Disclaimer: How I wish I owned them! Anyway, I don't; they're the property of the BBC.

Off the bus

She went home, and held on to Suzanne for far too long – long enough that Suzanne disentangled herself with a nervous laugh and a "you all right, Mum?" When Mike got home she cooked dinner, and they ate it as a family and everything seemed utterly perfect. The day had begun like any other, and it ended on this glorious high, and Angela thought she'd never been so happy. They watched the news, which led with the disappearance of a notorious aristocratic jewel thief in a London bus and of a golden cup worth millions. The news said nothing about doctors or aliens or worlds with three suns. She thought about telling Mike and Suzanne about her day, but the right moment didn't seem to come up.

But before she went to bed, Angela Whittaker stood at her window, looking out at the perfectly normal world outside, and smiled. She was home with those she loved, and that was all that mattered. Something to hold on to, for as long as she lived.

* * *

Tina wasn't expecting him, but she let him in anyway and they lay on the sofa and ate crisps and listened to music on her iPod. Barclay rested his legs on hers and told her about the bus journey and the other passengers and the planet of sand, and the Doctor.

"I reckon he was an alien," he said. Tina laughed, but Barclay insisted. "Nah, 'cos he had this gadget, and he knew about wormholes and he made the bus fly."

"Must've been some good stuff," Tina said, passing him the crisps. "Where did you get it? That bloke down the market?"

He hit her arm. "Hey. I'm telling the truth, all right?"

"Yeah. Right."

She wasn't going to believe him, so he gave up; but it was worth going round when the empty crisp packet lay on the floor with their clothes.

* * *

Lou cooked the chops and gravy, and they ate them, and Carmen cleaned up afterwards, and they went to sit together on the sofa. He picked up the crossword and she held her book, but did not open it. After a while he asked her what was wrong, and persisted when she told him it was nothing.

She said nothing for a few moments. Lou let her sit there, waiting patiently, sensitive to her moods after so many years together. When she spoke, it was softly, sadly.

"It's the Doctor," she said. "So sad. So alone."

"He didn't seem sad," Lou said.

"But he is," Carmen returned, looking at him with wet eyes. "The saddest man in the universe; so alone, so very alone."

Lou reached out, held her hand. "What did you mean, about the song, love?"

"I don't know." She shook her head. "I don't remember, not clearly. There was just an end."

"An end to what?" he asked.

Carmen squeezed his hand.

"An end to the Doctor," she said, and he did not want to ask any more questions after that.

* * *

Days at home watching television did not seem quite the same after the trip on the 200. Nathan mooched around the house for a couple of days. He spent a little time online, Googling the Doctor and the Unified Intelligence Task Force, checking out newspaper archive stories on Christina de Souza, and job-hunting, but it was all somewhat half-hearted.

He had just about made up his mind to go and do something radical like join the Army when the phone rang. When the woman on the end introduced herself Nathan thought it would be more about the bus – which it was, but only in a sideways fashion.

"The Doctor said you were good in a crisis," she said. "We'd like to consider enlisting you."

"As a soldier?" Nathan said, surprised, which was daft considering he had the Army's website bookmarked.

"In UNIT," she said. "You've seen what's out there. And the Doctor's recommendation is enough."

Nathan thought about it, and made his decision. And that was the end of days at home watching television.

* * *

Whatever the Doctor had done to the bus, it didn't seem to run out of power. Christina eyed the bits of Æthelstan's gold cup wistfully, but when she considered that it had saved her life and all of Earth too, it was probably a sacrifice worth making.

She landed the bus, eventually, in the Scottish Highlands; hotwired an abandoned van; and was on a plane from Edinburgh to the Caribbean under a false passport within half a day with as much of the gold as possible hidden in her bag.

There was nothing she could really do except hide out, so she hid on a beach on Bequia and thought about adventures and career choices. She thought of the Doctor and his breezy comment about loving things best when they were at their worst, and tried to reconcile that with the look in his eyes when he'd told her she couldn't go with him. Something else stuck in her mind – the way he'd already known that the sand was full of the dead. He may have been breezy and cheerful the whole day on San Helios, but he was no stranger to death. Maybe, after all, she was better off without him.

* * *

He plotted a course into the heart of the Vortex and spun there, the better able to deal with the Swarm. It took him time, and a bit of tinkering, but eventually he managed to send the signal that would keep them away from inhabited planets. No more San Helioses.

Task done, he sat back in the console chair and listened to the sound of the TARDIS. Just the two of them, now, flying throughout time and space together. The Doctor and his stolen property. He wondered where Christina de Souza was, reached out a hand to dial in the coordinates, pulled back. He'd said no to her for a reason – it wasn't fair to any of them, not any longer. Too many broken hearts and broken minds scattered across the universe, all because of him.

In any case, if Carmen was right, it hardly mattered. There wasn't long left, at least not in this body that had loved and lost and fought so much. The song was ending. Perhaps it was the right time.