Standard disclaimers, dis-standard claimers, yadda dee yadda doo. Thanks to Erica for the beta, and thanks to Krypto for making me stop.

…Also, if I'm slow replying to your reviews, it's cuz I'm gunna be tied up for the next few days having surgery and those heartless bastards at the hospital don't have wireless

XYZ

"Sunshine People"

Chapter 8

XYZ

The Doctor's mind seemed to come to a screeching halt. There was the need for up, there was the total lack of up, and there was his teeth rattling…

The shining floor beneath them was clattering as the plates began to loosen. A few more hoses and pipes had let loose, forcing steam and other miscellaneous things to come shooting out and through the wall plates behind him.

Which inspired a simply marvelous idea, if he did say so himself—and he did.

Running back TOWARDS the shaking chamber, he began looking around for a mess. Still holding onto his neck, Violet muttered something about "the antithesis of a plan," but he didn't pay much attention. He needed to just get on with this, if it was going to work.

Stopping at a splatter, he put her down when the cleaning disks came. One patched the pipe while seven others cleared the chunky liquid off the trembling floor. Waiting until they were done, he aimed the sonic screwdriver at one, causing it to hesitate and not zoom off with the others.

Kneeling next to it, he flipped it over, looking at its cleverly simple interior. "Oh, I've still got a few plans left in me," he told the girl, as he began re-imagining the brain of the thing. Finished, he flipped it back over, changed to setting 875 and informed it to call over its little buddies.

"Right-o. See? I can handle up." Not waiting for another smart remark on her part, he grabbed her hand and they hopped on the mass of cleaners that had assembled. It was a good thing too, the tiles beneath them were swishing back and forth, as if they were ice floating on water.

He'd programmed them to seek the surface, and the TARDIS' living material, and was kind of shocked when the ceiling plates actually separated and rearranged to allow them passage. And upward they went, the plates and cables trembling around them, things sliding back and forth as they went up through the floors.

The scraping sounds were increasing, and so was the acrid and very dead smell of the released fluids. Other cleaning disks scooted past in the opposite direction, going towards each successive new eruption of a pipe or valve, trying to contain it all.

The Doctor held Violet close to him, practically pushing her small body into his leg. He'd be damned if he made it this far only to have her lose her balance, or something else equally stupid.

Something… like…say…the timed charge hitting zero. Something like a wave passing through as the energy from the once-living beings redirected, having no receiver to collect it, passing through everything in its wake until it dissipated.

They continued upward, everything around them losing viscosity as the battery failed. Things fell as their solidity failed, past them and onto them. The Doctor leaned over the girl, attempting to shield her from the worst of the debris.

When he could see beautiful, natural non-eye-stabbing light, the girl stiffened in his grasp. "Oh no," Violet muttered, her arms clamping around his leg, her nails digging into flesh that really could have done without the Jackie Tyler manicure lacerations.

Hand on her shoulder, he almost begged her off, until he felt it too—the cleaners losing speed, trembling… then breaking apart with the surface in sight. He gripped her tighter, but as they hit that moment of weightlessness that always preceded freefall, he didn't really see what good it'd do.

XYZ

As consciousness slowly returned, the Doctor did some checks. He could feel all of his limbs… fingers, toes, all those fine appendages. On the other side of his eyelids (which he hadn't yet chanced to open), there was some kind of light. It wasn't the blinding blue-white brightness of the insides of the junk planet, but he wasn't lying in a pit of blackness, which ruled out him having fallen to the depths of the planet, or floating around in the darkness of space (that whole thing where his body imploded aside).

Wiping his tongue around his teeth, he ventured to guess that he hadn't regenerated (really—he was obsessing over it. Ya fall from one communications tower and regenerate, and it invades every third thought for the next several hundred years). Slowly opening his eyes, he closed them again a moment later, deciding from the pain level that he'd either gotten a royal conk on the head, or he'd imbibed a keg all on his own.

Oh he did so hate being unconscious. There was no telling what had transpired in all that time. He could be who-knew-where, Violet could be…

Forcing his eyes open, he looked up at the control column in the TARDIS. Well, that was promising at least.

Maybe he'd just fallen asleep.

Was it too much to ask that the whole last day had just been a bad, if very vivid, dream? It sure had seemed like a dream. Being trapped within the planet—it had been like running and running and never getting anywhere. Or continually not finding the secret to advancing to the next level in a video game. And then once he'd found it…everything had come tumbling down around them…quite literally. It also seemed to have made about as much sense as some of his dreams.

If that were the case, how far could that particular line of logic play out? What about the whole last week—or worse, the last month? Looking around the control room, he found himself to be entirely alone. Was it even possible that the whole last month that he'd spent, getting to know Violet, had all been some kind of fantastic cranial-trauma dream? He'd be really, REALLY upset, mostly with himself, if that were the case. And if so, what strange corner of his mind had she crawled out of?

As his senses returned, he could hear the ship cranking through space and time, the pistons sliding up and down in the control column. The ship itself hummed with life, seemingly pretty content with herself. Grabbing hold of the railing near his head, he dragged himself to a sitting position and let out a moan. "I'd ask what happened, but I know you wouldn't tell me."

The TARDIS hummed on, oblivious to the inquiry.

Taking in a few deep breath to clear the thorough head-scrambling, something bit at his nostrils. Something was burning.

Stumbling to his feet, he glared at the control column, as if that would somehow get the ship to 'fess up. It seemed suspicious that she'd allow something to burn somewhere within her, and hadn't filtered the air had something slipped by her internal sensors. "I really don't understand what it is that I've done to raise your ire," he grumbled to the ship, heading off towards the smell.

XYZ

From the doorway, Violet heard a sharp intake of breath, and she paused, her mouth hovering open and the toast at her lips. "I don't want to know."

Ever so slowly, her gaze met the Doctor's. He was leaning against the doorjamb, running a hand through his hair, the way he always did when he was Captain Insano-tired. She wasn't a big fan of sleeping, but he seemed to take it to a whole new level. The number of times she'd actually seen him sleep could probably be counted on one hand.

He tapped his head against the door frame a few times, letting out a long puff of air between his closed lips. It was probably true that he could go to sleep standing up right now, but it was also very obviously true that she was in trouble.

Attempting to pretend like she hadn't noticed his rather…severe reaction, she bit into the toast, concentrating as hard as possible on chewing, then began counting silently to ten.

She got to eight before he even moved. Taking only one step into the kitchen, he began patting all of his pockets. "Where is my sonic screwdriver?"

Violet tried to innocuously tug her napkin over it, but she was caught, fair and square. She tried to chuckle innocently as the Doctor sauntered over to retrieve his nicked tool. "I was hungry."

The Doctor looked around at the destruction. Only one of the cupboard doors was less than functional, hanging at a diagonal from its top hinge. There were singed crumbs all over the table, four pieces of carbon shaped like bread slices, one entirely exploded appliance, and another shooting both sparks and foam. "NOT a toy."

The girl shoved the rest of the toast into her mouth, then brushed the crumbs from her hands. "Number seven," she said. "It's the best."

"Ooohkay." Walking over to her, he put a hand on the back of her chair, suddenly realizing why the large packet of instructions hand-written by Rose, detailing 'care and feeding' for Violet, explicitly stated she was not allowed to make anything more complicated than a sandwich for herself (and not anything that involved a condiment or a knife).

Priming a planet to blow and destroying killer robots with their own cleaning devices seemed a little far off for the girl at the moment, or possibly a little Rain Man.

Avoiding asking the most obvious questions, the Doctor stopped the sparking, foaming and slightly rabid looking appliance then fixed the cupboard door. It allowed him a few minutes to his thoughts.

Back to the table, the Doctor swung the door back and forth on its repaired hinge. "So…tell me how this all worked itself out." Sounded open-ended enough.

Violet took the hint that it was time to at least make it look like she was trying to help clear her mess and began pushing the burnt crumbs into a pile. "First, I tried to get THAT thing to work," she pointed to the now-exploded appliance. "Then I broke that one…" she pointed to the formerly-foaming appliance. "And I tried to fix it, but that's how I found out what number seven did…so then I tried to just toast the toast with it…" She frowned, growing thoughtful. "Also, I think we're going to need more cheese. Seven's my new favorite setting, by the way."

The Doctor slid the object of their tussle into his breast coat pocket. Out of sight, out of mind, he hoped. "This is a little difficult for me…mostly because I never wanted to turn into my father, but you realize there's going to be no pocket money this week."

She shrugged, indifferently. "Yeah. I figured that out about the time I disintegrated the cheese with two-two-two. Well, it's not disintegrated, exactly. The stuff that melted, then vaporized is probably still stuck to the inside of the toilet walls…"

Overwhelmed by the absurdity, the Doctor started laughing and crushed her in a giant bear hug. "There's a reason why children are adorable. It's so we don't kill you when you're young."

The words were a bit harsh, but there was such adoration in the way it was said, Violet had to hug him back. "Yeah. It's why baby animals have big heads, too. I think you're crushing me." She let out a fake choking cough.

Letting go, he looked her square in the eye, grinning. "Alright. YOU get to pick where we go next." He held up a finger. "IF you can tell me how I ended up on the floor in the control room."

Violet shrugged, her face practically breaking from the grin spread there. The cat that ate the canary, that was her, alright. "Well, first we were going up, then we weren't going anywhere at all, and then we were going back down, and we very nearly almost smashed into the ground. Well, it wasn't the ground. It was actually the center of the planet, which was molten metal, or so the TARDIS says, but anyhow, we were going straight for it, but the TARDIS caught us. I landed on you, and you landed on the floor, head first. Which totally musta hurt. I was gunna tie you up and take the screwdriver, just ta test it out, you see, but TARDIS said you could get out of any knot I could tie in lickidy split time, so I just poked ya ta make sure you were out, and then I made some dinner. Or tried to. I'm still hungry, by the way."

Her rapid-fire recap almost made HIS head spin, and suddenly the Doctor realized just how bombastic and annoying he'd been for the last nine centuries. That was one of the powers of children, he supposed…they had the ability to reflect something of yourself that you'd never seen before. "So, where to?" AFTER they cleaned up all these messes, of course.

Lips pressed tightly together and brow furrowed, Violet thought about it. "Dunno. Some place not quite so bright. Maybe back to the planet with three suns," she teased.

The Doctor rubbed her head, smashing her wild hair back and forth. "Too bright for ya?"

Violet shrugged. "Just as long as my eyeballs don't pop out, and the place isn't filled with those people, sunshine still isn't all that bad."

THE END.

Thanks again for putting up with this fic for so many chapters. To the folks who left feedback saying they enjoyed it—thank you very much. I had fun writing, and it's always just a bit more fun knowing someone else is getting some fun out of it too. So much fun, so little time : )