Author's note: You'll notice that Ianto is alive. Pick your own reason; CoE didn't happen, he was saved, he was resurrected, whatever. :DChapter Two
"It's so pretty." Sky touched the edge of the console, carefully far from any buttons. "It's singing."
"Careful, Sparky," Clyde warned her. "We don't need you setting anything off."
"I am being careful. I don't think I can, anyway, this isn't exactly electricity. It's something else."
"Maybe you should be careful, Clyde," Dawn suggested. "You're lighting up like a Christmas tree here."
"Hence why I'm not touching anything," he agreed.
"I can't see," Andrew whined from near the door.
"Live with it," Amy advised him. "You can't keep your hands off the console, you don't get to go near the console."
"That's so unfair."
"I'll keep an eye on him," Luke said absently. "You can let him up."
"You'd better be careful," Amy warned, stepping aside. "Where's Rory?"
"He said something about the kitchen," Clyde offered, slapping Andrew's hand down as he went to touch something.
"Ow," Andrew muttered.
"Well, stop then. You've been told."
"And proud of it, so stop trying to touch things."
"No one touch anything," Amy ordered. "I'm just going to find Rory, I'll be right back." She headed out of the room.
"Luke?" Sky said suddenly.
"Why is –"
The floor pitched suddenly, sending Andrew crashing into Clyde. Sky almost went over the railing; only a grab from Luke saved her. He hauled her closer, anchoring her against his own body as the TARDIS shook.
"What the hell!" Clyde yelled, shoving Andrew off and trying to get back to his feet. Dawn was crouched nearby, trying to keep her balance, and caught at Andrew to support him.
"I don't know!" Luke wrapped an arm around Sky, stretching with the other to turn the screen around so he could see. "We're moving!"
"Got that bit, thanks." Clyde wedged himself against the railing behind them. "Here, Sparky, your brother's busy." Sky pushed away from Luke, pressing herself against Clyde and freeing him to poke at the controls.
The TARDIS thumped, knocking Luke off his feet, and stabilised. Andrew scrambled to his feet, holding out a hand to Dawn.
"What happened?" Rory demanded, running down the stairs. "Is anyone hurt?"
"No, we're all right," Clyde said. "Sky?"
"I'm all right." She let go of him, taking a step away. "Where are we?"
"Luke?" Clyde asked.
"Not sure yet. Hang on. Dawn, you all right?"
Amy appeared, shaking her head. "Where's the Doctor?" she asked, glancing around the room.
"He's not here," Luke told her.
"But we moved."
"Yes, but it wasn't him. It wasn't anyone. We just moved."
"No one flies this thing except the Doctor. And River, but I think flying by remote control is still beyond her."
Luke shrugged. "None of us touched anything."
"Andrew?" Clyde said abruptly.
"I didn't touch anything!" he promised.
"I hope not."
"I didn't," he insisted. "I didn't want you to hit me again."
"He didn't," Dawn agreed. "I was watching him. He wasn't anywhere near the console."
Amy frowned, crossing to study the console. "Anyone know where we are?"
Luke reeled off the co ordinates, adding, "Somewhere in the Cigar Galaxy."
"Cigar Galaxy? Really?" Clyde asked.
"Messier 82, or NGC 3034. 12 million light years from Earth in the Ursa Major constellation," Luke said patiently. "About seven million years in Earth's past."
"I like cigar galaxy," Andrew offered.
"How far away?" Sky asked.
"12 million light years. Don't worry, Sky, I'll get us back."
"Are we on a planet?" Dawn cracked the door open, peering out.
"Don't go out there," Rory said quickly, crossing to join her.
"I'm not. But it's cool, look."
"Yes, it's very cool. Let's close the door now."
Sky ducked under his arm, leaning into the doorframe to keep him from closing it. "It looks like Earth," she said, disappointed.
"They often do. Come on, now," Rory tried.
"Look up," Dawn told her, ignoring Rory's attempts to get them to move without touching them.
Sky tilted her head back and grinned. "Hey, two suns! Cool."
"Luke, why aren't we moving?" Clyde murmured.
"I don't know," he said just as quietly. "It should be working."
"And it's set right?"
"The TARDIS is sentient," Amy offered. "Sometimes she sends us places she thinks we need to be."
"Why would she leave the Doctor behind, though?" Luke protested. "That doesn't make any sense."
"Who knows." Lowering her voice, Amy said confidentially "She's a bit odd sometimes."
"Is it smart to say that about the sentient ship while you're in
the sentient ship?" Clyde asked pointedly.
"Ah, she likes us. Well, she likes Rory." She glanced over at where Rory was still trying to corral the girls. "Oi! Away from the door, girls!"
Sky jumped, circling Rory to get away from the door. Dawn just glanced back at her, one eyebrow up. "If the TARDIS brought us here for a reason, maybe we should go find the reason," she suggested.
"No, what we should do is stay safe in here and wait for your genius boyfriend to get us back home. I've heard about Sarah Jane, I'm not having her mad at me. Get back in here."
"That's a lot of pressure," Luke murmured to Clyde.
"Yeah, but you can do it."
"Sure. Need me to – hold things, or something?"
Luke grinned, turning back to the console. "No. Thanks. Actually – Amy, there's a kitchen here, right?"
"Andrew, can you go look? I think we could all do with something. Sky'll help you out."
"Sure. Come along, padawan. Where is it?"
"Oh, just head out that way," Amy waved vaguely towards the door, "and you'll find it. Try a few doors. Maybe you'll be able to find the library."
A cell phone rang and everyone started patting pockets. "Me," Rory said, holding his up. "Hello? – Yep. Luke!"
Luke caught the phone, waving Andrew away. "Why didn't he just call me?"
"Or the TARDIS," Amy added. "Answer it, kiddo."
He made a face at her. "Hello?"
"Luke! Did you run off with my TARDIS?"
"She ran off with me, Doctor."
"She'll do that," he agreed, voice soft and fond. "Where are you, do you know?"
Luke reeled off the co ordinates again and added, "Seven million years or so in Earth's past. How are you calling us?"
"Oh, I jiggery poked Rory's phone after he joined us."
"But not Amy's?"
"Yes, hers too, I just couldn't remember her number. Anyone hurt?"
"No. Do you know why we're here?"
"Noooo," he said, but Luke thought he was probably lying. "Can you get home?"
"It's not working."
Clyde listened as Luke fell into techno babble; Amy was listening as well, eyebrows up. "He is clever, isn't he?" she murmured.
"Made that way," Clyde said absently. "Amy, how much trouble are we in?"
"TARDIS'll look after us. She always does."
"Good to know." He tapped Luke's shoulder, waiting until he looked up, vaguely distracted. "I'm going to find Andrew and Sky. Get Dawn up here to help you, she's driving Rory mad down there."
"Yeah," Luke agreed; Clyde was fairly sure he hadn't heard a word. "No, I've tried that, Doctor."
Clyde glanced at Amy, who waved him away. "I'll do it. Go on."
"You're sure?" the Doctor asked for the sixth time.
Xander was sitting on the couch, head on hand, watching wearily as he paced across the room and back. Sarah Jane was standing by Mr Smith, arms folded, occasionally stepping forward to rescue some random piece of something from the Doctor. Rani had arrived a little while earlier and was now on the computer, chatting with Maria in case the TARDIS actually did turn up there.
"Ok. Well, try resequencing the blah blah blah, blah blah blah."
Xander blinked slowly, trying to refocus. He was almost sure the Doctor hadn't really just said blah blah blah.
"Xander," Sarah Jane said softly.
"Yeah," he said blearily. She was sitting beside him; when had that happened?
"Are you all right? You're very pale."
" Sis Tuesday."
"Yes," she agreed carefully. "Are you all right?"
"I have a cold." He waved it off. "It's nothing."
"Rani," she said over him, "Can you get Xander some tea? Xander, have you taken something?"
"Yeah, before we left the House. Can't take anything yet. Some tissues'd be nice though."
"Got it," Rani agreed, skirting the Doctor and heading downstairs.
Xander blinked as Sarah Jane pressed a hand against his forehead. "Um...?"
" Sis a cold. I was out a couple nights ago helping on a stake out, I got rained on. It's fine."
"Well..." She eyed the Doctor, who was saying something about the refractal period. "I think we may be here a while. Why don't you lie down?"
" m too tall."
"True," she agreed gently. "Luke's bed is downstairs, and it's clean. Come on. Doctor?" she added a little more loudly. "I'll be back in a minute." The Doctor waved her off; Xander was fairly sure he hadn't heard a word.
"I'm fine," Xander muttered, following her.
"Yes, but nothing's happening right now, so you may as well get some rest."
"Sarah Jane, are Dawn and Andrew in trouble?"
She hesitated before pushing open one of the bedroom doors. "The TARDIS usually knows what she's doing." She waved Xander towards the bed.
"I don't like the sound of that pause. This room is quite cool."
"Luke likes things." She touched one of the model aircraft, smiling.
"I used to like things." Xander sat, resisting the urge to immediately curl up.
"I think he was trying to fit fourteen years into a few months." She ran an eye over him. "Take your shoes off, you'll feel better."
"You're a good mom," he told her, reaching down to tug at his laces.
She smiled, leaning out of the door. "Rani."
"Oh!" Backtracking, Rani came in with a cup in one hand and a box of tissues in the other. Looking around, she hooked Luke's bin over to the side of the bed. "There. Need anything else?"
"I'm good," Xander said, taking the tea carefully. "Thank you."
"Get some rest," she told him, smiling before heading back upstairs.
"They're safe," she told him, and this time he believed her.
"We'll call you. I promise. Do you need to call anyone?"
"Uh. I should, but...I'll wait a little while. Maybe it'll fix itself."
"It will," Sarah Jane promised, touching his forehead again. Xander let the pressure urge him down until he was lying. "Get some sleep."
"Mmmph. You'll call?"
"Right." Luke hung up, absently passing the phone to Dawn.
"Well..." He shrugged, studying the console. "It should be working."
"No, really. He can't figure out why it isn't."
"So, what, are we stuck here?" Rory asked, frowning.
"The TARDIS brought us here for a reason. We might have to go and find out what that reason is."
"No," Amy said firmly.
"I don't think we have a choice. She can just keep us here until we do."
"Tea's up!" Clyde called from the top of the stairs, leading the others in. Luke turned gratefully away from Amy, taking the cup Sky offered him with a smile.
Andrew passed cups around to the others; Clyde had milk and sugar and there was quiet confusion for a minute as everyone got sorted out. "So where are we?" Clyde asked, sitting on the steps with his cup.
Luke dropped to sit a couple of steps below him. "We can't get the TARDIS going."
"Really? You and the Doc can't get it working?"
"It's working fine. She just doesn't want us to leave yet." Luke was rubbing the railing next to him, Clyde realised suddenly.
"Why not?" he asked carefully, looking up to catch Amy's eye. She was watching Luke with a frown.
"Because we haven't done whatever she brought us here to do."
"A quest," Andrew breathed.
Clyde leaned down suddenly, knocking Luke's hand away from the railing. Luke turned to stare at him and Clyde told him honestly, "You're giving me the heebies. Stop stroking it."
"Stop stroking her. You've got a girlfriend, go stroke her if you wanna get handsy."
"Thanks," Dawn muttered. Rory was choking on his tea; Amy patted his back sympathetically. Clyde glanced up at Dawn and she rolled her eyes, coming to sit beside Luke. "Any ideas what we need to do, Luke?"
He shook his head, eyes locked on his tea. "How does it usually work, Mr Williams?"
"That's you," Amy told Rory.
"Oh. Yeah. Not used to that."
"Being called by name?" Clyde said, bemused. "How does that work?"
"Well, the Doctor – never mind. Normally, Luke, we go out of the TARDIS and meet some people, and whatever happens, happens. Sometimes we plunge right into it, sometimes we wander around for a while first..."
"No general rule, then?" Clyde asked.
"Doctor would say that's what makes it interesting," Amy said.
"He would," Clyde muttered. "Sparky, you stay here, ok? Andrew, will..."
"No! No, no, no, nonono! We are on an alien planet
and you want me to stay on the ship
"I don't think he wants to," Amy said lightly.
"I'm getting that feeling, yeah," Rory agreed. "I'll stay here. I don't mind."
"Are you sure?" Dawn asked. "I could stay."
"Amy or I should be here. It's fine. I'll keep Sky company."
"Luke," Sky complained.
"We won't be long. Promise. And I'd feel better if I knew you were safe in here."
"Dawn's not staying," Sky protested.
"Dawn knows how to fight. And she wouldn't stay even if I told her to. Please, Sky? Just while we look around. I'll make sure you get a chance to look around before we leave."
"I promise," he agreed solemnly.
"And you'll be careful?"
"Cross my heart."
She turned to look at Clyde. "Make sure he's careful," she ordered.
"I'm on the case, Sky. Promise."
"All right," she said reluctantly.
"I'll make sure he's all right too," Dawn offered.
"You're more likely to distract him."
"Sky!" Luke protested, blushing bright red.
"Wow, I didn't know someone could turn that colour," Amy observed. "Come on, kids, let's get this show on the road. Dawn, what's it look like outside?"
"Cliffs, so rocky underfoot. Two suns, probably fairly warm. Colours more or less matched Earth. I'm guessing the TARDIS doesn't usually bring you places where people can't survive?"
"No." Amy turned, pushing the doors open and taking a few steps outside. "Oof, it stinks," she announced over her shoulder. "But I don't think it's poisonous or anything."
"TARDIS says it isn't," Luke told her, eyes flickering over the screen. "Higher ammonia than Earth, that's the smell, and we'll have to be careful how long we're out in it. But it's not harmful."
"How high?" Rory asked, joining him.
"Less than twenty five pph, we should be fine."
"Good," he murmured. Catching Clyde's look, he added, "At twenty five PPH or more, exposure should be limited to eight hours."
"Now you sound like him." Clyde jerked his head at Luke.
"I'm a nurse, it's a medical fact."
"It's lower than that," Luke said more loudly, switching the screen off. "Rory, what's your phone number?"
"Amy's is the only phone that'll work out there, and she knows the numbers. Do you think you'll need it?"
"Think, no. Never hurts to be prepared, though. Behave, Sky high."
Sky made a face at him and he smiled, ruffling her hair before turning away. "Right. Let's go."
"Right." The Doctor hung up very carefully, concentrating intently on it. "Right. Well."
"Doctor?" Sarah Jane prompted patiently.
"The TARDIS won't start."
"It won t start?" Rani repeated. "Can it do that?"
"Of course she can, she's ali – living. Conscious, sentient, however you want to phrase it. Mind you, she doesn't normally stop for no good reason. Mr Smith, can you contact Captain Harkness?"
"Sarah Jane –" Rani hid a smile; Mr Smith was flaunting his allegiance. "Shall I contact Torchwood?"
"Please do, Mr Smith," Sarah Jane agreed.
The Doctor pouted for a moment before looking around. "Where's K9? He likes me."
"He's in Oxford. I gave him to Luke. And he might not like you if he finds out it took you this long to think of him."
"Connecting," Mr Smith announced.
The Torchwood logo flared on his screen and faded to reveal Ianto. "Hello, Bannerman Road," he said cheerfully. "I'm afraid the captain's not here right now. He went to Slayer Inc, they found a Weevil nest last night."
"No injuries, I hope?" Sarah Jane asked.
"No, no. He just finds it easier to get the report if he goes over there in person."
"Can't possibly be any ulterior motives there," Rani muttered.
"On which side?" Sarah Jane asked, smiling at her horrified look.
The Doctor turned to put his back to the screen. "Slayer Inc?" he asked softly.
"The Council team in Cardiff. They help Jack with the Rift debris. Do you know how long he'll be, Ianto?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Smith. It could be a while. I can patch you through to his communicator."
"Miss Smith," the Doctor mocked. "He's ever so polite, isn't he?"
"It makes a nice change," Sarah Jane said placidly.
"What are you implying?"
"What are you inferring?"
"I asked you first."
"You're in my home."
"Please tell me your team's not like this," Rani said directly to Ianto.
"Jack can be worse when he's in the mood."
"I heard that," Jack said, voice tinny over the varying connections.
"Whoops," Ianto said, deadpan. "Miss Smith?"
"Jack!" the Doctor said, delighted.
"Doctor!" Jack returned in the same tone. "What are you doing there?"
"The TARDIS ran off without me. Jack, you have transport?"
"Nothing. Just the wristband, and you know how well that works. Where's River?"
"She could be anywhere. Or anywhen."
"Who's River?" Sarah Jane asked.
"My w – friend. Wfriend, it's what they call friends on her planet. Wfriend."
"Wfriend," she repeated, glancing at the screen – pointlessly, since Jack couldn't see her. "I'll remember that one."
The Doctor eyed her for a moment before ploughing ahead. "Sometimes she comes when she's called, sometimes she doesn't."
"Sounds familiar," Jack said, just quietly enough that they couldn't comment on it. "She's an archaeologist," he said more loudly, "and she does her study hands on."
"Time travel?" Rani realised. "Brilliant. Do they just pass out time machines in the future?"
"No. River is – a special case." The Doctor shook his head firmly. "She's also unavailable, so that's no help."
"You can't recall the TARDIS?" Jack asked.
"She's ignoring me," he admitted. "She wants those kids on that planet for some reason."
He reeled off the co ordinates, waiting while Jack did the maths. "When are they?"
"Seven million years ago."
There was a pause before Jack said sharply, "Ianto, I'm on my way back. Get a car ready, I'm going to London."
"Jack, what is it?" Sarah Jane demanded.
"The TARDIS took Dawn?"
"Luke, Sky, Clyde, Dawn, Andrew, and Rory and Amy. Why?"
"Because I know that planet, and I know what was happening there seven million years ago."
"This is quite nice, actually," Dawn said, looking around.
"Yeah," Clyde agreed carelessly. "It's nicer than the last alien planet I was on."
"Only alien planet you've been on," Luke murmured. "And you were on it for about three minutes total in bursts of twenty seconds at a time."
"So technically, I've been to alien planets ten times now. And that puts me – how many? Oh, yeah – nine times ahead of you."
"You can't count the same planet nine different times! You didn't even go there nine times."
"You weren't there, mate, off living the high life in Oxford."
"I feel like I need to know this story," Dawn commented.
Luke smiled, looking back absently to where Amy was chivvying Andrew along. "Do you remember the day I skipped our study session and you came to my room looking for me?"
"Yes, there was a problem at home."
"Right. UNIT – that's a part of the Army that deal with aliens – they sent someone to tell my mum the Doctor was dead. It was a lie, of course, they were trying to get hold of some Companions, and they got my mum and a friend of hers, Jo Grant."
"The Doctor had got stranded on this alien junkyard planet," Clyde continued, "but he was able to switch places with me to get everything sorted out."
"So you were stuck on the junkyard planet?" Dawn asked.
"Wouldn't have been so bad if he had left me some kind of instructions."
"He was in sort of a hurry," Luke pointed out.
"You weren't even there, you don't get to derail my rants, Luke."
"I wasn't exactly living the high life, though."
"No, he was very distracted for a couple of days," Dawn agreed. "I think he actually went through a whole class without volunteering an answer."
"You are bad influences on each other," Luke muttered.
"You have an army division that deals with aliens?" Dawn asked suddenly.
"Yeah, they're part of the UN," Luke explained. "Unified Intelligence Task Force, UNIT. The Doctor worked for them for a while, science advisor like I told you, and Mum helped him. So did Jo, before Mum. She still has clearance and authority."
"Comes in handy when she needs someone to do the heavy lifting," Clyde agreed. "Should we stop and wait for the others?"
Dawn turned, looking back down the path. "ANDREW! Move it or I'll lock you in the ship!" Turning back, she grinned at Clyde. "That should do it."
"Your girlfriend is scary," he told Luke earnestly.
"You should see Connor when he gets mad. Dawn, why are you asking about UNIT?"
"Hmm? Oh. Because we had an Army division that dealt with demons. They called them HSTs, Hostile Sub Terrestrials. Buffy's boyfriend was the field commander, for a while."
"Boyfriend for a while or commander for a while?" Clyde asked.
"Boyfriend for a while. He was commander right up until the base imploded and Buffy had to save everyone."
"You are disturbingly blasé about that. I think I'm going to walk with Andrew for a while. Maybe I can get him to keep up."
"Good luck," Dawn agreed cheerfully. Clyde jogged back towards the others and she glanced at Luke. "Am I disturbingly blasé?"
"Blasé, anyway. I don't find it disturbing."
"You're sweet." She leaned in to kiss him, grinning at the disgusted "Yuck!" that drifted up towards them from behind. "Where are we going?" she added, letting him go and looking around.
"We're going up that slope so we can get an idea of the area," Luke told her. "The sun – one of the suns – is going down. I want to make sure we're back at the TARDIS before dark, assuming it gets dark here."
"Do you think it won't?"
"I think it will, but I don't know when it'll happen. I just want to be sure."
"Hey." She kissed him again. "We're fine. Stop worrying."
"Sky's here," he said softly.
"Safe, in the TARDIS, where nothing can get at her. And the nurse is with her. Luke, you're the one who told me, nothing gets in the TARDIS that the Doctor doesn't want there."
"The Doctor isn't here. And Amy and Rory can't fly it."
"That doesn't make it your job!"
He started to answer, but the others finally caught up and he cut himself off. "Are we stopping?" Clyde asked, glancing from Dawn to Luke and back.
"Just waiting for you. I thought you were going to make Andrew keep up with us."
"Keep up with you, not over take you. Where are we going?"
"Up that slope," Dawn said, pointing. "Andrew, what are you doing?"
Andrew looked up at her, eyes wide and frantic. "I don't have enough pockets!"
"Enough for what?" she asked, ignoring Clyde's frantic don't ask him that gestures.
"Everything!" Andrew wailed. "I have to bring something back, or else it's like I wasn't here, but how can I pick?"
"This is your problem?" Amy said, exasperated. Reaching across, she pulled everything apart from a small blue flower out of his hands. "There. Take that home."
"What is it?" Andrew asked, taking a smell. "Um. Baking." He held it out to Dawn, who took an obliging whiff.
"Do I look like a botanist, kid?"
"I'm the same age as you!"
"And yet such a kid. Now where are we going?"
"Up there," Dawn said again, waving at the hill.
"Well, what are we standing around for?"
"Dawn, walk with me," Clyde said abruptly, snagging her arm and dragging her to the back of the group. "Luke, it's your turn to babysit."
"I resent that," Andrew complained.
"Prove me wrong," Clyde suggested, pushing him to get him started.
"What?" Dawn asked softly as they got moving.
"What what?" Clyde said absently.
"Oh. How's Luke?"
"I think he's mad at himself he hasn't got us home yet."
"Sounds about right, idiot boy," Clyde muttered.
"It's because Sky is here, I think. At least, that's making it worse."
"That sounds right, too," he agreed cheerfully. "Doesn't care about you or me, but Sky, that's different."
"You're the one who said she had to stay in the TARDIS," Dawn reminded him.
"Well, yeah, but that's because she's Sparky, not because I have some misguided feeling of responsibility."
"No, it's entirely guided in your case, isn't it?" Dawn grinned at the look on his face. "You're exactly like Xander."
"That's what he said," Clyde admitted.
"He's a good judge of character, Xander. That's why we let him loose on the newbies. He always gets them settled in much faster than we would."
Up ahead, Luke paused to get Andrew back on track and Dawn smiled faintly. "I have this odd feeling Andrew might find himself getting left behind the next time we leave the TARDIS."
"Well, depends where we are. Me, I'm hoping that the next time we leave the TARDIS it'll be into the attic in Bannerman Road."
"What, is that not like Xander?"
Jack refused to say anything else, just repeated his orders to Ianto and signed off. Ianto himself apologised and went to get the car ready, closing the connection between the computers.
"What happened seven million years ago?" Sarah Jane demanded, advancing on the Doctor.
He ducked around the pillar in the centre of the attic, backing up rapidly. "A lot of things happened seven million years ago, you'll have to be more exact..."
"What happened seven million years ago on the planet the TARDIS took them to?" Rani asked, standing against the door with her arms folded.
"That is more specific, but it's very awkwardly worded. Perhaps you should rephrase."
"Doctor," Sarah Jane insisted.
"She's going all mumsy," he stage whispered to Rani. "Does she do that often?"
"Yeah, and there's no point trying to get 'round her, she will get it out of you. Just give up now, keep some dignity."
"It may be too late for that," Mr Smith noted.
"Oi, you, stay out of it," the Doctor warned. "You can be reprogrammed."
"Last time his program changed, he nearly killed Luke and destroyed Earth," Sarah Jane told him. "Oh, and what happened seven million years ago?"
The Doctor grimaced, giving in. "There's a slight chance that the TARDIS has landed on the planet where vampires originated."
"Vampires are demons, they're extra dimensional," Rani pointed out.
"Yes. But they started here. They went somewhere else, afterwards, and then bled back through."
"That seems unlikely."
"It's cyclical." The Doctor waved it off. "Right now, seven million years ago, vampires are being born. And I think that's where the TARDIS is."
"My children are on the TARDIS," Sarah Jane said softly.
"She won't let them be hurt, Sarah."
"She won't have anything to do with it. She wants them there. D'you think they'll walk away from it?"
He gripped her shoulders, holding her gaze. "I will get them back here."
"Yes," she said vaguely. "I think I need to go downstairs. Rani, will you keep the Doctor company?"
"Please. I won't be long."
"Yeah." Rani nodded quickly. "Yeah, 'course. We'll hang out up here. You take your time."
"Sarah," the Doctor said quietly.
"Later." She smiled in his general direction, letting herself out of the attic and closing the door firmly behind herself.
The Doctor stared at the door for a long moment before looking at Rani. "They're coming back."
"I believe you. But they're not my kids. Give her some time." He nodded absently and she added gently "She trusts you. More than anyone in her life, she trusts you."
"So," she said, deliberately cheerful. "Want to keep me company for a while?"
He smiled gently. "Rani Chandra. I would be absolutely honoured."
"This is what we climbed the hill for?" Clyde said in disgust. "More hills."
"We couldn't tell there were more hills until we climbed that one," Luke pointed out.
"I am not in the mood for logic, Luke." Clyde sighed, looking around. "Ok, so there are ruins over there, or a smoke haze over there. Amy?"
"Where are we more likely to find whatever is we're supposed to find?"
"Well, let's see." She came to join him, eyeing the two options carefully. "If we go to the ruins, we risk disturbing something sacred. If we go to the village that's probably under that smoke haze, we risk trespassing and possibly destroying crops."
"Rock and a hard place," he muttered. "Andrew? You're good at this."
"Am I?" Andrew asked, beaming.
"Well, you know more in theory than any of us. What do you think?"
He looked from the smoke to the ruins. "The ruins."
"It's a good spot. There's a stream, see? Trees, and open ground. It's raised up, too. Something serious must have happened to make them abandon it. We should go check it out."
"Sounds good to me," Dawn agreed.
"Amy, can you let Rory know?" Luke asked, studying the slope for the easiest way down. The slope wasn't that bad, though steeper on this side than the one they'd climbed up, but the ground was rocky and there were trees and shrub growing everywhere.
"There, I think," Clyde murmured, standing at his shoulder and tracing out a path.
"Yeah, that looks good," Luke agreed. "Thanks."
"Anytime, Luke, you know that. Or you should."
Luke glanced at him, startled. "Of course I know that."
"You sure? It's not your job to save us, you know. There's seven of us here."
"None of you can fly the TARDIS..."
"You didn't fly it either," Clyde pointed out gently. "Way I understand it, the TARDIS brought us here on her own, and she'll bring us home on her own when she's good and ready."
Luke made a face. "I hate it when you do that, you know."
"What, make sense? That's my job. Brains are your department."
Luke glanced back at the others. "I kind of wish we had Connor."
"You can wish for Connor. Me, I'm just going to aim Amy at anyone who gets in our way." Luke laughed and Clyde grinned, thumping him on the back. "Ready?"
"Good. Guys!" The others wandered up and he pointed out the suggested path. "We need to take it slowly," he warned them. "It's steeper than it looks, and those rocks won't help."
"Did you get Rory?" Luke asked Amy.
"Yep. They're playing cards, and Sky is winning all his imaginary money."
"She's a right card shark, Sky," Clyde agreed.
"That'll be your influence?" Dawn suggested.
"Oi! How'd you know it wasn't Luke?"
"Luke? Luke has no poker face at all. He can win against the computer, but he's terrible with real people."
"Thanks, Dawn," Luke muttered. "Andrew, you're tall, will you go first?"
"And don't stop to examine every rock you pass," Amy added. "You can look around later."
Andrew nodded, starting carefully down the slope. Luke sent Dawn after him and he followed her; Amy was on his heels and Clyde brought up the rear, watching to keep them on the path.
They all made it down in more or less one piece; Dawn stepped in a hole, but the strain worked out within a few minutes, and Andrew fell into the local equivalent of a holly bush. The barbs didn't stick, luckily, and the cuts were shallow, but he looked like he'd suddenly contracted chicken pox.
"That was fun," Clyde declared, dropping to sit on a convenient rock.
"That was your path," Amy reminded him.
"I know. I'm saying, it was fun."
"Fun for you, maybe. I thought you were used to chasing aliens."
"On Earth, yeah. We don't really visit alien planets much."
"You'd be surprised."
Luke rose from where he'd been hunkered over Dawn's ankle. "It should be all right. Keep your boot on, it'll keep the swelling down. Andrew, come here and let me make sure those barbs didn't stick in anywhere."
"It doesn't feel like they did," Andrew said, but he let Luke check him out anyway. "Ow."
"Sorry. Try and keep them clean. And ask Rory to look at them when we get back to the TARDIS."
"Yes, boss," Andrew agreed, ducking around him to join Dawn at the edge of the clearing. "How far is it?"
"Just through here." Dawn pointed. "We should do it in a few minutes if we're careful."
"Sounds like fun. After you, m'lady." He held a branch out of her way, stepping through after her. Clyde was behind him and got the branch in the face; scowling, he held it until Luke and Amy had passed him.
"He's a bit special, Andrew, isn't he?" Amy noted.
"He's very loyal," Luke said defensively. "And very clever, if you want to know about sci fi. And he can raise demons, though I don't suppose that applies here."
"Oooh, defensive," Amy sing songed. "What's that about?" Luke made a face, stepping around a rock, and she grinned at Clyde.
"He is a bit special," Clyde agreed, "but he's all those things Luke said, too, and he's brave, when he needs to be. He'll surprise you."
"I look forward to it."
"Luke!" Dawn called back. Luke jogged ahead; she and Andrew were standing at the edge of the tree line, gazing across at the ruins.
"Wow. They're bigger than they looked from up there," he murmured, shading his eyes and studying the ruin.
"There's writing," Dawn said, pointing it out. "See there?"
"Yeah. Can you read it?"
"I can," Andrew said. "It's a form of – well, the name wouldn't mean anything. But yeah, I can read it."
"What's it say?" Clyde asked, joining them.
"Um – " Andrew murmured under his breath for a minute. "It's a warning," he said finally. "You know, don't disturb the ruins or death and destruction. The usual."
"What does it say exactly?" Luke asked patiently.
"Um, it doesn't really translate exactly, there are nuances and shifted meanings..."
Andrew grimaced, muttering for a moment again. "Beware to they who tread upon this ground; vengeance will be swift and sure and none will escape its reach."
"See, that wasn't so hard," Clyde said cheerfully.
"Wasn't too encouraging either," Amy muttered.
"What would the Doctor do now?"
"March right in," she admitted. "He thinks warnings are for other people."
"Well, maybe we should do that."
"Or, we could go back and check out the village and see what the vengeance is likely to be."
Dawn pushed through the trees, stepping deliberately between some of the chunks of wall. "Seems all right so far," she called back, bouncing on her toes to test the ground. "Bit marshy. Nothing serious."
"Marshy," Luke repeated. "The rest of the place was dry as anything."
"Yeah, but we're in a valley," Clyde pointed out. "The water'd collect down here, right?"
"Yeah. That's probably it."
Clyde eyed him for a minute before sighing. "Dawn, get back here."
"Because with our luck you're about to fall in a sink hole."
"Sink holes don't actually exist, they're a myth."
"Yes, on Earth they're a myth. But then again, we shouldn't really be on a planet with two suns because the gravity should be too intense for planets to form in the first place, so who knows." Catching Luke's look, he added, "That's right. I know things."
"I know you do," Luke agreed. "Dawn?"
"I'm coming," she said with a sigh. "Taking all the fun out of exploring alien worlds, you two."
"Someone's got to be the sensible one. Come on." Clyde edged out, holding out a hand for her.
"Clyde, it's really not that bad, I can –" She broke off, twisting to look down at her leg.
"What?" he demanded.
"Am stuck. I knew this was going to happen."
"It's just a hole in the ground, I'm not sinking."
"There can't be holes in a marsh, Dawn! It levels out. Remember?"
"I'm on rock, genius."
"My point still stands."
Luke sighed, slipping past Clyde, who snatched at his collar. "What are you doing?"
"I'm the lightest after Dawn. I'm going to go help her."
"You're taller than I am!"
"Yes, but I'm not as..." He gestured vaguely between them.
"Built," Amy offered, and sniggered when he blushed.
Clyde glared at her before turning back to Luke. "Just be careful."
"I'm always careful." Luke smiled at him, slipping through the trees and picking his way carefully until he could climb onto the rock beside Dawn. "Is it the same ankle?"
"No. It doesn't hurt, though. I'm just stuck."
"Well, that's something," Luke muttered, crouching to look at it. Dawn steadied herself with a hand on his shoulder as he twisted her foot lightly, trying to free her foot.
"Take her shoe off!" Amy called.
"The hole's pretty deep, I'm afraid I'd lose her shoe if I took it off."
"The TARDIS has loads of shoes."
"The TARDIS is on the other side of that hill," Dawn pointed out. "You try walking back in one shoe – ow, Luke, not that way."
"Sorry. Hang on..." He tugged more firmly and the foot came free, knocking her off balance; she caught at Luke's arm, squealing. Clyde had time to yell a warning before both of them disappeared into the marsh.