When the ship finally stopped rumbling and arrived at its final destination, Violet rolled onto her side, moaning. "I think I just threw up something I ate four years ago." Hand on the white octagonal control column, she stretched her neck and got to her feet.
Across from her, Greg groaned, though whether it was at her quip, or if he'd actually been injured, she couldn't tell. It was a shame, the thing flew like a dream most of the time, but the crossing had been reminiscent of, like, every third trip in the Doctor's TARDIS.
Oh well, Violet thought as she pulled herself up on the console. If one rocky landing while crossing universes was all she had to worry about, then her TARDIS was far superior to the Doctor's. Despite only possessing thirty-seven rooms and the water running cold if you stayed in the shower too long.
She grinned at Greg. "The little TARDIS that could. What did I tell ya?" Well, ok, all of it wasn't just her completely awesome ship, something had happened with the path between the universes lately that had made all of this possible. If it was like a tunnel had been cleared when her genetics began to change as a child, then this was that tunnel being reinforced with large heavy beams. She could get there far easier than was ever manageable before.
This universe felt different than the last time she'd been there, too. It felt…more crowded. In her head at least. It was an odd feeling.
Running a hand through his bushy dark hair to get it out of his eyes, Greg shook his head as he approached the door with her. "Right. I'd like a heaping, steaming side of 'lets not land like that ever again' if I could, please." He slapped her backside as she opened the inner doors. "Y'know… they've waited ten years. Fifteen minutes really isn't going to…" he trailed off when she glared at him like she'd tear his head off. "Fi-ine."
Opening the outer doors, she swatted his hands away, then looked around a familiar room. "Of course. I set the coordinates for NEXT to the Doctor's TARDIS, and what do I get?"
Greg rolled his eyes, patting the closed door of the ship. "Inside the Doctor's TARDIS. There's a rule."
Murphy and Goodwin were really the only two laws the universe abided by. Three years with her grandfather at Torchwood and another seven roaming time and space had impressed that fact upon her rather firmly. "Well, FRED hates me. There is THAT to contend with."
FRED didn't hate them, necessarily. He just…liked to do things his own way. She suddenly longed for other Time Lords to talk to—someone to ask if it was common for a TARDIS to be so willful. She'd suspected for years that the Doctor's ship has it's own agenda, but she never had any idea what her own ship was about. She could tell when he was happy, sad or cross, but that was about it. The whats and whys always eluded her.
She looked around the cargo bay that had become cluttered in her absence, trying to remember being fourteen and thinking of how vast the space was. That was the weird part about time travel—you could go back, but you couldn't ever really…go back. It was the equivalent of returning to the old neighbourhood and remembering the free feeling of riding your bike down the pavement on warm summer days, carefree and in awe at the world. You could remember how great it felt, but it'd never feel that way ever again.
She'd been gone for very nearly ten years…longer than she'd lived here, even…and the place was still home, but it wasn't. All at the same time.
"I guess they're out," she said with disappointment, finding the cargo bay door. "Otherwise, really, I'd have been down here five minutes ago, seeing what had invaded my ship. Of course, the Doctor's old. He might be getting rather lax." She grinned, something a tad malicious glinting in her eyes.
Greg nudged her. "I'll tell him you said that."
Sighing, Violet dug the key out of the pocket of her black jacket. Oh well. She could probably make some repairs to the ship—there always seemed to be something to do.
"Who the hell're you, and what the hell're you doing here?" If the voice weren't so… 'choir boy' and high pitched, she'd have sworn it was the second coming of Jackie Tyler.
Prepared to give an annoying travelling companion a piece of her mind, Violet spun around, mouth open and key pointing at the offending party, but she stopped, staring at him for a moment. He was young, seven, maybe eight, a tad on the husky side—freckled and sporting familiar dark brown hair. The strange feeling in the back of her head… "I could ask you the same thing," she chuckled in amusement, pocketing the now-unneeded key. "And aren't you a little…young to be cursing like a little sailor? Where's the Doctor?"
The boy frowned at her, tugged on the edge of his solid blue t-shirt and gestured for her to follow. "You feel weird," he informed her, leading the way through the ship. "I hope you don't have lergy."
Greg grinned, trying to hold back a chuckle. "Girls're made of germs, y'know," he explained. Just what she needed—her other half siding with some snotty little mini-companion.
Trying to hide her excitement, Violet pulled her long, dark plait of hair over her shoulder crossed her arms over her chest. "Uhh huh. We're everything that's wrong with the world. It's fantastic. So what's your name?"
The boy shrugged. "Rom."
Then again, odd kid.
Violet reached behind her, grabbing Greg's hand. She wasn't sure if it was for comfort or out of habit. "I'm Violet, this is Greg." She was kind of glad they weren't giving full names—neither of them had used their full titles since they'd left Torchwood. They'd only used it there because the government got tetchy about having the tax forms filled out correctly. Violet and Greg, that's all anyone needed to know, and that's all they got, in most cases.
The kid shrugged as they turned into the hall leading to the control room. "Whaddever." He waved to the even younger boy up ahead. "I got 'em. They're, like, totally not evil. Even if they have the lergy."
The boy was sitting on the floor, playing with a wooden train engine, sliding it back and forth along the metal ground with one hand, and was twisting a knob on a broken transponder with the other. "She feels weird."
Yes, Violet felt weird to them, they'd established that. Truth be told, the boys felt quite odd themselves…they seemed to be on the periphery of her subconscious all the time too. Still, they acted like they weren't strange themselves or something. "Hello there," she managed, though. "I'm Violet. Who're you?"
The thin, blonde boy shrugged. "Sometimes Superman, sometimes Batman. I'm Spider-man when the Doctor lets me. But my secret identity is Branden and mostly I'm the Marshin Manhuntow. He shape shifts." The last was said with a reverent whisper.
Greg nudged her with his elbow, and she knew exactly what he was thinking—the kid was too cute, with his delightful dichotomy of large words used correctly and mispronounced names. He couldn't have been more than four or five, and he possessed a vivid imagination, made even more vibrant by spending his childhood in a time-space machine.
It was little things like this that intermittently made her want children. Just now and again, mind. After the way her last mission with Torchwood had been, she wasn't sure she'd ever be ready for offspring, and it seemed like the universe agreed. Otherwise, by now, with the copious amounts of unprotected sex she'd had in the last decade, SOMETHING should have happened. "Aren't you just the most adorable thing, Branden. We're going to see the Doctor. Would you like to join us?"
Thinking intensely, the boy scrunched his nose, then shook his head. "Naw. I lost my marbles in the control room."
Violet had to laugh out loud, rubbing the boy's head as Rom lead them onward again. She'd lost more than just that in the control room. It'd be centuries before they found all of her gumballs, liquorice and Jelly Baby bottoms (there was some kind of rule that you had to eat them head first) somewhere in the depths of the grates and levels of electronics.
In the control room, the Doctor was leaning against the console, arms folded across his green button-down shirt smugly, eyes twinkling. "I kind of had a feeling. You know you almost knocked us off-course and into a sun."
It took a lot of self-control not to grin. "Don't blame me—the mass displacement should have been minimal. I can't help it, if you can't steer."
A half-smile tugging at one corner of his mouth, the Doctor feigned agitation. "Ahh. But I'm not the one who can't park."
With a rush of excitement, she approached, snatching him into a hug. "FRED has a mind of his own, I'm afraid. I've missed you."
His head rested on hers and all was right with the universe. "Ahh, still blaming the ship, I see. Convenient, don't you think?"
His collared shirt was slightly rough against her cheeks and his bony arms cut into her ribs, but it was like Christmas, Chanukah and all those other gift-giving holidays all rolled into one. "I really have missed you," she reiterated, looking around the familiar yet unfamiliar space (WHY did there seem to be a fort made out of cushions near the coat rack?). "Where's mum? And who're these little sprites?"
She noticed Greg standing behind her, arms folded over his long-sleeve pullover shirt, offering the Doctor a tiny wave of hello. In the main doorway were the two boys, looking at her as though she might be the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas all rolled into one.
The Doctor scratched his chin then turned around, flipping switches and spinning dials, changing the course of the TARDIS. He gestured to the children behind them, one looking like he enjoyed his ice cream and the other looking like he never ate at all. "Those two precious little imps are Roman Macedonia Tyler, aged eight and three months, and Brandenburg Tyrol Tyler, four and one month." The boy's head shot up and the Doctor amended himself. "And three days. I think you'll be pleased to note Rom has your ability to find the most trouble possible, then dig himself in another layer or two or three or ten, and Branden swings like Jackie on a tirade and eats his own bogies." His back was to her as he continued to navigate the ship, but she knew he was grinning.
Ahh the stupid old devil HAD listened to what she'd said. Life was for living, after all. The important parts were all the side trips on your way to whatever adventure was possessing the soul at any given time. Her years with Greg had taught her that for certain.
The youngest one rubbed his teeny button nose, then put the smoke stack of his little wooden engine in his mouth. Rom hung onto the doorway like a little kid illicitly watching a scary movie after his parents had sent him to bed. "I don't get into trouble. It sort of… surrounds me," the boy explained. His piercing brown eyes twinkled behind large, full cheeks. He'd grow up to play some full-contact sport, or drink a lot of beer. Possibly both.
Violet had to smile fondly at the boy. "I used to tell myself the saaaaame thing. It's just a genetic predisposition to trouble. I'm at a disadvantage when it comes to staying out of the thick of things. Just admit it, and give in to the madness."
The Doctor pulled her over one more time, kissing her cheek. "It's been…forever, it feels like. How have you two been?"
Greg looked back and forth between the two boys who looked like they were more than a handful. "I suppose we could ask you the same thing, but I can pretty much guess the answer." VERY good. Things had obviously worked out with mum, and he seemed to be much more suited to boys than he'd been to travelling with a small girl…of course, it could have just been her mother's influence.
The Doctor crossed the control room to the youngest boy, taking the train out of his mouth. "You look good. The stubble suits you. Very…grunge," he gestured to Greg's burly chin before turning his attention back to Branden. "What're we up to? We're being good, aren't we? The most well-behaved gentlemen to ever traverse time and space."
The boy nodded solemnly. "We're bein' good for mummy."
Frowning, Violet drew closer to the TARDIS' residents. "And just where is mum?" It gave her a bad feeling, really.
The Doctor gave a careless shrug. "She's with Jack."
The ship lurched as it materialised and he gestured toward the door. "Go on, catch up. I won't make off with your ship." He held up a hand. "Cross my hearts and hope to regenerate… oh never mind. Go say hello to your mum."
The younger boy squealed in alarm. "She's MY mum! You can't have 'er…"
Ahh, some things never changed with the Doctor. Some things were probably always going to be too domestic for him. She smiled though. "Oh, she's everybody's mum."
Too curious as to where they were, Violet opened the doors of the ship without thinking about it. The exterior was dark and there were boxes at her feet. Something thwapped her in the face, and she realized it was a chain. Tugging on it, a single bare bulb came to life.
Oh great, a cupboard.
She felt like going back into the TARDIS and saying 'haha, very funny,' then asking if he'd done something even MORE unfortunate than naming those two innocent little boys after plants, and had named them after the location of their conception. Just when she'd thought adults had found every way possible to humiliate children…
Removing her sonic screwdriver (made hers by the statute of limitations having run out on theft several years ago), she popped the lock, then proceeded onward, past some dingy cells and up a flight of cement steps. She barely heard Greg behind her, but she felt him; she always knew when he was near.
The office itself looked like a disused railway station, she'd noted, when they slipped quietly past the fire doors. Past the water tower lay an assortment of cubicle type desks (sans ugly grey cubicle walls), one of them occupied by a brown-haired woman with short locks, back to the rest of the room. She was unmistakable, despite only seeing her rear.
The woman in the jeans and stylish canvas jacket was clicking on something, then pointing to the text on the oversized monitor.
Captain Jack came around the side of the desk, coffee mug in tow. Placing one hand on the woman's back, he inspected her handiwork. "Nice. That'll cut a few months of the translation."
Sliding a hand across the woman's back, Jack leaned in, kissing her full on the lips. Tongue may have been involved.
Violet stepped forward without thinking of anything besides how…horrible the whole thing was. And disgusting. "Oi, that's my mother, you pirate!"
They both spun around, startled. It was then that she noted her mother's bulge. She looked like she'd burst at any moment. Violet gasped, surprised by the sight of her mother so…pregnant.
Jack grinned. "Nice. Been a while, kid." Guess that meant he'd either been filled in on what he'd missed, after retconning himself, or his memory had been triggered. Which was almost a bit of a shame. Her first adventure with Jack had been a right disaster—she'd come within several inches of regenerating only to hop off to another universe and get herself killed.
Rushing to them, she hugged Jack quickly, and then returned her attention to her mother. Behind her, Jack laughed. "Well, now she's seen the inside of our secret base. We'll haveta kill her and turn the other one into a gopher-assassin."
Her mum explained that she was helping Jack out with Torchwood until the baby was born—TARDIS flight made her so sea sick she thought she was going to die…which was apparently always the first sign that another 'sibling,' as Violet had so aptly put it, was on his way.
Violet had to giggle. "See, my advice isn't so bad, after all."
Allowing Rose to pull both her and Greg into an enormous bear hug that more closely resembled an oozing peanut butter sandwich, Violet couldn't help but grin. "Well, she's parked down stairs. We could do something. All of us, maybe. Outside, in the sunlight even."
"Imagine that!" Rose chirped cheerfully. "Maybe have a bit of a picnic, maybe watch the clouds go by…"
Oh her mother knew her too well. "Just what're clouds for, then? Besides, a picnic would be the perfect way to catch up."
Jack nodded to his former accomplice, who wasn't so young of a man any longer. "Yuh huh. Except for the part where it's February and the weather's miserable. And three in the morning."
Raising a finger in the air, Violet tried to hold back her excitement. "I can do something for that!" Digging into her pocket, she pulled out a swirling red globe. "Well, it can fix the weather. Nothing I can do about the rotation of the planet. Without giving myself a huge headache, that is. Found this baby on a planet in the Ettin system, in a junk heap. Lemme tell you…insto-fog and monsoon-on-demand are fantastic for escapes."
She heard the patter of small feet when they were right behind her and the smallest one slammed right into her hand, knocking the sphere loose. It hit the grill floor, shattering into a million tiny shards, then sliding through the metal slats. "Aww, man…" she grumbled as the last slivers tinkled away to parts unknown. "That was my get out of jail free card."
Squealing "mummy!" the younger boy wrapped his thin arms around his mother's leg, while Rom slammed into Jack with such force the air rushed out of the former Time Agent's lungs. He looked annoyed for about two seconds, before putting a hand on the boy's head.
Looking over Violet's shoulder, he shot the Doctor a critical look. "I thought I told you I didn't want them running around in here. Unless we're performing an experiment on the youngest age at which a Gallifreyan can regenerate…?"
Hands in his pockets, the Doctor shrugged. "There're more of them then there are of me. I was overwhelmed. Overpowered, even. I don't know what you expect me to do…"
Violet saw her mother's eyes light up as the Doctor approached. Yeah, looked like they'd worked everything out—whatever the hell that meant. When the Doctor put a hand on her arm, Vi couldn't help but smile. There were some things that were just meant to be and things that even big, bad conspiring universes couldn't stop.
"Isn't it past your bedtime?" the Doctor asked her mother gently, hand resting on her arm.
Rose shrugged, holding her boy's head to her side as Branden tugged and twisted the leg of her maternity denim jeans. "Bed times are relative things. As long as I'm outta here and in bed before Ianto and the others show up, life is good."
Jack grinned, ripping some unknown device out of Rom's hands before the kid could kill himself or bring about the destruction of the world. Mercifully, and perhaps instinctively, Greg reached out and pulled the boy to him, offering a harmless (yet nifty) keychain from the forty-seventh century in the midst of Jackie-like protests. The boy pressed the button and gasped at the grapefruit sized holographic solar system that appeared. He'd be amused for all…of ten seconds, maybe.
Still keeping it light, Jack shoved a hand in his pocket, appearing rather grateful that he had been taken off 'keep curious children from killing themselves' duty. "Somebody doesn't deal well with Owen's snide remarks about Torchwood being no place for a lady in her condition." He only smiled harder when Rose rolled her eyes and grinned. "Third time around, and he still gets her worked up every day. I put Rose on 'the night shift,' as it were, after she broke his nose and blamed hormones."
Behind him, a monitor at another workstation began flashing red and blaring an alert. A few seconds later, all of them were—only they were different warnings. Jack sighed. "Today is starting out SO well." Sliding up to one of the machines, Jack flipped through the readouts.
The Doctor gave the boys each a stern look, eyes wide and informing them with just a glance that they were to behave themselves, then wandered Jack's way, pointing over the other man's shoulder at one of the warnings. "Oh as if THAT isn't the forward observer for an invasion army. Look at the size of that thing!"
Rose had to grab Branden's shirt to keep him from rushing over to the computer with 'Uncle Jack' and the Doctor. Rom practically had ants in his pants, he was fidgeting so badly—Violet could sympathise.
Greg looked away from the others and Violet tried not to make a face of annoyance. Trouble followed her around. It wasn't her fault. It was a genetic attraction, and heavens knew, you couldn't fight genetics. "Go on, ask it," he whispered, knowing her too well.
Looking from her mother to the Doctor and Jack, she grinned insanely, feeling very suddenly right at home. You couldn't go back, but you could certainly go forward, and sometimes, a bit of baggage—if it was the right baggage—was just the thing. "So…what's the plan?"
A/N: Once again a shout out to my beta, Rosesbud. And a shout out to all of you. You are all made of awesomes. You've stuck with me this long and far, and somehow I got to the end Never intended it to be quite so epic, but, well, here we are! Thank you for all the love and feedback and interest and excitement… it really does propel one through the tough times.
Hope you enjoy, and more fic soon! Got a Ninth Doctor/Rose/Jack adventure coming up, and after that? Who knows!