As I am a professional writer and have work to do to get paid, I have decided to deal with these thudding plot bunnies in the traditional manner - I will inflict them on others. Please see my Profile for the Challenges of the Month. June Challenges will be available as of June 3rd, but feel free to tackle May's if you'd rather. The new set will run through the end of June. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.
A/N: The below contains SPOILERS. SPOILERS are included in the below story. They are SPOILERS. They contain information that may SPOIL THINGS FOR YOU. If you do not like SPOILERS, please DO NOT READ. If you ignore this and THEN decide you do not like THE SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS STORY, do not complain to me. I cannot make it any more clear, I just can't. THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS CHAPTER!!
A/N 2: I have been asked my opinion. I have several. This was the fastest way I could deal with it. However, a long, detailed rant may very well be forthcoming. I will post it as an essay/story, or I will add it to my profile page. Keep an eye out for it.
The Spoilers Ending
AKA: A River Rants Through It
"I suppose you're wondering," the Doctor said from the doorway, "why I'm not trying to stop you?" He hadn't meant the end of it to come out as a question, but it did.
Rose looked up from her packing and smiled at him. "Doctor, I'll admit I'm not the nineteen year old shop girl you picked up, not anymore, but I'm still not going to make you talk about something you don't want to discuss."
He nodded and shot a hand up through his hair. "Yeah, I know," he said. "So, as a result, I never told you anything. You had to find out everything the hard way." Flippantly, enthusiastically, he exclaimed, "Hey, guess what, I can change my face! See!"
Rose looked up at him and smiled fondly. "I survived," she said. "I learned. I... I love you anyway."
He nodded and came to sit next to her, putting his head on her shoulder where she was bent over a bag now half-full of the things she had left behind so long ago. "Rose, I... I..."
She reached over and put a small, trembling hand on his lips. "Shhh," she said. "Don't say it, the Universe will implode. I know. I've always known."
He nodded and then, suddenly, he couldn't stand it anymore. He jumped to his feet and kicked the wall of the TARDIS. She ignored him, always had, his temper meant nothing to her. "The Universe hates me, anyway, I dunno why I bother."
Rose looked at him, just looked at him, her head tilted to the side, tender concern in her large, brilliant eyes. "If you want to tell me, you can. I'll listen. If you don't, that's fine, too. I'll find out when it's time."
"I'd been getting hints, Rose. For months, everywhere we went, that you were coming back to me. And at first, I tried to kill the hope, but it wouldn't go away. We had a forever, after all, you promised. The Universe owed us, I thought."
"Well, maybe," she agreed, and folded up the Union Flag shirt, tucking it into the bag.
"Yeah, I know," he said, bitterly. "Because I've only saved it like fifty times or so. I guess it'll have to be more than that, though, before the Universe thinks it even owes me the common courtesy of linear time."
"What happened?" she asked softly.
"Like I said, the Universe hates me. Just when I'd started to think maybe we could see each other again, I met a girl."
"OK," said Rose, looking rather astonished.
"No, not like that," he said. "Well, yeah, like that, but it's part of what I'm talking about. See, she knew me. Knew me really, REALLY well. She'd known me for years, and I'd never met her before in my life. She looked at me when it finally dawned on her, and she told me - 'you're so young'. And then, I got worried."
"Who was she?"
"An archaeologist," he replied with a shrug.
"That's a bit funny," she said. "You usually point and laugh at archaeologists."
He nodded. "That's exactly what I said. And she kept trying not to tell me anything, but she trusted me like you do, and occasionally, she would say things or do things, reminded me of you a lot, Rose, of our relationship. It was weird."
"I take it I'll never meet her?" Rose asked.
"I honestly don't know," he said. "I sorta doubt it... it... I mean, I wouldn't... it isn't..." He stopped and forked his fingers through his hair again. "It wouldn't be fair, Rose, not to either of you. See, like I said, she knew a lot about me and eventually, just to get me to stop thinking she was a plant, she told me one piece of information that it's almost impossible for anyone to have."
"What was that?" Rose asked, but she didn't look curious, so much as sad.
"My name," he confessed, grimly. "You used to get all mortally offended about that, I remember."
Rose sighed. "I'm sorry, that's terrible. So you marry her or something?"
"Yeah, guess so." He shook his head, bitterly. "And it's terrible, because right at the end, she sacrificed herself to stop me doing it. Saved me, saved everyone. I managed to save her consciousness, but not her life. She'll live forever as part of the largest main frame in the Universe."
"So you saved her after she saved you. That's good, Doctor." Rose put a comforting hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "I'm sorry you lost her."
"There you go again," he said, gratefully, but then he shook his head bitterly. "The worst thing, though, is that she knew. At the end. She must have thought, the entire time we were together, the way she talked about me... she must have thought I was this wonderful, special, brilliant time traveler who just happened to turn up at odd intervals because he could. She knew in the end, though."
"What do you mean?" Rose asked.
"She figured it out, realized it, couldn't help it. That the entire time I knew her, I knew how she died. And there, at the end, she had to have realized the kind of bloody coward I really am. Because it's such a risk for me to be with people, because I always lose them. She must have thought right up until the end that it was because she was worth the risk or something. But it wasn't that. It was simply that there was no risk involved. I'll meet her and spend time with her and never have to worry about how she'll disappear because I'll always know exactly how I destroyed her."
Rose took his hand and held it tenderly. "I don't think you're a coward, Doctor. I think it's very brave of you to risk it, when you already know how it will end. Going through that, loving her, watching her age and change, knowing how she'll die and when. That's not a cowardly act."
"But it is!" he exclaimed. "Because I will do all these things, simply because I know I'll do them. Not because of her, not because of what she'll mean or not mean to me. But to preserve the time line. I'm a Time Lord, I won't be able to stop myself, even if I want to do. The instinct is too strong. So she'll have this strange alien husband and a life of her own away from him, and I'll turn up completely at random when she needs me or wants me, and it'll probably be some whirlwind courtship, because if I like her - and I will - I won't have any reason NOT to do everything I can to win her over."
He jerked his hands through his hair again and started flipping the sonic screwdriver in the air. "And here's the worst bit!" he raged. "After everything she said, I don't think I'll even be very original or creative. 'Cuz she sounded like you, a LOT like you. I'll just take what you and I could have had together and..." He hunted for a word, then spat the one that felt just disgusting enough out like it was poison: "recycle it!! " He caught the screwdriver one last time and flung it at the wall. "She'll live her whole life with me thinking I'm wonderful and she's unique and what I'll probably be doing is treating her like someone else."
He shook his head, shook off the rage, and let his head drop into his hands. "And that's just sick," he admitted.
Rose stood next to him, with tears in her eyes, tears of sympathy, maybe even empathy, the tears she knew he could never shed. "I'm so sorry," she said. "But, Doctor, her being like me doesn't prove anything about you. That might just be the way women who love you always act. Sarah Jane and I seem a bit the same, too, you know."
"No, not really. Sarah's not like you. She let me ruin her a tiny bit at a time and you never would. Martha, neither. Oh, she loved me to pieces but when it came down to it, she blamed me for everything, which neither you nor... her... would ever do."
"Oh," said Rose. "Well, still. I'm glad she'll love you, properly, and trust you and everything. I can't stay and it's good to know someone will be with you when you need them. Someone who can give you all the things I never could."
"Why does this sound like a conversation I've had before from the other side?" he asked vaguely. "And I'll still have to wonder how I'll destroy you in the end, anyway. Even after all this..." He stopped thinking and looked at her, really looked at her, put his hands on her shoulders and trapped her eyes with his baffled gaze. "Rose, how can you? After everything I've done and not done with you, every missed chance and last opportunity, and even now, when we could try to build a life together 'cuz we're at least in the same Universe, I'm standing here telling you we can't do it because I'm going to swan off and get married to some poor woman who obviously deserves better. And you're standing here, crying, not because I'm hurting you, but because I'm hurting." He was about to break down himself, he knew it. If her next words weren't 'because I'm better than you', he was going to fall apart right there at her feet.
"I'm not sure what you mean, Doctor," she said softly, reaching up a small hand to cup his cheek. "You can't destroy me. Everything that happens to me - everything - is my own choice. I create myself, remember. I had the entirety of time and space in my head, knew everything there was to know, and I chose me and I chose my path. I'm the way I am, because that's what I wanted to be. You have to understand that, even if I don't. Because there were things I knew then that I don't know anymore, and they're what I didn't want to give up."
He tilted his head into her hand and would have let the tears fall as his arms went around her, but she suddenly giggled as he went to pull her close. "I confess, all right," she said. "I'm a bit disappointed. Every body in the Universe gets to bloody snog you but me."
He set her back from him and looked at her, incredulously, unable to stop himself stammering, or his jaw hanging loose between stammers. "But..."
"No, not now," she said, and grinned with her tongue poking out her teeth. "It'd be weird."
"Why weird?" he wanted to know.
"Well, you're pretty much a married man. Ish. Just do me a favor and warn her you might change your face, yeah?"
He struggled to remember, didn't think she'd ever mentioned... "She'll never see me do it," he said, at last, when he was reasonably certain. "But I'll warn her, all the same, it's only fair."
"Time changes around you," Rose agreed. "So you have to be careful. And now, I need to finish packing. Can you drop me off at Jack's?"
He blinked in astonishment. "Jack's? Why're you going to Captain Fancy-all, then?"
"You sound like last you, saying that," she teased. Then her face became still and set. "I owe him, Doctor. He needs someone to hold his hand, right now. The girl he fancies just got married, he lost half his team, his brother's in his freezer. He spent a millennia buried under Cardiff to try to make up for what happened to the kid. He's older than you and lonelier than both of us put together. And he's only human and you're not and I'm... I can be there. It's the least I can do."
The Doctor nodded grimly. "He didn't tell me any of this. Oh, hell, and I knew it..."
"When we went to Cardiff the first time with Jack, I got a splitting headache trying to keep up with his time lines because they went askew. It must have been because there were three of him in the same place at the same time. I knew there were two, but the third... I could have fixed it."
"Stop it," she ordered. "You don't get to blame yourself. If anyone's to blame, it's me. I'm the one who insisted he had to be alive. Period."
"Captain Jack Harkness, fact," said the Doctor.
"Yeah, his business cards say that. Was that you?"
"Yeah," he admitted, then scratched the back of his neck nervously. "I'll go set the coordinates. And Rose... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Rose shook her head. "No. Don't apologize to me. We've talked about this before." She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a familiar brown wallet, flipping it open to reveal the words 'The story of my life'. "I've still got this. And I'll have my mobile, if you'll fix my new one. Call me or whatever, if you need me. Even if you want some help with your lady love, yeah?"
He sighed. "That's pretty much set in stone, isn't it?"
"Well, maybe. Maybe not. You'd know that better than me. Just... I'll be your friend, forever, Doctor, and don't you forget it. I promised and I'm never gonna leave you, not completely. We'll worry about the rest of it, later. What's time to a Time Lord, anyway?" She smiled then and gestured at her bedroom door. "Go on, take me to Cardiff."
"As you wish," he said, and turned to leave. At the door, he stopped, and spoke again, in the jangling syllables of his native language, words she wouldn't understand but should always have.
"I know," she replied. "Me, too."
Rose walked out of the TARDIS with her bag over her shoulder. The Doctor had modified it so it was bigger on the inside, and she had most of the things she'd lost with her. Not everything, though, because the TARDIS was her true home, and you had to leave things behind when you left home, even for an extended trip.
She looked around the Hub in astonishment. It was full of incredibly advanced technology, like she had never seen before, even in her own Torchwood. It looked like Jack's 51st century know-how had really played hell with the place.
She also noticed it was deserted, so she went to Jack's office to look for him, hoping he, at least, hadn't gone off. "I'm sorry if I'm a little late," she said. "You know how the Doctor is for punctuality."
A very, very drunk Jack Harkness looked up at her from his desk with extremely bleary eyes. "A little late?" he asked. "Sweet Jesus, I'd love to know what you two would call tardy."
She stared at him, worrying at her bottom lip while he poured another shot down his throat and another in a waiting glass at the same time. "Where is everybody?" she finally asked.
He snorted. "There isn't anybody, Rosie. There hasn't been anybody in a decade."
"What? What the hell year did that idiot drop me off in, then? I'll kill him."
"Sorry, there's a line," Jack said. Actually, what he said was "wworor, thessalin," but, thanks to growing up on the Estate all those ages ago, she translated drunk really well even without the TARDIS.
"So?" she demanded. "When am I?"
"Twenty-third century," he replied. "I'm celebrating, 'cuz tomorrow, I'm gonna blow the place up."
"Oh," she said. "And then what?"
"No idea," he admitted. "But we can always build something out of the parts lying around this hole. Probably could make a TARDIS with all this junk. Drink?"
She considered, looking around at the boxes and files and what-not that were making Jack's more-antique-than-it-ought-to-be desk look like it was an island floating in a pile of detritus. "Nah," she said. "I'll help you clean out your desk."
"Good idea," he answered vaguely, about one shot from passing out over top of it. "I can't seem to find it."
Rose just smiled at him and set to work.