Author's Notes: Goes AU from 'Midnight'. Instead of just sending a message through to the Doctor, Rose appears on the Crusader 50 in person. In this chapter, some dialogue is taken directly or paraphrased from 'Midnight', so credit to Russell T Davies, the writer of that episode, for those parts.
"If you try to throw her out that door, you'll have to get past me first."
The passengers of the Crusader 50 vehicle contemplated the Doctor in silence for a long moment.
"OK," the Hostess said.
"Fine by me," Biff agreed.
The Doctor wondered, not for the first time, what he saw in the human race.
"Oh, now you're being stupid," he said, and immediately wished he could take that back – calling them idiots was probably not going to help considering how tense the situation already was. "Just think about it!" he added instead. "Could you actually take hold of someone and throw them out of that door?"
As he'd half expected, he'd somehow made it so much worse. They lobbed accusations at him, and nothing he said seemed to stop them. One after the other they all turned on him, every one of them. In the background, Sky echoed their accusations like an affirmation. It grated on the Doctor's last nerve. No, more than that. It made him feel the beginnings of real fear. And that fear made him stupid, just for a moment, just long enough to let his frustration out in one shouted, "Because I'm clever!"
He didn't even need their reactions to know he'd gone too far.
"What, d'you mean ... we throw him out as well?" Biff asked.
"If we have to."
The Doctor started to back away. He held up his hands, placating. "Look, just ..." he began, but he was interrupted by a crackling electrical sort of sound coming from behind him. Ion energy, he thought wildly, tasting a tang of it in the air. Not quite a teleport – those had a distinctive feel to them – but somehow similar. He swung around to look at Sky, wondering what on earth she could be doing now. Was she – or rather, the thing inside her – bringing more of its kind inside the vehicle somehow? Were there more out there? With everyone in the vehicle already going half mad in response to just one of the creatures, for once the Doctor's curiosity wasn't running quite wild enough to want to find out for sure.
The Doctor didn't expect a blonde woman to appear out of nowhere, her limbs flailing a little as she gained her balance and barely avoided toppling face-first into one of the seats.
They've killed me, the Doctor thought for a mad second. They've grabbed me while my back was turned and thrown me out like they said, and I'm dead, and this is some kind of odd heaven that I never believed in or thought I could possibly have earned.
"Doctor," the woman breathed.
"Rose," he returned automatically, frozen in place. He honestly hadn't thought his feet would feel so heavy when he was dead.
"What?" someone behind the Doctor asked.
"Oh, this just proves it. He's in on it. What more proof do we need? He's in league with people who just appear out of thin air, for god's –"
"How are all these things getting inside? The cabin's supposed to be closed off. If they can get in, what about us? What about the air? What about –"
The Doctor jerked around in the direction of the frantic overlapping voices to see the shocked and still-angry expressions of his fellow passengers and would-be murderers. Somehow he didn't think that they'd figure into his afterlife unless it was a kind of personal hell, and how could Rose possibly be there? Which meant he was still in the Crusader vehicle. Which meant they hadn't thrown him out after all. Which meant he wasn't dead. Which meant ...
He whipped back around. "Rose!" he cried, barely getting the word out before being nearly tackled by a streak of pink and yellow and blue. He might have been in too much shock to move, but Rose clearly wasn't interested in wasting another second on useless inaction. Fair enough. At least one of them had learned from their experience on Dårlig Ulv Stranden.
"Finally," she said, her words muffled by the fabric of his suit being pressed against her mouth. "Oh god, finally. I've come so far ..."
He was loathe to give a moment's thought to anything but her in that moment. He'd be quite content to spend the rest of his days just taking her in, contemplating being in the same space as her. But the Doctor had a brilliant mind that could think of multiple things at once, even when one of those things was as huge and encompassing as Rose being right there, in his arms, when he'd thought he could never touch her again. And at that moment, one of the other non-Rose-related things of which he couldn't help but be aware was that they were in a small enclosed space with a bunch of frightened humans who seemed to have a serious desire to see him dead.
Sort of sobered the mind, that.
It wasn't unfamiliar territory, he'd admit, but ignoring them for too long could be hazardous to his health. Not to mention Rose's. Because Rose was there. Somewhere in his mind he was still scared out of his wits to be stuck in this situation, especially now that Rose was at risk as well, but that still wasn't enough to stop a face-splitting grin from breaking out.
"Rose Tyler, I've missed you. So much. But we're about to be attacked by an angry mob."
"What, again? Nice to know things with you haven't changed too much."
His grin widened, if possible, as he reluctantly detached his body from her. Except for their hands. He couldn't bear to let go of that hand that still fit his so well, as if no time had passed since the last time they'd grasped each other.
"What's going on?" Biff shouted, directing the Doctor's full attention to him.
"Who are you people?" Val cried.
In his peripheral vision, the Doctor saw Rose's head jerk involuntarily to the right slightly, as if she'd gone to look behind her. A slight frown formed on her face. He realised that she was subconsciously picking up on the echo in the room, though she had no idea yet just what was going on, or what it meant for the two of them.
"We're old friends," the Doctor responded. "Like I said before, travellers. We got separated and Rose found a way to get to me. It's a complete coincidence that it happened here and now. It's nothing to do with what's happening here, I swear."
"What is happening here?" Rose asked. "Where are we?"
"We're on a bus on a planet called Midnight, and –" the Doctor began before being interrupted.
"Oh, like we're going to believe you don't know exactly what's happening!" Val exclaimed. "Like we're just going to take your word for it."
"No, really, I haven't got a clue what's going on," Rose said to Val. "I tried to send a message through," she added, turning to address the Doctor. "I made contact long enough to see that you were here, and get the timespace co-ordinates of this place. There's this thing, a bit like an early version of a Time Agent's Vortex Manipulator. We set it and it hurled me through to here, and what on Earth is that noise?"
Rose spun around fully this time. "It's like this echo, like ..." She trailed off as she caught sight of Sky, with her wild eyes and her synchronised lips. Sky trailed off with her. "What's she ... Doctor?" A slightly scared tremble made its way into Rose's voice.
Right, the Doctor thought, at least everyone was equally scared now. Though it was slightly comforting to know that Rose, at least, wasn't going to start up some idiocy about throwing people out of an airlock. She was better than that.
He might occasionally, like earlier, wonder why he took up with humans. Then people like Rose Tyler came along and reminded him.
"She's talking with me," Rose said. "How ..."
"She's talking with all of us!" an angry voice rang out from behind her.
"What is it? Is it some psychic thing, or ..."
"I don't know what's happening," the Doctor admitted. He looked around at the others. "But I can figure it out. I just need more time."
"We haven't got time," the Hostess snapped. "If that rescue vehicle arrives and we haven't figured this out, they'll take her back to the Leisure Palace. What if this thing spreads, Doctor? We can't take that chance."
"I've already told you, we can't just kill her!"
"Who's killing anyone?" Rose asked. Her eyes were still trained almost unwillingly on Sky, as if she was watching a space ship collision being acted out in slow-motion, powerless both to stop it and to look away.
"We have to get rid of her. What if we all get infected? Better to deal with one person now than have everyone die because we waited," the Hostess insisted.
"I'm not waiting about to be taken over by some creature, or whatever it is," Biff agreed. "And if you stand in my way ..."
"You'll throw me out too, I heard," the Doctor muttered.
That was enough to make Rose whirl back around. "What?" she burst out incredulously. "No one's throwing you out. Or anyone. What are you lot on about? Is everyone in here on drugs, or what?"
"You," Val said nastily. "You can just stop talking. I don't know who or what you are, but I know you're in on this. You and him both."
"It's like they planned it," the Professor said. "How else could she have known how to get in here?"
"How did you know where we were?" the Hostess chimed in. "We're not even on the usual path. How could you have known where we'd be?"
Rose shook her head. "It's complicated."
"Oh, don't give us that!" said Val. "You're as bad as he is, thinking you're above us. Like we're too stupid to understand the same things you can or something."
"I didn't mean it like that," Rose bit out. Her frustration and confusion were obvious. The Doctor didn't blame her for that at all. He felt the same, and at least he had more information about what was going on than she did.
"What, then? Are you going to go on about us 'humans' like you're not one of us, like he's been doing? He's been lording it above us since this all started."
"He's nine hundred years old and the smartest man in the universe, what do you expect!"
"Rose," the Doctor said warningly, too late to stop her. Any support he might have still somehow been clinging onto among the passengers was gone in an instant. Even once they'd managed to travel out among the stars, human xenophobia somehow hung on for millions of years. He knew Rose hadn't meant to – she couldn't have known how badly humans could react, having only really discussed the issue with the tiny percent of the population who were easy-going, like Jack Harkness. Nonetheless, she'd thrown the flame on the pyre these people had already been building.
"Nine hundred?" Dee Dee repeated, shocked.
"He's alien, then, got to be," Jethro said in dawning recognition. "Like that thing that's controlling Mrs Silvestry. They are together."
His last ally, gone.
"No," Rose cried, "but he's not like that! You need him. He's the only one who can –"
"Rose," the Doctor said once again, shaking his head slightly when she looked at him. It wasn't going to help to keep arguing. The damage was done.
"He keeps saying that we need him as well, but where's the proof?" the Professor challenged. "He's just been repeating himself, even more than she has!"
"Telling us how much better he is than us," Val confirmed. "The Professor's the expert here!"
"Mum, stop, just look ..." Jethro said.
"You keep out of this, Jethro."
"No, really, look at her!" Jethro said, pointing to Sky.
"She's stopped," Dee Dee said.
"What do you mean, stopped?" Rose asked. "What's she even doing? Who is she?"
"She's not repeating you anymore," Val said, eyeing Rose. "Nor me now! Look!"
"She was never 'repeating' me. What are you on about? She was talking with me," Rose said.
"But when did she ... No, she hasn't stopped. Look, she's still doing it," the Doctor said, still echoed by Sky.
"But when I was talking – there, see!" Rose exclaimed triumphantly. "She's stopped it, whatever it is."
"It's just him," Dee Dee said. "See, she's not doing me either. It's just the Doctor."
"Mrs Silvestry," the Doctor and Sky said in unison. "What are you doing?"
"Has she really ... yes, she's let me go too!" Biff's voice sounded relieved.
"She's let all of us go but him," confirmed the Hostess.
"Look at the way she's looking at him," Val pointed out, not sounding half as relieved as her husband. "Those eyes. They won't stop looking at him, following him."
The Doctor shuddered in acknowledgement. Those eyes, trained solely on him, ignoring everything else in the room, were more than just a little disconcerting. "Sky, stop it!"
"Why you?" the Professor asked. "It's like you're connected. How do you explain it, Doctor, if you're not in it together?"
"The cleverest voice in the room," the Doctor murmured. "Got to be. Why else single me out?"
"Is it my fault?" Rose asked, sounding appalled. "All that stuff I was sayin' about you being the smartest and all, is that why?"
"Rose, no. It's not your fault, I promise."
Rose was watching Sky, not him, as he said it. He didn't think she'd heard him. "She's using your voice, and I did that," she whispered.
"Oh god. What is she? Or it? Is there something inside her, is that it? What does it do? What if it takes over you? Think of what it could do."
That, unfortunately, was not something he could disagree with.
Sky had picked out his voice, and his alone. Whatever the thing controlling her had planned, it couldn't be good. He felt the sort of foreboding he hadn't felt since he was on the Game Station years ago.
He couldn't let that thing take him over. If it could access his knowledge, and gain his access to the TARDIS, the universe could crumble as a result.
"Rose," the Doctor began pleadingly, Sky's copied intonation somehow giving it even more of a sense of urgency. "The device you used to get here. Is it still working?"
"What d'you mean?" Rose asked.
"Can you use it to get back to where you came from?" he elaborated. "Use it to get out of here?"
"Well, yeah," Rose said. "But obviously I'm not going to. I've finally got back to you. You don't know what it's been like, how long ..."
"You can try again," the Doctor and Sky said together. "I believe in you, Rose. I still can't get back to you from this side of the Void – whatever's allowing you across must be based in the parallel world, is my best guess. So it's up to you. I know you won't give up. You'll find me again."
"Not if you die here in this room," Rose said. The Doctor could see her jaw setting stubbornly.
"Rose ..." he said.
If he was being kind to himself, he'd blame the fact that Sky was speaking with him for how she paid absolutely no heed to him. Much like with the passengers, her repetition of his words seemed to take all authority away from them.
The truth of it, though, was that Rose Tyler had never really listened to him. Not about things like this. She was just stubborn that way. Usually he admired that. Right now, he just wished she'd do as he said without question.
"Just don't," she said. "I'm not leaving you, and that's the end of it. I told you I'd stay with you forever and I will. You just watch me. We're not dying here, either of us."
The Doctor sighed. "I missed you," he admitted, "even your obstinacy. And, Rose, I never thought I'd be saying it to you like this, surrounded by strangers and with someone else saying it along in time with me. But you need to know. Rose Tyler, I –"
"Don't you even think about saying it like that!" Rose interrupted, her jaw clenching. "Like it means goodbye or something. Just don't even. I haven't waited this long for that."
The Doctor held her gaze silently. Whatever the outcome, he had to deal with the problem. They were all in danger. Rose was in danger. He had to do what he could to fix it.
No matter what.
The Doctor tried to say his next words quietly enough that only Rose would hear, but Sky's voice spoken in unison with his, not dropping in volume at all, made that impossible. "I don't think it can be a coincidence that this thing, whatever it is, has shifted all of its attention to me. If that thing takes over me, like it's done with Sky, you have to promise me something. They'll try to throw me out of the vehicle. I need you to use that device and leave me. Rose, I need you to let them."
"No!" Rose exclaimed. "No, I can't. Doctor, no."
"Please. You said it yourself. You know what could happen. I can't let it. It'll go after the TARDIS, and what's the first thing standing in its way? Rose, it'd kill you, and then likely destroy the rest of the universe soon after."
The Doctor cupped her face with his palm. Then, unable to stand seeing her obvious distress any longer, he broke away from her reach, walking back down the aisle closer to Sky.
"Sky," Rose heard the Doctor and Sky both saying as the Doctor kneeled in front of the still woman. "Please listen to me. I want to understand you. I want to help you. Please, I can help you exist without having to steal life from others, if that's what you want. You don't have to hurt anyone."
"Just let me help," Sky said.
"Just let me help," the Doctor mirrored.
"Doctor?" Rose cried out, alarmed.
"Did she ..."
"She spoke first."
Rose blocked out the noise behind her. "Doctor, why are you doing that? What's happening?"
"It's letting me go," the Doctor said, but only after Sky had said the exact same thing.
A strangled sob broke out of Rose's throat as she dashed to the Doctor's side and shook him by the shoulders. "Doctor! Doctor! Please, say something. You can't do this to me! Not now!"
"You really shouldn't touch him," someone called out from behind her.
"No chance!" Rose said, dragging the Doctor's hand into her own and squeezing as if her life depended on her grip. She wasn't letting go this time. She was staying right there with the Doctor, and that was that.
Stupid alien! Stupid man! He acted as if he was so smart all the time, but look at the idiotic situations he got himself (and her) into.
"I think it's moved," Sky said.
Rose shook her head in denial as the Doctor said it too. The same words, the same intonation, just a second or so behind. They weren't the Doctor's words at all.
She could see his wide eyes, almost lifeless but for the vaguest shadow of terror. She knew it was too late.
"Look at me, I can move. I can feel again. I'm coming back to life."
Rose looked away from the Doctor for the first time, finally able to focus once again on what was happening around her.
"And look at him," Sky said. "He can't move. Help me. Get me away from him. Please."
Rose frowned at her, and Sky just looked at her emotionlessly. What was happening? Rose didn't know enough, hadn't seen how it had happened. Sky wasn't talking at the same time as the Doctor now, but she didn't seem like she was suddenly all right, back to acting like a normal human woman. And clearly the Doctor was about as far from all right as he could be. Was the thing branching out? Taking over more than one of them at once instead of passing from person to person like the Doctor had feared it might once it got a grip on him?
"What are you doing?" Rose asked the Professor as he took Sky's hand. "Look what she's done to the Doctor! You can't trust her."
"It wasn't her," the Professor said, sounding like he needed to convince himself of his own words but just couldn't quite manage it. "There was something in her, and now it's in him. This was how it started. Mrs Silvestry was repeating us and couldn't move. Then she was repeating at the same time. Now he's doing it."
"But what about her talking right along with us? The Doctor isn't doing that!"
"Yet," the Hostess said.
"It's obviously in him now, don't you see?" Biff said. "I said it was him, didn't I? It's moved to him, like it was obviously going to do all along."
"You said I was in on it too, remember?" Rose shot back angrily. "And I'm telling you right now, I don't have a clue what's going on!"
"It was using me," Sky said.
"It was using me."
"It wanted to get to him," Sky continued.
"It wanted to get to him."
"It sought him out, but it had to go through me."
"It sought him out, but it had to go through me."
"It was so cold."
"It was so cold."
"I was so scared."
"I was so scared."
"And what about now," Rose interrupted. "You were scared. All right, I believe you. Anyone would be. But then you got possessed by some alien, and now, what, you're somehow the calmest person in the room? What's with that?"
"Leave her alone," Val ordered, "she's probably still in shock. Come here, we've got you," she said to Sky in a motherly sort of voice. "You're safe now."
"I wouldn't touch her either," Dee Dee said cautiously. "We don't know ..."
"But it's gone," Biff argued, "she's clean. It passed into him."
"That's not what happened," Dee Dee insisted.
"Yes, thank you!" Rose said. "I don't know what's going on, but you can't tell me that she's suddenly fine." Rose gestured to Sky. "Maybe whatever this thing is it's affecting the Doctor, yeah, but it hasn't let her go either. This is something else."
"First it repeats, then it synchronises, then it goes onto the next stage," Dee Dee said. "That's what the Doctor said."
"You're going to believe him?" Biff asked incredulously.
"No, but it makes sense, doesn't it?"
"You're on their side, too!" Val said viciously.
"No! I'm not!"
"You're defending them. Those two brought this on us, and you're defending them!" Val said.
Dee Dee backed away. "I'm not. I'm not." She clammed up, clearly too afraid to continue to stand against them.
Well, Rose thought, there went the only other voice of reason. Looked like it was up to her. As usual.
It was just as well she'd had a lot of practice saving lives.
"He said it himself," Jethro said. "The Doctor, he said that he couldn't risk it if it took him over. He said it to her, and I heard it."
"He told her to let us throw him out," Val agreed.
"There we are, then," Biff said. "Even he thinks we should do it."
"No, but that was if it took over his mind. Like, if it became him. But that's not what happened!" Rose argued. "He's just repeating her!"
"Exactly," the Professor said. "The repeating proves that it's in him now."
"You need to listen," Rose said, trying to sound as patient and reasonable as possible. "All throwing him out is going to do will be to get rid of the one person who can figure this out."
"He hasn't done anything but make it worse!" Val accused.
"It wanted him, so it could travel the stars," Sky said.
"It wanted him, so it could travel the stars," the Doctor repeated.
"Wipe out the humans."
"Wipe out the humans."
"Expand across the universe."
"Expand across the universe."
"It'll kill all of you."
"It'll kill all of you."
"Rip you out, into the dark, and the cold, and the diamonds."
"Rip you out, into the dark, and the cold, and the diamonds."
"Shut up," Rose said to Sky. "You're lying. It's not him."
"Stop him. Biff, love, you have to stop him from talking," Val begged. "I can't take it. He's saying such awful things."
"But it's her!" Rose said, desperate.
"She is the one saying it," Dee Dee agreed. "He's just repeating."
"But that's what the thing does, it repeats!"
"She's the one," the Hostess said quietly. Rose looked at her, entreating. If only another person or two would get on her side, she'd have a chance.
"It's him! I can see it, he's possessed, it's him!" Val yelled.
"It's not possessing him, it's draining him!" Dee Dee countered.
"She's got his voice ..." the Hostess breathed.
"Yes!" Rose said. "Listen to them! You're wrong. You're going to kill an innocent man."
"Innocent!" Val scoffed. "He wasn't innocent even before it took him over."
"This isn't some conspiracy," Rose said.
"But you would say that, if you were in on it," the Professor said.
"I'm not your enemy, I swear," Rose said.
"That's how he does it," Sky said with a dark smile.
"That's how he does it."
"He makes you fight ... creeps into your head ... and whispers."
"He makes you fight ... creeps into your head ... and whispers."
"That's him, inside."
"That's him, inside."
"Get him out of my head!" Val cried.
"He's not in your head," Rose said. "She's just saying that."
"We should throw him out," Biff said, suddenly sounding even more resolute than ever.
"Well, don't just talk about it, do something!" Val ordered.
"I will," Biff nodded. "You watch me. I'm gonna throw him out."
Screw trying to be reasonable, Rose decided. That wasn't getting her anywhere with this lot. Reason had clearly fled long before she'd ever arrived in the room. A bunch of human beings in a panic; she'd seen what that sort of hysteria could do.
"Over my dead body," Rose growled loudly.
"I can live with that," Biff replied. "You can go first, if you like."
"Stop it!" Dee Dee cried as Biff grabbed Rose around the middle. "Just stop it!"
"She came out of nowhere, you saw," said Val. "She's with him. She's probably not human either. And now here she is protecting him. Helping him get past our defences so he can kill us all. It's them or us!"
Rose got just enough leverage to break away from Biff. In the moment before he was on her again she saw the Doctor's face. The terror was much more obvious this time. Though he didn't look at her – couldn't – Rose somehow knew that his fear was more for her than for himself.
Don't worry, Doctor, Rose thought. I didn't travel across universes for it to end like this.
She raked at Biff's face with her nails as he tried once more to haul her down the aisle to the emergency exit door. He shouted in pain and tightened his grip on her.
"I don't think we should do this!" the Hostess said.
"Oh, shut up," Val said. "What use have you been?"
"They're together," Sky said.
"They're together," the Doctor confirmed.
"She's with him."
"She's with him."
"You have to stop her."
"You have to stop her."
"You have to get rid of both of them."
"You have to get rid of both of them."
"You see! We've got to. Professor, help me," Biff grunted.
"I can't," the Professor said. "She's just a girl. I can't ..."
"Well grab that Doctor, then!" Biff said. "Come on! Jethro, help him. Come on!"
"Get them out," Val pushed. "Throw both of them out, now!"
"Stop it!" Rose cried as the Professor tried to awkwardly drag the Doctor down the aisle by his arm. "Leave him alone!"
"I want them out! Hurry up!" Val yelled.
"He travels across the universe and saves whole planets and makes people better, and you're going to kill him because you won't ... just ... listen!" Rose screamed, still thrashing around enough to give Biff a few bruises. But he was just so much larger and more solid than she was, and the exit door was getting closer and closer.
"Cast them out!" Sky said.
"Cast them out!" the Doctor repeated, muffled, as his face was at that moment being dragged along the carpeted floor of the aisle.
"Do it now!" Sky said.
"Do it now."
Rose saw Jethro move in and grab the Doctor under the armpits, which was much more effective than the Professor's half-hearted attempts to pull him along.
"That's the way!" Sky encouraged.
"That's the way!"
"Shut up!" Rose shrieked. "Can you hear it? It's her! Listen to what she's saying! How she's saying it!"
"You can do it!" Sky said, heedless of Rose's protests.
Rose was slammed against the wall beside the exit door and held there by Biff as the Doctor said, "You can do it!"
"That's his word!" Rose yelled.
"Shut her up, Biff," Val said. "She's as bad as him. I can't stand it. Get them out! Both of them!"
Biff covered Rose's mouth with the palm of his hand. Rose bit down, seeing her last chance to talk them into some semblance of sanity being snatched away from her. Biff reared back slightly from the pain, his arm losing contact with her body, and Rose took her moment.
She ducked out from under Biff's arm and took the few steps between herself and the Doctor at a stagger. Before the boy or the older man could stop her, Rose yanked the device off her wrist and slapped it around the Doctor's. She pushed down the recall button, signalling to the crew at the other end to bring her back.
Or rather, to bring the Doctor back now.
"I'm sorry," she said in the few seconds it took the device to work. "You're too important."
The Doctor faded from sight right in front of her, taking her only means of escape with him. It was worth it, she thought. Even if she died here and now, it was worth it to save the Doctor.
For the first time, Rose thought she really understood what had been going through the Doctor's mind all those times he'd tried to send her away to save her. Not that she wasn't still pissed at him for doing it, of course.
"She's made him disappear!" Val exclaimed.
"And here I thought you wanted him gone," Rose mocked.
"We have to get her out before she does that to us as well. Who knows where she sent him."
Rose crawled back into the space between two sets of seats and wrapped her arms around the bolted down leg of one chair. "Just try it, lady," she said. "It'll take every single one of you to make me move an inch."
She remembered a time – such a long time ago – when she hadn't been able to hold on when it really mattered. Catch her going through that again.
Biff, still cradling his injured hand against his chest, made a move towards her. Thankfully, he was the only one who did. Rose tensed up, prepared to kick him if he got too close.
It didn't come to that, because everyone was suddenly distracted by a thump and a sort of weak keening noise coming from up the other end of the aisle. Sky had fallen to the ground.
"Mrs Silvestry!" the Professor exclaimed, recovering enough to move to help her.
"Don't," Rose said. "It's not her. It was never her. That's what I was trying to tell you. The thing inside her didn't move to the Doctor."
"It was using him," Dee Dee chimed in behind her.
"How can we take your word for it?" Val asked. "You appear out of nowhere, and that Doctor disappears into thin air, and all of it in the middle of some alien possessing people. You can't tell me you're not responsible for it all."
"Shut up," Rose said tiredly. "For God's sake, just shut up and listen. Whatever you do to me, you need to know that she," Rose said, jerking her chin to indicate in Sky's direction, "isn't safe. You can't just pretend this didn't happen and let her go free out of here. There's no telling what that thing might do out in the universe."
"What d'you mean?" Jethro asked. "If she's still possessed, why isn't she doing something now? She looks like she's in shock. Which, well, wouldn't you be if you'd been possessed by an alien?"
"Actually, I have been possessed by aliens before, thanks. Bit of a hazard of my job back home. This is different to the after-effects of possession. I don't know what's happened to her," Rose admitted. "I don't know how this particular creature works. Even if I'd been here for all of it, I still might not know. Even the Doctor didn't seem too sure of the details. But if I had to guess, I'd say that she was linked closely to the Doctor, drawing energy or life or something from him. You saw it. He couldn't move or speak for himself or anything."
"That's because the thing was inside him," Biff said angrily.
"No, but she was right earlier," the Hostess said. "Mrs Silvestry was using words that that Doctor said earlier, before any of this had started. That thing she said, the Doctor said it to me. Said it's French for 'let's go'.
"Allons-y," Rose said. "It's something he said to me, before we were separated. He liked it."
"It was his voice," the Hostess continued. "She'd taken his voice."
"And when I sent the Doctor away, that connection snapped," Rose said. "But I don't think it'll stop her forever. She was talking along with all of us earlier. She's going to recover, and then ..."
"She's going to hone in on one of us now?" Dee Dee asked.
There was silence for a moment.
"We need to throw her out," the Hostess said, sounding strangely calm now despite the fact that she was talking about murder. "There's no quarantine on the Leisure Palace. We couldn't contain her. And she clearly doesn't need to be in contact with anyone to affect them, so who knows how wide her reach is. The staff members in the main area aren't prepared for this sort of thing."
"What's even out there?" Rose asked. She'd picked up that it was not good from the fact that the Doctor had seemed to think it spelled death to be thrown out into it, but she thought she should at least know what they were talking about if plans of murder were going to be tossed about.
"Xtonic sunlight," the Professor answered. "Nothing should be able to survive out there. Certainly not Mrs Silvestry. But the thing must have been living out there. I thought it was impossible, but there's no other explanation. It came in from outside."
"You realise you're talking about killing her," Rose warned, but it was half-hearted by then. Rose didn't want to kill someone, or even the something inside the woman necessarily either, but she'd seen what the creature could do. They couldn't let it loose. And maybe, just maybe, if the Doctor managed to get back in time, he could do something about it. But he hadn't been able to do anything so far, and Rose couldn't be sure how accurately even he could make the wrist device work, so the creature might have taken someone else over by the time he got back to them. It was really too big of an 'if'.
And Rose somehow got the feeling that there was no coming back from this for poor Mrs Silvestry, no matter what they did to the thing inside. She seemed like nothing more than a shell, now, whoever she'd been before.
It was the sort of decision she'd sometimes been confronted with when she was working for Torchwood. It was also the sort of decision that the Doctor tried very hard to avoid having to make. Rose thought of the gun that was holstered to her back. Even in the worst moments, she had never given a thought to using it against these people to defend herself. But she still carried it. There had been times in her life since the Doctor that the threat of a gun trained on her enemy had been the only thing that kept her alive. It was certainly the only protection she had while she was travelling from parallel to parallel with very little idea what to expect each time she arrived in a new destination.
The Doctor wouldn't agree with that, though. He hated guns. She couldn't be sure how he'd feel about her carrying it. Did he value her safety enough to make moral concessions like that? She didn't know.
She did know, though, that she was glad he wasn't here to see this. This he wouldn't agree with, no matter what. He wouldn't be willing to kill Sky now, before she could do any more damage, because with a life like his he had to believe in the tiny glimmers of possibility that the woman could still be saved without anyone else getting hurt. Right now she was harmless, after all. They had just a little bit of time to think of a way to help her. But Rose didn't know what to do, and the Doctor wasn't there. Preventative measures were never the Doctor's forte, but Rose had been through enough to know that sometimes they were necessary.
Still, there was one thing she could do to that the Doctor might agree with. She could give the creature a choice.
"I'm going to get up, now," Rose told everyone. "I need to go over and talk to Sky – the creature – whatever – for a moment. I'm going to try to reason with it."
"Didn't do the Doctor much good," Dee Dee said.
"Yeah," Rose agreed, "I know. But I need to give it one last chance, because otherwise we'll have to ... And I really don't fancy being thrown out the door just because one of you gets twitchy, so I need you all to stand back a bit and let me past. Okay?"
She stood up and cautiously passed down the aisle through the group of people, expecting strong hands to grab at her at any second to pull her back towards that exit door, and the death that clearly awaited her beyond it. The death to which she'd be condemning Sky if she couldn't successfully reason with the creature.
"Sky?" Rose called as she kneeled as close to the woman as possible without making contact with her. "I'm talking to the thing possessing Sky. If you don't leave that body, we're going to have to throw that woman you're occupying out into certain death. I'm asking you to leave Sky alone and go back to living your life outside. You can clearly survive out there, but she can't. She doesn't need to die. You could be merciful. That might be enough to convince scientists to find a way for you to have a body and a voice, given time. We could help you. But not if you don't help us first."
Sky was silent. It certainly beat the insanity-inducing repeating/talking-alongside thing she'd been doing earlier, but all the same, some response would have been optimal.
"Please," Rose begged. "I don't want to do this, but if you don't leave we'll have no choice. We can't leave you to hurt anyone else. Just let her go."
Sky's eyes were focused on Rose. Though they were abnormally wild-looking, Rose could tell that Sky, or rather the thing inside, was comprehending her. And yet it didn't make any move to follow her request.
Rose nodded to herself regretfully and stood. "It's not going to do it," she announced to the others.
"The rescue can't be too far off," Jethro said. "Can't we just wait ..."
"I told you," the Hostess said, "the Leisure Palace is not equipped for this. It can't be allowed to leave the bus."
"I can't do it," the Professor said. "She's not doing anything now. She's not hurting anyone. I can't kill her."
"Nor me," Dee Dee said.
"I'll do it," Rose said, attempting to stop her voice from breaking. Again and again, she thought to herself, she was faced with this. Sometimes she really did wish for a different life. "If I'm going to let this happen, I'll damn well accept full responsibility for it. It's not like I'm going to sleep any better if I just sit back and watch someone else murder her."
Rose could feel tears running down her cheeks as she took a hold of Sky and attempted to pull her down the aisle, towards the door that only a few minutes ago was about to be the end of her life. It was awkward, as Rose wasn't particularly physically strong, and she was exhausted from the earlier struggle.
The Hostess put a hand on Rose's shoulder almost reassuringly, then grabbed Sky under one arm. Rose shifted her grip to under the other. The others, including those who had been so quick to jump in earlier when it had been Rose and the Doctor being thrown out, merely got out of the way.
The hysteria had worn off, Rose realised. Since the Doctor had disappeared and Sky had stopped whatever she'd been doing, they'd all had a moment to breathe and really consider the consequences of their actions. They were back to acting rationally again, rather than just following that oh-so-human need to survive at all costs. Of course they didn't want any part of it. Nor did she. But she had to do it. And she respected the Hostess for making a stand and helping her, even as she hated the other woman a little for suggesting it in the first place.
She'd been right, of course, but that didn't mean Rose had to like it.
It was Rose who pushed the button to open the door, but she couldn't quite bring herself to shove another person out into the bright sunlight. That was done by the Hostess, who then slammed her hand down on the door seal to close off the exit.
Rose sat down exactly where she'd stood, practically crumpling in on herself, and cried softly for Sky Silvestry.
Rose wasn't exactly surprised to recognise Donna Noble waiting in what she'd been told was the 'Leisure Palace' when she departed the rescue vehicle. She was well aware that Donna was travelling with the Doctor – this version of the Doctor, that was, not necessarily the ones in some of the parallels she'd come across – at this point in time. Still, somehow Rose found herself slightly unprepared to actually face her.
She knew Donna Noble's possible future, which made the prospect of talking to her now, and maybe getting attached to her, a difficult one.
Of course, she knew the Doctor's definite future and didn't let that get in her way, but it was way too late to avoid attachment there.
Donna was looking around, seeming worried. Obviously she'd somehow learned that something had gone wrong on the trip that those people had been taking across the planet. Even more obviously, she was now searching for the Doctor.
"Donna," Rose greeted.
"Do I know you?" Donna asked, eyes focusing on Rose for just a moment before returning to their task of glancing around.
"No, not yet. But I know you. Or, at least, I will. Or you will. Or something. It's confusing."
"You sound just like my friend," Donna said. Then she stopped and her widening eyes darted back to look at Rose. "Oh, wait. Not again, surely. We just went through this. Honestly, it's just like that River Song woman all over again, isn't it? Can't the Doctor just meet people in the right order for once? And what, does he have a woman in every time and place, or what?"
Rose frowned slightly, feeling the familiar stirrings of jealousy. River Song. That was ... well, not something she wanted to have to deal with just now, anyway. There were more important things to think about for now.
"Hazards of time travel," Rose said instead. "But don't worry, the Doctor has definitely met me already. We used to travel together. It's just that I haven't really met you yet in your timeline. Although ... I think there might have been this one time, at an accident scene. Something about keys. Has that happened to you? Only, it's difficult to keep track of which universe I'm in at any given time."
Donna gaped at her. "You! It was you! I thought you looked familiar. Or that jacket does, at least. Kind of sticks in the mind, that. I mean, fake blue leather, really? And God, don't tell me you're like him, with the never changing your clothes."
"Not usually. But it's been a long week or so for me, jumping all across the universes. You wouldn't even believe me if I told you half the things I've seen. I've barely had time to eat, let alone change clothes. Or shower. A shower would be fantastic."
"Where did you come from, then?"
Rose smiled sadly. "Far away, Donna Noble. Far away."
Donna shook her head impatiently. "You said you know the Doctor, so you can't tell me it's a coincidence that you were on the same bus he was on, and that now I can't find him."
"Not a coincidence, no. I was looking for him, and I found him finally. Don't worry," Rose reassured her. "He's fine. It wasn't safe for him to stay on the bus, so he had to take a little detour. But he's brilliant. He'll find his way here in no time. He'll work the system out a lot faster than the guys and I did on our own."
"You were looking for him. And you've shown up where we were before. What are you, stalking him? How can I be sure that he even knows you? What's your name?"
Rose shrugged. "You might not recognise my name even if I told it to you. He doesn't always mention the people he's travelled with. There've been dozens and dozens, you know. I think it's painful for him to constantly remember all of them. And I don't even know how long it's been for him, anyway. He might have had loads of travelling companions since me."
"He does talks about some of them," Donna pressed. "I've even met one or two. Just tell me your name and we'll see if I recognise it. We can go from there."
"I can't," Rose said. "I can't tell you my name. Or, I don't know, maybe I finally can now that I'm in the right time and place. I don't want to risk it, though; I've seen paradoxes before, and they're not pretty. The wrong word in the wrong place ... The Doctor will know how much I can tell you. We'll have to wait for him."
"What are you talking about?" Donna exclaimed. "You time travellers don't talk anything but rubbish, do you? You and River and especially him. Goin' on and on about paradoxes and nexuses and all sorts. Is that what I'm going to be like after spending a few years with him?"
"He does tend to rub off on you a little," Rose said, bestowing a small smile on her.
"Fine, all right," said Donna. "I've had it about up to here with people being evasive about knowing each other, but the Doctor's explained a few things about time travel to me, so fine. But you still haven't told me where he is. And you can't tell me that's going to cause problems."
"Look here, girly, if you don't tell me –"
"He really is fine," Rose assured her. "He'll tell you the story himself when he's back. No doubt he's off showing the Torchwood team how much more magnificent than them he is. Probably completely reassembling equipment that it took us years to build in a few minutes flat. He'll be along shortly."
"And what, we just wait? With you not telling me anything about yourself? For all I know, you killed him on that bus."
Rose flinched slightly – hopefully imperceptibly – remembering that she had in fact been party to a murder on that bus. Not the Doctor's, granted, but still. It wouldn't do to tell Donna that. Not when she needed the other woman to trust her. "Donna, I give you my word that he's alive and well. That's all I can do for now."
At that, they'd clearly reached something of a stalemate. The silence that fell between them once that fact had been ascertained was, to say the least, awkward.
It was just as well, then, that it didn't take the Doctor very long at all to appear. He just popped into existence five feet away from Rose, not even stumbling in the slightest, as if travel through time and space between universes without a TARDIS was a daily occurrence for him.
"You stupid, stupid girl," the Doctor said roughly. "I thought they'd have killed you."
Not really the heartfelt words she'd hoped for now that the trouble was over, but she'd take what she could get.
"Who's the idiot who gave them all permission to throw him to his death, then?" she returned.
The Doctor promptly took several steps towards her and shut her up with his lips.
It was biting and borderline punishing, but Rose was just fine with that. She wanted to feel it, and a slight bruising of the lips would just be a testament she could look back on later to remind her that they were finally together again. The way it should be.
"What on Earth is wrong with you two?" Donna said, interrupting their moment. "You might as well be talking in code, for all the sense either of you is making. And is that the way you say hello to everyone you've met somewhere before?" she asked the Doctor. "You're just lucky you didn't try that on with me!"
The Doctor turned back to her, though he didn't let Rose go. "Donna Noble," he said, "meet Rose Tyler. Please don't fight."
"Rose?" Donna gasped, staring at Rose as if she was an exhibit in a zoo before looking back to the Doctor. "Your Rose? 'Her name is Rose' Rose?" She glared at Rose, then. "Well, why didn't you just say so, you silly girl? We could've skipped all of that worrying that you'd murdered him business."
"He did talk about me, then," Rose said, relieved. To find out that he'd kept his promise not to do to her what he'd done to Sarah Jane was comforting. Not to mention that she also felt oddly fortified by the idea that someone might think of her as his Rose. Or maybe even that he might think that himself, even if he'd probably never say it.
She found herself in an odd group hug, as Donna threw her arms around the Doctor, and caught Rose in the embrace as well since the Doctor was still holding her tightly.
Well, Rose thought. That was a nice change compared to how Donna had been treating her earlier. She hadn't been able to do much at the time to reassure Donna of her identity and intentions, granted, but she hadn't liked the idea that she'd got off on the wrong foot with yet another person the Doctor cared about. Things with Sarah Jane had worked out in the end, but they'd wasted so much time at each others' throats. She didn't want to do that again.
When Donna pulled away, the Doctor moved away from Rose as well, though their hands remained joined.
Rose quickly categorised the look on Donna's face as domineering. Her mother had often directed a similar expression at her. Frankly, Rose understood why the Doctor had always been scared of Jackie, being reminded of the strength of that expression now.
"Right. Back to the TARDIS, then. You," Donna said, pointing at Rose, "better not even think of going anywhere, or I'll make the TARDIS chain you to the console. He's completely useless without you."
"Oi," the Doctor objected.
"Oh, you know it," Donna fobbed him off.
Rose tried to give them both a real, proper smile, really she did. But, well, it had been a very long time since she'd been properly happy, and having to do what she did earlier that day hardly helped. Even being with the Doctor once again wasn't quite enough, because there were so many secrets filling the gap between them that Rose felt constantly on edge in anticipation of him posing all the questions he must have. The questions she couldn't possibly begin to answer.
So when she did smile, it felt terribly strained.
Donna didn't notice that, apparently, because she smiled right back at Rose as if nothing was wrong. "Of course, I'd prefer that we avoided the whole chaining up thing. Because you and me? We're definitely going shopping after this, no matter what he says. I've been trying to get in a decent shopping trip for months now, but he keeps steering us off course. Claims it's the TARDIS doing it, of course, but I don't believe it for a second."
"It's not my fault the TARDIS tends to aim more for places where I can help resolve universal peril than places where you can resolve your shoe deficit woes. And I do take you shopping!" the Doctor said. "Sometimes."
"For TARDIS parts!" Donna countered. "Oh, having another woman on board is going to be wizard! You don't know how hard I had to work just to get him to bring me to this leisure planet. Now, with two of us, we'll outnumber him."
"Who drives the TARDIS?" the Doctor asked.
"Not you, if the fact that we almost never land where we mean to is any indication," Donna teased. "It doesn't go both ways. You can't claim the TARDIS decides the locations one moment and then claim you're in charge the next."
The Doctor grumbled something under his breath.
They seemed so happy, Donna particularly, that Rose didn't quite want to spoil it by raining on the parade. But they didn't have all that much time, so she had to. And frankly, Donna's playfulness in the face of Rose's awareness of what was about to happen was making her just a little ill, knowing that it couldn't last.
"Er," Rose said, "not to spoil your plans, but there's this thing happening. The reason why I came back across universes, actually. The stars are going to go out. The other universe was running ahead of this one by a bit, and it's already happening there. But whatever was causing it was affecting all universes, and it originated here. Really soon in your personal timeline, I'd say. Though it's hard to tell."
"Yeah," the Doctor said, a shadowed look in his eyes. "Time differentials are tricky that way."
Rose froze and tried to meet the Doctor's eyes, but he kept them averted.
What exactly had he seen or been told while he was in the parallel universe?
She tried to draw some assurance from the fact that he hadn't let go of her hand.
"So, end of the universe?" Donna asked, her eyebrows raised.
"Pretty much, yeah," Rose agreed.
Donna rolled her eyes. "Of course. He attracts trouble like no one I've ever met. Should've known that we couldn't even have a bit of retail therapy before having to run off and save the world."
She sounded put upon, but Rose could see a gleam in Donna's eyes that suggested that, much like Rose herself, Donna loved the part of life with the Doctor where they got into trouble, saved the universe and did a heck of a lot of running.
Rose thought she might grow to quite like this new woman in the Doctor's life, actually.
Rose was more resolved than ever to try to make sure Donna stayed in the Doctor's life, then.
"Don't worry," Rose said. "The Doctor, Donna Noble and Rose Tyler in the TARDIS. End of the universe? No chance."
"Yep," the Doctor said, popping the 'p' sound. However, he didn't grin the way she was sure she remembered him always doing whenever he said that. It didn't seem right, him not smiling. It didn't seem right not being able to grin back in response either, actually.
"Right then," the Doctor said, moving to lead them (presumably) back to the TARDIS. "Better go make sure the universe is still in one piece. Fix the wrongs, all that."
"Sounds like you have a plan," Rose said.
"Me?" the Doctor replied. "Never! I don't even have a clue what's going on yet. No time for plans. Well, there never really is."
When the TARDIS came into view, Rose breathed in deeply, relishing the sight of it. She'd missed it almost as much as she'd missed the Doctor.
The Doctor finally let his intimate handhold with Rose fall away so that he could click his fingers with a flourish. The TARDIS doors swung open seemingly of their own accord, without so much as being touched. Rose looked to the Doctor with an eyebrow raised.
"Oh, honestly," Donna said with a hint of annoyance. "Ever since River told you that you could do that, you've been showing off. Don't you think it's getting a bit old?"
The Doctor's eyes flicked to Rose for a moment, and she recognised panic there. Rose knew that the idea of her finding out about River and having a jealous fit over it was a bit too domestic even for this Doctor, who was much better at that sort of thing than his predecessor. What he didn't know, however, was that Rose had a significantly better understanding of his relationship with River Song than he probably did at this stage in his timeline. But then, if she told him that, there'd be a lot more explanation necessary on her behalf. Not just about River, either.
So she let it slide for now. She would probably put that particular topic off for as long as she could, as a matter of fact. She might accept River Song's existence, and even her role in the Doctor's life, but she'd really prefer not to dwell on it. Not yet, anyway.
Donna walked into the TARDIS first, calling out behind her, "I'll just let you two have a bit of time on your own then, eh? No snogging in the console room, though! I'm making that a rule right now. I don't need to be stumbling in on that all the time. There's loads of rooms in the TARDIS for that sort of thing."
"Donna," the Doctor admonished half-heartedly.
He allowed Rose to follow Donna in, then entered the TARDIS himself. After he'd closed the door after him, he turned around and looked around the console room. Once he'd established that Donna, true to her word, had taken off, he turned to Rose.
"So," he said. "There I was expecting London in the early 21st century. Zeppelins everywhere and a newly-rebuilt Torchwood. So do you mind telling me why I ended up in Canada in the year 2463?"
Somehow Rose didn't think that Donna's 'no kissing in the console room' rule was going to be tested just yet.