Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the BBC. I do not own any of it, nor do I make any money from it.
A/N Thanks for the response on the first chapter. Enjoy Part 2.
"How's it going?"
The Doctor looked up at the now-familiar voice of Rose Tyler and shook his head. "Slowly," he answered.
Rose nodded and placed a mug of tea next to him. "You look like you could use it," she said.
"Thank you, my dear," said the Doctor warmly as he took a sip of his tea.
It had been a week since the Vitex masquerade ball but they were no closer to finding a way back to the correct universe. They'd had a few bumpy landings that had taken them around London, and a very long one to Edinburgh but so far, they had stayed resolutely in this universe.
"This would be so much easier with a proper databank at my disposal," he grumbled, not for the first time.
Rose sighed but didn't say anything. On their drive back from Edinburgh, she had learned that the Doctor was being punished by the Time Lords for taking the TARDIS and breaking the laws of non-interference. His anger toward them seemed justified but Rose had become so used to utter sadness when he spoke about them, that it never stopped to surprise her.
"I am going to be in the field all day today," she told him. "The R&D crew are on standby if you need anything."
The Doctor gave her a cursory glance and nodded. "I think I'll need another photon accelerator. The coil blew on the last one," he said gruffly.
Rose rolled her eyes behind his back. He'd made no secret of the fact that he hated it when she went out into the field, with primitive, substandard protection no less. His words, not hers. No use telling him that it was top-of-the-line armour commissioned by the Shadow Proclamation.
"I'll get someone to get you a new one," she said, wondering which lab tech would be brave enough to volunteer this time. "See you."
He grunted in reply and Rose rolled her eyes again as she walked away from him. He could be such a child sometimes. Over four hundred years old and the maturity of a three year old when he didn't get his way. On her way out of his lab, she patted the TARDIS console affectionately, still not used to seeing the old girl as only a rotor and console.
She ran into Mickey near the elevators who scowled when he saw that she had been coming from the Doctor's temporary lab. "How's the old guy doing?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "He's doing fine, and stop calling him that," she chided, wondering if he really understood that the Doctors he had met were much older than the one in that lab.
"I'm just saying," he shrugged. "Not exactly your type anymore, is he?"
Rose bristled at the insinuation but didn't answer. She thought that they had worked past these things, but somehow the reappearance of the Doctor had thrown everything into disarray again. Her mum still wasn't speaking to her, Mickey was being an arse and the Doctor was being difficult. It was just like the tension back when her first Doctor had brought her home a year late.
Except she was not nineteen anymore, and she knew she was capable of handling things. Her mum would come around, Mickey would work it out of his system and the Doctor would be fine once he started getting good results with his work. All she could do, was be patient and keep her temper.
They passed the R&D floor and Rose told Tosh to get the Doctor a new photon accelerator. She was the only one of the techs that the Doctor did not snap at, or be completely condescending to. Rose knew he was tired of humans, having been stranded in one place for quite a while, but if more techs started putting in medical leave just to avoid working with the Doctor, she was going to have words with him.
"So, where are we off to?" she asked Mickey as they reached the downstairs lobby.
"Standard clean up job down by the Thames," he answered as he started fishing around for the keys to the SUV.
"Right, let's go."
The Doctor set the brand new photon accelerator aside and closed his eyes to collect his thoughts. He had been tinkering with the TARDIS console to get time travel back, not to end up in a parallel world. It had been a week already, and he wasn't sure how long it would be until it actually worked. The longer the TARDIS stayed in this universe, the harder it would be to actually get back. Things just could not have been worse.
That last part wasn't true though, which even he had to admit. He could have been stuck in a hostile world like the one with fascist Britain where the Brigadier was a tyrant. No, this was infinitely better.
This Earth was much more advanced and alien-friendly. Not to mention, he had someone who knew him and knew him quite well from what he had gleaned. Rose still kept the future secret and he did understand, but it was frustrating to be the one who knew less about his own future than her.
He usually tended to go off in a sulk, particularly when she wasn't around to keep him company. He knew it was quite unfair to expect her to stand around and wait on him but he missed her when she wasn't there. Perhaps it was because she was as much a stranger to this world as him, or it was because of something else entirely, but the Doctor was enamoured by the young woman. She was bright and clever enough to par with the best of them, had a ready smile for everyone, and once, when he had accompanied her into the field, he'd seen that she fought like a warrior.
But the Doctor was very worried about her. His time senses were even weaker in this universe but he was certain that something was affecting her biology. He had been taking apart a modified medical scanner and upgrading it to substitute as a TARDIS part when the things had lit up. At first, he'd assumed that it was his different biology that had set it off, only to realise that it had been pointed at Rose at the time. She hadn't noticed though, having been engrossed with paperwork. He'd turned it off and put it away, but not before deciding to investigate further.
The door to his lab opened and his eyes snapped open, ready to greet Rose, only to find an older woman resembling Rose.
"So, you're here then," said Jackie Tyler, sending him a hostile glare.
The Doctor sat up straight, bristling at the anger being directed at him. "Can I help you, madam?" he asked, coolly.
She shut the door behind her and sat down on the small sofa near the door. "Mickey said you were older but I didn't believe him," she said.
The Doctor almost rolled his eyes. Humans and their linear understanding of time and age. "Rose isn't here right now, Mrs. Tyler," he said, hoping she would leave upon discovering that her daughter wasn't there, although he knew that Rose and her mother were not on speaking terms as of a week ago.
She glared at him. "It's not like she'll listen to me now, is it? We were fine before you showed up!" she snapped.
"I am aware," he said calmly. "You disapprove of Rose leaving with me."
She nodded furiously. "'Course I do. Don't really know you, do I? The other two, well, I had my share of trouble with them but they kept their promise and always sent my Rose back to me."
"I was under the impression that Rose is a grown woman who is perfectly capable of making her own decisions," he said, though he did take careful note of the mention of his future selves. Rose avoided the topic completely, and he suspected that a lot of it had to do with something quite painful. "You should give her more credit. From what I have learned, she is one of the best agents here."
"That ain't the same as leaving with you though," said Jackie. "The other Doctor, the pinstriped one, he told her that the walls would collapse. What if she dies trying to get to that universe? I wouldn't even know if something happened to her."
The Doctor sighed, uncomfortable at the emotional outburst. Damn it, he was not good at these things. "I assure you, Mrs. Tyler, we would not attempt to cross over until it was completely safe. For the both of us."
"And then what?" asked Jackie. "You just leave her in that universe?"
The Doctor stopped short at that. He had briefly considered what Rose would do once they got back to the right universe but he hadn't let himself dwell on it. Simply because he had no idea what she would want to do. "I think you should ask Rose that," he said. "But I won't simply abandon her."
Jackie was silent for a while and the Doctor decided to return to his work when she spoke again, but without the harshness in her voice. "You haven't really changed, you know," she said, sounding a bit sad. "God knows I've hated you, but you've kept my Rose safe. She hasn't been happy here, not really. Only seen her smile like she used to the night of that ball when she brought you into the house." Jackie stood up and wiped at the few tears on her cheek. "I'll be speaking to that daughter of mine. Don't you two dare leave without saying goodbye," she said, her voice back to its snappish quality,
The Doctor gave short nod. "I understand," he said, though he wasn't quite sure he did. "Oh, Mrs. Tyler?"
Jackie, who had been at the door, turned around. "What?"
"What year was Rose born?" he asked.
"1986," she answered. "Why?"
He shot her a grin without an ounce of guile. "No reason. Goodbye."
Jackie glared suspiciously at him but left his lab nonetheless. The Doctor's smile slid off as he dug out the medical scan results he'd collected. According to them, Rose Tyler could not have been older than 21 years of age.
"Good evening," greeted Rose as she walked into the Doctor's lab, carrying a bag full of food. She'd quickly found out that this Doctor was a lot pickier when it came to food and often disapproved of her eat-while-you-dash ways. She'd taken to bringing lunch and dinner for the both of them to share in his lab.
The Doctor glanced at her in surprise. "You are back early," he said, shuffling the papers in front of him.
"It was a standard clean up job. We only had to do threat assessment before the recovery people took over," shrugged Rose as she started spooning out the salad and chips on the plates of steak. "Heard you had a visitor."
The Doctor made a face and buried his head into the new photon accelerator, ignoring the remark. Rose almost giggled at his childishness. "You don't have to be such a child about it. You can admit that Tosh is great."
"Tosh?" the Doctor looked up in surprise at Rose. "I thought you meant your mother."
All traces of amusement left Rose's face. "Mum was here? What'd she want?"
The Doctor sighed and didn't answer. He couldn't understand why was he getting dragged in as a mediator between Rose and her mother. "Why do you want to return to the right universe, Rose?" he asked instead, glancing at the medical scan results in front of him again.
Rose crossed her arms over her chest and shot him a look that was far too close to her mother's glare. "Don't you dare tell me that she managed to persuade you to leave me behind again," she said furiously.
The anger surprised him, though not as much as the words she used. What did she mean by again? "She was not wrong, you know," he said cautiously, playing the devil's advocate until he was quite certain of her reasons.
Rose stared at him with narrowed eyes. "That's not what she said though, is it?" she asked shrewdly. "As much as she doesn't like it, she always knew that if there was even a small chance that I could go back I would take it."
The Doctor sighed and nodded, wondering why he'd even thought that he'd be able to get that past her. It was becoming clearer and clearer that Rose Tyler knew him quite well, even though she often underplayed the kind of relationship that she had with his future selves.
"So, what is it then?" she asked, still angry though he detected some desperation in her voice. "Have you changed your mind?"
"Do you remember that medical scanner I asked for two days ago?" he said, looking at his desk instead of her.
Rose looked taken aback at the abrupt change in topic but nodded. "Yeah, you said you needed some components from it," she remembered.
"It detected an anomaly," he said, making an effort to be gentle in breaking the news. Reluctantly, he had come to understand that humans often reacted badly when it came to their own lives and mortality.
"When it was pointed at me, no doubt," said Rose.
The Doctor looked at her in shock, and Rose rolled her eyes. "It picks up on the Artron radiation that we get from travelling in the TARDIS. It lights up in Mickey's presence too, though not quite as strongly. But then I guess it's 'cos I travelled with you for nearly three years."
"You're right," said the Doctor gently. "About the Artron radiation part, anyway. It was one of the reasons why I needed it. But the spike I saw was not just Artron radiation."
"What then?" asked Rose, her brow furrowing.
"Huon energy. In copious amounts in your blood stream," he said.
"Huon," murmured Rose. "What's it mean for me?"
"Your aging process," he said gravely. "It has almost completely stopped."
Rose stared at him for a moment before nodding. "I know," she said, her voice small and tired.
"You do?" he asked, sounding surprised.
"Not for sure, no," she said, shaking her head. "But I guessed after a while."
"I assume you haven't told anyone," he said, carefully gauging her reactions.
She laughed bitterly and without humour. "Remember the knives and needles I joked about?" she asked.
The sheer fear in her eyes, despite the forced amusement in her voice, pulled at the protective instinct within the Doctor. He longed to put his arms around her in comfort but he had to know one last thing. "Is that why you want to go back?" he asked.
Rose sniffed and shook her head with a sad smile on her face. "Partly, yeah. But the thing is, you once told me that I could spend the rest of my life with you, even if you couldn't spend yours with me. See, even if I had one tiny human life to live, I would want to find my way back to you."
The Doctor stared at her in stunned silence for a long moment before walking up to her in slow, measured steps. Rose's eyebrows shot up in surprise when he stopped right in front of her and placed a comforting hand on her cheek.
"I know how we can get back."
They still decided to wait a day before attempting it, because this way was much riskier than before. The Doctor was fairly positive that it would work and Rose was heartened by his optimism despite the risk involved.
Huon energy powered TARDISes, he'd explained to Rose. They'd be tapping into the Huon energy that had embedded itself into Rose's physiognomy. It wouldn't hurt her but if it went wrong, it could be fatal for both of them.
It was a risk they had to take because the longer they stayed in this universe, the more difficult it would be for it to work.
While he finetuned the details of their multiverse travel, Rose took the time to say her goodbyes. Pete understood and Tony was too young to understand, but her mum and Mickey were harder to convince. It took several hours for Rose to make them understand about the Huon energy and her own changed biology.
The Doctor had accompanied her reluctantly, his instinct to stay away from all things domestic rearing its head in full force. It was a testament to Rose's power of persuasion that he'd even agreed to come. Though he excused himself to go back to Torchwood HQ after an hour, claiming that there was work to be done.
The next morning, all the Tylers and Mickey met in the Doctor's lab. Goodbyes were said and tears were shed and even the Doctor's carefully kept composure seemed to falter when Rose hugged her little brother in tears, promising him that she would never forget him.
Even after all she had told him, the Doctor couldn't help but wonder if she really thought he was worth all the pain that she was putting herself through. She was so young now, and he wasn't certain if her choice would remain the same centuries from now. He hoped fervently that whoever he would become in the future was truly deserving of all that she was offering him. He could never forgive himself if he wasn't.
"Doctor," said Rose, wiping away the last of her tears. "I'm ready."
The Doctor nodded mutely, feeling pain clench around his hearts. I hope so, my precious girl. I really do.
The Doctor watched the blue streak of starlight across the inky London sky with a pensive look on his face. He looked back at Mr. Copper, knowing that the man would lead a wonderful new life.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Copper," he said and turned around to go into the TARDIS.
He had to keep going, had to keep running, but he was so tired. He truly thought he could have saved more people on the Titanic but the ship had been as doomed as her namesake. Not for the first time he wondered if he could defy the laws of time, now that there was no one to stop him.
Last of the Time Lords, indeed. Perhaps the Master's madness held some truth to it. Losing himself in his dark thoughts, he almost missed it when one of the swirling streaks of starlight in the sky suddenly shot to Earth.
Bewilderment breaking through the fog of self-loathing, the Doctor ran to where the light had hit. The snow crunched under his trainers, the sound echoing in the silence around the Thames. The place where it had landed was smoking lightly and as the Doctor reached it, he thought he had finally lost his mind.
It was the rotor and console of the TARDIS; his own TARDIS from long ago. His Third self was hunched over it, looking a bit dazed and out of sorts. And lying on the snowy ground next to them was someone the Doctor thought he'd lost forever.
"Rose…" he murmured brokenly, wondering if the illusion would shatter as soon as he approached it. "Rose!" he said in a louder voice as he crossed the distance between them and knelt in the snow next to her.
She was unconscious but still breathing, and looked absolutely radiant as far as he could see. He reached a hand to stroke her cheek but stopped short when his Third self groaned and straightened up.
"Get away from her," he managed through gritted teeth, sounding like he had run a marathon.
The Doctor turned around, and he could tell the exact moment when his Third self realised that the strange, thin man in the ruined tuxedo who was kneeling over Rose was not some stranger, but his future self.
"What the hell did you do?" demanded the Doctor as he turned back to Rose's unconscious form.
"What you should have done," said the Third Doctor, his breathing still a bit laboured. "Is she alright?"
The Tenth Doctor had lifted Rose into his arms and was already making his way back to the TARDIS. His Third self followed after him, stumbling a bit as he walked. The TARDIS door was already ajar and as the Doctors and Rose entered, the air in the console room instantly became warmer.
"She's fine," said the Doctor as he set Rose down in the jumpseat and scanned her with his sonic screwdriver. "Your turn."
"I'm certain you can draw the conclusions yourself," said the Third Doctor, walking around the console room, periodically touching the console or the rotor.
"Stop touching my TARDIS and tell me how you found a way back," snapped the Tenth Doctor, his eyes staying fixed on Rose as he spoke to his younger self. With a wince, he realised that he was starting to sound like his teachers back at the Academy.
His Third self evidently thought so too, judging by the look of pure impudence he shot him. "Forgotten the basic concept of dimensional travel, have you?" he asked, slightly mockingly.
First, his Fifth self and now, this one. The Doctor wondered which cosmic deity he had screwed over lately for this to happen. "Answer the damn question," he said flatly.
"If you must know, I used Huon energy to power the dimensional filter," he answered. "What have you done to the TARDIS interior?"
"I hope you are not about to lecture me about style," said the Tenth Doctor with a look at the frilly shirt and the smoked velvet jacket and cape. Then it occurred to him, what he had said. "Hold on, Huon energy? Where'd you find that?"
Before he could answer, Rose started to stir and the two of them quickly leaned forward in concern. Her eyes blinked open, and went wide at the sight of them.
"Hello," she said, her eyes moving between them.
"Hello," said the Tenth Doctor, his voice almost squeaking with the pure joy that was currently filling his hearts. He closed the distance between them and hugged her tightly, his eyes falling shut in contentment as he did. Rose felt her own eyes close as she hugged him just as tightly and buried her face in his neck.
She realised he was trembling, and ran a hand over the back of his neck in a soothing gesture. He caught the hand and brought it to his mouth to kiss her knuckles. "I missed you," he whispered, his voice thick with emotion.
Rose smiled into his neck and burrowed herself just a bit more into his arms at that sweet declaration. "I missed you too, you daft alien," she said.
He chuckled and pulled away to look at her, as if he was afraid that she would somehow disappear if he looked away. "Rose Tyler," he said. "I love you."
Rose pressed her lips together to stop the ridiculously huge smile that was currently trying to break its way through. Before she could say anything even vaguely coherent, the TARDIS gave a loud beep.
"It's a warning beacon," the Third Doctor told them when they jumped up in alarm. He hadn't even made it a secret that he'd been watching them both keenly.
"Warning for what?" asked Rose, getting to her feet, though the Tenth Doctor kept his arm firmly around her waist.
"It's time for him to go," explained the Tenth Doctor softly.
"How will you get back?" asked Rose, unwilling to see him gone so soon.
The Third Doctor smiled at Rose. "Time travel, my dear," he said.
Rose broke away from her Doctor, ignoring the startled squeak that escaped him. "Thank you for everything, Doctor," she said, tearing up slightly. She would miss him, she realised. Just like she missed her big-eared Northern Doctor. "It was very, very nice to meet you."
"Goodbye, my dear," he said, not being able to help the slight flush on his cheeks at her sincere words. "I shall look forward to the day we meet again."
Rose grinned at him and stood up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Goodbye, Doctor," she said, stepping back into her Doctor's embrace whose grip on her was just a little tighter than before.
The Third Doctor met his older self's gaze and nodded once at him. He had made the right decision, he decided as he saw him and Rose holding each other like they were afraid of the other disappearing.
With a heartfelt smile at the future, he blinked as he was returned to the past. The future would still be there, and he, for one, could not wait for it.
A/N Thank you for reading. Hope you enjoyed this short little story. Let me know what you thought.