One stop to go.

Piloting the TARDIS with so many people he had loved and cared about had left him feeling elated and raw, the protective acceptance of Jack and Martha and Sarah-Jane and Mickey all taken from him as Jackie stared at Rose with a look of resigned sorrow. Rose wasn't looking at anything but him.

Jackie had been through enough on account of him. She deserved to go back home.

She deserved her daughter.

A daughter who didn't deserve her. Didn't want her.

A daughter who tore two universes apart for the sake of a man but couldn't bear for the same man to change in order to save his own life.

Once, she had once described herself as 'just that good'.

Once, she had been.

Her face was shining and her eyes were sparkling and it would have been so easy to forget what she had done, but Donna stood at the back of the TARDIS along with his brand-new self, and as much as the pity in her eyes stung him, it was worse seeing it in his own.

One more stop. Jackie Tyler deserved her husband and son at least.

Donna. Of course! Brilliant, honest, straightforward Donna. Donna would have an idea, some magical human words to say to keep Rose in check, stop her reckless destruction of everything in her path.

"Okay. Time to slip in through the gaps in the universes... blimey these calculations are tricky..." he ignored Jackie's look of worry and Rose's utter lack of concern and raised his voice. "Excuse me, when the other two Doctors are finished lounging about over there, I could use your help." Admittedly this much was the truth – he could have done it himself but having someone else to help would certainly come in useful.

Donna rolled her eyes as she strolled over to the console. "Oi, watch your manners, Martian Boy. Can't do anything for yourself, you can't." Turning to Rose, she smiled. "Mind if we have a bit of time? This is going to get pretty boring, and believe me, some of the lots I've temped for? I know boring."

"No, I'm fine, really. I won't get in your way"

"Yes, but Rose, Donna's right, I-"

"No, really, it's fine. I'll just listen." And did she really have to look at his lips like that as she said that? Even Donna was beginning to look uncomfortable – knowing something and experiencing it yourself were very different, after all.

"Come on, sweetheart." God bless Jackie Tyler, may he never think badly of her again. "They need to concentrate and talk this tech-thing over. Here, you said that this ship had a swimming pool, but I've not seen it..." Rose didn't seem happy, but she gave in, eager to show her mother just what she'd regained, apparently. With a bit of luck the TARDIS might keep them away for a little while – not easy for her with the inter-universe travel, but ever since the Bad Wolf incident she hadn't been all that fond of Rose either. Well, who would be fond of their rapist, after all? He quickly squashed the familiar blaze of anger – he needed a clear head for Donna's advice.

He sighed. He wanted to talk about this so badly, but now they were alone he didn't feel like talking at all. Didn't even know where to begin. It was just too...

"Yeah, it is." He'd forgotten – they both had his memories, his thought patterns, even. He gave them a wan smile of thanks in return, knowing that even by his standards it was a poor offering.

"Donna – blimey..."

"Donna – blimey..." For a moment he grinned sheepishly at his metacrisis self, who grinned right back as Donna chuckled. For a moment it was all fine.

"I know. I wish I could help, Space Man, I really do, but I can't. I've got no idea." Donna bit her lip, honestly distressed that all her new knowledge had nothing to help her best friend. "I mean, I chased after Lance pretty shamelessly, but if I were told chasing him would cost the universe, I'd have listened. She won't, she already hasn't. How many people on Earth, on those other 26 planets, died today? And she doesn't seem to care. All she cared about was you almost dying. She's just not going to stop till she gets what she wants. "

Well. That was that. That meant Rose Tyler on the TARDIS. It meant never going anywhere the slightest bit volatile in case Rose did something silly. Never bothering to actually say anything important because he knew she wouldn't listen.

His metacrisis self was nodding, looking thoughtful. "That's exactly it. She's not going to stop until she gets what she wants." Well, not precisely the answer he'd hoped to get, but he'd rather have a brutal truth anyway – he'd stopped the Master and he'd stopped the Time Lords and now he needed to stop Rose. "So we give it to her." Wait, what?


His metacrisis self was smiling, but it was not a happy smile. In fact, seeing it, he rather wanted to run away. "We give her what she wants. We give her a Doctor she can play happy families with. We give her me." And just like that, he understood.

So logical. So neat. So elegant. So obscenely simple. And he hated himself for diving onto the possibility like a life preserver. Hating himself for leaping for a solution where someone else had to pay the price for once.

"Oh, no you don't, Skinny, I –"

"Better not call me that too much now, Donna – I don't have a Time Lord metabolism any more. Blimey. I'll have to watch my diet! Use artificial sweetener! Eat oat bran!" And part of him wanted to cry but Donna was laughing and even he could see just how funny his double's face looked at that train of thought. "Can't exactly risk losing my looks or Rose's interest will skydive." And just like that, down again. Damn Donna's self-doubt combined with his own – it was far too potent.

"Don't call yourself John Smith." And wasn't that the most pathetic thing he'd ever said? "I mean, I know I... you, we – used to use it back in the UNIT days, but now it... well. Not our name to take anymore." And that was all he could ever do for John Smith, so very human, a product of a paranoid time who had nonetheless given his life so that someone he was terrified of could live. Give him his name back.

A sigh. "I wonder... the slow path. Being a father again. A grandfather again as well." Another twisted smile that somehow wasn't quite as scary. "Might almost make it worth it." And it wouldn't, not really – because he'd be without the TARDIS and the TARDIS couldn't survive in the other universe and neither of them was willing to endanger the last Child Of Gallifrey because a single human refused to understand that people don't always get what they want.

Themselves always, they were a different matter, but never her, who had done nothing to earn Rose's abuse disguised as devotion.

"So. Martian Boy and Martian Boy, and I'll never stop calling either of you that no matter what name you choose... how are we going to do this?"

Sigh. "All right, you two, from the top..."

"You made me!"

"You were born in battle. Full of blood and anger and reven – what? What? Oh, you have to be joking, Donna..."

"He's right, Donna. I know you like reading this sort of thing, but Rose'll just laugh at us!"

"Look, trust me. Lots of drama, emotions running high, she'll eat it up."

"Or eat me up, after you two have buggered off..."

"Watch it, you prawn! You really are as bad as him!"

"Gaining a Time Lord mind apparently didn't give you a knack for literary criti – ow ow ow!"

"Behave, or I'll let you two muddle it up on your own and then how will she react, react, react, react, react... well. You two do a last run-through, I'll go get Rose and Jackie, tell them we're about to land."

"Donna –"

"Donna –"

"I'm fine."

Oh Donna. Of all the things to learn from us, you learned to say that.

Oh Donna. Of all the things to learn from us, you learned to say that.