It’s been one year since Bad Wolf Bay, and Rose is on her way back. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts, though Rose doesn’t know what she expects to gain from it. Some kind of closure? She isn’t sure. Maybe I’m just torturing myself, she thinks.
In general, she’s all right. Just all right--not great, not even quite fine, but frankly, she considers “all right” to be considerable progress from the day she landed in this new world of hers.
You can’t expect to not be a little broken after you fall from the stars.
But she is all right. She has her good days and her bad days, like anyone else--days when she can’t think of anything but what she lost, when she feels suffocated by the sky; and days when she’s truly happy with her family, her work and living life day by day. And she’s accepted that she might not see the Doctor again. Oh, there’s a part of her mind and heart that will always hope to see him again, but she’s accepted that this time, it may, in fact, be impossible. Impossible in the way nothing was impossible before; an impossible that’s final.
Still, she feels almost compelled to go back to Norway, to that beach, one last time. She wonders if anything will happen there. She wonders if she needs for nothing to happen.
Since her rental car isn’t nearly as sturdy as her dad’s Jeep, she pulls off into a viewing area near the bay and sets out for the beach on foot. As she does so, the ever-present coastal winds grow stronger, and she is glad for her warm jacket. Descending to the beach, the gusts grow stronger and stronger until she starts to wonder if this is such a good idea.
Storm’s coming, she thinks.
Then she hears it.
Amid the rushing sound of wind and waves comes a new sound, one she hears constantly in her dreams. Now it whips around her, echoing off the rock walls. It grows louder, fades, grows louder again, rises in pitch, slows . . .
“I’m cracking up,” she says aloud.
And suddenly, it’s roaring. Lightning bursts out of the nearly-empty sky, striking the beach, and Rose drops to the ground, making herself as small as possible. She smells ozone as sand pelts her face.
And then the sky shatters.
Lightning bursts in every direction from a central point, blinding Rose momentarily, and a horrible noise like the world cracking apart shakes the ground. Rising above it all is the sound that made Rose sure she’d finally snapped, rising in pitch almost to a wail. There’s a terrific bang and crash--and all is silent again except for the waves.
Tentatively, Rose raises her head from the sand. Sitting about twenty feet away, off-kilter with its base buried in the sand, is the TARDIS.
Rose doesn’t know how long she lies there, staring at the impossible, before she finally rises to her feet, absently brushing sand off her clothes. She checks several times to see if she is dreaming. Finally, she forces herself to move, making her way across the rough sand, pockmarked with spots of lightning glass. It grows crunchier as she approaches the TARDIS. When she’s within arm’s reach of it, she hesitates again.
Her mind races, thinking over what the Doctor told her, that the Time Lords had no alternate-universe counterparts. When his world was destroyed, so were they, save for the Doctor. This has to be her Doctor, then, but how? And why? The Doctor wouldn’t risk the integrity of two universes for her, so whatever drew him here has to be bad, to say the very least.
That line of thought pushes her back into action. One thing she’s always kept with her is her TARDIS key. It lies warm against her skin under her jacket, and as she draws it out, she sees that it’s glowing. Briefly, she wonders why the Doctor hasn’t come out yet, and then she inserts her key into the lock and pushes the door to open it. It’s reluctant; Rose looks down and sees that more lightning glass has formed around the base, and she gives the bottom of the door a good kick to loosen it. The door gives, letting out a cloud of inky smoke.
She freezes. For the interior to be so full of smoke . . .
“Doctor!” she calls, and plunges in. “Doctor!”
There is almost no light inside, just a faint amber glow all but blotted out by the smoke. Rose shoves both doors open, letting in the outside light and letting out the smoke. “Doctor!”
As the smoke clears a bit, Rose sees where the Time Rotor should be. The central column is shattered, the console pumping out the choking smoke. It flashes through her mind that what she can see of the control room doesn’t look much like the place she remembers, but the visibility is so poor she can only concentrate on trying to keep her footing among the debris.
Her foot hits something that gives. She bends down, coughing, and reaches out to feel . . . leather. Then the smoke clears just enough for her to get a good look at the dark form on the floor.
It’s a man. To be specific, a tall man in a very particular black leather jacket. “D-Doctor?” she breathes. He’s lying on his front, facing away from her. She feels her way up his body, her hand coming into contact with cool flesh. Cool, and far too still. She feels hair, too, and realizes it’s far longer than her first Doctor, the Doctor who wore that jacket, ever wore his hair. Carefully, she steps over the body and leans down to get a good look at his face.
Her first reaction when she sees it is a sigh of relief. This man, whoever he is, is not her Doctor. There’s actually a bit of a resemblance, with his prominent nose, but he is most definitely not the Doctor she knew. He’s also most definitely dead.
“Who are you?” she murmurs.
Then she hears something move on the opposite side of the ruined console. “Doctor?” she calls.
“I’m here,” comes the weak reply.
Rose abandons the dead man and starts picking her way across the floor. There is a bit more light now, enough for her to see that the floor appears to be stone, and it is littered with obstacles, one of which is, improbably, a fallen coat tree with a green velvet Edwardian jacket hanging off of it.
A soft cough draws her attention, and as she rounds the edge of the console, she finally sees another figure on the floor. It takes her a moment to recognize him.
After his regeneration, the Doctor showed her images of his past incarnations. It had been strange to see them, but oddly comforting, too. Knowing that he could prevent his own death by regenerating had taken a load off her mind. Also, some of his old fashion statements had provided enough material for years of teasing.
The man she sees on the floor is his eighth incarnation. She remembers commenting on how attractive he’d been, and that it was a pity she hadn’t met him then, which earned her a worried look from the Doctor until she finally had mercy on him and assured him she was joking.
“Doctor,” she says simply, and kneels by him. Is this what’s happened to him in the wake of the Time War, then? Has he fallen through time into another universe?
“Do I--do we know each other?” he asks. His voice is raspy, as if he’s having trouble breathing.
“Not yet,” she says.
“Ah.” His eyes search her face with familiar intensity, even though he’s obviously weak and wounded. “May I know your name, then?”
“My name is Rose Tyler,” she says, “and someday, I’ll love you.”
Her vision blurs a little, and she blinks away her tears, looking at his face. Pale, almost gray, but noble and beautiful all the same.
“Rose Tyler.” His hand lifts a little, and she takes it in both of hers. “Do you know what I’ve done, Rose?”
She nods. Oh, he never told her, but she had known, even before the Beast said anything. She guessed it after she met her first Dalek. A tear slips down her face.
“I’ve killed my own people,” says the Doctor. “And now . . . now all is silence.”
He lets out one more rasping breath, and then he shudders convulsively. His hand tightens on hers until she thinks he’ll break her bones, but she doesn’t try to pull free. Instead, she tightens her hands, trying to offer him whatever comfort she can.
He arches back, his whole body rippling and blurring, and a terrible groan erupts from his lips. Something’s happening, crawling under his skin as he writhes in pain. She bites her lip as his grip on her hand becomes even more painful.
Then it loosens, and her eyes track up to his face.
She smiles gently at what she sees. “There you are.”
Familiar eyes stare at her out of a familiar face. The Doctor she met in the basement of Henrik’s Department Store blinks sluggishly, confused momentarily, before his gaze sharpens and he moves. He sits up, pulling his hand out of Rose’s.
“You all right?” she asks.
He looks at her as if she just asked the dumbest question in the history of space and time. Instead of saying anything, he gets unsteadily to his feet and crosses the room, neatly avoiding the debris on his way to the body of the young man. Halfway there, he stops short, looking annoyed, and takes his shoes off, muttering about having bigger feet. Then he continues on his path. Rose stands and trails after him.
“What was his name?” she asks when the Doctor stops and the silence stretches.
“Fitz Kreiner,” says the Doctor. The lines in his face deepen. “He should have left when he had the chance, but he wouldn’t. You said you’ll love me one day, Rose.” He nods at Fitz’s body. “He loved me. Consider it a cautionary tale.”
With that, he turns and leaves the control room, disappearing into the depths of the TARDIS.
Rose, left alone, looks helplessly around her. Instead of the metal walls she’d known so well, these walls are wood-paneled. Had been, at least; the wood is scorched most places, burned away altogether in many. She can see metal peeking out from behind the burned-out places. The console is also paneled in wood, also scorched and burned out. Under her feet, the stone floor is cracked and uneven.
Finally, she makes her feet move away from Fitz Kreiner’s body. She lines up two tasks for herself. First, she finds a linen closet about where she remembers one being. She removes a sheet and takes it back up to the control room, where she lays it over the body. Before she covers him completely, though, she hesitates. On impulse, she reaches down and touches him. The body isn’t completely cold; he died very recently. Feeling strange about it, but also determined, she gingerly removes the leather jacket. It smells of woodsmoke and cigarettes and male sweat. She finds a pack of cigarettes in one pocket and a TARDIS key in the other, and leaves both where they are.
After that, she goes down to the kitchen, and though it’s as tossed as the rest of the ship, she manages to find what she’s looking for and sets about making a pot of tea.
The tea is finished before the Doctor shows his face again, so Rose wanders down the hall a bit, not sure of what she’s hoping to find. One door is slightly ajar. She opens it all the way.
Inside is a room full of clocks. All kinds of clocks, from the elegantly simple to the baroque. Each tells a different time, and every one is broken.
“I sealed it off from the control room before I went into battle,” comes the Doctor’s voice, quite close. Rose jumps. The Doctor doesn’t appear to notice, going on. “Seems nothing was spared.”
Rose turns to face him, and for a moment, she can’t breathe. He looks so familiar--burgundy jumper, black denim trousers, even the clunky boots he always favored. He’s evidently washed, too; his face is clean of soot, and he no longer smells of smoke.
“I-I made tea,” she says, retreating toward the kitchen. “Though you might like some. Good for the synapses and all that.”
His brow furrows suspiciously. “Yes.”
“Did you a world of good--oh, God, I shouldn’t talk about that.” She slaps a hand to her forehead. What kind of paradox is she causing just by being here? “Sorry. Anyway, tea.”
He follows her to the kitchen. “Doesn’t matter what you tell me,” he says. “I’ll make myself forget it when I have to, and do I sound Northern to you?”
She laughs. “Lots of planets have a North.”
He gives her an odd look, and Rose pours his tea, automatically adding two sugars and no milk. His next incarnation, she knows, will prefer one sugar and a good measure of cream. She holds out the cup.
“I take my tea with milk, and I despise it being too sweet,” he says stiffly.
“Try it,” she insists.
He glowers a bit, but sniffs the tea and takes a sip. His eyebrows leap up in surprise, and he takes another sip. “So I like sweet,” he muses. “I hope this doesn’t mean I’ll be addicted to jelly babies again.” After another sip, he fixes his gaze back on Rose. “Where have I landed? Something doesn’t feel right.”
Rose hesitates a moment before answering. “You’re--you’ve landed in the wrong universe, believe it or not.”
The Doctor gives her an alarmed look, and then he strides out of the control room onto the beach. Rose follows.
“I believe you,” he says after a moment. “This is a parallel Earth, then?”
“Yeah,” says Rose. “Subtle differences here. Zeppelins are a major mode of transportation, especially in the UK, Canada is the world superpower, King Arthur II is on England’s throne, and no one’s ever heard of, much less played, cricket.” She smirks. “When I used the expression ‘a sticky wicket,’ my mate Chrissy thought it was a weird sexual euphemism.”
“Where are we on your alternate Earth?” asks the Doctor.
Rose sighs. “Norway, a place called Darlig Ulv Stranden.”
The Doctor looks at her sharply. “ ‘Sick Wolf Beach’?”
That makes Rose laugh. “It was named by John Dalton, an English explorer who thought he knew Norwegian better than he did. He was going for ‘Bad Wolf Bay’, which is its English name.”
“Hm.” He gives one last look out at the water and goes back to the TARDIS, Rose following. “That leaves me with two more questions: how do you know what universe I’m supposed to be in; and why are you here?”
Rose draws in a breath. “It’s a long story. I-I traveled with you in the other universe. There was a breach, which we closed, but I ended up on this side. This is the last place I saw you. It’s been a year, and I wanted--I don’t know what I wanted, but I came here. Felt like I needed to.”
The Doctor gives the console the once-over. “Without the--without the Time Lords, I’d imagine travel between dimensions is problematic.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” says Rose. “All the breaches are closed. I never thought I’d see you again.” Her voice catches a little, and he gives her another penetrating look.
Before he can ask any more questions, though, he gets distracted by Fitz’s sheet-covered body, and he sighs, familiar heaviness in his eyes. Then he notices the jacket, folded neatly over a railing. He tenses visibly.
Rose hastens to explain. “I-I took it off him. I thought you might like to keep it, have something to remember him by.”
Again, he gives her that look that implies she’s said something remarkably stupid. “D’you think I can ever forget?” he demands harshly. Not waiting for an answer, he rolls Fitz’s body, wrapping the sheet around it, before lifting and carrying it out of the control room.
After he’s gone, Rose lets out a breath. “That went well.”
She can tell he expects her to leave, perhaps even wants her to. He doesn’t speak to her at all when he returns. Instead of leaving, though, she waits and watches as he sits down on the floor next to the door, where it’s lighter, and starts fiddling with wires and pieces of metal and a few small instruments. Slowly, his mysterious project begins to take shape.
“Sonic screwdriver,” she says--her first words in over an hour.
He glances at her, but says nothing. Rose stays with him, leaving only twice, once to find a loo and once to scrounge something to eat. When she finishes her sandwich and cup of tea, she returns to the control room. He’s nearly finished with his favorite tool when she does. She brings him a sandwich and milk, which he accepts without taking his eyes off his project.
Suddenly, a good-sized piece of the floor near her crumbles and falls away, revealing the familiar metal grate. She yips.
“The TARDIS is cleaning herself up. Regenerating,” says the Doctor, still not looking up.
“Oh,” says Rose. “Didn’t realize she could do that.”
The Doctor grunts, but otherwise refuses to answer. He clicks one last piece into place, and the tip of the new sonic screwdriver lights up. That finished, he moves to the console and begins pulling wood panels away.
“Can I help with anything?” she asks.
“If you insist on staying around,” he says with an impatient sigh, “you can make yourself useful by cleaning up the floor.”
So she does. While he works on the console, she collects all the detritus from the floor, a task made easier when he’s able to bring up some lights. As soon as she’s gotten everything together, he gives the pile a once-over and separates it into two piles.
“Put this in the rubbish bin,” he tells her, gesturing toward one pile, mostly composed of splintered wood and twisted metal.
Sighing, she drags a bin up to the control room and does as she’s told. After that, he tersely orders her to help him as he pulls down the wood panels from the walls. Then she’s charged with taking them down to a storage room. Once the panels are off the walls, the wood panels on the console are the next to go, and once again, Rose plays beast-of-burden. Then she’s sent outside to collect a bucket of seawater.
“Experimenting with cold fusion” is his only explanation for that.
Eventually, she tires and finds a bedroom. A very basic one with a very basic bathroom attached, but enough for her. She falls into the bed and is almost immediately asleep.
When she awakes, not much has changed. The control room is a little neater, and more of the stone floor has crumbled away, but the console is still a wreck. But there’s something new and familiar. The support struts are growing back. Right now, they’re slim, transparent, fragile-looking, but their placement and shape is the same, and they glow softly with amber light. Rose gently caresses one. It’s warm.
“Told you she’s regenerating,” comes the Doctor’s voice from under the console. His head pops up from under the grate, followed by his body. “Got transportation?”
“Um, yeah, my car’s parked nearby,” she says.
“Good. There a town or city within driving distance?”
“Bergen’s closest,” she says. “ ‘Bout sixty miles away.”
He nods, apparently satisfied, and produces a piece of paper from his pocket. “I need you to get some things for me. You should be able to find most of this at any hardware store, although there are a few things you’ll need to get from a pharmacy or supermarket, and I have no idea where you’ll get a big piece of quartz, but that’s up to you.” He hands her the list, which is helpfully written in Norwegian and English.
“All right, I can do that,” says Rose, skimming the list. She freezes at the last item. “That’s not very funny, Doctor. I am not getting you aspirin.”
At that, he grins wolfishly. “Just checking to see how well you knew me.”
She remembers all too vividly her second Doctor mentioning--almost casually--that his allergy to aspirin is so severe it can even inhibit regeneration. Part of her wonders if this one hoped she hadn’t known. “Still not funny. I’ll get the rest.”
She leaves then, not terribly worried that he’ll take off without her. Though she may not know that much about the TARDIS’s inner workings, she doubts he can take off with the Time Rotor in a dozen or so pieces.
It’s early afternoon by the time she returns, laden with several bags. One holds an eclectic array of hardware and industrial lubricants, which she found with the help of a nice young shop clerk named, ironically enough, Henrik. Another holds a liter of witch hazel, a liter of eucalyptus oil, two boxes of Epsom salts, one box of bicarbonate of soda, and bottles of rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and acetone nail polish remover. The third contains milk, bananas, chocolate biscuits, a bottle of cheap white vinegar, a good-sized quartz crystal purchased at a specialty shop Henrik the shop clerk pointed her to, and a package of Post-It notes. The fourth is the small suitcase she brought with her on her trip. Rose is forced to take several rests on her way back down to the TARDIS; her parcels are heavy.
“I’m back,” she announces as she steps back into the TARDIS. Though she hears the Doctor banging away at something below her feet, he makes no reply. She leaves the hardware and pharmaceuticals by the console and extracts the vinegar and crystal from her groceries bag before taking the rest downstairs.
Before she’s quite out of the control room, she hears his voice.
“Do I smell bananas?”
Grinning smugly, she takes the milk down to the refrigerator before returning to the control room, bananas and biscuits in hand. The Doctor takes a banana and launches into the tale of how he turned the armories of Villengard into a banana grove in his seventh incarnation. He never quite stops working, and Rose finds herself sitting on the grate, handing him supplies as he asks for them and listening as he rattles on. She’d forgotten how much this incarnation could talk. His next one was (or will be) such a chatterbox that this one always seemed closed-mouth in comparison, but he really can go on when he wants to.
Sooner or later, the grate grows uncomfortable. When she takes a break to make dinner, she roots around belowdecks until she comes up with a piece of the wood paneling they removed and a fluffy quilt and improvises a pad to sit or lie on, depending on where the Doctor’s working and how far she’ll have to lean down to hand him the things he asks for. When he looks at her questioningly as she arranges it, she says, “It’s either this or a waffle-patterned arse.”
For the first time, he actually smiles at her. She considers it a triumph.
She makes him eat some soup and a bun (one thing that hasn’t changed is that he forgets to eat if someone doesn’t nag him into it), and as soon as he’s done, he’s back to his repairs. Rose assists him as long as she can before she starts nodding off. Then she retires to the small bedroom she found, strips down and falls asleep as soon as she tucks herself between the covers.
Tomorrow will be another long day.
The next day finds Rose sitting on her pad surrounded by half a dozen mixing bowls. The Doctor hands her component after component to clean, and depending on what he tells her, each one goes into a bowl of witch hazel, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide (currently cleaning a couple of creepily organic-looking components), white vinegar, acetone or plain water. She’s rather glad she found a pair of latex gloves to go with the cleaning solvents.
Sighing, she scrubs at something-or-other (really, she doesn’t want to know) with a toothbrush, trying to rid it of the mineral deposits loosened by the white vinegar. Below, where the Doctor is, it sounds and smells like a science experiment gone terribly wrong, with a hint of cough drops.
“What’s that smell?” she finally asks.
“Eucalyptus oil,” comes the muffled reply. “Nothing like it for lubricating, um,” There’s a sound like something breaking, and the Doctor says something in a language Rose doesn’t understand, which means either the TARDIS isn’t up to translating yet, or he’s swearing. Given his tone, she’s betting on the latter. The TARDIS always was a bit prim about translating swear words.
Midday, she steps outside to breathe a little sea air and to call her parents. She tells them she’ll be staying in Norway for a few more days, and not to worry. After making her call, she stands and watches the sea a little while longer, the way she did before the Doctor’s last message came through.
He’s here now. The one thing she had been wishing for so strongly that day has happened, and all it’s left her is confused. He’s so brittle; she’s afraid that if she jars him too much, he’ll break.
Maybe he needs to break. Maybe she does, too.
When she returns to the TARDIS, he’s back on her level, examining the broken rotor. “What’s the word?” she asks.
“Fixable,” he says.
Something in his tone makes her prompt him, “But?”
“But her energy is so low I don’t know when she’ll be able to move, and this universe can’t give her what she needs,” he finishes. “Right now, she’s using everything she has just to regenerate. I’m stuck here until she’s well enough to travel back through the crack in time we fell through--and fix it, of course. Can’t have the universes bleeding into each other, not when--” He cuts himself off.
Rose knows the rest. “Not when there are no more Time Lords to fix it?”
He doesn’t answer, just starts taking apart what remains of the rotor. He hands her several pieces--cylinders of glass or perhaps crystal, from their weight--and tells her to clean them in the vinegar. She moves back to her pallet and does so, and after she’s finished, he tells her that’s all he’ll need her to clean. She cleans out the bowls in the kitchen and makes them a meal before returning to the control room.
“Tell me how we meet, Rose Tyler,” he says unexpectedly.
The memory makes her smile. “Basement of the shop I worked in. You rescued me from living shop dummies and then blew up my job. Should I really be telling you this?”
“Remember what I told you--I can make myself forget what I need to in order to preserve the timeline,” he says. “Autons, eh? Bad news, that lot.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” she chuckles. “You rescued me, I rescued you, and then you asked me if I’d like to go with you.”
“And of course you did,” he says a bit smugly.
She can’t resist puncturing that. “Actually, I turned you down.” He makes an incredulous noise and nearly fumbles a bit of the rotor, and she giggles. “Then you mentioned it travels in time, and you had me there.”
He hands her a bundle of wires. “Strip these,” he orders tersely.
“Sure.” She remembers, suddenly, doing this on Satellite Five. She’s still not sure whether he really needed all those wires stripped--she never saw the finished Delta wave generator, after all--or if he made up a task to keep her from joining Jack’s impromptu army. “Want to know where you took me for our first outing?”
His reply is very dry and very, very sarcastic. “I’m dying of curiosity. Should regenerate soon, in fact.”
She decides to ignore the sarcasm. “The end of the world. You took me to see Earth burn up.”
There’s a sudden silence, and she looks over to see him frozen in mid-motion. The silence stretches and finally snaps, and he’s off jawing about something or other that has absolutely nothing to do with what she just told him.
Nearly a week passes as the Doctor works on the control room. Day by day, the support struts grow thicker and stronger and the console starts to come together. Still, the room remains dark for the most part, and belowdecks is almost completely dark. Only one passage is lit, from the wardrobe room past the kitchen and down to where Rose thinks the Doctor’s bedroom must be. Not that he’s spending any time there, that she can tell. He’s always working while she’s awake and shows no signs of stopping for sleep.
He talks as he works, talks about what he’s doing, mostly, occasionally wandering off on the odd rabbit trail into quantum physics. Once in a while, he’ll ask her a question, but if she tries to take the conversation any further than surface matters, he’ll either shut down or brush her off. It’s frustrating. She’s seen it before with him, of course, watched him flare up when she asked him where he was from or make hairpin turns in apparent emotion when something bothered him and he didn’t want her to know. His next incarnation will prefer the “jabber circles around her ‘til she’s dizzy” technique.
She’s finding it maddening, and finally, she quits trying to be subtle and goes for broke.
“How did you get here?” she asks as she passes him a spanner. “What happened?”
When his eyes meet hers, they’re cold and bleak, but his voice is casual. “Hole in time. Fell. You know how it is.”
“Result of the Time War?” she asks, ignoring his flippancy.
“Yes.” The word is clipped. Rose senses treacherous ground ahead.
Therefore, she plunges on.
“While we were together, you’d occasionally drop little bits and pieces about the Time War,” she says, choosing her words carefully. “About the Daleks, your homeworld, the fall of Arcadia--” She sees him flinch and goes on. “--but I didn’t ask about it. I guess I figured you’d tell me when you were ready.” She elects not to tell him about any of the surviving Daleks; to tell him at this time would, she thinks, be unnecessary cruelty.
He’s silent for so long that she thinks he’s shut down again, but then he says, with false brightness, “What’s to talk about? It’s over now. C’est la vie, que sera, sera.” He smacks something into place on the other side of the console. “The larger circuit board, please?”
She hands it over, taking a mental breath. “You lost your world, your people--”
“Didn’t actually like the other Time Lords,” he interrupts, voice more brittle than ever. “Pompous, insufferable, self-congratulatory bunch of twits they were, with their ivory towers stuck up their collective arses. No use at all for me until they needed someone to fight their war for them. I’m amazed they didn’t bring back the Master or the Rani if they were desperate enough to call me in.”
“There must have been a few who were okay,” Rose presses. “Didn’t you have any friends there? Family? What was your world like? What was it even called?”
“Smaller circuit board.” That’s the only reply she gets. She hands it over.
Finally, she admits defeat to herself. He’s shut down, and she’s more frustrated than ever.
She sighs. “Listen, it’s not like I want to pry, but I know it’s not easy for you, bein’ the last one. What you had to do--I saw it in your eyes every day we were together. You don’t have to bear that alone.”
“Don’t I?” he snaps suddenly, meeting her eyes (and there’s a storm in his). “D’you think you can even begin to understand what it’s like for me?”
“Maybe not.” She lifts her shoulders in a tiny shrug. “But I do know what it’s like to lose my entire world, including the man I promised to stay with forever.”
“Forever.” His mouth twists derisively. “You’re human. You never had forever to promise. You don’t have a forever to be alone. I do, Rose Tyler, and I’ll have to listen to the silence in my mind for the rest of my lives. It would’ve been kinder for you to buy me that aspirin.”
Her cheeks heat. “Stop that! You’re better than that. You make things better, you make people better, and you never just give up!”
In a flurry of movement, the Doctor’s on his feet and hauling her to hers. “Enough about me--what about you? What do you want of me, Rose? Do you want me to fix my ship and get you back across the Void so you can return to my future self? Is that why you’re helping me? Out of some misguided notion of romantic love? Can’t live without me? Think I can’t live without you?”
“I’m here because you needed help, and I couldn’t turn away from that,” she says, keeping her voice level. “I owe you everything. I would never have left if we hadn’t been torn apart, would’ve spent every bit of forever I had with you.”
“Because you love me,” he taunts. “Let me tell you something: loving me is a bad, bad idea. You want to know about my friends and family? My daughter--killed by Daleks. My granddaughter, whom I raised as my own after her mother’s death--dead at Arcadia. Ace, who traveled with me in my seventh incarnation--dead at Arcadia. Romana, one of the few Time Lords I respected--dead at Gallifrey. Fitz--dead on this TARDIS. Gallifrey, my homeworld--dead by my hand. Count yourself lucky to have gotten out with your life.”
He turns, dismissing her, and she won’t have it. Fitz’s jacket is draped over the railing nearby, and she strides over and grabs it. “None of us would’ve been anywhere else,” she says, going after him. “The man who wore this coat, your friend--where else would he have been? Before I met you, I had nothing. I was going nowhere. If I’d died with you, at least I’d have lived first. I lived more in two years with you than the nineteen before, and if the pain of losing you is the price of loving you--fair trade, you ask me.”
The Doctor rips the coat from her hands and flings it across the control room, and then he advances on her, backing her into a wall as she instinctively retreats. Anguish pours off him in waves, and it’s all she can do not to drown in it.
“You should go,” he hisses.
“I’m not leaving you,” she tells him.
And then he’s kissing her with almost brutal force, bruising her lips. She allows it, opening her mouth to him as he kisses her like he’s trying to draw the very life from her body. He kisses her, and kisses her, and kisses her, barely allowing her to gasp for breath, making her dizzy. And when his hands go to the waistband of her jeans, she doesn’t stop him. She slips her trainers off her feet to help him along as he pushes down her jeans and knickers. It passes through her mind that this could be a bad idea.
She doesn’t care. Tears are streaming down her face as his pain rips through her mind. She threads her arms around his neck as much to keep her feet as to offer comfort as she hears him unzip his own trousers.
Suddenly, he lifts her against the wall, forces her thighs apart, thrusts deep. She gasps in surprise and pain; she’s not ready. He stills then, and she opens her eyes. His eyes stare into hers, stricken, as he raises a hand to her face and cups it gently, comfortingly.
“No, not like this,” he murmurs, and withdraws from her, setting her down as he does so. He pulls her tank top over her head and unhooks her bra. Both fall to the floor as he pulls his own jumper off. Then he draws her close, skin to skin, and kisses her again, tears wet on both their faces.
And then he scoops her up into his arms and carries her over to her little pallet beside the console. He lays her on it and leans over her, hands gentle on her body until she relaxes and begins to respond.
“I can’t punish you for loving me, Rose Tyler,” he whispers as he sinks into her. “Loving me is punishment enough.”
She learns then how Time Lords make love: body to body, mind to mind, soul to soul. All sense of time deserts them, and a geologic age might have passed outside before they sleep. He finds absolution with her; she finds solace with him.
When she awakens, her first impression is that there’s somewhat more light than there was before. Her second impression is the familiar smell filling her nostrils and the feel of leather under her hands. She looks down to see Fitz Kreiner’s jacket covering her.
The sound of the sonic screwdriver draws her attention, and she sits up, clutching the jacket to her chest in a slightly ridiculous bid for modesty. The Doctor pokes his head around the console, and when he smiles at her, she believes it.
“Hello,” he says.
“Hello.” She brushes her hair back from her face and looks around. It is much lighter. The console glows emerald green, and the support struts, which are almost as thick as she remembers, though still smooth as blown glass, give off a soft amber light.
“Seems you and I generated some energy, Rose Tyler,” says the Doctor, as if hearing her thoughts. “Since we’re both from the correct universe, the TARDIS could use it. It’s not the way I’d ordinarily have done things, but who am I to quibble with what works?”
Rose blushes, but smiles. “If only I’d known that when I first got on the TARDIS.” She finds her clothes folded in a neat pile beside the pallet. When she glances up, the Doctor’s back at work, the console obscuring any view of her he might have. We just made love, for God’s sake, she thinks, shaking her head at her own hang-ups. What would Jack say? Chuckling at the thought, she dresses and then joins the Doctor.
“How’s she doing?” Rose asks.
“She’ll be ready to move soon,” the Doctor says. “Once I get back to my own universe, I can make the rest of the repairs she’ll need.”
She nods, sadness sweeping over her. “You said you’d forget about all this to preserve the timeline.”
He looks at her, eyes warm. “Not exactly forget. What I’ll do is block the memories until it’s safe to retrieve them. That likely means I’ll remember sometime after we’re parted.”
“Won’t it seem strange to you, though?” she asks. “I mean, not remembering the first few days of this regeneration? Won’t you be curious?”
“Actually, a little memory loss following regeneration is fairly common,” he says. “Given the trauma going in? I doubt I’ll be trying too hard to remember. But I will someday. I’ll remember all of this.”
“Good,” she whispers through a tight throat.
He presses a final panel into place and sits back, idly twirling the sonic screwdriver. “Then I suppose my last question for you would be: do you want to go with me?”
The truth is that before he brought up the idea, she hadn’t even thought about it. All she’d seen was the Doctor in front of her, not the one she left behind. Now that the question is put to her, she finds no easy answer.
“Thing is, when we met for the first time, I had nothing to keep me back,” she says slowly. “My mum, maybe, and my boyfriend, but nothing else--just a life of gettin’ up, going to work, eatin’ chips, watching the telly and then starting all over again the next day. But now . . . now, thanks to you, I’ve got a mum and a dad and my little brother Jamie, I’ve got wonderful mates, I’ve got a job that’s important, where they respect me. I love my life here.” She stops short, realizing it’s true. When she stops thinking about what she lost, she’s proud of the life she’s built here, and she loves it. “I love my life. It’s a fantastic life, an’ it’s what you wanted for me.”
When the Doctor was closing the Void, she’d been prepared to let go of even her mother in favor of staying with him. But now, with not just her mum, but a man who’s truly become her dad, a baby brother, her squad at Torchwood--Mickey, Jake and Chrissy with her crazy sense of humor--and the knowledge that she’s the only one who can do what she does, she finds she can’t say yes. And yet she can’t just say no, either. Not to him.
“I-I just don’t know,” she says, tears springing to her eyes. “I still love my Doctor. Think I always will. I’ll always miss you if I stay here.”
The Doctor’s eyes settle on the item she’s holding in her hands: Fitz’s jacket. He gently tugs it away from her. “I know a thing or two about missing people. Here’s how it goes: you think a part of you has died at first. But then, as time goes on, you realize nothing’s died; that, in fact, you’ve grown larger just from knowing them, and you’ll always carry a part of them with you.” He lays a hand against her face. “One day, I’ll miss you--but I will always be glad I met you, Rose Tyler. And I’ll remember this, and I’ll be proud of you.”
She reaches out to him, and his arms enfold her as her tears fall. “I can’t. I can’t go with you. If I could have you and what I’ve built here, I would in a second, but I can’t leave the people who are depending on me. Who love me.” She sniffles. “I’m sorry.”
“Shh.” He rocks her gently. It’s so wonderful and familiar that she can only cry harder, and he holds her until the storm passes. Then he pulls back just far enough to kiss her sweetly. “It’s time for me to go.”
She nods, rallying her strength, and they stand together. He slips his arms into the jacket. She straightens the lapels.
“Looks good,” she says.
“About how you remembered it?” he asks.
She laughs a little. “Yeah. Smelled a bit less like cigarette smoke when I met you, though.” Smelled a bit less like sex, too, she thinks, and blushes again.
“Fitz’s one vice, aside from making up filthy songs and accompanying himself on the guitar,” says the Doctor.
Resolutely, she goes down and fetches her suitcase. When she returns to the control room, the doors are open and the Doctor stands outside, watching the waves. She joins him.
“You said you saw me for the last time here,” he says.
“When we were parted, you sent me a message,” she tells him. “It brought me here. I guess it was the last place you could send a transmission so we could say goodbye.”
When he looks at her, she sees amazement in his eyes. She wonders if Sarah Jane was typical--he left companions behind and rarely, if ever, spoke to them again. Perhaps that’s something that changes for him in the time they know each other. Not a bad change to make, she thinks.
“Go back to your fantastic life, Rose Tyler. Go back and enjoy it.” He gives her one of his huge grins that she loved (loves) so much. “I look forward to meeting you!”
She laughs and reaches out, and he takes her hand. “Goodbye, Doctor. Have a fantastic life yourself.”
One final squeeze of her hand, and he withdraws back into the TARDIS. A few seconds later, Rose watches it dematerialize.
“Goodbye,” she whispers one last time, and the wind carries it away from her.