Ok I'm back with an update. I'm sorry the chapters have been coming slower, guys, but my schedule's gotten really busy lately. At any rate, I thank you all once again for the continued feedback! Without further ado, the next chapter.
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
It was insistent, repetitive, and shrill, causing him to bury his head deeper under the pillows and curl his arms tighter around the warm weight beside him in defiance. But the blasted noise would not give up and the Doctor, needing so little sleep anyway, was soon wide awake.
With a near-growl the Time Lord slowly sat up and stretched, sliding out from under the covers and pausing momentarily to re-tuck them around his wife. He threw a deep red bathrobe on over his striped pajamas and managed to locate one sock and one slipper, and so made a sort of shuffle-limp to the control room.
The ringing sound only grew louder as he descended the stairs to the console, and rubbing at his sleep-fogged eyes he grabbed up the phone.
"Hello?" The Doctor asked, trying to inject the usual energy into it. It was always so inconvenient when phone calls reached him at such early hours of the morning. On the rare night when he was asleep it left him disoriented. Which probably explained why it took him a full minute to realize he was not receiving a reply because the line was dead.
No one had called the TARDIS' phone, yet a phone was still ringing. Martha's old cell phone.
Slowly placing his ship's phone back in its cradle, the Doctor reached out with his other hand, resting it over the mobile device for a moment. It could be nothing. And even if it was something, they wouldn't wait for him forever. They'd hang up, and that would be the end of it, so there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for him to pick up that cell phone.
But what was life without a little risk? After all, if he didn't answer this call, he'd never know its purpose. Too many what-ifs for the Time Lord's liking. With this final thought in mind the Doctor's fingers closed around the small device.
All he had left to do now was to calm his shaking digits so he could hold the phone to his ear long enough. "…hello?"
"Hello, Doctor." Two words, two simple nothing words he had heard countless times in his long life in so many different situations. Yet he still froze.
"Charlene," he breathed, for it seemed he had lost his voice. "What- how—"
"They've decided on where I will be incarcerated, and I am allowed a phone call."
"And you call me?" He asked, astounded.
"There's no one else to call. I have no family," she reminded and his hearts clenched painfully. Charlene all alone in a cell for who knew how long. "And I was curious," she continued in a light sort of tone, the one that usually preceded a cold, harsh statement or accusation. "I wanted to know how you were."
"Fine," he answered simply, hoping that that would be all, but knowing it wouldn't be.
"You and I both know that's not true, Doctor," she chuckled softly and it sent shivers down his spine. "The legal system may be the one dismantling my work, but you caused it to happen. How do you justify it?"
He had closed his eyes against her words, and stubbornly shook his head. All the things his friends and family had said he was trying to hold on to, because he knew listening to Charlene's words was a slippery slope. "There's nothing to justify. I may be an alien, and the last of my kind, but I'm alive too, Charlene."
"You were just as alive at the Institute," she pointed out.
"Perhaps- but not living."
"You're quite good at using semantics to free yourself from responsibility," the imprisoned woman noted. "The Time Lord who would do anything to save the humans—just not this. How is that right or fair?"
"Because tying me down to a table and killing me over and over is right or fair?" He countered, eyes snapping open. The Doctor had certainly found his voice now, found it in anger and disgust. Because he knew what this call was about now.
"No, Dr. Griffiths, you will be silent. I have listened to all you have said for too long, and now- I am talking. If you claim that everything you do is to help people, then what is the purpose of phoning me now? For better or worse, the Wilkins Institute is gone, your experiment has been tried and failed. And now that you have been forced to face up to the consequences of your actions by the very humans you were supposedly the savior of, you are angry. You want a target, someone to have the last word with. You want to feel like you've won." It was his turn to laugh, but it lacked in any mirth.
"It is. Well, you picked the wrong target, Griffiths."
"So you're saying it doesn't matter how many die in the hospitals now? You can live with that, Doctor?" She was clutching desperately at straws now, and she had picked good ones. The smug smirk that had come to his face slipped, and he swallowed once.
"You forget, Charlene…I've been living and counting the dead for a very long time."
"And you wouldn't have had to anymore, don't you see?" Her voice was trembling now and she had lost her cool composure. "We both can't bare all this death anymore, Doctor, we're the same that way. You would be doing everything in your power to stop that from happening."
"To stop it from happening on Earth, maybe. But I look at the big picture, and there's a whole wide universe out there full of death." She sucked in a sharp breath and made a sort of choked noise, and he realized after a moment that she was struggling not to cry. Oh, he'd done it again, gone too far.
"But there's life, too, Charlene," he added gently. "So much life, and so much to live for. It's why I travel. If I sat in your lab day in and day out, all I'd ever be able to think about is death, but out there…it's the closest thing to a miracle I've ever seen." Out there in the world where he'd met so many friends and gained the biggest, most wonderful family on Earth. "You look at it that way, Charlene, and I guarantee you can bare it." There was a long silence on the other end, as it seemed the human had managed to cease her tears.
"All I wanted was to help," she whispered her confession.
"I know," he said softly, "Do I ever know." He could not decide whether it was better he could not see her, he could not be there with her. She was alone save for his voice, yet he did not know what might become of him if he were to really comfort her.
"I had to try, Doctor. How could I go on with my life, with the knowledge of a cure to save them, and not do anything about it?"
"Oh, Charlene," he sighed, bowing his head, "you truly are magnificent. And you could have been something amazing. But this was never the way."
"I read that you tended to lecture your adversaries," she remarked, her voice sounding thick with oncoming tears.
"I wish you'd never read about me at all," he murmured sadly. Charlene Griffiths, yet another human he had ruined by mere association.
"I'm glad I did," she countered, sniffing once and taking a deep breath. Having calmed herself, she stated, "Someone had to, Doctor. And I will carry out my sentence with the knowledge that I did the right thing. How will you carry out yours?"
"Well," the Doctor began. He did not correct her implication that he was carrying out a sentence of his own.
"Dad?" He whirled around to see Jenny standing at the top of the stairs, rubbing sleep out of her eyes. Her hair was down and just a little messy, and she was wearing nightclothes and a light blue bathrobe supplied by the TARDIS. A smile slowly spread across his face as he took in the sight of his daughter.
"I will think of something, I'm sure," he answered the human at last. "Goodbye, Charlene." With that, the Doctor snapped the phone shut.
Jenny eyed her father nervously as he ended the call. Charlene? As in—but he couldn't have—and what more could that horrible woman possibly want?
"Dad—" she started, slowly coming down the stairs to the main platform, but he simply shook his head.
"Nothing to worry about, Jenny, just a bit of business. It's all sorted now, anyway." While she would have liked for him to provide a little more detail, she wasn't about to push him. And if he said it was finished, she believed him. "Now what are you doing awake?"
"I've had enough sleep, and I heard the phone," she answered. A full Time Lord like him, Jenny could run off of minimal sleep as well, while her step-mum required just a few extra hours, still less than the average human.
He was staring down at the mobile still clenched in his fist and appeared to be in deep thought. Nodding once to himself, the Doctor met her gaze again. "Well, if you're up perhaps you can help me."
"Of course," she answered almost immediately, ready to do anything.
"I presume River has been going over takeoff procedure with you?" He asked, likely rhetorically as he began pushing buttons that she knew began the process- though she was sure the professor had said to pull that lever down not up. Still, she felt the need to clarify.
"Sure, but I've only ever actually helped fly her once. It's mostly just been theory."
"Theory? Hah! That's just boring, that is," he scoffed, seeming to take great joy in doing so, and she began to wonder if this was part of the alleged war her parents had over piloting the TARDIS, according to her grandparents. "And you've never even left the planet in this thing, have you?"
"Well…no," she answered at last, realizing his point. She'd been sitting in a spaceship—not to mention a time machine—for how long and hardly used it. Jenny also felt a growing excitement, because was he saying…?
"Well then, Jenny, depress the input bar, turn that knob there, and we're off!" Grinning, she did as asked, and then grabbed onto the console in alarm as it began to shake violently. It hardly seemed to bother her father, however, as he merely laughed at her shocked expression and began to run around back and forth in circles pressing buttons and pulling and twisting things. One instrument he most notably did not touch was the blue stabilizers. She was amazed he did not even slip as he skidded about with only one shoe, but at last the tremors stopped and she relaxed her grip.
He'd come to a stop beside her and beamed as he waited expectantly. She could not even try to disappoint him. "Where are we?" Jenny asked in anticipation.
"Somewhere you'd never be able to get with that space-hopper of yours," he teased, bopping her on the nose affectionately before his smirk smoothed out into a smile as he took her gently by the hand. "Have a look," he told her, guiding her to the doors and pulling them open.
Jenny gasped. Out there, framed by the familiar wooden doorway, lights from the tiniest pinpricks to the most dazzling beacons shone in the endless expanse of space. And it wasn't the dark vacuum that people so often described it as, it was strewn with all sorts of hues; the inky, deep blues to the red embers of distant suns. And it did not stay still, so that she was turning her head this way and that to capture it all.
"It's beautiful," she breathed, hardly knowing what else to say, and she glanced back briefly to see him leaning against the doorframe. But his eyes were on her with a fond expression.
"It always is," he agreed softly, and she returned his smile before looking back outward. They stood there in silence for a minute or two until he said at normal volume, "Now, Jenny, I chose this particular region of space on this particular date for a specific region. You see those two stars out there?"
He reached one arm over her shoulder and pointed, and sure enough she saw them. "Yeah. They're quite close together, aren't they?"
"Exactly," he praised, causing her to grin again. "You see, they are both white dwarf stars, and they are about to merge together. The result is that they surpass critical mass."
"A type la supernova," she realized, turning to look at him with wide eyes, absolutely thrilled. "You brought me to see a supernova?" Her father nodded in excitement and she couldn't resist giving a little squeal as she hugged him tightly. "Thank you!"
The Doctor chuckled and as he reciprocated her embrace she felt something hard and rectangular press into her back. He was still holding the cell phone. "No need to thank me. But Jenny, we're also here for another purpose."
"Which is?" She inquired, drawing back to look up at him in some confusion. He didn't seem upset or grave, but his face was certainly more serious.
"I am about to do something incredibly childish and extremely dangerous. Also, it could be considered rude, but I don't think Martha will mind."
"What has Martha got to do—" She began, but his gaze snapped up over her head and he quickly seized her by the shoulders, whirling her around.
Her question died on her lips as she watched the light grow brighter and brighter until suddenly flaring outward in a fantastic explosion of light, mass, and energy. She was sure the only thing keeping their little blue box safe was the TARDIS itself, only increasing her admiration for the unbelievable ship.
"Get ready to shut the doors!" Her father warned, and she could only watch in astonishment as he leaned back like a pitcher and then hurled the mobile phone out into space, directly into the supernova. And also right through the TARDIS' extended air shell.
She felt like they'd been hit with a tremendous force, like a shockwave, and the noise of the explosion suddenly increased to a deafening roar. With an enormous amount of effort, Jenny threw her body's entire weight into the door, the Doctor doing likewise to the other, and struggled to shut it against the sheer power of the supernova. Somehow, they both managed it, and the click of the lock seemed to signal that their protective barriers had been reestablished, securing their safety. Jenny and her dad both leaned their backs against the door breathing heavily and neither speaking for a long moment.
At last, she turned to look at him and him at her. "Did we just battle a supernova?"
Jenny wasn't sure who started first, but soon they were both laughing and gasping for breath, using the door and each other as support. Perhaps it wasn't the funniest thing she'd ever done, but she couldn't seem to stop laughing, nor did she really want to.
"I'm assuming there's a good reason you two have nearly killed us and are now giggling about it like a pair of hyenas?" A dry voice questioned, and they both looked up to see River at the entrance of a corridor, wrapped elegantly in a dark green bathrobe over her nightclothes, but her hair wild and everywhere- a supernova of curls. Whether that was from having just woken up or being thrown about by their encounter with the full-on strength of the two white dwarfs, Jenny wasn't sure. And it only made them laugh harder as they finally slid down the doors to sit side by side on the floor. "I think I can safely assume this is how it's going to be from now on," the archeologist remarked, removing her hand from her hip and shaking her head, walking down the stairs to the console. But the exasperated smile on her face showed she did not mind.
"We'll be sure to wake you up first next time, River," her dad managed to quell his laughter to say, and she nodded in agreement.
"Good," her step-mum replied, "I think I'll take us back now though; you truly are lucky my parents can be such sound sleepers." Jenny winced a bit at that, feeling very glad indeed. She wasn't sure Amy would have appreciated being woken up by their little adventure.
But she was wrong in her belief that they had escaped the wrath of an angry redhead. As they landed, her father patted her hand and jumped up, starting for his wife to likely begin bickering about her use of the boringers again. Jenny stood, shaking her head at the pair, but then jumped in alarm as a loud banging began on the other side of the door.
"Doctor! Doctor, open up!" Donna Noble's voice could clearly be heard, and both adults whipped their heads about to stare at the door. Another round of pounding startled her father into action as he rushed back down to her side and wrenched the door open into the Chiswick night air.
"Donna, what—" He started to ask, but cut himself off when the woman launched herself over the threshold at him, crushing him in a hug.
"Oh thank God!" The human exclaimed, her relief doing nothing to lessen her grip, and her dad could only stare wordlessly down in bewilderment. "I heard the TARDIS leave and I thought- I don't even know what I thought!"
"Oh, Donna," the Doctor said, a guilty expression coming to his face. "I'm sorry, I didn't even think," was all he got to say before the temp abruptly pulled away, swung back, and soundly slapped him, causing him to actually stagger back a couple steps. "Donna!" He whined, rubbing at his quickly reddening cheek.
"Of course you didn't think, you stupid bloody genius!" She reprimanded, and he glanced down, ashamed. "You know I almost called Jack?" The other man had left for Cardiff earlier that evening to debrief his team on everything that had been going on in the past weeks, and to begin discussions on what Torchwood was going to do to prevent any future incidents like it. But he likely would have broken the sound barrier to drive back as soon as possible. Jenny was sure the only reason the woman hadn't called the Smith-Jones' was because of the kids.
"Sorry, Donna, it was my fault," she spoke up, causing both the redhead and her father to look at her in shock. "I wanted to see it, you know? The stars, the universe." It wasn't as if anyone else needed to know about the destruction of Martha's old mobile. Her dad had trusted her, requested her help to cast it off, move on from that. And that was more than enough. She had no issue telling a partial lie, if only to keep his secret safe.
He opened and shut his mouth a couple times, clearly thrown and unable to come up with anything to say. River, who had joined them by the door, met her eyes briefly with a knowing look, but chose not to speak as well. Donna's face softened somewhat.
"Oh, well, it's alright, really. I'm just being a nag. But I- I worry. It's hard, when you go away," she admitted.
"Donna Noble," the Doctor said at last, placing his hands lightly on the woman's shoulders so that she looked directly at him. "I won't ever leave you without saying goodbye, you know that."
"Of course," she nodded once, trying to offer a smile.
"And I'd never let him," Jenny added, trying to lighten the mood. It worked, as all three others chuckled.
"Oi, you mind keeping it down some? All the yelling and banging is making it a bit hard to sleep, and some of us need to," a terse Scottish voice called out, and they looked to see a tired Amy Pond at the top of the stairs. Rory, equally as bedraggled, had followed as well, allowing his wife to be their collective spokesperson.
The Doctor laughed again. "Of course, Pond, as you wish. I'm fairly sure the yelling and banging is no longer on the agenda tonight."
She rolled her eyes but offered a, "Goodnight," before leading her husband back to bed. Donna, the only other human present, chose that moment to yawn, and Jenny belatedly realized that the woman was still in her nightclothes, with not even a bathrobe.
"Go and get some sleep, Donna," her father suggested. "There'll be plenty of time to talk about leaving and seeing the universe in the morning."
"Promise?" The exhausted woman requested in a show of stubbornness.
"Cross my hearts," he responded, doing so. "Besides, I can't go," he revealed with an amused grin. "Your luggage is still on my ship."
"Oh," the redhead said, flushing red in embarrassment. "Well, I—"
"To bed, Donna Noble," he interrupted, still grinning, and as Jenny watched him escort the woman to her door, she could finally see the recovery, the man he had been before this terrible ordeal. And maybe, perhaps, a little bit more.
"So," she started as he returned to the ship, shutting the door. "What do we do since we've been grounded?" All three Time Lords, part-human or not, were still wide awake, after all.
"Well, I still haven't found where the Old Girl put the swimming pool," her father mused. "Shall we go on a quest?"
"Or I could just show you," River pointed out with a raised eyebrow. "How do you not know where it is?"
"Well of course you know," he pouted, grumbling something under his breath that sounded like the word favoritism. The TARDIS gave an admonishing hum in reply, to which he made a face up at the ceiling, in turn causing the two females to laugh.
"I could go for a swim," Jenny admitted, not sure if she wanted to go on a quest or just have River show them, knowing it would likely leave her father a Mr. Grumpy Face as Amy put it. But a mischievous gleam appeared in her step-mum's eye.
"I think I have an idea. Jenny can come with me while you go on your little quest. You'll have to give us a head start, of course, count to one-hundred or something."
"Hide-and-seek, River, really?" He scoffed, and the professor just laughed.
"Really. Now close your eyes, Sweetie." With a huff, he did as asked, and the curly-haired woman smirked, leaning in close. "Just try and find me, Doctor," River Song whispered, centimeters from his lips, but pulled back at the last second, turning and ushering Jenny down the corridor. There was a beat of silence as they rounded the corner, and then-
"One, two, three," her father began counting, and they broke into a run.
At last, I updated! Super sorry, my computer died literally after I finished typing the first section, so I had to wait for the issue to be fixed to finish the chapter. At any rate, fun family bonding to augment the serious final confrontation between the Doctor and Dr. Griffiths. I'm hoping both were satisfactory. I am almost positive the next chapter will be the last. That being said, thanks so, so much for all of your favorites, follows, feedback, and C2s thus far, it's really helped me to get this story completed. I'm hoping that this sequel was an acceptable follow-up to It Can Come Back, and I hope you all will let me know how this chapter was despite its super-tardiness. Thanks for your patience and you time in reading this, and please review!