"Doctor…" Rose murmured, swallowing hard. "I have something I need to talk to you about."
The Doctor looked up from their bed with a frown as he took in her grave expression. Placing his book and glasses on the bedside table, he asked, "What's wrong?"
She stepped away from the doorframe she was leaning against and sat down next to him, wringing her hands. Just as she was about to answer him, their two year old daughter came toddling into the room.
"Mummy," Ava mumbled, grabbing hold of Rose's legs. "Play time?"
Rose swung her up onto her lap and said, "Not right now, darling, mummy's gotta have a chat with daddy. Why don't you go to your brother's room and see if he wants to play for a bit before bedtime?"
"Okay," she agreed happily, scrambling off Rose's lap and running as fast as she could towards her new destination, delighted at the prospect of playing with her older brother.
The Doctor reached out a hand to hold Rose's arm, turning her to face him. "Rose?" he prompted. He could feel her shaking, and the worry at what that meant was etched across his face.
She let out a trembling breath and met his gaze. "This is, um...this is tough. I don't know quite how to - " she cut herself off, biting into her lower lip.
The Doctor stroked down her arm and placed his hand on her slightly protruding belly. "The baby - " he started, his eyes frantically searching hers. "Everything's - "
"Oh," she gasped, rushing to reassure him. "Yeah, the baby's fine, don't worry, it's not…"
"Jesus, Rose, you scared me half to death," he said, sighing in relief. "Well, then, what is it?"
"I think something's happened. In the other universe. Our old universe," she rushed out.
"What do you mean?"
"I think you've - I think he's changed history."
"Well, we did that a bit from time to time, didn't we?" he smiled gently.
"No, I mean...something big. Massive. Something that can't be changed."
"A fixed point?" he asked, frowning.
"What makes you think that?"
She grabbed hold of his hand, squeezing it tightly as she fought to find the right words. "Do you remember, you once told me that there were ways of getting to Pete's World - any parallel world - when the Time Lords were still around?"
"Well, yeah," he said slowly. "Back before the War Time Lords were popping from universe to universe and home in time for tea - not often, of course, 'cos most of them didn't do the travelling thing all that much, but it was completely possible. The worlds weren't sealed off like they are now."
"They aren't," she said quietly.
"They - what?"
"The worlds aren't sealed off anymore," she said seriously, her breath quickening. "The gaps that you once closed are open. There's - there's access, now. To this universe. To our old universe."
"That's impossible," he scoffed.
"Tough luck. Impossible isn't what it used to be. Thought you'd've learnt that by now."
"I don't understand, Rose."
"I know you regret what you did, in the Time War. But you told me it was necessary. That it was a last resort. That you had to do it."
"Yes," he said uneasily, swallowing hard with the memories she was dragging up. "It doesn't justify it, but...there was no other way."
"What if you found another way? Would you go back and change it?"
"No - I couldn't. It's physically impossible. The Time War is timelocked."
"But if you could."
"Well, it's a redundant question. It's - "
"If you say the word impossible one more time I swear to god I will divorce you," she snapped.
"You don't believe in a god," he sniffed pompously.
"Doctor, this is serious."
"You wouldn't really divorce - "
"Not that. The gateways to the universe are open. I think the Time Lord you went back and changed his decision."
"I'm serious, Doctor."
He stared at her helplessly, shaking his head in disbelief. "How could you think - "
"Look, if you did, yeah? If you did somehow manage to go back into your personal timestream in the timelock and not press the button - "
"But I remember it! I remember pressing the button. I did it. I did."
"Just, just go with it, for a sec, all right? Listen to me," she said impatiently, squeezing his hand again. "If you did go back, and you didn't kill your people, then what - what would the consequences be, for the rest of the universe? Would there be reapers?"
"Well, I...I would have had to put it away somewhere. Instead of burning it...frozen it in time, somehow - "
"But you practically did that, before, with the timelock, didn't you?" she asked, confused.
"No, this would have to be different, I'd have to remove Gallifrey from the Daleks' line of fire - remove it from the prime universe and the prime timeline completely so that other species and planets didn't know of its continued existence. I don't know how it's possible, but that's what I'd have to do, and then I'd have to make my previous self forget I did that to maintain the timelines and not cause a rupture in time and space that could destroy the entire universe."
"Right," she exhaled roughly. "So, what if the future Time Lord you somehow figured out how to go back and change it, and do that, protect Gallifrey from the Daleks, save your people?"
"Then...then they're still alive, somewhere. But I'd - if that was the case, I'd feel it, Rose."
"Not necessarily. You're part-human now."
"So are the children but we can sense each other."
"True," Rose realised, tilting her head. "Okay, but…"
"Rose, why are you saying all this?"
She closed her eyes, steadying herself. "I've detected something."
"I think that the other you brought them back. Saved them, froze them, whatever; but now they're back. Survived the war, survived being frozen in time, and now a few of them have decided to wander the universe. Or, rather, take a little excursion here."
"Don't be ridiculous - " he started, snatching his hand away from her and bringing himself to a kneeling position on the bed, grabbing her by the shoulders. "Rose, you've made a mistake," he said earnestly. "This can't be happening. It just can't."
"But it is," she said, her eyebrows drawn together. "I'm sorry, but it is."
"Why on earth do you think they are Time Lords? So you've spotted a ship, okay, maybe some advanced tech - what makes you think Time Lords are on board?"
Rose glanced at the wall awkwardly. "A while back, I had some people create a, er, a detector, of sorts."
"I don't understand."
"So that I could - so that I could tell, if there was a Time Lord around." She slowly turned her head to meet his eyes again, and flinched when she saw the hurt in his expression.
He released his grip on her shoulders and stared at her. "So that you could see if he came back, you mean."
"No - "
"Yes," he corrected harshly, scrambling off the bed and starting to pace. "Bloody hell, Rose, we're married, we have children, a life here, and all along you've been running scans and who knows what else to see if he comes back?"
"No, wait, you're taking this all wrong - "
"No, I don't think I am," he said, spinning around and glaring at her, waving his hands about for emphasis. "All this time I really have just been the cheap copy, haven't I? And you've been waiting for the 'real' Doctor to come along, to come back and pick you up and take you away from me!"
"No!" she exclaimed, standing up and clutching at his t-shirt, forcing him to let her into his personal space. "Don't be stupid! I'd never run away from this, leave you - never!"
"So why - ?"
"I thought that if he came back, for whatever reason, we'd have to know about it because it wouldn't - shouldn't be possible. I thought it would better prepare us. Better prepare me, in case you stumbled upon his TARDIS one day and just…"
"What, took off?" he asked loudly, stepping back from her, laughing horribly in disbelief. "Oh, that's even worse. You think I'd run off and steal his TARDIS while he wasn't looking?"
"No, I just - well - look, this was the early days, all right? How was I to know that you were gonna be okay being stranded here? I didn't know if you'd acclimatise, or if you'd have some sort of, I don't know, identity crisis or something, if you'd - if you'd stay with me, still want me years down the line - "
He walked back over to her and grabbed her upper arms. "All those years we were apart, wishing we were together, all those years you fought to get back to me and you thought for one second that once I had you in my arms again I would willingly let you go?!"
"He did!" she retorted.
"That was different and you know it! He did that for us. For you. So that you could live a life with me. So that we could have a happy ending for once. And nothing about that decision was made willingly from his perspective. He hated having to give you up!"
She hissed at him to lower his voice. She didn't want the kids hearing them shouting at each other like this, although, she thought ruefully, they probably already had.
"I wanted to come here, " he continued, in a quieter voice, "I wanted to be stranded with you, because that was the better deal, the better life, and I would never leave you. Not for the TARDIS, not for anything."
"I know that now," she said, rolling her eyes. "I knew that then, deep down. But we were adjusting. New life, new...I was scared. And so were you, anyway, so don't pretend you weren't. And there's nothing wrong with that, being scared. We got through it." She placed her hands on his chest and felt the rapid beating of his heart against one of her palms. "Look, this really isn't what we should be talking about right now, anyway."
He nodded reluctantly, and attempted to catch his breath back. "I'm sorry. I just - what's going on, Rose? How can this - how - "
Rose ran a tired hand over her face and took a few steps back, trying to concentrate. "Listen to me. You need to be objective for a few minutes. I trust you to be able to tell me the truth, all right? So please, answer me this: if some of the Time Lords are in the Earth's orbit, possibly planning to pay us humans a visit, then just how worried should I be? Because I know this must be overwhelming for you, Doctor, to hear that you might not have killed them after all, to hear that there are some of your people close by, but you once told me that by the end of the War, half the Time Lords were insane and just as bad as the Daleks. Mad with power, corrupt with greed, doing whatever they could to survive, at whatever cost to other species and planets involved in the battles. So tell me, Doctor, and please, please be honest. I need to know whether I'm gonna have to defend this planet, defend our children, against your own people."
He stared at her, his eyes glistening, and she brushed aside some of the tears on her own face, sniffing purposefully and staring at him right back.
"Rose," he whispered, his voice cracking, struggling to keep a hold on his emotions. "If it's - if it's a certain type of Time Lord, one from high up - in the Council, or the military strategy units, maybe, one with the power over decisions...then we should be very worried indeed. Because I doubt a few hundred years trapped in a moment in time in a warzone - because make no mistake, if the other me really has done that, then it has been a warzone for them, there were Daleks on Gallifrey soil and they would be trapped with them - I doubt years of that hell would do anything to temper their outrageous belief in their own superiority and capacity for mindless destruction."
Rose let out a shaky breath. "Shit."
"Does Torchwood know?"
"No," she said. "I came straight here when I found out. They're monitoring the ship but they don't know who is on board. I'm the only one with access to the technology to scan the vessel and see who they are from here."
"And they are definitely Time Lords?"
"Yes," she nodded.
He grabbed the bedpost for support. "Then we need to contact them."
"No. The ship. We need to contact the ship."
"How many people did you know, in those upper ranks? Do you reckon you might know these particular Time Lords?"
He scrunched up his nose. "Possibly. Though most of them hated me, so I don't know if it's a good idea to advertise that fact. Especially seeing as I'm part-human now." His eyebrows jumped up as realisation took hold. "Yeah, best not refer to me as the Doctor in their presence."
"Wait, what do you - "
"Rose, I don't want to offend or worry you, but if my people found out I was part-human and that I have married and procreated with a human, we'd be in an even worse situation."
"Yeah." He sank down onto the bed, dropping his head to his hands. "I don't know how to play this. I don't know what to do. If he's opened up the - if they are free, to come here...why would they even come here? They looked down on Earth. They ridiculed me for having such a fondness for this planet. Why would they pick Earth?" He stood up again, rubbing at his eye. "It doesn't make any sense."
"Doctor," she whispered.
He looked over to her. "Yeah?"
"I just - I'm sorry that you're having to go through this."
He shook his head. "I'm sorry that you are. I can't believe he would be this irresponsible. He's potentially unleashing another kind of hell into the universe. Into our universe, at that! Why would he - how could he do this? I thought...I've never accepted or made peace with what I did, not really, not completely, but I moved on, I got through it, I acknowledged that I did it, so how can he just… has he forgotten what they were like? Forgotten what my own people were capable of doing? I swear to the ends of the universe if these Time Lords are here with nefarious intent, if they harm one hair on your head or hurt our children in any way, I will hunt the Time Lord me down and make him go right back into his personal timeline again to change it back."
Rose stepped quickly forwards and grabbed him into a hug, holding him tightly as they both dropped slowly to the floor. She rocked him as he clutched fiercely at her waist, his lips pressing insistently into the place where her neck met her shoulder.
"I don't know what to do," he whispered into her skin.
She placed her hands on either side of his head and made him look at her. "We meet them, wherever they land their ship. We talk to them, we try to reason with them, we find out why they are here. If they are refugees just looking for somewhere to settle, we help them. If they want to hurt us...we do whatever we have to do to protect our family," she said firmly, definitively, and then kissed him hard on the lips. When she pulled back, she looked at him and said, "Yeah?"
He nodded, determined. With Rose by his side, he could do anything, he remembered. He could do this. He could cope with whatever this collection of his people threw at him. Because things were different now, and he had a different set of priorities. Their children came first. And Rose. Oh, Rose. He would not lose her again.