Zeppelins in Flight
Bad Wolf Bay, Norway
It’s getting dark and the wind is beginning to pick up. They’re the only ones left on Bad Wolf Bay. They’ve long since fallen silent, waiting and watching the waves crash on the sand.
The hum of a zeppelin comes over the beach.
“About time!” Jackie says. She stands, hands on her hips, watching it approach.
Rose stands up as well. The sun is setting, and she shades her eyes with her hands. “Is it Dad?”
“It’s got to be. How many people would be flying over this place right now?”
The zeppelin is coming closer, and Rose can see that it is indeed the family craft. Tilting her head to watch it approach, she senses him step in close behind her. He takes her hand and they watch the zeppelin move in closer.
“It’s coming in a bit...quick, isn’t it?” he asks.
“Tell me, Rose,” he says conversationally, “might we have any other transportation options open to us? Ones that don’t involve giant bags filled with explosive gases?”
“Slow down, you bloomin’ idiot!” Jackie cries.
He laughs softly and wraps his arms around Rose. She leans back against him, putting her hands on top of his where they rest at her waist. She savors the feel of this man against her, and does not think about anyone else.
The zeppelin does slow down and finally comes to a halt above them. A hatch opens up and a ladder emerges. Ten feet above them.
Jackie frowns. “There’s nowhere to jump up from and nowhere for him to hover.” She turns to look at them. “Of all the places, he brings us to a beach with no zeppelin access.”
“I wasn’t driving,” he says evenly. “If I had been, I would have ensured easy zeppelin access.” He glances guiltily at Rose as he says this. They both know his landings had everything to do with luck and nothing to do with where he actually wanted the TARDIS to land.
“Leave it, Mum.” Rose is motioning wildly with her arms, and the zeppelin descends a few more feet.
“Right. Here we go.” Jackie grabs the ladder, gamely ignoring the wind. The ladder, thankfully, is not swaying too badly. The zeppelin is as low as it can safely be, and it’s still 25 feet up in the air.
They watch her start up. Rose holds onto the ladder to keep it steady. He keeps his hand on her waist.
“No good can come of this,” he murmurs into her hair. “I think I may be afraid of heights.”
“Too late for that.”
“It will be if I fall to my very untimely death.”
“Stop it. Okay, here goes.” Rose carefully sets her foot on the ladder and starts climbing. His hand falls away from her only when she moves out of his reach. He starts to climb and is right behind her, just in case.
Halfway up she catches a breeze and sways slightly. He reaches for her and then quickly grabs the ladder as another gust of wind threatens to send him on his merry way back to the sand below.
“Whoops!” She looks down and can’t help a breathless laugh. “At least there’s no Cyberman below us!”
She can see him grin, thanks to the zeppelin’s landing lights. “No cat - nuns, either,” he shouts up.
Rose laughs again and he’s so happy that he laughs, too.
They finish heading up the ladder, and he watches Rose activate the ladder retraction and shut and secure the door.
It wasn’t very cold on the beach, but it’s warmer in the zeppelin’s cabin. Rose is out of breath. Voices are coming from the cockpit. Jackie and Pete.
“Nice place,” he says from behind her. She smiles at him, watching as he walks around inspecting everything. For a moment she fears he may put a navigational gadget in his mouth, but then he sets it down. She’s not sure whether she’s relieved or disappointed by this.
Jackie emerges from the cockpit before Rose can take off her jacket and sit down. She’s taken off her own blue coat and looks smug. Rose suspects she’s forced Pete to engage the auto pilot.
Sure enough, Pete comes out behind his wife. He sees her and smiles happily. “Rose!” He reaches for her and hugs her tight. “Didn’t think you’d be coming back.” He kisses the top of her head in relief. “I’m so glad to see you.”
“Hi, Dad.” Rose smiles up at him, this man who is and isn’t her father. Her real dad died 20 years ago, on a different world in a different universe. She held his hand and watched him die, and then the man beside her took her hand and flew her away in his magical machine.
Pete’s gaze has moved beyond Rose. “And...and you brought he Doctor back with you.”
Rose glances at her mother, who nods. No need for tedious explanations, thank goodness. Well, there is a need, but they’ll be needing a clearer explanation than anything Jackie can provide. There’s time enough for that.
“Hello, Pete. Good to see you again.” He holds out a hand.
“Yeah...you, too.” Pete shakes his hand, clearly unsure about what exactly is going on, but he’s trying. Rose can’t blame him for being a bit confused, if all he has to go on is whatever Jackie managed to explain to him in the cockpit just now.
A series of beeps and alarms comes from the cockpit, and Pete hastily goes back there. “Now what is it? I knew I should have stayed in manual mode.”
“I made him put it on autopilot,” Jackie tells Rose in a low voice. “You know how he drives in the dark.” She follows her husband.
Rose takes a seat and he drops down next to her, long legs sprawled out in front of him, hair an absolute mess from the wind.
Now, she realizes. You can only avoid things for so long. Slowly, Rose’s gaze tracks to the man slumped in the seat beside her. It’s too dark to see outside, and he’s looking straight ahead, his gaze fixed on nothing in particular.
She remembers a man who changed his face and his body but kept his mind and his memories. Who changed because he had chosen to die for her. He was this man beside her, and then this man changed himself again, diverged and became something else. Same face, same mind, somewhat different body. She’s still not sure she understands it, but she understands the single heartbeat she felt beneath her hand.
Pete is a wholly different man from her dad. Two separate men. THIS man is the same as he was before.
And he’s not the same. The confusion gives her a headache. And the headache gives way to a rising anger.
“You just left me,” she says,the words spilling out before she can stop herself. “You brought me back here and you left me.”
His eyes widen in surprise. “I didn’t leave you, Rose. I’m right here. See?”
“You knew everything I went through to find you, to put things right, and you left anyway. You couldn’t even finish -”
“I finished,” he says almost angrily. “Do you want to hear it again?” He sits up straight, leans towards her. His eyes are dark and fierce. “Rose Tyler, I love you.”
She moves back and closes her eyes.
“He had to leave us, Rose. You’re human. He’s a Time Lord. You told me forever, Rose, but sooner or later you would have left. Been hurt, or chosen to leave, or you would have died and I would have been left behind. He did what he could to ensure your happiness.”
“It’s not enough! It’s not! To leave us here...” She looks at him.
“I wanted you to have a fantastic life. This is as best as I could do, Rose. I’m part human. That’s what he gave us.”
The transitions between “him” and “I” are confusing Rose. “YOU wanted me to have a fantastic life. HE gave us one? Are you the same or aren’t you?”
He looks thoughtful. “I’m the same man you met in that department store basement. I told you to run and I took you to Cardiff and Woman Wept. I’m the same man who regenerated and fought the Sycorax and burned up a sun to say goodbye to you. I’m the man who ran to you before the Dalek shot me.
“Same thoughts, same memories. And then the hand and Donna...they formed that genetic metacrisis. I formed. From then on my memories are my own. His are his. We don’t have the same thoughts after that because our experiences weren’t exactly the same.” He reaches over and grasps her hands, then simply kneels on the floor in front of her.
“I know what he was thinking, Rose. He couldn’t bear to hurt you any more and if you stayed with him you would have been hurt eventually. He gave you what he could. He gave you your family last time, a mother and a father here in this world. This time he gave you me.” His eyes are pleading with her, begging for understanding. For absolution.
Rose is not ready to grant forgiveness. Maybe she never will be. “He could have taken us with him. We could have stayed -”
“I’m human, Rose! You and I will fade and die one day! Do you honestly think he could bear to watch that happen? He gave us a chance at forever the only way he could.”
“It’s not right.”
“It’s all we could do, Rose. He did it for you.”
“You can’t keep making the decisions for me. You can’t just trick me into the TARDIS and pat me on the head and send me away to safety.”
His mouth twists. “I promise, no more time machines.”
Her breath catches. “I’m sorry.” She’s angry, but not enough to hurt him. Not deliberately, not over something like that.
He shakes his head quickly. “The TARDIS was my home. It’s -” His voice breaks and he doesn’t continue with whatever he was going to say. Rose remembers his panic when the TARDIS disappeared in that church in 1987, remembers his despair on that planet below the black hole when the TARDIS was lost. His home, the only thing he had left.
She slides to the floor to kneel before him. “It will be okay.” Now she hears the pleading in her voice, begging him not to be hurt. She grips his hands tighter.
“I can’t show you the stars anymore.”
“We went through time and space. All those worlds and adventures. And now all you’ve got is me.”
“It was never the stars and new worlds. Never. It was you. I wanted you and the worlds and adventures just happened to come with you.” She’s nearly in tears thinking that he might not believe her.
He looks at her like he really doesn’t believe her. “Yeah?”
“YEAH, you idiot. How could you ever think differently?”
“I’m an idiot.”
“Yes, you are.”
“I don’t have the TARDIS, and that hurts. But I’ve got you. I’ll take you, Rose Tyler, because I’ve gone without the TARDIS, and I’ve been without you. If I have just one human life left, I’d rather spend it with you. That’s what your Doctor knew. That’s what he gave up. So you’d be happy.”
“So you could be happy.”
He grimaces. “Don’t think he cares too much for my feelings. But he wanted the best for you. Always.”
The thought of him - her Doctor - hurts her. But if this is what he wanted for her then she will try. “He’s not alone, at least. He’s got Donna.”
Something flickers in his face and is gone. “Yeah, he’s got Donna.”
“But he said he - you - need me. Needed me. Do you? Still? Because...you killed the Daleks, and that’s awful that they were all destroyed, but what else could you have done? You did it before, yeah? And I destroyed them on the Game Station. And we sent them back to the Void.”
He scowls. “It had to be done. I’m not happy about it. He wasn’t happy about it. I don’t even know if it was worth it. I keep killing them and they keep coming back. Being left on this world is repayment for that, maybe. His idea of punishment.”
“Only it’s not, is it, Rose?” He brings their joined hands close to his chest. “I’ve only got one heart and one life, but I get to spend it here with you. He doesn’t. I’m sorry for that, for him, but not for anything else. He couldn’t say the words but he tried to show you.”
“Yeah,” she says softly. “You did. I know you did.”
“But I’m part human now! I can say it. I love you, Rose! I’ll love you as long as this heart beats.”
She laughs shakily. Takes back her hands and touches his face. She leans forward. He grins and moves closer to her.
Jackie and Pete come back, talking a mile a minute, and they spring apart and hastily sit back in their seats. He finds her hand and holds it tightly, and she places her other hand on his arm, moving as close to him as she can.
“The zeppelin’s on auto pilot,” Pete says, sitting down across from them. Jackie sits down next to him and takes his hand. She smiles at her daughter, but it’s a smile of reserve and unease. She’s seen the heartbreak that man can cause, and she’s not ready to accept him completely just yet.
“Never do that again,” Pete is saying. “No word, no warning, you could have been killed.”
“I couldn’t leave Rose,” Jackie says firmly. She will never leave Rose, and she will defend her with her very life, if need be. Pete doesn’t answer, because he’s perfectly aware of her feelings on that subject. “Anyway, we’re safe,” Jackie says. “And I brought Rose home!”
“With a bonus,” Rose’s bonus says with a smile. Rose rolls her eyes.
Jackie brought Rose home. She remembers, suddenly and clearly, the promises the Doctor made her. He would see her daughter safe. He would always take her home. He would get them out of Canary Wharf alive. And she admits what she hasn’t up to now - the only reason she was able to bring Rose home is because the Doctor - the one not sitting in the zeppelin with them - forced her to come home. He kept his promises, no matter how much they may have cost him.
She owes him far more than complete acceptance. That thought shakes her, and she moves away from those thoughts to happier ones, easier ones.
“How is Tony?” Jackie asks her husband.
“He’s been fine. Didn’t have much time to wonder where you were. I left him home asleep with Mrs. Colton. He’ll have a nice surprise in the morning.”
“Lovely. I can’t wait for a shower,” Jackie says with a sigh. “And a bite to eat, do you think, sweetheart?”
“Maybe,” says Rose. She hasn’t felt hungry in quite a while.
“Last time it was Jacks and Rose coming over with nothing,” Pete says. “Suppose it’s your turn now, Doctor.”
“I’ve got Rose,” he says. “I’m good.” He squeezes her hand and smiles at her.
He’s a different man now, simply by being half human. She doesn’t know yet what kind of man he is. But she is not the same girl he lost in the Void. It seems a fair trade.
She smiles back. “Me too.”