Donna woke with a start, aware of the fact that she had fallen asleep on a chair. It was a nice, comfy chair, but still a chair. One she had been sitting on for several days now, and had fallen asleep on a lot of times.

They had provided a bed for her, in a side room, but most of the time she had stayed in the chair, beside him. She wanted to be there when he woke. It was important to her. He needed to see somebody he knew. He needed to be assured that everything was all right.

When he woke, it WOULD be all right. Just now, everything was wrong. Absolutely everything. This was worse than when her dad was dying and she and her mum spent so long in the hospital. At least they knew what the future held for them, then, even if it was the grim prospect of a funeral. Right now, Donna didn’t know what her future held. Until The Doctor woke up, everything was uncertain.

She looked at him and her heart skipped a beat. It really did, cliché or no cliché. He was awake, and he was looking at her. He had half turned in the bed, ripping out the saline drip that was attached to his left hand. The scratch where the needle had pulled away was mending before her eyes. His deep, expressive brown eyes were looking at her. She wondered how long he had been lying there.

“Doctor!” she whispered as she stood and went to him. “Doctor... I’m so glad you’re all right.”

“Ga’b-ó fo’ anno kil-oa da ja’lo?” he said.

“What?” Donna was puzzled. He had definitely asked her a question, but she had no idea what language he had spoken in.

And that was odd. Because all the time she had travelled with him, she had heard perfectly coherent English spoken. Even when she met species that were not even remotely humanoid, they had addressed her in English – sometimes through speaker grills or containers of bubbling liquid, but the language they had spoken had been English. The reason was that the TARDIS automatically translated everything.

It never occurred to her that The Doctor spoke any language other than English. Even though she knew he came from another planet, millions of light years from Earth, she took it for granted that they spoke English there. She had been there, after all, and everyone had spoken English – or so it seemed.

Was this his native language? Was he speaking the language he heard from his birth?

“Ga’b-ó fo’ anno?” he asked again.

“Doctor… I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Can you… can you understand me? Can you speak English?”

He blinked and looked at her. Then he raised his hand close to his face and looked at the hospital name tag on his wrist. At first he didn’t seem able to read the printed information. Then his lips moved over the words.

“John.. Sm..ith…” he manged to say. “Doc…tor… John… Smith….”

“That’s what they put on the tag. I had to tell them a name. The date of birth… I had to make that up, too.”

“I… am... John Smith?”

“Not… exactly,” Donna said. “Oh,… dear.”

“Are… .you… Mrs Smith.?”

“No… no, I’m not,” she answered. “Doctor… oh… oh, you’ve lost your memory. It’s… probably just because you’ve been unconscious for so long. It’ll come back. But… Oh… blimey… I don’t know what to say.”

He looked at her and seemed at a loss for words, too. He looked scared. Tears pricked his eyes.

“Oh... don’t cry, please,” she told him. “It’s all right.. It really is. Look… come on… can you sit up? Let me help you.” She leaned over and helped him to sit up. His arms slipped around her shoulders and he held her much longer than he needed to. She didn’t mind. He was confused and upset and he needed comfort.

“If... you’re not my wife… are we… are we,…”

“No, Doctor, I’m sorry. I’m… I’m your secretary… and... friend. yes. We’re friends. That’s why I’m here. I’m your friend. I’m Donna.”

“Donna?” He looked at her as if he was trying to remember her face. “Donna… I… I don’t know that name. I thought… I thought you might be called… Rose… or… That name… feels… but I don’t know the name Donna…”

He began to cry and to say things again in that language she didn’t understand. The life support sensors built into the headboard of the bed were registering increased heartbeats and blood pressure and his brain patterns were going haywire.

“I’m going to fetch somebody. A doctor or a nurse,” she said. “You just… sit there,. And… try not to worry.”

She ran out of the room. Outside in the corridor she was much more aware that she was on a spaceship. It looked more space-shippy, and there was a hum and faint vibration of engines. In the wards and the private rooms such as they put him into they tried to make it look and feel more like a regular hospital.

At the nurses station she managed to summon some medical help, though they were busy with all the other casualties of the incident that The Doctor had been so terribly injured in. A doctor and a nurse both came to his bedside. They made Donna stand back while they attended to him. He was still crying. Donna felt like crying, too. It was terrible to see him like that.

After a little while he seemed calmer. The medical doctor turned to her and said it was all right to sit with him again. He had been sedated and wouldn’t be any trouble.

“I didn’t say he was ‘trouble’,” she answered. “He can’t remember who he is. That’s what’s upsetting him. I thought you could do something for him. We’re on a huge hospital ship in space. And all you can think of is to pump him full of sedatives and send him to sleep again?”

The doctor pointed out that they had a major emergency to deal with and that a psychiatrist would come to see the patient later in the day.

“Never mind,” Donna sighed as the medical staff left the room and she went back to the bedside. He was lying down again. He wasn’t crying, but his eyes were glassy and his expression was so very sad.

“Sedatives!” she said again.

“Hang on,” he replied. He closed his eyes and became very still and stiff. Then his face and neck, and presumably the rest of his body beneath the hospital pyjamas, took on a chalky appearance for a few seconds before the substance on his skin evaporated away.

“That’s better,” The Doctor said. “Expelled the drugs from my body.” He frowned. “Don’t know how I knew how to do that. Is that something people do?”

“You do it,” Donna told him. “Doctor…”

“I’m sorry if I scared you before,” he said. “I… woke up… here… in this room… My mind… is… I don’t know. Sometimes I feel everything is there… on the edge… things like how to get rid of those damn drugs… and then it’s gone. I was lying here… trying to remember what had happened… why I feel so hurt even though my body seems whole… and I saw you sleeping there…. And I thought… I’m not alone. There is a woman by my side… who obviously cares for me so much… And the only word that seemed to fit was… wife…. When you said we weren’t… I felt so alone. You looked like a nice person to be married to…”

“Tell that to all the blokes I’ve dated,” Donna said. “I’m sorry for hurting you.”

“Am I married?” he asked her. “I… have a feeling… distant… as if I might be.” He held up his hands. There were no rings of any kind on his fingers, and no marks where one might have been.

“You were once,” Donna answered him. “You told me about a woman you loved… you had children… grandchildren. She died of natural causes. You were sad for a bit then got on with your life.”

“Was her name Rose?” he asked. “That name… I thought that was you… Rose… somebody special to me.”

“I don’t know about her. Doctor…”

“I need a mirror. Is there one here?”

“Through there… in the bathroom,” Donna told him. “On the wall.”

He sat up and swung his legs out of the bed. He was a bit unsteady at first. No wonder, Donna thought. A few days ago every bone in his body was broken. He shouldn’t even be alive by rights. Any other man wouldn’t be.

She thought of offering him a hand, but he looked determined to walk unaided. Besides, he was going to the bathroom. It was possible that he needed other things than a mirror. She waited.

Ten minutes later she went into the bathroom, anyway. He was leaning on the hand wash basin, staring at his own reflection. His expression was one of absolute shock and disaster.

“What is it?” Donna asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t recognise my own face. I thought I would. I thought… I would remember something. But… How can this be me? How can I be… just how old am I? You said… how can I have been a father, a grandfather? That’s what you told me. I expected… to be old. White hair… I’m sure I had white hair… lines on my face. The only thing that looks right… my eyes… they’re old. But the rest of me… I’m… I don’t know who I am… Who am I?”

“You’re older than you look,” Donna told him. “Much older. Doctor…”

“Don’t I have a name? Why do you call me Doctor?”

“That’s the name I’ve always known you by. That’s you. The Doctor.”

“And… Who is The Doctor? Who am I?”

“You’re….” Donna sighed. “I’m sorry, Doctor. I’m not really the right person to ask. I’ve only known you a few months, half a year. There are many more people who know you better than I do. But… what I do know… is that you’re amazing. I know you are. Really, really amazing. And… it must all be in there somewhere. You must be able to remember. All of that can’t be gone.”

“Time…” he said. “Time and… and…”

“Space?” Donna suggested,.

“No… no…. that’s not the word I was thinking of. “Why does the colour blue mean something to me?”

“The TARDIS!” Donna cried. “Yes. The TARDIS. You remembered it. You’re thinking of the TARDIS. Come on… let’s… let’s go to the TARDIS. That’s what you need. You’ll be all right there. You’ll remember everything.”

“TARDIS?” He looked in the mirror again, then turned the word over on his tongue. “Yes, I know…what that means. Blue… TARDIS… Yes.”

“Come on…” She took his arm. He followed her back to the room and sat on the edge of the bed as she pulled his clothes from a cupboard. She looked at his shirt and jacket with dismay. The back of both was ripped to shreds. They were unwearable.

“What happened?” he asked. “I was wearing those? What hit me?”

“Blast wave,” Donna answered. “Look… I’ve got your coat. I was wearing it. I was cold and you gave it to me. You’re nice like that.”

He put the long coat on over the pyjamas and slipped his feet into his shoes. If nobody was looking closely, they might get away with it.

“You’ll do,” Donna decided. “Come on. Everyone is too busy to pay us any attention. They think you’re sedated, anyway.”

Donna was right. Everyone was busy. Even at the nurses station where she had summoned help before, nobody had time to look up and notice a man and a woman walk past. Donna was relieved when they reached the end of the corridor and passed into another part of the hospital. The Doctor, though, looked even more distressed.

“I can hear them all,” he said. “People… burnt, broken, limbs gone… faces… crying out in pain… in their heads, hoping for death, because they don’t want to live as only half a person… people grieving, searching for their loved ones…” He stopped and grabbed Donna by the shoulders. “What happened to them all? What happened to us?”

“It was a peace conference,” Donna said. “Between two warring factions… the Medussians and the Gallonians…. We were there… you were one of the intermediaries trying to make the Treaty work. I was… I was your stenographer, writing it all down as it happened. There was a video report, but you said you wanted it in black and white, in cold ink on paper where it couldn’t be messed with. So I was right beside you, through days and days of it, writing down everything that was said. You were brilliant. You almost had them sorted out. The Treaty should have worked.”

“I thought I was a doctor. Not a politician. Or… do I have the meaning of the word confused? I don’t know… I don’t feel as if I can trust my own mind.”

“Come on,” Donna said. “Let’s get back to the TARDIS.”

He was still very distressed. All the way through the hospital ship he could feel the dead and dying and the grieving and hurt telepathically. It was as if his mind, with none of his own experiences to call upon, was picking up signals from everyone else around him.

“You’ll be all right when we get to the TARDIS,” she promised him. “The TARDIS will protect you from it all.”

That was her hope, anyway. The TARDIS could protect them physically from explosions, fire and radiation. Surely it could protect him from the mental onslaught.

They reached the turbo lift. Donna pressed the button to summon it. When it arrived, though, two men in medical coats stepped out. One looked curiously at The Doctor. He noticed the hospital ID tag on his wrist before looking down and noting the pyjama bottoms beneath his coat.

“You’re a patient?” he asked. “What are you doing out of bed? Where are you going?”

“It is perfectly all right,” The Doctor said in reply. “I have been discharged. I am quite fit now. No need to worry about me. You have other people in need of your care.”

“But…” the medical doctor replied. Then he stopped. He stared at The Doctor and blinked. So did his colleague. Then he nodded and smiled. “Of course. I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to leave us. Good luck, Mr Smith. And safe journey.”

“And to you,” The Doctor replied as Donna gently pushed him into the lift and hit the button for the visitor’s shuttle bay.

“You can’t remember anything about yourself. But you know how to expel drugs from your body and hypnotise people. You’re…. still pretty amazing even when you’re not all there.”

“That’s… a compliment… isn’t it?” The Doctor asked.

“Yes, it is,” she answered. “Doctor…”

She stopped. She wasn’t sure what else to say. How many times could she repeat that he was amazing. He didn’t feel amazing. He didn’t look amazing right now, wrapped in that old coat, his eyes still red-rimmed from crying and his expression one of fear and confusion.

How could she explain to him that he was a hero, that thousands of people owed their lives to him. He had saved so very many of them. Even the ones who were in the hospital, now, wounded, hurting, were alive because of him. If he hadn’t acted quickly, if he hadn’t risked his own life, they would all have been instantly vapourised in the far bigger disaster that he managed to prevent.

Some of the very badly wounded might feel right now that they were better off dead, but most had reason to be grateful to him. And he didn’t even know it.

“We’re here,” she said as the turbo lift came to a stop. The door opened onto the shuttle bay deck. It was a functional place, with low lighting and an echo when they walked on the metallic floor. The Doctor looked around as if trying to remember which of the shuttles parked in the bays was his. When Donna steered him to the corner where the TARDIS was parked he was even more confused.

“This… is…” He stared at the TARDIS. “It’s… blue… yes. But… I don’t understand. How can this be….”

Donna watched as he actually walked around it, touching it, feeling the wooden panels, noticing the faint vibration it had, but not quite believing that something this small could be the secret to everything he was.

Strange, she thought, to see him do exactly what everyone else must surely do when they see the TARDIS. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny.

“The key is in your coat pocket,” she said. “So is your sonic screwdriver and your psychic paper.”

“My what?”

“Just… key… open the door. Everything will make sense once we’re inside….”

The Doctor felt in his coat pocket. He found the key and inserted it into the lock. He turned it once and pushed. The door opened inwards. Both doors opened inwards and Donna gave an anguished cry.

The TARDIS wasn’t there. Not the TARDIS she knew, anyway. She ran inside and looked around at the gleaming white walls with round panels and a ceiling with a central light like a huge dentist’s lamp. Beneath it was something that Donna realised had to be a version of the TARDIS console. But it was so very different to the one she knew. The console The Doctor operated was almost organic, the original mechanics enhanced by bits of alien and Earth technology and even ordinary bits of junk picked up here and there over the years. This one looked like it was built by NASA on the side while they were building their first space rockets in the 1960s.

“This isn’t right,” she said. “Doctor…”

She turned around. The Doctor wasn’t there. She looked outside. He was standing there, staring at the exterior. If he was puzzled before, he was even more so now. He touched the wood, knocked on it. Felt the little windows in the door. He actually opened the panel where the telephone was and looked at it.

“Come inside,” Donna begged him. “Things aren’t quite right in here, but it’s safer than outside.”

He followed her inside. She shut the door and turned around. She wondered what to do next. This wasn’t the TARDIS she recognised, though something told her it was A TARDIS. A different desktop, but the same principle.

But whatever it looked like, he couldn’t pilot it. He didn’t know how. He looked at the controls. He ran his hands lightly across the banks of buttons and switches and then withdrew as if afraid to do the wrong thing.

Donna was glad of that. She felt safe in the TARDIS. After all, it had ridden the blast wave and kept everyone alive inside. But she didn’t want to risk going anywhere in it until The Doctor had all his faculties back.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“What’s what?” Donna turned and looked as he noticed something. It was a book, just sitting there in the middle of the floor. There was nothing else in the TARDIS. Not even a chair. But there was a book.

He bent and picked it up. Donna looked at the cover. It was dark blue, hardback, the cover made of a textured cloth. It looked old. The corners were scuffed and split, revealing the cardboard inside the cloth. The spine was broken as if it had been opened many times. There was something written on it, but in a language Donna had never seen before. Most of the characters didn’t even qualify as letters as far as she knew.

“It’s… my language…” The Doctor said. “I can read it.”

“What does it say, then?” she asked.

“Thousand year diary,” he answered. He read the words again, his lips moving soundlessly. “Is that right? It can’t be?”

“It can for you. I think that’s about how old you are. But I never saw you keep a diary. I’ve never seen that book before, ever. So maybe you don’t use it very often.”

The Doctor opened the diary. Donna looked at the first page. It was covered in small, neat handwriting in that same language that was on the front cover, as well as ink drawings and doodles in the margins.

But if anyone had asked her opinion, which they didn’t, Donna would have said that page was NOT written on with a pen. It looked as if somebody had printed it using a handwriting font to give the impression of it having been written.

The Doctor looked at that first page, then sat down on the floor, his legs crossed, and began to read it carefully. Donna sat down beside him. She looked at the page but it was meaningless to her.

“It’s… a record of my birth,” he said. “My first day…”

“That book really is a fake then. Nobody writes a diary entry when they’re a day old.”

The Doctor looked at her and smiled.

“You’re clever, Donna. Is that why you’re with me? You’re the one who has all the answers?”

“I’m… with you… because you’re the only one who says that about me,” she answered. “My mum thinks I’m a loser who’ll never amount to anything. I’ve never held down a job worth bothering with. I’ve never met a man who hasn’t let me down…. Except for you. I’m with you because you believe in me.”

“That’s… a nice thing to say,” he told her. “Thank you.”

“No, thank you, Doctor,” Donna replied. “Anyway… what about this book… what’s it all about… I mean… why…”

“I think…” The Doctor said. “I think it’s meant to help me… to get myself back. I think that’s why it was here. The TARDIS…. Is helping me recover my memory.”

“That’s why it’s a fake diary?”

“Yes.” He turned the page. There was more of the neat handwriting and more of the pen drawings. The Doctor ran his finger over one of them. It was a small but detailed picture of a planet. “Gallifrey,” he said. “My childhood… my home… I was born there.” He sighed. “It makes me sad. Why is that?”

Donna shook her head.

“Probably best you work that out for yourself. It must be in the diary further on. Read some more. I’ll… I’ll see if there’s any way to get a cup of tea in here.”

In the TARDIS she knew, there were other rooms, a fully functioning kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms. But she couldn’t even see a door in this one. Maybe there wasn’t one. This room was all there was. It was tied to him, somehow. His mental state and the TARDIS were connected. When he was well, the TARDIS would be.

At least she thought it would be. That seemed to make sense. Maybe it didn’t. Usually The Doctor would tell her if she was on the right track or not. But he couldn’t tell her anything this time.

She found a machine in the corner of the room. It looked like a coffee dispenser or something. She pressed a button experimentally. A screen lit up giving some options. Tea and coffee were among them. But also a menu of different foods. She chose the tea option twice and got two plastic cups that looked as if they had tea in them. She pressed the milk and sugar options. Then she moved the cups aside and pressed the option for buttered toast. She looked at the two small bars of something like chewing gum that lay in the dispenser tray and then bit one experimentally. It actually tasted like hot buttered toast. She was impressed.

She brought the tea and ‘toast’ to where he was sitting. He had read through a lot more of the book. She watched his eyes flickering as he read a page every three seconds, turning the pages over and over. He stopped and looked up at Donna. He took the coffee and the bar of toast. He ate it thoughtfully.

“Yes, the food synthesiser,” he said. “I remember… Susan and I used it all the time when we travelled in the TARDIS together…”


“My granddaughter,” The Doctor added. “Look… this is a picture of her as a baby, before we left Gallifrey….” He pointed to a drawing of a little girl of about two, in frills.

“You’ve not got that far in the book,” Donna said. “To leaving Gallifrey. You’ve remembered…”

He stared at the page.

“Not… quite… just then… something seemed to come back. It seemed right. But it’s not all there. I can’t quite remember it all. Susan… I remember a lot about her. I remember… I remember when she was born… I remember… loving her a lot, and being loved in return… A child’s love… that’s a precious thing. I remember… the feeling, of being loved by her. I remember… also… I remember when she left me… how sad I was… how I missed her. But…. I don’t… quite… remember her face yet.”

Donna sat back down on the floor beside him. She put her arm around his shoulders. He sighed as if the nearness of another living person was comforting to him. She watched as he read on, dozens of pages every few seconds, filling in the blanks that were in his mind. It was as if the book WAS his memory and he just had to put it all back where it belonged.

He stopped and showed her a picture of his granddaughter when she was a teenage girl, slim, agile looking, with short, dark, boyish hair, but a feminine face with very dark eyes that went with her hair. He cried as he read of parting with her. He cried again when several other young women who seemed to fill the gap in his life came and went.

Then he stopped at another page. He traced the lines of a full page drawing of a white haired man with an old, care-worn, tired face.

“That’s… how I thought I looked,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t know myself in the mirror.”

“It is you, isn’t it?” Donna replied. “Before you regenerated. I know you can do that. You told me all about it.”

He said nothing. But he read on through that page and turned over. His body shuddered and he uttered a soft, low sound like a groan of pain before he showed her another full page picture of a slightly younger looking man, with dark hair and laughter lines around his eyes and a smile that went with it.

“He’s… a lot like you now,” Donna said. “Except older. You smile a lot. Usually you do.”

“How?” The Doctor asked. “My whole life seems to be about loss… losing people, losing my home… what have I to be happy about?”

“I can’t answer that. But I think you are happy, most of the time. Despite a lot of sadness… a lot of it you haven’t even remembered yet. There’s worse to come. Much worse. But you’ve stuck it out, through it all. Nobody can pull you down. You’re the best. But… when you come to the really terrible bit…. I’m right here for you. Don’t forget that.”

He turned his head and looked at her. He put the book aside and half turned so that he was facing her. Donna was surprised when he reached out and put his hand on her cheek.

“We’re not….” He said. “Why not, I wonder?”

He drew her face closer to his and before she had chance to protest, or to stop him, he was kissing her. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best kiss she had ever experienced in her life. Without thinking about it she reached out her own arms around his neck, her hands ruffling his hair as the kiss continued. It was nice being that close to him. It was nice being kissed.

She was a little bit sorry when it ended. So was he, she thought.

“That… was… nice…” he said.

“Yes, it was,” she answered him. “Very nice. Nicest kiss I’ve had. But…”

“But it was just ‘nice’. It wasn’t…. fireworks, supernovas. It wasn’t…. You and I… We’ve never done that before, have we?”

“No. Well… not together. I mean… I’ve kissed blokes. And… and I suppose you’ve kissed other women. But no… we’ve never… not like that.”

“I did wonder if… if we were really… after all. I know you said we weren’t. But I thought… maybe you were just letting me down gently…”

“We’re just friends. Very good friends. But… basically friends. We’re… well… you’ve read enough there to know that you have a knack of landing in trouble. And… and I’ve shared some of the trouble with you. And… and I’m not complaining about that. Because while I’m with you, I’m proving them all wrong about me. And it’s great being with you. But… I don’t think either of us needs to complicate things by being more than friends right now. Besides, I got the impression a half a dozen planets back that there was a lady you’d like to see again.”

“You did? There was?”

“Best leave that till we get up to date,” Donna said. “You need to catch up on a lot of your personal history. Would you like more tea?”

“Not yet,” he answered. “Stay with me. It feels… easier with somebody near. All those partings… all those people who found other lives to lead…”

“I’m not going anywhere, yet,” Donna promised him. “You carry on.”

She stayed close to him. He wasn’t likely to repeat the kiss experiment. They both understood full well where they stood after that. But he needed her friendship right now more than he ever needed it.

She didn’t watch him reading. It made her eyes water looking at the pages or watching his face. Every now and again he would pause and his fingers would trace the lines of a picture which literally did paint a thousand words for him. He would whisper names. More of the people who had left him over the years. And every so often a very painful moment when he saw his own face change.

“Hey….” Donna looked up and around. “The TARDIS…. It’s changed. It looks… sort of… 80s, disco….”

“Yes…” The Doctor looked around, too. “I changed it… during my fifth life. This one… with the cricket theme outfit. I… Yes… I remember doing that. I really do. The people who were with me then… they teased me about whether it would work or not.”

He laughed out loud.

“I actually remembered that bit. A real memory… I could hear their voices in my mind. It was… good times. Happy. Lots of friends in the TARDIS with me. Then they… one by one…” He turned the pages a little more slowly as if he wanted to hold onto the memories of good times. Then he gave a sharp gasp and breathed out slowly.

“Adric. Poor boy. I wish… But there’s no going back. Can’t change the past. What’s done is done.”

He tenderly touched the picture of a teenage boy. In the margin of the page was a small drawing of a menacing looking robotic creature, like a metal man. Donna felt instinctively that it was something very bad. One of the enemies The Doctor had fought.

“I’ve fought them so many times,” he said. “But the cost that time was so high… it was almost too high.”

He moved on and stopped at another picture of a creature that had turned up again and again in the book. Every one of his lives he had fought them.

“Dakeks,” he said. “I wish I didn’t have to remember them. They… every time I look at them, I get such a feeling of foreboding. They’ve done something…. Something that I haven’t yet remembered. Something that I am afraid to remember.” He turned to look at Donna. “You know what it is, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do,” she answered. “But I don’t think it’s up to me to tell you. As hard as it is, you’ve got to find it out for yourself.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “That’s why…. This IS my handwriting, you know. Was I… in the TARDIS when… I was injured?”

“You were running to the TARDIS. I was screaming for you to run faster. You were a few feet away when the blast hit you. You…. jumped for it… the doors shut automatically. You said… “thank you…” to me and then…”

He saved so many lives. He defused six of the eight bombs and packed as many people into the TARDIS as he could find. All of the delegates, their children from the crèche, the bridge crew, the kitchen staff, all survived unscathed. Of course, others managed to get to the shuttle bay. The evacuation of the Platform Three was underway. But it was a bit like the Titanic. There weren’t enough lifeboats. Most of the staff came aboard in a supply ship that had left days ago. Many of the delegates and their staff transmatted from command ships that were ordered to leave the quadrant because their presence might be considered an act of war if the treaty failed. So many people had no way to get off the doomed space station.

The Doctor saved as many as he could. He stopped as many of the bombs as he could. Donna remembered the look on his face as the time relentlessly ticked by and he knew that he couldn’t make it. He wouldn’t give up. He wouldn’t get the TARDIS out of the blast zone and be satisfied that he had tried his best. His best wasn’t good enough. He had to do more. He almost did it. He was seconds away from diffusing the seventh bomb. But it was seconds away from detonation. Donna was sure he was going to die trying. She stood behind the force field that he promised would protect the TARDIS from harm and screamed at him to run. Only at the very last of the last moments, when he knew it was impossible, even for him, did he turn and start running back to the TARDIS. She saw his expression as he ran towards her. He was devastated by his own failure.

But he hadn’t failed. He did more than anyone could have done. He almost killed himself trying. At first, as he lay there on the gangway, she thought he was. As everyone else screamed and panicked because they had seen the explosion engulf the TARDIS, she knelt beside him, crying and touching the unburnt part of his face, willing him to be alive. Eventually, somebody made her stand up. They put a blanket over his body. For nearly an hour as they waited for help, he lay there, sprawled on his stomach, one hand not quite covered up, still and unmoving. Everyone talked about his sacrifice, his heroism. But nobody could look at his body.

Then the emergency services arrived. A huge galactic police rescue ship, and a few minutes later the even more huge hospital ship where the injured and dying were taken to. Donna managed to work the audio communicator and the TARDIS was taken on board the ship with a tractor beam. The Doctor’s body was put on a trolley to be taken to the morgue, while more than five hundred people who were alive and unharmed were taken to the cafeteria. Donna had followed The Doctor. She had been the one who saw him move. She made them stop and examine him. He was alive – just – he was raced to intensive care. By the time they got there, his burns had begin to repair by themselves. His broken bones were slowly knitting together. He was put into a private room where his recovery could be monitored while the staff saved the lives of all the people who couldn’t do it for themselves. Donna sat with him, waiting for him to wake, so she could tell him how fantastic he was, and how he shouldn’t blame himself for the fact that eight different bombs placed all over a seven mile wide space station were too much even for him.

She looked around. The TARDIS had changed again. It had several times while he was reading, getting progressively more hi-tech but with the same basic structure. But now it had changed dramatically. Steel girders formed a framework around a console that looked different from anything she had known. It wasn’t the space age hexagon, and it wasn’t the organic version she knew. It was, perhaps, an intermediate stage between the two.

Then The Doctor gave an anguished cry. Donna reached out and held him. She looked at the picture in the book that he held in trembling hands. A planet in flames, ships in flames around it. Drawings of those Daleks he spoke of in the margins. In the midst of the carnage, the TARDIS falling away, surviving.

Around her, the console room was changing again. But this time they both saw it happen. They clung to each other as the floor beneath them, the roof, the walls, trembled and shimmered insubstantially. The book fell from The Doctor’s hands. The last pages in it flickered open by themselves. Images and words came out of it in a silvery stream that enveloped The Doctor’s head. His eyes were burning with shock and pain.

Then it was over. The console room was the familiar place Donna knew. It looked less like a space ship control room, more like something that had grown and evolved.

“Tell you what,” she said. “The floor in the old version was more comfortable to sit on. Do you think maybe we should…”

“Yes.” The Doctor stood, apparently no worse for the experience. He didn’t even appear to have pins and needles in his legs like she did. He reached out an arm and helped her to stand, then he reached again and picked up the book. He flicked the pages. Donna gasped.

They were blank.

“It’s all back in my head, where it belongs. All my memories. All the sad times, and the happy, the tragic… the devastating… the wonderful times.”

“You’re back!”

“Yes, I am. Thanks to you… and the TARDIS. The two ladies I can always rely on.”

He hugged her. He didn’t attempt to kiss her, but he hugged her affectionately.

“Thank you, Donna. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

He broke from the embrace and bounded towards the console. He pressed buttons apparently at random and the time rotor moved briefly before he turned on the viewscreen. As the TARDIS slowly revolved they saw the outside of the hospital ship, the police and other rescue craft, and the remains of Platform Three. The fires were out now. It was dark and dead, huge lumps blown out of the infrastructure in the two places where the bombs had detonated.

“Do we even know why?” Donna asked. “Why anyone wanted to do that?”

“Somebody didn’t want the peace treaty to succeed,” The Doctor answered as he moved around the console in the same energetic way he always did. “Some faction on one side or the other. But they didn’t win. I’ve got a message here on the communicator. The delegates are planning to restart the negotiations in three days time – just as soon as Platform Four arrives along with a lot more security procedures than last time.”

“So you’ll go back to it? As a delegate?”

“I think we’ll have a little holiday first,” he answered. “Peliss IX is a lovely spot. Or… oh, yes. Let’s have a mini-break on Anchoriss. Lovely place. They say a day in one of their health spas is worth a month anywhere else, and it’s impossible to be depressed on that planet.”

“Sounds good to me,” Donna answered. “But… Doctor… you are ok? You went through hell… and then went through it all again, remembering all those terrible things that happened to you. Daleks, Cybermen, Gallifrey, all those times you died, all the friends you lost…”

“It’s all still there. But… the pain is… in the back of my memory. The loss, the grief, the loneliness. It’s there to remind me who I am and what I am. But I don’t have to dwell on it. I can… have a weekend on Anchoriss and not think about it for hours at a time. I’m fine, Donna. I’m me.”

He smiled at her, and it felt like the sun had come out after a week of rain. Yes, it was him. And if she needed any further proof, it came when he looked up at the screen again. The view had turned towards the hospital ship again. The green crescent that was the universal symbol of a hospital was illuminated, along with the name – SS Grace Holloway.

“I know that name,” Donna said. “She was in the book. She was somebody you knew.”

The Doctor nodded. “There are four of these ships, you know. The SS Marie Curie, The SS Elizabeth Garrett, The SS Florence Nightingale and the SS Grace Holloway. All named after women who distinguished themselves in medicine on planet Earth. And three of them were women I kissed. Florence… was a very severe woman. Kissing spread germs. She wasn’t having any of it. Even my friend Captain Jack would have struck out with her.”

The Doctor grinned widely. He might have been joking. Donna wasn’t sure.

“Speaking from experience,” she said. “I’d say she missed out, big time. Although now you have your memory back, there’ll be no more of that, sunshine.” She was smiling when she said that, though. He grinned back even wider. “It is nice to have you back. I missed you.”

“I missed me. It’s definitely good to have me back.”