Disclaimer: As if you need me to tell you I don't own Doctor Who.
A/N- I'm American, and so is my grammar...
It wasn't like falling. Gravity was nothing compared to this. This was like in science fiction films, when there's a hole in the hull of the ship and everything gets sucked outside. Except this time there was a hole in the world. And Rose wasn't running out of oxygen, but she was barely clinging to life all the same.
As if she had intentions of doing anything else.
We're falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny planet, and if we let go…
If she let go, that was it. It was over. So she clung to the lever, fingers scrabbling for a hold. Just a few more minutes, just one more second, just hold on a bit longer. There was a moment when she thought she had it, that everything would be fine, but the pull was too strong. In the end, the voidstuff won. Screaming, she fell out of her world…
She wasn't sure how long she had been there. She might have just fallen through, or she might have been wandering for days, or weeks, even years inside and outside of the place that was nowhere.
If she had to choose a color, she would have said nowhere was white, but that wasn't strictly accurate. White was still a color, and this place gave her the impression of being colorless. It was like being blind. She felt dizzy, as if she were falling still, even though there was nothing to indicate she was moving. Her stomach heaved and she staggered, turning… to catch a glimpse of color.
Rose stared, squinting, not quite believing it. This was the Void, the not-place without time and space, so logically there should be nothing within it. But she'd obviously gotten it wrong, because there was something here… Without thinking, she ran towards it. She could only think that it would be better to be with someone or something, than lost and alone in the nothingness. Her relief at this was so great, she didn't stop to remember why they had opened the Void in the first place.
As soon as she made up her mind to go towards it, the object came into focus, and suddenly it was only a few feet away. Startled, Rose staggered back. Instantly, the thing was far in the distance again. She shook her head, trying to ward off the dizziness, and took another step forward. Now it was three feet away again, and Rose realized it had probably been a bad idea to get close to it.
"HUMAN! YOU ARE THE ONE WHO HELPED THE DOCTOR! YOU ARE THE ONE WHO TRAPPED US IN THE VOID!"
Of course. She wasn't the only one to fall into the Void. There were millions of Daleks trapped here with her, and quite understandably they weren't too happy with her. She froze, and looked straight into the Dalek's eyepiece.
"It's no use yelling, you're done for. You can kill me, but it won't do you any good. You're trapped here- forever!" She gloated. That was the one good thing about this situation- if she was trapped here, at least she had taken them down with her.
The Dalek shook with anger. "EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!"
A bright blue beam shot out of its weapon, and Rose closed her eyes, expecting it to end then and there.
But it didn't.
Instead, all she felt was a brief tingle, almost like a wave passing over her, and then it stopped. Opening her eyes, she stared at her arms in wonder. She was glowing bright blue, the same color as the beam the Dalek had shot. And, more importantly, she wasn't dead.
She stared at the Dalek in confusion, but it seemed just as astonished as she was. "WHY ARE YOU ALIVE?"
"Dunno," she murmured, waving her hand about in front of her face. "Sorry, but I really don't feel like hanging around to find out…" She turned and sprinted away.
After a few steps, she turned and looked back. The Dalek was no longer in sight. She glanced down at herself, and saw that she was still radiating blue light. "Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say."
Pivoting, Rose searched the blankness for any sign of life, but saw nothing. Finally she began walking. There wasn't much point in it, but then there was even less in just standing there. Maybe she would find something… or maybe she would just wander around in the emptiness forever. That was enough to almost make her wish the Dalek had succeeded.
It became difficult to tell how long she had been walking. It may have been five minutes, or it may have been days, but finally she realized she could not go on. She sank down, going from standing on nothing to sitting on nothing. Pressing her hand down, she still felt nothing… nothing was supporting her, yet she wasn't falling or floating. Or was she?
Frowning, she tried to think. Something about this whole situation felt familiar, even though she couldn't remember falling into the Void before. Still, she couldn't shake the feeling that she'd been here before, on one of her trips with the Doctor…
The Doctor. She hadn't thought… with the shock of falling into nowhere, the encounter with the Dalek, and her determination to reach some real place, she had pushed the day's (month's? year's?) events out of her head. But now, sitting here exhausted with nothing to do it all came flooding back.
She would never see him again. She would never see anyone again… her mum, Mickey, Pete… she had been ripped away from all of them, and trapped with emotionless creatures in the place they called Hell. Forever.
Well, Rose, was it worth it?
She didn't want to cry, didn't want to regret what had happened. Because she could have been safe, could have stayed in that parallel world with her mum, and she'd chosen not to. She'd gone back for him, to be with him, even knowing the risks. She'd chosen to let go of safety, to push the lever back into position, knowing what it might mean for her. Was it wrong of her now to wish she'd made a different choice?
The tears began to flow all the same, sparking with blue energy as they plunged into nothingness. She flailed at the nothing, wanting desperately to have something to hit, to kick, to take everything out on but there was nothing. She cried until there was nothing within as well as without, and finally lay there, exhausted.
Some time later Rose sat up and wiped her eyes. Crying hadn't really made a difference. Nothing had changed. Nowhere was the same as ever, except…
"I just wish I could remember why this seems familiar," she muttered.
She went rigid, hope springing wildly in her heart as she remembered. Of course! The trip to ancient Rome, the statues, Vanessa… and the GENIE. The Genetically Engineered… something, she couldn't remember exactly, but the point was it had granted wishes. Things had gotten out of hand, and Rose had wished herself and Vanessa to be somewhere safe. The GENIE had granted that wish, taking them to a place of blank nothingness where nothing could hurt them.
In that place, things were as near or as far as you wanted them to be, much the same as it had been with the Dalek. And the thunderclap that had preceded her remembering all this was the same sound that had occurred every time the GENIE granted a wish. Which meant…
"GENIE?" She called out. "GENIE, are you there?"
No answer. Still, the GENIE wasn't one to come unless it was ordered, so there was still a chance. It couldn't hurt to try.
"GENIE, I wish you were here with me."
And there was the tattered cardboard box, with the creature that appeared to be a cross between a baby dragon and a platypus tucked inside.
Rose felt like crying again, this time out of happiness. She scooped up the creature and held it tightly to her chest, forgetting all semblance of dignity. The GENIE let out a yelp, and she released it quickly, still grinning.
"What was that for?" asked the GENIE crossly, preening its scales in embarrassment.
"Well, you came!"
"Of course I came. You wished it. I didn't have a choice!"
"Yeah, but…" She struggled to find the right words, but just came up with, "That's impossible!"
"Well, that whole thing with the statues and Vanessa and bein' in a safe place, that was ages ago!"
"No it wasn't," said the GENIE primly.
"'Course it was, we got out and fixed everything and got on with our lives… so why are you still here?"
"Still? There is no 'still', not in this place."
"What do you mean?" asked Rose, now thoroughly confused.
"I mean that everything that is, and was, and will be happens at the same time, because there is no time here. You see?"
The GENIE sighed, giving off the impression that it was exasperated. "I assume that you've somehow ended up here again, after you said you'd gotten out?"
"Yeah, sort of…"
"Well, there you are. You've come back to the exact same not-place and not-time, and everything is happening simultaneously."
Rose tried to sort it out. "You mean there's another me here, the me from the past?"
"There is no past here."
She grit her teeth. "Well for me there is, so answer me."
The GENIE rolled its eyes. "If you're going to be difficult about it, then yes. There is 'another you' here and not-here."
"Sayin' things like 'here and not-here'… it's confusing enough as it is!"
"I wouldn't think about it too much if I were you," advised the GENIE.
Rose took a deep breath and tried to calm down. It was no use yelling at the creature; it couldn't help what it was. "All right, I'll try. But tell me this… why did you bring us here?"
"You wished to be safe."
"Yeah, safe, not trapped in Hell!"
The GENIE looked startled. "Who said anything about Hell?"
"The Doctor! When he was describing the Void, he called it the death-space, or Hell."
The creature mulled it over. "Yes, I suppose for him it would be."
Why couldn't it ever give her a straight answer? "What do you mean?"
"Think about it. He's a Time Lord- put him in a place where time doesn't exist, and yet you can see all of eternity in an instant, and he'd go mad. And even if he didn't have a time-sense, with his personality, this place would still be Hell. Nothing to do, nothing to see…"
"And no hand to hold," Rose finished grimly. "I get it." Then she frowned. "But why haven't I gone crazy? And if it's like you said, and there's no time here, then how are we having this conversation?"
"As I said, you really shouldn't think about it," recommended the GENIE. "Time is different for humans, it can seem faster or slower depending on what's happening. Your perception isn't accurate. You can't possibly understand this place, and that's what saves you- if you could understand, you'd go insane."
Head whirling, Rose finally just said, "Right. But I don't get it…"
"What a surprise," muttered the GENIE.
She glared at it. "I thought you needed a lot of energy to grant a wish. So how did you open the Void on so little fuel?"
The creature yawned. "It doesn't take much energy to open the Void. It's as simple as operating a washing-machine."
"A washing-machine?" Rose confirmed, completely baffled.
"Correct. All washing-machines are portals to the Void. Haven't you ever wondered where the other half of a pair of socks ends up after you wash them? Well, this is it."
"Are you serious?"
Rose raised her hand as if to slap the GENIE, and it backed away hastily. "All right, all right!" It whined. "It's quite tedious, you know, having to explain everything, but here goes. It doesn't take any energy to get to the Void. The Void is nowhere- and how much energy does it take to get to no place at all? None. You just have to know how to do it."
"Hang about- what about the people at Torchwood? It took enormous power to keep the Void open…"
"That was completely different," it interrupted.
"How do you know?"
"Remember, I can see inside your head. I know what happened, and that was completely different. They weren't simply trying to get into the Void; they were passing through it to another place. That takes energy, loads of it."
"Oh." Rose considered this. "But… how about getting out of the Void?"
The GENIE thought. "That is a great deal more difficult. It would take enormous amounts of energy to go from nowhere to somewhere…"
"Then we can't get out?" Rose asked, getting angry. "You mean you took us to this place, with no way of getting back?"
"I obviously did get you back, or you wouldn't be here," said the GENIE smugly.
"I don't know; I haven't done it yet."
Rose let out a growl of frustration and flopped down onto nothing next to the box. She'd forgotten how annoying this creature could be. Taking a few deep breaths, she tried to reason with it.
"Okay, so you need energy to grant wishes. Where can we get energy from?"
"Oh, that's easy. You've got loads of energy flowing through you- enough to be lethal, in the real world."
Sitting up, Rose glanced back down at herself and realized she was still giving off that odd blue glow. "Of course! That Dalek shot me, but I didn't die… how's that possible?"
"You can't die here. To do that, you'd have to exist here in the first place, which you don't."
Rose had given up on trying to understand the physics of the Void. Instead she asked, "How long have you known about this excess energy?"
"Since we first encountered each other here."
"Then why the heck didn't you say anything?" she demanded, furious.
"You didn't ask."
"Well, I'm asking now! Can. You. Take. Me. Home?" she said, punctuating each word with a shove of the box.
Unfazed, the GENIE considered. "Quite possibly. I'd have to absorb the energy before confirming how powerful a wish I could grant with it."
Rose stuck out her hand. "Then do it."
The creature took a deep breath, and suddenly a stream of blue energy was flowing out of Rose's hand and into the GENIE. A few seconds (minutes? hours?) later, it had completely drained her of the Dalek energy. Examining her hand, Rose found it to be completely normal again. The GENIE's body flickered with the glow for a brief moment: then it too returned to normal.
It took a moment to take stock of things, then said, "Yes, that was indeed a great deal of energy. If you had returned to the real world with that energy inside you, you'd have died within an instant. As it is, I believe this energy is sufficient to grant a wish that would open the Void, twice over."
A huge grin spread across Rose's face. "That's wonderful! Okay, then, GENIE, I wish…" Something occurred to her. "No, no, wait. Hold on. I've got to say this just right. If I… express a desire… to be back at Torchwood with the Doctor, then I'll still never be able to see my mum and Mickey again. But I'm certainly not going back to the parallel world and living out my life there either. What I really need is a device that can take me out of the Void, then to and from both worlds." She glanced at the GENIE. "Can you do that?"
The creature twitched its tail. "I won't know unless you make a wish."
"All right then. Here goes nothing." She took a deep breath. "GENIE, I wish I had a device that would return me to my home dimension, and that enables travel between that dimension and the one my mother is in, without causing damage to either world."
She held her breath. Would it work?
The GENIE grunted. "This may take awhile." Then it seemed to flicker, and Rose again had that odd sensation of not knowing how much time had passed.
An object fell into her lap. Picking it up, Rose examined it. It looked extremely similar to the world-hoppers Mickey and his team had been using, except the button was crystal blue, not yellow. The GENIE eyed it disdainfully.
"Took me quite some time, that did," it muttered.
"Not at all," said Rose, "It's just been a moment!"
"For you, maybe. For me, it was much longer- something as complex as that can't be conjured up within minutes. Nearly impossible- probably would have been, if we hadn't been in the Void to begin with."
Rose hung the medallion around her neck, then reached out to stroke the creature. "Thank you," she whispered, "for everything."
"S'not like I had much choice," it grumbled.
"No," she said thoughtfully, remembering how that adventure had ended, "No, but you will."
She stepped back. "One more thing. I wish that you'd find my past-self, the one that you brought here originally, and then forget that this conversation ever happened. Don't want to screw up the timeline."
The GENIE nodded once at her, and with one final crash, it vanished.
"Suppose I should be off too," she muttered, pressing the medallion to her chest. "Here goes…"
At first she thought it hadn't worked. Everything still seemed white, until she found she could pick out details and realized she was in the Ghost-shift room. There was the lever she had worked so hard to set upright, and at the far end of the room…
Her breath caught in her throat. He stood there, pressed up against the blank wall, and, ever so slightly, he was shaking. Crying? She thought wildly. But… that's impossible. The Doctor never cries. Not even when his homeworld is mentioned… I've seen him furious, and I've seen him depressed, but I've never seen him cry.
Slowly she took a step forward, then another. He didn't turn around, didn't appear to hear her. She quickened her pace, but the room seemed to swallow the sound, and still he didn't turn. Finally she was standing beside him. Gently, she slipped her hand into his.
Rose would never forget the look on his face when he finally turned round and saw her. Sorrow and shock, amazement and elation… all of eternity in an instant. And then she couldn't see his face, because he had grabbed her and clasped her in a hug so deep she thought it would swallow her. This also activated the medallion she still happened to be wearing.
And from her state of bliss Rose thought she could hear Jackie Tyler shrieking.
Some things never change.