Measure of a Time Lord
Authors: Gillian Taylor
Summary: What is the measure of a man who walks in eternity? And, if that measurement is gone, what does that make him? A Time Lord? Or nothing at all?
Spoilers: Gallifrey go Boom, Father's Day
Disclaimer: Don't own them. I just like playing with them...a lot.
Archive: Sure, just let me know.
A/N: Thanks & hugs, as always, to my lovely betas NNWest & WMR. Written for the Rose Tyler Ficathon for SCAngel, who requested:
1.) Rose figuring
out something significant on her own
2.) Doctor (Nine or Ten) realizing he's seriously underestimated Rose's abilities
3.) Rose stuck in a harem with full harem girl apparel, in which the Doctor sees her at least once.
of a Time Lord"
By Gillian Taylor
Chapter 1: Prisoner
It was only at night that Rose thought the city might be considered beautiful. In the dusty shadows of the amber moon, lights flickered in the darkness. Somewhere beyond the castle walls, someone was happy. Someone loved. Someone hurt. Someone cried. Someone lived. Someone died.
Sometimes she forgot what that was like, and it frightened her. In her gilded cage of silk and perfume and money, she couldn't remember what it was like to be human. To be loved. All she knew was fear and hope. Fear that, this time, the King would come for her. That, this time, it would be her turn to return with bruises, with bloodstains across her body.
Hope was the only reason for her existence now. She had hope. Hope that he'd come for her. Hope that she'd see him again. Hope that she could feel him again. Hope that she could just see his face, grinning that grin of his, looking at her fondly.
It was all she had left.
She refused to listen to the others when they told her that her hopes were futile. The Doctor wouldn't come. 'They never do,' they would sagely tell her as they kept their eyes lowered in the face of her disillusionment. When a man was forced to walk through the Ka Ra Nor, he lost himself, lost a piece of his soul.
They told her that she was alone now. Alone, save for the mercy of their Lord and Master. The Doctor had forgotten her because that was what had always happened. Rebels, dissenters, and those who denied their Lord what he wanted were always punished, always sent through the Ka Ra Nor. Those rebels would forget why they had wanted to fight. What they were fighting for. They'd forget everything and everyone they cared for.
It was a lie. It had to be. She refused to let even a glimmer of doubt take root within her. She wouldn't listen because the others didn't know him. They couldn't know him. They didn't know the man who had touched a thousand worlds, a thousand different times, in a thousand different ways. They didn't know the Time Lord. They didn't love him as she did.
They said he wouldn't come.
She refused to listen.
He would come. He would always come for her. Because that was who he was. That was what he did. He'd remember her.
He had to.
She gripped the edge of the window frame tightly, her knuckles turning white with the effort. They'd told her that she had to accept her existence, her fate, on Yervanos. They said she had no choice. Either pine away, waiting for a rescue that would never come, or survive.
She chose to survive. She chose hope. But sometimes, late at night, she wondered. What if they were right? What if he'd never come?
She'd tried escape but, each time, she was captured and beaten. Each time, she was warned that one more attempt and she wouldn't return to her new posh life. Her last attempt, she'd been warned that should she try again, she'd be killed or sentenced to the Ka Ra Nor. Sometimes she wondered if that might be better than this life. At least then she'd be with him.
But he wouldn't remember her. Nor she him.
She bowed her head and stared at her hands. She couldn't let threats cow her. Escape was still an option. She'd just have to be a bit more...original about it than blatantly walking out the front door. At least that time she'd almost got past the gates before someone had stopped her. If she could get back to the TARDIS, there might be something in there that could help the Doctor. Maybe. Possibly.
Not that you have a chance of being able to operate anything in there without him.
She firmly pushed the thought aside. The TARDIS was her best chance. She just had to think. The opportunity would present itself. Somehow, someway, she'd get out of the castle. She'd get back to the TARDIS and rescue the Doctor.
How could she rescue him when she didn't even know where he was? And, even if she did find him, how could she convince him to come with her? He wouldn't know her.
"I hate this place," she murmured under her breath, loath to wake the others who shared the room with her.
She knew that some of the women shared her thoughts about Yervanos. They, too, had lost someone to the Ka Ra Nor. However, unlike her, they had lost their hope long ago.
The women in King Tulern's harem fit into two moulds. One included those who were broken, battered and torn. They were the ones who were convinced that hope was a fruitless emotion and were resigned to their fate. They accepted the beatings and the punishment without complaint and moved listlessly through their chambers. They lived, but they were as good as dead for all the life they had within them.
She didn't want to end up like that. She couldn't end up like that. So she clung onto the second mould. Hope still burned, escape was possible, and she believed in the power of life. Where there was life, there was hope. She could find the Doctor. She could save him. But, first, she had to save herself.
It was all a matter of time.
With a weary sigh, she turned from the window and returned to her bed. Sleep was the only escape she could rely on at the moment. And, perhaps, in her dreams she might determine another way of freeing herself from this fate.
She tossed and turned on the bed, her mind strangely active though she was lost in slumber. Dreams were her means of escape though, sometimes, she wished she could escape even them…
She could see the shimmer of the temporal shields above her; yet, a view that should've been reassuring was anything but. The shields were beginning to fail under the bombardment. Time bombs, temporal loops, conventional attacks, and other such weaponry shouldn't have such an effect. Not here. Not ever.
However, she had to admit that their time had finally come. The last great Time War. And Gallifrey was on the losing side.
"Doctor," a woman's voice said and she turned, somehow unsurprised to hear that name applied to her.
Romana joined her, her very bearing implying resignation and grief. "You know what has to be done."
"There has to be another way." She denied, shaking her head. "Something else we can do."
"There isn't. Doctor, you have your orders."
Romana drew herself to her full height. Thanks to the peculiarities of regeneration, the Lady President was a few inches taller than she. "No, Doctor. This isn't a request from a friend. This is the order of your President. The controls have been mounted in your TARDIS and the coordinates have been set. You must release the Eye."
The Eye of Harmony. Rassilon's star. Omega's triumph. Gallifrey's destruction. It was an order, but she never believed in following orders when there was another choice. Something else that could be done. But there wasn't. She knew that as well as Romana did.
"Romana..." she replied, but there was only defeat in her voice. No choice. For the future of the universe, for every living being that she held dear, she had to choose. Hobson's Choice, indeed.
Romana rested a hand briefly upon her shoulder. "I know this is a great burden, Doctor. You are the only one I can trust with this. Please, go now. The shields won't last much longer."
Tears burned her eyes as she pulled the unresisting Lady President into a fierce hug. This was the end. Had to be. No more Daleks. No more Time Lords. No more Doctor.
She let Romana go and brushed past her, running toward the familiar and comforting blue police box that was her home. She had no choice. Oh, god, no choice at all.
The TARDIS roared in protest as it dematerialised into the Vortex and rematerialised amongst the fleet. Even her beautiful ship knew what was to come. She held the ship steady, staring blindly at the pulsing temporal rotor, her hand on the newly installed controls. One press of a button and Gallifrey would be gone, swallowed before its time by the raging fury of the Eye of Harmony.
Romana had such faith in her. Faith that she'd do what was necessary. And she would. Rassilon help her, she would.
On the screen, she could see the temporal shields flicker and fail, leaving Gallifrey open to the Dalek bombardment.
No choice. No choice at all.
She pressed the button in the wake of a scream of denial, sorrow and anguish. She saw the fractures that ripped across the surface of her orange homeworld. She heard the screams of a thousand Gallifreyans in her mind as the planet pulsed once, twice, three times, before it imploded.
Fire raged across the solar system. Dalek ships, Gallifreyan ships, her TARDIS. Nothing was spared the fire. It was an end.
And, finally, in the quiet aftermath as the agony of regeneration began to claim her body, she realised the terrible, terrible truth.
It wasn't meant to be her end.
Never before had the label of Ka Faraq Gatri held such truth. Destroyer of worlds. Bringer of darkness.
Even death turned from her.
Her heart – hearts? – pounding in her chest, she awoke with a scream on her lips. And, like every night since she'd been here, her dreams faded into nothing more than the faint aftertaste of ashes and pain.
In another lifetime, she could've gone to him for comfort. But, now, there was no one to comfort her other than herself. She should return to sleep, let her dreams reclaim her, but the pounding of her heart refused to slow.
"Doctor," she whispered, letting his name grant whatever consolation it could. When sleep finally reclaimed her, she didn't dream.
Another day, another moment exposed to the leering gazes of the King and his guards, and another instance of a damning blush spreading across her barely covered skin. It apparently was her lot in life not to wear more than strips of gauze and strategically placed bits of cloth and jewellery.
She sighed, brushing back an errant strand of hair in an automatic gesture as she focused on scrubbing the laundry. This was the only time during the day that the women could safely talk, despite their being 'on show' at any time for the King. She wasn't certain that she could've survived without this minor aspect of normality otherwise. Then again, she had to. She had no choice.
The words resonated in her mind, almost as if there was something that she was missing. Something…important? Her brow furrowed as she searched her memories, but each time she drew close to an answer, the recollection of despair, guilt, and grief erased what progress she had made. Vaguely, she wondered if there was something wrong with her.
She belatedly realised that her hands had stilled in their task and she quickly resumed her scrubbing, hoping that none of the guards had noticed her lack of work. Even taking a break was a punishable offence on Yervanos.
"You dreamed again."
Erana's words broke into her reverie and she winced reflexively. The other woman was sympathetic, of course. Then again, they all were. Everyone had nightmares. Except hers tended to be of the more noisy kind.
"I'm sorry," she said, though there was little she could apologise for. She couldn't control her dreams. Then again, how could she control them when she couldn't even remember them? If she concentrated, all she could recall was death and ashes.
"You have no control over it," Erana replied with a faint shrug, echoing her thoughts. "Yet I'd thought you were past those dreams."
She smiled bitterly. "Maybe I never will be." If only she could remember what they were. They might be something important. Maybe. Possibly.
"You dwell on the past far too much, Rose Tyler," Izikela said from beside her. The other woman's industrious movements caused dirty water to splash upon the clothes that she was trying to clean. "Sorry, it was an accident," Izikela said, though her expression contradicted her words.
Biting back a curse, she moved a short distance away from the other woman. Accidentally on purpose was far more likely with Izikela. However, it wasn't worth an argument and the resulting punishment. The King preferred his women docile. Anything else resulted in beatings and, in at least one case she knew of, death.
"Let her be, Izikela," Erana said. "You know that dreams are the only-"
"Escape?" Izikela interrupted with a sneer. "Yes, I can see why. Rose Tyler hasn't learned her place."
She bit her tongue, refusing to rise to the bait. Izikela fancied herself the leader of the harem and conducted herself as if she were the queen of her little domain. She'd only be contributing to what was already a rather large ego if she said anything in response.
"She doesn't even deny it. This is your life, girl. Accept it," Izikela snarled.
"Leave her alone," Erana protested.
"So quick to the defence, Erana. Be careful or I might decide that you, too, must learn your place."
She let the words wash over her. They didn't matter. Izikela didn't matter. There were far more important things to consider than the other woman's need for ego-stroking. She could hear the idle laughter and talk of the men in the room – they were relaxed, not expecting anything out of the ordinary, and certainly not expecting an escape attempt. There were guards on the doors – two per door, not including the King's men - but, if she was swift, she could elude them.
Knowledge came swiftly on Yervanos. Including the mistaken perceptions of the men on the planet. Women were docile and weak-minded creatures, meant for admiration and slavery, according to the King. Well, he had never met Rose Tyler, former shop-girl, and the last Time Lord's companion.
I know this is a great burden…
She shook her head, chasing away the fragmented memory. The words were familiar...and important? Yes, important. But why? No. No time.
Escape must be her...
Izikela's sudden movement – and a jab of an elbow - startled her enough that she dropped the clothes that she'd just finished rinsing back into the dirty water. "What the hell are you-?" Her question was cut off as she realised Izikela's intent.
The guards were coming to inspect their work. If she didn't have a pile of clean clothes at least half a yard– or, as they called it on Yervanos, three dectares - tall, she'd be punished. A quick glance at her pile revealed that her pile barely reached two dectares.
She bent to her task, moving quickly and desperately. She couldn't be punished, not again. They'd watch her even more carefully then. She had already gained the label of a trouble-maker. If something else happened, she'd have to modify her escape plan. No.
She wouldn't let it happen. Couldn't let it happen.
No, wait. She knew exactly what she could do. Distractions were a dying art, at least the decent ones were. Now, if there was something useful about, something that could be used to…there.
Perfect. Or, as the Doctor liked to say, fantastic.
The King was well known not only for his appreciation of women, but for his menagerie of rare and endangered animals from across the universe. The gentler of those creatures were allowed to roam free amongst the women as they attended to their duties to King and planet.
Which meant that all she had to do was make use of her options. Something told her that a three-tonal sound would cause some of those animals to stampede. It was, after all, rather hard to tell how many dectares someone had cleaned when avoiding getting trampled.
But how could she make such a sound? What did she have available? She could hear the crunch of gravel as the guard walked behind the other women, pausing to carefully inspect the clothes. Time was – which was a rather annoying habit – running out.
Izikela looked at her and she could sense the other woman's anticipation and almost-glee as the guard drew closer. She had no idea what she'd done to cause such a reaction, what she'd said, but she knew all too well that, eventually, everyone would have their comeuppance. Izikela just deserved it a bit more than most.
Right. Enough thinking. If she could just whist… That was it. Whistling! Oh, sure, she hadn't whistled in years, but it was like riding a bike. Once learned, never forgotten. She pursed her lips and tried to create the proper sounds. However, all she could manage was two tones. She ran out of breath before she could manage the third note.
She abandoned her efforts with a muffled curse. It wouldn't work. That was when she realised the guard was right behind her.
"Rose Tyler," the guard intoned and she noticed Izikela draw herself up straighter, a look of triumph crossing her face. "You have not completed your task."
This would not defeat her. Shooting Izikela a venomous look, she straightened her spine and turned slowly, making sure that she kept herself braced should she need to move quickly. "And 'ow can you tell that just from lookin'?" she asked, tilting her head so she could look up at the guard. "Vision does lie, you know. Least that's what a friend of mine told me once upon a time."
Rose suppressed the pang of sorrow at the thought. She missed him terribly. If she closed her eyes, she could remember that day on Nistalia Minor. She could almost remember the sound of his voice, the expression on his face...
Though he didn't look at her, she could feel his burning gaze. "What do you see, Rose?"
She smiled as she gazed at the activity around them. Alien or human, funfairs were all the same. "I see families, children, a funfair full of happy people, clowns and rides, and animals. I see people enjoying themselves."
Then she frowned as something else registered on her senses. There was something not exactly right about the fair. Everything looked normal, seemed normal. But what was wrong?
She heard him sigh as he placed the tips of his fingers against her temple. In an instant, the funfair shimmered and vanished, a mirage on an otherwise unremarkable landscape. "Now what do you see?" he asked.
"Nothing," she replied, astonished. That was when she realised what had been missing in her perception of the funfair. There hadn't been any sound.
As his fingers fell away from her temple, the funfair reappeared. "Vision lies, Rose."
It was a lesson she never forgot.
She heard the other women gasp in shock at her words and she realised her mistake the instant the guard reached for his whip. Impertinence and asking questions of males was forbidden. Double punishment would be her reward.
Well, it would be if they could catch her.
The next few moments passed as if she were in a dream, disassociated from her body. She could hear the crack of a whip as it broke free of its restraints. She felt the slight change in pressure as the slender leather strap sliced through the air toward her.
And then, somehow, she moved out of the way at the last second, and she could feel the breeze of the whip's passage. It cracked against the stonework that surrounded the water basin, scattering fragments across the floor.
With a growl of anger, the guard reached for her and, once again, she managed to evade him. Somehow her body knew what moves to make, what way to twist, how to block, and, mostly importantly, what junction of flesh and bone would cause a humanoid male to collapse, senseless to the floor.
She didn't bother to waste time staring at the unconscious man. Already she could hear the shouts and protests of the King and the other men in the background.
She reasoned that it was as inevitable as the sunrise or the sunset. Even separated from the Doctor, it seemed that her fate would always be to run for her life. She could hear the pounding footsteps of the guards that were hot on her heels and she resolutely put on an extra burst of speed.
She fled past luxurious furnishings, startled servants, rich tapestries, and artwork without a sideways glance. If she could just escape, just get out of the palace, she could try to hide in the city, try to get back to the TARDIS. At least there she'd be safe and, from there, she could find – and rescue – the Doctor.
The 'how' could wait until she got to that particular point of her not-so-well-formed plan.
They were right behind her and there was no way to avoid them. Perhaps if she just…yes. Straight out the front doors again. It generally was the least well guarded location in a palace – after all, who'd boldly walk out the doors when they knew what the punishment would be? Then again, who'd boldly walk out the doors for a second time and see if she could escape that way?
"Me," she breathed the word as she turned the corner. The palace doors should be just ahead.
That was, of course, when she discovered that she was surrounded. Guards in front of her, pointing rather vicious looking weapons in her direction. And her friends from the courtyard skidded to a stop behind her, hemming her in.
She grimaced and slowly raised her hands in surrender. "Too obvious?" she asked, silently cursing her choice. There was always next time, right?
She felt something hit the back of her head and she fell to her knees, stunned. "Remind me to tell the Doctor next time I-"
Another blow to her skull sent her spiralling into unconsciousness and her words died, unspoken, upon her lips.
To be continued...