AN: Oh, you beautiful, wonderful, patient people who are still reading this. I can't apologise enough for A) the appalling lateness or B) the probably poor quality of this chapter, but I just had to get past the block and get something done, else this would never have been updated. So I hope you enjoy this installment nonetheless and will keep bearing with me. And reviewing! I can't tell you how encouraging it is to know that someone is reading and wants more. Thank you, all, especially those I didn't find the time to reply to personally. Here it is, chapter 6.
And, since I never remember, I'll take this opportunity to say that I don't own Doctor Who, and probably never will. But I can have my fun with it nonetheless.
One last note: although we're going on to series 7 now, for Amy and Eleven this is still series 5 because (horror, horror) that's when I started writing this.
The transition lasted only a couple of seconds, ending with a clumsy jolt, leaving the collection of Doctors and companions in an undignified heap on the floor.
As they disentangled themselves, the glass wall slid noiselessly up again, disappearing into the ceiling. The bowtied Doctor scrambled to his feet. "Great glass elevator. Bit Roald Dahl, isn't it?" He grinned. "Lovely man. He liked you, didn't he, Rose?"
Rose blushed. She was just discovering that the hand she'd grabbed the minute before belonged to the pinstriped Doctor, who was holding on rather firmly. He seemed to notice, looked bashful, and let her go. "Never met him," she mumbled.
"Oh, you will!" Bowtie exclaimed. Everyone was upright now, and he appeared to address the voice they'd heard before, "You gonna show your face, then? Not that I haven't enjoyed the mystery tour, but...y'know. Gets a bit boring after a while."
Amy gazed around at her new surroundings. The area glistened a clinical white, a pleasant contrast to the dark tunnels, but not very easy on the eye. It reminded her of the hospital where...where someone she knew once must have worked, or something. Frowning, she turned her attention back to the present.
"Come on!" the Doctor was still yelling. "Seems a bit rude not to come and greet your guests properly."
The strange voice returned. "If you insist."
In front of them, the outline of a door suddenly appeared in what had been a flat wall and it opened to reveal-
Well. A bit of a disappointment, really.
Their host was not the imposing, sinister character his voice suggested. Instead they were confronted with a small, wizened old man. His wrinkled face was sad, his posture bent.
He walked towards them. "Hello." he said, and the voice bore no resemblance at all to the one they'd heard before. He must have noticed their confused looks, because he clarified, "My intercom system has a voice-changer. It does every language and accent quite convincingly."
"Lovely," said Donna, sounding as though she didn't mean it much. "That must be very nice. But we're more interested in why we've been flippin' kidnapped, thanks."
The old man's face twisted into an empty smile. "Yes. I suppose I do owe you an explanation."
"Come this way."
They followed him back through the door he'd entered by, into a corridor, the decor of which wasn't quite so obtrusive. When it appeared they were in for another lengthy walk, Donna took the opportunity to have more of a chat with her fellow red-head.
"So! Amy Pond. That's a great name."
Amy grinned. "That's what the Doctor says. Never saw anything special about it myself."
"Pond, though, that's brilliant. Pond! That sticks in your mind." Donna shook her head, "Wow, I really do sound like him, don't I?"
"Well, you know what they say about dogs and their owners…" Amy quipped.
"Hey, I'll have you know, the Doctor is not my pet!" Donna laughed, "Although, the amount of people who assume we're married, you might be able to argue a case."
"Are you married?" Amy asked.
"I nearly was, once," Donna told her, "Oh, but he was working for a giant spider thing. That's when I met the Doctor for the first time. How about you?"
Amy crinkled her nose, "Nah. I'm not really the marrying kind."
Amy surprised herself by actually having to consider that question. "Er, nope." There was a burning sensation behind her eyes. Why did she want to cry? It was the thing with Van Gogh all over again. She shook her head sharply. She was just being silly.
Nearer the back of the group, Rose had found her way to her Doctor's side. He didn't notice her at first, staring as he was at the floor.
The title seemed different somehow, now he wasn't the only one.
"Rose. There you are. All right?"
She nodded, "Are you?"
He didn't meet her eye, looked slightly past her. "'Course I am. I'm always all right."
She studied him critically, knowing he was lying, and also knowing she should drop it, but she had to ask. "Doctor – all those people who travel with you…" she paused, "I'm not the first, then."
He smiled almost wistfully before saying, "No. Why, jealous?"
She bit her lip. "No…"
"Liar," he said teasingly, squeezing her arm. "I don't blame you, I am to be coveted. But I think what you were saying is…you're not the last, either."
She shuffled closer to him, "I don't want to leave you, Doctor."
He looked down at her. "Time can be rewritten," he said, "It's in flux, all of it. Today, yesterday, last week in a thousand years' time. You can't focus on your own future, Rose, it might never happen."
She gave him a smile, hoping he'd buy the inference that she felt better. "I know. Come on, we're getting left behind."
As they quickened their pace to rejoin the group, they found that their mysterious guide had stopped outside a door and was keying in what was apparently a pass-code. The metal contraption fixed to the door gave a loud BEEP and the door swung open. Rose was somewhat baffled at the advanced technology in this place. It seemed completely alien to the dingy caves they'd first arrived in.
They filed in. The room they were now inhabiting appeared to be a science laboratory of some sort. A long, sleek counter ran all the way around the edge, piled high with test-tube racks, glass bottles, animal cages and a multitude of other contraptions. On one wall there was a large portrait of a man and a woman holding a baby, which looked utterly out of place.
Their wizened host stood in the centre of the room, and looked around at them. "My name is Ramus," he said, "And I need your help."
The leather-jacketed Doctor looked cynical. "If you wanted help, you could have just asked," he said. "There was no need for the obstacle course and the big hairy guard."
The old man looked distant, as if he was staring straight past them. His long, straggling white beard, Ace thought, made him look like an eery, thoroughly miserable version of Father Christmas. He had once been well dressed but the clothes were worn, threads straying, and his hands were tiny, bones protruding through the frail skin.
Suddenly he seemed to snap out of his reverie. "Yes. I apologise for the way you've been treated. It's a...game of mine, of sorts. You see, Doctor...I've been waiting so long. I've called some of the greatest, wisest men in the galaxy. I thought if they could survive the maze...and the monster...they could help."
"What, so you brought people here to meet their deaths on the off-chance they might be able to do you a favour?" Amy spluttered. "We saw the bodies in the maze. Is that gonna be us, if we can't do anything for you?"
Ramus had the decency to look slightly ashamed. "You are young," he said sorrowfully. "I remember how it felt to be young. To have such a righteous hold on justice, to know absolutely what should and shouldn't be done. But now I am old, and I have been alone for so many years. Eventually those ideas fade, and the big, bad wolf is left to rampage through the mind, to fill the silence left by everyone else. Sometimes the wires get crossed."
"Very philosophical," the pinstriped Doctor commented. Donna noted a number of tones in his voice: impatience, yes, but there was understanding too, sadness even. Thinking about it, it was all far too sentimental for her liking.
"All right, get to it, Santa," she snapped. "What do you want help with?"
Ramus opened his mouth as if to make a reply, but he was interrupted by the high-pitched ringing of alarm bells. They were quickly drowned out by a huge, ferocious roar, and a thunderous crash on the door just behind Rose, who skittered slightly further into the room.
"My experiment," Ramus finally said, and he had hardly finished uttering the last syllable when the door gave way, revealing the mighty beast. And suddenly, in those hands, those enormous, hairy but human hands... was Rose.