Binary Stars (Time Will Tell)
Disclaimer: Not my characters, just by words.
Author's Note: For wendymr, who got to own me in a charity auction. She requested my take on Rose and the duplicate Doctor. I hope this is to your liking!
He holds her hand while the sound of the TARDIS fades, and after, when the only sound is the crash of waves against the shore. She looks up at him, anger and confusion in equal measure.
"Are you, though?" she says softly. "Are you the Doctor?"
"As much as I was the Doctor the last time I changed," he says, a sort of truth that can also be called a lie.
It is a strange thing after all, to be as young as a day and as old as ten lives.
He certainly feels like a stranger. He holds so many memories of her – how her hand fits in his, how her breath catches when she cries, how the light of the TARDIS burns inside her – and yet he has not lived even one day with her.
Not even lived one day with anything. Just remembering hundreds of thousands of them, someone else's and yet also his.
"He is a right bastard," she says suddenly, her voice catching slightly as she does. "You are a right bastard."
"He is," he agrees. "I am."
"He gave you to me as if... As if he has any right!"
'I always think I have', he doesn't say, as Jackie walks up and embraces her daughter while giving him a harsh glare, before softening. As if thinking it is his fault, then changing her mind.
As if he's the Doctor, yet not.
Just about right, he decides, and lets Jackie hug him too.
"I know how you feel," Jackie says, and Rose tenses, her gaze still on the Doctor, who has wandered off to taste if sea water is still salty. "I do, though. I lost your father. Then I met Pete again. He wasn't my Pete, but... He could be mine too. He's Pete. How could be not be?"
"He is my father," Rose says fiercely. "I don't care if..."
"He doesn't care either," Jackie assures her, knowing it's a little lie. A little part of him does care, but it is small and everything else is greater. She looks at the Doctor, who is making a face as he licks his fingers. "Do you care?"
"I don't know," Rose says, tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips. "I don't know, mum."
When the Doctor walks over and offers her a finger to taste sea water on, Rose claims his lips instead, possessive and a touch angrily and Jackie thinks her daughter does know after all.
She just has to realise it.
When she kisses him, Rose thinks of nothing at all, just lets herself feel the pressure of his lips, his nose rubbing against hers, his fingers settling at the back of her neck.
It feels strangely not alien.
Pete promises them a zeppelin from Bergen to London, but it will take a day, and so they spend the evening in Bergen, the Doctor watching his first sunset and comparing it to the thousands he remembers.
Somehow, this feels more alive, the sky and sea colouring as if they are a canvas and light is a painter.
This is the only time he will see this sunset. There will be new ones, but never old ones, and that is a very strange thing for a (half) Time Lord to face.
Rose holds his hand while he watches, and smiles a little distantly at his jokes about the fireflies of Jarome. She feels a little distant and sometimes he catches her staring at him intently, as if trying to puzzle him out.
Makes two, then.
It is hard to look at him and not see the Doctor, Rose has to admit. He looks it. He feels it, hand in hand. He jokes it and smiles it. It makes it hard not to kiss him, and she leans into him, lips brushing against his.
The Doctor. Her Doctor. He has no TARDIS, just one heart and one life, and her. Somewhere out there, the other Doctor has a TARDIS and two hearts and many lives, and not her. If that is even and fair, she does not know.
He does have Donna, she comforts herself with. Donna will look after him. But after Donna, who only has one life, who then? Someone new, she supposes, and feels a stab of something akin to jealousy.
He didn't even ask. He just assumed and decided and made the choice for her. Maybe it was a choice that would have broken her heart to make, but it was still her choice to be offered. Not his decision to make, not her time for him to play lord of.
She hates that. She just also loves, and she leans her head against his shoulder while the sun disappears beneath the horizon – not actual moving at all, but perfect in the illusion of it.
Rose doesn't ask if he wants to sleep in her bed and the Doctor doesn't assume, but somehow, they end up curled on top of the covers of the same bed, still in their clothes. Rose rests her head on his chest and he rests his hand on the small of her back and it feels almost like something humans do after a long day.
Rose's heartbeat is single, like the throb of a single star. So is his. Only together do they sound familiar, dual beats he can fall asleep to.
If only to wake sharply a little later and realise that Time Lord dreams in half a human mind, that is a bit like a supernova not in a vacuum.
All sound and fire and no space for it.
The Doctor was never good at telling her what was wrong. Neither is this one, walking up with a start and kissing her rather than answering her questions about what is wrong.
Still. A sort of reply she can still find in the pressure of his lips, the warmth of his skin to her touch, the tension in his arms as he rolls her around on her back and pushes her arms above her head.
Pain, she thinks. Pain and trying to fight it. She became an expert at that after him, after all. She just never did win.
"Rose," he murmurs, then kisses her while she lifts a foot and rests it on top of him. He says her name like he always does, and she bites down angrily on his bottom lip. Isn't the same. Is the same, and she pushes the jacket off his shoulders.
This shouldn't feel like cheating and loving at the same time, so she won't let it.
Rose's hair falls around her face as she leans over him, almost like a halo in the faint light that crawls through the window. Her back arches as he thrusts into her and she kisses him and he feels, oh he feels, all emotion and hormones and only a single heartbeat to fuel both.
It's no wonder humans get so lost in them when they can claim one heart fully and there are no spares, he thinks faintly. No wonder, and when he fumbles a hand down between them and Rose moans into his mouth, he thinks of stars.
Even a single one can hold a solar system to it, after all.
Afterwards, neither of them sleep. The Doctor (and she has to think of him as that) talks softly about the gravitational pull of binary stars, an odd choice for pillow talk for a human but probably a great turn-on for Time Lords, and she listens with half a heart.
It will be morning soon, and a return to a life she thought she was leaving behind again. A return to her family and friends, and how to explain who she is bringing with her. It's hard to find the words that could explain this to her brother when he grows older, Rose has to admit.
'Once, I fell in love with an alien with a time travelling police box and we had great adventures together. Then we got separated by alternate worlds and I didn't want to let him go. So I found my way back and he found a way to be with me and be alone at the same.' Something like that, maybe.
Absurdly, she thinks for a moment that this sounds like a mad plot from Melrose Place or Days of Our Lives (much too far-fetched for Coronation Street or even Home and Away), some sort of 'in love with two identical men' storyline that viewers would scoff at and regale in at the same time.
She has to laugh, and when the Doctor looks affronted (having just talked passionately about the nuclei of planetary nebulae), she laughs even more.
It's not really that funny, but it feels good to laugh, especially when he joins in.
Jackie is eating breakfast when the Doctor finds her. She looks calm, if slightly perplexed at what Norwegians choose to call breakfast. (He can't blame her, remembering a breakfast with Harald Fairhair that seemed more mead than meat.) She looks up at him as he sits down next to her, and her gaze is slightly quizzical.
"Rose is getting dressed," he says, pilfering a slice of brown cheese. It tastes slightly different than he remembers, or maybe his memory has just lied to him.
Jackie nods, still looking at him as he tries the crisp bread.
"She chose him – you – over us more than once," Jackie says calmly, but there is anger buried in her voice. "Did you ever choose her over something else?"
"Yes," he says, remembering the breath of the TARDIS, killing her, then killing him.
"Good," she says sharply. "Maybe then you're even. And stop stealing my food!"
He doesn't, but that's all right; she gets even by taking all his cereal.
Rose walks in to find her mother and her (insert proper noun here, she sure isn't sure of it) Doctor having a mild bicker about food, and for a while she just watches.
It is so domestic she feels a little lost. She was meant to find him and join his life again, not get him to join hers. How will he do a life of human when he seems to struggle before to even do a day?
Torchwood, she thinks firmly. Torchwood for both of them. Maybe it will be enough.
"Rose!" he says delightedly as he finally notices her, letting go of the toast he's been defending. She smiles faintly at him as he walks up, noticing her mother discreetly leaving the room.
"Doctor," she says, because it's the only name she knows to fit him (even this him). He looks pleased at that, kissing her a little hesitantly, as if he trying to figure out if it's right or not.
That won't do, she decides, and makes it right enough that he's breathing a little more heavily when she pulls back.
"I had a picture in my head of what it would be like when I found you – him - again," she tells him, stroking his lower lip with her thumb. "This wasn't it. I'm not sure how to deal with that."
"Don't," he suggests, a strange tilt to his voice. She wonders how much he's time travelled away from over the centuries and knows she doesn't quite want to know.
She doesn't reply, merely takes his hand and leads him out; they have a zeppelin to catch. For London, and Torchwood, and a new day for half a Time Lord and one point five humans.
What comes after that, only time will tell.
(It will. It always does.)
It is not a quite a normal morning at Torchwood, even by their (generally flexible) standards of normal.
Most aliens who come to Torchwood do so reluctantly (usually captured), so Rose doesn't quite blame her colleagues for looking like they've just seen a rhino tap-dance on a glass roof.
She would blame them just for the point of it if the Doctor didn't look like he enjoyed it so much. Or actively encouraged it, talking up several suns and licking at least one piece of technology.
This isn't quite the subtle way she had planned to introduce him, she has to admit. Her own fault for thinking 'Doctor' and 'subtle' even went together.
"Who are you?" James asks, looking more confused than she's ever seen him, including at the invasion of ice ants. (A Torchwood operative are used to certain things, after all. But she isn't sure it's even possible to get quite used to the Doctor.)
"This is the Doctor, my..." she begins, and the Doctor jumps in before she can even go through the list of potential nouns.
"Boyfriend!" he says cheerily, shaking James's hand enthusiastically. "Half Time Lord, half human (Donna edition), all fantastic!"
He looks over at Rose as if to get her seal of approval, and she bites her lip hard to keep from smiling. It wouldn't do. Not here, not now.
He still seems to find something in her eyes, because his smile widens as he takes more firmly hold of James.
"So James, any universe-threatening crisis coming up?" he asks, in the same voice children asks for candy. "Any mysterious incidents, hospitals on moons, vanishing flower pots, sabre-toothed cats lost in the sewer?"
"N-no," James stutters, then seems to think it over. "Well, there are some reports about a haunted house in Chelsea..."
Rose leaves them there, the Doctor talking excitedly about possible causes as she walks out of earshot. She finds her office as she left it, cleaned if she weren't to return. A few folders have been put there since, probably potential cases to look into.
The hourglass has emptied long since, and she turns it over to start the process anew; sand from Bad Wolf Bay slowly trickling down. It was a reminder, now she's not sure what it is.
Rose has an office. A big office, and the thought thrills the part of him that once wished her a good life after entertaining her illusions of forever with him. A big office means she is important, that he showed her something important in herself and didn't just break her heart.
"I think I've been hired!" he tells her cheerfully, and she looks up from the folder she's been going through.
"Did you impress James?" she asks, standing up as he walks over to her desk.
"I invented a new energy source for your cars," he says, trying to sound modest and failing impressively. "I only blew up one workstation, too."
"I suspect Torchwood will have to dock a lot of pay from you due to destruction of Torchwood property," she says, and he pauses.
"Yes, pay," she says, leaning forward with her hands on her desk. "Generally something humans get from work and use to live off. Or were you going to be stay-at-home Time Lord and live off my pay?"
He looks at her, eyes still like a galaxy when all other men she knows only hold stars.
"You've changed," he says abruptly.
"And I am supposed to change you, according to him," she counters, realising her anger at that part when she hears it in her own voice. He – other him - made himself sound like a pet needing care and she can see from the way his jaw sets that he wasn't pleased with that remark either.
"Do you want to?"
"I want..." she pauses, taking a deep breath. "I wanted him back."
"You got me," he says, kissing her with all anger and confusion she feels.
When he kisses her, the Doctor thinks about nothing at all, just lets himself feel the pressure of her lips, her nose rubbing against his, his fingers resting at the back of her neck and stroking the skin beneath her hair.
It feels strangely human.
"I better go," Rose says, as she leans a little into the Doctor's shoulder. "I have sort out a few things with Harriet Jones. She's the PM here now, you know. Will you behave yourself here with James meanwhile?"
"No," he says, and she has to smile. An absurd question to ask, clearly.
"Do you have the key to my place?" When he nods, she goes on. "I'll see you for dinner, then. Don't try to cook."
"Live-in boyfriend," he says, as if trying out the title. "Torchwood employee. Not cook."
"The Doctor," she says, and he pulls back a little to look at her, as if to gauge her sincerity. Whatever he sees there makes him touch her cheek tenderly,
"That too," he says, and walks out.
A job. A job is human, and somewhere in him is all the memories of Donna and all her temp jobs. They prove to be surprisingly handy when James asks him what he used to do, since 'travelling in time and space' only gets him comments of 'oh, that'swhat they call it these days'.
It also earns him the address of a house in Chelsea supposedly filled with ghosts.
They're actually energy beings looking to take over the world, but 'energy being busters' sound far less cool than 'ghostbusters'.
And in any case, he can still stop them haunting.
"The Doctor," Harriet says thoughtfully, watching the London skyline through her window a touch distantly.
"Sort of," Rose qualifies. She has told Harriet quite a few things about the Doctor over the last few months, even if she's left a few details to herself. (Like six words. A part of her that feels much older and darker and almost like the Doctor knows she might need those words one of these days.)
"He would be an asset to Torchwood, even if what you tell me about the threat from the... Daleks, was it?... being gone for now."
"He would," Rose agrees, feeling her phone vibrate softly in her pocket. "Excuse me, prime minister."
Harriet nods, mind already drifting to other matters. It must be a strange thing, Rose reckons, to have all the concerns of one nation in your mind.
A whole universe must be unimaginable.
"James," she says, as notices the caller ID. "Don't tell me the Doctor blew up a lab or something."
"No," James says, an odd tone to his voice. "He blew up a house. The house in Chelsea. There were aliens there."
"Oh?" she says, not really that surprised. Somehow, it always seems to be aliens. Maybe that could be the Torchwood motto.
"He killed them," James tells her and Rose feels cold, as a part of her finds herself wondering just what the Doctor's six words would be.
Rose is angry, the Doctor can tell. It's not just the look in her eyes, or the way she slams the door as she enters, or the way she folds her arms. It's also the way she outright tells him.
"I saved the world," he tries, and she merely glowers some more. "These are only surface burns, Peter the doctor-doctor patched me right up!"
"Peter should be home with his expecting wife, not patching up idiots," she says sharply. "I would have come with you, I would have..."
"I know," he says, edging off the sick bed and feeling a sharp pain in his ribs as he does. "Rose Tyler, I could spend a lifetime with you, but I will always... Wander off a little. But I'll always come back."
"How can I be sure of that?" she asks, and he puts a finger under her chin, tilting her head up gently.
Because he is human, he doesn't say. Because he looks back. Time Lords can't. There would be too much to see.
"Because you're here," he says instead. She sighs a little, resting a hand on his shoulder.
"The happiest I ever saw the Doctor was when he – you - told me everyone would live," she tells him, and he nods. "Did he mean it? About you being born in battle? Full of rage?"
"He wants you to be angry with him so you won't be angry with me," he says, and she blinks. "He wants you to feel sorry for me, feel that I need you. That's what I would do."
(Not answering the question by answering it, he thinks. He's very good at that. Rage there was always in him, but it was never the only thing. He will learn to let everything else matter more again. He will.)
"Make yourself miserable for the sake of someone else?"
"Why?" she asks, and he wonders if she would even understand. Brave Rose Tyler, the courage of a human tied to one life only.
"Because the Doctor was born in cowardice," he says, feeling strangely courageous.
He doesn't have much of a choice any more, after all.
She takes the Doctor home, and he seems to find delight in her IKEA-furnished flat. Certainly more than she ever found, thinking it temporary rather than permanent. He even manages to construct the coffee table she had given up on (even if muttering how calculations of the speed of time in relative space is easy compared to an IKEA manual), looking happy every time she peeks in from the kitchen.
There is something else in him, she can sometimes just catch a glimpse off, like now. Maybe it's the part of him that's Donna, or the part of him that is a Time Lord envying human life.
It is the part of him that makes her think maybe, maybe he can spend a lifetime with her.
At least until she realises he is not only building a coffee table, but also something quite alien (with stuff clearly nicked from Torchwood).
"Doctor," she says, and he beams up at her as she walks into the living room. "What are you doing?"
"I am building a sonic screwdriver!" he says, as if it should be obvious to her. "Don't worry, the chance of galaxy collapse is very, very minuscule. Miniminuscule, in fact."
"And after that?" she asks. "A TARDIS?"
"A TARDIS isn't built," he says, fastening something metal-ish very carefully. "She is grown."
The affection in his voice is all the more palatable for his attempt to hide it. She always did wonder at his relationship with the TARDIS, as she wondered about so many other things. Maybe with a lifetime she can learn a few of them, if she really wants to.
"He didn't give either of us a choice. The other Doctor, I mean," she says, and he looks up at her. "I don't want it like that. You don't have to stay. Maybe we can grow you a TARDIS, maybe we can find a way back for you, maybe we can..."
"Rose Tyler," he says, her name sounding strangely like a term of affection. "I chose, remember? I said the words he didn't."
Three words, she remembers. Maybe that is the Doctor's three words, bringing him down in a different sort of fall.
"I know I can live without you," she says, knowing it to be true now. Maybe it was always true, she just didn't see it. "I just don't want to. That's my choice. You weren't my Doctor. You aren't the one I... You weren't, but you are now. How can you not be, when you're the Doctor too?"
When he kisses her, he's still holding a in-progress sonic screwdriver in one hand and an IKEA coffee table leg in another, and that's all right. Half human, half Time Lord. That's who he is, this Doctor. Her Doctor.
It's going to be all right, she thinks. Not like the picture she had in her mind, not like the life he imagined, but it's going to be a life.
In the morning, the Doctor tells Rose about binary stars again, and she listens to his descriptions about the common centre of mass until she falls back asleep and he is left to listen to her heartbeat.
That's all right. This morning will only come once. (Might as well learn to enjoy it, at least for five minutes before his patience runs out and he wakes Rose to find an adventure somewhere). One morning, once. What comes after that, only time will tell.
(It will. It always does.)
He's looking forward to hearing it.