Author's Note: This is the sixth story in my series Alternating Universes. As always, new readers are *strongly* encouraged to begin at the beginning, with Sea Change.
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who, nor do I own the song which was a major inspiration for this story, and whose lyrics you will find atop each section, identified below by the Doctor himself.
He's come to take me back...
Larrik Hollow, Serenity, Original Universe
The late summer silence hung heavily over the farmstead nestled into Larrik Hollow; while the afternoon air was pregnant with the seductive scents of growing things, all the hard work of beginning their yearly growth was finished, and the harder work of harvesting them had not yet begun.
A visitor wandering up the path from the gate might be forgiven for thinking there was nobody home; no sights or sounds of activity could be had. An especially sharp-eared visitor, however, if he held his breath, might barely catch the slightest sound of someone idly humming a very old tune, and if they caught enough of it, they might be able to trace the humming to its source: the wide double hammock strung between the two largest banana trees in the grove behind the cottage.
The two occupants of said hammock were drowsily whiling away the afternoon, sipping banana daiquiris, listening to the bees droning through the grove and garden and watching the larriks, the small, brightly-plumaged songbirds the farm was named for, darting to and fro in the sunshine. Rose and the Doctor had the farm to themselves, as Jenny and fourteen-year-old Brandon had moved a short distance down the lane with Jack, and Joshua was away in the Baby TARDIS, discovering the universe during these his first "solo" trips.
"What is that song you're humming?" Rose asked her bondmate.
"Hmm?" He hadn't really been paying attention to his own noise, and had to mentally tune in to the song to discover its identity. "Oh, it's a lovely old Earth song from a bit before your time, called Tapestry. Carole King wrote it for me after my friend Janis Joplin died – you know, the one who gave me my favorite coat?"
Rose had never heard of either of them – they were definitely before her time. "So how does it go?" she asked to divert him from ancient history, and he obligingly sang the entire song.
When he was finished, they swung in companionable silence for a bit, thinking about the images it conjured up. "That's an interesting way to think about a life," she offered, then twisted her neck to grin up at her husband. "But your life's tapestry would be one ginormous, tangled mess, so it would."
The Doctor laughed. "Which is why I never intend to try to actually weave it. Besides, I'm having too much fun living life to stop and tell the story, that way or any other. And who'd be interested, anyway?"
"I think a lot of people would, but you're right. It's so much more fun to live for yourself than hear about other people's lives."
"More useful and productive, too." Suddenly he sat up – as best one can in a hammock, anyway – and stilled it with a foot on the ground. "What was that?"
"What?" Rose struggled upright, too, then hauled herself out of the hammock as a figure came walking out the side door of the house. "Joshua?"
They didn't see him clearly at first, as he paused briefly then came swiftly up the path winding through the banana trees. Then, as he got closer, they both drew in sharp breaths. This Joshua was quite obviously much older than the one who had left just a few days before.
"Josh?" asked the Doctor, concerned. "What happened?"
He didn't answer, but took the last few steps to them in three long, swift strides, throwing an arm around each of them and pulling them to hold tightly. His shoulder shook, and they realized at the same moment that he was sobbing quietly. "I've missed you both so much! " he choked out.
They both held him closely in return, and after a minute he got himself under control, and they drew back slightly to see each other's faces. "What happened?" repeated the Doctor, greatly concerned. "How long have you been gone? Why weren't you able to get back?"
Joshua shook his head. "No, that's not it. I – the me that left here a couple of days ago – I'll be back tomorrow. This is something else."
The Doctor was growing even more concerned. "You're crossing your own timeline? Joshua, you know that's forbidden!"
The younger man shook his head again, moving one hand to the Time Lord's shoulder and squeezing it. "It's all right, don't worry. I already lived through this. We won't be here when the young me arrives – though I'll about have a heart attack before I find the message you're going to leave me. You'll tell me to jump ahead three days, and when I do, you'll be back, and this me will be gone again. I won't meet myself, I promise."
The Doctor and Rose glanced at each other, supreme puzzlement written on both faces. "But where are we going?" asked Rose.
Joshua smiled down at her, then back to the Doctor, waiting a beat for emphasis. Then, quietly, "I've come to take you home."