The TARDIS jerked and shook as it flew through the time vortex. Lilith, as always, was having the time of her life despite the shaky issue with the ship.
“Hold that one down!” the Doctor yelled at Rose.
“I'm holding this one down!” she protested.
“Well, hold them both down!” Lilith shouted.
Rose tried to stretch across half the console. “It's not going to work!”
“Oi! I promised you a time machine and that's what you're getting!” the Doctor snapped. “Now, you've seen the future, let's have a look at the past. 1860. How does 1860 sound?”
“What happened in 1860?” Rose asked.
“Beats me,” Lilith beamed. “Let's find out. Hold on, here we go!” She yanked down a lever and the Doctor set the coordinates. The ship whipped through the vortex towards their destination. As the TARDIS materialized, it gave one last jolt, throwing the Doctor, Rose, and Lilith to the floor.
They broke into laughter. “Blimey!” Rose choked out, getting up.
“Seriously, no kidding.” Lilith chuckled. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah. I think so. Nothing broken. Did we make it? Where are we?”
The Doctor checked the monitor. “I did it. Give the man a medal,” he said happily. “Earth, Naples, December 24th, 1860.”
“That's so weird.” Rose said, and then smiled. “It's Christmas.”
“All yours.” The Doctor gestured towards the door.
Rose turned back to look at the Doctor. “But, it's like, think about it, though. Christmas. 1860. Happens once, just once and it's gone, it's finished, it'll never happen again. Except for you two.” (The Doctor looked extraordinarily smug.) “You can go back and see days that are dead and gone a hundred thousand sunsets ago. No wonder you never stay still.”
“Not a bad life, we have,” the Doctor said softly.
Rose grinned. “Better with three. Come on, then.” She dashed towards the door.
“Oi, oi, oi,” he called after her. “Where do you think you're going?”
“1860.” Rose said.
Lilith shook her head. “Not like that, you’re not. Go out there dressed in a sweatshirt, you'll start a riot. Where’d she move the wardrobe room?” She directed the last question to her uncle.
“Through there,” the Doctor said, pointing towards the corridor. “First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on your left. Hurry up!”
Lilith grabbed Rose’s wrist and dashed in that direction.
“Where are we going?” Rose asked as they ran under the stairs.
“Rose Tyler,” Lilith said when they arrived at the fifth door, “welcome to the Wardrobe.” She dramatically pushed open the door.
Rose stepped into the room in awe. It was as vast as the console room, if not bigger, with the same organic design, but it was filled with racks upon racks of clothes from every era Rose could think of, and then some. “Blimey!” she breathed.
Lilith grinned. “Better than your average closet, huh, Tyler?”
“You’re telling me.” Rose said, still looking around.
“The TARDIS probably already chose something for you. Ah, here we are.” Lilith came out from the maze of outfits and handed Rose a pile of clothes.
“What about you?”
“A dress is a dress, no matter what planet or time you’re in.” Lilith motioned to her outfit. It was exactly the same that she had been wearing on Platform One, just violet instead of a bright orange. Looking down at herself, she grabbed a brown-checkered cloak and tied it around her shoulders with a green bow. “There. Now I’m dressed for the weather.” She looked back over at Rose and grinned. “Someone looks amazing.”
Rose smiled. “Love the cloak. Very Sherlock Holmes.”
Lilith pretended to tip her hat at her friend. “Much thanks, Watson.” The two girls laughed all the way back to the console room.
The Doctor looked up from where he was tinkering with the console and his jaw dropped when his eyes landed on Rose. “Blimey!” he gasped.
“Don't laugh.” Rose giggled.
“You look beautiful,” he said. Rose grinned at him shyly and Lilith beamed behind her hand before he continued, “Considering.”
“That you're human.”
Lilith face palmed. ‘Wimp. She looks gorgeous and you know it.’
‘Doesn’t change the fact she’s human.’
‘Doesn’t change the fact you’re a coward.’
“I think that's a compliment.” Rose frowned. “Aren't you going to change?”
“I've changed my jumper. Come on.” The Doctor pulled himself up.
Rose poked him with her umbrella. “You stay there,” she said and swung it to point at Lilith. “You've done this before. This is mine.” She opened the door and steped gingerly out into the fallen snow.
The Doctor followed and Lilith closed the door to the TARDIS behind them. “Ready for this?” he asked, offering Rose his arm, which she accepted. Lilith threaded her arm through Rose’s other one. “Here we go. History.”
The Doctor, Rose, and Lilith walked down a street while a choir sang ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. They moved on across the street where the Doctor bought a newspaper. “We got the flight a bit wrong.”
“I don't care.” Rose said.
“It's not 1860, it's 1869.”
“I don't care.”
“And it's not Naples.”
“She doesn’t care.”
There we go. That stopped Rose in her tracks. “Right.”
“Hey, don’t diss it.” Lilith said, trying to lighten the mood. “Great things will happen one day in Cardiff. You’ll see.”
“Well, that’s one way of looking at it.” Rose shrugged.
A scream pierced the air.
The Doctor grinned at his two companions. “Now that’s more like it!” He tossed the paper behind them and the three took off running.
The scream had come from a theater. They pushed their way through the fleeing crowd, fighting back the scared audience, and into the auditorium. A blue gas entity was swirling around an old lady and flying around the room. “Fantastic!” The Doctor and Lilith continued to push themselves towards the stage as the lady collapsed.
“Did you see where it came from?” the Doctor asked the man on the stage.
“Ah, the wag reveals himself, does he?” the man snapped. “I trust you're satisfied, sir!”
“What, you think we did this?” Lilith demanded.
Back in the audience, a man and a young woman picked up the body of the old lady.
“Oi! Leave her alone! Lil, I'll get them!” Rose shouted.
“Be careful!” Lilith shouted back as the Doctor continued to interrogate the man in from of them.
“Did it say anything? Can it speak? I'm the Doctor, by the way, this is Lilith Smith.”
“Doctor? You look more like a navy.”
“What's wrong with this jumper?” the Doctor demanded.
Lilith rolled her eyes. “Do you have to ask?”
The blue entity did one last circle around the auditorium and disappeared into one of the lanterns. “Gas!” the Doctor exclaimed. “It’s made of gas.”
‘HELP!’ Lilith thought she heard someone scream.
The Doctor turned to Lilith. “Where did Rose go?”
“Out to follow the man and girl who took the host.”
He dashed out of the auditorium. Lilith gave the stranger an apologetic look before following the Doctor, with the man on her heels. “Rose!” the Doctor shouted.
“What’s wrong?” Lilith asked.
“She’s been kidnapped.”
“You're not escaping me, sir!” the man insisted. “What do you know about that hobgoblin, hmm? Projection on glass, I suppose. Who put you up to it?”
“Yeah, mate. Not now, thanks. Oi, you! Follow that hearse!” The Doctor ducked into a nearby carriage.
“I can't do that, sir,” said the driver.
The man stormed up to the carriage. “I'll tell you why not. I'll give you a very good reason why not. Because this is my coach.”
“Well, get in, then. Move!”
The man got into the carriage and Lilith climbed up behind him. The driver cracked the whip and the carriage moved down the street.
“Come on, you're losing them.”
“Everything in order, Mister Dickens?” asked the driver.
Lilith’s eyes widened. “Dickens?”
“Let me say this first. I'm not without a sense of humor—”
“Charles Dickens?” the Doctor gaped.
“Yes,” said the man.
“The Charles Dickens?”
The driver glanced back. “Should I remove the gentleman, sir?”
“You're brilliant, you are!” the Doctor said with a wide grin. “Completely one hundred percent brilliant. I've read them all. Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and what's the other one, the one with the ghost?”
“A Christmas Carol?” Lilith offered.
“No, no, no, the one with the trains. The Signal Man, that's it. Terrifying! The best short story ever written. You're a genius.”
“You want me to get rid of him, sir?” the driver asked again.
“Er, no, I think he can stay.” Dickens said.
The Doctor continued on, mad grin locked on his face. “Honestly, Charles. Can I call you Charles? I'm such a big fan.”
“A what? A big what?”
“Fan.” the Doctor repeated. “Number one fan, that's me.”
“How exactly are you a fan?” Charles Dickens frowned. “In what way do you resemble a means of keeping oneself cool?”
“It means fanatic, devoted to,” Lilith explained. “I've got to say, though, that American bit in Martin Chuzzlewit. What's that about? Was that just padding or what? I mean, did you have to put in that bit?”
“I thought you said you were my fan.”
“Ah, well, if you can't take criticism.” Lilith shrugged. “Forget about that. Come on, faster!” she yelled at the driver.
“Who exactly is in that hearse?” Dickens asked.
“Our friend,” the Doctor answered. “She's only nineteen. It's my fault. She's in my care, and now she's in danger."
“Why are we wasting my time talking about dry old books? This is much more important. Driver, be swift! The chase is on!”
The Doctor knocked on the door to the funeral parlor. Lilith could hear two people having a hushed conversation on the other side before the door opened to reveal a young maid. “I’m sorry, sir. We're closed.”
“Nonsense.” Dickens said. “Since when did an Undertaker keep office hours? The dead don't die on schedule. I demand to see your master.”
“He's not in, sir.” The maid started to close the door.
Dickens slammed it open. “Don't lie to me, child! Summon him at once.”
“I'm awfully sorry, Mister Dickens, but the master's indisposed.”
A gas lamp behind her flared.
“Having trouble with your gas?” the Doctor noticed.
“What the Shakespeare is going on?” Dickens said quietly.
The Doctor pushed past the girl to the flaring gas lamp.
“You're not allowed inside, sir,” the maid tried to protest.
“There's something inside the walls,” the Doctor said. “The gas pipes. Something's living inside the gas.”
“Open the door!” shouted a voice.
“That's her!” Lilith exclaimed.
“Please, please, let me out!”
The group ran down the corridor and the Doctor bumped into the man who had taken the old lady’s body.
“How dare you, sir!” the man said, admonished. The Doctor and Lilith just pushed past him. “This is my house!”
“Shut up.” Lilith heard Dickens say.
“Let me out! Somebody open the door! Open the door!” Rose’s voice came from the other side of the door to the chapel. The Doctor kicked the door in.
“I think this is my dance,” he said and pulled Rose away from a deathly pale young man.
“It’s a prank. It must be. We're under some mesmeric influence.” Dickens said from behind Lilith.
“No, we're not. The dead are walking. Hi.”
“Hi.” Rose was breathing heavily. “Who's your friend?”
“Charles Dickens.” Lilith told her, happily.
Rose raised her eyebrows. “Okay. Less weird than the zombies here.”
“My name's the Doctor.” The Doctor addressed the zombies. “Who are you, then? What do you want?”
The male zombie replied with several voices, “Failing. Open the rift. We're dying. Trapped in this form. Cannot sustain. Help us. Argh!”
The blue gas left the mouths of the two people and the corpses collapsed.
Lilith stared to the two dead people and dimly registered that her uncle had suggested everyone go upstairs for tea. She followed; a bit numbly, desperately trying to remember anything she may possibly know about the gas creatures and why they had just tried to kill Rose.
Gwyneth was pouring everyone tea. Lilith had to do her best not to think about how much the servant girl looked like Gwen Cooper.
“First of all you drug me, then you kidnap me, and don't think I didn't feel your hands having a quick wander, you dirty old man.” Rose hissed. Lilith saw the Doctor stiffen.
“I won't be spoken to like this!” the old man, Sneed, Lilith now knew, said gruffly.
“Then you stuck me in a room full of zombies! And if that ain't enough, you swan off and leave me to die!” Rose yelled. “So come on, talk!”
“It's not my fault. It's this house.” Sneed insisted. “It always had a reputation. Haunted. But I never had much bother until a few months back, and then the stiffs, the er, dear departed,” he corrected, seeing Dickens and Lilith’s glares at him, “started getting restless.”
“Tommyrot.” Dickens dismissed.
“You witnessed it! Can't keep the beggars down, sir. They walk. And it's the queerest thing, but they hang on to scraps.”
Gwyneth placed the Doctor's cup on the mantelpiece beside him. “Two sugars, sir, just how you like it.”
Lilith frowned. ‘Is she… a telepath?’ she mentally asked the Doctor.
‘She’s human, Lilith. Humans aren’t telepathic.’ Was it her imagination, or did the Doctor’s eyes flick towards Rose?
“…Almost walked into his own memorial service.” Sneed was saying. “Just like the old lady going to your performance, sir, just as she planned.”
“Morbid fancy,” scoffed the author.
“Oh, Charles, you were there,” the Doctor said.
“I saw nothing but an illusion.”
“If you're going to deny it, don't waste my time. Just shut up,” the Doctor told a taken back Dickens. “What about the gas?” he asked Sneed.
“That's new, sir,” the old man said. “Never seen anything like that.”
“That means it's getting stronger,” Lilith said thoughtfully. “The rift's getting wider and something's sneaking through.”
“What's the rift?” Rose asked.
“A weak point in time and space,” the Doctor explained. “A connection between this place and another. That's the cause of ghost stories, most of the time.”
Sneed nodded in understanding. “That's how I got the house so cheap. Stories going back generations.” Dickens rolled his eyes and closes the door behind him as he left. “Echoes in the dark, queer songs in the air, and this feeling like a shadow passing over your soul. Mind you, truth be told, it's been good for business. Just what people expect from a gloomy old trade like mine.”
Lilith, curious to his thoughts, followed the famous author.
Dickens took the lid off one of the coffins, and waved his hand in front of the dead man's face. Lilith watched from the doorway as Dickens searched the coffin.
“Checking for strings?” she asked.
“Wires, perhaps. There must be some mechanism behind this fraud,” he said.
She pushed herself off the doorway. “My uncle shouldn't have told you to shut up. I'm sorry about him. But you've got one of the best minds in the world. You saw those gas creatures.”
“I cannot accept that.”
“Think about it. What does the human body do when it decomposes? It breaks down and produces gas. It’s the perfect home for these gas things. They can slip inside and use it as a vehicle, like your driver and his coach.”
“Stop it.” Dickens pleaded. “Can it be that I have the world entirely wrong?”
“Not wrong,” Lilith said gently, “there's just more to learn.”
“I've always railed against the fantasists. Oh, I loved an illusion as much as the next man, reveled in them, but that's exactly what they were, illusions. The real world is something else. I dedicated myself to that. Injustices, the great social causes. I hoped that I was a force for good. Now you tell me that the real world is a realm of specters and jack-o'-lanterns. In which case, have I wasted my brief span here, young lady? Has it all been for nothing?”
Lilith smiled at him. “Never believe that you have wasted your life. Just take what you know and use it to live what life you have left to the fullest. My father taught me that,” she said. She turned around and returned to the parlor just in time to hear the last thing she expected come out of the Doctor’s mouth.
“We're going to have a séance.”