arrived at the back entrance of an immense, but whole, building.

Rob quickly went to Ricket’s side. “What did you find?” he asked.

“Think this is some sort of hotel. We can barricade the doors once inside,” said Ricket.

“That’ll do,” said the Captain. She then kicked in the door and entered the hotel.

Once everyone was inside, Rob and Ricket went to work barricading the back entrance. They took old chairs missing their cushions and large pieces of furniture that may have been credenzas at one point, and stacked them against the door. The group then walked deeper into the building. They stopped at a large open area.

Feeling somewhat safe to do so, Rose surveyed the space around her. It looked to be the lobby of the hotel. Some of the lights were still working, blinking intermittently. The white walls and floor illuminated the room, helped by the flashing lights. The coffered ceiling rose high above them and in the center of it a spiraling chandelier stretched far below, stopping at least three metres above Rose’s head. The room had a feel that it was once a magnificent place, very posh and comfortable.  

“This place is amazing,” said Rose.

“Oh, they’ve got double quadro-lux diode bulbs and a self-regenerating power supply,” said the Doctor, looking around the lobby with his hands in his pockets. “Something must be interfering with the wiring to have it start breaking down in, what, fifty years since things went south? Those bulbs should last longer than I’ve been alive and I’m old,” he cocked his head to the side, “relatively speaking.”

“Jen, run the scans, I want to see if there is any biological matter in here that could be dangerous,” said the Captain, ignoring the Doctor.

Rob and Ricket continued to grab any heavy object they could find to block the back door, the noise they made carrying over to the main room where everyone else was. The Doctor poked around the corners of the lobby. Rose stayed close to him, though she kept a lookout for anything dangerous. Jen took off her backpack and rummaged through it, pulling out a small device similar to what Ulreigh had used to scan them back on the freighter. She turned it on and it beeped a few times.

“The air in here is safe to breathe,” said Jen, taking off her oxymask and letting it hang around her neck, while everyone did the same. She kept her eyes focused on the scanner. “There’s only a few rodent species in the building and a few other readings that I can’t make out.”

“I’ve found something,” said the Doctor loudly, all wonderment gone from his voice. He knelt behind the front desk.

Rose, closest to the Doctor, came up behind him and saw two skeletons, huddled together. They were propping each other up, their skulls touching. The ragged clothes falling off them were grey, all color zapped out from the years of decay. Two dusty name plates dangled from the cloth. They were obviously once hotel workers. Long ago they must have used the building for safety, just like the group was doing now.

“To die like that, in each other's arms...,” said Rose, her voice trailing off morosely.  

“How come these two have decayed when the others outside haven’t?” asked Jen, who now stood next to Rose.

The Doctor turned to look at Jen, then stood. “I wouldn’t know for sure unless I examined them, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s something in the fog, plus whatever is preventing them from evolving is keeping the ones outside preserved.”

“Is there any way we can help them?” asked Rose.

“They’re dead Rose, completely and utterly dead.”

“No, I mean is there any way we can give them peace? Like if we stopped the fog for a bit, let them decay. They deserve to rest. I couldn’t imagine my mum walking around like that, dead, nothing left of her in there.”

The Doctor took a step closer to her. “Once we find the source to whatever is blocking their evolution and destroy it, that should put an end to this,” he glanced around the room, “this Solonian Apocalypse!”

“I don’t care what happens to those who are already dead, so long as we stay alive,” said the Captain as she walked up to them, with Mumu right behind her.

“You mean so long as you stay alive?” asked the Doctor, venom back in his voice.

“Again, so harsh Doctor. Maybe you should check your temper, since I am the one keeping you alive.” The Captain turned to Jen. “Take these two and Mumu and find yourselves rooms for the night.”

If anything resembled a bed in this place, Rose wouldn’t object to a full night's sleep. The little sleep in the suit, though it helped, still left her without proper sleep in over a week. Zombies may have surrounded the hotel, but she felt safe enough inside. The place looked like it hadn’t been disturbed since the two behind the front desk died.  

“What about us, boss boss?” asked Ricket. The two men had finished their blockade.

“I have another assignment for you both.” With that, the Captain sauntered over to Rob and Ricket.

“I don’t know if I can sleep in this place,” said Mumu, her slight frame shaking from either cold or fear. Rose couldn’t tell.

“There’s nothing to worry about in here. Do you hear anything?” said the Doctor.

“No,” said Mumu.

“That’s because there isn’t anyone besides us here. If there were, we’d hear something, creaking from above, shuffling behind a door. This is probably the safest building in the whole city.” He scratched his chin. “And you gotta hand it to the Solonians for good craftsmanship. Most of the furniture is basically recognizable and the lights are still running. I bet even some of the beds are still intact once we find them.”

“Let’s find those beds,” said Jen. She then led them around the lobby, looking for a way to the rooms of the hotel.

The four of them finally found a staircase strong enough to climb. They decided to check the second floor. The hallway lights flickered, reminding Rose of some of the horror films she’d watched in the past. After Jen checked all the rooms for possible zombies, and they were confident that it was safe, the group split up. Mumu took the first available room, Jen took the room right next to her, and the Doctor and Rose took the room most intact. It had a light that wasn’t on the fritz, a large bed with a duvet that hadn’t rotted, a few tables, and an en-suite that didn't stink. The Doctor shut the door for their privacy and then they both set their oxymasks on the bedside table.

Rose stopped and stared at the bed. Besides the dust, it looked like it could be any old hotel bed from Earth. She smiled, feeling relief spread through her body. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.”

Laying down on the soft mattress, she stretched and wiggled, letting out a satisfied sigh that turned quickly to a moan. Sensing the Doctor’s eyes on her, Rose sat up, resting on her elbows. The Doctor was at her knees. He wore a hungry expression, his eyes dark. It sent warm tingles rushing down her belly, causing her to press her legs together.

“Come lay next to me, it feels wonderful,” she said, her voice low and gentle.

The Doctor didn’t say anything, but laid down on his side next to her. He kept his half-lidded eyes on her as he placed a hand on her stomach. Her breath hitched at the contact.

After what happened recently, she finally understood that they wouldn’t be home for years. It never really sank in, since she believed the Doctor would find a way home sooner, even with the option of growing their new TARDIS. They couldn’t wait until they are back at the Tyler Mansion to solve their problems. Right now though, with him looking at her like that, she didn’t care about anything else. It had been so long since she’d been with someone and here was the Doctor, looking at her with unbridled lust. Her heart raced with anticipation.

He glanced at her lips, his mouth opening slightly. He looked back at her, edging closer. She leaned in to kiss him, but stopped. She closed her eyes and felt his warm breath on her skin, leaving goose flesh on her arms and sending a welcome quiver down her spine. Opening her eyes, she reached out to him, cupping his face softly. His skin felt just as she remembered and her need for him swept over her. He pulled her closer, their bodies flushed. He kissed her, his lips gliding over hers smoothly. He rolled them over, so Rose was laying on her back and he was above her. She reached behind his neck, holding him to her as her fingers ran through the hair on the back of his head. His tongue traced over her lips, hot and wet.

She spread her legs for him to fit between. She whimpered when she felt his hard cock press against her core. His kisses trailed up her jaw to her neck. He sucked on her pulse point and she gasped. Letting go of his neck and shoulders, she fumbled to unbutton his jacket. Once the last button came undone, he pulled back to look at her, his face pink and his hair tousled.  

“Rose,” he began, “I need-I want-”

Rose reached out and pulled her back to him, lips coming together in desperation and longing. He unzipped her jacket as she tugged his tee shirt from his trousers. He broke their kiss once more to take off his jacket and toss it to the floor. He met her lips once again, hard and passionate. his kisses moved to her jaw, up to her ear, sucking on it eagerly. Her hands went under his shirt, feeling the skin on his back, and touching the small mole between his shoulder blades he mentioned so long ago. She breathed in deep as his hand slid from her shoulders to one of her breasts. He squeezed it gently before sliding his hand down further, to the edge of her jeans. Pulling up her shirt, he caressed her exposed skin, making his way higher and higher until he came to her bra. He tugged the bra down to fondle her bare breast, pinching her hardened nipple. She gasped, pleasure flowing through her body.

Thrusting his hips to meet her core, she moaned. Even though their clothes, it felt so good to feel him. But Rose needed more. She wanted him inside her, wanted to see come undone as she came undone. In one swift movement, she yanked off his shirt. She then focused on unbuttoning his trousers, diving into them to wrap her hand around his cock. He stiffened at her touch, though he let out a loud moan. He rested his head on the nook of her shoulder, his hot breath on her neck, as she slowly moved her hand up and down his length.

Pushing up her shirt, he tugged her bra down again, sucking on a breast, causing her to let go of him. She resumed caressing his back as his tongue swirled around her nipple. After unbuttoning her jeans, he slowly unzipped them. She held her breath, ready to feel his hand on her, for him to stroke her clit, driving her need for him even higher.

“While it’s nice to occasionally watch lovers in the act, I need you two to look at something,” said the Captain from their bedside.

Rose and the Doctor froze. They untangled themselves, pulling down shirts and zipping up trousers, before turning to face the Captain. She wore a smug look on her face, with one hand on her hip. She hummed mockingly then turned and headed for the door. Rose fixed her clothes, while the Doctor picked up his shirt and jacket. Dressed and embarrassed, they followed the Captain out of the room.

Jen and Mumu were out in the hallway with the Captain, waiting. Silently, they walked down the stairway, then made their way back into the lobby. There, in the middle of the room right below the chandelier, Rob and Ricket stood around a few devices of varying sizes.

“I see you two have been busy,” said the Doctor, “that’s a self-regulating power generator, a multiphase time inducer, which is basically a glorified clock, and a few information orbs that record video data.”

“Good of you to volunteer that information Doctor, but that wasn’t necessary,” said the Captain as she came to stand next to Rob. “You mentioned that you think whatever is stopping the Solonians from evolving is also keeping the ones outside animated, along with that fog?”

“Yes, something in the DNA makeup of the Solonians is reacting differently to whatever is preventing them from evolving while being on the OTV ships or on the planet.”

“We have something to add to that mystery,” said the Captain. She then faced Rob, handing him one of the video spheres. “Turn on the inform orb.”

Rob waved a hand over the orb and a colorful screen shone from the center of the sphere. Information, in the Solonian language, ran down the screen next to a woman sitting at a desk, like a news broadcaster. She began talking.

“I repeat, do not panic. The Ministry for Evolution and Transformation has concluded that a seeded echo has penetrated the summer plane. It is the cause for the delayed transformation. We are doing everything in our power to silence this echo. Please stay in the safety of your homes.”

Rob waved his hand over the orb and the screen disappeared.

“The next orb says something about the launching of ships, some with orders to investigate the echo, others to protect the planet and those trying to get on the planet, since their dead were walking,” said the Captain. “None of them got very far before succumbing to their rabid forms.”

“We need to find the source of that echo and stop it before it’s too late for the Solonians,” said the Doctor. “If you really want to defeat the Pyoo, now would be your chance! Use the many resources at your disposal to save the Solonians and you’d have a powerful ally at your side!”

“Listen to the Doctor, he knows what he’s talking about,” said Rose.

The Captain smirked, then walked around the Doctor and Rose, eyeing them like a piece of meat. “It seems I have no choice but to listen to you Doctor. It’s too dangerous to pick up any more technology in these conditions,” she said. “I’ll have Rob and Ricket scout around for any more clues, then have them pick up our transport ship and land it on the roof. We’ll take off in the morning.” She stopped in front of them and tilted her chin up, like she dared them to oppose her. “In the meantime Doctor, I want you and Rose to start coming up with theories about what this echo could be.”

“That’ll be the easy part. Getting to the source of the echo and figuring out how to stop it will be the hard part,” said the Doctor, who, for the first time since they met her, sounded almost nice. “You’re doing the right thing by helping them.”

“It’s not about helping them, it’s about their technology. I want it, even more so now than before,” said the Captain, in a tone that sounded like she wanted to end their discussion. She glanced over to Jen. “Show me to one of your rooms, I think I’ll sleep for the night.”

The group, minus Rob and Ricket, went back up to the second floor. Jen immediately showed the Captain to a room before retreating back into hers. Mumu scurried off, still looking frightened. Rose guided the Doctor to their room since he seemed distracted. His hands were in his pockets, and he kept staring at the floor. Once she shut their door, he started to pace, running his hand through his hair a few times.

“Doctor?”

“The multiphase time inducer is just one piece of technology needed for a time travel device more powerful than any Vortex Manipulator. It has the ability to bend space and time. It was what the first TARDISes used when they were still in the design process.” He stopped his pacing and Rose went to him. He turned to face her. “We now know for certain where the Pyoo stole the technology from. The Solonians have come very far indeed. I never thought it possible. There was a symmetry, a beauty, in them going from simple means, to powerful creatures during their summers, then back to farmers who never cared for technology. Here, they’re one of the most powerful beings in this universe. And that!” He pointed a finger at Rose. “That could mean they could be more troublesome than the Pyoos. You know why I had to use The Moment, what my people became. If they're anything like that...”

“It might not be that way. Just because they’re similar, doesn’t mean they’re the same,” said Rose. “It doesn’t mean they’ll make the same decisions.”

He rubbed his face with a hand. “Maybe,” he said before pacing again. ”Though either way, we need the Solonians and I rather take my chances with them than both the Pyoos and pirates.”

“So we just need to find out about the echo and stop it, yeah? But what exactly is it, this echo?”

“I already know. To start, think of two-dimensionality versus three dimensionality.”

“Right, like something that’s flat or has sides.”

“Yeah! Only we’re occupying the two-dimensional space while the Solonians during their summer occupy three-dimensional space. An echo in three dimensional space is actually just as it sounds.” He stopped his pacing and looked at her. “Remember when we were stuck on Archon VII and went to a concert that rattled our teeth? The echo must be loud enough to cause waves in the fabric of space within the higher plane. There are all sorts of repercussions when that happens; abnormal sightings such as ghosts and things of that nature, people having the same recurring nightmares that are actual memories from another person who is either dead or not born yet, unnatural powers, odd nebula formations, deja vu, et cetera.” He ran his hand through his hair again, pushing back the strands from his face. “Then there are serious repercussions such as time loops and cracks in the universe. It’s probably why we fell into Pete’s World in the first place.”

“Wait, you said unnatural powers. Do you think the Pyoo Seers get their power from the echo?”

“Yes, I do,” said the Doctor. “I don’t think the Captain will be too pleased when we silence the echo, thus taking her and the other Pyoo Seers’ abilities away.”

“They’ll both be weaker, they won’t be able to cause as much terror that way.”

“Exactly.”

“So how do we stop it?”

“Like I said, we just need to get to the source and turn it off. I’ve got a few ideas on how. Since I can use my telepathy with you, I may have to resort to using it to find the location of the source if all else fails.” He put his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels. “A Time Lord brain can access the higher plane but only partially, so I might not find anything useful.”

“You can use your telepathy for something like that?”

“I don’t know how strong I’ll be. So far, I’ve just been sending you messages. Anything else is guessing at this point, though my guesses are usually spot on.”

She thought back to all the times he spoke about his telepathy and how often he was wistful to hear others in his head again. “Can you,” she looked down, pursing her lips, feeling shy, “Can you feel him, the other you?” She looked up to find him motionless and staring at her.

“No, with the universes sealed off, I wouldn’t be able to feel him.”

She hadn’t thought about the other Doctor much over the last day. She wondered if this was how it would be, if she would slowly think less and less of him as time continued on. “I can’t believe it’s only been three days since he left. Feels like a lifetime ago.” She tucked her hair behind her ear, her stomach feeling cold with anxiety. She didn’t know if asking this again would give her the answer she was looking for. “He’ll be alright? You said before, he’ll be alright, in time. He’s got Donna, she’s the DoctorDonna now, they can feel each other, so they won’t be alone.” The Doctor’s face now looked pained. His eyes turned glassy with unshed tears. Afraid of what that look might mean, but needing to know his answer, she continued on. “What? Doctor?”

“Donna’s gone,” he whispered.

The air around her stilled. Her throat felt dry. “Donna’s...gone? Gone as in...dead?” Panic now bubbled up inside her. “Is she dead, Doctor? You’d tell me if she’s dead, yeah?!”

“The Donna that you met is as good as dead,” said the Doctor. “A human being isn’t meant to hold a Time Lord’s consciousness, it would have killed her had he not taken her memories away.” His voice remained low, as if saying these words any louder would be a crime.

Immediately her mind went to the man standing in front of her. “What about you? You’re human, are you gonna die?”

“I’m part human Rose, but I still have a Time Lord brain capable of supporting a Time Lord’s knowledge and memory,” said the Doctor, his voice reassuring.

Anger and disbelief replaced her fear and shock. “How do you know he took her memories away?”

“It’s what I would’ve done had I been in his place.”

“Then you don’t know for certain, she could still be with him,” she said, her voice rising with each word. Hysteria threatened to overtake her, all her years of hard work suddenly feeling for naught.  

“Rose-”

“No,” she interrupted him. “I’m not going to listen to you tell me he’s alone. If he knew that and left anyway, how am I supposed to be okay with that? How-”

“Ro-”

“I’m not!” she screamed, “I’m not listening to your excuses, alright!” She turned away from him and put her face in her hands. She went to the bed, then turned around and walked back. “I can’t believe this! I can’t believe you. Either of you!” yelled Rose. She wanted to say more, but felt too defeated to continue arguing. “I’m going to bed.”

The Doctor didn’t say anything and she turned away from him again, tears threatening to spill. How could he?! How could either of them do this to her, especially knowing that the other him would probably be left alone? All of her thoughts about being happy, about being scared to lose this him because he was mortal, seemed so small compared to the idea that a Doctor could be alone right now, without the people who loved him.

She stormed to the bed, turning back the dust-covered duvet and laid down. She kept her face away from the Doctor, so he wouldn’t see her crying. He could probably hear her sniffling though. She tried her best to stop herself, but her tears flowed unbidden. The other Doctor left, knowing he could be alone, having to wipe the memories of his best friend. How could she be happy now? How were they supposed to go forward from here, with that weighing them down?

This Doctor’s words came to her as her body warmed under the duvet. The other me was willing to sacrifice his own happiness to make sure you would have yours…

Her anger ebbed away the last bit of strength she had left. After the last three days, she felt too exhausted to keep up her fury. It was all just too much. Her tears dried up and her mind became sluggish.

The other him was a git.

That was her last thought before sleep finally claimed her, her eyes too heavy to stay open. The warm oblivion lulled her into a dreamless night.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!”

Rose started, sitting up in bed. The Doctor’s voice, loud enough for the whole planet to hear, had woken her. He stood with his back to her at the edge of the bed. “Doctor?”

He turned to look at her. “I’ve found the source of the echo.”

Rose stood and went to him, forgetting for the moment that she should be angry with him. “Where is it?”

“I had to use my telepathy, and trying to figure out where the echo was located was a bit like shouting at someone from across the Thames, but I was able to do it. Took me all night, but I was able to.” He began to pace again, his hands on his temples. “I almost can’t believe it. How could it possibly be here? But then again there were so many things that happened during the Time War that I never thought possible, one more impossible thing was bound to show up. Look at what you did, one little human, able to find her way across universes, they should be able to do it, no sweat off their backs. I should I have foreseen this. I should have known.” He stopped and came closer. He looked unhinged, his hair sticking up more so than usual, his eyes wide and bloodshot. “Maybe that’s why we’ve been so lucky, maybe it’s them? But why would they help me after so long, especially after what I did?”

“Doctor!” yelled Rose, interrupting his rambling.

“Hmm?”

“What’s the source of the echo? Where is it coming from?” she asked, slowly.

He stared at her, the look in his eyes the most intense she’d ever seen. “Gallifrey.”

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

The Doctor’s fingers twitched, his body aching from the lack of sleep. He stared at Rose as she stared back, a look of complete shock strewn across her face. His stomach twisted. When he had felt that familiar buzz of his home planet in his head a cold rush of panic had spread through him. The Pyoos, the pirates, and the Solonians weren’t even worrisome problems compared to his people returning.

“Gallifrey?” asked Rose. “Your home planet, Gallifrey?”

“No, the rock band,” he retorted. “Yes, my home planet.” He walked away from her, his temper getting the better of him. He ran his fingers through his hair for probably the hundredth time in the last hour.

Rose followed him. “But you said it was destroyed.”

The image of his red planet being blown to bits replayed in his mind. He stopped and looked down at his hands. His now single heart, inside a body that wasn’t even recognisable as Gallifreyan, let alone Time Lord, burned with guilt and anguish. “I saw it,” he began, a little louder than a whisper, “with my very eyes, I saw my planet explode the moment I used The Moment. I don’t understand how it could be here.” He never in a billion years would have guessed that something like this was possible! He didn’t even have a theory. While normally he’d be intrigued by the mystery, panic and anger replaced his momentary melancholy. “It shouldn’t be here!”

“Maybe it’s a parallel version?”

He paced the room. This body seemed to like pacing. “My people were transdimensional beings, meaning we could transverse parallel worlds like opening a door in a house and entering the next room. Transdimensional beings usually only come from singular planets. There shouldn’t be another Gallifrey in this universe, or in any other, now that it’s gone.” He rubbed his eyes, which stung from staying up the whole night. “Well, it’s not so gone anymore, is it?”

“How do you know it’s Gallifrey and not some other planet?”

“I know what my planet feels like, Rose. I was able to reach out, it was only a trace, a small trace of it, but it was Gallifrey, shouting from the higher plane so loud that it was bleeding out into normal space.”

Rose stepped in front of him, forcing him to stop his frantic pacing. She placed her hands on his arms, looking up at him. “If your people were transdimensional, maybe their void stuff from coming and going left a footprint of sorts? Maybe that’s what you felt?”

He blinked. Then he gaped at her. Of course she would be the one to get his mind in gear. His heart raced and he wanted to kiss her. “Yes, that’s brilliant!” He smiled, relieved he could finally make sense of what he felt. “Even with the walls sealed between the universes, maybe Gallifrey’s destruction at the end of the Time War left the echo, like some old war relic, pulled in from leftover traces of void stuff. It’s been here, with nowhere to go, so it’s reaching out, trying to find where it belongs.” The more he pored over the facts in his head, the more he began to see pieces of the puzzle he hadn’t seen before. “And that means…”

He quickly dived into his pockets, searching for the one item that was most dear to him. He pulled out the TARDIS coral and just as he thought, it shone with a bright yellow light. It was warm to the touch as well.

“The coral’s glowing, is it supposed to do that?” asked Rose, coming closer to him to get a better look.

He kept his eyes on the coral, smiling at it. “They’re connected. TARDISes originate from my planet, growing in magnificent fields, and this little coral heard it, the echo. It’s acting like a receiver, picking up the leftover signals from Gallifrey, allowing the coral to flourish.” His smile dropped and he switched from holding it in his left hand to his right. “Hold on, you’ve been understanding everyone. You can’t read the languages but you can understand them verbally. You shouldn’t be able to do that, unless you speak Pyoo.”

Rose peered up at him. “I didn’t even know Pyoos existed until we got here,” she said. “You’re right though. I haven’t thought about it much, since with you, I’ve always been able to understand people.”

“It’s the TARDIS, she’s been translating languages for you. She’s still small and not very powerful, so that’s all she’s been able to do. It’s also probably why I was even able to pick up Gallifrey through telepathy. We’re about as far away from Gallifrey as you can get in the universe, like being in Alaska and hearing someone speaking from Australia.”

“We know the source of the echo, so what do we do now?”

He put the coral away, making sure to stash it somewhere safe within his bigger-on-the-inside pockets. “We need to go to the constellation of Kasterborous, to the binary star system that would normally hold Gallifrey, but here in this universe it should be empty space. That’s where we’ll find that footprint, whatever that will be. We find the footprint, we find the source of the echo.” He lifted his eyebrows. “We just need to convince the Captain to take a trip there.” He frowned, thinking about how hard that task might be. “That should be fun.”

“Then what?” asked Rose. “After we get there, then what do we do?”

He didn’t want to think about it. Swallowing, he stared at Rose and tried to wipe all emotion from his face. “I’ll have to destroy the footprint.”

“You’ll have to destroy Gallifrey again?” asked Rose, now looking stricken. “Doctor?”

His throat seized up and he couldn’t answer. Three, almost four, days ago he destroyed an entire fleet of Daleks, virtually wiping them out. Maybe this was his punishment. He destroyed the Daleks, now he had to destroy what was left of his people, of his home planet. It was nothing less than what he deserved. Last night Rose had been right to be mad at him. He’d manipulated her into picking him, well, the other him had, but that was semantics. He would have done it himself if he thought Rose would have been better off with the other him. He also lied to her, saying Donna would be with him. Just like how he lied to Martha at first, pretending his planet was still whole. But Martha left and probably now Donna would be gone too. He did nothing but ruin the lives of the people he loved most. And they never deserved it, none of them.

Maybe, after this, he can be better for Rose. He wanted to do right by her, that was why he told her the truth about Donna. But right now it hurt too much to acknowledge what Rose suspected. When he was strong enough, he would. “The sooner we can convince the Captain, the sooner we can get there and get home. Come on.”

He headed for the door without looking back at Rose, not wanting to see her expression. He could tell she didn’t follow immediately. He didn’t hear her footsteps until he was out the door and into the hall. He went straight to the Captain's room and knocked. After two minutes with no answer he looked at Rose, who now stood next to him, carrying their oxymasks.

“She might be in the lobby,” said Rose.

“Let’s find out,” said the Doctor.

They went down the stairs of the hotel and made their way to the spacious lobby. In the middle of the room, next to an even larger pile of stolen technology than the one from last night, were Rob and Ricket, talking with the Captain. Whatever they were talking about, they kept their voices low. The Doctor and Rose approached the Captain from behind. Rob and Rocket stopped talking and looked at them as they came closer.

“I see you two are up already,” said the Captain, her back still turned away from them. “That saves me the trouble of waking you.”

“We found the source of the echo,” announced the Doctor.

The Captain turned, a shocked expression on her face. “How ever did you figure that out?”

“You’re not the only one who can do mind tricks,” said the Doctor.

The Captain narrowed her eyes at him, looking him over. “So where is it?”

“It’s in the constellation of Kasterborous, 10-0-11-00:02 from Galactic Zero Centre,” said the Doctor, his insides doing a somersault as he spoke the coordinates. He hadn’t spoken them out loud in years.

The Captain leaned away from him, her eyes wide. Rob and Ricket looked at each other with confused expressions. The Doctor could tell he’d shocked them. They must have never suspected that the echo would be that far away.

“You want us to go to some unknown territory that’s on the other side of the universe?” asked the Captain, her voice full of suspicion. “How do I know this isn’t some crackpot theory designed as some kind of trap?”

“Are you always this stupid?” countered the Doctor, not caring how rude he was being. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes and yell. He clenched his jaw instead.

“Excuse me?” said the Captain.

“Doctor,” said Rose softly, placing her hand on his forearm. He took a deep breath. If anyone could calm him, it was Rose.

“I want to save the Solonians!” chided the Doctor. “I’ve been telling you that since the beginning and I finally found a way to do it, and you think it’s a trap, for what? You think Rose and I are going to take over your ship and depose you? While that idea sounds lovely, we’ve got bigger fish to worry about, and in the grand scheme of things you’re about as low on the totem pole as the ground.”

“You best not step any further over that line Doctor, or Rose will be next on my list to distract some of the undead,” threatened the Captain. “However, even if I did believe you, my ship doesn’t have the capabilities to travel that far. It’s too dangerous.”

“Boss boss?” interjected Ricket.

“What, Ricket?” snapped the Captain. “Don’t say you could fly us there, I know for a fact you can’t.”

Rob put a hand on Ricket’s shoulder. “Let me, Ricket,” he said with a look of contempt aimed at the Captain. “We can’t explore any more than we already have, Captain. It’s too hard, even for us. There’s too many of those ‘zombies’ out there. We were barely able to get to the transport ship as is. If you want more technology, we’ll have to do something about the fog.”

“Or, you can let me and Rose onto one of the Solonian OTV ships,” said the Doctor.

“What?” asked the Captain, startled by the suggestion.

“There’s still technology on the orbiting ships,” said the Doctor, trying to sound less rude and more persuasive. “I can build you a device that could let your ship fly anywhere in the universe, including to the source of the echo. All I need are a few items from their cupboards or their engine rooms, whichever is the first place we come across, and I’ll be able to provide you with something you could only dream of.”

The Captain folded her arms. “The technology for something like that is also here, on the planet. It’s too dangerous to retrieve them from either the ships or Solos. I won’t risk losing more assets,” she glanced at Rob and Ricket out of the corner of her eye, “I mean crew members, on something I can’t exactly trust, namely you two. You may have helped get us past those ships Doctor, but now you’re out of luck.”

“You’re one of those Pyoo Seers, check the future if you don’t believe us. We both can help you, if you just let us,” said Rose.  

“Did you know, we’ve got a nickname.” said the Doctor, glancing to Rose and smirking, “They call us the ‘Stuff of Legends’ because we tend to do the impossible.” The Captain didn’t need to know that he gave himself and Rose that nickname.

Looking rather annoyed, the Captain frowned then closed her eyes. The Doctor could see her eyes moving behind her closed eyelids. Whatever she was seeing, her frown grew deeper. She then opened her eyes and narrowed them again while studying him and Rose. She gave a hard sigh. “Since we’ll be flying past them on the way back, I suppose it won’t hurt to let the two of you try,” she conceded. “But after you retrieve the technology from the Solonian ships and build me something to fly anywhere in space, why should I help the Solonians? Why can’t I just squeeze every bit of knowledge out of you and be done with it?”

The Doctor knew she was bluffing. “How do you know I know more than the Solonians? That’s a gamble, isn’t it? You know for sure the Solonians have weapons, scanners, shielding, but you have no idea what’s inside my head. You would rather go with something certain than a guess, wouldn’t you? I only need a few things to do one thing, when you want it all.”

“Hmph,” said the Captain, turning away from him, “good call. I’ll have to be more careful with you, Doctor, or you’ll spill all my secrets.”

“Boss boss!” Ricket raised his hand. “Boss Boss!”

“What now, Ricket?”

“I’d like to join them on the Solonian ships,” said Ricket, radiating excitement.

“What?!” exclaimed the Captain.

“Ricket, shut it,” said Rob between clenched teeth.

Ricket ignored Rob. “I’ve never been and I’m the best person to avoid those Solonians. If I can escape the zombies, I can escape the ones on the ship.”

Jen and Mumu emerged from the stairway entrance and walked up to the group. “What’s going on?” asked Jen as they came towards them.

“Ricket here foolishly wants to join the Doctor and Rose on a trip to one of the Solonian ships,” stated the Captain who then addressed Ricket. “You are the best, so why would I want to risk losing you?”

“I can make sure they get what you want and make it back,” said Ricket, still looking like an eager school boy. “Come on, Boss boss, let me go, I really wanna.”

“If he’s going, I’m going,” said Rob, his expression stern.

With an ugly, angry expression the Captain put a hand on her hip. “How sentimental.” She then turned to Mumu, pointing a finger at her. “You’ve been about as useful as a dung beetle since we landed, so you’ll go.”

Jen stepped in front of Mumu, who wore a pale, horrified expression. “I’ll go with her,” said Jen, her back straight, glaring at the Captain. “I want to make sure Mumu will be okay.”

“All of you are foolish!” hollered the Captain. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you all have a death wish.” She glanced at each of them, her eyes finally falling on the Doctor. She studied him for a moment before letting out a frustrated growl. “Fine! You can all go. But you only have three hours. After that, I’m heading back without you.”

“That’s more than enough time. Rose and I can navigate through the ship, get the technology needed, and be back before dinner,” said the Doctor.

“F-food,” Mumu stuttered, “sounds good right now, is-is there anything to eat?” she asked, her body visibly trembling. The poor woman was terrified.

Jen kneeled and rummaged through her backpack. She pulled out a hand full of small, wrapped bars. “Here, hand these out. I took them with us before leaving,” said Jen.

Mumu took the bars and handed them out to everyone. The Doctor took a bar when she passed him, and eagerly unwrapped it. He would give almost anything for a full course meal, but silver wrapped protein bars would have to suffice.

“Thanks,” said Rose, taking one of the bars.

“Enough stalling,” the Captain said, grabbing her offered bar. “Rob, carry what you found up to the ship. Everyone, head to the roof. We’re leaving this cursed planet.” She stormed off, heading towards the only usable stairway.

Rob kneeled next to the pile of stolen technology and pulled a large bag towards him. Rose kneeled too, helping him put away the items. Ricket joined them a moment later and together they had the bag filled quite quickly. Ricket stood and brought another, smaller bag to them for the remaining pieces.

Jen and Mumu left, following after the Captain. The Doctor waited for Rose, stuffing the last bit of his bar into his mouth. When she had finished helping, he held out his hand for her. She took it and he pulled her to her feet. She let go of his hand to dust off her jeans, which now looked grey instead of black.

Rob and Ricket hoisted the bags over their shoulders and made their way to the stairs, and the Doctor and Rose trailed behind them. They took up the rear, climbing the steps at a steady pace. The Doctor kept his eyes on the Captain, though. He worried that she might take off without the two of them.

Rose leaned closer to him. “Doctor, why didn’t you tell me about the technology to travel anywhere in the universe before? Doesn’t that mean we could get home faster?” she asked, then shook her head. “I suppose that doesn’t matter, does it, when we’re so far out into the future.”

“The technology to travel anywhere in the universe is very, very advanced,” said the Doctor, keeping his voice low. “It’s so advanced only a few species have ever come close to inventing it, just like time travel. Essentially it’s the same thing, that’s why we have the phrase space-time.” He took a glance at Rose. She watched as the others climbed ahead of them, keeping her face forward. “If it wasn’t for the fact that we’re a few billion years in the future, it would have been a stroke of luck to stumble upon one of the species in this universe that had invented it.”

She leaned in closer. “If it’s so advanced, then it’s powerful, so why give it to them?” whispered Rose.

“Because it’s the only way,” he said before slipping his hand in hers, relishing the fact that he could talk to her through telepathy. “Really, Rose? I thought you knew better than that.” He smirked. “What’s a pirate without a few of their treasures booby-trapped?” He looked up for a moment, careless of the steps but still climbing perfectly. “I never understood that phrase, ‘booby trap’.” He scratched the back of his head. “Well, now that I think about it, obviously the term comes from the Spanish slang word bubie, which means dunce. And that is exactly what our Captain will feel like once I’m done with her.”

Rose sniggered, smiling, but let his hand go immediately. She leaned away from him and silently continued on. The Doctor understood that she was still angry with him. She had every right to be. Only, he didn’t know what he could do to make it up to her.

“Hurry up you two, before you end up like those two behind the front desk,” commanded the Captain, looking back at them.

After twenty flights of stairs, the Captain opened the door to the roof. She put on her oxymask and headed outside. The group each put on their masks, then stepped through the door and onto the roof. The transport ship sat waiting for them, a black figure in the otherwise pale Solonian city. They wasted no time in boarding the ship, with the Captain sitting down in one of the pilot seats. Jen and Mumu were already sitting in the back by the time the Doctor and Rose came aboard. Rob and Ricket dropped their bags and Rob sat in the other pilot seat.

With everyone seated and onboard, the Captain turned on the ship. They took off minutes later.

As the ship headed for the clouds, the Doctor glanced at Rose. She didn’t look at him. He could sense she was pulling away from him, the distance between them feeling colder than ever before. The timing couldn’t have been worse. He knew she would be there for him when he needed her, when they finally made it to the echo and whatever the footprint of Gallifrey turned out to be. That didn’t mean she would forgive him so easily for deceiving her. He could tell her that it was the other him she should be mad at and not him, but that felt horribly wrong. Nothing ever complicates things more than splitting into two. The other him was still him.

Hearing himself speak on Bad Wolf Bay, though, had given him another perspective on how he treats others. Rose needed to hear him say that he won’t ever leave her again. She needed him to say the words, for her to know he understood now. But seeing her on that bed had distracted him. Once he got another chance to tell her, the next time they were alone, nothing would keep him from both apologising and telling her that they were in this life together. Forever.

For now, he’d respect the space she needed.  

Rose looked at the pirates. “So what made you three join with the Captain? Are you all from Pyoo?” she asked, conversationally.

“I am, but I didn’t join for the Captain,” said Jen.

“Rob was the captain of the Fancy before the Captain stepped in,” said Ricket, grinning.

Fancy?” asked Rose.

“Yeah, that’s the name of our ship,” said Mumu.

“Is that right?” said the Doctor.

Rose looked at him, a bit puzzled. “What?” she asked.

“That’s the name of an old Earth pirate ship captained by Henry Every. The crew mutinied with Henry to claim the ship as their own and began their very short lived careers as pirates,” said the Doctor.

“The Captain didn’t lead a mutiny, I stepped down for her,” added Rob, sounding irritated at the topic of their discussion.

"Tell me, what did they call the Captain before she was captain? Not-Yet-Captain-But-Soon-Will-Be?" asked the Doctor.

“That was always my name,” the Captain bit back. “Stop butting into my life, or do you want me to ask you how you came to be known as ‘Doctor’?”

He glared at the Captain's back, ready to retort again. He held his tongue and settled for calling her a few names in a few different languages in his head.

“Was the Fancy always a pirate ship then?” asked Rose, obviously trying to steer the conversation back into safer waters.

“No,” said Jen, “It used to be an exploration ship. It’s why I joined.”

“Yeah, me too,” added Ricket cheerfully. “Best ship in these parts. Then Rob couldn’t stand those Pyoos anymore and we started rebelling. Didn’t become pirates until later, though those were-”

“Ricket!” yelled Rob.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Ricket with a dismissive wave of his hand. “We almost died with them, gonna go into dangerous territory with them, and they can’t know some useless facts?”

“You never know what’s useless, Ricket,” said Rob, his voice stern.

“All of you shut it. We’re about to enter orbit and I want to concentrate on docking,” snapped the Captain.

The ship broke through the clouds and headed straight for the dark, starry expanse of space. The Captain turned on the reverse signal to shield them from the Solonians’ ship’s scans. The little silver dots of the OTV ships in the distance soon turned into larger shapes, and then turned into the recognisable outlines of the sleek Solonian ships.

The Captain steered them closer to one of them, heading for its underbelly. The details of the ship came into view. Different, smaller devices attached to the outer hulls of the ship -- scanners, weapons, and communication dishes -- moved, continuing to work even though the crew inside were unable to operate them. A large door appeared under a few dishes on the OTV ship and the Captain maneuvered their transport ship to connect with it.

A creak sounded, metal on metal, as the ship docked. Smoothly, the transport ship clamped down on the outer handles of the docking bay support, and the ship was in place.

The Captain stood and turned to them. “Remember, three hours, then I leave,” she said, crossing her arms.

“What do you need, specifically?” asked Rob, standing and addressing the Doctor.

“Oh, a macro-kinetic dilated rotor, it’s about the size of my palm, a thaesium photon piston, and a micro-reforming input capacitor drive. Maybe a bit of wiring. You’ve already got the self-regulating power generator and the multiphase time inducer,” said the Doctor. He and Rose stood with the rest of the crew who were sitting in the back.

“So nothing heavy?” asked Jen.

“Nah. Wouldn’t really be feasible, would it, trying to get a heavy object off one of these ships with the Solonians in their aggressive state, ready to eat us at every turn?” said the Doctor.

“So in and out, yeah?” asked Rose, looking at him.

“In and out,” repeated the Doctor, smiling at her.

The Captain opened the back door of the ship. It slid open to reveal another set of doors that slid open moments after. The corridors of the Solonians’ ship were bathed in red light, the emergency alarm having been activated years before. No sound issued forth from the dark entrance-way, but a stale breeze washed over the Doctor, smelling of disease and decay. He took Rose’s hand and she didn’t let go, but held onto him tightly. They looked at each other before heading straight into the danger waiting for them.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

Rose let go of the Doctor’s hand and turned as the door to the transport ship closed, leaving the group alone in the dark red corridor of the Solonian ship. She watched as the other doors slid closed, the last one stained with dried blood in the form of a hand print. Someone had been killed here, but there were no bones or clothes on the floor. Instead, the dim red light reflected a blackened pathway. The walls looked as if rust dripped from the ceiling, turning them a brown splotchy color.

“Here, I got a torch,” said Ricket, digging into his utility belt. He pulled out a square device the size of someone’s hand. He turned it on and the bright blue light only made the corridor more terrifying.

“Why don’t you just announce to the ravaging people eating Solonians that we’re here? It’ll be easier,” said the Doctor.

“Turn on the photon isolator,” said Rob. Ricket pushed a button on the torch and the light turned green. Rob glanced at the Doctor. “It’ll only let those behind the torch see the light.”

“Still, you ought to be careful with that, or we’ll be caught faster than you can say Jack Robinson,” said the Doctor.

As they moved slowly down the corridor, the ship reminded Rose of every haunted house she’d ever visited. She rushed to take the Doctor’s hand, and relief washed over her when their skin touched. Though the Doctor had upset her the night before, she felt safe with her hand in his. Since that moment in the basement of Henrik’s, holding his hand meant that nothing could harm either of them. No matter if she was annoyed or angry or sad, she would never stop holding his hand.

A bang reverberated through the hall, then a scream. It sounded too far away to be a danger to them, but Rose pressed closer to the Doctor. He and Ricket led the way, scanning the doors they passed, heading down corridor after corridor, all of them looking the same.

“Do you know where you’re going?” asked Rose.

“Yup,” said the Doctor. “I studied the blueprints of the Solonian ships when I created the reverse signal.”

“How many people can this ship hold?” she asked, wondering how far they would have to walk to reach what they needed.

“Up to fifteen hundred, give or take,” the Doctor said casually, as if that number wasn’t large for a spaceship.

“So we have to sneak past fifteen hundred Solonians that want to eat us?” she asked incredulously.

“Well, after fifty years without a food source I’m sure that number’s decreased.”

Rose glanced down to the floor, her heart filling with sympathy for the Solonians. “It’s gonna feel awful when they’re finally back to normal, knowing they ate their friends and family.”

The Doctor looked at her. “But they survived. If anything I think they’ll be grateful their species wasn’t completely wiped from existence.”

“I’m sorry,” she said immediately. Her thoughts had gone from the Solonians to the Doctor’s own people. Since he felt Gallifrey this morning, he was probably thinking about them. Rose hated to think that he really had to destroy whatever was left of his people to save the ones here. She wondered if there was another way.

The Doctor pulled her closer, glancing at her then back to the corridor. “You’re talking,” he stated. “I thought you said talking gets you killed.”

“Maybe I just needed to hear your voice,” she replied. “This place gives me the creeps.”

“It does,” agreed the Doctor. “It’s sad to see such a magnificent and beautiful ship gone to seed.” He tilted his head towards a bend in the corridor. “This way.”

The Doctor led them to a door with a sign above it. The words of the sign had faded, making it impossible to read, even if Rose had known the language. Rob pushed a button on the side of the door and nothing happened.

“It’s locked,” said Rob.

The Doctor took out his sonic. “Then all we need is a key, which I happen to have.” Rob stood aside as the Doctor stepped up to the door and pointed his sonic at the button.

“What is that thing?” asked Ricket.

“You’ve never seen a sonic device before?” asked Jen, looking rather surprised.

“I’m impressed,” said the Doctor to Jen as he continued to work the door with his sonic. “Have you seen many sonic devices before?”

“My nan had one for around the house,” Jen confessed. “Used to say it was better than her husband.”

“That’s a double entendre if I ever heard one,” quipped the Doctor, his eyebrows rising.

Rose smiled, knowing exactly what the Doctor was thinking. She turned away, trying to hide it, not wanting the Doctor to see. She was still mad at him after all. When she looked back, she caught the Doctor spying on her out of the corner of his eye.

“There,” the Doctor proclaimed and the door slid open with a hiss. “Now all we-” The Doctor quickly held out his arm, blocking everyone from entering. “Whoa, sorry, wrong room.”

Inside, a single white rock sat in the middle of the room. All sorts of colors swirled around it in waves, distorting its shape.

“What’s the matter with that room?” asked Mumu.

“It’s full of radiation of some sort,” Rose guessed, having seen something similar in her travels with the Dimension Cannon.

“It’s thaesium radiation,” said the Doctor, pocketing his sonic. “The rock in the middle floods the room with it, so the Solonians can evolve. They need the radiation to change.” He pressed the side button and closed the door. “I was wondering about that. Since the Solonians need the planet’s natural radiation, how could they manage it while in space?” He tilted his head towards the door. “There’s my answer.”

“But they haven’t yet,” stated Mumu, sounding confused.

“The echo is blocking them from changing,” said Rose kindly. “It’s why we’re here, remember, to save the Solonians still alive on the ships.”

“O-oh, yeah,” stuttered Mumu, blushing. “I’m a data analyst. I’m not used to field work.”

Rose and the Doctor stared at her. Rose took a deep breath and clenched her free hand, loathing for the Captain mounting. Whatever reason the Captain had for bringing Mumu on this trip then ordering her to join them here, nothing justified putting the inexperienced woman in extreme danger. It was incompetence to the highest degree.

“Let’s not wait around,” said Rob, breaking the silence. “Lead the way, Doctor.”

They continued further down the corridor and deeper into the ship. Tapping noises sounded from above but soon went out. After they passed a large area of various intersections, a terrifying creak floated past them then faded away. When they picked a new route, a scream echoed from somewhere in the ship. Occasionally, fallen debris blocked their progress and they had to double back. The walls were dented here and there, and sometimes old blood splatters painted the corridor.

Rose held the Doctor’s hand tighter.

“The thing you’re making for the pirates, what is it exactly?” she asked, trying to distract herself.

“It’s an upgraded Alcubierre Drive using part of a Gallifreyan metric tensor for space-time dilation,” said the Doctor conversationally.

“I heard one of the scientists mention an Alcubierre Drive when they were developing the Dimension Canon. It’s sort of like the way they travel in Star Trek?”

“Ehh, something like that, though saying it’s a ‘warp drive’ is a bit archaic,” said the Doctor. He stopped in front of another door. “Here we go. Just through this room, and we’ll be in the engineering section of the ship.”

The Doctor took out his sonic and pointed it directly at the side button. After a second the door slid open. Rose guessed that the door hadn’t been locked if it opened so quick and easily. But when she looked inside she knew why. Over a dozen half-evolved Solonians lay unconscious on the floor. She looked over to the Doctor, who seemed rather dumbfounded.

“And apparently it also contains a horde of sleeping Solonians,” said the Doctor, keeping his voice low and rubbing his neck.

“Is there another way around?” asked Rose.

“No. Not unless you want to crawl through the maintenance tubes, pass through the crew quarters, and alert everyone on the ship that there is new food onboard,” replied the Doctor, sounding rather put out. “This is the shortest path to what we need.”

“They’re dozing, we can get past them,” said Ricket, as if this was the easiest thing in the universe.

“We’ll need to be cautious,” said Jen.

“Ricket, go first, since you’re light on your feet,” commanded Rob.

“Watch me,” said Ricket, smiling at the group.

Ricket hoisted his laser gun over his shoulder, turned off the torch and pocketed it, then leaped forward, over the first sleeping Solonian. His foot landed squarely on the floor, but before his other foot came down, he leaped again over the next Solonian. Alternating between feet, Ricket crossed the room with ease to the other side, next to a closed door. He nodded to the others and the Doctor went next. Rose followed, then Rob, Jen and Mumu.

They made their way across, though not as proficiently as Ricket. Rose looked down and saw that most of the Solonians were naked. Some had loincloths. What surprised Rose the most was that in a corner, a Solonian held a child in their sleep, looking as mutated as its parent.

Rose made it across and watched the others come one by one. The last to cross, Mumu stepped uneasily from spot to spot. Mumu held her arms close to her chest, but Rose could see that she was still shaking.   

“It’s alright, you’re doing it, keep going,” Rose whispered to her.

Mumu then stepped over the next Solonian successfully. Her steps were more confident, but she still had halfway to go before she made it to the rest of them. Mumu looked up at them and smiled weakly. She then slowly climbed over a particularly large Solonian. She lost her balance, hopped in place once and settled down again, without incident. Mumu then bumped her foot on the next Solonian. It stirred, its snoring cut off from turning in place. Then it scratched its belly before falling asleep once again. Mumu sighed in relief and continued on.

The Doctor took out his sonic and began working on the closed door. Everyone stayed close to the wall as Mumu continued to come closer. After a moment, the door hissed open and everyone stepped out into the new corridor. Jen stayed in the room, watching Mumu, who was now three fourths of the way across. Then Mumu tripped. She landed face down on the floor, tangled among the sleeping Solonians. A few Solonians stirred, then woke around her. Mumu got to her knees, her hands on the floor, and watched, terrified, as the Solonians got to their feet faster than her.

“Mumu!” hollered Jen.

A Solonian grabbed Mumu, yanking her to her feet. Then two more grabbed one of her arms and pulled. Mumu let out a ear piercing scream as her limb was slowly torn from her body. Another Solonian grabbed Mumu’s leg and bit down hard into her flesh. By now, the other Solonians were awake, heading for Mumu. All of them wore hungry expressions.

Jen started towards Mumu, her laser gun pointed forward. But Rose rushed to Jen and grabbed her arm, stopping her.

“There’s nothing you can do,” said Rose, looking at her sorrowfully. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s only a single group, we can take them!” Ricket yelled, jumping into the room again, shooting the closest Solonian. It fell to the floor, dead.

The Doctor marched over to Ricket’s side and pushed down the gun, aiming it at the floor. “Don’t shoot!” he yelled. “We’re here to save them, not kill them!”

The nearest Solonians to the one Ricket shot looked back at the group. They turned and started towards them, moving fast and eagerly.

“They’ve seen us!” yelled Jen.

“Probably now is a good time to run, yeah?” asked Rose, panic now taking over.

“Go, go, go!” yelled the Doctor, taking Rose’s hand and moving with speed out the door and down the corridor.

With only the faint red light to guide them, everyone ran, following the twisted pathway. They raced their way through the ship with the Solonians at their heels. Terror pumped through Rose’s veins. If it hadn’t been for the sleep she’d gotten the night before, she wouldn’t be able to continue on. She glanced at the Doctor, wondering how he fared with no sleep. His determined expression calmed some of her fears.

“I’ll lead! I can find us a route to a hiding place!” shouted Ricket with the utmost confidence, jumping ahead of the Doctor.

With the torch in his hand, Ricket outpaced the rest of the group in seconds.

“Ricket!” yelled Rob, as Ricket almost went out of sight.

Ricket went through a half-opened door and everyone followed him. The door led to another, narrower corridor. The dark, tight passageway connected several rooms, all of them empty or full of torn-up items and broken parts of the ship. No one was in any of the rooms, but they continued running through the passage, with the Solonians behind them still giving chase.

Ricket looked back and smiled at the group as he ran. He skipped twice, obviously showing off. He then turned and ran backwards, his hands linked behind his head.

“Ha! This will be easy, just you wait!” he bellowed to everyone with a laugh.

Rose saw something on the ground ahead of Ricket but before she could call out to him, he stepped on a flat trigger on the floor. A false wall sprang from the ceiling, lined with thick, pointed spikes. The spikes impaled Ricket, pushing through his torso, legs, and arms. His head hung forward, the blood gushing from his body where the spikes impaled him.

“No! Ricket!” screamed Rob. “Ricket!!”

Blocked by the false wall and Ricket, the group came to a slow stop. Rob stumbled forward, tears rushing down his face. He went right up to Ricket with his hands held out in front of him.

“You...You-” sobbed Rob.

Ricket lifted his head, blood trickling from the corners of his mouth. “H...ey,” he said weakly. “Now, ugh,” he closed his eyes, his head dipping down, “you...can say,” he then lifted his head once more, smiling. “I told you so.”

Rob kissed Ricket passionately, desperately, grabbing his face with his hands. Rose looked on, her heart breaking for them. She hadn’t known they were a couple. She looked over to the Doctor and squeezed his hand. A bit of her anger at him was extinguished when she thought about losing him like Rob had just lost Ricket.

Rob broke the kiss and rested his forehead on Ricket’s. Yet Ricket no longer looked alive. Rob stayed like that for a moment, the group remaining silent, before he took off Ricket’s partially damaged utility belt. Rose could hear his sobs as he worked.

“We,” said Rob as he turned around, the belt in hand, “can use this.”

Rose looked at Rob’s tear-stained face and held out her hand. “Give it here,” she said. “I’m not carrying anything, so I might as well start.”

Rob held the belt out to Rose without glancing her way. His arm shook with grief. Rose took it from him gingerly, then clasped it around her waist.

“I’m sorry,” said the Doctor softly.

Rose felt a wave of comfort flow through her and she realised it came from the Doctor, through his telepathy and their joined hands.

One of the Solonians giving chase shouted. Everyone looked behind them and saw the Solonians rushing towards them. One had Mumu’s arm in its mouth, sucking on it. Some looked to be celebrating, jumping as they ran, their arms in the air.

“We’re trapped!” gasped Jen, glancing between the false wall and the oncoming horde of Solonians.

Two dead, with the Captain sitting safely on the transport ship, fueled a new rage in Rose. “Not for long,” she said calmly. She dashed forward, grabbed Ricket’s laser gun hanging from his arm and shot the red dimmed lights of the ceiling above the Solonians. Red sparks rained down on the mutants. They screamed as the sparks touched them, burning their flesh, and stalling them from coming any closer.

“I’ll take it from here,” said Rob. He then pointed his laser gun at Ricket’s hanging body and shot the false wall. It came tumbling down and opened the way for them to go forward. He jumped over Ricket and ran.

Rose looked at Ricket’s body on the floor and with a heavy heart stepped over it. The Doctor came to her and looked at the gun in her hands. He then nodded and took her hand from the large laser gun. He entwined their fingers and Rose dropped the weapon. Together with Jen and Rob, they dashed down the narrow pathway.  

The horde of Solonians recovered from the sparks and came after them again, though Rose noticed a few had stopped to devour Ricket’s body. The four of them pushed forward, following random paths and turns. The pathway then branched out into three regular corridors and two more smaller passageways. Rob took the second narrow passage and everyone followed. Eventually they came to a large open room.

Rose could no longer hear the chasing Solonians, but that didn’t mean they had stopped their pursuit. Rose and everyone had to keep going. But looking around the room, she noticed a dozen different computer consoles, wires hanging from a heavily damaged ceiling. Some of the wires were live at the end and swayed dangerously. There were large pipes running from wall to wall. The room seemed important. Everyone slowed down.

“We’ve made it to the engine room,” said the Doctor, looking up.

Rose noticed a large hole in the ceiling where she could see the floor above them. She also noticed an array of dirty clothes hanging from different locations, wires tied around metal tubes, and a fallen ramp oddly placed in the middle of the room. “None of the other parts of the ship look like this,” observed Rose. “I wonder what happened here.”

“It seems they’ve used this part of the ship as a hunting ground,” said the Doctor, poking his foot at a skull Rose hadn’t noticed.

“If this is where the stuff is, let’s get it and get out of here,” urged Jen, her voice shaking.

“Good idea,” agreed the Doctor. “The items should be here somewhere. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot them.” He turned in a circle, studying the area. “Keep your eyes peeled.”

Rose remembered when he said that before, long ago, on a London street in 2012. She wanted to joke about it with him, tempted to act like the last three years had never taken place. But after losing Henry, Bilek, Mumu, and Ricket, Rose just couldn’t do it. Four people were dead, and four more might be if they didn’t get this over with soon.

The Doctor stepped on a fallen piece of ceiling, then began his search near the lower pipelines. Jen went to look near the computer consoles, while Rob, barely paying attention, walked in a circle near the hole in the ceiling. Rose went over to a few fallen shelves and shifted the items around to see if anything looked important.

While digging through the pile of discarded and often broken equipment, Rose thought about the Doctor. Rob had lost his Ricket, who was as mortal as she was. She remembered that the Doctor had died once, permanently, in the pocket universe, where she met with Donna. Her heart had torn in two while she worked with UNIT to create a time machine out of the TARDIS. The almost immortal Time Lord let himself die. She didn’t want to go through that again, didn’t want to have to identify his body again, to look upon him, gone from her forever.

She should be upset at the Doctor; she should be mad that he lied to her. But shouldn’t she be mad at the other him, the full Time Lord him, and not the one with her now? She realised the security blanket of his regenerations had been a cover. She just didn’t want to get hurt after years of heartache, to see the Doctor impaled by spikes, or eaten by zombies on Solos or the Solonians on the ship, or being sucked up by a random black hole. But she could die and leave him as well. This was the life they lived. If he could tell her the truth now, to risk her anger, to risk time, something finite for the both of them, then shouldn’t she just forgive him and move forward?

But she didn’t want to think that the other him, in the other universe, was alone, willing to let himself die like he had in the pocket universe.

“Wahhhhh!!” screamed Rob, as he was pulled up through the dark hole in the ceiling.

“Rob!!” yelled Jen.

Rose, being the closest to Rob, didn’t think. She rushed towards Rob and flung herself at him, trying to pull him down. Rob swung his arms and hands at the Solonians dragging him up by his shoulders, trying to fight them off.

“I’ve got you!” she said, though she felt her feet leave the ground. She was being pulled up too.

“Rose!!” called the Doctor, panic in his voice.

The Doctor grabbed her legs, yanking her down. Rose stuck to Rob, clinging to him. She didn’t want anyone else to die. She was going to save him. She tightened her hold around his torso, though she could feel the Solonians’ claws trying to grab her too. Jen then jumped onto Rob and their combined weight pulled them towards the safety of the ground.

The Solonians fought above them, unable to fit too many claws and Rob through the hole. With Rob now weighing too much with the added people clinging to him, they shifted their focus to Rose. They tugged at her hair and she pulled away from it, only to bash into another claw.

“Ahh!” screamed Rose as they grabbed her shoulder, cutting her jacket and digging into her flesh.

“Rose!” yelled the Doctor.

“I’ve got Rob!” said Jen triumphantly.

The Solonians let go of Rob, and he and Jen tumbled to the floor. Rose, no longer holding on to Rob, fought them just as he had: flailing her arms and hands about, hitting the many claws trying to grab her, pounding on the one clamped to her shoulder. As they pulled her higher, the Solonians set their sights on the Doctor, aiming their claws at him.

She looked down in time to see a claw grab onto his hair and pull.

“Ahhh!” screamed the Doctor.

“Doctor!” Rose yelled.

Rose was half way through the hole and the Doctor hadn’t let go of her. A Solonian grabbed his shoulder, yanking him away from her. She continued to fight. The fact that the size of hole wasn’t big enough for so many claws and both of them to be pulled through was the only thing keeping the Solonians from tearing them both to pieces. They yanked at her hair, trying to grab her head. She didn’t stop moving, even with a claw clamped tight on her shoulder.

The Solonians stopped their fighting above them and Rose held her breath. Then most of the claws retreated from the hole and only two pairs of claws remained, the two that held onto Rose and the Doctor.

Now Rose and the Doctor were being pulled effortlessly through the hole. She caught the Doctor’s eyes and held out her hand for him. He held up his hand, reaching for her. Their fingers were only so far apart, only a little more and she could touch him. She desperately needed to touch him. They were going to die and she needed to feel him one last time.

Almost. Almost.

A Solonian chomped down on the Doctor’s shoulder, causing his arm to fall and blood to stream down his blue suit.   

“Ahhh,” screamed the Doctor, his voice full of pain.

Determination steeled her resolve. “I’m not gonna just let you eat him!”

Rose dived into Ricket’s utility belt and pulled out a large knife. She slashed the Solonian trying to eat the Doctor’s shoulder, who let go with a yelp. But the knife fell from her grip, her arm too weak from the claw attached to it. Rose heard the knife clang when it hit the ground.

It was over. They were done for.

“Doctor,” whispered Rose, her eyes never leaving his.

“Rose,” he called back, looking bone weary and completely defeated. “Rose.”

An electric jolt shocked her and suddenly she and the Doctor fell, free from both claws and jaws. They hit the ground with an ‘oomph’. Rose, feeling a heavy exhaustion keep her down, pushed her head up. Standing near by, Jen held a live wire close to the ceiling, looking at them with concern. Rose then turned to view the hole in the ceiling, and the Solonians appeared to have rushed off when Jen electrified their floor.

Knowing it was safe to do so, Rose crawled towards the Doctor, who lay motionless on the ground. She touched his chest and felt his steady heartbeat beneath it.

He sat up slowly, rubbing his head. “I’m fine,” said the Doctor, his voice hoarse. “Now I know what it feels like to have your life flash before your eyes.” He looked at Rose and cupped her face. “Rose?”

“Yeah, I’m okay,” she said, then nodded to his shoulder. “That’s a nasty cut though.”

“I could say the same to you,” said the Doctor, looking at the wound on her shoulder.

“Can you two run?” asked Jen. She had let go of the wire and now stood above them. “I think the ones from up there are coming for us too.”

“I don’t think we have a choice,” said the Doctor, standing. “I’d prefer not to be a Solonian dinner.” He reached out to Rose, who took his hand and stood. “And there doesn’t seem to be anything here, so we’ll have to find the items someplace else.”

“Rob, can you lead?” asked Rose, but kept her eyes on the Doctor, who looked the worse for wear. There were tiny cuts on his forehead, his suit jacket was ripped in a few places, and there was that mouth bite on his shoulder. But most of all, there was an exhaustion in his face that concerned her.

“Yes,” said Rob, who had been standing back, nursing his wounds. He looked more determined than Rose had ever seen him. “I can.” He let go of his wound and stood straighter. “I will.”

“Then let’s hop to it, shall we?” said the Doctor.

The Doctor touched his wound, but kept his hand in Rose’s. They followed Rob and Jen down the next corridor, everyone staying close. Rose, distracted by her near-death experience, glanced at the Doctor, who gave her a soft smile. Emotions whirled around inside her. Everything that had taken place since she came back to this universe came together to paint one picture for her. She had to live. She had to continue on. And if things worked out, if they made it back to Earth, she would be happy.

Rose vowed that she’d put aside the things that happened on that beach, to let go of her anger, her frustration, her confusion, everything, and go forward with this Doctor. She’ll forgive him, both of him, and hoped that wherever the other Doctor was, he’d be alright, in time.

To be Continued

Chapter Text

The Doctor’s blue suit jacket rubbed against his wound causing it to sting as they ran through the corridors of the Solonian ship. He tightened his grip on Rose, and with his other hand put pressure on his bleeding injury. He, Rose and Rob needed to tend to their shoulders and that meant they needed to find a safe place to rest. He could hear the the rowdy Solonians behind them, getting closer as the group ran slower with their injuries.

Taking a deep breath, he pushed on, trying to run faster but unable to match Jen and Rob’s speed. With no sleep and hardly any food, plus the deep wound on his shoulder, he felt a growing weight slowing him down. His new body simply couldn’t keep up with the demands he placed on it.

Ahead of him a door came into view and he glanced up to see where the room led. The label over the door had mostly faded with time, but a number was still visible. Fifty.

He skidded to a halt, let go of Rose, and took out his sonic.

“Over here, over here, over here,” yelled the Doctor, trying to sonic the door open.

“Rob! Jen! Come back!” yelled Rose.

“They’ll be on us at any minute!” said Jen as she ran up to them.

“We can hide in this room,” said the Doctor, keeping his focus on the door.

“How is this room any different from all the others?” asked Rose.

“I’ll tell you once we’re inside,” said the Doctor. He didn’t actually know what was in there, but his gut told him that this was where they should be. A second later the door hissed open. “There!” He gestured for Rose to go through the door first. “Everyone get in!”

Once Jen and Rob followed Rose into the room, he stepped inside and began working on closing and locking the door. It spluttered once then stopped halfway.

“It won’t shut!” yelled Rob, rather unhelpfully.

“Really? I thought that's how it worked,” quipped the Doctor, irritated by the remark. “Either help me or shut up.”

The Doctor and Rose tried to pull the door closed, yet with nowhere to grip, the door didn’t budge. His limbs felt too weak to move it. Then Rob and Jen joined in their efforts. The door whined, quivered, and slammed shut with a sudden hiss. Everyone jumped back in time and watched another door close over the first one.

“Nearly lost my fingers with that,” said Rose.

The Doctor glanced around, studying the room, and sighed with relief when he understood where they were. “We should be safe here, by the looks of it,” he nodded to the heavy second door, “it’s a sub-positron storage room. The walls and doors are reinforced with graphene metal so that nothing interferes with the sub-positrons.”

“You didn’t know what this room was?” asked Rose incredulously.

“Why would it need to be reinforced with graphene metal?” asked Jen, saving him from answering Rose right away.

“Certain types of neutrinos that pass through solids would damage the circuitry of the containers, which is why they need to use a special type of graphene metal, which keeps those neutrinos out,” he said, happy to supply her with the information. “The Solonians won’t be able to even smell us from the outside.”

“Good, I could use a breather,” said Jen, closing her eyes and sagging against a wall.

“I’m sorry,” whispered Rob, barely audible. He stood near Jen, staring at the floor.  

“What?” asked Jen, obviously startled.

“I’m sorry about Mumu,” said Rob, a little louder. He looked at Jen, his face still red from crying over Ricket. “About,” Rob frowned, “all these deaths.”

The Doctor knew that tone of voice. Rob blamed himself.

“What about Ulreigh?” asked Rose, a sharp tone lacing her voice. She stepped closer to Rob, glaring at him. “Are you sorry about him too?”

He knew Rose had been upset about Ulreigh. He’d seen it on her face when he mentioned it to her the first time. She hated it, just as much as he did, when innocent people were killed.

Rob looked back at the floor, staying silent for a moment. “Ricket, he...he didn’t want to kill him,” Rob confessed finally, his voice hoarse. “We both didn’t want to, we had to make ourselves do it. I told the Captain to leave Ulreigh alone when he left us.” He raised his head and looked at everyone with a pleading expression. “He was one of us, he made us all laugh, gave everything nicknames, like the knock out juice. We can’t call it anything else now.” He swallowed, knitting his brows together. “But she ordered us.”

Anger rose quickly in the Doctor. He’d heard that phrase one too many times. “You can’t hide behind the excuse of following orders!” shouted the Doctor. “If you’re really sorry, then you should do something about it next time and not after you’ve lost someone who actually matters to you!”

A stunned, guilty expression flashed across Rob’s face. He swallowed again, his tears drying from his eyes. He looked away from the Doctor, then sulked to a corner of the room, his injured shoulder drooping, without saying anything else. Jen went after him.

Rose looked at the Doctor, and he turned to face her. Her eyes were glued to his wound and his blooded jacket.

“We should do something about your shoulder,” said Rose, softly.

“And yours.” He touched her upper arm, careful of any hidden injuries. He nodded to the space farthest away from Rob and Jen. “Let’s go over there.”

They made their way to where he nodded and the Doctor resisted the urge to crumble to the floor. He would need more than sleep after they got back, but he doubted he’d get what he needed until they were back on Earth. They eased to the floor instead, sitting to face each other.

The Doctor started to remove his jacket, but he clenched his teeth at the pain. He decided to remove one sleeve at a time. “I didn’t mention this before because I wanted to keep it between the two of us.”

“What is it?” asked Rose as she assisted him with peeling off the fabric of his jacket from his wound.

“Remember our luck?”

“Yeah, thought we used it all up when the Solonians almost ate us,” commented Rose. Together they got off his jacket and she started to remove hers.

“No, we still have it,” said the Doctor, glancing at the stains and holes on his suit. “I haven’t told you yet, but the number fifty has been cropping up a bit too much to be a coincidence.”

“I’ve seen that too, the number, even before I came back.” Rose tossed her jacket on the floor and the Doctor threw his on top of hers. “I kept seeing it around Donna in that parallel universe.”

The Doctor looked at her with raised eyebrows, stunned at her admission. “How many times?”

She shrugged, then winced. “I dunno, maybe about ten?”

“Then I don’t think I’ll have to tell you which number was above the door to this room.”  

Rose glanced down for only a moment, seemingly contemplative. “I wonder what it means.”

The Doctor leaned against the wall with his good shoulder. “Right now, after we both almost bit the dust, we can’t do much about it except survive long enough to figure it later, like before.”

Rose stayed silent after that, tending to his wound, trying to apply pressure with her hands. She gave up after a moment and rummaged through Ricket’s utility belt. She pulled out a damaged box with a crescent moon and a star, but it was empty.

“I don’t think I can stop the bleeding,” said Rose, looking worried.

He suddenly remembered something “Oh, that’s right, I have something for it in my pockets,” he searched his trousers, “Hold on, let me,” he grabbed on to varying bottles, then felt his fingers curl around the right one, “there it is!” He pulled out a small spray bottle he got from a seventy-seventh century hospital. It could patch up most external injuries. He glanced at Rose. “You first.”

Rose didn’t argue. In the past when they traveled, if they got hurt, he would always tend to her first, no matter how much she protested, unless his injuries could turn fatal. He sprayed her shoulder with the bottle and a thick foam came out the nozzle, sealing her wound. Her t-shirt, like his, had been ripped enough that he hadn’t needed to move it. Once finished, Rose sighed, sounding relieved, and slumped forward. The foam’s pain reliever must have kicked in.

She looked at him with a tired smirk. “You just happened to be carrying medical supplies in your trousers?” Rose took the spray from his hand.

“Martha made me keep a spare in all of my suits after a rather nasty run-in with a Raggorian beast,” he said as he stretched his neck away from his wound. Rose sprayed his shoulder with the foam. Immediately the pain subsided.  

Rose continued to fuss over his injury. “I wish I could have known her better. I bet she was brilliant.”

He smiled. “She would have liked you,” said the Doctor, then remembered one of the reasons why Martha left. “Erm, well, maybe not.”

“Why’s that?”

“She, um,” he rubbed the back of his neck, “she fancied me.”

Rose rolled her eyes then grinned, not looking at all bothered or jealous as he had expected her to. “Of course she did, anyone who knows you fancies the pants off you.”

He beamed at her, feeling his pride swell at the compliment. Then his grin vanished. “Donna didn’t. Apparently I’m not her type.”

“That’s because she’s special,” said Rose, her smile turning soft.

He hummed in agreement, thinking about Donna. “That she was.”

Rose stopped fussing over his wound and looked down to put away the medicine. She frowned and fiddled with her hands. “I’m gonna believe Donna’s with him,” said Rose, her voice low. She looked up at him. “I have to believe they’re together, still traveling and happy.”

He took a deep breath. He wanted to believe that too. “Who knows, maybe the two of them put their heads together, though in a way you could say they already did, quite literally, and found a way to save her.”

The Doctor caught Rose’s eyes and there was something in them, something soft and warm that he hadn’t seen in years. She came closer and ran her hand through his hair, leaving a pleasant tingle running down his spine. Her hand came to rest on his forehead, as if she was checking his temperature. “You’re all clammy, should we just head back to the transport ship?” She shook her head and leaned back. “Maybe we can try again later, just the two of us?”

“I think this is the only chance we’ll get,” said the Doctor, thinking back to their conversation with the Captain. Traveling to Gallifrey was vital, and not just for him.  “I need to get those items.” He stared at her, willing for her to understand how important it was that he deal with the echo.  “Rose, I need to --”

“I know, Doctor, you don’t have to say,” said Rose, cutting him off, “we’ll get them, you and me, yeah?” She gave him a small smile.

He cupped her face, grateful that she knew, that she did understand. She had been everything to him after the Time War. She eased the pain of having to do the unthinkable and here she was, ready to help him again regarding Gallifrey, without needing a word from him. “I love you.” Her eyes widened and turned glossy. Her mouth dropped slightly and her breath hitched. He held her face with both hands. “Back there, when we were almost on the menu for the Solonians, I hated the thought of dying and not saying it again.”

“That’s the second time you’ve told me,” said Rose in a dreamy tone.

“Third, but you didn’t hear it the first time,” corrected the Doctor.

She smiled, a gentle, sweet smile that seemed to chase all of his pain away. She bit her bottom lip and her expression transformed, her eyes shining mischievously. “Then I have some catching up to do.”

He beamed at her again, feeling the distance between them evaporate. That gave him the strength to keep going.

“I think we should go. The longer we stay here, the harder it will be for us to keep going,” said Jen loudly enough that they could hear her from the other side of the room.

The Doctor looked over to her and saw she had finished patching up Rob. “Right, the sooner we get what we need, the sooner we can get back to the transport ship.” He stood with Rose. She picked up their jackets and handed him his. They put them on as they made their way to the door.

“What about the Solonians outside?” asked Rob, who seemed to have sobered up.

“I’ve got a plan,” said the Doctor, glancing around to everyone.

“Tell us,” said Rose softly.

“Remember those sleeping bombs we used on Pyoo?” he asked. “I still have enough ingredients to make another one. They won’t work on the Solonians but it should confuse them enough for us to get away. We can detonate it to cover our tracks and then head to the cargo hold. It should be close. And I can guarantee the items we need will be there.” The items should have been in engineering. He scratched the back of his head. “Well, almost, can’t be sure with the ship this out of sorts.” He glanced to Jen and Rob. “After I’ve gotten the items, unfortunately we’ll have to leg it back to the transport ship.”

“You know the way?” asked Rob.

“I’ve got a vague idea of where to go, that should be good enough,” said the Doctor, feeling hopeful that this would soon be over.

“Let’s get to it,” said Rose, her voice now taking on a commanding tone he’d only heard a few times before. “I don’t think either of us will hold out much longer.”

“All I’ll need is a minute and I’ll have the bomb ready,” said the Doctor, kneeling while he searched his pockets, pulling out a variety of things and dumping them on the floor. He swiftly made the sleep bomb, using the last bit of the poor plant he’d plucked from that forest on Pyoo. He stood, holding the bomb in his hand, and nodded. He took out his sonic, opening the door with a press of a button on his screwdriver.

Jen carefully stuck her head out into the corridor, looking both ways for signs of the Solonians. “It’s clear,” she said, standing back.

The Doctor pocketed his sonic and held out his hand to Rose. She took it and then he looked to Jen and Rob. “As soon as the bomb goes off, hold your breath and follow me.”

Throwing the bomb right outside the room, the Doctor dashed through the ensuing smoke that took up most of the corridor. He turned right, back towards engineering. An odd, high-pitched shrieking came from behind them and he knew his plan had worked. The Solonians weren’t following them and the farther they ran, the less they could hear them shriek. He heard no pursuing footsteps either.

Before entering engineering, the Doctor led them down a corridor to their left. The cargo hold should be close. He hadn’t been able to tell Rob to go down this path before. He had been too injured and wary to think clearly. He understood the severity of his limitations now, after almost losing his life to a Solonian. His mortality was no longer a niggle, but a fact set in stone. It had been since he had woken up in the TARDIS. He had been reminded that he couldn’t fear a fact. Now he only feared losing Rose. Everything else would sort itself out.

Before going forward with his new life though, he’d first have to deal with Gallifrey once again.

The corridor twisted, curving to their right and opened up into a large corridor with many double doors. A few howls sounded in the distance, followed by the sound of drums. It died out and the Doctor slowed, studying the double doors. He picked the one he thought would most likely hold what he needed and took out his sonic. Everyone stood around him, watching him work.

“I’d give up chips for the items to be in there,” said Rose.

“You won’t have to,” said the Doctor. “I’d bet you twenty quid that they will be if I had any money.”

“Alright cheapskate, if the items are in there I’ll give you twenty quid,” said Rose, her voice playful.

He smirked at her and tilted his head towards the door. “There’s only one way to tell.”

With one last press of his sonic, the double doors slid open. Inside, containers cluttered the floor and most of the shelves lay on their side or flat on the ground. In one corner, the pipes running across the ceiling had burst open and live wires rained down, leaving them looking like a black forest of kelp above water. Below a flickering light, a small group of Solonians huddled together, eating something from one of the fallen containers. These Solonians looked different than the others. They still wore their tattered uniforms, hanging from their waists, and were thin enough that their ribs were visible under their skin.

But what caught the Doctor’s eyes the most was the items he needed sitting on one of the only upright shelves.

“They’re here,” said the Doctor, staring at the items.

“Where?” asked Rose, scanning the room.

“But what about the Solonians?” pondered Jen. The shelf with the items stood closest to the Solonians.

“I can sneak behind them and grab the items from the shelf before they realise I was even in the room,” said the Doctor, confident he could do so.

Rose leaned closer to him. “Doctor,” she said, worry coating her voice.

The Doctor looked at her. “I’ll be fine, Rose.”

She stared at him, searching his face. “If they see you, I’m coming in after you,” said Rose, sounding reluctant to even let him go at all.

“Rose,” he said, ready to argue.

“No, you can’t stop me,” said Rose determinedly. “I’m not going to lose you.”

“You won’t,” he assured her.

“Can you two stop flirting?” said Rob, clearly irritated, but with no venom in his voice. “We don’t have the time and it’s too dangerous standing about.”

The Doctor and Rose studied each other, then hugged. He squeezed her once and let go.

“Good luck,” said Rose, brushing the hair out of her face.

He smirked and entered the cargo hold. He bent down low and slowly made his way to the shelf with the items. He kept his eyes on the Solonians, but they were too preoccupied to notice him. It took two point five seconds to reach the shelf and go around to the other side of it, away from the busy Solonians. Then he kneeled down and reached for the first item, the rotor. He took it and put it in his pocket.  

While he no longer feared his mortality, and while he tried to think positive about it, like being able to spend his life with Rose, his fragile body annoyed him. Utterly tired, he tried to concentrate on remembering the techniques he’d learned over the years to keep himself awake. His hand trembled as he reached for the second item. His mind wandered to the thought of curling up to Rose and sleeping for days. He shook himself out of it and pocketed the drive.

There was only one item left. The piston sat on the shelf a few feet closer to the Solonians and he scooted to his left to bridge the gap. Remaining cautious, he reached for it, only to find his fingers barely touching the piston. Kneeling on his tiptoes, he tried again to reach it. Stretching his arm, he inadvertently pushed a box on the shelf, causing a metal spanner to fall to the floor with a loud clang, alerting the Solonians. They stood and faced the Doctor, pausing to exchange odd looks before dashing forward towards the shelf and him.

The Doctor stood and stared as the Solonians came after him. He looked around frantically to find an escape route, but came up empty. Frozen in place, he wouldn’t dare to run back to the group. The Solonians had only seen him. He looked at the shelf and thought of climbing it when Rose appeared in front of him, arms spread wide, facing the Solonians.

“Solonians!” screamed Rose, causing the small group to stop and stare at her. “That’s your name, yeah? That’s who you are. I’m a human.” The Solonians exchanged another odd look, but remained rooted in place. “My name’s Rose, Rose Tyler. You’ve all got individual names.” Rose nodded to one of the Solonians. “I see on your name tag, on your uniform, that you’re Belan?” said Rose tenderly.

Using the distraction, the Doctor slowly reached for the piston and pocketed it.

“S’ a good name, I like it,” said Rose, who lowered her arms.

The Solonians started to speak, though too low for the Doctor to hear. Instead he looked at the woman protecting him in awe. Even after they killed Mumu and Ricket, and almost killed the both of them, there was still room in her heart to treat them with compassion. He whispered, “Rose…”

“You all’ve got to remember who you were, who you are. You’re not supposed to be like this. That’s why we’re here, to help. If you eat us, you lose the best chance you’ve got to be who you were meant to be, to evolve.”

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and the Doctor saw Jen waving to them, signaling that they should come their way. He turned and saw Jen and Rob standing in front of the forest of dangling wires. They were close enough that he and Rose could make it in a dead run. The wires would slow down the Solonians once they resumed their attack. The only way they’d escape alive was if there was another way out of the cargo hold past the wires.

“I promise we’ll fix this, and you’ll be better for it. We --”

The Doctor grabbed Rose around the waist, cutting off her speech, and urged her to run. The Solonians remained standing in place, stunned by Rose’s words. He loved small miracles.

“Head to the wires!” yelled the Doctor as he ran behind her.

“I was getting through to them, why’d you stop me?” said Rose, picking up her speed and running towards the wires.

“Besides the obvious?” he said. “Even if you got through to those handful of Solonians, we’re still up against the rest of the ship.”

Jen and Rob entered the forest of hanging wires just as the Doctor heard the Solonians stir from their hypnosis and give chase. Rose entered after their companions and the wires quickly hid her from view. He rushed in after, pushing aside the dead wires and hopping away from the dancing live ones. The trek through the wires took only thirty-two seconds. He burst through them to see Jen, Rob, and Rose standing around a closed door that looked rusted to the wall.

He grabbed his sonic from his pocket and went straight to the door, working frantically.

“Have any idea where this leads?” asked Rob.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” said the Doctor, barely paying his question any attention.

“Better out there than in here,” said Jen as she stared back at the way they came. The Solonians howled and shrieked through the wires, their voices close.  

“Doctor, they’re coming!” warned Rose.

“Just another second,” said the Doctor, hearing the Solonians break through the last bit of wires.  

The door opened and he urged everyone through, looking back at the hungry oncoming group. Another two more seconds and they would be on top of him. The Doctor zipped through the door and closed it, turning to sonic it locked.

“Doctor,” whispered Rose, her voice strange.

“What is it?” He turned and found himself staring down a large corridor at two dozen Solonians staring right back at him.

“We’ve made it out of the frying pan, only to end up in the fire,” commented Rose, panicked.

The Solonians cried with cheer and triumph. They rushed forward, towards the four of them. In one point three minutes, him, Rose, Jen, and Rob would be dead meat filling the guts of the Solonians. Even if he told Jen and Rob to use their laser guns, there were too many of them, and they’d be overrun within seconds.

“Doctor!” yelled Rose.

Jen backed away, pressing her back to the door and squeezing her eyes shut. “I guess we’ll be joining Ricket and Mumu after all,” said Jen, her voice shaking.

“We just need to think!” said the Doctor forcefully. “Give up now and you’re as good as dead.” The Doctor watched as the Solonians charged at them, thinking hard. “Come on, come on you big old brain.” He looked over to Rose and glanced down at Ricket’s belt. “The knock out juice! Take out your cans of knock out juice!” cried the Doctor gleefully. “I knew there was a reason I got to keep my magnificent noggin!”

“The knock out juice won’t work on Solonians,” said Rob.

“But it’ll sting. Get it into their eyes and they’ll be too preoccupied with the pain to notice us slipping past them,” proclaimed the Doctor.

“I’ve got Ricket’s,” said Rose as she grabbed the can from the back of her utility belt.

“That makes three,” said Jen, joining Rose in presenting her can of knock out juice.

Rob took out his can of the juice. “We’ll go first and stun them, then you open any doors we’ll need to pass through,” commanded Rob, sounding hopeful for the first time since Ricket’s death.

The Doctor nodded, impressed. “Good plan.”

“Right, to arms!” rallied Rose, sounding just as hopeful.

Rose held up her arm to her face, covering her nose and mouth, while Jen and Rob put on their gas masks. Then the three of them stood ahead of the Doctor, spray cans held out in front of them, waiting. The moment the first wave of Solonians were within spraying distance, they used the juice and ran forward, spraying the next wave, and the next.

The Solonians that were sprayed with the juice stopped their attack and held their face, crying out in pain as the four of them ran past. They continued going forward, rushing willy-nilly through the ship, probably alerting every surviving Solonian on board. It didn’t matter. They simply needed to get to the transport ship and they’d be scot-free.

They zipped through corridor after corridor, twisting and turning. If any Solonians blocked their way, they would spray them with knock out juice and continue on. Eventually they made it to a familiar, though grungy, corridor.

“This looks familiar!” yelled Jen.

“I think this is the way back to the transport ship!” said Rose.

“Run faster!” warned Rob, desperation in his voice. Too many Solonians to count chased after the four of them.

Turning a corner, the Doctor saw a familiar bloody handprint on a door, the same door that led to the transport ship.

“Run, run, run!” yelled the Doctor.

“Captain, open the doors!” yelled Rob, speaking into the communicator on his wrist.

The door with the bloody handprint slid open, then another door, and then the transport ship’s door, revealing the Captain standing with her arms crossed, waiting for them. Jen and Rob made it through first, then Rose and the Doctor careened into them, pushing them to the floor of the transport ship.

“Shut the door!” urged the Doctor, glancing up at the Captain. “Shut it!”

“Ugh, make up your mind,” said the Captain, rolling her eyes and lazily pressing a button, even though she must have seen the oncoming horde of Solonians.

The doors closed and a second later something banged on the door, then something else banged on the door, louder this time. The Doctor held his breath. Finally, after fifty seconds, everything went silent.

The Doctor stood with Rose and he hugged her tightly, not wanting to let her go. Anger built up inside him as he thought about the reckless stunt she pulled in the cargo hold. But the anger fizzled out just as fast it came. He would have done the same if their roles had been reversed. Perhaps, since no one had ever tried to reason with the Solonians before, it would somehow do some good on that ship.

“Where’s Ricket?” asked the Captain, her contemptuous voice breaking the silence that had taken over since the doors had been shut.

“It’s just us,” said Rob, standing close to the Doctor.

A deep scowl lined the Captain face, her mouth curled down in fury.

“Aren't you going to ask about Mumu?” added Jen, sounding insolent.

“Who cares about her?” said the Captain, raising her chin to look down at Jen.

Both Jen and Rob wore identical expressions of pure loathing, aimed at the Captain. They didn’t back down. Instead, they looked ready to rebel.

The Captain turned to the Doctor. “Did you get what you need?”

“Yes,” he said flatly.

“I suppose it was worth it then,” said the Captain in mild disappointment. She eyed Rob and sat down in one of the pilot seats, still wearing a scowl. “Rob, take us back to the Fancy.”

The expression of loathing on Rob’s face turned to pure hatred. Narrowing his eyes, he silently did as she ordered. Jen sat down in the back and put her face in her hands.

The Doctor, with the items needed to get to Gallifrey in his pockets, held onto Rose as he watched the Solonian ship leave his view. The transport ship flew away, heading back towards the pirate ship. He didn’t count that as safety. Still under the Captain’s mercy, they wouldn’t be safe until he destroyed whatever was left of Gallifrey and they were free of her clutches.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

The ramp of the transport ship hissed as it released decompressed air and lowered down onto the surface of the Fancy’s transport bay. Rose caught a whiff of the air as it washed over her face and held back a grimace. It smelled like rotting breath and old food. As soon as the ramp hit the metal ground, the Captain sauntered down. Rob and Jen followed her, though they glanced at Rose and the Doctor as they passed.

The Doctor took Rose’s hand and together they went down the ramp, walking after the group.

The Captain slowed her pace. When they drew near, she glanced at the Doctor. “How long will it take to upgrade my ship?” she demanded with an air of superiority.

Rob narrowed his eyes at the Captain.

“Shouldn’t take too long, maybe three, four hours depending,” said the Doctor.

“Depending on what?” asked the Captain, stopping to turn to him.

“A handful of things I doubt you’d understand. Plus, with us being injured it might slow us down a bit,” replied the Doctor.

The Captain looked them over, her eyes roaming from head to toe and back again. She scrunched up her nose. “You two look and smell disgusting,” said the Captain. She hesitated for a moment. “Take two hours to freshen up. But I want that technology installed by the end of the day.” She turned her back on them and walked off. “Jen, take them somewhere they can get clean. I don’t want them infecting the ship,” called the Captain as she disappeared through the transport bay doors.

Jen looked at them with a small, compassionate smile. “I know where we can go,” she said. “It’s not too far from here.”

Rose and the Doctor followed Jen as she walked into the Fancy’s corridor. They remained silent, walking through the brown-stained halls of the pirate ship, traveling down on the lift and into a new section of the ship.

Jen glanced to the floor as they walked, a dejected look upon her face. “I’m taking you to Mumu’s room, if you’re wondering where we are going. All the senior crew members have their own quarters,” said Jen. “Hers will be empty now…” her voice trailed off, growing quieter with each word, “She’d want you to use it.”

“How long did you know her?” asked Rose softly.

“About five years, we joined at the same time,” said Jen, her voice taking on a happier note. “We were in the group that first joined the Fancy actually. I saw her in the corner of the mess hall, eating alone, so I sat down to eat with her and found out we both wanted to explore the galaxy. We became almost inseparable after that.”

They turned a corner, walking down a corridor with silver halls and connecting windows that showed the stars shining brightly outside.

“I’m sorry,” said Rose, keeping her voice low, “It’s tough, losing someone you care about. I lost my mate Shareen years back.” Rose smiled, laughing softly as she reminisced. “The two of us got into so much trouble growing up. I think we gave our mums heart attacks on the regular.”  

Jen didn’t say anything after that. The Doctor released Rose’s hand and caressed her back consolingly. Rose felt a wave of comfort through his telepathy. She leaned closer to him as they continued on their way to Mumu’s room.

After a few more minutes of walking, Jen stopped near a door. She entered in a security code and the door slid open soundlessly.

“Here it is,” said Jen. “I’ll be back to get you both in two hours.”

“Thanks,” said Rose as she entered the room.

The Doctor followed her inside and the door shut behind him. Glancing around, Rose saw a single bed with sheets and a duvet folded neatly at the foot of it. The floor shone; not a spot of dirt or streak of rust could be seen anywhere. An uncluttered desk sat next to the bed.

“”S not so bad, I was imagining it to be like the rest of the ship,” said Rose.

“I’m sorry,” whispered the Doctor.

She turned to him and saw that he stood, with his shoulders tense, near the door. “What for?” she asked, confused by his behavior.

“Do you have to ask?” he replied.

“You’re always apologizing Doctor. You don’t have to, not with me,” said Rose, shaking her head.

“Still, I feel like I owe you more than I can ever repay,” said the Doctor, taking a step closer.

She thought back to their discussion on Solos and what may have happened to Donna. She then remembered Satellite 5 and how he tricked her onto the TARDIS. “Then,” said Rose, knitting her eyebrows together, “don’t lie to me like that again, like you did on the beach, even if you think it’s for my own good.” She looked away, playing with her earring. “I’m not angry anymore, it just still hurts that you did.”

He didn’t reply. The quietness of the room felt unbearable. Rose looked at the Doctor and when she caught his sad eyes, he nodded. He looked completely miserable.

“I know why you did it,” said Rose, hoping to relieve him of some of that melancholy. “Still doesn’t make it any better.”

He swallowed. “No more lies,” he said. But he didn’t take his eyes off her and he didn’t move. “Rose?”

She stared at him, pausing for a moment to study him. He looked at her imploringly, though his eyes were soft. “Doctor?”

“I won’t leave you, ever again,” said the Doctor after another moment’s pause. He said those words like a vow. “I’ve been trying to tell you that for some time. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance until now.” He put his hands in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his heels, looking rather uncomfortable. “And I know those are just words, but I thought you should hear it. I’ve made a habit of leaving in the past and it probably didn’t help that the other me left you on Bad Wolf Bay, but I have no intention of doing it again. Not while I’m human.”

Rose gazed at him, shocked at hearing those words. “You can’t promise that,” she said, thinking that nothing is ever certain. But what he said warmed her. She understood that he was trying to be better, for her. “You’re right though, it’s nice to hear it.”

The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. “You should,” he started, “You can take the first shower. I’ll wait here.”

She studied him. He ran his hand through his hair again and his shoulders remained stiff. He appeared nervous, either about what he’d just said or about something else entirely, Rose didn’t know. But she figured he needed some time alone. “Alright,” she said, walking to the en-suite. “I’ll be out in a mo’.”

The en-suite was just as clean as the room outside. She turned on the shower and undressed. She looked at her clothes in her hands, flipping them over to see just how bad they were. They were filthy. The dried Pyoo mud still stuck on her jeans, rips and blood stains littered her jacket, and her t-shirt was much the same. Being used to ruined clothes, Rose dropped them on the floor and stepped into the hot shower.

The heat soothed her tired and tense muscles and Rose wanted to stay in the shower for hours, though she knew she couldn’t. As she rinsed off, she thought about all the friends she’d lost, during her time with the Doctor and after, and felt those losses were easier now that she was with him. Perhaps this was how the Doctor dealt with his losses, by being with her? She wasn’t going to ask. If anything, just being with someone helped. The incident with Sarah Jane told her that she had been only one in a long list of companions he’d had through the years. She had gotten over that long ago, especially when she traversed the universes trying to find him again. All that mattered was that he loved her and that was good enough.

She turned off the shower and dried off with a towel, wrapping it around her. She then wrapped her hair in another towel, picked her clothes off the ground, and stepped back out into the room. She found the Doctor sitting on the bed, his jacket and shirt off, staring at the glowing TARDIS coral. His wound on his shoulder, sealed by the medical foam and red from healing, grabbed her attention. It left her stomach feeling cold.

The Doctor glanced at her and stood. He stared, looking her over a few times with wide eyes, and Rose blushed. She hadn’t thought about stepping out of the en-suite in only a towel. He gulped and fumbled to put away the coral.

“Your turn,” said Rose, trying hard not to look at him.

“Yeah,” said the Doctor. He rushed past her in an awkward haste.

She went over to the desk as she heard the shower turn on. His jacket hung over the back of the chair, while his shirt lay on the table. She sat down, putting her clothes on top of his shirt, and removed the towel from her head, letting her hair down. She knew the sonic had a few settings that repaired clothes and even one to remove dirt. She took the sonic out of the inside breast pocket of his jacket. It had been years since she last used it and she couldn’t remember which setting did what. She tried a few settings, failing each time to get the right one.

She clicked the button on the sonic again. ”S not that one,” she said to herself. “That’s for welding.”

“If you’re looking for the sew setting it’s fifty-two-B-six,” said the Doctor, standing by her side. She hadn’t heard him getting out of the shower. Glancing at him, she had to immediately look away before her whole body turned red. He only wore a towel wrapped around his waist.

“Knew it was something like that,” said Rose, trying to be casual. “Thought it was fifty-two-A- five?”

He put his trousers and pants on the table. She forced herself not to stare. “I had to change it when I was with Martha,” said the Doctor. “I, erm, added a new stain removal setting for blood.”

She looked up at him, not caring about his state of dress. “First the medicine in your trousers, then a new setting to remove blood stains, and in Donna’s parallel world you let yourself die,” she said, trying not to sound as alarmed as she felt. “What happened to you? You were never that reckless before,” she stood and they were inches apart, “reckless yeah, but you always knew when to stop.”

He ducked his head and gazed at her, some of that previous misery returning to his eyes. “I lost you,” he said, his voice brittle.

Rose touched his bare chest, her hand over his heart. Her own broke, thinking about their separation. “Doctor,” she whispered.

“Rose, after the Time War I wasn’t the happiest person in the universe. Quite the opposite. You remember how I was back then, when I wore leather and spoke with a Northern accent? I had lost everything.” He placed his hand over hers and gave her a soft, small smile. “Then I met you,” said the Doctor, his voice just above a whisper. “I was telling the truth, well, the other me was, when he said you made me better,” he released her hand and stroked her hair. “You meant more to me than anything else in the universe, even the TARDIS.”

Her earlier thoughts rushed back to her. That he put to words her concerns left her feeling light off her feet. But the words stung as well, knowing that he’d tumbled so far down without her. She couldn’t stand the thought. “You need more than just me, you can’t rely on someone for everything,” said Rose, her alarm returning in full force. She’d had her mother during their separation, and she was grateful for that, because she might have been like him had her mother not been there for her.

“Oh, I know. Donna made me realise that,” said the Doctor, still gazing at her, “but you’re something else now, something I can’t possibly describe using the English language.” His eyes turned misty. “I don’t think I could destroy Gallifrey again without you.”

Her heart sank at those words. He had just confirmed her worst fear. “Do you really need to destroy it?”

He moved his hand to her shoulder, just below her wound. “Rose, remember what I told you about my people, what they became?” said the Doctor. “I won’t have a choice.”

Rose took her hand off his chest and cupped his face. “Isn’t there anything else we can do?” She knitted her brows together once more, desperate to think of another way they could deal with the echo. “Maybe put it in another time lock or, I dunno, contain it somehow?” She dropped her hand and didn't break eye contact. “And what about another TARDIS? We wouldn’t have to wait for this one to grow. We could just steal another one and go home,” she suggested.

“If my people are really back, a new TARDIS would be the least of our worries,” said the Doctor. “I have to destroy whatever we find. The echo could be just a fragment or a whole planet. But that won’t change anything, I’d still have to get rid of it.” He pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her tightly. “If there were another way I would take it, but there isn’t,” he tucked her head under his chin, “there isn’t.”

Knowing there wasn’t anything else she could suggest, her thoughts turned to their travels in the other universe, to the memory he’d just brought up. “Back then, after you told me about your people, you hugged me. Felt like hours before you let me go.” She leaned back to look at him. “I thought you were gonna kiss me.”

He looked back at her, his expression hard to read, though the sadness that had plagued his features since they started their discussion still lined his face. “I wish I had,” said the Doctor.

She wanted to erase that sadness from him and erase the horrible reminders she knew haunted him. She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed him. He immediately melted into the kiss, lifting her up in his arms before she slid back down. The action caused her towel to fall, but she didn’t care. She ran her tongue over his bottom lip and he pulled her tight against him, skin to skin. Her hands went to his hair, then down his neck to his shoulders, drifting them over his skin.

Slowly she moved her lips to his jaw, trailing her kisses to his neck.

“Rose,” whispered the Doctor, his voice gruff.

She trailed her kisses further down to his chest, moving her hands down with her. He held onto her shoulders, his chest deeply rising and falling as she went even further. She stopped her kisses and cupped his hardened length, careful of the towel still covering it.

“This alright?” she asked, glancing up at him. His eyes were closed.

“Oh,” he paused, his breath shaky, “yes.”

She took off his towel, letting it fall to the floor to mingle with her own. She then kneeled, peppering his hips with slow open mouth kisses. She then kissed the head of his cock.

“Rose?” he said, his voice hoarse.

Right as he asked, she took his length into her mouth, eliciting a deep moan from him. He bucked his hips then she slowly released him.

“And this?” she asked, looking up at him.

He nodded, with his eyes shut tight and his mouth slightly open. She wrapped her lips around his cock and took him in, opening her throat to make room. She pressed her tongue to the underside of his cock, sucking him hard. She then started to move, setting up a slow rhythm at first, then upping her speed, sliding him in and out of her mouth. He held her head and she grabbed his hips, feeling him move along with her.

She leaned back and ran her tongue along the length of his wet cock, then easily slid him back inside her mouth. She pressed her thighs together, feeling her own wet arousal between her legs. She ached with need and wished she could push him onto the bed and straddle him. But right now, she wanted to make the man she loved happy.

“Rose, I’m going to…” the words came out in a hushed tone, fading before he could complete his sentence. “Rose…,” said the Doctor, calling her name like a prayer.

She continued to take him in and out, her fingers curling around his cock to help the friction. His punctuated thrusts grew needy and often, clashing with her rhythm. His thrusts slowed and he moaned again, long and low. Then she felt the hot rush of cum in her mouth, dripping down her throat and she swallowed. Rose released him, watching his face ease with pleasure. She stood, smiling at him though he kept his eyes closed.

When he opened his eyes and returned her smile, he looked years younger, reminding her of when he had newly regenerated. Before she could say a word, his lips met hers in a passionate kiss. He wrapped his arms around her and twirled them around, so her back was to the bed. His hands trailed down her back and he tipped them forward. He laid her on the soft mattress and continued his kisses, his hands roaming her skin, over her peaks to the rounds of her shoulders.

“Turn about is only fair play,” he said between his kisses. He moved his lips to between her breasts. He cupped each of them, his fingers circling her nipples. Her breath hitched and he moved his hands to her sides, sliding them over her curves as he kissed his way down her middle.

His hands stroked the curves of her hip before a hand traveled to her core, teasing her where she wanted him most. He glided his hand over her clit, massaging it gently, driving her to new heights of desire. Rose closed her eyes as he continued to touch her. He kissed her inner thigh, moving those kisses upward. He removed his hand from her core, then she felt his tongue on her clit. She gasped and arched her back. He held onto her waist and moved his tongue over her clit, occasionally applying soft, supple pressure. She let out a loud moan, wanting more than anything for him to be hard again so he could slip inside her.

“D-Doctor,” she called, unable to put the words together to urge him inside

He sucked on her clit and she reached for his head, running her fingers through his hair, knowing it was him, knowing that he was the one giving her pleasure. She moaned again as he continued, his hot, wet tongue on her clit, tenderly sucking and licking, moving in just the right way. Then a pleasant wave of tingles and euphoria swept through her, curling her toes. She cried out in ecstasy, her voice fading as his movements slowed.

As he kissed his way back up to her, their eyes met and Rose felt a wave of love and adoration for him fill her. She couldn’t wait for him to be inside her, for them to continue and make the best of these two hours. But now his kisses were less urgent and more carefully placed. She breathed in deep, enjoying his touch, and anticipating what was coming. He returned to her neck, kissing her just below her ear, then after a moment he nuzzled her, his nose touching underneath her jaw, his head resting in the nook of her neck. He stilled, placing all his weight on top of her. 

“Don’t think I can breathe like this,” said Rose, but he didn’t move. She turned her head to look at him. “Doctor?”

His eyes were closed and his breathing had evened out. He let out a quiet snore.

“I should've figured you’d fall asleep on me,” whispered Rose.

She untangled herself from underneath him, cautious not to disturb him, knowing he needed the sleep after the last two days. Though disappointed, she felt lighthearted. It was enough for now. She tucked his feet under the first set of sheets and covered him, making sure he would remain warm and comfortable. Rose then went over and picked up her towel from the floor and wrapped it around her. She sat down at the desk and started on their clothes.

Barely paying any attention to the time, she did her best to sonic the dirt off their trousers and repair the rips and tears in their jackets. She studied her work, and while it wasn’t perfect, they were at least wearable.

Tired, she looked at the Doctor sleeping peacefully and walked over to the bed. After a moment watching him and trying to decide if she should, Rose took off her towel and slipped under the covers next to him. He unconsciously reached out for her, wrapping his arm around her. Feeling safe and content in his embrace, she drifted off into slumber.

A loud ringing woke Rose and she sat up in bed. Beside her, the Doctor stirred. He then sat up scratching the back of his head, his hair sticking up at all angles.

“Did I fall asleep?” he asked a bit groggily. “Well, of course I did, that’s why I’m waking.” He ran his hands down his face. “Blimey, will it always be like this now that I’m part human?”

Rose laughed as she stood. “No, only when you almost die running away from cannibalistic aliens hungry enough to eat anything that passes by.”

He stared as she reached for the extra sheet, and Rose blushed. “Technically, it’s not cannibalism if you eat another species,” said the Doctor, sounding more chipper than usual. “Still, good to know I won’t always be this exhausted.”

Rose covered herself with the sheet and went to the door. She opened it with a push of a button, hoping the doorbell had made the sound that woke her and the Doctor. Outside the room, Jen stood waiting.

“Hello,” said Rose. “Is it time already?”

“Yeah,” replied Jen, looking at Rose’s sheet. “I’ll wait out here while you get ready.”

“Thanks,” said Rose, still feeling the pull of sleep. She then pushed the button to close the door.

She turned just in time to see the Doctor stand and caught the full view of him. To keep herself from staring the same way he had with her, she fiddled with the sheet in her hands and headed towards their clothes.

“I take it you, um, heard that?” asked Rose, tossing him his blue suit and pants.

“That it’s time to appease our very ungracious host with the technology I promised her?” said the Doctor pulling on his pants, then his trousers.

Rose dropped the sheet to slip on her knickers. “Felt like we’d only been resting for five minutes,” she said, stifling a yawn.

“I think our bodies need a few days’ rest to feel adequately re-energised,” said the Doctor, putting on his red t-shirt. “And I don’t think we’ll be getting that anytime soon.”

Rose snorted with derision. “No,” she said, hooking her bra. “I think I forgot what a proper rest feels like.”

“How about,” said the Doctor buttoning his jacket, “once we save the Solonians, defeat the Pyoo, and defeat the pirates, I take you somewhere nice? Maybe to one of the tropical planets in the Saecula Sun system?” Glancing at the empty space beside her, he narrowed his eyes in thought. “I would take you to Deva Loka, only they have a bit of a snake problem.”

“That sounds good,” said Rose, zipping up her leather jacket. She smiled as she imagined their vacation. “I’d like that, just the two of us, relaxing on a beach somewhere.”

“Then it’s a date,” said the Doctor, then nodded to the door. “Shall we?”

Rose threw the sheet back on the bed, then she and the Doctor walked out together to meet Jen in the corridor.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” said the Doctor cheerfully. “So where are we off to now, the bridge so the Captain can try to lord over us a bit or right to business in engineering?”

“Captain wanted me to take you to engineering,” said Jen, frowning and looking utterly displeased.

“Then lead the way,” said the Doctor.

They followed Jen as she headed to their destination, sharing a comfortable silence as they walked. Soon the corridors turned from silver to the rusted, slimy brown that adorned most of the ship’s walkways. They then entered a lift and Jen entered in the floor number. They traveled down into the bowels of the ship.

“Seems like you two enjoyed your break,” commented Jen as they exited the lift.

“That we did,” said the Doctor.

“Felt heavenly to finally get clean,” added Rose.

They turned a corner. “The Captain has been grilling us about the two of you and the items you retrieved,” said Jen, rolling her eyes. “She thought either me or Rob had them in our belts. She wasn’t happy when she heard you had them in your pockets.”

“She probably wanted to see what her scientists could make out of them,” said the Doctor.

Jen took them through two large double doors. Inside engineering, the ceiling rose high, making space for the large pipes and computer consoles that were spread throughout the room. There were only a few handfuls of people operating the consoles, going from one console to another, inputting data or checking systems.

The Doctor took a quick glance around and turned to Jen. “I’ll just need access to your propulsion systems, the items in my pockets, the self-regulating power generator, and the multiphase time inducer and we can get started,” he said.

“I remembered the other items. They’re already in the propulsion room, which is right over here,” said Jen as she led them through another set of double door.

Inside this room, only one large pipe ran horizontally from one end to the other. Connected to the middle of the pipe, a large computer console sat unmanned, blinking intermittently. Two smaller, but still large, devices, the ones from Solos, sat beside it.

The Doctor went directly to the console. “Right, Rose, can you open that panel over there?” asked the Doctor, pointing to the wall on his right.

Rose went to the panel, feeling around the wall for a release. She found it almost immediately, activated it, and revealed wires running through the panel, with a small computer screen attached.

“We can take it from here, there’s no need for you to stand about,” said the Doctor to Jen. Rose took a peek behind her to see Jen standing at the entrance to the room, shuffling her feet. “Unless you were ordered to watch us, though why the Captain didn’t just use some form of surveillance video instead is beyond me,” said the Doctor, sonicing the console.

“The Captain ordered me to help you,” said Jen, looking shy. “Only I don’t know what for. I’m a weapon’s mechanic, I don’t know anything about this stuff.” She snorted self-deprecatingly. “Honestly, I’m useless at this.”

“Do you know the difference between a spark plug and a battery?” asked the Doctor, looking at Jen.

Jen nodded and gave the Doctor a half smile.

“Then you’ll be useful,” said the Doctor, returning his attention to the console. “Start pulling the wires out of the multiphase time inducer. I’ll need to use them to connect the extra power supply to the ship.”

“Rose,” called the Doctor. Rose turned just in time to see him toss her the sonic. She caught it. “Use setting twenty-eight-C on the panel, then come over here, I’ll need you to help me with this.”

Getting to work, Rose effortlessly did as the Doctor instructed. She even gave him a suggestion or two, knowledge she’d picked up from Torchwood and UNIT. After helping the Doctor, she assisted Jen in pulling apart the time inducer. Jen talked about Mumu and all the dreams they had shared. It made the time fly. Rose understood that Jen needed to mourn, so she listened to everything.

Rose then went from one task to another, her mind on everyone she’d lost through the years. Shareen, Mickey, Grac’ba, and the other Doctor were only a few of the people she’d never see again. Stealing looks at the Doctor every so often, other names came to her, Tony, Pete - her Dad, Jake, Christie - her friends at Torchwood, and this Doctor, her Doctor. These were the people she’d gained. She had built a new life for herself here and now she had the Doctor with her. It felt right. She was starting to feel at home in this universe.  

After what seemed like hours, Jen left and brought back more of those bars they ate on Solos. The Doctor helped himself to three.

“Thanks!” said the Doctor between bites, stuffing the last of the bar into his mouth.

“How far do we still have to go?” asked Jen.

“Oh, we’re almost done,” said the Doctor. “I think we can finish without you. Tell the Captain she’ll have her Warp Drive within the hour.”

Jen smirked. “Alright, good luck,” she said, giving them a knowing glance before she left.

Rose went right up to the Doctor’s side. “So tell me, what did you do to booby-trap the drive?”

He beamed, his grin full of cheek. “The Warp Drive will only work if I input a special code, something only I would know. It’s an algorithm equivalent to an old Gallifreyan nursery rhyme,” he said. “Otherwise the Warp Drive does nothing and after two unsuccessful attempts to use it, it will completely shut down the entire ship's propulsion systems, leaving them floating in space.”  

“They won’t be able to go anywhere without us,”said Rose, grinning right back at him.

He raised his eyebrows, his eyes filled with playfulness. “I’ve also built in a self-destruct unit that will activate after two trips, one trip to Gallifrey, one trip back.”

“I don’t think the Captain will like that,” said Rose, happily.

“Oh, I have no doubt about that,” said the Doctor, welding together two wires. “But unless we tell her, she’ll be none the wiser. She’ll just think it was a common malfunction because of the poor compatibility with the Fancy.”

“Do they have poor compatibility, the Fancy and the Warp Drive?” asked Rose.

“Nah,” he said, using his sonic on the console panel, “it’s a decent ship, though it needs a good scrub, both inside and out. It’s like they want the ship to break down because of a grease clog or rusted parts.”

“She was worried we’d dirty the ship,” said Rose.

“Her crew have done that job for her,” said the Doctor, putting away his sonic. “And speaking about jobs that are done.” He nodded to the computer console, now hooked up to the self-regulating power supply and the items from the Solonians’ ship, using the multiphase time inducer. It was a mess of tangled wires and thrown together computer chips, but Rose recognized the Doctor’s signature.

“Now all we got to do is tell the Captain,” said Rose, looking at him, “and we’ll be off towards the echo.”

“And whatever is left of my people and my planet,” said the Doctor, his voice flat.

Rose took his hand and squeezed it, trying to reassure him. “It’s like a Band-Aid, the sooner we tear it off, the sooner it’ll be over,” said Rose in a low, soothing tone.

He gazed her and didn’t speak. Some of that misery from earlier had returned to his face. The Doctor nodded and they headed for the bridge.

They took the nearest lift and went straight to the top, entering the round command center of the Fancy. It looked just as Rose remembered it, a smokey grey room with at least eight people manning four consoles, which were spread evenly apart. Rob worked close to the Captain, operating one of the consoles. Jen stood next to him.

In the center of the bridge, the Captain sat in her chair, tapping her foot on the metal floor.

“I hope you’re here to bring me good news, Doctor,” said the Captain, irritation clear in her voice.

The Doctor went up to her, his hands in his pockets. “Steve Redgrave won five consecutive gold medals for Britain between the years 1984 and 2000,” said the Doctor matter-of-factly.

The Captain glared at the Doctor, and Rose tried to hide her smile.

“Oh, you meant the Warp Drive,” said the Doctor, in mock surprise. ”It’s ready.”

The Captain continued to glare, her jaw shaking. Then she smirked. “Hmm, then you set the coordinates to the system you spoke about on Solos,” said the Captain, then she looked over her shoulder. “Rob, watch him as he operates our new technology.”

Rose followed the Doctor to Rob’s console. There, he set the coordinates, inputting them with a flourish. Rob barely paid attention and Rose watched as the Doctor quickly put in another sequence, too fast for anyone to copy. The ship groaned, the metal creaking, as the ship prepared for warp. Then, on the main view screen, the stars and universe began to bend and twist. Suddenly the stars zoomed by them, leaving the screen washed in white with specks of black.

The Captain stood, mesmerized. “Now,” she said, just above a whisper, “this is what I wanted.” Her eyes glued to the screen, she walked forward. “I’ll be unstoppable.”  

The reaction to those words was unmistakable. Rob’s hateful glare returned, as well as Jen’s. A few crew members on the bridge looked confused and unsure. Some saw Rob’s expression aimed toward the Captain and mimicked it. Unease twisted Rose’s stomach. She didn’t even notice that the ship had stopped. She glanced to her side, expecting to see the Doctor, but he was no longer beside her.

Rose found the Doctor walking in a trance towards the main view screen, past the Captain, to the very front of the bridge.  

“No way!” said the Doctor, his voice booming.

Rose looked to the view screen, and found a large, red, translucent planet, floating before them. It flickered in and out like a telly with bad reception. It looked like a ghost, there, but not there. She’d never seen anything like it before.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

A chill went through the Doctor, leaving him nauseous. He continued to stare at the main view screen and the image it displayed, not knowing what to make of it. In front of him, a full transparent replica of Gallifrey turned on its axis. A rising panic threatened to overtake him. It’d been years since he’d seen his planet among the stars, and the last image of it in his memory was not a happy one. Seeing it again, even as an echo of its previous glory, fluctuating and semi-opaque, terrified him.

The Doctor turned and rushed over to Rob, his single heart racing. “What does it say on the scanners?” urged the Doctor. “What does it say?!”

Rob fumbled with the controls, reading the the information on the console. “Inconclusive, it’s --”

A loud snap of a slap interrupted Rob and the Doctor looked to Rose. He saw her face turned to the side, the Captain’s hand in the air.

“What was that for!” yelled Rose, glaring at the Captain.

Seeing Rose’s red cheek sobered the Doctor, fury taking the place of his earlier panic. “There was no need to hit her! If you’re going to slap someone, slap me,” he argued, facing the Captain, as his body heated up with rage. “It’s something of a common occurrence and by now I’m used to it.”

The Captain walked up to the Doctor and stopped only inches away from him, her hands on her hips. “That was just a demonstration, a small taste of the suffering you’ll endure if you continue to sprout orders to my crew members!”

Seething, the Doctor turned away from the Captain, not gracing her with a reply. He went to Rose and gingerly touched her arm. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m okay,” said Rose, nursing her cheek.

The Doctor studied Rose and the deep red of her skin on her face. The slap must have hurt more than she was letting on. The Captain had put her full strength into it. He pushed down his anger, knowing that if stepped too far out of line, the Captain would make good on her threats. He turned to the Captain and lowered his voice. “What’s outside this ship is something I’ve never seen before, and I’ve traveled almost all over the universe.” He wouldn’t mention which universe. For all he knew, this type of planet was common here. “We need to know what it is and how to get rid of it if we’re to save the Solonians.”

“We’re not here to save the Solonians, Doctor,” said the Captain, sitting down in her chair, “but to free them so they can defeat the Pyoo and provide us with technology.” She glared at him. “The only thing I’m interested in is silencing that echo.”

“Same difference!” countered the Doctor, some of his anger spilling through. “The planet is the echo, at least that’s my theory at the moment. I’ll need more information if we’re to free the Solonians for your power trip!”

The Captain eyed the Doctor, pressing her lips together. “You make things ridiculously hard for yourself,” she said with disdain, then looked over her shoulder to Rob. “What do our scanners say?”

Hate came off Rob in waves as he stared daggers at the Captain. “Inconclusive. It’s reading that there’s an object in front of us, but it isn’t identifying it as a planet.”

“Then let’s shoot it,” said the Captain offhandedly, ignoring Rob’s expression.

More anger spilled through, even with the Doctor holding most of it back. “You do that and it could make the echo stronger! It’s possible if we take a closer look I could figure out how to destroy it without any kind of negative feedback.” The Doctor went and stood in front of the Captain, staring down at her. He regained his composure. “Let me take a transport ship directly into the planet. Inside, surrounded by whatever is giving out that signal, I’ll be able to pick up the exact readings. I may even be able to destroy it from there.” If the echo was indeed a complete copy of Gallifrey, he knew he could destroy it from within the planet. “You won’t have to risk your ship or the crew, just me.”

“Doctor?” said Rose, her voice soft and full of concern.

He regarded her mournfully, knowing with every fibre of his body that he needed her to be with him. That didn’t mean he wanted her to die. For every possible scenario, he didn’t expect destroying the echo would be this dangerous or would have such magnitude. A full return of his people would cause devastation to this universe. But he had made a promise to her and he was going to keep it. “I can’t ask you to go with me, it’s too dangerous,” he said in a low voice. “But it’s your choice, I won’t force you to stay.”

“Yeah, I’m coming,” said Rose immediately. “I thought that it was obvious I’m never leaving your side again.”

“Rose,” said the Doctor, unable to get out what that meant to him. “It may turn out to be a one way trip.”

“I don’t care,” said Rose stubbornly.

“A one way trip?” asked the Captain, her voice pitched slightly higher than normal.

“It could be,” said the Doctor, addressing the Captain. “I won’t know until we reach the planet.”

The Captain’s eyes lit up and she smirked. “You can go,” she said, a tad too sweetly. “I’ll contact Hampton and he can prepare a transport ship as you head to the transport bay.” She grinned, and a horrible trepidation crept up the Doctor’s spine. “Make sure you come back only after you’ve gotten rid of the echo,” she added, her voice silky and smooth, noticeably different than her normal harsh tone.

He knew with a certainty that the Captain would leave them behind, or at least try to. The Doctor glared at her, the impending betrayal adding insult to injury in his already bad opinion of the Captain.

“Come on, Doctor,” said Rose, nudging him towards the lift.

With one last look at the Captain, who hadn’t stopped grinning, he headed for the lift with Rose. As they passed, he saw Rob and Jen with concerned expressions, watching them. He nodded to assure them that he and Rose would be fine, even if they didn’t come back. Remaining silent, he stewed in his anger as they entered the lift and the doors shut behind them.

Besides being furious with the Captain, he dreaded what was about to take place. He thought he had gotten past it when the Master died, thought it was just another bad memory in a pile of bad memories. Destroying Gallifrey had been the hardest action he’d ever taken in his life, up until this point. Having to do so again felt worse.

“I’ll be right there with you,” said Rose, consolingly, as if she read his mind. She stroked his arm. “You won’t have to do it alone.”

“Yeah,” agreed the Doctor, half-heartedly. Having her with him, as he headed to this phantom Gallifrey, was both a blessing and a curse. She gave him strength, but he was sure that with the echo being powerful enough to mimic Gallifrey, it would kill them both once they stopped it.

She took his hand and he intertwined their fingers, pulling her closer. The weight of what was before him felt lighter with her close. Without another word, they rode the lift down to the transport bay floor.

The walk to their destination seemed shorter than last time, though with his time sense he was aware that it took the same amount of time. As soon as they walked into the transport bay, a man he recognised as Hampton approached them with a large smile on his face.

“I got word from the Captain,” said Hampton. “I’ll take you to the ship you’ll be using.”

They followed Hampton in silence as he led them to a new ship, a smaller version of the one that was used to take them to Solos. Hampton stopped at the ramp and patted the ship, his chest bulging with pride.

“I usually keep them ready to go in case the Captain wants them because I’d rather not be on the receiving end of her wrath,” said Hampton. “It only took me a few minutes to get one ready.” He glanced at the Doctor and Rose. “You do know how to fly one, right?”

“A ship like this?” said the Doctor, giving the ship a quick once-over. “I could fly it with one hand tied behind my back.”

Rose chuckled before clearing her throat. “We’ll be alright.”

“Safe travels,” said Hampton, with a nod of his head.

The Doctor walked up the ramp and headed straight for the pilot’s seat. Rose sat in the co-pilot’s chair. Turning on the ship with ease, the Doctor maneuvered them towards the bay doors. The controls were more straightforward than a TARDIS console, and that much more effortless to fly. They sailed into space and he angled them towards the transparent Gallifrey.

They were free from the Fancy’s radius within minutes.

“So you really don't know what it is?” asked Rose. She kept her eyes forward.

“I’ve got theories,” replied the Doctor, glancing at Rose as he flew the ship. “But theories won’t help us, especially when the repercussions of destroying whatever that is could reach every corner of the universe.”

They fell back into silence as Gallifrey continued to grow bigger.

“Is that what your planet looked like?” asked Rose, sounding hesitant.

“It couldn’t possibly be Gallifrey. A whole planet couldn’t jump universes,” said the Doctor, his thoughts jumbled from her question. Could this really be Gallifrey or was this some imitation of the planet? His questions only led to more questions and ideas. Soon he lost himself, thinking of everything that could have brought this about.

“That’s your planet then?” asked Rose, breaking his concentration and pulling him back to the present.

“Yes,” said the Doctor reluctantly. Though grateful that she broke his mangled thoughts, he hated to admit out loud that whatever floated in space ahead of them was even remotely related to his planet.

Soon, the transparent planet filled their view, looming overhead. Rose leaned forward, her eyes wide. He observed her rapid awe as the details of the planet sharpened, though the transparency blurred the finer parts of Gallifrey.

Rose sat back in her seat, and chewed on her thumbnail. “Is there such a thing as a ghost planet?” she asked.

The Doctor considered her question, trying to fit it into his own speculations. “Ghost planets exist, but they’re not technically ghosts in the traditional sense of the word, they’re not spectres of old living planets. They’re dead planets, devoid of every form of life, just waiting for their sun to expand.” He turned to her, letting the ship fly on autopilot. “Think of old westerns and horror movies when a group of people stumble upon a ghost town. It’s the same concept,” he said. “I’ve never seen or heard of a literal ghost planet before.”

“If the Fancy picked up a signal, then it’s not a ghost, yeah?” said Rose, turning in her seat to look at him as well. “The Gelth were just beings from another part of the universe. Maybe this is just a different form of planet in this universe?”

“I don’t know,” replied the Doctor, his voice low and rough.

“Are the scanners showing anything different?”

“No,” said the Doctor, examining the controls for only two point seven seconds, “Though being this close I can feel something, from down there, like thousands of whispers in my mind.” He ran a hand through his hair, leaving it on the top of his head as he contemplated their situation. “The Time War left scars all throughout the other universe. When I destroyed Gallifrey, the shock wave shook time itself. That same shock wave forced me to regenerate, going from my eighth body to my ninth, the one you first met.” He let his hand fall. “It’s possible that the echo is the shock wave from Gallifrey’s destruction, decreased in power, repeating itself over and over again, coming from the planet below.”

“The ghost planet is going to blow up?”

“Or it being here is simply the power source for the repeating shock wave,” said the Doctor, turning back to the controls, his mind already made up that he was correct in his theory.

“But you said that the echo was the reason we fell to Pete’s World in the first place, now you’re saying that the echo is the same shock wave from when you destroyed your planet?  

He veered them right, closer to the area above the Time Lord Citadel. “It was like you were saying, the void stuff from the frequent comings and goings of my people from this universe to the other left a bridge. The shock wave crossed that bridge, leaving the walls between the two universes weak, which is why, out of all the parallel worlds we could have fallen to, we fell to this one,” he explained, his theory becoming clearer. “Only in this universe, there was no Gallifrey for the shock wave to originate from. That power, and that of the Time War, created what we’re seeing now. This ghost planet, as you call it, then repeated a weaker form of the shock wave, the echo, that gave the Pyoo Seers their power, prevented the Solonians from evolving, and whatever else that we haven’t discovered yet.”

“What you’re saying is that the shock wave, after it got here from the other universe, created its own point of origin, but didn’t actually recreate what created the shock wave in the first place?” said Rose. “Isn’t that a basic time loop paradox?”

He stopped flying and beamed at her. “You’ve really got the hang of time travel principles, haven’t you?”

“Course I have, been on my own for years,” replied Rose with a hint of sadness.

Not wanting to venture into that topic, he concentrated on how much he loved her. “Don’t stop doing that,” he said.

“Doing what?” asked Rose.

“Being brilliant,” he said smiling.

“I learned from the best,” replied Rose, returning his smile.

He went right back to flying. He didn’t want to delay them by snogging her senseless. “Anyway, that’s just a theory so far,” he said with a tilt of his head. “It’s why I need to get a closer look.” A closer look would really only tell him he was right.

Rose looked outside the front window of the ship. Hardly a star in the sky could be seen with the enormity of the planet hanging before them. “You said you needed to go to the center of it, you really mean that?”

“As far as I can take the transport ship,” said the Doctor.

“Then this isn’t close enough?” asked Rose.

“No,” said the Doctor, when an alarm went off on the control panel. “We’re entering orbit,” he said, half paying attention to his words as he read the information on the small screen embedded into the dashboard. “That’s odd, very, very odd.”

They entered the rocky orbit of the ghost planet, then the troposphere, with a bombardment of clouds hitting the ship. A blurred image of the ground below could be seen. Once they cleared the clouds a fluctuating, transparent view of his old planet stretched out before them. The red grasslands and silver trees were just as he remembered.

The Time Lord Citadel, a city within a glass sphere, sat to their right, blinking in and out of existence. As they approached it in the transport ship, the image grew more stable, yet still remained transparent. The halls, walkways, and rooms, familiar to him, were now visible.

“It looks like a snow globe,” said Rose.

“That’s the Citadel of the Time Lords,” said the Doctor. Another alarm went off and he flipped on the communications system. “I’m picking up Gallifreyan, thousands of signals all at once. They’re distress signals, no,” he blinked, hardly believing what he was hearing, “no, those are signals broadcasted from the Time War.”

“What does that mean?”

Flashbacks of the war sprang up in his mind and he shoved them away in frustration. “They’re most likely part of the same time loop that is making the echo,” he said, keeping his focus by flying the ship. “The scanners on the transport ship are warning us that we’re approaching the surface. I’m going to try and see if we can land.”

He turned on the automatic landing procedures, releasing the docking gear and pitching the nose upward. Not sure if the ship would touch down on anything solid, the Doctor sat ready to take flight again. Then he heard the unmistakable sound of hitting something sturdy below his feet, the impact jolting them slightly upwards. They had landed.

The Doctor read the information on the conditions outside the ship. “It says there’s air out there and if it’s anything like Gallifrey’s air, then it’ll be hard for you to breathe,” he said, standing.

“Won’t it be hard for you too?” Rose stood with him.

He glanced upward, feeling dizzy with that reminder. Being human and on Gallifrey didn’t mix. “That’s right, I’m part human now,” said the Doctor, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’m guessing it will. We’ll take it slow, and if the Citadel is anything like the planet, we’ll be able to interact with it, and there should be oxygen tanks for us to use if needed.”

They headed for the back of the ship and the docking ramp.

“Is that where we’re headed?” asked Rose.

“If we can land, and interact with the oxygen tanks, then the rest of the planet functions as if it were really here,” he said, pressing the button to open the door and lower the ramp. “I can destroy the planet from inside the Citadel, using the Eye of Harmony from inside the Panopticon.”

Rose looked at him. “And we’ll be caught in the blast,” said Rose solemnly.

He knitted his eyebrows together, his single heart breaking. “I’m sorry,” said the Doctor, wishing that they were back on Bad Wolf Bay, waiting for Pete or Torchwood or anyone really to pick them up.

“‘S fine, if it’s to save the Solonians and defeat the Pyoos, then it’s worth it,” said Rose, taking his hand. “At least we’ll be together.”

Together. They should be together sixty years from now, growing old and living out their lives day after day instead of meeting a premature end here and now. He wanted to shout, to yell and grind his teeth at the injustice of it all. This was supposed to be their happy ending.

Instead, he led Rose down the ramp and headed straight for the Citadel, a few yards away.

He could see past the ground and the ruby grass, the mountain ranges and the bright silver trees. They were still as beautiful as if they were real and he experienced a strong sense of nostalgia. His childhood and his family, his friends and his enemies, all of it, were here, mocking him and what he’d done. He pressed on, picking up his pace towards the Citadel.

The two suns burned above them, their light passing through the planet causing a rainbow of color to bounce off the surface, lighting up the landscape.

“Your planet’s gorgeous,” said Rose, breathless.

The Doctor held back tears as he thought about the good memories he’d had here, the laughter and the joy. How he wished he could show Rose the true marvels of his planet. “If you think it’s impressive now, you should have seen it when it was opaque,” said the Doctor, joking to relieve the pain constricting his chest.

It didn’t take long to make it to the Citadel, as they had landed close by. Instead of using one of the main entrances, he took Rose around to one in a less crowded area, geared more for maintenance and the lower class than for Time Lords and Ladies. They stopped at a simple door, with a small computer panel next to it.

He looked at Rose as he took out his sonic, unsure if it would work to unlock the door. “Here goes,” said the Doctor.

Pointing the sonic at the computer panel, he turned it on, a buzzing sound filling the silence. The panel beeped affirmatively and the door slid open.

“So we can interact with things,” said Rose as she entered the Citadel after him.

“That’ll make things easy,” said the Doctor, then added, “aaaaas they can be when having to destroy your home planet for the second time and facing permanent death.”

They walked down the pathways of the Citadel, avoiding any areas where the Doctor thought there might be images, or echoes, of people. Even going down lesser walkways, the halls were still grandiose. The high ceilings were vaulted and in different shades of blue and white. The floors were made up of platforms, the area below the platforms dark like space itself. Being here allowed a growing eeriness to fester within him.

“Can we use something here to escape the blast?” Rose asked suddenly. “Did your people use transmats or teleports or some form of extrapolator? Maybe we can use one of the TARDISes?”

He stopped and Rose stopped with him. It dawned on him that perhaps they wouldn’t have to die destroying the echo. He could interact with the technology here; all of it was available to him. And he had a TARDIS coral in his pocket. He smiled at Rose. “You just gave me an idea,” said the Doctor, then he rushed off in the opposite direction.

“Where are we going now?” said Rose, catching up to him.

“A pit stop,” said the Doctor, letting out a single, happy laugh.

But as he turned a corner and entered a larger hallway, he stopped again, his whole body turning cold. His happiness drained from him, faster than it had come. A sharp pang of guilt, misery, and shame took over, leaving him ill.

Rose took his hand and he looked at her, rather than facing the hall and those images within. Her expression did nothing to relieve his mounting sadness. Her knitted brows, her misty eyes, her deep frown only added to his guilt.  

“We’re witnessing these people’s last moments,” whispered Rose as she watched the transparent images of Time Lords and Ladies going about their business. Some were serfs or guards from different houses, all wearing different colors to signify where they came from.

“If the shock wave recreated Gallifrey right before I used the Moment, then, yes, we are,” said the Doctor, turning back to the hall, looking past the images to where they needed to go. He reminded himself that going through these images was the only way they’d survive the coming catastrophe.

“Do you recognise anyone?” said Rose.

“I’m trying hard not to give anyone a good look,” replied the Doctor, keeping his attention glued past the images to the next hallway.

“I’m sorry,” said Rose. “You’re right, seeing this type of thing is horrific.”

The Doctor weaved his fingers through hers and squeezed her hand. He then led them onwards,  through the crowd. To his great relief, the next hall was devoid of images of people long gone. He picked up his pace, trying to recapture the happiness he had felt before seeing those ghosts.

For most of his life, the Doctor had gone forward without looking back. After the Time War, he dedicated himself to that way of life, religiously so. Even when he became part human and had the opportunity to live his life with Rose, he didn’t want to think of the past, of his losses and his crimes. He wanted, from the very beginning of his existence, to carry on as they had with Rose, almost to the point of not understanding the time Rose needed.

Being here now felt like literally looking back, at his past, at things he’d rather forget. Perhaps he needed this. Perhaps he needed reminders to make sure he did the right thing. Destroying the Daleks in the Medusa Cascade, without giving them a chance, without thinking of another way, being trigger happy and reckless, did nothing but stain his heart black.

He wanted to be better for Rose, to make her happy, and he couldn’t do that if he was full of blood, anger, and revenge like his other self mentioned. How could he fix things like that? How ironic that he realise this before his death.

They continued deeper into the Citadel, past a control centre filled with computers, consoles, and data ports. He saw Rose peer at the machinery as they went through another control centre, ignoring the ghost workers within.

“Everything looks a bit retro,” said Rose.

“Oi! The Citadel is state of the art,” argued the Doctor, scowling at Rose.

Rose looked doubtful, her eyebrows raised suspiciously.

“It is!” protested the Doctor, but he didn’t say more.

They passed more rooms and the halls began to spiral downward. The walls turned into large windows, looking out onto a great plain, spotted with odd shapes the Doctor knew were growing TARDISes.

“What’s the Eye of Harmony anyway?” asked Rose as they descended the staircase.

“The nucleus of an artificial black hole that powers the planet and our time travel technology,” said the Doctor.

“There’s a black hole inside the planet?” asked Rose incredulously.

“Ehh, kinda,” said the Doctor. “It’s a bit more complicated than that. If we make it out of here alive I’ll explain it to you.”

The Doctor entered a large, open room, with one side looking out to the TARDIS growing fields. The other side had various machinery, one a long box standing upright, with a door handle. The Doctor stood in front of the box and carefully pulled out the TARDIS coral from his pocket. He examined the golden, shining coral in his hands lovingly.  

“What are you going to do with the TARDIS coral?” asked Rose, standing next to him.

“This room is one of the dozens or so rooms my people used to grow new TARDISes,” said the Doctor, opening the box and placing the coral inside. “Normally it wouldn’t do us much good, but since Donna gave us a way to grow ours much quicker than the few thousand years it usually takes, we can use the technology here to speed up the process even more.”

“Are you serious?” said Rose, leaning closer to the device. “How fast?”

“Could take an hour, or just a few minutes, I won’t know until I try,” said the Doctor, typing in a sequence of information into the box’s computer.

“What if it fails?” asked Rose, watching him work.

“Then we’ll lose the coral,” said the Doctor sombrely. “It’s the only way we’ll make it off the planet. If it works we can go home, if it doesn’t we’ll be dead anyway.”

“Can’t we use an already grown TARDIS?”

“The grown TARDISes need energy from the other universe to work,” said the Doctor as he inputted the next sequence. “Growing this one here guarantees us that it’ll use the right kind of energy, namely Pete’s World’s energy. Plus, the grown TARDISes could be unstable.” He entered in the last piece of information, the number Donna gave them, thirty six point three.

The machine beeped negatively, refusing to turn on or start.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rose.

The Doctor inputted the information again, trying another beginning set of instructions. “It won’t work,” said the Doctor and the machine beeped negatively. “It’s not accepting my directions, saying the calculations are incorrect.”

“Donna said to shatterfry --”

“The plasmic shell and modify the dimensional stabiliser to a foldback harmonica of thirty six point three, we’ll accelerate the growth power by fifty nine,” he finished for her.

After he recited Donna’s directions out loud he turned and looked at Rose, his eyes wide. The beginning of a revelation stirred in his mind.

“Fifty nine? That’s nine away from fifty,” said Rose slowly.

He held her stare, his mind working furiously. Fifty days had gone by between his trip to Midnight and his creation. Fifty seconds had passed for things to settle down, both in the spacesuit after the rocket’s destruction and making it back from the Solonian ship. It’d been fifty years since the Solonian civilization fell. There was the number fifty above the door on the Solonian ship, where they recuperated and was most likely the reason they survived that ordeal. The number fifty had been following them everywhere.

“Oh!” exclaimed the Doctor and Rose at the same time.

“Are you going to say what I think you’re going to say?” said the Doctor, a smile threatening to emerge.

“I think so, but go on, I know you love this bit,” said Rose, not holding back her smile.

“It’s fifty!” said the Doctor, beaming at her.

“And not thirty six point three!” added Rose, smiling.

“Right,” said the Doctor, somewhat perturbed that his thunder was stolen. “It’s the number fifty instead of thirty six point three,” he repeated, but then his mind went from the number fifty to their luck. He hadn’t realised that the TARDIS coral had translated languages for Rose until much later, and the coral acted like a reciever for him to feel Gallifrey. It also glowed, something it wasn’t supposed to do. Then it all came together for him. “Oh, you gotta be kidding me! Our luck!” He grabbed Rose’s shoulders. “Only it hasn’t been luck but the TARDIS.” He grinned at her again, feeling giddy that he now understood what had been happening, and released her shoulders. “Just like my heartbeat rippled back to Donna, our TARDIS, using the coral to send her power back in time, has been protecting us. It was her all along, looking out for her mortal children, making sure we’d get here and input the right numbers.”

“Try it and see!” said Rose, excitedly.

He inputted the sequence again, but this time instead of thirty six point three, he typed in the number fifty. The machine whirled, buzzing as it turned on, and then it beeped positively and lit up.

“Ha! It worked!” cried the Doctor triumphantly.

“We really did have someone looking out for us,” said Rose, sharing his triumph.

“I told you, best ship in the universe!” he said.

Unable to hold back any longer, the Doctor wrapped his arms around Rose, picking her up off her feet. It felt good that something had gone right for a change. After this, not only could they deal with the pirates, the Pyoos, and the Solonians, but they could continue their life of traveling, the Doctor and Rose, in the TARDIS, as it should be.

“Doctor?” said Rose, her voice not one he expected. She sounded apprehensive.

“Hmm?” he asked, still holding on to her.

“Is it supposed to do that?”

He let her go and looked at her. “Do what?”

Rose stared at the box and he turned to see the machine engulfed in a bright gold light, illuminating the whole room.

His smile fell. “No, it’s not,” he said, their moment of hope gone.

Light and shadow danced across the room, and the transparent Citadel moved with it. The walls and floors blurred and shifted, fluctuating in and out, but the planet, the red fields, the flowing mountains, and the silver trees remained, growing opaque.

The Doctor studied the box. If the machine failed to grow the TARDIS now, he didn’t know if they would be thrown out into empty space, since the planet could blink in and out of existence. And if the machine blew, they would die before destroying the echo. Terrified that he didn’t know what was going on, he tried to open the machine, only for the light to burn him as he approached.

“Doctor!” shouted Rose.

He turned and saw one of the images of the Time Lords from the past coming directly towards him. The blurred image sharpened the closer it came, and like the planet, the image started to grow opaque. By the time the Doctor recognised the Time Lord, he was solid and grabbing for the Doctor’s neck.  

“Rassilon!” yelled the Doctor.

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

“Doctor!” cried Rose as she watched Rassilon push the Doctor against a transparent wall.

Balling her fists, she waited, poised and ready to jump in and join the fight. The room flickered in and out, while the machine and the coral still shone unblinkingly with bright golden light. Rose tried not to pay what was happening around her any attention as the Doctor fought, keeping her focus on the man she loved.

The Doctor pulled at Rassilon’s arms, trying to pry his throat free from the maddened Time Lord’s grasp. Rassilon then slammed the Doctor into a machine, breaking glass and equipment. Rose, worried that the Doctor might be hurt, started to move forward.

“Rose,” the Doctor called, grunting as he freed himself. “Stay out of it!” The Doctor ducked as Rassilon took a swipe at his head. “Stay out of it!”

Frustration boiled up inside her. “You stupid wanker, I can help!”

“I know Venusian aikido,” yelled the Doctor. “I can --” But he was cut off by Rassilon grabbing his neck once again.

“Doctor!” yelled Rose.

“You will pay for ruining my plans again!” Rassilon spat out, trying to strangle the Doctor. “We could have escaped! We could have returned if it wasn’t for you!”

Rose made up her mind. She didn’t care what the Doctor said, she was going to help. The golden light grew in intensity, taking up half the room. Rose felt the rays touch her skin, warm and comforting. The light chased away all her concerns. She stopped doing whatever she had planned to do and looked towards the light. The light seemed familiar. As she stared, Rose could see the coral floating in the middle of the golden rays. It transformed before her eyes, growing in size and shape. She reached out for the coral.

“Rose! Don’t!” screamed the Doctor, trying again to pry his throat free from Rassilon.

“‘S nice, feels like I’m supposed to touch it,” said Rose, barely paying the Doctor any attention.

“No, don’t!” shouted the Doctor. “You touch it, you die!” His voice sounded panicked. “Rose!”

Rose ignored him. The golden light was too powerful to resist. As she walked closer, her hand outstretched, a blue swirling vortex began to grow from the coral.

Once she touched the coral the vortex exploded in size and a rush of knowledge flooded Rose’s mind. The Doctor had been right, the buildup of void stuff had created a bridge between this universe and the other. The destruction of Gallifrey and the ensuing shockwave crossed over to this universe using that bridge, creating a ghost planet, the planet Rose now stood on, and recreating a less intense shock wave that continued to loop, replaying the last moments of Gallifrey. That shock wave was the echo.

More information came to her, memories of long ago. The Doctor had told her what happened on Satellite 5, how she’d looked into the heart of the TARDIS and destroyed the Daleks. But Rose had never remembered the incident. Now she recalled the sweet lips of a man with blue eyes and big ears. Then flashes of the Time War bombarded her, confusing her. She shut her eyes against the rush of images. Then it stopped. Everything went quiet; no images or lights or sounds of any kind came to her. Opening her eyes, Rose saw a little girl in a pink lacy dress standing before her in a dark room.

“Hello!” said the little girl.

“Hello,” said Rose, putting on a smile to appear friendly and biting back her questions on where she was and what had happened. “What’s your name?”

“TARDIS,” said the girl with delight.

Rose stared, thunderstruck, at the little girl. “You’re the TARDIS?” asked Rose incredulously, thinking of the blue police box universes away.

The little girl frowned, looking like she was seconds away from a tantrum. “Not that one!” yelled the little girl. “That’s my mummy.”

“You’re the coral?” asked Rose, a slow understanding coming to her. “How come you’re a little girl?”

The little girl shrugged. “I dunno, this is how your subconscious decided to portray me.”

Rose thought that was an odd thing to say. “My subconscious?” Rose glanced around the dark room. “This is…?”

“We’re inside your mind,” said the little girl, her voice taking on a businesslike tone. “I needed your help and I thought it was best to tell you what’s going on.”

Another set of images swept through Rose and she could feel the other universe, the power of the echo, and time itself. She couldn’t make out anything, only a few bits of information. Rose felt the other TARDIS on fire and could feel her connection to the time ship and her offspring, the coral. Rose opened her eyes again to find the Vortex swirling rapidly before her, the coral, now almost as large as a person, in the center. The golden light outlined the vortex. A sweeping gale and a surge of energy hurled Rose away from the coral.

Rose watched as the walls of the room twisted and turned, then disappeared into the vortex. Rassilon, still on top of the Doctor, transformed back into a transparent image. The vortex sucked him in and he went with a raging scream. The vortex pulled in more images, causing a torrent of wind that pushed against Rose, tangling her hair.

Rushing to the Doctor’s side, Rose asked, “Are you alright?”

He stood and stared at her. “Am I alright?” he asked incredulously. “You just touched raw vortex energy. You should be dead!”

“Yeah, well here I am,” said Rose, confidently and with a bit of cheek. “Walking, talking, the usual.”

“How?”

“Bad Wolf,” said Rose seriously. “But not like you think. Looking into the heart of the TARDIS on Satellite 5 left a connection between me and the other TARDIS. I have that same connection to the coral. I just needed to touch it so she could reach out to her mum. The machine wasn’t enough, it was too unstable like the planet. She needed help to finish growing. That’s where her mum came in. While she contacted her mum, she kept me safe from the vortex energy,” Rose explained using the bits of information that were clear to her.

The Doctor looked over at the maelstrom. “I can see the vortex where the TARDIS ought to be if she were full grown,” he said, then turned to Rose. “I take it the TARDIS is using the power of the echo to make that connection?”

“Yeah, it’s also so she can suck everything in. She’s sending everything back to the other universe, where they came from, the echo of the shock wave, the images of your people,” said Rose, while the vortex sucked in the Citadel, room by room, along with the images of Time Lords and Ladies.

“Not everything,” said the Doctor glancing down to the solid, opaque ground beneath his feet.

“It’s like you said, the Time War left scars everywhere. With all that residual power, it had to go somewhere,” explained Rose.

“The excess energy is creating a Gallifrey in this universe,” said the Doctor in awe.

“And the coral is sending the old Gallifrey back along with the echoing shock wave, so it won’t muck up this universe any more than it has,” said Rose, watching the vortex take in everything besides the natural planet. First the Citadel, then the other cities and structures. “She’ll seal up the crack she made to make the connection after she’s done.”

As more and more items and images went into the vortex, its rapid swirl turned into a steady eddy. “It’s slowing down,” observed the Doctor.

Soon all that was left was a group of images of Time Lords and Ladies off into the distance. They leisurely walked with their head held high towards the vortex. Their darkened blue outlines turned colorful the closer they came. Robed images of people in orange came up to the vortex with ready looks upon their faces. The Doctor stared at them silently.

One by one, the images went into the vortex willingly. They all looked at the Doctor before they disappeared, some smiled at him, others merely nodded stoically.

Rose tore her focus away from the images and looked up at the Doctor. Tears fell from the his eyes. “Doctor?” she asked, stepping closer to him and taking his hand. “Who are they?”

The Doctor swallowed and continued to stare at the images as they passed. “My family,” he said, barely above a whisper, his voice gruff.

Rose looked back at the images, paying special attention to them. They were varied: old, young, men and women, all of them in exuberant robes of red and orange. They took their time, some longer than others. A few frowned at the Doctor and Rose narrowed her eyes at those who did. Among the last of the images, an older woman with short brown hair stopped and gazed at the Doctor with the biggest smile out of all of the Doctor’s family.

“Mother,” whispered the Doctor, more tears spilling down his face.

Rose glanced between the Doctor and the image of his mother. Then, surprisingly, since none of his family took notice of Rose, his mother looked at her. His mother nodded to her then took one last look at her son before stepping into the vortex.

“Just one more,” said Rose, watching the last Time Lord come closer.

Shocking Rose as his image became clear, this Time Lord didn’t wear odd robes, but jeans and a black hoodie. He had short, peroxide blonde hair. He smirked at the Doctor, barely glancing his way before entering the vortex.

“Who was that?” asked Rose.

“The Master, though why would he be on Gallifrey? He died on Earth,” said the Doctor, finally looking at Rose, who stared at him in confusion. “He’s an old friend of mine,” he clarified. “Well, really, an enemy,” the Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, ”though maybe frenemy might be closer.”

Frenemy?” asked Rose, wondering if the Doctor understood the term.

“Antagonist then?” the Doctor suggested.

The vortex crackled with electric energy, grabbing Rose’s attention. It started to shrink, radiating waves of light and sparks. A heavy rumble tore through the ground. The vortex changed into a blue cyclone the size of a TARDIS, thunder spilling out of it.

“Do you think we’re safe?” asked Rose, leaning away from the storm.

“I think,” said the Doctor, transfixed by the phenomenon, “it’s ending.”

The ground stopped shaking, leaving behind a dusty field with patches of red grass and weeds dotting the landscape. The mountains stood tall and strong, their tips lined with silver. The storm and the vortex had dissipated, vanishing into thin air. And in front of Rose and the Doctor, their fully grown TARDIS waited for them, in the same shape and colour as the old one.

“She’s a police box,” said Rose curiously. “How come she’s still the same, shouldn’t she be disguised as a tree or something?”

“You said she needed her mother to complete her growth,” said the Doctor, walking towards the TARDIS. “Maybe she copied a few things during their connection.”

He stood by the TARDIS’ side and stroked her blue wood panelling, a small smile on his face.

“Doctor,” Rose called, the realisation setting in. “The TARDIS, we have the TARDIS again!”

“Yes,” said the Doctor, casting his eyes on Rose, his smile turning into a grin, “we do!”

Rose went to him and they collided in a hug. He lifted her off her feet and spun her around. They laughed, unbridled joy bursting out from them both. Rose felt at ease. Whatever happened now, they had the TARDIS. Everything would be alright. He set her back down and she leaned away from him.

“So now what?” she asked. “Should we find your people on the planet?”

“I don’t think they’ll be my people anymore, Rose. This is a new Gallifrey,” said the Doctor, studying the planet. “And if my instincts are correct, there won’t be any type of people here for a long time.”

Rose furrowed her brows. “How long?”

He let her go and kneeled down. He took a pinch of dirt from the ground and tasted it. “Ugh,” complained the Doctor, spitting out the dirt. “Yup, I was right.” He stood back up, surveying the land around them. “This is a Gallifrey about a half billion years before my people evolved enough to walk on two legs.”

“That’s a long time,” said Rose. “Why the time difference?”

“I haven’t a clue,” said the Doctor, looking at her with a hint of a smirk. “New universe, new Gallifrey?”

Rose looked around her, taking in the planet. She thought about everything he ever told her about the Time Lords, how they strayed from being a benevolent people, turning into a society willing to destroy the universe for their own selfish ends. “Maybe you can help them,” said Rose, thinking the Doctor could lead the new Gallifreyans away from that path. “In half a billion years you could make sure they don’t turn out like your people did.”

“I might,” said the Doctor. “Though I have a feeling I won’t have to.”

Rose studied the Doctor. He seemed subdued; he glanced around the planet eagerly, but the tears on his face were still drying. She wondered what he felt now he had his planet but not his people. Gallifrey had a new start here, in this universe, and perhaps that gave the Doctor hope. He would have some form of his people and planet again and he wouldn’t have to be ashamed of them.

After a moment the Doctor looked at her. “Rose,” he said with a hint of sadness.

“Yeah?” she asked hesitantly.

“There’s something I need to tell you,” said the Doctor, his voice thick.

“What?” asked Rose, her heart racing.

“When you touched the coral,” the Doctor took a deep breath, “I felt him, the other me,” said the Doctor, gazing at her apprehensively. “He’s regenerating.”

It took her a second to process what he’d said. Since it had been less than a week since the other Doctor left her on Bad Wolf Bay, it felt too soon for him to truly be gone. “So he’s...no longer you?”

His expression relaxed, though his eyes were glossy. “He’s no longer me,” said the Doctor. “Now I’m the only one with this face in the multiverse.”

She wouldn’t recognise the other Doctor now. Instead of the dismay she thought she would feel, she kept her eyes on the man before her, at his familiar features, and felt a enlighted tranquility spread over her. “I know I should feel sad, but,” she started, stepping closer to him, “I feel grateful that you can’t regenerate.” She laid her hand on his chest, over his single heart, like she had on the beach. “All this time I was scared that you could die, forgetting that you growing old with me meant you’d always be you.”

“I’ll always be me,” said the Doctor softly, placing his hand over hers. He scanned the landscape again, holding her hand above his heart. “The me I am now,” he added, sounding more like he was talking to himself than her. He stared at their TARDIS then caught her eyes once more, his tears dried from his face. “When I saw my family, I realised that everything I am is because of them,” he said. “And not just them either. The people I've met, laughed with, cried with, everyone, they made me who I am,” he took another deep breath, “and I shouldn’t run from that, especially because I love who I am.”

Rose smiled at him. “I love who you are too,” said Rose.

The Doctor beamed at her.

Rose heard a loud scrape of a radio. It came from the transport ship not too far away from them. “Doctor!” screamed the Captain on the com, blaring out from the external speakers. “What have you done to my ship?!”

Rose gaped at the transport ship with wide eyes.

“Looks like she tried to leave without us,” said the Doctor, sounding unsurprised, his voice lined with disgust. “She probably thought that with the echo gone, she could ditch us and steal all the credit.”

“You think she found out she no longer has her powers?” asked Rose.

“Not yet, or she’d be down here in person,” said the Doctor, looking at Rose. “She’ll find out soon enough.”

She looked back and forth between him and the transport ship. “What’s our next move?”

For a moment he stared at the transport ship. “I’ll be right back,” he said, opening up their TARDIS and stepping inside. Before Rose could follow him, he poked his head out. “Stay here.”

A few seconds later the Doctor came out and the TARDIS began her recognisable groan, signaling her departure. “Where’s the TARDIS going?” Rose asked, watching the time ship disappear.

“Oh, she’ll meet us when we need her,” said the Doctor flippantly. “Right now, we have a summons to answer.”

Rose glared at him. “We’re going back to the Fancy?”

“I have to fix the ship,” said the Doctor casually. “We can’t leave Jen and Rob stranded in the middle of nowhere above a barely evolved planet.”

“A new planet,” Rose corrected.

He gazed at her with gentle eyes and a small smile. “A new beginning,” he said softly. “For more than a planet. New me, new other me, and a new us.”

A new us,” Rose repeated, liking the sound of that.

The Doctor smirked with half-lidded eyes. “Now we just need to set the date of the wedding,” he said rather brazenly.

“Wedding?” asked Rose, completely taken aback.

“Should we start family discussions? Where we’ll buy our first house?” The Doctor put his hands in his pockets and walked towards the transport ship, his chin held high. “We could have a house in every quadrant of every galaxy in the universe. I hear Montreal has fabulous properties.” He glanced at her. “That’s the planet not the city, by the way.”

“You’re joking,” said Rose, catching up to him.

The Doctor grinned but didn’t say a word.

Rose shook her head. They’d only been together for a few days. “We still have a ways to go,” explained Rose, “before we do any of that.”

He leaned closer to her, his grin large and jovial. “You could say,” said the Doctor, who waited a tic before finishing, “we’ve got time.”

Rose stared at him in annoyance. “Shut up,” said Rose, though she smiled and rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re joking at a time like this.”

“Doctor!” screamed the Captain from the com. “Where are you?! Answer me! Doctor!!”

The Doctor sighed, his grin gone. “I suppose we better hurry before she hurts herself screaming like that,” he said despondently.

Rose stopped walking just as they made it to the transport ship. She took in the planet one last time. “We’ll be back though?” she asked.

The Doctor turned to her halfway up the ramp. He looked at the horizon of the newly made Gallifrey before his eyes fell on her. “Of course we will,” he said with absolute confidence. “I plan on showing you the mountain ranges near the Cadonflood River. It’s where I grew up.” He tilted his head to the side. “Well, not the actual exact location, since I grew up on the other Gallifrey, but this one’s equivalent should be good enough.”

Rose walked up the ramp towards the Doctor. “Seriously?” she asked.

“Why not? I don’t think I want to keep that to myself anymore,” said the Doctor, taking her hand and walking into the ship.

“Doctor!!” bellowed the Captain from the com.

The Doctor sat in the pilot’s seat and turned on the ship. “I’m starting to have the opinion we should join the Fancy on their trip back to Solos,” said the Doctor as he pushed buttons and flicked switches. “I’m curious about the Solonians’ reaction to the Captain and her crew.”

“I don’t think they’ll get on very well,” said Rose as she sat in the co-pilots seat.

“Undoubtedly,” said the Doctor cheerfully.

The transport ship took off. Rose watched the setting twin suns as they flew through the sky of New Gallifrey, replaying in her mind everything that had happened on the planet.

“Doctor?” asked Rose as they burst through the top layer of clouds, the stars and space looming closer above them.

“Hmm?”

“Are you okay?” said Rose, watching him fly the ship. “I mean, after everything you just saw.”

He turned and gazed at her. He held her stare for a few seconds, warmth in every part of his features. “Rose,” he said with a gentle smile, tears back in his eyes. “I’ve never been better.”

To Be Continued

Chapter Text

With Rose’s hand in his, the Doctor watched the numbers of the lift climb higher, towards the bridge of the Fancy. He felt light on his feet despite the little sleep he’d had over the last week. Seeing his family again, having them acknowledge him, had eased much of his guilt. Now there was a new Gallifrey, the Solonians should be free from the echo, and most important of all, he had the TARDIS again. He looked over to Rose and smiled. She returned his smile, a silent confirmation that she shared his thoughts.

The lift stopped and its doors opened. The Doctor let go of Rose’s hand and bounced to the nearest console. Rose remained near the lift.

“What did you do to my ship?!” the Captain demanded, standing in front of her seat.

“Sorry about that,” said the Doctor, typing in the password to access the warp drive. “But you know what they say about a rush job. Building a warp drive in one night can get a bit messy.” So no one would get hurt, he switched on the confinement shield to the self-destruct on the warp drive, which would automatically go off once they reached Solos. “There you go, all fixed! It was just a tiny malfunction.” He tilted his head and scrunched up his nose. “Not all technology is compatible.” He straightened up. “Shall we head to Solos?” He put his hands in his pockets and rocked back and forth on his heels. “We got rid of the echo, in case you’re wondering,” he added quickly, remaining cheerful.

The Captain sat back down, scowling. “Teach Rob what you did to fix the drive,” she said dismissively, irritation set in her voice. “Then set course for Solos.”

Rob walked over to the Doctor. “We knew you got rid of the echo as soon as the scanners read there was a planet right before us,” said Rob. “She wanted to go to Solos without you, so she’d get all the credit for saving them.”

“Shut it, Rob!” yelled the Captain, turning in her seat to look at him.

The Doctor watched as the Captain and Rob exchanged glares. He could feel the thick tension between them. The crew, with mounting looks of confusion, stared at the storm brewing between the current and former captain. Thankful for the distraction, the Doctor inputted the coordinates for Solos. He pressed the warp command and no one seemed to notice.

“I don’t think so,” said Rob at last, his voice hard and defiant.  

“What?” asked the Captain in a deadly whisper.

“Just because I stepped down as captain for you doesn’t mean I’ll act like your lap dog,” said Rob, moving closer to the Captain.

The Doctor understood well what was happening, and decided to egg on the flaring rebellion. “Didn’t you step down for her because she was a Pyoo Seer?” he asked Rob.

Rob crossed his arms, continuing to stare at the Captain. “That’s right,” he said.

The Doctor scratched the back of his head, trying to remain blasé. “Then that might put a bit of a damper on things, since she no longer has her powers.”

“Nonsense! He’s lying!” yelled the Captain as she stood, breaking her stare with Rob and turning to the Doctor.

“No, I’m not,” said the Doctor. “The echo was the source of the Pyoo Seers’ power. Now that the echo is gone, they can no longer predict the future.”

The crew looked at one another, each with an expression of uncertainty. Jen, though, smirked, her eyes on the Captain.

“That’s ridiculous!” countered the Captain. “The Pyoo Seers are born with our power. It’s inherited.”

“If that’s true, there’s one way to know who’s right and who’s wrong,” said the Doctor. “Why don’t you predict something for us, hmm?” He turned to walk around the console, quickly pulling out his sonic. He then strolled over to Rose with his hands, one holding onto his screwdriver, in his pockets. “Tell us what the weather will be like on Pyoo tomorrow, or the lotto numbers for the next big Intergalactic Lottery.” He stopped next to Rose and gave her a cheeky smile. “How about the name of our first child?” Rose looked at him with wide eyes and he winked at her.

“I won’t predict something for your amusement,” said the Captain, her voice lined with unease.

The crew murmured. “Do it,” commanded Rob.

The Captain looked around. Almost everyone on the bridge nodded in agreement and their murmurs grew louder. “Fine,” spat the Captain and she closed her eyes.

The Doctor noticed they had arrived at Solos, as the planet hung before them on the main view screen. One of the consoles emitted a high-pitched beeping noise. Turning back to the Captain, he saw her brows pulled together in frustration.

“Well, anything?” the Doctor asked expectantly.

The Captain opened her eyes. “It doesn’t matter!” she hollered.

“Captain, the Solonians are hailing us,” said a crewman, standing next to the beeping console.

The Captain glared at the crewman. “Don’t answer it yet!” she said. “Everyone, aim your weapons at our interlopers.” As the console continued to beep, she turned to the crew members on the bridge, each of them with a laser gun. She then focused her attention on the Doctor and Rose. “Once I answer the Solonians’ hail, I’ll declare myself the sole reason they’re free from their mutated state. They’ll give me everything I want. We no longer need either of you.” She put her hands on her hips and smiled. “Fire!”

“Belay that order!” bellowed Rob, louder than the Captain.

A few of the crew had their weapons pointed at the Doctor and Rose, but more lowered their guns, looking between the Captain and Rob. Jen hadn’t pulled out her weapon at all. Instead, she crossed her arms and frowned tiredly at the Captain.

“I can easily have you shot as well, Rob,” said the Captain smoothly.

“I doubt that,” said Rob, his voice brimming with confidence. “Everyone, my comrades and equals, aim your weapons at Teuta, formerly known as Captain.”

In a blink of an eye, Jen took out her laser gun and pointed it directly at the Captain. The rest of the crew, one by one, followed her lead. Soon, all the pirates had their weapons aimed at the Captain.

The Doctor pressed the sonic’s button, calling for the TARDIS. “Looks like you’ve got your hands full with a mutiny,” said the Doctor, taking Rose’s hand. “We’ll just be on our way.”

“No!” screamed the Captain, her expression wild and frantic. Turning in a circle, she lunged for the closest laser gun, wrestling it away from a crew member's hand.

The familiar sound of the TARDIS materialising filled the bridge, momentarily stunning the pirates. The time ship surrounded the Doctor and Rose, encasing them. The Captain, fury clear in her face, aimed her weapon. She shot at them, once, twice, three times, before the other crew members took the gun away from her. Her shots had bounced off the TARDIS’ shielding, not even coming close to endangering either of them. The last image the Doctor saw of the pirates was Rob and Jen standing over a restrained and kneeling Captain.

Within the solid walls of his time ship, the Doctor skipped his way to the barely constructed console. A small beep came from one of the few parts assembled. The Doctor went to it, flipping on a few switches.

“Were you waiting for the Captain to do that or did you just want to show off?” asked Rose, coming up to the console.

“I had to make sure the pirates made it back to Solos,” said the Doctor, concentrating on the new, sparse controls of his ship. He glanced at Rose and saw her staring at the new TARDIS interior, her mouth hanging open slightly.

“‘S beautiful,” she said in a daze. “I didn’t know she could change her insides.”

“New TARDIS, new interior,” said the Doctor offhandedly. He’d only been mildly surprised when he first stepped into their new TARDIS and that was because she’d kept the basic coral look of the previous TARDIS. She’d only changed her colors and added a few new additions to the console room. Her walls were now a sparkling white, her floors glass, the leather jump seat was new and grey, and a replica of the stars and space floated above the dark blue console.

“Ready?” he asked Rose when she stood next to him.

“For what?”

“I’m going to answer the Solonians’ hail,” he said, standing before the basic com system on the console.

Rose smiled as she shook her head. “Then answer it.”

He grinned at her then flipped the switch on the console and spoke into the transmitter. “Hello, I’m the Doctor and this is the good ship TARDIS. How can we be of assistance?”

After a pop of static, a voice on the other end spoke. “Do you have a Rose Tyler on board?”

Rose leaned over the console, stepping in front of the Doctor, and spoke into the transmitter. “I’m Rose Tyler, how can I help?”

The coms went dead, then a flash of light swept through the room. The Doctor had a feeling the Solonians wouldn’t keep to a com unit once they’d evolved. So it was no surprise to him when the flash of light formed into a Solonian, glowing in rainbow colors, like a pearl. The Solonian wore elegant white robes and floated just above the floor, near the console. Rose looked stunned at his arrival. The Doctor put a hand on her shoulder to let her know it was alright.

“We wanted to thank you, Rose Tyler,” said the Solonian in an otherworldly voice. “I am Belan.”

“Belan? Isn’t that --” started Rose.

“Yes, I am the same one you spoke to on the ship,” Belan finished for her. “We were in such a shameful state for so long. Though our group tried the longest to go without eating our brethren, we lost ourselves. If it hadn’t been for you, we wouldn’t have been able to think clear enough after the echo was destroyed to head for the thaesium room. Your kind words, speaking to us as if we could comprehend, broke through our clouded minds. After we evolved, we helped the rest of our ship as well as the rest of our fleet to evolve.”

“T-that’s good. It’s what we wanted for ya,” said Rose bashfully, playing with one of her earrings. “Glad we could help.”

“You did,” said Belan, keeping his tone even. “You have saved the Solonian race, Rose Tyler. Is there anything that you wish for, Rose? We will fulfill it.”

Rose dropped her hand from her earring and looked up to the Solonian. “The Fancy, the ship nearby, they used to be explorers, but lost their way when the Pyoos began to terrorise the people in this part of space. Can you help them?”

“The Pyoos have terrorised this sector?” asked Belan, sounding shocked at this revelation.

“The thing that kept you from evolving also gave the Pyoos power. They stole your time technology and have been using it to kill anyone they saw as a threat. They even tried to kill us,” said Rose.

The Solonian grew taller, which was an impressive feat, as he already floated over seven feet tall. “That is unacceptable!” Belan stated angrily. “Had we been able, we would have prevented that from occurring.”

“I think being in the state that you were in, you can give yourselves a pass,” said the Doctor.

Belan closed his eyes and shook his head. He then looked over to the Doctor. “No, we will deal with this as we should have so long ago,” he said gravely. He then shrunk down in size and floated closer to Rose, with a slight essence of a smile on his face. “Rose Tyler, be at ease and know we will guide the people on the Fancy.” He looked at the Doctor, no longer with even a hint of smile. “Doctor, set the course for Pyoo. I will see you there.” With another flash of light, the Solonian disappeared.

“Talk about grandiose,” said the Doctor, setting their destination for the Pyoo throne room.

“Belan seemed nice enough,” said Rose, watching him as he piloted the ship. “A bit stiff, but nice.”

“They’re not so much nice as grateful. I’d hate to be on their bad side,” said the Doctor. “I’ve seen what they can do.”

The Doctor thought back to the last Solonian he’d seen looking like that. The Solonian had vaporized the man responsible for trying to destroy the Solonian people and terraform Solos. As the TARDIS landed, he wondered what fate was in store for the Pyoos and hoped that it was nothing like vaporization.

He looked over at the TARDIS doors, remembering the last time they were here. Would the Empress be more willing to compromise this time around?

“Here we are, back at the beginning,” said the Doctor, looking at Rose. “Seems like just yesterday that we were here.”

“More like ages,” said Rose, exasperated. “I’d rather we just go home.”

“We can’t do that,” said the Doctor as he headed for the doors, “not yet anyway.”

Rose followed him and once she was at his side, he opened the doors. The throne room looked nothing like it had before. Ashen smoke filled the room as people ran by every which way. Soldiers shouted orders, the walls had scuff marks, and the glass windows now showed a dark night sky.

Ahead of them, atop a metal dais, Belan floated above the prone body of the dead Pyoo Empress. Anger rushed through the Doctor’s veins, but before he could say anything Rose stepped in front of him.

“You didn’t have to kill her!” shouted Rose.

“No one else had to die!” added the Doctor.

“It had to be done,” said Belan, with no sign of remorse. “Their Seers have lost their power. With their leader dead as well, their government is now in chaos.”

“Your people have a new beginning. If you start like this, you’ll be just as bad as the Pyoo one day,” said Rose, with a plea in her voice.

Belan stared at Rose, then glanced down at the Empress. He then floated down the dais, towards them. “Perhaps…” began Belan softly. “Perhaps we were in our mutated state too long.”

“No more killing, yeah?” asked Rose, the anger gone from her voice. The Doctor looked at Rose and felt the love he had for her extinguish his rising anger.  

“No more killing, Rose Tyler,” Belan repeated, looking contrite. He closed his eyes and bowed his head. After floating silently for a moment, he raised his eyes to look at Rose. “The Pyoo are now without a leader. We think you should lead them.”

Rose let out a laugh. “Not a chance. I’m not cut out for that kind of job,” said Rose. “Besides, it shouldn’t be only one person ruling over millions of people.”

The Solonian straightened out and grew taller. “We will then let the Pyoo decide their own fate,” said Belan, keeping his eyes on Rose and the Doctor as he continued to grow. People still ran by, though they didn’t pay attention to what was happening in the throne room. A large explosion rang out and debris fell to the ground outside the nearby window.

The Doctor looked to Rose then to the Solonian. “Maybe you should destroy their stolen time technology, just to be safe,” suggested the Doctor.

“We have already done so,” said Belan.

The Doctor took in a large breath, thinking about what else could be done for the good of the many. “Then can you at least clean up their lower atmosphere, to make sure the rich and the poor occupy the same space? Doesn’t seem right, does it, for the well off to be up here while the less fortunate suffer and die down below,” he said. “That should give them a decent head start, though it might cause them to butt a few heads. Probably be good for them.”

Belan stopped growing and looked down at the Doctor. “That is something we can do as we watch over Pyoo,” said the Solonian, sounding more otherworldly than before.

The Doctor frowned impressively, shrugging. “Looks like you’ve done everything for us,” said the Doctor. The only thing he could do now was let history take its course. He glanced at Rose then reached out to her, placing a hand on the small of her back. They turned to head back to the TARDIS.

They were at the doors of the TARDIS when the Doctor heard Belan speak again. “They’ll be alright,” said Belan knowingly. “They will both be alright.”

They turned and looked up at the glowing Solonian, who now smiled down to them.

“How do you mean?” asked Rose.

But the Doctor felt it in his heart. He knew what the Solonian meant. Since they left, both he and Rose had worried about them. Perhaps he had worried a little too much about one person in particular. “He’s talking about the other me and Donna,” he whispered.

“Doctor?” said Rose, looking at him with a perplexed expression.

The Doctor met her eyes. “The Solonians can predict the future -- but only to a degree, or they’d’ve known about the echo. Why do you think the Pyoo Seers got that particular ability?” The Pyoos had created their own self-fulfilling prophecy when they brought them here, to this room, that started their new life. Perhaps he had created one of his own self-fulfilling prophecies the moment he destroyed Gallifrey. “Let’s go home,” said the Doctor, opening the door to the TARDIS.

Rose hesitated, staring at the Doctor as if she wanted more of an explanation. There wasn’t a need to say more, she should know. After a few seconds, she glanced up at Belan.

“Goodbye,” said Belan sweetly. “And worry not.”

Rose chewed on her dry lower lip. The Doctor watched her as she deliberated, wondering what held her back. “Bye,” said Rose suddenly, waving to Belan. She then went into the TARDIS.

The Doctor gave the very tall Solonian a salute before stepping into the TARDIS after Rose, leaving behind their first legacy in a new universe.

He went straight to business, walking up the ramp towards the console. “Before we go home, there’re a few places I’d like to take you,” said the Doctor jovially. “Want to see how everything turned out for the Pyoos?”

“I like the sound of that,” said Rose with a smile.

He pressed a few buttons and flipped a few switches. He had to hit the last button and manually gear the time dilator. He held onto the console as the TARDIS flew one hundred years into the future. Rose did the same and they both laughed. As soon as the time ship was quiet, he typed in commands to tap into the new Pyoo databases. The very small screen pulled up the information slowly and he took out his sonic to help his ship process the information faster. Later on, he would need to work on his ship, supplying it with a larger screen and faster processor. “Here we go,” announced the Doctor.

“What does it say?” asked Rose, hanging onto his side and pressing close to view the tiny screen.

“It says that after the death of the last Empress, a reformation of the government took place, though losing much of their technology set them back a few millenia. The Solonians did as they promised, cleaned the planet up and watched over them -- oh,” said the Doctor, astonished at the last bit of information.

“What?” asked Rose, who pressed closer to the screen.

“The Solonians employed the crew of the Fancy, with Jen Obutto as captain and Rob Menske as first mate, to watch over the Pyoos as they rebuilt their world and to protect them from alien armies bent on conquering the planet,” said the Doctor, his smile growing bigger the more he read. “They did that for twenty-five years until the Fancy was released from their contract.”

“And after that?” asked Rose eagerly.

The Doctor had to pull out his glasses. He put them on and squinted at the screen as more information came up. “The Fancy explored that sector of their galaxy for another fifteen years,” the Doctor grinned. “They even found a new dwarf planet.” He leaned back and gazed at Rose fondly. “Guess what they named it?”

“Tell me,” said Rose, smiling back at him.

“They named it Rimu,” said the Doctor, beaming. Both Ricket and Mumu would now be remembered.

Rose matched his grin. She then turned back to the screen. “What about the Captain?” she asked.

He typed in another set of commands and accessed a new database. “The Solonians charged her with piracy, murder, theft, and a few other nasty things and sent her to work in rebuilding their cities. Doesn’t say what happened to her once she was finished,” said the Doctor, looking back at Rose.

Her smile grew soft. “Then it all worked out,” uttered Rose.

“Yup,” agreed the Doctor, thinking that, while he hated the hardships they went through, he didn’t regret a moment of it. He put away his sonic and gazed at her happily. “Now we’re free to do whatever we please.”

“Like finally go home,” said Rose.

“We can return to Earth, your mother, and that beach anytime and it’ll be like we never left,” said the Doctor, walking around the console, pressing buttons, flipping switches, and pulling levers. “But before all that, I have a promise to keep.”

Rose followed him as he worked. “That vacation you were talking about?” asked Rose, holding back a smile.

“The very one!” the Doctor answered happily. “I know right where to take us!”

“So where are we off to?” she asked giddily.

“I’m not telling,” said the Doctor, grinning madly as he piloted the TARDIS, dancing around the console. He glanced at Rose and caught her eyes.

“Spoilsport,” laughed Rose as she continued to follow him around the console.

They continued to glance at one another from across their new console, eagerly awaiting their new, happier destination. The Doctor couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this happy. Maybe this new start was just what the doctor ordered.

Chapter Text

Tapping her foot on the new glass floor of their TARDIS, Rose waited for the Doctor. She sat on the jump seat, looking around at the new interior, still amazed at how beautiful the time ship looked. Stretching out her legs, she glanced at the door, wondering when the Doctor would return. He’d landed them at their destination and told Rose he’d needed to make arrangements for their stay. He told her not to peek at the screen to try to figure out where they were while he was gone.

It wouldn’t hurt if she did peek. She wouldn’t be able to make out much, anyhow, with just a glance outside. She stood up from the jump seat and went directly over to the screen, turning it on. However, a passcode window popped up as soon as she started typing.

“Were you peeking?” asked the Doctor, walking up the ramp.

Rose, surprised at his return, quickly stepped away from the screen. “No,” said Rose unconvincingly. “‘Course not.”

The Doctor walked up to the console and started operating the TARDIS. “Well, it wouldn’t matter if you did, since everything is ready,” said the Doctor as he pulled a lever. “All we need to do is take the TARDIS up to our room.”

“A room?” asked Rose curiously. “Are we in a hotel?”

“Could be,” teased the Doctor with a smile.

“You’re not giving anything away, are you?” said Rose, secretly loving the secrecy.

“Nope,” said the Doctor gleefully. “And we’ve landed!” The Doctor stepped away from the console and gestured with a wave of his arm towards the door. “After you!”

Rose looked at him, looked at the door, then caught his eyes once more and grinned. She then rushed outside, filled with anticipation. As soon as she was out the door, she saw a gorgeous hotel suite. One side of the room had a pristine tan wall almost five metres tall. The ceiling wasn’t a ceiling at all, but a large curved window that ran down to her right, making up the other side of the room. The window wall looked out onto a wonderful tropical beach, with clear blue vibrant waters and swaying palm trees.

“’S amazing,” said Rose, walking further into the room. “Where are we?”

The Doctor came out of the TARDIS behind her. “This universe’s New Earth, in their tropical zone. They have pineapple grass here instead of apple.”

“You’re kidding,” asked Rose, glancing at the Doctor, who looked happily subdued leaning against the TARDIS. She grinned at him. “That’s brilliant.”

“Yes, it is,” said the Doctor, smiling. He pushed off the TARDIS and walked to her side. “Now, I’ve already ordered enough dinner for a small army -- going without a proper meal after a week is not something I want to do again -- and we have complimentary robes for you to change into, so I thought you’d like to take the first shower.”

She gazed at him and knew how tired he was, despite the smile on his face. Though it had been a day since their last, hurried shower, he looked disheveled. “What about you?”

“Oh, I’ll take the next one, or I could take a shower in the TARDIS,” said the Doctor casually.

She thought back to their last experience with washing up and where that led to, and how she’d love to continue on from there. They were, after all, in a lovely hotel room with all the time in the universe. Rose stepped closer to the Doctor and pressed herself against him, running her hands down the front of his suit jacket. “Or, we could take one at the same time,” suggested Rose, her voice low and seductive.

“That’s what I said, I could take one in the,” began the Doctor, oblivious to her actual suggestion. She hooked her fingers into the waistband of his trousers and dragged him towards the en-suite. “TARDIS,” he finished lamely. He gazed at her, his dark eyes full of longing. “I think I like your idea better.”

“I have all the best ideas,” said Rose, unbuttoning his suit jacket once they were near the shower stall. He toed off his shoes and she did the same.

“Hmmm,” agreed the Doctor. Rose wondered if he really heard her or was just agreeing automatically.

The second he agreed, his lips were on hers. She wrapped her arms around him, forgetting to finish unbuttoning his suit jacket, returning his kiss eagerly. He pressed her against the wall of the en-suite. She gripped the back of his jacket as he moved his lips to her neck. He leaned away from her and quickly unzipped her jacket, moving her away from the wall so he could push it off her shoulders. Before her jacket could hit the floor, she was unbuttoning his trousers.

He ran his hands down her sides to the hem of her shirt. His hands delved under the fabric and he ran his hands up her sides, pushing the shirt up. She lifted her arms and he pulled it off of her. He kissed her again passionately, lips gliding over lips. Breaking the kiss, she unbuttoned her jeans, pushed them down, and shimmied out of them. He unhooked her bra then pushed her knickers down, his eyes roaming her body.

“Turn on the shower,” she whispered, pushing down his trousers and pants.

The Doctor leaned away from Rose and stripped off his jacket and shirt, stepping out of his trousers and pants. He looked her over, wetting his lips. Rose gave him a once-over, taking a peek at his broad chest, his long legs, and his hard cock. He grinned and pulled her towards him, stepping into the shower stall. He reached out with one hand and turned on the shower. The water was already hot the moment it touched her skin, but she hardly noticed. Her eyes were on the Doctor, gazing at him as the water dripped down his skin.

She wrapped her arms around him, practically jumping into his arms to kiss him. He turned her towards the pouring water. Her skin against his set her blood on fire, desire pooling at her core, making her wet between her thighs. A shiver went down her spine as he continued to kiss her under the shower. His lips travelled to her neck again as his hands gripped her bum.

“We should,” Rose started, half aware of what she was saying, “we should get clean.”

“We are,” said the Doctor between kisses. “We’re getting clean off each other.”

Rose laughed and he slowly ran a hand down her body, towards her core. She leaned against him as his fingers spread her folds and caressed her clit gently. She gasped, her need for him mounting. Her wetness made his skin slick as he sunk a finger inside her. Her hands travelled up to his hair. His palm pressed against her clit as he moved his finger in and out. Her breath hitched as another finger went inside her. His careful fingers rubbed against her walls, finding a part of her that she didn’t know existed.

A wave of hot tingles ran through her body as she came quickly. “Doctor,” she sighed as pleasure swept over her.

Without wasting a moment, the Doctor pressed her against the tiled wall of the shower. He lifted her up and she held onto him. She looked down at him, full of love and adoration. He kissed her sweetly, leisurely, as he lined himself up at her entrance. Her need for him grew but before she could say anything, he thrust his hips up and his hardened cock slipped inside her.

“Doctor,” moaned Rose loudly, breaking their kiss, feeling him fill her, the sensation she’d been dreaming of for years.

She gazed down at him and he was already looking at her, his expression tender. “Rose,” he whispered, his voice a deep husky tone. She leaned down and gave him a lingering kiss.

That prompted him to move, pulling out before thrusting upward again. Between the tiled wall and him, she could only hold on as he moved, slow and deep at first before his strokes turned fast and wild. She moaned again. The sensation of his speedy thrusts had her throbbing with desire.

“Rose,” begged the Doctor and she knew he was too far gone to know what he was saying. Seconds later he toppled over the edge, slowing his thrusts as he came.

With deep, steady breaths, he let her down, keeping hold of her, hugging her to him as the shower washed away the evidence of their love making. They stayed like that, enjoying the moment of stillness.

Using tender movements, the Doctor leaned away from her and picked up the soap and shampoo. He poured the shampoo on top of Rose’s head and lathered her up. She mimicked his actions and together they each washed the other. Between washings, they kissed: pecks on the lips, the cheeks, the wrists, and shoulders. Rose, careful of his injuries, lathered his skin with gentle hands.

After they were done and the water had rinsed them off, they stepped out of the shower and toweled each other dry. As the Doctor tried to towel her hair, she laughed and he beamed at her. He grabbed her, wrapping his arms around her, and lifted her off her feet, twirling them in a circle. Rose laughed again, joy bubbling forth from her heart.

Once her feet touched the ground, the Doctor kissed her passionately. He smiled against her lips and leaned back, taking her hand. He led her to the bed, taking her into his arms once again.

“Up for round two?” asked the Doctor.

Rose grinned, still yearning for more of him. “I know I am, but are you?”

“Oh, I’m always up for Rose Tyler,” said the Doctor, grinding his hips into her stomach so she could feel his hard cock against her.

He kissed her, running his hand through her wet hair, cupping her cheek, then sliding his hands down to her breasts. His fingers swirled around her pebbled nipples, teasing them. She breathed in deep as he groped them, his lips still moving along with hers. She slid her hand to the back of his neck and moved him with her as she sat on the bed. She leaned back and he kneeled on the bed above her.

She wrapped her arms around him and he rested his head in the nook of her neck. He then kissed her on the neck and shoulder. He trailed his kisses downward and Rose ran her fingers through his hair. His hands traveled down her sides. He pressed his tongue to her clit and she cried out, the throbbing between her legs almost unbearable. His kisses moved upward and he took in a breast, his tongue playing with her nipples before he leaned back. He took her hand and kissed her wrist, sucking on her pulse point gently.

Not wanting to be idle, Rose cupped his balls then slid her hand around the base of his cock, then teased him in slow strokes up and down his length.

“Rose,” the Doctor gasped. “Oh, Rose.”

He kissed her again, his tongue meeting with hers, tasting her as she tasted him. He lined himself up to her and easily slid his hard cock past her wet folds into her warm center.

“My Doctor,” whispered Rose, delighted to feel him inside her once more.

He wasted no time in setting up a rhythm, pulling out with long strokes before sinking back in, moaning between kisses. She felt him grab the sheets and she wrapped her legs around his hips, pushing her hips up to meet him halfway. He moved in just the right way and she cried out with each new thrust.

He pulled out to shift her and she happily obliged him, moving so he could enter her folds from behind. She kneeled on all fours and he slid his cock into her, trusting as he was before. She moved with him, enjoying their tempo. He grabbed onto one of her breasts, groping it, before he leaned his chest against her back, and held her to him. His thrusts turned urgent, need overtaking passion.

Rose pulled away and turned to lie on her back. His lips crashed into hers as her arms went around him. He entered her and she moaned, almost cried out, as the sensation of being with him overtook her, leaving her quivering for more. He quickened his pace and Rose wrapped her legs around him, holding him to her.

This time the feel of him sliding in and out of her was all she needed. Rose moaned loudly at the same time as the Doctor, waves of pleasure flowing through her. He slowed his thrusts, resting his forehead against hers. Even as he stilled, he remained on top of her, his warm breath drifting over her skin.

“I love you,” whispered Rose.

The Doctor raised his head to look at her and beamed, his eyes shining with joy. He rolled over, onto his back, taking her with him, keeping her in his arms. “Speaking of, I remember you saying something about me not being the love of your life?”

She tilted her head back to look at him and he gazed lovingly at her. “If you’re the love of my life, then what does that make me?” she asked, feeling slightly uncertain.

“The love of mine,” said the Doctor without hesitation.

She pulled herself up to give him a kiss when the doorbell rang.

“That’ll be our food,” said the Doctor eagerly, sitting up and rushing to put on one of the complimentary robes that had fallen to the floor from the bed.

As Rose got up to put on her robe, the Doctor answered the door. Soon four servicemen came in with large trolleys of food. Steam wafted from some of the plates, while other trolleys looked stacked with pastries.

“You weren’t kidding when you said you ordered enough food for a small army,” exclaimed Rose. “How much did you buy?”

“Everything on the menu,” said the Doctor, tasting some of the food on one of the plates with his finger. The servicemen left one by one.

“I don’t think we can eat it all,” said Rose, surveying the different kinds of food before her.

“Then there'll be leftovers to store in the TARDIS,” said the Doctor, nonchalantly.

The Doctor took two plates over to the area in their room that overlooked the beach. He put the plates on the coffee table before plopping down on the nearby plushy couch. Rose took what looked to be a barbecued chicken wing and sat down next to the Doctor, chewing contentedly on her food. He rested his arm on the couch behind her, eating his food with relish.

Rose stared out of the window at the setting sun, which tinted their room with orange and red. “It feels strange to be here,” said Rose, contemplating her current situation.

“Strange how?” asked the Doctor with his mouth full of food.

She absently took a bite of her wing. “I spent the last three years trying to get back to you, then we just spent a week running for our lives, and now we’re back on New Earth like none of it happened,” said Rose, still staring at the sunset. “Feels like it should be different somehow.”

“It is different, we’ve never been to this New Earth before today,” said the Doctor still focused on his food, chewing his piece of meat with vigour.

“No, that’s not what I mean,” said Rose, turning to look at him.

He stopped eating and looked back at her. “Then what do you mean?” he asked.

When she fought so hard to get back to the Doctor, out of every scenario she imagined, she’d never imagined staying at a grand hotel room in this universe with a human version of the Doctor who could grow old with her. “I guess I sort of expected that we’d be different, that I’d be traveling with the other Doctor and he’d keep me at arm's length like before,” said Rose, finding her admission easy to confess. “I didn’t expect to have you like this...that you’d be here with me like this.”

His eyes swept over her, then with the arm that had been resting on the couch, he pulled her to him. She rested her head in the nook between his arm and chest. “Life is full of surprises,” said the Doctor somberly. “To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be here like this either.” She looked up at him and he smiled down at her. “But I’d rather be here than anywhere else.”

She matched his smile, “Me too,” she said. He then went back to eating with one hand and she held onto her wing, her mind still processing all that she was feeling. She thought back to what Belan had said about the other Doctor and Donna. Rose wanted to know if Donna was still with him or not. But she found she didn’t need the reassurance that Donna was still with the other him. He’d regenerated; perhaps he would be happier as that new man or woman. The Doctor just mentioned that he’d rather be here than anywhere else, maybe after the regeneration the other him might not feel the same? Her thoughts drifted back to Donna. “Do you think Donna is still with him, after he regenerated?”

He stopped eating and looked at her again. “Anything is possible, but since we’re not in the other universe, there’s no way to tell,” said the Doctor. “At this point everything I could say would be guessing.”

Rose leaned away from him. “But even if she isn’t, he’ll find someone else, yeah?”

“He always does,” the Doctor reassured her. He put down his food and turned in his seat to face her better. “Now would probably be a good time to tell you about Ace, my explosion loving companion.”

Rose sat back against the couch, giving him a soft smile. “Then I’ll tell you about Grac’ba,” said Rose.

“Deal,” said the Doctor. “Where to start?” He looked up at the ceiling. “Oh, that’s right, on the planet Svartos…”

He told her all about Ace, all the adventures he had with her, even the one where she almost turned into a cat. Rose then told him the story about Grac’ba. They ate as much food as their stomachs allowed, talking until well into the night, before pure exhaustion overcame them. They crawled into bed and slept peacefully in each other’s arms.

They spent a week on New Earth, exploring the tropical zone, buying parts for the TARDIS using the money Rose had taken from the spacesuit shop on Pyoo, and enjoying one another’s company. The Doctor worked on the TARDIS when Rose needed time to herself. They didn’t run into any trouble, something Rose was completely grateful for.

On the seventh day at the resort, properly rested and re-energized, they went into their new TARDIS, with the console looking more like the old one.

“We’re returning to the moment we disappeared? My mum won’t be kept waiting?” asked Rose.

“Nah, I’d never dream of doing that to Jackie again, not after what I just did with her daughter,” said the Doctor as he piloted the ship.

“Oi!” warned Rose, who had to grab onto the console as the TARDIS took off.

“Off we go!” said the Doctor merrily.

It took no time at all to land back on Earth. Once they touched down, Rose ran out of the TARDIS.

“Mum!” she yelled.

Jackie Tyler rushed over to Rose. “What the bloody hell happened?! You two just vanished into thin air! Did the other one come and pick you two back up?” said Jackie, her voice full of panic. “Is he going to take us home instead of leaving us here in the middle of freezing Norway?”

“No,” said Rose, hugging her mother. “This is our new TARDIS.”

“A new one? Already?” said Jackie, pulling back from the hug. “Not even on Pete’s World for five minutes and you two have a new time ship. What else did I miss?”

“I’ll tell you on the trip home,” said Rose, forcing down a smile.

“I can’t wait to meet little Tony,” said the Doctor, standing behind Rose.

“Don’t call him that anywhere he can hear you or he won’t shut up about it. I know from experience,” said Jackie, a clear warning in her voice.

“Noted,” said the Doctor.

The three of them went into the TARDIS and in another quick moment, arrived at the Tyler Mansion. Jackie rushed out much like Rose had, screaming for her family.

“Pete! Tony!” yelled Jackie. “Pete!”

Pete Tyler, carrying a three-year-old boy, came down the grand steps of the mansion. “Jacks!” he yelled back, hurrying down the steps to meet his wife. “Thank goodness you came home safe and sound,” he said when he finally came near enough to hug her. “Tony’s been asking for you.”

Breaking the hug with Pete, Jackie held out her hands towards the little boy. “Come here my big beautiful boy, come to mummy!” cooed Jackie. Pete gave Tony, who went willingly, over to Jackie.

Pete finally took notice of Rose and the Doctor, his eyes widening at the sight. “I’m surprised to see the two of you,” he said, glancing behind them at the blue police box. “And your ship. I thought you’d be staying in the other universe.”

Rose and the Doctor exchanged looks. Rose didn’t exactly want to get into the details of what happened, because it would take too much time. The Doctor turned back to face Pete first. “I decided a change of scenery was in order,” he said.

Pete came over to Rose and she gave her father a hug.

Jackie, carrying Tony, walked over to the Doctor. “Tony, say hello to the Doctor,” said Jackie soothingly.

Tony tucked in his chin. “Hello Doctor,” he said shyly.

The Doctor smiled big for Tony. “Hello Tony!” said the Doctor excitedly. “It’s nice to finally meet you!”

Tony hid his face, turning away from the Doctor, and clung to his mother. “He’s always been shy with strangers, but give him time, he’ll come around,” said Jackie, patting Tony’s back. “Then he’ll be stuck to you like glue.” Jackie tried to look at Tony, but failed. She glanced at the clock on the wall and turned back to face the Doctor. “I better take him up for his nap.”

Jackie climbed the stairs with Tony, leaving Pete with Rose and the Doctor. The three of them stood there, at the bottom of the stairs near the TARDIS, in awkward silence. The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck while Rose pursed her lips.

Pete cleared his throat. “What will you two do now?” asked Pete.

Rose and the Doctor glanced at each other. “Oh, same old life,” said the Doctor readily.

“Yeah, it’s back to the TARDIS for us,” said Rose with a smile.

Pete looked at Rose, then the Doctor, before his eyes settled on the TARDIS. Rose could see the wheels in her father’s head turn as he remembered all the stories she’d told him about the adventures she’d had with the Doctor. “I’d better contact Torchwood, let them know you’re here,” said Pete, pulling out his mobile. “Good to see you again, Doctor, Rose.”

He left in a hurry and Rose laughed. The Doctor laughed with her, his eyes full of mischief. Once she was done, she hopped up the stairs two at a time.

“Where are you going?” called the Doctor.

She stopped and turned to look back at him. “I thought I better pack some clothes,” she said, glancing down at her jacket. “These are still in tatters.”

He smirked and put his hands in his pockets, his chin held high. “Or we could go to Xantia X and shop for clothes at their supermarket,” cajoled the Doctor. “It’s where I got my suits.”

“What, shop in an alien supermarket?” she asked, knowing the answer.

“With anti-gravity transports, instant transmat capabilities, and twenty floors of shops,” said the Doctor, opening the door to the TARDIS and stepping aside for her.

With a grin and a feeling of elation, Rose dashed down the stairs and into the TARDIS. The Doctor chased after her and they stood around the console in no time.

"So where to first? The supermarket? Or we could hold off on shopping and go forwards, backwards, or somewhere in the present," said the Doctor.

"I dunno, what do you think?" asked Rose, grinning gleefully.

“I think...,” said the Doctor with a smile of his own, “...we ought to go star hopping.”

“Fine by me, so long as we’re together, yeah?” said Rose, still smiling.

“Together,” agreed the Doctor, reaching out and pulling her to him.

He kissed Rose with one arm holding her. With the other, he pulled a lever on the console and they headed towards their forever.

The End