Rose and the Doctor had actually managed to go a whole three weeks without any prison cells or running for their lives. Rose was pretty sure that was a new record. After their ordeal with the Master, and then the Titanic straight after, the Doctor had been taking extra care in where he landed the TARDIS, if he landed the TARDIS at all, that is. It hadn’t been an often occurrence of late. The Doctor had preferred to keep them drifting in the vortex.
Rose hadn’t minded the alone time… at first. It had been nice to be in a place where she felt totally safe. Having her mind controlled by the Master for over a year had left her drained and more than a little jumpy. Plus, her and the Doctor had just started their relationship and it was good to be able to get used to that without the interference of others.
Not that there had been much difference to get used to in the first place. Their relationship had stayed pretty much the same as it always had been, just with a few extra stolen kisses and a slightly more awkward Doctor. Rose supposed this was a little bit out his comfort zone.
But as much as the downtime had been refreshing and very much needed, Rose had started to get a little bored. She had first started travelling with the Doctor for the adventure, and she missed it. Three weeks with barely any landfall was a bit much.
So she had asked the Doctor if they could start to get back to their normal life, proper travel, adventure, saving the world, et cetera. At first he had been against it, unsure if they were ready, but eventually she wore him down enough to agree to a small adventure.
A small adventure suited Rose just fine. She wanted to get back into the swing of things but she didn’t want to dive headfirst into it. She had only just stopped having nightmares of everything she had done as the Master’s wife, and she didn’t really want them to return.
And that’s the story of how Rose Tyler had found herself spending the whole day stuck in a cupboard, staring at a computer system that she had no hope of understanding.
The “small adventure” that the Doctor had found for them had been a simple investigation job. Adipose Industries was a new company that made diet pills that had a success rating too high to be believable. But that wasn’t what had attracted the Doctor to the case. The thing that caught the Doctor’s attention was the odd signals that the TARDIS was picking up. All of which seemed to converge at Adipose Industries Head Office in London.
So, with a little help from the psychic paper, they had gotten into the building, done a bit of snooping around, and had found the computer that Rose was now staring at.
Truth be told, the Doctor had done much of the investigating by himself. When they had first gotten into the building they had seen someone point to Rose and whisper to her friend ‘Is that Rose Saxon?’ and after that, Rose had decided it was best if she lay low to maintain their cover… and maybe a bit because hearing that name again had spooked her a little. But she was trying not to focus on that. She wanted to move on.
‘In here,’ she heard the Doctor say from just outside the door. Who was he talking to? And what had taken him so long anyway? He had only gone for a quick recon mission to see if he could find something else out about what Miss Foster, the woman behind Adipose Industries, was hiding.
‘In a cupboard?’ replied a familiar voice. Rose couldn’t quite pick it but she was sure she had heard it before. Whoever it was sounded like she was a mixture of surprised, angry, slightly out of breath… and loving every minute of it.
The cupboard door opened and the Doctor squished himself inside, closely followed by a red-haired woman.
‘Donna?’ asked Rose, surprised. ‘What are you doing here?’
Donna Noble smiled back at her. ‘Looking for you,’ she said and she shoved past the Doctor to give Rose a hug. Then she quickly pulled away and gave Rose’s arm a light whack. ‘Oi! What’s up with you marrying a crazy politician?’
The smile that had appeared on Rose’s face at Donna’s hug vanished. ‘It’s… uh… complicated.’
Thankfully Donna seemed to sense Rose’s distress and changed the subject. ‘So, great big hidden computer thing,’ she said, gesturing towards the computer system behind Rose, ‘what’s that all about?’
‘I've been hacking into it all day,’ said the Doctor, putting on his glasses, ‘because the matron's got a computer core running through the centre of the building. Triple deadlocked. But now I've got this,’ he held up a small pen-like device, ‘I can get into it.’
‘What’s that?’ asked Rose, pointing to the device.
She probably should have guessed that.
‘Nicked it off Miss Foster,’ explained the Doctor before focusing his attention on the computer in front of them. ‘She's wired up the whole building. We need a bit of privacy.’ He grabbed two wires and held them together. Bolts of electricity sparked from the ends of each wire and met between them. Rose figured he must be giving them some sort of force field or shielding. ‘Just enough to stop them. Why's she wired up the tower block? What's it all for?’
‘Did you find anything else out?’ asked Rose while the Doctor fiddled with the computer.
‘The diet pills are turning people’s fat into aliens,’ said Donna. She sounded like she wasn’t sure if she believed it or not.
Rose nodded. She probably should have guessed that one as well.
‘You two seem different,’ said Donna, looking at Rose in concern. 'Doesn't seem like you to be hiding in a cupboard.'
‘A lot’s changed,’ said Rose, toying with the hem of her shirt nervously. Since when did Donna become so observant?
‘I wish I could say the same.’
‘I thought you were going to travel the world?’ said the Doctor, still playing with the wires and the sonic pen.
‘Easier said than done,’ said Donna. ‘It's like I had that one day with you, and I was going to change. I was going to do so much. Then I woke up the next morning, same old life. It's like you were never there. And I tried. I did try. I went to Egypt. I was going to go barefoot and everything. And then it's all bus trips and guidebooks and don't drink the water, and two weeks later you're back home. It's nothing like being with you. I must have been mad turning down that offer.’
‘To come with you.’
‘Come with us?’ asked the Doctor. His tone was confused, as if asking for clarification, but Donna didn’t seem to notice.
‘Oh yes, please,’ she said with a smile. Rose couldn’t help but smile a bit too.
‘Inducer activated,’ said the electronic voice of the computer, distracting them.
‘What's it doing now?’ asked Donna.
‘She's started the program,’ said the Doctor with a new sense of panic. He quickly returned to fiddling with the computer. ‘So far they're just losing weight, but the Matron's gone up to emergency pathogenesis.’
‘What’s emergency pathogenesis?’ asked Rose.
‘Is that when they convert?’ Donna asked and the Doctor nodded.
‘Skeletons, organs, everything. A million people are going to die. Got to cancel the signal.’ He pulled out a small necklace with a pendant on it. ‘This contains a primary signal,’ he explained as he pulled the pendant apart. ‘If I can switch it off, the fat goes back to being just fat.’
He attached part of the pendant to the computer (or inducer or whatever the hell it was) and for a moment, it looked like it had worked. But the moment was short-lived.
‘No, no, no, no, no,’ cried the Doctor, stepping back. ‘She's doubled it. I need… Haven't got time. It's too far. I can't override it. They're all going to die!’
‘Is there anything we can do?’ asked Donna.
‘Sorry, Donna, this is way beyond you. Got to double the base pulse, I can't.’
‘There must be something!’ cried Rose as the Doctor started to flick random switches.
‘I need a second capsule to boost the override, but I've only got the one. I can't save them!’
Out of the corner of her eye, Rose saw Donna pull something out of her pocket. It was a pendent just like the one the Doctor had pulled apart moments earlier. It only took a couple of seconds for the Doctor to notice it too and his face broke into a wide grin as Donna held it up in front of him, a well deserved smug look in her eyes.
The Doctor quickly took the second pendant apart and attached it to the inducer and it immediately powered down.
‘Well done, you,’ said Rose, giving Donna a quick half-hug.
The Doctor’s smile disappeared, replaced by a look of mock offense. ‘What about me?’ he said.
Rose laughed and wound her arms around his neck. ‘You were pretty good too,’ she said before she gave him a hug as well.
She was just about to pull away from him when a loud noise from above made her jump. The Doctor held her a little tighter as they both looked up towards the ceiling.
‘What the hell was that?’ asked Donna, also looking upwards. She looked back down to face the Doctor. ‘When you say nursery you don't mean a crèche in Notting Hill.’
‘Nursery ship,’ said the Doctor.
‘Nursery?’ asked Rose, confused, but she didn’t get an answer. The computer beside them had powered up again. Thankfully, it didn’t seem to be resuming its previous task.
‘Instructions from the Adiposian First Family,’ said the Doctor, letting Rose go and staring at the inducer. There was a pause as he concentrated on the machine. ‘She's wired up the tower block to convert it into a levitation post.’ He made an intrigued sort of noise and Rose and Donna glanced at each other quizzically. ‘Oh. We're not the ones in trouble now. She is!’
He rushed out of the cupboard and Rose and Donna had no choice but to follow him.
‘Doctor, what’s happened? Where are we going?’ asked Rose as she caught up to him.
‘The roof,’ he said. ‘Miss Foster’s in for a bit of a surprise.’
By the time they reached the roof, Rose was a bit out of breath. She hadn’t realised how unfit she had become without having to run for her life every other day. The Doctor didn’t seem to have this problem. He took off his glasses and looked out at the sight before them. Thousands of small white creatures where floating up into a massive spaceship in the sky. Blue lights surrounded them. Rose assumed that they must have been some kind of levitation beams. The Doctor had mentioned the tower being a levitation post.
She looked back up at the ship. Rose had seen a lot of spaceships in her time, but never had she seen one quite like this. It was sort of like a great big flashy spinning top dangling in the sky. It was like something straight put of a cheesy sci-fi flick.
‘What you going to do then? Blow them up?’ asked Donna.
‘They're just children,’ said the Doctor. ‘They can't help where they come from.’
‘Oh, that makes a change from last time.’ She turned to Rose. ‘You must be doing him some good.’
The Doctor smiled at Rose. ‘Definitely,’ he agreed.
Rose couldn’t help but blush from the honesty in his gaze. She smiled back at him for a moment before turning to look back at the creatures floating past. One of them looked down at them and waved. Rose waved back at it and was relieved to see that the Doctor and Donna were doing the same.
‘I'm waving at fat,’ said Donna in a not-quite-believing tone.
‘Actually, as a diet plan, it sort of works,’ said the Doctor.
The last of the creatures were pulled into the ship and Miss Foster appeared beside the rooftop. She was being suspended in the air by the same levitation beam from the Adipose ship.
‘There she is!’ said the Doctor, rushing to the edge of the roof. 'Matron Cofelia, listen to me.’
‘Oh, I don't think so, Doctor,’ said Miss Foster. She was no longer being pulled upwards, instead just floating in the sky in front of them. ‘And if I never see you again, it'll be too soon.’
‘Oh, why does no one ever listen,’ said the Doctor in frustration. ‘I'm trying to help. Just get across to the roof. Can you shift the levitation beam?’
‘What, so that you can arrest me?’
‘Just listen to him,’ pleaded Rose. ‘He’s trying to save you!’
Miss Foster scoffed.
‘I saw the Adiposian instructions,’ explained the Doctor, holding out his hand to her, hoping she would take it. ‘They know it's a crime, breeding on Earth. So what's the one thing they want to get rid of? Their accomplice.’
Miss Foster was either too proud or too stupid to take him seriously. ‘I'm far more than that. I'm nanny,’ she held her arms out wide, ‘to all these children.’
‘Exactly! Mum and Dad have got the kids now. They don't need the nanny anymore.’
Miss Foster didn’t have time to take in the Doctor’s words. The blue light surrounding her disappeared and, for a moment, she just hung there, suspended in the sky, a look of terror on her face. Then, with a piercing scream, she fell towards the pavement below.
Donna hid her face in the Doctor’s shoulder and Rose closed her eyes in defeat. Miss Foster deserved to be punished for the crimes she had committed, but not like that.
Why didn’t she listen?
The walk out of the building was a quiet one. No one seemed to know what to say.
The spaceship had gone, taking all the creatures with it, and the people of Earth had been saved yet again… but Rose didn’t feel victorious. Seeing Miss Foster fall to her death had given her a shock that she wasn’t quite prepared for.
When they made it outside, they saw that the police had arrived and had started to cordon off the area. Rose was worried they might want to ask them questions that they would never believe the answer to but, thankfully, no one seemed to paying them any attention.
Almost no one.
‘Oi, you two!’ came a voice from behind them and they turned to see a woman running towards them. Well, running as best as she could considering she was tied to a chair. She was glaring daggers at the Doctor and Donna, who didn’t seem at all surprised by the turn of events. Just what did Rose miss when she was hidden away in that cupboard?
‘You're just mad,’ continued the woman. ‘Do you hear me? Mad! And I'm going to report you for madness.’
She trotted off, leaving Rose with a million questions that she would no doubt have to ask the Doctor about later.
‘You see, some people just can't take it,’ said Donna, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
‘No,’ agreed the Doctor.
‘And some people can.’ Donna grinned widely. ‘So, then, TARDIS! Come on!’ She grabbed the Doctor’s arm and yanked him away from the building. Rose couldn’t help but chuckle as she followed.
‘Which way?’ asked Donna, releasing the Doctor. He flexed his fingers as if to relieve the pain that Rose was sure didn’t exist.
‘Don’t be so dramatic,’ she teased, taking the hand in hers. ‘This way,’ she said to Donna and she led the way down the street.
Suddenly the Doctor stopped and Rose was pulled to a halt. ‘I almost forgot,’ he said, reaching into his pocket with his free hand. He pulled out Miss Foster’s sonic pen and handed it out to Rose. ‘You’ve been saying for ages that you wanted one.’
Rose didn’t take the offered pen. ‘I said I wanted a screwdriver.’
‘No, it’s not.’
The Doctor looked a little hurt and Rose realised that she may have snapped a little, unintentionally releasing some of her pent up anger about not being able to save Miss Foster.
She knew she shouldn’t feel guilty about what happened on the roof, Miss Foster wasn’t exactly one of the “good guys”, but it just reminded her of all the other people she had watched die recently, while she stood on high, looking down at them.
So yes, she was a bit angry, but at herself, not the Doctor. He didn’t deserve to be snapped at when he was trying to give her an admittedly not well thought out gift.
‘I appreciate the offer, Doctor,’ she said, more gently this time, ‘but I want a sonic screwdriver of my own, not a pen stolen from a bitchy nanny who tried to kill you.’
‘I’ll take it,’ said Donna. Moving too quickly for the Doctor to react, she snatched the pen out of his hand. She threw it in the air a couple of times before holding it up to her face and peering at it intently.
‘Yeah, you’re right,’ she said. ‘It’s rubbish, innit?’ She winked at Rose and then chucked the sonic pen over her shoulder.
Rose let out a chuckle. She knew it was still a bit soon after everything for them to take on another companion, but she was starting to think that she would enjoy having Donna around.
She looked up at the Doctor, checking to see if he had forgiven her for snapping at him. Judging by the small reassuring squeeze of her hand, he had.
‘Come on, let’s go home.’
It wasn't long before they had reached the alley that housed the TARDIS. But the time-ship was not the only thing parked there.
‘That's my car!’ said Donna, excitedly pointing to the blue hatchback. ‘Oh, that is like destiny.’ She ran to the back of the car and unlocked it. The boot was full of boxes and suitcases. ‘And I’ve been ready for this. I packed ages ago, just in case. Because I thought, hot weather, cold weather, no weather. They go anywhere. I've gotta be prepared.’
Donna began to pile her luggage into the Doctor’s arms.
‘And you certainly are,’ said Rose.
The Doctor glanced at her, worriedly. He wasn’t sure if this would be the best idea. The whole reason he had chosen this adventure as their first step back into their normal life was because it was supposed to be relatively easy on Rose. After everything she had been through, she needed to be careful she didn’t over-do it. And having another person on board certainly seemed like a step in the wrong direction.
Looking back on the past 48 hours, he supposed it hadn’t been too bad. Rose had not been in any immediate danger and there had been no real running for their lives (well, not for Rose at least), but that didn’t stop the Doctor from worrying that it had still been too much. Rose had still been jumpy, and she had still had to witness death, which was something the Doctor was avidly trying to avoid. Plus she had been reminded of her un-consented marriage to the Master. Twice.
And yet, she was smiling.
The Doctor once again marveled at how easily Rose Tyler could adjust to this lifestyle. Sure, she still had a long way to go before she would fully recover from what had happened with the Master, but maybe getting back into their usual life wouldn’t be too bad for her after all.
But he still wasn’t sure if she was ready to have Donna join them, as much as he knew she liked the fiery redhead.
The woman in question placed a box on top of the other luggage that was already piled high in the Doctor’s arms. ‘You've got a hatbox,’ he said.
‘Planet of the Hats, I'm ready,’ said Donna excitedly. ‘I don't need injections, do I? You know, like when you go to Cambodia. Is there any of that? Because my friend Veena went to Bahrain, and she... You're not saying much.’
It seemed that the Doctor hadn’t been masking his anxieties as well as he had thought he had been. He put the boxes down so he could talk to Donna properly. She deserved the truth.
‘No, it's just. It's a funny old life, in the TARDIS,’ he began.
‘You don't want me,’ said Donna. She sounded crushed.
‘I'm not saying that,’ said the Doctor, ‘It’s just that, me and Rose, we’ve been through a lot recently. A lot has changed.’
‘I won’t be the third wheel.’
‘It’s not that… hold on, how did you know we were like that?’
Donna rolled her eyes. ‘It’s obvious. And probably long overdue, judging by the way you two were acting the last time I saw you.’
‘Anyway,’ said the Doctor, not wanting to go into the topic, ‘as I said, it’s not that…’
The Doctor trailed off, not knowing how to begin. Rose saved him the trouble. ‘You mentioned me being married to Harold Saxon,’ she said. ‘Well, that wasn’t exactly by choice.’ Donna looked confused but didn’t interrupt. ‘And during that time, I saw… horrible things – we both did - and it was only a few weeks ago for us.’
The Doctor moved over to her and took her hand in his, although whether it was to comfort her or himself, he wasn't quite sure.
Donna nodded understandingly. ‘You need time.’
‘No,’ said Rose, causing both Donna and the Doctor to stare at her in confusion. ‘Quite the opposite really,’ she continued and the Doctor sensed that, even though she was looking at Donna, she was talking more to him. ‘I want to move on. I don’t just want to sit around and wallow in self-pity. I have to do something.’
‘Rose, are you sure?’ asked the Doctor.
Finally, she turned to face him and he could see it in her eyes. She was sure.
But then the look faded and was replaced by uncertainty. ‘Are you?’ she asked him in return.
The Doctor looked between the two women, each of them looking at him with hope in their eyes. How could he say no? Besides, he liked Donna. Maybe having her around would help both of them.
He smiled. ‘Yeah,’ he said and Donna’s hopeful look transformed into a happy grin. ‘I’d love it.’
‘So I can come?’ asked Donna.
‘Yeah,’ laughed Rose and she stepped forward to hug their new friend. A hug that was enthusiastically accepted.
Donna was about to give the Doctor a hug as well when she suddenly stopped. ‘Car keys.’
‘What?’ he asked, a little disappointed that he wasn’t getting the same attention as Rose had.
‘I've still got my mum's car keys,’ said Donna, pulling out the afformentioned keys from her pocket. ‘I won't be a minute.’
Donna ran back down the alley with the keys. What she was going to do with them, the Doctor had no idea but he supposed she would think of something. He waited for her to be out of sight before he turned to face Rose. ‘Really, though? You don’t think it will be too much?’ he asked.
Rose shook her head. ‘I meant what I said about moving on. I just want to put that whole year behind us. A fresh start.’
‘A fresh start,’ agreed the Doctor, moving his arms around Rose’s waist. She instantly put her hands on his shoulders and leant up to place her lips on his in a chaste kiss.
He still wasn’t used to this – this being in relationship thing - but looking down at Rose now, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
Rose smiled back at him for a minute before looking down at the luggage at their feet. ‘I guess we should start lugging all this into the TARDIS.’
A crowd had gathered on the road in front of Adipose Industries. Some people were looking to the sky where, not long ago, an alien spaceship had been. Others were staring at the spot on the ground where a woman had fallen to her death - although, the police had done a decent job of blocking that view from prying eyes. But there was one man who wasn’t looking at either. He was looking at the other people in the crowd, searching for two in particular.
There had just been a great big alien-related spectacle that originated at this building, and usually that meant that somewhere nearby there would be a blue wooden box.
However, it seemed that the man was too late. The Doctor and Rose Tyler weren’t amongst the crowd and probably had already retreated to said blue box and had set off to some other time – some other place. Probably somewhere just as dangerous.
The man took one last glance at the scene in front of him, sighing in defeat. He turned back around just as a red-head woman - who looked far too happy considering there was a dead woman not ten feet away from them – ran up to him.
‘Listen,’ she said to him, ‘there is this woman that's going to come along. A tall blonde woman called Sylvia. Tell her that bin there, all right?’ She pointed to a bin behind her. ‘It'll all make sense. That bin there.’
And with that, the woman ran off.
He considered going and looking in the bin to find out what was so special about it, but he knew he didn’t have time. The Sylvia lady that the woman had mentioned would just have to figure it out without him. After one last glance at Adipose Industries, Mickey Smith walked away and faded out of his home universe and back into the one that had once been dubbed “Pete’s World”. Maybe next time he would get the timing right. Maybe next time he could warn the Doctor and Rose about the stars going out.