The Doctor had made Wyn’s last days in his company fun. It had been a great Christmas. One of the best she had known.

But now it was over. Christmas was gone. It was nearly New Year and the clock on the TARDIS console said it was time for her to go home. The Doctor said nothing about it as he programmed the return to New Year 2010 as he had promised to Nine. But when the course was set he left the console and came to sit beside her as she sat on the sofa strumming her electric guitar which was plugged into K-9 instead of the usual mini-amp. His sound box did the job very nicely even if it wasn’t one of the uses The Doctor had envisaged.

“I’m going to miss you,” he told her. “As much as I missed your mum when she went off to marry your dad.”

“You mean hardly at all,” she said with a wry smile. “You got a new girl to go around with you almost straight away.”

“I missed your mum LOADS,” he assured her. “And I’ll miss YOU, Wyn. But the deal was a year with me and then you go home.”

“I know,” she said. “I keep thinking different things. First I feel sick because I don’t want to go home, because I want to stay with you. Then I feel sick because I miss mum and dad and I WANT to go home. But then I think again about how much I’ll miss you. How about you just move in with us then I could have the best of both worlds.”

“I don’t think Llanfairfach has enough going on for me,” he said. “Mind you… the peace and quiet, the clean air… the friendly locals…. I might just retire to the valleys when I’m done roaming the universe.”

“Yeah, right!” she laughed. “I can just see that - you living in one of the old miner’s cottages, tending the window boxes and keeping pigeons in the back yard and spending all afternoon in the pub with all the other old fogies.”

The Doctor laughed at her vision of retirement. Even if his life did seem wearisome on occasions he had to agree that scenario did not fit him.

One day, perhaps, he would give up the wandering, but not for a pipe and slippers and the slow descent into oblivion.

“We’re nearly there,” he said. “Have you got everything you want to take with you?”

“All packed,” she told him. “Everything but K9 and my guitar. But… you’re not going to just shoot off are you? You’ll want to spend a bit of time with mum won’t you? She’ll want to spend time with YOU. It was getting embarrassing last time, when we brought Stella to her. She was SO all over you it's a wonder dad wasn’t jealous. She must have spent at least ten minutes trying to snog your face off. Which, by the way, I have to say, was absolutely cringingly disgusting as far as I’m concerned. I mean, you’re 1,000 years old, which makes you WAY too old for her and you LOOK the same age as my BROTHER. Either way it's disgusting.”

“If I promise to keep the snogging to a minimum I thought we might all stay for New Year,” he said. “One last party together. Your dad’s organic chardonnay and your mum’s home baked nibbles and Auld Lang Syne in Welsh!”

“I could live with that,” she agreed. “Just remember about the snog level.”

He laughed again and hugged her then went to the console. Alec and Jasmin were hovering nearby. They had given him the space to have that heart to heart talk with Wyn, but they looked as if they needed to talk to him, too. They got straight to the point.

“Doctor,” Alec began. “We were thinking… after you take Wyn home… after the New Year… we ought to think about going home, too.”

“Oh.” He was disconcerted momentarily. He looked at them both standing there, holding hands. “Oh… well… yes… I suppose you must do what you think right for you. I just didn’t expect….”

“We don’t want you to feel we’re leaving you in the lurch,” Jasmin said. “But… it's so easy to forget about time passing in the TARDIS. It would be so easy to stay travelling on with you for years and years. And if we did that, then we’d miss out on all the things we want to do. I WANT to qualify as a doctor. And Alec wants to be an engineer. And though we’ve BOTH learnt a lot from you, we really need to get to a REAL university soon.”

“I understand,” he said. He did, but it didn’t take away the lead feeling in his stomach as he contemplated going on without them all.

Then he smiled brightly despite himself.

“Perfect idea. New Year at Wyn’s house, and then a short hop to Manchester in 2025. I’ll drop you off for your first day of term.”

They smiled too, relieved that he was not upset and went to sit with Wyn. She had picked up her guitar and she was playing it quietly. She had got very good at it in the year she had spent with him.

Another thing he would miss.

He was looking at his soon departing friends and trying to seem cheerful about it as he initiated the landing. He did it instinctively, his hands moving over the console like a virtuoso pianist who never has to look at the keys. He never hit the wrong note. He knew the TARDIS console and it knew him.

So he was sure it wasn’t his fault when the console suddenly sparked and crackled and lit up like an electrical storm. He tried to take his hands away but they seemed fused to the console. As the strange energy current raced through his body his brain shut down in defence. He just about had time to tell the others not to touch him before everything went black.

“Doctor!” Wyn’s voice was the first he heard as he slowly regained consciousness. Jasmin’s was the second, telling her to fetch a glass of water for him. He felt Alec’s arm lifting him up as the glass was pressed to his lips. He recognised its taste at once. Cool, clean water was created by the TARDIS in endless supply by mixing two parts of hydrogen to one part of oxygen and adding in wholesome minerals that would make fashionable spring water manufacturers cry into their bottling machines. It was a taste he had come to recognise over the centuries. And it was the proof he needed that they WERE all still alive and this wasn’t a last echo of life as his spirit found its way to the place where good Time Lords go when they die.

He opened his eyes and looked up. His sight was strangely blurred, but he recognised the medical room of his own TARDIS. He was in bed and somebody – he wasn’t going to ask who – had undressed him and put him into a pair of pyjamas.

Not the first time he had woken up in pyjamas, he thought, but the first time it had happened in the TARDIS. Usually he just came around lying on the mesh floor. How many times had he wound up on his back when the landing was a bumpy one? Wyn suggested ages ago putting in crash mats. He had laughed. Falling over was half the fun, he had said.

It didn’t feel like fun this time. He felt as if the medical room was the right place for him. The water helped. His throat had been burning. But the rest of his body felt awful. Every bone ached. Every muscle was screaming with agony. It hurt to breathe and his hearts felt as if they must have stopped at least once while he was unconscious.

Which one of you did CPR on me?” he asked and his voice sounded strange too.

“We all did,” Alec told him. Several times. Both hearts were stopped the first time. We managed to bring you back. Then one or the other kept going off. It's been a struggle just to keep you alive. But….”

“Doctor… how do you feel?” Jasmin asked cautiously.

“Like I’m a thousand years old,” he answered. “How do I look?”

“About seventy,” Wyn told him.

“What?” He lifted his hands slowly and stared at the hands of an old man, the skin loose and translucent on brittle bones. He touched his face and felt it lined and wrinkled with age. “What happened to me?”

“I don’t know,” Jasmin said. “Except… it sort of looks as if your body is trying to look your real age.”

“Help me up,” he asked. Alec reached and held his shoulders and took the strain as he pulled himself upright. He nearly screamed as arthritic pain shot through his body. He could barely stand on his own legs. He tried to block the pain but his usual Time Lord tricks merely dulled the feeling rather than taking it away.

He clutched at Alec’s shoulder and focussed eyes that he realised were suffering from cataracts. He managed to squint at the clock on the medical room wall. It told him he had been unconscious for about five hours. His own body clock concurred in that assessment, but reluctantly.

“Take me through to the console room,” he said. Slowly, painfully, with Alec supporting him all the way, they reached it. When he saw the console his hearts sank with dismay. She was going nowhere for a while. There was major damage to all the circuits. It would take days of work to get operational again even if he was fit. As it was he didn’t know what they were going to do.

“K-9 is busted too,” Wyn said mournfully. “He got hit by a power surge.” She glanced over to the corner where the robot dog was slightly smoking from the nasal outlet.

“I’ll fix him,” The Doctor promised. “Did we land?” he added. “Are we…”

“We landed,” Wyn told him. “You overshot a bit, though. You missed Llanfairfach and buried us in the cavern in the middle of Llanfairfach Peak. You know, the one where we dealt with the dragon lady.”

“Oh.” The Doctor tried to focus his fuzzy mind on those facts. “That… explains this then.”

“It does?”

“The cavern had been held in a zero temporal bubble for centuries. I destroyed the bubble and time raced back into it. But it looks like it didn’t just go back to normal. I think time is still fluctuating within it, reacting against anything that is artificially held back from aging. I AM 1,000 years old. And the cavern is forcing my body to look like I’m that age.”

“Like it was fed up of being messed about with before so now it’s not going to let anyone else mess with it?” Wyn said.

“Yes,” he answered. He swayed dizzily and Alec and Wyn between them helped him to sit down on the battered old leather chair by the console. “It's a powerful force, too. It got to me even inside the TARDIS. Most things can’t do that.”

“Does it mean you’re going to die?” Jasmin asked fearfully.

“1,000 is only middle aged for a Time Lord,” The Doctor explained to her. “But part of my DNA is Human. That’s the weakness it has attacked. I seem to be experiencing all the frailties of Human old age.”

“What about your regenerative cells? Isn’t your body capable of repairing damage to it?”

“It seems to be tied up keeping my liver and kidneys from failing,” he answered. “And speaking of internal bodily functions…. Alec…” Alec moved closer to him and he whispered something to him. Alec looked disconcerted but nodded and helped him to stand up again. He moved slowly towards the inner door that led to the bedrooms, kitchen and….


Wyn and Jasmin were both surprised when they returned.

“Where did you get that?” Wyn asked as she looked at the old fashioned wheelchair The Doctor was sitting in. She went to help him lift it up over the step between the console and the outer edges of the room.

“I found it in that junk room near the dojo. I thought it would help. It hurts him to walk. This way is better.”

“It’s not better,” The Doctor protested with something of the irritableness of an old man coming through in his frustration about his situation. “I’ve never needed anyone else’s help to do anything. It was bad enough having to ask to be taken to the loo… but being wheeled around… like an invalid….”

“For the time being you ARE an invalid,” Jasmin told him. “You have to accept that until we can work out what to do.”

“What can we do?” Alec asked. “The TARDIS is out of action, and so is The Doctor.”

“You can repair the TARDIS,” Wyn told him. “You’re into engineering. The Doctor can tell you what to do. And you repair it.”

“Yes,” The Doctor said. “Yes, that would work. Need diagnostic… Portable fault locator… panel under the environmental console….”

Alec looked where he was pointing and found what looked like an overlarge Ipod. He switched it on and what to him were meaningless figures scrolled down the LCD screen. He passed it to The Doctor and he held it close to his eye as he read the figures. Apparently they meant something to him.

“Life support is about the only system not damaged. We’re in for a long day’s work, Alec.”

“If we get you out of the cavern will you be yourself again? Wyn asked. “Will you get better?”

“You mean will I get young again?”

“Yes, I suppose. Will you?”

“I think so,” he said. “If it doesn’t go on too long. My cells are under a lot of strain. I can hold out for a little while but….”

“Will you regenerate if it goes too far?”

“It wouldn’t help if I did,” he told her. “The force within the cavern would still push against me. And I only have another three lives. Then I DO die… forever.”

“Then we’ve got to do something. Alec is going to help fix the TARDIS. But that might take ages. Jasmin can look after your medical needs. I’m… What I’m good at is Llanfairfach. Outside this mountain is my home. I’m going to go and see if there is some way out. I’m going to try to get help.” She found a rope, a torch and a bottle of water and a backpack with supplies and slipped outside the TARDIS.

Jasmin watched her progress for a little while on the viewscreen then turned back to The Doctor. She was worried about him. He was struggling to cope with half a dozen age related ailments at once, from cataracts to arthritis. His breathing was laboured and both his hearts had taken a massive strain. He was lucky to be alive as it was.

“Alec,” The Doctor said. “Fix the computer system first, then it can run schematics of whatever else is damaged and if I get worse and I can’t talk you through it you might be able to manage to do most of it by yourself.”

“All right,” Alec said and he followed The Doctor’s instructions carefully. It was hard going. The Doctor kept stopping just to breathe. But his mind was sharp enough and he never lost track of what he was telling him.

“I’m going to give you a painkiller,” Jasmin said to him after watching him wince with pain every time he moved his hands.

“I don’t need it,” he protested.

“You do,” she insisted. “You’re hurting.” She prepared a syringe and inserted it into his arm. He looked at her as she was tending to him and his expression was heartbreaking. He was used to being the strong one, taking care of them. Now he was as helpless as a baby, dependent on them even for his most embarrassingly intimate needs.

“Just… don’t give me anything that affects my mind,” he made her promise. “No sedatives or sleeping drugs. My mind is all I have left. Don’t take that away.”

“I won’t, but you must try to be calm. And tell me when you need more painkillers. Don’t be a martyr. I’m here to look after you. Let me do that for you.”

“You’re a good girl, Jasmin. You’re going to be a very good doctor.”

“I’ll do my best,” she told him.

“No,” he said. “You WILL be a good doctor. I know you will. I saw it in you before you came along with me in the TARDIS. I’ve seen your future Jasmin, and it's going to be a good one.”

“For both of us?” she asked. “Me AND Alec?”

“Oh yes,” he assured her. “You’re both going to do fine.”

“That’s nice to know. Makes it feel worthwhile. We were both ready to throw it all in before we met you. So many pressures from our parents, trying to live up to everyone’s expectations but our own.”

“You know something,” he whispered. “I know exactly what you mean. I was a student once… long, long time ago.” He sighed. “Feels a very long time ago right now.”

“That’s enough chatting,” she decided. “You rest until Alec needs you again.” He reached out his hand to her and she took it. She held it tightly until she knew he had fallen asleep and then she pulled a blanket around him gently. She sat and watched Alec working underneath the TARDIS console.

Wyn was tired. Her arms and legs ached from climbing, her knees and hands were scraped and sore, and she wasn’t even sure she was getting anywhere. She knew there WAS an entrance to the caves around here in the year 956. But she had never heard of one in her own time. She was only half hopeful that there would be something up here.

Lost in caves! She laughed. It was the sort of thing that happened in the sort of books other kids read when she was younger. The Enid Blyton type of thing. She had never bothered with that sort of adventure. She had Autons and Sea Devils and Daleks and The Master.

She thought about the one story her mum loved to tell more than any other. The one set not on another planet or London or Scotland or another planet, but right here in Llanfairfach. The descriptions of being trapped in the mine with creepy giant maggots and deadly glowing fungus made for a strange kind of bedtime story. She would have had screaming nightmares but for the one thing that was constant in all the stories.

The Doctor.

Her mum always told her there was nothing in the universe to be scared of as long as The Doctor was around.

And for the past eighteen months that had been true for her. She had seen and done all sorts of thing but she had known that she could rely on The Doctor. He was there for her whenever she was in trouble.

Now he was in trouble and she had to be there for him. She had to be the hero and find a way out of here, get help for him.

“There…” Alec gave a triumphant cry as the computer database fired up. “Doctor… I did it. It’s working.”

“I knew you could do it,” he said in a hoarse voice that seemed an effort. “Now… run… programme… diagnostic 43YUXP.”

Alec did as he said. The computer immediately responded with a whole series of schematics and details that told him what was wrong with the rest of the console. Alec felt dizzy as he saw just how much work was ahead. But he looked at the first schematic and went to work.

“He’s asleep again,” Jasmin said as she checked on The Doctor and then went to where Alec was working. “It's better for him. He’s not in so much distress but I don’t know. If we don’t get out of here….”

“I’m working as fast as I can,” Alec said. “But there’s so much to be done. The trouble is, the schematic is what the TARDIS looked like when it was new. But… under here…. there must be five hundred years of changes… alterations, rewiring, cross-wiring, things added, things taken away. It makes it harder. I think Wyn has more chance of getting help the old-fashioned way. But it might be too late for him.”

“What do we do if he dies?” Jasmin asked.

“Get used to living in South Wales,” Alec suggested. “Fifteen years behind our real time. It's only 2010, you know. We were… three.”

“That’s weird, isn’t it? We’re here in Wales, and in Manchester we’re just little kids.”

“That’s life with The Doctor. But life without him… I suppose we could manage. We couldn’t go to university. Our qualifications haven’t been written. But I guess we could manage.”

“Yes, we could. Although… really I wasn’t thinking about us. I know we’ll be ok. But… If he dies… what do we do… for him? Do we leave him here with the TARDIS… do we let this mountain become his tomb?”

Alec looked at Jasmin and sighed.

“Horrible thought, that. If it came to it, I suppose we should leave the TARDIS in here. It could be a dangerous piece of equipment in the wrong hands. But Wyn’s mum is a friend of his, too. I suppose we’d arrange some sort of funeral for him.”

“He’s supposed to be a prince of the universe. The most powerful man in creation… a GOD… We’re just going to bury him in a little churchyard in a Welsh mining village?”

“Doesn’t seem enough, does it. I suppose his end ought to be something dramatic like a Viking burial – his body on a burning ship sailing out into the night.”

“I’m not dead yet.”

Jasmin turned at the sound of The Doctor’s voice and ran to his side. She felt guilty about talking that way. Of course he wasn’t dead yet. But he looked so close to death she couldn’t help wondering what they should do.

“Of course you’re not,” she told him. “You just hang in there. Do you need anything?”

“Honey,” he said.

“Honey?” she looked at him in surprise.

“Kitchen cupboard… jar of honey. Sugar… energy….”

“Ok,” she said. She went and got the honey and a spoon. She wondered if she would have to feed it to him. Did he deserve that much humiliation? But he managed to hold the spoon in a shaking hand and the pot in the other and eat enough of it for his alien body to process. She was surprised how quickly it seemed to help. He rallied enough to stay awake for a long time, advising Alec on how to repair the more delicate functions of the drive control.

“Viking burial,” he said to Jasmin after a while. “Romantic idea, good one. But I always knew how I would be buried at the end of my life. If I tell you… it doesn’t mean I’m giving up. But if I don’t tell somebody… and I don’t make it.…” He reached out his hand and pulled her near him. She listened carefully as he whispered the instructions for his Time Lord funeral if the worst should happen after all.

“Wow,” she said when he was done. “You really thought that through?”


“Ok, but lets try to make sure it doesn’t have to happen yet. Just you hold on.”

Wyn looked at the patch of daylight ahead and sighed. The Doctor would call it narrative causality. She called it Enid Blyton hell.

There was only one hole and it was just big enough for the smallest one of the group to squeeze through and run down the mountain.

The smallest one of the group was, technically, Jasmin, but she wasn’t the sort of girl who climbed up rocks and got her knees banged up.

Once she might have been bitter about that, she thought. But The Doctor had taught her one important thing. It really WAS what was inside that counted. He had never made her feel like a short, fat, useless lump. Even with Jasmin around looking demure and pretty and exotic she was still special in his eyes. He really believed in her as much as she believed in him.

She left the torch and the backpack. Once she was through she wouldn’t really need either. She took off her thick jumper and dropped that, too - anything to make herself a BIT smaller. She knew a year ago she’d have been stuffed. She HAD lost loads of weight while travelling with The Doctor, and the martial arts training meant that her muscles were strong.

She breathed in and pulled herself up towards the gap. She stretched out her hands ahead and pulled herself into the narrow space. It was painful but she could just about do it. She wriggled and kicked with her feet and grabbed at handholds ahead. She wondered what would happen if she got stuck.

The Doctor would die. Alec and Jasmin would be stuck in the cavern and it could be ages before anyone would find HER body stuck in this tiny, stupid hole.

Don’t get stuck, she told herself.

“Jasmin….” The Doctor’s voice was weak as he called to her. She was at his side in a moment. He looked bad. He wasd unable to lift his head and he was shaking.

“Are you in pain?” she asked. “Doctor….”

“Neural shock,” he whispered. “Like… like a stroke in Humans… I’m sorry, I don’t think….” He grasped her hand tightly as his body spasmed painfully. As the fit passed he slipped into unconsciousness.

“Alec, he can’t stay here any more,” she said. “Help me get him to the medical room.”

Alec quietly came and took the wheelchair in hand. Jasmin walked beside the chair as they moved quickly through the corridor. She kept her hand on The Doctor’s shoulder, feeling his pulse in the place below the clavicle where he had once shown her the correct way to check a Time Lord’s vital signs. It was there, but it was slow and weak. She was desperately worried about him.

She didn’t want to have to put those funeral arrangements he had told her about into operation.

Alec helped her to get him into the bed and then he went to get on with the repairs. She was left alone in the medical room watching the life support monitors bleeping and flashing and registering figures that told his blood pressure and heart rate and breathing, registering the processing of waste toxins through his kidneys. She watched him fall deeper into a coma she wasn’t sure he was going to wake up from. She administered pain killers regularly, though she wasn’t sure he could feel any pain now.

She could do very little more. He was alive, but only just. His vital organs were fighting to keep going as his body broke down. He was dying. He was trying not to - a part of him was still fighting. But he WAS dying and she couldn’t stop it.

“Doctor,” she whispered as she leaned over him and adjusted the saline drip in his arm that was keeping his bodily fluids up. “Doctor, I love you. We all do. If you love us, please hold on.” Then she did something that was absolutely not permitted in usual doctor patient relationships, but seemed right at this moment.

She kissed him. His lips felt cracked and dry and there was no response. It wasn’t the kind of kiss she would have liked to have shared with him, but if he was going to die, she wanted to kiss him, for all the people who loved him, all over the universe.

“Who will tell Dominique?” She wondered allowed, thinking of the woman The Doctor had given his hearts to. She would never know what happened to him. Jasmin hoped she wouldn’t think he had abandoned her.

She sat by his side and held his hand. It was the only thing left to do. There was nothing medical to be done. All she could give him now was her friendship and love.

Until the end.

Wyn ran down the side of Llanfairfach peak as fast as she could safely run. She could see her home below. It had never looked more welcome. She only hoped somebody was home. Her father, her brothers, anyone who could carry a pickaxe and a spade and make that tiny hole big enough to get through and reach Alec and Jasmin, and The Doctor if it wasn’t too late.

Alec was working as hard as he could. He knew he still had hours to go yet and he couldn’t think of stopping yet, no matter how tired he was, no matter how his back ached and his eyes stung and his fingers bled he had to keep going.

She had made it. Wyn stumbled breathlessly into the yard. There was nobody there, but the kitchen door was open. She ran for it. She was so focussed on that door that she didn’t even notice another familiar yet rather incongruous object in the yard.

“Mum….” she gasped as she stepped over the threshold. Jo looked up in surprise from where she was sitting at the kitchen table feeding Stella in her high chair. There was somebody else at the table. For a moment she could not take in his presence, but when she did she knew everything WAS going to be all right after all.

Jasmin was sure it was only a matter of minutes now. The Doctor was sinking lower all the time. She blinked back tears and scolded herself for being unprofessional as she held his hand and watched his blood pressure and hearts rate deteriorate. She knew he couldn’t feel anything now. He was too far gone. And it was a blessing, because if he was awake he would be in more pain than she could give him drugs to combat.

“I’ll miss you, Doctor,” she whispered as she held his hand against her face and cried unashamedly.

Then the door opened and a stranger in a battered leather jacket rushed in. He barely looked at her as he reached the bedside and began to examine The Doctor carefully.

“He’s hanging in there, just,” the stranger said. And then he did something very surprising. He put his hands either side of The Doctor’s head and closed his own eyes. Jasmin had the strangest feeling that he was ‘donating’ his lifeforce to The Doctor just like giving him blood. If so, it was exactly what he needed. All of his lifesigns rallied and she heard him give a deep breath.

“Twelve months ago he saved my life,” the stranger continued. “I owed him that much.” He looked around as Alec came into the medical room along with another strange man. “We need to get him out of here. Cliff, Alec, get him on a stretcher.”

“Who are you?” Jasmin asked the stranger. He turned as if he was only now aware of her.

“I’m The Doctor,” he answered.

“You’re…” She stared at him then she remembered . “Oh, you mean Wyn’s Doctor… her other Doctor….”

“When we’re both together Wyn saves confusion by calling me Nine and him Ten. Don’t ask. There’s a reason for it, but this isn’t the time or the place. And yes, Wyn is ok. She’s with her mum. She wanted to come back with me but she was worn out from running all the way. She gave her all to buy him the time.”

Nine, as he called himself, put his hand on The Doctor’s face gently as the man called Cliff and Alec moved him onto a stretcher. “Close thing. You’re lucky I thought to drop in and see how Wyn enjoyed her year with you.”

It was an awkward trek through the cavern with The Doctor on a stretcher. Nine had told Jasmin to lock the TARDIS. He congratulated Alec on the repairs he had done so far and promised help to do the rest later.

“Is the cavern affecting you as well?” Jasmin asked Nine as they made their way up the steeply sloping cavern entrance. He stopped once and put his hand to his chest in a worrying way.

“Yes, it is,” he admitted. “But I’ll be all right when we’re outside. So will he, although he’s been exposed to the time waves for longer so he’ll need time to recover.”

They walked on quietly. There were dozens of questions Jasmin and Alec both wanted to ask this other man who was the SAME man as their Doctor but in a different body. The most important one was answered though. HE was going to be all right. The Doctor was alive. They had made it.

“After we’ve got his TARDIS out of there I’ll make sure this hole is sealed up again,” Nine said as they passed through what looked like a newly created cave entrance. Alec looked at the walls and noted that some kind of energy had been applied to create the space. The rocks looked as if they had been MELTED.

“Sonic screwdriver?”

“Don’t leave home without it,” Nine grinned. “Or one of these either,” he added as they emerged into the sunshine. Another TARDIS stood on the side of the mountain. “Closest I could get without risking the same problem. I noticed there were some strange readings coming from this mountain. I was planning to check it out before Wyn turned up. That cavern is a hazard to TARDIS travel, and likely to be for a few thousand years till the effects dissipate. I think I’ll be visiting Jo by train in future.”

He opened both doors of his TARDIS. Jasmin was astonished to see that it looked exactly like their own one except it had some smarter looking sofas and there was a strange sort of cabinet lying lengthwise on the floor. Nine told Alec and Cliff to put The Doctor into it.

“No!” Jasmin cried out. “It’s a… it’s a coffin.” She tried to reach him but Nine held her back as they placed The Doctor in the cabinet and closed the lid.

“It’s not,” Nine told her. “It’s a zero cabinet. It’s what he needs right now. It’s shielded against time and space. It will help him recover. An hour in there will be like a week by the seaside.”

“Really?” Jasmin realised she was crying against soft leather as he held her in a comforting embrace. Wyn was right. The OTHER Doctor WAS a wonderful man, but she wanted HER Doctor to be all right.

“He will be,” Nine promised her. “It’s all right. You did good, all of you.”

The next morning Wyn and Jasmin were both sitting in the kitchen. Nine was fixing K-9. Jo was feeding Stella. Wyn was talking at about a thousand miles an hour, trying to relate all of her years’ adventures at once.

The door opened and they looked up. Jasmin gave a cry of delight and ran to The Doctor. Wyn was just behind her and Jo was third in the race to hug and kiss him. The newly restored K-9 whirred into action and came to greet him.

“Let the man sit down,” Nine said to them. “He was at death’s door a day ago. Don’t suffocate him.”

The Doctor smiled at his other self and sat opposite him at the table, accepting a cup of coffee.

“I owe you one,” he told him.

“I think we’re even. But who’s counting,” Nine answered. “Besides, I just arrived at the last minute. It was Wyn, Jasmin and Alec who REALLY saved your skin.”

“I know,” he admitted. “I couldn’t have asked for better friends.” Then he looked at the other Doctor and he seemed puzzled and just a bit worried. “Rose… is… Is she… Why isn’t she here with you?”

“Rose is just fine,” Nine assured him. “She’s at home. I thought it would be better… She’s….” He broke eye contact with him. But he guessed the rest.

“Congratulations,” Ten said, and he meant it. “How long till the baby is born?”

“Another ten months to go. Jackie is mental about it, of course. Every little twinge Rose has she goes off on one. Blames me for it all, of course. Typical mother-in-law.”

“Yeah, sounds like Jackie.”

“I wouldn’t have her any other way though.”

“That’s the bit I had trouble with,” Jo laughed. “I asked him how come we weren’t invited to the WEDDING and he said we’ll get the invite around about May.”

“Jo,” The Doctor smiled indulgently at her. “You know us by now. Time Lords don’t do anything in a straight line.”

“Yes,” she laughed and touched them both on the hand. “I know you both. And I’m so glad I do.”

“HE got married, too,” Wyn said, and told Nine all about The Doctor’s whirlwind romance with Dominique.

“Daleks!” Nine’s face darkened when he heard that part of the story. The Doctor had exactly the same expression. They were definitely of one mind about THAT. “But never mind them. She sounds a wonderful woman. Are you going to go back and see her?”

“Yes,” he said. “I fully intend to.” He smiled widely as he spoke and Nine met his look and understood much more than his spoken words said.

“I’m glad you’ve got somebody special in your life.”

“Thanks.” He looked around as Alec came in along with Cliff and Wyn’s three brothers.

“We’ve got most of the TARDIS circuits working now,” Alec told him. “You might want to run a full diagnostic on it, though.”

“My TARDIS.” The Doctor looked choked. “I thought I’d lost her.”

“She had a bumpy ride,” Nine told him. “The cavern was stopping me getting a lock on to slave her to mine, so we had to manhandle her down the side of the mountain. But she’s parked outside now and we’ve been working on her all night.”

“Not the New Year party I planned on having,” Cliff said with a grin.

“I don’t know what to say.” The Doctor looked around at his Human friends who had all done their best for him. He had been scathing about humanity so often. But when he needed them, they had ALL pulled together for him.

“Say you’ll stay with us a couple of days until you’re sure the TARDIS is working properly,” Jo told him. “And we’re sure YOU are working properly.”

“She wants to SNOG you,” Wyn warned him. “But that’s ok. I was so worried about you I’d almost be glad to snog you, too. Only ALMOST mind you.”

He stayed a few days. He said he needed to run more diagnostics on the TARDIS, but everyone knew the real reason. He just didn’t want to leave yet. He had become fond of Wyn. He wanted to be sure she was happy to be home.

And she was. She seemed to have acquired an appreciation of her home, of her parents, and even her brothers, that only being away for nearly two years could do. She had a new confidence in herself, too, that meant the brothers were forced to look at her as a near equal, not just their kid sister. Her parents who had, despite loving her wholeheartedly, sometimes taken her for granted, saw her with new eyes.

Wyn was going to be just fine. Her biggest problem was catching up on those A Levels she had been putting off for so long.

The parting, when it came, was emotional, as it was bound to be. Wyn hugged him for a long time, her tomboy image destroyed forever as she told him she loved him and would miss him.

“I’ll miss you two, as well,” she said to Alec and Jasmin. “He’s taking you back to 2025… I won’t be able to see you for fifteen years. I’ll be THIRTY-THREE.”

“We’ll come and see you,” they promised her.

“Not if I see you first,” she retorted. She hugged them both tearfully and turned to tell her mum to stop snogging The Doctor and let him breathe. She replied tearfully that The Doctor didn’t need to breathe. But she let him go and stepped back. She stood beside Wyn as they both watched the TARDIS doors close and then the amazing machine disappeared before their eyes. Both had known its wonders and now it was gone from their lives along with The Doctor.

“We’ll see him again,” Jo sighed. “One of him anyway.”

“Course we will,” Wyn told her. “When we get the wedding invitation.” She looked down at K-9. His head drooped down as if he, too, missed The Doctor already. “Come on, boy. I have to introduce you to the goats.”

“Yes, mistress,” he answered.