Day One: Loneliness Loves Company
"My exile has been rescinded."
It was a jolt to both of the Doctor's hearts. With a forced tone, he said, "I'm pleased for you."
Turlough hesitated. "Doctor, I—"
"I shall miss you," interrupted the Doctor, trying to smile but instead managing only a grimace.
"I don't want to go, Doctor," Turlough admitted. "I've learnt a lot from you. But I have to go back to Trion. It's my home."
"Better to go back while you're a bit of a hero, eh?" the Doctor quipped mirthlessly.
They shook hands, and Turlough smiled. "Thank you for everything, Doctor." Turning to Peri, he added, "Look after him, won't you? He gets into the most terrible trouble."
"Well, I—" Peri started to stammer, but without waiting for her answer, Turlough turned and left with the Captain.
The Doctor watched his friend go, for a moment seeing Tegan in him, running away in tears instead of striding away with confidence. Clearing his throat and turning sharply to Peri, he said, "Well, I should get you home."
"Oh, must you?" Peri said earnestly, looking a bit disappointed.
"Oh, yes. Your friends will be worried," said the Doctor, abruptly entering the TARDIS and starting up the controls.
Peri slunk into the TARDIS, lower lip sticking out a bit. "It's funny, but just before I met you I was saying I wanted to travel, and I've still got three months of my vacation left."
A flash of anger seared through him— who was this stupid little American, anyway, assuming that if she hinted heavily enough he'd take her to see the universe? With one last pounding on the controls, the TARDIS landed. He turned, glaring at her. "You can't come with me."
Her eyes flashed with hurt, but he ignored it. "But—"
Gritting his teeth — did her mother ever tell her 'no'? — he grabbed her shoulders and steered her out the door into the warm California sun. With one last glare and another, "You can't come with me," he slammed the doors shut and made to pilot the TARDIS into the Vortex. Not for the first time since he'd stolen her, the TARDIS jolted on her own and piloted herself, landing God knows where with a crash that tossed the Doctor onto his arse.
"Where the sodden hell have you taken me?" he spat rudely at the ceiling.
She hummed disapprovingly at his tone, but that was the only answer he got. Kicking the console and shouting out in pain when it hurt more than it relieved his anger, the Doctor snatched his jacket off the console, slipped it on and stormed into the hall, plopping down on the floor and scowling at it. First Tegan, and now Turlough. Everyone left, in the end, but why them? His brave heart Tegan and fellow exile Turlough. Even though it'd been Turlough's exile being lifted that had made him choose to leave, the Doctor in all his current depression couldn't help but be angry with him. Wasn't he good enough? Wasn't the whole goddamned universe good enough?
Then his thoughts turned back to Tegan and his shoulders slumped, anger dissipating at once. He couldn't be angry with her. It was his fault she left— he'd broken his brave heart Tegan. It's stopped being fun. All anger gone now, he couldn't hate Turlough either— Turlough was lucky to have a planet with people worth going back to. Who did the Doctor have back on Gallifrey? Romana, who was always pleasant, his brother Brax and Leela— and a whole lot of Time Lords who looked down their noses on him (his brother included). All in all, the ratio of good to bad wasn't too positive.
The Doctor sighed and clasped his hands in an arch, resting his chin on it. Once again, he was alone. He didn't want Peri. She'd seemed all right when they'd been defeating the Master, but then she just had to nose her way into his business when he was hurting, as though she were part of his life. He snorted. As if. She was nothing like Tegan and Turlough. Maybe it was a good thing that they had both left— his life was dangerous and they could go the way of Adric. Brilliant Adric was gone too. He was better off alone, anyway.
Except he wasn't alone in the TARDIS anymore— he jumped when he heard the doors of the TARDIS close gently from the console room, a pair of hesitant footsteps and a woman's voice softly coo, "Oh, you've changed. You're so beautiful." He was astonished when he heard the hum from the TARDIS answering her.
Scrambling up off the floor, the Doctor stopped in the doorway overlooking the console room. A lovely blonde woman in her twenties was standing at the console, running her hands over it and smiling with a surprising gentleness. How the hell had she gotten into his TARDIS?! And why did his TARDIS let her in?!
The woman jumped when she spotted him gaping at her from the doorway. Before he could open his mouth and demand who she was, the woman rushed out hurriedly, "Er, hello, my name's Rose Tyler. Are you a companion of the Doctor? 'Cos… I'm kind of lookin' for him, so if you could just, um, tell me where he is…" Then she frowned. "Why on Earth are you wearing a vegetable?"
The Doctor gaped at her, and she flushed under his scrutiny, giving him a slightly nervous smile. Honestly, this was not the time for beautiful blonde women to be waltzing into the TARDIS (or poking fun at his celery), not when he was downcast over losing all his friends. With a scowl, he said, "I'm the Doctor." Leaning against the doorframe and looking away from her piercing stare, he added a bit weakly, "Get out of my TARDIS."
"Don't you remember me?" Rose asked instead, sounding terrified.
He felt a sudden urge to console her for some reason; he turned to her fully and asked kindly, "Who are you? If I've forgotten, perhaps I'll remember you."
"Like I said, I'm Rose Tyler," she said earnestly, gripping the console as if for comfort. "Um, I travelled with you for nearly four years."
"Oh, you're a companion," he exclaimed, frowning. How peculiar— the TARDIS had never taken a shine to any companion as much as she had with this Rose woman. Managing a weak smile, he replied, "Well, Rose Tyler, it appears the reason I don't remember you is because we haven't met yet."
Rose mouthed an 'oh'. "What body is this then?"
"Fifth," he answered, astonishment washing over him when she gave him a smile that could only be classified as loving.
"Aw, you're still a baby," she said endearingly.
This prompted a petulant scowl from him. "I am not a baby!"
He looked at the floor, feeling his face heat up, especially since now Rose wasn't smiling and was instead examining him with her head cocked to the side. With a look of concern she asked, "What happened?"
The Doctor blinked at her. "What makes you think anything happened?"
Rose gave him a knowing look, leaning against the console. "I just know."
If there was one thing he hated, it was people knowing things about him and his future that he didn't. But the fact that Rose Tyler was looking at him with such a caring expression — and the fact that the TARDIS was mentally shooting him a look that said 'don't even think about it'— stopped him from shouting at her. She patted the space next to her on the console, inviting him to take the place next to her, which he did a bit sluggishly. Unable to look at her piercing gaze, he dropped his eyes to the floor. "I just lost my friends."
"Tell me about them," she said gently.
He didn't want to talk to this stranger about his dearest friends, but at the same time he did. She was odd, this Rose Tyler, knowing just what to say. Suddenly he wanted to spill his hearts out to her, tell her about not just Tegan and Turlough but about Adric and Nyssa as well. Staring hard at a spot of engine grease next to his left shoe, the Doctor blew out a sigh. "I travelled with two people, an Australian flight attendant named Tegan and a renegade named Turlough." She nodded, looking at him intently. "Turlough's exile was rescinded, and he decided to rejoin his people. Tegan…" He trailed off, pain searing in his hearts; Rose hesitated for some reason before placing her hand between his shoulder blades and rubbing, which he didn't even know could soothe him until she did it. "Tegan stopped enjoying it."
She gave his hand a squeeze with her free one. He managed a half-smile of gratefulness her way, before she added, "Who else?"
"What makes you think there was anybody else?" he frowned.
"I just know," she repeated with a shrug.
The Doctor was brimming with questions about this woman — like, for example, how on Earth she knew just what to ask and when to comfort him — but the need to vent overpowered that. "A while ago, one of my other companions, Adric… died."
"'M sorry, Doctor," she said, before dropping her own head into her lap. "If it's any consolation, I know how you feel."
"Oh?" he asked curiously.
Rose nodded. "I lost my parents, my friends, an' my husband."
He stared hard at his lap, unsure whether or not to console her. Instead, cringing at his bitter tone, he said, "Loneliness loves company."
"Isn't that 'misery'?" Rose said confusedly.
"What's the difference?" he moped.
She looked downcast. "True."
This time it was his turn to give her hand a comforting squeeze, making her smile gratefully. Tentatively he asked, "Um, what happened?"
He'd expected an accident of some kind, maybe something that had happened, or would happen, in one of their adventures. He most certainly did not expect her to say, "I outlived them."
The Doctor frowned confusedly. "Forgive me— how did they die?"
"Old age," Rose replied.
"But you're so young," he pointed out.
At this, Rose grimaced. "I'm eighty years old. Long story," she said, when she noticed his jaw had hit the floor. "Still got my little brother though," Rose added, before quirking her head to the side. "Well, he's not really 'little'…"
"How old is he?" the Doctor asked.
Rose hesitated. "Sixty." Sitting up briskly and smiling widely, Rose said, "Y'know what always makes me feel better?"
"Er, what?" he said.
"Chips," she declared. "Want to go get chips?"
The Doctor stared at her, but she looked completely serious. The TARDIS hummed encouragingly at him, and he chuckled a bit. "All right."
She grinned at him and he couldn't help but grin back as she led him out of the TARDIS and into what appeared to be evening summer London. The only difference between this London and the one he remembered were the giant zeppelins in the air instead of aeroplanes. He frowned and opened his mouth to comment on it, but the TARDIS doors suddenly slamming shut behind him made the notion flit out of his mind.
"What was that?" Rose asked, frowning and watching as he approached the TARDIS.
"I'm not certain," he replied, experimentally trying to open the door before yelling out in pain when the TARDIS sent a shock up his arm. "Ouch! What the sodden hell—?"
"She only does that when you've done something wrong," Rose said knowingly from behind him, and he turned around to see her glaring at him with one hand on her hip. "What've you done?"
"That's a good question," the Doctor muttered, before mentally asking what Rose had inquired, which the TARDIS ignored him.
He scowled at her and tried the door again, only to have Rose's pair of slender hands wrap around his wrist and pull his hand back. "Unless you want second degree burns, I wouldn't do that."
Obediently, he lowered his hand but continued to glare at the TARDIS. He demanded to know when her temper tantrum was going to be over, but the only response he got was a quirked eyebrow and a 'when you learn something'. What the sodden hell did that mean, anyway, 'when he learned something'? "She's kicked me out," said the Doctor petulantly.
Rose grinned when he stuck out his lower jaw in an obvious pout. With a tongue-in-teeth smile that had his mind fogging up for a moment she said, "You can stay with me until the TARDIS forgives you for whatever you did, if you want."
Blinking out of his haze, he smiled with gratitude and said, "That'd be lovely, thank you, Miss Rose Tyler." Hopefully whatever he'd done to make the TARDIS start taking the mickey would settle in a day or two and he'd be able to leave… where it was he'd landed.
"You're welcome," Rose said, before they set off together towards a chippy.
He was embarrassed to discover that she'd been holding his hand and he hadn't noticed, nor was she showing any signs of letting go. Not that he minded. It was actually rather nice. After Rose ordered them both an enormous box of chips, they sat down together at a table in the summer air.
"Where are we, anyway?" the Doctor asked curiously, as a zeppelin roared over their heads advertising something called 'Vitex'.
"London," Rose said, dumping salt onto her chips. At his frown, she smiled and added, "You're in a parallel universe, mate."
"Oh!" he exclaimed. That would certainly explain it. Then he paused, chip halfway to his mouth. "Hang on, how do you know about the other universes?"
"I'm from the same universe as you, Doctor," Rose said.
"How did you get here?"
She chuckled, shaking her head. "Long story."
"Start from the beginning, then," the Doctor said, unwilling to let her dodge this question like she had last time.
Rose inhaled deeply and said, "Okay. One day, when I'm travelling with you, some things with the Daleks and the Cybermen are gonna happen and I'm gonna be trapped here with my mum. I'm gonna find a way back, only…" Her voice trailed off, and she looked downcast.
He gripped her hand under the table. "Only?"
"Something'll happen, and I'll… meet my husband, John," Rose said vaguely. "You'll send me back with him so we can live our lives together." The Doctor frowned confusedly. Why would he send Rose and this John bloke to live in this parallel universe? Couldn't they live in the original universe together, or travel with him? When he opened his mouth to point out these discrepancies, Rose said hurriedly, "Aren't I not supposed to be tellin' you stuff from the future?"
"I'll have to forget this anyway," he assured her. Since it was clear she didn't want to talk about her husband, he asked instead, "You said your parents were here as well, but you've only mentioned your mother."
"My dad — my real dad — died when I was young, and the parallel version of my mum from here died too, and when we got trapped here the two of 'em found each other and got remarried." Rose smiled brightly, taking a handful of chips. "They had Tony about six months later— Mum wanted to have the wedding before she started showing." Then she frowned at him. "How did you get here?"
The Doctor, who'd been previously awestruck at her brilliant smile of nostalgia, shrugged with confusion. "I haven't a clue. The TARDIS piloted herself here."
Rose nodded, as if that'd confirmed something. "Figured it couldn't have been coincidental." Without elaborating, Rose wiped her hands on her napkin and stood up abruptly. "Allons-y, then, Doctor?"
He raised an eyebrow at her choice of words but nodded, picking up the empty chip box and tossing it in the bin before allowing himself to be led down the sidewalk, still holding hands with Rose Tyler, still leaving it unnoticed. As she led him into the Tube, he raised his eyebrows when he saw that all of the signs and posters were written first in English, then in Latin; his confusion heightened when Rose bought their tickets in fluent Latin, and at his astonished look she said, "Latin is the second most spoken language on this Earth."
"How peculiar," he said, and Rose giggled. "Who's the Prime Minister?"
"We have a President, actually," Rose said. "Harold Saxon, or something like that. Only won out of a technicality— he's a fishy-looking bloke."
The Tube led them into outer London, where the homes were starting to get more and more lavish. "Interesting neighbourhood you live in," the Doctor said, looking around.
Rose hesitated. "I may or may not be an heiress."
He gaped at her, and she flushed. He'd noticed earlier how her lower-class London accent had clashed with her expensive clothing, but her being an heiress was something he most certainly did not expect— his shock only worsened when she strode up to a giant mansion and swiftly unlocked the door. "You live by yourself in this giant place?" he said, feeling terribly sorry for her. It was hard enough for him travelling with only the TARDIS for company— he could only imagine what it must be like for her, living in such a huge manor all alone after watching her parents and her husband die.
She shrugged. "Tony and his wife, Cecilia, stay here often. 'Sides, I don't use the whole house— only the west wing."
It still sounded awful to the Doctor, but she gave him a reassuring smile and led him into a lavish living room, with a couch situated next to a pair of glass French doors overlooking a large willow tree. As Rose tossed her coat onto the couch, the Doctor strode up to the fireplace, on top of which were a series of framed pictures. One of them depicted Rose snuggled up to an old man, both of them beaming away like… well, like fools in love. Others showed Rose kissing a balding ginger man on the cheek, of the same man posed with a large blonde woman in a wedding dress, and of Rose and the blonde woman cheering on a little boy at a football match.
"That's John," Rose said quietly, startling him— he hadn't even noticed she'd been standing next to him. She gripped his arm with one hand and pointed to the old man with her other. "That's my mum and dad on their wedding day." She pointed to the third photo. "An' that's Tony at his little league match. He lost. Ended up taking him to the zoo to cheer him up. D'you want a drink?" she asked suddenly.
"Er, what? Oh, yes please," he said, watching her dazedly as she squeezed his arm once before bouncing into an adjoining kitchen island and ducking down to grab a bottle of something.
The Doctor wondered about this strange little human. The TARDIS had specifically taken him to this universe, in the same place as the one person who was able to cheer him up after losing Tegan and Turlough. This Rose Tyler woman, who was eighty years old and didn't look a day over twenty, who'd experienced what he'd been running from all of his lives by watching everyone she loved around her wither and die while she stayed the same and lived on, who lived all by herself in this giant house and still had the ability to smile. One side of him was intrigued by the mystery that was Rose Tyler, as she was shrouded in questions and impossibilities; another wanted to sweep her into his arms and console her, to whisk her away from this universe of loss and heartbreak, and to keep her close to him so he could ensure she'd never be hurt again.
"Doctor?" Rose's voice tore through his thoughts, and he blinked himself back to reality only to see her holding out a glass of wine in front of him.
"Hm? Oh, yes, thank you," he fumbled, taking it from her and following her to the couch, where she plopped herself comfortably.
"You're welcome," Rose said, sipping her glass. "Tomorrow, we'll go back to the TARDIS and see if she's done being mad at you, yeah?" When he nodded in unison, she looked at him pointedly. "What on Earth did you do to make her so mad? The only time she's ever locked you out was when you accidentally landed her on Athion, and thieves stole her and tried to take her apart."
Grimacing at the prospect of his precious ship being taken apart by slimy Athionian thieves, the Doctor sipped his drink as well and said, "I haven't the faintest idea what I've done. I don't recall doing anything particularly abhorrent." He paused. "I did kick the console."
"She'd just rearrange the doors or hide all the bananas for something like that," Rose said. There was another mystery— how on Earth did she know his ship so well? "No, you either piloted her into a sun or left her behind somewhere."
"I did neither," he sniffed. When the hell would he ever leave behind his precious third heart? "When I asked when she was going to let me back in, she said 'when I learn something'."
Rose's expression fell into one of deep contemplation, where her head cocked slightly to the side and her teeth worried her bottom lip. He found it adorable. "Oh, you devious ship," she murmured.
"Nothing." Rose grinned at him, sitting up suddenly. "You didn't answer my question, y'know."
Her tongue was at the corner of her mouth again. He tried harder than he should have not to stare at it. "Er, what question?"
"Why you've got a stick of celery on your coat," Rose said.
He gave her a pointed look over his nearly empty glass. "Oi. It's a useful and potentially life-saving vegetable, and is an excellent restorative."
"It belongs in the vegetable crisper, not your coat," Rose giggled. Draining the rest of her glass, she stood up and said, "You can sleep in the guest room. S'got a shower, so you can use it if you want."
The Doctor hesitated, suddenly embarrassed. Staring at his shoes, he mumbled, "What about, er, clothes?"
"Oh you can use—" Rose started to say, before pausing, "John's old clothes."
He fell silent, unsure what to say as she led him down the hall into a lavish guest room. As grateful as he was for Rose's hospitality, he wasn't quite certain about wearing clothing that belonged to her deceased husband. Still, unwilling to voice this and make her feel worse, he took the bundle of clothes she handed him and nodded wordlessly when she pointed out the loo.
"Thank you, Rose," he said.
She smiled and said, "Night, Doctor," before leaving, closing the door behind her.
He dropped the clothes onto the bed and sighed, wallowing in melancholy that was no longer about himself. Poor Rose. Maybe, when this was all over, he'd ask her to travel with him for a bit before he had to forget about her. The Doctor grimaced but rummaged through the clothing Rose had given him, which consisted of a couple pairs of trousers, blue and white Oxfords and pinstriped jimjam bottoms— all in all, nothing too far from his tastes.
Perhaps things would look better in the morning. Grabbing the jimjam bottoms, he headed into the en suite to change.
Rose headed into the bedroom she shared for sixty years with Johnathan Noble, closing the door behind her and leaning on it, heart thudding in her chest. It'd been almost two years since she'd seen the Doctor, any Doctor. And it was clear why the TARDIS had 'accidentally' landed in Pete's World— Rose just had to make sure this cricketer, celery-wearing Doctor never found out anything about his future and Rose's past.
It was sort of ironic, after all— the Doctor showing up on the two-year anniversary of John's death. She'd been on her way back from visiting his grave, and she'd nearly had a heart attack when she saw the outlines of the ship she hadn't seen in over half a century appear directly in front of her.
The TARDIS really was a conniving ship.
Rose had expected to find either a pinstriped Doctor or a future Doctor's face she'd never seen before, broken or in need of her help. She hadn't expected to find a Doctor who didn't know her yet, moping about losing his companions.
After the Time Lord Doctor left her behind on Bad Wolf Bay, John had told her about the day he'd gone to the Library with Donna and encountered a woman named River Song, who knew his name. That's how the Doctor had known he'd eventually marry her and couldn't take Rose with him, not even if John didn't exist. At first she'd been angry with him, but then grew sad when John told her he wasn't quite certain if the Doctor would fall in love with her or not. The part of her still in love with the Doctor hoped he wouldn't, that their marriage would just be a technicality; the other part hoped he'd move on.
Still, for some reason she found a little bit of solace knowing that the Doctor, while a past version, was just a couple of rooms away, and equally lonely.
He was right— loneliness does love company.
A/N: And so begins the fifth story in the Forever and More series :) This one'll have shorter chapters than you all are used to, and is set post-Journey's End for Rose and kind of post-Planet of Fire for Five (except I rewrote the ending). There will be a one shot sequel to this once it and the rest of this series are finished. Hope you enjoy, please review! :3 Special thank you to bluedawn over at teaspoon (bluedawn01 here) for pointing out an error in the story, which I've now corrected.