AUTHOR: Laura H
FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI, CiN special and kinda sorta Doomsday
DISCLAIMER: See you in court RTD!!
Cold, blue light bathed the room, which was at once, small and orderly, yet vast as time itself. The figure laboured diligently over his terminal while his associate looked on, occasionally glancing at the screens to check the progress of their efforts.
The first figure hit a key and watched as the status bar gradually filled. When the words ’DOWNLOAD COMPLETE’ flashed on the monitor, he turned and ejected a disc from the panel behind him. The disc shimmered, almost transparent, as he placed it in a small case and labelled it. Then he walked over to a wall covered with filing cabinets, which may, or may not, have been there a second ago. Long fingers pulled open a drawer and slid the case inside. The drawer closed with a click, its outline glowing briefly, before it vanished once more. Then he walked back to his terminal and the monitor, where the status bar had returned to zero.
“How many more?”
The terminal operator didn’t pause in his work, merely replied “How many grains of sand on the desert moon of Pelios?”
“Five hundred and thirty six trillion, nine hundred and fifty seven to the power fifty three.”
“You are being literal.”
“Is there any other way to be?”
“I was making a point.”
“You were using an image.” He turned to where his colleague sat at the console. “You should be more careful.”
The figure, turned, chagrined, and carried on.
“It will be finished as soon as she is gone from his head entirely. And that will be soon enough.”
The status bar had begun filling again.
Rose blinked the sleep from her eyes as the fading rays of the winter sun forced their way through the crack in her bedroom curtains and sighed. One of the things she hated about this time of year was that it got so dark so early and, when the shadows started to lengthen each day at around 3pm, she always felt so sad, like the sun was giving up without a fight.
She had lain here in the hours since he left, arguing with herself over whether she should get up put her shoes on and go find him to ask what the hell his problem was. Or whether she should just lie exactly where she was, pull the duvet up over her head and sleep until such a time had passed that she wouldn’t remember the Doctor or the TARDIS or the million and one thoughts that buzzed through her head when she was with him. It would serve him right if she did exactly that.
The decision had been made for her, however, when her body was racked with painful spasms as the tugging sensation seized her once more. Jackie had held her hair as she wretched into the toilet, over and over, until her throat was raw and bitter and her face shone with sweat. Then her mum had led her into her bedroom and lain next to her under the yellow, daisy covered quilt and stroked the back of her hand, telling her this was how she used to get her to go to sleep when she was a little girl.
And so Rose had closed her eyes, forcing heavy breaths in and out of mouth, making her chest rise and fall, slowly and steadily, until her mum thought she was sleeping. When she felt the weight shift from the bed and heard the door snick closed, she had sat up cuddling tight into her hot water bottle, with the fuzzy Bagpuss cover, thought about how he had left and tried not to cry. She had needed him and he had just left without even telling her why. Then she had reached out and swiped the glass of water from her bedside cabinet, knocking it clear across the room, where it bounced on the carpet but didn’t break. She cursed under her breath, muttering how she couldn’t even break a glass properly.
After that she had lain down and slept and dreamt of flight and being caught in the blast of suns exploding.
Now, fully awake again, Rose turned and stared at the ceiling, trying to decide whether to get up and eat something, maybe some cornflakes or even a bacon sandwich. It was strange that despite her earlier vomiting she still felt hungry. Surely if it really was food poisoning or some stomach bug she would still be feeling it. Surely her stomach shouldn’t be growling so much or her mouth watering at the smell drifting in from the kitchen, where her mum was cooking dinner.
But though she didn’t want to admit it and couldn’t have put her fears into words even if she wanted to, Rose knew that this was no simple stomach upset. She had been sick before, through various hangovers, stomach flues and once, when she was twelve, a really bad case of gastroenteritis. This, however, felt like nothing she had ever experienced. Each time the sensation gripped her it had felt like she was being sucked into a dream, like she was an observer and not really the one in pain by the edge of the toilet bowl. It was almost like she wasn’t even supposed to be there at all.
It was crazy and it confused her and she would rather not have to think about it at all. But Rose couldn’t escape the fact that something bad was happening and she suspected that the only man who could give her any answers was probably tearing across time and space in his little blue box, his mind already on some larger threat that put the whole universe in jeopardy.
As if deliberately trying to prove how silly she was being, a loud knocking sounded at the front door and she knew it could be no one else but him. When it wasn’t answered immediately the pounding became louder and more forceful.
“Okay, okay! Keep your hair on!” Jackie’s voice was muffled through the wall and Rose heard her hurrying to open the door. The cat flap rattled as she pulled it open.
“Rose!” His voice was urgent and had an edge to it. If she had heard it from anyone else, Rose would have called it fear. She swung her legs over the edge of the bed and sat up, searching for her shoes in the half light.
“What’s the matter with you? She’s sleeping. Oi!” The door slammed closed and footsteps stomped up the hall.
“Doctor, leave her alone. She’s worn out. Not that you’d care, rushing off like… “
“Jackie, I have to see her. It’s important. I have to get her back to the TARDIS. I think that maybe if we’re in transit and outside the timeline I might be able to stop it. Or at least…
“Stop what?! What are you going on about? And I tell you something else, she’s not going anywhere.”
“Oi, where’d you think you’re…?”
Rose was already on her feet when her door burst open. The Doctor stood there silhouetted in the light from the hall, oblivious to Jackie pulling at his shoulder. He bounded forward into the room and Rose almost gasped at his appearance. His suit was even more dishevelled than usual, his face looked haggard and his breathing, laboured as if he’d ran halfway round the earth to get here.
The relief that washed over his face when he saw her left her puzzled and this puzzlement was compounded by what he said next.
“You’re still here!!”
“Well, yeah, where else…?”
“You have to come with me!”
“The TARDIS is outside. I’ll explain once we get there. But we have to move right now!”
Rose’s earlier need to see him, to have her questions answered was swallowed by her irritation at his brusque manner. She narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw. Who the hell did he think he was, disappearing for over three hours and then showing up making his demands? He hadn’t even asked how she was feeling.
“I am going nowhere. It may have escaped your notice, but I’m not feeling very well and would rather sleep in my own bed tonight rather than your stupid time machine. So unless the world is being threatened by alien invasion…” She stopped and her eyes widened. “Oh my God, it’s not is it?”
“No, Rose, it’s not but… “
“In that case I think you’d better leave.” She folded her arms and stared at him, resolutely. The Doctor stared back and took a breath. Suddenly his state of agitation evaporated and he was still and quiet. But the intense stare didn’t disappear. Walking forward, he reached out slowly and took her hand, his face barely inches away from her own.
“Rose,” he whispered, his breath stirring the whisps of hair around her face, “do you trust me?”
The softness of his voice dispersed her anger and she nodded.
And she did.
Jackie cried out as the two of them burst into motion and stumbled back as the Doctor pulled Rose towards the front door.
“Rose, where the bloody hell are you…?!”
But her question was cut short by the scream that burst from her daughters mouth. Rose crumpled as razor sharp pain clawed its way through her insides. She was coming apart. Something was tearing her to pieces! She screamed again, an innate need giving voice to her agony.
“Muuuuuum!!!!! MUUUUUUUUMM!!!!!” It was blinding her, cutting through her brain. She felt like a black hole was sucking her backwards. Her eyes rolled upwards as she hit the floor and she heard her mother talking, to her, just talking, talking, repeating the same words, only she couldn’t understand them. She could feel her mum’s hands holding her face but couldn’t see anything except the dark and she didn’t know if her eyes were open or closed.
Rose’s fingers clawed at the rough pile of the carpet under her hands as she tried to grip onto something, anything, to keep her fixed. She knew that if she didn’t grab on she would be pulled away. But sometimes the carpet was there and sometimes it wasn’t and when it wasn’t she didn’t want to think about what was there in its place.
Then, suddenly, there was sound beyond the wild cry bursting from her mouth.
“Rose, sweetheart, open your eyes! Please, love…” The voice was choked with panic. “Rose, I’m going to phone an ambulance!” The hands left her face and then her mother was speaking in the background and all the while the intensity of the pain never wavered.
Something strange was happening now. Her mother was still talking but the sound was diminishing and rising intermittently, like someone playing with the volume on a radio.
“Yes! The Pow… ate… it’s one, one.…ria Tower… th floor. Plea……ry!”
Rose struggled to hear and clenched her mouth shut to stop from screaming, her breath coming in laboured spurts though her nose.
Then other hands, different ones, were gripping her face. Male hands. Suddenly the pain abated, not entirely, but enough that she could breath through her mouth without a scream accompanying it. With effort she raised her eyelids. A face stared down at her, large, brown eyes beneath a furrowed brow, mouth pressed hard into a worried line. She stared at this face and wondered who it was, simultaneously recognising it and yet not. Then it flickered. The face went fuzzy and disappeared, like a TV signal in a lightening storm, before instantaneously appearing again.
Rose blinked and tried to focus. That hadn’t happened. It was simply the water in her eyes. But why couldn’t she remember who this was? Then, as much as the memory hadn’t been there a second ago, suddenly it was.
“Doctor?” Her voice was barely audible, little more than a croaked whisper, but it had the effect of a starters pistol. His hands moved from her face. One arm grabbed her around the waist while the other lifted her legs and she was being carried.
The cold air hit her skin, chilling the sweat that clung to it. She could hear Jackie behind them, screaming and swearing at this man - what was he called again? - to put her down, leave her alone, the ambulance was coming and she needed a doctor, a real doctor - what did that mean? - but the man kept walking and walking and then they were in the lift. The doors closed, shutting out her mothers distraught voice and enclosing her and this strange man in the tiny metal box as it took them down to the street.
“Why is it taking so long?” The figure stared in consternation at the images displayed on the monitor, which seemed to stretch upwards and outwards into infinity while, at the same time, being right in front of him.
“Be patient,” said his colleague, typing lines of code into the machine at which he sat. Events were unfolding as they had anticipated. Yes, it was taking longer than had been planned and yes, the reason for that was because of the Timelord’s interference, but even this had been anticipated. All things considered he was extremely… satisfied at how it was all progressing.
“What if he makes it outside the continuum? Can we still reach him there?”
“We can reach him anywhere.”
He finished his inputting and stared at the screen, thinking that a moment like this needed something else. Some form of punctuation. Spectacles perhaps. Yes, half moon spectacles that he could push up the bridge of his nose.
“We require 100% success in this endeavour,” stated his associate, glancing over. “The columns must balance.”
“They will,” said the other and pushed his half moon spectacles up the bridge of his nose.
It was unravelling too fast, too fast and he had to fight to keep it together. The Doctor clutched Rose tightly in his arms as if it would stop what was happening, all the while knowing that facts could not be turned into falsehoods simply by the strength of an embrace. He wished he had been able to explain to Jackie what was happening, why it was important that they get to the TARDIS but there was simply no time and he’d had to ignore her distressed cries.
Where are you going?! Where are you going with my little girl?!
The Doctor closed his eyes. Guilt wouldn’t help right now. That could come later.
Cursing the lift for taking so long to descend four floors, he looked at the girl he held in his arms. Her head had sagged back and the only sound she made was the chattering of her teeth as if a fever had gripped her. She felt lighter than she should be, almost paper like, almost as if she wasn’t there at all.
“First floor.” The lift spoke in smooth tones, sounding like a BBC news reader, and he almost yelled in frustration. Only one more floor to go but the journey down was lasting a millennium.
The effects were increasing exponentially and the Doctor tried to focus on the lift doors in an effort to stave off the fog that was clouding his thoughts, but the smooth metal was turning coarse and grainy and the image seemed too brittle to last much longer.
“Ground Floor.” The voice was strange and distorted now, like vague conversations over a CB radio and he knew he didn’t have much time, perhaps only seconds.
Turning sideways, he darted through the doors before they had even opened properly and sprinted towards his ship, which sat innocuously outside the Post Office, its blue skin seeming brighter than any colour around it. He knew what that meant.
As the Doctor approached the door he held Rose over his shoulder with one arm and wished fervently that she was more cumbersome but the truth was he couldn’t even feel her weight anymore. She was a whisper in his arms.
His fingers found the key in his pocket and he unlocked the TARDIS door, almost falling through onto the metal grate inside. The solidity of the ship gave him solace and urged him onwards and when he reached the central console he bent down and gently laid the unconscious Rose onto the floor.
“Rose! Wake up! You have to look at me. You have to concentrate.” But she was too far gone and the Doctor knew his priority was to get the ship outside the timeline. He stood and moved towards the controls, ignoring the insidious little voice that told him he was already too late.
“Doctor?” He could barely hear her now, not because she whispered, but because her voice just sounded too far away. Rushing back to her side, he smoothed her hair away from her forehead, wiping the sweat that clung there. He didn’t wonder why his fingertips remained dry.
“Doctor, what’s happening?”
“They’re trying to fix it, Rose. They’re trying to turn it back.”
Her brow wrinkled, but the sight of her face was strange, altered, as if he was looking at it out of the corner of his eye even though she was right in front of him. She shook her head, not understanding. There wasn’t time for this. He shouldn’t be trying to explain the inconsistencies and paradoxes of space-time when he could be doing something about it. The human brain wasn’t equipped to comprehend something on this scale so why even attempt to put it into words. And yet…
Didn’t he owe her? Didn’t he at least owe her a…
… an explanation?
“The timeline, Rose, it shouldn’t really have happened this way. Reality got warped and ended up on a path that wasn’t supposed to be used. Now it’s trying to fix itself.”
She uttered something. A word. One that reached his ears as if echoed through the canyons of the moon.
“It was the Vortex. The heart of the TARDIS, Rose. You absorbed it and it changed things, like it changed me. But no one’s supposed to do that and things have happened now that they’re trying to take back!” He paused, not knowing how to explain the next part, not sure if he wanted to even say it out loud. “They’re trying to take you back, Rose. They’re trying to take you away from me.”
“….don’t let them….”
Anger, fear and above all hopelessness gripped the inside of his chest and he didn’t know what to say. It was at that moment, kneeling next to her prone form, that he realised it was already too late. He couldn’t stop what was happening anymore than he could stop the sun from rising, but the thing that made him feel more lost than he ever had in his life was that she was scared and he couldn’t say anything to make it better.
“I don’t… Rose, I don’t know what…” He faltered.
“……..Am I dying?……”
He shook his head and smiled, sad and resigned. “No, you’re not dying. You’re going to live, Rose. You just… won‘t be with me anymore.”
Her lips moved again but her words were on the very edge of his hearing and he couldn’t make out what she said. She must have realised how tenuous the link was now and repeated it.
“.…. my fault…..”
“Oh no! No, no, Rose. It’s not your fault. None of this is your fault! But listen to me. I won‘t forget you. I‘ll never forget you,” he said and almost gagged on the bitterness of his lie. The forgetting was part of it and he could almost feel the memories tumbling out of his mind, like salt through fingers. But he could keep this. Surely they would let him keep this.
His hand reached up again wanting to touch her face just once more, wanting to burn the texture of her skin into his memory, but before his fingers even grazed her cheek, Rose was gone and, this time, not even ash was left in her place.