Epilogue: All the Loose Ends
Rose slapped him playfully just before they decided to put in an appearance before the world, since they could hear cheerful, laughing voices from the other side of the door. He was explaining to her that she was right, everything really was better with two, even the shower. She rather thought his just-been-shagged hair style and the rather obvious love bites at her neck would be more than enough advertisement to his wild adopted brothers without him cracking random jokes like Captain Jack.
"Good morning," she said, somewhat shyly as they entered the sitting room.
Fred winked at her. "It's afternoon," she said dryly.
"Oops, really?" said the Doctor and scooped Rose up. "Well, Rose has had a very tiring week, have to put her back to bed now, sorry."
Rose reclined against him, giggling and kicking her feet. "Put me down, you crazy alien," she demanded.
After a few minutes, with Ro and Theed laughing in the background, he obliged, placing her with great care into an armchair and perching on the arm, smirking at her.
Fred stood and came over to kiss her cheek. "Congratulations," she said softly.
"You look like you feel better," Rose replied.
"Yeah, well, some rest, a full body massage, I'm fine. Or as fine as I'm going to be."
"How's Danika?" Rose asked.
"Fully recovered," Ro replied. "She's sleeping, she had an exhausting morning." He waggled his eyebrows at her, exactly as the Doctor usually did. She collapsed into helpless giggles, the buzz of the Doctor's own laughter comfortable against her shoulders where he leaned on her.
"Can we stay for awhile?" Rose asked him some time later, after the five of them had had lunch together and discovered several safe and perfectly ordinary mutual interests.
"I want to," he said and, simple as that, they decided.
There were still so many things to do, things the Doctor didn't normally handle, like clean-up. Like funerals.
Along with Fred, Rose presided over the state funeral for the murdered guards, in blue robes, with silver stars scattered across them. She had been there when they had died; they had died protecting her and their Polyfather and the people of Malaclypse. She had felt responsible in a way, at least to see them to their final rest, so when Fred asked her, she didn't hesitate.
Before this, Rose would never have thought the Discordians very good at managing mourning. They were always so carefree and flighty, it had seemed so unlikely that sorrow would even be viable in their makeup. As she stood at the head of the huge congregation and spoke an elegy to those whose sacrifice had given them time to protect the Polyfather of Malaclypse and the people caught in that small court area with them, she was surprised to discover that she was speaking not to distraught mourners but to those who celebrated the lives of those who had been lost. Yes, there were tears, and yes, there were weeping spouses and children who had lost a parent, but there was still an overwhelming sense of gratitude, even among the most bereaved, for the life that had been spent with them.
"When I die," she told the Doctor, some time later, since she knew he would long outlive her, "I want a funeral like this. I want someone to break out bottles of wine from the year I was born, I want people to drink toasts to my accomplishments and my simple days, and I want my most loved ones to stand up and tell people the simple things they'll remember about me for the rest of their lives, so everyone will know who I was, not just my name and that I died."
"As you wish," he said, pain quite prevalent in his eyes. "If you don't out-live me, I'll see to it we throw you a really beautiful party. And if you out-live me, for whatever reason, just see to it my body is burned, and everything else will be fine."
"Don't want people to talk about the good things you did?"
"No," he said. "Because it's all tarnished and barren and until I met you, I wasn't sure I was even doing anything worth doing any more."
"I don't know what to say," she told him, completely floored to hear such a thing. In the back of her mind, she could see him, shouting out with ineffable joy, "Everybody lives, Rose!"
"Could really do with more days like those," he said as he felt the brush of her memory. "I don't want to bury you, you know."
"I don't want to cremate you, either," she said sadly. Then, catching a look at his distressed, tired face, she stole a brief moment of humor and added, flippantly, "So I say we put it off."
His face relaxed into a helpless smile, caught in the wonder of her mortal, human joy. "Yeah, why not? We'll just have to keep you in shape."
"Sure, running, running, running, oh, and hopping for our lives."
"Yeah, that," he agreed. Then he kissed her, deeply. "And maybe a more recent addition to your exercise routine?" he asked hopefully.
She laughed helplessly and they moved together, shining brightly, beautiful. It was a fundamental celebration of life, as primitive as the most ancient days, as eternal as time itself.
She lay in his arms much later, finally understanding something that had escaped her small human awareness throughout their life together to this point. He was chaos itself, in his way, that proverbial dancing star, a lone candle in all the windows in the Universe. And she had bound herself to him of her own free will, tied her heart strings to the Storm itself. She was in love with the last of the Time Lords and, though no power was strong enough to drag those words past his lips, he was in love with her, too. He said it to her, every single day since the day they met. Every single time he touched her hand, every time he shared a little bit of his enigmatic, glorious, staggering self with her. Every time the word "Run," left his mouth, he was telling her no more and no less than "Rose Tyler, I love you."
He looked up at her, his hair in wild disarray, his rich brown eyes so huge and sleepy and breath-takingly unguarded. He took her hand and held it tight. When he spoke, his voice was like promise, and held the echos of eternity in it, a life that staggered her in its agelessness, and gave itself into her care. He was beauty incarnate, wonder, love far beyond the mortal meaning of the word. "Now you know."
The arrival of the Procter of Zydrestra was not pretty. He brought with him an entourage of soldiers, who Fred had quietly surrounded while he wasn't looking. He also brought a tall, powerfully built girl maybe a year Danika's junior, with close shorn ginger hair that looked as if it had been suffered to grow, quite possibly against its owner's wishes.
"There will be blood paid for this insult," the Procter shouted, looking furiously at his daughter dressed in mad Discordian fashion, bright colors that clashed with her hair. She was healthier now and had been laughing on her husband's arm up until the moment of her father's not unexpected incursion. It showed on her face, the joy she found in her new home and her new life. She had a sun burn from the day the lot of them had spent climbing trees in the apple orchard. She had a bad dye job in her hair from where she and Rose had been playing with cosmetics from the market. She had on trainers the Doctor had bought for her the afternoon they'd all gone off to visit Theed's part of the world and she'd almost broken her ankle in her fancy boots.
"Generally speaking," said Ro in his most flippant voice, "people don't insult me in this manner in my own throne room."
"No, they insult you differently," Danika teased, and Rose knew she was brave because he was fearless, and she knew she was safe with him. Rose was all too familiar with that, and drew closer to the Doctor out of a habit that was almost instinct.
"Exactly," Ro said. "Come, Procter. Bring your family and I'll bring mine and we'll sit quietly and discuss this like civilized adults."
"How dare you?" the old man demanded, his face white.
The girl with him took his arm and leaned over to whisper something to him. Whatever it was, it didn't please him, but it did make the blotchy grey color recede from his cheeks a bit. "Very well. But the only thing we will be discussing is reparations."
Rose looked at the Doctor and heard the thunder roll. She hoped, for the Procter's sake, that the old man could hear it as well.
They sat in the largest conference room in the royal wing, the six of them at one end, the Procter, his younger daughter, and four large burly men with him. The Doctor almost found it amusing, that the man had to surround himself with the trappings of his power even when discussing something that obviously embarrassed him.
Theed, apparently, found it to be an excuse to make a nuisance of himself. "Let's go around the table and introduce ourselves," he said, as cheerful and childlike as any primary school teacher. "I'm Theed."
The Doctor smirked at his brother. "The Doctor," he said. "Rose Tyler, my wife."
"Everybody here knows my wife," said Ro, "and I'm the Polyfather of Malaclypse. Call me Ro unless you're really declaring war on me."
"Fred, High Priestess of Eris."
"I've heard of you," said the next man. "General Wan Due. Honored to meet you, High Priestess."
Fred smiled vapidly at him and, as soon as he turned his head, rolled her eyes at her family. Rose put a hand up over her mouth to keep from giggling.
"General Cor Stin."
"General Kadin Karissa," said the red-haired girl. "And my father, Kadin Ardes, Procter of Zydrestra."
"General Tun Car," introduced the grey haired, grey-eyed older man next to the Procter. He looked rather like he might actually be related to the Procter, having similar eyes that looked at Danika with obviously genuine concern.
"General Rob By," said the largest man in the group, a dark skinned, towering man who looked vaguely uncomfortable, as though his chair was a bit small. For his long legs, it probably was.
"You must be my wife's cousin, then," said Ro, thoughtfully. "She hasn't mentioned you once."
"No sir," said General By, quite politely. Somehow, he looked thoroughly amused. "I'm here at the Procter's request."
"Yes, well, the thing is, I asked he bring family, not random military factors. On Malaclypse, anyone can be family if there's a reason, so I thought I'd clear that up. Now that we all understand where the Procter's coming from, let's move on. I married her. I love her. I've been told by my brother - this one, not that one - that he'll marry your other daughter if and only if she'll consent freely."
Karissa looked quite baffled at this.
"I insist, Priestess, that this marriage be annulled immediately," the Procter replied grimly.
"Sorry," said Fred, "you can't imagine how often I get that request. The thing is, I can't annul a marriage that's been consummated, and these two... well..." She blushed artfully. "That's not a problem they seem to have, although apparently, they do fight over the covers."
"I can't believe you told her that," said Ro, laughing.
"I told Rose, she thought it was funny. She told Fred who said I should get used to it."
"Stop this at once!" the Procter shouted. "What have you done to her? Where is her modesty, where is her decorum? Where is that training she has spent her life gaining, toward dignity and proper, respectful behavior?"
Danika stood up, suddenly, and slammed her hands down on the table. She had, apparently, finally had it. "Sorry, Procter," she sneered, copying Rose's accent at its worst, "I kinda forgot balancing books on my head while hiding in those rabbit warren caves in the bloody mountains. If you weren't so sodding insane about your power and your government and your half-arsed military ideals, you might have noticed we had a fucking war on. No one needs a fluff-ball pink gown fairy princess in a war zone."
Karissa had jumped to her feet at the start and, though she originally looked like she intended to put her sister back into her place, the woman's face softened as Danika's tirade continued. When it stopped, she smiled at her sister and nodded.
"You will not speak to me in this manner," the Procter ordered with a sneer that made him look quite whiny.
"She'll speak to you any way she likes," said Theed, coldly. "She's a free human being. You may have sired her, but you don't own her."
"Or anyone," Fred added, gazing pointedly at the towering young general.
"Malaclypse will pay for this insult, this perpetual indignity. You will pay, personally, Polyfather, and all your family besides."
The generals at the table all looked quite askance at the Procter as he said this. Ro had jumped to his feet but, to make matters infinitely more dangerous, so had the Doctor.
"I think that's enough posturing for now," said the Time Lord. Then he dropped into his mode of speech that Rose liked to call "talk for the world" mode - rapid, clipped, and confusing. "I think you'd just best learn to live with your inconvenience, Procter, because my brother's married her and, if I'm not horribly mistaken..." He whipped out the sonic screwdriver, pointed it at Danika for a split second, then tilted it back where he could read it. "Nope, always right. I'm clever like that. Little horror on the way for them. Oh, that'll be fun. I think I'll get you blocks, and maybe a picture book with a pop-up castle in the middle of it. What do you think Rose? Castle or race track?" She looked up at him fondly and rolled her eyes as he grinned brilliantly, turning back on his quarry with the Storm blazing in his eyes. "Nevermind. What you need to understand, Procter, is that the world's moved on beyond the point you're stuck on. You can either catch up, or you can be run down by the crowd behind you. I couldn't care less which, and if you must know, you really don't matter all that much. In the great whopping scheme of the entire political heavens, or really even in the local governing bodies, the planet Zydrestra isn't looming so large as one fairy bun in the entire Atlantic Ocean. So I'd strongly recommend you suck up and drive on. Ro's people have more tech than you. They have more ships than you, they have more really cool toys to power it with than you. What they don't want is a war or even a small, tedious little family feud like you're promising. They want lasting peace. Me, I want to make sure that Zydrestra doesn't end up like the rest of the planets in your system. You had four over there to start with. Couldn't take care of them, think you'd be a little more careful with the last one you've got, right?"
"Who are you that you dare say such things to me?" demanded the Procter.
"Who are you that it'd be particularly daring?" countered Ro.
They could, quite obviously, have continued indefinitely, the Doctor's words having no impact on the Procter's maddening sense of having been cheated out of something, Ro's assurances giving him no satisfaction. Fred's words bounced off the man completely - he wouldn't listen to her, simply because she was female.
"Hi," said Theed, standing up in the middle of his brother's next attempt and walking around the table to tap Karissa on the shoulder. "I'm Theed, and I understand we're supposed to be married. Are you interested?"
"Do you snore?" she asked, coldly, though her lips twitched.
"Only when I'm drunk," he replied humorously. "You?"
"Dunno, no witnesses."
He smirked. "I'll let you know, then," he said.
"She could snore for the planet," Danika interrupted, rolling her eyes. "And so could you, Theed, if Ro's any one to judge by."
"Or this one," Rose agreed, nudging the Doctor with her elbow. "You should get along fine."
"You people are very strange," Karissa said, wonderingly.
"You started it," Theed said, his eyes twinkling madly at her. "Tell you what, why don't we let the conference do its own thing and I'll take you out to play Sink or something?"
"I want to play," said Rose and Fred simultaneously.
"You're not invited," Theed replied haughtily. "What do you say, General? Leave the war and go play a game?"
She looked down at her father glaring at her, and across at her sister's encouraging nod. "Yeah, why not?" she said, and came up beside him. She was only two inches shorter so she looked him right in the eye. He winked at her outrageously and she laughed, a pretty sound that filled the room with an enormous sense of relief. He offered her his arm and she took it and they left the conference behind them. No one even tried to stop them.
"Well, that's promising," said Ro. "So tell me, are we going to try to reach an agreement now?"
The Procter looked after his daughter, then over at General Carr, who nodded briefly. Defeated, the old man slumped into his seat. "What do you want?" he asked.
"My wife's happiness. My family's good will. My people's safety. Peace. Nothing else is particularly worth worrying about."
The three brothers - it was getting easier and easier to think of them all as full brothers as the days went on - surprised the whole world later that night with a demonstration of a rather unexpected talent. Rose had known the Doctor could sing - over the past month, she'd learned he had a habit of singing in the shower that apparently went back for as long as he could remember. She'd heard Theed singing once, too, in a high, boyish tenor that was quite lovely. Ro, though, had it in his title that he sang off-key, so she was surprised to learn that it only applied when he was drunk.
Standing in the same spotlight she had so long ago when she reclaimed her Doctor from his misguided little thief, the three brothers serenaded the crowd with a series of old love songs, sung in perfect three-part tenor harmony. Their identical voices did something to the sound that made it exquisite beyond words, sounding more like a single voice split into harmony by a musical prism. The Doctor carried more of the solos, she was amused to note, though she supposed he'd had more than 900 years to practice. Still, he looked her in the eye the entire time, his voice wreathing delicately around words of love and companionship and lifelong promise.
He coaxed her down and got her to join him in an encore of "As Time Goes By", which left her shaking in her shoes. It was a love song, she'd always known that, but the way their voices blended made it seem like it was written just for a Time Lord and his love.
They stayed on Malaclypse for more than two months in the end. Rose knew, though, that the world outside of their peaceful haven wouldn't wait forever, so when he woke her one morning with the news that he was ready to face the music and, more to the point, the mother-in-law, she was content to be moving on.
In a flurry of silent discussion as they collected their things to go, they decided to leave the heavily jeweled collar as Rose's gift to the royal collection. The chain they kept, but collar and cuff were returned to the royal collections of Malaclypse where, the Doctor assured Ro as they presented the pair, they truly belonged. "They're part of your history, not ours," Rose said. "Even if they did make ours. It's important that they stay here. Something for the world to remember us by."
They promised to return as soon as they could. "At least for Theed's wedding," the Doctor assured them, "since he helped out so much with mine."
"Yeah, we won't be a hundred years off this time, either," said Rose.
The good-byes were tearful and cheery at the same time. Rose would have been surprised before, but didn't even bat an eye this time when the Doctor threw his arms around the twins and pulled them in for a large hug. He kissed Fred's cheek, offered to take her with them, and told his adopted family he loved them. Rose cried more from that than anything.
"Take care of him, he needs you," Fred whispered.
Rose nodded, too choked up to be able to say a thing.
"Told you chaos would handle everything."
Rose nodded helplessly again and laughed a little. "I love you so much, Fred," she said.
"Love you, too, Rose. Take care of yourself."
"Don't forget to write," Theed instructed as they stepped toward the TARDIS to leave.
The Doctor swept her up and carried her inside, while she laughed and demanded to be put down, and dashed tears from her cheeks. "Your first time into your home as a bride, you get carried, and that's all there is to it," he said. "Half the societies in the universe have that idea."
He closed the doors behind them as he set her down beside him, keeping her close because she was emotional and fragile and, to be honest with himself, he needed her because he wasn't feeling excruciatingly excellent, either.
He cuddled Rose close and let her cry on his shoulder as he started the dematerialization sequence. The TARDIS was singing gleefully in his head, smug that her little trip to Malaclypse had turned out even beyond her expectations. He got the impression she thought he and Rose belonged together, had always belonged together.
"I hate to think of Fred being alone, with her brothers married and everything," Rose said softly as the TARDIS swirled aimlessly through the Vortex.
"She doesn't believe in lasting commitments, our Fred," he said. "Except to her job."
"Let's take Jack with us when we go back, then," Rose suggested cheekily.
"Good idea." The Doctor laughed out loud, and picked her up again, the golden rose girl who could bring sunshine with her whatever the gloom around them looked like. "Got a whole universe to show you, my Rose, my wife," he said softly. "All of time and space and everything in it, and it's yours. But I thought I'd start with our bedroom."
"Good idea," she repeated and settled herself into her husband's arms. Their life together would be chaos and madness, no doubt, but they'd picked the perfect place to start it and everything else was better with two.
A/N: The end of this story, the beginning of everything else. Please let me know what you thought. I will respond to final reviews within a couple of days. Ask me any questions, let me know what you loved, hated, want cleared up, anything like that.