Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the Beeb, l all I have is my Microsoft Word and an overactive imagination...
The glyphs streamed down the screen…in much more detail than there ought be, Romana thought weakly, as she read. She had been expecting a brief synopsis, with references to other texts in the library. She suspected the TARDIS was feeding her more than she should; for what reasons, she couldn’t figure out.
Well, no wonder he’s acting so strangely, she reflected. Who would have thought that the Daleks… But Romana, for once, was lost for words.
“I’ve got it!”
“Hmmm?” Romana said, her voice faint. “Oh, good for you, Doctor.”
“Romana, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Doctor,” she said, turning to look at his worried face. A pair of glasses was perched on his nose; yet another new affectation, she supposed.
“Are you sure?” he asked, putting the book down.
“Of course, I’m sure, Doctor, why wouldn’t I be?” Romana quickly closed the file as he approached. Best if he didn’t realise how much she knew; she wasn’t sure how he would handle it.
The Doctor studied her face. “Really? You seem a little bit…off.”
Romana sighed. “Doctor, I assure you, my mental state is perfectly adequate,” she said briskly. “Now, what was that you were saying about finding the data?”
“Ah! Yes!” he said. “Should have realised, really, won’t take much to fix it. I just need to boost the dimensional regulators, in order to help the TARDIS filter the appropriate DNA sequence; it’s getting a bit confused; too many variations to pick from…”
“A Donna for every universe,” Romana said dryly. “Including the one you created.”
“Exactly!” he said, looking entirely too pleased with himself. “Come on.”
He strutted out of the library, and Romana watched him go. She wondered how much was left of the Doctor she knew. Oh, she had seen glimpses of him; a gesture here, an expression there… but so much had changed, too. Oh Doctor, she thought, what happened to you after Gallifrey? I’m not sure I would have survived it.
“Romana?” His head popped back through the door. “Hurry up, we don’t have much time. ”
“Coming, Doctor,” she said, switching the monitor off. No good worrying over what might have been, she told herself firmly. If that was her future, then so be it.
The Doctor had already disappeared from the doorway by the time she stood, and she made her way back, alone, to the control room, her eyes drifting down the side corridors as she walked. The TARDIS felt older, maybe even a little tired, and she wondered which one of them was influencing whom. When it came to the bond between a Timelord and his ship, emotions went both ways.
“Got lost?” the Doctor teased, as she stepped into the control room.
“You started without me, I see.” She looked at the tangle of wiring he’d pulled from under the control grid.
“Sooner done, sooner mended,” he said. “Catch!” He tossed her a sonic wrench and Romana caught it out of the air. “Start on the dimensional regulators, I’ll try to stabilise the temporal buffers.”
They worked quietly, silently handing each other the appropriate tools. If Romana closed her eyes, she could almost swear she was back in her time, but she wasn’t. This was the future. A future with no Gallifrey, no High Council, and only one Timelord left standing….
How ironic it would be the Doctor, she mused. The one Gallifreyan who didn’t have much time for the intricacies of Gallifreyan life, who had spent as much time as possible away from their home world as he deemed feasible.
Now, here he was, the last symbol of a dead race.
“Romana, are you sure you’re all right?”
She heard the concern in his voice. “I’m quite fine, Doctor,” she said lightly. “Although I wish I could say the same for the TARDIS’s internal wiring. The poor girl really needs a complete overhauling.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “I keep meaning to do it, but there never seems to be the time.”
Or the facilities, Romana suddenly thought, staring at the circuit board in her hands. Oh dear, the poor thing; the last of her kind, and slowly degrading, no matter what the Doctor did to keep her running.
She bit her lip, if she remembered correctly, a group of alliance humanoid planets set up some sort of time policing organisation in the fiftieth century. Would they have the necessary technology? It wouldn’t be as good as the Gallifreyan shipyards, of course, but beggars, couldn’t be choosers…
“Done!” the Doctor declared. “How ‘bout you? Need a hand?”
Romana raised an eyebrow at that. “I think I’m managing,” she said dryly, as she made the last few touches to the circuit. “There, all done.” They reassembled the panels, such as they were, and the Doctor pulled the monitor around and studied it carefully over the rim of his glasses.
“There she is,” he said. He dashed around the console, his hands – and feet, she noted, with amusement - becoming a blur as he pulled the TARDIS into the correct alignment. “Ready?” he asked.
“Ready,” she affirmed, her hand hovering over the console.
She pulled the lever as the Doctor pushed several buttons, seemingly all at once. The TARDIS screeched into life, and the air in the control room began to cool. A glow appeared between them, as Donna’s DNA began to combine into form.
“It’s working!” the Doctor said, a wild grin on his face as he shouted over the din.
Romana nodded, with a smile of her own, as the particles coalesced, revealing a very startled looking redhead in a rather fetching peasant top.
“Perfect!” the Doctor said smugly. “Almost exactly as I planned it…” He grinned widely, and slapped a hand on the console.
It passed straight through.
“Um, Doctor?” Romana said, as he began to fade away. “I fear you may have made a slight miscalculation.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened. “The Buffers….”
Romana’s stared as the Doctor’s voice drifted off, along with his body, leaving nothing but a shift of air in the TARDIS. “Quickly, Donna!” she said, as she spun to the console, and pulled off a panel. “Pull the lever, over there, when I say so!”
Donna stood there, her mouth open in astonishment, but she quickly snapped it shut as her eyes narrowed. “Who the hell are you!” she said. “And what have you done to the Doctor?”
Romana sighed, frustrated. “My name is Romana,” she said. “And, if you’re his companion, then you already know that there is only one person who does anything to the Doctor, and that is himself! Now, quickly, do what I say, before this regeneration becomes his last!” She took out her screwdriver, and hastily realigned the settings.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?” Donna said, her face blanching as she looked at the sonic screwdriver. “You’re a Timelord.”
“Yes!” she snapped, as she pulled out the circuit panel “And if we don’t hurry, I’ll be the only one left standing!”
Donna grasped the lever, but still seemed unsure. “How do I know this isn’t a trick?” she asked. “I know about the Master, you know, he was Prime Minister…well, for a few days, anyway...”
“Really?” Romana said. “How strange—” She tossed her head; she couldn’t afford distractions right now. “I’m nothing like the Master, Donna, trust me on this.”
“You could be lying.”
Romana tried not to lose her temper; after all, she did have a point. “I am – I was – his companion, once. You, of all people, should know what that means.”
Donna gave her a long look. “You’re from the past,” she said.
“Yes,” Romana said, seeing no point in denying it.
“And you’re going back.” Her voice was flat.
Romana tensed and looked up at her. “Donna,” she said gently. “I know you mean well, but perhaps we should drop this subject.”
“But you don’t understand, he’s so alone—”
“Donna!” she said sharply. “Please, don’t.”
“I’m just saying—”
“Let’s just concentrate on the problem at hand, shall we?” Romana interrupted, as she grimly readjusted the circuitry. “We need to move fast - now!”
Donna pulled the lever, and fell back as the TARDIS rolled under their feet. “Is it supposed to do that?” she asked anxiously.
“No, it isn’t” Romana said. “Which means…ah, there it is…” she swivelled the tennis ball set into the console, shaking her head as she did so. “There is such a thing as taking eccentricity too far.”
“Oh please, ” Donna snorted. “You Timelords wouldn’t know normal, if it clouted you across the head.”
Romana looked at her. Whatever did she mean? She was the very epitome of normal. The TARDIS whined, and Romana let out a breath of relief as the Doctor began to slowly reappear.
“….are out of alignment again,” he said, then looked around. “Ah” he patted himself down. “All here.”
But Romana was still ruminating over what Donna had said. “What do you mean, I ‘wouldn’t know normal if it clouted me over the head’?” she asked.
“You can’t be serious,” Donna said. “I mean, come on, look at you!”
Romana looked down at her pleated navy skirt and blazer. “What’s wrong with it?”
Donna gaped at her in disbelief. “You’re dressed in a school uniform, for God’s sake,” she said.
Romana looked at her, puzzled. “And what’s wrong with that?” she enquired. “I quite liked school.”
Donna rolled her eyes. “Doctor, why don’t you explain it to her?”
“Ah, yes,” he said. “Well, you see, Romana…” he paused, looking momentarily stumped. “Well, actually, I’ve always quite liked that outfit,” he admitted. “I think it’s the socks.”
“You would, you pervert,” Donna snorted.
“Hey!” the Doctor said.
Romana ignored the affront in the Doctor’s voice. She was still trying to figure out why a school uniform, a symbol of academia, would be deemed ‘perverted’…Earth really was a very strange place. “I still don’t understand,” she said eventually.
Donna put her hands on her hips. “It isn’t age appropriate,” she said slowly, as if to a small child. “You’re too old for it.”
“Too old? But I’m only in my second century—”
“Your second what?” Donna took a breath. “Right, Timelord, live-for-bloody-ever… well, how can I put this?” she took another breath. “You see, a girl stops wearing a school uniform once they’ve finished school, usually sometime in their second decade, unless they’re really thick…although there is the bedroom.” She sniggered. “Had a boyfriend who liked that, once.”
Romana frowned, her mind initially reeling at the thought of finishing one’s education after a mere two decades. Then the implications of Donna’s words sunk in. “Oh…” she said suddenly. “Oh! ” She whirled on the Doctor. “Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded, embarrassed.
“I didn’t know, honest!” he protested, taking a step back.
“Huh, likely story!” Donna said.
Romana felt her cheeks heat up; she was blushing, she was actually blushing. “Oh, this won’t do,” she muttered; then another thought struck her. “Oh Rassilon,” she said, her eyes widening. “What must Duggan have thought?”
“Liked it, if I’m any judge,” the Doctor said grumpily.
“Well, he never tried to punch you, did he?” he said defensively. “In fact, if I remember correctly, he followed you around like an eager little puppy!”
“”I knew it,” Donna said smugly. “Pervert.”
“Oh, would you stop that, ” the Doctor snapped, rounding on Donna. “For the millionth, and last time, I am not a sex mad Martian!”
Romana looked at the Doctor in astonishment. “A sex mad what? ” she asked, wondering how on Gallifrey Donna could have confused the Doctor with a Martian. The Doctor didn’t look even remotely reptilian, for starters.
“Oh, don’t you start,” the Doctor said. “She’s bad enough.”
Romana frowned. “She has a name, Doctor,” she reminded him icily. “And I am not starting anything!” He tried the Look on her, with an extra dash of Glare, and Romana’s expression darkened as she crossed her arms. “You want to say something?”
The Doctor's scowl slowly melted, to be replaced by a bashful face. “Sorry?” he said.
But Romana had had enough. “And Donna?” she pressed.
He eyes wandered to his shoes, and then to the ceiling. “Oh, all right,” he mumbled reluctantly. “Sorry, Donna.”
Romana considered asking him to repeat it in a louder voice, but the look of astonishment on his companion’s face stopped her. The poor girl looked like she was about to suffer a fainting fit. “Are you all right, Donna?” she asked, concerned.
“Who? Me?” Donna spluttered. “I’m just fine, it’s him I’m worried about… what have you done to him?”
Surprised, Romana glanced at the Doctor, who had meandered to the other side of the console. “Who, the Doctor? Oh, he’s all right, he just needed to be reminded of his manners,” she said, adding, “you have to do that, every once in a while, he tends to forget them.”
“I’ll remember that,” Donna said, her mouth slowly curving into an evil little smile. Romana smiled back. Yes, she’ll do nicely, she thought, satisfied.
“If you two are done talking about me, we still have a few things to sort out,” the Doctor said sulkily, and Romana rolled her eyes.
“The buffers,” she called out, over her shoulder. “They shouldn’t have done that.”
“Temporal entropy,” the Doctor said. “Got to be.”
“I agree,” she sighed. “It doesn’t look good.”
“You’ll have to go back, or it’ll just keep happening.”
“Yes,” she said. “But we’d already agreed on that, hadn’t we?”
“You mean, you agreed,” he said, almost too quietly to hear.
Romana felt her annoyance soften. Poor, dear, Doctor; it was all so unfair. He had never liked being alone, and now he was, in the truest sense. “I’m sorry, Doctor, I’d stay if I could, but you know it isn’t possible, just wishful thinking.”
The Doctor looked at her sharply. “Romana—”
“Hold on!” Donna said suddenly. “What’s this about temporal ent- ent—”
“Entropy,” the Doctor and Romana said, as one.
Romana took a deep breath. “Temporal entropy is what happens when a temporally unstable, multi-dimensional, wild rift hub—“
“Oy! Stop right there!!” Donna said, with a sweep of her hand. “In English, please, without all the Timelord techno-babble.” Romana blinked, then looked at the Doctor, who smirked and dug his hands into his pockets.
“Want to have a go at it, Romana?” he teased, dreadful man. Romana threw her hands up in surrender.
“Fine, fine, ” she said. “You go ahead.”
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