Wow! Another chapter! Bet you guys didn't think this would happen, huh? XD

I had a massively hard time writing this for some reason. It's like I ran out of steam or something and just failed epic-ly. But I didn't give up! I persevered and bring to you the next chapter in this exciting saga! It's 2,812 words, the biggest so far, which is only fair as it's been so long. Sorry about that…

Shout out to: pheobep3, ROGMethos, DarkRiddlesDestiny, TARDISgirl192, cat2772, Vayluh Arwen, Yanna, Harlequin-Raven, WeepingAngel123, Wandering Hitokiri, OobieMcRuby, CountryGrl, wolfchasing, and SciFiGeek14 for reviewing since my last update! You guys ROCK!

SPLAT!

Harriet, the Doctor, and Zoe all released a breath when they heard the Slitheen explode and the roaring stop. The Doctor had come up with the solution in time, without Zoe having to tell him, and Mickey and Shireen were safe.

A sudden thought of what Mickey and Shireen must look like now made Zoe chuckle. In a second, the chuckle had become full- blown laughter and everyone else had joined in- even Mickey and Shireen on the other end of the phone. With her head awhirl, Zoe found herself being scooped up in a hug by the Doctor.

He held her off the floor for a good minute. She closed her eyes and smiled in relief, and knew the Doctor was doing the same.

When he put her down they grinned at each other for a moment, his hands still on her waist and hers on his shoulders.

"Raxa- Raxic- What was the name of the planet you said?" Harriet asked.

"Raxacoricofallapatorius," both the Doctor and Zoe said at the same time. And they burst into laughter again.

All three took up the glasses of port and toasted to the name "Hannibal!"

The Doctor looked over at Zoe where she was sitting in the spot normally reserved for the Prime Minister, staring into her half-empty glass. The look on her face was intense and dark. Broody and lost deep in thought.

He couldn't know that she was thinking of the Master's reign and whether she'd be here to help him through it.

He did, however, guess it had something to do with a fact she knew about his future. She'd already shown this was one of her foreseen adventures with him.

The Doctor put his glass down and took a seat next to her. Zoe immediately faced him and forced a smile.

"So do you know everything about my future?" he asked right off the bat.

Her smile turned genuine. "Nah. I only know ten of your… escapades in this body. I mean there are others but I don't know how… canon they are." She meant the spin-off media, unbeknownst to him.

"Don't tell me I only have seven more trips left in this body!"

Zoe laughed now. "No! These first three all happened in a row, that's all. I don't know how soon the other ones are going to happen."

"Good," he grumbled.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to take the fun out of it. I mean the best." Her face darkened. "But once again, I lost control. This, being stuck in here, wasn't what I meant to happen. It was supposed to be over downstairs. Indra was supposed to be alive."

The Doctor slung an arm around and pulled her close till she was resting her head on his shoulder. A soft sigh escaped her pink lips. Only a bit of gloss was still on them, the rest worn off with time.

He wondered why he noticed that and why he was still staring at them.

The Time Lord blinked and looked away.

Then the phone crackled to life and the voice of Mickey- Ricky- broke the calm.

"Listen to this."

Zoe watched the Doctor's frown grow deeper and deeper as the phony Prime Minister told lies to the media.

"He's making it up. There's no weapons up there; there's no threat! He just invented it!"

"Do you think they'll believe him?" Harriet asked.

"They did last time," he said. "That's why the Slitheen went for spectacle. They want the whole world panicking, 'cause you lot, you get scared. You lash out."

"They release the codes-" Harriet said.

"And the Slitheen go nuclear," he finished.

Zoe watched with fascination as the Doctor strode powerfully to the door, intent on it with a focus she only ever saw in him. Even a Cyberman would have been knocked over with a stride like that. And that intensity stayed in his face as he opened the steel shutter and addressed the Slitheen outside.

"You get the codes, release the missiles. But not into space cause there's nothing there. You attack every other country on Earth, they retaliate- fight back. World war three: the whole planet gets nuked."

His voice was deathly calm and emotionless when he talked, contrasting Harriet's exclamations and questions. Zoe stayed silent, fury tampered only because she was already so jaded to such things. All she could muster was sneering in pure disgust at Blon's callous attitude towards the destruction of Earth.

Zoe stared at the steel door for a moment after it had closed again. Then it hit home. Oh, she'd laughed at the Slitheen plenty of times before. They had seemed so comedic when they weren't real. But not anymore. Not when she'd felt the contempt for life rolling in waves off of them. Not when she could still see Indra's broken body whenever she closed her eyes. Not now.

She jumped when the Doctor wove his hand into hers and blinked back tears. His expression told her he knew exactly what she was going through. He'd long ago lost any innocence to evil, and it still hurt.

"Does it get easier?" Zoe asked before she could help herself.

He didn't pretend to misunderstand her.

"It depends."

"On what?"

"On whose hand you're holding."

There; he'd said it. He'd managed to tell her what he'd figured out on the rooftop not so long ago. He still didn't know if he had ever meant to tell her, but at the lost look on her face and the break in her voice when she'd asked the question, he couldn't help himself. It was so disgustingly domestic, but it was too late now. And her hopeful smile at the confession softened the uneasiness he felt.

The next few hours were spent brainstorming ways to get out: "Do you have any more vinegar Zoe?" "No." "Anything useful in your pockets Doctor?" "No." "What about emergency numbers, Mickey?" "They're all on voicemail."

It all led nowhere except the conclusion that next time they should come better prepared, or at least rebuild K-9.

Meanwhile the UN was having their emergency conference, no doubt deciding to release the codes.

"There has to be a way out!" Harriet declared. The Doctor watched Zoe who was studying her hands.

"There's a way out." How was his voice staying so steady? Why weren't his knees knocking in fear?

"There's always been a way out."

Zoe finally looked at him and the mass of conflicting feelings in her eyes told him she had known this would happen all along.

"Then why haven't we used it?" Harriet asked. Her voice wasn't accusing, just curious. She trusted he had a good reason and knew what he was doing.

How many had trusted him like that and died because of it? He couldn't think of it without feeling sick.

Zoe turned away with a guilty look and he leant over the table- partially to talk into the phone, but mostly to make eye contact with her.

"Because we probably won't survive."

"Don't you dare!" came both Mickey and Shireen's voice over the phone.

"But that's the thing; if I don't dare, everyone dies!" He said it to convince himself as much as to convince the others. He had to believe this was the right choice, the noble sacrifice.

"No!"

"You can't!"

Yet somehow, over the clamor of her friends, his girl's soft voice stood out.

"I'll do it."

They all fell silent until Zoe repeated herself.

"I'll do it."

The Doctor spoke next.

"You know what it is?"

She nodded once.

"And you'll still let me do it?" His voice raised in incredulity and wonder.

She nodded again without hesitation, but he could clearly see the terror in her eyes. "Yeah."

His awe and admiration of this precious human child doubled even as his hearts simultaneously failed him.

"No! Don't you dare! If she gets hurt we'll have your ugly alien head, Doctor!"

"D'you think I want this?!" he snapped at Mickey through the phone. "'Cause this is my life! It isn't fun and it isn't smart; it's just standing up and making a decision because no one else will!"

He let all his bitterness and resentment for his life show in his words. All the regrets and hatred for the past fueled his tone. Did they honestly believe he wanted to destroy the only thing he had worth fighting for?

"So what are you waiting for?"

Zoe's soft voice silenced his inner turmoil. She stripped his thoughts down to one, and only one.

"I could save the world but lose you."

And in his heart, at that moment, he knew he could never make that decision. He'd done it once on an even grander scale, sacrificing whole worlds- including his own- to save the universe, and he couldn't do it again. Not to Zoe.

Luckily he didn't have to.

"Does this work?" the Doctor asked her.

"It did back home," Zoe replied, gripping his hand as they crouched in the cupboard. "But, you know, different universe, so…"

"Well that's encouraging," he replied sarcastically.

Harriet looked at them questioningly. "Just what are you-"

The missile hit.

Then they all died… psych! Like I'd kill the Doctor *rolls eyes*

The cupboard was tossed and turned like a claustrophobic amusement park ride mix between the big drop ones and the wildly rotating kind. She was slammed around into the Doctor, then the other side with the Doctor pressing into her, then back when she cracked her head on the wall behind. Stars circled in her eyes and she just barely managed not to repeat the process when she was thrown forward. By the time her senses returned, the turbulence had stopped.

The Doctor was the first to move, gingerly lifting himself from the heap of limbs and somehow forcing the door open. Since Harriet was closest to it she exited first, then him, then Zoe.

The sunlight felt strange on her skin, like it had been years since she'd last encountered some. Her eyes stung from the glare and she put up a hand to shade them.

"Made in Britain," Zoe heard Harriet exclaim proudly. She managed to smile while the MP continued talking, though her head felt fuzzy, and said "I'd vote for you" at the appropriate time.

The Doctor followed leisurely in the direction Harriet had gone. Zoe trailed him, dizzy and a little nauseous.

"I thought I knew her name. Harriet Jones: future Prime Minister. Elected for three successive terms- the architect of Britain's golden age," he said proudly.

Zoe tried to muster a reaction but the nausea suddenly escalated and she bent over as the contents of her stomach came back up.

"Zoe?!" the Doctor exclaimed.

She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and squinted at him. "I think… I might have a concussion."

"Right, how many fingers am I holding up?" He gripped her shoulder with one hand and put the other one in her face.

"Six? I can't tell with you moving them."

He sighs heavily. "It's three, and you're the one that's moving."

"Ah," she replied intelligently. "That makes sense too."

His grip adjusted and Zoe closed her eyes. A minute later the sound of the sonic screwdriver filled her ears.

"I'm just dizzy, Doctor. I need a lay down and I'll be fine." She doesn't want him freaking out. She's embarrassed enough as it is that both of their previous adventures ended with her as a victim. It's not who she wants to be, the one always needing help. But as she tries to take a step and nearly falls over, she admits this may be a problem.

The Doctor silently put his arm around her waist and she reached hers across his shoulders. Together they walked back to the TARDIS, Zoe leaning heavily on him through most of it.

"Sorry I'm being so lame. Rose wasn't this pathetic," she apologized groggily.

"Who's Rose?"

Zoe snorted. "Not me!"

"If you're not gonna make sense you might as well not talk."

"I am making sense! You just don't understand it."

The Doctor paused before replying.

"You're right; I don't understand that sentence. So go on? Who's this Rose person? Other than not you, I mean."

She either didn't notice or didn't respond to his sarcasm. "Rose is who I'm supposed to be. But I'm not her. Don't wanna be either. Especially since there isn't a Pete to catch me."

The Doctor was a little worried. Honestly, a mild concussion wasn't the end of the world (he'd just seen that after all) but Zoe was losing consciousness. Her eyes were closed and he had to practically drag her. She needed to stay awake and alert. Nonsensical rambling would do that, he decided, so prompted her with another question.

"Who is Pete?"

"Her dad-but-not."

He shook his head. She wasn't making any sense at all. Her concussion hadn't seemed bad enough to induce hallucinations. Could what she was saying be part of her secrets? Maybe the concussion only scrambled her self-control. He wondered if he should take advantage of her lapse in judgment and continue asking questions. It might be the only way to quell his curiosity.

"Was Rose a friend in your original universe?"

Zoe's eyes fluttered open. "Psh! Nah! Like I know Billie Piper!"

Billie Piper? Who was this now? The Doctor frowned.

"What's this Billie bloke got to do with Rose?"

She laughed. "Billie's a girl, silly!"

None of this was answering his questions, only creating more. He sighed in exasperation.

"Did you travel with me in the other universe?"

"Nope!"

He ground his teeth and huffed a breath.

"Then how do you know me so well?!"

"I've watched you for as long as I can remember. Both my parents had watched you as kids, and thought I should see it too. Then, of course, they brought you back in 2005."

By now they were at the TARDIS in the estates. Any more questions were prevented by Mickey and Shireen who were racing down the stairs towards them. They must have been watching out the window.

"Zoe! What happened to her?"

"Is she okay?"

The Doctor rolled his eyes.

"She'll be fine; just a minor concussion from being thrown around a bit. Nothing me and the TARDIS can't fix in a mo'."

Mickey eyed him distrustfully while Shireen put Zoe's other arm around her shoulder and helped him half-carry her to the TARDIS.

Zoe was living in a fuzzy little corner of reality. Thoughts floated around in her head like… little floating things, she guessed. She reached out for them, laughing mentally as she chased one down.

"Perfectly harmless device… the year 2670… fix her…"

They were bits of a conversation. The Doctor was talking to… Mickey? And Shireen? He was attaching cold pads about the size of her fingernail to her head, which, now that she thought about it, hurt.

Then the pads grew warm, then hot, then very hot, and just as she was about to whimper in discomfort, it stopped. Zoe blinked and reality got a lot clearer.

"Just what did you get me to say, Doctor?!"

The Doctor sighed in relief as he stepped back into the TARDIS. Zoe was just saying her final goodbyes to Shireen and Mickey. She'd insisted on staying for the rest of the day. Now it was early evening and they could finally leave.

He set the controls for the vortex, and the minute Zoe came in and closed the doors, he pulled the lever and sent them into it. Looking up at her, he deflated a bit. She was gazing at the console absently with a wistful look on her face. His stomach sank just a bit.

"Missing them already?"

She shook her head and met his eyes.

"What? Oh! No, no that's not it."

Ah, silly him. She was still upset about not being able to save everyone. He moved to her and wrapped his arms around her in a hug. She sighed and relaxed into it.

"I'll be okay. Just… disappointed, you know?"

He nodded and released her.

"Zoe…" The Doctor trailed off, not sure if he should finish his thought.

"What?"

He looked her in the eyes and exhaled through his nose.

"In this life… sometimes we make decisions and people die because of them. Today won't be the last time. Is that… is that too much?"

She looked at him with an unreadable expression. Then she smiled slightly and nodded. He smiled back and moved to the console, hands hovering, waiting to set coordinates.

"Right! Ready to continue on a mad tour in time and space?"

Zoe's smile widened and she joined him at the console.

"Always.