Chapter 16- Just As It Should Be
He finally finds Donna, not at the stall with the handbags, but a different stall that sells cookware, plates and cups and things. Without stopping or saying anything, he engulfs her in an enormous hug.
Oh, Donna. I'm so sorry. Remembering his actions in the alternate timeline, he squeezes her tighter. He had been so callous about her death in that world, not quite caring that she was gone as long as Rose was still with him. Granted, he hadn't known Donna personally in that timeline, but that was no excuse for disregarding her- or anyone's- life. No matter how he felt about Rose, he could not place her safety above everyone else's…something, he realizes, he was only able to learn because of their separation.
Jenny was right, he thinks guiltily. There were reasons things happened the way they did. That thought leads to another, happier one. He remembers with renewed joy that Jenny is not dead, as he had thought, but very much alive- and much more grown up since when they parted. And Astrid…
"Oi, watch it, Spaceman!" Donna calls out, breaking into his thoughts. "You want to crush my purchase?" He releases her and she peers worriedly into her bag, ensuring that her souvenir is still intact. Satisfied, she glances up at him. "Now, what was that for? You were only gone ten minutes!"
He shrugs, trying to look innocent. "Well… it felt like a lot longer."
But she knows him too well, and that phrase only causes her to narrow her eyes and stare at him intently. "You didn't go off in the TARDIS, did you? Leaving me stranded on an alien planet, even if it only felt like ten minutes… Tell me you didn't do that!" she demands, getting more and more worked up as she goes on.
He hastily interrupts her. "No! No, I wouldn't do that." He doesn't tell her what did happen though. Just as she is about to ask, a siren wails and they turn to see the fire brigade rushing towards a stall a few blocks over. Smoke is pouring out of the fortune teller's tent. Donna glances back and forth between him and the fire, and he sees her eyes widen as she makes the connection.
"I can't even leave you alone for ten minutes!" she rages, shaking her bag wildly. "Ten minutes, and you've already started a fire or gotten into some other such trouble. Honestly…"
The Doctor has stopped listening to her though. His attention has been caught by something much brighter and wilder than Donna. He walks past her to place his hand against a poster, tracing the words wonderingly. "Donna…" he calls out tentatively. "How long have these been here?"
She turns around to stare at him. "Since we got here, dumbo. They've been up the whole time. It's for the Festival of Bad Wolf." It's his turn to stare at her, bewildered. Surely he would have noticed those two words before…
Donna reaches into her bag, pulls out an object, and holds it out as proof. "Look, I even got a commemorative mug. The words light up when it's filled with something hot, or something like that."
He holds the mug up to the light, turning it over in his hands. The words Bad Wolf are emblazoned clearly on the front. "Did you hear what the festival celebrates?"
"Sure, the salesman told me. It's for some local deity- Bad Wolf, Goddess of Time. Why?"
He tosses the mug back to her and begins striding in the direction of the TARDIS. "I knew her."
"You knew a goddess?" Donna pants disbelievingly as she tries to catch up with him.
He stops suddenly and turns to face her. "Donna, you are aware that you yourself are considered a goddess on no less than four of the planets we've visited, right? That Ginger Goddess business with the Jaftee… And on Excillion, you gained that status for nothing more than introducing the natives to the concept of wearing hats."
"Well, I could hardly let them continue to walk around with painfully sunburned heads, could I?" she retorts. "But… Goddess of Time… that sounds a lot more important than Goddess of Hats. Who was she?"
He turns around and begins walking again. "Rose."
"Rose? The 'Her name was Rose', Rose? 'Still lost' Rose? So you visited Shan Shen with her too?"
"She's never been here." He sighs, trying to think of how to explain it. "At one time, she did have the powers of a goddess… she took the Time Vortex into herself in order to save me. It nearly killed her. But while she had that power, she called herself Bad Wolf, and she scattered those two words throughout time and space, using them as a message to tell herself she could get back to me."
"But…" Donna tries to understand. "If the words were a message, why are they showing up now?"
"It must be the opposite this time," he says, trying to convince himself as much as Donna. "She's telling me I can get back to her."
By this point they have reached the TARDIS. Both travelers stop short, taking in the changes to the old police box. Every single word on the TARDIS has become the words Bad Wolf.
"Wow," Donna whispers. "Your girl really knows how to get a message through, doesn't she."
Not wasting any more time, the Doctor rushes up to the door, pulls it open, and makes his way into the console room. Donna follows close behind. The room is flooded with an eerie red light, and from somewhere in the depths of the ship a bell rings out ominously.
"What's that noise?" Donna demands fearfully.
"The Cloister Bell. There's something seriously wrong with the universe," he informs her, dashing around the console to send the ship into flight. Though there was no indication of what would cause the alarm to go off, he was fairly sure it had something to do with that Darkness Rose had mentioned in her message. He had to find her as soon as possible. "We've got to get back to Earth… now!"
Of course, it wasn't nearly that simple in the end. They'd gone to Earth in the hopes of finding Rose, who seemed to be the only one with any clue about what the Darkness was and how to stop it. Except the Earth had suddenly and impossibly been moved out from under them, and it took ages and a very expensive phone call in order to track it down again. When they arrived, they found a time-travelers web-chat waiting for them, but no Rose. He began to fear that perhaps he was wrong, that the cracks in reality had been wide enough to send only a message and nothing more.
When the fifth connection turned out not to be the long lost blonde girl but an old enemy reborn, the Doctor felt his hearts sink lower than before. Perhaps he was not meant to find her again after all. But Donna won't let him give up. "Maybe she just couldn't get to a computer in time, or something. Doesn't mean she's not here… can't you do a scan or something, see if she's somewhere on the planet?"
The Doctor looks up from the console, hope rising in him again. "I can try. Her psychic signal should still be in the databanks… and after that incident with the Time Vortex, the TARDIS knows Rose like she knows herself. Donna, that's brilliant!"
He begins dashing around the console, flipping levers and pressing buttons. Finally he stops in front of the viewscreen, peering at it anxiously. "Come on, come on…" Finally a blip shows up on the screen. "Gotcha!" He crows, twisting several knobs. "Locking in on her signal… we should be arriving… now!"
As soon as the Time Rotor stops, he rushes to the door and flings it open, Donna following close behind. As she steps out into their destination, Donna raises her eyebrows in surprise. "I think your tracking device must be on the blink, Spaceman. 'Cause as it happens, this isn't Rose- it's my bedroom." Sure enough, there are dressers and a bed here, but no Rose. He turns to Donna, disappointment flooding his features, when voices come wafting up from the living room downstairs.
"You could stay here, with us… you've got that weapon, we'd be safe, for awhile."
"That's my mum!" whispers Donna eagerly, heading for the stairs. But it's the second voice that makes the Doctor stand up and take notice.
"Mrs. Noble, I'm sorry, I wish I could stay with you, really, but I'm needed elsewhere. I don't know what that… thing… on the screen was, but I do know about Daleks, and I know they've gotta be stopped. We need the Doctor."
From the top of the stairs, Donna whirls around to face the Doctor. "Is that…"
"It's her," he whispers, unbelievingly. To hear her voice again, not in some flashback or altered timeline but for real… it's enough to shock him into a moment's stillness. Because she's alive, and so very near, and yet he can't quite bring himself to believe it. He can't stand the thought of going downstairs and finding out that none of it was true, so instead he simply refuses to move.
Donna isn't about to stand for any more nonsense. "Well, don't just stand there," she orders, placing her hands on her hips. "Get down there and sweep her off her feet!"
In the living room, Rose is preparing to depart from the Noble household. "Right," she says decisively. "I'm gonna find him."
From the stairway, Donna calls out casually, "You're a bit late for that. Think he found you first."
The blonde girl turns around slowly, desperately afraid that she's going to be disappointed. But that doesn't happen.
"Doctor?" she whispers, disbelievingly. She's been searching for him for ages, almost given up hope of contacting him, and here he is, showing up out of nowhere when she least expected it. That is so him.
When he says her name, she feels something snap inside, dissolving her disbelief and despair. She finds herself overwhelmed with a thousand intense emotions that eradicate conscious thought, leaving her with a vocabulary of a single word. "Doctor!"
After that, the tiny living room is filled with awkward shuffling as the Doctor impatiently tries to squeeze past Donna while Rose scrambles over the coffee table. It isn't quite a long dramatic run into each others arms, a feat that would be difficult to achieve in such a small space, but the Doctor still manages to do as Donna requested and 'sweep her off her feet.'
"S'just like in the movies, that is," Wilf remarks, wiping a tear from his eyes. Sylvia elbows him to be quiet as she tries to rearrange the magazines their visitor so rudely knocked to the ground.
The Doctor does not want to relinquish his hold on Rose, not ever, but eventually it occurs to him that it's difficult to look at her when they are pressed so tightly together. Gently he draws back a bit, enough to see her face. Her eyes reflect the delight he is feeling, and there is no other place in the universe that he would rather be.
"You found me," Rose whispers, snuggling closer to him again.
"You did quite a bit of the work yourself," he corrects her. "Traveling through dimensions?"
She shrugs, looking a bit embarrassed. "I had some help."
"I'll bet." He pauses for a moment, unsure how to continue. "Listen, Rose… I…"
Bother. He's so gabby in this incarnation, and yet when it comes to important things, he never seems to be able to get the words out. Nothing comes to mind; no words can describe how much he's missed her and what he's gone through to get her back and the elation he feels right now with her…
So instead, he uses his mouth in another way.
She does not seem to mind.
Meanwhile, the already cramped space of the Noble's living room is made even tighter by the arrival of yet another visitor. Quickly assessing the situation, he comes to the conclusion that the woman the Doctor is currently snogging the face off of is indeed the long lost Rose Tyler. As this is not an immediate threat but instead a rather promising situation, he sets down his gun and inquires, "Is there room in there for one more?"
The reunion-kiss is broken off by Rose's squeal of "Jack!" and the Doctor looks on, slightly disappointed but understanding as the two old friends embrace. Going to need some rather heavy explanations there, he reflects, and he does not relish the idea of explaining to Rose once again exactly how Jack came to be immortal. There will be no avoiding it, he knows that now, and of course to even make it to the explanations they'll have to survive their imminent encounter with the Daleks. But he is confident they will be able to do all that, and more.
Because he's the Doctor, reunited with Rose Tyler… but it's not just the two of them any more. It's become much bigger and better than that. Martha Jones is out there somewhere, still fighting to heal and protect the world she calls home. And Sarah Jane Smith, one of his oldest friends, her resolve strengthened by a mother's love. Jack Harkness, who has seen more of time than most could imagine and who is literally ready for anything, still up to his old habits by eying the redhead in the corner. Donna Noble. She is so much more confident than when they first met, and one of the best friends in space and time. And yes, somewhere in time are Astrid and Jenny, as brave and resourceful as always. Someday he will find them again and thank them for giving him the strength he needed to do what was right. Together, this group of travelers makes an unstoppable team. The Children of Time.
And that's just as it should be.
A/N- Whew! End of fic! I am so happy to have made it this far. Thank you so much to all of the wonderful people who sent in their reviews, you always manage to make my day. ^_^
As for the possibility to a sequel, that's very much up in the air right now. I like the idea of writing an AU of Stolen Earth/Journey's End, possibly including Jenny and Astrid... but I have absolutely no idea how to bring it all together and have it make sense without it being a poor rehash of those episodes. So if I get a brilliant idea about that any time soon, there might be a sequel, if not, I still hope to be writing more Who!fic in the future. Thanks again to everyone who stuck with me through this story!