Unless, Perhaps, Someday, A War

by haveloved [Reviews - 2]

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  • Teen
  • Swearing
  • Action/Adventure, Character Study, Drama, Het, Missing Scene, Romance, Standalone

Author's Notes:
This one is truly a beast! It's long, but there was just so much in the idea of Rose's dimension-hopping that the length was necessary. I owe a tremendous debt to Florence and the Machine, without whose album this fic would not exist! I own none of the lyrics I quote in here. Full disclaimers and clarifications are under the fic.

“Probably we’ll die without ever seeing each other again.”
“Yes, probably. Unless, perhaps, someday, a war…”
- Hiroshima, Mon Amour 
 

“No more dreaming of the dead as if death itself was undone
No more calling like a crow for a boy, for a body in the garden
No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love
No more dreaming like a girl so in love, so in love
No more dreaming like a girl so in love with the wrong world.”
- Florence and the Machine 

I.

“I love him to hell and back and heaven and back, and have and do and will.”
- Sylvia Plath

It begins with the darkness.

Early evening has fallen and she is pushing Tony in his stroller through the city streets, the chill in the wind biting at her cheeks, teasing strands of hair loose from her ponytail. She pauses to turn the collar of her leather jacket up against the wind. She has only had it for a few days now; she is wearing it in–it was a gift from her mum, one of those just-because things meant to cheer her.

In reality, all it does is make her think of him. A leather jacket. She remembers big ears and blue eyes and a huge grin, and she thinks he would approve.

She walks with Tony because she likes that he cannot talk yet, because she can instead talk to him and tell him stories and not have to answer questions about if she’s really all right. These days, she is able to smile, to laugh, to live without the Doctor.

But these days, what worries her is the darkness.

She sees it now, as night steals in and wraps the city in a blanket of blackness. Each night, she looks up at the sky and finds one less star, and every time, it makes her heart clench. She doesn’t believe the lies the media is spreading. It’s just air pollution blocking the sky. It’ll clear up soon enough, with all these anti-pollution measures going through. The whole thing will blow over.

No, Rose thinks, the whole thing will blow up.

She checks her watch–she can wear a watch now that she is not traveling through enough centuries to make that a moot point–and realizes she should be getting home, now that it’s darker and colder and her mum will worry about her being on the streets with Tony.

When she looks up, she can just barely see the North Star.

By the time she has gotten home, the sky is almost completely dark.

Fear is not something she feels very often anymore–when you have faced and defeated Daleks and Cybermen, it seems trivial to be frightened by a horror film or a loud noise–but she cannot and will not ignore the chill that races down her spine at the sight of the sky.

There is a decision to be made and she does not make it lightly. She tells herself that this time there are more people to consider; it isn’t just her mum and Mickey now. She has Pete and Tony to think of now, as well.

Eventually, it is the remembrance of her own words that convinces her.

“I made my choice a long time ago, and I’m never gonna leave you.”

She used to tell herself she’d stay with him forever, that she would fight beside him to the very end. She has realized since that forever is fragile. Forever can be taken away.

But the fight cannot be taken out of Rose Tyler.

II.

“And I could hear thunder and see the lightning crack
All around the world was waking, I never could go back
'Cause all the walls of dreaming, they were torn wide open.”

- Florence and the Machine 

She has learned by now not to dismiss the ramblings of the astrophysicist in Torchwood’s basement. She might not understand what he says at times, but the man is almost invariably right.

He is the one who realizes the walls are crumbling.

The readouts on his machines are going wild, and he grabs her wrist as she passes one day and hauls her down to the basement to look. She doesn’t realize until she collapses into her desk chair ten minutes later that she has been trembling wildly the whole time.

She inhales, exhales, reaches into her desk drawer.

The yellow button sits there so innocuously, almost mocking her. She could press it and be sent back to that universe–if only it really were that easy.

“Take me back! TAKE ME BACK!”

She slammed her fists into the wall, screaming, sobbing, raging, just as she had railed against Emergency Program One. She drove her fists into the wall as if she could break down the walls between the universes herself, as if all that stood between her and the Doctor was paint and plaster.

“Take me back,” she sobbed, weaker, gulping breaths through her tears and somehow blurrily seeing Pete out of the corner of her eye, taking the button from around his neck and looking at it. She hears the hollowness in his voice, the apology.

“It’s stopped working. He did it. He closed the breach.”

“No!”

She wrests the button from her desk drawer, getting up and going to Pete’s office, knocking on his door.

When he opens, she strides in past him and slaps the button down on his desk, and when he has stationed himself back behind the desk, he looks down at the button and then back up at her. “No.”

“The walls are crumbling. Dr. Rourke told me as much. I might be able to get back–”

“You heard what the Doctor said; every time we used that thing, it ripped a hole in reality–”

“You don’t think they’re not there already?” Rose says over him, louder, pointing out the window behind him to the night sky. “The stars going out, that’s not enough of a hole in reality for you? He can help–he’d know what’s going on–”

“Suppose I do let you go back. Suppose that thing works after all.” Pete jerks a finger at the button. “It’s dangerous, Rose. If reality is really destabilizing, there’s no telling where you’d end up–you could run into a different Doctor, or no Doctor at all–”

“And I’ll keep going ‘til I find him,” Rose says firmly, and there’s a hardness in her eyes Pete cannot argue with. “Dangerous never stopped me before.”

She takes the button from his desk and ignores Pete’s shouts behind her, but they ring in her ears still as she makes her way back to Dr. Rourke in the basement and hands him the button.

“Can you work with this? Make it work again?”

“You want to send yourself back through the void?” Rourke looks up incredulously, stands. “Miss Tyler, I don’t think you have any idea–”

“–of the danger? I’ve been told, yeah. But anything that’s causing the stars to go out is something far more dangerous than I could ever run into out there,” she says to Rourke, and to soften her snappish tone, she gives him a small smile. “Just see what you can come up with?”

Rourke finally nods and sits back down, drawing the button closer and examining it. She leaves the basement to let him get to it.

III.

“You’re the target that I’m aiming at
And I get that message home.”
- Coldplay 

“Look at this.”

Six weeks later, she is huddled with Rourke and Peter around Rourke’s computer. The button, reworked into something Rourke calls the “dimension cannon,” is hooked up to the computer, and Rose stares at the lines spreading over the screen, confused. The lines are notched with smaller lines, some stationary, some shifting, and she opens her mouth to ask. Rourke anticipates the question.

“Timelines, Miss Tyler. The cannon can measure timelines. I do believe I’ve found the Doctor’s; he seems to come back to the same places, and it’s not hard to find him… but look at this. The timelines all converge on this one woman.”

He reaches into his desk and pulls out a personnel file marked with a picture of a redheaded woman, somewhere in her forties. “I tested it without telling you–sorry, Miss Tyler, Pete. I had to be sure it would work, and I didn’t wish to risk your life, Miss Tyler–and I had to find information on this woman. She’s important, whoever she is.”

“Donna Noble,” Rose says, picking up the picture and then the top sheet of the file. “Worked for… H.C. Clements. I know that name. Why do I–?”

“I’ll tell you why,” says Pete. “Because that firm’s our sole proprietor.”

“In that world, too?” Rose asks, in disbelief. “Not just here?”

“So Mickey told me, when he was working back here. It was a big front. They played it off like they were a regular office building, nothing special, but they funneled their money into Torchwood.”

“She was a temp, it looks like.” Rose sifts through the papers in the file. “Resigned after some incident involving her boss… she’s important to the Doctor, then, if she keeps showing up on his timeline?” She directs this at Rourke.

“Well, if she’s not, she will be. Look at this.” He points at the screen, at a notch in the line that Rose can see bears today’s date, but three years ago–Pete’s World is ahead. “It’s happening now; she’s fusing with his timeline. Any future outcome hinges on her.”

Rose picks up one of the other buttons–Rourke has reverse-engineered all of them, just in case one is damaged. “This worked for you, yeah? You managed to get through?”

Rourke nods, but says, “But it’s still mostly untested–we should run more diagnostics, send some others through before you…”

She looks over at Pete, and he hesitates before giving her a silent nod. Approval. They have reached it grudgingly, but Pete is willing to concede that they need to find the Doctor. “If there’s something momentous going on for the Doctor, I have to know. I have to find this Noble woman, figure out what her role is in all this. I need to be there now.”

She takes the button in her hand, but before she can press it, she goes to Pete, kissing his cheek and wrapping one of her arms around his neck in a hug. For a moment, he wraps his arms around her waist and gives her a tentative squeeze. They might not be father and daughter just yet, but they are getting there. This is Pete letting his rebellious teenage daughter go off in the world.

“You’ll know you’re in the right place if your watch stops,” Rourke tells her as she prepares. She’s wearing black pants, a pink shirt, the blue leather jacket thrown over that–comfortable clothes, since she hadn’t really been expecting a big to-do in the office today–and the analog watch on her wrist. “Your wear an analog, yes? The shift in dimensions will confuse it; it can’t cope with the shift between past and future dates, as I’m sure you know. It will let you know if you’re in the right place. It should run again once you’re back in the right universe. Are you ready?”

She nods, and Rourke and Pete follow her outside, so that she’ll at least end up on a street somewhere and not in the basement of some building. She gives them a final, faint smile before she presses the button.

She ends up in an alley, thrown forward by the force of the landing onto her knees, and she’s retching and vomiting what little she’d eaten for lunch onto the pavement, before rocking back onto her heels to spare her knees from the ache of kneeling on the gravel.

She wipes the sweat from her brow with the sleeve of her jacket and checks her watch. Stopped.

She has to close her eyes to ground herself, to stop herself from crying–she can’t know if she’s in the right universe yet. But she opens her eyes and looks up.

Stars. They’re all there, every last one of them. She feels the tears on her cheeks but it takes a second for it to sink in that she’s crying from joy. She made it.

She forces herself to her feet even if her knees protest, making her way out of the alley and into the street, stunned to find a crowd gathered, most of them babbling incoherently to each other. It seems strange–she can see nothing out of the ordinary; it’s just a city street–before she listens in closer and cracks a small smile. Of course. She has narrowly missed another alien threat. It figures she would find him here.

She gathers that whatever went on had to do with people’s fat… walking? Something about it getting sucked up into the sky? She’d say it doesn’t sound right, but then, her tolerance for things that are out of the ordinary is much higher these days.

She waits by the railing, watching the cleanup efforts and waiting for any sign of Donna Noble. The cannon’s measurements had said she was close, so where is she?

Then she hears the voice, clearly in the middle of a phone call. It doesn’t sound any different than the many, many phone calls going on around her, but she feels something–a chill down her spine, reaching her through the leather of her coat. She has learned to trust her instincts.

And so she waits, with her back to the voice, though she listens. She hears: “Yeah. I know. Spaceship. But I've still got the car keys. Look, there’s a bin on Brook Street, about thirty feet from the corner. I'm going to leave them in there.” The sound of keys being tossed into the bin. “… Yes, that’s it, a bin… Oh, stop complaining, the car’s just down the road a bit. Got to go. Really got to go. ‘Bye.”

Then there is a hand on her arm, turning her. Her brain must still be addled from the jump, because it takes a second for her to realize that she’s looking at Donna Noble, the woman she came here for.

“Listen, there’s this woman that’s going to come along,” Donna’s saying, pointing to a bin behind them. “A tall, blond woman called Sylvia. Tell her that bin there–right, it’ll all make sense. That bin there!”

She cannot trust her voice to speak, and so she nods, watching as Donna Noble runs off.

She turns to look back at the street, and she has to stand for a second to calm her racing heartbeat, to stop herself from following Donna Noble… she cannot do that yet. She needs to know more about what the threat to the world is, cannot find the Doctor and waste precious time that she could instead be using to find out about the darkness.

No, she cannot go to him yet, and the thought almost hurts her. She has come to this world only to realize that she cannot go further just yet.

She makes herself turn, walking down the street, and she realizes that if these people have seen something alien today, they wouldn’t mind seeing one more thing. She presses the button as she walks away, and she fades into the cold night air.

IV.

“And the public don’t dwell on my transmission
‘Cause it wasn’t televised.”
- The Killers

They record a message, too, one she can send to the places she cannot go. It will take some of the weight off her, so that she doesn’t have to make quite so many jumps, and they can broadcast it anywhere. Rourke promises her he will send it over as many airwaves as possible, that he will try to reach UNIT, Torchwood, the TARDIS.

She calls for him, shouts “Doctor!” as loud as she can in the hopes that it will make him hear her across universes and timelines, imparts a desperate messages about the stars going out and the walls crumbling.

But when they receive no response, she knows it hasn’t worked. She has to keep dimension-jumping, hoping to find him.

Rourke tells her that he’s having trouble pinning down the Doctor’s timeline, and she realizes that her Doctor must be traveling somewhere other than Earth. But the sky is growing darker and she has to act now. She tells Rourke she will take her chances, that finding any Doctor will bring her closer to finding the right timeline, to finding her Doctor. So she makes another jump.

V.

“And you don’t know how and you can’t look back
All your maps and charts won’t help you now
I can’t be here, I can’t be here.”
- Edmund 

The young couple brings her in to A&E despite her protests, and the two of them are babbling so incoherently that it takes him a minute to sort them out enough to figure out what went on. The girl is oddly calm, bored even, looking at her nails as the couple stammers out their story.

“Fell out of the sky, she did,” the man says, pointing to the girl and then looking back at Rory, jabbing a finger in her direction again for emphasis before adding, “Big flash of blue light and there she was, just came through our kitchen window, glass everywhere–”

“We’re so sorry you’re hurt, love,” the woman says genuinely, turning to the girl. “But really, we have no idea how–”

“I already told you, it’s all right,” the girl says, waving a hand expansively. “I apologize about breaking the window; I know it was a shock… can you stitch me up?”

She directs that last at Rory, and it takes him a second to blink and realize that there’s blood matting the hair at her scalp. On further examination, he finds glass, not that it should surprise him. The couple doesn’t seem like they want to press the girl for payment, just concerned for her welfare. He tells them to go when he realizes they’re so flustered that their presence would only interfere with his treating the girl.

He uses tweezers to pick the glass from her scalp, and she’s brave enough not to wince, the only sign of pain the way her hands sometimes grasp and pull at the sheets of the bed he sat her on. She makes no effort at conversation and he doesn’t either, until he finally can’t stand it. “Flash of blue light? Flew through a couple’s kitchen window? Aren’t you going to tell me they’re making it up?”

“Would you believe it if I did?” she counters. And he’s not sure if he would. The couple had seemed pretty set on their story; the girl hasn’t confirmed or denied. Perhaps they were telling the truth, but even then, how could a person just fall out of the sky, or appear from thin air?

Then again, he can’t exactly talk. Hasn’t he heard for years all of Amy’s stories about the Doctor, the madman in the blue box who fell out of the sky?

“Is there a reason you ended up in Leadworth, then?” he asks as he begins to stitch the gash closed. “Not quite your normal destination…”

“I’m looking for someone. I… heard he might be here.”

“Does he have a name? It’s a small village; not many people to know…”

She smiles faintly. “Sounds weird saying it in a hospital… he’s called the Doctor.”

He recovers sensation in his hands in enough time not to cock up the stitches, but he has to make sure he’s closed his mouth–if this weren’t a professional setting, his jaw would be on the floor. As it is, he gives an indecorous cough and says, “Blue box, raggedy clothes?”

The girl quirks an eyebrow. “You know him?”

“My, erm… my girlfriend… she calls him her imaginary friend.” For Christ’s sake, there can’t be another person out there who knows this Doctor, can there? Wouldn’t he have to be real for that to happen?

The girl gives a soft chuckle, and if he’s not mistaken, there’s a trace of bitterness in it. “Wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.”

“So he’s real.”

“Very. You seem surprised.”

“I never thought he could be–”

He’s just finishing the stitches as he says it, and he’s cutting the excess thread when one of the other nurses, Drew, comes barreling in.

“Rory, mate, you’ve got to see this–the coma patients, they’re–I can’t really explain it, they’re all talking–”

“That’s impossible,” Rory says flatly. “Persistent vegetative state–”

“Don’t think I don’t know that, mate? I’m telling you, they all just sat up and said ‘Doctor’–”

Of all the weird shit that has happened today, he has to admit that this is the weirdest, and he is turning to the girl, as if she jinxed him by mentioning the Doctor, but she is getting up and shrugging her blue leather jacket back on and giving him a smirk. “You might want to check that out. He deals with this sort of thing.”

“You think they’re talking about the Doctor? But he’s not–”

“He is. And you’ll see it soon enough. If you don’t believe me, follow your friend to that ward.” She nods in Drew’s direction and then pecks Rory’s cheek. And before he can tell her to stay, she shouldn’t be leaving just yet, there are questions he’d like to ask her–

–she is halfway across the ward and then she fades away before his and Drew’s stunned eyes.

VI.

“Light up, light up, as if you have a choice
Even if you cannot hear my voice,
I’ll be right beside you, dear.”
- Snow Patrol

She lingers in the shadows, watching. There are fireworks bursting in the sky and the sight of them tugs at her heart.

She walked in the street with the Doctor, swinging their twined hands, joyful at the realization that she’d nearly lost him again only to get him back. “They keep on trying to split us up, but they never, ever will.”

The Doctor halted, looking at her and saying with a sort of fierceness, a finality, “Never say never, ever.”

She was so naïve, back then. She really did believe nothing would separate them. She really did believe it would never end.

She watches as a Doctor–not hers, but she knows it must be him, would have known even if she hadn’t seen him step out of the TARDIS–kisses a woman beneath a sky bursting with fireworks. She watches as the woman refuses him, and she smiles at that–that is a woman who knows her own self, a woman who will doubtless do great things without the Doctor. She watches as the Doctor steps into the TARDIS alone.

Same old life. Last of the Time Lords. (Or is he, at this point? She has no idea, doesn’t think she’ll ever know.)

She wants so desperately to run to him, to offer herself, to fill the empty space. But she knows that somewhere out there, her past self waits, will be waiting five more years until her own Doctor shows up and grabs her hand and tells her to run.

That familiar whooshing nearly does her in. The sight of the TARDIS dematerializing almost destroys her, but she does not let it. She will find her Doctor somehow. She knows she will.

But as a bit of insurance, she finally emerges from out of the alley and goes to the spot where the TARDIS had been just moments before. It is a public space, a park of sorts, and as ever, there are remnants of children playing, bits of chalk and abandoned toys and jumpers left on the grass. She and Mickey used to play in places like these.

She kneels and takes one of the bits of chalk into her hand, scraping it over the sidewalk and leaving the words she knows he will notice, should he ever come back as her Doctor, either of them. B, A, D, W, O, L, F.

She gets up, breathes in, the scent of the night air almost reinvigorating. It is New Year’s Day, the turn of the millennium, and she wishes she could stay. She wishes she could stop wandering, stop searching, but she has not come this far to give up after catching just a glimpse of the Doctor. She will keep going.

Rourke and the other astrophysicists and engineers are working on sending her through without the button, on perfecting the second dimension cannon, one that sends her hurtling through the void in a burst of blue electricity. They’ve gotten somewhat better at aiming it than the first time, when she’d broken that poor couple’s window. She takes a breath and reaches for her phone, grateful that the Doctor soniced it… oh, so long ago. She might not be in the right time, but the signal will somehow find its way to Pete’s World, to Torchwood. “Control? Bad Wolf. Bring me back.”

One breath, two, three–

A flash of electricity, icy blue. Breath, stolen from her lungs. Wrenching, tearing, reality warping–

And she is back in Pete’s World, doubled over with her hands on her knees, chalk dust still on her fingers and fireworks still flashing in her sightline.

“Nothing?” Pete asks her, once he has ascertained that everything is still in its right place on her body.

Rose looks up, a tight smile on her face. She wants to pretend it doesn’t bother her, but in a way, it does. “It wasn’t him,” she says quietly. “But close. We’re getting closer.”

VII.

“The stars, the moon–they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark–no dawn, no day
I’m always in this twilight, in the shadow of your heart.”
- Florence and the Machine

The Doctor’s timeline has collapsed.

Rourke calls her in the middle of the night to tell her. She throws on the black pants, the pink shirt, the blue leather jacket–they have always brought her luck in all her other jumps, so she has become superstitious about them, and besides, if the Doctor never changed, why should she?–and borrows Pete’s car to go to Torchwood.

“I don’t understand. It’s this Noble woman–she has a second timeline. That shouldn’t be possible. But it looks like the trouble starts here.” Rourke jabs a finger at one of the points on the Doctor’s timeline. “Christmas, 2007.”

“He’s in trouble.” Rose is making her way to the cannon, looking at Rourke pleadingly. “Send me through. I need to help him.”

“Your father really should know–”

Please,” Rose says, and she hates the way her voice breaks, hates the sob that threatens to rise in her throat. Dammit, she’s Rose Tyler. Defender of the Earth. She’s stronger than this.

Rourke caves, and she readies herself and watches as Rourke presses the button, and suddenly everything goes black.

She has gotten better at landings, can stay on her feet, can keep down whatever she’d eaten that day. She hits the ground running, running, running–

–and there’s Donna Noble, and the lights of an ambulance are blinking and fading into the distance as Donna turns away from the scene, and oh, God, oh, God, she’s too late, she can’t be too late–

“What happened?! What did they find?” she demands of Donna Noble as she comes near, and it is all she can do not to grab her and shout and cry. She somehow manages to collect herself and calm down, before repeating, “Sorry, did they find someone?”

“I don’t know,” Donna Noble tells her, looking profoundly confused. “Um, bloke called the Doctor or something?”

Maybe she isn’t too late. Hope seizes her heart and she curses how easy it is for her to hope, tells herself she should be more used to disappointment so that it will not crush her as much when those foolish hopes are dashed.

She looks around, searching frantically. Where is he? She’d know that head of hair anywhere, would be able to pick those pinstripes out of a crowd in under a minute… except he isn’t anywhere she can see.

“Well, where is he?” She wishes she didn’t sound so desperate.

“They took him away. He’s dead."

And there it is.

She is staring right at Donna but not seeing her. Her hands are clenching uselessly at her side, grasping at the empty air, searching for a hand that isn’t there. Everything she knows is crumbling, because the Doctor cannot die, he told her he couldn’t, that regeneration is how Time Lords cheat death–

“I’m sorry. Did you know him?”

Donna’s voice breaks through the fog, and she draws in a shuddering breath, looking away, struggling not to break apart.

“I mean, they didn’t say his name. It could be any doctor.” Donna’s voice is more consoling now, as if looking to assuage her, even though she must know from Rose’s seeming devastation that this is the man she has been looking for.

“I came so far,” Rose says faintly, and she cannot believe it. Will not. There has to be a way to fix this. She has to talk to Rourke, figure out how to fix the timeline. She will.

She feels Donna’s hand on her arm, that same consoling voice saying, “It could be anyone.”

Finally, she brings herself to focus on the other woman, wills herself to speak anything but the thoughts running through her mind. “What’s your name?”

“Donna. And you?”

She hears it before she sees it. A faint clicking. And out of the corner of her eye, she catches a glimpse of something: a beetle? Something on the woman’s back. She cannot stop staring, even as she tells herself to, rambles on without even giving her name. “Oh, I was just… passing by. I shouldn’t even be here; this is… wrong. It’s wrong. This is so wrong…” Because it is wrong. The Doctor can’t be dead. She has not come all this way just for him to die on her.

Calm down. Focus.

“Sorry, what was it? Donna what?”

“Why do you keep looking at my back?” Donna says abruptly, and Rose has to avert her eyes. Damn.

“I’m not.” It’s a piss-poor denial and she knows it.

“Yes, you are. You keep looking behind me; you’re doing it now…”

By the time Donna looks back to where Rose had been standing, she is gone, because in the other world, Rourke has flipped the switch and brought her back, and Rose has sank to the floor of his office and makes no effort to hide the tears streaming down her face.

“You have to send me back,” she says. “Not then, maybe a few hours later–UNIT will have to find the TARDIS–there’s something wrong with the timeline… if they have the TARDIS, they can fix it…”

She is looking up into Rourke’s face, and he is looking back at her with pity she does not want, but she can’t scorn him for offering it when she’s crying on his office floor.

“We have to fix the timeline,” she repeats. “Send me back.”

Rourke keeps sending her back, through two years’ worth of alternate history. She is there when UNIT pulls the drowned TARDIS from the Thames.

She is the one whose key opens the doors, only to find the inside dark and dead and empty. She is the one who lays a hand on the console and whispers, “I’m sorry, old girl, so sorry…”

She is the one who is fed information by Rourke about what happened in the original timeline. She finds Donna again to tell her about the lottery ticket. She watches the devastation as the Titanic hits Buckingham Palace from a safe distance and is jumped back by Rourke.

She sits under a burning sky and tells Donna about the sacrifices Torchwood made to save Earth from the Sontarans. (Later, she sheds a private tear for this timeline’s Jack, trapped and tortured.) She warns Donna about the stars going out and is there to greet her when they do.

She figures out, with Rourke, about the Time Beetle and how to fix the timeline. At first, she insists there must be another way, that surely Donna Noble does not have to die. But Rourke reminds her repeatedly that this is not the real Donna, that this is an aberration, that this Donna’s death will fix the timeline and enable her to finally find the Doctor. So she is the one who tells Donna that they can fix the timeline, though she does not tell her what that entails. The words that leave her lips, for the second time that day, are the Doctor’s. “I’m sorry…”

She is there for Donna as she dies. And for all her talk about the wrong word in the wrong place changing an entire causal nexus (Rourke’s words, not hers), she knows that now is the time to say it. The last words Donna Noble hears are Bad Wolf.

Rourke jumps her back and points triumphantly at the screen. The Doctor’s timeline is back, still twined with Donna’s, but at least it is there at all. “You did it, Miss Tyler. You fixed it…”

She nods, but her mind is on Donna, on how she will say those words to the Doctor and they will change his reality, signal him that she is coming. The walls are breaking down, down, down, and she has no doubt that the words will spark a change.

She only wishes she could see his face when it happens.

And though it is hard for her to smile these days, with all the traveling she’s done, with all the near-hits and near-misses, she manages one at the thought of that. She has left herself a message to lead her back, same as she did all those years ago.

I want you safe. My Doctor.

And though many things about her have changed, that one never has.

Notes:

* I do not own, nor will I ever own, the following: Marguerite Duras’ Hiroshima, Mon Amour, Florence and the Machine’s “Blinding” and “Cosmic Love”, Coldplay’s “The Message”, The Killers’ “Spaceman”, Edmund’s “Maps and Charts”, or Snow Patrol’s “Run”. All credit goes to their respective authors.

* Rory is working in A&E, rather than with the coma patients, because that is what his badge lists his specialty as! His badge contradicts him working with the coma patients, so I stuck with his badge’s designation of him as an A&E nurse and had him hear about the coma patients from someone else. (Edmund, the band whose song provides that particular chapter heading, is Arthur Darvill’s band! He’s the lead singer and the song is just lovely.)

* Because I know most people haven’t seen the TV movie, or have blocked it from their memories if they have, the Doctor Rose sees kissing a woman under the fireworks is Eight; he is kissing his companion Grace.