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Speaking his Language

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Tears stung her eyes and blurred her vision as Rose Tyler fled across an alien plain toward the waiting TARDIS.   The wild winds whipped that up around her; thick with dust and debris that raked harshly across her skin, forced her to run with her forearm up to shield her eyes from the storm.  It was a futile effort.  It did very little to save her tender skin from the sting of cutting impact of sharp tiny little particles on attack.

…This was the storm that the Doctor had warned her was on approach.  His voice was thick with warning that she should keep away from once it struck.  As was typical for her, though, she didn’t listen… or more accurately, she ignored his warning.

“Many planets have routine and sometimes daily weather occurrences,” he’d lectured at the time as they’d walked hand in hand toward a large township as the base of the hill.  “Sometimes they’re welcomed, other times they’re not.  This area of Crandinia experiences an evening breeze at the same time every day.   Well.  I say breeze, but it’s more like a violent barrage of winds, dust, dirt, sand, and anything else that gets in its way.”  He swallowed hard and sounded slightly strangled when he spoke again.  “Best not to be out when it picks up.  Not unless you’re in for some high-powered natural forms of supreme exfoliation, of course.  Nothing like sandblasting your face to achieve smooth skin …ehm …  more accurately, it would be more a weeping, oozing and sticky open wound than smooth and perfect skin.”

“Sounds delightful,” she sang facetiously inside a purr as she nestled against his side and took in the rick purple sky and the orange-yellow landscape.  “Where do I sign up?”

He’d chuckled at that and staggered in a mite bit closer as though to bump his hip against hers.   They were already paired too closely together for it to be too effective.  All he managed to do was to have her stumble in the same way he was, making them look like a pair of drunkards heading home from a night out.  He caught her before she could fall and laughed against her hair as she collapsed into laugher against his shoulder…

… it all quickly went to hell from there.

That daft, reckless alien had made a gross error of judgment and now had a Crandinian wife, Crandinian land, and a demand to sire an heir before dawn.  As the psychic paper had named her as being the Doctor’s “assistant”, she had been tasked with standing at the bedside to verify that the – err – act of siring a child had been performed.

Well, there was no way in any realm of reality that Rose was going to bear witness to any such act.   She never believed for a second that the Doctor would actually engage in the same…  But then she saw his new wife pull him against her and initiate a passionate open-mouthed kiss, and although he clearly startled by the sudden onslaught of passion, he didn’t immediately pull away…

She didn’t bother to stick around to see anything more, and so she ran. 

She ran fast, and she ran hard.   She ignored his voice calling out her name in panic, telling him to sod off as she burst out of the house and into the heart of the storm.

“No-one,” he’d warned her earlier in their adventure, “No-one steps out into the storm.  Most that have, have never returned without severe pain and injury.”

She immediately understood why.   The winds were wild and violent, and the debris within merciless in their assault against her.   She felt immediate and blinding physical pain that made her consider turning back to head to safety.  Bullheaded as she was, however, she pushed on.   The physical hurt a lot less than the emotional right now, and she had no desire at all to witness the desire that was now swirling inside the home.

No.  All she wanted now was the TARDIS.  She wanted the TARDIS and a bag to pack her things … Because she was done with this.  Done with that stupid, flirty, egoistic, oblivious, thoughtless alien git.

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

She felt the TARDIS hum in her mind before she saw the blue outline of the ship in the near distance.  While the old girl was always present as a quiet and happy hum in the back of her mind when they were off-ship, that presence always intensified a little as she drew closer to it.  Like a homing beacon, she assumed with a smile.   The closer she drew, the louder the ship hummed in her mind.  Right now, though, that hum seemed a little off; slightly different in pitch than usual.  

Sentient, Rose reminded herself.  She knows I’m upset because the Doctor’s being a sod.   Yes.  That had to be it.

She didn’t look up as she pulled the key from between her bosom and blindly tried to find the lock.   Once, twice, and then three times she poked at the small metal plate surrounding the small lock opening.   Fourth time lucky, and she found herself apologising to the TARDIS when she finally slid the key into place and turned it to open the door.  It did so with a somewhat reluctant creak, but very quickly gave up the reluctance and flew open with a bang.  

Still blinded by tears with eyes stinging from sand and dust, and couldn’t lift her head to the ceiling to say thanks.  Instead she rubbed at her stinging eyes with filthy shirt sleeves and ran a familiar path toward the main corridor toward her bedroom, the library, whichever room she happened upon first.

Her mind was suddenly alive with a sense of shock and confusion from the ship, which quickly warmed to familiarity and welcome, then downshifted again toward worry.  Rose waved her arm toward the wall and muttered her assurance that the Doctor was fine – that he was just being an inconsiderate cad – and felt that worry shift to comfort and apology.

Not that she’d been particularly successful in maintaining any control of her emotions to this point, but the TARDIS’ attempt to comfort and apologise to her only made that control much harder to maintain.  She ran into the first doorway she came to – the library – and fell to her knees on the floor in front of the couch.  She buried her face into a circle of her arms and sobbed.  She sobbed for both the physical and the emotional pain she felt.

“I hate him,” she sobbed to the TARDIS in a voice muffled by the thick cushion pressed against her face.  “I hate him…”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

For the second time in only moments, the TARDIS was startled by her doors flying inward.   Her thief had ventured out only a few short moments ago, and she thought she might have a few moments to herself to heal the wounds of their last adventure.  To rest, and then to recover.

As usual, no such luck.

First, a distraught companion had breached the doors and taken refuge, and now her Thief had returned, with his mind in much the same condition … although more angered than distraught.    She prepared a warning to him, but was quickly silenced by a growl of displeasure and his heavy footfalls stomping their way toward her main console.

“A vacation,” he growled with annoyance.  “That is what I wanted.  I wanted a quiet moment of contemplation to reflect and to recharge myself.  Somewhere peaceful.”   He flipped a switch and twisted a dial.  “But do you think that would be in any way possible?  No.  Of course not.   I had to land in the middle of a tornado the size of Arcadia.”   He flipped another switch and then threw hard at the dematerialisation lever with angry movements.  “And my ship.  My sentient ship, didn’t bother letting me know just where we landed and let me walk out of the doors with no warning at all as to what was coming.”

He looked up as the rotor shifted and then whined.  “That would have been appreciated, you know,” he growled.  “And as you couldn’t find it within you to give me a heads up, or perhaps do what you normally do and defy my coordinate inputs completely to make sure I didn’t walk into that, well, I’m cross with you.  More cross than I have been in a long while, dear.”

He brushed at the sleeves of his coat with a curl in his lip.  “It will take a miracle to get all of this dirt out of my clothing.”  He saw a rip on the sleeve and grunted as he slid the garment off his shoulders and let it fall unceremoniously to the floor.  “Well.  That’s determined the next decision I’ll have to make, hasn’t it?  I’ll have to consider a new wardrobe now that this one’s been ruined because my ship was too inconsiderate to – “   He let up a yelp when the ship lurched to one side and he fell hard against the console.  “What in the name of Rassilon’s ghost, old girl?  Are you being deliberately testy today?”

The rotor continued to rise and fall, and the ship was clearly in flight, but the console room flashed a light mauve of warning to him.    This quickly had the Doctor lowering his voice and narrowing his eyes at the console. 

“What is it?” he asked her darkly in a voice smooth and quiet.  A monitor lit up, and the Doctor leaned forward with eyes narrowed in concentration.  “You don’t seem worried, yet you’re giving me a warning.  What about?  What’s wrong?”

The monitor flickered a little with static, but quickly cleared to show an image of a young woman on her knees in front of his couch, in obvious distress.   He gagged slightly, and then looked up at the rotor.  “We have a stowaway?” he queried with worry.  “You let a strange woman aboard my ship, and then let me take you into flight?   Are you insane?”

He let his arms fall to his sides and let out an exasperated huff.  “Why do you keep doing that?  Why do you let people on board and then fly away?  Don’t you know the problems this causes to them?  To me when I try to get them home?”

He felt her give a huff in his mind.  “Need I remind you of Tegan?” he growled.  “And what we did to her before we finally got her home?”

He raked his hand through his hair and then dragged it down his face.  He let out a long-suffering breath and turned toward the corridor.   “Land gently, will you?   I don’t need to startle the poor girl.”   He lifted a finger to point at the wall.  “And don’t lose the coordinates of where you found her.  We will take her back to her proper place in time and space, dear.  Mark my words on that.  I’ve no time for a new companion right now.”   He scowled toward the floor.  “Not now.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

She had no idea just how long she’d been in a mess on the library floor.  It had to be some time, however, as she’d felt the ship take flight.   That had to mean that the Doctor had returned – likely with his new wife in tow – and had immediately set new coordinates.   She huffed out wetly as she considered just where they were headed.   Back home, no less.  Now that he had a new bride, he had no need of her.

She knew she should attempt to compose herself, but felt herself unable to do so.  Just the thought of what was to come next had her emotions spiralling further and further out of control.  She didn’t want to leave, but she didn’t want to become a third wheel either.

God her heart hurt.

Composing herself any time soon was not going to be an option of any kind.  Hopefully she could rely on the TARDIS to keep him away from her until she could find some semblance of control.

A deep clearing of a throat to her rear told her that the TARDIS didn’t have any such intentions.

She said the first thing that came to mind without lifting her head to look at him.  “Go away.”

“Uhm…”

She clenched her fists beside her ears and slammed her forearms into the cushion surrounding her head.  “I mean it, Doctor.  I don’t wanna talk to you right now.”

There was an exhale of breath that was a dawning of understanding, and whomever was at the doorway slowly walked further into the room.  “You don’t wish to talk right now,” he drawled gently.  “But how about a little earlier on?”

The voice was quiet, slightly unfamiliar, but she ignored those points to focus on her confusion about what the hell he was on about.  She finally lifted her head and twisted her back to finally look in his direction,  “What’re you on—“ Her eyes widened with horror to see not her doctor, but a rather handsome man with gorgeous curly hair, soulful blue eyes, a curious pout, and an outfit that looked straight out of the early nineteenth century. 

“Well, hello,” he sang out happily with a waggle of his fingers.

Rose shook her head and shifted her entire body in a futile attempt to back away from him – right back into the couch she was leaned against.  “Who’re you?!  Don’t you dare come any closer.  I mean it!”

He held up his hands in a submissive gesture and lightly petted them in the air in front of his chest.  “Okay, it’s okay.  I’m not a stranger ready to do anything of an … err .. nefarious nature toward you.”

She clumsily wiped at her eyes with the dirty backs of her hands and shook her head.  She was still clearly panicked and ready to defend and bolt if necessary.  “Like you’d even ‘ave a chance,” she growled.  “Now, I asked you:  Who are you, and what’re you doin’ on the TARDIS?  How’d you get in?”

Oh he admired the brave façade that she was trying to project.  If it wasn’t for the adrenaline and fear that he could smell in the air, he may have felt somewhat intimidated….

…Well may be not intimidated.  Slightly on his guard, perhaps.

He kept one hand held up in surrender, and let the other slide into a small pocket on his waistcoat.  He produced a shiny metal object and held it up for her to see.  “I got in with my key,” he answered gently.  “This is my TARDIS, after all.   Yours,” he began with a small hint of a smile, ”is still waiting for you on Crandinia.”

Her entire expression lengthened in horror.  Her hands flew to her mouth.  “I  - I got on the wrong TARDIS?”

He nodded and set the key back into his pocket.  “It would certainly appear so, as you and I have not yet met.”  He pursed his lips and wiped his hand on his thigh.  “Which must be rectified immediately.”   He took a stride forward with his hand held out.  He paused when he saw her flinch to his approach, but kept his hand outstretched.  “I’m the Doctor – an earlier version of the one I believe you’re currently travelling with.”

She stammered out his name with a shake in her head.   “N-no, you can’t be.  He.   He’s…”

He rolled his eyes and shook his head.  “Ahh, yes.  Regeneration.  I suspect you haven’t been forewarned of that little eventuality.”

“Oh,” she cut in with a strengthening tone of voice.  “I know about that.  I’ve seen him go through one.”

“Ahh…”

“But he wasn’t in any danger back there,” she continued on with a point of her hand behind her.  “Not anythin’ that would have him regenerate, anyway...”  She paused on that line of thought for a second, and then smirked.  “Well.  At least not until he returned to the TARDIS at any rate.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Then, just who knows what fate awaits him?”

His lips pursed and he exhaled a breath through them.  “I see,” he began quietly.  “This tells me that I am the one who is causing you such distress, then.   And that is unacceptable.”   He forgot about personal space, and her need for it, and quickly walked toward the couch to drop onto it at her side.   When she gasped and shuffled backward he held out his hand to her.  “Well, up you come.”

She looked first at his hand, then at him, with a furrow in between her brows.  “Excuse me?”

“We’ve established that I’m the friendly sort and am not here to kidnap and harm you.”  He lifted his eyes to the ceiling.  “Well.  That is to say, harm is not permitted, the kidnapping thing .. well,,,”

“I felt her take off,” Rose said quietly.

He nodded and wiggled his fingers at her in a request for her to take his hand and let him assist her to her feet.  “I’m afraid that I set new coordinates before the TARDIS deemed it necessary to advise me that you were onboard.”  He gave a one sided smile of apology.  “But pay no mind to that.  I can quite easily take you back to where you were picked up….”

“Not if you really are the Doctor,” she said with almost a chuckle.  “N’my experience, he’s not all that good in getting to where he actually intends on going.”

He gave up waiting for her to take his hand and leaned forward to simply snatch hers within his.  “Although I know what you say is rather spot on, I am still trying very hard not to take offence to that.”

She finally let him lift her to a stand.  After a hesitant skip from one foot to the other, she gave a firm nod and then took a seat at the opposite end of the couch to him.  “So you are really the Doctor, then?”

He nodded, thankful that she was coming closer toward trust and understanding.  “I am.”

“How do I know you’re not lyin’?” she challenged with a slight narrowing of her eyes.

He smirked at the challenge she offered, but opted not to step up to it.  “As I am from a point earlier than when you seem to have met me, that might be quite difficult to do.”

“I suppose so,” she acquiesced with a nod.  She slid her eyes toward him.  “So you’re just going to have to expect me to simply trust you on it.”

“That certainly would make things easier,” he agreed with a relieved exhale and a smile.  He leaned closer to her and gave her a wink.  “So tell me:  Do you trust me?”

Any shadow of a smile fell at that.  Her eyes misted over once more and she shook her head.  “I used to,” she admitted.  “I don’t know if I do now.”

His expression shifted to one of being taken aback.  His voice was startled and slightly horrified to hear that.  “Just what did I do to you?” he questioned with worry.

Rose winced and then slumped as she looked upward toward the ceiling.  “Oh.  I don’t know if that’s entirely true,” she admitted.  “He didn’t do anything untrustworthy, really.  At least not to me.”  She sighed hard again.  “I just.  I just don’t know.   I’m hurt.  I’m real hurt.   But I can’t even really blame ‘im for it.  Just because I think that we might be more’n …”  She winced again.  “Just because I…”  She dropped and shook her head.  “I guess I’m just expectin’ something from him that he’s not prepared to give.”

He frowned a little.  “Oh-kay,” he breathed out with only a small ounce of confusion in his voice.  “I think I’m keeping up here.”

“I don’t even think I’m keeping up,” she admitted ruefully.  She dragged her hand down over her face.  “This one, well, he’s a flirt and then some.   Good looking to boot, which makes him a favourite with the ladies.”

“When you say this one,” he gravelled out curiously.  “Does this mean you know more than one of me?”

She nodded and chuckled.  “Typical.  Focus on the wrong bits of a comment.”

“Oh, we’ll get back to that,” he vowed.  “But for you to make that very particular distinction means that you’ve met more than one of me – perhaps even travelled with more than one – and you’re seeing the differences between one and the other that is giving you problems.”

She let out a harsh laugh.  “My problem isn’t that there’s a difference between them, between my first and second Doctor.   I can deal with that.  My problem is what the difference is.”

“I see,” he ventured cautiously.  “Do go on.”

Rose lifted her head to the ceiling once more and let out a long breath through an open mouth before continuing.   “First him,” she remembered with smile.  “Well.  All gruff and grumpy he was.  Pretended to be all mean and gnarly, but was just a big teddy bear really.”

The Doctor peeped uncomfortably at that.  “In all my lives, one thing I’ve never been described as is a big teddy bear.”

She looked down at him.  Her voice was firm.  “Well.  Well, he was.  An’ I loved him.  All big ears and nose, and baggy clothes.”  She softened her tone.  “He treated me like I meant something to him, you know?  Like the sun and moon rose with me.  Made me feel like I was important – even when getting’ mad and calling me a stupid ape, I always knew it was him and me.”  She looked away.  “And he gave the best hugs.”

The Doctor’s eyes flashed wide.  “Hugs?  You and I, we shared hugs?”

Her smile stretched and she purred.  “Yeah.  Lots of them.”

His voice pinched and lifted an octave.  “Did we.  Err.  Did we share anything else?”

He grin grew cheeky.  “You mean did we dance, Doctor?”

He squeaked, but could do more but nod.

“That’s my secret,” she said softly, taking her eyes from his.  “And not somethin’ I want to share with a stranger, even if you are him.”

“So when you say the word love in reference toward your feelings for him, it’s not at a platonic level of mere friendship, is it?”

She shook her head.  “I was in-love with him.  Arse over teakettle, really.   An’ I think he loved me too, you know.   He gave up a life just to save mine.  He kissed me.  He kissed me when he knew I needed it most and with that sweet gentle way about him that he could get when it was just me’n him together.”  She giggled.  “Cheesy, really.  He said c’mere, that I need a doctor, then planted one on me.”

The Doctor’s mouth dried at the revelation.

She slumped.  “And then he regenerated.  Right in front of me.   Went from bein’ a man who was considerate to me an’ my presence, to making sure I knew how he felt even if he never actually said it with words….”  She inhaled deeply and held on to that breath for a long moment.  “To bein’…”

“To being a man who was reprehensible enough that he would have you referring to your love for him in past tense,” the Doctor supplied gravely.  “And have you curled up on the floor of my library with your heart shattered all around you.”

She dropped her head again and nodded, closing her eyes over her tears.  “My love isn’t past tense, Doctor,” she admitted sadly.  “I wouldn’t hurt this much if I didn’t love him like I do.  His love for me, however….” She let that thought hang for a second in the hope he would offer something, anything at all.  He didn’t, so she continued.  “His affection shifted when he discovered himself to be a bit of a fit bloke who the ladies all clamoured around.”  She lifted her eyes to look at the doorway.  “Born again flirt, I guess.  I became a second thought, rather than his first, and sometimes being so easily forgotten was how I ended up a damsel in distress on more than one occasion.”

He watched her blink free a tear from her lashes and found himself reaching out to take her hand in his.  He wasn’t at all surprised that she accepted the comfort by squeezing his hand in return.  He chose to remain silent, however.  Waiting for any sign from her that she was willing to let him speak.  

“I’m guessing that when he changed, he regenerated any feelings that he ‘ad for me away as well.”

He hummed with a slight shake in his head.  “No.  That’s not how regenerations work, dear.   If they did, then no marriage or partnership on Gallifrey would survive from one life to the next.”  He looked down at the join of their hands let the pad of his thumb drag along hers.   “Regenerations are – for the most part – physical.  It does tend to give us a bit of a restart in the personality department, but our thoughts, feelings, and memories … they don’t change.  They’re the very core of who we are, and who we become each time we face death and regeneration.”

“So your feelings don’t change?  Not at all?” she queried weakly.

“No,” he affirmed.  “In all my regenerations, and I’ve been through seven of them to this point, it’s really only the quirks and the outer package that change.  At my core, I’ve remained the same man, with the same thoughts, memories, and feelings remaining intact.”

Her hands quickly came up to cover her mouth.  “Oh, God,” she moaned pathetically.  “Oh my God.  Then that means…”  Her breath shortened to pants.  “I-I’ve got to go.”

He flinched as she shot up to a stand and launched into a run toward the door.  Immediately he shot up to follow her.  He would have called after her, but right now, he didn’t even know her name, so he was forced to run and only call out to her to wait.

He looked up toward the ceiling to speak to his ship.  “If we’re still in the vortex, for the love of Rassilon, keep those doors closed,” he demanded.   “No.  Amend that to:  Don’t let her out under any circumstances.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose ran toward the console room, and toward the doors that would let her out of the TARDIS.  Remembrance that the ship had been set into flight and that running out of her doors would mean certain death didn’t stop her from running.  She needed out of the ship, and she needed it now.

She could hear him calling for her to wait as he followed her along the corridor, but she didn’t stop.  She couldn’t stop.  His words to her, his assurance that the very heart of him doesn’t change during regeneration … oh, but they drove home a truth that she simply refused to believe…

…and all of a sudden she felt so incredibly foolish.  He doesn’t love her now, and he didn’t love her then.  How could she possibly have thought otherwise?  How could she possibly have let herself believe that he – a 900 year old Lord of Time – could truly find himself falling in love with her: a mere human child  … a dumb, stupid ape?

Once again, Rose ran across the threshold of an expansive room toward the front doors.   And once again, her emotions blinded her to the majesty of the room that surrounded her.   All she saw was the cylindrical light of the time rotor, and the outline of the front doors.

Behind her, the Doctor called out for her to stop, to wait, and to let him speak.  She ignored his plea and clutched hard at the handle that would pull those doors inward to let her out toward freedom.    She didn’t consider just what kind of freedom she’d actually get on the other side, and just how long she’d experience that freedom before being arrested and thrown into an alien gaol, but she didn’t care.  As long as it wasn’t where he was, where he could judge the feeble mind of a lovelorn child buried under the agony of an unrequited love…

…How could she have been so foolish to believe…?

She choked back a sob and ripped the door open, surprised that the TARDIS would even allow her to do so, and burst out into the warm glow of twin suns shining down onto red grasses dotted with the lavender blooms of flowers whose fragrance saturated the air around her.

Awe battled with misery, and Rose looked up, rather than down as she ran across the grass, not noticing she was headed toward the very edge of a cliff until it was far too late for her to stop.   She let out a screech of terror as her feet skidded on dew-wet grasses that refused to let her stop.    She instinctively called out the only name she could when she saw her life about to end, and very quickly two strong arms curled around her waist to haul her up against a heaving chest.

“I’ve got you.”

The words against her ear were calm and in complete contradiction to the panic of the situation.   She felt his grip tighten, their bodies lock together, and their movement shift direction.   As one, they spun away from the rocky edge of the cliff and fell backwards onto the grass.  One of her shoes kicked off and shot across the edge of the cliff to fall into the deep canyon below, but the rest of her remained safe atop the cliff, and inside the arms of a man that, despite which body he was in, would always be there to pull her from danger.

She fell apart at that moment.  Torn by embarrassment, by heartbreak, by relief, and by fear, she clutched onto the silken fabric at his throat and sobbed into his chest.   She felt his hearts thunder a rapid beat against her nose as he tightened his hold around her quivering, wracking form.

Words of apology and words of comfort danced at the tip of his tongue, but the Doctor opted to remain silent.  Words weren’t what this dear young woman needed right now.  Comfort and assurance, yes, but not with words.  He could provide such support in a protective embrace that would refuse to release her until he knew without a doubt that her emotions had cooled, and that the unpredictable impulses of a devastated Human female would not cause her further harm or distress…  No matter how long it took.

And it didn’t take terribly long for her to finally calm down.  He could feel when the terror had finally left her bones.  He could practically taste when her embarrassment fled and her hurt was waning.  While he knew without a doubt that the hurt would never depart completely until the source of that hurt was dealt with, he knew it had ebbed back enough that this young woman could function again rationally.  

Sobs quickly became whimpers, and then whimpers shifted to soft sighs.  Sighs became words, and he heard her thank him for saving her, for not letting her fall.

“That’s something I would never do,” he whispered against her hair.

“I know you wouldn’t,” she admitted softly.  “You’d fall before I did.”

He chuckled softly.  “And something tells me that you wouldn’t let me fall, either.”

“Not if I can help it, at any rate.”

There was silence for a moment.  They laid on the grass, with only the tinkling of silver leaves in the wind, and the chirp of birds off in the distance to break the otherwise deafening quiet.  And he was fine with that for now.  Fine to hear her soft breaths, and to keep her safely within his arms.

“I’m Rose, by the way,” she muttered finally in a voice so quiet he almost missed it.

He looked down at the crown of her head.  “I’m sorry?”

“Rose,” she repeated without lifting her head, too content to listen to the beating of his hearts rather than look up into his face.

“Rose,” he echoed wistfully.  “A beautiful name, for an equally beautiful woman.”

She moaned at that.  “Oh, don’t start with that rubbish.  Boring name more like.”

“Whether or not something is beautiful or boring is rather subjective, don’t you think?” he asked with a smile in his voice.  “I happen to love the simplistic, and yet very symbolic nature of the word.”

“Oh shut up,” she growled playfully.  Her chuckle shifted to an apologetic sigh, but she still didn’t look up at him.  “I’m sorry, Doctor.  To this you, and to the you‘s that I know.”  She sighed.  “I don’t know why I felt it as strongly as I did.  Why I truly and without a doubt thought that you felt the same about me that I did for you.”   She inhaled deeply and held onto him just a little bit more fiercely.  “You’ve never said it to me, but I just knew, you know?  I felt it so strongly.”

He remained silent.  Thoughtful and silent. 

“Wishful thinking, I guess,” she deduced with a quiet voice. 

The Doctor considered her words for a long moment.  He thought about her sureness of his feeling toward her and of the utter devastation to realise that those feelings weren’t true.  Such intense devastation wasn’t appropriate in this instance.  She should be upset, yes, but not to the point of such severe desolation.  There had to be another explanation, because this just wasn’t right.

A likely explanation dawned and he felt his hearts flutter just slightly at the possibility.

Could it be?

With cautious tone and a slight hitch in his breath, he spoke the words of his people along her hair.  It was a series of melodic, soft sounds that curled in the air around them, and silenced the twinkling leaves above them as though nature herself wanted to see what came next.

He felt her shudder in his hold at his words.  He heard her sigh and relax against him.  More than anything, however, he felt a tickle in his soul and a warming inside his chest.

She hummed out appreciatively against his chest.  “That’s beautiful, Doctor.  But can you please tell me what you’re saying?  I’ve asked you before, but you refuse to translate it for me.”

He bit at his lip and held onto his breath for a moment.  He felt a wave of emotion crash from head to toe and let out a shuddered breath.  “I’ve said it to you before?”

She lifted her head to look up at him.  “I-I think so,” she answered, suddenly unsure.   “It’s not like I know your language or anything like that, so he – you – could have said something else, but I’m pretty sure that was it.  I really don’t think it’s the first time I’ve heard it.”  She blinked at him.  “Can you repeat it?  I’ll close my eyes and really concentrate on it.”

“Oh-Okay,” he breathed out.   “But look at me.  Don’t close your eyes.  Keep them on me.”  With a gaze straight into hers that locked them almost as one, he repeated his words.  Slowly, clearly, with conviction and a fierceness she’d never heard before, the words moved between them.

She gasped in a whimper and once again shuddered against him.  She was near breathless when she licked her lips and nodded.  “Yeah,” she squeaked.  “Yeah, that’s it.   It always gives me a shiver when I hear it. So beautiful.”

He gulped deeply.  “Which me said it to you?”

“Both,” she answered without falter.  “And more’n once.”  A smile stretched across her face.  “the first you said it for the first time after Downing Street.   We survived that mess, got back to the TARDIS, and he stood at the doorway and said it to me when I got to the console all ready to run into our next adventure.   Looked me straight in the eye, said it, and then closed the door and told me it was time for the human to sleep.   I heard it a couple’a times after that.   I asked him to translate, and he told me it was nothing important and not to worry about it.”

“Well, that’s not entirely accurate,” he corrected.  “Not even partially accurate.  But do go on.  What about the me that you’re with now?”

She looked away in thought for a moment, but quickly shifted her gaze back to his.  “First time he hugged me, actually.  Not even a day after he regenerated.”

He nodded.  “And since?”

She shrugged.  “Every time he hugs me, I’d guess.  Which is a lot.”  She smirked.  “He’s a cuddler this time around.  Always giving hugs.”  Her lips curled with distaste.  “He’s also an insufferable flirt who will schmooze up to anything wearing a skirt.”

“That,” he managed over a swallow, “is a new trait.”

“Yeah, well, is snogging a new one as well?” she queried petulantly.  “Because he’s getting good at that, too.”

“With you?” he ventured hopefully.  “And only you, right?”

Rose finally pulled herself away from him.  She shook her head as she wiped now sweated palms against her thighs.  “Not with me at all, actually,” she muttered.   “No snogging for the Doctor and Rose.  But snogging and dancing with Madame du Pompadour is certainly okay and worth bragging about.”

The Doctor choked and made a strangled sound in the back of his throat.  He shook his head in short and almost robotic movements:  quick and static.  “No.  No.  There wasn’t any dancing, he managed tightly.  None at all.  I can assure you, Rose, that any activities of that very specific nature did not happen.”

Rose lifted her eyes to the ceiling and let out a sharp laugh.  “Oh.  Why?  Because you’re going to remember this little conversation in – oh – how many centuries from now, and make sure he doesn’t?”  She rolled her eyes.  “Fat chance of you sticking to that when you meet a fancrush that views sex as a fun past time and not something sacred to be shared between two people who actually love each other.”

He sat up and closed his eyes as he digested her words.  “Is that what you believe,” he asked her firmly.  “That love, and the making of, is sacred?”

She looked to her knees.  “Time was I really didn’t,” she admitted.  “I thought it was something that was just required in a relationship, or to have a short bit of fun.  I didn’t think that it was supposed to be something special.”  She shrugged.  “But back when I thought that I was young and stupid and dating a guy who was older and …”  She inhaled and stopped herself.  “But bein’ around you – the older you’s I mean – well, I couldn’t imagine ever … no … not with anyone else.  Not ever again.”

“So you and me…?”

She reddened and looked off to one side.  “I’m not answerin’ that question, Doctor, so stop askin’.”   Her eyes remained off in the distance at a small bird preening itself on a tree branch.  “But it’s because of him – my first Doctor – that I realized just how sacred love really is.   Even the thought of bein’ touched by anyone else makes me feel sick inside.”

“And right now, I think I know the feeling,” he said softly, inaudibly.   Her eyes flashed and she questioned what he’d said.  He waved it off with a shrug and a shake of his head.  “Nothing.  Nothing important.”  He moved closer to her and licked at his lip.   “But I feel that you should know one thing, Rose.  And this is something that is, indeed, important.”

She nodded.  “Go on.”

He licked at his lips and watched his hand as he used the tip of his finger to curl her hair behind her ear.   His eyes remained there.  “When a Gallifreyan choses a mate,” he began gently.

“What’s a Gallifreyan?” she queried with a confused furrow in her brow.

That took him aback slightly.  “A Gallifreyan is who I am, Rose.”

“No,” she corrected.  “You’re a Time Lord.  That’s what you told me you were.”

“Yes.  A Time Lord,” he agreed.  “A Time Lord from Gallifrey, which makes me Gallifreyan by birth, Time Lord by designation.”

“Gallifrey,” she repeated quietly to herself.   “That’s where you’re from?  Gallifrey.  But it sounds so, so Irish.  Not nearly as pompous as it should sound considering you lot call yourselves Lords.”

“London doesn’t exactly sound like a regal locale.”

“Good point.”  She smiled.  “But go on, tell me about Gallifrey.”

He seemed very confused.  “Have I not ever mentioned to you what planet I’m from?   Have I never brought you here before today?”

Her eyes flashed open as wide as her jaw.   She inhaled through that open mouth and leapt immediately to her feet to take in her surroundings.  “This is it?  This, where we’re standing, is Gallifrey: The Doctor’s home planet?”  Her hands flew to her mouth and she let out a sound of utter appreciation.  “Oh my God.  It.  It’s so beautiful.”  She spun toward him, eyes wide, and dropped her hands.  The smile across her face he could only describe as being absolutely magnificent, and it took his breath for a moment as she continued.   “You mean it exists?  It truly exists. Now?  Here and now?”

He frowned.  “Well.  Well of course it does, dear.  It has been here since before the dawn of your time, and will remain here until both you and I have been gone for millennia.”  He tipped his head at her.  “Why would you think otherwise?”

Again her eyes widened.   That’s right, this Doctor was the one before hers – the one who destroyed it all.  Her voice squeaked just slightly.  “Oh.  No reason.  Just.  He never speaks about it, I guess.”   She pointed to the grass and flowers at their feet.  “But would you mind if I take some cuttings or seeds?  Is it illegal to do that?”

He looked at her with an expression of mistrust on that, but it lasted only a moment.  “It’s not illegal,” he began slowly.  “You’re free to take samples from any specimen around here if you desire.   Completely unnecessary of course, all you have to do is ask me, and I’ll happily bring you here.”

Her smile faltered.  “Oh, I don’t quite know about that. I really don’t think so.”

“Well, why not?”

She inhaled deeply and held onto that breath a moment as she tried to think of how not to tell him that in his future Gallifrey doesn’t exist anymore.  “Uhm.  Well…  You see…”

Understanding dawned and he nodded.  “Oh, I see,” he began with a knowing huff.  “I’ve been exiled again, have I?”

Her smile returned and showed a sliver of amusement.  “Exiled again?  Have you gotten into mischief and upset council before?”

He threw his head back with a laugh.  “Oh, my dear girl.  I don’t think they’re ever been not upset with me.”

“Rebel,” she accused with humour.

“I prefer to call myself a renegade,” he corrected.  The smile remained on his face.  “So how long this time?  And have I shared with you the story of why I’m not allowed back to Gallifrey?”

“No,” she breathed out in song.  “But I’d love to hear yours.”

He let out a laugh.  “When I return you to me.  Simply ask my older self that I regale you about my ever persistent and effective ways of annoying those who are seated on council.  I’m sure I’ll happily share all for you.  Each day a new tale.”

Her smile faltered again.  “Well.  To be honest with you.  I don’t imagine our time together will be that much longer.  Not now that he’s got himself a new companion – his wife.”

His eyes blew wide.  “His what?

“Wife,” she affirmed with a sad sigh.  “He just got himself married on that planet we just left, you know, the home of the tornado from hell?”

“Crandinia,” he supplied.

“Yeah,” she said with a nod.  “They were just about to get in the act to sire an heir together when I took my leave.   Scarpered when the snogging started.”

“Scarpered,” he repeated.  “And found your way to my TARDIS with your heart splintered into a thousand pieces.”

Her lips pursed outward and the tears began to form again.  She nodded by way of answering.  “Yeah.”

“So you weren’t there to actually witness it?”

She half gagged at that.   Her eyes widened and she shook her head with a look of absolute abhorrence on her face.  “I’d rather not, ta,” she drawled disgustedly.  “Not my thing, voyeurism.”   She gestured toward him with a flick of her hand.  “You might get off on things like that, but not me.”

He opened his mouth to counter her remark, but quickly closed his mouth again when she continued to speak.

“Men,” she huffed.  “All about watchin’ porn and naked women.”  She set her hands on her hips and actually waggled a finger at him.  “Well I’m having none of that nonsense, ta.  None at all.”

This time it was the Doctor’s turn to flare eyes in an expression of surprise.  “Not quite what I meant, Rose,” he breathed out hoarsely.  “In fact quite the opposite.”  His eyes blinked rapidly as his mind provided him with rather graphic imagery conjured to accompany Rose’s rant.  He shuddered.  “Very much not what I was alluding to at all.”

Rose’s eyes were wide in challenge, and she didn’t take her hands from her hips.  She merely humphed to tell him to fully outline exactly what he’d originally intended to say.

He took that challenge with an embarrassed clearing of his throat.  “Yes.  Well.  As.   As I was saying.  Earlier…”  He lifted his hand to rub at the back of his neck.  He could feel the heat of embarrassment creep up his spine.  “What I meant to explain…”

“Are…?”  Rose blurted with surprise and definite humour in her tone.  “Are you blushing?”

His mouth gaped and he did his absolute best to look as affronted by the question as possible.  “I will have you know, young lady, that Time Lords do not blush!”

Rose lifted her hands from her hips and folded her arms across her breasts.  She tipped her hip to one side and gave him a tongue-touched smile.  “Oh.   Well this one does.  Look at you all beet red right up to the tips of your ears.”

“Well perhaps if you weren’t speaking words that were desperately inappropriate for a … a …. Well, for anyone to speak about in polite company...”

Rose bust out laughing.  “Oh, Doctor, you are anything but polite.  All rude and not ginger and all…”

His embarrassment quickly faded into curiosity.  “Rude and what?  Not ginger?   Whatever does that mean?”

“It means that you’re rude and not ginger,” she answered back with a smirk and a shrug. 

He lifted his eyes in contemplation a moment, and then bit his smile and nodded.  “Yes.  Yes, I can see how that descriptor fits.   Across all of my known incarnations, actually.”  His smile widened.  “Quite eloquent in how simple – yet so accurate – it is.  The Doctor:  Rude and not Ginger.”    He winked at her.  “You, Rose, are a very clever girl.”

He watched her chuckle into her hand with a smile of his own.   The smile fell after a moment and his expression changed to one of thought.  “So.  Before porn and descriptives of myself were topics of conversation, where were we?”

Rose shrugged.  Amusement was still a feature upon her face, neck, and shoulders.  “Don’t really remember,” she admitted with a purse in her lips. 

He hummed.  “It can’t have been of vital importance, then.”

“If you were talkin’ about it,” she quipped in reply.  “Then it was probably very important.”

“Indeed,” he agreed coolly and with a nod of his head.  “I don’t often speak nonsense.”

“That’s debatable, Mr. Lion King reference in the middle of a threat to humanity.”

His eyes blew wide at that.  “Was it at least a good reference?”

“Meh,” she sang.  “Guess you thought so at the time.”

“Was it profound?”

Subjective … as you say…”

“Ahhh.”  He breathed out.  “One of those off the cuff remarks to stall for time?”

She nodded and managed to give him an honest smile.  “Well stalled..”  She took a deep breath through an open mouth to let him know not to speak right at that moment.  When confident he was going to remain silent, she gave him a smile.  “But we digress.  What were you going to say?”

He looked slightly sheepish.  “You may want to elaborate on just which line of discussion you’re referring to.  We’ve engaged in a couple of broken lines of topic.”

“Gallifreyans,” she said slowly as though ensuring that she got the word correct.  “And choosing a mate.”

His jaw dropped with remembrance.  “Yes.  Yes, indeed.   Gallifreyans and their selection of a mate.”

She waited for him to immediately continue.  When he didn’t, she nodded quickly.  “Yes.  That’s the one.”

He cleared his throat with slight discomfort and held out his hand to her.  “It may be more comfortable to be seated for this discussion.  Do come with me.”

She took his hand and tightened her grip when it looked as though he might lead her back into the TARDIS.  “No,” she blurted out quickly, smiling when he looked toward her with surprise.  “Not in the TARDIS.  Out here.”  She looked around them.  “It’s too beautiful to walk away from right now.”

He nodded with understanding.  “If you wish.”

He led her toward a large rock with weather smoothed edges and urged her to take a seat.  He didn’t immediately sit beside her, instead he took a small step backward and thrust his hands into his trouser pockets.

“My people, Rose,” he began quickly, deciding to just go straight into it rather than dawdle around it any more.  “Well, most notably the Time Lords, didn’t often select a partner for what your people term love.”

“My people,” she repeated with a chuckle.  “Sounds so proper.”

“Let me finish,” he warned slowly with a soft smile.  He waited for a gesturing wave of her hand and once again cleared her throat.  “The Time Lord Society is not one for love and romance and vows of eternal love an honour.   Most betrothals that are entered into are for political unions rather than romantic.”

“Sounds a bit like royalty back in the day,” she muttered with a perplexed furrow in her brow.

He nodded.  “Quite.”

“How awful,” she mused softly.  She lifted her eyes to his and inside her gaze swam a myriad of questions that she dared not ask.

He could read each and every one of them and gave her a gentle smile as he slowly nodded his head.  “Yes, Rose.  I was quite reluctantly entered into one such a partnership.”  He shuddered.  “Rather distasteful, really.  I’d frankly prefer not have to endure anything of that nature ever again any time soon.”

She blinked to wide eyes.  “Never?”

He heard the meekness in her voice as she asked that one word question.  It was a question asked with hope, realisation, disappointment, and then heartache.  With a slow blink of his eyes he looked down to the red grass at her feet.  “Of that particular nature?  No.”

“Not into domestics,” she stated with a breathy sigh.  “Can’t say it surprises me.  You might’ve mentioned your disdain for that more than once.”

His eyes shifted to hers and he held her gaze for a moment to carefully formulate his response.  When he did speak, it was with a tender voice.  “If our conversation to this point is truthful, Rose, then I suspect I may have lied to you about that.”

Her head tilted to one side with curiosity.  “How so?”

He inhaled deeply, held onto that breath a moment, and then released it as he spoke.  “As I’ve been trying to explain around your rather constant interruptions…”  He chuckled at her chastened expression.  “While most marriages between my people are political, there are also some that are made with romantic intentions.  Not often, mind, heavens forbid that a Lord of Time admit to any emotions other than judgement and contempt..”

“And self righteousness,” she supplied with a smirk.

“Quite right you are on that, Dear Rose.  Quite right.”  He paused long enough to let himself indulge in a smile, and then let it fall.  “But for those who do fall for a Lord or Lady, there does exist a rite to courtship that all Time Lords and Ladies will abide to …”  he smiled only on one side of his mouth.  “…including myself.”

She swallowed thickly, hope rising slightly in her veins.  “And … And that is?”

“A verbal statement of intent,” he answered without pause.  “One that must be reciprocated if the courtship is to move forward.”

“And if it isn’t?”

His eyes rolled wide and he bounced his head side to side with thought.  “Well.  That’s where it gets a little complicated.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

He let out a breathy laugh and thread and took a seat beside her on the rock.  “Oh my dear, Rose.  I don’t know what is worse:  That I no longer surprise you, or that the legends of the Time Lords being able to complicate even the most trivial of matters has extended toward the people of Earth.”

Her mouth stretched into a grin.  “Oh, you do still continue to surprise me, Doctor.  Sometimes in exciting ways…” her smile faltered.  “And sometimes not so.”  She feigned happiness, however, and petted at his knee with the palm of her hand.  “But do go on.”  She didn’t look up at him, instead kept her eyes on her hand covering his knee.  “I want to hear more.”

A brow lifted high on his forehead.  “Are you really sure about that?  Because evidence is leading me toward other conclusions.”

She bumped him with her shoulder.  “Oh, shut up.” 

“If I do that,” he countered with amusement. “Then I wouldn’t be able to elaborate, would I?”   He rubbed at his chin when she rolled her eyes.  “Then again.  You’re not exactly letting me finish my thoughts, are you?”

She boldly laid her head on his shoulder and looked into his face with the most innocent of expressions.  “I’m sorry.”

The wideness of her eyes and the sincerity within them gave him pause.  His breath hitched just slightly and he found himself drawing a fingertip along her forehead to draw her hair from her eyes.  At that moment, he could see just what it was that captured his future self’s attention.

“You are … remarkable,” he breathed out reverently.

“Only b’cause of you,” she breathed back in reply. 

He watched her eyes fall toward his lips and the Doctor panicked.  In a swift move that had little to no grace, he shot to his feet.  “As I was saying before you so very rudely interrupted me for the umpteenth time, Rose Tyler.   Time Lord courtship rituals are complicated.”  He spun to look at her with a forced glare in his eyes that warned her not to interrupt again.  “As they are in many, many species across the universe – Earth included.”

With wide eyes, she nodded, but Rose said nothing.

He half expected her to interrupt, and felt slightly put out that she didn’t.  His voice immediately calmed and his posture relaxed.  He let out a long breath as he considered where to push on from here.  “I suppose I’ve mentioned that we are a telepathic race?”

She bit her lips together and nodded.

“Well.  And I expect that you also know that we regenerate,” he continued.  “We change completely…”  he paused and looked down at his feet with a shake of his head.  “Of course you know that.  We’ve established that you know that.”

He felt her small hand curl warmly around his elbow and let out a long breath.

“It’s okay, Doctor.  I know you don’t like to talk about these things like this.  It’s really okay if you don’t wanna.”

“No,” he breathed out, letting his hand cover hers.  He looked into her face with a small smile.  “It’s actually very important that you understand this, and what it has to do with my future … and possibly yours.”

She took a step backward, slipping her hand from underneath his and shook her head with confusion and slight worry.  “I-I don’t understand.”

A series of lyrical words flew from his mouth at that time.  Spoken without waver and in a voice that commanded no question, every lilt and curl of his tongue around each word swirled around her like invisible tendrils.  A rush of pins and needles rushed from her feet up to the top of her head, causing her to shudder and let out a whimpering sigh.   When the shuddering stopped she looked up at him with questions once more hiding within her eyes.

“If you were a Time Lady,” he began as he took a stride closer to her.  He maintained his distance as he slid his hands into his trouser pockets and rocked back lightly on his heels.  “You’d have a response for that.  Maybe reciprocal in nature, maybe not.”  He inhaled deep.  “But until such time as I receive a response of any kind, I’ll be put into a holding pattern of sorts.  Unable to move forward, and unable to let go.”

“What did you say?” she asked in a whisper.  “How should I respond? And…”

“And how can I not be able to move on?” he finished for her.  “Because that really is what is important here.”

“I – I don’t understand.”

He drew in a deep breath.  “There is actually no direct translation into your language from mine.  You couldn’t respond to that, and I couldn’t hope to ever expect you too.”  He smiled ruefully.  “You would have to speak my language, and that’s no easy feat for someone who isn’t intimately attuned to time and all of her nuances.”  He pursed his lips in a thoughtful manner.  “Which is probably why I say it to you as often as I do.  If I don’t expect a response, then I can’t expect a rejection.”

“But,” she queried gently.  “What if it wouldn’t be a rejection?  What if I want to reciprocate?”

His eyes snapped quickly to hers.  “Would you want to, Rose?”

Her eyes widened a moment.  She quickly reddened and then stole her gaze away from his.  There was a waver in her voice.  “Uh.  I might.  You know….”  Her lips curled around her teeth in such a way that it made her words seem as though they were spoken around a mouthful of marbles.  “We might have some things to sort out first, you know.  I mean, because, the current you I’m travelling with is behaving like a bit of a lad…”

“Flirtatious,” he countered quickly.  “But not being a cad.”  He walked around her, straightened up into a more confident demeanour and shrugged.  “That, I can assure you.”

She barked out a laugh at that.  “Oh, Doctor.  This you might not be a player, but as you flame through your regenerations, you tend to look a little more at the opposite sex.”

“Window shopping,” he came back with a shrug of nonchalance.  “Nothing more.”

“Snogging,” she continued.  “Dancing.”  She winced.  “Getting married and siring heirs.”

The Doctor snorted.  “If what you’re saying is correct, and the future me is the instigator and willing participant in all such endeavours, then the statement you claim he’s making to you on a regular basis is definitely not what you think it is.”

“He’s definitely saying that….”

He shrugged.  “Then he’s not playing about like you think he is.”

“Says you,” she shot back petulantly.

“Says the mating and courtship ritual of my people,” he shot back almost angrily.  “If he has indeed spoken to you in the manner by which you and I have discussed, then his ability to engage in any such nonsense would be physically impossible.”  He flicked his hand in a rudely dismissive gesture.  “Unless you have offered him the appropriate rejection.”  He spun, looked at her and ground out a series of melodic syllables that to her sounded harsh and extremely unattractive. 

Her heart fell into her stomach.  She didn’t understand what he said, but she knew it wasn’t in any way complimentary.  “Please don’t speak to me like that, again,” she warned him darkly.  “I might not be real intimate with time and all that, but I know an insult when I hear it.”

His expression remained neutral, but he tilted his head to one side to regard her curiously.  More melodic, and obviously more deliberate syllables fell from his lips.  Although his expression hardened somewhat, and he looked to be deliberately unhappy with her, the words he spoke were loving and tender.  Rose felt the tingle from tip to toe and her eyes misted.

“Right,” she breathed out with a shudder.  “Ni-Nice backpedal, Doctor.  Much better.”

His eyes quickly pinched and he regarded her with scrutiny.  “You shouldn’t be able to tell the difference,” he remarked suspiciously.  “You’re human, correct?”

“As far as I know.”

“But…”  He was on her before she even registered that he’d taken a step toward her.  His march ended with his hands curled around her biceps and his face mere inches from hers.  His eyes bored deeply into hers and despite her mild attempt to struggle away from him, he held them both firm.   She could see his eyes flick between hers, searching and mentally cataloguing what he saw.  “Why do I see time swirling in your eyes?” he questioned.  “Swimming deep in the back.”

She struggled back as best she could, uncomfortable against his scrutiny.  “You’re bein’ daft.”

His hold, both his grip and his eyes, were strong.  “No.  It’s there, Rose.  I can see it.  Curling around the sclera, attached to your optic nerve.”  His deep focus deep within her eyes shifted, and he focused upon her confused gaze.  “Only those who’ve looked into the Schism see time like that.”

His hands roughly let go of her arms.  He purposefully shifted his flattened palms to her chest, pressing against her bosom, one left, the other right.

Rose was quite frankly mortified by this advance.  She shoved both her hands against his chest to push him away from her.  “Get offa me!” she demanded as she stepped back and folded her arms across her chest to curl into herself.  “Who do you think you are, bein’ all forward like that?   Just because I fancy you in the future, doesn’t mean you have rights to get all touchy-feelly on me now.”  She sniffed and raised her chin high.  “I don’t even know you.”

He didn’t seem to notice her rant at all.  He simply crossed one arm over his belly and rested the elbow of the other on his fist.  He rubbed at his chin and wore a perplexed frown on his face.  “One heart,” he muttered to himself.

“One what?

“Heart,” he answered distractedly.  “You’ve only got one.”

She didn’t release the cover of her arms across her chest.  “Yeah.  And you didn’t have to turn into an octopus to find out.  You only needed to ask.”

His brows lifted and he looked at her with an expression of confusion.  “An octopus, Rose?  How am I anything like an octopus?”

She gestured toward his hands with a flick of one of hers.  She didn’t relinquish the protective hold of her arms across her bosom.  “You, bein’ all handsy there.”  Her eyes lifted angrily to his.  “I don’t appreciate that, Doctor.  You didn’t ask, and so I didn’t consent.”

If possible, his expression of utter confusion deepened.

Rose let out a huff and finally opened her arms to display her chest to him, even pulling back her shoulders to tighten her shirt and further accentuate them.  “My boobs, Doctor.  You were grabbing them like they were your little playthings.”

Confusion shifted to accused affront.  “I did no such thing.”

“Yeah,” she choked out.  “You did.”

“I did not grab,” he growled in his defense.  “There was no grabbing.  I pressed my hands to your chest, yes, but that was an exploratory action.”

She huffed out with disgust.  “Exploratory my arse,” she shot back.  “I’ll give you exploratory when I slap you hard enough to make you regenerate.”

His eyes widened.  “I was feeling to see how many hearts you have.”

“How many did you think I had, Doctor?” She shook her head and rolled her eyes.  “Human.  I have one.  Just one.  And you could’ve found that out by askin’ me.”

“I had to be sure,” he grumbled.

“And are you very sure now, Doctor?”

There was still anger in her tone.  He pressed his lips together and gave a firm nod.  “Yes.  Thank you.  And.”  He cleared his throat as he finally considered his actions and how they must’ve been received.  He couldn’t find it in himself to show completely ruefulness, so he hid it behind slight petulance.  “And I’m sorry, by the way.  I didn’t think.”

“You’re telling me,” she answered back, her anger falling away.  She waited a few seconds and then shook her head with a smile. “Daft git,” she said finally.  “Only you could possibly do something like that and not think there was anything wrong with it.”

His brows lifted and he nodded with an open mouth.  “Oh, there is plenty wrong with it, Rose, on that I agree.  I also agree that I wasn’t thinking at that very specific point in time past the mission that I was on, which was to determine the amount of hearts beating within your chest.”

“One,” she advised.

“One,” he confirmed slowly.  “Which is very curious.”

“Why?”

He frowned a little and pursed his lips out far enough that he could see them when he looked down along his nose.  After a moment in this position his expression cleared, relaxed, and fell to a more neutral state.  “I’m really not quite sure about that,” he admitted.  “When I saw the way that time was swirling in your eyes, and noted that you were able to distinguish the difference between … well … complimentary and non complimentary words despite there not being any recognisable difference to anyone not familiar with the language at all….”  He sighed.  “I found myself questioning your heritage.”

“Again,” she said with a weak smile.  “You only had to ask.”

“To quote you from earlier,” he droned in reply.  “I don’t know you.  How do I know that I can trust you?”

She let out a long breath and nodded with her lips pressed tightly together.  “Well played,” she conceded flatly.

Silence fell at that moment.  Neither willing to initiate to continue the current line of discussion.  Instead they let the tinkling of silver leaves and the rustle of red grasses fill the void of sound between them.

After a moment, Rose shifted from her protective stance to take up position beside the Time Lord.  She put her hands into the pockets of her jeans and watched the colour of the sky changed as the twin suns shifted to drop behind the mountains off in the distance.   She wanted to remark on the beauty of the scene in front of her.  She wanted to capture the sight forever.  In a swift and practiced move, she drew her phone from her pocket and pointed it toward the setting suns.

“It is stunning, isn’t it?” he asked her almost distractedly as he watched her take photograph after photograph, and then walk slowly in a circle to capture a 360 panoramic image.

“Gorgeous,” she agreed breathlessly.  She then walked back toward the edge of the cliff and turned her back to the sight.  She lifted the camera with one hand in an attempt to capture the best selfie image possible.  

She stumbled slightly, and was immediately inside the arms of the Doctor.   With her camera still raised she turned to look at him with wide open eyes of question.  She wasn’t surprised to see him fiercely analysing her gaze with his own.  He ran his arm up along hers to take the phone in his hand.

“Here,” he breathed out hoarsely without taking his eyes from hers.  “Allow me.”

Her jaw fell and she nodded at him, dumbly, with eyes wide.  “Yeah.  Yeah, okay.  Thanks.”

He quickly released her and took a good long stride backward.  “Not that I doubt your selfie-taking abilities at all, Rose.  But if you want to capture the perfect image to show my future self my home and my hearts, then it’s best that I take the pictures, don’t you think.”

Her head still bobbed as she reached forward and relinquished the phone.  “Uh.  Yeah.  Of course.”

He made a show of snapping pictures and guiding her into specific poses and positions against the backdrop of Gallifrey.  He cheered her on playfully.  He hooted and hollered when he felt he got the most perfect shot.  He purred out about beauty when he captured a wide set of eyes and smile that held reflections of Schlenk Blossoms and Cadonwood trees.

Rose sighed when he guided her back toward the rock and asked her to sit.  She watched as he plucked a bloom from the ground and approached to place it behind her ear.

“Could you teach me?” she asked with soft curiosity when she felt the tickle of his fingers against her ear as he settled the flower into place.

His eyes slid from the bloom to hers.  “Teach you what?”

“How to respond.”

“Respond to what?” he queried as he took a step back to line up another shot.  “Now please, lean slightly to the left.  I want to capture the shadows of the leaves across your cheeks.”

“Respond to ‘im,” she clarified.  “You know, when he speaks to me in your language.”

He stilled.  He feigned devoted attention toward the phone and really tried not to look at her when he answered.  His voice was breathy.  “I thought you said that you weren’t going to stay with me.”   His eyes still didn’t rise.  “Wouldn’t be much point in teaching you anything of the sort when you don’t actually intend on saying it.”

“Leaving you is not as easy to me as I’m making out it is,” she admitted quietly.  “I say I’m leaving, but I don’t know that I actually will.”  She turned on the rock to sit sideways to him and slumped as she looked off into the distance.  “I love it, you know:  the travelling.  I love seeing everything that the Doctor has to show me.  Everything that exists out there … it’s …”  She signed and looked down to her knee.  “I don’t know how, or even if I can say good bye to it all.”

The Doctor switched the camera to video and continued hold it steady on her image, stunned that he was at the beauty within the sorrow.  His voice turned soft. “Is it just the travelling that you love, Rose?”

She lifted her head back up to look at a snow capped mountain peak and smiled sadly.  “I think we’ve already established how I feel about ‘im, Doctor.  It doesn’t need to be said that I’m in love with him.  Break my heart and all that he does, but I still worship the very ground he walks on.”

“That’s not a pedestal I should ever be placed upon.”

She turned her head to look down her arm at him.  It was almost sultry the way she gazed at him.  “Why not?” she asked with a gentle blink of her eyes and a tilt in her head to further accent the image she was already projecting toward him.  “You’re got the entire universe up on the same pedestal.  It’s about time you joined us up here.”  She smiled into the camera.  “It’s kind’ve lonely up here without you.”

His voice was breathless as he looked at her through the viewscreen instead of directly at her.  “You’re absolutely breathtaking,” he admitted inaudibly to himself.

“And I’m right here,” she said with a chuckle.  “So look at me an’ not the phone, yeah?”

Her hand flicked dismissively toward the camera, a move that shook him from his reverie and allowed his eyes to flick up to hers.  He quickly nodded and tapped off the recording feature of her phone.  “Yes, of course you are.  My apology.”

She shrugged and held out her hand.  “Join me, Doctor.  Please?”

He didn’t take her hand, but he cupped her cheek tenderly when he joined her on the rock.  He held her face and held her eyes as he spoke gently in the language of his people.  His lilting words stumbled ever so slightly when she leaned into his touch then lifted her hand to cover his.

“Can you repeat that back to me?” he asked softly when he was done. 

She kept her cheek in his hand and let her eyes shift to his.  “Depends.  Is that the yes I want to be your girlfriend or the No, taa, looking for other options?”

He chuckled though his nose.  “The former, Rose.  However, this isn’t as simple as asking to be girlfriend and boyfriend.  What he asks of you is so much more than that.”

“Is it?”

He nodded.  “Very much so.”  He cleared his throat and rubbed his palms on his knees.  “It’s a telepathic vow – one to seek out a bond.  Telepathy being as it is with my species, consent is vital in forming such a bond.”

She nodded to indicate that she’d understood, but she said nothing.  The look of engagement in her eyes was encouragement for him to continue.

“So that said, any such desire or request requires reciprocation, or it cannot be formed.   Two minds as one, and all that.”  He drew in a deep breath.  “Which makes it very important that if you intend on learning how to answer the question to the side of positive, that you have thought it through and are 100% committed to that answer and accept all of its repercussions.”  He set his hands on his knees and looked toward her.  “Once you’ve accepted, you can’t walk away.  It’s a permanent connection.  One for two to remain together, as one….”

“Forever,” she completed inside a whisper.  Her head lowered.  “I’ve already promised him that, Doctor.  On Woman’s Wept, underneath flying sting Rays…”  She smiled at that and lifted her head.  “He asked me how long I was going to stay with him.”  She looked toward him.  “I said forever, an’ I meant it.”

“But can you follow through on that promise?”

“I thought I could, you know.”  She pursed her lips and looked out across the field toward the TARDIS.  “Back when he was rough and gruff…”

“And a big teddybear,” he recounted with disgust in his tone.

She bumped him with her shoulder.  “Don’t you mind on that, Doctor,” she chided.  “A teddybear with me only, yeah?”

“Whilst maintaining my carefully crafted reputation of indignance toward all others, I hope.”

She snorted a laugh through her nose.  “You ‘ave no idea,” she drawled.   Her drawl ended with a sigh and she looked back across the canyon toward the setting suns.  She noted an almost transparent set of lines across the sky that she assumed were from rings surrounding the planet and let out a sigh of awe. “Gallifrey has rings?”

The Doctor’s eyes flicked up and he shook his head.  “No, it doesn’t.”  Realisation dawned with a sigh and he blinked slowly.  “Transduction barrier beams,” he corrected.  “Gallifreyan made, not natural, I’m afraid.”

“And that is…?”

He shook his head with a smile.  “That is your way of avoiding continuing with your line of thought and giving me your answer.”

She stood up from the rock and held herself as she moved toward the cliff’s edge.  Her head remained high as she watched colours she didn’t know existed swirl across the sky.  “Maybe it’s because I just don’t have one for you right now.”

“If I took you back to me right now?”

She could hear the light waver of worry in his voice, and looked back at him with a shrug.  “Probably best you don’t.”  Her eyes flicked down to the red grass at her feet and then skittered back toward the sunset.  “You bein’ all sweet talking now doesn’t negate what you do in your future.”

“A future,” he corrected, “that you ran away from before you could see…”

She spun and glared a sizzling stare of fury toward him.  “I saw plenty, ta.”  She stalked toward him, eyes wide and nostrils flared.  There was a light hunch in her shoulder as she stalked his way.  When she finally got to him, she rolled up onto her toes, poked her finger into his chest, and curled her lip in as threatening a manner as possible.  “Didn’t need to stick around to see the climax of a whole year’s worth of him pulling away and treatin’ me second class, like I don’t matter.”

With his height, he unintentionally loomed over her.  Although he had advantage with height staring down at her angry, hurt, and frustrated glare, he couldn’t help but feel several feet shorter.  His hand flicked upward toward her temple, and stopped just short.

“Let me see,” he requested firmly.

“See what?” she growled in reply, her tight attention on the blue in his eyes so rapt that she didn’t even register that his hands were moving toward her face.

“What I’ve done to you,” he clarified.  “Just need a moment, a quick look into your mind…”

“My head?” she barked out incredulously.  She took a full stride backward and let her eyes finally find his raised hand.  “Why’d you need to go in there.  Don’t you believe me?”

“Not really,” he admitted, taking his own step backward at her growl of utter shock and disgust at his admittance.  “Oh don’t get offended,” he growled with equal annoyance.  “You’re a human…”

“Which has what to do with anything?” she snapped back. 

He sighed a long-suffering sound and dropped his hand.  “You’re emotional,” he explained with as little condescension as possible.  “And a defining characteristic of your species is that emotions cloud your judgment – especially where the heart is concerned.”

Her lips pursed petulantly, but she didn’t speak.

“So that said.  Let me take a look and see for myself what harm I’ve done to your singular, and obviously very passionate heart.”  His voice softened further.  “Let me see if what feelings you had for me are still  salvageable so that you can move forward in the right direction …”  he gulped, “for both of us.”

He lifted his hand slowly, cautiously.  “Tell me, Rose.  Do you trust me?”

She took his hand and pressed it flat against her head.  She looked him in the eye with a fierce gaze of utter faith.   “More than I should.”

He watched her eyes flutter shut and shifted his fingers to make contact.  “Anything you want to shield from me, Rose.  Just put them behind a closed door.  I won’t peek, I promise.”

“I’ll try,” she whispered softly.

His own eyes closed as the tingling of connection fluttered between them.

He expected to be bombarded with a barrage of mess thoughts, memories, and emotions – such were the minds of humans – but instead he gasped to be greeted with a single moment… and one filled with so much passion and emotion that it made his hearts hurt to bear witness.

…and offered discomfort beyond all measure to look through the eyes of this young woman at a silhouette of himself standing at a window’s ledge, raw, bare, and naked, lit only by the light of the full moon outside..

Chapter Text

He expected to be bombarded with a barrage of mess thoughts, memories, and emotions – such were the minds of humans – but instead he gasped to be greeted with a single moment… and one filled with so much passion and emotion that it made his hearts hurt to bear witness.

…and offered discomfort beyond all measure to look through the eyes of this young woman at a silhouette of himself standing at a window’s ledge, raw, bare, and naked, lit only by the light of the full moon outside..

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

She marvelled at the way the moonlight danced off his skin, and of the ghostly blue-hued luminescence it gave of each curve, divot, and angle that sculpted the magnificent creature across the room.   Magnificent he was – in her eyes, anyway. 

 

God, she loved him.

 

He leaned his tall and lanky self in front of the window over looking the cliffs and ocean below them.  One arm was curled up next to his head, where he leaned against the window frame, the other sat against his side, his fingers curled around the curve of his hip.  He was tall, proud, and statuesque with perfection – a master piece that may well have been crafted by Michelangelo himself…

 

…Less muscular, perhaps, and more generous in the lower regions than the Italian master may have offered him…

 

She held off chuckling at her own joke to instead watch quietly from the bed on which she lay.  There were very few moments where she could catch him unaware and just watch.   He was far too perceptive with – she was sure – a set of hidden eyes in the back of his head.   She narrowed her eyes in the darkness to attempt to focus on just where they may be.  His closely cropped hair could hide nothing, however, so if he did indeed have a pair of eyes, then he had a perception filter on them or something…

 

“Are you going to stare at me all night, Rose?”

 

“Was thinkin’ about it,” she admitted with a chuckle.  “You’re like lookin’ at art work, you are.”

 

“Picasso,” he replied with a snort, his eyes still locked on the horizon ahead of him.  “Apt, considerin’.”

 

“Considerin’ what?” she queried as she swung her legs around to sit up.  She located his discarded jumper and pulled it over her head. 

 

“Nothing, Rose,” he conceded gently. 

 

Rose let the conversation end on that point end and took her time to pull her arms through the sleeves of the jumper.  She smoothed it down over her belly and onto her thighs only when she finally pushed up to a stand.

 

“How long was I out?” she queried as she softly padded along the floor to join him at the window.

 

Still his focal attention remained only on the scenery outside the window.  “A couple of hours.  Surprised you’re up.  Figured you’d be out till morning.”

 

Rose curled around his arm and let her temple rest against the softest part of his shoulder.  She let her gaze fall upon the skies overlooking the waters below.  “Didn’t have my Time Lord blanket keepin’ me warm.”  She looked up at him when she heard his face shift from pensive to a smile.  “Come back to bed, Doctor?”

 

“Not tired,” he replied flatly, his smile now a straight line of pressed lips.  “Got a few things on my mind right now.”

 

“Bad Wolf?”

 

At that name, the Doctor finally pulled his gaze from the window to look down at her.  There was a flare of surprise within his stare.  “How’d you figure that?”

 

Her own stare remained ahead of them.  “Today, at the Market when we saw the words in the crystals from that vendor.”  She let out a breath.  “Took you more by surprise than normal and seemed to worry you a bit.  Makes sense that that big Time Lord brain of yours would repeat it over and over till you had a sec to ponder it.”  She curled a little more tightly around his arm, linking her fingers through his.  “An’ when you made love to me tonight, you were more intense about it than normal – like you knew somethin’ was coming and it might be the last time we, well....”

 

“Not planning to end it anytime soon,”  he breathed out firmly. 

 

“God.  I hope not.”  She purred with remembrance to only hours ago and let that mental image send shivers down int her belly.  She licked at her lip, inhaled a breath to re-centre herself, and allowed her fingertip to draw a line up along his belly.  She smiled at the twitch of his muscles and the hitch in his breath.  “But’m worried about you, Doctor.  I mean, okay, you’re always a pretty intense kind’ve bloke, but tonight I could barely catch my breath of you.”

 

Looking down at where she was curled up against him, he let his eyes trail down along her fringe and along the bridge of her nose.  He stopped on the tip of her tongue as it slid out to wet her lip and quickly flicked his eyes back toward the water.  “You don’t like my intensity?”

 

“Love it,” she growled with a chuckle as she rubbed her temple against his cool skin.  “Never too much to handle, and never lacking enough to bore me.”

 

“That’s good to know.”

 

She lifted her head to look up at him and loosened her hold of his arm.  “Seriously, though, Doctor.  Is this Bad Wolf thing something we should be worried about?”

 

“I hope not.”

 

“But you’re not sure, are you?”

He shook his head and stared off into the distant constellations.  “I don’t want to lie to you, Rose…”

She waited a beat for him to continue.  When he didn’t she felt herself deflate just slightly.  When her Time Lord didn’t want to answer a question, it meant it was time to change topics.  There’d be no way she could keep them here like this, now, comfortably wrapped up together, if she continued to press the issue.  Instead she snuggled in closer against his arm and looked out into the darkness ahead of them.

 

“Are you looking for her?”

 

He still at that question.  His voice held confusion.  “For whom, Rose?”   He lifted the arm she held in a jerking motion so she’d release him, and then let it fall over her shoulder.  He pulled her close into his side.  “The only woman I need is right here.  No sense lookin’ for more.”

 

“One of ‘em’s bad enough,” she purred in a deep mocking masculine voice.  “Bloody women.”

 

“I’m really going to try not to take offence to that,” he said with a sigh and a shake in his head.  “Then again.  There’s truth to it.  You can be quite the handful, Miss Jeopardy Friendly Ape.  Between you and the TARDIS, I don’t need another woman to test my patience.”

 

She slapped at his bare chest in a playful manner and moaned out a chuckle.  “You daft git.  And I’m gonna tell the TARDIS you said that.”

 

“You say that like I don’t already make my feelin’s toward her known.”  He huffed.  “Another woman indeed.”

 

She moaned.  “I’m talking about your home, Doctor.”  Her nose jutted up in a gesture toward the stars.   “Up there in the darkness looking down at you an’ all.”

 

“Yeah,” he drawled out on a long breath.  “Been looking.  But even with my superior and quite frankly fantastic eyesight, it’s still not visible to the naked eye.”

 

She giggled inside an amused hum.  “And you figured the rest of you being starkers might improve that naked vision?”

 

He paused for long enough to look down at his naked form and then shrugged.  “couldn’t hurt.”

She smiled at his cheeky wink.  “You told me once that as many light years as a star is away from us, that’s how far in the past we’re lookin’ at them, right?”  She relaxed heavily against him.  “So like, if Mars was 100 light years away… What we see on Earth is 100 years ago in Mars’ history.”

 

“Mars is closer to about 22 light minutes, but yes, you’re on the right track.”

 

“How far away is your home planet?”

 

He looked back up into the sky.  His breath was little more than a whisper.  “About 250 million light years from here.”

 

“So then it’ll be there, above us, for 250 million more,” she offered with a smile as she stepped off his side and to the front of him.  “Forever in the skies above our heads.”  With a wink in her eye and a tongue-touched smile across her mouth, she put her hands on the ledge behind her and pulled herself to a seat.  Very quickly, her hands lost purchase and she began to fall backward.

Rose didn’t have time to yelp nor panic – although her heart quickly hammered up it’s rate.  No sooner had her hands slipped from the ledge, the Doctor was upon her.  He strode swiftly in between her parted knees and his hands quickly found her hips.

 

“I’ve got you,” he assured her on a firm and husky tone.

 

Her put her hands at his elbows and let a relieved breath ease out through fear-dried lips.  “I almost fell,” she breathed out, safety now allowing for panic to set in.

 

His hold of her hips tightened.  “I would never let that happen,” he vowed fiercely along a tone almost terrifying in its intensity. 

 

She shuddered as a myriad of feelings and emotions coursed from head to toe.  Once again, her tongue found its way to her lips to wet them.  “And if you can’t stop me?” she whispered.

 

He shifted his arms to fully encircle her hips and tugged her tightly against him, their naked cores pressed hard together.  His teeth grazed at her ear, his voice still dark and very stormy.  “Then we fall together.”

 

Rose took one of his hands in hers and lifted it up toward her mouth.  She ran her lips lightly across his knuckles as she locked her eyes to his.  “And if I tell you that I’ve already fallen, and there was no chance for you to catch me?”

 

He pressed his thumb between her lips and growled deeply in the back of his throat when she sucked it into her mouth.  Several alien words with a lyrical, musical sound, passed out quietly through clenched cheeks.

 

She felt the words, now becoming more familiar to her, circle around them both a moment before they collided with her chest and exploded out through her shoulder blades and into the night behind them.  Her back arched, her knees lifted, and as she threw back her head with an airless gasp, she felt him quickly fill her to her core.  His name stuttered and staggered from her chest and she struggled to maintain any sense of sanity at all as he moved and rocked against her.

 

Those Gallifreyan syllables kept falling from his lips, lilting and rolling against her.    Word after word, one promise made after another, they kept coming, kept filling her as entirely as he was.   And although these words were spoken with a passionate and fierce voice, the Doctor stared at her with an expressionless gaze.  Oh, but that gaze was intense.  His eyes a pair of blue tractor beams that captured and held her.  Even though she wanted to throw her head back and sigh, moan, and groan toward the heavens, she never could take her gaze from his.

 

And still those Gallifreyan syllables fell from his lips, thick as honey.

 

“English,” she demanded breathlessly as his rocking movements quickened, and then slowed, quickened, and then slowed again.

 

His eyes twitched in question, but he didn’t vocally seek clarification.

 

“What you’re saying,” she panted and moaned.  “I need you to say it so I can understand it.”  She paused only to cry out his name alongside that of her deity, and then begged him again.  “Please?”

 

The intensity in his eyes and the stoic expression didn’t change, but the tilt of his head did.  His eyes were still locked on hers and he thrust a harder movement of his hips against hers.  “My hearts,” he ground out through his teeth.  He curled a lip with a growl before continuing.  “Rose, they beat for you.”

 

She whimpered, her eyes wide and her mouth open wide in a voiceless scream.  

 

“Does yours beat for me?” he demanded as much as begged as he hooked both arms underneath hers and leaned her backward, out into the darkness.   With her unshakable trust in him, in that he’d never let her fall, she released her own hold upon him and let her arms flail into the night.  With the winds whipping against her ears and the peppering smacking sounds of their joining filling her ears and heightening her senses, so barely heard him ask her if hers beat for him, and whether or not she could swear to him that her one heart could ever beat as powerfully for him as both of his did for her.

 

“I love you,” she sang out into the night, unsure if her voice would win the battle against the winds and crashing waves below.  Part of her wholly believed that he’d heard her cry out her devotion in the wind as his rocking quickened and intensified. 

 

With the cool winds against her nipples, and the coolness of him filling and moving within her, Rose teetered on the edge much faster than she’d ever known herself to fall.    She couldn’t do this without him, though, and she began to writhe against him, her arms clawing at his to lift her back inside.   There was fluttering in her belly, a tightness in her shoulders, and she knew she was only moments away from completion.

 

His name flew desperately out of her as one, and then two hard rocks of his hips threw her finally over the edge.  Before her back could straighten out and her body tense, curl, and lock against the release, she was quickly pulled back in and up against a cool and heaving chest.  He held her off the floor and up against him as he continued to move with harder, more forced rocks.  He finally lifted his head in a below off alien words toward the sky, and slowly his movements began to wane.   He didn’t release her, even as the waning movements ebbed out into stillness.

 

He panted wetly against her throat, one open mouth huff after another, and once again, those Gallifreyan words kissed against her earlobe.  One rolling syllable after another, over and over, until finally, the strong and proud Time Lord could no longer keep his strength.   His knees faltered as he stumbled both of them toward the bed. He barely managed to get her onto the mattress before his knees gave out completely and he found himself awkwardly postioned half on, and half off the mattress.

“Are you okay?” she queried with a tired smile of pure adoration at his sheepish expression.

 

“It would be dangerous for me to tell you that you got a bit heavy for me there, wouldn’t it?”  he wriggled up a little to have a more dignified position on the mattress and lifted a shoulder in a shrug.  “Muscle fatigue after a long day, and all that stuff.”

 

Rose cupped his face and leaned down with a click of her tongue and a wink in her eye.  “Kiss me, Doctor, and I’ll forgive you.”  She met his lips halfway as he lifted to cater to her request.  “Kiss me.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The Doctor stumbled out of that memory, and out of Rose’s mind with a stagger, a stumble, and his thoughts still raw with her asking him to kiss her.

Rose stumbled backward as well.  She exclaimed a sound of surprise and embarrassment.  “You.  You weren’t supposed to see that!”

See that?  He didn’t just see it; he felt every single thing she did during that memory, and damn, he was raw for it.  He didn’t have any other thought in his mind at that moment, other than to kiss her.  With a very brisk stalk toward her, the Doctor lifted both hands, cupped her cheeks, and drew him toward her for what he intended on being a long and very languid kiss…

Chapter Text

Previously on Language:  See that?  He didn’t just see it; he felt every single thing she did during that memory, and damn, he was raw for it.  He didn’t have any other thought in his mind at that moment, other than to kiss her.  With a very brisk stalk toward her, the Doctor lifted both hands, cupped her cheeks, and drew him toward her for what he intended on being a long and very languid kiss…

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Still reeling from the intensity of the memory of her and her first Doctor engaged in what was their very passionate last night together, Rose didn’t immediately register this new (old) Doctor’s intensions.  When his hands tenderly cupped her face, she looked up at him through eyes blurred with tears with worry about what his reaction might be.   She wasn’t met by a pair of dusty blue eyes as she expected.  Instead she saw a rapidly approaching tilted head, his eyes were closed, his brow in a furrow …

 

… and his lips puckered for a kiss.

 

Her mind screamed out in the negative, but those words didn’t make it past her lips even after her hands slammed against his chest to shove him away from her.   She jumped back as he stumbled awkwardly away from her.  Hi lips were still puckered and his eyes were wide with question.  His hands were still held up as though cradling her cheeks.   He spluttered, but didn’t say anything that was in any way coherent.

 

“What the hell are you trying to do?” she demanded angrily.  Her body was locked rigid in a defensive hunch, and her fists were balled tightly at her side.  She didn’t wait for him to respond – not that it looked like he was capable of doing so at that juncture.   “Were you … were you actually anglin’ to kiss me right then?”

 

His mouth flailed as much as his arms when he finally let them fall to his sides.  His head shook, although not through denial.  He was horribly perplexed at her heated rejection toward his advance … especially after what he’d just seen.

 

“Shakin’ your head?” she growled incredulously.  “Tryin’ to deny that you were about to get fresh and plant one on me?”   She pointed an angry finger toward him.  “And there you were, back in the TARDIS, tellin’ me you had no  … what was the word?  Nef-nefarious?   Yeah, that you had no nefarious intentions toward me?”

 

His eyes flared as his brain finally kicked in to let him speak.  “I’ll have you know, Rose, that there is nothing nefarious about any of my intentions toward you.”

 

“Yeah, well,” she growled in a petulant manner as she folded her arms across her chest and fell into an indignant slouch.  “First you get all grabby at my boobs, then want to go in my head wandering at the most private memory I ‘ave – and one I didn’t want you to see, and then you set about wanting to snog me.”  She sniffed.  “As you say: Evidence is leading me toward other conclusions.”

 

His mouth gaped.  “Do you think I went into your memories in search of a memory like that?”  His head shook in wide, slow, twists.  “Oh no, young lady.  I did no such thing.”  He took a stride toward her and levered his finger toward her as she had done to him.  “I told you to hide anything you didn’t want me to see.”

 

“I tried to!”

 

“Unless the meaning of the word has changed – hardly surprising for your species who just randomly decide to reassign word meanings – to hide something is to keep it out of sight or conceal from others,” he snarled condescendingly.  “Thrusting it front and centre is not hiding it – in fact it’s the opposite!”

 

“Oh don’t you talk down to me you pompous alien arse,” she growled angrily.

 

“We’re on my home planet, Rose,” he shot back as he swept his arm in the air in presentation of their surroundings.  Here, you’re the alien, not me.”

 

Her expression fell as tears struggled and failed to fall from her eye.  “God, I hate you.”

 

His fire was still very well lit and pushing him onward.  “Not based on what I just witnessed, you don’t,” he huffed.  “Very much the opposite, in fact.  Of all the emotions I felt in that memory, hate was definitely not invited to that party.”  He started to pace, his voice harsh.  “No, I didn’t see that at all.  Love, oh there was plenty of that.  Passion; absolutely front and centre.  Unbridled, untamed lust, we certainly didn’t lack in that department.  Worship, devotion…”  His eyes fixed hard on her.  “You don’t hate me, my dear.  You absolutely revere me.”

 

Her eyes widened and her mouth gaped to hear him mock her feelings like that. Finally the tears that had been damming against her lashes finally broke loose.  She slowly shook her head with horrific disbelief and stepped back ward a stride.   “Take me home,” she managed as sternly as she could despite the timid weakness of her voice.  “I don’t deserve this...”

 

All of the Doctor’s anger quickly subsided once he saw her despair return.  It was the wetness of her cheeks that did him in more than anything.  Each sparkling reflection of the setting sun upon those cheeks like  a poke into his heart for each of the emotions he’d mocked.   He quickly moved toward her with arms open wide to draw her up against him.

 

“Tears,” he mumbled out as reassuringly as he could.  “Please no new tears – especially not because of me.”

 

Rose was defeated, and rather than scarper out of reach, she just slumped and looked up at him.  Big brown and amber eyes so sad.  “I can’t do this anymore.”

 

She hiccupped when his arms circled her and drew her up against his chest.  Her legs gave out from underneath her, and although she fell, the Doctor held her to a stand.  He held her firm as she tried to find footing to remain standing.  “Don’t worry.  I’ve got you,” he promised softly.

 

“I just can’t anymore,” she whimpered.

 

“Then fall, Rose.  I’ll fall with you.”

 

She wanted to argue with him, and to admonish him for taking a precious part of her memories to use blindly here, but she no longer had the energy to fight.   She let her legs collapse completely, and was surprised when he bent his own knees to bring them both down on to the grass – he on his knees, and she on her hip in front of him.

 

He held her back with one arm and lifted his other hand to cup her cheek.  With tender coaxing, he lifted her head to look up at him.  His own eyes were misted as he lowered his face to hers to hover their foreheads only inches apart.  “In all of my lives, I’ve never known of emotions that intense, Rose.  At least, not any of love and devotion – particularly toward me.”  He licked at his lip and brushed his thumb along her wettened cheekbone.  “Myself, I’ve experience feelings of disappointment,  loathing, resentment, and disgust – oftentimes overwhelming in their power … but never have I experienced anything like devoted reverence.”

 

She hiccupped and blinked slowly.  “You didn’t believe me when I said I loved you?”

 

He smiled at that.  “Oh, I believed you, Rose,” he assured her.  “Your devastation to your perceived loss gave credence to your vow.  I didn’t disbelieve that for a moment.”

 

She lifted her hand to cover his and looked helplessly up at him, barely four inches away from her.  “Then, why are you so surpised?”

 

“I’m not surprised, at least not by you,” he confirmed with a tender smile.  “My surprise stems from the reverence my future feels toward you.  Rassilon, Rose.  In an older incarnation, I don’t just love you.   I shamelessly worship you.”  His head tilted and he scanned her face with sad, yet awed eyes.  “I never knew that would be possible.”

 

Rose closed her eyes and let out a long breath through her nose.  When she opened them again, she was unable to continue looking up into his eyes, and instead focused on the folds of silk at his neck.  “You’re mistaken,” she sighed.  “You saw him through my eyes, Doctor.  Felt my own feelings for him.   Don’t mistake those for how he felt about me.”

 

“I’m not,” he vowed fiercely.

 

“You are.”

 

“I want to kiss you,” he blurted out suddenly on a shaking breath.  “Well.  I say want, but I really mean to say that I need to kiss you.”

 

Rose shook her head free of his hand and struggled out of his hold.  “No.  Please Doctor.  Please don’t.”

 

He remained on his knees in the grass as she rose to a stand beside him.  Her head was still shaking and she refused to look down at him.  “You’re just caught up in the emotions, is all.  You do’t need to do anythin’ like that at all.”

 

He didn’t stand, instead, he held his arms out either side of him, low and pensive, and remained in his penitent position at her feet.  “Of course I’m caught up in it, Rose.  How can I not be. I just witness love in it’s truest incarnation.  How can I not get drawn into that?”

 

She flicked her head toward him now, her eyes narrowed and chiding.  “You’re caught up in my feelings, Doctor, not his.”

 

He still didn’t rise to his feet.  “That’s where you’re wrong, Rose.   Oh, you are so wrong.”   Slowly he drew himself up on his knees.  He held his hand to her to ask for her assistance in getting to a stand and was thankful when she took his hand in his and tugged.

 

Once on his feet, the Doctor didn’t relinquish his hold on her hand.  Instead he held it tightly.  “Rose.  I saw just as much from myself as I did from you.”

 

“My perception,” she ventured warily.  “My perception of him.”

 

He smiled and shook his head.  “There are no perceptions in real memories, Rose.”  He tugged her hand to draw her closer to him.  “I understand the words of a Gallifreyan, and their hidden meanings and nuances.  I understood much more than you could ever possibly comprehend about that moment.”

 

She inhaled a shaking, shuddering breath and blinked her eyes in a silent request for him to continue.

 

He took her other hand in his and drew both thumbs across her knuckles as he took a small step closer.  A series of soft alien words fell from his lips.   It wasn’t the phrasing that he’d used with her previously, but she recognised the sounds falling from his lips as those spoken by her own Doctor so many months ago.

 

His words switched from Gallifreyan to English without pause.  “Awe,” he began.  “Awe in how amazing and courageous you are.”    Gallifreyan came again quickly and switched back to English just as fast.  “Salvation.  In my future I am reverent to you for saving me…”

 

“He always saves us,” Rose whispered hoarsely.  “And far more times than I’ve ever chanced saving him.”  She shrugged.  “Swingin’ from a chain is hardly all that worthy of awe…”  Her eyes widened.  “Oh!  Bad Wolf?”  She frowned and shook her head.  “No.  That was after…”

 

The Doctor’s brow lifted.  “Bad Wolf?  That’s in reference to my quandary that evening.  Was it as dangerous as I was worried it would be?”

 

She shook her head, then nodded, and then moved to a nod-shake mix of her head.  Her right eye squinted just slightly.   “Yes.  And, well, no.  Bad Wolf herself wasn’t a threat, but the situation that took us toward Bad Wolf was.”

 

“I see,” he breathed out.  “And who is the Bad Wolf, then?”

 

Her voice fell to a whisper.  “I can’t tell you that.”   She pulled her hands from his and smiled weakly.  “All I’ll say is that it was the worst day my life.”  Her inhale was a gulp.  “I lost my entire world that day.”

 

“I regenerated,” he concluded with a nod.  His eyes lifted to hers and he offered her a gaze of apology.  “I’m so sorry for doing that to you, Rose.”

 

“So am I,” she agreed selfishly.  “I wish it never happened.”

 

There was silence between them for a moment, with neither knowing exactly what to say.   But it didn’t take too long for Rose to draw in a deep inhale, wipe roughly at her eyes with the back of her hand, and then lever a stare at him.  Surprising herself, her voice was now level and void of emotion at all. 

 

“So I really dunno just what it was I saved him from that would make him – as you say – so reverent toward me about it.”  She shrugged.  “Because I’m really flat out of ideas.”

 

“No,” he corrected softly.  “Its deeper than that.”  His eyes lifted to the dark sky above them as he contemplated the translation.  “It’s a hard one, really, to translate into English.”   His eyes closed a moment and then he lowered his head once more to look again at her.  “This rescue of yours.  It’s the salvation of him, ehm, from a purely emotional standpoint.”  His head shook.  “I obviously don’t yet know just what pit of despair you saved him from as it hasn’t happened for me yet, but whatever it was, it was profound enough that he promised you his most reverent love and devotion inside this, and every incarnation following him.”

 

Rose belched out a sound of incredulous amusement.  “Oh, yeah.  Right.  That’s a laugh, isn’t it.   As soon as he flipped from loving partner to dedicated flirt and playboy, that promise was broken. Shattered!”  Her eyes rolled and she shook her head.  “Which – just to give you a relative time frame on that promise – was the following day .. or, night.  Whatever, within 24 hours at any rate.”  She looked away from him.  “He doesn’t care for me in that way anymore.”

 

He folded his arms across his chest and shook his head.  “No.  I don’t believe that for a moment.  Not based on what I just saw, and how incredibly deeply he felt for you.”

 

Rose laughed indignantly, her head raised to the heavens to exaggerate her mirth.  “Oh.  Please.”  She looked back at him again.  “When a bloke’s blood has left his brain to flood his groin, he’ll think and say anything to get it wet.”

 

“That is incredibly crass,” he growled in reply as he paced in a tight circle around her..   “And quite insulting.”

 

Her eyes widened, and she smiled widely – leaning toward him in a very brattish manner.  “Good!  I’m glad to hear it.”  She wiped her hands together and tipped up a shoulder.  “Well, now that you feel as shit as I do right now, my job is done.  Time to go home, watch telly, eat fish and chips, get a job, all that…”

 

His eyes darkened as she walked quite arrogantly away from him and toward his TARDIS.   Oh, but she was a feisty one, wasn’t she?   A challenge, no doubt, for his elder self to try and tame … not quite surprising, really, that he fell for her.

 

Problem for young Rose, is that the Doctor was by far the more arrogant and testy one of the two of them, and he’d quite happily play this gave and come out the victor.

 

“Well, now that you’re obviously feeling better: Home it is, then,” he chirped from his position in the field behind her.  “Off to Crandinia, we go.  Back to the playboy me and his TARDIS.” 

 

She stopped and looked back over her shoulder at him.  “No,” she sang out.  “Home.  My home.  My home as in Longon, England, Britain, Earth, Solar System…Milky Way or whatever.”

 

Her shook his head and spoke with gentle warning.  “No,  I won’t be taking you to that home, Rose.”  He warned her.  “At least not to watch telly and eat fish and chips – rubbish past times the both of them.”  He thrust his hands into his trouser pockets and followed behind her.  Smiling as she slowed up and then stopped short.  “It’s obvious that you and my older self had obviously had a serious case of misunderstanding at some juncture that needs to be rectified.  Immediately.”

 

Her smiled in a very friendly manner and let his voice cut close to her as he strode past to overtake her toward the TARDIS.  “And I’m just the right person to be able to get you there.  How very remarkable  your luck is today.”

 

“You once told me, Doctor,” she said quietly and without moving forward, “that if I ever wanted to leave, you’d let me go.  No questions asked.”

 

The Doctor paused short.  His shoulders pinched to straighten his back.  After a moment, his posture relaxed and he spun to give her a wide smile.  “My dear girl.  I’m not asking any questions at all.  I am, however, making the best decision on your behalf – and ultimately mine – to get you back to your real home and to the one you truly need to return to.”

 

Her eyes darkened hotly and she sizzled the most threatening glare she conjure up at him.  “So you’re saying, what?  That you’re kidnapping me?”

 

His returning smile was rather facetious.  “Well, it never was an option removed from the table then we first encountered each other.  Not nefarious, but kidnapping may be involved.  So yes.  I am, quite.”

 

Rose’s jaw dropped a moment with disbelief, but she shook off her surprise and let it shift to annoyance.  She curled a lip as she quickly made her way toward the TARDIS to close the distance between them both.  She levered herself up onto her toes in an attempt to bring her eyes to his level.  “Why are you doing this to me?” she snarled.

 

His response was swift and unexpected.  He lunged forward to take her by the hips.  He growled low in the back of his throat and spun them both to press her up against the faded blue wood of the TARDIS door.   He inhaled her surprised gasp through his smile as he pressed on hand against the wood beside her head and curved the other around her hip to lift her just slightly off the ground to bring their hips hard against each other. 

 

“I’m doing this,” he growled hotly as his hand balled into a fist against the TARDIS and his forehead pressed hard against hers.  “Because what I saw in that memory.  What I felt..”  He pulled hard at her hips to press himself against her. “In that memory.”  He exhaled and licked at his lips.  “That’s worth fighting for.”  He rolled his forehead against hers, closing his eyes, and pulled her yet tighter.  “I’m not giving up and letting go of that before it’s even happened for me.”

 

She whimpered his name as he pressed their hips more tightly together.  Oh, she wanted to free herself from his hold, but at the same moment she could bring herself to pull away, not wanting to relinquish his attentions at all.

 

His eyes flashed open wide to capture hers.  His voice was a fierce promise.  “I’m not moving toward a future where I lose the one thing I come to hold most dear to me because my most recent regeneration had some kind of catastrophic malfunction and I’ve ended up a prat instead of the man worthy of your affections.”

 

Their eyes locked for a long moment and they said nothing further.  The only sound between them were their shared panted breaths and the tingle of shared lust between them.   Finally Rose inhaled to speak his name, and it spurned the Doctor into action.  He said nothing as he lowered his mouth to hers to claim her with a searing, and possessive kiss.

 

It was hard, selfish, and far more chaste than it should have been, and no sooner had he claimed her mouth so passionately, he’d pulled away.

 

Rose actually found herself chasing his mouth with hers and was rewarded with a nip at her lip.  She exhaled and staggered when he finally and roughly released her to take a long stride backward.  He didn’t even straighten the seat of his coat before he thrust one hand into his trouser pocket and retrieved a small fob watch from his waistcoat.

 

“Well, that was very…”  He cleared his throat and swallowed thickly.  “Right,” he finally chirped with a smile of reddened lips as he checked the time on his watch.  “I’ll set the temporal coordinates to land us at the close of the nightly Crandinian storm.  “I can have you with my elder self in, oh, say five minutes our time?”   He lifted his head to the Police Box sign over the TARDIS doors.  “Let’s drop in on him, oh, about an hour or so after the storm.  Give him some time to completely worry himself into a state.”  His smile stretched.  “Yes, that would be appropriate, I think, given his actions toward you of late.   Should teach him well enough, I believe.  Serve him right and all that.”

 

Rose blinked her eyes in rapid succession at the sudden demeanour change of the Doctor.  Oh sure, she was used to the constantly switching of her current Doctor between manic, panic, mad, and wistful, but this … this ….

 

…Oh what was she thinking?  The man had no standard mood that could take him past five seconds on any stretch.  She decided against question or contemplation and decided to simply run with the mood, switching course as quickly as he did.

 

Sometimes it was the only way to survive him.

 

It took a moment for her to realise that he was talking to her, and she lifted her head to take him in – still dishevelled and undignified, but acting like he was the model of perfection.   “I’m sorry, Doctor.  What was that?”

 

“I asked if you wish to bathe, or maybe take a rest before I take you back to future me?” he repeated with only a small amount of admonishment in his voice.  “Whilst I do very much desire to take you back to me now and have this entire misunderstanding between yourselves worked out immedieately so that you can both get back to your, ehm, pre-regeneration nocturnal activities.”  His face broke into a smile.  “And an eventual soul-bonding as well, I would imagine.  Which reminds me, Rose.  Along the way, do remind me that I need to teach you to speak an appropriate response in my people’s tongue on the next occasion that you are presented with these words so that you can blindside me with accepting my proposal.”

 

Rose was tempted to gape her mouth at him with surprise, but to be frank, she really had no energy left to even try.   Instead she let out a breath, rolled her eyes, and walked toward him.   She held out her hand to him.  “Give,” she requested tiredly.

He looked at her warily.  “Give you what?” he asked her carefully.

 

“Your jacket,” she clarified with a shrug.  “It’s cooling down somewhat and as your rather superior biology doesn’t register the cold like my inferior one doesn’t, then the gentlemanly thing for you to do would be to offer me your coat.”

 

One brow lifted, the other fell down over his eye.  “Or I can direct you toward the TARDIS, where you can warm yourself up well enough.”

 

She shook her head and kept her hand out in a request for his jacket.  “No thank you.  Now, if you would be so kind as to give me your jacket.”

 

He huffed and rolled his shoulders, letting the garment fall down over his arms and into his hands.  He held it out to her.  “As you wish.”

 

She rewarded him with a brilliantly wide grin.  “Thank you.”

 

He opened his mouth to query as to when she might accompany him back to Crandinia, but stopped that thought when she walked toward a tree, balling up the jacket in her hands.  His brow furrowed and he tilted his head in question.  “And just what are you doing?  That’s a rather expensive – and easily creased – finely tailored jacket.  It will take a marvel to straighten that out again.”

 

She rolled her eyes and dropped down to her knees, and then her hip, settling herself on the grasses at the base of the tree.  “You mean that it’ll take the TARDIS a while to straighten it out,” she corrected as she lay down onto her side and tucked the jacket underneath her head.  “Now if you don’t mind, I’m tired and would like to have a sleep before I make any further decisions on my future.”

 

His arm lifted to once again gesture toward his ship.  “Again, Rose.  The TARDIS will be more than willing to provide you with far more comfortable warmth and sleeping arrangments.”

 

She closed her eyes and let out a short laugh.  “Yeah, and while I’m sleeping, you’ll fly us back to Crandinia to meet up with your older self.  No, ta.  Not ready to wake up and face him before a strong cup of morning tea – or coffee with a half bottle of whiskey in it.”

 

“I see,” he drawled.  “And if I promise not to?”

 

Her eyes remained closed and she shook her head on her makeshift pillow.  “With all due respect, Doctor.  I really don’t have it in me to gift you with that much trust right now.”

 

“I see.”

 

“You’re repeating yourself.”

 

He pursed his lips, whether in amusement or annoyance, he couldn’t immediately determine.  Seems that this young lady was as bullheaded as he was oftentimes arrogant.  OF course, he wasn’t going to argue with her – there didn’t seem to be much point to it.  If he was going to convince her to work it out with his elder self – which was an imperative – then he would have to have her favour…

 

…Because there was no way in Kasterborous that he would be taking her home to London.

 

He looked at her as she let out a little whimpering sigh as she settled.  He then smirked. 

 

“So, ehm.  Rose?”

 

She didn’t open her eyes.  “Yes, Doctor?”

 

He couldn’t help his widening grin.  “Need yourself that Time Lord blanket?”

 

Very quickly that balled up jacket of his was launched with extreme precision at his belly.  His shock didn’t allow him to immediately register the insult she threw his way – it was either being told to sod off, get lost, or to stop being a wanker.  Either way, he got the message to keep his distance and he sighed as he tossed the jacket back to her and then thumbed over his shoulder.  “I’ll just go and sit over here on this rock, then.  I’m fairly positive I’ll find company in a flubble, trunkite, woprat, or something else to pass the time.”

 

“Good night, Doctor,” she slurred sleepily, and with finality to the conversation.

 

“Indeed, right.  Good night and sweet dreams to you, Rose.”

 

The concession in his tone made her smile, and within only a short few moments, she’d fallen asleep.  Lulled by the tinkling sounds of silver leaves above her head and the fruity scent of the blossoms covering the ground.

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose awoke to the sound of woodland creatures chirping and snuffling, and the kiss of warm sunlight on her nose.  The air around her was sweet with floral scent, and of the soft whiff of the dying embers of a fire.   She slapped her lips together to properly wet her tongue and rubbed at her nose with the butt of her hand.  She held her eyes closed for only a moment longer, worried of the squinting blindness of bright sunlight on eyes not yet ready for the brightness.

 

To prepare, she covered her eyes with her forearm and peeked gingerly around the dusty knitted cotton fabric of her shirt.  Her senses immediately heightened to full awareness, and she listened to the sounds around her, wondering if she was alone out here, or if the Doctor had done as he suggested and would find animal companionship while she was sleeping.

 

His low murmur of conversation toward the cliff’s edge let her know that he must’ve found such companionship.  Curious, she lowered her forearm and squinted into the brightness to investigate.  He was, indeed, seated toward the cliff’s edge.  He sat upon a large boulder beside what appeared to be a ring of smaller rocks surrounding a dying campfire of green and blue embers.  There was a grey furry creature on his knees.  With one hand he petted the creature’s head, the other was held underneath the munching mouth of it, full of purple berries which were obviously a delightful treat to the animal.

 

He spoke to it on a soft voice that purred, trilled, and chipped in a language she’d only heard on nature shows with Sir David Attenborough back at school … and none of those languages were spoken by the Sir himself.  They were the chirping and trilling between animals.

 

Very intriguing.   When her first Doctor had boasted that he could speak 8 billion languages, she never considered for a moment that any of those would be animal languages.

 

The creature stopped munching for a moment when it caught sight of her looking, and then lifted it’s head to trill out a sound of warning toward the Doctor.

 

“Yes I know,” the Doctor answered the creature – in English for her benefit she mused, “She’s been awake for a full five minutes now.  I do wonder at what point Rose – and that’s her name young Flubble – will announce her waking to us.”  He then switched back to chirping and trilling, to which the creature seemed to nod and go back to the feast offered in the hand of the Doctor.

 

“This is a Flubble,” the Doctor lectured gently without looking back at her.  “They’re a tree-dwelling animal indigenous to the forests here on Mount Lung.”   He lifted his head to look across the cliff’s edge and the dense forest below.  “Very trusting and curious little things, they are.   They love munching on fresh fionberries and engaging in conversation about the climate changes that present each passing of Quences comet, which was only about two weeks ago, if the colouring of the sunrise is any indication.”

 

He finally looked back at her and tipped his head to gesture toward the Flubble.  “Quite the little meteorologists, and much more accurate than any ground hog from Earth.”

 

Rose slowly drew herself to a stand, cricked her neck, and stretched tall with a moan.  Her arms were still held high above her head when she felt movement at her left foot.  She froze in place and let out a whimper of fright to see a small, grey, furry six-limbed creature pawing at her foot.   “Doctor?”

 

He twisted in place to look at her and let one side of his mouth lift into a smile at the young Flubble at her feet.   He let out a trilling purr.  “Say that, Rose.”

 

Rose’s arms were still held up above her head, and her eyes were wide with worry.   They shifted from the animal to the Doctor.  “Excuse me?”

 

He repeated the sound.   “Just say that, Rose.  This little one’s looking for some attention as his mother is currently feeding.   It’ll let him know he’s safe with you.”

 

“I don’t think ‘e’s all that scared, Doctor,” she whimpered.  “Looks like he’s about to cock a leg and pee on me…  And is six legs normal?”

 

“Very normal,” he sang back without worry or any real acknowledgement to her growing panic.  “I’ve told you what you need to do, so if you don’t want to end up with Flubble urine on your runners, then make the sound I’ve told you to make, and let him know you’re not a peeing post.”

 

Rose’s arms finally fell and she winced as she tried to replicate the sound that the Doctor had told her to make.  It wasn’t a perfect replication by any means, but it seemed to do the trick, and the Flubble stopped shuffling and looked up at her.

 

“It worked,” she breathed with relief.

 

“Yes, Rose,” the Doctor agreed.  “Nice effort.  And just as a warning, you may want to step away from it now, unless of course you want to end up as a….”   His words paused when the small creature lifted its arms and jumped onto Roses leg.  With rapid movements of each of its limbs, it quickly climbed up to Rose’s hip.   “…tree it wants to climb.  Yes.  I might have thought to warn you about that before I urged you to invite … oh,”  He shook his head with a smirk.  “Never mind.”

 

Rose had winced, but not actually yelped in alarm.  The curl of six arms racing up her leg felt in no way at all like a gigantic spider may have … Actually, it felt exactly as one might … which forced her into silence.

 

She hated spiders.

 

After a second, a small furry face – not unlike and Australian Koala – appeared between her bosom.  It looked into her face and let out a loud chirp, one that she surmised must have been in greeting.   She returned the chirp, hoping she wasn’t declaring war on it or something else as horrible.  The creature clutched its arms – all six of them – either side of her chest and belly, dropped it’s small face n the valley between her breasts, and promptly fell asleep.

 

“I must remark:  That was very well handled Rose.  I’m impressed,” the Doctor’s voice suddenly sounded from right behind her, giving her more of a start than the Flubble had.  “The combination of your inhale and return chirp and hard exhale invited the youngster to rest.  I didn’t know that you were so fluent in Flubble.  Do we have one on the TARDIS in my future?”

 

Rose cradled the little fluffy bottom of it to prevent it from falling, and shook her head at him.  “Gotto be a first time that, getting’ it right by accident.”  She shrugged.  “And no.  We don’t have one.  I would have thought you’d’ve gotten that by my surprise at seein’ it.”

 

“I was aiming for jest,” he admitted with a sigh.  “As much as I do like the creatures – I even had one as a pet back at the academy – there is no way I would allow one on the TARDIS.”  He stroked the head of the flubble in between her breasts.  “They don’t do well with time travel.  They release an enzyme that doesn’t interact well with the TARDIS systems.  Get one of these in the console room, and it’ll throw your navigation way off.”

 

“I see,” she drawled.  “Then I might suspect you took one as a stowaway in yours – what, with your inability to get to where you actually want to go an all that.”

 

“No.   That would be because I failed my capsule flight exams on several occasions back at the Academy.”  He winked.  “I’m just making it up as I go along.  Sometimes I guess right, most times I guess wrong.”

 

She blew out a breath and shook her head.  “I almost completely believe you on that.”

 

“You should,” he said with a smirk.  “It’s true.”  He reached forward to grab the Flubble by it’s sides.  With gentle coaxing, he pulled it free of Rose’s chest and held it against his own.  “I’ll take this youngster back to his mother.  If you would like to go and perform the necessary ablutions required of all humans upon waking, then we can sit with a tea and discuss our next steps to getting you back to my older self.”

 

She felt her bladder agree with him and skipped from one foot to the other.  “Okay.  Right.  I’m gonna go pee, and when I get back then we will discuss you takin’ me home.  To London.”

 

“We will discuss it when you’re done.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

When Rose returned from peeing and washing her face, the Doctor had resumed his seat on the Rock.   The Flubbles were now gone, and in his hands now was a purple blossom, which is was spinning between two fingers in the air in front of him.

 

“I’ve made a decision,” he announced firmly without looking at her.

 

“I see,” she drawled.  She  slowed her approach to him, but didn’t stop at all.  “I’m guessin’ it’s one I probably won’t agree with bein’ that you’re being all authoritative and all when you say that.  Like Mum when she’s puttin’ me on a grounding.”

 

He let the flower fall onto his lap and reached for a small golden thermal mug to his side.  He held it up to her.  “Gift from TARDIS.  I’m not entirely sure of the composition of whatever is in there, but she assured me you’d appreciate it.”

 

Rose opened the thermos and lifted it to her nose.  She inhaled deeply and them fell into a deep slouch and lazy smile.  “Oh the TARDIS loves me, doesn’t she?  A good English Breakfast, just the way I like it.”

 

The Doctor was now looking at her, analysis in his gaze.  “Yes, it would seem that she does.  Which I find very intriguing.”

 

“Nothing to be too intrigued by,” she assured him with a shrug.  “I love her too.  The Doctor told me that she exists across all of space and time, so no matter at what point I meet with her, she’ll know who I am.”

 

“Yeah,” he breathed out long and quietly.  “If only it were that simple.”

 

Rose’s eyes flicked up.  “What was that?”

 

“Nothing,” he called back.  “We with have plenty of time to investigate the smaller anomalies and questions that I have.  Right now we have more pressing matters to discuss.”

 

“Such as this decision of yours?” she ventured facetiously.  “because that is of the utmost importance.”

 

“Indeed it is,” he agreed.  He petted on the rock beside him with invitation for her to take a seat.   When she shook her head and waved off the invitation, he shrugged and leaned back.  Supported by straight arms behind him, the Doctor tilted his head back and let the sun’s morning rays heat his face.  “I’m not taking you to London,” he said flatly.

 

“Oh yes you are,” she snapped in reply.  “If you know what’s good for you, an all.”

 

He twisted his head to look at her.  “Indeed I do know what’s good for me, Rose.  Which is why I’m not taking you to London…”  He held up his hand to prevent her throwing in her argument.  “..and I’m not taking you back to Crandinia.”  He looked back across the forest.  “I’ve decided to keep you here, on Gallifrey with me, for the next little while.  At least until I know that whatever decision you eventually choose, is not one made by emotion.”

 

She dropped the thermos of tea to the ground in shock.  “So you.  You’re actually going to kidnap me and force me to stay with you?”

 

His lips pinched tightly together and his eyes tightened.  He shook his head.  “No.  You are actually free to go at any time you want.”  He pointed across the valley toward a shimmering dome off in the distance.  “In Arcadia, they have plenty of travel capsules at their disposal.  If you enter the city, give them your space and temporal coordinates, I’m sure they’ll take you home.”  He smirked.  “In fact I guarantee it.  They don’t exactly admire Humans in the way that I do.   They quite dislike them, actually.  They’d be happy to ship you off and out of Kasterborous.” 

 

“But that’s got to be about 100 miles away!”

 

“Closer to 150 of your Earth miles, actually.”  He looked back toward her.  “And I’ll be very happy to take you there to let you plead your case to them.  Throw in my name, and you won’t even have to beg…”

 

“So you’ll let them take me home, but you won’t.”

 

His lip twitched at her confusion.  “Yes, well.  I’ll be busy looking for my elder self while you’re being transported home, Rose.  I’ll find him, give him a few choice words in a language he probably won’t want to hear, and then let him know where he can find you.”  He smiled a rather villainous smile at her.  “My elder self will be waiting at those Capsule doors the moment the chancellery guards materialise.”  He batted his eyes in a facetiously innocent manner.  “How does that sound?”

 

Her mouth was wide and aghast.  “So now you’re blackmailin’ me?”

 

The Doctor’s smile fell.  His eyes shifted back toward the rising suns.  He breathed a few breaths before he could speak, and Rose couldn’t help but notice the thin line of tears that traced at his eyes with light from the sun.  She moved toward him, beside him, and waited for his explanation.

 

“I’m not blackmailing you, Rose,” he defended softly.  “I’m begging you.”   He inhaled deeply.  “I can’t ignore what I saw.  I can’t deny what I felt.”  His head shook and his brows lifted into a high furrow.  He continued to look ahead of him.  “I need to understand what happens to us after my regeneration … what catastrophic malfunction happened – to make me make you think that everything I felt for you just fell away like that.”

 

He looked toward her hand and then reached out to grab it.  He watched his thumb stroke at her knuckles.  His voice switched to speak that very familiar Gallifreyan phrase that gave her butterflies in her belly.  He broke for only a breath before switching back to English.  “That’s not something to say on a whim.”

 

“You seem to be doing okay with it,” she ventured cautiously. 

 

He didn’t look up from his hand.  “I can say it to you now because I’ve said it repeatedly to you in the future.”  He finally looked up into her face, happy with having to look up at her instead of down.  “And for me to have said that means that ….”  He paused.  “It means that my past, my present, and my future – especially my future – needs you.”

 

“Obviously not,” she breathed out soflty, sadly, in reply.  “I dunno, Doctor.  Maybe its because I’m Human.  Maybe it doesn’t work between species.”  She inhaled again.  “But future you barely recognises my existence these days – not when something shinier and prettier comes along at any rate.”

 

He blinked and opened his mouth to protest and to tell her she was wrong, but she continued on.

 

“Oh, not always.  I can’t say that I’m always a second thought…  I’m good enough when it’s just me’n’him and his attention isn’t otherwise occupied.  But get Sarah Jane, Reinette Poisson…”

 

“Sarah Jane,” the Doctor repeated with wideness and excitement in her eyes.  “Sarah Jane Smith?  Oh, I remember Sarah Jane.  Wonderful companion and friend…”

 

“Yeah.  She was an amazin’ woman,” she agreed with a shrug.  “Can see why you fell for her when you were together.”

 

He shook his head.  “While I did care for Sarah Jane very, very deeply, I didn’t – as you suggest – fall for her.”  He wore a smile of remembrance.  “We did go through quite a bit together.  Like you, she survived a regeneration.”

 

“Yeah, like I said.  She’s amazin’.”

 

“But not one I could ever see as a mate.” He inhaled through an open mouth.  “At least not beyond friendly companionship.”  He released her hand and rose to his full height.  “I have had many companions with whom I’ve shared a very close relationship, Rose.  Many wonderful, brilliant people who made me want to be a better person.”

 

She opened her mouth to speak, and he held up a hand to ask her to wait.

 

“But none of them have touched me so deeply and in such a profound way as you obviously have.”  He tipped his head to one side and captured her eyes with his.  “I never fought their will to leave me, and they did.  All of them.  They stayed with me for long enough to sow their wild oats – if you will – before settling down back when I found them.  Being better for it, if I do say so.”

 

“But Doctor, you don’t even know me,” she sighed.

 

“Then stay with me a while and let me know you,” he chirped happily.  “Here on Gallifrey.” He breathed out a huff.  “Rassilon knows I should take a breather for a while and settle down a bit.  I’ve been running and running and….”

 

“Blimey,” she drawled softly.  “Just how long you thinkin’ of keeping me here?”

 

Hi brows lifted.  “Pardon me?”

 

She shrugged.  “Settle down a while, ‘lmost sounds like you want to set up house, raise a few kids, and retire from travel.  How long are you planning to hold me hostage?”

 

He hummed thoughtfully, a smile on his face.  “Does that sound like something you’d be interested in, Rose?  Marriage?  Children?  House with a white picket fence?”  He pursed his lips in thought.  “That may take a while, so if that’s the plan, I suspect you can be here with me, for, well, how ever long it takes.”  He adjusted his trousers by the belt.  “It’s been a while since I’ve ehm, performed, in the manner we did in my future, but I’m certain I can remember how its done.”  He ignored her wide eyed look of utter shock.  “Procreation, however, well.  That requires permission from council, which, well, permissions not something I’ve ever sought from them before, so I expect I’ll forego that.”  He looked down at himself.  “As for the functionality of my testies to produce enough…”

 

“Oh Jesus, Doctor!” she barked out with incredulous horror.  “Are you insane?”

 

“I believe I have a certificate or two in the TARDIS to that effect,” he answered with a shrug.  “And it’s been said on many occasions that I must be…”

 

“No.  I mean,” she flicked her hand at him.  “You sayin’ all that…”

 

“Not interested?” he asked with a cheeky grin.  “Oh well break my hearts.”

 

She detected that hint of teasing and narrowed her eyes at him.  “You’re playin about and messin’ with me.   You damn plum.”  She exhaled a breath she forgot she’d been holding.

 

“And you sound far too relieved about that,” he said with a wink.

 

“And you too,” she replied through puckered lips.  

 

His smile softened.  “I’m asking you to stay with me for as long as you need it in order to come to a much clearer understanding of what and where you want to go from here.  It could be a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade.  As long as you need to.”  He took her hand again.  “Spend some time here in Gallifrey.  Learn about my people, my home, and learn to understand me, and who I am:  more than just the jetsetting time boy you think you know.”  He tucked her hair behind her ear.  “Maybe if you know me, and why I am like I am, then it may help you navigate the new me who seems so … so out of sorts to you.”

 

She looked off to the side.

 

“If you love me, Rose, like I think you do, then you’ll give me that chance.”

 

Her eyes pinched.  “That is the worst thing to say, you know:  If you love me…”  She sniffed.  “That’s blackmail right there, and makes me want to tell you to sod off…”

 

He sensed a “but” in there.  “But…?”  His voice was hopeful.

 

“But you’re right,” she admitted.  “You’re an alien…”

 

“Uh…”

 

“Yeah, okay, I’m the alien,” she said with a roll in her eye.  “So we’re different, you an me.  What you’re sayin’ makes sense.  Best way to really get to know you deep down in those ways that you really don’t want me to, is to see more’n just the man.”   Her smile was wide and her voice breathy as she looked around.  “And really.  Gallifrey?  Yes.  I want to be here for a while and take in everything that I can so when I go back… I’ll get it.”

 

That made his grin spread wide.  “We’re already making headway,” he half cheered.

 

“:Excuse me, what?”

 

He curled around her and chuckled against her hair.  “You’re considering going back to me.”

 

“I’m considering multiple options,” she corrected.  She flicked up a finger into his face.  “So I’ll stay with you for a couple of days, but I’ve got rules.”

 

His jaw fell.  “You’ve got, what?”

 

“Rules,” she repeated.  “All of which include:  No touchy feely handsy stuff.”  He watched his brow furrow in confusion.  “That means no grabbing my boobs, getting’ in my head, going for snogs or asking me if I want you to be my blanket.”

 

He held up both hands and took a step back.  “No touching…”  He lifted his head and tilted it to one side with question.  “Does that also include hand holding, Rose?  I’m rather partial to that when walking with a beautiful female companion, and so habit might see me reach for you without thinking.”

 

“You’re kidding me…”

 

He sighed.  “I wish I was.”

 

She shook her head with disbelief.  “Yeah.  Then.  Okay.  You can hold my hand.  But that’s it, mind.  Just because I’ve engaged in the most incredible love making sessions in my whole life with one of you, doesn’t mean it’s a free for all with the rest of you lot.”

 

“Only one?” he queried.  “so you and your current Doctor have never..?”

 

She dropped her face into her hands.  “Oh my God.  I can’t believe this…”

 

“You brought it up,” he reminded her with a smirk.  “And as I consider this part of your therapy – Just call me Doctor…”

 

She lifted her head.  “I really hate you.”

 

His smile faltered and he took on a more serious, yet gentle tone.  “No holds barred, Rose.  Sometimes to understand, we have to talk about embarrassing things.”

 

“Then remember, that goes both ways,” she warned him.  “In order to get to know you.”

 

He grinned widely and shifted to thread his arm across her shoulder.  He paused when he took in the look of warning in her eyes.  He let it drop.  “Yes.  Right.  Not acceptable.  Understood.”

 

“Neither is bursting into my room without knocking, sitting on the other side of my bathroom door like a cat waiting for me to be done, or whining when I’m trying to sleep because you want me to go and do something with you.”

 

A brow lifted.  “Oh-kay.”

 

“You can’t be getting’ jealous if I talk to someone else of the opposite sex.  No random hugs here and there, no cutesy names for who we are as a couple.”

 

He looked horrified.  “Older me, or newer older me?”

 

“Pinstripes,” she clarified.  “My current Doctor.”

 

His eyes were wide as he blew out a perplexed breath.  “Rassilon…”  He shifted his eyes toward her.  “And you say that he’s lost his love for you?”  He shook his head.  “Rose, I would say it’s quite the opposite.”

 

Her eyes narrowed.  “Snogged no less than tthree women, Doctor.  Married one he did, too!”  She pursed her lips.  “Okay, one of them he thought was me, but it wasn’t because someone had taken over my body, oh, and how did that happen?  Because he took off and got into an elevator without me.  Never mind that there’s a button inside it that can hold the door open till I got there.  No, couldn’t take his hands out of his pockets, could he?”

 

He coughed, looked like he wanted to say something, and then shook off that thought.  “Right…”

 

“Oh, and then, right after telling me he’d never leave me behind, he did just that – on a space station – so he could go and fool about with Reinette.”  She looked him up and down.  “I guess once I taught you how to start usin’ it again and all, you ran with it.”

 

“I told you,” he growled.  “That his pledge to you means that would have never happened.”  He stood straight.  “I believe that you may be reading far too much into things and making inaccurate assumptions.”

 

She shook her head.  “No, I’m not.”

 

“Have you tried talking to him about your fears and insecurities?”

 

“Yeah,” she hissed out.  “I have.  But you don’t like to talk about anything, so after I get lectured on the Curse of the Time Lord and how he has to watch me wither and die at some point, he shuts down and the conversation is over.”

 

He seemed startled by that.  “Well.  That’s rather dramatic.”  He looked around him.  “And the life incompatibility is one that’s easily rectified.  Just move back to Gallifrey, you won’t age here.”

 

“Excuse me, what?”

 

He laughed out a breathy frustrated sound.  “And as for not talking about anything, well that’s absolute rubbish.  Al I ever do is talk.”

 

“You might talk, Doctor, but you don’t actually say much.”  She huffed.  “And you certainly don’t answer the tough questions.”

 

He snorted.  “tough question,” he barked incredulously.  “There aren’t any tough questions that I can’t answer.  There’s nothing I won’t tell you if you ask me.”

 

“Oh yeah?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

She smirked.  “Then okay.  Here’s one:  What’s your name?”

 

He rolled his eyes.  “Doctor.”

 

“Your real one,” she clarified.  “I know that you weren’t called Doctor here on Gallifrey.  What is your name?  I want to know, but you won’t tell me.”

 

He frowned at that.  “But Rose.   I have.  In my future I’ve told you my name repeatedly.   I’ve said it myself twice since I’ve met you.”

 

Her face lengthened in surprise.  “What?  When?”

 

“My proposal,” he said softly, with mild hurt in his tone.  “It includes my name – which is why it’s such a sacred phrase in my people’s language.”  His voice was a whisper.  “You already know my name.”

 

“Tell me?” she pleaded.  “So I know which part?”

 

He shook his head.  “In time, Rose,” he vowed.  “When you’re ready – which isn’t right now.”

 

She nodded.

 

“But off that,” he declared with a wide grin and a 180 spin on his mood.  “Now that we have everything agreed to:  You’ll stay with me to be more level headed in your decision making, and I won’t be the octopus, or an annoying cat.   We should make plans for excusions.  I’m thinking a lunch on the banks of the Cadonflood river.   They have an amazing rockpool at the base of Mount Lung, that has natural airflow in it – very much like a hot tub back on Earth, only not full of electrical wiring and gaudy lights…”

 

His eyes widened as much as his grin.  “Oh, and have I ever told you about where that phrase came from, and that if you look very carefully at the La Sagrada Familia, you’ll see where I may… or may not  … have had a teeny tiny bit of influence…

 

Rose dropped her head with a laugh.  She shook her head a moment, and waited for him to finish up before lifing her head and rewarding him with a wide smile.  “Fine, Doctor.  I’ll go for lunch with you, but first things first.”  She held her dusty and torn t-shirt at the bottom and shrugged at him.  “I need a shower and some new clothes.”

 

He narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips in analysis.  “Quite right,” he agreed.  “TARDIS will show you where the bathroom is, and will have a room and some clothing for you.  Please take your time to freshen up, and I’ll go to the kitchen to pack lunch.”

 

“Promise me we’re stayin put here?”

 

He moved to touch her shoulder, but switched to take her hand instead.  “I promise you, Rose.  Until you and I are both ready, the TARDIS knows she’s not moving anywhere.”

 

She visibly relaxed.  “Oh.  Good.  Thanks.”  He rolled up onto her toes to kiss his cheek, but held back at the last second.   “I.  I’ll just go now.”

 

“You do that.”

 

“I will.”

 

“I know.”

 

They both remained in place.  He gestured eagerly toward the TARDIS.  “Well go on, then.  Time for the Human to wash herself up.  Quite frankly, my dear, you are beginning to get a little on the nose.”

 

Her eyes widened, she peeped, and she took off to the TARDIS.  “Okay!  Won’t be long.”

 

The Doctor shook his head as he slowly followed her rushed path.  He put one hand into his trouser pocket and set the other one on the faded blue TARDIS door.  He looked at his oldest friend and blew out a breath.  “Dear.  I hope we’re doing the right thing here.”  He felt the hum underneath his hand and nodded.  “I know.  I know.  I feel it too.”  He exhaled.  “She can’t leave Gallifrey … I can't allow her to.  Not yet.   Not yet.  I just wish I knew why.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The garment that the TARDIS had gifted to her for this outing was as far opposite of the spectrum of what she’d normally wear by … well … by an entire galaxy, she reckoned.  It started as a long-sleeved, straight cream-coloured tunic that dropped down as far as her ankles.  There were a pair of drawstrings at the waist, and when she pulled at them, both sides of the tunic gathered and lifted as high as her knees.  The material wasn’t exactly thick and cumbersome, although it did look as though it should be, and so after the sides had been pulled up, the front and back of it draped down with a soft arch.  Over her bosom, the tied the laces of a brilliant-crimson leather-style vest.   It hugged and curved her bosom in the same way a corset might, but in a manner that actually allowed her to breathe comfortably.   The soft fabric of the tunic gathered neatly above the stop of the vest to maintain her dignity.   The TARDIS had opted to accessorise the outfit with a soft pair of dark-brown leather boots that rode up to Rose’s calves and laced daintily down the front with cream coloured laces that matched the colour of her tunic.

 

Throwing her hair up in a messy bun, Rose took a moment to take in her reflection in the floor-to-ceiling mirror the TARDIS had put in her room.  She wasn’t a complete fan of the look – it was far too 19th century for her liking – but it would do.   She snatched a pair of sunglasses from the dresser and skipped through the corridors of the TARDIS eager to see where the Doctor intended on taking them for lunch.

 

When she skipped out of the ship and into the bright sunlight, Rose lifted her forearm to shield her eyes.  She flicked open her glasses with the other hand and quickly shifted them onto her nose.  As she fought her eyes to accept the brightness shadow fell across her face.  She blinked for clarity and wound up faze to nuzzle with a rather large animal that snorted impatiently in her face.

 

She yelped and took a jump back.  “Doctor!”

 

“Right here, Rose,” he cut in jovially.  “I see you’ve met Sangorosangrass…”

 

“San-what?” she asked incredulously as she finally cleared her vision to look around the nose of the animal.   She heard the Doctor repeat the name with a mild amount of annoyance in his voice, but basically ignored him to take in the creature before her.   It was very much like a horse, with a long strong nose, muscular long and lean legs that tapered down to hooves.   It’s mane was brilliant and translucent in the bright sunshine. In the middle of it’s forehead was a long and tapered horn that shimmered different colours as it shook it’s head and snorted with impatience.

 

“Oh my God,” she breathed out in awe.  “It.  It’s a Unicorn!”

 

“Well, actually, the species is Tillogrippul,” the Doctor corrected as he appeared at her side, two sets of reins in his hand.   He petted at the nose of the beast and rolled a series of different sounds from his mouth.   The beast nodded and slowly took a four-legged stride backward.  “They’re native to the Kssterboreon nebulas, not to Gallifrey, per se.   Although, since their introduction, they’ve become part of the landscape here on Lung, and along the Cadonflood River.:  He petted the (A/N: I’m calling it a Unicorn from herein) Unicorn’s thick neck.  “They’ve adapted quote well to our climate, and to the time energies of Gallifrey.”  HE rubbed his chin.  "Didn't do so well on Earth, though..."

 

“They’re beau’iful,” Rose breathed in awe as she lifted her hand to try and touch the horn.

 

The Doctor quickly snatched her wrist.  “No!”  he yelped.  “Don’t touch that!.  For the sake of us both, please don’t touch.”

 

Rose quickly snapped her hand back out of his hold and held it against her chest.  Her voice was worried.  “What?  Why?”

 

His face creased with discomfort.  “That horn.  Well.”   He rubbed at the back of his head.  “It’s very much an … ehm … a phallic appendage.”

 

Rose’s eyes blew wide.  “You mean that  - that’s its .. you know?”  She circled her finger downward in a gesture toward his groin.

 

The Doctor took a moment to try and understand what she was indicating.  When he understood he actually shifted his hips backward and dropped a hand in front as though covering nakedness.  “Well!  Oh.  Yes,  I mean: No!.”  He cleared his throat.  “I mean.  What I mean to say is that it does serve the function of acting as a hypersensitive pleasure centre, but it’s not his – ehm – reproductive organ.”  He pointed toward the beast’s groin.  “Which is located where you would expect it to be.”

 

Rose’s brows were still high, her eyes still wide.  “You mean he has two of them?” She chuckled and shook her head.  “Don’t tell the blokes back home that, they’d be horribly jealous.”

 

He sniffed indignantly at the thought.  “They can barely control the one of them,” he groused.  “They’d cease to function if they had another.   And no, Rose.  They only have the one true sexual appendage – which is located underneath the animal.  The horn is more of a telepathic receptor … which serves more of a … pleasurable function than anything else.”

 

“Okay, so one’s for a quick bit of slap and tickle, the other for..”

 

“Can we please cease the discussion on this topic,” he finally bellowed out, discomfort contorting his features.  “Whether or not a Tillogrippul engages in slap and tickle or reproductive mating is highly irrelevant and really uncomfortable to talk about.”  He handed Rose a rein.  “Now if you will, please mount your steed so we can be off.”

 

Rose’s face contorted somewhat as she held in her laughter at was a really, truly, juvenile interpretation of his words.  Oh, but she had some lines of retort and rebuttal that were just sheer majesty.  As her mind waded through each and every one of them, she found herself spitting out a laugh to violently that the Doctor had to wipe his cheek of spittle.

 

“If you think I don’t know what you’re thinking…,” he droned sardonically.

 

“Oh.  Oh,” she managed in between laughs.   She clutched at her belly to try and settle herself a little.  “You really don’t wanna know what I’m thinking.”

 

“I was your age once, you know,” he sniffed back as he kicked his leg and deftly mounted the back of the animal.  “I’m fully aware of the myriad of meanings of the word mount, and just where the mind of an adolescent heads on hearing that word.”  He gestured toward her animal with a jut of his chin.  “Now please.  If you will.”

 

Rose shrugged and rather awkwardly hooked her foot into a small leather loop that hung down from a matching leather mat that had been corseted around the beast’s belly.   There was no saddle, and therefore no saddle horn for her to hold to leverage herself up, So Rose found herself having to apologise for grabbing a handful of iridescent mane.    The animal stomped impatiently, but didn’t seem to protest at her pulling at its hair to get up.  It certainly took a minute, but Rose finally found the strength to throw her leg around the back and settle in place.

 

“One,” she said finally, when she shifted to find comfort and was able to look at him.  “I’ve moved beyond adolescence.  Happened a long time ago.   It’s called bein’ a human, you know.  No matter what, the mind heads there.  If you weren’t so repressed about it, yours might do the same.”

 

“I never said it didn’t,” he shot back with a shrug.  “I just don’t tend to cheer about it when it does.”   He looked at her moving uncomfortably on the back of her ride.  “Are you okay?”

 

“Gimme a mo’,” she asked with the wave of her hand.  “Bare thighs on leather might end up with real good consequences on this end.”

 

He slumped.  “Do you need to go change – again?”

 

“Nahhh,” she drawled out with a laugh.  “I got this.”  She straightened her legs to lift her self up, and then roughly tucked several folds of her lose tunic fabric underneath her.  It didn’t take more than a few seconds for her to have completely eliminated any chance of skin against leather, but it did leave her with far more exposed leg than either of them had hoped for.  She looked up at him with a big grin.  “There!  All better now.”

 

“You might want to consider sunscreen,”  he circled his finger in the air toward her thighs.

 

Rose merely shrugged.  “Could do with getting’ a bit of sun, these old things.  And b’sides.  If’n I get burned beying all recognition out here, theTARDIS has some of the best after sun gel in the universe.  So I’m good.”

 

He nodded with a roll in his eyes.  “If you’re very sure, then.”  He kicked his heels to get his steed walking and flicked his hand over her shoulder in an order for her to follow.  “Now come along.  Just a small kick and your Tillogrippul will start to move.”

 

Rose nodded eagerly and kicked lightly.  Her Tillogrippul stomped a couple of times in place, and when whinnied and quickly jumped to walk to the Doctor’s side.   Having never ridden on horseback before, Rose whimpered and yelped as she struggled in her attempts to control the creature – not that it apparently needed control.

 

“Just relax,” the Doctor advised with a sigh.  “These two are a mated pair, where one goes so will the other.  He’s not going to take off on you.”  He looked back.  “I’m in control of this one’s telepathic sensors,” he slapped it a couple of times against its neck and looked back to the front.   “Even if she was so inclined to bolt, she can’t.”

 

Rose frowned, but relaxed.  “So what’dya mean you’re telepathically in control?”

 

He pointed to the horn.  “That is a telepathic receptor.  I’m telepathic.  Far moreso than a Tillogrippul is at any rate…”

 

“Hold on,” Rose spluttered with a rise of her hand.  “You mean to tell me that you’ve got this beautiful creature in a brain-lock?  Takin’ away all its will?  Isn’t that a bit cruel?”

 

He shrugged.  “You’ve simplified it enough to make it sound cruel, but it isn’t.  Far less that mouth bits, spurs, and whips like your lot use to control your horses back on Earth.”  His eyes traced the far horizon.  “Telepathic control is much less painful and leaves no aftereffects at all.”

 

Rose snorted.  “Don’t be so sure of that, Doctor.  Took me a long while to get over having my head taken over back on New Earth.”

 

He rocked as he nodded his head.  “You did mention that adventure.   Was this with the new me, or your first me?”

 

“Second,” she clarified.  “It was actually our first trip after his regeneration.”  She exhaled sadly.  “And the first time he forgot about me.”

 

“Can you tell me about it,” he queried with interest.  “Regale me with the tale of your adventure.”  His lip curled up into a smile.  “And by the time you’re finished, we should be at Crystal Cascades.”

 

“Sounds lovely.  I can’t wait to see it.”

 

“We’ll be there shortly, he promised.  “And so please, tell me about New Earth, and how I let you down.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose was finalising her tale of New Earth, and how Cassandra had finally repented when she and The Doctor finally broke through the forest and onto the banks of the Cadonflood river.  The two Tillogrippuls wasted no time in rushing to the crystal clear waters to take a drink.  Her own steed moved so quickly that Rose was unable to maintain her balance.  With a yelp, she fell backward over the rump of the animal.  She fell into a pair of waiting arms, rather than the rocky ground below, and heard a chuckling in her ear.

“Not very graceful, now, are you, Rose?”

 

Still in his arms, Rose folded her arms across her chest and narrowed her eyes at him.  “I thought you said they couldn’t take off on ya?”

 

“I released the telepathic hold on mine when we broke through the trees,” he admitted.  “No sense in continuing to hold her to my will when she’s no longer needed.”

 

“And you didn’t think to tell me to hold on tight, Rose, this one might bolt.”

 

He winced “I might’ve thought to warn you about that, Rose.  I’m sorry.”

 

She wriggled out of his hold and hopped awkwardly on the rocks before finding sure footing.  “Not half as sorry as you will be if you pull that one on me again.”  She considered expanding upon that threat, but her eyes captured the shimmering rainbow reflection of the sunlight bouncing off clear crystal rocks and any such notions fled her suddenly overwhelmed mind.   She pushed her hand against his chest to move by him and gasped as she stood at the water’s edge.

 

“Oh my God,” she managed in a shaky voice as her hand flew to cover her mouth.  “Doctor.  This is…”

 

“Crystal Cascades,” he finished for her.  “The composition of the mountain side of Mount Lung is comprised mainly of Lupolmahian Crystals.  Weather and the waters that run along this gully have soften and smoothed the edge of the crystals over the centuries, but legend has it that before the Age of the Time Lords, when the crystals had the sharp edges from their creation, they would blind any traveller that ventured this way.”  He thumbed at his nose, the allure of the place waning after having visited so many times throughout his youth.  “Not so brilliant to look at now, I suppose.”

 

Rose disagreed.   She looked upon the glassy edge of the mountain in a state of absolute and utter awe, unable to articulate any sound other than an almost garbled exhale.

 

“What was that, Rose?”  The Doctor asked as he turned to face her and was brought to an abrupt halt.  The mirrored and rainbow reflection of the twin suns peeking into the gully leapt off the rocks to form a halo around his companion.  Hues of different colours danced along her eyes, and off the thin line of tears that were nestled there.

 

“Rassilon,” he breathed out in awe at the solemn beauty within her.

 

Rose was unable to take her eyes of the masterpiece before her, but she was able to turn her head just slightly toward him.  “Doctor,” she managed weakly.  “This.  This is the most beau’iful thing I’ve ever seen.  I … I can’t imagine how it must have been before now.”   She sniffed deeply, unsure of just how emotion had crept into her as it had.  She wanted to drop to her knees and beg any and all deities watching from above to make her worthy of beholding such magnificence.  “God.  It’s so amazin’.  I.   I do’t ever wanna leave.  I wanna stay here forever and just … just  look.”

 

“Yes,” he agreed, but not necessarily toward the waters.  He took in her awe, and her reverence of his home, and felt the slightest shimmer of pride well up inside him.  He turned back toward the water and looked at it with the fresh eyes that gazed upon it through this precious human.   His eyes trailed the smoothed formations at the waters edge, and to the sharper edges that grew from within the mountain’s bottom edge.  He took in the rainbows, and the reflections shared between the crystal and the waters.

 

He felt his breath hitch, and his eyes mist with appreciative tears.  His hand instinctively reached for hers.  “Rassilon, Rose,” he whimpered out on an extended breath and he wriggled his fingers within hers and held her hand tightly.  “I forgot just how…”  his words shifted to Gallifreyan.  Words, Rose assumed, were words of reverence in his language.   She took a step closer to his side and leaned her head against his shoulder.

 

“Thank you,” he breathed finally.

 

She looked up at him with a pinch of confusion in her eye.  “For what?”

 

His smile warm warm.  “Just.  Thank you.”

 

“This place.  Is it sacred?”

 

“In what way do you mean,” he queried curiously.

 

“I mean, are we allowed to swim here?”

 

His cheek crinkled into a smile.  “Even if we weren’t, Rose.  I’d still suggest we do just that.”  He winked at her.  “Like I said to you back at the TARDIS, There is a pool inside the cascades that has natural airflow.  Much better than the hot tubs you have on Earth.”

 

Rose chuckled deep down inside her throat.  She immediately pulled at the bow on her vest and let it fall gracelessly onto the ground at her feet.

 

The Doctor looked aghast.  He took a look around them as though looking for someone hiding in the bushes.  “What are you doing?”

 

Rose was already in a half crouch, with one foot lifted to undo her boots.  She maintained that position, and her task at hand.  “Getting my kit off, what do you think?”  She blinked at the scandalised expression on his face.  “You really didn’t think I’d get in there fully dressed did you?”

 

“We aren’t in the confines of the TARDIS,” he reminded her.  “You can’t be parading around without … with … with nothing on!”

 

With one shoe removed, Rose straightened up and then slouched a petulant position with a roll in her eyes.  “I’m keeping my knickers and bra on, Doctor, blimey.  Both of which have more coverage than any bikini I might throw on at a beach – such are the undergarments the TARDIS provided me with at any rate.  She’s a bit of a prude, our girl.  Either that or she’s kitting me out in Gallifreyan undies and your entire society are prudes.”

 

“Yes,” he managed with a clearing sound in the back of his throat.  “Ahh, yes.  Quite right on that, Rose.  Can’t quite be denied, that charge.” He rubbed at the back of his head.  “I suppose it didn’t quite occur to me to remind you to bring swim trunks.”

 

Rose bent again to remove her other boot.  She looked toward the Time Lord, who was still looking somewhat astounded at her.  “Well?” she sang out.  “Are you gonna get down to your pants and join me?” 

 

“Uhh.”

 

She kicked off her other boot, and grabbed the lower hem of her tunic.  She spoke a muffled voice through fabric as she lifted it up over her head.  “Coward.”

 

He gaped at her, and then twisted his head to one side and slammed his eyes shut when he noticed she was wearing only a bra and panties.  “What did you just call me?”

 

“A coward,” she answered quite simply.  Without waiting for any further instruction, argument, or advice at all from him on whether or not the water here was not going to melt her like acid, Rose quickly ran into the waters.  She didn’t even bother to test it with her toe, she rushed straight in and dove under the waters.   She shot up, and flicked her head backward, spraying an arc of sun-tinted crystal water … much like an Instagram model emerging from beach waters.

 

In a word:  Stunning.  To any man lucky enough to be standing on shore watching.  Which he was.   And now he couldn’t breathe.

 

Rose heard his choked cough from the edge and ran her hands over her hair as she turned to the shore, panicked by what horrible bit of perhaps you should have listened to me before runni9ng in there comment he was about to give.   She held her hair at her cheeks with worry to see him frozen solid in place, still fully dressed on the shore.

 

“Doctor?”  she called worriedly.   “Are you okay?”

 

Her worried voice broke him from his reverie.  He let out a long snarling growl, and hurriedly undressed.  There was nothing graceful about any movement he made to undress, but it was very rushed and purposeful, like he had only that one mission in life – to get undressed and into those waters.

 

She watched him curiously as he got down to just a pair of dark grey boxer briefs.  His eyes had been locked on her and had darkened throughout his undressing manoeuvres.  It was unnerving, and thrilling, and then terrifying as he strode with purpose into the water, and then dove deep to skim along the bottom.  He resurfaced quickly, his entire body moving against hers until he looked over top of her, a curl in his lip and a growl in his tone.

 

“You,” he declared throatily as he snapped his arms around her waist and hauled her up tightly against him.  “You are magnificent.”

 

Her gasp inhaled his words and for the briefest of moments she was captured by his possessive glare.  Underneath the dusty blue, she could see the more clearer blue of her own Doctor waiting in line and trying to break free.  Her body shifted into a carnal convulse of need and want so desperate, that she was willing to throw aside her entire set of rules and let him take her where they were.  Then she saw the confused and timid brown of her current Doctor shimmer into line and she found freedom from the lock he had her in, and was able to pull away.

 

“Less than a day, and you’re already breakin’ the rules,” she accused him hotly as she slammed both hands into his chest and shoved him away.  “I said no touchy feely, Doctor.  No grabbin’ nothin’ or going in for a snog.”   She slid out of his hold and kicked her legs to swim several strokes away from him. 

 

He shook himself free of his own stupor, and looked up with apology.  “I’m very sorry, Rose.  I don’t quite know what came across me just then.”

 

She pointed a finger dripping with water at him.  “Yeah, well no lettin’ it happen again,” she warned.  “One chance, that’s all I’m giving ya.”

 

He swam in the water to pull up beside her.  “I appreciate you giving me that extra chance.  I do wholly apologise for that, I’m really not sure what happened.”

 

She shrugged in the water.  “Jus’ don’t let it happen again, okay?”

 

“Okay,” he vowed.  He grappled under the water and took her hand.  “Come on,” he said with a smile.  “The pool’s this way.”

 

Rose let him tug her toward a small alcove at the base of the mountain.  He let her toward a pool that looked like it had been dug into the crystals to for a deep bowl.  Thee was a sharp jagged crystal high over head, that tore a waterfall in two to fall either side of the pool, two shimmering rainbow curtains crashing into the waters below.

 

“Wow,” she breathed out in awe as the Doctor pulled himself out of the water and held his hand down to help her up.  Wet, and soggy, lithe and lean, his wet curls trying their absolute all to remain spiralled at his cheeks and not held down by water, and that damn roguish smile of his … this man was magnificent.

 

Why had she put rules in place?

 

She let him haul her up out of the water and then grinned a very cheeky grin.  “I you get,” he hollered as he picked her up by the hips and then threw her into the pool.  He hollered a whoop, and followed in behind her.  He laughed when she emerged from the water spluttering and threatening his existence if he were ever to do something like that again.  He blew her a kiss, and then swam to the edge of the pool.  His arms spread either side of him to stretch out across the edge, and he leaned backward with a moan as the teeming bubbles from a hissing vent underneath him massaged his legs and lower back.

 

Rose swam over to the other side of the pool and analysed him somewhat as she adopted the same lounging pose as him.  She shifted with the press of bubbles against her skin and exhaled a softer, more feminine moan of appreciation.   She was willing to lose herself completely to it when she heard his voice gently command her attention.  She opened her eyes to look across the small pool toward him.

 

“Yes, Doctor?”

 

His eyes were gentle upon her, but they were full of question.  “Your story about New Earth,” he began.  “Which sounded like quite the adventure.”

 

“It was,” she confirmed with a smile.  “But it was also the start of … I dunno.”

 

“That was immediately following my regeneration?”

 

She looked up in thought.  “You mean the first trip in TARDIS?  Yes.   But it was after we’d had another adventure.  Up against the Sycorax.”  She pursed her lips.  “Which was more us than you, really.  You slept through pretty much the whole thing…”

 

“Regeneration sickness,” he contributed.  “Takes on many forms that, and a lot of it is either sleeping it off for a day or two, or forgetting everything – which is what happened to me this time around.”  He blew out a breath.  “Oh, I didn’t know who I was for at least two days.  Fortunately, though, I managed to work it out before the world was destroyed by the Master.”

 

“The Master?” Rose queried eagerly.  “Who’s that?”

 

The Doctor smiled weakly.  “My oldest friend, and my biggest enemy,” he answered her sadly. 

 

“The frenemy,” Rose said with understanding.  “Been there, had them.  Nothin’ worse than having your best mate turn into your worst enemy.”  She exhaled and looked over his shoulder toward the Tillogrippul waiting for them on the banks.  “They know all your weak spots and how to hurt you more’n anyone else can.”

 

“You sound like you were hit pretty hard by that very specific turn of events, Rose,” he said softly.

 

Her eyes flicked toward him and her eyes held terror and remembrance.  “Yeah,” she breathed out.  “Yeah, I did.”

 

“Would you like to talk about it?”

 

She shook her head.  She gulped.  “About as much as you want to talk about yours, Doctor.”

 

“Which is absolutely not at all,” he confirmed.  “But I would like to talk about me and you.” He caught her questioning brow as it dipped over one eye.  “Specifically: future me and you.”

 

“Can I ask you a question first?”

 

He nodded.  “Shoot.”

 

She shifted in her seat and leaned forward to pull her arms into the water.  She watched her hands moving gently underneath.  “You an me look to be having some deep and meanin’ful chats over the next little bit.”  She lifted her eyes to his.  “How is it – in your future – you don’t know who I am?”

 

He pushed off the wall and swan the short distance between them to sit beside her in the pool.  He took one of her hands in his and swirled both underneath the waters.  “Very likely because I made myself forget,” he said plainly.

 

She angled her head to look sideways at him.  “You can do that?”

 

“Sometimes.”  He paused and then smirked and amended that.  “Quite a lot of times, actually, I do encounter people from my future timestreams.  They try, they really do, not to reveal things that are to come, but it’s not a natural instinct for humans as it is for Time Lords.”  He took her hand in both hands, keeping his eyes on her fingertips as he lightly massaged her palm.  “I’m not allowed to know what happens in my future, Rose.  And so I forget.  I make myself forget so I don’t change what’s coming.”

 

“And if what’s coming might be bad?”

 

He lifted his eyes and smiled at her.  “Doesn’t matter, does it.  That person who’s come to me, who is in my life, is only there because of the path that I choose.  If I skip past the bad just to save my own feelings, then that person who’s life has touched mine, may never end up in my path.”  He smiled.  “Like you.”

 

She frowned.  “What makes you think that…”

 

He chuckled and looked back down.  “I described you as my salvation, Rose.  You saved me from something big.  Something that I didn’t think I’d ever survive.”  He held her hands tight within his.  “I was destroyed when you came into my life, and you made me better.  Whatever did that to me, Rose, I have to go through it.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have met you – and that’s a worse sentence than suffering a little hardship.”

 

“But how’d you get that out of… I mean…”  She was confused.  “You said that he said I saved him, but you didn’t say he said all that.”

 

“I also said that it didn’t translate well at all,” he reminded her.  “There was a lot more said by him than I’ve shared with you.  And I really need to analyse it all much more before I can comprehend just how much he loves you.”

 

“Loved,” she corrected.

 

“Loves,” he argued firmly.  “I don’t believe you for a second that he’s lost any of that.”

 

“But…”

 

“Don’t argue,” he admonished her firmly.  “I know me.  I do.  I also know I can be a bit of an insecure git despite what confidence I project to everyone.”  He looked up and slouched again in the water beside her.  “Perhaps something about me in the future makes me think that I’m not worthy anymore.”

 

“Or he thinks I’m not…”

 

He shook his head.  “That I doubt very much.  I’d love to corner myself and ask just what my problem is – if you’d let me do it, of course.”  His brows lifted with eager question.

 

She shook her head and swam away from him.   “No, Doctor.   Geez, it’d be like sending dad into the inconsiderate boyfriend to punch him in the face.”

 

He frowned tightly.  “Well.  I don’t know that I’d do that.”

 

She smirked.  “He would,” she said with amusement.  “My first Doctor, I mean.”

 

His lips stretched into a smile.  “Oh.  Well that does sound interesting….”

 

“No,” Rose moaned, reading his intent.  “You can’t send him in either.”

 

He slouched against the rocks.  “Well, you really are not fun at all, are you?”

 

“Oh,” she purred in a tease.  “Oh I can be, Doctor.  I can be very fun…”  She stood up in front of him, all see through white bra and panties, with wet skin quivering in the cool breeze of the gully.  “You wanna see just how fun I can be?”

 

The sultry way in which she said that to him made his hearts beat that little bit quicker inside his chest.  He cleared his throat and squeaked out a very undignified sound.  “Uh.  Rose?”

 

She laughed and spun away from him, launching herself through the air and over the edge of their little pool.  She splashed deeply into the water below, emerging seconds later with a whoop in her chest as she smoothed her hair back.  “Come on, Doctor.  Let’s have some fun!”

 

He grinned cheekily.  There were some oddities about this place, and some ghost stories he could tell that would make her shiver enough to stay cold even in the most glaring heat.  Yeah, it was time for some fun. 

 

He stood up to leap over the edge, ready to let out a jovial yell and crash into the water beside her.  His breath drew in hard, however, and his stomach contracted violently as a familiar and uncomfortable wave of energy crashed through him.  He stumbled backward, overwhelmed by its power this time around.

 

A fixed point was on fast approach, and this wasn’t one to be tampered with.  It crashed into him with the force of a freight train with a request that things be allowed to progress as time demanded it did.

 

Whatever it was, the fate of the entire universe was at stake … and somehow, the woman playing in the water below was the key to it all.

Chapter Text

The Doctor blew out a breath through sun-parched lips as he flicked a pebble across the still waters of the river.   Oh, it wasn’t as perfectly still at the deeper sections of the water would have one believe.   There was still a gentle lapping of water against the toes of his boots – quite possibly small ripples from the seventeen other pebbles he’d thrown over the last hour.

 

Soft Gallifreyan passed through his lips as he looked across the water.   “Ripples, Rose,” he repeated gently in English.  “That’s how we refer to ripples, be it of time, or in water, we use the same phrasing.”  He lowered his head and smiled at the floor.

 

There was no feminine echo of his words as there would normally be.  This time, he lectured alone.  For the first time in three excursion-filled weeks, he was actually alone…

 

…and it wasn’t nearly as blissful as he had thought it would be.   It was – in fact – exceedingly lonely out here by himself. 

 

Three weeks they’d been together now.   Three very fast weeks.  Three weeks that he had originally planned to last only as long as about as many days.   Just enough time for her to come toward her senses and head back into his future to settle things with his elder self.  That wasn’t to be, however, and he was finding himself becoming increasingly reluctant to send her back anywhere at all.

 

No.  Turned out that he liked her a little more than he should; that he company was something he actually looked forward to every morning when she woke up. 

 

Back on day one – as part of their bargaining she had said to him: “No bursting into my room without knocking, sitting on the other side of my bathroom door like a cat waiting for me to be done, or whining when I’m trying to sleep because you want me to go and do something with you.”

 

He’d internally scoffed with disgust at that little list of dislikes.  What part of him would feel in any way possessed to behave in such a manner?  He’d never been that way in all of his lives previous to now, and he certainly never anticipated wanting human companionship so much that he’d even begin to behave in such a needy and undignified manner in the future.

 

Oh, how wrong he’d been about that?

 

It look less than 48 hours for him to find himself almost desperate to be in her presence.  Quite pathetic, really.   But she was certainly something else, and he had become very attached very quickly.  It was clear to him that these three weeks could easily span into as many years without either of them noticing – such was their easy comradery.

 

Too quickly they’d fallen into step together.    Her hunger for learning and her wide-eyed astonishment toward everything around them was simply intoxicating.  Her awe and excitement toward his home world offered him a new appreciation of it.  To look upon the forested landscape from the cliffs of Mount. Lung through her eyes … it was simply breathtaking.

 

The Time Lords and the people within the uptight society they had created were all insufferable gits, but it didn’t mean that the planet herself needed to be viewed through that same lens.  Gallifrey was a truly majestic world, and he’d forgotten that.  It took the wonder of a Human to remind him that he loved his home just as much as he said he hated it.  Oh, sure, if he had to before now, the Doctor would have defended his home and all that it stood for.  Seeing it through the eyes of the one who would become a future companion … oh, now he’d fight for it.  He’d die, regenerate, and die again to protect Gallifrey.

 

Rose.   Well.   He couldn’t stop thinking about her.  She was …. She was something different … he had to remark on that.  On the surface, Rose Tyler really did appear to be much like the other human companions that he’d taken onboard his TARDIS.  Brilliant, yes.  Fearless, yes.  Fierce and intelligent, absolutely.  Getting to know her these past handful of weeks on a mountainside near Arcadia, he’d seen something much more to her harboured on the inside.  This young woman was special in ways he couldn’t translate in a language outside of his own.

 

To be honest, he was having some difficulty in translating to her many of the phrases she was asking him to teach her.  She had insisted, though.  Not at all content to just learn how to speak his language, Rose Tyler had wanted to understand it as well.  And thus begun the arduous task of trying to break down the temporal, lyrical, and hard to master language that belonged only to his people. And it wasn’t fast, nor easy, for either of them.  The first week and a half of their partnership was spent holed up in the library with the TARDIS acting as a chalkboard and study room, each trying to understand the other:  Him, trying to educate her on how and when to speak, her teaching him just why it was important that she wanted to learn at all.

 

I want to do it for you, Doctor.  I might’n be real clever enough to get all conversational, but at least let me be able to say something to you that will actually mean something.”

 

That, he didn’t quite understand.  Anything that any of his companions said always meant something to him.  Always.

 

It was too bad that his future self had forgotten how important it was to enforce his utter devotion to all who stepped aboard his TARDIS.  He’d learned after Ace – wonderful, brilliant Ace – not to have his companions believe he didn’t care, or that he took them for granted.

 

This should have been especially true for Rose.  She was different, so different, to the other companions.  She was one who had saved his future, and in turn his future had fallen in love with her.  One face of him loved her with open reverence.  The next seemed to forget she existed – or made her think he did at any rate.

 

…And that was beyond unacceptable.  It was reprehensible.

 

Still.  He yearning to learn and more importantly understand his language was an important step on her way to recovering her faith in him.  And while their daily banter annoyingly included her constant interruptions to point at things and say: “What’s that in your language,” he couldn’t hold her to fault.   Instead he found himself creating more tutorials for her in his mind.  Each moment they were apart because of her human needs of sleep, showering, and digestational evacuations, he formed new words and phrases – phrases that he knew his future would appreciate hearing…

 

…except the one he needed most:  Her answer to his proposal.  He hadn’t yet been brave enough to teach her that one … and she certainly wasn’t yet ready to try.

 

He had prepared a lesson today of basic conversational phrases.  Nothing too advanced, of course, just the typical touristy-type phrases:  I need to find a loo.  My name is.  How are you.  Where do I find the nearest train station…  He’d hoped that she’d get a good laugh out of it when he presented the plan.  They’d laugh, they’d try, and then they’d head off down to the Magnolia orchard to pick some fruit and talk about how much he loved to run around there as a young loomling escaping the ardours of study.  Perhaps she would move onto the story of how his elder self had abandoned her on a Space Station 5,000 years into her future.   She’d been reluctant to go into too much detail other than jealously spitting out the words: Reinette, Poisson, and Dancing.

 

Of course that plan fell out of the boat almost immediately after she’d emerged from the bathroom.  Oh, but she was in a horribly foul mood.  Even the special English Breakfast tea that the TARDIS had mixed for her didn’t do the trick.  Rose had stalked from the kitchen to the medical bay (he’d followed behind trying to talk to her), grabbed a bottle of pain pills from a cabinet, glared accusingly at him, and then stalked back down to her room.

 

He was left alone in the corridor with wide eyes of utter confusion.

 

“I’ll just head out on my own then,” he’d offered, gesturing over his shoulder with his thumb.  “I’ll, ehm, be back shortly.”

 

He heard a muffled reply that be supposed was “Goodbye, Doctor”, but he couldn’t be completely sure of that.   She might have told him to bugger off.

 

And with that, he’d walked out and off to destination unknown…

 

Okay, not alone.   He had taken a trip up to a council outpost just west of the forest and had a bit of a scavenge for information and insight, and found nothing.  He still didn’t quite know just why it was that Rose seemed to be the catalyst for an oncoming fixed point…  More than that, he couldn’t even determine exactly when this fixed point was set to occur.   It just seemed that any time he felt ready to make a determination about her future with him, he was hit with an invisible wall of warning not to go there.  The only thing he could deduce was that for now, and for the immediate future, Rose had to stay on Gallifrey.   Even the very thought of suggesting otherwise made him sick to the stomach…

 

…hmmmm.   Was he falling in love, or was this just a fixed point warning?

 

Whatever it was, he was through trying to fight it.  He wanted her to stay, and so did the universe.  He was good with that.

 

He flicked off another stone and counted the skips in Gallifreyan.  A small scuffle at his feet and he looked down to a tiny little creature foraging beside his boot.   He spoke in Gallifreyan, and then switched to English.   “That’s a cobblemouse, Rose.  Much like your field mice back on Earth, but far less dedicated on procreation.  In my language, we call it…” he spoke again in his native tongue.

 

“Speaking to yourself is a sign of madness, Thete,” a deep, amused,  and very familiar voice purred in from behind him.

 

The Doctor shook his head, but didn’t look back.  “Speaking with an expert, actually.”  He turned to face his intruder and tipped his head to one side in polite greeting.  “Hello Brax.”

 

Irving Braxiatel replied with a similar nod of greeting.  “Thete.”

 

The Doctor wiped hi shands against each other and took himself out from underneath the shade of a Cadonwood tree and away from the water’s edge.  “What brings you around these parts?  You’re not exactly the type to go hiking in the forest.”

 

Brax slid his hand into a pocket to retrieve a handkerchief and used it to flick an insect off his shoulder.  “I heard a rumour that you were skulking around the mountain.  Figured I’d come up to say hello seeing as you haven’t the consideration to visit me yourself.”

 

The Doctor shrugged.  “I haven’t dropped by to see you during any of my visits to Gallifrey over the past few centuries, Brax.  You’ve not seen fit to complain about it to this point.”

 

“Quite possibly because I can’t find you to make any such complaint,” he growled in return.  “By the time word is received, you’ve already dematerialised and headed back off on your travels.”

 

“I have a phone.”

 

“With a delisted number,” Brax shot back with a roll in his eyes.

 

The Doctor thumbed his nose and looked off to the side.  “Yes.  Well.  With council acting like relentless telemarketers demanding that I do this, and then do that, all in the name of mother Gallifrey, I felt it would be prudent to change it and keep it private.”

 

Brax let up a laugh of total agreement.  “If it were truly that easy to do, Thete, we’d all do it.”  He put a hand on the Doctor’s shoulder.  “It is good to see you again.  Which incarnation am I blessed with this time?  Five, six?”

 

The Doctor brushed Brax’s hand off his shoulder and levered a suspicious glare toward his brother.  “Oh drop the friendly pretense, Brother.   What are you really here for?”

 

“You judge me that easily?”

 

“Out with it,” he growled.

 

Braxiatel stood in a tall and proud manner that professed his innocence t the charge, but he was unable to maintain this façade for too long under his brother’s glare.  He slipped into a very very light slouch with both hands in his trouser pockets.  “I want to meet her,” he said finally.

 

The Doctor’s eyes narrowed.  “Meet who?”

 

“Your current companion,” Braxiatel answered quickly.  “There has been quite some buzz around the Capitol about her – at least quite recently the murmurs have centred around her.”

 

The Doctor wasn’t too surprised to hear that.  “You feel it too,” he remarked quietly.  “The oncoming fixed point.”

 

Braxiatel nodded.  “It’s been coming for some time,” he confirmed.  “Yet no one on council can determine just when it’s set to occur, or what it involves.  Time is twisting and turning as though in flux, but then snapping and growling and pulling it all back in line.”  He looked worried.  “It’s like it’s a moment so fragile that a simple slip to one side it could rip apart reality completely.”

 

The Doctor nodded in agreement as he walked back under the tree.  He folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the trunk.  “What do you know about it; this fixed point?”

 

Brax’s eyes lifted high in contemplation of the quandary.  His breath inhaled deep and held for a moment before expelling quickly around his words.  “That’s the thing, Thete.  We don’t know anything  about it.”  He began to pace slowly.  “Several months ago, we started to feel time’s tremors over in Arcadia.  They weren’t such that anyone was particularly concerned.  We put it down to the birth of the new solar system in the Hydreoux system.”

 

“Ahhh,” the Doctor sang out knowingly.  “Yes, the one in the Venroulix spiral.  I’ve been monitoring that one, could well sustain life on several of the young planets.”

 

“Given time,” Brax agreed.  “Yes.  Which is why we felt that time’s concern was directed toward this new star and her planets.”  He huffed out a breath.  “And then the tremors kept coming.  Sometimes it would affect only a handful of Time Lords, other times we’d feel it as a whole.”

 

“That must make interesting viewing in Council chambers watching the old and the arrogant fall to their knees all at once at Time’s command,” the Doctor injected with a chuckle.

 

Braxiatel shook his head.  “Not everyone feels it to the same degree, Thete. Not since the Other have we had a Time Lord so sensitive to Time’s call. You are far more sensitive to it than even out most elder and experienced Time Lords.  There are very few Time Lords that even have a half of your sensitivity – that aren’t among the matricians, of course.”  He sniffed, thumbed his nose, and continued.  “Which is one of the reasons that we monitor your movements as best we can.  Between you and your TARDIS, we can track and plot each fixed point and its integrity.   You’ve pulled some stupid stunts to change flux points, Brother, but you’re not as foolish as to tamper with fixed one.”

 

The Doctor grinned.  “So what you’re saying is that I’m far better at interpreting these points than all of you lot lording around council.”

 

“Tell anyone and I’d vehemently deny it,” he shot back with a smirk.  The smile faltered quickly.  “It’s not exactly your interpretive skills – as you do tend to work it out very late in the game – as it is that fixed points do happen to culminate around you and your behaviours – and more importantly, around your companions.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes flared briefly, but he couldn’t argue it.

 

“Which is why,” Braxiatel continued.  “when I heard that you’d snuck back to the planet with a companion in tow, I figured that whatever’s coming is very likely being held in your hands.”  He pointed to a path leading out of the forest.  “And is why I want to meet your companion – to make damn sure that the fate of reality is in very safe hands.”

The Doctor lifted his and held them up with a wiggle in his fingers.  “Very safe hands.”

 

“I’m not jesting, Thete,” Braxiatel growled.  “We’ve never had a point so powerful that it’s affected society as a whole.  This has stymied council for months now, and has everyone worried.”   He softened his tone to convey his concern.  “Do you now anything about it?”

 

The Doctor shook his head slowly.  “I have no idea at all.  I was hoping you might have brought me answers.”  He pulled up off the tree truck and started to walk toward the path.  “Follow me,” he said on a low tone.  “We can talk on the way to my TARDIS.”

 

“How is the old girl?” Brax asked.  “Ready for an upgrade at the drydocks?”

 

“If I send her there, she’d never come back to me,” the Doctor groused.  “She’d be scrapped the moment she materialised.”

 

“Quite likely scenario,” he agreed.  “She’s one of only two Type 40’s still operational.”

 

“She’s very good by the way,” The Doctor continued.  “She seems to have grown quite the fondness toward Rose.”

 

“Your companion?”

 

He nodded and thrust his hands deeply into his pockets.  “A future companion, actually.”

 

The Doctor looked toward his brother.  “You can see it, can’t you?”

 

“Your future in flux, a proposal as yet unrequited, and a Lord lost?”  He nodded.  “It’s murky at best, Thete.  Your future – and hers – are very much still in flux positioning, and rapidly changing.  There still are so many pathways, littered and twisted about that it’s near impossible to even determine whose path is whose.”   He exhaled.  “And then, right in the centre of it, is a void of unimaginable darkness.”

 

“Doom and gloom, thy name is Braxiatel,” the Doctor droned.

 

“Darkness only means that which can’t yet be seen,” Brax offered with a shrug.  “I’m not going to comment on just what that darkness might be.”

 

“The fixed point,” The Doctor offered dryly. 

 

Braxiatel nodded.  “I figured as much.”  He stopped him with a hand on his arm.  “Can you see anything else, Thete?”

 

His exhale was shaky and he couldn’t look at his brother when he answered.  Instead he looked off into the distance and licked his lips.  “Only that Rose is the key to it, and Gallifrey’s the centre of it.”  He shook his head and started walking again. 

 

Braxiatel quickly picked up pace to walk with him.  “Then that’s why you’re keeping her here in Gallifrey?”

 

The Doctor slid his eyes toward his brother.  “No.  It’s not.  My reasons for having Rose here are for far more – personal – reasons.”  He pursed his lips.  “It just happens to be coincidental that she needs to be here at this place and time.”

 

Braxtiatel gave a firm nod of his head.  “Good.  Then I will notify council that you and your companion are to be left in peace and with respect until such time as we can confirm the passing of the fixed point.”

 

The Doctor barked out a laugh.  “And then what, you’ll send an army to get rid of us?”  He didn’t wait for his brother to answer what was a very rhetorical question.  “As for my ability to keep her here, Brax.  I can’t guarantee that I can keep her here for any significant amount of time.   She has a future me that she needs to return to…”

 

Once again Braxiatel stopped him with a hand curled around his arm.  “What did you just say?  A future you?”  At the Doctor’s tired look, his expression fell.  “Oh, Thete.  What have you gotten yourself into?”

 

“It’s a long story,” he moaned.

 

“And we have a long walk,” Brax shot back sharply.  “Plenty of time for you to explain.”

 

“Why would I need to?”

 

“Because we’re in a bit of a situation here, and I need to know that you have what it takes to be able to keep the timelines stable enough to survive what’s coming.”

 

The Doctor nodded and tipped his head to one side in a gesture for them to keep walking.  “Rose is the intended bond mate for my future self.  There was an incident which saw her lose her faith in my affections for her and run.” He swallowed thickly.  “She ended up on my TARDIS instead of theirs, and my ship decided to bring us here, to Gallifrey.  I can only assume that she knows what’s on approach and kidnapped that precious girl to keep her at my side.”  He lowered his head.  “Otherwise I would have lost her in my future – whatever future it may be.”

 

Braxiatel slapped his forehead with his palm and let it slide thickly down his face.  “Which means we have your future running after her.  Well this is just great.  I know how you are when you’re faced with another one of you.  If he makes it here, then your inability to get along with yourself means that this will all will go to hell.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “Timelocked,” he reminded his brother.  “My future cannot return to this time in Gallifrey – at least not while I’m here at any rate.”

 

Braxiatel threw his head back and bellowed out a laugh.  “This is you we’re talking about, Thete.  Never mind that we’re dealing with a desperate Gallifreyan looking for his mate, we’re also dealing with you.  You’ve never been one to be able to be constrained by any rule or lock.”  He blew out a breath of worry.  “I hate to think of what’s to come.”

 

“It’ll be fine.”

 

“No it won’t,” he barked sharply.  He clutched at the Doctor’s arm.  “Not unless you can promise me that your future proposal has not yet been reciprocated.  If you tell me that she’s accepted your bond, then there is no force in this universe that will be able to stop you.”   He exhaled sharply.  “You’re a tenacious and sneaky little bastard.  I wouldn’t put it past you to already be here.”

 

“She’s human,” the Doctor answered simply.

 

“Like I would have assumed otherwise,” Braxiatel snorted in reply.  “You’ve always had an infinity for them – lower class creatures that they are.”

 

“Our mother was human, Brraxiatel.  Watch your words.”

 

“Human,” Brax agreed.  “But with the heart of a Time Lady.  She was special, and more worthy than any of the creatures lolling their inferior heads around on that insignificant planet.”

 

The Doctor shook his head with disgust at his brother’s open speciesism toward any not born in Gallifrey’s embrace.  He let out a breath and continued walking.  “She doesn’t speak Gallifreyan, and therefore is currently unable to respond to the proposal.”

 

“Which makes your future that much more dangerous, Thete.”

 

“I know.”  He swallowed.  “But I have faith in Rose and her concerns.  Something has happened to my future that makes me believe myself unworthy of her.  That said, I don’t imagine I’ll be following too closely behind.  I’m confident we have me locked in time’s stasis, where our decisions here will determine my future’s next steps.”

 

“Meaning?”

 

“I’m either taking her home to London, or back to Crandinia to my future self.”  The thrust his hands deeply into his trouser pockets.  “TARDIS already has both temporal coordinates set into her nav system – and both fall almost immediately after we left, and long before he’ll have given up his search for her on that planet.”  He rolled his neck and shoulder.  “I’m trapped in time until Rose and I make a decision here and now about how to proceed.”

 

“Thank Rassilon for that,” Braxiatel breathed.  “I said it before, and I’ll say it again:  You are a sneaky little bastard.  Not too many would take the precautions you have.”  He moved to fall in step with the Doctor.  “It is your plan, then, to keep Rose here?  For as long as it takes for this crisis to pass?”

 

He shrugged.  “The fixed point was never a consideration, and so no.  I had only intended to keep her with me for as long as she needed to calm herself and find her faith that I worship the ground that she walks on.”

 

“You need to plan for much more time than that, Thete.”

 

It was the Doctor’s turn to laugh.  “And how do you propose I do that, Brax?  There are only a limited amount of adventures that I can engage with her in here on Gallifrey – and quite frankly, we’ve begun to exhaust them.”  He pursed his lips.  “She’s also beginning to tire of me, I think.”

 

“What makes you draw that conclusion?”

 

He huffed.  “She basically kicked me out of my own TARDIS today.  Couldn’t stand to be near me.”

 

“I know the feeling,” Braxiatel sighed. 

 

“So with your agreement that it is a highly probably situation that exists right now, I can expect that her desire to leave will probably be sooner rather than later, and likely not before this fixed point has prepared the Reapers…”

 

Braxiatel went quiet for a moment.  His lips were pressed together into a think line of thought.  He blinked once, and then twice, and cleared his throat in a rather awkward manner.  He looked dead ahead, and not toward his brother.  “Tell me, Thete.  Have you and Rose engaged in what it is that human pairings like to engage in to keep each other entertained and interested in each others company?”

 

The Doctor slid his eyes toward his brother, who was actually reddening.  “Engaged in what, exactly?”  one brow fell over his eye, the other lifted high on his forehead.  “We’ve engaged in many very entertaining endeavours over this past three weeks.”

 

“Any that may involve the two of you…”  Braxiatel couldn’t look toward his brother, but he gestured toward the Doctor’s groin with a circle of his finger.  “That would involve the two of you being naked?”

 

Surprisingly the Doctor wasn’t at all aghast by the question.  Instead he found Braxiatel’s discomfort amusing.  “I’m not sure I follow you,” he managed through a smirk.

 

Not that it should have been more possible, but Braxiatel reddened further.  “Oh, you know what I’m talking about.  The recreational march toward pleasure that Humans seem to want to function on – distasteful act though it may be – Mating.”

 

The Doctor chuckled, but didn’t allow the discomforting line of conversation to continue in that specific direction.  “In my future, Rose and I have most definitely engaged in the art of mating.  Perfected it, too, if I’m not mistaken.”  His chuckle died off.  “As for my present.  No.  We have not.”

 

Bratiatel finally looked toward his brother, his colour slowly fading back to normal.  “Then perhaps you should initiate and engage in those behaviours as your way of keeping her here.  Mate, Marry, plan to loom or sire children.  Do what it takes.”   He nodded as though happy with the decision made for his brother.  “I can have it arranged that you be set up with your own house – separate from Lungbarrow – and that you are both afforded all the necessities to be happy here.”

 

The Doctor stopped.  He looked at his brother with an expression of absolute disgust.  “Are you suggesting that I manipulate her in such an abhorrent manner just so you can sleep at night knowing the fixed point is intact.”

 

“That’s precisely what I’m suggesting,” Braxiatel admitted freely.  “Your hearts beat for her, and her for you…”

 

“In my future,” the Doctor bellowed.

 

“Oh,” he answered with a wave of his hand.  “Future, past, present, it’s all the same.  You’re stepping it up here on Gallifrey to ensure that your future with her remains safe and intact.”  He smiled.  “With the added benefit of saving reality by keeping her here on Galifrey.”

 

“You know,” the Doctor barked.  “It would be far easier for you to simply order the grounding of my TARDIS to prevent either of us leaving.”

 

Braxiatel tipped his finger side to side.  “Tenacious.  Sneaky.”  He glared at him.  “You can bypass any grounding protocols that any of us can put in place, so that isn’t even an option”  He threw up his hands.  “Any other Time Lord … Anyone but you.  Why did it have to be you?”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “No.  I won’t do it.  I won’t manipulate her like that – not even with reality at stake.  It’s not fair on her.”

 

Once again Braxiatel stopped the Doctor’s forward march by grabbing at his arm.  He held him to a stop and forced him to face him.  He looked hard into his brother’s eyes, switching focus from one and to another, and then stepped back, his eyes wide.   “By Rassilon’s Ghost, Thete.  You’ve actually fallen for her in this very timeline, haven’t you?”  He held his arms firm as the Doctor tired to pull away.  “Your hearts truly are in her hands.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “Brax, please.”

 

“Oh, this is far more dangerous than I could have imagined,” Braxiatel breathed out worriedly.  “You’re entranced already, and so her desire will be your command.”

 

The Doctor slowly nodded and looked toward his brother with a helpless expression.  “I can’t manipulate her like you want me to, Brax.  I can’t do that because I’m beginning to believe that it’s something I actually want in my future.”  He tilted his head to one side in pleading.  “And I can’t attain that by lying to her and then trust what we have is real.”  His voice lowered to a soft sound.  “If it’s going to happen in my time stream, then it has to happen naturally, with her falling for me, now, as I am.”

 

“I see.”

 

“And right now, Brax, with how she feels about my future.  How much I hurt her and make her feel second-best.”  He shook his head.  “A human heart is fragile.  Hers is slowly mending.  I push, and she leaves.  I’ll have no choice but to let her go.”

 

“But it takes time,” Braxiatel agreed with a nod.  His own urgency fled, and the affection of a brother finally rose to the forefront.  “Then let it move as it should.”

 

“I have no choice,” the Doctor said with a shrug as he started walking once more.  “When we bargained for her to stay with me, one of the rules … actually all of them … were specifically geared toward one item:  Hands off.”

 

Braxiatel had to chuckle.  “Smart girl.”

 

“She’s actually quite brilliant,” he corrected proudly.  “Smart doesn’t even cut it.”

 

“Oh, he’s gone,” Braxiatel sighed.  “The renegade bachelor, taken by a mere human girl.”  He let his smile fall and nodded to the distance, to where the TARDIS stood in the clearing.  “I’ll make assurances to council that all is well, and for them to leave you be.  In the meantime, I would like to meet the woman who will become my sister.”

 

“Be nice,” the Doctor asked.  “No using your inferior species talk of how humans are low-class, undignified, and unworthy of a Time Lord’s affection…”

 

Music from the TARDIS had the Doctor stop in his tracks, with Braxiatel pulling up beside him.  In front of the TARDIS, Rose Tyler danced along to the music.  Wearing a dusty pair of very short cut-off jeans, a flannel shirt tied just underneath her bosom, and her mid-drift on display, She sang along with the song at the very top of her lungs using a small spade as a microphone.    Gardening gloves, and a torn rag hair tie holding back wild blond locks finished the ensemble.

 

…All she needed was a beer in her hand and a cigarette hanging from her mouth, and Rose Tyler would have looked like the quintessential 50’s trailer trash stereotype.

 

The Doctor’s eyes blew wide and his mouth gaped at her.   Braxiatel merely chuckled.   He leaned his mouth toward the ear of his brother and breaked out a very husky, and very much amused:  “Ooooh.  Thete…”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The Doctor swatted at his brother and let out an annoyed groan at his mirth toward Rose and her current state of attire … and dancing.  He moaned out his brother’s name in a long suffering manner.

 

Braxiatel didn’t take offence to the swat against his shoulder.  He was still highly amused as he stood straight up at his side.  “Sometimes you make it too easy…”

 

The Doctor levered him a glare of warning as he strode forward.  He lifted a finger.  “Be nice.”

 

Braxiatel grinned widely and took hold of his lapels to exude a distinguished façade.  “I’ll be a perfect gentleman.  I won’t even say yee-haa y’all.”

 

The Doctor rolled his eyes and shook his head.  “There are so many things wrong with that I don’t even know where to begin.”  He offered him a side-long glance.  “I swear to Rassilon, Brax, if you even think of saying either of those words, I’ll put you into regeneration.”

 

Braxiatel smirked.  “You’re a pacifist, Thete.   Putting me into regeneration without violence might take some work.”

 

The Doctor turned to face his brother and continued onward walking backward.  He flicked his finger side to side.  “Tenacious and sneaky, remember.  Don’t think I haven’t already got several rather effective and non-violent plans already in mind.”  He pivoted on his foot to continue walking forward.  “Seven centuries of planning…”

 

He lifted his eyes to the sky.  “I can’t even laugh that one off as jest,” he said with a sigh.  He considered making another comment, but paused when the back of the Doctor’s hand hit lightly at his chest to stop him.  He followed his brother’s gaze and lifted a brow to watch his little human dancing inside the flashing lights of an obviously excited TARDIS to music blaring through the front doors.

 

“Give me a minute,” the Doctor requested with amusement in his tone.  “I should warn her that we have a guest, just in case she wants to find a little bit of dignity before introductions.”

 

“Perhaps to her species this is dignified,” Brax offered with amusement.

 

“No.  It’s really not,” the Doctor answered with a shrug.  “Adorable, maybe, but not dignified.”

 

“Subjective,” Braxiatel replied with a shrug.

 

The Doctor flicked up a finger and walked toward the clearing in front of the TARDIS.  “A minute, Brax.”

 

“Gallifreyan, or Earth minute?”  His eyes widened at the Doctor’s glare.  “It’s a very important distinction to make.”

 

The Doctor shook his head and strode carefully into the clearing.  Still on guard and wondering if Rose was still mad at him for whatever past-misdeed he had inadvertently done during the evening, his movements were slow and wary.

 

She was adorable like this.  He had to admit.  The music was quite delightful and reminded him of songs long past in Earth’s History – and a night where he donned rose-coloured rounded glasses  and wore his cravat around his head, smoking pot with a husky-voiced fellow wearing a straw cowboy hat and a black eye patch and his musical group of friends.

 

…Oh, that was a night…

 

Rose’s lyrical voice sang across the distance.  “Sharing the night together, woah, oh yeah, sharing the night together…”

 

The Doctor knew the song well enough – he had a hand in writing part of it that night around a campfire – and hooked his arm around her waist to join in on the next line.

 

“We can bring in the morning girl if you want to go that far.  And if tomorrow finds us right here, the way are, would you mind sharing the night together.”

 

Rose pealed with delight and laughter as she turned toward him and threw her arms around his waist.  “I never knew you were a Dr. Hook fan, Doctor.”

 

“My name’s in there, Rose, how can’t I be?”  He replied with a grin.   He looked up to the open TARDIS doors.  “I think that’s enough for now, dear.   Thank you.”

 

The music shut off and he looked down at the adorable woman giggling in his arms.  “Did you have a productive day without me?”

 

She pouted a little.  “I’m surprised you left.”

 

“You made your feelings on my presence rather effectively known,” he offered with a shrug.  “And who am I to deny you your wish?”

 

Her expression fell completely and she moved in closer to hug him tightly.  “I’m so sorry I was mean to you, Doctor,” she said sincerely as she held him tight.  She lifted her head to settle her chin on his chest and gifted him with her most innocent and apologetic wide-eyed expression.   “When I woke up this mornin’ and realised I was in a code red situation…”

 

“And what might a code red situation entail?” Braxiatel asked smoothly.

 

Rose peeped out in alarm and buried herself in the Doctor’s chest.  She looked through the gap between his arm and his chest at the rather finely dressed man behind him.   She felt the rumble of a moan inside the Doctor’s chest.

 

“Brax, just what part of give me a minute did you not understand?”

 

He shrugged.  “The lack of distinction between an Earth and a Gallifreyan minute,” he shot back through a one-sided smile.  “I did seek clarification on that matter, of which you neglected to elucidate.  As we are on Gallifrey, I opted for the latter.  Foolish, I might admit, given your penchant for all things Earthly.”   He held out a hand toward Rose.  “Good evening, my dear.  I’m Irving Braxiatel.  My hope that it’s a pleasure for us to meet.”

 

Rose’s eyes were wide.  She looked at the hand waiting for her to shake it, and then looked up at the Doctor with question in her eyes.  He nodded.  “It’s okay,” he assured her as he drew her to his side.  “Rose, please allow me to introduce you to…”  He sounded off a sixteen syllable Gallifreyan word with a smirk on his face.  “…otherwise known as Brax, my brother.”

 

“Oh very mature,” Brax ground out with a roll in his eyes.

 

Rose gasped.  She looked at the man in front of her and then looked up at the Doctor.  “You.  You have a brother?”

 

He swallowed a gulp.  His voice lifted an octave higher than usual.  “Of course I do.  Surely I’ve mentioned him to you.”

 

She shook her head and pretended to think on it a second.  “Nope.  No.  You didn’t mention him.”

 

Braxiatel chuckled.  “I wouldn’t be too surprised by that if I were you.  I prefer not to acknowledge the fact I have a brother either.” He held out his hand again.  “And now, allow me to introduce myself to you again.  Irving Braxiatel.  Perpetually embarrassed brother of this timeless degenerate.”

 

Rose nodded quickly and moved to shake his hand in greeting.  Realising that she was still wearing dirty gardening gloves, she apologised and quickly flicked them off her hands.  She went to wipe them on her shirt and realised that she had it tied up underneath her boobs.   With her face reddening by the second, she whimpered and then apologised as she quickly untied the knot, let her shirt fall properly down and over the length of her shorts, and wiped her hands.

 

“I’m so sorry,” she breathed out with a wince.  She took his hand for a shake of greeting.  “I’m Rose.  Rose Tyler.”  She pointed to herself and then moved to take the rag from her hair and fix the flyaway mess into a bun on top of her head.  “I must look a fright to you right now.   I was just doing a spot of gardening, and it’s really hot out here.”

 

“Oh nonsense,” Braxiatel shot back with cheer.  “Why dear you look absolutely, oh, how did Thete put it?  Adorable.   You look positively adorable.”  He looked toward the Doctor and gave him a wide grin.  “See?  Nice.  I’m being very nice.”

 

The Doctor palmed his face and let out a groan.  Rose was amused.  “And usually you aren’t so much so?”

 

Braxiatel shrugged.  “No.  Not too often.  Part of my position in society I suppose.”

 

“Lucky me, then,” Rose said happily.  She looked toward the TARDIS.  “Uh, can I get you a drink or somethin’.  I saw some lemonade in the fridge earlier this afternoon, and…”

 

“Drinks aren’t necessary,” the Doctor cut in quickly.  “Brax won’t be staying for too long.  Will you brother.”

 

Braxiatel smiled a cheeky grin toward his brother.  “Actually, Thete.  I was thinking that the three of us should take supper together.  I had my assistant book us a table at a delightful new restaurant near the capitol.”

 

The Doctor and Rose simultaneously bleated their own reactions to Braxiatel’s invitation:

“Hold on a minute.  Your name is Thete?.”

“We already had plans for tonight, Brax.  Perhaps another time?”

 

Braxiatel looked between the two of them, but said nothing.  Rose however, took a step back from the Doctor.  There was a look of surprise on her face.  “Your name is Thete?”

 

“Short for Theta Sigma,” he answered with a shrug. “And no.  It’s not my true name.”

 

Braxiatel offered up another option.  “Actually his given name is…”  he rattled off a long and multisyllable word in Gallifreyan.

 

The Doctor moaned.  “Brax, please.”  He looked toward Rose, whose expression was one of disbelief.  “Theta Sigma is the name I chose to use at the Academy.  As you heard from my brother’s recital, my true name is somewhat long and difficult to pronounce, so – as most of us do – I found an alternative moniker that is much easier to wrap your tongue around.”

 

Braxiatel smirked.  “And afterward he settled on Doctor, mainly as a dig toward old Quences who was utterly mortified that Thete here wanted to take on said occupation instead of accepting post on council.”  He chuckled.  “Right up to the end the old man hated you for that little piece of defiance on your part.”

 

“Disowned me completely,” the Doctor said with a sigh. 

 

“What’s wrong with bein’ a doctor?” Rose asked curiously.

 

“What’s wrong, indeed,” the Doctor agreed with her.  He then looked back to his brother.  “Thanks for the invitation, however tonight I believe we will take a pass.”

 

“Why?” Rose half whined.  “I think it could be fun getting’ to know him a little.”

 

“Fun for whom?” he groused petulantly.

 

Rose set her hands on her hips.  “You said you wanted me to learn about you, Doctor.  You said that.  Before I make any decisions about you’n me, I should get to know the real you.”  She grinned toward Braxiatel.  “And who better to tell me all about you than the one you grew up with?”

 

Braxiatel grinned.  “You can’t argue with that, Thete.”

 

The Doctor slouched.  “Fine,” he droned through his teeth.  “Fine.   We’ll be happy to join you for supper.  Thank you for the invitation.”

 


Rose bounced excitedly a single jump.  “I just need to take a quick shower.  Uh.  Can you gimme a mo’?”

 

“Go right ahead, dear,” Braxiatel smoothed out politely with a smile that could light up a room.  “Do be off, we have quite a walk ahead of us, and the sooner we can depart the better.”  She made to leave and he cut in quickly.  “And this code red of yours.  I understand on you planet that’s a dire warning.  IS there anything we should be made aware of?”

 

Her eyes widened and she shook her head in very tight and very uncomfortable movements.  “Oh.  Oh no.  No.  Just an – ehm – girl thing.  Nothing for you to be alarmed about.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes widened in realisation, Brax just looked perplexed.

 

She thumbed over her shoulder.  “Ten minutes.  I promise.”  

 

And with that, she turned and ran.

 

Braxiatel turned toward his brother with curiosity and concern in his gaze.  “After this encounter, I have two questions and one observation for you.  Where would you like me to start?”

 

“Let’s get the painful part over first,” he said with a sigh.  “What have you observed that you feel is necessary to share?”

 

Braxiatel smiled.  “She is very adorable.   So unlike your other companion .. what was her name? Leela?  All fearless, and to be feared.  A right savage.”

 

“Warrior,” the Doctor corrected.  “Very different upbringing than Rose.”  He looked back toward the open doors of the TARDIS.  “And Rose definitely has a fire inside her, Brax.  You’re just not seeing it at present.”

 

“No,” he purred.  “I’m obviously not.  Still.  Time will tell.” 

 

“Your questions?”

 

Braxiatel nodded.  “Yes.  She mentioned gardening.”  He looked around.  “Highly unnecessary in a forest clearing wouldn’t you say?  Unless she’s planning to set up permanent residence on this mountain, it seems a rather pointless exercise.”

 

He shrugged.  “She wants a garden inside the TARDIS,” he answered tiredly.  “Has been working on and off on it for the past few weeks.  For her own reasons, she has plans to replicate this area in a room inside the ship.”  He shrugged.  “A gift for me, she says, so that when I’m away from home, I always have it with me.” 

 

“How very … adorable.”  Brax managed quietly.  “And also very strange.  Gallifrey is only ever a flip of the dematerialisation switch away.”

 

“And your next question?”

 

“This code Red…”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose had taken only thirty seconds more than the ten seconds she had asked for.  In that time she’d managed to shower, change, fix her hair, and apply a little makeup.   Both men had been stunned when she’d emerged from the ship, dressed in black fitted slacks and a loose-fitting dark maroon blouse – both of which perfectly accented her curves.  Her damp hair was held in place by an elaborately designed dark hair clip, with wispy curls kissing at her neck and cheeks.  Her face was fresh and lightly powered, and her eyes thinly lined underneath thick black lashes.

 

The Doctor had exhaled a whistle of appreciation, and Braxiatel had actually bowed a little.  Within only moments, and with Braxiatel offering his elbow to Rose, the three had begun their trek toward supper.

 

The walk took them along a well worn path through the forest.  Their conversation was friendly and at times enthusiastic as the two brothers sparred with words, teases, and taunts toward each other.  During lulls in their banter, Rose would stop, point, and ask both of her guides about plants and animals of interest, and how she would repeat their names in the language of the Time Lords.

 

Surprisingly, both men were happy to share their insight.  Braxiatel was far more specific on her pronunciation than was the Doctor, and many times he would correct the way she spoke to ensure that her pronunciation was perfect to the trill.

 

They paused for a moment at a cliff’s edge to admire the setting suns falling down into the valley.  Rose couldn’t help herself as she sighed in complete wonderment at the beauty of the landscape around them, and of the darkening wash of deep reds, purples, greens and oranges that filled the sky.

 

“Magnificent,” Rose breathed out with reverence.  “I’ve never seen anythin’ more beau’iful.”

 

Braxiatel followed her gaze toward a scene he’d seen so many times before in his life and shrugged.  “It’s a fine view, I suppose.”  He then spoke in Gallifreyan and urges Rose to repeat it.

 

She didn’t this time, however.  Instead, she moved in closer to him, shifting the hold she had of his elbow to wrap her arms around his.  “Brax.  How can you not look at that and not want to thank every deity looking down on us for blessing us with something so amazin’?”

 

He wasn’t quite used to being held like this – in fact he wasn’t used to anything of this nature at all – and so he looked down at her with discomfort on his face.  He was well prepared to chide her for impropriety and being so wistful, but paused at the expression on her face.   This young woman was truly, and without falter, awed by the sight.  So much so, that her breaths were taking on a short whimpering sound.  Looking across at his brother, he noted that the Doctor had much the same expression on his face – as though seeing a sunset for the very first time.

 

His eyes fell to the Doctor’s hand as it searched out that of his companion.  Once found, the Doctor clutched her hand tightly and pulled her toward him.  Rose immediately untangled herself from Braxiatel and wrapped herself against the Doctor’s side.

 

“Thank you for this,” the Doctor breathed out reverently to his companion as he dropped a kiss atop her head.  “Thank you.”

Braxiatel’s eyes widened at the two of them, of their obvious easy closeness, and of the shared bond of awe they had toward the Gallifreyan sunset.  Curious to understand this awe and appreciation, he looked toward the sunset once more and looked deeper into the coming night sky.   And all at once he was hit with the majesty of it.   How could he have missed this?  He opened his mouth to make comment, but quickly inhaled those words as the call of a wolf howled across the cliffs.

 

The Doctor immediately pulled Rose behind him and took a step across her to keep her protected.  “Brax?”

 

Braxiatel held up his hand to ask for pause and waited.  The howling sound came again.  “Dahrama,” he growled in warning.  “Male, and none to happy right now.”   He looked toward his Brother.  “Thete, we need to get her out of here.”

 

“To where?” he snarled in reply.  “We’re in the middle of Cadonwood and the TARDIS is an hour’s walk from here.”

 

Rose chutched onto the arm that the Doctor had held out across her path to shield her from whatever was ahead of them.  She rolled onto the balls of her feet to look up over it.  “Doctor, what’s wrong?  What’s that sound?”

 

“Dahrama,” he hissed out quietly.  “Similar in build and size to your wolves back on Earth…”

 

“Only several times more dangerous,” Braxiatel added through gritted teeth.  “What are they doing here, Thete?  This is not their territory.  There hasn’t been a Dahrama sighting in two centuries.”

 

“I don’t know,” the Doctor grit in reply as another howl ripped by them.  “Let’s hope it’s just a lone male.  Together we can deal with one.”

 

“With what?” Braxiatel snapped in reply.  “We don’t have any weapons between us.”  He panted.  “We just have to backtrack and hope he hasn’t caught out scent.”

 

Another more urgent howl echoed around the cliffs, this one followed by another howl more mournful than the first.

 

“Sepulchasm!” Braxiatel yelled out.  “Two of them.”

 

“Language,” the Doctor chided him.  “Watch your mouth in front of Rose.”

 

“It’s okay,” Rose peeped out.  “Don’t think I’m not singing a bunch of swears inside my own head right now.”  She squinted into the rapidly falling darkness to try and see exactly what lay ahead of them.  “How bad are they?”

 

“That really does depend on a few factors, Rose,” he breathed out. 

 

“Are any of them ones that might give us a break?”

 

Braxiatel laughed under his breath.  “Not any that immediately come to mind.”  He pointed a finger into the Doctor’s chest.  “The most important thing is that you keep Rose safe,” he warned.  “Regenerate if you have to, but don’t let any harm come to her at all.”

“Oh aren’t you sweet,” Rose sang in an attempt at levity.   She only received a glare from both men in response.

 

The Doctor nodded his agreement to the task.  “And what about you?”

 

“I’ll put a call into the chancellory guard, see if I can have a capsule transported to the area to get us out.”  He winced at another howl.  “I don’t know how long that’s going to take.”

 

“Aren’t they time machines?” Rose hissed.  “Can they get here, oh, you know, like in a second?”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “No time travel on Gallifrey, I’m afraid.”

 

“Well, shit,” she purred out as she looked across the cliffs.   She was still held firmly back by the Doctor’s strong and unyielding arm, and still stood on her toes to try and peek into the darkness.  Out of her peripheral, she could see Braxiatel press a communications device to his ear in the hopes of reaching help.

 

Her eyes quickly tracked toward a shelf overlooking the cliffs around the bend from hers as another howl swam through the trees.   Her eyes tracked, and then locked upon a large white wolf, with its heaf thrown back and his nose in the sky, bellowing out a solemn howl to the stars.  Its chest was painted purple and red from the sunset, it’s legs and belly soaked black in the darkness behind it.  She panted in amazement, and in fear.

 

“Doctor,” she whispered with a squeeze at his arm.  “He’s beautiful.”

 

Both he and Braxiatel lifted their heads quickly.  “Where?” the Doctor hissed sharply.

 

Rose moved her arm up over his to point into the distance.  “There.  On the cliff.”

 

The Doctor narrowed his eyes for focus and saw the wolf across the way.  “That’s him,” he confirmed as the wolf let out another howl.  “Brax, we’ve got location, and I think if we can keep eyes on it, we should be fine.”  He leaned his head to down to his companion.  His voice softened.  “Rose.  I promise you I’ll keep you safe.  Please listen to what we tell you – no matter how much you don’t like it.”

 

She nodded, her eyes locked on the animal ahead.  It was a magnificent creature.  It’s howl was haunting and relentless.  It reach inside her soul and made her chest hurt.  Each arch of its neck into the sky and the stomping, shifting of its front feet…

 

…Hold on…

 

Her focus on the sound of it tightened as she tilted her head to one side and listened.  She blocked out the Doctor’s growl, and Braxiatel’s hissed demands over the phone, and just listened.  The male howled out, and a second howl soon followed.  The second how – it was close – but not close enough to either them nor the lone wolf on the cliffs.   This one came from below them.

 

Her head flicked upward and she took a more analytical examination of the wolf.  It lifted it’s head to howl, but lowered it to listen for a return.  Its movements were not controlled, they were frantic.  This was an animal in panic, not one proudly marking new territory.

 

“No,” she breathed out with a shake in her head.  “No.  This isn’t right.  Something’s not right.”  She pushed both hands against the Doctor’s arm with an unspoken demand for him to let her pass.  He wasn’t focused on her movements, figuring she would stay put, so the barrier of his arm was breached quite easily.

 

He grabbed at her hand as she walked by him.  “Rose,” he growled.  “I said stay behind me.”

 

She waved him off and stalked onward, purpose in her movement to strive forward.   “Something’s not right,” she whispered hoarsely over her shoulder in reply.  She tugged her hand free of his, fought against him trying to grab it again, and then moved quickly through the scrub and trees toward the cliff shelf ahead.

 

The Doctor growled and took off after her, vainly trying to grab at any part of her to pull her back in line.  “Rose,” he hissed.  “Get back here.  This isn’t safe.”

 

“Get her back here,” Braxiatel hissed.  “Thete, nothing, and I mean nothing is allowed to happen to her, do you hear me?”

 

The Doctor answered with only a glare that bellowed out Do you think I don’t know that?!  He focused himself back onto the hunt and capture of one Rose Tyler, and called out repeatedly for her attention.

 

“I have to help,” she called back over her shoulder.  “Something’s wrong with him – cant you tell?”

 

“Don’t’ be so foolish, Rose,” he growled with equal part frustration and demand.  “you can’t hope to defend yourself against power of that animal.   Please, for Rassilon’s sake, stop.”

 

“I can’t,” she called.  “Something’s wrong.  I.  I think somethin’s happened to his mate.”

 

“Not our problem!”

 

She growled as she leaps over a fallen tree and stumbled on her ankle.  Despite the pain, she pushed on.  “Then bugger off, Doctor.  I’ve got this.”

 

She burst through the thicket and skidded to a stop that slid her along 6 feet of dewy red grass before she finally came to a stop.  When she did, she was met face to face with a surprised white wolf that quickly dropped down onto its hunches – it’s rump in the air – and snarled an horrific and terrifying sound.  She fell to her knees in front of it, and held her hands up in front of her. 

 

“S’alright,” she ventured as she leaned to one side to try and peer over the edge of the cliff.  “I’m not here to hurt you, so please don’t hurt me.”

 

The Doctor flew out of the trees behind her, his red-tipped sonic screwdriver held out front of him like a weapon.  He bellowed out a threatening sound toward the wolf in a language she was sure belonged to the beast, and fell to a knee beside her.  He cocooned her with one arm and held her tightly against him, that sonic buzzing against her ear.

 

“My mate,” he warned the wolf in English before shifting again to snarls of warning.

 

In the distance she could hear Braxiatel yelling hot demands into his phone, and while the Doctor and the Dahrama held firm within their own standoff, Rose took her current moment of safety to press her hands into the grass and lever herself far enough to peer over the cliff’s edge.

 

With the slowly dawning moonlight breaking the horizon, she saw a shimmer of blue on a rocky outcrop below.   A tighter focus, and Rose saw movement.  A pained whimper and a frightened half-howl sound danced up the rocks.

 

“Oh my god,” she panicked out as she once again struggled out of the Doctor’s protective hold and scarpered on her hands and knees toward the edge.

 

“Rose!” the Doctor called out as he moved to make chase, only to be held in place when the wolf moved and let out a very threatening growl.  The Doctor held up his sonic into the face of the animal, lighting its entire muzzle up over its ears with an eerier blood red glow.  His hand blindly swiped through the air in search of her.  “Rassion, Rose.  Get back here.  Please.”

 

Rose scrambled to her feet, ignorant to the power play happening between beat and Time Lord, and stepped side to side with indecision as to what she needed to do to help the animal trapped below.

 

The wolf snarled with her sudden movement and drew back again on its hunches.  It shared its attention of threat between them both.

 

“Rose,” the Doctor begged on a growl.  “Please, come here.  Let me protect you!”

 

“No,” she ground out in reply.  “His mate’s down there.  She’s trapped.”

 

“That’s not my concern right now, Rose.”  The Doctor was locked on one knee, hidden behind the glow of his sonic. 

 

“Yes it is!” she shot back angrily.  She stomped a foot into the grass and shoved an angry wave toward the wolf.  “Look at him, Doctor.  He’s frantic, and he’s scared.  His mate is down there, and he’s desperate to get to her!”

 

The Doctor looked away from the animal and shot the most dangerous of his oncoming storm glares toward her.  “I don’t care about that,” he yelled.  “I only care about you and your safety right now.”

 

“But his mate,” she cried out.

 

“And you’re my mate,” he shot back.  “I’m not risking you just to save her.”

 

She leaned down to sneer into his face.  “I’m not your anything,” she corrected sharply.  “Your future’s made that perfectly clear to me – so tonight, just like every other night since the day you regenerated, I’m going to be second-best!”

 

“How dare you,’ he bellowed as he dropped the hold of his sonic to let the glow colour the grass instead of the wolf.

 

The wolf snarled and lunged forward only a few inches.  It held back only because of a call from down below.  It quickly fled to the edge of the cliff and looked down below, momentarily lifting its head to howl deeply into the night.

 

“I told you,’ Rose snapped with a point toward the animal.  “He’s fretting for his mate.”

 

The Doctor launched to his feet and talked quickly toward her.  He held off on grabbing her arms in fear that he’d bruise her with his angered strength and instead hunched his shoulders down to speak into her face.  “And so am I,” he growled.  “And I don’t care what pitiful little worries you have thinking my future isn’t 100% dedicated to you.  Here and now, in this moment, as I am: you are my only concern.” His breath hissed through his teeth.  “And I will die to protect you.”

 

“At the risk of that innocent creature below, stuck on a ledge?”  She asked him with controlled fury.  “Waiting to die?”

 

“Better her than you.”

 

“Then you’re not my Doctor,” she declared with a sniff.  “Because my Doctor would never allow any innocent creature to die if he thought he had any hope’n hell of helpin’ it out.”  She stalked toward the trees and stooped to pick up a long orange vine from a plant wrapped around the limbs and trunk of a large tree.  “Because noone’s more important than anyone else.”  Her eyes looked sadly toward him.  “You taught me that, Doctor.  All gruff leather and ears and fire and anger… Sometimes everyone has to live.”

 

She wrapped the vine around her hips and waist twice, and then hauled the rest of the length of vine toward the cliff edge.  “And tonight everyone will.   I promise you.”

 

He felt that punch in the chest at her words, of her accusation, and then of her disappointment in him, and then realiisation dawned.  Is this what had turned his future self into a pitiful fool who was willing to throw all this away?  Because his love her for was so utterly all encompassing that he would ignore the plight of others just to save her?

 

He was only beginning to scratch the surface of this emotion toward her, and he was already finding himself heading in that exact direction.

 

He held that thought inside his throat as he shifted his gaze toward where she was heading toward the cliff.  Her hands were held up defenselessly as the wolf snarled and pounded the ground.   She looked toward the Doctor.  There was less disappointment and more an expression for help on her face.  “Please, Doctor,” she pleaded softly.  “You speak it’s language.  I know you do.  Please tell him I’m only trying to help.”

 

The Doctor nodded slowly and looked toward the wolf.  His lips parted and he spoke in huffs and growls that quickly seemed to soothe the animal.  It dropped down completely onto its hunches and whimpered as Rose finally made it to the edge of the cliff.

 

“It’s okay,” she assured him as she braved reaching out to touch the wolf’s head.  “She’ll be okay.”

 

She took a last look of thanks toward her Time Lord and breathed out a word of thanks as she got down onto her knees and then slipped down over the edge.

Chapter Text

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Braxiatel cautiously appeared from out of the trees lining the edge of the cliff.  He kept his eyes on the wolf which was now looking over the edge and whimpering pitifully, and put his phone into a small pocket on his waistcoat.   He flicked at the lower edge of his blazer and brushed himself off.

 

“A team is being scrambled to launch a capsule,” he advised the Doctor.  “They should be here momentarily.”  He looked around with a furrow in his brow.  “Where is she?”

 

The Doctor remained in a tense and rigid stand on the grass six feet from the edge of the cliff.  “What’s their ETA?”

 

“Where’s Rose?” Braxiatel asked  instead of answering, feeling that her location and well being was far more urgent.  He twisted left and right in search of their tiny blonde companion.  “Rose!  Rose, where are you?”

 

The Doctor’s stance hadn’t relaxed nor shifted from its tight and rigid state.  “She’s going to be the death of me, Brax,” he breathed out on a low and furious breath.

 

“Fine, maybe then you’ll regenerate into someone with an ounce of responsibility to duty,” Braxiatel barked in reply.  He finally saw the thick vine that lay across the grass that dropped over the edge of the cliff.   His eyes widened when he saw it flex, tighten, and then move sharply to one side.  “By the Gods of Arcadia, Thete!”  He snapped a glare at his brother.  “She went down there?  Alone?  Are you truly that treasonous that you will risk…”

 

“Oh shut your damn mouth,” the Doctor interrupted with a yell as his body was finally released from it’s furious lock.  He thrust his arm out to point toward the cliff’s edge.  “That young woman is from Earth, Brax.  And because you aren’t fully unaware of the behaviours of Humans, know this:  Female Humans represent the most dangerous half of that entire species.  When they get their mind set on something – especially when it involved compassionate peril of others - you don’t stop them … and short of tying them up, that’s a near impossible task to even try and attempt.  Rassilon knows I’ve tried before – and failed miserably at it.”

 

“Romantic nonsense,” Braxiatel growled.  “She’s your mate,” he continued.  “She’s your responsibility to tame and control…”

 

“And that’s outdated rubbish,’ he barked back.  “I’ve no intention of-“

 

“When you two are done arguing,” Rose interrupted with harsh annoyance from the cliff.  “I’ll let no one control me – not even my Mum – so don’t bother tryin’.”  She looked toward her Time Lord.  “Doctor, throw me your sonic.”

 

Both men immediately broke their standoff and ran to the edge.  Braxiatel held out his hand to her.  “Up you come, Rose.   I’ll help you up.”

 

She glared at the hand and then up at him.  “No, ta.”

 

“Young lady, I said-“

 

“And I said no,” she snarled.  Her eyes shifted to the Doctor, whose hand was held down to her in much the same manner is his brothers.  Her feet shuffled on the dusty cliff egde as the vine stretched and tried to retract, but she kept a firm hold of it via a single loop around one hand.  “It’s dark down here,” she advised him gently.  “I need the light of your sonic to get me safely to her.”  She gulped and looked down at a whimper from the rocky outcrop, and then back up at him.  “And she might also be hurt, so I’ll need it to fix what I can to make her comfortable down there.”

 

“Come up,” he pleaded softly.  “I’ll go down to her.”

 


“I’m with There,” Braxiatel offered, his hand still held down and flicking insistently for her to take hold of it so he could pull her to safety.  “Let him help, you come up here where you’ll be safe.”

 

She shook her head.  “I’m already here, so I’m stayin’.  You can come if you want, but there’s really not much room.”  She hooked one hand tightly at the top of the loop around her srist and held out the other.  “Please, Doctor, your sonic.  I don’t think we have too much time to stand around arguin’ about it.”

 

The Doctor pulled his sonic from his pocked and knelt at the cliff’s edge.  Beside him, the frightened wolf whimpered with urgency.  He offered it a supportive growl and huff and then held his sonic out to Rose.  “Please, my hearts, be careful.”

 

She took the sonic with a smile.  “Your Hearts,” she repeated softly as she thumbed the switch to activate the light.   She tucked the thin shaft of it into the valley between her breasts, held firmly into her bra, and then hooked that hand onto the part of the vine below her other wrist.  She looked up with a light shake in her head.  “Very cute name, Doctor, but don’t get ahead of yourself.”   She pressed both feet into the cliff face and kicked off to lower herself down.  “In your timeline, we’re not there yet.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered as she looked down to focus on her descent.  “About what I said back there…”  He swallowed thicky.  “It’s just, I…”

 

“I’ll see you shortly,” Rose cut in without looking up, saving him from having to continue.  “We can talk about it later.”

 

He watched worriedly from his perch beside an equally worried large wolf as she disappeared from view to him, now just a red light descending low into the pit.  He stretched a hand toward the animal and petted its head.  “Tell me,” he whispered brokenly.  “Is your mate as reckless and bullheaded as mine is?”

 

The wolf let out a simple and breathy woof in reply.

 

“I know the feeling…”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Having grown up in London, Rose Tyler wasn’t exactly used to tropical-style heat and humidity.  On those rare occasions that her city did experience a heatwave or two, the temperature really didn’t climb all that high.  Humidity wasn’t an unbreathable 90% like it felt about right now.

 

Gallirey was warm.  She wasn’t going to be polite and gentle on that observation.  This was heat more suited to the deserts of Australia, the humitity more apt for the Northern coastal cities of the same continent.   She supposed it was the fact that there were two suns in the sky on any day, and both of them seemed to compete against each other for the most blazing of the two.   

 

This also meant that it took quite a while for the planet to cool down once the suns had taken their leave on this part of Gallifrey.  The ground was hot, and the damp soil insulated that warmth. 

 

Why was this observation important as she repelled slowly and awkwardly down the cliff?

 

…Because heat and humidity meant sweating in places she didn’t know could sweat, and she needed the friction of dry skin to be able to safely make it down this cliff face.

 

She grunted as her sweating palms slid against the smooth vine.  More than once she released a hand to wipe it against her shirt.  She’d fall a quick free-fall slide of about 10cm each time she had to do so, and after a sharp shrilling yelp of fright the first two times it happened, she allowed herself to accept the reality of it, and planned for that eventually on any remaining hand wiping.

 

Fortunately the damp rocks and soils that lined the cliff face were pliant enough for her to be able to dig in her toes and heels to find solid purchase.  Without that give to help her, she would have fallen almost immediately.

 

Up above her the Doctor called out several times, asking if she was okay and did she want him to come down and help.   And although having him at her side would have given her far more confidence in herself than she currently held – despite telling him otherwise – there simply wasn’t enough room for the two of them.   At least not down there.  Not on that small little crook of rock that caught the falling wolf God knows how long ago.

 

She finally made it to the little outcrop, and to the lonely wolf.  The poor thing, it panicked immediately upon descent, and once Rose’s feet touched the shelf, the frightened creature began to yap and snarl in warning that she was not to be tested.

 

Rose tired to ignore the horrific snarling and growling from beside her as she cautiously tested the strength of the ledge and whether or not it would be able to take her weight.  The moment her foot touched the ledge, the wolf snapped at it in a repeated snapping snarling manner that looked quite like the animal was open-mouth chewing at the air itself.  

 

Rose released one hand from the vine, but had enough strength in the other to hold her firmly in place.  She petted into the air in a placating manner, hoping beyond hope that the animal would know that she only wanted to help.

 

It shuffled back as best it could, but sat on its hunches growling a sound of warning.

 

“Okay, Okay,” she pleaded out breathily.  “You just stay there that’s okay. Lemme take a look at you.”

 

She removed the sonic from between her breasts and increased the beam’s range to scan the area surrounding the wolf.  Dirt, Rocks, a thin, but obviously strong web of tree roots wrapped around her foot and hindquarters.   She bit her lip and scanned the animal itself for any sign of major injury.  Even though the white wolf was illuminated in blood-red light, Rose could immediately determine that there was no bleeding.   The animal wasn’t crying out or whimpering, which meant that it wasn’t in any real pain…

 

…Unless Gallifreyan wolves signalled pain in other ways …

 

Here’s hoping not…

 

Rose finally assessed that there were two main problems that she had to overcome in order to help out her new friend.  One: Both of them were stuck on a small precipice with a black drop into nothing beneath them.   Would she have the strength to pull her up,a dn would the wolf have the strength to help out in getting back up?   Two: This little lady was vicious and absolutely terrified – and possessed a really nasty set of jaws that looked big and strong enough to take down a damn tractor if it felt so inclined to do so.  If Rose couldn’t get her to stop snapping at her, then neither of them looked like they were going to get through tonight alive.

 

Still hanging from the vine, Rose tried to reach forward again with her hand  held palm up in an invitation for the wolf to take a sniff and determine that yes, she was the friendly sort.

 

The wolf was not as easily tempted as a domestic Earth dog and launched forward to snap a hard bite.  That jaw closed around Rose’s wrist hard.   As Rose let up a loud belch of pain, and a returning bellow for her safety rang out from above them, the wolf suddenly released her.

 

Rose instinctively released the only hold she had on the vine to cradle her now injured arm against her chest.  Immediately she dropped, wailing out a sound of fright and shock and flailed her arms to try and clutch again at the vine.   She called out his name, she couldn’t help it.  If she was falling, then he would be the one to catch her.

 

He had to:  He promised!

 

And from above the thunder that was Time’s anger burst from the sky above and howled its way down into the darkness below.

Chapter Text

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The Doctor was beginning to fret in the same frantic way that the Dahrama was.   Still kneeling over the cliff’s edge, his hands began to paw and clutch at the grasses, so much so that he’d removed chunks by their roots and was now digging at the dirt below.

 

Pain and discomfort started to settle inside the Time Lord’s chest.  Nausea soon took hold, and the Doctor knew that they were walking a perilous razor’s edge toward fracturing a fixed point.

 

“Do you feel that, Brax?” he asked his brother quietly. 

 

“Feel what?” He snarled in reply.  “The urge to kick you over the edge of that cliff to join your foolish mate in destroying all of reality?”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “Never mind.”   Obviously the worry of the universe wasn’t yet great enough for his brother to sense it.  He was feeling it though.  It took him his all not to lean over into the ravine and expel the meagre contents of his stomach, such was the swirling inside his belly.   Curse this sensitivity.  He’d never been strong enough to fight Time’s wrath or warning when it hit – and many times he buckled over and fell at its power.  He hoped that the true fury of Time would hold until he knew Rose was safe.  If she needed him, being incapacitated wouldn’t allow him the privilege of being her saviour.

 

He heard a yelp from below and called to her.  There was scuffling, a hiccupped peep, and then a return call of assurance that she was okay.

 

Curse this woman.  Curse humans and their capacity for compassion toward all living things.  Curse their need to risk it all for one.  Curse their fragility … Curse him for so easily finding feeling for them. 

 

“It doesn’t sound good down there, Thete,” his brother breathed worriedly, anger obviously fleeing for concern toward Rose’s wellbeing.  “We should get down there and help.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “She’s actually better served with us being up here,” he admitted gravely.  “Up here we can provide support – down there, we’re as helpless as she is.”   He looked up.  “Brax.  Is there any word of timing for when the Chancellery Guard will be here?”

 

Braxiatel shook his head.  “No.  I haven’t been able to get even an approximate timeline from them.”

 

The Doctor snorted.  “Typical.  Lords of Time, and none of them can actually give us any.”

 

“Romana’s on it,” he breathed out.  “There’s something happening at the shipyards with the union.  They’re battling to get through the lines.  As president, she’s hoping she’s able to step in to control the situation and get us transport.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “Do they not know the importance of this?  Of her?”

 

“They don’t actually believe it,” he sighed.  “How can a harmless and insignificant creature from a class three planet can be the one who holds reality’s future in her hands.  They’d more easily believe that task was yours.”  He crouched down beside the Doctor and peered over the edge as scuffling and scraping sounds sounded up over the edge.  “Are you okay, Rose?”

 

Words of assurance once again answered the worry.

 

“Go to her,” Braxiatel urged.  “I can handle anything up top.  You should be there making sure that you can control any issues down there.”

 

The Doctor nodded and pressed his hands into the grass to push himself to a stand.  “You’re right Brax,” he admitted quietly as he stretched to his full height and turned in search of a vine of his own.  “I’ve never been one to…”  His words switched into a long and pained groan that seemed to draw out his breath in full.   He fell to one knee, and then to two, and then finally rolling onto his back in pain.

 

Braxiatel was at his side, immediately.  “Thete!” he called out in panic.  “What in the name of Omega is wrong with you?”

 

“Fixed point.  Time’s … fracturing,” he ground out through his teeth at he clutched fistfuls of hair in his hands and battled to stay focused.  “Rassilon … it hurts.”

 

“By Arcadia’s dome,” Braxiatel seethed through his teeth.  He looked toward the cliff, and then back to his brother writing with pain on the grass.  He snatched his phone from his pocket and rapidly dialed a familiar series of numbers.  “If you’re feeling it this much, Thete, I can only assume the matricians are feeling it too.  There’s going to be panic at the Capitol.”

 

There was a horrified call of the Doctor’s name from deep below them and a and a cry for him to help her.   Despite the pain in his head and the nausea in his gut, the Doctor immediately rolled off this back, through his knees, and then launched himself over the edge of the cliff.

 

He heard his brother’s shrill and panicked cry behind him; heard him beg for him to stop, but he ignored it.  His focus now shifted from pain and nausea into absolute determination, and he snapped out a hand to grab at Rose’s vine.   His expression steeled, and his eyes flicked in search.  He let the hook of his arm and his hand work on finding the vine, and his feet kick off the wall.   With a spiralling motion he quickly sped down along the vine toward to sound of a sharp cry and calling of his name.

 

Internally he cried out for her to hold on; that he was coming; but outwardly his face was a rock.  Intense focus rendered him completely silent.  He saw a flash of blonde hair below and kicked hard off the wall.  His hand locked around the vine, slid on a slick wet patch, and then locked hard above a hard petiole that anchored a broad flat leaf.   Anchored tight, he thrust his hand into the darkness, swatted through the air, and finally captured the wrist of a flailing hand below.

 

The vine snapped tight, he felt his entire body flip upside down.  Both arms stretched wide, but strong despite the perilous position.  The hard tensing of his arm against the sudden weight below him, drew an involuntary and long cry of shock and pain from deep inside his chest.  That cry of pain shifted into a longer bellow of exertion as he pulled with his all to secure his terrified mate in his grasp and pull her in toward the cliff’s face.

 

Slowly, and with his feet against the wall as anchors, he managed to secure his position and levered himself first horizontally, and then upright.  One hand was held high on the vine above him, the other hung down low between the part of his legs.  He pressed his feet into the wall and straightened his legs to push bim backward.

 

“Rose,” he hissed through his teeth as he struggled with his grasp.  “Can you lift yourself?”

 

Her terrified eyes shone through her fallen fringe.  She panted a pair of breaths and swallowed thickly.  “I – I don’t know.”

 

“Try,” he grit out.  “Grab my foot, climb my leg.  Do whatever you have to do to get secure.”

 

“I’m going to fall,” she whimpered.

 

“No,” he growled as he tightened his hold on her wrist and tried desperately to pull her up.  “I won’t let you.”  He let out another strained cry as he used everything he had in him to try and pull her up.  “But you have to help me.”

 

Rose’s still flailing arm finally lifted to clutch at the top of his boot.   She flexed the arm he still held and managed to lift herself enough to grab at his ankle. 

 

“That’s it, Rose,” he praised in urging as he used his own waning strength to help lift her.  “That’s my girl.  Keep going.  You can do it.”

 

She didn’t bother telling him she was trying, nor really respond to his urging at all.  She merely grunted and huffed as she held on to his wrist and used the wall behind her to shuffle her feet and lift her up.  Her face finally made it to the part in between his legs.  Her face met with his groin, but neither thought anything of it as she hooked her arm around his waist and then shook her wrist free of his to complete the circle her grasp and hold herself securely at his waist.

 

“H-Hello,” she managed with a weak smile from his belly as she rolled her shoulder blades along the wall to lift herself higher.

 

“Hello indeed,” he ground out through his teeth, still sore with exertion and perilously hanging the two of them with a single hand still wrapped around the wine.   “I’m going to grab you by your rear, Rose,” he warned her.  “Not breaking the rules, I just need that leverage to get you up on that ledge.  Are you ready?”

 

She nodded urgently.  “Go for it, Doctor.  I – I’m ready.”

 

His nod was pained, and he dropped a shoulder to move his arm across the underneath of her rear.  His fingers dug painfully into the side of her thigh, and he growled as he tensed himself up once more to find the strength to lift her.

 

Once safely secured in his arm, Rose released his waist and leaned back to clutch at the rocky wall and walked her hands up toward the ledge.

 

“Almost there,” he hissed.  “Just another few inches.”

 

He hands found the edge, and she growled out her own sound of struggle as she used what was left of herself to finally scramble her grip enough to push her backside onto the ledge.   When she did, she scrambled as far back against the wall as she could.

 

The Doctor had only enough room I front of her to secure his knee on the ledge.  It wasn’t enough to take the load off his arm, and so he still hung from the vine.   “Are you – are you okay?” he panted wetly as his lips slapped together and he swallowed thickly.

 

Beside him the wolf growled dangerously and snapped a vicious bite toward him.  The Doctor, not willing to be up with this nonsense any longer, sharply growled and huffed at her, and then smacked her nose with the fingers of his free hand.   The animal quickly yelped out a shrill sound of surprise and shuffled back to cower submissively.

 

“That will be enough from you,” he warned her sharply with a switch to English for Rose’s benefit.  “Foolish animal.  Get yourself trapped and then bite the hand that helps you.”

 

“Speaking of,” Rose muttered as she lifted her arm into his view.  “She did get me quite good.”

 

Lit by the large blue moon rising in the mountain range, the Doctor could see a line of deep puncture marks along Rose’s forearm.  There was blood, but not enough to cause him too much alarm.  “I can fix that up back at the TARDIS,” he offered gently.  His eyes moved up to hers, and expression of concern on his face.  “Tell me, are you hurt otherwise?”

 

“Just scraped and bruises,” she replied breathily.  “Nothin’ that’ll take more’n a day or two to heal up.”

 

He looked away from her and kicked off the wall a little.  He scanned for an area that he might be able to seat himself and plot a path toward their freedom back up top, but was called back to her when she made a soft whimpering sound.  His attention fell back immediately toward her.  “Are you okay?”

 

“You saved me,” she breathed out, now that safety had allowed her fear to fall in.  “I called, and you came.”

 

He looked surprised by that.  “Yes.  Of course I did.  You needed me.”  He smiled only on one side of his mouth.  “What kind of mate would I be if I didn’t?”

 

“You’re not my…”  She stopped herself and tilted her head at him.  “I almost fell.  And you were there.  To stop me.”

 

“I told you,” he said with a smile.  “I’ll never let you fall.”

 

“But I did,” she whispered with a shake entering her muscles.  She looked down and then back up at him.  “And if you didn’t catch me…”

 

“Then I would have fallen with you,” he vowed quietly.  “Like I promised you I would.”

 

She said nothing further and quickly rocked herself forward.  She captured his cheeks in her hands and pressed her mouth to his.  Although her lips were slightly parted, and he had certainly had met her mouth eagerly, the kiss remained just a kiss.  It was not heated, noisy, nor full of tongues; it was simply two sets of lips, pressed firmly against each other, gently rolling in perfect synch.

 

When she pulled back from him, it was only a short way.  Her breaths were heavy and panted as she pressed her forehead against his.

 

“What was that for?” he asked breathlessly, his hand still clinging to the vine, and his leg perilously dangling over the edge of the cliff. 

 

“Thank you,” she breathed out.  “For saving me.”

 

He let his free hand settle on her thigh.  “I thought kissing against the rules.”

 

She let out a quiet laugh.  “I was never really one for rules.”

 

He hummed in agreement.  “Neither was I,” he chuffed in reply, tilting his head to one side and moving forward to capture her waiting lips with his.

 

They barely touched again before they were quickly drawn apart by a whimper from the wolf.   Rose quickly nodded, swallowed, and let her voice stagger over her words.  “I – I guess we should help her out, yeah?”

 

The Doctor nodded in agreement and looked up at his hand, still straining on the vine.  “It might also be a good idea for me to join the both of you on the ledge.  I’m not all that confident that this arms got enough strength to maintain this position much longer.”

 

Rose’s eyes widened and she let out a peep.  “Oh my God, Doctor!  I didn’t think!  Sorry.”   She shuffled to the side, and toward the still cowering animal.   She held out her hand.  “There’s room here.”

 

He grunted as he maneuvered himself from the relatively secure hold of the vine and onto the small outcrop.  It took a few moments, but he was finally able to get himself into a safe position at her side and released the vine.  It flopped and whacked at the wall, but hung close enough that he knew he could quickly retrieve it if necessary.   He shook his aching hand and arm to reintroduce adequate blood flow and looked around her shoulders at the back of the wolf.

 

“Thiffawen,” he muttered with a wince.  “That poor girl, she must be in pain?”

 

“Sorry?” 

 

“Thiffawen,” he repeated.  “It’s a rather nasty form of parasitic ivy.  Grows mainly underground and chokes the nutrient out of the root systems of trees and other plants.”  He took his sonic screwdriver from where it had been discarded on the ledge before Rose’s fall, and aimed the light toward the mass of vines around the wolf’s legs.  “It’s not entirely picky on where it gets its sustenance from, and will leech onto anything – animal or plant.”

 

Rose gasped.  “Oh.  That’s horrible!”  She looked to the whimpering animal.  “So.  So it’s sucking her nutrients out?”

 

He shook his head.  “Not as yet,” he lectured gently.  “When it finds itself a living animal host, it will choke its victim first, wait until there’s no struggle left in it, and then start to draw what if can.”  He reached around her and shone the light around the legs of the wolf to assess just how tightly the branches were wound around them.    He let out a long breath.  “Oh dear.”

 

Rose’s eyes were wide and worried for the poor creature.  “Is it bad?”

 

“It’s not bad,” he answered,  “But it’s not exactly good, either.  I can remove it all, and she will almost immediately recover from it.”  He frowned.  “But it’s going to hurt her.”   He shifted to look around Rose’s back at the wolf, and breathed out a snarl and couple of huffs.   He waited for a return snuffle, and then shifted again to look at his companion.  “I’ll need you to comfort her.”

 

An expression of panic crossed her features.  She looked at him, at the wolf, and than back to him.  “How, exactly, do you suggest I do that?”  She held up her arm, swelling and sore from the bite moments ago.  “I don’t want another one of these.”

 

He jutted his chin in a gesture toward the animal.  “I’ve assured her that you mean no harm, and that we’re only here to help.”

 

“Yeah,” she whined.  “But what about when the pain kicks in, Doctor?   Did you warn her about that, too?”

 

He lightly pushed her shoulders in urging for her to move to settle the wolf.  “She’s Gallifreyan,” he assured her.  “I don’t think there is a living creature on this planet who doesn’t know what to expect when an entanglement of Thiffawen happens.”  He shuffled his own position to further urge Rose across to the wolf.  “I vow to you that you’ll be free of snapping jaws … at least for now.”  He smiled weakly.  “I can’t make any promises toward any subsequent Dharama encounters – of which I hope there will be none.”

 

“If you promise,” she  breathed out unsurely.  “Is there anythin’ I should say to her, you know, in wolf speak, to let her know I’m just helpin’?”

 

“Just light huffs will do the trick, Rose,” he offered.  “She’ll respond to the honesty in your tone, and smell your sense of fear.”

 

“Nice,” she whimpered.  “Doesn’t make me feel any better.”

 

“Which shows her your courage,” he amended quickly.  “Ig you’re willing to fight the fear to comfort her, then you are truly hers to cry to.”  He touched her cheek tenderly.  “If I think for a second she’ll react, I’ll stop and get you clear.”

 

Rose nodded and shifted closer toward the wolf.   It eyeballed her warily as she approached, but didn’t rise toward aggression.  Instead she lifted her nose to smell the air and offered a forlorn whimper.

 

Rose very timidly reached out her hand, and was surprised when the wolf lifted her nose for a sniff, and then moved forward for a nose-touch against the pads of her fingers.

 

“Oh well look at you,” the Doctor said with a chuckle that wasn’t condescending at all.  “Fast friends, the two of you.”

 

Rose moved closer to the wolf and braved holding her hands around her face.  The wolf’s eyes met with hers and lifted up to shorten the distance.  “Tell me, beautiful girl, is your mate an unreasonable, condescending git, too?”

 

“I thought I wasn’t your mate,” the Doctor reminded her as he shifted to the back end of the wolf and changed the settings on his Sonic.  “Or, at the very least, you weren’t mine.”

 

Rose felt her confidence rise and shifted enough so that she could have her back against the wall, and the wolf’s head cradled on her lap.  “Let’s say it’s a work in progress,” she replied softly without looking up at him in fear of his face falling into an expression of rejection.  “If.  If that’s okay?”

 

“Just … Just hold her firm and keep her calm,” the Doctor answered.  There was a smile on his face that was heard in his voice.  “When we are all safe, then you and I can talk about mating… ehm, that is to say: being mates.”

 

He shook off that little slip and shifted to the Thiffawen vines.  He clicked air in through the side of his mouth as he scanned for the least evasive method possible to free this poor girl.  Not wanting to prolong it anymore, he depressed the switch of his sonic and began to cut at the vine.    Through the buzz if his sonic, he heard the animal let out a cry of pain.  She jerked and pulled and scratched her clawed paws on the dusty rock.   He hummed and huffed to assure her it would be all over soon … but a sonic wasn’t a knife.  This was going to take a minute.

 

Through the buzz and the howl, he heard a soft song.  One sung like a lullaby:  Calming, gentle, soft.   It wasn’t anything indigenous to Gallifrey, and quite frankly where would it come from if it was?  He flicked his eyes up to Rose and saw her leaning down with her head on top of the wolf’s head, her lips moving a gentle song as she stroked her hand along its fur.  He couldn’t quite hear the words, or even recognise the tune, but it seemed to work, and the wolf’s cries shifted to whimpers. 

 

As delightful as that image was, he shook it from his mind.  He had to focus on getting this beautiful girl free, and then perhaps he could sit with Rose and let her sing to him like she was singing to her. 

 

It really did take only a few more moments for the last of the vine to fall and free the wolf’s legs.  As the animal kicked to find its new freedom, the Doctor aimed the sonic at the plant and increased power to max to shrivel the dam thing where it grew.

 

“Take that,” he growled.  “And die you revolting waste of cell replication…”

 

He could still hear Rose’s voice softly singing to the wolf, and the wolf still lying supinely with her head in her lap.  The animal huffed contentedly, and seemed to quite enjoy the gentle strokes along her fur.

 

“You two look very comfortable there,” he commented with a smile as he took a seat on the opposite side of the crag with his back against the wall.  “I wouldn’t believe that the creature you’re singing to is one of the most dangerous and feared creatures on Gallifrey.”

 

Rose looked up with a smile.  “Big teddy bear,” she sighed happily.  “Is she okay?”

 

“You and your reference to all things big and mean being as soft as teddy bears,” he remarked with a shake in his head.  “You have a gift for wrapping those creatures otherwise aggressive around your little finger.”

 

That made her laugh.  “Hardly.”

 

He leaned forward to attempt to pet the animal and was warned off with a growl.  He snapped his hand back, scowling at Rose’s laugh.  “You ingrate,” he growled before saying the same inside huffs and grunts in the wolf’s tongue.

 

Rose petted the wolf’s shoulder with a couple of firm slaps.  “Now now, you.  The Doctor here was the one who saved us both.  If it wasn’t for him, we’d both be dead, so be nice.” She looked up at him and reached out a hand to take his.  She clutched onto his hand tightly, stroking at his knuckles with her thumb.  “So what now?  How’re we going to get all of us back up there?”

 

“No idea right now,” he answered with a sigh.  “I don’t know that I’ve got enough strength left right now to get all three of us up.  May have to wait until morning when we can actually see what’s around us and make a plan.”

 

She winced.  “Brax won’t be happy about waitin’ around all night.  Reckon he might be able to lend a hand?”

 

The Doctor bellowed out a large belch of amusement.  “Brax?  Nah, he’d be worried about breaking a nail or getting dirt on his suit.”  He looked up when he heard movement above them.  His eyes widened in surprise.  “It can’t be…”

 

Three tick and heavy ropes rolled loudly down the embankment.  Both Rose and the Doctor flinched at falling rocks and dirt as three large masses descended down each rope.  Flashlight beams from helmet lights shifted around them, and within moments a set of crimson boots touched down on the ledge beside the Doctor.

 

A young man, likely in his 20’s by Earth standards, clicked a fastener on his belt and leaned back on his rope.   He looked either side of him at another pair of men.  “Nespar, this ledge isn’t going to support all of us.  Animate an extension toward the front to give us some leverage.”  He looked to the other side.  “Primdar, get us some more steady light here.  These shifting beams give me a headache.”

 

Two words to the affirmative quickly followed, and the young man looked toward the Doctor.  His smile lit up as the area did the same from an orb placed centre of what looked to be a cement extension to the front of the crag.   He loosened his hitch enough to be able to crouch comfortably in front of him.

 

“Lord Doctor,” he cheered.  “Perorasusis of the Oakdown chapter, and Rescue Ops Commander of the Prydon unit.   Heard you might be in the need of some assistance.”

 

“I’m sorry,” the Doctor replied with a small level of annoyance in his tone.  “What did you say your name was again?  Fred?”

 

“Perorasusis,” he repeated without offence.  “Commander Pero if you prefer.”

 

“Pero will do just fine,” he grumbled.  He then gestured toward Rose.  “Please see to my companion before you do me.  Her safety is my utmost concern, and so it should be yours as well.   If anything happens to her, then it won’t just be she and I who’ll need help tonight.”

 

Pero pursed his lips and nodded.  “Yep.  Cardinal Braxiatel warned me you might be a little testy,” he said slowly as he turned his attention toward Rose and the Dahrama.  His eyes widened.  “Oh.  My.  Is that the mate of the one up top we had to tranquilize before we cold come down here?”

 

Rose looked mortified.  “You did what?  Oh, not necessary at all, really.  S’long as he knew you were helpin’ he’d be okay.  He was just worried about her.”  She scratched the wolf behind her ears.  “They’re quite lovely and friendly, really.”  She kissed the wolf’s head to accent her point and giggled when the animal licked at the tip of her nose.  She looked up.  “See?”

 

“Uh-huh,” he managed.  He shook himself and held out his hand.  “Commander Pero,” he said in introduction.  “I understand you are Rose, and you’re the Doctor’s mate.”

 

“Friend,” she corrected.  “Companion.  Not mate.”

 

Again, his expression was one of surprise.   He quickly stifled that reaction and flicked his fingers in a request for her to take his hand.  “Well.  Time to get you secured on my line, then I’ll escort you back up the cliffs.  Primdar will take the Lord Doctor up, and Nespar’s tasked with cleanup down here.”

 

“What about this one?”  Rose asked.  “I think she’s hurt, so you should get her up top first.”   Before he could argue, and she could see it forming in his eyes.  “I’m not goin’ up without her, so if you don’t wanna take her up by yourself, then you best be planning on how that rope is going to carry three of us up.”

 

Pero looked toward the Doctor for assistance.   The Doctor shook his head.  “I cannot help you out with this one, young Lord.”  He gestured toward Rose.  “One thing I’ve definitely learned about this rather incredible woman tonight is that she can give Omega a run for his money with how bullheaded she is when her mind is set.”

 

“Bullheaded?”  Pero shook his head.  “I don’t follow.”

 

“Bullheaded,” Primdar offered.  “Stubborn, uncompromising, unmanageable – pretty much any word that’s used to describe the Lord Doctor.”

 

The Doctor grinned as he looked toward a dark-skinned Time Lord that was digging inside a large red bag to retrieve a rescue harness.  “I’d take offence if any of those descriptors were incorrect in any manner.  As it is, you’ve proven you’ve read up on me.  I’m actually flattered.”

 

Primdar chuckled.  “Wouldn’t be that flattered, Sir.  I work as escort to Cardinal Braxiatel on his consular travels around Kasterborous.  He’s not exactly tight-lipped when it comes to recounting your adventures.”  He strode around Pero and held his hand out to Rose.  “I’ll escort you and the Dahrama up the wall.  She seems comfortable with you, so I’m not fearful that she’ll tear any of my limbs off.”

 

“Are they really that bad?”  Rose held out her hand and let Primdar draw her up to a stand.  The wolf followed quickly and kept close to Rose’s legs.  There was a hum of warning from the animal, but it didn’t make to lunge or attack.

 

Primdar gulped.  His voice was tight and his movements guarded.  “Their reputation is legendary, as are their kill counts.   Fortunately, regeneration energy scared them off, so there really aren’t all that many cases of a Time Lord actually expiring from a Dahrama attack.”

 

“That isn’t to say it hasn’t happened,” the Doctor warned.  “So again, if anything happens to Rose, you’ll also hurt that young lady, and that male up top will hunt you down and tear you to shreds.”  He leaned in close.  “And I’ll be there to take up the hunt when the regeneration energy dissipates.”

 

Rose shot him a look of surprise.  “Wow, Doctor.  Testy, much?”

 

“I don’t like your safety being in their hands,” he groused.  “Your protection is mine to take.”

 

Rose breathed out a sound of adoration.  She stepped over a rope, around Pero, and put her hands on the Doctor’s face.  “Awww.  I love you too, Doctor.”

 

Although she said it in teasing, the Doctor snatched out an arm and hooked it around her waist to draw her up against his chest.  He captured the startled breath that flew out of her mouth in a searing, chaste press of his mouth against hers.

 

“My hearts,” he breathed out in a fierce vow when he released her mouth, but held her to him. 

 

She pressed her finger to his lips, knowing how that sentence ended after hearing it so many times before from her lover in leather.  “Please don’t,” she whispered.  “They can’t.  Not yet … you barely even know me.”

 

He watched her walk toward Primdar.  “And how long did it take me – in the future – to realise that?”

 

Less time than now, she wanted to admit, but knew she couldn’t.   Leather had fallen rather fast.  On only their second TARDIS adventure together he was holding her hand tightly and saying how glad he was to meet her. 

“Not now,” was all she replied to him with.  This was not the setting, and not the company that she wanted to have any conversation of this kind in.    She stooped to pet the wolf and then helped the friendly Time Lord to secure a harness around it’s chest.

 

Nespar tapped on the Doctor’s shoulder and offered a harness.   He would have offered to assist as Primdar was doing with Rose, but he really wasn’t all that confident that the Doctor would be willing to accept such assistance.  “Sir,” he said quietly.  “If you wouldn’t mind.  Lady President Romanadvoratrelundar and Castellan Andredaselus are waiting up on top with the Cardinal.  It’s best we don’t keep them waiting too long.”  

 

The Doctor’s eyes lit up.  “Romana?  Well it has been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of her company.”

 


“If the Cardinal has his way, Sir, then you’ll be in her company quite a lot.”

 

The Doctor frowned.  “What do you mean by that?”

 

“Not my place to say, Sir,” Nespar replied professionally.  “Best you discuss with him once you’re safely back up on the mountain.” 

 

The Doctor looked toward Rose, who was not attached to both Wolf and Time Lord only feet away.  “Rose.  Please do be careful.”

 

“It’s okay,” she called with a giggle when she picked up the wolf and held it against her chest.  The animal growled playfully and lifted its head backward to attempt to lick at her face like a dog excited to be wrestling with it’s owner.

 

Nespar chuckled and attached himself to the Doctor’s harness.  “If I am permitted.  Congratulations, Sir.”

 

“Congratulations on what?”

 

Nespar didn’t look at the Doctor, he instead looked up along the height of the rope and gave it a good tug.  “For becoming the companion of a mated pair of Dahrama.”

 

The Doctor’s voice hitched as the both he and Nespar started to rise from the ground.  “Don’t be foolish, man.  No Time Lord has ever been chosen as the master of a Dahrama – let alone a mated pair.  And besides, I really don’t have the time nor the lifestyle for pets.”

 

Nespar chuckled and directed the Doctor’s attention toward where Rose was still giggling and happily petting the wolf as she was lifted up the mountainside.   “I’m afraid you don’t much have a choice, Sir.  You know how it works.  Once chosen by an animal – any animal - you must accept the partnership.”   He grinned.  “You’re now the proud owner of two of the most feared animals on Gallifrey.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The Doctor had enough time facing a dark and rocky cliff wall to adequately pique his annoyance.  He was not in any way thrilled that he had to rely on the assistance of the Chancellory Guard Rescue Ops to come and save his arse.  He was certainly not impressed that he wasn’t simply offered a rope and allowed to head up on his own – and maintain some of that dignity and reputation that he’d carefully crafted over the years.  No, he had to be tethered like a loomling to a young Time Lord who was probably fresh out of the Academy and all gung-ho and trying to impress the time Ladies (Read: Rose) with his bulk and life-saving abilities…

 

…Yeah, well try saving an entire planet.   Been there done that, and didn’t need to skite or preen about it.

 

“Don’t you worry, Sir,” Nespar said with a chuckle.   His head was levered up to look at the distance above them, and his focal attention was definitely on the thin rope holding them both safe.  “Your mate is in very good hands with Primdar.  He’s one of the best aerial and cliff rescue ops members we have.  Trained by the Castellan himself.”

 

The Doctor pursed his lips.  Obviously he was projecting his annoyance.  Thankfully, this youngster was reading it not for the jealousy, but for the concern toward Rose.  “You better trust your own word, young Lord.  I shouldn’t need to tell you…”

 

His chuckle interrupted what was to come next.  “It doesn’t need to be said, Sir,” Nespar stated with amusement and understanding in his tone.  “Your mate is your universe and if something happens to her, then you have the capability of destroying not only the three of us, but also Gallifrey herself.  It’s a threat we all take very seriously – particularly when we are warned by our Lady President of the same.”   He paused their upward momentum and tugged on the line as they neared the top edge.   “Lady Romana doesn’t just randomly  attend rescue operations.  Trust me, with her eyes on all of us, we’re not going to make any mistakes.” 

 

He watched Rose be lifted safely onto the ledge, and waited for his turn to be the attention of the surface rescue worker.“  She’s safe,” he assured the Doctor.  “Primdar’s already up top.  We’ll start moving a little quicker now, and should be up there with her in a short moment.”

 

Irritation shifted to urgency, and the Doctor started to scrabble his hands and feet against the wall to assist Nespar in getting them both up top as quickly as possible.  The top was reached quickly.  No sooner had the Doctor’s feet touched the red grass on the surface, and scrambled to release himself from his rescuer to run and check on Rose.

 

A shadow in the light of the bright orb set in the middle of the grasses fell upon him.  The Doctor slowed the unfastening of the clip attaching him to Nespar slowed as he looked up with a scowl on his face, ready to spar with Brax if necessary.   His scowl softened at the sight of a companion who he’d once felt so deeply for that he actually contemplated a future with her.

 

“Romana,” he said softly.

 

She saw his urgency for pleasantries to end so that he could check on Rose’s well being, and held up a hand to ask him for pause.

 

“I wouldn’t be too concerned about Miss Tyler,” she advised him with a smile.  “She’s currently berating Castellan Andresaselus for ordering the male Dahrama tranquilized before we send the team down.”

 

The Doctor shot a look toward the moving shadows around a prone wolf and noted that she was, indeed, standing firm on her toes growling at an otherwise unfazed Andred.  He couldn’t hear her exact words, but could see by the twitch in the Time Lord’s cheek and jaw that suggested they were far from kind.   Beside them, the young Lord that rescued her was chuckling with amusement as he packed up his line and harnesses.

 

The Doctor’s eyes were wide, but not necessarily with surprise.  He’d discovered on this evening that this little companion of his could be quite the firecracker who wasn’t going to back down no matter how regally or importantly dressed someone was.

 

Romana was amused herself.  “She barely had her feet on the grass before she was yelling at him.  Bless, the Castellan is quite used to the fire of humans, and knows not to asset any form of authority on them.”

 

“Leela,” she Doctor breathed out with fondness.  He passed a look toward Romana.  “And how is she; and her child?”

 

Their child,” she corrected.  “And they are all very well.  I’ll send her your regards.”

 

“Appreciated, thank you.”  The Doctor had shifted his attention and was now looking across the way with his eyes locked on the still angry figure flanked by an equally upset Dahrama wolf.  “Now if you will excuse me…”

 

“I will not,” she countered sharply.  “Doctor, I’ve spoken with Brax at length about your Rose, and I have to admit my concern for her impact on the coming fixed point.”

 

“I wouldn’t be too concerned,” he answered with a huff.  “I have it in hand.”

 

“Obviously not,” she shot back.  “The fact that you allowed her to put herself in such a perilous position as to have to call in support for retrieval of you both tells me that you don’t have anything in hand except ongoing danger.”  She tipped her head warningly when he looked ready to argue.  “You forget that I travelled with you for quite some time a few centuries ago.  I am fully aware of how well you court … no … worse than that:  How you invite danger.”

 

The Doctor’s lips pursed and his cheek lifted in a petulant scowl.  “And yet I seem to come through each and every instance of danger accepting my invitation without incident.”

 

“And which regeneration are you on right now?” she asked in a more rhetorical manner than the Doctor had assumed it was.  He readied to mouth the number but stopped when she shook her head.  “As is my understanding from Brax, your current companion is just as danger-friendly as you are.”

 

The Doctor’s brow flicked up and a smile started to cross his lips.  “Brax?” he asked with humour.  “That’s awfully familiar of you.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Referring to my brother as Brax, and not as Cardinal Braxiatel,” he clarified.  His borrow waggled teasingly.  “Is there something that I should know?”

 

Her expression shifted to shock, then downshifted to embarrassment and then light sheepishness.  “Don’t read too deeply into that, Doctor.  There is nothing to assume between the Cardinal and myself.”

 

He winked.  “I don’t buy it for a second,” he said, amused.  “He is an arrogant, self-righteous creature, and I offer you my best wishes for you to either tame or survive him.  Should you need any advice at all on the best ways of blackmailing into submission, then please reach out.”

 

Romana smiled and shook her head.   “Don’t confuse my familiarity with Brax as anything other than friendship, Doctor.  He is one of my closest confidents and someone I trust implicitly.”  She stepped forward and turned to stand beside him.  She watched Rose Tyler, still angrily stating her case toward Andred, while batting off the first aid attempts of the Rescue team on her arm. 

 

“There was a time,” she began softly, “where you and I both considered the possibility of entering into a relationship.”

 

“That wouldn’t have served either of us well,” he suggested without openly admitting or agreeing to it.

 

“No,” she agreed softly.

 

“You were too young, and I too jaded.”  He didn’t look at her, but he let his hand brush tenderly against hers.  “Your destiny was Gallifrey, and mine…”  He smiled.  “Mine was anywhere but.”

 

“Still,” she breathed.  “The prospect of rebelling against the universe’s plan was quite enchanting.”

 

“And they say that it’s only the women of Earth that want to marry the renegades.”

 

She chuckled.  “Marrying you, Doctor, that was never an intention.”  She looked at him with a glint in her eye.  “But a rebellious flight of fancy…”

 

“Is surprisingly not my way,” he cut in.   He shook his head and looked toward Rose, who was finally calming and allowing the medic to administer first aid on her wolf bite.  “Random flings and irresponsible partnerships of my hearts…”  he let out a breath.  “I’m not strong enough for that.”

 

“It’s stronger to give your hearts to another,” Romana corrected him.  “And you wouldn’t have dared offered them to me as you have done her.”   She turned to face him directly.  “Brax told me that she’s from your future – a mate to your older self.”

 

He nodded short and shallow.  “She is.”

 

“And to your current self?”  She tipped her head to one side.  “Has she captured you here as well?”

 

He blew out a breath through an open mouth and lowered his head.  “The promise runs from the future and into the past.”

 

“And her future holds the key to the Universe’s survival?”

 

The Doctor inhaled deeply and let out that breath as a huff.  “In her past.  Such is the way of the Time Lords.”  His full attention moved to Romana.  His voice shifted toward that of curiosity.  “You hold the rod, sash and keys of Rassilon.  Your ability to look ahead and interpret the prophecies of the matricians is beyond any other Lord or Lady of Time.”

 

She smiled only on one side of her mouth.  “I won’t tell you what lies ahead, Doctor.  There are still several paths ahead that are in flux and can change outcomes.”  She gestured toward Rose with a jut of her chin.  “What is fixed is your human companion and the importance of her remaining on Gallifrey for the next little while.”

 

“Little while?” the Doctor queried for clarification.  “Brax suggested that it could be quite some time.”

 

“Marry her,” Romana suggested gently.  “Set up a home for her here with you on Gallifrey.”

 

“That’s an offer for my future to make, not me.”  He rubbed at the back of his neck and winced with discomfort.  “I have done so, in the ways of our people, in my future.”

 

“She doesn’t speak enough of our language to accept.”  It was question as much as it was fact.

 

“No.”

 

“Then teach her,” she answered with a shrug of her delicate shoulders.  “You are a brilliant teacher, Doctor, but if you feel this is a task too great, then I can assign a tutor to assist.”

 

He had to laugh.  “You of all people,” he groused on a whisper.

 

“Meaning what?” she shot back with a sideward glance.

 

“I would think that after our time together, where you witnessed the society of Time Lords trying to choreograph and control my life and my destiny, that you would refrain from doing the same.”  He narrowed his eyes to look toward his brother who was analysing the work of the medics.  “As I told my brother earlier today:  I will not manipulate her in any way.  Her destiny, and the love she has, are for the men who are my future – not me as I am now.”

 

“I am suggesting, not demanding, Doctor.”  She clarified shortly.  “Do, or don’t.  It’s up to you.  Your ability to keep her here on Gallifrey will be far easier on you if you chose to make her your wife.  If you push her back toward your future, then she’ll leave.”  Her head twisted to stare at him with a glare of warning.  “I will make it difficult for you to leave, don’t think that I won’t.  Knowing you and experiencing first hand how you move to defy council and bypass their restrictions, I believe I am more able to effectively ground your TARDIS than anyone else.”

 

“Then do it,” he challenged her.  “Because if she asked me right now to take her home to me, then I’d do it without a second thought.”   He smirked.  “However, the greater risk is her asking to go home to London.  She’s not exactly happy with my future right now.”

 

“So Braxiatel said,” Romana said with a sigh.  She softened her voice.  “Do your hearts beat for her, Doctor?  Now, not in the future, but here and now?”

 

“I would think that’s obvious,” he huffed.  “Not to her, of course, but they do.”

 

“Then make her believe it,” she urged supportively.  “Brax and I, between the two of us, can ensure you both all of the conveniences you’ll need to be happy here.”

 

The Doctor was quiet for a long moment.  While he certainly appreciated the support of one of his closest friends toward his desire to become a mated partner to a young woman from Earth, there was something just a little off about it.  He walked around her to stand in between Romana and her line of sight toward Rose, who had now foregone her anger with Andred, and was now laughing and joking about something with the medic.

 

“Why are you and my brother so eager to push me into marriage?”  He moved in closer to take in the look in her eyes.  “Specifically marriage to Rose?”

 

She was undaunted.  “I want you to be happy, Doctor.  That’s all.  It seems as though that young woman would be capable of providing that happiness.”

 

“Which can be achieved travelling in my TARDIS across time and space together as companions.”

 

She put her hand on his shoulder.  “It’s time that the renegade who’s spent the best part of 800 years running from responsibility finally settles down with a woman who holds his beating hearts…”

 

He brushed her hand from his shoulder.  “Don’t give me that bunch of nonsense,” he grunted.  He saw the flicker in her eyes to tell him her reasons ran deep.   “Be honest with me, Romana.  What’s coming?  Why is this so important to you that it’s the first suggestion that either of you make?”  His eyes chased hers when she tried to look away from him.  “What do you see?”

 

“I see you happy,” she tried with a weak smile.  “Blissfully so, with a wife and a family.  Here on Gallifrey, with a post at the Capitol heading up our medical departments.  A doctor, Doctor, like you always wanted to be.”

 

“You are my dearest friend,” he said with disappointment in his tone.  “But I don’t trust you on this – especially not right now.  I know you’re hiding something from me,”

 

“Trust me or don’t,” she hissed out in an exasperated breath.  “But you are now officially forbidden from leaving Gallifrey.  You can either serve whatever time I decide to ground you happy, or miserable and full of unreasonable mistrust toward all.  Your choice.”

 

“With all due respect,” he muttered.  “No one on council has ever given me any reason to offer them my trust.”

 

“Including me?”

 

“You know how to hurt me deeper than anyone, Romana.  I have to be more guarded around you than with anyone.”  He heard his name called from across the clearing and immediately his entire demeanour changed.  His face lit up and he smiled.  “Be right there, Rose,” he called out cheerfully.  He looked back toward Romana with a respectful nod.   “It’s been nice to see you again, Lady President.  Goodbye and safe travels back to Arcadia.”

 

The Doctor swiftly ran from her, a small jump in his step as he ran to Rose and scooped her up into a hug that spun both of them in place.   

 

Romana watched with a crease in her brow and a fold of her arms across her chest.  She felt the presence of Braxiatel behind her, but waited until he had pressed his hand into her lower back before relaxing any.

 

“How much did you tell him?”

 

His hand shifted across her back to settle on her hip.  She leaned back against him, thankful to feel his presence against her mind.  “About what, exactly?  My entrance into the house of Lungbarrow, or his future destiny that I can’t share with him at any cost?”

 

He chuckled against her ear.  “He’d have a neural implosion to hear about the two of us.”

 

She turned in toward him, pressing her fingertips to his chest – one set of fingers surrounding each of his beating hearts.  “No, Brax.  He’d be much happier about it that you think he would.”  She lifted her eyes to his.  “The inability of the two of you to properly get along, and your penchant for competitiveness against each other is beyond reproach … but he would put all of that rivalry aside to know that you’re happy with your chosen mate.”  She smiled.  “It was he who put us on the same path to begin with, remember.”

 

“I’ll tell him myself,” he agreed.  “When the time is right.”   He looked across at his Brother crouched down and petting the heads of two rather excitable Dahrama wolves.  “As for he and his potential bride?  Did you push the suggestion?”

 

“Merely suggested it,” she answered softly.  “You know him as well as I do.  If you push the issue, even if he did want to do it, he’d work against it just out of spite.”  Her face creased.  “I hate this, Brax.  The games the universe wants to play with him are just cruel.”

 

“Crueler on her,” he whispered with a look toward Rose.  “She’s the one who has to bear the entire burden.”  His eyes flicked to the Doctor.  “He won’t even feel it.”

 

“Which will kill him if he ever found out,” she sighed.  “And he’ll singlehandedly destroy reality himself in revenge.  I know what he’s like.”

 

“It’s our duty, Romana.”  He reminded her.  “We have no choice.  We can’t warn either of them in advance.  Without that sacrifice, we will fall.”  His voice actually shuddered on his exhale.  “This has to happen.  Gallifrey’s survival depends on it.”

 

“It does,” she agreed.  “But I won’t let her go through it alone.   You and I, Brax.  We need to make sure that her sacrifice isn't in vain and unappreciated by the chapter houses and people of Gallifrey."  She shuddered.  "I just hope when the dust settles and the truth comes out that he be able to forgive me.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Morning back at the TARDIS was a relaxed, and very unusual sight for Rose Tyler.  

 

One thing she’d never seen of the Doctor was a sleep-ruffled version padding about the hallway wearing nothing but a loose-fitting pair of pyjama pants and half on/half off pair of socks hanging off his toes.   Come to think of it, despite the bed she shared with him during a future incarnation, she’d never been so lucky as to have seen him freshly woken – or in this case, not quite awake at all.

 

Last night’s adventure on the cliffs had done a number on the otherwise tireless Time Lord.  He’d barely made the walk back from the cliffs to the TARDIS before he’d bid her goodnight and wandered deep into the bowels of the ship to go to bed.

 

Her, on the other hand, she was wired.  Being told about the nature of pet ownership on Gallifrey and how she’d been specifically chosen by a pair of wolves had been eye-opening.  Apparently she now owned two really dangerous, but incredibly beautiful wolves.  That had shocked and alarmed her. There was no way at all she wanted to be responsible for the domestication of such beautiful animals  … Well, okay, she was totally cool with having them as pets because they were stunning creatures – but they were essentially wild beasts that far better suited to the wildlands of Gallifrey than sleeping beside her bed at night.  But there they were.  Beside her bed.  Like a pair of blue-white Malamute dogs.  She spent the evening watching these proud animals curled up against each other huffing and snoring in that adorable doggy manner in absolute wonderment.

 

Her mind ran a mile a minute wondering just how much of the Doctor’s timeline she was changing by being here.  In their future, the Doctor didn’t have pets onboard his ship.  He never mentioned having any pets.  Here they were with two of them: two very large wolves who had a lifespan well into three centuries.  That meant that her future with him was at least that far ahead in the future.

 

Of course she had voiced that concern on their way back to the TARDIS when he’d spoken to her about the Dahrama and their decision to walk beside Rose as her faithful companions.

 

“Perhaps I simply take all three of you back to future me,” he’d offered with a suggestive smile of hope.  One she watched fall when she shook her head and told him that was unlikely.

 

“How would they do on Earth?” she’d asked him instead.

 

He didn’t answer that question.  Instead he’d chosen to abruptly flip the topic of conversation toward the purple blossoms on the ground and how the Schlenk blooms emitted what he considered to be the best scent in the known universe.  

 

And so had become another nature hike of learning and instruction, which she did not mind in the slightest.   To hear the way the Gallifreyan lyrics fell from his lips was simply divine, and she could listen to it all night. 

 

These lecturing topics and Gallifreyan language instruction took them all the way back to the TARDIS.  Shortly thereafter, the Doctor had yawned widely without covering his mouth with his hand, and suggested that it was time for bed.

 

That was a few hours ago, now.   While the Doctor may well have slept, she really did not.   After three hours of wide-eyed non slumber, she finally went for a shower, dressed, and then padded toward the kitchen in order to make herself a tea and perhaps sneak in a pre-breakfast snack.  They had, after all, missed dinner

 

With her new pets following protectively behind her, Rose entered the kitchen and paused at the sight that greeted her.

 

The Doctor stood in a slouch at the open fridge.  One arm lay across the edge of the door, and the other held at the edge of the fridge.  He wore a low slung pair of pyjama pants that had fallen down low enough for her to see a deep and defined pair of Venus Dimples just above the waistband.  His back was bare, and his curly hair mussed so far beyond recognition that she didn’t know it could ever again be tamed.

 

She smiled and appraised this look quite carefully as she slowly and quietly walked deeper into the room, knowing full well that this would be the one and only time she would ever be blessed with such a sight.  As soon as the Doctor knew he’d been caught out like this, he’d never allow it to happen again.

 

He murmured low and lyrically toward the contents of the fridge, and as she drew closer, the musky smell of sleep curled around her.  He may well have cited Schlenk blossoms as being his favourite smell.  This wonderful odour of sleepy Time Lord had now risen to the top of her list.  She inhaled deeply to draw in the smell of him and then quickly held that breath when she saw his shoulders tense.

 

Caught….

 

“Rose?” his voice, higher than it normally was, asked in a manner that desperately hoped he was mistaken in thinking she had caught him in such a state of undress.

 

“Good mornin’, Doctor,” she chirped in a happy manner.  “Talkin’ to yourself; or are you engaged in a rather important discussion with a piece of celery?”

 

Still in his hunch in the fridge door, illuminated only by the small yellow light inside, the Doctor gave a husky chuckle.  “Carrot, actually,” he corrected her with amusement.  “Celery stalks really aren’t good conversationalists.”   He straightened up and turned in the still open door of the fridge.  He gave her a shrug.  “Not enough calories to sustain any reasonable topic.”

 

The smile on Rose’s face fell, and her face lengthened in awe, as all of the fluid drained from her mouth.  The low slung seat of the waistband of his Pyjama pants was in no way higher than where they fell at the back.  She could see the thatch of thick curly dark chestnut hair both above the waistband, and through the small V-opening at the front that should have been closed shut by a pair of drawstrings.  Either the Doctor had forgotten to tie them, or they’d come apart during sleep.  She figured that she should let him know about it, as it did appear to her that the only thing actually holding the trousers at the very edge of dignity was that he had not yet fully freed himself of the – ehm – morning condition that befell most men.

 

“Uhm, Doctor,” she breathed through a smile.  “You might want to, you know.”

 

“Might want to what, Rose?”  He let out a moan and stretched his arms above his head.  His thinned torso now put him at complete risk of losing the trousers completely.

 

She peeped, but the threat of his complete exposure actually held her in place, her eyes on that little open V.  “Oh, ehm.”  She twirled her finger in the air a moment and then pointed downward toward his crotch.  “You’re about to show me what your dad gave you.”

 

There was a very brief moment of question in his sleepy eyes.  That was short lived and they quickly blew wide with shock.  He dropped his hands quickly, yanked up his trousers, and hurriedly tied the drawstrings together.

 

“Very sorry about that,” he muttered behind with a yawn.  “Didn’t expect you to be up and about this early.”

 

“I didn’t expect to see you looking so, well, so…”  She chuckled.  “In your jammies looking like you’ve been thoroughly shagged within an inch of your life.”   She circled her finger toward her hair.  “All messy and untamed.”

 

He lifted his eyes to look at the two curls of his fringe and then lifted his hands to smooth out the rest of his head.  He knew it would be an impossible task, taming this mane took considerable effort and hair products to achieve.   He noted her expression of surprise, and even a pinking at the tips of her ears and across her cheeks, and looked at her with wariness.

 

“Rose,” he began,  “Forgive me for noting this, but you do appear to be somewhat surprised by my attire.”

 

She licked at her lip and shrugged.  “Yeah, I am.”  She pursed her lips.  “I guess.”

 

“You’re surely not saying that you’ve never seen me like this before,” he remarked with his own level of surprise.  “I saw that memory, Rose.  You can’t deny that you’ve seen me first thing in the morning.”

 

She leaned up against the breakfast counter.  She tucked her hair behind her ear and offered him a very sheepish smile.  “Actually, I can.” 

 

His brows shot up into his hairline.

 

“Future you,” she clarified.  “I mean the one who I shared the – ehm – intimacy with.  When we did share a bed, we didn’t really wake up together.”  She tipped one shoulder up to her ear and looked to the floor.  “I mean, yeah, we did snuggle after, but he never stayed.  He really didn’t sleep like you do.  Said that he didn’t have to…”

 

He nodded with awareness.  “It’s an evolutionary trait – physiology for survival if you will.”  He tried to find a pocket in the hip of his pyjama pants to thrust his hand in there, and actually struggled for positioning of that hand when he realised there weren’t any.  “When we travel – as we travel in the way we do throughout time and space – our bodies adapt to not require sleeping as often as we do here in Gallifrey.  Losing even a short moment to sleep can result in a disruption of the timelines if we aren’t closely monitoring them – particularly when we have a rather inquisitive human as our companion.”  He gave her a tender smile.   The smile then shifted to his lecturing expression.  “So that said:  When I am off Gallifrey, I have a cycle that requires very little sleep.  Here on Gallifrey, I sleep.  Like you do.  As much as you do in fact.”

 

“I see,” she breathed out with understanding.  “Makes sense.”  Her eyes lifted to his.  “So then you’ll understand why seein’ you like this:  all sleepy and relaxed in your jim jams, is a new sight for me.”

 

He opened his arms and gave her a cheeky wink.  “You like?”

 

“I think I can get used to it.”

 

A smile broke out across his face and he dared take a step toward her, letting the fridge door close being him with a soft padding sound.  “Get used to it, Rose?  What are you saying?”

 

She inhaled deep as the scent of him drew closer.  She gulped and lifted her eyes to keep her gaze in line with his  “I’m not sayin’ what you’re thinkin’, Doctor, so behave.”

 

He moved yet closer.  Another step and he was within inches of her.  He loomed down at her and let his voice take on a husky tone.  “You really don’t know what I’m thinking, Rose,” he teased softly with a lick at his lip.  “But there are several options in mind.”

 

She peeped and swallowed thickly.  “Uh-huh?”

 

He then backed off abruptly to walk around her.  “Well, as per Romana’s instructions, we are grounded here on Gallifrey for the next little while.  This means that bumping into each other first thing in the morning is a very high probablility.  I’m home, and I do like to be comfortable when I am here.  This means pyjamas at night, and more often than not only the bottom half.”  He swept his hand in the air ahead of her in a gesture toward her current attire of short sleeper shorts and a lose camisole with a bralette underneath.  “As do you, it appears.”

 

“I, err,” she began as her arms folded across her chest as though to cover up.  “I really wasn’t expectin’ you to be walking around at this time.”

 

“Nor I you,” he offered with a shrug.  His attention then shifted to curiosity.  “And just why is it you are up, Rose.  I would think that after the events of this evening, you’d be out like a light.”

 

She inhaled a deep breath.  “Couldn’t sleep,” she admitted.  “And I was feeling peckish, we missed dinner an’ all.”

 

“I hear you,” he agreed with a scratch of his head.  “While I did get a good couple of hours in, it wasn’t anywhere near enough.”  He flicked his head to the cupboard.  “Need me to pull something together for you?  We haven’t been to the market recently, so there isn’t much.  But I’m sure we can MacGyver something.”

 

She shook her head.  “It’s okay, Doctor.  I should probably try to go back to bed.  We can go out in the morning and pick something up, if you like.”  She smiled.  “Gotto be better than scraps and leftovers, right?”

 

His head was angled to one side and his eyes narrowed in focus of her.  “You do need sleep,” he reminded her.  “Are you actually going to be able to manage it?”

 

“Should do,” she answered with a shrug.  She scratched at the ears of her male Dahrama.  “Maybe I’ll see if these two might want to jump onto the bed with me instead of snuggling up on the floor…”

 

There was a very short moment of indecision in his eyes.  It cleared quickly when he had come to what he felt was an appropriate choice.  He leaned forward and took her hand in his.  “Come with me,” he urged softly.

 

“Come where?”

 

He tugged lightly on her hand and coaxed her into a walk with him.  “Just come with me.  I think I have the answer for both of us on this quandary of how in Arcadia either of us will get to sleep tonight.”

 

She followed curiously behind him for a few steps, and then sped up to walk beside him instead. She looked back to make sure that the wolves were following – which they were.   Their expressions showed as much curiosity as she felt.  “What did you have in mind?” 

 

“You’ll see,” he promised her in a tender tone as he walked them both deep into the corridors of the TARDIS.  They strode past her bedroom and continued around three more corners before he stopped in front of an ornate door gilded in gold Gallifreyan symbols.

 

“My name,” he said gently, and then read the words out aloud in his mother tongue.

 

Her initial though should have been to repeat after him, but her mind was more focused on what would be behind a door that had his name carved into it.   She looked up at him warily.  “Doctor?  Is this your bedroom?”

 

He nodded as he pressed his hand into the door and it opened with a light click and hiss.  “Don’t tell me I’ve never brought you here before, either.”

 

“Well,” she began unsurely.  “No.  When he and I came together, it was usually outside the TARDIS.  If we did find ourselves feeling, well, frisky, it was when we were in the library, or kitchen, or the control room…”

 

“Anywhere except the comfort of our beds,” he completed with a sigh if disappointment in himself.  “I’m sorry, Rose.  I really should have given you better than that.”

 

“Don’t be sorry,” she whispered.  “I never was. You.  Him.  When the mood took him, and it was usually random – he’d.”  She sighed with remembrance.  “He was just so passionate.  It was like, waitin’ to find a bedroom might ruin it all, you know?  Like if he let go of me for just a sec, I’d be gone.”

 

“An irrational need,” the Doctor surmised.  He nodded with understanding and tugged on her hand to draw her into his bedroom.  He felt resistance and looked back to her, speaking her name in question.

 

“Doctor,” she warned.  “I’m not havin’ sex with you.”

 

His brows lifted.  “I’m sorry, what?”

 

He jutted her chin toward the bed.  “If you’re brinin’ me here thinking that a quick round under the sheets is your answer to the both of us going to sleep, then no.  Think of something else.

 

He took note of the fact that she didn’t shake her hand free of his when she so vehemently rebuffed what she though he was aiming for this evening.  That gave him hope that she wasn’t about to flee.

 

“That’s not what I had in mind,” he assured her.  “That thought didn’t even cross my mind until you brought it up.”  He looked at his bed with want, and then back to her when he finally registered how this looked and how she must have taken his desire to take her to his room.  “But I can see how you drew that conclusion.”

 

“So what were you thinking?”  Her voice was soft, but it peeped when the two wolves squeezed in between them and then launched excitedly into the room.  For a moment, they both leapt on the unmade bed, jumped back to the floor, jumped back into the bed again and snuffled in the bedclothes.  “Whatever it was,” she said with a chuckle.  “The kids might have quashed your plans.”

 

“Both of you,” he growled sharply in English before shifting to the huffs and growls better understood by them.  They stopped immediately, looked at each other, and then both jumped down to the floor.  They nuzzled each other and then both lay down together, curled into one large blue-white ball of fur.

“That’s better,” the Doctor groused.  He looked back toward Rose and smiled as he tugged lightly on her hand.  “Come on in,” he urged.  “I swear to you that there was nothing more nefarious on my mind this evening than to simply hold you until morning.”

 

She followed in behind him, gasping when the door schnicked closed behind them.  “You just want to hold me?  That’s it?  Nothing else?”

 

He got as far as the bed and turned to face her.  He released her hand and then cupped her face tenderly.  “I almost lost you tonight,” he admitted gravely.  He lowered his forehead to hers and held them together, his eyes closed and his voice breathy.  “For a moment I honestly believed that you were gone, and there was nothing I could do to save you.”

 

“But you did,” she whispered in reply, focusing her gaze on the dark arc of lashes underneath his closed eye.  “You saved me, Doctor.  I’m right here.”

 

His eyes flashed open and locked on hers.  Dusty blue locked on swirling amber and brown.  Words in Gallifreyan passed through his lips.  Then English followed.  “You weren’t when I slept, Rose.  You weren’t when I woke up terrified I’d failed you.”

 

She pulled back from him and ran her hands over his chest as she walked around him to the bed.  She sat down on the mattress and held out her hand to him.  “I’m here now, Doctor.”

 

His smile was grateful.  His shoulders dropped in relief.  With a breath of gratitude, he crawled onto the bed toward the other side, and lay down on the mattress.  The pillow was quickly tucked under his head and he opened his arm to invite her to come to him.   “Just to sleep,” he promised her as his tired eyes closed.  “That’s all.”

 

Well, how could she resist that?  This whole room smelled of him and of his attempts to sleep.  The sheets had cooled off to chilly, but the blanket looked warm.  That open arm was very inviting.  She quickly moved to lay at his side and sighed happily when his arm not only fell lightly upon her, but also drew the duvet across them too.

 

“G’Night, Rose,” he slurred sleepily as he wriggled a little bit closer and tucked her firmly up against his chest. 

 

His cool breath puffed against her neck and shoulder, and his thumping double-heart beat lightly against her back.   The coolness of him, so very cool against her heated skin, it seemed to reach down deep inside of her, holding her closer to him than their physical bodies could possibly manage.

 

Her mind quickly moved back in time – her time, the future for him – and reminded her of a time when closeness like this came easily between them.  The security of his hold, and the unspoken promise that he’d be there to have and to hold her forever more … that security that fled after a fiery explosion of regeneration.  She missed this.  She missed him.

 

She couldn’t leave it without a voice for a moment longer.  “Doctor?” she queried softly, hoping he wasn’t yet asleep.

 

His answer was a soft pair of breaths against her shoulder.  “Yes, Rose?” 

 

“I miss you,” she admitted sadly.

 

“I’m right here,” he assured her softly.

 

“I miss you,” she clarified.  “Future you.”

 

“Again,” he said softly.  “Right here, Rose.”

 

“Are you really, though?” she pressed on, trying desperately to keep the emotion of loss from her voice.

 

“I am the past, I am the future,” he muttered.  “I’m every me from number one to thirteen.”  He inhaled a sigh.  “Now please.  Sleep.”

 

She rolled in his arms to face him.  Sleep wasn’t really going to come to her any time soon, and she figured if he was going to invite her into his bed, then he was going to get as much – or as little – sleep as she was.  She watched his expression shift in the darkened small space between them.  His eyes weren’t yet open, but she could tell that his sleepiness was giving way to wakefulness.

 

“Doctor,” she urged with a quiet voice.  “Look at me, please?”

 

Those sleepy blue eyes opened.  “What’s wrong?”  His pupils were so dilated that she could barely see a hint of blue, and she waited until they focused before pressing on.

 

“I nearly died tonight,” she murmured. 

 

“But you didn’t.”

 

“Because you saved me.”

 

The hand he held over her waist moved so that he could tough her face.  “And I always will.”

 

“I-I love you,” she blurted out.  “Future you,” she clarified.  “And future future you.”

 

Hope seemed to rise a little in his chest between his hearts.  He licked at the roof of his suddenly dry mouth.  “And past me?”

 

Present you,” she corrected with a smile.

 

“Present me,” he agreed with his eyes sobering and waking fast.  “How do you feel about the me as I am right now?”

 

She shifted quickly forward and captured his lips with hers.  Her move obviously startled him and made him gasp, which she stole within her own inhale as she used the part between his lips to deepen their connection.  His arms snapped tightly around her waist in response and his head angled further to one side in an effort to further deepen their kiss.   Rose grabbed at the waistband of his pyjama pants and awkwardly pushed and twisted them in an attempt to draw them down over his hips.

 

“I – I think you’re amazin’,” she panted against his mouth.

 

He claimed her mouth hard for a long second in response, and then pulled back sharply.  “Do you think you can love me?” he questioned as he lowered his hands to help her remove his trousers.

 

She whimpered a high sigh when he kicked the trousers free from his ankles and then swiftly moved moved his hand to her lower back and pulled her firmly up against him.

 

“Can you?” he pleaded with a rock of his hips into hers.  Shifting his hand around her backside to settle against her thigh.  With a firm flex of his arm, he had her thigh hooked over his hip.  He rocked again, rolling partway over her.  “Can your heart beat for me like mine do for you?”

 

Her head lifted back into the pillow, her mouth gaping wide so that her breath could escape swiftly and return as a gulp.  “Yes, Doctor,” she panted out.  “Yes.”

 

He purred Gallifreyan words against her neck as he shifted his hand to slide down the back of her shorts and pants.  Moving back from her only enough to allow the material to shift in between them, he shoved the material over her hips, to her knees, and then hooked it with his foot to draw them off completely.  Now naked from the waist down, he rolled them both together and settled his hips between her thighs.

 

He took a short moment to look into her face, that was now turned sideways into her pillow, and dropped his mouth to nip lightly at her jaw.  “Stop me,” he huffed against her throat as he rocked his hips against hers, sliding himself wholly along her length.  “Because I’m not able to stop myself.”

 

“Don’t stop,” she pitched a high whine. 

 

“But the rules,” he growled out, his hips rocking a more urgent rhythm against her.  He lifted high on his arms and dropped his head low into his shoulders as he continued to move against her.  With her gasping whimper, he lifted his head high and moaned out a loud series of sounds, each syllable times with the desperate thrust of his hips.

 

“To Hell with the rules,” she growled on a high-pitched tone.  “No more rules.”  Another phrase, one in very broken Gallifreyan passed through her lips next. 

 

The Doctor felt his arms falter as her broken attempt at his language, thick with London-English accent, cut through the space between them.  He wondered if she knew what she was saying, or if she was merely repeating what she’d heard so many times before from his elder self….

 

…It was probably the dirtiest phrase a Gallifreyan could ever mutter – and one never spoken outside the bedroom.

  

With a long howl that would rival any such howls that the two wolves on the floor beside their bed could cry out, the Doctor drove deep and forward, sheathing himself completely inside her.

 

The sudden coolness of him, and of an unfamiliar length and breadth she hadn’t been anticipating, Rose found herself clutching hard at the bedsheets and pushing herself up the bed just a little.  Not so much for escape, but to seek a moment to gather her wits.

 

He paused, but only for a moment to gather his own wits at her blaring heat surrounding him.   She said his name, though, the one he gave himself, and immediately he started to rock and move with long bold strokes that shifted more than just his hips.  His entire body moved along her, each long stroke eliciting a new and more deeply hollered cry of passion that the one before it.

 

Rose battled to keep her eyes on the man moving above her.  Each stroke of him was like an icy blast of sheer thrill and ecstasy, and all she wanted to do was close her eyes and become completely lost in his words, his moans, and the way he felt inside her.  Her eyes fought her, but she kept her eyes on him, focused on the contorting expressions of arousal, passion, and the chase for completion.   He lifted up again onto his arms, towering over her, hanging low into his shoulders as he maintained a perfect rocking rhythm against her.

 

His words shifted between his language and hers, both of them crying out words of promise and adoration.

 

And watching him.  Watching that beautiful, rouguish, and almost boyish face shift and move and crease as he succumbed completely to her, drove her toward completion far quicker than she had wanted.  She tried to stave off the climax, tried hard to shift and find position underneath him that would let it ebb away to come back later.   But it was to no avail.  He held her hip with his hand, pressed himself completely against her with every forward thrust.  He coaxed her to finish with movements, and with his voice, and in a moment she shattered completely, howling out his name along with that of her deity, and completely arched off the bed underneath him.

 

His arm quickly swept underneath her back and he pulled her chest into his face.  He rocked her through the entirety of her completion, keeping her as high as he could, until she finally fell back down underneath him, panting, and holding at her chest to try catch her breath.

 

Passion fled the man at that moment.  His fervor was replaced by gentle licks and kissed, on her shoulders, against the high rise of her breast, on her nose, and finally a tender catch of her lips with his. 

 

She could barely catch her breath to keep up with the roll of his mouth against hers.  And as she struggled, he merely chuckled.  He pressed a lone, chaste, and gentle kiss against her swollen bottom lip, and then pulled himself from her.  He rolled off to the side and fell onto his back at her side. 

 

He was in no way as breathless as she was, but he was certainly content.  He rolled his head on the pillow and smiled as he let his hand search out hers, and then capture it.  He lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed lightly at her knuckles.

 

“You are,” he whispered with awe.  “Simply breathtaking.”

 

Her breath was still shortened.  “I would say,” she gulped back, “That you’re the one who took … my breath.”

 

He laughed and wriggled himself beside her.  With gentle coaxing, he guided her lo lay on her side and snuggled himself up against her back.  His lips traced her shoulder in a single line toward her ear.   “Sleep, my Hearts,” he said tenderly.  “And tomorrow you get to see me again in all my morning glory.”

 

She nestled herself against him and let out a very contented sigh.  His hearts against hr back, his cold skin cooling hers.  The hum of the TARDIS in her ears, and the light snuffling of the two wolves on the floor beside them…

 

…and all at once, for the first time since his regeneration, Rose Tyler felt she was home.  Sure he was different that both of the men in her past.  So different to the man he would become in his future.  Different, but still very much the same.    Her first Doctor was a quiet lover, a focused lover, a man who wanted control and wielded it like a sword.  Her second Doctor, a scared and timid man who would rather run that try and touch her.   And now this one: wild, loud, and so ready to completely give in and lose control.

 

One thing that made them all the same to her:  She loved him.   She loved him with everything she had inside her.  As long as she was with him, then she was home – and she never wanted to leave again.

 

“Doctor?” she said quietly, knowing she was about to interrupt his attempt at slumber yet again.

 

He chuckled against her shoulder blade.  “Yes, Rose?”

 

“Can I stay with you a while longer?” she asked, ending her question with an apprehensive bite at her bottom lip.

 

He moved against her, obviously content with her request.  “Of course, Rose.  I would want nothing more.”

 

She closed her eyes and felt herself finally relax.  “Thank you, Doctor.”

 

“Rose?”

 

She hummed to let him know she was listening.

 

“How long did you want to stay with me?”

 

She inhaled a deep breath and pulled his arm across her like he was – indeed – a Time Lord blanket.

 

“Forever.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

A spray of wild black birds burst exploded like a cloud out of the silver leaves of a tall Cadonwood tree.   Their shrill and alarmed cries matched the fervor of shrill and excited squeal from the forest floor below.   It wasn’t the cheer of excitement that startled the flock, however, it was the loud, echoing howls of two large Dahrama wolves that followed in it’s wake.

 

Those crafty hunters that could climb a tree as easily as walking up the trunk, favoured the meat of a trunkike over the woprats and slender-throated Selputo crane.  None of this flock would take any chance that  they’d become their meal today, and so en masse they took to the skies above.  Their broad wings with a length that far exceeded the length of their bodies, sent shadows racing across the ground, and beat a sound that was as whispy as it was thunderous.

 

Tugged by the hand held by the Doctor, and running at a rapid rate, Rose lifted her head with a gaped mouth of awe at the living cloud overhead.  “Oh, wow,” she panted out with wonder.

 

“Trunkike,” the Doctor called out, not slowing their run.  “They flock in tight formation when in flight and have been known to put the countryside in complete darkness when they take off as a group.”  He looked back to the wolves at their heels with a toothy grin.  The two wolves were thrilled to be at full run, both of them yapping, and howling as they leapt over and knocked against each other in excitement.   “Looks like the kids may have scared them,” he offered with a laugh.  “They are a Dahrama’s favourite snack.”

 

Although rushing with thrill and being tugged by the Doctor, Rose was able to narrow a glare of warning toward the two wolves.  “Don’t you even think about it.”

 

“Oh,” he laughed.  “I guarantee you they’re thinking about it.”  He held her hand tighter.  “Now chop chop, Rose Tyler.”

 

Rose pealed with delight and excitement as they ran across the unkempt red grasses that rose in and around the rocks and sand that lined the edge of a creek.   “Where are we goin’, Doctor?”

 

He panted out a pair of secretive, yet excited breaths.   There was a smile on his face that defied the man’s age and wisdom.  He was like a young boy ready to open gifts on Christmas morning.  He turned to face her, skipping a sideward stride to keep pace.  “It’s a surprise, Rose.  You’ll love it.  I promise you.”  He kept his stride but pulled her in against him in an excited hug that lifted her from the ground and spun her around.  He placed her feet back on the ground, not allowing her to gather her wits and her balance before tugging her back again.

 

The terrain changed just slightly as what looked to Rose like a fruit orchard appeared in the distance.  The banks of the creek started to rise into a jagged edge, and the Doctor steered them safely into the crystal waters that lapped gently on the rocky bottom.    They ran with a spray of water in their wake, each droplet shining as diamonds in the heavy orange sunlight above them.  Snakes hissed, and birds chirped angrily as they passed.  The two wolves pranced and pounced caught up in the excitement of their mistress, howling to the skies and sharing their own language of thrill.

 

“Doctor,” Rose panted exhaustedly.  “Doctor, please.  Gimme a mo’, please?  I’m not fitted with a respiratory bypass like you are.”

 

She was becoming exhausted by the run.  Fit though she was from years of running with the mad man in a box, this was becoming a little too long of a run even for her.

 

“We’re almost there!” the Doctor cheered.  “Just a little bit further now.”

 

“Will it be there in ten minutes?” she queried, wondering just why it was he was so insistent that they get there as soon as possible.

 

He began to slow, tugged backward by his waning companion.  “Well.  Yes,” he drawled with a small measure of disappointment.  “It will be.”

 

“Then please, can we stop for a minute?” she pressed on.  “Unless you wan’ me to have a heart attack and die before we get there…”

 

He stopped immediately, tugging her to as an abrupt a halt as him.  He carefully checked her eyes, the pallor of her skin, and then stooped to scoop her up into a hold against his chest.  “I most certainly do not want that,” he vowed as he tucked her head underneath his chin and began a far more slower walk.

 

Rose didn’t ordinarily like being held like a child in this manner – she was no damsel in distress – but in this instance, she was happy to he held and carried so she could catch her breath.  She held her ear against his chest to listen to the thumping of his two hearts against her ear and found herself calming very quickly.

 

“Make sure you don’t strain yourself,” she warned him softly.  “I’m not as strong as you, so I don’t know if I can carry you.”   A yap of agreement from below made her giggle.

 

The Doctor merely sighed as he listened to the panting of the young female.  “Your daughter has offered to let you tie me to her and she’ll drag me the rest of the way if it comes to that.”

 

Rose dropped her hand to scratch the wolf’s head.  “Awww.  Aren’t you a sweet little girl?”

 

“Dahramas across Gallifrey are covering their faces with their paws and shaking their heads.”   He sniffed.  There was a playful nip at his ankles, and the Doctor stumbled with a failed attempt at escape.  “Sweet indeed,”   he scoffed as he awkwardly jostled the woman in his arms in yet another failed attempt.  

 

Rose touched her feet to the ground and stumbled to one side.  She held at her belly and let out a raucous laugh – a sound of pure hysterics.  The Doctor tried to remain stoic and display a sense of pure indignance toward the two ladies in his life having so much fun at his expense, but Rose’s laughter was contagious.  He quickly fell into the same fit of amusement.

 

He settled himself just slightly and moved in close to her.  Lifting his hands to cup her face, he traced her tears with his eyes and then drew their heads together.  Their brows touched and he kissed her lightly on the tip of her nose.  “You, my dear Rose…”

 

“Yes, Doctor?” she said with a smile of urging for him to continue.   With her forehead still pressed against his, she stepped in a little closer and settled her hands on his hips.  With tender movements, she shifted her hands around his hips and curled them toward his backside.

 

The Doctor licked his lip as he felt her pull him yet closer.  Propriety nearly fled him at that moment, and it took effort not to seek out a good sized tree trunk to let her know without words just exactly what she was capable of doing to him.

 

…Brax was waiting for them.   Brax was not known for being the most patient of men.

 

…But then again, neither was he.

 

He angled his head to one side to completely capture her mouth in a single swoop and walked them toward the deeper waters of the creek.  His lips chased hers when she pushed her hands against his chest and separated their mouths.

 

“Rose?”

 

“I thought we were in a hurry?”

 

His mouth chased hers again, but the little minx was far too savvy to be caught by Time Lord lips.  “I can always make time for this, Rose.  For us.  For making love to you.”

 

“Oh make me throw up in my mouth, swallow it, and then throw it up again,” Braxiatel’s voice snarled in from the 1-foot high creek edge to their side.  Although slightly hostile in tone, there was a certain measure of amusement hidden in his words.

 

The Doctor grunted out in faux annoyance and looked over his shoulder toward his brother.  “I thought I said we’d meet you there?”

 

“You did,” he answered with a shrug.  He gave Rose a tip of his head in greeting.  “Hello, Rose.  Good to see you again.”

 

“Hi Brax,” she answered with a waggle in her fingers as a wave.

 

Braxiatel looked back toward his brother with a somewhat tired expression.  “And while, yes, we did agree that we would meet at the orchard at a very specific time, your incessant and habitual tardiness alerted me that I may have to move to intervene in some way, for some reason…”  He huffed.  “By Rassilon, Thete.  This urge you have to mate with your beloved puts you at the same level of the beasts that walk at your feet.”   He looked down toward the wolves, who were currently backed down on their hunches and snarling.  “I am not scared of you, so stop it.”

 

The Doctor shrugged.  “Don’t know it until you’ve tried it for yourself, Brax.” He remarked with a smile as he shifted Rose to his side with his arm hooked around her waist.  “It truly is a remarkable experience to engage in.”

 

“And don’t be comparin’ it to the animals,” Rose added indignantly.  “The animals mate to procreate, the Doctor’n me aren’t anywhere close to wantin’ that just now.”

 

“Well that’s not completely accurate,” the Doctor ventured, to the stunned surprise of Rose, but the amusement of Brax.

 

Rose stilled.  This was a very unexpected revelation.   Did she want to begin to consider anything like that with him?  “A-and just what do you mean, Doctor?”

 

Braxiatel chuckled when the Doctor looked at him with wide eyes at realizing he just may have given a very wrong impression with his correction.  He held up his hands.   “I’m going to let you handle this one, Thete.”  He put his hand out ahead of them in an invitation for them to begin to walk a very overgrown path away from the creek.  “And do it while we walk, please.  I do have other things that I need to attend to today, so if you don’t mind.”

 

The Doctor cleared his throat.

 

Braxietel smirked.  “This will be fun…”

 

Rose looked worried.   Braxiatel’s amusement wasn’t helping her any.  “Doctor, are you sayin’ that you want,,, you know… with me?”

 

“In time, Hearts,” he answered with a kiss at the side of her head.  “But not right now.  You need to agree to marriage, first.”  He gestured toward the wolves, walking very closely together at their side.  “Your comment that the kids mate only for conception is inaccurate.  They do actually mate recreationally in much the same manner as the rest of us do.  Actually, with pretty much the same frequency as we all do.”

 

“Don’t put me in your category,” Braxiatel mumbled.  “Reprehensible activity that it is.”

 

“Again,” the Doctor warned him.  “Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”

 

Braxietel shrugged.  “Well if it isn’t for procreative activities, then you aren’t really experiencing the true wonder of the act.”  He looked at his brother with a smirk.  “And as I don’t yet wish to sire a child, I see no point in wasting my valuable time experiencing it only half way.”

 

“I get wonder enough,” the Doctor groused through a curled lip of both annoyance and reluctance to carry on this conversation.  “Thank you, Brax.”

 

“It could be better.”

 

Rose was officially confused.  She looked up at her curl-lipped lover, then across to his brother who held the opposite emotion on his face.  “I’m not followin’.”

 

“Nothing for you to follow,” the Doctor said softly.  “This painful individual is only trying to get a rise out of you.   Ignore him.  Please.”   He lifted his eyes to the sky.  “Admittedly that is easier said than done.  Rassilon knows I try.”

 

“Who is the Rassilon that you keep referencing?”  Rose asked

 

“A Time Lord,” the Doctor offered with a shrug. 

 

“More than just a Time Lord.” Braxiatel corrected incredulously.  “He was – alongside Omega and the Other, the founder of our society:  The First Time Lord.  The single greatest figure in Gallifreyan History!”  He glared toward his brother.  “How have you not spoken to Rose about him?”

 

“The Doctor shrugged.  “Easy.  The topic’s never come up before now.”

 

“And now that it has,” he admonished indignantly.  “You will.  An I will be more than pleased to correct any mistakes.”

 

The Doctor looked toward his brother.  He held that look a moment, and then turned his head to look at Rose with a glint in his eye and a sly smile on his face.  “Rassilon,” the Doctor began with a wink.  “Revered by some members of society as he greatest of all Time Lords and the one who singlehanded created our rather pompous and arrogant, and quite frankly boring, civilisation.”

 

“Thete,” Brax warned along a breath.

 

“However, those Time Lords with actual brains inside their heads know Rassilon to be a corrupt megalomaniac, who in a fit of jealousy over his popularity amongst my people, tried murdering his best friend Omega in order to steal the Hand of Omega, which he would then use to induce a supernova and give Gallifreyans the ability to travel though time…”

 

Braxiatel interrupted him with a moan of annoyance.  “My brother the conspiracy theorist,” he growled.  “That is not at all accurate to the texts within my collection.”

 

“Well, perhaps if your collection contained factual manuscripts instead of romance novels and pretty little trinkets, you’d have a much clearer image of old Rassilon.”  He huffed.  “If he were ever to be resurrected, Brax, it would lead to the absolute destruction of Gallifrey, and everything her children have achieved.”

 

“Resurrection is impossible,” Braxiatel snarled.  “It’s never been achieved in the entire history of our people.  Rassilon is dead and in his tomb.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “And in the Matrix of the Time Lords,” he added.  “Where he is still wielding his wants and desires upon society.”  He flicked up a finger of warning.  “Don’t you assume for a moment that resurrection isn’t part of his grand scheme of things.”

 

“You talk nonsense,” Brax snarled.  “You speak of fantasy and impossibility.  He wields no power in death.  How can you spread misinformation and rumour in this manner?  You blasphemous fool.”

 

“I just know,” he breathed out cryptically. 

 

Rose watched the exchange between brothers with interest.  When there was a break to interject, she did so with curiosity.  “But you say his name like a deity,” she reminded him.  “As we on Earth use the name of God.”

 

“As a sign of disrespect,” the Doctor answered with a shrug.  “Using his name in vain and all that.”

 

“And yet, the rest of us use it as a mark of respect and wonder toward his gifts to our creation.”

 

“Aaaand on that note,” Rose sang out.  “Let’s end the conversation.  Mum always told me that we should never talk about politics or religion in pleasant company, so let’s not.   Looks like you two might start a war about it.”

 

“Your mother is a smart woman,” the Doctor said with a kiss on her temple.

 

That made Rose chuckle.  “You don’t think so in your future,” she laughed.  “You and her, you fight like cats and dogs.”

 

Now it was Braxiatel’s turn to laugh.  “You’ve met her mother?!”  

 

The Doctor’s eyes flashed wide in horror.  Rose just shrugged.  “Met her plenty of times, actually.   First time they met, she tried the pull on him.  Then later she slapped him …”  She giggled.  “Now she hugs and kisses him.”

 

Braxiatel’s laugh rang out across the grasses.  “That is absolutely brilliant.  The best thing I’ve heard in a long while.”   He wiped at a non existent tear in the corner of his eye.  “Wait until I tell Romana that one!   She will be in hysterics.”

 

The Doctor scowled a moment.  His face then lengthened out into a curious expression.  “Yes, and about Romana.  Do explain to me your relations toward her.”

 

“That would be none of your concern, Thete,” Braxiatel muttered in quickly. 

 

“I do beg to differ.”

 

“I totally ship it,” Rose murmured cheekily under her breath.

 

“I’m sorry, what?” the Doctor asked with high brows.

 

Rose opened her mouth to clarify, but sucked those words deep inside her chest when they broke through the treelines and came across a sight that completely shattered everything inside her chest in that very longing manner one has when presented with sheer beauty.

 

“Oh my God,” she breathed out in awe.

 

Oh my God indeed.   The break in the trees and grasses opened up to a large and perfectly manicured wooded area broken just off centre by a babbling creek whose waters were clear and crystalline.  Those clear waters ran helplessly over blue-lavender coloured stones and pebbles which faded into grey the further they were from the water.  Red grass, clipped low but not short, wove around the edge of the creek spreading out and rushing partway up the white and crimson barked trunks of an orchard of full and vibrant fruit-bearing trees.   The leaves were not as silver as the foliage of the mighty cadonwood trees at the edge of the property, but dark like aluminum, variegated with the crimson tones in the trunk.

 

Rose broke from the Doctor and surged forward to run her hand along the trunk of one tree.  Her exhales were filled with whimpering sighs of astonishment as she lifted her hands up to cradle a bulbous pear-shaped fruit so large that it took both hands to hold it.   She dared not pluck it from the tree, but instead let her thumbs trace along the leather-feel surface.

 

“This is a magnolia,” the Doctor murmured into her ear in English before switching into its Gallifreyan pronounciation.  He waited for her to repeat the word and slid his arms around her from behind.   He slid his hands up along her arms and cupped his hands over hers on the fruit.  “Nothing like the magnolia trees on Earth, of course.  There is no relation between the two.  These are native to Mount Perdition in Southern Gallifrey, but have since expanded their range across all of the forested lands.  Cultivation and farming…”

 

She nestled back against his chest and repeated the Gallifreyan pronunciation for the fruit.

 

“Perfect,” he whispered against her temple.   He then flexed his hands over hers, and plucked the fruit from the tree.  “Perfectly edible, and absolutely delicious.   I used to sneak into the orchards as a loomling and snaffle the ripest fruits.”

 

“Theif,” Brax muttered with amusement. 

 

“Connoisseur,” he corrected with a chuckle.  He still cupped Rose’s hands around the fruit, and squeezed quickly, popping the skin of the fruit and exposing the amber-coloured meat of the fruit inside.  “I can’t describe the flavour to you, Rose.  You’ll have to try it for yourself.  Expect to get messy, it’s as much juice as substance in there.”

 

His arms were still around her and his chest pressed up against her back, and she relaxed into him as she dropped her head forward to taste the fruit.  The texture was quite similar to mango or peach, but the taste was nothing like either.  There would be no way that she could compare the flavour, except to say that it had a stone-fruit quality to it.   The juice was plentiful, as the Doctor had warned, and so she couldn’t help but make a wet sucking sound as she drew it in.

 

“Oh my God, Doctor,” she purred as she lifted her head and savoured this new flavour.  “That’s amazin’.”

 

His arms tightened around her, and he dipped his head to have a taste himself.  He licked his lips and hummed appreciatively.   “It is, isn’t it?”

 

She stepped away from him and grinned, holding the fruit close to her.  “This would be amazin’ in a pie, don’t you think?”

 

He frowned, looked at his brother who wore a similar expression of surprise, and then back to Rose.  “As a whar?  A pie?  You would suggest wrapping it in pastry and cooking it?”

 

Braxiatel shook his head, a look of disgust on his face.  “That would destroy the purity of its favour.”  He flicked his hand.  “You Humans and your need to tamper with what nature provides you with.”  He pointed toward the fruit.  “That’s perfection wrapped in a protective skin, you don’t do anything other than eat it straight from the tree.”

 

She hummed a chuckle.  “Don’t knock it, Brax…”

 

He held up a hand.  “I won’t try it, so don’t bother finishing that thought.”  He gestured toward the north end of the orchard.  “Now if you will follow me.  Your mate has a surprise for his beloved on this, your six month anniversary of … of what was it, Thete?”

 

“I’m still not fully on board with this mate thing,” Rose murmured at the same time that the Doctor answered his brother.

 

“Six month anniversary of our first coupling,” he said with a grin.  “In this timeline, of course.”

 

“Which then makes you – you and Thete – mates, Rose.”  Braxiatel said with a sigh.  “Please do keep up with Gallifreyan mating protocols.”  He gave her a steeled look.  “Mates, mate.  You have mated, so therefore you and my brother – Rassilon help you for your foolish decision to embark on such with a cretin like him – are mates.”

 

Rose rolled her eyes.  “You make it sound so damn business-like and unfeeling.”

 

The Doctor took her sticky juice-stained hand in his.  “Ignore his ignorance, Rose.  No woman would offer her timeline to him to become mates, so he’s bitter.”

 

“Yes,” Braxietel drawled with a roll in his eyes.  “That’s it exactly, Thete.  No respectable Gallifreyan maiden will take this bitter old soul as her mate.   How very observant and clever of you.”

 

“I think Romana has a bit of an eye for you,”  Rose offered.  “And she’s very lovely.”

 

The Doctor snorted.  “Romana’s far too intelligent to be caught up with this one.”

 

“Indeed,” Braxiatel sighed.   He finally led them to the very top of the orchard and toward a small wooden home that looked wrapped in brilliant white and grey trunked trees and rustling silver leaves.  “Here we are.”

 

Rose’s eyes widened at the quaint little home.  Like a fairy tail, this home was deep inside the trees, a small pebbled path leading to the front door with flower beds either side.  Oh, she could have drawn it herself as a child with how very simple it looked on the outside:   A door in the centre flanked by two large square windows with a flower box underneath.  The silver leaves that grew from the top of the trees that seemed to grow around it hung down to give it a thatched look on a roof angled up high into a triangle centre.

 

In a word:  Quaint.   In two words:  Absolutely perfect.

 

“What a gorgeous lil’ home!” she squeaked with a skip in her step.  “Straight out of a Grimm tale.”

 

The Doctor scratched at the back of his head, a furrow in his brow.  “Well.  I don’t know that I’d put it that way.”

 

“No,” Braxietel aid with a nod.  “I completely agree with her.  Hansel and Gretel without the lollies all over it.”

 

“Not the look I was going for,” the Doctor muttered petulantly. 

 

“Well it’s the look you managed to get,” Braxiatel muttered with a rub of his thumb and forefinger on his chin.  “Have to admit, Thete, that for all the things you’re good at, arboriculture isn’t exactly one of them.”

 

Rose twisted her head to look at him.  “What’ya mean?”

 

Braxiatel made a rather facetious effort to present the small home to Rose with all the grandeur of a game show hostess showing off the night’s prize.  “Rose Tyler.   Allow me to introduce you to your brand new home!”

 

Rose dropped the fruit in her hand to the floor and dropped her jaw in disbelief.  “My new what?”

 

“Home,” Braxiatel reiterated.  “Thete considered your current living conditions – on a TARDIS of all things – and determined that your future together here on Gallifrey would be more confortably shared if you had a home of your own.  He arranged for a seeding about six months ago, and with some care, pruning and training of the branch growths of the Cadonwood..”  He pointed to the small cottage once more.  “Voila!  A home worthy of the Brothers Grimm.”  His eyes narrowed at the pair of wolves who were wasting no time at all in sniffing around the property and marking it as their own.  “Appropriate given the new occupants, I suppose.”

 

“A house?”  Rose was shellshocked and speechless.  “But…. But… The TARDIS?”

 

“Oh,” the Doctor cheered as he tugged on her hand and pulled her toward the front door.  “She has her own space to park and recharge.   Surely you didn’t think she’d be left out of this?”

 

“But how is there room?”  she asked with her eyes wide on the small home.  “It doesn’t look big enough to have anything more’n a kitchen and a bed in it.”

 

He belted out a laugh.  “Time Lord technology, Rose.  Please.  How long have you been travelling with me now?”

 

“Bigger on the inside, then?”

 

He nodded and pressed his hand against the door.  “Of course it is.”  He pushed, but the door didn’t budge.

 

“On Gallifrey,” Braxiatel offere condescendingly.  “You need to pull, not push, on the front door of a home.”

 

“Oh,” the Doctor sang out facetiously, with an arch in his back in a excessive gesture.  “I am so very glad for that bit of information, Brax.  Thank you so much.  My next course of action was going to be to lift it from the bottom.”

 

“You are, of course, very welcome, Thete” Braxiatel said with a beaming grin.

 

“Both of you,” Rose huffed with a shake of her head.  “Children.  Absolute children.” With another shake in her head she walked around the Doctor, made an exaggerated effort to pull at the door and then rolled her eyes as she stepped inside the home.    When she did, she gasped again at the bright and airy way the entire home opened up..

 

“Magnificent” was all she could manage.

 

Much like the outside of the home, the inner walls looked to be constructed from trees, all shimmering marbled grey and white tree trunks.   Branches arched and twisted into high fractal ceilings from which orbed lights hung.  Broad windows allowed in full natural lighting that cast rays across comfortable furnishings.   She strode from room to room, gasping in awe, and muttering her amazement at this place.

 

Finally, she returned to the pair of Time Lords that still remained at the front entrance and looked at them with utter confusion as to how and just why?

 

The Doctor read her surprise and grinned.  “So what do you think Rose?  How do you like it?”

 

“This?  This is for me?”

 

“Us,” he corrected gently.  “You and me.  And TARDIS, and the kids, and … well … anyone else that may come along.  In time.  Of course.”

 

She blew out a breath.  Still shellshocked and really not at all knowing what to say, she tucked her hair behind her ear.  “I really wanna joke about how you want me to move in with you an’all, but I just … I just can’t.”

 

He moved toward her, worry beginning to cross his features.  “Rose?   Are you okay?”  He looked around him.  “You don’t like it,” he muttered flatly.  “Too Galifreyan?  I did try for a proper melting pot between our two cultures, rather than a mosaic effect.”

 

“I love it,” she managed weakly. 

 

He visibly relaxed, slumping in place.  “Oh thank Rassilon.  For a moment there, I thought…”  He grinned.  “Oh, but wait until you see… and then there’s this!”

 

He grabbed her hand and excitedly started to show her around.

 

“I really did work hard to put this altogether,” he admitted with a very large helping of self pride.  “And really, it was time for us both.  The TARDIS in indeed a very comfortable home, but it takes considerable effort for her to constantly maintain all of the living systems for us like she has been.  It’s time she had a rest.  And it’s time I finally settled down in a house.  A proper house – with doors, and carpets…”

 

Rose’s expression fell toward sadness.  “A mortgage?” she queried quietly.

 

One side of his face crinkled up into a crease.  “Well, no.  Not exactly.  The land was already owned by the Lungbarrow family, and the house was seeded from…”  he pinched his fingers.  “A tiny little seed.  Like this.”  He spun in place.  “But with some tender care and urging, and accelerated growth hormones from the local nursery, BOOM!  A house!”

 

“With Doors and things,” she repeated quietly.  “And carpets.”

 

“Exactly!”

 

Rose lifted her eyes to his.  “You don’t want this,” she warned him.  “Especially not with me.”

 

The Doctor looked thoroughly perplexed by that.  “Actually, yes.  Yes I do.”

 

She bit her lip and shook her head.  “No.  You don’t.  In your future, you said that having this –”  She held her arms out and spun.  “All this.  No.  That would be terrifying.  You’d rather die than take on something like this…”

 

“Rose…”

 

“The same day you told ‘em that the TARDIS was the only thing you had in the entire universe, literally the only thing.”  She looked at him again.  “I was standin’ right there, Doctor, while you told them I was nothin’.”

 

His expression hardened with annoyance toward his future, which forced her to look away.  His voice remained soft, tender, and caring.  “Rose.  That’s not me, not yet.  Don’t.  Please don’t judge me for something I haven’t even done yet…”

 

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes.  “Thanks.   Thanks for all this, Doctor.  But … I can’t…”   She petted his chest and ran to the front door.  She knocked by Braxietel in her haste to leave.  “Sorry,” she muttered pitifully.

 

The Doctor knew better than to run after her.  Instead, he waved his hands to the wolves to shoo them out after her.  “Protect her,”  he demanded of them as they tore off out the front in a blue of bluish white.

 

“Thete,” Braxiatel breathed out with concern.  “What, exactly, do you become in your future?”

 

“Brax” he breathed out angrily.  “I don’t know … but I damn well want to find out once and for all, just what that regeneration turned me into…”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Braxiatel turned toward his brother with a furious glint in his eye.  “You need to go back to where you found her, Thete.  Go back, see your elder self, and demand to know what game he’s been playing.”  He pulled a small phone from his pocket.  “I’ll have Romana notify the Transduction teams that you will be travelling off-planet.   Go get your TARDIS, I’ll cancel my afternoon appointments and stay with Rose.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes were swirling with anger and frustration.  He stared at the open front door of his home out toward the orchard of Magnolia trees that Rose was so happily enjoying only moments ago.  His voice was quiet.  “I can’t.”

 

“What do you mean, you can’t?” he growled in reply.  “Because two of you in one place will upset timelines and wreak havock?”   He let up a laugh.  “You are Theta Sigma, the Doctor, the Renegade Time Lord who can – and has – done everything.  If there’s one thing I know about you, Brother, it’s that there is no power or rule-set in this universe that will stop you from doing anything.”

 

He nodded toward the open door.  “Except when she’s the one making the rules.”

 

Braxiatel laughed hard at that one.  “You started breaking her rules almost immediately.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  His eyes still on that damn open door.  “Only when she consented, Brax.  Mutual rule breaking on both our parts.”   His eyes finally blinked and he looked toward his brother with pain in his eyes.  “One very specific rule she has that I vowed to her I wouldn’t break was that I would not go forward into my timeline to confront myself.”

 

“Really?” Brax breathed out with doubt.

 

“Yes, Brax.  Really.”

 

“Care to share with me the exact wording of that very specific rule of hers?”

 

The Doctor could hear the hostility in his brother’s voice.  He didn’t mind it.  He mirrored it – for once.  “Why are you asking me that?”

 

“To find the loophole,” he answered fast.  He flicked his hand toward the door.  “To be able to step ahead and address this issue before the reminders of him take you away from you completely.”

 

That surprised the Doctor.  He flashed a look containing that surprise toward his brother.  “You sound like you care just as much about the woman as you do the time lines.”

 

“Tell anyone else and I will vehemently deny any affection toward a Human,” Brax muttered.  “But yes.  This one is definitely special – if only because she brings about a change in you that I never thought possible.”

 

“I’m happy,” the Doctor added to Braxiatel’s remark.  “For the first time since leaving Gallifrey to find what it is I needed to make me whole, I’ve finally found it.”   He lowered his head with a frustrated huff.  “And yet I have to suffer from sins I can’t imagine myself committing in my future…  Not against her.”

 

“And this is why we need you to go ahead to that future and find out exactly what has gone wrong in your head … what else has gone wrong…”  He tried for flippancy.  “You’ve never been quite right in there.”

 

“Malfunction in the loom,” he said with a sigh.  “Incompatibility between Human and Gallifreyan DNA.”

 

“No, Thete,” Brax sighed in an unusually tender brotherly tone.  “Don’t’ talk like that.  You’re just a little different to the rest of us .. more human than Gallifreyan.”  He looked at him.  “Tell anyone I said this and I will end you.”  He inhaled.  “The Human part of you makes you better than all of us.”  He looked back at the door.  “And so does she.”

 

“I just can’t imagine so heartslessly wanting to throw it away like that,” the Doctor breathed out with confusion.  “What in Arcadia happened?”

 

“Go and find out,” Braxiatel urged him.  “I’ll get you your clearance and keep an eye on your beloved.  Just do try and time your return to within only a few minutes.”  He smirked.  “And the one that loved her – pick him up and take him with you too.  Go in with a double-pronged attack.”

 

The Doctor actually considered it for a moment.  He even took a step forward.  Then he stopped, slumped, and let out a moan of utter defeat.  “I can’t, Brax.  As much as I want to – and trust me that want is excruciatingly powerful – I can’t betray her like that.”

 

“Then I’ll go,” Braxiatel offered with a firm nod of decision.  “Give me the coordinates, and let me have a word with him.  I’ll take Leela with me.  She has a few new knives that she’d like to show him.”

 

That actually brought a smile to the Doctor’s face.  “While I do appreciate your concern, Brother.  Let me handle this one.”  He stepped forward.  “I’ll go have a word with Rose, and see if … if…” He exhaled.  “I’ll see just what I can do to salvage what I have with her right now, and in the future.”

 

“The offer still remains, Thete,” Braxiatel offered.  “I can, and I will most certainly make it happen.”

 

The Doctor nodded and waved his hand at him as he walked out the front door.  “Thanks.  I’ll … I’ll let you know.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose didn’t know how far she ran. Calculating distance wasn’t something that was front and centre in her mind.  All she knew is that she ran until she couldn’t anymore, and when she finally fell against a tall and smooth white-barked tree to catch her breath, she realised that she didn’t even know in which direction she’d run.  She turned in place and looked around her, her eyes low and then high, desperately trying to find a landmark that may indicate where she’d ended up.

 

“Oh, crap,” she sighed finally.  Her head fell to hand past her shoulders and she huffed at the ground.  “Got myself in a right mess now, haven’t I?”

 

A large white face with a deep blue nose and charcoal black eyes moved curiously into her field of vision.  Crouched on the floor and maintaining eye contact with her mistress, the female Dahrama let out a huff of concern.

 

Rose dropped her hand to scratch at the wolf’s head.  “I’m okay, Sweetheart.  Really.”  She kept her hand on the wolf’s head and lifted her own to survey the trees ahead of her.  “He’ll find us,” she assured her.  “I promise you.”

 

Of course she knew that her pair of Dahramas were in no way concerned for their own safety and wellbeing.  The pair were wild animals, they’d be perfectly fine out in this wilderness … which was breathtakingly stunning to her, even despite her panic and exhaustion.  No, her pair of animals that she and the Doctor referred to lovingly as “the Kids” would be far more concerned for her safety than for theirs.   She knew she was safe. 

 

She looked down into the still concerned gaze of the female.  “While we wait for daddy to find us, let’s explore, shall we?”

 

That seemed to satisfy the young female.  She huffed and then stepped off to the side to flank Rose on her left, while her mate flanked protectively on the right.

 

The only walked a further minute or so before the treeline ended and the landscape opened up ahead of them.  Once again Rose’s breath was caught at the beauty of the land around her.  Mountains rose high from the ground ahead, snow capped and a majestic shade of red and orange.  Between the mountains and her lay a wide creek and Cadonwood forest.  The twin suns, both peeking through the split between the mountains sent visible rays of light so bright that when it hit the silver leaves of the trees, it looked as though it was ablaze with fire.

 

Her hands lifted to cover her gasping mouth as a distant cry of a Dahrama howled a cry marking its territory.  Beside her the male wolf howled in reply, a warning that the lands this side of the creek belonged to them.  The female quickly followed, and within only a moment a chorus of wolves howled their soulful song across the forest.

 

The male started to pet his feet on the grass, eager and urgently wanting to find a higher point to sing.  Rose looked down at him and encouraged him with a nod and a wave of her hand.  “Go,” she said to it.  “Go be what you need to be.  I’ll be safe, right here.”

 

The two animals looked up at her, looked down to each other, wanting to run, but unwilling to leave their mistress alone.

 

“It’s okay,” the Doctor’s voice crooned in quietly from behind them all.  “I’m here.  I’ll keep her safe.”

 

The Wolves both offered him a grateful hunch, and then launched off into the forest.  Rose watched their excited scarper with a smile on her face.  “Between theirs and your overprotectiveness, I’m beginning to wonder just how much of a damsel in distress you all think I am.”

 

“We just want to make sure you’re safe,” he replied quietly on a voice fairly devoid of any emotion as he stepped up beside her.  His eyes were locked to the distance, his hands buried deep inside his trouser pockets, and he made no move to remove them and try and take her hand like he normally would.  “This is our world, remember.  We know it better than anyone.  What’s dangerous, what’s safe…”

 

Rose looked down at the bulge in his packet that was his balled hand.  She let her eyes trail up to the seat of his jaw: Taut, grinding, no sign of a smile at all.  His eyes were half-lidded and focused ahead, the colour less dusty and more pale than normal.

 

“You’re mad,” she deduced out loud.

 

“I am,” he confirmed without looking at her.  “Furious might be a more accurate descriptor, of course.”

 

She felt that inside her chest and immediately her face creased in regret.  “I’m sorry, Doctor,” she pleaded.  “I know you probably worked really hard to get that house ready.  And I love it.  I really really love it.  I know I seem ungrateful, and I’m sorry about that.”

 

“I’m not mad at you,” he clarified on a gentle tone.  Still his eyes were focused ahead of him.  The hand inside his pocket shifted, relaxed, and then withdrew, finally seeking out her hand to hold.  “Never at you.”

 

She noticeably relaxed when his hand clutched firmly at hers and she felt the rush of assurance shoot from her head to her toes, as it always did when he was near.  She squeezed his hand.  “What who’re you mad at?  Brax?”  She looked at a tall Cadonwood tree and gasped as the head of her male Dahrama popped up out of the top and lifted to the sky in a howl.  “Oh, my.”

 

“They like to climb,” the Doctor lectured with a small and barely noticeable smile.  “Like your cats back on earth, the Dahrama have retractable and very sharp claws.  They use them to hunt, to fight, and then to climb trees.”  He swallowed.  “It’s important to know where a Dahrama’s territory exists when you intend on hiking through the Gallifreyan forests.  The like to surprise larger pray by hunting from above, and many a traveller has found himself attacked from above…”

 

“Doctor,” Rose interrupted. 

 

He finally looked down at her.  “Yes?”

 

“You didn’t answer my question.”   She paused at his still rather annoyed expression, but lifted her hand to stroke at his jaw, still tight and locked.  “If it’s not me, then tell me.  Why are you so mad?  How can I help?”

 

His head moved just slightly, enough to press a very quick kiss against the very tip of her thumb.  His voice fell to a more tender timbre, but still held considerable annoyance.  “I’m mad at me,” he clarified.

 

That confused her a little.  “Mad at you?  Why would you be mad at you?”  Her eyes widened.  “About the house, Doctor?”  She shook her head and turned fully toward him.  There was desperation and pleasing in her eyes as she looked up at him via hic chest.  “It’s beautiful, and I love it…”

 

“But it reminds you of me,” he said flatly.  “A future me who haunts the both of us.  You because of the pain he’s caused you, and me because he exists in a future that I can’t ever imagine allowing to happen.”

 

She slumped and petted his chest before moving to once again stand at his side instead of in front of him.  “Does this mean you want to send me away?  Back home?  Back to him?”

 

That made his breath hitch and his hearts hurt.  The hand still holding hers tightened to almost unbearable.  “Is that what you want?”

 

She felt a shudder.  “If I said yes, would you?”

 

His voice, his breath, was shaking.  “I don’t want you to go,” he admitted.  “It breaks both of my hearts to even consider it, but if that’s what you want, Rose.  I’ll do it.  For you.”

 

“Do you love me?”  she asked softly, a waver in her voice.

 

“I do, Rose,” he answered quickly.  “With both of my currently very terrified hearts.”

 

She turned to look up at him again.  “Can you say it to me?  Can you put that love into words and actually speak them?”

 

He turned toward her, and once again they were face to face.  He brought up both hands to cup her cheeks and spoke with tender honesty, first in his native Gallifreyan, and then switching to English.  “My hearts beat for you, Rose.”

 

She did smile at that, perfectly understanding that it was the Gallifreyan-English translation of a vow of love. Spoken by his people.   And she’d normally be very happy with just that.  For this, though, she needed to hear the phrase as it was spoken by the people on Earth … at least spoken by anyone that wasn’t a pin-striped Time Lord.

 

“Tell me you love me, Doctor.  In my language.  In my phrasing.”

 

He lowered his mouth to hers and whispered across her lips.  “I love you, Rose.  I love you in this time and for all the time ahead of us.”  He pressed his lips gently to hers for a short graze; just enough to very appropriately accent his vow.

 

Rose smiled and set her hands on his chest.  She lightly pressed away from him, letting her hands rise to take his hands from her face and hold them in between them.  She dropped her eyes down to their hands.

 

“In your future, you can’t say that to me,” she said without looking.  “At least not in a language I can understand.”  She drew her thumbs against his knuckles, thankful that he was remaining silent to allow her to finish.  “You try on occasion, I’ll give you that.  There’s always an attempt before you simply stop, shrug, and assume that I already know.”   She lifted her heat to finally look into his sad, blue eyes.  “Which I really don’t any more – at least not from him.”

 

“Tell me,’ he urged her gently.  “Let me understand what happens to me … to us … in times ahead.”  He exhaled.  “I can’t begin to imagine just what would take me from where I am now, to where I am when you met me, saved me, loved me … to the man who ultimately let you down.”

 

She stepped forward into his chest and turned her head to one side.   Looking across to the distance and to her two wolves still howling toward their fellow dahramas.  “When I was younger and more stupid than I am now, I fell in love.  He was older than me.  A bad boy.  A renegade and rebel.  Someone who on the very first day I met him promised me thrill and excitement.”  She shuddered with remembrance of the exhilaration of young love.

 

“I was so taken by him, Doctor.  So unbelievably entranced and enchanted by everything he had to offer and every promise that he made that I gave up everything to follow him.  I left school.  I left my mum.  I left my friends.  I threw everything to one side, took his hand, and I ran.”

 

She released his hands and stepped away from him.  She wrapped her arms around her chest and held herself tightly as she walked to a large bounder by the creek and sat down against it.  With her feet firmly on the ground, her legs only slightly bent to support her, she held herself and leaned down toward her knees to exhale a very long and tired breath.  “But new love.  It’s got an expiry date on it.  ‘Specially when you’re only 16 and don’t know any better.”

 

The Doctor hadn’t moved from the position in which she left him.  He still remained standing to one side, twisted to be able to look at her, and several long feet away from being able to offer her any physical comfort.  He took in her words and let them curl around his hearts, but he said nothing.  He just looked at her with soulfully sad blue eyes.

 

She remained in a lean down over her knees.  Still held onto herself.  She lifted her head, though, to look across the landscape, hoping that the marvel of the land would give her the strength to continue.  “Bein’ taken for granted hurts, Doctor.  Givin’ your heart to someone who only wants to hold it when they’re looking to get a bit of sex relief, or when they want dinner, or help payin’ the bills, well that’s one thing.  A heck of a lot of us do it, you know.  We don’t even think about it until one day when you’re in your 50’s, you roll over, look at your husband and think – what the hell was I thinkin”?”

 

“An’ I wish that’s all that it was with him,” she continued.  “But it wasn’t, you know.  I let him walk all over me.  Didn’t just lay down when he wanted it, help pay his bills’n all, but I also turned the blind eye to him playin’ about with other girls.”

 

His eyes flashed angrily at that, but he still remained in place and quiet.

 

“I still stayed around when he raised hands to me, made me feel worthless, and …”

 

The Doctor rushed forward at that.  “He did what to you?”   There was absolute fury in his glare as he moved around the rock and fell to a knee on the ground in between her parted knees.  “I vow to you, Rose, my solem oath, is that I will never, ever, do that to you.  Something must have gone so sensationally wrong during my regeneration to become a man like that.  Let me go to him, in my future.  Despite wanting to, I won’t kill, harm, or maim myself.  But please lift your rule of me speaking to my future. Let me reason with me, find out just what…”

 

“You think I’m describing you?” she interrupted curiously.  Her eyes wide on his.  “I’m really  not, but I can see how it would appear that way.”

 

A look of confusion crossed his beautiful face.  He didn’t rise from his knee, but he shuffled just a small bit forward to move closer.  “I really don’t understand.”

 

“His name was Jimmy Stone,.  Human, ” Rose clarified with a rueful smile of regret.  “And he was your very typical band member bad boy.  All greasy, unwashed, rebellious, and … to 16 year old me, the most gorgeous man alive.”  She still held herself, still leaned over her knees, but no longer kept her eyes on him.  Instead she peered back off into the distance ahead.  “So when he offered to take me with him – his little groupie girlfriend – I did it.  No thought for anyone else and anythin’.  I just went.”   She exhaled.  “Didn’t take long for it to all go south, though.  And I thought, you know, I really believed that he loved me like I thought I loved him.  And I figured that it’d all get better soon.  Everyone has a rough patch in a relationship, right?”

 

He looked up at her, argument on that dancing in his eyes, but he remained quiet.

 

“Things had to get pretty bad before I finally had to leave,” she admitted.  “He had countless flings with loose women, there was drug use and abuse,  him tryin’ to offer me out to his friends hopin for me to make money for him.”  She held herself tighter and shuddered.  “And then the beatin’ when I woudn’t do it.”   Her eyes snatched toward him when he growled.  “But Doctor I got out.  On my own.  Perfectly intact … well, for the most part anyway.  Don’t be thinking I got involved in all that, hroguh.  I don’t do drugs, and don’t lay around.”

 

“I would never,” he huffed.

 

“An’ I got out fairly good,” she said with a smile.  “Went back to mum, got myself a job, got him completely out of my hair.”   She looked at him sadly.  “And I promised myself that I’d never let that happen to me again.  Because, I’m worth somethin’,” she declared proudly.  “I’m not some meaningless lil’ twit.  I’m smart, I’m capable…”

 

“Brilliant,” he added with a smile.  “Wonderful.  Brave…”

 

Rose smiled at that and finally loosened her hold of herself, but only enough to flick at his shoulder with her fingertip.  “I made a vow to myself that if a man ever treated me less than perfect, then I’d leave.  Didn’t matter how much I loved him, I’m worth more’n that.”

 

He rose on his knees and lifted his arms to circle her hips on the boulder surface.  “Indeed you are, Rose.  If he’s not offering you the moon, stars, and his entire universe, then he’s not worth your love.”   He smiled somewhat cheekily.  “And so we are clear on that, I offer you that and so much more.” 

 

Rose finally completely released her hold on herself.  She wrapped her arms around his head, cradling the back with her fingers.  Although his head was on her belly, she leaned down as har as she could to rest her forehead on the top of his head.

 

“I know you do, Doctor,” she answered into his hair.  “You offer me that’n so much more.  And so did my Doctor in leather.”  She huffed.  “But the you who followed couldn’t.”

 

She lifted up from his head.  Her arms still cradled that soft mop of chestnut curls against her belly, but she looked up and out into the distance.  “He couldn’t offer me that in half, even.  Couldn’t even keep tellin’ me that he loved me.  But I did, I really did.  Loved him that is.”  She shuddered.  “And then I broke my promise to myself and stayed.  I stayed hopin he’d come back to his senses and that everything would go back to what it was before the Daleks and his regeneration.”

 

He cursed that word on a low breath.  “It’s always those damn Daleks.”

 

“So it was Jimmy all over again,” she sighed.  “Of course no drugs and hittin’ me or anythin’ like that.  But the being taken for granted and watchin’ as he made out with other girls…”

 

He lifted his head.  Still cradled in her hands, he peeked though her arms with eyes so pleading and soft.  “Let me see,” He pleaded.  “Just one time, let me inside your head to see?  Let me see if there is any way at all to salvage what you had.”

 

She looked down and shook her head at him.  “I can’t.”  She hiccupped.  “I won’t let you.”

 

“So does this mean that we’re done?  I mean you and I, and everything we were building here?”  His voice shuddered and he felt that familiar fluttering in his belly that indicated a pivotal moment in the movement toward the fixed point.   Whatever was happening here was a crucial moment, and it was beginning to terrify him.  “If this where you ask me to take you home?”

 

“Do you love me, Doctor?” she asked by way of replying to his question.  “And I don’t mean a fleeting kind’ve love where you’ll be done with me soon, I mean love that’ll last lifetimes.”

 

“I…”

 

She closed her forearms around his head t hold him tighter and lowered her gaze to his.  “Can you see the two of us together forever, building a life together?”

 

His voice was a whisper.  “I thought that’s what I was doing, Rose.”

 

“Will you let me live the rest of my life here, on Gallifrey, with you?”  She inhaled a shaking breath, held it and then spoke softly.  “In for a penny, in for a pound.  Doctor, I want to know that you’re in this for the long haul; that you’re not going to get itchy feet in a year or two and want of take off again to flirt across all time and space.”

 

“Are you saying that you never want to return to me, in the future, I mean?”  He blew out a breath.  “You’re willing to let me think that you died on Crandinia, break my hearts and leave me all alone?”

 

“Like you broke my tender and very singular one?” she retorted with accusation in her tone.   “You left me, Doctor, without a care or concern, on a space ship 5,000 years in my future.  Abandoned me’n Mickey and even the TARDIS, so you could go play about with madame de-bloody-pompadour.”

 

He shook his head.  “I did what?  With Who?”

 

“That really was the beginnin’ of the end right there,” Rose admitted.  “I mean all of the thoughlessness I thought I could ignore, but that adventure, Doctor.”  She winced.  “You were a completely different person than ever.  I could barely recognise you.  You were mean, you were arrogant, self serving.  You nearly let me get cut up for spare parts because you wanted to invent banana daquiris at the French Court….”

 

“This really doesn’t sound good.”

 

“But when you jumped through that mirror and left us all alone so you could be with her, God that hurt.  Then to have you come back, didn’t care how scared me and Mick’s were. And then you flippantly tell us to hang about another five and a half hours so you could go back b’cause you wanted to invite your new lover on board….”

 

She wiped at her eye with her wrist, and then her nose with the back of her hand.  “She was dead when you went back for her.  You timed your jump wrong and she was already gone.   I’ve never seen you so devastated.”  She inhaled deeply.  “I knew we were definitely over, but I really didn’t want to admit it.”

 

“Oh my hearts,” he breathed sadly.  “What kind of cad did I become?”

 

She sniffed and said straight up, although still held his head protectively.  “So that said, I think turnabout might be fair play, yeah?  Sometimes, Doctor, we need to lose that we have to appreciate what we had.  Maybe it’ll make you a better person for the next one who comes along.” 

 

“You’re giving me a very grim future to look toward, Rose,” he breathed out, not quite wanting to voice the extreme desire to head into his future and punch his elder self in the face, although the feeling was quite overwhelming at present..  “And yet, I’m finding that I really don’t care about that all too much.  I have you here, now, holding your heart out to me.  I want to take it.”  He drew his thumbs up along her thighs.  “I want to give you everything you want.  A home, marriage ,,, and I will vow to you that I’ll even get these things working right,”  he gestured down into his lap with a tilt of his head.  “And give you children…”

 

She chuckled.  “How about we get married first?” she asked with a kiss against the top of his head.

 

“Is that something you’d be interested in?”  There was a glimmer in his eyes and hope in his tone.  “A life here, with me, for the rest of your life on Gallifrey?”

 

“I only wish it could be the rest of yours as well.”

 

He smiled a sad smile.  “My future proves that it isn’t the case, Rose, and without that future, then I wouldn’t have you here with me now, contemplating our future.”

 

“I guess I have something to thank your future you for then, don’t I?”  She lightly pushed his head back from her belly, and slid down the rock face to settle herself on his thighs, one leg either side.  Her arms shifted to circle his neck and she exhaled a relieved breath when his arms immediately moved to encircle her back.  “If he wasn’t such an inconsiderate and selfish git, I wouldn’t have run.”

 

“And you wouldn’t be here with me now, offering me the one adventure I’ve never had.”

 

She dropped her head to run her lips against his and rode slightly higher up on his lap to bring them toward a much more intimate closeness.  “Ask me,’ she breathed softly, shifting herself on his lip and tempting him to rise to her.  “In the voice of your people.  Ask me again,” she let Gallifreyan syllables fall from her lips, sighing and whimpering when his arms snapped around her waist to pull her up hard against his rapidly hardening length.

 

“That’s my name,” he breathed out with a hiss at the shot of pleasure that exploded from where she was pressing against him.  “How did you… Who taught you that?”

 

“Not a person I want to bring up when we’re like this,’ she answered with a rock of her hips and a sigh of the name he gave himself.  “I also know how to answer you,” she explained.  “Just ask me.”

 

There was temptation to push up her dress, pull down his pants, and simply thrust upward.  A single stroke would have him buried deeply inside her, and together they could drive away each other’s insecurities and fears – forge a newer and stronger bond than anyone else before them on Gallifrey. And, by Rassilon, it was the perfect setting for such a thing.   No, actually it wasn’t.  Not perfect.  Almost perfect.

 

True perfection would be in the new home that they’d build together.  In the bed that sat in the middle of the large bedroom he’d spent hours creating just for her …

 

He held her tightly against him and lifted from his knees and up onto his feet.  He made sure to have bth her legs remain around his hips as he drew one arm across her back and let the other hold her tightly up against him.  With one short howl directed toward his still frolicking Dahrama wolves to let them know they were leaving, he began the relatively short walk back to the house.

 

Each step rocked her against his length, and with each sigh, gasp, and whimper of his name, and the arching of her back with desire, he knew it would be near impossible for her to make it back home before shattering and succumbing to the pleasure he was inadvertently offering her.

 

The cottage was in sight, as was Braxiatel waiting anxiously at his door…

 

…Unfortunate, that.

 

But she was whispering in his ear, asking him to ask her for her forever, rubbing along the swollen length, and close to faltering and shattering completely.   He finally found himself having to jostle his hold on her just slightly, to try and take some pressure off them both and save some small sliver of dignity around his brother.

 

She gave a nip at his ear, and he was done for.

 

Desperate words of longing and desire in an ancient language exploded from his mouth.  Propriety be damned as he uttered the proposal that was only ever meant to be shared between two in privacy.  Rose waisted no time at all in replying in Gallifreyan tongue with a drip and curl on the words that had his entire body shudder.

 

Braxiatel’s eyes widened when he saw their approach, and his mouth gaped upon hearing their words.  That look of shock quickly melted into an expression more appropriate for a conversation between brothers.

“Thete,” he muttered by way of greeting as the Doctor walked past and into the doorway.

 

“Brax,” came the clipped acknowledgement only a second before the door was kicked shut behind him.

 

There was a smile on Braxiatel’s face as he looked toward the closed door.  “Congratulations, my Brother.  I wish you and your new wife as much happiness as me and mine have found.”

 

A loud, almost anguished, but obviously pleasured male howl emanated out of the windows of the home, and Braxiatel’s expression of pride toward his brother fell into one of confusion.  The two wolves were outside with him and so the only people that could have….

 

His eyes widened and his mouth contorted into a frown of disgust.  “Rassilon, Thete, really?”  He shuddered, retched, and whipped a small transport watch from his coat pocket.  Before he could hear another of those disgusting sounds he twisted a dial to disappear and head back to Arcadia.

 

Before fully dematerialising, however, that look of disgust did shift to a smile of happiness for the one member of his family he’d thought would never find it.

Chapter Text

The howling and destructive winds of Crandinia’s nightly storm had finally ebbed off into deathly calm.  For the third day of the fourth week in a row, the Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS and into the darkened night to continue to look for the companion he’d lost.

 

Rose.   Oh, his wonderful and beloved precious girl.  She was out here somewhere, she simply had to be…. And Rassilon above, please let him find her.

 

He couldn’t hold out hope for her survival any longer.  He’d given up on that after the first week of searching for her.   Home after home he’d searched in desperate hope that somehow – just somehow – she’d been rescued from the storm she’d fled into on the night they landed on this blasted planet.  Unofrtunately that wasn’t to be.  Stalking the local health centres and hospitals yielded nothing at all.  She wasn’t found by any search party – and he’d organized several of them.

 

But he refused to leave without her.  Even dead with no hope at all of resurrection, even with the help of the Priestesses of Karn, he had to find her and return her to Earth.

 

His “marriage” had ended as abruptly as it had begun, which did hamper his search efforts on that first day.  Rose taking off into the storm had fired something absolutely primal within him, and he’d completely lost it upon everyone in the house.    Aggression was severely frowned upon by all on Crandinia – a very peaceful planet – and so an annulment was immediately filed.

 

The whole thing was a pathetic joke to begin with.   One he had been looking forward to laughing about with Rose when they fled to the safety of the TARDIS after the storm.   Okay, he hadn’t been expecting the whole consummation of the vows and pledge to sire a child during that first joining.    That had blindsided him completely.  And really.  Just when did they change the laws of the land to indicate a smile and wave of greeting constituted a legally binding proposition toward an unwed Crandinian female in the first place?

 

It didn’t help that the female in question had only held him to the marriage because she absolutely did not want to marry the son of a neighbouring nation in order to secure a binding treaty that would open up their trading borders.

 

Fortunately, during the times that the storm rolled in, the Doctor was able to negotiate a very respectful and mutually beneficial treaty between nations.  Really, Rose would have been proud of him. 

 

Rose.

 

..Rassilon.   Where was she?

 

He was getting close to overstaying his welcome here on Crandinia.  The locals were very swiftly finding his endless searching and questioning as to the whereabouts of Rose Tyler very tiresome.   He was quite sure that they’d ignore their planet’s non-aggressive protocols and form a group to throw him in the TARDIS and order him gone.

 

But not without her,  He couldn’t.

 

He clutched at his hair with both fists as he searched the arid lands around the original landing site for the TARDIS and walked around in great circles, calling out her name.

 

She had been so upset when she’d fled.  So very upset and angry.   Part of him – well, that is to say most of him – agreed with her anger and upset.

 

It was all he could seem to do to her over the months leading toward her disappearance.   He didn’t know why this was happening to him; why he pushed and pulled and did everything he could to break her heart. 

 

And by Rassilon’s wrath why would he even want to break it?  His hearts beat for that precious pink and yellow human of his.  They had beat for her almost immediately after meeting back in his last incarnation, they still beat for her just as strongly – if not more – for her now.

 

She was his anchor and his rock.  She taught him to live and to love again when he though he was unworthy of both.   How was he going to continue on without her?

 

He lifted his head and called out tearfully to her.  He called again.  Again.  And yet again; so much so that his throat began to ache and his voice was becoming hoarse.

 

What was happening to him that he was acting out in the opposite manner than he should; than he wanted to?  Why was he incapable of expressing his love for her as he had done so easily before now.   The word was always there, right there on the tip of his tongue, but when it came to expressing it, saying it out loud, wanting to live it as passionately as he had done before his regeneration, the word fell away?

 

He lifted his head to the sky and called out to her again.  “Rose Tyler.  I …”  he stumbled.  “Rose.  I L…”  he dropped his head.  Even without her being near and able to hear him, he was still physically unable to say it.

 

Why was it so impossible to say it; when it was so very very true?   What force was holding him back from taking everything she wanted to offer, and giving her everything in return?    Why was he pushing when all he wanted to do was pull? 

 

…Why was he such an incredible twat?

 

If Braxiatel was still alive – and Rassilon he missed that fool – then he’d have a gilded page notarized by council explaining exactly why he was a twat.

 

He called out to her again, urging her to shout or scream or anything to let him know she was okay.

 

Please, Rose…

 

A splash of purple on a dusty ochre rock captured the Doctor’s attention.  With a fast striding run, his heavy coat tails flaring behind him, the Doctor descended upon it.  His eyes were wide, his teeth grit tightly together as he plunged his hand into the week’s old dumping of dust and rocks, to pull up a thin purple cardigan made of a fabric that was Earth made, and definitely not native to this planet.

 

His hands shook violently as he lifted the torn and bloody garment to his nose and he drew in a deep breath.   Lavender and Vanilla.  That was Rose’s favourite deodorant, and one that he made very special trips back to Earth in order to procure it for her when she got low.

 

He traced the tip of his tongue along a thin streak of blood and snapped it quickly back into his mouth to analyse and swallow.  The taste of her, her very essence, filled his mouth and his awareness immediately.   She had been here, at this very point, likely during the highest point of the storm.    He looked around him in hope that there was a structure, anything, anywhere that she could have run to seek shelter from.

 

His hearts sank.

 

Nothing.   Nothing for at least a mile.

 

He held the fabric to his face and broke.   Great gulping sobs wracked the Time Lord’s shoulders and he fell forward onto his elbows, howling forlorn and lost and not knowing how he would ever carry through from here.

 

He only had two lives left.  He could easily choose not to regenerate again – here, on the same planet that took her from him.

 

And maybe.  You know what?  Maybe it was time…

 

His TARDIS howled out a warning whine and groan, and for a moment the Doctor ignored her.   He heard her pitch a whine again and snarled over his shoulder in impatience.  “What?”  His jaw fell and his eyes widened when a red headed woman wearing a white wedding dress stepped angrily out of the TARDIS.

 

“Where am I?” she growled threateningly at the landscape before her eyes fell onto him, still kneeling in the dirt, tearstained and barely holding on.  “And who are you?”

 

What?”

 

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The keening, whining metal on metal groan of the relative dimensional stabiliser in materialisation mode called out loudly throughout the deserted street.  Houses built so closely together that they formed a defensive solid brick wall along the road held in much of that sound, which made the TARDIS’ cry echo back and forth., losing strength until it finally dissipated into silence.

 

The creak of a centuries old Gallifreyan brass hinge attached to a faded old wooden blue door squealed out next, followed by a long deep feminine breath.

 

“Were here,” Donna Noble panted out in awe as she stepped onto the street and walked a twisting gait to look around. 

 

“Back in Chiswick, safe and sound,” the Doctor sang out with a beaming smile.  “Just like I promised.”  He firmly slapped the door frame of the TARDIS and let his eyes dance across the faded blue wood.  “Told you, she can survive anything.”

 

Donna adjusted the strap of her now ruined wedding dress and gave him a small smile.  “Yeah.  It’s more than I’ve done.”

 

He stepped out of the doorway with his sonic screwdriver in hand.  He lifted it, did a very quick, but thorough scan and drew out the time to read it.  “Negative for Huon particles,” he stated.  “No damage done.  Perfectly fine.”

 

Her returning smile was tender, honest, but very sad.    “Yeah, but apart from that, I missed my wedding, lost my job, and became a widow on the same day.  Well.  Sort of”

 

The Doctor’s wide smile fell, as did his shoulders.  “I couldn’t save him,” he admitted with enough apology in his tone that it didn’t need to be said.

 

She shrugged and shook her head, battling to show nonchalance even though her heart was breaking.  “He deserved it,” she spit out petulantly.  Her petulance fell and her face creased with regret.  “No. No, he didn’t.”   She tipped her ear to her home.  “I guess I’d better get inside.  They’’’ be worried.”

 

His eyes flicked up to the window.  Inside he could see Donna’s mother and grandfather dancing an untrained waltz.  There was a young boy with floppy brown hair hanging over green eyes dancing beside them with his own partner in a wide-eyed female toddler.  He danced with excitement and gangly energy, thrilled at the music and the energy of celebration.  The young girl didn’t seem to be dancing with anywhere near the same level of excited dancing as her partner, instead she only seemed to want to twist side to side while sucking repeated draws on a pacifier.

 

The Doctor smiled at a very typical human Christmas tradition.  Last year, he had been part of family celebrations, this year he had nothing at all to celebrate.

 

Best not to dwell on it too much.  He beamed a faux grin and shifted his eyes to hers.   “Best Christmas present they could have.  To have you safe.”  His eyes widened.  “Oh no.  I forgot.  You hate Christmas.”

 

Her brow lifted and she shifted the seat of her shoulders into a shrug of agreement.  “Yes.  I do.”

 

The Doctor offered her a very cheeky smile and stepped back into the doors of his TARDIS.  He leaned back to flip a switch that would absolutely impress her, and stopped short at the sound of a howl along the street.   He quickly stepped out of the ship and looked curiously around them, on guard and ready to defend her if necessary.

 

“Is.  Is that a wolf?”  He stood ahead of her and held a hand back to keep her safely behind him.  “There aren’t supposed to be any wolves in this area.”

 

Donna laughed.  “Ah.  Wouldn’t be too worried about them.”

 

The Doctor spun to look at her, his wide eyes asking for explanation.  “Them?”

 

“Blondie’s dogs,” she answered simply, thumbing over her shoulder to the house next door to hers.  “Well, she says they’re Arctic wolves or something from Canada, but a dog’s a dog.  All look the same to me.  Beautiful pair of animals, but blimey they can get noisy on a full moon.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes pinched into a frown.  “Domesticating wild animals,” he huffed.

 

“The two of them seem happy enough,” she answered with a shrug.  “great around the kids..”

 

“Yours?” he asked curiously, trying to think back to whether or she was a mother had ever been brought up in conversation.

 

“Don’t be daft,” she hit back with a shake in her head.  “I’m prefer givin’ them back than having to keep them – like I do with that pair.   Rose’s couple of youngsters.  Four and Six months old.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes blinked a rapid series of blinks as the name that had been seared into his hearts, yet had been successfully suppressed over the past few hours of excitement, rose up back into his conscience.

 

“Rose?” he half whimpered.

 

“Yeah,” she said with a shrug as she looked toward the home.  “Moved in about a month ago after she lost her husband.  Two kids, two dogs, and no one but her brother Irving and his wife helpin’ out.”  She looked back at the Doctor.  Her smile was stilted.  “Ahh.  Dunno why I’m tellin’ you all that.   Not like you’d be one for neighbourhood gossip.”

 

“No,” he agreed.  But he shook his head and smiled, even waving a hand to assure her that he really didn’t mind.  “It’s important to know who lives around you,” he began.  His eyes lifted as another howl rang out over the roofs above.  “Especially when they own a wolf or two.”

 

“Makes the neighbourhood safe if you ask me,” she said with a shrug.  “So.  You.  Got plans?”

 

He closed his eyes briefly and shook his head slowly.  “Nothing planned really.  I.  I really just want to take a moment.  Think about my friend and …”

 

“When did you lose her?”

 

He swallowed thickly.  “She disappeared a month ago.  I’ve been searching for her ever since.”  One side of his mouth kicked up in a half smile of regret.  “I’d just decided to give up searching when you appeared on my ship.”  He lifted his head to she sky and exhaled a breath.  “Time to move on.  Like I always do.”

 

“Move on,” she repeated sadly.

 

His eyes moved to her.  “And you?  What will you do with yourself now?”

 

A smile finally broke out onto her face.  “Not getting married for starters.”  She watched him shake his head with a tender smile and mouth the word no.  “And I guess.  I guess I’m not going to temp anymore.  I dunno.  Travel, I suppose.  See a bit more of planet Earth.  Walk in the Dust.  Just go out there and do something.”

 

He nodded shortly.   She’d be a good traveller, he decided.  A good fit to join him in the TARDIS and help him to heal his sore and aching hearts.  

 

“Well, you could always…”  he paused.

 

Her smile faltered, but it was still there.  “What?” she asked almost silently.

 

“You could always come with me.”  He strode to the doorway again and looked up to the POLICE CALL sign above the door.  “See all time and space.  Really travel.”  He turned his head to look at her.  “You’ve seen it out there, Donna.”  His eyes pinched in wonder and his voice was thick with emotion.  “It’s beautiful.  You’ll love it.”

 

She shook her head.  “No.”

 

His hearts fell, and so did his chin.  He looked down to the tarmac of the road.  “Okay.”

 

“I can’t,” she added with sincere apology.  “I’ve.  I’ve got people and things to do here.”

 

“That’s fine,” he assured her with false nonchalance. 

 

“No, but really,” she asked, her eyes narrowing and her head tilting with concern. “Everything we did today.  Do you always live your life like that?”

 

Time to lie.  “No.  Not all the time.”

 

“I think you do,” she accused.  “And I couldn’t.  Not like that.  Not all the time.”

 

He opened his mouth to argue.

 

She didn’t let him get a word in.  “And you.  The way you stood there, not caring that she was dyin’.”  Her look of concerned deepened.  “Not carin’ that you could die as well.”

 

He opened his mouth to argue.

 

Again she went on.  “I’ve only known you a day, and I’m already worried about you, and what you’re capable of.  You’re playing a reckless game…”

 

“Donna,” he tried for interruption.

 

“You need to find someone,” she continued.  “To stop you.  And soon, because if you don’t..”

 

“Donna!” he growled finally.  Leaning back in thanks to the heavens and then to that damned howling wolf that wouldn’t let up that she had finally stopped talking.  “I’ll be fine,” he assured her.  I promise.”

“I really don’t know that you are,” she disagreed.   She looked back toward the house, and waved to the smartly dressed man peering out through the living room window.  “But you know what?  Join us for Christmas?  Mum’s already planned for an extended group this year with Blondie and the kids.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes lifted to the window.  He saw Donna’s grandfather Wilfred playing with the two youngsters and shook his head.  “Nah.  Thanks, but Christmas dinner?  Not really my thing.”

 

She slapped gently at his arm.  “Oh don’t be like that.  You told me you did it last year…”

 

“Last year was different,” he countered hoarsely.

 

“She really meant something to you, this friend of yours, didn’t she?”   She watched his sad nod.  “You loved her.”

 

“Still do,” he admitted.  “Always will.”  He thumbed toward the door of the TARDIS.  “Maybe I should head off now.”  His nose screwed up with faux disgust.  “Before you get accosted by the family and I get dragged inside to join you.”

 

“It’s not that bad,” she pressed and held out her hand. “Come on.  I promise you that if you join us, you’ll forget everything else.  And I think you need it.”

 

His soulful and sad eyes fixed on her for a moment, and while he considered appeasing her by agreeing, saying he just needed to shift the TARDIS, but would take off instead, he couldn’t do it.  Not to her.  Donna was someone special, and someone he knew he would grow to care for deeply if given the chance to do so.  

 

But she didn’t want to.

 

“I really have to go,” he said again.  “I’m really sorry, Donna.  But I can’t.  I just can’t. Not yet.  Not so soon after…”

 

“I understand,” she assured him with a nod and a sympathetic smile.  “Will I see you again.”

 

He winked and gave her an honest and thankful smile.  “If I’m lucky.”

 

“Me too,” she breathed.   He moved to walk away and she stopped him with a call of his name.  “Your friend,” she asked him, holding her question until he faced her completely.  She saw immediate sadness and heavy emotion cloud his eyes.  “Your friend you lost.  What was her name?”

 

His voice was thick with emotion and shuddered as he spoke.  “Her name was Rose.”

 

“Don’t ever forget her, Doctor,” she warned him.  “Let that name keep you fighting.”

 

“I will.”  He curled around the door and disappeared.

 

Donna watched with her hand up to shield her eyes like a hat when the TARDIS howled, and then shot up into the sky as a streak of blue and flashing white.

 

A curious, and very surprised voice called to her once the TARDIS had disappeared completely from view.  “Donna?  Are you okay?”

 

Donna’s hand dropped from her eyes and she let out a very defeated huff.  “Rose, hi.”

 

Rose Tyler pulled hair from her eyes and tucked it behind her ear.  She struggled to control a single wolf at the end of a leash tugging incessantly to keep moving.  “What happened?  I thought you’d be off on your honeymoon right now.”  She tugged hard on the leash.  “Tiallu, settle down, please.”  She looked up again.  “Sorry, she’s not used to being without her mate.”

 

“That’s him howling like he’s a pack all on his own?”

 

“I’m sorry,” she whined.  “I can’t walk them both at the same time by myself, but I need to get them out.  Neither of them do well when they’re away from each other.”  She petted the wolf’s head.  “Once Tiallu’s home, he’ll quieten down.  I promise.”  

 

“It’s okay, Rose.  Really.”

 

“But what about you?”  She looked her over.  “You look like you’d had a day.”

 

“Oh, Rose.  You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”

 

Rose smirked.  “Try me.”  She thumbed to the house.  “Need to talk about it?”

 

“I’d really rather not,” she admitted with a huff.  “Not unless I want to be institutionalised.”

 

Rose pursed her lips.  “Well.  Did you want to get drunk then? Brax brought some Scantifum from his estate.  He’s offered to look after the kids for a few hours, and I’ve baked a fresh magnolia fruit pie.”  Her smile brightened and she held out her hand.  “What’dya think?”

 

“Scantifum?” Donna queried with a smirk.

 

“Special reserve, half a century aged at Mount Peridition.”

 

Donna looked down at herself.  “Got some slouch for me to wear?  I don't feel like wearing this much longer.”

 

Rose gave her a wink and started to walk toward her home.  “For you, Donna.  Always…”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Bright orange sunlight filled the open kitchen and dining room.  The song of birds filtered in through an open window, tinkling off a silver windchime and dancing off the walls.   The smell of freshly brewed coffee and a freshly baked pie finished off the symphony of a mid-morning Gallifreyan day.

 

Rose Tyler gently set the hot pie dish on a small black grill in the middle of the breakfast counter, smiling at the intricate vine and berry pastry design that lay across its top.  Perfectly golden and surrounded by bubbling orange Magnolia juices, it was a masterpiece – even if she had to say so herself.  She pulled off her soft pink oven mitts and set them down palm to palm on the white and silver marbled countertop.

 

This should be a perfect little pickmeup for the Doctor, who had over the last several months become just that:  An actual medical practitioner!  Oh her mum would be so proud…She’d be on the phone to Bev in a heartbeat to brag about how her lil’ Rose just bagged herself a doctor.   A surgeon, even!

 

Of course here on Gallifrey, that occupation came with far less stature and respect than it did back on Earth.   But heading up hospital at Arcadia, oh he was happy, that was all that mattered.

 

“Perfect,” she purred with self congratulations as she untied the back of her horribly frilly pink apron and let it slip off her shoulders.

 

“Yes,” a sleepy voice gravelled out hoarsely from the doorway.  “Yes, you are.”

 

She lifted her eyes from her masterpiece toward the owner of that voice and let out a chuckle as she crumpled up the apron into a long fold of fabric and threw it over the back of a stool.   “And the mighty distinguished Lord of Time finally wakes.”  She chuckled and leaned her hands into the table top to continue to admire him from afar.  “Looking far less distinguished and regal than the title would suggest.”

 

Messy, shirtless, sweaty, and wearing a pair of loose pyjama pants that were skewed to the point of discomfort, he couldn’t exactly disagree with her.  He let one side of his mouth lift into a smirk and sniffed in deeply as he dropped his hands to adjust the seat of his trousers.   He scratched at his chest and padded on bare feet toward the counter.  “That was a very long thirty six hours,” he groaned out pitifully.

 

She put on a sympathetic expression and held up a mug of steaming black coffee.  “My poor baby,” she purred out.  “Coffee will make it all better.”

 

He didn’t reach for the proffered beverage.  Instead, he walked around the counter and slid smoothly up behind her.  He ran his hands from her thighs to her hips, and with a flick of his grasp managed to turn her to face him.  He growled against her neck and grabbed hungrily at her rear.

 

He hummed.  “I know what would work better than coffee,” he snarled out as he sought her mouth with his. 

 

“Morning breath,” Rose peeped out with a squeak and a laugh as she struggled away from him.  She continued to laugh at his defeated groan and slouch as she walked to the other side of the counter.  “You’re in no condition for game play right now.  You need some rest.”

 

“Not without my Human blanket,” he corrected with a pout of his bottom lip.  He held out his hand.  “Come back to bed with me, Rose.  I haven’t seen you in nearly two days, and I really need to snuggle and remind myself why I’m alive.”

 

“You,” she challenged with a point of her finger.  “Don’t intend on sleepin’.”

 

“Not if I can help it,” he answered with a shrug.  He offered her the most boyish, desperate expression.  “I need you, Rose.  I need my wife.”  He exhaled a sad breath.  “Last night was tough, and I just need you.”

 

Sadness creased her face.  “I take it it didn’t go well?”

 

He pressed his hands into the counter, lowered his head into his shoulders and let out a long sigh.  “Unfortunately, no.  Not at all.”

 

“I’m sorry,” she offered sympathetically.  “You had such positive hopes.”

 

“Positive medical outcomes aren’t always a definite thing,” he admitted.  “When a Time Lord is on his 13th incarnation, it makes it so much more difficult to have a successful outcome.”  He lifted his head.  “Residual regenerative energies interfere negatively with any life-saving efforts, there was nothing I could do.”

 

She walked around the counter and slid her arms around his waist.  She pressed her ear into his chest, sighing when his arms came around her gently.  “You did your best, Doctor.  And just remember, for that rare one you lose, you save a hundred others.”

 

His voice fell to a whisper and he rested his chin in her hair.  “That doesn’t make it easier.”  He sighed.  “Especially after such a long surgery.”

 

“Was he a good man?” she asked softly.

 

“He’ll be remembered as such,” he answered.  “As they always are.  Death does tend to erase the indiscretions of their life in the eyes of those left behind.  They’re planning a provincial service for next week.”  He shifted the hold of his arms.  “And have already applied for a looming permit to make up for their lost cousin.  It should be approved by Romana over the next day or so.”

 

“They didn’t waste any time, did they?” she remarked with wide eyes.  “Not takin’ any time to grieve.”

 

He chuckled.  “Grieving a loss in the manner your kind do isn’t commonplace on Gallifrey,” he lectured softly.  “The only thing they might grieve is the loss of a cousin on council.  Their status in society falls.”  He shrugged.  “That is unacceptable amongst most chapterhouses, so they loom a cousin with the most desirable traits for a new council member at an age where they can fast-track academy studies to reclaim their status.”

 

“Chapterhouses and Looming,” she breathed out curiously as she pulled away from him and swiped his coffee from the counter.  She held it to him again.  “Tell me about them?”

 

He sighed when he took the coffee, but took a long draw from the mug and settled with a lean of his hip against the counter.  “It’s a very long history and will take a long time for me to explain it to you and have you fully understand it.”

 

“If you dare think of adding that you don’t have enough crayons…”

 

He bellowed out a laugh.  “No, darling.  I have far more awe and respect for your rather high level of intelligence thank you think I do.”

 

“Wish my teachers at school felt the same,” she came back with a sigh.  “Whole lot of ‘em thought I was brainless.  Mum, too, when I brought home my report cards.”

 

“I happen to find you quite brilliant,” he countered.  “But then again, for someone who only made it through the Academy with a score of 51, well…”

 

“I’m smarter than you, then,” she said with a chuckle.  “My last year, I came through with a 65.”

 

“Well there you are then,” he chuckled, lifting his coffee mug in salute.  “My wife, far more intelligent than me by a whole 13 percent.”  He lowered his voice.  “And you think I’m rather bright, don’t you?”

 

“You have your moments,” she purred cheekily.  Her lips pursed with interest.  “So these looms, that’s how you have babies here on Gallifrey?”

 

“Used to be,” he answered.  “Long story short, several millenia ago, a curse was put upon my people.  Gallifreyans became a barren race.  In order to keep our society alive and continue to grow, Rassilon and the founding Time Lords created looms that were capable of producing offspring.”  He set his mug on the counter and folded his arms across his chest.  “Put simply, they were a progenation device capable of very quickly producing offspring either by a combined DNA set of two parents, or a cloning of just one.  Mostly, they pulled together the more acceptable and preferred genetic strains of multiple donors to create the ideal subject.”

 

She frowned.  “I see.”

 

“The success of the looms, and the almost immediate production of a …a child, I suppose you could say .. led to a birthing boom that required the council members to enact some pretty strict rules on numbers.  Which meant seeking permission.”

 

“How very sterile,” she breathed with wide eyes.   Those wide eyes looked toward him.  “So you and Brax, you were loomed?”

 

He nodded.  “While my mother did wish to conceive and carry as they do on Earth, she was unable to give my father children in the conventional manner.  Both Brax and I were loomed with permission from council.   He was the equivalent of a teenager when he was loomed.  Me, I was a child.”

 

“Not even babies?”

 

He shook his head.  “Not preferable to my people,” he admitted.  “Screaming babies unable to do anything including lifting their own heads for month on end was – as they felt – inconvenience and a rubbish waste of time.  Looming an older offspring meant less sleepless nights.”

 

“That’s horrible!”  she exclaimed, her hands flying to her mouth.  “So you’re saying that you’n me … that we can’t?”

 

His eyes widened.  “Are you saying that you want to?”

 

Her mouth flapped a little as she considered her answer.  Her eyes were wide with indecision.

 

He saved her having to answer by answering hers.  “We can certainly have ours in the traditional fashion,” he said brightly.  “Leela and Andred conceived naturally, and the Gallifreyans living in the outerlands have been procreating that way for quite some time.   The medical community have theorised that the infertility that cursed the Time Lord society was mostly psychosomatic.  Once Leela fell pregnant, more couples followed suit.  Now we have fully staffed midwifery units at the hospital.”

 

“Yet people still intend on looming?”

 

He nodded.  “Best way to produce the perfect offspring,” he said with a shrug.  “Habits do really die hard, and I won’t argue.  Many of the people I find myself having to treat on a daily basis really should have no right to procreate naturally, stuff-headed excrement of woprats.”

 

“It would also mean engaging in the reprehensible act of mating,” Rose teased.  “Such a filthy endeavour.”

 

He grinned.  “And let’s hope that none of them learn otherwise.”  His eyes rolled.  “Lest my planet be inundated with tiny individuals running rampant because their parent believe them to be the angelic sole saviours of society and therefore require no actual discipline. Stars forbid anyone tell them otherwise.”

 

“you’ve just described the people of my planet,” she said with a chuckle.

 

“Despite your people being able to produce the occasional brilliant Humans who will never cease to impress me… I rest my case.”  His eyes fell down to the counter, smirking at her indignant gasp of mock offence.   “What’s this then?”  He queried, his eyes on the pie.

 

“My masterpiece,” she sighed with pride.  “Magnolia a’la Rose Tyler.”

 

“Lungbarrowmas,” he corrected gently.  “At least in the eyes of council.  You might have other ideas on our naming structure.”

 

“Happy to wear your name, Doctor,” she said with a smile.  “Honoured, actually.”  

 

She walked toward the counter and placed her hands either side of the pie dish.  Still warm, but no longer burning hot, she was able to turn it to allow him to see the design she’d so intricately created.  “Romana managed to be able to pick up some supplies from earth for me on her last envoy trip with Brax, and so I thought I’d make pie.”  Her grin was proud.  “What do you think?”

 

The look on his face was one of unease and suspicion.  “It’s very pretty,” he managed.  “What’s in it?”

 

“Magnolia fruit,” she stated eagerly as she walked around to the draws to take out a pie slice and a fork.  “I added a few of my favouite spices from back home, cinnamon, vanilla…”

 

His look of suspicion shifted to one of distaste.  “I can’t imagine that combination is any good.”

 

She cut out a slice and put it on a small place. She picked up a fork and lifted a small mouthful of fruit and pastry.  She held it to him.  “Try it.”

 

“Ahh.  Not really hungry right now,” he muttered as his face shifted back and his face further contorted with distaste.  “Maybe later.  Much.  Much later.”

 

She shook her head.  “It’s better when it’s still warm.”  She held her hand underneath the fork to prevent the morsel of food from falling on the counter and presented it to him again.  “Please, Doctor.  Just a little taste.”

 

“Really, Rose,” he said pitifully.

 

Her face creased into hurt.  “But it’s Magnolia,” she whimpered.  “It’s your favourite.  And I’ve been workin’ on this all morning.”

 

“There are so many better ways for you to spend your time,” he countered.  “Than to murder Gallifrey’s most perfect offering in that manner.”

 

Rose slumped, definitely and undeniably hurt.  “Fine, then.  Don’t.  I.  I’ll eat it all myself.  Just see me try and do anything else special for you.”   She dropped the fork back on the plate and huffed dramatically.

 

Okay.  This was not good.  He had managed to upset her, and that was really not how he wanted this day – his first full day off from the hospital in a month, and the 12-month anniversary of their marriage, to go.  No, they were supposed to be in bed all day, enjoying their partnership and perhaps taking their love outside under the meteor shower this evening in the orchard.

 

He had plans,  That was how he wanted the day to go.

 

Upset Rose meant his plans were to be derailed.  And his job, right now, was to make her not-upset and shower her with adequate affection and make up for being the prat that upset her.   

 

With a deep inhale to draw in strength, he snatched the fork from the plate and shoved the entire bit of pie into his mouth.  He held his breath in an attempt to block his taste, but as soon as the warm juices hit his very taste-sensitive tongue, the flavour exploded to fill his senses completely.   Almost immediately he let out a long moan of unadulterated pleasure.

 

“Oh by Omegal, Rassilon and the Other,” he purred out around his mouthful.  “Rose.  When I’m wrong, I rarely admit it, but right now I’m going to.”  He dug the fork in for another bite.  “This.  This is incredible.”

 

“Yeah right,” she huffed with a curl in her lip.  “Don’t go thinkin’ you’re getting out of it tha’ easily.”

 

“I’m actually serious,” he scoffed with surprise at himself as he forked in another mouthful.  “This is really good.  Better than good.  More like right up there with TARDIS travel in the Vortex and making love with you.”

 

A smile crossed her face at that moment.  She walked toward the counter.  “Sayin’ that its better than sex is a bit much.  But I appreciate you trying.”

 

“I said up there with love making, not that it was better.” He managed with a mouthful.  “Speaking of,” he managed after a swallow.  “You think you might be interested in a little of that later today at some point?”

 

Her brows lifted.  “You want me to add it to your calendar?” she muttered dryly.  “How’s your schedule looking for around 2:00pm?  An hour good enough?”

 

“Very cheeky,” he shot back with a smile.  He looked down at his plate.  “I’m quite serious though, Rose.  This flavour is very unexpected and really quite good.”  He forked in another mouthful, chewed, closed his eyes, and purred.  “My affection for it is rising exponentially.  Really getting up there now.”

 

With a smirk she gave him a wink, and a lick of her plump lower lip.  “So if I told you to put that fork down and get your near naked butt back in bed with me?”

 

The fork stopped partway to his mouth, which was open and ready to receive.  His eyes were wide and had a very caught expression that also showed a decent amount of indecision.

 

“Oh.  My.  God,” Rose breathed out with shock.  “You actually have to think about it?”

 

His eyes were still wide and his lower lip had now begun to search out the fork.   “No,” he sang.

 

“Oh well,” she sighed with facetious upset.  “I guess I’ll just have to lie alone, then.”

 

His wide eyes blinked and his jaw gaped low.  A low chuckle emanated from deep inside his chest as she disappeared into the hallway.  Oh, he was totally in for this game plan.

 

Another bite of the pie first.

 

“Oh, Doctor…!”

 

He swallowed before he’d chewed it thoroughly enough, and he gagged and winced as the too large piece travelled down into his throat.  “Coming!” he croaked out hoarsely.

 

He jogged toward the hallway and then paused.  “Oh sod it,” he muttered as he jogged back to the counter, swiped the rest of his piece of pie and shovelled it into his mouth as he finally followed his wife’s calls to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

There was a curl of annoyance in her lip and a growl in her voice as Rose Tyler shoved wiry branches out of her way on an overgrown pathway in the forest.   Either side of her, two wolves padded with silence, although on occasion there would be a shared gruff and huff between them.  They were on patrol, she knew it; both acting on the orders of her husband to make sure she was safe.  No matter where she was, in the orchard, in the kitchen, at market, in bed … they knew their duty, and they never wavered off that task – because her husband demanded it.

 

Her husband that was supposed to be travelling with them today.  Her husband who had arranged for them all to go out together today.  Her husband who got a call from the hospital and then abruptly cancelled their plans for the day.   Emergency case from the Capitol…

 

She understood.  She really did.  But that didn’t mean that she had to be happy about it. 

 

She felt a bump and kick underneath her ribs and stopped to circle her hands over her swollen belly, heavy with the child of the man she was currently cursing.   She let out a moan of discomfort, and was immediately accosted by the female wolf, huffing and nosing at her bump to ensure all was okay.   She petted the wolf’s head with thanks.

 

“The little one’s okay,” she assured her.  “Just has restless feet like his dad.  He’s running a marathon in there.” 

 

The wolf nosed again to be sure, and finally satisfied, she turned back to resume her walk at Rose’s side.

 

This past couple of months had been without a doubt: very lonely.  A staff shortage at the hospital, and a gastric epidemic from the Cerulean Chapterhouses had kept the Doctor and all of his staff extremely busy.  On the rare occasion he did make it home, he almost immediately collapsed in bed and didn’t wake until it was time to leave again.

 

The epidemic had been winding down, and the Doctor had promised her that he’d be able to take a week with her and maybe take a trip to Southern Gallifrey for a last vacation before their child arrived.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.  They only hade it a half hour into his first day off before his phone started ringing and he had to transport away.

 

She sighed heavily.   She’d seen more of Romana and of Braxietel than she had the Doctor, and while the pair of them were very fascinating company, they weren’t her husband.  There was no way at all she’d be able to talk either of them into a foot or back rub like she could him – if he was awake long enough of course.

 

Tired of being housebound and alone, she decided to take a walk on her own.  He’d promised her a picnic at Crystal Cascades, and so she was going to make sure she got there, and then, when he got home, she would regale him of her trip with the kids, and let him get all mad that she didn’t have either Romana or Brax accompany her….

 

…such was his protectiveness since they’d conceived seven months ago.  Overprotective micromanaging of her entire life now more like it.

 

She was definitely frustrated.  She was also sore and uncomfortable… and she was definitely very lonely.

 

She could hear the rushing waters of the cascades off in the distance, and immediately she imagined stepping into the water, sitting in the pool, and taking the pressure off for a while.  Oh what kind of heaven would that be?

 

Her desire for such comfort moved toward a desperate want within seconds.  She quickly increased her pace to get there as quickly as possible.   At her side, her wolves also quickened their pace, walking much closer against her as though to urge her to slow down and take it easy.

 

“Oh come on, you two,” she muttered with a sigh of annoyance.  “We’re on a safe path.  We’ve been down here plenty of times before.  What kind of trouble do you think we can possibly get in to?”

 

The universe answered that question for her.   There was a loud, thunderous sound that she could only describe as rubber tearing hard against rubber.  There was a loud hiss of escaping air, and then a wave of heat so powerful that it took her breath from her chest and burned at her light cotton dress.

 

Her instinct was to wrap her arms around her belly and protect her unborn child.  The instinct of her wolves was to brace a protective stand ahead of her and snarl a dangerous warning growl to whatever it was that was threatening the safety of their mistress.   Their growls were so threatening and intimidating, that even she was finding her slightly fearful of their wrath.

 

“Settle,” she asked them quietly. 

 

The weren’t about to settle, and their attention was sharp, as a badly damaged airship howled loudly above their heads, its engines spluttering and flaming in a desperate attempt to remain in flight.

 

Rose and the wolves stumbled to remain standing in the strong wake of the failing engines, and as the engines finally gave up the craft fell to ground with an almighty thunderous howl that send out a massive shockwave that sent all three of them tumbling off their feet.   Rose fell to an awkward knee and pressed her hand into a tree trunk to try and get back up to standing.  There was a secondary shockwave as an engine exploded, its shockwave splintering the tree at the base and collapsing the hillside below it.

 

She yelled out loud as the moving rocks and soil took her along with it.  She fell to one side, curled into a ball around her child and hoped to all that both of them would survive this tumble intact.   The female wolf was caught in the slide at her side, but her mate was free and unharmed.  He leapt nimbly left and then right, howling and barking out his own language of concern for them both.

 

The Doctor’s name was in her mind as she fell.   She called to him.  Pleaded for him to catch her, but that help didn’t come.   The slip finally ended with a crash up against a rounded metal hull, and Rose followed quickly behind, her head colliding hard with the metal, he skin splitting against the pressure.

 

And then all went silent.

 

She didn’t pass out.  She knew that for sure.  The silence was merely the ending of disaster, and all that was left now were the occasional tinkle of random stones, and the crackle of angry flames.

 

Rose pressed both hands into the metal, hot to the touch, but not quite searing in intensity, and pushed herself backward.  She was dizzy, and her eyes unfocused, and it took her all not to turn and retch out painfully.

 

“Kids,” she whimpered quietly.  “Kids, are you okay?”    She blinked in a struggle for focus and looked around for the bright blue-white fur of her beloved wolves.  There was snuffling and a pained whimper from one, and the worried huffs from the other.   She thrust out her hand to clutch at thick fur and scratched behind his ears.  “You’re okay.  Thank God you’re okay.”

 

A wet nose pressed up against her belly and was rewarded with a swift kick from the child within.  Rose smiled gratefully and rubbed at her belly.  “And you too, little one.”

 

She lifted her head high, still very unfocused, and tried to survey just where they were and what the hell had happened.  Well.  What happened was obvious enough:  A ship had crashed.

 

But which ship, and just how many people would be injured.

 

“We have to help,” she sang out worriedly to the wolves.  “People could be hurt.”

 

She petted her pockets in search of her phone.  “I’ll call the Doctor.  Maybe he can send out a team.”  The petting of her pockets was paused as she lifted her hands to hold at her head.   Oh, but it was swimming.

 

Blindly patting the air at her side for a wolf’s head to give her grounding, she was alarmed to hear the both of them ahead of begin to growl and snarl in that dangerous, threatening manner that scared even her.

 

“What is it?” she asked them worriedly, not surprised to feel one of them back up to push her backward with his rump.  “What’s wrong girl?”

 

There was a familiar whirring.  A whoosh.  A pair of sounds that scared her more than any snarl and growl from one of the wolfs could emit.

 

“Oh no,” she breathed out worriedly.  “Please.  Please not now.”

 

A familiar, emotionless, gravelled robotic voice sounded out loadly from ahead.  “Halt!  You have entered the new territory of the Daleks.  Identify yourself.”

Chapter Text

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Of all the times to be queasy and unfocused because of a decent knock to the head, now wasn’t it.   Rose staggered to a stand, both unbalanced by her swimming head and the uneven tilt of the rockslide,  She stumbled once and grabbed almost blindly at the air around her in search of something to hold her steady.   She found that steadiness in the sharp and jiggered broken limb of a tree that had fallen with them.

 

Ahead of her the wolves continued their aggressive growling and snarling.  She could hear the sharp scrape of their claws on the rock, primed and ready to fight.  Rose wasn’t ready to tell them to stand down, although it would be the more obvious thing to do right now.  If her sore head wasn’t attempting to trick her, they were facing off against Daleks – a species ready to exterminate anyone and anything that got in their way without mercy and without a second thought.

 

“Who – Who’s there?” Rose stammered out as she pushed herself from the tree and staggered in between her growling and protective companions.

 

“Identify yourself,” the metallic voice demanded.  “Identify this world.”

 

She blinked through her blurriness and focused on a Dalek standing just outside the ship doors.   It’s metal casing was scratched and tarnished, the round domes of its skirt dented and torn.

 

“You’re a Dalek,” she announced flatly as though it was the most painfully obvious thing in the world. 

 

The Dalek lifted its ray but didn’t fire.  Instead it scanned her top to toe.  “Human,” it declared emotionlessly. “You are Human.”

 

“Very much so,” she muttered under her breath as she took a step forward, close enough to her protective wolves that their violently flashing and waving tails hit against her knees.  “Why’re you here?”

 

“Identify this planet,” it demanded.  “Location needs confirmation.”  It turned to another Dalek that had trundled out of the door behind it.  “Confirm species Human,” it advised.  “Is this Earth?.”

 

“Negative,” the second Dalek offered.  “Navigation systems indicate landing on Gallifrey.”

 

“O-Obviously there’s a problem with your nav,” Rose offered.  “Human,” she clarified with a point at her chest.  “Which means Earth.”  She winced at the continuing growls and snarls from her wolves.  The sound, although not altogether unwanted, were starting to drill against her aching head.   “Kids.  Please.”

 

“You will quiet your animals,” the second Dalek demanded.  “Or we will exterminate!”

 

Rose rushed in between both animals and tried vainly to press them back behind her.  Neither of them were having any of that, though and rushed either side of her to have their heads and noses ahead of her protruding belly.  She certainly didn’t have the strength that they did, and she groaned out as she tried to pull them back.   “Please don’t hurt them.  They’re just protecting me.”

 

“Then we will exterminate,” the second Dalek announced as it lifted its ray.

 

Rose Rushed forward, stumbling on a tree root, to collide with the Dalek with her hands outstretched ahead of her.  “No!  Please.  No.  They can’t do you any harm.  Leave ‘em alone.”   She heard a buzzing nose beside her – not unlike the whirr of the Doctor’s sonic – and flicked her ehad around to the first Dalek.  “What’re you doing.”

 

“Secondary scan complete,” it confirmed.  “This human is with child.”

 

“Yeah, because the huge gut doesn’t make that obvious,” she growled.  “And that human, is right here.  You wanna talk about me, then talk to me.”

 

“Binary vascular system,” it continued.  “The child is Time Lord.”  It turned to Rose.  “Explain.”

 

Her brows lifted.  “I had sex with a Time Lord and got pregnant,” she fired back with a shrug.  “Thought that much might be obvious.”

 

“Is this Gallifrey?”  the Dalek asked again. 

 

“You tell me,” she growled in reply. 

 

The wolves continued their incessant growling and snarling but had now begun to snap their jaws angrily in threat.   There was no way that Rose would be able to calm them down, and so she gave up on even trying.  She did try to step out from in between them, but the animals had moved to stand so closely together that she wasn’t able to break free of their protection.

 

“The animals will be silenced!” the first Dalek warned.  “Or they will be executed.”

 

The second Dalek seemed to agree.  “The Human will come with us.”

 

“The Human will not,” Rose muttered.  “An’ if you try and hurt my wolves…”

 

“Exterminate!”

 

Rose yelped out and dove in front of the wolves, both of which yelped out in surprise.  “No!   No!  Please don’t!”   She held up her hands.  “Just.  Just let me get rid of them, okay?  I’ll come with you, just please don’t hurt them.”

 

The ray dropped and Rose spun to crouch in front of the wolves, both of whom wore expressions of confusion.   “Get help,” she ordered them quietly.  “Go find him, get …”  She knew that saying his name might cause upset with the Daleks and risk them running riot through the streets in search of him.  “Get Thete,” she said instead.

 

The wolves passed their front paws left and right.  It was clear that they were confused and not understanding what Rose was saying to them.   Her words shifted to Gallifreyan, still stilted and heavy with her Human-English accents.   “Help me,” she pleaded.  “Find him, find anyone.  Just please get out of here.”

 

“We wait no longer,” the Dalek warned.  “You will come with us.”

 

Rose stood up and gave the two beasts a nod.  “I’ll be okay.  Just find him, please.”

 

Without further urging, both wolves ran up the slip to the jagged shelf that hung at least 20-feet above her.  They howled and lunged at the cliff’s edge, their snarls and growls still threatening and dangerous. 

 

“Go!” she called up to them.

 

The female gave a long howl that was matched by her mate, and then both of them disappeared quickly.   Rose let out a breath of worry, not quite believing that this would be as easy as Lassie trying to convince people that little Tommy was stuck in a well.  Those two animals were amongst the most feared species on the planet.  People would more likely run from them than approach them and ask what was wrong.  Her only hope was that they’d make it to the Hospital to get the Doctor’s attention…

 

…Although the hospital was in Arcadia – a day’s run for both of them.   She’d be long dead before then.

 

Her only hope was that they’d pass by the homestead and by some miracle the Doctor would already be home.

 

Unlikely, of course, given the most recent emergency calls.   But she could hope.   She rubbed her swollen belly.   The both of them could hope.

 

“You will follow us,” the Dalek ordered.

 

“Yeah,” she sighed.  “Coming.”

 

The second Dalek to leave the ship turned and rolled back through the doorway.  The first made sure to stay behind her and poke her in the back with its ray when she wasn’t moving fast enough.

 

“Careful,” she growled hotly with a twist of her head to look over her shoulder at it.  “Pregnant woman, remember, not as nimble on my fees at you are on your wheels.”

 

“Move,” it demanded.

 

As a trio they walked in through the steaming doors and deeper inside the ship.   Her eyes scanned their walk, noting each turn they made in the hope that she could somehow escape and find her way to freedom.  The last thing she needed was to get lost in a Dalek maze where the dead ends could literally mean that she’d end up dead.   They did pass several Daleks involved in repairs and uninterested in the Human being escorted by two of their own.   Then again, no emotion meant no natural curiosity .. she shouldn’t have been surprised.

 

Their journey ended where Rose assumed was the very centre of the ship.   The narrow corridors opened up to a large and cavernous domed room.  The walls were a brightly lit and orange intermittently flashing washes or reds from a red alarm signal light at the very centre of the dome.

 

“Damage report,” the lead Dalek demanded.  “Can we send coordinates to the mother ship?”

 

“Negative,” another Dalek responded quickly.  “Errors in multiple systems.  Communication is impossible.”

 

Rose let out a breath of relief at that.  This would give the Gallifreyan forces time to pull together and hopefully storm the ship.

 

“Can it be repaired?”

 

“It can be repaired,” came the response.  “Dalekanium Crystals need to recharge and then we will be fully operational.”

 

The Lead Dalek turned back toward Rose.  “You will lock yourself at the wall,” it demanded, rolling into a slight turn to indicate the wall to the south side of the room.

 

Rose looked toward the wall, and to a rather basic looking chain and cuff apparatus affixed to a small loop from the ceiling.  She looked back to the robot with a perplexed expression.  “Whatd’ya mean I’ll lock myself?”  She quickly rolled her eyes at her own question upon realizing that with no hands by which to lock her in there themselves, she would have to be the one to do it.   Stupid really.  “Yeah,” she huffed.  “No need to answer that.”

 

“Immediately,” it ordered her.  “You will lock yourself or you will be exterminated.”

 

“Why don’t you just go ahead and do it?” she muttered through a curled lip that was wet with blood and tasting very much like rusted iron.   She lifted her fingers to her head and felt the fluid warmth of blood coat her fingers.  “Oh God,” he muttered woosily, never one to quite handle the sight of blood – particularly when it was her own.

 

“That is an order,” the Dalek ground out again.   If she didn’t know better, that these creatures were completely incapable of emotion, then she’d hazard a guess it was getting quite frustrated.  “Lock yourself now.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” she managed with a blink of one eye to complete a wince of pain and dizziness.  “Jus’ gimme a tic.”

 

She made it to the wall and snapped the cuff around one wrist.  It snapped tight and startled her enough that she lost her balance and stumbled onto her hip.   The pull of her wrist kept it high in the air above her head, and she flopped off to one side, hanging, yet sitting at the same time.

 

“What do you want with me?”  She asked finally, looking through a bloody fringe. 

 

“You are with child,” it answered.  “A Time Lord child.”

 

“What, you don’t exterminate pregnant women?” she asked with a small smile.  “Well that’s good to know.”

 

“With or without child, you will be exterminated,” it warned her. 

 

“Just not yet,” she murmured.  The blood was rushing from her arm, and she felt the chill of it get into her bones.   Pretty soon it would be numb, and therefore useless to try and get free.

 

“A Time Lord will not allow the death of an expecting mate,” it answered.  “You will be kept until the ship is operational, and then you will be exterminated.”

 

“A bargaining chip,” she deduced with a sigh.  “Yeah, well you don’t know them very well if you think that’ll work.  Not exactly a sentimental bunch these time Lords.”

 

“You are being deceptive,” it challenged.  “We know the Doctor, he is Time Lord.”  It waved its weapon as though a dismissive hand.  “The Doctor is sentimental.”

 

Rose’s eyes flashed wide at his name.

 

“The Human’s heart rate has increased,” another Dalek cut in.  “She knows the Doctor.”

 

The first Dalek rolled quickly toward.  “You are a companion of the Doctor?”

 

Her eyes widened.  “No,” she said firmly.  “I am not a companion of the Doctor.”

 

“The how are you with a Time Lord child?”

 

“Wow,” she sang out.  “You ask me that like he’s the only Time Lord capable of havin’ kids.”   She writhed slightly in search of comfort on the hard and unforgiving metal floor.  “Trust me, he’s not the only one with a workable set on this planet.”

 

“So you confirm that we have landed on Gallifrey.”  It was a statement, not a question.

 

“If you want to call that landing,” she muttered.  “Then yeah.  Alright.”  Her belly contracted with a heavy kick from her child and Rose let out a very long groan.  “I think I need medical assistance,” she said to them in pleading.  “Let me make sure that my baby is okay, please?”

 

“The child is fine,” the Dalek stated.  “You, on the other hand have very limited time.”

 

She sighed deeply.  “Why did I think you’d say that?”

 

“We could take the child,” another Dalek suggested.  “And turn it into a Dalek.”

 

“Inferior species,” the lead Dalek replied.  “Not worthy to be Dalek.”

 

Rose’s arm was ice cold and had now lost feeling entirely.  The ache, that had begun to set in shortly after being shackled, was now waning into nothing.  Her head, however, that was mercilessly pounding a fierce rhythm against her skull.  Her vision continued to shift between clarity and blurriness, and her stomach turned over again and yet again.  Consciousness was fleeting at best.  She found herself nodding in and out, waving to and fro between deafening pressure and then euphoric bliss.

 

For several long moments, with her rapidly shifting bouts of awareness, Rose lost touch of what her captives were saying.  When the room suddenly lit up to bright yellow over flashing red and orange, her attention was locked once more.

 

“Communications systems back on line, Commander.   Full outreach capability to mother ship will be achieved in three minutes.”

 

“Notify the mother ship of Gallifrey’s coordinates.  They must fall into battle formation and prepare to attack.  Gallifrey must fall.”

 

“Exterminate the Time Lords!”

 

“Exterminate!”

 

Rose lifted her head to once again look through a blood-stained fringe toward her captors.  “And what about me?” she asked tiredly.

 

The lead Dalek rolled over to her and lifted his ray.  “You no longer prove useful.  You will be exterminated.”

 

“Then do it,” she challenged quietly.  “Just do it.”

 

There was a flash of amber in her eyes and the disapproving lilt of a disembodied voice fell from the dome above their heads.  “I really don’t think so.”

 

Death ray weapons lifted to the ceiling.  “Who is on our ship?  Identify yourself.”

 

The words whispered across the deck, swimming through the robots and spiralling upward.  “I am the Bad Wolf…”

 

“…And you’re here far too early….”

 

A cry to exterminate rumbled through each and every Dalek on the ship.  Death rays buzzed and sang in the air, firing aimlessly at nothing.

 

Rose watched with tired eyes and hard panting as her breaths.  Confused, delirious, and wondering just what kind of nightmare she was living, she weakly tugged on her cuff hoping to seek freedom.

 

Beside her a flashing light indicated an impending coordinate upload to the mothership.  In moments and entire Dalek fleet would know how to find Gallifrey.

 

“No,” she breathed.  “No,” she managed more strongly.  “No – “  Her chest thrust forward and her head threw backward.  A long cry ripped up her throat and out of a gaping mouth frozen into a scream.  She felt a gripping pressure in her abdomen and chest, growing and swelling until it finally exploded out of her in a bright disc of light that tore throughout the ship, turning Daleks to dust and slicing apart the lights and control panels.

 

And everything went dark.

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

It was a very rare moment when Braxiatel and his wife could walk freely hand in hand.  Such was their stature amongst the Time Lord Society, any display of affection was deemed inappropriate and would incur rumours and accusations that wouldn’t serve either of them well.  Mutiny was always just a rumour away, and it was never worth the risk,

 

One of the delightful things about spending time with his brother’s wife were the moments available to him to be able to offer his own wife the small gestures of affection that would make her smile and remind the two of them that they were now – and always will be – deeply in love.

 

His hand was tenderly wrapped around Romana’s much smaller fingers as they walked slowly from where their transport had delivered them.  He wanted to walk with her a while.  To experience the exhilaration of walking through the warm and sunny countryside of Gallifrey.   A pleasure that he had long forgotten about in a life locked in council chambers. 

 

Romana was more than happy to walk, and to talk, wrapped up together as they should be as a pair in love. 

 

Their walk had been slow, and tender, with neither of them wanting to burden the moment with words and conversation.  As their destination appeared in the near distance, the cottage belonging to his brother and his wife, Braxiatel began to loosen the hold of Romana’s hand in preparation to be met at the door by what he cold only assume would be a very unhappy and angry Rose Tyler.

 

At least that’s what Thete had warned him to be ready for when he’d called in the request to go visit.  His brother, bless, was an apologetic mess.  An argument between husband and wife had been the last contact he’d had with her before disappearing in a transmat beam.

 

She hadn’t answered any of his calls since.

 

“Do you think Rose will be in a better mood than the Doctor assumes?” Romana asked with amusement.  “Or do you think that this will be an afternoon where you and your sister in law can trade stories of how he is an inconsiderate fool?”

 

Braxietel smiled at the possibility.  “Don’t suggest such a delightful option,” he cautioned her.  “Especially when we know it will most likely end up as an afternoon where you will get weepy and broody over her baby bump and send me out on errands to make the both of you happy.”

 

“I do not get weepy, nor broody, Brax,” she countered with a smile.  “My request to for you to sire me a child is not as close as you would like it to be.”  Her face fell.  “There is far too much ahead of us to make plans for a family.”

 

“And so we live vicariously through the life of my brother – the one who should never allow his seed to be sown into another.”

 

She bumped him with her shoulder.  “Admit it, Brax.  You are very happy for him, and for the Human girl who you care about much more than you care to admit.”

 

He opened his mouth to offer his obligatory argument against that charge, but was swiftly silenced by the urgent approach of two very dangerous animals.  He pressed his hands into Romana’s  belly to keep her hidden behind him.  “Dahrama!” he called out.  “Stay back!”

 

The pair of wolves bounded down the path, both of them with dark soot and dirt covering their usually pristine blue-white coats.  One ran with a noticeable limp, and the other with a fierce purpose.

 

“Brax,” Romana yeloed out as she moved around him.  “They’re Rose’s pair.”  

 

Braxiatel’s eyes widened with immediate concern.  “Where’s Rose?”

 

Romana ran toward the two animals, scooping herself into a low stood to lower herself to a more respectful level to address them.  Her words shifted into light huffs and howls, and in a moment her head and mouth were chasing two very anxious and restless Wolves as they paced and pawed and answered her questions.

 

Braxiatel moved in quickly beside his wife and leaned down as well, despite not having anywhere near enough respect for the animals to give them such courtesy.

 

“Romana?”

 

Her head shot up.  “Rose is in trouble.  We need to follow.”

 

He nodded and was on the run behind the swiftly moving wolves within a second.  He petted his waist cast pockets in search of his phone.  “Let me call Thete.”

 

“And tell him what?” she asked him, her breath steady even though she ran hard at his side.  “Best we wait until we know what condition she’s in.   We don’t need to worry him if this is something we can handle.”  She looked back ahead of her.  “I’m sure we can handle it.”

 

The wolves took off too far in front and had to stop multiple times to look back and let out huffs and barks for the two of them to hurry up.  Braxiatel held off snapping at them, but flicked his wrist to tell them to go ahead and that they would follow.

 

Up ahead of them, a searing, slicing sound wooshed.   The sound was swiftly on approach, and Braxiatel quickly grabbed at Ramona’s arm to bring her to a stop.   The sound rushed closer.  Ahead of them, the wolves, both nimble and strong, were knocked off their feet and onto their sides as the sound barrelled past.   Braxiatel held onto Romana as the sound rushed through them as well.

Romana let out a sharp cry and fell against her husband.  His own knees faltered under the shockwave, but he was able to hold them both up until the wave finally rushed away from them.

 

“What was that?” he asked worriedly.

 

Romana shook her head.  “That was pure Huon energy,” she half whispered.  “A full wave of the most ancient and almost non existent energy.”  Her eyes were wide with horror as she turned toward him.  “There is no known concentration of that level of Huon in that quantity anywhere in the universe.”

 

“Oh holy Rassilon,” he replied worriedly.  He took his wife’s hand and tugged her urgently toward the direction that the wolves had started running again.  “If Rose is caught up in that, it’ll kill her.”

 

She breathed out a long moan in the negative in response, and quickly she fell into pace beside Braxietel.

 

In a moment they both skidded to a halt at the edge of a crater’s path.  Deep below them was an horrifically damaged ship, on fire, and  dented almost beyond recognition.

 

…Almost unrecognisable.  Both Time Lord and Lady knew exactly what ship had half buried itself in the soft Gallifreyan forest soil.

 

“Dalek,” Romana growled darkly.

 

Having only heard of them, but never actually encountering them, Braxiatel didn’t hold the same sense of morbid fear that Romana held toward the Daleks.   He looked to her and then down tp the ship, where both wolves had immediately head.  They disappeared into an open door.

 

“Rose is in there,” he ground out.  “Is there any chance at all that she’s still alive?”

 

“Rassilon, I hooe so,” she growled as she leapt over the edge and slif on her feet down to the ship.   She felt Braxiatel slide down at her side.  “Because if she’s not, your brother will destroy this universe in search of the entire species to wipe them out.”

 

“I hardly see that as being a detriment.”

 

“After he’s taken out you and I both for not protecting her to begin with.”

 

“That,” he breathed out as he pulled a small firearm from his pocket.  “Is a very good point.  Now please, if you will, stay behind me.”

 

“I will not,” she admonished indignantly.as she stepped around him.  “I have far more experience with them than you do, so you will follow me.  That is an order from you President.”

 

His voice fell to an annoyed whisper as together they entered the dark and dormant ship.  “As you wish, Lady President.”

 

The immediate anomaly noticed by Romana was how deathly quiet the ship was.  She could sense no hum of engines, and no form of lighting – even that of emergency lighting – at all.   It was dark, and far too quiet for her liking.    Her foot kicked the occasional mound of silky dust, the scent of which was laced thick with residual Huon energies and dissipated as quickly as it appeared.

 

She frowned and looked back toward her husband.  “Brax.  Something just isn’t right about this.   This ship is a battle scout craft and should be fully staffed with Dalek warriors.  But I’m finding nothing.  Not a peep, whir, or rumble of them.”

 

Braxietel nodded.  His face set in a frown.  “The outer hull is still burning, which means this ship crashed very recently, yet there are no operational, or even residual electrical waves present to indicate any active, or recently active systems.”

 

“Abandoned,” she remarked, “and left to fall?  It makes no sense.”

 

Their walk finally led them into the centre of this ship, and to the high dome of the command deck.  Again, it was deathly quiet and unmanned.  Romana did note the amber fluttering of random particles in the air, but could find no reason for it.  She followed the last of the shimmers, which seemed to concentrate near one wall, and to where the two wolves were whining and pawing at the floor with urgency.

 

“Brax!” she called out urgently, flicking her arm in a demand for him to follow.  “She’s over here!”

 

Romana’s voice caught hard to see how Rose was awkwardly tethered to the wall with only one arm, and was flopped off to one side, not able to lie her head down, but unconscious and hanging.

 

Brax stood tall to unfasten the tie, and Romana held her as Rose’s body was released and fell hard to the ground.

 

“Is she…?”

 

“Alive,” Romana assured him.  “But badly hurt.  We need to get her medical transport immediately.”

 

Braxiatel lifted a phone to his ear.  “I’ll arrange to have her sent to Arcadia.  Thete’s there.  He’ll know the best way to treat her.”

 

“She is not to leave the hospital under any circumstances,” she ordered.  “Don’t let him remove her until I issue the all clear.  I want to know what happened here; how she ended up shackled and tied in a barren Dalek ship.”

 

“Thete won’t like it.”

 

“He has no choice.”  Romana ordered.  “And while you are with emergency services, arrange a cleanup crew.  I want this ship dismantled and destroyed before the Daleks have a chance to trace it.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The Doctor pulled off his thin surgical gloves and tossed them with annoyance into a nearby bin.  His throw was slightly off, and they hit the wall, and then the corner of the bin before finally flopping in.  He tugged uncomfortably at the neck of his yellow and crimson scrubs, desperate to be free of them.

 

“With permission of everyone else on the planet who might get sick, I’m heading out,” he announced with annoyance.  “I’ve had about enough of snot and mucus and people who don’t listen to their doctor’s orders.”

 

A pair of nurses chuckled with agreement.  “Have a good night Lord Doctor,” one of them wished with a flirtatious wave.  “See you in a week?”

 

“If I’m lucky,” he said with a wink.  “You won’t see me for two.”

 

“A trip with Rose?” one asked with a light swoon.  “Somewhere exotic?”

 

“That is the plan,” he replied.  “I have a lot to make up for, and I’m looking very forward to making those amends.  He bowed dramatically.  “And so on that note, my dears.  Do take care, I shall see you later – very much later.”

 

The Desk Nurse popped up apologetically from behind her desk, her phone pressed still against her ear.  “Lord Doctor,” she called out.  “I’m very sorry, but…”

 

“No!” he growled out with a point of his finger in her direction.  “Whatever it is, find someone else.  I’m on vacation.”

 

She dropped the pone and skirted around the desk to make a swift approach.   “They’re bringing in an emergency case from a crash site.”

 

“Someone else,” he repeated.

 

He looked up as an announcement called through the overhead PA system.  “Incoming transport.  Crash victim.  Severe head injuries and bleeding.  Female.  Seven months with child.  Human.”

 

His eyes blew wide with horror and he looked down to the desk nurse, whose eyes were misted with apology.  “Lord Doctor, I’m sorry.  Braxiatel just called it in….”

 

His hearts fell.  “No…”

 

“Sir, it’s your mate,” she said softly.  “It’s Rose.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Her hand was warm, but so limp inside of his.   Her breaths, drawing in deeply every three seconds were steady and in perfect rhythm.  The beep of her single heart on the monitor bleeped slowly, but not enough to trigger off any alarms – Well that isn’t to say that in the beginning the PA system wasn’t belting out Code Mauve alerts every minute or so – but with a quick flip of his sonic screwdriver on the advanced and expensive monitor he quickly recalibrated it to measure only a single heart beat.

 

A secondary monitor secured on the highest rise of her belly pinged rapidly with their child’s double hearted rhythm, every once in a while pinging out an alarm when the little one shifted or kicked and the monitor lost signal.   Each ping made him smile.  It seemed that his youngster was actively trying to evade the invisible soundwave signals to make his father panic.

 

An apple off the tree if you will…

 

In all, despite the frenzied terror he felt at seeing his wife bloody, pale, and unconscious on a transport gurney, everything was calm and serene for now.  Rose was alive, and her prognosis excellent.  Aside from a concussion that was being effectively treated by Gallifreyan technology as she slept, she and their child were healthy.

 

The greatest of concerns was the high saturation of Huon energies registering on the imaging scanners.  The levels she was brought in with should have been fatal for a human, but Rose seemed to be tolerating it quite well.  The levels had dropped significantly over the 24 hours she’d been under observation, but they were still high, and still piquing the interests of several members of the outlying radiation regulatory groups.  Questions were being asked, and he certainly had no answers for them.  He was rather insistent that Rose wouldn’t be answering any of them once she was awake, either.  No.  he would keep her away from any and all of the marauding vultures that circled her in search of answers.   The most important thing was that the levels had fallen, and that she was going to be fine.  The where and how of the exposure, well.  The two of them would work it out together and then deal with it together - without any curious council agencies sniffing around.

 

He ran his thumb over her knuckles and then dropped to press a kiss against them before lowering his forehead against his hand.  He hadn’t left her side since the moment she was admitted.  He still wore the messy, dirty, bloody, crimson and gold surgical scrubs from the day before.  His hair was a frightful mess, and he was quite sure that the lack of showering over the past 48 hours was lending him a rather unpleasant odour.  A change of underwear was definitely in order if nothing else, but so far his request to Braxiatel to have fresh clothing sent to the hospital had yet to be answered.  

 

A sigh against her knuckles, and a soft phrase of adoration in his native language drew a sigh from the doorway.  The Doctor didn’t have to shift his eyes to see who was at the door.  The scent of Farrionville blossom was an immediate giveaway.

 

“Romana,” he greeted quietly, still not looking at her.  He cupped Roses hand in both of his and set his chin atop them to look at the face of his mate.  “Thank you,” he breathed.  “For saving her.”

 

“I’m just sorry we didn’t get your message until it was too late,” she offered gently, walking into the room and taking position at the other side of Rose’s bed.  She set a vase loaded with Schlenk blooms and silver Cadonwood leaves on the side table.  “Had Brax and I been able to make it to the cottage a short time earlier, we could have prevented this.”

 

The Doctor blinked his eyes.  “If I hadn’t spent so much time trying to phone her and apologise, I would have sent my message earlier,” he huffed.  “I don’t blame you in any way, so please don’t feel the need to defend yourself.”

 

“I do feel partly to blame,” she admitted.  “It was me who decided that you were the one to handle the Cerulean emergencies and the call from Council.”  She huffed.  “You’re the best we have on staff, and it was a very…” she cleared her throat.  “A very sensitive case.”

 

“Of a self inflicted manner,” the Doctor ground out.  “And hardly something I want to waste my time on.  Any doctor could have dealt with that and offered you the appropriate privacy considerations.”  He flicked his eyes to her, his annoyance melting into regret.  “I haven’t been able to spend any time with her at all, Romana.  I see more of this place than I do my home and my wife.  You know this.  I’ve complained repeatedly about it.”  He sighed.  “You could have given me the courtesy of being able to keep a promise to her.”

 

Romana nodded.  “And going forward, I guarantee that you will.”

 

“I’ve taken your grounding here on Gallifrey without argument,” he continued with frustration in his voice.  “I set up a life and become domesticated in a manner I promised myself I never would.”  He sat up straight, but didn’t release Rose’s hand.  “I took this job at the hospital with the assurance that I would still have the freedom to come and go as I please, and with the promise that I would be free to travel again by TARDIS sooner rather than later.”  His eyes narrowed.  “Funny how none of those assurances or promises have been honoured.”

 

“Doctor,” she tried.

 

“Don’t Doctor me,” he growled.  “One of the reasons I left Gallifrey in the first place is because of how I get pushed and ordered around by council.”  His eyes flashed angrily.  “And every time I answer Mother Gallifrey’s call nd do what’s asked of me, council always decides they want more.”

 

Romana was in no way intimidated nor upset by the Doctor’s rant.  She understood his point perfectly – How couldn’t she?  Their very friendship was one engineered by council design: forced together, two strangers, teacher’s pet and renegade bad boy…

 

She held no regret for that at all, no harsh feelings toward anyone.  Her friendship with this man was most prized by her.  But she had to admit that they were quite fond of controlling the man, and they took whatever they could get from him.

 

“I’m very sorry,” she murmured.  Her eyes swept across the monitors.  She didn’t understand all of the readings, the lights, nor the beeping.   “How is she?”

 

“Concussion,” he answered simply.  “Head lacerations.”

 

“But she’ll be fine?”

 

He shrugged.  “Still monitoring the Huon exposure, and what potential long-term effects it will have on her, but I’m hopeful…”  He sighed.  “Based on the current readings, I’m fairly confident she’ll make a full recovery.”

 

“And the baby?”

 

At that he smiled.  He reached out a hand to circle the bump ahead of him.  “No ill effects at all.  Scans show him healthy and boisterous in there.”

 

“Him?”

 

He found himself grinning widely.  “Rose assumed she was carrying a boy.   Scans confirm it.”

 

Her smile was warm.  “Congratulations, Doctor.”

 

Save the beeping of monitors, and the audible open-mouthed breathing of the patient there was silence in the room.  They didn’t speak again for a long few moments, with neither knowing what needed to be said.  Finally, however, the Doctor inhaled a deep breath and sat up straight in the chair.  His hands still cupped that of his wife.

 

“Can you tell me what happened?”

 

Romana chuckled softly.  “I wondered at what point you may ask,” she said with a smile.  The smile fell quickly however.  “I wish I had an answer for you.  Brax and I were only there during the aftermath.”

 

“I was told it was a crash,” the Doctor muttered.  “A ship from outside Gallifrey.”

 

She nodded, but said nothing.

 

“Which I find rather curious,” he continued.  “Considering she seemed to be the only casualty.”  His eyes lifted to hers.  “I would imagine that we would have far more patients than what was brought in.”  His head tilted to one side.  “Were they sent to other hospitals?”

 

She shook her head slowly.  “Rose was the only one there.”  She caught the mistrust in his eyes.  “I assure you, Doctor, I wouldn’t mislead or lie to you about this.”  Her eyes flicked toward Rose.  “Especially when it concerns her.  I know better than that.”

 

He nodded and expressed a very quiet thanks.

 

“The ship was abandoned,” she continued.  “Not a soul – dead or alive – was detected anywhere in the craft.”  She blinked worriedly.  “It was completely abandoned.”

 

He lifted his head to analyse her face.  Her voice wavered to the point of worry.  “And yet, you’re concerned?”

 

Her voice was a mere breath.  “I am.”

 

“What ship was it?” He asked curiously.  “From what planet?”

 

She inhaled a deep breath before asking, wondering just what reaction she might get from him.  She surely didn’t want to say “Skaro”.  The Doctor had a very long history with the Daleks – to that point, so did she.

 

“I wonder, Doctor, if you would be willing to offer me some assistance?” she managed instead.

 

His eyes pinched.  Romana refusing to answer a direct question was unheard of; therefore it was worrying.   Normally he wouldn’t hesitate to offer her any assistance she might need, but he was forming the impression that any assistance might require he move from this bedside – he had zer intention of doing that.

 

“I’m not leaving her,” he warned darkly.  “So don’t ask.”

 

“It’s important,” she ventured.  “I can’t trust anyone else with this.”

 

His eyes narrowed.  “I almost lost her today – my wife – because you couldn’t trust anyone else with a self induced minor medical ailment of a council member.  I left her alone at your request, and she almost died.”  His breathing was hard and his glare an unspoken threat.  “I am not leaving her again.”

 

Her head shot up at the sound of excited movement at the front entrance of the hospital.  She could hear excited yaps and huffs and the ticka ticka of sharp claws on ceramic tile.  “Sounds like Brax is here.”

 

The Doctor looked toward the doorway.  “And I hope with a fresh change of clothing as I requested,” he huffed.  “Rassilon knows I’m getting on the nose here.  Hardly the condition I wish to be in when Rose wakes.”

 

Romana gave him a smile.  “You smell fine.  Rose won’t mind at all what condition you’re in, as long as…”

 

“As long as I’m here,” he reminded her firmly.  “As in not leaving her again.”

 

“This will be discussed,” she warned as the flurry from the entrance doors finally made it into Rose’s room.    She jumped backward with eyes as wide as her mouth, when two large white beasts burst noisily into the room.   The Male immediately sought out the Doctor, and snuffled his hip and lap excitedly in greeting.  The female was at Rose’s side, her front paws up on the mattress, and her snuffling nose sniffing desperately at her prone form.  Up her chest and then down, past her hip.  When satisfied, the wold let out a short whuff to her mate.

 

Together they let out a howl that swam and echoed throughout the hallways.

 

“Will you quiet the both of them down.  Rassilon if they aren’t a boisterous pair.” Braxiatel snarled from the doorway.  Although pristinely attired, he looked frightfully exhausted and roughened.   He held up a garment bag.  “As requested, Thete.  A change of clothing.  Not what I would have selected for you, of course, but your TARDIS was quite insistent on this outfit.”

 

His face broke into a relieved grin.  Moving around his still excited pair of wolves, he approached his brother and took the garment bag from him.  “Thank you,” he said with honest relief.   He unzipped the bag and noticed that the TARDIS had provided him with the grey pants, silk vest and green velvet jacket that he preferred.   Far more preferable, indeed, than the tailored pinstriped suits worn by his brother.  “Perfect,” he purred out.

 

There was a small dividing screen at the side of the room, and the Doctor quickly disappeared behind it to get dressed.  He thankfully threw his dirty scrubs over the top of it as he undressed, scrubs that were swiftly joined by a pair of worn boxer briefs.  Now naked, but wriggling into a fresh pair of boxers, he popped his head around the screen.  “Can’t help but notice she’s wearing a pink bow,” he remarked with a just of his chin toward the female wolf.  “Care to explain?”

 

“I would not like to explain,” Braxietel muttered with a lift of his hand to smooth out his hair.  “But as I know that your curiosity will eat you alive, I bathed them before bringing them here.”

 

“You did what?” the Doctor exclaimed as he walked around the screen wearing only his trousers and an undershirt.  He continued talking as he slipped his arms into a white cotton button-up shirt.  “How in Rassilon did you manage to give a pair of Dahramas a bath?”

 

“By standing behind a shield and holding a pressure washer at them,” he huffed.  “They were filthy, and there was no way I would be bringing them here in that horrendous state.”  He smiled toward the female.  “I thought a pretty pink bow would finish off the look.”   He smiled at her.  “And she likes it, look at her.”

 

The Doctor pursed his lips and looked toward the Wolf, who was actively scratching at the bow with her paw to get rid of it.   He leaned in toward his brother as he finished buttoning his waistcoat.  “How many times were you bitten?”

 

Braxiatel moaned.  “You truly don’t want to know.”

 

“Actually,” he corrected with an open mouthed grin.  “Yeah, I do.”

 

Braxiatel simply rolled his eyes in response and assisted his brother in pulling on his jacket.  With a sniff as the jacket was seated properly on form, he brushed across the Doctor’s shoulders.  “There.  Now that you are dressed more appropriately for your station, shall we be off?”

 

The Doctor frowned.  “Shall we be what?”  Before Braxiatel could answer he held up a hand and shook his head.  “I’ve already informed Romana that I am not leaving Rose’s side.  I don’t’ quite care how important you think this favour of yours is, I’m not leaving her alone.”

 

“You won’t be leaving her alone,” Braxiatel argued, thrusting a hand toward the two wolves who were settling themselves quite nicely on the gurney and the chair beside the gurney.  “She’s got those two keeping an eye on her.”

 

The Doctor shook his head.

 

Braxiatel didn’t let him argue.  “I had to seek very special permission to have these two brought in,” he growled.  “Dahramas are not exactly welcome in hospitals due to the fact they’re quite frequently the reason people are here in the first place.”

 

And I thank you for delivering them to us,” the Doctor answered with a small bow.  “Rose will be thankful to see them when she wakes.”  He lifted out of his bow.  “But I’m still not coming with you.  My wife – my pregnant wife – needs me, and I’m not leaving her.”

 

Braxiatel looked around him at Rose sleeping silently on the gurney.  “She’s asleep,” he remarked.  “It’s not like she’s going to miss you.”

 

The Doctor’s mouth dropped.  “Be Rassilon, Brax.  Are your really that insensitive?”

 

“Indeed I am,” he answered with a shrug.  “And I must remark that I am somewhat stymied by your unwillingness to participate in the examination of the wreckage in which we found your wife – especially considering it was a Dalek warship.”

 

Romana dropped her forehead into her palm, breathing out her husband’s name in a long suffering manner.   Across the other side of the bed, the Doctor took on a more darknened and dangerous expression.  “I’m sorry,” he seethed.  “Did you say Dalek?”

 

Braxiatel looked toward the Time Lady at the other side of the room.  “I thought Romana explained that to you,” he half queried with a look of apology toward his wife.  “Didn’t you?”

 

“I was getting to it,’ she breathed out in reply.  Her eyes shifted toward the Doctor.  “Rose was found inside a Dalek battle craft,” she advised him as gently as she could.  “She was shackled inside the main command deck….”  She paused to inhale.  “Alone.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes narrowed.  “What do you mean alone?”

 

“As in there were no Daleks onboard,” she answered carefully.  “You and I both know that a Dalek ship is never left unmanned.  Even when docked, there is always at least one soldier onboard.”

 

Braxiatel took up the explanation from there.  “When we found Rose, there wasn’t a Dalek to be found onboard at all.  Search and rescue did perform scans of the entire ship, and no signs of life were present.”  He huffed.  “Thete, there weren’t even any dead or injured ones.  It was empty – except for Rose, completely empty.”

 

The Doctor’s brows pinched together and his eyes narrowed.  “Surface scans around the crash site?”

 

“Have yielded nothing,” Romana answered quickly.

 

The Doctor started to pace.  “If what you’re saying is true, then there is a very high probability that we have Daleks loose on Gallifrey?”

 

Romana nodded.  “That’s my fear at any rate.”  She walked around the gurney and moved toward him with what looked to be a smooth glide.  Once in front of him, she put her hand on the doctor’s elbow.  “I understand your need to be with Rose right now, Doctor.  I truly, truly do.”  She exhaled a shaking breath.  “But we are at risk of our people being attacked by Daleks.  Worse, that the ones loose on Gallfrey have notified their mothership of Gallifrey’s location.”

 

“No one knows them like you do,” Braxiatel added.  “They fear no one like they do you.”

 

The Doctor shot his brother a look, but said nothing.

 

“Romana and I need your help in analyzing some of the ships main communication components in the hope that we can find out just what we might be up against here.”  He sighed.  “We need to find some way of being able to know what’s coming, and hope to Rassilon we have enough forces to be able to stop them.”

 

The Doctor looked toward the bed where his wife lay.  His eyes fell into a soulful expression at her silent and unmoving condition under the sheets and thin blanket.  His eyes shifted to the bruising around her wrist, the purple and red mass that encircled it almost completely – a perfect replica of the shackle that had caused it.    Anger rushed into him at that moment.

 

“I’ll help,” he breathed out darkly.  “But I have one condition.”

 

Braxietel remained firm as his brother’s furious eyes dragged across the room to look at them both, and his lips curled with disgust.  “Name it,’ he vowed.  “And it’s yours.”

 

“You will let me destroy every last stinkin’ one of them.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

Chapter Text

~oooOOOooo~~

 

When the Doctor had left with Romana and Braxiatel to attend the crash site and analyze the debris, he fully expected to be taken to the crash site, not to a large warehouse at the edge of the Capitol.  He had no time nor inclination to hide his frustration, and let it be known to them both the moment they walked into the room.

 

“I thought,” he began with a snarl.  “That we were to be attending the actual site of the crash.   Unless the Daleks have manufactured a way to materialise them into a crash scenario, this isn’t it.”

 

“The Gallifrey Transportation and Safety Board are still onsite at the actual crash location,” Romana answered.  “Because of the sensitivity of Dalek technology, and the chance that we could ignite a full system restore, I felt it was to our benefit to have the ship transported here in pieces – specifically the security and communications hardware.”

 

“Makes sense,” he said with a snort.  “Although….”

 

“There is no purpose for us to attend the site,” she countered before he could finish his thought.  “How the ship crashed is not my concern as much as what danger presents outside of it.”

 

The Doctor prepped to argue, and to demand once again that he be allowed to destroy any of the Daleks that may have escaped the ship, but that argument was sucked back into his chest with the sound of more parts materialising neatly at the back of the room.  His eyes blinked at the careful way the part was tagged and numbered with a large Red and yellow tag.

 

“Expect more of that,” Romana warned him gently.  “It was a big ship with plenty of parts – and the analysis teams have been instructed to piece it back together here.”   She paused.  “Once we are finished with our own examination, of course.”

 

“How did you get permission from the GTSB to allow us to look at the evidence before they got a look in?” he queried as he looked over the various items set up on a long, metal, workbench.   “They can’t be happy about it.”

 

“The GTSB operate under council guidelines,” she answered with a shrug.  “They can dislike my orders as much as they like.  I’m the Lord President on Council, and they have to do as I tell them to.”

 

She wandered toward a large monitor laid on its side beside a small dusty keyboard with a sucker-mark etched around the keys.  “I believe this is the security monitor for the main communications deck,” she remarked coolly as she swept her hand in the air above it to shift off some of the dust.  “The lines did connect to a series of cameras set strategically around the ship.  I ordered the feeds for only two of them – the front entrance and the main command deck.”

 

The Doctor turned up a nose and poked a finger at the dusty and disused item.  “Doesn’t look like it’s had a plunger on it for quite a while,” he murmured.  “While I’m sure they aren’t fully adept at frequent dusting around their ship, This…”  He tongued the roof of his mouth with disgust.  “This looks like it’s a bit beyond missing a weekly here and there.”

 

“I know,” she agreed softly.  “It’s as though the ship was completely abandoned.”

 

The Doctor’s lips pressed together into a scowl and he shook his head.  “Yet I don’t buy it for a moment,” he growled.  “Jettisoning a ship and allowing their technology to get into the hands of other species?  They’d have it self destruct instead.”

 

“Do you think you access the security database and see the last recording?”  She poked at what looked like a joystick.  “That should give us some insight into what happened to force them to abandon ship.”

 

“Huon, likely,” Braxiatel offered.  “Their species is sensitive to it – as most are.  If they managed to slip into a Huon wash, then it’s likely they abandoned the ship in order to survive.”

 

There was the sound of another piece of debris materialising toward the back of the room.  The sound actually made all there of them jump slightly.

 

“Is there any way we can stop them doing that?” the Doctor asked with a wince.  “It’s very distracting.”

 

“So distracting that you haven’t even begun your analysis,” Braxiatel remarked coolly.

 

The Doctor flicked annoyed eyes toward his brother.  “So you are clear on the methods by which I work, Brax, I do tend to analyse with my eyes before I introduce my fingers.”  He held up his hands and waggled his fingers for effect.  “And what I can tell you right now …”  He sucked in his bottom lip and took a second to quickly take a visual stock of things.  “Is that these systems were not shut down by manual means.”

 

“Meaning?”

 

The Doctor pulled his sonic from his jacket pocket and scanned it over the monitor and keyboard.  His bottom lip was pursed outward and his cheeks full of air as he waited for the results to show.   When they did he nodded knowingly.  “Just as I thought.”

 

“Which would be?” Romana queried.

 

“Whatever took out the system – at least this part of the system – was a blast of some form.”  He wandered toward another part of the desk and collected a small computer box and a handful of wires.  “Depending on the type of blast, there’s no guarantee that I will be able to get any part of this operational again.”

 

“Please try,” Romana pressed worriedly, watching as he moved through the debris picking up odd bits and pieces as he went.  “I have to know just what we have on our hands here.”

 

His eyes flicked up warily.  “And is there any reason why you are so worried, Romana?”  He dropped his eyes again and used both hands to pull open the box.  Small screws shot out either side of it as they gave way and popped.  “Daleks are a rather nefarious and nasty brute, but they can be contained if we are smart enough.”  His smile stretched to a grin.  “Which I am.”

 

“Modest too,” Braxietel muttered quietly.

 

“Dalek forces have been gathering strength over the past decade,” she admitted.  “They’ve been fairly quiet, I have to admit, but as you and I both know…”

 

“It means that they’re up to something,’ he finished.  His eyes lifted from the circuit board in his hand.  “What are the matricians saying?”

 

“Not much,” she huffed.  “Not very much at all.”  She waved her hands.  “Time is in flux right now, and no path is clear…”

 

“Except the me having to stay on Gallifrey thing,” he said with an unimpressed growl.  “That path is crystal clear in their minds.”  He looked back down at the circuit board and set it on the table, leaning forward with a handful of wires.  His elbows were on the table as he carefully soldered wires down with his sonic.  “Any idea yet why Rose is so important to this?”

 

“Probably to keep you grounded so you don’t run off,” Braxiatel offered with a shrug.  “Something’s coming, Thete.  I can feel it – we all can -- and admit it or not, when the going gets tough, the Doctor gets running.”

 

He lifted his eyes in a roll.  “Funny you should say that, when I’ve routinely stuck around to get dirty and save things like, oh, like planets, solar systems, the universe.”   He blew a puff of air onto a solder point to cool it.  “Council seems to think I have the ability to get the job done, considering they never stop asking me to do their dirty work.”

 

“I’m being quite serious, thete.”

 

“So am I.” he declared as he straightened up ups back and reached across for another wire.  “Whatever it is – this major event on the horizon – as soon as my wife is cleared to leave Gallifrey, we will depart.”

 

Romana’s voice was quiet.  “Are you sure that’s what she wants?”

 

His eyes flicked toward her.

 

“I mean no disrespect, Doctor,” she said quickly.  “But the two of you are building something here: a life.  Together.  Do you really think that going back to gallivanting across the universe putting yourself and your family in danger is what she wants?”  She sighed.  “And is it what you want?”

 

“It’s better than being tied up in a hospital for days on end and never seeing her,” he gruffed.  “And by all accounts, it does seem that she’s jeopardy friendly enough that even being on Gallifrey is dangerous for her.”

 

“You can make a difference here, Doctor, a real difference,” she pleaded.  “The universe needs you, but then, so do we.”

 

“Be careful, Romana,” he breathed out.  His eyes blinked for clarity as he attached a powerpack to the circuit board with a pair of soldered wires.  “Your sentimentality is unbecoming for a tenured member of council.”

 

“I blame you for that,” she accused softly. 

 

That made him smile.  “Thank you,” he said softly.

 

He finally stood up from his cobbled together circuit board and looked to his brother with wide eyes of hope.  “Well.  It’s messy, it’s rough, and it might blow us all up, but let’s see if I can get us something decent to watch on the telly.”

 

“Blow up?” Braxiatel hissed with worry.  “Should we back up a bit?”

 

Romana put her hand on his arm and shook her head with a smile.  “Be calm,” she said with amusement.  “He’s only jesting.”

 

“Am I?” the Doctor asked.

 

Brax growled.  “I can never tell.”

 

The Doctor offered a wink to the pair.  He then took a long stride backward and aimed his sonic at the monitor.  With a press of his finger on the switch, he let the device buzz to life.  The monitor flickered, it went cold, then it flickered again.  “Come on,” he urged as he took a step forward and pressed the tip of the device into the centre of the monitor.   With a hum, and then a rush of sound, the monitor lit up brightly to show a terrifyingly high def feed of a command deck full of life … and full of Daleks.

 

“By Rassilon,” Romana breathed out.  “The ship is full!”

 

Braxiatel shot a glare of panic toward his brother.  “Thete.  Do you have a time stamp on this recording?  How old is it?”

 

The Doctor shook his head, his eyes wide and equally as horrified as the two Time Lords beside him.  “I don’t know, Brax,  But if you give me a minute, maybe I can…”  He stopped short as the Command deck of the Dalek ship began to shake and shudder.  Control panels sparked and many of the Daleks began to roll around with urgency.

 

“They’re at the transduction barrier,” Romana blurted out, as one of the Daleks sounded out warning of approach to Gallifrey.  Her head flicked to the Doctor.  “The barrier would render the ship incapable of flight, but it wouldn’t destroy all systems like this.”  She gasped.  “Doctor, there has to be almost a hundred Daleks in there!”

 

“There are 550 Daleks on any battleship,” the Doctor growled darkly.

 

“Rassilon,” Braxiatel huffed out.  “Which means we have that many of them in the forests of Gallifrey.”  He went for his phone, but the Doctor stopped him with a hand on his wrist.

 

“Just wait,” the Doctor cautioned.  “Let’s see how this plays out, first.”

 

“Are you insane?” Braxiatel yelled.  “See how it plays out?  The quicker the better, man.”

 

The monitor showed the Command deck in panic as the ship hurtled through the transduction barrier and down to the ground below.   All three of them jumped back as the monitor shook with the final collision on land, as though they were on the deck itself.    Surprising all of them, the command deck was still alive with Both Daleks and systems as the crash came to an abrupt halt.

 

“This ship is still active,” Romana remarked.  “But how?”

 

“That’s the question,” the Doctor agreed as he leaned down with an elbow on the table to watch the feed.  “That’s the question indeed.”   He watched closely all of the movement on the screen, deciphering the glyphs of Skaro, and reaching his own determination of the state of the ship.  His chin was in his hand, which made talking slightly uncomfortable.  “To the best of my knowledge, Dalek technology doesn’t contain any form of Huon energy,” he managed.  “And if they did, I don’t know that they’d know how to wield it without killing themselves.”   He rose to a stand and pressed both hands into the table.  “Based on the damage we can see here to the ship’s controls. I can only guess that somewhere, and somehow, they had to have initiated a weapon and fired it like an EMP blast across …”  He huffed out.  “No.  Yes.  Maybe. No.”  He clutched at the table’s edge.  “It makes no sense.  None of it.”

 

“A blast makes sense, though,” Romana offered.  “When Brax and I were chasing the wolves to find Rose, we both got hit with a Huon blast.”  She looked toward Braxiatel.  “Knocked the both of us off our feet.”

 

The Doctor looked toward them.  “That could be important.  If they’ve determined how to wield Huon to make themselves invisible to our scanners…”  He stopped when the feed from the deck showed Rose being escorted onboard.   His hearts fell into his stomach.  She already had a trail of blood from the wound on her head. And her gait was very unsteady…

 

…They’d hurt her before she even made it onboard.

 

Her name passed through his lips, and he felt himself falter as she tethered herself with the shackle and began a very Human battle of wits against the pepper pots from Skaro.  Part of him was filled with pride at how calmly she was taking her imprisonment, and how she didn’t let the threat of extermination mar her efforts to insult and off put them.

 

“She’s got fight in her,” Brax muttered.

 

“She does,” the Doctor agreed quietly, trying hard not to focus too much on his wife’s perilous predicament, and trying to hear the discussions between Daleks.  He had to find out where these creatures were.  He wanted to find every single one of them, and remind them why they called him the Oncoming Storm.

 

Not a single one would survive – he’d make absolutely sure of that.

 

He felt Romana’s hand tenderly cover his as the command deck quietened and he hear Rose, with a failing voice and failing consciousness as what was to become of her.  When she was told she was to be exterminated, and his beloved wife told them to go ahead and do it, the Doctor couldn’t shield the sob that drew from his throat.

 

“She made it out, Doctor,” Romana reminded him.  “She’s safe.”

 

The monitor lit up brightly, the orange shifting to a brilliantly blinking yellow.  There was a voice, a two-toned disembodied voice that fell from the walls beyond where Rose’s beautiful human voice would be able to reach.  It told the Daleks in no uncertain terms that they were not going to harm Rose Tyler today.

 

 

Who is on our ship?  Identify yourself.”

 

The voice shifted wo a whisper of warning, a ghostly tune that promised destruction.  “I am the Bad Wolf… And you’re here far too early.”

 

Panic on the deck ensured at that moment, with the Daleks firing their rays any which way they could.  The shrill sound of them filled the warehouse, and made each member of the three Time Lord party cringe and shudder.

 

Against the wall, Rose struggled weakly to free herself.  She looked left and then right, her head shaking as she breathed out the word “no” several times.

 

And then, amidst it all, this tiny, injured human suddenly let out a fierce cry of her husbands name.  Her chest thrust forward and her head threw backward.  The cry carried on, loud and strong, until she no longer had air left in her lungs to expel it.  And then, in a moment, her entire body tensed out and a bright disc of light tore throughout the ship, instantly turning Daleks to dust where they stood and slicing apart the lights and control panels… the feed cut out.

 

The three Time Lords stood staring at the now dark monitor with varying expression of horror on their faces.

 

“What did I just see?” Braxiatel murmured worriedly.  “Tell me that I didn’t just see that.”  He looked to the Doctor.  “Tell me that I didn’t just watch your wife explode…”

 

“And wipe out every single Dalek on that ship,” Romana finished.

 

The Doctor was utterly silent, and incredibly still.  His eyes were wide on the darkened screen, but the vision of Rose exploding with Huon energy wouldn’t escape him.

 

“Thete,” his brother urged him.  “What’s going on.  What is she?”

 

“Human,” he croaked with a wince in his brow.  “She’s human.”

 

He pointed at the darkened monitor.  “No human is capable of that, Thete.  None.”  He lifted his hands to clutch at his hair.  “By Rassilon’s Robes if anyone on council sees this.”

 

“No one can see this,” the Doctor breathed almost inaudibly.  “No one…”

 

“Doctor,”  Romana warned when he lifted his sonic to the contraption on the table.  “That may be the only evidence we have to prove that there aren’t any Daleks…”  She yelped and covered her eyes with the spray of sparks and metal as it exploded under  the pressure of the Sonic.  “Doctor!”

 

“Make something up,” he snarled.  “Tell them anything that doesn’t involve what you just saw on that feed.”

 

“But!”

 

“They see this,” he warned.  “And they’ll weaponize her.”  He turned and raced to the door, desperate to get to the transport to take him back to his wife.

 

There was no way this would be kept in the dark.  The GTSB techs would no doubt cobble that thing back together, and they’d see exactly what he just saw … and they’d take her from him.  Take her and turn her into a weapon.

 

He was not going to allow that to happen.

 

Forget the order from council that he be grounded, and bugger them if they think he wasn’tcapable of enough jiggery pokery to be able to bypass any damn controls they’d tampered with on his TARDIS. 

 

He was getting them out of there…  As far from Gallifrey as he could take them.

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Something about what Braxiatel had said to him rang true:  When the tough got going, the Doctor ran.

 

Oh, he couldn’t wholly argue that line.  He did have a habit of running when things became too much … But that really did only apply to hm when it involved Gallifreyan matters.   It was difficult to explain just why it was that this planet hit him so hard between the hearts like it did, and why he could so easily run from them, but never anyone else in need.

 

Well, okay.  That wasn’t entirely true.  He could explain it very well and very simply, in fact.  Gallifrey and her children could hurt him like no other.  Facing peril on any other planet in any part of the universe really did only have one truly negative outcome:  Death.  Death in its purely physical form.   On Gallifrey, he risked death of another nature: Of spirit – which was so much worse.

 

Gallifrey was like the family member to him that he preferred to see only a sparse few times a year, holiday get togethers and such.  Enough to keep that affection alive, not enough to want to punch it in the face.  A relationship that has strength only because you don’t see each other.  Getting along better when they don’t see each other kind’ve thing.

 

That thought was in his head as he burst out of the warehouse, leaving his brother behind in his wake, cursing out phrases normally benign, but rendered explicit with the replacement of just one word.  How would old Rassilon feel to know his name had been replaced with one of the filthiest words a Gallifreyan could utter?

 

For Rassilon’s sake, indeed, brother.

 

He was swift to slam open the door to the capsule, and curl around it before it had opened completely.  He had the thing swinging back to slam shut after the return bounce from the hard opening.  He pushed hard on the door, ensuring that he heard the lock snick in place, and then rushed to the centre console.  He had the coordinates to the hospital – and more specifically Rose’s room – entered into the nav system and pulled on the dematerialisation lever before he’d managed to exhale a full breath.  He set his hands on the console and looked up at the rise and fall of the centre column as the relative dimensional stabilizer whined and wheezed through dematerialisation.

 

There wasn’t even a hiccup between dematerialisation and materialisation at the hospital.  The entire trip took less than ten seconds.   He didn’t even wait for the final low thumping boom indicated that materialisation was complete before he was out the door and into a darkened room filled with beeps and bored yawning of two Dahrama wolves.

 

“Hello, children,” he muttered in greeting as he petted their heads with a light push to try and make his way past them toward the bed.  “Play later, right now, we have to get Mum safe.”   He finished with a pair of huffs, which stood both animals down. He jutted his chin toward the waiting grey cylindrical travel capsule.  “Wait in there for me.”  He hiccupped and shook his head.  “No, better yet.  Stand guard at the door.  Don’t let anyone in.  If you see my brother: tear his face off.”  He then moaned.  “No.  don’t’ do that.  Just scare him a little or … or something.  I’ll leave it to your imagination.”

 

The wolves both tilted their heads with confusion at him.   Ut with a wave of his hand, they both padded slowly to the door, their heads turning back to look at him with curiosity before they finally sat on their rumps and watched the hallway ahead of them.

 

The Doctor moved toward the bed.  He switched off any monitor that would ping any form of alarm, and then slid his arms underneath Rose’s back and legs.  “Come on Darling,” he cooed gently.  “Time to take a little trip.”

 

The jostling movements as he pulled her in against his chest stirred her.  With a moan she blinked opened her eyes just a slit.  “Doctor?”

 

The confused hoarseness in her tone made him shudder, and he paused just a moment.  He gave her a broad, yet very fake, smile.  “It’s me.  Good morning sleepyhead.”

 

She wriggled against him and blinked to open her eyes wider to better survey the room.  “Where am I?”

 

“With me,” he answered her.  “And that’s all that matters, yeah?”

 

“Well yeah,” she said with a wince.  “Of course.”   She exhaled hard.  “Why does my head hurt?”

 

He pulled her hard against his chest and lifted her from the bed.  His lips pressed against her hair as he walked them both briskly into the capsule.  “You had a little knock to the head, Rose.”

 

She let him carry her and rested her head against his shoulder.  ‘Just a knock?  Feels like I got hit with a sledgehammer.”  She looked around.  “Am I in a hospital?”

 

“Yes, Rose,” he answered gently.  “You needed a Doctor.  I just so happen to be one.  One who works in a hospital.  Seemed the best place for you.   Now hush, please.”  He stepped in through the door and let out a sharp whistle.  Immediately the two wolves rushed in.  “Shut the door,” he ordered as he settled Rose comfortably into a soft jump seat.

 

The male wolf kicked at the door with his hind leg, and bounded up to stand beside the Doctor as his mate circled around where Rose was seated.  Each obviously had their priority and made sure to stand close by.

 

The Doctor took only a second to pet the male on the head before reaching for the controls of the small transport.   A short-range capsule, it was not nearly as cavernous as his own TARDIS, but it would do for now.  Just a short hope to his home, and he’d shift all of them into the TARDIS destination: anywhere that wasn’t within Gallifrey’s reach.

 

Part of him was quite excited by that prospect.  It had been a while since he’d pulled back on the old girl’s dematerialisation lever and opened the doors to destination unknown.  The Relative Dimensional Stabiliser wheezed out its song and the Doctor turned toward his mate.

 

“Are you okay?” he asked softly.

 

“Confused,” she admitted with a furrow in her brow.  She lifted sleepy eyes to his.  “Last thing I remember is getting’ caught in a landslide and then being…”  She winced while trying to remember.  “Oh, why can’t I remember?”

 

“Don’t fret,” he cooed gently.  “It’s really not important.”  He looked up with a smile as the column stopped shifting, indicating materialisation at their home.  “What is important,” he said with his eyes up above, “is that I’m on vacation now, and so the two of us…”  He looked down at the wolves.  “Well, make that the four of us, will be taking a trip!”

 

He ran to her and scooped her up again in his arms.  “What do you think about that?”

 

Her eyes narrowed, and continued to be narrowed on his face as he walked them out of the capsule and headed directly to the open, waiting door of the blue Police Box that was parked in the corner of their living room.  “You seem awfully excited.”

 

He set her down onto a very comfortable armchair, her legs over the armrest and her back against the other side.   “I haven’t really seen you over these past couple of months,” he rushed out as he threw a crocheted lap blanket over her legs and pressed a chaste and hurried kiss to her forehead.  “And I just need to spend some time with you.”

 

She smiled, but there was suspicion in her eyes.  “I’m really not in any shape to go travellin’ right now, Doctor.  Is there any chance you can maybe let me sleep off the headache for a bit first?”

 

“Oh,” he sang out as he ran to the console and slipped off his coat.  He hung it on a monitor that hung from a long cable attached to the ceiling.   “Why wait, my dear?  Why wait at all?  The TARDIS has plenty of comfortable beds for you to rest in…”

 

“Why’re you in such a hurry?” she questioned warily.

 

He pulled his sonic from his pocket and dropped down onto his knees at the console.  “Because I’d like to be out of range of Gallfirey and the hospital’s infernal communications system before the next dire emergency can have the chance to take me away from you?”

 

“Yeah,” she drawled.  “Oh-Kay.”

 

He gave her a wink, dropped onto his back, and slid underneath the console.  “Oh, it’ll be great.  I promise you, Rose.  The whole universe at our disposal.”

 

She appeared at his feet, wearing the lapghan as a shawl around her shoulders.  “Yeah.  I get that,” she murmured.  “And it’s an excitin’ prospect of course.”

 

He didn’t expect her to actually get off the chair, and so her voice startled him enough that he jerked and dropped the sonic screwdriver on his nose.  He let out a short Gallifreyan swear.  “Rose, darling.  You really should be laying down.”

 

She sat on the floor at his feet.  “Is there something wrong with the TARDIS?”

 

His voice filtered out, muffled, from deep inside the console.  “You had better not be sitting on the floor.  It’s filthy.”

 

“I can handle a little dirt,” she answered with a light lean in her belly so that she could attempt to see what he was up to.  “What’s wrong with the TARDIS?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Then why’re you fixing it?”

 

“No reason.”   There was a spark against his finger and he yelped before he shoved that digit into his mouth.   There was another Gallifreyan curse.  “Just a little security thing that got installed back when … well, a while ago.  It’s going to prevent dematerialisation, so I need to disable it.”

 

Rose leaned her elbow on the lower edge of the console and rested her head on her fist.  “Disabling security features?  Isn’t that dangerous?”

 

“No,” he lied.  “Not really.  Not if you know what you’re doing, which I do.”  He grit his teeth as he pulled at a part that simply wouldn’t give.  His voice ended up strained.  “It’s just taking a minute, that’s all.”

 

“I might go make myself a tea, then,” she said with a sigh.  “Want one?”

 

“Sure,” he chirped out though gritted teeth.  “Just.  Just don’t leave the TARDIS, use her kitchen.”

 

“Don’t leave the TARDIS,” she muttered under her breath.  Her head shook lightly and she grabbed hold of his thigh with a tight grip of her fingers.  She smirked at his yelp.  “Get out from under there and tell me what you’ve done.”

 

He pushed out only enough to be able to shift his head to look at her around the entrance to the cubby hole he was currently digging around.  “What do you mean, tell you what I’ve done?”

 

“Need me to say it again in Gallifreyan?” she queried with annoyance.  “Because I can do that, you know.  I can say it, and make it sound even more accusatory.  Brax taught me how.”  She left her elbow up where it was, but lowered her head to move closer to his very guilty expression.  “Why are you so eager to leave?”

 

“Because I want to be with you,” he clarified with frustration.  “I miss my wife.  I miss spending time with you.”  He huffed.  “Rassilon, Rose, we haven’t made love in over a month, The last time we even shared a bed together was three weeks ago, and that lasted all of ten minutes before my phone rang.”

 

He reached up a hand to touch her wrist – the only part of her he could comfortably reach.  “My hearts hurt when I’m not with you.  And call me a weak and pathetic fool for that if you want.”

 

“I love you too,” she breathed out on a long breath.  “More’n you can possibly imagine.”

 

That made him smile and he lifted his head and prepared to push himself back into the console.  She stopped him with another grab at his thigh.  “But if you thin for a moment I’m completely buyin’ it, Doctor, then you’ve got another thing comin’.  Now out with it:  What did you do that we need to run away from Gallifrey so fast.”

 

“How could you possibly accuse me of such nefarious intentions?” He gasped with mock hurt.

 

She merely looked at him with one brow seated high, the other low.  She was saved from anwering by a sudden banging against the TARDIS doors.

 

“Thete!” Braxiatel bellowed form the outside.  “Open up this door, right now.”

 

The Doctor dared not look toward his wife.  He was quite certain of the expression she would have onb her beautiful face – one of disappointment – and so he glared toward the door, which he could see bowing with each strike of his brother’s fists against it.

 

“Get lost, Brax,” he hollered in reply.  “I’m busy.”

 

The pounding continued.  A swear in ancient Gallifreyan growled through the doorway.

 

“My wife is in here,” the Doctor snarled in reply as he pulled himself out fully from underneath the console and remained laying on his hip propped up by his elbow.  “You might want to watch your language!”

 

“Open this door, Thete, or so help me I’ll break the door down.”

 

“Ha!” he sang in reply as he finally drew himself to a stand.  “Best of luck with that.   The assembled hoards of Genghis Khan couldn’t break through those doors, Don’t think you’ll have much better luck!”

 

Rose remained seated on the floor as she let her attention flick between the Doctor and the banging doors at the entrance to the TARDIS.  She exhaled a long breath.   “Doctor…?”

 

“Oh don’t you mind that fool,” the Doctor chirped with faux giddiness.  He ran to the console and started playing around with several controls in an attempt for the old girl to get moving.  “He’s just mad that he didn’t get an invite to join us on our journey.”   He looked at the door, his voice shifting to anger.  “I said stop banging on the door, Brax.  I’m not opening it for you.”

 

“I am not leaving until we’ve discussed this, Thete,” he growled in reply.  “This isn’t something you’re going to be able to run from, so don’t even think about trying.”

 

“I’m more than thinking about it,” he shot back as he grinned and shoved hard at the dematerialisation lever.  He let out a long swear in frustration as the column wheezed once, but refused to move any more. 

 

“I’ve had your TARDIS locked down,” Braxiatel  bellowed.  “With protocols not even you can find your way around.”

 

The Doctor huffed.  “That feels like a challenge…”

 

“Open this damn door!”

 

“You keep on knocking but you can’t come in,” the Doctor sang out as he slapped hard at the keys on the console and worked to break the grounding protocols.

 

Rose rolled her eyes and let out a long groan as she used alternating grips on the console to basically climb herself to a stand.  “Are we really sure you’re ready to become a father?” she muttered under her breath.

 

“Oh,” he drawled with a huge smile.  “I am so ready for that.”  He reached out to place his hands either side of her bump, but frowned when she backed off a few steps with a shake in her head.  “Rose?”  His eyes pinched to watch her walk toward the door, her blanket still wrapped as a shawl around hr shoulders.  “Rose.  What are you doing?”

 

She looked back at him.  “What do you think?”

 

“Don’t open that door.”

 

From the other side of the door, the opposite demand sounded out angrily.

 

“Rose,” the Doctor growled.  “I’m warning – no asking – you to please not let him in.”

 

“Whatever you’re both fighting about,” she said with a sigh and a wince.  “Get it sorted, yeah?  Both of you are givin’ me a headache.”

 

Rose turned the tumbler on the single simple little lock on the door.  With both hands she sung open both doors and then stepped back to sweep her arm out toward the Doctor.  “He’s over there.”

 

Braxiatel looked at Rose with worry.  He touched with thanks at her shoulder and glared toward his brother.  “What kind of insensitive Woprat are you?”  He stalked into the room.  “You took your sick wife out of her hospital bed to that you could run off like a damn coward?”  He flicked his arm to her.  “She’s ill, Thete, and needs medical observation and attention.”

 

“It might be interesting for you to note,” the Doctor growled in reply.  “That I am a Doctor.  I also have a fully stocked medical bay in this ship with equipment and devices that far exceed the archaic junk at that hospital.”  He pounded hard at the keys, frustrated that he was unable to correct any of the coding that was holding his ship for on the ground.  “I need to keep her safe, Brax.”

 

Braxiatel’s voice finally fell to a more acceptable volume.  Whilst still very frustrated, his voice was calm.  “And in order to keep her safe, you should keep her here on Gallifrey where you have a support system to help you with that.”

 

“You saw what I saw,” the Doctor said with a wince, that image still not leaving his quite frankly photographic mind.  “When the investigative teams see that…”

 

“Which they won’t.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes rolled and he let out a huff.  “Oh don’t give me that.  Do you think I’m the only one on this planet capable ot rewiring those surveillance panels to get them back up and running?”  He pushed off the console and paced angrily.  “They’re investigators, Brax.  This is what they do – what they specialise at.  I will give them no more than 12 hours to see what you, Romana, and I just saw.”  He spun to him and stopped pacing to glare at him.  “and less than that again for Council to come after her.”  He pointed a finger at him.  “I won’t allow that to happen.”

 

“And neither will Romana,” Braxiatel defended.

 

The Doctor let up a single laugh.  “Like she can stop them,” he muttered with viciousness in his tone.  “She is one, they are many, and she will lose against them.”

 

Braxiatel nodded.  He couldn’t deny that charge.  For all that Romana was – for how incredibly brilliant she was – she was no match against an entire council.

 

“You have my word, Brother.  My solemn vow, that no one will ever see that footage.”

 

“And how can you promise that?”

 

Braxiatel lifted his head with an air of arrogance which was more habitual than actually arrogant.  “Because she had it destroyed.  All of it.  With no possibility at all that it can be retrieved.”

 

His eyes were wide.  “She did what?”

 

“You heard me, Thete,,” Braxiatel answered firmly.  “Romana knows full well that her control over council is limited, and that at any moment she could be usurped by someone else.  Something like this, something as severe as what we just saw?”  He shuddered.  “That will make them panic .. and quite likely revolt.”  He shook his head.  “She can’t be of any help to you if that happens.”

 

His whole body began to calm.  “You mean she’s defied her oath of office and is willing to hide it?”

 

“Until such time as we know what we’re dealing with,” he answered.  He let out a breath.  “Thete.  She cares for you, and Rassilon save me for saying this, but I do as well.  We also trust you, and trust that you are not putting anyone in danger…”

 

“That’s a level of trust in me that no one should have,” he replied softly.  “Unfortunately danger is my stalker, and one I can’t seem to shake.”

 

“Promise me that you didn’t know about …”  He huffed.  “About what she is capable of.”

 

“I promise you that I didn’t.” he breathed out.  “I still don’t know that I believe what I saw.  Brax, I have shared intimacy in its highest form with Rose.  If she truly had power of that magnitude, I’d have felt it by now.”

 

Braxietel nodded.  He rubbed at his chin in thought.  “Not an image I wanted you to share with me, Thete.”  He lifted his head, inhaled a deep breath through an open mouth and then looked down.  “Have you heard the reference to this Bad Wolf before now?”

 

He scratched at the back of his head.   “Outside of faery tales, Brax?  No.”  His eyes widened and he snapped a look toward Braxiatel.  “Hold on.  Hold on.”  He waved a finger and started to pace again.  “Rose did mention.  Once.  The name Bad Wolf to me.”

 

Braxiatel’s interest was properly peaked.  “Do you remember what she said?”

 

The Doctor shook his head.  “No, we really didn’t get into it all that much.  Just that it was a warning to my elder self, but nothing for him – or me -  to be concerned about.”

 

“Well I’m right properly concerned,” Braxiatel exclaimed.  “As I suspect you must be as well.”

 

The Doctor nodded as he stalked to the door.  “Then let’s ask her,” he stated firmly.  “No time like the present.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose was snuggled in her bed now, all cocooned inside a warm duvet so tightly that only her face was showing.  Leaving the two arguing Time Lords had been easy.  She’d taken off before Braxiatel had walked up to his brother to engage in their slinging match.   Her head was pounding hard, and she was still weak and sleepy….

 

She was close to achieving the perfect sleepy spot and state, when the bedroom door flew open.  Although her eyes were closed, and then clenched shut, she knew exactly who had intruded upon her nap time.  It wasn’t only the one of them.  Both of them were trespassing in her sanctuary.

 

She moaned and rolled forward to press her face into the pillow.  “Go away,” she mumbled pitifully when she felt the mattress sink beside her and a hand touch her shoulder.

 

“Rose?”

 

“Go away,” she tried again, unsure if she was in any way understandable given that her face was buried in a pillow.  To be sure, she rolled just her head to free her mouth.  “Please go and fight with your brother somewhere else.”

 

“Oh,” he said with a smile.  “We kissed and made up.”

 

“Then why are you both in here?” she queried with a sigh.  “I’m fairly certain that I’m not supposed to be party to any kissing and making up of siblings…”  Her eyes widened.  “I’m … I’m not, am I?”

 

“With all honesty, Rose,” Braxiatel offered.  “Not even he is party to any form of kissing or making up as he may have suggested.”

 

“Figurative,” the Doctor moaned.  “It’s an Earth-saying.”

 

“And I’m on Gallifrey,” he chirped out.  “I wonder why I didn’t know about Earth customs and colloquialisms – oh, perhaps it is because I was born and raised on Gallifrey.”

 

Rose moaned.  “I thought you two were done fighting?”

 

“Verbal sparring for now,” the Doctor assured her with a smile.  “And in order for me to get rid of him, can we ask you a couple of questions?  After that, you can sleep.  Sleep all you want.”  He grinned.  “In fact, I’ll sleep with you.”

 

Rose yawned widely, but pulled herself up to sitting.  She lifted her arms above her head in a stretch.  “Okay.  What’s your question?”

 

“Bad wolf,” the Doctor began, noting with curiosity how widely her eyes flared at the name.

 

“W-What about her?”

 

The Doctor lifted his eyes toward Braxiatel.  “So it’s female.”

 

“We gathered that from the feed,” Braxiatel said with a shrug.

 

Rose looked between them both.  “What feed?”

 

The Doctor lifted his hand to gently ask her for quiet.  “Don’t worry about that for now.   What I need to know, is who is the Bad Wolf?”

 

“Was,” Rose corrected carefully.  “Who was Bad Wolf?”  She watched his face fall to an unreadable expression and shifted on the bed to draw her knees up to her chest.  “Bad Wolf.  Well.  Bad Wolf was me.”

 

The Doctor looked perplexed by that revelation.  “I’m sorry, what?”

 

Rose hugged her knees and looked up to the ceiling.  “I’m the Bad Wolf,” she answered.  “Well.  Was.”

 

Braxiatel remained silent, but the Doctor pressed on.  “I don’t understand?  The memory that I saw, the one of the two of us.  I was worried about that name.”

 

Rose shook her head slowly.  “Well, yeah.  It was a name that haunted our travels.  Everywhere we went it showed up like an ominous warning of doom and gloom to come.”  She shrugged.  “Turns out it was me all along.  And it wasn’t a danger – it was to save him.  I mean you.”

 

She didn’t need him to press her for more information.  She knew that he wanted more, and so gave the information he was looking for without hesitation.

 

“Me, Jack, and you all got trapped on a satellite hovering above Earth,” she said with a sigh.  “About 100,000 ahead in my time line.  It was our second time there actually.  The first time, you saw a problem and tried to fix it.”  She smiled.  “Figured you were leading planet Earth into a new golden age.”  Her smile fell.  “Turns out your interference had the opposite effect, and the planet below was in far worse shape than it was when we left it.”

 

The Doctor let out a sound of remorse, Braxiatel a snort of derision.

 

“The Emperor of the Daleks, well, time Time War had decimated the Dalek race…”

 

“Time War?”

 

Rose’s eyes widened for a brief moment.  “Ah.  Nothing for you to concern yourself with,” she squeezed out through a wince.  “The Daleks caused a spot of bother, and my Time Lord made them pay for it,” she volunteered with a soft smile.  “The Oncoming Storm, they called you.”

 

The Doctor smirked.  “Haven’t really been called that for a while.”

 

“Seen the Daleks lately?”

 

His eyes shifted her hers, but he said nothing.

 

“Anyway,” she continued.  “The Dalek Emperor was trying to rebuild his army.  Couldn’t do so with his own species, I s’pose.  None left.  So instead he was harvestin’ the humans to rebuild.”  She blinked at him.  “I can’t give you the nitty gritty details of that, though it was fairly well explained to you by the slimy lookin’ thing.”  She shuddered.  “Called himself a God, he did.  The God of the Daleks, and the creator of a newer and more powerful army.”

 

She lifted her hand to scoop her hair behind her ear.  “Course, you weren’t having any part of it.  Weren’t going to let ‘em continue at any rate, so you came up with a plan to destroy them all.”  One side of her mouth lifted into a small smile.  “Wanted to kill every last stinkin’ one of them, you said.”  She nodded.  “And you were going to.  With some delta wave or something…”

 

The Doctor frowned.  “A Delta Wave?”  he looked to Braxiatel.  “Why would I think of something like that?  A Delta wave would wipe out every living thing, including me.”  He looked at her.  “Including you.”  His breath shuddered.  “I can’t imagine…”

 

Rose shook her head.  “Yeah, well.  That’s where things took a turn, didn’t they?”  She exhaled hard.  “Right before you were all set to do it, you and me were talkin’.  You told me you had a better plan, and that we needed to get into the TARDIS.”  She sniffed hard, and her voiced softened with pain.  “But then you locked me in there.  Sent me back home with the TARDIS.  Told me to forget about you, to let the TARDIS die, and have a fantastic life without you.”

 

There were tears in her eyes when she looked at him.  “But how could I do that?  After everything… after you and me.”  She inhaled through an open mouth and tried to steady her emotion.  “Well.  I wasn’t havin’ that.  After some mopin’ about and feelin’ sorry for myself, I went to the park.”  She inhaled.  “There they were, the two words that haunted us:  Bad Wolf,”  She blinked.  She couldn’t continue looking at him, so she cast her eyes downward.  “And I knew.  I knew right then that the words weren’t anything bad.  They were my  words, and my pathway to lead me back to you.”

 

He took her hand in his.  “And how’d you do that?”

 

She lifted her eyes.  “I opened her heart,”  she admitted.  “The heart of her.  I looked into the TARDIS,” she answered.  “And the TARDIS looked into me.”

 

“Oh good Rassilon,” Braxiatel breathed out with horror.

 

The Doctor ignored his brother’s words and looked imploringly toward his wife.  “And what happened?”

 

“I became the Bad Wolf.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

I became the Bad Wolf.

 

Well.  That wasn’t quite what he was expecting to hear.   The Bad Wolf – from what he saw on the security feed – was separate to Rose.  Oh, the power was most definitely Rose, but the voice of the Bad Wolf?  That wasn’t her … it definitely wasn’t her.

 

…Oh please don't let it be her.

 

Braxiatel’s silence, and his wide eyes … well … They told the Doctor loud and clear that his thoughts were very much the same as his.  Actually, so did the disbelief and worry that his mind was projecting outward – not that he was actually trying to pick up his brother’s inadvertent mental transmissions – loud thinker that he was.

 

It was Braxiatel, rather than the Doctor, who actually found his voice to speak after that revelation.

 

“Just what is the Bad Wolf, Rose?”   He knew she would likely respond with a shrug and ‘me’ response, so he clarified what he was asking.  “What did you become, and why did you become her?”

 

Rose’s eyes were wide, but she wasn’t looking at either of them.  Her lips were pouted, even though her mouth was open, and she drew in a couple of breaths as she tried to remember what had happened almost four years ago.

 

“The Bad Wolf was – as the Doctor described her to me later – like a Goddess of time.”  She looked at her husband.  “At first I thought you were bein’ all over dramatic about it.  You’re good at that.”

 

He couldn’t chuckle even if he wanted to.

 

She swallowed before continuing and looked at her hands as she turned them up and then down.  “But then…”  She gulped.  “When I started to remember it all on my own, I knew he wasn’t overdramatising it.  If anything he downplayed it.”   He dropped her hands, looked up, and sighed.  “Not that he really went into it all that deep.  Basically just said,”  she adopted a male voice to mimic the Doctor.  “Bad wolf was Time’s Goddess.   She’s gone now.  I sent her home.  Nothing for you to worry about.  Now how about a trip to see Ian Drury, Sheffield, 1979?”

 

Braxiatel looked toward his brother with a frustrated furrow in his brow.  “You left it at that?” 

 

The Doctor held up his hands.  “Not me … at least not yet.”  He seemed confused.  “How could I not explain it to you indepth?  That is so very un-me.”

 

Rose chuckled softly.  “Always talkin’,” she said softly.  “But never really saying anything.”

 

“You got that right,” Braxietel gruffed.  He looked to his brother.  “You know.  I think I like her.  She’s got the best read on you of anyone…”

 

“Oh shut it,” the Doctor growled.  He took Rose’s hands in his and tugged them lightly so that she looked at him.  “Please continue.”

 

“Like I said,” she continued.  “I can only tell you what I remember, and even that’s spotty at best.”  She paused and looked upward again, clearly trying to remember.  “When I looked into the heart of the TARDIS,” she tried to ignore the double gasps, but shuddered anyway.  “And she looked into me…”  There was a tear in her eye.  “It was like me and her, we were one.  I didn’t have to work the controls or anything – and I couldn’t do it if I tried to anyway … which I did when you first sent me home.”   She dropped her eyes to his.  “I hated you for that.”

 

“Right now, so do I?” he admitted on a whisper.

 

“Anyway,” she continued with a deep inhale for composure.  “Me and the TARDIS.  We flew back to you – flew back to the gamestation.”  Her voice wavered and she clutched tightly at his hands.  “I couldn’t leave you there alone, Doctor.  You were goin’ to die, alone, defendin the Earth.  It wasn’t right.”  Her head shook.  “I jus’ couldn’t.”

 

“I know,” he breathed, stroking her knuckles with his thumbs.  “I know.”

 

“An’ when I opened the TARDIS doors, all glowin’ with Time…”  She shuddered with the memory of the Doctor’s reaction to her.  “Well.  You were mad … or upset.”

 

“I imagine I would be, Rose,” he offered gently.  “If I’d sent you away for your safety and you found a way back to me.”

 

Braxiatel agreed.  “And in the condition you returned to him in.  Rose, I suspect my brother was terrified, not angry or upset.”

 

The Doctor nodded.  “Quite right.”  He lifted a hand to tenderly push her hair behind her ear..  “So you were golden, glowing Goddess?”

 

She smiled and captured his hand to lean her cheek into it.   “It wasn’t me, though, Doctor.  Not really.”  She looked into his worried eyes, almost grey instead of blue.  “It was my body, but not me.  Not really.  I had the entire vortex running through my head.  I’m human.  Just an ordinary Human.  I wasn’t in control, how could I be?”

 

“The entire vortex,” Braxiatel breathed out worriedly.  “No.  That would kill a Time Lord…”

 

“And it did,” Rose admitted sadly.  “When the Doctor took that power away from me, it … it,” she hiccupped.  “He regenerated.”    She looked toward the man watching her with wide and panicked eyes.  “I’m so sorry, Doctor.  I am.”

 

He pulled her hard against him into an embrace that was awkward, but very fierce.  “Don’t apologise, Rose.  Please don’t apologise.  I’d gladly give up a life for yours.”

 

Braxietel cleared his throat loud enough that it forced the couple apart.  He swallowed thickly.  “This power or yours, Rose.  How strong was it?”

 

“Id say it’s pretty obvious, Brax,” the Doctor growled.

 

“No, no,” Rose assured softly.  “He’s okay to ask.”  She looked toward her brother in law with sad eyes.  “This power, it was… indescribable.”  She lifted her hands from the Doctor’s and looked at it as she once again turned them up and then down.  “With these, I was able to destroy an entire Dalek fleet.”  She flicked them both.  “With just that, the whole lot of them were gone, reduced to dust and nothing else.  A wave of my hand, that’s all.”

 

She lifted her head and drew in a deep breath through an open mouth.  “I could see them.  Every atom of them.”  She lowered her head again.  “And I separated them.  I destroyed them all, the Daleks, their emperor, and their entire battle fleet – ships and all.”

 

“By Rassilon’s ghost,” Braxiatel breathed out with horror.  “That power…”

 

“Can never get into a Time Lord’s hands,” the Doctor warned darkly.  “He’d go mad with it.”

 

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” she offered gently.  “You took it all from me.  Made sure it was all gone.”  sHe smiled and wiggled her fingers.  “No more destroying anything with these.”  She frowned. “Well, except a Roast dinner, of course.  Could never get that done properly.”

 

He smiled weakly at her.

 

She sighed at that point.  “But I can see your worry about it.  The power was immense, so much so that I had no control over it … at least not the human part of me.”   She shrugged.  “When Bad Wolf was in control, she knew what she had to do – which was to keep you safe.”  A small smile formed.  “Her whole purpose was your safety against the Daleks.”

 

“As mine is to yours,” the Doctor offered.

 

“I have to admit that the power was enticing.  I could see the universe, all of it.  The turn of it.  Everything that is, all that was, and all that ever could be.”

 

Braxiatel nodded.  “That’s the way we see it,” he said softly.  “All the time.”

 

“That’s what the Doctor said to me at the time, wondering how it wasn’t burning.”  She pursed her lips.  “But it was burning.  God, it hurt so much.”

 

“It’s gone now,” the Doctor assured her, with only a short look of warning to his brother.

 

“But w-why would you ask?” she stammered, worry entering her voice.

 

“No reason for you to concern yourself with my dear,” Braxiatel answered her, beating his brother to it.  “Thete and I were talking about an old faery tale from our youth.  The name Bad Wolf popped up, and my brother mentioned that it was something you’d mentioned about your time with him in the future.”  He gave her a warm smile.  “We wanted to see if they were one in the same?”

 

“And were they?”  she queried.

 

“Not even close,” he lied with a smile.  “And I believe Thete now owes me an expensive bottle of Southern Gallifrey Magnolia wine for losing that particular bet.”  His eyes slid to the Doctor.  “Isn’t that right, Thete?”

 

The Doctor nodded.  “Yes.  I’m afraid so.”

 

Rose looked between the both of them, but could see nothing in their expressions or shared looks to indicate that they couldn’t be trusted.  She sighed, but smiled.  “So are we done now?  You got your answers?”

 

The Doctor slapped his hands to wipe them against each other.  “Indeed.  The answers to all of my questions.  My apology for keeping you awake to settle the bet.”  His eyes shifted to her hand as she lifted it to cover her forehead.  “Are you okay?”

 

“Headache,” she admitted with a wince.  “Any chance of you having some paracetamol anywhere ‘round?”

 

“I’m sure the TARDIS has a supply of them,” he said with a smile and a kiss to her forehead.  “Give me a moment, I’ll go grab it.”

 

She jerked just slightly when he hurriedly leapt off the bed and walked briskly out the door.  She leaned around to watch his back as he retreated from her.  “Don’t forget some water,” she called out.

 

“I won’t,’ he called in return.

 

Rose sat back in the pillows and looked across at Braxiatel, who was standing at her bedside with a look of concern on his face.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked him gently.

 

He nodded.  “The more important question is whether or not you are okay, dear,” he answered softly.

 

“I’m okay,” she breathed with a shrug.  Her eyes danced across to the door.  “Him, on the other hand…”

 

“He will be fine,” he assured her. 

 

She looked to him.  “And you?”

 

“What about me?”

 

“What you just heard,” she muttered.  “It can’t have been easy to hear – any of it.”  She looked down at the duvet, and flicked at imaginary pills with her fingernail.  “You don’t think all that highly of me to begin with, so…”

 

“Don’t’ be foolish,” he barked out in reply.   He looked toward the door to see if his brother was within earshot.  When he saw that it was clear, he moved toward her.   Her eyes lifted to his as he approached.  “Breathe a word to anyone, and I’ll vehemently deny it.”

 

She blinked a rapid trio of blinks.  “I’m sorry, what?”

 

“I have a very marked respect for you, and for who you are,” he began quietly.  “Granted, I can only say that I’ve interacted with you only on a social basis over the past couple of years, but in that time…”  He smiled.  “Well.  You’ve shown a spirit that I’ve never given your people credit for.  Rassilon, I don’t know that I’d even put you in the same category that I would any of your people.  You are unique.”

 

She lowered her head with a smile.

 

“What you give to my brother - the man he becomes because of you – I can only describe as a marvel of the universe.”  He sighed almost happily.  “You ground him.   None of us are anywhere near capable of that.  Not me.  Not our father. Not even our mother.”

 

She reached out to take his hand, surprised that he let her do so. 

 

He squeezed at her tiny hand inside his, marvelling at her warmth.  “And as the woman who has so bravely saved my brother in more ways than just one, and let that fool live to frustrate me again and yet again, I make you this vow.”

 

He lowered down into a stoop to press his forehead lightly against hers; a form of affection she would never have thought possible from this man.

 

“I vow to you that from this day and every day forward that you are protected.  That no matter where or when you are, I will always be there as your support, as your protection, and as your brother.”

 

Rose did the only thing she could with that revelation.  She launched up onto her knees and hugged the man.   She didn’t think for a moment of his aversion to such things.  She just grabbed his lapel and pulled him in against her chest.  “Thank you, Brax!”

 

Initially, the poor man’s arms flailed.  Gestures of affection of this nature were far better left between mates, but he quickly relaxed and let his arms settle across her shoulders.  “No, Rose,’ he breathed out.  “Thank you.”

 

At the Doorway, the Doctor watched the exchange with wide eyes and a gaped mouth.  Not one time in his entire lives had he seen his brother be so affectionate toward another.  His would much rather show disdain than respect for another being – particularly one that was human.

 

Oh, it could almost make him cry.

 

Almost.

 

Knowing that blatantly interrupting them would cause his brother unnecessary embarrassment, and quite likely an insult that would upset his wife, the Doctor opted to act as though he’d not borne witness to such a remarkable exchange.  He took a step back from the door, and then stepped forward.  Looking down at the plastic container in his hand, he gave it a shake.

 

Paracetamol,” he sang out. “Good for headaches and very safe for little as yet unborn Time Lords.”  He looked up and lifted his brows curiously as his wife and brother hurriedly separate.  “Oh-Kay,” he drawled out.  “Looks like I missed something.”

 

“No,” Rose laughed, her cheeks pinkening.  “I just fell…”

 

“It’s her head,’ Braxiatel agreed with a guilty look that was quickly disguised by an expression of contempt.  “These frail humans.  Tiny little knock to the head, and all of a sudden they’re reduced to infancy – unable to even stand on their own.”

 

“Yeah, oh-kay,” the Doctor drawled with an appropriate amount of suspicion.  His eyes and expression brightened, and he moved toward his wife with his bottle of pills and a glass of water.  “There you are, my Hearts.  Drink up, swallow those pills, and get some rest.”

 

Rose popped two ills on her tongue and drew back a mouthful of water from the glass to wash them down.  She spoke too soon after her swallow and managed to only choke out her words.  “can’t very well sleep with you two lookin’ at me.”

 

“She has a point,” the Doctor sad to his brother with a shrug.  “Best that you and I head off then.  Give her some peace and quiet.”  He grinned.  “Rose baked a pie yesterday…”

 

“Magnolia?” Brax remarked with a smile.

 

“The one and only,” he answered with a grin.  “Unless she’s eaten it all…”

 

Rose sighed.  “Boys?  Scoot.  Both of you.”

 

The Doctor leaned down to kiss her gently.  Words of adoration in his native tongue ghosted from his lips and vowed that his hearts beat for her.

 

“I love you too, Doctor,” she breathed out as she slid back down into the bed and snuggled into her pillow.  “Now sod off.  Both of you.”

 

The Doctor wore a smile, and Braxiatel a shake in his head as the both of them left the bedroom.  The Doctor was careful to pull the door closed with only a light snick.  He then waved his hand in a request for his brother to follow him to the kitchen.

 

“Well,’ Braxiatel muttered.  “That was certainly enlightening.”

 

“Terrifying,” the Doctor corrected him.  “Quite terrifying.”  He walked to the fridge and pulled out the half-eaten magnolia pie.  “And aside from enlightening, what did you get from it?”

 

Braxiatel thought on that for a moment as the Doctor moved around the kitchen gathering plates and cutlery.  When he did speak it was with concern.  “It’s very clear that she still holds this Bad Wolf entity inside her, Thete.”

 

“Right,” the Doctor drawled in reply.  “Straight to that part of it.”  He cut a slice of pie for his brother and slopped it onto a plate.  His eyes was on the piece as he slid it across the counter.  “It would be incredibly irresponsible of me to leave any part of that inside her, Brax, given the immense power it seemed to wield.”

 

Braxiatel held a fork in his hand but didn’t immediately dig into the pie.  “I believe that somewhere within the 26 syllables that make up your name, irresponsible is in there.”  He grinned as he finally shovelled a forkful of pie into his mouth.  He then purred gratefully.  “Heaven,” he mumbled around fruit and pastry.  “Absolute heaven.”  He swallowed.  “For this alone she is marriage worthy.”

 

“How very sexist of you,” the Doctor quipped in reply as he finished his own mouthful.  “I believe Rose when she says that I told her the power was removed.  I believe that I truly believed that when I said it to her.”  He shook his head and dug his fork in for another bite.  “I also believe that this Bad Wolf thing is …”

 

“Parasitic,” Braxiatel offered.  “And able to hide itself rather effectively against Time Lord discovery.”  He took another bite of his pie and let the flavour run across his tongue before chewing and swallowing again.  “But on a good note, it really doesn’t seem to be causing her any detriment at all.”

 

“No,” he agreed.  “It doesn’t.  If anything it’s protecting her.”  He pursed his lips, his brows deepening to a furrow. “Well.  Against the Daleks at any rate.  It doesn’t seem to activate in other circumstances – the cliff fall as an example.”

 

“But you were there.”

 

“I very nearly wasn’t.”

 

The two men quietened down so that the only sounds heard in the kitchen were the scraping of forks on plates, and the sounds of chewing.

 

(A/N: If you have misophonia like I do, my apology for that image and any eye-ticking that may occur)

 

The Doctor finally spoke when there was only one to two bites left of his pie.  “Have you given much thought to this Bad Wolf telling the Daleks that they’re here too early?”

 

Braxiatel nodded.  “I have.”  He dropped his fork onto the empty plate.  “And it concerns me, greatly.”

 

“Sees the universe like us, all that is, all that was…”

 

“And all that ever could be,” he finished.  He nodded.  “Which means…”

 

“She’s seen the arrival of Daleks to Gallifrey,” The Doctor said gravely.  “Which means what we saw today, that one ship.   That’s only the beginning.”

 

“You’re thinking we may be looking at an invasion, Thete?”

 

“Rassilon,” he breathed out.  “I hope not.”  He looked down at his plate with a shake in his head.  “There is no way that our forces can hold back a fully-fledged Dalek fleet.”

 

“You and Romana are well versed in the ways of the Daleks and how to defeat them,” Braxiatel offered.  “Can we rely on you to assist in bringing our soldiers up to speed?”

 

The Doctor blew out a breath and slouched on the countertop, his arms straight, and his head hung low between his shoulders.  “Your best course of action is to not let them get to Gallifrey, Brax.”  He lifted his eyes to his brother.  “They kill indiscriminately.  Women, children, they don’t care.”  He growled.  “Exterminate, exterminate, exter-min-Sepulchasm-ate.”

 

Braxiatel’s brows lifted.  “Reached for the big one there, I see,” he remarked.   He blew out a breath.  “I will have to tell Romana what we learned today, Thete.”

 

“I know,“ he murmured, still in his slouch.  His head still low.  “But please, don’t let it go further.”  He lifted his head.  “What Rose may, or may not know, is not to any of us to know – and they will push her if they catch wind of it.”

 

“I know, Thete,” he agreed.  “I vow to you that it won’t leave the sanctity of the three of us.  But do know that together, we must find a solution, so that if our fears are realised and the Daleks are on their way to Gallifrey – we must be prepared for them.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Anyway,” he said with more of a chirp in his tone than of doom and gloom.  “For now, I say please go be with your wife.  I will ensure that you will not be bothered by any hospital calls.”

 

He nodded.  “Thanks.”

 

Braxiatel have him a couple of firm pats on the shoulder and walked toward the doorway, and toward the stolen travel capsule.  “I’ll be taking the capsule you stole,” he grumbled.  The then paused and picked up the pie dish and its remaining two pieces of pie.  “And this…”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The rotor column was quiet as he stared at the locked front doors of his TARDIS.  For several minutes he stood in silence, contemplating next steps and fearing the outcome.  Oh, but he wasn’t looking forward to this.  He wasn’t in any way mentally prepared for it.  Rassilon, he was nowhere near physically prepared for it, either, but he was fully aware of the potential that there would be a physical component to this…

 

…Potential?  HA!  It was a guarantee.    And yet, maybe that would be a good thing.  Maybe it would actually take away this numbness that he felt inside and make him actually physically feel the pain.

 

His fingernails flicked at a small button on the console.  It wasn’t a particularly important button, just one that was supposed to light up this section of the panel to allow him to better see the measurements and dial controls.   It hadn’t worked of late, not since the fall into the heart of a planet that was the front door of the Devil.  He hadn’t really thought about it, such was the autonomy of piloting his ship, but now that he thought about it, perhaps he should look into just what was wrong with it:  A burnt fuse, burnt bulb, break in the circuitry?

 

The column let out a wheeze and he lifted his eyes to the ceiling.

 

“Yeah,” he drawled out on a hoarse whisper.  “I know, old girl.  I know.”  He huffed and looked back to the door.  “More pressing matters need addressing.”

 

Three times since dropping Donna off in Chiswick, he’d landed here, trying to find the courage to step outside the doors and confront his biggest fear since the Daleks.  His first time was after dropping off Donna on Christmas day – such an amazing spirit was held inside that woman.  Such fierce determination and courage.  Oh, she would make a great companion…

 

…But that was Christmas Day.  Who was he to ruin a holiday of that nature?  No.  He felt it better to wait until a more appropriate and non-family holiday moment…

 

The second time, was weeks later in Earth’s timeline, Easter.  Just as bad as Christmas.

 

This time, it was late Summer.  As far as he could tell, there was nothing in the Human calendar to suggest the timing would be in poor taste.   Although … when would be a good time for this?

 

Rassilon.  He’d never had to do this before, which actually did seem quite shocking really.  In almost a millennia of travelling, and so many companions at his side facing danger at every step, he’d never actually found himself in this rather delicate – and quite frankly frightening – position.   All of a sudden his respect for army officials and police officers skyrocketed.  This was something they did by routine…

 

He steeled himself with a deep inhale and clenched his fists tight to ready himself.  “Right then,” he murmured to no one in particular.  “Best we get to it.”

 

He strode purposefully toward the door.  He clutched at the handle with one hand, unlocked the door with the other, and pulled open the door.  Immediately he was blinded by the brilliant sunlight of an late Summer’s day.  He stayed just a moment to relish in the warmth that single sun offered; not as warm as Gallifrey, but pleasant nonetheless. 

 

A child screaming in tantrum broke his short reverie, and he looked toward the scream with his brows high.  The youngster was on her back the dirty floor,  kicking her little legs and clenching tiny fists as her poor mother tried desperately to settle her.  He briefly wondered what had upset the child, but figured it wasn’t worth the time to deduce nor intervene.  Rose had told him that little ones did tend to tantrum over the most ridiculous things.  She’d shown him an internet page full of tired parents showing pictures of a tantrum with a caption noting what caused it…

 

…All of which were mindblowing.

 

A smile crept onto his face at that point.  He had to wonder if Rose had pitched an unreasonable fit when she was that age.  Probably.  She was fairly good at it now … Well … so was he, really.

 

He looked up toward the second balcony railing, and to the plain dirty white door of Jackie Tyler’s flat.  Closed and quiet, with a ratted sticky note that was no doubt an ignored flier of sorts for the local Chinese restaurant.  He’d seen something like that on a previous visit.   He wondered for a moment if this was the same one, or if they were replaced almost as quickly as they were removed.

 

With a sigh, a look to the left, and then to the right, he thrust his hands deep inside his trouser pockets an headed bristly across the courtyard.  He continued to check left and right as he bounded a single stride up onto the curb and made his way to the stairwell.  Habit made him take the stairs two at a time, and he had to stop himself from looking behind him with a grin to tell Rose to hurry up.

 

His head dropped when he made it to the balcony, and with a kick of his plimsolls at a small jagged pebble that bounced across the floor and over the edge of the balcony, he walked toward Jackie’s flat.

 

Dread filled his chest as he took one hand from his pocket and curled it into a fist to knock at the door.  He made the motion to do so, but softened the strike of his fist the merely press it against the door instead.   His breath drew out haggardly and he leaned forward to press his forehead against his fist.

 

Perhaps he should take a trip back to Crandinia and have another look for Rose.  Maybe he missed something, and his precious girl was still alive out there?   It really couldn’t hurt for him to go back and spend a year or two taking another look.  Best to be very, very sure before giving Jackie any news to the contrary.

 

The Door suddenly opened, and the Doctor gave a gasp as he stumbled forward.  Both hands shot forward onto Jackie’s shoulders, which then slipped across them.  Inadvertently he’d fallen into an awkward hug, which was very quickly reciprocated by Jackie, who hummed happily as her arms went around his waist.

 

He peeped.  She purred.   He tried to pull back, she kissed him on the cheek.

 

“Well hello to you too, Doctor,” she purred as much as growled as she pulled back, cupped his stunned face with both hands and planted a wet smooch onto his gobsmacked mouth.   His eyes were open wide with horror, and his arms shifted to a flail.  He pulled back with a gasp and a stumble that was reminiscent of stumbling our of a regeneration blast.

 

He held off on using his full sleeve to wipe clean his mouth, but only because she was looking around him to find her daughter – no doubt to greet her in much the same fashion as she had him.

 

“Where my Rose then,” she asked with bright and happy curiosity.

 

He pulled at his earlobe.  He looked behind him, and then ahead again to Jackie.  “Mind if I come in?”

 

Her face creased happily, and she nodded as she took a step backward, opening the door further to give him space.  “Of course,” she answered in a manner to suggest it wasn’t something he actually needed permission for.  “I’m guessin’ my Rose is haulin’ along another bag of laundry for me.”  She pointed a finger into his chest as she passed.  “You might be a gentleman and help her out with that, you know.”  She looked him up and down.  “You might be a skinny little streak of nothin’, but I reckon you’re capable of carrying a bag or two for her.”

 

He followed behind her, his hands now deep again in his trouser pockets, as she led them toward the kitchen.  Tea was always an offering at Jackie Tyler’s place, so no doubt she’d want to put a pot on.

 

“You know,” she said with a smile in her voice as she walked.  “I was just tellin’ Bev on the phone yesterday how I hadn’t seen you and Rose in a while.  Almost a year, now.”  She turned her head to narrow a playful glare at him.  “Promised me you’d be back for Christmas and all you did,” she accused.  “I didn’t believe it for a second, mind, not with your piloting skills being on the same level as a British Airways pilot.   Can’t keep a schedule and all that.”

 

She grabbed a kettle from the stove and ran it under the tap to fill it.  “But then I saw the ruckus downtown that day.  Big star in the sky, the Thames bein’ drained.  Had no doubt it was you and my Rose trying to head off that problem.”  She led him into the kitchen and gestured toward a seat at a small round table that was no doubt circa 1950.

 

“I’ll stand,” he muttered with a shrug.

 

“Anyway,” she continued.  “So then I thought, well, if you’re both in London, maybe I’ll get that visit afterall.”  She sighed.  “I waited.  Nothing.  Spent Christmas day by myself with a bottle of sherry.”

 

“I’m sorry,” he managed.

 

She flicked her hand at him.  “Oh no mind,” she said with a smile.  “I was expectin’ it.  Had to come a time when Rose didn’t want to hang about with her boring old mother anymore.”  She gestured toward him.  “Not when there’re more exciting people like you around.  Can’t quite compete against that, now, can I?”

 

“Don’t think that way,” he corrected, pain flashing in his eyes.  “Rose.   Rose thinks the universe of you.”

 

Jackie smiled.  “Well of course she does.  I know that, you plum.  I’m her Mum.  Just that sometimes we mums have to take a step back behind…  Well … behind the man our girls falls in love with.  Did it to my own mum, and my mum did it to hers.”  Her eyes lifted.  “Of course, what Rose did is a little different…  But, kids these days.”  She smiled warmly at him.  “Glad she’s got you, though, Doctor.  Skinny hair gel and all that, she really does think the world of you.”

 

He made a choking sound.

 

“Oh don’t pretend you don’t know,” she scoffed.  “You both can deny it all you want.  I know you were regularly bumping the uglies with my Rose.  Don’t think I don’t know a thoroughly shagged out couple when I see one.  And old big ears you always had that just laid glint in his eye.”  She narrowed her eye at him.  “You.  Not so much so.”  She shrugged.  “Guess the honeymoon’s over for now.  Go from doin’ it every five minutes against anythin’ you can lean on, to once or twice a week in bed, and more because you’re bored than actually frisky for it…”

 

Yeah, the Doctor was swiftly approaching the limit with this particular line of conversation.   “Jackie, please.  With all due respect to you and your apparent openness about such things with your daughter, I’m becoming very uncomfortable with this topic.”

 

She shrugged.  “Suit yourself.”  Her eyes pinched with confusion and she looked around the Doctor toward the front door.  “Where is she?” she muttered more to herself than to him in question.  “Never known her to take this long.”

 

The Doctor swallowed a gulp.  It appeared that the moment for full disclosure had arrived.  He couldn’t put it off much longer.  “Jackie.  Can I ask you to take a seat?”

 

Dread almost immediately passed across her face.  There was a wash of terror across her eyes, which she tried desperately to shield.  “Why would I need to take a seat, Doctor?” she queried in a voice that showed she was trying desperately not to panic.  “Where is she?  Where’s my Rose?”

 

He put his hands on her shoulders, wincing when she abruptly twisted to jerk away from him.  “Jackie.  Please  I need to tell you something.”

 

“Where is she?” Jackie demanded again, panic now reigning supreme over any other emotion.  “Don’t you dare tell me that you’re here to tell me somethin’s happened, Doctor.”  She shook her head.  “Don’t you dare.”

 

He tried reaching for her again.  “I’m sorry, Jackie.  I’m so sorry.”

 

She only let him touch her shoulders for a second before she roughly pulled back from him.  “No,” she seethed out though her teeth.  “I don’t believe you.   Not my Rose.  Not my baby.”

 

He slumped in place, trying to think of how to make her believe him.   No words came, and any effort to try and think of anything were hampered as she shoved him out of her way to get to the front door.

 

“I see,” he mumbled, fully expecting that she would hold that door open and demand he leave.  “I’ll just go…”

 

Surprisingly, she didn’t demand he leave.  Instead she threw open the door and stalked out onto the balcony, cupping her hands over her mouth and calling out her daughter’s name.   Over and over she hollered out, demanding that she stop this nonsense and come inside right now.

 

Each cry of her name turned more broken the longer this went on until the Doctor could let it go on no more.  He pulled from his slouch and stalked quickly to the doorway.  He came up behind Jackie leaning over the balcony and curled both arms around her.  Tight.   He said nothing as she struggled hard to get away from him.  Hollering and calling out to her daughter.  He kept his hold on her tight, barely even wincing at the whip of her hair against his face, nor the pain of her feet kicking at his shins.   He just held on, held her until she had no fight left within her.   And when she fell, he was definitely there to catch her.   He barely winced when he was suddenly burdened with her entire weight.  He merely dropped slightly at the knee, hooked his arms underneath her knees, and lifted her up against his chest.

 

He couldn’t blame her when she finally broke and the tears fell.  Rassilon, inside he was doing the exact same thing.

 

With her sobbing against his chest, the Doctor carried Jackie back inside the flat and kicked the door closed behind him.

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

He surprised even himself that he didn’t simply take off and leave Jackie sobbing and crying for her daughter.  How could he leave?  Jackie had just lost her only child.  If he knew anything about the fragile emotional conditions by which human females lived by, it was that emotional distress could lead to very dangerous behaviours.  Jackie had just been dealt a very severe blow, he wasn’t going to leave until he knew for sure that she’d stabilised enough to begin to move on.

 

Right now he was entering his second hour of listening to her heart wrenching sobbing.  It was a grating and painful sound for him to have to endure, but he felt deserving of the pain.  Rose wouldn’t have been lost if it wasn’t for him.  Jackie wouldn’t be here sobbing the loss of her little girl had it not been for him.

 

His silence and the vacant look in his eyes finally captured her attention.   Jackie looked across the coffee table at him and snatched a tissue from a tackily gold gilded tissue box in the centre of it.   “I want to blame you,” she managed wetly, ending her words with a very loud blow of her nose.

 

The Doctor looked toward her.  “I expect you to,” he admitted on a rather emotionless tone of voice.  “You should blame me.”

 

“Did you kill her?”  She managed weakly, squeezing out the last of her tears with a wip of a fresh tissue against her eyes.  “And by that I mean, did you pull the trigger?”

 

“She wasn’t shot,” he corrected her, his voice still calm and devoid of emotion.  “And as far as I am concerned, yes.  Her death was as the direct result of…”  He sniffed and inhaled through his mouth at the same time.  “If I had’ve been a more considerate…”

 

“What happened?”  Jackie asked after a swallow.  “Tell me what happened, and let me decide who’s to blame.”

 

He inhaled hard and held that breath for a long moment.  His eyes were downcast, unable to look into Jackie’s horribly red eyes.  “We argued,” he admitted.  “I did something that – in hindsight – was stupid. II didn’t explain it to her.”   His breath finally wavered with emotion.  “She ran into a storm, and I lost her.”

 

He leaned forward in the chair, leaning his elbows on his knees and his hands cradled together in between.  “I looked for her, Jackie.  I promise you I did.”  His head lifted sadly.  “I wouldn’t stop looking.”

 

“How long did you search for her?”

 

“A month,” he answered simply.  “Every day, and every night for a whole month.”  He kept his elbows on his knees, but raised his hands so he could bury his face in his palms.  “I searched, and searched for her… Not a trace.”

 

“It sounds like you did what you could,” she said softly. 

 

“But it wasn’t enough,” he breathed out, rolling his hands into a single balled fist that he could rest his chin on.  “I didn’t do enough.  I could never do enough.”

 

“As long as you did your best,” she offered him in that tone all mothers used when they were lying to try and appease an upset child.  “That’s all that matters.”

 

He chuckled ruefully as his hands dropped from his chin and fell  down heavily I front of him.  “I’m 907 years old.”

 

“What’s that got to do with anythin’?”

 

“You don’t have to speak to me like I’m a child.”

 

Jackie levelled a stare at him.  “When you’re behavin’ like one, yes I do.”   She stood up and walked around the table toward him.  She briefly considered sitting on the armrest of his chair, but made do with sitting on the tabletop – hoping beyond all that it would hold her weight.   She put her hand on his knee, gripping tight when he immediately tried to pull away.  “My Dad always said to me:  Hindsight’s 20/20.  The only clear view you’re ever goin’ to get is lookin’ back.”  She huffed.  “Didn’t buy it then, and don’t much buy it now, what with us all romancifying our past and what-not.”

 

“Romancifying is not a word,” he corrected her.

 

 

“Don’t you go correctin’ me, Doctor,” she snapped.  “My point is this:  You lookin’ back and seein’ only what you think that you did wrong isn’t the right way to deal with this.”  She squeezed the hand still clamped onto his knee.  “God knows I love my little girl beyond anythin’ else on this planet, Doctor.”  She sighed.  “But I also know that she can be a right little madam who can throw a tantrum and stomp around when she doesn’t get her way.   She’s more to blame for this than you are.”

 

“You don’t…”

 

“Stop!” she growled.  “We can play the blame game if you want.  You bet we can.  Let me start:  I blame me for not givin’ her the very best life after losin’ her dad, makin’ her always look everywhere else for excitement.   I didn’t push her hard enough at school, nor did I fight against that whole Jimmy Stone thing,” she looked up and sighed.  “Messed her right up, he did.”

 

The Doctor blinked, but stayed silent.

 

“I could’ve fought against her bein’ with you as well, Doctor.  But I didn’t.”  She moved in a little closer to him.  “As her mother, it was my job to make sure that she was safe.   I knew your life, I saw what you life had to offer her, and I let her go ahead with it anyway.  You want to play the blame game, Doctor, then you have to stand behind me.”

 

He shook his head, tears filling his eyes.  “It’s not your fault, Jackie.  It’s not…”

 

“It’s not yours, neither.  I know you thought the world of her and tried the best you could.” Her voice softened when he leaned forward into his hand and began to sob.  “Oh you poor thing,” she cooed as she leaned down over top of him, circling her arms over his shoulders and back and resting her cheek against the back of his head.  Her own voice wavered, sympathetically reacting to his sorrow.  “She loved you, my Rose.  More’n you’ll ever know.”

 

He squirmed slightly underneath her, trying to lift himself up to a sit.  He finally maneuvred himself back up, but hugged at his stomach with a forward lean.  “And I love her, Jackie.  More than she ever got to know.”   His eyes widened, and then fell into a wince.  “Sure, I can say it now.”  He let out a gruff grunt.

 

Jackie wiped at her eyes and tipped her head to one side.  “What’re you on about now?”

 

He shook his head.  “Nothing.  Nothing.”

 

“Doesn’t look like nothing,” she remarked softly.

 

He lifted his head and sighed toward the ceiling.  “Just a glitch in the system,” he admitted as he tapped himself on the temple with his finger.  “Nothing for you to be concerned about.”

 

“Believe it or not, Doctor,” she said with a weak smile.  “I am concerned about you.   Why don’t you stay here a couple’a days.  Wrap your head around what’s happened.  Cry if you have to.”

 

His red-rimmed eyes shifted to hers.  “Thanks, but.  I can’t.”

 

“The offer’s here,” she assured him.  “And I hope.  I truly hope, that you’re not going to just swan off and I’ll never see you again.”  Her voice lessened to a whisper.  “Don’t let me lose the both of you.”

 

“I’m sorry, Jackie,” he promised softly.  “I really am.  Rose.  Well.  Rose was.  She meant a lot to me.  She…”

 

“You loved her,” Jackie supplied.

 

He nodded.   “Yeah.”

 

Silence fell for a moment, with neither knowing just where to shift the conversation from here.  Jackie finally broke the silence with a sigh that suggested she had a question for him and was one that he probably didn’t want to hear.

 

“Go ahead,” he breathed.  “Ask.”

 

Her eyes blinked sadly, releasing a tear.  “You’ve got a time machine…”

 

He shook his head, knowing exactly where that was leading.  “I can’t, Jackie.  That’s going back into my timeline, and it’s .. it’s impossible to go back without rupturing the timelines.”

 

“You said you couldn’t find her,” she offered, brightening just a little.  “But maybe you did.  Maybe you leave here, go back, and get her…  Bring my baby home to me.”

 

His head dropped.  “It doesn’t work like that.”  His eyes lifted.  “I wish I could, Jackie, but I can’t.”  His eyes filled.  “She’s gone,” he croaked.  “Jackie, she’s gone, and I didn’t even get to tell her.”

 

Jackie broke before he did.  Her sob seemed to draw one from him, and while they didn’t embrace, each of them fell into their own postures of sorrow.

 

“I’m not goin’ to believe it,” she sobbed out.  “That my baby’s gone, until you bring her home to me.”

 

He shook his head.  “I said I can’t.  What you’re asking is impossible.  I can’t turn back time no matter how much I want to.”  He huffed.  “And Rassilon, Jackie, my hearts are telling me to do it, to say to hell with Time’s rules and find her.”

 

“Then do it,” she challenged him.  “Or at least try.  My God, Doctor.  Bring her home to me.  We owe her that much.”

 

He stood up slowly and wiped at his eyes with the pads of his fingers on both hands.  He inhaled a deep breath for composure through an open mouth and quivering jaw.  “I have to go.”

 

“Please don’t,” she pleaded.  “Don’t leave like this.”

 

He moved toward her, cupped the back of her head in his hand, and leaned down to press his lips against her forehead.  “If there was anyway I could, then I promise you I would.”

 

“Five minutes,” she breathed out as she grasped his wrist lightly in her hand.  “I want you back here in five minutes, you hear me?  I’ll be waiting for you.”

 

He knew full well that despite her words being a command, that she didn’t truly mean it.  He slowly rose up to stand at full height and thrust his hands deep into his trouser pockets.  “Good bye, Jackie.”

 

“Don’t you dare say goodbye to me, Doctor,” she growled.  “Don’t you dare.”

 

He gave her a half-hearted smile.  “See you later, then.”

 

“Five minutes,” she called after his retreating form.  “Five minutes, Doctor!”

 

He grit his teeth and let himself out onto the balcony.  He only paused a moment to look across the courtyard toward his waiting TARDIS.  Just a moment to take in the sight of Bucknall Hall for the last time and let it sear into his memory. 

 

Perhaps he should take a trip to the Lotto agent, pick up a ticket for Jackie.  Rassilon knows that woman – as frustrating and terrifying as she could be – deserved at least that from him.  It wouldn’t replace the daughter she lost, but it should make moving on somewhat less stressful.

 

He walked down the stairs, hands in his pockets, not looking anywhere but the ground at his feet.   A shrill cry of a crow captured his attention, and he flicked his eyes to look toward it.  A lonely soul, perched on the very top of a wooden telephone pole that has more staples in it from old posters and signage than it had wood.   He shook his head at an old flapping piece of paper, barely noticing the fading remnants of graffiti drawn with marker.

 

Bad, it said, in script very much like the old Michael Jackson album of the 1980’s.    Michael Jackson.  What a performer.  Maybe he should take himself back into the late 80’s and take in a concert?  Could be a good way to take his mind off things.

 

Oh, but there was something at the hospital that he needed to check on first.  Some warning he received from the TARDIS shortly before landing here.   

 

Probably nothing, but he’d better go check it out.

 

He ran his hand over the paper as he passed, letting his arm shift to behind him before letting go and allowing it to drop back to his hip.   The paper fell with a flutter to the ground revealing the entirety of the message underneath.

 

Bad Wolf.

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

The sky was in sunset and bright with a colourful wash of reds, oranges and purples when the Doctor finally emerged from the home he shared with his wife.  There was a cool breeze coming in off the mountains that immediately chilled his bare arms, but he didn’t shiver with it.  He simply lifted his head with a smile and let that breeze kiss at his cheeks and dry his lips.   The setting suns meant that the Schlenk blooms would soon open and it wouldn’t be long until the orchard was alive with that most magnificent scent.

 

He certainly loved this time of day.  Day coming to rest and night coming alive with vivid displays of majesty that two suns in the sky would never offer.

 

There was a call off in the distance, a low noted howl, which drew the Doctor’s attention from his quiet contemplative reverie.  A smile crossed his handsome face as he lowered his head to look out into the distance.  That howl was the call of his male Dahrama wolf toward his mate – an invitation to mate, he surmised, given the husky tone that danced across the treetops.  The female’s returned howl was one much more playful, one that suggested if he was feeling a bit frisky, then he’d have to find her first.

 

That made the Time Lord chuckle.  Between the two animals, the female was definitely the most playful.  Her mate was the far more serious of the two – a protective and proud spirit partnered with a free falling playful soul.  Very well suited toward the Human and Time Lord that they’d chosen to be their companions.

 

A shrill sound he’d never heard before captured his attention.  It wasn’t an unpleasant sound by any means, but it was certainly a valiant attempt to join in the conversation between mates.  The call was met with amused howls from the Dahrama pair, but not in a manner to suggest it was an unwelcome intrusion.

 

His eyes shifted to the source of the sound, and the small smile on his face fell into an open-mouthed expression of complete awe.

 

Rose stood at the very edge of the small creek than ran through the property.  She was now only days away from birthing their child, and while she complained endlessly about being fat, ugly, and the size of a whale, he’d never found her to be more beautiful.  She’d long ago foregone the desire to dress in the ways a woman dressed back on Earth.  Now, she dressed in the attire of a Gallifreyan woman, with flowing skirts and Empire-waisted dresses.  Typically she went for the brighter fabrics, but today she was more subdued in a soft cream dress with bell sleeves and an asymmetrical belt line that hung low at the back, and threaded up over the top rise of her belly.   The light chilled winds lifted the skirts from her ankles and to flap lightly against her shins.  The reflection of the setting suns off the waters at her feet shone through the thin fabric to give him a perfect silhouetted view of the figure she hid underneath.  The perfect baby swell, her still toned thighs and arms, and even the shape of heavy swollen breasts that had long ago given up the fight against gravity to find comfort instead against her stomach’s swell.

 

She looked absolutely magnificent.  He could almost cry at the majesty and perfection of the woman who had given him her heart and would soon give him a child…

 

…And he just might’ve allowed himself a few moments to do just that, had he not heard a wet sniff and shuddered inhale.

 

Her name was in his mind as he quickly left his reverent viewing position and approached her.   Her name then fell from his lips with concern as he saw a line of tears on her cheek glittering in the sunlight.

 

“Rose?”

 

On hearing him speak her name with such concern, Rose quickly sniffed a deep inhale and wiped quickly at her eyes and nose with her sleeve that she’d captured in her hand.  Her gave him a smile, not necessarily fake, but not exactly happy, either.

 

“Doctor.  I didn’t see you there,” she managed to say without waver in her voice.  “I didn’t think you’d be up and about so quickly.”

 

The fact that it was sunset and not sunrise, and she was expecting him to be unconscious should have him giving an indignant snort of protest.  Typically.  But not today.  Full climax lovemaking did tend to completely shatter him and send him into a few hours of unconsciousness that would rival a regenerative coma.  Typically he wouldn’t take his side of their lovemaking that far for that very specific reason, but she had insisted that she was quite done with carrying a “five-stone damn watermelon” and that sex – and the messy kind - was the best way to bring on labour.  Something about his – ehm – seed being helpful in softening the cervix or some such nonsense.  He couldn’t really argue, well he could have tried to, but basic self preservation meant that even the attempt was a dangerous endeavour to engage in.  That meant he had to give it his all on this round…

 

…Brilliant though it was, it was damn exhausting. Still.  It was a small sacrifice for him by comparison to what she was about to head into.   He was happy to answer her demand.

 

But that wasn’t exactly where his mind should be at right now.  Rose.  Tears.  Focus.

 

“Are you alright?” he asked her as he let his hand find hers. He coaxed her into facing him with a light rug of his grasp. 

 

She further deepened her fake smile.  “I’m okay.”  She wiped at her eyes and gave them a roll as she showed him her damp fingrtips.  “You’re worried about these?  Don’t.  It’s just, you know, hormones.  The Beautiful landscape.”

 

He lifted his hand to brush off her cheeks with the back of his fingers.  “I know you better than that,” he offered.  “These aren’t happy tears.”  His eyes dropped to her belly.  “Is it the little one?”

 

Rose blinked and dipped her head to guide herself into a turn away from him.  She looked back over the creek to the magnolia trees of the orchard.  “He’ll be here soon,” she said softly.  “Happy and healthy, with a Mum and a Dad who love him…”

 

“Very, very much,” he assured her.

 

“A mum and a dad,” she repeated softly.

 

The Doctor noticed a fresh tear fall from her lashes.   He also noticed a wince on her face and a light falter in her posture that leaned her just slightly off to one side.  Her breath deepened and became controlled and slow.  “Rose?”  He shifted his hand to her belly, sweeping around the swell with the palm of his hand.  “It’s tight,” he remarked with a furrow in his brow.  “Very tight.”  The hardness quickly released along with Rose’s breath, and his eyes flashed wide with revelation.

 

“Rose,” he gushed with both panic and excitement.  “It’s time?”

 

“No,” she said with an almost desperate shake of her head.  “No.  Not yet.  Not at all.”  She rubbed both hands up and down her belly either side of her popped-out navel.  Her movements took his hands from her belly.  “I-I’m not ready.  Not yet.”

 

“I don’t think the readiness is up to you or I, Rose,” he cautioned with a smile.  “It’s up to him.”  The Doctor attempted to touch again at her swell, but was basically rejected from doing so when she stepped back.  He didn’t push the issue, but he didn’t step back either.

 

“No, Doctor.  You don’t get it.  I’m really not ready.”

 

“I understand your apprehension, Rose,” he offered with as little condescension as possible.  “But it’s a little late to back out now, don’t you think?”

 

“Time machine?” she tried meekly.  “We can go back, and maybe..?”

 

“Let me preface this comment by expressing just how much my hearts beat for you Rose,” he warned before taking a long breath.  “You’re being just a little unreasonable and irrational right now.”

 

“Oh,” she warned with a shake in her head.  “You haven’t seen me being unreasonable and irrational…”

 

“I imagine there’s far more to come,” he admitted as he pressed his hand to the small of her back.  “Now let’s go back to the house and prep for transport to Arcadia.”

 

She remained firm, her back stiff, and her feet planted in the soft soil.  “No, Doctor. Really.  I’m not playin’ about.  I don’t know if I can do this.”

 

“Again,” he urged her with a little harder of a press of his hand into her back.  “Too late to back out now.  Like it or not, ready or not, we’re about to become parents.  So come on, Rose.  I really think it’s time that we took you to the hospital.”

 

“Do you know how to change a nappy?” she challenged him, still unwilling to move.  “And make sure his little bottom is properly dry and powdered so that he won’t get a nappy rash?”  She panted as she felt the twinge of another oncoming contraction.  “And how much to feed him?  When to feed him?  How to work out what he wants when he cries? What if I’m not a good enough….”   Her words shifted to a long moan as the contraction hit her at full strength.  “Oh, God…”

 

“That’s it,” the Doctor decided firmly.  He moved his hand from her back to grab at her arm instead.  “We’re going to the hospital.  No more arguments.” 

 

“I can’t,” she whimpered out breathlessly as she tugged against him.   There was sheer panic in her eyes as she battled both his grip, and the grip of her womb – one holding her up, the other trying to push her down to the ground.  “I’m scared Doctor.”

 

“We both are,” he muttered in a less assuring way than he had intended to. “But with everything we do, Rose, we’ll do it, and get through it, together.”

 

She shook her head and tugged against him.  “I can’t,” she whimpered, tears streaming down her face.

 

Her terrified expression, and her unwillingness to accept that the birth of their child was imminent despite whatever apprehensions or arguments she might have, punched at both of his hearts.  He stopped trying to drag her to the house, and instead drew himself to a stand in front of her.  He lifted his hands to cup at her face and dipped backward enough that he could look her in a straight line to her eyes.

 

“What do you need, Rose?”  he asked her with desperation in his tone.  “What can I do to help you right now?”

 

She broke at his question, dipping low in the shoulders and looking up into his eyes like a frightened child.  Her voice was tiny.  “I need my mum.”

 

His brows pinched with confusion.  “Your mother?”

 

She nodded desperately.  “I know you said we can’t … I can’t see her or contact her until the timeline’s right…”

 

“That’s right. Rose,” he assured her.  “Until it’s stable, and we know the correct point in her timeline, we can’t…”

 

“But I need her,” she whimpered.  “I’ve been through some stuff that she should be here for, Doctor.  We’ve done it together, you’n me.  And I’ve been okay with that, because that’s the way of the universe an’ all.”  She swallowed, winced, and rubbed at the lowest part of her belly.  Her eyes closed as she tried to maintain control as a smaller contraction tightened up her womb.  “But not this.  This is big.  This is bigger than the both of us, and I can’t do this without her.”

 

“Rose,” he murmured somewhat pathetically.  “We can’t…”

 

“Then I’m not doin’ it,” she growled.  She then hiccupped and started to cry hopelessly.  “I’m not … I can’t do this.” Her voice fell to a manner so pathetic, it was practically infant.  “I want my Mum.”

 

“I-I”  He stammered in a manner completely lost.  He stumbled as she pushed past him toward the house.  Oh, he had no idea what to do right now.  “How could he deny her the impossible when she was about to give him the same?

 

His eyes were locked on her retreating form as he pulled a phone from his trouser pocket and thumbed a now very familiar number.   He looked down at the screen when he heard the chiming sound of the other end ringing.  It only took a short moment for a chime to sound and the rather unimpressed expression of his brother’s face appeared on the screen.

 

“What is it Thete?” He answered with a sigh.  “I’m busy right now.  I’m at the capitol for council session.  can we speak later?”

 

“I’m afraid not,” he answered.  There was definitely worry in his tone, and this was picked up by his brother.

 

“Is everything okay?”  He coughed into his fist and nodded to a passing person just off-screen.  “Lord Spandrel,” he greeted.

 

The Doctor heard his brother’s name spoken in greeting and waited until enough of a moment had passed that his brother might be free from other Time Lord ears.  “Rose is crying.”

 

“Living with you,” he came back quickly.  “I would imagine that would be a rather frequent condition.”

 

“I’m not jesting,” he muttered with a sniff.  “And there are, in fact, quite rarely tears., thank you”

 

Braxiatel looked off screen.  “I’m needed in less than two minutes.  Can you make the purpose of you call a little more worthy of my time than for you to tell me that your wife is upset with you?”

 

“I need your help,” he blurted.  “And very quickly.”

 

Braxiatel’s brows lifted.  “By quickly, you mean after the council session, or right this instant?”

 

The Doctor looked up to his home as the sound of a pained moan ghosted across the grasses.  “Rose is in labour.”

 

Braxiatel’s mouth fell open and his face lifted in an a-ha expression.  “I see.   There is very little I can offer you on that except to arrange transportation.”  He snapped his finger to someone passing off screen.  “Nappesh,  come here…”

 

“No,” the Doctor interrupted;  I have that covered.”

 

Braxiatel shooed away the young man who he’d called.  “Then what do you need from me?”

 

His eyes fell into a somewhat uncomfortable wince.  “Rose.  Well.   Well…”  He cleared his throat.  “She wants her mother.”

 

“I see,” Braxiatel breathed out slowly.  “I’m still not quite sure what this has to do with me.”

 

“I need you to find her,” he said with impatience.  “Find the safest place in her timeline where I’m not at risk of returning to her in my elder incarnation, and bring her here to Gallifrey.”

 

Braxiatel gave him a big, wide, broad, and very fake smile.  ‘Of course brother.  Why, that’s the simplest, easiest favour that you’ve ever asked of me.  No problems in the slightest – one I’m happy to arrange.”

 

The Doctor breathed out a long breath of relief, fully ignoring the every obvious facetiousness of his brother’s remark.  “I’ll transport Rose to the hospital.  Please collect her mother and meet us there.”

 

Knowing that Braxiatel would no doubt argue and tell him how impossible it was to arrange such a thing and so he would be out of luck – so to speak – the Doctor quickly hung up the phone.  ignored it as it buzzed against his hand with a return call from his brother.   He ignored it when it buzzed again.

 

“You can do it, Brax,” he muttered to himself as he tossed the phone into the bushes at the front door to his home.  “If anyone can, it’s you.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Romana watched with curious eyes as Braxietel punched his fingertips into the face of his phone, no doubt in her mind at all that he was desperately trying to reach someone.  Judging by the rather angry and exasperated expression on his face, and the cursing underneath his breath as he tried again, and yet again, she deduced that the Doctor had in someway managed to upset him…

 

…And right before a Council session of all times.

 

She excused her self from a conversation she was engaged in with another council member, and quickly moved across the floor toward her husband.

 

“Is everything okay, Brax?”

 

He growled as he tried yet again to reach the Doctor.  “I would like to add an addendum to today’s council session,” he answered with a grunt.  “I would like to ask the floor that we introduce a motion to have my brother permanently exiled from Gallifrey and rendered unable to ever reach me ever again.”

 

She let out a rather long suffering sigh.  “What has he done now?”

 

“Rose is readying to birth their child,” he said with a sigh of his own.  “And as usual, with my brother, he threw me a demand and hung up on me before I could tell him to go to the ends of Kasterborous and not ever regenerate.”

 

She shook her head at her husband’s concerted effort to remain indifferent to the news, but smiled.  “I will forward your apologies to council.  Go be with the two of them.”

 

“I have no desire at all to be party to this event,” he muttered dryly.

 

“That’s woprat dung, and you know it,” she challenged.  You’ve been as eager for this day as have the two of them.”  She put her hand on his arm and softened her tone to amusement and understanding.  “Go and support your brother.  I have a feeling he’s going to need it.”  She smirked.  “Evantiquen is still in recovery from the birthing of his little one – and that was two full celestial cycles ago.  Your brother is a strong man for sure – but I think this just may test his resolve.”

 

He sniffed in hard.  “Before I can do that, he’s made a request of me that I do need your permission for,” he began.  “It violates several of our protocols.”

 

“And what might that be?”

 

“She’s requested the support of her mother.  Her Earth mother,” he clarified.

 

Romana rolled her eyes.  “Well, as she is a Human woman, I would expert that her mother be on Earth, Brax.”  She watched him nod rather sheepishly.  “And I will also expect that you had anticipated a request of this nature and have already made the appropriate investigations as to the most suitable moment within her timeline to being her here?”

 

“You give me far too much credit.”

 

“And you don’t give me anywhere near enough,” she charged.  “Make it happen.  You have full permission from the office of the President.  Send in Castellan Andredaselus with an official invitation from the Presidential office.   That will make permissions through Traffic control and the Transduction barrier faster.”

 

“If you are sure.”

 

“I insist,” she said firmly.  “She is key to the salvation of our people, then the very least we can offer her is this rather simple request.”

 

Braxietel gave her a small bow of thanks.  “Best of luck for a productive meeting,” he said with a smile.  “It is such a shame to have to miss it.”

 

Romana laughed.  “The rest of us could be so lucky, now do as your brother asks.  I will see you at the hospital later.”

 

He took a very swift look around and then dropped to place a soft kiss to her cheek.  Gallifreyan words of affection ghosted across her cheek toward her ear.  In a moment, he was gone.   She sighed at the uncanny ability of both of the Lungbarrow brothers to be able to make such swift departure, and turned when she heard a young military captain call for her.

 

“Captain Farmuh,” she greeted as he approached.  “What can I do for you?  Please make it quick, we start session in a few moments.”

 

“With apology Lady President, but I have news from the Terrapau system.”

 

At the mention of the constellation that she had requested observation on only weeks ago, her breath exhaled through her lips slowly.  “What have you brought me?”

 

He passed her a folder, red and gilded in gold.  “Reports from Terrapau suggest that the Daleks are fortifying their battle troops on the planet of Askola.”

 

Romana winced and looked quickly over the files contents, of the images produced by the scout capsule stationed on the moon.  “Askola is non hostile,” she breathed.  “They have no way to defend themselves against one Dalek, let alone five battle ships.”

 

“Scout team is requesting support to intervene.  They feel that if we can deplete their armies here, it could be another three to seven celestial cycles before they can start to spread through the Terrapau system and move toward Kasterborous.”

 

“Is it the belief that Kasterborous is the intended target of the Daleks?”

 

“We believe so,” he huffed out darkly.  “We will need more time than that if we are to adequately prepare ourselves for that eventuality.”

 

“Do it,” she hissed out as she slapped the file against his chest to hand it back.  “ Send in as many battle capsules as the ships the Daleks have on Askola.  Keep my office briefed on a minute-by-minute basis.   If we have to pull a retreat, then I want to make sure it’s done in time.”   She shifted to turn away, but turned back toward him.  “Send in three Genesis Ark units.  Try to get as many Askolians off planet as possible.  They can be transported to Ferrioum until such time as their home is clear.”

 

He shook his head.  “But, Lady president.  Askola’s timeline, it’s…”

 

“I don’t care,” she interrupted with a hiss.  “The planet may have a limited future, but it doesn’t mean its people must suffer the same fate.  Retrieve as many as possible.”

 

He dipped his head in a bow.  “As you wish, my Lady president.”

 

The council chamber doors hissed open.  A large man, dressed in full Time Lord ceremonial robes called to the council members.  She looked to the chairman of council and set a gold dome helmet on her head.   She didn’t look back at the young military captain as she adjusted the heavy seat of her cowl.

 

“Rassilon with you,” she offered him.  “And Rassilon with your soldiers.  Gallifrey thanks you all for your service and will welcome home out victors.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

Five minutes, she’d told him.  Five minutes and no more.   That alien had to return in five minutes with her daughter.

 

Jackie Tyler’s eyes were on the clock above the mantle; an old timepiece passed down to her from her grandmother.  It was an old thing, but very reliable.  Deep mahogany wood casing drawing a stark contrast to the white crocheted cotton doily it sat upon.   Well, it was white, once.  The years had turned the thread a more muted shade of yellow and had become so sorely brittle that she was scared to shift it lest it fall apart completely on her.

 

She ran her finger over the smooth arching shape of the top of the clock, collecting six months worth of dust on her fingertip and leaving a clear and straight, clean and dust-free line from edge to edge.  Two minutes gone, and three more to wait.  

 

Grief for the loss of her beloved baby girl was settling in quite nicely in the sit of her shoulders.  It hovered at the very edge of her consciousness and knocked at the door just waiting to be freed and let loose to run rampant all over this small flat.    She held it firm, however, bolstered by her demand to that ruddy Time Martian Alien to bring back her Rose.

 

One and a half minutes until the count was over.

 

The damn fool was notorious for not being able to get himself anywhere or any time – on time – so, perhaps she would offer him the grace of an additional five minutes, just in case. 

 

A familiar whine and wheeze sang across the winds coming in from the courtyard and  through her open door.  A sob of terror flew out of her as she broke from the mantel and rushed to the door.  She paused only a moment to prepare herself with a deep breath, not even looking into the courtyard for fear of what condition her Rose was returning in…

 

…It didn’t matter.   Even if that return meant a casket.  As long as she was home, that’s all that mattered.  

 

She took the stairs two and three at a time with long strides and dangerous leaps to get to the courtyard as quickly as possible.  Her daughter’s name called out of her mouth with each staggered step until she finally ran into the courtyard, fully expecting to see that blasted blue ship of his.

 

It wasn’t there.    She twisted and turned in place, shielding her eyes with her hand against the sun, wondering if there was a trick of the light that might prevent her from seeing it clearly.   No matter how hard she looked, however, there was not blue police box anywhere to be seen.

 

…But she was sure she’d heard it.   Nothing else on the planet made a sound like that.  Surely she didn’t just imagine it.

 

She slumped in place, defeat taking hold, and shifted her head to lead her into a turn back toward the flat.   There was a hiss of released air, and the grating squeaking sound of metal shifting against unoiled metal.  She stilled, with her head angled sideways to look down along her shoulder as a line of light split open to reveal a doorway in the middle of a large grey cylinder up against a wall at the edge of the courtyard.

 

Two men exited the cylinder.  Both of them dressed like they were ready for a Shakespeare production.  Well, maybe Shakespeare.  Maybe not.  She really didn’t have a lot of money to indulge in things like theatre.    Though, if she did go, she’d imagine that these two fellows would fit right in.

 

Both of them wore very sharp and very bright red jacket and trouser set with a runway set of white racing stripes down the chest and each leg.  Their gloves were gauntlets, their boots gold and to the knees.  She didn’t even want to get into the cape and helmets that they both wore…

 

Superman versus Shakespeare…

 

She stood warily still as both of the men approached.  One of them held a paper document in his hand speaking to his companion in a language she didn’t understand, nor even recognise.   He looked up, pointed a finger up toward her flat, and looked at his partner with a firm nod of his head.   They each twisted a dial on the left side of their helmets and then shared a look.

 

“Language, English.   Earth,” one spoke with deliberate emphasis on each word.  “Confirm translation matrix active.”

 

“Translation confirmed,” the other answered.

 

“Alright, Nexius,” the one who was obviously in charge ordered firmly.  “Let’s move.  We are time limited on this task, and Rassilon saves us both if we fail.”

 

The two men headed straight toward her, although didn’t seem to register that she was in their way.  The Both of them seemed far more focused on the papers in one hand, the other was far too fascinated by the surrounding area.   She felt it best to alert them to her presence before they collided with her and she’d be forced to make this a very unpleasant situation for all of them…

 

…But mostly just them.

 

“Excuse me,” she growled somewhat hotly.  “Can I help you?  You know before you run into me…”

 

One man stepped a stride backward in a respectful manner, while the other moved a step forward, snapping his ankles together and stiffly offering her a light bow of greeting.  “Apology, ma’am.”

 

“Oh, I’m no ma’am,” she huffed out with amusement.  “And I take it neither of you are from around here.”

 

“Indeed no.  Nor from around here as you put it.”  He looked upstairs.  “But if you are offering assistance, might you be able to direct me in how I might find one: Jacqueline Tyler?”

 

She folded her arms across her chest, her eyes narrowing with suspicion.  “And why might you be looking for her, then?”

 

Andred blinked slowly, recognising the fire of a human female readying to kick a groin, punch a face, or react in an unpleasant manner.   Quite likely this woman was a close friend of Jaqueline, or even Jacqueline herself.

 

“I have an invitation from the Presidential Offices of Gallifrey, issued by her Lady President Romanadvoratrelundar to one Jacqueline Tyler, to accompany us to the city of Arcadia…”

 

Jackie started to laugh.  How absurd was this?   “Oh, you’re havin’ me on,” she blustered.  “An’ I’d love to know who set this up.  Tell ‘em, thanks, but no thanks.   I’m actually waitin’ on someone right now who seems to be runnin’ a bit behind.”

 

Defintitely Jackie, Andred surmised.  He held out his hand, palm up, in a gesture of greeting.  “Mrs. Tyler,” he said with a light tip in his head of greeting.  “If you will please accompany me, we need to transport you to Gallifrey…”

 

She swatted off his hand.  “There will be no transportin’ anything,” she guffed with eyes wide and her lips pursed indignantly.  “I don’t know what game you’re playin’, or what you’re trying to sell me young man, but I’m not interested.”  Her eyes raked him up and down.  “Despite being a bit fit an’ all.”

 

One side of his mouth lifted in a smile.  He’d take that compliment home to his wife and boast about it.

 

“Permit me to introduce myself:  I am Castellan Andreasalus.”  He dipped his head in greeting yet again.  “Your presence has been requested by our Lady President and Cardinal Braxiatel, Mrs. Tyler,” he urged with friendly gentleness.  “It is of great importance that you accompany us to Arcadia.”

 

“Yeah,” Jackie interrupted with a snort.  “Yeah, well.  I don’t answer to no presidents,” she warned.  “I have a Queen and a Prime Minister.”  She sniffed.  “And I’m not religious enough to ever have to answer to any church-folk.”

 

Andred looked back at his companion with a shrug in his shoulders.  His companion smirked.  “You’re the one who has experience with Human females,” he said with an answering shrug.  “Shall I call Council Chambers and see if we can have Romana or the Cardinal transport down?”

 

Jackie’s eyes narrowed.  “You just called me a Human female.”

 

Andres flashed her an apologetic look.  “Are you not Human?”  He looked at his papers.  “I was quite sure that we had input the coordinates to Earth.”

 

“You an alien, then?”  She caught just an upward glance from his papers and hope started to rise inside her chest.  “Are you friends with the Doctor?”

 

Andred’s attention shifted immediately from the paper and he gave her a firm nod.  “Cardinal Braxiatel is the Doctor’s brother,” he answered.  “He has requested your presence at Arcadia at the appeal of his brother.”

 

Jackie’s eyes hardened to suspicion.  “And why is it that the Doctor isn’t able to come to me himself?”

 

Andred smirked.  “His Lord Doctor is currently in a rather provocative position right now that is demanding his full attentions.  He is unable to leave Gallifrey at this juncture.” 

 

“He’s got a time machine,” she muttered.  “Tell him to drop by when he’s not in such a provocative position.”  She pointed toward the cylinder behind them.  “Because I ain’t gettin’ into that thing and transporting any-damn-where.”

 

Andred looked to his capsule and then back toward Jackie.  His eyes were confused.  “It’s a perfectly safe mode of transportation,” he assured her.  “We’ve been travelling via T-Capsule for many millennia, and I can certainly assure that you won’t experience any discomfort or danger at all.”

 

“You’ve met the Doctor,” she drawled sardonically.  “Well, so have I, and my daughter travelled with him.  I know how dangerous travelling in that thing really is.”

 

“Yes, well,” Andred returned with an amused grin.  “I’m not the Doctor.  I actually know how to properly pilot this machine.  Mine is also a much newer model than the Doctor’s museum piece is.”  He held out a hand to her.  “Please, come with me.  Your daughter needs to see you.”

 

Jackie’s eyes lifted.  Tears of relief flooded her eyes.  “You mean, my Rose is alive?”

 

“Very much so,” Andred offered.  “Please, come with me.  I’ll take you to her.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

When the capsule materialised just off the maternity wing at Arcadia, Romana was waiting.  She’d received word from Traffic control about the imminent arrival of the Castellan’s capsule, and rather than disturbing Braxiatel or the Doctor, she opted to be there to meet them herself.

 

She had made her way to the hospital almost immediately following the council meeting, which had mercifully finished a couple of hours earlier than originally scheduled.  Such a rarity, but with the bulk of the proposed motions being from Braxiatel, and his absence at the meeting, meant that none were read…

 

…Although several new ones had been proposed, and seconded, which mean a reconvene on another day to hold vote when all members were present.  This was to her advantage, however, as it gave her time to court the right members and make appropriate deals in order to see that the vote went in her favour.  It also allowed for her to convene with those most trusted to her:  The Doctor and Braxietal, in order to solve a few problems directly related to the votes first.

 

If she could get the Doctor to agree, of course.   Which at this juncture wasn’t a high possibility.  But then again:  Doctor versus Dalek was usually a fairly effective carrot by which to dangle in front of her old friend.  Having his wife’s mother on planet would also be an incentive of sorts.

 

When the doors to the capsule hissed open, and Andred stepped outside, Romana offered him a smiel and a light tip of her head in both greetings and appreciation.  “Thank you, Castellan.  I heard that you were able to fulfill your task rather efficiently.”

 

“If you could call it that,” he answered with a smile.  He stepped aside, and the blonde head of Jackie Tyler poked out of the doorway.

 

“Are we here?” she queried with disbelief.  “Surely we can’t already be on another planet.  We only left two minutes ago.”

 

“Welcome to Gallifrey, Mrs. Tyler,” Romana greeted with a polite tip of her head.  “I am Romanadvoratrelundar.  It is a pleasure to meet you.”

 

“That name’s a bit of a mouthful,” Jackie remarked with a lift of her brows as she walked in a circle in the corridor.  There was definite disappointment in her tone.  “Well.  I must say that I expected a little more than this from a trip to another planet.  Looks just like Earth, all sterile corridors and people running around.”  She stopped and gasped.  “Are we in a hospital?!”

 

Romana opened her mouth to speak, but quickly shut it again, her eyes wide with surprise when Jackie burst into talking without even taking a breath.

 

“Is my baby in here?   Did the Doctor find her.  Oh, bless.  He brought her here and didn’t want to leave her.”  There was a soft look in her eyes that suggested an affection for the Time Lord.  “No wonder he sent the Dynamic Shakespeare duo to get me.”

 

Romana waited a beat to see if the woman would continue to speak.  When Jackie’s curious eyes looked at her to answer the question, Romana;s eyes relaxed and a smile spread across her face.

 

“You may call me Romana,” she offered.  “I am a close friend of the Lord Doctor, and of your daughter Rose.  She is here, however, you mustn’t worry for her condition.  As per the last update, she’s progressing quite well.”  She waved her hand to request that Jackie follow.  “She’s a strong spirit, Rose.  The only one capable of keeping the Doctor in any semblance of what you would term toeing the line.”

 

Jackie didn’t feel like walking behind the woman, but she took position of stride at her side.  “Rose isn’t exactly one for toeing any line.  Little madam as been cartwheeling over it since she hit her teens.”

 

That was an image that had Romana’s brows seat themselves high.  “I suppose she can rein in the master of the line jumping because she’s been so good at it herself,” she mused to herself.  She heard a loud swear in her ancient language and lifted her eyes toward a door near the end of the corridor.  Braxiatel waited just outside with a highly amused expression on his face.

 

Romana held a polite hand up to Jackie to ask for a moment, and approached her husband warily.

 

“Is everything okay, Brax?”

 

“In all my lives,” he muttered with laughter.  “I don’t believe that I’ve been so thoroughly entertained.”  He held out his hand to her.  “My hearts, my most honest thanks for suggesting that I attend today.”

 

“Oh my,” she managed with a sigh that held slight amusement.  “What’s happening in there?”

 

“Vengeance on behalf of all of Gallifrey for every misdeed that my brother has brought upon us.”    He looked at her with awe in his eyes.  “She’s absolutely obliterating, emasculating, and torturing him all at the same time.  It’s perfection in its majesty.  I will write screenplays and songs about this day.”

 

Romana shook her head with a smile.  “Braxiatel, please meet Mrs. Tyler. Rose’s mother.”

 

Jackie curled around Romana and held out her hand.  “Jackie, please.  Mrs. Tyler was my mother in law, and not a real sweet woman.  Rather not have that title thank you.” 

 

Braxiatel’s was of a very uncharacteristic manner that shocked even his wife.  He rushed forward and embraced a stunned Jackie Tyler in a very firm embrace.  “My dear woman!  It is a pleasure to meet the one who birthed that magnificent creature.”

 

“Very inappropriate, Cardinal,” Romana gruffed. “Especially as your mate is present.”

 

Braxiatel released Jackie, who really ended up more amused than miffed at the sudden explosive affectional greeting from a complete stranger.  He held her shoulders and dipped his head with a smile.  “My apologies for acting so familiar with you.  It’s just…”  There was a loud holler from the room and he stepped back, sliding an arm around each of the two women.  “Watch this.”

 

“Get out!  Just leave!  I hate you for doing this to me!”  There was a short moment of silence, where there was obviously an attempt at appeasement, but that was short.  “I said get out!”

 

Jackie’s eyes were wide. “Is that my Rose?”  She shifted to move forward, but was held in place by Braxiatel’s firm grip. 

 

“Oh, just wait.  Please.  Don’t take this from me.”     

 

The Doctor’s head made it out of the doorway, his hair a frightful mess of auburn curls, and his eyes full of utter confusion and some form of utter terror.   He managed a desperate look toward his brother, a look that lasted a second before it fell to an expression of defeat when another holler followed.

 

“Are you actually leaving, Doctor?  What makes you think you can leave!  Get back here now and let me grab at something to hurt you as much as I’m hurting!”

 

Braxiatel threw his head back with laughter.  “This has been going on for hours!”

 

Jackie’s expression shifted from amusement to startled concern.  “That sounds like a woman in labour,”  She looked to Romana.  “Tell me that my baby isn’t here having a baby – and that she’s not havin’ one with that Alien git.”

 

Romana wasn’t quite sure hot to appropriately field that question.  Her mouth gaped as she struggled to find an answer.

 

“Oh you don’t need to say nothin’,” she growled as her hands balled into fists and she began a stalk toward the room.  “I’ll kill him if he found my baby and then kept her from me long enough to knock her up.”  

 

Braxiatel’s grin only widened as he happily trotted behind her.  “I’ve got to see this.”

 

Jackie entered the room with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball.  “What the hell is goin’ on here?”  She pointed a finger toward the frazzled Time Lord.  “I said five minutes.  I did not say do find her and put one in her oven.”

 

The Doctor looked stunned.  “I’m sorry, who are you?”

 

Rose’s face widened with pleasant surprise, but quickly dissolved into a juvenile expression of calling to a mother.  She held out her arms.  “Mum!”

 

Jackie stood firm and levered a very miffed off expression toward her daughter.  “Don’t you Mum me, little madam.”  She did have a rant ready, but it quickly fled when Rose’s head lifted and she let out an agonised moan.  “Oh my baby girl,” she cooed instead, rushing from the doorway to take her daughter in her arms.  “It’s okay.  Mum’s here now.”

 

“My God it hurts,” she whined pitifully.  “It hurts so much.”

 

“Then take some painkillers darling,” she advised almost condescendingly.  “And don’t gimme none of that but I have to do it natural, Mum. So you can skite about it on the internet.  They’re not giving you a medal when this is over, they’re giving you a baby.  Trust me, you’re going to want all the energy you can get those first coupl’a days, and you won’t get that being all sore and exhausted.”  She looked toward a nurse in bright red scrubs.  “You, make sure my little girl gets the good stuff, yeah?  Epidural, Gas, all of it.”

 

The nurse looked toward the Doctor with question in her eyes.  The Doctor was looking at Jackie with much the same expression.

 

“I’m very sorry,” he half growled through his teeth.  “But we are in a facility with medical personnel, who..”

 

“And are any of them Human and given birth?” she shot back angrily.  “Have you popped one out?”  She didn’t wait for an answer.  “No.  I didn’t think so.”  He pointed at her chest.  “Whereas I have, which makes me more of an expert in the mindset of a labourin’ woman and the pain of childbirth than any of ya.”   She looked to the Doctor and then to the nurse.  “Am I understood?”

 

The Doctor – despite feeling some form of relief with her arrival, and Rose’s rising calm – steeled a glare at her.  “Perfectly.”

 

“Good,” Jackie replied brightly.  She slipped her cardigan off her shoulders and rolled up the sleeve of the long sleeved shirts to her elbows.  “Glad we got that sorted.  Now Rose, just breathe and relax as best you can.  I know you hate ‘im right now, and love, so do I, but the poor man is only trying to help, so start playing nice with him.”

 

Rose nodded.  “I’ll try.”

 

Jackie then turned to the Doctor.  She let her eyes rake up and down his new look and shrugged a shoulder up with approval.  “New look?  Can’t say I disapprove, you do tend to get more fit each time you change.”

 

His jaw dropped.  “Ahh.  Yes.”

 

“And stop pretendin’ like you don’t know who I am,” she huffed.  “Been through it, you ‘n me.”  She looked toward her daughter.  “Now, she’s in pain, a great deal of it.  She’s right when she says it’s all your fault, because I’d hazard a fairly large guess that this condition is much more your fault than hers.”  She flicked her eyes to him.  “So if she wants your testicles in her hands so she can give ‘em a damn good squeeze to get out her frustrations, then you best give ‘em to her.”

 

“I’m sorry, what?”

 

At the doorway, Braxiatel leaned in toward Romana.  There was a smile on his face.  “My hearts, can we please keep her?”

 

Jackie shot him a glare.  “And you, Mr. Brax-a-whatever, are not helping.  Either you stop with your giggle-pussin’, over there or you can leave.  This is not your show, it’s hers.”  She pointed toward Rose.  “And you’re not stealing her thunder, you hear me?”  

 

Romana leaned into her husband with a soft voice filled with amusement.  “Oh yes, darling.  We can certainly arrange to keep her.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Wrapped in a soft crimson blanket, edged in gold, and embroidered with a Gallifreyan lullaby, nestled a tiny naked newborn boy.  His little tiny feel kicked, and his little fingers grasped at the thumb of his immediately besotted father.

 

“Hello, little one,” he cooed in a voice of utter reverence as he drew the little bundle up to his face and nuzzled his nose against the peach-soft skin of his newborn.   Words in his native tongue followed, softly spoken and audible only between father and son.

 

Jackie sat on the gurney beside her exhausted daughter, her arm across her shoulder so that Rose could rest her head against her shoulder.  “Look at ‘im,” she breathed out with pride.  “A natural, he is.”

 

“I wish I was,” Rose admitted tiredly.  “I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.”

 

“None of us do,” Jackie assured her.  “I never had a clue when I had you.  They put you in my arms, walked away, and I nearly had a fit.  Your dad got kicked out because it was after visitin’ hours, and all of a sudden I was alone, with this squirmy little tiny human that I was responsible for…”  She blew out a breath.  “But I got through it.  We all do.  The two of you will.”

 

“Can you stay a while?” she asked.  “Please?”

 

“I haven’t asked for any time off,” she replied with disappointment.  “Could you come home?”

 

“I have a time machine,” the Doctor cut in as he handed over their little bundle so that Rose could coo over their child.  “You can stay here with us as long as you want to.  I’ll make sure that you’re returned the same day that you left.”

 

Jackie snorted.  “With your piloting skills, I don’t think so,” she muttered.  “That nice young man.  The one who came to get me. Andred, is it?  He can take me home.”  She smiled and waggled her brow.  “Is he married, by the way?”

 

“He is,” the Doctor answered.  “To a very good friend of mine.  Why do you ask?”

 

“Oh,” she breathed with disappointment.  “No reason.”  Her attention shifted to the youngster as his little head turned and his mouth gaped in search for food.  “Oh.  Looks like our little precious is looking for a feed.”  She waved off the Doctor.  “This is for the ladies, Doctor.  Here Rose, let me help you with this.  They say it’s natural, but I found it anything but.”

 

He gasped when Jackie unashamedly whipped up Rose’s top and took her breast in hand.   “Oh-Kay,” he managed with a red face and pinking ears.  He caught both his brother and Romana waiting at the doorway and offered them a proud smile as he walked toward them.

 

“Wasn’t she amazing?”

 

Romana gave him a hug.  “Congratulations, Doctor.  Your son is beautiful.”

 

“In other words, nothing like you,” Brax cut in with a smile of teasing.  He held out a hand to offer a friendly shake.  “Congratulations, Brother.  May Rassilon, Omega and the Other watch over that youngster and let him rise to be as good a Time Lord as any of them were.”

 

“Better,” the Doctor assured him. 

 

Braxiatel nodded.  “We can only hope.”

 

The Doctor noted a somewhat uncomfortable sense emanating from the two of them.  “Is everything okay?”

 

Romana looked toward Rose, who was still being handled by her mother in an attempt to master feeding off the breast.  She then looked back at the Doctor.  “Can we step outside a moment?”

 

The Doctor looked at his wife, and then his child still searching for a latch-point, and deduced that he wouldn’t be missed if he stepped out for a moment or two.  “Sure,” he murmured as he led them to the corridor.  “But I don’t want to be away from them for too long.  I imagine once the adrenaline of our son’s birth has gone, Jackie is going to want some answers.”

 

“And ones you’re not all that eager to give,” Romana suggested.

 

He scratched at his head.  “You cold say that.”  He closed the door to the room and leaned up against the wall beside it.  “So what do you need to talk about?”

 

Braxiatel and Romana shared a look, a very uneasy look, and one that immediately worried the Doctor.  He tipped his head to one side with suspicious curiosity.  “What’s happened?”

 

Romana looked off to one side.  She winced, and then she turned back to him.  “The Daleks have invaded Askola in the Terrapau system.”

 

Dread flooded his chest.  “And?”

 

“We sent in five battle capsules, and three Genesis Arks in an attempt to rescue as many Askolians as possible.  The battle capsules were supposed to hold back the Dalek fleet while our rescue crews worked to evacuate as many civilians as they could.”  She sighed.  “We were going to have them sent as refugees to Ferrioum…”

 

“I take it that it didn’t quite go to plan?”

 

She shook her head.  “There weren’t enough personnel in our capsules.  They couldn’t hold back the Daleks…”

 

“They took control of the Arks,” Braxiatel added.  “Thousands of innocent Askolians trapped inside Genesis Arks with no way to escape.”

 

“At least there’s no way for the Daleks to get in and try to exterminate them,” the Doctor offered with a purse in his lip.  “We have that.”

 

“But we still need to clear them of Askola and get them to safety.”

 

The Doctor waited for them to continue.  When neither of them did, he let out a huff and lowered his head.  “And somehow I have the feeling that this rescue in some way involves me.”

 

“I know that you’ve just watched your mate give birth to your child, and I know the timing is horrible,” Romana pleaded.  “But there are women, children, and elders locked away under Dalek control.  They might not know how to open up an arc…”  she took a breath.  “But it won’t take long for them to work it out.”

 

The Doctor’s eyes flashed.  “Do they have any of our Gallifreyan soldiers as prisoners, or did they exterminate all of them?”

 

“I don’t know, Doctor,” she answered with regret.  “The last communication we received from the scout ship couldn’t answer that question.  We have to assume they’ve all been lost.”

 

“Worse to think any of them survived,” the Doctor admitted.  “One touch is all it takes, Romana.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Which means we are very short on time,” Braxiatel added.  “You are the one who knows them best.  You, alone, can handle an entire army.   We know that asking you this right now is asking far more than we should…”

 

“Bring Leela up to speed,”  the Doctor said firmly.  “Give Andred time away from Council to remain home with their son, and let Leela come with me.  The two of us have faced them together in the past.  I am sure that together, we can handle them again.”

 

“Are you sure?” Romana asked with a look to the door.  “Shouldn’t you ask your mate before giving us your answer?”

 

“I’ll speak with her,” he said quietly.  “I’m sure she’ll have no real objections to it.  We have innocent people held by an enemy loathed by us both.”  He flicked up a finger.  “But you.  Both of you.  You will make yourselves available at any time you’re required if she needs it.  No matter the time nor the request, you will honour it.”

 

Romana put her hand on Braxiatel’s arm before he husband could argue.  “Consider it my honour,” she promised firmly. 

 

“And if something should happen to me…”

 

“She will be treated with honour,” Romana vowed.  “Although I’m confident that won’t be necessary.”  She gave him a smile.  “You have a future time line from here.”

 

“That’s not always a guarantee,” he huffed.  He then pressed his hand to the door.  “Give me until morning,” he said with a look over his shoulder.  “Have Romana at my home when the suns break.  We’ll travel by my TARDIS.”

 

“Thank you,” Romana breathed out appreciatively.  “thank you, Doctor.”

 

“yeah,” he said with a sigh as he pushed against the door and walked into the room to be with his family – hopefully not for the last time.

 

Romana exhaled a shuddering breath as the door closed behind him.  “I hate doing this to him,” she admitted.  “But we don’t have a choice.”

 

“He knows that.”

 

“Still.”  She huffed out a long breath.  “It’s not fair to him – or to her.”  She turned to her husband with worry in her eyes.  “I’m scared, Brax.  I truly am.”  She looked back at the door.  “Something’s coming, and I don’t know that any of us are anywhere near prepared for it.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Donna Noble shook out the dampness in her long auburn hair and slipped a fall coat over her shoulders.  Fresh from a hot, clean shower that she had so sorely missed over the past fortnight, and armed with gifts, she stepped out of the front door and walked the short trek toward the footpath.  The night was brisk, and she shuddered with its chill, unused to the biting cold after leaving extreme hot weather temperature only a handful of hours ago.

 

Thankfully her destination was close – next door in fact – and she was at the front door of Rose Tyler’s home in less than a minute.   Months of friendship and easy social calls meant that Donna no longer knocked on the heavy wooden door when she visited.  She simply turned the handle and let herself in.

 

Which she did.

 

Knowing that she would be accosted by two very protective dogs if she didn’t immediately announce her presence, she called out to her friend as she dropped her bag on loot on the floor and took off her jacket.

 

“Just me, Rose,” she called out as she hung the coat neatly on a hook at the door. 

 

“In the living room,” Rose called out.  “Come on in.”

 

Donna picked up the plastic bag and kicked off her shoes.  On bare feet she walked into the living room with a smile.  “Miss me?”

 

Rose was seated on a comfortable love seat.  She wore an oversized hooded sweater with the sleeves rolled up to her wrists, paired with a pair of cropped black leggings.  Her feet were tucked up underneath her, and she leaned an elbow on the arm rest.  There was a glossy magazine on her knees and a glass of red wine in her hand.  She looked toward Donna with a broad smile.  “How was Egypt?”

 

“Hot,” she answered with a blown puff of breath held inside her puffed cheeks.  “And very dusty.”  She leaned forward to snatch an empty wine glass off a tray and helped herself to a generous serving of Rose’s wine.  “But absolutely wonderful.”

 

“I can’t wait to hear all about it,” Rose said with a smile as she held up her glass in a salute.  “And hope more to hear some sordid tales of a holiday romance with a handsome Egyptian boy.”

 

“None to tell, I’m afraid,” she admitted.  “And besides, being on a safari trip where the only showering I could do was every three days under a filthy water bag, I don’t think any of them would go near me for the smell.”  She took a sip of the wine and settled back in the armchair across from Rose.  “I think I just washed about a year’s worth of dust out of my hair, and I was only there for two weeks.”

 

Rose chuckled.  “But aside from lack of showering and bits of sand finding its way into places it should never venture, how was it?”

 

She groaned long.  “It was amazing!   Irving was right, the best way to experience it is by camelback and tents – not hotels and guided tours.”  She pointed to her bag.  “I got him something to say thanks if you wouldn’t mind giving it to him next time you see him.  Also got some swag for the kids too.  How are they?”

 

Rose tipped her head to her shoulder.  “Mark started school last week for the fall semester.  He’s still having trouble with his English skills, but is getting through without too much teasing from the other kids.”

 

“And Alirra?  Started talking yet?”

 

Rose shook her head.  “Still non-verbal.  Brax arranged for a speech therapist to help out, but she’s remaining mute.”  She sighed.  “They think it’s the trauma of losing her dad, and don’t reckon she’ll say anything anytime soon.”

 

Donna offered a smile.  “Well, look at it this way, Rose:  The sooner they talk, the sooner they talk back.”

 

That made Rose laugh.  “Isn’t that the whole truth?”   She then sighed.  “In time, I’m sure she’ll start talking, and will probably be talking in full sentences when she does.”

 

Donna’s eyes widened.  “You know, you’re right.  I had a friend of mine.  Well, not so much a friend, she was a bit of a bint…”

 

“Donna!” Rose chided with a laugh.

 

“Oh, there are times that that word is really appropriate, Rose.  Trust me,” she scoffed.  “I bet you got an old friend or two that you call the same.”

 

Rose bit at the edge of her glass in a smile.  “Maybe.”

 

“Anyway,” Donna continued.  “So she had this friend, who had a little girl, who was completely non verbal till she was about four.  They sent her to all the specialists to figure it out.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.”  She took a sip of her drink and winced a little at the burn at the back of her throat.  “Anyway.  One day, the little one just pipes up out of nowhere and starts talking.  Full sentences and all, like a walking thesaurus of words.”  She tipped her glass toward Rose.  “So little Alirra.  Wouldn’t mind too much, she’s still a young’un with plenty of time to start snarkin’ back at her mother.”

 

“Spoken like a true genius in the ways of snarkin’”

 

“Sassin’,” she corrected.  “I sass, not snark.”

 

Rose leaned forward a short way, enough that the magazine fell of her lap.  “Really, Donna.  Is there a difference?”

 

She shook her shoulders in a sideways and sassy manner.  “Being sassy is sexy.  You’re a woman of the world, not takin’ any guff.”  She stopped her dancing.  “Being snarky is just bein’ a bitch.”

 

“I see,” Rose said with a smile.  “So, the actual definition of it is quite subjective.”

 

“You got that right.”  She murmuered as she leaned down to pick up the magazine.  Her face drew into an immediate frown as she looked at the front cover, turning it left, and then right.  “My God, Rose.  What the hell language is this?”

 

“Arcadian,” she answered with a shrug.  “Romana brought it up in her last visit.  It’s the Arcadian version of a trashy celebrity mag.”  She tipped her glass toward it.  “Except about the council members, and not actual celebrities.”  She widened her eyes playfully.  “It can get quite salacious.”

 

“No celebrities where you’re from, then?”

 

“I’m from London,” Rose said with a laugh.  “Plenty of them here.”  She shrugged.  “My husband’s home, no.  Not really.  They really don’t have the time for that kind’ve nonsense.  Everything is politics over there.”

 

Donna still turned the cover this way and that.  “No music?  No TV and acting?  No sports?”

 

She shook her head.  “Yes, but there’s no reverence to them like there is here.”

 

“How boring,” she noted as she set the magazine on her knee and flicked through the pictures.  She held up her wine glass with her elbow on the armrest.  Laziness to switch her position out to less of a slouch forced her to life herself up when she wanted a sip.   “Not a very young looking bunch over there,” she mused after a moment and several flicks of the page.  “Not a lot of eye candy either.”

 

Rose chuckled.  “The fit ones stay out of politics.”  She leaned forward to refill her glass.  “The Chancellery Guard soldiers, on the other hand…”  she winked and blew out a breath.  “Puts the Fireman calendar to shame.”

 

“And have they put one out?” she practically hummed, not looking up from the magazine as she flicked page to page.  “And if so, where do we get one?”   She suddenly stopped flicking and let out a low purr of appreciation.  “Right, now that’s a politician I can put my vote behind.”

 

Rose’s brows lifted curiously.   She straightened up her back and leaned forward to peek.  “Which one?”

 

Donna held up the page and pointed at the image, awkwardly extending one of the fingers still cupped around the glass to do so.  “This one.  Full details if you’ve got ‘em, including the next flight out of London toward Arcadia.”

 

Slowly Rose unfolded her legs and shifted forward to take the magazine in her hand.  She put her wine glass on the coffee table and looked at the half-page image of her husband.  Below was a caption indicating that a universe-wide warrant had been issued to secure his return to Gallifrey.  A war was raging in the outer rings of Kasterborous, and all capsules had been recalled to Gallifrey.  At the time this magazine went to print, the Doctor had not responded and was considered by Council a fugitive.

 

Her breath exhaled sadly as she drew the magazine onto her knees and let her middle fingertips of both hands trace along the sides of the face in the image.  “Oh, Thete,” she whispered softly.

 

Donna gasped with realisation.  “Is that him?” she asked breathlessly as she jumped from the chair and scooted around the table.   She unceremoniously plopped down on the couch beside Rose – close enough that their legs lined up against each others – and snatched the magazine from her hand.  “This is your husband?” she queried as she much more closely analysed the image; one of him staring impatiently into the camera as he walked the corridor of Council Chambers.  “God, Rose, he was gorgeous.”

 

Rose shifted to lean against Donna’s shoulder and smiled.  “Yeah.  He really was.”

 

“What was his name?”

 

Rose had to think on that one.  She could recite his real name, the one given to him by his parents, but that would raise far more questions about him than she’d prefer to have to answer.   She could refer to him as Doctor, of course, but again:  questions.   Instead she settled on the name used by his brother, and in the end, the name she’d use for him.

 

“His name was Theta,” Rose answered.  “But Brax and I, we called him Thete.”

 

“Unusual name,” Donna remarked softly.  “But I like it.  Makes him sound clever.”

 

“And he was,” Rose agreed.  “Very clever.”

 

“Politician like Irving and Romana?”

 

Rose shook her head.  “no, he wasn’t,” she answered with a small smile.  “He viewed council business as being a pompous load of rubbish.   Thete was a doctor.  He headed up the medical team in arcadia’s main hospital.”

 

Donna lifted her head and took a cursory scan of the living room wondering just why it was that this was her first glimpse at Rose’s husband.  While there certainly were plenty of photographs of her and the kids around, there didn’t appear to be a single image of their father – her husband – anywhere.    She found that curious.  “Tell me, Rose.  Why don’t you have pictures of him around here?” she queried softly. 

 

“It upsets Alirra,’ Rose answered quietly.  “I don’t know that she’ll ever get over losing him in the way we did.”

 

“You’ve never mentioned what happened,” Donna remarked quietly, but with heavy curiosity in her tone. 

 

Rose flopped back deep into the back of the couch.  Her eyes were wide and locked on the image of her husband.  Although obviously annoyed, the camera did capture the roguish, handsome expression that she’d fallen in love with so long ago.

 

How could she describe their loss to Donna?   Did she want to tell her about the last time she saw him; on his knees with his chest forward and his head thrown back with a gaping mouth screaming out a long howl of agony as her mirror image tore everything from his mind … in full view of her and her children?

 

Could she tell her about him tearfully begging not to take it all away from him?  Begging for the safety of his wife and their children?  And then be told in the voice of the woman his hearts beat for that this life was never meant to be his … that victory would not come without sacrifice.   He would never know, ever again, and she’d make very sure of that – whereas his wife, well she’d be condemned to remember it all….

 

…Their intact bond never allowing her to take another.

 

Bloody faery tales and boogey men.   No, she couldn’t tell her that.

 

“It was a work accident,” she answered instead.  “Just a typical day at the office gone horribly wrong.”

 

Donna let out a supportive and empathetic sigh.  “I’m so sorry, Rose.”

 

Rose’s return smile was weak, but honest.   She gave her a nod, wiped at her eyes and then took a long deep draw from her wine glass.  “It’ll get better in time,” she suggested.  “Who knows, maybe I’ll find love again?”

 

Donna laughed.  “That, or you’ll at least have fun trying.”    Her eyes blinked rapidly and she half spat out her own mouthful as she saw a familiar face on the silent television screen flickering ahead of them.    She scrambled to find the remote control, leaning across Rose, swatting at the table and shoving a stack of unopened mail onto the floor.

 

Rose let up a yelp, and tried valiantly to hold her glass of wine high enough that it was spared the flailing of her friend.  “Donna!”

 

“Sorry,” she breathed out as the remote was located and she used both hands to turn up the volume.  “But.   I have to hear….”

 

A very flatly delivered news report outlined the current breaking news item.  The voice, which was far less enthusiastic than the footage from the scene deserved, spoke calmly of an industrial accident at Lazarus Laboratories.  Zig zagging camera angles, the flash of blue and red lights, and finally a clear picture of a harried looking field reporter, trying his all not to sound too excited as he recalled the events so far.

 

Rose set her glass down on the table and leaned forward to listen to the cast.   Donna, on the other hand was far more interested in monitoring the video feed.  Her humming and sighing, and urging for the camera to move from the idiot talking head, took Rose’s focus off what was actually being relayed from the scene.   She looked to Donna with a furrow in her brow.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

She hissed for silence, lifting her hand for more effect.   Then in a moment she belched out a sound that was a mix between a laugh and a growl.  “There!”  She yelled out as she gestured urgently toward the screen.  “Look at ‘im, Rose.”

 

Rose let her eyes shift to the screen, curious about what had her friend so worked up.  “Look at who?”

 

“Him!” she said again with a flick of the remote toward a tall skinny man wearing a tuxedo, with Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.  His hair was teased and up on end, and his face set in a wild, manic expression.  “I know him!”  She called out excitedly.

 

It didn’t take long for Rose to find him.  She knew that run, that hair, and that expression very well.   When his eyes shifted to look directly into the camera, she felt her breath catch.

 

“He’s called the Doctor,” Donna continued excitedly.  “A strange bloke that I knew would end up on the news sooner of later.”   She let up a laugh.  “Can’t believe someone I know made it on telly!”

 

Rose slowly shifted her head to look upon Donna with worry in her eyes.  “H-How do you know him?”

 

“Well,” she drawled with a roll in her eyes.  “I don’t really know him, know him like we’re best mates or anything like that.”  She shrugged.  “He got me out of a jam one day.   Remember when I was supposed to get married?”

 

Rose nodded. “When we both ended up drunk in my back porch singing cheesy breakup songs?”

 

“That’s the one.”  She huffed out.  “Turns out Lance had been lacing my coffee each day with some nasty chemical stuff.  This guy,” she gestured toward the TV with her chin.  “He saved my life, didn’t he?  A regular old Spaceman Sherlock Holmes.  Skinny streak of nothing, mind, but…”

 

“But a hero nonetheless,” Rose said with a sigh.  She looked back toward the television, hoping for another glimpse.   That glimpse came of him, her Pinstriped Doctor, running hand in hand with a very attractive woman.”

 

“Oh wow,” Donna remarked.  “She’s gorgeous!”

 

“Yeah,” Rose agreed somewhat sadly.  Watching the two of them share bright toothy smiles before running off screen hand in hand.  “Stunning.”

 

“I’m glad he found someone,” Donna mused as she turned down the volume and chucked the remote onto the armchair.  “I told him he should, and I’m glad he listened.”

 

Rose nodded, but said nothing.

 

“When I met him, Rose, oh you should have seen him,” Donna continued.  “He was like a kicked puppy.”   She let one side of her face pull up into a wince.  “Well, not that I can blame him and all.  Poor bloke just lost his girlfriend.”

 

Rose tilted her head toward Donna.  “I’m sorry?”

 

She nodded and drew back on the wine, purring at the tingle in the muscles that just a teeny bit too much offered her.  “When we met, he was a wreck, and I’m talking Titanic proportions kind’ve wreck.  He’d lost this girl, Rose…”  She chuckled.  “Like you…”

 

“It’s a common enough name,” Rose sighed with a shrug, not willing to admit they were one in the same.

 

“Anyway,” Donna went on.  “Turns out, the poor man had been searching for her for a month.  Out in the desert, on his hands and knees, searching for the woman he loves.  Do you believe that, a whole month?  Didn’t give up, although the best of us would.”  She let out a breath.  “He was in love with her; with his Rose.”

 

“H-he said that?”

 

Donna nodded.  “Yeah, but even if he didn’t say it out loud, it was pretty obvious.   That man was absolutely destroyed.  Didn’t half try to kill himself that day, too.”

 

Rose flashed a look of concern toward Donna, but remained silent.

 

“At the end of it, though, he didn’t.  I think I talked him out of it well enough.  Told him to go find someone new, because quite frankly that man,” she tipped her glass to the TV, which now had no sign of the Time Lord on it.  “He needs someone to stop him.”

 

“Yeah,” Rose breathed out.  “Sometimes.”

 

“And it looks like he found himself someone.”  There was disappointment in her tone.  “Shame.”

 

Rose’s eyes pinched, territorialism only a breath away.  “Why?  You fancy him for yourself?”

 

Donna looked at her with an expression of almost disgust.  She held that expression and then suddenly burst into brilliant laughter.  “Oh hell no, Rose.  That skinny little hedgehog is as far on the opposite spectrum of what I go after, it’s not funny.”  She frowned.  “Well.  It is funny, I guess.”  She shook her head.  “But no, not my type.  I won’t deny that he’s got a lot to offer a girl in terms of travel and excitement, but as for something long term and romantic?”   She shook her head.  “I’d break that skinny body in half just thinkin’ about it.”

 

Rose curled a fist underneat her chin and turned her head toward the TV in hope that she may catch his image again.  Unfortunately, the breaking news interruption was over, and the channel had switched back to a Coronation Street episode rerun.

 

“I would like to see him again,” Donna admitted.

 

Rose blinked and looked back to her.

 

“I got bit by the bug,” she admitted.  “Saw what else exists outside of temping, chips, beans, and telly.”  She sighed.  “He asked me to go with him for a while, and see what was out there.”

 

“You said no,” Rose breathed out with understanding, remembering when she, too, had declined the offer to travel.  “And immediately regretted it.”

 

“Yeah,” Donna answered with a sigh.  “And I’d honestly, really … if I got that chance again.  I wouldn’t say no.”  She pulled her hair behind her ear.  “Wouldn’t think on it twice.”

 

“Get rid of the humdrum existence of old Chiswick,” Rose managed with faked enthusiasm.

 

“Don’t’ I know it,” she groused.

 

Rose straightened up.  She slowly lifted to her feet and stooped to pick up the now empty bottle of wine.  She held it up and gave it a light shake.  “I’m going to grab another one.  Feel like sticking around for a bit?”

 

“Could be arranged,” she said with a cheeky smile. 

 

“Good,” Rose said with a smile.  “No more talk of Doctors and the women he picks up along his way.”  She gave her a wink.  “You still need to tell me all about Egypt.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Long yellow grasses met their boots as the Doctor and Leela stepped through the doors of his TARDIS.  The trip had been mercifully short, and magnificently accurate; spanning only a couple of short minutes.  The Doctor sincerely hoped that the rest of this trip would be so short.   He hated to leave his wife and newborn in the hospital only hours after the little one had come into the world, but he agreed with Braxiatel and Romana – this had to be done, and sooner rather than later.

 

Rose hadn’t been happy with it.  She started crying.  She made him promise that he would be safe – and then she had him take a long and hard look at the both of them - his exhausted, yet beautiful wife, and his tiny little newborn son sucking hungrily at her breast – and made him promise that this would be the image that would bring him home to them.

 

Rassilon, it almost made him say to hell with the Daleks and just stay with the two of them.    All he could do was to kiss his wife with all the passion he could muster, and then drop a kiss to his son’s fluffy little head, and then he was off.

 

Leela showed up at his home nearly two hours before suns-up, and they took off almost immediately.

 

Bless that woman.  Some called her a savage, a bullheaded woman with a complete lack of filter between her brain and her mouth, one who would slice first, ask questions later.   He called her a friend – and she was a surprisingly compassionate one at that.

 

When his boots pressed into the grass, and he made his way into the orange sunlight in the centre of a lavender sky, Leela stopped him with a hand on his arm.

 

“If you wish to wait in the TARDIS,” she offered in a firm, but friendly tone.  “Then I understand.  You have a family to return to…”

 

“As do you, Leela,” he answered her with a smile and a pat on her hand.  “Which means that the both of us have to be careful.”

 

Leela released his arm and gave him a nod.  “I have your back, as you have mine,” she vowed.   “And we return home to our families.”

 

The Doctor smirked.  “May as well just leave now.”

 

Leela winced just slightly and nodded.  “Daleks,” she breathed out with loathing.  “And a lot of them, I hear.”   She touched at a holder on the hip of her tight, black, trousers.  “Yet they send in only two of us.”

 

“After an entire battlefleet were defeated,” he muttered darkly.  “Rassilon help us all if the Daleks actually do make it to Gallifrey.  We are sorely underprepared for them.”

 

“I’ve been asked to assist in training,” Leela advised him in a voice that asked for his approval.  “When we return.”

 

“I think that’s a good idea,” he agreed with a firm nod of his head.  “Not only do you already have previous experience, but after today, we should gain a greater insight into just what we’re looking at, and what will be the best methods of defending ourselves.”  He thrust his hands into his pockets as he walked forward through the tall orange-barked trees that loomed high above them.  “Trying to go one-on-one with them won’t work.”

 

“It has done in the past,” Leela offered with a sniff.  “In fact, between us both, it was a highly successful method the last time we faced them.”

 

They broke through the treeline to arrive at a fenced border of what appeared to be a paddock.  The Doctor abruptly turned left to follow the fence.  “That was when we faced only a small number of them,” he corrected her.  “My understanding is that we’re facing roughly two thousand of them this time – with the potential of larger battle fleets in the future.  One-by-one is not an option.”  He cleared his throat and winced at the smell of animal manure in the air.  “Bullshit,” he mused darkly.  “How very appropriate.”

 

Leela chuckled in response and looked over the orange wooden fence beside them.  Within the yellow grasses of the paddock were several stone-statues of what looked to be cattle.  Each one was down on its belly, it’s front legs curled underneath the thick rolls at its chest.  The back legs were both curled to the side, giving the impression that the animal lay on it’s hip.

 

It seemed a very odd piece of artwork to have created, and a waste of perfectly good farm space.   She was of the mind to mention it but was startled into a surprised yelp when the ear of one of the statues flicked away a buzzing insect.

 

The Doctor immediately stopped, his mind filled with concern.  “Leela?”

 

She blinked with surprise and pointed toward the statue, that was now perfectly still.  “That just moved.”

 

The Doctor followed the point of her finger with his eyes.  He saw the beast and nodded.  “Of course it did, Leela. What did you expect it to do?”

 

“I really don’t know,” she admitted quietly.  “They looked like statues to me.”

 

His brows furrowed and he looked across the paddock with a somewhat perplexed expression.  “What on Gallifrey would be the purpose of putting statues out in the middle of perfectly good farming land?”  He looked to her and shook his head.  “You Humans,” he mused.  “There are times I wonder how I understand you at all.  Statues of Phlegmarian statues indeed.   It would be as pointless as statues of cattle on your home planet.”  His eyes flashed.  “By that I mean the planet on which your people came from.”

 

“No, I understood your point,’ she sighed heavily.  “But you have to see mine as well.  They look like they’re made of metal.”

 

“They’re actually an aggregate of Phlarian and Ferroi,” he corrected her.  “Living rock, I suppose you could say.  They have a brain and moving parts much like you and I, but no working circulatory system or blood flow.”   He started them moving again.  “Askolians use them only to plough their fields.  They’re really not that good for anything else.”

 

“Not for eating?”

 

He let out a laugh.  “Mouth full of dirt, really.”

 

Leela nodded and walked up beside the Doctor, switching attention between watching him, and looking at the landscape around them.  “Askola,” she breathed out curiously.  “For what reason do you think the Dalaks are setting themselves up here?”

 

The Doctor kept his eyes straight ahead of them.  “Peaceful planet,’ he answered.  “No armies, and therefore no chance of them defending themselves.”

 

“Which means no one will notice,” Leela deduced.  “And so they can build their troops quietly.”

 

“Taking stock from the peoples here, as well,” the Doctor added gravely.  “If what we’ve learned from Rose is anything to go by.”

 

She looked worried.  “And what’s that?”

 

He let out a breath.  “Rose mentioned a run-in with the Emperor of the Daleks, and how during that period he was building his army using human DNA.”  His lips pursed a moment.  “Makes sense that the Daleks were tinkering with that kind of genetic modification of non-Kaled species.  Skaro is not exactly a fertile planet capable of rapid reproduction of new specimens.  Test -tube reproduction is limited at best…”

 

“Yet, they do seem to be able to reproduce efficiently enough,” Leela offered with a shrug and a look of disgust.

 

“Efficiently perhaps,” The Doctor agreed, “but not necessarily at a speed conducive to building an army big enough to take on the universe.”  He blew out a breath.  “At least I hope not.”

 

They came to a junction, a corner of the paddock, that ended on a small hill overlooking an encampment in the gully below.  It wasn’t steep, nor very high, and therefore wouldn’t be dangerous to traverse downward, but it did give them both a decent view.    The Doctor stood in a lean against a tree trunk, his legs crossed at the ankles.   Leela dropped into a high crouch at his side, her hand pressed against the tree trunk to keep her steady.

 

“Looks fairly quiet,’ she offered gently.  Her head shifted as she took detail in her mind of everything down below.  “But I know that can be deceiving.”

 

“Askolians are known for being busy,” the Doctor offered.  “They believe that leisure leads to stagnancy, which is the pathway toward demise.”  He blinked and gestured below with a jut of his chin.  “Which means what you’re seeing down there is not simply quiet, it means …”

 

“It means either they are prisoners, or they are all dead,” Leela said with a gasp.  Her grasp on her holster tightened.  “And Daleks don’t take prisoners.”

 

“In this particular case,” the Doctor offered quickly before Leela tore off down the hill to take no prisoners of her own.  “I believe they had no choice but to take visitors.”  He lowered himself into a crouch at her side and pointed toward a trio of capsules at the edge of the small town.  “Romana had ordered those units sent here from Gallifrey at the same time as the Battle capsules.”

 

“What are they?” she half whispered.

 

“Genesis Arks,” he answered on a quiet voice.  “Emergency evacuation units.   They were designed for use in the event that a natural disaster or war-time event required a fast evacuation of civilians.”  He let his eyes scan along the outskirts of the town below, his eyes on the lookout for Daleks.  “Despite the small stature of it, each capsule can hold millions of people.”

 

“A bit like the TARDIS,” Leela offered.  “Bigger on the inside.”

 

He smiled and gave her a nod, still looking down the embankment.  “Bigger than my TARDIS,” he admitted.  “Much, much bigger.”  His eyes pinched at the sight of a small troop of Daleks, riding in perfect formation, three by four, down along a main road toward the town.  “We need to find a way to get to those Ark’s and set their transportation protocols to send them to Ferrouim.”  He tapped his fingertip against his chin.  “Which may be an easier task than what to do about the Daleks.”

 

“These Arks,” Leela interrupted curiously, her eyes locked on the path of the Dalek troop.  “Can they also be used as Prisoner ships?”

 

He didn’t look at her, but a smile spread across his face at her suggestion.  “Why my dear Leela, that is a very good suggestion.”

 

“Well of course it is,” she sang back in a breathy voice with a sassy glint in her eye to match.  “I came up with it, didn’t I?”

 

“The tricky thing is,” he said with a tilt in his head.  “Is just how we are going to convince an entire battlefleet of Daleks to go inside the thing.”

 

Her mouth fell open into an “ahhh” expression.  “Well that one I’ll leave to you, Doctor,” she offered.  “I came up with one part of the plan, you can do the rest.”

 

“First things first, though,” he gruffed at the same time he drew himself to a stand.  “We need to get into one of the Dalek ships and find out just what bit of nefarious no-goodery they’re planning.”   He flicked his hand to her I a request for her to follow.  “We can lock up as many as they’ve got down here.  But it won’t do us much good if we don’t know why they’re here in the first place.”

 

Leela caught up beside him as he walked briskly down the hill.  “To Exterminate things,” she offered him.  “They don’t do much else than that.”

 

“True,” he sang out.

 

The than gasped as he pulled her quickly behind a tree and held her firmly against his chest.  He pressed his finger to his lips to demand silence, which she agreed to with a nod.  On the road beside them, with the familiar metallic whine of Dalek wheels, a smaller troop rolled by.   Leela remained protectively within the Doctor’s arms, but pulled her head back enough that she was able to see what he couldn’t.   She made the count in her mind, and then looked up at him and mouthed the number. He gave her a nod of thanks and held his head against the tree as the danger passed.   When he was confident that they were clear, he took Leela’s hand and rand them both in the opposite direction to the Daleks.

 

“Where are we going?” she hissed quietly.  “The Daleks are heading the other way!”

 

“They’re patrol troops,” he answered quickly, his voice still held low.  “Moving away from the ships.   We want to find the ships…”

 

“I’d actually like to kill a few Daleks first if you wouldn’t mind.”  She smirked.  “Make them talk?”

 

“How do you expect them to talk if they’re dead,” he retorted with a huff.  “Did you bring a Ouija Board with you?”

 

She didn’t let go of his hands, nor try to pull him to a stop, but she did certainly give him a good and sharp glare of annoyance.  “I’ll settle with killing you if you’d prefer.”

 

“Ahh, because there’s no way that regeneration energy will alert them to our presence at all, is there?”  He pulled harder on her hand as he put on a little more speed.  “You’ll get your chance, Leela.  Just have some patience.”

 

“A virtue, as you say, I was not born with.”

 

“But a good one to strive to achieve,” the Doctor muttered as he threw his back up against another tree and held onto his breath.  This time there were only four Daleks, but they rolled swiftly along the dirt road.  He clutched at Leela’s hand tightly, preventing her from advancing on the robots is the urge took her.     His voice fell to a whisper as he pulled her toward him and spoke in her ear.

 

“We’re getting close,” he warned.  “Stay close to me and don’t wander off.”

 

“I like how you say that and actually expect me to listen,” she whispered sharply in reply.  “I don’t need your protection, Doctor.  I can handle myself well enough.”

 

“I’ve no doubt on that,” he answered flatly as he peered across the space between their tree and the entrance to a Dalek ship.   Knowing there’d be cameras at the entrance which would pick them up quickly, he removed his Sonic Screwdriver from his pocket and twisted the head to change a setting on it.  “Cameras,” he advised her before she could ask.  “While I am quite photogenic in this incarnation, I’d much prefer that my face did not end up on the Skaro Society pages.”

 

Her brow pinched in confusion.  “I don’t understand…”

 

“Rose would,” he said with a sigh.  “She’d laugh about it, too.  Probably ask me for my autograph.”   He moved out from behind the trunk of the tree and held his sonic at the tip of his fingers at the end of a fully extended arm.  “I don’t really want either of us caught on camera, Leela, so…”  He pressed the button and let the sonic screwdriver fire an invisible bean of energy toward the camera.   It took a moment, but after a few seconds, the camera box gave a small spark.  The Doctor hoped that was a sign that the camera was now inactive.

 

“Come on,” he called to her as his hand found hers again and he ran them both to the door.  “It won’t take them long to come and investigate.”

 

He looked left and then right but didn’t stop as he ran across the small country road toward the Dalek ship.   He barely looked up the ramp that would take him into the ship itself, such was his hurry.   When he got to the entrance, he finally did stop, and that was only to press himself up against the metal hull of the ship to peer inside.

 

“We’re clear,” he muttered quietly, tugging on her hand to have her follow him.

 

Leela quickly shook off his hand and wiped it on her shirt as she took up position at his side.  “I really don’t need my hand held,” she remarked.  “I’d much rather have it free, just in case.”

 

“Habit,’ he admitted with a sigh.  “My apology.”

 

“None needed.”  She ran her hand along the smooth walls of the ship, coloured orange by the lighting from the roof.  She listened to the deep hum of life support power and found herself starting to hum along with it.  “Do you know where you’re going?” she queried after a moment.

 

“I believe so,” he responded in a voice not quite so confident.  “This ship does have a very similar design to the one that landed on Gallifrey a couple of months ago…”

 

“One did what?” she chipped out with shock, halting their walk immediately.  “Did you say the Daleks made it to Gallifrey?”

 

He winced.  He’d forgotten that the knowledge of Dalek arrival had been extremely limited in who it was shared with – he would have thought that Andred would have shared that information with Leela.   He’d certainly share it with Rose over a slice of Magnolia pie.

 

“It was an empty ship,” he lied with a smile.  “So no need to announce it across the planet.”

 

“Empty?” she queried with surprise.  “That is very strange.”

 

“It is,” he agreed.  He then let out a breath.  “So that said, we were able to investigate and analyse the warcraft.”

 

“Then I would expect you’d have a plan to defeat it,” she challenged him.  “Afterall, isn’t that the purpose of commandeering enemy craft?”

 

He sighed.  “You would think so.”  

 

His arm suddenly snapped out to stop her forward movement.   He hissed for quiet and they both held their breaths as a pair of Daleks rolled along the corridor.   The Daleks stopped their forward roll, and turned slowly around.  The Doctor immediately grabbed Leela’s wrist and dragged her backward.  Behind him was a door, and he quickly opened it to push her inside.  He apologised as he followed her inside, fully expecting to be in very cramped quarters with her in a janitor closet or something.

 

He was surprised, however, to find that the both of them had entered a more expansive room.  Empty except for a golden metal box in the middle of the room.   While he knew he should be watching the door, waiting for the best opportunity to let them both out, the Doctor couldn’t quite help but be drawn toward the box.

 

“Doctor,” Leela hissed out with impatience as he left her side to investigate.  “This is not the time for you to get distracted.”

 

He held up a hand.  “Just a minute, Leela.”

 

“I don’t really think we have that long.”

 

His approach to the box was slow, deliberate, and very wary.  Markings along one side were in the delicate swirling script of his people, and the warning it offered was dire.   He circled it once, and then circled back in the opposite direction.  As he read the circular-formed text on all sides, his dread grew.

 

“It can’t be,” he muttered with fear.  “I thought this was locked away safely in Omega’s Arsenal.”

 

Leela was far less careful and approached the box without hesitation or care.  She quickly dropped into a crouch at its side and reached out a hand to touch it.

 

He grabbed her arm tightly enough that she winced.  “Don’t touch it,” he growled in warning.  “Whatever you do, don’t touch it.”

 

She jerked her arm free of his grasp and made a point of rubbing it.  “What is it?” she asked, knowing better than to get sassy on him when he was in this kind of mood – suddenly dark and stormy.

 

“It was originally called the Eye of Discord,” he answered on a low and angry voice.  “The final, and most dangerous, creation of the Ancients.”

 

“A weapon?” she asked softly.

 

He nodded in reply.  “Capable of destroying entire galaxies inside a single moment,” His brows lifted and but his eyes remained low.  “Which is what brought about its alternate name:  The moment.”

 

She gasped and looked at the small and indistinct box.  “But it looks so harmless.”

 

“So does an Atom Bomb before it goes nuclear,” he muttered.   He walked around the box again.  “The Ancients made a mistake when they created this,” he lectured gently.  “The made it too intricate, with an interface so sophisticated and advanced that it became sentient – a living entity with a conscience.”  He blew out a breath.  “It became judgmental, reading the intentions of its host, and passing judgment and imposing punishment on anyone who dared use it.”

 

Leela looked a the box and then back to the Doctor.  “Fables,” she declared, ignoring the look of annoyance from her companion.  “My people, back in the colony, they would tell stories like this.  Stories to scare the children and force them to behave.   Tales of triumph to make us warriors, and of defeat to make sure we won.”

 

She reached out a hand to touch it again, but the Doctor quickly snatched her wrist tightly in his hand.  “I said don’t touch it.”

 

“And what will happen if I do, Doctor?”  she asked hotly.

 

“It will read your mind’s greatest desire,” he warned her.  “And it will punish you for having such desires.”

 

“And what is my desire, Doctor?” she asked him with a curl in her lip.

 

“The same as mine is right now,” he answered coolly.  “To defeat every Dalek on this planet and return to the ones we love.”

 

“And you think that’s worth punishment?”

 

He nodded, his eyes tight on hers, not shifting.  “Yeah,” he huffed.  “It is.  Oh, not in our minds, of course.   To us it means victory for the greater good.”

 

“Because it is,” she snarled into his face.  “Because the creatures out there…”  She pointed to the doorway.  “They kill without remorse and without reason.   They’ll exterminate entire species just because  they don’t think they’re up to their standards – that they are a lower life form than they are.”

 

He snorted.  “And your people,” he asked.  “You’d kill entire insect species with the very same belief.”

 

She pulled her arm from his grasp and shook it.  “That’s different.”

 

“How?” he asked.  “To the Daleks, that’s what we are, what your people are, and what every other species across the universe is:  Insects.”   He flicked his eyes to the weapon.  “And that’s how this thing will judge you.”

 

She stood back, holding at her wrist and digesting his words. 

 

“It will do what you want it to do, Leela,” he continued.  His eyes shifted from the weapon to her.  “It won’t hesitate to do it.  Inside a moment, just a short insignificant point in time.  A blink.  A breath.  It will erase the Daleks, turn them into dust.”  He looked at her.  “But at what cost?”

 

Leela took a step back, holding her wrist in her hand up against her chest, fear now written in her shoulders.  “And the Daleks have it?”  She blinked and looked back to him.  “How have they not simply destroyed the entire universe with it?”

 

“You need a soul and the ability to truly feel loss in order to wield this weapon,” he answered.  “Of which the Daleks have none.”   He huffed.  “Which makes me really sorry to say this, Leela, but this place…”  He looked around, opening his arms to display the area around him.  “Is probably the safest place in the universe to be.”

 

“Unless the Daleks can figure out how to use it – or ally with a species who can.”

 

He nodded.  “True, which is why we need to find a way to get this back to Gallifrey, into the Omega Arsenal, and away from any war mongering species – soulless or not.”

 

“But if we can’t touch it,” she queried, “how do you think we’re going to move it?”

 

“That,’ he admitted with a scratch of his head.  “That’s the dilemma.”

 

There was a hiss at the door, a sound that had both Leela and the Doctor jump back with fright.  Leela maintained her balance, however, the Doctor was not quite so fortunate.  He toppled backward, falling onto his back and involuntarily flailing his arms to try and find purchase.   His hand swatted at the box, slapping his full palm on the golden surface.

 

His eyes widened as it whirred, clicked.  Each of the intricate circles lit up brightly.   “Oh, Rassilon no.”

 

“Tsk tsk, Doctor,” a soft and amused voice chided gently from above. 

 

“No,” he growled out as he covered his ears as though blocking out his mind.  “Get out of my head, I don’t want anything from you.”

 

“Not yet,” the voice sang softly.  “But you will.  And when you do…”

 

A chorus of children’s voices sang joyously throughout the room.  They sang a song from long ago, a song from the early ages of Earth, a song sung by children holding hands and dancing in a circle.     The words spun around him.

 

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf……?

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The swirling child-like song and the lights from the box quickly faded out into nothing.  There was a whir, a click, the sounds of shifting time, and then silence – save for the rapid beating of both of his hearts against his rib cage.   The Doctor, still down on the ground and on his rear, looked around himself in a frantic search for the children – so many children – who had been taunting him only a moment ago.

 

A voice that he expected should have been in Leela’s dulcet tones but was in a much more masculine breath filtered in from the doorway.

 

“I’m sorry, but did you just say Bad Wolf?”

 

The Doctor looked up quickly, his mouth agape, toward the door.  His breath drew in hard when he caught sight of a man slightly within a shadow, dressed in a brown pin-striped suit only half visible underneath a thick camel-coloured jacket.   He had dirty Converse Chuck Taylor shoes on his feet, and a thick mop of brown hair spiked to within an inch of its life on his head.  The expression on his face was a mix between surprise and utter heartbreak – with his nose scrunched up to lift a lip that revealed a set of white teeth perfect to speak through, but eyes that held several lifetimes of heartache.

 

Quite obvious who this fellow was.

 

“Hello, Doctor,” he muttered dispassionately as he moaned and hauled himself up to his feet.

 

The Doctor standing at the doorway didn’t return the greeting.  Instead he stepped out of the shadow and approached without fear.  His shoulders were hunched, and his gait purposeful.  “I asked you a question,” he growled.  “Did you just say: Bad Wolf?”

 

Eight brushed himself off:  a flick at his shoulder, then his sleeve, and then a tug at his cuff.  He levelled out his shoudlers and looked toward his elder self.  “It wasn’t me that said it,” he answered tiredly.  “Not that it was actually said, mind, more like sang – by a group of school children.”

 

“Yeah,” Ten breathed out with a look off to the side.  “That’s what I was worried about.”

 

Eight tried his best to appear nonchalant, although his hearts drummed a rapid beat of worry inside his chest.  “And why would that be worrying, Doctor?”  He queried disinterestedly.  “Are you afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

 

Ten’s eyes flicked almost angrily toward his younger self.  “No,” he breathed out.  He then looked away.  His voice was soft when he answered.  “No, I’m not.  Not anymore anyway.”

 

Eight did catch the sad faraway look that settled in his eyes before those eyes shifted.    “I see.”   He folded his arms across his chest.   Time to change subjects.  “And to what do I owe the honour – or more appropriately dishonour - of your visit?”

 

Ten scratched at his sideburn.  A curl of unknowing lifted his entire top lip to show a full set of white teeth.  “Yeah.  Not quite sure about that, to be honest.  Normally us being thrown together is because of some grand Time Lord design..”  He let out a breath and spoke in a rather strangled voice.  “And being that.  Well.  Not too sure they’d come for me in my current timeline.” He blew out a breath and rocked back onto his heels as his hands found their way into his trouser pockets.  “Which means that we have to lay blame on the TARDIS, who really does seem to be playing games with me of late.  Either that, or she has a thing for space ship.  Just left a rather intense situation on another ship, actually.”  His eyes widened with remembrance and he blew out a breath through puckered lips.  “Not one I wish to revisit again any time soon.”

 

“You’ve obviously managed to upset the old girl,” Eight mused with a smirk.  “Or she thinks that you need to be here, for some reason she won’t share.”

 

“Obviously,” he muttered in agreement. He flicked his eyes to those still questioning him from his younger self. 

 

“But I expect that you already know,” Eight offered him flatly.  He circled his wrist in the air.  “And as we have been here before – well, you have…”

 

“You expect me to know,” Ten breathed out.   He then shook his head.  “No idea, I’m afraid.   Probably due to timelines being out of synch, can’t quite remember this particular journey.”

 

Eight’s brows rose high.  “No?”

 

Ten closed his eyes and scrunched up his face, no doubt trying to exaggerate the effort of trying to think for his younger self’s benefit.  His face relaxed and he shrugged.  “Nope.  Not a second of it.  Nada.  Nyet… and all other words toward the negative.”

 

“Well that is disappointing,” Eight said with a sigh.  “I was rather hoping that you being here meant that answers would be forthcoming quite quickly and we can be off again.”  He rubbed at the tiredness in his neck.  “Shame, really.  I did have some plans for this evening that I would have appreciated being able to keep.  As I have no doubt Leela did as well.”

 

Ten’s eyes widened.  “Leela?” he asked with rising affection in his tone.  He looked around and found his old companion looking toward him with surprise and not an ounce of recognition in her eyes.   His face rapidly broke out into a grin.  “Leela!” he cried out excitedly as he launched into a run toward her.  He barely let the woman get out a peep of surprise before he had her in his arms and swung them both in a circle.  “Oh, it’s been an age, hasn’t it?”

 

Catching Leela off guard perhaps wasn’t the greatest of the Doctor’s plans in life.  Her peep, which shifted to a growl of threat, was a warning given only a half second before her arm flicked up and there was a blade at his throat.

 

“Who are you to be so familiar with me,” she thundered darkly.  “Put me down before I slice open your throat.”

 

“I’d listen to her if I were you,” Eight warned with a roll in his eyes.  “Being on a Dalek ship does tend to bring out the kill first-ask later mentality.”

 

Leela’s eyes were still dark and full of warning as the Tenth Doctor tried hard to calm her with only a look.  “And I’d listen to him,” she cautioned.

 

The Tenth version of the Doctor gave a nod and set her feet on the ground.   He held his hands up as high as his chest in surrender as he took a step back.  “Yeah,” he drawled.  “Sorry about that.  I seem to have developed a hug first-ask later habit myself in this body.”

 

“So it would appear,” Eight muttered.   He looked toward the doorway, where a young woman stood in wait.   Her eyes were wide and curious, perhaps slightly frightened, but she didn’t appear to have any form of rising flight instinct in her posture.  She was breathtaking to behold, really, a truly beautiful woman – typical of a companion chosen by any one of himself.   He stepped forward with his hand outstretched in greeting.  “Allow me to introduce myself,” he sang out with a smile.

 

For a brief moment the Tenth Doctor looked somewhat confused, but realisation suddenly dawned.  Annoyance seemed to immediately flee from the face and posture of the man in brown.  He broke out a wide smile and turned to hold his hand out toward the woman.  “Oh yes.  Right.  Martha.  I almost forgot that you were there.”

 

Her expression shifted to mild offence toward being forgotten about.  She gave him a small smile and a shrug, but didn’t shift from her position.  “Yes, well, you did seem otherwise occupied.  It’s not exactly the first time.”

 

The Eighth Doctor frowned at his older self.  “Do we make it a habit of forgetting about our companions, as we get older?” 

 

“I do it once,” he huffed.  “And you call it a habit.  I’ll have you know that my companions are now, as they always have been, my most important concern.”

 

Eight nodded.  “Obviously.  That’s especially clear given that your current companion is still standing alone at the door that could quite likely open any moment now and have her accosted by Daleks.”

 

He cleared his throat with discomfort, but schooled his features more toward glee when he turned back and held out his hand again to her.  “Martha Jones,” he sang happily.  “Come here and meet some friends of mine.  Well.  I say friends, as in the plural form, but only one of them can actually be dropped into the category of actual friendship.  The other, well.  The other’s more of an annoyance, a reminder of time long passed.”

 

Martha stepped forward as requested but didn’t slip her hand into the waiting hand of the Doctor.  She instead smoothed her hands over her hair with the other hand in an effort to make herself more presentable and gave the Eighth Doctor a smile.   “Hello.  I’m Martha.  Companion of this rather rude individual.”

 

“Oi!” Ten blurted with offence.

 

She flashed him a brilliant white smile.  “Deny it, Doctor, I dare you.”

 

He pulled at his ear and dipped his head guiltily.  “Yeah.  Well.  Don’t want to lie to you…”

 

Eight’s eyes flicked between the two, noting their comfortable jesting and their friendly smiles.  “Just companions, then?” he asked curiously, not meaning to imply anything, but unfortunately doing just that.

 

Martha’s eyes flashed wide at the question.   “Well.  More than that, I suppose.   We’ve been through a lot, the Doctor and I.  So.”  She gave him a smile.  “Best friends, right?”

 

The Tenth Doctor nodded, a roll in his eyes suggesting that he was analysing both question and answer.  “Somewhere between the two at the very least.”  He then looked down to his companion.  “Martha, allow me to introduce you to a very good friend of mine.”  He gestured toward Leela, who was trying her very best to seem disinterested, although was picking at the nail of her middle finger with the tip of her knife to prove she was ready to use it.  “Leela.   We travelled together, oh, a very long time ago.” His smile was full of affection.

 

Leela’s eyes widened with surprise as the introductions with her Doctor had not yet been finalised.  She looked toward the Eighth version of the man with a look of question as to whether or not to comment on that.  After receiving a shake of his head that told her not to mind it, she stepped forward and held out her hand to the newcomer.  “Pleasure.”

 

Martha smiled a friendly grin as she shook eagerly at Leela’s hand.  “A pleasure it is.”  Her head tilted down to one side.  “Maybe later you and I can trade stories – or you can give me hints on how best to deal with him?”

 

Leela found slight amusement in that, and although she was not one to trade any form of story about her time with the Doctor, she did offer one small piece of advice.  “I have found that the threat of castration at knifepoint works rather effectively.”

 

Eight let out a laugh.  “My dear girl, of all the threats you ever levered in my direction when we travelled together, castration was not one of them.”

 

Her eyes flashed innocently.  “It would be effective, though, no?”

 

“I’ve got regenerations left at my disposal,” he jested back with a wink.  “If a decent regenerative coma won’t work to repair whatever damage you could inflict, a full blown regeneration would.”  He shrugged.  “So.  No.  Not really effective at all.”

 

Martha frowned, unable to keep up with the conversation.  “Please forgive my ignorance here, but regeneration?”  She looked toward her Doctor.  “Is he an alien?”

 

“Well,” he drawled out long.  His breath filled his cheeks and he spoke on a bluster.   “On this planet, we’re all aliens.”  He shrugged.  “But I know what you’re asking – alien compared to you – and yes.  He is.  Quite.”  He looked to Leela.  “She’s Human, like you.  Ancestrally speaking, of course.  I didn’t actually find her on Earth.   

 

“And where are you from, then?” she asked the Eighth Doctor directly.  “And I’m very sorry, but I didn’t catch your name.”

 

“I’m from Gallifrey,” he answered with a look toward his older self.  “Like him.”

 

Martha’s whole face lit up brilliantly.  She looked between both men.  “Another Time Lord?  Oh, Doctor!  That’s wonderful, another…”

 

Same Time Lord, actually,” he interrupted before she could let slip anything of importance.   He looked toward Martha, but jutted his chin toward Eight.  “He.  Is me.”  His face tightened up.  “Ohhh, about 200 years ago, give or take.”

 

“And how many in between?” Eight queried, completely ignoring Martha’s gasp of disbelief and surprise.

 

“On my third since you,” he answered quietly.   He inhaled.  “It’s been quite a couple of centuries.”

 

Martha was still horribly confused.   “I-I don’t understand. How can the both of you be the same man?”  She held up her hand before either man could answer.  “I get the time travel bit.  No need to bring that bit up.”

 

“I take it you haven’t mentioned regenerations to her yet?” the Eight Doctor murmured under his breath.

 

Ten lifted a hand to pull at his earlobe.  “Well.  No.  Not as yet,” he admitted.  “The topic has never quite come up.”

 

Martha lifted her head.  “What topic?”

 

“Regeneration,” the Eighth Doctor answered her quickly.  “The thirteen lives of a Time Lord of Gallifrey.”

 

Martha’s expression turned from curious to confused.  “Thirteen lives?”   She looked toward the man at her side.  “What?  Like a cat?”

 

The Tenth Doctor pursed his lips at the comparison.  Part of him simply wanted to run with that very simplistic option.  The other part figured that wouldn’t be quite the apt description of regeneration considering his younger self – who looked remarkably different to him now – was in the same room.

 

“Well,” he drawled with another pull at his ear.  “When Time Lords, ehm…”

 

“When Time Lords face death,” Eight cut in with a roll in his eye.  “We go through a process known as regeneration.  In this process, every cell in our body is rewritten and changed.  We become a new man in quite the literal way.”  He pointed a finger toward his elder self.  “Which makes the fact that he and I are the same person very understandable, don’t you think?”

 

Martha’s eyes widened.  “I wouldn’t say understandable,” she corrected softly.  Her face and eyes lifted to her Doctor.  “Sow hen you imply that he is you…?”

 

“Not an implication,” Ten corrected.  “Fact.   This man with the questionable dress sense – and really?  A Bronte fan were you in that incarnation?”

 

“Better than dressing like our brother,” Eight snapped back sharply.  “Really, I should take a photograph and show him.  I’m sure the old boy will be more than chuffed to see that we’ve finally dressed in a manner that he’d actually approve of.”

 

Ten held at the lapels of his jacket and held them outward.  “Two piece, not three.”  He kicked out his foot.  “Runners, not shiny leather.”

 

“Close enough.”  He looked toward Martha with a soft and friendly smile.  “So if you’ve managed to keep up, I am indeed the Doctor – a previous version of the man you currently travel with.”  He held out his hand.  “If you don’t mind me remarking, it is a pleasure to finally make introduction to you.   Double the pleasure to meet someone as lovely as yourself.”

 

“Lovely as in appearance,” she came back with a smile as she stepped forward to take his hand in a friendly shake.  “I’ll take that compliment, thank you, and then remind you with a wink that you don’t know me enough yet to make any assessments to who I am as a person.”

 

He dropped a light kiss to her knuckles, keeping his eyes on hers.  “If you’re at my side, Martha, then I’m assured that you are brilliant.”

 

Leela was at his side in an instant.  She very deliberately removed his hand from Martha’s, giving him a rather pointed look about as sharp as one of her knives.  “Propriety,” she warned him.  “Remember who waits for you on Gallifrey.”

 

Ten picked up that inference.  “Oh?” he sang out.  “And who might that be, then?  And on Gallifrey?”  His lips pursed out curiously.  “Who would you leave behind?”

 

Eight fired him a glare, one that was full of indignance.  “Yes, who would we leave, indeed?”

 

“Ahhhh,” he breathed out through an open mouth.  “You appear to be making an accusation of sorts.”  He shook his head.  “Whichever one of us did whatever misdeed you want to assign blame to, just remember, it’s all of us doing it.”

 

“No,” he sighed inaudibly.  “Just you.”

 

“Anyway,” the Tenth Doctor sang out with a clap of his hands that ended with him rubbing them together.  “We’re here, on a Dalek ship, investigating just what they’re up to, and how to get rid of them.”  He looked to his younger self.  “Any ideas yet?”

 

Eight narrowed his eyes toward his younger self.  “As you have obviously been through this scenario before, Doctor, I would expect the answers would come from you.”

 

Ten winced slightly and lifted a hand to rub at the back of his head.  “Yeah.  We already touched on that one.  I don’t quite remember this bit,” he admitted with a chuckle.  “Then again, it’s not like I was exceedingly good at remembering anything when I was you – great big memory gaps in my life as you.  Still,” he blew out a breath.  “Can’t have been too interesting, otherwise I might have.”  He stepped away from Martha and walked toward Leela.  “Take travelling again with you, for example.  I don’t remember that, which is a shame as I hold very fond memories of our time together.”

 

Leela was obviously confused, but she took the compliment with a smile.  “Everything I have is because of you, Doctor.”

 

A grin stretched wide.  “Oh yes.  A husband, a child.  How is old Andred?  Treating you and your child well, I hope.”

 

“He does.”

 

“Good,” he breathed out.  “Good.”  He looked back at his younger self, noting the irritated and somewhat offended expression of him.  “Oh don’t be like that,” he dismissed with a flick of his hand.  “You’ll get to be me and it won’t bother you in the slightest not to remember it all.  Moving on as we always do.”

 

“Nice to know it’s so easy for you,” the Eighth Doctor answered on little more than a whisper.   He shook off the offence and inhaled a deep and clearing breath.   “So.  You don’t remember any part of life as me on Gallifrey, then?  Nothing at all?”

 

“Nope,” he answered with a shrug and a pop of the P.   He circled the room, looking at the walls, the ceiling, the floor, anywhere but at his younger self.  “Not a second of it.  Was in an interesting visit?”  He turned sharply with a smile.  “Oh, I got it!  This is during the Lungbarrow incident, right?”  He let out a laugh that was more of an exhale.  “Not a particularly delightful moment in my life, but an important one.  I remember that.”

 

Lungbarrow was almost a lifetime ago for him.   “Yeah,” he lied in a drawl.  “Something like that.”

 

“How is old Innocet?”

 

“Regenerated,” he answered.  “Married to the house.”

 

“Good,” he answered absently.  “Good to hear.”  His eyes fell onto a dusty looking wooden box in the middle of the floor.  It was of crude construction, each small slat seated offset against its partner to reveal emptiness within it.  “That’s odd,” he remarked with a single brow lifted.  He dropped into a crouch and aimed his blue-tipped sonic screwdriver at it.

 

“Don’t touch it!” Leela yelped out loud in warning.

 

He looked up at her, fixing a look at her as he poked at the box with the tip of his screwdriver.  “It’s just a harmless crate,” he advised her flatly.  “Nothing to be scared of.”

 

She shot a terrified look toward her own Doctor.  She felt further dread to see the deeply defeated expression of him as he looked at the box himself.  “Doctor…?”

 

“The danger appears to have passed, Leela,” he managed on a quiet and husky voice.  “Right now, it’s just a wooden box.”

 

The Tenth Doctor looked up at his younger self.  “Previous to now it wasn’t?”  he rose up to his feet and looked down suspiciously at it. 

 

“It’s nothing for you to be concerned with,” he answered quietly.  “And by all rights, it looks like…”  He stopped and frowned toward his elder self.  “Are you very certain you don’t remember?  Not a single moment of this?  You can’t remember a single thing from your life on Gallifrey?”

 

The Doctor gave a dark laugh.  “It was hardly a life,” he countered.  “There’s a reason we left, Doctor, or don’t you remember that?”  He looked to him.  “Nothing for us there back then.”  He exhaled.  “Certainly nothing for us now.”

 

“Our life together,” he clarified sadly, referring to Rose, but knowing that this new Doctor wouldn’t read it that way.  “How can you not remember?”

 

“Our life,” he shot back with a derisive snort.  “I remember enough, thank you.  Not a single part of it worth retaining.  And it certainly appears that this particular moment in your life is worth forgetting as well – seeing as I feel like I’m living this one for the first time, too.”

 

Martha looked between the two:  One of them looking like he’d been kicked out into the snow with his hearts in his hands, the other steeled with indignance and annoyance at the questioning.  She tilted her head at the younger Doctor.  “Is there any reason why it’s so important to you that the Doctor should remember?”

 

Leela opened her mouth to answer that one in a firm and angry manner.  The Doctor stopped her with a lift of his finger to request she say nothing.

 

“No reason,” he breathed out.  “Obviously not one important to him.”

 

Ten flicked his eyes toward his younger self.  The sadness in his posture could rival the sadness in his on any day.  His voice softened to worry.  “Something tells me that I’m missing something of very vital importance.”

 

“If you considered it such,” Eight murmured; his hearts falling into his stomach.  “Then remembering it wouldn’t be such an obvious difficulty.”

 

The Tenth Doctor searched his memories of being his Eighth self.  Nothing of real note stood out, and so he came to the only conclusion possible – that they were on the brink of war with the Daleks.  Of course this would be important to him – so very important.  Immediately he felt sorrow and sympathy toward his younger self, and the heatsache he was about to suffer.

 

“I can’t tell you what comes,” he advised him softly, a croak inside his voice.  “And beyond this meeting, Doctor.  What comes from here…”  He looked around the room.  “With the Daleks.  This, I remember quite vividly, and will never forget.”

 

His reply was made so quietly that no one heard anything other than incoherent murmuring.  “Obviously we’re talking about very different things.”

 

“What was that?” his elder self asked with a hand cupped around his ear in a far too condescending manner.  “You’ll have to speak up.  Getting older, hearing’s going.  You know how it is.”

 

“I said,” he retorted in a louder voice.  “I don’t wish to know what lies ahead anyway.  Perhaps if you used a little less hair gel, you’d be able to hear me.”

 

“Not that I see how Gel affects one’s hearing, Doctor,” he smoothed back.  “However, I will note that you do seem quite uncharacteristically snippy today.  I take it not all is okay?” 

 

“By Okay, you mean aside from bumping into myself – which never turns out well for anyone – and finding out that I’ve become some teased-hair pretty boy who has zero care and respect toward those who choose to travel with him.   Who is clearly so far inside his own narcissism that he threw away the best thing to ever happen to him…”

 

Darkness crossed his features almost immediately.   He rushed his younger self with a curl in his lip and a growl in his tone.  He stopped short of grabbing his lapels and shaking him, but only because of a warning snort from Leela.  “Just what do you mean by that?” he snarled.  “I haven’t thrown anything away.”

 

“Haven’t you?” Eight asked coolly.   “Think hard on that one a moment.”   His eyes raked up and down with a glare of utter derision toward the man he would become.  “You know what, never mind.  Your loss is my gain…”

 

“Which will be your loss in time as well,” he shot back in reply.  “Don’t you think for a second you’ve got what it takes to change your own future.”  He moved in close with eyes narrowed in warning.  “I was you once too, you know.  Making the very same promises to myself.”

 

“How would you know?” he breathed out though a curled lip.  “You can’t even remember.”

 

Leela let out a sigh of frustration.  “When you two are finished comparing the size of your penises, may we get back on task and find out just why the Daleks have landed here, and how we will save the Askolians trapped in the Arks?”

 

The Tenth Doctor flicked a surprise look toward her.  Aggression immediately fled toward curiosity.  “I’m sorry, did you say that the Daleks have taken prisoners?”

 

Eight nodded.  His voice was now somewhere closer to normal when he addressed his older self.  “Gallifreyan forces have already tried to intervene.  Romana sent in five battle capsules and three Genesis Ark capsules.”  He exhaled.  “Her intention was to hold back the Dalek fleet while evacuating as many of the Askolian peoples as possible for transportation to Ferrioum for sanctuary.   Unfortunately, the forces were defeated before the Arks could be transported to safety.”

 

The Tenth Doctor pursed his lips and nodded his head slowly.  “Was this something she discussed with us first?  Or did she just go ahead and send in the troops.”  He frowned.  “I would expect that if she had any plans like this in mind, that she might reach out to us first.” 

 

“If we were contactable,” he countered quietly.

 

“Which I assume we are, considering you’re here now obviously at her request.”

 

“We were otherwise indisposed,” he answered.  “Romana had the respect not to interrupt to ask questions that were pointless by comparison.”  He walked around him toward the doorway that would take them back out into the corridor.  “She’s also perfectly capable at dealing with these pepperpots of death – being the only person in the entire universe to have a Dalek beg mercy.”

 

“That is true,” he agreed with a smile.  The smile fell.  “And so once whatever shiny thing it was that distracted us was no longer a distraction, she came to us with the news that there had been a bit of a snafu, and could we help out?”

 

Leela gruffed.  “The shiny thing that you refer to, Doctor is…”

 

“Leela,” Eight growled with warning.  “It’s not worth it, so just leave it.  Please.”  He touched the door with the palm of his hand.  “We have other shiny things to focus on right now.”

 

Leela made a sound in the negative.  “Before you go wandering out there, don’t we have the important issue of the weapon to deal with?”  She waited for his perplexed eyes to find hers and pointed toward the  box.  “This thing?”

 

“It’s a box,” the Tenth Doctor said slowly.  “A wooden box.  Completely benign and not anything near being any form of weapon.”  He shrugged.  “Well, unless you want to throw it at someone.  Then it could be classed as such.  Not a very effective one mind, but it could give someone splinters which could be uncomfortable.”

 

Eight offered his companion a smile.  “The danger from whatever was in that box has passed, Leela.  I promise you that.”

 

“I’m not entirely sure I believe you.”

 

“Do you trust me?”

 

She nodded.  “I do.”

 

“Then trust me on this.”  He flicked his head toward the door.  “Now come on,” he said with a warm smile.  “Let’s continue on the path we had originally set, and …. And hope we don’t get hit with a Dalek ray.”

 

His Tenth self stepped up beside him.  He caught the younger self’s look of question out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t look at him.  Instead he merely smirked.  “It goes without saying that I’m coming along as well.”

 

“I was worried you might say that.”

 

“Two Doctors are better than one, after all.”

 

Eight rolled his eyes to the ceiling and actually let out a laugh.  “The universe just quivered at the possibility.”  The door hissed open and both men stepped forward into an empty corridor.  Eight stopped his elder self with the back of his hand against his chest.  “Doctor.  For the love of Rassilon, don’t forget your companion.”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Silence immediately befell all in the group as they left the relative safety of the small room and stepped into the corridor.  The Two Doctors walked as a pair ahead of the two ladies, one of which was scrutinising their every surrounding, and the other analysing this new man – the younger Doctor – not being quite able to believe the tales they wove about Time Lords and regeneration…

 

…It made no sense.

 

They’r only been walking for less than a minute before the Doctors both waved a hand at the girls and then pressed their backs up against the wall.  Eight was in the lead of the foursome, with his focus tight on whatever lay around the corner.  His elder self was against the wall at this side, trying to lean across him for his own view, but was fighting against the annoyed swatting from the younger him.   Martha shifted In beside her Doctor, her hips tucked in tightly against him.   Leela, she was having none of being at the back of the group.  She made her way to the front and crouched on the floor beside her Doctor.

 

“What is it?” she hissed out quietly through her teeth.

 

“Daleks,” Eight answered simply.  “What else?”

 

There was a knife clutched I a dagger hold in her left hand, and her other hand tensed against the wall ready to press off.  “Eye-Stalk, right?”

 

He looked down.  “Don’t, Leela.”

 

“Isn’t that why we’re here?  To defeat the Daleks and free the prisoners?”

 

Ten entered the conversation with a light huff.  “Best we find out what, and how many of them, we are actually facing here,” he advised gently.  “Taking one down might be easy enough, but if it alerts the rest of them…”

 

Leela gave a firm nod.  “We will find a way, though, right?”

 

“What? For you to kill them?” Eight asked with amusement.  “Of course.  Even if it only means that we have to press a big red button to destroy them all, Leela, then I promise you I’ll let you press it.”

 

“I will hold you to that.”

 

“I am very sure that you will.”  He sucked in his breath, pressed back against the wall, and signalled frantically for all of the companions to do the same.  His hand had to fall upon Leela’s head to force her backward, but she complied readily enough when he did.

 

With a whir, a trio of Daleks rolled across the corridor past them.  Eight kept his eyes on their retreating backs and only exhaled once they were out of sight.   He twisted around to look toward the other end of the corridor and, seeing it clear, signalled for his team to follow.

 

Once again, the formation fell to the Doctor’s in the lead and the ladies at the rear.

 

“You seem to know exactly where you’re going,” Ten remarked quietly.  “Which I find curious.”

 

“Let me guess, because you don’t remember?”

 

“Obviously,” he gruffed under his breath.  “But moreso because I don’t ever recall entering a Dalek battleship at all through out lives until the invasion.”

 

“Which invasion might that be?” Eight asked curiously.

 

“Not my information to share with you right now,” he slid back quietly.  “But it didn’t happen in your body if you’re looking for timelines.”

 

“This ship is identical to the one that crash landed on Gallifrey a little over two months ago…”

 

Ten grabbed his arm and stopped him short.  “I’m sorry.  Did you say that in this timeline the Daleks made it to Gallifrey.  While you’re still you?”

 

“Yes,” he snarled as he pulled his arm from the grasp of his younger self.  “And if you don’t mind, can we continue on?”

 

Ten gestured with a wave.  “After you.”  He let Eight pass him, and then stepped to his side.  “They landed early,” he mused.

 

“Yes,” he replied.  “That’s what she said as well before she destroyed every living thing on board it.” He shuddered.  “Turned them all into dust.  Every … single … one.”

 

“She?” Ten asked with a pucker in his lips and his eyes forward.  He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer to the question in his mind, although he was very sure he knew it.  “Who is she?”

 

“The Bad Wolf,” he answered with only a slight flick in his eyes toward his younger self, looking at him through only his peripheral vision for a reaction.  The reaction was minor, a blink if you miss it kind’ve thing, but it was there:  a hardening in the eyes, and a clench of his jaw.  “You’ve heard of her?”

 

“May have,” he whispered.  “Although I doubt it’s the same Bad Wolf I encountered.”

 

“Why not…?”

 

Martha’s voice piped up from behind them.  Her voice was quiet, but the excitement in it was obvious.  “I’ve been seeing those words a lot lately,” she admitted.   “Everywhere we go…”

 

Ten spun in place, his eyes wide and wild.   His turn stopped Martha abruptly enough that she had to lean backward from him.  His voice was clipped and harsh.  “What did you just say?”

 

“That I’ve seen the words,” she repeated with a frown of discomfort shadowing her features.

 

His eyes flicked between hers, their intensity unwavering.  “Where?”  he hissed out.  “Where did you see them?”

 

She found herself backing up and away from him.  There was a very discomforted look on her face that was almost fearful.  “Doctor,” she warned him.  “You’re scaring me.”

 

“I need to know, Martha,” he demanded. 

 

She began to cower just slightly against the spittle flying from his teeth, and that desperate manic look in his eyes.  “Doctor, please.”

 

Eight took hold of his elder’s arm in a firm grasp that warned against any objections.  He shook his head at him.  “Stop, Doctor.  You’re scaring her.”   He caught the glare that had become legend across the universe since his last incarnation: The glare of the Oncoming Storm from Gallifrey.  His breath hitched, but more in awe than of fear.  “You won’t scare me,” he warned shortly.  “Although nice try.”

 

He pulled at the Doctor, and then shoved him ahead of all of them.   When he turned back to try and question her again, Eight clicked his tongue and pointed ahead of them.  “Keep going…”

 

“You do know that I’m older than you, right?”

 

Eight rolled his eyes.  “Doesn’t make you any wiser.”

 

Behind the two of them, Martha walked quietly.  She held herself and rubbed at her arms.  “I’m sorry,” she said quietly.  “I honestly never thought anything of it.  Just a faery tale bad guy.”  She sniffed.  “I didn’t think it was important.”

 

“It’s very important,” Ten gruffed.  “More than you can know.  Bad Wolf…  She… She…”

 

“She’s Rose,” Martha suggested flatly, not making her statement a question at all.

 

Three sets of eyes shifted to her, but she didn’t look at any of them.  Instead she sighed and looked at the wall as she passed.  “Not hard to figure out.  The only time you get misty-eyed, contemplative, passionate, or hell, even show any actual honest emotion is when it comes to her.”  She finally looked at him.  “You can’t even take me places that you didn’t take her, can you?  All of the universe, Doctor, all the wonders of space and all the infinite possibilities – and you take me on a best-of Rose Tyler tour.”   She slumped, pain in both posture and her eyes.  “And I don’t even get to see the good parts of it.  I get taken to the slums, don’t I?”

 

Ten’s eyes widened a moment, caught off guard by that.  He didn’t stop walking, nor did he truly turn to face her.  He did shift his head to one side full of apology.  “I didn’t know you felt that way,” he admitted softly.   So if you preferred that just took…”

 

“Finish that statement,” Eight growled hotly.  “And I’ll let Leela castrate you.”

 

“It would be a pleasure,” Leela said with a pleasant smile as she moved to position next to Martha.   With a very awkward effort of one not quite used to comforting anyone that wasn’t a small child, she tenderly patted at Martha’s arm.  “The Doctor is a complicated man,” she assured her.  “All Time Lords are – especially when their mate is concerned.”

 

“Rose was not my mate,” Ten corrected.

 

“No, Doctor,” Martha corrected him.  “She wasn’t.   She was much more to you than just a mate.”

 

Leela looked first to the Time Lord with the scowl on his face, and then toward the one with sadness on his.  “Doctor?”

 

Eight shook his head at her as they approached the doorway to the main communications deck.  “Leela, would you mind please staying with Martha at the doorway on Patrol?”  He tipped his head toward the Tenth version of himself.  “He and I, we have some…”  He rolled his eyes.  “We’ll need some backup and warning in case any Daleks decide to roll on by.”    He looked around them with a lift in his brow.  “We’ve been kept mercifully free of them so far – I don’t anticipate this luck holding too much longer.”

 

She gave him a nod, even as she pulled a second knife from her holster to hand to Martha.   “Here,” she said.  “You may need this.”

 

Martha looked at the weapon with a single brow lifted high.  “You think that’ll help?”

 

Eight padded behind his older self with a slouch set in his shoulders.   Like the man in front of him, his hands were deep inside his trouser pockets, and his head hung low.  As a pair, an almost identical one in terms of stride and posture, they approached a communications console.   They stood either side of a divider, facing but not looking at each other.

 

“I’ll look through the transponder traffic, see what communications have moved between this group, and any that might be hovering off-planet,” Ten advised.  “Best you take a look through the schematics, see if there’s a weakness we can exploit…”

 

“Tell me about Rose,” Eight interrupted.

 

“I’d much rather not,” Ten answered him with a lift of his chin to indicate he had a task to do himself.  “Focus on what you’re supposed to be doing.”

 

“I am,” Eight assured him without lifting his eyes.  “I know what I have to do.”

 

“Good.”

 

He tapped at a keyboard, read through some lines of text that really told him nothing, and sniffed.  “Tell me about her.”

 

Ten’s eyes lifted slowly.  “I really don’t want to talk about her.”

 

Eight kept his eyes on the screen, but shifted his face in a gesture toward Martha.  “Seems to me that you talk about her quite a lot.  Enough that you’ve got a companion feeling not only envy toward the woman, but also making her feel as though she’s less important.”

 

“Martha is very important,” he corrected.  “And once we are through here, I’ll make more of an effort to make her believe it.”

 

“You certainly seem to struggle with that, don’t you?” He queried curiously.  “Making your companions feel unwanted, unsupported … unloved.”

 

He lifted his eyes angrily to his younger self.  “Don’t pretend as though you have some great insight into who I am, and how I treat my companions, when you’ve only met one of them.  Yes, I’ve got a few kinks to iron out in this incarnation.”  He grunted.  “But it’s hard to do when this body was created so very specifically for one person…”

 

“Born from love?” He queried with a tilted head.

 

Ten snorted out.  “Yeah, but a fat lot of good it did for me, She’s gone now, and as usual, I’m left to go on.  Alone.  Like always.”   He pointed at the Eighth Doctors console.  “Now if your nosy self wouldn’t mind – get back on task.”

 

“So you do love her,” Eight pressed on.  “This Rose Tyler, was she more than just a friend as Martha suggested?”

 

“Will you leave it alone?” he hissed through his teeth.  “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

“Why not?”

 

Ten slapped both hands down on the console, hard enough to make all three of the other people in the room jump.  “Because it hurts!” he growled loudly.  Tears filed his rapidly reddening eyes.  His words shifted to calm and quiet seething between his teeth.  “Because Rose should have been my mate.  She became my saviour, my lover, and the sole reason that my hearts beat.”

 

Eight recited a Gallifreyan phrase to that effect.

 

“Yeah,” Ten breathed out.  “That’s the one.”

 

“So what happened?”  He queried.  His eyes shifted to his sunken shoulders and then up to his eyes.  It was obvious this was a man who was grieving. 

 

“I chased her away,” Ten admitted with a rueful smile of self hatred.  “For some reason I can’t even begin to comprehend, I took her heart, I held it in my hand … and then I squeezed the love right out of it.”   He sniffed and shrugged, looking back down at the screen.  “So now she’s gone, with both of my hearts still firmly in her hands, and I’m here alone, trying to move on without her.”  He lifted his eyes and gave his younger self a pained smile.  “Isn’t that a great future for you to look forward to, Doctor?   Are you happy you asked?”

 

Eight didn’t say a word.

 

“It's really no wonder I don’t remember any part of this,” he said with a somewhat manic laugh.  “Why the Hell would I want to?  Why would I want to know that what I’m heading into is a hundred and fifty years of brutal war, then, when that’s all over, I finally meet the love of my lives, and then what?  I spend an entire incarnation making incredible love with her.  Then Kyoto."  He breathed out a heavy grown.  "Oh we made love for hours that night.  I couldn't stop - I didn't want to stop - If I died that night just like that, inside her, I'd have died happy.  But then.  Well… less than a day later, we're taken hostage by the Daleks, and I regenerate.  I regenerate and turn into me:  The one who let her down, and worse, let her die.   She not just gone, Doctor.  She’s dead, and it’s all because of me:  The man who was supposed to love her.”   He slapped hard at a rolling ball tracker on the counter, and then opened his arms wide. Tears tracked down his cheeks.   “So – Spoilers!  Happy future timeline, Doctor.  You’re welcome!  Aren't you glad you asked?” 

 

There were several really quite very important things said inside the Doctor’s rant.  Several things that his younger self really wanted to properly touch on and analyse for a long while maybe over a few glasses of wine and a slice or two of Rose’s Magnolia pie. However, one part of his rant stood out a little more than the rest …

 

“I’m sorry,” he started with a curious, and somewhat terrified expression.  “One hundred and fifty years of what?”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

The Tenth Doctor looked toward his younger self with an expression that held both pain and disbelief.  He just poured his devastated hearts out about the lost love of his life, and this man was more interested in one hundred and fifty years of…

 

…Oh.  Yes.  Right.  That would be a rather important item to seek clarity on.  This man, this younger him, wasn’t in love with his precious Human woman.  Rassilon, the man had never truly been in love, so it made sense that he could so easily gloss over that part of things – even if he did ask about her in the first place.

 

He made do with screwing up his face with annoyance as he shoved his grief back down into his gullet.  “Forget I said that.”

 

Eight didn’t make eye contact with his elder self, instead he focused on the angle of a monitor and used a slap of his hand to shift it into a more desirable position for him.  “Perhaps that’s why you don’t remember,” he remarked softly.  “Because you give away too much…”

 

“That will change too much,” he finished with a nod, and he pulled his specatles from his pocket and slipped them onto his face.  He leaned an elbow down onto the console in front of him and rested his chin on his fist as his right hand worked the controls.  “Yeah”  he little more than breathed out.  “That’s it.  Best if it’s forgotten.”

 

Silence fell with Ten focusing on the lines of communications, and Eight feigning his search of the schematics as his mind waded through a dozen questions formed from one simple little rant.  With all of the potential scenarios of loss and heartache in his future, he saw at least one positive:  That this man, this misguided fool who took his companion, his lover, for granted … He was as absolutely in love with Rose as he was right now.

 

…And her loss was destroying him.

 

He finally lifted his eyes to look at him.  The spectacles did nothing to hide the redness in his eyes, or the tears marking his cheeks.   The fact that he hadn’t even bothered to wipe them was telling, especially as he used the wrist of his sleeve to wipe at least his nose.

 

“She’s not dead,” Eight said finally.  “Your Rose.”

 

Ten’s eyes flicked toward him, and it half killed Eight to see a complete lack of hope within them.  “Just don’t,” he breathed out, not taking his chin from his fist.  “She’s gone, Doctor.  There’s nothing I can do to change that.”  He looked back to his screen and let out a long breath.  “Having a time machine means nothing when the time I need to go back to is locked.”

 

Interesting.   He pressed both hands into the console and leaned down against straightened arms.  “How do you mean?”

 

A light smile ticked up on one side of his mouth.  “I’ve only encountered that once in all my lives,” he remarked with curiosity in his tone.  “Where an entire time stream is locked to me.  Oh, I’ve seen bits and pieces here and there that I can’t seem to get to.  Mostly fixed points, of course, but some that are just .. locked.”  He looked toward his younger self.  “But until her – Rose – I’ve never seen an entire timeline locked in time.”

 

“I’m not sure I follow.”

 

He shrugged.  “I’m not even sure that I do.”  He finally lifted up off his hand.  He adopted the same straight-arm lean that the man across from him was in.  “It wasn’t something I actually knew about at the time,” he suggested with a sigh.  “It wasn’t something I thought I’d ever need to do, really.  But after we lost her – after my month-long search to find any sign of her…”

 

“A month?” Eight asked with a pinch in his eye.

 

He nodded.  “An entire month, day and night, searching searing hot desert sands and battling those damn Crandinian storms.”  He sighed sadly.  “Nothing.  No sign of her at all.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

Ten actually smiled at that and looked down to his hands.  “Yeah, you will be, Doctor.  Trust me when I say that.”  He blew out a breath.  “Anyway.  In between meeting Donna, and having to go tell Jackie that I’d lost her only child.”  His eyes lifted.  “Jackie’s her mother.”

 

“I surmised as such.”

 

“Anyway.”  He breathed out again, heartsache for the memory setting a wince on his face.  “I tried to go back.  Tried to see how I could change it.  If I just missed something and could find a gap in time where I can swoop in with the TARDIS and rescue her before she succumbed to the storm.  His brows lifted without his eyes widening, his chest grew with a deep inhale, and he seemed as confused as he was distraught.  “I couldn’t.  That time was locked to me.  So I looked back down along our time together, where she was without me for moments here and there, and still, locked.    Then I looked back along her entire timeline, jut for curiosity’s sake … there isn’t a single moment that I have access to.”

 

“I.  See,,,” Eight drawled out long and slow, his mind quite unable to wrap around that particular quandary.  “Not any point at all?”

 

He shook his head.  “Not a second of it.”  He blew out through puckered lips.  “Her time with us was truly a one-off thing.”

 

“There’s usually a reason for that,” Eight offered after a swallow.  “Her importance to one thing, one very specific thing.”  He paused.  “One changed decision in her past could affect her ability to be in the right place at the right time…”

 

Ten snorted.  “She’s dead, Doctor,” he shot back angrily.  “What possible mystical purpose can she serve to the universe if she’s dead?”

 

“Perhaps her death is important to where we need to end up?” he offered.  “Her name being our strength to keep going.”

 

He shook his head.  “Her death is making me careless,” he corrected him.  “Half the time I don’t even want to carry on, and that … that .. makes me very dangerous.” He let out a breath and looked to Eight with pain in his eyes.  “I’m so tired of losing everything and everyone, Doctor.  So very tired of it.”

 

Eight nodded.  “So if I’m understanding you, rather than serving her name and the love we have for her with honour by finding strength to continue, we’re insulting her memory by giving up.”  He gave an exaggerated sigh of disappointment.  “Oh yes indeed, what I have to look forward to as you.”

 

“Nice to see your unparalleled ability to empathise and be understanding toward the suffering of others is still nicely intact.”

 

“Sarcasm truly is the lowest for of wit,” Eight sighed out with a shake in his head.  “I’m just trying to give you reason when you’re obviously unable to find it.”

 

“I want hope, not reason,” he argued softly.  “Not reason.  I’m done with reason.  Reason can sod off.”

 

“I wish I could give you that,” he vowed honestly.  “I truly wish I could.”  His softness quickly shifted to indignance.  “Because ending up like you – I’d rather not.”

 

“Little choice in it,” Ten breathed in reply.  He then cleared his throat loudly.  “But enough of that.  Time to move on, am I right?”  His brows rose high again, but this time his eyes widened with them.  He blew out another breath, one of moving on, carrying on.  “Like always.”   He flicked his eyes back to Eight.  “Anything there?”

 

He shook his head.  He knew before they even started that he wasn’t going to get anything out of this investigation.   Same craft two months ago … nothing then meant nothing now.  “These ships are made to be unbreakable, Doctor.   Only way to destroy it is to take it piece by piece.”

 

“Had a feeling you might say that.”

 

“You?”

 

He didn’t look up, instead continued to look at the monitor.  “Unless you speak the Kaled – which I am fairly certain we don’t - then this isn’t much help, either.”

 

“Would it help if we could?” he asked.  “I mean to speak Kaled?”

 

The Doctor snorted.  “Well, I know for a fact that neither you nor I can speak fluent Kaled,” he groused in reply.  “We can decipher bits and pieces where necessary, but not send out a message that would be in anyway believable.  But yes, it would help immensely.”  He looked up at him, business now the expression across his face.  “If we could send a message to the outlying ships from this battalion stating that there is no further need for them to be skulking about around here, then we can give ourselves some time to get rid of what’s already here, and fortify this planet and her neighbouring planets with forces from within this solar system.”  He pressed his lips together for a second.  “And perhaps some of the Kasterborean teams.   From what I see here, they’re planning on using this as an outpost for something much, much bigger.”

 

He rubbed at his chin and looked through more streams of data, able to isolate and interpret large chunks of information to piece it all together.  “If I know the Daleks, and I do, then they’re going to be setting up a network with each piece of it being vital to maintain their web of communications.  Miss one piece of that…”

 

“Or have a way to intercept and manipulate anything outgoing from this outpost,” his younger self added with a growing smile.  “Then we should be able to gain somewhat of an upper hand in knowing, and controlling some degree, what information is passed along from here.”

 

“That,” the Tenth Doctor drawled with a press of his tongue to the roof of his mouth.  “Would certainly go a long way in helping out with today’s exercise, as well as putting a rather big dent in their plans going forward in the immediate future.”

 

“So it could work then?”

 

Could?” Ten burst out with a laugh.  “Doctor, if you have a way to be able to not only hijack this communication feed, have someone fluent in the language to not only interpret but be able to communicate in a manner exactly like the Dalek fleet, then yes.  It wouldn’t only work, it would also give you the ability to hack into the Dalek casing and control their movements.”   His eyes widened as he tipped a head to one side and blew out a breath through puckered lips.  “Mind, the Daleks aren’t as dumb as we’d like to assume they are, and any interceptions of any of their systems would be noticed fairly quickly.”

 

“But not before we’ve been able to inflict as much damage as possible,” Eight said with a widening grin. He quickly moved around the console to join his younger self at the controls.  He leaned down looked up at the monitor as his hands moved across the control panel.  “If we can access their Voice Integrator, Projection System as well as their Space Telegraph unit, then we can route the system feeds toward the TARDIS’ Interstitial Antenna.  Her Relational Information Systems can then be aligned with signals from Gallifrey, giving us almost complete control of this ship, it’s navigation, and it’s communication.” He stood up straight and slapped his palm on the console top.  He looked to Ten with a grin.  “Just like that.”

 

“Just like that,” Ten repeated with a matching smile.  He held his hand up for a high-five, which was immediately slapped at hard, with a cheer to finish it off.  “Brilliant!”.  He purred out a deep and husky sound of self-pride.  “Oh, we are clever, aren’t we?”

 

“Very much so.” Eight answered with a puff in his chest and a smile on his face.  “Now,” he said with a clap of his hands.  “We should get back to my TARDIS and make sure that her intercept of the Dalek transmissions is holding steady.”  He looked at his older self.  “Normally here is where I tell you to bugger off back into your own time, but I have a feeling that having you here is probably a good plan…”

 

“Just in case?” he ventured with a raised brow as he removed his glasses and tucked them into the breast pocket of his jacket. 

 

“Indeed,” he answered on a low voice.  “Just in case.”   His face brightened.  “So to my TARDIS, then?”

 

“To your TARDIS,” he repeated.  “Allonsy!”

 

Eight’s face screwed up.  “Allon-What?”

 

“It’s French,” he said with a shrug.  “Means…”

 

“I know what it means,” he said with a sigh.  “I just can’t believe you said it.”

 

Both men turned to walk toward their respective companions, both eager to explain just what level of brilliance they had achieved thus far.   Both of them stopped, however, when the women approached them.  Martha held a Dalek eyestalk in both of her hands, and Leela, with a slimy squid-like carcaaa hanging from one hand by a tentacle.   Its body didn’t quite drag along the floor behind her, but the tips of the tentacles did, which left an oozing pathway of gross in her wake.

 

Eight’s eyes shot wide with horror.  He pointed toward the carcass with a sneer in his top lip.   “And just what is that?”

 

“Dinner,” Leela called out proudly as she flicked her hand to toss it at the Doctor’s feet.  “For yourself, or for your wolves, I don’t care.  It shouldn’t go to waste, though.”

 

“Yeah,” he drawled with disgust.  “It doesn’t quite fit with my non-GMO diet.  As for my pair of wolves, I’d much rather not, thank you.”  He kept his eyes on the slimy sludge on the floor and slapped his tongue to the roof of his mouth a couple of times.  “They’d eat me before they’d eat that.”

 

Ten’s disgust perfectly mirrored that of his younger self.  He was thrilled that the gift of a kill from Leela wasn’t for him, but found himself looking up with concern.  “Care to explain what happened?”  He looked toward Martha, his eyes quickly scanning for any kind of injury.  “And are you okay, Martha?”

 

“Fine,” she answered with a shrug as she propped up the rounded part of the eyestalk on her shoulder.  She slouched on one hip.  “I wouldn’t have been if it hadn’t been for Leela.”

 

“She’s quite correct,” Leela agreed.  “While the two of you were having your little chat about, well,” she smirked.  “Your emotional things.  A Dalek happened upon the two of us.  I didn’t feel the need to disturb you.”  She looked toward her Doctor.  “And as you had stated that a single Dalek was well within my control, I decided to.  Well.  Kill it.”

 

Martha looked to her Doctor with wide eyes of absolute awe.  “She was magnificent, Doctor.  I’ve never seen anything like it outside of Wonder Woman or Jackie Chan.  Leela literally climbed the wall, held herself up there like a Tom Cruise star fish, and then just descended on it.”  She walked closer to him.  “Did you know, that there is a release hinge right at the very base of the head?   One little flick with the knife, and it popped open!”   She chuckled. “ Just like that.”

 

Leela had self pride in her posture and looked toward Martha.  “Does this mean you’d like to take the next one we encounter?”  She held over her knife.  “You can use this one if you like.  Don’t’ worry, I have more just like it.”

 

Martha was all smiles as she held up her hands and backed up a step or two.  “Oh no.  I don’t think I can manage it with that amount of class.  I’m happy to watch and learn from you.”

 

Leela looked toward Ten.  “I like her.  She’s smart.”   She turned on her heel to put her back to him.  “Now treat her that way, yeah?”   She flicked her hand toward her own Doctor.  “Now, I heard that we’re heading back to the TARDIS, is that correct?”

 

“It is.”

 

“Perfect.  I’ll take lead.”   She dipped to one side to pick up the carcass.

 

“Leela, don’t, really,” Eight muttered.  “It’s really, truly disgusting, and not something I want on my TARDIS.”

 

“I wasn’t going to take it to the TARDIS,” she answered with a shrug as she picked it up again.  “I was going to put it somewhere so it isn’t found.  It’s a long way back to the ship, Doctor, and it might be best for all of us if the Daleks didn’t find one of theirs murdered before we get there.”

 

“Good point,” he agreed as he slipped his hands into his trouser pockets and walked alongside both Martha and the Tenth Doctor.  “I – uh – I’ll let you decide where to throw it then.”

 

Ten stared ahead of them as they exited the craft and stepped into the drakness of an Askolian night.  He felt oddly safe although he could barely see six feet in front of him.  “Who do you have that can speak Kaled?” he asked after a moment.

 

Eight smiled.  “Surprised you can’t work it out,” he said with a smile.  “Travelled with us in our 4th.  Liked to constantly remind us that she was much, much, smarter than us…”

 

“Romana,” he breathed out with affection.  “I have to admit, I didn’t even think of that – or of reaching out to anyone on Gallifrey for that matter.”

 

“I find that strange,” Eight remarked.  “We do have a good support network there right now.  Romana, Brax…”  He looked up to Leela’s silhouette ahead of them.  “Leela and Andred.”

 

“Yeah,” he breathed out sadly.  “We did, didn’t we?”

 

“And we don’t now?”

 

He heard the worry inside his younger self’s voice, and opted for the lie.  “Of course we do – I just tend to prefer to get things done on my own.”

 

“If that’s your preference,” he said with a shrug.   “I prefer to use all of the tools at my disposal, and if Romana and Brax can help, then by Rassilon’s crest, I’ll ask them for it.”

 

Ten hummed in contemplation at his side.  He considered the life of him back then, when he had Gallifrey in his rearview, and friends who were … well … who were just like him:  Long lived, jaded, and adventurous.   Rassilon he missed them all – even the ones he didn’t really like.

 

His eyes flicked up at the movement ahead as Leela let out a small shrill cry into the night and underhanded the carcass into the bushes.  Her words from earlier then swam in his head.   He Stopped short and looked at his younger self.  “Hold on.  You have wolves?”

 

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

“Hold on.  You have wolves?”

 

Eight gave a nod.  “A mated pair of Dahrama.”  He could see his TARDIS in the distance and projected a desperate will toward her to have the most potent kind of caffeinated tea available when they got there.

 

“How in Rassilon did we get a pair of…”  Ten paused his words and frowned an expression of incredulity.  “And how do I not remember that?”

 

“The same way you don’t remember anything else we got up to in the past two years living on Gallifrey,” he muttered with a shrug in his shoulders.  “And when this adventure of ours is over, I’d really like to get into your head and find out just why it is that you don’t.”

 

“Do it now,” he commanded with an impatient sneer as they walked.  “Contact, Doctor.  Go ahead.”

 

“When the adventure is over,” he repeated.  “Quite frankly, Doctor, I’m really not in the mood for telepathic contact right now – especially as we are in the wilderness with Dalek forces all around us.”  He rubbed a kink forming in the back of his neck.  “That, and something tells me I might need a strong beverage to prepare myself to get into your head.”

 

“Like yours would be any more pleasant.”

 

“You might be surprised.”

 

Martha sighed a long suffering breath.  “Watching the two of you is like watching a pair of siblings go at it.”  Beside her, Leela chuckled.  “Really, Doctor.  Both of you.  My brother and sister can go at it like there’s no tomorrow, but even as kids they weren’t as bad as you are.”  She shook her head.  “You’d think at 900, you’d be a bit more mature than them.”

 

Eight’s brows lifted and he looked at the man beside him.  “900?”

 

Ten shrugged.  “Give or take.”

 

“I was 1,150 when I regenerated in this body.  Just what are your metric parameters for give or take?”  He then smirked.  “Oh, I get it.  Like a Human woman that never ages beyond 29, refusing to hit her thirties even though she’s pushing 40.”

 

Martha sniffed indignantly.  “I’d take offence to that very sexist remark, Doctor… If it wasn’t true.”

 

“My apology if I offended you, Martha,” he crooned with honesty.  “It wasn’t intentional.”  He looked back to his counterpart with a chuckle.  “A bit vain this time around, are we?”

 

His hands were deep in his pockets, and his arms were held straight.  His shoulders slumped just slightly.  “Yep,” he popped.  “Seems that way, doesn’t it?  Happens when you regenerate into a pretty man trying to impress a pretty woman.”  He breathed out.  “Still.  Best that I make the best of it, I suppose.  Stuck with this me for now.”

 

Eight had one fist covering a yawn as he pushed his hand against the TARDIS door.  He stepped back to politely let everyone else on board before him, smiling at a gesture of affection from Leela, who touched at his arm on her way past.  “You need some sleep,” she cautioned him.

 

“Sleep is for the tortoises,” he answered back with a wink and a smile.

 

“And Time Lords,” she added as they both stepped inside.  “Especially those who just became a new…”

 

Anything else may have wanted to say was halted by the loud gasp and then reverent sigh from the other human on board the TARDIS.  Martha walked with a twirl as she took in the cavernous majesty of the younger TARDIS.   “Oh my God, Doctor.  This TARDIS is amazing!”

 

Eight gave her a broad grin.  “Thank you, Martha.  I’m sure the TARDIS will be very pleased to hear you say that.”  He looked up.  “Isn’t that right, old girl.  Love a good compliment, don’t you? Now be a dear, will you, and make sure that this lovely young lady has a good steaming cup of hot tea.”  He smiled.  “And while you’re at it, how about one for me as well?”

 

Ten was near the console.  He looked up at the ceiling, tracing each line, arch, and curve with his eyes.  “Yes.  I do miss this layout,” he breathed.  “She really was beautiful.”

 

Eight joined him by the console.  “How does she look now?”

 

“Recovering,” he answered with a sigh.  His head lowered.  “Gone back to her bare bones right now.”

 

“Recovering from what?”

 

“Everything,” he breathed out sadly.  He blinked, and then shook himself.  “But now’s not the time for reminiscing and getting all misty eyed about time passed.”  He clapped his hands.  “We have a Dalek fleet to hijack.  Let’s get on that, shall we?”

 

Eight nodded.  Now that he was in the relative safety of his ship, his tiredness was settling in.  His movement to the console was slower than his usual energetic skip and jump.  He rather patiently shifted his fingers across the keyboard in front of a low-seated monitor.  “Before I reach out to Romana, I would like to make sure that all of the connections to the other ship are stable, and that the Daleks weren’t smart enough to put in a few redundancies in the event someone might try this.”

 

“Who could get close enough to even try?” Ten said with a shrug.  “No one but us, really.”

 

Eight smirked.  “I think it’s quite safe to suggest that when the Daleks design anything, they’ve factored the Doctor into their plans.”  The smirk shifted to a grin.  “Doctor-proofing.”

 

Ten blurted out an incredulous laugh.  “No such thing as Doctor-proofing anything.  It’s just a minor challenge.  A mere annoyance in my day.”  He leaned over his younger self’s shoulder.  “So-o-o?” he drawled.  “How did we do?”

 

Eight yawned into his fist.  “Holding steady for now, just running a few more diagnostics to make sure we haven’t had anything hijack us in the process.”

 

Leela appeared at his side with a cup of strong black tea in one hand, and a slice of pie in the other.  “Drink, and eat,” she commanded.  “And if we have time, then you should rest.”

 

“I’m fine,” he assured her with a tip of the cup.  “And thank you.”

 

Martha stood beside her own Doctor, a cup of tea in one hand, a plate with pie in the other – but neither of them were for him.  When he looked at her in question, she took a forkful of pie into her mouth.  “You’ve got legs and a heartbeat, Doctor. You can get your own.”

 

He looked down at the pie with a petulant expression.  “I don’t like pie, anyway.”

 

She grinned at him, her usually white smile full of crumbs and orange-yellow slush.  Her lips closed to cover the mess and she swallowed with a long moan.  “Oh, what you’re missing, then.  This is out of this world.”  She set her plate on the console edge and looked across the Eight.  “Everything okay?”

 

He nodded in reply.  “I can’t see that we’ve managed to trigger any alarms across the Dalek networks, and the TARDIS has a stable connection to the ship.”  He forked a mouthful of pie.  He then let out a very short moan of appreciation and swallowed before speaking again.  “I’ll find a way to transfer the feed protocols to the Capitol on Gallifrey to free up my TARDIS, and will let Romana and her teams work as much damage as they possibly can.”

 

“First things first,”  Leela injected.  “The Askolians trapped in the Arks need to be released and their planet made secure.”

 

Eight agreed.  “We can’t do that from in here, and as we do need to be at site to coordinate their rescue and the defeat of the Daleks…”  His lips pursed and he hummed in thought.

 

Martha slapped away Ten’s hand as it moved toward her plate of pie.  “Is there any way you can set up a remote control kind’ve thing?  Something that links back to the TARDIS, but can be controlled from the outside?”  She swatted at her Doctor’s wandering hand as it walked with fingers across the console toward her plate.  “Do you mind?”

 

His eyes fixed hard on her, indignance and petulance settling in.  “Building a remote control is a great idea,” he half cheered in a voice that completely betrayed his expression.  “I’m sure that he and I can cobble something together that’ll do the trick.”  With his eyes on hers, he flicked a smile and then stabbed his second and middle fingers into the meatiest part of the pie.  He gave those fingers a good swirl in the fruit and popped them back out.  He immediately thrust those fingers into his mouth and made an overt show of sucking them clean.

 

Martha’s eyes narrowed.  She shook her head in slow controlled movements as she dropped the plate with a clutter on the console.  “You’re a child,” she snarled.  “A 900 year old child.”

 

“Probably closer to thirteen hundred,’ Eight corrected softly with a shake in his head.  “Which doesn’t make it any better.”  His eyes lifted to his elder self.  “That wasn’t very nice, Doctor.”

 

What?” he sang back innocently as he used the hook of his second finger to slide the plate across the console toward him.  He then picked it up, plate in one hand, fork in the other.   “This is actually really very good.”

 

“Yes,” Eight drawled slowly.  “It is, quite.”

 

“Magnolia?”

 

“Yes,” he answered.  “Now if you’d please focus.  I can split the signal from the TARDIS to send one to Gallifrey, and the other toward a remote console if that’s the way we want to take it.”  He shot a tired, pointed look toward his elder self.  “Would you mind cobbling something together while I speak with Romana?”

 

He nodded, while shovelling pie into his mouth and gestured to the side with a tipoff his head.  “I’ll go see what we’ve got available to get all jiggery pokey with.”

 

Martha leaned backward from where she remained at the console to look at him down over her shoulder.  “Need my help?”

 

He waved her off as he walked – pie plate in hand.  “Not unless you’re knowledgeable about application programming interface and object-orientated programming and how to properly marry it within an integrated development environment to perfectly settle within the near field communications of the Dalek ship..”  He spun in his walk to face her and walk backward at the same time.  “And if you have a working knowledge of Kaled language, that would help immensely.”  He grinned a wide smile at her.  “Do you?”

 

“No,” she sang back with cheek.  “But do remember that as a Medical student, I have rather intimate knowledge in how to remove your organs in alphabetical order.”  Her smile fell to seriousness.  “So sleep with one eye open.”

 

Leela let up a laugh.   The Tenth Doctor pointed a finger at her, then back toward Martha.  “You two aren’t allowed to play together anymore.”  He spun on his heel, shoveling a forkful of pie into his mouth, and disappeared through a door.

 

The Eighth Doctor blew out what appeared to be a breath of relief.  “I thought he’d never leave,” he muttered with a lean forward and a flick of a switch.

 

“Do you have any reason to not want him here.”  Leela moved to stand beside him, and in view of the camera feed.  She signalled for Martha to join them.

 

“Romana is at the hospital,” he answered with a flick of his eyes upward toward the door.  “And as I assume you’ve already gathered, there are things he doesn’t need to see right now.”  He looked toward the monitor as it flickered to life.  “Best we sterilize the feed before he returns.”  

 

“Understood,” she agreed under her breath.  She looked to her left toward Martha.  “It’s important that anything you may see or hear right now, you can never speak of it to your Doctor.  I need your vow on that.”

 

Martha nodded, unsure of just what could be so incredibly sensitive that it couldn’t be shared.  She would not argue, though – at least not yet.  “You have my word.”

 

 

 

The monitor flashed to life, and the image of a beautiful woman, with deep green eyes edged with dark brows and lashes, long and shiny black-raven hair, and a full set of glossy red lips appeared on screen.   Martha gaped at her beauty.

 

“Lady Romana,” the Doctor greeted with a smile.

 

“Doctor,” she breathed with a thankful smile.  “I didn’t expect to hear from you so quickly.”

 

“I didn’t expect to have to contact you before we were ready to return,” he answered with a rub of his hand at the back of his neck.  “But, it seems that I need to ask you for some assistance in order to get this assignment of yours completed satisfactorily.”

 

“I see,” she answered back as she juggled a small crimson-coloured bundle from one side of her chest to another.  Her eyes were downcast toward the little thing.  “What do you need?  Additional support?” 

 

He smiled.  “No support, thanks.  I already have far too many Time Lords here for my liking.”

 

Her eyes lifted quicky, wide with hope.  “Does that mean you’ve found survivors from the battle capsule fleet?”

 

Guilt crossed his face at the question.  Honestly, they hadn’t even looked.  “Well.  No.  I can’t say that we have, however, we haven’t exactly scanned the entire area.  The possibility – while low – is still a possibility.”

 

“Then I admit it scares me to ask what you mean by too many Time Lords.”

 

“Your fears are founded,” he said with a sigh and a flick of his eyes back up to the doorway.  “Are you with Rose?”  He ignored the gasp from Martha.  “And is she okay?”

 

She turned her head to look over her shoulder.  “Rose is sleeping right now, and is well,” she answered.  “Your brother and I are taking turns in taking care of the little one.”  She displayed the tiny little face hidden within the soft crimson blanket.  “Although I do challenge Braxiatel in being able to take him from me. Such a precious little darling he is.”

 

Martha whimpered in that terrifically stereotypically feminine manner when presented with a newborn.  “Oooh,” she cooed.  “A baby.  A little Time Lord baby.”

 

Leela had very much the same reaction, except that she dropped her head onto his shoulder.  “Oh, Doctor,” she breathed out.  “He’s absolutely beautiful.”

 

“He is,” he sighed with pride.  “And hopefully for him, nothing like his father.”

 

“Hold on,” Martha interrupted.  “Is he yours?”   Her head shook and her face creased.   “He never told me he was a dad…”

 

“Yes, well…”

 

Her hands flew to her mouth.  “This is what he’s forgotten, isn’t it?”

 

“Oh dear,” Romana breathed out over the link. “A future companion.  You’ve managed to meet up with an older one of you?”

 

“I have,” he answered.

 

“Is it at all possible for you not to encounter any form of monumental disaster on what should be a very simple assignment?”

 

“In my defence,” he defended.  “There was nothing simple about what you sent Leela and myself into.  Having him here – albeit a headache – has actually aided us in being able to pull this off with any kind of success.”

 

She nodded.  “Fine.  Which one?  Hers?” She asked worriedly.   She looked back over her shoulder, and then back.  “Wait, don’t answer that.   Give me a moment to surrender the child, and we’ll discuss.”  She cooed softly in Gallifreyan words that made both Leela and the Doctor smile as she handed the baby to someone off screen.  “Thank you, Brax.  Yes.  I promise to keep you informed.”  She appeared to be walking out of the room and into the corridor.  “There are no ears now, Doctor.  So tell me what I need to hear, and what damage control I may need to put in place.”

 

“None for now,” he answered.  “As to which of me I bumped into:  It’s the one she left.”

 

“Well this just got complicated, didn’t it?”  Her eyes flicked to one side, no doubt looking at Martha.  “I must ask for your confidence on this.  You cannot tell him what you’ve seen.”

 

“I don’t exactly know how you can ask me not to,” she argued on a light but very unnerved voice. 

 

“Timelines,” she warned.  “You could destabilise the timelines, and by association, all of reality if you do.”

 

“But he needs to know,” she pleaded.  “He should know that the woman he loves is still alive.”  She looked to the Doctor.  “You’ve seen it for yourself.  Her loss is torturing him.”  Her face creased.  “And in turn torturing those of us who come along after.”

 

He put his hand on her shoulder, wincing when she jerked free of his touch.  “I’m sorry, Martha,” he promised gently.  “There is obviously a reason that he was made to forget this time of our lives, and I will look into that once we have this planet free and her people safe from the Daleks.  Right now, that’s more important.”

 

Martha’s face was an expression of hostility, but she said nothing further.   She took a step back from the console’s edge and stood just shy of both Leela and the Doctor with her arms folded loosely across her chest.  Her head was low and her breathing shallow.

 

“Can she be trusted not to speak of this?” Romana asked unashamedly over the comms, fully aware that Martha was listening.

 

Leela lifted her nose.  “I believe that she is,” she answered firmly.  “Her obvious affection for the Doctor means that she will do what is best.”  She looked at the woman standing angrily just off to her side.  “Isn’t that right, Martha Jones?”

 

“I hope that we all don’t live to regret your benevolence, Leela,” Romana warned her.  “Just remember that I can order the Doctor to perform a telepathic memory regression if necessary.”

 

“Not necessary,” Martha breathed out.  She didn’t wholly understand what would be involved in a telepathic memory regression, and really didn’t want to find out.  “I’ll stay quiet – but only to the future one of him.”  She looked toward the younger man.  “Do be warned, Doctor, that I have several words that I’d like to say to you before this is all over.”

 

“I’ve no doubt about that,” he muttered.  “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.”

 

Romana looked between the two of them in wonder if more words may be shared.  When silence fell instead, she cast her gaze to the Doctor.  “So, Doctor, tell me what you need from me?”

 

One side of his lips cut up into a smile.  “How’s your Kaled these days?”

 

She closed her eyes and breathed a deep inhale.  When they opened again they were tired.  “If you want me to try and negotiate, I’m sorry.  You won’t get that help from me.  I tried that with Davros in the past and was unable to come to any form of agreement.”  She shook her head.  “Skaro and the Kaled culture are too far gone now.  And quite frankly, after all they’ve inflicted upon the universe over the past several centuries, I’d much rather call war than try peace.”  She sniffed and lifted her nose in an arrogant and regal manner.  “So come up with something else, Doctor.  I’m more than happy to send our entire battle fleet and destroy the lot of them if you wish.”

 

Martha’s anger seemed to flail somewhat at the vehemence in Romana’s voice.  This was a woman who didn’t want to ponce around and play nice for nice’s sake.  She finally lifted her head to listen.

 

“No need for that,” the Doctor answered with a light laugh.  “I must admit that I’m disappointed, Romana.  Why would you think I’d want to negotiate?”

 

“Because you’re too soft at heart not to want to try,” she answered with affection. 

 

“Shhhh,” he hissed.  “Don’t let that rumour get out.  I do have a reputation to uphold you know.”   At her laugh, he tapped at the keyboard.  “I’m sending through some signal codes to access the main communications systems on the Dalek ship.  We – my future and myself – were thinking that with your fluency in Kaled, you could take over communications to the other ships with orders to vacate the constellation, get lost.  Go die.  Whatever you think will be most effective.”

 

She rubbed at her jaw.  “That’s actually quite a good idea, Doctor.  Is it a signal that we can permanently monitor going forward, do you think?   It could be quite beneficial to have access like this given their propensity to skulk across the universe on their eternal mission of exterminating complete planets one at a time.”

 

He gave a short smile as his eyes traced along the pathways of his fingers across the keyboard.  “Don’t know that I can make that promise, dear.  As much as I do hate to admit it, the Daleks are quite clever.  I don’t imagine it would take them too long to discover that the Time Lords have managed to attach themselves to their communications signals.”  He lifted his eyes.  “So have as much fun as possible while you do have access.  You’re welcome.”

 

“I’ll head to the Capitol now, and work with our comms team to put out some communications to get other ships out of your area, and hopefully out of the rest of the universe as well.”  She looked off to one side and then back.  “That will only leave Brax to stay with Rose.”

 

“Are our Dahramas there?”

 

She shook her head.  “No, much to the chagrin of both, we can’t get permissions to allow them into the maternity ward.  Not even my office can help with that.”

 

“They need to be fed…”

 

She gave him a flat stare.  “Is there anything else you’d like to ask of your president, Doctor?  Do you also have fish to feed and plants to water?”

 

He smirked.  “Now that you mention it.”

 

Her head swung left to right in an amused shake.  “I trust you have the rescue of the Askolians in hand, and won’t be needing my assistance with that as well.”

 

His eyes lifted as the Tenth Doctor walked into the console room holding up a not-as-crude-as-usual control box in his hand.  “I think I’ve got it…”  He paused at the image of Romana on the screen and let out a peep.  “By Rassilon, Romana?”

 

“Much rather not be put into the same category as old Rassilon,” she answered with a blink of her eyes in greeting to him.  “But hello, Doctor.  I must say, I do like the new body – very dashing and debonair, much like your brother.  Brax would be most chuffed.”

 

He looked quite offended.  “I do not look like him, thank you very much.”  He looked at Martha with a pained furrow in his brow.  “Should I just ditch the brown and stick with the blue do you think?”

 

“You look perfectly fine,” Romana crooned with a smile.  She looked back to the Eighth verson of the man.  “I’ll head to the Capitol now and pull together a trustworthy team to hold back any further Dalek forces, hopefully for much longer than just today.  I’ll see you when you return.”  Her eyes flicked to the elder version, who had stilled in place and looked upon the Time Lady with a gaze of longing.  “And to you, Doctor.  Hope to see you again in your future.”

 

With that parting comment, the screen flicked to darkened static snow.  The Doctor shut it off with the flick of a switch.  He rubbed his hands on his hips and looked at the device held by his younger self.  “So?”

 

 

“One remote control device cobbled together a’la Docteur.”   He stepped up to the console, hipping his younger self out of the way.  He stooped to dig behind the monitor through wires.  “Just need to find a cable that fits to hook it up and download the software to get it functioning the way I need it to.  Do be a good fellow and stay out of my way for a few minutes.”

 

Martha broke from position on the other side of the console and walked to the other side.  On her way around, she clutched a tight hold on the bunched silken fabric at the Doctor’s throat.   “Great!  And you’re doing that, I need to speak with your younger self, is that okay?”

 

He lifted his eyes and his brows, and passed a look between the two of them.  “Ehm.  Yeah,’ he drawled cautiously.  “Go.  Knock yourself out.  Leave the hard stuff to me.”

 

Eight let himself be dragged by the much smaller Human girl.  He could easily have fought against it, but to what end?  She had something to say, and it was obviously far better done without the ears of his elder self flapping around trying to listen in.   He therefore followed without complaint ... at least none spoken outside of his mind.  Once they were in the kitchen, and Martha finally released him, he looked at the doorway.

 

“Don’t let him in here, no matter what,” he ordered the TARDIS.  He then looked to her and thrust his hands into his trouser pockets.  “Right.  You’ve got something to say, so say it.”

 

She folded her arms across her chest and pursed her lips as she considered the best starting point to launch into the rant that had been forming in her mind over the past few minutes.  Judging by his silence, his posture, his position, and the look in his eyes that dared her to let loose, she knew she had at least a moment to prepare.

 

“Well?”  he challenged her finally.  “Get on with it.  I’ve got things to do, and would much prefer to get to it sooner rather than later.”

 

“You know,” she began in a seething, but calm tone.  “In the time that I’ve known the Doctor – my Doctor,” she felt the need to clarify.  “I’ve known him to be careless, thoughtless, oblivious, and sometimes even completely ignorant.”

 

He had a comment to that, but he decided to remain silent.

 

“But never have I known him to be deliberately cruel.”

 

He opted to step in at that.  “And I suspect that’s what you think I’m being right now.”

 

A smile appeared on her face, but it wasn’t one that was friendly nor amused.  It was one that was judgmental and disgusted.   “I don’t even know that cruel can halfway sum up what you’re being…”

 

He lifted his eyes to the ceiling.

 

“And don’t you roll your eyes at me, thinking that I’m some pathetic little unevolved ape who doesn’t know any better.”

 

His eyes snapped back down to lock on hers.  He was intentionally hard with his gaze.  “Well?” he goaded her.  “Are you done?”

 

Her finger snapped up and at the tip of his nose.  “Not even close,” she growled.  “Now, I going to admit that I have absolutely no idea where to even start on you and what you’re playing at right now, but you need to tell him about Rose.”

 

“And just what do I need to tell him about?” He asked her with a tilt in his head. 

 

“That he is a husband and a father,” growled as she pointed to the doorway.  “And that the woman he’s been pining for since before I met him – thinking that she’s dead – is actually alive and living a life with a younger him…” her face screwed up with disbelief she was actually saying this, and worse, that it was actually happening.  “And I can’t believe you would do that to yourself!”

 

His mouth opened to speak, but he was held short of speaking when she continued.

 

“And, I get this self-hatred thing you’ve got going on with yourself.  I see it in your eyes every time we step out of the TARDIS, making you careless as though you couldn’t care less if you lived or died.”  She huffed.  “But this?  You’ve taken it to a whole new level of let’s make it as fucked up as possible.”

 

He tilted his head at her, one eye in a tic. 

 

“And let me see if I’ve got this straight.  Certainly correct me if I’m wrong at all,” she continued angrily.  “You somehow come in from the past and steal away your girlfriend from the future.  You take her back to Gallifrey, marry her, start a family with her…”  Her hands lifted to rake her hands through her hair. 

 

“To make the correction you asked for,” he snapped sharply.  “I did not steal her away.  She ended up on my TARDIS by mistake and I was already on Gallifrey before the TARDIS deemed it necessary to let me know she was here.”

 

“And you didn’t think it prudent to take her back into her proper timeline and return her to yourself?”

 

“Of course I did,” he snapped back.  “My immediate plan was to take her back, return her to me, and carry on with my life.”

 

“And why didn’t it happen?”

 

“Because she didn’t want to go back,” he growled.  “Because that fool outside those doors who claims to be desperately in love with her, treated her like she was nothing and chased her off.”  He stepped toward her.  “You heard him, he admitted it himself.  When Rose stumbled into my TARDIS she was absolutely destroyed.  There was no way she was going to return to the life he was offering.”

 

“So what?” she charged, her eyes hardening and her slouch going from annoyed to indignant.  “You thought you’d just take her for yourself, instead?” 

 

“It’s complicated,” he said.  “I don’t expect you to understand.”  He tightened the pinch of his eyes.  “But I do expect you to keep it to yourself.”

 

Her eyes widened and she shook her head.  “No.  I don’t think I can do that.  He’s in pain, Doctor.  If he knows that she’s not dead, that she’s alive…”

 

“He will tear apart the entire universe to find her,” he argued.  His voice lessened in tone, but remained firm.  “He can’t enter Gallifrey in this timestream, Martha.”

 

“And why not?”

 

He shook his head.  “Because he can’t.  It’s impossible.  Gallifrey is time locked, it has been since the Untempered Schism was opened on my planet.  And if that man if locked out and unable to get her, he’ll destroy the entire fabric of reality to get to her.”

 

“How do you know he’d do that?”  she asked him quietly.  “Instead of just being happy that she’s still out there?”

 

“Because that’s what I’d do,” he answered.  “And that man out there, he’s me.  And based on what he’s said to me today, I don’t doubt at all that he’d try.”

 

“Bu if he’s you,” she began, anger fleeing and confusion settling right in.  “Then why can’t he remember?”

 

“I don’t know,” he answered honestly.  “And to be frank with you, Martha.  That scares me.”   He put his hand on her shoulder, thankful that she didn’t jerk away from him this time.  “Time, the universe, and all of the nuances they have … It makes things very complicated.”  He squeezed her shoulder, hoping that it would make her look up at him.  It really didn’t, but he continued talking anyway.  “Rose Tyler, well.  She has a big part to play in a fixed point that’s coming in the future.  We don’t know what part that is, or what’s going to happen to any of us when it does, all I know is that Time demands that she remain on Gallifrey.   I’m a time Lord.  I have to obey.”

 

She lifted her eyes to his.  They were red-rimmed and wet.  “But if you explain that to him?”

 

“I shouldn’t have to,” he said with a rueful smile.  “That man out there should have a full head of memories about this part of our lives,” his face tightened and he spoke passionately through his teeth.  “The most important and brilliant part of our lives.  But he doesn’t.”  His face loosened and his eyes sank with fear.  “And that is terrifying.   Something has forced those memories forgotten, and until I can be sure just what caused it, I can’t be giving him any reminders.”  He lowered his head to bring himself closer to her and softened his voice.  “And neither can you.”

 

“But…?”

 

“You love him, Martha…”

 

“Not I don’t,” she said with a shake in her head.

 

He nodded and held her face in his hands.  “You do.  I don’t know why you do, but it’s clear to me that you do.”  He ran his thumbs underneath her eyes.  “If you trust him, then trust me.  You can’t tell him.”

 

Caught up in the sincerity in his eyes, she couldn’t help but acquiesce to his command.  “Okay,” she breathed.  “I won’t.”

 

With that, he snapped an arm around her back and pulled her in for a tight hug.  He tucked her head underneath his neck and set his chin on her head.  ‘Thank you, Martha.  From both your Doctors.”

 

“Will he ever remember?”

 

“I don’t know, he breathed out with a shudder in his exhale.  “I really don’t.”

 

“Then I’ll be there for him,” she vowed.  “If she can’t, then I will.  I promise.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

She nestled inside his embrace.  “Congratulations by the way.”

 

The kitchen door suddenly hissed open in front of them, revealing a very annoyed looking man in pinstripes.  “This is where you go to?  I’ve been wandering around this ship looking for you.”  He held up his device.  “We’re ready to go if the both of you…”  He noticed them embracing.  “Oh hold on.  Just what is going on here?”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Leela was in wait beside the doorway when the three of them returned to the console room of the TARDIS.  Not so much irritated as she was eager to get out there and rescue a few people, she switched up her posture of leaning on the door, and pushing off it almost with every breath that she took.  Her head lifted quickly as the sound of their footfalls entered the room.

 

“Are we ready?” she asked with wide eyes of thrill.

 

“I believe we are,” Eight answered with a smile as he crossed the floor.  Shortly behind him, Martha and Ten walked, murmuring quietly to each other as Ten showed off his device to her.  He looked over his shoulder at them and noted the affectionate smiles and physical closeness that they shared as his elder self spoke.

 

Oblivious, Martha has described him as.   It certainly seemed that oblivion toward almost flirtation was the mood of the moment when Ten knocked shoulders with her and let out a laugh.

 

Leela met him halfway across the floor.  Her eyes shifted to Martha, who now had her hands on the device while her Doctor poked and pointed out parts of it to her.  “Are we going to have a problem with her?” she asked warily.

 

Eight shook his head.  “No, Leela.  I think she and I have come to an arrangement and she’ll withhold what she’s seen and heard.”

 

“For now,” she breathed out with distrust.  Her eyes shifted up to him.  “But when they leave here, what guarantee do we have that she won’t?”

 

“I trust her not to,” he said firmly with a hard look into her eyes.  “And so I ask that you trust her as well.”

 

“Are you very sure of that?”

 

“Absolutely, my dear girl.”  He gave her a wink.  “Even if she was so inclined, she’s now quite physically unable to do so.”

 

She looked confused and curious.  “I don’t understand.”

 

He smiled and leaned down to speak in her ear.  “I’m a Prydonian Telapathic Master,” he reminded her.  “All it takes is a small amount of physical contact … a simple hug will do it.”

 

She nodded.  Her eyes hardened into warning.  “And the two of you embraced?”

 

“We did.”

 

She turned on her heel to follow as he walked toward the door.  She opened her mouth to comment on it, but was cut off by him.

 

“It was just a hug, Leela.  Nothing more.  No more threatening to my wife than if I was to hug you.”

 

“Please don’t ever do that,” she warned him.

 

Ten appeared at their side.  “Don’t ever do what?” he asked curiously.

 

“Hug me,” Leela answered simply.  She gestured to Eight, who was snickering lightly as he pulled open the TARDIS doors.  “He explained to me that he embraced your companion.”

 

His lips pressed together and he gave her a nod.  “Yes,” he confirmed.  “I did see that.”

 

“You’re uncomfortable with it?”

 

He shook his head.  “Nope.  Humans, well, Earth Humans in their timeline,” he gestured toward Martha.  “They’re enjoy their hugs and personal closeness.  Even a kiss isn’t always considered to be inappropriate between friends.”  He puckered his lips and then chuckled as he pointed to his mouth.  “This pair have had more than one encounter…”

 

Martha giggled and leaned in toward Leela.  “And he really is quite a good kisser.”

 

“I’d really prefer not to hear either of you say anything like that,” Eight called back with dissatisfaction in his tone.  He looked to his elder self.  “Really?  With your companion?”

 

He scratched at his head,  “Well,” he drawled.  “At that juncture she wasn’t my companion.  Just happened to end up running at my side when her hospital got transferred to the moon.”

 

“To the moon,” Eight breathed out with shake of his head.  “Of course.  Such a romantic ambiance…”

 

“Calm down.  It was done for genetic transfer,” he answered with a shrug.  “Necessary in the moment.  Judoon.  Long story, really.”

 

“And I’m quite sure that there were no other ways to do it.”

 

“You do what you need to,” he defended.  He thrust his hands into his pockets, his mouth twisted into annoyance.  “And if you’d be so kind as to stop judging me, I’d appreciate it.”

 

“I’ll do what I can, but it would help me greatly not to do so if you’d stop admitting to things that are judge worthy.”

 

They reached the overlook that Leela and the Eighth Doctor had stood upon earlier.  Eight regained his position in a lean against the tree.  Leela dropped into her crouch.  Ten stood tall with his hands in his trouser pockets and his coat billowed out either side of his parted ankles.  Martha stood at his side, the control panel held into her chest with both hands.

 

Below, the Arks sat silently, three of them, all side by side, each flanked by a large group of Daleks standing still on patrol.  Several of the Daleks rode the perimeter in pairs, random electronic mutterings being shared between them.

 

“Okay,” Ten breathed out through a throat constricted because of a lowered head.  His eyes were lifted to scan the area.  “There are a few more down there than I expected there to be.”

 

“And more than were here when Leela and I were here earlier,” Eight added darkly.  “Too many for only the four of us to handle.”

 

“We can create a distraction,” Leela offered.  “Break into our respective parings.  Pull them away from the Arks.”  She looked up to her Doctor.  “That should leave only minimal targets for us to deal with.”

 

“I’m worried about their death rays,” Eight admitted.  “We can create a distraction for sure, however, if we aren’t quick enough to evade several shots at one time, then we might not be able to hold them off long enough for the pair who remain at the Arks to get the Askolians clear.”  He looked back down to her, ad then spared a look toward Martha.  “The Doctor and I can regenerate if we’re hit.  The two of you can’t.  I’m not risking either of you with a diversion tactic.”

 

“It would be an honourable death,” Leela offered softly. 

 

“Not on my watch,” Eight assured her firmly.  “Your son needs a mother, and I’ll make sure he has one when we finish today.”  He touched his hand to her shoulder, and she looked up with a smile from her crouch.  “So please stay with me and don’t wander off.”

 

She covered his hand with hers.  “As long as you take your own advice.  Together, right?”

 

Martha looked toward her Doctor, wondering when he would make the same heartfelt plea toward her.  It didn’t surprise her too greatly to see that his eyes were locked on the scene below, following Daleks and scanning the area with a tight focus.  Whether or not he heard any of the exchange between Leela and his younger self, she really couldn’t tell.  She prodded for his attention with a soft call of his name.

He blinked quickly, shaking his head with short rapid movements as he took his focus off the scene below and looked at his companion.  “Martha. I’m going to need to you promise me that you aren’t going to wander off and get yourself into trouble,” he ordered her firmly.  “You know what these things are like, and despite being a very clever girl, brains really won’t win a battle against a Dalek ray.  Stick with me, and I can protect you.”

 

“I’m not a damsel in distress,” she argued softly.  “I can take care of myself.”

 

“I know,” he came back with a wide grin.  “It’s one of the reasons I like you so much.  Don’t have to do much on the protection front, really.  Well,” he sang.  “There was that one time on the space ship where I may have had to step in and help. Oh, and on New Earth.”  His eyes widened.  “That.  That was a tough rescue…”

 

She closed her eyes and shook her head. 

 

“But!  For the most part, Brilliant!”  He repeated that word over and over under his breath as he walked the tree line, his focus now back on the scene below.  “Absolutely brilliant…”

 

Eight stepped to his side.  “You’re unnerved. And that’s never a good thing…”

 

“It looks like they’re readying to transport the arks,” he breathed out.  He then pointed to another outcropping beyond the arks, where the flickering lights of fire danced briefly across the landscape.  “Look over there.  Can you smell that?”

 

Eight inhaled a deep breath.  He held it and closed his eyes to analyse just what the scent could tell him.  His eyes flashed open quickly.  “Artron,” he breathed out.  “Regeneration wash.”

 

Ten nodded.  “There are Time Lords here,” he said with hope in his voice.  “Survivors.”

 

He looked to his side at his elder self.  “Injured survivors.”

 

“Martha’s a medical student,” Ten blurted out quickly.  “She should be able to help them.”

 

Leela lifted herself to a stand.  She looked toward her Doctor.  “You should go down there,” she advised softly.  “You’ve got the expertise in treating injured Time Lords.  Take Martha with you for assistance.

 

Eight nodded and gave her a cheeky salute and smile.  “Yes, Commander.”

 

She grinned.  “Commander, oh yes, I do like that title.”  She held her hand out to Martha.  “Please give me that device.  Your Doctor and I will deal with the Daleks and freeing the prisoners.  Go with my Doctor, he’s one of Gallifrey’s leading surgeons…”

 

“A what?” Ten barked incredulously watching Martha hand it over.  “Since when?”

 

“Not now,” Eight snapped.  He walked to Leela and cupped her face in both hands.  He leaned in close and looked her in the eyes.  “Be careful, Leela.  I expect to see you in one piece when this is over.”

 

“And you,” she answered with a boop on the tip of his nose with her finger.  “I want to see this face when we leave Askola.”

 

Martha slid her arms underneath her Doctor’s arms and pulled in against his chest got a tight embrace.  Even though his return gesture was no where near as tightly held as hers, she felt his breath across her head and his hearts beat against her chest.  “You be careful as well,” she demanded.   She pulled back only far enough to look up at his surprised expression.  “I need someone to take me home, remember.”

 

His surprise softened into a smile.  “Remember, he’s me. Stay with him, don’t wander off, and you’ll be safe.”  His eyes shifted to his Eighth self.  “Am I right?”

 

He nodded and moved forward to take Martha’s hand in his.  “It would be an honour to protect you Martha Jones.  Now without further ado, shall we head down and put our medical training skills to the test?”

 

She looked down at their joined hands, and then up to his face with a wide smile on her face.  “Absolutely.”

 

“Well come on, then,” he cheered with a tug on his hand.  He looked to the other Doctor and Leela and gave them a tip of his fingers to his head in a mild salute.  “Do be careful.”

 

And with that, hand in hand, Martha and Eight took off around the trees and disappeared into the darkness.  The Doctor watched with high brows.   “A surgeon?”

 

Leela slapped the back of her hand against his chest.  “As the Doctor said:  Not now.   Come, on, Doctor.  We have some work to do.”

 

“Yes,” he drawled.  “Yes, you’re right.  Well.  Let’s go, then.  Allonsy!”

 

Leela and the Doctor fled quickly down the embankment, being careful to stay as well hidden within the trees and bushes as possible.  Their run was swift enough, that it was only because of a tree that he didn’t slide out into the open and at the base of a Dalek’s skirt.  Leela’s descent was far more controlled, needing only a short hop to come to a complete stop.

 

“Wait,” he hissed out through his teeth as she shifted to lift up from her crouch at his side.  His hand was on her shoulder and it took only a flex of muscles to hold her firmly in place.  “Wait.”

 

She couldn’t see over the thick shrub that scratched angrily at  her nose and so she looked up at him in wait.  She noticed the dimple in his cheek that deepened with a grit of his teeth and so used the tight set of his jaw to determine when to move.  “How many?” she asked him after a moment.

 

The hand on her shoulder lifted into a stop sign just above her, his silent command to tell her to wait just a moment.  That moment seemed to pass quickly.

 

“The control in your hand, Leela,” he began quietly.  “As well as being able to remotely control their movements – at least I hope it does, anyway – it can also be used to send out a message to all of them.”

 

“For what purpose?” she asked with a furrow in her brow.  “If we can control them, why would we also need to send a message.”

 

He huffed out a breath.  “Remote control capabilities really are quite limited,” he began quietly.  His eyes were still on the scene ahead of them, and didn’t yet drop to look at her.  “Even with the help of the TARDIS, I don’t think our range would be much more than around 500 feet in radius.”  His lips puckered.  “The communication field is much broader of course.”

 

“That’s still plenty of range,” she ventured.

 

“Yeah,” he drawled with a scratch at his sideburn.  “But not nearly enough.  Once we get control of their movements, they’re libel to send out a distress message to other Daleks in the area.  They’ll descend on us quicker than we can hijack their programming.”   He blew out a breath.  “So.  This means we have to get as many of these out of the area, and out of range of attack, as we can first.”

 

She moaned.  “Was this always part of the plan?”

 

He cleared his throat and tugged at his earbobe.  “Well. No.  Not exactly.  I added it as a just in case option when the upload to Gallifrey was being completed.  Which is a good thing, because I wasn’t exactly counting on losing half of our team and dealing with triple the amount of Daleks.”  He looked down at her.  “You’re more than capable, of course.  Not a doubt in my mind about that, but not against an army of them.”

 

“I still think we should try out the distraction technique to break apart the group,” she said with a sigh, slowly lifting to a stand now that his hand was no longer holding her down by the shoulder.  She looked into the pack of Daleks only feet away from them and winced.  “Cancel that suggestion.  I can see what you mean by too many.”

 

He held out his hand for the remote control.  “I preloaded a communication advising of intruders at the ship.  Hopefully this will move enough of them out that we won’t overload this thing by trying to connect to too many of them.”  He flicked a lever, turned a dial, and then pressed a button.  His lips turned up in a smile as a small LED light flashed red in the centre.   “Message sent, now to hold out breath and…”

 

There was almost immediate movement among the group of Daleks.  A static, robotic command for many of them to return immediately to their ships raked across the field.  It made the Doctor smile a wide toothy grin of triumph that this plan had – for the moment – worked.  In fact, it seemed to work a lot better than he had originally planned that it would.   The mass movement of Daleks had left only three still on patrol – one for each Ark.

 

“Brilliant,” he purred out happily, an almost giggle sound coming from his throat.  He held up the remote to Leela.  “We might not even need this now.”

 

“Keep it on you, just in case,” she warned him.

 

“Was planning on it,” he replied with a shrug as he tucked it into his coat pocket.  He held out his hand to her.  “Shall we?”

 

She looked at his hand, then back up at him.  There was a shake in her head as she lifted a hand that held a knife within it.  “I take that,” she said with a look at his hand.  “Then I can’t carry this.”

 

“Right,” he said with a swallow.  “Of course.”

 

Leela took the lead walking out from their sanctuary.  She kept her posture low and cautious, in a stoop with one knife held ahead of her, held firm in a dagger-hold.  She slinked around trees and fence posts, trying to stay as concealed as possible.   Her companion, on the other hand, walked tall and unwavered, right out in the open, his hands in his trouser pockets.

 

“Doctor,” she hissed in a whisper after a moment.  “around here.”  Her head tipped in the direction of the rear of an Ark.

 

He shook his head and continued forward.  “Give me a moment.”

 

One of his hands shifted toward his coat pocket, and to the remote control hidden within it.  “I’m going to take your advice”, he murmured.  “Lead the transfer of prisoners from one arc to the other.   I want one of them nice and empty.”

 

“And what do you plan to do?” she growled. 

 

“Distraction,” he answered with a smirk.  He looked to her.  “Like you said, distraction.”  His brows lifted and fell, lifted and then fell again.  “I think I want to have a little fun with these.”

 

She rolled her eyes.  “Of course you do,” she huffed.  “Do what you have to.  Just don’t get killed.”

 

“Oh.  I won’t.”

 

There was only a small rustle as Leela disappeared around one of the arks.   When he was sure she was out of sight, he kicked at the dirt and strode confidently into the clearing, where the remaining three Daleks stood on guard.  “Well,” he sang out happily.  “Hello.  Nice day for it today, isn’t it?”  He looked up into the sky.  “Not that there are ever any days that aren’t so nice here on Askola.  They don’t tend to have weather events like most planets.”

 

“Halt,” one of the Daleks commanded.  It rolled forward out of formation toward him.  “Identify yourself.”

 

“Oooh,” he sang out with a lift in his eyes and a scrunch in his top lip.  “Why don’t you take a guess?”  He leaned forward, his hands still in his pockets.  “Let me give you a little hint.”  He could see Leela’s movements behind the three machines, and see that she was efficiently shifting the small-statured lavender-skinned Askolian people from one Ark into another.   He rocked back on his heels as his thumb flicked at a switch on the control inside his pocket.  “This isn’t the first time I’ve met any of you lot.”  He blew out a breath that was hard enough to puff up his cheeks.  “Well, it’s not really the second or third times, either.   At last count, I’d say, oh, about 50 times give or take.”  He chuckled.  “And as I was told today by my much younger self, my metric parameters for give or take might be a little skewed by comparison to other people, so that number might just be more than a little bit off the mark…”

 

“Enough games,” the lead Dalek commanded.  “who are you?”  It tried to roll forward, but found itself to be stuck in place and unable to move.  “Malfunction,” it said out loud.

 

“Oh,” the Doctor sang out with mock sympathy as he strode forward and gave it a flick on the eyestalk.  “Had a bit of a systems error in your forward propulsion systems?”  He shook his head and stepped past the eyestalk to lean his elbow on the side of it’s domed head.  He looked to where Leela was still successfully coordinating the prisoner transfer between Arks.  He turned his head to the side to speak to the lead Dalek, choosing not to engage with the other two, who weren’t even talking.

 

“Well?  Have you figured it out yet?”  He took the device from his pocket and made a show of looking it over, twisting it left, right, then turning it up and down.  “Need another clue?”

 

:”What trickery is this?” the Dalek cried out.  “How have I malfunctioned?”

 

“Well,” the Doctor huffed with a dramatic roll of his jaw and an exaggerated roll in his eye.  “If you don’t want to play.”  He sighed dramatically and flipped the device in the air, snatching it on the fall and then waved it in front of the eyestalk of the Dalek.  “there are problems with using computerised systems and cloning them across your entire fleet is that it only takes one very clever person with knowledge in basic programming.”  He paused.  “Well, I say basic, but really it was a little more complicated than that.  You really do have to be a little more clever than your average I.T. person to be able to pull this off with any real success.”

 

The Dalek seemed to give out a growl, but said nothing further.  

 

“Oh?  Lost your ability to communicate as well?”  He frowned.  “Such a shame.  Not hearing one of you call out to exterminate,” he made sure to accent that word with an exaggerated attempt at a Dalek voice.  “something, well, that just doesn’t make this a true Dalek encounter, does it?”

 

Leela finally weaved through the two Daleks at the back.  “If you’ve quite finished boasting like a peacock,”

 

“That would be preening,” he corrected with a shrug.  “You looked like you were doing fine on your own.  So?  Are we ready now?”

 

“Quite,” she answered with a purr as she walked around one of the Daleks, scraping her knife along the casing.  “Still just the three of them?”

 

“For now,” he said with a shrug.  “But the device is warning that more are on their way.”   He thumbed to the Ark.  “I’ll secure the Arks and set the coordinates for Ferrioum.  Should only need a minute to get them set for flight.” 

 

“Great,” she sang out with honest happiness in her voice.  “I’ll just keep an eye on these three, make sure they don’t move.”  She tipped her head.  “Ever again.”

 

The Doctor actually chuckled as he half stooped, an arch in his back, the bring himself low enough to be able to read and program the small control panel at the side of the Ark.   He heard the ping and clink of bolts being popped on at least one of the Daleks, but held off on trying to picture what was happening back there.

 

He shuddered at an invisible shockwave filled with Artron washed over the area, and looked up with concern about his younger self and his companion. 

 

His worry was quickly overtaken by slight panic when Leela popped her head around the Ark.  “You might want to wrap it up, Doctor,” she warned.  “We’ve got more Daleks on approach, and I don’t know how to use that contraption of yours.”

 

He slapped closed the door that covered the panel, and grabbed her hand to pull her back. He kept his eyes on the Ark.   “Stand clear,” he warned.  “Getting caught up in that blast might be just a little bit uncomfortable.”

 

He turned to run clear and found himself skidding in the dirt and sliding straight into the eyestalk of a grey and orange Dalek.  “Doctor,” it greeted robotically.  “We meet again.”

 

“Oh,” He breathed out with discomfort.  “Rassilon…”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

 

The scene was something out of a horror movie.  Well, more accurately, a movie outlining war and suffering.  The field, only a small section of land not covered by trees, was covered in bodies of wounded Time Lord soldiers.  How many of them were truly expired, The Doctor couldn’t immediately assess.  Random flashes of brilliant amber light exploded from a few, as regenerations took over their dying forms.  Some were unmoving, likely exhausted of artron and unable to regenerate.  Many of them were moaning in pain from injuries not quite severe enough to result in death or regeneration.

 

Blood, more orange than crimson, covered the ground and many of the men.  The smell of iron was almost as strong as Artron, and as a combination, it was a vapid and choking aroma that would rival any other stench across the universe.

 

Only two battle capsules were still left standing, and even those machines were lilted to one side and exhausted.  They were covered in soot and scars of Dalek ray strikes.  The three other capsules lay dead and silent on their sides, their outer casing dented and ripped apart from the hard impact into the ground below.

 

There was no actual fire from the capsules themselves.  Lighting came only from randomly set orbs and the occasional flash of regeneration.

 

Doctor and Martha ran hand in hand down the steep embankment toward the scene.  His free hand was clenched into a fist, hers covering her mouth with horror.   When they made it to the back, and to the feet of a non-moving soldier, the Doctor removed his hand from hers to drop into a crouch beside him.  Martha’s other hand flew up to join the one already covering her mouth.

 

“My God, Doctor,” she breathed out sadly.  “I just can’t…”

 

“Not the time to get emotional,” the Doctor ordered her firmly as he pressed his fingers against the throat of the soldier, hoping to feel any kind of life within him.  “We need to focus, and to help.  If the Doctor back up at the Ark’s cannot hold back the Daleks, then we face them coming down here to finish the job.”

 

Her hands were still over her mouth, but she nodded as she fought back tears.

 

There was no pulse underneath his fingers, and the Doctor lowered his head for a short Gallifreyan prayer to their ancestors.  He then looked up to her as he slowly lifted to a stand.  “My elder self said that you were a medical student.  I’ll assume that I have then spoken to you about the Gallifreyan body and the differences between you and us.”   He swallowed when she shook her head.  “I see.  How much do you know about Gallifreyan physiology, then?”

 

“Two hearts,” she answered softly.  “That’s all.”

 

He nodded.  “That’s actually important, and could be quite helpful.”  He took her hand and led her deeper into the field, looking at each man carefully.  “Essentially, we are the same.  So any first-aid or lifesaving efforts you would use on a human will work well enough on a Galifreyan.”  He put his hands on her waist to lit her up over a fallen tree trunk.  He kept his eyes on hers.  “I can’t hold your hand right now,” he reminded her.  “You’re going to have to work much of this on your own.  Can I count on you to help?”

 

She nodded quickly.  “I can.”

 

“Brilliant,” he said with a smile.  “Now, just remember, my people regenerate.  Well.  Those that have regenerations left will, at any rate.  Don’t try and save someone who can’t be saved.  Work on those who have a better chance of pulling through instead.”

 

He released her waist and removed his jacket.  “I’ll handle the tougher cases.”

 

“Of – of course, Doctor,” she answered, business slowly taking over from horror.

 

“And don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know,” he said with a smile.  “Even from the man you’re treating.”

 

“Will do,” she quickly jogged away in search of her first patient.

 

The Doctor rolled up his shirtsleeves and huffed out a breath as he took a look around.  A young Gallifreyan medic, only about 25 by Earth standards, jogged up to him.  The young man looked harried and definitely out of depth.   Despite being the owner of a respiratory bypass that should have prevented breathlessness, the young fellow was most definitely out of breath. 

 

“Lord Doctor,” he panted with relief.  “You’re here?”

 

“I am,’ he confirmed, although unnecessary.  He looked up to Martha, who was already on her knees at the side of a soldier on the ground.  “And I’ve brought along with me a young medical student who should be able to provide some support as well.”  He waited until the man looked back at her, and then to him.  “Yes.  She’s human, but she’s very capable.  I will expect you to offer her all of the respect and resources you would any of my staff in Arcadia.”

 

He nodded.  “Understood, sir.”

 

He started to walk, observing the men on the ground as he passed them.  “There is loss of life,” he remarked.  “Too much of it.   How are only some, but not all of the men regenerating?”

 

“New Dalek weaponry,” he said worriedly.  “They’ve developed a new weapon that prevents regeneration.”  He looked around.  “Not all of the men were hit with these specific arms… but those that did.”  He looked with panic toward the Time Lord.  “They’re helpless, Sir.  We can regenerate from a Dalek ray shot.  But these aren’t rays, they’re round balls of death that embed themselves in the flesh and stop Lindos production.”   He looked almost defeated.  “Nerala, over there,” he pointed to a young man silent and still on the ground.  “He was only on his second regeneration. He shold have been able to regenerate.”

 

The Doctor blew out a long breath.  “So we have to assume now that none of these men can regenerate, which just made more accurate triage that much more important.”

 

“If they bleed,” the young man advised.  “Then they won’t regenerate.  If they don’t have any easily identifiable injuries, then it’s likely a Dalek ray hit – They’ll regenerate if they’ve got any incarnations left.”

 

“Good,” he breathed out.  Repeating the word again as he took a second to think.  “If we remove the implant in their skin,” the Doctor ventured with a look around, “then the implanbt could no longer suppress the Lindos production.  Theoretically speaking, those that need to regenerate should be able to do so.”

 

“In theory,” the young medic agreed.  “But who knows how long the implant’s effects will hold over?”

 

“One way to find out,” he boomed.  “How many medics do we have on hand, and what supplies are left?”

 

“Three medics,” he answered quickly.  “Not including yourself or your Human companion.”

 

“Martha,” he advised.

 

The medic nodded. “Martha.  Of course.”  He scratched his head.  “As for supplies.  We retrieved anything we could from the remaining two capsules.   We have technicians on board working to repair them to flight status.”  He looked at the downed crafts.  “We can’t access anything or anyone from the three dead capsules..  I’m afraid we have to accept those as casualties.   Rassilon be with them.”

 

“Rassilon be with them,” the Doctor repeated solemnly.  He then lifted his head.  “Right.  Enough natter.  Let’s get to work, shall we?”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

It was only fifteen minutes, but it felt like hours to Martha.  She had certainly done her time in the emergency room back in London.  During World Cup Soccer, the emergency room could be a nightmare.  Fights, Alcohol related disasters, car accidents, you name it.  She’d seen it, and typically all in one night.    Bu this?  This was horror on a whole new level, and as she ran her fingers over the eyes of yet another soldier and said a silent prayer to her own deity for safe passage to heaven, she tried to steel herself to face another.

 

She approached a young man, who was conscious and writing in pain.   His shoulder was weeping orange-red blood from a gaping wound half hidden underneath the thick leather of his jacket.   He was shuddering when she knelt down beside him.

 

“Hello,” she greeted quietly.

 

He answered her in a language she didn’t understand at all.  His speech was rapid, yet quiet, and even though she couldn’t understand him at all, she knew the words were broken and stuttered.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said gently.  “I don’t speak Gallifreyan.”  Her eyes lifted to look into his.  “And I know you don’t understand me, but I’m here to help.”

 

“H-Human,” he managed to stammer out.  “English?”

 

She gave him a broad smile.  “Yes, I am.   You can speak my language?”

 

He smiled, his teeth lined red with blood.  “Translation circuit in my capsule,” he admitted.  “M-Mine’s still alive.”

 

She unzipped the front of his jacket, revealing a blood-stained white tunic underneath.  “I’m sorry, but this might hurt.  I need to get your jacket off.”

 

“Are you a Doctor?” he asked with a wince as her hand slid underneath his jacket and over his shoulders.  He lifted his back to help her with the garment.  “I mean  on Earth?”

 

Relieved that he was able enough to help her divest him of the jacket, she gave him a tender smile.  “Medical student,” she confirmed.  “Well on my way to being a doctor.”

 

“You’re friends with him,” he noted with a look down his nose toward the Doctor, who was with another soldier, scalpel in hand to remove something from his leg.  “The Lord Doctor.”

 

“Don’t know that I’d call him a Lord,” she quipped back with a cheeky smile as she pressed around the edges of the wound.  “insufferable git, maybe.   But yes, he and I are friends.”  She kissed the air.  “Well, the older version of him anyway.”

 

The young Time Lord tried to laugh, but ended up coughing.  “Don’t tell me there’s two of him here.”

 

Her nose turned up in a tease.  “Bad for timelines and basically the fate of all of reality, right?”   She bit at her lip and looked into his eyes.  “I want you to think of something really wonderful,” she advised him.  “Something to take your mind off what I’m about to do.”

 

“What are you going to do?”

 

“You really don’t want to know,” she admitted.   There was something embedded in his shoulder, and she really needed to get it out to assess the damage underneath.  “Do you have a wife or a girlfriend?”

 

“You mean a mate?” he clarified.  He then shook his head.  “No.  I don’t.  The ladies I went to the academy with prefer Lords with status – a council member -  not a lowly soldier.”

 

“Well they’re foolish,” she quipped with a smile as she prepared to make this poor lad hurt.  “Better to have a partner who can stand up and defend you when needed, then just prattle on nonsense and make everyone else’s lives  miserable with their self-serving decisions and demands for tax increases.”  She pulled a small knife from her pocket.  “Think of something beautiful,” she suggested.  “Something amazing.  Hold on to that image for just a little while?”

 

“You’re beautiful,” he said with a soft smile.  “I’ll think of you.”

 

She laughed.  “Are all of you Time Lords insufferable flirts?”

 

“Are we all what?” he let out a long yell of agony as Martha stuck the knife deep into his shoulder.

 

“I’m so sorry,” she pleaded as she shifted the knife to dislodge the shrapnel lodged in there. “Almost done.”

 

He wailed a long cry of agony in a breath no human man or woman could ever possess.  It was long, pained, and haunting.

 

And then it stopped.  Abruptly,.  As the marble-sized metal ball flipped up, and then out of the wound.   Martha only watched it flick to the ground for a second before she turned with panic to the young man.  Silence was never a good sign, and she hoped beyond all hope that she hadn’t killed the poor lad.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”  Her words hiccupped to see his lavender eyes open and gazing lazily at her.  It wasn’t the stare of death – that she knew all too well – instead it was a gaze of thanks and affection.  “Are you okay?”

 

“I am now,” he said with a look down at his shoulder.  Already it was sparkling amber as his body worked fast to repair itself.  His eyes moved to hers again.  “Thanks to you.”

 

She blew out a relieved breath, and petted her hand on his chest.  “It was my pleasure.”

 

He covered her hand in his, and lifted his other hand to her head. Soft words in an alien language passed through his lips as he reached upward.

 

“Oh, I don’t think so,” the Doctor’s voice boomed out angrily from behind Martha’s shoulder.  He leaned over and slapped the wandering hand away.  “Wrong timeline, young Lord.  Not for you to imprint on.”  He grabbed Martha by the arm and drew her to a stand, making sure to set her behind him.  “Damn sneaky Ceruleans.” 

 

“She saved me,’ he argued lightly.  “And she’s absolutely…”  The Gallifreyan words for beauty flew reverently through his lips.

 

“Yes, indeed,” the Doctor agreed.  “But unless you plan to follow this one back to Earth…”  He paused at the widening in the young Lord’s eyes. “Nope.  Scrap that.  Forget I said it.”   He led Martha away with one arm across her back, and the other loosely holding her arm.

 

Martha was highly amused.  “What was that about?”

 

“You almost had a mate of sorts,” he answered her.  “He was readying to imprint on you.”

 

“I’m going to guess that’s not a good thing.”

 

“Quite the contrary,” he breathed out on a happy breath.  “It’s actually quite a beautiful thing.  It’s a permanent telepathic link that ensures that no matter the time, the place, or the incarnation, you will know that young Time Lord, and trust him.”  He smiled.  “Maybe even love him.”

 

“I met him five minutes ago,” she whispered.  “How can I…?”

 

“You’re welcome,” he said with a smile.     He led them both toward another group of men.  “I need your help here, Martha.   Were nowhere near done yet.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Relief finally arrived at the scene when the first of two cylinders huffed, whined, and dematerialised.  One ship finally on its way back to Gallifrey, carrying the heroic dead soldiers to materialise inside an honour guard at the Captiol.  The second capsule would depart in only a few moments, her occupants were the survivors – both injured and regenerated.  

 

The Doctor wiped his hands and forearms on a dirty terrycloth towel as he walked over to where Martha was seated on a rock.  Rassilon bless the girl, she was exhausted.  Her head was down low in her shoulders and she hung forward over an empty water bottle held in her hands.    She was coated in as much blood and mud as he was, and so he grabbed a fresh towel and a waterbottle from one of the medics and walked toward her.

 

“You were amazing,” he said with pride as he took a seat beside her and handed her the bottle and a towel.  “I’m very proud of you.”

 

She shuddered as she opened the waterbottle and poured it onto her hands.  “That was awful,” she admitted sadly.  “I’ve never seen anything like that.”

 

“And I hope you never have to again,” he breathed out.  He lifted his eyes to the horizon, to where the sun was beginning to rise.  “We saved some good men today.  Sent them home to their families.”  He looked to her.  “That should give you at least a little peace.”

 

“I think as many were lost as what we saved,” she said gravely.  “Why didn’t they all regenerate?”

 

“New weapons,” he admitted.  “Those that were hit with the new arms, well, they were prevented from being able to produce enough enzyme energy to bring on a regeneration.   It’s a frightening thought to know that the Daleks have engineered a weapon like that.”

 

“Speaking of Daleks,” she said with a worried sigh.  “The Doctor and Leela.  I’m worried about them.  It’s been a couple of hours at least, and we haven’t seen nor heard from them at all.”  She looked to him.  “Do you think they’re okay?”

 

“If I know me, and I thinks it’s a safe bet to say that I do,” he bumped her shoulder with his.  “Then I think he’ll be okay – your Doctor.”   His mouth turned in a smile.  “And Leela won’t let anything happen to him.  Not without a damn good fight first.”

 

“Still,” she said.  “We should head back over.  See if they need our help?”

 

“We can,” he assured her.  “As long as you feel rested enough.  What we did here tonight, that must’ve been exhausting.  If you need some time…”

 

“I’m good,” she vowed with a firm nod of her head as she finished wiping her hands and then tossed the towel off to one side.  She held her hand to him in a request that he help her to stand.  “Let’s go.  I’ll feel better when I know the Doctor is okay, and still in one piece.”

 

He smiled as he brought himself up to a stand and held out his hand to hers.  “I am happy to acquiesce to whatever your heart des…”  The remainder of that word came out as a spray of orange-crimson blood, that splattered into her face and across her hair.

 

She was too caught up in surprise to immediately react in any appropriate way to it, but when he swayed, staggered, and then fell to a knee, all she could do was cry out his name in horror.

 

“Exterminate the Doctor!” A metallic voice commanded over his shoulder.  “Exterminate!”

 

The metal rod moved and shifted toward the Doctor, but before it could fire, there was a zinging sound of heat from behind.  Very quickly the metal turned orange and then read and aa large crack opened up along its middle.   Then with a cry from inside the machine, the casing exploded.  All that was left was a cooked and oozing mess of slime and flesh atop a bubbled pedestal.    Behind the pedestal was a lone Time Lord soldier, one arm in a sling, and a large gun teetering awkwardly in the other.

 

“I think I got him, beautiful,” the Time Lord said with a smile as the gun faltered and then fell from his hand.  “But don’t consider us even.”  He stumbled, and was immediately caught by another of the Time Lords, who took him back toward the waiting travel capsule.

 

She should have called out her thanks, but Martha’s panic rendered her unable to do so.   With the Doctor down on one knee, swaying and barely conscious, all she could think of was rushing to his aid.   His name bellowed with terror from deep inside her chest as she fell to her knees infront of him.

 

“Doctor!  Doctor, what happened?”   Her hands flew across his chest, ripping open his shirt, but she couldn’t see where he was hurt.  “Doctor, tell me!”

 

His eyes were wide and pained.  There was terror within them as they finally found focus on her.  He shook his head.  “I- I can’t regenerate,” he told her with fear. 

 

“Do-do you need to?” she asked in panic. 

 

“Get the Doctor,” he begged s he faltered completely to one side.  “I have to tell him…”  His words cut with a cough, and the Doctor fell forward into the dirt.

 

The sight of his back, and the rapidly spreading bloodstain on his shirt made her scream.  It wasn’t a controlled outburst by any means, the sound that left her throat was one that contained multiple emotions, the most obvious of which were devastation, fear, and heartbreak.

 

A young medic dropped to his knees beside the Doctor, his hands moving swiftly along his back.  Less panicked and much more concerned that he was about to lose yet another Time Lord today, the young man called for help.

 

Martha staggered backward, falling to her arse, and shuffling further away.  Her hands flew up to her face to cover her mouth as another scream tore out from inside her.

 

There was a worried yell of her name from the trees, and she spun with hope.   In the arch of the rising sun, she saw his silhouette:  Tall, and lean, his thick coat billowing out behind him as he ran.  Although completely in shadow, she could imagine his expression: his face lengthened, yet tight with purpose.  His eyes wide and wild, his mouth set with his lips stretched open around teeth grit tightly against his hissing breath.

 

She called out to him, her voice destroyed and defeated.

 

He was on his knees in the dirt beside her in a second.  His hands took hold of her arms and his eyes searched her blood-stained face with fear.  “Martha,” he breathed out worriedly.  “Rassilon, what happened?”

 

Her answer of his name was spoken at the same moment that Leela’s horrified voice screeched out the name of her own Doctor.

 

Ten immediately flicked his head toward Leela, his eyes wide and wild and suddenly very scared.   He half pushed Martha out of his hold, using the push to quickly move toward her.  “Leela?”

 

Her eyes were sodden.  “By the Gods, Doctor,” she whimpered.   “He.  He’s dead.”   Her head shook.  “H-How can he be dead?”

 

His eyes moved from hers toward the man lying on the dirt.  On his hands and knees, he scrambled toward him, faltering in a fall to one side when he saw the man he once was covered in blood and staring lifelessly at nothing.

 

“No,” he ground out through his teeth.  “No!  He’s not dead.  He can’t be.” 

 

The medic shook his head at the Doctor.  “I’m very sorry, Sir.  But.  But he’s gone. There’s nothing we can do for him now.”

 

Leela grabbed the medic by the arm.  “He can regenerate,” she growled.  “He’s supposed to regenerate.   Why isn’t he regenerating?”

 

The medic was apologetic.  He shook his head.  “Lady Leela.  I am so sorry.  The Daleks have new weaponry that stops Time Lords from regenerating.”  He looked down to the Doctor.  “He got hit with one of those.  There’s nothing we can do.”

 

“You’re wrong,” the Doctor said quietly.

 

The Medic looked to him with a shake in his head.  “I’m very sorry, Sir, but the Doctor.  We can’t save him.  He’s gone.”

 

His eyes lifted slowly, full of fire and full of anger.  “No, he isn’t.”

 

“Are you a Doctor, Sir?” the medic asked facetiously ready to remind him to leave it to the professionals.

 

“I am the Doctor,’ he snarled out darkly, his eyes wild and his lips curled.  “Three incarnations from this man.  You can’t tell me he’s dead and can’t regenerate, because I’m here, and I’m very much alive, thank you.”

 

The Medic’s eyes widened and he shuffled backward.  “No,” he said with a shake in his head.  “This isn’t possible.”

 

“Oh,” she Doctor sang with a smile turning up one side of his mouth and a slight tic in the shift of his head.  “Anything is possible, young Lord.  Especially where I’m concerned.”

 

He shook his hands violently in front of him, flicking them in the air and growling low inside his chest.  His growl turned into an impatient snarl, and he almost told his hands to hurry up.  They lit up amber and a smile broke across his face.  “Yes!”  He cheered out.  “Brilliant!”

 

With the Medic gasping in horror to his left, and his two female companions shifting between heartbreak and fear, he moved forward on his knees towards his younger self.   He looked at his hands and then set them down on his shoulder to roll him onto his back.  

 

“You don’t get to die,” he snarled at him.  “Not yet.  Not when we still have so much to do.”

 

He put one glowing hand on his chest, and moved the other to his temple.  “But I’m going to need your help on this, Doctor.”  He shook his head and readied to shift into regeneration.  “So Rassilon help me, you’d better still be in there.”   He exhaled.  “Or we’re both dead.”

 

His head threw backward and his mouth gaped open.  A long cry erupted from deep inside his chest as the full regeneration energies took control over his every cell, burning him from inside out.

 

“Come on, Doctor,” he called as his mind searched deep inside his.  “For Rassilon’s sake, wake up!”

 

Eight’s eyes snapped open as the amber Lindos energy engulfed them both and the two men became one man.   The walls between their minds tore apart, and for a slit second, each man could see deep inside the other – memories, thoughts, fears, and strength.  Everything each of them had seen and felt, all of the things they had experienced….

 

…Even things that were forgotten.

 

The amber fires grew to a final explosive crescendo to light and with a whoomph and a whoosh, the fires embed out and died.  Two men panted uncatchable breaths.

 

Eight panted, barely able to remain conscious.  He coughed into the dirt, but fell backward, quickly falling into slumber.

 

At his side, his elder self looked upon him with shock and heartbreak.  He shook his head with utter disbelief.  Although still on his knees, he staggered and stumbled onto a hip, unable to remain upright any longer.   His eyes didn’t break from his younger self as he finally fell into the dirt.

 

Only one word passed through his lips before he passed out completely.  It was spoken with pain, with longing, and with desperation and heartbreak.

 

“Rose.”

 

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

When he finally came around, the Doctor did so very slowly.  He focused on the steady hum of his TARDIS, albeit slightly off key to normal, and the gentle scent of time that drifted through her hallways.  His hands moved before the rest of him, slowly fingering at the sheet underneath his naked back and then sweeping his hands left and right.   Leela’s sigh, and her relieved call of his name coaxed movements of his eye lids, and although heavy, he slowly blinked them open.

 

Leela’s face was the first thing he saw.  Beautiful though it was, her face was pale and gaunt with worry.  Her long dark hair hung limply down over her face and ears, filthy with mud and smoke.   He lifted his hand to push her hair behind her ear, and used that momentum to lift himself to a seat.

 

He let out a very long moan and dropped his face into his palm, lifting his knee to support his below.   “Please tell me that whatever truck hit me ended up being hit by lightning and exploding.”

 

“Dalek,” Martha said kindly to him from the opposite side of the bed to Leela.  There was relief in her voice.  “And yes.  It did end up exploding, courtesy of a sneaky Cerulean with a really big gun.”

 

“Be wary of sneaky Ceruleans,” he croaked hoarsely with a smile.  “Especially those with really big guns.”  He dropped his hand from his face and let if fall lazily in front of him, supported only by the elbow still resting on his knee.  He looked to the bad beside him, and to his elder self In brown on his back and out of commission.  “What happened to him?”

 

Martha’s eyes flicked up at him.  “You don’t remember?”  She shared a worried look with Leela before looking back at him.  “And what he did for you?”

 

He lifted his hand again and pressed the butt of his palm into the small valley between his brows and the bridge of his nose.  “I’m afraid my memory only goes as far back as making the decision to head back to the Arks…”  His eyes widened suddenly as a swarm of something new flooded his mind.  He breathed out very worriedly.  “And as far forward as war, pain, death, and loss.”  His other hand came up to press into his eyes.  He moaned out, horrified.  “And, oh Rassilon, please tell me I’m still unconscious and dreaming.”

 

“What’s wrong?” Martha asked him worriedly as she cupped her hands either side of his head and coaxed him to look at her.  When he didn’t, she physically removed his hand from his eyes and held them down. 

 

“Neural explosion of sorts,” he muttered with a slow shake in his head.  “Nothing pleasant, but nothing particularly dangerous either – depending on how these thoughts and memories got in there.”

 

“I don’t understand,” she muttered.

 

“I have new thoughts and memories,” he said with a wince.  “And experiences that I’m not yet old enough to have experienced.”  He looked to the man on the other bed.  “I’m feeling rather confident that these are his.”

 

Leela touched his knee to get his attention.  She waited until he was looking at her before speaking.  “I suspect you’re right,” she answered.  “What he did…”

 

“What did he do?” he questioned, rising panic in his tone.  “And why did he have to do it?”

 

“You were shot,” Martha began with a wince after a swallow.  “By a Dalek.  One of their new weapons.”

 

He shot her a fast look, only now noticing her hair littered with blood, and a smear of orange crimson in her hairline.  Obviously she’d done little more than a quick wash of her face since returning o the TARDIS.  He lifted his hand to flick off a dry fleck.

 

“Mine?”

 

She looked upward, despite being unable to see, and nodded.  Her eyes shifted back down to his.  “You were hit in the back,” she said softly, the memory of it still clear and choking her voice.  “I don’t know for sure exactly what your true injuries were, but they were enough to kill you.”

 

He watched a tear track down along her cheek, the trail it left behind making it clear that she was still dusty despite washing her face.

 

“You were gone,” she said with a shudder.  “Dead, and you couldn’t regenerate.   There was nothing any of us could do.”

 

“Except him,” Leela offered with a flick of her eyes toward the man on the other gurney.  “He knew what to do.”

 

Martha bit her lip and looked behind her.  There was a nod in her head when she looked back to him.  “She’s right,” she agreed softly.  ‘He knew exactly what to do.”

 

The Doctor let out a long breath and laid back down on the bed.  His knee was still angled high underneath the sheet.  “He gave me a regeneration,” he concluded.

 

“More like kick started your own with his regeneration energy,” Martha offered.  “You both look exactly the same as before, and from what I saw on the field, every man who regenerated ended up as someone completely different.”

 

“We’re supposed to,” he said with a sigh.  “So if he was kick-starting my Lindos production with his own, then he also needed to get into my head to make sure that there was enough left in me to complete the healing process.”  He rolled his head to look at him.  “Which is why my head is full of memories I have yet to experience.”  He pressed the butts of his hands into his eyes again.  “And I’m very sorry to say that I was quite correct in that I’d need a strong beverage before I went in there.  So full of guilt and self loathing.”

 

“And,” Leela warned him softly.  “Very likely his head is now full of your memories…”  She let out a huff.  “Memories that were gone and that you didn’t want him to see.”

 

He tore his hands from his eyes, staring widely at the ceiling.  “Rassilon…”

 

“Before he passed out,” she warned.  “He did mention your wife’s name.  I would suggest that means he saw it all.”

 

He shook his head and threw back the sheet that covered him.  Wearing only a pair of deep grey Boxer briefs not much longer than the lowest rise of his arse, he trotted toward the other bed.  He felt the hit of a soft shirt hit his back, and a curse from Leela for him to have some propriety, but ignored it to hover over his elder self.

 

“Sorry to have to do this to you, old chum,” he murmured under his breath as he lifted his hands to touch fingers at his elder self’s temple.  “But those don’t belong to you.  At least, not right now… Not until I know why.”

 

A hand snapped up fast from the bed to snatch a firm hold of the Doctor’s wrist.  Angry brown eyes flew open and a lip curled in a sneer.  “Don’t you dare.”

 

“Doctor,” he warned with a wince at the firm hold on his wrist tightening.  “You can’t see that.”

 

“Cant see what?” he sneered, finally releasing the man’s wrist with a shove as he shifted up to a seat on the bed.  “That not only am I a husband and a father, but that you’re mated with a woman you don’t even meet until two incarnations from now.”  He growled.  “The woman I .. That I…”  He growled in disgust at his inability to say it.  “The woman who holds my hearts and who I thought was lost.”

 

His eye gave a tick as he flung his legs over the edge of the bed and stepped onto the floor.  “No wonder you were so damn curious to know all about Rose Tyler,” he accused, laying a long lick at the roof of his mouth when saying her last name.  “Why you wanted to poke and push me to crack.”

 

Eight’s eyes darkened.  “I had my reasons for that.”

 

“Oh I bet you did,” he accused with a sneer and a tic in his head.  “Wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to rip through reality to come after her, didn’t you?”  He leaned forward, challenge and aggression in his eyes.  His voice lowered to a dangerous purr.  “Well guess what.  I’m coming.”

 

Eight looked fairly unperturbed by the obvious threat.  He looked upon his somewhat irrational older self with contempt in his eyes.  “Then go right ahead, Doctor.  Give it a try.  Rip apart all of reality like a deranged love-sick fool.  I’ll be waiting for you – oh, you bet I will.”

 

Ten’s eyes narrowed.   A challenge of this nature, oh he was good to give them himself when he knew he’d be the victor, it meant that not everything was quite as hunky-dory as it seemed.  So he wisely said nothing.

 

Eight, however, he wasn’t quite finished.   “But you know who won’t be?  Rose.”  He looked at him with disgust.  “She has no desire to see you, Doctor.  Not this particular you, anyway.”

 

Fierceness evaporated almost immediately.  “I’m sorry, what?”

 

Eight paced the room wearing only his deep grey boxer briefs, but stood as proud as the term Time Lord would suggest that he should.  “Take a good look inside those memories you took from me, Doctor.   Don’t just pick and choose the ones you like best.  I want you to actually take a good long and hard look at Rose:  How she was when she came to me.  How she fought against me and my affection, and then ultimately how we fell in love.”   He took a stride forward.  “And when you’re done, I want you to ask yourself if you deserved her, as you were then, and as you are right now.”

 

Martha’s face was tight in pain for the man she travelled with.  She looked to the younger version of him.  “Doctor, really?  Don’t be so cruel…”

 

“No,” Ten muttered gently.  “Martha.  He’s right.”  He looked to both women with weakness in his eyes.  “Would the two of you mind please giving us a moment?”  He flicked his eyes to Eight and back.  “He and I, we really do have some things to discuss.”  His eyes then moved to lock onto his younger self.  “And I suspect there are some questions you have as well that might be best not discussed in front of the ladies.”

 

Eight gave a nod.  “As a matter of fact, yes.  I most certainly do.”

 

They stood shoulder to shoulder, one man in a pinstriped suit, the other dressed only in his underwear, as the two ladies walked from the medbay of the older TARDIS ship.   Once the door closed, they both turned to face each other nose to nose.

 

“First things first,” Ten gruffed out darkly.   He took a step back and flicked his hand toward the bed.  “For Rassilon’s sake, put on some clothes.  “I really don’t need the ability to make comparisons.”

 

Eight sniffed with a smirk as he snatched a t-short off the bed and pulled it up over his head.  “Compare away,” he murmured.  “I’m confident in what I’ve got.”  

 

“Which is Rose,” Ten breathed out.  “My Rose Tyler.”

 

Eight paused pulling his shirt over his belly for just a moment.   He wasn’t quite expecting to have to go into it all so quickly.  He rather fancied a spar of words first.  “Yes,” he admitted as he finally smoothed the shirt down over his belly.  “For now, yes I do.”

 

“And she hates me.”

 

Eight folded his arms across his chest and shook his head.  “Again, stop picking and choosing what you want to see.  I think if you take a moment to actually filter through it all, then you’ll find that how she feels for you is very much the opposite.”

 

He leaned his rump against the edge of the mattress, crossing his legs at the ankle, and stuffing his hands into his pockets.  There was a slight downward tilt to his head as his eyes traced a low cabinet door across the room.  “She compared me to Jimmy Stone.”  Those last two words were uttered with disgust – and emotion mirrored by the lift of his lip and the wince in his eye.  “One of the very few Humans I’ve encountered that actually fit the description of a filthy unevolved ape.”

 

“From my understanding of him,” Eight concurred.  “I agree with that assessment.”  He looked to his elder.  “I will also hope that, after your were told about that particular cretin, that you found a way to sneak into his timeline to kick his arse.”

 

“With thicker boots than my converse,” he confirmed with a snort kick of one foot that quickly found its way back to cross in front of the other ankle.  “I did indeed, which is why I find that comparison so reprehensible.”

 

“But is it, though?” he asked with a tilt in his head.  “I mean, yes.  That fool was quite reprehensible, as are his actions.  But were yours really so different.”  He held up his hand.  “And do remember, Doctor, that what you took from me, I also took from you.”  He smiled.  “Right now you and I – we’re the very same mind.”

 

“Which is rather terrifying,” he had to admit.

 

“For so many reasons,” Eight sighed.  “By the stars, Doctor.  What did you do?  What did Rassilon do?”

 

He shook his head.  “What we had to do, Doctor.  What was necessary.”  He looked away.  “To end it.”

 

“She’s not there,” he remarked sadly.  “For any of it.” He looked down.  “Which is probably for the best, of course.  She and our son, they shouldn’t be there.”

 

He nodded with agreement.  Then he shook his head.  “But where is she?”  His eyes were wide and horribly confused.  “I can’t see anything between right now, and in seven years from now, when you tear off from the Time Vaults on Gallifrey and meet Charley.”

 

Eight’s eyes briefly widened as that memory flashed in his mind – a relationship with another woman – one that was not his wife.

 

Ten’s hands lifted to fist at his hair.  He let out a growl of frustration.  “Why is it missing?  Why can’t I see anything?  Even a memory block will leak from time to time and give me something:  Hope, fear, loss, anything.”  He shook his head, his hands still in his hair.  “But that whole period of time is a void.  There’s nothing there.  Nothing!”

 

“Gone completely,” Eight agreed with a crease in his brow.  “Not blocked.  Gone.”

 

“Impossible,” Ten seethed.  “Noone has the telepathic power to do that.  No matter how strong the block, there’s always residue left from any memory.  Always.”

 

“At least you have it now,” Eight offered. 

 

“But I won’t have her,” he concluded with a long sigh.  He caught the look from his younger self and shrugged.  “The gap spans almost ten years, Doctor.  How many of those have you actually had with her?”

 

“Three,” he whispered.

 

He nodded.  “Another seven unaccounted for.”  He walked to the middle of the room, crossed his legs at the ankle, and spun himself in a twirl to sit on the floor.

 

Eight frowned. “What are you doing?”

 

“Concentrating,” he answered with a huff as he crossed his legs and pressed his elbows into his knees.  He covered his face in his hands and blew out a long breath.  “Trying to see if I can make sense of it.”

 

Eight shrugged and walked over to where he was seated.  With a sigh, he dropped down onto the floor, his back to his elder self, and adopted the same seated position.  “I don’t think we’re supposed to try.”

 

“Don’t tell me not to try.”

 

“I’m not.  I’m saying that perhaps we aren’t supposed to.”

 

Ten actually laughed.  “Since when do either of us do as we’re told?”

 

“Not even when we’re telling each other,” he agreed with his own soft laugh.  He straightened up his back and leaned backward a little.  It wasn’t too far of a lean before his back was pressed up against Ten’s.  His elder self straightened up himself, and in a moment both men were back to back, and the cross of their knees shifted position.  Both of them raised their knees to push themselves back more firmly against the other.

 

“I hate you,” Ten admitted quietly.

 

“I know.”

 

“But I’m really starting to hate myself more.”

 

Eight turned his head slightly, looking down his shoulder as though trying to look behind himself at the man muttering about self hatred.  “And why’s that.”

 

“Now I can see how much I hurt her,” he acknowledged painfully.  “What I did to her to drive her into your arms.”

 

“She put herself there,” he corrected.  “You had nothing to do with it.”

 

“But she wouldn’t have run to you if I wasn’t being such a half-cocked git in the first place.”  His head flicked to one side, meeting Eight’s cheek with his own.  “My hearts beat for her, Doctor.  I don’t understand why I did that to her.  Why I lost my ability to treat her with any of the love and respect I had for her.”  He huffed.  “I always gave her just enough to keep her hoping, but never enough to make her stay.  And now I don’t think she ever wants to see me again..”

 

“You never know,” he said softly.  “It’s easy to say you never want to see someone again.  Words are just words, right?   But I think if she did get the chance to see you again, she’ll …”

 

“If she had to choose,” he interrupted. 

 

“Well maybe you should use this newfound knowledge of yours and grow up a little.  Figure out how to earn back what you lost.”  He flicked his chin to the door.  “Rassilon, man.  If the way you treat Martha is anywhere near close to how you treated Rose, then///”

 

“I get it!” he barked out.  “I’m not a nice person.  Tends to happen when you’ve suffered trauma after trauma and loss after loss.”   He huffed.  “It’s not like you behave any better yourself, so stop with this incessant judging of my actions when you’ve been very guilty of…”  He turned abruptly, rising up onto his knee to dig a knuckle into his younger self’s back.  “I’m about to yell at you, so turn around.”

 

He did as asked and faced his elder self with a tired expression.  “What is it?”

 

“You dare to judge me, when you’ve pulled the shittiest move of any one of us – and that’s saying something when you consider all of the irresponsible and irrational stuff we’ve done to now.”

 

He held up his hands. “ Look…”

 

“Don’t you tell me to look, Doctor,” he snapped in reply.  “You took away my companion.  One who – granted – was having a wee bit of an emotional crisis at the time…”

 

“Hardly wee,” he corrected.  “But carry on.”

 

“And rather than being a gentleman and bringing her home to her correct timestream – and her appropriate Doctor – you took her to Gallifrey, set up a home, married her, and started a family.” He snarled.  “And worse, you let me believe she was dead.”

 

“She didn’t want to go home,” he replied with a tired and quiet sigh.  “To you, nor to London.  But you already know all this,” he growled impatiently.  “Stop trying to make excuses.”   He lifted his eyes to the ceiling.  He filtered through the memories on his own.  “Tell me about Bad Wolf,” he managed finally.

 

“What about her?”  He was clearly frustrated.  “As you’ve already told me – look at my memories, yourself.  It’s all there.”

 

Eight closed his eyes and searched.   After a moment, he opened his eyes and let out a small hum.  “Your ability to show her your love for her after the appearance of the Bad Wolf, correct?”

 

“Yeah,” he drawled.  “After I regenerated.” He inhaled deeply, holding that breath for a long moment.  “I took the energy in time from Rose – the power of the Bad Wolf – and sent it back into the TARDIS.  As a result of all that power destroying all my cells, one at a time, I regenerated.”

 

“Have you ever wondered just why it was that the energy killed you, but it didn’t hurt Rose?”

 

Ten snorted.  “If you’re about to tell me that she’s now some immortal being thanks to Bad Wolf, then I’ll punch you.”  He thumbed at his nose.  “I did check on that, by the way.  No.  Still Human.”

 

He hummed and shook his head.  “Very, very much Human,” he confirmed.  He then let out a long sigh.  He had plenty of speculative thoughts in his mind about just what may have set this course in action, but nothing concrete enough to analyse it too closely.  His head hung between his shoulders.  “What I’ve seen, Doctor.  Well I have to admit.  I’m scared,”

 

“You get through it and survive,” Ten said with a sigh.  “I’m living proof that you survive the war.  Well, if you can call this surviving of course.   Which I suppose it is.  It’s certainly not living as much as existing.”

 

“I don’t want to forget her,” he said sadly.  “Or our son.   I don’t understand why it has to happen.”

 

“Probably has something to do with the fixed point,” he said with a slight lift in his cheek.  “Something about it makes you have to hide her away, not only from the war, but from ourself, too.”

 

“If I send her away,” Eight admitted.  “Then I’m sending her to you.  I’m not locking her away anywhere.”

“Well, obviously you did,” Ten charged angrily.  He tapped at his head.  “Otherwise I’d remember it, wouldn’t I?”

 

“Again. I don’t have telepathic ability powerful enough to rip something like this from our heads where it can never be found.”  He blew out a breath of annoyance that shifted quickly to apology.   “But I do have the power to lock it away from you now.”

 

“I know,” he whispered with a wince. 

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

He winced in an expression of apology, himself.  “And you know that I have to take it away from you as well,” he warned him.  “I can’t leave the knowledge of what’s coming in your mind.  Although at least for you, not so hard a loss as it is for me.” 

 

“You’re right,” he said. 

 

Ten closed his eyes and leaned his head back against his elder’s head.  “Just.  Please don’t take it all away.  Leave me with something, anything to give me hope.”

 

“Until I know why it is we can’t remember her, Doctor, what entity was able to take her from us like that, and Rassilon’s robes, it could be anything.”  He cleared his throat with a cough against his fist.  “Until we know for sure, I can’t leave you with anything.” 

 

“how about If I promise you that I won’t come for her?”

 

That made him grin a wide smile.  “You say that like you think I can trust you.  Which we both know I can’t.  What does Brax call us?   Sneaky?  Can’t be trusted?”

 

“Never have truer words been spoken,” he growled.  He lifted his hand toward his younger self’’s temple.  “Well.  Best we get this over with, yeah?  Neither of us will allow the other to remember, right?”

 

“Right,” he agreed.  “Back to where we were, then.”

 

“Right.”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

They couldn’t hear anything behind the closed door of the med bay, although both of them tried desperately to hear.  So far they’d employed several methods to hear what went on behind closed doors, but alas, the TARDIS and her own sneaky ways refused to allow them to hear.   They were about to give up completely when the door finally hissed open and both men appeared, safe, and unharmed.

 

Eight, who was still attired in his undergarments, had one brow raised high as he looked over two women doing their all to look as perfectly innocent as possible.

 

“Hear anything interesting?” he queried flatly.

 

“Nothing,” Leela admitted with a slump.  “This TARDIS is as tricky as yours it, Doctor…”

 

“They’re the same TARDIS,” Ten mused with a smirk as he led the group on a walk toward the console room. 

 

“I know that,” she managed to say without appearing too embarrassed.  “Anyway.  She wouldn’t let us listen in.”

 

Martha smiled.  “So if the two of you would like to be real darlings, feel free to fill us in.”

 

Eight looked toward his older self.  “I’ll let you field that one from your companion.  Me…”  He looked toward Leela.  “I’m not saying a word about it.”

 

The console room of Ten’s ship made Eight’s hearts fall.  As beautiful as she was, the old girl was definitely down to bare bones.  “Oh, darling,” he breathed out affectionately as he stroked a column of coral.  “I’m so sorry.”

 

“She’ll recover in time,” Ten suggested with a rock on the back of his heels.  “For now, though, I love it.  Who needs expensive makeup, contouring, highlighting and false lashes? This girl is perfectly beautiful a’la natural.”

 

“That she is,” Eight agreed with a smile to the ceiling.  The  smile fell and he looked down to his elder self.  “When out TARDISes dematerialise, the memory blocks will take effect.”

 

“I know,” Ten said with a firm nod.  “If I can give you anything at all, Doctor, then I say this:  It will have an end, and you will survive.  When it’s through you’ll meet the love of your lives…”

 

“And then I’ll lose her,” he added with a sad smirk.  He shook his head.  “What I have to look forward to as you.”

 

Ten leaned forward.  “Then do whatever you can to make yourself better.”  He tipped his head to Martha.  “Having companions helps with that.”  He smiled at her.  “Especially when they’re brilliant.”

 

Eight put an arm across Martha’s shoulder and pressed an affectionate kiss to her forehead.  He looked down at her with a tender smile.  “Good bye Martha Jones.  I look forward to meeting you in my future.  Look after this fool, please.”

 

“I will, I promise.  And you … you take care.”    She looked to Leela as the Doctor walked to the door of the TARDIS.  “You, are so awesome I don’t even know where to begin.”

 

“And you, Martha Jones,” she sang out with a wave as she followed.  “Remember, Castration by knifepoint!”

 

Martha let out a long laugh as the door closed behind them, and the Doctor – her Doctor – set the coordinates for departure.   Her voice softened to concern.  “Doctor?”

 

“Yes, Martha.”

 

“Is everything going to be okay, with him?”

 

“Of course it will,” he answered back very matter of factly.  “Why wouldn’t it?”

 

“The Time War,” she questioned.  “He knows about it now.”

 

“Oh, nah,” he drawled out, not looking up from the monitor.  “Simple telepathic memory redaction.  Easy peasy flick of the fingers piece of cake for us Time Lords.  When he takes off, he won’t remember a thing.”  His eyes widened.  “Well.  Except one little tiny piece of information that won’t threaten all of reality…”

 

“Doctor?”

 

“And, well.  Serve him right, really.”  He looked up to the rotor column, and not at Martha.  “I don’t see why he should get off so easy.”

 

“What did you do?” Martha asked worriedly.

 

“I may have left a little piece in there,” he admitted, finally looking down at her.  He held his thumb and second finger slightly apart and winced as though trying to focus.  “Just a tiny little snippet.  Microscopic, really.  Nothing even to worry about.”

 

“Doctor?” her voice was not a warning.  “What did you leave him with.”

 

His eyes shifted to hers.  “I left him with the knowledge that his time with Rose now has a time limit on it.   Like the sands through the hourglass….”

 

Martha’s eyes shot open wide.  “That’s horrible?”

 

“No,” he argued softly as he flicked up the dematerialisation lever.  “It’ll make him cherish every moment he has left.”  He smiled as the column rose and fell, whined and wheezed.  “That’s my girl, off we go, then. Allonsy!”

 

“Doctor,” Martha cried out in shock.  “How could you do that to him?”

 

“I’m sorry?” he answered back with genuine confusion in his gaze.  “Do what to who?”

 

“Him!” she yelped gesturing to the door with both hands. 

 

He hook his head, and looked at the door with a brow lifted high on his forehead.  “I’m sorry, Martha.  Who?”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

Eight and Leela stepped aboard his TARDIS.  Behind him he heard the dematerialisation of the older TARDIS, and knew that for now, Rose was safe with him, and there’d be no threat of a sneaky Prydonian Time Lord breaking through the walls of reality to get to them.

 

He blew out a breath of relief and set coordinates for his own machine to take off.  “Gad that’s over with.  Straight to your home, Leela?”

 

She nodded.   She then walked around the console and looked him straight in the eye.  “What did you leave him with?” she asked him without hedging the topic.

 

“What makes you think I left him with anything.”

 

She tipped a shoulder up to her ear.  “Because I know you.  And I know that if it concerns Rose, you’ll have every plan in place to make sure she’s safe and taken care of.”

 

“I’ve sealed the memory of her,” he said.  “As I should have done.”

 

“But?”

 

He smiled on one side of his mouth.  “But it’s not gone.  Not completely.  It’s just, locked away for now.”

 

“And how does she unlock it,” she asked him, knowing him far too well to have to question him any further about his intentions.  “When they meet again?”

 

He lifted his eyes to hers.  “What makes you think they will?”

 

“Because I can hear your heart breaking from here,” she said softly.  “You think that one day she’ll have to return to Earth, and quite likely therefore to him.”   She pressed her hand into his chest.  “So how does she unlock his memories of her?”

 

“My name,” he answered her softly.  “She only has to speak my name.”  He flicked up the dematerialisation lever and looked up at the column as it rose up and down, whining and wheezing.   There was a flicker in his mind and behind his eyes.  He shook his head, looked toward Leela and offered her a look of apology.

 

“I’m very sorry Leela.  What were we talking about again?”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

It was sunsdown on Gallifrey when Rose and her entourage arrived at the home she shared with the Doctor after a long few of days in hospital.  A very long and busy couple of hours – despite being forced to stay in bed for the entire duration of her hospital stay.

 

If she wasn’t feeding her newborn, then she wasn’t holding him.  No one would let her.  Between Romana, Brax, her mother, and the nursing staff that worked with the Doctor all wanting to hold him and coo lovingly at him, she hadn’t gotten a chance at all for a quiet cuddle.  It was her hope, now that she was home, to finally get that cuddle time…

 

…If it meant that she had to tell her wolves to stand guard and growl at anyone who dared try to get near her, then by the rule of Rassilon, she’d do it.

 

Speaking of her beautiful blue-white fur babies.  She hadn’t seen them since arriving at the hospital nearly three days ago.  Romana had sent some of her guard staff to feed them, and the reports from those who had Dahrama-caused torn clothing upon their return, the pair were doing quite nicely.  She was very eager to see them.

 

And apparently that feeling was mutual.  Upon exiting the small red short-hop travel capsule, she was immediately accosted by two very excited wolves.  Both of them jumping and pouncing on her while whining and barking like a pair of over excited dogs.   She was glad at that juncture, that her newborn was safely within her mother’s arms.

 

“Hey kids,” she greeted as she stooped down into a crouch.   She closed her eyes and took their licks on her cheeks with as little wincing as possible.  “I missed you too.”

 

“Are you sure they’re safe to have around the baby?” Jackie asked cautiously, holding the precious little bundle up higher than was comfortable.

 

“Perfectly safe,” Romana assured her calmly.  “Whilst considered an extremely dangerous species, the Dahrama are very pack orientated and will protect each member with its own life.” 

 

“Are you suggestin’ that my daughter and grandbaby are members of a pack?” Jackie barked incredulously.  She looked to the animals.  “Their pack?”

 

“I’m not suggesting it, Jackie,” Romana answered with a shrug.  “It’s a fact.”

 

“I’m not so much thinkin; that’s a good…”

 

“Oh Mum,” Rose interrupted with a sigh.  She was still in a crouch, and her wolves were still excitedly jumping around her.  They’d calmed considerably, but were still excited.   “I’m happy to be considered part of their pack.”  Her head suddenly shot upward as the whine and wheeze of the TARDIS sounded out from inside the house.  His name flew her lips with relief, and she didn’t spare a second thought before jumping to her feet and running to the door.

 

“Oh well,” Jackie said with a friendly huff to the newborn in her arms.  “Looks like your daddy’s home, little bean.  But if he’s thinkin’ for a second he’s going to take you away from me, then he’s got another thing coming.  Hasn’t he?  Oh yes, he does – because you’re all mine, darling..”

 

Romana gave Jackie a small dip of the head in a short bow of goodbye.  “If the Lords Doctor is home, then I should best leave myself.”

 

“You really don’t have to,” Jackie assured her.

 

Braxiatel slid his arms across his wife’s shoulder and yawned into his fist.  “We really best be off.  Tell Thete and Rose that we’ll stop by in a day or so to check in on them.”

 

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

Rose was almost full run as she burst through the front door of the home.   For once, she was thankful to have a house that was sentient like the TARDIS.  She didn’t’ have to fiddle around looking for her keys, that door flew open as though by mental command.    She didn’t even kick her shoes off at the door, such was her hurry.   She ran, in runners made by skilled artisans in the market, along the wooden floor that did not slip or skid when she tried to stop.  Instead those soles took hold, propelling her forward into a fall against the still-materialising Blue Police box.

 

Fortunately for her shoulder, which looked to where she would take the greatest hit, the door opened quickly.  Her fall was caught by a pair of strong – and surprisingly naked – arms.

 

“Steady now,” he said with a chuckle.  “I take it you missed me?”

 

She let herself fall heavily into those rms of his.  “Always there to catch me, aren’t you?”

 

“Like I promised,” he vowed with a whisper before he pressed his lips lightly to hers in greeting.  The light kiss quickly turned more passionate.  He shifted the angle of his head to deepen their connection and pulled her up against his chest, lifting her feet from the floor so that the tips of her shoes dragged across the wood as he walked them away from his TARDIS.

 

“Oi, you two,” Jackie called out with humour masked as anger.  “That’s about enough of that behaviour, thank you.”

 

Rose pulled from him before he felt any kind of need to separate from her.  She pulled her head back, and dodged his seeking lips with a press of her hand against his chest.  “Sorry, Mum.”

 

He moaned when she pulled out of his arms and slouched slightly.   “I was just saying hello.”

 

Jackie looked him up and down, her brow lifted at the sight of him in only a light T-shirt and his boxers.   “Just saying hello indeed,” she huffed with a point at his lower half.  “You’re already half undressed and all.”   She held up her hand before he could make a comment.  “Oh, don’t start tryin’ to defend yourself.  I was your age once,” she quipped.  “And a newlywed.  I know how it is when you’ve been apart for a bit – all eager to get back in the sack and make up for lost time.”

 

“Mum!”

 

“Well let me tell you one thing, Mister,” she continued with a point of her finger at him.  “She’s off limits for the next lil’ while.  You hear me?  None of your alien sex games for at least the next six weeks.”

 

Rose moaned into her hand.  “Mum, Please…”

 

“Don’t’ you mum please me, madam.”  She looked back to the Doctor, shifting her eyes down low and very slowly raking them back up to his eyes, which were looking upon her very tiredly.  “She’s had some rather nasty stretching and controtin’ happenin’ down there, and it’s gonna take some time for her to heal up.”  She lifted her nose.  “I don’t care what you’re packing in your trousers, Doctor, and how big it is or isn’t.  With all she’s gone through – a watermelon out of a hole the size of a cherry – well, right now you probably wouldn’t even touch the sides, that’s how much it’s been stretched out.”

 

As disgusted and embarrassed as she was, Rose couldn’t help but expel a laugh at that.   When she did, it was with a spit and a howl.   “Jesus, Mum,” she howled out.  “Was that necessary?”

 

“I’m just lettin’ him know, love,” she assured her daughter with a loving smile.  “Nothin’s gonna feel right over the next bit, and I want to make sure himself realises that.”

 

“I vow to you,” the Doctor said with a well shielded smile.  “That there will ne no form of …” he chuckled.  “Alien sex games occurring between now and the moment that Rose is able to resume marital relations.”  He leaned in to speak to her as much as to look upon his child who slept in her arms.  “And just so we are clear, Jackie Tyler:  Here on Gallifrey, you’re the alien.  Not me.”

 

“You’ve also never been his age before,” Rose added.  She slid her arms around the Doctor’s torso, purring when his arm moved across her shoulder to hold her close.  “Isn’t he beautiful?”

 

“Perfect,” he replied breathlessly.  “Just like his mother.”

 

The little one opened his eyes.  Blinked at his father, hiccupped, and then opened his mouth and let out a shrill squeal.

 

“Uh-oh,” Jackie warned.  “Looks like the little bean is hungry again.”   She handed the child off to Rose, who was already loosening her blouse.  “And it looks like you’re more than ready to feed.”

 

Rose moaned.  “Yeah, been ready for a while now.”   She took her baby into her arms and leaned up to kiss her husband on the side of his mouth.  “Give us a moment, Doctor.  I want to hear all about your trip, but…”  She tipped her head to the wailing infant.

 

“He needs to be fed,” the Doctor agreed.  “He’s more important.  We can talk later,”

 

Jackie, now with hands free and no clue what to do with them, folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot on the ground.  “Then how about, while she’s still busy lookin’ after your baby, you and I have a little chat?”

 

He rubbed at the back of his neck.  “If it has anything further to do with what your daughter and I prefer to remain private between just the two of us, then I’m really not quite in the mood for it right now.”

 

She shook her head.  “No, you plum.  I trust you to do what’s right with her.”   She looked to the doorway, and then back to him.  “He’s a hungry lil one, and so she’ll be a while.  I’ll go make us some tea.  How about you put some clothes on, and meet me in the back.”

 

“Really, Jackie…”

 


“That’s not a request,” she growled.  “You get dressed and meet me out back.”

 

“Yes, Mum,” he drawled facetiously.

 

“That’s right,” she snapped back.  “I am your mum now.”  She threw her head back with a laugh.  “Oh, I wish I knew about this with big ears and leather….”

 

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

He took his sweet time getting dressed.  If not just for being tired, it was to try and settle this heavy pit inside his stomach.   It was a feeling of foreboding and dread like he’d never felt inside before.

 

Was that what having to face a discussion with his mother in law could do to him?

 

He’d heard legends on Earth about it.  About the dreaded mother in law.  Often described as the single most fearsome being in the universe, and dangerous to boot.

 

But, he was the Doctor: the Oncoming Storm.   He could certainly deal with a tiny human woman.

 

He puffed up his chest and made a purposeful stride toward the back entrance of his home.  He made sure to detour to where his wife nursed their hungry son, and dropped a kiss against her mouth.  “My hearts beat for you,” he whispered with fierce honestly.

 

“I love you too,” she sang back at his stoic and stiff retreating form.  “Don’t be scared of her, Doctor.”

 

“I’m not.”

 

He passed through the door, onto a wood deck, and dropped down onto a comfortable cushioned seat across from Jackie.    The Blonde firecracker lifted her eyes to him as she slid across a mug filled with tea.  “I won’t often say this to you, Doctor.  But don’t listen to her.”

 

“What do you mean.”

 

“I mean that you should be very scared of me right now.”

 

He blinked at her with disbelief, and with a certain measure of arrogance.  He lifted the mug to his lips at kissed at the edge of it.  “I don’t fear a Dalek.  Tell me what makes you more frightening than them.”

 

She didn’t look up at him, instead she made a show of looking down at her mug as she fixed her own mug of tea.  “I don’t much know what a Dalek is,” she began.  “So I can’t begin to comment on that.”  Her eyes lifted.  “But I will tell you this:  You hurt one hair on her head, Doctor.  You make her cry a single tear because you’re bein’ a git.  You break her heart … and I don’t care what planet you’re on, I will find you, and I will neuter you in ways you’d never imagine.”  

 

“I see,” he answered with a clearing of his throat after a light choke on his tea.  “I’ve no doubt that…”

 

“Liquid Nitrogen and an icepick,” she interrupted to clarify.  “While you’re awake and all to watch it break apart piece by piece.  And if you want, I’ll invite one of these Daleks along to watch and take notes.”

 

“threat noted,” he half squeaked out.  He sucked down a large draw from the tea, wincing at the heat of it at the back of his throat.  “And it’s my greatest desire not to let it happen, Jackie.  I assure you of that.”

 

“I’d hope so,” she replied as she leaned back into her chair and took in the surroundings of an alien planet.  “My God, this is beautiful, isn’t it?”

 

He lifted his head to look across the forest that backed onto their back yard.  Tall white barked trees with silver leaves that tinkled with the cool breeze from the mountains off in the distance.  The setting suns cast a wash of colour across the sky that was slowly turning the deep, dark shade of orange that was their night sky.  Already he could see the twinkling lights of stars so many millions of light years away from them.

 

“Indeed,’ he agreed with a long sigh.  “It is.  Very much so.”  He let out a breath.  “And until I saw it through Rose’s eyes, I never appreciated it for what it was.”

 

“She does that,” Jackie noted proudly.  “My baby can see beauty in even the most repulsive of things.  It’s one of the things that’s so special about her.  Like her dad in that regard.  That man, irritating though he could be, he had stars in his eyes…”

 

“Rose doesn’t speak much about him.”

 

Jackie shook her head.  “She was a baby when he died.  Not even past her first birthday, but he loved her, he did.  Besotted from the moment he first saw her.”  She looked down and smiled with a shake in her head.  “Damn fool, first thing he said when he saw her is that for the first time in his life he truly believed in innocence.”

 

He frowned.  “Seems like an awfully strange thing to say.”

 

“Nah,’ she drawled.  “That was ‘im.  Had it rough, he did.  Not an easy upbringin’, and not an easy time of it after he married me.  But he always meant well.”

 

He nodded, but said nothing.

 

“She said you took her back to meet him, once.”  She sighed.  “After you sent her home to me, all cryin’ and lost worried about you.”  Another sigh.  “She was so mad at you, but me, I loved you for it.   Send her home to me because it was too dangerous for her where you were.”  Desperate to get back to you, she was.  Damn near had a fit.   I wasn’t going to help her.  Figured you wouldn’t send he back if it wasn’t a life or death thing.”  She lifted her eyes to the sky.  “But then she told me.   Told me that you took her to her Dad, and that he’d help her go back if he was still around.”

 

There was a pause, and a tear fell from her eye.

 

“And how could I argue it?”

 

“You’re her mother,” he ventured.  “You’re supposed to.”

 

“And he was her dad,” she countered.  “Rose was right.  Pete would’ve helped her, no thought for anything except makin’ her happy.”   She looked to him.  “So I did.  I helped her.  Grabbed a truck and let her rip open that ship of yours.”  She looked down.  “Felt like an eon before she came back.  When she did, it was with a new you … and her ‘eart was broken all over again.”

 

“Regeneration,” he admitted.  “Must’ve been a shock to you.”

 

“Course it was,” she barked.  “My kind don’t do that kind’ve thing.  If they did, maybe Pete’d still be around.”  She set her mug on the table.  “But what I’m getting’ at, Doctor, but tellin’ you this…”  She waited until he looked at her.  “Is that he did the right thing, that Doctor.  He knew where they were right then was hopeless.  He knew that he had to bring my little girl home, and he did.”

 

He nodded.  He knew where this was going.

 

“And I expect you to do the same thing,” she told him firmly.  “The life you and her have, the travellin’.  It’s dangerous, I know it.  I’ve been there and seen it for myself.   I want you to promise me that no matter what, if she and my grandbaby are in danger, you need to send them home to me.”

 

He nodded and relaxed a little in the chair.  He considered her words and found himself agreeing with it 100 percent.   “I can make a promise to you, Jackie, that Rose and I won’t be travelling any time soon.  Not with a new baby, and hopefully with one or two new ones in the near future.  But if there is ever a need to do it, I vow to you that I will do everything in my power to make sure that Rose and our child or children will come home to you.”

 

“You may have to fight her on it, Doctor,’ she warned him.  “My Rose is a right madam when she get’s her head on something.  You need to promise me that no matter what level of tantrum she throws over it, that you won’t cave.”

 

“Then you’ll have to promise not to help send her back,” he challenged her.  “If I send her to you, you can’t send her back to me…  If I can, I’ll come for them.”

 

Her hands shook slightly as she lifted her mug to her mouth to take a sip of her tea.  “I might come across as somethin’ fierce,” she said softly.  “Like I don’t give a sod, and nothing’ll hurt me.  Not much can, I’ll be honest with you on that…”

 

“But she can,” he ventured softly.  “If nothing else, she can.”

 

Jackie nodded.  “I’ve already had to face it.”  Tears fell from her eyes.  “I’ve already had to hear you tell me that my baby is gone, and Doctor, it damn near killed me.”  Her mug was set back onto the table, and she flattened her palm on the cool wood as though seeking stability from it.  “Right before you send that boy to come for me.  Your pin-striped self came ‘round.  He told me he’d lost my baby, and she was never comin’ back.”

 

“Rassilon,” he breathed apologetically. “I’m so sorry.”

 

“A mother shouldn’t outlive her child,” Jackie continued.  “We’re supposed to watch ‘em grow, marry, and have lil’ones of their own.”  Her eyed, sodden and red, shifted to his.  “And he told me that I’d never have that chance.  I’d never get to see my baby have a baby and be really, truly happy.”   She sniffed wetly.  “I thought I’d failed as a mum, that I failed her.”

 

“No, no,” he pleaded.  He shifted his hand to cover hers.  “You haven’t failed anyone – least of all Rose.”

 

She didn’t shake off his hand.  She just shook her head and looked down at the tabletop.  “I’ve not been the best mum,” she admitted sadly.  “Couldn’t give her all that she wanted.”

 

“You gave her what was important, though,” he offered.  He leaned across the table and tenderly hooked her hair over her ear.  “You gave her the fiercest kind of love that very few of us in the universe get to have.  She is who she is because of you, she loves like she does because she was shown how to … by you.”

 

She chuckled.  “My, but you are a smooth one,” she said softly.  “I can see why she fell for you.  All good looks and tender words.”

 

“And I love her just as much,” he promised her. 

 

“I know you do,” she said with a smile.  “Old leather and big ears you did too,   Worshipped the ground she walked on, he did.  Ready to risk the whole planet just to protect her.  Died for her too, I heard.”

 

“The most honourable of deaths,” he said with a smile.  “And I’d willingly do it again.”

 

“Easy to say when you have lives to give,” she said with a shrug.  “Thing is, she don’t have extra lives at her disposal, but you bet if it was you or her, and she had the choice – she’d put it on the line for you, as well.”   She huffed.  “And that scares me.”

 

“I’ll never let that happen.”

 

“We don’t always have the choice,” she argued.  “Crunch comes, and it all depends on who’s the one gettin’ to make the choice.”   Her breath shook.  “Don’t let her die for you, Doctor.   Call me selfish if you want…”

 

“I won’t,” he vowed.  “That’s the one and only choice I will ever take from her, Jackie.  I promise you.”  He looked down into his lap.  “Call me selfish as well, but I know that there is no way I could possibly imagine carrying on in a universe where I don’t have her at my side.”

 

“Yet one day you will,” she said with a sigh. She hooked her hair behind her ear.  ‘You didn’t know her before Leather and ears,” she remarked.  “Sure, you met her then and fell in love with her.  But you lost her before that, and now pinstriped you, well he doesn’t have her, either.”    Her brow pinched in the centre.  “How the Hell does that even work.  For God’s sake bein’ you must be confusin’.”

 

He chuckled.  “Surprisingly, no.”

 

“For you and your kind, maybe not,” she huffed.  “But for boring old human me, it’s absolutely out there.”  Her amusement shifted back to worry.  “But anyway, as I was sayin’.  The you that had to tell me that my baby was gone – he doesn’t have my Rose anymore.  And as far as I know he’s carryin’ on livin’.”

 

He shook his head.  “Surviving, perhaps,” he said softly.  “Living a life day to day without the one he loves, I can’t say that’s living.”  He looked to her.  “Could you see it in him?” he asked.  “That he loved her?”

 

“Head over arse,” she told him.  “Never seen a man broken like that before, hope never to see it again if I’m bein’ honest.”

 

“Good to know,” he breathed out quietly.

 

“What, that you end up alone with a broken heart?”  She shook her head at the notion.  “You are one vry strange man, Doctor.”

 

“No,” he corrected softly.  “Not at all.  Quite frankly, the thought of ending up that way absolutely terrifies me.   My hearts break to think about it.”

 

“Then why’s it a good thing?”

 

“Because if I ever need to,” he told her sadly.  “At least I know I have someone willing to be there for her, and love her as I do.”

 

Jackie huffed.  “Yeah.  Easy for you, maybe.  But Rose, well.  She might have different ideas on that.”  She leaned an elbow on the table.  “She spends her life with you – this you – Doctor.  What makes you think it’ll be easy for her to move on with another you?”

 

“Because she loved that me before she loved this me.”  To him it sounded perfectly simple.  “And because he is me.”

 

“And from what she told me when we both started cryin’ after I tore her several shreds for her bein’ here and waitin’ so long to reach out to me.  He hurt her.”

 

He nodded.  “I know.”

 

“And none of this is as easy as you be thinkin’ it is.”  She leaned back in her seat and kicked her legs out in a stretch, crossing her legs at the ankle.  “She may look tough, but my Rose is a tender heart.  Yeah, she’s loved three of you now, and I reckon she’ll love any more of you that come along.”  She looked at him.  “But he broke her heart, and he broke it good.”

 

“Whether or not she accepts his love,” he affirmed.  “If it comes to it, and I ever have to send her back to Earth for whatever reason.  Then let me promise you this:  He will be there for her no matter what.”

 

“Yeah, well make sure he knows that a winning lotto ticket aint conna cover off his responsibility,” she warned him.  “He’s gotto do more than that -and she’s gonna need it.   Alien baby and all that.  He won’t do any good at an Earth hospital with two hearts and whatever else you gave him.”

 

“Let’s just hope it won’t come to that, Jackie.”  He swallowed thickly.  “I want her to be with me for the rest of her life – which, if she stays here with me on Gallifrey, will be as close to forever as I can hope for.”

 

“I’m not going to pretend to know what you’re on about,” she said with a shrug.  “But promise me that you’ll drop round from time to time.   Let me see my baby and her babies grow up.”

 

“I promise you,” he said with a smile of teasing.  “Mum…”

 

She couldn’t help but smile at that as she leaned back in her chair and looked into the dark orange night sky.  “Madam should be done shortly with the little bean.   Then maybe, you can properly meet your son and tell us about the adventure that too you away from him.”

 

“My Adventure,” he breathed out with a crease in his brow.  “Yeah.  I seem to have misplaced my memories on that one.”

 

He gave him a dark look of challenge.  “Yeah, well bein’ that you came home wearing only your underthings, I think it’s in your best interests to remember, don’t you?”

Chapter Text

~~oooOOOooo~~

 

 

Hide and seek combined with a game of tag with a four year old boy was a fun game to play.   Adding a pair of excitable wolves to the game made it even more interesting…

 

…Of course, that’s if you had only been playing the game for a few minutes.  Right now, Rose was on hour three, and she was thoroughly beat and ready to take a nap.  Three times she’d tried to step back and let little Mark play his game with the two wolves, and each time her darling and precocious little lad whined and begged her to keep playing.   Even the suggestion to eat and drink hadn’t worked to settle the youngster down.

 

She finally let out a sign and flopped onto a chair, more off it than on it as she slid down as far as her back.   She waved her hand at her son when he stopped running only long enough to ask if they could keep playing.   “Go ahead,” she managed through a dry mouth and panting breath.  “Mummy just needs a rest, okay?  Just a minute.”

 

He jogged over to her and grabbed her hand. He pulled on it incessantly with a whine.  “Mamma, please play with me.”

 

Ordinarily those gorgeous big green eyes of his would melt her into a little puddle and she would immediately acquiesce to whatever his two little hearts desired.  But right now, she just couldn’t keep going.

 

“Baby, I can’t,” she answered pitifully.  “Mummy’s really tired and needs to right now.  Can you wait for Daddy?  He should be home in only a couple of hours.”

 

“Papa’s so far away,” he wailed, still tugging on her hand.  “And I want to play now.  Please?   I’m so bored.”  

 

That last word was moaned, groaned, and sang on a long and lilting note.  Rose did all she could do to rise up to a stand.  Her legs were shaking and her heart pounding.  Where did this kid get all this energy?

 

…She’d blame his father.  Absolutely blame him.

 

“How about a snack instead?” she asked him gently.  “Little Time Lords need to eat to become big and strong like their daddies.”

 

He walked up against her legs and looked up at her with squinted and analytical eyes.  “And then I can fly the TARDIS like him, too.  Right?”   He pulled away from her and held out his arms like he was an airplane.  “And travel around the Universe through time and space!”   He ran around making plane noises.

 

“Yeah,” Rose drawled on long and thankful sing-song note.  “Once you’ve gone to the academy and gotten your license to fly, maybe Daddy will get you your very own TARDIS,”

 

He stopped running on the spot.  His arms snapped down to his hips and he tilted his head at her.  “But I want our TARDIS,” he told her in a voice that commanded no argument at all. 

 

“Well, I don’t know about that, Mark.”

 

“Daddy said I could have her,” he answered with a smirk.  “Says he’s domes … domest… ehm..”

 

“Domesticated,” Rose offered. 

 

“Yes!” he cheered.  “That’s it.  Domesticated.   So he says now that he’s – dom-esti-ca-ted – and isn’t going to flit around the universe anymore.”

 

“Yeah,” she said with a laugh.  “I’ll believe that when I see it…  I give him another five years – and you starting at the academy - before he gets itchy feet and wants to head out again.”

 

Mark looked confused.  “Why would his feet itch?”

 

Rose merely shrugged her shoulders and shook her head.  “Baby, I don’t know.  It’s just a saying.”

 

“Strange saying,” he muttered with a shrug.  His eyes then lit up and he ran past her into the house.  “Let’s play in the TARDIS!”

 

Rose’s eyes shot open wide.  She spun and quickly ran in behind him.  “No, Mark.  Daddy said you aren’t to play in the TARDIS.”

 

He grinned as he spun in his run and gave her a cheeky wink.  “He won’t know!”

 

“Oh yes he will,” she muttered, knowing that the Doctor was very particular about the TARDIS and how close their son got to her.   Usually, she was confident that the beautiful blue ship was always kept locked and safe from time tot hands, but the Doctor had been pottering around in her before he left for work this morning, and was in a hurry when he left …

 

She rounded the corner to see her small boy, wearing a short-sleeved crimson tunic and shorts set, disappearing around the open door of the ship.

 

“Damn it, Doctor,” she growled as she bolted in after him, followed closely by the female Dahrama.  Her mate was in the living room gnawing at an itch on his front paw.

 

“Mark, don’t you touch anything!”

 

His eyes were wide and falsely innocent as he looked at her from around the main console.  “What?”

 

“Oh don’t you what me young man,” she chided him firmly.  “Now come back here.  Don’t touch anything, or I’ll tell your father you were being naughty today.”  She gave him a stern point of her finger.  “I mean it, Mark.   Daddy won’t be happy to know you were playing about in here.”

 

With a look of challenge in his eye, young Mark stared at his mother as he slapped his palm on a few of the buttons on the panel in front of him.  He said nothing to her at all as he continued to stare at her as he slapped and poked a few more, this time with both hands.

 

“Mark,” she warned darkly.  “Look.  I know you’re bored, and I’m sorry.  But I tell you what.  How about you and me take a walk to the Cascades?  We can go swimming if you like?  I can make us some sandwiches, pack some drinks?”

 

Well that seemed to interest him.  With a beaming smile, he turned to run around the console toward her.  “Yes!  And I can ride down that new slide that papa made!”  He let out a little oop as his foot caught on a stray cable and he stumbled.

 

“You can indeed,” Rose began only a moment before she let out her own style of oop when she saw her son fall.  Immediately she rounded the console to pick him up, but was thrown backward as the TARDIS whined to life and the whole room shifted.  “What the…?”

 

Mark was on the floor, his leg kicked up into a lever.  There was horror in his eyes as he looked toward hit mother.  ‘Mamma?   I didn’t mean it.  I’m sorry.  It was an accident.”

 

“Oh Hell!” she yelped out as the door behind her slammed shut.  The column in the centre of the room lit up and started to shift in a slow rise and fall timed perfectly with the whine and wheeze of dematerialisation – a sound that Rose knew far too well for her to mistaken.  “Oh no.  No no no no no.”

 

Quickly she jumped to her feet to face the console over the top of Mark’s head.  She flipped levers, turned dials, slapped buttons, but nothing seemed to shut down the movement of the rotor column in the centre of the room.  At the doors of the ship, her female wolf pawed desperately at the doors, her long craws scraping loudly against the wood.

 

Phone!    Rose could call the Doctor, tell them something had gone a little bit awry, and could he please teach her how to operate his TARDIS so she could come home?   He wouldn’t be that mad at her, would he?

 

His fault for leaving the ship unlocked!

 

She petted her hips, against the only two pockets that this outfit had.   There was no hard bump of a phone in either of them.   The phone was charging on the kitchen counter.  She braced her hands on the console edge and lowered her head as she considered just what she could do from here.  She had zero knowledge in how to operate the TARDIS.  She couldn’t pilot it, she couldn’t set it to return, she couldn’t even work out how to light up the comms line.

 

“Mamma,” her son’s voice – so tiny and scared – called from below.  “Mamma, I’m so sorry.”

 

“It’s okay, baby,” she assured him with a soft voice. 

 

‘When I said I wanted to go on a trip, I was only joking,” he said with a croaking voice.  “And now I got us lost, didn’t I?”

 

“We’ll be okay.”  She set her hand on his mussy, sweated flop of brown-haired head, and looked up tot eh column.  “Help me out, Old Girl,” she begged the TARDIS.  “Land us somewhere safe until he can find us.  Please.”

 

The command deck swooped to one side as though the ship suddenly changed course, and in a quick moment the wheeze and howling ebbed off, to leave only the hum of her emergency systems to break the silence in the room.

 

Rose breathed out a small sigh of relief that they were on the ground.  She had no idea where, and whether or not leaving the TARDIS would be a safe endeavour, but at least they were on the ground and not stuck in the vortex where the Doctor would have no way of getting to them.

 

Her son still whimpered at her feet.  Mark hugged at her leg and sobbed out his terrified apologies and for her to please not tell his father about this.

 

“Don’t know why you’re so scared of him,’ she murmured as she tried flicking up a few random levers to see if she could get something to work in her favour.  “All you need to do is give a little whimper at him, and he’ll run out to buy you a present.”  She looked down to him, trying to shield her fear with admonishment.  “Spoiled little thing you are.”   

 

There was whimpering and whining coming from the door as well as from her ankles.  “And you too?”  she moaned out pitifully.  “Come on.  You’re a Dahrama!  You’re a strong proud woman!  Suck it up …”  She winced and actually laughed as she shook her head.  “And wait for the boys to come save us.   Oh, how utterly pathetic.”

 

The wolf gave her a little humph, whether or not in agreement to her words, she really didn’t know.  But she took it as such and rubbed her hands on her skirt.   She stooped down to pick up her frightened child, and sat him on her hip.  She held him tightly and expressed words of comfort in Gallifreyan – the primary language that she and the Doctor were teaching him over English.   He seemed to settle and simply snuffled wetly against her throat.

 

“It’s okay, Mark,” she soothed gently, not wanting to upset the lad any further.  “Things like this happen when adult Time Lords forget to lock up their playthings from curious little Time Tot hands.”  She walked to the door, and to her wolf who was still pawing desperately at the door.  “Daddy will be here shortly to take us home.  Don’t you worry about that.”

 

She stopped at the door and scratched the wolf behind the ears.  “And your mate will be right there with him, Darling.”

 

Beyond the door she could hear loud sounds of whooping of children on the other side.  A longer listen assured her that they were sounds of thrill and excitement over cries of fear, and so she twisted the tumbler to unlock the door and held her breath.  She looked down to her son, who was how wiping at his eyes and nose with his wrists.  “What do you think?  Should we wait here for Daddy, or should be take a peek outside?”

 

“Is it safe?” he asked worriedly.

 

“Well that’s the question of the day, isn’t it?” she answered with a sigh and a look to the door.  “But I trust the TARDIS not to have landed us anywhere too nasty.”  She juggled his lithe little body at her hip.  “So what do you say; want to step outside for a minute?”

 

His tears dried quickly and a sense of excitement came over him.  “Really?”

 

“Yeah,” she sang out, successfully hiding any of the apprehension she felt – which was a lot.  “Why not?  Let’s explore just a little bit while we wait for Daddy.”  She blew out a breath and pulled open the door.  “Because only Rassilon knows how long that’ll be.”

 

She did expect for the door to open and the three of them be greeted with a wide open field of sorts.  That wasn’t the case, however.  It looked to Rose as though they had materialised inside an aluminum shed.  Granted, it wasn’t a small shed, more like a large storage room for a high school metal workshop.  It was dirty, dusty, and incredibly warm.  Almost immediately she felt sweat on her brow.  Her hip upon which her son still sat was almost unbearably hot.   With a coo and a demand for him to stay close, she set his feet on the ground and held on to his little hand, which was fortunately cool like his father’s.

 

“At least you won’t roast to death,” she murmured as she took a look around them and fanned her face with her free hand.  “And at least the TARDIS looks like she’ll be safe from discovery in here.”

 

It was quite dark in the shed, with the only lighting being from the sun outside shining through the gaps between the doors and the roof structure.  It allowed her enough to determine what they were in, and enough to know that although small, there was plenty of room to move around.

 

A look to the left and she saw some old rusted-looking tool cabinets and a worn-out bench.  It was covered in dust and cobwebs, which meant it hadn’t been used for a long while.  Quite likely, neither had this room itself.  Not if the thick webbing in the corners of the shed, and across the abandoned equipment were any indication. 

 

Her son let out a stunned gasp of complete surprise, which had her drop her eyes to his little face half hidden in the shadow.  “What is it?”

 

He pointed toward her right, and to a tall blue cabinet in the corner.  “Mum.  It’s another TARDIS.”

 

Her head twisted to look to her right, and she let out a gasp.  “Oh no,” she whimpered to herself.  “This.  This is not good at all.”    She flicked her eyes to the TARDIS she’d arrived in.  “This was your idea of sending us somewhere safe?”   She tilted her head to one side, her eyes wide.  “Well.  I suppose it should be safe … although if the Doctor’s here, so is some form of mortal danger.”

 

The only question now in her mind was just which one of the Doctors was here?    One she knew already, one who knew her in the past, or one who never knew her at all.

 

Oh this was going to give her a headache.

 

“Whichever one you are,” she breathed out finally.  “I hope you can tell us hot to get home.  Hopefully before my Doctor finds out we’re even gone to begin with.”  She looked down to her son, who looked up at her with amused eyes.  “Yeah, baby.  I can be afraid of upsettin’ him too.”

 

Not that he was anything to fear, of course.  But he was really awfully good at the silent treatment when he got mad at her because of an argument … and she hated the silent treatment.  She’d especially hate being on the receiving end of it because of a mistake he’d made….

 

…Maybe she should give him the silent treatment instead.

 

Better yet: maybe she should stop blaming him for the mess she was in right now.

 

A loud whoop and cheer from outside had her lift her head out of her thoughts, and Rose Tyler tightened the hold she had on her son’s hand.  With gentle coaxing and a forward stride, she led the two of them to the door, their protective wolf standing guard at her side.

 

She pressed her palm to the door, immediately drawing it away with a hiss at the heat of it.  She shook it in the air to cool it wondering just what kind of landscape they were about to talk into.  Nothing on Earth could possibly be that hot, so surely they hadn’t materialised there…

 

Wherever they were, it was time to search out whichever version of her husband was on the other side of the door.  So without further concern for anything other than finding him, she covered her hand in her long bell sleeve, pushed open the door, and then froze.

 

It was an almost audible whoomph of heat that assaulted her on the other side.  However hot she found it inside the shed, it was fairly mild to the heat outside.  Fr a moment she wondered if she had singed off her eyebrows, lashes, and any other bit of hair on her face or head.    She spared a quick and concerned glance down at her boy, who actually grinned into the heat with his eyes tightly closed and shook her head.

 

“Just like your father,” she breathed out with amusement.  “No matter how hot or how cold, you just grin and bear it.”

 

He chuckled a happy sound from the back of his throat, and then started to tug on his mother’s hand.  “Come on, let’s explore!”

 

“Not scared anymore, then?” she asked as the two of them stepped into incredible sunlight and a heat unlike any she’d ever experienced before.   Gallifrey was hot even on a cool day, but never with heat quite as scorching as this.   She wiped at her brow and then flicked the length of her long deep blue skirt as though it might kick start some magical mystical kind od air-conditioning serve for her.

 

No such luck, unfortunately.

 

She seemed to be correct in her assumption that they’d landed at a school.  Although this was unlike any that she’d attended back in London.  This one was actually quite small.   She could see three long two-storeyed buildings, set in a U-shape, with all doors facing a smaller building at the centre.   There were no corridors, just balconies overlooking grasses that were in desperate need of a good watering.  There were a few tall ghost-like smooth barked trees with very little foliage to give off any real shade.  In fact, taking a look around, she couldn’t see too many areas where there was any real shade to be offered.

 

She assumed that students must stay inside, given the stifling heat.  It only had to be mid-morning, but it felt like they were in the very hottest part of any day.

 

“Ooh,’ her son sang out with a giggle and a kick of his feet along rocky dirt.  “Ground’s red, like home.”

 

She looked down, and then looked up and around.  Sure enough, the landscape certainly had a lot of red in it.  Not from the grasses, like on Gallifrey, but red like the deserts near Arcadia.

 

“So it is, Mark.  Great observation!”

 

“Did we just move to another part of Gallifrey?”   There was actually annoyance in his voice at that.  “I hope not, because that wouldn’t exactly be worth makin’ papa mad.”

 

“It’s be more likely to make him laugh than mad,’ Rose offered with a shrug.

 

There was a whoop and a cheer, and a trio of young teens shot by them.  All three of them were dressed in an inordinate amount of red:  Shirts, hats, socks, ribbons, and even streamers fashioned into a pair of pony-tails.    Another youngster pushed by, this one wearing the same level of colouring, but this time in blue.   She spun in her run to yell out an  apology.

 

“’Scuse me, Miss.  Sorry!”   She turned to another friend, also dressed in blue.  “C’mon, Shaz.  Mr. Smith is in the hundred goin’ against Mr. Horn.”

 

“Ahhh, Horny will kick his arse,” Shaz hollered out. 

 

“Loser’s gotto wear a bloody dress on Monday!  My bet’s on Smith!”

 

They squealed and took off, no doubt to wherever this hundred thing was.  

 

Rose’s eyes were wide.   Well.   With that rather specific and easily recognisable accent, she had now officially worked out just where the TARDIS had landed them.   Australia.  How she didn’t immediately determine that just from the blistering heat, she didn’t know.   OF course just where in Australia remained to be determined… and just what time period…

 

Following the cheers, Rose, Mark, and the wolf walked along a worn red path toward a rickety looking cyclone fence.   The gate was open, and they stepped through, down onto a bitumen road, and toward what appeared to be a large sporting field big enough for a decent game of cricket.    It was filled with more teenagers than Rose ever hoped to see in one place ever again since she left high school.  All of them were attired in one of four colours:  Yellow, blue, green, and red, and all of them seemed to be cheering for anyone else that happened to be wearing the same colour.

 

They walked further down toward the field, crossing into a small outside stadium seating area, where a group of what appeared to be parents had set up drink and food tables.

 

Rose lifted her eyes and head with realisation.  School sports carnival.  Athletics, by the looks of the tracks painted onto the grass and the various other activities happening in the middle of the field. 

 

The took a look toward the very edge of the field, where there seemed to be the most excitement from the teens right now.  Blue, red, green and gold were all mixed, but the two men they were cheering on obviously represented very specific colours.

 

One man, tall and muscular and quite attractiv