Rose watched the Doctor walk up to Zach, wearing an orange spacesuit, determined to volunteer to go down the mineshaft. She couldn't force her thoughts to work. Images and words from the past day and night tumbled around inside her head. Oods and people she'd never met, perched on this small planet on the edge of a black hole. An awkward discussion about what they would do without the TARDIS.
The Doctor sitting up with her in the tiny room they'd been given for the night. She'd joked about being on laundry detail, and he'd made some wistful reply. She'd known his mind was still on the loss of his ship - how could it not be?
In the end Rose had tried to sleep, and the Doctor...the Doctor stayed with her. He'd lain on the bed beside her, holding her hand. Sometimes she'd wake up and be vaguely aware of his hand stroking her hair.
Hearing music come through the speaker system, starting off quietly, so that she didn't really hear it. And then, as it got louder and louder, the Doctor suddenly turned to her. Or did she turn to him? She couldn't remember, but they were there, together, and he was kissing her and she was kissing him back and as the music of Ravel's Bolero continued to play through the sound system, they pulled off each other's clothes. The mood of desperation and need continued, the Doctor kissing her the entire time as if he couldn't bear to let go of her.
When she woke up he was gone.
Rose watched the Doctor as he walked towards her. She had the fleeting thought that he'd never seemed as ready to leave her as he did then, in the spacesuit and helmet, hell-bent on finding the TARDIS. She understood. She knew what the ship meant to him, and yesterday, when he'd said that it was literally all he had, she was not offended or upset, because it was. She was something else, she belonged to herself and even though she was his forever he would never claim it that way.
"How do I look?" he asked.
She made herself smile. "Like a space explorer."
"Excellent! Just the look I was going for!" His voice was cheerful but his face was solemn. "Rose..."
"You make sure you bring that suit back in one piece," she ordered him. "I know you - always havin' to play hero."
"Is that what I do?" he asked, amused.
"You can't help yourself."
"Be careful," he said seriously. "Please."
"Course." Rose spoke as if she were always in danger, which was just about the way she lived her life these days, and this situation was no more dire than any of their other adventures.
Ida and the others were making a fuss over by the capsule. The Doctor glanced at them.
"I'd better be going. Get down there, see the sights."
"Right." Rose nodded and stepped back, biting her lip to keep form blurting out something embarrassing. "I'll see you when you get back, yeah?"
"Rose." The Doctor stepped forward, removing his helmet at the same time. He bent his head and kissed her. Rose's hands went up and tangled in his hair. His arms went around her waist, one hand still gripping the helmet.
"Oi!" Danny called.
They stepped away from each other, although his arms were still around her.
"I'll come back," the Doctor said.
She nodded. "I know." After he'd put the helmet on she kissed the visor.
"I'll see you later," the Doctor said, positive about this.
"Not if I see you first," Rose said, and kept her smile firmly in place until he was gone.
Not long after that, all hell broke loose.
The Ood had gone crazy. There was no other explanation. Rose was about to be attacked by an Ood with red, glowing eyes.
"Open fire!" Jefferson shouted, and Rose clapped her hands over her ears and turned away from the shooting. She was sorry for the Ood, but they were possessed, and she was not going to be killed by one of them if she could help it.
As soon as he shooting stopped Rose ran over the dead Ood to the communication device she'd been using to speak to the Doctor.
"We're in orbit!" Zach's voice announced.
It barely registered with Rose. "Doctor? Can you hear me? Are you there?"
There was no response, and she kept repeating the Doctor's name, willing him to answer.
Behind her she could hear Danny and Jefferson and Zach, all talking at once. She knew that the Ood had gone mad, but she couldn't bring herself to worry about that at the moment.
"Doctor? Ida? Are you there?"
"I recommend Strategy Nine," Jefferson said.
Zach's voice came again for the sound system. He was still trapped in the control room. "Agreed. We need to get everyone together. Rose? You there?"
"I can't get them," Rose said, and her voice shook slightly. "I can't reach them."
"All right, that's all right," Zach said, trying to think.
"Maybe the signal is lost," Danny suggested.
"There's just nothing," Rose continued, sure she was going to cry. "I keep trying..."
The device crackled in her hand, surprising her so much that she almost dropped it.
"Sorry!" the Doctor's voice said, as cheery and confident as ever. "Still here! We're fine!"
Relief swept over Rose, so great that she wanted to strangle him. "You could have SAID, you stupid bas-"
The communication device screeched and crackled again, drowning out the rest of her sentence. She was very sorry about that.
"Ouch!" the Doctor exclaimed reproachfully. "That was uncalled for, wasn't it?"
"No," Rose stated with great certainly. "It was very called for. Just wait 'til you get back."
"Mmm," the Doctor said, deciding that no response was the best response to that one. "Anyway, it's both of us, Ida and me. Hello!"
"Hello," Rose echoed before she could stop herself.
"The seal down here has opened up," the Doctor said. "All we've got left is this chasm."
"How deep is it?" Zach asked urgently.
"Looks like it goes on forever," the Doctor said.
"The voice said that the pit was open," Rose said quietly.
"There's nothing coming out, is there?" Zach demanded.
"No," the Doctor assured him. "No sign of the Beast."
"Is it Satan?" Rose asked. "Could it be?"
"Rose," the Doctor said. "Come on. Keep it together."
"I am keeping it together," she answered steadily. "But is there such a thing? Seems an important piece of information to know right about now."
The Doctor didn't answer, which to Rose seemed as positive an answer as any. She told herself the chill she felt was just against the unknown.
"Ida?" Zach said. "Withdraw. Immediately."
"But we've come all this way!" Ida protested.
"That was an order! Withdraw! With that open, the whole planet's shifted. One more inch and we fall into the black hole."
"But it's not much better up there with the Ood!" Ida protested. "At least there's nothing down here with us!"
"I'm initiating Strategy Nine," Zach said. "I need the two of you back on top immediately, no ar-"
Static came through instead of voices, and Zach swore. "She's turned off her wrist device. Ida? IDA?"
Rose turned to look at Danny and Jefferson. They both shook their heads, slightly stunned that Ida would take such a step.
On the planet's surface, Ida stared at her wrist device. She had done it. If she switched it back on she and the Doctor could return and make their escape with the others. Or they could remain to look around.
"What do you think?" she asked the Doctor.
"I think he gave you an order," the Doctor said lightly.
"Yeah. But what do YOU think?"
"Retreat," the Doctor said after a long moment. He sighed and stepped away from the pit. "Now I know I'm getting old." He switched his device back on and waited for the static to clear. "Rose, we're coming back."
He could feel Rose's smile all the way down there. "Best news I've heard all day!" she said happily, and he had to smile.
"Come on, then," Ida said, resigned.
"Surely the risk to your life isn't worth exploring this place?" the Doctor asked gently.
"It was tempting," she sighed, glancing back. "We were so close."
"What's Strategy Nine, anyway?" the Doctor asked as they walked back to the capsule.
"Open the airlocks. We'll be safe inside the lockdown. The Ood will get thrown out into the vacuum."
The Doctor was horrified by this. "We're going back to a slaughter?"
Ida turned to him. "The devil's work," she said seriously. "Do you know of another way?"
The Doctor shook his head and waited for her to enter the capsule. He followed her, securing the door behind them.
"Okay," Ida reported. "We're in. Bring us up."
"Ascension in three...two...one," Jefferson began.
The capsule lights lit up, the gears prepared to bring them back. And then the lights went out.
"This is the Darkness. This is my domain. You little things that live in the light...clinging to your feeble suns which die in the -"
"Something's talking through the Ood!" Zach exclaimed. The monitors were filled with an image of an Ood with glowing red eyes. Rose and the others stared, transfixed. Ida and the Doctor stood still within the capsule, staring at one another in amazement before looking back to the small monitor before them. The image was on that one, too.
"Only the Darkness remains."
"This is Captain Zachary Cross Flane of Sanctuary Base Six representing the Torchwood Archive. Identify yourself."
"You know my name."
"What do you want?"
"You will die here. All of you. This planet is your grave."
The Doctor had had enough of grandiose claims. "If you are the Beast, then answer me this: which one? Hmmm? 'Cos the universe has been busy since you've been gone. There's more religions than there are planets in the sky. The Archivits...Pordonity...Christianity, Pash-Pash, New Judaism, Sanclar, Church of the Tin Vagabond - which devil are you?"
"All of them," was the reply, and Ida turned startled eyes to the Doctor.
"What, you're the truth behind the myth?"
"This one knows me - as I know him. The killer of his own kind."
The Doctor ignored this. The creature could not call him anything that he had not called himself countless numbers of times over the years. "How did you end up on this rock?"
"The disciples of the Light rose up against me and chained me in the pit for all eternity."
"What does that mean?"
"Before light and time and pace and matter. Before this universe was created."
"That's impossible," the Doctor said, forgetting how frequently he was wrong about impossible things. "No life could have existed back then!"
"Is that your religion?"
"You know nothing! All of you. So small. The Captain, so scared of command. The soldier, haunted by the eyes of his wife. The scientist still running from daddy. The little boy who lied. The virgin. And the lost girl, so far away from home. The valiant child who will die in battle so very soon."
Rose was only dimly aware of the effects of the voice on Jefferson and Danny.
"Doctor?" she whispered. "What does it mean?" Because she could only be the child far from home.
"Don't listen, Rose," the Doctor said quietly.
"But what does it mean?" she repeated, afraid now.
"You will die...and I will live!"
The Ood disappeared and was replaced by a roaring horned beast. In the capsule Ida gasped and jumped back.
Up on the base a frantic babble of voices broke out.
"What the hell was that?"
"What do we do?"
"Captain! What's the situation on Strategy Nine?" Jefferson demanded.
"Did anyone get-"
"Doctor, could it be true?"
"Stop!" the Doctor said.
"How can it be the actual-"
"Everyone just stop!" the Doctor ordered.
"What do we do?"
In the capsule the Doctor took a deep breath. Holding his communication device close to the speaker, he waited for the resulting screech to play out for a long moment. Silence fell.
"If you want voices in the dark, then listen to mine!" the Doctor said firmly. "That thing is playing on very basic fears, that's all!"
"But that's how the devil works!" Danny said.
"How did it know about my father?" Ida asked softly.
The Doctor paused. "Okay, but what makes his version of events any better than mine? You are humans. Brilliant humans who flew a tiny rocket into the orbit of a black hole! Just for the sake of discovery! That's amazing! Do you hear me? All of you! All with one advantage. The Beast is alone. We are not. If we can use that to fight against him-"
There was a loud bang, and the capsule suddenly fell down the shaft.
"The cable's snapped!" Ida exclaimed.
"Get out!" the Doctor shouted, and shoved her out just as the massive cable landed inside the capsule.
Up on the deck, Rose and the others watched as dust floated up from the shaft.
"Doctor! We've lost the cable!" Rose called. "Doctor, are you all right? Doctor?"
"Comms are down," Zach said.
Rose ignored this. "Doctor? Doctor can you hear me?"
"We've lost the capsule," Zach continued. "There's no way out. They're stuck down there."
"What? No!" Rose cried. "Doctor! We've got to bring them back!" She looked around the room helplessly. The three men there with her could only shake their heads. "Zach! You can't do this!" she pleaded through the sound system. "We have to get them back!"
"They're ten miles down," Jefferson said quietly. "We don't have that much cable left."
A bang on the door made them jump before Rose could answer.
"Captain?" Jefferson spoke into his wrist device. "Sounds like the Ood are trying to break through the door bolts. How are you situated in the control room?"
"They're here, too," Zach said wearily.
"How long will that take?" Rose asked.
"It's only a basic frame," Jefferson answered. "Ten minutes, maybe."
"We need to stop them," Rose said. "Or get out. Or both."
"How?" Danny asked, keeping an eye on the door.
"You heard the Doctor!" she said impatiently. "Why do you think that thing cut him off? He was making sense. We need to think our way out of this. Come on! We need some lights, for starters."
"I can't do anything from here," Zach said. "I'm stuck here pushing buttons."
"Press the right buttons!" Rose sad. "That's what the Doctor meant."
"They've gutted the generators," Zach said, scanning the controls. "But I can reroute the rockets independent supply...Mr. Jefferson! Open the bypass conduits. Override the safety. Channeling rocket feed. 3...2...1...power!"
The lights came back on.
"Here we go!" Rose cried.
"Let there be light!" Danny said.
"What about that Strategy Nine thing?" Rose continued.
"We need a hundred percent power for that," Jefferson said.
"Then we need a way out," Rose said. "Let's get to work, boys. The sooner we get control of the base, the sooner we can get the Doctor and Ida out."
The Doctor and Ida stared around at the barren planet. For a moment neither one spoke.
"We've got all this cable," Ida said finally. "May as well use it. We could..."
"What?" the Doctor asked.
"Abseil," she said, looking up at him. "Into the pit."
She could tell he wasn't convinced. "We're running out of air with no way back. It's the only thing we CAN do."
"I'll get back," the Doctor said in perfect, total confidence. "Rose is up there. She will find a way." She was his Rose, his plus one, and she was capable of doing things that other humans simply couldn't. She would get him out. She would get him out and he would tell her...he would tell her what he should have told her the night before. He'd made love to her and then left before he had to face her, because the words he wanted to say just wouldn't make their way past
How did he tell one small, insignificant human girl that he loved her more than any other thing in the universe?
Not the kind of thing you just blurted out.
The thought of Rose spurred him on. He would get back to her.
"I'll go down," he said. "You stay here."
Ida lowered the cable down. The Doctor was in complete darkness, with no idea whether he'd hit anything or not before the cable ran out.
"There are representations of the horned beast all across the universe," he as saying. "In the myths and legends of a million worlds. Maybe that idea came from somewhere."
"Could be," he allowed.
"But does that make it...real? Does that make it the actual...devil?"
"Maybe that's all it is in the end. An idea." The Doctor came to a sudden halt. "Ida?"
"That's it," Ida said softly. "The cable's run out. Are you getting any readout?"
The Doctor looked at the wrist device on the outside of his spacesuit. "Nothing. Could be miles to go yet. Or...it could be thirty feet. No way of telling." He thought for a moment. "I could survive thirty feet."
"No you couldn't!" Ida said. "I'm pulling you back up."
The Doctor pressed a button on his end, stopping the cable in its place.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
"You bring me back, we're just gonna sit there and run out of air. I've got to go down."
"Call it an act of faith."
"I don't want to die on my own!'' Ida confessed.
"I know," the Doctor said softy, unhooking himself from the cable.
"If they get back in touch...if you talk to Rose...just tell her..." He paused, looking down into the darkness. "Tell her I...oh, she knows. She knows."
He released the hooks on his harness, and fell.
Rose was desperately worried about the Doctor, but it felt good to be doing something about it. She stood at the computer with Danny, trying to break through programs and find some way to subdue the Ood.
Danny was talking rapidly as he searched the computer files, more to himself than to her, but she heard something else above the noise of the Ood trying to break down the door.
"I'm clean, I'm telling you!"
"You're a danger to us all!"
Rose turned from the console to see Jefferson holding a gun on Toby.
"What are you doing?" she cried in shock.
"He's infected." Jefferson aimed the gun. "The Beast was inside him. You saw."
"Are you gonna start shooting your own people now?" Rose demanded. "'Cos you'll have to shoot me, too. Look at his face! He's clean! Whatever was there has passed into the Ood."
Toby was still, his breathing his only movement.
"He's dangerous," Jefferson said. "If we let him go we're all in danger."
"He's fine now!" Rose said angrily. "You're not doing anything to him!"
Jefferson slowly lowered the gun. "Any sign of trouble, I'll shoot him." He walked away still holding his gun.
"Are you all right?" Rose asked quietly.
Toby met her eyes. "It was so angry. Fury and rage and death, all inside my head. It was the devil."
Rose stared at him speechless. What could she say to that?
"Got it!" Danny crowed from the computer. "If I can broadcast a flare, it will disrupt the Oods' telepathy! Brainstorm!"
"What happens to the Ood?" Rose asked.
"It'll tank them! But.. .I'd have to transmit from the central monitor. Ood habitation."
The silence at this statement was broken by banging on the door.
"That's what we'll do," Rose said, staring at the door and hoping it held a little longer. "Mr. Jefferson! Any way out?"
Jefferson thought for a moment. "There's network of maintenance tunnels underneath the base. We could gain access from here."
"There's no ventilation. No air, in fact. They were designed for machines, not life forms."
"I can create pockets of air from here!" Zach said from the control room. "I can follow you through the network and do it manually."
"Okay," Rose said decisively. "That's what we'll do. And then we're coming back to this room and we're getting the Doctor out."
Zach's directions led them through the tunnels, the oxygen following them as they went.
"Doing good," he said encouragingly. "Just oxygenating the next section. Go straight ahead to junction 7."
They crawled as fast as they could, Danny in the lead, followed by Rose, Toby and Jefferson.
"What was that?" Danny demanded.
"Mr. Jefferson, what was that?" Rose called.
"The junction in Habitation Five's been opened. The Ood. They're in the tunnels!"
"Shift!" Toby yelled. "Faster!"
"I'll maintain defense of position!" Jefferson called. "Keep going!"
"You're almost there!" Zach said.
"Mr. Jefferson!" Rose protested.
He fired off some shots at approaching Ood. "Keep going! I'll be right there!"
They kept crawling through the tunnels.
"Is he coming?" Danny cried out. "Zach, do you see Jefferson?"
"Go!" Jefferson's voice said. "Close the tunnel, Captain! The Ood will get out otherwise."
"No!" the others said in unison.
"Do it, Zach!" Jefferson's voice rang out. "I'm out of ammunition."
"Get to the gate, Jefferson! That's an order!"
"Regret to inform you, sir...I was a bit slow." Jefferson's voice was quiet and resigned. "I'm on the other side of the gate. It's already closed."
"I can't open it without losing air for the others," Zach said.
"I bought them some time. That's enough."
"I'm sorry," Zach said quietly.
"Lack of air, sir, seems more natural than...than death by Ood. Like the Ood that's coming here for me."
"God speed, Mr. Jefferson," Zach said softly.
"Thank you, sir."
Rose sat with tears in her eyes. Danny squeezed her hand in reassurance. They sat in silence. After a long moment, they heard Zach say "Report. Officer John Maynard Jefferson PKD. Deceased...with honors."
Rose closed her eyes. Danny held his head in his hands for a moment and wiped at his eyes when he thought Rose and Toby weren't looking.
"Keep moving," Zach said. "There may be more Ood in the tunnels."
The Doctor came to, aware that he was very uncomfortable. He was face down at the bottom of the pit. He groaned as he started to move.
"Oh, that hurts." He pushed himself to his feet, realizing then that his helmet was broken. He gasped, reaching for it, and stopped.
"I'm breathing," he said in wonder. Removing the helmet, he looked all around him. "You can breathe down here. There's an air cushion to support the fall. Ida, can you hear any of this? I'd hate to think I'm talking to myself." He let the helmet drop to the ground and took a torch out of his spacesuit. He shone it around and picked out what looked like an underground cavern.
"What is this place?" He peered at crude drawings on the wall. A horned beast and stick figures. "Ah, a history of some kind. Looks like man vs. Beast, Ida. Are you getting this? Hope so. Anyway, looks like they defeated the Beast and imprisoned it. Looks like...maybe in a vase, according to these drawings."
The light of his torch fell on a stand that held one large vase. Surprised, he turned back to the wall. It matched the drawings.
He turned around slowly, hearing a low growl behind him. His mouth dropped open. Before him, standing in a deep pit, was a huge horned beast.
"Oh, Ida. It's real. It's real."
The Beast roared again.
"What is it? Can you speak to me? Why won't you talk? I heard your voice before - we all did." The Doctor stopped, his thoughts whirring. "I see the animal now. I heard your mind before, the intelligent mind. But here is just the physical animal. Where's your mind gone?"
The Beast growled, and it dawned on the Doctor just where the mind had gone. Back to the base.
"You're imprisoned," the Doctor said. "If the prison opens...if the prison opens the gravity field collapses! The planet falls into the black hole! Oh, but that's just BRILLIANT! But your body is trapped here. Just your body. But the mind...the mind could escape! Oh, but that's it! You didn't give me air! Your jailers did! Because if you're going to escape, then I have to stop you!"
The Beast roared in fury, pulling against the chains that held it down.
The Doctor picked up a rock, ready to bring it down on the vase - and stopped.
"If I destroy your prison, your body is destroyed, and your mind with it. But if I destroy the prison, I destroy the gravity field, and the planet will fall into the black hole. I'll have to sacrifice Rose. If I kill you, I kill her."
The Beast laughed.
"Rose. It's Rose you want, is it? You think I wouldn't sacrifice her to destroy you?" The Doctor laughed, but it was a hollow sound. He knew what he was capable of.
Gallifrey. Gone. All gone.
"I could save the world but lose you."
"I will," he said, his voice deadly calm.
The Beast sneered and relaxed against the chains holding him. His expression changed to one of - but that couldn't be right. Why would this demon beast look amused?
In the sudden hush and calmness that followed, the Doctor looked around. The dark spaces lit up, and it was Rose he saw - everywhere.
"Doctor?" she asked, confused.
There was Rose, so close he could reach out and touch her face. She was wearing the pink jacket and dark eyeliner. Her lips were still swollen from his kisses.
But beside her was Rose from that Christmas, in her little grey sweater with the ribbons and long blonde hair.
And there was Rose as he remembered her in the basement of a department store, bag slung over her shoulder and lottery money in her hand.
All of them Rose, as he remembered her, as he wanted to see her. Dressed in thin revealing silks. Wearing only one of his shirts and a tie. Wearing a gown fit for a queen from another age. All of them whispering his name.
"This one of your tricks, then?" the Doctor demanded, turning away from all of the Roses to focus once more on the Beast. "Show me Rose and I'll give in? Show me what I have, what I could have?"
His name continued, spoken softly and pleadingly, angrily and seductively, over and over again.
"You won't get me by putting her here!"
"Doctor," Rose whispered, and it was the Rose that he'd held in his arms just hours ago, her hair tousled, the jeans and jacket gone to show bare skin, a tight pink t-shirt short above a pair of tiny pink knickers.
This Rose smiled at him, just as his real Rose had smiled at him in the dark in that cubbyhole of a room. He knew the shape of her, knew each curve of her legs and waist.
"Stop it," the Doctor said hoarsely.
"Go!" Toby shoved Rose forward. "Move!"
"We're moving!" Rose and Danny shouted together.
"What was that?" Rose cried.
"What?" Danny panted.
Pausing, they turned around as much as they could in the narrow passage. Toby, confused, followed suit and yelled.
The Ood were there, eyes glowing red.
"No!" Rose cried. The Ood raised a sphere and touched Toby.
"No!" Danny shouted, but Toby disappeared.
"He's gone!" Rose cried in horror, staring at the Ood. "It killed him!"
"Move!" Danny pushed Rose, but before she could she felt something pull at her. As Danny swore and shouted at Zach to close the passage, to do something, the Ood reached for her and she winked out of existence.
"Your tricks won't work on me," the Doctor said. "It's not Rose! You can show me bouquets of roses and ring around the roses and it won't do you any good! None of them are Rose."
The Beast howled and the Roses around him vanished. The one closest to him, in just the t-shirt and knickers, stared at him imploringly. Her hands went to the hem of her shirt and started to tug it off.
The Doctor shook his head. "A weak performance, all in all."
The Rose dropped her hands and disappeared.
From overhead something creaked.
The Doctor looked up. "What now? Are you arranging the collapse of the planet for my benefit? You still have to tell me how you managed the trick with Rose's image. You're very clever, I'll give you that."
The beast glowered and strained against his chains.
Something creaked again, and cracked. A faint scream echoed through, and the Doctor looked wildly around for Ida, fearing she had fallen. But it was Rose who landed hard at the ground by his feet. He blinked and took a step back.
Dazed, she looked up. "Danny?" She looked around as she spoke and saw the Beast. She would have screamed had fear not taken her breath away. Where had she landed?
"What is that?" she whispered.
The Doctor recovered from his shock at seeing Rose there. "Rose!"
She spun around, losing her balance in the process. "Doctor? Doctor!" She scrambled to her feet and flung herself into his arms.
"Are you all right?" he asked, holding her tightly.
"Yes! Are you?"
"Oh, I'm marvelous!"
"Yeah, I see that," Rose agreed. "Where's Ida? Where are we?" She glanced back around at the Beast, glad for the Doctor's arms around her. "Is that...him?"
"He's got control of the Ood," the Doctor said. "And I think his mind is inside one of the people above. He's going to escape on the rocket with the others, take his mind back to Earth. He's got just enough power to bring you here, do a few tricks, but the bulk of his mind is up there. And then he can be whatever he wants," the Doctor finished. "Inhabit any body he wants. We have to stop him."
The Beast roared.
"Then we can't let it escape," Rose said.
"Cut off the connection, is that it?" the Doctor asked the Beast. "Cut off your connection to the Ood, keep you from escaping."
"We have to hurry!" Rose urged. "Toby and Danny and Zach are still up there! And Ida! Where is she?"
"Up there, somewhere, I expect," the Doctor said, trying to be calm. "But I suspect that Toby is the Beast, right now."
"He said he was clean! It went into the Ood!"
The Beast laughed and groaned.
"I think he's saying you're wrong about that," the Doctor said lightly.
"What do we do?" Rose asked. "How do we stop it?"
"If we destroy the prison we destroy him."
"This place. This is where he was jailed."
"We'll die, too!" Rose said breathlessly. "Won't we?"
The Beast roared.
"We have to," the Doctor said steadily. "If we allow it to escape with the Ood the damage to the universe will be irreversible."
Danny reached Zach in the control room, wrenching the door open and slamming it behind him.
"It's the Ood!" he exclaimed. "They're all still mad, Zach! Nothing I do weakens them. I can't break the telepathic field!"
"Hold them back," Zach ordered. "We just need to get the rocket off the ground."
"We need to get to the rocket first!"
Using tunnels Zach had mapped out while trapped in the control room, they raced to the rocket and made it inside just in time.
Danny stood at the door, fighting the Ood who were banging on it. "There's too many of them!" He stopped and did a double-take. "TOBY?"
Toby grinned. "Made it just in time! You ready to go?"
"The Ood zapped you!" Danny protested. "You..you disappeared! Where's Rose?"
"Don't know. Sit down." Toby strapped himself in and smiled. "We're going home."
Danny wanted to protest about several things, but the Ood banging on the door distracted him. "Come on, Zach!"
"I'm trying!" Zach forced the thrusters to get up in the air. He said a silent prayer for the captain whose death had put him in charge, said another prayer for Scooti and Jefferson and Ida and Toby. Even for Rose and that Doctor of hers.
"Go!" Danny hollered in panic.
"Going!" Zach shouted back, and with a last, desperate jolt, he aimed the rocket for the atmosphere and Earth.
"The rocket!" Rose gasped. "I hear it. They made it out! But we're still here."
The Doctor swung to the Beast. "Once that rocket leaves this place will be destroyed. Well done!"
The Beast roared and writhed.
"Do it," Rose whispered. "Whatever you have to do, this thing has to be stopped."
"Whatever it is?"
"Whatever it is."
They gazed at each other, everything they'd been and were and could have been to one another running through their heads.
"You don't even know what it is, you'd just let me?"
That was the moment he'd truly fallen in love with Rose Tyler.
"Rose," he said softly.
She smiled and picked up a large rock. "I know. Tell me again later."
"Right!" He took the rock from her hand and smashed the vase. The Beast howled and all hell broke loose.
"We're losing orbit!" Zach yelled.
"Well, that's done, then." Danny slumped down in his seat. "Can you fight it?"
"I'll try," Zach said doubtfully.
"Keep going!" Toby yelled.
"Not much I can do, is there?" Zach pointed out, suddenly exhausted. "What else can I do?"
Toby scowled at him, a fierce scowl all the more terrifying because his eyes were now red and his face was covered with black symbols. "Do it!"
The Beast's prison collapsed. The Doctor shielded Rose as best he could. Bits of rock fell all around them.
When it as over, when the Beast was gone and rubble surrounded them, Rose lifted her head.
The Doctor rubbed dust out of his hair. It smeared on his face, but he smiled when he saw her.
They kissed, a long kiss of relief.
"Are we gonna die here?" Rose asked. She wasn't afraid, not with him here.
"I don't know," he admitted. "I may regenerate only to die again. Or the black hole may be total."
"Seems a waste," she commented.
He nodded. "A bit, yeah."
She shook her head, smiling a little. "You'll do anything to get out of a mortgage, won't you?"
"Doctor?" a small voice said.
"Ida?" the Doctor asked in astonishment. Holding Rose's hand, he moved swiftly down a rock-filled passageway. There was Ida, in her orange spacesuit and helmet, lying on the ground.
"I fell when the collapse began," she said faintly. "I heard the rocket leave. Is this where we die?"
Her attempt at humor hadn't been that great, Ida thought, but as the Doctor and Rose turned to look, the bleak expression on their faces faded.
"No way," Rose breathed.
"Yes!" the Doctor shouted. "Yes!"
Ida realized she was leaning against something hard and smooth. She looked up. A tall blue box stood above her.
"The planet's gone. I did my best," Zach sighed. "But hey. We're the first human beings to fall into a black hole!"
"Yeah, there's a mark of note everyone wants," Danny agreed.
"No!" Toby unstrapped himself to grab the controls. "I will not be stopped this way!"
Zach and Danny, too resigned to death to be afraid of him now, sat in their seats, eyes closed and braced for impact. Impact didn't come. The rocket instead jerked to one side, then continued to turn smoothly.
"We're turning!" Zach said. "How are we turning away?"
"No!" Toby yelled, and fell to the floor as if in pain. "What has he done?"
"What the hell?" Danny stared at him. Zach, quicker on his feet, grabbed the gun with its one remaining bolt and aimed.
"Stay where you are, Toby!"
Despite the obvious pain Toby was in, he got to his knees, growling and snarling.
"Do it, Zach!" Danny yelled.
"We're going to die anyway," Zach said. "Don't make me kill you, Toby."
"He's not Toby!" Danny shrieked, and dove for the gun. His hand hit the trigger where Zach's finger rested, and the bolt found its mark in Toby's chest. He fell to face down.
"The Beast is dead," Danny whispered. "We killed it."
Zach's hand, shaking, dropped the gun. "We're still going to die."
"No!" Danny corrected him, staring out the viewscreen. "We ARE turning around!"
The comm crackled back to life.
"Hello, Captain!" the Doctor said cheerfully. "I found my ship and I'm towing you home. We'll be safe in just a few minutes. Oh, I've got some of your crew aboard. Care to have them back?"
"Ida?" Danny breathed, afraid to hope.
"She has quite a headache at the moment, but she's all right. What do you say?"
"They're alive!" Zach laughed.
"Yes!" Danny cried. "Thank you!"
"Ida has a bit of oxygen starvation, but she'll be all right. I couldn't save the Ood. I only had time for one trip, and I suspect their minds were too ravaged by the Beast to recover. I'm sorry. Ah! Entering clear space. Next stop, Earth!"
Ida was transferred to the rocket with a supply of oxygen. Rose went with her, leaving the Doctor to man the TARDIS controls and send the rocket's computer the signs it needed to function long enough to get home.
Standing back inside his ship, orange spacesuit still on, the Doctor sighed and fidgeted. What was taking her so long? Time to be off. Rose knew he didn't like to hang around after an adventure.
The doors to his ship opened then, and Rose was running inside as if she hadn't seen him in months instead of minutes. But he was moving towards her, too, and he caught her up in a huge hug.
"We made it," she whispered against his neck. She pulled back and looked up at him. "We made it."
He laughed. "We did! We confounded the Beast and black holes and lived to tell the tale."
Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkled.
"Do you have something to tell me?" Rose asked. "I think there's time for that now."
Before he knew it he was leaning down and kissing her, a kiss of love and relief and gratitude that she was safe, that his ship was safe, that he would now have the chance to tell her how he felt.
Rose kissed him back enthusiastically, reminding him that he had touched her not so long ago for the first time, and that there were quite a few beds in the TARDIS to choose from for the next time.
This struck him as a wonderful idea. "Come on," he murmured against her mouth. "Let's go."
"Go where?" she whispered, still kissing him.
He pulled away and began to step out of the spacesuit. "Anywhere there's a bed."
She laughed and agreed, hands going to her jacket to strip it off right there in the console room.
A buzzing stopped them. "Doctor?" Zach's voice said over the comm. "You still there?"
The Doctor hit the controls, happy to say goodbye but very much impatient to have his way with Rose.
"We are. Are you all settled?" he asked politely.
"Yeah, we are. We're ready to go home. Take care."
"You, too. Have a good trip home. And Zach? The next time you get curious about something - oh, what's the point?" He shook his head. "You'll just go blundering in. The human race..."
"Wait, Doctor," Ida said, "what did you find down there?"
"I don't know! Never did decipher that writing."
"What do you think it was?" Rose asked. She was standing close to him, and he took the opportunity to put his arm around her and pull her up against his side.
"I think we beat it," he said. "That's good enough for me."
"It said I was gonna die in battle."
"Then it lied," he said confidently, and because he was the Doctor, she relaxed and believed him.
"Right, onwards and upwards. Ida, see you again sometime!"
"Thanks, boys!" Rose called.
"Hang on!" Ida said. "You never really said. You two...who are you?"
The Doctor paused to consider this. "Oh," he said, staring down into Rose's eyes, "we're the stuff of legend."