Thank you to everyone who has read this series and sent encouraging words! It is (finally) time to begin the last leg of this epic journey with Rose and the Doctor. I hope you enjoy this final full-length installment and the Interludes that will follow. My hope is to update once a week. Special thanks the the BWR ladies for their help! Happy Holidays and long live the Doctor/Rose! =) *Many of the italicized flashback bits come from Cerulean, Navy and the Nine to Ten Regeneration Interlude
Time is a strange, wild, maddening thing. It winds and whirls, twines and twists, dances and skips. It can joyously fly, passing by in a whirlwind of birthdays and weddings and merry laughter and it can ponderously crawl, dragging past with missed trains and broken dates and the drudgery of mislaid memories. Jubilant hours slip through clenched fingers and moments best left in the past return to haunt the present. It wibbles and wobbles, coils and curves, wrenches and warps but no matter its contortions, it still has always been said that Time stands still for no man.
Yet on an almost deserted planet of red rocks and dust, in the control room of the final TARDIS in existence, the last of the Time Lords and the impossible woman who dared to love him stood, neither daring to blink, to breathe, to move, each afraid that their ongoing fantasies of together might, in an instant, shatter and break forever, never to return again, crushing with it three hearts and all their hopes for the future.
And so, miraculously, this moment, this instant, this tiny little grain in the sands of the universe itself, settled, frozen in Time. For, after all, its Champion had spoken, its Goddess had willed and, for them today, Time would stop.
They might have stood there, suspended forever in a state of not-knowing, had it not been for the voices, deep inside them both that called, in tones young and old, Scottish to Northern, past to future, altogether, Forward!
"Is this a dream, Donna? Is...is she really there?" he rasped. The Doctor finally worked up the nerve to speak, fear and desperation evident in his voice, addressing not the hope of his future but the stalwart friend of his past. The woman who had pushed and prodded and made all of this (if it was real. It must be real. It had to be real.) possible.
Donna smiled, her keen eyes blurred with her own tears. She had watched him for the past few months, moving through life in what she had realized just now, was merely a daze. He had been surviving but now, now she had a chance to watch him live. He deserved the universe, this daft spaceman who had wandered it for so long wishing for a hand to hold, wishing, in fact, for far longer than he could ever have imagined, for that hand to hold. "Why don't you ask her yourself?" she asked softly, nodding to the frozen blonde standing in the door.
The Doctor turned slowly toward the woman, his face full of terrible hope and wondrous fear. "Rose," he whispered and then he couldn't tell if Time sped up or Time slowed down and, for once, he didn't care, because she smiled. A bright, familiar, loving smile that illuminated all the dark places that had been growing in his soul in her absence and broke the spell Time had cast over the two of them.
He ran for Rose, his long limbs flying across the console room faster than he'd ever moved before and she ran for him, her gleaming presence calling to him, finding its long-lost partner at last. They crashed together on the ramp, arms holding too tightly, hands gripping too fiercely, words babbled too incoherently but it didn't matter.
Because they were together.
Radiantly, brilliantly, impossibly...together.
Rose was the first to pull back, just the slightest bit, to look him in the eye, to see that soft, chocolate gaze she had been missing for so long now. It was strange, however, how she almost seemed to not see the color anymore. Now she just saw him. Blue-gray shifted to piercing ice which melted to soft amber and then dissolved into several other colors she couldn't quite name (yet, anyway), all blended together into the glorious essence of the Doctor. As she peered into his eyes, her mind instinctively brushed against his as she had been practicing for the past few weeks with his two previous forms and the TARDIS.
The Doctor's (brown, this time) eyes widened and, surprised at the sudden, very intimate mental contact he'd never experienced before (wait...had he?), he stepped back from her, not too far, his hands were still clutched on her shoulders, but far enough to blink and gape at her a moment. Surely he had just imagined that. Rose was brilliant, she was here, and she was brilliant and he loved her but she couldn't possibly have just -
Oh! He loved her! He should tell her that, right? Now?
The Doctor moved his hands on her shoulders ever so slightly, moving to cup her face and tell her how very precious she was when his pinky brushed aside the collar of her shirt and the bottom dropped out of his stomach. There, on her collarbone, at a spot he'd always fantasized about himself, was an intimate dark bruise, one clearly made by teeth and tongues and lips. He stumbled back from her and Rose's eyes grew wide and panicked at his retreat.
Admittedly, he couldn't quite remember what had happened when his Eighth self had gone to pick up Rose (and wasn't that annoying), but he certainly never would have done that, not in his stuffy, posh waistcoat and cravat, not when he didn't ever do things like that, not when he didn't even know Rose at all and so that only left…
She must have had that done by someone else before his earlier form had found her. There must have been another man. Recently, too. Five to seven days for a bruise like that to disappear from human skin and it was still very dark.
Dark, deep emotions flared up within him, possessiveness battling dread, anger fighting disappointment. (She was supposed to be his. No, more than that, she was his. His Rose. He knew it.) Though, even if she had been in a relationship (and his stomach curled again at that thought), she had obviously given it up to come back to him, hadn't she? She was here, with him, now. She had managed to convince his Eighth self to bring her back here, to find him now. But if she'd let someone else touch her, be with her, especially before he'd ever had the chance to tell her…how could he ever stand it?
For her part, Rose watched him carefully, mystified by and wary of his sudden retreat. This was not how she'd always pictured their reunion. She'd pictured a lot more snogging. And perhaps some stammering (he was good at that). And then some shagging. Lots of things that started with 's', apparently.
Just as she had been able to feel the emotions of her last Doctor, even when he'd been shielding heavily, now she felt the waves of betrayal and jealousy and possessiveness rolling off him, replacing the astonishment, relief and affection that had been radiating from him. What had caused his sudden change? He'd been so close just a moment ago...her hand flew up to her neck, where he'd been touching her before he'd backed away, still feeling the phantom fingers of his touch, when her own hand brushed against the brand on her neck.
The brand he had put there.
Oh, that daft bugger.
"I, Rose, you, we're -" the Doctor began, after a deep breath, his eyes darting around to search for Donna for help or distraction, Donna who seemed to have vanished at some point. How was he to face Rose now? What was he going to say? What was she going to say? She was back and that was more than he ever thought he would get but still...he'd thought...but apparently he'd got it wrong.
Ooo, didn't that sound familiar?
Rose just wanted to roll her eyes. And there was the stammering.
She took a step toward him and he stumbled backwards, eyes wide, his knees colliding with the jumpseat. Rose felt the TARDIS' exasperation with her own and, muttering about silly old alien sods and bollixed reunions, she reached forward without any preamble and put her hands on his temples. It was a bit rude, but so was assuming she'd let somebody else give her a hickey not to mention retreating from her (again) before they could even properly begin. With the help of the Timeship, she surged forward, past the surprised Doctor's barriers, intent on unlocking his memories. A picture was worth a thousand words, right? And, given the chance, her Time Lord would bury them under far more than a thousand words so she was just going to have to find the right pictures for him. She pushed aside her curiosity and her nosiness for the moment, focusing on her mission instead of the immensely deep pleasure she was feeling being intimately joined with him like this.
The Doctor, for his part, was far too shocked to do much of anything. Rose was - but Rose couldn't possibly - and the TARDIS was - but why and - oh.
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh. Five billion languages and all he could manage was 'oh'.
That felt good.
That felt, really, reeeallllly good.
Any more questions he had in the moment were quite neatly blasted away as a wave of pleasure like he'd never felt before swept through him and it was lucky he'd already been sitting on the jumpseat or he'd most certainly be on the floor.
Rassilon and Omega, what Rose's mind felt like in his. He shuddered and drew in a shaky breath. It felt like it was made for him. Like she just fit into all the empty places of his mind, like she completed him in a way he hadn't even realized he was incomplete. It felt like she was his salvation, his other half, his bondmate, his home. His, his….well, his.
It also felt distinctly not-human-y.
He could worry about that later. Right now, he was too concerned with shoving his knees apart and using his arms to pull Rose in closer so their bodies would connect the same way their minds were and - what was all this bothersome clothing doing in the way?
Wait...what was he doing?
Rose, however, seemed entirely focused on singing through his mind and he, quite honestly, didn't understand what, precisely, she was doing. Ah well, simple way to fix that, instinct offered and, just as he was unconsciously raising his hands to her temples to reciprocate, she found what she was looking for and he once again lost control of the situation as long-suppressed memories from over a lifetime ago came flooding back in.
"Where were you going in such a hurry?" "Got trapped by accident. Been trying to get back but no luck yet. In fact, you told me yourself that it was impossible." "Not a morning person, I take it?" "Don't worry. You'll be back there soon. And...in the meantime, I'm right here." "Lots of things about not getting here sooner and something about twenty-two hours in France." "Do I love you?" "We never talked about it and we certainly never did anything about it." "Told you I wanted to explore that more later." "Yes, I did. Two days ago by the London Eye. She crashed into me while she was looking for my TARDIS." "I told you I would give her the universe. And I will." "Now, you listen to me, Time Lord. Let's get this straight once and for all. I love you. The changing body thing took a bit to get used to, I'll give you that, but it doesn't matter to me. I do like the sounds you make...and that you like mine. Whatever you become, whatever you do, whatever sounds you make in the future...I'll like 'em, too. Got that?" "Coricana is a pleasure planet, part of a pair of them actually. They were created specifically for this purpose, for romance, for dancing, for evenings under the stars with the person you care about most in the universe. Coming here is a promise." "A promise of what?" "Forever."
"Got trapped by accident. Been trying to get back but no luck yet. In fact, you told me yourself that it was impossible."
"Not a morning person, I take it?"
"Don't worry. You'll be back there soon. And...in the meantime, I'm right here."
"Lots of things about not getting here sooner and something about twenty-two hours in France."
"Do I love you?"
"We never talked about it and we certainly never did anything about it."
"Told you I wanted to explore that more later."
"Yes, I did. Two days ago by the London Eye. She crashed into me while she was looking for my TARDIS."
"I told you I would give her the universe. And I will."
"Now, you listen to me, Time Lord. Let's get this straight once and for all. I love you. The changing body thing took a bit to get used to, I'll give you that, but it doesn't matter to me. I do like the sounds you make...and that you like mine. Whatever you become, whatever you do, whatever sounds you make in the future...I'll like 'em, too. Got that?"
"Coricana is a pleasure planet, part of a pair of them actually. They were created specifically for this purpose, for romance, for dancing, for evenings under the stars with the person you care about most in the universe. Coming here is a promise."
"A promise of what?"
He gasped and jerked his head back out of her grasp as wave upon wave of memories came crashing in on him. Memories of meeting a mysterious anomaly in a parallel world, of inexplicably falling for her, of dancing with her, of -Holy Rassilon- dancing with her (multiple times in multiple places and fuck - wow) and...
"You - me - we, ROSE," he stammered. He's kissed her, he's touched her, he's been inside her, he's ENGAGED to her and yet he's never done any of those things and oh -
Another portion of his memory thundered in.
"And even though I'll have to forget this for a while...I want you to know that I'll carry it with me forever, locked away until I can remember again. And even if I can't remember the specifics, no matter what it is that's coming...and I know something is, I'll remember that I was happy and subconsciously I'll keep looking for you, no matter what, even if I don't know why. I'll find you and we'll start this all over again."
He had promised and that promise had kept him alive following the Time War (and -oh!- the golden goddess of his dreams!).
Suddenly it matters if he lives or dies. Because she is real. And she is coming. He promised. And so did she.
Because she is real. And she is coming.
He promised. And so did she.
The Doctor stumbled to a standing position, reaching toward her, hands outstretched. Rose, his Rose. She'd done so, so much for him. She was the reason he'd had the courage to be able to do what he had to do, she was the reason he'd made it through the Time War, she was the reason he was still alive.
But then he had and she had...she had…
"Future TARDIS, future Doctor, yes."
He knew what was coming next, almost threw up his hands as if to physically ward off the memories he knew were coming, but he couldn't. He didn't want to forget one single moment they'd ever spent together, no matter how shameful or painful the events might come out to be. He had a sinking feeling that he knew exactly how he'd survived immediately after the Time War. He just hoped he hadn't hurt her too badly in that unstable state. The final set of his memories came pouring in then, helpless and unwilling as he was to stop them.
"Who the hell are you?" "You're mine?" "Why do you call me that?" "Since you don't know what this body looks like yet, how about I describe it to you, yeah?" "S'more than just a promise, though, Rose. You are mine. Body, mind, soul. If I'm right, and I'm fairly certain I am, you're bonded to me." "You're an idiot. No wonder you lose her." "That kiss. The first one. You sure it didn't mean anythin'? "I realize that my transgressions against you, both past and future are many, but I swear to you that I will do better. I will be better and someday, perhaps, I will deserve you. And so, I offer you only and all of what I have left: a home to share, a hand to hold and my hearts for now until eternity." "How can you possibly love me like that?" "You're all my Doctor."
"Why do you call me that?"
"Since you don't know what this body looks like yet, how about I describe it to you, yeah?"
"S'more than just a promise, though, Rose. You are mine. Body, mind, soul. If I'm right, and I'm fairly certain I am, you're bonded to me."
"You're an idiot. No wonder you lose her."
"That kiss. The first one. You sure it didn't mean anythin'?
"I realize that my transgressions against you, both past and future are many, but I swear to you that I will do better. I will be better and someday, perhaps, I will deserve you. And so, I offer you only and all of what I have left: a home to share, a hand to hold and my hearts for now until eternity."
"How can you possibly love me like that?"
"You're all my Doctor."
Rose was a step away from the bench, watching the Doctor carefully, her hands clasped in front of her. Perhaps that hadn't been the best approach but she just wanted him to remember...to remember her, to remember them.
He was sitting unnaturally still, particularly odd for this constantly moving form (unless he didn't do that anymore...who knows how long it had been for him? How much had he changed? How much had she?) His elbows were on his knees, his back slumped and his head was cradled in his hands.
"Doctor?" she asked tentatively, avoiding the temptation to look at his emotions.
He shuddered and drew in a deep, shaky breath and then slowly his gaze came up to meet hers. There were tears in his eyes and on his cheeks and she wanted nothing more than to step toward him and kiss them away, but she still didn't know how to proceed on this tentative ground of their fledgling relationship "Rose," he rasped, the sound dragged from deep inside of him, pulled out with more emotion than she'd ever heard from him, any him.
And with that, he launched himself at her again, pulling her to him as tightly as he could, every brilliant millimeter of him pressed into her against the console. His mouth was at her neck, frantically whispering in his beautiful chiming language as his hands compulsively swept over her back and bottom and head, clenching and releasing as though he was sure this was all imagined, as though she would disappear in an instant and leave him. Rose felt him tentatively brush his mind against hers, just a fleeting, almost accidental touch, as if he were afraid she would reject the contact. Instead, she slowly began to drop her shields, not wanting to overwhelm him but desperately wanting the connection with him.
His entire body stiffened at even the slightest caress from her mind, making her panic, but just as she began to retreat, he surged forward, mentally and physically. His mouth met hers in a sudden onslaught of lips and tongue, just as fierce and desperate as his last form had been in their first kiss. There was now, however, the added levels of his deep love for her and the desperation of their separation. Her hands scrabbled for purchase along his suit jacket, one moving up to his fabulous hair and the other down to his fantastic arse, pulling him tighter against her until she was practically sure they were one being.
But it was his mind billowing and breaking alongside hers that had her even more entranced than the physical sensation of him. She eagerly welcomed his presence, marvelling in the feel of him all around her, surrounding her, enveloping her. Connection with him had always felt incredible but there was something about it this time, about this him, that just felt right, like they were finally slotting into one another precisely where they belonged. When the chaotic swirl of his frenzied need slowed a bit, Rose was finally able catch her first glimpse of his consciousness.
Most of what she saw was a brilliant, beautiful cobalt colour and her breath caught in her chest as she marvelled at how utterly exquisite he was, breath-taking and awe-inspiring. There were, however, deep, wide stretches of the grim, somber navy of his predecessor, some of them in shades far darker than he had been when she'd left him just moments ago, fracturing the brightness of his beryl presence. That navy banding was just another representation of the darkness that still lived in him, the guilt and the grief he carried. She knew that he would never heal completely, but perhaps together they could work to keep the shadows at bay, to minimize the darkness in his mind until those dark streaks were as thin as the pinstripes of his wool armour.
The Doctor moaned against her as one of his clever hands found its way to the bare skin of her back under the jumper, both of them shivering at the contact. Rose retaliated by yanking his oxford from the waist of his trousers and running left hand up his spine as far as she could reach. With both of them gaining more intimate skin-to-skin contact, their link blazed white hot with desire and Rose's knees gave way, held up only by the Doctor's very tight grip. He ripped his mouth from hers and Rose gasped for breath as he muttered, "Bond," against her skin.
Rose tried to manage some sort of reply, but his clever mouth had found the spot counterpoint to the marking on the left side of her neck and he was very intent on making her right side one to match. When she regained feeling in her legs, she decided that a much better place for them was wrapped around the Doctor's waist, a feat she accomplished quite easily. He groaned into her neck once more as she shifted against him, mumbling something and then redoubling his efforts. She could feel him hard and rippling already against the confines of his trousers and tried to work a hand in between them but they were pressed so tightly together she couldn't seem to manage. Instead, Rose moved both hands down to grip his (still fantastic, what'd she tell him?) arse, pulling him against her, hard.
Their minds were moving against one another in harmony with their bodies, both frantically straining and seeking more, yet she could sense in the Doctor a small, mauve alarm going off. It was then that her hazy senses were able to put together the sounds he was muttering into her skin as semi-coherent words.
He was saying wait. His body and hers, for that matter, were saying exactly the opposite, but one of the was going to have to stop and, apparently, it was going to have to be her. She, quite reluctantly, pulled her hands from his hair and his back, moving them to his chest and pressing against him lightly. At the same time, she eased her mind back from his (and oh, wasn't that painful) just the tiniest bit.
That seemed to be all the Doctor needed to find some semblance of his control. His head moved up off her neck, first resting on her shoulder and then against hers, temple to temple before he stepped backward from her a few millimeters, leaving her propped up on the edge of the console, her knees brushing his thighs, his hands moving up to clasp with hers over his hearts. "The bond," he mumbled again before shaking his head as if to clear it. She felt his mental presence retreat back a little bit more, both of them acutely feeling the separation.
"What about the bond, Doctor?" Rose asked, caught between irritation that they'd stopped and a small modicum of relief. Something big was happening, bigger than they'd already experienced and she felt like they needed to talk about it.
She just really, really didn't want to.
At least not in this moment. Mostly she just wanted to…
The Doctor cleared his throat, blushing from the tips of his ears all the way to where his delicious throat disappeared into his unbuttoned oxford collar. "I can still see that, Rose," he coughed, tightening his hands on hers.
"I know," Rose responded cheekily, grinning at him.
He gaped at her a moment and then he threw his head back and laughed, crushing her to his chest once more. Rose's heart clenched at the oh-so-familiar, long-lost sound combined with the scent of him everywhere, her nose buried in his neck and a powerful wave of love swept through her into him, causing his breath to hitch over her shoulder. "This bond, Rose," he began, pulling back from her once more and panting a bit as their new position shifted with some delicious friction for both of them. "I can't know for sure, but I'm fairly certain that since this is the first time we've been in the same place at the same time in the same stage of the bond that if we - when we - are together for the first time, we're going to complete it and I…"
"If this is going to be you giving me an out or trying to convince me not to do it for my own good, I don't want to hear it, Time Lord," she replied, moving one of the fingers still entwined with his to poke him in the chest. "I made my choice a long time ago. I'm yours, Doctor," and he shivered at that, "and that's never going to change." Rose scowled up at him a moment, daring him to try and convince her otherwise but he simply smiled at her and her doubt and anger instantly melted away.
"And I'm yours, Rose," he replied, making her shiver just as he had done, the words evoking something ancient and powerful in her mind. "But I think we need to know a bit more about this bond before we go any further. I need…we need to know exactly what we're getting into here."
"In case you decide you don't want it?" Rose asked quietly, her hurt showing in both her voice and the receding joy in her mind, pulling away from him slightly.
"No!" he responded quickly, reaching out to sooth her, to pull her back into him, physically and mentally. "I want it. I want you, Rose, and everything you can give me, more than you can possibly imagine, but -"
Rose, irritated now at what she perceived as him running from her once more, interrupted him, "But what, Doctor? All of our relationship, before Eighth you, anyway or I guess after Eighth you, or, well, however this crossing timelines thing works, everything back then was just 'but's and 'what-if's and 'if only's. M'not going back to that, now that I know what we can be. I'm tired of regrets, Doctor. Aren't -"
"It could hurt you!" he exploded suddenly, ripping his hands from hers and sending them straight into his already riotous hair, stumbling back from her again. "What if something goes wrong? What if it's too much? Your telepathic abilities are strong, I noticed back when I first met you, but what if you're not strong enough yet? What if my mind burns through yours like it almost did in my Ninth body, right after my regeneration? I just got you back, Rose. I can't lose you again," the Doctor finished, his voice going so soft she barely heard him. "I just...I can't."
Rose slipped down from the console to walk over to him, wrapping her arms around him once more, an embrace he melted into immediately. They stood, holding one another against the universe for a long time, neither daring to move. The TARDIS wouldn't let him do anything that would hurt her, she was sure of that. The Timeship hummed in agreement with her and then brushed against her mind, lightly, showing her an image of her pack and a wave of encouragement. Then Rose remembered that she had something for him, something that might help. She wasn't sure exactly where it had come from because she couldn't remember the Doctor giving it to her, but she was sure it was there all the same. "C'mere," she said, pulling him along with her over to her red pack, unwilling to relinquish her grip on him for even a moment.
Bending down and awkwardly opening her pack one handed, she pulled out a large, ornately decorated ancient book.
"Rose - what? Where did you get this?" the Doctor marvelled, running the fingers of his free hand over the gilded pages of the book.
"You gave it to me," she responded, tilting her head to the side and considering him. "Or maybe the TARDIS did." She stuck her tongue in the corner of her mouth, straining her memory to figure out where exactly the book came from when there was a loud thump at her feet. Before she could register what had made the noise, however, the Doctor's mouth was back on hers, capturing her tongue with his own, both of his hands fisting in her blonde tresses.
"Always wanted to do that," he murmured against her lips as he pulled back, smoothing her hair back down and grinning like the Cheshire cat. He bent down to pick up the discarded book near her feet.
"Always wanted you to," she responded, smiling back at him as he took her hand.
"So, library?" the Doctor asked, waggling his eyebrows at her.
"Are you sure you wouldn't rather just stay out here and have a good, hard, reunion shag on the jumpseat instead of reading that dusty old book?" Rose questioned, sending him a few very detailed (and explicit) console fantasies she'd entertained (in both his bodies). Bond completion or not, her body and mind were still humming with arousal and she wanted him. Desperately.
His eyes glazed over a moment before his grip tightened on the book. "Plenty of time for that later, Ms. Tyler," he answered, finally, sending her a few fantasies back, which caused her to stumble on the grating, much to his amusement. He caught her, steadying her with their clasped hands, before leaning in and brushing his lips against her ear. "And believe me, Rose, I am going to take. My. Time," he growled, before pulling away to dragging her off toward the library.