shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,

"A Choice of a Lifetime" - chapter 6/6

Last chapter! Like I said earlier, I think this one is rather fun.

Word count: 6296

Previous chapter

With her very limited role in David's final episode of Doctor Who - in fact, she was only in a few scenes - Catherine had only planned to stay in Cardiff for a few days, for rehearsals and filming. Thus, it surprised her when David sought her out and invited her for dinner at his house. She'd been there once before, at a small party he'd thrown at the end of the series four filming, but while they'd enjoyed a good working relationship and were hoping to work together in the future, they hadn't spent much time with each other outside of the studio. That was mostly due to time constraints, both from the long days of filming and her devotion to her family when she had the time to spare.

The previous time she'd been at the house, she had been surprised, though pleased, at its austerity. It was sparsely but comfortably furnished, and she should have known that David was not one for flashy displays. He did have a state-of-the-art stereo system, which was only to be expected of a self-professed record geek. He was likely to have some of the best music playing throughout the evening and she was looking forward to that.

Knocking on the door, she only waited a few seconds before the familiar Scottish brogue called from deep inside, telling her that he was hung up but would be there soon. After a minute, the door opened to reveal the thin pole of a man, wrapped tightly in an apron and blotting his hands dry with a towel. "Catherine!" He grinned, his eyes gleaming, and he stepped forward to give her a warm hug.

"Who else?" She squeezed him tight.

"Come on in." He held the door for her as she stepped in. "Dinner's almost ready. You can drop your things in there, and then join me in the kitchen?"

"Right." He dashed off down the hallway while she turned into the sitting room. It was not exactly as she remembered it: this time, dominating the room was a full-sized TARDIS prop. Dropping her purse on an ottoman, she rolled her eyes and shook her head, then made her way to the kitchen.

"You've got a great big bloody blue box in your living room," she announced as she entered. David was ladling sauce onto the pasta on each of the two plates on the counter.

"Yeah. Kinda takes up too much space." He dropped the pot back on the stove, then shoveled fillets of fish from a pan. "I hope you don't mind broccoli. I was hoping for beans and cauliflower, but they just didn't look that good at the market."

"Broccoli's fine. I like broccoli." She leaned on the counter. "Maybe you should put that TARDIS out back. It really makes that room look tiny."

Slipping off the apron and hooking it on the refrigerator handle, he scooped up the two plates to take them to the dining table, calling back over his shoulder. "Nah. It won't be there much longer." Returning to the kitchen, he pulled a bottle of white wine from the fridge. "Wine? Otherwise, I've got juice and milk. No beer, but a bottle of single-malt scotch my brother sent me, if you like."

"Wine's fine. Where's the glasses?" He indicated the cupboard, and she pulled down two wine glasses and followed him to the dining room. "It smells delicious!"

"I hope it's good," he commented as he poured two glasses of wine. "I don't get the chance to cook much. Thanks for joining me."

"Thanks for the invite." She picked up her glass and raised it in toast. "To good times and great friends."

"Aye." They clinked glasses and took a sip each. "I really wanted the company. And it's been what, a year since the end of last season’s filming?" He picked up his fork and cut into his fish.

"Oh my. This is wonderful!" Catherine dabbed her lips with her napkin. "'I hope it's good', pfah! You never think what you do is any good, do you?"

David shook his head, smiling. "I just follow the recipe. It's all right there on the paper."

"Well, then, your paper's a good cook." She winked.

As they ate, they chatted about current work and reminisced about their past season. Catherine filled him in on her current ventures and told stories about her daughter, now that she was old enough to go to school. Strangely, he didn't talk much about his life outside of work, and she was intrigued enough about one thing she knew about his career that she decided to ask him about it.

"So, tell me if I'm prying too much here, but I was wondering, why did you back out of the RSC's Hamlet? I mean, it must have been quite a shock for them, losing their leading man after all of the performances were sold out." His expression didn't change, and she knew he'd been expecting the question.

He placed his fork on the plate and sipped his wine before replying. "Honestly? There's just other things I need to do in my life right now. Hamlet would have tied me down for way too long."

"Tied you down?" Catherine frowned and studied his face. It wasn't like David to be depressive about his life. That was her attitude, not his. "But you're not contracted for any other work that I've heard, are you?"

"No, not really."

"Then what is this secret plan of yours?"

Licking his lips in that absent way he had, he stared at the remnants of his pasta. "Well, it's not secret, per se. Though I suppose no one really knows. I... I'm just taking a break, is all. Going away, trying new things." Glancing up, he frowned as he noticed his guest staring at him. "What?"

She shook her head. "Nothing. I just never noticed how golden your eyes are. I always thought they were brown."

He shrugged. "They are brown. Must be the light in here."

"I guess. So what are these new things?"

He shrugged and stared anywhere except at her. "I don't know."

Catherine's heart sank into her stomach at the desperation in his voice. She reached over the table and covered his hand with hers. He was quite cold to the touch. "David. What's wrong?"

He sprang from his seat and strode into the living room, muttering, "I knew I shouldn't have done this! I knew I wouldn't be able to take it!"

Catherine followed him. "You shouldn't have done what?"

David was pacing around the room, spinning frequently as his long legs chewed up the floor space that was limited by the big police box, and his guest stood in the door to stay out of his way. The actor scrubbed his hand down around his jaw. "I just wanted a normal night, with a good friend. I just wanted to say goodbye to one person."

The desperation in his voice terrified her. "Goodbye? It sounds like you're planning to kill yourself."

He came to an abrupt halt and turned to face her. "Oh, no. Nothing like like that. Quite the opposite, in fact."

"You're starting to worry me. What's wrong?"

He snorted, shaking his head. "You're going to think I'm barmy."

"I already do, so that's nothing new."

"No, really barmy. As in, lock-him-away-in-a-funny-jacket barmy."

"Got one in the car for you."

He inhaled deep into his chest as he tugged on his ear. "I really shouldn't be telling anyone this."

Coming to a conclusion about what was bothering him, based on his reticence to talk about it, Catherine closed the distance between them and squeezed his arm. She tried to catch his gaze, but he avoided looking at her. "David. You know I've been where you are. Maybe you really don't want to leave Doctor Who, or maybe you're scared about where your career is going to go next. Maybe you feel like you've hit your peak and you won't ever do anything better. I've been there. Let me help. You need someone, before you destroy yourself and everything you've worked so hard for." His eyes met hers, and she swore the golden colour glowed brighter as he made up his mind.

"All right. But you'd better ready your mobile to call the psych ward." He threw his hands up in mock realisation. "I'm probably still in a coma from that accident, aren't I?"

"Accident? What accident?"

Inhaling deep again, he set his jaw. "The reason I quit Hamlet, and the reason I have no more roles lined up..." His tone was serious and forced. "It's because I'm going away. I'm not coming back. I can't."

"What? Where are you going?"

He flung a hand up towards the ceiling. "Out there. Everywhere. Catherine, I'm leaving in the TARDIS, leaving this universe, even."

Her eyes were drawn to the blue box behind him, huge and menacing in this small room, and she unconsciously stepped back, away from the nonsense her friend was telling her. She'd expected anything but this. David was having delusions that his television role was real? It was too ridiculous to believe. He'd always loved the programme, and was always the most enthusiastic person on set, but he was also firmly entrenched in reality and serious about his art. He never once doubted that the Doctor was simply a character he created and brought to life. David wasn't one to play pranks like this, but that was the only reasonable explanation that came to mind. "You're having a go at me, aren't you? See how much ol' Catherine will believe."

He shook his head. "I'm completely serious." He jerked a thumb at the blue box. "This is the real thing."

She barked a laugh. "There is no such thing as a TARDIS, David. That's a made-up thing in a programme on the telly." The absurdity of arguing the point hit her, and she refused to get into such a discussion. "Come on. You're a fantastic actor, the best in the world, but you're not going to be able to convince me that you think all that nonsense is real."

"I don't expect you to believe anything without proof, but here it is, right in front of you." Fishing a key out of his pocket, he spun to the box and unlocked the door. He pushed it open, the slow creak of its hinges eerily familiar. "Take a look."

Crossing her arms, Catherine pursed her lips, trying not to get angry. He was trying to take the joke too far, after she'd tried so hard to show him love and support. She ignored the police box and stared at him. "This is not funny, David."

He sighed. "Just take a look. Here."

He pushed the second door open, and the warm light spilling out of the wide opening finally caught her attention. She stepped toward the box and peered into it. "Oh my god," she murmured. "Where did you get this? How does it do that? It looks real!"

"It is real, Catherine. This is the Doctor's actual TARDIS."

"That's..." Words failed her as she stared into the box. "No. I'm dreaming."

"You're not. Step inside. You'll see."

Breathing hard a few times to work up her courage, she approached the box and stepped over the threshold into the vast chamber that housed the main console. She stared around at the domed space, at once so familiar, as she had worked in its duplicate for the better part of a year, and yet so strange since it didn't end where the rest of the studio should have begun. A subtle hum pervaded her senses, giving her the distinct feeling that she was being welcomed and watched at the same time. Panic and confusion flooded her mind and she ran back out. "No no no no no!" That idiot man was grinning at her reaction.

"I told you it was real."

She placed a hand on her chest to calm herself. "How? Where'd it come from?"

"From another universe. Where the Doctor and all the monsters are real."

She licked her lips before she uttered what was probably going to be the silliest thing she'd ever said. "You're actually the Doctor, then."

He shook his head. "No. Well, yes. Sort of. I was, but I'm not now." Cocking her fists on her hips, Catherine stared at him with sarcastic disgust. If he wasn't the Doctor, he certainly was sounding like him. He begged for a moment of patience with two upright forefingers. "It's a very long story. What can I say that won't make me sound like a complete lunatic? Think of all the crazy stuff that Russell and the others wrote for us. The reality is far weirder. Apparently, I was the Doctor, truly, but made human, but then..." Shaking his head, he gazed at the the ceiling while his tongue traced the edge of his upper teeth. "This sounds ridiculous even to myself, and I lived through it. The Doctor - the future Doctor, the one that looks like Matt Smith, not the one that looks like me - he created a new body for me and transplanted me into it, so that the Doctor - my Doctor this time - could return."

Catherine blinked. She opened her mouth to say something, then snapped it shut again with a pop. Inhaling through her nose, she closed her eyes for a long moment, then popped them open again to stare at David. "What?"

"Okay. Okay. Never mind the details. Just understand that I was the Doctor, but I'm not anymore. I'm just David now."

She grasped her forehead. "David, this doesn't make sense at all."

"No, it doesn't, but what I'm saying is the truth.” His soft voice was utterly serious. “I went to an alternate universe, where the show is real and the Doctor exists. It's all real, and everything that's appeared on the show has happened there. And that's where I'm going, when I'm done here."

"It's everything you've ever wanted, then. You're going to live your dream."

"No, I'm not. I was already living my dream, on the stage and in front of the camera, creating characters and telling stories. And then the TARDIS came and swept me up, woke me up from it. I love the show, always have, but I haven't wanted that since I got old enough to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. And it's not a good reality. That universe is scary and dangerous. I only spent a few weeks there, and in that time, I was attacked by a Dalek, mind-raped by aliens, and..." Bowing his head, he turned away from her as he spoke. "And I had to choose between killing a good friend or letting other people die. It was horrible."

"But you're going back there."

Crossing his arms, he scrubbed down his jaw with a hand. "Yes. I don't have a choice. I only came back because I wanted to finish this job."

Catherine stepped up to him and squeezed his arm. "But you do have a choice. You have a life - a family, a home, friends, a career - right here. Why would you leave all that and go somewhere you obviously don't want to be?"

"It's because I don't belong here. Not anymore. There's one last thing you don't know, Catherine." He paused to catch her gaze and look directly into her eyes. "I'm not human. I was, before all this happened, but I'm not anymore."

Barking out a laugh, she gaped at him. "What? No, that's absurd. Of course, you're..." Her words trailed off as she caught his look of utter seriousness. If she was able to accept all of the other absurd assertions he had made, why shouldn't she accept this one? She gulped. "What are you then, if you're not human?"

"Time Lord, sort of. Technically Gallifreyan with the extra physical traits of a Time Lord, but I don't have the training or the knowledge to qualify for that name. Something like Georgia's character Jenny."

"So you have the two-heart thing going on, then."

"Yes. You can check, if you like." Pulling back his sleeve to expose his wrist, he held his arm out to her.

She shivered with a sudden urge to not get anywhere near her friend, but held her position. "Er, no, thanks, I don't need to check." As she looked him over again, trying to find any detail that would distinguish an alien David from the human David she knew, a scene from one of her episodes flashed through her mind. In a small voice, she murmured, "This means you can see the future."

David grimaced. He'd obviously been hoping she wouldn't make that connection. "Not like you're thinking. I can't see the future, what's going to happen tomorrow. I understand time. I can see time like you can see a river before you. I can see how it flows, how things might go, how they might not go, how they went, how they might have gone but didn't."

"That's what you see right now?" He nodded, and Catherine shook her head. "I never understood what that line of yours meant, and I still don't. Doesn't matter." She chewed on her thumb. "You can do that mind-meld thing, too, then?"

He nodded. "It's called touch telepathy."

This time, her reflexive response was to stumble back a couple of steps, as if afraid he was going to touch her, and she immediately apologised. "Oh! I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay. I understand. I wouldn't want to touch me either." He gave her a reassuring smile. "It's not just a touch, really. I'd have to concentrate. Really try."

"Oh." She didn't really understand; science fiction had never been an interest of hers, so the concept of mind-reading was not relatable. "And..." Her breath stuttered as she inhaled. "And I guess this means you're going to regenerate when you die. Go all glowy and yellow and turn into someone else. Matt Smith, I suppose."

"No. That's one thing I won't be able to do. I can't regenerate. But I am going to live a long time." His eyes glistened. "If nothing untoward happens, over a thousand years."

His despair at being alienated from everything and everyone he'd ever known and knowing he would outlive all of his friends, past and future, radiated from him, washing over her. Her knees buckled beneath her, and she stumbled over to the sofa, dropping onto it. "Bloody hell." She scrubbed over her face with both hands. "Oh god." She knew she was just rambling to break the silence. "I can't believe this. How can this all really exist? It's just a show. We made it all up, didn't we?" Her head snapped up. "Does that mean all of the other characters exist there, too?"

David bit his lip and hesitated before replying. He knew what she was thinking. "Yes. It does."

"So there's a Donna."


The colour drained from her face. "There's an actual woman who went through all of that horrible stuff."

David turned toward the wall and breathed heavily into his hands. "Yes, there was," he whispered.

"A woman who looks exactly like me," she continued to mumble. Without daring to look at him, she whispered, "Have you met her?"

A heavy silence hung in the air before he replied. "Just once, just for a moment. She didn't... It was after she lost her memories, so there wasn't... it wasn't..." He couldn't continue.

Catherine chewed on her lip as she tried to imagine this woman, whom she played on a television programme, actually existing. A thought occurred to her, and pursing her lips, she wondered out loud, "Does that mean there are universes out there for all the stories we tell? Is there a Lauren Cooper somewhere?"

David turned back, aghast. "Oh, please, no. I don't know, but I really hope not. One impossible universe is already more than I can handle."

Catherine plopped back against the couch. "So, that's it, then. You're going to get in that TARDIS and fly away forever."

"Yup. Like an execution. Last meal, last request, and I'm gone."

"Oh." She picked at a fingernail. "I had thought you were going to finish the episode. What should I tell them? Or should I keep mum and be surprised like everyone else?"

"Oh!" David ran a hand through his hair. "No, the filming's done. It's hard to remember; I'm not used to this yet." He quirked an embarrassed grin at her. "I wanted to finish filming all the episodes I was contracted for. I'm all done with that now and came back to this night for this. To me, I invited you to dinner months ago. Then I went and spent the night at a hotel in Bristol, so I wouldn't meet myself." He shrugged. "You'll see me at the studio tomorrow, and you'll throw me a sad little smile, and I won't know how to react, but I'll wink back at you." He stared at his shoes. "It's better this way. People will realise I'm gone in a few months, well after the last day of filming, and since you'll have seen me months before, they won't connect you with my disappearance."

Catherine stared at him, chewing her lip and finally uttering the only thing she could think to say. "Blimey."

He stepped over and gestured at the empty space on the couch. "Is it okay if I...?"

"Hm?" She glanced at the seat. "Oh yeah. Go ahead."

He sat on the far end of the couch, taking care to not allow his long limbs to encroach on her space. "Thanks. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. Long streak of alien nothing next to you."

"No, it's okay. I'm okay with it. You don't look... I mean, you still seem... You're still the same, to me. Oh!" Her eyes widened with understanding. "Your eyes! That's why they're different!"

"Sort of, yes. My eyes glow, just a tiny bit. More when I lose control. It would have been a problem with the filming, but the Doctor made me some coloured contact lenses that make my eyes look normal. Of course, I'm not wearing them now." He shrugged. "But the eyes, that's not a Time Lord thing. That's a side effect of, well, of something that's really hard to explain and not at all important."

He sat staring at his hands folded in his lap, looking lost. Catherine scooched over next to him and took his hand in hers, curling her warm fingers around his icy ones. He jerked at the contact, surprised that she was willing to touch him at all. "You really are still the same to me, you know. At the script reading, you still had that excitement, that passion that's just so you."

"That was an act. Showing off my skills, I suppose. Time Lords don't have passion."

"The Doctor is passionate."

"The Doctor has never been a good Time Lord."

"No. Not even you can fake what I saw." She squeezed his hand. "I can't imagine what it's like for you, on set and pretending when you know it's all real, but you're still happiest there, playing your character and telling your stories. Maybe you're not physically human anymore, but you're still you, and that's who you are. You can't hide that."

His first genuine smile in a while broke his gloom. "I do love it. I thought... When I came back to start filming again, I thought it would feel so fake, so pointless. I mean, you've seen the console chamber. The room is whole, with no cameras and mics and lights. I've stood on the threshold of that box, looking out into space, not just at a green screen. And playing the Doctor, the man I actually was! I thought it would feel like a farce. But I got the first script in my hand and I studied it, and it just blossomed in my mind. I can't describe it. I know it's a true story and maybe that makes me want to tell it even more."

Closing his eyes, he pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "The terrible part, though, is knowing how it's going to end. He doesn't know, of course, and I can't tell him, but it breaks my hearts every time I look at the script. He deserves so much better."

The plural word "hearts" dropped another rock into the pit of Catherine's stomach, but she forced herself to ignore it and pay attention to what he said. Both hands clapped to her mouth as the horror hit her. "Oh god! It's all real for you, isn't it? The planet's going to appear in the sky, and everyone's going to turn into John, and the Doctor's going to die for Bernard, isn't he?"

"Yes. And he's going to doom the Time Lords to death again."

"But you know what's going to happen! You can change it. Tell him!" She thought back to the events they covered in the initial script reading. "That first part. Tell him to go right to Earth and stop that scene between John and Alexandra."

David regarded her with a steady gaze. His sorrow was gone, replaced by an almost icy detachment. "I can't do that. I don't know that I just wouldn't make things worse, and I can't let him know his own future. That's one of the Laws of Time and I can't break it."

"Not even to save his life and the planet, and prevent him from having to kill his own people again?"

"No, not even for that."

She frowned. "This isn't like you, David. You wouldn't put some bloody law above everyone and everything else."

"That's who I am now. I can feel it, you know, in my head. When I think about questions like that, I can feel my human gut instinct warring with the Time Lord logic and responsibility." He squeezed her hand. "Understand this. At the most basic level, the Laws of Time were established because tinkering with time in certain ways could damage the universe irreparably. It's worth far more than the life of a single man, or even the suffering of an entire planet."

Catherine shook her head. "I can't imagine that."

"But I can. I can see the consequences of such an action very clearly. I want to help him. I really do. But I can't, not like that. But!" And a wide smile spread across his face. "I know how I can help him, in another way. And I have you to thank for it."

"Me? What did I say?"

"Nothing. I said it, actually, but I wouldn't have thought of it if it hadn't been for you." He rubbed his hands together with a shade of his normal eagerness. "The Doctor's promised to train me for a while, so that I can learn who I am now. And, in fact, these months I've been working on the last two episodes, I've been spending my evenings studying." He pointed at a stack of books on a side table. "The Doctor says my Gallifreyan is getting rather good. But," and he held up a finger, his eyes twinkling, "he should have another student, one that he truly wants aboard the TARDIS."

Catherine cocked her head at him in surprise. "I'm sure he likes you well enough, David."

"Maybe." He shrugged. "No way to tell. He's never been one to say what he really thinks. He feels responsible for my situation, to be sure. But this one, he wants. I know he does. It's someone he doesn't know about, but I do, because television programmes show more than just what's happening to the main character."

"Who is it?"

David grinned at her with a mischievous wink. "You'll find out, when I tell him. You'd like to meet him, wouldn't you?"

Smothering her mouth with one hand, Catherine blinked at him as she thought. "Yeah. Yeah, I suppose I would. I can't pass that up. But it's gonna be weird. One question, though."

"Of course. What is it?"

"Why me?"


"Why did you choose to tell me about all of this? I mean, we're good friends and we work together like a dream, but you've got family who are going to miss you, and friends who are closer. If there was anyone I'd think you'd want to share this with, it'd be Barrowman."'

"Because..." David breathed in deep before he continued. "All I really wanted was to get to say goodbye to someone who would know where I went and knew I didn't want to go. Frankly, my family would have gotten too emotional and I couldn't deal with that. Well, I did go back to visit my mum, before she passed away." He bit his lip before he continued. "I was in the middle of filming and couldn't get away to see her as often as I'd hoped, but I got this one last chance. I've been so lucky: who ever gets to go back and make things right?" He smiled sadly. "Anyway, I thought about telling John, but you know, anyone like him would get that dreamy look in their eyes as they realised it was all real. But not you. You're my good friend, but you're not invested in the fiction. You just listened to everything I told you without excitement or jealousy. And you appreciate how difficult this is for me."

He turned to her and took both her warm hands in his. "Catherine, please remember me. That's all I want. Someone to remember who I was, and who I became, and where I went. People are going to be shocked when I disappear, and then I'll become just a curiosity, this actor who vanished mysteriously. I want you to be the one who will remember me as a real person."

"Of course, David. I will always remember you." She leaned over and hugged him tightly, sniffling as her eyes filled with tears. He held her close and buried his face in her hair.

When they finally broke apart, he squeezed her hand again. "Thank you. It's not going to be all bad, you know. Just different. I'm sure I'll find a place for myself, something that I want to do and be."

It suddenly all clicked in her mind. "You're going to be just like the Doctor, aren't you?"

He smiled, and though a faint blush tinged his cheeks, his eyes shone gold. "It's a tempting thought. Travel the universe, meet all sort of aliens, do some good, save some lives. You know, do something meaningful with this chance I've been given." He shrugged. "Nah. I don't think I can do that. I'd probably just get myself killed, the first time I step out of the TARDIS. I'll find something to do, make myself useful."

Catherine shook her head. "I think you'll make a brilliant Doctor, David." She patted him smartly on the knee. "Come on. Introduce me to the real thing. This evening can't get any more surreal than it already is."

"All right." Standing up, he offered her a hand to help her up, which she took with a smile.

"You're not going to dress like him, are you?"

David smirked. "I have not yet felt any compulsion to limit my wardrobe to one or two styles, or to make questionable fashion choices. I did, however, get to keep the brown suit and the coat from the set, and whilst I did bring them with me, I don't plan to actually wear them."

"Good, because that's really where I draw the line. Start wearing an overly-long scarf and I'll have you committed on the spot."

"Oh, now, see, you're not familiar with the other Doctors. Question marks as a decorative motif, Panama hats, and Inverness capes. I could easily get a lot worse." He ushered her to the TARDIS and welcomed her in with a gallant gesture. "He said he'd be in the arboretum."

"Oh, bloody hell," Catherine murmured as she peered around the console chamber for the second time that evening. Just the one room was too much to take in, and now David was saying they'd need to venture further in. Her friend took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze, and, with a slightly braver smile, she nodded her readiness to meet the real Doctor.

. _ . _ . _ . _ .

Dashing down the sheet-metal hallway, the woman was grinning broadly even as she calculated just how likely it was that the soldiers would catch her. They really only needed to get within ten feet for their stunners to be effective and she was probably foolish to count on their plastiflect armour to weigh them down and make it harder for them to navigate the narrow corridors compared to her own unencumbered agility. She'd gotten the crew of the cargo ship safely into the escape pod and she didn't have far to go to get to her own shuttle - that tiny little ship that had been her home for so long now - but she needed to detour to sabotage the ship’s targeting computer so that they wouldn't get shot down as they fled. Though she chanted under her breath for enough time to do that, she also reveled in the adrenaline flowing through her, and she just loved all the running.

This wasn't really what she expected when she first set out on her journey. She'd had so many grand plans, and it's true, she had so far gotten to see many new worlds. But saving civilisations? She'd done nothing on that sort of scale. She'd travelled from one world to another, in the simple line her shuttle could travel, and helped out where she could. Mostly small, mundane things. Perhaps the most ambitious thing she did was help bring two sides of a bitter war to the negotiating table by adding an alien's perspective to the conflict, but that had been between two clans, nothing near the size of even a small city. It didn't matter, though. She would have plenty of time to learn and grow and accomplish all the things she wanted to do.

She hopped down a ladder to the lower level into the snaky hallways of the engine and mechanics compartments and ran off. She had a superior spatial memory and headed straight for the room that housed the computer mainframe even though she'd only been there once before. Rounding a corner, she sprinted into the chamber that housed the cooling systems and nearly fell over her own feet with surprise as the blast door smashed down closed behind her. She whirled when a placid voice sounded off to her right, to see a man sitting at a console, turning dials and pushing buttons.

"They're quite far behind you. I closed the security doors on corridor seven-lambda-one, and it seems that they never set the password on that system, so now it's a phrase from a Proclaimers song. An obscure one, at that. And now this door is locked. I don't know what the rest of these controls do," he mused as he continued to spin and toggle them. "I hope they're not important."

Despite the strange accent, she recognized that voice at once. "Dad?"

Spinning in his seat to face her, the man certainly looked like the Doctor and she started to run to him, but he held up a hand. "Nope, I'm not 'Dad'. He should be along any minute. I'm David. Pleasure to meet you, Jenny."

She came up short, bewildered. "How -? I mean, who -? Why -?"

He cut her off. "No time. Right now, think of me as a sort of brother. It's too complicated and it's close enough. As far as why, suffice it to say that the Doctor didn't know you were still alive until about two hours ago, and he rushed right off to find you." His eyes sparkled golden. "He was wondering if you would like to travel with us for a while."

"Would I?" She hopped up and down in place. "Yes! Oh, please, yes! Let's go! Oh, but we've got to disable the targeting system first -"

"Already done." The Doctor jogged in through the other door carrying a tangle of wires in one hand. "They had the targeting console deadlocked. However, they also had two other things: one, a shared casing with the navigational system, which wasn't deadlocked, and two, a crowbar." He held up the wires in his hand. "This seemed like the most expedient solution."


Jenny leapt at the Doctor, catching him in a bear hug and hanging off his shoulders. He encircled her with his long arms, the biggest smile David had ever seen on that face - either the Doctor's or his own playing the Doctor - peeking out from over her shoulder. The actor leaned back in his chair, hiding an affectionate grin of his own behind a hand.

"Jenny," breathed the Doctor. He set her back down on her feet, then beckoned at the two of them. "Come on. We've got things to do."

"Civilisations to rescue, creatures to defeat!" chanted Jenny with bright enthusiasm.

"And somewhere, the tea's getting cold," added David.

The Doctor spun with an expression of both amazement and nostalgia. With a breathy "Brilliant!" he saluted David with one finger.

Grasping the Doctor's hand, Jenny offered her other to David, who took it gladly, and as one, the three Gallifreyans dashed into the corridor toward their blue home.

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