Chapter: 18 & 19/19
AUTHOR: Laura H fried_flamingo
FANDOM: Doctor Who
CATEGORY: Angst, Romance, Ten/Rose
SPOILERS: Season 1, TCI, CiN special and kinda sorta Doomsday
Author's note: Well folks here we are at the end. Thanks to everyone who's given me feedback on this fic and all the readers who have stuck with it. Thanks especially to my amazing beta eken95, who's been invaluable at keeping me writing (I hope) in character. So without further ado...
The first thing she felt was a headache. A pounding, relentless headache like a red wine hangover that brought her unwillingly back to consciousness. Rose groaned and sat up, trying to remember what pub she’d been to and who had put her in a taxi home.
Something was wrong. It was too cold for a start, a strange cold that she suspected wouldn’t be helped by turning up the thermostat. And dark. She scrubbed her hand over her eyes and blinked. Still dark. Completely and utterly dark. No chink of light underneath her bedroom door from the hall light that her mum kept on round the clock, no orange glow through her window from the sodium lights in the street. This was true darkness.
“Something tells me we ain’t in the SE15 area anymore,” she said to no one but herself and then realised with a sinking feeling that she had no clue where the Doctor was.
She started at the sound, pulling her legs into her chest, not knowing where the voice had come from.
“I don’t wish to harm you, Rose Tyler. Enough has been done already.”
“Then who are you? And where’s the Doctor?!”
“Apologies, Rose Tyler. You require light. It’s difficult to remember these details sometimes. But I will learn.”
And then there was light and Rose smiled when she saw the Doctor not ten feet away from her, lying on his back with his chest steadily rising and falling in the slow rhythm of sleep. She turned to see who had been speaking and in the midst of the blackness saw a man standing in front of a computer screen, which at once seemed small and compact, yet filled her vision so she had to look away. The man was slight with pale skin, half moon glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. He was dressed in suit trousers, a white shirt and red tie. The jacket of his suit was slung haphazardly across the back of his chair and the sleeves of his shirt were pushed halfway up his arms.
“Who are you?”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m just trying to do a job.” He frowned in concern. “ Do you feel healthy?”
“ Erm… yeah more or less. Bit of headache mind you but not bad.” She screwed up her nose trying to remember. “We were going somewhere in the TARDIS. The Doctor and me. Back home. Do you know what happened?”
“There were… delays.”
“Hah… typical! Bloody roadworks eh?” laughed Rose. The man looked at her and cocked his head in the universal language that said ‘I don’t get it.’
“Never mind,” she said. “Can we… ?”
“He is awake.” The man nodded towards the sleeping Doctor who was groaning and attempting to sit up. Rose leapt up and rushed over to where he lay.
“Doctor? Doctor, are you ok?” She reached out, attempting to thread her fingers through his but the contact seemed to send a jolt through him and he jumped back, pulling his hands away from her touch. Rose watched in curiosity as he stared at them, turning them back and forth as if he had never seen them before.
“Nothing happened,” he whispered. “nothing happened.” Then he caught sight of Rose crouched nearby and shot forward, pulling her into a ferocious hug. “You’re still here!”
Rose laughed uncertainly, the sound muffled in the material of his coat. “Yeah, Doctor, I’m still here. Where else would I be? I think the TARDIS crash landed somewhere but I’m not sure. That bloke over there’s been telling me…” But the Doctor’s reaction at the sight of the man cut her off, startling her into silence.
“You! It didn’t kill you!” He lunged forward, but the man had disappeared, materialising instantaneously just outside the Doctor’s reach. The Doctor whirled round to face him.
“You must listen to me, Timelord. My colleague is gone. He has become Void stuff once more. I have no intention of continuing his endeavours.”
The Doctor eyed him suspiciously and Rose watched the scene with bemused interest, wondering what had happened while she’d been unconscious. She remembered both of them going for breakfast and being sick in the café but then…
“Why should I trust you?” the Doctor was asking.
“Because I will show you the way home.”
“I already know the way home, thank you. It’s a door over there that leads to the Twilight Zone. Not really what I‘d consider home.”
“You were shown a folly, Timelord. A glamour. Again.”
“That wasn’t our Universe?
“Oh no, that was your Universe. You just didn’t have what you need.”
“And what was that?”
The Administrator smiled and simply said, “You have it now.”
The Doctor paused but then seemed to understand. “Do you know what happened here?” he asked and looked around him.
The strange man shook his head. “No,” he said, “I don’t know. However, I suspect that the columns have balanced themselves. I shall remain and regulate. Ensure that dogs keep barking and cats keep meowing, that sort of thing.” He smiled knowingly and Rose watched as, slowly, a wry grin spread itself across the Doctor’s face.
“You brought her back, didn’t you? But how? I saw her deleted.”
“I merely… meddled. Slightly. It‘s sensible, is it not, to always create a back up?”
The Doctor chortled and then began to laugh loud and heartily. Turning towards her he pulled her into his arms again and laughed into her neck and even though she hadn’t a clue what the hell was going on, Rose laughed along with him and even when the last of their chuckles had died away, still they stood in each other’s embrace. Eventually the Doctor pulled away though he left his arm curled tight around her shoulder and turned towards the figure who had watched them in silence.
“So the door’s over there, is it?”
The man nodded.
“And we just go through? I have what I need now and everything will just be back to normal?”
A smile and another nod.
“Ok then! Rose, care to join me?”
“What do you think?” she asked with a grin and in unison they strode over to where the blue outline of a door had appeared. The Doctor turned the handle and in an instant they were stepping from the TARDIS door onto Westminster Bridge…
… finding themselves in a London that was totally empty.
“Doctor? What’s going on? Where is everyone?” But the Doctor just stood, surveying the silent city with a frown that gradually deepened.
“No,” he whispered. “No!” Whirling round he pulled open the wooden door of his ship.
“Where are you?!” he shouted, “Nothing’s fixed! You said it would be fixed!” But the Void was gone and his words echoed emptily around the ship‘s interior. With a frustrated yell he ran to the side of the bridge and began beating his hands on the balustrade.
“NO!NO!NO!NO!” he cried “Nothing’s changed! It was all a lie! Even this!”
A bitter tang of panic began to build in the pit of Rose’s stomach as the Doctor sagged against the stone railing of the bridge. She had never seen him look so helpless and suddenly she wondered whether they’d ever be able to make it home again.
Rose swallowed, trying to work out a solution in her head but realising that if the Doctor was lost, then she was ridiculously out of her depth.
“We still have the TARDIS, don’t we? We can go somewhere and fix all of this?” Her voice shook and she fought to remain calm.
“No, Rose,” replied the Doctor, without turning round. “The TARDIS needs lifeforce. This Universe is dead and we can’t fix it. Nothing can fix it.”
Dead. How can a universe die?
And that was when they heard it.
A faint, tinny jangle of music. If Rose listened closely she could almost make out a tune. Yes it was a tune and it reminded her of a old cartoon that she couldn’t quite place.
The Doctor was on his feet now, whirling round, searching for the source of the music.
“Do you hear it, Rose?”
“Yeah, what is… ?” She stopped and then smiled as she realised what was making the noise. How could she not have realised before?! Hadn’t ten summer holidays in Brighton taught her anything? And sure enough driving along the embankment towards them came the source of the music. An ice cream van with the Three Little Pigs painted crudely on the side. Rose gave a giggle as she realised what the tune was.
The van pulled up alongside them on the bridge and they watched as the glass serving hatch slid back to reveal a portly man dressed in white, a little paper hat perched on the side of his head.
“Afternoon,” he said, with a jovial grin.
“Is it?” said the Doctor. “We can’t quite tell at the moment.”
“Ooh yeah,” said the man, “strange weather we’ve been having, eh? Doesn’t know what to be doing with itself.”
“Um…” said the Doctor.
“So what can I get you?” asked the man, removing wafer cones from the dispenser on the counter.
“Erm…” said the Doctor.
The man looked expectantly at the both of them and brandished an ice cream scoop in the air.
Rose looked at the Doctor, who was gaping at the man, his face a picture of utter confusion. Someone had to do something, she decided.
“I’ll have a 99 please,” she said, walking over to the van. The Doctor stared at her, uncomprehending.
“A 99, love! Coming right up!” He scooped a generous ball of vanilla ice cream onto the wafer and, sticking a chocolate flake in the top, handed it to Rose. “And for you sir?”
“Um… a… choc ice?” asked the Doctor in a voice that indicated he might as well have been asking for a bowl of flaming magma and a bread roll to go with it.
“A choc ice it is,” the man replied, instantly handing over the small rectangular packet. “Now is there anything else I can do for you lovely people?”
“Yes actually,” asked Rose, deciding that she perhaps had the greater presence of mind to be dealing with their current situation, “can you tell us where all the people have gone?”
“Oh them! Yeah, I ‘spect they’ll be along in a little while. You know people eh? Always showing up eventually.”
“Yeah, um… ok then. Well how much do we owe you for the ice cream?”
“On the house, love. Call it a welcome back gift,” said the ice cream vendor and winked. “Now I best be off. Busy, busy, busy. Realities needing ice cream, that sort of thing.” And with that he retreated into the drivers seat of his little van. As he started the engine, he wound the window down and popped his head out. “One last thing, love. I wouldn’t stand there if I was you. Might be a bit inconvenient in a second.”
“What do you mean?” asked Rose, but the window was closed again and the van drove off, its little tune tinkling into the distance.
“What was all that about?” she asked the Doctor.
“I have absolutely no idea,” he replied, shaking his head. “But I’ll tell you something… this choc ice is bloody lovely!”
Rose laughed but before she could reply her words were cut off by a blast of noise that startled her almost out of her skin.
“Oi! What the bloody hell do you two think you’re doing standing in the middle of the bloody road?” The man in the silver Vectra leaned on his horn again, gesturing to them in a way that didn’t need translation by the TARDIS.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, frozen in shock at the man, his car and the hundreds - thousands - of people who had suddenly appeared all around them, in a rush of noise and colour. “I’m sorry!” she said again, this time yelling at the top of her lungs, laughter bubbling forth as she leaned on the bonnet of the vehicle and kissed its hot surface. Turning she grabbed the Doctor who was laughing too and pulled him to the pavement, where the TARDIS sat impassively.
“Care in the bloody community,” mumbled the man, before driving off only to be halted by roadworks at the end of the bridge.
“They’re back!” shouted the Doctor. “They’re all back!” His hands found Rose’s face and he kissed her suddenly, long and deep. Rose felt her knees begin to sag and her head spin. She reached up to grip his shoulders but before she could even make contact, the kiss was broken, leaving her struggling not to gasp for breath. The Doctor fell back a few steps and stood, just staring at his shoes and scratching the back of his head.
“Yeah…?” she croaked.
“Maybe we’d better… y’know?” The Doctor gestured with his thumb to the TARDIS sitting innocuously in the middle of the pavement, crowds rushing round it as if it wasn’t even there. For a second Rose bathed in a daydream of what he might be asking before finally ending the moment.
“Get out of here?”
“Yeah,” he laughed, awkwardness gone. “Let’s get out of here.”
“So where we off to then?” she asked, as they entered the ship once more.
“Rose, you name the place and we’re already there!”
The narrow, wooden door clicked shut behind them, leaving the two travellers to embark upon their journey once more. Time was vast and space was limitless and, at that moment, their voyage was infinite. After all, how could it ever be otherwise?
The hot clay of the planet’s surface scorches the soles of her boots and, through the rubber, Rose can feel the heat warming her skin. Almost, but not quite, burning her.
The palm of his hand burns hotter.
“How long are you going to stay with me then?” he asks, with a grin.
She turns to him and her answer comes from desire rather than conviction.
“Forever”, she says and wills it to be true.
They turn and watch the strange creatures that float through the air, catching thermals in the taut membrane of their leathery wings. The hot air pushes them skywards and they soar across the upper reaches of the planets atmosphere, their sad, tender cries echoing down towards the hard earth.
She decides then that she needs an answer and even if he lies she won’t care.
“So how long can I stay then?” she asks and doesn’t flinch from the candour.
He turns to her, smiles and says without hesitation, “Forever.”
Rose smiles back and let’s her gaze drift back to the alien world and the hypnotic flight of the creatures. Forever he’d said and she knows that if she can only forget the ghosts that haunt his eyes, she can almost believe that it’s true.