Author's Note: That's right, I caved and had to write my own Alt!Fic even though I told myself I wouldn't. This story continues right after "Full Circle" (starting with Rose's viewpoint) and will have Ten/Rose time lord mind-tricks in it again ala "Days of Ice and Fire" (but reading my other fics is not needed to get this one).
Angst has been kept minimal. Teenage-level romance has been excluded entirely to the best of my ability. Sex is ramped up whenever possible (coming up in the next chapter). And this is NOT wedding! or baby!fic. It does feature, however, Rose and Alt!Doctor coming to grips with the minutiae of the slow path, some mourning, and light adventure. Title of story comes from my favourite album by the band called Live.
I'm aware what the rules are
But you know that I will run
You know that I will follow you
Over Silbury Hill
Through the solar field
You know that I will follow you. — Tori Amos, 1000 Oceans
Part I: Her Plus-One
He needs you, and that's very me.
The wind off Bad Wolf Bay was blowing Rose's hair all around her. Strands of it would whip across her vision every so often, slicing the sight of the Doctor cross-ways, so one moment he would be split into two or three sections, sometimes even more, and in her confused mind, still struggling with the latest turn of events, she couldn't understand who this person was who was before her, and why her mind was still seeing more than one of him, even after the TARDIS had faded away.
Doctor. Alien. Capable of regeneration. Capable of changing his look, his face. Capable of making copies of himself too, apparently. And capable of confounding her in so many ways that used to in turn delight and distress her. Leaving her behind in Pete's universe with this human copy... felt like it belonged in the latter category.
But this hand in hers was so very familiar. The look on his face was sober, while his eyes—his eyes, they always looked like some storm was raging within. She'd seen them both brown and blue, and it was strange how even now she could see the blue eyes of his previous (or was it previous previous) body looking at her. Often, in the early days after they'd first met, the look in his eyes had been wondering, sometimes incredulous, that she wanted to travel with him, and could accept him as her companion...the same look was in his eyes now.
"It is you..." she breathed.
A small quirk of his lips, and the skin around his eyes crinkled a little as the Doctor smiled in relief. But the smile quickly slipped, and he remained silent. Rose did not know what to say.
"You two," said her mother, cutting into the silence between them. "I just got off the phone with your father, and did he give me an earful!" Rose fought faint amusement at the familiar tone her mother was already taking with the both of them. Your father. "He isn't coming up here, he said, and told me to tell you to tell Torchwood to beam us home. Said he was mad at me for going off gallivanting and leaving him with your brother since this morning—"
"This morning?" Rose interrupted, shaking her head. Her brain seemed to be lagging behind her instincts today. And it was a struggle to shift her attention from the Doctor to world catastrophes again. "Mum, did he say 'this morning'? It was dark... There was nothing but the darkness when I left earlier..."
Jackie frowned. "It was for me and Mickey too, now that you mention it..."
The Doctor's voice cut in. "The time line's been rewritten a bit in this universe. At least for you—" he nodded at Rose, "And you," he nodded at Jackie, "because, you know, we saved the cosmos," he shrugged his shoulders in pretend nonchalance, "and because time moves a little faster in this universe, history changed a little here so that the darkness never happened, the stars in this universe shine on since Davros' reality bomb did not get used (as intended), the Daleks were defeated, thanks to yours truly, so the sun's still shining today and you had a 'this morning'. Voilà." He gestured around him. "All in a day's work, in a manner of speaking, now that we have days again."
Rose grinned despite herself. That was very him.
"Though, if the darkness did not happen here, that means I'd never have gotten Torchwood to let me go universe-hopping to find you," Rose pointed out, though she knew the explanation for all this, really. All this travelling with him years ago had changed her. Torchwood had as well.
As the Doctor turned to look at her, she felt her smile growing on her face, and it was echoed on his.
"Paradox!" they whooped together. They laughed, almost desperately with relief and nostalgia, as Jackie regarded them with impatience.
"You two," Jackie said in a huff. "If you're so clever, get us home! Now!"
With an apologetic smile, Rose disengaged her hand from the Doctor's. She reached into her pocket for her phone, the Doctor watching her curiously all the while. (He had that eyebrow raised.) She tried not to be self-conscious as she dialled and waited for an answer.
"Torchwood One. M-Miss Tyler?" said the voice on the phone. The slight stutter and ascending pitch told Rose that it was Brendan answering. The young technician had a crush on her, one that she'd always tried to rebuff to no avail.
"I need a teleport," Rose said. "Three people to pick up, to, er, transfer to the Tyler Estate. Pete's orders."
"OK, I'm g-getting your location from the s-satellite..." There was the faint tapping of keys. Then a pause. "You're in...um, Dalig Ulv... You're in N-Norway?"
"Yes, in fact the computer should recognize the coordinates." Rose had put them into the Torchwood database herself. She had kept a watch on the beach often, almost hoping for a crack between the worlds to appear again even if it meant universes would be destroyed. And then one day the cracks had appeared again.
"From 'Bad Wolf Bay' to the Typer Estate it is, then, M-Miss Tyler. Three people? You, your m-mum and Mickey?"
"Mickey's gone," said Rose. As she did, she felt a small pang of regret. He had always been a good friend, probably better than she had deserved. Now the other universe had its Mickey back in it again, and the other Doctor as well. Her lip trembled despite herself. "I mean, he's, um, he's..." Great, now she was stuttering. "He's OK, I mean, he just went back to his old universe." Like the other Doctor.
"Oh... really? He could go back?" Amazement was clear in Brendan's voice. Rose had spoken to him of the other universe before, had long burdened him with her intentions to find a way back herself as well.
"Yes," said Rose, and suddenly she was conscious that the phone conversation was already taking longer than it needed to, and there were two people staring at her having it.
"Does that m-mean you're going to go b-b-back too, Miss Tyler?" said the voice on the phone.
I tried and I got dumped back here, Rose wanted to say, but she couldn't. Her mum and the Doctor (the new new Doctor) were standing behind her. "I did, and I'm back now, and Brendan, we need a transfer," Rose said with emphasis. Her mother rolled her eyes as she heard Brendan's name. The Doctor shot Jackie a questioning look, and Jackie only shook her head.
"I t-take it you mean the really, really q-quick way?"
"Yes!" she said with some frustration, but tempered it by turning it into a laugh. "Listen, whenever you please... We're at Bad Wolf Bay. It's just us. Three to teleport. It's my mum, me, and plus-one." She didn't look at the Doctor as she said it.
"G-got it, Miss Tyler."
"Thank you." She shut her phone, and took the Doctor's hand in hers. "Torchwood teleport," she explained quickly to him. "This may be rough—"
The world went white.
Then green and azure.
"—Over long distances but at least it works," Rose finished. The Doctor's hand was still in hers. They were standing a few feet away from the driveway leading to the Tyler mansion. Her mum was already starting to walk toward the house, where Pete and Tony were surely waiting for her. Above, the sky was blue and cloudless. The grass was green, the air faintly scented with late spring flowers. The scene, dazzling in the bright sunlight of mid-afternoon, was a bit of a shock after the gloom of Bad Wolf Bay.
"I'm your plus-one," said the Doctor beside her. Rose looked at him. He looked slightly green but a smile was plastered on his face. "I can't believe it—you're taking me places..."
Rose gave a little laugh. "Yeah. Stick with me, kid, and I'll show you things you've never seen," she tried to do some sort of Brooklyn gangster accent, and reckoned she failed miserably. Ah, humour. The last refuge of the awkward.
"Well, this is a new-ish universe for me," he said. He still looked green. This Doctor did have a normal human constitution... Rose gripped his arms and examined him; he was breathing hard and looking a bit peaked. He needed a rest, and probably liquids. Firmly, concern for his comfort banishing her awkwardness for the moment, she steered him to the front door of the house.
"You look terrible," she said by way of explanation.
"Oi," he said, insulted.
"That teleport could do a number on anyone. Let alone someone in a new body. Look, here's a chair." She practically pushed him onto it, one of the chairs in the parlour. "Can someone bring me some water?" she yelled towards the kitchen.
"Rose Tyler, Defender of Earth, taking me places and giving orders," the Doctor said. One side of his mouth was curled up as he gazed at her.
"That's right." Rose knelt beside him. His colour was returning, if slowly. Delia, one of their hired help, approached them with a glass of water on a silver tray.
"Ros—I mean, Ma'am," said Delia. "Some water."
Rose nodded her thanks and took the glass, pressing it to the Doctor's hand.
"Should I call a doctor for him?" asked Delia.
"Do I look that bad?" the Doctor muttered.
Rose shook her head.
"No," said Rose.
"Do you need anything else, Ma'am?"
"Um. The guest room. Get it ready. And note we'll have one extra person with us for supper."
"And dessert. And breakfast," added the Doctor.
"Right. What he said. Thank you, Delia."
They were alone in the parlour again. With one look, Rose made the Doctor finish his glass of water. It was easier directing him, giving him orders, taking care of him, then talking about what had just happened on the beach. Why, why did she feel like she had just lost so much, when this Doctor was here right in front of her? Why, why was her heart breaking for someone else, when this should be a moment to celebrate getting her heart's desire?
"Guest room," said the Doctor solemnly. Somehow he made it sound like a question. Maybe it was her imagination.
"If you want," said Rose. She combed her hair with her fingers, away from her face. "You gave me my own room, in the TARDIS..."
"Right. You can have that here too, if you want." Those three last words seemed to be the operative words for the day. "Only here, well, all the rooms are smaller on the inside than they are on the outside." It was a lame little joke but a small chuckle escaped the Doctor. "This house is huge though, so there's that..." Rose trailed off.
He was looking at her as if the house didn't exist. He raised a hand to her cheek and helped her brush some hair out of her face, with a touch so light she could barely feel it.
"This guest room... is it far from yours?" he asked.
It was just beside her room. She swallowed as she gazed into his brown eyes. "Too far," she said.
"Is it? Oh well," he said mildly. "Ordinary walls could not keep me away from you now, Rose Tyler." He gave her a small smile. "Mind you, I could just mess the guest room up just for appearances or use it for hiding out from Jackie."
Rose felt an answering smile spreading across her face. "And why would you need to hide?"
"Well... I don't know. I'm sure things'll come up." He grinned at her before looking down at their hands in his lap and going quiet. Rose was equally silent as she watched him run his fingers gently over hers. The contact with his skin was affirmation he was here with her, and while it might take her some time, she knew he was the Doctor, perhaps not her Doctor, but if he did have his memories, his thoughts, and his mind, then it was him. One part of him. It might not have been the outcome she had wished for or could even have imagined, but it was the outcome they had to work with.
"How do you feel?" she asked quietly.
He shook his head, swallowed and keep his gaze on their hands. When he spoke, it was slow and halting. "Rose... his gob of mine... I can say a lot when there's nothing to say. And now..."
She squeezed his hand. How could she think only of her own hurt, when he had his own? He had just been ripped away forever from the universe he had known; she was one of the few who knew what that felt like. But then again, he was over nine hundred years old, and had had the TARDIS, and all of time and space to explore. No longer. She couldn't imagine what that felt like at all.
There were things about him she might never understand, but was determined she would love and accept anyway—she always had. She drew closer to him, though her knees protested at their protracted session on the floor kneeling beside him.
"I'm here with you," she said. "I... I tried everything to look for you, to find you. Whatever you need, whatever you want, I'm here. I'm not going away."
A smile quirked his lips for a second. "Good. That's brilliant. Rose, I..." his voice faded off again. Rose knew him well enough to detect frustration as he struggled for words.
"Don't need to say anything," Rose said for him. She struggled to her feet, ignored her knees as now her legs fairly buzzed with pain as they regained their blood circulation. She kept one of the Doctor's hands in hers and tugged on it gently. "I can show you to your room. Or my room. Whichever." She knew that in the parlour, Pete or Jackie or the help could walk in at any time, and she wasn't much in the mood for their company. She missed the TARDIS. The whole world went away whenever she was in there with him. The Tyler mansion was nothing quite like that, unfortunately.
The Doctor got on his feet as well. He seemed back to normal after the teleport, but Rose still took it slowly as she led him up the stairs to her room. Every step she took seemed heavy with import, and as they drew closer to her room, she was aware of her heart beating harder, faster. They were alone. They were alone. The house seemed strangely silent, as if it was breathless with anticipation. Rose mentally blessed her mum as she recalled how Jackie had hurried away as soon as they had arrived at the mansion earlier. It was her mum's own little way of giving Rose and the Doctor the time and space they needed.
Rose paused outside the door to her room, her hand on the knob. "It will be messy," she warned.
The Doctor's head was cocked. "So?"
Indeed. She had no idea why she was nervous.
She pushed the door open.
There were many firsts they were dealing with, mused the Doctor, almost too fast to grasp as they happened, and looking at Rose's room at her invitation was one of them. He said nothing as she let go of his hand and starting picking clothes off of the floor and the bed. She disappeared through another door he assumed led to an adjoining bathroom, and returned after (he assumed again) tossing them into a laundry hamper. She smiled at him apologetically.
"I told you it was a mess."
"Neatness is overrated," said the Doctor, taking it in. The clothes had been only part of the mess. A surprising amount of the room was still hidden under papers and some formidable looking folders and reference books and gadgetry. He couldn't say if this was something he had expected of Rose. He peered at some of the papers and reached, out of habit, for his reading glasses, only to realize he'd left them in his other jacket.
He frowned. It did not go unnoticed by Rose.
"We can get you a new pair." She grinned brightly. "Can't have you without the fashion accessory that indicates when you're in Geek Mode."
"Hey now," he said.
"We can even go right now, if you want. Though, I do need a shower," she said. "Take a seat or something. I'll be back in a few." She was now rifling through her wardrobe.
"Slipping into something more comfortable?" said the Doctor. "Just for me?"
She looked over at him, saw the look on his face and rolled her eyes. "Right." Fresh clothes in hand, she entered the bathroom again and shut the door behind her. The sound of falling water followed soon after.
The Doctor picked some papers off the bed and sat down on the cleared space. He was unsurprised to see many of the papers were Torchwood documents. Books littered the bed as well, and they were not light reading—particle physics, hyperspace theories and research journals—and all this being read by a girl who said she'd never completed her A-levels. All this effort being taken even if the walls between the universes had never been threatened...
The Doctor swallowed past a small choke in his throat as he ran his hands over the books and papers, her possessions. He had told her before that she would never see him again, and she had gone and surprised him, had travelled through universes to find him, had more than once proven him wrong in what he had thought was possible. In many ways he could still barely wrap his mind around that. He blinked at the stinging moisture in his eyes as memories of missing her hit him, and the import of how she must have felt the same for him, if not stronger still... because she had never given up. All around this room lay the evidence. Alien artifacts she had brought home to study, academic journals that would surely bore the hardiest scientist to tears, and surely the complete library of Torchwood's classified files on alien technology... all here.
His vision blurred till he could no longer see the room, but the sight was burned now into his memory. She might never guess how this "mess" was such a testament to herself, to her strength and determination and brilliance. He still couldn't believe he was here.
The door to the bathroom opened, startling him. In the corner of his eye he was aware of Rose with damp hair and in a simple ensemble of T-shirt and sweatpants. She padded over to him, pushed some papers off the bed and sat beside him. She smelled of flowers and sandalwood.
"That was quick," said the Doctor, filling the silence. But his voice sounded thick and muffled.
She touched him. He almost jumped at the electricity as her warmth and humanity connected with him again, touched this new body of his. Her skin against his, the atoms of her existence bumping against his own. Here, here, he could almost imagine the cells of her body singing to him, I'm here, I'm here. It was just a simple touch, such a familiar touch, the feel of her hand covering his... and now he was drowning—relief, guilt, and old pain, new loss and uncertainty and loneliness washing over him, white heat ripping through his chest and tearing his breath out in sobs. He lifted his fingers to his face and found it warm—hot with tears. His mind had been almost uncomprehending of it all since the first second on the stolen earth when he'd set eyes on Rose again, till the moment on Bad Wolf Bay where the TARDIS and Donna and the access to all previous friends and companions were lost to him forever. No time to process any of it, until now... now that he was here and no longer running.
The pain reached an unbearable level as he felt Rose's arms encircle him—he was unworthy of the comfort she offered—then it eased as she laid finally her head upon his shoulder and he felt the shudders that ran through her body. He could not pretend to know what was making her cry as they held each other; he could only stroke her back, offering what reassurance he could as his own hurt slowly starting receding into the background. They held each other in silence long after the episode passed. It was a while before Rose drew a shaky breath and said (apologetically again): "I think I ruined your jacket."
A small sad laugh broke out of him. "If you wanted it off, Rose, you had only to ask," he said.
"I didn't want to scare you," she replied. He could hear a little smile in her voice and tightened his arms around her.
"I missed you," he said, the words tumbling out of him. "I didn't say that to you before, did I? I missed you. I want to know everything, everything you've been up to, what you do here in this universe. I want to know everything I've missed."
She drew back from their embrace and looked at him. "That might take a while." They gazed at each other. The Doctor saw her as she was now... older, her face free of make-up, her eyes and nose a little red, her hair damp and in a mess, but she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. He wondered what he looked like to her.
"I don't care. We have time, don't we?"
She smiled gently. "Yeah, we do."
"If you need somewhere to start, maybe you could tell me who Brendan was. And if there are any other suitors for your hand I need to fight off in this universe," the Doctor said.
She gaped at him in incomprehension. "...Suitors for my what...? Oh. Oh my god." She burst into laughter.
It was good to hear her laugh. He kept her hand in his hand as he looked around for some way for them to get comfortable. Rose read his mind, and with her other hand swept a huge swathe of books and papers off the bed dramatically. The Doctor lay back on one side of the bed, leaving a space beside him, for her. Possessively he clung to her hand and held it to his chest. Rose settled down beside him on her side. She laid her head on his shoulder as his free arm wrapped around her.
And as she started to speak, the world went away.
Rose woke in her dimly lit bedroom with a gasp and a groan. Muscles ached and the bed felt unfamiliar; she was so seldom in it, what with getting her sleep in small snatches either at Torchwood or on zeppelins between Torchwoods or in different universes the past several weeks. As consciousness returned, her mind found itself grappling with more immediate, unfamiliar thoughts—thoughts about the Doctor and the fact that his human counterpart was in this universe with her and that she'd lost track of him since last night when she'd actually fallen asleep at the dinner table while eating with him, her mum, Pete, and Tony. She could only recall vaguely her mother's voice, fading in and out and telling her to get to bed and what felt like many hands helping her up to her room. She couldn't recall being put into her bed.
She looked around. The light in her room was coming from the small lamp on her dressing table, and in front of the dressing table, in her armchair, with his feet on a pile of books, sprawled the Doctor. He appeared to be sleeping (and still in his jacket), and as she watched, a tiny snore escaped him. She smiled. He was going to wake up with such a crick in the neck if he didn't move soon.
Ignoring the complaints from her own muscles, she rose from the bed and walked over to him. The alarm clock on her bedside table told her it was past four in the morning. She took his hand gently.
A deep breath. His body stirred and he blinked at her for a moment. "Rose?" he said, his voice thick with sleep. His fingers tightened around hers instinctively before he realized where he was and also looked at the time on her clock.
"You can't be very comfortable there," she said.
He smiled a little bashfully. "Was OK," he said.
"There's space here," she said, referring to the bed. "I'll behave, I promise."
The smile he gave her was boyish, and her heart lightened with the joy and amusement on his face.
"The jacket'll have to come off, though," she said.
She shook out and pulled back the duvet on the bed as he divested himself of the blue jacket. She settled back on the bed, slipping her legs under the covers, and watched as he turned off the lamp. Darkness claimed the room. The Doctor climbed into the bed beside her. As her eyes adjusted, she could see him lying in front of her, on his side, his face not too far from hers. His eyes shone.
"Hi," she said, smiling at him. Her heart could scarce believe he was here, and so close.
"Hi," he returned.
As one, they reached for each other's hand.
"I don't remember much of what happened at dinner," whispered Rose in the darkness. "Did I miss a lot?"
"Other than the time you fell into your soup asleep and then Tony tried to follow your example?"
She stuck her tongue out at him, but didn't know how much of that he could see. "That did not happen. Liar."
She could see him grin.
"So," he said. "Are you tired? Going back to sleep now?"
"I'm still a little tired," she admitted. "You? New human body, and all that?"
"I don't know."
It wasn't the answer she expected, but she supposed this was new to him. And while she was tired, she also didn't know if she could go back to sleep. The Doctor seemed to be the same. They looked at each other in the darkness. She was almost fading away again before the Doctor moved closer to give her a gentle kiss on the lips. It was the first time he was initiating one, that she could remember. It was short, and quite chaste. A meeting of soft, moist lips that barely opened. A kiss that did not ask for anything, except perhaps, to stay here with her.
"Goodnight," the Doctor whispered, and she smiled. She moved closer into his arms, and he wrapped them around her. As she dropped off into slumber again, the smell of him reminded her of the TARDIS.
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