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When in Rome - a Doctor Who/Rome crossover

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  • When in Rome - a Doctor Who/Rome crossover

    Disclaimer: Not a single one of these characters or scenarios belongs to me, alas. This story slots in between The Doctor Dances and Boomtown in season one of Doctor Who, and during the Rome season one episode Utica. A chunk of dialogue during the dinner scene is drawn directly from the transcript of Utica, with apologies to the writers and programme makers for taking such liberties with their work.

    This is for Wolfie, because she told me to do it and then for some reason I did. The prompt was: 'write a fic about the Doctor, Jack and Rose meeting Julius Caesar and being invited to dinner (courtesy of some psychic paper shenanigans) with him and Brutus. Bonus points if you get an "et tu Brute" joke in there.' This is probably not quite what she had in mind?

    Hope no one's expecting much in the way of plot out of this one, beyond the Who basics of 'land, poke around a bit, and then leave again'.


    When in Rome?


    "Overheated?"

    "Yeah. So?" The Doctor sounded just a tad defensive.

    "The Tardis? Overheated?" Rose couldn't help giggling, all the harder at the little huff of annoyance he flung in her direction as he scampered around the console tossing orders at Jack, who was nonchalantly sauntering after him, doing everything he was told and apparently understanding it all, too. 'Re-route the thingummy through the whatchamacallit', and all that. All so much double-dutch to Rose, but they seemed to enjoy all the technical talk. Boys and their toys.

    The Doctor flashed a grin at her. "Nothing to worry about. Get it sorted in no time. Just needs to rest up for a bit."

    "My granddad's car used to overheat," she teased. "Course, that was practically pre-industrial. I thought this thing was meant to be state of the art?"

    "This thing? This thing?" He looked outraged, and Jack laughed heartily behind his back. The Doctor whirled around, trying to scowl at them both at the same time and failing miserably. He spluttered a bit, and then rolled his eyes and gave in, brightening up again immediately. "Bit of an unplanned stopover, that's all. Nice bit of sightseeing in?. Where are we? Earth, somewhere. I think."

    "Narrows it down," Jack drawled, amused.

    The Doctor frowned, smacking the viewscreen. It didn't seem to help and he gave up on that idea. Didn't let it bother him, offered them both a beaming smile. "Well, we'll find out, won't we? Let's have a look."

    Jack opened the door with his usual flourish, standing aside for Rose and the Doctor to exit ahead of him. "After you."


    ***

    The smell was the first thing Rose noticed, rolling over her in a great wave of, well, stink. It was overpowering. The second thing she noticed was the noise, followed closely by heat, bustle and dirt. There were people everywhere, rushing around, getting in each other's way, pushing and pulling, fighting and arguing, buying and selling. It was as if the entire city of wherever-they-were had decided to just live their whole life out of doors.

    "Well, we should blend in nicely," Jack snarked, from somewhere just behind and to the left of Rose's ear.

    "Yeah, like a sore thumb," Rose snorted, comparing her jeans and t-shirt to the costumes on display all around her, most of which resembled nothing so much as brown hessian sacks, men and women alike.

    To her side, the Doctor drew in a long, deep breath, and then slowly released it, looking deeply satisfied with himself. "Ah, smell that air!"

    "Yeah, I'm trying not to," Rose told him.

    "Clean, healthy ? well, okay a bit ripe ? full-bodied?you just don't get air like this any more. Where are we?" He looked around. "Italy, by the looks. Late Republic I'd say."

    "Well, it's not Pompeii, I can tell you that much," said Jack. "Volcano day or otherwise. I'd remember. Spent a fabulous week there with Pliny one time. Pre-volcano, of course."

    "Which Pliny?" the Doctor asked, peering up and down the street with deep interest, taking in the people, their clothes, the buildings ? everything. "Elder or Younger?"

    "There was more than one? Man, that was a missed opportunity!"

    "They were uncle and nephew," the Doctor told him, stern.

    Jack shrugged. "Since when did the Romans have a problem with keeping it in the family?"

    "Fair point," said the Doctor, looking around again. His face lit up with sudden recognition. "Ooh, could be?oh, yes! It is! Rome herself! Late Republic. Fantastic. Come on, let's have a wander."


    ***

    Practically the first thing they did was fall over a small child in the middle of a crowded street.

    It was Jack who fell over him, specifically, rather than all of them ? kid came barrelling out of nowhere, and then they were both on the ground in imminent danger of being trampled. The kid promptly started bawling, and Jack got all flustered in a way that hardly ever happened. Kids weren't really his forte. Rose supposed that her and the Doctor bursting out laughing probably didn't help, but the look on his face, sitting on his backside in the dirt ? priceless.

    "You two gonna stand there cackling all day, or help me out here?" Jack complained, rubbing his sore backside and trying without much success to soothe the little boy he'd tripped over. A moment later he was rescued by the kid's mother, which saved Rose from having to step into the breach and fulfil some kind of expected female role, which was a relief. Kids weren't really her thing, either, especially unknown Roman ones.

    "I'm so sorry. Lucius, what have I told you about running around like that?" the woman scolded her son. Rose assumed it was her son, anyway. He looked like her: big dark eyes and thick dark hair. Jack took one look and was smitten, hastily regaining his feet and holding out a hand in greeting.

    "No harm done, I can assure you," he suaved, taking her hand and brushing a light kiss across the knuckles. Rose rolled her eyes. "My name's Captain Jack Harkness, just visiting your beautiful city?"

    "Stop it," warned the Doctor, a note of mild exasperation in his voice. Jack immediately donned his very best wide-eyed innocent look, which wasn't saying much, because Jack? Had a lot of virtues, but innocence really wasn't one of them. In fact, if you asked him he'd probably tell you that his lack of innocence was the virtue.

    "What? I'm just saying hello to this lovely lady," he protested, still holding her hand as the woman glanced from him to the Doctor in bemusement. Rose could sympathise. They'd already been drawing funny looks since they landed, even before this, simply because they were the only three people in the city wearing trousers. Now they were fast turning into some kind of sideshow for public entertainment.

    "Niobe?" called a new voice, one filled with both question and warning.

    A man appeared at the side of the dark-eyed woman, wearing the ubiquitous hessian sack and an enquiring glower. Everything about him screamed 'jealous husband'. His manner and bearing also screamed both 'soldier' and 'trouble', and Rose caught herself taking an instinctive step back toward the Doctor, while Jack smoothly changed tack, offering the newcomer his friendliest smile and a hand in greeting. "Just a little mishap, sir, nothing to worry about?"

    The man looked at Jack's outstretched hand without making a move to shake it, gave his wife a questioning look.

    "Lucius fell over, that's all," she soothingly told him, pushing the boy into the arms of a similarly dark-eyed and dark-haired teenage girl who'd materialised nearby and steering them all back toward the little courtyard they'd emerged from, without so much as a backward glance at the Tardis trio.

    The departure of the little family revealed another man who'd been standing behind them, taller than the first. Where the other bloke had been nothing so much as a glare on legs, this one was kind of ruggedly thuggish and stood with his arms folded across his chest, knife hanging very visibly from his belt, watching the three of them ? but Jack in particular ? with the kind of mild disinterest that threatened to become outright menace if they so much as breathed wrong.

    "Well hi there, nice city you've got here." Irrepressible as ever, Jack locked eyes with him, one eyebrow slightly lifted, the corner of his mouth quirking, definitely interested. Rose rolled her eyes again, the Doctor sighed, and the thug's eyebrows drew together. Definitely not impressed.

    "Right. We'll just be on our way, then," the Doctor decided, steering a chuckling Jack onward and away. Rose trailed behind them, glancing over her shoulder a couple of times to see the thug frowning after them, watching them go.

    "It's a tricky transition, of course," the Doctor was remarking as she caught up. "Demobilising soldiers after an overseas campaign. Rekindling home fires and all that."

    "Oh, come on. How could you possibly know that?" Rose protested, even though she'd immediately made the soldier assumption herself the moment she clapped eyes on the two men, based on their stance and appearance and what little she knew of Roman history. From what she remembered of her primary school lessons it mostly revolved around armies, campaigns of conquest and the building of long, straight roads all across Europe, all of them leading to Rome. Still couldn't let him just get away with saying things like that.

    He grinned at her. "Obvious, isn't it? Besides: Rome, late Republic ? full of war veterans fresh off campaign. Spending their loot, looking for work, heckling for rewards, causing trouble. Just need to find out which campaign, and we'll know when we are. Oh, here we go. This way."

    He steered them around a corner onto another street that looked more or less identical to the one they'd just left.

    "Just out of interest," Rose wondered. "Do you actually know where we're going?"

    "Where's the fun in that?" he cheerfully scoffed. "We're exploring!"


    ***

    "The Capitoline Brotherhood of Millers uses only the finest grains! True Roman bread for true Romans!"

    Rose watched, fascinated, as the Town Crier, or whatever he was, tossed the tablet he'd been reading from to his servant, or slave, or whatever, and clambered down from the podium he'd been standing on to make his public pronouncements about lost slaves and the like. She'd barely heard a word he said, she'd been so intrigued by the stiff, elaborate hand gestures he adopted to perform his spiel: news and adverts all rolled up into one fat man in a toga who liked to wave his arms about. Bit like a demented windmill in stop-motion.

    "The fine art of advertising goes back a long way," Jack commented, although Rose didn't think he'd heard much more of the announcements than she had, being absorbed as he was in people-watching. People-ogling, more like. Like a kid in a sweetshop, and that was in spite of all the hessian sacks on display, eyes flitting constantly from person to person to person, appreciative smile plastered all over his face. He obviously liked the Mediterranean types, even if they were mostly all sweaty and grimy.

    They'd found their way into the Forum, the Doctor enthusing about the sheer fact of being there so excitedly you'd think he'd brought them on purpose or something. Even Rose had heard of the Roman Forum. She hadn't expected it to be a kind of enormous free-for-all street market, though.

    "Talk about a scrum. It's worse than the Next sale," she decided, and the Doctor gave her one of his Looks.

    "History in the making, here, and that's all you've got to say?" he reproachfully chided.

    "History? This is shopping, this is," she cheerfully countered. "Shopping ? and graffiti!"

    Graffiti, she'd been led to believe by just about every granny on the estate, was a symptom of both the Decline Of Modern Society and What Was Wrong With Young People Today. Turned out, ancient Rome was plastered with it too, so, not so modern after all.

    "Forum Romanum at its height not historic enough for you?" the Doctor grumbled, rolling his eyes. "One of the most formative periods in human history, this, and you're moaning about the street art. I mean, look at them." He was getting into his stride now, warming up to the subject. "All these people, just?living. Getting on with their lives while civilization re-shapes itself around them. Amazing! Caesar just got back from Africa, and ?"

    "How d'you know that?" Rose cut him off mid-flow, partly out of genuine curiosity and partly because they'd be here all day if she let him go on much longer.

    "Public announcer just told us," said Jack, laughing. "Weren't you listening?"

    "I was?watching," Rose defended herself, lamely.

    "Wouldn't you just love to shake his hand?" said the Doctor, eyes shining with excitement at the thought. Another overgrown kid. Rose sometimes wondered if men ever grew up. "Julius Caesar himself!"

    "Wouldn't happen, though, would it?" Rose pointed out. "I mean, he's the Roman Emperor. 'I came, I saw, I conquered', and all that. He's hardly likely to shake hands with the likes of us."

    "Popular misconception, that," the Doctor airily remarked.

    Rose frowned. "What is?"

    She realised too late that she'd just given him an ideal opening to slide into lecture mode.

    "Gaius Julius Caesar was never an Emperor," he rather loftily explained. "Well, not in the way most people understand it, anyway. I mean, okay, he bore the title 'Imperator', right? 'Imperator of the Gallic Regions'. But mostly what he was ruling was still a Republic. Democratic processes and all that. Mind you?" He cast an appraising glance around the bustling Forum. "Not sure there's much in the way of democratic processes going on by this time. But technically this is still a democratic republic, ergo Caesar is Dictator, not Emperor." He paused, looking thoughtful for a moment. "The next one, now, he'd be what you'd call?. Where was I?"

    "You were fantasising about paying a house call to Julius Caesar," Rose dryly reminded him.

    "Right. Well then ? you up for it, or what?"

    "Always," said Jack, with a smirk.


    ***

    "See? Told you we could pull it off!" the Doctor crowed, but quietly, so as not to tip anyone off to their ruse.

    "Got inside the door, at any rate," Jack allowed.

    "Haven't seen the man himself yet, though, have we?" teased Rose.

    Roman security was just as easily conned by the Doctor's slightly psychic paper as anyone else's, it seemed, although as they passed from the world of hessian sacks into a realm of rich and exotic togas, uniforms and heavy weaponry, Rose could feel her caution levels rising. She'd been travelling with the Doctor long enough to expect trouble just about everywhere they landed. Especially since Jack was still appraisingly eyeing up just about everyone they passed. Kid in a sweetshop was about right. Rome had been amazingly quiet on the unexpected danger front, so far, and she wondered how long it would last. Would they really be able to get away with a non-action-packed visit of the strictly sightseeing and celebrity-spotting variety? It would certainly make a change!

    Caesar's soldiers and bodyguards were a lot easier to psychic paper their way past than his head slave, it turned out. Body slave, the Doctor quietly explained when the man left them alone in a small but fabulously decorated anteroom ? guard on the door, no doubt ? to go and liase with the great man himself. And no, he patiently added for Jack's benefit. Body slave did not mean anything dirty. Unless Caesar wanted it to. As far as Rose understood it, body slave meant a kind of super efficient, super loyal, 24-hour around-the-clock personal assistant with a brain like a computer and a special 'to the death' clause inserted into his contract. He was dogged in his defence of his master, determined not to let anyone even a tiny bit unworthy into Caesar's presence, regardless of what the psychic paper might claim. The Doctor seemed ever so slightly put out about that, at the same time as being triumphant over getting even this far.

    "He's coming back," Jack murmured, and a moment later the slave had indeed returned, and was fixing the Doctor with sharp eyes.

    "I am sorry, sir, but Caesar requires further information before granting an audience," he announced in his oddly accented voice. "And this is not a good time ? perhaps you could come back tomorrow."

    It was a very definite dismissal, but the Doctor made a little 'tsk' sound between his teeth, and shook his head. "Oh, now, I dunno 'bout that," he tutted. "We've taken time out of our very busy schedule to drop in on his Excellentness ? have to be moving on again before tomorrow, so perhaps if you could mention that ?"

    "You are 'the Doctor', I take it," a new voice smoothly interrupted. Glancing up to see the speaker entering the room behind the slave, it suddenly occurred to Rose that she had absolutely no idea what the famous Julius Caesar looked like. She also had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that this was him.

    "Caesar?" The Doctor was quick to cash in on the good fortune of having Caesar himself wander into the room, hurrying forward to clasp his hand in greeting. "Gaius Julius Caesar, pleasure to make your acquaintance. We've travelled a long way, can't stop long, but couldn't pass up the opportunity of paying our respects to you in person. Nice place you've got here."

    It was, as well ? more fantastically opulent than anything Rose had ever seen. And she'd been to some pretty exotic places since meeting the Doctor. But as far as statements of wealth and power went, Caesar's villa definitely topped the list.

    Caesar cast an appraising eye toward the Doctor's black jeans and leather jacket, and glanced down at their clasped hands without returning the handshake, one eyebrow slightly raised ? a protocol faux pas, probably ? but other than that his cool was absolutely impeccable. Rose was impressed.

    "I must confess?'Doctor'," he began, and you could hear the air quotes dropping into place as he said the name. "That you have the advantage of me. I have never heard of this mysterious land of Tardis, nor of the mystical Lords of Time, of which Posca tells me you claim to be one."

    "Have you not?" The Doctor shrugged. "We've heard of you. That's why we've come all this way."

    And that was a scream and a half, Rose thought, resisting the urge to roll her eyes only because it might kind of give the game away. Come all this way, as if they'd done it on purpose rather than half-crashing by chance and popping in for a visit out of sheer idle curiosity.

    "Allow me to introduce my companions," the Doctor continued, talking fast, as if expecting an interruption at any moment. Which he probably was, given Caesar's shrewd expression and the look of disapproval the slave was wearing. "Rose Tyler, and this is Captain Jack Harkness."

    "A pleasure, sir." Jack smoothly picked up his cue, while Rose smiled and bobbed a little awkwardly. The do's and don'ts of meeting an Emperor ? okay, Dictator ? hadn't exactly been on the school syllabus in her day, but she'd met a lot of people during her travels with the Doctor, and found that a smile and a bob generally covered most eventualities. Especially when the Doctor was hogging all the attention anyway.

    "Time, dominus," Posca the slave interjected rather snippishly.

    "Yes, time," said Caesar. "I confess I am intrigued to learn how one may consider oneself a Lord of Time, and yet time herself is fast escaping us. A prior engagement, you understand."

    "Timing is everything," the Doctor nodded, making a disappointed face. "We really do have to be pushing off by morning, I'm afraid. Time, tide and the Tardis wait for no man, and all that."

    "And yet I wonder?" Caesar began, looking thoughtful now. "I am quite fascinated, I must admit, however my niece is expecting me for dinner. Perhaps you and your companions would care to join us, and we might talk some more?"

    The Doctor's face lit up like a Christmas tree.

    "Won't your niece mind?" Rose rather dubiously wondered, imagining her mother's face if she had three unexpected guests for dinner dropped on her without any warning. It was a scary thought.

    "Not at all, not at all," Caesar calmly declared. "Atia will be quite delighted to make your acquaintance, I assure you."


    ***

    "A delegation from the far-off land of Tardis? How exciting. You simply must tell us all about your travels."

    If Caesar's niece was at all put out about her famous uncle rocking up to her doorstep with three complete strangers in tow, she hid it admirably. Her composure barely flickering for so much as a fraction of a second as Caesar made the introductions, she simply snapped her fingers at a nearby slave and commanded him to make sure they had enough places set at the dinner table.

    Atia of the Julii could be summed up in one word, Rose decided: glamorous. It was that kind of over-the-top glamour that reminded her of Dallas and Dynasty, those tacky 1980s soap operas about the fabulously wealthy that her mum used to be addicted to. Even her slaves were sumptuously dressed.

    While Caesar drew the Doctor and Jack into deep conversation with himself and another guest ? a portly, white-haired man who had been introduced as the Chief Augur, whatever that was ? Atia offered Rose a bright but completely fake smile. "What an interesting outfit that is, my dear. You simply must tell me, is this all the rage where you come from?"

    Glancing dubiously from her t-shirt and jeans to Atia's frankly gorgeous dress, Rose got the distinct impression she was being mocked. Underdressed for dinner with the upper classes, probably. But before she could dream up a reply, Atia's attention had flicked away again, and she bustled off to harass her unfortunate slaves without waiting for an answer, leaving Rose feeling decidedly out of place.

    "Don't mind Mother," said a voice behind her, and she turned to see Atia's daughter, Octavia, offering her a sympathetic smile. "She does it on purpose, of course, but she treats everyone quite the same. Except Uncle, of course. So you're in good company. I've never seen clothes like yours before. Are they common where you come from?"

    "What, these? Anyone who's anyone's got a pair of jeans," Rose airily told her.

    "Really?" Atia might have been scornful, beneath her fa?ade of being the perfect hostess, but Octavia sounded genuinely interested, and fashion was something Rose could talk about in her sleep. They wandered back toward the menfolk while they chatted, and found Caesar busily regaling the others with tales of one of his more recent victories.

    "It's no wonder Pompey took Pontius so readily," he was boasting as Rose and Octavia approached. "A child with a stick might have done so."

    Octavia smiled politely, as did her younger brother, Octavian. Rose hadn't worked out yet if brother and sister having virtually the same name was a normal Roman thing or just a peculiarity of Atia's. Jack coughed, and the Doctor narrowed his eyes a little, apparently torn between appreciating the opportunity of spending an evening with Caesar, and disliking the sheer militariness of the man. Wars and campaigns of conquest weren't something he tended to approve of, in general, even when they were a fact of history and not a timeline that had been interfered with and needed to be put straight.

    "What next then? Germany perhaps?" The Chief Augur sounded almost as if he was mocking the Dictator, in an underhand kind of passive aggressive way, and it occurred to Rose that Caesar's many campaigns of conquest maybe weren't all that popular among his people, even if they wouldn't dare come out and say so to his face. She tried to remember how his career ended ? it was history, right? She should know this?

    "I'm afraid I must put on a triumph this next month, and they're damnable beasts to organise," said Caesar, at the exact same moment that Rose, with a sudden chill down her spine, remembered what was going to happen to him at some point in his personal future. Assassination. It was famous, even two thousand years later ? how had she forgotten that? How had it not come up in the conversation while they were finding their way to his villa? "Still the people love a good parade and we must not disappoint them," he added, the perfect statesman.

    Atia bustled past the group to greet another couple of guests, newly arrived. "How lovely to see you both. It's been far too long," she effusively welcomed them, offering air kisses to both cheeks of the woman, who was a little older than herself, equally lavishly dressed and coiffed.

    Both the woman and the young man accompanying her rather stiffly agreed that it was joyful to be there, while sounding like it was anything but. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife as Atia admired the woman's shawl. "Is this a mourning shawl? It's very pretty. Has someone died?"

    "A great many died," the woman pointedly remarked.

    "Aw-kward." Jack's breath tickled Rose's ear as he whispered into it with a little chuckle.

    "Oh, true. But it's all over now, and we're still alive, nay?" Atia smiled, remaining determinedly affable.

    "Not possible. Octavian." The young man forestalled any more icy politeness between the two women as he moved to greet young Octavian, cheerfully remarking: "Gods, you make me feel old."

    "Allow me to introduce my very dear friend, Marcus Junius Brutus," Caesar said to the Doctor, stiffly adding: "And his good mother, Servilia of the Junii."

    The arrival of these newcomers had added a layer of tension to the atmosphere in the room that Rose couldn't quite work out ? Caesar and Servilia, Servilia and Octavia, Atia and Servilia?Servilia and her son. There were all kinds of undercurrents that Rose knew she didn't stand a chance of deciphering in just one evening of their company. And the name Marcus Brutus was ringing all kinds of bells?

    "Et tu Brut, eh?" Jack slyly murmured into her ear, and Rose realised with sudden shock that this 'good friend' was the assassin-to-be.

    "That's him, isn't it?" she hissed to Jack, as Atia led her guests through into the dining room. "Brutus? He's the one who?"

    Jack nodded, quirking an eyebrow. "Yep, that's the one. Dinner should be interesting, don't you think?"


    ***

    "Come now, you must explain yourself, Doctor," Caesar jovially requested over dinner. "My interest has been quite piqued by the notion of lordship over time, and yet this lordship is, one must presume, figurative?"

    The Doctor smiled brightly in that way of his that meant he had no intention of giving a straight answer. "Yes, I daresay one very probably would presume that. Figurative indeed. Is this dormouse?" He sniffed appraisingly at the dish before him. "Very, erm?well. Quaint, shall we say."

    "I can assure you that you won't find finer dormouse in all Rome," Atia rather snootily assured him. "My cook prepares the stuffing to an ancient family recipe. It's all very secret."

    Dormice for dinner. Honestly. Rearranging herself more comfortably against the cushions she was seated on down near the foot of the table ? reclining in this way felt like a terribly decadent way of eating dinner ? Rose tried valiantly, without being too obvious about it, to locate foodstuffs that looked edible among the mice and birds served whole on the table. Call her modern, but she preferred her meat to look a little bit less like the creature it originally came from, as a rule.

    "Well, I haven't tasted songbird like this since my last visit to Pompeii," Jack cheerfully assured their hostess, busily stuffing his face as if he hadn't eaten in a week. "And yours, of course, is far superior. Wonderful. My compliments to the chef."

    Jack was absolutely incorrigible ? he could make the most innocent of phrases sound suggestive. Atia preened, flushed a little as he reinforced his praise with a cheeky wink, but recovered her composure at once. "But of course. We serve the finest in Rome," she boasted again. "Pompeii has become so vulgar these days, I am surprised anyone bothers to visit at all any more."

    "I must say." Brutus returned them to the earlier topic of conversation, which he'd apparently been mulling over while they discussed the menu. "This whole notion of lordship over time is rather droll."

    "Yes, very droll," said the Doctor, sounding sombre rather than amused, as if he was starting to regret spinning a partial truth as their cover story. "Be a complicated business, too, wouldn't it? Making sure history happened in its proper order. Imagine the chaos if it all went wrong."

    "Theoretically, I suppose, a man who could claim lordship over time would be almost as one with the gods," young Octavian rather thoughtfully observed. "He would have access to infinite knowledge, and, with it, infinite power."

    "And wouldn't that be?corrupting?" said Jack, catching Octavian's eye and lifting an eyebrow.

    Octavian just sniffed, coldly, which made the Doctor grin.

    "And yet I rather suspect such power could come only at the highest of prices," Caesar mused, and pondered aloud for a moment on the question of whether or not it would be worth paying such a price for the knowledge and power that could be obtained, ultimately deciding in favour of the concept.

    "Yeah, but the workload would totally outweigh the benefits, wouldn't it?" Jack jumped feet first into the debate with his brightest, breeziest manner, attempting to steer the topic away from serious theoretical discussion and toward a more light-hearted approach. "Having to police the whole of history ? who'd want a job like that?"

    "Who indeed?" The Doctor looked and sounded bleak, but then shook the shadow off as if it had never been there, his mood swinging right back to perky again. "Like I said: chaos when it all goes wrong. Had a case like that not too long ago, actually. Giant bats everywhere, and when I say 'giant' I do mean 'giant'. Weren't they, Rose? Massive creatures, eight ? no, ten feet tall if they were an inch, swooping out of the sky and carrying people off?"

    It wasn't an episode in her own recent history that Rose really cared to be so casually reminded of, but she played along. "More like dragons than bats, really, if you ask me."

    "A dragon?" Brutus laughed. "Surely you jest."

    Caesar smiled politely. "I believe I can go one better than that," he remarked, steering the conversation back toward his own exploits now that the philosophical discussion seemed to be over. For all his declared fascination with the subject of Time Lords, he seemed to prefer holding forth himself on the theme of his own adventures and successes. He was definitely a man who both liked the sound of his own voice and had a well-developed sense of his own importance. "A creature found only in the wildernesses of Africa. It is the height of four men, with a long neck like a goose, spots like a leopard, and the speed of a horse."

    "And the survey says?" Jack leaned toward Rose and whispered in her ear.

    "Giraffe!" Rose chuckled back at him.

    "I don't believe you," Brutus was protesting. "A new chimera."

    "I assure you, it is quite real," Caesar insisted. "With any luck you may see one at my triumph. I've been trying to bring one over for months now, but the wretched creatures keep dying on the way here; they do not like the sea."

    "Very delicate beasts, as I understand," the Doctor nodded, sagely. "Always worth remembering to give them plenty of headroom. Don't like banging their heads, as a rule. Don't like it too cold, either. Plenty of food and water, that kind of thing."

    "Wildlife service would have a fit," Rose muttered to Jack. "They're endangered, aren't they?"

    "Not yet they aren't," he softly reminded her. "Not here."

    "Well, they will be soon, if he carries on like that!" she retorted, and then caught Octavia's puzzled glance in her direction, realised she'd spoken a shade too loud, and offered the other girl an apologetic smile.

    "It all sounds very tiring," said Atia, which seemed to be her way of announcing her boredom with this topic of conversation. "After this infernal triumph is done you must go to the country and relax."

    "Capital idea," the Doctor cheerfully agreed, helping himself to a glass of wine offered by one of Atia's many slaves, who were constantly attending the table.

    But although Caesar politely enthused over the notion of a holiday, he also rejected it out of hand, claiming to be far too busy. "I must set about putting the Republic to rights," he declared, which seemed a fairly ambitious project to be taking on. Then again, he was famous for his ambition, wasn't he?

    "A splendid notion," Brutus rather dryly remarked. "How shall you proceed, do you suppose?"

    "Oh this should be worth hearing," Jack murmured, turning slightly more of his attention in Caesar's direction, as the Dictator declared himself to have a few ideas while also being entirely open to suggestion.

    "Yesterday I saw a monkey of a baker in a litter," scoffed Atia, ever the snob. She'd get along well with Rose's mum, Rose decided. Opposite ends of the social spectrum, but they both thought in much the same way. "A baker! I'd put a stop to that sort of thing immediately."

    "I shall have it looked into," Caesar graciously assured her, and then turned to her son. "Octavian. How would you proceed, were you me?"

    Octavian, who seemed to have been daydreaming, started a little, not expecting the question. "Hmm? Proceed with?"

    "Putting the Republic to rights." Caesar repeated.

    "Ah. Um. How to proceed." Caught completely on the hop, Octavian took a moment to consider the question, and Rose felt sorry for him. He was just a kid ? how could he be expected to know where to even begin?

    Impressively enough, however, it only took the boy a moment or two to come up with a plan. "I would start a large programme of public works," he decided. "Employing citizens and freemen. Repair aquaducts, levy the river, that sort of thing."

    "Sharp little thing, isn't he?" the Doctor cheerfully remarked to Caesar. "Got a grand future ahead of him, I can tell."

    Ignoring the interruption, Octavian continued, "I would create at least a hundred or so new senators that I could be sure were my creatures, rather than my secret enemies," at which Brutus looked up sharply, and politely asked what his point was.

    "Oh, I do not mean you, Brutus," Octavian assured him. "You are a man of honour. I believe that your capitulation is sincere."

    "Yeah, very sincere," Rose muttered to Jack, unable to forget that this mild-mannered man would one day be Caesar's assassin. One of them, anyway.

    "How nice of you to say so," Brutus stiffly replied to Octavian.

    "Awkward again," Jack drawled under his breath with a chuckle, apparently not so concerned about the future issues these people were facing, and Rose wondered how he managed it. Him and the Doctor, both able to completely separate their knowledge of the future from the way they interacted with the people they met. This was the first time Rose had met someone whose future she knew in so much detail, such gory detail, and she was finding it really difficult to even look Caesar in the eye ? him and Brutus ? knowing what she knew.

    Feigning a sudden brainwave, Caesar changed the subject completely from the sticky subject of loyalty among his senators, commenting loudly to the Chief Augur about one of his officials who had died recently, before turning to Octavian and announcing, "You shall take his seat at the Pontiff's table."

    Reaction to this suggestion spread out across the table like ripples on a pond, ranging from consternation to delight. The Chief Augur spluttered that Octavian was far too young to hold such a position, but Caesar held firm, every inch the not-quite emperor as he made it clear that he intended to get his way on this point. "I believe I have the authority to appoint whom I like," he firmly stated.

    Atia was beaming as if all her Christmasses had come at once. "This is a great honour. Kiss your uncle's hand," she instructed her son.

    "I kiss your hand, Uncle," Octavian stiffly but obediently said, rather than engaging in any actual physical kissing of his uncle's appendages. "But truly, I would make an ill pontiff."

    "Don't be ridiculous, you'll make a lovely pontiff," his mother indulgently insisted, while Caesar resolutely commanded the Chief Augur to make it so.

    "I'd rather thought to concentrate on my poetry for a while." Octavian again tried to get out of his proposed new role in life, and Jack snorted softly into his wine.

    "No job is worth turning down just to write poetry," he declared, tossing an olive into the air, catching it in his mouth, and laughing at his own party trick.

    "Oh, I dunno," the Doctor thoughtfully remarked. "Depends on the poetry, really."

    "Well, I suppose you could make a case for ?" Jack began.

    "He'll make a lovely pontiff," Atia assured Caesar, cutting Jack off completely, as determined as her uncle to see this proposal go ahead whether Octavian liked it or not.

    "Poetry can wait," Caesar firmly told the boy.

    "It should not wait too long." Servilia spoke up for the first time, regal, serene?and scathing. "Poetry is a young man's calling. Don't you think?"

    In the awkward silence that followed, there were literally crickets chirping.

    The Doctor finally broke the silence, turning to Caesar and loudly remarking: "So, Egypt, eh. Tell me. War and all that aside, how'd you get on with Queen Cleopatra, then?"


    ***

    "I can't believe you said that," Rose told Jack as they scurried their way along darkened streets trying to remember where they'd left the Tardis.

    "The Doc started it," Jack laughingly protested. "All I said was ?"

    "Yeah, we all heard what you said, thanks," the Doctor grumped.

    "Hey, I'm not the one who brought up the Cleopatra thing," Jack airily continued. "I mean you might've guessed it would make conversation a little awkward around the dinner table? In denial, or what?" He laughed at his own joke.

    "Just trying to lighten the mood. I'd forgotten about his 'liaison' with Servilia. Thought the Romans were supposed to be open-minded," the Doctor defended himself, peering thoughtfully either way as they reached a junction, trying to work out which direction they should take. "This way. I think."

    "You sure?" Rose dubiously asked. Everything looked different in the dark.

    "Course I'm sure," he confidently assured her, leading the way.

    "Doesn't it feel a bit weird, though?" she remarked, having been unable to shake that feeling all through dinner. "Knowing what's going to happen, I mean. Watching him have dinner with the bloke who's going to kill him. I kept feeling like I should warn him, or something."

    The Doctor gave her another of his Looks. "After you saw what happened when nineteen years of history get re-written, you really want to try again with two thousand?"

    "I didn't say I was going to do it," Rose protested. "I'm just saying. It felt weird. That's all."

    The Doctor stopped in his tracks and looked around, frowning. "Here's a question. Where the hell did we leave the Tardis?"


    ***

    "See? There it is," Jack smugly observed, having successfully led them back to the street they'd arrived in. "Right as rai?oh sh?"

    "That's not what I call right as rain," the Doctor hissed at him, scowling at the small troop of Roman soldiery clustered around the Tardis, apparently trying, without much success, to lift it onto a cart.

    "Hey, I got us here, didn't I?" Jack protested.

    "Yeah, now all we have to do is work out how to get the Tardis back," Rose said with a sigh.

    "'Scuse me, sorry, is there a problem?" The Doctor was already charging into the fray, accosting the soldiers with his brightest, most innocent smile. They regarded him with suspicion, and then the lesser soldiers, bristling with sharp-looking weapons, fell back to allow their commanding officer to approach. He was a tallish man, but not too tall, not exactly handsome as such, but definitely striking. Rose had never in her wildest dreams imagined that anyone could make a leather skirt look so?so manly.

    The general, or whatever he was, moved to stand just that bit too close to the Doctor for comfort, totally invading his personal space, head cocked slightly to one side. "No problem," he said, almost purring the words in a way that simply oozed menace. "Move along."

    The Doctor chuckled, scratching at the back of his neck. "Funny you should say that. See, moving along is what we were planning to do, only, slight problem ? you're actually blocking our transport, so?"

    "Transport?" The general started to circle the three of them, regarding them quizzically, a bit like a cat might look at a group of mice while deciding which to pounce on first. "I see no transport. I do, however, see a public obstruction."

    "Obstruction?" the Doctor protested. "Look, I parked it well back, right off the road?in front of that door?okay. I see the problem. No harm done, eh ? we'll just be on our way, and everyone's happy. Sound good to you?"

    "I'm not happy," the general told him, as if that was all that mattered in this scenario.

    "And I can see why," Jack jumped in before the man could explain his unhappiness, which presumably revolved around being dragged out of an evening to investigate mysterious blue boxes in front of peoples' doors. "So tense." He offered the general a lascivious smirk. "You need to relax."

    "Relax, you say?" The general stepped right up close to Jack so that they were practically nose-to-nose, tilting his head to regard him with the kind of detached interest you might expect from a scientist in a lab, all about being the one with power and control over the situation. He smiled wolfishly. "And how shall I do that, do you suppose?"

    Enjoying the attention, Jack's smirk broadened. "Oh, I'm sure I could come up with a few suggestions. Very interesting book from the faraway East I could lend you. Karma Sutra ? you'd love it."

    "Jack," the Doctor warned, eyes fixed on his Tardis and the soldiers still gathered around it. "Oy, stop that," he loudly complained, irritated, as they attempted to tilt it over onto the cart again.

    "General Antony?" one of them called, seeking direction as to what they should do in the face of this interference.

    "General Antony?" The Doctor swung around, looking delighted, and Jack's eyes also lit up with recognition. "Mark Antony?"

    The general ? General Mark Antony, apparently, and that was a name Rose also recognised ? narrowed his eyes, suspicious, his attention flicking back and fore between the Doctor and Jack with shrewd calculation. "Indeed," he said. "What is it to you?"

    "Oh, nothing at all," the Doctor beamed.

    "Speak for yourself," Jack drawled. Rose was struck by the similarity between him and Mark Antony, apart from the costumes of course, as they stood side by side ? similar height, similar build, similar colouring, the same confident, charismatic manner. No wonder you could practically see the sparks flying as they faced off.

    "Pleasure to meet you, that's all," the Doctor cheerfully continued, stepping forward to shake the general's hand vigorously. Mark Antony reacted to this breach of protocol in much the same way that Caesar had before him, glancing coolly at their clasped hands while allowing the handshake without returning it. "Enjoy the rest of your career," the Doctor chirpily told him. "Ready to go, Rose? Right, we'll be off, then. Come on, Jack."

    He started to stride purposefully toward the Tardis. A couple of soldiers moved to intercept, but Antony waved them off with a curt gesture, that suspicious look never leaving his face as he watched the Doctor go. He offered Rose a courteous nod as she followed.

    Jack still hadn't moved, arms folded across his chest, eyeing the other man with great interest from a distance of about six inches. Antony looked back at him and lifted an eyebrow in unvoiced question, cool as a cucumber.

    "Jack," the Doctor called without looking back.

    Jack laughed. "Yeah, coming," he called. "Real pleasure to meet you, sir," he added, reluctantly breaking the eye contact with Antony and heading for the Tardis.

    With Mark Antony having waved the soldiers off, the Doctor was able to step past them to unlock the Tardis door, although they didn't look happy about it. He stood aside for Rose and Jack to enter ahead of him, and then turned back to Mark Antony and his men. "I should take a step back, if I were you," he suggested. "Don't want any nasty accidents, do we?"

    "Indeed?" Antony crisply queried.

    "Aye, indeed," the Doctor briskly nodded, pulling the door shut after him. "So long, then."


    ***

    "I think I prefer the future," Rose decided, as the Doctor flipped switches on the console in preparation for their departure. "At least then I can imagine everyone living happily ever after."

    "One of the lesser known perils of time travel that," the Doctor sagely remarked. "Twenty-twenty hindsight in advance."

    "Still," Rose mused. "I know Caesar comes to a sticky end. I suppose the rest of them might make out all right, though, for all I know?although from the looks on your faces, I'm guessing probably not."

    "There's no such thing as happily ever after," Jack told her. "That's why happily ever now is so important!"

    "Cynic," the Doctor shot at him, setting the Tardis in motion after a quick glance at the external monitor to make sure no one was standing too close. How the Romans reacted to seeing the box vanish before their eyes was their own problem, clearly.

    Rose laughed at Jack. "That's right, shatter all my illusions. Go on, tell me then ? how do they all end up?"

    "Well," he obligingly began. "Caesar is assassinated in the Senate ?"

    "Yeah, I knew that one, thanks," Rose told him.

    "I believe Brutus dies in battle?or possibly just after, not too sure of the details," Jack continued, counting the people they'd met off on his fingers. "Octavian oversees the final death throes of the Republic and becomes the first true Emperor of Rome?"

    "Octavian? Really?" Rose was surprised by that one, intelligent though she'd recognised the boy to be. He'd seemed so bookish and inoffensive over dinner.

    "Caesar Augustus," the Doctor crisply interjected. "Among other things. Fond of changing his name, that one."

    "Mark Antony, of course, is forced into exile, where he has a wonderfully torrid affair with Cleopatra ? hell of a woman, that one, brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'walk like an Egyptian'?. Where was I? Mark Antony. Right. Ultimately commits suicide," Jack went on, and Rose winced at the thought. "Servilia's another suicide, I think. Popular exit route. Atia lives to see her son become a brutal tyrant?"

    "So, in fact, they all live unhappily ever after," Rose concluded.

    "That's about the size of it," Jack nodded.

    "Well, I'm glad I didn't know any of that before we all had dinner together," she decided.

    "Seriously?" The Doctor gave her a funny look. "Did they not make you read Shakespeare in school? Julius Caesar? Antony and Cleopatra? He had a blast writing about that lot."

    "Hamlet," Rose told him.

    "Ah." He nodded with understanding. "Another rollicking tale. Loved a good tragedy did Shakespeare. Hamlet, you say. Fancy a visit, meet the man behind the play?"

    He looked delighted at the notion, started flipping buttons on the console again.

    "Future, Doctor," Rose reminded him.

    The Doctor laughed. "Rose. Where's your sense of adventure? Some other time, then. Tardis could do with refuelling, first, anyway." He pulled the lever that sent them spinning on their way.



    ~fin~


    ? J. Browning, August 2007

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