"You can contact the TARDIS in five minutes."
"Thank you, Mr Smith!"
"You could just tell him to stop counting," Xander pointed out.
"Yes, but then how would I know how long it will be until I can contact the TARDIS?"
"By asking? Anyway, it's in Washington, this countdown doesn't apply anymore. You can just phone them."
The Doctor turned to stare at him. "Are you always so relentlessly logical?"
"Someone has to be."
"You can contact the TARDIS in four minutes," Mr Smith offered. "Temporal flux escalating. Temporal flux escalating. TARDIS materialising."
"What?" The Doctor spun on the spot, staring at the space where the TARDIS usually landed.
"TARDIS has materialised."
"No it hasn't!"
"Mr Smith, where
has the TARDIS materialised?" Jack asked, pushing to his feet.
"The TARDIS has materialised in the back garden. You can contact the TARDIS in three minutes."
"Back garden," the Doctor repeated, dashing out the door. Jack and Xander exchanged looks; Jack gestured him to go ahead.
Sarah Jane and Rani had made it there first and Sky, Luke and Clyde were all being violently hugged and berated at the same time. The Doctor carefully stepped around them to join Amy and Rory, blinking at Connor.
"I'm sure Andrew was less filled with murderous rage when you left," he said idly. "Also, didn't he look different?"
"Connor," Rory corrected him. "And I don't think he has rage."
"Oh. Well, I suppose that would –"
Amy slapped him.
"Ow," he continued thoughtfully. "That hurt."
"Good," Amy said. "You bloody idiot."
"You sent us off to that planet! We nearly got eaten by vampires!"
"I'm almost certain you didn't," he said warily. "Rory?"
"We almost got eaten by vampires," he agreed.
"Drained by vampires," Connor told him.
"We almost got drained by vampires," Rory said obediently.
"Did you send us there on purpose?" Amy demanded, hands on hips.
"If you'll recall, I tried to get you out of the TARDIS."
"You didn't try very hard!"
"Well, I couldn't tell you why, could I?"
He glanced over at Sarah Jane and her kids, all of whom were watching them. "Because you couldn't know," he said, directly to Luke. "What was coming. What you were facing. It had to be done honestly, by all of you."
"It must be pretty awful in your head," Rani murmured.
"Since no one's mentioning the elephant in the room, I will. Where's Andrew?" Xander asked.
"He stayed behind," Dawn told him.
"Stayed behind where?"
"On that planet. Seven million years in the past and twelve million light years from here."
"You left him behind?"
"He wanted to stay," Luke said over Dawn. "He thought he could do good there. We talked to him, we all tried to talk him out of it, but he wanted it."
"Of course he wanted it, he thinks he's got something to make up for. Doctor, can we go back for him?"
"Go back?" the Doctor repeated absently.
"To get Andrew."
"He doesn't want to come back," Amy said. "Let the kids tell you what happened, maybe you'll understand."
Clyde touched Jack's arm, drawing him to one side as Dawn and Luke started talking. "Captain Jack? We can't go back for him, can we?"
"Why do you say that?"
"The TARDIS brought us there on purpose, but we didn't do anything special. Woke some vampires, beat some vampires, that was it. Andrew's gonna make the difference, isn't he?"
Jack glanced at Xander, listening intently to Dawn and Luke. "I'll tell you when he gets caught up," he said softly.
"Vampires?" Xander said.
"Not exactly like ours, they looked different," Dawn told him. "But they were intelligent, they died with fire and stakes and Rory beheaded one."
Xander glanced over at Rory. "Really?"
"It was trying to eat me," Amy told him.
"And you took its head off?"
"Rory's a Roman Centurion," Clyde said with a grin.
"Was a Roman Centurion," Rory corrected him.
"Huh." Xander frowned. "Cool."
"Well, it makes beheading people easier," Rory agreed.
"So you taught the villagers," Xander said, turning back to Dawn.
"Yeah. But then the Doctor came through and told me about the spell – you must have told him that?"
"No." Xander glanced over at the Doctor. "What spell?"
"Look at the time! We should be going, Ponds, I've imposed on Sarah for quite long enough."
"Freeze," Sarah Jane ordered him. "Actually, everyone inside, we'll finish this in relative comfort. Why did you park out here anyway, Luke?"
"Bigger landing pad," he said apologetically. "The attic's only a tiny bit bigger than the TARDIS. I wasn't sure I could hit it just right."
"You did it earlier."
"I was a lot calmer earlier, and that was about three days, two meals and an hour and a half of sleep ago anyway."
"We should really..." the Doctor started. Sarah Jane looked up at him, and he sighed and finished grumpily, "Go inside. Come along, Ponds."
They ended up in the attic again; it really was the best room for this many people. Luke dropped beside K9, grinning, and the others found space around the room.
"Right," Xander said, settling on the arm of the couch. "You were saying about a spell?"
"Well, a warlock," Dawn corrected herself. "Grimslaw."
"Banishment spell," Connor said. "Good call, whoever it was."
"I thought it was you, Xander," Dawn said with a frown. "It really came from you, Doctor?"
"How did you know it?"
The Doctor thought for a moment. "I knew to tell you to use it," he said finally, "because the stories said you used it."
"That's a paradox, it's a closed circle. An ontological paradox. It's not possible."
"Of course it's possible. Who says it's not possible? Anything is possible. You did those things seven million years ago."
"A few hours ago."
"That's time travel."
"The Doctor once met a woman," Jack told her. "Sally Sparrow. She gave him a folder with different bits of information in it. A while later he was knocked back in time to 1969. The folder told him what information to leave where and when to get Sally to send the TARDIS back to him. Sally started getting all these strange messages, people were giving her things, and eventually she got the TARDIS back to him. She collected all the information in a folder. And then one day she met him in the street..."
"She met him before he met her," Clyde said slowly.
"No, wait," Dawn said quickly. "Sally got the messages, saved them, gave them to the Doctor when she saw him, and then
he was knocked back in time and sent the messages?"
"Yes," Jack said patiently. "But that's just saying the same thing in a different way. The information Sally had was a closed loop; she gave it to the Doctor and he sent it to her, and she gave it to him. You did the spell because the Doctor told you to because he knew you did it."
Dawn frowned, concentrating. "Yes," she said finally. "I think I have it, anyway. Let's move on."
"They did the spell," Luke continued. "The vampires threatening that village were gone. But there were other villages, and other groups of vampires. Andrew wanted to stay. They didn't have Slayers there but the villagers fought really well, when he showed them how."
"We tried to talk him out of it," Dawn said quietly. "We really did. We asked him to come back and tell you himself, even. But he wouldn't. He was so determined, and you know he's normally easy to sway. He wanted this."
Xander turned to look at the Doctor, one eyebrow up. "Well?"
"Well?" he repeated, in exactly the same tone.
"Andrew Wells has a legacy and a destiny that goes far beyond this planet," Xander quoted. "Care to share with the group?"
"Ah. Yes. That. Well. Jack?"
Jack grinned. "Can't take the heat, Doc?"
"No, just – testing you."
"Uh huh." He turned to Xander, still grinning. "Andrew Wells led those people to freedom. Within fifteen years of his being left there, they'd cleared the continent of vampires and he moved on. He died before the world was cleared, but his warriors kept going and within two hundred years the world was clear. They kept practising, passing his lessons on, even when they discovered space travel and moved out. They kept fighting vampires and demons wherever they came across them for thousands of years."
"Until they found a small planet in an otherwise unimportant solar system," the Doctor said quietly. "A planet occupied by demons called Old Ones."
Xander choked. "Andrew's responsible for kicking the Old Ones out?"
"At a remove, yes. His followers taught the humans here on Earth to fight, they inspired the shaman of the time to create the Slayer. Then they moved on across the galaxy."
Xander was laughing softly. "Andrew is responsible for Buffy. Oh, oh, I wanna be the one to tell her that!"
"I want to be as far away from her as possible when you tell her that," Dawn muttered.
"Jack," the Doctor said quietly. "There's a book in the library – you know the one?"
"I know it. Back in a minute. Want to come, Little Bit?"
"That's you," Rory stage whispered to Sky.
"Oh! Thank you. I like the TARDIS."
"Good taste. I approve," the Doctor said brightly.
"Sky is twelve, Doctor," Sarah Jane reminded him.
"He was going to take me when I was seven," Amy offered.
"I don't think that's helping," Rory murmured.
"Screw helping, I'm enjoying this."
"Amelia, maybe you should help Jack find the library," the Doctor suggested.
"The library runs away from me every time I go near it."
"Maybe it knows you used to doodle on your books," Rory said innocently.
"Spoilsport," she mumbled, leaning against him.
"Maria, your dad didn't come?" Sarah Jane asked softly.
"No, he said he'd stay out of this one. Luke said he'd make sure I got home again."
"Did he," the Doctor said.
"Yes," Luke said, every bit as pointed.
Jack came back, holding a small book in one hand. "Oh," he said, glancing around. "Should I go pretend it was harder to find?"
"How'd you do that so quickly?" Amy demanded.
"She likes me."
"You only want to find the library because you think the swimming pool's in it," Rory said mildly.
"Yeah, thanks for the warning on that, by the way," Jack told the Doctor.
"Entirely welcome. Did you get it?"
"Yeah." He flicked through the book, passing it over to Clyde.
Clyde scanned it for a moment, laughing. "We fought for months, crossing the world, defeating and receiving defeats in our turn. The people cowered in fear; they needed a hero, someone to believe in, someone to lead them to their proper place
...he does go on, doesn't he?"
"I don't get it," Connor protested.
"It's Andrew's," Luke said. Dawn took the book from Clyde, reading through it. "At least, that's the way he talks."
"It's definitely him." Dawn passed the book on to Connor, pointing at one particular passage.
Connor smiled faintly. "My dear companions of so long ago, still alive somewhere in the future; I regret not a moment since I joined the side of Light with you. The Key, Slayers Alpha and Omega, the One who Sees, who saw me when I was nothing; the White Witch, the Bane of the Bane, the Miracle Child and all the others. My life is full of joy and wonder and I would trade it for nothing, no matter what the Dark Side
"Definitely Andrew," Xander said with a grin. "What's it say, Connor?"
"That's it, just no matter what the Dark Side might offer. My soul is my own
." He passed the book on to Xander.
"Why'd he shout out to you?" Clyde asked. "He didn't even know you that well."
"You're just jealous," Connor said serenely. "What would he have called you, I wonder?"
Clyde sniffed, turning to Luke. "Bane of the Bane, huh?"
"I didn't even do that much," Luke said, blushing.
Xander was ignoring the byplay, reading and rereading the lines. "He wanted it," Dawn said quietly, watching him.
"Yeah. I guess he did." Xander traced his fingers over the words.
"He was a hero," Jack said softly. "He and his people saved thousands of lives. There are still Alien Slayers out there in the fifty first century; I saw them, once, when I was very young."
"Yeah? How'd they look?"
"Pretty awesome. They'd switched to – sort of Search and Rescue by then. Not so many demons or vampires left; I think the Time Lords helped with the vampires." He glanced at the Doctor, who was ignoring them in favour of playing with something from Sarah Jane's work bench.
"Not here, they didn't," Dawn pointed out.
"Well, we didn't need to, did we? Earth had people taking care of it." The Doctor glanced at his bare wrist. "Now. It really is time we were going."
"Maria's only just got here," Luke protested.
"I can get Maria back home," Jack told him. "Don't worry about it."
"Do you have to, Doctor?" Sarah Jane asked quietly.
"Things to do, people to see, Sarah. You remember." He glanced at Clyde. "Coming?"
"Not this time. Sorry. School to finish."
"Always school with you lot. You're a bad influence, Sarah."
The kids all yelled in protest and Amy laughed. "Dangerous ground there, Doctor. We should go before you get yourself in any more trouble."
"Good idea," Rory agreed. "Sarah Jane, lovely to meet you, hope to do it properly sometime."
A round of goodbyes started; Connor watched, vaguely amused, as the same people wished each other goodbye several times over. Dawn, who only had Rory and Amy to say goodbye to, extricated herself and joined him, watching as the Doctor spun in circles from person to person.
"We missed you," she murmured. "What were you doing in Washington?"
"Being bored, mostly. There's a law firm there that contracts with WH. Angel asked me to drop some stuff off to them, since I was at loose ends."
"You hate working for Wolfram and Hart."
"Yeah, but now I have work experience to put on my resume. Real work experience, not the fake stuff they were making up for me."
"He promised it was real lawyer work. Not anything to do with demons, or anything morally dubious."
"Look at you, developing a social conscience!" she said proudly, patting his arm and grinning at the look on his face.
"I know that look, that's the look of someone making fun of someone else. Tell?" Clyde draped an arm around her shoulder, smiling charmingly.
"If your girlfriend or my boyfriend see you, there'll be trouble," Dawn warned him.
"What, only for me? That's not very fair."
Connor glanced up as the Doctor actually made it out the door. "They're going. Do we want to go and watch?"
Sarah Jane wrapped her arms around Sky, watching the TARDIS fade out. Beside her, Jack let out a slow breath. "I always kind of hate seeing it go," he murmured.
"Leaving you behind?" She smiled ruefully. "It doesn't get easier."
Sky twisted in her arms to look up. "Did you want to go?"
"I always want to go, Little Bit," Jack told her. "But there's work to do here."
"My name's Sky, Captain Harkness."
"My name's Jack, Sky."
Sarah Jane smiled, turning as Clyde, Dawn and Connor wandered out of the house. "Clyde, you should go see your mum. We told her you took Sky to visit with Luke, it was a sudden decision, and your phone wasn't working."
"There's no part of that that's actually a lie," Dawn marvelled.
"You get good at it after a while." Clyde grinned at her. "See you round." Rani headed around the house with him to say goodbye.
"I've got to check in with Ianto and Gwen," Jack said apologetically. "I'll go walk around the block, I'll be back soon."
"Be careful!" Sarah Jane called after him. "This is Bannerman Road." He waved over his shoulder at her, swinging out of the gate.
"Mum," Luke said abruptly, "Dawn and I are going up to the attic for a bit, ok? We'll be down to help with tea soon." Turning to Connor, he added, "Stick around?"
"Sure," Connor agreed. "Sky, want to show me the embarrassing pictures?"
"There's no baby photos."
"I know. But there's got to be embarrassing ones hidden somewhere."
She considered; after a moment, Sarah Jane leaned down to whisper to her, and she grinned in triumph, catching Connor's hand and dragging him inside. Maria tagged on, grinning at Luke's look.
"What did you say?" he asked warily.
"Oh, I guess you'll find out later." Sarah Jane grinned, kissing his forehead and pushing him gently towards the door. "Now go on."
Dawn was waiting on the stairs for him; smiling gently, she let him tug her up the rest of the way into the attic.
"Mr Smith, can you go off line please?" he asked politely.
"May I ask why?"
"I'm about to tell my girlfriend I love her and I would prefer not to do it in front of witnesses."
Mr Smith clicked once or twice. "I see. Well. I understand. Certainly. I shall go offline at once."
"Thank you, Mr Smith." He glanced around, smiling. "K9. What are you doing here?"
"I was retrieved to help Master contact the TARDIS."
"Right, the morse code. Can you go find my mum please?"
"You wish no witnesses?"
"Mistress Dawn is leaving also?"
"No, she's kind of integral to the whole process. Go on."
K9 trundled away. Dawn glanced at the wall concealing Mr Smith, smiling. "I think you scared him."
"Well, he tried to kill me once."
"You're kind of building up expectations here, you know."
He smiled faintly, perching on the arm of the couch. "I know. Sorry. But I'm just – I didn't mean to say it, back there, but I did mean it."
"I know you do."
He studied her for a moment, eyes shadowing. "That's all. I wanted you to know I mean it."
"I knew you meant it, that's not the issue."
"Then what's the issue?"
Dawn waited until he was squirming to smile, slowly. "No issue. I love you, too."
"You are..." He scowled for at least three seconds before grinning. "Very cruel."
"I know; I'm evil. I should really do something about that."
"You really should."
Dawn kissed him, grinning. "Not what Clyde says."
"Clyde's just jealous of my superior – mmmphh...."
Connor was dutifully admiring photos of Luke attempting to skate board when Luke and Dawn came into the sitting room. "Really?" Luke said with a sigh.
"What?" Sarah Jane said innocently.
"He knows I have no sense of balance, Mum. He's seen me attempt to balance on things."
"Suddenly I want to be in your fighting classes," Maria said.
"No, you really don't. They're really painful. Tell us about America!"
"Yes!" Sky agreed immediately. "What's it like? Do you see a lot of robberies? Are there cowboys? Have you ever seen real Indians? What kind of aliens have you seen? Do..."
"Sky," Sarah Jane said. "Let her answer at least one."
Maria laughed, drawing Sky away to a corner of the room to talk to her. Luke settled beside Sarah Jane, smiling as the two girls chatted.
"Everything ok?" she asked softly, watching Dawn perch sideways in Connor's lap to talk to him.
"Everything's fine, mum." He took a breath before adding, "I told Dawn I love her."
"Did you." Sarah Jane nodded slowly. "And what did she say?"
"She teased me some and then said she loves me too."
"I'm glad, Luke. She's a lovely girl."
He laughed softly. "You didn't think it'd happen."
"I thought it would eventually, but I'll admit I wasn't expecting it yet. You're still only eighteen, Luke."
"I know. It might not be forever love. And we're still not – you know, there. Not yet. But for now, it's true. And now's enough."
He nodded, eyes very serious. "I thought we might die there, Mum. We woke those vampires; it was up to us to take care of them. But I really thought we might die."
"The Doctor promised me you'd be all right, but I was worried, Luke."
"I know. I'm sorry. I tried to get back just after we left, but the time travel is a lot harder than the space travel. How long was it here?"
"Two days. You?"
"Days were different on that planet – I think it was about three and a half Earth days, but it was really hard to tell." He watched Sky and Maria for a moment before saying in a lighter tone, "I really like Rory and Amy, though."
"Amy's been good for him. And I like Rory. He seems very...down to earth."
"He is. He was brilliant. What was it like having the Doctor stuck here?"
"Tiring. He's very energetic."
"I bet," Luke agreed.
"Did you really fly the TARDIS?"
"I think the TARDIS flew the TARDIS. I didn't do much but stand there. Clyde's Artron energy probably had more to do with it."
"Modest," Dawn said abruptly. Sarah Jane blinked, glancing over at her; Luke just smiled.
"She has really good hearing," he told Sarah Jane.
"Not as good as mine," Connor pointed out.
"No, you're still super special," Dawn agreed. "Who's up for food? I'm starved. The TARDIS food was weird."
"It was perfectly fine!" Luke protested. Standing, he held out a hand to heave her off Connor's lap. "Let's see what's here, then."
They passed Jack in the doorway; he dropped next to Sarah Jane, watching as Connor joined Maria and Sky in the corner. "Everything all right?" he asked softly.
"Luke's in love," she murmured.
"Well, he's eighteen, Sarah Jane."
"Eighteen, as you were very certain earlier. I distantly remember eighteen. And he could have picked a much worse person to fall in love with. Dawn's good for him."
"Yes." Sarah Jane smiled. "She is, isn't she." Across the room, Connor glanced up, meeting her eyes with a smile.
"You have to let him do it on his own," Jack said quietly.
"Even if he's making mistakes? Hypothetical mistakes," she added, and Jack frowned until he caught Connor's look.
"Even if. He knows a lot, but he needs to learn. This is the kind of thing you only learn by doing it."
"And he wants it," she agreed. More loudly, she added, "Right, Sky, I want to hear some of Maria's stories too. You go help in the kitchen, please, I promise we won't talk about anything exciting until you get back."
Sky went, complaining all the way, and Connor smiled distantly. "I should go."
"Where to? Aren't you staying in Washington right now?" Jack asked.
"The Slayer House will put me up. They like me over there, I can fight the Slayers on their own level. Where's Xander?"
"He's in the guest room trying to figure out how he's going to tell the others about Andrew," Sarah Jane told him.
"Did he keep the Doctor's book?"
"I think so."
"That's proof, then. No one else talks like him."
"Still, he was their friend. Or, at least, he was theirs. And he died seven million years ago twelve thousand light years away. It'll take them some time. Don't go to the Slayer House, I have room here."
"You have Luke and Maria and Dawn..."
"Room for everyone. You and Luke, Dawn and Maria. Besides, Rani would take the girls and Clyde would take Luke if we needed more room."
"There's a perfectly fine couch," she said primly, until she caught sight of his expression and laughed. "Well, we'll work something out. What about immigration, Connor?"
"Angel will take care of that, or I'll go back with Maria and it won't matter."
"Yeah. It's fine. Angel likes doing things for me, and there isn't much I can let him do without the Slayers getting mad at me."
Luke and the others reappeared with trays and Sarah Jane smiled as Connor gallantly took Sky's, listening carefully as she explained exactly what was on it and who everything was for. Dawn was chatting with Maria; Luke kept trying to interject, and from his blush they were deliberately teasing him. Sarah Jane listened for a moment, heard "as a thanks, you know, for rescuing him from the space insects guys" and stopped listening again. Clyde had teased Luke for a long time over his first kiss.
But he looked happy, now, protesting more for form's sake than to stop them, and she knew out of all his friends Maria and Dawn were best placed to know when he'd had enough teasing, and they'd stop.
"Sky, run up and ask Xander to come down," she said briskly. "He should eat before he goes back to the Slayer House."
"Tell us about Torchwood, Captain Harkness!" Maria said brightly, looping an arm through Luke's to lean against his shoulder.
"Yes," Sarah Jane echoed. "Tell us about Torchwood."
Jack didn't even think about it. "Classified," he said briskly. "Tell us about Washington, Maria."
"Classified," she said sweetly. "Tell us about Wolfram and Hart, Connor."
"Ooooh, classified," he said apologetically. "Wesley'll sic something on me if I talk, and they get really upset when I kill their guys. Tell us about Oxford, Dawn!"
"Boring," she said with a sigh. "And over your head, I'm afraid. Tell us about Bannerman Road, Luke."
"I dunno. Mum, what do you think?"
"I think we should all be eating. Come on, Jack, set a good example for the kids."
"Kids!" Maria protested.
Jack smiled. "You must be starting college soon, Maria? What have you planned?"
Sky came back in, holding Xander's hand firmly and chattering to him. Xander was listening, nodding in the right places, but he glanced around the room when he came in, eyes settling on Connor. Sarah Jane deliberately looked away, focusing on Maria as she discussed courses and plans and ideas.
Connor abruptly joined in and Sarah Jane glanced up as Xander flopped down to sit on the floor on the other side of the table. Sky sat next to him, still chatting, and he was joining in, answering her or Maria as the conversations went on. Dawn was pouring tea and Luke was handing around the plate and Jack was passing her a cup, smiling as she refocused on him.
"Let it go for a minute," he murmured, almost under his breath. "Enjoy the moment. There aren't enough of them."
Connor looked up suddenly, pushing smoothly to his feet and crossing to open the front door. Luke tilted his head back to watch, grinning as Rani and Clyde wandered in; Dawn shifted to make room, pressing against him, and he slid one arm around her shoulders for balance. Clyde dropped on Maria's other side, introducing her to Rani and immediately asking about Washington and about her dad.
Sarah Jane caught Jack's eye and smiled, nodding very deliberately. There weren't enough moments like this, but she'd take this one. Grinning, she leaned forward to join the conversation.