Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who and gain nothing from the creation of this story
In his roughly one thousand years of time and space, the Doctor had seen a lot of the universe. He had eaten foods from over thirty thousand planets and at some point in time had saved hundreds of worlds but some things he still would never get used to. Loss was one of them, in fact it was the big one, the main thing that he couldn't seem to defeat. He had defeated the Master so many times and had escaped the Black Guardian and his evil plans but he still couldn't adjust fully to loss.
This was odd, he had concluded it well over a thousand times. He had surely learned by now not to be struck down by loss, throughout his entire history he had lost people. From the moment he left his beloved granddaughter, Susan, with David he had known the cold of loss. He had been a father once and a grandfather but the Time War had erased that completely, he was alone in the universe. Jamie and Zoe had been taken from him and Jo Grant has left him for her future husband. Sarah Jane he had left behind when the Time Lords called, Romana had left to find her own adventures and she would die in the Time War. Nyssa had left to help others and Tegan has run from the horror of his life. Peri had married and become Queen of Thoros Alpha, Mel had left to travel with Glitz and Ace had departed to find her own life.
The list was long and yet it hurt now, more than he had felt for a long time. Even after two years the loss of Rose Tyler weighed on him harshly. A heavy burden that he couldn't seem to free himself of and he did understand why. After Martha Jones had left him, claiming that all he ever did was talk about Rose he had stopped, just for a moment to think on it. The result hadn't been a pleasant one but he knew it to be true.
Rose Tyler had been special, not because she was brilliant or athletic or exceptionally beautiful. That silly little Earth girl from his favorite planet had been a balm to his injured soul after the Time War. Her actions, her way of looking at the world and her desire to see it and experience it had reminded his wearily pervious incarnation of what he had loved about it once. Rose Tyler in her strange way had been beyond fantastic, she had defied him and saved his life against the Daleks when he had again given up. She was always around to remind him of just who he was, even if she hadn't known everything, she by some miracle seemed to know him. Now that she was gone he knew that since his regeneration he had taken her for granted, forgetting that she wouldn't always be there, ignoring that fact whenever he could. He had felt that strain again as he had fought to contact her, just to know that she was alright.
At the time he hadn't known what to say or what he wanted to hear. What he had heard made the loss only harder. He had known, he had known for a very long time that she loved him. Many of his companions had but it was an unspoken rule, never confess, never complicate the trip. Just enjoy the Doctor's company as a friend for however long he'll let you stay. Rose loved him, he knew that and so often he had almost broken his unspoken rule to never let a companion see that he cared for them, that he needed him. With Rose everything had just been stronger and harder.
His life had changed the day he met her and while on the outside it hadn't changed the day he lost her, he knew he had changed. It had gotten worse since the day he said goodbye, the day he almost said... The Doctor shook his head, he couldn't change it, he would if he could. If there had ever been a time that he would try, it would be now but it would cost lives and Rose. He had a small smile on his face as he reminded himself that she wouldn't want that. Rose wanted him to be the Doctor and the Doctor tried everything else first before costing lives. Rose wouldn't want him to cost lives just to see her.
He touched his hand to screen and hit the command. He didn't know why he did this, he had never thought of himself masochistic but this behavior of his surely was on the edge. As the recording of his goodbye to Rose began to play, he leaned against the Tardis controls and touched the screen gently. Two years should have made this easier to think about, to feel but it hadn't. "I love you." She gasped out on the beach, alone and crying. He heard his own response even through the video was all of her.
"And I suppose if it's my last chance to say it. Rose Tyler-" He flinched as the feed ended, knowing how much that must have hurt Rose. "I love you." He finished. "I love you Rose Tyler." He bowed his head and breathed deeply, filling his lungs with air, wishing his heart could be filled as easily. Over the years companions had filled one of his hearts between all of them but Rose and Susan, his family, owned the other.
In the two years since his goodbye, he had traveled with a few different companions: Martha had come aboard soon after Bay Wolf Bay but she had sensed his distraction and had left after only six months. A doctor named Diana Warren from the 42nd century had joined him for three months but at her romantic attempts towards him, he had exploded at her. He regretted it now but he couldn't not after Rose. He had made the mistake of letting himself fall in love only once and he hadn't been able to protect that one person. Still that hadn't been Diana's fault. After that things hadn't changed, he saved a few worlds, stopped a few bad guys but without a companion to remind him of the wonder of life, it lost it's shine and he didn't want any companion other than Rose. After two years he was finally giving in to the loss.
The Doctor collapsed back into his chair and stared at the frozen image of Rose and scanner screen. He hated it, the image of her crying was the last image of her he had, his last memory of her was of her crying. Ever since the day he had met her, he had liked her and wanted to protect her. He hadn't ever wanted to see the little Earth girl so full of life cry. As much as a small selfish part of him had wanted to her to love him, had wanted her to say it, he hadn't wanted her to cry while saying them. "I should have told you Rose." He whispered as if she could hear him. "I love you, I love you, I love you." He often did this, he would say it as if it would make her hear it. It didn't help and part of him knew it never would. Three more regenerations to go, then he could die and pray that maybe somehow if he actually got to heaven, if there was one, that somehow she would be there. Now he had no doubt of his fate, no matter how many times he regenerated he would love her, but he would never see her again.
The Tardis landed with a thud, surprising the Doctor from his brooding. He jumped up and checked the controls. Frowning he looked up to see the main doors opening. White light spilled into the Tardis and he blinked, shielding his eyes for a moment.
"Doctor." A voice called and he paused recognizing it after a moment. "Forget it Guardian!" He yelled turning back to the controls but instead he found himself facing the White Guardian. The Doctor growled at him, "Get out of here!" The Guardian did not move, so the Doctor stepped around him to check the controls.
"You're a mess." The Guardian observed, "And really Doctor blue really isn't your color." The Doctor ignored him so the White Guardian sat down in the chair gracefully. He brushed a speck of dust off of his white suit carefully before looking up at the Doctgor
"I'm here because I need your help." The Doctor sent him a look that would kill even a Dalek, the White Guardian ignored him. "The universe is shifting out of balance again, with the last of the holes closed." He paused, knowing that he was treading on dangerous ground, "The universe needs to be set back on it's proper path"
"Good luck with that then." "I need you to gather the Key to Time again Doctor. Only then can I fix the paradoxes that have arisen from the universes clashing." The Doctor froze as he heard the Guardian's words, he turned to look at him.
"You can use the Key to fix a paradox"
"How big?" The Doctor asked, a spark appearing in his eye.
"Any size Doctor, I am the last thing to be affected by a paradox."
The Doctor was silent and ran his hands through his hair as the ideas began clicking together. He rushed around the Tardis controls, checking the various readings as the cogs spun in his mind. "Yes!" He spun and faced the White Guardian. "I'll get you your Key if you agree to use it to fix a paradox for me"
"And what paradox would that be Doctor"
"The one I'm going to create when I bring Rose home."
The White Guardian sat down in the chair and gave the Doctor a long look. "How will the Key to Time assist you Doctor." The Doctor grinned, a manic spark in his eye. The Tardis thrummed in response to the life in him.
"If I don't have to worry about a paradox ripping the universe apart it becomes simple!" He cried, "I can get the Key and then contact my past selves. One Time Lord can't open a doorway between universes but ten of us together could do it easily and then my nine other selves can hold it open long enough for me to get Rose and bring her home"
"And what if Miss Tyler does not wish to return." The Doctor froze, "It has after all been two years to her Doctor." The Doctor looked up at the Guardian, a deep seated pain clear in his fatigued eyes.
"I need to see her, I need to tell her that I," He broke off, "I need to give her a choice"
"And if she chooses no, Doctor"
"Then I'll use up my last three regenerations as quick as I can." The Doctor snapped.
"Ah yes this the rude regeneration." The Guardian said thoughtfully. He paused, considering the Doctor's plan. "Very well, you get the Key of Time for me and I will assist you however I can."
The White Guardian gave the Doctor a long look, "But do not forget Doctor, my counterpart the Black Guardian still dreams of chaos and death. He has never forgiven you and he will not allow you to gain the Key easily. Especially with you having so much personally at stake." The White Guardian leaned back in the chair, "The Key to Time is your last hope of finding the woman you love and he knows that as much as me." The Doctor turned back to the Guardian.
"You knew what I would ask before you came"
"Yes, Doctor I did." He smiled at him, "You need Miss Tyler, that is plain to see and it is in my interests to keep you sane so it is in my interests to help you get back to Miss Tyler."
The White Guardian stood back up and handed the Doctor a locator, much like the one he had used during his fourth regeneration. "I'm sure you remember how to us it." With that the Guardian walked towards the still glowing doors but just before he stepped over the threshold he paused and turned around. "A word of warning Doctor: it will be a long journey, full of monsters, dangers from the Black Guardian and battles." Tipping his white hat to the Doctor. "Basically it's right up your alley." As he vanquished he said, "Oh and don't be too hard on the new assistant." The Doctor groaned but turned around and blinked in surprise.
"Master." The new K-9 Mark 5 beeped and slowly a grin appeared on the Doctor's face, one the Tardis hasn't seen in two years.
"Okay I can live with this"
"Affirmative." As the doors of the Tardis closed the Doctor activated the locator and beamed as the coordinates were fed into the Tardis computer. Rushing over to the screen he checked the coordinates.
"Hold on K-9 we're heading to Ritvo!"
Up Next: Old Faces of Ritvo I