When the Master assassinates the President of the United States, the only thing that keeps the Doctor from gaining his sole attention is the unexpected blast of wind and golden light that shoots through the room and throws him violently off his feet. The sound of a howling wolf seems to rend the air in two and suddenly there is a confused-looking Rose blinking staring at her surroundings.
“This is... not where I was trying to go,” she mutters before glancing around and spotting the Master on the floor. “Who’s he?”
“The Master,” Jack explains when it becomes clear the Doctor is currently speechless.
“Ew.” Rose turns around and beams at Jack before her expression softens as she lays eyes on the Doctor. “Hi.”
“...Hi,” the Doctor murmurs. He’s not sure if she’s even real and it shows. Then the Master’s blasting at all of them with his laser screwdriver and she’s throwing herself at him, and he’s whispering a soft request. She accepts, and all that’s happened with the Master flashes through her mind. “Be careful,” he whispers as he shows her his plans.
“You stay safe,” Rose murmurs back. «I love you.»
She teleports herself and lands in the murkiest, most disgusting lake she’s ever seen. Her first objective, as the Tesselecta conquer the planet, is to find Sarah. She takes the kids and their families to the Tyler mansion in the parallel universe, and then the pair of them set off to walk the Earth telling their stories. She nabs Mickey and Martha in Bessie and they’re outracing the closing of a bridge when Rose hits the super speed.
They’re on the other side of the city of London by the time they dare come to a stop.
The first few weeks involve hiding in old warehouses and Rose knicking tech to fashion a perception filter onto Bessie with the top up, making the backseat dimensionally transcendental with the advice of nine Doctors in her head and her own TARDIS instincts. This will by no means perfect, but Bessie operates on a perpetually-recycling power source rather than petrol and they can store as much food as possible. The four of them drive across the world wherever they can be of help, sleeping in the expanded back of the car and using the sonic pen to keep themselves clean, and when they finally get a flat Rose patches it up and installs hover pads behind the tires.
It seemed that, everywhere they went, they ran into someone the Doctor had traveled with. Victoria and the Chestertons were both in England having met and working in a small resistance cell, and they ran into the Jacksons housing refugees in their orphanage in India. Tegan had vanished deep into the Australian Outback with several other people and had become the unofficial leader of the lot, and quite by accident Jo was in Siberia. She’d been protesting against an environmentally-deptrimental project and had been stranded, choosing to help the small town subsist on flora and fauna when their canned goods had run out.
Sarah and Rose left Mickey and Martha at a medical outpost in South Korea, a place where Martha could do the most help for survivors of the burning of Tokyo, and together they crossed the ocean in secret on a shipping freighter to San Fransisco. A cardiothoracic surgeon took the pair in when shrapnel from an exploding car had embedded itself in her chest and snuck them into the hospital to perform the surgery; she even went so far as to put Sarah up with her to recover while Rose continued on, using her materializing abilities to their full now that she was on her own and avoiding patrols with extreme ease.
It’s after one such moment in New York City that she finds herself slammed rather harshly against a brick wall by a complete stranger.
“All right sparkles, how’d you do that?” She hisses. Rose swallows, then sighs in relief at the ecstatic cries of recognition from the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Doctors.
“Ace,” she pants. “You’re Ace McShane. You traveled with the Doctor.” Ace abruptly backs away in shock, thumbing for a banged but functional silver deodorant can, and Rose hastens to calm her down. “Whoa whoa whoa! Hold the Nitro! I’m Rose Tyler, I traveled with him too. Look, the biggest problem right now is the Master. I’m just trying to do my part.”
“You got a job for me?” Ace asked, raising an eyebrow and crossing her arms over her chest.
“I just might.”
That’s how half of NYC lost power from some intense explosives, and Rose transported Ace across the entire country to be with Sarah. Strength in numbers, and they both needed the help. With Bessie, the three women could travel across the country sabotaging as they went, and Rose left them to it. She still had all of South America and Canada to get to, and she did it.
She’s cold and she’s tired, and luckily she has nine ghosts who can keep watch without being seen by the Tesselecta to protect her. Every time the Master gets close, she vanishes. And when the year is over, and she’s done all she can, Rose materializes on board the Valiant and steals the uniform of one of his guards. The kind with the helpful little face mask.
The Doctor is chained to the wall and looking much the worse for wear, his suit entirely rumpled and filthy and a total write-off, and tired eyes barely so much as blink as the Master hauls him to his feet and drops him down in one of the chairs at the conference table. He’s sitting near Lucy Saxon and Jack is made to kneel on the floor execution style as the plan comes full circle.
The Archangel Network activates and the countdown hits zero, and everyone begins thinking of the exact same thing.
Rose told a story, and the Master had no idea of what was coming. He’d thought she was merely running from him as he chased her, interested in ripping her apart to see what made her tick, and as the mental power reinvigorates the Doctor she gasps as she starts to glow as well.
She stumbles, the helmet falling uselessly onto the floor and revealing the entirety of her face, and the Doctor swings around just in time to gape at her. As she falls she catches onto something solid and blinks up into the eyes of a very surprised and solid Ninth Doctor holding her up in his arms. He starts glowing as well, the light cascading down the lineup and ending with the First Doctor, and the Master is shouting in sheer absolute terror as all of his enemy appears at once.
“Rose, what- what did you do!?” The Doctor shouts, raising his voice to be heard over the wind and power of the Archangel Network.
“She did as you asked her to Doctor,” Eight replied, studying his arms with downright surprise as the blue light twists and ripples along them. “Though I think we can all admit this wasn’t at all what we thought would happen...”
“How are you even here!?”
“We’ve always been here,” Two called back. “Wherever Rose went, we followed. It’s ah, it’s a bit of a long story I’m afraid, could we reschedule to tell it to you at another time?”
“You’re not real, you’re not real!” The Master screamed, dropping to the floor and wrapping his arms around his head. Three and Six walked over and crouched beside him. While Six poked him and smirked as he writhed in terror, Three tsked.
“Lost all sense, poor chap. It was bound to happen eventually.” His gaze hardened as he eyed his old friend and enemy. “But believe me, Master. I’ve spent enough time as a ghost to know that I’m not one anymore. I’m completely real.”
“The Archangel Network is breaking apart,” Five called as he read over the diagnostics. “Ace did her job sabotaging the Paradox Machine.”
“And the TARDIS?” Seven called. He and One were busy unshackling the many chains from Jack’s person.
“Seems to be fine. Or, I suppose, as fine as she can be after something like that.” His head tilted slightly as he listened for something. “Her song is tired and pained, but far more cheerful than it was a moment ago.”
“She’s telling the lot of you off in multiple colorful words and wants you to get a shift on,” Rose retorted with a smirk, earning her a glare from quite literally every single one of them in the room. “What? She is.”
“Whose side are you on anyway?” Four grumbled as he pulled out some cabling and rewired the ship to boost the Archangel signal. His form flickered and stabilized as he did so.
“Sisters Before Misters, I think the saying goes. Wait, no, that’s exactly how it goes.”
“Oh no you don’t!” Six shouted, lunging for the Master as he scooped up Jack’s Vortex Manipulator and vanished, landing with a groan on the spot a few moments after. “Ow.”
“I told you we should have secured him,” Three grumbled. The Doctor was staring at his past selves in open-mouthed amazement.
“You’re not fighting each other,” he murmured. The skip began falling from the sky and it deterred him little from staring at them. “You’re actually getting along.”
“It’s good to make peace with your past, Seven chirped happily as he clung to the table leg with one hand and his hat with the other. “Lay old ghosts to rest.”
“Oh did you have to?” Nine complained. “We could have gone the entire day without a pun. We were so close.”
“The archangel field is deteriorating as the paradox unwinds,” Four informed them grimly from his spot among the wires. All of their forms flicked in and out of tangibility and he grimaced. “I think it’s time.”
“Time for what?” Rose asked, sensing something shift in the mood of the room. The previous Doctors all wore expressions of knowing and she paled. “Y-you mean...”
“We knew it would happen ever since Bad Wolf,” Nine said softly. “We just didn’t know how to tell you.”
“I’m- I’m not sure what I’m going to do without you,” Rose admitted shakily. The past Doctors approached her with regretful expressions.
“Hey,” Nine said, cupping her face in his hands just like he’d used to and stroking the tears from her cheek with his thumb. “We’ll still be with you. You brought us back to ourself, Rose. And we’ll never forget any of this. We lifted ourselves from the timestream to watch over you, but our work’s done. You’ve got us, and we’re real, and we’re standing over there in the corner gapin’ like a fish that’s forgot how to close his mouth.”
The Tenth Doctor abruptly snapped his jaw shut at that, offended.
“We love you, and we’ll always love you. You’re not just in our hearts, Rose. You are our hearts.” With that, he kissed her firmly on the mouth and turned. The Tenth Doctor braced himself as Nine ran straight at him, gasping as Nine dissolved into energy on contact and slammed right into him. His eyes blew wide as all of that incarnation’s ghost memories blossomed into his mind and slotted into place, and he partially collapsed weakly against the wall with a pant.
Eight kissed Rose on the lips, petted his chest where her heat beat echoed, and followed suit. The rest followed in similar fashion, some kissing her on the mouth or on the forehead as they said their goodbyes, before running into their living self and becoming one with him.
One cupped her cheek in the same way Nine had done and rested his forehead against hers.
“Thank you Rose, for showing me what it truly means to live,” he whispered, pressing a soft kiss to her cheek and stroking the spot with his thumb. “I have so much to thank you for.”
“And I you,” she sobbed. He smiled, stood, and ran. The Doctor cried out at the last influx of energy and memories and fully collapsed onto the floor, breath coming in quick and shallow as he fought for control over his shaking limbs. Rose crawled toward him and rested her forehead against his, clutching his trembling hand in her own, as Time swirled around them and reset itself all around the world but on the falling Valiant. She took a deep breath, reached for Jack’s hand, and materialized them inside the TARDIS.
“Take us somewhere else!” She shouted, and the TARDIS moved herself about a mile away. Valiant crashed into the sea just off the coast and took the memory of the Master with it.
It’s eerily reminiscent of when he first regenerated into his current body, but his head feels so full of memories of the time he’d spent in all his bodies with Rose that he feels as if his head will split open. He’s in his bed on his ship, alone with his thoughts, and every part of him aches from what he’s just been through.
His time sense tells him it’s been at least a week with him in a healing coma, and he wishes it had been two, because this is the worst non-hangover he’s ever had and he wants it to end. Unwilling to get up, he drifts back to sleep and let’s his subconscious sift through Rose’s childhood. School. He was there for all of it and - he now knows, she was there for all of him in much the same way even if neither of them can remember.
Two days later the headache subsides, and he hauls himself out of bed and into the shower. He throws on a pair of old raggedy jeans and a tee with some sort of science pun on it, not really bothering to truly register what he’s wearing so long as it’s clothes, clean, and not the suit he wore for an entire Year That Never Was, and groans as he stumbles down the hall toward the galley. There’s hot tea and toast with scrambled eggs waiting in the warmer for him and he sighs as he tucks in, ravenously hungry and in need of a good cuppa. The ship tips violently to the side and he clings to the table, waiting for the tremors to die down before reluctantly taking his tea mug and treading barefoot out to the console.
Rose is underneath pulling at wires and soldering, and he watches in amazement as his younger self - the Fifth one to be precise - flickers into existence as he dashes about the console trying to decipher what’s wrong. He trips over Rose’s legs and going sprawling with a startled yelp, and when he dazedly sits up and blinks he bumps noses with an equally-surprised Rose.
“Who are you, and what are you doing on my ship?” He asked, then noticed the tool in her hands. He snatched it angrily from her fingers. “Better question: what are you doing to my ship!?”
“Repairs,” Rose said sweetly, leaning forward quickly and stealing a kiss. Five blushed at this and extricated his tangled legs from hers as quickly as possible before shooting to his feet and properly taking in his surroundings.
“What’s happened to the desktop theme!?”
“The TARDIS wanted a new look,” Rose explained patiently, dusting herself off as she too rose far more slowly to a stand. “A girl does that now and then, y’know.” Her head tilted slightly to the side in amusement. “Don’t tell me you don’t know who I am. I know how repressed memories work.” He blinked at her, startled, before comprehension dawned and he visibly relaxed.
“Ah. Rose Tyler. Future companion and-“ clearly remembering both kisses he blushed again- “potentially so much more. Um, what sort of repairs would you have to do that would necessitate the lowering of the shields while in Vortex flight?”
“I could ask you the same thing, else we wouldn’t be in this mess,” she retorted with a smile. He inhales slightly and ruffles the hair at the back of his head, unhappy at being caught out. “‘Cause for us it was sabotage by the Master.”
“Sabotage from Gallifrey, but close enough,” Five snorted with a wince. “The Death Zone and all that.”
“Ah yeah, that big mess,” Rose concluded with a knowing nod. She blinked and leaned slightly to the side to peer around him, smirking. “Morning Doctor. Rough healing coma?”
“Please tell me there’s black coffee in the galley too,” he sighed as he stepped out into the open. His younger self swung around and stared at his attire in surprise. “Because the tea just isn’t cutting it.”
“Awfully informal today, aren’t you?” He asked, tilting his head to the side to take in his future self before sniffing and directing his attention fully back to Rose. “Don’t answer that. But I would love to hear why Rose is the one effecting the repairs and not you.”
“Did you hear the part about a healing coma and decide to ignore it, or...? Besides, Rose is half-TARDIS. She knows the workings of her Sister better than we ever could.”
“And need I remind you this is your shirt and our Third incarnation’s jeans?”
“Yes, I thought they fit ill on you. Awfully skinny this time around, aren’t we?”
“At least I don’t think beige and vegetables are fashionable.”
“Nothing can be worse than the scarf.”
“Just wait until the next one, mate. You just wait.”
“Well that’s hardly my choice in apparel, now is it?”
“Boys, boys, you’re both pretty, but the TARDIS and I have got a problem that we need to work out, so if you could both shut up that’d be lovely,” Rose cut in, patting the both of them on the cheek before moving back to the console. They exchanged a startled and equally affronted glance before following after her, following as she made a round about the console.
“Anything we can do to get rid of him sooner?” The Doctor asked, ignoring the outraged gasp from his younger self.
“Mmhm. Hold this.” She shoved the toolbox into his arms and then pulled a tool from it and he sighed.
“Yeah yeah, point taken...” Five leaned over slightly to glance between them and smirked.
“Well, we clearly know who’s in charge in this relationship now don’t we?”
“This’ll be you in five bodies, mate. Stuff it. Besides, not much of a relationship to define.”
“Ah, yes. Still in the doghouse then? Or have we moved on from that?”
“Thought we were engaged, unless I missed something,” Rose muttered. Five beamed at her as the Doctor’s shoulders hunched. He juggled the toolbox to rest in one arm and tugged on his ear.
“I mean, we were. Until the whole, you know, parallel universes Bond Tear issue. That was... oh, not counting the Year That Shall Not Be Named... uh... three months ago? For me, anyway. I’m given to understand that that it’s been a smidgen less than thirty for you.”
“Hated every nanosecond,” she muttered darkly. “But if you’re willing to pick up where we left off, I would be more than happy.”
“Well, at least there’s some benefit to the walking disaster that will be your incarnation,” Five said brightly. The Doctor actually growled at him. “Ooh, touchy.”
“Hey!” Rose snapped, whipping around to point a finger in Five’s face. “Knock it off. And you.” She swung the finger to point in the Doctor’s face; he reared back slightly and blinked. “You know better. Behave.”
“As you wish,” they both quoted cheekily at the exact same time, grins melting to frowns as they glanced at each other. Rose rolled her eyes and sighed, digging around under the console. Something snapped, the lights flickered, and the alarms stopped. They both raised their eyes toward the ceiling.
“Well, how about that,” the Doctor breathed.
“Two timezones, two TARDISes, one exterior shell,” Rose said with a shrug. Had to short out the differential to send one of them back where they belonged to avoid permanent destruction of the cerebral matrix.” They both gaped at her in astonishment and she smirked. “Half-TARDIS, remember? Old Girl knows how to patch herself up. Just needs uh...” she flicked her thumbs in emphasis. “Ya know.”
The Doctor took both of her hands in his and grinned as his former self continued to stare from the ceiling to Rose and back and forth. After a few moments he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead as he began to fade back to his own time.
“Oh no you don’t,” Rose growled, flipping a single switch. A small bubble opened up for about ten more seconds delaying his departure, and it was more than enough time for her to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him deeply. She then lightly but firmly pushed off his chest with her hands and he stumbled backwards, dazed.
“W-what was that for!?” He stuttered.
“I had a promise to keep,” Rose replied with a smile and a wave. The Doctor chuckled as the particular memory in question filtered through his mind and nuzzled against her temple with his nose, waving at his past self as the bemused man eventually shrugged and gave them a short bow in final goodbye.
“Now, Ms. Tyler, I think we were planning to formalize our engagement, or did I read too much into that little comment?”
“Oh, I think we were, Dr. Tyler.” His grin widened as his eyebrow quirked in signature fashion.
“Tyler, huh? What makes you think I’d take your last name?” Rose snorted with laughter.
“As if I’d take your bland as plain yogurt on a rice cake pseudonym.”
“Seriously though, you don’t mind?”
“I think it’s perfect, Dr. Tyler.”
“I’m glad, Doctor Tyler.”