The Doctor wandered through the corridors of his own TARDIS wondering where his young companion was. He had checked all the obvious places, and worriedly checked some of the less obvious and more dangerous ones, like the Cloister Room and the engine room. There was no reason to think she had been in either.

He finally found her in the drawing room. The TARDIS seemed to have decided to keep that in potentia room as a permanent fixture. It had decided that a room full of squashy armchairs and occasional tables and a fake window looking out on a garden he had never been into in his life was essential.

It was a nice room, but he wasn’t sure WHY he needed it.

Susan was sitting in one of the big chairs, with her legs curled up under her. She had a mug of coffee and a box of chocolates and she was looking through the big photograph album that sat on the dresser. The Doctor stepped quietly beside her and took one of the chocolates. It was melting in his mouth as she looked up at him.

“Is this all right?” she asked. “This is such a nice room and I started to look through the pictures in here. Who are all these people?”

The Doctor sat on the arm of the chair and turned some of the pages. The TARDIS was far more nostalgic than he was. He didn’t bother to look back over his life very often. Not that he had many things he TRULY regretted, but it still seemed easier to look to the future than dwell on the past.

“Most of them are me,” he said. “The men, anyway. Sarah Jane explained about the regeneration thing, didn’t she? That’s what I looked like when she knew me. And that one, too.”

“So the women… your girlfriends?” she asked.

He laughed softly. She looked up at him.

“No,” he said. “I never really could have called any of them that. Sarah Jane… I was very fond of her, and perhaps if I was any other man in the universe she might have been. But no… she was just a very special friend. They all were. Except….” He turned to one of the very earliest pages. Susan looked up at him. He was still smiling with his mouth, but his eyes looked strangely sad as if this was a very bitter-sweet memory.

“Who is she?” she asked looking at the girl in the photograph, short dark hair and brown eyes, pretty and petite, standing outside the TARDIS.

“My granddaughter, Susan,” he said quietly.

“Oh!” Susan looked at the picture and then back at The Doctor. She remembered what he had said to her when he asked her to join him in his travels.

“The TARDIS needs a Susan. So do I. It’s what we’ve both needed for a long time. It’s what was missing for longer than I want to remember.”

“That’s WHY you wanted me to be here? Because I have the same name as your granddaughter?”

“No,” he said. “I wanted you here because you ARE a terrific girl who thinks on her feet and I thought you would enjoy the chance to learn about the universe and see things you would never see any other way. But… yes, there was an old man’s rather silly sentimentality mixed into it. The idea of having somebody called Susan here in the TARDIS with me.”

An old man? Susan looked at him. He was far from that in appearance, but she DID understand that in REALITY he WAS far older than she could begin to imagine, and once, when that other Susan had travelled in the TARDIS he had actually LOOKED it.

“But you did it for me, mostly?” she asked. “Because you thought I could learn…”

“Learn and grow, and when you’re ready to leave me, be enriched by the experience,” he said.

“When you’re ready to leave me….” Susan looked at the pictures of the different people he had known in his life. “They all left you? Even your own granddaughter?”

“She wanted a real home, friends, the man she fell in love with. I couldn’t hold her back. The others, too, this life began to pall for them after a while.”

“And you think I will leave you, too?”

“Eventually, you will. You have to. It would be wrong of me to try to make you stay. But you’re here now, and I’m glad you are.” He paused and looked at her quietly for a little while. “Very glad,” he added. Then his mood seemed to change. He stood up from the chair arm as if he was on springs. “The TARDIS is landing soon. Adventure and excitement awaits.”

Susan would have liked to have asked him some more questions. It was nice there for a few minutes, with him sitting next to her talking about his past. She wanted to know more. The photo album had been a nice glimpse into his life.

And she was quite glad to be a substitute for the granddaughter he so obviously loved once and still loved in his way.

“Isn’t the landing a bit bumpy?” she asked when she reached the console room and had to grab hold of the railing as they lurched around. Even Ric was being buffeted about on his hover pads.

“Yes, it is,” he admitted. “I don’t know why. It should have been a straightforward landing on Earth in the late 1980s. But we’re banging around like mad. Just hold tight. Ric….” He reached the mechanical creature and adjusted some controls inside his side panel. At once there was a metallic clang as Ric’s body became firmly fixed to the floor.

“I adjusted his gravity so that he is clamped firm to the floor. Keeps him safe.”

“Wish we could do the same,” Susan pointed out.

“Wouldn’t do for us,” The Doctor explained. “The pressure would damage our internal organs. We just have to grin and bear it.”

And he DID grin. Which made Susan laugh. There was something about his smile that was totally infectious. Even though she was a little scared she was laughing with him.

“There, that wasn’t so bad,” The Doctor said as the sound of materialisation died away. He stepped away from the console and was jolted onto the floor as the TARDIS began to move again. Now Susan was a bit scared.

“What is it? Why are we still moving?” she asked.

“We’ve materialised on a moving vehicle or vessel,” The Doctor answered. “Happens sometimes. I’ve had some FUN with the TARDIS landing on boats, I can tell you.” He reached to turn on the viewscreen.

“If we’re on a ship, what the HECK is THAT?” Susan asked as they both looked at a huge pink face. It was a humanoid face, but one with strangely immobile features. The eyes looked painted onto the face, and they stared with blank astonishment.

“It’s….” The Doctor laughed. “Oh dear, this happens from time to time. Never mind. We’ll be all right.”

“What happens from time to time?” Susan asked.

“The dimension circuit is mixed up. We’ve materialised right where I wanted us to materialise, right date, right planet, everything, but we’re the wrong size.” He went to the door and opened it. Susan followed him.

The pink face belonged to a Barbie doll which was leaning up against the TARDIS. A large stuffed tiger lay across both and they were wedged against a wall made of some kind of woven wooden laths.

“Toy basket,” The Doctor explained to Susan. “We’re being carried in a toy basket. The TARDIS must have looked like a Barbie accessory and got piled in with everything else.”

“You mean we’re… we’re the size of a Barbie doll?” Susan was astonished.

“A bit smaller, I think,” he replied nonchalantly. “More like a five inch action figure! The Doctor and Susan – this year’s Christmas must have toy!”


“It’s ok,” he said. “We’re perfectly safe. And it might actually be helpful in this particular case. We DO need to be a bit discreet.” He listened carefully at the door then went to release Ric’s gravity clamp. “I think we can go out now.”

“Into a basket of toys?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“Why not?” Susan couldn’t think of a single reason why not. She took The Doctor’s hand and went to the door.

“Well, just one problem,” she said. “How do we get OUT of the toybox?”

They looked up at the wicker sides of the toy basket. They were the equivalent of a twelve foot wall. The TARDIS was almost upright at the bottom of the box, wedged between Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken, and a very pink Barbie kitchenette. The floor was littered with glittery beads and fake jewels from a Barbie make your own jewellery kit.

“Those things will be slippery,” The Doctor said as he stepped out of the TARDIS. “Mind how you go.”

And he promptly slipped on a glitter bead and landed on his back.

“Master needs assistance,” Ric said with genuine concern in his electronically synthesised voice.

“Just a hand up,” he said, reaching out to Susan.

“So,” she said when he was on his feet. “Do we climb or what?”

“No,” The Doctor decided as he stepped more carefully to the side of the basket. He touched the wall carefully then turned to Ric.

“A small hole, I think,” he said. “Nothing too drastic. Just a hole.”

Ric’s laser light turned on and they stepped back as he cut a five inch Doctor and Susan action figure sized hole in the wicker basket. The Doctor examined the cut edges carefully.

“Very neat. No scorch marks. Bit of melting, but not bad at all.”

“Master is satisfied?”

“Ric,” The Doctor sighed as he stepped out through the hole, followed by Susan and then their electronic companion. “Please don’t call me Master. That word has some very bad memories for me. I didn’t mind it from K9 so much. Him being an actual dog made some sense that way. But please can you call me Doctor.”

“Doc…t…or,” Ric answered.

“That’s worse. Sounds like a Dalek. I never could get how they made three syllables out of a name with only two.”

“Doctor isn’t a name,” Susan pointed out. “What is your real name? Don’t you ever use it?”

“No,” he said in answer to the second question. “I am a Time Lord. A Time Lord’s real name… if his enemies knew it… they could use it as a weapon.”

“Wow. Very sinister. Don’t tell me, one of your enemies is called Master? And another one of them must be that Dal….”

“Dalek.” He finished her sentence for her, but volunteered no further information about what Daleks were.

“Doc..tor,” Ric said. “I detect organics in the vicinity.”

“I think he means there are people here,” Susan whispered.

“One person,” The Doctor confirmed. “And one huge but otherwise friendly looking dog.” He looked up at the bed in the corner of the room. The dog looked back at him curiously. It was a sort of long haired terrier with every colour possible in a dog and a pair of appealing brown eyes. Its nose was between two hairy paws as it peered down at them.

“Doctor….” Susan clung to his arm as she looked up at the animal. “Doctor, why are we in this house, in this room? Was it an accident or are we supposed to be here?”

“I’m here to help the people who live here,” he said. “They’re in great danger. Why… does it matter.”

“Yes, it does,” she said. “Because that’s our dog… our family dog. Or it was… She died ages ago of old age. But that’s Bootle.”

“Bootle?” The Doctor looked at the dog then back at Susan.

“Because my dad found her as an abandoned puppy on Bootle station. You know, like Paddington is called Paddington because….”

“Yeah,” The Doctor smiled as he looked up at the dog again. “Good girl, Bootle. You go back to sleep. We’re just…” He groaned and looked around. There weren’t many places they could run to. There was only one possible place the dog couldn’t get them in. He just wondered if they could avoid dying of embarrassment instead of dog bite.

“Barbie’s Dream House,” The Doctor said. “Quick. Now.”

They ran for it just as Bootle sprang from the bed, yapping excitedly. Susan clung to his hand as they pushed open the plastic door and crushed into the Dream House’s reception room.

“It’s not the TARDIS, is it,” Susan laughed as Ric slid in behind them and The Doctor closed the door.

“Not much! I could certainly use the dimension circuit right now. Mind you, I don’t think EITHER of us are the sort to travel in time and space in a Barbie accessory. Pink has NEVER been my colour.”

“Nor mine,” Susan added.

“So… who is that in the bed then?” The Doctor peered through the hinge side of the door and saw a rather puzzled Bootle snuffling about. Beyond her hairy bulk he could still see the bed where the sickly pale face of a dark haired girl aged about ten years looked over the edge and called to the dog in a quiet voice. Bootle took no notice. She took a deep breath and called out. The Doctor noticed that the effort of raising her voice was painful to her.

“Mum!” she called. Presently a woman came into the bedroom. The Doctor felt Susan gasp beside him. “Mum, Bootle is being daft. She thinks there’s somebody in the doll’s house.”

“Silly dog,” mum said, turning and pulling the animal away. The Doctor noted that she was wearing maternity clothes - about six months pregnant by Earth standards he guessed. “Come on, you daft animal, out of here.” She pushed the dog out of the room and came back to the bedside. “Are you all right, my pet?” She settled the girl back in her bed and kissed her cheek. The girl said something quietly and then turned over in the bed, facing the wall. Her mum sighed and stood up stiffly and went out of the room again. They heard the dog yapping still as she took it downstairs.

“That’s my sister, Heather,” Susan told him. “She’s….” She looked at The Doctor. “What year is this?”

“1989,” he answered. “July.”

“The year I was born. In November. I’m… the one mum is expecting. This is the year before Heather died. When her illness was getting worse. I don’t really remember her. Only in pictures. It was leukaemia. Mum and dad didn’t really talk about her much. But there were always the pictures and sometimes there would be conversations that started with ‘if your sister was alive’ or ‘you’re so different from Heather.…’ I hated THAT one. Of course I’m different. Even if she WAS alive, we’d still be different. We’re different people.”

“You were never a Barbie girl, I’m thinking?”

“Never!” Susan said with a disgusted tone. “All these things are in the loft. Mum and dad kept them. They gave them to me to play with when I was the right sort of age but I didn’t really like them so they put them away again.”

They waited a few minutes for Heather to sound as if she was asleep again before they quietly moved out of their hiding place again.

“Doctor,” Susan whispered as they moved towards the bed. “Are we here to help Heather? Can you save her?”

“No,” The Doctor said. “I’m sorry, but no. I can’t.”

“Oh,” Susan’s voice was quieter. “Oh, I thought, maybe…”

The Doctor stopped by the side of the divan bed. He took hold of Susan’s hand and squeezed it gently.

“There are a lot of very dull, boring, and utterly unfair reasons why I can’t change things like that. I wish I could. I have lost so many people I love. If I could change that, I wouldn’t hesitate. But making people live when they are supposed to die… even a child like your sister… makes ripples in the time continuum. The reverberations could destroy the whole planet – if not the universe.”

“So why…,”

“THAT’S WHY!” The Doctor shouted as he looked up and saw something dark and strange drifting across the room. It was like thick, black smoke, but it had a shape, a nearly Human shape, like a shadow if a shadow had depth to it as well as width. Susan watched it and knew it had to be BAD. It had no face. It made no sound. But it still FELT evil to her.

The Doctor wasn’t looking at it. He was climbing up the sheets onto the bed. Susan grabbed a piece of sheet and started to haul herself up after him. It wasn’t easy. She had never been all that good at climbing ropes in PE class and the sheet was smooth and difficult to get a grip.

The Doctor was a natural. He climbed as easily as he walked, watching the sinister shadow draw nearer and nearer. But she was dangling like an idiot, unable to go up or down.

“Mistress!” She could hear Ric on his hover pads whirring below her. “Mistress, stand on me.” She looked down and saw his metal back just under her shoes. She let him take her weight as he began to rise up vertically.

“By the way, Ric,” she said as they reached the top of the bed. “I think I would prefer ‘Susan’. Mistress…. REALLY not me.”

But semantics were unimportant right now. She turned and saw The Doctor standing on the bed, warding off the shadow with his sonic screwdriver. She saw her sister staring at him as he did so. They both stared as the screwdriver drew off energy from the shadow. He was duelling with it. The screwdriver was giving out an energy itself that forced the shadow back, but it rallied and came back with something like lightning that hit the tiny sonic screwdriver before earthing itself in The Doctor. Susan and Heather both saw his pained expression as he absorbed the energy. The little girl was doing a remarkable job of not asking WHY a five inch man was fighting a battle with a shadow entity on her bed.

“Stay back,” he warned. “Don’t touch me, either of you.” Heather drew back her hand from him. Susan stepped back, putting her hand on Ric to restrain him, too.

He was weakened by the attack but he kept fighting. Again he attacked the shadow with the sonic screwdriver. Again it hit back, sending him reeling back, tripping over the sheets. On his back, he aimed again, and this time the shadow shriveled and disappeared.

“Doctor!” Susan could bear it no longer. She ran to his side but he put his hand out to warn her from touching him.

“Don’t be silly,” she said and tried to help him up. “You’re really hurt, Doctor. Your body can’t take so much.”

“Full of the energy,” he said. “Need to expel it. Need… need the TARDIS.”

“What’s a TARDIS?” Heather asked, following the conversation between the two of them.

“It’s our travelling machine,” Susan answered her. “It’s over there in your toybox. I think mum… I mean your mum - put us in it when she was tidying up. That’s why our landing was so bumpy. But it's so far away. He’s too weak to get back to it now. If he dies….”

“Hide,” Heather told her. “I can hear mum coming back upstairs.” She pulled her pillows up so that they formed a space behind them, a sort of pillow cave. Susan and Ric ran for it while Heather lifted The Doctor gently in her hands and placed him there just before her mum came into the room. Bootle took advantage to bound into the room again and started to fuss around the bed, taking far too much interest in the pillows.

“I’m going to the shops,” her mum said. “Do you want me to bring you anything? Sweets? Fruit?”

“Jelly babies,” she said. “I like them. And some oranges. And can you look in Conways to see if they have the new Barbie wedding dress outfit.”

“Course I can,” Mrs Rawlings said. “Whatever you like. Are you going to sleep now or do you want your toys?”

“Can I have the blue box thing out of the toy basket,” she asked. Her mum turned and picked up the TARDIS and gave it to her.

“What is that?” she asked. “I’ve never seen it before.”

“Dad found it at a jumble sale. It’s a sort of secret box for keeping all my Barbie jewels in.”

“It’s a police box,” her mum said. “They used to have them in the 1950s and 60s. I remember an old one down the end of our street when I was little. It used to be covered in posters and adverts. Then the council knocked it down. I never knew they made toys of them. Must be a collectors item. You’d better look after that.”

“I will,” she said. “Mum… take Bootle with you. She’s being a pest today.” Bootle was getting perilously close to the pillow, snuffling determinedly. “Buy her some dog treats then she’ll stop trying to eat my dolls.”

“Come on Bootle. We’ll see you later.” Her mum and Bootle left the room. She listened for them going downstairs before moving again.

“That was close,” she said as she reached under her pillow and again gently lifted The Doctor up. She looked at him carefully as he lay in her palm. “Are you all right? You look even sicker than I am.”

“I have to go into the box,” he answered her in a weak voice. Susan ran to open it and Heather laid him down inside the door. She peered inside, surprised by the bright, big interior of the TARDIS and watched as The Doctor used the railing and other handholds to help himself walk to the console. Susan stood at the door with Ric at her side and watched as he laid his hands on the console. The green lights of the console glowed a little brighter as it drew out the stored energy from The Doctor’s body. After a few minutes he stepped back from the console and turned around. He smiled widely.

“I wish we could make you better as easily,” he said as he came to the door and touched Heather’s fingers gently.

“Is it over?” Susan asked. “Is that thing gone now?”

“That one is, but they usually come in pairs. I have to fight the other one and then I have to close the crack they came through.”

“You have to do that again?” Heather lifted him in her hands once more. She studied him carefully, stroking his hair with one finger and leaving it ruffled. “What are you? I didn’t think fairies dressed like that.”

“I’m not a fairy,” The Doctor answered. “Neither is Susan. Far from it.”

“Whatever you are, you can’t hurt yourself like that again. It made you very sick. You’ll DIE.”

“Yes,” he admitted. “You’re right. I can’t fight them again this size. We need to get back to normal. Heather, I know it’s not easy for you to move around. But can you put my box into the middle of the floor, with plenty of space around it. Then come on back to your bed where you’re safe and warm.”

“Yes,” she said. Getting out of bed was not easy for her. She was weak and even walking a few feet to the middle of her room was difficult.

“She has about a year left?” The Doctor asked as he watched her. “Confined to her room like this?”

“Yes, I think so,” Susan answered. “Mum… when she DID talk about it, used to say that it was the hardest year for all of us.”

“Lot of time to think, to use her imagination. That must be why she took our presence so well. She isn’t frightened at all. I can see where you get it from. You’re alike after all, I think.”

Susan thought about that for a moment.

“What about your Susan?” she asked. “Am I like her?”

“In some ways,” he said. “Not in your musical tastes. Cliff Richard was her favourite when she was your age.” He laughed at the face Susan pulled at that. “Yeah, I’m with you there. He was never my scene either. But she was a brave girl who would always try, no matter how scared she was. She had glass ankles though. Always falling down and spraining something. You stand on your own two feet better.”

Heather managed to scramble back into bed. The Doctor went to her side and put his hand on her cheek. He felt how flushed she was from the effort.

“Don’t be frightened of what happens next. It’s a sort of magic. But good magic. And I think a brave girl like you will love it.”

He took hold of Susan’s hand and called Ric to his side.

“Can you manage to lift us both down? We need to move fast. I don’t know how long it will take mum to get back from the shops.”

“She’ll take AGES with Bootle on the lead with her. She’s a daft dog. Always stopping to sniff lampposts and going the wrong way.”

“Good old Bootle. Let’s hope she buys us enough time, then!”

Ric hovered by the bed and The Doctor and Susan stood on his back carefully as he descended to the floor. Heather lay there and watched as the two tiny people and their strange robotic companion ran to the police box and went inside. There was a humming noise from it, then a sort of wind, and she watched in amazement as it began to get bigger. Then, to her even greater surprise she could see two rooms around her. Her own bedroom, and the inside of a strange room that looked like a cave with computers in it. That room became more solid and her bedroom more insubstantial until she was lying in her bed inside the strange room.

It was inside the police box, she realised. She had seen it before, but tiny. Now she was in the room.

“Heather Rawlings,” The Doctor said, bounding to her side. “Welcome to my TARDIS. I’m The Doctor, this is Susan. This strange thing is Ric, and you’re in the safest place in the whole universe right now.”

“You’re big now,” she said with a laugh that took so much effort it made her swoon dizzily. The Doctor held her hand gently until the uncomfortable moment passed.

“We’re big now. And I can fight the Shadow. You and your mum and dad and your baby sister who isn’t born yet won’t be bothered by it again.”

“What IS the Shadow?” Susan asked as she sat on the edge of the bed next to her sister.

“It’s a creature from the void – the nothingness beyond the universe. Some people would call it hell. Sometimes they find the tiniest hairline cracks into this universe. Nine hundred and ninety-nine point ninety nine times out of one thousand they fall into the vacuum of space and even they can’t survive out there. But sometimes they reach a place where there is life. They feed on the life until it is dead. They found a crack that brought them to this house. They found you and your dad and your mum – with another life within her. And they want to feed on you all.”

“Doctor!” Susan hugged Heather tightly. “Stop. You’re scaring her.”

“I’m not,” The Doctor assured her. “Heather is a brave girl, just like you are. But as I said, this is the safest place in the universe. The Shadows can’t get in here. Susan, if you look in the kitchen you’ll find a seriously huge bowl of ice cream and a couple of spoons. I think that ought to keep you both occupied while I go and sort out the scary stuff out there.”

“You don’t need me to help?” Susan asked, looking disappointed.

“There’s not a lot you CAN do. I won’t use you as bait. With your dad at work and your mum and Bootle out of the house, and you two safe in here, I will be the only life force the Shadow will be able to fix on. And now that I’m at full size and strength it’ll have a fight on its hands. You stay here with Heather and have a nice chat.”

“Please,” Heather said to her. “It’s not often I get to talk to people. Tell me about this place… the….”

“TARDIS,” Susan continued for her. “It’s the most fantastic ship in the universe. We can go anywhere we want in time and space. Well, anywhere The Doctor manages to steer us to. He gets it wrong sometimes - like forgetting what size we’re supposed to be.”

The Doctor smiled as he left them to it. He used the sonic screwdriver like a divining rod, seeking out the other Shadow and the crack in the universe he had to seal to prevent any others slipping through. Earth was a leaky sieve for that kind of thing. Quite apart from the major rifts such as the one in Cardiff that had caused him so much trouble, there were always these hairline cracks forming. He wondered if there was something about Earth that made it more susceptible than any other planet he knew. Maybe, he thought, he should make some kind of detailed scientific study. He might find something that would stop these things happening. He couldn’t keep on invading private homes to stop the Shadows of the Howling Halls from murdering the inhabitants. At the very least, he could at pass on anything he found to that lot at Torchwood. SOME of them had a bit of initiative. They might be able to use the information.

As he came into the kitchen the sonic screwdriver buzzed ominously, telling him that the Shadow was there. He looked around cautiously.

“You can stop hiding,” he called out. “I know you’re here. Come out and face me. Face one equal to you. Don’t skulk around waiting for innocent Humans to feed on and destroy.”

Silence was the only reply.

At first.

Then he heard a very faint sound - a sort of metallic clink. He span on his heels as the door flew off the microwave oven with enough force to decapitate him if he hadn’t ducked. It hit the opposite wall, destroying a rather pretty clock in the shape of a half-peeled orange and the bits of clock and door slid to the floor. The Doctor didn’t notice those details though. He had his eye firmly on the shadow as it unfurled itself from the doorless microwave and resolved into an inky-black man-shape.

“Away!” The Doctor commanded. “Back to the slime you crawled out of. Away and leave this good place alone.”

There was a susurration that might have been a voice. It asked what sort of being he was who challenged the Shadow.

“I am a Time Lord,” The Doctor answered. “The LAST Time Lord, as it happens, but STILL a Time Lord, still the most powerful being in this universe and I COMMAND you to leave this universe where you have no right to be.”

The susurration formed the words ‘Time Lord’ and he noticed it back off just slightly. The creatures of the void had obviously heard of him. He half-smiled at that as he held his sonic screwdriver in the way that duellists of old held a sword and waited for it to rally and come back at him.

It did. As he raised his sonic screwdriver it raised a hand and the energy beams clashed in the air between them, totalling Mrs Rawlings’ pretty blue and white glass lampshade. The Doctor felt the force of it in his arm the way he felt a really good swordsman’s blow against him in a traditional duel. The Shadow was STRONG. The other one had been, too. He had got in a couple of lucky shots and drained its energy mostly because he had been too small for it to target easily at first. But he couldn’t have fought another fight that way. His every cell was screaming in agony from the energy he had absorbed. If he took a full force blow like that again it would saturate his body and his only defence then would be to regenerate, just as he’d been forced to do on the Gamestation after he had absorbed the vortex.

This was a different sort of energy, not quite so potent, but it WAS dangerous still. It would kill a Human stone dead like they had been electrified. That was why he had to protect them.

Because nobody else could.

“Die, Time Lord!” Again the susurration as the Shadow tried to goad him, but The Doctor had learnt the rules of duelling from the best. He kept calm. He watched his opponent and he raised the sonic screwdriver once more and aimed it at the Shadow. He caught it where, on a Human, the heart was and it screamed as the screwdriver started to draw its energy. It raised its hand and sent another bolt of energy towards him. The Doctor’s body jolted as he absorbed it, but it was weaker. His body was coping with it and he fought the pain and steadied his hand as he continued to draw out the Shadow’s energy. The sonic screwdriver felt hot in his hands as it became a sort of battery, storing what it drew out. Rather the screwdriver than himself, he thought.

“You’re dying,” he said as another bolt of energy hit him, but this one hardly stronger than the current in an electric fence. The next was more like the annoying feeling of a joke hand-buzzer. The Shadow was finished. He could see through it now. It was becoming more and more unsubstantial. The Doctor held the sonic screwdriver in both hands and watched as the entity’s remaining molecules seemed to implode.

“Yes!” he cried. He looked around the kitchen and then he turned and ran back to the bedroom, back to the TARDIS.

Susan was sitting on the bed with Heather. An empty ice cream bowl was discarded between them. Ric was beside the bed doing a remarkable impression of Bootle in guard dog mode. The Doctor smiled at the girls as they looked his way.

“Just got to close the crack,” he said. “Then we need to do a quick bit of shopping. We need a new microwave, a clock and a lampshade before your mum gets back, Heather. Not so bad, really. The last time I fought a Shadow in a domestic kitchen I had to set the chip pan on fire afterwards to cover the damage. Good job the family were all out at the time.”

The two girls watched as he pressed buttons apparently randomly on different sections of the six sided console, leaping around it madly and grinning triumphantly as he stood back from it.

“That’s sorted. Next stop Homebase. I hope they have some of those lampshades in.”

“So… Doctor….” Heather said as she sat on a chair in the kitchen and watched Susan sweep up the debris from the battle while The Doctor fitted the new lampshade. “We’re in sort of frozen time. We went to the shops and came back and you did all this work and it’s still only the same second of the same minute….”

“The TARDIS is creating a time bubble for us to work in. Dangerous stuff if overused, but a few minutes more and we’ll be done. Your mum won’t know the difference.”

“I wish I had a time bubble,” she continued. “I’d be able to live long enough to actually get to know my little sister…. When she WAS littler than me.”

The Doctor looked at Susan then back at Heather.

“You told her?”

“She guessed.”

The Doctor looked at Heather again. He WASN’T allowed to make people live when they were supposed to die. But was there any rule about how long they could live before they died? Would letting Heather survive long enough to see her sister born, see her take her first steps, learn to talk, cause that much of a ripple in time?

“We’re done here,” he said and he turned and lifted Heather into his arms. He carried her back to the TARDIS in her bedroom. “Tell you what,” he said as they stepped inside. “I think shopping is a boring use of the TARDIS. Heather, would you like to see your planet from space? It’s a sight worth seeing.”

He sat her on the battered and patched chair near the drive control while he programmed the auto pilot to take them on a gentle orbit around Earth and bring them back to where they were no more than five minutes later. Then he came and lifted her again, sitting her on his knee. Susan came and sat beside him and he put his arm around her shoulders, holding them both as they watched the viewscreen. Heather was so entranced by a view of Earth only professional astronauts of her time ever saw, that she hardly noticed the way The Doctor’s hand glowed slightly as he touched the side of her face. Susan noticed it and wanted to ask what he was doing, but she hardly dared to. He had already told her he couldn’t do the one thing she WANTED him to do.

Mrs Rawlings came up the stairs to her daughter’s room. Bootle yapped noisily at her feet but she hadn’t the heart to tell her to be quiet. She put her hand on the door knob hesitantly. She always did. The doctors had never been able to give any precise time frame for Heather’s illness. She always dreaded opening the door and finding her lying there still and unmoving. She knew it would happen ONE day.

Heather was sitting up in bed playing with her dolls. She looked happy and somehow energised. She laughed as Bootle jumped up on the bed and tried to lick her face off.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better,” her mum said. “But don’t overtire yourself. Get some sleep when you’re ready. Here’s your sweets and fruit. And the Barbie wedding outfit.”

Her mum talked some more with her before going downstairs to start tea. Bootle curled up on the bed. Heather looked around the bedroom and smiled as she heard a very peculiar noise and felt the rush of air. Then The Doctor and Susan stepped out of the TARDIS.

“Your mum said about you looking after the toy police box,” The Doctor said, and from behind his back he produced a ten inch replica of a 1950 police public call box. “They DID make them in the 1950s. They were in the ‘boys toys’ section of the toy shops, along with toy policemen. The door opens up and you can put things in it.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” she said and reached out her arms to him. She hugged and kissed him on the cheek, then hugged Susan and kissed her fondly. “Will I see you again?”

“I don’t know,” The Doctor told her. “I’m terrible at remembering to visit people but if you ever hear that noise… the sound of the TARDIS…”

They stepped back into the TARDIS and The Doctor smiled at Susan as they dematerialised.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more time to spend with your sister, but we couldn’t risk your mum seeing us. Paradoxes are messy things.”

“That’s ok, Doctor,” Susan told him. “It WAS nice while it lasted and….” She gasped and looked at him with a pale, shocked face, but not an unhappy one. “Doctor! You said you couldn’t… But… Oh….”


“My memory has changed. She… oh… Oh…. Doctor, can you take me to this address right now….”

The TARDIS materialised in the back garden of a suburban semi close enough to the sea front at Southport to have a faint tang of salt in the air. As The Doctor and Susan stepped out a dark haired woman aged about thirty ran out of the kitchen door and tried to hug both of them at once.

“Heather,” The Doctor said. “You’re looking very well.”

“I AM well,” she told him. “And I think I owe it to you.”

“How?” Susan asked as they were ushered into the kitchen which, The Doctor noted, had a half-peeled orange clock and a blue and white lampshade like the ones they had in her childhood home, and a model of a 1950s police box on top of the fridge freezer. “Doctor, you said you couldn’t make her live.”

“I didn’t,” he said. “I gave her an extra couple of years so that you would be old enough to have some memories. But….” He looked at the two sisters. He didn’t exactly read their minds but he saw the story clearly. “Those extra couple of years were enough for the conventional medicine of your time to work. Before, you were failing too fast for it to help. But you rallied. You clung onto life. When Susan was old enough, she donated bone marrow that finally completed your treatment. Full remission.”

“And it didn’t cause any wobbles in the continuum?” Susan asked as she helped her sister make tea and sandwiches and tried not to trip over a yappy dog called Crosby that looked like a duplicate of Bootle and was having an interesting time trying to work out if Ric was the same species as she was.

“No,” The Doctor said. “Because it wasn’t ME who did it. It was your own doctors. It was an ordinary Human miracle. And the continuum just rolled over and accepted that there was room in it for Heather Rawlings to live.”

The Doctor smiled happily as he sat back and watched the two sisters chatting together. Some of what they had to say was ordinary domestic gossip such as Earth women always talked. Some of it was about Susan’s adventures so far in the TARDIS with The Doctor. The best of both worlds.

“Will you come back?” Heather asked her as Susan told her she was looking forward to loads more adventures yet. “You won’t travel with The Doctor forever? Will you?”

“She’ll come back,” The Doctor assured them both. “When she’s ready, when she’s seen enough of the universe to last her a lifetime, I’ll bring her back to you. I promise.”

He promised himself he would KEEP that promise and sipped coffee from a mug with pictures of fruit all over it, enjoying a rare moment of domesticity before they went off into the dark unknown once more.