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Title: Out of the Howling (part 9/12ish?)
Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Ten II/Rose
Genre: Angst, drama
Summary: Six years after Bad Wolf Bay, Rose gets a message from another universe.
Excerpt: There was no mistaking the naked concern on his face, but she remembered what he had said back in the laboratory. I care about all my companions. For all the years that had passed, after everything they’d shared, in the end she was just the latest in a long line.

Previous parts: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8

The Doctor felt like he was teetering close to a precarious edge. Facing the Master's sudden appearance back in his life had been bad enough. Coupled with trying to stay distant from Rose, he felt like a rubber band pulled dangerously taut. Physically and emotionally spent, concentrating on the Dimension Cannon took what little remained of his willpower. It probably did not help matters that it had been days since he'd slept properly. If he had still been a full Time Lord...

But there was no use even dwelling on that. If he was a Time Lord, he wouldn't be in this position in the first place.

He hadn't banked on Rose showing up at the laboratory like she had, though now it seemed obvious. That was Rose Tyler, wasn't it? She would never sit back at home and wait for him to solve a problem. Nevertheless, her appearance complicated things. Their conversation at the flat had been difficult enough; having her here in front of him, heartbroken, made it almost impossible to maintain his carefully constructed aloofness.

Still — a part of him was glad to see her, eager to soak up her company for the limited time they had left.

He couldn't stop himself from wondering if she was beginning to see through him, if she would call him out on his act. Selfishly, he found himself thinking that it would be easier for him if she did; it would be kinder to spend the rest of his days knowing that Rose understood how far he’d gone for her than to die knowing she believed the worst of him.

He didn't want to give in to thoughts like that. He tapped away at the computer, trying to ignore Rose's presence in the laboratory. He could feel her eyes on him as he worked, and sensed her growing curiosity. Several times he opened his mouth to run something by her before closing it again. If he went down that road, it would be too easy for him to fall into their usual habits. He had to focus on the job ahead of him. Fix the Dimension Cannon. Open the walls to another universe. Cure Rose. No problemo.

The laptop emitted a loud beep, warning that his latest calculations were still off the mark. The Doctor sighed, shoulders drooping. He leaned forward, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers and staring into the computer screen.

"What is it?" Rose said. "What’s wrong?"

The Doctor kept his eyes on the computer. "I need to program the frequency exactly right for the Dimension Cannon to work. One slight mistake and the consequences could be catastrophic."

"I remember," said Rose. "It took us ages to find the right frequency. Some days I felt like I travelled to every parallel world except the one I was looking for. We'd still have those readings on file though, yeah?"

"Sort of, but it’s complicated. The reason the Dimension Cannon worked before was because of the Daleks. It wasn’t just the walls between this world that were weak — it was all worlds. Getting the wrong frequency was like... like... taking the wrong exit on a motorway. Inconvenient, but you could just get on at the next entrance ramp. This time we’ve got to be precise. More than precise." The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. "We’ve got to ease our way through the gap in this world — anything more than that, and we risk bringing down the walls of the world around us. Interdimensional collapse."

"What was it the Master said? That he spent months pressing through the Void and into this world?" Rose paused. "Then there’s got to be... I dunno, some sort of hole or pathway to follow, wouldn’t there be?"

The Doctor considered that and then a smile began tugging at his lips. "That might just work," he said. "We’ll have to go back to Hyde Park. Seemed to be where the walls were the weakest. Torchwood has got that spot surrounded, of course, but Pete did give us... well, permission isn’t quite right, but tacit support, I suppose. And I’ve got the boss’s daughter on my side..."

The Doctor’s smile dimmed as he realized what he said, and he felt his heart sink. Rose, too, seemed to deflate, as if she’d momentarily forgotten the rift between them. He turned sharply back to his computer.

"Anyway," the Doctor said hurriedly, "if we can match this Earth’s frequency to that Earth’s frequency, the Dimension Cannon should be able to follow the path all the way home."

"Right," said Rose, but her voice was muted.

The Doctor couldn't help himself from glancing over at her. When he did, his stomach clenched.

"Rose," he said, "your nose is bleeding."

Rose reached up to touch her nose and then jerked her fingers back, staring down at the blood now staining the tips of her fingers. Dark spots already dotted the top of her shirt.

"Yeah," she said dully, "I suppose it is."

As if moving on instinct, she tilted her head back, pinching at the bridge of her nose.

The Doctor couldn't help himself.

"No, Rose–" Suddenly he was crouched in front of her, his hands cradling her face. His thumbs brushed against her cheeks and he gently held her in place. "Lean forward, not backwards. Counter-intuitive, I know, but better for the blood to come out than in, hmm?"

Rose followed his directions and leaned forward, elbows supporting her weight on her knees. The Doctor drew his hands back, but he stayed close to her, his heartbeat ringing in his ears. It was becoming harder to remember that he was supposed to be keeping his distance.

"We need to get the Master," he said, voice low and tight. "Now."

"I’m okay." She brushed her fingers under her nose again, pulling them away with only a few red spots on them. "It’s already clearing up, see?"

The Doctor shook his head.

"No, this has gone on long enough." He placed one hand on her knee. "The Dimension Cannon is as good as we’re going to get it and I am through watching you suffer."

Rose blinked at him and then down at the hand on her knee. A shadow crossed over her face.

"Please don't touch me," she said evenly.

The Doctor abruptly yanked his hand back. "Yes, sorry. I didn't–" He pushed himself to his feet and stepped away from her. He cleared his throat, and in a more neutral tone, managed, "I'm sorry. Habit, I suppose."

"Yeah," Rose whispered. She looked down at her lap. "It's confusing, though. I wish you'd stop."

"Stop what?"

"Stop pretending like you care."

She wasn’t watching him as she said it, and the Doctor was grateful, because he was sure she’d have seen how her words stung him. This is what you wanted, he reminded himself. This would be easier on her in the long run.

Wouldn’t it?

It was a moment before he answered.

"Of course I care," he said. Then he cleared his throat. "You know me. I care about all my companions."

Rose squeezed her eyes shut. "Yeah," she said, as though it were no comfort at all. "I know."

"Right," said the Doctor, feeling like something heavy was pressing against his chest. He forced himself to continue. "No more wasting time. We’re going to Hyde Park."

---

The van jostled as the Doctor drove at a surprisingly fast clip through London’s crowded city centre, weaving sharply in and out of traffic. Rose sat in the passenger seat, a box of equipment sitting securely on her lap. The Master was locked in the back, although this seemed like a formality at best. Now that he was close to getting his goal — the TARDIS — the Doctor no longer seemed all that concerned that he would be escaping.

The Doctor had barely spoken to her since leaving the lab, and was doing a very good job of pretending that she wasn’t there. Rose tried to push aside just how much that hurt, pressing her teeth together so she wouldn’t cry again. Instead she tugged her jacket more tightly around her. It was freezing in the van. She opened her mouth to ask the Doctor if he would turn down the air and then closed it again. No doubt her sudden chill was another side effect of what the Master had done to her.

They veered around another side street and Rose groaned in pain as the setting sun streamed directly into her eyes. It felt like the light was shooting straight through her head.

She sensed the Doctor glancing over. "Oh, Rose, I'm sorry–"

Before he could finish, something exploded in Rose's head. She couldn’t stop her cry of pain and shock and immediately bent down, the box sliding off her lap and onto the floor. It felt like something inside of her head was giving way — and then she heard it. A low drumbeat, a pounding in her head.

"Rose?" said the Doctor, the van tilting dangerously close to the dividing line.

"It’s nothing," she gritted out. She breathed in a sharp breath of air through her nose. She just had to ignore it, that was all. It was only a noise. She could do this.

"It doesn’t look like nothing," the Doctor said tersely.

The tyres screeched as they rounded a corner at a particularly fast pace. From behind them, Rose heard a dull thud as their equipment in the backseat banged against the door.

"I’m fine," Rose said, "I–"

As she spoke, the drumming in her head seemed to get louder and she moaned, burying her head in her hands. It’s just a noise, it’s nothing, she tried to tell herself. She focused on all her Torchwood training from over the years, all the things she had learned about focus and meditating and controlling physical discomfort in times of crisis.

It was no use, though. She could feel her control slipping away, the drumming beginning to take over.

"Rose?!" the Doctor’s voice was panicky, and the engine was beginning to make a low whining noise as he pushed down on the accelerator.

"It’s the drumming," she said hoarsely. "I can’t... it won’t stop."

"Rose, I know it’s hard, I know. But you have to fight it. You can’t give in now."

"I know." She squeezed a fistful of hair between her hands and then released it, forcing herself to sit up. She clenched her jaw together until her muscles ached. Her eyes tracked their position from outside, gaze sweeping people cycling home from work, children lined up outside ice cream parlours. Anything else to focus on.

The Doctor pressed down on the accelerator again.

––

They drove the van through the Torchwood checkpoints, weaving their way through Hyde Park. Thankfully, Jake was stationed at the last checkpoint and didn’t seem particularly surprised when the Doctor pulled up next to him and rolled down the window. "Jake," he barked, "I need you to secure this area, but stay back, understand? You can’t let anyone through this perimeter. I mean it."

Jake blinked, peering into the vehicle at the Doctor, and then at Rose. "I heard you two were coming through. With him. Are you sure this is a good idea?"

"Yes," said Rose tightly. She forced a tight-lipped smile. "Do what the Doctor wants, Jake."

But Jake was still staring at her. "Rose, are you alright?"

Rose clenched her hands into fists, fingernails digging into her palms. The pain was good. It steadied her. "Fine," she said, trying to make her voice sound as normal as possible. "You?"

Jake seemed to relax. "Oh, you know, the usual. No sleep until the world is safe. All that."

"Yes, while we’re on the subject–" the Doctor leaned out the window and dropped his voice. "If something happens, if the Master escapes and I can’t stop him... I’m relying on you, Jake. To do what you have to."

Jake nodded. "I’ll take care of it."

"Good man," said the Doctor. He rolled up the window. "Allons-y."

The corner of Hyde Park near the Serpentine was just as desolate as when the Master had come through. The grass was brown and dead plants littered what remained of the lawn. Rose felt that same tingle from earlier, a feeling that instinctively made her want to turn and put as much distance between this place and herself as she could.

She glanced at the Doctor. If possible, he looked even more uncomfortable than she did, and he stared at the circle of dead plants with a look that spoke of both curiosity and dread.

He noticed her look and explained: "You feel it too, don’t you? Makes sense. This place represents a weakness in the fabric of the universe, a door to worlds that should be sealed off. All my Time Lord instincts are telling me to run as far away from it as possible." He managed a grim smile. "So are my human ones, come to think of it. How is the head?"

Rose looked away from him. There was no mistaking the naked concern on his face, but she remembered what he had said back in the laboratory. I care about all my companions. For all the years that had passed, after everything they’d shared, in the end she was just the latest in a long line.

She really wished he wouldn’t look at her that way, though. She didn’t know what to think or believe, and it hurt in an entirely different way than the pain in her head. She opened the door to the van, beginning to pull out their laptops and equipment.

"I’m fine," she lied. The pounding was unbearable, a steady beat over every other noise around her. At least focusing on the Doctor, however emotionally difficult, was somewhat of a distraction from the drumming.

She knew the Doctor didn’t buy it, but he changed the subject and fetched the Dimension Cannon from the van. "Once you seal off the rift, it won't take long for this spot to recover."

"Right," said Rose.

She picked up the laptops and brought them over to the circle, setting them down on the ground. Her legs felt weak and sweat was beginning to collect on her forehead. She sat down cross-legged on the ground, and sensed the Doctor hovering behind her.

"I’m gonna get everything started," she said, by way of explanation.

"You’ll have to scan the Void, make sure the frequency matches the Cannon," said the Doctor, but he didn't move. He set it down next to her, and then, in a more hesitant voice, he said, "Rose, if there was something I could do..."

"We are doing something," said Rose. She plugged the standard Torchwood password into the computer and looked over her shoulder at him. "Better go get him, Doctor. Your ticket to another universe is waiting."

Despite her frustration and anger, there was genuine tenderness in her voice. The Doctor might have broken her heart, but she didn't know how to stop being in love with him.

Their eyes briefly made contact, but the Doctor hurriedly broke the stare.

"Right," he said, scratching at the back of his neck. "I'll just..."

Rose turned back to the computer as the Doctor gestured behind him. She pulled up the calculations that the Doctor had worked out earlier. From behind her, the Doctor's shoes crunched over the ground. She heard the back door to the van open and then shut.

Rose tensed when she heard the Master's voice float over.

"Hyde Park. That’s a bit risky, isn’t it? Doctor? One wrong move and you could pull this whole world into the Void behind us." There was a pause and then the Master said, "Oh, but you’ve thought of that, haven’t you? You’ve run all the scenarios and crunched all the numbers. You know there's still a risk. There will always be a risk."

"A gag," came the Doctor’s voice. "Why didn't I bring a gag? Always forgetting something."

"Come on now, Doctor. I’m about to do you a favour. Save the girl, remember that? You wouldn’t want to ruin it now."

Rose's vision blurred as she plugged the Dimension Cannon into the laptop. She heard her breath coming out in tight, pained gasps. Focus, focus, she told herself. They were so close now, and she didn’t want to give the Master the satisfaction of seeing how much she was suffering. She programmed the laptop to scan the energy coming through the Void and loop that frequency back into the Cannon.

Then she pushed herself to her feet, turning around to face the two Time Lords. The Master’s hands were handcuffed behind his back, and the Doctor was tugging him along by one arm, a scowl on his face. The Master smirked at Rose, but then slid his gaze by her, landing on the Dimension Cannon.

Something else seemed to come over his face then. Something hopeful, but also a little bit eerie. With everything that had happened with the Doctor, she almost forgot what the Master's end goal was in all of this. It wasn't about ruining her life, it wasn’t about her at all, or even the Doctor — it was the TARDIS. All of this was so he could get his hands on what was potentially the greatest weapon in the universe.

And they were helping him do it.

The Doctor also noticed the Master's longing stare and he jerked the Master's arm sharply, nodding in Rose's direction.

"The Dimension Cannon is ready. It will take us back to our old universe, I promise you. We can even use it to track down the TARDIS. Now help her."

The Doctor’s voice was as menacing as Rose had ever heard it, but the Master was unperturbed. He shrugged off the Doctor’s hand and then squatted down in front of the laptop, eyes zooming back and forth over the numbers scrolling over the screen.

"Take off these handcuffs," he snapped over his shoulder. "I need to check your calculations."

Rose snorted. "That’s not gonna happen."

The Master glanced at her. His eyes lingered on the blood stain on her shirt.

"The bleeding has started," he murmured quietly. "Do you hear it yet? The drumming?"

Rose clenched her jaw. "Yes."

His eyes shone with something Rose wasn't stupid enough to think was sympathy. "What does it feel like?" he sounded eager, like she was a rat in a lab, a science project for him to play with. "Is the pain overwhelming?"

Rose held her ground. "Yes." The corners of her mouth lifted up in a smile. "And I was ready to die to stop you from having the TARDIS. Still am actually." Then she pulled out the keys to the handcuffs and stooped down behind him. "I could close the Void right now. Trap you here forever. Stuck in this one universe." She inserted the keys into the lock, and then glanced over at the Doctor. "But lucky for you, you're not the only person who wants the TARDIS back. And I'll tell you something else — " Rose turned the key and the handcuffs popped open, "the Doctor is gonna do everything he can to stop you from having it."

The Master rolled his shoulders. "This Doctor?" he said. His voice was mocking. "No regenerations, no sonic screwdriver, and part human. He's barely worth the air he breathes. He had to come to me to help you."

Rose opened her mouth to respond, but she saw the Doctor shaking her head at her. Reluctantly she closed her mouth. She knew what he was trying to tell her. Don't make it worse. Don't have him change his mind. Not now. The Doctor would look after himself — and the TARDIS — and she had to trust that.

The Master flexed out his fingers and then turned his attention to the laptop, fingers flying across the keyboard, eyes eagerly tracking the numbers flashing across the scene. Finally he seemed satisfied.

"This will do," he murmured. "Yes, this will do."

"Yes we've established that," said the Doctor. "Now help her."

With all the usual dramatics of a teenager being ordered about by a parent, the Master turned to face Rose and lifted his hands.

"Inside your head again? We’ve become so close, you and I."

Rose’s lip curled. "Oh, just get it over with."

The Master’s hands moved for her temples, and Rose grit her teeth, determined not to give him the satisfaction of flinching or twitching or looking away.

There was no gentleness or warning when he entered her mind. It was like being hit with a hammer and Rose swayed backwards before steadying herself. She sensed him chuckling at her reaction, but he carried on. She felt sick at the idea of the Master in her head, going through all her thoughts. Finally, he seemed to focus on something, and within seconds Rose felt a pressure build and then dissipate like popping a soap bubble.

The Master wrenched himself out of her mind abruptly, and Rose sagged forward with a gasp. Her head felt barely-there, impossibly light, eerily silent, almost numb — and then she realized belatedly that was how it was meant to feel.

"Ta-da," said the Master in a flat voice.

"Move," hissed the Doctor, hauling him out of the way and taking his place in front of her. "Rose? Are you okay?"

"I… think so, yeah." She looked up, startled by his proximity to her. He was too close, he–

"Can I…?" He extended his fingers towards her head and Rose instinctively pulled back.

No, she almost said. No more people rummaging through her mind like a dusty attic. That level of exposure was humiliating no matter who was looking — and with what had happened between her and the Doctor, she felt more vulnerable than ever. She wanted to preserve some scrap of dignity if she could.

The Doctor seemed to understand her hesitancy. "I know it’s not nice, but it won’t hurt, and I won’t take long. We just need to make sure it’s gone. Okay?"

Everything about him was begging for her trust, and in spite of all that had happened Rose found herself relenting. He was right, anyway — it wouldn’t be wise to just take the Master at his word. She nodded in assent and he reached for her temples.

Despite her reluctance, the Doctor’s presence in her mind was like a warm blanket, and she felt herself relaxing into his touch. Her whole body felt calmer; even the ache in her chest lessened. For the first time in what seemed like far too long, she felt safe.

She wondered if he was doing it on purpose.

It ebbed away as gently as it’d come, and she opened her eyes slowly, reluctant to let go of her momentary respite. The Doctor’s face was close to hers, his fingers still resting on her skin.

"It’s gone," he whispered. "You might have some headaches over the next few days, but you’ll be fine."

He pulled his hands away slowly, and with a lead weight in her heart Rose wondered if this would be the last time they touched. Perhaps the Doctor wondered too, because though there was a small smile on his lips, he suddenly looked desperately sad.

"Everything’s gonna be fine, Rose," he said, and she knew he was no longer talking about her head.

I wish I believed you, she thought.

Above them, the Master huffed impatiently. "Yes, good, excellent, can we get on with it?"

The Doctor looked away first, pushing himself to his feet.

"Right," he snapped, all business again, the intimacy of moments earlier evaporating.

He grabbed the transporter disc and walked away from Rose and her computer, turning to face the Master.

"This is a one-way ticket. Rose is going to close the gap behind us, and just to be sure, this–" He tossed the transporter in the air with one hand and caught it in the other. "–will burn out once we get there. No coming back."

The Master stepped around Rose and rolled his eyes. "A real Greek tragedy."

The Doctor ignored him, looking at Rose. "You ready? You’ve got to–"

"I know how it works," she interjected. Dread had pooled in her stomach again, and she focused on her computer.

She heard the Master snicker. "Not very grateful, is she?"

"We shouldn’t keep the gap open for long," the Doctor continued. "Once it’s ready, we’ve got to go."

Eyes still trained on the computer, Rose dipped her chin in a curt nod. All these warnings couched in practicality and safety boiled down to the reality that the Doctor was ready and eager to leave and not look back. He’d done his duty and saved her life, and now he could return to the life he really wanted.

You’ve got a job to do, she told herself. There would be time for the rest later.

She moved to the Dimension Cannon for one last check of all its settings. The readings on the laptop were as encouraging as they were going to get; the Doctor’s frequency was still set. All that remained was prying open the Void to let them pass.

Her fingers hovered over the controls. For a wild moment she imagined breaking the Dimension Cannon, sabotaging their escape plan. She was safe now; why should they hold up their end of the bargain? They would figure out another way to contain the Master, and the Doctor would stay with her, like he’d promised. It would be easy, and it was what she wanted.

She closed her eyes and breathed out slowly. She couldn’t do that to the Doctor. If he wanted the TARDIS, she wouldn’t stand in his way.

Opening her eyes, she steeled her reserve and activated the Cannon.

"Ready."

Then, aware that it would hurt but even more aware she’d regret it if she didn’t, Rose looked up at the Doctor. She’d expected him to look eager, or excited, but neither was true. Instead he was looking at her with the tender expression that had convinced her for so many years that she was the most important thing in his universe.

It warmed her heart and broke it at the same time.

"Rose, I…" He broke off, contemplating the next words, his mouth still open.

Rose’s throat burned. She was back on Bad Wolf Bay again, waiting for him to finish speaking–

The Doctor swallowed. "...I’m sorry," he finished.

Then he grabbed the Master by the arm and activated the disc in his hand.

Mere metres away, Rose Tyler watched the Doctor blink out of her world for the second time.


Chapter 10

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
editrx
Oct. 3rd, 2014 05:25 am (UTC)
You really know how to break my heart, don't you?
goldy_dollar
Oct. 9th, 2014 02:12 pm (UTC)
yup! That's the plan. Thank you. :)
magali29
Oct. 3rd, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
I don't like angst, but even though I knew where it was going, I couldn't help reading. And it was as awful as I expected. Awful for Rose, for the Rose-Doctor relationship, I mean, not awful as in "I hate that part".

Hmmm, I wonder what's next. Will we read about the other Doctor, 10.2 and the Master, or will we jump directly after the Master problem is solved, with 10.2 coming back to Pete's world, ready to grovel to get Rose back?
goldy_dollar
Oct. 9th, 2014 02:14 pm (UTC)
Aw yeah, that is an angsty one I'm afraid, although I think you know by now how committed we are to writing these two. XD
honorh
Oct. 4th, 2014 01:13 am (UTC)
The twit! Does he really think it'll help Rose to believe that the love of her life considered her a consolation prize? How does he think she'll feel about herself? How does he expect her to love again, or to trust someone who says he loves her? He's a moron! I hope the Doctor (proper) reads him the riot act when they meet. And he's very, very lucky he got out of the universe before Jackie found out, is what I'm sayin' . . .
goldy_dollar
Oct. 9th, 2014 02:42 pm (UTC)
Yeah, Cloen's plan was the WORST. I remember emailing Kali though several times saying that I felt bad for him despite it all. :p

Thanks for reading!
shyfoxling
Oct. 29th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
she steeled her reserve

Did you mean "resolve"?

And just so this isn't a driveby nitpick from someone you've never heard of before, I should say that I am really enjoying this fic and eager to click on that next chapter link as soon as I post this. It's heart-wrenching but in that way that is good for the reader, you know?
goldy_dollar
Oct. 29th, 2014 01:48 am (UTC)
lol possibly. Sadly even with both of this reading over this monstrosity, typos still happen.

Thanks for reading, though. I'm so glad that you like it!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )