A/N: And this is it, the grand finale! Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, and feel free to do so if you haven't, even if it's years after this was published.
Go and be brilliant, you fantastic people.
Chapter Fourteen: Mercy and Mayhem
The TARDIS console room had swelled to ten times its usual size to accommodate the mass of people pressed together. The crowd was chaotic. Patients and visitors alike clung to each other, some sobbing hysterically. Two women helped a third whose crutch had gotten stuck in the grating. A couple nurses, doctors, and medical students barked orders at the patients. Stretchers were scattered throughout the crowd, most bearing unconscious patients wired to hefty machines, watched over and guarded by a doctor or nurse. Some children laughed as they climbed on top of the console, daring each other to press buttons.
"Oi, get away from there!" the Doctor called, shoving his way through the crowd to the console. The children scattered at his approach.
"Martha?" Oliver Morgenstern seized her by the arm. "Martha, what's going on? Have we all gone mad?"
"Just a bit, yeah."
"Hello," Jack said brightly, extending a hand to Oliver. "Captain Jack Harkness."
Before Oliver could respond with much more than a squeak, the TARDIS gave a huge jolt that almost sent half the crowd to their knees.
"There we are!" The Doctor shoved his way back through the crowd to his friends near the door.
Oliver jumped at the Doctor's approach. "Dr. Tyler, what are we—"
"Ah! Morgenstern!" the Doctor clapped a hand on Oliver's shoulder. "You're in charge, got that? Keep everybody calm, don't let anyone leave, and I'll be back in a tick."
"But, sir, I can't!"
The Doctor paused to look Oliver straight in the eye. "Of course you can, Morgenstern, you're brilliant. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And thisis your moment, got that? Now keep them calm!"
Morgenstern's spine straightened even if his expression still looked slightly terrified. "O—okay."
"Good man. And try to keep the kids off the console, will you?"
"Next you'll be telling the kids to get off your lawn," Rose said dryly.
The Doctor shook his fist at her with a grin, then took her hand and pulled her out the door. "Come on, then, fifteen minutes left!"
"But we've moved!" Martha said in amazement as she and Jack followed them into the x-ray room. The Judoon's body was gone, but the Slabs' and plasmavore's remained there, limbs splayed haphazardly.
"Told you it was a ship, didn't I? What good's a ship that doesn't move?"
The fifth floor contained more machines than patients, but the next thirteen minutes were still frantic as they wheeled stretchers and ushered people through the TARDIS doors, most of whom were utterly hysterical.
"That's everybody," said Martha as she wheeled one last patient on a stretcher past them.
"Good, good," said the Doctor. He opened the door to let Martha and the stretcher through, then ushered Jack in. "Martha, Jack—" Jack helped Martha wheel the stretcher into the TARDIS.
"Come on, come on," the Doctor muttered, knuckles white as they gripped the door. "Two minutes, Rose…"
Rose whirled around the corner at a sprint, and the Doctor soon saw why. Daughter of Mine was right on her heels, girlish face screwed up in outrage.
The Doctor slammed the door shut the instant Rose had passed through it, forcing Daughter of Mine to crash into the other side.
"All right?" he asked Rose.
"Y—yeah." Rose leaned on her knees for support.
Daughter of Mine banged on the glass embedded in the door with her tiny fists, wailing. Her voice was muffled, but still legible: "Let me in! Let me in, please!"
The Doctor glared at her through the glass, his voice dark. "Give me one good reason why."
"They're going to destroy the hospital. Take me with you!"
The Doctor watched her for a moment. "No."
"Doctor?" Rose wheezed.
Daughter of Mine whimpered, her young lips trembling. "Please. You killed my whole family."
The Doctor stared down her, his hearts beating like war drums. His eyes blazed as he thought of Swales and the trail of bodies the Family had left to reach him. He thought of Jack and Rose, pain and loneliness, event horizons and black holes, and the endless, inescapable eternity. He thought of dozens, hundreds, thousands of ways to make the suffering of the creature cowering on the other side of the door linger until long after the TARDIS had groaned its last.
Rose put a hand on his shoulder, her breath returned. "Doctor, it's a little girl."
"No," the Doctor replied tonelessly, still watching Daughter of Mine, "She killed a little girl."
"One minute!" Jack yelled from within the TARDIS. "Doctor, Rose, get in here!"
"You're better than that," Rose said softly. "You could still show mercy."
The Doctor stared at Daughter of Mine long and hard for a few more seconds before turning back to his ship. "You're right. I could. Come on." He took her hand and started back to the TARDIS.
Rose followed, but looked back at Daughter of Mine, who was now sobbing, crumpling in front of the door in despair. "I thought you said…you said you were going to show mercy."
The Doctor's eyes met hers. "Believe me, Rose—I am." He pulled the TARDIS door shut behind Rose. "She will go after Jack the moment she steps through those doors. And if I don't walk away now I'll…she'll end up…just trust me, it's better this way."
Rose looked at him carefully. "I do trust you."
He squeezed her hand and gave her a small smile. "Thank you."
"Doctor, twenty seconds!" Martha yelled from somewhere near the console.
The Doctor took a deep breath. "Yes, right!" He elbowed his way through the packed console room. "Budge over, I need room to drive this thing, you know!"
"But, it's bigger on the inside!" one of the patients stammered as the Doctor reached the console.
"Pfft, no it's not," said the Doctor, starting to flick some switches. "The terrorists drugged you all and you're hallucinating. I'm actually a member of the Scotland Yard that's come to save you. You're riding in a helicopter right now."
"Really?" called a woman in the back.
"Nope!" said the Doctor cheerfully as the TARDIS dematerialised, "I'm a 900-plus-year-old Time Lord, and you're on my spaceship that looks like a police box and is bigger on the inside. But, you know, UNIT always told me those stories make people feel better, so I thought I'd give it a try!"
Jack laughed. "You're full of it, old man!"
"Old man? I'll show you an 'old man!'"
"Oh, Doctor, will you, pretty please?"
"Harkness, I'm trying to drive!"
This time the TARDIS, for once, landed smoothly without knocking all its passengers over. Rose tossed the doors open. They were parked across the street from the huge crowd milling around the crater.
"Out you go! Chop chop, allons-y, off my magnificent ship if you please!"
The next few minutes were filled with jostling and shoving as the Doctor, Rose, Jack, and Martha shooed the confused crowd outside. The console room gradually shrunk as it emptied until it had returned to its usual dimensions. When the last patient had left, the Doctor shut the doors and leaned his back against them, eyes closed in an expression of pure bliss. After a moment, his eyes snapped open. "Right, then, now that that lot's gone…"
"The hospital's still on the moon," Martha pointed out.
"Nah, the Judoon'll have blown it up by now, yeah?" said Rose.
The Doctor tugged on his ear. "Yeah, sorry about that…"
Martha sighed. "Out of a job, then."
"We'll put good words in for you," Jack promised.
Martha arched an eyebrow. "With who?"
"Oh, never mind that," the Doctor waved a hand dismissively and leaned against the console casually. "The real question is, Martha Jones, where would you like to go first?"
"Go?" Martha asked blankly.
"Thank-you trip!" Jack wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Anywhere you want."
Martha's eyes filled with excitement, with hope and wonder and utter joy...but then she frowned. "But I can't. I've got exams in the morning…I've got things to do!"
The Doctor cocked an eyebrow. "If it helps, it also travels in time. We can pop you back a minute after you've left."
"Or a year," Rose commented nonchalantly.
The Doctor pointed an accusatory finger at her. "That was one time. It'll never happen again."
"Or a couple of centuries," Jack mentioned.
"I said I was sorry!"
Jack smirked. "Yeah, I know."
Martha still looked doubtfully between the three of them. "You mean, you can take me through time and space and drop me off right here, a minute from now?"
"But time travel—I mean, aliens, I'll believe, sure to be something else out there, but time travel? That's just too much."
The Doctor grinned. "I'll prove it." He yanked a lever down, and the console whined a moment as the TARDIS moved.
Martha folded her arms. "Seen that bit. I got it, it's a ship, it moves."
"Oh, but wait until you see this." He leapt towards the doors and tossed them open. "London—this morning!"
Martha moved next to the Doctor and peered out the door. "Yeah, we've moved, but—hold on, is that me?"
Sure enough, an hours-younger Martha Jones was hurrying past the mouth of the alley where the TARDIS had landed.
Grinning inanely, the Doctor yanked his tie off and tossed it to Jack, who seemed to catch it effortlessly. "Off you go, Captain. Work your magic. And tell her I want that tie back! Albert Einstein gave me that tie!"
"Aye, aye," Jack replied with a mock salute, sliding past Martha and out the door.
"Einstein?" Rose said with a touch of skepticism. "Don't tell me you told him about relativity?"
"Of course not," the Doctor scoffed. "He came up with that all on his own. I just…may have stopped by for tea and biscuits and saved him from a giant psychevore intent on consuming all his neural matter."
"Anyway, I'd like my tie back, if you don't mind."
Martha handed him back the tie, her mouth still open in astonishment.
The Doctor had just finished retying it when Jack reentered.
"It's all waiting, Martha," the Doctor said wistfully, "The waving mountains of Felspoon, the birth of Plovak 6. New horizons. You could be the first human to set foot on Mars. You could meet King Arthur, Confucius—"
"Or Shakespeare?" Martha said excitedly.
The Doctor grinned. "Off we go then."
"Never much cared for Shakespeare," Rose said flippantly.
"Oh, that's just because you've never met the man!" He quirked an eyebrow as his hands found some levers. "'For nothing this wide universe I call, save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all.'"
He yanked a lever and the TARDIS jolted violently, sending Martha screaming off to the side. Jack snagged her around the waist before she hit the wall, keeping himself steady by holding onto one of the coral struts.
The Doctor and Rose both tumbled to the floor, laughing hysterically at who knew what.
One month or one minute later, Martha Jones tucked her superphone containing the mobile numbers of a Time Lord, an immortal, and a blonde into her pocket, and stepped out of a police box that disappeared immediately behind her. She beamed and waved as the box faded, then took a deep breath and moved to join the crowd surrounding the crater where the Royal Hope Hospital once stood.
"Martha Jones. Good to see you."
Martha whirled to see Jack Harkness, hands in the pockets of his gray overcoat. "Jack? I just saw you!"
Jack smiled crookedly at her. "Been a bit longer for me."
Martha's eyes widened. "Oh! This is what the Doctor was talking about, crossed timelines!"
"Right in one," Jack replied, glancing wistfully at where the TARDIS had stood a moment before. He turned back to Martha. "Might have been a long time, but I seem to remember telling you that the Doctor and I would put a good word in for you. You still looking for a job?"
She jabbed her thumb back to point at the crater. "What do you think?"
Jack cocked an eyebrow. "How would you like to work for me?"
Martha grinned. "I think I'd love it."
The morning was crisp as Larry Nightingale and Sally Sparrow walked hand-in-hand to the used book shop they managed.
"Do you want pizza or Chinese for lunch?" asked Larry.
Sally shook her head. "Neither. We're going to have start cutting back, you know. Eat lunch from home or something."
Larry sighed. "Why bother? We can't make this month's rent on this place either way." They reached the door to their book shop, and he put his key in the door. "Might as well have some decent food."
Sally squeezed his hand. "I'm going to miss this old place…"
"Me too." He opened the door, and they entered into their darkened shop. "I had so many dreams for this place. I was going to expand…Suppose we'll have to go get jobs. I could be a postman." He flicked the lights on.
"Oh, don't be a postman," the Doctor advised. He leaned back against the counter, arms casually crossed in front of him, Rose and Jack on either side. "They get terrible bunions."
Larry jumped into the air. "Sally! It's him! It's the Doctor! It's those people!" He looked ready to hyperventilate as he noticed the police box next to the counter. "It's the phone box!"
The Doctor waved cheekily. "Yep, that's me." He pushed off from the counter, hands in his pockets. "See, I was a bit preoccupied last time I was in here."
"A species change will do that to you," said Jack.
"Yes, well, anyway, Rose tells me I was rather rude."
Rose nudged him with a grin. "Not the word I used. 'S not like you knew what was going on."
"Yes, well, anyway, point is, I was adding to my Agatha Christie collection from a Sparrow and Nightingale on Mars—"
"A what?" Larry said. His expression of shock had not changed since entering the shop.
"—And it occurred to me, timelines and all that, you might need a bit of capital." He took out an envelope from his inside chest pocket and held it out to Sally grandly.
Sally took it, brow wrinkled in confusion. "But…what is it?"
"Gift from a Kathy Nightingale, 2006," Jack explained.
Rose grinned. "Popped back and asked for a pound."
Sally ripped the envelope open and took out… "A lottery ticket?"
The Doctor leaned forward, eyebrows waggling. "Who knows? You might get lucky."
Larry's gaze switched between the ticket in Sally's hand and the Doctor, mouth moving silently.
The Doctor beamed. "Bye, then. Thanks for the books!" He started walking back to the TARDIS.
Rose waved. "Thanks for 1969. Take care!" She followed the Doctor.
Jack looked furtively to make sure the Doctor had already entered the TARDIS. "Holovids," he said conspiratorially. "One word: holovids. Catch you some other time."
Sally and Larry both watched as Jack winked and made his own way back to the TARDIS. Larry's arm went around Sally's shoulders as the TARDIS faded.
When the breeze died away, Larry gaped at the ticket in Sally's hand. "Is that…Does that mean?"
Sally grinned and kissed him. "I think it means you definitely don't need to be a postman after all."
Above their heads and centuries ago, a blue box wheezed with the sound of the universe.
A/N: The Doctor was quoting Shakespeare's Sonnet 109.
Thanks again for reviews past and future.