AN - Hello friends! Wow a LOT has happened in the Whoniverse since we last talked...

I'm not even going to try to excuse my lateness. It has been a pitifully long time since my last update and I am sorry. I have been busy but the main reason I haven't update is because...well I've been too happy lately! So I suppose it's a mixed blessing. But a writer is a writer and a sad story is a sad story so suck it up I did and here we are. I'm not sure about this being the epilogue epilogue, I might right a shorter little bit where we find out what happens to Jenny and stuff. I'm hesitant though because it might be overly sentimental. Having said that this is Doctor Who and they don't shy away from sentimentality. What do you guys think?

Otherwise, without further ado

Chapter Twenty Three – Epilogue

When the Tardis materialised on the planet's surface, Amber flew through its doors almost immediately and made a bee-line for Jenny. She threw her arms around the sobbing blonde and hugged until neither of them could breathe. Ty and Josh followed a few steps behind, shock and sympathy hardening into spearheads in their chests as they watched the two girls over the console, clinging to each other and sobbing and crying.

"Heya," Mickey interrupted quietly, emerging from a nearby corridor. "You boys alright?"

Josh nodded slowly and crossed his arms over his chest. Ty cleared his throat and flexed his numb fingers. He quickly clenched his hands together as Donna and a notably coat-less Jack followed Mickey out of the passageway.

"It's bad," Jack said, so that neither of them would have to ask. Nobody mentioned the crack in his voice. "Rose...Rose is-" He shook his head and put his hands on his hips, sucking in breath and looking at the roof as if the word he could not say hung there. In a way, it did. Mickey opened his arms and the boys almost fell into them, grateful for a silent moment of being treated like the children they really were, who shouldn't have to deal with this. When Mickey released them, they staggered over to the girls and joined in a compound group hug with not a spoken signal between them.

Down the corridor, the Doctor crossed his arms and his ankles, and leant against the wall by the door of the Med-bay. Rose lay on her bed a few feet away, but the machines around her were silent. To either side of her, identical sets of beds and monitors recurred as if reflected endlessly in two mirrors facing each other. A few beds away, Chris Jackson sat, silently watching the Doctor over Martha's shoulder as she bandaged his leg.

"I thought he was going to kill us," he confessed, still staring over her shoulder. His voice crackled slightly as he recalled the terrible, electrifying presence of the stranger before the fall of the blonde woman. "I thought he was just going to leave us there to die. I really did."

Martha pursed her lips, unwilling to answer.

"Why didn't he?" Chris wondered. "Honestly, why didn't he? I think I would have. Not that I think it would have been a good thing, I mean most of us are just...just kids, really, I mean we were – we were just t-trusting our leader-"

"I understand," Martha interrupted in a hushed tone, hoping to bring her patient down to the same level. "Don't say that to him, though. He doesn't take things like that well. I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, just let it go."

In truth, the Doctor had been in no state to allow or refuse anyone entry to the Tardis. She, Donna and Jack had all but herded the crowd through those two blue doors and installed the majority of them in the gymnasium-like room down the hall to await return to Earth. The Sergeant and the Sergeant Major and a few loyalists had stayed behind out of spite, determined that their war was still going on, and would soon fall to the wrath of the stars, but Martha tried not to think about them. To be honest, though it wounded her a little to acknowledge, it was not hard to comfort herself; they had been liars, they had been warned, they had been offered a chance at safety and they had refused to take it, meanwhile people here were suffering and she might be able to help. She should direct herself to helping rather than re-evaluating humanity. So Martha focused on Chris' leg; one thing at a time.

"Who was she?" he asked after a long moment, finally tearing his eyes away from the Time Lord, who had scarcely even blinked since they set flight, to chase those of his doctor as she fixed the end of the bandage in place. Martha looked back up and smiled sadly. Chris let his eyes drift back to the Doctor for a moment, for the answer to his question was obvious: the angle was bad, from where he was sitting, but the darkness in the tall, thin man's eyes – the way he had so erratically reacted –

Chris swallowed. Offering out a pair of crutches to the young man, Martha backed away from the bed and he swung down off it, and hobbled to the door as quietly as he could, staring fiercely at the floor as he passed the Doctor. He expected to feel the burning sensation of the angry, grieving man's eyes baring into his back (after all, Chris could not help feeling some blame for what had happened, and he had less reason to hate himself than this man did to hate him), but he felt nothing. It was as if the man were simply a statue, an ornament. No. Wallpaper. There was no emotion at all coming from him, which for some reason, felt worse.

Martha followed Chris out shortly. She put a hand on one of the Doctor's, and looked up into his eyes. Both of them moved just slightly to lock her gaze, but they were passionless, lightless orbs and they barely seemed to register her. After a moment, they shifted slowly back to Rose. Martha let her hand fall and ducked out of the Med-bay.

.o.o.o.

Mickey was already holding one arm out for her when she returned to the console room, and he gave her a tight hug around her shoulders. Finally, she found she could breathe clearly, but Mickey's shoulders and hands were tight.

"So," she mumbled, resting her fingers on the hand that was almost fisted by her neck. "What do you think of him?"

"Ah," Mickey gave a shrug and pulled away. He wished she hadn't asked, he really did. "It's hard to call a mourning man a heartless bastard. I dunno what I think of him. But I guess- he really loved her. That's something."

He sat on the edge of the console and Martha nodded slowly, smiling a little. "That's something."

Jack and Donna drifted over, and each gave Martha a momentary hug of solidarity. The four of them stood in a circle, silent and unsure.

"We're going to have to tell Jackie and Pete somehow," Mickey said after a moment.

"That won't be hard." Jack put his hands on his hips and took a deep breath, reluctant to move on. "The stars are going out all over the place; there are probably crossover points like Messaline everywhere. You'll probably be able to get back, and even if you can't, Pete will be able to send a team after you."

"That's good."

Silence fell once more.

"What about Jenny though?" Donna wondered. "Does she want to go back?" She looked between the other four. None of them had asked or heard anything. Slowly, they turned as one to look over the console at Jenny and her friends; Jenny and Ty sat beside each other on the stairs, Amber and her brother hugging against the railing.

Before any of them could say anything more, the deathly silence of the console room was interrupted by the faint buzz of the scanner screen turning on. The image was a little distorted – from the storm damage Rose's departure had done to Mr Smith, Mickey imagined – but it was undeniably

"Sarah Jane Smith!" Captain Jack saluted with a grin. Sarah Jane blushed a little and cast her eyes around. Mickey, Martha and Donna crowded the console, and when Sarah Jane caught Donna's eye she looked somewhat relieved.

"Finally I've got the right time! I think the stars going out is interfering with the Tardis receptors, it's taken me ages to get through! Are you alright, I saw the Messaline sun go out- Where's the Doctor?"

"The Doctor's fine," Donna replied, since Sarah-Jane's eyes were still on her. "Well I mean, he's safe."

"Whatdoyoumean." The breath caught in the older woman's chest and Donna had to avert her eyes for a moment. It was easy to forget how many attachments the Time Lord had, and how deep they ran. At a time like this, it was difficult to be confronted by such a wonder as Sarah-Jane.

"And- and what about Rose?" Sarah-Jane pressed.

"I lost her."

The four by the screen turned back to face the corridor. Jenny and Ty scrambled to their feet and the four teenagers gathered at the base of the stairs, staring up half in relief and half in horror at the new member of their conversation.

The Doctor passed a stern, acknowledging gaze over all of them and then swung himself onto the floor, but with weight rather than his usual levity. His feet hitting the grates sounded louder than usual in the silence. With a heavy sigh he leant on the console and pulled the screen towards him.

"She's gone."

He shut the screen off before Sarah Jane could say a word, but his fingers hovered over the switch for a long time, as if he might turn it back on. Slowly, he wandered around the console setting and pressing and tweaking, and his passengers watched. Its breathy engine vworped to life and the blue box disappeared from space, leaving Messaline and it star to crumble and burn alone.