“Is this... him, I mean... is this my... watch?” John asked, feeling weak at the knees after he had thrown up. He stared at it as it rested in the boy's outstretched hand. Apart from the strange etchings on the lid it looked like an ordinary watch, albeit a broken one.
“Take it. It wants to be held,” Timothy said. He took a step towards him. John tore his eyes from the tarnished silver watch looking towards Joan and Miss Noble. He felt both attracted to and repulsed by the timepiece and he didn't want to touch it. He shied away from the boy.
“Who is this... Doctor?” he asked. “If he's real, what... you travel with him!” he cried looking at Miss Noble. “Why do you travel with a man from outer space?”
“He needs someone to stop him. He's... lonely,” Miss Noble said.
“Lonely? And that is what you want me to become?” He stared at her in shock and disgust. “What sort of a companion are you?”
“Please, just hold it,” Joan said, a hint of despair in her otherwise calm manner.
“Why didn't you take it to the watchmaker?” Miss Noble asked the boy, collecting herself after the assault of his words; clearly, they had stung.
“It wanted me to keep it safe, and hide it,” Timothy said. “It told me to wait for the right moment.”
“And this is it?” John asked, panicked.
“Please, John. The Doctor might be able to save Marianne's life,” Miss Noble said softly, and he had the impression that this was the argument she had kept for last, to suggest something to him that he simply couldn't turn down. It scared him. That Doctor was powerful enough to save lives? To give immortality to a band of thieves?
“What kind of a man is he?” he said, recoiling once again. Asking this disgusted him, but for Marianne's sake he had to know.
For a while they were silent and they could hear the men and boys getting ready for battle below stairs, their boots thumping on the floors and stairs, shouting orders at each other. How terrified they must be. They were just boys and now they had to fight because of... him? Or the man that was hiding inside him? He stumbled and gripped the back of a chair for support.
“I'm scared of the Doctor,” Timothy said, and Miss Noble looked at him in horror, but the boy ignored her and went on, “I've seen him. He's... like fire and ice and rage. He's like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun.“
“Stop it,” John whispered.
“He's ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe,” Timothy said, undeterred.
“I said stop it!” John said, his voice firmer now.
“And he's wonderful,” the boy finished with a smile. Miss Noble nodded, and she, too, was smiling.
John found it hard to breathe. How could they do this to him? How... could he do this to them? To Marianne?
“Would you give us a moment?” Joan asked gently. She took the watch, then Miss Noble and Timothy left.
“Just hold it,” Joan said. From below stairs and outside came the first sounds of battle. If the Family were still in the school then there wasn't much time. His heart was racing in his chest and he found it hard to think clearly. The Doctor seemed... very much like a god. How could someone like him decide to hide as John Smith and live like an ordinary teacher who was over the moon to be loved by a woman like Marianne Prentice?
He took the watch. It sat on his palm, its weight reassuring, the silver warm from Joan's hand. Nothing about it suggested that it was anything more than an ordinary fob watch.
“Go to Marianne, say goodbye to her,” Joan said. “Then open the watch.”
“What if I don't?” he asked defiantly.
“The universe will be cast into chaos. The Family would live forever and conquer worlds and sow war and destruction. It's in the journal, John,” she reminded him kindly.
“What about John Smith? What happens to him?” he asked.
Joan shook her head. “I don't know.”
“What about Marianne? Will she still love me when I'm not... I mean she'd live if the Doctor chooses to save her... but... but if...” he stammered, unable to follow through all of his thoughts for one was more horrible than the last. They were chasing each other, they were too fast to hold on to and still them.
“I'm sorry, John,” was all Joan could say.
He sniffed, then straightened. He had to do it for Marianne and to stop the killing. If he just stood by, doing nothing, being this... coward, he knew he would never be able to look at himself in the mirror again.
“Go to her,” Joan said.
Through the daze of her pain Rose became aware of someone by her bedside. Mustering strength to just open her eyes was becoming impossible and she wondered, briefly, if she could just keep them closed. But then she felt John's lips on hers and she simply had to respond to him. He loved her so unconditionally it took her breath away.
“Hey,” she murmured as she forced her eyes open. The light in the room was dim, but she could see his stricken expression. Incredible sadness and fear mixed in his dark eyes and she was reminded of the Doctor when he had said good-bye to her on the beach that bore her name.
“Marianne,” he smiled. There was more he wanted to say, she could sense it, but words failed him. She wanted to reach out and touch him, but all she could do was curl her fingers a little. Why wasn't his hand in hers? She dropped her gaze to his hand and saw the fob watch. And then, as if the discovery sharpened her senses, she could hear yells and gunfire outside. Her eyes widened in shock.
“I have to go, Marianne,” he said softly to keep his voice from breaking. “I have... there is... it's complicated.”
“So this... 's goodbye, yeah?” she asked. She had to be brave for John, to pretend she didn't understand what was going on, to make this easier for him. It was hard because she knew that this was the last time she would see John Smith.
“I...” he began, but then he paused. He looked away, sniffed as his emotions threatened to overwhelm him, and then looked at her again. His fingers tangled in her hair and he was so close. “Yes, it's goodbye.”
“Give me... your hand,” Rose whispered. Speaking became increasingly harder. It was time for John to go, and for the Doctor to return. She slid her hand into his before he had a chance to move the watch to his other hand. A surge of power and strength rushed through her and she gasped as all her pain was gone for a few blissful moments.
It was spring and a gentle breeze tugged at her veil and at his hair as he smiled and leaned down to kiss her. They were on a train to somewhere, the landscape flitting past, strange houses and strange landscapes but they were so wrapped up in each other, travelling and making love. There was pain, then nothing and then an infant's cry shattered the eerie silence. The tenderness in his eyes as he held their son for the first time broke her heart and she knew that they could never have a life like this. This wasn't the Doctor. He didn't play with his children in the fallen autumn leaves, nor would he die, peacefully, of old age, in their bed. He would regenerate, maybe with her by his side. There wouldn't be children, they'd be travelling and saving planets, discovering the wonders of the universe. There would be laughter and tears and lots of hugs and love. Always love until, eventually, her forever had to come to an end.
John gasped and withdrew his hand. Rose felt the loss of the Time Lord's strength acutely, but there was enough left to say a few things.
“You... have to go...” Rose whispered.
“I love you.”
“I love you. Always,” she said, trying to smile, trying to make him understand that she would love the Doctor too, that she had always loved him.
A tear escaped and tumbled down his cheek.
“Don't,” she said.
“I'm scared, Rose.”
She smiled. He knew. Somewhere deep inside, he knew. “I'll have to go before you, after all,” he chuckled bravely. After an awkward pause he kissed her; what could you do when everything was said and done, and still there had not been enough by far? He put all of his emotions into the gentle touch of lips on lips. Then he was gone, and staying awake didn't matter any more. Rose closed her eyes and welcomed the comforting darkness of oblivion. Marianne Prentice followed John Smith.
Rose died shortly before midnight. Joan had given her another dose of morphine, injecting her with the contents of the last ampoule Dr Bennett had left behind. It was all he had, and he promised to bring back more in the morning. Donna would never forget the gentle tap-tap of Joan's fingernail against the top before she picked up a sharp knife to make breaking its neck off easier. While Joan filled the syringe with the morphine Donna moved to sit on the bed with Rose, to hold her and offer her some comfort. Rose was drifting in and out of consciousness by then and her breathing became even more laboured, but her eyes spoke volumes, they spoke of hopes and dreams that had given her the strength to keep trying to find the Doctor.
The explosions as well as the battle had stopped about a half-hour after John had left. His expression when he left Rose's room had been grimly determined, but deep down, Donna knew, John was terrified; he was doing this to stop the murder of innocents and to save Rose's life. She managed to stop him on his way out, to offer support and companionship when he opened the watch, but he only asked her to stay with Rose. Donna hugged him and kissed his cheek, mumbling how sorry she was.
That had been three hours ago. They hadn't heard from him since, but they took the end of the destruction to be a good sign. However, Rose had started to moan and cry in pain about an hour ago, mumbling when she was awake, and in one lucid moment had asked them to help her, to stop her torment. An intense gaze between the three women had made any words redundant. It was agreed that they would wait for the Doctor to return, but when he failed to show and Rose began to moan in pain, her breath becoming laboured, the time had come to do something about it.
Joan slid a rubber band around Rose's arm and tightened the noose above her elbow. She tapped the inside of her elbow, found a vein and sunk the needle into the pale, bluish flesh. Donna watched as she depressed the plunger and forced the morphine into Rose's system. Then she loosened the rubber band and pulled it down her arm, releasing the morphine and giving Rose relief.
Donna lay down next to Rose and pulled her into her arms. She didn't want her to die alone. To her surprise, Joan didn't leave but put the syringe into a stainless-steel bowl with a soft, unforgettable clink of glass against metal, before she sat at the foot of the bed.
“Tell him... tell... I loved him,” Rose whispered, gasping for air.
“He knows,” Donna said.
“Rose... Rose... loved him,” Rose insisted, her eyes imploring. “Forever.”
“Yes, love, I'll tell him,” Donna said.
After several minutes her breathing became increasingly shallow, eventually stopping altogether and her body relaxed. Donna held her tight and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.
The Doctor knew that Rose was dead. He could feel it with every fibre of his being. The TARDIS materialised in the courtyard of Farringham School for Boys among sandbags, rifles and the remains of scarecrows. The soldiers were no longer needed, now that the Family had gotten what they wanted, now that their leader was watching over the fields of England. He had been merciful once, but no more. He had given them what they wanted, life eternal, inside the heart of a dwarf star, the event horizon of a collapsing galaxy and a mirror, every mirror. He had a very long life, and he wanted them to experience its sorrows. He wanted them to pay, over and over again.
Rose, who only had that one heart, that single, short human life.
They had taken happiness away from him, and he wanted them to share his misery forever.
He collapsed, howling like an injured animal, once the battle was lost and won. There was no way for him to go back in time to see Rose. The TARDIS wouldn't let him, no matter how much he raged and screamed and beat himself up. She just wouldn't let him.
Furious with his ship he slammed and locked the door behind him and went into the school. He was still wearing John Smith's clothes, and for one moment he wished he could still be him. Although John would still have to mourn Marianne, he would be able to move on, whereas the Time Lord had just lost Rose for the second time. She had come to him from another universe, across the Void, to be with him, and now she was dead because the Family had wanted to lure the Time Lord out of his hiding place.
Marianne — Rose, it had always been Rose — lay in her bed, covered with a pristine sheet, both her arms underneath the white linen, her hands resting just above her heart. She looked asleep and at peace; there was no trace of the pain she had been in.
Her laboured breath echoed in his ears as he slumped onto the edge of her bed, peeling back the snowy sheet covering her face.
“Why?” he asked. He lightly touched her pale face, tracing a line from her jaw across her cheek, over the brow and down the line of her nose before coming to rest on her pale, cracked lips.
“She couldn't bear it any more,” Donna whispered. “She was so brave.”
“Yeah, she was, wasn't she. Did she... was she alone?” he asked.
“No,” Donna said, still shaken. “No, we were with her. I held her.”
The Doctor looked up and met her eyes. “Thank you.” He felt a tear trickle down his cheek and ducked his head as he brushed it away. She came to stand behind him and wrapped her arms around him. “She couldn't bear it any more. We couldn't... we couldn't... She was in so much pain.”
Then Rose gasped for air and arched off the bed. It was as if she'd stayed under too long in the bathtub and she had to break the surface of the water when the instinct to breathe overruled her strong will. She flopped back down, coughing violently as she tried to gulp in huge lungfuls of air. The Doctor shook off Donna and pulled Rose up into a sitting position, one arm across her chest, fingers digging into the dressings of the burns on her shoulder. He rubbed her back and encouraged her to breathe slowly. Instinct kicked in and pushed all his questions to the back of his mind. “Slowly, Rose, take it slowly. I'm here, it's all right,” he whispered, widening the circles on her back and increasing the pressure just a bit.
Donna had backed away from them, unable to even begin to understand what was happening, but when he looked at her over his shoulder and grinned, she snapped out of it. She hurried to the other side of the bed and helped him settle Rose back into the pillows. Rose's eyes darted from his to hers and back again, still a little panicked, but Donna saw immediately that her eyes were no longer glassy with pain.
There was, however, an unusual golden tinge in her irises. Rose's eyes always looked a bit golden, like dark amber, but the glow was more distinctive now, and it seemed to shine of its own accord.
“Doctor?” Rose said softly.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling warmly at her.
“Where's... John?” she asked.
“He's gone, Rose. He opened the watch so I could return,” he said.
“What about the Family?” Donna asked, unable to look away from the golden glow in Rose's eyes. The Doctor looked from Donna to Rose, and then he recognised it.
“Bad Wolf,” he whispered in awe.
“What?” Donna asked, and he could feel her eyes on him. He looked up to meet her gaze. “Bad Wolf! You can see it too, can't you? Donna? The golden glow in her eyes? It's there, right?” he asked, suddenly frantic as the shock wore off and the questions pushed to the fore.
Donna looked at him. “It's gone.”
Rose's eyes had taken on their usual light brown colour, and they were filled with confusion. Had he only imagined things? But how come Rose was alive then?
“Doctor?” Donna asked. “Doctor, what's going on?”
“I don't... I don't know,” he stammered. He reached for Joan's stethoscope on the bedside table and pulled the sheet further down. The right side of her torso was so heavily bandaged that they had been unable to dress her. Donna averted her eyes to give them some privacy as he listened intently to her heartbeat and her lungs. There was nothing to indicate that she had inhaled fire and smoke.
He looked at Rose. “Go ahead,” she encouraged him softly. Gently, he lifted part of the dressing on her shoulder. The smell of burnt flesh hit him and he shied back, covering up her wounds. This didn't make sense. At all.
“It's Bad Wolf, Doctor,” Rose said, moaning a little at the end of her sentence.
“I used her to find the right TARDIS, to come back to you. It's like...” Rose trailed off as another wave of pain washed over her, “It's like gravity. She drew me in. And now she made sure I... things were set right.”
“But,” the Doctor spluttered. It did make sense. Bad Wolf created herself, she'd said that, back at the Game Station. So there was no reason why she couldn't revive — which was an act of creation, in a way — and heal herself, shut down her body completely and reboot it. “You still need time to recover, Rose.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I'm tired and... can I have something for the pain?”
Donna, who until then had listened in stunned silence, rose. “I'll go and get Joan.”
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