Title: Choices
Status: WIP
Rating: 12 (for infrequent language and sexual intimations. This part is a U, though.)
Pairing: Nine/Rose
Notes:This is'altraverse' tale which depicts the knock-on effects of one of the most difficult choices the Ninth Doctor ever has to make, after he fails to rescue Rose from the Dalek fleet. This story will jump about the time-line and contain general spoilers for the series, though there are none in this chapter.
Credit to: Helen (LJ name: lovepollution) for Hope's name. Because it is perfect.


Part 1 - Hope

Hope was a special girl. No one really noticed it because she didn't seem so different from any other toddler, and it was true to say that even she didn't quite realise how unique she was, but the fact remained that she was special. She sometimes saw things that weren't there - or at least things that weren't there yet, or which hadn't been there for a long time. She possessed what some might call a sixth sense; not that anyone knew about it, but her mother, at least, was certain she was special. All mother's think their children are special, of course, but Hope's mother knew her child was particularly special because she knew more about her daughter than anyone else.

It was one Tuesday morning that Hope's grandma decided to take her to the local park for a while. And so out came the pushchair and the child-harness (because one might be surprised at how quickly a toddler can scamper away) and off the two went, out the front door and down the stairwell of their block of flats, then along the paths that wound between the local high-rises, and on toward the park.

This Tuesday morning, it must be noted, wasn't particularly special in any way - it was, in truth, just like any other Tuesday - but it was to prove rather important to the young Hope for a reason only she would ever know.

Once they had reached the park, Hope's grandma bumped into a young lady called Colleen, a neighbour of theirs who lived on the ground floor of their block of flats, and who had happened to bring her own little girl, Rachel, to the park this morning. Never one to pass up a good gossip, Hope's grandma was soon nattering vigorously to Colleen, and it didn't take long for Hope, sat in her buggy, to get restless.

"Here goes little madam," Hope's grandma thus said with a sigh, as Colleen went on to talk about her Rachel's propensity for tantrums ('which she must have got from her father'), and Hope was soon fitted in her little harness and was free to then totter about nearby. Little Rachel, meanwhile, was forced to just sit in her pushchair and gawp on in envy.

It might be worthwhile to mention that Hope was almost two years old now, a few months younger than Rachel, and was a pretty girl with bright blue eyes and dark brown hair. There had been a lot of tension between her mother and her grandmother prior to her birth - not that she was to know about that - but once she had been born, all that had dissipated, and she was now the apple of their eyes; they couldn't imagine life without her.

And so Hope toddled around and watched her own feet patter about beneath her in amazement, until, all of a sudden, her entire body was overtaken by a cool, tingling sensation, and she, for some reason unknown to her, found her eyes drawn to the far side of the playground. And then she saw something, something that she knew wasn't really there (though, in some era of time and space, it would be). It was a large, metal robot with a rounded head and a bulky body. The head had a long stalk sticking out of it, and a pair of flashing lights mounted on top, whilst the body was embossed with many rounded spheres, and coated in a grubby, golden finish. It had two long, thin arms held out before it, from its midsection, and it glided along the ground as if on steady wheels, for it had no legs. Overall, it looked somewhat comical, and yet it was frightening, too; there was something about it which sent a terrible chill through Hope's tiny body, a chill which told her that this thing was a bringer of death and of worse. She thus pointed at the apparition with her chubby little hand and began to cry.

Her grandma instantly rushed over and took her up in her arms. "What's wrong, sweetheart?" she asked, her eyes following her granddaughter's pointed finger, but seeing nothing. "What's the matter? There's nothing there."

But Hope saw it, until the monster faded back into the mire of time from which it had arisen, a vision of a past or a future that Hope never wanted to be a part of.

She soon calmed down, as toddlers do, however, and was smiling and laughing again within the hour, beaming all the way back home where her mother and Uncle Jack were waiting to see her.

---

Hope was still special when she was five, but still no one knew it. Another unremarkable Tuesday came and, as fate would have it, she was again at the park, playing with Rachel from downstairs under Colleen and her grandma's supervision. She chased Rachel round the playground and up the climbing frame, and then they decided to play hide and seek. Rachel wanted to count first so off Hope went to seek a place to hide.

She soon came up with the perfect place - there was a small hovel right beneath the slide, a dark little den where the kids often played, and where she knew Rachel would never think of looking. So off Hope ran, sprinting toward the slide before she crouched into the hovel and began to sneak beneath it. It was as soon as she had gotten herself halfway into the hideaway that she stopped dead, for her body had filled with that cold tingling feeling again, the same as the one she'd felt when she was two, and which she had felt many a time since. She took a deep breath and braced herself for whatever horrors she might see this time, but, when she turned, she saw nothing; no metal robots, no raging fires, no screaming people, no death and destruction. Nothing. That was until a man came rushing her way, a tall dark stranger in a battered leather jacket who looked like the kind of man one should never cross.

Hope watched this man with interest from her place beneath the slide, for she just knew that there was something special about him.

The man continued to run full-pelt in her direction, his eyes fixed on a small, blinking device in his hand, which flashed blue every other second, and which he followed in whatever direction it by some means indicated to him. It wasn't long until he skidded to a halt right in front of Hope's slide and stood contemplating things for a while, his feet planted but centimetres from the entrance to the little den.

Hope gasped at this and pushed herself further backwards into the hidey-hole, for she was suddenly afraid of what was going on; if this man was the bringer of her cold sensations, then he surely couldn't be good news...

The stranger's boots remained in front of her hideaway for some time before he suddenly crouched down and continued to frown at his blinking blue device; he looked rather puzzled by its current behaviour, and, as it continued to make a rather insistent pulsing sound, he began to extend it further and further away from his body, trying to discover where on earth it was leading him. It seemed to be inclined toward Hope, because the closer it got to her, the more frenetic it became. Hope swallowed in fear as she realised where this was leading, though the stranger as yet had failed to even notice her because he was so transfixed on his noisy device; he only continued to extend it in her direction, causing her to crawl backwards in an effort to evade him. Hope soon found herself forced into a corner, though, and could then do nothing to prevent the man from manoeuvring his gadget lightly into her forehead. It thus went absolutely ballistic and the stranger finally looked up to see her sat there.

Hope's mind jolted like an electrical current as her eyes connected with the man's, and she froze up in terror as the cold sensation in her body intensified threefold.

It would be fair to say that the man was as perplexed and shocked as she was by this turn of events, however - this was the last thing he had been expecting to find - but he soon brought the tense moment to an end by breaking out into a wide grin and saying, "Hello."

Hope swallowed. "Hello…?" she stuttered in return, bringing her knees tightly up to her chest and curling into a ball.

"Yes, hello," the stranger said again, before he began to fiddle with his device, rapping it against the underside of the slide and making the metal resonate around them. "Hmm… must be having an off day," he muttered. "Well, we all do, don't we?"

Hope still only watched in bewilderment whilst her chest throbbed with heartbeats.

"It seems to think you're what I'm looking for," the man explained with a laugh, glancing at her again briefly, "but you're just a little girl, aren't you?"

"I think so," Hope whispered.

The man grinned again, a smile which was surprisingly comforting to her, and she consequently found herself trusting him without qualms. He then somehow added to this comforting aura by simply opting to sit down next to her, crossing his long legs on the ground, whilst he fiddled with his small, tubular gadget. "It must be a wrong signal…" he mused, "Perhaps something nearby is throwing it off. There aren't any Siamese twins in the neighbourhood, by chance?"

Hope blinked. "What?"

"Oh, never mind," he went on, pocketing the blinking device and giving her another smile. "Sorry to have disturbed you."

Hope swallowed again and looked the man up and down as he began to get to his feet. "Have you lost someone?" she asked.

His frivolous manner faded a little, and he seemed to lapse back into a world of his own. "Yes…" he replied, "and I'm going to find her again soon. But that's not what I'm looking for right now."

"What are you looking for?"

He rose two fingers in a kind of victory gesture; "Two hearts," he said.

Hope giggled. "Why?"

He gave her another gentle smile. "Because I need their help. I thought I was the last but… I'm not. And if I don't find them before they do, then…"

His voice trailed away, dry and jaded, and Hope cocked her head to the side as she tried to comprehend this peculiar and enigmatic man. "I hope you find them," she said.

He smiled kindly at her, heartened by her naïve empathy. "Me too," he chirped as he clambered fully out from beneath the slide and turned to go.

He walked a couple of paces before he then stopped dead in his tracks and turned back to look at Hope with a knitted brow. "Dangerous things are going to start happening, little girl," he said.

She watched him in silence.

"Do you believe me?"

She paused for a moment before she offered him another smile and nodded. "Yeah."

He gave her a quick smirk in return. "And will your mummy and daddy believe you if you tell them?"

Hope's face remained neutral. "I don't have a daddy," she said.

The man gave her a weak smile this time. "Some of us don't have anyone."

"But I'll tell mummy," Hope went on. "She'll believe me."

He nodded again. "Good girl." He then began to march off once more, but turned and regarded her for yet another time, whilst he continued to walk away backwards. "I'm the Doctor, by the way," he called. "What's your name?"

"Hope," she replied.

He gave her a little wave. "Nice to meet you, Hope. Now go home, and forget me."

Hope watched the man turn and then run, before he cleared a fence with an athletic leap and disappeared from view. She then just sat back and thought about him, refusing to move even when Rachel had managed to find her, until her grandma came to get her to take her home for her tea. She couldn't wait to tell her mummy all about it, though.

---

Hope and her gran said farewell to Rachel and Colleen at the bottom of the stairwell once they reached their block of flats, before they then made their way back up the flight of stairs. Hope ran on ahead, eager to tell her mother of the mysterious man she had met and of the danger that was apparently coming. Mum always believed her stories; she always believed everything she said about seeing metal monsters and destruction all around them. Hope didn't know why her mum believed her, but she was glad that she did, because no one else did... Well, Uncle Jack did, but that was all. Grandma thought she was 'telling tales', like most kids, whilst the teachers at school assumed she was just a very imaginative child, and the other children thought she simply made up super-cool stories for them to re-enact at play time; but the truth was these visions were real. She still didn't quite realise that other people didn't see things like she did, though.

As soon as Hope and her grandma reached their floor, Hope rushed out of the stairwell and to their front door, which, with a great pull on the handle, she managed to push open. "Mummy!" she called, running down the hall and into the lounge, "Mummy, guess what?"

She then shrieked as a great pair of arms grabbed her from behind and a man growled into her neck, "You're late for your dinner, so Uncle Jack's here to eat you!" He then lifted her up into the air and swung her round.

Hope laughed as she flew through the air and then threw her arms around the man's neck. "Uncle Jack!" she cried, as he sat her in his arms and looked at her with a grin.

"My, you're getting big, aren't you?" he said. "Did you have fun at the park?"

"I met someone!" she said. "A man."

Jack wasn't sure whether to be troubled or not upon hearing this. "A man, honey?"

"Yeah, he was funny. I have to tell mummy something."

Uncle Jack - who wasn't a blood uncle, but liked to think of himself as an uncle nevertheless - put Hope on the floor and watched her totter over to the armchair where her mother was sat.

"Hello, sweetheart," Hope's young mother said, giving her girl a big hug. "Did you have fun?"

"Yeah, loads of fun!"

Hope heaved herself into her mother's lap whilst Jack took a seat on the sofa and Hope's grandma sat next to him, shaking her head at what she took as Hope's hyperactivity.

"I met this man, mummy," Hope explained as she hugged her mother and rested her head against her chest, listening to her single heartbeat, "He said I should tell you danger's coming."

Hope's mother's hand - which had been stroking her daughter's hair - came to a sudden pause. "'Danger'?" she asked.

"Yeah. He told me that I should tell my mummy and daddy about it, but I said I didn't have a daddy, so I said I'd just tell you."

"Oh, honestly, Hope," her grandma sighed in exasperation, "there wasn't anyone there."

"But there was!" Hope insisted, "You didn't see 'im!" She looked back at her mother and stared into her large brown eyes. "He was lookin' for two hearts, and this thingy he had kept bleeping at me and he said it must be wrong because I'm just a little girl."

Jack exchanged a glance with Hope's mother, for they were both suddenly caught between the same feelings of unease and optimism.

"What did he look like, honey?" Jack asked.

Hope beamed. "Tall. He looked dang'rous at first, but he wasn't. He was funny."

"Did he tell you his name?" Jack continued.

"Yeah. Doctor," she said.

Jack looked at Rose, Hope's mother, and then to Jackie, Hope's grandmother, and quickly leapt to his feet and ran. There might still be hope…

TBC…