“Something that none of you have ever seen before. I thought they were extinct,” the Doctor said, studying the creature in front of him. “They don’t actually have a name, but they feed off of…it’s hard to explain, its like they feed off battle, off people fighting, not necessarily dying, although that’s generally how it turns out. A single one is capable of destroying entire planets, entire cultures just to feed.”
“So…what do we do about it? Starve it out?” asked Buffy, curious.
“Never work. Too much violence on Earth, unfortunately. However, I just happen to have…this!” The Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver, grinning maniacally. “See, they love the essence of war, but, just like certain insects…they can’t stand high-pitch sonics!” He twirled it between his fingers, then pressed the button.
Faith and Buffy both stumbled back, hands pressed over their ears in pain, and watched as the layers of illusion collapsed, leaving a rather pathetic looking, lumpy creature lying on the floor, an oddly piteous whining noise coming from somewhere around its midsection. After a moment, it collapsed in on itself, leaving nothing behind but a rather foul looking puddle.
“So, it came after us because…” Buffy trailed off, waiting for someone to fill her in.
“It sensed that D and I were here, and knew that we were the only ones that could stop it. Hoping that you could drive us away, it made us, and you and Faith, fight,” Dawn explained succinctly. “Well, the you and Faith part was probably just for fun.”
Buffy was staring at KK as though she’d grown another head, finally, truly realising that her little sister was gone, and a new person was standing in her place, a person who loved her like Dawn had but who wasn’t Dawn, not really, and never would be again. The grief hit her suddenly, and seemed completely ridiculous, but she couldn’t hold it in.
“Dawnie…KK…don’t take this the wrong way, but can you take us home and then go away for a while? I just…I can’t…” the Slayer bit her lip, eyes brimming with tears, and Willow wrapped a supporting arm around her waist.
“It’s alright, Buffy, I understand. We’ll go.” They made their way back into the TARDIS, silent tears now running down Buffy’s face, and the Doctor made his way much more sedately around the console. Moments later, the TARDIS settled, and the Doctor opened the door, ushering the group out.
“I’ll see you sometime,” KK told them. “Willow, will you take care of the university?”
“Of course, Dawnie,” Willow replied gently from her spot beside Buffy, nodding her understanding of her younger friend’s request.
“Thanks. Let’s go, D.” And KK turned back, into the TARDIS, the door swinging closed behind her.
The Doctor dematerialised the TARDIS, taking them into the Vortex, and was about to set a course for a new destination when a hand gripped his arm, stilling it as it reached for a switch.
“Now,” said Dawn slowly. “What’s her name?”
“Who?” asked the Doctor, although he knew who his sister was talking about as soon as he met her eyes. “Rose. Her name was Rose. And she was fantastic.”
An hour later, the Key and the Doctor were sitting together on the pilot’s chair, her head on his shoulder as they talked. The Doctor had explained many things about Rose, including her being stuck in a parallel earth, and he was now explaining how he came to be in his tenth incarnation, when the last time his sister saw him he’d been in his seventh, possibly his eighth, he couldn’t remember exactly.
“She looked into the heart of the TARDIS and absorbed it?” asked the Key, her face paling suddenly.
“Yes, what does that have to do with anything?” asked the Doctor. “She suffered no ill effects from it, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Do you remember Simon, D?” asked KK slowly.
“Of course, he was your second human companion, you were still in your first life, just before you regenerated,” the Doctor replied.
“He did almost the same thing, although his reasons were not as selfless as your Rose’s,” Dawn told him softly. “I never told you because I was embarrassed at having made such a huge error in judgement. Mum and Dad were so disappointed in me…at least, Dad was, Mum didn’t really understand exactly how close I came to destroying the universe just because I hung out with a human.” She smiled, remembering the gentle human woman who had loved and raised both her and her brother, even when she felt massively out of her depth while doing so.
“Anyway, the point is, after he absorbed the Vortex and I took it out of him, he started to change.”
“Change? Change how?” demanded the Doctor, concerned.
“I kept him on as my companion, he was good company an he’d learned his lesson. It was a misunderstanding, at least I thought so at the time,” Dawn said, her expression now displaying doubt in that judgement. “He started to become…one of us, Doctor. A Time Lord, and a powerful one. Powerful enough to manipulate the Vortex with absolutely no instruction. The Council…they were so afraid of him that they sealed him a time pocket for eternity.”
“Are you saying…that Rose…” the Doctor’s eyes were wide.
“It didn’t start until almost two years after. I still hadn’t gotten my TARDIS back, we were living on Gallifrey, going stir crazy, and he got sick. Really sick, almost dying sick. He almost didn’t make it through, D. I was so scared…I thought at the time that I was in love with him. Maybe I was. I don’t know. But they took him away. Anyway, my point here is, there is no way he would have survived the transformation without advanced medicines, which means we need to get to your Rose before it starts.”
“What do you mean? I told you she was trapped, there’s no way to get to her,” the Doctor said, eyes filled with pain at the thought of Rose dying, alone, sick and afraid.
“With just one of you, and just one TARDIS, that would have been true…but as you are well aware, and would have realised already if you’d been thinking about it, my TARDIS is capable of more than yours, at least in some ways. Remember?”
The Doctor’s eyes widened, hope filling them for the first time in over a year. It was a painful hope, one that hurt to watch, but she watched anyway, reaching out and gripping his hand in hers.
“We’re going to have to be VERY precise,” she told him, and he nodded, already pulling up a screen on the console and starting work on calculations.
“We’ll get her, D, I promise you,” KK whispered, joy filling her at the thought of finally giving her lonely brother what he truly loved.