THE FIRES OF POMPEII
Hi everyone! Thanks for all the comments – wow! I'm glad you're enjoying it.
Here's Fires of Pompeii for your opinions. Was quite a bit more serious and difficult than the last episode. I've only included this episode because of the Doctor and Rose's previous encounter with Ancient Rome (The Stone Rose, by Jacqueline Rayner) which allowed for lots of spoiler-y references. If you squint, you might see an echo from The Doctor Dances, too. I always wondered why they didn't include the reference that I'm using, somewhere in this episode.
Rose hung up her new super-phone with a sigh. "You just had to give her that dog, didn't you?"
"Oh!" The Doctor looked up from the console controls quickly, grinning fondly, flipping switches as if on auto-pilot. "How is little Billie?"
Rose shrugged, flopping onto the seat by the console, the springs squeaking below her. "Ask her yourself, it's all she'll talk about! Billie this, Billie that."
"Rose Tyler," the Doctor smirked, "don't tell me you're jealous of a Yorkshire terrier?"
"Don't be stupid," Rose flushed and stared at the time rotors, trying not to look at the Doctor.
Of course she wasn't jealous of a dog. The fleabag wasn't competition, despite the similarities between this dog and the dog called 'Rose' that the alternate universe Jackie Tyler had replaced her with. It was just that...mum hadn't even asked how she was doing.
The Doctor laughed softly from the console, and Rose did look at him now, ready to snap back if he made fun of her again.
He was still flicking switches. Rose wished, just for a moment, that she was still a Time Lady, even if only to figure out if he was actually doing something, or just procrastinating, unable to take his hands off his TARDIS.
His eyes sparkled as he flicked a glance at her. "You can't have it both ways. Your mum happy, alone and without you, and you in the TARDIS, travelling the universe," he said kindly, in explanation. "At least she's not so lonely anymore," he added in afterthought, almost in a mutter as he turned back to his dials and switches. "Nobody deserves to be lonely."
Rose nodded, trying to settle the ruffled feeling, really wanting to change the subject, nodding to the console. "Need some help? Where're we going anyway?" she stood, placing super-phone on the side of it as she joined him, reaching tentatively toward a control that looked like a big, bright transparent yellow button.
"Ahh-ah," the Doctor called out, like a parent warning a child, grabbing her hand before she reached it. "Trust me, you don't want to do that."
Rose pursed her lips, trying to recall the formerly-instinctual part of her brain that had allowed her to, for once, understand the TARDIS' controls as though they were a natural extension of her own mind.
She looked back up to the glowing, pulsating rotors, as a hollow feeling developed in the pit of her stomach. "I knew how she worked, Doctor, I'm sure I did. Now," she took a step back, shaking her head. "She's just...so...alien. All of it," she turned back to him. "And I miss it. Miss her."
He was watching her, his expression somewhat calculating. She wanted to reach her mind out to him and express herself, without words, like before.
But those skills weren't hers to keep and use as she liked. So instead, she tried a smile. "It's not fair, is it?"
It was the first time she'd talked about the chameleon arc's effect on her, since turning back into a human before Christmas dinner at her mum's. She tried, desperately, to shake the lump welling in her throat.
The Doctor pulled her into a hug, one hand around her, the other securely on the back of her head, holding her to him, but he said nothing, sighing. They stood there a moment, Rose closing her eyes and forcing back her sudden sense of abandonment. She wasn't alone. How could she begin to think she was alone? She was here, with the Doctor, and the TARDIS was still right here, even if they couldn't talk to one another any longer. They were here with her. That was all that mattered.
She pulled back, clearing her throat. "Anyway, where are we going?" she asked idly, but brightly, telling herself in a convincing tone that she was the human Rose Tyler, and she was who she was meant to be.
The Doctor paused. She could feel him still watching her, feel his unasked questions. Rose supposed he wasn't going to ask them anyway. She knew he didn't like talking about what had already passed between them – always moving onto the next adventure. She turned back to him, smiling, telling herself to learn from his example, and just move on.
"Right!" he answered hurriedly, gaze returning to the controls as he span a dial and flicked a final switch. "Bit of a surprise, really. Wouldn't want to spoil it," he winked at her.
Rose grinned over at him as they both automatically held onto the console and the TARDIS whirred to a halt. "Oh, I do love your surprise trips," she stuck her tongue between her teeth. The tingle of excitement pushed at the lost, sad feelings, masking them.
Then she made a dash for the doors, before he could stop her.
"Hey!" the Doctor called after her, laughing. She could hear him hurrying after her across the console room.
She flung open the TARDIS door and was met by a coarse, grey curtain.
The Doctor stepped up next to her, pulling away the curtain and smiling. "Thought we'd have another go at the ancient and magnificent Roman Empire. Didn't get much of a proper look last time, did we?"
Rose's previously sad thoughts scattered as she remembered their last visit. How could she forget? "Can't see much when you're a statue, no," she watched him carefully, smirking.
"Exactly!" he fired, excited, spinning back around to her as he stepped out into what looked like a marketplace street. "Can't have you thinking that's all the Romans have to offer!" he held his hand out, wiggling his fingers at her as an invitation.
Rose hurried over to him, suppressing a couple of sarcastic counter-comments, while her mind swam with memories of genies and psycho-killer sculptors, to his candid insistence that Rose had been prettier than Fortuna – not to mention their first, non-body-swapping kiss. But, truthfully, she was too excited to be sarcastic to him. Besides, he looked so happy, so excited, she didn't want to spoil it by teasing him.
She linked her hand with his and they fell into step beside one another, strolling through the markets, passing men in capes and short tunics and women in full length, exotic colours, all haggling and carrying on with the shopkeeps, reminding Rose a bit of the Borough Markets.
"Of course, relatively speaking," he ducked down to her. "Right now, this is brand new Rome," he whispered, as they passed a shop selling glazed pottery.
Rose nodded hurriedly, spotting a jewellery stall and tugging on the Doctor's arm to drag him in that direction. "You brought me to Rome to go shopping?" she picked up a bronze shoulder pin, which was shaped like a tear-drop and coloured with some sort of royal-blue stone. "I mean. Isn't that a bit you know, domestic, for you?"
A stall holder started to shuffle toward them and she put it back on the table.
The Doctor opened his mouth as they stepped away from the jewellery stand, and a mighty roar sounded over the markets. Rose glanced at him quickly, as he closed his mouth with a pop, looking confused. Then the earth began to shake beneath them.
"Ooh, here we go again!" the jewellery stall holder laughed, grabbing hold of his table.
Used to the much more vigorous shaking of the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose were able to keep their balance relatively easily. Rose kicked in her 'space legs', shifting her weight to account for the sudden movement. She watched on, confused, as the locals grinned and continued to laugh, smiling while holding up their tents and tables, as though they were also used to the movement.
The shaking subsided, and the Doctor snapped a glance at Rose, one eyebrow raised. Then without a word, he dashed off down an alleyway.
Rose hurried after him, into an open courtyard. He'd stopped, in the middle of it, and was staring at the horizon with a perplexed look on his face.
She turned, following his gaze, to see a massive, smoking mountain, and frowned.
"Doctor, you sure this is Rome?" she asked. It looked nothing like the Rome they'd visited last time.
He shook his head quickly. "Pompeii," he grated. "We're in Pompeii. And it's volcano day!"
She closed her eyes. He had to be joking. She'd seen pictures of Pompeii - well, what remained of Pompeii - when she was school. People, Romans, huddled together, frozen in time, turned to stone, when Mount Vesuvius had erupted.
Rose remembered the images now, as though she'd just turned the pages of the history text. So many dead, taken by surprise and turned to stone, forever. All these people, she forced upon herself.
Stone. It was happening again. They were all going to turn to stone this time.
"I wish we weren't here right now," she muttered, wondering if any nearby genies might hear. Of course, nothing answered, but the Doctor flashed her a worried look.
At the same moment, they started running, back toward the TARDIS.
It was gone.
The Doctor had thrown back the coarse grey curtain, to reveal nothing but a dry, stone wall and a shelf full of pots. It had taken a moment, and a few frantic questions, to learn that one of the stall holders who considered that particular patch of land his, had sold the TARDIS. He told them to take it up with the blue box's new owner - a man called Caecilius, who lived on Foss Street in a big villa.
Barely pausing to respond once the man had told them this, they ran in the direction the stall holder had pointed.
Foss Street, Rose repeated in her head. Caecilius. Get the TARDIS, then get everyone they could out of Pompeii. The TARDIS was big enough, right?
Rose sure hoped so. She remembered, vividly, what it had been like, being a statue of the Goddess, Minerva. Time, passing before your eyes while you were helpless, frozen and watching, not able to blink, breathe, move your head, anything.
No one should have to go through that only to be dug up by a bunch of smug archaeologists in the future. And she certainly wasn't going to be amongst those gaping, cowering bodies.
Neither of them spoke about the impending eruption as they ran, searching for Foss street, spinning around and calling out to merchants and shoppers to confirm their directions as they ran. Eventually, they located the right street. The Doctor barely paused to regard the villa, then dashed forward, inside as the ground began to shake again.
Rose hurried after him, rounding the corner, grabbing onto a pillar for support as one of her feet slipped on the mosaic path of the courtyard. She gripped the pillar, stabilising herself, then dashing after the Doctor, into the main room.
The Doctor was catching a statue, a marble bust of one of the Emperors, as the rumbling silenced and the earthquake ceased.
"There you go!" he handed a man the statue, grin on his face.
The man appeared only slightly rattled, accepting it. "Thank you, kind sir. I'm afraid business is closed for the day," he recovered, replacing the statue in its arched alcove. "I'm expecting a visitor," he explained.
The Doctor grinned, reaching forward and shaking the man's hand. "But that's me, I'm a visitor. Hello!" he strode forward, eyes roving the room.
Rose strode after him, eyes roaming the villa for the TARDIS.
"Who are you?" the Roman man hurried after them.
The Doctor swung to a halt, tossing Rose a look that she vaguely interpreted as 'think quick'.
"I am...Gracilis," the Doctor said uneasily.
Rose searched for a name. Vanessa. No, name wasn't really around in those days. These days. Fortuna. No, that was a goddess. She wasn't going down that path again. Oh, what was Gracilis' wife's name? Her memories fled as though startled as she grabbed for anything vaguely Roman, and eventually an image of Russell Crowe in leather pushed itself on her.
"Lucilla!" Rose pointed at the Doctor in triumph, finally remembering a name out of Gladiator, then span to face the man, dusting herself off. "I'm Lucilla," she rocked back and forth proudly.
The Doctor winced.
"Yes, very well," the Roman man didn't seem to care. "I'm sorry, but I'm not open for trade."
"And that trade would be?" the Doctor pushed.
It worked. "Marble," he answered, smiling, then introduced himself. "Lobus Caecilius. Mining, polishing and design thereof," he held up a finger, "If you want marble, I'm your man."
Marble, Rose shuddered inwardly. No. Not again. What was it with these Romans and their marble statues?
"That's good. That's good," the Doctor interrupted quickly. "'Cos I'm..." he breathed in, "a marble inspector," he held up the psychic paper to seal the deal.
"By the gods of commerce!" a red-haired woman in a vivid blue tunic startled behind them. "An inspection!" she hurriedly bustled forward, removing a golden goblet from a boy's hand and stepping up to meet them as the Doctor stepped further into the room. "I'm sorry, sir. I do apologise for my son," she tipped the contents of the goblet into the water feature in the middle of the room.
"Oi!" the boy protested at once.
Rose surveyed the room, quickly, her mind not on polite conversation, searching for the familiar blue box...there! In the corner of the room. Relief flooded her and she nudged the Doctor, nodding at it.
The Doctor had spotted it, and was walking purposely in it's direction.
The Roman family, husband and wife by the looks of the pair, hurried after the Doctor and Rose.
"And this is my good wife, Metella," Caecilius introduced. "I... I must confess, we're not prepared for..." he stuttered.
"Nothing to worry about," the Doctor stopped in front of his TARDIS, "I'm sure you've nothing to hide. Although, frankly," he thumbed behind him, turning back to Caecilius. "This object looks rather like wood to me."
Rose heard the wife, Metalla, hiss, "I told you to get rid of it!" as Caecilius hurried toward them again.
"I only bought it today!" Caecilius tried to explain, sounding apologetic.
Rose stopped herself from caressing the blue wood as she got nearer to it. She was so relieved to see it. She smiled and turned back to Caecilius, Metalla and the boy, who looked slightly hungover, staring up from the water feature.
"Right then, c'mon, everyone in," she withdrew her TARDIS key from the chain around her neck.
"In...?" Caecilius sounded confused, looking to his wife.
"Ah," the Doctor turned to her, quickly. "I'm not so sure-"
"Yeap, in here," she stepped forward, aiming key for lock. "Before that volcano goes-"
Hands grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back a couple of steps. "Oh, Lucilla, for shame," he lead her back toward the other side of the room. "We haven't even greeted the household gods yet!"
"The what-ano?" Caecilius watched them pass. Rose heard Metalla laughing, a little nervously.
The Doctor lead her to a marble wall carving of a Roman god and goddess on the far wall, letting go of her to reach into a silver cup and splash water on the feature.
He looked guilty. "They don't know what it is," he whispered, flicking his fingers at the carving. "Vesuvius is just a mountain to them, the top hasn't blown off yet. The Romans haven't even got a word for volcano," he flashed a sorry, worried look at her, still whispering. "Not until tomorrow."
"Yeah, all right, I get it," Rose regarded the household gods; a bearded, half-naked man, and a young woman in a toga, holding what appeared to be a cornucopia, either side of a small, Roman temple. Rose blinked at them, trying not to glare at the rendition of Fortuna on the right. It was all so familiar. Rose subconsciously mimicked the Doctor's movements, flicking water at the wall panel.
"But we can help them," she continued, turning back to him. "What does it matter if there's no people here tomorrow? They'll still find the city when they dig it up in..." she waved her hands, "a thousand years or whatever."
"One thousand, six hundred and sixty-nine," he corrected quietly. "And, please, just stop it. We can't interfere," the Doctor muttered. "Pompeii is a fixed point."
She shook her head, throwing him a questioning look. "Aren't we interfering by being here? Are you just going to let them turn to stone?"
The Doctor threw her a half-annoyed, half-concerned look but before he could answer her, a servant's voice rang out across the room. Both Rose and the Doctor turned back to watch.
"Announcing Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of the City Government."
This, then, was who the family had been waiting for. Before Rose and the Doctor could continue their hushed argument, 'Lucius Petrus Dextrus', a stern-looking blonde man in an elaborate full-length toga, with sharp, light coloured eyes, swept into the villa. The moment he opened his mouth and started spouting riddles, Rose tuned out.
The Doctor seemed to understand him, on some level, though. They challenged each other with words, Rose rolling her eyes and sitting herself on the side of the water feature in the middle of the room, throwing a 'not my fault' look at the Roman family's hungover son, waiting for them to both get over themselves.
The boy laughed a little at her movements and Rose smiled back at him. Ye-up, he was kinda cute, for a guy wearing a dress.
"Lucilla, isn't it?" the boy shuffled toward her.
Rose flushed, but nodded, trying not to look evasive, leaning back on her hands, swinging her feet a little.
"Quintus," he tapped his chest lightly, letting another secretive smile slip.
"Ah!" Lucius barked, making both Rose and Quintus jump and pay attention. "But what is the dark, other than an omen of the sun?"
Quintus leaned toward Rose. "Why does Gracilis challenge the Augur? They'll be at it for hours," he muttered.
Rose shook her head slightly as the Doctor pipped an answer. "He...just can't help himself," she tried to explain, badly.
Caecilius took a pause in the Doctor and Lucius' verbal battle to stride forward proudly. "Ah, the moment of revelation!" he said loudly.
With a flourish, he whipped away a cloth from a pedestal, uncovering something that looked like a tile-sized circuit board, made of marble. Rose's smile fell slowly as she regarded it, then flicked a glance to the Doctor.
"And here it is!" Caecilius continued proudly. "Exactly as you've specified. It pleases you, sir?"
Lucius stepped toward it. "As the rain pleases the soil," he responded.
The Doctor was looking at the marble block with his head slightly on one side. "Oh, now that's...different," he managed. "Who designed that, then?"
"My Lord Lucius was very specific," Caecilius smiled, nodding to the Augur.
"Where did you get the pattern?" the Doctor asked, trying to sound idle.
Lucius glared. "On the rain and mist and wind," he answered slowly.
Rose didn't know much about circuit boards, only seeing them occasionally lying around Mickey's flat, back in the old days, when he was pulling apart computers. She did know, however, that they were not usually made of stone, and that they shouldn't have existed in Roman times. She stood, side-stepping to the Doctor, raising her eyebrows at him. He had his intrigued-but-worried look on.
"Doctor, what's it for? They making computers in Ancient Rome?" she asked.
The Doctor turned back to her. "Circuit board technology wasn't developed until the 20th century. It shouldn't be here."
"They're laughing at us," a new voice, a girl's, rang out across the room. The Doctor and Rose turned, at the same time, to face a pale, sick looking, dark-haired girl in a yellow dress, perhaps slightly younger than Quintus. "Those two," she nodded at Rose as she shuffled forward. "They use words like tricksters, they're mocking us."
"No, no, no. I meant no offence," the Doctor announced quickly.
The mother, Metella, cut in just as quickly. "I'm sorry, my daughter's been consuming the vapours," she said, as though this explained everything.
"Oh for gods, mother," Quintus groaned, rising. "What have you been doing to her?"
"Not now, Quintus," Caecilius grated in an undertone.
Quintus turned to his father, but pointed at the girl. "Yeah, but she's sick, just look at her!" he challenged loudly.
The Augur spoke up, ire in his voice again. "I gather I have a rival in this household." Everyone turned to him. "Another with the gift."
Metella inclined her head proudly. "Oh, she's been promised to the Sibylline Sisterhood," she smiled at her daughter. "They say she has remarkable visions."
Things got a little creepy, then. Rose watched them talking; the Doctor, the Augur and this new girl, a tingle creeping across the back of her neck. The girl quickly, docilely, named him 'Doctor'.
The Doctor paused before answering with a cold, "I beg your pardon?"
"Doctor, that's your name," the girl wheezed as her mother grabbed her arm to support her.
Rose didn't realise she was holding her breath. "How'd you know that?" she murmured.
The girl's eyes shifted, to Rose then. Rose shuddered, unconsciously taking a step back under her piercing gaze.
"And you..." the girl rasped. "The big...bad...wolf," she goaded. "Howling at the stars," she laughed.
"Now then, Evelina," her mother cut in, forced laughter in her voice. "Don't be rude."
The Doctor was looking at Rose oddly, with a sideways glance, and held up his hand. "No, let her talk," he insisted.
Rose looked pleadingly to the Doctor. Bad wolf? Again? They'd been down this path before, long ago, in the days of the old him. How could someone in Ancient Rome know of Bad wolf?
"You both come from so far away," Evelina breathed.
The Augur barked another laugh, his words like ice. "The female soothsayer is inclined to invent all sorts of vagaries."
The Doctor replied in a low voice. "Oh, not this time, Lucius," he was watching Evelina with questions in his eyes. "No, I reckon you've been out-soothsayed."
"Is that so..." Lucius didn't seem to like this at all, as he snapped, again with challenge in his tone. "Man from Gallifrey?" he fired.
"What?" the Doctor turned back to him, paying attention now.
"What?" Rose repeated dumbly, at almost the same moment. How could they know such things?
"Strangest of images..." Lucius was shaking his head slightly, his eyes more piercing than before. "Your home is lost in fire, is it not?" he demanded.
"How-?" Rose started.
Lucius heard her, as his eyes snapped to her. "Heed my words, wolf," he commanded Rose. "For this is the gift of Pompeii. Every single oracle tells the truth."
Rose shook her head, ever so slightly. She was undeniably spooked.
The Doctor must have noticed this, as he rested his hand on Rose's back, for comfort. "Stop it," he muttered to Lucius.
"So blind!" Lucius barked at them both. "You run from your futures as you run from the past, ignoring that under your noses, warning you!"
"Who, who's warning us?" the Doctor demanded.
"Nobody warned us of anything," Rose said shakily.
Lucius glared at her. "The hunter swipes at your tail."
Evelina cut in before Rose could comprehend this. "Even the word 'doctor' is false. Your real name is hidden," she spoke with a passion that scared Rose to the bone. "It burns in the stars, in the Cascade of Medusa herself," the girl spat. "You are a Lord, sir. A Lord...of Time."
An before the Doctor could even muster a response this time, Evelina collapsed where she stood, crumbling to the ground.
"Evelina!" Metella cried, hurrying to her side.
Metella and Quintus had lead the unconscious girl to bed. The Doctor had bade Rose go with them, giving her a look of concern, also clearly spooked by their words.
Rose nodded, unsmiling, and trailed after them.
They were putting her to bed, as Rose entered the girl's bedroom.
Metella looked up to Rose. "She didn't mean to be rude, she's ever such a good girl," the woman explained. "But when the gods speak through her..."
The mother unwrapped a bandage on Evelina's arm, and Quintus cried out in worry.
"Mother, what are they doing to her?" he knelt by his sister's side, moving her hair out of her face.
Rose shifted to get a better look, peeking over Quintus' shoulder. Evelina's arm was a dull grey colour, lifeless. Rose gripped Quintus' arm in shock, gasping. It was already happening, stuff the volcano. It was Ursus turning people to stone, all over again.
"Irritation of the skin," Metella dismissed it, smiling somewhat sadly up at Rose. "She never complains, bless her," Rose thought she could see tears in the woman's eyes. "We bathe it in olive oil every night," she added dutifully.
"What happened?" Rose asked quickly. Ursus hadn't even been born yet. Vanessa was still in the 24th Century, not due in Rome for another fifty years. Evelina couldn't be turning to stone because of him yet, could she?
"Please," Metella was smiling awkwardly up at Rose, and she realised the mother was trying to stop from crying. "Evelina said you'd come from far away. Please, have you ever seen anything like…?" she turned back to her daughter.
Quintus, not taking his eyes off his sister, reached forward, touching her disfigured arm.
"Don't," Rose managed to speak finally. Quintus looked up at her.
"It's stone," Rose frowned. "She's turning to stone."
Rose hurried Quintus out of the room, leaving Metella tending to Evelina. The boy – no, it wasn't fair to call him that, for he was closer to a man – looked back into his sister's room sadly.
Rose tried to distract him, make him focus. She needed answers. This was why the Doctor had sent her here after them; he could question Caecilius and Lucius; she could work on the brother and mother, to find out what was going on.
"Quintus," she held his shoulders. "When did this start happening to Evelina?"
He was looking back at the doorway, tears in his eyes. "I dunno," he shook his head, turning back to Rose. "She fell ill every time she consumed the vapours. I had not thought," he turned back to the doorway, Rose noticing tears flicking from his cheeks as he turned. "Blasted mother!" he grated. "She knew! Why didn't she stop it? Is her induction into the Sibylline Sisterhood so important?"
Rose shook her head, reaffirming her grip on Quintus' shoulders. He was losing it. "Ok, the vapours. What are they?"
Quintus turned back to regard Rose sadly, looking younger than before.
"Please," Rose managed. "We can help her. What vapours?"
Quintus looked unsure, glancing between Rose and the doorway to his sister's room before taking Rose's arm. "Here. I will show-"
"Lucilla?" Metella called from the doorway.
Both Rose and Quintus startled. Had she been there long, Rose wondered? She hadn't even noticed her.
The mother stepped forward, looking disapprovingly at Quintus, but still speaking to Rose. "I wonder if I might trouble you to sit with my daughter until she wakes. I must attend to Caecilius and his guest."
"Oh, no, I should really-" she pointed in the direction of the main courtyard, but was cut off by the stern woman.
"I insist, please," she stepped forward, blocking their path to the courtyard. Rose could see a pleading desperation in her eyes, and realised the mother was quite scared for her daughter, despite any status she was achieving by consuming the vapours and spouting secrets and future echoes.
Rose and Quintus looked at one another guiltily and Metella's glance hardened. Rose suddenly wondered what on earth she had to feel guilty about and let go of Quintus' arm, stepping back toward the woman and nodding. "Of course. Quintus," she turned meaningfully to him, "The Do-" she stopped herself in time. "Gracilis," she corrected, "will need to be advised of my whereabouts. Might you tell him I am seeing to Evelina's bout of Optatus..?"
Quintus seemed to comprehend Rose was relaying more than he could understand, but that she was trying to help. "Of course," he nodded, passing his mother's wary glare as he passed, hurrying toward the main courtyard on his own.
Barely a thanks passed between Rose and Metella as the woman trailed after her son.
Rose sighed, stepping back into Evelina's darkened room. She hoped Quintus' relay to the Doctor would bring him to see Evelina's arm for himself. Optatus had been the first person they'd encountered that Ursus had turned to stone.
The ground shuddered, rumbling minutely beneath her as she sat by the girl's bedside.
Oh, right, Rose remembered. Volcano day. She'd been so taken by surprise at Evelina and Lucius' competitive predictions, she'd forgotten that by this time tomorrow, if they didn't get out of there, they'd all turn to stone.
A servant had dropped by the room not long after, carrying a pitcher of red wine and a grey toga and silver sandals draped over his arm, all of which he offered to Rose.
Rose waved away the wine, immediately mistrusting it at the sight of it, but accepted the clothing, holding it up to the light of the doorway. It'd certainly make her to fit in at bit better. The grey toga shone, slightly, and Rose realised it was a different colour, but the same shape, size, and material as Evelina's yellow dress.
It seemed, then, that despite her apparent harshness, Metella appreciated Rose keeping watch over her daughter. She discarded her jeans and t-shirt quickly, donning the toga and checking the fit in the polished bronze mirror in Evelina's bedroom.
"Hey. That's mine," came a weary laugh.
The laugh turned into a cough, from the bed, and Rose spun around to face a tired-looking, but conscious, Evelina.
Rose smiled, sitting at the seat by her bed again. "Hey. How you feeling?"
Evelina struggled to sit up, Rose helping her. "I'm refreshed, thank you," she said in a weak voice, a spark in her eyes that Rose hadn't noticed before. She hardly seemed like the same spooky, sooth-saying zombie from the courtyard earlier.
Rose handed her a goblet of what she hoped was water. "Here. You were out of it for quite a while," she sat back as the girl accepted the goblet with her good hand, drinking thirstily.
The girl nodded absently, handing Rose the empty cup. "It's the sight. I grow more used to it, over time. I am nearly strong enough to do their bidding."
Rose frowned down at the girl. "Okay. And your arm, what about that?" Rose nodded to the grey-stone arm and hand.
Evelina covered it with her blankets, almost ashamed. "It is a gift of the Gods," she replied hurriedly, in an undertone.
Rose shook her head. "Why? Why you gotta give up your life for these gods, who turn you to stone?" she cut in quickly. "What about your life? Haven't you got mates, a boyfriend?"
Evelina looked scandalised. "I am promised to the Sisterhood. They are my life."
"But they don't have to be," Rose insisted. "Look, Evelina, I've been there," she nodded to the girl's stone arm. "It isn't fun. Can't you stop it?"
Evelina's eyes were wide with fear, as though everything Rose talked about was sacrilege. "It's not my decision," she sat back. "The Sisters chose me. I have the gift of foresight," she closed her eyes. Rose wondered if she was convincing herself that this was truth.
"Foresight," Rose repeated softly, trying not to laugh. "Then tell me this, sooth-sayer," she didn't mean to sound harsh, but her voice spat the words. "What can you see happening tomorrow? Hmm?"
Evelina closed her eyes, smiling, obviously grateful to be asked a question she felt she could answer. "The sun will rise. The sun will set. Nothing special at all."
Rose shook her head. "Try harder," she urged.
Tomorrow was volcano day. This girl, she could see so much – she seemed to know about the Doctor and Rose, and their futures. Why couldn't she see the eruption of Mount Vesuvius? What the bloody hell was going on?
Evelina just looked scared, her eyes glancing sideways, shiftily, as Rose pressed her to see the truth.
Not long after the eerie revelation that Evelina knew nothing of the impending eruption, the earth shook beneath them again, and a mighty roar sounded over the province. Rose helped Evelina to her feet, the girl eagerly insisting that the gods were calling her.
They hurried to the courtyard, Evelina on Rose's arm, as the roar persisted.
"What is it?" Metella was calling. "What's that noise?"
"Doesn't sound like Vesuvius!" Caecilius looked confused.
The Doctor and Quintus raced into the courtyard from outside, the Doctor's eyes finding Rose's immediately.
"That's it," the Doctor called hurriedly, motioning the exit. "Everyone out. Caecilius, all of you. C'mon!"
"Doctor! What's going on?" Rose cried over the roaring, pointing to the TARDIS while holding Evelina up with her other arm.
"No no no," he hurried to her side, leading both girls for the main road. "We're being followed, there's no time. Just get out!"
Before Rose could insist that the TARDIS was undeniably the safest place to be, a grille in the courtyard burst open, and a huge, glowing red and grey creature emerged from beneath.
Evelina was shaking, very slightly, and gripped Rose's arm with her remaining flesh hand. "The gods are with us," she whispered.
"Water!" the Doctor called urgently, as the courtyard villa shook under the weight of the terrible newcomer.
"We need water!" the Doctor repeated, pushing Rose into action.
Rose let go of Evelina to stumble forward to the water feature, scooping water from an old goblet and turning, shaking, toward the beast.
Her heart leaped into her mouth as one of the servants approached the rock-monster.
He proclaimed. "Blessed are we to see the gods!"
The monster, its body pulsating with lava, roared. Fire spewed from its mouth, burning the servant instantly to dust.
Rose jumped, the water splashing on her feet. Um, no, the little goblet wasn't going to be enough. Her eyes roved the piazza, catching sight of a row of brass buckets by the doorway, servants dashing out toward the stack of carafes.
The Doctor stepped up, trying to reason with the creature, always the diplomat, even in the face of a huge, conscious, molten rock.
"Talk to me, that's all I want!" he called urgently, holding up his hands. "Talk to me, you just tell me who you are."
Rose grabbed one of the buckets and turned back, ready to make a dash for the water feature. Just scoop up the water, throw it at the monster. Burning rock and water didn't mix, even she knew that.
"Don't hurt these people!" the Doctor was calling up at it still.
She was wrenched backwards, very suddenly, the bucket taken from her swiftly. A hand fastened itself over her mouth, as a number of small hands grabbed at her arms, legs, hair, and dragged her backwards.
Rose tried to call out to the Doctor, as she was carted backwards. A muffled cry escaped her, and she felt a knock to the head.
The world span for a moment, then there was blackness.
She woke on a bed of furs. Groaning and wincing at the same time, she reached her hand for her head.
Her hand stopped, part way, restrained.
This woke her up. She looked down, to her hand, urgently. Both hands, and ankles, tied up. She could barely move her head, but caught a glint of silver, and looked up to face a red-hooded woman, holding a huge knife.
"What's going on, where's the Doctor?" Rose cried, struggling.
The woman standing over her spoke, loud and confident. "The False Prophet will surrender both her blood and her breath."
"What do you mean?" Rose called. "Where am I?"
The woman now looked down at her, her wild eyes flashing.
"Please," Rose tried to slow her breathing, still struggling, watching the woman – and specifically, that big knife – closely. "Please, listen to me. You don't have to do this, we can save you."
The red-hooded woman's eyes flared as she raised her knife. Rose winced. "You will be silent!" she commanded.
"Oh, she will not!"
Rose laughed in relief, breathing the breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding, at the sound of the Doctor's voice. She turned to him, smiling gratefully, as far as her restraints would allow her to move.
The crazy woman standing over her lowered the knife, sounding scandalised at the interruption. "No man is allowed to enter the Temple of Sibyl!"
The Doctor was grinning back at Rose, ignoring the red-robed women. "Nice toga. You all right?"
Rose nodded, trying to move, then looking to her restraints. She'd forgotten about them at that moment, so relieved she was to see him. "Oh, you know," she shrugged. "So-so."
Without another word, there was a sonic buzz, and the ropes fell from her. She sat up on the side of the alter.
The red-robed women had all leaped back at the sound of the sonic screwdriver. Their leader, the crazy woman who'd been about to kill Rose a moment earlier, seethed. "What magic is this-?"
"No no, not magic," the Doctor held up his sonic screwdriver for them to behold. "Not prophecy, vapours, or advanced knowledge of impending doom," he locked eyes with the apparent leader of the women.
Rose stayed silent, rubbing her wrists, wondering how the Doctor had found her. She can't have been unconscious all that long. Last thing she'd remembered, that great bloody rock monster had burst out of Caecilius' drainpipe.
"Now," he grated. "Let me tell you about Sibyl, the founder of this religion. She would be ashamed of you," he revealed. "All her wisdom and insight turned sour," he looked over the other women of the cult, who Rose had to admit, looked somewhat ashamed. He continued. "Is that how you spread the word, hey? On the blade of a knife?"
"Yes," the leader sounded more mad, more devout than before. "A knife that now welcomes you!" she lunged forward.
"No!" Rose leaped from the alter, crashing into the woman before she could get near him. They both fell to the stone floor.
"Show me these children!" a deep, rasping voice cancelled out all others. Rose froze at the sound, as it leeched into her. She turned, slowly releasing the crazed, red-robed woman, looking at a shiny red curtain at the back of the room. She sat there, wonderingly staring at the vague movements beyond it.
The red-clad women turned toward the curtain in unison, and knelt, except for the leader, who stood, eyes wild and urgent, voice desperate.
"High Priestess, the strangers would defile us!" she uttered.
"Let me see," the low voice cut her off. "These two are different. They carry starlight in their wake."
The Doctor was by Rose's side, helping her to her feet.
"She's very perceptive, now, isn't she?" the Doctor held Rose back a little, as he stepped forward, his hand on her arm; not letting go and defending her from the voice behind the curtain, in a single action. "Where do these words of wisdom come from?"
The voice behind the curtain spoke again. "The gods whisper to me."
"They've done far more than that," he didn't sound at all rattled, but the grip on Rose's arm told her otherwise. He continued, "Might I beg audience? Look upon the High Priestess?" he addressed the room, as much as the voice beyond the veil.
The red-robed women obliged, drawing the curtains aside, revealing another red-clad figure.
The Doctor's grip intensified, yet again, on Rose's arm, and she startled, looking properly at the creature, sitting on a richly furnished bed.
She gasped, gripping the Doctor's arm back with equal shock, then. The woman was entirely made of stone.
The Doctor had surged forward, demanding a name from the being that was taking control of the sisterhood, turning them to stone, infesting their bodies with dust and rock. His eyes blazed, like lightning, as he spouted Shadow Proclamation decrees at the being, insisting they tell him what and where they were from.
It worked, of course. Rarely would a creature defy the Doctor, once he'd cottoned onto their existence.
Pyrovile, it was called. This woman, this stone woman, was at the half-way stage of turning into one of them. It was feeding on them, and converting them, at the same time.
The Pyroviles had fallen, from the heavens, years earlier. They were using human bodies to reconstitute themselves, unwittingly using the latent psychic talent in the human minds to bond, awakening foresight in their minds.
They got little else out of the Pyrovile woman, as the Doctor had told Rose to run, kicking at a grating in the floor, similar to the one the creature had burst out of in Caecilius' villa.
Rose raced ahead of the Doctor, sweating instantly at the heat of the underground tunnel, her throat burning from the stink of sulphur in the air.
She coughed as they ran, and the Doctor urged her onward.
"Into the volcano!" he called to her, over the groans and roars of the volcano all around them. Into the heart of these Pyroviles, these stone monsters.
"It's always aliens, isn't it?"
The Doctor turned back to Rose briefly, frowning. The running had slowed to a walk, once they'd been sure they weren't being followed.
"The eruption, I mean," Rose explained, stepping over some glowing embers. "These aliens, they cause it, right?"
"Aliens or not, still part of history," the Doctor climbed over a boulder, reaching back and offering his hand down to her.
She took it, heaving herself upwards.
"So?" she tested. "Aliens attack London, all the time," she shrugged. "And you stop them."
The Doctor shrugged as well, letting go of her hand and continuing into the mountain. "Some things are fixed, some things are in flux. Pompeii is fixed."
"Why?" she pursed her lips at his back, but he didn't say anything else, moving along the rubble cave path.
"Do you decide what's fixed, then?"
"No!" the Doctor turned back quickly now, his eyes hard.
Rose reached him, staring up, feeling a little ashamed of herself but not faltering under that solid gaze. He wasn't fooling her. "You've saved me. Even when you shouldn't have. You've said so," she poked him in the chest. "How's Pompeii any different?"
He didn't – or couldn't? – answer her.
They reached the centre of Vesuvius, and the Pyrovile base of operations. Lucius stood amongst the massive stone creatures, the marble circuit board from before, and a number of others just like it, being carried forward into a small, rock-shaped pod in the centre of the cave.
The Doctor and Rose found out what was going on exactly, with the usual amount of leading and prompting from the Doctor.
The Pyroviles had been stranded on Earth, years earlier, impacting out of control and cut off from their race. With the last of their technology, and their home world lost, they were going to use the marble circuit boards to charge the lava of Vesuvius and convert the human race to stone, to reawaken their kind. The oceans of earth would burn. Everything, Lucius told them, would burn.
This revelation had awoken a fear-driven anger in Rose, but before she'd been able to react or strike out, the Doctor had thanked Lucius, stating this was exactly what he needed.
He squirted water from a yellow water pistol at one of the Pyroviles. As it shielded itself and hissed at what must have been one hell of a sting, Rose glanced about, looking for their exit. It was time to leave, before they were burned.
There! The pod in the middle of the room. The one with the marble circuit boards in it. Empty and theirs for the taking!
She grabbed his arm and ran, leaping for the opening. Deafening roars boomed around the cavern, and Rose felt the lick of fire on her heels as she landed with a crash, on the floor of the pod. She could hear Lucius screaming, calling after them. The Doctor skidded to a halt, sonic at hand, buzzing the left side of the doorway, and it promptly slid shut.
Not a moment too soon.
From within the pod, Rose could hear the hiss of the Pyrovile's flames, and the temperature within increased, gradually, like an oven. She steadied herself, wiping her forehead, blinking at the marble circuits and breathing heavily in the dense air.
The Doctor mustn't have felt the increase in temperature, at least, not yet. He was regarding the circuit boards. "See? The energy converter takes the lava," he pointed, "uses the power to create a fusion matrix, which welds Pyrovile to human," he turned to Rose, shaking his head urgently. "Now it's complete, they can convert millions."
Rose nodded, wavering, feeling dizzy. "So, stop it. You're allowed to, now," she coughed a little.
The Doctor was on a roll, again talking very quickly. "But don't you see? That's why the soothsayers can't see the volcano," he ran a hand through his hair, messing it with dirt and sweat. "There is no volcano. Vesuvius is never gonna erupt. It's the Pyrovile – they're stealing all its power, to take over the world."
He was making her head spin even more, all the words, and no action. She leaned forward, touching one of the circuits, looking in vain for an 'off' switch. "Yeah, all right. Then stop it, Doctor," she repeated, hissing as her fingers grazed the side of the wall. It was extremely hot.
He insisted on procrastinating as he tweaked a couple of rocky-looking controls next to the marble panels. "I can invert the system, set off the volcano, and blow them up, yes, but-"
"Doctor!" Rose gasped air that felt like fire, taking one of his shoulders in her fist as she wavered again. "Stop talking and do something before we suffocate!"
The Doctor looked down at her, sadly, barely moving. Rose breathed heavily, her lungs burning. He was close to crying. She lessened her grip on his shoulder, at that look, but left her hand there, to steady herself. She knew that look. She'd seen that look in him a number of times before, when he was faced with an impossible choice. She wondered if suffocation might be the least of their worries.
"That's the choice, Rose," he took a gulp of air, glancing at the marble circuits, the other controls, then back to Rose again. "Pompeii or the world."
Rose shook her head slowly, spoke quietly. "Not good enough." There was always a third option. Always.
The Doctor continued, his tone rising. "If Pompeii is destroyed then it's not just history," he explained. "It's me. I make it happen."
"Shut up," Rose cut him off quickly, shaking her head. "You don't make it happen."
He looked away from her, eyes roving over the controls, settling on a lever.
Rose forced him to look at her again. "The Pyrovile's made this happen, Doctor, when they started taking control of these people's minds, turning them to stone."
The Doctor's hands hovered over the lever. "Push this lever and it's over. Vesuvius explodes with the force of 24 nuclear bombs," he was speaking very quietly. "Nothing can survive it. Certainly not us," he didn't look at her as he said it.
Rose edged forward, putting both her hands over his, over the lever, closing her eyes and gripping his hands in hers.
There was a BOOM.
But they hadn't flipped the lever. They hadn't caused it.
Rose gasped, her eyes shooting open, as she leaped away from the lever. "I didn't-!" she insisted.
"Neither did I!" the Doctor also took a step back, staring wild-eyed over the controls.
"Doc-" Rose started, but wasn't able to finish, as the world turned upside-down, and Rose was thrown, at full force, into the side of the pod.
She reached for the Doctor, grabbing his arm as he reached for her at the same moment. They clung to one another, reaffirming their grips. They were thrown from side to side, top to bottom, as they span for minutes. Then, as Rose's heart left her throat and plummeted into her stomach, they fell again, careening to a halt with a shattering crash.
In the blackness that followed their coming to a stop, Rose dreamed a peculiar dream.
In it, the Doctor was arguing with Captain Jack, as it snowed outside the TARDIS doors.
He was angry with Jack for blowing up the Chula spaceship.
Rose winced, unable to move, only observe, blinking blearily. Everything was out of focus.
Jack was asking stupid questions, about which Time Agency director had sent them, and saying that he'd be happy to share the profits with them both.
The Doctor ignored this, exclaiming that he, Jack, was responsible. It was forever on his conscience. His fault. And he'd nearly killed them as well.
"Rubbish," Rose managed to talk, in barely a whisper, waving a hand that felt quite disconnected from her body in dismissal, trying to smile. "Jack can't die."
The Doctor turned to her quickly, panic in his eyes. Rose managed the smile now, and closed her eyes again.
As the dream began to fade, she heard the Doctor, telling Jack to leave now and never let him see him again.
"And don't even think about using the 1940's, Harkness!"
"Why?" she could hear the grin in Jack's voice, through the blackness. "What happens in the 1940's?"
Yes. It was a crazy, nonsense, peculiar dream.
She woke in the TARDIS med bay. The Doctor was leaning over her, frowning, looking at her head. She heard a hum, felt a warm, uncomfortable prickling sensation in her hair.
"Ow," she muttered, trying to swat him away.
"Easy," the Doctor's eyes flicked to her, then back to the top of her head. The buzzing stopped. "There we are," he muttered, putting whatever gadget he'd been using back in the medical kit behind him.
Rose tried to sit up.
"Ahh – steady," he put his hands on her shoulders, easing her back down onto the palette. "Give the stitches time to fuse."
"Stitches?" Rose realised she was weak, and couldn't fight him, blinking even her eyes felt heavy. The memory of the strange Jack dream rattled in her head, and she raked a hand over her forehead, and through her hair.
"Doc...Doctor, what happened?" she winced, remembering what had happened before the dream with a shudder. Flying through the air. No, before that. Vesuvius erupting. But, they hadn't done it.
"You took a fairly serious crack to the noggin', that's what happened," the Doctor dismissed the weight of Rose's question, running his fingers lightly in a line over the side of her head, above her right ear, inspecting.
Rose could barely feel it. He must have given her some painkillers or something.
"Looks better now," he smiled down at her, easing her up into a sitting position. "Here we are."
Rose let herself be eased, feeling pins and needles in her hands as she pressed against the palette. She looked at her hand sleepily. Instead of her own hand, she saw a grey, lifeless stone one and yelped.
"Hey hey hey, easy, you're all right," the Doctor held her, stopping her from struggling further. Rose glanced back at her hand. It was flesh. She'd only imagined it.
She raised her eyes to the Doctor's, slowly, remembering.
"They're all turned to stone, aren't they?" she asked carefully. "Evelina. Lucius. Quintus, all of them."
The Doctor's eyes shone, as his lips straightened. He nodded, very slightly.
Rose turned away from him, remembering Caecilius, proudly telling them about his marble trade. Quintus, holding his head, clearly hungover. Evelina, laughing weakly at Rose from her bed.
"They're never forgotten, Rose," the Doctor spoke in a low voice, shaking slightly. Rose watched him, feeling stuffed up and dizzy again.
"Oh, time will pass, men will move on, and stories will fade," he continued. "But one day, Pompeii will be found, again. In thousands of years."
Rose closed her eyes, half wanting him to stop talking. Could they have really ever have stopped it? Was time really that predetermined – dictating that it was their time, and there was nothing anybody – not even the Doctor - could do about it?
"And everyone will remember them," the Doctor sounded slightly triumphant at his last.
Rose nodded. She certainly wouldn't forget them.
The next episode is Planet of the Ood...
And now for a footnote! Sorry if I didn't make it clearer, but Rose changed back to human at the end of Voyage of the Damned with the flashes of memory bits, and then the Doctor telling her he was glad she was back to her old self because Time Lord Rose was "just wrong"! Sorry if you're disappointed – all I can say is trust me!