A Lesson in Timelines by littleredkoalabear
Summary: For her birthday the Doctor takes Rose to see the Northern Lights and ends up showing her the universe.
Categories: Ninth Doctor
Characters: Rose Tyler, The Doctor (9th)
Genres: Romance, Standalone
A Lesson in Timelines by littleredkoalabear
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes:
He had asked her when it was few days after giving her a key to the TARDIS. If she was going to be a permanent resident on board, a human permanent resident, then it he might as well conform to a few of her customs, every now and then.
It wasn't like it was a big deal.
He was just trying to be a decent friend and all he was going to do was offer to take her anywhere she wanted. That wasn't necessarily a new thing. But maybe he would pick her up something while they were there, so it would be slightly more meaningful than other times. Something small and unimportant, like a paper weight or a coffee mug.
The Doctor was a bit surprised with himself considering this wasn't something he had done in the past. Not that it took a lot of effort, all he had to do was count the number of days she'd been on board, which was easy enough for his Time Lord brain to manage. He was just a little worried that Rose would read too much into it, because he certainly wasn't. Not one bit.
"My birthday?" she asked confused when he broached the subject with her.
"Yep. So where do you want to go?" He beamed at her but she was still unsure.
"But I thought time was all relative on the TARDIS?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Yes, but that only means specific dates. Just because we can travel to any point in time doesn't mean you stop aging. You've been traveling with me for 284 days so you, Rose Tyler, are officially 20 years old as of 1 hour and 45 minutes ago."
He stood in front of her, arms crossed, clearly impressed with himself. She couldn't help but smile back at him. For all his tough guy act got him, he could be a real charmer sometimes.
"Bit domestic if you ask me." Her eyes crinkled with delight at his expression and she gave him her best tongue in cheek smile.
"I was just being nice," he said, suddenly defensive. "If you don't want your gift, you don't have to accept it."
"Relax," she said, slightly pushing on his arm. "I was only teasing. You couldn't be domestic in an apron and hair curlers."
Rose walked around him and up towards the center console. She ran her hands around the edge, thinking about his proposition. Meanwhile, the Doctor brought his own hands to his head, looking suddenly self conscious after her last comment.
He turned to her and watched as she made her decision.
"I know there's probably all kinds of places and things to see that I couldn't even think of so I'm sure you're going to be completely unimpressed with my answer, but . . . could you take me to see the Northern Lights?"
He frowned at her. "The Aurora Borealis?"
"Yeah, that," she nodded.
"Rose, any planet with an atmosphere and magnetic field has those." He responded, not so much unimpressed with her answer as he was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to take her somewhere that he considered really unique.
"I know that," she said, though in all honesty that thought hadn't occurred to her. "S'just, I always wanted to see them and it'd be nice to see something so wonderful happening on my own planet. You know, when there's not aliens tryin' to kill us or somethin'."
He noticed that she was becoming less sure of herself the more she talked about it so he bounded up next to her and started doing his usual thing with the console. The TARDIS whirred into life as they made their way through the Vortex.
"No need to explain. You want Northern Lights? I'll give you the Northern Lights on the night that they're the biggest and brightest Earth will ever see them!"
Rose watched him from the other side of the console, letting the excitement of the moment show in her smile.
A minute later she heard the tell-tale sound of the TARDIS materializing and then all was quiet. She ran over to the doors but paused as she waited for him to join her.
"Go on," he encouraged when he was finally by her side and she swung the doors wide open.
The land stretched out before her, white and completely bare. They must be in the Arctic, but there was no wind or biting cold. In fact, she was quite cozy in her jeans and light sweater. The only part of her that felt any cold were her feet as she stepped out onto the packed snow and ice.
"I've extended the TARDIS's atmosphere. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to watch for more than a few minutes before freezing to death. It's winter here and the sun isn't going to rise for another month," he explained as he stepped out of the TARDIS's doorway and stood behind her.
Rose looked up at the night sky. There were more stars here than she had ever seen on Earth. Between them and the moon lighting up the world around her she realized what a shame it was that cities left their lights on at night. There would be no need for street lights on a cloudless night like this, not when you had the entire universe to light the way home.
Rose marveled at the beauty of her own planet, but she couldn't help but feel disappointed in what she saw. "There're no lights."
The Doctor smiled and took her hand. "Just watch."
And in a moment, the first deep red light danced across the night sky. It twisted and folded in on itself, changing to a purple, then blue, and then finally into a bright green before fading away.
Rose gasped and pointed. "Did you see that!?"
The Doctor only nodded. "Keep watching."
Another burst of red made its way across the star studded canvas and was soon joined by another and then another. Within a few seconds the sky was filled with giant rivers of color. Reds, pinks, violets, and every shade of blue and green. They flowed across the stars until it was all you could see, like a blanket that began and ended at every horizon simultaneously.
It was almost seductive, the way the colors twisted around and blended in with each other. They bent and folded and some even looked like cascading waterfalls as they made their way to the Earth's surface.
But it was more than just the movement of the lights. Rose could hear them, like a sizzling clapping noise as the atmosphere above them heated up. Although there were no other creatures to be seen, Rose could feel the Earth around her come alive with the energy of it all.
She felt the Doctor squeeze her hand and she turned to him. He looked so somber and handsome standing there next to her, with the lights above them illuminating his features and the pinks and greens contrasting against the bright blue of his eyes.
"This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Thank you," she said.
He looked back at her, both of them content to watch the lights as they were reflected on each other. She thought for a moment that he might kiss her but then the moment was over and he turned his gaze back towards the sky.
"I suppose it is a bit amazing. Fantastic, even. It's just highly charged electrons carried from solar wind colliding with the common elements of the atmosphere. It takes about 40 hours for them to reach Earth, but when they do, it's quite the show. Oxygen causes the greens and the reds and nitrogen causes the blues and the purples; it all depends on the altitude. It's interesting what a little change in atmospheric composition can do to a sky."
Rose laughed at the end of his explanation. It was rare that she understood his scientific ramblings but she always found them endearing. "I wish I could see the world the way you do."
The Doctor just continued watching the light show but Rose was silent for another reason. After a moment, she spoke again.
He looked back down at her, unsure of what she meant. "Could you what?"
"See it the way you see it? Could you get inside my head somehow and make me see things the way you do?"
The Doctor raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Rose, that's a really intimate thing for a Time Lord."
"S'not like I'm asking to see your deepest and darkest secrets. And you're certainly not allowed to go snooping around in mine, but could you just . . . I don't know. Let me see through your eyes?"
He shook his head. "You don't know what you're asking."
"I think I do," she pushed.
"No." He crossed his arms and took a step away from her, but Rose had been with him long enough to know how to push him just right if she really wanted her way.
She followed his step and placed a gentle hand on his arm, just below his shoulder, willing him to look at her.
"Doctor, please. Just for a moment."
She felt him begin to soften underneath her touch.
"Please?" she repeated one last time.
He turned his body back towards her and she could tell he had given in.
"You're not going to like it." But he was already reaching his hands out towards her face.
"I'll be the judge of that," she responded as his hands met her temple.
"Rose, I'm warning you now, this may hurt. And I can promise you it won't be pleasant. I can stop it whenever you want, just say so."
"Okay." She gave a quick nod.
He closed his eyes and she followed his example. A second later she felt a sharp pain, similar to an electric shock go through her head and down her spine. It wasn't the most painful thing, but she couldn't help the small flinch of surprise that her body gave in response.
She felt him, like a heavy weight on her consciousness, waiting to move forward into her mind. It was the most peculiar feeling because it wasn't quite physical and yet she could feel it. She had a moment where she thought this must be what it felt like to become possessed.
"I don't have to go any farther. We can stop right here if you're not sure you want to do this," she heard him say. When she opened her eyes, she could still see the world as it normally was, but she also had the feeling that she could somehow move forward with her mind and see what he was seeing. At the very thought of it, she felt the pressure on her mind increase.
"Just wait a moment. I have to set up a stronger connection, otherwise you'll just go stumbling around."
"Er, okay," she said, not really sure what he meant by that, but not liking the sensation that trying to move forward had caused.
The Doctor didn't close his eyes this time and she wondered if he was actually doing anything in her head or if he was still contemplating going through with it at all. Instead of questioning him though, she stood still and watched him while he was lost in thought.
And then, all of sudden, it was like a door was opened in her mind. No, it was more than that. It was as if she had been in a prison cell all her life and the walls had suddenly vanished. She thought about some old story she read in school about a slave who had lived in his cave his whole life and thought the only reality were the shadows in front of him until one day his shackles were broken and he turned around and walked outside.
Plato. She heard the Doctor's voice in her head responding to her thoughts.
She tried to move forward towards where she felt the source of the Doctor's presence but found the way to him was completely sealed off and she was faced with the mental image of a mirror.
Probably a two-way, she thought and she felt the Doctor's response in her mind again. Did he just laugh at me?
She was startled again by how real the words sounded, but it only took her a second to get her bearings.
Yes to what, the two-way mirror or you laughing at me?
Rose took a moment to re-check her surroundings but found that other than a sudden sense of freedom she didn't notice any other changes.
Well, what do I do now?
Look. He sounded amused.
How? And at what?
Start with yourself. Then you should get the hang of it.
So she did, but not with her eyes. She cautiously turned her mind in on herself and felt another shudder, this time caused by a sudden sensory overload. Billions of cells screamed their information at her at once and she gasped out loud from the shock.
Whoa, there. Just try to go slower. Start with one thing at a time.
She felt him farther in her mind this time, guiding her back to where she had just looked.
As she slowly turned around, or inside, or upright or . . . none of the directions seemed to make sense in her head so she tried not to think about them. Instead, she focused on the sound or what appeared to be sound, coming from her chest.
It was her heart. But she wasn't just hearing it. She could feel the blood draining into her right atrium and there was a lub and a whoosh into her right ventricle and the chamber constricted. Valves opened and then shut again. Another constriction and dup and whoosh out into her pulmonary artery. She broadened her senses and felt the left side of her heart working in sync with her right. She felt the rich oxygenated blood flooding her left atrium, being forced into her ventricle, and this time she felt the explosive eruption of it as it was forced into her aorta. She could actually feel the artery expanding like an elastic band from the force of it all.
Again, she looked deeper and all at once she felt all her organs, not just her heart. She felt every little contraction of her stomach and intestines, but she could also feel the functions of the motionless organs. Every little excretion of her pancreas and liver; every enzyme as it attacked and broke down a molecule of nutrient, every hormone that raced through her circulatory system on their way to two dozen different destinations. Her body was so alive and busy and it was amazing that all of this was accomplished all the time, every day, without her having to think about it.
She became aware of a rapid-fire pulsing occurring throughout her muscles and skin and realized she was feeling her own neurons; her body was full of electricity, sending a million signals a second, just to let her know she was standing on her own two feet, that the tag of her t-shirt was beginning to itch, that the cold from the snow was becoming a little too uncomfortable on her feet. She could even begin to feel the vasoconstriction of the capillaries in her feet as they began to withdraw blood in order to keep the rest of her warm.
And her cells! Even the tiny little building blocks that made up her tissues were like little busy bees; pumping in Potassium, pumping out Calcium, constantly working against the gradient. All of it took such an incredible amount of energy and it was all her human brain could do to fully process all the information that every atom in her body was sending her way.
Rose then turned her attention to the outside world before she went mad from listening to the roaring sound of her own body. But what she found before her was the most terrifying thing she'd ever seen.
She was tiny.
Though she could still feel the ground beneath her feet and the Doctor's hands on her face, she felt the vastness of space zoom out from around her and she was suddenly aware of it all. The unspeakably colossal size of the universe around her, filled with a billion galaxies, each with a billion stars, that were each surrounded by dozens of planets, and that one in every few of those planets held billions of life forms.
And her and the Doctor were just two people, on one small planet, around one small star, in one almost empty corner of an ordinary galaxy.
And then she could feel it; what the Doctor had spoke of on their very first day together. Here she was, Rose Tyler, at the top of the world and she could feel it spinning. And her and the Doctor's tininess, their complete insignificance in the universe no longer mattered because they were flying! Held down by the simple trick of gravity, they were racing through space and there was never any such thing as being still when you were a part of this great dance of the planets. Because here was Earth, winding its way around the Sun, in a solar system that was holding hands with its parent galaxy as they spun around the Universe. Rose never wanted to lose the sensation of being so utterly aware of the beautiful ballet that she was right in the middle of.
The universe may never notice her; her life was so insignificant, but that didn't mean she wasn't connected. She had always been a part of this universe and she always would be. Her atoms existed at the beginning of time and though they had been changed, burned up in the heart of a long dead star and spit out again as something new from her own Sun, they were what made her Rose Tyler. This cycle would continue on throughout the rest of the Universe, for one hundred trillion more years, and she would always be a part of it.
Isn't it fantastic?
Rose felt her physical body smile in agreement and she could feel the Doctor burst into joy at how she was marveling at all this sensation rather than fleeing from it.
And then she felt the strangest twisting and pulling force from all around her consciousness. She closed her mind to everything else and focused on this new intrusion in her mind.
Golden ribbons penetrated her mind and trailed off into time and space around her.
Timelines. She realized and she reached out towards the nearest one.
But it was too late. She followed the path of the one she was touching and saw it branching off into a hundred different directions. At the end of every one was a different outcome of today.
In most of the timelines, she could see her and the Doctor going back to their normal lives just as things always were. Hand in hand, a little more than friends but not by much. In some, he was taking her to the third moon of Kartineen, a planet three hundred light years from here, where they would eat some kind of alien ice cream and it would be the sweetest tasting thing she'd ever try. But there were some, very few, but she could still see them, that horrified her. She was standing in front of the Powell Estate and the TARDIS was dematerializing without her inside. Rose pulled away from those instantly, not wanting to see what she could ever do to make the Doctor leave her behind.
More common than those; however, were timelines she couldn't help but be drawn to. At the end of this moment, when she would inevitably return to her normal state of mind, Rose could push things far enough with the Doctor and their relationship would change forever. Because there they were, in a room she could only guess was the Doctor's bedroom, and they were certainly no longer just friends.
Rose watched longer than she should and allowed herself to feel the sensations and emotions that were making its way up from the timeline and into her mind. She could almost lose herself in the feel of their bodies pressed together, his hands gripping her hair, his teeth on her neck, his hips thrusting down to meet hers as he pinned her to the bed. If she allowed it, if she pushed for it, this night would end with the Doctor devouring her in the most intimate of ways.
She would have stayed there longer, contemplating what it all meant to her, but something else was making its way up through the timelines. And not just the one she had allowed herself to become attached to, but every single one that was currently surrounding her consciousness.
The Doctor had once told her how time was fluid and ever changing, and she saw that with the timelines that were gently caressing the edges of her mind, willing her to take a peek. But this was something else entirely, something that would always happen, must always happen, and it was dominating everything around her.
Rose felt herself slowly being drawn into the light that was creeping its way into every part of her being. At first it was warm and smooth and bathed her in an amber light, like the other timelines did and Rose took one last push to look inside it. Suddenly everything about that light burned brighter and hotter than all the stars in existence. She struggled against it, but it was like a rip tide, pulling her ever closer to its center. Whatever it was clamped down with a vice like grip on her mind and blocked out everything else. The only thing besides the searing hot pain that Rose was aware of were the two words being shouted at her from the depths of the event.
And then the Doctor was there, and it was then and now, here and there, and she had never seen him so frightened before.
"I want you safe, my Doctor," she said out loud, on a satellite in the future and in the Arctic here and now.
"Rose, come back," he said and she realized his voice was no longer in her mind.
The timelines were suddenly torn away from her and she felt the limitations of her human mind close back around her. Being shut off from it all so instantly left her with a strong feeling of vertigo. Her knees buckled and she was aware of the Doctor's chest suddenly coming close to her face before she realized she had fallen into him.
She clung to him and she waited for the world around her to stop moving. It wasn't like it had been moments before, where everything had been in rhythm and she could feel the Earth's orbit. Now the ground shifted beneath her feet in a random pattern that left her head spinning and made her legs weak. So she wrapped her arms around his waist and panted, waiting for her body and mind to recover.
After a few moments, she noticed strange lights dancing across the normally dark green of his shirt and she thought she may still be connected to his mind, until she looked up and saw the Aurora Borealis still doing its dance in the night sky. As she watched it, she began to feel like herself again and was able to stand herself upright and face the Doctor properly.
He still looked concerned but his frown softened as he realized she was going to be okay.
"That was . . . incredible," she said, still a little out of breath but steady on her feet. "What was that?"
"A fixed point, sometime in our future. I don't know what. I didn't look once you got caught up in the timelines." He kept his hands on her shoulders as he spoke in case she became dizzy again.
"Oh," she panted, suddenly relieved. It would have been horribly awkward if he had also seen into some of those timelines.
"Why, what did you see?" he asked and brought one hand up to cup her cheek.
She thought back to one timeline, where she could feel him performing the same action before leaning down and sucking on her neck. She shook her head and closed her eyes against the image, not needing the distraction at the moment.
"Something big, I'm not sure. It hurt. All I could see was this light and I could hear a woman screaming."
Rose opened her eyes and looked back at the Doctor. She remembered seeing him too, but she wasn't sure if she had only been confusing the present with the future.
"She was saying 'Bad Wolf'." Rose watched as the Doctor frowned again, seeming to consider what it all meant. He took his hands away from her and shoved them in his pockets, becoming lost in his thoughts.
"Don't you ever look? Maybe you could figure it out," she offered.
The Doctor's expression changed instantly and he smiled at her. "Nah, that'd be cheating. And where's the fun it that?"
"So you have access to all those timelines and you're telling me you never look?" she asked and she hoped she sounded as disbelieving as she felt.
"Only sometimes, and only then to see if something is a fixed point or not. Or to see if something has gone wrong."
He could tell she wasn't satisfied with his answer, so he continued. "What's the point of traveling if I could just sit in the TARDIS all day and imagine all that could be? Of course I'm curious, but that's no way to live and would eventually drive anyone mad, even me. This 'Bad Wolf,' whatever it is, is going to happen to matter what we do, so why worry about it? It could be years until it happens, and when it does, I'll be with you every step of the way. That's a promise. But until then, we both have better things to do then wonder what could be."
Rose listened and at the end of his speech she nodded her understanding. She returned her gaze to the lights above them and realized she had completely forgotten about them when the Doctor had lent her his mind. She felt a pang of regret that she hadn't focused on them so that she could experience them in the way the Doctor did. But then she remembered everything else she had seen, and when she turned to look at the Doctor, he was still watching her.
Before she lost her bravery, she leaned forward and kissed him. It was simple but sweet and although she gave no warning, the Doctor didn't act surprised. Instead he leaned into her, and Rose could feel him attempting to deepen the kiss. Again, she thought back to what she had seen in the timelines and although she could already feel her body responding to his touch, she realized she wasn't ready for that.
She loved him, she could admit that much at least. And judging by the way he held onto her and returned her kiss, she thought he might feel the same way.
But then she thought about Mickey and felt suddenly guilty. She hadn't officially ended things with him and before things went any farther with her and the Doctor, she had to do that.
Against the will of the rest of her body, Rose pulled away, though she couldn't quite force herself out of his embrace just yet.
The Doctor smiled at her, obviously feeling empowered by her kiss. "What was that for?" he asked, slightly out of breath.
She gave a small laugh in return. "Just . . . thank you. For everything."
Rose stepped back, resisting the urge to kiss him again, and took his hand. The Doctor seemed to understand her actions, and though he looked slightly disappointed, he didn't act rejected.
"The day's not over yet," he said, "We can still go wherever you want."
Their moment was over, but they could both acknowledge that they had taken another step forward. Not just because of the kiss, but from what the Doctor had allowed Rose to see. So they smiled at each other and Rose squeezed his hand, knowing there were still timelines out there that led to much more.
"You know, I'm kind of in the mood for ice cream now," she said as they turned around and went back inside the TARDIS.
The Doctor laughed as the doors closed behind them. "I know just the place."
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