Hello my lovelies! So, I've been off fanfiction for a while since I was trying my hand at original fiction! Anyhow, I came across this not-so-little one-shot that I'd worked on ages ago but forgot to publish. It needs a lot of polishing I'm guessing but I don't have the time to do the whole thing over, but I hope it's readable and at least mildly entertaining!
Chronologically this should happen during the events of The Big Bang (Season 5 Episode 13). Please do leave me a review, whether you like it or not, I'm not complaining!
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. Really. I swear on fish fingers and custard.
A Meta Crisis
"Oi, Smith! Your phone's been ringing."
Smith nodded in thanks and increased his pace to the lockers. It was three in the afternoon, a slow day, and he wasn't really expecting any calls at this time. Probably a sales call.
His long legs brought him to his destination soon enough and instantly he heard it. His phone ringtone, set to the ring of an old-fashioned telephone, was blaring in full volume, the sound further enhanced by the empty metal locker. Quickly but easily, he unlocked the locker and rummaged his phone out of his messy bag. His first surprise for the day. It was her.
Frowning, he pressed the green button.
"Where the hell have you been!"
She was speaking in that tone.
"There isn't much time. We're sending over a ride. Drop whatever you're doing and get here fast."
He realised she was about to hang up, but he said quickly, "Wait –wait!"
"Are you alright?"
A small sigh, and he knew she was smiling. "Yes I am. Now, leave."
With that he flung his phone into his bag, swept it onto his shoulder and ran outside, leaving the locker open behind him. He ran flat out for barely five seconds when he spotted the man he was looking for.
The man turned and raised his eyebrow. "Well, Smith? What is it?"
"Got to go, sir."
"Can't it wait till the end of the day?"
"Ah, no sir. Got to leave right away. Emergency business type of… thing."
The Doctor's eyebrow rose higher. "Torchwood type of thing, eh?"
Smith shrugged, flashing his teeth in a grin.
"Go on, then. I'll have Williams cover your shift. You'll have to make up for it, mind you."
Smith's grin widened. "As always. Thank you, sir. Good day!"
He had already begun to dash away when the Doctor called out –"The front doors are the other way, Smith!"
Smith paused; he had already built up so much momentum that he skidded a little on the smooth floor. "I'm heading for the roof, sir. Got a ride waiting!" And with the brightest grin yet, Smith dashed off.
The Doctor shook his head, grumbling, "Those Torchwood blokes and their aliens…"
"Seriously? There's one in Cardiff?"
"This is the one nearest to us. There's one more in America –their CBI's handling that one."
"Hmm." Smith frowned, thinking. "Only the two?"
"That we know of. They look quite normal, sir."
"I'll be the judge of that."
"Of course, sir."
Smith frowned at the tone of reverence in the other man's voice. He endeavoured to focus on the matter at hand. "Right, then. Where's this famous c-"
The men on either side of him stiffened up as well, seeing his strong reaction. One of the men murmured, "Uh, sir?"
Smith didn't respond. He was still staring at the ground in the centre of the cordoned-off area.
The man tried again. "Sir-"
Smith ignored him completely, whipped around a full one hundred and eighty degrees and yelled, "Rose!"
She emerged from the dirigible instantly, walking as fast as she could without actually running, her blonde bangs jumping on either side of her face. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"I want everyone to stay clear of this area. Don't even try to get closer. This is a non-negotiable order, do I make myself clear?" –Smith's voice was harsher than most people had ever heard. They saw the cold, determined lines of his face and nodded, fearfully. The men who had accompanied him backed off, slowly.
Rose stayed beside him, though. She slipped her hand into his, as always, and they both turned to survey the ground again.
"What is it?"
Smith let out a harsh breath. "Bad news." He crouched to get a closer look, but didn't budge his feet an inch. Rose mimicked his movements, and he squeezed her hand in warning.
"Not too close, Rose."
She frowned slightly. "Why not?"
He didn't answer; at least not immediately. "Has anyone tried to approach it?"
"Not that we know of."
He snorted humourlessly. "No. You wouldn't."
She glanced at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He paused again, before answering, "That, Rose, is no ordinary crack. It's a crack in space and time."
"What, like a rift?"
"Yes! Actually no, not at all like a rift, but good effort, full points!" Rose hid a grin as she punched his arm. "A rift is just, you know, a gap. It happens. Universe being as old and as big and as full as it is, even this one…" His speech petered away and he turned solemn again. "But a crack… a crack means the universe is breaking."
"Breaking?" Her voice was instantly high-pitched with worry. "What do you mean, breaking?"
"A rift is natural, Rose. A crack isn't."
"Is it because of us?" Her voice shook slightly. "All the dimension jumps me and Mum and Mickey made?"
He looked at her kindly. "Nah, that weakness was fixed back then by…" he cleared his throat, "by him. And that was at Bad Wolf Bay. This crack coincides with the rift in our Universe –our old Universe."
"So what does that mean?"
"It means a potential weak spot is being taken advantage of, and on the other end. It's not this universe that's cracking, and to top that, something's caused this crack, something malevolent."
"So… our Universe is in danger?" Her voice shook again. He glanced at her. It was still their universe, even though they'd never be able to make it back. She had spent the first nineteen years of her life in that universe –he, his first nine hundred. It was easy to understand their sense of belonging for that dimension and not in the one they had currently made their homes in. "Our Universe is in danger," he acknowledged with a sigh.
"But… you –he'll fix it, yeah?"
He took a deep breath. "I hope so."
"He will," she said stubbornly. "He always does."
He squeezed her hand again. "For how long, though?" –he murmured in such a low voice that even she couldn't hear it. She wasn't meant to, anyway.
"Doctor Smith, sir! It's brighter!"
Smith, who had been gazing listlessly at a blank wall, shot to his feet as though electrocuted. Rose woke from her uncomfortable slumber in much the same style.
"Keep everyone away!" –he snapped and rushed out of the office, down two corridors and the steps of the zeppelin and toward the crack in the ground, which was emitting a strange white light. Rose was right at his heels.
He stopped several feet away, flinging an arm out to keep Rose behind him. "Not a step further."
She was staring right at the glowing crack. "Why not? You never said. We could bring in some equipment and-"
He whipped around to face her. He clutched her shoulders so tightly that she had to look away from the crack and into his serious eyes. "Don't you even think about it. Don't."
"But why, though-"
"Because you'd already sent some people to investigate it before you called me in."
She blinked. "What? No! We'd have records-"
"Weren't you listening, Rose? This is a crack in space and time. Fall into it and you're erased from time. Do you know what that means? You are literally, completely erased. You will have never existed. No one, nothing will remember you."
Her lips parted and eyes widened with shock. She glanced at the crack over his shoulder. "That's worse than dying."
"Yes, it is."
"But that's horrible!"
"But what would cause something like this to happen? I mean, if it's like this here…" The rest of her words remained unspoken, but understood. If it was this bad here, how bad was it in their Universe?
Smith turned to look at the crack again. "I don't know."
"So what do we do?"
"Nothing?" Rose was staring at him incredulously.
He ran his fingers through his hair and huffed with frustration. "There's nothing we can do, Rose. No Tardis, no screwdriver…" He let his hand drop limply. "We'll just have to wait, and hope." She clutched his limp hand and squeezed it. She understood, and he was so glad she did.
When Rose had nearly walked right into the crack, half-asleep, he had created a ruckus and sent her packing to the dirigible, ordering her in his sternest voice to only emerge after she was fully rested. No one argued with that voice, so she obeyed him. He didn't join her. Despite having one heart and several other human tendencies, he could still bear extreme temperatures and stay awake for long like a Time Lord. And so, after much insisting, he remained the only one in the restricted area, lounging comfortably in a distinctly uncomfortable-looking metal chair several feet away from the crack, although Rose insisted on leaving an empty chair with him in case she woke up and decided to join him –a small sign of her asserting her own choice, which Smith didn't miss.
The crack was still glowing, and steadily glowed brighter and brighter. At times it seemed like something would come through, but each time it was a false alarm. The white light would increase drastically, he'd have to drag the chair and himself several steps back. Then the light would recede, and he'd be left waiting again.
It was the darkest time of the night, just before dawn, when it happened again. He calmly retreated a few steps, when he realised that the light was growing brighter and covering more area than ever before. He scrambled away hurriedly. Suddenly, there was a flash that momentarily blinded him, and a man stepped out of the crack as smoothly as if he were stepping off a bus.
Smith could barely make out the details of the man's appearance –his pupils were still adjusting.
"Oh. I wondered if I'd see you." Smith had never heard that voice before, and yet he felt it was the most familiar voice in the universe. He ought to know that voice. He knew instantly what that meant, of course.
"Are you –are you the Doctor?"
"Well, who else?" The new Doctor's voice sounded reedy and petulant. Young.
Smith shrugged. "Just checking." The Doctor stepped sideways a little, so the light fell on him. Even as Smith's eyes finally adjusted to the light, he realised he was right, the Doctor was young, younger than he had ever been in all his lives. He raised his eyebrows. The Doctor fiddled with his bowtie self-consciously.
"I wear bowties now, do I?" –Smith asked, none too enthusiastically.
The Doctor's expression darkened instantly –ah, that was a familiar look, an ancient look. "I wear them now. You don't."
Smith hid his wince. "Still haven't forgiven me for the genocide, then?"
The Doctor glared at him. "What do you think?"
Smith placed his hands on his hips. "Well, that you're an absolute hypocrite, for one-"
"Oh, save it," the Doctor snapped, his voice petulant again. "I've heard it all before."
Smith shrugged. "As long as you have." As he always did in the Doctor's presence, Smith felt much less sure of himself, and thus spoke very little compared to the centuries-old alien, the uncontested leader in any room. It was natural, he knew: the deference of an imitation(a very good one, but an imitation nonetheless) to the original.
So, still awkward, Smith gestured at the empty chair. "Have a seat." The Doctor vacillated on the spot and wrung his hands, hesitating, but did eventually sit down. Smith frowned slightly. The Doctor seemed to be more nervy and awkward in this avatar. He proved it by breaking the silence first. "So, how long has it been since, er…"
"Since you left me here?" –Smith finished for him. "Seven years. How long has it been for you?"
The Doctor seemed characteristically reticent. "Oh, four years I suppose." Another pause. "Where is this? If anywhere, I thought I'd end up in Dårlig Ulv Stranden."
Smith grinned. "Yeah, that's the reserved landing spot for just the Tardis, and nothing else. You're in Cardiff."
"Cardiff!" The Doctor seemed genuinely astonished. "Blimey, Cardiff. Wasn't expecting that."
Smith cocked his head to the side. "What were you expecting, then?"
"Well, to be honest, I wasn't expecting to land up anywhere. I thought I'd just… disappear."
Smith frowned again. "What's happened, Doctor?"
The Doctor wrung his hands a bit more, but his voice was resolutely cheerful. "Nothing."
Smith pointed at the glow behind him. "That crack isn't nothing."
The Doctor sighed. "Well, if you must know… the Tardis exploded."
"The Tardis did what?"
"It wasn't me! Not my fault! I'm 908 years old, d'you think I don't know how not to make a Tardis explode-"
Smith was nearly speechless, horrified. "The Tardis exploded!"
The Doctor tutted and his twisting hands were a blur. "Like I said, not my fault, someone else-"
"…because apparently, 'silence will fall' whatever that means-"
"And d'you believe it? All our enemies ganged up against me. I mean-"
"Hang on," Smith said suddenly. "You said 'our' enemies."
The Doctor stopped his own rant abruptly. "No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did." Smith grinned again. "Our enemies."
"Well, then," the Doctor sniffed. "My mistake."
That last attempt at animosity was so childish that Smith let it pass. "You were saying? About the enemies ganging up?"
The Doctor relaxed his stiff stance. "Right. Yes, they all ganged up on me. Daleks and the Cybermen and the Nestene Consciousness-"
"Because they were idiots," the Doctor growled. "Because they thought I would blow up the Tardis and destroy the Universe-"
"But you did!"
"Haven't you been listening?" The Doctor snapped irritably. "It. Wasn't. Me."
"Who was it then?"
"Dunno yet. I mean to find out… if I get to exist again."
Smith frowned again, pondering over that. The Doctor noticed. "How have you been feeling lately?" –he asked abruptly.
Smith's head shot up as he stared at the Doctor. "What do you mean?"
"Have you been feeling… intangible at all?"
"No." Smith squirmed. "Should I?"
The Doctor nodded. "I'm sorry."
Smith ignored the apologetic tone of the Doctor's words. "What happened, then? Fell into a crack in your world and came out in ours?"
"I didn't fall into a crack," the Doctor said in his whiny voice. "I locked myself out." At Smith's interrogatory look, the Doctor continued, "Oh, I didn't get to that part, did I? I saved the universe" –the Doctor seemed to be positively preening himself –"undid the whole thing, reconstituted the Tardis. But… at a price. I sealed the universe all nice and perky, but I sealed myself out. I had to." All his smugness had disappeared by the time he finished. Smith nodded, comprehending.
"It had to be done," they both said in one voice. Smith started, as did the Doctor, then they smiled: uncertain, embarrassed.
Smith cleared his throat. "Listen. You could come in," he gestured at the zeppelin behind him. "Freshen up. Have some tea."
"Some tannin would be good right now," the Doctor said slowly, then stopped altogether. Smith raised an eyebrow again.
"You're not alone, are you? She's in there?"
Smith's eyebrow shot down. He nodded.
"How is she?" –the Doctor asked softly.
"She's well. I've been taking care of her, like you wanted me to," Smith said in a rush, almost as though presenting a report. "And she's been taking care of me, like you wanted her to. She's heading Torchwood now." He couldn't keep the pride out of his voice.
The Doctor was smiling, too. "Doesn't surprise me. What about you?"
"What, me? Lead them?" Smith chuckled. "Nah. Too many responsibilities. I'm half you, you know how that feels. No, I'm a medical student now. Interning at a hospital."
"A medical student," the Doctor said incredulously. "Blimey."
Smith shrugged. "Yeah, well, I still want to be called 'the Doctor'. Only way that's possible in this universe is with a medical degree."
"And you? How's Donna?"
Smith already knew not to expect a cheerful answer, so he wasn't surprised to see the Doctor's expression freeze. "She's fine." He had to strangle the words out.
Smith frowned and crossed his arms. "Define 'fine'."
The Doctor clicked his tongue, frustrated. "She's okay. Fine. Healthy. Alive."
"Does it matter?"
"I am one half of the Doctor-Donna. She's the other. So, yes, it does matter to me." Smith's voice was cold. Did the Doctor not realise how much Donna meant to him –to them? He had every right to be worried about her. He had all the Doctor's thought processes, after all. He knew what fate had awaited Donna.
"I erased her memories." The Doctor muttered. There was a short stunned pause. "I don't exist in her world anymore." He snorted humourlessly. "Quite literally, now, thanks to the exploding Tardis."
"I'm sorry," Smith said, shocked, relieved and saddened at the same time. "She was brilliant."
"She was. And she can never know."
Smith couldn't hide his grimace. "That's terrible."
The Doctor let out a harsh breath. "Yes. But she's alive. That's all that matters." He paused. "She's happy, too. She's married now. And no, he isn't poisoning her or endangering her in any manner. I checked."
Smith, whose breath had caught at the news of her marriage, relaxed again. "Good."
The Doctor nodded, still subdued.
Smith made an effort to change the subject. "You're travelling alone now?"
"No. Tried it for a while… that was a disaster." The Doctor's expression was dangerously dark, a vision of self-loathing. "But I have… friends now."
A small grin. "Yup."
"Good. I'm glad." Smith meant it. Then he grinned. "Any of them fancy you?"
The Doctor laughed, although it was a rather nervous laugh. "Nah. It's just this little girl I met and her fiancé." A pause, while Smith quickly worked out exactly what the Doctor meant by a 'little girl'. "And sometimes there's River Song."
"Ah. Are you any closer to finding out who she is?" –Smith asked curiously.
"No." To Smith's surprise, the Doctor was grinning. It was almost as if…
"Do you fancy her?"
The Doctor jumped as though electrocuted. His voice was incredibly high-pitched. "What? Of course not! She's –she's… she's her! And I'm –I'm a Time Lord! Impossible! Nope! Not at all! Pas du tout!"
Smith tried hard to hide his grin. The Doctor hadn't been this skittish even with Rose. "Right. She was intriguing, though."
The Doctor sniffed, adjusting his bowtie with nervous fingers. "Yes. She was, rather."
Smith was still grinning, but decided to spare him any more embarrassment. "So, how about that tea?"
To his surprise, the Doctor shook his head vehemently. "Er… no. Thank you, but no."
The Doctor didn't answer, but he was clenching and unclenching his hands nervously.
"Come on, Doctor, I'll go wake Rose-"
Smith, who had started to get up, stopped and sat down again. "What's the matter? Don't want to meet her?"
The Doctor drew himself up. "I don't, actually."
Anger swept over Smith. "Why? Don't you care anymore? Moved on completely, have you? Now that you've got your fascinating River Song-"
"No! How could you believe that?" –the Doctor interrupted angrily. Smith didn't answer. The Doctor sighed and ruffled his hair with both hands and jumped to his feet. "Don't you understand? I can't see her. I can't. Not here, not like this."
"I don't see why-"
"I can't see her happy!" –the Doctor spat, pacing with agitation. "There! I've said it. I'm a cold, selfish old bastard –and I can't see her happy!" Smith stared, stunned, as the Doctor continued his angry rant, his hands flailing madly. "Do you think I still resent you for the Dalek genocide?" He chuckled darkly. "It's nothing I haven't done before! I resent you for –for having her. For being with her, for living your whole life with her, for doing everything that I never can do!"
A ringing silence enveloped them, both of them momentarily speechless.
The Doctor, breathing heavily, adjusted his coat and dusted it. "Right," he said, looking everywhere but at Smith, "I'd better be off."
"Where are you going?" –Smith's voice was still dry with shock.
The Doctor shrugged. "Back in there, I suppose." He gestured at the crack vaguely over his shoulder. "Doesn't really matter."
"But you can't go in there! You might get erased altogether!"
"Is that so bad?"
"Yes, it is! You're the Doctor! You can't just give up and disappear!"
"Sure I can. It's as easy as anything. Look-" The Doctor actually took two steps toward the crack before Smith gave an outraged cry, leaped at him, caught his wrist and pulled him back to safety several yards away.
"Have you gone mad?" –Smith half-wheezed, half-shrieked. "What the hell were you trying to do? What in all the worlds did you hope to accomplish by stepping into that crack, just like that?" Then he stopped, because the expression on the Doctor's face was… odd.
"What?" –he demanded.
The Doctor's old, green eyes were gleaming with terrible sadness. "I'm sorry."
"Well, you'd better be! I mean, really, I can't believe you'd just up and give up like that-"
"No." The Doctor's voice was more urgent, more twisted with pain than Smith had heard all night. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for this, but…" A pause, a deep breath. "How did you pull me aside?"
"How did you pull me away from the crack?"
"What d'you mean how-"
"Just describe your every physical action."
Smith frowned. "I –I caught hold of your hand, and-"
"Are you still doing it?"
Some vague sense of foreboding stole over Smith. "Doing what?"
"Clutching my hand?"
"Because I can't feel it."
In unison, both of them looked down. The Doctor's arm was extending, and clutching his extended wrist was a translucent, ghostly hand. A hand that emerged from Smith's left sleeve.
"What's happening to me?" –Smith breathed, his eyes widening with horror.
The Doctor closed his eyes, his face a mask of sadness. "You're getting erased."
A dead weight seemed to drop within Smith's stomach. "No."
The Doctor's voice was quiet, dejected. "My timestream is unravelling. Pretty soon I'll be out of this universe, too."
Tears began to fill Smith's eyes. "No, please. You have to do something. You have to stop this!"
He turned away. "There's nothing I can do."
"Doctor, please! Please!"
"You don't understand!" Smith cried. "Rose and I, we've made our homes, our lives –you can't let it get erased, please!"
The Doctor whipped around to look at him again, suddenly energetic, his hands clutching Smith's face, his expression all furious and sad at the same time. "Then remember it! Keep it in your mind, keep thinking about it all, about your life with Rose. In fact, tell me!" The Doctor nodded feverishly, and a frantic smile appeared on his face. "Yes, tell me all about what you and Rose have been up to!"
Smith was dizzy, suddenly. Why was he dizzy? "I thought –you didn't want to know…"
"No, I want to know, I want to know everything! So tell me! What have you and Rose been doing? TELL ME!"
"Got rid of all the Cybermen," he replied almost automatically to that urgent order–but why was it such an effort to use his voice? "Although Mickey had done most of the cleaning up… Mickey. Is he alright? Is Mickey alright?" The Doctor laughed a manic laugh. "Yes, yes, Mickey's fine, he's absolutely fine! He's married. D'you know who he's gone and married? Martha Jones! You remember Martha, our lovely, brilliant Martha! She helped us so much, she made us so much better after Rose…"
"Rose…" –Smith sighed again. He tried to picture her face but it was all fuzzy. Why was it fuzzy?
"Yes, yes, Rose," the Doctor sighed, but pressed his hands even tighter on Smith's cheeks. "My Rose. Our Rose. Your lovely, beautiful Rose. Your –your wife?"
Smith grinned, at least, he thought he was grinning. "Of course," he breathed.
The Doctor chuckled shakily. "Of course. Nothing less for her. Kids? Any little pink and yellow one-quarter Time Lords?"
"Two? Blimey, you've been busy! What are their names?"
He thought of them, of… whom was he thinking of?
"I –I don't know."
The smile dropped off the Doctor's face instantly. "What?"
His heart felt hollow, empty, as he realised what he was saying. "I don't remember."
"No, no, no, no, NO! You have to remember!" He let go of Smith's head, pirouetted on the spot and faced him again, angrier than before. "This is Amy and Rory all over again, this can't –please, remember! Remember Rose's kids! Remember them! What're they called?"
"Rose," Smith whispered. Nothing of what the Doctor was saying was making any sense any more. Except that one word.
"Rose," he whispered again.
"Yes, Rose. Keep thinking of her," the Doctor's voice was quiet and anguished again. "Think of Rose and how much she needs you. How much she needs me. How much she needs us. How much we needed her. Think… think of Rose."
A strange sort of muffling darkness was taking over him. He couldn't feel his arms or legs anymore. He struggled to focus on the Doctor, who, he suddenly realised, was kneeling on the ground, in front of him. Which meant he was on the ground, too.
Slowly, he moved his gaze to his right, struggling to control his neck muscles that were rapidly fading out of existence. His right hand was glowing dimly. He knew what that meant, even before the Doctor could explain in his young, ancient, broken voice. "The Metacrisis is reversing."
Smith gave a quick, sharp nod before losing the sensation of a having a neck completely. "Donna should be alright, then."
"But Rose won't be. Please, you must try and hold on-"
"It's up to you, Doctor. I'm just a result of your actions. Always have been. Always will be." He focused all his energy into settling his gaze on the Doctor's face. "Blimey, you've got a chin on you."
The Doctor laughed shakily, though his green eyes were still glimmering with tears. "Compensating for the hair last time 'round, I suppose."
Smith chuckled weakly. "Yeah. Thanks for that, by the way."
"Anytime." There was a pause, a very short pause in which the edges of Smith's vision started to blur. "You know," the Doctor mumbled in a forcefully casual tone, "I never asked."
"What's your name?"
Smith opened his mouth to answer. No sound came out. He tried to swallow, but he had no throat, not anymore. Wait, what was he even answering? Why? Everything was completely silent. Why did that even matter? What…
Light and lucidity together seemed to suddenly blare into his mind.
My name. John Smith. John Smith is my name. "My name is John Smith."
"What did you say?" The Doctor's voice. Young and ancient, anguished and hopeful at the same time.
Smith blinked. He had eyes. He was blinking, wasn't he? The Doctor's face swam into view right above him, his green eyes gazing into his brown ones piercingly.
"My name is John Smith," he repeated slowly, his throat feeling as parched as a desert.
"John Smith," the Doctor whispered unbelievingly.
Smith shrugged –oh, he had shoulders now! "Not very original, I suppose."
"No. But… it's brilliant." The Doctor was smiling now, with a matching brilliant smile.
Smith ran his hands over himself gingerly. "I… I exist again?"
The smile grew and grew until it became a laugh. "Yes! Haha, isn't that glorious?"
Smith sat up and the Doctor leaned back. "But –how?"
His smile turned fond, his voice affectionate. "Unless I'm mistaken… little Amelia Pond." At Smith's eyebrow raise, the Doctor explained, "The little girl I was telling you about. Amelia Pond. The girl who waited." A small, proud sigh. "The girl who remembered."
Before Smith could answer, the Doctor let out a shout that made him jump. "Ow! –ouch, what-" He became abruptly silent, which made Smith instantly worried. "What is it? What's wrong?"
The Doctor's grin reappeared suddenly –so wide now that it threatened to transform his face into one giant crease of joy. "Look," he whispered, almost reverently, his green eyes shining. He reached into his tweed coat and pulled out something small and glowing. Smith glanced at it, and even he felt a sudden whoop of joy threatening to burst out of his lips. Of course. The one thing in all the universes that forever made him –them –happy. The most beautiful thing in all creation.
"The Tardis," Smith breathed. "She's all right."
"Yes, she is," the Doctor said, his own voice low with wonder and delight. "My beautiful, sexy Tardis!"
Almost in response to that, a painfully familiar groaning sound echoed around them. The sound he thought he'd never hear, ever again. Both of them whipped around in unison, with identical expressions of joy on their faces.
Merely twenty feet away, a blue Police Box was materialising. The Doctor was already running before the final thump sounded. Smith was close on his heels.
"Oh, my precious, wonderful girl!" –the Doctor cried, stroking the outside of the Tardis lovingly. "I'm so sorry for letting that happen to you. So sorry," his voice was low, sweet and tender. Smith felt a sudden lump in his throat and prickling in his eyes. It was his hand that once stroked the blue wooden box, his voice that spoke to her with such tenderness.
As if in acceptance of his apology, the Tardis doors swung open. The Doctor flashed a dazzling smile at the box and bounded inside. Smith began to feel a familiar hollowness within his chest. He took a step or two back, hiding the view of the console room from himself. He didn't belong here, with her. Not anymore.
But then the Doctor's young, old head popped out the doors. "Well?" –he demanded. "Don't you want to take a look?"
Smith blinked rapidly, and pointed at himself. "Me?"
"Well, of course! Who else?" Then his expression softened, his voice lowered. "She's asking for you," the Doctor said, smiling kindly.
Smith couldn't help it this time; his eyes filled up again. The Doctor simply nodded in understanding, still smiling. "Come on in, then."
He didn't need to be told twice.
The moment Smith stepped inside, he felt his breath leave him in a startled whoosh. She looked shinier, brighter and more beautiful than ever before.
"I… I like the new theme," Smith murmured inadequately.
The Doctor grinned and swirled on the glass mezzanine, touching and twiddling the knobs on the central console. "Thanks. As a matter of fact, it was her choice." He nodded at the time rotor.
Smith walked slowly up to join the Doctor. "She does have great taste. What's this one called, 'Steampunk'?"
"It's 'Fairytale Steampunk', actually, and yes she does!" The Doctor patted the time rotor adoringly.
Suddenly, the thrum of her idle engines became louder and her lights turned dimmer. Smith felt a small tremor pass through the glass under his feet.
The Doctor looked instantly worried. "What –oh." He looked up at Smith, who already knew what was happening.
"You need to leave," he said quickly, nodding. "Alternate universe and all that."
The Doctor sighed. "I wish we'd have had more time. I could've taken you around, you know, just for a spin, seen what this universe has to offer."
Smith smiled and shook his head. "Nah. You know that wouldn't have been possible. Just one trip would've-"
"-drained her dry. Yeah, I know." He turned away.
Smith nodded. "Well. I should get going." The Doctor didn't answer. Smith gave him an awkward half-wave, and turned around and walked to the doors of the spaceship that had once been his, a familiar heavy feeling settling in his chest. He'd hated leaving the Tardis forever the first time 'round and he hated it even more the second time.
But his Tardis wasn't done with him yet. As he reached the doors, all the lights in all the roundels suddenly blared in full intensity, and he felt a dry, musky warm breeze ruffle his hair.
The weight inside him disappeared instantly and he smiled fondly at the door frame. "Goodbye, old girl," he murmured and stepped outside, turned around to close the doors behind him –and found the Doctor at the doorway.
"Right," he said, in his already familiar awkward young voice. "I –I'm not very good at goodbyes."
Smith grinned. "I know. Neither am I."
The Doctor's anxious expression softened, the twinkle returned to his eyes, and he smiled. "Well, then. See you around. And…" He directed his gaze to somewhere above Smith's head. Smith glanced behind himself –the Doctor was looking at the dirigible. "Tell her," a pause. "Tell her… oh, she knows!" Both men were grinning again.
"I will," Smith promised.
The Doctor nodded, once. "Cheerio!"
And shut the doors.
The familiar groaning, screeching sound that was the most beautiful sound in any universe echoed around him, and he stood and watched as the blue police box faded away from existence. The very next moment he heard the sounds of feverish activity, then those of running footsteps behind him. He didn't turn around. He knew who it was. Sure enough, she came to a breathless halt next to him.
"It was him, wasn't it?" –she gasped, bending over slightly, trying to catch her breath.
She sighed loudly. "Why didn't he stay?"
Involuntarily his hand sought hers and clasped it –and involuntarily her fingers curled around his. He turned themselves around to look at the crack, which was now rapidly shrinking. In two seconds, with a twinkle and a slight pop, it had vanished.
"He did it," she breathed. "He saved the universe."
"Business as usual for him, then."
He grinned. "Looks like."
"Why didn't he stay?" –she asked, her voice quieter.
He glanced at her. "He left you a message."
Her head shot up as she looked at him, her eyes sparkling. "What is it?"
He raised his eyebrow at her, grinning. "You know what." She stared at him for a moment, then sighed. "Yeah, I do. Wouldn't hurt for him to say it aloud once in a while."
"Yup," he acknowledged. "But then again, it wouldn't really be appropriate. You being married to someone else and all…" He raised his eyebrow at her suggestively. She responded with an eyebrow-raise of her own. "Oh, you're one to talk! What about Cleopatra, then?"
They turned back to the dirigible and began to slowly walk toward it, hands still linked tightly. "Oi, not me, remember!"
"You were him when all that happened!"
"Yeah, well, trust me when I say this, Other Earth Girl –it could've been much worse."
She glared coldly at his suggestive smirk. "Yeah. You could've been ginger."
"Oi! Ginger's good! It's a nice change."
"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that."
He chuckled and there was silence for a few moments as they walked back to the dirigible, still hand in hand.
"I love you."
She didn't respond.
A small smile curved her lips.
"Quite right, too."
A/N: Obviously I'm only assuming it's been four years for the Doctor since he last saw Rose. I think it's been much longer canonically. Also, I didn't dare name the kids. I dunno, it just felt too... important to screw up with. I'm still not sure about 'Fairytale Steampunk'... So you, dear reader, can go ahead and imagine whatever genders and names you want for those little tots!
Also, I think I've given quite a few Ten-like characteristics to Eleven. My reasoning was that he kind of relapsed upon seeing a familiar face. Yeah, I guess that doesn't make much sense, but whatever. I wrote this before the 50th anniversary special came out, so obviously, I didn't think of using that brilliant phrase 'Matchstick man!'
Again, a humble request for some reviews! Please and thank you!