This chapter is twice as long as any of the others. Consider it the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Lots of love to everyone who read and reviewed, and some love as well to those who didn't. Thanks for sticking around.
Long ago, the Lords of Time had created them to be watchdogs, guardians of the sacred Web of Time. Used as tools, they would go where directed and siphon off excess energy created by distorted anomalies or small temporal miscalculations. In the event of a grave error, these creatures also acted as a warning system, an alert to let the Lords know something was wrong and needed to be fixed.
But the Lords were here no longer, and the creatures grew hungry. After finding a way to escape the home that had become their prison, they soared throughout the Web searching for weak points to enter material space once more. Unfortunately, the Web of Time was as strong as it was flexible, and no holes were to be found.
But one Lord had survived, remarkably with little memory of the creatures that had once been at his people's call. And the creatures grew hungrier still, lurking about the vortex as the Lord flitted about time and space. Though he was careful, there were moments when the Web weakened and a few of the creatures slipped through to feast. Only careful realignment of the webbing banished the creatures back to the vortex, but still they searched for an escape.
Hungry. We are so very hungry.
A massive head lifted, crying out for its brethren. A point had been found and it was only a matter of time before it would be weak enough to break through. It had, at one time, been among the strongest connections in the Web, but it was slowly unraveling. More points would follow, the creature noted, following the webbing through time. One event changed, one life ended and utter chaos ensues.
I can see everything…all that is…all that was…all that ever could be…
The Doctor's hands were entrenched in his new pockets as he dashed back to the TARDIS. Now focused on a singular goal, his mind was allowed to flit about without thoughts of Rose's death crushing him. Something was coming, something in the back of his head kept nagging at him until he couldn't stand it any longer.
"What!" he clenched his ears to hold in the pain, lifting his head to the sky. "What is it?" And just like that it came crashing down on him. Images so fast even his mind couldn't catch up as he shut his eyes against the onslaught.
Daleks, Cybermen, Torchwood, Pete Tyler, Rose's smile, a lever, a wall, the Void, a tear, a cry, a flash of light.
Anger, death, destruction. A war was coming, Daleks exterminating every living organism in sight, Cybermen controlling huge populations for armies against the Daleks. The end of the human race.
"Oh…" he fell to his knees in the soaking street, not caring that he was soaking his newest clothes through. Pain exploded through his head, and he was sure a neural implosion was imminent. Something was very wrong, because he knew for a fact the human race didn't end in 2007. He'd been to New Earth, seen the human race thriving in the stars. Something had happened to throw everything off, and in his hearts he knew exactly what it was. As he tried to calm his mind enough to sense the Web of Time, he hid a tear in the falling rain.
His eyes snapped open as he gasped sharply. He had encountered the creatures so rarely before, but he knew enough to fear them. He had, at one time, let them take his energy and pull him into the Web in an effort to stave them off a bit longer. Sometime before the second death of Pete Tyler, the Doctor had warned Rose of the consequences of messing with the time stream.
And it nearly killed us all…
But he hadn't gone back yet - he wasn't even off the planet Earth - so to sense their imminent presence now was something of a shock to the Time Lord. Closing his eyes once more, he tried to ignore the pelting of the raindrops or the noise of the city. Instead, he concentrated on the feeling of the Web, of the creatures teeming within.
We are hungry. Feed us, Lord.
The Doctor jumped to his feet, his mind whirling with possibilities and questions as the voices in his head grew louder. He slammed into the TARDIS' control room with all the force of a hurricane, calling up history banks and planetary data on every screen he could manage.
"I had never thought to check," he murmured as data passed by at an alarming rate. "Oh my…" That was what he had missed, a vital piece of his own history that had slipped under the radar. And there, hidden among all the tabulations and fact, was the key.
"Oh yes! Clever! How have I not seen this before?" He raked a hand through his wet hair, making it stick up at odd angles. "This is it! This is what I've been missing!" He punched in more controls, sending the TARDIS lurching into the vortex.
"I'm coming for you, Rose," he whispered into the night.
Y'charra, Umbraxa, 10,007 years later…
The Doctor landed in a deserted back alley almost three hours before the moment that changed his life. He patted the panels of the TARDIS lovingly, gazing around the control room. If everything went properly, this would be the last time he would see her, or anything else.
"Thank you, old girl." He could feel her shuddering against the instinct that told her this was wrong. She could feel the presence of their past selves here, and he quickly depressed a button to override her buffers. He stretched out his senses and closed his eyes, searching through the web of time for any anomalies caused by his presence. None so far, he thought as he opened his eyes.
He gazed around the TARDIS' control room once more and took a deep breath. "Everything's gonna be alright soon, I promise." He stepped out into the dreary evening air, taking stock in his surroundings. He was about three blocks away from his destination, and he set off at a brisk pace.
"Who would execute children?" Rose whispered horrifically as she witnessed the small lot being marched into central headquarters. The Doctor stared after them sadly and gripped Rose's hand tighter.
"There's a revolution going on," he explained softly. "We need to get out of here." She turned her pleading brown eyes on him and he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Rose, but we can't. You know what happens when we interfere with established events."
"You can't just let them die!" she argued, drawing a fair number of eyes. The Doctor pulled her sharply to one side and bent down so he could maintain eye contact.
"I'm sorry, Rose, I really am. You know me, you of all people understand how much this hurts. But I literally cannot do anything. I'm sorry." She surged forward and buried her head in his chest, and his arms came around her easily.
"But they're just kids," she sniffed, and his heart broke. He hated to see such senseless devastation, the horrific truth that came with war, but most of all he hated to see Rose upset. He tugged her hand and tried to pull her away from the gathering crowd. Mothers wept openly as their children were led away, and the Doctor had to force his gaze away.
"No!" one woman cried out, struggling against the arms of a man holding her back. "Not my Venchant!" The Doctor stopped in his tracks and turned around.
"Did she say Venchant?" he whispered to Rose, who just sniffed again and nodded. "Hmm," it was a noncommittal sort of grunt, but it caught Rose's attention. Her head came up and she looked in his eyes. She knew that look, and her heart leaped in her chest as a smile graced her lips.
"What does that mean?" He stared at her long and hard before sagging his shoulders in mock surrender.
"Alright, so we'll save the future leader of this great new world. But that's it." Rose gave a little squeal and hugged him tightly. He chuckled into her hair as she squeezed him happily. "Come on," he set her down and grabbed her hand, pulling her into a side alley.
"So who's this Venchant guy, anyway?"
"About ten years from now that little boy will be a young man and, having grown up in a world of oppression and fear, he will gather a small band of fighters and overtake the capitol. It's a surprise attack that no one suspects, and that one boy will become a planetary hero."
"So we have to bust him out, yeah?" The Doctor grimaced at her words but shrugged nonetheless.
"Ironically," he said with a teasing grin, "Venchant Ox'Loria was 'busted out' the night before his scheduled execution." Rose clapped her hands together as her smile split into a grin. "Okay, okay, but I want you to know we're not doing this because you want to. And we can't be seen," he pointed a finger at her, and she nodded with mock seriousness. "I'm serious, Rose, we cannot be seen."
"Hey, what do you think this is, my first time? Let's go." She dragged him back out into the street, searching for the first step in their crazy plan.
Just over two hours later they were hunkered down outside the prison, several paces away from a small band of fathers who had the same idea. Rose had pouted when she realized they wouldn't be the ones to rescue the children, but the Doctor was thanking every deity he could name in his mind. Breaking into a prison full of guards wasn't exactly high on the list of things that keep them out of trouble, and as they watched the band of fathers sneaking into the sewer system he let out a sigh of relief.
"Doctor, look," she tapped his shoulder and gestured to the front gate. Four guards began to patrol the perimeter, and the last of the fathers wasn't fully under the gate yet. Just a few more paces and the entire operation would be for nothing. Without so much as a warning, Rose picked up a chunk of rock and stood, hurling it at the nearest guard. It connected with his helmet with a sickening thunk, and his companion turned.
"Halt!" he pointed at Rose, who was grinning madly in triumph as the sewer cover slipped closed.
"Rose!" the Doctor yelled, grabbing her hand and yanking her toward the street.
"Time to run," she yelled back gleefully, keeping pace with his longer strides easily.
"Stop in the name of High Lord Joffree!" a voice cried out behind them, and thunderous footfalls heralded the pursuit of a group of guards.
The Doctor closed his eyes and used his senses to orient him once more. The moment was close, and he could feel every atom in his being vibrate with anticipation. He had found the TARDIS right where they'd parked it, and he retraced their path in order to provide him the best vantage point. He and Rose would run right by, and he huddled down in the darkened alley to wait.
He didn't have to wait long, and every muscle in his body tensed as he watched himself and Rose round the corner and press against the wall.
"This isn't remotely funny," he heard himself say, but Rose seemed to be having the time of her life. The Doctor frowned as he tried to recall the exact moment Rose had stopped being a companion, a tag-along, and had integrated herself so fully in his life. He was so lost in thought, he didn't even realize when his foot slipped and the stack of crates next to him crashed over.
"Just an animal," his other self reassured. They darted past him and around the corner, and the Doctor felt his hearts begin to race as the Umbraxa came around the corner.
"Wait!" he called after his past self, but his voice was rough from the turmoil of the day. A heady sense of déjà vu washed over him, and he froze instantly as realization washed over him. This was it – his moment to change history. He knew in his hearts this was the right course, the right path. Rose wasn't destined to die on this pathetic little planet, killed by a stray bullet meant for no one.
As the captain passed, the Doctor surged forward in a full body tackle. They impacted the wall and went down in a tumble of limbs and curses. The other guards, thinking they had apprehended one of their fugitives, trained their weapons on him.
"Where is your friend, the female?" the captain spat as he regained his feet. The Doctor merely smiled, sensing the final shift in the timeline as Rose and her Doctor made it into the TARDIS, like the last puzzle piece falling into place.
"She's safe," he whispered more to himself than in answer to the interrogation. "She's safe." He repeated a little louder, and the young recruit pressed the barrel of his gun into his chest.
"You will answer the captain!" he demanded, his face taught with agitation. The Doctor stared into the face of the man who'd killed his Rose, but his eyes held only relief.
"Calm yourself," the captain ordered, laying a hand on the young man's shoulder. With one last penetrating stare, the rookie backed off and took up position near the entrance of the alley. Suddenly, the most heavenly sound filled the alleyway, and the Doctor smiled serenely as he listened to the TARDIS disappear. They made it, he rejoiced silently.
A noise filled the air, like fabric being ripped in two, and the creatures were upon them. The Doctor closed his eyes, recalling the instructions laid out by his own people. Rolling to his feet, he stepped into the path of the first Reaper and held up his hand.
"Thia'Lyet!" his native language rolled off his tongue, and immediately the creature stilled.
Lord of Time. We are hungry.
The thought penetrated his brain, but the Doctor focused on what he'd learned.
"Nish'ashara, jyat a'kune." He waved his arm from left to right in a banishing motion, and the creature hissed. "Jyat a'kune!" He repeated the motion sharply, and the creature shrank back.
"What's happening?" the captain questioned.
"I'm saving your life," the Doctor returned hotly, his eyes still locked on the creature before him.
"Who are you? And what is that thing?"
"My people called them Yawe, the guardians. They've just been…neglected." The Doctor watched as the creature faded back into the Web of Time, the rift sealing itself automatically. "They will not be a bother anymore, not now that I know how to control them."
"Sir!" the recruit called from the end of the alley, drawing everyone's attention. "He's activated some sort of transportation device!" The Doctor looked down at his hands, shocked to see himself fading from existence. He'd done it; he'd changed the course of history and averted inevitable disaster. But the knowledge he'd gained would pass with him, and he was alright with that. No one being had the right to that much power, or that much responsibility. Just as long as they were careful, the other Doctor and his companion would never know.
"All in a day's work," he huffed cheekily, looking up at the captain with a smug grin.
"Impossible," the captain whispered. "We are blocking all forms of transport in the immediate area."
"Luckily," the Doctor answered, "I excel at impossible." And with those words he faded out of time, and the nine Umbraxaal stared at each other in wonder.
"Find him! And figure out what those creatures were and if there are any more on the planet!" The captain barked sharply, and the eight soldiers started into action. They conducted a planet-wide search, but there was no sign of the mysterious visitor or the creatures. Finally, report of a breakout pulled them from their task, and any thoughts of the strange man and his companion were lost in time.
London, England, Earth, 10,007 years prior…
Jackie Tyler hummed off-key as she folded her laundry in the living room. Things were much quieter around the house while Rose was out gallivanting with the Doctor, and Jackie couldn't help but look up as if the heavens themselves could give her some clue to where she was. She worried about her young girl traveling through time and space with an alien, even if he did look human. But, she admitted reluctantly, if anyone would keep her Rose safe it would be him.
Lightning lit up the sky for a brief moment, then the house shook with the fury of the storm raging outside. The house lights flickered once, then died, and Jackie let out an exasperated moan as she fished candles from the kitchen.
"Just my luck," she grumbled. "Who knows who long it'll take them to get it back on." She left one in the kitchen just in case and took the other two out to the sitting room. She finished her clothes by candlelight, listening to the rush of rain hitting the pavement outside.
A sharp knock startled her, and she lifted a lit candle gingerly as she shuffled her way to the door. The hallway was dark so she couldn't see who it was, but something in the urgency of the knock had her fumbling with the lock. When she opened it, she wasn't prepared for the sight that met her eyes.
"Mum!" Rose embraced her mother in a smothering hug, and Jackie's face lit up with glee as her arms came around her daughter.
"Oh Rose, this is a surprise!" she pulled her daughter into the foyer, noting with some amusement that the Doctor stepped in somewhat cautiously. She caught his eye over Rose's shoulder and smiled at him.
"Thank you," she mouthed, and he smiled knowingly. Rose pulled away and began rattling a mile a minute about some planet or another, but Jackie's attention was on the man in the foyer. He was watching Rose flit about with an expression that made Jackie smile. The Tyler matron walked over to the man who'd become so completely entranced by her daughter and looped her arm through his. Rose was still chatting away happily, so Jackie kept her voice low as the Doctor looked at her in surprise.
"Have you been watching out for her?" she asked firmly, injecting just a hint of a teasing tone into her voice. But the look the Doctor gave her was absolutely serious, and he nodded as his eyes darted back to the vibrant girl in the next room.
Well, there you are. Slides easily into canon sometime just before "Fear Her." I fought long and hard for a way to do this without dealing with Reapers. And then I had an epiphany. So there's my take on Reapers for you. Also, that Gallifreyan is partly my own gibberish and partly pulled from an internet source. Just google Gallifreyan language if you're curious, you'll find it.
I have some more 10Rose fics in the works, so let me know what you thought of this one and if you want to see more. Ta!