Day Five: None of the Above
"Rose, I need you. Don't go. I'm so sorry. I love you. I love you, Rose. I need you. Don't leave me. No, Rose. Rose!"
Rose felt like she was floating.
Everything around her was gold and flowing, like standing in the middle of a glittery golden fog. She blinked and looked around, wondering where the hell she was. Oh, wait— didn't she get shot by a Sontaran? Rose craned her head, trying to get a glimpse of her back. From what she could see, she was fine. Maybe she was mistaken.
"You weren't, Rose," said a soft voice to her right, one she recognised and that made her heart leap. She whirled around.
It was the Doctor— her Doctor, with his fantastic hair and sideburns, brown eyes and gentle grin. His gold ring was on his left ring finger and he was dressed in a paisley plaid shirt instead of his old pinstriped suit. So this was her husband, looking like it was only yesterday they'd been left together on Bad Wolf Bay.
"My Doctor," she whispered.
He beamed like he'd just found a banana or something, arm opening as she ran towards him, throwing her arms around his neck. After two years of being alone, Rose was finally back in her husband's arms. He felt real— he was still warm, still smelling like hair gel and faintly of time. But how?
"Am I dead?" Rose mumbled into his shoulder.
"Weeell, that's to be determined," he said airily, and Rose's heart clenched at his signature drawl.
"What the sodden hell does that mean?" she choked.
"To learn that, you'll have to let go of me," the Doctor chuckled.
"Don't wanna," Rose whimpered.
His hand flew up to her hair, stroking it gently the way he used to whenever she was upset. "Neither do I," he admitted.
A thought suddenly occurred to her. "Is this even real?"
"Sort of," he said simply.
Rose turned around, frowning as the sound of the other Doctor's voice echoed through the gold mist. "What?"
"What?" repeated her Doctor, emulating her frown.
"I thought I heard—" she started to say, hands still gripping his shoulders even though her head was turned.
"Me?" he said, and Rose turned back to see him smiling lightly. "The old me?" He beamed. "When I was a cricketer and wore a decorative vegetable!"
"Why, why isn't it working?!"
"What's not working?" Rose called out. "Doctor?"
"He can't hear you, Rose," her Doctor said gently, cupping the side of her face with his hand.
"What's going on?" Rose demanded. "Tell me, Doctor. No more deflecting."
"You're dying, Rose," the Doctor said quietly, and how he could ever say that while still smiling made Rose question again whether or not anything here was real. "And right now I'm in there trying to save you."
He pointed to his right, and Rose turned her head to see the outline of the TARDIS in the fog. That had most certainly not been there a minute ago. She stepped back from the Doctor at once, letting go of him and putting at least three feet of distance between them.
"Then I'm hallucinating," Rose said in a low voice.
The Doctor, who looked a bit upset over her retreat, shook his head. "You aren't."
"Then what the hell is this?" Rose snapped. "You've been dead two years, but you're here, tellin' me I'm dead and that past you is trying to save me?"
"No… No. My Rose."
The voice came from inside the TARDIS, and if that tone wasn't the epitome of utter devastation, she didn't want to know what was. She took a step towards it but stopped herself— as much as she wanted to assure the other Doctor of her well being, she didn't want to leave her husband.
"That's right, Rose," her Doctor said softly, eyebrows arched upward slightly, hands now in his pockets. Nodding his head in the direction of the TARDIS, he added, "And he's not going to be able to."
Rose scrutinised him, but he looked dead serious. "Then I'm going to die?"
"That's up to you," the Doctor said quietly. "Either you choose to go in there and see him, or you stay here."
With me. He didn't say it, but he didn't need to. Tears welled up in her eyes and splashed down her cheeks. "I want to stay with you."
"You'll die if you do, Rose," he said.
"I don't care!" she shouted. "I don't wanna live without you anymore!"
"Listen to me," the Doctor said firmly, walking towards her and grabbing her shoulders. "There's no going back if you choose this. If you choose not to live, the Doctor — that Doctor and the future one — will never forgive himself. The past one will forget ever meeting you, and the future one'll remember centuries later."
"You'll be married to River Song, though. She can help."
"She's not you," said the Doctor earnestly, with a sad smile. "She'll never be you."
Rose opened her mouth to retort, but her voice failed. Looking hurriedly between him and the TARDIS, she whimpered, "But what about you?"
"Just before we found out you were going to outlive me, I wrote you a letter telling you that, when I was gone, to go and find him again," the Doctor said. "It's in the box under your bed. You have to go back to him, Rose. It'll kill him if you don't."
She threw her arms around him again, and he held her, letting her sob into his shoulder for a full five minutes. As much as Rose wanted to be selfish for once and simply walk off into death to be with her husband, his admittance that the Time Lord Doctor wouldn't be all right without her made her decision.
"Okay," she whispered.
He actually looked relieved, dipping her back the way he used to and snogging her thoroughly. Rose clung to him, hands fisting in his hair as she slanted her mouth against his, tasting her own tears. Pulling away from her, he smoothed back her hair once before stepping away. "Don't forget what I told you on Darlig Ulv Stranden."
How could I forget? Rose wanted to say, but the Doctor dissipated into gold mist to join the rest before she could say anything. Squeezing her eyes shut and letting the rest of her tears fall, Rose turned towards the TARDIS, inhaled deeply and entered.
The console room was barren and barely lit, glowing so dimly the room looked grey. A faint, oddly echoing sobbing sound reverberated in the grey console room, and Rose could see the Doctor's back through the doorway to what appeared to be the med bay.
It was surreal, seeing herself on the medical bed. She was naked from the waist up, and Rose's hands flew to her mouth when she saw the gaping hole in her back. The Doctor was on his knees in front of the bed, his hand gripping hers and his face pressed into her bare chest. And he was crying.
Rose had only ever once seen the Doctor cry— not when he was a Time Lord, because he'd refused to ever show weakness in front of her (at least, that's what she'd gathered) but when he was human, only after he'd partially lost his mind to age and had been convinced she was leaving him. And here he was, a Doctor who'd known her all of five days, sobbing to the point where he couldn't breathe, because she'd died.
And he'd said he loved her. She remembered now.
"Doctor, I'm all right," Rose whispered, once again with teary eyes at the sight of the Doctor in tears. He didn't hear her, clearly, so she tried again. "Doctor, I'm fine!" The Doctor apparently couldn't hear her at all. What was she supposed to do, then?
What do you choose?
Somehow, some way, Rose knew it was the voice of the TARDIS. Reaching a hand out towards her sobbing Doctor, she said, "I want to live."
The golden light from outside seeped into the med bay, brightening it to a blinding point until everything went black. Her last thought before drifting back into unconsciousness was wondering, if this was merely a hallucination, how her Doctor had told her about the letter in the box when she herself hadn't known of its existence.
When she woke again, her entire body ached. Something cool and heavy was practically on top of her, and she whimpered in protest.
Blinking blood from her eyes, Rose took in the ceiling of her old room in the TARDIS. Her heart leapt— was she back with the future Doctor? But the whispered, hopeful voice that had spoken her name had been of her vegetable-wearing Doctor. Apparently he'd managed to get into the TARDIS again. Rolling over, her eyes met the wide, slightly red ones of the past Doctor, and she smiled lazily. "Mm, 'lo." When he didn't reply, only watched her with a growing look of terror, she frowned. "S'matter?"
"I lost you," he breathed out, before hugging her to him like he expected her to vanish. "My Rose."
Oh yeah, I died, she remembered, only slightly shocked. Then she remembered everything, and her frown turned into a gentle smile. Running one hand through his soft blonde hair, she murmured, "'M all right, my Doctor."
"No, you were dead," he whimpered into her neck. "I'm so sorry, Rose, I—"
She shushed him softly, and he obediently quietened, simply holding her tightly. "You saved me, yeah?"
He nodded into her shoulder, but then pulled back and frowned. "You remember?"
"Most of it," Rose shrugged. "Dunno how you saved me."
"The TARDIS got me to open her heart," the Doctor mumbled. "I imagine she saved you."
He glanced up to see Rose smiling gently. "Bad Wolf."
"Nothing," Rose grinned, tongue between her teeth again. She jumped off the bed with the strength nobody should have after returning from the dead and pulled him with her. "I'm starved. Let's have lunch."
"I shall make something," the Doctor said hastily, gripping her hand, unwilling to let her exit the TARDIS just yet.
"Don't burn it," Rose winked. "Afterward I'm gonna ring Torchwood, yeah? Make sure the mission went all right and that my team's okay—"
"Don't leave," he burst out, before flushing. "I mean, er—"
She stepped towards him again and hugged him a second time, and he melted against her like butter. "'M not leaving. Just gonna call them. Then I'm gonna shower, 'cos I'm gross, yeah?"
He chuckled quietly but nodded, letting go of her and looking like he didn't know what to do with himself anymore. Flushing, he ducked his head and padded into the hallway, making Rose chuckle and shake her head at her silly Doctor. She spotted her Torchwood outfit tossed aside on the floor and rummaged around in it, pulling out her mobile. Upon ringing Torchwood, her team burst into shocked exclamations.
"We thought you were dead!" said Jenna's thick Irish voice on the other end. "That cricketer bloke just kind of ran off with you."
"He brought me back to his ship," Rose told her. "An' I'm all right." As the team whooshed out sighs and began expressing their relief, Rose added with a smile, "Also, could you tell the board that I resign?"
"What?!" came four concurrent exclamations.
"Bye guys, nice to work with you for a bit," Rose smirked, before hanging up and bouncing in the loo to take a shower.
The Doctor managed to whip together a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches in his nervous state— despite knowing full well Rose was in the shower, his mind kept screaming to run into her room and make sure she hadn't disappeared. He all but jumped when she entered the room, smelling of his shampoo (how fitting) with wet hair.
"Oh my God, you read my mind," Rose groaned, snatching up her sandwich and chomping down into it, and he just had to chuckle at that. Sitting down as well, he opened his mouth to say something, but Rose interrupted, "Doctor, I think you're right."
"Hm?" he said. "About what?"
"About bringing me back to future you," Rose said, watching his eyes go wide with hope. "You're right. I don't wanna stay in that universe… without you," she added, blushing a bit.
The smile he gave her was teary and the epitome of joy.
They talking and laughed a bit over 'lunch', and when the Doctor bounced into the console room, Rose found herself picturing her reunion with the future Doctor. Either he'd welcome her with open or he'd be happy with River Song and turn her away, in which case she could always turn to Jack or Sarah Jane. Still, she couldn't help but hope for the former.
I lived for you, she thought as she watched the Doctor bounce around the console. Please accept me.
They stopped by the mansion to pick up her things, only leaving behind a note for Tony and Cecilia explaining where they'd gone and the photo album. He grew more and more sombre the closer the time came to her leaving, until he was actually scowling. He stopped when Rose hugged him yet again in the console room.
"Allons-y, then?" she said, tongue in teeth.
The Doctor, in that moment, wished he were brave enough to kiss her tongue back into her mouth. "Yes, Rose."
"What happened to the other people who travel with you?"
"Some left me. Some got left behind. And some, not many but… some died."
The Ponds and the Eleventh Doctor were all situated in the kitchen, eating a family meal of Chinese food.
"Dear me!" exclaimed the Doctor. "I'd better get going. Things to do, worlds to save, swings to swing on. Look, I know, you both have lives here. Beautiful, messy lives. That is what makes you so fabulously human. You don't want to give them up. I understand."
"Actually—" Brian started to say.
He was interrupted by a loud grinding sound that could only come from the TARDIS. Everyone frowned at each other and craned their necks to look out the window. "Isn't that your box?" Brian said instead.
"Sounds like," the Doctor chirped, bouncing up and over to the window. "Ooh, it's a past TARDIS!" He turned to Amy and Rory, looking excited. "Wanna come see a past me?"
"Hell yeah," Rory grinned, and they all abandoned their meals to hurry out onto the small lawn in front of the street.
Lo and behold, an older-looking TARDIS was parked just a few metres away from where the current TARDIS was.
"Ooh, what did you used to look like, Doctor?" Amy said eagerly, her Scottish accent thickening in her excitement.
"Oh, I've had almost a dozen faces!" the Doctor beamed jovially. "The first three were old-looking—" he shuddered, "then for a bit I was young — rather handsome, actually — and then my seventh body was old again, and then I looked like Mr. Darcy and—"
He stopped talking at once as the door opened, revealing a Doctor dressed in an Edwardian cricketer's outfit and looking a bit grim. The Doctor swallowed, hoping this wasn't after he'd lost Adric— or Tegan and Turlough, since he didn't quite remember what he'd done in that period of his life. The cricketer Doctor's eyes found his, and he ignored his future self's jovial wave to instead glare at him.
"Blimey, you were bad tempered, weren't you?" Rory smirked.
The current Doctor frowned as the other one turned back to the TARDIS, holding out his hand for whoever was in the ship to take. A slender pair of fingers slipped into his outstretched hand, and with almost graceful movements she emerged.
And his hearts stopped.
Rose accepted the Doctor's extended hand and stepped into her own universe, bag slung on her back. She smiled brightly at him, trying to get him to be rid of the sombre expression on his face. "No zeppelins," she pointed out, letting her tongue poke out at the corner of her mouth as she glanced up at the sky and stepped onto the street.
His face successfully softened into a half-smile, not moving from his spot near the TARDIS even though their hands were still linked. "No zeppelins, Rose. Not here."
His eyes still looked sad. She gave his hand a squeeze. "Don't look so sad. You'll see me again, remember?"
"Not for ages," he mumbled, pulling her into a tight hug, and over the telepathic link between him and his future self he could literally feel the anguish and jealousy radiating off the other man.
"Aren't I worth the wait?" Rose joked, a bit sadly.
"Always," he murmured into her hair. "I'll have to forget you."
"For now," she reminded him, as they rocked gently in their embrace. "Just for now."
"Until…" he started, but trailed off. Rose pulled away a bit to see him staring off at something behind her, and she started to turn her head only to have his finger on the side of her face, forcing her to look back at him. "One day, I'm going to remember the last five days, and I'm probably going to kick myself for all the stupid things I did." She raised an eyebrow at him. "One thing I can't kick myself for is this."
Swooping down, one hand cradling the back of her head, he kissed her roughly as though expecting her to fade in his arms. To his immense relief she kissed back almost immediately, whimpering against his mouth as she slipped her hands into his hair and tugged gently. Jealousy from his other self increased tenfold, and since his future self was seriously considering storming over, the Doctor pulled away from her and murmured, "I love you, my Rose."
Her breath hitched, even though she already knew. "I love you too. This you. All of you."
"Oh Rose, I know," he breathed. Giving her one last kiss on the forehead, the Doctor pulled away from her completely and stepped into the TARDIS.
To the Doctor, the universe had always had moods.
Sometimes it thanked him with tiny favours and occasional bouts of luck, other times it was temperamental and did nothing but take everything he held dear from him. Now, however, he imagined he'd done something spectacular, because the universe was giving him back the thing he wanted more than air.
He could feel his past self in his mind, fighting to let her go and despairing at the knowledge that he had to. The Doctor didn't remember ever meeting Rose in his fifth life, let alone falling in love with her (again). Was that love? Yep, definitely love. The Doctor was aware of his Ponds gasping when his vegetable-wearing incarnation snogged Rose, and jealousy exploded in his chest like an errant supernova.
He was considering stomping over there and hitting his past self, but the cricketer Doctor pulled away from her, murmuring something. The current Doctor flinched back at the mingled happiness and devastation that flooded his other self at Rose's reply, whatever it was. His feelings became the Doctor's own— she was here. His Rose. She'd come back to him. Then the other Doctor turned away from Rose and re-entered his TARDIS, dematerialising and leaving her standing in the middle of the street looking slightly dazed.
"Doctor, are you all right?" he barely heard Amy ask, and he felt her hand brush his slightly wet cheek.
Oh. He was crying. Well, that was new.
Rose turned away after a brief moment of staring at the spot where the past TARDIS had dematerialised, jumping when she immediately spotted the current ship. Her eyes travelled from the TARDIS straight to him, looking at him with slight astonishment.
And it didn't matter that Rose had never seen this face before (did she like it? Oh, he hoped to Rassilon she liked it). The moment she apparently decided he was the Doctor, her face split into a beam and his hearts stuttered. His legs kicked into gear without his knowledge, stumbling over every little pebble on the pavement and even his own feet as he sprinted towards Rose, tears now knowingly pouring down his face like a faucet.
They didn't even have to call each other's names. The moment he reached her he swept her into his arms and all but crushed her to him, letting out a half-laugh half-sob into her hair as her scent cascaded around him after all these years. And even though there were so many variables and consequences to consider — the fact that he was a married man, albeit to someone he didn't love; the question of what had happened to his metacrisis-self; hell, the idea that maybe Rose didn't love him anymore — the Doctor swept down and captured her lips in an emulation of his past self.
"Wow," breathed Rory.
Amy, who was looking appalled, turned to him. "What's 'wow' about this?"
"I think we just witnessed the Doctor being in love," said Rory, sounding awed.
Amy rounded on him, unwilling to look at the Doctor and the blonde woman snog for another second. "What about our daughter?"
Rory gave her a sympathetic glance. "Once upon a time—"
"Are you tellin' me a story at a time like this?!"
"Shush and listen. Once upon a time, Amy Pond was out cold in the TARDIS. It was just after she and Rory had discovered their friend River was actually their daughter, and after the Doctor had married her." Amy pursed her lips but nodded for him to continue. "Rory, meanwhile, was asking why the Doctor looked so upset. And the Doctor told the truth, for once." Rory looked at her firmly. "The Doctor said he was never in love with River, and never would be. When Rory asked why, the Doctor simply said 'Rose'."
Amy mouthed the word 'Rose' and glanced between him and the blonde woman. "Then, that's Rose?"
"I assume," Rory snorted.
Amy stomped her foot. "But what about—?"
"The Doctor told River too," Rory said gently, placing a hand on her shoulder. "River knows about Rose— well, about as much as I know."
"He said some leave him, some he leaves, and some die," said Brian from behind them. "Looks like that one did none of the above."
"She came back," said Amy simply, and Rory smiled and slung an arm around her waist.
The Fifth Doctor hurried over to the console and piloted his ship into the Vortex. Once this was done, he sank against the console and let a hand drift up to his tingling lips, eyes sliding shut. He kissed her. And Rassilon, he wished he wouldn't have to wait who knows how many centuries to do it again, either as her human husband or the floppy, gaping idiot with the bowtie.
He had to forget this, but he didn't want to, at least not right now. Not so soon after he'd said goodbye. Besides, there was something he had to do first. Excitement grew inside his chest, and with a grin he punched in the coordinates, throwing himself towards the door when he landed.
Upon flinging the doors open, the Doctor gave a giant beam to the astonished-looking Peri Brown, who had only taken two steps away from the TARDIS. "Three months, you say?"
"That's right," Peri said confusedly. "I thought you said—"
"I changed my mind," he interrupted swiftly. "Why not?"
Peri's face split into a beam, and with a happy laugh she ran into the TARDIS. The doors closed behind her and the TARDIS jerked as they took off again to Rassilon knows where, forcing them to both grab hold of the console. With an excited grin, the Doctor shouted, "Welcome aboard, Peri!"
A/N: And so concludes this installment :) I'm kind of sad it's over. It was a colossal shock to me at how this story positively exploded with you guys— you're all so effing wonderful! X3 Hope I didn't didn't make you cry TOO much. Eleven and Rose's reunion is set post-episode 'the Power of Three' so whatever dialogue you recognise belongs to that ep :3.
Thanks as per usual go out to natural-blues, Virginia I, New Eliza D twice, hotsasukefan, DeepBlue-sama, ramen-luver101, CaskettTardisFan (I love Castle and Beckett too!) Greek-Whovian, Porrima, wishbones, jenn008, Kylaia78, Genesis Chi and bananas-are-good-9. Like I said, there'll be a sequel to this after all the other stories in this series are written; it'll be Eleven/Rose, explain a few things between each other (River Song, Rose's inability to age etc) and it'll be rated M ;) yes, my pretties, M.
WARNING FROM THE FUTURE: The next story in the Forever and More series won't be rated T, as the last stories in this series have been; it's gonna a big ol' M (sexeh Six). To those of you who don't like smut, sorry o: but you can just skip over the sex parts if it's not your cuppa and still grasp the basic storyline.