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. July Challenges are now available, and what a twist for one of them. If you'd rather do June's, instead, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks to all those who have participated thus far - we had an exceptional turn out for June II for example. The new challenges will run through the end of July. Please let me know when you respond to a Challenge so I can read and review.

Lady Clark Weasley asked me to do this one and, although I normally hesitate to rewrite episodes, I agreed because of the challenge of it. Let me just state, very clearly: ASTRID IS NOT HERE. Her entire story line has been erased from this history. She decides to try it once, months later, meets a rich man who acquired some manners from some where, gets married and lives happily ever after. There will be no dead or even sort of dead pretty waitresses, except the ones who would have died anyway. Thank you.

This is it, the epilogue. And, that's all she wrote.


The Voyage of Alternatives

Epilogue: Better With Two

"Rose?" the Doctor asked, standing with his hands in his brown suit pockets in the doorway of her room. "We need to talk. I just made tea. Join me?"

"Yeah, all right," she agreed, and stood from where she had been going over the photo albums, trying to sort out what was her actual memory from what was drug induced confusion. The Doctor had left her in peace for that, and offered to answer if she had any questions. So far she hadn't asked any, but he was mentally preparing himself for when she asked to see her mum.

Instead, when he sat down with her in the kitchen, placing her favorite mug in front of her, she shook her head. "They're in the parallel world, aren't they?" she asked. "And the walls are closed."

"That's right," he agreed softly. "And I'm sorry. But I need to know how you got here. Because you shouldn't have been able to do, or I would have come for you a long time ago."

"I..." She looked up from her tea and stared into his eyes, again trying to read things no one else could ever see. He let her. "I remember the beach," she said.

"Oh," he answered faintly. "I..."

"No, I just wanted you to know," she cut him off. "It was so important, you know, worst day of my life."

"And mine. Well, that was when you fell. Next worst."

"I tried to hold on."

"I know," he answered, and cupped the trembling hand that rested on the table between them. "Just... try not to think about it. You're here, now, and that's what matters. But I do need to know how it happened. Make sure nothing's going to crack like an egg."

"Someone found me," she answered at last. "Someone who could time travel. He isolated the causal nexus that generated Pete's World, and he crossed the nexus. Then he came forward and he found me."

"But... but that's brilliant. I'd say impossible, but obviously not. Ooh, it would take a genius like... well, like me. But once I crossed the nexus, I couldn't come for you - the TARDIS can't travel in Pete's World, in time or space. But someone positively brilliant, to track you and follow the nexus back. And then to bring you back here. Who could possibly..."

"It was Dalek Caan," Rose whispered.

"What?!" the Doctor bellowed. He jumped up from the seat and stared at her, trying to decide if he was horrified or terrified or if he owed a Dalek a hug. "Why?"

"All the wrong reasons, at first," she admitted. "He was there, when I told Dalek Sec what I did to the Emperor. Sec kept track of me, so they knew I was trapped. Then, they ended up in New York. As soon as they rebuilt their army, they were going to come for me, because I'm an enemy of the Daleks, like you. But then Sec got distracted and he and the rest got assassinated. Caan told me you offered to help him."

"Yes..." the Doctor admitted. He didn't think she would think it wrong, but just in case, he added, "I... I couldn't see anyone else, anyone at all, die that day. I just couldn't."

"I understand, Doctor," she said urgently. Then she frowned. "Caan actually believed you. But he wanted you to help him on his terms, not yours, so he came for me, believing he could harness whatever power I used to destroy the Emperor and, if not, he could still hold me hostage for your behavior."

"It would have worked," the Doctor confessed, grimly. "I... I wouldn't have..."

"It's all right, Doctor, it didn't happen that way." She took a gulp of her tea, then toyed with the mug nervously. "He... they brought him in to Torchwood. Thankfully, everyone who knew what a Dalek was wasn't there that day, except me. I saw him and I was going to blow him to hell, but he was so weak and there was a hole in his casing."

"Sec borrowed bits of their casing for his experiments. What he replaced it with wasn't anywhere near as indestructible as Dalekanium."

"And you know me," she continued deprecatingly.

"Rose, you didn't!!" the Doctor exclaimed.

"Stupid ape," she said as she nodded. "I... he was so wretched, Doctor. I didn't think."

"Obviously not," he said hotly. He jerked his hands through his hair, couldn't imagine what he was going to do with her. "You know what happened last time, you know what happens every time you're near one, and you just HAD to go and touch it!!"

She sighed. "I know. But... it was weird, this time. He was already pretty far gone, Doctor. And he just looked at me, and he didn't shoot anyone, and he said 'Thank you, Rose Tyler'. I figured he was about to die or something, but then he started all that recharging stuff. I sent the others into the bunker, I was scared as I have ever been in my entire life. But when he was done, he just sat there and flashed at me. Then, I decided he must not be one of the killing machines in this Universe, but something from Pete's World that was different."

"That's..." the Doctor started, about to say ridiculous. But what she said actually registered before he got it out. He sat down hard. In a soft, thoroughly awed tone, he said, "That's actually brilliant." He swallowed hard, then continued rapidly, "Oh, and just so YOU, Rose Tyler, so very, very you. Give anyone the benefit of the doubt, you, even a Dalek, even me."

She shrugged and sighed. "He told me what he had seen - a causal nexus across the Void has the distinct disadvantage of showing you things that can be and won't be and couldn't be and never should. Almost the opposite of time travel. He'd seen the Daleks, what they are, what they were, what they'll always be, and he wanted something from me. Because I've destroyed the entire race before. And he wants me to do it again."

"I won't let it happen," he declared, firmly. "We'll find him and we'll do what we can to fix this situation before it gets started."

She finally met his gaze, briefly, but the quick glimpse of her haunted hazel eyes hurt so very much. "It's too late, Doctor," she told the table top. "Everything is already in motion. He made a mistake on the way back here. There's time, still, but the noose is tightening."

"You're still in touch with him?" the Doctor demanded, utterly floored.

"He's part me," she replied with a grim shake of her head. "But no, I lost contact with him right after they started drugging me on Sto. We were separated during the last temporal shift, and they found me and locked me away because I was glowing and giving off funny radiation. Caan's lost his mind, Doctor. Whatever happened to him, he's broken beyond all hope of repair. That was the last I heard from him - that he'd made a mistake and the darkness was coming."

"We'll stop it, Rose," he told her, with more strength of conviction than he really felt. "No one has to die for this. We're going to find your friend and keep the darkness where it belongs. He brought you back to me. I was going to help before, but that's more than enough reason for me to do everything in my power to make this situation better."

"I really hope you're right," she said.

He reached over and tilted her head up. "Course I'm right. I'm the Doctor. And when you're with me, I can do anything."

She smiled, slowly, tentatively, as if she really didn't know what her place in his life really was. "You mean that?"

How could he not? He hadn't even wanted to live without her. Without Donna's timely intervention, he probably wouldn't have done. "So much it terrifies me," he said.

Then, because he was the Doctor, and more so, because he was this Doctor, he bounced to his feet to shake it all away. He snatched her hand. "C'mon," he exclaimed excitedly. "We've got a whole Universe to search through. And stuff like this..." He trailed off, grinning manically.

"What?" she asked, nearly bouncing herself, a beautiful grin lighting her face up, and the whole room in turn, like sunshine.

He smiled down at her and drew her into a hug. "It's always better with two."