He laughed wildly as vibrations shook the room around him, sparks flying from the console and loose wires swinging dangerously. He held onto one of the rails for dear life, squinting against the smoke and sparks in the air. He tried to read what the screen was flashing in mauve, but another jolt shook the ship and he went flying, sprawled out on the floor.
To his relief, the motions only lasted a moment longer but, to his horror, when they stopped, the lights turned off and he was left in the dark, only emergency lights casting eerie shadows on the cavernous walls. He rose, cracking his back and rubbing his bumped head, and started to switch levers and press buttons to gage the amount of damage the crash landing had incurred.
His mind began to wonder as the readouts created a deep, twisting fear in his stomach. This had only happened once before. Five years had passed since that day, and he was a different man, but the memories began to flood his mind. He had tried to move on; tried to move ahead and forward in a linear fashion, but he kept circling around, recalling sights and sounds which only tormented his broken hearts.
That fateful day, so long ago, the last time he saw her face, he had offered to travel with someone; Donna. It had been a thoughtless habit; when he was alone he asked anyone he could banter with to come along. In retrospect, he admitted it was more of a desire of distraction. She had turned him down and a part of him was very grateful. A year had passed after that; a blink in the life of a Time Lord, before he offered again. He had taken Martha around for a while, prolonging her "thank you" redeemable for 1 TARDIS trip into many, but it had been wrong. He had FELT wrong, like a widower courting a new belle. She had run away in the end. He couldn't reciprocate what she felt and she eventually accepted that. Maybe, if Jack had stayed, it would have been different. But just being around Jack had sent his senses tingling. Jack, the new immortal Jack, shouldn't BE. That was his biggest issue, not the fact that he wasn't the same man Jack had fallen in love with. But Jack had matured; grown in the lifetimes he had lived since Satellite 5. That was also for the best, he imagined, since every time he looked at Jack he only saw her face; pictured the three of them stopping nanogenes or running from Annedroids. But, for the briefest moment, it had been worth it; to talk to someone who knew her, who loved her, who realized what it meant to him that she was gone forever. In the end Jack stayed with the humans, his own kind, though the Captain now knew his pain, knew why saying she could spend the rest of her life with him had meant so much. He was willing to watch her wither and die if it meant just few dozen years with her.
He turned to a flashing light, beeping annoyingly in the empty quiet. He tapped it with his fingers, leered at it with his spectacles and, when it didn't stop, hit it with his mallet. This made a panel at his feet fall from its position on the console so he bent down to have a look. Deep within the belly of the TARDIS, a crystal was glowing softly. Not the same, soft aqua the previous one had, but a very pleasant shade of pink. He held it in his hand and concentrated. It began to glow brighter and, satisfied he would be out of there in no time, he pocketed it.
It was all he could do not to run out the doors and see where he had landed. Partially because part of him was scared it might rip open a universe or two. Mostly because he already had a good idea.
It had been three years since he had left Jack and Martha, or rather, since Jack and Martha left him, and he had saved a planet or two, but it had been in a numb, empty state. He hadn't put his hearts into it. Sure, he cared about the people he saved, he wouldn't be him if he didn't, but the whole experience lost some of its charm without someone to ask him about the wild thing the was doing with the sonic screwdriver or to impress with his vast knowledge or to hold hands with as he ran for his life. It didn't seem real when he closed the door and all that was left was memory and maybe a scorch mark or two. This was why he had always moved on, always sought out new companions, new worlds, new adventures; because without them he was hollow. An old, sad, hollow man who only had memories of genocide and lost love to dream of.
He hadn't meant to cross to the door, and he hadn't even realized his hand was on the handle till a strip of white, cold light had fallen against his eyes.
He told himself not to go, not to jump, but where would the fun in that be? He knew he wasn't meant to be there, knew it was impossible. But part of him was so deeply attracted to the impossible, and part of him reasoned that he was MEANT to be there, if THERE was truly what waited beyond his door.
He took a deep breath, ready to face whatever the universe hurled at him today and stepped out into the morning air. He carefully closed the door to the old wooden box behind him, locking it and glanced up into the bright clear sky.
Zeppelins hovered hundreds of feet above him, casting bulbous shadows on the London streets.
He let out a rattling breath, part of him breaking inside and he took steps out into the bustling downtown life, trying to get his bearings. Numbly, and without any plan, he followed his feet down the semi-familiar streets to a building that haunted both dreams and nightmares.
The Powell Estates loomed ugly as ever ahead of him and he stopped in the square below, surrounded by giddy children at play. His mind was blank, a rare occurrence he normally would have been grateful for, but at this moment he hit his temples in a futile attempt to jumpstart his brain. What was he DOING here? She wouldn't be here; she didn't live here in this universe. Then again, Rose Tyler had never been born in this universe, yet somewhere, she was going about her daily life. He shuddered. He knew he couldn't do this. He couldn't come back after 4 years, 8 months, and 17 days and expect her to stop and come back with him. She had a life; she HAD to have created a life since he last saw her. He wasn't even sure what year it was. She might be married and have children by now, maybe even grandchildren. He smiled at the idea of her, surrounded by a large, loving family; the best he had wished for her since he had lost her.
But one look at the building before him told him it couldn't have been that long since that day in Norway; it looked almost exactly the same, if not slightly darkened by the pollution the zeppelins were dumping into the air.
He stood with his hands in his pockets, swaying on his feet as his hearts and his brain battled about whether or not to go up to her old flat and knock on the door, even if she had never lived in that particular flat. It still would have been HERS for some part of him. As he stood there, unknowingly muttering to himself and frowning, a little girl approached him slowly and timidly.
She stood before him, a few feet away, looking him up and down, and he only paid her a second of attention before returning to his dilemma. She held her hands up to her mouth, not sucking her thumb but close to chewing her knuckles. She said nothing and, after a moment, he couldn't ignore her hazel-brown eyes boring into him any longer. He frowned down at her, determining she couldn't be more than five years old. He said nothing, merely meeting her gaze. After a moment of stalemate, she calmly walked up to him and put her warm little arms around his thighs in a soft embrace.
He lifted his arms, stuttering in astonishment, trying to think of a way to get the blond child off of him without causing alarm in either the child or its parents. Before he could form a coherent sentence, however, the girl leant away and tipped her head back, looking straight up into his confused face.
"Hello," she said simply and he caught his first good look at her. Her yellow-white hair had fallen from her face and her light brown eyes gazed happily up at him. With her hands around his legs, he could see her entire face and, to his amazement, he recognized her lips. He stopped struggling.
"Hello," he replied, simply, scrutinizing her face; her nose and eyes were familiar too.
"You know my mum," she said and stepped away from him. He squatted next to her, almost at eye level, and gave her a very appraising frown.
"Do I now?" he didn't show it, but his hearts were racing much faster then was necessarily healthy. She nodded, smiling, and took his hand in her little one. "Where are we going?" He asked, not used to following a five year old.
"To see her," he stopped and she turned to face him, having no chance to force him to walk with her.
"To see your mum?" she nodded again and his heart broke slightly at the smile she gave him; a smile he had seen so many times. "Sweet heart, I'm not so sure that's a good idea," he put his hand on her shoulder and rubbed her arm comfortingly. "It's been a long time since I last saw your mother, and I'm not sure she wants to see me," he tried not to let his voice crack, but it did nonetheless.
Surprisingly, she giggled and gave his other hand a futile tug. "Silly, 'course she wants to see you," and she turned, heading to the stairs he had climbed so many times. He couldn't help himself. Part of him wanted so badly to see her face again, to see her smile, hear her voice. He let himself be lead by the small girl across the pavement and up the stairs, bemused at how much she reminded him of her mother.
He was shaken from his daydreams when she stopped at the well known door. "Your mother lives here?" he asked, taken aback that she had moved back to such a life when her father, Pete, had money to burn. She ignored him and turned the small gold knob and he helped her push the door open.
The memories he had of the rooms behind that door were ones he treasured highly. He didn't know what to expect; whether she would greet him warmly, as he so hoped, welcoming him back into her new life, a life that meant she couldn't come with him, or, what would upset him more, if she begrudged their separation, blaming him for leaving her, for letting her slip.
He inhaled, trying to calm his heats, but it was no good. The breath brought familiar scents to his nostrils; her lotion, tea, hairspray. The scent alone triggered a series of memories so powerful he almost let out a whimper, but he contained himself, stealing his emotions against whatever onslaught Rose Tyler might fling at him.
The child pushed the door open and scampered inside. "Mum?"
"You back already, Cassie?" Her muffled voice came from the kitchen. He lingered at the doorway, silently closing the door behind him and swallowing hard. She ran to the kitchen door and he could hear the tinkling of tea cups.
"Where's mum?" she asked the maker of tea and he frowned at the question, not understanding the answer.
"She popped down to the shop for more sugar." He took a few more steps towards the door, glancing around the small living room. It was different from the last time he had been here, well, the alternate 'here'. The furniture was different; newer and more contemporary. The pictures on the wall had changed, Rose's mum, Jackie, standing with Pete, Mickey holding a small infant, Rose at a birthday party. All recent, all since the three had started new lives in Pete's World. A desk stood in one corner, covered in files and paperwork and a new, hi-tech TV hung on the wall.
He hadn't made much of it as he slowly got closer and closer to 'Cassie' who still stood in the doorway to the kitchen. "I brought a friend home," she said, standing unsteadily on her feet as she grasped both side of the doorframe.
"Is it Thomas again? I swear, you hardly turned five and you've already got the boys-" He stood behind the girl and saw her turn around, a tea cup in hand. She stopped dead at the site of him and let her mouth fall open.
"Hello, Rose." It was nothing close to everything he had to say to her, but his tight throat and dry mouth couldn't manage more then the soft greeting.
She let the tea cup slip from her fingers with a small crash; sending shards of porcelain and tea droplets flying across the tiled floor. They looked at each other, neither one able to say anything as Cassie stared between them. Before either had made any move, there was a bustle at the door and Jackie's voice filled the flat, complaining about lines and prices for a simple bag of sugar.
Her voice stopped abruptly too as she looked up from the shopping bag in hand and saw the tall, trench coat clad figure standing in the kitchen doorway. He didn't move more than an inch to incline his head in her direction, "Hello, Jackie," but his eyes never left hers. He heard the soft thump and crinkle of a pound of sugar in a shopping bag hitting the floor and he couldn't help but laugh at how similar Jackie and her daughter were.
"You!" Jackie, however, didn't remain silent. He winced as she marched over and only somewhat fondly hit him in the arm. "YOU!" He tore his eyes away from her face as Jackie spun him in place, turning him to face her, and gathered him up in a bone crushing hug. "Oh, you stupid, lovely, beautiful, brainless, man!"
He was sure that if he hadn't had a respiratory bypass system that she would have choked the life from him already. He managed a few gasps and a somewhat intelligible, "Yes, lovely to see you too, Jackie," while she held onto him for dear life, rambling on about how much she loved/hated him.
"Mum!" Cassie had her little hands between their knees, trying in vain to break them apart. "You'll break him!" She gave him one last quick squeeze before turning to the little girl.
"Sweet heart, do you know who this is?" She had her hands on the small girl's shoulders.
"S'the Doctor," she stated, matter-of-factly, "I found him," she beamed at Jackie, very proud of herself. Jackie turned, somewhat amazed to Rose, who still hadn't budged, asking her silently if this was true. She finally nodded, shakily, taking in a gasping breath. He dove into the kitchen, catching her as she fainted. Some where in the back of his mind her heard Jackie exclaim something as he picked Rose up bridal style and carried her to her bedroom, Jackie keeping Cassie close to her. "Mum! What's wrong with Rose, Mum?" she asked, staring up into Jackie's face as they followed him into her bedroom.
He sat down on the bed by her side, brushing the hair from her face, not paying much attention to the other two Tyler women in the room. He felt her strong steady pulse and her eyes fluttered open. He looked down on her, wearing a concerned smile, and she looked into his eyes, searching for something.
"Hello," he repeated, still at a loss for words, still waiting for a response.
"Hello," she swallowed before sitting up and flinging her arms around him. This embrace he reciprocated, wrapping his long arms around her, holding her to him and never wanting to let go. He felt her shake with silent tears and was mildly aware of his own forming slick paths down his cheeks. He heard the door to her bedroom close and the muffled sound of Cassie asking questions. He tuned them out and concentrated on her; here, in his arms, safe, sound. It was as though the past five years had been a nightmare and he had just woken up.
They sat there, not caring how long, until she sniffled and shifted, not letting him go, but pulling her face from his chest. "I thought I'd lost you," she whispered, heartache filling every word.
He smiled reassuringly, though she couldn't see it, "you can't get rid of me, you should know that by now." She let out a laugh and his heart swelled, another tear falling from his eye.
"How?" She leaned back away from him, searching his face. He opened his mouth but she stopped him, fervently wiping at her tears, smudging her mascara. "No, never mind, I don't care how. The universe can implode and I don't care." She gave him a smile and he knew, he KNEW, that this was where he was meant to be; here, in her arms.
"Well, I'm glad to know how highly you value the universe I've spent so much time saving," and she laughed again then sniffled. He pulled out the glowing crystal from his pocket and held it up in front of her face. She diverted her attention to it and his hearts jumped with pride.
"Is that one of the TARDIS's crystals?" She glanced up into his smiling face before staring back at the soft rosy gem.
"It's on a-"
"A recharge cycle," she interrupted and he raised an eyebrow. "Like last time with Mickey and the Cybermen?"
"Yes, how did you-" she sat back, stern, businesslike face plastered on her lovely features.
"I've been working for Torchwood," his incredulity melted into a cold, stony mask. "We've been monitoring the rift. It's been giving off higher readings this past week," she tucked her hair behind her ear and continued. "We were afraid it might be opening again."
"But that's impossible," he put the somewhat forgotten crystal back in his pocket. "I closed it for good last time, it couldn't have opened."
"No, it hasn't, not like- not like last time." Her 'business' face faltered and she glanced down at her hands. He stood up in frustration, very unhappy with what he was hearing, no matter how much she might know to the contrary.
"But how did I get here then, hmm?" He began pacing her small bedroom, stepping over strewn clothes and rubbing his scalp, pulling at his hair. "If the breach is closed, as well it should be, then that means-" he turned to look at her, somewhat terrified, "there's a new rift."
"There are several, actually," her professionalism returned, despite the fact she pulled her knees up to her chest, still sitting on her bed, "the most active one is in Cardiff," she met his gaze in understanding, "just like back home. The others are all minor and easily controlled, only a stray weevil coming through; we don't even know why THEY come through… But the readings have been showin' that the walls between universes, this world and home, have been," she raised her hands, rubbing them together, "wearin' down, or rubbin' together or-" she stopped and clapped, "at least bumpin' into each other." She sighed, "we didn't think anythin' would manage to come through, no, it's-well, was- just friction. Records show it happens every couple of years; it's this natural cycle or somethin' to do with the rotation of the universe on it's axis or somethin'. I don't really understand all the mumbo-jumbo stuff, but they said it should be harmless. Somthin's only come through once before-"
"Us, five years ago," he was scrutinizing her. The whole time she had talked, she hadn't spared him more than a glance or two and he had taken the time to study her. She looked older; understandable since it had been years since he had last seen her. Her hair was in long, golden waves; she must not have cut it since that day on the beach and she had let it turn to her natural honey gold color. She had lost even more weight and he unintentionally noted how it made her curves more prominent. She had toned down the makeup to natural hues of creams and tan with only a little mascara outlining her hazel eyes. Her eyes; they were still big and inquisitive and sparkling, but they had lost some of their innocence, some of their color, and somewhere, in the recesses of the poetic part of his brain, he wondered if it was because she had cried so much. But he didn't flatter himself, he was still learning what she had done since that day on Bad Wolf Bay, learning about this new Rose. Trying to find if she was still HIS Rose.
At his words, he was torn from his thoughts, as her eyes finally lighted on his. "Yeah." He sighed, now knowing exactly why the TARDIS had been pulled through both now and five years previously. "Doctor-" her voice caught and he could see the tears beginning to from in her eyes again, but she steadied herself and swallowed. "Doctor, I never thought you would come through. I never thought I'd see you-" but she had to take a deep breath to stop from crying out and he crossed to her. She let her knees fall, sitting with them folded before her. "I never thought I would see my universe again."
He sat down on the bed again, looking her in the eye. It had come time for the important question. "Do you want to?" her eye flicked nervously between his. His hearts were beginning to pick up in pace. "I mean, you've made a life for yourself here," he rose, unable to look her in the eye, feeling he had to make sure she understood what this meant. "A job, the flat, Cassie," his voice dropped on her name. He looked down at his feet, hands in his pockets. How daft had he been? Of course she would want to stay here, look after her daughter. How could he have thought she would abandon the life she had worked so hard to get used to and enjoy?
"Doctor," her voice was tentative and he thought he could almost here a laugh forming at the back of her throat. "Doctor, you don't think- you didn't think Cassie was MINE?" He whipped around to face her, shocked to see the huge smile on her face.
"You mean-?" she was definitely laughing at him now.
"You thought-!" she let out a peal of laughter and a smile began to form at the corners of his mouth. "I had- I mean, Doctor! Don't you remember?"
"Mum, she was pregnant, and you forgot?" His mind raced back to that painful day and he began to laugh, realizing what an idiot had been. "Cassie's my SISTER!" She tilted her head back and laughed and he couldn't help but to laugh with her. "She and Mum are in town on a visit!" He felt a pressure lift from his chest that he hadn't realized had been there. Part of him had been happy to think Rose had made a family here, a new life, but the selfish part of him had been jealous. "I mean, who was I going to have a baby with? Mickey?" At this she laughed even harder, a tear forming at the corner of her eye. They laughed together and she had almost finished when she met his gaze and broke into it again. She finally calmed down, breathing somewhat heavily.
"So you- you never married or…?" He let the sentence trail off. He felt guilt at the joy he had when she slowly shook her head and looked at him like he was a silly child.
"Doctor, I think Sarah Jane said it best, who could compare to you?" His silly grin fell from his face, replaced by a contented upturn of the corners of his mouth. He sat a moment, somewhat awkwardly, under her fond gaze. He had to make sure, had to know if she wanted to pick up, but he owed it to her to make sure she also knew what she would be leaving.
"But your family, this life you've made, it's important. Do you really want to- to-"
"To go see the stars with you?" He nodded, hope preventing him from forming the question. "Doctor, they are my family and they ARE important. But I also think what's important is that I still call MY universe 'home', even though I've lived here for years. I think what's important," she raised a hand and cupped his cheek and his hearts kicked into over drive, "is that along time ago, I promised you forever." He searched her beautiful face, words still caught in his throat. "What's IMPORTANT, is that you WERE my life before all this, and I love you." She began leaning in towards him, bringing their faces, inch by inch, closer together. Her voice had lowered to a whisper and her eyes had fallen to his lips. "But, what's MOST important, is that I will only go with you on one condition, because, as you say, I have a life here and there is only one way I will leave it."
His eyes had strayed to her lips as well. The years he had waited, the countless hours he had spent wishing he had just kissed her, just once, so he could have the memory of it the rest of his life. He swallowed hard, unable to feel anything below his racing hearts. "And, what, Rose Tyler, is this condition?" His voice only squeaked slightly and he swallowed again.
"If you finish what you were going to say all those years ago," he was close enough to feel her breath on his face; it smelled of the few sips of tea she had swallowed before being so rudely interrupted, and he licked his lips subconsciously.
"You mean, you will only come back with me if I say, 'Rose Tyler, I love you'?" She nodded slightly, and he could feel the heat coming off of her in waves. "Rose Tyler, I love you." The words were hardly out of his mouth before hers had landed on his.
He was lost. His brain went a happy shade of 'Rose pink' and all he knew was her; her hot hands on the back of his neck, her soft hair against his cheek, and the furious tango their tongues were performing. He placed one hand on the bed, steadying himself, as she scooted closer. The other snaked around her back, pulling her torso into his, and he felt her solitary heart pound out a fast rhythm, giving time to their kiss. He was lost. She was everything he had dreamed of and more; her taste, her smell, the feel of her lips, the perfect way they moved together without hands guiding them from crushing noses or banging heads. He was lost. Her hands had snaked down, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his top few buttons and he gasped against her mouth at the simple warmth he felt as her hands pressed against his collar bones. It was her turn to gasp as the cold tips of his fingers found the strip of skin between her shirt and jeans and laced small gentle circles on her skin. He was lost. A fire was growing in the pit of his stomach; a hunger, a need for her. He had needed her before; needed her smile, her laugh, her guidance, her innocence. But now he needed HER, all of her, and by the way she held him and kissed him back just as ferociously as he kissed her, he was very happy to realize she needed him in each and every way. He was completely and utterly lost and he never wanted to be found.
"Get off 'er!" She pulled away from him and his eyes opened blearily to see Cassie, hands on her hips, toe tapping, in a perfect miniature version of her mother. Rose wiped at her mouth with her sleeve.
"Cass! Whatcha' think you're doin'?" Her voice rose and she jumped off the bed, motioning for girl to leave the room.
"Mum said you had been quiet too long and told me to come check on you."
Rose had her by the shoulders and was leading her into the sitting room. He heard mumbles and, still in a daze, he suddenly bolted up and to the front door. He had his hand on the knob when he heard Jackie's clear cry of "WHAT!"
He saw a very red faced mother head towards him and shouted into the flat, "See you downstairs, Rose," before closing the door in Jackie's face and sprinting down the corridor to the stairs.
He had reached the door when her voice screamed out to him, "You get back here RIGHT NOW, Doctor, I've got a bone to pick with you!" But, since he figured this 'bone' would probably end in him getting slapped, he ignored her shouts and flew down the stairs to the safety of the TARDIS.
He closed the doors behind him and leaned against them, letting out a deep breath. He could care less about Jackie's anger. All that mattered was the fact Rose was back in his life. He had stumbled back to her after looking so hard for so long. He had known he would never stop looking, but, knowing deep down that he knew of no way to return to her, he had let it slip from his top priority, to something he tossed around late at night or as he tinkered with the TARDIS. Part of him felt guilt at knowing he had wasted time in other endeavors, but it didn't matter now. He hadn't needed to rip open the walls between universes; they had happily parted for him and had even shoved him through.
He darted over to the console, still dark, still recuperating, and pulled out the small crystal from his inner pocket. It glowed cheerily in the dim light and, beaming, he put it back in his pocket, pouring a bit more energy into it.
His hearts were still racing. There were so many questions he had, so many concerns for both Rose and the TARDIS, but he heard her words in his mind and his fears dissipated. She had spelled out what should have been obvious to him from the beginning; the moment he had grabbed her hand and told her to run, he had become her world. She was going to leave everything, again, to be with him; she knew the dangers, she took the risks, she walked the line and put her life at stake and she loved him.
And, oh Rassilon, how he loved her. He had become even more solemn, more hollow, after their separation then he had after the War. He had been willing to throw his regenerations away, to sacrifice himself; he had lost the will to go on.
But she was back, she was coming with him, and he felt he could take on any enemy and still have the wide grin he wore plastered on his face. He danced around the tall green column, somehow failing to trip in the darkness.
He heard her laughter and turned on the spot, facing her outline at the now opened door. She shrugged off a heavy bag, closing the door and setting it in the corner. She approached the magnificent machine in the center of the room, features popping in the green light. He came around to stand a few feet from her; part of him still finding it hard she was here once again, standing in his home, ready to spend the rest of her life with him.
"'Sall sorted," she sighed, only the slightest hint of remorse edging into the short words. "Left a note for Torchwood, tenderin' my resignation. They won't be too happy 'bout that!" she laughed.
"And your Mum?" he was somewhat worried that soon he would hear Jackie's shouts and fists pounding on the TARDIS door, demanding he return her eldest daughter. Rose frowned slightly, but not enough to make him worry.
"She accepted that I didn't have a choice; if you came back with a one way ticket, she always knew I would take it. And besides," her eyes cast down to the floor and, though they held tears, she gave a smile, "she's got Cass and Dad to look after her now." She looked back up, blinking away tears and giving him an endearing smile. "You might have taken one daughter away, but you gave her another." He approached her and rubbed her arm in comfort.
"Rose, I'm not sure, but I don't think it necessarily WILL be a 'one way ticket'." Her eyes sparkled at him, not with desperation, but hope. "This friction between the universes, I heard a theory about it centuries ago on Gallifrey; an old friend of mine theorized that every millennia, similar universes create pressure on their respective walls, allowing for easy, capsule-less passage between them, sometimes causing rifts and breaches."
"But," she pointed to the ceiling, indicating the lack of lights, "this happened only five years ago, not a thousand." He smiled; he loved it when she listened and tried to think it out.
"Our first time here, with Mickey, was probably that one time in the thousand years." She nodded, biting her lip in concentration. "But we left Mickey here. He had background radiation from our universe which added to the pressure the two universes had on each other, probably shortening the cycle by a century or two. Then, you and your mother came through, each with your own radiation, shortening the cycle again. The more radiation, the more pressure and friction." He was grinning happily in understanding, rubbing his hands together the same way she had, "then, to top everything off, the poppings between the Torchwood lots did in each universe probably reduced the remaining time of the frequency in the cycle to a fraction of what was left-"
"Five years," she finished for him, grinning, she was getting an idea of what this meant.
"Correct! So, if all this is true, which, knowing me, it must be, then we will be popped back through in five years' time!" He was beaming with pride; she would be able to see her family again. She seemed happy, but her smile was strained and didn't go all the way to her eyes.
"So one day, every five years, I can see them again," his smile faltered for a moment too, he sometimes forgot how long five years was to a human.
"Rose," it broke his heart to think she might accept his offer, but he wanted her to know what she was getting into, "you can still stay here, you don't have to come with me."
Her eyes darted to catch his, full of fire, and he realized she was refraining from hitting him. "Don't say that. How can you even think that I don't have to go with you?" She was shaking slightly, "Do you realize what my life has been these past few years? Do you know how hard it was for me to accept living a life, day by day, fish 'n chips, working in a shop, renting an apartment? Do you think I could ever want anything but to be here, with you?" Her anger melted and was replaced with grief. "I told you long ago you had me forever. I've missed out on over four years of that; don't make me miss another five." She had reached out they held each other by the elbows.
It hurt him more then he had words for to remind her, "Rose, I wouldn't ever ask you to leave. I'm willing to have you with me for the rest of your days. I lost four years too, but don't throw around the word 'forever'; you can't give me that." She looked at him with mixed emotions, tracing the cold purse of his lips with her eyes.
Slowly, languidly, she raised her heavy-lidded eyes to his. The look made the air escape his lungs and his hearts skip a beat. She stood on tip toe and whispered in his ear, "Don't be so sure." He met her eyes with a thousand questions which she silenced with a passionate kiss.
Once again, blissfully, he thought of nothing but the woman before him. He didn't care about forever, now was enough. Without thinking, without needing to ask, he grabbed her hand and began to pull her through the winding corridors of the TARDIS. Doors flittered by, but he didn't think about them, he just looked for the one that had the bronze knob inscribed with the silver trees of Gallifrey. He found it, turning the knob furiously and pulling her inside his room. He closed the door, pushing her up against the nearest wall.
Hands, lips, hips, fingers, tongues, arms, faces moved in a beautiful dance. Her hands in his hair, his body pressed against hers, her gasps as he moved hungrily from her mouth down her jaw, down her chest. She pulled his jacket off and loosened his tie. He unzipped her hoodie and began to fumble with the skin tight shirt underneath. She unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it down his arms before raising her arms as he pulled hers over her head. Her hot fingers began to undo his trousers and his cold ones flicked open the belt on her jeans.
They tumbled on the bed and he pulled his pants off, left naked. He looked down her prostrate body; simple red bra, simple matching panties. He somewhere noted that these functional undergarments turned him on more then any black lacy lingerie could. He smiled, excited, at her and she smiled, finally content, back at him. He slowed. He traced feather light kisses down her jaw, finding a sensitive spot behind her ear. He kissed the top of each of her breasts, still held captive in the oddly seductive underwear. He trailed his cold fingers down the sweating skin of her stomach, kissing and licking his way down to her naval. He wanted to taste her, to learn the curves he had admired so long, with his eyes, with his mouth, he wanted to touch every last millimeter of her white hot skin.
He dug his fingers into the flesh of her thighs before tickling behind her knees and kissing the bottom of each of her feet. She pulled him back up to her face, kissing him and, in turn, digging her fingers into his back, pulling him closer so his whole body was pressed against her. He couldn't take it any longer. He pulled back from her warm body and tucked his fingers under the top of her panties, in a fluid motion he would be extremely cocky about later, he pulled them off and they were thrown across the room.
She was breathing heavily as he climbed back on top. She gladly spread her legs, bending them to cradle his hips. He kissed her one last time and whispered her name, imprinting forever in his memory what he was doing with the woman he loved, not that he was liable to forget. In the next moment, as they rocked together, they were one. Everywhere their skin touched was a connection, a bridge between them. She whispered, moaned, screamed and pleaded his name, begging him, commanding him. As their mutual ecstasy enveloped them, he released all fears and doubts and knew only her.
He lay with her in his arms, loving the heat her skin sent off in waves, caressing her hair and whispering sweet nothings in her ear. She was almost asleep, emotions and actions finally taking their toll, when he quietly asked her something that had bothered him.
"Rose, Rose? When I said not to promise me forever," she let out a muffled 'mmhmm', "and you said not to be so sure," another sleepy mumble, "well, what did you mean?" She turned around to face him as he propped himself up on his shoulder. A flicker of many emotions swept over her face before she gave a meek smile.
"Doctor, you know how I've been working at Torchwood?" he nodded, brows knitted. "well, it isn't exactly the safest job; guns, lasers, swords, all sorts of alien tech-" his even more worried look made her talk faster, she had to get it out without giving him a heart attack, "well, in the course of the past four years, I discovered…well, I can't die." She brought a hand up to his cheek, but he didn't make any sudden movements.
"What do you mean 'you can't die'? Everybody dies," he made it sound like she had boasted of something no one should possibly be able to do.
"Three months after the beech, stabbed with a Taliroon dagger in the stomach, nothing." He was about to interrupt, saying a Taliroon dagger wasn't necessarily deadly. "A year later," she continued, voice becoming more serious, "a Kra'axten tried to slice me in half with a light saber thing," his annoyed face fell, that was more dangerous, "all it did was ruin a perfectly good shirt and make me itch for a few hours." His eyebrows rose and he looked over her head, trying to think of possible explanations. "Five months ago," her voice had gained volume and she too was propped up on an elbow, "shot in the head; stray bullet in a fire fight." He couldn't think of anything to say, he merely looked, puzzled, into her face. "Cuts, bruises, sickness, it doesn't stick; I fall three stories on solid concrete and I'm up and running, not even sore. I still age-" she stopped, she realized she had almost been yelling. She had had such a hard time over the past few years, trying to understand and life with what she was, what she had become. He looked scared and it unnerved her more then if he had shouted at her. "I mean, 'sonly a little bit, and usually only after a should-have-killed-me accident, but hair grows, weight changes, I even can still get a sunburn, funnily enough, but," she laid back down and looked up at the ceiling, "but, I can't die. Not by humans, not by aliens. So," she looked into his eyes and was relieved not to see anger, even though they were void of happiness, "looks like you've got me forever."
She finished her speech, letting out a deep breath, a weight having been lifted from her shoulders. He searched her face, mind racing, trying to accept and understand what she was saying. "Bad Wolf," he whispered. She cocked her head and waited for more. "Satellite 5, when you absorbed the Time Vortex and became the Bad Wolf; you said you brought life-" his eyes honed in on hers and he saw her fear. "You should have died with all that energy, that knowledge, pulsing through you, but all you had was a headache," he paused, rolling the words around in his head before spilling them out, something he rarely did. "Rose, I think you might have given yourself life so that the Vortex didn't kill you and you could stop the Daleks and save me. The problem is that you didn't know how to control it- you gave yourself life when you should have died, but it wasn't just for that moment, it was for…forever." He was slightly mortified by this, but, looking at the bigger picture, holding her close to him as he had always wanted and the possibility of holding her for centuries to come, and he didn't care what it meant, didn't care that it should be impossible, didn't care that she was now a fixed point, which should make any Time Lord run and hide with fear. He didn't care, and he smiled, pulling her close in a huge hug. "Oh, Rose, thank you."
"'Thank you'?" she mumbled against his shoulder.
"You just gave me the one thing no one has been able to; forever." She smiled and he just held her.
Hours later, when she was sound asleep, he pulled his arms from around her and, silently and reluctantly, put his clothes back on. He went to the console room, flipping switches and pressing buttons contentedly. There was slight turbulence as they shifted into their universe and out of Pete's World. He turned a knob, rang the bell and pulled a stopper. The TARDIS landed so softly he rechecked the screen to make sure they had rematerialized. Satisfied they were solid, he opened the door and stepped into the brisk morning air of the planet he had chosen. He had landed in the middle of a market place which buzzed merrily in the mid-morning hours.
He closed the door, stuffing his hands in his pockets, looking around, taking in the stands and aliens around him, deciding that this was a perfect place for an adventure. He was just about to meander a bit, possibly buy her something, when a blond streak came at him from nowhere. It hit him in the knees, almost knocking him over, and he threw a hand back to lean against the TARDIS doors so as not to fall on the child.
"What the-" the child, correction: girl, was gripping his legs tightly, her head resting against his lower thigh. He was somehow afraid to bend over and pry her from him, yet, at the same time, her actions felt somehow RIGHT. "This HAS to stop happening," he muttered to the universe, and he regained his balance, the girl not letting go of him.
After a moment, she pulled back, little hands still clasped tightly around him, and looked up into his face. Tears were streaming down her face and he had the sudden urge to wipe them away and hug her, but he didn't. She smiled weakly up at him and sniffled. Her big brown eyes searched his face and he was transfixed for a moment. He felt the pain that flashed across her face and again, wanted to embrace her, make her forget. She couldn't have been older than five or six; she shouldn't have the fear behind her eyes he saw.
He pulled her gently from him, squatting in front of her, hands on her shoulders, so he could look right into her watery eyes. This close, he saw the light smattering of freckles powdering her nose, he recognized her lips as they reformed a brighter smile, he was all too familiar with the shape of her nose and, when she spoke, he knew the cockney lilt.
"Please don't change," she said, the fear once again marring her face. "Please, PLEASE be careful."
He frowned at her, very worried and somewhat excited about the answers to his questions, "Change? Why don't you want me to change? Who are-" but she had slipped from his firm grip and was running through the throng of aliens, easily darting between legs and under carts.
He stood and ran after her, having a much harder time of it. She turned down a side street and, just as he gave up, he saw her golden head approach a woman wearing a shawl. The woman hugged her, and taking her by the hand, they both turned to look at him. He couldn't see the woman's face, but his racing hearts almost stopped as the young girl smiled, waved and turned to go with the woman. Before he could move more than a few feet towards them, they had vanished into the crowd.
He turned on the spot, hoping to find them, see the child's honey hair shining in the three suns, but they were gone. Resigned, he headed back to the TARDIS. As he opened the door, he paused, letting the details catch up to his excited brain. He whipped around, hoping beyond hope they might have returned, but he knew before his eyes scanned the surroundings that they were long gone. He let out a laugh, his biggest grin spreading across his face.
"Brilliant! Absolutely BRILLIANT!" he cried to the mass of people before him, a few turning to see him close the door behind him. He bounded into the console room, dancing around the green pillar at its heart, laughing. His hearts beat out an excited frenzy in his chest and his whole body felt lighter then air with his euphoria.
"Wha'? Somthin' happen?" Rose stood by the door to the rest of the TARDIS wearing only one of his shirts, rubbing her eyes, her hair tousled. He leapt to her side, enveloping her in his arms and nearly squeezing the life from her.
"Rose, I think I just met 'forever'."