A/N: And off we go again! This is the fifth entry in my Alternating Universes series, immediately following The Traveler. As always, new readers are strongly encouraged to start at the beginning, with Sea Change.

Alternating Universes, Part Five

On Serenity

Back in the original universe, the Doctor, twin Rose, Jenny, and Joshua
begin their new lives as a family - but danger comes knocking!

Prologue - Spoilers

Previously, in "The Traveler"...

(While en route to SenSaru'a in the Baby TARDIS; Joshua, Corin, and Rose are in the Control Room.) Joshua swung back around and began working the controls again, concentrating. After a moment, the Time Rotor began its mesmerizing, glowing action, pumping them across the universe. Joshua peered at his monitor, puzzled. "That's not quite right." He held his hand out towards Corin without looking. "Brandon, would you punch up – ." He swung around and winced, choking off the sentence. "Sorry. Dad. Can you call up the nav program to SenSaru'a? Should be right on top there," motioning to the screen beside his father.

Corin didn't turn. He gazed at Josh, a bemused expression covering his face. "Who's Brandon? A companion?"

Josh spluttered a bit. "Um... Yeah... More or less."

Corin glanced over at Rose, more amused by the second. "That's a very enigmatic answer. Are you trying not to shock your doddering old folks?"

"What?" It took Joshua a second to catch on, then he burst out laughing. "No," he said emphatically between snorts, before he caught his breath again. "No, that's not it." A deep sigh. "I'm wrestling with spoilers, actually. I honestly don't know what I can or shouldn't tell you guys right now... The story's not over yet. I haven't closed the loop."

Corin turned back to Rose again. "He gets more enigmatic with every sentence."

She nodded, as amused at her husband as her son. "Well, he came by it naturally."

"Oi! I'm not that bad, am I? .. Any more?" he added as an afterthought.

She laughed, taking pity on him. "No, you've definitely improved over the years. Although, you do still have your moments..."


Corin turned back to Joshua. "You 'haven't closed the loop?' Come on, son, it's me..."

Josh sighed. "Well... OK. Maybe you can help me figure it all out." He reached behind him and flicked a lever, temporarily halting the TARDIS' travel through the Void, then put his feet back up on the coffee table column and leaned back again.

"About fifteen years after we arrived in the other universe – I'll tell you that whole story later – Baby here was mostly grown; still had a lot of finishing touches left, but the basics were in place. We'd been taking trips in her for a while, and I'd begun soloing that year.

"Well, I took off on a trip one day by myself, about the fourth or fifth time I'd soloed. I came back a few days later – and they were gone. The Doctor and Rose had disappeared. I just about had a heart attack, thinking I'd done something wrong, when I finally stepped in the right place and triggered his message."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a thick metal disk, about the size of a silver dollar. He placed it on the coffee table (putting his feet back on the floor), and pressed the center of it. A hologram of the Doctor appeared in the air above it, looking for all the world like Princess Leia (without the white robes, of course). He was grinning ear to ear, and held up his holographic hands immediately.

"Joshua! Stop panicking! It's OK. Rose and I have gone off on a little trip. Just jump forward three days – jump, mind you – and we'll be here.

"Now, listen, this is important. Save this message. Some day you're going to need to know the date. Just one thing: do NOT jump back until you are absolutely certain it's time. Don't worry about this, though. There will be no doubt in your mind when the time comes – trust me.

"And Josh... don't ever forget how much we both love you. Always." The Doctor's image faded out.

He hasn't changed a bit, Corin thought. At least, he hadn't then. I wonder... Shaking his head, he turned back to Joshua. "And that's all you know?"

"That's it. I jumped ahead three days – yes, I resisted the temptation to just wait for them. No paradoxes, thanks. They were there, as promised. They just smiled and gave me a hug, and never said anything more about it. Not once."

"No hints at all?" asked Rose.

"No. Although..." He paused. "He was different after that. Not her, so much, but he was."

"Different how? Good or bad?"

"Good. It was like..." He looked at his Dad. "You know the burdens he carries, even though you really have to know him to see it. But after that, it was as though those burdens had gotten lighter. As if.. as if something deep inside him was healed. So whatever it is, it's a good thing, I don't doubt it. I just wish I knew what it was." He sighed. "All these years, I've talked myself into believing that it was this, that I'd be bringing them here, when I finally found the way back to this universe. But... So far, there's been nothing here that makes me sure." He grimaced, looking at each in turn. "I don't suppose one of you needs a kidney, or something?"

They laughed, shaking their heads. "Sorry, no. Or, not sorry, actually, but still no," Rose answered. She smiled at him. "Don't worry. It'll happen eventually."

He sighed. "Yeah. I'll be glad when that mystery's solved, though – it's been the proverbial itch I can't scratch for decades."

Rose grew thoughtful. "So is that incident the only thing that has you worried? I take it you're afraid if you tell us something that happened after that, and then you bring them here to meet us again, that we'll let the spoilers slip?" He nodded, and she grinned, almost wickedly. "OK. I'll give you all the other decades after that – if you'll give US those fifteen years. Surely no harm can come from that part of the story then?"

He laughed. "Nope," popping the P just like the Doctor used to. "All right, children, settle down, and I'll tell you a bedtime story..."