Author's Notes: Written for the Summer Lovin' ficathon on LJ. Many many thanks to my betas, Aibhinn and wmr.
TARDIS technical specifications are from the TARDIS Type 40 Handbook, Copyright 2002 by A.B. Roberts.
Rose let out a yelp as she landed, hard, on her bottom. In a vain effort to regain her balance, she'd flung her arms out when she slipped on the shale. Instead, she landed painfully hard on one hand as well, and her first reaction was to check and see if it was scraped or broken.
So it took her a moment to realize that she wasn't sitting on the shale-covered slope where she'd fallen. Instead, she was on grass that had appeared out of nowhere. Grass that wasn't thick enough to be much of a cushion, she thought ruefully.
And while a grassy hill had suddenly appeared, the Doctor had just as suddenly disappeared.
"Another one! Are you all right?" A large male hand was thrust in front of her. Rose looked up from her undignified position into a pair of bright blue eyes. Their owner had also suddenly appeared out of nowhere.
"Um, yeah," she said in a voice that was as uncertain as she felt. "I don't think anything is broken. Where…"
"A better question might be 'when,'" said the man bending down in front of her. "You're still on Elarion, but you slipped right through time. You might feel a little muddled from the displacement effect. Here, let me help you up."
She grasped his hand with her uninjured one, noticing that his fingers were cool to the touch. She winced a little as he pulled her to her feet. "Thanks," she said.
The man was tall, with a mop of thick brown curls. One end of his long scarf had fallen when he'd bent to help her up, and now he threw it back over his shoulder.
Rose stared at the scarf. It was familiar, as was the coolness of the stranger's hand. She should recognize these things, but she was feeling a bit slow. "Slipped through time…." she murmured. Then another thought struck her. "You said another one?"
The man nodded. ""I've been picking up strays through this little time slip for the past few days, coming in from different points in Elarion's history. Natives and tourists like you. I sent all but one of them back. The last one is too young to tell me when she came from. I may have to find some foster parents for her if I can't figure out her place in time."
Rose brightened. "You found a little girl? About this high, all in green?" When the man nodded, she smiled. "We were looking for her! So she went through this, this time slip thing? And she's all right?"
The stranger grinned, a smile that would have been alarmingly wide on any other face but one that seemed to suit him perfectly. "She's right as rain! I left her back at my ship. Let's go get her, and then I'll send you both back when you belong. Come on….sorry, I didn't get your name?"
"I'm the Doctor," the man said, setting off down the hill and continuing to talk. "If you came from her time period, then that means the temporal slip has stopped slipping and I just might…"
He went on, but Rose wasn't hearing him any more. I'm the Doctor. The mental fog was lifting, and she realized where she'd seen the scarf before.
It had been hanging in the TARDIS wardrobe room.
And straight ahead of them, at the bottom of the grassy hill, was the TARDIS herself.
Right planet, wrong time, wrong Doctor.
"….that means the temporal slip has stopped slipping and I just might be able to finally close it off before something really disastrous happens," the Doctor said, pulling his key out of his pocket and opening the TARDIS door. He turned to look back at Rose, who was gaping at him from a little way up the hill. "Are you coming?"
The Doctor looked at the TARDIS, then again at Rose. "Oh, not to worry. Plenty of room. Things aren't always what they seem." He stepped through the door and strode over to the console to check some readouts. He heard the door close, and waited for it.
White? The Doctor turned with an eyebrow raised in surprise. "Most people notice that it's bigger on the inside before they notice the colour scheme."
The young woman was looking around with wide eyes. "Um, yeah…it…it is bigger. And very…white."
"Still muddled from the time slip?" he asked in sudden concern. No one else had remained disoriented for this long.
Rose shook her head. "No, I'm fine…fine."
He stepped closer and tilted her chin up to look into her eyes. "Hmmm. Well, unless humans have suddenly started keeping their brains in their bottoms, you can't be concussed. You look all right." He released her and turned back to the console again.
Sarita? Oh, the child. "I left her in the Cloisters. It's enough like home to make her comfortable," he said, pointing toward the corridor entrance.
She looked at him incredulously. "You left a two year old alone? That could be dangerous! No telling what she could get into!"
"Oh, I gave her some jelly babies first. Perfectly all right."
"A two year old, left alone, on sugar?" Incredulity was turning into anger.
Does she think I'm an idiot? "A two year old Elarionite on sugar. For her, a handful of jelly babies is like a cup of warm milk for you. It put her right to sleep. She'll be safe there till we get you back to when you belong," he told her with a smile meant to reassure. "And just when is that?"
He sighed impatiently. "The date you two came from?" She looked at him blankly, and he prodded, "Or at least the year, if your head got too muddled to remember the day. I can take you to the end of it and you'll only have lost a little bit of time."
Rose's eyes widened. "I…I don't know!"
It was his turn to be incredulous. "How can you not know at least the year you're in?"
She looked around as if searching for the answer. "He never told me…."
"Who never told you what?" he pressed.
"The—my designated driver," she answered, clearly stopping herself from saying something else. She's hiding something. "Never mentioned the year when we landed…"
He looked at her intently. "Never told you the year? You sound like a time traveller."
She nodded. "Yeah."
Now who's the idiot? Typical meddling humans, playing tourists through time! "Here for the Solstice Festival?" When she nodded again, he said, "Well, that narrows it down. The Elarionites celebrated that one for only about two centuries!" He let anger colour his tone now. "What kind of time traveller doesn't know when she's landed? I know you're blonde, but do you have to live up to the stereotype?"
She reddened. "Oi!"
That struck a nerve. Good. "And as for your designated driver, what kind of idiot takes someone travelling and then lets her run around loose through time and space with no idea of when she is? Does he even know what kind of paradoxes that can cause? He's reckless, he's irresponsible, he's…"
"He's you!" Rose interrupted sharply. Then she clapped her hand over her mouth, with a horrified look in her eyes.
The Doctor gaped at her, flabbergasted. "Oh, dear."
They stared at each other in shocked silence. Rose mentally kicked herself on her already-sore backside. She hadn't meant to tell him anything, but the implication that she was dumb had provoked her. Now what?
The Doctor finally cleared his throat. "Well, then. We're going to have to choose our words carefully. I can't know about my own future."
Rose uncovered her mouth. "I know. Paradoxes. Reapers."
"I said to be careful!" the Doctor snapped. Then his shoulders sagged. "So you know about Reapers. What in Rassilon's name will I be doing in the future?" He held up a warning finger. "Don't answer that!"
Rose smiled a little. "I wasn't going to."
"All right then. We need to come up with a way to get you and little Sarita back to the correct time, and we need to seal up the time slip." He turned back to the console and started tapping on the keyboard. "Now, all the previous drop-ins came from different eras. You two came from the same point in time. How long had you been searching for her before you took your little tumble?"
Rose thought for a moment. "About…two hours," she said, remembering. The Elarionites had been frantic with worry about the child, initially accusing her and the Doctor of kidnapping her, then begging them to help in the search.
The Doctor nodded. "She arrived about two hours before you did. The slip has stabilised somewhat, then."
"Does that mean we can get back through?"
He shook his head. "Not from this end, I'm afraid. At least, not right now. The time slip is a one-way trip. But…." He stopped to think for a moment. "Each time someone's fallen through there's been a spike in artron energy."
"It's temporal energy from the Time Vortex. It powers the TARDIS." He studied the monitor. "The intervals between spikes have been getting shorter, each one half as long as the previous one. The next interval should be just under an hour from now."
Rose leaned against the console to look at the monitor with him. "If the intervals are getting shorter, then doesn't that mean the slip will eventually get stuck open?"
"Wouldn't that be dangerous?"
Another grin, the kind that said, We're in trouble and isn't it wonderful? Apparently some things never changed, no matter how many times he regenerated. "Oh, yes. Good for Elarion that we're here to fix that, isn't it? So! If we can channel the artron energy properly, we can lasso the time slip, get the two of you through and then seal it off." He circled around the console, looking at different controls and readouts. "Normally, the artron frequency controller feeds both the space displacement creator and the time vector generator. If I cut off the AFC feed to the SDC and only send it to the TVG, then I can use the PDU to generate an artron beam and hold the time slip open from this end." He stopped circling and looked up at Rose. "What do you think?"
The technobabble hasn't changed, either. She shrugged. "Umm….sounds…A-OK?"
"You didn't understand a word I just said, did you?"
At least he didn't call me a stupid ape. Must have come up with that later. "Just that you're about to do some jiggery-pokery to get us home," she answered.
"Jiggery-pokery?" He smiled. "I'll have to remember that."
She grinned back. "So, if you use this artron energy stuff to open the time slip here, how do you make sure it opens in the right place…the right time… on the other end?"
He gave her a pleased look. "Excellent question! I take back what I said about stereotypes! How indeed?" He began pacing, one had behind his back and one hand to his chin. "The TARDIS is here, and the TARDIS is there. Or more accurately, the TARDIS is now, and the TARDIS is then. We should be able to find your TARDIS with the correct use of huon energy..."
Rose furrowed her brow. "Huon energy?"
The Doctor shook out of his musing. "Ah, yes! Huon energy. It's ancient, dark time energy that only exists in TARDISes now."
"So you can track a TARDIS by finding huon energy?" she asked.
He nodded. "Exactly! But to reach the right TARDIS and your version of me…" He scratched his head in thought. "To do that, we need a catalyst. A key…"
"Like this one?" Rose reached for the chain around her neck and pulled out her TARDIS key.
Manic glee was apparently also common to all his regenerations. The Doctor beamed with another one of his huge grins. "Exactly like that one! Fantastic!"
He took the key and set it on the console, tapping keys again. "We open the time slip, and send a trickle of huon energy through it using your key to get a lock on the huon energy store on your version of the TARDIS. That will focus the slip to the right destination so we can send you through." He paused, glee changing to sobriety . "I should warn you, this could be very dangerous."
"That's nothing new for me," Rose said confidently. "But what about Sarita? What if we keep her here, and then I come back with my Doctor to get her?"
He shook his head. "The time lattices are too delicate here. Two of the same TARDISes in close temporal proximity are too dangerous. We could fracture the whole thing. No, you and Sarita will have to go through together. Then the future me will have to send a tachyon pulse back down the beam to close things up. Time slip sealed, and we're all on our way!" He sat down on the deck and opened a panel on the underside of the console. "We have just enough time. Care to assist me in some joggery-pokery?"
"That's jiggery-pokery," Rose corrected with a grin, relieved to see him jovial once again.
"Right! Jiggery-pokery! I quite like that!" Still smiling widely, the Doctor set to work.
The Doctor finished the last connection and stood up. "All done and ready to go. I just have to flip this switch when the slip opens in…ten minutes, and it becomes a two-way street to take you home. Then my future self needs to send the tachyon pulse before the slip closes again."
"How will he know to do that?" Rose asked. "He told me he'd never been to Elarion before…so either he knew and was hiding this from me, or…"
He nodded in understanding. "More likely that I need to wipe my memory of our meeting. Although I still want to remember jiggery-pokery!" he said with a wink. Then he became serious. "We need to leave me some instructions. Sort of a message in a bottle, to tell myself what to do. I can leave it here in the TARDIS data banks, and she'll play it at the right time."
"You don't have to wipe her memory?"
He shook his head. "No, and I couldn't if I wanted to. Doesn't work that way. This old girl knows more than I ever will."
"All there is, all there was, and all that ever could be," Rose murmured reflectively. She looked as if she was remembering something.
The Doctor watched her in concern. She'd just described Time Lord othersense. How could she know that? "Are you all right?"
She shook herself. "Yeah. So, a message?"
"You can record it yourself, if you'd like."
She nodded, smiling now. "I would like. Where do I stand?"
He pointed to a spot a few feet away from the console. "Right there will do. You just need to tell me to fire a tachyon pulse, backfeeding it along the artron beam."
"Tachyon pulse. Backfeed it along the artron beam. Got it," Rose said. "I'm ready."
He pressed the button for the holo-recorder and gave her a nod.
"This…" She hesitated, then suddenly smiled mischievously. "This is Emergency Programme Rose."
He stiffened in shock. She's seen Emergency Programme One, she understands othersense, and she knows about Reapers. What am I going to be doing in the future? He shook himself and listened to her continue.
"I'm all right, and so is Sarita. We both fell through a time slip. And we ran into you! An earlier you, with a big grin, a long scarf and even more hair than you've got now!" she said teasingly. "You don't remember it because he's wiping his memory once we get back to you. Doctor, he's going to use his TARDIS to send an artron beam through the slip. Once we get through, you're supposed to…to backfeed a tachyon pulse along the beam to close it."
"Tell him about the intervals, too," the Doctor prompted.
She nodded excitedly. "Oh, yeah, right! The slip has been opening in regular intervals, and they keep getting shorter. The next one will be an hour from when I disappeared…so that's how long you have to get the pulse ready." She paused for a moment. "Doctor, if you don't get it done, I want you to know that what I said before is still true. I love...I love travelling with you, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Not for the universe. If I don't make it back, have a fantastic life. Do that for me, okay?"
Her voice had started to tremble. The Doctor watched her for a moment, then reached over to switch the recorder off. "Not much time left. Why don't you get Sarita? I need to watch the monitors."
Rose sniffled just a bit. "Which way to the Cloisters?"
He gave her the directions, then watched her leave. After a moment, he turned back to contemplate the monitor.
Sarita was sleeping when Rose found her, curled up next to one of the Cloister columns, looking like an elf all in green. Forest green clothes, grass green skin, and yellow-green hair. She was just missing the pointy ears. Rose bent down and shook her shoulder gently. "Sarita, sweetheart, wake up. I've come to take you home."
The little girl stirred and stretched, opening her yellow eyes. "Mum-eh?"
Rose held a hand out to her. "I'm going to take you back to your mum. Come on."
Tiny fingers grasped her hand, and Rose led her back down the corridors and out to the console room again. The Doctor was leaning on the console with a pensive expression. "Is everything all right?" Rose asked in concern.
He shook himself out of his reverie. "Yes, everything is just fine." He bent down to Sarita's eye level. "All ready to go home?"
"Want Mum-eh!" the child answered.
The Doctor straightened up and patted her head. "This nice lady is going to take you to her," he said. He picked up Rose's TARDIS key from the console and held it out for her. "This is all calibrated and ready to go. It's almost time." He flicked the switch on the console, and then pulled a knob. The outer door opened with a whoosh and he gestured toward it. "After you."
Rose took one more look around the console room. "It's really, very….white," she said with a little laugh.
The Doctor shook his head. "I take you into a dimensionally transcendent timeship, and all you can say is, 'It's very white.' Makes me wonder what the future holds for us, old girl," he said as he patted the TARDIS console.
He left the outer door open after they stepped outside, and walked with them up the hill a little way. "This will do," he said. "Just a minute now. You should carry her. You're less likely to get separated that way. And hold your key up, about…here." He held his hand up at her eye level, then nodded.
Rose lifted Sarita into her arms. "Wish us luck," she said as Sarita wrapped her arms around her neck.
"I don't believe in luck," the Doctor replied. "But I am glad I met you, Rose. And I'm looking forward to meeting you again one day." His eyes held hers. Then he made a motion for her to hold up her key. "It's time."
Rose put the key up to her eye level. An ellipse of blue-white light appeared in front of her, a beam of the light passing between the ellipse and the TARDIS, with her key as a focal point.
"Go!" the Doctor urged. "Safe journey!"
Rose nodded and stepped forward and through the glowing ellipse. The light was so bright that she had to shut her eyes as she moved forward. Then she was falling again, forward this time instead of backwards. Her eyes snapped open as a pair of cool hands caught her and steadied her. "Doctor?" She felt more muddled this time than before.
Warm brown eyes and a familiar smile greeted her. "Welcome home, Rose. And the little princess!"
More hands were reaching toward her. She caught flashes of grass green as someone took Sarita from her arms. She could hear joyful weeping and Sarita crying, "Mum-eh!"
Then she couldn't hear another thing.
"We're back in the Vortex?"
The Doctor was at the console when Rose walked in unsteadily. "Ah, sleeping beauty awakes! A little woozy still? Well, two unshielded time trips in row will do that to you. You ought to sit for a little bit. Yes, we're back in the Vortex. The time lattices around Elarion were a bit too fragile for us to hang around. I'm afraid we had to decline quite a nice welcome home party. A ball, actually. The Elarionites were very grateful to us for rescuing Sarita."
Rose sat in the captain's chair. "A ball? Because we rescued one little girl?"
"Ah, but she wasn't just any little girl," the Doctor said, coming around the console and leaning against it to face her. "She was Her Serene Highness, the Infanta Sarita Szinzana D'Elario, heiress to the throne of Elarion."
"I rescued a princess?" Rose asked, wide-eyed with surprise.
"We rescued a princess," the Doctor corrected. "It was me, after all. Just with bigger hair."
"And bigger teeth!" Rose giggled. The memory of that smile would stay with her forever.
"Oh, I wasn't that bad, was I? Let's see. That earlier me left a recording. I thought you'd like to see it." He flipped a switch to turn on the holoprojector. An image of the Doctor she'd left behind appeared on the deck.
"If you're seeing this message, then Rose is back safely with you and you're on your way," said the image. He gave them one of those alarmingly wide grins. "Go on, laugh at my looks. She did! But remember that you're just laughing at yourself!"
"Oh, just wait a couple of regenerations!" the Doctor answered himself with a smile. When Rose shot him a surprised glance, he said, "I haven't always been this dashing."
"But you have always been this full of yourself," she teased.
"Oi! And to think I said something nice about you in this recording!" He pushed a button to forward it, and then sat next to her.
"Rose hinted at enough to let me know the future will hold some real terrors for me. It looks like you found the right person to help you through them." The recorded Doctor paused for a moment. "Leela just left to stay with Andred. I was thinking that I wouldn't take on any more assistants. It's getting difficult, protecting them, teaching them…and then having to leave them behind, or having them leave me. I thought I wouldn't….but since you have Rose, I suppose I did. Never say never ever, eh?" He grinned, then turned serious. "I won't wish you luck, but I will tell you to be careful."
The hologram faded away. "Never say never ever," the Doctor echoed. He looked over at Rose. "Have I told you lately that I'm glad I met you?"
She smiled and gave him a nudge with her shoulder. "You might have mentioned it. Nice hearing it again, though."
"Then I'll have to remember to tell you more often. I am glad I met you, Rose, and I love..." he paused, and she looked at him quizzically. He took a breath and went on, "I love traveling with you. And now I think I owe you a treat for missing out on both the Solstice Festival and a royal ball." He slid off the seat. "Hmmm…I know! We've met a queen, and now we've met a princess….why don't we go see the King?"
She noticed the emphasis. "The king?"
He grinned widely. "There's only one! Elvis, of course! Go on back to the wardrobe. I think the TARDIS will have something appropriate."
Rose slid off the chair. "All right. Sounds like fun." She headed back to the corridor, then stopped and turned toward him. "But you know, I don't really need a king. After all, I've got a knight. Sir Doctor."
"Dame Rose," he returned. "Off with you now. I need to polish my armor and prepare my noble steed."
She chuckled as she headed back down the corridor toward the wardrobe room. As usual, he'd managed to dodge revealing his feelings. Likely that leaving and losing companions had taught him too well to not wear his hearts on his sleeve.
That was all right. He didn't need to say anything.