Pink. Everything was pink. The walls, the ceiling, the draperies, the canopy, the bedclothes... wait, the bedclothes? Jenny sat up instantly. She didn't have a bed. But there was one here. Where was here? She rubbed her forehead gingerly; if she weren't a soldier, she might have just rolled over and groaned in her agony. There was a bandage of some kind on her forehead. And where were her shoes?
She looked around and noticed the only non-pink thing around was an awfully familiar brown trench coat tucked around her. It couldn't be…could it? Of all the gin joints, etc. She'd spent so long looking for him, admittedly having a few adventures along the way. Quite a bit of the running; she'd had to stop just a few days ago for a new pair of trainers. She liked the military-style boots, but they hadn't been designed with the soldier's comfort in mind, especially not comfort while said soldier was beating a retreat at top speed away from certain death.
Jenny leapt up and yanked the door open. Where was he? Where were they? She'd really liked those women he traveled with. Donna, especially; she hadn't spent much time with Martha. Jenny had been about 3 minutes old when Martha had been abducted by the Hath. Not much time for girl chat.
Jenny rolled her eyes at herself. She was sure this tendency to wander off mentally was her dad's genes asserting themselves. Only he never bothered with any filter between mind and mouth. About time she had a look around and found someone to talk to. Even if her dad wasn't there, maybe Donna could tell her why he'd left her alone in that pink place.
She followed a strange whistling noise down a gloomy corridor, and then another one, and another one. Where was her dad, and who was so enjoying the ability to hit every single note off-key? "What's that…song?" she whispered to herself. The only sign she'd been scared pantless by the voice that answered was a slight widening of her eyes. She was a good soldier. Either the wall next to her had just told her that the mystery pseudo-tune was 'The Yellow Rose of Texas,' or she was going crackers. All things considered, though, she wasn't sure which was more likely; after all, the apple never fell far from the tree.
Her point was made for her as she rounded the last corner into a large chamber with a great, green column in the middle and found her father, still whistling, his back to her, tinkering blithely with something attached to a lot of wires.
"Is this a bad time?" she murmured shakily.
He whirled around, square black specs, sonic screwdriver and all. "You're awake! Hullo, there. Welcome to the Tardis," he announced gleefully, bounding up to her and grabbing her up in his arms. She hugged back hard, trying not to cry as their last moments together reeled through her head: lying in his arms, weeping, recognizing her own agony throbbing an echo in his eyes as he tried to deny that he was losing her.
An absurd number of things to say flitted through her Time Lord brain, but all that came out was: "I missed you."
Jenny felt his fierce kiss on the side of her head as his voice, not quite its usual steady self, whispered: "I thought you were dead."
"Time Lord, next generation," she answered in a lighter tone, moving back to look up at him. "Not as quick off the mark as you, but did the trick, all the same."
He started squinting at her, up and down, head to toe. "And no ill effects? No excess energy you didn't dispel because you kept the same body—most of the same cells? No weird burning sensations?"
"What? No! Dad, I'm fine, stop making such a fuss." She was laughing at him, though, unspeakably relieved at this marvelous, plain proof that in his mind, she was every inch his child. He grinned his wide, ridiculous grin at her and looped his arm around her shoulders.
"Well, what do you think? These are my stomping grounds. Bit big just for two, somehow; never seemed that way before. But we'll make it count."
Jenny rounded on him so fast that her ponytail whipped him in the face. "Two? Where are the others? Donna, and Martha?"
The rigor of suppressed pain she'd seen several times before encompassed his features, and as she had before, she waited impatiently for answers. She was disappointed. "They went home," he said shortly.
"Home? But... well, yeah, Martha went home to be a doctor and get married, right? But Donna? She never wanted to leave; she was having the time of her life! What happened to scare her off? Or was it you? Dad, what did you do to cheese her off so badly she walked out?"
"Jenny." He took her face in his hands, and the vaguest wisp of tolerance still clung stubbornly to his expression. "It wasn't that. Donna couldn't stay. I had to choose: between wiping her memory and letting her die. She doesn't remember any of it, anything she did, anywhere she traveled with me in the Tardis; it's all gone for her like it was never there. Because if I hadn't done it... she had a Time Lord's mind, my sense of time, my knowledge, running through her human brain. She'd have burned, Jenny, and I couldn't let that happen. I took her home to her mum and her grandpa, because they love her, and they'll all be happy, believe me."
"She doesn't remember me…? Or you… Worst of all, she doesn't remember herself. She thinks she's just another human! That she'll never accomplish anything, that she'll live out her life and then die, and no one will know she's gone! Dad, there's no one in the universe who deserves that fate less! Is this what being a Time Lord means? Getting to decide who lives and who dies, who gets erased and who gets reborn?"
Jenny was frightened now; her father's eyes were far away, looking straight through her, into the past and the future. "Yes." His tone was grim as death, and Jenny shivered. "We see it all, so we're responsible for it. All of it, time and peace and hate and life, they're all ours to nurture or extinguish. Sometimes we need a little help from fate, but we always find the way. And humans, even"—he swallowed hard—"even the special ones, we're like their nannies; we help them when they need it, help them to discover that they can do so much in spite of seeing so little, we nurture their minds and instincts and other marvelous little human quirks we don't have, and so on. And we also guide them away from what's wrong, and from the things that are simply too much, too soon. Donna wasn't ready for what she got, Jenny; she'll never be ready. One day, perhaps, humans will find their time to open themselves to all that's out there. I'm rather sure of it. But now is not that time. Not even for Donna."
"Not even one?" she wanted to know. "Not one human has ever been…I dunno, great enough, to see what you see and just…carry on, like you do?"
"They shouldn't have to. Human life's too short to be spent lugging the entire life of the universe around upstairs; it's enough to chuck anyone off their turnip."
"Even Time Lords?" she asked softly.
"Yes," he managed to eke out of his strangled vocal cords. "Even the occasional Time Lord. But, as I said, fate has a way of straightening out things like that, no matter how—unpleasant—it is for the rest of us." Shadows of the Master, and of Rose, crossed his eyes, filling them with all that his nine centuries had brought him. An image of Rose lingered; he saw her once again being consumed by the molten gold vortex flowing over and underneath her skin, out of her eyes, saving him and the Earth, reducing the Daleks, those merciless, despised destroyers of his world, to atoms. The Daleks had taken everything from him, but they had also helped create a new world for him in the form of a vivacious, intensely curious woman who had always retained the innocence of a child throughout so many forms of hell. She had hijacked the Tardis and let eternity flood into her mind, poisoning herself, just for him. He had seen that innocence, that unshakeable faith, disappear the day they'd been ripped apart forever. He blinked; the shadows had fled. He saw that same faith now, in Jenny's eyes, but it was neither innocent nor blind; it was compassionate, and so sorrowful it was eating him alive. "Come on, Jenny, cheer up. We'll be alright now, you and I. You'll see." He could have bitten off his own tongue. He hadn't meant to assume (aloud, anyway) that she'd be staying on the Tardis. And yet, the thought of her leaving, again… He'd rather be a Cyberman. And judging by the expression on her face, she knew it, too. Too flipping clever, that one.
Jenny stepped forward and wrapped her arms back around his neck, just relishing the feel of him, the feeling of having finally made it home…memorizing her Dad. "Don't be afraid," she whispered. "This is me, right here, and I'm not going to disappear. I belong with you, remember? Two hearts, and so on. Nothing in the universe could ever make me a better offer." She smiled at the manic grin threatening to split his face in two. "Now, let's talk about my room. What's with all the pink?"