Who has been stealing top-secret intelligence from Torchwood? Why are employees disappearing one by one? What does the Doctor have to do a mysterious energy project being commissioned in secret? And how can he convince Rose of his true identity when isn't so sure himself?
This story has been professionally illustrated by yours truly. To see the illustrations visit my profile for links. As more chapters are posted more illustrations will be released. This story is complete. Expect chapters once a week. This story is approximately 110,000 words long. Special thanks to my beta readers Sugarpoultry and Brittany. Doctor Who belongs to the BBC. I own none of the characters. Influcence by several incredibly talented writers out there (including but certainly not limited to Who-Me2, A BadPlanWellExecuted, Marie Chambers, lasincurableromantic, Madien of the Moon, and Shan21.
"Just give me a mo'."
She had said it in a effort to sound far less affected than she actually was, but even as the words formed on her lips Rose's thoughts were muddling, refusing to compute.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Was that her heart or her head? She wasn't entirely sure.
She faintly felt an icy trickle, something that seemed to start at her bent knees embedded in the course sand, working it's way upwards into her navel before gripping her chest.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
It was so loud, the thudding. God, she wished it would stop.
She was frozen, transfixed upon the creeping tide threatening to wipe away the imprints of the shoes in the soft ground. She wanted to reach out, to touch where his shoes had touched before they were forever lost, to feel something, but she couldn't bring herself to move. So she stared.
There were so many possibilities running through her head of what would happen if she ever made it back, but she never thought it would be her decision that ultimately brought about their final separation. That made it a thousand times worse.
She looked again and they were gone, erased by the tide as if they'd never existed.
Was she moving? No. Yes, her body was involuntarily moving- shivering. That's the term, shivering. Was she cold?
Thud. Thud. Thud.
For the first time she registered the pain banging her head. Wincing, she grabbed her forehead.
How could she let this happen? Suddenly the memory of the kiss she had just shared with the man in blue flashed before her eyes. Oh God, what have I done?
And then she felt the brunt of it, the icy cold. In that moment she was sure the abyss of space could feel no colder. It was the cold of the awful truth, ripping from her every semblance of lingering hope, tearing into her so much deeper than in just physical manifestations.
A strangled noise escaped her lips. Was it a sigh? A cry? A laugh?
She supposed it was funny, in a way, to work so desperately towards a goal and then willingly let it pass her by. As if she'd decided on a whim to not bother the man in her thoughts every waking moment with such unimportant pesky things like loving him to death and instead let him get on with his life. No really, don't mind me. I didn't cross universes just to be with you again. Please, don't let me keep you. He didn't even say goodbye. Must not have been important. Must of forgot. After everything she did for him, risking her life every day, absorbing the ruddy vortex for heavens sake! How comical. It was funny, wasn't it?
And so she laughed. And laughed. And cried. No, sobbed. She was sobbing now. Violent wrenching sobs amplified by the tremulous shivers now overtaking her.
A flash of blue was at her side. Someone was hoisting her up from the water now overtaking her knees. Had she really been there that long?
They were moving now. Firm hands wrapped around her, helping her to walk, ushering her dripping numb feet forward against the whipping wind. She was barely aware of her mother on the phone as they trudged in the sand.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Suddenly she was on a zeppelin overlooking the vast pink and orange horizon beneath. She was looking out the window, but not really. She was vaguely aware of the blue pinstripe jacket draped across her front, and the persistent quivering of her body under the comforting arm along her back.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Arguing. Someone was arguing as they rode in the limo. She found herself staring out the window once more but there was only black. Night must have fallen. More arguing. Pete was angry. Her mum hadn't asked him about following her to the other universe. And she was still shivering. He pulled her closer.
Thud. Thud. Stomp. Stomp.
Her legs were still shaking as she ascended the grand mansion stairs, his arm still supporting her along the way.
She heard the rushing of water amid the chattering of her teeth as he drew a bath, steam now beginning to fill the opulent bathroom. He had unzipped her coat, helped her out of her shoes, and placed a towel in her hands before kissing her cheek. The door clicked behind him, waking her up with a start.
Once again she was overwhelmed with the crippling cold. Her fingers shook, greatly hindering her ability to undo the rest of her clothing. With effort she managed to shimmy out of her clothes and dipped her toes in the water. It burned.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Perhaps the burning and pain was fitting penance for her betrayal.
She slid into the scorching water, ignoring the protest of her quaking body until she was entirely submerged, willing the hot water to envelope every bit of her. Her face barely broke the surface as she inhaled, the quaking slowly starting to subside.
The water was barely warm when hands once again came for her, this time her mother's. She drained the water, threw a towel around her, and helped her dress into some dry pajamas.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
She was curled up on the couch near the fire, a pill in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.
Startled by his voice, she snapped back to reality.
"Rose, you should take the pain killers. They will help your headache, remember?"
She turned to see him next to her, concern etched upon his dark brow, his arm around her shoulder snuggled up to her, a warm afghan blanket drawn up over them both.
Her breath caught in her chest to see his face so close to her own, so familiar and yet slightly different than the one she had committed to memory. His espresso eyes were both more open and more tired, the lines of his face worn just a bit deeper. The stubble on his jaw and the way his dark fringe laid haphazardly against his forehead made him look ever so human, and she wondered if he knew just how beautiful he was.
"Right." She looked down at the pill and brought it to her mouth washing it down with a warm swig of tea in one fluid movement. As if suddenly reminded of the lack of food, her tummy growled ravenously. She downed the rest of her cup in one gulp.
He took it from her, gently placing it on the ornately carved wooden coffee table. "You're starving. I should get you some food." Preparing to stand, he shifted her slightly as he tugged the blanket off of him.
"No," she replied stopping him abruptly with her hand. "No, stay.
Even in the flicker of the firelight, his eyes seemed to grow. "Come 'ere," he whispered as he drew her to him. She buried her face into his chest as they both lay across the couch intertwining into one another. Perhaps it was selfish of her to so willingly fall into another man's arms, but it was all that could comfort her, pretending that he was someone else for just a moment as she drifted off to sleep.
She awoke couple hours later splayed across his chest, the last of the embers in the fireplace dying out nearly leaving them both in complete darkness. His rhythmic breath rustling against her hair told her that he was still very much asleep. She nudged closer into him, drinking in his scent and closeness with wild thirst. He smelled of time. If such a thing had a scent surely it smelled like electricity with a hint of honey and a dash of tea. Her doctor.
But he wasn't, was he? A sinking feeling overwhelmed her at the heart-breaking realization. Tears stung her eyes.
She couldn't do this. Not here. Not now.
Carefully she pried herself from his grasp, sliding his warm hands from her back onto the couch. He hardly flinched. Stealthily she unwound the knitted blanket from her legs and pulled it gently it back over him. He jostled slightly but was soon slumbering peacefully once more.
It wasn't until she stood against the door of her bedroom that she afforded herself to internalize what had truly happened. And then it came, the pain. Now that her pounding head was no longer obstructing her thinking the consequences of what she had done came bearing down on her in full force.
It was unfathomable.
After everything, she had let him walk away, just like that. She closed her eyes fighting back the tears that threatened her eyes, but inside she knew it was a losing battle. She slid her back against the door until she fell upon the floor, drawing her knees up to her chest.
What possessed her to kiss him, the man in blue? She was always trying to wind the Doctor up in that playful and silly manner they had grown accustom to. Was this some sort of sick game she had played? Was she subconsciously daring him to act? Did she expect him to rip her from his double's arms and take her for himself? A large part of her wish he had, but he hadn't, had he?
Her gut lurched as she realized what she had done. To him it had appeared she had chosen this new... copy over her Doctor. Oh how she must have hurt him! He didn't even say goodbye. But could she blame him? How could he? She flung herself at another man. She promised him forever and she let him just walk away. And now he would never know that she broke the kiss to run after him.
So here she was, Rose Tyler. Defender of reality, of time and matter itself. Her warning of the approaching darkness had restored the heavens and saved the cosmos, but it had indeed come at a cost. And the cost was that she would never see the man she loved again.
She drug herself up to her feet and collapsed into her over-sized bed, the weight of the weary day and years of inadequate sleep zapping her strength. But sleep wouldn't come. She muffled a sob into her pillow, the tears flowing freely.
Slowly, the Doctor opened his eyes to discover he didn't immediately recognize where he was. He jerked up, sunlight flooding through the tall windows, flanked by heavy drapes. Slouching back down into the overstuffed arm of the cream colored couch, he rubbed his hands over his face, attempting to chase away the sleepiness still plaguing him.
Rose. She must have gotten up in the night.
He threw his lanky legs over the couch, Pete's borrowed striped pajamas swallowing his thin frame as he stood. He struggled to find his balance for half a second- much longer than he was used to. Blimey he felt off. Even after hours of sleep, his body felt heavy and weary and overly warm. He was feeling so many new and different sensations he felt like a stranger in his own skin. How did humans stand it?
The house was still. The only noises to be had were the ticking of the mahogany and gold clock upon the mantel and the soft sounds of the heat pushing up from the vent on the oak hardwood floors. Seven Thirty Five AM. Hm, their clock was off by two minutes and fourteen seconds. Well at least his time sense was still in tact. Wandering into the kitchen, he half expected to see Rose but she was nowhere to be found.
It was hardly to be unexpected. She was likely just upstairs getting dressed for the day. Still, he couldn't help but feel a bit melancholy that he didn't get the chance to wake with her in his arms. He had only been separated from her for a few hours and already he was itching to see her again, to smell her hair, to memorize the feel of her weight against his chest, wanting to hold her to convince himself that she was real. That he was real.
He found himself at the top the stairs walking past the sightless glares of the many portraits lining the halls until he reached her bedroom door. He laid his ear against it. Nothing. Curious. Perhaps she had come back upstairs to sleep in her own room. Such a notion slightly bothered him. Was she perhaps upset with him?
Well, yes, you idiot. There was a rather high probability that she was upset with how things were handled yesterday. He found himself rubbing at his eyes guiltily as he stood before her door. He really had taken her companionship for granted, hadn't he? Perhaps he had assumed things would just pick up where they were before without a hitch. Maybe it wasn't going to be that easy.
It used to be so effortless, their relationship. And for one shining moment during that kiss he thought everything was going to be okay. That they'd say goodbye to the other Doctor and wish him well. That they'd walk back to civilization hand-in-hand laughing at the impossibility of it all. She'd tell him all about her new world, about all the good she was doing defending the earth. He'd tell her about his adventures, they'd catch a ride back to London and on the way they'd plan their life together. For one shining moment the world was theirs for the taking. But she tore away with the closing of the TARDIS door and she'd been in a sorry state since. He skimmed his fingertips along the crevices of the oaken bedroom door distractedly. She probably just needed rest. Best not to bother her.
So engrossed in his thoughts was he that his feet moved of their own volition to the room across from hers which Pete had so graciously offered him the night before. Knowing that attempting to fall back asleep was futile, he sluggishly made his way into his room to ready himself for the day.
Blimey. The meta-crisis seemed to be depleting his energy at a much faster rate than he was accustomed to as a Time Lord. As a matter of fact, everything felt off. His heart felt downright alien. To be fair, it was. And breathing was rubbish now that he had no respiratory bypass system. Everything seemed to take just a bit more effort. Even his hearing and his reflexes had been dulled, though he wagered they were still better than that of the average human.
Yawning, he shut the door and turned to find his blue suit had been pressed and cleaned and was now draped along his rather large bed, a pile of random things he happened to have in his pockets stacked neatly next to it. No doubt his trans-dimensional pockets gave someone pause for thought when they emptied them. His smirk was short lived when he made one keen observation: there was no sonic screwdriver in the pile. Add that to the list of things to get used to, he thought ruefully. There lay a bit of wire, a transmitter he had planned on tinkering with, some nifty string, and his first edition signed copy of The Time Machine that he had taken along on one of this adventures. He stood staring at all that he had to his name with a resigned sigh.
Well, no sense in lingering on the topic. Time for a diversion. No, time for a shower. And time for an appraisal of the new face while he was at it.
Shuffling into the tiled bathroom adjacent to his room, he ran his hand along his jawline as he examined himself in the mirror. Seemed his face was more or less exactly as he remembered it, thank the goddess Fortuna for that. There would undoubtedly be more biological differences to be discovered along the way but he could deal with them so long as he wasn't some unnatural and unsightly mix of Donna and himself in the face. Besides, he had always been rather fond of this particular face.
He stood back and adjusted his eyes. Well, make that one more difference. It seemed his vision had been slightly affected as well. "Lovely," he announced disdainfully to himself. "More and more human by the minute." Dropping his gaze with another sigh, he slowly unbuttoned his borrowed top.
The biggest change by far, however, was the silence. He couldn't sense the gentle presence of the TARDIS any longer. Aching crunched his insides in response to this thought. Ah, his TARDIS. Deep down he knew she would be alright. He would take care of her, the proper Time Lord. Still, he was on the slow path now. There was no changing that. And now more than ever he felt alone. He had lost his one constant companion throughout the better part of a millennium.
So what was he now if he wasn't a Time Lord and had no TARDIS? Those two steady truths had defined him for centuries and now neither applied. He appraised his half naked form in the mirror searching for some secret revelation hidden in his physique. No ingenious epiphany came to squash his creeping self doubt. Perhaps he should face the new truth: perhaps he was just a man. Perhaps he was meant to do great deeds no longer. Perhaps, like most humans, he was meant to wither and die without ever making a difference again.
He pushed the dismal thoughts from his mind as he turned on the hot tap and waited as the water slowly heated, filling the luxuriously tiled shower with billowing clouds of steam.
To be fair, he was only part human and for that matter he had the one thing the proper Time Lord could never hope to have- a chance at an everyday life with Rose. The last great adventure. The biggest of them all.
Nine hundred years it took him to get close enough to fall in love with someone. It had taken that long to convince himself that he was worthy of happiness and it was all thanks to the efforts of one impossible woman who refused to accept that he was beyond saving, who refused to accept that they couldn't be together, and who bent the laws of the universe to make it so. The larger feat was not the latter but the former. She had reached into him and changed him completely. She was an unrelenting ray of sunshine in the heart of the raging storm.
And he would love her for it for the rest of their days, no matter how many they had. He couldn't stop the smile that spread upon his part-human face as he stepped into the water.