It would take a whole essay to properly explain how this story came to be, but the short version is that it was born in an email conversation with gioiamia last May, and was resurrected in September when wiggiemomsi requested that I work on this epic love story as her support stacie fic.
This story wouldn't exist without the help I received from many people. My heartfelt thanks go out to cookie2697 for her invaluable brainstorming, nitpicking, enthusiasm and support throughout the entire process of writing and editing this massive epic. I'm not kidding when I say that I could not have done this without her - she practically deserves a co-writing credit. *squishy hugs*
I'd also like to thank tardismate, rumpelsnorcack, meremoon and earlgreytea68 for the suggestions, support and enthusiasm that they offered along the way. *massive hugs to you all*
The title of this story comes from a line of a Shakespeare Sonnet called "O Mistress Mine".
What's To Come Is Still Unsure
He wasn't her Doctor.
She stood on the beach, studying the man beside her. He looked and acted like the Doctor. The hand entwined in hers even felt like the Doctor. Yet, only moments before, the TARDIS had vanished with her Doctor inside, and all that was left was this man who should be right for her, but wasn't.
After years of searching for the Doctor, she'd finally found him, only to end up right back where she started - in Bad Wolf Bloody Bay. Suddenly she was filled with so much hurt and rage that it startled her. How could he? After all they'd been through together, all she'd done to get back to him, how could he just abandon her?
She blinked back tears, remembering the elation she'd felt when she'd finally found him, as they'd run toward each other on the street; her devastation as he fell to the ground in front of her; her joy that he hadn't regenerated into a new person. All that and within twenty four hours he'd dumped her back on the beach where it all began.
Did he even care about her at all? How could he just walk away from her like that? She choked on a sob. He'd left her. Plain and simple. And she couldn't do a thing about it.
"You didn't even give me a choice," she whispered to the air as a single tear rolled down her face. "You never asked me what I wanted."
"How could you?!?!?" She screamed, falling to her knees as more tears began to flow. "How could you just leave me? I thought you... I came so far..." Her voice broke and she gave into her sobs, choking and gulping as she let out her pain. "You didn't even say goodbye..."
The new Doctor knelt beside her, rubbing her back consolingly. Startled, she looked up at him through tear- streaked eyes, feeling ashamed for indulging in such emotion and forgetting that he was stranded too. Compassion and understanding radiated from his eyes, as he continued to comfort her. Confusion and guilt overwhelmed her then, sweeping over her like a black cloud, stirring and strengthening her anger at the other Doctor.
She hiccupped and tried to calm herself down, knowing that he needed her to be strong even though she wanted nothing more than to fall apart.
"He thought he was doing what was best for you, for us. He wanted to give us a chance," the new Doctor said softly, hesitantly brushing her hair out of her eyes.
Her eyes narrowed in accusation. "Who's he to decide what's best for me? What about what I want? Doesn't he know how long I fought to get back to him? How hard it was? And what about you? He shouldn't be making people's choices for them."
The new Doctor tilted her chin upward so he could see her eyes. "And if he had given you a choice, what would you have chosen?"
She was about to say, 'Him', when she noticed the vulnerability and fear written in his eyes. "I… I don't know," she admitted, realizing that it was true.
He nodded. "Fair enough."
She studied him for a moment. "How can you be so calm? He abandoned you, too."
He shrugged. "He had his reasons." He grinned. "Besides, I have you."
She smiled tentatively, drying her tears. "I'm sorry, to fall apart like this. It has nothing to do with you."
"I know." He stood and offered his hand to help her up.
She sighed and accepted his help. There was nothing more she could do. She could be angry, she could be upset, but it wouldn't take her back. He'd left her here and now she had to pick up the pieces and move on. She looked down at the hand holding hers and realized that she wasn't being fair to him. She was being incredibly selfish and ungrateful. This had to be a terrible shock to him too; after all, he'd barely existed until a few hours before.
With one final glance at the spot where her Doctor had left her, she resolved to move forward and appreciate the gift she'd been given. "Come on," she said shakily, "Mum's waiting, we should go."
He nodded and put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close. "We should."
The next few weeks were difficult for both Rose and the new Doctor. While he struggled to adjust to a 'normal' human life without access to all of time and space, she alternated between anger at the Doctor who had left her and confusion about what to do with the Doctor in front of her.
"He needs a name," Jackie told her daughter one evening.
"He has a name," Rose retorted.
Jackie scoffed. "If he's going to try and fit in like a human, he needs a proper name, like Jack or Ryan. He can't go around telling people to call him Doctor."
"But that is his name," Rose insisted.
Jackie ignored her. "We could call him Steven, that's a nice name." Rose wrinkled her nose. "Okay then, Paul. Or Adam."
"He doesn't need a new name, Mum."
"But he'll probably pick something boring like 'John Smith'. Where's the fun in that?" Jackie complained.
"He's just 'the Doctor', why do you keep trying to change him?"
"Because he makes you sad." The truth of her mother's words cut right to the center of Rose's gut.
"That has nothing to do with his name, Mum. I'm sad because I miss him, the real Doct--" The words died on her lips when she noticed the new Doctor standing in the doorway.
He met her gaze and held it for a moment, his eyes filled with what seemed to be a mixture of pain and disappointment. Then his eyes darkened and he turned around, walking away from her.
Rose felt as thought she'd been punched in the stomach as she was hit with a tidal wave of guilt and regret. Once again she'd become so wrapped up in herself and her own feelings that she hadn't paid any heed to his.
Before she could change her mind, she raced out of the room.
"Wait!" she called after him.
He paused, mid-stride, raising his eyebrow at her questioningly.
She jogged the last bit and stopped a few feet away from him. "I'm sorry," she said softly, her breath coming in audible gasps. "What I said back there to Mum - I didn't mean it."
"Yes, you did." Anger flashed in his eyes and Rose took a step back.
"I - I - I'm sorry," Rose mumbled unsure of how to fix this.
"You're always sorry, Rose. Stop being sorry and open your eyes to what's right in front of you." He closed the distance between them in three quick steps. For a moment she thought he was going to try to kiss her, but instead, he gazed intently into her eyes. "I'm the DOCTOR, Rose, and Ididn't leave you on that beach. I'm right here." Then, without warning, he took her hand and pulled her down the hallway. "Come, I want to show you something."
He led her to a room at the end of the hall. She'd seen him enter this room more than a dozen times since they'd arrived and she had been curious about what he'd been doing inside. She supposed she was about to find out.
He opened the door and beckoned for her to enter ahead of him. She stepped forward, her heart beating rapidly in anticipation, though of what, she didn't know. To her surprise, it wasn't a room at all, just a round cubby filled with pinkish purple lights. She looked at him in confusion. "What's this?"
He grinned and followed her inside. "It's a teleport. Sontaran technology. Funny thing about parallel worlds - the same events will occur with almost identical results."
"What do you mean by that?"
"The Sontarans visited our universe too, Rose. They came close to destroying the earth but Donna, Martha and I - we stopped them. Pete told me that a similar thing happened here, only it was Torchwood who stopped them." While he spoke, he circled the teleport, adjusting switches and wires as he moved. "They managed to salvage the teleport and replicate it so that certain Torchwood employees could travel between offices. He gave me permission to use it for a little project I'm working on."
Rose stared at him. "Well, you've certainly got his gob."
"Hey!" he said indignantly. "This gob is all mine."
Rose laughed. "If you say so."
He paused, pulling something from his pocket as he fiddled with a panel to the side.
Rose gasped, it was identical to the Sonic Screwdriver she was so familiar with. "Where did you get that?"
"Made it myself." He beamed proudly, aiming it at the panel.
Her eyes widened. "Wow. Okay then."
The corners of his mouth turned upward as he continued his task. "There." He stood up, pocketing the sonic.
"What did you do?"
"Just a little minor tweaking so Torchwood can't track us. Wouldn't want them to find it."
"Find what? Where are we going?"
He took her hand and pressed a button. "You'll see."
Suddenly, Rose felt a jerk in her lower abdomen as the floor disappeared from beneath her feet. Before she had a chance to panic, she felt solid ground again.
They were in a dark, cavernous space. It appeared to be underground and there was scientific equipment scattered all over the place. Near the center of the room was a large glass tube that looked a bit like a giant terrarium. He pulled her toward it.
At first she thought it was empty, but out of the corner of her eye she could see something green and glowing. She knelt down to look at it more closely. "That's the piece of TARDIS the Doctor gave you on the beach." She looked up at him in wonder. "Are you growing one?"
He nodded and knelt beside her, pressing his hand to the glass near the tiny piece of TARDIS. "It should take about five years, thanks to the handy acceleration techniques I've implemented. Short little human life, after all, no time to waste waiting for the typical growth cycle!" He stroked the glass gently. "But she's not doing well for some reason. I think she's going to take a bit longer than I had hoped."
His voice was filled with sadness and Rose felt a sudden urge to reach out to him. She settled for resting her hand over his. "What's wrong with her?" she asked softly.
He sighed. "I'm not sure. It's almost like she's sick, or weak, or sad. I've visited every day since we've been here and there's been no change." His voice broke. "I'm worried she's not going to make it. That's why I moved her here."
Rose looked around again, noticing abandoned medical supplies and weapons scattered across the floor. "What is this place?"
"It's the Torchwood base in Cardiff."
"Cardiff?" Rose frowned for a moment then brightened as realization dawned. "The Rift!" she exclaimed excitedly. "You're hoping the rift will feed the TARDIS!"
He beamed at her proudly. "That's right." His face fell. "Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be making a difference."
Rose reached out and touched his cheek gently. "I'm sorry... Look, I know you're real," she said quietly. "It's just, I keep forgetting that you're him, that he's you..." She trailed off, once again stumped by the complexities of pronouns. "It's all so confusing, you know."
"That's just it, I don't know." He glanced down, taking her hand and squeezing it before continuing. "Rose, I'm still him, just like I would be if I'd regenerated and had a new face. I remember every moment we've ever spent together. Every joke, every tear. I remember what it felt like to have you ripped away from me at Canary Wharf. I remember the pain I felt for years as I mourned your loss, tried to move on. I remember the elation when I finally saw you again, as I ran toward you. That was all me,Rose. Those are my memories, my past. The only difference is that I'm half human. Other than that, in everyway that matters, I am the Doctor." He raised his voice near the end, his frustration evident.
"I'm trying to believe that," she whispered.
His face softened as he smoothed her hair out of her eyes. "I know, and I'll wait for you, as long as it takes. But I needed you to know, I'm as real as that TARDIS over there, and I'm not going anywhere."
Rose took his hand. "I believe you... Doctor." The word rolled off her tongue like an old friend returning after a long absence.
Despite her hesitation, the Doctor smiled, just as she'd hoped he would.
"Thank you," he whispered. "That's the first time you've called me by my name since he left." Then, to her surprise, he reached out and pulled her into a tight hug.
Rose sank into the embrace, feeling more at peace than she had in months. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the green glow from the TARDIS pulsating rapidly and increasing in luminosity as it reflected off the wall.
After several moments, they broke apart, and the Doctor draped his arm over her shoulder as they walked back to the teleport. "Let's go home."
Rose began to make an effort to call him 'Doctor', and not 'new Doctor', or 'other Doctor', or any of the other names she had previously taken to calling him in her head. At first it still didn't feel quite right to her, but it became more and more natural to her over time. She studied him while he wasn't looking, taking in the little nuances and characteristics that reminded her of the original Doctor: the way he babbled nonsensically when he was excited; the way he tugged his ear when he was thinking; the way he ruffled his hand through his hair at the slightest provocation. The more time she spent with him, the more she began to notice and admire small things that were unique to him: the way he hummed while he worked; the way he bit his cheek when he was nervous; the way he tapped his foot when he was happy. Little by little he became her Doctor and though Rose couldn't pinpoint when it happened exactly, she eventually stopped comparing him to the other Doctor and started to appreciate him for himself.
Gradually, life began to reach a certain level of normalcy. Torchwood hired Rose back right away, and with a little prodding offered the Doctor a job in the extraterrestrial investigations department. Though they were forced to remain on the same planet now, their work adventures were remarkably similar to the time when they'd travelled the universe together in the TARDIS. The Doctor still had a knack for getting himself into the most peculiar fixes and it seemed to Rose that they were almost always running from something.
Or in this case, running after something, Rose thought wryly, as she held a pack of ice to the Doctor's arm. He'd scraped it up badly that afternoon by leaping off of a moving train to capture a low-level threat. Just like in days past, the Doctor continued to throw himself into the middle of an adventure with no regard for his own mortality. She wanted to be concerned about his carelessness, but he was safe, the threat was gone, and it was just so typical of him that she shook it off, patching him up with barely a second thought.
A knock on the door pulled her from her thoughts. She reluctantly handed the ice pack off to the Doctor, and called out for the person to enter.
Carl, a young and enthusiastic member of their team, poked his head through the door. "You have a mo, Rose? I think you'll be interested in this." He held up a folder.
Rose nodded and gestured to the table in the center of the room. "Sure, have a seat."
She sat across from him as he opened the folder, and slid it toward her. He scooted his chair over so that it was next to hers and pointed to a section of the document.
"This is the inventory of the warehouse that was taken last week." He leaned across her, turning the page. "And this is the one taken last night. Notice anything strange?"
Rose peered at it carefully, flipping between the two pages as she scanned the nearly identical lists. Carl stood and placed his hand on her back as he read over her shoulder.
BANG! Both of them jumped as the sudden noise erupted on the other side of the room. Rose looked over to see the Doctor picking up a pile of books that he'd knocked on the floor. He seemed to have it under control, so she turned back to Carl and the list. "Oh!" She gasped suddenly, gripping Carl's wrist. "Item DC2697 is missing!" She frowned as, out of the corner of her eye she noticed the Doctor kick the filing cabinet.
"Owww, owww, owww," he yelped, hopping up and down, grasping at his toe.
Rose rolled her eyes. He could be such a baby sometimes. "Oh, you're fine. Get over here and look at this will you?"
The Doctor scowled, and Rose couldn't miss the glare he sent to Carl as he walked over to them. The Doctor placed his hand possessively on her shoulder before taking the folder. Carl eased back into his chair, watching them closely.
"No, it can't be!" the Doctor exclaimed suddenly, frowning at the paper. "That's not the Dimension Cannon is it?"
Rose nodded. "It is."
"But how does something like that just go missing?"
Carl shrugged. "I don't know. It was there last week, now it's not. We're looking into it. I just thought Rose would want to know since it was her project."
"Thank you for letting us know," the Doctor said coldly, striding to the door and holding it open for him.
"Keep us posted," Rose called as Carl quickly scuttled out of the room.
The Doctor slammed the door before Carl could respond. Without looking at Rose, he returned to his desk and bent to pick up the rest of the books that he'd dropped on the floor earlier.
Rose pursed her lips and wandered over to him, stilling his motions with her hand on his arm.
"Doctor? What's wrong?" She asked gently, hoping to coax him into answering.
"Nothing." He dumped the books on his desk, slumped in a chair and began to flip through another folder, keeping his eyes resolutely glued to the page.
"You're sulking," she accused.
"I'm not. I'm busy, that's all."
"Doctor, I've known you for years. You can't fool me." She inched closer so she was leaning against his desk. She folded her arms and looked down at him.
He finally lifted his head long enough to glare at her. "Fine, if you know me so well, you tell me why I'm sulking."
A smile spread over her lips. That was easy. "You're jealous."
"Ha!" He scoffed. Standing up and hugging the folder to his chest. "I'm not."
"You are. I saw the nasty look you shot at Carl a moment ago. And what was all that stuff with the banging and the kicking?"
"I just don't see why he has to keep touching you."
"See? You're jealous." She moved closer, removing the folder from his grasp and tossing it onto the desk. "You're cute when you're jealous."
"I'm not --" he began defensively before her words registered. "Wait. Cute? Really?"
Rose's laugh was light and airy. "Oh yes, definitely."
He grinned at her then, looking rather proud of himself. "You think I'm cute."
"I do." She held his gaze and a spark sizzled between them. Her breath hitched in her chest and she leaned forward so that her lips were hovering just above his. "You have nothing to be jealous about," she whispered, just before their lips met. She captured his lips in a passionate kiss, her tongue pressing between them, demanding entrance.
His initial shock seemed to dissipate and she felt him melt against her, his arms ravelling around her, pulling her into a tight embrace as he parted his lips and deepened the kiss.
The Doctor returned from his visit to the TARDIS that evening bursting with excitement.
"Rose!" he cried excitedly, rapping on her door and entering without waiting for a reply. "Rose, you have to see!"
Rose peered at him over the top of her book, arching her eye questioningly. "What is it?"
"The TARDIS!" he exclaimed, practically jumping up and down. "It grew."
"It's grown before."
"Not like this," he insisted, prying the book from her hand and pulling her off the bed. "You have to see for yourself."
He practically dragged her down the hall in his haste to get her to the teleport. Rose laughed. "Slow down a little, Doctor. You're making me dizzy."
They reached the teleport room, and the Doctor grinned at her as he threw open the door and quickly began pressing the necessary buttons. It took less time than it had on their first trip and before she knew it she was stepping into the abandoned Torchwood offices in Cardiff.
She barely had time to process her surroundings before the Doctor's warm hand was in hers again, propelling her toward the glowing incubator that housed the TARDIS. He stopped in front of it, practically vibrating with glee, and she grinned, his delight contagious.
He dropped to his knees and placed his hands gently on the glass. "Look Rose," he said softly. "She's almost doubled in size. She's healthy again." His eyes shone with happiness.
Rose knelt beside him, gazing at the TARDIS with wonder. "How?" she asked.
"I don't know. When I was here yesterday, she had grown a little but she was still unwell, still struggling. Then today, here she is, thriving."
Rose placed her hand over his where it touched the glass. "You were worried about her, weren't you?" she whispered.
He met her gaze, a mixture of hope, sadness and loneliness radiating from his eyes. "I was. Oh, Rose, I miss it so much. Not just the travelling, but the hum of the TARDIS, the way she fills my head with life and love."
Her other hand stroked his cheek reassuringly. "You'll have that again." She leaned forward and kissed him tenderly.
When she pulled away, the Doctor was grinning. He planted a quick kiss on her lips, then turned to glance at the incubating TARDIS once more. "You know, I think you're right. Look, she seems be glowing even brighter than she was a few minutes ago."
Rose beamed. "So she is."
He stood up, pulling her with him. "One day, I'll be able to show you the stars again."
Rose gripped his hand tightly. "I can't wait."
To Be Continued…