A silence fell in the attic after the Doctor had finished storytelling. He had gone back to staring at the photo of his possible daughter on Mr Smith’s screen, almost an absent expression on his face. The other occupants of the room exchanged glances.
“Doctor,” Sarah Jane said.
“What exactly is the plan of action?”
“Er …” He pulled himself out of his reverie. “Find out if it really is her. I thought that was obvious.”
She smiled. “I was thinking more along the lines of how we were going to do that.”
“Oh. Right. ‘Course.” He coughed awkwardly. “I’m open to suggestions.”
“I’m guessing that’s code for ‘I don’t know’,” Clyde whispered in Rani’s ear.
“I wonder …” Sarah Jane hesitated. “Doctor, you said she was—sorry—programmed, with knowledge, skills. That might not all be wiped away, if somehow we could get her to tap into it, it would prove who she is.”
The Doctor considered. “And if we can’t?”
Mr Smith butted in. “May I draw your attention to the six years of after-school clubs in gymnastics and martial arts.”
“Oh,” Sarah Jane said.
“Well, it was a good idea,” Rani said.
“There’s still the knowledge, though. She can strategise, right?”
“And chess,” Mr Smith added.
The Doctor read the biography again. “That’s a point. Whoever organised this made sure all Jenny’s skills were accounted for in her history. Wait—history—she had a load of military history too, and knowledge of how to handle weapons.” He suppressed a shudder. “Maybe that’s the key, if no-one has any better ideas …”
“Hang on, I’m still processing the ‘programmed’ bit,” Clyde said. “What do you mean?”
“Jenny wasn’t, well, born,” the Doctor said. “Not in the normal way. She was grown.”
“Wait—Jenny’s like me?” Luke gaped.
“Eh?” The Doctor said. “What do you mean?”
“You said she was—what was it?” Sarah Jane asked.
“Progenation. In a machine,” the Doctor said. “Why?”
“I was grown in a lab,” Luke said helpfully.
“Lukey-boy, we’ve found you a soulmate!” Clyde put an arm round his shoulders, but the smile slid off his face at the Doctor’s expression. “Although—how does that help, exactly?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Actually …” Luke thought. “Doctor, this chameleon arch, does it change someone’s physical body structure or is it only at a cellular level? I mean, you look human enough already …”
The Doctor shook his head. “It’s a full change. I have two hearts, when I turned human I had one. Why do you ask?”
“Would the same apply to a navel?”
There was a long silence. Eventually the Doctor said, “I … don’t know. I don’t think so, since it’s not species specific.”
“Luke that’s genius! If she hasn’t got one then we’ve got the answer!—Jenny didn’t have one, did she, Doctor?”
“It wasn’t exactly forefront of my mind to check,” he said. “But I would imagine not. But that’s not the issue.”
“No, the issue is, how in the universe are you going to find out if she has one?”
“Okay, Clyde and Rani have gone,” Sarah Jane said, re-entering the attic, “and Luke’s doing his homework.” She paused. The Doctor was still sitting there, staring up at Jenny’s photo with an unreadable expression on his face. “Doctor?”
“Sarah Jane, is it necessary for me to remain active?” Mr Smith said. “I do not seem to be required yet the Doctor insists on keeping up this information.”
“You can shut down now, Mr Smith,” Sarah Jane said gently.
“Thank you, Sarah Jane.” Mr Smith slid closed.
The Doctor didn’t move, and didn’t protest the loss of his picture, but something about him seemed to crush. Sarah Jane sat down next to him. “How are you holding up?”
“Just thinking,” he said, so quietly she could barely hear him.
He sniffed. “You know when you lose someone you start thinking of all the stuff that wasn’t said. You know—things that should have been said, or said more.”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“If she is … if I’m not mad … if we can turn her back … I wouldn’t know where to start …”
“How about telling her you love her?”
“I don’t—didn’t—didn’t have a chance—there wasn’t time, she just—walked out of that machine, dropping into my life, and we were so focused on the war ... hours later, the shock—I—”
“She’s your daughter. You’re hurting. Of course you love her. Whether that came before or after the gunshot is irrelevant. You love her now, so tell her.”
“Or maybe I should start with sorry,” he admitted, even quieter. “There’s so much I wish I could take back—tell her I was wrong—”
Sarah Jane took his hand and squeezed it. “I don’t know what happened between you, or what you said or did, but take my advice Doctor; start with you love her.”
He fell into silence, eyes contemplating her words. “Thank you,” he finally said, “and you’re right. It’s the first thing I’ll tell her. Once she’s herself again.”
The Doctor headed outside, needing some air. Walking right past the TARDIS, he strolled down Bannerman Road, deep in thought.
As he passed the house opposite Sarah Jane’s, he saw something moving in the corner of his eye and looked up, spotting Rani in a dressing-gown waving from a window. He smiled and gave a small wave back, before his eyes returned to staring at his trainers as he wandered aimlessly towards the Broadway.
He knew Sarah Jane was right. Her words had rung true. He mentally rehearsed for what he could say once Jenny had her memories back. Nothing sounded right. Maybe he should just leave it, and hope the words came out right when the moment came, as they usually did.
He wondered what Jenny would be like now. After all this was over, would she be feeling forgiving? Especially if it turned out to be his fault she had been made human. The Doctor had no idea how much time had passed for her; she could be days old, or centuries. Aesthetic age meant little to a Time Lord; it wouldn’t be till the chameleon arch—if that’s what it was—was reversed that he would be able to sense her age. He wouldn’t be surprised if she had been holding a grudge against him for a long time.
The Doctor got as far as Gunnersbury Avenue before deciding to turn around and head back. He’d had his fill of being alone for one day.
Just before he turned into Number Thirteen, he noticed a woman peeking unashamedly out of Rani’s front door at him. As she saw him see her, she gave a little wave as well. He sent one back, hesitantly, and Rani appeared dragging who was presumably her mother back indoors, smiled apologetically in his direction and shut the door.
The Doctor chuckled.
While Sarah Jane and Luke were asleep that night, he ran the TARDIS to the moon and back, to stretch her legs and deliberately jumping a few hours to land at dawn. He didn’t want to make one of his famous mistakes and disappear for months, but he also didn’t want to hang around feeling useless for longer than he had to.
Sarah Jane pressed a finger on the Browns’ doorbell. Her heart was beating fast; she was more nervous doing this than she had been on any other similar occasion. Perhaps because this was a lot more personal than investigating a possible invasion. She had to be careful on this one. Subtle. No coming out with blunt questions, like ‘what planet are you from’.
The door was opened, and who Sarah Jane presumed was Mrs Brown looked out. “Can I help you?”
At least she didn’t recognise her from the police station. “Yes. My name’s Janet Whately, I’m considering moving into Number Twenty-Nine.”
“The one with the blue garage door?”
“Yes, that’s the one. Anyway, I like to be very thorough before I commit, so I was hoping to have a chat with potential neighbours, suss out what the area’s like. Do you mind?”
“I—well, I suppose not. Come in.”
“Thank you.”Piece of cake.