Once again, so much thanks to YouCleverBoys, who has helped me throughout the nearly two-year process of writing this. You, my dear, are the BEST!
Several months later...
The TARDIS lurched unexpectedly, and the Doctor went stumbling against the bed. "Oh, I should've known," he groaned, catching himself with hands flat on the duvet. That wife of his was crafty as all get out, which he liked, but he'd like it even more if it wasn't his eyes that she was pulling the wool over most often. Bugger. That extra note of glee in her laughter as she shooed him off to change his shirt should've warned him she was up to something.
With hasty actions, he wrestled out of the soiled garment, snatching up the clean one from the bed as the time-ship shuddered a gentle landing. Thrusting his arms through the sleeves, he rushed into the corridor.
"Rose Tyler," he called, on rounding a corner into the console room, "what are you up to, you cheeky woman? I know you got chocolate on my shirt on purpose, just so you could get rid of me."
Rose grinned, her cheeks flushed and eyes bright. She was leaning heavily against the door- no, she was blocking it, her body tense, arms slightly outstretched. The Doctor bit back his own grin. Bit foolish of her, really, to play it like that. Because now there was no force in the universe strong enough to keep him on this ship.
"Where are we?" he asked, trying for nonchalant as he strolled her way, buttoning his shirt and tucking it into his trousers.
A tip of pink tongue poked out of her smile, momentarily stalling him. And then, most unexpectedly, she cracked the door open. "I bought you a present."
The Doctor stared at her. A present? Already? Their anniversary wasn't until next week, and he should know, because he meant to surprise her with a (years-overdue) trip to Barcelona and the wait was driving him mad.
The usual creak as Rose opened the door further, eyebrows lifting in an impatient 'go on then'- a gesture that had his eyes narrowing. Wasn't it only a month ago that Rose piloted them to a 'surprise' location? Which ended up being no more than Clara's boring flat, the surprise on him in the form of a water pistol ambush, while his wife and his friend had a good laugh at his expense.
But today, the anticipation seeping to him through their bond seemed almost nervous, rather than devilish, and the combination of that, his curiosity, and the shining prospect of a gift (especially one so wonderfully large it had to be kept outside the TARDIS) won out over suspicion quickly.
With only a little wariness, the Doctor stepped outside.
"Happy anniversary, Doctor," said Rose, as he turned a slow circle, taking in his surroundings. They were on Earth, judging by the thick green grass, a blue sky summer-warm with afternoon sunlight.
Stretched out before him was a large, pretty garden, fenced down both sides and behind with tall, crisply white painted boards. In the center of it was a perfectly square, sunken area bordered by a retaining wall, with stone steps leading down into it. A disorganized array of flowering plants and trees filled the space, wild and overgrown and appealing.
And puzzling. The part that threw him most was the house. Situated straight ahead at the garden's front end, it was a largish two-story cottage, trimmed in white with green shutters and sided with wood shingles.
"You bought me a house?"
Rose beamed, sliding her hand into his. "I bought us a house."
Despite his bone-deep confusion, the Doctor mirrored her smile. "Why?"
"Oh, you know." With a little skip, Rose began leading him across the grass. "You're always complaining about how old you're getting. Thought it'd be nice to have a place like this; come take the slow path every once in awhile. I figure, why shouldn't we have every sort of adventure?"
There was a mischievous twinkle in her eyes that made him squint, even though her words made sense. In their last life, in Pete's World, buying a house had been often discussed but never done, as both were content to make their home amongst the stars once their TARDIS was ready. Now, especially to the part of him that'd always been all Time Lord, the idea of trying something so -so human- was at once novel and enticing. As his clever wife had likely known it would be.
Although. Palm to palm as they were, he could easily tell Rose's keyed-up excitement hadn't abated. Which meant there was definitely more to all this than met the eye.
After passing through the fragrant, sunken center of the garden, they ascended the wide stone steps to the house, arriving at the rear entry's paned glass door. The Doctor inhaled deeply as Rose slid the key in the lock. "I smell the sea, don't I?"
"We're on Long Island," Rose told him, fighting a smile as she fiddled with the latch.
"Long Island...hang on. Rose Tyler. Don't tell me you bought us a house in the Hamptons."
It rang out then, the laugh she'd been suppressing, and he spluttered.
"Don't look at me like that," she managed to say. "I had a good reason, now stop being all suspicious and come tour the house, yeah? I promise that soon, you'll understand."
On stepping into the spacious, sunny kitchen, the Doctor was already beginning to see why Rose was so taken with this place. It was open and light and airy, chock-full of character, though not so much so that she'd likely chosen it on aesthetic appeal alone. The ceilings were high and trimmed with wide, carved mouldings, the doorways curved at the top, and the windows were large and plentiful.
White-painted cupboards ran in an L-shape along the back and side wall, and the corner one had a funny door, hinged in its middle. On his way to inspect it further, the Doctor ran his hand along the speckled formica countertop, pausing as he noticed the refrigerator. Plain white, wide with a curved front and long metal handle, it looked like a relic of the post-war era.
His eyes sought the stove, which was similarly dated, and realisation dawned. "Is this the nineteen-fifties?"
Rose snickered, and came over just to tap his nose. "No cigar, Time Lord, it's 1949, and blimey it took you long enough. What happened to being able to tell the exact year by tasting the air or something?"
"It tastes like 1950 in here," he retorted. "I just figured all of this old stuff was throwing me off."
"It's not old," stated Rose, wandering off through a large archway. "It's nice."
He hummed, unable to disagree as they went through the main living area, admiring the huge stone fireplace and gorgeous, curved stairway. Next up was a small den, wallpapered with huge pink roses. Rose cringed. "Nice for the most part, anyway. We might have to fix up a few things."
Smirking, the Doctor decided right there and then that those roses weren't going anywhere without a fight. "You could work with your watercolours in here," he said, touching his nose to the cool glass of a window. "Tons of natural light." This room had a street view. Lined with mature trees, there were a few houses across the way and he could make out the sound of children playing. Neighbors. Blimey. It'd been a long time since he'd had any of those. Couldn't help but wonder who they might be, what their stories were.
He looked at Rose, to ask her if she'd met any of them yet, and found her standing in the middle of the floor, fingers on lips, staring at a wall and obviously imagining something. Sunshine slanted over her, pooled at her feet, just like it would in future days. Only there'd be a...a chair, just there, fat and plush in the corner. And a soft rug on the floor, and a table full of paints and brushes, canvasses stacked all over, lining the walls.
Like a blow, it hit him. This was fun. Dreaming up ideas for a house, putting down little bitty roots. Domestic as all get out, sure, but fun, and all because he was doing it with her.
He sidled up behind her, drew her close to his body with hands on her waist. "I'm onto you, Rose Tyler." Her hair was soft, her scent luring his lips to her neck, and she sighed, inclining her head. "This is a fantasy for you, isn't it? I know all about you and your mum, your black and white Cary Grant films. You want to play the part of the little fifties wife?"
"Forties," she corrected with a laugh. "And I do speak the lingo. Cause yeah, you know how I'm so into aprons and doing housework in impractical shoes and the whole lack of equality thing." Turning in his arms, she wrapped her arms around his neck. "I thought this place was perfect, is all. And it's a nice, quiet time period. Yeah, maybe a bit Leave it to Beaver, but you've gotta admit that for families, life was better in this time. Slower. I like that."
"Families?" he echoed, forehead creasing.
Ignoring the question in his eyes, Rose gave him a quick kiss and slipped away. "C'mon, love, we've got the upstairs to see yet."
His stomach bottomed out as he started up the stairs after her, drawing conclusions that his head refused to consider. There was nothing odd about her choice of words. They were together, married, of course they were a family. Obviously.
But...it wasn't the family part that worried him, was it? It was family combined with 'slow'. Their life was normally anything but, and he knew Rose vastly preferred it that way. There was no reason for her to want slow all of a sudden.
Although, she had been awfully tired these past couple of weeks, sleeping in late, sneaking naps when she could...and blast it, that was not putting his mind at ease.
But...no. Souped-up biology aside, Rose was still human; they were genetically incompatible. The odds of them conceiving (he winced as the word flitted through his brain) were minuscule. Wouldn't be going too far to call it miraculous.
(Oh, how she'd laughed at him, the day after their wedding when he'd told her as much. And then made some comment about how she intended to tempt fate a lot, so he better be sure.)
(And all of a sudden, 99.997% sure no longer seemed like quite sure enough.)
They explored the upstairs, and he most definitely did not read into the fact that there were three entire bedrooms. Lots of houses had at least that many, it was a normal thing. Rose's enigmatic smile, however- that he had a major problem with, as it was all the response he'd gotten on asking in each of the two spares "so who's going to sleep in here?"
Rude, was what it was. She could've at least promised one of those rooms to the TARDIS.
"Think we could make this any safer?" she asked, gnawing her bottom lip in concern as they descended the polished staircase.
Right at that moment he nearly slipped himself, so he couldn't even scoff about it.
Rose eyed him strangely as she stepped into the downstairs loo. "Meet you out back in a mo'," she said. "There's a nice greenhouse out there that you'll like."
Positioned at the left rear of the garden, near the fence, the greenhouse was interesting and quite nice and he was sure he'd like it, sometime. But right now, with nerves quickening his pulse and making his neck damp with sweat, he was far too warm even out in the breeze. If he went inside it right now he'd probably suffocate and pass out.
A dramatic collapse to the ground seemed appealing, actually. He could just lie there, swallowed up by visions of inconsolable infants, his own paternal ineptitude, at least until Rose came out and told him he was being ridiculous. Problem was, he didn't exactly want her to know of his ridiculousness, so he forced himself to wander around the perimeter of the greenhouse. Dragging his feet through the grass, he peered listlessly in windows, until he saw it, sitting in a patch of dirt at the back of the structure. A small mechanical something.
A little single-cylinder generator, he rapidly deduced, undoubtedly meant for heating the greenhouse through the cold months. Several pieces lay on the ground, as if someone had taken it apart to repair it.
Thanking heaven for providing him something to do, the Doctor pulled out the sonic and set about tinkering.
He'd hardly got the main leads properly reconnected before his mind had shifted from nightmare scenarios to the memory of his wife's beaming face. Rose wasn't merely happy about all of this. She was downright thrilled to be having his baby, to the point that she was practically glowing with the joy of it. She knew it would be brilliant, this new adventure, so what reason had he to be scared?
A jolt went through him, lighting him up to the tips of his toes, and his hands worked with frenetic energy until he heard her call for him from a distance. "Doctor?"
Sending her a mental assurance that he was coming, he fired up the generator's ignition and grinned when it hummed to life. As he strode out from behind the greenhouse (reminding himself to come back and shut the motor down after it had warmed up for a bit) he caught sight of Rose, standing on the steps to the house with one hand shielding her eyes, looking for him. In the form-fitting jeans she preferred and a simple pink tee she looked lithe as always, not the least bit pregnant. Smiling as she spotted him, she took off, her feet nimble on the stairs (bless rubber soles). It was all the Doctor could do not to shout out a caution.
Quick as a blink he started her way, hoping to cut her run short, and had just leapt from the retaining wall into the sunken garden when there was an ominous metal whine, right before an enormous BOOM! cracked the air at his back.
The Doctor whipped around, the tinkle of breaking glass in his ears and smoke in his nostrils, just in time to see a good ten-foot portion of the left-hand fence tilt precariously.
Then it fell to the ground with a splintering crash.
A loud, delighted laugh rang out behind him. In shocked disbelief, the Doctor swung around to look at his wife.
"We haven't even been here an hour," she said, giggling madly.
He shook his head, smiling in spite of himself. "It isn't funny. This is going to make a horrible first impression."
That tickled Rose even further, and she bent double, hardly able to contain herself. "Or a very accurate one," she choked out, wiping her eyes. "But who knows? Maybe they won't mind."
Nose wrinkling doubtfully, he slid his thumbs behind his braces, tugging. "Right, okay. Of course I'll promise to repair it, and I suppose we could bake them some biscuits or something..."
Rose pointed, and he looked to find a little boy of around four, with a shock of neatly combed blonde hair, peering at them from behind the portion of fence that was still standing. Offering a rather sheepish smile, the Doctor waved at him.
The small face vanished.
"Moooooom!" came his high-pitched, startled yell, as he no doubt ran for his house.
"Oh no, that's not good," moaned the Doctor, shoulders slumping. "Mothers never like me, even when I haven't toppled a fence onto their flowers."
"Now, that's not entirely true." Rose smiled up at him, hooking her fingers in his belt loops. "Some mothers like you quite a lot."
"Oh," he replied faintly, catching her meaning. Or what he thought (hoped?) was her meaning, anyway. "Like...like whom? Ehm, I mean, if you had someone in mind-"
Warm, soft lips caught his, cutting off his question, and within seconds her tongue had distracted him from it entirely.
So lost in her was he that it took a few beats for it to pierce through to his brain. A little shriek, followed by a long groan, and then an exclamation that cut cleanly through the air. "What, am I doomed to spend my every weekend surrounded by morons?!"
With a small, shocked gasp, the Doctor broke the kiss. But before he could muster a single thought, the voice rang out once more, now aimed directly at his back, loud and sharp-voweled and threatening. "Listen, lame brain, keep your idiot ideas to your own side of the fence, or you'll find out just how destructive-"
As quick as it started, the verbal torrent stopped.
So did both his hearts.
Closing his eyes, the Doctor hardly dared breathe as his pulse started up again, its loud double thump in his ears nearly obscuring the soft sound of Rose speaking his name. With firm pressure on his upper arms, she urged him to turn around.
Lids slowly lifting, his gaze focused to take in a tall, willowy figure in a belted blue dress. Her hands cupped her mouth and nose, blocking half her face, but it didn't matter. He'd have known those glorious Scottish threats anywhere.
"Raggedy Man," Amy gasped out through her fingers. All he could do was nod, words lodged behind a massive lump in his throat. Her hair, strikingly red as ever, was shorter and set into soft waves, and behind a pair of blue-rimmed spectacles her tearful eyes drank him in, and were not much older than he remembered.
Like a ginger storm, she flung herself over the rubble of fencing and ran to him. "Raggedy Man," she said again, as they grabbed each other up in a hug. "How?"
"I don't know," he whispered, mind stretching out to frantically examine the timelines. But to his great astonishment, the only damage to be found were old scars, long-ignored little holes that were now quietly smoothing over. He glanced at Rose. His wife was dashing tears away, looking absurdly pleased with herself. "You did this? On purpose?"
Her smile widened. "Like I said. Happy anniversary."
"But...you can't. It's impossible. How they...for them, the way things...end...it's a fixed point, and, and aside from that you can't land a TARDIS in New York in this time period, you'll destroy-"
Rose arched a brow. "Doctor. This is Long Island, not Manhattan, in case you've forgotten, and we landed here just fine. What, did you think Amy and Rory would spend every minute of the rest of their lives in that city and never leave it once?" She patted him. "Soon as you told me the whole story of what happened I went and looked them up. Found out about their house here, and didn't see any reason why we couldn't visit. The TARDIS didn't object, either."
"We bought it last year," inserted Amy, staring at Rose with round eyes, like she was just now noticing her. "We come on weekends and holidays...Rose?"
Rose waggled her fingers, the gemstone on her double wedding band winking in the sunlight. "Hello."
Amy shook her head. "He left you in that other world- another universe. You were married. And now...you're together?" Her gaze darted between Rose and the Doctor, as if she were unsure which of them she ought to disapprove of more.
"We're together," confirmed Rose with a soft smile. "It's a long story, Amy, and one we'll be happy to tell you. But for now, please believe me when I assure you that everything's alright. It's all worked out for the best."
Lips pursed, Amy considered Rose, and then a smile crept onto her face. "It's so good to see you again," said Amy, hugging her. "Both of you."
"Amelia Pond," said the Doctor, laughing with the utter joy of her name on his tongue. Amy replied with her own warm laugh, and she squeezed him again, bouncing on her toes a little.
"Oh...okay," came a breathless male voice. "You're right, son, they are actually hugging. I admit I had pictured something a bit more violent, but this is...weird."
The Doctor grinned at Amy, rather enjoying this whole thing now that the surprise wasn't entirely on him. "Rory Pond!" he exclaimed, spinning round with a flourish to face his old friend.
Rory's thin face paled, and he clapped a hand tight on his son's shoulder.
"And you must be Anthony," the Doctor went on, smiling at the young boy as he approached the fence-line. "Hello. I'm the Doctor."
Little Anthony's blue eyes popped wide in recognition. "Dad," he said, yanking on Rory's sleeve. "Dad, it's the Doctor."
"I'd noticed," said Rory, still not moving. "Um, Doctor. I thought you said you couldn't-"
"Yes, yes, and he was totally wrong," Amy's loud voice broke in. "To be honest, I don't know why we're all so surprised."
Crossing his arms, the Doctor tossed her an injured look.
"So," said Rory, helping his son climb over the pile of broken boards, "is this a coincidence or something? Wait, don't tell me it's because we really did have aliens next door; Amy's been claiming that all sum- oh my god, it's Rose." His toes caught on a plank at the very edge and he flailed a little, barely managing to keep his balance as he stumbled into the grass, stunned eyes on the blonde.
"They're together now," Amy informed him, quite eager to be the one to share all the big news. "Not sure how that happened yet, but they both swear he didn't kidnap her. And Rose is the one who figured out how they could visit us."
"We're married," added the Doctor proudly, for the fun of sending out another small shockwave, and also because he never missed a chance to say it.
"Brilliant," said Rory, still sounding quite dazed as he accepted a hug from Rose. "Is this visit a one time thing, or...?"
"Oh, I'd wager we might pop in from time to time." Lips quirking, the Doctor met Rose's eyes. "Being as we're your new neighbors and all."
"What?" Amy sounded tearful again. "You mean you two are the people who bought this place? Why would you go and do that?"
"Well," Rose began, smoothing an errant lock of hair that the wind had stirred up, "the Doctor and I always used to spend quite a lot of time visiting my family; weekends and Sunday dinners and such." She pressed a kiss to the Doctor's shoulder, and when he looked at her, the shining love in her eyes stole his breath. "Figured it was only right that we do the same with his."
For a long moment the Doctor was speechless, eyes damp as he stared at her. His precious girl, still making him better, giving him things he never knew he could have. A powerful rush of love swelled up inside him, demanding an outlet, and before he could draw one proper breath he was kissing her.
"If you have to stare at them, Amy, could you at least move back a step or two?"
"Nope. This is my chance for payback."
"Okay, I get that, but remember what we've talked about, setting a good example for our C.H.I.L.D..."
Smiling against Rose's lips, the Doctor drew back, reminded of their other reason for being here. Settling his hand low on her back, he faced the Ponds. "Also, we bought this place because Rose is pregnant."
The looks on their faces did not disappoint, but before he could start to enjoy it, Rose escaped his grasp. "Pregnant- I am most certainly not!"
He gaped at her, a strange heaviness filling his chest. "But...but what was all that talk about, back in the house? About how this is such a great, slow time for a family?"
"Love," she said, lips twitching. "I was thinking of Amy and Rory."
"Oh." The Doctor darted a glance at the other couple. They stood together, watching this exchange with small smiles- as if they thought it was cute or something.
He scowled at them.
Rory cleared his throat. "Speaking of children," he said, eyes finding Anthony, who was happily walking the retaining wall's top like a balance beam, "how did you know about ours?"
The Doctor tapped his chin, considering. "Ehm. Well, I heard about him from your dad, and even saying that much is probably more than I should be telling you. Very...timey wimey. Let's just say that your future is set and so's your son's, apparently, which is why I can't run you back home, ever. This is your path and you've got to take it, all the way to the end. Sorry."
"Don't be," said Amy breezily. "We're happy with our life here, Doctor. Look at us. We've adopted a son. We bought a house in the Hamptons," she added, grinning and nudging him.
"Right." He took in their pretty house. "Looks like the book sales are doing well."
"And Rory's a doctor now."
"Doctor Pond!" crowed the Doctor. "That's brilliant. Has quite the ring to it, eh?"
"Quite," replied Rory, sighing. "Anyway, I was thinking, since it's both a Sunday and nearly dinner time, maybe the two of you'd like to step over to our place? Start up a new tradition?"
"Not that way," added Amy, shoving the Doctor toward the side gate. "We'll go round the front, at least until you get all that fencing cleaned up."
"I'll take the whole left side down," declared the Doctor, rubbing his hands together. "It'll be like one big party all the time! Who needs privacy?"
He caught Amy and Rory sharing a look of alarm, and he hid a smile, slowing to walk beside Anthony. "Just look at all that wood," he said. "We could make a topping great bonfire, couldn't we?"
The lad smiled at him eagerly.
"You're not building any sort of fire anywhere near my house," proclaimed Amy. "I wouldn't even trust you to light a candle."
Rose laughed, closing the gate behind them. "Oh, she's got your number, mate."
"What I want to know is how you snuck out long enough to buy a house without Mr. Nosy finding out about it," said Amy to Rose. "Especially since he never sleeps."
"Oh, he sleeps," drawled Rose. "And deep, too. The trick is wearing 'im out enough beforehand."
The Doctor groaned and so did Rory, clapping his hands over his ears. "That's it. I hereby ban these sorts of conversations, at least while I am in hearing."
Walking backwards, Amy pointed a stern finger at the Doctor. "And I hereby ban any and all unannounced visits to our bedroom."
"Doctor! You've done that?" Rose was horrified.
"Oh yes," asserted Amy, before he could defend himself. "And that's not all. I'll bet you don't know the half of what he got up to while you were gone."
"M'sure I don't," replied Rose, sharing a grin with her friend. "That's part of why I was so eager to look you up."
"Oi," said the Doctor, glaring daggers at Amy, who cackled as she skipped off to catch up with Rory.
Rose took his arm, leaning heavy against him. "I didn't want to say, before, but I was thinking how those extra bedrooms would be nice for Mar and Mickey and Charlie. Clara too. Don't you think they'd love to come along, sometime?"
"Oh, yeah, so you can all gang up on me. How fun."
"You love it," she said, hip-bumping him. "Admit it, this is the best gift ever."
He began to shake his head, then reconsidered. "Well, I suppose it's part of it, like...the ball-bearings on a fairy-cake. But you've already given me the one gift that can't be topped."
She tilted her head, a silent question.
"Happiness," he said simply. "Love." He stretched an arm out, wiggling his fingers. "A hand to hold."
She took it. "Oh, Doctor."
Anthony's childish laugh rang out, and they looked over to see his parents racing each other up the front steps. Rory whooped in triumph as he hit the TARDIS-blue door a split second before Amy, and the Doctor chuckled. "See, they have it too. All of those things, tied together by a promise- that's what Forever really is, Rose." He swallowed. "It has nothing to do with years or time or lifespans. If only I'd known that a long time ago."
Halting them, Rose lifted up to brush a soft kiss over his lips. "It also has nothing to do with past regret, Doctor." Her smile bloomed, one with a teasing amount of tongue. "Though it does have -in your ideal, anyway- a marriage, a house...one preferably full of babies, apparently," she tacked on, then jumped away with a squeal from his tickling fingers. "Regular holidays with friends. All a bit cliché for a Time Lord, yeah?"
Eyes sparkling with fun, she tensed, expecting him to go after her again for that one, but he only rocked back on his heels. "Joke's on you then, Rose Tyler," he replied with a superior smile. "If you've only just picked up on that now. Thought I've been saying for months that I intend on us having the most cliché story there is."
"Oh yeah? And how's that go, again?"
The Doctor bent, touched his forehead to hers, and whispered.
"They lived happily ever after."
And that's a wrap! Huge thanks to all of you for reading, and special hugs to those who have been on this journey with me since I was posting Consequences (which, by coincidence, ended exactly two years ago today!). I appreciate your support so much!
**The character Anthony Williams is taken from the DW mini-episode "P.S.", available on YouTube. If you've never seen it you need to. You WILL cry.
For the most part, I now consider this series concluded, but there will be at least a couple of one-shots set in the same universe that I'll be posting in future, (if there's something particular you want to see, let me know, I just might write it) and I'm also planning several other Doctor/Rose stories. Hope you stick around!