Disclaimer: The BBC owns all, I am merely borrowing.
Spoilers: Through Season Three.
Author's Notes: This is the last part, but not the end of the stories in this series! I have several prequels and sequels that are going to be posted soon, so keep an eye out! I'm away on vacation next week, so a new story will be posted as soon as I get back. :) Thank you for all the lovely reviews and let me know if any of you have ficlet requests!
For once everything went smoothly. The Guardians were propelled to the other universe and the TARDIS even materialized in Cardiff without shaking. They said goodbye to Jack with sincere promises of visiting soon. At least the Doctor was sincere until Jack decided this was the perfect opportunity to snog Rose until she was breathless.
"Jack..." the Doctor growled.
"Oh, stop your moaning. I haven't seen her in over a century and that's mostly your fault too." He grinned wickedly. "Besides, there's plenty to go around."
Rose regained her bearings just in time to stop the Doctor from doing something he would certainly regret. The Doctor halted mid-step and blinked at his empty hand, before noticing that Rose had deftly taken his sonic screwdriver. He would have complemented her skills if he wasn't so focused on teaching one over zealous Time Agent a lesson.
"We'll be back soon, Jack. I won't let him avoid you," Rose assured, pushing the Doctor towards the TARDIS.
"Who said anything about avoiding him? I have half a dozen, no, make that at least a thousand plans for placing him in temporal stasis somewhere where he can't snog anybody at all. And I think the universe would thank me, really."
Rose rolled her eyes as she steered the ranting Time Lord through the door.
"Now what?" Hope asked her parents as they entered the ship.
"Chips, I think," the Doctor said, reaching to flip a lever on the console.
And that was when Rose discovered that the Doctor's flying skills had not improved while she'd been gone. If it were at all possible, they had gotten worse. As they ran for their lives from livid fish people who worshipped a fountain on top of which the TARDIS had materialized, Rose reminded the Doctor that they could've just found chips in Cardiff. After outrunning the natives and resolving an argument with a particularly sticky plant, they found a beach with purple sand and equally purple chips sold from a hut built entirely out of what looked like coconuts.
"They're purple," Hope said, gingerly picking one up and inspecting it.
"Well, yes. But they're still chips," the Doctor insisted, even as he grimaced after tasting one.
"Not proper chips," Rose argued, pushing the half coconut shell of chips away.
The three suns had long since dipped beneath the horizon when they managed to sneak back to the TARDIS. Hope was stumbling, half asleep already, and the Doctor carried her the rest of the way despite her mumbled protests.
"Go on. Take a shower. I'll put her to bed," the Doctor whispered to Rose as he shut the TARDIS door behind them.
"Sure you can handle that?" Rose asked, wanting to see her daughter safely to bed but even more eager to remove the slimy residue that clung to her clothing and skin. Apparently some plants preferred pink.
"Of course," the Doctor scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Not my first time, remember?"
Rose never forgot the unexpected asides about his past; clinging to the scraps of information without ever expecting to hear the details. And that particular revelation was one of the most memorable and curious. "We never talked 'bout..."
"I know," he interrupted softly, pausing in the hallway to turn and meet her gaze. "Later, Rose. I promise."
She wanted to tell him later wasn't a proper excuse anymore, never had been really, but nodded instead. Later was certainly a more tangible promise then never. She watched them until they disappeared inside Hope's room and then hurried to the bedroom she shared with the Doctor, determined to finish quickly and catch a glimpse of them together.
"The TARDIS is looking out for you already," the Doctor commented as he set Hope down. Sure enough, the duvet on her bed was turned down and a pair of neatly folded pajamas rested on her pillow along with Herbert the koala. "Wouldn't tell your mum that you'll never have to do chores, if I were you. Although where my ship found koala sized pajamas is beyond me..."
Hope giggled. "I think they suit him."
"They do, don't they?" the Doctor agreed, smiling. "You'd best get similarly attired. Can't have you falling asleep standing up. Wouldn't be a pleasant experience." Waiting for her to change, the Doctor noticed a handful of familiar photographs on the bedside table. He picked them up and flipped through them slowly. He found that the memories they preserved no longer triggered the searing pain of emptiness between his hearts that he had grown accustomed to bearing.
"Found 'em in a box. Under the floor," Hope mumbled, yawning as she climbed into bed.
The Doctor suspected his ship had something to do with that.
"Tell me about them?" Hope asked tentatively, drawing the duvet up to her chin.
This was what Rose meant, the Doctor thought as he shrugged out of his suit jacket and toed off his chucks. Rolling up his sleeves, he sat beside Hope on the bed. He looked through the photos for a moment, selecting the one Jackie had taken on Christmas; silly paper hats and equally silly grins.
"Let's start at the beginning shall we?" He paused. It wasn't the beginning at all actually, but it was a little soon to explain about Time Lord tricks. "Technically this isn't really the beginning. First I had to ask her twice. Having a space ship wasn't quite impressive enough for your mother. Then there was lots and lots of running involved." He took a deep breath and smoothed a crease at the corner of the photo with his thumb. "Still, beginning or not, this is as good a place to start as any." He slipped an arm around his daughter's shoulders and she snuggled closer. "It was a night for new beginnings and we were just finding out feet..."
Having finished her shower in record time, considering the slime removal required, Rose lingered in the doorway to Hope's bedroom, not wanting to interrupt the bonding between father and daughter.
"Will we go on adventures like that?" Hope asked as the Doctor finished telling her of the Sycorax and the snow that wasn't really snow at all.
The Doctor smiled, his gaze drifting to where Rose stood in the doorway. "Oh...so many more."
Rose returned his smile and came to sit beside them on the bed.
"When can I see gran?"
"Soon, sweetheart," Rose assured their daughter. "Right, Doctor?"
Startled, the Doctor sat up straight and rubbed the back of his neck. "Um, soonish. Not right away mind you, we can't, really. But in a relatively short period of time, we should be able to travel safely. And..." He trailed off as he saw the dismay apparent on Rose's face. "I'll just go start those calculations now, shall I?" He hurriedly disentangled himself from Hope and the duvet. "Sleep well, my precious girl," he whispered, brushing a brief kiss against Hope's forehead before darting out the door.
"Something wrong?" Hope asked, yawning again and burrowing under the covers.
"No, nothing's wrong. He just..." Rose sighed. "Everything's fine. Don't worry, all right? Just get some sleep."
Hope nodded, eyes immediately fluttering shut.
Rose adjusted the duvet more snugly around her daughter and then withdrew to track down the Doctor. She found him in the console room, seated in the jump-seat with his feet propped up on the console, staring fixedly at the glowing time rotor. He didn't look away when Rose sat down beside him.
"Couple years. Four, maybe five. If the Guardians hadn't...well, it doesn't matter. They did and we can't."
"'S not your fault." She noticed his clenched jaw and reached for his hand. "It's not."
"If I'd just..." He gritted his teeth. "You'd have been safe. Hope as well, and..."
"We're much safer with you," Rose replied firmly. "But I don't think Hope's old enough for our usual adventuring."
He nodded. "We'll just travel carefully for awhile. The TARDIS will make sure we don't land anywhere too dangerous."
"That wasn't too dangerous?"
"Well...considering..." the Doctor mumbled, running his free hand through his hair.
"Doctor..." Rose entreated, cupping his chin and guiding his gaze to meet hers. "We'll be all right, you know."
"Oh, better than that I should think." The Doctor leaned forward, resting his forehead against hers. "Much better." He kissed her softly. "Even...dare I say it...Fantastic."