Chances We Take

Chapter 11

So I kinda dropped off the face of Earth a while. Sorry, ya'll. I had to finish my last year of college and that all went just fine, buuut I'm still looking for a job. Yay economy. :P Anyway, finally made myself settle down enough to write in between sending out applications and such.

I hope ya'll are still around, and I can't wait to get any feedback you're willing to give! Couldn't do this without ya'll! Thanks, and Happy 4th of July if you're in the US!

Chapter 11

"Wait! We can help you!"

It was too hot. Rose assumed it was the city, and the fact it was the dead of summer and the hottest part of the day. Her dress clung to her and the hairs around her forehead were matted there.

How long had they been running?

She clung more tightly to John's sonic in her hand. Her palms were sweating in the heat and the adrenaline, and she was nearly afraid it would fly right from her grasp. "Stop! We don't want to hurt you!"

The woman far ahead of her in the alley did not respond. Clicking heels echoed against the bricks, and she disappeared around another sharp corner.

"Deborah!"

Rose hoped she was talking to Deborah. She hoped the young woman could hear her.

The Doctor was lagging behind. "Come on!" He never lagged behind. Rose twisted to find him and saw the moment he stumbled and sagged against the building. "Doctor!"

The sharp cry she heard under her own was his. He sank to his knees with a hand clutched to his chest and the other still braced on the bricks. Loose gravel atop the asphalt crunched beneath Rose's feet as she took the few quick running steps back to him and dropped to a knee.

"What is it? What?" she demanded. Her fingers twisted in the collar of his jacket, and it took too long for him to get enough breath answer her.

"I'll—'ll be fine! Go!" he finally managed.

"What's wrong with you!"

"Just…right heart's not quite up to…to par yet, is all." He was trying to pass it off as nothing, but shouting again and doubling over into her arms didn't help his case.

"Doctor—! Oh…" She began trying to pull him up with her. "We have to get you back to the Tardis—"

"No," he gasped quickly. He pushed her away and used the wall for support instead. "You have to go. You have to find her. I'll be fine. I just can't—"

"I am not leaving you—!"

"Rose, I will live! That thing will kill Deborah if you can't get it out of her! GO!"

She understood. She knew that. Rose pushed herself back to her feet, poised to run. The Doctor lowered himself to the ground against the alley wall, and he was still clutching his chest. Trying to breath normally again. His face crumpled in frustration.

Maybe only minutes ago he'd tried to convince her to stop and let him handle this. Probably he'd been worried about the baby. Now she was glad she'd stayed with him.

"You'll be fine…"

"I will," he breathed. "In a bit. I promise. You're…?"

"Fine."

He nodded once.

Rose ran.

Four Days Earlier

It was 1953 again. That meant it was a little too early for Elvis. When they'd made it into New York City and found a newspaper stand the Doctor apologized. He suggested they get back to the Tardis and try again, but Rose didn't mind staying. It was still a chance to spend some time in the 50s without any trouble. Theoretically.

Right.

Deborah Cole was a waitress at the diner closest to the hotel they were staying in while they spent time in the city. The Doctor being the Doctor, he charmed everyone and made friends everywhere—or acquaintances, anyway—and Deborah was no different. She was just as talkative as he was, going on about a summer trip to the country to visit her husband's parents that they'd just returned from. They were hoping to go somewhere more exotic next year, she said. If they could save enough.

"We think Paris, maybe! Or Rome."

"Well, sure, that's all well and good, but what you should really see is the pyramids! Well, more the Nile. Or anywhere else, really. New Zealand, India, Australia…the natural wonders of your—this planet! Any of it! Why bother with dusty old ruins when you can see what's still here?"

The Doctor was enjoying himself, an arm around Rose and spinning out the tales of their own adventures—the ones that had technically taken place on Earth. He could only tell the ones that could be told in a semi-normal fashion, that wouldn't raise too many eyebrows.

All of it seemed normal, almost, being on Earth with only humans about. The second day after dinner Deborah's husband came at the end of her shift. The four of them had pie and coffee and a few laughs. For the Doctor it had to be strange—just two couples having an evening.

"Are you okay?" she asked him later. She held his hand, walking back to the hotel in the streetlights.

"'Course I'm okay."

"You don't usually get to do things like that. Normal things."

"All the more reason to enjoy it now." He smiled a moment. When it faded a little he shrugged. He looked away and squeezed her hand. "What about you? Is this all right? I suppose I should have asked."

"What? Holding my hand?" she laughed. She swung their arms between them. "Been doin' that forever. Always did it before."

"No, no, I mean…the way I've been acting, the last couple of days. Nothing wrong with being happy, really, but I don't exactly do domestic. Got a bit that way, back there."

"Is there something wrong with that?"

His eyebrows went up. "Well, no." He let out a quick breath and looked away again. "It's only…I want you to tell me, Rose, if I ever make you…uncomfortable." He made a face. "I'm not trying to replace him. You know that."

Rose sighed a little, and drew in to press her head against his shoulder. "Of course I know that. We've been over that."

"I know. Just promise me. If I ever…just tell me. Promise me that."

She relented. She looked up into his eyes and nodded. The corner of his mouth turned up in thanks, and they walked on.

Rose claimed the shower when they returned to the hotel. They'd been out much later the night before and she'd gone almost straight to bed. It was positively time, she said.

The Doctor doubted he would need sleep tonight, and he hadn't slept the night before, either. He'd slept the night before they left the Tardis for the city, and that would do for a bit longer. Still strange, that—being unable to land in the city.

Anyway. There was no telly in the room, as early in the mid twentieth century as it was, but there was a radio. Music from this era was a favorite, though, so that was more than enough to keep him occupied. Perhaps once Rose was asleep he would venture out again. He had last night. She didn't mind; she knew how little sleep he needed.

His shoes kicked off and his jacket over the desk chair, the Doctor loosened his tie and lay back on the bed. He started out quizzing himself on the names and artists of the songs that played, but his mind drifted even if his consciousness didn't. He didn't realize Rose had emerged from the bathroom until she was standing over him in a nightgown and damp hair and half a smile, holding out a hand.

"May I have this dance, sir?"

There was a small balcony off the room. They danced out onto it, and the city lights were their stars as the moon ducked in and out of the clouds.

"You haven't been practicing," Rose laughed.

"Who would I have practiced with?" the Doctor scoffed.

It didn't matter. For a while it was only the two of them and the music. It was perfect. Until. A subtle shift in the way Rose was holding onto him—more like clinging, now, around his neck. Her face buried in his shoulder. He slowed their swaying to a stop and held her more tightly.

She sobbed once, and she pulled her arms down to fold them in the warmth between their chests. "Sorry," she murmured. "Comes and goes."

"It's all right. Asked you to tell me, didn't I?"

"-t's not really that. Just…"

"Yeah." He was quiet for a moment. "You can tell me if there's anything else I can do, too."

She shook her head against his chest once and stayed nestled where she was. "I think you've got it."

The Doctor didn't go out again that night. He didn't need sleep. He stayed, and he held her.

They didn't see Deborah when they stopped for breakfast or supper the next day, and supposed she simply wasn't working. There was no reason to think otherwise. Sightseeing filled the docket for the day. It wasn't until the morning after that, when the paper came, that they knew anything was wrong.

Last morning in New York, Rose thought. They'd head back for the Tardis this evening. She bothered to open the hotel room door and pick up the newspaper because she thought she'd like the souvenir. When she did, she found the headline.

"No…n-no, it can't be."

"What?" The Doctor's head popped out of the bathroom. "Rose?"

She couldn't answer. He had to come to her side and take the paper she held out wordlessly before he understood.

"Man found dead in—" He stopped reading aloud to scan more quickly. As he did the sides of the paper crumpled in his hands. When he'd seen enough he looked up with wide eyes. "But that's—"

"That's George Cole! Deborah's husband!"

A man. Found dead in the apartment he shared with his wife, yesterday morning. Stabbed.

"I-I don't understand," Rose stammered. "That doesn't make any sense! Who would hurt them?"

The Doctor shook his head slowly. "I don't know. Maybe it was nothing. A burglary gone badly. It's…stupid, awful, but it's humanity."

"You want to go on about humanity now? No. We're going over there. We have to find Deborah." She pushed past him to find her clothes.

"That's not what I meant! Rose, I was only—" He stopped. That was good, because she wasn't really listening. "Listen, I'm sure she has family there with her. Friends. People she's known quite a lot longer than us. She doesn't need us hovering about. She has enough to deal with."

"Don't you want to check on her?"

"Of course! I just don't know if that's the best idea now."

"What if something else happened? What if she's in danger? What if we can help?" Rose demanded.

The Doctor let out a breath. "Unfortunately, I doubt what happened is anything so fantastic."

Rose shoved her second foot in her last shoe and let the heel drop quickly to the floor with a loud clacking. "The least we can do is go. We can try; find out what did happen, maybe, if the police haven't sorted it yet."

"Okay…all right. Right. Course. You're right.

"We have to. We have to try."

"We will." The Doctor snatched his suit jacket from the back of the desk chair and pulled it on, and he was ready. "We will. Come on." Once he had a button done he held out a hand.

Rose took it. She squeezed when she realized her hands were shaking.

The apartment was tiny, and not, as he'd expected, full of Deborah's relatives and friends. No one swarmed the building, police or news media or otherwise. The Doctor didn't understand at all.

Something was wrong. Come to think of it, the place should still be a crime scene. But there was no indication of anything strange, and that was what was strange.

He had his sonic out before they made it to the door. Rose looked at him curiously. She stayed close, but not behind him as he would have preferred.

"Maybe she's not here at all," she said. "I hope I remembered the address…"

"You did." George and Deborah had given it to them, night before last at the diner. They'd asked them over sometime. "This is the right place."

He was trying to ease her behind him with one arm, trying to keep her from noticing he was doing it, and holding the sonic with his other hand as he tried to scan the interior of the apartment through the door. Before he could worry whether he was really succeeding in moving Rose, there was an insistent signal from his screwdriver.

"Something's in there," Rose deduced. "Something not human."

"One human too, though," he answered grimly.

"But I was right."

"Stay out here."

"No chance."

A sonic adjustment to the lock, and they were inside. Rose let him in first, at the least, but she followed him. She had her own sonic out now.

The front room was empty. Broken police tape littered the entrance to the hallway. Flies buzzed in the attached kitchen around dishes on the counter of what looked like leftovers that had not been put away.

"Deborah? Deborah, are you here? Are you all right?" Rose called.

The only answer was the faint sound of crying. They swept the rest of the small apartment and, finding no other obvious occupants—alien or otherwise—they hurried into the one bedroom at the back. Deborah was there, huddled on the edge of the bed in a black flowered dress.

"Deborah?" Rose asked.

The young woman did not look up. She sobbed. "I didn't have a black one without flowers. Just this one. Why don't I have a plain black dress? Shouldn't everyone?"

"Well…come on now, it's just tradition. Doesn't really mean anything," the Doctor ventured.

Deborah glanced up long enough to see it was them, and she snorted quietly. "Doesn't surprise me you'd be the one to say that."

"Deborah, are you all right?" Rose asked. "What happened? Where is everyone? Your family? You have family. You told us you'd been to visit."

"George's family…my family…friends…sent them all away."

"Why?"

"Because it made me."

The Doctor blinked. He exchanged a glance with Rose, whose eyebrows were up. She started to inch closer to the young woman on the bed, but he silently and urgently waved her back and tried, discretely, to begin scanning again. The signal from his screwdriver was pointing him straight to Deborah.

"What do you mean, Deborah? What did? What happened here?"

Her face crumpled as if she was going to cry, but then the expression was gone again. She was blank.

"Woke up early yesterday…he was dead. It killed him."

"Doctor, what is she talking about?" Rose whispered. "What's in here?"

"It's not in here. It's in her."

He didn't waste the time to explain further. There wasn't time. With any luck he'd found the right setting. He aimed his sonic screwdriver at the young woman on the bed on full power.

There was an unnatural screeching. Deborah was up in an instant, moving faster than she had a right to.

He thought she reached for something on the nightstand. He thought he heard Rose call out a warning, too, but then something hit him. The carpet was flying up into his face and then there was nothing.

The movement wasn't quite unnaturally fast, but it was so much faster than she'd expected. The instant the Doctor activated his sonic screwdriver Deborah was on her feet and reaching for the lamp. The heavy metal base swung into the side of his head and he was down.

"Doctor!" Rose dropped down to his side, and Deborah vaulted over her and out of the bedroom. "Wait! Deborah! No—"

She refused to leave the Doctor, and the other woman was long gone by the time she was able to rouse him. He popped up like he usually did, but it took longer than it ever had in the past.

"Oh my god, there you are. Are you all right?"

He was still grimacing when he got to his feet. "Yeah. Should be. Ow. She's gone, then?"

"She's gone. What was that?"

"A Drifter, I think. Am I bleeding?"

"No. Already checked. What's a Drifter?"

The Doctor was looking the room over, but nothing here was of any interest. He made his way out into the main room, and he still seemed a little unsteady.

"Are you sure you're all right?"

He leaned briefly on the back of a chair and rubbed at his head one more time. "I'm fine, Rose. Still a bit…off, I suppose, is all. Anyway!" He straightened and turned back to her.

"A Drifter is just that—little space worm, drifts through space. Unlike the Isolus, though, they don't drift with billions of brothers and sisters happy-go-lucky playing games. No, they drift alone…alone and angry, usually. They're born alone. They reproduce asexually; scatter their eggs in space. Come out with an awful attitude that way."

"And they can…what, take people over?" Rose questioned.

"Have to. They're perfectly safe in the vacuum of space and have enough stored energy to protect them for one descent through an atmosphere, but once they're down here they're vulnerable. Light, sound waves…they're extremely susceptible to any direct contact with any of it. Need to find a host as quickly as they can. The country…blimey."

"What?"

"They'd been out of town. Deborah and her husband. The Drifter would have wanted to come down in water to cushion the impact, but not too much of it. Not here. A smaller lake, or a pond would have been better. Safer. Easier to hit, too, with less in the way out there. God, she must have picked it up then."

Rose swallowed. "You mean it's been inside her this whole time?"

The Doctor nodded. "Probably. Dormant. Sometimes they need to recharge before they can really take control." He sighed. "Oh, Deborah, I'm sorry."

Rose sat heavily in an armchair for the moment. "It used her to kill him. Her own husband."

"Yes."

"Why did it need to kill him? Was he onto it?"

"Maybe. Even if he wasn't, it'd have probably killed him anyhow. It needed him out of the way. Now she has no reason to fight its' control."

She grimaced, and her stomach was churning now.

"Are you all right?" The Doctor was standing over her now, offering a hand. She took it to pull herself up.

"I really don't know," she admitted. "Doesn't matter. Right then. What do we have to do?"

"We have to find her. The point in having George out of they way was no one to stop it—no one to know anything was wrong with Deborah. Now it knows we're onto it she's in danger. Or we are. But the fact that it ran away rather than risk trying to kill both of us at once suggests it wants the easier way out. That may mean killing Deborah and finding an easier host."

"Time for treks through back alleys then."

"We can start around here. If we don't find her it may be more prudent to find a radio and listen. The Drifter is bound to cause trouble. Either that, or I could use the parts to boost our scanning capabilities. Should be the only alien signature in the area besides me. Then again, it's New York."

Outside of the city the Tardis still sat on a suburban street. No one really noticed it. No one thought it was strange that a London police box sat on a corner in the northern United States, if they realized anything was there at all.

No one else, in any case. No one other than the woman with the red hair across the street. The woman and her husband watched the box.

"They've been gone for days. What if something's happened?" she said that morning.

"I'm sure they're fine. We'd leave the Tardis for days sometimes, didn't we?"

"We did, but usually when we were away from her that long something had happened."

"What are you suggesting we do about it? We can't find him. We can't talk to him. What about timelines, and…all of that."

She shrugged, looking out the curtains again rather than at him. "It would be fine, as long as we didn't tell him who we were."

"He'd remember what we look like."

"Maybe not. We're older now, anyway."

"He's the Doctor."

"He's daft, is what he is. Or he is by the time we meet him. It would be a few minutes out of hundreds of years, and no names to remember to connect anything. Why would he remember? Maybe someday he'd realize, but not until…you know. After."

Her husband shook his head and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "It would probably be more than a few minutes, if they really are in trouble. Anyway, this conversation is pointless."

"No it's not." She pushed away from the wall. "I'm going after them. I've got to find them. They could need help." She stormed into foyer and snatched the car keys from the wall.

"What? You've got to be joking!"

"I'm going."

"No, you're not."

"Yes. I am. You can't tell me—"

"No, I mean you really can't."

Her hands were on her hips now. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Her husband rolled his eyes. "Because I've got to go to work, and we've only got one car."

She blinked. "Right. Well…I'll drop you off, then."

They just stared at each other for a long minute after that. Finally he snatched the keys from her hand. "No, you won't. I'm coming with you." She grinned at him. "No. Don't start. And what about Anthony? What if we're not back when school lets out?"

"He knows to go to the neighbors' if no one's here when he gets home."

"You're impossible. Anyway, how on earth do you expect to find them in a city the size of New York?"

She opened the door to lead the way out to the car. "With anyone else, I'd have no idea. With the Doctor? Easy. Follow the sirens."

Now

"What if we're separated?" Rose had asked.

The Doctor held up his sonic and the long-range scan booster he'd made after combining parts from the Coles' radio with the one in the hotel room.

"I can find you," he said. "Easily. You've got background radiation from both time-vortex travel and dimensional travel, and no one else in this city should have either." He turned on the new scanner of repurposed parts, and it began to beep immediately. The frequency increased when he aimed it straight at her. "See? Get lost, just stay put. Find somewhere safe and stay put."

It was only reason she didn't worry now, running after Deborah with the Doctor left behind in the alley. He would be fine. He had to be. He'd be fine, and he would find her.

Rose edged slowly around a corner, hoping for the element of surprise. It nearly worked. The young woman she was chasing was much closer than she'd hoped. She aimed John's sonic screwdriver and activated, but Deborah staggered away and ran on.

Not close enough.

"Deborah! Fight it! You have to fight it! Help me! I can get it out of you, but you've got to be closer!"

The Drifter had to be stopped. It was angry and scared. There had already been two more deaths today—two homeless men who had simply gotten in the way, it appeared. They'd gotten in the way and hadn't been considered suitable enough as possible hosts. When the Drifter escaped it had taken one of the kitchen knives from the set it used to kill George Cole, and the Doctor and Rose hadn't tracked it down in time. They found the bodies, phoned the police, and quickly moved on.

"It will kill again," the Doctor said then. "Drifters have a track record of it. I'd feel sorry for them—alone in space all their lives—if they didn't have a habit of trampling anyone and everyone in their path trying to get the sort of life they want."

"I take it you've come across one before."

"Not on Earth, but yes."

"Will Deborah be all right if we can get it out of her?"

"Physically, she'll be fine. Otherwise will be up to her."

Rose chased Deborah two more blocks, calling when she was close enough, and then realized the young woman wasn't in front of her anymore. She'd pulled down a fire escape ladder and she was going up. The bloody knife she'd held until now was on the ground at the base of the ladder.

"No no no…what is it doing?"

When she made it to the roof several stories up the Drifter was waiting for her. It was halfway across the roof, just staring at her.

"Deborah?" Rose asked cautiously.

"The female is not here. I have control."

Rose glowered at it. "You may be in control, but she's still here. She can hear me."

"She cannot."

"I think she can. That's why you wanted her to be alone. So you could control her. But she's not alone. How much of her family did you send away? How many friends? And she's got me. She's got the Doctor. Have you heard of the Doctor? Cause you see, he's not from here. Not from Earth. He knows all about you—your species. He knows what you are."

"Then he should know it is useless to attempt to stop me."

"He wants to help you. So do I. Let us find you a better home. Somewhere you don't need to hurt anyone."

The Drifter smiled, and it wasn't a pretty thing. "What if I want to hurt people?"

"You can't mean that. I know your life's been lonely, and awful, but that's no excuse for what you've done. Stop it! Just…just let her go, and we can help you."

"I don't require any assistance."

Rose tried to step closer, and the Drifter stepped back. "What are you doing? Why are we up here?"

"Allow me to leave. Do not follow me. Do these things, or I will kill the female."

"You can't do that. You can't survive on your own."

"It is more…comfortable, to make a direct transfer. However, I can manage long enough to find a new host. I will take that option if you leave me no choice. I will leave her, and I will let the female die."

"Stop callin' her that! Her name is Deborah!" Rose took a step, and this time the Drifter didn't move. "Deborah, listen to me. You've got to fight it."

"Why?"

"Deborah?"

The way the other young woman held herself shifted, just a little. "Why should I fight it? George is dead. I killed him, Rose! I killed him!

"It wasn't you! It wasn't your fault!"

"Wasn't it?" Deborah questioned. She was crying now. She held out her hands, still blotched with the blood of two men who died miles away from here and nearly hours ago. She was crying, but she didn't control the rest of her body. She was still backing toward the opposite edge of the roof.

"No. No, of course it wasn't." Rose swallowed hard. Her own hands were out, spread but for the sonic in one of them, placating. "Jus' being there…it doesn't make it your fault. You-you always think, what else could you have done? Could you have done something differently? Could you have tried harder to stop it? Anything? But it's pointless."

She took an unsteady breath, and it seemed Deborah was listening. Her backwards momentum had stopped for the moment.

"You loved him, Deborah. If you could have stopped it hurtin' him, you would have. It was just too strong then. It'd been dormant. Saved up strength. It probably took you by surprise. There's nothing else you could have done. What you can do now is keep yourself safe. Go on living. For him."

Deborah's head shook, back and forth more vigorously by the moment. "No. I can't. I can't." She took another step backward.

"Yes you can! Just—" She spoke to the Drifter. "Let her go!"

Deborah was gone, and the Drifter was smirking at her.

"Let her go."

She was ready. She thought she was. The Drifter made a dash for the edge, and Rose activated her sonic at full power. The alien doubled over, screeching and writhing, and Rose ran to be closer. She had to be closer to force it out.

She wasn't close enough. Rather than flee from the body the Drifter twisted back the last two steps to the edge.

Rose screamed and reached for her, but fell short of catching her dress before Deborah toppled backward over the edge.

The Doctor heard the scream while following his scanner in search of Rose. His chest still ached horribly, but the sharper pain had ebbed and he was on his feet again. He was moving more slowly than he would have liked, but he was moving.

He heard the scream, and he heard the faint thud that followed. For a moment his hearts sped and there was no air. The scream had stopped with the sound of impact, and he knew it was Rose who had screamed.

"Rose!" The cry barely came out. He lurched around the next corner, and then another, until he could see what had happened.

It was Deborah.

He looked up, and Rose was staring down. She sobbed when she saw him, and his knees went weak again in relief.

But it wasn't over. The Doctor forced himself to stay upright, and hurried to the body on the ground. He checked the young woman's pulse, but he expected nothing and nothing was what he found.

"I'm sorry, Deborah," he sighed. "I'm so sorry."

A pulse or two with the sonic, and the Drifter showed itself. It slipped out in the blood from her mouth, and dropped to the ground. It was a gray, transparent worm scarcely half an inch in length.

"I should kill you for what you've done. This woman and her husband and the others—they didn't have to die," the Doctor began angrily. "You're lucky that's not me. Either way, I can't allow you to leave. You can't be free on this planet. I can find you another home. That's your only choice now."

If he let the Drifter move, it would be gone in an instant. In its natural, vulnerable form it needed to be able to move quickly, to find a host before it died of exposure. If he let it go, they would never find it again, and it would hurt people. He couldn't allow that to happen.

He pulled a sample container—a metal film canister from the Coles' apartment, really—from his jacket pocket. "Don't be stupid. Come with us."

It tried to leave. Of course it did. Another flash from the sonic and the defiant Drifter was a scorch on the pavement.

"I'm sorry."

When he looked up again, Rose had gone—to the fire escape to come down, he hoped. He didn't see it. Supposing it was on the other side, he started around the building and met her halfway. Rose ran into his arms when she rounded the corner and saw him. She was already in tears.

"Oh god, I tried! I'm sorry, I—"

"It's all right, it's all right. I know. It's all right…."

"She was our friend. They both were," she whispered miserably.

"I know." He just held her for a moment, until she spoke again.

"What about the Drifter?"

"It's dead. It tried to escape again."

Rose nodded against his chest, then pushed away enough to stand on her own. She still clung to the Doctor's arms. "It wasn't going to listen."

"No. I doubted it would, but I had to give it the choice." He kissed her forehead. "You did everything you could. I know you did."

She nodded absently. "That's…I was tellin' her that. Trying to. I was trying to tell her what happened to George…it wasn't her fault. Sh-she wouldn't listen and-and I couldn't get to her fast enough, and—"

"Hey. Oi. That's enough; come here." He pulled her close again, and she cried.

The Doctor tried to feel guilty for being relieved it wasn't Rose who had fallen, but he couldn't muster it.

They followed the sirens. They followed several, to more than one accident site. On the third try and after the better part of the day they found them. They found the Doctor and woman he'd been with hovering about the edges of the police tape at the entrance to an alley.

A small crowd had gathered already. There were two police cars, an ambulance, and a coroner's vehicle. A body was in a bag on a stretcher on the pavement.

The Doctor and his companion stayed at the edges of the crowd, in the beginnings of the afternoon shadows. If she hadn't been looking for them, the redhead thought, she wouldn't have seen them.

It took another two blocks to find a place to park. She was worried they would be gone by the time she and her husband made it back. She all but ran, and she didn't have to urge him along for him to keep her pace. He understood.

The Doctor was still there. He and his blond woman were sequestered in a doorway, still unnoticed by the growing crowd.

He wasn't happy. Neither of them was. He was a different man but she knew that slump in his shoulders. She knew that look, even on a different face. It was the mark of an adventure gone wrong—of someone not saved. The body in the bag, whoever it was, made that clear.

She stopped several meters away because she didn't know what to do now.

"What is it?" her husband asked.

"I don't know if I can do this."

He was quiet a moment. "We've found them. Whatever happened went badly, but they're all right. Maybe we shouldn't. Maybe we should go."

"Maybe. But—" It's the Doctor. It's the DOCTOR. "When will we ever have this chance? Our Doctor can't come here. He never can. This is it."

Fifteen years, and she thought she'd come to terms with that.

A hand on her shoulder brought her back. "We'll be all right, Amy."

"Yeah," she managed. She blinked back tears and swallowed hard. "Yeah." She pushed out a breath and swiped at her cheeks. "It's still safer if we don't interact with them, isn't it?"

"Probably."

She was going to leave. She really was. She looked at them one more time and told herself to turn around after that—turn around, walk away, and go home.

Then the Doctor gasped and doubled over a bit, and her throat clenched and her stomach dropped and instinct kicked in.

"Oh my god—Doctor!"

No one else noticed. No one else cared. It only lasted a moment and blond woman with him caught him as he pressed a fist into his chest, but Amy was already in a run that took her the last several steps to their side.

"Doctor! Are you all right? What—? Oh…"

They were both staring at her, and that was when she remembered that they had no idea who she was.

The Doctor seemed to have recovered, for the most part. He straightened and blinked at her. He seemed fine but for being a bit fatigued and out of breath. Then again, that wasn't usual for the Time Lord she knew, either.

"I'm sorry…do I know you?" he asked.

"I uhm…no. Sorry."

"But you know him," the other woman deduced.

Amy's husband was beside her now, and she caught his hand and squeezed it. Oh god, help me. "Yeah."

"You landed across the street from our house," Rory filled in.

"When the Tardis had been there a few days I thought…I was afraid something had happened, yeah?" She paused for a breath. "Anyway, are you all right? What was that?"

The Doctor and his companion were still looking at them warily, but he was the Doctor. He should be used to things getting out of order. If he wasn't, he'd have to get used to it soon enough.

"It's nothing, really. Just a little worse for wear thanks to our last…well, whatever it was. If you know me you know I tend to get into trouble. Nothing to worry about. Who did you say you were, again?"

"We didn't, and we can't," Rory answered.

"Sorry," Amy smiled. "Spoilers."

It seemed appropriate.

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