Here, There and Everywhere
Rupert watched the man appear in his blue box. Rupert had blinked for one long moment and suddenly the box was there.
Rupert sat back on his haunches and chewed thoughtfully on a root, watching the brown man run across the meadow. Something glowed in the man's hand. Rupert thought he could hear bleeping sounds coming from it, but Rupert didn't know if brown men usually made those kind of sounds, so he didn't deem to pass judgement. Brown men could bleep if they wanted to – it was a free forest.
A great golden flare streaked across the sky near to where Rupert perched and he watched the brown man stare from it to the bleeping thing in his hand. A glowing pod of some sort – Rupert thought it looked like a glass seed – flew through the air and into the golden flare, and the brown man threw his hands up into the air, obviously annoyed.
Maybe the brown man had wanted the pod, thought Rupert. He watched the brown man run back to his blue box, scrambling to get inside, but it was too late; the golden flare disappeared and the brown man let out a cry and stomped his foot on the ground.
"I was that close!" Rupert heard the man shout. "That close!"
He was that close, apparently, thought Rupert, and the squirrel turned back to his root and chewed some more. What a strange day he was having.
The Doctor stuck his key viciously into the TARDIS's lock. He'd been chasing that alien for days now only to be thwarted by a Rift flare. They were popping up all over the place these days.
"So close," the Doctor murmured. "Ah well, always next time I guess."
He had just turned the key in the lock when his left coat pocket bleeped. The Doctor's eyes rolled downward. He pulled out the detector he'd rigged up to find the alien and stared at it. The piece of glass-like material, chipped from the alien's pod and attached to the detector, glowed and blipped, and the Doctor span in a circle, coat flaring as he tried to find the source.
Back a bit—
Right some more—
The Doctor frowned at the scanner. It blipped at him meekly.
With a slow dread, the Doctor's head tipped backward and he stared for a long moment at what he recognised was another Rift flare opening up above him.
Someone – something – fell out, and the Doctor leapt to the side, narrowly avoiding being squashed. He came up on his knees, long coat catching on the purple grass, to stare at the girl who lay groaning where he had just been standing. The girl gave a moan, curling around the object – the pod – she held to her chest.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Well, well," he said. "That was unexpected."
The girl's head whipped around at the sound of his voice. Her eyelids flew open and she screamed.
"Easy!" said the Doctor, hands going out to calm her. "Easy there! Hey!"
The girl bucked under his arms, writhing and moaning as tendrils of glowing mist began to ooze outward from the pod.
"Let go," said the Doctor, "come on, you have to let go now."
"No," screeched the girl. "No!"
"Let go of it!"
"I can't! I won't!"
The Doctor heaved a sigh, wishing once again that things could be simple. He hissed as the mist struck his skin but did not relinquish his hold on the girl's face, forcing her to look at him.
Well, she should be looking at him, but— Something was wrong. The Doctor could sense it.
"Get off," snarled the girl. "Get your hands off of me." Her head slipped from his hands and her eyes wheeled, focusing on nothing.
"Listen to me," said the Doctor, lowering his voice to little more than a murmur. "Listen to me, hear what I'm saying."
"No," said the girl. "No, no."
"Yes, yes," countered the Doctor.
"No!" The girl sat upward with a jolt and the Doctor flinched back, surprised. "You shall not take us, Doctor!" snarled the voice of the alien.
"Oh, hello again! Found ourselves a lovely little home from home, have we?"
"Do not mock us!"
"I'll mock you if I want to," said the Doctor, digging around in his pockets. "You've taken this person over, and I can't allow that."
"You cannot stop us."
"I've heard that one before."
The girl's head turned; she spoke in the alien's resonant timbre. "What are you doing?"
"Just a little something I picked up around and about," said the Doctor. He held up a small box with a small keypad, and an even smaller screen, attached. Two glowing nodes stuck out on either side. "It's called a Nanogenetic Sieve. Usually it only comes out when I've mixed up the sugar and the salt, but I think this situation calls for it, don't you?"
"What will you—"
"Human, is she? That host?"
"Yes, but we don't—"
The Doctor whipped out his sonic screwdriver, holding it to the Sieve. "Sorry, thing needs a bit of a boost to deal with the likes of you."
The alien contorted the girl's face as it realised.
"Bit slow, aren't you?" commented the Doctor, standing over the alien and its host.
"You won't use that on us!"
The Doctor hit several keys in a specific order. Streams of nanogenes, alive and glittering, flooded downward from the Sieve's nodes to cover the girl. "Oh, won't I?" he said, face grim as he watched the girl's body writhe and howl.
Then it was over.
"Hello? Hello, can you hear me?"
Aderyn blinked, regretting the actions as light – natural, thank goodness – stabbed through her skull. She groaned.
"Ah, there we are," said the man's voice. "Welcome back to the land of the living. Well, I say living— Well, I say land—"
Aderyn groaned again, ignoring his prattling. "I'd rather be dead." She curled herself into a ball, eyes jammed shut against the burning. "My head is—"
"Yeah." The man laughed and Aderyn scowled blindly. "It'll be doing that for a while," he said.
A hand probed at Aderyn's face. She batted it away and heard another laugh.
"You'll be alright, you will," the voice said happily. "I just need to have a look though, check the alien's gone for good."
"That alien," the man said in a patient tone, "the one that took over your body? Yeah? I have to see if it's all gone. Now this is going to hurt, but I really do need you to open your eyes."
Reluctantly, Aderyn forced her lids to open, wincing at the pain. A blue light shone in her eyes, she heard a dull buzzing noise and some of the thunder in her head disappeared. She let out a sigh, relief at having her body back too wonderful for words.
A thought shot itself through the blissful haze: the man crouched over her, who was he?
Aderyn's vision, sprawled as she was on the... grass, her brain supplied. It felt like grass, anyway. Gentle stalks under her fingers, a soft breeze filtering through and a body all of her own. Her vision was limited, just a thin wedge of sight and in it she saw—
Were those Converse?
Aderyn turned her head, looking up.
"Hello," she said, startled.
"Hello," said the man. Grinning the cheekiest grin Aderyn had ever seen, he continued, "I'm the Doctor."
Aderyn gave him a blank look. "What doctor?"
"No, the Doctor. What's your name?"
"O-kay. Er." He was obviously a madman, thought Aderyn. Cute smile, odd hair. Nice coat. "Aderyn, call me Adie.
"Now then, Aderyn-call-me-Adie, it might seem a bit out of the blue but can I just ask what you're doing here?"
"What?" Aderyn sat up, looking around in a panic. She didn't recognise anything. Especially the purple trees. The purple trees really sat on her mind.
Aderyn resisted the urge to laugh at the way the man's eyebrows rose. "How did you get here?" he asked again.
As if weighted, Aderyn's eyes flicked upward. Two suns shone their light down on her, streaking her vision against the orange sky, and she gulped. "Where," she said carefully, "exactly is here?"
Aderyn chocked a laugh through the panic. "We're going round in circles here, Doctor— what was it again?"
"Doctor. Just Doctor."
Aderyn thought she might as well get down to business, and what could it hurt to ask? "Am I on an alien planet?" she said.
"Well, that would depend," said the Doctor with a surprising frankness. "Where's home for you?"
"Uhm, Cardiff." Dear, wet Cardiff...
"The Welsh one?"
"Welsh?" the Doctor repeated. He stuck his hands in his trouser pockets, eyebrows on the rise again. "Welsh Wales? Cardiff in Wales with the Welsh? Wales as in sheep and rain and the... the Welsh?"
Aderyn nodded, wide-eyed.
"Cardiff, Wales, Great Britain, the Earth, plural ZZ9 plural Z alpha? That Cardiff?"
"Stop ripping off Douglas Adams!"
The Doctor fixed her with an affronted look. "Nevah!" He sat down, splaying his long coat across the grass. Suddenly he asked, "What time was it in Cardiff?"
"What do you mean 'what time'?"
"What do you think I mean 'what time'? What was the date when you left or got taken?" As an afterthought, the Doctor added, "Or whatever."
Aderyn forced her mush of a brain to think. "It was, er, Friday. Friday the 21st August, 2009."
"Ooh." The Doctor grinned at her. "Good year. Watch out, though, you've got Swine Flu to come. And... other things." The smile slipped off his face then, his thoughts elsewhere.
Totally mad, Aderyn thought. "If you're asking me the date, then it must be important. Tell me why."
The Doctor's smile came back and he looked at her thoughtfully, tilting his head, staring. Really staring. Aderyn shuffled where she sat.
"Tell you?" he said. "You sure you want to know?"
Aderyn took a deep breath. "There are two suns above my head." She pointed up just in case he'd missed them. "I spent the last three days a prisoner in my own body and then threw myself into the Rift to save Nathan. I think I can handle it."
"Nathan? Who's Nathan?" The Doctor shook his head. "More to the point, you know how you got here? You know what the Rift is?
Aderyn nodded again. "The Light called it the White Space. Thingy called it the Rift."
"The Light?" the Doctor repeated. "Thingy?"
"The– the alien? It called itself the Light."
Aderyn knuckled her forehead. Everything felt so hazy. "A man. He tried to help." Aderyn bit her lip then said, "He was tall, had this whippy hair thing going on, nice coat, really white teeth, kind of flirty..." Her voice trailed off. "Can't quite remember the name."
The Doctor's lips twisted. "This man, Adie, did he call himself a Captain?"
"Yeah! Captain Jack—"
"—Harkness. Right. Explains a lot." The Doctor looked her up and down; his gaze lingered on the unnatural shadows under her eyes. "He just chuck you through the Rift unprotected? You could have gone anywhere! Ooh, I'll have such words with him..."
"If it's any consolation, I kind of threw myself."
"You what?" The Doctor blinked. "Seriously?"
"Dare I ask why?"
Aderyn hugged her knees, staring at the trainers on her feet. "Sort of seemed like the right thing to do. That guy, Jack, I could see it in his eyes. He couldn't get the Light out of me."
"So you jumped?"
"To save people?"
"Well, Aderyn-call-me-Adie, you are quite a remarkable person," said the Doctor, "and I don't often say that."
Aderyn looked around again. No one else in sight, just purple hills below a burnt orange sky rimmed with towering, and purple, trees. "Going by the past conversation," she said, "I'd like to know where and when we are, if you please."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that."
She stood up on shaking legs and offered a hand to the Doctor. He waved it away, springing to his feet nimbly, coat flaring behind him.
"It is the year..." The Doctor consulted his watch-less wrist. "One hundred thousand and seventy four. Seventh of Grune, if you're going by the local calendar. That's Pan Traffic, by the way. You wait till Hoob, they have this massive festival where you—"
The Doctor stopped in the face of, well, in the face of Aderyn's face.
"Really," she said, not asking a question, more sort of generally referring to the Doctor's lack of sanity.
"Oh, yeah." He gave her another grin.
"You haven't said where though."
"That's because I'm not entirely sure," he explained. "I was just following that Light, trying to track it down, only it got away from me somehow."
"It jumped through the Rift," said Aderyn.
"Yes, apparently so. Right through the Rift and into the oh so capable hands of the Torchwood team!" The Doctor eyed her again. "Get in the way, did we?"
She smiled wryly. "Something like that."
"Lucky you landed here," the Doctor said, tilting his head.
"Is it?" A wave of exhaustion swept over Aderyn and she swayed.
The Doctor took a step toward her. "You alright?"
"I'm fine," said Aderyn. "Fine, I'm fine, I just— ohbollocks."
The Doctor's arms went out in time to catch her. He stared at her flickering lids and said, "I'm starting to make a habit of this."
A low humming penetrated the hazy fog in Aderyn's drifting mind, bringing her back to consciousness, albeit it reluctantly. She sat up with a jolt and a groan, nearly falling off the seat she was lying across. With a dizzy caution, Aderyn grasped the edge of the yellow material and looked down. Grill. Right, that was helpful. She decided to look up instead and saw...
"Hello again," said the Doctor.
Aderyn jumped, startled. And fell off the seat. And swore.
"Language," the Doctor chided. He extended a hand and pulled Aderyn up, pushing her back to the seat with insistent hands. "All better now."
"Thanks," said Aderyn, a little embarrassed by the entire affair. She pulled herself together, taking deep breaths to find her elusive balance once more, then she looked past the man to see where she was.
The Doctor waited.
After a very long moment, Aderyn said, "Nice, er, ship?"
"It's sort of... coral... and... er..." Aderyn bit her lip. "Are we in space?"
"Yes. Well, no. We are, sort of, ish, thereabouts."
"If I go out those doors, what am I going to see?"
"Those doors?" The Doctor looked at where she pointed. "The bathroom, I think. This time of day."
Aderyn gaped a little. "Alright, fine," she said, trying again. "What about those?"
"Those?" He chuckled, a small throaty noise. "I don't think I could quite put it into words." The Doctor held out his hand, eyes glowing behind his spectacles. "Fancy a peek?"
Aderyn allowed herself to be steered around the large circular console (or what she assumed was a console; it looked more like a junk yard) and down the gangway.
"These doors," she couldn't help saying, "are made of wood."
In a withering voice, the Doctor said, "Are you going to tell me it can't be airtight?"
"Don't be silly." Aderyn reached out to touch the wood. "I was just going to say they could do with a lick of paint. Wood has to be looked after, you know."
The Doctor laughed, surprised. "Remarkable. And you're right, maybe it does." He put his palm next to hers. "How about it girl, want some decorating?"
"Are you talking to me?"
"Don't be silly," said the Doctor, imitation Aderyn's voice. "I'm talking to the TARDIS. My ship, that's her name."
"Does she talk back?"
"Only if you're listening."
Then the Doctor opened the doors.
Aderyn swallowed, her throat dry. "Right," she said in a very small voice, trying not to whimper. "That's... right then." She swallowed again.
"What do you think?"
"It certainly puts my screensaver back home to shame."
The Doctor snorted, shutting and locking the doors.
Aderyn walked back to the yellow seats by the console and sat down. She hugged her arms across her chest. "Can you take me home?" she whispered, so quiet the Doctor almost didn't catch it. He came to stand next to her, resting a hand on her shaking shoulder.
"Yes," he said. "I can."
She looked up at him and mouth the words 'thank you'. He smiled.
"Remind me of when you left Earth again, will you?"
"Friday the 21st—"
"—of August," finished the Doctor. "Had to check. We could have ended up anywhere if I wasn't sure."
"Why do I get the feeling," said Aderyn, "that you tend to end up 'anywhere' on a regular basis."
He laughed and pressed a few buttons on the console. Aderyn noted with some alarm that one of those buttons appeared to be from a toaster oven but she decided not to comment.
"Do you remember the time?"
"Six in the morning."
"Tell me about it."
The Doctor spun something on the controls that Aderyn strongly suspected was a miniature jack-in-a-box. "Umm," she said.
"Yes?" said the Doctor. He took in her bewildered expression. "What?"
"You worry me."
He grinned. "I worry a lot of people."
"I'll bet," said Aderyn. "Cardiff?"
"Cardiff. Yes, right." The Doctor paused with fingers splayed across the console. "Just Cardiff? I could take you anywhere in the universe, anywhere in space and time."
Aderyn didn't even consider it. "I want to go home," she said. "Please."
The Doctor's jaw worked for a moment, moving silently before his hands came down on the TARDIS console and he began to set the coordinates for 21st century Cardiff.
Aderyn regarded him. "Is that alright?"
"It's fine." He offered her a brazen smile and said, "Haven't been to Cardiff in a while. We can only hope nothing explodes this time!"
Aderyn laughed. It sounded forced. "That happened before?"
"On a few occasions, maybe," said the Doctor. "Once or twice."
"Now she's getting it!" He pressed a few more buttons half-heartedly. "You sure?"
"Positive. Home. Cardiff. Plural ZZ9 plural Z alpha, if you please."
The Doctor flicked a lever and the entire room shook. "You might want to hold on," he shouted over the sudden, deafening roar and 'vworp vworp' of the TARDIS engine.
"You think?!" Aderyn shouted back, clinging on to her seat for dear life.
The Doctor walked Aderyn to her flat. He'd been pleasantly surprised to have landed so near, actually. Hell, he'd been pleased to land in the right century, let alone the next street. He hadn't liked the way Aderyn had begun to sway again and so the Doctor had wordlessly offered her his arm and not so wordlessly asked just where the hell she lived.
Aderyn pointed. The Doctor supported.
He got her up the copious number of stairs to reach the door to her and Nathan's flat and she slumped against the wall there, deliberating. "Thank you," she said after a while.
The Doctor smiled. Aderyn smiled back and held out a hand to him. He shook it, saying, "Are you sure sure?"
Aderyn closed her eyes, breathing heavily. "I'm sure," she said. "Goodbye, Doctor."
The Doctor opened his mouth to say something but changed his mind, settling for a murmured 'Goodbye' as Aderyn's door swung shut behind her and the Doctor was left alone in the corridor. He sighed, stuck his hands into his pockets and waltzed away.
Inside the flat, Aderyn climbed over the sofa into her bedroom and sat to watch Nathan sleep. "I'm sure," she whispered.
Author note: Aderyn Stephens is from my Torchwood fanfiction That Divine Light, because I couldn't just chuck her through the Rift without some sort of closure. (Yes, my characters live in my head, and yes, they know how to guilt trip...) Unfortunately I have no explanation for Rupert the Squirrel. We can blame him on sugar.