Cause I followed my star and that's what you are
"You should have left well enough alone," the voice says. "Come along."
They move to the doorway. The hall is empty.
"What?" Rose looks to the hallway, trying hard to make out something in the darkness. "What did you say?"
"Come." Out of the shadows appears Madame de Lancie.
The Doctor steps forward. "You! What have you done? Who are you helping?"
She looks tired and haggard, much different from the last time they saw her. "You are to come this way," she says in a voice devoid of all expression.
Rose and the Doctor exchange a worried look.
"What's happened?" Rose asks her. "Are you all right?"
They leave the halls of the dungeon and climb narrow steps that lead into a small, dark room.
"Where are we?" Rose whispers to the Doctor.
"Don't know," he whispers back. "Some kind of house?"
"How did we get here?" she persists. She remembers falling, and waking up, but nothing in between.
The fortune teller waves her hand at a corner of the room. Rose turns in that direction, wondering if they're supposed to sit, stand or kneel. Madame de Lancie opens up the curtains that are hanging at the room's only window. Shadows in the corner turn into a large humanoid figure.
Rose and the Doctor make identical sounds of revulsion. The figure is dark gray, its skin thick and scaly. Eyes of yellow are the only light in its face. Small horns sprout from the top of its head.
"Who are you?" the Doctor asks in fascination. Rose is torn between amusement and the urge to slap him back to the matter at hand. Clearly this monster is to be dreaded, feared and defeated, not admired.
"My master," Madame de Lancie murmurs.
"Does it talk?" the Doctor asks, eyes still fixed on the creature.
"I speak." The voice is clear in the room, but nothing resembling a mouth has moved correspondingly on the creature's face.
"How do you do that?" Rose asks it.
"It is how I communicate."
"Yeah, but how-"
"Rose, it's enough that he is talking to us," the Doctor interrupts her, "and not doing anything else to us. What do you want with us?"
"My servant should not have allowed your memories to be restored."
"I asked her to do it," the Doctor says.
"I took those memories in the first place," the alien counters. "To have them taken back was unpleasant."
"Well, how do you suppose my friend felt?"
"She knew nothing until you came to show her what was lost," the alien snaps. "You are the reason I suffer now."
"Oh. Are you suffering?" the Doctor asks interestedly. "Because as far as I can see, you're sitting pretty comfortably."
The creature growls. Madame de Lancie steps away.
"Could you possibly explain, sometime today, what we're doing here?" Rose asks tartly. "And why you wanted my memories in the first place?"
The creature's eyes focus on her, and a lesser woman than Rose would have backed away. Rose takes a step back, moving closer to the Doctor, just in case. She bumps into him and he slips his arm around her waist.
"That's, that's me. How do you know that?"
"He took your memories," the Doctor tells her. "Somehow he used Madame de Lancie and siphoned them off."
"Is that true?" Rose demands of Madame de Lancie. "Is that why you offered to help me that day?"
"We were waiting for one like you," Madame de Lancie admits weakly. "One who was in pain."
"But what for?" Rose asks.
"It's how he feeds," the Doctor says in a voice of anger and disgust. "Isn't it? Somehow it uses energy from thoughts, and it needed Madame de Lancie to do it. Where are your kind from? I don't recognize you. It must be unique to this universe," he says in an aside to Rose.
The creature gives what might be a laugh. "You do not feel human. You are certainly brighter than a human. Perhaps that is why I will keep you alive longer than the girl."
Rose really does not care where this creature came from. "What do you want with us?"
"What is your name?" the Doctor asks again.
"My people are the Shadows. I arrived in this world some time ago. I landed near a village. My ship was damaged. I came upon this one," gesturing to Madame de Lancie, "and sensed her abilities."
"Her psychic abilities?"
"Low, for some species. Very high, for the ones living on this planet. I needed her to identify humans in pain. I feed off the energy that pain causes. I needed someone to find them for me. I have no substance." It holds up an arm that does, indeed, look very much like a shadow.
"Not physical pain," Rose says. "You don't cause physical pain. You want someone sad or upset or afraid."
"But why my memories?" she asks. "Why were they so important?"
"They caused you pain and sadness. By taking them from you I fed on those emotions. I replaced the blank space with forgetfulness."
"Fine, but they were mine, yeah? How did you erase all memory of the Doctor from my friends?"
"They altered the timelines somehow," the Doctor says. "Didn't you? Changing what happened meant changing the timeline of events."
Rose is horrified by this implication. "Everything that happened, you changed? The Cybermen and the attacks and how I came to this world...you changed it all!"
The Doctor can't help but admire this. "You created entirely new memories for a group of people. Amazing. But they need to be restored."
"They have already had those memories returned," the alien growls. "Now we must hunt for new prey."
"Is that what you do?" Rose demands of Madame de Lancie. "He tells you what to do and you do it?"
"For two months we worked together. Then my ship's site was discovered and you were called in."
"What, in the village? All we found was a clock."
"An oversight on my part. My ship is well-hidden but the timing device was lost. You found it. I your pain and knew that it would be good for us. She came to find you."
"I only went walking because the car was stuck in the mud," Rose says.
"Had you not, we would have come for you," Madame de Lancie says in a tired voice. "I am sorry."
"Why did you let him do that?" Rose asks.
"Be still!" The creature raises a hand and Madame de Lancie gasps for breath, her hand at her throat.
"What are you doing to her?" Rose cries. "Let her go!"
The Doctor holds her back before she can attack the alien herself.
"I'm using what I can on this world to sustain myself."
"But you're hurting her!"
"That is of no consequence. My biological imperative is to survive at all costs."
The Doctor keeps Rose back with an effort. "What do you need her for, anyway? Let her go."
"He amplified my abilities," Madame de Lancie whispers. "Offered to make them stronger, bring in more business. He joined his mind with mine to make it happen."
He can't help feeling appalled. "And you let him? An alien creature?"
"It worked well at first."
"When your friend came I saw a chance to take what I needed for a longer length of nourishment. It worked quite well. But now the restoration of her memories has drawn the energy back from me. So I draw it from this human."
"Let her go," the Doctor says. "Release your hold on her and I will help you."
"Help me? How?"
"We can take you back to you home. "
"I have no wish for that. There are plenty on this planet who are in pain."
Rose is near tears. This women did not set out to harm her on purpose, and she can't bear to see her suffer.
"Let her go!" Madame de Lancie still struggles for breath, and she has sunk to the floor.
"Your people could not find me," the alien hisses. "You could not detect what had happened to your minds. You were not missing the energy I took from you. There is no harm in that."
"There's harm in harming a person!" Rose cries.
"You need to go," the Doctor says. "Let go of this woman and return to your planet."
"I don't think so."
The Doctor pulls out his sonic screwdriver, thumbs it to the setting he needs, all the time keeping his attention on the alien, and therefore its attention off what he's doing.
"One last chance," he says. "You can still walk away from this."
"I have no intention of doing so. I will take your energy until you are but husks. And then we will go hunting for more."
Madame de Lancie whimpers in pain and fear.
The Doctor raises the sonic and takes aim. The alien howls and collapses.
"You wouldn't think a shadow-like substance would be affected by something like a sonic screwdriver," the Doctor tells the alien pleasantly. "But it's actually quite effective."
Rose doesn't spare it a glance as she runs to Madame de Lancie.
"Are you all right?" she asks breathlessly, holding up the woman's head "Madame de Lancie?"
She manages a weak smile. "My name is Janet."
"Janet. Stay with me, Janet. Stay awake."
"I'll be all right," she whispers, just before passing out.
They take Janet back to her home. She is as healthy as the Doctor can ascertain, with no lasting effects from the psychic raiding.
"Just don't go availing yourself of more aliens," he tells her firmly.
She smiles. "No, I will not. Thank you for your help. I'm sorry this has to affect you."
"It's okay," Rose assures her. "It worked out in the end."
They've helped her lay down on her couch. Rose fixed her a cup of tea from her kitchen and Janet is drinking it gratefully. The Doctor goes away to take sonic readings of the house to ensure that no negative psychic effects remain.
"It may have worked out for you, but the next person we chose may not have been so lucky. I can't imagine having that done to me."
"Well, it's okay now," Rose says. "We're good to go."
"Almost." Janet sits up quickly, setting her cup down. "Rose."
She catches Rose's hands in hers, and Rose is uncomfortably reminded of the last time they sat posed like this.
"I was drawn to you because of something inside you," Janet whispers, even though the Doctor is several rooms and one floor away. Rose can hear him clattering around, opening doors and drawers.
"Inside me?" Rose shakes her head, not understanding.
"We read something within you. Something small and bright and hot. It could have destroyed us, but instead you let us take your memories."
"I didn't let you do anything! You took them from me. You and that alien crystal ball."
"The alien is gone now. It doesn't control me. But the time it spent inside my mind strengthened my own abilities. I can see much more than before, Rose."
"And?" Rose presses.
"Be careful," Janet whispers to her as the Doctor comes back to the room. "Not all fire will burn you, but it has a price."
Rose stares at her, not understanding.
They take the still unconscious alien back to his planet, where they dump him on the consulate's doorstep with a strict warning to keep him away from Earth. The aliens, stunned by a visit from a human, agree with almost no opposition.
"Guess the aliens in this universe haven't communicated with Earth yet," Rose says as they're on their way home in the TARDIS.
"Guess not," the Doctor agrees cheerfully. "Hope we haven't started a trend. Or altered history too much. That would be unfortunate."
"Well, he started it."
He lands them on the Tylers' lawn. Checking the computer monitor, he doesn't see signs that the Tylers have gone all out to defend themselves from an alien attack. He does not mind admitting to himself that the notion of facing both of Rose's parents makes him hesitate to leave the safety of his ship.
Rose stands beside him at the console. "Will they remember you?" she asks. "My parents and Mickey and Jake?"
"Your memories were restored and returned. I felt the time shift back to the moment she changed your thoughts and then shift back to now. A complicated procedure. The Shadow must have used enormous resources to control and manipulate her mind to the extent that she could then manipulate yours. And for Madame de Lancie to manipulate reality back to the moment she took those memories in the first place must have required-" He catches the look Rose is giving him and clears his throat.
"Come on." She takes his hand and they walk out of the TARDIS and to the front door. Rose thinks it's a good thing that no security teams are swarming over them right now.
He hangs back at the steps.
"Come on." She tugs on his arm. "They'll be fine."
Jackie flings open the door, looking worn and haggard. "Rose!"
"I'm all right, Mum."
Jackie hugs her tightly. "It wasn't a dream," she says, looking at the Doctor over Rose's shoulder. "You're here. You came back."
There is nothing more for him to say. From the moment Jackie got her memory back, she's known what's going to happen next. He sees it in her eyes, her understanding and acceptance. He feels terrible for being the one to cause that look on her face, but he's going to do it just the same.
Mickey and Jake are called to the mansion, and the Doctor runs brief readings on them all. Pete and Jackie show no effect from what happened.
"It's good to see you again," Mickey tells the Doctor.
He grins. "You too. You enjoying this place?"
"Of course. Got work, friends." Mickey shrugs. "Never had a chance with her once you walked in," he admits. "I knew that all along, but you can't blame a man for trying."
"Er, no." The Doctor doesn't quite know what to say to that. "Mickey..."
"She wants to go back with you. Take her. I know Jackie's not too keen about it, but it's what Rose needs."
"The breach is still open, but we need to move quickly. If you want...there's plenty of room in the TARDIS."
"Travel around again, you, me and Rose?"
The Doctor shifts uncomfortably. "If you want. Or I could just take you back home."
Mickey's expression turns dark. "What's it like now?"
"London is rebuilding. But it's still...the estate - well, there's not much left."
"Yeah, figured as much. Thanks, Doctor, but I'll stay here. My gran's still here and I'm taking care of her. Reckon I'll do okay."
"All right, then." An awkward silence ensues, and the Doctor breaks it when he recalls something.
"Mickey, this Gareth fellow?"
"He's an, a co-worker?"
"Accountant," Jake puts in.
"And he and Rose were dating?" The Doctor is trying hard to appear casual, but the two men see right through him. Jake has a faint smirk on his face.
"They were dating for a while," Jake acknowledges. "I think the lack of memory had a part in that. We've already had a talk with him."
"Oh, good then. That's, wait, you had a talk with him?"
"We had to explain what was wrong with Rose," Mickey says. "Obviously, since she'd been acting all loopy and giggly and just not herself. He knew it - she'd paid him no attention before, and then it was all maybe this will work out and he's my boyfriend, isn't this great?"
"He got over it," Jake assures him. "He knew Rose was missing somebody. We just told him you'd come back and Rose was staying with you."
The Doctor is rather touched by this gesture of affection towards Rose. "Well. Thanks. It wasn't his fault this all happened."
"That's what friends are for," they remind him.
Memories are returned to normal, with no foreign residue left behind. A happy little reunion ensues, and Rose can appreciate how much the Doctor has missed her if he's willing to hang around her parents' home instead of leaving in the TARDIS immediately.
They both know there's no coming back here, and he's letting her have one last evening with her family. Letting Jackie have her daughter for one more night.
Rose is reluctant to bring it up. They've had a nice time so far. He's allowed himself to be pulled into the mansion for the evening with Pete and Jackie. The main fact of life that is hanging over their heads is still there, but no one says a word about it. One final night of normality.
Rose can remember another strange kind of prophecy. Two, actually. The werewolf told her that she burnt like the sun. The beast said that she would die in battle. She remembers bright golden light and the destruction of the Dalek emperor. She didn't lose her life in battle, but the Rose Tyler who lived on her world died.
"Not all fire will burn, but it has a price," she says now.
It's after dinner. Jackie and Pete are in the dining room,giving some directions to the staff. Rose and the Doctor are sitting in the parlor, waiting for them to come back so they can hurt Jackie some more.
The Doctor looks up from a gossip magazine that has Rose's picture on the cover.
"Madame de Lancie said that not all fire will burn me."
He cocks his head in puzzlement. "It won't?"
"She's a psychic, Doctor. She sees things that we can't."
"The alien was amplifying that for her."
"And she kept that ability! I think she was reading my future."
"What, without tea leaves or tarot cards?"
"Doctor!" Rose says impatiently.
"My memories are back," she says softly. "All of them, even the ones I tried to forget. I can't seem to put them all away again."
He looks concerned and sets the magazine aside. "That should fade in time. If not, we can-"
"Not the point. I'm fine. But everything's just, right there, right in front of me, all at once and all the time. I looked into the Time Vortex to save you. What if it changed me?"
"I took it out of you, Rose. Nothing remains." He takes her hands in his and holds them together against his chest, right below the knot in his tie. "You would have died if anything were left behind."
"I could see the TARDIS. I remembered it, even when I couldn't remember you."
"And you think it's because you have a new ability?"
He's deliberately avoiding the issue, Rose thinks. "Fine," she says shortly. "I'm being silly, am I?"
"Well, yes, you are, actually."
She glares at him.
He clears his throat. "I'll just go and check on the TARDIS. Are you..." He can't bring himself to say the words he wants to say. For a brief time, here on this world with her, he was able to act like someone not quite himself. Now the old patterns have come back and he is powerless to change now.
It might also be, of course, that he's in Jackie Tyler's house. He's still waiting for her to come down and slap him good.
"I'm coming with you," Rose says. "I'm going back with you."
"I won't say it's not what I want. But are you sure? Your parents, the baby..."
"They'll be fine without me. I'll say goodbye and pack up my stuff and it'll be like, like I was never here." The notion makes her tear up. He's smiling fondly at her. He knows exactly what she's choosing, and he knows it's not easy.
"I won't be able to bring you back," he says gently. "I don't know how I managed it this time."
"I know." But her tears are coming faster. "But...but we might be able to one day, yeah? By accident or something?"
He nods. "That's always possible."
"Okay, then." She wipes her face. "I'm coming with you. Don't try to change my mind."
Jackie is crying.
"Mum, please." Rose falters.
"I knew you were leaving with him," Jackie sniffs. "Soon as I remembered, I looked at Pete and I knew. But it's still hard to say goodbye to you."
"Ill be all right, Mum. He'll take care of me."
"Oh, Rose." Jackie hugs her tightly. "Promise me you'll be safe. Promise me!"
"I promise," Rose vows. "Promise you'll take care of little Alistair."
Jackie manages to laugh through her teas. "Dad's calling him Linus right now."
"Oh, that's awful."
"I know." Jackie lets out her breath and kisses her daughter one last time.
They're standing on the lawn, the TARDIS a few meters away. Pete and Mickey and Jake are ranged on the steps, watching. She's already said goodbye to them, and doesn't think she could do it again.
The Doctor comes out of the TARDIS and raises an arm to the men in greeting. They wave back.
Turning around, he squares his shoulders and faces Jackie Tyler. No one will ever call him a coward.
"Take care of her," Jackie tells him with a mean look in her eye. "It's your job to do that now."
"I will," he promises. He lets her hug him because he knows pregnant women can be emotional. He neatly evades the kiss she tries to give him, though. A man's got to have his limits, even if he's not really a man.
"I love you," Rose says, hugging her mum tightly once more.
"I love you, too, Rose. Goodbye." Jackie is crying for herself. Rose is doing what she wants to do. Jackie will miss her so much, but if this is what she wants than she will let her do it.
What will happen to her human Rose, living with a nearly-immortal alien, is not something Jackie is going to think about right now.
Her bags are already in the TARDIS. With a last wave at everyone, Rose follows the Doctor inside.
Jackie stands on the lawn as the blue box fades away.
On the softly scented apple grass on New Earth, Rose and the Doctor lie on a blanket and admire the scenery of New New York.
She's wearing black trousers and a lime green sweater. He's still in his brown suit. Instead of a tie he's wearing her favorite dark blue shirt, unbuttoned at the throat over another blue shirt. They're comfortable enough with each other now that she lies curled up against his side, her head resting on his shoulder.
"What did you do?" Rose asks. "After I was gone?"
"Oh, lots of things." He lays back on the ground. "Went to the moon. Saved the world from the Daleks-"
"What, again?" she asks, appalled.
"For good?" she demands.
He thinks. "I went to the end of the universe."
"Really?" She rolls over onto her stomach and looks at him. "We were already there. We watched the Earth burn."
"That was the end of Earth," he reminds her. This was the end of the universe, the end of mankind."
Rose can barely conceive of such a thing. "What was it like?"
He pauses, thinking over what had happened. "It was...horrible. Worse than horrible." A year of captivity that never was, death and destruction and losses beyond his ability to bear them. Hurting his friends, watching them be hurt.
Rose senses there is more that he's not sharing. She will not push him right now. Someday he will tell her.
"Were you alone?" she asks instead.
He turns to look at her. "What?"
"You've had companions before me. Did you travel alone?"
"No. Not always. There was the woman. Called Martha. She was a doctor. She tagged along for a bit."
Rose tries not to feel jealous. She fails. "A doctor?"
"She was brilliant. Very smart and very brave. Just one problem."
He smiles at her. "She wasn't you."
They walk around New New York, the Doctor pointing out things she'd missed the first time they were there.
"So you really brought her here? A place we'd been to together?"
He sighs. "I wanted to show her something spectacular."
"And you chose this? I mean, it's a nice place, but can you blame her for being annoyed?"
"A rational human would not have felt annoyed."
"You were on the rebound," she accuses him.
"Well, of course. I was missing you. I made it up to her. We went and met Shakespeare next."
"Shakespeare!" Rose says indignantly. "I never got to meet Shakespeare!"
"I would have taken you in time, Rose. I still will. But I had to make it up to Martha."
"She fancied you," Rose says suddenly, getting to the root rather quickly. "Didn't she? She did!" she says, seeing the look on his face. "Oh, Doctor, how could you?"
"I couldn't help it! I asked her to travel along for a while, not to have a, a romance or anything."
She giggles and rests her head on his arm. He slips his arm around her waist.
"How could I not miss you?" he asks. "I couldn't stop. I tried."
"I wanted to stop," Rose says. "I knew it was useless to miss you and hope and wait. But you came!"
"I did! I came back for you."
Their happy laughter fades, and Rose finally faces the question that was on Jackie's mind, the one that's on hers right now, that's been on her mind ever since they returned to their proper universe. They've been avoiding the entire issue, but now that she knows this is permanent, that their relationship is on another, different track than before, it needs to be said. He will not deal with it, she knows from long experience, so it's up to her.
"So, I'm human."
"Yes, I know," he says, looking down at her and grinning. "Pink and yellow and human. That's you."
She smiles at him. He's already evading the subject, poor thing. Maybe he just can't help it.
"I'm human. I'm gonna die. We don't have forever."
"We need to face it," she insists.
"Rose." There are tears in his eyes, in his voice, and at long last she understands his words to her outside that chip shop, so long ago when they were hunting Krillitaines.
"But it's all right, Doctor. Don't you understand? I'm willing to take the risk. You came all this way to find me! If you hadn't I'd still be walking around, not remembering you."
"Will you stay with me?" he asks quietly.
"What were you going to say?" she asks. "That day on the beach - the worst day of my life. What were you going to say?"
He looks down at her, his expression open. "Rose Tyler," he says tenderly, "I love you."
Her breath leaves her lungs in a rush.
"I love you," he repeats, surprised. "Why are you crying?"
She shakes her head. "Sorry. It's stupid. But it was just so hard, losing you. And now I've got you back."
"You've got me back," he agrees.
She wipes her eyes. "Forever?" she asks tentatively.
"Oh, no, not forever," he assures her. "That's not long enough."
Once upon a time there was a woman named Rose who loved a man with no name but the one he gave himself. He took her away from home in his magical machine and showed her the whole of time and space.
She promised him forever, the only forever that she had. They thought it would have to be enough. They were happy with what they had.
But Bad Wolf has other plans for Rose, other plans for her forevers.
The song remains.
to be continued....