Authors: _thirty2flavors and goldy_dollar
Pairings: Ten II/Rose, Ten/Rose, Eleven/Rose, Eleven/River. Yes, really.
Summary: After losing the Doctor, Rose sets off to find him again.
Spoilers: 2009 Specials, S5 casting.
A/N: I think it is safe to say that we are both committed to Ten II and Rose having their happily ever after despite what the pairing information might indicate, so without giving too much away, this fic is a little bit more complicated than your usual "Ten II dies of metacrisis so Rose can be reunited with the Time Lord Doctor" plot.
Excerpt: One certainly didn’t go banging down the walls between parallel worlds for a quick visit to the nearest Tesco.
The Doctor slammed the door shut behind him and pressed his sonic screwdriver to the lock, using the back of his free hand to wipe an irritating trickle of sweat from his forehead. Ignoring the persistent pain radiating from his left ankle, he spun around, his eyes sweeping over the room. It was small, filled with electronics, and the air was stiflingly warm and dry. As engine control rooms went, he’d seen nicer ones. He strode to the nearest control board and stared at it long and hard, doing his best to ignore the rapid, panicked rhythm his own heartbeat.
“Come on, come on,” he hissed to himself between gritted teeth. “Think, think, think.” He tapped his forehead with the heel of his hand, willing himself to come up with a better solution. “Kordhum technology, there’s got to be something.” He looked back towards the door, frowning. Decompressing the engines would give him exactly twenty-six seconds to make it back to the transmat and off the ship. How long had it taken him to get here? Fifty seconds? A minute? Maybe if he ran—
Without warning the ship lurched violently, pitching the Doctor across the room. His weak ankle made one last definitive ‘pop!’ before it gave out beneath him, and with a string of very creative Gallifreyan curse words, the Doctor fell backwards into a Kordhum computer tower. Rubbing the back of his head where it had slammed into the wall, he stared at his foot, morbidly fascinated by the strange angle with which it stuck out from his leg.
“Right,” he said aloud, swallowing around the dryness in his throat. “Maybe not so much with the running, then.”
He tried not to notice how very frightened that made him.
Groaning, he rolled over and shoved himself onto his knees. He tried to pull himself up onto one leg but slipped, and for a brief defeated second he sat still, staring up, his chest heaving with exhaustion and pain and fear.
Just behind the second computer tower, there was a window out of which he could see a tiny smidgen of the blue that was Earth. It had been a long time since he’d seen the Earth from its orbit, and in another scenario he might have been grateful for the opportunity. There was something unusually serene about watching a planet from its orbit; from here it was impossible for him to see the absolute chaos on the planet’s surface.
Rose was down there, he thought. Rose was down there fighting.
He closed his eyes, trying to quell a wave of terrified nausea. He heaved himself up again, leaning heavily against the computer. He put all his weight on his right leg and grit his teeth, doing his best to ignore the sharp pain in his other leg. Rose was still down there, he reminded himself. Rose was still in danger.
He had to stop this.
Shoving his screwdriver into his pocket, the Doctor fished around for his mobile. He flipped it open and stared at the screen, thumb hovering over the keypad. It was a good thirty seconds before his hand stopped shaking long enough for him to speed dial Rose.
Then he took a deep breath, swallowed, and put the phone to his ear.
“Doctor?” He could hear the immediate relief in her voice, cutting through her adrenaline and fear. “Oh my God, where are you? Steven said one second you were there, and then—”
The Doctor drew in a breath through his teeth, shifting his weight. He had to be quick. If he waited too long, he'd lose his nerve. "Rose, listen—”
"You sound like you're hurt," said Rose, ever-perceptive. "Are you all right? How’s your ankle? Do you need—”
He cut her off. “Rose, I’ve figured it out. They’re Kordhums.”
From the other end of the line, Rose gave a nervous, empty laugh. “Oh, right. Kordhums, yeah, should’ve known.” She drew in a shaky breath. “How do you stop Kordhums?”
“The ship.” He paused to swallow, looking at the computer in front of him and doing his best to imagine it was Rose. “You’ve got to take out the ship. Those droids you’re fighting, that’s where they’re getting their orders from. Take that out and they're done.”
“The ship,” she repeated. “Okay.” She paused, and he imagined her biting her lip and furrowing her brow in thought. “Should I call UNIT, then? They haven’t been able to do much so far, but maybe—”
“No. Kordhum shield technology is too strong, Earth’s weapons aren’t powerful enough, not yet, not even Torchwood’s.”
“So what do we do?”
“Well…” He shoved himself away from the computer he was leaning against, propelling himself forward a foot or so before he reached out for the wall again. “Funny thing about Kordhum technology, from an internal perspective it’s none too foolproof. If you decompress the engines on a Kordhum ship, the whole thing goes 'bang' in under thirty seconds.” He laughed, and even to his own ears it sounded faintly hysterical. “Imagine that! Less than a minute! That’s incredible, that is.” He swallowed hard, distantly aware that his vision had gone blurry. “I mean, that’s probably not even long enough to make it to the transmat. Certainly not on a broken ankle.”
There was a long silence from Rose’s end of the line. When she spoke again, her voice was trembling. “Doctor, where are you?”
The Doctor said nothing; instead he swallowed around the burn in the back of his throat.
“Doctor, tell me where you are. Doctor?” Rose was panicked now. “Doctor, please, tell me where you are.”
The Doctor closed his eyes, trying to picture her three days ago in their flat, smiling and happy and safe. “I love you,” he whispered.
“No,” she said instantly, and he could hear the tears in her voice. “Don’t you dare, Doctor, do you hear me?” She was yelling, now, her voice painfully loud over the speaker of the phone. “DOCTOR, DON’T YOU DARE—”
The Doctor opened his eyes, staring bleakly at the machine across from him through the haze of his tears. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. His voice cracked, and for a split second on the other end of the line Rose went silent. “Goodbye, Rose.”
And then he snapped the phone shut and tossed it to the ground, dragging himself towards the engine control board. Smiling and happy and safe, he thought. At least he could give her one of those three.
Rose Tyler sat on her mother’s sofa, her knees drawn up beside her, a bowl of soggy cereal in her lap. The television was advertising some new multi-purpose kitchen appliance—restaurant-quality nachos in under 30 seconds!—and Rose stared at the television without really seeing it.
Less than thirty seconds, she thought. She closed her eyes and swallowed, jabbing at the remote to change the channel. A news program popped up on the screen, the reporter staring seriously at the camera.
"—and after the recent attacks on British soil, the President has issued a statement regarding Britain's—"
Rose flicked off the television and flung the remote to the far end of the sofa, scowling. She set her uneaten bowl of cereal on the coffee table and sank down, rubbing her face with her hands.
Only a few weeks later, talk of the Kordhum invasion was everywhere, in every branch of news media. It was the largest-scale alien invasion this Earth had seen yet, and the fact that only Torchwood had a full understanding of what had happened wasn’t helping matters. As far as the rest of the world knew, the robot invasion ended as abruptly as it began, with each and every one of the robots dropping dead at once. One second the droids had been devastating the human opposition; the next, they were deactivated heaps of metal on the ground. There was speculation all across the world as to what had ended it so suddenly, dozens of theories cropping up with varying degrees of credibility.
Rose wondered if it would feel any better if the world knew the truth. Sometimes she wanted to scream at them, wanted everyone to know that their safety had cost her the man she loved. It was bitter and petty and childish, but sometimes Rose resented the whole world for daring to be more important to the Doctor than their own personal happiness.
She bit her lip and opened her eyes, staring at her mother's ceiling. She'd been hiding in the mansion ever since the funeral, eager to escape media recognition as "the mourning Vitex heiress." It reminded her strongly of her first few weeks in this world, before Bad Wolf Bay, grieving for the Doctor while stubbornly refusing to make a place for herself in this universe. She remembered thinking that if she just waited long enough, he was sure to find a way back to her. She wasn't naive enough to think that this time.
Or hopeful enough.
She'd been so certain, up until Norway, that somewhere in that first universe he'd been working at a way to get back to her. Instead she wound up with "just an image," telling her why she could never see him again and failing to say the words she wanted to hear. That was the first day she'd accepted that he wasn't coming for her, and it was the first day she'd begun thinking about the dimension cannon.
This time he'd replaced the image with a phone call and she'd been the one who took too long to say the words. He wasn't coming for her, and this time Rose couldn't just burst through the walls of the universe to get back to him.
"How are you doing?" came her father's voice, pulling Rose from her thoughts.
"Great," she mumbled, and Pete gave her a knowing grimace.
"Your mum's sending me out to get milk," he said. He looked at her uneaten bowl of breakfast but said nothing. "Anything you want?"
Rose shoved herself back into a sitting position and shook her head, curling her arms around her torso. "No, I'm fine, thanks."
"Right." Pete hesitated a moment, like he wanted to say something and couldn't think of what. Finally he nodded. "Okay. Sure. I'll see you later, then."
From her seat on the sofa Rose watched him go, hit suddenly, as she often was, by the absurdity of talking to her father. Both Jackie and Pete had tried to offer her some measure of advice, both knowing full well how it felt to lose a spouse. But then they'd eat dinner together, all four of them, or they'd debate how much they ought to spend on toys for Tony, and Rose found it difficult to take their advice seriously. That was how they'd really coped—by finding different versions of each other.
Different versions of each other, Rose thought suddenly, the bottom of her stomach seeming to disappear entirely. Her mouth went dry and she breathed deeply, her heart racing. Why hadn't she thought of it before?
She stumbled to her feet, running a hand over her hair to try and tame it into something half-presentable. "Mum?" she called. "I'm heading over to the flat."
Jackie's head popped out from around the corner, wet dish towel in her hands. "Rose!" she called. Rose stopped, feeling inexplicably guilty, and slowly turned around. “Come on, sweetheart, stay a bit longer.”
Rose hesitated. Then she curled her hands into fists, nails digging into her palms. "I can’t just sit here,” she said. She felt hot tears pool in her eyes. “I need to do something.”
Jackie immediately looked suspicious. "How do you mean?”
She looked away, swallowing past the lump in her throat. “The dimension cannon,” she said reluctantly, “I’ve still got it.”
Jackie looked dismayed but not, Rose noticed, particularly surprised. "I thought the Doctor said the walls between parallel worlds were closed forever."
"Yeah? He's said so before, didn't he? And I got back then." Rose paused and then in a softer voice added, "Mum, I've got to try, haven't I? Every time I think about spending the rest of my life here, on my own, I feel like..." she waved uselessly at the air, "it's like I can't breathe."
"He's only been gone a few weeks, sweetheart. I'm not saying you shouldn't think about it, but you need time to say goodbye."
Rose shook her head. "I need to do this."
That's how she coped the last time around, wasn't it? Instead of giving up hope, instead of spending her life moping for the Doctor, she threw herself into building the dimension cannon. She could do the same thing again now.
"Rose," Jackie pleaded softly, "Rose, please don't."
"I'm sorry, Mum," she said, stomach tightening into knots. She wiped the back of her nose with her hand. "I've got to try." And then, because it didn't feel like enough, Rose added, "Look at you and Dad. Worked out okay for you, didn't it?"
Her voice cracked over the last words and she allowed herself to consider, for just a second, that she didn't really want to start all over again with a man who looked and sounded like her husband, but wasn't her husband. He had no right, she thought, with a flash of powerful anger. They could have found another way and instead of giving that a shot, instead of trusting her and Torchwood, he went and sacrificed their life together.
She wanted to smack him for that.
Jackie didn't look like she knew what else to say. Finally she settled on, "No changing your mind, is there?"
"Nope," Rose said, feeling a surge of determination. That was good. She liked determination--it was better than numbness. "I'm going to find him again."
She always had before, after all.
The Doctor was irritated.
He idly tapped the psychic paper against his leg from where he had it clutched between two fingers. He didn’t like being summoned, and he especially didn’t like having to wait.
Waves lapped quietly against the shore of the beach where Amy waded in the water up to her knees, her shoes sitting safe on the shore. There was a small cut on the back of her thigh from when they beat a hasty retreat from the Caves of King Cylia III that morning, but otherwise she seemed to be enjoying the fresh water.
He quickly scanned the rest of the beach, but came up with nothing more interesting than a girl burying her father underneath a sandcastle and a half-naked couple snogging in the middle of the surf.
He tapped the psychic once more against his leg and then slipped it back in his pocket. If she didn’t show up soon...
He turned around and then came to a sudden and complete stop. His neck prickled uncomfortably and the human expression “like someone walking over my grave” popped into his head. It was particularly apt in this context, he thought, as he felt like he’d come face-to-face with a ghost.
She didn’t notice him right away, which gave him ample time to study her. Thoughts of rifts in time and space flew through his mind as he processed the “whys” and “hows” and “whens” in a manner of nanoseconds. He caught the slight indented outline in her jacket and knew that she was carrying around a gun. (Maybe she was frightened—coming to him for help? No, no, that wasn’t right. She could look after herself). He watched her stride determinedly through the beach, pushing through the crowds like she barely saw any of them.
She was looking for something—someone, he corrected. And as her gaze finally found the TARDIS, her posture straightening and her lips twitching just a tiniest bit, he knew positively and without a doubt that she was looking for him.
Well, of course she was. One certainly didn’t go banging down the walls between parallel worlds for a quick visit to the nearest Tesco.
It didn’t take her long to realize that he was openly staring at her. As her eyes met his, she staggered a little like she had never stopped to consider the possibility that he might look differently than she remembered. He felt a stab to his heart and wondered how it was that after all this time, Rose Tyler’s approval could still mean so much to him.
That really wasn’t fair at all.
She clutched at her side like she was in physical pain, eyes sweeping him up and down as she tried unsuccessfully to hide her shock. Finally, growing impatient, he raised one hand to wave at her.
She hesitantly raised her hand to wave back, but then someone brushed up against him and a voice in his ear said, “Hi, sweetie. Been waiting long?”
Up ahead, Rose jerked back in surprise, whole body stiffening.
The Doctor sighed deeply and he turned around. River’s smile was deceptively innocent.
“River,” he said, “you always did have impeccable timing.”
The words had barely left his mouth when a soft voice with a London accent he never thought he’d hear again said, “Doctor?”
He looked over and his vision was filled with Rose Tyler—blue jacket and black trousers and outline of the gun tucked into her belt—all flesh and blood and completely impossible and standing next to him.
But her eyes were on River and River was, much to his dismay, staring at Rose right back. They both spoke at the same time: “Who’s she?”
The Doctor pinched the bridge of his nose. Well. This wouldn’t be awkward at all.