Author's Note: I love the Master. I really do. :D Anyways, here's your next installment of Paradox. We've just got a quick epilogue to go, and then we'll be all done. I hope everyone has enjoyed this crazy ride. There will definitely be more stories to come in this universe, as I still want to bring Doctor Donna in and now I have the Master tied up in some room on the TARDIS with the possibility to play with him whenever I want. Thank you for all of your support thus far.
Still looking for a beta. Let me know if you're interested.
She saw just enough to break her heart before Mickey pushed that door closed as well. "So who's it gonna be, huh, Rose? Which one of your precious Doctors are you gonna sacrifice the other for? Who is worth abandoning everything for?"
Tears brimming in her eyes, she squared her shoulders against Mickey's harsh glare.
Mickey's sneer faltered. "What do you mean 'no'?"
"Means no. I'm not gonna pick between them." She blinked back her tears, standing up even straighter.
Mickey blinked at her a few times. "Rose, baby, I don't think you understand. You don't have time to save both of 'em. Which one will it be?"
"No." She stepped up closer, jabbing her finger into Mickey's chest. "The Doctors are strong, and clever, and he was rescuin' himself long before I came 'round. He can do it again. The Doctor may want me, but he doesn't need me. Just as I don' need him.
"And you are not Mickey, so come off it. Show me who you really are."
She looked around her, looking for anything that might help her get him back from the hole.
You would be so lucky to at least end up stranded on Earth.
Her nails dug into her palms as she turned back to the mirror, eyes flashing angrily.
"I'm not gonna leave him!" she said out loud, stepping up closer to the mirror. "I made my decision a long time ago. I promised him forever, and that's what I'm gonna give him. He didn't leave me then, and he's not left me now." This Doctor, if she could somehow make contact with him without messing up any timelines, could help her get back to her Doctor. She pushed on the glass where it turned open the last time.
It didn't move.
She leaned her whole weight against it, but it still wouldn't budge. She moved a bit away before running forward, jumping into it. Her shoulder crashed against the mirror, but it didn't even crack. She stumbled back away from it, holding her shoulder with a light groan.
She looked around her, looking for anything that would help.
Her eyes fell on a fork lift.
Mickey's blinking was almost manic at that point. "What are you talkin' about?"
"Mickey wouldn't make me choose. Mickey would maybe make me choose between him and the Doctor, but he's never tried to understand the Doctor before, an' he wouldn't try to make me pick now. Mickey is back home, safe, getting on with his life. Who are you an' what are you doin' here?"
He backed away from her until he ran into the wall. "Rose—"
"No! Don't "Rose" me. You will tell me who you are right now, and you will give me the Doctors back, because I'm not playin' you're game anymore."
Mickey stood, staring at her, slack-jawed. Was it just her or was he getting a little blurred around the edges. She looked around her. The walls were bleeding together, warping into odd shapes. It was like the room itself was dissolving. She turned back to the pseudo-Mickey, but he was gone.
She wheeled back to face the empty, collapsing room, hands on her hips. "Is this the Master's doing? Why don't you come and face me, Master? No more of these games. You think you're a match for the Doctor, then you better—"
Her words dropped out of her throat as the floor splintered beneath her, hurtling her into darkness.
She gunned the engine, gritting her teeth. She turned the forklift around, squaring it up to the mirror. "Right then. This should get his attention. Then we'll find his TARDIS and he can take me to the Doctor."
She stomped down on the pedal and the tires squealed. She closed her eyes, bracing against the impact as the glass in front of her shattered.
She woke with a gasp, jerking against the strap across her forehead and the wires coming out of her face and arms. She heard another gasp beside her, and twisted to the right to see Other Rose struggling against the chair she was strapped to as well.
She tore the loose straps from her wrists, and with a slight shift the wires stuck to her skin popped off. The strap across her forehead was torn away and her and Other Rose were on their feet, looking around the room.
It was dimly lit, massive, with a low ceiling. A large pillar of metallic rods and chords tumbled down from the ceiling to the center of five chairs. The heads of the chairs ringed the chords. The Doctors lay on the other three chairs, eyes closed, perfectly still except for slightly twitching hands and pained facial expressions, their lips moving.
"What? No no no no no, this can't be right! It can't be you two!" Rose twisted to see the blond man from the projection, popping up from behind a huge and complex control panel. He ran around it, at the same manic pace the Doctor did everything, stopping just short of them. "My money was on old gruff Northern burr there. How did two stupid, tiny little human children get out?"
The two Roses didn't even have to look at each other, they both rushed forward at the same time, trying to grab the man, but he danced back out of their reach. "What did you do?"
"Uh uh uh!" he taunted, holding his hands up towards them. "This isn't part of the game. You two—"
Other Rose stepped forward, her arms folded across her chest. "Didn't you hear me, Master? I told you: I'm not playin' any more of your games!"
His eyes slid half-closed, a shiver running up his body and a smile lighting up on his face. "I like it when you use my name."
Rose finally glanced at herself, both of their eyebrows quirking up. Was this guy for real?
"How'd you get us into this place? When did you get us?" Rose asked, taking a discreet step to the left.
His eyes immediately riveted on her. Another of those slow, creepy smiles stretched his face. "Time's a tricky thing. Moves so much faster in the mind than it does in reality. Sometimes, there's just a slight... lapse between the two."
Rose's Doctor appeared at her side, sheepishly offering her his hand as well. She climbed down more slowly from the chair, took his hand, and walked between the two Doctors to the door.
A shriek sounded outside; the voice Rose recognized as her own. The three of them charged forward and out the door.
The light outside blinded her completely. She blinked the blackness away from her vision, stopping to see Other Rose and Other Ten standing a little ways away from them, hands still clasped, blinking around them in confusion.
They'd never made it to the church.
"And wha's that machine do?" she gestured vaguely to the column of wires that the Doctors were still hooked up to. While the Master's eyes were still on her and the machine, Other Rose took a few steps forward and to the right. "Is it supposed to drain the Doctors' life energy or somethin'? Why would you hook us up to something like that? We don't have much of a life span at all."
Something close to a frown crossed the Master's face. "I wouldn't expect your puny little human brain to understand. And you," he jerked his head to Other Rose who had been inching towards him, "can just stay right there."
They both rocked back on their heels, crossing their arms over their chests and glaring at the Master. "Wha' were you even tryin', mate? How was this little thing possibly gonna end? How were you gonna win against three Doctors?"
He bounced towards Rose, then, getting uncomfortably close to her face. "You see, darling Rose," he gestured to the twitching and whimpering Doctors, "there are other ways to win. One little seed of doubt. One little planted idea..." He grabbed her by the upper arms, and his fingers started tapping out a four beat rhythm. "That's all it takes to win. The Doctor's locked in a prison of his own making. Didn't have to keep him here forever to get whatever dirty little thought wormed into his brain. Just long enough. One little thought, and he'll be tearing himself apart about it for the rest of his lives." She couldn't help but shiver as he bared his teeth at her.
"Righ', enough of this." He turned away from her as Other Rose's voice interrupted him. She stood a few paces away, a length of chains in her hand, swinging one end with a heavy hook on it.
Rose didn't waste time in dropping down and out of his grip, spinning to knock the feet out of under him. As soon as he stumbled back and hit the ground, Other Rose was on him. Between the two of them, they had the chains wrapped tightly around him with his hands secured behind his back and far away from the hook that held it all together.
"We may not have the brain of a Time Lord," Rose said, leaning on the shoulder of her counterpart, "but I'll tell you what we do have. Jericho Street Junior School Under 7's gymnastics team. We've got the bronze."
"Right, best be checkin' on our boys now, shouldn't we?" Other Rose interrupted, stepping closer to the three Time Lords still strapped to the tables.
Eyes tightly pinched shut, hands gripping so hard the knuckles were turning white, her Doctor was trembling on the table, deep lines on his face holding the tracks down which his tears ran. His lips were moving, but she couldn't make out what he was saying over the hum of the machines. "Doctor?" she asked tentatively, her voice breaking as she reached out a hand to wipe at the tears on his cheeks.
He didn't respond to her touch. She brushed a hand down his cheek more urgently, but he remained oblivious to her. She leaned in, putting her ear just above his mouth to hear what he was saying.
"Rose. Rose, please. Please come back, please. Rose..." He kept muttering her name and the pleas for her return over and over. His voice was thick with pain. She pulled back a little, feeling tears stinging her own eyes.
"Doctor! Doctor, I'm here. Doctor, please." She touched his face and hair more urgently. "Please, Doctor, wake up. I'm right here." She turned distraught eyes up to the Other Rose, who was doing much the same as her as she moved between the other two Doctors. "What are they calling out for?" she asked, almost afraid of the answer.
Other Rose's gaze lifted to meet hers. "Ten keeps asking for me. Nine keeps asking what he's supposed to do. They both sound so scared, so heartbroken. We've gotta get them outta here!"
She wheeled back on the Master, who was contentedly sitting where they had left them. His feet were tapping out that same four-beat rhythm, and barely contained glee was on his face as he fidgeted. Other Rose stormed over to him, towering above him. "How do we release the Doctors?"
The Master grinned back up at her. "Not telling!" he cackled gleeful. He sounded like a child!
Other Rose lifted her foot, almost looking like she was ready to kick him. Rose hurried over, pulling her away by the hand. "I doubt we're gonna get much outta him. C'mon, there's gotta be something on the control board over here."
The big panel was a maze of wires and buttons. It made the TARDIS console look like a sane mess. What if we hurt the Doctor? ran the thoughts through Rose's mind. What if we ruin his head forever? Oh god, what if we don't pick the right switch? What if—?
She didn't get any more time to think about it as Other Rose slammed her fist down on a big red button. The Master scowled at them even as the Doctors woke up, gasping for air the same way she had when she escaped. She was to them in a second, helping her Doctor tear his straps and wires off.
As soon as his hands were free, he pulled Rose onto the chair with him, pulling her into his lap and folding his arms around her. He buried his face in her hair, but she could still hear his voice: "Oh, Rose Rose Rose Rose Rose. You're still here. Oh, you're still here."
She held him back just as tightly. "Of course I am, Doctor. I told you, I'm never gonna leave you." She peaked over the top of his head at the others. Nine was sitting up on the end of his bed, head in his hands, shaking it any time Other Rose offered any assistance. She was placed quite firmly in Other Ten's lap, folded into his arms much the same way she was. But Other Ten didn't have his face buried in her shoulder in grief. He'd already dealt with losing his Rose and somehow being reunited with the Rose in his lap before. While he held her tightly against him, his eyes were on her and her Doctor.
Her thoughts were drawn back to the Time Lord clinging to her as he let out a great huff of breath into her neck before slowly pulling back from her. He squeezed her again before slowly loosening his hold, sitting up to look at the others. "What happened?" he asked, coughing to cover the cracking of his voice.
"The Master," Other Rose jerked her hand over to the man trying—and failing—to squirm to his feet away from them, "caught us the first time we exited the TARDIS. He knocked us out and strapped us into these machines. This whole adventure was in some sort of shared consciousness thing or something."
Nine was the first to his feet, shaking out his limbs as he slowly strolled over the now-sulking Master. "Just like him to play dirty." Nine didn't bother refraining from tipping him over with his foot. The Master's face connected with the ground, and he glared up at him from his position of being pressed into the stone below. "So what're we gonna do with him?"
Other Ten scratched the back of his neck. "We've got some containment rooms in the TARDIS. I'm sure we can find somewhere to put him so he can't cause any more problems." Ignoring whatever fuss the Master was kicking up, he turned his eyes to the two TARDISes parked next to each other. "At least he didn't do any damage to your old girl. Should probably get you two back before this one has a problem to get you two stuck here again, shouldn't we?" He got to his feet, helping Other Rose up as well.
"Probably. Best be off before we learn any more about our future than we already have." Her Doctor squeezed her hand before sliding her off his lap so he could stand. A shudder ran through his whole body, but he just shook it off, grinning back at them in a way Rose knew he would every time he tried to hide something that was bothering him. "Can't say this wasn't an adventure, eh, Rose?" She didn't even bother nodding back.
Hand holding more tightly to hers than it normally did, he lead them back to their own TARDIS. "That offer still stands," Other Ten called after them, making them stop in the doorway. "If, for some reason, you ever find yourself back in this world, don't be afraid to look us up."
Her Doctor smiled back at them before leading her through the doors to the familiar, comforting hum. She could feel the TARDIS working through her head like a balm to smooth out the false memories. She just hoped she was doing the same for the Doctor.
"Right, back to our world, shall we?" He didn't look at her as he bounded around the console, flicking a switch that sent them shuddering off again.
"Doctor?" He still didn't look at her. Not until the shuddering came to a stop. He pretended that whatever was on the display screen was more important than her. "Doctor," she called again, impatiently.
Finally his eyes lifted to hers. A flicker of that deep sadness was still there, but it was buried away so quickly that she would've missed it if she hadn't been looking for it. "You alright?"
A grin split his face. "I'm always alright."
"You know I'm always gonna be here for you, yeah?" She did her best to squash the thoughts of what Other Ten had told her, of her future.
His thoughts had to be along the same line as his smile slipped away to become something sadder, but truer. "Yeah. Thanks for that, Rose."