There's a bit of a different style to this one, I think, though I'm not sure how that happened. I think I like it. Blame the American in me.

Eternal Midnight: Epilogue

She burned.

Oh, she wasn't nearly as bright as the sun, of course, but she still burned. She burned in all the ways that really mattered, the kind of stuff you hear inspirational and angsty shit about when you're too young to know any better about the real truth of it all. She was the sort of unsung hero you dream you maybe were in a past life or something so that your life now could be worth living for; the kind of girl no one believes is really real but whom everyone pities and cries for because she's had a horrible, terrible life and her only freedom, in the end, is her inevitable death. The sad thing is, this gal ain't dead. She's alive, you just don't notice her. Inside us all, she's there, burning, like a tiny little fire, a miniscule flame of hope and glory and conscience and every other concievable feel-good thing of legendary stuff and then everything else, too.

On a desolate, abandoned world, she burned.

The principle's the thing. Whoever the hell said that probably didn't know what they were talking about, but they're right. What she did didn't matter, nor why she did it, nor who she was or who her parents were or what she looked like. Fact was, she burned.

Plenty of people were there when her body went up in flame. The Guardian came, unwelcomed, aboard the TARDIS and gave them each a talisman, of sorts. It was supposed to protect them from the deadly radiation of the planet and the Guardian's own special "abilities". But everyone wondered if it was just for the ceremony of the thing. The principle.

The Guardian led them to a castle. Well, it didn't really lead them so much as it told them where it was going, for it couldn't strictly be seen. The Guardian, after all, was like the planet. It was insubstantial, abstract; an idea that niggled at the back of the brain and refused to go away. In some ways, the Guardian burned, too, though that could just be because of her. You never know.

In any case, the Guardian only existed because the visitors did, and since they believed it existed, it did. Wouldn't work any other way. That's reality. The insane see and hear things that aren't really there because they want to. We see and hear what we do because we want to. Or perhaps it is no matter of wanting, but needing. We need an environment, so we believe there is one. We need company, so we believe we have some. Usually. Or perhaps, as in the case of loners who pity themselves for lack of sompany and then kill themselves because they can't have it, there is a necessity for a kind of balance where there are people who need to not need what everyone else does.

Is it really any better than chaos and discord? Oh, who knows? Thing was, it was the insane who really got to see the truth of the things. The realness. The bits that no one else could ever see. It's the principle, man.

He used the torch of an acrid black flame that the Guardian gave him to set the diamond pyre on fire. Perhaps he didn't have to; she was burning, after all. But that was eternities and infinities away as much as it was in the here and now, and he promised her he would do it right.

Then he buried the torch in the diamond grains beneath his feet and held the hand of the woman he loved and watched as the rest of her burned, too, a sickly blue-silver fire that flashed across their eyes and made unfriendly shadows on the walls of the courtyard that surrounded them.

Martha never met her properly, but she knew she saved the multiverse. Jack wondered what it would have been like if she had stayed alive with the rest of them; he may have fancied her, just a little. Donna missed the beautiful way the timelines seemed to dance to avoid touching her. Rose was almost glad to see the body destroyed, never to confine the poor girl ever again. Jenny, like everyone else, knew hardly anything about her, but she found she loved her all the same for what she did.

And it went beyond that, too.

It was the principle, dude. The principle of what she did was what really mattered, not that it was her that did it or that she did it at all or that it needed to be done and she was the only one who could, or that she never belonged in the universe to start with so it was really no great loss now she was gone. The principle of it's the thing, dammit.

The Doctor wondered when people would stop dying for him. No, that wasn't it. It was the suffering. Everyone suffered everywhere he went. It didn't matter who it was or why, they always suffered. It was the principle of it that got to him. Maybe it would have been easier if she had truly died.

So he let go of his beloved's hand, made to turn away, go back to the only home he had left.

But apparently she had decided that he'd let go of her one too many times, for as soon as she felt him begin to slip away, her grip tightened until he was biting his tongue to keep from gasping at the pain of it.

He couldn't understand. She didn't look at him or offer any explanation other than to slowly relax her hand until he could barely feel it, an echo of sensation, of agony, a tickle at the ends of the ends of his nerves. He found he couldn't move, so he didn't. He didn't even breathe. He just watched as Midna's body burned, watched as the flames shot higher and higher, impossibly high, stretching beyond the atmosphere, burning in defiance of the lack of oxygen that said it couldn't.

There was moral in that, somewhere.

Where?

In the principle, man. Always.

Even Donna was silent, her head bowed slightly, fiery hair that didn't burn forming a sort of flowy curtain around her head, like a halo. It didn't mean she didn't have anything to say, it just meant she was respecting the martyr. The living martyr.

Wasn't everyday you got to say that.

Martha kept her eyes lowered, feeling not unlike an intruder. Her hands were rigidly laced behind her back, very still because fidgeting was just wrong. She felt, for the first time in a rather long while, small and insecure, like a freakin' child. She'd barely seen Midna at all, so why was she even here? Why had she decided that coming along was the best thing to do?

Dude, the principle.

Jack wondered, very briefly, if it would have worked between them. Nah. Gorgeous as she'd been, even at a mere fifteen, Midna wouldn't work with anyone. Not really. Now, the Doctor's daughter, on the other hand…

He got it. He understood. He saw things like the insane do, as they're meant to be, simply, not irrationally or with all those ridiculous strings attached. He saw it, understood it, but he was still human on some indefinable level. So, most of the time, he ignored it.

Typical.

Jenny found herself willing to fall on her knees and pray. It was strange, though. Midna wasn't a goddess. She was human, at heart. She was normal. Just "chosen", was all. Rather suddenly, she realized exactly why Midna always snorted disdainfully whenever she had deigned to say that, because it didn't say enough, didn't tell the whole story, didn't say anything about what that meant.

It was the principle of it, yeah? Not that she was the support that the two sides of the balance depended on, holding Fate to mold in her hands, though that was a large part of it, but she was it. Just like that; she was it. The thing everyone dreamt of. The ideal everyone lived up to, the love everyone lived for and the hate that drove everyone forward. The principle. Yeah, Jenny might get it. Just a little.

Rose stood quietly, watching the fire, allowing her hand to skim gently over the Doctor's, a whisper of what could be but that he was terrified would rule him when he most couldn't let it. Her eyes were wide, her skin shining and pale in the light of the fire and the planet and the sun.

Rose saw it all more simply. Maybe it was because she'd seen Midna's soul for herself. Truth was, there wasn't any bravery or glory or sacrifice at all. Midna was a coward as much as she was brave, not unlike the Doctor. In fact, Rose suspected Midna was more like her grandfather than any other member of her family. Perhaps this was why Rose could see her so clearly.

Didn't matter, though, 'cos there was still that moral in there. The principle. Easy to see once you did. Simple.

'Sides, it was just another adventure, yeah? An important one, of course, and possibly the most important one, but still just an adventure. They would move on. They had to, or Midna's work would be for absolutely nothing.

So they stood there and watched her burn, and moved on.

o0o

"Jenny!"

"Right here!"

Jenny tossed something in Rose's direction; she caught it deftly, never breaking her stride, and turned around so she was running backwards. She trusted Jenny to tell her if she was about to ram herself into something.

Rose pointed the screwdriver at the platoon of robotic humanoids that were chasing them, flipping the setting to 165G and flicking the switch. With a hiss and collective groan, the Critofolian guards collapsed in a melted heap of metal in the middle of the corridor.

Quickly, Rose turned back around to see that Jenny had nearly arrived at the door. She tossed the screwdriver back to her, and within seconds they were outside.

"Shit!" Rose hissed, her arms snapping out to catch Jenny as she teetered precariously at the edge of a poorly-placed cliff.

"This way!" Jenny gasped, recovering quickly. She grabbed Rose's hand and they ran without ever looking back until they rammed into the TARDIS, barely pausing long enough to unlock the door before they were through.

Together, they piloted the TARDIS back inside the complex, opened the doors just long enough to usher Donna and the Doctor inside, and then they were gone.

Another adventure.

o0o

Martha hissed in pain, damn near twisting her ankle completely around. Frustrated, she tore off her heels and kept running, following Rose and the Doctor. Jenny was ahead of them, running faster than any of them could ever hope to, and Donna ran beside Martha, apparently unfazed by her own shoes. Damn Time Lords and their goddamn superior physiology. She'd like to tell them where they could stuff it, but this was hardly the time.

A javelin shot past her ear and skimmed the Doctor's shoulder, gouging the skin. He yelped, more startled than anything else, and Rose glanced over at him. She stumbled as they ran, eyes widening as she saw the blood seeping through his jacket – the black one, the one of Doom. Her instincts told her to tackle the man and pin him down until he let her bandage the wound, but, again, this wasn't the time for that. They just had to run, or she wouldn't ever be bandaging anything.

The principle was in the running, she decided. It wasn't just saving worlds and people and seeing new things, though that probably took up the majority, but the running was what gave you the thrill of the hunt, so to speak. It ignited that flame, fanned it, and it burned.

It was the best investment in shoes she had ever spent.

Later, she complained to the Doctor, "You are never wearing that suit again." Really, the thing was just bad luck altogether, no matter how good he looked in it (hey! She could still look…) or how many times he insisted that one day, just one day, he would get it right and take the girls to a ball they could actually sit back and relax at and enjoy.

Right. Like that was even possible with him.

Maybe that was why she always ran to Tom, but then came back to remind herself that she could run for real.

Always worth it, though. Just another adventure.

She ducked and an arrow flew over her head, embedding itself harmlessly with a quiver in a thick tree trunk. Then she had to swerve to dodge the stupid tree.

Yep. Worth it.

o0o

They were dancing.

It was sort of an accident, really. They'd landed in Cardiff to drop off Martha and Jack had come bursting out of the Hub babbling something about intelligent Weevils running rampant in London. By the time they got there, thirteen people had been torn to pieces and two more had gone missing in the same area. It was only after the problem was taken care of that they realized that the missing innocents – innocents, for Christ's sake! – had been eaten. Dreadful stuff.

Then Ianto reminded them that it was the third-year anniversary for the start of Torchwood Three. Somehow, Jack convinced the Doctor to stay – though this may have had more to do with the fact that Donna threatened to hide all his bananas and leave nothing but pears to eat in the TARDIS if he didn't try and relax for just one night.

Gwen brought out the drinks, Mickey set up the music (both terrestrial and non, oddly enough), Ianto ordered pizza, Martha called her husband over, and suddenly it was like they were one big, normal family.

Still, there was this music in the background, hidden underneath the music that blared from the speakers, the kind of music that you can't hear but know is there, the kind you want to dance to but don't quite know how. It was the sort of music they danced to because they were the kind of people who saw innocents torn to pieces and eaten and then had a little laugh about it and a dance when it was all said and done.

Walk away, if you want to.
It's okay, if you need to.
Well, you can run, but you can never hide
From the shadow that's creeping up beside you.
There's a magic running through your soul,
But you can't have it all…

Whatever you do
I'll be two steps behind you
Wherever you go
And I'll be there to remind you
That it only takes a minute of your precious time
To turn around; I'll be two steps behind…

Odd, the way some memories come back to you like that, isn't it? It's just a song, after all. One damn song the poor bastards of Def Leppard released into the world Just a few words. Just a couple of notes. Maybe a bit of dancing could be okay, then. Maybe it's not. But there's only one real way to find out, and that's by doing it. So they did.

It was different from before, though. Different from the last time they danced, and the time before that. There was a new sort of energy between them, an energy they usually spent by getting involved in everything they could afford to. Here, on the impromptu makeshift dance floor, there was no running. No thrill, you'd think, then, but there was that. There was just no running.

It had burned away to ash.

Oh, but that thrill was there. She felt it every time his fingers came anywhere near hers, felt it as he refused her every dance outwardly but was drawn to her anyway, felt it when he gave up on dancing and settled for holding her close. Neither of them had gone near the drinks; the Doctor because he had no interest, Rose because she knew she couldn't afford to lose her inhibition.

It was a rather interesting tightrope they walked. Eventually, they both knew, either the tightrope would snap or they would both simply topple over, but the ending would always have the same result.

They were cowards, though. Rose knew now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn't just the Doctor's cowardice Midna had inherited in her parallel world. It was all of theirs. She could taste it in the air, the tangible fear, the terror of something not one of them could explain.

Jack feared eternity. Jenny feared the inevitabilty of a love she was clearly trying to fight so she could spend more time with a father she feared she would be somehow separated from one day. Martha feared that she would not be able to return to Tom after going off on one of those fanciful adventures of hers, and that he would live on without ever knowing what might have happened to her. Donna feared, partially, that she would make Midna's future come to frution, and feared, wholly, that she wouldn't. Gwen feared that she might not ever see Rhys again, whether it was the next day or the day after that or a few hundred years before that. Ianto feared he may hurt Jack if he got too close with his comparitively fleeting life.

The Doctor feared…everything. And Rose feared for him, and they feared for each other, they feared what they could do to each other, and they feared for the universe if either of them should lose the other ever again.

There was still that line, though there was no princple.

No principle, man.

o0o

A year after her body burned, the new TARDIS was fully grown. The Doctor took a deep, steadying breath as he prepared to give it to the only person he ever could give it to.

"Dad?"

"Are you happy?" he blurted before he could rationally think of something intelligent to say. He could be like that sometimes.

"What?" Her brows furrowed; she was confused. He felt an odd urge to chuckle.

"Are you happy?" he repeated, more calmly.

"I…I suppose so, why?"

The Doctor frowned. Why couldn't anything ever be simple for once? He ran his hands through his hair, a habit that caused the strands to stick straight up in the air in every direction. He ignored it and the amused smile Jenny gave him.

"Are you sure? Not…embarrassed by your old man, are you?" he decided to try lightening the mood just a little. He only succeeded in making her worry, of course.

"Dad? Are you all right?"

"I'm always all right," he replied automatically. A little voice in his head snorted at him, and he thought it sounded rather like Donna. His daughter rose an eyebrow at him skeptically, which he studiously chose to ignore.

"What's this all about, then? What do you want?"

"What? Who said anything about wanting?"

She just stared at him. Honestly, did women practice that?

He sighed, reached into his jacket, and pulled out the new TARDIS, which currently took the form of a tiny pod. It would grow to be big enough for her to climb aboard once she affirmed she wanted to be it's owner. TARDISes were good like that, after all.

"This is yours. If want it. I mean, you don't have to. But…I just thought…it's been over a year, so I thought, maybe, you might want to –"

"Dad!" Jenny interrupted him a little too loudly. He cringed and looked away, swallowing. He missed her half-amused, half-concerned gaze. She took the pod from him carefully, delicately smoothing the surface over with her fingers and watching with delight as it lit up with sparkling multicolored lights. "What is it?"

"It's a TARDIS," said the Doctor quickly, before he could change his mind. He avoided her eyes when her head snapped up sharply.

"A TARDIS?" she repeated flatly. He nodded nervously. "A real TARDIS?" another nod, couple with a bit of fidgeting. "You grew a real TARDIS?" a sheepish shrug this time, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand and stopping as soon as he realized he was doing it. "For me?"

"If you want," he added quickly. He didn't want to make it look like he was kicking her out. No, hardly. He just thought she might like having "a ride of her own", so to speak.

And then, quite suddenly, he was seeing stars and his ribs were damn near cracked. He must have said something (he most certainly did not squeak), for she quickly released him, pecked him on the cheek, gave him another hug (gentler this time, thankfully), and skipped off down the hall away from the kitchen, calling Rose's name at the top of her lungs. Rose, of course, already knew what the Doctor had planned – had known from the start, in fact, and he wondered if she would be at all disappointed.

The extras were the nets that kept them from being swept away, after all. Their lifelines. A critical strand of that tightrope. It was a dangerous move, he knew, giving Jenny that TARDIS and encouraging her to use it, but he couldn't help it.

He was getting tired of pretending to follow a principle that had never existed.

o0o

"Martha!" Jenny squealed, apparently completely forgetting about the pod clutched firmly but carefully in her hand as she rushed over to her friend.

"You're pregnant?" Rose stated the obvious, clearly surprised, as Jenny and Martha parted. "How long've we been gone?" she shot a lighthearted glare at the Doctor, who feigned mock-hurt but then turned to Martha in curiosity of the answer as well.

Martha shook her head, grinning. "Jus' a couple of months. Long enough, though," she laughed, patting the little round bulge on her stomach.

"Congratulations!" Rose declared happily, but the Doctor thought he could detect something else in her voice, too. He understood that, if he wasn't just imagining it. That was another net gone. They couldn't take Martha traveling while she was pregnant, there was just no way, and after that Martha would have the child to take care of.

"Oh, and Sarah-Jane said to say hi for her," said Martha later as they sipped at tea Tom had readily prepared for them.

"How is she?" asked Rose.

"Same as ever. Right competition for Torchwood, though, I'll tell you. Always rushing to get to some scene of crime before each other. We still get the most dangerous ones, of course." She always referred to Torchwood with the collective "we" now; she was settling in, getting used to her life. That was good. Really.

"How's Luke?" the Doctor queried lightly.

"On his way to Uni, at his rate," answered Tom, shaking his head. It was amazing how easily he'd integrated with their strange family. "Still savin' his mum at every turn, though."

"Good to hear," said Rose, smiling. Though it was probably his imagination, he thought it looked a little forced. He could understand that, too. It was domestic, this small talk.. It made his skin crawl, itch, plead and scream inside his head for something else anything else.

o0o

Though it was no surprise, Donna got on with Jackie Tyler so well they may as well have been twins. Everytime they visited her, the Doctor got yelled at twice as much as he used to, got hit what felt like three times as often, and was laughed at continuously by Rose. He couldn't see what was so damn funny. It wasn't his fault she was so jeopardy-friendly, for Rassilon's sake!

Little Tony took the Doctor's side, surprisingly, so the Doctor spent most of his time at the Powell Estates teaching the boy to play alien sports and getting him to laugh at some of his more ridiculous adventures. It was oddly soothing, these moments with a toddler who could barely stand up to the height of the Doctor's knees. It was fascinating, too, the way Tony seemed to percieve things in that way all children did.

Once, while the Doctor was teaching him how to build a temporal-kinetic shifter with the sonic screwdriver (and failing), Tony just stopped what he was doing, rolled onto his side (for they were both lying flat on their stomachs) and faced the Doctor. He just went quiet, looking at him, and the Doctor found in his wide Bambi-brown eyes the speculative thoughtfulness he often saw in Rose. Having that gaze turned so intensely on himself was rather disconcerting, and he fought the urge to squirm.

"Find anything interesting?" he asked suddenly. To his amused delight, Tony jumped, then bit his bottom lip guiltily.

"Why sad?" Tony said, catching him off guard. The Doctor's smile slipped briefly.

"What?"

"You sad," Tony stated plaintively, reaching out with a tiny, trembling hand to touch the Doctor's brow. The Doctor surprised himself by letting him. "What for?"

The Doctor smiled ruefully, mirthlessly.

"I'm not sad."

"Yes, you is!" Tony stuck out his lip stubbornly in an action so reminiscent of Rose he found himself gawping for just a moment.

"No, I'm not," the Doctor argued, sighing. He wasn't in the mood for this. Why couldn't they go back to playing with the sonic screwdriver.

In fact, he was about to suggest just that when Tony cut him off, "So is Wose."

His adorable way of saying her name was lost on him as his words registered.

"What?" he said again. Damn. The kid was wearing off on him, that lack of decent vocabulary.

Tony beamed. "See!"

The Doctor shook his head. He honestly didn't.

Tony frowned again, that thoughtful look on his face again, like he was trying to figure out how to save the world without killing everyone. Or maybe that was just Rose.

"Wose no cry," he said, sadly, like it was a crime.

"What's wrong with that?"

"She s'pose to, though!" Tony whined lugubriously.

"Why is that?"

Light, he reminded himself sharply, keep the tone light.

"'Cos she sad. Girls s'pose to cwy when they sad."

"Nah. Don't have to. What makes you think she's sad?"

"She looks wike you."

"What?" Rassilon, he was articulate today.

"Here," Tony cried, brushing his hand over the Doctor's brow again with his thumb. "And here," he pounded the Doctor's chest with his little fists. Then he gave a massive yawn, and the Doctor took the opportunity to scoop him up and put the conversation to a definitive end.

That was enough of that, he thought.

But enough of what, exactly? he thought later.

o0o

They met on an alien planet, in the system of Grhstaik over three billion light-years and a couple more billion literal years away from twenty-first century Earth. And when they met, the last net dissolved, and the last critical strand they stood on snapped like a twig.

The Ligyvaros were invading, but from what the Doctor remembered, they were perfectly peaceful. His concerns landed them smack dab in the middle of the Sevenstile War, named so because it had lasted for seven centuries, much to his bewilderment. Then they found that the war was with the Mitgefühl, bringing back a few memories they would really much rather have lost a while back. Apparently, the Ligyvaro people had built a resistance to the Mitgefühl powers and, once they had learned they had been manipulated into being pathetic pacifists for three millenia, they aunched an all-out attack on their homeworld. The Mitgefühl gave as good as they got, however, and so the war didn't end with the initial strike; it went on…and on, and on, and on… They didn't even know what they were fighting for anymore.

The Doctor, Rose and Donna were caught and tried for treason, found guilty without trial, and sent to prison to await the Mitgefühl version of the guillotine. They took his screwdriver too, dammit.

Then the rebels came to the rescue, the ones who opposed the war entirely and who had tasted, through the newcomers' emotions, the bittersweet tang of freedom from the military rule they'd been subjected to for so long. He would remember those first few moments forever, the moment he thought might be coming but wasn't completely sure of, the moment when suddenly he and Rose had no one else to fall back on. Donna looked at him, and the Doctor knew that was when it happened. Then, later, when the guards had been alerted and they were running, not for the first time, for their lives…

"Hey, you! Silent rebel! What was your name, again?"

"Nicholsen, ma'am," said the dirty dishwater-blond fellow in an American accent with a playful little half-grin on lips that, to the Doctor, belonged to someone else. "Nicholsen Black."

The time travellers froze right there, in the cellar of the prison, hunted by psycopathic empaths, inches away from their escape route, quite unable to move another muscle.

Nicholsen and his buddy Gregory halted, seeing that their party had stopped. "What's wrong?" asked Nicholsen.

Rose and the Doctor exchanged a look that must have lasted a lifetime. Then they looked at Donna, who was staring at Nicholsen like she'd never seen a man before in her life. He knew for sure, then, that Donna wouldn't have to choose whether or not she would risk it. She already had.

o0o

Nicholsen, apparently, had been more than just a Mitgefühl; he was a Time Agent, too, and Gregory was his partner. They had every intention of ending the Sevenstile War, and so, with the Doctor's help, they did. Then the Doctor offered to give them a ride in the TARDIS, asking them where they would go if they could go anywhere. But they only wanted to go home, and Nicholsen offered to show Donna around Chicago. The Doctor stayed the night just in case she changed her mind, enjoying a nice, forcibly light night with Rose in a Chucky Cheese of the early twenty-first century.

The next morning, Donna knocked on the TARDIS doors. She actually knocked.

She said she wasn't going back. Not right away, at least. She still wanted to travel, still wanted to see things, but she wasn't going back. Maybe Mickey could come with them, sometimes. Yeah, right. He was married, he reminded her. Settling down. Didn't even work for Torchwood anymore. Preferred advances in computer science to the thrill of the adventure. Silently, he wondered if should envy the man, as he used to. He was puzzled to find that he didn't.

Then she gave him that look, the sad one that reminded him that she was his best friend, the one who knew him possibly better than even Rose (who happened to be in the shower while all of this was occuring, which was just as well) did. In return, he gave Donna a warning glare. She had no idea what she was doing.

She rose an eyebrow. Yes, she did.

He cocked his head to the side. How could she?

She smirked and mimicked him, crossing her arms. She'd lived with him for two years.

It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. So what? Now she knew everything?

She shook her head and sighed. No. That wasn't it.

The last thing he heard from her that day was a singular phrase that burned itself into his mind for every day he lived thereafter.

She unfolded her arms and gestured to the general vicinity of her chest – her hearts.

"I'm not gonna make the same mistakes as you did, Doctor. I'm not that stupid, for one thing. And I'm not sorry."

Then Donna Noble turned on her heel and walked away.

It was the principle of the act that he remembered the most.

And I'm not sorry.

o0o

The nets fell away. The tightrope snapped. They didn't bother trying to stop it.

He found himself staring at her whenever he had the chance, uncaring as to whether she caught him at it or not. It wasn't long before she was doing the same.

It was strange, this slow, agonizing seduction. They each knew they loved the other and that the other loved them. They knew where they were going and that their time together was always limited, but they couldn't seem to help but dance. It was a beat they knew well, the one they were dancing to, but which they most often had ignored in the past because it wasn't the time for it.

Now he found himself utterly incapable of pretending it didn't exist. Because it did. And it was too late now, whatever he had ever said before.

They didn't visit anyone for a long while. They didn't need to, really. They were alone on the TARDIS, after all, and they could always go to some random time and country where there was no danger of running into anybody when they ran out of milk.

They sought trouble on a daily basis. Why, he didn't know. You'd think he would have loathed the thought of danger when he was growing closer and closer to Rose like a planet orbiting a sun that was on the verge of becoming a black hole. He wondered if she felt the same, then decided promptly that she must.

It was completely random when they finally came out and said it. They were lounging in the console, the Doctor attaching the completed temporal-kinetic shifter to the insides of the TARDIS, Rose quietly reading a book and glancing up just to watch him every so often. He found himself watching her, too.

He wasn't even looking at her when he said it, his hands tangled in wires, grease in his hair, oil marring his face and in danger of staining his precious pinstripes, the jacket of which was crumpled on the floor a few feet away.

Neither was she, her eyes narrowed just slightly, tongue between her teeth, fingers following her place along the page she was concentrating so hard on.

"I love you."

So plain, so simple.

At first, they didn't even realize they had said it, let alone that they'd done it at the same time as the other. Then Rose cleared her throat, and when he looked up, she was smiling, her eyes twinkling maddeningly. He flushed in comprehension and, mortified, tried to defend himself, but it was too late and she leapt like a tiger at her prey.

Metaphorically.

He cleared his throat.

"That was…unexpected."

Rassilon, did she have to smile like that?

He found himself nodding rather dumbly, still immersed knee-deep in TARDIS parts.

"Yeah. Yeah. Yeah…that was. That it was. It was…unexpected. Yeah."

What the hell happened to being nearly a millenia old?

She giggled at him. He scowled at her, but she only laughed harder.

He tried to get back to work, installing the shifter, but like fuck he could even think about concentrating right now.

The Doctor grimaced at his own thoughts, thinking bitterly only of their goddamn treachery. Her laughter finally ceased, but he could tell, somehow, that she was still grinning.

Then, suddenly, she was hopping down beside him underneath the console, shimmying her hips and twisting her upper body to get even with him.

His mouth went dry.

"Rose," he murmured, straightening slowly and bringing her up with him.

"Doctor," she whispered, trusting yet apprehensive, uncertain, exactly, of what he would do.

He understood.

And, oil and grease and TARDIS parts or not, he lifted his hands, cradled her face in his his. Her eyes closed and she sighed breathily. Her breath smelled of something metallic but not unpleasant, of something vaguely fruity and possibly banana-ish. His fingers explored her face, learning it, memorizing it by touch as he long since had by sight. The smooth flawlessness, the caked makeup, the too-wide square jaw and dark eyebrows, cheeks that dimpled just…like…so when she smiled, the forehead and its glorious temples, over which he allowed his lips to hover for just a second, and wide, walnut shaped eyes with thin lids which fluttered a little under his gliding caress.

Her neck was even better. He brushed her bleached hair aside almost impatiently, his hands closing around her throat carefully, feeling gently for the pulse point and biting off a sharp moan on feeling the vibrating life under his fingers. Quickly, the Doctor lowered his head and nipped gently at the bared flesh, delighting entirely too much in the groan Rose supplied him with, her vocal cords humming under his hands and shaking him loose.

He continued to lick and bite lightly at her throat and neck, teasing, playful, smiling. She opened her eyes then and glared at him, but she was so obviously enjoying herself. He chuckled when she gave up on keeping still, running her hands over his arms, his shoulders, trailing up his cheeks and tickling his sideburns before tangling inextricably with his hair. She gasped when he bit a little too hard somewhere near her shoulder and drew blood, but her body arched into his, so he rather took that as a good sign.

And then, somehow, they were latched together, all moans and groans and eternal kissing. She all but dragged him by the tie to some room he barely took notice of but for the bed, and he only noticed that when she pushed him down on it and straddled his hips, still liplocked with him and clearly determined to never let him go.

That was all right. Because he wouldn't ever let her go. You didn't have to understand the principle of the thing to understand that.

But really…did she have to be wearing so many clothes right now?

No, she didn't, he decided, and he regained control of the situation (not an easy task, certainly), flipping her over on her back and trailing his hands smoothly down her sides like they'd always belonged there and always would, and maybe they did and always had. She tore off his tie with her teeth and undid his trousers with her hands while he pulled off her top and it was all a new kind of dance, of whimpers and submission to each other and of flesh and blood and life and living and oh, his rain trembled softly on her lips as she whispered his name, again and again, always with "I love you", and then a little, entirely unsatisfying brush of velvet lips to some bit of pale skin she'd just managed to reveal.

She heard him weep and cry out in ecstasy, tell her things he'd never told her before, always talking, never stopping, never looking back, because he dare not out of shame. And, slowly, she beat the shame out of him, fighting for control, warring, never losing yet hardly winning, surrounding him with her love and everything else she had and promises of forever she knew she couldn't keep and confessions of hurt and assured hurt, of agony and suffering that came with being with him and how she honestly would never ever have it any other way, then clamping her mouth firmly over his when he tried to protest that she should never say "never ever". Screw him, anyway, for doing this to her.

Literally.

It's like, the principle of the sex, dude. That's what counts. It's what counts, man.

Neither of them had ever been in control, so who were they kidding?

The principle's the fucking thing, dammit.

o0o

It was exactly seven months and fourteen days later that they decided to visit their friends again. They both blamed Donna.

It was only a week for everyone else. Mickey was still married and living the life they couldn't have and didn't want.

Amazing, time travel.

o0o

Then Donna got pregnant. It was a boy, and Nicholsen wanted to name it Alonzo, because he'd always wanted a son called Alonzo. Who was Donna to argue with that?

Rose and the Doctor had a long, quiet talk that night.

o0o

"NATALYA!"

"What?"

"The hell did you do?"

"I just said she was pretty!"

"…that's not a compliment here."

"I gathered that, Dad, thanks."

o0o

"Where's Alonzo?"

"Worried about him, are we?"

A snort. "Hardly. I jus' wanna be sure I still get to smack 'im."

"You like him!"

"Who? Alonzo? Mus' be talkin' 'bout yourself, then. I hate that bastard."

"Yep. You definitely like him."

"Do not!"

"Do too!"

"Do not!"

"So why are you denying it so hard?"

"Because it's not true!"

"Yes, it is."

"Goddammit, Tony, if you tell 'im, or anyone, for that matter, you're dead."

"Aye, aye cap'n!"

"Shut it."

o0o

"I miss her."

"Never thought I'd ever hear you say that. What for?"

He shrugged. "I just do. Maybe I've got a fetish for pain."

A wicked, impish grin. "Really, love? Good to know."

Wide eyes. "I didn't mean that!"

"Sure you didn't. Do me a favor, though?"

"…what?"

"Never mention my mum in bed again. You hear?"

Squeaky voice. "Crystal."

Silence.

"So, when are we going to…you know."

"The funeral?"

"Yeah."

"Whenever you're ready, love."

o0o

"Dad? Why's Mum still young?"

"What?"

"Mum. She's still young. Why?"

"Don't know what you mean."

"Like hell you don't. Gran…Gran's dead, Dad. Mum doesn't look a day over twenty! I'm almost twenty!"

"I know."

"So?"

"So what?"

"That's it? You 'know'? What's that supposed to mean?"

"Natalya…" he sighed. "I don't know why."

"You?"

"Shut up." Much as he envied her hair, she could be incredibly annoying. He refused to believe that she'd gotten that from him.

"Seriously, though. You must have some idea."

A far-off look. "Yeah. Some idea."

o0o

"Cole!"

"What now?"

"Have you finished your homework?"

An exasperated sigh. "Yes, Mum."

"Good. 'Cos the Doctor's here, and Alonzo's with him."

"So?"

An amused smirk. "Don't you know what day it is?"

"Humor me, Mum."

"Any day you want," she whispered, sotto voice. She winked.

"What? Wait, really? Can I? Please?"

Laughter. "Yes, Cole. Say goodbye to your dad before you go, though."

"YES!"

A few minutes later, the Doctor yelled, "Allons-y, Alonzo!" at the top of his lungs, and shrieks of laughter followed.

o0o

Cole glowered at Rose.

"Why?"

"I told yer mum I'd look after you, so that's what I'm doin'."

"There's nothing wrong with Tasha!"

"Really? So what's this, then?"

Silence.

Then, strangled, "That's not hers."

"She was usin' it, Cole."

"Liar."

"Have I ever lied to you? Really?"

"Natalya has."

"Natalya's not me, and she did that for your own good anyway."

"Yeah. Some good it did. She ran off with a bloke with a dad that can tell the world what everyone's feeling. Fantastic."

"Oh, come on. It's not so bad."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Feels like it. Bloody stupid ape, that's all I am."

"Here, take it. Talk to 'er."

"But I thought –"

"Jus' talk to 'er, Cole."

"Right."

"I'll tell Martha n' Tom you've gone to get me somethin' to drink, all right? Now hurry up, get out of here!"

A small, grateful smile. "Yes, ma'am."

o0o

"ROSE!"

"Hello, stranger."

"Rose?"

"Far as I know."

"Thank Rassilon! You're alive!"

"Why shouldn't I be?"

"You got shot."

"I did? Don't feel like it."

"Don't look like it, either."

"Shot by who?"

"Cole."

"Cole? You don't mean…not Cole Milligan?"

"The same."

"But…I thought…I thought he…"

"Guess not."

"Poor Martha."

"We don't have to tell her."

"Yeah. Yeah, we do. Where is he?"

"Dead."

"How?"

"He killed you."

"Oh. But 'e didn't, I'm right here. Like…oh, God, Doctor, you don't think I'll be like Jack, do you?"

"I don't know."

Their fear was tangible. He'd killed a man without hesitation because he killed her. It didn't matter that said man was one of his best friend's sons. It didn't matter at all.

And now she couldn't die.

o0o

"Never thought I'd be the one to outlive you."

"You won't."

"You don't know that."

"She must have done it on purpose."

"Who? Midna? Maybe. But then why am I like Jack?"

"Midna…was a romantic."

"Not really. She jus' saw the truth of things."

"How do you know?"

"I knew her."

"S'pose you did."

o0o

"It's already different from the way she said it was for 'er."

"That's because she told us."

"Is it, though? 'Cos we haven't really changed anything based on what she said, have we? The opposite, really."

"Yeah, that's true. And it is different."

"Not sure I like different so much anymore."

"Nor me, love. Nor me."

They watched as Donna Black, with dark brown hair and bright silver eyes shining with shed and unshed tears, buried her husband. Alonzo, never a man to cry, sniffled. They'd saved the world together. All of them. Nick would always be remembered that way. Allons-y, Alonzo, he'd said. A farewell.

o0o

"We named him Jeff. He's jus' like Cole."

"Don't compare Jeff to him."

"I know. We won't."

"Seriously, don't. 'E doesn't need that. None of us do."

"I'm sorry."

"What for?"

"I raised him to betray you."

"No." Rose smiled. "He stood up for what he believed in. That is what you raised him to do, Martha Milligan. Remember that."

"Thank you."

Another smile. "What for?"

o0o

"Married."

"Yeah."

"That feels weird."

"She's not your daughter."

"Might as well be. And this is Jack we're talking about."

"I know."

"'Ave you talked to 'im?"

Feral grin. "Oh, yes."

She giggled. "Don't hurt him too badly. We still need him."

"Do we? Nah. Just kill him a few times, he might get the message."

"Oh, I don't know."

"Oh?"

"Doctor…she's pregnant."

His eyes darkened. "Is she, now?"

Rose bit her lip hard to keep from laughing at him.

"Yeah, she is. She didn't tell you?"

"No, she didn't."

"Musta wanted it to be a surprise. Are you surprised?"

"No."

o0o

"So. Donna. How's travel with Jenny?"

"Better than with you."

"Oi!"

"It is! We're not running for lives every single day!"

"We do not! But that's good to hear."

"What about you an' Rose?"

"What about us?"

"How's that comin' along?"

"Same as usual."

"Ah. …How many prison resorts does that make, then?"

He threw his banana at her. Mickey grinned from across the table, content.

o0o

"Anastasia and Devon Harkness, get in here RIGHT NOW!"

"Daddy?" "Whassup?"

"THIS!"

"Oh." "Oops?"

Twins. What can you do?

o0o

"Tony, you need to get yourself a man, mate."

"I got one."

"No, I mean a real one."

"I got a real one."

"Yeah, that's why he's never sober, right? Come on, Tony, let's go down the pub, find you someone really real."

"Yeah, 'cos the pub'll be a real help, thanks, Natalya."

"It's where I met Alonzo."

"Yeah. On a different planet. As a baby."

"Wanna go to a different planet?"

"Hell no! I'm stickin' with Mickey an' his family. I'm not gonna be like you lunatics, doing who-knows-what all across the universe."

"It's worth it."

"Not to me, it isn't."

"Then let's get you summat that is worth it, yeah?"

He sighed. "All right. But if you go anywhere near the beer, I'll kill you on behalf of your father."

She rolled her eyes, hands on her stomach. "Like I'm that stupid. Come on."

o0o

Jeff grinned toothlessly as Natalya tossed him up in the air.

"You look good with a kid."

"Sure, 'cept this one's not mine."

"No. But we'll have one soon, darl."

His drawling American voice made her shiver. He wrapped his arms around her waist, kissed her neck, drummed a mindless beat of inaudible music on the huge mound of her abdomen.

o0o

Rose let her hair grow out, then cut it when the roots were long enough.

"She didn't mention this."

"Maybe she didn't have to."

"Maybe it didn't happen."

"Too many maybe's, dammit. Just kiss me."

o0o

Donna regenerated again, with blonde hair and brown eyes this time. The irony was not lost on any of them.

The music that played for her seemed to change its tune the longer she went on without Nick. Maybe she was sorry, after all. But when he asked her, she gave him a silent hug, and he could tell she wasn't. He wished he had been that brave the first time he had ever met Rose.

o0o

Annie was three, now. This seemed off, somehow. Surely she'd been younger than Midna? Or maybe it was just that Midna seemed to burden everything on her own shoulders that she seemed to consider herself older.

If Midna had ever even existed. They doubted it, sometimes.

o0o

Exactly forty-nine years from the day she burned, she was born again.

"D'you think she…?" but Rose couldn't finish.

"I don't know, love."

o0o

"It's not fair."

"No, it's not."

"It's not fair."

"Nope."

"How can you not care?"

"I do."

"Don't look like it from here."

"Doesn't."

"What?"

"Not 'don't', Midna. 'Doesn't'."

Maybe that was all she needed. Normalcy. Just the principle of it, sometimes.

"Don't matter," she muttered, emphasizing that first word. She knew her grammar. She just didn't care.

He sighed.

"Where do you want to go?"

She shrugged. What did it matter?

"It matters," he said quietly, as though reading her mind. She couldn't tell if he could.

She shook her head.

"Where do you want me to go?"

"It's up to you."

"No, it's not."

"Yeah, it is," Rose spoke up for the first time. "It is."

Midna snorted. Rose and the Doctor exchanged looks.

"Do you…want to go with your gran?"

"No." Midna replied promptly.

"Why not?"

Midna's expression didn't change, but her vivid golden-green eyes shone darkly.

"She doesn't care."

"How can you say that?" Rose exclaimed, horrified. Midna looked at her.

"She lost her love," said Midna simply. "She cares about me, but she doesn't…" she paused, struggling to find the appropriate words. "She doesn't want to be reminded of him," she decided on at last.

"Who do you want to go with, then? Mickey?"

Midna winced, just a little.

"Can't I just live on my own?"

"No," said the Doctor instantly, but Rose hit him on the arm, shaking her head.

"'Course you can," she said to Midna. "But do you want to?"

Midna sat abruptly in the jumpseat, her head cradled in her hands, running her fingers agitatedly through her short, messy golden-brown locks.

"It's not fair," she murmured after a while. Then she looked up. "Can I stay with you?"

She sounded so lost, so frightened, so small. Just like she'd been when they first met her, even if she was better at hiding it then.

"Yes," they both said together. Why not? She was only five, but they could manage. And maybe they needed it, too. Natalya hadn't regenerated. Neither had Alonzo. The world had killed them in gratitude for their saving their sorry asses. But they still had Midna.

o0o

Because they had a time machine, she was older than Annie and her brother Devon and even Mickey's son Freddie. It was interesting, really, how the months and the years piled up on each other like that.

"When's your birthday?" Annie, eight, asked her once.

Midna, ten, looked at her thoughtfully for a long moment.

Then, after a while, she replied, "I don't know."

o0o

She fell in love again, with someone proper this time. On a different planet, not Earth.

It didn't last long.

"I'm Midna, by the way. What was your name?"

"Richard."

"Pleased to meet you. Now get the hell out of here!"

They ran. And ran.

And he died, in the end.

Though she'd only known him for maybe two days, she was inconsolable.

o0o

"All right, that's it! What's wrong?"

"What? Nothing's wrong."

"Stop lying to me," he hissed. "What's wrong with you?"

"It doesn't matter."

"It always matters."

"Like you'd know!" Midna finally screamed. "Like you know what it's like! When I…" she stopped, blinking away tears. "It hits twice as hard," she whispered. "I fall harder."

"You don't know that."

"I do, though!"

"You're young, yet."

"You always say that!"

"I'm a thousand years old."

"Ish," Midna corrected automatically. Then she sighed. "I don't know. I just feel like…this isn't the first time."

"Not the first time for what?" he asked sharply.

"Never mind."

"Midna," he growled warningly.

"You said you were immune," she said, swallowing, refusing to meet his gaze. He could only gape at her for a long moment.

"What?"

"Yeah, that's right," Midna told him, straightening to look him right in the eye. He blanched at what he saw there. In that moment, she looked like the Midna he'd known…before. "You're not. Apparently."

Apparently. Dammit, why didn't he see it before? All this time…

"I'm taking you to Martha."

"What? No!"

"We can't risk it any longer. You should have told me."

He was already flicking switches.

"You can't!"

"I have to."

"NO! Dammit, listen to me!"

Suddenly, she had him in an excruciating wrist lock. He gasped in pain, paralyzed.

"That's better," she muttered, smirking.

"To Jack and Jenny, then?" he suggested hopefully. She glared at him.

"I'm not living with a bunch of brats, Doctor." She never called him 'Grandad' or anything like that. It probably too weird if she did. She rarely called Rose 'Gran' because of that. "Your daughter and her husband included."

He pouted childishly. She snorted.

"Where did you learn to do that?" the Doctor decided to ask her, still in pain.

"What? This?" she adjusted her grip to tighten the pain. He wheezed. "Venus, remember? They trained me for three months so I could fight for my life in a duel against the warden."

"Oh," he hissed. Respiratory bypass or not, his breathing was getting shallow. "Right. I remember that."

"Yeah, you materialized the TARDIS around me just as the fight was about to start. Nice timing, by the way. I think I was too busy slapping you to say that before."

He cringed at the memory. "Right. Sorry. Thanks."

She gave him a bemused half-smile.

"Can you let of me now?"

"No."

"Why?" he whined pathetically.

Midna sighed. He tried to wiggle his fingers experimentally, but they were numb.

"I didn't tell you because I knew you would try and kick me off for my own good as soon as you found out."

"Know me that well, do you?"

Midna rolled her eyes. "Who doesn't? Kicker-offer's what your name should be, not the Doctor."

"Kicker-offer?" he repeated, wrinkling his nose.

"Yes," she said seriously. "It suits you. Now, before I let you go, you're going to answer a few questions of mine."

He sighed. Even at fourteen, women were evil.

"Shoot."

"What are you hiding from me?"

"What?" More out of dread than surprise, his eyes widened. Midna made a noise of impatience and twisted his wrist so that it made a horribly sickening crunch. He groaned.

"I know you know what I mean."

"It's a long story. And not one you need to hear."

"I don't feel a thing. Try me."

"With Rose."

"What?"

"Rose needs to be here, too."

"What the hell for? She's sleeping!"

"Then wait until she wakes up."

"Fine. Next: Why are you so fucking sad all the time? It really gets on my nerves."

"Language," he admonished, yelping when she twisted his wrist again in response. He sighed. "The Time War."

"Ages ago," Midna dismissed. "You've got me and Rose now."

"Rose and I," he corrected. For several seconds afterward, he couldn't believe he hadn't turned to ash under the strength of her savage glare. "Your mother," he finally blurted.

Midna frowned and loosened her hold slightly. "Again, that was ages ago. And you've got me. Sayin' I'm not enough?"

He shook his head. "Still not her, though."

"And neither is Gran," she said softly, referring to Rose. They shared a look of understanding. "But that's not all, is it?" Midna persisted softly. The Doctor shook his head. "What is it?"

"Rose," he murmured finally. She rose an amused eyebrow at him. He rolled his eyes. "Not like that. She's…she can't die, Mid."

"I know that," said Midna.

"I don't know why."

"So?"

"She could outlive me. I wouldn't wish that on anyone."

Midna let out a loud bark of laughter to which he jumped and irritated the wrist lock, causing even more pain. She pretended not to notice.

"You're still going on about that? Damn, you're consistent."

He gawped at her, stunned.

"Look," said Midna more calmly, releasing him and standing back so he could see her better, "everything's going to be fine. She's not going to outlive you, and you're not going to outlive her."

"How do you know that?" he asked, cursing himself for the sliver of hope that chilled his spine as he rubbed his tender wrist.

Midna looked away, watching the time rotor without really seeing it.

"Just a feeling."

o0o

A year and a half later, the three of them sat in the kitchen.

"That wasn't me."

"It sort of was."

"No."

They were silent for a moment. Midna sighed and leaned back in her chair, reclining in the relaxed way that only she could when she wasn't relaxed.

After a few seconds, she sighed again.

"I'm not her."

"You could be."

"Never."

"Why not?"

"It's the principle of it," said Midna simply. The Doctor and Rose gave her identically confused looks. Midna sat up and folded her hands across her lap. "It's the principle," she repeated. "The Midna you knew before I was born gave her life because there was no choice and because she had nothing else to live for. Me, I would do it because I have everything to live for."

They understood. Sort of.

"The principle's the thing, y'know?"

They agreed.

o0o

Martha said she wanted to be burned where the other Midna had been burned. Tom said he would go wherever she did. The Doctor insisted that she didn't really want to be burned; Martha told him he couldn't tell her what she wanted either way. Then she went on to complain about how unfair it was that he was a thousand years old and didn't look a day over thirty-five.

"Ish," Midna corrected.

Martha smiled. Jeff, her second son, and Ike, her third, held her hands. Tom was on the bed beside her, eternally asleep. Rose and the Doctor wondered why they didn't envy them.

"Take care of yourselves," she said to Jeff and Ike. "Don't let him," she nodded at the Doctor, "convince you your life's longer than it really is."

Martha Milligan, he thought as her eyes closed for the last time. She'd grown up.

He held Rose as she cried. It was the principle of it, though. That was what she cried for. The principle. Everyone was going to die around her. Even him, they both suspected, no matter how often Midna managed to make them hope otherwise.

So Martha burned, and they moved on.

o0o

"Where's Donna?"

Jenny's smile faded, the life sapped from her eyes. Jack wrapped his arm around her waist, his own eyes downcast. What the hell?

"Auntie?" Jenny swallowed and looked tentatively at Midna, then at the Doctor, then at Rose.

"She just…" she choked. "She wouldn't regenerate."

They froze for Donna.

o0o

Midna let the tears fall, let herself remember.

Midna.

"What? Who's there? Doctor? Rose?"

No one. Frowning, she looked back at the picture.

Midna.

She stood, dropping the photograph, tensed and ready to run or fight.

I can't hurt you.

"Where are you? Who are you?"

Look in the mirror.

Warily, Midna crossed her bedroom to the vanity. Nothing out of the ordinary, as far as she could tell. Just herself, as usual.

You're not me.

"Of course I'm not," Midna retorted. "Or I wouldn't be talking to you, would I? Now show yourself!"

I can't.

"Why not?"

I don't exist.

"Clearly, you do. Who are you?"

Chaos, I suppose you could say.

"Chaos? The hell is that s'posed to mean?"

It's the principle of it, dude. Just listen.

"To what?"

The music.

"What music?"

Listen.

Stars, stars, shine Red so bright
O' sons of heaven filled with Light.
Moon, Miss moon, so lonely in the Dark
Though dawn will come, she leaves her mark.
Storm, wild Storm, lovely in his Rage
Ruthless is his tamer, the Wolf in her Cage.

Bad Wolf will howl in the night to the sun's rays of Vigor,
howl in the night to the Storm and his rage,
howl in the night to the darkest side of the shining Moon,
howl in the night to the learned court's soul,
howl in the night to the Howling itself,
howl in the night to the Eternal granting it the same –
Bad Wolf will live on, eternal as love

And the Red Star will carry this from the Wolf and the Storm,
carry it from the dark into the wise light of Midnight's shadow,
carry the Day of Birth from its haven Ready for Battle
to the rebirthing of the Foundation.

Midna jerked.

"What was that?" she gasped.

The prophecy. The Legacy. Thank you.

"What for?"

Exactly.

Midna looked down. There, propped up against the mirror, was the photograph. She grabbed onto it like a lifeline.

o0o

At one time, most of her family was alive. They wanted their memories to never fade away, so they made some they could crystalize.

This one was on the planet of Felspoon. The grass was tall and blue, the sky a deep emerald, shining in the silver light of the dual suns. The clouds were deep black and purple and orange, framing the suns in their setting and casting ethereal shadows over everything. Around the meadow of deep blue grass was a forest of crimson pine, and just beyond the forest could be seen the dimly pink outline of the tallest mountains in the universe. They could move, those mountains, but were frozen in the picture. Midna remembered, vaguely, that on that day they actually were still, unmoving as the wind was, peaceful, honoring the family moment.

A long oak table was pushed off to the side, surrounded by plastic gray chairs that Midna remembered as being bloody uncomfortable. Maybe that was why no one was sitting in them. Everyone was doing something. Well, that was her family for you.

She glanced at the other pictures on her bed, ones of the people who were missing in the one she held in her hand. There was Jackie Tyler, her great-grandmother who'd died before she was born. There was Cole Milligan, Thomas and Martha Milligan's first son, who no one ever talked about but for whom Midna sensed much animosity and regret and tragic horror and betrayal. There was Pete Tyler, whom they all secretly thought was out there somewhere in the universe but who everyone outwardly presumed was dead. Then there was Nicholsen "Nick" Black, her grandfather, the one her grandmother couldn't live without. And then there was herself, because she was the one taking the picture on Felspoon and she wanted to see everyone grouped together.

Jeff and Ike were wrestling with Freddie in the deeper parts of the grass. Annie chased Devon, who was covered inexplicably with whipped cream and banana filling, with a pie cocked behind her head and ready to fire. Rose and the Doctor were snogging in the shade of a crimson pine, but had pulled apart in the moment the picture was taken to laugh at Annie and Devon. Jack was leaping toward the wrestlers, presumably to join them. Donna, Jenny and Martha were making funny faces and dramatic gestures with their hands as they chatted animatedly. Tom and Mickey were standing with their arms folded, having a staring contest.

Midna's breath hitched in her throat when she saw her parents. Alonzo had Natalya pinned to the ground, mercilessly tickling her sides, both of their faces flushed, mouths open in joy and laughter, teeth glinting in the sun and their hair windswept from their activities. Midna had just escaped them, she remembered. She'd stolen the Doctor's sonic screwdriver while he was kissing Rose and crawled surreptitiously from one side of the meadow to the other. Being short, she'd had to climb up on top of a four-foot boulder to get a proper shot, and her tiny fingers had stumbled, uncoordinated, with the settings before she found the one she wanted. She had waited for just the right moment, when everyone had the happiest expressions on their faces, when the Doctor and Rose were facing the camera and when her father had finally chased down her mother and swept both of them off their feet.

As a result, she held the crystalized memories in her hand, and cried.

But she wasn't sad. No.

Like the Doctor, she hadn't ever really moved on.

Now, she thought, she just might be able to. It was time to stop shining, as she had for so often now.

Eternal Midnight, that was what she was, before. Before this family ever existed. A principle. An ideal. A concept of chaos. Something everyone wished they could live for. A romantic, she supposed, though she wasn't, really. She just saw things as they were. And she had the power to make them stay that way, too. Rose and the Doctor, Midna suspected, would get their happily ever after for as long as they both wanted it. The universe needed them, after all. It was the principle of it, mostly.

And I'm not sorry.

But now it was her turn to be the hero.

It was her time to burn.

o0o

When Rose and the Doctor awoke the next morning, it was to a tearstained photograph and a new attitude in their charge.

She burned, and the universe finally moved on, content.


Wow. That's the end of it. How...weird. Can't believe how it all came together. I expected it to be more about the Doctor and Rose than it is.

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful reviews and encouragement! I want to say that I couldn't have done it without you, but then I'd probably be lying. Still, seriously, thanks.

And as for those who haven't reviewed…REVIEW! Pwease?