Author's Note: My first fanfic! Reading so many wonderful stories here convinced me to take the plunge and commit one of the stories in my head to paper. Er, pixels. I hope it pleases.
Disclaimer: The major characters herein are owned by the BBC, of course; the minor characters are mine, especially Brennan. I don't mind if somebody else hires him, though; I'm generous and he's capable.
Alternating Universes Series, Part One
How do you begin again, after your heart is crushed?
How do you turn from one to another? How do you go on?
A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets. - Titanic
Bad Wolf Bay, Pete's World
"And you, Doctor? What was the end of that sentence?"
"I love you. I always have."
She stared at him, so close. Dazzled. Wanting to believe. Then, without thinking, she grabbed his lapels and pulled him into a kiss, pent-up longing pouring out of them both and wrapping them up together.
The TARDIS door closed and she gasped and broke away, half-running a few steps towards the disappearing blue box, then stumbling to a stop as the last trace faded.
Rejected. Abandoned. The man she'd chased so far and so long was gone, forever.
Or was he?
He stepped up beside her and took her hand, which turned in his automatically, returning the clasp like it had a thousand times before. She turned and looked at him again. Softly, gently, he asked: "Second worst day of your life?"
A beat. Two. Then, she took a deep, shaky, but determined breath and answered: "No. Just... don't let go." Help me. Find me.
His hand instantly tightened on hers, and stayed tight. "Never." I'm here. Right here.
A few endless moments longer, Jackie's voice came from behind, startling them both. "I do hate to interrupt, but unless one of you's got a working mobile in your pocket, we've got a long walk ahead. The nearest town's still five kilometers back down the road." She turned and started walking towards the start of the tarmac, visible further along the beach. "Come on, it's this way."
Steady, not taking his eyes from hers, he asked "Ready?"
Another deep breath, trying to glue the shards of her mind back together. "Yeah." Then, remembering, she tore her eyes away and glanced beyond him towards the base of the cliffs nearby. "But we don't have to walk." She half-turned: "Mum! MUM! We don't have to walk!" Gesturing towards the cliffs, she started towards them, not letting go of his hand. She glanced down, surprised that the sand was under her feet and not up above her waist; she felt like she was wading through molasses, clawing to be normal and move forward. Cliff. Box. Phone. ET phone home. She fought back a hysterical giggle.
Catching up, Jackie puffed "What? That box? That's just a weather recorder! They don't have phones or anything!"
Rose shook her head. "They do when I install 'em." Taking pity on Jackie, she added "It's not just a weather recorder, Mum, it's a surveillance post." Glancing at the gentleman helping her up the rocks, she added with a tiny wry smile, "For today, apparently." He grinned back.
They climbed over the first level of rocks and stepped up to the box, a weather-beaten, faded red wooden cube about two feet square, bolted into the cliff at eye level, with small holes drilled through the front. Rose reached up with her free hand and fiddled with the latch, then dropped the front to reveal some standard, not-too-interesting data recorders and a small camera poking out one of the holes. A quick look revealed none of it was in very good shape.
"Well," said Jackie skeptically, "I hope the phone's still working."
As if in answer, they heard a ringing coming from the back of the box. "Yup", said Rose, popping the p, "I think it is."
Reaching further in, she pressed her thumb onto a particular unmarked spot on the back wall, which proved to be a thumbprint reader. A couple of whirs and clicks later, the back dropped down to show a mobile comm set attached to the camera, along with a small video screen with a familiar face already framed.
"Snoop!" accused Rose, mock-angry. This is Normal. Remember Normal?
"Hey!" Pete shot back, grinning, "You're the one who installed the camera!" His voice softened. "You OK, sweetheart?"
"Yeah, I'm all right." I think.
"Pete?" Jackie moved into the camera angle.
"Jacks! You OK?"
"Of course I am. How's Tony?"
"Better now that his mum's home."
"But I've only been gone a few hours!" Pleased nevertheless.
"Jacks. You've been gone five days. Why do you think I'm here at Torchwood?"
"Five days!" Jackie turned to glare at their companion. "Can't you steer that bloody thing YET?"
"Oi! One, I wasn't steering. Two, five days is better than a year, isn't it?"
Hardly mollified, she turned back to the camera, but Pete broke in. "Is somebody going to explain this two Doctors thing to me?"
Rose started, "well, ..." then he cut in.
"I was created in – call it a freak accident – I'm more or less a clone of the Doctor, including all his memories and everything, but I'm half-human. And I'm staying." Period, he didn't add, but it hung on the air nevertheless.
Pete's eyes bored into him, belligerent. "Yeah? And are you going to take care of my little girl this time? 'Cause I've got to be honest, your track record there isn't too good so far."
Rose started to protest, "Dad, that's not fair!" but he squeezed her hand silent again.
"No, he's right, my track record sucks. But that changes, right here, right now." Straight at Pete, boring back. "Yes, I'm going to take care of her. From now on, she's not my first priority, she's my ONLY priority."
The two men glared at each other a bit longer before Pete grunted. "Nice words. We'll see how well you live up to them."
A bit miffed, a lot unsettled, Rose broke in again: "In the meantime, we're rather stranded here." A bit impishly: "Can I borrow your jet?"
A quick half-grin. "It's already fueling up; we'll be in the air as soon as I get there. Where's the nearest airport to you?"
"Still Bergen. 50 miles." Jackie started to react ("Fifty!"), but Rose held up a hand, stopping her. "There's a helicopter pilot flies out of there – Brennan should have the number. See if he can come pick us up."
Pete glanced away for a moment and nodded. "He's already calling him. How long is the flight – on my jet?"
"About three hours?" A guess.
"Then I'll see you in about three hours and.. " quick glance at his watch "fifteen minutes. Leave the line open for Brennan. Jacks? Love you!" And he was gone, off to the airport.
The three of them stood for a minute, waiting: one watching, quiet; one avoiding, unsure, a little embarrassed; one glowing, basking in the love of her husband. The watcher opened his mouth, about to say something – God knows what – when the tiny screen hiccuped and cleared, framing (presumably) Brennan, an energetic-looking thirty-something with capable virtually tattooed on his forehead.
"All right, then. He's on another flight at the moment, but he's dropping them off in a few minutes and will be over to pick you up right after. ETA about an hour."
Rose: "Did you tell him there's three of us?"
"Yes, that's why he's dropping the other fare off first. And I already paid him, so don't let him gouge you again." Assessment of her over, he added, concerned, "You look whipped. Why don't you take some time off before you come back in? Everything's perfectly normal here."
Retroclosure. It never happened. She blinked, then nodded a little sadly. "Yeah, I think I will. See you in a few days, then. Tyler out." As Brennan nodded and reached for his own controls, she tapped her screen off and carefully – one-handedly – closed and locked up the weather box again.
He turned and looked down the beach. "An hour, then?" To Rose: "Why don't we go for a walk? Just down the beach a bit?"
She nodded. "OK. Mum?"
Jackie all but snorted at the look on his face. "Oh, no, I'm fine right here. Think I'll just sit on these rocks and watch the sea till the helicopter gets here." She smiled and moved off to find a smooth rock the right height.
The couple turned and walked slowly along the base of the cliffs, through the scattered tumbled rocks till they came to a stony ridge running into the water. She followed him over it, watching as he jumped down the other side, then turned to help her down. She landed a bit wrong and staggered against him, and he circled her waist with his free arm. (His other hand was still engaged in being Keeper of My Lady's Hand. He hadn't let go since she'd asked him not to; he just might never.)
"Sorry" she said simply, looking up at him and meeting his eyes for the fist time since they had started towards the "weather" box. Same color. His eyes. Why am I so startled? "I think I'm going to be a bit wobbly, now and then."
"No worries. I'll prop you up whenever you're wobbly. If you'll do the same for me." His tentative smile netted him a small one in return, but it disappeared quickly.
"It's just..." She put her free hand high on his encircling arm, and let him draw her in a tiny fraction closer, turning them both to face each other squarely. "I can't keep up. I haven't felt that way in a long time." A deep breath. "Remember when you regenerated? The first time? I mean, the first time with me?" She grimaced for the complexity of it, but he nodded, waiting. "It took me a long time to adjust to that whole thing, but I finally did. I got used to you, got used to it being you. Your face had changed, your body, even your personality, a bit. But it was still you. I adapted. And..." She smiled up, the imp back. "Truth be told, I found I liked this you better." Understatement of the Century. Her smile dropped before he could echo it. "But this... Two of you? I... I can't keep up."
Quiet now, intense. Wanting so much to believe, but still not quite daring to. "Is it really you?"
He glanced around quickly to make sure that rock really was there, then leaned his hips back against it, pulling her close. Not quite touching, a whisper away.
Starting slowly, as if wanting to get it just right: "Back when I regenerated, the first time with you, what was it that finally convinced you I really was still me?" She shook her head, unsure. "You've never been religious before, so if you trot out something about my soul or my aura, I'm really going to be disappointed." No smile. Flat joke. "OK, then. But there was some kind of continuity, wasn't there, aside from just taking up the same space?" He waited while she worked it out, staring at his shirt.
Finally, thoughtfully, she answered "I guess... it was that you remembered everything we'd done before, that you were familiar with me – and to me, even though you'd changed." She looked up, then. "That's it, isn't it? You said it back there. 'Same memories, same thoughts.'"
"Yes. Same memories. Rose, it's our memories that make us who we are. And I remember every single moment I ever spent with you – from the first time I took your hand" squeezing it now "in the basement of your shop and dragged you away from the Autons, to missing the end of the Earth, to seeing – and saving – your Dad, to dancing with you on the TARDIS to cheese off Jack... " He rattled off a dozen more memories, then, after the tiniest, emphasizing beat, "to spending the night huddled between rocks like these, telling you a story..."
Eyes widening, a long careful breath in. That's the one she'd been waiting for, hardly knowing it. A whisper so soft, so tentative, even he barely heard it. "Corin?"
Steady. Straight. The most important words in the history of words. "Yes. Corin."
She closed her eyes against the tears, and pulling her hand at last from his, wrapped both arms around his neck and leaned into his shoulder, burying her face in the glorious, so-familiar scent of his skin, seasoned by wool jacket. Was it different? Maybe slightly – and she'd all the time in the world now to explore that difference.
His arms wrapped around her again, and she knew she was home.