Actions

Work Header

After Life

Chapter Text

She is burning. She is time, and space, and the stars themselves. She is her past and her future and her present is and always was going to be this. She is a goddess and a mortal and everything at once, and the universe spins around her making perfect sense. She is everything and nothing all at once, and the fabric of reality itself is dripping from her fingers like dissolving thread. 

She is the Bad Wolf, and she did, is, and would always create herself. 

Everything is a blur. Her body moves without her being truly conscious of it. She sits among the timelines and weaves them herself. 

A kiss. One that cascades the golden haze in rich deep blue and connects her to the one thing she wishes above all else to never be without. He burns. She sees it now, all of reality. All of him. Countless timelines where they are separated forever, and so few where they meet again. Even fewer where they are allowed to remain as themselves. She grasps for that slim chance and clings to it.

He is beside her, all of him yet none of him, seeing all that is and was and could or could never be. He loves her. She loves him. They surge forward blindly and latch onto the timeline that allows them to be together, forever, their lifespans matching.

He scours his timeline and lifts intangible copies of himself at the moment of death, sending them to protect her. She sends a silent hunter, a soft presence, unknown, to shift his moments of defeat into ones of victory. She can see the Great Intelligence destroying him in future and sends a Wolf to counter its every move in the past. She is the Moment that guides him home at the time where every choice was wrong. They protect each other, wrapping one another in love and healing and desperation, and their timelines twist and shiver as they bleed into one another’s pasts, presents, and futures. 

They connect. They are one. One will still fall, but falling can turn to flight. 

Heat enters in and sears the marrow of her bones, twisting, changing. She is not the human she was born. She is something entirely new.

The voice of her Sister sings in her mind and urges her to mind the time. 

Time.

So little, and yet so much. She rewrites herself to handle it all. To become what she was meant and needed to be. 

He catches her when she collapses, the pain of death stinging his blood and burning his cells as he returns the Vortex to the TARDIS. Already things are slipping away, the future hiding itself from his present. The past cloaked until the proper time. 

He burns. And a new man will walk away.

♾♾♾

Nine came awake with a start, gasping and sitting up in confusion as he hauled himself up from the grating and was confronted with all of his past selves. None of them were paying attention to him, however, and he gasps out breathless air as he turns around and sees the new Doctor. 

All manic energy, flyaway brown hair, soft brown eyes. He’d never had brown eyes before. 

And the babbling. So much babbling. Not himself, still high on post-regenerative energy and delirious from the sheer amount of Huon and Artron that he’d expelled from his system.

Rose

Trying to calm him down, to get him to take a breath. Nine’s chest constricts as soft Gallifreyan issues from her lips and their tenth incarnation abruptly freezes in place. He stares at her in shock, then collapses onto the floor. Rose sighs and grunts as she drags him by the arms down the hall and deposits him onto his bed, rubbing at her temples and slumping against the dresser on the floor to take a breather. When she opens her eyes again it’s to his first incarnation gently telling her she needs to be thoroughly looked over in the infirmary, and Nine doesn’t understand what’s happening at all.

His eighth incarnation lightly grabs him by the shoulder and draws him to the hall as the others follow Rose to the med bay, explaining everything as it was explained to him. 

There’s a lot to cover. 

 

Rose gets scanned, and scanned, and scanned, and just to be thorough she gets scanned twice more. Every single result reads the same, and quite honestly none of them know what to make of it. The truth about his old selves being her protective ghostly guardians rocks their worldview and Rose’s much-changed biology is entirely mystifying. A single heart, thundering nervously as an echo in nine chests, but a respiratory bypass system and what is definitely a Gallifreyan-structured brain. Her aging is all but non-existent and a unique triple helix spins through her veins. Decidedly not Gallifreyan. No. 

Human double strands, with a strand that can only be identified as TARDIS woven throughout. Half-human, half-TARDIS. 

Rose hears her speaking in words, soft and jumbled, all disjointed and out of order in the back of her mind and easy to ignore to focus on what is right in front of her. A set of time senses that put the title of ‘Time Lord’ to shame, and all of it’s instinctual, but like it’s been downloaded into her mind. She just knows how to interpret what she senses, how to use her new mind and bypass. Her telepathic shields are tremendously impressive and she utilizes them like a seasoned pro. 

None of it makes sense, except for her sudden and inexplicable knowledge of TARDIS maintenance and operation. Being half-TARDIS and all. And even that is so mind-boggling that they table that discussion for a later date.

At the present moment, they focus on tending to their newest person as he lies in a healing coma and worry about everything else on the side. 

Sarah calls them back to Earth not two hours after the events of the Game Station, interrupting a hassled conversation with Jack about what happened after he died. He’s a fixed point with a finite but extremely long lifespan, just matching hers and the Doctor’s if her helpful ghosts don’t miss their guess, and he’s also stuck in the 1800s with a burnt-out Vortex Manipulator. Rose reads the text from Sarah and assures him that, as soon as she deals with a Christmas invasion of all things, she’ll be flying out to meet him. 

 

The next day and a half pass in absolute chaos. Mickey and Martha are working flat-out with U.N.I.T. over the 1/3 of the Earth’s population out on the ledge, Sarah is talking ceaselessly with Alistair and a collection of former companions that Mr. Smith had been diligent enough to find, and Jackie wants Rose down at the estate. She flat out refuses, explaining the benefits of being at Bannerman Road with the access to technology - and that Luke and Sky are hoping their adoptive Gran will make the trip out - and Jackie is suddenly on her way using the Tube and carrying a full, half-cooked turkey. 

...What could possibly go wrong...

But then Rose and Sarah are teleported to the Sycorax ship and the Doctors are walking her through sending them on their way, walking her through identifying the control, walking her through a swordfight that she thanks her lucky stars works well with Venusian Aikido. As it is she barely wins, and Sarah is explaining things to Prime Minister Harriet Jones, and by the time they get back to Sarah and Rose’s home Jackie has gotten into proper Drill Sergeant mode and is ordering Luke and Sky about the kitchen. 

The table is set and Mickey and Martha are only just pulling into the drive after leaving U.N.I.T. - things went south with Martha’s family for Christmas that year - when the doors of the TARDIS open in Sarah’s living room and a very disheveled, sleepy, and confused Time Lord stumbles out in his old incarnation’s clothes and blinks.

“It’s... Christmas?” He asks wearily, eyeing the television and seeing the news report about the invasion and the space ship. “What did I miss?”

“Everything and nothing,” Sarah laughs vaguely, exchanging a knowing glance with Rose and an inquisitive tilt of her head is replied to by a subtle point toward the ceiling. The other Doctors are up in the attic reading over the information Mr. Smith had collected on the Sycorax. 

“Come on then Doctor, there’s a place here for you as well,” Rose offers, nodding to the empty spot beside her. He stumbles over to the table and slumps into the seat with a somewhat dazed expression on his face and Rose takes pity on him, loading his plate with what she hopes he’ll like in small portions so he can test his new taste buds out. 

“What um... what do I... what do I... look like?” He asks tentatively. Sarah pauses in placing unwanted vegetables on her daughter’s plate and gives him a sympathetic look.

“Skinny as a bean pole, brown hair, brown eyes,” she offers with a smile. “Whatever else is up to you.” He sighs gratefully and flashes Rose an uncertain look, visibly relaxing when she takes his hand in hers and squeezes. 

“You look like you,” she whispers. He smiles. 

 

She’s programming in Jack’s coordinates and just setting them in flight when the Doctor walks back in in an entirely new outfit, looking much more comfortable in his new skin, and does a double take seeing her at the controls.

“Rose, what, what are you-“

“Jack had a piloting error,” Rose explained as the TARDIS wheezed and belted out the song of eternity over the connection she shared with both her Bonded pilots. “Gonna go fetch him.”

“He’s a fixed point Rose, he can’t- he can’t travel with us anymore,” he said weakly. His gaze never left the movement of her hands over the controls.

“No, and I told him as much, and offered to take him anywhere he’d like where we could visit. He wants to get set up in my home time, where there are people he knows and can help him in a support network. Figured it was the least I could do.” 

“...How do you know how to do all of that?” He finally asked, swallowing. Rose sighed and pointed to the thick folder sitting on the jumpseat filled with her updated medical data. He frowned, picking it up, and skimmed through it with mounting shock and surprise. He didn’t even get to the end before the papers were slipping through his fingers and landing in a mess on the floor. “Rose.”

“It feels like it was meant to happen this way,” she whispered earnestly, allowing herself to be comforted by the whispers of the other Doctors as they unabashedly listened in on the conversation. 

“But why would you do such a thing?” He whispered back, far more hoarsely. 

«Because I love you,» she murmured in Gallifreyan. The Doctor reared back as if he’d been slapped, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. She had only ever uttered those three important words in his native tongue; they were too special to waste in English. 

“Where did you learn to speak that?” It was said with such quiet desperation and longing that Rose was immediately reminded of the first time his eighth self had her her speak it. The pain, the wonder of hearing again what he thought would only ever be understood by himself for the rest of his life. 

«I just do,» she said instead, because she could sense in the timelines that the moment of truth had not yet come. She carefully walked toward him, giving him ample time to bolt, and when he didn’t she laid her head in the center of his chest and hummed one of the old Gallifreyan lullabies she’d grown up with. He let out a choked sob and clutched her tightly to his chest, collapsing them both onto the jumpseat. 

♾♾♾

Life flies after that. They’re in the hospital and Cassandra tries to possess her, only to be forcibly ejected by Rose’s mental barriers, an angry TARDIS wanting to protect her pilot and sister, nine ghosts of the Doctor who are outraged by the very idea, and sheer force of will. The backlash is enough to vault her consciousness straight through four levels and into a cat-nun. Of course, Rose isn’t aware of this until Cassandra possesses the Doctor and all but snogs the life out of her with no warning - an act that his the entirety of his past selves in uproar but in a decidedly positive way (until they figure out the possession bit and then the pendulum swings violently toward negative) - and then they’re rescuing a new species of human and shutting the place down and he’s hiding somewhere deep in the TARDIS out of sheer embarrassment. 

Nine, of all people, is the one that finds him and leads her straight to him. He missed his chance when he was alive, and only now in death can he see how much they truly mean to one another. 

She doesn’t try to approach him, doesn’t try to invade his personal space. She just sits on the other side of the room and talks about what Jack and Sarah have been up to. And he relaxes. 

♾♾♾

They fight a Werewolf and piss of Queen Victoria, getting knighted and banished all in one ceremony, and laugh about the royal family scheduling themselves around the phase of the moon. They land on a spaceship connected to France, and Rose has to travel back in time to pick him up after he left her behind. 

She doesn’t speak to him for two full days before he tentatively asks what he’s done wrong.

And she tells him. Oh, does she tell him. 

She points out that they’re a team, that they’ve always operated as one. She points out that ever since the Cassandra kiss he’s been trying to distance himself. She points out that he had no way of getting back, and that it was lucky she could fly the Old Girl at all. She points out that he left her on a table to get diced into spare parts and came back pretending to be drunk, but clearly smelling of wine and French perfume, so obviously there was a little partying involved if not much. By this time his other selves have slunk out of the room with their tails between their legs, not wanting to get secondary rant thrown their way, and Rose is only all too aware of just how alone the pair of them are.

She points out that he let Reinette into his head and that, if he was so desperate for telepathic companionship, he should have come to her first because the emptiness in her mind is driving her spare. He looks like he’s been punched when she confesses that and she refuses the immediate mental knock against her shields, something which only makes her angrier because she feels as if she’s only a second choice and she flat out tells him so.

It’s at this point, when he’s offered only excuses and no apology to any of the slights thrown against her, that she gets up and leaves. She pilots the TARDIS back to Bannerman Road and stalks up to her room, ignoring his calling after her, and slams the door in his face. 

He can sulk for a while, and neither K-9 nor Sarah are going to be on his side for any of it. Sarah’s been abandoned before, and the dog forgotten. 

♾♾♾

It’s decidedly frosty when she returns to the TARDIS a few days later; the Old Girl had absolutely refused to move anywhere else and Rose had actually gone in to work for the week, making it clear that she could get on just fine without him if he really thought she were so expendable. He’d spent the first day in the ship before realizing that such a thing would get him nowhere, as she clearly had plans to continue on with her daily life. He kips on the sofa each night despite not needing sleep and she almost caves to that, but every time the thought even crosses her mind she’s told to stay strong by literally every younger version of him.

In their eyes, what he’s done is unforgivable despite his being their future self, and if they had their way she’d never forgive him.

Of course, this is by no means an effective or reasonable strategy for their relationship, and on the third day she sits beside him that evening and asks if he’s ready to have a proper conversation about how their actions had consequences. Where their relationship seemed to be heading and what he wanted. He evades even directly answering her inquiry about such a conversation and she leaves. It’s six days later before he knocks on her door under his own volition and says he’s ready to talk. His other selves have enough smarts after the first fight that went down to make themselves scarce before a new one even got started. 

Rose sits on the end of her bed while the Doctor leans uncomfortably against the window sill and they talk. He admits he made a mistake and tells her that she’s not taken for granted. She counters by saying that actions speak louder than words and he promises to show her, if only she’ll come back to the TARDIS. 

He says that he likes her more than platonically - too afraid to commit to the ‘big L’ - and explains that she’ll die one day and leave him alone. She points out in a scarily patient tone that she’s only half human and that they have the potential to be together for a very, very long time if only he’d give it a chance. 

They bring up the subject of France and everything that went wrong and he tentatively brings up the subject of telepathic communion, his mind aching for it in even the slightest and platonic of ways, but her sour expression shows that despite how much it’s hurting her as well she’s not in any sort of mood to let him into her head when she’s lost her trust in him. 

He doesn’t bring it up again and she doesn’t offer.

♾♾♾

They fall through a parallel world on their first trip together after France and things immediately go from worse to terrible. Jackie dies, and Pete rejects Rose’s hopeful hint as to what they could be to one another. Rickey, Mickey’s double, dies. Mrs. Moore dies. So many people, all for one man’s shot at living forever. 

They end up straight back in Sarah’s garden and she doesn’t say a word. In fact, she takes the kids on a story going on in Ireland and they have the house to themselves for a good two weeks. 

The Doctor actually suggests they use that time to work things out, a rare occurrence for him, but he can clearly see that unlike his past companions ignoring the issue and hoping a trip will distract will not work on Rose. She’s strong and independent and not afraid to tell him off. She also seems to have scarily-good knowledge of all his weak spots to get her way and clearly knows more about his past than she lets on, and so it’s with little hesitation that he suggests playing house because he’s hoping that he can find some things out too.

Rose goes to work and he accompanies her, beyond touched when she offers to let him drive Bessie beside the fact that the beloved car had been lovingly looked after for a longer period of time in Rose’s care than in his, and he does the nine to five routine. He gets to know Mickey and Martha and finds that Jack had been selected to run a special black ops team for U.N.I.T. 

He’s simultaneously amazed, as he watches her move with great focus and confidence about a lab that most certainly does not belong to him, at how brilliant and incredible she is whilst feeling ashamed that it never occurred to him to even try to include her in the more scientific aspects of their adventures. He’d only ever seen her in action during the Slitheen incident, and there was only so much that could be done whilst locked in a metal box. 

She laughs every once in a while at nothing in particular, as if listening to something an invisible entity has said and finding it funny. A part of him jealously wishes he could be the reason for her laughing like that, but if anything the first two days serve to show him is that he doesn’t know hardly anything about her. 

He knows that she’s friends with Mickey, that Mickey is married to Martha. That she lives with Sarah and Luke and Sky, that Sarah’s two adopted children are friends with Clyde, Maria, and Rani. He knows that there’s a supercomputer in the attic, and that Rose’s mother lives on the Powell Estates. 

He doesn’t know how she got to where she is, why she and Sarah - or she and Mickey - are friends, how the computer got built, or when Sarah adopted two kids and let the neighbor’s kids investigate aliens with her. He doesn’t know how Rose got into U.N.I.T. or which university she went to for her bachelor’s in physics and her doctorate in astrophysics. 

He knows her favorite food is chips, and how she takes her tea. He doesn’t know until the first evening when he asks that she and her mum learned how to cook together. He doesn’t know her favorite song, and he notices a series of faded and tiny white scars when she wears sleep shorts on the fifth evening that he’s never seen before. She has a bullet scar on her forearm, which he surprises is why he’s only ever seen her in jumpers or with hoodies. 

There’s just so much, and it hurts to realize that the woman he... who he... has never shared her life with him before. 

 

The Doctor starts slow at first, asking tiny questions as they pop into his head in the moment, but in the evenings as a movie that he doesn’t care about in the slightest gets popped in he slowly incorporates some deeper investigation. Rose is forthcoming, at least. She answers every question put to her truthfully and without hesitation for the most part, and he finds that it bothers him that she doesn’t ask any back.

When he asks her why that is, she simply shrugs and replies, ‘there’s nothing to tell me.’ 

If ever he’d needed a clearer indication than anything that she’d resigned herself to a friendship with him and nothing more, that was it, and he felt his hearts break slightly. 

Caught between indecision; to be close to her, and to keep her at arms’ length. She’d obviously gotten tired of the push and pull and had kept herself firmly in the latter of the two categories, and he had no one to blame but himself. 

 

It’s midway through the second week at the house that Rose gets a call from her mother about some bloke named Elton and a washing machine and a photo, and they go and investigate only to find a creature has absorbed all his friends. A species cousin of the Slitheen, really. The Doctor is able to partially bring Ursula, Elton’s friend back, as little more than a face in a paving stone, but the two of them are happy and before he and Rose leave they have the unpleasant honor of seeing Elton kiss the paving stone that had only so recently just been peeled from an alley full of bins. 

“Just goes to show,” he said casually, sticking his hands in his pockets to hide his unease. That, and they felt cold without Rose holding them. 

“What?” She asks, focusing on the pavement in front of them and trying not to trip over an untied shoelace. 

“There’s someone for everyone.”

“...Yeah. I guess.” The tone isn’t at all what he was hoping for and his shoulders slump in defeat. 

They return to the house and order a takeaway, because Rose is clearly upset about something and he can’t summon the energy to cook in his current melancholic mood, and they both pick over it without much interest. 

She goes to bed early and he sits on the patio, staring forlornly up at the stars. If he’s lucky enough to have her travel with him again after this, he needs to take her someplace entirely special.

 

“He’s trying,” Nine murmured as he leaned against the dresser and pointedly stared out the window. Rose’s voice filtered in from the en-suite along with shower steam. 

“But he’s not ready yet, Doctor,” she pointed out. “And I’m tired of letting myself get close only for him to push me away again.

“I wasn’t ready either, but you didn’t seem to care then,” he huffed. The entire conversation was making him uncomfortable.

“The difference is that you never played hot and cold,” came the reply. It was at once chiding yet charitable and he relaxed in the tone. “You made it obvious you weren’t ready. You didn’t pretend you were and then scramble for distance. And I made my position clear too, and we both respected that, and got on with our lives.”

“And now?” The water turned off, and a few minutes later Rose emerged in a pair of pajamas and a towel turban. He turned to face her as she brushed her hair on the end of her bed. 

“Now... Now I just want something stable,” she sighed. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I love the traveling, and I love the being at home, and I honestly have no preference one over the other, but... when I can’t depend on my flatmate’s mood at any given time, moving from spot to spot gets old real quick.” 

“You’ve got a few days left to sort yourself out,” he sighed dejectedly, shoulders slumping. Rose was at his side a few moments later, practiced feather-light fingers angling his chin so that he was looking at her. She lightly kissed him on the lips and then rested her head against his own, careful to maintain a balance. 

“I won’t leave, Doctor, no matter what,” she promised. «I love you.» she reached up and gently caressed his cheek. “My heart’s just a little bit bruised right now.”

“We can tell,” Nine muttered dryly, rubbing at his sore chest and wincing. Her eyes went wide in surprise and she winced. 

“Sorry.” 

“It’s part of the reason we’re so angry with him right now,” he admitted. “Hard to feel sympathetic towards yourself when the woman you love is in pain and you can feel every part of it.” There was a long pause and when next he spoke he was pointing at his temple. “Consider letting him in up here, Rose.”

“We’re not at a good place for that yet,” she said immediately. Incredibly patient eyes leveled on her.

“My species is telepathic, Rose,” he reminded her gently. “As far as our relationship has gone... usually some sort of low-level empathic bond is formed so that couples can communicate their feelings towards one another without any confusion. I can’t read external shows of emotion well, Rose. I never could. My species doesn’t do things that way. You want him to understand you in the human way, and he’s not built for that.” Nine sauntered toward the door and smiled at her before he left. “Just think about it.”

Of course, Jack sent them to investigate a haunted house throwing out strange temporal readings the very next morning and they got sent back to March of 1973 from Weeping Angels. 

♾♾♾

“I’m finding it just a touch ironic, the spot you’ve landed yourself in, old chap,” the Third Doctor said with a barely-contained grin as the Doctor glared at him over the science table. 

“Is it always like this?” Jo asked conspiratorially, making Rose smirk. “Chaotic?”

“Well, today’s a Tuesday, yeah? So... pretty much.” She tapped at the monstrosity of tubes and vials on the station and leaned forward with interest. “What exactly is all this for?”

“Rose, I’m going to go and investigate that house for any other anomalies,” the Doctor said, cutting off Jo’s response as he pulled in his coat. His hand was already holding hers as he paused at the door.

“That’s nice Doctor,” Rose said absently, waving him off. “Have fun. I have no idea what Jo is working on and it fascinates me.” His shoulders slumped, something that caused his younger self to frown, but he sighed and nodded. 

“See you tonight then.” His expression brightened as he made an effort to lighten up. “We can get chips.” 

“Sounds good.” 

He was no sooner out the door than the Third Doctor was was walking over and sitting beside her.

“The two of you seem... close,” he ventured uncertainly. Rose looked up and flashed him a blinding tongue-touched smile and he swallowed nervously. “Ah. Can I ask what field of study you occupy yourself with, Miss Tyler?”

Dr. Tyler,” Rose corrected cheekily, basking in his surprise. “PhD in astrophysics, a bachelor’s in physics generally.”

“That’s quite impressive,” Jo said eagerly, entire face lighting up at the prospect of conversing with an accomplished woman in the field of science. “And not a bit out of the usual science fields most go into.”

“And you’re qualified for field work?” He was reading her identification, which she’d left on the table after being asked about her clearance by a far younger Alistair in case anyone else needed to ask her a question about it. “Hm. Aikido. You know, I’ve mastered the Venusian form of the art myself.”

“Very effective,” Rose agreed, surreptitiously making a ‘kill’ gesture toward Two as he waved a hand in front of an unsuspecting Third Doctor’s face. Three was glaring at him with high offense and the last thing she needed was a ghost brawl in the middle of the lab. “I had to use it on a skinny little editor on this big satellite broadcasting place. Look on your face was priceless.”

“But not, I gather, the face of the incarnation you currently travel with?” He commented astutely. To his surprise Rose met his intense gaze with a soft smile. 

“Face doesn’t matter to me,” she said easily, sliding off of the stool and walking to the other side of the table to inspect the experiment and lightly patting his cheek with her hand as she went. It was a clear nonverbal acceptance of his own current face and he smiled at the simple but appreciated gesture, instantly relaxing in her presence. 

“You seem remarkably at ease with this version of me. Have we um, have we met before?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Rose replied vaguely, mischievous twinkling making her eyes shine. 

“But I haven’t,” the Third Doctor concluded, getting part of it right and wrong at the exact same time. Rose grinned. “Ooh. Lucky me.” 

“If you’re not doing anything I would love for you to get me a cup of tea,” she said sweetly, tongue-touched grin widening in a way she knew all of him were absolutely powerless to deny. An odd expression crossed his face before he nodded and left, and Rose turned to see Jo gaping at her with her mouth open. 

“He doesn’t get coffee or tea for anyone,” she exclaimed. “And believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve asked nicely, I’ve flirted...”

“Just gotta have the right touch,” Rose replied, attention diverting as the Third Doctor re-emerged in the entryway with a tray. He set it down and poured the pot into three mugs, blinking as Rose grabbed one and fixed it just the way he liked it before attending to her own. 

“You’re a very curious human,” he said after a tentative sip.

“Half-human,” Rose corrected. “Half-TARDIS.”

“Half what!?

“Well whaddaya know, it isn’t incarnation specific,” she chuckled. 

 

By the time the Doctor got back to U.N.I.T. it was four o’clock the next morning. Jo had gone to sleep ages ago, Rose staying up until around two and seeming completely fine with that small amount of sleep. She was curled in an armchair in the corner with her head resting on her arms, soft snuffles periodically emitting from her mouth as she shifted to become more comfortable. The Third Doctor watched from the other side of the room as his future self approached her with a defeated slump in his shoulders and gently brushed her bangs out of her face, kneeling down onto his heels to press a soft kiss to her forehead.

«Love you Doctor,» Rose mumbled, the Gallifreyan slurred but distinct and spoken like a true expert of the language as she rolled over in her sleep and clutched a throw pillow tighter to her chest.

“I know Love,” he whispered back in a broken voice. “That’s the problem.”

“She said she was half-TARDIS,” the Third Doctor said softly. His future self jumped. 

“How long have you been sitting there!?” He hissed sharply. 

“Long enough to know that your affection for her goes far beyond what it should as a Lord of Time. And that she returns it tenfold.”

“You don’t seem very concerned.”

“Exiled Renegade, remember?” He leaned back in his seat and gave up any and all pretense of being busy with the scanner he’d been working on, fingers steepling over his chest as he settled his long legs on the table. “I’m curious though. Why haven’t you formed a Provisional Bond with her? She’s clearly telepathic enough- Rassilon man, she’s so entirely compatible her mind sings against mine- and she loves you- us- so entirely that my not knowing her barely put a damper on her actions toward me. Acted like we were the best of friends, she did.”

“We are,” the Doctor murmured in a soft, dejected voice.

“Then why-“

“I messed up, Doctor,” he huffed, shoving his hands into his coat pockets and blowing a gust of air as he rocked back on his heels. “I took her for granted when I should have held her close. I didn’t cope well with her... hybridization, I guess you could call it. It was... well, sort of my fault.”

“She told me what happened, considering I wouldn’t quit asking until she gave me an answer,” the Third Doctor said slowly, succinctly, as he lowered his feet back to the ground and rose to a stand. He was a good two inches taller than his future self and used that small advantage to tower over him. “She doesn’t blame you, Doctor. Not in the slightest. And I think you should stop blaming yourself. It’s ah... it’s coming between the pair of you.”

“...No... Since when have I ever been thus helpful to another one of my incarnations?” The Doctor asked, crossing his arms over his chest. He wasn’t intimidated by his past self in the slightest. 

“She’s... she’s a wonderful girl, Doctor. And for some reason she loves us. Try and get some perspective, will you?” 

 

It’s two weeks later and the Doctor and Rose are out scanning the house for any temporal anomalies when it occurs to him what day it is, and by the time they get back to base the entire thing’s already gone.

There are soldiers standing confusedly on the lawn, bereft without their leadership.

“This is when you and your first two selves got sucked into a universe of antimatter and confronted Omega, yeah?” Rose asked unthinkingly, freezing as the Doctor’s jaw dropped open. 

“How do you-“

“Uh, Alistair, he um, yeah.” 

“I somehow highly doubt that.” 

“Well, that’s all you’re gonna get ‘cause that’s all I have to offer.” 

“Oh... you’ve got top level clearance, don’t you?” He groaned, pouting. “Of course you do. I don’t have top level clearance, Rose. How’d you manage that!?

“Ali likes me,” she giggled, using it to cover a sigh of relief. 

“Ali!?”

“‘S what the Brig’s close friends call ‘im, Doctor. Didn’t you know?”

“Of all the cheek...” 

“Oh, oh! I get it now!” Eight said suddenly, making Rose tense to resist the urge to jump. He’d all but shouted in her ear. “See, I get a repaired dematerialization circuit back today from the Time Lords. They ended my exile!”

“Ooh! Oh!” Two exclaimed, hopping up and down in excitement and nudging Three, who merely frowned bemusedly at him. “Oh, don’t you see old chap? You’ll be able to take them back to their proper timeline!”

Oooooohhhhh,” Three breathed, realization drawing out the word. “Oh, but that’s convenient timing.”

“Yes, well I strongly suspect our local Bad Wolf had some influencing of the timelines going on,” Seven contemplated suspiciously. He shrugged. “Ah, well. All’s well that ends well.”

“Well, don’t just stand there Rose,” Six huffed impatiently. “Tell him! I sincerely doubt it’s occurred to him, it’s taken us far too long with all nine of our heads together on it!”

“Doctor, that case file...” Rose began pointedly. When the Doctor turned to look at her with a slight, bemused smile she pressed on. “Or maybe Alistair said something. But didn’t you get your TARDIS fixed after this?” A split second of confusion before his entire face lit up with dawning comprehension and he beamed widely at her with a sappy grin. 

 

“Gonna miss you,” Rose chuckled as she hugged Jo tightly. They were standing just outside of Bannerman Road, the TARDIS parked on the sidewalk, and while the Doctor had been put the doors as quickly as possible Rose had lingered behind. “Now, you keep him in check yeah?”

“Will do,” Jo giggled, giving her a salute. She pranced into the deeper parts of the ship to leave the Third Doctor and Rose alone.

“What, you won’t miss me?” He asked, eyes twinkling mischievously. 

“You’re right in front of me, every part of every day,” Rose replied honestly, hugging him tightly. She pulled back with a considering look on her face and then a downright evil smirk graced her features before she stood on tiptoe and planted a solid kiss right on his mouth. She was out the door as quickly as she had sniffed him, leaving him swaying slightly with shock as he braced himself against the console and stared after her. She blew a kiss over her shoulder. “See you in the future, Doctor.” 

“Lucky,” Five muttered jealously as he stalked out of the younger TARDIS. Three was stumbling after the rest of them and gaping back at what had been his living self, hand covering his mouth as if trying to recall the kiss. 

“Oh don’t start,” Seven muttered smugly. “Technically, she kissed you too. And for all you know she might run into you.” Five brightened considerably at that and smiled. 

“Mm... I hope so,” he sighed. 

“You lot are so weird,” Rose chuckled good-naturedly as she sauntered past, turning to the side to watch the younger TARDIS dematerialize. 

“Who are?” The Doctor asked, making her whip around and have her hair smack into her face. She impatiently blew the bangs away and grinned. 

“You.” 

“Color me surprised.” 

“Nah. Brown suits you,” she retorted cheekily, pointedly adjusting his coat and walking toward the empty house. “By my time sense, we’ve been gone less than two hours. Sound right?”

“Mm, yeah,” he said distractedly, tugging on his ear. He sped up to stand in front of her and had them cruise to a halt. “Rose, we need to talk. Please. I mean really, seriously talk. Please? I...” his shoulders slumped. “These two weeks, playing house. I’d hoped... I thought...”

“That this is what I wanted,” Rose finished, biting her lip. “It’s not, Doctor. I never wanted the travel, or a white picket fence. I never cared where I made my bed, what roof was over my head, so long as I was with you.” She dropped her head and sighed. “That’s the problem with this, Doctor. Playing house. Playing. It’s not you, not what you want. This isn’t home. Home is you, and you’re not acting like you right now. Those few days, being stuck in the 1970s? You acted more like you than you have in a while. That’s what I want, Doctor. You. Me. Partners. That’s all I ask, all I want. Can you at least give me that?” 

“Is that really it?” He whispered, taking a tentative step closer. His eyes were wide with stunned disbelief. “All this time, I tried so hard, and all I had to do was stop. Stop thinking about what you wanted, stop assuming. Just be with you.”

“Yeah,” Rose murmured, head tilting upward. “Is that really so much to ask?” He swallowed, the silence stretching on for far too long, and she deflated. “I’m tired of this, Doctor. This two steps forward, five steps back. I might not care where I end up, but I want the stability of knowing you’ll always be there.” She took a deep breath and reared up onto her tiptoes, barely grazing her lips against his. She dropped back onto her heels and walked into the house. “Goodnight, Doctor.” 

She left him standing in the street, staring up at her window, with a longing expression on his face. He winced as it started to rain and sighed, bundling his coat about him and dashing inside.

“Typical.” 

♾♾♾

Neither one of them quite feels up to continuing the charade for a moment longer, so they go to a gala promising to “change what it means to be human” to pass the last day of house-sitting and almost get eaten by a giant scorpion. Rose serves as a distraction by leading it to the bell tower of the church, falling after it into the congregation far below. All of him are by her side as blood trickles from her mouth, as pure Huon and Artron course through her veins and stitch up her wounds almost as soon as she sustains them. He’s kneeling near her and coughs as she breathes a pure gust of golden dust from her mouth, the temporal energies stinging the back of his throat. 

He holds her tight and refuses to let go for the rest of the night, practically suffocating her after a thorough scan as they sit in the library in the TARDIS. 

He falls asleep and wakes the next morning to find that they’ve moved drifting in the Vortex and settling on New Earth. She’s taken them back to a happier time, and he can’t rightfully say he blames her. 

Except... nothing is ever simple, and things go south fast. The Doctor almost loses her, and his ghosts are quite frankly panicking over the sight of a Macra claw swiping malevolently out of the fog at them. 

 

After that he takes off running. They land on a ship about to crash into a sun and Rose tears through the door security questions with ludicrous speed thanks to nine brains that can on a good, focused day think faster than a supercomputer all dedicated to solving the answers. What they can’t solve, she calls Mr. Smith for. They’re able to dump the fuel before anyone can be severely harmed, and the living entity in the sun evacuates the bodies of the possessed crew leaving only burnt out husks behind. 

They visit Shakespeare and confront a species straight out of the Scottish Play. A carrionite tried to curse her and instead invokes a furious remnants of the Bad Wolf, all swirling energy and anger, and the girl shrieks before flying off into the night. 

They encounter Daleks in 1930s New York and Rose feels the threads of a causal loop tighten and draw them closer to fulfillment, shivering as the Cult of Skaro reduce people to pig-men and empty shells. Lazlo is dying and the Bad Wolf shines through, reversing his personal biological timeline in a way that quite frankly scares her Doctors to a second death but leaves him whole and entirely human, able to live a full life with the woman of his dreams. 

They run into an undercover Martha at a hospital trying to find the source of the buildup of static electricity that transports them to the moon, and the Doctor almost dies. Martha resuscitates him while Rose unplugs the MRI machine with a great deal of help from her invisible entourage.

They hit the randomizer and end up on an impossible planet hovering next to a black hole.

♾♾♾

“If you talk to Rose, tell her I- tell her- oh, she knows.”

The Doctor hasn’t dared reach out to her telepathically since she refused his advances post-France, but now, when it looks like he might be dying... 

His mind cries out for hers and connects so easily it’s like two pieces of a puzzle sliding and locking in place. To his initial shock he can’t unhinge, unlink, but the pan he realizes as he’s falling that the reason for that is that she refuses to let go. She clings to him desperately, flooding his mind with unconditional love that would have made his knees weak were he not currently in free fall, and without hesitation he lets all of it explode from his mind back. Everything he’s kept inside, afraid to show her. If he’s to die, he wants her to know just how much she means to him.

She knows. 

 

It’s afterwards, when he’s changed out of his space suit and they’ve returned Ida back to her ship, that he allows himself to really comprehend his actions earlier that day. The very implications of what he’s done terrify him, and Rose finds him quietly in the grips of a panic attack in front of the library fireplace. 

He tenses as she wraps her arms around him and brings her fingers to his temple, re-establishing the short and painful desperate long-distance contact. This time it’s soft and soothing, healing the frayed edges of his psyche, and neither one of them wants to pull away. 

Instinct drives the both of them to forming a Provisional Bond, their emotions flowing freely from one to the other, and their relationship improves. It moves past platonic into a hesitant, tentative romance that slowly builds after all of the hurt and pain they’ve sustained, and they feel all the stronger for it. 

They’re interrupted from an impressive bout of snogging in the console room - which deny it all they want the other Doctors are watching with rapt fascination and longing - by the shrill and angry voice of a redhead in a wedding dress.

♾♾♾

Donna is amazing. She’s smart, funny, and formidable. She’s also dosed with Huon and the subject of the Racnoss’ return to wreak havoc on the universe. Except... Rose. 

A key is all the better for its strength, and Rose’s Huon signature muddies the energy readings. The Empress is quite unable to get a firm reading on her prize, and substitutes Lance the Groom instead. Rose calls in U.N.I.T. to take care of the baby racnoss that climb from the center of the Earth after an explosion of the facility - from a fringe group named ‘Torchwood’ Kate informs her - kills the Empress. 

Donna invites them back to her home for Christmas dinner and Rose automatically declines, smiling and saying that they have their own family to meet up with. 

They arrive at Bannerman Road to see that Jackie and Sarah have been hard at work in the kitchen and Jackie catches them snogging on the sofa in the living room. 

 

“So, you’re called ‘The Doctor’ huh?” She tsks and waves her hand dismissively. “Rose had an imaginary friend when she was little called the Doctor. Had three of them, as a matter of fact.”

“Is that so?” The Doctor mutters lazily, pleasantly warm and full and fuzzy from a homemade meal and safe in the house of one of his oldest friends. Rose’s mind is dancing happily against his as she helps with the cleanup and it’s slowly pulling him toward a long-overdue sleep.

“Mm. She drew a picture of ‘em, when she was young. I brought some of her things here and all, clear up space,” Jackie explained as she stood and rifled around in one of the boxes she’s brought over. With a soft cry of triumph she pulls a rumpled piece of paper with crayon on it out of the mess and hands it over. The Doctor, who had been in the middle of an indulgent sip of mulled cider, spewed it across the room when he saw the drawing.

“I thought is was an astounding likeness and all, myself,” Two said conspiratorially, his first and third selves on either side as they smirk and lean over the back of the couch to look at the drawing. 

♾♾♾

Rose loses her face to a television set and the Doctor stares at the displays in confusion and mounting horror, because surrounding her own shouting visage in the center screen are the faces of his past selves. The Wire was too engorged to properly get at any of the three of them; neither himself, Tommy, or DI Bishop, and she lets them go almost as quickly as she starts. Just enough to weaken them and let Magpie escape.

The Doctor lingers in the store, eyes roaming each and every face that belongs to him, and the way they cry out. They’re all collecting saying the same thing and it chills him. Chills him that they’re there, and that they’re all saying ‘save Rose’ over and over again on repeat as she calls his name. He knows it will haunt his nightmares for weeks. 

♾♾♾

Despite the Isolus, the Olympics go off without a hitch. The Doctor doesn’t understand how Rose can telepathically soothe the creature so. 

Rose uses her abilities to telepathically connect with the Isolus, and Chloe pauses in drawing the Doctor because there are suddenly ten minds directly connected with hers. Nine of them are telling stories, singing songs, playing games. It’s enough to keep the flower occupied to release the young girl and return everyone to their proper places after the Doctor locates the pod and charges it to send it home.

It’s the first time Rose truly feels bad about lying to the Doctor about his past selves, but they’re so very insistent that he won’t believe her, or that he’ll be upset by it because he can’t remember and it unnerves him. Despite her best efforts, she can’t help but use the words ‘you were right there with me every step of the way.’ 

He misinterprets the true meaning, which might be for the best, and she feels guilty. With their Provisional Bond - or as Rose likes to think of it, due to the closeness and intimacy as an Engagement Bond - the Doctor picks up on that feeling and worry curls like a toxic tendril around their connection. He thinks there’s something about Bad Wolf she isn’t saying, and she lets him.

♾♾♾

“Doctor, I don’t know what will happen when...” 

“Rose, it’ll be fine,” Eight whispers soothingly. She nods and returns to the console room, flinching as she is strapped into the chameleon arch and her entire identity is contained within an ornate bronze watch with the symbol of a howling wolf and the Gallifreyan text ‘Bad Wolf’ etched into its surface. 

 

People liked to say that the tiny little Victorian bookstore was haunted. In fact, most attributed The Wolf and Storm’s mystic quality to Marion Prentice, who held palm readings after the store had closed. The fact was that, being part TARDIS, Rose’s ability to read timelines was so subconsciously ingrained that the ability had remained as purely instinct even after she had become fully human once again. So as it happened, she attracted a lot of business as the only accurate palm reader in town. 

November of 1897 was no more of an intriguing year than the one preceding it, and so too the gossip fell toward the mundane. The tiny bookstore had been co-owned by Marion’s late husband and John Tyler, and she had taken up the partnership after his death. She commuted to work every day while John used the tiny flat above the store, and they often engaged in one another’s company on the social scene in a more than platonic manner. 

But back to the matter of a haunting. Despite the attentions of Jago and Litefoot - Infernal Investigators - the store had been declared absolutely harmless. The owners might have been a tad eccentric, but such was the way of things. Their good friend Ellie Higson was harder to convince, but after nine palm sessions she was ready to leave things be. She’d found out more about her future than she’d wanted to know - the most recent parts coming true - and it was because of that that she also believed the unconfirmed parts of her past concerning the death of her brother. She left things be more out of self-preservation than anything else. 

The truth was, the store was haunted. The nine prior incarnations of the Doctor stalked the nearby streets and the shelves inside in constant vigil, determined to keep their oblivious elder self and the love of their collective lives safe from harm, and they were relieved that Rose could still hear them. Not see, not at the moment, but definitely hear. That’s why, when they suddenly suggested she and ‘John’ take a holiday for a good week, she took them up on the offer. 

The Family came knocking only days after they had left, frustrated and starving, and died before the week was done. 

When the pair got back from their coastal visit, the watches were ready to be opened and they were returned back to their proper selves.

The Doctor joked nervously about having a pack of guardian angels following them around and Rose joined in, just as nervous and anxious, and the other Doctors wisely scattered about the TARDIS and avoided their living self as best as possible for the next several days. 

♾♾♾

Then came Torchwood. Then came the Daleks and the Cybermen and another Earth. 

And Rose fell. 

They said goodbye on a beach named after her in Norway. And the connection severed. 

The TARDIS took the Doctor straight to Sarah’s after the temporary Bond snapped and he moped about the house for several days, only leaving Rose’s room to pack up the flat on the Powell Estates and bring all of the Tyler family belongings to a safe location. He’d packed it all up and left it in Rose’s room, stacked against the wall and wherever else he could find space. 

He didn’t leave that room until the TARDIS alerted him to a distress call that took him to the very end of the universe with Jack as an unexpected guest. 

♾♾♾

Rose threw herself into working to find a way home at Torchwood. She explored the limitations of her abilities as a half-TARDIS entity, her Doctors by her side every step of the way, and despite looking for every possible solution it was entirely by accident that she discovered her ability to travel across space, time, and the dimensional rift without the need for a hopper, manipulator, or capsule. She herself was the vessel. 

And it took her from the age of twenty-eight to fifty-seven to master before she was able to cross over where and when she needed to be. Like her Sister, Rose went where she was needed more than where she wanted to be.