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Oct. 29th, 2012

Someone You'd Admire

Part III: At Any Convenient Time


Nine hundred and seven years has taught him that no sentient being ever actually experiences anything remotely close to a 'hunch'.



There are certain times in your life when you can't help but evaluate the choices you've made. For most people, it's prompted by the inside of a jail cell, or a set of divorce papers, or the birds' eye view of the check-out line as it spirals around the side of the store because you forgot how to check for counterfeit notes. At times like that, a little part of your brain detaches itself from the situation at hand, shakes its head, and mutters 'Well, this is lovely. How the hell did it all get this way?'

For the Doctor, it happened while standing in a darkened museum, scanning a large boulder out of sheer annoyance. There was no real reason to scan the boulder. It was a boulder. The only reason he was doing it was because he was currently refusing to help Amy. Amy, who had manipulated him like the gullible idiot he was. Amy, who had managed to henpeck him like an old housewife despite the fact she was happily married to another man.

He scans the boulder over and over again, not even bothering to read the results. He knows what they'll say. Scan the inside? Boulder. Scan the outside? Boulder. Scan around the boulder? Near a boulder. Fascinating stuff.

Not too long ago, he had been happily doing something interesting. Then the two of them ganged up on him and demanded an adventure. Now, he's not one to deny anyone an adventure; he soaks up adrenaline like most humanoids soak up caffeine. But letting them choose the adventure? Unthinkable.

But then she pouted at him, and he set the TARDIS to this crumbly old museum, where he now stood scanning a boulder. She was off with Rory having adventures. At least he was still sticking to his principles. Somewhat.


EARLIER:

Somewhere in the depths of the TARDIS, there was a large crash.

"I'm fine!"

That was more than enough for the Doctor. He went back to doing the thing he was doing, whatever that was. Amy looked up.

"Sure about that?," she called.

"Thought it was the kitchen," Rory called back. There was a brief pause as something squeaked and thudded on the floor. "It's just a cupboard."

Amy frowned at the Doctor. "Do we have a kitchen?"

He looked up at her, face screwed up in thought, without stopping whatever he was doing. "I did have, don't know where it got off to. Why would I need a kitchen?"

"Eating, mostly?"

From the depths of the TARDIS came Rory's voice. "You don't have a kitchen."

"Like I said to Amy, I did, but now I don't," the Doctor rejoined, as Rory entered the control room, slightly flustered and with a portable radio in his hand. He set the radio down on an empty spade of the console, where the Doctor proceeded to glare at it.

"How do you eat? Do you eat?," asked Rory, incredulously.

The Doctor scoffed indignantly. "Of course I eat. That's ridiculous. You've seen me eat!"

"Do you eat out all the time? Because that's really not healthy." As a nurse, he felt obliged to say something like that. Amy, meanwhile, moved the portable radio to the jumpseat.

"How do you think I keep this handsome physique up and running? Photosynthesis?"

"Doctor!" Amy snapped.

"Hmm?"

"We're hungry. Bring us somewhere."

The Doctor's face lit up with understanding, as if the idea had genuinely not occurred to him over the course of the conversation. "Oooh, I know this little place on Exilon that has these simply divine blue pastry things-"

"Somewhere with human food." His face crumpled a bit.

The Doctor paused a second. "You people are boring," he remarked. "Don't you want to explore the world of food, widen your culinary horizons, embark on a epicurean voyage to-"

"I'm in the mood for a hamburger," Rory stated, bringing the Doctor's epicurean voyage around the English language to an abrupt halt. He was good like that.

"I wash my hands of you." The Doctor turned from the pair of them, and proceeded to do a thing on the TARDIS that looked almost exactly like the other thing he had been doing earlier, but in fact was something entirely different.


Around the time of his twentieth scan of the boulder, the Doctor notices something odd. He feels a small prickling on the back of his neck. It's a particular type of prickle. There's the dalek-in-the-room prickle of terror. There's the everyone's-a-bit-put-off-by-his-alienish-behavior prickle. He generally ignores that one. There's the no-blinking-because-there's-a-Weeping-Angel-over-there prickle. That one always gets him in the eyes.

This is almost certainly either the need-new-dandruff-shampoo prickle or the someone's-watching-you prickle. He's willing to bet on the second one. That being said, his immeasurably superior Time Lord senses haven't picked up on anyone else in the room. Whoever is watching him is either extraordinarily stealthy or not actually in the room with him. While he scans the boulder for the twenty-first time, he takes a second to look for the security cameras. By some amazingly bizarre stroke of luck, he's managed to place himself in the one place in the room that is completely invisible to the cameras. He didn't plan it, but if in future Amy or Rory happened to ask, of course he did.

That, of course, means that someone's watching him. Someone he can't see.

He takes a minute to curse Amy's talent for sniffing out mysteries.

A small face peeks around the side of the boulder. "Hi," it says.

The Doctor smiles at the face. As far as extraordinarily stealthy peeping toms go, this is a rather innocuous one. "Well, hello there," he replies, and he shifts his attention back to the boulder, as though he was doing something vitally important.

The owner of said small face steps around the side of the boulder to reveal a small female body, dwarfed by a large purple anorak over a light jumper and a long dark braid that swings wildly as she moves.

"You do know you're not supposed to be in the museum after it closes?," he asks her as she walks around the side of the boulder(silently) to stand beside him.

She's scrutinizing him, taking in his every detail, her wide eyes set in an astonishingly intense expression. After a second, she obviously comes to some sort of conclusion. Her eyes flash merrily, and the corner of her mouth ticks upward in a wry grin. "I know. And why are you here?"

He can't help but smile back at her, despite his generally terrible mood. Her delight at having caught him in a hypocritical statement is almost palpable, but in an innocently cheeky way. "Touche," he responds.

Her delight quickly fades as she regards the boulder. She likes it as little as he does. He impulsively reaches out to stroke the boulder's smooth surface. He's always liked quartz. Nice reliable mineral, that.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she says abruptly, just as he's about to touch the surface.

"Why?"

She eyes the boulder, his outstretched arm. "Don't know. Just got a hunch."

That, of course, sets off the Doctor's mental alarms. Nine hundred and seven years has taught him that no sentient being ever actually experiences anything remotely close to a 'hunch'. Hunches are how people tell other people they know something that they shouldn't. Anyone with a hunch is automatically under suspicion. Anyone under suspicion generally is an alien out to destroy or enslave the earth. Obviously.

With that in mind, he scans the boulder. That makes twenty-two. He's tempted to scan the girl, but that'd make her suspicious. He's already suspicious of her, and if he made her suspicious of him, that would be bad. After a brief reflection, he also makes a mental note to not use the word 'suspicious' for two days. He's used up his allotment.

"What are you doing?," she asks instantly, exactly like he assumed she would.

"Scanning," he responds succinctly. Despite his common sense telling him otherwise, he's a bit wary of simply writing her off as 'someone involved in whatever's going on'.

"Oh." She thinks on that briefly, furrowing her brow in a gravely serious fashion. "How?"

He raises an eyebrow at her question. In his mind, there's a very fine line between curiosity and nosiness. The Doctor's always prided himself on managing to stay well on the 'curiosity' side of the line, by virtue of being able to constantly alter the line's location. "It's sonic."

"Oh," she says lamely, in the tone of voice that suggests that his reply did nothing to answer her question.

He tries to ignore her eyes, because he knows his weakness for explanatory speeches. If he looks at her, he'll find himself explaining the general principles behind psycho-physical manipulation via l-waves, and that's at least three hundred years in her future. Luckily, her attention's managed to fix itself on another part of his screwdriver.

"Where's the read-out bit? I see the scan-y bit, but how do you get readings from it? Is there a screen? It must be really small. How do you see the screen?" She blurts it all out in a single breath, as if she simply can't hold back the questions. The Doctor's head spins slightly, and he's momentarily reminded of his teachers at the academy scolding him for using his respiratory bypass when asking questions in class.

There's a brief pause while he manages to get his thoughts back together, and he turns to see her watching him expectantly.

He turns to the rock and scans it again. For the first time, he actually looks at the results.

"This is strange," he murmured to his sonic screwdriver.

"What's strange?"

"The reading."

"How's it strange?," she asks, her brow re-furrowing itself.

"It's organic."


EARLIER:

Approximately ten minutes later and two hundred light years away, the Doctor, Amy, and Rory entered a pub.

"So. A pub. Here's a pub. A nice, boring pub," The Doctor stated, waving his hand around in the air in an unintentional imitation of Vanna White. "Are you happy, Rory Williams?," he asked, in a tone that implied that he was far from happy.

"Quite." Rory had learned that the best way to annoy the Doctor was to say as little as possible. That and touch his screwdriver, but he figured the screwdriver was far too much of a symbol of certain other things for him to feel remotely comfortable touching it.

The three of them sat down at an ordinary-looking booth, and ordered hamburgers. Rory ordered a pint, as he reckoned he'd probably want one eventually.

Amy looked up at the television suspended over the bar. "They haven't got the football on," she remarked.

"Odd, that." Considering the time period they were in (the mid 2000s, according to the size of the television) and place they were in (somewhere near Birmingham, if the barmaid's accent was local), the odds were likely that a typical pub would not be showing football were astronomically low. Well, not astronomically low. Still, low.

Rory then realized his inner dialogue was starting to sound like the Doctor's outer dialogue. He whimpered softly inside his head.

The Doctor beamed at Amy. "Football! I did that. It was lovely. Remember that, Amy?"

"No."

"Right, you were in the TARDIS." He took a big bite of hamburger. "And Rory didn't exist," he noted, gesturing at Rory with the hamburger.

"Oh, I remember that," Amy said darkly. She grabbed a napkin and leaned across the table to wipe up the stray bits of the Doctor's hamburger.

"Funny story," the Doctor continued, waving his hamburger around, "I thought it had to do with sticks, and then-"

Amy then abruptly shushed him, her attention suddenly on the television behind him. The Doctor put down his hamburger and twisted around in his seat. Rory looked up from his pint.

On the television behind him, a generic newscaster-y looking woman with aggressively large shoulder-pads was talking about shocking new developments on a recent local hostage crisis. The Doctor knew this because it said so on the screen.

"The story behind this Tuesday's museum hostage crisis has taken on new depths as more information comes out about the identity of the mysterious hero," said shoulder-pad lady, with the detached soullessness of a newscaster who deserved much better than a local television station.

The Doctor couldn't help but exclaim, "Ooh, mysterious hero!"

Rory couldn't help but drawl, "Ooh, mysterious hero."

"The name of the girl who, according to witnesses, managed to single-handedly end the hostage crisis, was discovered to be Jennifer Smith, a local resident."

At that point, the screen switched to a blurry photograph of a girl. It was a rather blurry picture, obviously clipped from a much larger photograph. She was looking at something to her left, and her hand was in the middle of flicking her dark, thick braid to the back of her head.

The newscaster continued talking. "According to witnesses, Jennifer Smith passed away at the scene of the crime, but her body has not been found."

A young woman was being interviewed. "She was always there for anyone who needed it. She'd always drop everything to help. She helped me with my Josh." Her voice broke. "Without her, I couldn't have done it."

The screen then switched back to the newscaster with the shoulder-pads. "Ms Nichols is the mother of Joshua Nichols, one of the young children involved in the hostage crisis. Ms Smith was at the museum to fetch Josh. However, the identity of Ms Smith is largely unknown. Authorities have been unable to locate family members, birth records, even Ms Smith's NHS number. According to Ms Nichols, she was a student at the local university. However, there are no records of a Jennifer Smith ever having attended. Who is Jennifer Smith? If anyone has any information, please contact the police."

The newscaster disappeared, replaced by a man in a fashionably loud tie talking about the weather.

The Doctor looked at Amy. Amy looked at the Doctor. Rory looked at Amy. Then he looked at the Doctor.

"Well, that was odd," Amy said, stating the obvious.


The girl tilts her head at the Doctor. "Organic, like double the price at the grocer's, or organic like made up of organic compounds organic?"

The Doctor is momentarily puzzled about her first use of the word 'organic'. "The second one."

"But it's a rock." Her eyebrow raises itself of its own accord.

"I know," he says to her, his excitement growing. Amy knows him far too well, but she could never have predicted this. "Strange, isn't it?"

"Petrified wood, perhaps?"

"Petrified. Turned to stone. So no. This is alive. But wait." He squints and holds his sonic up in front of his face. "Oh. This is really strange," he murmurs. A slightly manic grin appears on his face. "You know how I said it was organic?"

"Yeah."

"It is. But only on the inside."

She crosses her arms. "How'd you mean?"

"I mean," he says excitedly, "that it's only organic on the inside. The outside's stone."

"So...there's something inside?"

"Good thinking, but not quite." He looks at her jumper. "What's that made of?"

"What? I don't know."

"Got any frayed edges? Any loose strands?," he asks, pointing at her sleeve. She replies with a look.

The Doctor rolls his eyes and bounds over to a small glass case. Inside the case is a feathered head-dress. She catches up to him, and the two of them stand over the glass case, staring at the head-dress. He winks at her, and shatters the case with his sonic screwdriver. Suddenly he's running back to the boulder with the head-dress on.

At this point, he's honestly surprised the girl hasn't started yelling at him. Instead, she's staring at him in bemusement, obviously struck dumb. He reaches up and plucks a feather off the head-dress. No speeches about vandalism. Funny, that. He expected her to be a shouter. He steps to the boulder, and lightly brushes its surface with the feather. The feather disappears from his hand as it's sucked inside the rock.

"See? Organic." He fishes through his pocket, eventually finding an Irish sixpence piece. He throws it at the rock, and it bounces off and clatters on the floor by the girl's feet. She picks it up and studies it.

"Not organic. Nickel, in fact," he tells her as she flips it over in her hand.

Sixpence still in hand, she nods up at the feathered head-dress on the Doctor's head. "What do you reckon the rest of that's made of?"

"Oh, leather, I imagine. Why?"

She smiles at him, grabs the head-dress, and throws it into the rock.


EARLIER:

The Doctor looked at his hamburger. Amy looked at Rory. Rory looked at his pint. It was empty.

"It's mysterious," Amy continued, like a dog at a bone. An adorable ginger dog with a bone of mysteries. A bone of adventures. A mysterious adventure bone. "Don't you think?"

"Mmm," the Doctor replied. He thought briefly about his metaphor, and then felt embarrassed by it.

Amy apparently, had simply refused to let this one go. "How are you not interested? I'm interested."

There was a brief awkward pause during which the Doctor waited to see how long it would take for Amy to figure out that he wasn't going to answer.

"It's a bit odd," Rory lamely offered. It was odd.

She grinned delightedly at him, and then shot a slightly teasing grin at the Doctor. Rory reflected on how ridiculously charming she was. "Yeah, Rory! It's odd! Don't you want to check it out?"

For the Doctor, this was less about being interested and more about not establishing a precedent. Humans. Give them an inch, et cetera. He also had absolutely no plans on spending his leisure time standing by helplessly as a young girl died in his arms. Amy simply had no grasp on the situation. Sure, he tried to save lives, and for the most part he did, but sometimes...some things were inevitable.

As per his previous rule, Rory said as little as possible, which was nothing.

Her delighted grin turned sour as she surveyed the two of them. "You two," she said. "You're ridiculous. And you-what happened to adventures?"

"We just had an adventure," the Doctor pointed out. "With the pirates and the singing."

Amy was unimpressed.

He sighed. "What do you suggest we do? It's not like there's anything we can do about it. It's over."

"You. Have. A. Time. Machine," Amy gritted out, every period in that sentence perfectly audible to the Doctor's superior sense of hearing.

Despite Amy's skillful use of punctuation, the Doctor was not deterred. "And when we get there we get to watch a young girl sacrifice her life for a group of innocents? Not my idea of a holiday."

"We can stop it," she said, obviously thinking it a reasonable argument.

"People die, Amy. There's nothing we can do."

"Oh, is this like fixed or what?"

He sat back in his booth and folded his hands. "I don't know how to handle hostage situations," he stated bluntly. "Generally I'm in them."

Rory snorted.

"So we learn." It would have been more inspiring, the Doctor thought, had it been aimed at anyone other than him. He was completely above inspirational speeches.

Rory, on the other hand, had figured out the main fallacy in Amy's argument. "It's because there's no aliens. Right, Doctor?"

He blustered a bit. "No, that is not it. Not entirely." Amy looked over at Rory with the tiniest of smiles. "My point still stands. No museum hostages," the Doctor proclaimed, slamming his fist on the table for emphasis and subsequently apologizing for the noise.

"What if there are aliens?" Amy wheedled, blinking at the Doctor.

Amy's statement inadvertently hit upon another of the Doctor's biggest pet peeves about humans. You show them one instance of aliens ingratiated in their society, waiting for the chance to fulfill their evil schemes and destroy the human race, and they assume that aliens are everywhere, plotting to take over the planet. Seriously. Like that one bloke. Took him out on the one trip, stopped an infestation of temporally shifted crocodiles from Tenochtitlan in the sewers of Boston, and now he runs a show on the History Channel. Humans.

"I mean it! There's something strange about this thing." The Doctor crossed his arms, bracing himself for the next onslaught of reasonable arguments. "Aren't your timey-wimey senses tingling?" The Doctor visibly started at the phrase 'timey-wimey senses'.

"I don't have timey-wimey senses," Actually he did, but he preferred to not call them that.

"I've got a hunch," Amy continued, "and I think that we should check it out."

"It is pretty odd," Rory stated. It was, after all, pretty odd.

"Think about it. How could a girl like that," Amy said, gesturing at the television, "take down someone holding people hostage?"

She had a point. He hated it when they had a point. They always got all smug.

"And she doesn't exist. Hasn't got any identification."

The Doctor was trying to not be interested.

"And they haven't found the body."

The Doctor didn't answer. He looked up at the television, which was again displaying the blurry photo of Jennifer Smith. He stared at the at the screen until the image disappeared. With a resigned sigh, he tore his eyes from the screen and looked directly at Amy.

"Fine."

Amy squeaked with joy.

"Just let me finish this hamburger."


The girl silently watches as the Doctor scans the boulder for the twenty-sixth time. When the end of the screwdriver lights up, her eyes widen. She cocks her head, which is obviously filled with questions, and asks, "Why's it green?"

"The rock?" The Doctor asks, slightly confused.

She points at the tip of the screwdriver. "No," she says, "The scan-y bit. Why's it green? I mean, as opposed to any other color. Does it make a difference?"

He stops scanning. That's actually a pretty good question. He holds the screwdriver in front of him and regards it, thinking about his answer. "No, I suppose not," he says thoughtfully. "I've had other colors. Last one was blue. Before that it was red. They all worked the same way."

"Ah." She nods her head.

His mind quickly flits back to the boulder, and he steps back from it, all the while musing. There's something strange about this rock. Not only is it apparently organic which, mind you, makes no sense, it's also smooth. Impossibly smooth. Like it's been polished. One thing about archeology museums is that they tend to not polish the artifacts. And why is this in an archaeology museum? It's a rock. And-

His mouth opens slightly, and the contents of his inner monologue come spilling out, almost as if someone had redirected the flow of a stream of water.

"-that's not the only strange thing about this rock. It's like-"

"Like you have to touch it," the girl murmurs. He's momentarily taken aback. It's not often someone finishes his inner monologues. He looks over at the girl, and she's regarding the rock with her eyebrows furrowed together and her head sideways. He's known her all of five minutes, but already he knows that's her thinking face. He's not usually this perceptive. Maybe it's that her face is just that open. He looks down and sees her hand stretched out toward the rock.

"Don't," he says sharply, much sharper than he's used to in this body. Her hand instantly drops down to her side, and she stands up straight and looks directly at him in one strangely swift motion, like it's a conditioned reflex.

When she sees his reaction, she instantly relaxes and smiles slightly. "Thanks for that," she says.

"Of course," he replies, with all the stiff British deference he can muster. The two of them stand in a brief relieved silence that only a brush with danger can create.

He realizes he's most likely just saved this girl's life, and that she's probably not leaving his side until this business with the hostages and the funky rock thing is through. He doesn't even know her name. Of course, he assumes this is the Jennifer Smith from the television at the pub, but there's no way to be certain. Besides, the fact that one knows someone else's name before they've introduced themselves is a fact that one should generally avoid divulging. That was a lesson that took him a rather long time to learn.

"I'm the Doctor, by the way," he says conversationally. "Should have mentioned that earlier."

The girl stiffens.


EARLIER:

Approximately an hour later, Amy and Rory were waiting for the Doctor. In a police station. Amy leaned against a desk, picking at her nail polish and glaring at the door through which the Doctor had disappeared twenty minutes earlier with the officer on duty. Rory peered into a nearby cell, and jumped when a somewhat conscious man opened his eyes and blinked wearily at him.

"Haven't seen the inside of one of these in ages," He remarked offhandedly, as the man in the cell wandered over to the toilet and sat down on the lid.

That statement briefly shook Amy out of her train of thought, and she raised an eyebrow at him.

"What?" It's not like she wasn't there.

If Rory had lacked a sense of self-preservation, he would have called the look on Amy's face a pout. As it was, he was hard-pressed to come up with anything else to call it. "We're not doing anything," she pouted.

At that moment, almost as if it had been scripted, or as if he had been listening at the door, the Doctor burst out of the office. "Yes, we are."

"I thought we were going to figure out what happened," Amy said, only slightly petulantly.

With a blithe wave of his hand, he responded. "We are. We're investigating. We're investigators."

"We're at a police station," Amy helpfully pointed out, as the Doctor scanned the man in the cell with his screwdriver.

"So?"

"So, why are we not at the scene of the crime?," Amy hissed, in an obvious attempt to avoid being overheard. It was mostly successful, if only for the fact that the only person who could have theoretically heard her was currently passed out on a toilet inside a jail cell.

"We're interviewing. We're interviewers." He then grabbed a pad of paper and pen from the constable's desk and scribbled something that looked like 'funky rock thing'.

Rory looked over his shoulder. "Puffy rod thing? What puffy rod thing?"

"Funky rock thing. Much different. Also, I found another thing. Evidently, no one remembers what happened. They've all got different stories; most don't even remember anything. But, BUT. They all remember her," the Doctor said, poking the pad of paper with a satisfyingly solid 'plonk' where he had written the name 'Jennifer Smith'. "And they all say she saved their lives."

"So, what do you think, Doctor?," Amy asked.

"What do I think? This is your investigation. You're the sleuth," he told Amy, as he glided out the front door of the police station.

"I'm the sleuth?"

"Amelia Pond, time-traveling sleuth," the Doctor called over his shoulder.

"Actually, it's Williams now." Rory stated, mildly put out. As he walked alongside Amy as they left the police station, he experienced a sudden fit of premonitory dread. He could see the rest of his life. He saw himself, Rory Pond, the time-traveling sleuth's husband, constantly correcting people on his and Amy's names. Damn it.


"And you are?"

Staring at the rock, she answers slowly. "Jenny. I'm Jenny."

He smiles reassuringly at her, but she doesn't look at him like he had expected; rather she begins blinking furiously at the boulder.

"I'm Jenny," she repeats, quieter this time.


EARLIER:

So, this is where the hostage thing happened?," Amy asked, shining her torch into the next room.

"Mm hm," the Doctor replied grumpily. For a hostage situation, there were far too few hostages. In fact, there were no hostages. That struck him as odd, despite the fact that he was actively trying to ignore odd things. "Though I don't see any hostages, do you?"

Rory, on the other hand, was looking around the darkened room, which, of course, was filled with back-lit reconstructions of paleolithic skeletons. "I know we've been in far more dangerous places, but for some reason, this place gives me the creeps." Saying things gave him the creeps was a sure way of relieving some of the tension that was currently building up somewhere in his fear gland. Being a nurse, he knew there was no such thing as a fear gland, but he reckoned if there was, his would be completely filled with dread.

"It's just because it's night," The Doctor told him, obviously trying to be helpful. "Pretend we're on a planet where night is day and day is night, that'll do it."

"What?" Rory wasn't sure if he simply misunderstood the Doctor, or if he genuinely heard that spectacularly stupid statement.

Amy stated briskly, "So, we're going to look for the hostages?"

"No," the Doctor answered. "You're going to look for the hostages. I didn't want to go here. I'm just the one who brought you here. I'm your cabby. Call me the cabby. No, don't call me the cabby. Call me the Doctor."

"Well, you're just a big wet blanket, aren't you?"

The Doctor bade them leave with a wave of his hand. After they left, he looked over at the boulder in the center of the room.


Jenny begins to say something, but it comes out as a small croaking noise.

"Excuse me?"

"There's nothing," she says, with a raw sort of bitterness. "absolutely nothing. Tell me..."

At this, she coughs back a sob. "Tell me you looked," she blurts, the words rushing out almost of their own volition. "Tell me you thought about me. I don't care if it's a lie, just tell me you-"

"I'm sorry, but I've never-"

"Give me your hand!"

Wordlessly, he holds out his left hand. She places it on her heart. He finds his gaze somehow captured by the sight of her bright green eyes, locked onto his like they're a lifeline. And then she moves his hand to the other side of her chest.

"You're...you're-," and he grabs hold of her, briefly lifting her up off her feet. She's clutching his shoulders, and he's wrapped his arms around her tight enough to ensure that nothing could pry her from him. He can't believe the universe let this happen to him. She's sobbing into his chest, apologizing over and over again, and with a rush of paternal instincts he'd thought long forgotten, he clumsily kisses the top of her head and murmurs comforting words. He doesn't know what she's sorry for, but whatever it is, he knows that there was really never anything to forgive.


MEANWHILE:

"They've got to be around here somewhere," Amy says to Rory, shining her torch down another darkened doorway.

"Yeah. What then? It's not like we can defend ourselves."

She scoffs. "You're so sure we're going to be attacked."

"Um, yeah, yeah I am."

"Amy, we're walking directly into a hostage situation. A hostage situation in which someone died. Let's just go find the Doctor."

"We're not looking for the hostages."

"No?"

"We're looking for Jennifer Smith."

Then he figures out what Amy's motive actually is. She wants to save this girl's life. It's a noble move, and he can't help but admire his wife, but at the same time, every science-fiction movie Rory's ever seen is telling him that this is a spectacularly bad idea. "I'm not really sure about this plan."

He turned around and opened the door they had just walked through. Just then, an animal the size of a truck crashed through the ceiling.


After he's sure her heaving sobs have ceased, he grabs her shoulders and looks her over. "You've regenerated."

She gives him a slightly nonplussed look, the effect of which is ruined when she wipes her nose.

"Changed your face," he explains.

She knows, and her expression makes that perfectly clear, but the Doctor's too busy marveling at her existence to notice. He grins as he stares at her nose. "You look like me!"

"I do?"

"Not this me. A bit like last me, and a bit like the me, oh, three mes before that. Three? Yeah, three. The Scottish one."

The idea of looking like him, and his obvious joy at seeing her again, makes her face light up. "You were Scottish? How can you be Scottish?"

"No idea. I just was. Don't tell Amy."

Just as Jenny opens her mouth to ask him about Amy, he goes on. "Of course, last you looked like me too. But those were different mes."

"Were those Scottish?," she asks, which makes him laugh, a deep belly laugh.

"Nah." He picks her up again and whirls her around. "Ha! You've been going by 'Smith', too!"

"How'd you know?"

"I came here looking for you! I didn't know it was you; in fact the thought didn't even cross my mind. But it's you!"

"You didn't know it was me?"

"Nope," he replies, entirely missing the edge in her voice.

Her face seems to draw in on itself. "Did you look for me?," she asks quietly.

The Doctor's glee vanishes. He leans forward and grabs her shoulders, looking intently into her eyes. "I didn't know you were alive."

Her face falls, a mask of confusion and hurt. She stares at him, scrutinizing him so closely he could almost swear she was able to read his mind. Her head then tilts to the side and back up again as she quickly figures something out. She grins slightly. "Oh...oh, I see. You haven't-"

"Haven't what?"

"Nothing," she says as her slight grin widens to a full-on enigmatic smile. The Doctor can't help but feel a rush of pride. For Time Lords, a child's first enigmatic statement is considered a major developmental milestone, along with a child's first steps or first words. Then again, she knows something he doesn't. Bit of a double-edged sword.

The Doctor and Jenny share a look as they hear a distant crash that sounds rather like a truck-sized animal falling through the ceiling. They run.


"Doctor!" Amy screams as he comes into view. He runs to her, clasping Jenny's hand, and the three of them watch the large animal as it writhes on the floor, glass shards scraping loudly against the marble floor as it moves. On the other side of the room, Rory slowly stands up and brushes the glass off his jeans.

"Everyone OK?," the Doctor asks.

"Fine," Amy replies, checking her hands for cuts.

"We're all fine. Well, except for that thing," Rory answered. He gestures to the large animal in the center of the room.

It's a bit smaller than a truck, more like the size of a minivan. Its pale loose skin reminds Amy of an albino lizard she had seen once, but that's where the reptilian similarity ends. It's clearly a mammal of some sort, albeit a giant yellowish hairless flying mammal from space. It stretches out a leg in an attempt to get back up, and she notices the claws. The animal stretches out its bat-like wings, making it seem much bigger, and Amy reasoned that it must have have been using its wings as a parachute as it fell.

The Doctor walks slowly over to it, Jenny in tow, and reaches out a hand to kindly pat its snout. It snarls. Jenny shrieks. He takes that as an invitation to get her well outside of biting distance.

The animal manages to regain its footing, and lifts its nose and sniffs, making oddly canine snuffling noises. It obviously finds something interesting, because it abruptly begins walking unsteadily through the rubble, in the direction of the door. Rory bounds over to pull Amy out of the way, as she's standing directly in front of the door. The animal smashes through the door.

"Where's it going?," Amy asks, as it gallops away.

The Doctor grimaces. "I don't know," he replies, "but I do know it's going in the direction of the TARDIS."

With that, he dashes off and pulls Jenny along behind him.


The four of them stand in the room with the boulder. Rory reaches out to touch it.

"Don't touch it!" The Doctor shouts. Jenny points to a sign that states 'DO NOT TOUCH'. "Funny how I didn't notice that before."

Jenny smiles at him. "Would you have cared?"

He beams at her.

Amy boggles. "You're Jennifer Smith," she states.

"She's Jenny," the Doctor corrects.

"I'm his-"

"She's my daughter!"

"Your what?!"

"My daughter!"

"Yup." Jenny adds, swaying slightly with her hands in her pockets. The Doctor briefly marveled. It was like looking at a tiny version of himself. A tiny female version of himself. A tiny female version of himself with a purple anorak. A tiny female version of himself with a purple anorak and a braid.

"Who's her mum?," Amy asks.

Jenny winks at her. "Don't have one."

Amy boggles.

Rory, on the other hand, is unsurprised. Disgusted, but unsurprised.

The giant hairless yellowish flying mammal from space then decides to amble over to the boulder and lift its leg.

"MOVE MOVE MOVE!" The Doctor yells. He's more freaked out than Amy or Rory have ever seen him.

They cower in a dark corner as the animal starts clawing at the boulder.

"Is he marking his territory?," Rory asks.

"No," the Doctor answers. "See how he's only clawing at the one spot? He's actually being quite careful."

"He wants the inside!" Jenny says. Amy shushes her.

"No, no, the inside's alive, it's organic, and it's all sucky! It sucks in organic material!," she continued excitedly. "It's hungry!"

"Again, Jenny, good thinking, but entirely wrong," the Doctor says. "Think about it. What else is hard on the outside and gushy on the inside?"

"Mollusks?"

"Jelly molds?"

"Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop?"

The Doctor stares at them in amazement.

"Eggs!" He nearly shouts. "Eggs, an egg, it's an egg!"

"Oh," the three of them quietly chorus.

"Thought you knew that, Jenny, seeing as how you knew not to touch it in the first place," the Doctor noted.

"How could I know that? I knew that everyone was gone, and that the only thing new was that rock."

"You were sleuthing, weren't you?," he says to her, grinning slyly.

"Why yes, yes I was."

"Good girl." Jenny beams.

The Doctor steps out from the corner, grabbing Jenny and pulling her along with him. "The thing is, I think I've figured out what type of egg it is."

"And?"

"It's unfertilized."

"So he's trying to-"

"Yes."

"And there's people inside."

"Yes."

Jenny's head tilts. "That's disgusting."

"Yes. Well, that's reproduction for you. Messy."

"But there's people in there!"

"That's the first stage. Dissolve the organic matter. Hence the clawing. He's going to inject the egg with acid."

Jenny's eyes widen. "We have to save them! When he gets the egg open, we can pull them out!"

He's silent.

"We have to save them!" She repeats.

He regards her for a few seconds. "Do we?"

Jenny looks up at him, shock evident on her face.

"All he wants to do is preserve his species. He doesn't want to hurt anyone. He easily could have killed us all earlier."

"But-"

"For all we know, he could be the last of his species."

At that she is silent. After several seconds, she speaks up.

"I get what you're trying to teach me. I do, I really do. Humans don't have any more inherent 'right to life' than any other beings in the universe. Believe me, I know that."

"So what are you going to do?"

She looks up at him, the faintest flash of steel in her eyes. "I'm going to save them."


Ten minutes later, thirty-six people are saved, the animal is unconscious, and Jenny is a hero. She's standing in the center of a group of people, looking embarrassed at the attention. Someone asks her name, and she doesn't give them a surname. It's not like she needs one anymore.

Rory is tending to an acid burn on a small boy's arm. Amy steps through the shattered stone and picks up a feathered head-dress. She places it on a nearby display. The Doctor approaches, a feather in his hand, and sticks it in the head-dress. She smiles at him.

"So, your daughter, huh?"

"Yeah," he says. He's not smiling, but his eyes shine at her.

"Did you know?"

"No," he says, "No, I didn't...I couldn't have."

"But it's good, yeah? Not being alone?"

"Oh, Amy, I was never alone."

"You know what I mean."

"Yeah," he acquiesces. "Yeah it is."

Amy smiles. "We saved her. She was dead, and we saved her. And now you're not alone."

The Doctor's silent for a long moment. His face darkens.

"Yeah. Yeah, we did."

Just then, past the shoulders of the people around her, Jenny sees the briefest glimpse of something that never happened.


Jenny manages to disentangle herself from the crowd and walks over to her father. "Was it wrong?"

The Doctor sighs. "I honestly don't know."

"Did I do all right?," she asks shyly.

"All right?" He laughs, a short breath of air. "Jenny, you saved thirty-six people. Of course that's all right."

She's still not entirely convinced. "Look," he says seriously, grabbing her shoulders lightly, "I'll never tell be able to tell you if something is right or wrong. Just always, always make sure that you make sure you're doing it for the right reasons."

"Doctor!" Amy calls.

"Ok," he chuckles as he ruffles her hair, "come along, Jenny."

And the two of them go into the TARDIS.