Author's Note: OK, I confess: some days I believe that Rose could forget the Doctor and move on, to a happy, full, wonderful life in the alternate universe with his part-human twin. Other days: not so much.
This story is from the Not So Much file.
It's still a sequel to my first story, Sea Change, which I strongly recommend be read first.
Obligatory Disclaimer: I do not own Dr Who nor any of the main characters herein; no, I am borrowing them quite without permission and will gladly suffer the fires of hell if caught.
Alternating Universes Series, Part Two
Rose and the Doctor's human twin have struggled to build
their new lives together, move on and forget the past.
What will they do when spectres from that past start showing up again?
London, Pete's World
It had been a long, hard, wonderful, painful five years. Years of love and regret, of laughter and tears, of joining and parting, of discovery and forgetting – or at least, trying to forget. Five years since the Doctor had left Rose and Corin on the beach at Bad Wolf Bay in the alternate universe they still called Pete's World, to try to build new lives together from scratch.
Some days went better than others.
Jackie and Pete had invited the new couple to move into the mansion with them after their son Tyler was born, just nine and a half months after they arrived. There was plenty of room, after all. Corin had surprised Rose with how receptive he had been to the invitation, but then he reminded her of the part of the story in the rocks she had forgotten – that Gallifreyan first-borns brought their spouses into their family's House; large, multi-generational families under one roof were the rule. Besides, he said, he had an idea. And soon after they moved in, he began (with Pete's laughing permission) to build that idea, by hand: a small one-room summer cottage out under the huge old weeping willow by the pond, that reminded Corin so strongly of the trees on Gallifrey that he had been named for. Over the succeeding years, the cottage had slowly grown like a honeysuckle vine, first sprouting a porch, then a deck on top, then, with ladders and ropes and platforms and small rooms, it was creeping up into the willow itself. Rose suspected that before too many more years went by, it would resemble nothing so much as the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.
But it kept him happy. And he'd had enough disappointments elsewhere in his life. He'd had trouble adjusting to life on the slow path, after nine hundred years of constant travel. Just waking up in the same room in the same house that you had woken up in the previous one thousand days, and would continue to wake up in for the next several tens of thousands, took some getting used to. So did starting long-term projects and continuing to work on them, bit by bit, for the weeks or months or years that it would take to get them to completion.
His biggest disappointment had been the TARDIS coral. The combination of lack of suitable materials, some missing spots in his own knowledge, and – possibly – simply the change in universe and its frequencies, had resulted in a coral that stubbornly refused to grow at any rate, let alone Donna's promised 59x. It wasn't dead, but it wasn't growing. After several fruitless, supremely frustrating years, Corin had given up, and buried it within its protective shell underneath the floor in the summer house. He'd dig it up again if he ever managed to come up with some of the answers – if they ever fell to Earth in some visiting alien starship wreckage.
His biggest joy, of course, was Rose herself, followed closely by Tyler and, after a four-year gap, baby Donna. The gap had been long enough that they had begun to worry, but then, a long second honeymoon in Bora Bora had seemed to solve a number of problems, bringing them closer together than they had been since the wedding, and within a few months Rose was pregnant again.
Of course, Corin wasn't the only one who had struggled. Rose had been engaged in a long war with herself, as well. For those first nine months, she'd run on pure willpower, forcing herself to move on, forget the Doctor, concentrate on Corin, build their new life, run Torchwood, make a baby, make a home, move on, forget. To live fully the words she'd told her mother on her wedding day:
"Mum, Corin is the Doctor – all the best parts of him. And more. His new human side made him... accessible. And mine. The alien part, the part I could never reach, never hold, never understand – that's the part that left. The best parts stayed. The best man stayed, like I said on the plane. Yes, Mum, I'm sure. I'm more sure of Corin – of me and Corin – than I have ever been of anything."
Easier said than done.
It had all come crashing down around her when Tyler was born; she'd plummeted into several months of severe post-partum depression, when the world that had seemed so bright and shiny and full of possibility just nine months before turned bleak and black. That was when Jackie had prevailed upon the couple to come "home" to the mansion, so she could help take care of both Rose and Tyler. Corin had gained a whole new appreciation for his mother-in-law during those difficult months. (Donna's birth, four years later, had been better in some respects: shorter, anyway. The shadow of depression hung heavy over their shoulders, but they were forewarned that time, and it did not return.)
Slowly, slowly, with the help of an excellent therapist and some well-chosen medications, and the enduring love of her husband and parents, Rose came back to life, and was even able to resume working at Torchwood before Tyler turned a year old. Capable Brennan had filled in ably for her, but he didn't quite have her spark, her imagination – or her talent for management. Torchwood was Rose's creation in this world, and after her return began to blossom again, sparking off ideas and products from the detritus of alien visits enough to warrant the creation of a commercial enterprise to produce and market them. Torchwood was now self-supporting, if still very secretive, and all were glad to be free of the yoke of government oversight.
Rose herself, though, was changed. Though she and Corin had never lost their telepathic life bond, and after she crawled back up out of the depression they were able to resurrect the closeness and love they'd known during their first heady honeymoon period, there was a part of her he was never able to touch. Doors within her memory remained closed and locked to him. Not that he ever tried – he was absolutely faithful to the promise he'd made to never force open a mental door she'd closed. Besides, he didn't want or need to see beyond them – he knew whose face would be there. His, but not his.
He'd changed, as well, he knew. He wasn't the same man he'd been in the TARDIS. Not only had the previous five years done their work on him, but Donna's influence also showed at times. But wasn't that the point of a marriage? To accept changes and make the constant adjustments needed, to love and honor your partner always? Despite everything, they both felt deep inside that they had a strong marriage, stronger than most – the Time Lord life bond only served to enhance and strengthen what was already there. There was never any question – never had been – that they loved each other deeply. There was just that hint of shadow at times.
Nonetheless, they'd made it five years. And for some reason, that number seemed significant, a milestone, and they'd made some plans to celebrate it appropriately. Reversing the usual arrangement, they were staying home in the mansion, and Pete and Jackie were taking a long-scheduled month-long trip to America in their zeppelin, taking Tony and Tyler – best friends since the latter had been born – along. Baby Donna, only six months old, was both too young to be parted from her mother, and too small and precious to be too intrusive on their desired solitude.
The larger family had celebrated the anniversary three days in advance (the day before the foursome's departure), with a huge, rollicking party in the new exclusive restaurant atop the PTI Building, and Corin was able to spring his surprise on Rose, making quite a production of unveiling his gift: a life-size, full-length portrait of the two of them, painted by the current reigning portrait master, René Douchant, from one of the formal photographs they'd had taken the previous anniversary, before their Bora Bora tans had faded. Corin, wearing his trademark grey pinstripe suit, had been seated in a wing-back rattan chair, with Rose standing to one side, one hand on his shoulder, the other holding a single rose. He'd talked her into wearing her wedding dress for the shots, and the rose-and-lace confection gave the portrait a timeless air. M. Douchant had even managed to paint the lace so vividly that the viewer could almost see the knots.
Now, on the day itself, the portrait had been hung in the hall downstairs, opposite a large gilded mirror, while another portrait done several years before of Pete and Jackie had been moved to the dining room. Corin and Rose, with Donna, had spent the day quietly, simply enjoying each other's company. They'd had a long, elaborate picnic lunch out in the summer house, making love in the afternoon while Donna napped and playing with her while she wasn't, and then had a romantic candlelit dinner in (shooing the remaining staff out the door first) before retiring upstairs.
A shared bubblebath later, Corin watched Rose slip into something silky and sexy as he drew on his robe (why put pajamas on just to take them off again in a few minutes?). She sat down at her dressing table, sideways, laughing at some silly thing he'd said, and picked up her brush to offer him – she loved having him brush out her hair. As he crossed to take it, she turned in her seat towards the mirror to watch him.
And froze. Her face blanched dead white, and she dropped the brush to the floor and screamed.