In which Rose returns home, and the Doctor makes a promise.
The Doctor stood in the TARDIS doors, facing the black hole. He held his beloved screwdriver, remembering all the times he'd used it, who'd touched it, all the different versions. He smiled a bit before putting on his sunglasses.
"This is the beginning of a new age!"
With that, he chucked the screwdriver into the black hole and turned away, heading to the console. Clara stood across from him, shaking her head slightly and rolling her eyes.
Across the stars, in a different universe, Rose Tyler sat in her Torchwood office. Ironically, she'd been situated in the same room as the Wall. The Wall that had brought her endless torrents of tears and pain. It wasn't white anymore, though. It hadn't been white for decades. It hurt too much for it to be white. White was supposedly the colour of heaven and happiness. To Rose, it was just a reminder of what she couldn't have.
After the metacrisis died at 112, she repainted the wall. Now, it was blue, the exact same shade as the TARDIS in her home universe, and also the same colour as the TARDIS that she and the metacrisis had grown together. Choosing to keep it's mother's disguise, the younger TARDIS stood in the corner of the office.
Typing away furiously at her computer, Rose Tyler, aged 397, grabbed her mug of tea, carefully tilting it to her mouth, letting the hot liquid warm her tongue. It her mother's type of tea, something Rose had taken decades to perfect, as her mother's tea was the best in the universe (according to the metacrisis, anyway).
After Pete had retired and died, Rose was appointed as the Director of the Institute. She hadn't been outside on Earth in years, lest people find out about her lack of aging and try to experiment on her. For that reason, security was extra-tight in the upper levels of Torchwood, and she mainly communicated with the other staff in the form of automated messages. She did venture out a lot in the TARDIS, visit different planets, run.
Rose leaned back into her chair, sipping her tea contently. She set the mug down, instead grabbing her sketchbook and a pencil. She opened it up to an empty page and twirled with her white-blonde hair. While being a Time Lady was great, she had aged, even though it was very slow, and she still only looked about forty. Her features were more defined than before, and her hair dappled with white, making it look ethereal. She actually kind of liked it.
She'd first found out about the change when she felt the presence of the baby TARDIS in her mind, years ago. The metacrisis had helped her through, helped her understand. Then one day, she'd woken up screaming in the middle of the night with a burning pain in her head and chest. The metacrisis had soothed her, even though he knew it would now be her outliving him. The next morning, she had two hearts.
Chewing a bit on the end of her pencil before setting its tip on the paper, Rose let her hand move freely. Drawing was also something she's become quite good at over the years. The blue wall had a few paintings hung up on it, and some various photographs and doodles and such, anything to keep it not empty. If it was empty, she'd be reminded of him.
When she looked upon the paper, she found a perfect rose staring back a her. The petals were shaded in all the right places, and the stem was not devoid of thorns. Rose smiled and closed the book, setting it down gently on the desk.
Rose stood up and shut down her computer for the day, making her way to the TARDIS and unlocking the door to her beloved ship. Then, she initialized the dematerialization sequence, sending her TARDIS into space.
Suddenly, the screen on the console beeped loudly, causing Rose to run over and look at the Gallifreyan script on the screen. She'd had to learn it if she even wanted to control the ship herself, so she had. The readings on the screen were not like any others she had seen before.
Scrunching her eyebrows, she set the TARDIS to follow the signal. Within minutes, she was at the apparent source of the disturbance. Looking over to the screen again, she realized that they were in outer space, just at the mouth of a black hole. Luckily, the extrapolator shields prevented the black hole from affecting the TARDIS. Yet this particular black hole was giving off strange readings, in fact, these were readings that suggested a tear in the fabric of the universe, a crack through the void. Rose inhaled quickly, but then saw that this was the tiniest of tears, so small that if anything were to get through, it would have to be about as big as a sonic screwdriver.
Rose was about to use the TARDIS to weave the crack shut again when something caught her eye. A small green glow was coming from the black hole. Rose frowned and tried to zoom in the image, but it wouldn't show what it was. Shaking her head, Rose ran and opened the doors, squinting to see what it was. All of a sudden, the said thing came flying in her direction. She grabbed it from the air just before it flew out of her reach and studied it. It was a sonic screwdriver, of all things. Frowning, Rose took out her own screwdriver from her pocket and scanned the new on in her hand.
The readings were so impossible that Rose nearly dropped the damn thing.
"Oh my god," she whispered to herself. This screwdriver was from her universe.
From her home.
And there was only one man who it could have belonged to.
Rose Tyler had the Doctor's sonic screwdriver. Alas, it was different from the last time she'd seen it, and she assumed that the Doctor was different too, but that didn't bother her anymore. She didn't care. She could go home.
Rose laughed, a real, hearty laugh. She ran back to the console and opened a small panel. She and the metacrisis had installed it after the change. It was a kind of Dimension Jump, but not as reckless as Torchwood's. With this, you had to put in an item from that universe into it, and you'd have to find a tear in reality, which, in that time, were all closed, but according to the metacrisis, after you put the item in, the ship would take you to that universe and close the tear behind you. Rose didn't even understand why he'd make something like that when they didn't have anything from that universe, but he insisted (of course she had her TARDIS key, but that had been in this universe for a long time and had lost most of it's readings). At the time, Rose thought the machine was a waste of time. Now, she could just kiss him, it was so brilliant.
She quickly put the screwdriver into the opening, slamming it shut with a giddy glee.
She was going home.
That was Rose's last thought before she pulled the lever.
The Doctor and Clara were currently in present-day Cardiff, letting the TARDIS recharge a bit before going off on another grand adventure. They sat in a small local chippy, munching on the freshly fried chips. This brought the Doctor a huge wave of nostalgia, but he didn't make it noticeable. Clara wouldn't, couldn't, question him about her. No, he would not allow it. So the Doctor sat quietly, trying to pay attention as Clara talked away. He focused on her hair, on the feeling of his new sunglasses in his jacket, on the smell of salt and grease of the chips, on anything but her.
Soon enough, the chips were finished, just baskets and wrappers left on the table. The two travellers sat at the table, relatively content.
"Why are you looking at me like that, Doctor?"
"Like I'm invisible. I've been talking for the last, what, ten minutes? I'm pretty sure you haven't even heard a word I've said. I get that you're a big old Time Lord, but don't go and space out on me."
"What, I didn't— I didn't 'space out', as you say it," he retorted indignantly, feeling the truth in her words nonetheless.
"Yes, you did."
He sighed. That's what he liked about Clara. She didn't take any of his baggage.
"Fine, maybe I did," he admitted sullenly, like a child who'd had his toy taken away. Clara rolled her eyes.
"You've got plenty of time to make up for it. Let's get back to the TARDIS."
They paid for the chips and headed out of the chippy, slowly walking back to the ship. They were currently walking past a darkened street corner when Clara suddenly stopped. The Doctor walked a few more metres before realizing that his companion was no longer beside him. He turned back and was about to ask why exactly she'd stopped when Clara put up a hand to silence him.
"Doctor, I never thought the TARDIS could move on its own."
"It can't Clara," he scoffed, looking at her strangely.
"Well apparently it's moved by itself, or somebody's put up a police box as a prank, because I'm pretty sure that I've never seen one here before, but there it is," she said, frowning, before pointing to the street corner. The Doctor looked, and sure enough, there was a blue police box standing there.
The Doctor frowned and stepped forward towards the box carefully. Then he took another, and another, and another, striding quickly up to the box, leaving Clara to run after him.
"If this is the TARDIS, then our keys should be able to open it," the Doctor said, jamming his key into the keyhole. "If it does open, then we'll need to figure out how it got here."
He tried to twist the key, but nothing happened. His frown deepened.
"But if it doesn't, then we need to figure out who owns this, because I doubt that this is just a prank pulled by some fool. No, somehow, somehow it feels more, what's the word you humans use," he exclaimed, snapping his fingers. "Oh yes, sinister. Also! I'm pretty sure anybody who could have been in there would have probably heard us trying to access their police box and since they haven't come out to chase us away, I think it's safe to assume that there's no one home."
"Well, Doctor, if this is going to be a stakeout, maybe we should move to a place that's, you know, less obvious," quipped Clara.
"Right. Yes, less obvious. Okay," the Doctor agreed and started walking away from the box and towards an alley. Clara followed him, and they hid behind the wall, not removing their gaze from the box, brimming to the edge with curiosity and a bit of apprehension.
This was either going to be really good or really dangerous.
Earlier that day…
The transition into her universe's Time Vortex was very bumpy, and the cloister bell went off a few seconds later, the Time Rotor glowing red, signalling low power. Rose was quickly jolted into action, steering the ship in the direction of present-day Cardiff for a refuel. The landing there was also not smooth, throwing Rose to the ground. After Rose raised herself from the ground and waved her hand a bit to clear the smoke, the TARDIS was quiet again, sending Rose reassuring thoughts, telling her she was fine. Rose sighed in relief.
"Now, right. You will probably need at least five hours to refuel, so that means," Rose giggled giddily. "That means, I can go and eat some real, fresh, beautiful, greasy chips!"
The TARDIS sent a feeling of small annoyance, as if she was rolling her eyes. Rose just laughed further.
"Oh stop it, you."
Then, continuing to laugh, Rose grabbed her leather jacket and opened the doors, letting the Cardiff sun fall upon her face. She breathed in the fresh air for a bit before heading off down the street. Suddenly, she sensed another presence in her mind. The original TARDIS. The Doctor was here. Rose smiled even further, but blocked her mind off so he wouldn't sense her. If this was the Doctor, then he would probably find her ship before the day was done. Better keep 'im guessing, thought Rose.
She continued walking down the street, breathing in the air, taking in everything. At first, it was a bit disconcerting to see the sky without zeppelins and tall, futuristic buildings, but Rose knew she wouldn't miss it.
Why would she? This was home. She'd come back. And she'd seen many horrific and terrible things, watched everyone she knew and loved wither and die, but she'd kept going. And it was so worth it. Somehow, she couldn't hate her curse of outliving everyone, for if this was what she was going towards, she wouldn't trade it for the world.
The Doctor and Clara sat at their spot in the alley for about half an hour, simply watching people before anybody had even shot the box a second glance. They watched a seemingly ordinary woman approach the box. She wore black leggings under a blue leather trench. On her feet were a pair of battered black trainers, and they looked as if the woman hadn't worn anything else on her feet. Her face was covered by a wall of white-blonde hair, and she looked to be no older than forty.
The duo watched as the woman took out a key from around her neck and inserted it into the lock, turning it with a click. She slipped inside and the door closed shut. As soon as it did, the Doctor and Clara ran out from their hiding place and to the box. Carefully, the Doctor pushed the door open and also slipped inside, quickly followed by Clara.
The inside of the police box brought back another wave of nostalgia. It was his old coral control room, but what was it doing here? The woman was nowhere in sight. Clara looked about and was about to say something when they heard a voice.
"Thought it was about time you two would come in and nose about. Presumably you came here earlier and checked out my box, like it? Anyway, then you two went to hide in that alley, terrible hiding place, by the way. And now you're in my ship, which I was expecting."
Then the woman walked out of the shadows and the duo got a good look at her face. The Doctor instantly paled.
It hurt for him to say her name. He hadn't felt those letters on his tongue like that in centuries. But she couldn't be here.
"Doctor? Do you know her?"
Rose (or whatever she was) laughed. The Doctor paled further. He hadn't heard that laugh in years. Tears were threatening to form, but the Time Lord kept his tear ducts at bay.
"Rose, you can't be here. I left you— with him, in a different universe. Where is he, Rose?"
Rose's smile lost a touch of light.
"He died, oh, centuries ago. Lived to a ripe old age of 112."
If it was even possible, the Doctor paled even further.
"One hundred and twelve? Rose, you look forty!"
"Well," she grinned, flourishing a hand. "Looks can be deceiving. Thought you knew that best, Doctor."
Then Rose let her mind barriers down, letting him feel her in his head. The Doctor yelled in anguish as he felt her mind. Her Time Lady mind. He sank down to his knees, letting her mind envelope him in a cocoon. This wasn't like Missy, who's mind felt no different than any other Time Lord. No, this was entirely different. This was Rose. He finally let his tears fall.
In the corner of his eye, he saw Clara crouch down next to him with urgent shouts of "Doctor!"
He only had eyes for Rose.
Clara was in a panic. She'd never seen the Doctor like this before. She turned to the woman, who was smiling.
"What are you doing? Help him!" She yelled at her. The woman, Rose, just smiled again.
"I am," she replied. "He will never have to be alone again. 'Cause now there's me."
The familiarity of those words were what woke him up. He shakily stood up, leaning heavily on Clara for support, before walking carefully towards Rose.
"Rose," whispered the Doctor with such tenderness and adoration and love, Clara was taken aback.
"Doctor," replied Rose, with the same amount of emotion in her voice, her eyes filled with tears of joy.
Then the Doctor took a few more feeble steps and wrapped his arms around Rose. Clara gasped. He never hugged anybody, not even her. The Doctor and Rose didn't seem to hear.
"Rose," he said, his voice breaking, muffled by her hair.
"I know," she whispered soothingly. "I know."
His tears continued to fall onto her hair, but Rose didn't seem to care.
"I never got rid of it, your room, I mean. I used to visit it, when things got hard," he muttered. Rose was touched. She'd always thought he'd try to hide it, end the pain.
"It's alright, Doctor. I'm not going anywhere, never again."
"Never again," he agreed.
"Forever," he promised.
And this time, it would truly be so.