Author's Notes:

Pete, Rose, and the Doctor discuss Stella's future and angers flare. Pete makes a surprising proposition.

Rose and the Doctor decided to visit Donna for a little while before going to Pete's office to await his return as he had requested. The fiery ginger listened with her arms crossed over her chest, lips pursed, as the Doctor described what had just transpired. His office had been quickly fitted with several miniature microphones hidden from sight so that Pete and Rose would be able to hear and record the entire incident. Donna was slightly miffed that she had missed the sight of Stella Evans being dragged away by armed guards.

"I don't mean to say I told you so Doctor but…"

She cocked an eyebrow and just let the sentence hang unfinished in the air.

The Doctor looked down at the ground and scuffed one of his trainers back and forth while rubbing the back of his neck. Rose's stomach clenched a little at the sight of his discomfort and she stepped closer to him, reaching out to hold his other hand. She rubbed soothing circles across his knuckles with her thumb and he looked up gratefully at her, a small smile tugging at his lips.

Donna softened as well and gave a chuckle."Ah well, you didn't bugger it up too badly, I suppose. Good thing you've got that big ol' alien brain of yours still intact, eh?"

Laughing, the Doctor nodded and then beamed at the two women in front of him. "Well yes, I am quite brilliant, aren't I?" He couldn't help but preen just a bit, straightening up his tie a little. Rose and Donna looked at one another and rolled their eyes simultaneously.

"Right… well, genius aside, I have you two lovely ladies to thank for this really. I apologize for being such a … well, for being daft. You were right Donna, it was foolish of me to disregard Rose's judgment when it's never led me astray before."

With this, he turned to Rose and silently searched her face, trying to decipher her feelings at the moment and whether or not she was angry with him now that the depth of Stella's betrayal had come to light. Donna watched as Rose smiled back at him and gently cupped his face, pressing a soft kiss to his lips. As she began to pull away however, the Doctor's arms wound around her waist pulling her close and he deepened the kiss with an intensity that clearly suggested he had completely forgotten where he was.

"Oy! Spaceman! Get a room!"

Rose pulled herself away, bright red and laughing while the Doctor glanced over at Donna with annoyance. Not one to be bullied however, she placed her hands upon her hips and stared right back at him.

"I'm happy for you two and all, but really, I'll have none of that at my workstation! Go on, off you pop! I recall quite the comfy settee in Rose's office…" She winked at her friend and then gave the Doctor another mock glare to which he just shook his head, chuckling.

Glancing back at Rose, the Doctor gave her one of his mischievous grins and then whispered dramatically, "Run!" before tugging her down the hall.

Donna rolled her eyes once more but couldn't help but laugh at the pair. She hoped they would remember to lock the door at the very least. Perhaps she ought to buzz Rose through her intercom before sending anyone her way… just in case.

Two hours later Pete returned to his office looking worn and aggravated, though the interrogation hadn't been drawn out per se. Stella, in her newfound remorse, had been completely forthcoming with her plans and how she had executed it all. However, it had been a tough questioning for Pete to conduct. Although she wasn't liked by everyone, Stella had always been a hard worker and done a good job in all her roles at Torchwood, particularly as director of R&D. The betrayal of one of his most trusted employees had shaken Pete to the core. Rose and the Doctor sat quietly as he recounted everything.

"So… what will happen to her now?" asked Rose somewhat hesitantly though she knew full well what the answer would be.

Pete sighed but then fixed her with a stern gaze, folding his hands neatly on the desk in front of him. "You know protocol, Rose. She will be Retcon'ed and reassigned to a UNIT base abroad where she will be under surveillance for the rest of her life."

Rose looked down momentarily and then gave one short nod to show Pete that she was in agreement.

The Doctor glanced back and forth between the two, a bit confused. Their expressions were grim so he wasn't sure if he wanted to know, but asked anyway. "What does that mean? Retcon, what is it?"

Rose looked back down at her lap and remained silent. After a second, Pete squared his shoulders and met the Doctor's gaze.

"Retcon stands for "Retroactive Continuity," Doctor, though its official name I suppose is Compound B67. It's a chemical substance created by the Torchwood back in your universe. Mickey came across it while he was infiltrating undercover back before the incident at Canary Wharf. He brought some samples back and we've been manufacturing it here as well ever since."

"Yes, but what is it for?"

"Simply put, it's an amnesiac. No doubt very similar to the substance excreted into the air by the Jorxifallicans during their attack. The one designed by your Torchwood was only meant to erase isolated events, most commonly it aided in keeping civilians in the dark about their operations. Any accidental breach in protocol or security was easily dealt with. From the original compound, however, our researchers and chemists have been able to expand and create several different versions of the compound , each with varying strengths and duration. The one to be used on Ms. Evans will be our strongest… she will have all her memories of Torchwood wiped, for obvious reasons. Once transferred, new false memories of years of service to UNIT will replace them. She will be monitored carefully in case she begins to show signs of recall, in which case smaller booster doses of Retcon will be administered."

The Doctor listened in horror as years' worth of deep seeded anger and mistrust towards this organization came flooding back. Despite Rose's insistence that this Torchwood was different, he had never quite let go of his suspicions, having instead pushed them aside in order to keep the peace with her and those around him. Now, however, it was all starting to surface again. He looked over incredulously at Rose, though she continued silently staring into her lap and refused to meet his gaze. His frustration boiled over.

"So just to make sure I understand you correctly, Pete Tyler, you're telling me you make it a habit of wiping your employee's memories. So that's how you keep everyone in line here, is it?"

Pete stared unflinchingly back at him, resolved to not cower beneath the ice cold glare the Doctor was giving him.

"Not a habit, no, but we do it if it's necessary, Doctor."

"Necessary, ha! And who is the judge of that, hmmm? Who gets to decide when it's time to get out the bottles of Retcon and play, Pete? Is it you then?"

Rose looked up sharply at the mocking tone that had crept into the Doctor's voice. Pete's face was pale and his voice low and steady, though she could tell in the stilted way he ground out each word that he was fighting hard for control. This was the Doctor, and he respected the man, but had it been anyone else, Rose knew her father wouldn't have taken their insolence lightly.

"Do not assume that this is a choice we take lightly here at Torchwood! Our dealings are public in this world so we don't hide anything from the masses, but it is still expedient that we maintain the necessary levels of security to keep both our employees as well as the public safe. Everyone that joins us is informed of protocol in the case of severe enough infractions and security breaches. Stella Evans knew very well what the consequences of her actions would be if she were caught!"

"You haven't answered my question."

Signing, Pete shook his head slightly. "Contrary to what you must believe, Doctor, the decision to use Retcon is always a difficult one. No one person has the authority to administer it, we've set up an ethics committee as a safeguard against unfair retaliation or whatever other subterfuges you clearly think we get up to here."

This was not what the Doctor was expecting to hear and was taken aback momentarily. He recovered quickly however and redoubled his efforts.
"Be that as it may, how can you-"

Standing up suddenly, Pete slammed a fist on his desk. "What else would you have us do?! She killed several people, Doctor, intended or not! Rose was her primary target! She cannot be tried in a criminal court like a civilian, so what, would you have me give her a good talking to and take her on her word that she'll never try something like that again? Or how about we just execute her and be done with it? Would that suit you better?"

The Doctor just stared silently at the enraged man before him, gobsmacked. He looked over imploringly at Rose, but found her still silent, her fists clenched in her lap and tears slowly coursing down her face. It was painfully obvious to him, even at a glance, that Rose felt tremendous guilt and likely just as much disdain for the Retcon as he did. Although the consequences Stella would be facing were completely her own, he could tell that Rose felt responsible for her fate and it was killing her.

The Doctor's self-righteous anger deflated in an instant and he reached out to her, gently unclenching one of her fists and threading his fingers through it like she often did when he was in need of comfort. He gave her hand a soft squeeze and after clearing his throat, turned back to Pete.

"I'm sorry… I shouldn't have assumed the worst, Pete. It was uncalled for."
Pete sat back down with a sigh.

"It's alright, Doctor… I know you have much to be angry for with regards to your Torchwood, and while I don't pretend to be perfect, I do wish you had a bit more confidence in what we do here. We try our very best to be as transparent in our dealings with the public as well as our staff. Perhaps we don't have the best solutions for every problem, but we do our best to keep everyone as safe as possible. It's never been my or anyone's intention to use these methods lightly."

The Doctor nodded again and ran a hand through his hair. He took a deep breath and then slowly let it back out, willing the tension in his shoulders to dissipate as well. Turning his attention back to Rose, he squeezed her hand again and waited for her to look up at him. It was a few seconds before she did, but she gave him a watery smile and he leaned over to place a gentle kiss on her forehead. He would need to apologize properly once they were alone and make sure she was alright. Rose had a way of hanging on to guilt needlessly. They both did, he supposed.

Feeling the atmosphere lighten up considerably, Pete sat back in his chair and relaxed a bit. After giving the couple a moment, he softly cleared his throat to get their attention once more. The Doctor and Rose looked up at him expectantly.

"Well, now that that's out of the way… the other reason I wanted to talk to you both was because of what this obviously means for our Research and Development department, of course."

When neither of them said anything, Pete raised an eyebrow and tried again.
"With Stella's vacancy, I mean."

Again he was met with silence, though a slight smile was tugging at the corner of Rose's mouth, as she turned to look over at the man beside her. In turn, the Doctor still sat there looking mildly interested but otherwise nonplussed. Pete and Rose exchanged a meaningful look, at which point her grin widened.

"Doctor, I know you've not been here very long but let's face it… you know more than the whole lot of them down there. We need someone to take Stella's place and I can't think of anyone better suited for the job than yourself. What do you say?"

It took him a second, but when Pete's remarks finally sunk in, the Doctor's eyes grew wide and his eyebrows disappeared underneath his messy fringe. "Me? You want me to be the director of R&D?!"

"Yes, that's what I said."

He turned to Rose incredulously, only to find her gazing at him with an amused grin. He looked at them both like they had gone bonkers.

"Pete, I'm not… I mean, I know I took an office and all, but you both know I'm not the sit behind a desk kind of bloke. Stella was always up to her eyeballs in reports and to be honest, I'd be rubbish at that! I can't be stuck in an office all day, I just… I can't. No, I'm sorry… you really ought to find someone else. Thank you, but no… no."

Pete held up his hands in a placating motion and chuckled. "Now now, not so fast, Doctor. Please, just listen for a moment, yeah? I know better than to expect you to go about things like past directors. Besides, I know you two aren't planning on sticking around forever, so I'd be daft to expect it anyhow."

At that comment, Rose ducked her head and squirmed uncomfortably in her seat.

"Oh sweetheart, it's alright. Your mother has told me enough about your years traveling with him for me to expect that of either of you now that he's back and you're growing another TARDIS. I've been giving this quite a bit of thought since you both came back and I knew that eventually I would have to find a replacement for you, love."

"Exactly Pete, why have me take charge of the department if you'll only have to replace both of us in a year? You may as well just get someone else, it will be one less thing to worry about when Rose and I start traveling again."

"That is true, but given how much better everything has been going since you joined us, I can't help but think how helpful it would be if you took charge, even if only temporarily. We can give you a handful of assistants, Doctor, that can handle most of the reports for you. This will free you up to get everything a bit more streamlined and efficient with regards to projects and methods of research. I know Stella had already implemented many of your suggestions and things were greatly improved. You would still have time to join Rose out in the field and even that would help with interdepartmental cooperation. By the time you two are ready to go, you will have had enough time to identify who would be the best candidate to replace you from your group of assistants. During this time they will have learned how to run the department underneath your guidance. "

The Doctor opened his mouth, ready to counter Pete's argument, but realized that he had no logical rebuttal… it really was a well thought out plan and much more painless than he had anticipated. Pete smiled a bit smugly, knowing he had him, but thought it best not to push the Time Lord.

"Tell you what, why don't you and Rose go home and talk about it? You can let me know your decision tomorrow. Go on, it's been a long day for you both."

Nodding, they stood up and began to make their way out of Pete's office. Just before shutting the door behind her, Rose looked back over her shoulder and gave Pete one last smile. Grinning back at her, he winked.