|Multi-Era, Tenth Doctor, Twelfth Doctor|
Prelude to Another Eternity by Bria [Reviews - 6] |
I've had this in my head since New Year's but I wrestled with a Doctor we'd only had a glimpse of in Day of the Doctor and Time of the Doctor and my writing of it stalled as this stayed in my drafts folder for months. This week my goal became finishing it before the season 8 premiere when this will likely becomes even more AU (and potentially OOC for Capaldi's Doctor) than it probably already is…
Spoilers to the last 4 issues of the comic series Prisoners of Time and a nod to the Fourth Doctor are found within. He had a line I couldn't resist using.
Many thanks to Marie Chambers for her encouragement and saying two simple words that changed the course of the story for the better.
The impact of her feet hitting the ground jarred Rose Tyler but she remained upright. There had been something different about this jump. She didn’t know exactly what it was, but she had felt it from the moment she pressed the button on the dimension cannon in Torchwood. Yes, the jump took only seconds but still…. it had been a completely different sensation this time. She glanced around and found herself on a council estate, not unlike the one she had grown up on.
Rose saw a laughing party of three as they stumbled closer and closer to her, singing terribly off key to Auld Lang Syne between toots on paper horns. Even if they weren’t close enough yet for her to read the words on the crowns on their heads, it was clear that a year had just drawn to a close or was about to.
“Oi! You see that?” A short man said to the two girls who were hanging onto him, one on each arm. “Appeared out of nowhere she did!”
“No she didn’t! That’s the ale talking, you idiot,” the girl on his right arm giggled.
“Yeah, I reckon you’re probably right.” The man joined in her laughter and none of them looked at Rose again. “It’s not even midnight and I’m already completely pissed.”
Rose rolled her eyes as they passed out of sight, thankful that they hadn’t given her a second glance. It didn’t happen often but it was never fun trying to come up with excuses when people witnessed her sudden appearance. She glanced around and there, just down the street, was the TARDIS.
Her heart started to beat an urgent tattoo. Finally, she had found it, at the beginning of a jump instead of having to search for it. Almost without conscious thought she started running, her feet pounding the pavement. Upon reaching it she threw her arms around the timeship and hugged it. She had missed the TARDIS almost as much as she had missed the Doctor.
Rose’s hands shook as she reached inside her jacket and removed the TARDIS key from around her neck. Other than the psychic paper, it had been the only thing she’d had of the Doctor’s after Canary Wharf and from that day on she had refused to remove it on sheer principle. Not for a moment, not even a second. It belonged close to her heart just as he still was. Once she had the key she inserted it into the lock and turned her hand.
Something was wrong; the key did not budge. She stepped back and looked more closely at the TARDIS. The blue box looked a tad different from the last time she had seen it. There was a sticker on it. St. John Ambulance, it read. She swallowed as a sinking feeling crept upon her. There had never been a sticker there during her years with the Doctor. As she remembered how different the jump had felt she started to worry.
What if this TARDIS belonged to a past or a future Doctor and she had travelled farther in time than she had intended? With that sticker it probably wasn’t the first version of her Doctor that she had known, since he had regenerated just before they met, and while she’d love to see that face again, that was for the best considering paradoxes and all if she too was on board at the moment. Perhaps it was her second version of him but she doubted that; the sticker just didn’t seem very him. Regardless of which incarnation was inside though, she knew he would be the same man. Still, she wanted her Doctor.
Rose braced herself for whatever would happen next and opened her mouth to call out his name when the doors abruptly started to open. The first thing she saw was grey hair. Yes, this was a different Doctor. But past or future, that was the question.
Once the doors were completely open the answer was immediately revealed. She’d recognize this man anywhere, even if he hadn’t been stepping out of the TARDIS. He had the same intensity about him that signified Doctor to her. It was his eyes though that told her all she needed to know. He looked at her the same way he had always looked at her, his eyes crinkled around the edges.
“Rose Tyler.” A smile, the one he reserved only for her, lit up his face and he opened his arms. Without a second thought she stepped into his embrace.
The Doctor stared at the TARDIS console in annoyance. He no longer liked New Year’s and avoided it at all cost whenever he could. Especially New Year’s in London. It was only Clara’s request to ring in the New Year with her family that made him willing to be here, on this day, at all. Things had been rocky between them in the past several days since his regeneration and she’d told him she needed a break for the night. He agreed with her even though he hated the night she had asked to go to. He would stay inside so he could perform post-Trenzalore maintenance on the TARDIS while she was away and pretend it was any other night.
He looked up, startled, as he heard a key in the lock on the door. Clara had not intended to return for the evening since she had a party to attend with her cousin and was going to spend the night. Yet the proximity alarm had not gone off which meant the TARDIS knew whoever was outside.
“Jack,” he muttered, hoping he was wrong. The perception filter kept human eyes from noticing his ship and his former companion was the most likely candidate to have found his way back to him. Just what he didn’t want to deal with at the moment.
Thankful that Clara was not with him since the last thing he needed was the former Time Agent flirting with her, he brought up the monitor and had a look outside. He stopped breathing for several moments and his respiratory bypass system kicked in when he saw his precious pink and yellow girl on the screen.
Rose Tyler. The first New Year’s he’d had in London since 2005 and here she was again. It had been wonderful to see her moments before he regenerated so long ago but the fact that she hadn’t known who he was, or what she meant to him, made it a very bittersweet memory, its only saving grace the pride he had felt in her.
The Doctor was torn. He knew that if she saw him she would have to forget it. What he was contemplating was selfish, a New Year’s where she knew who he was. His ship would take him away from her if he requested it but could he bring himself to do it?
He thought his moment with her on New Year’s 2005 had been his final reward but what if it wasn’t?
If something can be remembered, it can come back. Had he not said those words to Amy Pond in his previous life never daring to believe he would see Rose again? Then he had encountered her from the days she travelled with his ninth incarnation and she had teamed up with his tenth form and that him and they had all redeemed Adam together. Once that had happened he truly believed she was out of his life forever. Yet here she was, right on the other side of the TARDIS doors; all he had to do was allow this to happen.
However, what if he did the responsible thing and dematerialized but Rose had managed to get a hand hold first? He shuddered at the thought. The TARDIS had protected Clara from the vortex but he doubted his old girl’s shields could do that again so soon, never mind the fact he would never consciously put a companion in harm’s way like that, much less Rose. Jack had proved that mode of transport could be deadly and only his immortality had brought him back.
The Doctor made his decision. Rose’s safety was of the utmost importance to him, above and beyond the protection of timelines, but he’d choose this even if there was no potential danger to her life. Centuries after it was asked, he had his answer to Kazran Sardick’s question. This was the day he would choose. He knew they would get a fraction of that time, but she would always be his choice. Without another thought he went to the doors and thrust them open.
“Rose Tyler.” He caressed her name in delight, as opened his arms to embrace her and she stepped willingly into them. “I never thought I’d see you again.”
“Doctor,” came her simple reply as she rested her head against his shoulder and a deep breath escaped her lips.
He held her briefly and while he didn’t want to pull away, he knew that despite the opportunity, time was not on their side.
Rose looked up at him as she bit one of her thumbnails and looked around the TARDIS interior. She walked around the console studying everything carefully. “Oh, she’s changed too.”
She shook her head and then smiled, though it was a sad one that tugged at his hearts. “New, new TARDIS, I suppose. You umm… probably want to know what I’m doing here?”
His eyes raked over her from the crown of her head to her shoes, marveling at how she looked exactly the same as she had before the Dalek changed everything and set them on different paths. “I know what you’re doing, Rose. It’s reckless, dangerous….” He paused. “Amazing.”
“It works then?” she breathed out, her tongue poking through her teeth and causing his hearts to dance in his chest in a way they haven’t since a bombed out London street.
The Doctor nodded. When he had given up and deemed getting back to her impossible, she had prevailed. “Of course it does. You’re brilliant.”
“But not like this?”
“No, not like this.”
“How long then?”
The Doctor studied the subtleties of her face and then pulled out his sonic screwdriver and scanned her to determine her biological age in relation to their reunion. “Not very long for you. Less than a fortnight.”
“And um, are you… ” she trailed off as she returned his gaze and he could plainly see the longing in her eyes even if she didn’t finish the sentence.
He gave her a tender smile. “I’m the same me you knew when you find me.”
Relief flashed across Rose’s face but she attempted to hide it behind a smile. “I’ve missed him… you, so much.”
“I’ve missed you too. More than I can ever say.”
“You said you thought you’d never see me again.”
He nodded. “I did.”
“So I’m gone then?”
He swallowed thickly as he reached out and squeezed her hand, appreciating her choice of words. While she had been dead for ages, she was also a time traveller, and in his mind she was always young and very much alive. Somewhere, out in the vastness of time and space he was still with her, hugging her at Downing Street and laughing with her in the apple grass on New Earth. “Yes.”
“When is it?”
“It’s New Year’s.”
“I know that,” she shook her head and looked into his eyes. “I saw folks celebrating outside. I meant when, for you? How long?”
“I’m over two thousand, Rose,” he sighed as in that moment he felt each and every year with a potential millennium more of them stretched out before him.
Rose gasped and the hand not holding his covered her mouth. “I…I don’t know what to say, Doctor. I knew, but… ‘s different to see it.”
“This is my life, Rose. My lives. I walk in eternity.” Twice over...
A small vibrating sound rent the air and Rose looked down at wrist with a frown.
“What is it?” he asked, his eyebrows wrinkling. Surely their time wasn’t over already.
“The dimension cannon. It’ll be recharged in 15 minutes.”
“Is that all the time we have?”
Rose shook her head. “No. A bit longer than that.. It takes a half hour to recharge and then if I don’t show up after two hours here, Mickey will jump as well.”
Relief coursed through the Doctor. “What do you want to do then?“
She studied him for a second and then stepped forward. “C’mon, Doctor,” she said, as she led him back towards the TARDIS door. “I know just the thing.”
“Where are we going?”
Rose opened the doors and beckoned him to her. “Chips; we’re going for chips. I saw a shop open across from the estate because of the fireworks.”
While he didn’t want to go out, the Doctor couldn’t refuse her, especially in her enthusiasm. He reached out his hand to take hers and they walked through the courtyard to the chippie. He waited restlessly, cursing time, while Rose ordered the food and then watched in amusement as she drizzled vinegar on them and then bit into one with a pleased sigh.
“So, you know what I’ve been up to lately, Doctor. What about you? What adventures have you had?”
“Oh, you know me, Rose, always finding trouble.”
“’Course.” She agreed a smile.
“I’ve meet Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Vincent van Gogh. Fought vampires in Venice, defeated Daleks and the Cybermen yet again.”
Rose ate a few more chips as they sat in companionable silence for a few moments and then twinned her fingers in his from across the table, rubbing her thumb across his. “Same old Doctor. I would’ve loved to have been there with you. I almost can’t believe I am right now. Yesterday I was shouting at your back from a monitor in Torchwood and today here I am.”
The Doctor returned her comforting gesture. “Nor did I expect to see you again. You never cease to amaze me.”
“Is this the next you then?” Rose queried and then paused as realization dawned on her face when he didn’t answer her immediately. “I’m going to have to forget this, aren’t I?”
“Yes.” he sighed. “Rose, I’m so sorry,” he said, and he truly was. He’d been thinking so much of himself, of all his losses, and he hadn’t stopped to think enough about what this would cost her.
“I’m not. Don’t think, Doctor, that I would ever regret spending time with you. Not even for a second.” Rose’s eyes blazed with conviction, a look he had seen many times, and as always, it didn’t fail to leave him in awe of her.
After helping himself to a few chips, he began. “There’s one incarnation between the last me you knew and this one. I just regenerated in fact.”
“Are you alone?” Rose’s voice was tinged with concern.
He shook his head. “No. Her name is Clara. She’s spending the holiday at her cousin’s flat.
“Good. That’s what I worried about in 2012 and after Canary Wharf. I was worried that you were travelling alone like you said would. I wanted somebody to hold your hand since I couldn’t any longer. I just wish that there was a way we could always be together. That I could stay with you for all your lives.” Rose blinked, her eyes shining and the longing he had noticed earlier was back in them, though this time it was directed at him.
The Doctor smiled at her warmly, as he felt the same longing for that impossibility inside himself. Regeneration, and more importantly, time, had helped make the loss of his precious girl not as crushing as it had been in his tenth life, but the mark she had left on his hearts was indelible. He was forever shaped by the two lives he’d had with her, more so than with any other companion and her absence was something he would carry with him forever.
“That was never going to happen, Rose, much as I wanted it. But you get your forever. I promise.”
“Yes. The Doctor in the TARDIS, in love with Rose Tyler. Just as it should be.” he confirmed. But not with this me…
Rose suddenly got up from her seat and moved to the other side of the table, sliding in beside him on the bench seat. “Quite right,” she said, bumping his shoulder with her own. She finished eating and after throwing away her trash and stowing the tray, they stepped back out into the night.
As they walked back to the TARDIS, still hand in hand, a question of his own came to mind. “After you’re gone, that isn’t the last I see of you. You were the first human face that me saw, but also the last. Long after we were parted I went back and saw you right before I regenerated. January the 1st, 2005. You were talking with your mum on the estate and then you saw me, hidden in the shadows. Do you remember that?"
Rose looked at him as her brow furrowed and she got a faraway look in her eyes. “Too much to drink.” This time around it was a statement and not the question it had been that night.
The Doctor had always wondered after that encounter if she ever remembered meeting him and now it was clear she had. “In a way. Radiation poisoning caused me to regenerate after I saved a friend’s life.”
“I remembered it as the ash was coming down from the Sycrorax ship, realized that had been you and that you weren’t drunk. Didn’t think I should tell you about you dying again. Didn’t even want to think about it happening. “ Rose’s voice cracked as she shuddered.
He nodded in agreement. “It was best you didn’t say anything. But Rose, you once again gave me reason to smile before I regenerated.”
As they stepped onto the council estate, cheers rang out from one of the flats up ahead. Strains of Auld Lang Syne filled the air and Rose stopped, once again giving him her tongue touched smile.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o’ lang syne!
Oh, how appropriate. Yes, it was traditional for this time of year but it was also appropriate for them. The girl he would never forget, her hand firmly entwined in his. She pressed her body close to his and started swaying to the music. “Happy New Year’s, Doctor.”
With a smile the Doctor moved his free hand to her waist as they moved in time to the music. It certainly was nothing like their dance during the Blitz. That had fun and upbeat and his way of proving to her he was a man and he did have moves. This time around Rose quickly removed her hand from his and instead wrapped her arms around his back and rested her head against his chest with a gentle smile. When the music ended she continued to sway in his arms for several moments.
Finally a resigned sigh escaped her lips and Rose reached up and cupped his cheek. “It’s time.”
He looked at her, and his hearts fell. The moment had come and he was not prepared. He still felt the centuries behind him, yet the burden felt lighter at least for now and he owed that all to her.
Rose tilted her face up, and pressed her lips to his. Her kiss was soft, a mere brush of her lips against his own, as light and refreshing as a morning breeze and yet his respiratory bypass had to kick in for the second time that evening. “I’m ready. I love you, Doctor. Always,” she breathed against his mouth.
“Rose Tyler,” he paused and pulled away slightly so he could look into her eyes. “I love you. I have loved you since ‘run,’ and I will love you until I breathe my very last breath of all my lives. Thank you for sharing your life with me.”
Tears flowed from Rose’s eyes and she flung her arms around him one last time. “I’m so glad I got to meet this you. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. My Doctor,” she whispered as she hugged him tightly.
“My Rose.” The Doctor stepped out of her embrace in front of the TARDIS and lifted his hands to Rose’s temples. Her eyes fluttered closed but she kept the sweetest smile upon her face as she entrusted her mind to his care.
The look on her face was all it took and the Doctor knew what he was going to do. While she had to forget for now, it would not be permanent. He wouldn’t allow that. She had to know of this night. His mishandling of Bad Wolf Bay would be rectified. The words had needed saying, and she deserved to hear them, from him, and not just his other self. He timelocked her memory of this evening for release on January 1st of the year following him leaving her with his metacrisis. That should allow her time to adjust to her life with his part-human counterpart and bring a smile to her face rather than sadness to her heart.
Once the task was done, the Doctor soniced the dimension cannon’s time display to coincide with her arrival in London. He’d had less than two hours with Rose but it meant everything to him and he kissed her forehead in farewell.
He stepped inside the TARDIS and went to the console. As he flipped the buttons and levers to take him in to the vortex (he would return for Clara tomorrow), he was grateful to have had a New Years with his beloved Rose, before the start of another eternity.
Rose watched the TARDIS dematerialize. A slight buzzing filled her head and she shook her head to clear it. Once again she had she had just missed it. Yet for the first time in a while she felt much lighter, more hopeful. She had seen the Doctor from across universes several times lately but he had never seen her and it got harder each time that happened. It never stopped her, as the stars were going out and she was determined to return to the man she loved, but each time it had left her feeling frustrated and even a bit discouraged.
Tonight however it was different. This was the closest she had been to the TARDIS since she started dimension jumping. She breathed in the smell of charged ions from the air. Rose quickly punched in the coordinates for her jump back to Torchwood and headed towards a nearby playground to wait out her half hour. As she sat down on a bench she made a vow to herself that the next time she celebrated New Year's, it would be with the Doctor.