Susan feels her life ebbing away, and wonders what all the fuss was about. Aslan told her she'd have to die before she could enter the undying lands; of course it's going to hurt, it hurts to breathe, but it can't last much longer. Maybe he was apologising because someone's going to save her life, but there's no sign of anyone coming to her aid, and she can't seem to summon up the energy or breath to shout. She coughs, feebly, feeling the pain, and something else. Why is her breath glowing gold? She tries to move, raises a hand – and sees golden light. And finally starts to remember, and realise what's happening.
Aslan's breath triggered something in her body, started to strip away the illusion of humanity. He lied when he called her 'Daughter of Eve.'
The Time War has been raging for… well, for all of time, of course… but on Gallifrey it's been a handful of years. Everyone who can fight or work towards the war effort is busy, of course, but for the children it's mostly something they hear about in lessons and the news. Horrible and scary, of course, but it's mostly happening to other people, on distant worlds millions of years in the past or future. Until the Dalek fleets close in and the siege intensifies.
The light from her face and hands gets brighter, and she feels her body changing. Where is she anyway? She can feel the earth spinning around her – yesterday she would have meant that figuratively, now it's literally true. About thirty miles a second in its orbit around the Sun, 650 MPH around its axis, which if this is Earth means she's somewhere around the latitude of London. Or somewhere just south of Chile, which isn't likely because she'd probably be at sea, or on an island where she could smell the ocean. Cardiff? The right latitude but no, that's a coastal city too. There's a half-moon in the sky, definitely Earth, it's low above the horizon – she measures the angle instinctively – which means this is autumn or early winter, the angle tells her it's about ten at night, and she's in the northern hemisphere. And a grimy sign on the wall of one of the shuttered shops, advertising Wall's Sausages, confirms that this is Britain. The thoughts spin through her mind, lightning fast, weirdly accurate by human standards, still a little vague for her. She doesn't even know the date with any certainty.
She coughs again, feels the change intensifying, and spits out something hard. Harkness's bullet, distorted where it broke the ribs she can feel knitting together. She knows what's coming, and knows instinctively that she wants to do this somewhere where she won't be seen. Torchwood may be around somewhere, she doesn't want to end up back in their hands. She tries to hold back, and finds the energy to struggle to her feet and stagger along the road, looking for shelter. Instinct tells her to head north, and she decides it's as good a direction as any.
Hundreds, thousands, die every time the defences weaken, and the war itself is damaging the structure of space and time. The protected areas grow smaller, whole cities annihilated or reduced to living in bunkers, elsewhere there are vast areas of fluctuating time where you can age or lose a year or a century from one breath to the next. Evacuation seems impossible… but they're Time Lords, impossible comes with the territory. If the universe is falling apart, maybe there are escape routes through the cracks, paths that end up outside the blockade. It's a possibility, but the Daleks are scouring space and time for their enemies, and there are other horrors out there – the Nightmare Child, the Trickster, the Could've Been King, Weeping Angels and worse. They'll detect them as soon as they arrive – if they're still Gallifreyan. But that's something that can be fixed.
Between attacks a handful of rift portals are built and placed in the deep shelters. There's no telling where they will lead; some may end up in suns or on worlds where nothing can survive, but rifts mostly occur where there's intelligent life, where the multiple probabilities of free will stretch reality thin, it's a chance worth taking. Those who go through will have to be disguised – normally a chameleon arch would be used, but there's no telling where they will arrive; it would be stupid to be a Zarbi on Earth, an Ood on Mars, or a Judoon on Metabelius Three. But there's an answer to that too; chameleon arches are a refinement of the TARDIS chameleon circuit, it ought to be possible to build something that will travel through the rift with evacuees, scan the area when they arrive, and quickly convert them to the optimum form for survival. Then destroy itself, since the Daleks will soon detect any Gallifreyan machine. The process will be fuelled by regeneration; hopefully just one life will be consumed, possibly two or three. Children, with all their regenerations ahead of them, have the best chance of surviving.
She passes a sweet shop and notices a vending machine for Coca Cola, priced at a shilling, another for cigarettes. Since when did ten Players cost two shillings? That's scandalously expensive.
Sixty-four units are built before the final attacks; they're phenomenally complex and completely untested, and possibly the only hope that the Time Lords will survive. Maybe the evacuees will find a way to end the war; maybe they'll simply out-last it, if the Daleks go down with Gallifrey. It has to be worth a try. The brightest and best children are selected, crammed with knowledge about the war, and told that they'll be launched into the void at the last possible moment, if there's no other hope of escape.
It's a good plan. The execution leaves something to be desired…
She notices a gate with a dark yard behind it, tries it, but there's a padlock. She can see the lock clearly, looks down, and realises it's lit by the yellow glow from her face and chest. There can't be much time left. It's a good thing that the shops seem to be lock-ups, and don't have flats overhead. She must look like some sort of spectre, a glowing ghost. Something's still urging her north, she goes with it.
The Daleks attack harder and with deadlier weapons than they have used before, and the defences fall fast. There isn't time for safety checks or the carefully timed launches that are planned; instead, the refugees are launched into the void haphazardly, often under fire. Less than half survive the passage, the remainder are scattered through all of time and space and multiple dimensions. Some arrive where they can't survive – in seas of concentrated acid, on radioactive worlds torn by nuclear war, in space – but most reach places where they have a hope of surviving. Instantly the chameleon circuits activate, assessing the situation and the native civilisation, changing them to forms that have the optimum chance of survival.
It's unfortunate that on Earth, as on many other worlds, the form that has the best chance of survival, of being cherished or at least protected by anyone that finds it, is a baby. Even more unfortunate that the disguise protocols change the subject's mind to match the body.
There's something singing in her head, a familiar energy that definitely doesn't belong on Earth… the Time Vortex, or something enough like it to fool Gallifreyan senses. She's wearing sensible heels, but one of them picks this moment to catch in a crevice between cobbles and snap; without a second thought she steps out of her shoes and goes forward with bare feet. It doesn't matter if she cuts a foot, she's regenerating anyway.
Up ahead, wooden gates slightly open – she forces herself through them, and sees a glimmer of light ahead, small pane windows, and a sign she remembers from her previous life on Earth, and from Gallifreyan history lessons: Police Public Call Box. She pounds on the door, keeps pounding until a white-haired man opens it, then pushes past him, into a room that's bigger on the inside than the outside. He's trying to push her out again when the regeneration begins in earnest.
"Well, who the devil are you?" shouts… no, she needs to pretend she doesn't know who he is, or the horror he's going to unleash on the universe sooner or later. In fact, she needs to suppress that memory as soon as she can, suppress anything that might affect events. The Time War is a fixed point now, any attempt to tamper with it before it happens would be disastrous. The knowledge weighs on her like a stone as the regeneration ebbs.
"Sorry to disturb you. I've had a bit of an accident, got stranded here."
"What sort of accident? Is that blood?"
She looks down at the dress, bloodstained and slightly too big for her, and wonders what she looks like. She feels younger, say fifteen or sixteen, and the dress feels old and dowdy. It is, of course, if this is when she thinks it is. "Is this a Type 40? Golly, I've never seen one this old before."
"Old?" He sounds querulous and indignant, though he must know that the Type 40 is long obsolete.
"To me, yes. I'm from… well, let's just say Gallifrey's future, as far as you're concerned. Quite far in your future. But I can't tell you anything about it."
"Just by being here I'm risking a paradox. I'm going to have to get rid of most of my memories, anything that could affect events. Give me a minute."
"Oh, for goodness sake… who are you, you wretched girl?"
"Well, if I'm remembering it right, if I'm remembering your face correctly, my weave includes about a sixteenth part of your genetics. You could say I'm your great… whatever it is… grand-daughter. But you'd better call me Susan. I'll need a surname of some sort…"
She concentrates, ignoring his spluttering questions, and begins the process of encapsulating most of her memories in an impregnable shell, and blocking her mind from any attempt at a psychic probe. When that's done, when she's as ignorant of his future as he is, they talk.
Eventually they reach a compromise. He wants to spend more time in 1960s London, she can help him by studying Earth's school system from the inside. She'll travel with him until he can find a way to return her home – she doesn't tell him… something that she's already forgotten, that means she's not going to be able to go home quite yet. She drops just enough hints to scare him off asking more questions… she wishes she knows why it's so important, fears that he might be going to die soon. He's really quite sweet, a bit acerbic in his attitude but she'll bring him around.
Susan survives the British educational system, cave-men, two encounters with Daleks, the Chinese and Aztec empires, the French revolution, alien worlds, and more. Eventually she parts with the Doctor in 2164, after the Dalek invasion of the Earth is defeated. Marries David, and thinks that they have a chance at happiness. That lasts a decade, through the post-invasion reconstruction, then slowly, piece by piece, she puts her memories back together, and realises she's almost as responsible for the Daleks as the Doctor is. If she hadn't erased her memories, if she'd interfered somehow, if they'd never visited Skaro…
No. You can't mess about with fixed points in time. It takes her days to explain it to David, but he never quite believes it, can never understand that she couldn't make changes, couldn't prevent the invasion. She can't tell him about the horrors to come, when the Time War flares up and nowhere is safe. It slowly poisons their marriage, already strained by their lack of children. There's a rumour she remembers that the Doctor's bloodline was manipulated to incorporate Terran genetics, but short of that she's as alien to Earth as a Dalek, and has about as much chance of reproducing successfully with a human. When he notices his first grey hairs, and she still seems to be in her early twenties, she decides to leave. He doesn't try to stop her.
A few days later she's in Cardiff, looking out over the sea and wondering how to find the rift she's heard so much about. Fifteen minutes later she feels a sense of wrongness, of danger, and looks across the road to see Captain Harkness sitting at a table outside a café, drinking with a beautiful woman who looks a little older than Susan's apparent age. She thinks about ignoring him, but she's curious. He doesn't seem to be much older than the last time they met, but now she can feel his presence, knows why he isn't aging, knows that he was already like that in 1949. She felt the wrongness then but didn't know the cause. He's not just a fixed point, he's a physical constant, a fact, as fundamental to the universe as Pi. How is that possible? She sits at another table and orders a snack, and covertly watches them eat. As she finishes her sandwich the woman heads inside, headed for the ladies room. Susan feels an uncharacteristic urge for mischief, and follows a minute later. She's drying her hands when the other woman comes out of one of the cubicles and starts to wash, and Susan says "Excuse me asking, but do I know your friend from somewhere? I'm sure I've seen him somewhere before."
"Jack? You know him?"
"Maybe." A weird thought crosses her mind, and she adds "Does he have some scars on his throat and neck, like he was clawed by something?" By the woman's expression she knows she's struck gold. A fixed point can't usually be changed, but she suspects that Aslan doesn't care about that.
"That bastard! He's been screwing you, hasn't he?"
"Actually no, but if that's Jack Harkness I was there when he was hurt, a good few years ago. What story does he tell about it these days?" Because if there's one thing that's certain, Harkness will have a story.
"He claims he was clawed by a lion. Everyone knows they're extinct!"
"That's a good one. Okay, I've got to go. Give Jack my love!"
The other woman shouts "Whose love?" as she's heading for the door.
"Tell him Susan!"
She uses another exit, boards the first monorail out of town, and never goes near Cardiff again. Four years later she finds her way off Earth.
Millenia later, and on a world several galaxies away, Susan's last life ends; peacefully, as it happens. She wakes to the smell of honeysuckle and daisies, opens her eyes to find herself young again, lying on a cloak spread out in a meadow, under a perfect sky. She touches her head, feels a familiar coronet, and sits up to see Cair Paravel beyond some trees. She looks around, and smiles as she realises that Aslan has been watching her patiently.
"Daughter of Rassilon, welcome… at last."
She hugs him, and goes with him to meet her family.
The year five billion and fifty-three. The Face of Boe, once Jack Harkness, is old, so old. When he finally meets the Doctor again it comes as a relief, a long-anticipated ending. He uses the last of his energy to open New New York, knowing that it will kill him, accepting his fate for the greater good. A last cryptic message, fade to oblivion; that's the way it should be.
He wakes, lying somewhere soft, feeling no pain for the first time in several million years. He's got a body again but it feels strange; the proportions seem wrong, and when he opens his eyes he discovers he has cute little paws. He's a cat? Maybe there's something to reincarnation. He can't see anything else, not even the surface he's lying on, just soft white light.
"Son of Boe. Son of Adam." He looks around again, doesn't see anyone.
"Who are you?"
"It's time to begin your real work," says the voice. "And for a new life, a new name. Welcome, Aslan…"
Please don't kill me…
I'm far from the first person to have associated boxes and wardrobes that are bigger on the inside than the outside, the story of Susan, and the Doctor and his associates. I think I'm the first person to come up with this particular spin on the tale, inspired by the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who and the character's name, but if I'm wrong please let me know. If you'd like to see more I'd particularly recommend:
From a World More Full of Weeping by Azar
To Be Left Behind by WingedFlight
Whose Other Side Is Salvation by be_themoon
all of which can be found on Archive of our Own and other sites; on AO3 click the tag "Susan Pevensie" from my story then select the fandom "Doctor Who" before sorting.
Food rationing was introduced to Britain during WW2, and due to a succession of poor harvests and other problems continued to 1954. I've tried to be accurate about things like the approximate value of money, the WW2 forgeries, the status of the moon in November 1963, the legal age for smoking in 1943, etc.
One inconsistency - The 2013 episode The Name of the Doctor shows the Doctor stealing the TARDIS with Susan. Obviously this is one of the things that got changed when the universe was rebooted (The Pandorica Opens), history shifted so that Susan was always with the Doctor. Wibbley-wobbley timey-wimey strikes again.
And for anyone boggled by the coda, if you're going to create an all-knowing omnipotent being, the oldest and allegedly wisest creature in the universe seems a useful starting point!