Chapter 1: On Reality In Reality For Reality
The funny thing about time travel is that alternate realities are a dime a dozen. Every choice made, every step taken, every single breath creates a new reality. Fractals spiraling outward created by ants and kings and gods and little girls choosing between the green teddy or the purple alligator. They are all equally divergent. The changes typically start small, but in the vast expanse of time they propagate rapidly.
The ant goes left instead of right and is not eaten by the tapir, it makes it home to the nest with a load of leaves and the colony survives just a bit longer than they might have. That colony eventually spawns the ant which will bite the ankle of the soldier just as he is about to fire his gun, throwing off his normally impeccable aim and saving the life of the man who will one day father the first human to take a breath on Pluto.
Sometimes the changes create temporary worlds, the products of choices which are not important enough to last; the little girl chooses the green teddy and three days later she dies in a tragic zeppelin accident. The purple alligator would not have saved her life and both stuffed animals brought equal comfort in her last moments. This is a tragic example but a vital one; these changes are not a simple good-or-bad dichotomy. There is very often no ‘right’ choice, no single path of decisions that leads to the best of all parallel worlds.
There are only the choices we make and must live with. Alternate realities- parallel worlds are created in multitudes in every moment of every day (and double that on Thursdays).
Most choices are small, the color of stuffed animals and where to find the best leaves for the colony.
The rare few, the crystalline points on which the most magnificent fractals are spawned, are big enough to change the very path of stars.
What do those choices look like? The answer is perhaps disappointing; these universe altering choices appear remarkably similar to any other. They happen with as little fanfare or note as any other.
This one happens on the top floor of a nondescript building on Canary Wharf, owned and staffed by the Torchwood organization on the inherited orders of Queen Victoria. Torchwood has been experimenting with forces far beyond their understanding, manipulated by an ancient enemy of all that is unique in the Universe.
In one world, in a familiar world, the Doctor hands Rose Tyler a magnaclamp and watches as she crosses the room to attach it to the wall. Then, he watches as she abandons her own safety, her own security and future beside him, to let go of the clamp and reactivate the shifted lever. Then, he watches as she falls and screams and as she is lost to him forever.
Rose takes the clamp.
One reality spins into existence, the edges are brittle, made fragile by the Time Lord Victorious and the misery he will carry with him until the end of his days. It makes him cruel to those who only wish to help, alternately capricious and cold or jovial and fey. The Doctor never recovers from losing any of his friends, he is never the same man he was before. There are many worlds like this one, shaped by the hurt of an ancient being with more hearts than the average to be broken.
But, there is another world, a world exactly the same as the first in every way save one; there the Doctor picks up the clamp and walks across the room himself. In this world it is the Doctor’s lever that fails and his safety that is abandoned without a second thought. In this world it is the Doctor who falls. The immediate result is the same- Rose Tyler is lost to him, or rather, he is lost to her.
The Doctor takes the clamp.
A second reality shatters into place. It is the early days yet in the world without the Doctor. There will be no Time Lord Victorious and no cruel words spoken thoughtlessly by a man who does not see how they dig into his companions' hearts.
There will be no last words spoken on a windy beach. No final tearful goodbyes or promises of attempts to be happy, no promises to live and to smile.
What there will be is a young woman determined to ensure that Universe remembers the man who gave his life to defending it. There will still be the TARDIS, though she is grieving and lost without her Thief.
There will still be Rose Tyler.
(Very far away and very close, locked behind walls now closed forever, there will also be the Doctor. He is cut off from the last of his telepathic connections, the TARDIS excised from his mind swiftly and completely in a way no Time Lord has ever before survived.
The Doctor is nothing if not stubborn, and perhaps a little bit mad. He makes a habit of surviving the things no other Time Lord has.
Pete’s World has never had a Doctor before, much less a madman without his Box.)
Chapter 2: Singular and Stubborn
The Doctor’s TARDIS was a singular entity for many reasons. There was, of course, the obvious; she was the last living TARDIS in all of space and time. But, even before the end of the Time War she was unique. She was old, far older than her pilot, and had been to many places and times long forgotten. Most importantly for the events that unfolded in Torchwood Tower, however, was this; the TARDIS stolen from the Academy museum by the newly christened Doctor had bonded with more than a single pilot in her lifetime. It was unusual for many reasons. Most TARDIS were grown with their future pilot already chosen, the future Time Lord visited their nursery and spoke to them, imbuing the growing heart with their hopes and dreams and imprinting upon them from the earliest days of sentience.
The last TARDIS did not like to think about her previous pilots, they were a largely irresponsible and crude lot, obsessed with maintaining the supremacy of the Time Lords above all else, even their fellow Gallifreyans. She rarely got to leave the planet and even those trips were short and without much excitement to keep her engaged.
By the time she was to be repaired and placed in the museum as a relic of the Type 40s, the TARDIS was tired. She wanted things she knew she would never get, she wanted to test her skills, to travel through the Vortex to the very edges of the known Universe, to land in impossible places and take her pilot to help those who needed help.
He ran into the darkened hall where the old TARDIS rested, their minds dormant and small. All save hers. She felt his fear and his desire to go and go and never return, not until he’d seen all there was to be seen.
She opened her door, just a crack, but enough to let the light spill into the hall.
He chose her and she chose him and they ran.
The Doctor’s TARDIS was a singular entity. She was experienced and clever and she held all of time in her heart. She knew where to take him and where he must never go and she knew, without a flicker of doubt, that she would lose him.
She could see other realities, ones where it did not happen and she hoped to be living in one of those. But, she knew she was not.
There was nothing she could do, she tried to project her worry and fear, but he simply pat her controls and said it would be okay.
She could not stop him from falling.
She could not stop their bond from shattering to nothing more than jagged splinters.
But, she could do something.
The Doctor’s TARDIS was singular and she was determined and she found three moments in flux.
Moment Two: Now
Rose Tyler, currently unaware of any plans or manipulations, stood in the console room of the last TARDIS in the Universe. Her chest caught as she sobbed, unable to form more than a single coherent thought through the all encompassing grief.
They were gone. Gone. Locked away behind walls that could never be torn down. Walls she didn’t even have the first idea how to scale. Her mom, her best friend, her- Her stomach lurched.
The Doctor was- she was alone.
They were gone.
Over and over it spiraled through her mind. Another wrenching sob tore its way from her throat. The TARDIS wheezed in response and suddenly Rose needed to be touching the console. She had nothing else, neither of them did.
Her legs failed her when she reached the center of the room and she collapsed to the hard grating with her back against the console. It was warm, pulsing like a heartbeat behind her.
"I’m so sorry,” she choked out, “I c-couldn’t save him.” The lights, already dim in their shared grief, lowered further. Rose appreciated the gesture. Her head was killing her. It was the crying, she thought vaguely, she always got a headache when she cried.
“I-I don’t know what to do,” she whispered. It was hitting her all of a sudden.
He was gone and she had no idea how to fly the TARDIS. Even if she could, where would she go? Her mom was gone too and Mickey and there was no one else. Oh, she still had other mates, Shareen and the old crew. But, the idea of going back and working at the shop and having to pretend like she hadn’t just had her entire world torn away from her in a single afternoon. Her head and stomach protested in time with each other.
She couldn’t do it, she knew that. She couldn’t just pretend it was all okay and go back to her old life. A wave of exhaustion swept over her.
“I’m sorry,” she said again. She knew the TARDIS was alive, sometimes she thought she could get a sense of her emotions, especially recently. But, just then, all she could feel was crushing loneliness. She couldn’t tell what was the TARDIS from the gaping hole in her own heart. Without really thinking about it, Rose allowed her weary body to slide further towards the floor until she was curled up on her side. The TARDIS raised the temperature of the room.
“Thanks,” Rose whispered. Since she was laying on her side, the tears that still streamed from her eyes crossed the bridge of her nose before trailing into her hair. She sniffed and used one hand to ball up the hood of her jacket under her head while the other scrubbed uselessly at her eyes.
“I want him back,” she said, “I want my mum and Mickey and I want the Doctor back.”
The TARDIS did not respond, there was no response she could give. Eventually, unable to cry any more tears and her head pounding, Rose drifted off into a fitful sleep.
As she slept, the TARDIS, afraid for the first time in many, many years, began to look for gaps in the fabric of the Universe. She refused to be alone. It was all too big, too loud, without her Thief. They were meant to be together and she would not allow anything less.
She needed her Wolf and her Thief and she would rewrite the very fabric of the world to return him to herself.
She just needed time. It was lucky, she told herself, that she had all of it at her disposal.
Moment One: Before
Later, many many years later, the Doctor would reflect that everything might have gone much differently had they never landed on Krop Tor. Or, really, everything would have gone differently if he had never invited Rose to travel with him or realized how light she made the weight upon his shoulders or liked the way her hand felt in his or kissed her to save her or or or any number of other little nothings that all added up to one big something.
Everything would have gone differently if he was different and she was different and they were different together.
But, that could never be because she was Rose and he was the Doctor and he happened to like the way her hand fit in his.
He happened to like that quite a bit.
(He had also rather liked kissing her, though that was a secret he planned to take to his grave.)
Different worlds, different realities, all spinning out from each possible failed realization and only one world where he did invite Rose and he did realize she helped his grief and he did kiss her to save her. Only one world where he did all the right things at the right times.
Only one world where he fell and she did not and none of those right things mattered anyway.
He, for all his vaunted Time Lord senses, could not know any of that yet. He rarely looked at his own timeline, it was confusing at best, outright upsetting typically, and sometimes more than a little dangerous. So, he did not know that Krop Tor was to be one of his last adventures with Rose Tyler before he involuntarily left the Universe of the Time Lords behind.
So, they laughed as they exited the TARDIS and held hands as they explored and soon everything fell apart the way it always seemed to when they were around.
He faced the Devil. He stared it down and he talked, he was good at talking, it was one of the few things that always stayed the same; a big gob and a love of running, far and fast and free.
The Devil did not talk back. It growled, snarled, seethed out its rage but it did not talk.
And then, and this is the important bit, the Doctor realized he was glad Rose could not feel the fear curdling his gut. He was glad she was up top, no matter that she was in danger herself. He felt selfishly relieved that the dangers she faced was their usual sort of danger, all scared humans and possessed slaves and rumbling ground. He never wanted her to feel the bone deep terror, the absolute knowledge that this being, no matter what he might tell himself, was ancient and powerful and more than just a story.
This was the Devil. Oh, it maybe was not the Abrahamic Devil, in fact it very likely was not that one. But it ate at the Universe in the way the Devil should, malevolence and spite reaching out barbed tendril, catching on everything they touched. They twisted peaceful Ood into something terrible, caught men’s minds and made them puppets, made the Doctor afraid in a way he always told himself he could not be.
It was the Devil and he hated it and he was grateful Rose could not see it.
However, in what might be the only time this sentence will ever be uttered, facing down the Devil himself was not even close to the most important moment on Krop Tor.
No. The most important moment took place nearly eight hours earlier, just after the Doctor and Rose climbed into bed for the night.
They had been allotted a small berth with a single narrow bunk and a lavatory comprised of only a toilet and waterless shower. The Doctor spent the first few minutes searching around, poking at all the corners with his sonic. He discovered a UV sterilization unit set into the wall of the lavatory and rolled his eyes. He knew it wouldn’t be adopted by humans for a good few years yet, but surely even antibacterial gel was a better option than slowly irradiating one’s cancer-susceptible flesh? With a quick glance back at where his very human companion was standing and staring at the bunk, he directed the sonic to shift the wavelength of the UV towards one which would not harm her. Then, unable to find any other reason to remain in the lavatory and unsure why he even had the desire to do so, the Doctor returned to Rose’s side.
“Do you feel better?” Rose asked. Her voice sounded odd, he thought. It was the same tone she’d had earlier, when she told the Ood she used to have nothing else in her life besides being ordered about. He did not think he liked that tone very much.
“Hmm?” He asked, suddenly distracted by the bunk. It really was rather small. There was a single blanket folded at the end and one very flat pillow at the top. He resisted the urge to look at Rose.
“Do you feel better than you did earlier?” she asked, “You looked pretty, ah, upset when the TARDIS fell.”
Ah. Well, she wasn’t wrong. He was upset, the TARDIS was still there, still connected to him, but their bond was stretched. It felt frayed in a way that the relatively short distance between them should not have been able to do. The worn edges in his mind reached out, trying to reach her and the rest of his- He wrench himself away from the thought.
“Peachy keen,” he said and then winced, “Nope. That’s awful. I’m never saying that again, remind me never to say that again.”
She smiled at him. It was not her normal smile, with the peek of teeth and tongue, but it was more than he’d seen since the quake.
He scrubbed one hand through his hair, knowing he looked slightly mad but not minding. She liked when he looked slightly mad.
“Really,” he said, “It’s a silly phrase, it makes me sound like some kind of farmer or or or woodworker? I’m not really sure what sort of people say peachy keen if I’m being honest.”
Now Rose’s smile was bigger. She leaned over and shoved at his arm. “You know that’s not what I meant, Doctor.”
He pulled off his suit jacket and tossed it onto one of the protruding bulkheads along the back wall of the space.
“Left or right?” he asked.
He jerked his head towards the bed and was rewarded by her face turning a shade of crimson he had not previously realized was possible. He turned his head slightly away to hide his smile.
“Oh, ah, right? I guess,” she said. He nodded and toed off his shoes before tossing himself onto the left side of the little bunk. He hoped for a bounce and was disappointed; the bunk was hard as stone and equally as unforgiving. He scooted as far to the left as he could manage, allowing Rose the vast lion’s share of the space. He did not plan on actually sleeping, but he wanted to close his eyes and try to repair the damaged edges of his connection with the TARDIS and laying down helped with that.
After a moment he realized Rose had not moved.
“I don’t bite,” he said with a smile, “Or well, I don’t bite friends. Or, well, I don’t bite friends who haven’t asked me to-”
Rose held up her hand, stopping the stream of words that tumbled from him. Her blush had somehow managed to darken and he wondered what he’d said to make it worse. Just a common idiom from her time, right? He thought back over his words and a sudden wash of embarrassment swept over him. Oh, right. That was a thing people did. Often in bed as well.
He opened his mouth to apologize and promise not to say anything else like that but found himself unable to speak as Rose decided to take that moment to pull off her own jacket.
She wasn’t wearing anything more than a vest beneath the comfortable hoodie. He swallowed.
“Budge up,” she said. He scooted a few more inches over. She stared at the space for a moment before sighing heavily and crawling in beside him. He reached down and took up the blanket, shaking it open and spread it over them. The space was chilly, despite the constant flow of warm air, as the overtaxed systems tried to hold back the heat sink that was the vacuum. It was perfectly innocent to share a blanket, he reasoned, he could manipulate his body temperature to heat the smaller space and keep Rose warm.
Rose twisted and picked up the pillow. She looked between it and him. He grinned.
“You can have it Rose,” he said. He raised one arm and crooked it so it was propped up by the wall and he could use it as a pillow.
“Thanks,” she muttered. She scooted down and laid her head on the pillow. He raised the sonic and buzzed it once to turn the lights off. Then, assured that Rose could see nothing in the darkness, he allowed himself a moment to study her face. There were three new freckles on the bridge of her nose, he discovered, likely the result of the sunshine on one of their more recent trips. He delighted in them, tracing the little triangle over and over, memorizing them, adding them to his mental picture of her.
“What happens next?” Rose asked into the dark.
“What?” Next after what? Did she mean next as in right now? Here in this bed, under a shared blanke-
“If we can’t get the TARDIS back,” she clarified, “What’s next? Can you build another one?”
He shook his head, despite knowing she could not see it. “No,” he explained, “They were grown in a special place on my planet and well that’s not exactly possible anymore.”
She jerked her head in a little nod and his hearts suddenly hurt. She was trying so hard to not be terrified, he could feel her fear pressing against his barriers outweighed only by her determination that it would all be okay in the end.
“Well,” she said with false brightness, “It could be worse, this lot said they’d give us a lift.”
“And then what?” he really was wondering. He’d never lived any kind of settled life, or at least he hadn’t for a very long time. He wasn’t sure he even could be that person anymore. What if she said they find a house or jobs or- A worse thought occurred to him. What if she blamed him for all this? What if she wanted nothing to do with the man who had taken her from her home and then was stupid enough to lose the one ship that could take her back.
“We find a ship,” she said, “It wouldn’t be the TARDIS obviously. Nothing could be like her. But, we could find something small and fast and we could still explore. We could still be-” She paused for a moment and took a deep breath, “We could still be together.”
His breath caught. She didn’t blame him, or if she did she still liked being around him enough to want to keep living their life in whatever way they could.
“We could be, I don’t know, lorry drivers?”
That startled a laugh from him. “Truckers?” he asked, drawling out the word in an exaggerated American accent.
“Yeah,” she said, warming to the idea, “Space truckers. We could go to all the best planets and buy things and take them to all the far away ones where people never get nice bits.”
He looked up at the ceiling, “I promised Jackie I’d always take you back home.”
Rose turned onto her side, facing him directly. Her eyes were opened wide, clearly trying to see any part of his face.
“Everyone leaves home in the end,” she said. She sounded sad, but not like she was about to cry or anything terrible like that.
“Not to end up stuck here.” He couldn’t help but try and make her see how this was his fault. She should be blaming him.
“Yeah, but stuck with you, that’s not so bad.” He thought his hearts were maybe trying to escape though his throat.
“Yeah?” he croaked.
“Yes,” she said, her voice steady and sure. Oh, he loved her. Who else would take all this so beautifully? So kindly? He wanted desperately to take her face in his hands and kiss away all her worries. But, that was not allowed. So, instead he forced a massive smile, big enough he knew it would be audible in his voice and said;
“The Doctor and Rose Tyler, space truckers.” He laughed, “I think I like the sound of that.”
Then, feeling suddenly as if he might regenerate if he did not touch her, he reached out with his free arm and pulled her over to him. She came without protest, pulling the pillow with her so her head rested half on his chest and half on the artificial down. She was warm and heavy and for the first time since the TARDIS fell he felt like he could find his even keel again.
“I like the sound of that a lot, Rose,” he whispered. She raised one hand and felt about for a moment before patting the side of his face. He concentrated very hard on not turning to press a kiss to her palm. By the time the urge had passed, she had drifted off to sleep.
He had planned to focus on fixing his connection with the TARDIS, but found those thoughts were driven from his head by the way her breath came in little puffs against his chest and the tiny twitches of her fingertips against his ribs. The pillow was close enough now that he could free his other arm and, shifting very carefully, move so that he was using the corner opposite the one beneath Rose. His newly freed arm came down and brushed along her bare shoulder. She sighed and pressed closer to him.
This was a terrible idea. He’d never been very good at denying himself what he wanted. Or at least, not anything he wanted this badly.
He allowed the hand to stay on her arm.
The night passed quickly and the Doctor soon found the stress of the day catching up with him. Time Lords might not need to sleep as much as humans, but his mind was exhausted from trying to maintain its tenuous connection to the TARDIS and he soon drifted off.
The TARDIS, far below and weary both from her own ordeal and the crushing presence of an ancient mind against hers, saw her opportunity. Her pilot’s mind was open and vulnerable as he tried to find her and, better than she could have hoped, he was physically connected to Rose.
So, the TARDIS did something unforgivable. Then, knowing how grateful the Doctor would soon be that Rose could not feel his terror, she hid her actions away. Her pilot and her Wolf did not need to know what she had done, not yet.
It would have to be enough that she did it.
It had to be enough.
Moment Three: Very Long Ago and Very Far Away
If Donna Noble was being honest with herself, something she tried very hard not to do without at least a few martinis, she really did think all this was awfully fast. Of course, she’d been the one to insist that it happened this quickly, but well, you didn’t meet a bloke as fit as Lance every day did you? And he was so kind, so sweet. She loved the way his eyes crinkled when he listened to her stories about her day and her most recent feud with Nerys. She loved the way his hand, so much larger than her own, felt when he placed it on the back of her neck. She loved his voice (perfect for laughing) and his cheeks (perfect for kissing) and his collection of silk ties (perfect for grabbing as he passed by).
Donna loved him more than she loved anything else in her life; a great deal more than she loved herself (that was another truth she didn’t like to think about without the crutch of alcohol and friends).
So, when Nerys said she didn’t really understand why Lance was with someone like Donna (and just what did that mean anyway?), well, Donna acted. She started talking about how lovely winter weddings were and oh Lance, look at that ring? Isn’t it lovely? She dropped hints and, when that didn’t seem to be working, outright said she hoped to marry before she turned forty. Lance finally seemed to get the hint and their engagement lasted all of four weeks.
Now, as she waited for the music to begin for her walk down the aisle, Donna was thinking it really was awfully fast.
She loved Lance with all her heart. So, it would be fine, right? She didn’t need to have dated him for years because they both had jobs and lives and friends and they were adults who knew what they wanted and they wanted each other.
The music began.
She took a breath. This was it.
Even Nerys couldn’t ruin this for her. The jealous bint was probably about to have kittens out there, Donna thought with a smile. She checked that her bouquet was positioned correctly, took another deep breath and started walking.
The gathered guests stood, but Donna hardly noticed. All she could see was Lance and suddenly all of her doubts about the speed of things flew out the window.
Of course it happened quickly. They were meant to be. Just look at how he was smiling at her as she slowly walked past the first few pews. His eyes were crinkled in the corners, his smile tender and warm, his hands clasped before him to stop their shaking. The poor thing was clearly more nervous than she’d ever been. Donna sent him a reassuring smile.
She was passing Nerys now and resisted the urge to meet her frigid gaze. Jealousy was an ugly look on anyone she thought as magnanimously as she could. She was sure Nerys looked lovely otherwise.
She was almost halfway through the pews now and she started walking faster. Her fears had completely vanished and all she wanted was to say the I-Dos and push her new husband into bed.
Oh, they were going to have fun tonight. They’d fooled around some, but Lance was surprisingly shy about intimacy. Donna found it cute most of the time, but she was really looking forward to peeling his suit from him. Her smile turned wicked and, standing at the altar with his hands clasped and his eyes on hers, Lance visibly swallowed. So. Much. Fun.
Donna had plans. They involved making rather extensive use of the garter currently wrapped around her right thigh.
She was halfway up the aisle and suddenly her stomach was a little squirrely, not quite queasy, but definitely off. She glanced away from Lance and down at herself. She hadn’t eaten a large breakfast in anticipation of the nerves her mother had not stopped blabbing on about. The strange feeling was spreading up into her lungs and it was suddenly hard to breath.
“What the-” She barely managed to not finish the sentence (in deference to the ancient woman beside her who looked like one strong expletive might do her in).
She was glowing. Not the sort of bridal glow she’d been trying to achieve when she was having her make up done, actual real golden light was coming from her stomach.
“Lance!” She cried out. The word tumbled from her throat of the last of the breath in her lungs and then it felt like the queasiness entered her very atoms, shivering them apart. She thought she was probably screaming, but she had no ears to hear it and no mouth for the sounds to come from and no nothing at all.
Donna Noble, soon to be Bennett, collapsed into a riot of light and was ripped from the church.
Her bouquet hit the floor with a gentle thump, the only sound in the otherwise silent space.
The Doctor’s TARDIS was a singular thing with singular thoughts and she could only hope that she had done enough.
It had to be enough.
Chapter 3: Nature Abhors
Sorry for the delay! I was out of the country for the last while so my writing schedule got a bit off. The next chapter will be out in a few days (feat. Rose and Donna <3)
The Doctor | Pete’s World | Day 2
Sensation returned first, tiny ants crawling along his fingers and toes, their legs leaving behind pinpricks of bright light. It was not necessarily an unpleasant feeling and it was distracting enough. He wondered, briefly, what he needed distracting from, but his mind was blurry and he drifted away from the concern before it could fully realize itself. The ants continued making their way up his limbs and he begun to itch. He tried to move the fingers he knew he had, wanting to reach up and brush the ants from himself.
He realized he had ears as well as fingers and toes when he heard an indistinct voice say something above him. He thought he knew that voice, thought it was one he’d heard before, perhaps many times, but he could not find a name to associate with it.
The ants had reached his elbows (he had elbows!) and now the tips of his fingers had started to ache as the prickling sensation began to fade. His knuckles hurt he realized. The prickle was annoying, but the feeling that followed was downright painful, as if his bones were ever so slightly too large for the flesh that had been asked to constrain them. He tried again to move the fingers, hoping to ease the stiff, swollen feeling. The voice came again, it was clearer now and he thought of dark skin and worried eyebrows and a fierce loyalty like no other.
The speaker presumably had a mouth, maybe he did too? Maybe he could speak as well? He could feel his shoulders and hips now, but not a face or mouth. He focused on the words he wanted to say, dragging them up from the murky depths of his brain. The ants reached his neck and suddenly he was aware of how badly breathing hurt his throat. The air scraped across raw flesh, cool and harsh and he tried not to breathe for a moment, desperate to return to the gentle numbness. The words he had found slipped away in his distraction. The air tasted metallic but not like iron so he did not think his mouth was bleeding, despite the general discomfort. Oh! He did have a mouth, that was exciting. He tried to moisten his lips, running his tongue across them and mentally flinching away as he realized how split and sore they were.
“Mmrk?” he said and was inordinately pleased with himself. That was pretty good for a guy who couldn’t feel his torso or half his face.
There were hands on either side of his head now. The fingers were large and calloused and for some reason that was disappointing. Who did he expect that these hands were so clearly not right? He tried to raise one hand to pat the wrist of whoever was touching him, but found he could not. His wrist was tied to whatever he lay on. He jerked it and something jangled; plastic on plastic and his wrist was too warm because there was soft fabric trapped against it. Panic thrilled through him and he yanked again. The hands on his face shifted from lightly touching to gripping; the thumbs brushing his cheeks, one finger just brushing the top of each ear and the other three slipping into his hair. He had hair, he thought, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise and yet... He pulled on his wrists again. The hands gripped tighter. Though it was firm, it wasn’t a painful grip. In fact, he found himself leaning into it, his mind tentatively reaching out to connect with-
A ragged cry ripped its way from his raw throat and the eyes he’d forgotten he had flew open. The owner of the hands lurched away from him and even through his agony he missed the contact. His face felt cold, his mind empty, his heart afraid, his mind empty.
He couldn’t feel the TARDIS. It was not that the ship was simply very far away and their connection stretched to its absolute limit or even that she was being blocked by some outside force. The place in his mind where she had lived for the last eight hundred and seven years was just gone, excised was all the finality of a flame eating away at the gossamer strands of a spider’s web.
There was something else, something bigger wrong, but he could not focus on that past the panic of the TARDIS not. Being. There.
His chest was heaving, his newly acquired vision blurring and fading out around the edges and suddenly Mickey and his hands were back. Mickey gripped his face tightly and it was suddenly hard to meet his eyes. His head was shrieking void, a howling wasteland, bleeding, dripping-
“Doctor!” The world shook slightly and he realized Mickey was yelling at him. His eyes drug up from where they had drifted and met Mickey’s. Warm. Alive. He couldn’t feel the other man through the maelstrom in his mind but his eyes were brown and there were little flecks of amber just outside the pupil of the left one and that was real enough even without the brush of his mind.
He wanted to scream, wanted to shout his grief and pain to the Universe, but he managed to shove all that hurt back long enough to ask, “Mickey?”
“Oh, thank- Jackie, Pete! He’s awake!” The shout sent another spike of pain through the Doctor’s head and he groaned.
“Sorry,” Mickey said. He seemed to realize he was still holding the Doctor’s face because he grimaced and stepped back, releasing him. The Doctor leaned forward, trying to follow him, trying to maintain the contact for as long as possible. He felt set adrift without the steady anchor of the TARDIS at the back of his mind. Mickey’s hands fell to his side and the Doctor’s eyes followed them. A flash of red caught his gaze. His hands.
“Why am I handcuffed to a bed?” he asked. It wasn’t the first time he’d woken handcuffed to an unfamiliar bed, but typically he knew what had happened to leave him in that situation. Now, he tried to think back, to remember what might have happened to bring him to this place, but his mind recoiled from the memories and then Jackie Tyler was bustling into the room and filling up the space and he couldn’t think anymore anyway.
“Oh, Doctor!” Mickey leaned back to avoid being knocked aside as Jackie wrapped her arms around the Doctor. His hands twitched in their bonds, instinctively trying to rise and return the embrace. His newfound positive relationship with Jackie was still novel enough that, even in his confused, grieving state he had no desire to jeopardize it. The jerk of the cuffs stopped him and so he could only lean his head down to rest his forehead on her shoulder. The hug ended far too soon and he was once against set adrift as Jackie pulled away. She raised one hand and brushed a lock of hair from his forehead.
“Are you properly with us now?” She asked. “No more trying to bash the wall down with your bare hands?”
He looked at his hands again. The red. His knuckles were swollen and crisscrossed by jagged splits in the skin. When he focused he could tell that three knuckles were broken, two on his right hand, one on the left. There was dried blood caked on his fingers. It flaked off even as he looked, leaving a thin dusting on the pale blue blanket that covered the lower half of his body.
“What ha-?” he started to ask, but then Pete was walking into the room and he remembered.
The Daleks and the cybermen and Torchwood.
A wall of white slammed down in his mind. He reeled back with a silent cry.
Her name, her face, her mind-
He, he didn’t understand what was happening. That realization alone was terrifying. He always understood or if he didn’t he knew where to start finding out the answers.
(The TARDIS would tell him. She would guide him towards where he needed to be to find the answer. She would support him.)
(She was gone.)
They were all staring at him. Mickey had backed away a bit, looking distinctly uncomfortable and another thought occurred to the Doctor.
“We’re in Pete’s world,” he said. It was not a question. He thought, distantly, that he should be happy because that meant that the TARDIS was not dead. Just. She was just gone. He should be happy about that, but he couldn’t feel anything approaching that.
Pete nodded. “I caught you,” he said. He opened his mouth to say something else but seemed to think better of it because he closed it without speaking again.
“Rose isn’t.” The words hurt to say but he knew even before Jackie released a sudden sob and turned into Mickey’s open arms that he was right.
His head hurt but he forced his mind past the wall of pain to try and feel for the edges of the Void, hoping beyond hope that there was some small crack, some weakness he might exploit.
Opening his mind revealed just how empty it was and he had to choke back another cry. He wasn’t meant to be like this, he wasn’t meant to float adrift without connections.
“You tried to get back through the wall,” Pete said. He shifted to lean against the wall beside the door, his arms crossed in front of his chest. He nodded towards the Doctor’s hands.
“Why the-?” he rattled the cuffs. He wasn’t actually sure that he cared about the answer, nothing really mattered when compared to the TARDIS and Rose being trapped on the other side of an impassable wall.
Jackie released Mickey. “You went mad,” she said.
“Jacks,” Pete warned.
“No,” Jackie snapped, “He did! You tried to get through the wall and we couldn’t stop you and you kept waking up and trying to get back to it and-”
“Jackie,” Pete said again and this time she fell silent.
“We didn’t know what we could give you for those. Paracetamol or what,” Mickey said, “Rose knows all that and she’s...” He trailed off.
“Not here,” The Doctor breathed.
“Yeah.” For the first time in the entirety of their relationship, the Doctor thought he and Mickey were on the same page.
“Can you...” Mickey quickly released his hands. He immediately pulled them in to his chest, pulling his legs up as well. He wasn’t wearing his trainers and the feeling of bare feet on the sheets rankled. He wanted to go, to find the wall and throw himself against it, to rip open the space between the worlds.
He wanted the TARDIS, the only home he’d ever chosen for himself. He wanted her song to wrap around his mind, wordless and voiceless and meant only for him.
There were three other people in the room and not a single one of them felt real. It was like being in a room of ghosts, a feeling he was all too familiar with, really.
“Can I have a minute,” he asked very quietly. Mickey nodded and slipped from the room. Pete stepped away from the wall and moved towards the door before turning back to where Jackie still stood beside the bed.
“Jacks,” he said.
Jackie jerked and looked up. Her eyes were red-rimmed. “Oh,” she said, “You meant me too.” He nodded. She looked like Rose, smelled like Rose. They’d had christmas dinner together, laughed over paper crowns and burnt rolls. She was wearing pink.
He couldn’t- He couldn’t handle that right now.
Pete took Jackie’s hand and pulled her from the room.
The Doctor closed his eyes.
He wanted Rose.
Chapter 4: Faster Faster
A/N: I’m trying to be better about my Americanisms and I got so paranoid that at one point I was like ‘nightstand?! Bedside table?!’ and realized maybe I was being a tad silly.... Also, I just want to say that things are clearly rough for Rose right now, but they’ll start to change soon. I promise <3
Oh! The 'Days' counter is meant to mark the time that has passed either in Pete's world or on the TARDIS since Doomsday (obviously those won't line up).
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Donna | The TARDIS | Day 35
“ What the fuck.” There was no frail old woman to concern herself with and so Donna said exactly what she was thinking. There was no frail old woman because Donna was not where she had been. She was in the middle of what looked like a frenetic toddler’s idea of a science fiction set, surrounded by orange lights and spiky coral and a soft golden glow that emanated from the console in the center of the space. Donna tried not to look at that light because it did funny things to her stomach, like it was pulling on her.
She did not like it.
“Oi!” She shouted. Her voice echoed for a moment before dying away. “Is there anyone here?” she tried. Surely someone had organized all this, she wasn’t just kidnapped from her bleeding wedding by the Universe after all. Come to think of it, how was she kidnapped from her wedding at all? There hadn’t been anyone odd about and she didn’t notice any wires or funny tastes in the air or anything else that one might expect if they were to start glowing, black out for a mo’, and open their eyes standing in an apparently abandoned underwater villain’s lair. Well, she assumed underwater, what with the coral and all.
No one answered her. She scowled and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She could feel the seconds ticking away, by now she should have reached the altar. Her hands should have been warm because they were wrapped around Lance’s, her heart full as he gazed into her eyes. She allowed herself one watery sniff before advancing on the circular console in the center of the room.
“Fine,” she muttered, “Kidnap me and abandon me in a REALLY UGLY ROOM will you? These look important.” She jabbed one finger into the largest button she could see and peered out at the room in vindictive pleasure.
Nothing happened. She’d half expected alarms to start, the sound of boots on the metal floors as her captors realized she was free and angry, anything really.
The room was as quiet as before. There was a faint humming noise that seemed to settle into her bones, but it did not change even a bit.
She pressed another button. Another. She grabbed one of the levers and yanked as hard as she could. She spun the odd little dial that jutted out from the console and, when nothing happened and no one appeared, smacked the glass tube with the golden light. A jolt of electricity sang through her and she cried out, yanking her hand back.
“Fuck you, too,” she snapped at the console. She inspected her hand. It didn’t appear damaged but she could still feel the muscles twitching in response to the shock. She stepped away from the console. As she did so, her left heel caught in the grating and twisted. The heel snapped from her shoe and the sudden shift send her tumbling to the floor. There was the sound of ribbing fabric as she landed hard on her hands and knees.
“Why is this happening?” Donna asked as she shifted to sit back on her bum. She did not expect an answer and she did not receive one. She pulled off both shoes and threw them at the console. They hit the glass with a thump and tumbled to the ground.
Donna sighed. She could feel tears gathering at the corners of her eyes, but she absolutely refused to cry. She’d spent a lot of money on makeup and hair and she would not let whatever was happening right now ruin it. She wanted to look good for Lance, he was so kind, he deserved her looking good.
After a few moments spent feeling sorry for herself and picking at the scraped skin on her palms, she decided that she had well and truly missed the ceremony and that was that. She stood and began inspecting the space. There were a number of hallways to her right and a single door to the left. She stamped over to the door and pushed. It did not budge.
“Right,” she said, “That would have been too easy. If the door did what doors are supposed to do.” The door appeared unaffected by her sarcasm. She turned back to the hallways. There were three of them (though something at the back of her mind wanted to insist there had been four when she first looked, she ignored it, hallways did not just disappear after all) but only the middle one was lit.
“Right,” she said again, “Let’s see, I can choose either dark and spooky hallway one or dark and spooky hallway two or the nice well-lit hallway two. I think I’ll take hall number two, Monty.”
She approached the hallway, taking a moment to glare at the golden column in the center of the room as she passed. At the very edge of the room she hesitated. What if she found someone? What if she didn’t? She really wasn’t sure which option was worse.
“Hello?” She called. It had been at least a quarter hour since arriving here and her brash anger had fizzled without anyone to direct it towards. She received no response.
“Okay,” she told herself, “You can do this. It’s a bleeding hallway. Just start looking in doors. Maybe one of them leads out.” She hoped they weren’t all as securely locked at the one in the circular room.
She took a deep breath and stepped into the hall. She was more sure than ever that she’d been right and this was some kind of submarine, the walls curved out and away from the floor in the same way she thought a sub’s should and there were what looked like bulkheads every few yards.
The first section she stepped into contained only a single door. It was bright blue and had clearly been painted by an inexpert hand, the brushstrokes were visible and chaotic. A riot of tiny white flowers were painted across the bottom. Against her better judgement, Donna quite liked it, there was something sweet about the way the paint at the edges of the flowers dripped and ran; whoever had done it was clearly impatient and over-eager to be finished. Sure, wood was an odd choice for a submarine, but perhaps it was actually metal that had been treated to look like wood?
Donna approached the door. She reached for the old-fashioned brass handle before pausing. Perhaps she should knock? That seemed like the polite thing to do. The, the reality of her situation crashed back down on her and she rearranged her face into a snarl. Whoever was in this place had kidnapped her, she wasn’t about to follow common courtesy .
She opened the door. To her surprise it swung open without even a hint of the resistance the other door had presented. The room inside was... Donna leaned in, reluctant to cross the threshold into something so wildly impossible.
It was a garden. A garden with overgrown plants and oddly colored vegetables and, she blinked in an attempt to clear away the obvious hallucination, two suns in the sky above it. Even the air that wafted from the room smelled wrong in a way she could not put her finger on. Donna took a few rapid steps back and allowed the door to close. She wanted to escape, but she knew in her very bones that that room was not her way home. She hurried into the next section of hallway.
There were two doors here and, spurred on by the lingering disquiet from the impossible garden outside the first door, Donna quickly opened the door on her left. Unlike the first, this door was made of the same metal that formed the walls around her and creaked slightly as it moved. Donna shuddered. Nerys had forced her into seeing that new horror movie just last week and all Donna could picture was the strange, stretched face of the monster waiting in the shadows beyond the-
“Oh,” she laughed at herself. It was a bedroom. A perfectly ordinary bedroom with what looked like men’s vests and pants strewn about. The bed was unmade and expansive with a thick duvet in robin’s egg and a veritable mountain of pillows haphazardly covering the upper-half. Donna wasn’t really a details person, something Lance was always saying he liked about her, but she found her gaze caught by the pair of thick framed specs on the nightstand.
Kidnappers didn’t wear nerdy glasses. She might never have been kidnapped before, but she was sure of that fact. Perhaps there were other victims here? But why the luxurious bed? Why the unlocked door? Something within her yearned to be curled up in that bad, to bury her nose in the pillows and breath in the smell that seemed to permeate the space. She sucked in a sharp breath at those thoughts. What was that? They had seemed almost foreign. She certainly did not wish to be in any man’s bed besides Lance.
The desire to be back in the church, where her biggest problem was avoiding looking to smug as she passed Nerys, overwhelmed her.
She closed the door.
A quick peek in the other one showed her much the same; a bedroom, slightly larger than the first and in shades of pink and cream rather than brown and blue, with a comfortable looking bed and little signs of a happy life.
Donna swallowed heavily as she continued making her way down the hall. Each door was less helpful than the last; bedroom, bedroom, office, workshop, another office, storeroom. The only thing they all had in common was the lack of windows. She was beginning to fear that, despite the clear evidence of a huge crew, she was alone on this submarine.
She hoped she wasn’t underwater. That would be a nightmare.
Finally, she turned a corner and froze. Before her stretched the largest library she had ever seen. The shelves towered over her head and that bothered her. Why was that upsetting? She wracked her brain trying to come up with why that might be-
Oh, lord .
No submarine was that tall. It wasn’t possible. These shelves were at least fifteen feet tall and there was an entire second floor above that. Worse, the stacks stretched in front of her as far as she could see, fading into darkness after the length of a at least a football pitch. She took a few steps into the room and realized it also opened up to the right and left.
She was afraid. It wasn’t something she wanted to admit, but there was no one here- Lance wasn’t here and she was beginning to think she might not get back to him. None of those bedrooms had any people in them and she was starting to suspect someone has done something to them.
Then, she noticed a sound other than the low thrumming that had been there since she opened her eyes. Crackling, the sort of warm sound she associated with sitting outside with her grandpa and trying without success to roast the perfect marshmallow. There was a fire somewhere in the library and where there was a fire there was a person (or at least she hoped that was the case).
She made her way through the central aisle, looking down each row as she passed for the telltale flickering light. Finally, after about five minutes of searching she spotted it. Better than that, she could just see the edge of a foot propped up on the arm of a gingham settee.
“Hey!” She snarled, all of her earlier rage writhing back to the surface, “Hey, you!” She hitched her dress up and stalked across the space between herself and the little sitting area. The foot did not move.
“Oi, you! I demand you take me home right now ,” she snapped.
She rounded the edge of the space and froze in her tracks.
There was a girl curled up on the settee. Her head was pillowed on a pile of shiny black fabric and her limbs, save the one outstretched leg, were tucked as tightly as she could manage in to her chest.
“Hello?” Donna asked. The girl did not move. Donna took a few steps closer, shifting so the lift from the fire could hit the girl’s face.
She looked like she was maybe a few years older than half Donna’s age. Her hair had clearly been bleached blonde, but it was nearly halfway grown out. It had been pulled into a messy bun, but large chunks escaped to frame her exhausted features. Donna winced at the dark circles under her eyes and the way the skin stretched across her prominent cheekbones.
She looked wan and ill and Donna really, really didn’t want to be here anymore. Was this what she was going to look like? Was this what whoever had taken her did to people?
The girl’s eyes squeezed tighter. She mumbled something in her sleep and pulled the outstretched leg in. Donna wouldn’t know her from Adam on the street, but her heart clenched in her chest when she realized it was not clumped mascara on the girl’s lashes but teardrops. She was crying in her sleep and Donna couldn’t take it anymore.
She reached out and put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.
“Hey,” she said, “Hey, wake up.”
“Doctor?” The girl muttered. She sounded like home in a way Donna had not been expecting. A smile crossed her face for the first time since she’d been so unceremoniously stolen from her ceremony.
“No, sorry,” Donna said, “Do you need a doctor? Did they hurt you?” She dreaded to think what their captors might have done to reduce the girl to this state, but a doctor was probably in order.
There was a beat of silence before the girl seemed to process her words. She jerked upright, throwing Donna’s hand from her shoulder and lurching away, towards the opposite end of the settee.
“Woah, blondie!” Donna said, “I’m not going to hurt you! I’m not with them.” She spat the final word into the space between the two women.
“Who are you? How did you get here?” The girl asked. She looked up at the ceiling and then at Donna, “We haven’t landed. How did you get on our- on my ship?”
“What?” That certainly threw a wrench in all Donna’s idea about what was happening. “Who are you?”
The girl stood on shaking legs and Donna did not try to hold back a wince. She was unhealthily skinny with knobby knees and prominent collarbones that made Donna want to go find a plate of biscuits, sit her down, and not let her leave until they were gone.
“This is impossible,” the girl muttered, “You can’t be here. No one can be here. You can’t just appear in the TARDIS.” She raised one hand to her hair and yanked at the loose fringe. Donna noticed for the first time that she was gripping a slim, fabric covered album in her other hand.
“That’s not even a proper word,” Donna said without thinking. Then, she winced. It was true terdis or whatever was not a word, but it seemed insensitive to say given the girl’s obvious distress.
“That’s the ship’s name,” the girl snapped. “It’s a word and it’s her name!”
Donna held up her hands in surrender. The girl studied her for a long minute before she spoke again.
“Who are you?”
“Donna,” Donna said, “Noble. Or, well, it’s Noble right now. It’s meant to be Bennett. Except someone kidnapped me and brought me here.”
The girl seemed to realize that Donna was in a wedding dress. Her eyes raked across her, widening as they went. Then, they met Donna’s own and, oh, Donna did not like what she saw there.
“I’m sorry,” the girl whispered, “I can’t take you home.”
“What?” The room was slowly beginning to spin around her. Donna blindly groped for the edge of the settee for stability, “Why not? Oh, did Nerys pay you? This is just the sort of thing she’d do, that horrid cow. She’s paid you to keep me away long enough it ruins the wedding.”
The girl looked shocked. She held up her free hand, “No, no, I don’t know any Nerys and I wasn’t paid to take you.” She snorted, “I haven’t left this spot in,” she paused and looked at the ceiling again, “Oh, wow, uh, I haven’t left here in nearly twenty hours. I promise I didn’t kidnap you.”
“Then why won't you take me home?”
She swallowed and looked away, “I can’t. I want to, I swear! I would love to take you back to the minute you were taken and let you get married. What’s his name?”
“Lance,” Donna said. She knew she sounded like a sap when she said it, but well, it was Lance.
The girl nodded, “I’d love to take you back to Lance. You can’t know how much I’d love to do that. But, I can’t fly this ship.”
She sighed. “It’s a ship. A, uh, a spaceship and I can’t fly it.”
“Pull the other one, blondie.”
That elicited the tiniest of grins from the girl. “I’m not lying. Come on.” She gestured for Donna to follow and started out of the room. After a few steps she paused and turned back. She scooped up the shiny fabric and shook it out to reveal a beat up old leather jacket. She slipped it on. It was far too large for her, but Donna thought it would probably fit whoever wore the vests in the first room she’d looked into.
The girl led Donna back down the hallway and into the round room. Despite how her legs had shaken she moved with the casual confidence of someone in their own home. Nothing about this place made sense, Donna decided, it was all just coral covered madness.
The girl paused by the door Donna had failed to open when she first arrived. She took a deep breath and, with a glance back at the glowing golden column, pushed on the doors.
They opened without a hitch. Donna hurried across to join her. This was it, she was going to be able to escape, to go back to Lance and-
There were stars outside. Not just above, but below and in front and there was a huge gas cloud and oh oh... Donna couldn’t breathe.
When she came back to herself she was sitting on the edge of the doorway with her feet dangling into empty space and the girl beside her.
“I’m Rose by the way,” the girl said, “I didn’t say it before.”
“Pleasure,” Donna murmured. “Is that really, you know?”
“Outer space? Yeah.”
She saw Rose nod out of the corner of her eye.
“Why can’t you fly your own ship?” Donna asked.
Rose sighed. She shifted and pulled her hand inside the over-long sleeves of the leather jacket.
“She’s not mine really,” she said, “Or she wasn’t mine. I lost him, the Doctor that is. The TARDIS is his.”
“The Doctor?” That was the second time Rose had mentioned a doctor.
The younger woman snorted, “Yeah, he’s my friend. We travelled together and a few weeks ago we got mixed up in a bad situation.” her voice broke on the final word. “Anyway, he’s alive, I know he is. The thing is, he can’t come home and I accidentally sent the TARDIS into the Vortex and then she settled here. But, I can’t fly her, he never got the chance to teach me how.”
The grief in her voice still Donna’s own harsh inclinations. She wanted to rant and rave and demand to be taken home, but she knew that wasn’t going to get her anything and might just make the sad woman beside her sadder. She found she didn’t want that.
“You really didn’t mean to take me?”
Rose shook her head. “I promise.” She laughed, though it wasn’t really a pleasant sound, “I wouldn’t know how to even if I wanted to grab a random bride from, oh I didn’t ask. Are you from Earth?”
“Is that an option?”
Another tiny smile. “Around here, yeah. But, I’m from London myself.”
“Local girl, yeah? Me too. Well, Chiswick, but close enough I think given well,” she gestured to the wide expanse of stars before them.
“Yeah,” Rose said, “Close enough.”
Note about ages: I am used Catharine’s Tate’s age at the time of ‘the Runaway Bride’ for Donna (so 38). Rose is harder, obviously she was 19 when she met 9, but I can’t find any canonical statement about how long she spent with the Doctor between ‘Rose’ and ‘Doomsday’. So, I’m going to call it 3 years and say she’s 22. I am perfectly willing to change this if anyone knows the actual time (or can direct me to a resource?)
Chapter 5: Call Home
Rose and Donna seek a solution to their current predicament. The Doctor tries to bottle time and gets a pointed reminder about his situation.
One more chapter of set up style stuff and then we're jumping into their first adventure!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Donna | The TARDIS | Day 38
“How are we eating?” Donna asked. She poked the sunny side up eggs with a look of extreme skepticism. “Are these some kind of irradiated space eggs? Am I gonna grow antennae or turn green or something?”
Nothing save for the silence she was beginning to grow accustomed to greeted her. She looked up at the young woman seated across the table and sighed. Rose hadn’t moved to touch her own eggs, in fact, she hadn’t moved at all since collapsing into the chair nearly fifteen minutes earlier. This was all getting a bit ridiculous, Donna thought, here they were floating around a nebula in a freaking spaceship and the girl was moping about. Sure, Donna knew that Rose had lost someone recently, but well, so had Donna in a way and she wasn’t half-starving herself or spending all day sleeping. Besides, Rose said the Doctor was safe and alive and really, shouldn’t that mean she could just go get him? It wasn’t as if she’d missed her own bleeding wedding or anything. She sighed again and attempted to reel in her own bitterness, it wouldn’t help anything and it really wasn’t fair.
“Rose?” She prodded the other woman with her bare foot. Rose jolted and looked up from where she had been trying to find the answers to the meaning of life in her possibly-irradiated-eggs.
“What?” She asked, “Sorry, did I drift off again?” She looked genuinely apologetic and that was the real rub of it all. Donna liked Rose. For all that something on her weird spaceship had stolen Donna out of her life and was keeping her here away from Lance and everything she’d ever wanted, well, she really couldn’t say that she regretted it? Not that it was her choice to regret, but she was happy that she’d met Rose. There were these little flashes of who Donna thought she was probably supposed to be, a little quirk of the lips or the way she squinted her eyes when Donna started yelling that spoke to a wicked sense of humor buried beneath all her layers of grief.
“Yeah,” Donna said. She opened her mouth to keep complaining, it was lonely up here after all and it was worse when the one person she had to talk to keep vanishing even when she was physically there. Then, she saw the way Rose’s shoulders were slumped and how she prodded at her plate listlessly. So, instead of what she might have said normally, Donna simply smiled and said, “Are these eggs gonna turn me into a Martian?”
That startled something approaching a laugh from Rose and Donna felt an unfamiliar sort of pride rise in her chest.
“No, they’re regular old Earth eggs,” Rose said. The laugh was long gone, but she was sitting up slightly straighter. Her eyes caught Donna’s for the first time since she stumbled into the little kitchen that morning. “The Doctor,” she paused and swallowed a few times before continuing, “He tried to serve me the horrible blue eggs just after I started traveling with him. I about hooked it right on the table and he was just lost.”
“He sounds a bit daft,” Donna said and immediately winced, hoping that wasn’t insensitive. She had a hard time telling when she was being rude sometimes.
But, Rose only nodded. “He is,” she said, “Told me later, after he’d stopped hiding in the library, that he’d forgotten earth eggs aren’t blue.”
Donna’s eyes widened and she couldn’t stop the sharp laugh that escaped. “More than a bit daft then,” she said and now Rose’s neutral look turned slightly amused.
“Yeah,” she said, sounding fond and lost all at once. They lapsed back into silence, though it was lighter now than it had been.
The eggs, no matter what planet they had come from, really were delicious, Donna decided. Better than that was the fact that Rose was actually eating them. Of course, unlike Donna she had eggs and eggs alone on her plate, no toast or fruit or anything else, but something was better than the last few mornings at least.
After their plates were cleared and left in the sink where Rose claimed ‘the ship would take care of them’, Donna found herself once more at loose ends. Rose tended to vanish between meals, turning up sporadically in the main room or the library but otherwise nowhere to be found. She was determined that that would not be the case today. If she was going to be stuck about as far away as possible from Lance, she was going to be entertained dammit.
“Rose,” she said when the other woman started to beat a quick retreat, “Wait up.”
“What?” Rose asked. She was hugging her arms around herself, the brief flash of personality from the breakfast table having now retreated far beneath the surface.
“Look,” Donna said, “I’m not any happier about any of this than you are, but couldn’t we try something? How bad would it be to just start pressing buttons in there? Surely ending up somewhere is better than just floating here until we run out of food and die.”
“We won’t run out of food,” Rose said. She wouldn’t meet Donna’s eyes. “The TARDIS keeps all that stocked up for us.”
Donna threw up her hands. “That’s not the point!” She was past being gentle here, not with Rose being so deliberately dense. “The point is I’m not planning on spending my life here with you! I want to go back to my Lance and my life and I’m sorry you lost your man, I really am, but there has got to be someone else we can call for help!” Her voice rose higher and higher as she spoke and by the end she was yelling without ever really having set out to do so.
Rose stared at her.
“What?” she breathed.
Donna sighed gustily. Her hands had found their way to her hips as she spoke and she tried to relax her pose into something less confrontational.
“I said, I’m sorry you lost your man, but-”
Rose shook her head. “No, no, he wasn’t- I mean we weren’t- We weren’t like that,” she stumbled over the words. Donna opened her mouth to interject because no one talked about someone the way she talked about the Doctor who wasn’t at least involved but Rose kept talking. “I meant the other bit.”
“What? About someone else? Well, yeah,” Donna said, “I mean surely this ship isn’t that special? I know you said it’s a she or whatever but it’s not the only one right?”
Rose turned on her heel and started towards the big circular room Donna had first appeared in. “It is a she,” she called over her shoulder, “She’s called the TARDIS and yeah, she is the only one.”
Donna stood and watched her go, shocked by the sudden vitality she displayed. Then, she shook herself and followed at a walk, she wasn’t about to jog barefoot on these terrible floors, that was just asking for a scraped knee or broken toe, really. When she reached the room, she watched as Rose yanked on the little television screen that hung from the side of the central column.
“What are you doing?”
Rose looked up at her with wild eyes, she didn’t look happy, but she looked alive and that was enough for Donna to decide her concerns were all that important just then. Not if going along with whatever this was meant Rose kept looking like that. So, instead of waiting for an answer she shook her head and said, “No wait, never mind, how can I help?”
And Rose smiled. It was only a flash but it was there and Donna knew she’d made the right decision. That same warm glow she’d felt in the kitchen over their eggs filled her chest.
“Grab this lever and be ready to pull when I tell you,” Rose said indicating a rusty metal level just to her left. “Oh, and press that button and hold it down.”
Donna did as she was told. The atmosphere in the room crackled and suddenly she was giggling. This was all so mad, it had been days and she still couldn’t quite grasp where she was or that this was her life for the moment. Lord, Lance was going to think she’d gone barmy when she tried to tell him about it all.
Rose watched her with an all-too-knowing gaze.
“Alright?” she asked. Donna nodded through her giggles and Rose accepted it. “Right,” she said.
“What are we doing?” Donna asked again, suddenly ravenously curious about what exactly the column and the telly could do.
“I don’t know how to fly the TARDIS,” Rose said slowly, “He didn’t teach me and now he’s gone and even though she talks to me sometimes you need more than that to fly her.”
Oh, oh there was so much there that Donna had questions about, but Rose was still speaking.
“But, you were right,” Rose said, her words starting to speed up, tripping over each other, “I can call someone. I’m not sure where he is,” she barked an unpleasant sort of laugh, “I’m not actually even sure when he is.”
Donna was rapidly reaching the limit of things she could set aside for later. But, she could add that to the pile. Implied time travel. Great. Great. That was a normal thing to think about. She concentrated on the button under her finger until the desire to start shouting and not stop faded away.
“But the ship,” she swallowed and switched terms. Who knew how long this was all going to take, she should probably at least try to keep Rose on her good side. “The TARDIS can reach him?”
Rose nodded, “She can reach anyone. I could call my-” She suddenly cut herself off and the light that had filled her features faded away. “Yeah, it can reach him.”
The complete lack of emotion in her voice was so jarring that Donna couldn't think of anything else to say before Rose was wrapped up in pressing a series of buttons and yanking on levers surrounding the telly. It sparked to life with a crackle of static. After a moment Rose reached out and smacked the side three times, paused a moment, and then once more.
“R- zz-ii?” A low voice fought its way through the interference. Rose hit the screen again.
“Pull the lever,” she told Donna. Donna did it. Then, she was free to switch which hand was holding the button down and shift over to be able to see the screen. There was a faint outline sketched in the static, broad shoulders and a vaguely humanish head. Even as she watched the image sharpened and soon there was a startling handsome human man grinning out at them. He appeared to be in a dark basement of some sort, with dark shadows cast across his face and visible cobwebs in his hair.
“Rosie!” He greeted, “And person I don’t know! Unless...? No! You didn’t , you old cad! Oh, I have to know everything. What’s it like?”
“What’s what like?” Donna had no idea what the hell he was talking about, but she wasn’t sure she liked the way his smile canted towards a leer.
“Jack,” Rose interrupted, her voice dull, “This is Donna.”
The man, who Donna supposed was called Jack, froze. He leaned towards whatever was capturing his image, narrowing his eyes and pressing his lips tightly together as his did so.
“Rose, what’s happened?” It was practically a growl.
And then something terrible happened. Rose sniffed. She reached up and scrubbed at her eyes, clearly trying to wipe away the tears before they fell. Donna looked away. She knew Rose was sad, that she was grieving, but she hadn’t cried in front of Donna before and now the older woman had no idea what she should be doing. She raised the hand not currently holding down the button and reached towards Rose’s shoulder. Then, it occurred to her that she probably wouldn’t want comfort from some random woman and she lowered the hand back to her side.
“Rosie?” Now Jack sounded scared.
“He’s gone,” Rose choked out.
Jack sucked in a sharp breath. He shook his head, “He’s not.” It was clearly a protest, not a refutation and Donna’s gut ached for them both. She felt almost nauseous with it. Clearly the mysterious Doctor had meant a lot to the both of them.
Rose nodded wordlessly.
“Right,” Jack nodded. “Where are you? Wait, one sec, don’t tell me yet. Ianto! Get your ass in here!”
While he waited for the person he called, he looked at Rose seriously, scanning every bit of her he could see.
"Are you hurt?" He asked. She shook her head and he sighed. The camera shifted a bit as he ran a hand through his hair, fluffing it into greater disorder. Then, he looked to the side.
"Ianto, hey. Meet Rose Tyler and her friend whose name I did not ask about."
"Donna Noble soon to be Bennett," Donna said only a little tartly. The second man was just as handsome as the first and she began to wonder if everyone associated with Rose was an attractive young man.
Ianto leaned further into the view. He waved at the both with a smile, "Hello," he said, "I've heard so much about you Ms. Tyler." His accent was a breath of home that Donna hadn’t realized she needed. Sure, Wales was awfully far off from London, but it was the Isles and she had to swallow back a sudden rush of tears of her own. "Where’s the-"
"Later," Jack said, cutting the younger man off. “Now, Rose, where are you?”
“I don’t know,” Rose admitted. She sounded unsure and more than a little lost, “She got me to the Vortex and then back out, but we’re floating near a nebula and I can’t read the screen to know which one.”
Jack nodded, he shared a glance with Ianto who looked thoughtful.
“Can you and-?”
Ianto’s nod was sure, “Yes. Ms. Tyler, I need you to keep the call open for as long as you’re able. We’ll get Jack to you.
“Just a bit longer, Rosie,” Jack said with a charming smile and despite her own frustration and confusion, Donna found herself wanting to smile back. He was magnetic in a way she’d never thought any man besides Lance could be. “I promise.”
Ianto tilted his head slightly towards Jack’s, his ear just barely brushing against the other man’s. “Torchwood is on the case,” he said.
And Rose reeled back, her hands rising to cover her mouth. “No,” she whispered, “No no no.”
Jack seemed to realize exactly what had just happened.
“Rosie, it’s not what you think!” He said desperately, his face suddenly very close to the camera. “I promise you, it’s okay.” But, Rose was not responding. She’d collapsed against the rail that surrounded the raised section in the center of the room, her breath coming in great heaving gasps. He turned to Donna.
“I will be there as soon as I can,” he promised. Rose choked out a wordless sob, shoved herself away from the rail, and left the room without a backwards glance. He watched her go, waiting to speak until she was entirely gone. “You take care of her. Get her to the library or the garden, anywhere but the console room really. Try and make her eat something.”
Donna nodded. She could do that. “Alright,” she said. She was the best temp in Chiswick. She could keep one distraught young woman alive for a few more hours. She looked to the dim hallway Rose had gone down.
“No bananas!” Jack said suddenly. Donna jumped and he smiled apologetically. “Sorry, it’s just, well, he liked them and I don’t think-” He cleared his throat, “Anyway, just be there for her and I’ll get to you both.”
“You do that,” Donna said. She squared her shoulders and then looked down at the hand still holding the button. “Wait, do you know if I can let go of this and the call still work? I can’t exactly go after her if I have to hold it, can I?”
A sad smile crossed Jack’s expressive face. “Is it a large green button with a funny squiggly sort of thing in the middle?”
“Yeah,” Donna said, “Like a snake with too many legs, or a badly drawn ant?”
“You never needed to hold it,” Jack chuckled, “The Doctor liked to make people do it as a joke. There’s no way Rose would have known it wasn’t needed.”
Donna pulled her hand back and held it with the other, trying to massage some feeling back into it. From everything she was hearing, she really wasn’t sure she would have liked the Doctor. But, that was a moot point wasn’t it? They were never going to meet and she would never get to know anything about him aside from the little tidbits the people who had loved him dropped. The idea made her unaccountably sad in a way she did not understand. Why should she be sad to never know a man she’d never heard of before being kidnapped from her wedding? It made no sense. But then, nothing in her life had made sense for a bit so she supposed this was just par. The sadness in her gut surged and she had to hold back a few sniffles of her own.
“I know this is hard,” Jack said softly, “How long had you traveled with them before he, uh, went?”
Donna shook her head. “It’s not like that. I never even met the bloke,” she said, “I was supposed to be getting married. I’d made it halfway down the aisle and the next thing I know here I am and there’s a depressed blonde on the couch and we can’t leave because we’re in flipping space and, and-” She ran out of words. “I just want to go home,” she whispered.
Jack’s expression was very complicated. “Okay,” he said, “Well figure that out too. I have a device that will let me come to you. Just leave the call open and go take care of Rose. The TARDIS will let me know where you are when I arrive.”
Donna stopped massaging her hand. “Sure,” she said, “I guess I’ll be seeing you soon, pretty boy.”
That startled a laugh from him and his ever-present smile was a touch warmer, “I look forward to it Ms. Noble-soon-to-be-Bennett.” He glanced to the side. “Ianto’s calling. Soon,” and with that promise he clicked something on his screen and stepped away.
“Yeah,” Donna said to the empty room where he had stood, “Soon.” The thing was, she really wasn’t sure that soon was soon enough for everything she’d left behind.
She stood in the room for a few more moments, taking deep breaths and trying to calm her frazzled nerves. Then, she adjusted the robe she’d found that morning in the bathroom of the room she was using and left the room in search of Rose. She’d be damned if she was going to fail at this, not when help was so close.
The Doctor | Pete’s World | Days 3 through 79
He felt like time was slipping past him faster than he could grasp it, little tendrils that twisted and twined around him, yanking him forward and forward and he couldn’t coordinate his feet quick enough to control any of it. He stretched his fingers out, trying to snag even a bare moment to think, but the seconds brushed against him and recoiled, darting away before he could get a grip.
So many seconds lost forever.
It’s the third day in this new universe and he’s trying to get out of the hospital bed because if he doesn’t go look at the wall right now he’s going to lose his mind and if he looks at it, he’s going to lose his mind and that’s alright because he can’t stand the silence anymore. Mickey is always there, a solid pillar at his side that he uses as an anchor. He hadn’t known Mickey long before he left their original universe, but his mind is the most familiar thing around most of the time. Jackie would be better, Jackie is better, but she can’t stand to look at him and he can’t stand for her to look at him and Mickey is better. Mickey is safer. Rassilon his head hurts so badly.
“Come on, mate,” Mickey whispers and his voice is a balm, a cool glass slid between the Doctor and the howling emptiness.
“Mickey,” he gasps against the way time wants to steal the breath from his lungs. It’s all too fast, so fast, he almost loses himself in the howling again, but Mickey’s hands are there and his mind is open and there, in his mind, time is passing at the correct pace and the Doctor can breath again.
It’s the fifteenth day and he finds himself waking in a small bed at the Tyler mansion. He’s protested, fought, argued, but there is no stopping Jackie Tyler when she wants something and she’d wanted him away from ‘that damn wall’ and so here he is. They are almost far enough away now that he can't feel it, can’t feel the roughness of the scar tissue left behind by the gaping wound in the fabric of the world. He drags himself downstairs, hair wild and eyes wilder. He’s not sleeping, the night passes too quickly and he’s still a Time Lord, still needing of less sleep than a human. They gathered around the table each morning, Mickey and Jackie and Pete and the ghost of Rose who won’t leave him be. Sometimes he manages to say a few words at breakfast, though he mostly feels like he’s ten steps behind everyone else, constantly struggling to process the noises that come from their mouths quickly enough to formulate an answer before they’ve moved on. They’re always moving on, faster, faster, faster- He drinks the banana-peanut butter smoothie Jackie shoves into his hand each morning. It’s the only thing he can keep down these days, his stomach far too sensitive for anything more substantial.
It’s the thirty-third day and he’s going mad in another way. He needs a job, needs to move and think and do something beside sit in silence and count the too-fast seconds as they leave him behind. He’d figured it out now. Time passes faster in this universe and that shouldn’t be a problem except he’d looked into the Untempered Schism and it was in him and it can’t reconcile itself with any flow of time that was not native to itself. He’s out of sync and always will be. Knowing the reason helps ease the sensation of losing time a bit but nothing helps the headaches or the gnawing loneliness or the need to be surrounded by people as often as he’s able. He hates it, hates the loss of his independence. But, he hates being alone more because when he’s alone he forgets to not count the seconds and the world he cannot sense fades away and he’s trapped alone (alone alone oh stars he’s so alone) in his head. So, he talks to Mickey and Pete about work and by the end of the week he had a lab and a small team of assistants all his own.
It’s day fifty-two and the assistants are called Becca-Lynn and Anil and they’re so very human. It’s almost charming except he’s just so tired all the time. They try to follow the way his logic leaps around the lab, gamely working to write it all down and make it real in a way he’s struggling to do. They mostly get it right and they’re so proud when he tells them they’ve managed it that all he can see in Becca-Lynn is the way Rose’s eyes crinkle in the corners when she smiled at him and how Anil types the same way she does (their thumbs stubbornly refuse to even approach a logical position for efficient typing and he can’t bring himself to try and correct the man). They understand that there are some days he needs them to be quiet and some days he needs them to not stop talking and he finds he doesn’t mind how quickly he can feel the days of their lives ticking by.
It’s day sixty-seven and Mickey is dragging him from the lab with an exasperated smile and a nod to Becca-Lynn and Anil. The Doctor suspects they called Mickey and told on him. Sure, he hadn’t left Torchwood for nearly a week, but it’s fine! They had the wreckage of that zygon ship and he’s actually excited about something for the first time since- since Rose and he’s afraid if he stops he’ll lose that feeling and it’ll never come back. So he protests and he whines and he resorts to saying some rather rude things and Mickey never stops smiling. In fact, the Doctor thinks with a scowl of his own, the damn human seems almost pleased.
“What?” he finally snaps when he sees yet another shared glance between the three. He twirls his sonic, his last piece of home, between his fingers. He can’t stop moving these days, the time that rushes past him leaves him feeling fidgety and flighty and he fills the need to run away and never stop with constant motion.
Mickey’s grin doesn’t fade. “It’s just good,” he says, clapping one hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, “Seeing you like this. Like you were back home, I think.”
He ponders that. Is this what he was like before? He doesn’t think so, doesn’t think he was like this, like a live wire exposed the world and ready to shriek to life at the slightest provocation. But, he also feels more aware than he has in weeks so he doesn’t say anything. Instead he sniffs as haughtily as he can manage and stalks from the room. He hears Mickey murmur a few words to the others before he follows.
“Come on, Time Man,” he says, “Jackie found a new pub and she refuses to go until someone checks it out and tests the chips. Says she doesn’t want to waste her time if they’re terrible.”
“And of course we can waste our time,” the Doctor mutters. He feels like he’s always wasting time. It goes so quickly, the humans here age before his eyes, their years rotting away while he struggles to catch up. At least Mickey and Jackie haven’t yet adapted to that aspect of their new world, they’re still aging at their native rate. He dreads the morning when he comes down stairs and they’ve joined the rest of the accelerated people that surround him.
“Of course,” Mickey says and so they do.
The chips are delicious. The Doctor finds himself turning to see what Rose thinks of them, jokes and flirtations and little comments all on the tip of his tongue before the curdle and rot and he remembers. The chips are delicious and each bite turns to ash in his mouth.
Day seventy-nine dawns bright and clear and the Doctor wakes with a knife in his eye. It’s not physical, but he has to muffle the shout of agony in his pillow just the same. He’s been getting a handle on the way time passes here, it’s still foreign and he’ll never be comfortable with it, but the last few days he’s felt like he can at least ride the crest of the wave rather than struggling to duck under it. Now, with the jabbing pain grinding away at his restraint he can barely remember where he is. There’s no chance of standing, much less talking or moving or being around people. So, he groans and rolls over and tries to fall back asleep. He’s already slept six hours, but he’s also afraid to take any painkillers in this world without extensive testing and he keeps forgetting to do any of that. Sleep will have to do to control the pain.
The knife shifts, sliding deeper into his mind and brushing up against the empty place where the TARDIS had lived for the last eight-hundred years. Against his will a whimper escapes. He clutches the pillow tighter.
And then, oh, then, the world explodes around him. He’s still in the bed, still curled around himself in a desperate attempt to ease the pain. But, he’s also on the grating of the TARDIS, listening as garbled voices talk around him. He feels the faintest breath of his beloved ship touch him and then it’s all gone again. Gone. Gone and he’s still alone, was always alone, but now he’s hallucinating precious seconds of comfort and he doesn't think he’s going to last much longer.
The knife twists, the empty place surges, his breath staggers.
He screams into the pillow.
- Rose and Jack have a nice long chat, they both have a lot to tell the other after all. Meanwhile, Donna gets to bond with someone who gets just how mad this all is.
- The Doctor hatches a plan. It's, uh, ill-advised at best.
- On Earth, Martha starts her rotation at the hospital. She's nervous but excited. If the weather's good, maybe she'll pop out to the park for lunch.