(WARNING! SPOILERS THROUGH "DOOMSDAY"!)
"When One Door Closes", by Blaidd ferch Lloer
Chapter 1: All in a Day's Work
She was 22 now, yet for Rose Tyler, her current life much different from what it had been for her first nineteen years; the last three years might as well have never happened. On the weekdays, she would get up, go to work, come home, go to bed. On the weekends, she would, to put it his way, eat chips, go to bed, and watch telly.
Oh, and she had lunch, or tea, or dinner, or drinks -- something -- nearly every day with her best friend, Mickey Smith. Well, okay, there was one small change there: he was called Ricky now, at least to the world at large. No, make that two changes -- he'd been her boyfriend, way back when. But other than a slight change in title, their relationship now wasn't much altered, except maybe in that he stood up for himself more these days. All the same, she hadn't really been able to give her heart to him back then, and she still couldnít now.
She'd lost it; it was gone. Oh, there was something of an echo in the old chest cavity, thum-thump-wot-wot? But otherwise, it was empty, void of feeling. Sometimes she wondered if she was really any more human than the now-long-gone Cybermen.
Of course, there was one thing that made her current life significantly different from her past one: her dad. She knew she should be grateful to have him in her life now -- she was grateful, really -- but that gain couldnít fill that void created by the loss of her Doctor.
Oh, sure, he wasn't dead, but that made it all the worse, didnít it? Because he had made contact once since she'd been dragged, kicking and screaming, into a dimension not her own. He'd found a way to see her one last time, to say goodbye (and hadnít even done it proper-like, had he? Cut off just as he was about to say the words she'd longed to hear practically since she'd met him. So like him, really...). That 'one last time' was supposed to have been an impossibility in and of itself, but if there was one thing she'd learned in her time with him, it was that nothing was impossible. So no matter how much she tried to take his words to heart, that they couldnít reunite for fear of destroying both dimensions in the attempt, she couldnít lose hope: if he could reach her once (even if it was only a projection of him), why not again?
Hope would keep her waiting for him the rest of her existence, spoiled for anyone else. She would never marry or have children -- it wouldnít be fair to them, would it, her always looking to the stars, waiting, her heart never with them? Sure, she'd been saved by being brought to that dimension, but how could being safe matter to a corpse, walking or otherwise? In waiting for him, quite possibly she was really just waiting for death.
At any rate, here she was, just another day of going through the motions. She's gotten a job at the very same department store she'd worked at when she'd met the Doctor -- well, this reality's edition, at any rate.
She'd lied when she'd told the Doctor she worked for Torchwood now -- she'd seen something in his eyes, in the way he said, "Good for you," when she'd told the truth in the first place, saying she was back at the shop. She couldnít tell what that something was, but she didnít like it, so she left him thinking she'd still have her adventures here, even without him. She wanted him to remember her with pride, not see the pathetic thing she'd become. Well, it wasn't a total lie at least: the truth of the matter was, it was Mickey and her dad what ran Torchwood now, and she did help now and then. But the shop was her dayjob, her cover, and, quiet as things had become in the world of alien intrigue, her career, as far as she was concerned. Mickey and her parents had begged her to take work elsewhere, and common sense said they were right. Refusing to listen made her a sadist, she supposed, hanging on, as she was, to something that served to increase her grief.
But the shop was familiar. Her friends at the store weren't her original friends, obviously, but their lives were so similar in all the everyday respects, their personalities, their quirks, even most of the important details -- marriages, pregnancies -- that they might as well have been the exact same people. So she cleaved to the familiarity, and managed to delude herself that time she'd spent with the Doctor had been nothing but a dream. Or at least, she tried to.
But there were all these damn little reminders. Ricky instead of Mickey. Her dad being alive (even if he wasn't really her dad). A new baby sibling on the way.
And now this.
On her way out the door, the security guard had shoved a plastic bag with the lottery money in her face, in exactly the same way he (or his counterpart, anyway) had done three years ago, on that fateful night. She almost told him to piss off. She almost passed it on to the girl behind her. Was it momentum that made her follow the same steps she had taken in her own dimension? Sadism, maybe?
She knocked on the door of Wilson the electrician several times, not expecting to find him there at all, and feeling badly for hoping she wouldnít. There was a good chance the poor man was dead if he wasn't answering the door, as had been the case in her own world. That didnít stop her from just leaving after what seemed an adequate attempt, though.
As she walked through storage, past the male mannequins in the bowels of the department store, she wondered if what she felt could rightly be called dťjŗ vu, since there were things about this dimension that were different from home. (Home? She really needed to stop thinking that way!) Just because circumstances were similar at the start of the night didnít at all mean that the scenario would end the same way. For one thing, at this point in time back in her own dimension, this building was long gone, the situation that had led to its destruction having happened a long time ago. (How could there be a three-year delay for this, but not everything else?) Still, even with those doubts in mind, rather than retreating she went straight to that bit of wall where he had first taken his hand -- well, to the corresponding spot -- and leaned against it.
"Come on, ya tossers!" she growled at her plastic audience. "You're not foolin' anyone!"
"Who you callin' a 'tosser'?" Wilson asked, frowning as he came around a corner.
"Oh! Wilson!" Rose's voice came out strangled, as it warred between relief at his being okay and bitter disappointment. "Sorry, I thought ... never mind. Here's the lottery money." She handed it to him.
"Cheers," he told her, giving her one last bemused look before turning to head back to his office. He brushed against one of the mannequins as he went.
It apparently took offense.
"Wilson!" Rose tried to pull the suddenly-living plastic automaton off of the electrician, but another mannequin grabbed hold of her in turn. She slipped free by sliding out of her hoodie. Wilson wasn't so lucky: as Rose turned back, she heard the ugly snap of his neck and caught sight of his now-lifeless body falling to the ground. The other mannequins had begun their slow, zombie-like approach. She'd had nightmares of that for days after the first bought, and in those dreams she'd felt like her legs were stuck in a marsh. Now she wondered if perhaps she was just dreaming; her legs were similarly afflicted. The best she could seem to manage was a step back against the wall, back to that spot again, though she wouldnít look to her left -- not because she was afraid to take her eyes off the plastic men approaching her, but because she was afraid of what she wouldnít find. The best she could do was cry his name, and pray this reality did indeed have its own version of her time lord.
For once, it seemed someone was listening -- the Doctor, in fact.
She let out a squeak of surprise as his hand slipped into hers and squeezed. She should have been prepared. She'd wished for this, hadn't she? But apparently no amount of wishing could prepare you for a reunion with someone you never thought you'd see again (twice over, considering he looked as he did when they'd first met, rather than when they'd said goodbye). Hadn't meeting her dad in this reality taught her that?
"Run," her Doctor ordered, and she obeyed, letting him lead her down corridors, into the lift. And just like last time, the doors caught on an arm of one of the mannequins; he tugged until it popped free of its owner. The doors finally closed, and he handed the arm to her.
"Oooh, no, leave it here!" she told him, shoving it back at him. "It can get blown up with the rest of them this time!"
"This time?" he asked, blinking. She knew his name, he'd heard her call out for him. Clearly this girl was someone his future self had met -- he would have remembered her, he thought. And yet while he was sure he'd never met her, there was something about her that seemed both familiar and unlike anything he'd ever come across....
"Look, it's too much to explain right now. You're going to blow up the building, right?"
"Then we leave the arm here, and right after this, we go to the London Eye."
His eyes narrowed in that all-too-familiar way. It sent a shiver down her spine, and she didnít even mind when he said, "The Ferris wheel? What, no fish and chips first?"
"Just trust me, all right?"
He was about to protest -- he should have protested -- but he realised, with and earth-moving sort of shock, that he did trust her -- completely. Besides, he'd have to spend more time with her if he was to know just what that something strange he'd felt in her was -- his curiosity would never leave him be if he didnít find out. So even though his sensibilities screamed against it, he found her running at his side as they made their way out of the building, racing against the timer on the bomb he'd planted. They didnít stop, either, but ran straight for the TARDIS.
Once inside, they both went straight for control panel. She stepped in front of him and started pushing buttons and pulling levers; he would have told her to stop, except that it was obvious she knew what she was doing.
Their course set, the vwoorp-vwoorp sound telling them the TARDIS was in motion, he leaned against the console, facing her, folding his arms across his chest, and said, "Well, obviously we've met, but while you apparently know who I am, I'm afraid I'm at a loss..."
"Rose ... Rose Tyler...." Now that they had a moment to breathe, and she could look at him -- really look -- the shock, the joy, the uncertainty of it all hit her knees like a steel cricket bat, unhinging them. He caught her as she started to fall, concern on his brow as he settled her gently to the floor.
"Whoa, easy there," he said gently. "Nice to meet you, Rose. But ... I have a feeling it's not such a nice meeting on your end?..."
††"Yes! No!, Er ...††Look, we'll talk about it later; let's just get this situation taken care of, all right? "
"What sit--" His eyes flew open as he realised what she was saying. "The Eye is where the Nestene Consciousness' signal is coming from!?"
She nodded. The vwoorp-vwoorp of the Tardis had stopped: they'd reached their destination.
"Right, let's go." He helped her to her feet, then grabbed her hand and pulled her out the door. "Fish and chips are on you later, and you can fill me in on whatever there's not time to tell me now," he added.
She sighed, shaking her head ruefully but smiling as she did so. "You always were a cheap date...."
Chapter 2: On the Shore of River's Memory
Like a level boss in a video game, the Nestene was a lot easier to take care of the second time around -- particularly since there was no Mickey hostage to worry about this time. Since Rose knew what to expect, she warned the Doctor ahead of time. When he protested that they should at least try to reason with it, give the Nestene a chance to move on, again, she told him to trust her, that people would die if he didnít, and again he couldnít bring himself to say no to her. So at her behest, he threw the vial of anti-plastic that he was carrying directly into the vat holding the giant being of living plastic.
That done, Rose called her parents and told them not to wait up, saying she was doing something Torchwood related and she'd explain it all once she got home.
Then they walked to a nearby fish and chips stand, and found a solitary spot on the Thames to eat and talk. Noticing that she shivered a bit (thanks to having lost her hoodie back at the shop), he wrapped his leather jacket around her shoulders. It was all she could do not to start bawling right ten and there, remembering how, after her Doctor's regeneration, she had clung, bewildered and grieving, to another such coat as she tried to sleep -- for many a week, in fact.
"I know it's supposed to be impossible, but ... I'm not from this dimension," Rose began.
"That's it!" he exclaimed. "I knew there was something different about you -- you're much more evolved than the apes here!"
She blushed for a moment, flattered even as she was irritated for calling humans "apes" yet again. Then she remembered that others too, had said that her travels with the Doctor had changed her, developed areas of her brain that other humans hadn't.
He studied her a moment. "No ... no, I'm wrong...."
She frowned. "Not so evolved after all, 'ey?"
"Oh, no, not that -- I meant that your being from another dimension might be part of why you seem different from other humans, but it's not just that ... there's something else..." He shook his head, not in denial, but rather as if to clear it. "Tell me more. Obviously you knew the me in your dimension. How did you two meet? And how did you get here?"
She told him everything, every little detail she could remember. She started with how they met, jumped to their first visit to this dimension, then to how she got stranded in this place with her mother and Mickey and without her dimension's version of him. She did finally cry at that point; he grabbed her hand, holding it comfortingly, offering sympathy and that quiet strength as he waited with endless patience for her to compose herself enough to go on. The important parts told, she went back and picked her brain for all she knew of her Doctor's life, and all she remembered of their adventures together. It was surreal, telling him what it felt like he should know, knowing that no matter what he looked like, this wasn't her Doctor.
She cried again when she talked about witnessing his regeneration. She couldnít look at him then, couldnít look at that face that had become so dear to her. She'd never stopped loving him, no, but she'd missed that face, and the voice that went with it, every day since then, even when she was still with her Doctor, post-regeneration.
The conversation went on till dawn, then past. There were some shocking differences between their dimensions, they learned -- the largest being that this dimension had never suffered through a Time War!
"I can't believe I missed the creation of the Cybermen!" he lamented.
"Hang on, how did you know about them? They're all gone now and you weren't around when we fought them -- when did you meet them?"
"Well someone apparently nicked a few from Earth and brought them on a tour of space and time, because I've met them on other planets, and I've met them here, but before the year you say they were created." His eyes narrowed. "I could harbor a few guesses as to who... The Master, maybe..."
"Oh! He told me about him! You know, you Time Lords have awfully funny names. Are you born with titles, or do you have 'normal' names too and just don't like to share?"
He glanced at her in surprise. "You mean to say he never told you why he was called 'the Doctor'? I wonder...."
She gawked at him. Would this Doctor tell her what she could never coax out of her own? "You wonder what?" she whispered with bated breath.
He shrugged. "I just wonder if his situation was different somehow -- that maybe his name really is 'The Doctor'. Myself, I took the name because -- back when I first started to time travel --††that's what the humans thought I was saying my real name was. And since most people seem to offer a certain deference to a doctor, I decided to just go with it." He shrugged for emphasis.
She waited expectantly.
He stared back, blankly. "What? Oh! Well, my given name on my homeworld, Gallifrey, is--" and her told her.
She scowled; what he'd said sure sounded like "The Doctor".
He smiled. "See what I mean? In your alphabet, I imagine it would be spelled T-H-E-D-O-K-T-A-H. One word."
She grinned, perhaps the first real smile she'd had in over a year. "Yeah, I imagine explaining that would get old real quick-like."
He laughed. "Yeah, especially since Iíd have to explain why I had such a strange name after explaining it wasn't really 'The Doctor' -- somehow, I think that would be harder than avoiding answering the ever-popular 'Doctor who?' Although, in this day and age, it wouldnít matter so much, I suppose. But just a few decades ago?..." he trailed off.
She giggled, and linked her arm through his, leaning into him. She stiffened when she realised what she'd done, and immediately pulled away. "S-sorry...."
"Why are you sorry?" he asked softly. He watched the sun continue making its sleepy way upward. "It's only natural -- I look like him, and ... and you love him... and, in a way ... well, I ... am him, right?"††
She snapped her head around, eyeing him warily now. "He kept telling me that my dad here wasn't my dad. And Ricky, he ... well, he was nothing like Mickey. So wouldnít the same apply to you and my Doctor?"
He pursed his lip, thoughtful. "I think he told you that bit about your dad because he didnít want you to stay here."
She pulled further away, glaring now. "Are you saying he lied?"
"No, not exactly. I mean, that statement was correct, if you're just talking physicalities. But ..." he sighed. "how can I explain this, when I've never been fully clear on it myself -- I should have paid more attention in school...." He was still for a long moment, then dug his fingers into the ground beside him, and pulled up a handful of sand. "What can you do with sand?"
She shook her head, anger already cooled, and sounded weary as she answered, "Make sandcastles, make glass ... fill the catbox," she added with a small laugh that she didnít really feel.
He nodded. "You can also conduct electricity through it, bag it to dam up a flood or weigh something down, fill an hourglass, make a Japanese rock garden..." He looked around and found a broken branch lying on the ground, just within reach. "And how about this? What can you do with this."
She sighed. There would be a point, she knew, and it would answer her question, even if only nominally. She just had to be patient. "Uh, you could carve it, make a pencil, make it into paper, make a stake to kill a vampire with--" he raised a brow at that "--make a torch..."
"Make a point," he said, holding it aloft. "All of us, we have limitless potential in us to be anything. But no matter what you end up making of your life, in each dimension, each version of you started with the same raw material. It's the situations you ended up in, the choices you did and didnít make, that shape each version of you into something different.
††"Each of us is like this branch," he continued, holding the limb up to illustrate. "We keep ... well, branching off," he said, tracing his finger along the forks, "but if you follow a small branch backwards, you join up with other parts of your self, until you get to an origin point, where all those parts were the same person." Again, he illustrated with a long, elegant digit -- one so painfully familiar to her....
"So ... you're sayin that you are my Doctor -- or part of him, at any rate?"
"Sort of, yeah ... Or at least I might be. See, it gets a bit more complicated...." He stared at the branch a long moment. "Pretend that this branch is your mother."
"I doubt she'd appreciate the comparison, but okay." She dared to nudge him playfully and grin; he grinned back, and her heart raced. Not so absent after all, she thought at her now-lively organ.
"So, at this juncture here," he pointed to a fork, "this limb was the path where she married your dad, and in this one she didn't." His finger followed the marriage branch to the next fork. "Here she had to choose between curry or cottage pie for lunch." Two fingers now, one following each branch as he held the bottom of the limb with his knees. The fingers each found another fork on their respective twigs. "Here, one each path, she got pregnant with you going one way, and didnít on the other. You exist in both of these timelines, but your connection to each other isnít direct, the way it would have been if youíd been split off from a decision you'd made -- instead, you'd have to follow each version of you back through Jackie to find a connection. And it can get even more splintered when you bring grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on, into the scenario. So you're much closer to this version of yourself than say, that one," he said, pointing to a twig much farther away, "And therefore the chance for differences in the 'raw material' is greater. Whether or not you even have the same soul is debatable in that case, but--"
"But if you and my Doctor are both the result of a decision you made not long before you met me, you'd be very close to being the same person, like a-a clone or something!" God, she hoped she didn't sound as desperate as she felt!
He grinned, nodding. "Something like that, yeah."
She wanted to cheer. She wanted to do cartwheels. But whatever wild adventures she'd had, however imaginative she'd proven, she still had a strong sense of practicality in her nature, thanks to one Jackie Tyler....
"But that doesn't mean I have a future with you, here, now does it?" she pointed out. "Hell, I probably didnít have one with him, either. Just like Sarah. He abandoned her because it hurt too much to watch her grow old. He would have done the same to me eventually..." she conjectured, pulling at the grass beside her, as if the motion would fight back the tears that were threatening to steal her voice again.
"If you had been like Sarah, I daresay he would have. I did decide to settle down once, you know. Got married, had a family. To my wife, it was a lifetime; to me, it was a single spring, where I had to watch her wither and die like a flower. I told myself never again, not with a human. I'm not proud of it, but abandoning Sarah was an act of self-preservation. I hadn't intended to fall in love again. Then after Sarah, there was Ramona; she was a Time Lord, too, but in the end it was she who'd left me. The one constant love in my existence has been the TARDIS." He looked her in the eye. "And that's why I think things with you would be different, Rose Tyler."
"Well, I canít speak for his experiences, but none of my companions ever looked into the Heart of the TARDIS. The TARDIS never let anyone do it. She knew your love for him was as strong as her own. She put a part of herself in you, and it's changed you, I think...."
And she realised it was true: the TARDIS did love the Doctor. My Doctor she'd called him when she'd used the power of the Time Vortex to destroy the Daleks. It hadn't been just her, Rose Tyler, saying that. And it was then, she now realised, that she and the TARDIS had, together, become a new being: The Bad Wolf, the Un-Maker, here to blow down the house of anyone who tried to hurt her Doctor. Thedoktah. He'd taken the power away because she was un-making herself as well, but even an unplugged toaster was still a toaster.
"He was too close to you to see it, I think," this Doctor went on. "When you watch a plant grow without ever taking your eyes off it, you donít see the changes so easily. But you're not fully human, anymore, Rose, and I daresay you're becoming even less so every day."
"You say that like it's a good thing...." she commented warily.
"Well, I donít think being a Time Lord is so bad," he said casually, scratching his chin.
She blinked. "Come again?"
"There's a reason I was able to have children with my Earthling wife despite being an ailien, Rose: aside from the two hearts, Gallifreyans aren't so very different from humans in many respects. You said the Heart of the TARDIS regressed a Raxacoricofallapatorian into an egg; well, why can't the opposite be true? Why can't it evolve you? In fact, I daresay the TARDIS put a piece of her Heart in you, so to speak, to help the process. Grow you a Gallifreyan's second heart, I mean."
Rose felt like she was on the Eye, spinning at a hundred times the normal rate. "But ... but I only have one heartbeat!" she protested.
"Did I ever mention I have a bit of an arrhythmia? Causes my hearts to beat out of sequence -- in normal Gallifreyans, they beat in perfect time."
Rose lay her hand over her right breast, and thought maybe it did feel like there was a heart beating there. And it seemed to beat faster as her hopes soared.
"So there's just one thing left to do," he said, rising to his feet.
"What's that?" she asked as he helped her up; she was a little dizzy, though, and wished she could sit a bit longer.
"See if we can get in touch with your Doctor!"
Chapter 3: Who Says There's No Such Thing as a Second Chance?
"What is this place?" Rose asked. They were back inside the TARDIS, in an empty, white room that she didnít remember seeing before. Oh that's right. Not the same TARDIS.
"It's a Zero Room. It's sort-of ... sealed off from the noise of the universe. Lets a Time Lord meditate, keeps down the mental static."
"I don't think my Doctor had one of these," she ventured nervously. If he didnít, did that mean her Doctor and this one were never joined at all? Surely if they were split from the same man, their ships would be the same?
"Oh, I'd venture he did at some point -- this one is brand-new, as in I just asked the TARDIS to make it!" He ginned. Oh, how she'd missed that grin! "Had to jettison the last one I had, and that was quite a while ago, I can tell you!" He sat down on the floor in the middle of the room and patted the space next to him. "Come on, then. Have a seat!"
She obeyed. When she was settled, he took her hand. "All right, now, a little explanation first. You know how the TARDIS travels around in time and space, and how it's bigger on the inside than the outside?" She nodded. "Did you know that the inside of the TARDIS is its own dimension? I mean completely its own, doesnít share it with anything else?"
She nodded a little more slowly as she confessed, "Didnít really, but that makes sense. I guess."
He smiled and squeezed her hand. "What that means is that the interior of the TARDIS never really moves. Oh, it can change, yes, but the console and the Time Vortex are always in the same spot. Now, like outside, the interior of the TARDIS exists in parallel universes -- but there's only one Time Vortex, and it exists in all of them, simultaneously. Using it, the TARDIS itself can communicate telepathically with all the versions of itself, and the Doctors of those other realities. She can tell your Doctor to create his own Zero Room -- if he doesnít have one already -- and tell him to sit in it, in this. Very. Spot." He poked at the floor in emphasis. "When he does, since the Zero Room blocks out all interference, with the help of the TARDIS, he and I should be able to form a telepathic link. I think. Well, it's all theoretical, but it's worth a shot, right? If this works, he and I will become one soul existing in two places, and we'll each know absolutely everything that the other knows. It'll be as if I lived his life, and he mine. Then I really will be the man you fell in love with -- and more, yes, but that'll be as good as it gets, I think."
††She stared at him, stunned, for what seemed like forever. Ice ages could have come and gone, though, or World War III could have taken place in that very room, the end of the Earth could have come and gone (again), and she wouldnít have noticed. "Why would you do that?" she finally asked. "You donít know me from Eve ... A-and the pain he's been through, being last of the Time Lords -- why take that on yourself for a-a stranger?"
"You're not exactly a stranger, Rose Tyler: you've got a bit of the TARDIS in you, after all! And if he would fight his way through dimensions for you, how could I do any less?" He bowed his head. "Fact of the matter is, Rose ... while it's true my people are all alive ... I still feel alone. And if the TARDIS saw fit to change you so that you could be with your Doctor always, how could I let her plan come to naught?"
Not to mention, having spent several hours getting to know her, he found that he wasn't really ready to say goodbye. He could tell his other self had had a special bond with this girl; he wanted to come to know that bond himself. He'd spent so long searching for something -- every instinct he had told him he'd finally found it. There was no way in any dimension he was going to let whatever this was slip by him!
"I mean, I'd have to be an idiot, but I can promise you, I'm a genius," he added with a wink. "So. Shall we give it a go?"
She bit her lip. "You ... you donít have to do this. I'd stay with you even if you didn't -- I mean, if you want me to, I would."
He smiled thoughtfully, reaching out to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "You would, wouldn't you? All the more reason for me to do this, then -- for his sake as well as yours. It's the right thing to do, Rose."
"Is it?" she asked, worry creasing her brow. "He'll be alone again, once you're done doing this, right? Maybe, like you said about Sarah, it'd be ... kinder to leave him be...."
"Oh, but that's the beauty of this!" the Doctor insisted. "If this works, he and I can do this all the time -- sort of a periodic downloaded update, y' see? And every time we do, he'll remember the time you and I spend together as if it had happened to him!"
"Sounds a bit confusing," she noted, and he just shrugged, as if keeping two lives straight in one's head was a normal state of affairs. She wanted to believe, wanted to trust ... but this wasn't her Doctor (however much she kept needing to remind herself of that fact), and her Doctor had stressed the need to cut off all contact between their realities. "Won't that cause some sort of a-a rift between the dimensions?"
He shook his head, smiling encouragingly. "Eh, souls donít work that way. They're like ... lights, shining through a cloth -- they pass through without harming it. No, wait, here's a better one. That message he sent you before? I know it was a projection, and you couldnít touch it, but still needed to pass through the dimensions physically -- like snail mail being passed through the mail slot in a door. What I want to try is more like email on a wireless connection -- messages can go through the planes, even if we can't. But it will take a very specific sort of connection; the TARDIS might be able to provide it ... and she might not. Won't know until we try!" He eyed her expectantly.
"All right, then," she relented, after another long moment of deliberation.
He grinned and squeezed her hand tight. "Right! What I need you to do is relax, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then just think of the last time you saw him. The TARDIS will use you to find the version of me we're lookin' for."
She did all he asked. The image of her Doctor, as he appeared last, swan into crystal clarity, as if it were happening all over again. Her throat tightened, and her eyes stung. Then he vanished, and it was like the floor dropped out from under her. She gasped and her eyes flew open. She looked down.
The floor really had dropped out! She and Thedoktah were levitating three feet off the ground. She shot a look at her companion: his eyes were closed, his expression blank. He didnít even seem to be breathing -- he was still as death. She would have thought him dead even, if his hand hadn't been so warm in hers! She wanted to ask what the bloody hell was happening, but she didnít dare risk interrupting his attempt. She didnít move a muscle; it didnít take long for said muscles to cramp, but she just bit back the pain. She waited. And waited. She could have been waiting a month or all of three seconds: she didnít know or care. She just wanted it all to be over. She wanted to know -- had it worked?††
And suddenly he was gasping for air and they were falling to the floor -- but she kept her grip on his hand. She rolled to her knees and helped him to sit up. He was shaking, shivering, and his eyes were wide, the whites showing, the pupils small. What had happened? Was her Doctor all right? Was this one?? She rubbed his back instinctively, unconsciously, with her hand, and made comforting noises. He started to collect himself, his breathing slowing, though he was still shivering slightly. She took the jacket off and wrapped it around his shoulders, taking his hand in hers again. He looked at her, finally.
"Rose," he whispered, tears glittering.
He didnít need to tell her. It worked; she could see it in his eyes, see him looking back at her. And something more -- the other Doctor was there, too.
"They're all gone," he whispered.
And suddenly she regretted allowing this. This Doctor had been happy, for all he'd spoken of loneliness. He had his defensive inner walls, but they weren't nearly as high as her Doctor's; that was why he'd been more forthcoming with information, she suspected. And now, he was experiencing the grief that had been a scabbed-over wound in her Doctor by the time she'd met him. This was what she'd warned Thedoktah about, but even she hadn't anticipated the pain she saw in his eyes now. His people were still alive, yes, but now her Doctor's people were his too, and they were dead. A whole planet's population, wiped out -- and it had been his doing. And now he would be forever scarred, as her own Doctor had been. This man had, in essence, sacrificed himself for the sake of someone else's love.
That was her doing.
And yet how could she expect any different of him? Her Doctor had been one of the most righteous, brave, compassionate beings she'd ever known; why should this one be any different? In fact, now ... he wasnít different, was he? Not really.
This was her Doctor now, every bit as much as the one still back in her home dimension.
She pulled him close, wrapping her arms around him, rocking him gently and stroking his hair as the grief washed over him; he clung to her as the waves pounded him relentlessly. How had he survived the first time, when he stood alone in the aftermath f the Time War? If a Time Lord wept in an empty Tardis, with no one to hear him, did he still make a sound?
I was there, but could do nothing. Even as I held him within myself, I could not hold him, a voice said. There was no question in Rose's mind as to who it was -- she knew this presence, knew it as well as she did her own. Together, we do for him now what I could not then. And Rose knew the TARDIS spoke to her alone. The TARDIS held their Doctor with Rose, wept for him through the not-so-human girl. I make myself, I make the world, the TARDIS and Rose thought as one.
An eon, an hour, mere minutes later, he'd started to relax in her arms, his maelstrom of grief having quieted. He drew back just enough to look at her, and she could see that the sadness was by no means gone, just starting to scab over. In time -- and they had all the time in the universe -- it would become heal enough to become a scar, as it had in the other dimension, healed enough to live with, though it would always be there as a reminder, twinging, inhibiting him somewhat. But he would live; she'd see to that.
"I love you," he told her. He'd tell her every day from now on, every chance he got. He'd never leave her wondering, never leave it unsaid again.
She lit up like the sun -- no, like she had when she'd carried the power of the TARDIS inside her! He kicked himself for all the times he could have made her shine like this but had denied himself, and therefore her -- all the opportunities he'd wasted. Well, he wouldnít waste this one!††
He kissed her, with all the passion he'd held at bay for far too long; she gave as good as she got. So he gave a little more; she reciprocated. Hands began a fevered exploration, and skin gladly received them. No one knew who was kissing who anymore, nor paid much attention to where.
Neither of them could say who conjured the bed, either, especially since they didnít even notice it until much later, when two pairs of feet found themselves idly entwined under a tent of silk sheets, and blonde tresses spilled across soft pillows. Tired as they were, neither of them slept, for no dream could compare to what they had while they were awake.
Chapter 4: Family Reunion
Jackie Tyler would gladly have raced to the door when she heard a knock at the door, but these days she needed help to get out of her chair, and her husband wasn't willing to oblige. He stayed her with an unnecessary firm glance, thrown over his shoulder as he raced to said door himself, stumbling over the coffee table, a planter, and the umbrella stand en route.
Even pregnant, I'd be more graceful, she thought, shaking her head affectionately at Pete Tyler.
Mickey Smith, who'd come over to discuss Torchwood matters (namely Rose's disappearance) was no less clumsy as he came hurtling into the room. "Is she here?</i>" he blurted before realizing the door wasn't even open yet.
Pete pulled the door open so hard he nearly fell again. "Rose! Thank g-" What he saw standing in the doorway nearly floored him. Again.
As if to make up for the fact that Pete hadn't, Mickey fainted.
It was Rose, all right -- but she was nearly as pregnant as Jackie!
"Surprise!" Rose said through grit teeth, braced for her parent's reaction.††
Pete found himself bodily removed before he'd gathered his wits up enough to respond; Jackie had managed to get herself out of her chair by sheer force of need-to-hug-and-throttle-daughter.
"Get out of the way, you big oaf, I need to see my girl! Rose, where the hell have you--" Her bulging belly had met Rose's as she'd tried to hug her daughter. She stared at Rose's midsection as if a second head were growing there -- which, she supposed, was somewhat true.
"Hallo!" chimed in a familiar face over Rose's shoulder, a face Jackie Tyler thought never to see again -- no matter how it looked!
Pete, on the other hand, had never seen this version of the Doctor. All he knew was that his daughter -- well, okay, not technically his daughter, but as good as -- was standing on his doorstep after having gone missing, suddenly very pregnant and with a strange bloke in tow. There was only one thing to do: punch said bloke's lights out!
He was about to do just that when Jackie exclaimed, "Doctor!" He felt the burn of a pulled muscle in his neck as he whipped his head around to look at his wife.
" So you're Jackie! I see where Rose gets her good looks," Thedoktah said with a wink.
Confusion won out over anger, for the moment. "What?" Jackie asked blankly.
"It's a really long story," Rose said tiredly. "Can we come in and sit down first?"
Her mother nodded numbly.
"By the way, how long was I gone?" Rose asked as she ushered her Doctor inside.
"Three days," Jackie replied weakly.
"Hey, not bad!" Rose said to the Doctor with a grin.††
Shaking her head in befuddlement -- and a bit of annoyance -- Jackie sank into a chair across from her daughter. Pete, after rousing Mickey and answering the doorbell to usher Jakey inside, sat on the chair's arm and held his wife's trembling hand.
And Rose and the Doctor launched into their tale, starting with their meeting at the shop.
After that night in the Zero Room, the TARDIS had informed Rose that she was pregnant. Thedoktah had insisted they go to Gallifrey to make sure the child was all right, given all the extenuating circumstances. The people on his world had insisted on studying her and the effect the TARDIS had had on her -- in a non-obtrusive way, at least. In turn, Rose was learning all she could about her new culture -- and her Doctor's past. He'd never told her much about his people; it had been too painful a topic. It was still painful now, really, but she thought that being on his homeworld, seeing them alive, went a long way towards helping him deal with it, and so she insisted they stay for a while. They agreed it might not be safe to travel so much while she was pregnant anyway.
Still, she didnít want to have the baby without her mum, so they'd finally come back to Earth -- and managed to land remarkably close to their original departure time -- with the intention of bringing Jackie, Pete, Mickey, and even Jakey back to Gallifrey for a visit. For their wedding, actually.
The word "wedding" dispelled the last of any doubts of one Jackie Tyler. She squealed, then launched herself (after Pete helped her out of the chair) across the room to gave her daughter a big, if awkward, hug.
Thedoktah could tell Pete Tyler was less willing to let him off the hook, and frankly, he didnít blame the man.
Mickey, on the other hand, he couldnít read. Or rather, the look in the young man's eyes seemed utterly foreign there. It was the look of a man who knew loss, but understood that what he'd lost had never really been his in the first place. Mickey loved Rose, but he was truly happy for her. Life in another dimension, fighting for a cause, had matured "Ricky". As if he'd read the Doctor's mind, Mickey nodded at him, in a gesture of acceptance. The Doctor was surprised at how deeply that slight nod moved him, how much the opinion of one Mickey Smith meant to him. Maybe merging with this reality's self had changed the Doctor for the better, too.
Jakey shot nervous glances at Mickey, and Thedoktah could tell he was worried for his friend. Doubtless Mickey had expressed a wish that Rose could move on, with him, and Jakey wondered how his mate was taking the news that Rose was now forever beyond his reach. Even so, he gave Thedoktah a small, if wary, smile.
As he sat at his beloved's side, hands clasped, Thedoktah took in this gathering of humans, realising that in marrying Rose, he'd be gaining a family.
The thought, astonishingly, made him grin from big ear to big ear.††
~ Finis ~