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Title: Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii
Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (violence, whump)
Author: tkel_paris
Summary: Sequel to “Altered History: The Runaway Bride”. The Doctor's getting the location wrong (again) lands him and Donna in Pompeii on Volcano Day. She's determined to save as many as possible, but for him the events bring back the nightmare that still haunts him. Donna is in for a lesson on the consequences of the Dark Times.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I only just got into Classic Who heavily in the last three years. This idea would've been unthinkable for me back in early 2014.
Dedication: My friends cassikat and hezikiah, who between them brought me to an appreciation for the Eighth Doctor. The rest was all my own doing. I also thank my beta, tardis_mole, whose impatience for this brought my muse to start writing right away. And... since I'm positive I wouldn't have had the idea without seeing him at Gallifrey One this year, the always delightful Paul McGann. Although I'm not sure I ever want him or any DW actor reading any fanfiction I write... Of course, if the next showrunner wants to bring Donna back then he or she can read them all they want for ideas. Just appreciate an acknowledgement in that case. ;)
Author's Note: If you haven't read “Altered History: The Runaway Bride”, go back and read it now. Then come back to this one. Otherwise you will be very confused.


Chapter One


Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii

Started March 20, 2017
Story unfinished as of start of posting


Chapter Two: The Ghosts in the Past

Pompeii, Italy
August 23, 79AD


The Doctor grabbed Donna's hand and they ran through the streets, neither wanting to stay to see the events. They soon arrived back at their starting point. But when he threw back the curtain the TARDIS wasn't there.

“You're kidding,” Donna groaned. “Don't tell me the TARDIS is gone.”

He stilled and looked at her incredulously. “Are you serious? What am I supposed to tell you then? If I lie, you might slap me.”

She glared at him. “Don't get clever in Latin.”

The Doctor's look turned sour. “There's no winning with you. Now I know how Lucie felt. Excuse me!” he interrupted himself to speak with the stallholder. “There was a box – a big, blue wooden box just over here. Where's it gone?”

The Stallholder smirked widely. “Sold it, didn't I?”

The Doctor spluttered, “But-but-but it wasn't yours to sell!”

“It was on my patch, wasn't it?” the man insisted. “I got 15 sesterces for it. Lovely jubbly,” he added, rubbing his hands together.

“Who did you sell it to?” the Doctor demanded, cold and harsh. “I have no time to deal with idiots who sell things that aren't theirs to sell.”

The Stallholder nearly stumbled in the face of the anger he had no frame of reference for. “Old Caecilius. Look... if you want to argue, why don't you take it up with him? He's on Foss Street. Big villa – can't miss it.”

“And what did he want with a big, blue wooden box?”

“He considered it modern art.”

Donna frowned. “Odd choice.”

“Thanks,” the Doctor said, chivying Donna along. He kept hold of her hand as he got his bearings. “There! Foss Street, this way!”

Donna halted, forcing him to stop as she laid eyes on the large structure nearby. “No, there's this big sort of amphitheatre I think... We can start there. We can get everyone together. Then maybe they've got a great, big bell or something we could ring. Have they invented bells yet?”

“Wait, wait wait! What do you want a bell for?!”

She gave him a hard look. “To warn everyone! To start the evacuation! What time does Vesuvius erupt? When's it due?”

He could tell that her stubborn streak was rearing its head, and he lowered his voice, becoming very serious. “It's 79AD, 23 of August. Which makes Volcano Day tomorrow.”

“Plenty of time. We can get everyone out easy.”

He took her hand, firmly. “Except we're not going to.”

She refused to budge. “But that's what you do. You're the Doctor. You save people.”

“Every time I can, yes. But not this time,” he stressed, looking her right in the eye. “Pompeii is a fixed point in history. What happens happens. There is no stopping it.”

“Says who?” she demanded when he started to move again.

“Me.”

“What, and you're in charge?”

“I'm the highest authority present who knows about Time. So, if you want, yes, I'm in charge.”

“I don't need your permission, Sunshine. I'll tell them myself.”

He took a firm grip on both of her hands, making sure her eyes were fixed on his as he kept her from moving away. “Donna, if you stand in the marketplace and announce the end of the world, they'll assume you're an oracle who's gone mad and they'll go after you. I've seen it time and time again. You're not one of the young assistants I've travelled with, but bad things tend to happen when my companions run away. Now, come on. We are locating the TARDIS, and then we are getting out of here.”

This time he tugged hard enough to force her to follow.

“Well, I just might have something to say about that, Spaceman!” she snapped as her feet kept her following him.

“I'm sure you will!”

He thought about calling her Human Type-1, but he was not interested in another slap. Even if the description was true. It might mean he would develop a habit of holding her slapping hand.

/=/=/=/=/

“Positions!”

They heard a male voice cry out as they reached their destination. The Doctor made his way in through the shaking ground and saw several people holding items in place. But one bust had no one guarding it. The obvious man of the house rushed toward it, but the Doctor beat him to it, catching it before it could hit the ground.

“There you go,” he declared as he put it back in place. “No reason for an emperor's bust to break today.” Nor was it a place to reveal anything else about his past. He could only imagine what Donna would make of his knowing Augustus, or of his days as a Vestial Virgin.

“Thank you, kind sir,” the man, presumably Caecilius, said. “I'm afraid business is closed for the day. I'm expecting a visitor.”

“Oh, I'd normally be sorry for interrupting, but I have important business with you,” the Doctor insisted as he shook the man's hand. “It won't take long.”

“Who are you?”

He hesitated for a second while a cover story came to him. “I'm Doctor Medici.”

“What?” Donna exclaimed as she walked up next to the Doctor. “Aren't you just a bit early for them?”

The Doctor looked po-faced at her. “What's a couple of hundred years between friends?”

She huffed. “So you're willing to stomp around as if you own the place, but not to help out in times of need. Now he waxes political.”

“Political?!” he spat, eyes flashing.

“It's what you're acting like, Sunshine. And I'm Donna,” she added, addressing the Roman watching.

Caecilius looked back and forth between them. “Mr and Mrs Doctor Medici?”

The Doctor's and Donna's eyes widened in surprise. “No, no, no, we're not married,” he said.

Donna shook her head. “Not together,” she insisted at the same time.

“Oh, then brother and sister?” Caecilius said, the idea clearly just hitting him. “Yes, of course. You look very much alike.”

The time travelers looked at each other in shock. “Really?” they said as one.

Caecilius sighed, a little bemused by their reaction. “I'm sorry, but I'm not open for trade.”

“And that trade would be?” asked the Doctor.

“Marble. Lucius Caecilius,” he formally introduced himself with a proud smile. “Mining, polishing and design thereof. If you want marble, I'm your man.”

“That's good,” the Doctor said, grinning at the opening to draw out the psychic paper. “That's very good, because I'm the marble inspector.”

The ginger haired woman, wearing the finest female garments Donna had ever seen, paled. “By the gods of commerce, an inspection.” She seized a cup from the young man nearby. “I'm sorry, sir. I do apologize for my son,” she added, pouring the wine into the pool.

“Oi!” the young man protested.

“This is my good wife, Metella,” Caecilius said, eyes as wide as his wife's. “I-- I must confess, we're not prepared for a--”

“Oh, there's nothing to worry about,” the Doctor said. “I'm sure you've got nothing to hide. However, that object rather looks like wood to me,” he added, pointing to the TARDIS. “And I believe that the man you bought it from had no right to sell it to you,” he added as he led Donna towards it.

“I told you to get rid of it!” Metella hissed at her husband.

“I only bought it today,” he protested.

“Ah, well,” the Doctor shrugged. “Caveat emptor.”

“Oh, you're Celtic,” Caecilius groaned. “That's lovely.”

“I'm sure it's fine but I must take it off your hands for a proper inspection,” the Doctor interrupted.

Donna saw her chance. “Although, while we're here, wouldn't you recommend a holiday, Doctor?”

He stilled and looked at her with a warning. “I don't know what you mean, Donna.”

She was unphased and pressed on with her case. “Oh, this lovely family, mother and father and son... Don't you think they should get out of town?”

“Why should we do that?” asked Caecilius.

“Donna, no,” the Doctor whispered.

She ignored him. “Well, the volcano for starters.”

“What?”

Donna blinked at Caecilius' question. “Volcano.”

“What-ano?”

“That great big volcano right on your doorstep-”

The Doctor grabbed Donna's arm, trying to look natural. “Oh, Donna, we haven't even greeted the household gods yet. We are bad guests if we do not,” he insisted as he walked her with hands on her shoulders towards the shrine in the room. “They don't know what it is,” he whispered as he got her to kneel with him. “Vesuvius is just a mountain to them. The top hasn't blown off yet.” He sprinkled the frieze with water, as the Romans would. “The Romans haven't even got a word for volcano. Not until tomorrow.”

“Oh great. They can learn a new word... when they die.”

He winced in the face of her sarcasm. “Donna, that's enough.”

“Listen, I don't know what sort of kids you've been flyin' around with in outer space, but you're not telling me to shut up. That boy... how old is he, sixteen? And tomorrow he burns to death.”

“And that's my fault?” he squeaked, stunned by how fierce Donna's determination was.

“Right now, yes!”

One of the servants entered the room, trying to not seem urgent but doing a poor job. “Announcing Lucius Petrus Dextrus, Chief Augur of the city government.”

The older man who strode in, standing tall and confident, made an imposing figure, the Doctor noted as he brought Donna away from the shrine. Both were curious to see this person.

“Lucius, my pleasure as always,” said Caecilius.

“Quintus, stand up,” Metella snapped.

Quintus stood with a long-suffering sigh, plainly suffering from a hangover.

“A rare and great honour, sir, for you to come to my house,” Caecilius said, holding out his hand.

Lucius ignored it. “The birds are flying north... and the wind is in the west.”

Caecilius furrowed his brows. “Right. Absolutely. That's good, is it?”

“Only the grain of wheat knows where it will grow.”

“There now, Metella, have you ever heard such wisdom?” Caecilius asked, to conceal his confusion.

Donna frowned at the Doctor, who looked bemused.

“Never,” Metella agreed. “It's an honour.”

“Pardon me, sir, I have guests,” Caecilius said, gesturing to them. “This is the Doctor, and Donna.”

The time travelers both waved, although the Doctor's was more restrained. Donna was merely cautious.

Lucius looked at them like he had little time for this. “A name is but a cloud upon a summer wind.”

“But the wind is felt most keenly in the dark,” rejoined the Doctor.

Donna blinked. What code was this, she wondered.

“Ah!” Lucius exclaimed, eyes lightening in intrigue. “What is the dark other than an omen of the sun?”

The Doctor tilted his head. “I concede that every sun must set...”

“Ha!” Lucius said, triumphant.

“...and yet the son of the father must also rise,” the Doctor finished with a smile, gesturing to Quintus.

The vote of confidence surprised the boy's family, and the boy as well. Donna had to smile at the consternation on the visitor's face.

“Damn. Very clever, sir,” Lucius conceded. “Evidently a man of learning.”

“Oh indeed, but don't mind me. I have no intention of disturbing the status quo.”

“He's Celtic,” Caecilius explained to Lucius on a whisper.

“Especially since we'll be off in a minute,” the Doctor added, taking Donna's hand and heading for the TARDIS.

Donna tried to dig her feet in. “I'm not going,” she whispered.

“It's ready, sir,” Caecilius continued, aloud this time as he moved to a covered object.

“We have to,” the Doctor insisted.

“Well, I'm not.”

“The moment of revelation,” Caecilius proclaimed as he unveiled a square piece of marble. “And here it is...”

The Doctor, face pinched over his companion's stubbornness, looked back over his shoulder for a quick glance. The design on the marble made him stop.

Donna stumbled into him. “What?!” she hissed. But the growing shock on his face told her something was very wrong. And if he was alarmed then she knew she had to worry about something other than saving people from Vesuvius.

“Exactly as you specified. It pleases you, sir?” Caecilius asked.

Curious, Donna looked back. And did not believe her eyes.

Lucius' reaction was restrained, but his eyes betrayed his feelings just a bit. “As the rain pleases the soil.”

The Doctor rejoined them, with Donna trailing behind. “Oh, now that's... unusual. Who designed that?”

“My lord Lucius was very specific,” Caecilius explained.

“Where did you get the pattern?” the Doctor asked Lucius.

“On the rain and mist and wind.”

“Well, that looks like a circuit,” Donna remarked.

“Made of stone,” the Doctor agreed.

“Do you mean you just dreamt that up?” Donna asked Lucius, disbelieving.

“That is my job... as City Augur.”

“What's that then, like the mayor?” Donna whispered to the Doctor.

The Doctor was grateful that she had enough thought to whisper. It saved him from having to make a weird excuse for her that might get him slapped. “This is an age of superstition... of official superstition. The augur is paid by the city to tell the future. 'The wind will blow from the west.' That's the equivalent of your 9:00 news.”

A young woman joined them. She looked utterly pale and drawn, and was barely able to stand. Her eyes fixed on the Doctor and Donna. “They're laughing at us. Those two, they use words like tricksters. They're mocking us.”

The phrasing made the Doctor still. Although he tried to conceal it from the audience. “No, no, no. I meant no offence. Although I wonder at your word choice.”

Metella flushed slightly. “I'm sorry. My daughter's been consuming the vapours,” she explained as she walked to her daughter's side.

“By the gods, Mother!” Quintus burst into the conversation, suddenly alert. “What have you been doing to her?”

“Not now, Quintus,” his father warned.

“But she's sick. Just look at her!”

Lucius' expression soured. “I gather I have a rival in this household. Another with the gift.”

“Oh, she's been promised to the Sybiline Sisterhood,” Metella bragged. “They say she has remarkable visions.”

“The prophecies of women are limited and dull,” Lucius countered in contempt. “Only the men folk have the capacity for true perception.”

“I'll tell you where the wind's blowing right now, mate,” Donna growled, offended.

The ground suddenly shook.

Lucius was unaffected. “The mountain god marks your words. I'd be careful if I were you.”

“And I would be careful offending her,” the Doctor said, touching Donna's arm in calming support. “I can tell you that the gods of Truth and Justice protected her from death and still look on her with favour. Not to mention her other protector, the one with the Blue Box: the God of Retribution.”

The Augur stilled like a statue, eyes challenging the roundels for size.

Any other time Donna would have challenged the Doctor's speaking of himself as a god, but she held her tongue. Lucius' evident fear of whatever he had heard reassured her.

The Doctor was satisfied that this Roman had heard enough whispered stories over the years to treat that as a proper warning. “Consuming the vapours, you say?” he added, turning his back on Lucius to declare he considered the subject done.

“They give me strength,” Evelina said.

“It doesn't look like it to me.”

Evelina looked him right in the eye. “Is that your opinion... as a doctor?”

“Oh, you overheard me introduce myself?”

“No. Doctor. That's your name.”

Now she had his attention. “How did you know that?”

She ignored him, attention turning onto Donna. “And you, you call yourself noble.”

“Now then Evelina, don't be rude,” Metella cided.

The Doctor again placed a hand on Donna's arm, this time to still her questions. “No, no, no. Let her speak.”

Evelina was prompt in doing so. “You both come from so far away.”

“A female soothsayer in inclined to invent all sorts of vagaries.”

The Doctor scoffed quietly. “Oh, not this time, Lucius. It appeared that you've been out-soothsaid.”

Lucius narrowed his eyes. “Is that so... man from Gallifrey?”

“What did you say?” the Doctor blurted, the shock stifling his stutter completely.

“Strangest of images,” the Augur muttered. “Your home was destined to be lost in fire until you acted, was it not?”

“Doctor, what are they doing?” Donna asked, touching his arm to steady him.

“And you, daughter of... London.”

She started. “How does he know that?” she breathed.

“This is the gift of Pompeii,” Lucius declared. “Every single oracle tells the truth.”

“But that's impossible,” she insisted on a whisper. “The name 'London' didn't appear for centuries after this!”

Lucius' eyes suddenly widened, as if whatever he saw frightened him. “Doctor, she is returning.”

The Doctor paled.

“Who is? Who's 'she'?” Donna demanded.

“And you, Daughter of London... she wishes you to have something on your back.”

The Doctor then grabbed Donna's arm, swallowing and unable to speak.

That he was silent made Donna's eyes widen in alarm. “What's that mean?”

“Even the word "Doctor" is false,” Evelina said, looking at the Doctor. “Your real name is hidden. It burns in the stars of the Cascade of Medusa herself. You are a lord, sir. A lord... of time...” she whispered as she fainted.

“Evelina!” Metella cried.

The Doctor snapped out of his trance and met Metella in rushing to Evelina's prone body. He needed the distraction.

Not that the Augur was interested in him at that point. He soon took the marble and left. Caecilius clearly wished to remain with his daughter, but had to see Lucius out.

The servants rushed to help Metella bring Evelina to her room. Quintus, left to his own devices, left to locate more wine.

“Donna, go to her. Find out what's happening to her.”

“Doctor, why did his words frighten you?”

He swallowed, looking pale and drawn. “Find out more about Evelina's condition for me. Then I might be able to speak of it.”

/=/=/=/=/

Donna found Evelina on her bed, still unconscious. Metella, tending to her, looked up upon hearing the approaching footsteps. She had made sure that Caecilius had come and gone, aware that it might not be good form for her to be there.

“She didn't mean to be rude. She's ever such a good girl. But when the gods speak through her...” she trailed off, as if uncertain what to say as she unwrapped the cloth covering Evelina's arm.

“What's wrong with her arm?” Donna asked.

“An irritation of the skin,” Metella explained. “She never complains, bless her. We bathe it in olive oil every night.”

“What is it?” Donna asked as she walked closer. When she saw the arm, she sucked in a breath.

Metella's eyes looked at her visitor's. “Evelina said you'd come from far away. Please, have you ever seen anything like it?”

Donna shook her head as she ran her fingers along the arm. “It's stone.” After a few seconds, she took a breath. “I have to speak with the Doctor.”

/=/=/=/=/=/

She found him sitting on one of the things that passed for couches. His eyes were staring at the wall in front of him, but looking like they were seeing something far away. The Doctor looked less like an alien and more like a frightened, shell-shocked war survivor she had heard tiny hints about over the years. She knelt beside him, slowly moving into his line of sight. “Her whole arm is turning to stone,” she whispered.

The Doctor took a deep breath. “The soothsayers of Pompeii can see the future, but they can't see tomorrow,” he mused. “Why?”

“So, we are staying?”

“Yes. Because we have a mystery to solve.”

“Doctor?”

“Hmm?”

“You were going to tell me why you reacted so strongly to Lucius' words.”

He was silent for several seconds before sighing and pushing himself more upright, facing her. “It's a reminder of what nearly became the Last Great Time War, Donna. What nearly took my planet and everyone left of my people.”

“Who is the 'she' he meant?”

He swallowed. “To explain that, I have to go back to the beginning of the end. To when I learned that I had to act to save the universe from a force that wanted to turn Gallifrey into a nightmare. But I had to be convinced to do it.”

“Why?”

“Because I was already in a very dark state. Angry at the universe, worried about the conflict I could see coming, and afraid that I would go too far or forced to fight. I feared what I might become.”


Chapter Three: Phophecy of Doom

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
bas_math_girl
Aug. 13th, 2017 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I'm interested to see how this will go differently for the Eighth Doctor and finding out how much he actually knows. :)
tkel_paris
Aug. 14th, 2017 07:43 am (UTC)
Yes, you will. Because I will be adding a chapter soon. Been holding off because of life. :(
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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