This took a lot longer than I thought it would, but that's life. Otherwise, I personally consider this chapter a masterpiece. No conceit intended. Extra points to readers who figure out the complete pattern.

As a side note, if anyone has any suggestions on how to improve last chapter, I'd appreciate it because no matter how much I kept tweaking it, parts of it never felt right.

Also, shout-out to rileylikescheese—apparently I was wrong about when I was going update, sorry. The end was surprisingly difficult. Made it longer to make up for the delay ;) Still looking forward to seeing your work!

WARNING: some foul language, like usual, and there are one or two scenes here that get graphic in a really bloody, gory way that they'd never show on BBCA.


Episode 10

A Sun Will Burn, Part II

"…and we went to this beach, right, no people, no buildings, just this beach, like, a thousand miles across! And something happened—something to do with the sun, I don't know—but the sea had just frozen. Like, in a split second in the middle of a storm, right, waves and foam, just frozen. All the way out to the horizon.

"Midnight, right, we walk underneath these waves a hundred feet tall, made of ice!"

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

By this point, Martha had come to accept that there were infinite wonders in this universe, things that she could never imagine and would never believe without seeing it; but here, there was no wonder: it was freezing, an empty kind of freezing that felt like it had always been frozen and would stay frozen forever. Steam that looked almost solid curled from Martha's lips as she panted in the cold darkness of an alley filled with broken glass. Heat and adrenaline curled in her blood, fighting or trying to fight the late autumn air. She crouched underneath a bunch of heavy, stinking black trash bags and tried to keep her pounding heart within the confines of her chest.

The creature that had been pursuing Martha leapt through the broken window that Martha had busted just moments before. It paused there and sniffed the ground, snarling. As it picked up Martha's scent and moved into the light of the full moon, Martha took a moment to appreciate the creature's beauty.

If Martha were forced to call it anything, she'd say that it was a wolf, but that was not quite accurate. Nor could it be called a werewolf, because it didn't look anything like fantasy werewolves or the pictures of the real thing which she had seen in the TARDIS library, viewed late at night when she was bored and couldn't sleep and Rose had been kind enough to point out the interesting stuff.

It was larger than an ordinary wolf, its head nearly reaching Martha's even on all fours, and it didn't stand on its hind legs like she thought a werewolf would. It more resembled a panther in the slinking grace with which it stalked towards the pile of trash bags under which Martha was hiding, but the long snout and sharp, pointed ears that twitched at every sound were distinctively canine. Its short, shaggy fur was not merely black; it seemed to suck all light into it. Sleek muscles rippled with power underneath the fur, somehow tense with explosive energy and simultaneously relaxed and lazy with a confidence that sneered at weak human flesh.

The eyes, Martha thought, were the creature's most striking features. They were frighteningly intelligent and piercing, warm brown with shining gold flecks that radiated a nearly imperceptible aura of ethereal power. The worst thing, though, was the lack of recognition in them as the creature finally decided that yes, its prey was hiding beneath those stinking trash bags, and yes, that was a very pitiful wall of protection easily brushed aside by glistening, jagged fangs and deadly claws.

Trapped, Martha stood quickly so as to be able to look the creature in the eye. Hot breath blew gently over her face, bringing with it a feeling of fierce protectiveness that wouldn't make sense in this situation without the foreknowledge that Martha had been granted. Currently, however, the creature's eyes gleamed in predatory triumph as it growled menacingly and bunched its muscles, preparing to strike. There seemed to be nothing familiar in these eyes.

Martha took a deep breath and braced herself, a sweet thrill singing in her bones from the sensation of spinning out of control.

Less than an hour later…

Rose was glad that her jacket, pilfered from the wardrobe room over a year ago, regulated a separate atmosphere around her torso, or she'd be freezing. Her hands and nose were cold, though, and the air in her lungs felt frozen. She was kind of glad of that. Given what she was doing, it was only right that some of the cold inside was being reflected outside.

She hated how poetic she had become.

Martha was gazing around them in awe, still wearing the gloves she had started the night with, and even with circumstances as they were right now, Rose couldn't help but treasure Martha's amazement. The universe was full of places like this, and Rose now understood why the Doctor had taken such manic enjoyment out of sharing them. As she watched, Martha reached out to touch a wave, only to gasp in startlement to feel how cold it was even through her glove. Rose felt a grin tugging at the corners of her lips unwittingly; she wondered if Martha had thought the waves were made of something else. Glass, perhaps. They did look like huge glass walls or sculptures.

Martha looked away from the wave she was touching to catch Rose's eye. She wasn't quite smiling—Rose didn't think she would be able to for a while yet—but her eyes sparkled adorably. Rose's heart swelled with a sharp, bright, floating feeling she couldn't label. With it came hope. If Rose had a choice, if the universe let her have a say, if anything she did ever influenced anything like she wanted it to, Martha would always have that look in her eye.

But she still remembered how they'd looked just an hour ago, sparkling with idiotic conviction (in what, Rose still wasn't sure), and defiance, and sheer terror, as Rose prepared to kill her.

The burning stars and the ghostly aurora dancing in the midnight sky twinkled mockingly over the frozen waves of Woman Wept, but the world kept turning in spite of them.

More than four hours earlier…

If she had had more time to become attuned to her human body, she would have found the apartment unreasonably cold. As it was, she was shivering for another reason—excitement.

"Well done, Daughter of Mine," praised the Mother of their Family, the hand of her host touching the shoulder of the younger host of her Daughter.

Around them, the Son and the Father of their Family were searching for the key to the feast that would sustain them for eternity. The material trappings of human existence were ripped away and torn apart in the hopes of unearthing the item that would save them. It was only a matter of time before they had it, so there was no need for the foolish fear she saw in her Children's eyes.

Daughter nodded solemnly and led her Brother to the Empty One's resting place. The information she had imparted to the Family had been invaluable.

"You are certain that we should not have attacked the Doctor when we smelled him?"

Mother turned to face the Father of their Family, her Husband. His host was dark-skinned, with sharp beady eyes that had made her nod with approval when she first saw them.

"The Doctor does not have the bond with time that Rose Tyler does."

"Their TARDIS—"

"Is impenetrable."

"The Doctor would have been an easier catch, and enough to live forever."

Mother glared at him with all the force her host could muster. He took a step back. She sniffed in satisfaction.

"I will have nothing less than the universe for Babe of Mine. We are not desperate, Husband of Mine. We have two Earth days to finish our hunt. There is no need to settle for immortality when we can have so much more than that."

Father inclined his head.

"I meant no disrespect, Wife of Mine. Of course Babe of Mine shall have all the amenities we may offer. But would not a defenseless Rose Tyler suffice as well as the one with power?"

Mother extended the fingernails of her host into vicious claws and tapped them carefully against the throat of her Husband. It would take almost no force at all to tear him to shreds. Father did not move, showing wisdom.

"Do not get ahead of yourself, Husband of Mine. We are not yet able to disobey the laws of time. We must have the Rose Tyler we have hunted, and no other, and no Doctor, and no TARDIS, until then."

"Mother of Mine," said the voice of the Son's host. Mother retracted her claws and turned to face him. "It is not here."

Her nostrils flared.

"Very well. Daughter of Mine," she looked down at the little one, "where did Martha Jones and the Empty One go?"

"The Wolf Den, Mother of Mine."

"Then we shall take the watch from Martha Jones by force."

Akura was glad that she had managed to arrange things just right. She had wanted to go out with Isaac badly, but she couldn't do it alone. Her breath quickened at just the thought of being among a wild press of bodies without Martha there to protect her. Going somewhere more private with Isaac, alone, would be infinitely worse, and Martha would never allow it; Akura had sworn to herself that she would never lie to Martha about anything ever again.

"And no one else we know will be here, right?"

Akura smiled softly. She was aware of Martha's efforts to track down Argen and his friends, and that somehow everything had fallen apart for them during her short but painful, traumatizing detox, and so she knew that Martha was only asking out of nervous alertness and not distrust.

"Yes, Martha. You, me, Isaac, and a roomful of strangers."

Martha huffed, as though the statement brought little comfort. However, Akura was glad to see that her shoulders were not as hunched, and some lines of tension had faded. It seemed that ever since they had moved from London her friend had seemed—when she had been around to notice, Akura admitted sadly to herself—bogged down by the weight of the world. She had to convince herself that it was not her fault or the guilt from her selfishness would consume her.

It was December 13th and the air was frigid in Colorado, and the light of the rising full moon was bright and utterly cold. Inside the Den, however, the air was steamy, almost heady with the scent of sweat and alcohol and barbecue; the Den opened early on Fridays as more of a bar than a club, and the owner had this weird thing where he went outside and cooked barbecue before up and coming DJs threw their mixes together for a night of pure revelry for 18+, which was exactly what Akura needed right now.

Luckily, the line was short, and the cover charge cheap. The club was already electric with life and music when they arrived, pounding bass lines and heavy drums rattling Akura's skull and stretching her lips into an involuntary grin. Isaac and Martha each ordered a shot of something alcoholic; Akura tried not to pay attention lest she be tempted to have more than she could handle right now. She wanted live through this night completely sober. That was the challenge she had set for herself. Besides, she was the designated driver and didn't want to have to take a cab for just a few blocks across town.

Nervous energy raced up and down her spine and she tugged on Isaac's hand impatiently, missing a joke he'd muttered to Martha in her eagerness to jump off the cliff. It was the anticipation that Akura had hated more than anything today. Martha had smiled and chuckled softly at Isaac's joke, distracting Akura briefly from her anxiety, which was the only reason she knew that Isaac had even spoken, but finally Isaac acquiesced to her tugs and gingerly followed her to the dance floor.

Martha hesitated, but the dance the floor was so crowded that Akura knew her friend would not be able to see very clearly from the bar and would not want to risk losing sight of her. True to form, Martha moved stiffly behind Isaac as Akura plunged into the heart of the crowd.

It was terrifying in the most thrilling way. The air was musky and hot and utterly suffocating. She felt like there was cellophane stretched tight around her face, her limbs were tied, and she was being manhandled towards the ocean. Her heart was beating erratically, painfully hard against her ribs with a roaring rush of blood and adrenaline that muffled the emphatic beat of the nameless club hit that pounded under her feet and over her head. The fear that erupted behind her tongue was solid and implacable, a scream that was too shrill to escape. A blanket of bright, electrifying intensity seemed to have seized her skin and frozen it rock hard and slick. Foreign bodies pressed in from all directions like the walls of the club were closing in to crush her out of existence.

And she was happy because of it. This fear, this feeling of absolute terror, made her feel more alive than anything had since she had called Martha after the night of her nearly fatal mistake. It was far, far better than the numbness that had paralyzed her emotions and crippled her soul for what seemed like months.

Akura threw her head back and laughed exultantly against the drowning presence of her fear.

Martha, caught up in the wildness of Akura's laughter and the intense gyration of the crowd, finally let go and danced in earnest at Akura's back. To their side, Isaac pressed close to prevent the other dancers from sweeping him away, and Akura felt like kicking and screaming to get away from him, to yell at him not to touch her because her skin was crawling, but instead she surrendered to the basic primal feel of the fear, falling willingly into Martha's protective embrace.

They stopped for a brief rest and drinks about forty minutes later, Isaac and Martha working together to keep everyone else from touching Akura on their way to the bar. Akura indulged in a non-alcoholic drink, and tried to catch her breath. It was impossible. She was still caught in a trance of intense emotion.

That was when all hell broke loose.

"There will be silence! All of you!"

A large man with darker skin than Martha's had burst into the bar and seized control of the microphone ordinarily used for karaoke nights. He held a bizarre gun-like thing in his other hand and aimed it at the DJ, who had exclaimed, "What the hell is this?"

"Turn it off! Now!"

Hastily, the DJ shut off the music. Deafening silence fell over the bar. The dancers were a lump of flesh stuck together staring in awe. Near the man, a woman shrieked. A burst of green light escaped the intruder's weapon, striking the woman and dissolving her where she stood.

Like a switch had been flipped, everyone in the club made for the door. There were a few bright flashes of light, more screams, and then three more figures emerged from the doorway, pushing the crowd back inside.

Akura felt something inside her recoil in disgust and fear, the distinctly un-thrilling kind that reduced her vision to one tiny speck of light in the center of a massive darkness. It was Argen. And Melissa. And a little girl with a fistful of ribbons attached to brightly-colored balloons. They were all holding those strange-looking guns.

The four of them herded everyone onto the dance floor. Filing in after them were—and Akura could hardly believe her eyes—mannequins from shop windows all down the street, and other things, too. Meshes of car parts and traffic lights and sign posts formed grotesque creatures of all sizes. Dogs, cats, people, snakes, birds; there were dozens of them, whirring and clicking mechanically, throwing aside tables and chairs with inhuman strength to make more room. They and the mannequins lined up in rows behind the people with guns, an army of mish-mashed metal and plastic.

Akura's arm was grabbed roughly and she was dragged across the dance floor towards the back; Martha, Akura thought dimly as she stared unblinkingly at Argen. Martha was trying to put most of the crowd between them and the gunmen.

"We asked for silence!" The first man roared, and the last of the whimpers and screams died away into the trembling, cowering mass of humans gathered on the floor. "Now then. We have a few questions for Ms. Martha Jones."

Akura snapped her gaze from Argen to Martha, who swallowed hard.

"Whatever happens," Martha whispered, "don't trust anything they say."

"What the hell is going on?" Isaac, who had followed them, hissed.

"Jones!"

Martha gently pulled herself from Akura's disbelieving grip and moved away from the group. "Here," she said quietly, hands raised to shoulder level to show herself unarmed.

"Bad Wolf is hiding in a watch. Her body is vulnerable. We will find and kill that body if you don't give us the watch."

Akura saw Isaac flinch, but she was utterly confused. And scared shitless.

"Alright," said Martha. Her voice barely shook. "Just let me pull it out."

She moved her hand to one of her pockets, but Argen moved before she could take out anything, grabbing a drunk man from the crowd and holding a gun at his temple. The man started to put up a fight until Martha caught his eye.

"If you try to open it," said Melissa, "Son of Mine will kill this man. And we will keep killing and killing until you give us what we want."

"Why?" asked Martha, obviously trying to stall. "What do you want with so much power? What's the point? Surely you can find more food somewhere else."

Argen killed the man he was holding. Akura didn't even see him fire; she'd blinked and the man was gone. She along with several others gasped in horror. She shrank back, feeling incredibly small and vulnerable as Argen captured another hostage. Everyone around Akura shifted uneasily.

"You didn't have to do that!"

Martha quickly reached into her pocket. Then she froze, eyes wide. She grasped at her other pockets, frantic.

"I don't—" she was bewildered, "—I don't have it."

Argen shot his captive and reached for another one. There were brief screams but the larger black man silenced them with a glare.

"Wait!"

"Mother of Mine," said the little girl, "perhaps the Empty One has it."

Melissa nodded in agreement.

"Yes, Daughter of Mine, she must. Tell us, Martha Jones, where is Bad Wolf's human body? Where is Rose Tyler?"

Akura bit her lip to keep from exclaiming aloud her recognition of the name.

"Not here," said Martha promptly. "She was, but she had to leave early. The crowd was too much for her."

Akura's eyes involuntarily went back to Argen, whose face was stony as he held a gun to a young woman's head. His dark eyes and messy brown hair seemed utterly alien to her now. If she hadn't had his features burned into her memory, she might not have even thought it was him. And what the hell was Melissa doing going along with this? How had they gathered such a...an ugly army? What were they planning to do with it?

"You are lying," said the man at Melissa's side. "We can smell her, and we can smell the watch." He sniffed deeply as if to make his point. "Tell us where she is, or we will kill everyone in this room."

Martha's eyes were wide and frightened, Akura saw, though she only saw the other woman's profile from the side. Akura looked around and realized that Isaac had drifted further into the shadows, hands shaking uncontrollably. She felt a brief stab of contempt for him.

"She's not here," whispered Martha.

Argen promptly shot his captive and then replaced the young woman with another one.

Martha averted her gaze, her expression twisted in pain, and Akura's heart cracked.

"Stop it!"

Akura hadn't planned to speak. She still didn't know what was going on, or what she could possibly do about it. But there was a part of her, she realized after she had attracted the attention of everyone in the bar, that couldn't stand to see that look on Martha's face, and another part of her that couldn't just stand there and watch people die.

The crowd parted before Akura, a straight line to Argen, Melissa, the little girl, and the other man. Martha moved quickly to shield Akura from view, but it was too late. The dark-skinned man Akura didn't recognize darted forward with surprising quickness and wrapped an arm around Martha's neck, pointing the gun at her head. Akura saw Argen smirking cruelly.

The crowd shifted anxiously, but subtle movements from the army lined up behind Argen and Melissa caused them to settle down with a soft murmur.

"She's your friend, isn't she?" said Melissa gesturing to the helpless Martha. "Doesn't this scare you enough to give us that watch?"

"I don't know what you mean!"

"Use him!" the little girl cried, pointing to Akura's right. "Martha Jones and the Empty One were talking about him. Him and Akura Kraft, Rose Tyler's human alter ego."

Akura flinched away as Argen threw his captive back into the crowd and stalked forward through the aisle they had created to wrestle briefly with—Isaac, Akura saw, with growing dread. Argen pulled Isaac to the front of the room with surprising strength, punching him hard enough in the jaw to send him sprawling. Argen left him on the floor, but he and Melissa both pointed guns at him.

Akura didn't even have time to protest.

"Have you enjoyed it, Rose?" said Argen. Akura flinched at the sound of his voice, flashing back to the cause of her night terrors. His expression was hard. "Being human? Has it taught you wonderful things? Brought you—pleasure?" His lips twisted cruelly when she flinched. "Are you better, richer, wiser? If it has done you any good, then let's see you answer this: which one of them do you want us to kill? Your friend—or your lover? Your choice."

"Argen—" she cut herself off. Even if this really was Argen…what on earth could she say?

Akura breathed harshly, unable to understand anything of the world anymore. It was all gibberish, they were all speaking nonsense, and the world was twisting in on itself around her, shimmering and fading in and out of existence. There was a tightness in her chest and a prickling pain in her eyes and sweat still dripped down her back from the heady heat of the dancers who weren't dancing around her. Was she about to faint? She felt worse than when she had nearly overdosed on god knew what.

At that moment, the shrill, keening whine of police sirens pierced the tense silence.

Chaos erupted around her. Several dozen people in the bar, all in various stages of sobriety and none in any stage of rationality, lunged for the exit, knocking over the human-like intruders with guns and trampling into the army behind them.

The army was just that, though: a large group of soldiers. The mannequins pressed against the crowd and shoved a few them hard enough into walls and tables and floors to crack skulls. The bizarre machines interspersed between the mannequins whirred and buzzed and spun, contraptions like limbs sparking and penetrating the rush of people aiming for the door.

It was the metal things that were the worst, Akura soon realized as she emptied the contents of her stomach onto the dance floor. They had blades, saws, needles, spears, drills and other sharp, spinning things that flashed in the multicolored, pulsing light of the dance floor and sliced effortlessly into human flesh, carving bone and splattering blood and spewing guts across the bar, painting the walls red. Akura fell to her knees next to a pool of vomit, sobbing incoherently as people she didn't know, and possibly some that she did, died horrible, painful deaths fit only for a horror movie with more gore than plot.

The screams and the buzzing whirs of the killer robots sang sharply in her ears, filling them with incessant noise that burrowed deep enough into her brain to drive her mad. The smell of old pennies, dirty bathrooms, and regurgitated food and alcohol overwhelmed the earlier smell of sweat and alcohol and barbecue. Someone next to her lost a hand with a piercing cry, hot red liquid spurting free of the stump and slashing Akura across the face—accusingly.

This was her fault.

Akura retched again.

Gunfire soon joined the cacophony of sounds. Someone with red skin and hair and clothes appeared out of the pandemonium and yelled something incomprehensible. Akura shook her head in denial, disbelief, dismay, defeat.

A dark red hand yanked on her arm, pulling her to her feet. Akura flinched at the skin on skin contact. Someone howled in frustration. Someone howled in fear. Someone howled in pain.

The world twisted in on iself again. The moon and the stars and the night sky blurred together into a cold lump like that gray-brown slimy thing she slipped on, squished, the white things that crunched, stuck into her hands and knees, and she would have crashed face-first into the vomit, offal and blood-stained sidewalk outside the Den, but something warm and solid steadied her.

The cold pierced the haze that filled her head, cleared it enough to get her feet moving on their own. It also seemed to muffle the screams, or maybe they had really faded to silence. The silence was worse.

The mannequin-robot army was spilling out onto the streets of Lupus Nocens and attacking more than just those who had been in the Den. Akura was shuffled right past a young man no more than sixteen years old who screamed as a mannequin armed with a huge knife methodically pushed him to the ground and proceeded to saw off his head slowly enough that he was still screaming several seconds after the beheading began.

"NO!"

The noise was a shot in the dark, the first sound to penetrate Akura's numb coldness, and it was her own voice crying. She tried to run to the boy, but was stopped by a firm arm around her waist. Akura cringed and turned wildly to face Martha, whose eyes were haunted and sad and dark in her blood-stained face.

"LET ME GO!" Akura shrieked and struggled against Martha. Isaac, from apparently thin air, stepped between them and the mannequin and the boy, blocking her view of the thick, dark liquid spurting straight into the air, a parody of a fountain coating the metal blade, the metal head, the metal torso, the...

"Let it go, Akura," soothed Isaac.

"You can't do anything," said Martha.

Akura pushed at Martha's arm, realizing that she was shaking with violent sobs only when she failed to escape the other woman's firm grip. She clutched at the arm like a life raft instead.

"We have to keep running."

"They can have me!" Akura sobbed. "Let them have me, just make it stop!"

"If they have you, the entire world will suffer this," said Martha. She looked sick in the pale moonlight. "The galaxy after that, the whole universe after that. I have to keep you safe."

And Akura was pulled along into the night, shrieking and sobbing.

Sometime later, Isaac scouted ahead and found a car abandoned in the street, keys in the ignition, headlights on, no trace of its owner anywhere nearby. Akura tried to protest that someone else needed it more, but was overruled.

The army had stopped pursuing innocent citizens, but they crawled all over and across the streets, blood-slicked and grotesque. Akura found it hard to believe, looking at the car's clock, that it had been barely more than an hour since she and Martha had left their apartment for a night of dancing.

She scoffed inwardly. Dancing. Who the fuck cared about dancing now? The goddamn world was ending.

There were other cars, of course, civilian ones speeding out of town, robot-controlled ones trying to run them off the road; not to kill, just to make them stay in Lupus Nocens. Isaac sped straight through an intersection where a dismantled robot-car had T-boned a now-abandoned normal car. Akura couldn't see any bodies in the wreckage.

They drove for nearly ten minutes, avoiding the usual routes where traffic was starting to get backed up. Helicopters were flying overhead now, spotlights eyeing the destruction, loud disembodied voices reassuring the stranded, the wounded, the panicking and violent and suicidal. There were looters, too, taking advantage of the chaos, and in between trying to round up killer robots the police tried to catch them as well, failing spectacularly at both as a result. Sirens and screams filled the night. Here and there, a fire burned, sparks erupted from torn power lines, darkness shrouded a road that had once been brightly lit, busted cars had been left behind, elderly and the slow and injured had been left behind…

Akura swallowed and looked away lest she leap out the window to help them. That was the only thing she could think to do in the wake of the chilling terrors behind her.

Isaac parked at the outskirts of town and Akura roughly shook off his helping hand as she exited the vehicle and surveyed their hiding place. It was an ancient, abandoned ranch, with a boarded-up barn and a field of overgrown weeds and a copse of trees shielding the path leading to it from the sight of the main road; it was doubtful many people could find it in broad daylight, let alone in the middle of the night with a war waging.

Akura hunched her shoulders and led the way to the barn, which she figured would be easier to break into than the ranch house. There was a tense pause behind her before Martha and Isaac followed. She wondered what they looked like, blood-stained and tear-stained and covered in grime and sweat, fleeing in the darkness like the cowards they were.

"Used to come here as a kid," Isaac grunted as he shifted aside a board in the side of the barn.

A narrow opening was revealed and they slipped into the pitch blackness. Isaac lit a match and a long stick wrapped with oil-soaked cloth burst aflame. He led the way to a big pile of straw and sat down on a wooden block, gesturing for Martha and Akura to get comfortable.

Martha took the torch from him and leaned against the door to a horse's stall. Akura plopped clumsily into the hay. Their breaths plumed before their faces, puffs of steam curling like smoke in a mockery of their burning innocence.

Silence descended, thick and choking, and seemed to last forever.

Akura closed her eyes. If she concentrated, she thought she could still hear the screams, though they were probably a safe distance away from the violence, if it was still happening.

Martha watched Akura. A deep well of self-loathing churned in an otherwise empty space behind her stomach.

Isaac clenched one hand into a fist and bowed his head, shivering as the cold became more pronounced. He let his mind drift and settle on a golden light that called his attention but did nothing once he was just sitting and staring at it.

The world was a rock, they all thought. A speck of dust consumed by the vacuum of space, twisting and twisted and twisting.

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

"I can feel it—the turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and the entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour, and I can feel it. We're falling through space, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go…

"That's who I am. Now, forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home."

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

More than an hour later…

Martha wasn't going to die. She had made a home in the TARDIS and it couldn't, wouldn't be taken from her.

"Wait," said Martha softly, heart in her throat.

The demonic wolf-like creature paused and lifted its lips, baring its teeth, but was apparently curious enough about Martha's last words not to attack immediately. Of course, it had time to spare, Martha thought hysterically, since there was nowhere she could run and certainly no one to help her. Then she scolded herself for thinking that way, for doubting her own faith in the future. Things had to turn out a certain way, she knew, and it was this belief that gave her the strength to speak.

"I never meant to hurt you." Martha had to struggle mightily to keep her voice from shaking; she didn't want the creature to think she was wavering in her conviction, because she wasn't; it was just that the enormity of this moment was rather overwhelming. "And when all this is over you're going to hate yourself for this, and I'm going to be the one to pick up the pieces. So I need you to just listen to me."

The creature's intelligent gaze settled heavily on her own, and Martha felt like her soul was being judged. Somewhat encouraged, she kept talking.

"I am not a threat to you, but others are. They want to take your power and use it to hurt other people, across time and space and maybe even universes. I can help you stop them. But to do that, you have to trust me. I'm going to do something that you probably won't agree with right now, but I…" Dammit, her breath caught in her throat, thick with fear, and love, and need. "I need you back, Rose."

The creature growled loudly, angrily. Martha clenched her jaw and steeled her entire body against flinching. The creature snapped its jaws less than inch from Martha's face, but Martha forced herself not to move, though her entire body quivered. She could not waver, she repeated to herself over and over.

A low thunder began to rumble in her head, a deep vibration penetrating her thoughts with no words, but impressions that Martha's mind managed to translate roughly into words.

I will not be imprisoned.

"I—I know," Martha managed shakily. "But what you don't realize is that your wildness, your freedom, is what imprisons you now. I aim to set you free from that."

It snapped again, and this time Martha felt a hot, wet nose against her cheek.

Rose Tyler is a hero. I am not a hero. I cannot be.

"Why?"

Because I do not care. No one can take my power from me. Even if the world is destroyed, I will live on. And if I consume your strength, I will be avenged. These are not the thoughts of a hero.

Martha would have happily agreed if she didn't know what this creature could become.

"You can change, though. You can care, and what kind of life is one lived completely alone, anyway? I am sorry for what I did to you, for releasing you into a world where you weren't welcome, for trying to force you to be something you didn't want to be. I made a mistake, I can see that now."

The wolf growled and Martha faltered briefly, but then kept going, her determination more inexorable than an oncoming storm.

"Rose Tyler is more than a hero," she said, and as she spoke her voice grew stronger. "She is compassionate, generous, merciful, and kind. But she is also fierce and protective. She is clever, relentless, passionate, and so, so brave."

She would sacrifice herself for you. The impression of these words seemed to vibrate in Martha's skull. In contrast to the cold December air, she felt as if the warmth she was feeling would choke her, but she nodded.

"Yes, she would. But it's more than that, don't you see? It's not that she would sacrifice herself so much as it is that she can't just stand there and watch people die."

So she ran away like a pup with her tail between her legs. Weak.

"Don't you dare say that," Martha snapped. The creature blinked, taken aback. It was probably madness, standing up to it like this. "Rose was not weak. She fought the Family with the only tools she had, and if that meant that she needed to hide, and leave her body vulnerable, to make sure that the Family would die, then of course she was going to do it."

But she failed.

"Because of YOU!"

Martha's words echoed down the alley. The wolf growled a deep, rumbling growl in response, but Martha ignored it.

"Rose can help you. She can make you stronger, she can give you the power you're missing. Don't you sense that? Can't you feel it? An emptiness? Half of you is missing, and I'm the only one that can bring her back. Rose isn't just a hero, she's you, too. And you're her."

The creature breathed heavily in the falling silence. Martha stared it down.

Then, without warning, the creature's eyes flashed gold and it reared back to deliver a fatal blow.

Less than an hour later…

Martha flinched from the memory and told herself that they were almost home. In fact, the TARDIS was just behind her, parked on the ice in the shadow of a massive wave. In a few minutes, she would pound some sort of heartfelt confession of guilt and sorrow and grief from Rose, and then she could finally go to bed.

She really wanted to go to bed.

It was close to midnight, she thought, or at least it was on the planet they had just left behind. It felt much later. Or earlier. Or later than earlier. Martha's nerves were utterly fried. She was numb, and not just from the cold. Splashes of blood and echoes of screams drifted like ghosts across her senses and she tried to ignore them.

She wondered if there was a special therapist somewhere in the universe for companions who traveled in the TARDIS. After this three-month nightmare, she thought she'd need one for the rest of her life to get back to some semblance of normal.

Meh. Normal was different for everyone. Perhaps her normal was…this.

Martha caught Rose's gaze and held it for a moment. What she saw there was not frightening, exactly, or maybe it would have been before tonight, but now it was hugely comforting. There was a hot, boiling rage frothing under Rose's otherwise cold and impassive face. She was like a storm beneath that stone, Martha thought with some fondness and pride. A sun storm, bright and hot and unforgiving.

Martha couldn't say that Rose was doing the right thing. She didn't have a clear idea of what the "right thing" could possibly be. Every dilemma was a universe unto itself, she had once read somewhere, one without precedent or moral rules to dictate its future. Given the choice between imprisonment and capital punishment, Martha had always thought her stance to be imprisonment. But when the prison was eternal torment, perhaps death was the better course.

But who was to say that they didn't deserve harsher punishment than death? Martha squinted hard at herself and decided, savagely, that she wanted the Family to hurt.

It wasn't just the deaths that Martha had been witness to that called for justice in blood. Thanks to Rose, she knew that the despicable violence that had erupted in Lupus Nocens that night would not be explained by alien invasion, but human folly; the blame would settle on the shoulders of those glad to take it, glad to ignite the powder keg, glad to launch the first missile that would come with the first declaration of war. The Family had inadvertently caused World War Three, in which millions would die in the crucial six months it would take Rose and the Doctor to notice and contain the problem. Martha thought she would rather like to hear the full story of that someday.

But for what they had done, death was too kind, she thought. Too forgiving. And yet, it was mercilessness she was seeing in Rose's eyes now. Why?

Martha tried to imagine herself in Rose's shoes. It was impossible. As much as Rose tended to claim that they were more alike than not, Martha knew that Rose was stronger. She could endure anything, given sufficient support. After tonight, Martha felt a bit like humpty dumpty.

Then Martha realized that Rose's punishment was not yet complete. The beauty was in the sparkling ice and glittering aurora and diamond stars. Rose was not judge, jury, and executioner. She was a goddess come to lay the final judgment on those for whom she claims responsibility. She was simultaneously their salvation and damnation, sentencing death and forcing them to face it before letting them give in to the black.

Death was too kind, but life was unforgiving. The Family's punishment was not to die, but to live to death.

Two hours earlier…

Akura wanted to go home. The apartment on 20th Avenue had never really felt like home, which was why she had tried to spend so much time away from it, but once she accepted Martha back into her life it had felt more like home than anything ever had.

Now she'd never get that back, and already she missed waking up to the smell of hazelnut coffee and half-burnt toast. She missed jogging around the block with Martha, not talking because they weren't fully awake yet, just glad to exist in another's space. She missed fighting over the remote, and over the last ice cream sandwich, and over who was responsible for one chore or another that day. She missed the compromises—Akura would keep the remote, but switch the TV to something she usually hated, like America's Next Top Model, which was enjoyable only with Martha's wicked humor; Martha would get the ice cream sandwich, but then she'd go out a minute later and come back with Akura's favorite fudge clusters; Martha would cook and Akura and would load the dishwasher, and Akura would sweep and Martha would vacuum. Domesticity at its normal best—gone now, probably forever.

Untold minutes of silence passed in tense rigidity as Akura felt the hollowness in her chest from the destruction of a home she hadn't realized she'd loved until this moment. The memory of a splash of blood and an unearthly scream of terror rended the image to pieces and she couldn't muster the strength to collect them, let alone sew them back together.

Isaac shifted, and the pieces scattered further, escaping. He held out his fist under Akura's and Martha's gazes and turned his wrist so the palm was facing up; then he slowly, slowly as if it pained him, spread his fingers to reveal what he was holding.

It was a pocketwatch.

Akura felt Martha's breath leave the barn.

"She told me," Isaac's voice was raspy, and he paused to clear it; "She told me not to give it away."

Martha closed her eyes as if in benediction.

"She who?" Akura demanded dumbly.

"Rose."

Martha's voice was almost reverent and Akura felt something tight like anger and frustration and sadness welded into a heavy ball in her chest.

"Rose Tyler? The girl from the Corner?"

Isaac was looking back and forth between them, still holding out the watch.

"Now she wants me to give it to you," he said to Akura.

Akura wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it, but was terrified that if she started, she'd never stop.

"And how do you know that? Did she just stick her head in here sometime in the last fifteen minutes and I just didn't notice?"

Isaac just frowned down at the watch in his hand. Akura sighed resignedly and took it from him. The silver fob watch was old and engraved with a weird amalgam of gears and circles and astronomical signs. The metal was cold despite the warmth of Isaac's hand, but Akura's own hands were so stiff and numb she hardly noticed. Otherwise, there appeared to be nothing special about the damn thing.

Isaac and Martha were looking at her like they expected the fob watch to burst to life at her touch. Akura rolled her eyes at them.

"Don't open it," said Isaac suddenly, reaching out as if to snatch the watch away from Akura. Akura reflexively clutched it to her chest, bewildered at his mood swing. "Please," he said, still reaching. "I take it back, please, let me take it back, just don't open it." He seemed to be on the verge of tears.

Now she wanted to open it.

She looked at Martha, who was biting her lip.

"He's only saying that because…" she seemed to be taking a leap of deduction; "because Rose must have just told him something he didn't like. You have to open it, Akura. It's the only way to end this."

"Why? What is so important about a damn watch?"

"It's her," Isaac whispered. "Please, she'll kill you, don't open it."

Akura looked in askance at Martha, whose hair shadowed her face as she leaned forward.

"It's hard to explain." Martha licked her lips. "The Rose Tyler you met in the Corner wasn't…I mean, she's different from the one Isaac is…hearing. The one you met is from the past. The man she was with, the Doctor, isn't really a doctor, he's an alien who time travels. Remember that dream you told me about? With the magic blue box?"

Akura's mouth hung open. "Are you serious right now? Because if you're not, I swear to God, Martha…"

"It's true," said Isaac hoarsely. "She told me." He jerked his head at the watch Akura was still holding to her chest. "She has powers, Akura. Such power…" he shuddered.

"Back at the Den," said Martha, "Argen wasn't really Argen, and Melissa wasn't Melissa. They were being possessed by these—well, these aliens. They want Rose's power, which is why she hid it all, along with her memories, inside the fob watch."

The pieces clicked. Empty One. Bad Wolf's human body. Bad Wolf must be Rose's nickname or something. And the body…the shell of what Rose Tyler used to be…Rose Tyler's human alter ego…

"Then I…I'm her, aren't I? I'm Rose, only I don't have my memories."

"No!" Isaac's cry was anguished.

"Why can you hear her?" Akura asked him. He shook his head; Martha bit her lip uncertainly.

"Some people," she revealed, "can hear things from the watch."

Akura peered at the object in question. It didn't seem to be anything special. It didn't look like it held a missing piece of her soul. And she couldn't hear anything.

"And this Rose…what kind of powers does she have? Why is Arg—Meliss—why are the aliens so desperate to get it that they would…?" She couldn't finish, choked by tears.

Martha took a deep breath. "Rose has—had—a connection with, erm, time, I guess you could say, like, time itself. I don't know what all she can do, but…well, I was struck by a whole bunch of gamma radiation once, like lightning, and I think I may have actually died from it, but you…Rose brought me back."

Isaac started shaking his head in denial. Or fear. Or something. Akura was more focused on Martha.

"She can do that?" Her eyes glittered with hope. "She can bring the dead back to life?"

"NO!" Isaac shrieked, jumping to his feet. Martha and Akura flinched. "I won't let you do this! There has to be another way!"

"Isaac—"

"You'll die if you open that watch, don't you get it?! Rose will come back, and take over your body, like those aliens that possessed Melissa, and then you, you—you won't be Akura anymore! Everything you could be, the future you could have had—"

He stopped, throat closing on whatever words he'd have said next.

Akura worked her jaw for a moment, trying to figure out how to explain what she was feeling. A sixteen-year-old boy's head was being sawed off inside her heart. The cold December was seeping through her skin and numbing something that went deeper than her bones.

This watch was the key to keeping more deaths from happening, possibly ever again.

"That's already happened," she finally said. "I'm not Akura anymore. I'm something else. I've changed."

"We can work past this," Isaac insisted. "The cops, the Guard, they'll stop the aliens, and we…we're good together, aren't we? I really, really like you, Akura. You can keep going to your therapist, and maybe now I'll come with you, because damn if I won't have nightmares after all this, but you can't give up. Please, don't give up. For me."

His eyes were warm and brown and terrified and filling with tears. Her heart ached; he truly cared about her. In another life, maybe she could have had this. Maybe she could have been normal, could have lived an ordinary life, worked past her demons and settled down with the kindest man she'd ever known. They could have gotten a mortgage, a house with windows and doors and carpets and a garage for cars and maybe a fence for a dog, and maybe, just maybe, she could have started a family with him.

But that life was Akura's.

The screams in her head called her Rose Tyler.

This was all her fault. The least she could do was save whoever was left.

She didn't really believe that she could ever have worked past what Argen had done to her, anyway. Akura was a shell of a person who'd never truly existed in the first place. Akura Kraft was just a temporary replacement for a hero on vacation, and now she was a fucked-up facsimile of a girl who couldn't do a damn thing to help anyone because she couldn't even help herself.

"People change," she said quietly, meeting Isaac's disbelieving gaze. "We change, and we grow, and we die, and we choose to change. Sometimes we even choose to die. What we are one minute can be completely different from who we are in the next. Maybe it's a cosmic build-up of choices that led us here, but that doesn't really matter, because right now…right now, I choose this. I'm sorry, Isaac."

Akura opened the watch.

And her world exploded into golden flame.

Pain cracked down her skull, searing like liquid fire down her spine until it was burning and writhing and twisting inside of her. She closed her eyes, overwhelmed, and then opened them again quite suddenly, stumbling backward dizzily in shock. Her ears rang with the rushing, howling sound of an invisible wind, howling, just continuous howling, like a wolf in mourning.

The pain was too much. She opened her mouth to scream, but all she could hear was the howling. She could see the universe, its creation and its death, and then everything in between. She could see stars live and die, planets rot and melt away, love sear through the fabric of time and space, anger scorch the worlds, burn them, until everything was burning, just burning, nonstop, like it couldn't stop; a fire that ruled the cosmos.

Suddenly, a different kind of pain, the throbbing, aching kind instead of the burning kind, spiked across her muddled senses, originating from her wrist. She looked down, bewildered, to see what had caused it, but was distracted by a similar cracking, tearing, aching, unbearable agony erupting along her entire spine. She gasped, doubling over. Her insides were churning worse than they had been in the Den as she regurgitated all the food she'd eaten in a week; now her guts were threatening to rise up and out of her mouth, and her blood was like acid, and her eyes were stinging like they'd been stabbed, and her nose and ears were stretching, and God she'd never felt anything this torturous in her life.

Akura dropped to all fours, dry heaving and hacking and coughing. She felt like she was expanding, exploding from her skin, she was hot all over, and her muscles were rippling with foreign power, and her senses were on overload, picking up sounds and colors and smells that she had never dreamed even existed.

Then a piercing cacophony of music, of singing—all the fucking things in the infinite universe and it had to be singing?!—broke through the pain, attacked the pain viciously, forced the pain to wash away in waves, blanking her mind of all thought, ridding her heart of the weakening emotions that led her here, stripping away a part of her that died screaming.

Bad Wolf threw back its head and howled in anger as part of its soul faded away forever.

When the pain was gone, and the music quieted to background noise, Bad Wolf lowered its head and searched for comfort. Another of its kind. It stretched its senses wide and far, across universes, across time itself, and found nothing but an aching hollowness that would never change. Bad Wolf was the only one of its kind; it was alone; it was always and would always be alone.

Bad Wolf lifted its lips in a pained snarl. It opened its eyes and searched the area for the cause of its pain. Who did this? Who forced this existence into being? Who dared?

A tiny human woman cowered at Bad Wolf's front paws. Her dark eyes were wide, and she was breathing shallow breaths of—it sniffed eagerly—fear. The puny little creature had every fucking right to be afraid. The wolf growled and sat back, gathering the power to leap forward and devour the human.

The woman broke free of her terrified stupor and fled. The wolf let her go for a moment as the singing roared excitedly in its head. Bad Wolf howled happily. The hunt was on.

As it began to run, Bad Wolf observed.

First, its body was female; 'it' was a she—not that this mattered, for who could differentiate between the sex of a species of which there was only one?

Second, the night sky was clear. It pulsed with lights that had died long ago, and a bright moon outshone them all. A chilly breeze swirled softly between the stars and through trees and around buildings as the hunt led Bad Wolf towards a human establishment.

Third, humanity was a failure. In fact, it was probably the one true human failing. Perhaps it was their mortality that made them so…flawed. So flawed as to seem inhuman. It was as if their purpose, the meaning of their fleeting lives, was to wreak destruction on all of creation—destruction by creation, no?

The weak had been left for dead. Little men and women in black uniforms scurried from rumbling green machines, firing aimlessly at robotic creatures of their own manufacturing. Haggard faces rummaged through abandoned gems that had never belonged to them while all around them their fellow humans shrieked in agony. Those who were trying to escape by the main roads were frustrated by a long line of traffic, stomping out and running on foot amid honks and shouts of anger and soon a chaotic entanglement of human bodies were rushing together and apart and together and apart again in a mass that tried to move forward but only succeeded in descension. The uniforms tried to contain them, but merely goaded the crowd into attacking them; it seemed that the uniforms were being blamed—or perhaps they were being begged to take them all to safety, it was hard to tell. A man with stars on his shoulders bellowed through a cone-shaped device—megaphone—ordering his troops to stand ready to fire on the innocent if they kept up the not-so-innocent violence.

Weak, all of them.

Shadows of memory lurked in Bad Wolf's mind of times when this was not so, of times when humans banded together to accomplish great and wonderful things, but the memories were too indistinct to take at face value. Perhaps they were only dreams.

Much clearer was the memory of pain, and fear, and hatred.

Hazy faces with red, burning eyes hovered over her, leering, laughing, pawing intermittently at her chest, her…tail?, grabbing her arms, breathing harshly into her face, breath that smelled stale and acidic. The sound of something ripping. Lackadaisical pushing against something hard and unyielding; no energy, no will to fight. Weak. Mumbling some form of pathetic protest to an audience of side-splitting guffaws. Something rough rubbing against her legs, something clamping down on her shoulder. Then pain, penetrating and reaching something no being should ever be allowed to touch. Vomit, the kind of regurgitation that was so violent there should be guts evacuating their hollows. Slime and grime and grittiness everywhere. Weak.

Bad Wolf snarled and pushed on.

The tiny human she was chasing veered far away from the side of the city where the uniforms fired at the machines and where more uniforms were being swallowed by the collective beast that had once been human. Bad Wolf was amused by her prey's trail; as if those humans mattered? No, all that mattered was avenging what had been done to her.

Life was not a suffering Bad Wolf would wish on anyone, especially not her foolishly, admirably, willful prey.

The prey ducked into tiny spaces and claustrophobic buildings; Bad Wolf tore apart walls and fences and trees as if they were cardboard and foil and twigs, leaving no ground for her quarry. The hunt led her to a spacious place with large clusters of buildings, where the prey desperately chucked a rock at a window in a door in order to open it and scuttle inside, closing the locked door behind her.

Bad Wolf huffed. The doors seemed built to withstand a siege, and her paws were too large and unwieldy to fit through the broken window. She paced and grunted and snarled, thinking.

The roof!

Bad Wolf backed away and took a running start at the large building—gym, whispered the source of pain—before leaping gracefully, soaring higher and higher, until finally her front claws dug into stone and she hunkered elegantly over the side of the building and onto the top of it. She stepped gingerly, stretching her senses, sniffing for her prey, feeling for weak spots in the roof.

There was another vague memory of pain, too. A large white wall. A big blue box.

People left her. She was alone.

There!

Triumphantly, Bad Wolf smashed through the ceiling of the gymnasium and landed perfectly on the floor below. The human yelped and sprinted to the the door. Bad Wolf chuckled and jumped over the prey's head, landing in front of her. The woman skidded to a stop and tried to turn in the other direction.

It is pointless to run, sighed Bad Wolf into the human's mind. The prey froze.

"Rose?" she whispered.

Bad Wolf felt a strange burning sensation in her chest and it annoyed her.

You gave me life. You shall pay.

The woman scrunched her face and most unattractive—adorable, said the pain—way.

"Huh?"

I am alone. I am in pain. You are to blame, therefore you must pay.

"If life is such a punishment, why kill me?"

Bad Wolf regarded her prey in frosty silence. Why, indeed. Such an interesting question to be posed when one is on the brink of destruction. Was this another human failing? What fascinating flaws they gave so freely for others to exploit.

But since she had eternity, Bad Wolf decided to reward her prey for being interesting with a considerate answer.

Your life holds meaning to you. It is important and you consider it worth preserving. Robbing you of it is the punishment I have deemed suitable for what you have done to me.

The woman stiffened her spine and seemed to grow three inches.

"Rose, this isn't you. I have no idea what happened, but I can help you."

Bad Wolf growled as the burning in her chest grew in intensity. This was no longer as fun as it had been.

The name came from the source of pain—Rose Tyler.

Rose Tyler does not exist.

"Yes, she does!" Insisted the prey. "She's you!"

Bad Wolf roared in outrage at the burning became unbearable. She lashed out, claws extended, but the woman—Martha, whispered the pain—ducked underneath and vaulted for the doors. Bad Wolf spun around snapped at the prey—Martha, the pain insisted—but she instinctively leapt to the side and shouldered through the doors, slamming them closed in Bad Wolf's face just as she lunged.

The chase was brought nearer to the other humans, now, though Bad Wolf did not have a clear enough mind to deduce why. The human—Martha! the pain screamed—was smarter this time, more controlled, less panicked as she picked her way through the ruined city. She roamed close enough to the metal death contraptions to get speared but managed to get away at the last second; Bad Wolf was very nearly skewered herself. This would not have mattered, for she would have healed from the injury, but she was not eager to add to her own pain.

Then she disappeared into a building, there was the sound of glass shattering, and Bad Wolf lost her scent.

She growled deeply, stalking through the building. She followed the trail to the shattered glass front and jumped through onto a poorly lit street. The trail went into the alley and disappeared less than halfway in. Bad Wolf sniffed angrily, looking around sharply for clues, but there seemed to be none. Just a very large, very full dumpster of rotting food and a heap of bags that had been too heavy for puny humans to throw.

Bad Wolf looked twice at the bags and her upper lip curled in disgust. She stalked gracefully to the bags and slashed sharply at them with one paw, scattering the disgusting contents all over the alley and revealing the prey, who stood to meet Bad Wolf's eyes, trembling head to foot in fear.

Bad Wolf licked her lips, thrilled at the taste of the human's fear.

Victory was within reach.

Bad Wolf prepared to deal the final blow.

NO!

"Wait."

…Perhaps death could wait.

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

"We're so lucky we're still alive to see this beautiful world. Look at the sky. It's not dark and black and without character. The black is in fact deep blue. And over there! Lighter blue. And blowing thorugh the blueness and the blackness, the winds swirling through the air. And there, shining, burning, bursting through, the stars! Can you see how they roll their light?

"Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes!"

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

A few minutes later…

Through the blackness the creature struck with its claws first, rending its target to shreds. Then, for extra insurance, it ripped into the target's throat with its teeth, closing its jaws so far around the neck that the head snapped free and barely clung to the shoulders with a slip of plastic.

Martha, who had not moved, so certain was she that the creature would not harm her, stared dispassionately at the remains of the mannequin that had been seconds away from stabbing her with a serrated steak knife.

"Thank you," she told the creature, whose eyes were blazing with golden fire. The trembling in her body had dissipated with the mannequin's attack. (Which would probably seem sick to most people, but Martha was used to danger, and welcomed it like an old, comforting friend.)

The creature gazed down at Martha, unmoving. Its expression, being inhuman, was unreadable.

Show me your hero. Only then I will decide who I am.

Martha took a deep breath and nodded, stepping over the shreds of the mannequin to lead Bad Wolf to Rose Tyler. Together, they would be invincible, powerful, immortal.

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

Less than half an hour later…

The night sky of Woman Wept was not black. There were blue and green and golden lights swirling through the air, and the stars were bright, and it was impossible to see the heavens without also seeing the massive waves of ice that arced toward them.

Even with the cold, or perhaps because of it, this would be a beautiful place to live.

That was, Martha had recently decided, the whole point.

Woman Wept was one of those weird places in the universe that should be impossible. The ocean had frozen at high tide. It didn't make sense, it wasn't rational. How could an entire ocean freeze in an instant like that? The planet itself continued to circle its sun; the sun had not yet died, and yet the waves remained frozen.

It wasn't just beautiful, it was unspeakably fantastic.

The Family and their hideous army had slaughtered hundreds of people earlier that night. Not three hours before, Martha could have bathed in the blood that had been splashed on the world. Her hands and face and hair and clothes were still stained with it, dried and flaking off now. For six months, the war that was sparked by the Family's attack would burn across continents and bury millions.

Rose was staring at her; Martha smiled. Rose blinked, surprised, like she hadn't expected Martha to even be capable of smiling.

So Martha took her hand, making Rose smile, too, a smile that made her eyes shine in that warm, familiar way so unlike the frightening, seemingly godlike Bad Wolf.

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

"How golden can you make the burning sun? How immortal the things which have to die?

"The threads are thinning, eroding, disappearing—the threads are dangling, shining, blinding; fading—the threads are mocking, and you're falling—"

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

About an hour earlier…

The Mother's patience was falling rapidly down a sheer cliff and would explode into tiny pieces when it finally landed. How had this happened? Why were they not yet masters of the universe?

"Dear Wife of Mine," said her Husband soothingly, "it is through no fault of ours that the wolf—"

She held up a hand for silence. Their Children, the two who could walk, were pacing restlessly around the large blue box they had sniffed out, trying to find a way in. In the street, National Guard members patrolled for the Family's remaining soulless warriors. The stomping of their boots, sharp orders, and roaring engines concealed the Family's voices from their detection.

"We were foolish, Husband of Mine," she said. "We assumed that the humans would care for their own and attempt to circumvent their destruction by any means. It appears we were… mistaken."

The Father of the Family opened his mouth to, perhaps, protest.

"No matter," she interrupted. "If they open the watch, Rose Tyler will come for her TARDIS. We may feast then."

Suddenly, the Daughter appeared at the Mother's elbow.

"Mother of Mine," she said urgently, "I smell something."

Mother sniffed. Indeed, from far down the alley there drifted a faint trace of power. It was hardly an echo of the power they sought, but it was more than they currently had.

"Son of Mine."

Her Son nodded curtly and stalked away from the TARDIS towards the echo. Shortly after, there was a deafening scream, attracting the attention of Guard soldiers in the street nearby.

Soon, the Family were being targeted by the humans' primitive projectile weaponry. They dove for cover behind the TARDIS and a rather large, smelly garbage receptacle. Sparks flew; when there was a pause, the Mother fired her own weapon, instantly disintegrating one of their attackers. The soldier was immediately replaced with another; their fire was relentless. Their own animated army was currently scattered across the city; it would take many minutes for them to mobilize into a force formidable enough to protect the Family.

Meanwhile, her Son was struggling with a human male behind her. When she turned to look, she identified him as the male who had stood with Rose Tyler's human shell. Her eyes gleamed. Perhaps he possessed the watch, stolen from the wolf's guardian?

Unfortunately, she could not spare a minute to help her Son. She, her Daughter and her Husband were finding it difficult to halt the inexorable approach of the human soldiers; soon they would be outflanked and have no cover. In fact, she could hear a monstrous noise in the sky coming ever closer, the ugly sound of fat blades beating against the air.

"Husband of Mine," she instructed loudly over the sound of gunfire, "employ the explosive device!"

Her Husband reached into the waistband of his jeans and retrieved a cylindrical device. He twisted the top of it, spurring lights to gleam around the edges. He waited a few seconds before throwing it into the soldiers' midst; it exploded on impact, causing the earth to tremble. The humans didn't even have a chance to scream before they were vaporized in a flash of light. The buildings at that end of the alley collapsed, blocking the Family from further attack from that direction.

The primitive aircraft that was beating at the sky came into view; Daughter of Mine fired swiftly and accurately into the cockpit, killing the pilot. The aircraft hovered for a moment before tilting dangerously askew and descending rapidly to crash with a dull, resounding BOOM out of sight. Its parts would soon be scavenged to join their army of animated machinery, which was slowly approaching, cutting down all humans that got in their way unleashing what amounted to a torrential downpour of blood.

The man her Son had been fighting managed to deliver a stunning blow that allowed him to flee as the Mother, Father, and Daughter were preoccupied with the aircraft. At the same time, Guard soldiers began to emerge at the other end of the alley, forcing the Family to take cover again.

"Hold your fire!"

The human male that had stood by Rose Tyler and Martha Jones had nearly reached the soldiers. Incensed, the Mother fired a kill shot, hoping as she did so that he not have the watch on him, or it, too, would be gone forever—

But then a brave, stupid soldier broke rank and dove for the fleeing man, shoving him away from the bright green light. The soldier took the blast instead, transforming into a small heap of dust.

The sacrifice stunned the humans; the Family began firing in earnest, killing dozens in less than a minute as the man-who-may-have-their-watch cowered behind a garbage receptacle. In moments, the Family subdued their attackers long enough to press forward and capture the man.

As it turned out, he did in fact possess the watch. But when the Mother hungrily attempted to feed on it, she found nothing. Absolutely… nothing. She snarled.

"You opened it!"

"Not me," said the man, panting where they had forced him to kneel.

Her Husband prepared to kill him.

"Wait!" he cried. "The watch is worthless, but Ak—Rose will give in if you use me." The Father paused. "She—cares about me."

"He can do no harm now, Mother," said the Daughter softly. The Son scoffed; a hideous black bruise was forming around his eye where the human had struck him.

"Very well," said the Mother, reluctantly. "Spare him for now. We shall see if the wolf will surrender for him."

"Jones would make a better hostage, Wife of Mine," said her Husband.

"Jones is likely dead," she retorted. She threw the useless fob watch at their hostage; he flinched as it struck him in the head and she and her Son smiled vindictively. The man merely glared down at the watch as if it had done him a great wrong and ought to burn—burn with the sky the Family intended to destroy, perhaps.

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

Meanwhile…

Martha felt a bit like she was falling, tumbling down a rabbit hole. No, that wasn't right. She'd been living in the rabbit hole for months and was only now becoming aware of how odd it was. The city had gone mad, there were still machines and mannequins crawling around all over the place, disemboweled corpses strewn on every corner, screams occasionally rending the night in pieces.

They had to get out of here.

Martha knew that Isaac still had the watch and that he intended to find the Family and give it to them. She was quite sure the watch was empty of all but that which made Rose essentially Rose; there was not enough power there for the Family to consume.

She was still furious about what Isaac had done. Mere seconds after Akura had opened the fob watch, Isaac had lunged forward and struck her wrist hard enough to send the watch flying, disrupting the energy flow from watch to woman. Isaac and Martha had both scrambled to get to the displaced watch, but Isaac was faster. He'd grabbed it and then run from the barn faster than Martha could do much more than curse at him.

Before she could run after him properly, Akura had transformed into a wolf-like creature and proceeded to attack Martha. And since Isaac had taken the car they'd appropriated…well, Martha was certain her legs would be screaming at her in the morning. They were already wobbly as she followed the fierce creature that used to be Akura—Rose—whoever—through Lupus Nocens.

To find Rose, Martha had told the creature, they'd need to find the Family—the aliens who intended to steal the creature's power and use it for all manner of unseemly and nefarious things.

The wolf hadn't been thrilled, but Martha had realized that the otherworldly creature was a bit arrogant. Martha was almost positive that it did not believe the Family were capable of as much harm as Martha claimed.

In any case, it was not difficult to locate the Family. They were less than a block from The Wolf Den diner, probably in the exact same alley where Rose had parked the TARDIS two months and three weeks ago. The gunfire, screams, and explosions were loudest in that part of town, and as Martha and the wolf followed the sounds, Martha identified the area and groaned quietly to herself.

One end of the alley was blocked off by rubble. As they came closer, Martha saw a large group of mannequins and machine-things scrambling closer to the other end; the Family's reinforcements. A contingent of National Guard members—and possibly some Army, too—piled out of the back of a large green truck and assaulted the Family's troops. They started with grenades and grenade launchers, but the enemy was numerous and every time one of them blew apart, it would re-assemble itself within a minute.

Martha and her companion slinked around the battle and ducked into a nearby building, a drug store. Martha didn't have time to gather her thoughts or catch her breath, though; almost as soon as they crossed the threshold, the wolf went rigid, then jackknifed and began convulsing violently—it was all Martha could do to get out of the way. Several shelves of over-the-counter medicine toppled over.

Moments later, heart-rending howls joined the screams from the battle outside. Martha approached cautiously, ready to leap aside if the wolf had another seizure. When all it did was sit there, breathing heavily, she tentatively laid a hand on its neck.

The wolf jumped and turned to look at her.

And Martha knew, she just knew that Rose was back. She felt like flying.

"All right, then?"

Rose scoffed. She stood up and shook her shaggy, light-absorbing fur with enough force to dislodge Martha's hand.

I got Isaac to convince the Family the watch was worthless, rumbled Rose's not-a-voice in Martha's head—she felt like she could sing at the feel of it. He opened it when I told him to. When I could sense you—well, Bad Wolf, anyway.

Martha was confused.

"But I thought he went to the Family to give the watch to them."

Rose made an odd jerking motion with her head which Martha translated as a shrug.

He did.

Martha put those questions aside for now. "So what do we do? It seems like they're at a stalemate."

She was referring to battle that still raged outside; there were still bone-chilling human screams, but the fight had not wavered since it began.

The drug store was tiny for a creature Rose's size, but she trampled over fallen medicine and paced relentlessly, obviously thinking.

Snippets of Rose's thoughts were loud enough to be projected to Martha's brain, but she couldn't connect them to each other. They could have . . . but why…? Unless . . . But where would they hide it? The ship? . . . But then where…? And how long have they been here—?

"I think they came when you and the Doctor from the past showed up; the second time, I mean."

The wolf-like creature stopped and pinned Martha with a curious stare.

Maybe, she agreed. But it was probably that other time, before his regeneration . . . Melissa was acting, er, odd before that weird day at the Den. I thought I—Akura thought, I mean—

She huffed and rolled her eyes.

"Argen," said Martha quietly, and Rose flinched. Familiar anger clawed at Martha's lungs, but she shunted it to the side. "He went missing, remember?"

Nearly three weeks ago. Yeah. But why wait so long?

"Maybe they thought they'd have time to trap you."

But the Doctor said—when he told me about them, he said it like the Family just goes for it, as soon as they catch their target's scent. Why would they wait? And why didn't they go after me when I was with the Doctor? If they were already here, they must have known…

Rose had started pacing again.

"You told me when I first met you that you were just a human. You honestly didn't know, did you?" Rose shook her head. "Well then, you must not have been as—as powerful back then. The Family wants as much as they can get, right, so they must have ignored you—and the Doctor—in favor of, well, you."

Martha could almost see the pieces clicking together in Rose's head.

This is nothing at all like what the Doctor described. They're starving, they should be desperate for power, not greedy for it. The Doctor and I were easy targets back then, unsuspecting. And they certainly wouldn't have cared about paradoxes. They don't—they're not patient—they don't plan things like this—it's like they're deliberately setting out to secure their future, which is—

She stopped abruptly.

That's it.

"What is?"

Rose had a look in her eye that Martha didn't recognize. It was dangerous, dark. Resigned. It sent shivers down her spine.

Martha, I need you to do something dangerous for me.

"Okay."

Rose gave her a weird look; even weirder because she was currently a canine that didn't have strictly human facial expressions. Martha grinned sheepishly.

All right…so here's how it's going to go…

Martha cursed her eagerness to help as she dodged a stray bullet—literally. The battle was still raging on the street, and Rose wanted her to get a few things from the fucking soldiers like she was enjoying an Easter egg hunt on a normal sunny morning.

"Bloody hell," she muttered darkly as she dove out of the way of flying debris and rammed her shoulder into a wall.

Gritting her teeth against the dull pain, she snuck onto the Guards' supply truck and retrieved the items successfully. A soldier ran up before she could get out, so she shrank into the shadows and prayed he wouldn't see her. He slung an automatic rifle across his shoulders and enough spare ammo to distribute to his fellows. A shrill scream rang out and he paled, stumbling over himself to get back into position. The soldiers guarding the truck laughed at him.

Martha waited until their backs were turned, then slipped quietly into the night.

Rose had explained that since the Family were apparently holding the TARDIS and Isaac hostage, their base—their ship—had to be nearby. Martha had suggested the shed; evidently, the Family had removed the TARDIS from its hiding place, which would leave it open for another vehicle—but Rose shot down the idea for some reason, saying they wouldn't want to risk it getting blown up or buried in rubble during the battle. They finally agreed that the ship must be on top of a building nearby—but not so near it could get destroyed by accident—and Martha wondered aloud, jokingly, if they'd parked it over the Den. Rose took the idea and ran with it, and now she was off doing who knew what while Martha stole property of the U.S. government.

A wailing cry arose from the alley that sounded suspiciously like Melissa—the Mother. Martha hadn't a clue was Rose had done, but she was glad the Family was too preoccupied to notice a lone human woman climbing to the roof of a diner.

A semi had toppled over in the parking lot and skidded into the north wall of the diner, half-destroying it. Martha gripped the side mirrors and hauled herself onto one of the front tires, then up to the trailer, which was horribly dented. From there, she was able to grab an admittedly unstable roof trimming and heave her body onto it. She knelt there for a second, panting. She'd never had such an insane workout in her entire life, and that was counting that hawk-nosed, googly-eyed veteran substitute gym teacher in primary.

Finally forcing herself to her feet, Martha gingerly walked around the half-collapsed roof with her arms outstretched until her hands finally brushed up against something."

"Gotcha!"

A few minutes later, task accomplished, Martha sprinted down the street towards the battle—which appeared to have been put on pause. The mannequins—what was left of them—and metal monsters were standing stock still in the road as if awaiting orders. The human soldiers took to kicking them over and tearing the pieces apart, scattering the bits so the monsters couldn't reform; it looked like it was going to take a while. They didn't seem to care anymore about the Family, if they even remembered they were there.

Martha moved along the side of a building trying not to be noticed as she crawled to the open mouth of the alley. There, she peered around the corner and had a surprisingly good view of Rose's side of the plan.

Rose had somehow managed to transform back into a humanoid—she even had the same bloody clothes that Akura had worn to the club earlier that evening—and was holding a bundle in her arms. The blankets appeared to be protecting a glass jar of glowing green gas.

Isaac was looking at Rose in horror from his position kneeling on the cold, gravelly pavement, his dark hair sticking up wildly in every direction and a dark bruise like a smudge of dirt on his forehead.

The Family had dropped their weapons and were staring with pleading expressions at Rose.

"…I will," she was saying. "Unless you agree to leave this planet and never return—I will smash it."

And she extracted the the jar from the blankets and held it over her head.

Melissa cried out in distress once more. Martha got the sense she'd been doing that several times since the first time she'd heard it; that the Family had been struck so senseless by Rose's threat—whatever it was—that they had yet to agree to Rose's terms.

But Rose, evidently, had lost patience—or perhaps she knew that Martha was there, or that Martha had had enough time to do what she'd set out to do—and made to throw the jar to the ground.

"Not my baby!" shrieked Melissa.

Martha's breath disappeared.

Rose paused, though she still held the jar rather irreverently, with a carelessness that could send it tumbling any moment.

"Then surrender," said Rose coldly.

Melissa nodded fervently.

"Very well," said the large black man at her side, his nostrils flaring. "We surrender."

Martha watched as all the grotesque creatures the Family had been utilizing as soldiers crumpled to the pavement, falling apart uselessly. There was a shocked moment of silence, then the human soldiers bellowed a deafening, victorious cheer, as if they had been the ones responsible.

"Martha," called Rose.

Martha took a calming breath that didn't do any good and left her position to stand at Rose's side. The woman nodded her head at the Family. Martha approached them cautiously, but they were eyeing the jar—the baby?—in Rose's hands and did not resist as she pulled out the plastic ties she requisitioned from the supply truck. One by one, she bound their hands together behind their backs.

"Blow it."

Martha armed the detonator she'd stuffed into her pocket and flipped the switch. A rumbling noise thundered through the freezing night, originating from the Den.

Rose handed the jar to Martha, who stared at it dubiously. Then the brunette snapped her fingers and the doors of the TARDIS popped open, spilling green-gold light into the alley, apparently springing to life at Rose's presence. Rose gestured mockingly for the Family to precede her into the TARDIS. Rose followed them, Martha trailing behind.

Isaac, who had not spoken since Martha's arrival, tried to follow Martha into the TARDIS, but as soon as Martha entered, the TARDIS doors slammed shut on his shocked and angry face.

Inside, the Family glared at Martha—probably because she was the one holding the jar, now. She shrugged at them apologetically.

"Interesting fact," said Rose blandly as she began turning dials and flipping switches. "The Family of Blood feeds on time energy—not an easy thing to get hold of, that. In their natural form, their jus' a lot of bad gas. Reminds me of the Gelth, actually. But they have technology that allows them to consume defenseless minds—especially humans. Of course, they have to put that technology somewhere…"

She slammed a lever down and the TARDIS began moving in that way Martha recognized as merely entering the time vortex, not towards any destination in particular.

"The ship," Martha realized.

Rose pointed her. "The ship," she repeated. "Without it, they're locked in these human bodies. I imagine it's not pleasant for them."

She turned her head casually to survey the Family. Argen, the Son, was standing stiffly beside a coral column. The young Daughter was still holding her balloon, despite her hands being stuck behind her back, and had seated herself on the floor, pouting. Melissa stood staring at the jar in Martha's hands, and the Father just looked pissed. Every now and then, one's nostrils would flare as they sniffed the air instinctively.

"I understand what you've done," Rose told them. "And I understand what you tried to do. You've not had a substantial meal in years, I expect, and in all modesty I'm a veritable feast, aren't I?" No one replied, but Rose probably didn't expect them to. "And you only wanted the very best for your Babe, I get that. I do. Really, you only want what any family wants—support each other, love each other, live together—ensure you've each got a future, especially the younger generation, am I right?

"There's only one problem. If you consumed my power, it would consume you."

The Family finally looked away from the jar to peer at Rose.

She smirked with a hint of sadness.

"As a—well, as Bad Wolf, though that's not really accurate—I'm a bit of an arrogant slag—" Marth snorted; "—but truth is, I have little idea what I'm doing. The shock of basically having my soul ripped apart and put back together again changed me into something I don't understand yet. I can see people, and their place in time; I can see time streams crossing and winding and flowing in every direction. I can heal—" she glanced briefly at Martha. "And I can kill. And I honestly don't know how to control it. I don't, really, it kind of controls me.

"So what," she asked of the Family, "do you think would happen to people who know even less about it than I do; who exist to kill, and feed, and never stop? What kind of universe would we be living in right now if you had succeeded?"

None of them replied.

"But I do understand it," she said again. "Which is why I am giving you a choice."

They all stared at her. Her eyes were brown, with flecks of gold that were growing brighter, like stars. Her expression was fierce, but compassionate.

"You have murdered God knows how many humans tonight, and incited a war that will cause millions more deaths. So choose your punishment: peaceful death, or excruciating immortality?"

The Family gathered close and murmured to each other in voices too low for Martha to discern. She felt awkward carrying the Babe, so she placed the jar of wispy green stuff on the console. Her muscles felt like they were being pulled tight over her bones, and her bones were rigid and jagged and biting. Rose wouldn't look away from the Family.

Finally, the huddle separated.

"Peace," said the Mother.

Rose inclined her head. She reached around Martha and adjusted a dial, pushed a button on the other side of the console, and pulled another lever. The TARDIS began to materialize somewhere with a smoothness that surprised Martha, who was used to wild and rocky rides. Rose pulled on her leather jacket from where it was slung over the captain's seat and once again gestured for the Family to precede her.

Martha held the Daughter back, though. As if reading her mind, Rose used the sonic screwdriver that Martha had returned earlier to snap the ties off the girl's wrists. Martha then handed her the jar carrying the Babe. The Daughter sniffed haughtily and marched out the door with the jar.

Outside was shockingly freezing, though not unwelcomingly so. It had been almost as cold in Lupus Nocens. The TARDIS was parked next to what looked like a gigantic wall of glass. Overhead, a beautiful multicolored aurora shimmered gently and cast a greenish glow over all their faces and across the hard, slippery ground.

Martha walked a ways away from the TARDIS to look beyond the curved glass wall and saw with amazement that there were dozens, possibly hundreds of these walls, most of them towering impossibly high, thick at the base curving like a slide up to a thinner top that curled in on itself.

She touched one of the sculptures with a gloved hand and gasped a moment later at the chill that passed through the blood-stained leather to her fingers. It was ice. All of these things, they weren't walls, they were glass, they were waves, frozen waves—dear God, she was standing on an ocean.

A few moments later, Martha stood underneath a wave with her arms crossed, shivering as Rose explained to the Family what was going to happen to them.

"You have about a week left," stated Rose. The Daughter nodded sadly. "So does this planet. In simple terms, a long time ago a massive asteroid crashed into the planet and knocked the center of its rotation off. The asteroid's main components were ferrouglacium—otherwise known as 'ice iron.' The ocean," she waved her hand at the waves, "froze. In an instant. Even in broad daylight, it won't ever melt. We're pretty far up north, but if you're lucky you might see a sunrise before the sun explodes."

"This is it, then?" said Argen. Rose gazed at him steadily; Martha wanted to punch him. "You're just going to leave us here to die."

Rose pulled out her sonic screwdriver; all the plastic ties fell to the ground.

"Yes."

"Doesn't seem like much of a punishment," grunted the Father.

Rose sucked in a breath through her nose and apparently relished the burning sensation of the frozen air in her lungs; she looked around with a small smile at the gleaming ice waves, the aurora, the stars. Martha was close enough to see a perfect reflection of this impossible planet in Rose's eyes.

"You'll be surprised, then," said Martha before Rose could.

Feeling a separate world of exhaustion in each and every ligament in her body, Martha tugged at Rose's hand and together they turned away from the Family and the sleeping sea and went back home.

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

After a long, hot shower, Martha fell gratefully into long, deep sleep. In the 'morning' or whatever passed for it on the timeless TARDIS, she pestered Rose into returning to Lupus Nocens to see Isaac.

"Akura never existed, Martha," said Rose harshly.

Martha stared her down. "Yes she did. No," she added when Rose looked ready to argue, "don't even give me that. Akura was as real as you are, and she died to bring you back." Rose looked a bit perplexed at that idea, but Martha gave her a moment and eventually, the brunette's face softened and she nodded reluctantly in agreement. "You owe it to her memory, to the life she could have had, to see him—at least to give him closure."

And so they went.

Martha wasn't surprised that Rose took them to a point several months after World War Three. The Lupus Nocens they'd left behind hadn't exactly been in the greatest shape. The past year had been good for the decimated city, and even though the work on restoring it was far from done, there was work being done.

The place where the Den had been was converted into a memorial park. Rose brought them back here at a time when the park was set up with a stage and large crowd of people for a presentation of awards to American WWIII veterans.

They stood at the back inconspicuously and watched the ceremony with a kind of detached sadness. Rose showed Martha a glimpse of her own Smart Phone, which was evidently extremely smart and displayed a cached webpage of a news article on the war. It spoke of a hero that had nearly died to save a friend and fellow soldier; the pictures showed Isaac Orman and Vance Bradley, one of Akura's old friends, with haunted eyes but hopeful faces.

According to the article, after the attack on Lupus Nocens, pretty much everyone who was physically able signed up to join the army and fight whatever imaginary foe they believed they were facing.

It was sickeningly tragic that very few of them came back.

When Isaac received his medal for valor, they saw that his 'near death' had completely disfigured half of his face. He was missing an eye, and his cheek, lips, and nose looked as if they had started melting and then been frozen that way. He was wearing a hat, but even so it was evidence that he wore what was left of his spiky brown hair in a style that almost seemed as though he'd shaven half of it.

As Isaac left the stage, he saw them. He didn't recognize them at first, but then he did a double take and stared. They waved and waited to see if he would come talk to them. He didn't, but he smiled a half smile—since the other half was frozen in a grimace—and gave them a lazy salute and wink for luck before turning away to speak quietly to Vance, who sat next to him.

Back on the TARDIS, Rose turned to Martha with the kind of finality she'd long since gotten sick of seeing.

"D'you want to go home?"

Martha rolled her eyes in advance at the only thing she could say to the dumbass question.

"I'm already here, though."

Rose was stunned. Martha laughed.

"Honestly, what would you do without me, anyway?"

She stubbornly tried not to think of how she'd failed to protect Akura—whose memories, Rose had already confessed, were extremely fuzzy in her head, and distant, like looking through a thick glass wall, for which Martha would be eternally grateful.

"I don't know," said Rose.

"Tell me something, though," plied Martha. "And be honest. Are you all right?"

Rose looked at her through her lashes; in her eyes, the brown was dark, but the gold was bright.

"No."

Martha smiled. "Me neither. But I'm not leaving. The crap we've been through…it's worth it."

"Is it?"

"Always."

"We've got a helluva journey ahead of us, Martha. The Doctor…I have to find him. And I think I have a way of figuring out how, but it won't be easy."

"Nothing worthwhile ever is. I'm not leaving. We can get stranded on Earth at the outbreak of World War Three, cause a revolution, defeat Daleks, and run ourselves into a living sun—"

"And just run," Rose added with a begrudging grin that lit up her grim face. "Lots of running." She sobered. "All that—won't you get tired of it?"

Martha pondered her reply, because she wanted Rose to take it seriously.

"We're still flying."

"That's not much."

"It's enough."

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace, we've got work to do."

ΘΣ … ΘΣ … ΘΣ

Quotes, in order of appearance: 2005+ series 1x11, 1x01, 5x10; my series 3x11 (not yet written, it'll be in the next ep); orginal series 26x04.

Y'know, it occurs to me that writing comes about when I want something to happen and then I have to figure out how the hell I'm gonna get there. I wanted the Family to die on Woman Wept…and then all of this happened. 16k words. Whew.

Anyway… TBC in the original episode, "Four Things and a Lizard." Ooh, that one is going to be fun.