Hi everybody! Thanks so much for all the lovely reviews, I'm really happy with the response I've had to this story, I'm glad everyone seems to be enjoying it. And here we are, the final chapter. Sorry it's taken so long but I've just set up a new laptop and it's been a nightmare trying to get on-line lately. Hope you like xx

I'll warn you now, this chapter sees the death of a secondary character ( but I hope it's tastefully done)

For Disclaimer see Chapter 2.

Chapter 12: Loose strings

The Doctor strode determinedly out of the TARDIS, with Rose close on his heels. They closed the door behind them and the Doctor took Rose's hand, determined not to lose her or let anything happen to her. This whole ordeal had been one close call too many for him, and he was taking no risks this time.

They made their way to the Hostess' office. The room was white and sterile like the Medical Bay, but with heavy wooden furniture spread across the room and unusual works of art draped across the walls, making the whole place seem very bizarre and eclectic. And very empty. The Hostess was nowhere in sight. The Doctor frowned.

"Should be here..."

Rose looked up at his dead-set face, and shuddered. She could see the fire in his eyes, the oncoming storm clouding over his sense of judgement. Even though she was still shaken up from her ordeal, and feeling quite weak, she knew what would happen if he unleashed that storm on the Hostess. After all, it wasn't her fault. It was the Keeper.

She tugged on his sleeve, and he turned to look at her.

"Doctor, never mind the Hostess, where's the Keeper?"

The Doctor thought for a moment, and his eyes seemed to mellow. He nodded.

They made their way through the office, to the corridors behind that led to the arrest cells. Long before the cells were in sight, the sound of metal clashing and angry wailing flooded the corridors, sending icicles up Rose's spine. The Doctor felt her shudder, and gripped her hand tighter as they made their way down the corridor towards the din.

When they turned the corner, they were greeted by the two Judoon guards, who stood to attention as the Doctor approached, Rose close behind him. Behind the bars and obviously in a state of intense anger, was the Hostess, her formerly neat and orderly attire now disheveled and torn, grimy with tears and sweat, her face smeared with make-up and her hair unrecognizably ruined. At the sight of the Doctor and Rose, she bared her teeth and snarled, a feral gleam in her eyes.

The Doctor was shocked to see her in that condition, and at once turned to the guards.

"Where is the Keeper? I contacted the Shadow Proclamation in order to detain the Keeper, not the Hostess of Gambit Junction."

The nearest Judoon spoke up, is voice rough and authoritative. "The Keeper changed forms. Our orders have been executed."

The Doctor stared at the woman in the cell. "Keeper," he addressed her in a controlled tone.

She snarled at him. "You ridiculous humanoids, yes! The Keeper!"

The Doctor raised his eyebrows at her remark. "I'd be careful who you're calling ridiculous, seeing as this is the form you've chosen."

The Keeper frowned silently at him.

Rose was baffled. "Am I missing something here?"

The Doctor turned to her. "If I'm right, and I usually am, the Keeper is from a race of shape-changers from the edge of the galaxy. Am I right?"

The Keeper said nothing.

The Doctor continued. "I'm quite surprised to find someone of your species all the way out here..."

"Stop it!" the Keeper hissed.

"...so far from home..."

"I said STOP it!"

The Doctor stopped talking, and the Keeper broke down into a quivering, wailing mess on the floor. And Rose finally started to understand her motives.

"You're homesick."

The Keeper looked up at her with big, angry eyes.

"And you thought the Dreamcaster could find the right tunnel through the Gateway to get you back home," the Doctor stated simply.

The Keeper ignored his comments, although her eyes told them that he was right.

Rose turned to the Doctor. "Why didn't she just ask someone on Gambit Junction to help her?"

The Doctor turned back to the Keeper. "I suggest that if you want our help you start answering some questions."

The Keeper reluctantly started to speak, without meeting their eyes. "No one in this undeveloped sector of space could possibly understand the complexities of the Gateway. I needed to find the right time window."

"You're from the future," Rose realised.

The Keeper continued. "The Dreamcaster stumbled onto this station ten years ago, and I knew it would be cooperative. It was homesick, the homing instinct is a powerful one and impossible to ignore. I should know.

I know I was stupid, but there was no other way of getting back home. I infiltrated the hierarchy of this primitive civilization, and positioned myself on Gambit Junction. I waited for the Gateway. It passes this space so rarely, I have had very few attempts to find the way home. I had to be deceptive; the creatures on this station are paranoid and protective."

"You murdered people!" the Doctor reminded her.

The Keeper shrugged. "A small sacrifice."

"But it didn't get you what you wanted."

She looked up at the Doctor and Rose, and for the first time her eyes seemed to open to her soul. "I need to get home. Please help me."

Rose looked at the Doctor expectantly, but the latter's jaw was set, his hearts already stone towards this creature, who had come so close to ripping Rose from him forever.

"Maybe I could have, before the crime, the murder, the violations," he said coldly. He gestured to the Judoon guards. "But it's not under my jurisdiction now."

The Judoon opened the cell and restrained the Keeper, ready to transfer her to their ship.

Rose and the Doctor followed the Judoon hand in hand as the Keeper was led through the station. Several visitors looked over in surprise to see the Hostess imprisoned, and a whispering flooded the whole station. The Keeper hung her head, not in shame, but because in her mind, she didn't want to give these primitives the satisfaction of seeing her demise. There was no way that she could bear this now. No home, no freedom, no anonymity, trapped in a hostile world from the past...

It was all too much for her. With a quick jolt she barged free of her restraints, and fled for the railings at the edge of the balcony. The Doctor sped after her at once.

"No, stop!"

But too late. They didn't even see where the body hit the ground floor, a great distance below.

----

The Doctor and Rose walked silently back to the TARDIS, and closed the door behind them. The Doctor flung off his coat carelessly and went over to the controls, his face still hard and set, but Rose noticed a tiredness in his eyes. She was concerned.

"Doctor..."

"Hmmm?"

He didn't look up from the controls. Rose sighed, and strolled over to him.

"How did she find herself in the past anyway? So far from home?"

He shrugged. "Guess we'll never know."

Rose's mind wandered. "She must have felt so alone... Was there really nothing you could have done for her?"

The Doctor took a deep, steadying breath. "She sealed her fate. She could have changed, but she chose to die instead." He paused, his own mind wandering. "Maybe she deserved it."

That surprised Rose. "Doctor?!"

He looked down at her with wide, questioning eyes. "After all, isn't that what a killer deserves?"

And Rose knew what he meant. She had seen the Time War, all his pain, and in some way she knew it had been him. That was why she couldn't have gone through the Gateway and changed it. It had been his fault, all along. She looked into those dark, sad eyes and saw that he really was blaming himself. He wasn't asking about the Keeper. He was asking about himself.

Rose's gaze never wavered from his eyes as she answered. "I think everyone, even someone who has done unspeakable things, deserves a second chance."

The Doctor's eyes shone with tears. "Really?"

Rose nodded, and smiled. Then she pondered her own statement, and frowned. "Well, maybe not everyone, certainly not the Daleks, and my mate Tanya's given her bloke Phil way too many chances already, but-"

She found she couldn't finish her sentence. In a flash of messy hair and brown pinstripe, he had pulled her into an enormous embrace and firmly pressed his lips against hers. It took Rose a moment to realise what had happened, but when she'd come to her senses, nothing in time and space could have stopped her kissing him back.

The Doctor felt tears welling in his eyes once more as she kissed him. That kiss meant so much to him; the forgiveness and love that welled from her body and mind to his in that moment seemed to heal the scars he'd accumulated over the centuries, and he knew he would be able to finally start forgiving himself.

A moment later Rose, pulled away a little to look at him, her face flushed and a Cheshire cat smile spreading across it. The Doctor couldn't smile back, not yet, but his lips trembled as he tried. He pulled her back into a hug, and buried his face in her hair. Rose smiled into his shoulder, soothing him softly. She felt his lips against her hair, and heard a few syllables of an ancient, forgotten language that the TARDIS wouldn't translate. But Rose didn't need it translating. As he repeated the words several times over like a chant against her ear, she felt the impact of those words in her heart. And it was enough.

----

Far away, beyond the reach of Gambit Junction and the civilization therein, the Dreamcaster watched the blue box fly away to the undiscovered horizon. It smiled to itself, and glowed with gratitude.

-My many and unwavering thanks to the brave and gracious Rose Tyler. I will repay you, one day. The time is coming, Rose Tyler of Earth, when you will need me as I have needed you. Beware the day, Rose; great sadness we cannot conquer will befall you. Beware that day-

----

Well, that's all folks, as they say. You've probably guessed there will be a sequel sometime in the future. But for now, look out for my next story, Through His Eyes.

I hope you've enjoyed Gambit Junction. Please review! xx