When Grandfather told her that 18th century France was his favourite time period in all of Earth's history, Susan had frowned and commented on the various failings of the ancien régime. She warmed to her subject when she reached the problems of food shortages for the poor, and was about to recite various figures involving live births, the infant mortality rate before the age of five and the average life expectancy in the less affluent suburbs of Paris when Grandfather interrupted her with an irritated cough.

"Yes, well, quite," he said. "But you don't have to approve of all the facets of a civilisation in order to appreciate its finer points." He sniffed, then said, "Besides, if you really want to know what egalitarianism isn't, I suggest you go look up Time Lords, High Council of in the library. Oh, go and take a look there for a society without any merits at all, Susan. Dull, plodding and utterly uninterested in anything except their own slow decay. I tell you, everyone with an ounce of imagination just packed up and left as soon as they were able."

"Grandfather, I thought you said you left to make a stand when no-one else would? Isn't that why they exiled you?"

"Hmm, did I?" He paused, considering, then waved a dismissive hand. "It doesn't matter now, anyway. The point is we're here, and I expect you to behave."

"Yes, Grandfather," said Susan dutifully, wondering exactly what Grandfather thought she might do in 18th century France that merited such a strict warning.

But she behaved very well indeed. In fact, most of the time Grandfather wasn't even in the ship and Susan was left to her own amusements. She read a great deal, and found that she did not share Grandfather's taste for this century at all; she wanted to see the future that these humans built, with their science and machines and determination to survive no matter the odds.

When they finally left France, Grandfather was in a strange mood but he was so very irritable that Susan did not dare ask what the trouble was. "Jeanne," he snapped at her, then shook his head and, for a moment, Susan thought he might apologise. "Get along with you, I've got some delicate work to do on the console."

Susan left quietly, and did not think on the matter again.

If the Doctor had a list – he didn't, of course, not yet anyway, but it was certainly an idea he might follow up in a bored moment – he would have put Madame De Pompadour in the top three humans he wanted to meet/snog/shag (delete as appropriate), definitely somewhere up there, he thought, well, in the top five, at least.

So it came as something of a surprise when he succeeded in this ambition that he definitely didn't have without actually realising it until the event was well and truly over, and he decided that he'd definitely have to find that five hundred year diary he had had three or four centuries back, because this was one day he never wanted to forget.

Humans, he decided – certainly not for the first time – were marvellous. Absolutely bloody marvellous. Just when you realised you'd spent more of your life on their planet than your own and you think that you've finally got inside their funny little ape minds, they do something that still managed to take you completely by surprise. Like kiss you.

And it was a very nice kiss. Definitely one of the nicer kisses he'd had that century.

In fact, kissing, considered the Doctor - in his very precise and very scientific way - was definitely something he should partake in more often.

When Reinette was a little girl and monsters were as corporeal as she, a strange and beautiful man came from her fireplace to save her. Now the fireplace was not a particularly appropriate location for a hero to emerge from as far as she was concerned, but as he was neither burnt nor sooty, and had most probably saved her life, she had decided many years ago to overlook it.

The second time he appeared from the fireplace (she presumed) there were no monsters, and she was no longer a child. He, however, was as beautiful as he had been before. Naturally, this was quite impossible, so she kissed him to see if he was real.

Or perhaps she kissed him to make him real, but she did not manage to draw him completely into her world. He was too cold beneath her lips and her curious hands. But he was undoubtedly solid flesh and for that, at least, she was glad.

She lived her life in the places in-between. Those stolen moments that she treasured were mere dreams that she forgot as she woke. Reinette would never allow such idol fantasies – even fantasies that possessed a good degree of substance - to intrude where they should not in her life at court.

When the Doctor returned and asked her permission to look into her mind, she knew she was a fool not to be afraid. Still, she complied with his request, but found the temptation to reciprocate the intimacy too much to resist.

There were things too deep, too clouded in blackness, too fiercely guarded with ideas and knowledge that she could not comprehend, for her to reach. But there was more than enough for her to begin to understand him; there were all those things that he had tried to forget, floating in his mind like clouds. If she was delicate and subtle enough, she could reach out and touch them, see the parts of him that were beginning to fade away. All those things that he wanted to sleep in his mind.

So lonely, she murmured in her thoughts, knowing that he could hear her. But her expression did not mirror her melancholy. She teased him with her sharp smile and witty eyes.

It was just enough to convince him to come dance with her for a night, because she would not expect anything at all from him in return.

In some ways Reinette reminded him of his own people, in the elaborate, impractical way she dressed, the formal way in which she could speak, and in the perfect confidence that she had. If he stood back and viewed her in silhouette, he could conjure up ghosts to take her place.

The thought unsettled him, and he did not share it. Instead, he took her hand to remind him that she was warm and human. She was ephemeral. And all the life and vibrancy that he so admired would be as quick to die as it was to flourish.

Such a limited time just made their lives shine all the brighter.

It was a comforting lie that he wished he believed.

"What about all that stuff about paradoxes? About reapers cleaning out wounds when people mess with time when they shouldn't?" asked Rose.

The Doctor gave her a guilty look. There had been a letter in his hand, but it was just a blank page now. The ink had faded away into nothingness when he had landed in Versailles when he shouldn't have and let Reinette step aboard the TARDIS.

"They haven't turned up yet," he said, shrugged. "Maybe they won't come?"


She had a point, he conceded, trying to think of some complex, incomprehensible explanation he could give to save himself from more justified anger.

When his mind refused to co-operate, he stared at the inner door for a few seconds, willing Mickey to appear and offer a convenient distraction.

That didn't work either.

"I promise that if the Earth looks to be getting destroyed, I'll take her back," he said, trying to make it sound like a very reasonable proposition.

Rose stared at him, arms folded. The Doctor stared at the TARDIS console and rubbed the back of his neck, pretending he was working out some highly complicated course co-ordinates. Then he discovered that he actually was working out some highly complicated course co-ordinates and quietly congratulated himself on the distraction.

He looked up, smiled and said, "How do you feel about Draconia?"

Even in 22nd Earth clothing, Reinette retained all the grace and dignity she had held in Versailles palace. Rose wanted nothing less than to be knocking on the door of her room in the TARDIS, but she was there and she was knocking and she went in when invited and was now listening to Reinette talking and telling her things that she wished that she was the one to know.

"I know you don't want me here," Reinette said at last.

"It's the Doctor ship," said Rose, wishing she sounded less petty.

Reinette rose from her chair and knelt in front of Rose, taking her hand in both of hers and looking up into her face. "Rose, I will not be here long. You are the Doctor's friend and I have seen you as he sees you. I know your strength and courage and I trust you."

"I..." Rose began, but found she had nothing to say.

Reinette continued, "I am dying. I know this and I do not believe that the Doctor does. You must not tell him, not until it is too late."

Rose shook her head. "But why?"

"I am no fool, I know I should not be here." She stood, a picture of dignity. "But just to have had this taste is enough for me. There is wonder here and I am grateful to have been allowed to touch it. But your libraries are not so different to mine, and I know my place in history." She smiled, a little melancholy. "It is not such a bad thing, to know when your end will come."

"I'm sorry," she said. "I am sorry."

Reinette nodded. "It is worth dying for, is it not? This life?"

"I think so," said Rose.

There is a curious record in the files of Doctor Abraham Dextos that records that a patch of blood found on Riften V contained DNA that is an exact match for Madame de Pompadour, a human from the 18th century of the planet Earth. No satisfactory explanation for this anomaly has ever been found.
She was coughing more frequently now.

Her fears were not for herself, but for her unborn child. "You will take care of him," she whispered to the Doctor, her hand clutching his tie fiercely. "You will do that for me, won't you?"

He was bewildered she would even think she needed to ask. "I'll make sure he's safe," he promised her.

Versailles was waiting, and he took Reinette there alone, quietly and almost as soon as she had left.

Her physicians were surprised at how quickly her headaches had developed, how sudden her symptoms were. "Congestion of the lungs," they muttered, shaking their heads.

When the child was delivered, the Doctor was waiting.

"Is he very beautiful?" she asked, too tired even to sit up.

"He's an angel," he told her. "Just like his mother."

"I think you are quite confused about what roles we play, Doctor."

She is not dead. She is dying. She has been dead since the day he met her. History cannot be changed, not one line, he said once. Reinette knows that better than him now, even though he was lying.

He holds her as her body cools and for a moment she is not alien at all.

There was a small village in Cornwall where a middle-aged and childless couple lived in a redbrick house with a neatly kept garden.

Once, a curly-haired gentleman had saved the village from a certain type of particularly malicious noncorporeal entity, but not before the entity had struck down many of the villagers with a lingering illness that had left them sterile.

Once, that middle-aged and childless couple had helped a young gentleman with a fondness for cricket to save a young lady from a particularly unpleasant intergalactic bounty hunter. They had tea afterwards and the young lady went to great pains to explain away the gentleman's strangeness, despite the fact that she had let slip her home planet was several thousand lights years away and had been destroyed the previous year.

Once, a Scottish gentleman had offered to help carry their shopping home and listened to their regret at not having a child of their own. He had doffed his hat and sprinted away when one of the houses on the next street exploded unexpectedly.

Once, a gentleman in a pinstriped suit and a trench coat crept to their door in early evening and rang the bell. Before he ran out of sight, he left a cradle and a baby and a short note on their doorstep.

There was a small village in Cornwall where a middle-aged couple lived with their son in a redbrick house with a neatly kept garden. They had a very good family doctor, who, despite being a specialist in many fields and often being called abroad, was always available when needed.

The couple felt that it would not be polite to comment on the fact that he changed his face a great deal.

Susan never understood why her Grandfather loved 18th century France so. He never told her, and she does not believe that she will ever have the chance to ask now.

There is so much to be done, and she has so many ideas that she does not know where to start. But when the schools reopen and there are calls for researchers on all those subjects where so much information has been lost - "I haven't see a copy of David Copperfield since before the Daleks landed." "Never mind that, what I want to know is why we burnt all the Cliff Notes on Shakespeare. What the devil's going on in Act II here?" - it is history that she puts her name down for. She knows everything they want to know, but she follows the rules and she blends in, just one more survivor of the wars.

David, eager to spend all the time he can with his new wife, joins her on her trip to France, and she makes her way through dust and rubble. She explores old ink and parched paper, and all those monuments from the past that have survived the Dalek occupation of Earth.

She stares at the name when she finds it: Madame de Pompadour, born in 1721, died in 1764.

"Jeanne," she murmurs as her eyes past over the woman's real name.

She has only questions, and David is waiting.

Susan closes the book and walks away. It doesn't matter, not now. She has chosen a linear life and she has a world to help build. The past is closed to her, written and done with. She walks the slow path to the future with the rest of humanity.

As David drives them away from the centre of Paris, she asks, "Have you thought about children?"

He glances at her. "I hadn't thought...I didn't even know if..."

"But you would...?"

He grins, and there's no doubt at all. "Oh, yes."

Susan smiles, kisses him on the cheek and sits back in her seat.

There is so much future for her to think about, and it's such an exciting thing, not to know where it leads.