Title- Keeping Vows
Characters/Pairings- 10/III, Mickey, Rose
Summary- So many people promised him forever. But she can follow through. The Third Romana and the Tenth Doctor. Mostly III/10, but with references to Rose/10.
A/N- This oneshot is set in an AU in which the Doctor, Rose and Mickey, rather than ending up in Pete's World, found themselves in E-Space and rescued Romana. I imagine Romana III to be played by Carey Mulligan. And yes, I'm aware that Carey is Sally Sparrow. So? I'm a lover of the Sally-is-Romana theory every bit as much as the River-is-Romana theory. I can warp it that way if I feel like it.
"Let me get this ringing out of my ears,
Let me get these stars out of my eyes.
'Cause I just want to look back over all the years
with you right there standing by my side.
Walk through this world with me."
The door confronted them. It was just a door, but it might as well have been a solid wall. Even Rose, with her eternal curiosity, couldn't bring herself to knock. There had been something too sacred about the Time Lady's tears. Three days ago, just after they had found their way back to their proper universe, the Doctor had taken the blonde aside and spoken to her in a low voice, his face very still and very sad. She had not shouted. She had not wailed, as Rose was sure she herself would have done upon receiving such news. Quiet tears had poured down her face and she had gone white.
After that, the mysterious Romanadvoratrelundar had locked herself in the room she had chosen and none of the rest of the TARDIS crew had seen her since. Occasionally they had heard her voice, low and sweet, rising in haunting melodies that unsettled the listener deep in the heart. The Doctor said they were ancient Gallifreyan mourning songs.
"Is she ever coming out of there, do you suppose?" Rose asked Mickey in a soft whisper as the pair of them stood outside and stared at the door.
"Romana will come out when she's finished mourning," the Doctor said harshly, and the two humans jumped. Neither of them had heard him come up behind them.
Rose bit her lip. "Doctor, we were just..."
He nodded, cutting her off. "I know," he said. "I'm worried about her, too. But staring at her door isn't going to help her or us. The only thing that will help her is Time. It's so much to take in. It took me ten years to accept the fact that Gallifrey... well. And I was there. I made it happen. I can't imagine how she'll ever really come to terms with it." By that point, he was obviously not really talking to them, staring so intently at the determinedly closed door that they might not have been there at all. "But then, Romana's strong," he mused. "She might be the strongest person I've ever met. Even when she was young, she was a perfect example of what a Time Lady ought to be. If anyone can handle it, it's her."
Rose got a sour expression on her face, but swallowed it and touched his elbow. "And you're not the last anymore. That's good, right?"
The Doctor's lips twitched. "I s'pose it is. If she can ever forgive me for what I did, anyway."
Mickey clapped him on the shoulder. "Believe me, mate, women can hold a grudge. But I dunno, I think some things are just bigger than that."
At that moment, the very door they had been contemplating swung open. Romana looked at them all coolly. She was pale, but her appearance was otherwise tidy. However, upon seeing them all staring at her, her mouth narrowed into a thin line. "I am not glass," she said coolly. "Nor am I a museum exhibit, fit to be gawked at."
She brushed past them and swept away down the corridor in the direction of the control room.
Rose and Mickey shot the Doctor apologetic glances, unsure what needed saying.
"I'll... go talk to her," the Doctor said. "It, uh, might be best if you stayed out of sight for a few minutes."
When he found her, she was standing over the console, programming in a complicated trans-hyperspace flight path to approximately 40,000 B.C. as humans measured things. From the jerkiness in her motions and the too-blank expression, he suspected she had no real reason other than that it was a very complex calculation and she needed a distraction.
"I'm sorry," he said. "They mean well, you know."
Romana looked up. "It's not that; I don't mind them. I know you, and I assume you've been feeding them all kinds of last-of-my-kind nonsense to puff up your ego in some kind of twisted way-"
"Now just hang on a minute!" he interrupted, suddenly outraged, but Romana held up a hand to stop him.
"Aren't I right?"
The Doctor chewed his tongue.
She nodded, a knowing expression on her face. "I suppose there is a certain tragic eloquence to 'last of the Time Lords,' isn't there? It's got a certain mystique, if you ignore the implications. As I was saying, their curiosity and their concern is completely justifiable. It's just... I see you and I can't help but be angry with you." At his obviously crestfallen expression, she continued, "I know it's not your fault, Doctor. From the account you've given me, there was nothing else you could have done, and to be frank, I think I'd have done the same. Gallifrey was beautiful and our people were noble, but they didn't outweigh the survival of the universe itself. But I'm looking for a scapegoat, I suppose. It's going to take time."
He was silent for a long minute, thinking. Then he said, "Do you want me to take you somewhere? You could make a home on some other world...?"
Romana shook her head viciously before he was even done speaking. "By Rassilon, no!" she said quickly. "Just because I'm angry and confused and scared doesn't mean my wishes have changed any, Doctor." She stepped close to him, cupping his cheek in her tiny palm. "Look at you, Doctor. This regeneration seems so young, until I look at your eyes... you've been very alone and very sad for a long time, haven't you?"
He didn't think that needed answering, and her hand slipped away.
"But don't you see, Doctor? Look at Time, really look. Do you see how the timelines pull together? I'm alive because I didn't fight in the War. I didn't fight because I was in E-Space. I was in E-Space because I didn't want to go back to Gallifrey. But do you really know why I didn't want to go back to Gallifrey?" Her new green-hazel eyes pierced him, willing him to understand a puzzle he couldn't seem to put together.
"You'd seen the universe," the Doctor said in the manner of one repeating a fact long-ago learned by rote that has suddenly been called into question. "You didn't want to be trapped back in an indolent and stuffy society after seeing all the brilliance that's out there."
Romana let out a bitter laugh and shook her head. "Did you actually believe that?" she refuted, disbelief in her voice. "I must have been a better liar than I thought!"
His eyebrows drew together in confusion. "What?"
"I wanted to stay because of you, Doctor!" Romana explained. "Oh, certainly, the universe is beautiful and wondrous and I wouldn't give up traveling about and seeing it for most anything, but really, I didn't want to leave you. Back on Gallifrey, we knew more about you than you probably want to think. I heard of how you picked up traveling companions willy-nilly and thought you frightfully capricious, always trading out for a new friend whenever the last had seen enough.
"Except then I actually met you and... well, that particular regeneration was very good at laughing at the dark. You were younger, then. You had more lightness to you. But that doesn't mean I couldn't see that being constantly left behind- or being the one to do the leaving, as the case might be- was taking its toll. There is only so much loss and inconstancy a person can bear before they can't stand up under the weight anymore, Time Lord or not. I wanted to stay with you because I could. I'm not like those humans you're so fond of. I won't wither before your eyes, Doctor. You had done so much for me- how could I not give you the one thing you needed most, when it was in my power?"
She sighed. "Of course, you were so stubborn... when the call came from Gallifrey, you were all too ready to run right back and hand me over. I suppose you were afraid of them, and you had a right to be. But what would I have become if I had let them take me back? What would I have been molded into? Not the kind of woman fit to see the stars with you, Doctor. So I had to leave after all. I always wondered, though... if the Time Lords hadn't called, you know I would have stayed with you forever."
"But then you would have been there in the Time War..." the Doctor said, beginning to understand.
Romana nodded, a smile tiny but genuine gracing her lips. "In the end, the hardest goodbye of my life may have saved my life. It's almost too-perfect a design to be purely accidental. We know better than anyone that the universe is rarely, if ever, random. There are always patterns."
"So there are," the Doctor said slowly, beginning to hope. "What's your point?"
"My point is that my wishes haven't changed. I still think you need someone to be a constant in your life, more so now than ever. Together we can find a way to move beyond Gallifrey, maybe. You and me and forever."
"People have said 'forever' before," the Doctor cautioned. He was feeling masochistic. Even Romana- even sparkling, perfect Romana- might one day change her mind about this life, or they might find something even she couldn't regenerate from. He felt the need to remind her of that.
She shrugged. "And I'm sure they've meant it. Maybe some of them have even given it, as they understand it. But you and I... we're not like them. We're more. We always were and always will be. Always."
Spontaneously, the Doctor drew her into a close embrace. For half a second, it seemed like Romana's conflict about the unexpected loss of Gallifrey would outweigh her instinctive reaction to the Doctor's arms, but the moment passed, and with it they both knew it had been a turning place. Neither was quite sure where the path they had chosen would lead (though both had their hopes), but they were on their way.
Romana wrapped her arms around the Doctor in return. They stood like that for what might have been an eternity but really only lasted a few moments- Time Lords could do that. The few seconds stretched in both their minds into hours as they slipped just a bit out of the normal time flow of the universe. Simultaneously, as though they had planned it (they had), they snapped back to realtime together, and the Doctor pressed a kiss to the top of her head, unwilling to break contact just yet.
Just outside the console room, Rose and Mickey watched. Rose had a sudden feeling that she had lost the Doctor before she'd ever really had him. It was obvious, from the tender look on his face, that Romanadvoratrelundar was something strange and new/old and special. They were tied together, if nothing else, by a shared heritage and a shared grief, in a way that she couldn't take part in.
And somehow, she didn't think she minded all that much. Maybe, just maybe, she could learn to share. If Romana brought that contented smile more often to the Doctor's face, it was worth it.
A/N2- Anybody else notice that the Doctor has a serious thing for blondes and R names? Rose, Romana, River... all of them blonde. Admittedly, Romana was brunette first, but let's face it, don't we all love and remember Lalla Ward's Romana better?
Yes, this is just a oneshot, but I may be convinced to do some follow-ups/sequels, because I quite like this AU.