Gallifrey was saved. The thought was slipping away along with his memories of his future selves, but he held onto it for as long as he could. He hadn’t destroyed Gallifrey. His future selves had already left the Curator’s gallery, off to the next moment in their lives (of course, being the youngest, it appeared to his future selves that he had taken off first), and he was about to do the same when he caught a glimpse of blonde hair round the side of his TARDIS.
“Who’s there?” He called, replacing the key in his pocket. A young woman was standing beside the ship. Now dressed in a blue leather jacket and cotton trousers, she was still immediately identifiable to him as the embodiment of the Moment. “Bad Wolf girl,” he said, incredulous. He’d thought her gone when the Moment had been boxed away by his future self.
“How do you know that name?” The woman looked at him.
But he hadn’t used the Moment. Why was the Interface still visible?
“Interface? ‘M not a computer,” Bad Wolf girl gave him an odd look. “You seem to know me, but I don’t know who you are.”
He thought of what had just happened. He thought of Gallifrey, not burned and broken, but safe in a Time Lock. He thought of his future selves, haunted by the memory of burning their homeworld, a false memory he knew that he’d have to remember until the time was right. He hadn’t burned Gallifrey. He was the Doctor.
Bad Wolf girl was staring at him, her mouth forming a perfect ‘o’ shape. “Doctor?”
Yes. The Doctor. He had saved people. “Yes,” he stood just a touch straighter.
I chose this face and form especially for you. It's from your past. Or possibly your future. I always get those two mixed up.
It was her. The one whom the Moment had modeled itself after. She was the true Bad Wolf girl. “Is this how our first meeting is supposed to go, then? I would have thought I regenerated first. And forgotten this part of my timeline.”
This was the Doctor, right before he’d met her. Old and tired, but… not haunted by the Time War. And she understood. He hadn’t fought yet, hadn’t seen the atrocities the Daleks and Time Lords wreaked across time and space. “No,” Rose whispered. And yet, he knew Bad Wolf…
“You’re not the Interface. You’re her,” the Doctor stated.
“Her as in Bad Wolf,” Rose nodded, still apprehensive. The Doctor’s face split into a grin.
“I hadn’t thought that I would meet you so soon,” the Doctor said.
“This isn’t…this isn’t our first meeting,” Rose said gently. “I’m from your future. Further in your timeline.”
“You know me, in the future.” That would explain Sandshoes’ reaction to Bad Wolf. “If you were hoping to meet me here, you just missed him.” Bad Wolf Girl looked to the ground, clearly distressed.
“Sandshoes, I presume. He seemed more upset when I called the Interface ‘Bad Wolf Girl’. Though now that I think of it, the Chin seemed quite startled to hear that name as well,” the Doctor mused.
Sandshoes. Rose laughed. “Worst fashion sense in the galaxy, you have,” she said. “Though I always loved this jacket,” she reached out as if to touch his lapel.
“How long have you been here?” The thought had occurred to him earlier, an unconscious thought that had been tucked away as he’d realized she was the embodiment of the Moment.
“Seventeen minutes. Got another thirteen before I can leave.”
“Leave for where?” He was hungry, desperate for more information about her. Why the Moment had chosen her face, who was she, who was she to him?
“I don’t think I can tell you that bit,” Bad Wolf Girl said sadly. “Always remember that I’m coming back, my Doctor.”
“I’m going to have to forget this, you know. This, and Gallifrey,” he said.
“Will I?” The words escape before she can bite them back. It’s selfish- “Gallifrey?”
“No, I don’t believe that you will. Someone ought to remember about the outcome of the Time War, I suppose.” The Time Lord said dryly.
“Meaning?” Rose hardly dared to believe it.
“Gallifrey Falls No More. That was the full title of the painting. Do you know about Gallifreyan paintings? They’re bigger on the inside. A moment of time, frozen in the painting. But you can’t tell him that. He’ll need to remember it for himself.” The Doctor said. His time senses told him he had ten minutes left with the woman whose visage the Moment had assumed.
“Thank you,” Rose smiled. The Doctor’s home planet, which he assumed he had destroyed in the last act of the Time War, was safe. (A niggling sensation in the back of her head said that that hadn’t been the last act of the Time War, that the War had ended at the cost of her first Doctor’s life.)
Nine minutes. Once more, Rose found herself with time counting down, standing opposite the love of her life with nothing to say. She couldn’t even tell him what she’d started to say the last time.
They sat on the box in companionable silence, the Doctor and Rose, beside the TARDIS, together like they should be.
The Dimension Cannon beeped once.
Rose closed her eyes. “If I don’t go, it will automatically pull me back across the Void.”
“Across the Void? But that’s nothingness,” the Doctor protested.
“Yeah. And it’s filled with Daleks and Cybermen. But I’m not even there for a split second.”
“A parallel universe.”
“Yeah,” Rose opened her eyes to look at the Doctor. “You’ll see me again soon enough,” she smiled. “And I’ll find you. That’s a promise, Doctor.” She pressed the button, then moved her hand back to cover his. “Because I made you another promise that I intend to keep,” she faded away.
The Doctor opened the door to his TARDIS, smiling.