I am soooo sorry. RL has been... crazy lately. And I honestly thought I had already posted this chapter. In any case, I hope that you like it. I had fun fleshing out some of the details of the Doctor's life that is not covered in cannon. The ending of the Time War I hope is ambiguous enough that you can believe that Gallifrey was detroyed, or that the events of the 50th anniversary special took place in some way, shape, or form. Rose's backstory, I apologize, is darker than most other accounts I've read. Though it is unfortunately realistic, considering where and how she grew up. I don't mean to paint Jackie in a bad light, but she was going through things herself at the time. In my universe, Jackie tries, she really does, but she often gets so caught up in her own mess that she can't see anything else. The next installment is coming very soon, I promise.

Trigger alert: mentions of war, sexual abuse, rape, and abortions

CHAPTER 8

Rose traveled through the Doctor's memories and experienced them all as if they were happening to herself instead of him. She became a young, handsome boy named Theta Sigma and played with his best friend Koschei in the red fields of Gallifrey. Together, they'd entered the academy, and she grieved as Theta as Koschei went mad after looking into the Untempered Schism. She continued to grieve every time she encountered that former friend who was now a great adversary, The Master. She watched through his eyes as Theta ran away in fear of what he had seen in the Schism. Vowing to never be cruel or cowardly and to never give up and never give in, The Doctor became Theta's new moniker.

He failed his TARDIS driving test, not because the Doctor couldn't drive as many future companions would surmise, but because he visited Earth on his test trip, met a little blond haired girl at a fun fair who had lost her Mummy, and dared to interfere and help her reunite. (Rose was so immersed in the Doctor's mind at this point that she wasn't completely sure where his memories ended and her thoughts began, but there was something vaguely familiar about that scene). They were subsequently denied TARDIS ownership and admission into the council of Time Lords.

Believing he was destined to remain a planet bound Gallifreyan for the rest of his one life, The Doctor was joined in a political union marriage, and two children were loomed, a boy and a girl, as was custom. Rose was surprised to discover that he spent a majority of that one Gallifreyan life working in, and eventually owning a TARDIS repair shop. This was the closest he thought he'd ever come to his dream of traveling through time and space. As he neared retirement, he heard her call to him: a TARDIS Type-40 that was scheduled to be decomissioned was not ready to retire. Sensing his longing to travel, she reached out and bonded with him: and after a quick jaunt across the universe, The Doctor was a Time Lord at last. Technically, this TARDIS was stolen, but she certainly didn't mind stealing him away, either.

Very shortly after that, his granddaughter, Susan, joined him on his adventures, and the rest, as they say, is history. Rose experienced it all: companions, monsters, and regenerations. The Doctor's joy became her joy, his tears her tears, his fears her fears, his grief hers, and on and on it went, until she reached a rather formidable looking door in a corner where the hallway abruptly turned left and started heading in a completely different direction. The door was tall and black where the others had been normal sized and TARDIS blue. She knew instinctively that this room contained his deepest and darkest secrets: behind that door was the Time War. Slowly, hesitantly, the door opened itself to her with a loud creak.

Taking a deep breath, she stepped through the open doorway. The horrors which she experienced therein were not for the faint of heart and would likely fuel her nightmares for years to come: Crash landing on Karn and being forced to regenerate and enter the War, choosing forsake the name of the Doctor, knowing that every promise that that name stood for would be broken. Not a day went by during that horrible period when death and destruction was not experienced on a massive scale. Cries of "Exterminate!" and screams of persons of all races became background noise. After awhile, all emotions went numb: entire planets were destroyed before his very eyes, genocide became an everyday occurrence, and he began to wonder if there had ever been a time when he did not literally have blood on his hands. And yet he felt nothing. He felt that perhaps she should feel something, but found that he didn't even really care anymore.

Then the rumors started, rumors, that if true, caused even this Time Lord's numbed blood to run cold. Rassilon, the Lord President of Gallifrey, had found a way to end the war: by destroying the time vortex itself. He called it the Final Sanction. No one, not even the Time Lords could survive that! Everything would die, but the Time Lords would ascend to be merely consciousness alone, or so Rassilon claimed. To make matters worse, just about every Time Lord or Lady actually agreed with him! The one person who dared stand up to him was former Lady President Romanadvoratrelundar, a dear friend who had once traveled with the Doctor. Romana had had all of her regenerations taken away and was subsequently executed in front of everyone. All this was after Rassilon had stolen her power by staging a coup in the first place. The previous eight incarnations of the Doctor cried out in outrage and horror and grief internally, but the active incarnation just used it as fuel for a fire that had been slowly growing inside.

No more. No More. No. More. This became the mantra as a decision was made to do the unthinkable. The Moment, the planet eater, was stolen. In a shed in the middle of the Gallifreyan desert, the weapon was unveiled, and its consciousness (whose form Rose thought looked very familiar) argued. Everything after that was a bit of a fog, almost as if something happened that not even the Doctor could remember anymore. The next thing Rose experienced was felt rather than seen. The pain, the grief, the anger, the guilt: all of it was just too much.

The Time Lord had regenerated, though he couldn't remember how. He had refused to look at himself in the mirror, afraid of what kind of monster the horrors of the war had produced. He clothed himself simply in a jumper, jeans, and boots, and topped it all off with a leather jacket which he wore like armor.

He'd thought about ending it all: found the perfect way, too, as well. He'd be the Doctor again, one last time. He'd sacrifice herself while protecting Earth from the Nestene Consciousness and refuse to regenerate: his own brand of assisted suicide. The darkness almost crushed Rose, and she stumbled out of the room, almost unable to breathe.

Then in the next room: light, joy, peace, and love. It was her. How she could radiate this much light into his darkness astounded her, because she had believed that she was in darkness herself at this time. No new information was revealed to her from this point on, because she had been there for all of it. However, experiencing everything anew from the Doctor's perspective was an enlightening experience in and of itself. Seeing the way she looked from the Doctor's perspective, feeling exactly the way he'd felt when this happened or that happened: all of it left her feeling almost shell-shocked at just how highly he regarded her and just how deep his love for her went. He had always said that she had made him better and that she had saved him, but she had never fully understood until now.

When she reached the end of the hallway after reliving the events from earlier that day, she saw that another hallway had merged with the one she was traveling down. There were no more doors: just doorways patiently waiting for new memories to be made.

And patiently waiting there, at the exact spot where the two hallways converged, was the Doctor himself, having completed his journey to the end of her mind's hallway which now merged completely with his.

When she reached him, another door appeared out of thin air, and he opened it for her personally. Through it was a tiny room containing only one thing: his real name.

-DW-

Likewise, the Doctor made a similar journey through Rose's mind, experiencing everything as if he was her. There were happy early childhood memories of playing on the swings with Shireen and Mickey, and scary ones of hiding with Mum underneath a window so they didn't get hit in a drive-by. There were memories of birthday celebrations and gymnastics victories, and of being bullied by classmates and abused by people she was supposed to trust. He learned very quickly how Rose could trust no one but herself, not even Mum. After all, Mum was always with her boyfriend flavor of the month (or week, or day even) and would always take the boyfriend's side when she said that she was touched inappropriately. Of course, Jackie eventually believed Rose, (but only because she walked in and caught them in the act), and was extremely apologetic and even filed charges against her abuser, but the damage had already been done.

Feeling used, damaged, and unloved, is it any wonder that at 16 she was willing to drop out of school and move in with the only person who seemed to care that she existed? Yeah, Jimmy Stone more or less raped her every night, but she didn't complain. It's not like she deserved any better. Finally the time came when she told Jimmy that she was pregnant. It was not the first time Jimmy beat her, but it was by far the worst. Waking up in the hospital the next day, she learned that Jimmy Stone had been arrested and that she had lost the baby.

She was relieved. And then she felt guilty for feeling relieved. That was her baby, a son or daughter that she really didn't want, but it wasn't like they asked to be created. They just, were. And now she was left with a profound sense of loss and a secret that she would take to her grave. Jackie had come to pick her up from the hospital, and at her request, was never told about the baby. As Mum tended to her during her recovery, they became closer than they had ever been before. Life wasn't exactly looking up, but it was headed in a slightly upwards direction at least.

When she was fully recovered from her injuries, she began to look for a job: a difficult feat, because no one wanted a chav from the Powell Estates who didn't even have A levels. Finally, Henricks came through with an offer. It wasn't a bad job, but it was still just that: a job. When she began dating Mickey, life settled into a kind of safe normalcy. It was boring as all get out, but it was not like she should expect life to get any better than it already was. She would likely continue working in the shop for the rest of her life, probably marry Mickey and have a brat or two, and that was it. No hopes, no dreams, no future. In fact, the future looked quite bleak indeed from this perspective. So bleak, indeed, that she found that she wanted nothing to do with it.

She thought of so many different ways to end it all: walking out in front of a bus, shooting herself, stabbing herself, poison - none of those sounded like particularly pleasant ways to go. If only she could die in his sleep. Yes! She would overdose on her sleeping pills!

She would work one last shift and Henricks, go on one last date with Mickey, watch one last episode of Eastenders with Mum, and go to sleep and never wake up. A perfect plan. She almost felt giddy with the thought. But at the end of the shift, she was asked to take the lottery money down to Wilson in the basement, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reliving moments of his own life through Rose's eyes was an education for the Doctor. He had always said that she had been a source of light and hope to him, but never before had he realized how much light and hope he had brought into her life! For example, when she entered in console room in period dress for the first time just before meeting Charles Dickens and he had called her beautiful, he had never realized that that was the first time in her entire life she had actually felt beautiful. He was relieved to learn that she saw straight through his "considering you're a human" crack and that her enthusiasm was not diminished by it in the least. Humans lived a much shorter life, but they lived completely and felt emotions intensely. He relived it all, enjoying every intense human emotion, both the good as well as the bad: relief at surviving yet another close call, fear when those calls became very close indeed, fondness of a certain Captain (and the Doctor was relieved that she only thought of him as a brother), jealousy of a certain frenchwoman (and the Doctor was ashamed that he hadn't even noticed), joy when everybody lived, grief when some did not, hatred of daleks and other evil creatures, and love for him. That was the one he was in awe with most of all, how intensely and completely she loved him.

When some time later, Rose finally joined him where the corridors combined, he found that he was more in love with her than ever, and he sensed that she felt the same about him. Therefore, it was with nothing short of the greatest joy he had ever known that he had manually opened the door that revealed to her his real name.

When she emerged from the room with this most intimate knowledge, the bonding was officially complete. They were now and forever Mr. and Mrs. Doctor and Rose Tyler, husband and wife, bondmates, soulmates, companions, best friends: nothing short of the stuff of legends!

When they returned to their own bodies, Rose was amazed to learn that only a few hours had passed. She had journeyed through 900 years of the Doctor's personal history in only a few hours! Time must move at a different pace in a bond. It was now the early hours of morning, and she was surprised that she felt as rested as if she had spent the whole night sleeping. Whether it was because the bonding experience had had similar effects on her as sleep or the fact that the Doctor hadn't needed to sleep had some how transferred to her across the bond, she didn't know, nor did she care.

The Doctor chuckled, "It's probably a little bit of both, actually." Rose felt his amusement as strongly as if it were her own.

She grinned. "Blimey, but this is going to take some getting used to! But... I like it. I like feeling you and knowing exactly what you're thinking and feeling. I take it that that goes both ways then?"

"Yep!" came the exuberant reply. And then without hesitation, he closed the distance between them and captured his lips in hers. She responded willingly, and there, in the early light of dawn, they consummated their love.

-DW-

Breakfast in the lobby was a hurried and tense affair, despite all attempts to make it lighthearted. Jackie's eyes lit up and watered (darn pregnancy horomones!) when she saw her daughter and her love enter the room hand-in-hand. Rose shyly showed off her ring to her Mum and Pete. Jackie had shrieked with joy appropriately, and Pete slapped the Doctor on the back and both congratulated them on their engagement. A silent agreement passed over the bond that they would not correct them. The Doctor did not fancy a slap for essentially eloping with Rose the night before, thank you very much! Jake and Mickey also offered their heartfelt congratulations. "It's about bloody time!" seemed to be the catchphrase of the hour.

After that celebratory news was shared, the mood quickly became more subdued. The gap had continued to remain stable through the night, but it was still as unclear as to whether or not it would remain so, or even if it was big enough in the first place. The Doctor and Rose kept a steady dialogue of strength, hope, and comfort humming across their bond, but physically, he gave her space, knowing that this could be the very last morning with her family.

Everyone strived to carry on as if this was just another holiday and that there was not a sense of impending doom hovering over them all. Forced smiles and fake happiness did not adequately cover the fear and anticipation that was felt by all. Still, they made the best of it, making small talk about sports, shows on the telly, and even the weather.

Finally, it was time to go. Jake and Mickey planned to stay behind at the hotel so that the family could say their goodbyes privately. Jake shook both Rose and the Doctor's hands, said that it had been a pleasure knowing them, and not to take it the wrong way, but he hoped he never saw them again.

Mickey walked up to the Doctor and held out his hand. "Well, boss, it looks like the best man won in the end. I should hate you for it, but I can't find it in my heart to do so. You've given me so much, I cannot begrudge you your Rose. Thank you, thank you, thank you Doctor, for helping me become a man that would have made my grandmother proud."

The Doctor shook his hand in return. Despite the rather rocky start to their relationship, it was plain to see that both men now truly respected and cared for each other. "It's not too late, you know. You could come with us," the Doctor offered.

"Nah," Mickey shrugged. "Three's a crowd. Besides, I'm needed here. Thanks for asking though. I mean it. Take good care of her, boss," he said, with a nod towards Rose.

"I will," the Doctor vowed. Then almost as an afterthought, he added, "By the way, you're no longer an idiot in my book. I'm proud to call you a friend."

That was high praise indeed. Mickey didn't know what to say to that, so he just turned to Rose, whose eyes had already begun to water. "Seems we're always saying goodbye to each other, aren't we, Rose?"

"Yeah, it kinda does," Rose gave a watery chuckle.

"I don't know what to say that hasn't already been said. So, just... have a great life, okay Rose? You and your alien go and have the happiest life you can. Just, promise that every once in awhile, while you're running around saving the universe, could you spare a thought for me?"

"Oh, Mick, I'll never forget you! I'm sorry that it didn't work out between us, I really am. But somewhere out there, there is the perfect woman for you. I just know it. And you are going to make her very happy!" With that, they embraced each other in one final hug.

The Doctor cleared his throat, and they climbed into the backseat of the Jeep where Pete and Jackie were already waiting. Slowly they pulled away and headed towards the gap.

-DW-

Most of the drive was made in silence. Jackie and Rose had said almost everything they wanted to say to each other the day before, Pete was a man of few words to begin with, and the Doctor belied his fears by not saying a single word the entire trip.

But just because no words were spoken aloud didn't mean that there were no conversations being had. The Doctor's fears were borderline panic, and it was everything that Rose could do to stop her own fears from driving them both over the edge. There was just too much that could go wrong.

Doctor, Rose spoke across the bond. I really hate to ask, but if this doesn't work, and the connection to the TARDIS is severed, what is going to happen to ya?

I... I don't know. Losing a mental connection to their TARDIS has been likened to undergoing an amputation without any painkillers. So...

So you'd be in severe pain. What else should I be aware of?

I could go insane.

Rose wanted to say that he was already there, but now was not a time for teasing. Still, because of the bond, he heard that stray thought anyway and chuckled wryly. She smiled at him weakly in apology.

She found his hand and intertwined their fingers together. Remember, whatever happens...

You're never gonna leave me. I know, love. I know.