Anji slid herself into the kitchen chair and let out a sigh.
"Is she...?" Stacy began.
Anji nodded. "They're sleeping."
Sam set a mug of hot chocolate down in front of Anji. "Here you go. Figured you could use it."
"Thanks." Anji closed her eyes and inhaled the steam for a moment, before opening her eyes again. "Okay. Might as well get this out of the way. Who wants to ask the question?"
The others avoided Anji's gaze.
Finally, Stacy sighed. "Looks like it's going to be me... Okay.
"What happened to Chloe's eyes?"
"Her book." Anji said quietly.
Izzy frowned. "Is this supposed to be some warped take on 'reading is bad for your eyes' or something?"
Anji shook her head, her mouth twisting. "More like a twisted form of spoiler protection."
"What was so important that they had to protect it like _that_?" Charley demanded.
Anji sighed again. "Alright. Chloe's book was an almanac, a future history, thrown together by Sabbath's ...'associates' - I think _they_ were the ones who built in the 'spoiler protection'." Her mouth twisted again. "They arranged for it to fall into Chloe's hands - and once she picked it up, she couldn't throw it away."
"It's odd." Fey murmured. "I've never met Sabbath, and yet, for some reason, I find myself wanting to shoot him through the head. Repeatedly."
"Join the club." Fitz muttered. "Not like it'd stop him coming back..."
"Chloe could read what was going to happen in the book - or the Sabbath-edited version of what would happen, anyway." Anji took a deep breath. "But the _book_ decided when she could read more - it wouldn't let her flick ahead.
"The one time she _did_... it punished her."
"By warping her eyes." Fey finished.
"Oh my God..." Charley breathed. "_Why?_ Why _do_ that to her?"
"Sabbath's associates, remember?" Trix said. "They wanted to be sure she'd do things in the right order - didn't want to chance she'd make a false move."
Fey interlocked her fingers. "Why choose her?"
Anji, Fitz, and Trix looked at each other.
Finally, Anji closed her eyes. "Compassion? Tell them."
"As you wish." Compassion said. "Chloe is a time-sensitive - she can see what someone is, what they may be, what will happen to them, simply by touching them."
"Like Lechasseur." Fey offered.
Compassion nodded. "Like, but _not_ like.
"Lechasseur is a human.
"Chloe is a Time Lady."
There was a stunned silence.
"She is a Time Lady." Compassion repeated. "One of the last survivors of Gallifrey.
"Let me repeat that: Chloe is a Gallifreyan, a time-sensitive, and a Time Lady."
"Oh my God..." Stacy whispered. "Does the Doctor know about this?"
"The Doctor knows." Compassion said. "He knows she's a time-sensitive, that she's from his homeworld... and more.
"I believe he knows - or at the very least strongly suspects - that he was responsible for his homeworld's destruction - if not why.
"He may suspect... but he does not remember. Not yet.
"Given that knowledge, I strongly doubt he will be willing to talk about it - now, or any time soon.
"But he knows."
"And if someone told him?" Fey said finally, looking over her hands at Compassion. "Someone who wanted to rile him, get him angry?"
"He won't rise to it." Compassion said.
"Remember how he reacts whenever someone asks about his family?" Sam added.
Compassion nodded. "Dodge the question, change the subject... regardless, it is highly unlikely he'll dignify it with a response."
"What about Chloe?" Stacy said. "Does she know he did it?"
"Probably." Anji said quietly. "I just put her to bed, after all."
"...What's that got to do with-?" Lee began. "..._Oh._"
Anji nodded. "I didn't know what he did Inside... but I do know Outside."
"And because Anji knows Chloe's origin," Compassion added, "it's highly unlikely she _wouldn't_ have been thinking of it."
Izzy let her head fall on the table. "Oh... cruk."
"That's not the worst of it." Compassion said.
"...Go on," Sam said, her tone heavy with impending doom.
"Very well." Compassion said. "The surviving Time Lords revere Gallifrey's destroyer - they call him the Blessed Destroyer.
"From Chloe's behaviour in 'Timeless', I would suspect few, if any, of the survivors knew who the Blessed Destroyer was... until now."
"...Fuck." Sam said.
"They have a point." Trix said. "I mean, far as I could see, by the time it came down to it, it was either 'hand Gallifrey over to the Faction', or 'blow the place to Kingdom Come' - and I'm guessing no-one would've wanted to see what a universe dominated by the Faction was like."
"The lesser of two evils..." Sam muttered. "Millions against billions."
"But the survivors thought it was worth it." Fey noted.
Compassion nodded. "The Doctor pulled the lever, destroyed Gallifrey... and, because he did it _Inside_, because he didn't _know_ he would survive... I suspect he fully expected to destroy himself with it."
She looked around at the others. "Instead, he survived. Survived at the cost of all he'd been, all he'd known.
"He's lived with the consequences of his actions for over a hundred years - even though he didn't know what those actions were."
"And now he does." Stacy said flatly.
"He knows, but he doesn't remember." Compassion answered. "In human terms, it would be like telling someone they sleepwalk - they know they do it, but they don't remember it."
"...Shit." Lee said.
"Does he know why?" Fey asked.
"Why he did it?" Compassion said. "That... only he knows."
"...Right." Lee said. "So this kid _worships_ the Doc for what he did, but the Doc doesn't - I mean *really* doesn't - want to talk about it."
"Or what she _thinks_ the Doctor is." Stacy said.
"All of which means...?" Fey inquired.
"...I don't know, Fey." Anji sighed again. "I don't know how much Chloe caught. But... Chloe told the Doctor about her homeworld's destruction, about the Blessed Destroyer... and the Doctor didn't let on he was from her homeworld, anything that might link him to the Blessed Destroyer.
"Now she knows... I'm _hoping_ she remembers how uncomfortable he was, the way he behaved, when she brought it up... what happens whenever someone _else_ brings it up with him... and I _hope_ she won't bring it up with him."
"Is that likely?" Fey said.
Anji hesitated, then nodded. "...Yes. Yes. I think it is. Chloe's good at keeping secrets."
"...Wait a minute." Lee said. "If he knows about the big boom, does he know _we_ know?"
"Probably." Compassion said. "And I would also guess he knows _why_ we didn't tell him."
"...Gotcha." Lee said.
"So, basically," Izzy said, "we all know what happened, but we don't talk about it."
"That sums it up, yes." Compassion said.
"At least we don't have to live with him doing the blank look any more." Lee observed. "That was really starting to piss me off..."
"...True." Izzy admitted.
"What happened to the book?" Ssard asked.
Fitz shrugged. "Dumped in the void. And good riddance to it."
"And Chloe?" Ssard inquired.
Something that might - *might* - have been a grin crept across Trix's face. "Well, think about it. The last - or nearly the very last - change Anji got before she left the Doctor was me supplying her with forged adoption papers and IDs for Chloe.
"And we _all_ know changes in our home continuities are permanent Outside... right?"
This sank in.
"...You mean she's staying?!" Lee gawped.
"She wants to stay with me," Anji said quietly. "And there's no-one else who'd take her in."
"Well, yeah, but..." Lee began, before shaking his head. "Frell with it. Let's just assume I was talking outta my ass before I dig myself in any deeper."
"Like that's new for us?" Compassion said dryly.
Sam frowned. "...So will she be sleeping in your room, or does she get a separate one?"
"...I think adjoining rooms." Anji said, looking up at the TARDIS ceiling. "Can we manage that?"
The TARDIS hummed softly.
"Yes." Compassion translated.
"And we're pretty much covered for everything else, between the TARDIS and Nameless." Anji noted.
"She does get an ID, right?" Stacy said. "As in a proper Author Mafia ID? I don't want to see Polly trying to throw her out..."
"Of course." Compassion said. "She _has_ appeared in Who fiction, so that won't be a problem - but it'll be a standard 'one-off' licence. She _is_ a one-off character, after all..."
"I think we can cope with that." Anji said dryly.
Izzy frowned. "Hold on a moment. How old _is_ Chloe? I mean, she doesn't look more than... what? Eight? Nine? ...but it's been over a century for the Doctor..."
"She's been eight for the last century." Compassion said quietly. "She stopped aging when Gallifrey was destroyed."
"Jesus H. _Fuck!_" Lee swore.
"In all that time, she hasn't aged physically, mentally, or emotionally." Compassion went on. "Where she _has_ aged is in _experience_. She has over a hundred years of experience.
"Oh my God..." Charley breathed.
"It's what happens to us when we leave." Fey said quietly. "But none of us have even reached forty."
Anji looked as if she was going to throw up. "But she _wants_ to grow up..."
"She can... if she wants." Compassion said. "Changes in our home continuities are _not_ optional... but changes anywhere else _are_ - we _choose_ to stay at our original ages, after all.
"How _fast_ Chloe decides to age is up to her, but I doubt it will be faster than human aging - she /is/ a Gallifreyan, after all."
Anji let out a long, drawn-out breath. "...Thank God for that. I'm not sure Chloe or me could take her being an eternal eight year old..."
"...I'm not sure _we_ could..." Fitz said.
That set off a few giggles, tinged with more than a little relief, around the table.
Charley frowned. "Er... This might sound like a stupid question - it probably _is_ a stupid question - but since she's eight years old - well, eight going on one hundred and eight, or whatever - er... what about school?"
Fey regarded Charley wryly. "Well, she _has_ had over a hundred years of home schooling..."
"Why not just ask her?" Izzy suggested. "I mean, if she's been wandering over a hundred years - and she hasn't been aging in all that time - one experience she's not going to have had would be school, am I right? People tend to notice when an eight year old doesn't age..."
Anji thought it over, then nodded. "All right. I'll do that. Um... just so I know, which schools are in our catchment area?"
"Newman Primary." Compassion supplied helpfully.
"Newman..." Anji closed her eyes again. "Oh, _frell_..."
"You know," Izzy said, "I really wonder who does the street naming for this town sometimes..."
The group turned.
A little girl with long blonde hair and wonky, milky-blue eyes stood in the kitchen doorway, her pale nightdress draped over her skinny frame.
"Chloe?" Anji said, beginning to rise from her chair. "Is everything okay?"
Chloe nodded. "I just wanted to get a drink."
Sam began to get up, but caught Anji's eye and sat back down.
"One hot chocolate coming up." Anji said. "Just let me microwave the milk."
"Okay, Mum." Chloe said.
"Settling in okay?" Sam said.
Chloe nodded. "This's a nice ship. It's kind of... cosy, I think."
The TARDIS's hum softened.
"She appreciates that." Compassion told Chloe.
Chloe tipped her head on one side. "You can understand her?"
"We have a connection." Compassion said, poker-faced.
"How's your dog?" Izzy asked.
"Jamais." Chloe corrected. "He's sleeping - he's been through a lot lately."
"You know..." Compassion observed, "I noticed Jamais has developed some fairly nasty cataracts. Would he mind if I removed them for him?"
"You would?" Chloe said excitedly. "That'd be wonderful! Thank you!"
Compassion halted Chloe's attempted hug. "Careful. Contact with me might have strange effects."
"Oh." Chloe said. "Why?"
"Apart from getting clobbered?" Fitz said, off of Compassion's glare. "Nah - it's part of that thing that lets her talk to the TARDIS."
"Oh..." Chloe said in understanding.
"Okay..." Anji said, carefully withdrawing the mug from the microwave. "Do you want to drink it here, or...?"
"Bed, please, Mum." Chloe said instantly.
"Okay," Anji said. "Just let me get a grip..." She adjusted her grip on the saucer. "And here we go..."
Once Fitz was sure Anji was out of earshot, he turned to Compassion. "Cam?"
"I can't do something nice for someone else?" Compassion said.
"Uh-uh." Fitz said.
"Tough." Compassion said.
Sam sighed. "We're going to suck at this parenting thing, aren't we?"
"...What do you mean, 'we'?" Fitz said.
"We could hardly _avoid_ taking an interest in Chloe's upbringing, could we?" Fey pointed out. "After all, she and Anji do live here..."
Charley grinned. "And we did miss out on when the Doctor was raising Miranda, didn't we...?"
"...Oh my God..." Fitz muttered. "Repressed maternal instincts, here we come."
"Maternal instincts?" Fey said, raising an eyebrow. "We're going to help Anji out with taking care of Chloe, nothing more. It's what any good friend would do."
"Yeah, tell me another one..." Fitz sniped.
"Besides," Sam added, "if you're going to talk about repressed _maternal_ instincts, I can bring up the subject of repressed _paternal_ instincts..."
Fitz buried his head in his hands. "Oh _Gawd..._"
"There, there..." Lee said, patting Fitz on the back while rolling his eyes at the others.
"Could be worse," Izzy observed. "Destrii could have been here."
Destrii poked her head through the doorway. "Did I hear someone mention little old moi?"
"...I hate you." Fitz said to Izzy.
"Hello, Destrii." Compassion said, her poker face on again. "Anji's leaving party going well?"
Destrii shrugged. "Eh. You know. The usual. People getting blitzed out of their minds, someone massacring 'Mandy', Francois tapping his club in that meaningful way of his... Thought I'd better get while the getting's good..."
She sat down in Anji's vacated seat. "So, did I miss anything interesting?"
"Yup," Fitz muttered. "We're doomed."
"Ooh, I like this already." Destrii leaned forward in her chair, eyes glittering. "Tell me more..."
Disclaimer: 'Doctor Who', the TARDIS, Sam, Fitz, Compassion, Anji, Trix, Stacy, Ssard and Chloe are the BBC's. Izzy, Fey and Destrii are Marvel's, Chang Lee is the BBC/Universal's, and Charley is Big Finish's.
Author's Note: As of 'Timeless', Anji's left the TARDIS crew to return home, and adopted Chloe in the process.
Outside, of course, things've gone a little differently...
Lechasseur is Honore Lechasseur, the time-sensitive protagonist of 'The Cabinet of Light'.
Copyright 2003 Imran Inayat.