Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC. I do not own any of it, nor do I get paid for it.
A/N Part 1 of 2. This was only meant to be one chapter but a happy ending was requested, so there will be a Part 2.
A special thanks to lastincurableromantic, callistawolf and ambrogiokaru for their amazing help on this one. This was a write-as-I-go fic and I could not have done it without their feedback.
To those waiting on the new chapter of 'For Whom..' I'll have it up soon.
The masquerade ball had been her mum's idea. It had been seconded by her not-quite father, who really did not wish to disagree with Jackie Tyler. Rose had not been given a chance to protest or make an excuse.
Which was why she was there, dressed to the nines in an elaborate peacock blue ball gown and a mask painted blue and gold. Honestly, she was only counting down the minutes until she could drive back home and slip into something that didn't remind her that she was dressed like a bird. She checked her phone, half-wishing that it would ring and tell her that there were aliens invading. Anything to escape this party that had passed tipsy hours ago and was heading dangerously into conga line territory.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on the way you looked at it, the band decided to take a break before their next song, leaving the dancers to stumble away towards the bar to get more alcohol. Rose emptied her first drink of the night and decided to leave to get some fresh air. That turned out to be a bad idea since all the exits were crowded with people venturing out for a smoke.
Holding her breath as she walked past all the smoke, Rose finally managed to escape into the backyard. The new swing set, that had been installed only a month ago on Tony's sixth birthday, was thankfully deserted so Rose made her way towards it and sat down on one of the swings, exhaling in relief. These parties always got to her, she realised. She was half expecting Cybermen to march their way through the darkness or a man with great hair to grab her hand and ask her to run.
She dropped her mask to the ground, and swung back and forth listlessly, taking comfort from the muted music and voices of the party-goers. It was only after she felt the back of her neck prickle that she realised that she was being watched. She stopped swinging and turned around sharply. Through the shadows, she saw the silhouette of a man who was quite clearly looking her way.
She stood up and walked towards him. "Hello? Who is it?" she asked, her hand drifting to her hip out of habit before being reminded that she wasn't armed.
The man faltered in his steps and Rose picked up her pace, realising that he was hurt. He fell to his knees just as Rose reached him, mumbling something about someone called Liz. Concerned, Rose knelt in front of him and steadied him. With his odd clothes, he would have fitted right in with the rest of the guests at the party but he wasn't wearing a mask, nor did Rose recognise him as anyone she had seen that evening.
"Can you hear me?" she asked, almost jumping with surprise when his eyes abruptly focused on her.
"Where am I?" he asked her.
"London," she said, though instinct told her it would have been better if she had replied with Earth instead. "Looks like you've had a bit of a tumble. Are you alright?"
"Yes," he answered. "Yes, I'm quite alright."
Rose wasn't as certain but she helped him stand up all the same. "Where did you even come from?" she asked, knowing that the area around Tyler mansion was usually cordoned off during high profile parties.
"Do you know, I am not quite sure myself. I am certainly not where I was," he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he looked around.
Rose raised her eyebrows at the vague response but evidently under the impression that his fall must have left him a bit confused, she walked him over to the empty swing set. She was a little surprised that he let her do so; his tall, impressive figure radiated authority in degrees and she was sure that he could be quite stubborn if he wanted to.
"What's the last thing you remember?" asked Rose, jumping into her role of a Torchwood agent.
He was busy fixing his black, velvet cape and didn't answer for a few moments. "I was in my laboratory," he answered. "Certainly not anywhere near here. I must see of a way to get back to where I was."
"And where exactly is that?" asked Rose carefully.
He tossed her a sharply amused look but didn't answer. "Is there a telephone nearby?" he asked.
Rose reached into the small purse dangling from her wrist and pulled out her phone. "Use mine if you want," she said, noticing the flicker of surprise that appeared on his face.
He nodded quickly and took the phone, tapping the keys without any hesitation or confusion. Rose was starting to doubt her earlier assumption when he handed her the phone back without having made a call. "I'm afraid I'm a bit out of range," he said ruefully to her questioning look.
Rose bit her lip thoughtfully as she appraised him carefully. "Ignore me if this sounds like a daft question," she began, watching his interest flare. "But are you an alien?"
His eyes went wide with shock for one instant before he smiled widely. "Of course not, young lady," he answered. "What a thing to ask!"
Rose resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Calm down," she told him. "I'm a Torchwood agent and if you've somehow crashed to Earth, we can see about getting you back."
He stopped then and narrowed his eyes. "Torchwood?" he asked. "Now why does that sound familiar?" he murmured to himself, though not quietly enough for Rose to not hear.
"Everyone knows about Torchwood," she shrugged. "Unless you're not from around here," she couldn't help but add.
The same amused look appeared on his face and Rose was starting to wonder why those twinkling eyes seemed so familiar. "Hypothetically," he began, watching her reaction with a look eerily similar to her first Doctor's indulge the ape look. "Were I to confirm your assumption, how would you be able to help?"
"Hypothetically?" asked Rose, feeling a cheeky smile just waiting to burst forth. "I would ask your planet of origin and see if we have any crafts compatible with that technology. Alternatively, we could ask one of our alien allies if we don't have the necessary equipment. If all that fails, we would set you up on Earth with a new identity while we develop new technology," she explained, having done this before. "Hypothetically, of course," she added with a tongue-touched smile.
A contemplative smile appeared on his face, and Rose could see that he was suitably impressed. "I must say, that is quite an improvement from when I come from," he said. "The answer there usually seems to involve ham-fisted soldiering."
"Yeah, we prefer to talk before breaking out the knives and needles," she laughed.
He chuckled at that, somehow looking younger despite his aged appearance. Although Rose did have to admit that he was handsome, in a dashing, old-fashioned sort of a way. She was about to ask him more questions about where he came from when she realised what he had said.
"When," she whispered.
"Pardon?" he asked, his chuckles drifting away into cautious silence.
Rose faced him and met his gaze squarely. "You said when," she said. "When I come from, not where."
Instead of getting flustered as she had been expecting, he drew himself up in a way that was somehow both intimidating and oddly familiar. "I most certainly did not," he said with enough conviction in his voice to melt away any doubt in someone's mind.
Someone else perhaps, but not her. She shook her head stubbornly. "Who are you?" she asked, feeling her heart starting to race at even the slightest possibility that it could be…
"I'm the Doctor."
There was stunned silence on her part before an almost hysterical giggle escaped her lips. It had been six whole years and here he finally was, with a new face and no idea who she was. Rose wasn't sure if she should scream, cry or laugh. Unbidden, her hand rose to rest against his chest as if to need a tangible proof that it really was him and that he was really here.
The Doctor looked at her in concern and more than a bit of confusion when she abruptly tore her hand away from him and started pacing, muttering under her breath. He'd felt an odd shiver pass over him when she had touched him, like an untouched timeline, or perhaps a forgotten dream. He didn't have to ponder long though and his eyebrows were nearly in his flyaway silver hair when he recognised a few choice phrases escape the young woman's mouth, some of which he was certain would never be spoken by a human being ever.
"Who are you?" he repeated her question back to her, suspecting that he already knew the answer.
She stopped her pacing and sank down on the swing next to his. "Rose Tyler," she answered, looking at him as if searching for some sign of recognition that she instinctively knew wouldn't be there.
The Doctor racked his brains to remember if he had known her, but this regeneration had already been through so much, what with the Time Lords having forced it on him in the first place. He couldn't be certain that she hadn't simply been wiped from his mind. He wouldn't put it past the Time Lords to do something like that. "Have we met before?" he asked her finally, his mind coming up empty. "I am quite certain that if we had, I would remember you. Unless they took more than I realised. Do tell me it wasn't the scarecrow with the horrible recorder," he said, making a face at the mention of his past self.
Rose blinked at him, not having understood more than half of what he had just said. Typical Doctor, never using words like a normal person to explain something. "Yeah, we've met. I mean, I travelled with you. But I don't know anything about a recorder…" she trailed off, wondering exactly who they were.
He stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm, yes, I see," he said quietly, looking at her speculatively. "Of course, there is a third possibility. Timestreams like these don't often intersect but it has been known to happen. Past and futures interacting with each other before their time."
"So, we haven't met yet," said Rose flatly as he confirmed her suspicions. "Still doesn't explain how you just landed in a parallel universe. I thought the walls were sealed." She tried very hard to keep the accusation out of her tone since she knew that this Doctor hadn't even met her, but it was difficult.
"Time travel is extremely complicated," he said and Rose understood just why his tone had seemed so familiar before she had known who he was. It was the typical, long-suffering tone that both of her Doctors had used when explaining the intricacies of time travel to others. "Usually, we just go backwards or forwards in time but in some instances, we travel sideways through time. Hence, parallel universes."
Rose nodded along to his explanation. "But the walls…"
"Irrelevant when you have a TARDIS," he said airily. "Which admittedly, I don't," he added a bit sheepishly. "But I am very close to perfecting it."
"You're building a TARDIS?" asked Rose, confused. She remembered her second Doctor telling her that TARDISes were grown not built.
"Of course not! What an absurd idea," he shook his head immediately. "I have my TARDIS. Or as good as the old girl can be with the meddling fools tampering with her systems."
"Who are you even talking about?" asked Rose, feeling her protective instinct flare at the very idea of someone being responsible for meddling with his memory and the TARDIS.
He glanced at her like she had just dribbled all over her very expensive ball gown, though he did catch on to the protectiveness. "The Time Lords, of course. Who else?"
A breath escaped Rose in a whoosh at his words. She turned away from him, lest something in her expression tip him off to what she knew of the future. Past and future interacting before their time, he'd said. One wrong word now and the tenuous balance that held everything together would snap, plunging them into chaos. A shiver ran up her spine at the memory of the Reapers.
"Something the matter?" he asked and Rose could feel his gaze boring holes into the back of her head.
"Of course not," she answered swiftly as she turned around to face him. She had to fix this, and fix it fast. "Is there a way for you to get back?"
The Doctor stared at her suspiciously but evidently realised that she was not going to give up whatever she knew. Yet. "Yes," he answered. "The console is still in there somewhere." He pointed vaguely in the direction of where he had come from, which was a small wooded area that was part of the Tyler estate.
Rose nodded determinedly. "What do you need?" she asked.
"A power source for one," he answered. "What year is this?"
"2015," said Rose. "What kind of a power source?"
"Nuclear, I should say. Something safer if you've got it," he said. He watched as Rose nodded and pulled out her phone. "Also, an explanation would be nice."
Rose disconnected the call and looked at him with distinct wariness in her gaze. "Explanation? About what?"
"About why you are here in this world, why would you think that travel between parallel universes is impossible, and why you were so surprised when I brought up the Time Lords," he fired off, sounding politely interested though his bright blue eyes glittered with his ever-present need to know everything. "Among other things."
Rose realised that he was still slightly suspicious of her, and she honestly did not blame him. Meeting someone from the future was always jarring. She decided to answer as best as she could. "I am here because we got separated, I thought that hopping across parallel universes was impossible because you told me so, and as for the Time Lords, you don't talk about them much," she answered, feeling slightly proud of herself for not flinching in the face of presenting the Doctor with half-truths. She wished she could tell him everything but until she was certain that it would not damage established events, she would play it safe.
From his expression, Rose could tell that he knew she was not being honest with him. Rose wondered if he'd argue or find some other passive aggressive way to get the truth from her. Before he could say anything though, Rose spoke again. "I can't say anything more than that. Timelines and all that. But you have to believe me," she implored. "I just wanna help. Honest."
The Doctor gave an exasperated sigh; her words were sincere and he understood better than most what the consequences of meddling in delicate timelines could be. Perhaps his exile had never ended, and Gallifrey had cut him off completely. Without a properly functioning TARDIS, not to mention the lack of a working dimensional filter, travel between universes would be nigh impossible. "Alright," he said. "Although, I would want to ask one thing."
Rose nodded at him to go on but saw that he was hesitating. Her eyes softened as she touched his arm gently. "What is it, Doctor?"
"You said that we got separated. Would you...do you wish to return to your correct universe?" he asked quickly, not wanting to seem idiotic if she refused. For all he knew, she was right where she wanted to be. People often left him of course, if they found something better for themselves.
Yet something told him that he would be wrong to assume that it was true about Rose. His time senses had been so very weak in this regeneration, but he was certain that she didn't quite belong in this world. It was a feeling he'd come to understand ever since he had been exiled.
The utter sadness that gathered in her eyes confirmed his guess. "Will it be possible?" she asked, her voice sounding very rough like she was trying hard not to get her hopes up.
The pain in her voice surprised him and he nodded at once. Rose gave in to the tears and threw her arms around him. The sheer force of her hug sent even the Doctor's solid frame stumbling back a few steps, but he patted her back as she buried her face in his frilly shirt. In this tall incarnation, the top of her head barely reached his chin yet he thought that they fit rather well together all the same.
With a light sniff, Rose pulled away from him. "Sorry about that," she mumbled, avoiding his gaze and looking very embarrassed at having lost her composure.
He smiled a warm smile, the one he knew put even the sternest humans like the Brigadier at ease, and tilted her chin up. "No matter, Rose," he said. "Let us see what we can do about going home then, shall we?"
Rose's answering smile could have put the supernovas in the multiverse to shame.
A/N End of Part 1. So, what did you think? Let me know.
Part 2 will be up soon.