Journey Amongst the Stars
Chapter One: Mirror on the Wall: The Black Forest
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who or any of the spinoff material and I gain no income off of this story, just the satisfaction of playing with the characters.
AN: Welcome to the new series of Doctor Who Guardians of the Universe! This first episode kicks off a season that will finally answer some of the long burning questions of the series and confirm a few theories you all have put forth. I'm so happy that we are finally here!
This episode is dedicated to Cracka-Lacking who suggested a Brothers Grimm episode many years ago!
It never failed to amaze Rose how adaptable and marvelous the TARDIS really was. After being awakened up by the lights in her room gradually turning on, she'd found fresh lilacs on her bedside table and clothes waiting in her small wardrobe. It went beyond the little things that the TARDIS did in her bedroom. According to the Doctor, the room they were currently in was new.
At first glance, there was nothing special about it. The walls were completely smooth and a soft ivory colour that wasn't so bright as to hurt her eyes. The floor was smooth but had a slight bounce to it that made it comfortable enough to sit on. There was a soft background hum that was just enough to keep Rose from being frightened by the noise. Instead of having a direct source of light, the walls glowed just bright enough to make the light level comfortable.
"Is this the Zero Room?" Rose asked.
"No, how did you-? Oh, Tegan." The Doctor shook his head. "No, the Zero Room is a null room that prevents any telepathic contact, even from people inside the room, and has properties to relax the minds inside of it. This is similar, but it only blocks outside contact and isn't designed to disarm telepathic brains." He gestured around. "This is a safe place where you and I can work on your telepathy."
"Oh." Rose nodded, but she'd miss the comfortable sofa in the library. "If you think it's best."
The Doctor smiled, and Rose wondered if he'd caught her thought. "It's safer. The TARDIS has good defenses, but things have broken through in the past." His unspoken desire to keep her safe came through loud and clear. "I learned in a room similar to this one. It won't be necessary for long, you've got good shields, but this will give you a space to try more things."
"What sort of things?" Rose asked cautiously. The Doctor hadn't spoken of future possibilities in regards to her telepathy yet.
"Depends on what sort of talent you show and where your limits are."
Rose huffed at the vague answer, but the Doctor just smiled and sat down. Rose sank down in front of him, crossing her legs and rolling her shoulders. She closed her eyes and began doing the basic exercises that her book had outlined and waited for the Doctor to do something. Slowly, her shield grew a touch stronger, and Rose tried not to smile. It got a bit easier each time.
For a long time, what seemed like hours, nothing happened. She opened her eyes to check on the Doctor. The Doctor was still sitting cross-legged in front of Rose, his posture straighter and more poised than she had ever seen it. While his face was calm and relaxed, but then Rose could feel his nervousness. It started buzzing along the edges of her mind, crashing against her weak shield like waves against a tidal wall in a storm. It wasn't a scared nervousness, but more of a reigned in excitement. Rose was trying not to let her own nervousness distract her.
"You're doing well," the Doctor said. His voice rolled over her, and Rose quickly closed her eyes again. "Just stay focused."
"When will I be able to keep shields up without focusing on it?"
"It'll take some time," the Doctor said. "You have to train yourself. It will slowly become more and more of a natural process. I have to focus in order to lower my defenses."
A nervous giggle escaped Rose. She couldn't see the Doctor, but she heard the shifting of his leather coat. Then he touched her knee and found her hand, rubbing his thumb over her skin. It was a grounding touch. He was with her in this.
"Is this a first?" Rose asked. "Training a companion in mental shields."
"At this level, it is," the Doctor agreed. "I don't normally have any telepathic contact with companions since most are human."
He pushed at the shield. Rose grit her teeth and tried to push back. It was difficult to summon more energy and focus. The shield buckled. Rose shivered, the Doctor's mind slipped against hers. She had no words for the sensation, but the strange rush of sensations manifested as bright flashes of colour on the backs of her eyelids. Warm dark purple brushed against a stream of gold, sending small sparks flashing along both streams of colour. Happiness, relief, and contentment welled up in her chest. It disoriented her when the Doctor suddenly pulled back. Rose gasped for air, unsure of when she stopped breathing.
"Sorry," the Doctor said quickly, guilt coloring his voice. His tone was low and tight.
"It's okay." Rose didn't open her eyes, not wanting to lose the afterimages of the colors, but reached for his hand. "It didn't hurt. It was different, but it felt… kind of nice."
"Oh…" There was an odd hitch in his voice. Rose found his hand and squeezed it. "That's… okay then. Still, the point is to help you learn to shield your mind."
"I won't always want to shield my mind though," Rose said. "This could be useful."
"You're a long way from telepathic communication," the Doctor said. "Best you'll be able to manage right now is pushing feelings at someone."
"Still, that could be useful."
She watched the Doctor swallow. His eyes were a bit unfocused, and he looked… bereft. Then he shook himself, and the dazed expression vanished even though she didn't let go of his hand. Dropping her eyes, Rose inhaled slowly and gave him a moment to recover. She just hoped that it had been pleasant for him rather than distressing. Rose was a bit surprised at the purple. She was certain that was the Doctor, but she'd expected blue like the TARDIS. Purple was a bit of a surprise.
The Doctor jumped to his feet, his body quivering and Rose was sure that he was going to bolt. Somehow, he kept himself in check long enough to extend a hand down to her. Smiling in gratitude, Rose let the Doctor help her to her feet.
"We need a trip," he said. "Meet me in the console room. We'll see where we end up."
Rose nodded. Not that the Doctor would see it, he'd already bolted from the room. She sighed, trying not to let it offend her, but it did hurt a little bit. Just remembering the brief full contact made Rose shiver. Maybe it had felt even stronger to the Doctor. That made sense. It had probably been a long time since he'd had that kind of contact with another person. This time had been different than before.
"What do you think, Beautiful?" Rose asked. She laid her hand against the TARDIS wall. "Probably because I was more active rather than him just checking my mind. That probably has an impact."
The TARDIS hummed around her, and Rose got the impression that the ship agreed and didn't want her to worry about it. Rose sighed but nodded. She tried to be a patient woman, but she missed him sometimes; strange as it was to miss someone who was standing right beside you, but she did. Moments like this, knowing the good things about your future was hard when you couldn't have them yet.
Rose shook her head and left the room, shutting the door firmly behind her. Out in the hallways, the TARDIS' hum was louder and surrounded her. Relaxing a little, Rose headed to the loo to wash up a bit. Then after a quick detour to her room to grab her bag and a long red coat that the TARDIS had put in her wardrobe for her, she headed to join the Doctor.
"There you are," the Doctor said. "We've landed."
"Really? TARDIS must be in a good mood," Rose teased. "See, I told you that you didn't need the mallet." The Doctor grumbled even as his cheeks reddened. Rose somehow managed not to laugh and walked over to join him. "So, where are we then?"
"Earth, the Black Forest, 1810."
"What happens in 1810?" Rose asked.
"Napoleon marries Marie-Louise of Austria after annulling his marriage to Joséphine, King George III of the United Kingdom is recognized as insane, the First Oktoberfest in Bavaria, the Republic of West Florida declares independence from Spain and is then annexed by the United States-"
"Okay, okay," Rose said. She chuckled at the Docto, making him smile. "What happens in the Black Forest in 1810?"
"I don't know. Let's go find out."
"Should I change?" Rose asked. She looked down at her jeans and the red shirt under her open coat. "This isn't exactly 1810 clothing."
"No, but it's probably a good idea for a walk in the woods." The Doctor smiled, already heading for the door. "Besides, that's what the TARDIS gave you, isn't it?"
"True," Rose agreed.
With that, they stepped outside. The first thing that hit Rose was the smell. The air was thick with the scent of pine, flora, and moist earth. To a city girl, it was overwhelming. As she breathed it in, Rose looked around with wide eyes. Tall trees surrounded them, some pine and the others all different kinds of deciduous. Decaying logs littered the forest floor alongside thick ferns, bushes, and craggy rocks. It was wild and reminded Rose of Sherwood Forest, wild and old.
"It's beautiful," she said.
"Sometimes you're easy to impress," the Doctor teased as he closed the TARDIS door.
"Don't get cocky, Time Lord," Rose said firmly.
"You won't let me."
Rose nodded and smiled at the statement. It was true. Moving to the Doctor's right side, she took his hand as they started walking. There wasn't much in the way of a true trail, but a narrow path had been trampled down by the animals. Looking over her shoulder, Rose tried to memorize the location of the TARDIS but knew that it wouldn't do any good. She'd have to rely on the Doctor's extra senses to find the time machine here.
"Hopefully we'll find a road soon," the Doctor said. "You'll enjoy a local village."
"I'm sure I will," Rose said. "1810, probably all sorts of interesting handcrafts for sale."
The forest was very dense, and the thick canopy of leaves and pine made it rather dim for the daytime. Rose tried not to think about what it would look like after dark. She wondered if she was still jumpy from their scare at Christmas a few weeks back. The woods were beautiful, but a bit spooky too.
"Did you choose this or did the TARDIS?" Rose asked.
"Random," the Doctor said. "Thought something unexpected would be fun."
"Then I wonder what's going on here."
"There might not be anything going on," the Doctor protested. "Not everywhere has trouble."
"No," Rose agreed. "But when the TARDIS picks a place to take us, there usually is. She does it on purpose."
"Don't give her too much credit," the Doctor grumbled.
"Now you're just being stubborn," Rose scolded lightly. "You know its true."
The Doctor's ears reddened a touch when Rose nudged her shoulder against his arm, but he was smiling. The soft sounds of the forest surrounded them, and Rose found herself quickly adjusting. It was hard not to jump at every little rustle of bushes, but she was managing.
"Just background noises," the Doctor said sometime later. "The city has them too."
"You weren't this jumpy in Sherwood."
"We met chatterbox Robin Hood right away," Rose reminded him. "There wasn't much time spent in silence to listen to the forest."
"Touché." The Doctor squeezed her hand, and Rose told herself to just enjoy their walk.
The trees became less dense up ahead, and Rose spotted a small house. The house was different than Rose was expecting. It was a single story with a sloped roof that went all the way to the ground. Grass grew over the roof on a layer of soil that made it blend in. At first glance, Rose thought it was likely abandoned, but as they got closer, she noted a thin curl of smoke rising from the stone chimney at the back. On the far side was a small narrow path that was wider than the rest, but was a far cry from a real road.
"This is a bit out of the way," the Doctor remarked. "Let's see if anyone is home."
As they walked towards the house, Rose studied it. Something seemed off, but she couldn't put her finger on it. A strange smell began to fill her nostrils.
"Smell that?" the Doctor asked.
"What is it?"
"I think it's gingerbread," the Doctor answered. He stopped and stared at the house.
"Gingerbread," Rose repeated. "Probably just someone baking. Maybe they can give us directions."
"This is a bit far into the forest for a house."
"Maybe not," Rose said. "Could be a road right over the hill and a town in the valley." Rose nodded towards the gently sloping hill beyond the house. "Besides, could be a woodsman."
The Doctor gave her a look, and Rose shrugged. She was trying her best, but she had an odd feeling too. They walked toward the house again, and the Doctor knocked on the front door. Before Rose had time to call out to the owner, the whole house shimmered, and its appearance changed. The wood turned into smooth gingerbread and lines of frosting and sweets appeared along the door and the windows. The Doctor pulled her back from the house.
Then the house flickered again, and the appearance returned to normal. Rose blinked. Then she blinked again.
"I saw it," the Doctor said. There was a growl to his voice, and he lunged forward to bang on the door. There was a noise inside, and he tried to force the door. "This isn't possible."
Rose summoned her sword, but the door finally gave way and opened. The Doctor stormed inside with Rose right behind him. The interior was nothing strange. There was a cooking area, a table and chairs, shelves with dried goods and jars of food, and a doorway into the back room. No one was home, but a cauldron was bubbling over the fireplace. The Doctor glanced around the room and went to the doorway leading to the back. Rose looked back outside, checking that they were alone in the forest. When she touched the doorway, the appearance shifted once more to that of the gingerbread house for a moment.
"Doctor," Rose called. "Anyone here?"
"No and thankfully no signs of children." The Doctor said. He frowned as he returned to the main room and examined it. "This is strange." He eyed the cauldron and looked inside. His shoulders relaxed. "Just boiling water."
"This is weird," Rose said. "Empty house that sort of looks like a gingerbread house."
"No sign of a witch." The Doctor ran his finger over the table. "Some dust build up. I'm not sure that this house is currently in use."
"Except for the fire and boiling water," Rose reminded him.
"Yes, except for that."
Before Rose could take a closer look around, she heard voices outside and tensed. She and the Doctor exchanged worried looks before quickly moving to the door. Stepping outside, Rose blinked as she found a horse-drawn cart with two men sitting in it rolling across the not-quite-road. One of the men gestured to them, and the other pulled back on the reins to stop the horse.
"Ah, locals," one of them said happily. He was a young man near Rose's age. "Can you kindly direct us to the nearest village. We seem to have gotten turned around. We're the Brothers Grimm."
The Doctor almost laughed, but Rose could only gasp.