A/N: Nothing you recognize belongs to me! This fic came about from a conversation larxene_12 and I had via the comments section of an entry on my livejournal. Enjoy! :D
The first thing that Rose Tyler did was check the sky. She'd never found another quite like the one on her Earth in her universe. Pete's world had zeppelins, others were too green or too gray, or they had strange saucer-like ships (or no sky at all once, just a seemingly endless stretch of concrete and steel). What she found brought her to a halt in the middle of the busy square. There were no zeppelins in the sky. It was cornflower blue and she could feel it—the planet was spinning at a thousand miles an hour, hurtling around the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour in the precise way she'd felt a thousand times before—when she was holding his hand. She let out a loud whoop and startled a young couple who were standing off to the side of the square.
"Are you all right?" the woman asked. She had dark brown eyes and a haircut a bit like Jackie Kennedy's. The young man was watching her warily. He'd positioned himself slightly in front of the woman and her hand rested on his arm.
"There are no zeppelins in the sky," she confided to the two of them with obvious glee. The woman blinked. The man frowned. Rose laughed. "I'm sorry, you must think I'm absolutely barmy, but there are no zeppelins in the sky!" She fairly vibrated with joy. "I'm home, I'm finally home—I've been gone so long…" She froze. "Wait, what year is it?"
The woman sighed and the man looked away. "It's 2007," the woman told her sadly.
It was Rose's turn to frown. Their clothes definitely didn't say '2007.' From the looks of them she'd expected sometime in the mid 1960's to early 1970's. And the woman's hair, it was exactly the same cut as Rose had seen in the pictures her mum had shown her of Jackie O (Jackie loved that they had the same name). "I don't think you're from around here," she said slowly.
The man bristled. "Of course we are," he argued. "This is London, after all."
"But not the right London." Rose held up the Dimension Canon. To an untrained eye it looked like a very fancy digital watch on a wide leather strap. To anyone who had any knowledge of time travel technology it was clearly so much more. "You're both registering high concentrations of Artron energy, and you only get that when time traveling." The couple drew back and she held up her hands, demonstrating that she was unarmed and meant no harm. "My name's Rose, Rose Tyler, and I've got this friend who can help, well," she laughed, "once I find him, that is. But I'm in the right universe now so he can't be far away." She beamed at them both.
"Barbara! Ian!" A girl was running towards them. She had short black hair and a pixie face that was dominated by large brown eyes. She skidded to a halt in front of the man and the woman (Barbara and Ian, Rose assumed). "Grandfather's almost done with repairs and he's getting ready to go and I don't think he'd leave you here but he's in a mood and you know how he gets when the TARDIS is acting up so please we've got to hurry!" The words tumbled out of her like with scarcely a breath in between them.
"Susan," Barbara began, but the girl had finally noticed Rose.
"Who are you?" she asked, interrupting the older woman. "It's like—time's gone strange around you."
Rose, however, wasn't listening. "You said," she began slowly, "TARDIS, T-A-R-D-I-S as in—"
"Time and Relative Dimension in Space," Susan finished.
Rose's smile was so big she thought her face was going to crack in half, or maybe it would just stick like that and she'd spend the rest of her life grinning like a loon. At the moment she didn't much care. She was back in her proper universe and the Doctor was there too.
She'd been a bit bitter right after he left her and her mum and a man who looked like him (and talked like him and even kissed like him) standing on the shore of Bad Wolf Bay. She'd spent years working on the Cannon and months trying to get back to him, hopping from universe to universe, and he couldn't even admit that he loved her. He didn't even give her a choice (oh, he'd say that she chose when she kissed his clone, but she would have kissed him too if he'd managed to get the words out), but then he never did. So yes, she was bitter and confused and a little hateful to the other Doctor—but she got better. They got better. Together, they made each other better—until he started to age, and she didn't.
Until he died and she didn't. Until Torchwood turned against her and she barely managed to escape with the Cannon and the clothes on her back. Until she spent more than two centuries running and hiding. Until she finally managed to penetrate the Void without causing both universes to collapse.
But she'd had two and a half centuries to come to terms with her existence and she wasn't going to wallow right now. There would be time to talk about all of that later, when she was back on the TARDIS where she belonged. She knew that she wasn't the same Rose Tyler he'd traveled with, but then he probably wasn't the same Doctor she remembered—but he was still the Doctor and she was still Rose Tyler and they would always fit together.
Rose grabbed Susan's hand in her left and Barbara's in her right. "Come on!" she exclaimed, and dashed back the way the young girl had come.
The TARDIS was parked conveniently close to where Rose had landed. She was ninety-five percent positive it wasn't a coincidence. She released the others' hands as they drew near. Barbara seemed a bit shocked by her behavior but Rose couldn't be bothered to care. Susan, on the other hand, watched her like someone might watch an exceptionally interesting animal in a zoo. Rose's TARDIS key, which had rested cold and solid between her breasts for longer than she cared to remember was warm, almost hot in the presence of its home. She pulled the chain out from beneath her shirt and slipped the key into the lock.
"That's a TARDIS key!" Susan exclaimed.
"Course it is," Rose replied flippantly. "What else would I use to get into the TARDIS?" She didn't wait for a response. The key turned and the tumblers of the lock fell into place and the door swung open. She almost ran into the TARDIS, into the one place (besides where her husband had been, when he was her husband) that felt like home to her in either universe—and stopped. There was no ramp, no coral, no Time Rotor climbing to the ceiling, the focal point of the control console that dominated the room and gave off a soothing turquoise light. This TARDIS was white, everything was white—the floor and the walls and the ceiling. It was strange, almost sterile-looking. The console was still the focus of the room, but it was smaller. The whole room seemed smaller, and then she knew. The control console was in perfect order. Everything was shiny and new—there was no bicycle pump, no glass paperweight, no sign of the Doctor's thousand improvisations. This TARDIS hadn't yet been through the ravages of the Time War. She hadn't yet been stripped down to metal grating and base coral.
And this Doctor—this Doctor had not yet been forced to make a decision that would nearly destroy him.
"I say young woman, what do you think you're doing?" She didn't recognize the voice but she knew the tone all too well. She'd heard it more from the Doctor when he wore leather and she did something he thought was stupid. Rose took a breath to steady herself and turned to face him.
He was old, she realized with a startled blink. She'd never seen him old, although he'd mentioned the indignities of aging occasionally, especially just before—well—just before she fell. It was after the beast in the pit, after the impossible planet that orbited a black hole. She'd been so happy to see him, so happy that he was alive. He'd wrapped her up in his arms like he always did when they just barely escaped death—and then she'd kissed him. Of course he'd played it off like it was nothing, just a joke, what's a snog between friends, eh? He'd even gone as far as to tease her about kissing other regenerations. She'd never kiss him when he was an old man, the Doctor had assured her. He'd been cranky and cantankerous and a bit of a curmudgeon and not at all attractive. He'd even gone as far as to make it a bet. That had been a mistake, because Rose Tyler never backed down from a dare.
"Are you deaf?" the older-younger Doctor asked. Impatient as always, she thought fondly. He frowned and turned to the others, who had remained by the door. "Susan, what is the meaning of this?"
"I don't know, grandfather," the young girl replied. "She was with Barbara and Ian, and she has a TARDIS key!"
The Doctor looked back at Rose and opened his mouth, but she cut him off. "Of course I have a TARDIS key. It would be pretty odd not to have a key to your home." She moved forward, deliberately invading the Doctor's personal space. He was shorter than either of the Doctors she knew, just barely taller than she was. And he was an old man. His skin was papery and translucent, but cool and dry when she took his hands in hers. His joints were swollen just a bit, not enough to be painful but she'd bet they gave him trouble when he went to lift things. This Doctor wouldn't be carrying an unconscious companion into the TARDIS. "Look at you," she murmured. "You're so young—I'm practically robbing the cradle! Of course you'll return the favor when you're older. How long has it been since you stole the TARDIS and ran away from home?"
"I beg your pardon?" the Doctor asked, affronted, but he didn't pull away. "I merely borrowed the TARDIS."
"Borrowing implies the intention to return what was taken," Rose replied with a smile, "and what makes you think She ever intends to give you back?"
The Doctor peered at her. His eyebrows pulled together and the wrinkles in his forehead became more pronounced as he studied her face. "Who are you?"
"Someone who loves you," she told him, her face grave but her eyes dancing—and then she kissed him. It was quick and chaste. His lips were surprisingly soft and she couldn't resist lingering a bit on them. She'd waited two hundred and fifty years for this, sod it. Rose broke the kiss and released his hands. "My name," she said with blazing intensity, "is Rose Tyler and the universe will do its level best to split us up, but Daleks and Cybermen and black holes and the Void and parallel universes will never keep me from coming back to you." She smiled, then, and moved to the door. "Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a future version of you who owes me twenty quid."
Thousands of years in the past the Doctor (in his eleventh regeneration as opposed to his first) froze. His companions noticed this, as companions tended to do, but he was oblivious to their questions and their curiosity. The universe, it seemed, had just rotated ninety-degrees when a fully-formed memory swam to the surface of his mind. The Time War had done a number on his superior Time Lord brain, and as much as he boasted about his genius the trauma he'd experienced made memories from pre-Time War regenerations a bit fuzzy. However, he was sure that he would have remembered meeting Rose Tyler in his first regeneration. He was absolutely positive that he would have remembered kissing her. There were two possible explanations. The first was that Rose had encountered him in her dimension hopping days and he'd simply suppressed the memory, as it had been too painful once she was gone. The second was that she was somehow impossibly back again—but then he'd learned a long time ago that Rose Tyler didn't believe in impossible, and that the universe was inclined to agree with her.
Another fact he should have remembered about Rose Tyler was that the TARDIS was inordinately fond of her—which was why, he supposed, he now found himself and his companions hurtling towards London, England, Earth, in the year 2007.
"Hold tight Ponds!" he yelled as he attempted to stabilize their flight. The TARDIS didn't seem too concerned with how they arrived on time, just as long as they did so.
"Doctor! What's going on?" Amy shrieked. Rory, wisely, refrained from speaking and directed all of his energy into holding onto the railing and keeping himself from being pitched across the room like a rag doll.
His time sense dictated that only seconds had passed when the ship shuddered and grew still, but it felt like forever. He was very grateful for his superior physiology. Rory appeared a bit unsteady and even Amy looked a bit green around the gills. Odd saying that, as human beings didn't have gills, but 'green around the lungs' was inaccurate and lacked that bit of alliterative kick.
He was babbling in his own head, the Doctor realized, and he was stalling. He knew exactly what was waiting for him outside the TARDIS doors. Across the way his first regeneration was having a lively discussion with his current companions. Susan was demanding answers (but she kissed you grandfather! Who was she? Where did she get a TARDIS key?) and his throat tightened when he let himself remember her—her black hair and brown eyes that looked so much like his had when he was young. Barbara was berating him (What kind of an example is that to set for Susan, kissing strange women left and right. You've only just been engaged, Doctor. Remember that Aztec woman? What was her name? Never mind, of course, that Rose had kissed him and not the other way around), and Ian was watching the scene with an expression of bemused amusement.
And standing outside of the doors would be one Rose Tyler.
He was across the room and down the ramp before he realized he'd moved. Amy and Rory were behind him, he thought, but his attention was focused on what—who—lay ahead. He could feel her at the edges of his consciousness, like a whisper on the wind or the scent of lilac in the summer evening air. He hadn't even noticed the strange sensation when he was younger; he'd had all of the Time Lords murmuring in the back of his skull and then the TARDIS was refusing to move despite his best attempts and he'd been too surprised to realize what was happening when she kissed him.
"Doctor?" Rory asked, but the Time Lord was already gone. The TARDIS door swung shut and Amy stared after him.
"What's gotten into him?" she asked her husband.
Rory only shrugged. "No idea."
"Well," Amy sighed, "let's go find out."
Rose Tyler was sitting on the edge of a fountain. It was so familiar, this place. She'd eaten lunch here with Mickey a hundred times, back when she worked at Henrik's and he was a mechanic—back before she met the Doctor. She pulled a pound coin from her pocket and tossed it into the water, for luck.
"Expensive wish?" a strange voice asked from just behind her.
Rose's lips curved into a smile as she glanced over her shoulder. It was the Doctor, it had to be; no one else would ever think that outfit should see the light of day. He was a bit shorter than her Doctor and his hair sort of flopped over instead of standing on end and his eyes were green and not brown—but there was the same depth, the same hint of timelessness in them. She slid off of her cool stone seat and sauntered over to him.
"You," she said and poked his chest for emphasis, "owe me twenty quid." And then she cupped the back of his neck with her hand and pulled him down for a searing kiss. Her other hand slid beneath the scratchy tweed jacket he'd adopted and played with one of his suspenders.
His hands slid up her back to cradle her close to him. He'd missed her so much. Losing her and Donna at the same time had driven him just a little mad, and while regeneration had helped to assuage the emptiness he felt without her hand in his the wound remained a scab, not a scar. He liked to pick at it sometimes, to go into her room (the TARDIS wouldn't delete it—he'd tried once when the ache of her loss threatened to overwhelm him but She had remained firm), to sit on her bed, to lay where she had on blankets that still smelled like she used to. Sometimes others would pick at it. When Kazran asked what day he would spend with his beloved if it was their last, when Amy asked him if his 'friend,' the one he'd been holding the engagement ring for (who was actually Rory but she'd forgotten) was nice, when he her dancing with Rory at their wedding (and he wondered if that other Him had married her, if she'd worn a white dress and if Jackie had insisted on a lavish party to celebrate her only daughter's wedding).
Her left hand rested against the back of his neck and he could feel the metal band on her ring finger digging into his skin. Well, that answered one question. But then—why was she here. He pulled back, broke the kiss to ask her, but something else came out. "Rose Tyler," he said, "what do you mean, twenty quid?"
"You. Owe. Me. Twenty. quid," she repeated with additional pokes as punctuation. "Ten for Queen Victoria and ten for snogging a younger-older you."
He laughed. "Oh, Rose Tyler, that was lifetimes ago! Bets don't carry over regenerations. You should know that," he scolded her, but his eyes were far too bright for him to actually be angry with her.
One of her eyebrows inched towards her hairline and her hands rested on her hips. "It's not my fault that you're absolutely hopeless without me. And anyway, what happened to all of that 'I'm the same man, always' rubbish you gave me the last time you regenerated? Are you saying that's a lie? Are you saying you're not the man I fell in love with, twice?" She sniffed haughtily. "Maybe I should go shack up with Jack in Cardiff. He at least would be glad to pay up for all the times I've won bets with him, seeing as how I've crossed universes on my own in order to get back to you for the second time."
She moved to step away but his hands shot out and grabbed her wrists. "No." He pulled her back to him with a self-depreciating laugh. "I have missed you," he told her as he rested his forehead against hers.
Rose gave him a mischievous smile. "Me too, Doctor—but what is that thing around your neck?"
"Oi!" he exclaimed. "This is a bowtie and bowties, Miss Tyler, are cool." He leaned in for another kiss but was thwarted by a rather loud, Scottish ginger yelling, "Doctor!"
He rolled his eyes and spun around to face the TARDIS. "What is it now, Amelia Pond?" he demanded.
Amy marched up to him and gave him a glare that could have leveled cities. "Explain!" she ordered.
"We are a bit lost, Doctor," Rory agreed. Well, it was in his best interest to agree with his wife, and in the interest of his health. Amy could be quite forceful, and in that she reminded him of another brilliant, brash ginger.
"Right, introductions!" the Doctor declared. One of his hands had slipped down Rose's wrist and their fingers twined together. "Rose Tyler, this is Amy and Rory Pond, they travel with me now. Rory, Amy, I'd like you to meet Rose Tyler."
Rose waved. "Feel a bit like Sarah Jane," she confided. "I used to travel with the Doctor a long time ago."
"Not so long for me," he told her seriously, and his lips curved in a crooked smile.
"Been more than three centuries," she replied.
His eyes darkened. "I'm sorry."
She swung their joined hands between them for a moment and then gave him a smile. "Don't be. We had a good life, but now—now I could kill for a decent cuppa. Did you know there's no tea in Pete's World?"
The Doctor's eyes shot towards his hairline. "No tea? However did you survive?"
Rose made a face. "Everyone drinks coffee, if you can believe it, and just barely."
"That settles it then." He pulled her towards the TARDIS. "We'll all have a cuppa, and then I've got a story to tell you, Ponds."
"A story?" Amy asked.
The Doctor smiled. "A fairytale, Amy, about a girl and a wolf and the madman who loved her."
And then it was Rose Tyler and the Doctor in the TARDIS—as it should be.