Author's Note: I seem to be obsessed with the moment when Rose appears at the end of Partners in Crime. This is kind of a companion piece to my first DW fic, Reunion, though it's not a sequel. More like an alternate possibility.
Special thanks to the marvellous meremoon for betaing this story and helping me to make it even better. Your suggestions and tips were invaluable. Thank you.
Rose stood on the street, surveying the scene, her heart pounding with hope and anticipation. The police had blocked it off, and were ushering people backward. She craned her neck, attempting to look past the officers in the hope of seeing the familiar flash of brown suit, but instead all she saw was a bit of empty pavement and some traffic cones. Disappointed, Rose slumped her shoulders. She had been so sure, so certain that this was it, that she'd find him here. She'd been searching for a means of returning to him for years, finally finding her way back into this universe three months earlier. Three long months of tracking down disasters and crises all over this universe in the hopes of finding him again. With every failed attempt, a little part of her heart died.
When the dimension cannon had suddenly started working, Rose had been elated. For the first time since she'd been sucked into Pete's World, she felt alive; her heart full of warmth and hope. But time and again she'd landed in his universe and time and again she returned to Pete's World without finding him. Each time that happened, she felt more lonely and heartbroken than she had the time before.
Now though, her need to find him was more urgent than ever, and not just because she missed him desperately. The mere fact that she was able to travel between parallel universes the way she had been was proof that the walls of reality were collapsing again. She didn't know what was happening exactly, but she sensed that it was something big; something worse than anything they'd faced before. All of creation hung in the balance and she had to warn the Doctor, because he might be their only hope of surviving whatever was coming.
Rose cast a final forlorn glance at the street and was about to walk away when she caught a potion of a conversation as a red haired woman walked past with her cell phone. "...Spaceship. But I've still got the car keys. Look. There's a bin..." Something about the excited manner in which the woman spoke piqued Rose's interest. There was something about this woman that made her wonder if perhaps she'd somehow been in contact with the Doctor. It was a crazy theory, one that very likely had zero foundation in reality, but at this point, she was willing to grasp at straws.
Rose watched as the woman tossed something into a bin and hung up her cell phone. Then, to her surprise, the woman approached her, chattering excitedly. "Listen, there is this woman that's going to come along, a tall blond woman called Sylvia, tell her that bin there. Right, it'll all make sense. That bin there." The woman turned abruptly and began to run, leaving Rose standing on the street, blinking after her.
On a whim, Rose decided to follow her. She was sure nothing would come of it, but still, there was a niggling feeling in her gut that told her this strange, red headed woman was someone important. The woman rounded a corner and Rose dashed after her without hesitation.
It felt good to be running again.
She turned into an alleyway and lurched to a stop next to a bright blue car. Her chest suddenly felt tight, as though all of the air had been sucked from her lungs. Rose gasped for air, her hand resting over her heart, her mouth hanging open. She blinked, disbelieving the sight in front of her.
When she opened her eyes it was still there and her heart soared. It was real, the TARDIS was only a few feet away from her. She had actually found him. That thought alone had every nerve ending in her body buzzing with excitement.
Rose didn't remember telling her legs to move, but they were running anyway, one foot in front of the other, each step bringing her closer to the Doctor. She reached the door just as the familiar sound of the TARDIS filled the alley. Frantically she pulled a key out of her pocket, jammed it into the lock and thrust open the door at the last possible second.
Neither of the occupants noticed her as the TARDIS jerked into orbit. She smiled as she watched the Doctor move fluidly around the console, flipping switches and pressing buttons with ease. Rose was relieved to discover that he was still her Doctor, that he hadn't changed, hadn't regenerated.
The woman with red hair stood near the console, loudly exclaiming about how brilliant it all was, as Rose stepped further into the TARDIS, preparing herself to speak. It was time to let the Doctor know that she was here.
Suddenly the lights flickered and the TARDIS began to shake violently. Rose groped around for something to grasp, for something to steady her, but there was nothing. She felt a tug deep within her abdomen and she was thrust forward. Her head hit something hard and she tumbled backward, landing on top of someone. She barely had time to wonder who she'd fallen on before she slipped out of consciousness and everything went black.
The TARDIS stilled and the Doctor groaned. He'd had some rough trips in the past, but that one was one of the worst. He wouldn't be surprised if Donna changed her mind about travelling with him after this trip.
"Oof! Donna, you alright?" He prodded the heavy lump lying across him. It didn't move. "Donna?" He raised his voice, concerned.
"Oi. Settle down spaceman. I'm fine," he heard her reply, and he released a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding. Donna was okay. He expected her to try and stand up, but the weight upon him remained unchanged.
"Good. Now would you care to get off me?"
"Get off you? What kind of game are you playing at, buddy boy?"
The lights of the TARDIS were still out so he couldn't be certain, but it sounded like Donna was on the other side of the console. The Doctor frowned. If Donna was over there, who was laying on him? "Where are you?" he asked wearily.
Donna was clearly not amused. "I'm right here, by the chair." He heard a scuffle, followed by a squeaking sound as she settled into the captain's chair.
Okay, so the person laying on top of him was definitely not Donna, who was it then? The Doctor wished he could see, but since he couldn't, he used his hands instead. He felt a nose, and lips and ears. Yes, it's definitely a person. But who? And why are they on my TARDIS? For a fleeting moment he considered the possibility that Jack had managed to find him again, but then he felt long hair and he quickly ruled Jack out. His hand brushed something wet and sticky and the Doctor's hearts began to quicken. He sniffed his fingers, quickly recognizing the sweet metallic scent. Whoever it was, they were bleeding.
He needed the lights. Since he didn't want to move, for fear of injuring his mystery guest further, the Doctor quickly enlisted Donna's help. He briefly explained the situation and verbally guided her through the steps for activating the auxiliary power supply. It took four attempts, but in the end, Donna was successful and the TARDIS was bathed in light.
The first thing he saw was Donna gaping down at him. "But...but I know her," she spluttered, stunned. "Well, I mean I recognize her, she was in the street when I was dealing with the keys. She must have followed me. But why?"
The Doctor followed her gaze and instantly both of his hearts were beating thunderously. "Impossible," he whispered, barely daring to believe that what he was seeing was real.
"What? What's impossible?" Donna asked.
The Doctor met her gaze and uttered, "Rose."
Donna's eyes widened and she gasped. She was about to ask another question when she noticed the blood in Rose's hair. "She's hurt." Donna frowned, kneeling down to examine the injury.
"Yes. She must have hit her head when she fell. Help me get her up, will you?" A million thoughts and questions were floating through his mind, but he'd have to deal with them later. Right now, his primary concern was taking care of Rose.
Together they gently carried her into one of the bedrooms. Once she was safely in bed, the Doctor tended to her injuries. He was extremely relieved to discover that the blood was from a very shallow surface wound. He cleaned it gently, tracing the contours of the cut with his fingers; feeling the warmth of her soft skin as he stroked her hair, all the while wondering if his senses were taunting him. He half expected the sight of her; the sound and smell and feel of her to crumble away as suddenly as it had appeared.
His biggest concern was her lack of consciousness; he was worried she might have a concussion. He tried to wake her several times, but Rose continued to sleep, so he did the only thing he could: he wrapped his arms around her and held her as she slept.
There was no way he was leaving her alone.
Donna sat in the chair next to the bed, joining the Doctor in his silent vigil, and after a while, she broke through the deafening quiet. "I don't get it. I thought you said she was trapped in a parallel universe."
"Then how is she here?"
"I don't know. She must have found a way through. Somehow she figured out how to come back." His eyes were brighter than Donna had ever seen them.
Donna smiled. "That's bloody brilliant."
The Doctor broke into a huge grin. "It really is, isn't it?" His face fell. "Except..."
"Welllll, all pathways between parallel worlds are completely closed - I should know, I sealed them myself – so if Rose can travel between universes it means that the fabric of reality is weakening, that's the only way she would be able to get through." The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. "But how?" he squinted down at Rose. "What's causing the weakness?"
The hours passed and the Doctor continued to lay beside Rose. His mind was whirring as thousands of thoughts and emotions filtered through his brain. He wanted to hold her forever and never let go again. For over a year he'd been haunted by the memory of her slipping from the lever at Canary Wharf. Every time he closed his eyes he relived that moment, and often his body shook as the terror he'd felt watching her fly toward the void hit him again. He had been shattered after their meeting on the beach, his unspoken declaration and the knowledge that they would never see each other again, weighing heavily on his shoulders at all times.
But now, here she was. It was impossible and yet, she was real. He could hold her, touch her, smell her. He didn't know how she'd done it but he was elated that she had. He hugged her more tightly and brushed a kiss against her temple. Wake up, he pleaded silently. Please wake up, I can't lose you again. He buried his face in her hair, and breathed deeply, as if his breath alone held the power to rouse her.
Donna watched from her chair as the Doctor lifted his head and whispered softly into Rose's ear. Her heart broke for him. She remembered how wrecked he'd been the first time she'd met him. The loss had been so raw then, so painful. She'd sensed then, that Rose meant a lot to him, but seeing him with her now, it hit her just how much it must have cost him to carry on without her. And now, here she was, back in his arms where she belonged, but she was hurt and he didn't know if she would be okay. Silent tears flowed down her face as she prayed for them both. Rose had to wake up, she just had to be alright. Donna refused to accept any other possibility.
Whispered words floated through the blackness into Rose's mind; words she had yearned to hear since long before they'd almost been uttered on a beach. It was a declaration she'd ached for with every fibre of her being, and she clung to it now as it rang in her ears. Something about the familiar tone gave her strength and she fought harder, grabbing onto the words, willing them to pull her through the bleak darkness.
Her eyes fluttered open and awareness began to seep through her consciousness. The first thing she was aware of was the pounding in her head. The second thing she noticed was the secure feeling of strong arms encircling her, and a warm, familiar body pressed against her. She breathed in his scent and sighed contentedly. She had missed everything about him and now, here he was, holding her. It was the most wonderful sensation in the world. Rose sighed audibly and the Doctor stirred.
"Rose?" his voice was hoarse, laced with a mixture of pain and happiness.
"Doctor?" The word was familiar and foreign at the same time.
"Oh, Rose." The Doctor kissed her forehead and Rose heard him take a shaky breath.
Rose ignored the thumping in her skull and twisted her body so she could see him. The sight of his face, so close to hers, stamped with multiple emotions, caused the dam within her to break and she began to sob. "It's you, it's really you."
She hugged him, her tears falling more rapidly as she finally allowed herself to release all of the pain and angst she'd been feeling since that fateful day on the beach.
His thumb found every salty drop, and brushed each one away. "Shhh, it's okay."
"I missed you. You have no idea how much."
He smiled at that. "Oh, I might have an inkling." There was a cough from behind him and he shifted slightly so she could see the red head sitting next to the bed. "Right. Rose, this is Donna,"
Donna. The name suited her.
Donna beamed at Rose. "Welcome back."
"Thanks," Rose grinned back then winced at the pain in her head. Instantly the Doctor's face was looming above her, concern etched across his features. "I'm okay, just a little bump on the head," she assured him.
He studied her for a moment before accepting her words and realizing that she really was all right. Relief flowed through him and without thinking he sought her lips, kissing her tenderly but with a depth of emotion that left them both breathless.
Neither of them noticed as Donna slipped quietly from the room.
"Welcome home, Rose Tyler," he whispered, capturing her lips again. They had many things to deal with, many things to discuss, but, for now they both revelled in the impossible miracle of being together again.
The rest could come later.... Much later.