Ca' d'Zan by TemporalPhoenix
Summary: Christmas has come round once again, but the Doctor isn’t in the mood to celebrate. Sure, he’ll attend a party or two across history, and maybe even lose himself in a few entertaining distractions...but he knows the holiday cheer won’t last. At least, not without the right hand to hold.
Rating: All Ages
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th), The TARDIS
Genres: Fluff, Introspection, Romance
Ca' d'Zan by TemporalPhoenix
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes: I hope you enjoy this little reunion fic! I imagined it taking place instead of the events of âVoyage of the Damnedâ. (I listened to Peter Hollens' version of "Down By the Salley Gardens" and a lot of Pentatonix holiday covers while writing this back in 2020.)
“Well, I woke up today
And the world was a restless place
It could have been that way for me
And I wandered around
And I thought of your face that Christmas
Looking back at me…”
The Doctor slipped outside through the back door of the mansion, breathing in warm, humid air as he stepped out onto a marble terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay. Venetian in design, the terrace was thankfully quiet and mostly devoid of people. A welcome sight.
The Time Lord let out a quiet sigh as he made his way over to the marble balustrade lining the terrace and leaned against it, gazing out at the dark waters of the bay with a kind of dejected detachment.
This was not the Christmas Eve he had wanted to to have.
He had come to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art tonight to attend the museum's annual Christmas party. They hosted one every year, in the spirit of the family whose fame and wealth had ultimately led to the museum's existence.
The museum was located in Sarasota, Florida, where John Ringling - one of the famous Ringling Circus Brothers - and his wife Mable had spent a great deal of their time and decided to build their own Venetian-style mansion right on the bay front. Their mansion was called Ca' d'Zan, or "House of John", in the tradition of old Venetian palaces.
Holiday music and the merry chatter of party guests drifted out of the mansion into the tropical night. The Doctor wished he felt as merry as the other party guests. He had come here to have fun, and escape the lifetime of grief and loss twisting a knife into his hearts for a few hours.
So far, his plan hadn't worked.
‘Another Christmas gone,’ he thought, with a bittersweet smile. ‘Another Christmas without Rose. ’ Her name still made his hearts stutter and ache, compounding every other loss weighing on him tonight.
He had wanted to go to a Ringling Christmas party this year because it was sure to be entertaining, dazzling, and it was something he had long considered attending but had never actually done so.
Technically, the Doctor had planned to visit the Ringlings' mansion in the late 1920s, when John and Mabel Ringling were actively hosting the famous and wealthy from all over the world at Ca' d'Zan, and throwing impressively decadent holiday galas. He'd intended to go to a Christmas party at Ca’ d’Zan on Christmas Day in 1927, and dressed accordingly in a black suit and bow tie.
He thought he had materialized in the right place and time, but when he'd stepped out of his ship, he'd discovered that he was not, in fact, in 1927. He was in 2008, and it was Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.
The TARDIS insisted that nothing had gone wrong, and that she hadn’t done anything to make him arrive in 2008. The Doctor was not entirely convinced about this, but he eventually had to gave up on trying to figure out what had gone wrong. After all, he had wanted a fun distraction, and there was a perfectly acceptable Christmas Eve party happening at Ca’ d’Zan in 2008.
The year didn’t really matter, in the end. Christmas Eve in 2008 was still a fine destination, though it was a bit temporally….linear.
Resting his chin in his hand, the Doctor gazed out at the bay, and the twinkling lights of the barrier islands beyond. Waves gently lapped at the base of the wall supporting the terrace and the grand marble steps leading down into the water. It was a balmy night, a far cry from his past Christmases in London. The cool breeze blowing in from the Gulf had tempered the humid heat of the day, tousling the Time Lord’s hair and making his tuxedo feel bearable instead of stifling.
The quiet swish of fabric against stone alerted the Doctor to the presence of another guest behind him. He turned to find a young woman in a silver ballgown approaching him. Her artfully styled black hair fluttered in the breeze as their eyes met.
Even before she spoke, he knew what she wanted from him. What she was hoping he might want, too.
“Enjoying the party?” she asked. Her voice was wonderfully warm and welcoming — but nothing like the voice the Doctor really wanted to hear.
He gave her a halfhearted smile. “Venetian architecture, works of art from around the world, beautiful gardens, and a decent band…who wouldn’t enjoy a party like this?”
“And yet you left,” the woman countered. She leaned against the railing beside him and ran a contemplative hand over the smooth marble. Her hazel eyes darted appreciatively down his form, taking in his bow tie, tuxedo, and black plimsolls.
The Doctor’s smile faded, and he looked down at his hands where they clutched the marble railing. “I lost someone who was very dear to me. This time of year reminds me of her.”
Given a quick change of pronouns, that admission could’ve applied to a multitude of people the Doctor had known and loved in his life. Tonight, however, he thought of Rose first and foremost.
The woman in the silver dress straightened, her coy expression quickly shifting to one of sympathy. "I’m sorry,” she said, taking a step back. “I understand what that’s like, around this time of year. My dad, last year."
"Sorry," the Doctor offered.
The woman helplessly shrugged one shoulder and glanced out at the water. "Anyway, I, um, I'm sorry to bother you," she said quietly.
The Doctor gave a small nod, glad he wouldn’t have to say or do anything more to deter her. She muttered another apology under her breath and disappeared back inside the mansion with a flutter of silver fabric.
He watched her go with a heavy sigh. That young woman was barely 25 years-old, with a decently long life ahead of her. She couldn’t have known that he was the last person at the party she would want to pursue for any kind of intimate relationship.
And as much as he knew he shouldn’t travel alone for too long, he wasn’t ready for a new traveling companion yet, and there were so many reasons a lover remained out of question.
Staring across the bay again, the Time Lord felt a familiar restlessness spark to life within him. He was growing tired of this party, this year, all the forced Christmas cheer. It was time to move on. He pushed off the railing and jammed his hands into his trouser pockets, turning around to admire the lights of Ca’ d'Zan one last time.
Then he left the terrace and headed down the bay front promenade, slowly making his way back to the TARDIS. She was parked next door, just outside the former mansion of Charles and Edith Ringling. Charles had been another Ringling Circus Brother. His mansion was built in the same style as Ca’ d’Zan, though it was significantly smaller and had a pink marble exterior.
The interior had once been extravagantly furnished, but most of the original decor was no longer on display because the mansion was currently the visitor center and admissions building for New College of Florida. If the Doctor remembered correctly, the university actively worked to preserve Charles and Edith Ringling’s mansion, leaving much of it as unchanged as possible, while also maintaining its structural integrity.
New College was closed for the winter holidays, and the small campus was mostly empty. The Doctor had meant to materialize closer to the Ringling Museum grounds, but a garden outside Charles Ringling’s former mansion, within sight of Ca’ d’Zan, hadn’t been a bad place to find himself either.
The fronds of the palm trees lining the bay front promenade between New College and Ca’ d’Zan swayed in the breeze as the Doctor walked toward Charles Ringling’s former mansion (named “College Hall” by the university). Set back from the water, it sat dark and silent, unoccupied for the night. The TARDIS was little more than a dark silhouette in shadows beside it, tucked against the south side of College Hall amid some flowering bushes.
The Doctor slowed to a halt, eyes tracing the familiar exterior of his ship from afar.
He wished the Christmas party had been…more . More fun, more exciting. More distracting. Maybe a little less lonely. Funny how that worked; one could be surrounded by a crowd of friendly people, and still feel utterly alone.
The Time Lord faced the bay again, releasing a quiet exhale as resignation settled over him. It was time to go. Tilting his head back, he studied the hazy night sky, thinking about where he might want to go next. It was unlikely that he would ever return to this particular place and time. There was nothing for him here.
He took a step back, then another, until he was standing on green grass instead of pavement.
“Allons-y,” he whispered. He let his gaze linger one last time on the buildings draped with lights across the bay, and the sliver of moonlight shimmering on the water. Then he turned away, and began making his way back to the TARDIS.
As always, his ship was waiting for him, humming comfortingly in the back of his mind via their telepathic bond. She was the one true constant in his life now, the only one remaining when everything and everyone else was gone.
The Doctor was contemplating this morose line of thought when a brilliant burst of light from the second floor of College Hall abruptly caught his attention. He froze in his tracks, watching in bewilderment and alarm as the light flickered and flashed, growing brighter and brighter until he was forced to look away.
A ripple in the fabric of Space-Time rolled through his senses, making him gasp in surprise. Then the feeling and the light faded away, leaving behind only a tingling, electric sensation that made the Doctor’s skin prickle.
With a burst of excitement rushing through him, the Time Lord knew he had to investigate whatever had caused that light. He ran across the grass to College Hall, plimsolls sinking into the damp, spongy soil with every step. There were only a few hours left until Christmas Day. No one should be inside the old mansion right now. Especially not someone with the ability to disturb the very fabric of space and time.
The Doctor could sense small changes already cascading through the timelines around him as he raced past a copse of palm trees and under the limbs of a sprawling oak. He threw a curious glance at the TARDIS as he passed her on his way to the southern entrance of College Hall.
His ship seemed oddly unperturbed by the timelines still in flux around them, merely humming with growing interest about whatever they two of them had just witnessed. That was either reassuring or somewhat alarming.
The Doctor vaulted over the metal railing that ran the length of the ramp leading up to the entrance and skidded to a halt in front of the door. Taking his sonic screwdriver out of his jacket pocket, he adjusted the settings and held it over the key-code activated lock. The little red light on the keypad flashed once, then changed to green, and the lock slid open.
The Time Lord grinned, twirling the sonic in his hand as he pulled the heavy door open.
A grand music room that was original to the mansion took up most of the first floor on this side of the building. The Doctor had seen some of it earlier, when he’d peeked in through the windows before going to the party.
The music room was quiet and cool when he stepped inside. Music stands and folding chairs were clustered next to a piano in one corner of the room, ready to be used at future events. The only sound audible was the flow of air being forced through the air conditioning system.
'Or….maybe not just the air conditioning,' the Doctor thought.
He swiftly crossed the room, doing his best to keep his steps light on the wood floor after noticing that the ceiling above him was designed to amplify sound. Every step he took still echoed despite his efforts, practically erasing his chances of sneaking up on whoever, or whatever, had caused that blaze of light.
He darted up the stairs on the other side of the room as soon as possible, and burst into a green, pink, and white marble foyer. An ornate fireplace was built into the wall to his left, separating the foyer from what looked like some kind of sunroom. Ahead of him, he could see a wide, marble staircase curving up to the second floor.
Raising the sonic in front of him as both a torch and possible defense, the Time Lord scanned the foyer and the adjacent sunroom looking out at Sarasota Bay.
No major signs of life, or residual temporal energy. Whatever had caused the burst of light was still upstairs somewhere.
He made his way over to the curved marble staircase on the other side of the foyer and paused on the first step, belatedly realizing that he could hear a voice whispering anxiously somewhere upstairs.
Aha! So, it was a being, or person, of some kind. Interesting.
Whoever it was, they certainly didn’t sound too happy about something.
The Doctor bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time and no longer bothering to stay quiet. Hazy moonlight filtered through the second floor windows, casting a collage of light and shadow over everything. The eyes of the circus animals in the faux fresco painted on the wall beside the staircase seemed to follow the Time Lord as he passed them.
Just as he reached the top step, he heard a metallic clatter from the hallway to his left, and turned a little too fast to see what the source of the sound was. His trainers slipped on the smooth marble floor and he flailed, nearly falling on his face in a most un-Time-Lordly manner before catching his balance at the last second.
His arrival made the intruder curse and stumble backward through an open doorway at the end of the hallway. They bumped into something with a dull 'thud', and muttered another curse under their breath before going silent.
The Doctor cocked his head slightly as he listened to their fast, shallow breaths. This person had to be the source of the light he’d seen earlier. Their individual presence in space and time was far stronger by itself than he’d been prepared to encounter. His grip tightened on the sonic screwdriver as he aimed it directly at the intruder.
“Hello? Who are you? Where did you come from?” he called out.
The person gasped.
The Time Lord moved closer, stopping halfway down the corridor in front of one of the floor to ceiling windows facing Sarasota Bay. “Sorry if I startled you,” he said. “I just saw a burst of light in here a few minutes ago. Would you happen to know anything about that? I thought it was a bit odd, seeing as it’s Christmas Eve, and everyone’s gone home for the holidays.”
Fiery hope and frigid disbelief tore through him in an instant. That voice. He knew that voice.
But that was impossible! Rose Tyler no longer existed in his universe. He was just imagining things because he was growing older, and lonelier, and he missed her with all his hearts.
Then the figure cautiously stepped forward into a shaft of light coming through the window at the end of the hallway.
The Doctor’s breath caught in his throat. “Rose?” he whispered. This had to be a dream, a fantastically vivid dream, but still a dream that he would have to wake up from, and then the lovely illusion of Rose Tyler’s presence would vanish in the blink of an eye.
Rose’s face lit up with a wide, beautiful smile. “Doctor,” she repeated, more assuredly this time.
Then she was running toward him like every dream he’d ever had of reuniting with her, and the Doctor decided that if this was a dream, at least he would wake up with one last imaginary hug from Rose Tyler emblazoned in his memory.
He ran to meet her, breath whooshing out of his lungs when she collided with him at full force, and oh, she was warm, and solid, and so very real.
She flung her arms around him as he swept her into a tight embrace, holding her close for fear that she might disappear if he let go.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe it, you’re actually here,” Rose murmured, turning her face into the side of his neck with a breathless laugh.
The Doctor clutched the back of her leather jacket even tighter. “I’m here, and you’re here,” he said, reveling in how utterly right it felt to hold her again. He pushed away any thought of questioning her about how she had gotten back. Not yet. He'd ask later. For now, there was something he needed to tell her, before anything else.
He pressed a kiss to her hair, then lowered his head so he could whisper in her ear. “Rose Tyler, however you got here, whatever it means, I hope…I hope this isn’t my last chance to say that I–” He almost stopped there, almost didn’t say the words. But Rose was here, miraculously here in his arms, and he knew he would regret it for the rest of his days if he didn’t say it now. “I love you.”
Rose gasped and pulled back just enough to see his face. The tender, overwhelming love in her eyes told him that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t too late to tell her. She raised her hands to either side of his face, cupping his cheeks and wiping away tears that he hadn’t known he had shed.
A smile spread across his face, and he couldn’t help but lean into her warm, welcoming touch. He knew he was probably grinning like a besotted idiot, but he couldn’t find it in him to care. Not when she was smiling back at him with that tongue-touched smile, and leaning in to close the distance between them.
“I love you too, Doctor. Have for a long time now,” she whispered. Then she pressed her lips to his, and he didn’t hesitate to respond with everything he had, pouring years of longing, regret, and love into kissing her back.
If this was the universe’s way of granting them an impossible second chance, then he wasn’t going to waste a second of it.
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