"Vampires are real," Amy said again.
"That's the fifteenth time you've said that," Andrew said in something approaching awe.
"She's only getting started," Rory said, crouching to offer Luke a tool.
"Yes, they're real," Dawn said patiently, mostly ignoring the byplay. "So are a lot of other things; we think some of what you think are aliens are probably demons, and some of our demons are probably really aliens. We're still working on that one."
"You meet aliens all the time," Clyde added. "Why is demons harder?"
"Wait, I know this one!" Sky said suddenly. "Xander and Rani talked about this once. It's because aliens are alien, but demons are on Earth and it's more jarring that way. In space you expect to see aliens and things. You don't expect it in..."
"Leadworth," Luke said when she faltered. "How does that feel, Sky high?"
"That's fine. It feels just like home."
"Good." He fastened the covering back over the wires he'd been working on, accepting Rory's hand up. "Let me know if you start feeling tired again, ok?"
"Unless it's real, been up for hours tired," Clyde added. "And I think we're all getting to that point. How long are the suns going to be up, Luke?"
"Second sunrise is in about three hours and they'll both be down again in about fifteen."
"Good, then we have time to get some rest before we go check out that village."
"Who said anything about the village?" Rory protested.
"Trust me, that was going to be the next thing. Are there bedrooms somewhere around?"
"Yeah, the TARDIS will set some up for you."
"I'm not tired," Andrew said, escaping whining by the narrowest margin possible. "I want to stay here and look around."
"You can't stay here on your own," Dawn told him, ignoring the pout. "You know that. With your luck you'd touch one button – or crank one crank, or boing
one spring, why does it even have a spring? – and we'd end up getting chased by dinosaurs."
"Oooh, dinosaurs!" he said brightly. Catching sight of the look on her face he added quickly, "I'm joking, dinosaurs are not cool. Who'd want to see dinosaurs? Not me."
Rory started to speak but Amy elbowed him in the stomach. "Well we can't stay up with you, we're tired," she said brightly. "I'm sure you kids can sort that out. Come on, Rory." Wheezing slightly, he followed her, waving apologetically at Luke as he passed him.
"I'll..." Luke started.
"No," Clyde interrupted him. "You will not sit up with Andrew, you've been crawling around rewiring things. You definitely have to get some sleep."
"Yeah," Dawn agreed. "Come on, Luke." She ran a hand down his arm to grip his hand and he was following her before he even realised.
"That's just not fair," he muttered.
"No, but it's so easy," she agreed lightly.
"Ew," Sky protested.
"Sorry, Sky," Dawn said, completely unapologetic. "You come too. Andrew, don't make Clyde stay up too long, he's tired."
Andrew glanced apologetically at Clyde as the others left the room. "We don't have to stay up."
"I don't mind for a bit. It is pretty cool in here."
"I never want to leave," Andrew murmured, turning in a slow circle. "Every time I look it's different."
Clyde glanced down at his hand; there was no hint of the artron energy that normally pooled there, hadn't been since they'd crashed here. "You should have seen it when the last Doctor was here."
"Yeah?" Andrew glanced absently at him, still studying the console. "Was it different?"
"Yeah. A bit. You can still tell it's the same place, but..." He shrugged, pressing a hand against the nearest pillar. "I guess it changes to match him. Don't you, gorgeous?" The pillar pulsed under his hand and he smiled.
Andrew was watching him when he looked up. "What is that about?" he demanded. "You and Luke keep touching it."
"Her," Clyde corrected him easily. "Of course we're touching her, everyone's touching her."
"Not the way you are," Andrew told him.
"Well, she likes me. Not sure what Luke's excuse is, but it's probably something about his massive brain. It's usually that." He pressed against the pillar briefly, pushing away and heading for the stairs. "Come on. Dawn'll be back to hunt us down pretty soon."
"You know her so well," Andrew murmured, trailing behind him.
None of them slept for very long, but they looked better for the rest and the meal Clyde and Dawn sorted out once everyone was awake. Luke didn't bother making Sky stay behind this time, but he did make sure everyone was carrying stakes before they left the TARDIS.
He got Rory on his own as they were milling around getting ready. "Mr Williams?"
"Rory," Rory said patiently. The other kids seemed to have got it, but Luke was still adamantly calling him by his surname and it was weird. "What's up?"
"I wanted – I'm not trying to take over, or anything."
Luke flushed. "I keep telling everyone what to do."
"Oh, that! Don't worry about it, I never get to tell Amy and the Doctor what to do anyway. Not unless it's about something medical."
"Andrew's older, and he probably could be in charge; he runs Slayer Teams at home, only he does it sneakily when the others aren't looking. But he's too distracted by the alien stuff right now."
"Luke, no one minds. You're not doing it to make yourself important. Trust me, if Amy had a problem with it she'd let you know."
"Yeah, and you ever lock me in the TARDIS again you're in trouble," Amy told him, draping an arm around Rory's shoulders and grinning as he jumped. "Sorry," she said insincerely.
"No, you're not," Rory muttered.
"No I'm not. What are you boys talking about? You look very serious over here. You're just lucky Dawn's distracting Andrew."
"It's not hard," Luke pointed out. "All she has to do is say Look, alien grass! and he's busy for five minutes."
"True," Amy agreed, "but not really the point. What are you talking about?"
"Luke thinks we're mad he's been telling us what to do, so he's pre emptively apologising."
"Oh? Are you planning on telling us what to do, Luke?"
"Not planning on it," Luke assured her. "These are vampires, though, or something very close to them; we should probably be listening to Dawn or Andrew."
"Got the potted history of vampires from Andrew, thanks. Sunlight or fire, decapitation, stake through the heart. That's why Rory's wearing this." She tapped the scabbard he'd mostly hidden under his jacket.
"Is that really your sword?" Luke asked, studying it as best he could.
"Nah, my sword never existed now. It's a fair replica, though. The Doctor brought me to Rome to pick it up."
Rory grimaced. "I needed a sword. And – the whole outfit – how's Sky feeling?"
Luke nodded, diverted. "Better. She says she feels fine now. The field out here will keep her going; it's close enough to Earth's."
"Luke, come on!" Clyde yelled from the edge of the clearing. "The suns'll be going down again!"
"We've got nearly seven hours, Clyde, and if it takes that long I'll be more worried about the ammonia," Luke said, but he went to join him anyway.
"Nice kid," Amy murmured, wrapping the other arm around Rory's neck and kissing him briefly.
"He worries a lot," Rory agreed when he could catch his breath.
"Reminds me of someone else I know. Come on. We should at least try to keep up with the kids."
"Andrew's our age, you know."
"And what a terrifying thought that is, isn't it?"
Sarah Jane was polite, if a little remote, when she came back into the attic; she didn't stay long, just long enough to check on them and offer food. Both politely turned her down and she went back downstairs, ordering Jack to come and find her if they wanted anything.
"Have you told Luke where he is?" Jack asked quietly.
"Are you going to?"
The Doctor looked up at him. "Would you? Knowing the choices he'll have to make? Would you warn him about them first?"
"He's a good kid, doc."
"He's Sarah's son, of course he's a good kid. But be fair, Jack. You know what happens there. You must do."
"I know the legends."
"They're surprisingly accurate. All legends have a grain of truth, you know – would you want to know? To worry about it before hand?"
"It might make it easier."
"Easier? For Luke Smith? Knowing what's coming and what he's going to have to do? Knowing never makes it easier. And besides, Dawn Summers makes a habit of kicking against 'have to' and 'going to be'. If she knew she'd kick without thinking and that won't make it any easier for him either."
"Are you going to tell Rory and Amy?"
"No, and you're not to either. They have their part to play, and I don't know if they'll do it if they know it's coming."
"Don't trust them?" Jack asked softly.
"Oh, Jack. Jack Harkness. I trust them as much as I trust you, how's that?"
"It'll do. For now."
"Pardon me," Mr Smith said politely. "May I know to what you are referring?"
"What an awkwardly phrased sentence," the Doctor said thoughtfully. "And no, you may not."
"Much better; short and to the point. You may not, Mr Smith, because you would tell Sarah. And I'm not having this argument again."
"Are you so unsure that you cannot argue your side again?"
Jack laughed, startled. "Oh, he's good. You're good, Mr Smith. Ever consider working for Torchwood?"
"My purpose is to protect Earth. I can fulfil that more easily and to better effect here than I could in Cardiff."
"He is good," the Doctor agreed, smiling at Jack's pout.
Rani tapped at the door, putting her head in. "Mind if I hang out up here for a while? Sarah Jane's pacing downstairs, she's making me motion sick."
"Come in," Jack agreed, rising to his feet.
"Perhaps Rani would be interested in your conversation," Mr Smith said blandly.
"Mr Smith, you traitor," Jack said mock angrily.
"Loyal to Sarah," the Doctor said again, more thoughtfully.
"What conversation?" Rani asked, looking from him to Jack and back.
"The Doctor and Captain Harkness have some knowledge of what will happen to Luke and the others," Mr Smith told her. "They are debating passing on their knowledge."
"What?" She turned on the Doctor. "If you know you have to tell him!"
"Why not?" She took a step back, studying him, and then turned to Jack. "What happens? Are they hurt? Jack!"
"If it goes the same way, no one is hurt," Jack said carefully.
"What do you mean, 'if it goes the same way'? If you remember it, it has to go that way!"
"No," Jack corrected her; he was mildly impressed that she was following this well. Obviously being a friend of the Doctor, even at a remove, had a knock on effect. "I remember hearing legends, when I was growing up. But there's nothing to say that what Luke and the others do now will be the same as it was to inspire those legends. It's happening to them now
. And..." He looked up, catching the Doctor's eye.
"Time can be rewritten," he murmured.
"I'm sorry?" Rani said.
"It's – fluid. Not stable. You remember moving here three – four? – years ago, but yesterday you may have grown up on this street. Some people are fixed -" he deliberately didn't look at Jack as he spoke, "and some events will always happen, no matter what. But mostly, yes. Time is fluid, and it can be changed."
Rani had paled. "How can you tell?"
He smiled sadly at her. "Be a Time Lord. If there's another way I don't know it."
"The Time Agency could tell, sometimes," Jack offered. "If it was a big enough disruption."
"Yes, the Shadow Proclamation could see the big things, but they had to be really huge. Planets in the sky huge."
"I remember that," Rani said distantly. "That was just before we moved here, probably."
The Doctor smiled at her again. "Your timeline is clear. Except for..." he tilted his head, frowning. "A snag there. It's been smoothed out, but...did you met another time sensitive alien?"
"Eve." Rani smiled. "She was – actually, we never found out what she was. Stranded, and lonely – but she found friends, and she's gone."
"Problem?" Jack asked softly.
"No, no. It's been fixed. Very skilfully, actually." He bowed slightly to Rani. "Your timeline is clear and has always been as you remember it."
"Can you really see that?" Rani asked.
"Doesn't that – overwhelm? Luke remembers everything he sees and sometimes he has to stop, take a day off and do nothing. Sort and file the information."
"Not for a Time Lord." His face had darkened and he turned away, back to poke uselessly at Mr Smith. Jack caught Rani's eye and waved her off and she nodded quickly.
"Can I help with something, Doctor?" she asked, deliberately lifting her voice to sound happy.
"Actually, yes. Can you drive?"
"Drive?" she repeated.
"I need K9 and I believe he's in Oxford. I don't know where Luke's room is or how to get in, but I'm guessing you do."
Rani thought for a minute. "I can drive, but I don't have a car."
"I can help you out there," Jack said with a smile.
She nodded. "Mr Smith, can you contact K9?"
"If he is powered on." Mr Smith whirred for a moment. "My apologies, Rani, he seems to be powered off at the moment."
"All right," she agreed, holding out a hand to Jack for the keys. "Keep trying. If you get through, tell him that Sanjay'll be coming to pick him up and bring him down to the gate, and he's to allow it. Jack, Sarah Jane'll have to make that call." She blinked at the look on his face. "It'll save time, I can just drive by and pick him up."
"K9 could get himself to the gate," the Doctor pointed out.
"Yes, but he'd be noticed. Sanjay can just carry him down and it won't be as obvious."
"Thinks of all the angles," Jack said approvingly. "I like you, Rani. Want to work for Torchwood when you graduate?"
"Sure. I'll let you tell Sarah Jane, will I?"
"Ooooh," he laughed. "On second thoughts, invited rescinded. I'm not getting between that mamma bear and her cubs."
Rani grinned. "Thought so. Mr Smith, you'll keep trying?"
"I shall, Rani," he agreed.
"Thanks. I'll be – well, a couple of hours, I guess."
"We'll be here," the Doctor promised, watching her leave.
The hike to the village was a little more pleasant than the hike to the temple had been; the slope was much more gentle in this direction and there were far less trees and rocks to interfere with them. It was almost like a stroll and after a while everyone relaxed, enjoying the walk. The two suns made the day warm and dry but not hot; Dawn made everyone keep sipping water anyway.
Sky wandered along with Andrew, occasionally pointing out interesting plants. Rory made them promise not to actually pick anything; he didn't want to risk a bad reaction out here, and both agreed cheerfully and kept looking. Dawn had taken Luke's hand after a few minutes and they were walking together, talking softly.
Amy took pity on Clyde and made sure not to hold Rory's hand. Clyde smiled thankfully at her, walking with them. "So what's up with the sword?" he asked.
"Long story," Rory said absently, watching Andrew warily as he approached a stand of trees.
"Well? We've got a long walk, haven't we?"
"He's got a point," Amy agreed.
Rory sighed. "There was a timeline where I was an Auton – that's a plastic being – cast in the mould of a Roman soldier. And I was that for two thousand years; Autons don't age or die. I don't really remember it unless I try, but some of the instincts and things have crossed over. I can use some of the skills."
"And the Latin," Clyde realised.
"And the Latin," Rory agreed. "Luke's accent really is terrible, you know."
"Yeah, he's always been terrible at languages. No one's really sure why, he's always good at everything else he does."
"He has to be bad at something, I suppose," Rory said philosophically.
"What caused the timeline?"
"The other timeline, the Roman Auton one. What caused it?"
"Oh – that was the original timeline, this is the new one, but it has to do with being sucked out of time and dying in the past, all very complicated, and only Amy's and my timelines actually changed. Why?"
"I've been to other timelines. One was when Sarah Jane's parents didn't die. That one was pretty awful. And there was a nightmare one – that was just a nightmare, though."
"Anyone have a ponytail?" Amy asked, grinning at Rory's betrayed look.
"No," Clyde said warily. "No ponytails. I mean, there was only me and one other person, but no."
They walked in silence for a moment before he said, "Really a Roman?"
Luke smiled as Rory attempted to explain something again to Clyde. "This is nice," he murmured, squeezing Dawn's hand lightly.
"It is nice, isn't it? We should get kidnapped to vampire infested alien planets more often." Ahead of them Andrew squealed in delight and she smiled reluctantly. "We could leave the kids at home next time, though."
"Sky's been really good," Luke protested dutifully.
"Yes, but if we left the kids at home, it would be just us. Alone. On an alien planet with no one else around. Just you and me..."
Luke jumped away from her, fumbling with his bottle. "Sky, come have a drink!" he called, voice shockingly high pitched.
Clyde wandered up, laying a companiable arm across Dawn's shoulders. "You are cruel to him."
"I know," she agreed, mock regretfully. "I should really be nicer to him, it's just so much fun this way."
"Cruel, cruel, cruel," he said with a sigh.
"I know, but what can I do about it?" she asked innocently.
"Stop teasing him?"
"Not nearly as much fun."
"Long as he's having fun too," Clyde said, faintly warning. Dawn nodded and he turned away, taking the bottle from Sky and teasing her when she tried to get it back.
"We should keep going." Luke stopped and coughed; when he spoke again his voice was back in its normal register. "We don't want to get caught outside when the suns go down."
"We're nearly there," Andrew pointed out, coming back towards them.
"Then let's keep going." Luke glanced back at Rory, who waved him on, still ambling along behind them.
The group moved on; Luke kept Sky with him and Dawn made Andrew stay with them instead of wandering off to look at whatever caught his eye. Clyde slid in front of them, keeping an eye out.
There were fields on the other side of the village, but this side was clear; the houses just started abruptly. Clyde halted just before walking between two buildings, looking around carefully.
"Something's not right here," he murmured, still studying the buildings he could see.
"What is it?" Rory called, catching up.
"What are we listening for?" Amy asked.
"What do you hear?"
Amy frowned, listening. "Nothing."
"Right. Andrew, jog back a bit until you can see the fields and tell me how many people you can see."
Andrew obeyed, backing up until he could see between the houses. "No one," he said after a minute. "I can't see anyone."
"The suns are up and there's no one in the fields. And there's nothing to hear. No one's moving around the village. This isn't right."
Luke nodded. "We have to go in anyway, Clyde."
"What I wouldn't give for a good lippy right now," Clyde muttered, ignoring the strange looks. "Let's all be careful, then. Sparky, you stick with your brother, ok?" Sky nodded, clinging to Luke's sleeve, and Clyde started forward.
The houses were arranged roughly around an open area that he mentally dubbed the square; they paused when they got there, bunching together to examine the buildings around them. Still no one was visible, but there were signs of a fight; a door was hanging open on one house, furniture had been smashed and left around, and a roof was smoking gently, though the fire was long gone out. Feathers from some kind of bird were scattered around.
"Luke," Sky said softly. "They're in there." She waved to the largest building.
"How can you tell?" Amy asked, stepping up on Luke's other side.
"Listen," Sky said; when Amy rolled her eyes she said more firmly, "Listen."
"Oh, yeah," Rory said. "I hear that."
"It's a meeting, or something," Luke murmured. "It's a group."
"It's a group fighting," Dawn said, wincing as one voice rose angrily above the others. "Luke, I don't think we want to walk into that."
"No, I don't think so," he agreed.
"We're just going to hang around out here?" Clyde asked.
"They're angry, Clyde, and they were attacked last night. Who do you think attacked them?"
"Yes, but it's day. We're obviously not vampires."
"They haven't been attacked before," Andrew pointed out. "Or, not for a while. They're not used to it."
"How can you tell?" Rory asked.
"Because if they dropped tools and had a meeting every time they were attacked they'd starve, Rory," Amy told him. "Andrew's right, it's been a while. Being strangers around here is looking like a worse and worse idea."
"Oh, like everything the Doctor does, then."
"Oi. Be nice."
"I am. This is me being nice. Want me to try for nasty?"
"I'm not sure you could, mate," Clyde offered.
"Oh yeah? Shorty?"
"Oh, ouch," Clyde said flatly, pressing both hands to his heart. "Your rapier wit has wounded me."
Rory looked at Amy for support, and she shook her head. "That was kind of sad, Rory."
"Oh, thanks for the support. That really means a lot to me, you know."
"Guys." Luke was backing up, one hand firmly around Sky's arm; they reached Dawn and he paused, pressing his back to hers and keeping Sky firmly between them. Andrew was hovering on his other side, watching the building.
The doors opened and people started to pour out; they got several steps from the building before noticing the little group and jerking to a halt. Luke glanced at Clyde, who pushed his way forward.
"Um – hi. We're just passing through, don't mind us."
"Clyde, get back here," Amy said through gritted teeth, gesturing him to back up towards them. When he was close enough she caught at his sleeve, tugging him back to join them.
A man pushed through the group, shouting, and Andrew flinched. "Um – betrayers, defilers, murderers – they're not very happy with us."
"How come you can understand them?" Clyde asked.
"Yeah, and how come we can't?" Amy added. "The TARDIS is supposed to translate for us all the time."
"The Doctor's not here," Rory reminded her.
"And they're using the same language as was on the temple," Andrew added. "Well, sort of. Close enough."
"Can you speak it?" Luke demanded.
"About as much as you can speak Latin."
"Luke, we've got weapons over here!" Clyde called.
"I see them. Andrew, try. And if it doesn't work, do what I said."
"I hate what you said," Andrew told him, but he took a step forward, clearing his throat and hesitantly speaking.
The crowd, who'd been yelling what they assumed were threats, fell silent as he stumbled through the words. The first man was listening carefully; when Andrew stuttered to a halt he asked a question. Andrew nodded frantically and he turned to yell at the crowd.
"Andrew," Amy hissed.
"I told him we were stranded and we'd just got here. He asked if we'd been to the ruins and I said yes."
"That might not have been smart," Clyde muttered. The crowd was thinning, most people throwing resentful glares at them as they went; Rory took advantage of the more empty clearing to haul Clyde and Amy back to rejoin the others.
When almost everyone had gone the headman spoke to Andrew again. "Um, he wants us to come into the meeting house and talk."
"All right," Luke agreed. "Clyde, take Dawn and Sky back to the TARDIS."
"What? No chance, mate."
"No," Dawn agreed.
"Don't be stupid," Sky agreed. "Splitting up never works anyway. Don't you watch horror movies?"
"Not if I can avoid it," he muttered. "Sky..."
"No. No more splitting up."
"Uh, he's getting kind of impatient," Andrew put in.
"And those look like muscle to me," Rory added, glancing towards the handful of men lingering around the edges of the clearing. "Luke..."
"Yes. All right. Sky, if anything happens, I'm telling Mum on you."
"Yes, I'm terrified," she agreed. "Come on."
Inside the headman gestured them to sit on the rough wooden benches still in rows in the room. Andrew fidgeted uncertainly at the end of a bench, waiting for something to happen.
"Ask him his name," Clyde suggested.
Andrew nodded, fumbling through the question and hastily introducing his group when asked. "His name is Asoka," he said finally. "He's been the headman here for – well, it doesn't really translate, their way of measuring time doesn't match ours, but a long time. Years."
"And they haven't been attacked before?"
"Not in living memory, he says. There's legends of it happening a long time ago, but nothing on how to beat them. The best they ever managed was to hunker down and get through it."
"That can't be right," Dawn protested. "Vampires don't just stop for no reason; they're killed or they run out of victims, that's it."
"I'm just telling you what he's saying," Andrew said, wounded.
"Andrew, what do they think triggered the attack?" Luke asked, watching Asoka.
Andrew posed the question, listened to the answer and winced, reaching for the bench and sitting down hard. "We did. They think we did. And they think the only way to stop it is to feed us to them as tribute."