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After Life

Chapter Text

The Doctor feels the change coming for the first time, and unable to hold it back any longer he submits to the inevitable. Burning heat cascades through his cells, his body tenses and begins to rewrite, and...

...He finds himself blinking in confusion outside of a church and witnessing a woman crying over the form of her husband as he lays dead in the street. There is blood and cracked pottery and someone is holding a distraught, crying baby’s bassinet. He catches the flash of navy blue, a familiar wheezing sound, the sleeve of a leather jacket, and the odd tugging sensation of a broken fixed point in time rewriting itself into the established pattern before the obvious catches his attention. 

He should be on the TARDIS. He should be in a new, unfamiliar body. He should be-

A man walks through him as if he isn’t even there and the Doctor shudders out a gasp of shock and terror.

He should be solid.

“I am... dead?” He murmurs softly to himself, shaking at the prospect of an afterlife he’d always scoffed at. But, there was no way this was the Time Lord equivalent of Heaven nor Hell. It wasn’t the Matrix on Gallifrey, either. He wouldn’t become a part of that in such a way until his final death. 

No, this looked suspiciously like a street on 1980s Earth and the language of the people surrounding him indicated England. London, if he felt bold enough to further chance a guess. 

There’s an odd pulling sensation in what seems his very soul and the Doctor helplessly follows it to the bassinet. Something settles in his chest like an imprintation and he knows he will be unable to ever wander far from the tiny child ever again. 

And so he stands there, the aches and pains of life hauntingly absent in such a way that he can’t feel the warmth of the sun on his face or the cool breath of the wind against his skin; there is no thundering four-beat rhythm in his chest, no air in his lungs. He wishes quite suddenly that he could still complain about the soreness of old age. Anything would be better than this. 

The Doctor frowns as he stares at the baby girl wailing in her bassinet. He doesn’t know her. But he can still sense timelines, and hers nearly blind him with their potential. With the hard fact that this small, innocent and helpless child will one day touch the entirety of Time. It’s hidden, underneath the surface, but they’re connected on a level that quite frankly baffles him and he gets the impression it’s the only reason he can see what the universe has in store for her. 

Someone else walks through him and he shivers. It’s the feeling of ice, trickling down his spine. Ian and Barbara had often used the phrase “someone walked over my grave” to describe it, that feeling. Humans are mostly instinct and their nerve responses sometimes do strange things. But as a Time Lord, he’d never understood what they were talking about. 

Not until now. Now, he understands it quite literally in a way that Ian and Barbara never will. 

It’s a feeling he hates. 

The baby won’t stop crying and it slowly dawns on him that the man in the street is her father. The woman sobbing into his blood-streaked hair has facial resemblance with the child, and-

Hang on. Were they at a wedding? A moderately-pregnant bride in a beautiful dress, a harried groom, a group of well-dressed people... 

...Oh, this day just kept getting better and better. 

Out of habit he leans down to quieten the child. The moment his fingers touch her a shock travels up his arm and through the entirety of his body. Their minds bond in a disappointingly one-sided connection that leaves her unformed infantile thoughts brushing haphazardly against his own, and he grits his teeth as he kneels to the sidewalk and gasps. 

Life. Time. Life.

The sun on his face. The wind against his skin, in his hair, whipping at his clothes. Air in his lungs. A heartbeat.

...A single heartbeat. 

Hers. 

“What’s happened to me?” He whispers. It takes a few moments to realize that the child has stopped crying. Contentment washes over his scattered thoughts and he lets out an oxygen-less breath into the air as he forces himself into a standing position and looks down at her. Tears and snot track down her face but her eyes are wide and curious, observing the world around her with nothing more than an interested detachment. 

Her eyes are blue, already changing from their newborn coloring to what they will become in later life. If he had to guess he’d put her at around six months, though that may be too young or too old. He isn’t sure what the growth rate of humans is. 

♾♾♾

He follows them home, because it is the only thing he can think to do in the circumstances. He feels like he’s drowning, and the only thing keeping him from panic is the connection he has with the baby. 

Tyler. 

Her mother Jackie, now alone; her father Pete, now dead. And Rose.

Rose Marion Tyler. 

The Doctor sits beside her crib at night and sings. He’s not sure if she can hear him, but she stays quiet and it allows Jackie to sleep. Her friend Bev comments on Rose’s colic ending overnight, and Jackie reflects that she hasn’t cried since Pete died. Bev speculates that Pete’s spirit is in the flat, watching over them. The Doctor can say quite definitively that he’s the only ghost around, and wouldn’t wish that upon anyone else.

The fact of the matter is that he doesn’t need to eat, sleep, or require warmth, because he isn’t alive. He’s always cold. He misses the contact of other people, the closeness. The contact. Even Gallifrey wasn’t entirely touch-deprived. 

But he watches her grow up. She starts to crawl, to walk, to talk. Pretty soon she’s running everywhere without any plans on slowing down and Jackie can’t keep up with her. He runs beside her, worrying and unable to do anything about it, falling apart whenever she falls and scrapes her knee. But she gets back up, laughs, and keeps on running. 

The one good thing about being a non-corporeal entity is that he no longer has to stop to rest. 

 

Rose is two and the world is so big, so terrifying. Mickey is supposed to be watching her but he’s barely older than a toddler himself and wants to play with his friends. The Doctor sits on an empty bench - hoping it stays empty and that someone doesn’t sit through him - and watches her climb to the very top of the tallest slide on the Powell Estates’ playground. This in and of itself does not concern him; she’s climbed that high before and landed successfully at the bottom without any issue. Jackie had taught her how to safely use the slide the third time she’d tried to use it without her mother’s consent.

Of course, Jackie isn’t there at the moment and Rose gets it into her head that turning away from the slide to face the steep drop from the ladder and spreading her arms like a bird is a good idea. A good, safe, healthy idea. The Doctor is up on his feet in a matter of seconds, screaming at her to stop, and to his complete and dumbfounded amazement she does. 

Rose drops her arms, turning back around to grip the safety bars, and blinks directly at him with the widest most innocently curious marmalade brown eyes he’s ever seen. He gapes at her as she giggles and nods, climbing the rest of the way up the slide and sitting down at the very top. She babbles a few garbled words towards him and then points at the bottom, the stock toddler gesture of “watch what I’m going to do!” and heaves herself down the incline. She comes to a squeaking halt at the bottom, bare flesh against staticky plastic, and grins at him. 

He remains, for the rest of the day, entirely at a loss for words. Rose doesn’t notice this. She’s too young to properly understand. She tries to hold his hand as Jackie walks her out of the park and he’s even more startled to realize that her tiny digits don’t pass through his larger fingers. He tries to tighten the grip, seeking the scant warmth that her small, hot body can offer in skin to skin contact, and the extra pressure makes him substanceless. He chokes back a sob and tries again with the utmost caution and featherlight touch. 

The grip holds. 

♾♾♾

She’s three, and Jackie is only all too happy to send her to daycare so that she can pick up extra work. Mickey’s grandmother watches her after she gets back to the Estate, and in the evenings Jackie works on potty training. 

It’s a surreal experience for a Time Lord loomed at the age of four to comprehend; a child that needs to be taught basic life functions and mannerisms rather than subconsciously receiving them from a machine. Neither Susan nor her father were born. As with every potential Time Lord on Gallifrey, they had come from the machine. The Looms. 

So, to watch Jackie praise her daughter for learning to use a toilet was an... interesting endeavor to say the least. And not one he had been particularly keen to witness in the first place. 

She’s talking more and more, chattering to him often about anything that occurs to her. He’s desperate to even be acknowledged and the soft words of a young girl warm him. His own hearts have ceased to beat, but her tiny, wild heart thunders in his chest and he’s slowly beginning to understand that attachment isn’t always a bad thing as his people had taught him. 

He just can’t fathom the reason he’s been appointed her guardian angel. 

She’s a child of Earth, he a Lord of Time. Her timelines burn so brightly, alluring. He feels like Icarus should he get too close. But right now? Now she’s nothing more than untapped and untested potential, and for whatever reason the universe chose him, to guard her. She’s bristling with energy and reckless as the son of Helios, and he finds that apart from sharing her heartbeat they’re very much kindred spirits. She reminds him so vividly of the boy he had been in his own childhood that, if he had breath, it would have pained him to draw it. 

She turns four and, now that potty training has been achieved successfully, she is able to be enrolled in preschool. 

If the Doctor thought that daycare was a trying experience, preschool is worse. He’s forced to sit beside his charge and listen to a sweet but trying young woman slowly introduce the concept of the days of the week to her young pupils, to introduce the concept of months and clocks. Time, introduced in all its glorious wonder by the tool used to unimaginatively measure it. 

And it’s on the playground of the preschool that he gets the shock of his life. Or, well... death. 

...One of them, at least. Because the last piece of the elusive puzzle he’s been so diligently working on finally slots into place with an unexpected arrival and turns everything on its head. 

Chapter Text

He was standing in the middle of a children’s playground. An Earth playground. It just didn’t make sense. One minute the High Council had been telling him he was stalling for time in choosing a new face, and the next...

It just made no sense whatsoever. However, ‘puzzling it out’ was cut extremely short. The next thing the Doctor knew, a voice from his past was speaking behind him.

“Ah, so that’s how it happened...” 

“What are you talking about?” The Doctor asked, turning and gritting his teeth. Interacting with his other selves on a good day was less than pleasant, but at the current moment it was...

“I believe we have a lot to talk about,” One said calmly. A child shouted and his head jerked sharply to track the rambunctious little girl with wary eyes. Upon seeing that she wasn’t in any kind of peril, he visibly relaxed. He inhaled deeply and nodded toward a bench on the very edge of the playground, indicating for them to sit. The Doctor settled beside him apprehensively. 

“What are you doing here?” He asked.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” One countered. The Doctor’s brow furrowed.

“Mm... it’s a bit of a blur, really, and-“

“The process. Had it started?”

“...Yes...”

“Well, then the answer to your questions is quite simple. When you regenerated, that body died. Burnt away for the new man to go sauntering off on his merry way.” One gestured casually with his hands but a deep sadness rested in his eyes. “As you did with me.”

“I never saw it that way,” the Doctor murmured, a catch in his throat. One nodded, sighing.

“Yes, well you will now. Whether you resent the one who takes your place or not is up to you. Personally, I’m surprised I lived past Academy graduation let alone long enough to regenerate. You see, it’s all very simple. You died, Doctor. Just as I did. And now...”

“I’m not sure I like where this is going,” the Doctor muttered. His younger self shrugged, leaning slightly on a cane that the Doctor suddenly realized he didn’t need. It was more of a prop than anything, and he vividly remembered supporting himself on it more often than not in that body. “I... I’m dead? Then whatever am I doing here!?”

“Do you feel it yet?”

“Feel what!?”

“Then you haven’t. On my word, you’ll know it when you feel it.” 

“What, exactly, is it?” The bell rang for the children to return inside the building and the Doctor raised an eyebrow in surprise as they all disappeared through the door. His younger self shifted on the bench, visibly uncomfortable over something, and after a few moments huffed in annoyance and followed the motley bunch inside. 

“The pull!” He called back. The Doctor stood and began to follow, stopped in the door as the playground monitor paused directly in front of him and made a cursory glance around the yard looking for strays. She shrugged and closed the door, and he gasped in shock as it passed directly through him. 

He was suddenly aware of how cold he felt, of how numb he was to external environmental stimulus. No breath whistled through his lungs or bypass, and nothing beat in his chest. Warily, he approached his younger self with shaking limbs and stood before him. 

One was seated among the group of children next to a tiny girl with light blonde hair and marmalade brown eyes looking like he wanted someone to put him out of his misery as the instructor droned on about the seven days of the week. 

“Are we- are we- ghosts?” 

“Yes.”

“...How is that possible?” He whispered. One shrugged. 

“To be quite honest, until you came along I thought I’d died for good. Nice to know I have a future... even if I’m no more than memories in the mind of another...”

“As I said before, it doesn’t feel that way from the other perspective- what on Earth are you doing!?” 

“Helping Rose with her work,” One said calmly, blinking up at him from where he sat on the floor. The girl beside him lightly tapped him on the sleeve and pointed at the cards with the animals on them and he nodded approvingly. “Pattern recognition. I decided she was capable of learning some more complex problem-solving with this little exercise, however. Get a head start on learning the alphabet by matching them alphabetically as well.” 

“She can- she can see you, hear you?” The Doctor asked incredulously, slowly sinking down to crouch on his heels in front of the little girl. He shuddered as the teacher walked through him. 

“Touch,” Rose said simply, tapping the back of his hand and going back to her work. 

Something very much akin to an electric shock rocketed through his mind and body as a singular heartbeat stuttered to life in his chest and Rose’s happiness drifted through his consciousness.

“‘Have I felt it yet,’” he repeated softly under his breath, ever so carefully leaning forward and using the lightest of touches to move her bangs out of her eyes. He met the knowing gaze of his younger self and sighed. “This is far more complicated than it appears, isn’t it? This pull... this draw...”

“Timelines,” One prompted. The Doctor chanced a peek at them and promptly unbalanced from his crouch to land hard on his rear on the floor. 

What in-

“No shouting, it will ruin her concentration.” 

♾♾♾

His younger self was never really all that far away. It was all but impossible for them to leave her at all, but One had noted with interest that it was as if they were sharing the pull. His anxiety was lessened and he found it possible to leave her side for longer periods of time. If the Doctor happened to be with her, he felt no need to return because another version of him was already standing watch. 

After a year in preschool she moved into primary school, learning basic addition and subtraction and... quantum theory. 

...

Needless to say, both Doctors were impatient to teach her something they actually thought was useful. 

...

Maybe a bit of French as well because there was a transfer student and Rose thought he looked lonely. 

...

At any rate, things were going well. There was an odd sort of melancholy associated with being a ghost and it leant itself toward calling a truce. Aside from Rose, they were the only ones they could interact with and speak to. It was a sobering situation and the usual incarnation rivalries they felt seemed moot when you were already dead. 

They’d worked out a system. The Doctor would sing Rose to sleep at night and One would recite, from memory, one of the hundreds of books he had read in his life. This would rotate on an every other night basis and whoever had helped her fall asleep would keep watch during the evening as well, sitting on the end of her bed and staring idly out the window onto the Powell Estates. 

 

One was the mot responsible of the pair of them, while the Doctor was more inclined to encourage adventurous pursuits. This had nothing to do with personality and more to do with the simple fact that One automatically fell into a grandfatherly concern after spending so much time with Susan, and the Doctor hadn’t been around any young children of any kind in the body he had. 

So, naturally, he was the one cheering Rose on while she attended the Jericho Street Under Sevens Gymnastics lessons and One was the one exclaiming in alarm every time she fell and hurt herself. 

But it was the both of them that were immensely proud when she got the bronze at the championships, and it was the both of them that went on and on expounding the virtues of limber muscles and hard work in regards to a healthy, problem-free adulthood. 

All of which she was too young to appreciate the advice of, but they tag-teamed on it with great enthusiasm all the same. 

It was the Doctor that convinced her to try new foods she was suspicious of, making every single one an adventure. It was the Doctor who played the recorder when he wanted to relax so much so to the point where Rose begged Jackie to get her her own. 

It was plastic, pink with a white stripe and small blue sparkles, but it was hers, and it didn’t matter that she had no sheet music because she copied what the Doctor did. She’d be well ahead of her class when they all started the instrument in their third year. 

But it was One who she went to when she’d had a nightmare, asking to be held; it pained the both of them that they were unable to offer that comfort, but if she laid on her bed with her head on a pillow, he would stroke her hair and whisper soft words of encouragement to her. 

It was the pair of them impatiently waiting for her to get out of the bath in the hallway that overheard Jackie and Bev talking in the kitchen.

“She spends all her time talking to people who aren’t actually there!” Jackie whispered loudly. “It’s just not normal, Bev!”

“Jacks, many children Rose’s age have one or more imaginary friends,” Bev soothed. “Both of mine did, and the youngest still does. He’s about to entire his seventh year, so he’ll soon leave that part of his childhood behind, but it’s nothing odd. If it lasts into adolescence, then you might have a psychological problem on your hands.”

“Is there no way to tell before that?” Jackie sighed. Bev grimaced.

“There are, but you run the risk of getting her labeled as the ‘weird one’ at her school if word somehow gets out that you had her tested, and if nothing’s actually wrong it might just ruin her school career.”

“You’re loads of help,” Jackie grumbled. Bev smirked and sipped at her tea. 

The two Doctors exchanged a worried look with one another. It had never occurred to them how this might be perceived by the outside world, by Jackie... 

“Should we... do something?” The Doctor asked lamely. One scoffed, pacing. 

“Oh yes, because either of us are remotely capable of sufficiently distancing ourselves from her to allow her to forget about her ‘imaginary friends.’ I think not.”

“Well, we can’t just continue as we have been! Sooner or later, someone will wonder why it is Rose is so adamant her ‘imaginary friends’ are real. I don’t want her being hurt because of us.”

“And I do!?”

“No, of course not! I’m merely pointing out that we need to consider-“

“All done!” Rose announced, walking out of the bathroom in her pajamas with a proud expression on her face. It had been the first time Jackie had trusted her to be alone in the bath and she was all too happy to prove that she was capable of ‘big girl’ things. 

Both Doctors smiled down at her, their argument temporarily forgotten, as Jackie and Bev hurried in and fussed over her. 

...Especially her backwards pajamas. 

Chapter Text

Fleeing a planet full of giant spiders, getting blasted with lethal amounts of radiation, and then tumbling to the floor of his lab was more than enough to disorient anybody, but the Doctor could have sworn that he wasn’t supposed to end up in some stranger’s flat somewhere in the middle of London when he’d been halfway through regenerating. Wearing his old body, not knowing where he was, and only all too aware of what his body wasn’t doing coalesced into quickly-stifled panic. 

“I’d tell you to breathe, but it seems a moot point.” The voice of his past incarnation washed over him and he let out what should have been a breath. As it was, it was just his chest moving up and down. 

“Never thought I’d be happy to hear your voice again,” he muttered, turning in the flat to see Two reclining on the couch. He merely raised an eyebrow and rolled his eyes. “Now, what’s going on here?”

“Oh, it’s quite simple really. That body of yours is dead. A new one has walked off with all our collective memories, and we’ve been left behind.”

“In a flat. In London.” It wasn’t a question, rather a flat blanket statement. Two nodded. “And our first incarnation?”

“Down in the courtyard, keeping an eye on things. It was his turn.” The Doctor blinked at that. 

“His turn for what?” 

Before his younger self could respond the door flew open and a seven year old girl came running in, skidding to a halt directly in front of him and beaming up at him with a smile full of missing teeth. 

“Hi,” she panted.

“Groceries successfully delivered to the poor pneumonia-ridden man next door,” One sighed good-naturedly, eyeing his third incarnation over with a frown. “Got another one, then.”

“Yes...” Two frowned as well, looking about the cramped but functional flat and sighing. “This could become a problem if we eventually get the whole set in here...”

“Rose, the door?” One chided lightly. She bit her lip in an ‘oops’ expression and dashed back the way she’d come. He looked directly at the Doctor and added quietly, “As far as she’s concerned, we’re her ‘imaginary friends.’” 

“...That gives me more questions than answers,” the Doctor sighed, shoulders slumping. He blinked as Rose skipped back in front of him and tilted her head far upward.

“You’re really tall.”

“Six foot three isn’t ‘really tall,’” he chuckled, preening slightly at the envious looks his mutually 5’8” previous bodies were throwing him. He knelt to be at eye level with Rose. “But if it helps, I can do this.” Her head tilted slightly as she studied him.

“You’re like... most of you is just... leg,” she murmured speculatively. Despite his confusion and anxiety at all the things that had yet to be explained to him, the Doctor burst out laughing at the observation. 

 

It’s several hours and one traumatic Jackie shower-related incident later that his younger selves are finally able to tell him everything in its entirety. He hasn’t made physical contact with Rose yet, but he can still feel the pull - the need to do so to connect to her and watch after her. It’s strange and discomforting and so out of his entirely out of his comfort zone that he absolutely refuses to accompany his second incarnation to put her to sleep that night, and so he awkwardly stands outside the flat leaning over the railing and straining to look up at a cloud-covered night sky. 

“You’ll become used to it soon,” One sighed, leaning on the railing beside him. “She’s a wonderful child. So bright, so inquisitive.”

“Her timelines indicate something fantastic in her future,” the Doctor muttered, hunching his shoulders. He wasn’t in the mood for conversation, seeing as he was still sulking about being dead and intangible, invisible, and mute to the rest of the world save for a tiny English girl. 

“Just connect with her,” One said gently. “At least try to bond with her. This entire situation might seem like Time Lord Purgatory at present, but sometimes... sometimes it feels like parts of it are Heaven.”

“They never mentioned this at the Academy.”

“Why should they? None of them were dead. How were they to know?”

“...I suppose.” 

It was a hot summer night, the air conditioning in the flat was broken again, and Two’s voice lilted softly through the open window as he sang Rose a series of lullabies. The Doctor let the words soothe him as best they could but found it difficult with all of the implications the situation afforded. 

“Why are we here, Doctor?” He asked after a few moments. One shifted position but said nothing. “Why weren’t we allowed to fade into memory in peace? We’ve earned our rest.”

“All I know is that it has to do with her, and that, for whatever reason, she needs us. It’s... quite humbling, really. Being an imaginary friend to a young child.” 

The Doctor raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

♾♾♾

Once the connection was made, the Doctor spent most of the time he had with Rose helping her with her homework and working on her science projects. Two preferred to advise on the artistic side of things if he could get away with it, so he was more than happy to turn the science and maths over to another individual even though he enjoyed it immensely. On the side he’d begun teaching Rose modern Gallifreyan; the younger a person was when learning a language the better, and since she thought it was the prettiest-sounding, most artsy-looking thing ever, she was more than enthusiastic to learn. 

By the time she entered her third year, she was already a pro at her recorder and far surpassed the rest of her class. Modern Gallifreyan was a very scientifically and mathematically-precise language, requiring the most perfect of execution to come out sounding or looking correct. After the teacher proclaimed Rose a prodigy to the rest of the teachers’ lounge the Doctors were left frantically explaining to her that she needed to keep things on the downlow - especially the Gallifreyan. There were... certain parties who would be very interested to get their hands on that and they weren’t willing to take that risk. 

That was the strange thing, really. The first two years passed by sluggishly and yet the Doctor - all three of him - had a hard time becoming bored. Rose had stoically continued at gymnastics at their encouragement, and she practiced Venusian Aikido with the Doctor. She never wanted for encouraging, attentive role models to guide her. She became, quite without them expecting it, their little girl. Not in a paternal sense, but she was just... theirs. And they were hers.

The thing was, though... little girls eventually grew up.

 

It started with being able to paint her nails on her own, and every once in a while she’d sneak into Jackie’s room and sit at the vanity playing pretend with the makeup. Then the makeup became serious instead of playful, Jackie yelling at her for being too young. Rose listened to her, leaving it be, but at the age of fourteen she was ever so happy to be given a kit of transparent, sparkly lip gloss and some premium nail polish. 

She’d been twelve and riding a brand new bright red bike that no one knew the origins of just two years prior. She no longer needed lullabies or stories to send her to sleep, and the Doctors mutually came to a reluctant agreement that they’d begin remaining outside her room in the evenings. It simply wasn’t proper for a growing young woman’s privacy. 

Fourteen. Year 9. She’d selected her GCSEs for study the prior year, intending to take them at sixteen, and she had a full load. 

Rose had fretted over the sheer amount she’d decided to take, but having three Time Lords coaching her helped. Half of the ones she wanted to take weren’t offered at her school, so Jackie reluctantly made arrangements to set her up in a new one where she could get them. Physics, astronomy, advanced maths, French, and history were just a few of the extras she’d tacked on to the four required and the high stress was supplemented by the ceaseless attention of her invisible tutors. 

Ever so slowly, she was drawing away from them. Becoming more independent, going off on her own. It wasn’t a bad thing at all for a child to outgrow the need for their guardians, but...

...It was a different matter when the only heartbeat in their chests belonged to her.

Chapter Text

It was, in the opinions of his past selves, the worst time for another of them to join the group. The Doctor hadn’t quite understood at first why that was, but once everything had been explained and the life bond had been made he was inclined to agree.

Rose was right in the middle of her GCSEs. She’d spent a good two years preparing for them in a full contingency of subjects and they were confident she’d succeed. The trouble was that the shift of the paradigm had occurred at just the wrong moment.

She pretty much ignored his scarf-clad person in favor of of taking her exams; she’d gotten the late May slot and once those were done she still had to finish out the year. Pretty much wiped after the stressful occasion, he finally found time to speak with her without his other selves butting in and waited eagerly on the edge of her bed for her to notice him. 

When this went on for longer than he was comfortable with, he coughed. Rose paused in her homework on the floor of her room and let out a tiny sigh, not looking in his direction.

“Need something?” She asked. 

“I just... I’d like to get to know you,” he said slowly, standing from the bed to sit slowly in front of her on the floor. “But I get the idea that you don’t like my being here very much.”

“A girl’s supposed to stop believing in imaginary friends when they get older, not collect more of them,” Rose huffed, finally raising her head to pin him in place with her eyes. “That’s when the parents call the doctors and psychologists and such.” 

“...Ah.” The Doctor cleared his throat awkwardly and attempted to mentally regroup, focusing on the sixteen year old Tyler girl in front of him when a soft chuckle escaped her mouth. “What’s so funny?”

“‘S just... sometimes I could swear you’re all the same person. Same mannerisms, sometimes.”@ His eyes widened at that and he simulated the affect of inhaling sharply. 

“You mean my ah... counterparts never mentioned...”

“Mentioned what?”

“Well, we are all the same person. All of us are The Doctor.” He well and truly had her attention now.

“...You what?” She asked weakly. He sighed.

“I can see we’re going to have quite a lot to talk about.” 

♾♾♾

“So let me see if I’ve got this straight,” Rose breathed about four hours later. She was sitting on her bed in her jimjams with a steaming mug of cocoa, propped up against her pillows. The four Doctors were either sitting on the end of the bed, leaning against her dresser, or propped against the wall. “You’re from another planet, you can die twelve times and have thirteen different bodies, and you-“ here she pointed at the latest addition to her unwitting collection- “are somewhere around seven hundred and fifty years old.”

“Pretty much,” the Doctor muttered, briefly exchanging a glance with his three younger selves. 

“You’re also all different versions of the same person, and ghosts. And for reasons you don’t understand, you’ve been tied to me.”

“...Yes.” 

“Well, why me?” She huffed, blowing a stray bit of recently-bleached blonde hair out of her eyes impatiently. “Why would-“ they all stiffened as the door of the flat opened and Jackie walked in. Rose lowered her voice, turned on the radio, and switched to speaking in Gallifreyan. It was quite impressive, actually. She had become incredibly fluent both in speech and in written comprehension. «What’s so special about me?»

“We... don’t know,” Three huffed. He didn’t bother changing language seeing as Jackie couldn’t hear him anyway and it was still easier for Rose to understand the conversation if it were in English. “Now, we told you how all Time Lords come from Gallifrey, but not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. That time travel is possible. It means we can see time, in very interesting ways, which includes each individual person’s own timeline. There are exceptions to the rule of course, you understand. And your timeline is very, very special.”

«What, mine?» Rose asked, gaping. «I’m just a girl from a Council Estate.»

“You’re also incredibly smart, resourceful, and handling all of this extremely well,” Two pointed out. Rose snorted in response to that and they all frowned at her. “Now don’t give me that. You are. Rose, I may have shown you you had potential, but you’re the one that decided to do something about it.”

“Doctors, do you think we could have a moment?” The Doctor asked. His younger selves protested a bit before conceding, slinking out of the room with annoyance. Rose tracked their departure with confused eyes. 

«Why did you want them to leave?» She asked softly. His cobalt blue gaze met hers steadily as he sat cross-cross on the end of her bed.

“Because they know you,” he said simply. “They care for you. I don’t know you, not yet. Any question you want to ask, I’ll answer with pure truth. They might think they’re protecting you and wish to shield you from the truth.”

«Straight answers, no sugar-coating?» she mused, raising an eyebrow before slowly nodding. «Deal.»

“I wish I could offer you a Jelly Baby,” the Doctor sighed. “These conversations go so much better when they start off on the left foot.”

«You mean the right foot.»

“...What’s the difference?”

“...”

♾♾♾

It’s months later and they’re walking down the street browsing a flea market. Rose had gotten her GSCE scores that morning in the post and, while they weren’t perfect, they’d all been passing grades and the ones she was considering for her A-Levels were all in the high percentile. Jackie had recently taken a third job to pay for the stove to get fixed - though Rose was certain that with the Doctors’ help she could do it herself - and was working in a shop. She’d been on her way to tell her the good news and she’d got... sidetracked. 

“How much is it?”

“Twenty quid, love.”

“It’s priceless!” The Doctor crowed, ecstatic. Rose shot him a look as she dutifully handed over the £20 note and wrapped the thin scarf around her neck. It was a feminine version of the one he wore; tassels, length and width proportionate to the body, and even the seven colors and sizes of the irregular stripes was the same. 

“He’ll be impossible to work with now,” Three sighed. Two huffed in agreement. Their first incarnation had wandered off to look at some hats without them. “Still, it looks better on you than it does him...”

“Oh, rubbish!” The Doctor argued, flicking the ghostly version of his own scarf over his shoulder and preening it to lay just so. 

Rose just shook her head and hid a smile. She’d learned a long time ago not to speak to them in public - something they had also learned not to come to expect thankfully - in the interests of not making people think she was a nutter. Of course, some days she wondered if the jury was truly out on that one...

Over the summer all four Doctors had regaled her with their collective life story. One had started at the very beginning, transferring over to Two, and then to Three, and finally to the latest Doctor, Four. There had been such a wealth of information that it had at first overwhelmed her to get such an infodump all at once, but she truly and deeply appreciated their need to be honest with her and let her know exactly who they were. After all, they’d been with her in some form since she was just sixth months old... 

...It seemed only fair they returned the favor. 

“Rose, come look at what I’ve found!” One called, catching all of their attention. He pointed excitedly at a gorgeous buffed bronze pocket watch with an intricate design of a galaxy engraved on its surface. Gingerly picking it up, Rose opened the casing and sighed softly at the interior. The hands and gears were entirely exposed inside, the metal scraped and dulled after years of use and a period of poor upkeep, but it was still beautiful and entirely unique. 

The inside of the cover had the inscription To Jago, from Litefoot and the Doctor choked on his non-breath when he read it. Rose had, of course, been told about the unlikely private Victorian Investigators and the business with Weng-Chiang, but to actually see proof of their adventures in her hand-

“How much?” She asked the seller, fingers trembling as she set the watch down and closed the case. The young woman gave her a soft, knowing smile and reached out to straighten her scarf. 

“Something tells me you know exactly how special that watch is,” she whispered softly. “And both Messrs. Jago and Litefoot would want you to have it.”

“You sure, Ms...”

“Ellie. Ellie Higson. And yes, I’m sure. Most of this stuff at my booth’s just old junk. Heirlooms that I can’t hang on to anymore, but that watch...” she sighed, a wistful expression crossing her face. “I never wanted to put a price on it. Wanted to send it to a home where it would be loved, cherished. Respected. I think I’ve found that in you.”

“Thank you,” Rose whispered, tenderly picking the watch up and sliding it into the safest pocket on her person - an interior one in her jacket. “I will. Treasure it, I mean.”

“I know,” Ellie responded with a smile. Rose gave her one last nod and then walked quickly out of the flea market. 

“What do you think happened there?” She asked softly when they’d gotten to a more secluded area. 

“Her timelines are unusually long for a human,” Three murmured speculatively. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew Jago and Litefoot personally.”

“She seemed to know right off the bat that you knew who they were as soon as she saw your scarf,” Two added. “And they must have talked of the Weng-Chiang business with Ellie, surely. If she was their friend, of course.” 

“That watch will demand constant care and upkeep,” One pointed out. “But not to worry my dear. We’ll show you what to do.”

“Good, I was worried,” Rose muttered under her breath, smiling innocently at the biker who tossed her a concerned look as he passed. The Doctor’s deep baritone laugh warmed her chest and her smile widened with genuine mirth.

Chapter Text

“What happened to you?” The Doctor asked, gaze wide and startled as he took in Rose’s puffy red eyes and soft, sobbing breaths. He’d been patiently waiting for her to exit the bathroom and... well... “You were only gone all of five minutes.”

“Just some girls applying their makeup,” Rose muttered in a small voice, angrily swiping at the moisture around her eyes. “Called me a chav, implied my dad didn’t die and that my mum just said that because she spread her legs unmarried and he took off when she got up the duff. Just kids being kids.” 

“That’s not ‘just kids being kids,’” the Doctor argued, sky blue eyes lighting up as if they were full of fireworks. “You need to go to the Headmaster.”

“And say what? That I’m being bullied?” Me and everyone else.” The Doctor sighed,  angrily kicking at the scuffed tile floor of the school hallway with his dusty white trainer. He silently accompanied her back to the classroom and perched on the empty desk beside her, sitting on its top with his legs pulled up to a criss-cross position.

The fifth incarnation of the Doctor had quite literally shown up in the middle of a rainstorm, panicking in the courtyard of the Powell Estates because he wasn’t getting wet and the rain was moving through him. It had taken much coaxing from the ghosts of his younger selves to convince him to come inside the flat, and in the two weeks that he’d been around Rose had hardly heard a peep out of him. 

He was taking in his new existence with a quiet resignment and wariness that was so un-Doctorlike it was incredible, but the benefit to this was that Rose could actually take him to school with her and he wouldn’t cause problems. 

Prior to him, she’d had to settle for taking Three and leaving the other ones at home; even then, she’d end up banishing him to the hall because hearing a constant correction of the teacher made it difficult to take notes. With the addition of more Doctors to spread the bond, they were able to be left at the flat when she was at school now so long as one of them were with her. Most of them spent the time wandering the nearby area, pleased to have gone farther than they’d previously been allowed with the arrival of their fifth self. 

He was far younger than the others were, looking barely thirty with shaggy blond hair and an overall pensive attitude that made him act older at times. After hearing a quiet report on what had happened with Adric, and then Nyssa, and finally Tegan, she didn’t blame him. Tack on dying for saving his friend from Spectrox poisoning in a sacrificial move and it was a wonder he was as good-natured as he presented in spectral form. 

It also meant that Rose didn’t really know how to connect with him. Where the others had this innocent view of a mostly-good universe, he’d made one or two pessimistic comments adverse to that opinion. He looked younger and acted older. She just... couldn’t get a read on him.

I give up. Rose wrote on the edge of her paper in swirling Gallifreyan characters. To anyone else it looked as if she were doodling to pass boredom. What’s going through that head of yours?

The Doctor blinked.

“About what?” Rose shrugged.

About anything. I’ve been with four versions of you since I was six months old. Your mind’s like an open book. But you? I just... I really can’t get a read. 

“I’m not all that complicated,” he sighed. “Just had a lot of complicated things happen to me between my regeneration and my- my death.” He swallowed nervously on the last word and pulled his knees closer to his body. “So I apologize if I’m more morose.” 

I really get the feeling you don’t want to be here. Her shoulders slumped. It’s okay Doctor. None of you do to start with, not really.

“Of course we do!” He exclaimed, entire demeanor springing into energetic movement. So much so that, as he leapt to stand in front of her desk and planted his hands on it to lean toward her, she sucked in a sharp breath of surprise and leaned back. “Rose, I’ve known you two weeks and I can already tell you’re someone very special. Someone I’m going to love getting to know. I just... I’d resigned myself to the concept of dying, is all. Of becoming someone new, because this me was tired of hurting anymore.”

That’s incredibly dark. Rose cleared her throat and raised her hand, peering around him slightly to see her instructor. “Sir? Can I visit the loo?” She asked. The man’s eyes narrowed with annoyance.

“You had a free period between classes Miss Tyler,” he chastised. “You should have gone then.”

“I didn’t have to put a pad on then, sir,” Rose retorted politely. The Doctor snickered as the man’s face drained of color and he nodded tensely. Rose smiled sweetly at him, grabbed her bag, and walked into the hall. 

“Are all of you secretly suicidal?” She hissed once the door had closed. The Doctor blinked.

“Don’t you have to-“

“It was an excuse, Doctor.” She rolled her eyes. “I don’t actually need to put on a pad. Got two weeks, actually. By my count we've got a good seven to eight minutes before he gets suspicious. So start talking.”

“...Oh.” His posture slouched slightly as he stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets. “I'm not suicidal, Rose. I never have been in any of my bodies. It's a simple fact, however, that once a regeneration begins it means one can wipe the slate and get a fresh start by having the old body die. And now I find that that isn't entirely case, and...” 

“You can't help but wonder where Adric's ghost might have got off to,” Rose summarized with dawning comprehension. The Doctor blinked once, twice, three times before a soft and rueful smile took over his features. He lightly tapped her on the nose, resulting in her sneezing at the feathery contact, and nodded. 

“There, you see? You know me much better than you think you do. We'll get along just fine, Rose Tyler.”

“Dream on, vegetable boy. Dream on...”

♾♾♾

Years came and went, and the A-Levels were upon them almost in the blink of an eye. Since Rose had done so well on her GCSEs she was hard-pressed to narrow the list, and she certainly debated on the wisdom of taking four, but the higher amount did impress colleges...

At the encouragement of her Doctors she applied for four. They were advanced mathematics, astronomy, physics, and history. No one would have realized it to look at her, but she found such subjects fascinating and had a keen eye for them. Hearing the Doctor talk about space and the past had given her “the bug” as a child and she’d never been able to get rid of it. 

In the midst of her frenetic studying waltzed Jimmy Stone.

Rose had been working late at the library as her mum didn’t own a computer, and she was walking home alone - or as alone as one could be with at least one ghost nearby at all times - when he stepped out of an alcove. His body reeked of pot and his breath stank of alcohol, and he was leering at her more than smiling at her as he approached. 

“We should cross the street,” the Doctor murmured. He was feeling quite useless as a non-corporeal entity and was also frustrated that his younger selves weren’t present. They’d all gone to some sort of exhibition by the waterfront without him. 

“Nah,” Rose said unworriedly. “I know a thing or two about self-defense.”

“With my third incarnation hanging about I don’t doubt it...”

Needless to say, Jimmy regretted going near her. He also regretted being born, among other more trivial things. And he learned that ‘nerdy girls’ as he called them usually had a thick book in their book bag to use like a brick against attackers. 

“What did you hit him with, exactly?” The Doctor asked, intrigued as Jimmy stumbled off down the street. Rose frowned and rummaged in her bag, snickering when she saw the title. 

“Uh... The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.”

“Ah. Fitting.” He frowned when he noticed a gleam of wetness on her forehead in the dim light of a street lamp, leaning in and lightly brushing her hair out of the way to get a better look. “You’re hurt...” Rose’s breath hitched, a tiny puff of exhale ghosting against his cheek. 

“Doctor.” 

“Hmm?” He glanced down and their noses lightly touched before his pressed slightly too hard and it passed through her own. She sneezed and shivered at the same time and he backed quickly away in alarm. “Sorry, Rose...”

“No, it- it’s fine,” she whispered, flashing him a shy and tentative smile. He swallowed and returned one of his own. 

Chapter Text

Jackie had thrown a party to celebrate Rose passing and getting good marks on all four of her A-Levels, and it seemed the whole Estate was invited. 

Such was the commotion, in fact, that due to the coat he was wearing four of the Doctor’s younger selves had assumed he was merely a paid entertainer and had been immensely confused and collectively disappointed in their future self for future fashion choices. The fifth younger self had merely gasped at the newcomer and attempted to disappear into the crowd, grumbling when Four dragged him back by the collar of his coat and set him down on the pavement. 

Explanations were quickly given, and since Rose was all but lost in a sea of party guests they had to wait to introduce the two until far into the evening. 

 

Two months after getting her A-Level scores, Rose was working at a shop during the evenings to try and pay her way through college. She was going to the University of London for a degree in astrophysics. Or... you know. Basic physics first, so that she could then apply for a Doctorate in astrophysics afterward. 

Nineteen was the age of self-discovery and poor choices, and Rose was no exception to this generalization. True, she might not have gone clubbing every night, but following creepy noises in the basement of the Henriks she worked at and allowing herself to get trapped inside a room full of Autons certainly qualified as a substitute. 

She’d barely escaped with her life, dutifully listening to the Doctors walk her through the process of prepping a gas main to explode, and had legged it back to the flat before things could become properly dicey. 

 

Three months after getting her A-Level scores, Rose was applying for a job as a secretary to an important firm when the entire CEO were accused of embezzlement. 

 

Four months after getting her A-Level scores, Rose was working at a chip shop in the city. It was closed down soon after by Health and Safety.

 

It wasn’t as if Rose were going to these places to cause trouble, but it seemed to follow her. She came to the conclusion that, if she brought chaos wherever she went, she could at least use her powers for good. At five months after getting her A-Levels, Rose applied for the job of a dinner lady at a local school where the students were getting ‘out of this world’ test results. 

The Doctor trailed after her everywhere, teasing her dinner lady outfit and in general highly enjoying himself as his other selves snooped around the building looking for clues. They were both witness to a rather explosive incident in the kitchen with some vats of oil and, resolving to come back later in the evening, they’d retired to the flat. Jackie was out for the evening on a date, so they had the place to themselves. 

While the Doctor and his first, second, fourth, and fifth incarnations poured over the data they had collected his third incarnation walked Rose through the process of creating her very own Sonic Screwdriver. They’d been working on it for months but tonight finally seemed like the night, and with a beaming smile Rose proudly displayed the item to her Doctors completed.

Cylindrical, with the same settings and software as their own, it had a buffed rose gold finish and a sky blue diode at its tip. Sleek, and shaped like a custom pen (but with the part under the cap an actual lock picking set, never call her unprepared), it blended easily with her notebooks and made a nice addition to her equipment. 

Long after the sun had set, she dragged Mickey with her and used her new Sonic to let herself in through the front door. 

“Place gives me the creeps,” she muttered.

“Ah yes, your recurring childhood nightmare of the teachers being vampires who slept in coffins, and that the school basement was actually their crypt,” Three mused. Five gaped at her with sparkling eyes, clearly trying not to laugh.

“He’s joking,” he countered. Rose bit her lip and he laughed. “No.”

“In retrospect, we did tell her not to do a horror movie marathon with Mickey...” Three sighed. “But as always she remained her usual stubborn self.”

“Pot, kettle,” the Doctor snickered, adjusting his technicolor coat more snugly on his shoulders and pseudo-inhaling deeply. “Oh, this does feel good though. Investigating things we shouldn’t be sticking our noses into, being a general nuisance to whatever dark and malevolent force might be lurking in the shadows...”

“I have missed this,” Three murmured with a nostalgic smile. “No matter how much I’ve enjoyed your science projects Rose, this simply feels...”

“Right,” the Doctor summarized with a knowing nod. One just gave the lot of them a strange look, shrugged, and set off to be on lookout. 

“Micks, think you could meet me by the headmaster’s office after I go to the kitchens to collect that flammable oil?” Rose asked. Mickey shrugged. 

“Sure thing, babe. Don’t want me goin’ with ya?”

“I need you to explore the maths department,” Rose said with a shake of her head. “All the new teachers are in the maths department.” 

“What exactly are we looking for, Rose?” Mickey asked with a frown. 

“...Uh...”

“Tell him you suspect an alien invasion using the children as a workforce,” Four said simply with a mischievous Cheshire grin. “I’d absolutely love to see how that’d go over.”

“And have him label her a nutty conspiracy theorist?” Two scoffed. “I think not.” 

“Less than above the books government experiment,” Rose said lamely. There was a collective groan of disappointment and she muttered a very rude expletive in Gallifreyan in response under her breath, prompting a round of sputtered outrage that she vehemently ignored. “Something going on with the kids that the parents don’t know about.”

“The flaming oil tipped you off, huh?” Mickey summarized flatly. He shrugged. “Well, fine. Sooner we get what we came for the sooner we can leave.” He started walking in the wrong direction before returning with a sheepish expression. “Uh, where’s the maths department?”

“I’m going with him,” Two sighed. “Ghost or not the poor man will need all the help he can get...”

“Rude,” Rose whispered. She turned to Mickey and raised her voice. “Just follow the signs, Mick. Not hard to miss.”

“...Right, yeah. Yeah, I can do that.” 

“Do we really need any more evidence?” Five sighed. “It’s more than enough to call in U.N.I.T. that they’re using the children to crack the Skasis Paradigm.” Rose flashed him a withering look and he pouted. “Well, what’s wrong with that?”

“First off, we have no idea who these people are or why they want it,” she listed, making a point of ticking off all the reason why that was a bad idea on her fingers as they walked toward the kitchens. “Second, we humans have absolutely no idea what this Skasis thing actually is and none of you have deigned to explain it to me. Third, any evidence collected needs to be foolproof in the eyes of English law, not just in the eyes of U.N.I.T. in case they decide the case isn’t worth their time. Any questions?”

“No, that about covers it,” the Doctor sighed. “So let’s go get your oil and then do some proper paper-pushing, hmm?” 

“Did anyone ever punch you in the face when you were alive?” Rose huffed. The Doctor smirked and tilted his head slightly to the side as he pretended to consider.

“No, but I could tell that they wanted to,” he finally replied with an all-too casual manner belying his amusement. She sighed heavily in annoyance and rolled her eyes at the blithe remark. 

“Yes... I wonder why,” Three murmured acerbically. 

“Not now boys,” Rose groaned. More than accustomed in her nineteen years of experience with putting out fires between the lot of them, she was in no mood to do so now. With a soft grunt of exertion she popped the seal on the vat of oil and deposited a tiny ladleful into a test tube, stopping it firmly with a rubber cork and tucking it into her pockets. “What’s the time?”

“Ten minutes to eleven PM,” Five said promptly and succinctly. 

“Better get moving, want to be out of here before midnight,” she sighed. Her step slowed as she walked towards the Headmaster’s office as a shadow crossed the floor in an adjoining passage. Immediately, Three and Four moved ahead to assess the threat. They turned the corner and disappeared, two gasps of astonishment occurring as if on cue. 

“Sarah!” Four exclaimed. The Doctor and Five didn’t wait for a response from Rose, eagerly dashing off to join their younger selves. Swallowing, Rose picked up her pace and rounded the corner to come face to face with none other than Sarah Jane Smith.

Freelance journalist, friend of U.N.I.T. and best friend of the Doctor. Jade and brown hazel eyes. Dark brown hair that had lightened to chocolate overall rather than employing streaks of silver or white. From the enthusiastic stories of the Doctor’s Third and Fourth selves, she was just as resourceful as she was pretty. And if she’d honed her investigative skills as well as she’d aged, then...

“Oh my God, you’re her,” Rose whimpered, a bit of the schoolgirl she had just so recently been peaking out. 

“Sorry, do I know you?” Sarah asked. Rose let out a tiny, undignified squeak and entirely ignored the beaming grins the Doctors were giving her as she shoved her hand forward to shake. 

“I love your exposés,” she said quickly before everything caught up with her. “Sorry, I’m Rose. Rose Tyler.”

“...And you obviously seem to know who I am,” Sarah returned, shaking her hand with a slightly nervous smile. “Uh, what are you doing here?”

“Same thing you are, I imagine,” Rose said with a bright smile. “Looking for anything amiss. I’m a dinner lady, but- well, all my jobs seem to be cursed, so I figured I’d direct that curse at suspect test results, and I drug my friend here to help me, and-“

“You’re rambling,” Sarah laughed, lightly reaching out and tapping her shoulder. “Settle down. I uh, I usually work alone after a truly unfortunate choice in assistants, but but maybe just this once you can come with me?”

“What happened to your assistant?” Rose asked with wide eyes. 

“Oh, it turned out he was part of a cult and kept shooting people out to get me,” Sarah sighed dismissively. “Thought I was herald of a new era or something. Two parts of the same cult, diametrically opposed, all of them one hundred percent batty.” She shivered slightly. “Life of a journalist, never dull.”

“Sounds... perfectly... perfect,” Rose replied, blinking. Sarah laughed again. 

“Well, it’s never boring.” They both turned their heads sharply at the sound of a shrill scream and exchanged a grin. “Case in point...”

“That’ll be my friend,” Rose snickered. “Four years older than me, acts all tough, sees a spider in the bath...” 

“Oh, I know the type...” 

♾♾♾

It’s getting a decrepit K-9 working again with the enthusiastic assistance of six different Doctors peering over her shoulder, ceaseless questions from Sarah about her Sonic and out of this knowledge, and blowing up a school later that Rose and Sarah actually have the time to properly chat in the park the morning after the explosion. Sitting on a bench and sipping tea from home-brought thermoses.

“I did some digging into you,” Sarah said after a few moments. “Enrolled in university, aptitude in exams off the charts, excelled beyond what society expects of your economic class... you worked hard to get where you are. I’m impressed.” She took a breath. “I have a house in Ealing. Lots of space, me alone - well, aside from K-9 of course, and thank you for patching him up, but the way - and it’s not much farther away from the University of London as Peckham, but it has the advantage of not having to cross the Thames everyday. I could use a renter taking up one of my three guest rooms. No fee for staying in, so long as you maintain K-9’s good health, and I’m looking to make a sort of an... alien supercomputer, if you will. My technical expertise is... lacking.”

“You want me to move in with you?” Rose asked, blinking. “Just like that?” It was a long time before Sarah spoke again. 

“You remind me of a friend I once had,” she murmured. “A good one. We ah, we traveled together for a long while. But he had to leave, he was called somewhere I couldn’t follow.” She sighed softly and nodded. “I’ve made a good life for myself, a good name. I’m an outstanding reporter, if I do say so myself.” She shifted in her spot. “And unfortunately, with someone of your class status, you won’t catch the eye of the employers your intellect allows you to deserve. However, astrophysics and physics in general is a field that U.N.I.T. is extremely interested in, and I could put in a word-“

Ecstatic chaos from six Doctors at the offer was no where near enough to pull Rose out of the dumbfounded gaping stare she was leveling at Sarah Jane Smith.

Chapter Text

“Morning Rose,” Sarah yawned sleepily as she padded into the attic. “Morning Mr. Smith.”

“Good morning, Sarah Jane,” Mr. Smith chimed in his usual distinct manner. 

“Hi Sarah,” Rose yawned. Sarah smiled and came over to ruffle her hair. 

“Up all night studying?” She asked sympathetically. Rose looked up from the desk and slowly peeled the piece of paper off of her face, inhaling deeply of the proffered mug of tea when it was offered and cradling the mug in her hands. 

“Four years of school, and I’ve just started the five for my doctorate, and U.N.I.T. want me to analyze that wormhole to the metal manta ray planet,” she mumbled, taking a large swig of her beverage. “Mm. Luke left early for school. Wanted to meet up with Clyde, Maria, and Rani to go over the study packet for the test today in biology.”

“Clyde wanted to study?”

“Correction: Maria threatened to reveal something embarrassing to Rani should Master Clyde not make an appearance,” K-9 barked as he wheeled around the corner of the central column of the attic. “Blackmail.”

“Hush you,” Sarah sighed with a soft chuckle. She fell silent for a few moments, merely gazing out the window into the garden, before turning back to Rose. “Are any of them... you know... here?” She asked quietly. Rose did a quick recon and then shook her head in the negative.

She’d told Sarah within two months of moving in about her ghost problem, an explanation that Sarah both was inclined to believe and felt answered the questions she’d had about some of Rose’s knowledge. They’d bonded quickly upon her realizing they had a common acquaintance... of sorts... and Sarah would sometimes talk about the Doctor when she knew one of him wasn’t currently in the same room as them. This morning was, apparently, no exception.

“I just wanted to know what sort of... relationship... you have with him,” she began awkwardly. Rose blinked. This was not going the way she had initially expected it to. “You see, to speak of him with such an affection that I feel it goes beyond pure friendship. I- I don’t mean to pry, it’s just the journalist in me. Keep scratching at an itch until it goes away.”

“I’ve known him since I was six months old,” Rose began. “But I never saw him as a paternal figure, because no one else could see him. He started out as my childhood imaginary friend- the first three of him mind, it was like I was trying to collect the set or something- and as I got older it developed into a real and true friendship. We’re the best of friends now, all of him and me, despite them being ghosts.” Her cheeks stained a light shade of red and Sarah gaped slightly.

“You and he aren’t...?”

“There was some... mutual yearning, around the time his fifth incarnation showed up,” Rose admitted, forcing herself to make eye contact and taking a large gulp of tea for liquid courage. “I was too busy for anything to be pursued, looking for a job and a uni after graduating. And waiting for my A-Level results to come in was... stressful. But um-“ she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and the blush deepened further- “a month or so after his sixth incarnation showed up, things moved beyond platonic. I wouldn’t say they were romantic per se, just overtly-platonically affectionate maybe?”

“But now, four and a half years later...” Sarah summarized slowly, her eyes widening slightly. Her gaze flicked to the pictures Rose had nicked of all his incarnations from U.N.I.T. and traveled over all seven, lingering on his third and fourth with affectionate nostalgia, before returning back to Rose. 

“I think they’re afraid to say anything because- well- they’re dead, those versions of him anyway, and I’m too uncertain of what it is exactly we have to press? But I’ll get a soft ethereal kiss on the forehead, the cheek, the side of the mouth, a ghostly hand brushing my bangs out of my face or fingers trailing featherlight across my cheek... tiny terms of endearment none of them had ever used with me before now like ‘love’ or ‘darling...’” 

“You’re confused, aren’t you?” Sarah asked sympathetically. Rose huffed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes, and nodded with a sort of tired long-standing exasperation. “Do you love him back?”

Rose opened her mouth hesitantly to answer when a loud rapping of knuckles on the door broke up their conversation. She checked her pocket watch and swore loudly in Gallifreyan as she ran for her bedroom. Sarah shook her head with a soft smile and moved to open the door. 

“Mickey, Martha,” she said politely. “Rose will be down... well, sometime I expect.”

“Studied through the night again?” Martha asked. 

“Appears so.” 

“I keep sayin’ she’ll burn out if she keeps that up,” Mickey grumbled. He pecked Martha on the cheek and stepped inside; by now all four of them were well-versed in this song and dance routine. 

Martha’s new flat was nearby, and she was getting it ready as best she could while Mickey closed out the lease on his own flat. They’d married just that summer with a sudden and unexpected elopement after a whirlwind romance and still had numerous loose ends to tie up two months later, but they were progressing toward fully unified living at a steady clip. The pair took the Underground into Ealing every morning and then carpooled into work with Rose, because she was the only one with a car.

Bessie sat proudly in the driveway next to Sarah’s little green transport in all her resplendent glory, tech still fully intact. She had been in the U.N.I.T. motor pool for a good long while; the Doctor had installed a special failsafe and no one could get her started, but since he’d shown her the trick command had said she could keep the plucky antique car. Mickey, try as he might as a base mechanic, had no idea how she did it. 

Martha had recently finished medical school and had been begging for a job. She’d run into Mickey, who introduced her to Rose and Sarah, and quite suddenly she was Dr. Jones - later to be Dr. Jones-Smith - working for U.N.I.T. 

Recently, the schedule had altered with Rose’s hectic study schedule. Mickey now stalked into the house to berate her for not being on time through her bedroom door like the older brother she had come to see him as growing up, and she would holler abuse back. Martha and Sarah would remain at the door pleasantly discussing the latest updates in their lives, and then they would be off. 

This morning was no different.

♾♾♾

Kate, Malcolm, and Osgood were all elbow deep in a new ‘toy’ when Rose walked in that morning, and with a hum of curiosity she suited up to join them. Seven curious ghosts peered curiously over her shoulders and were even so bold as to climb the equipment to get a better look, and her frustration with this was tempered by the soft murmured words of affection or gentle affectionate touches all of them bestowed upon her throughout the late morning and afternoon. Six was especially guilty of pecking her on the cheek as he walked past, and the newest addition - the seventh one - seemed determined to prove he fit right in with the rest of the bunch like there was no tomorrow. 

No shortage of endearments were withheld from her. Loving words rolled off his lips with elongated and rumbling ‘r’s and when he smiled it was with this mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Of course, she could see him go extremely dark - they all could, if pushed far enough - but he was the darkest yet. This was, oddly enough, more thrilling than chilling and Rose found herself asking not by any means for the first time why it was the electric pulse of the Storm attracted her so.

It was trouble with a capital T. 

Maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t entirely real. Yes, the affection and romance was there, but there was no true physical closeness in their relationship. It was the very definition of ‘long distance’ in a way only Patrick Swayze could understand, and that made it less - ha! - tangible. 

But she did, really. In answer to Sarah’s question that morning. There was no good way to define how, or in what way, but she did. She loved him. All of him. Even when he was being a pain and arguing with his other selves-

...Speaking of which...

«Knock it off!» Rose ordered in Gallifreyan, not bothering to turn around and check if she was being obeyed. At best, she’d bought herself five minutes of peace.

♾♾♾

The soft tap of the Doctor’s umbrella against the wood floor of the attic made Rose smile slightly as she flipped through her coursework that evening. Soft, quiet moments between one of them at a time seemed to be something they had all come to the conclusion was a necessity, and judging by the frequency this happened it was something they craved. She herself looked forward more and more often to such moments and tonight was no exception.

A soft ghostly kiss to the top of her forehead was the signature greeting from this particular version, and Rose hummed as she smiled up at him.

“Fancy a little stargazing?” He asked quietly, nodding to the large telescope in the window. Biting her lip to hide a grin, she nodded and rose from her seat to join him. 

They sat side by side on the window ledge and took turns using the scope; Rose would pick a star and then have him tell her about the planets and people belonging to it. It was a past time they’d begun only just recently, just the pair of them, but...

She rather liked it.

Chapter Text

Usually, it’s one of the other Doctors that finds the newest arrival. Usually, the new arrival kicks up a huge fuss and - rightly - panics over their new existence. Usually, Rose is introduced after a very long explanation has been given and the new arrival has settled down. Usually.

It’s Rose who finds him one afternoon, standing in the attic watching K-9 and Mr. Smith argue over a chess match. He’s only paying half attention, the rest of it devoted to the numerous pictures of his third and fourth incarnations that Sarah had taken over their time together. The small ones of his other selves clearly lifted from U.N.I.T. records. 

His somewhat curly chestnut hair is a mess covered in soot, his skin dusted with ash and dirt and cuts and blood. His once-shiny black leather jacket is dull and ill-treated, his formidable black work slacks and high hunting boots caked in mud. Bright cerulean eyes are dead and haunted, a wealth of pain inside them. He sways slightly on his feet as if he’s about to come apart at the seams but somehow resolutely remains firmly in a standing position. It looks suspiciously like the pose Rose sees at U.N.I.T. called “parade rest.” 

He doesn’t bother to turn around when she walks in and freezes in the doorway. He simply continues to stand and look at the photographs. 

“Doctor,” Rose whispers.

“I’d often wondered what the afterlife would be like,” he says softly. His voice is at once firm yet smooth, deep yet light, warm like honey and cool like mint. “I wasn’t expecting this.” 

“I don’t think anyone does,” she replies gently, taking slow tentative steps forward. “Where have you been?” 

“Ending a war that would have destroyed all of reality.” It’s spoken flatly, whatever emotion it invokes strategically hidden behind layers of suppressed expression. 

“And... who was fighting?” She’s seen him like this before, but never so broken. It’s like looking in a warped and fractured mirror of the first few weeks trying to figure out his fifth incarnation. She hates it. 

“Time Lords, against the Daleks.” He blows out a breath, wincing slightly when he realizes there isn’t any air to puff out. “The Last Great Time War.” His shoulders slump, his hands balling into fists to disguise the tremors in the fingers, and he swallows several times as his throat constricts. “It turned everyone into monsters in the end, and my own people... they were as bad as the Daleks.”

“What did you do?” Rose whispers hoarsely. She’s frozen a step or so behind him, allowing him the privacy of keeping his face turned away, an arm outstretched to reach for his shoulder but unable to make the final movement. 

“I ended it. And they’re all dead, and me with them.” The Doctor’s head tilts slightly upward as he stares at the ceiling. “As it should be.” 

 

She’d once called him suicidal without understanding his need to be a martyr. But this is different. This actually is suicidal for him. To be so accepting of permanent death, no longer dying for a cause but because everything hurts. 

It breaks the spell the moment has had over her, and she ignores the way his entire body stiffens as she delicately moves to stand in front of him and wraps her arms around him. It’s a difficult trick to master, not pressing hard enough to pass through him, but she’s had twenty-four years of practice. The anticipated electric shock passes between them and he abruptly pulls away at the contact, gaping at her with his hands pressed over the singular beat of her heart on the left side of his chest. 

“You’re not dead,” he rasps, stumbling. “How...?” 

“You need to talk to your other incarnations,” Rose says softly.

♾♾♾

The first ten months are horrible. Even his younger incarnations tip-toe around him, not understanding what the War had been like, and he refuses to speak with Rose. He takes comfort from hearing Sarah regale her adopted son - and now adoptive daughter - and their friends with tales of her adventures and follows her around as much as possible, but when she’s gone he just... isolates. 

Rose is turning twenty-five when he finally makes an effort to speak with her. He’s still bloody, still ragged. Still lost. Without a word she leaves the room and comes back with a damp cloth and tells him to sit, and mutely he does. With the lightest of touches Rose washes the grime and blood off of him and untangles his hair with nimble fingers, and he feels something release inside of him that had once been strangled. 

“Why is it that yours is the only touch I feel?” He whispers. There is raw emotion in his gaze as he stares blankly at the empty space between them and Rose bites her lip. 

«Because I love you,» she whispers in Gallifreyan. Tears spring to his eyes upon hearing the language of his people, a language he never thought he’d hear again unless it was spoken by none other than himself. 

“Do you really think a future version of me made it out of the War?” He asks after a few charged moments. Rose pauses in her mission and nods slowly.

“I think I’d know, in here, if you were gone for good,” she says after a thoughtful minute, placing her hand over her heart. He shivers as he feels the pressure of her fingers against his own chest and blinks when she lightly takes his hand and links their fingers together. He holds the position as if afraid that if it breaks, he’ll shatter with it, and sits in silence for the remainder of the time she tidies him up. 

He’s shocked to see the bowl of water clouded by dirt, soot, and blood when she finishes and stands on shaky legs to look into the mirror, blinking at the reflection staring back at him.

He might look the worse for wear, but the wounds are gone from his face and the filth of war has been scrubbed from his person. His hair is neat and curls gently just past the tips of his ears, but the effect is incredible. It’s as if his death doesn’t have to be defined by his sacrifice in the War, and he realizes after a few moments that it isn’t simply a soft and short scrub that made him look like that way but that his appearance is a direct reflection of his soul. 

Bit by bit his appearance improves. Rose heals a piece of him every day, no matter how minute, and they become closer. He talks with his younger incarnations, and even if he’s still quiet he’s engaging again. 

 

Rose is twenty-six and has just taken the stage at her Commencement Ceremony, the long and hard work for her doctorate finally paying off, and it’s the first time he truly smiles. He hangs back as his younger selves congratulate her, chuckling at the enthusiastic peck on the cheek his sixth self delivers and sighing at the affectionate presses of lips to hair from the majority of the others, and something slots into place. 

She looks up to see him slowly approaching from under an oak tree with sparkling eyes and her breath catches at his face. 

The stubble, the stress lines, the weary and tired demeanor are gone. A somewhat younger man is watching her, a reflection of his spirit moving past the war; not all of it can ever be washed away, but it’s possible for him to live again without being buried under the pain and guilt, and the sight of him makes up her mind for her. 

After a huge party at Sarah’s house by Jackie and far too many people showing up from U.N.I.T. to try and get her to take one too many shots, she’s finally able to escape to the back garden to get some fresh air late in the evening. He follows her out, even as a ghost his tread lighter than a cat’s and more precise, and stands beside her as they stare up at a rare cloudless sky.

“Congratulations doctor,” he teases gently. 

“Thank you, Doctor,” she teases back before sighing in contentment. “It won’t much change things at U.N.I.T., what with me being their field scientific specialist, but the pay’ll be better. I’ve already been to the moonbase - love Liz by the way, she’s amazing - and honestly it doesn’t really matter to me if I get recognized for it.”

“You’ll know you did it,” he summarized with a wide smile. “The accomplishment. ‘Hey, look ma! I made it!’ Nothing better.” The moonlight seemed to shine on his well-kept black leather jacket and Rose swore the wind was ruffling his gleaming chestnut curls. 

«I love you,» she whispers in Gallifreyan, watching his eyes flutter close and his chest move in a sigh as the words of his people wash over him. «All of you. And I am so proud of you for how much you’ve accomplished.»

“I found strength in your trust in me,” he admits freely. When his eyes open again he is looking directly at her. “Honestly, Rose. You saved me from myself, and I’m very stubborn. What you’ve achieved in getting me to believe there’s something more than the pain... don’t take that lightly. I still don’t fully understand why you felt the need to bother.”

In response, Rose arches up slightly on her toes and ever so gently presses her lips against his. The Doctor gasps as it feels like every cell of his being is flooded with unconditional love, trust, and patience and he mentally forces himself to not try and deepen the kiss. If he does, he breaks the moment, and the moment is...

The moment is...

...Them...

...They can break the news to his other selves later. Right now, this is between the pair of them.

They may not know where this kiss is going, and frankly they can’t find it in them at the moment to care, but wherever they’ll end up it will be together.

He might still be recovering from the War, the scars on his soul still evident in the dusty treads of his boots and rips in his trousers, the frayed cuffs of his shirt, but he can get through it if she helps him and she doesn’t have any plans to stop. 

Chapter Text

It’s funny, how life works, but in the twenty-seven years of Rose’s life it had never occurred to either her nor the Doctors walking beside her that she would ever actually run into a living, breathing incarnation of him. Much less over something so trivial as him breaking into a morgue to investigate a space pig that U.N.I.T. had sent her to personally oversee the autopsy of. But there he was, standing in the doorway with a familiar-looking battered leather jacket, a maroon jumper, a pair of grey jeans, and worker’s boots smiling at her and flashing her a piece of psychic paper - which she knew how to see through, thanks very much - pretending he was the expert they’d called in to supervise. 

Rose pretended. It felt only right, after all, and the gaping, speechless ghosts of his past selves were completely useless at that moment. Her usual method of speaking Gallifreyan so people didn’t think she was crazy for speaking to nothing wouldn’t work in this situation either, so unless they offered something up she was on her own. 

An ice blue gaze swept right over the lot of them, oblivious to their presence, and there was no spark of recognition in them when they raked indifferently over Rose standing there in a jumper and slacks with a lab coat on. She just looked like the assistant M.E., probably. 

One glance at the young woman who actually worked there - Tosh, she’d said her name was - was enough to convey the importance of letting him think that. 

And just like that he’s calling people in when the pig turns out to be alive, ordering U.N.I.T. about, and casting her a wide-eyed look of incredulity when the soldiers hesitate and ask for her approval. The poor thing runs out into the open, a young man panics, and a shot rings out.

Of course, by that time Rose’s invisible audience had recovered from their shock and were making little notes about appearance, vernacular, everything. 

“A bit rough-looking this time around, isn’t he?” Six murmured speculatively.

And unimaginative,” Eight scoffed. “Considering he’s wearing my jacket.”

Your jacket!? I think you mean our jacket!”

“I have no desire to be related in any fashionable sense to you.”

“All right, can we have some hush please?” Rose snapped, rubbing at her temples. It was a lucky coincidence that the living Doctor’s chatter had gone on long enough to confuse poor Tosh, because she got all nine of them in one reprimand and it had the added benefit of not making her look like a nutter. 

“Sorry,” Eight murmured, not sounding very much so. This newest Doctor was even less contrite. 

“Excuse me for trying to explain things for the uninitiated,” he huffed, a thick Manchester accent coating each word in much the same way his Seventh incarnation’s Scottish burr would do. 

 

It’s a few hours later and she’s somehow managed to sneak him in to 10 Downing Street with the rest of the U.N.I.T. personnel. Malcolm and Osgood were up by the North Sea, and Kate was busy explaining things to Geneva, so it left just the pair of them. 

Of course, that would be the one day Rose forgot to take her identification with her. She tried not to seethe as the Doctor waved his physic paper at her and stepped on through.

...On the bright side, it did mean that she was able to rescue a secretary and a MP from a great big green farting alien. So there the four of them were, trapped in the Cabinet room with eight previous versions of the Doctor making snide little plot call-outs knowing full well she could neither thump them nor yell at them for it and taking full advantage, and he was looking at her suspiciously because she was far too comfortable around him and had some extremely advanced kit. 

Case in point, a Sonic Pen that acted just like his Sonic Screwdriver, a mobile phone that had universal roaming (thank you, K-9), and access to a Xylock-core alien supercomputer that she was ordering to hack into the U.N.I.T. website and blow up the building. 

They’re huddling together in a nearby cupboard with the Prime Minister’s skin and it finally hits home by the thundering double heartsbeat in the Doctor’s very solid chest that he’s tangible. He’s real. He’s right in front of her and he has no idea who she is. 

If he thinks that she’s trying to look brave by hiding her tears in the leather jacket she’s always imagined the smell of on his eighth incarnation, let him. She needs the privacy to pull herself together. 

 

“Rose?” 

“Mm?”

“Rose!” 

What, Sarah!?”

“The TARDIS is parked in our garden,” Sarah hissed. Rose was suddenly much more awake, bolting upward in bed and stumbling to the window. Sure enough, a blue police box she had only ever heard and seen pictures of was sitting on the soft green grass. Leaning outside of it and staring directly at her window was the Doctor. 

“Do you want me to go down and give you time to get dressed?” She asked kindly. “Pack?” Rose cast a quick glance around the room and sighed when she saw it was empty save for the two of them. The Doctors were elsewhere. 

“Should I?” Sarah blinked in astonishment. 

“Well, yes. Rose, that man - even if he doesn’t know it - has dedicated twenty-seven years of his afterlife to looking after you. And believe me, no one at U.N.I.T. will bat an eye after what the pair of you went through this afternoon. You’ll still have your job when you get back, and a whole lot more respect from the command chain for your troubles. But aside from that- Rose. His incarnation’s spirits are bound to you. If you decide to stay on Earth, they’ll be stuck here too. That man, no matter the face, was born to see the stars. And I think, maybe you were too.”

“...God, I love you,” Rose murmured, throwing her arms around her friend in a tight hug. “You’re amazing.” Sarah chuckled into her messy hair and nodded, pulling back.

“And don’t you forget it. Now, you get dressed and pack, and I’ll go keep him occupied so he doesn’t leave. Even take K-9 with me under the guise of a ‘maintenance checkup.’ Take your time.” 

“Thank you!” 

Rose showered in five minutes, threw on whatever looked good, brushed and double braided her hair so that she didn’t look like a drowned rat, and shoved all of her clothes into a bag. Sarah had told her that the TARDIS was sentient and provided things like toiletries and seasonal apparel, but these were her favorite outfits. She stuffed it all in a trans dimensional duffel that Sarah had nicked on her exit and dropped said duffel beside the door before stepping outside into the garden. 

The conversation between the Doctor and Sarah was stiff but pleasant enough; Sarah had obviously been getting the things she’d bottled up out in the open, and the Doctor was properly addressing her grievances from where he was squatting to pet at K-9’s ears. He straightened abruptly as Rose came into view, a guarded look crossing his face, and Sarah herded K-9 into the house before fixing Rose with a look that clearly said she was not to leave without saying goodbye. 

“So ya live here with Sarah then?” The Doctor asked gruffly. Rose nodded. “Bet there’s a story behind that.”

“There is. But I’d much rather discuss the reason for your visit, Doctor.” His shoulders slumped ever so slightly and he sighed.

“I’ve been mucking about on my own in that old box of mine for a while now,” he admitted. “And I need someone to... to just... I need someone.”

“And you think I could be that someone,” came the flat reply. “Why?”

“You’re smart, capable, and you definitely put me in my place when I needed to be put there.” A tiny smile quirked the corners of Rose’s mouth up and he relaxed. “So, what do you think? I don’t have to warn ya that it’ll be dangerous with your work and home life. You know. Do you wanna come with me?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Rose retorted with a cheeky tongue-touched smile. She glanced around the garden and noted with some slight incredulity that his ghostly incarnations were nowhere to be seen. “I’m all packed and everything. Thank Sarah for the quick exit, yeah? I need to say goodbye to Luke and Sky.”

“Okay,” he chuckled, expression one of pleasantly-surprised bemusement. With that, Rose ran back into the house and said goodbye to the Smith family before racing up the stairs and skidding to a halt to see all her Doctors huddled together in deep conversation over what looked to be a non-indigenous leaf. Oh, were they going to be happy to hear they no longer had to look at Canadian flora to entertain themselves...

“Ok, you lot! Garden, shift!” She laughed, enjoying their startled expressions as they sprang away from their little experiment. Three was the first to recover.

“Rose, what-“

“Come on!” Deciding it was best to simply go along with it, they followed her down the stairs and to the back door. She neglected to give them a chance to comment on the duffel bag and threw the door open, grateful for Sarah to have joined them at the door for the excuse to spend some extra time in the house as the Doctors slowly approached their ship. 

“Just as beautiful as ever,” Eight breathed. He swung around the stare at her, eyes brimming with hope. “Rose, are you- please, oh please say that-“

“Welcome home Doctor,” Rose whispered, biting her lip as the group warily approached the gorgeous blue box. Their newest incarnation had the door open waiting for her, so they wasted no time in stepping inside. 

“I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces,” Sarah sighed softly. “To be separated from her for so long only for you to find your way back to making him whole.”

“Never thought about it that way,” Rose murmured. She gave Sarah one last squeeze and ran toward the TARDIS, not looking back. 

 

The door snapped closed as a warm feeling entered her mind, a soft musical hum shuddering pleasantly through her bones. Rose dropped the duffel on the floor and approached the nearest organic coral column, resting her hand against it and gasping as a Bonding shock traveled through her fingertips in much the same way it did when she made contact with another Doctor’s ghost. 

Mental laughter and happiness swept through her mind and Rose giggled at the feeling of welcome and finally! that drew her in. The Doctors were wandering almost blissfully throughout the console room, many of them just leaning against the walls and beaming up at the ceiling, and her brow furrowed for a moment before Five turned to her with a pleased grin and said, simply, 

“She sees us.” 

♾♾♾

The first place he took her was to watch her planet burn, and none of them wanted to go outside. They wanted to reacquaint themselves with their TARDIS, and Rose was willing to give them that. She got herself out of trouble with the Adherents of the Repeated Meme just before they tried to fry her and yelled at a human trampoline, and then she watched her planet burn. It was a sobering experience, and she was glad that Eight was nowhere around for this occasion. He didn’t need the reminder, and she wasn’t about to bring it up unless expressly asked. 

The Doctor asked her if she wanted to go home and she bit her tongue, to keep from telling him she already was. 

♾♾♾

Missing Naples and ending up in Cardiff was on par with what Sarah had told her of his driving skills, and she resolved to not be surprised when things didn’t turn out to plan. Two had excitedly shown her the wardrobe room for period wear, and though she’d attempted to dress modestly the TARDIS seemed to be having none of it. The dress was definitely fancy, more regal and slightly more provocative than it should have been for a second trip. But Rose chose the colors specifically, remembering the picture of the Eighth Doctor she had back in the attic. 

Soft fir green skirts were covered at the shoulder by long sleeves and a champagne-colored velvet shawl, and she took little time on the hair but to braid it into a bun. She received a brush of lips to lips from the man himself for her troubles as he ran into her in the hallway, and when she got to the console room she had an audience, and as usual that made her uncomfortable.

“You didn’t have to change your jumper on my account,” she laughed, watching the Doctor straighten to reply and fighting off a blush as his jaw went slightly slack and he dropped his screwdriver. 

“You look beautiful,” he exclaimed in a tone that she could almost claim as ‘reverent.’

“‘S your wardrobe room,” she said with a shrug. “Let’s get goin,’ yeah?” 

“...Yeah...”

 

Being inside an undertaker’s house with a psychic housekeeper and her own entourage of actual ghosts hadn’t exactly been on Rose’s to-do list, but it did have the amusing benefit of Gwyneth informing the Doctor that he had a lot of irritated spirits muttering after him only to have him blithely reply that she hadn’t told him anything new.

♾♾♾

Rose’s heart ached for him. She hated being stuck with Adam, and by the time she was able to convince him to let her down to the cage the Doctor had already been hauled off somewhere. It was also the idiot’s own fault that she fell against the Dalek and that it repaired itself by extracting her artron energy. It was Adam’s fault that she became trapped on the other side of that door. 

Eight was all but hyperventilating just being near the thing and it was a rare moment of self-concern on his younger selves’ parts that they were actually tending to him as Rose reasoned with the Dalek. Two was by her side, being far closer to the incident with the emotion-fueled Daleks he had once played children’s games with, and as the Doctor rounded the corner with the one actual gun he’d managed to find in the joint he was brought up short by the sound of Rose singing to it. 

The weapon clattered uselessly to the ground as he slowly walked forward, eyes wide with disbelief. 

“Rose?”

“...Doctor.”

 

“You should go to him,” Eight whispered. It’s late into the relative evening on the TARDIS and the Doctor’s past selves had gathered, in a very rare occasion, inside Rose’s room to chat and in general bask in the nearness of her soothing presence (not that any of them would ever say so but they were like children in the middle of a thunderstorm, the lot of them, when it came to seeking comfort). 

“But what do I say??” Rose asked, flopping onto her bed with a groan. Eight, who had been perched on the end of it, promptly began to braid her fanned hair with the lightest of well-practiced touches. 

“Well, what did you say to me?” He asked innocently. “Because that’s who that man is, Rose. He’s me when I first arrived at your home. He may be wearing a different face, may present his pain in a different manner, but at his core, that’s where he is.”

“I dunno, it wasn’t anything I wouldn’t normally say...” she sat up suddenly with a bright expression, accidentally flinging her elbow through his face, and he huffed out a short sound of annoyance as he sneezed. “Sorry. It’s just, I’ve got an idea.”

“What sort of idea would that be then?” Seven asked with a smile from where he was curled in her armchair. Rose paused at the door and beamed at the room in general.

“When I was little, you used to say that tea and Jammie Dodgers made everything better. So I’m gonna go make some tea and find some Dodgers.” With that she pranced out of the doorway and left a very awkward silence behind her.

“Did we... accidentally train her to know and use our coping mechanisms when she was young?” Two asked concernedly.

“Uh...”

“Well, I mean-“

“It wasn’t intentional anyway...”

“...Mm.”

“Certainly seems to be the outcome.”

“Not that we meant to-“

“Whoops?”

♾♾♾

Sarah had called them back to run a very interesting case with her, something that the Doctor was more than a little excited for even if he didn’t say so out loud, and Rose just shook her head as she opened the door to her home only to freeze when she spotted Jackie sitting at the kitchen table sipping at a cup of tea.

“Mum!” She exclaimed, launching herself across the room and hugging her tightly.

“Oh this’ll be interesting,” Six snickered, taking in his current incarnation’s deer in the headlights expression and statuesque stance in the door. “Meeting the parents of a traveling companion.”

“I’m just glad it wasn’t me,” Three chuckled. “Statistically speaking, it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened before now, really.”

“Who wants to bet the good sofa this evening that he’ll get slapped before the day is done?” Eight asked enthusiastically, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. Five just shook his head. 

“No bet. I don’t like the probability of the odds working in my favor.” 

“Well, they never do, do they?”

“Does that mean you’d both lose?” Seven pondered amusedly, though the question truly seemed to perplex him. “This is, technically, an ongoing paradox after all. Taking a bet with your younger self over whether or not your older self will get slapped. Either way, one of your selves loses the good sofa. You could never actually win in entirety, as some part of you will have to lose the bet.”

“Oh, must you?” Four sighed, exasperation coloring every portion of his tall and imposing frame. “I’m trying to listen to the conversation.”

“Waiting for the moment of collision, as it were?” One cackled. “Jackie Tyson against yours truly.”

“Doctor, don’t be rude,” Rose chided. It escaped only the attention of the Doctor and Jackie that she was speaking to far more than just his ninth incarnation. Sarah raised an eyebrow and hid her face behind the rim of her tea mug, clearly biting back a laugh. “Mum, this is the Doctor. Doctor, my mum. Jackie.”

“So just how long ‘ave you been shagging my daughter?” Jackie asked flatly. Raucous laughter erupted from the spirits as the Doctor’s jaw went entirely slack and he just stared at the woman in astonishment.

“...What?” He finally murmured, mouth snapping closed as if on a spring-loaded hinge. 

 

“Sorry ‘bout that,” Rose said later that evening. After they’d dealt with the man who wasn’t there and freed a bunch of enslaved aliens, they’d headed back to Sarah’s. She and Rose had had a blast making dinner while the Doctor had been cornered into coming up with the most elaborate lie on traveling abroad for work to Jackie, and it’s well past the time Sarah has gone to bed. The only light left on is in the kitchen as Rose nurses a glass of red wine at the counter and the Doctor busies his hands by washing and drying the dishes despite the handy appearance of a nearby dishwasher. He needs the distraction.

“My mum, I mean,” she added when he didn’t respond. It didn’t escape her notice that his other selves had made themselves scarce and were probably pacing the house or cooing over K-9. It was just the pair of them. “Are you going to say anything at all?”

“I don’t do this sort of thing, Rose,” he muttered, hands stilling as he rested them on the counter and bunched the cloth between his fingers. “I don’t stay over at friends’ houses and have them cook dinner for me.”

“Domestics.”

“Exactly.”

“Is it all that bad, though?” She asked softly, standing and walking over to stand beside him. She was close enough for his breath to hitch at the presence of her higher body heat washing over him but not close enough to touch, well familiar with intangibility and making great use of it in dealing with a man who had lost what it meant to truly be among the living. 

“I- I don’t- mm...”

“‘S okay, Doctor. At your own pace.” 

♾♾♾

The Doctors, for several reasons, did not like Jack Harkness. That was an understatement. The thing that no one really picked up on about him - from his most aggressive to passive personas - was that once he found something he could keep he was extremely possessive over it. The TARDIS, the Sonic Screwdriver, his current incarnation’s favorite outfit... and, apparently, after being her ghostly guardians for twenty-eight years, her. 

It also, Eight had absolutely no trouble in admitting, had to do with the fact that the man was an ex-Time Agent from a very sexually-promiscuous century and he was drop dead handsome to continue to rub salt into an open wound. 

Rose refused to dance or drink champagne when offered, preferring to get right down to business and not wanting to send mixed signals. Her Doctors were also glaring at the man and invoking their ire or disappointment by those signals getting mixed by more than one person was not something she wanted to do. She had a Time Lord to find, and even if he hadn’t been through all that she had with him she still loved him to bits. 

What she hadn’t expected was to find him in a hospital filled with gas mask zombies of inhuman strength, nor to become trapped in a supply closet. Or that Jack would disappear.

 

“Okay, so he’s vanished into thin air,” Rose sighed as the Doctor slumped into a wheelchair, allowing her more room to pace. “Why is it always the great looking ones who do that?”

“I’m making an effort not to be insulted,” he huffed. Rose whirled around on him and fixed him with a glare, pointing a finger in his face.

“Right, because it’s not like you swan off every time my back’s turned or anything,” she snapped, spinning on her heel and pacing again. The Doctor’s jaw fell slack.

“You think I’m good-looking!?” He exclaimed incredulously.

“If you’re fishing for compliments, forget it mister. I’m right miffed with you. ‘Sides, should have thought it obvious that I found you attractive. Not like I hid that particular fact in the slightest. Bit embarrassing, that, actually now that I think about it...” 

“You like me?” The question was spoken hesitantly, like it were some impossible thing, as he slowly stood from the chair to look down at her with wide blue eyes. 

“Well, yeah.”

“As in, like like me.” She shot him the perfect imitation of his humoring the daft human look and growled at the radio as Jack’s voice came over via something he said was Om-Com.

“Worst. Timing. Ever. Jack.”

“Sorry to break up the love fest, but I just wanted to say that I’ve got the transporter offline. Have to-“

“Rewire, yeah? Very flash.” She frowned slightly as she listened to the rapid chatter of the other Doctors conversing in the background, analyzing the different technologies at play. “What kinda trash you throw at us in the Vortex then, Mr. I only used to be a Time Agent? Wouldn’t happen to have nanogenes in it by any chance? You did say ambulance, so...”

“What sort of doctor did you say you were again?” Jack asked uncertainly, radio crackling.

“Astrophysicist,” Rose said smoothly folding her arms across her chest as the Doctor gaped at her. “Got the piece of framed paper to prove it. Now answer the question, Harkness.”

“God, I like you,” he laughed. “Sense of humor, but all business when it counts and not afraid to tell somebody off. Shame you’ve got a boyfriend.”

“He’s not my boyfriend. I said he was my partner. As in, we work together.”

“Not from the conversation you were just having.”

“I’m noticing a lot of similarities between your tech and the stuff the kid can do,” Rose snapped impatiently as she twirled a finger through her hair. 

“Yeah, speaking of the kid, he keeps trying to butt in. Running interference now.” The room filled with the sound of ‘Moonlight Serenade’ “Remember, Rose? Our song.”

“You two have a song?” The Doctor asked, something unreadable flickering in his eyes as his arms cross over his chest and he stares at the speaker. 

“Can’t have a song with someone if you never danced to it together,” Rose pointed out smartly. “Not that Jack didn’t try.” She crossed the room and gently extracted his hands from the hold they were in, leading him into the center of the room. “It could be our song, though. If you want it to be.”

And just like that, he’s stumbling through half-forgotten dance steps and Rose has her head resting smack in the center of his chest, and for the first time since the Time War he feels like he’s redeemable. Wanted. And happy to be right where he is.

...And then Jack is teleporting them to his ship and wrecking a perfectly wonderful moment.

♾♾♾

It was an accident, really. Strolling through the 1980s and Jack saves a man from being hit by a car. 

It’s simultaneously the worst and best moment of Rose’s life, because as they run for the TARDIS when the fixed point has been reestablished she can see One shimmering into existence and confusedly approaching her baby carrier. 

She doesn’t come out of her room for the rest of the day, curled on her bed just like she used to as a small child with the Doctor running featherlight touches through her hair. The familiarity is comforting and she tells herself she did the right thing by convincing her father to die for the universe, and it doesn’t give her any peace. 

Eight lies beside her on the bed on his stomach, his chin propped on his arms as he softly talks about Gallifrey and its scarlet grass in lilting Gallifreyan words. He breaks off as the door opens, raising his head to blink at the darkened silhouette of his future self on the step with one arm braced against the frame. 

“Doctor?” Rose murmured, half asleep and trying to figure out why no one was messing with her hair. The bed depressed near her feet and she was suddenly very, very awake because ghosts weren’t supposed to be able to do that. She met the uncertain, nervous gaze of the Doctor and swallowed. “Oh.”

“You okay?” He asked softly. Rose bit her lip and shook her head, squirming a little bit on her bed so that she could curl into a ball and rest her head against his knee. “Guess not, then.”

“I will be, but it’ll take a minute or two,” she murmured. There was a long pause. “Will you stay with me until I fall asleep? I don’t wanna be alone right now.”

“Sure thing,” he whispered, hesitantly reaching up to run his fingers through her hair. She sighed and curled into a tight ball and slowly, incrementally, drifted off to sleep. When she woke up the next morning he was gone, but the other Doctors were all sprawled across the furniture of her room. They’d stayed the night to keep watch, though at some point they’d all succumbed to whatever the ghost version of sleep was. 

♾♾♾

He took her to Woman Wept shortly after as an apology, and Jack stayed inside because the last time he’d tried to ice skate he’d gotten the blade driven right across his shin. Been all set to join them on their adventure, then went pale as ash when he saw the skates and ran back the way he’d come.

It was nice, just the two of them, though the Doctor seemed nervous about that. Rose dedicated her attention to putting him at ease and in general just being best mates while his younger selves drifted here or there to give them privacy. She wasn’t sure what their game was, but it appeared they were treating the outing as a date and didn’t want her to feel as if they had an audience. 

She kissed him on the cheek underneath the tall waves and they said goodnight after a full day of wintry magic, and the very next morning Mickey was calling her to come see him in Cardiff. 

The three of them met up with him at a restaurant near the Plass and listened to Jack regale them with another of his naked Time Agent tales, and soon enough Mickey was explaining the situation with Margaret the Slitheen. It was not, by any accounts, a fun day, and when all was said and done Rose found the Doctor fixing the damage the extrapolator had caused. Without a word, Rose slid under the console and began fixing wires as directed by the other Doctors. She used a combination of tools from the toolbox and her sonic pen, and after a short while became aware of the total silence in the rest of the room. 

The Doctor was staring at her incredulously. 

“This okay?” She asked after an awkward pause. He swallowed, examining her work, and nodded mutely. Sighing, she stood and wiped her oily hands on her jeans. “You okay?”

“Your boyfriend was... nice,” he said diplomatically, blinking in total confusion when Rose burst out laughing. 

“He’s not my boyfriend. I was Best Woman at his wedding, though. Martha Jones-Smith. You’d like her. Capable medical doctor, good logical head on her shoulders. Micks is a mechanic. Should talk to him about vintage cars sometime, probably have a really stimulating conversation.”

“They both work at U.N.I.T.?” 

“Yup.” She raised an eyebrow and stepped close, her breath warming his cheek as he gazed down at her. Slowly, giving him ample time to step away if he so chose, she raised herself onto her toes and brushed a soft, light, and briefly chaste kiss against his lips before smiling and walking toward her room, leaving him staring after her with a somewhat dazed and hopeful expression on his face. 

♾♾♾

“Take me back! Take me back!”

“The TARDIS isn’t listening to us, and he’s locked the controls,” Three growled unhappily as his other selves dashed about the console. He ran a hand through his hair, down the side of his face, and dragged it across his chin. “So, even if we were to tell you what to press and in what order, you’ve been isomorphically locked out of the system.”

“No one but him can get access you mean?” Rose snapped, fuming. She’d stopped banging on the door and was only half listening to Emergency Programme One, yet another intangible Doctor too much for her at the moment as the sentient ones did their best to work around their own future’s settings. 

“Unfortunately,” Seven muttered angrily. “Always was too smart for my own good.” 

Our own good,” Six corrected irritably. 

“Oh, you know what I meant!”

“Not the time,” Five sighed tiredly, pinching the bridge of his nose. “It’s certainly not helping Rose, and it’s getting us nowhere.” 

“Agreed,” Two said before anyone could contradict his other self. He leaned over the console and frowned. “Ooh. Do you know, I’d be downright impressed with this setup if it weren’t so entirely against what I want to do?” 

“Isn’t there anything!?” Rose exclaimed, clutching at her hair and growling with frustration. Four and One scurried out of the way as she paced the circuit around the console. She was all but spitting mad, and since the object of her intense fury happened to be a future version of their own person, none of them were all that keen on directing her ire elsewhere. “Anything at all that I can do?” She froze as the TARDIS shuddered into a landing and groaned. “If we’re not in Sarah’s back garden, I’m gonna be pissed.” 

 

There was really only one solution in the end, and it was to have K-9 blast a piece of the console apart to expose her Heart. Rose had been thinking about it, seeing the words “Bad Wolf” over and over again everywhere they went and finally spotting it one final time as graffiti on a phone pole just outside the house. 

It was Seven, however, that brought up the suggestion much to her relief. There was something in his eyes like recognition as he followed her gaze to the ominous message, and while the other Doctors supervised Sarah and K-9’s preparation for exposing the Heart she drew him to the attic and had him sit beside her on the couch.

“What’s wrong?” She asked. Conflicted thoughts and feelings flickered through his eyes and she sighed, lightly resting her hand on his knee. “Doctor. I’m not Ace. I know you’ve just figured something out about me, and that the potential of it will most likely get me hurt. But I need to know. And this time, you can do the right thing. By me, by Ace’s memory of what happened with Fenric. I know it hurt you to do that to her, and that you’ve never forgiven yourself. So this time? Do it right.” 

“I only have a suspicion, but it’s a very good one and I don’t at all like the implications,” he sighed. “Bad Wolf is you. But to have the message scattered everywhere, through all of space and time, just to lead you back to this moment... the power such a thing would require terrifies me. And your timelines... Rose, at some point in your life you’ll touch all of time and hold it in your grasp. Considering that a TARDIS’ Heart is raw Vortex energy...”

“You think it might be now,” she summarized, paling slightly. He hung his head in defeat. 

“I can’t see beyond that moment, Rose. I can only see what is and what you will become. I cannot see how you reach that moment, or what comes after, and I... I worry...”

“If I take in the TARDIS’ Heart, I can save you,” Rose replied softly. “And don’t tell me you’re not worth it, Doctor, because you didn’t have to take in a six month old baby who’d lost her father and watch over her for the rest of her life. You didn’t have to resign yourself to being with me. You could have worked to find a way out of this situation, but every. Single. One of you. Chose to stay. To be with me. To make sure I was okay, and felt loved, and cared for, and-“ she bit her lip as tears sprang to her eyes. “Just... when all this goes down, tell them I went in with both eyes open and that I’ll never regret a single moment of any of this, yeah? No matter what happens. Whether I live, whether I... I die, or something a bit in between, it was my choice, and...”

She trailed off, before taking a deep breath and finishing her last sentiment in Gallifreyan.

«And I love you.»

Seven trembled as he fought to find words to reply with before heaving a great simulated sigh and mustering what little courage he had left.

“Rose Tyler, if it’s my last chance to say it...” 

“We’re ready,” Sarah said, walking in. 

“I’ll be right down,” Rose replied evenly, not turning to look at her. Sarah said nothing, just nodded and left,

“It doesn’t need saying, Doctor,” Rose murmured softly. “I know.” 

“It does need saying Rose, at least it does to me,” Seven said quickly, catching her hand as she went to stand and sighing when he exerted just a bit too much pressure. “So many years, and yet...”

“My whole life, still happens,” Rose countered with a soft, sad grin. He nodded, standing along with her and carefully taking her hands again.

“I love you, Rose. All of me. And despite what you think, none of me shall ever believe we deserve you. That doesn’t mean we’ll argue with you over it either, because...” he let out a short chuckle. “Well. I’ve always been as much of an optimist as I have been a pessimist. And while I may never believe of my worthiness, I will always hope that whatever you see in me is truly real.”

«And that’s why I love you,» Rose replied softly in Gallifreyan, a wide smile taking over her features. So many other versions of him that she could have had this conversation with, but it felt... right that it was him. The most secretive, being entirely honest. One of the least romantically-inclined, speaking for all of them about their love for her. 

There were no sweet whispers about her beauty of body or spirit, no tender kisses or embracements. They were separated by a divide too vast to cross and he wasn’t one for romance. It wasn’t what the movies and literature portrayed as the moment of confession, but it was undeniably them and that made it more than perfect. 

“Whatever happens Doctor,” Rose whispered, tears gathering in her eyes. «I will always, always love you.» 

♾♾♾

She’s lying on the grating of the TARDIS’ control deck, raw Vortex energy shimmering beneath her skin and turning her hair white and her eyes ablaze, and seven of him are shouting at the TARDIS begging her to listen to them to help her, help their future self, as they hurtle back toward the Gamestation.

He sits by her side and brushes her bangs from her face as she struggles to breathe and contain the energy that’s embraced her.

“Whatever happens,” he whispers.

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. 

Chapter Text

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.»

“Go. Go!” 

 

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. 

...Except. 

The Archangel Network activates and the countdown hits zero, and everyone begins thinking of the exact same thing. 

Doctor

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.”

“...I suppose...”

“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. 

“Mm.”

“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.” 

“Oi!”

“Seriously though, you don’t mind?”

“I think it’s perfect, Dr. Tyler.”

“I’m glad, Doctor Tyler.”