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The Woman (6/7)

Part One      Part Two      Part Three      Part Four      Part Five

Rating: M

Features: Rose Tyler, the 11th Doctor, Amy Pond, River Song, Mycroft Holmes, John Watson, Sherlock Holmes, Ianto Jones, Lois Habiba

A/N; Nothing you recognize belongs to me!  This was supposed to be the last part, followed by an epilogue, but then it just GOT LONGER and as I was sitting at 10,428 words (unfinished) I decided to split the chapter up so you can have an update now and it's a little more manageable for me.  I'm still trying to post the last parts tonight, but if I don't look for them on Wednesday night.  And as always, enjoy!  Thank you to Riona for taking a look at this chapter, especially because it was super frustrating for a while!

Summary: She is 'the woman' to both of them.

The image flickers and then vanishes and they are left staring at the smooth white wall of the lever room. Rose studies the cannon, still humming and vibrating faintly. Jackie remains with her arms crossed over her chest, glaring at the wall like she might burn a hole in it. John steals a glance at Sherlock who remains unimpressed.

"Is that it?" he asks with bored indifference. "I expected something a little more—dramatic."

The plastic covering the sparse furniture in the room flutters. A wind from nowhere tugs John's jacket and tousles Rose's hair. There's an electric sort of tension that crackles into being and a wheezing groan echoes through the room. It happens gradually, but soon there's a blue box sitting in front of the wall with 'Police Public Call Box' printed above the door and a light flickering on top.

Jackie sighs and rolls her eyes. "Always loves to make an entrance, that one," she mutters.

Sherlock is staring at the box. Admittedly it isn't what John thought of when Rose said 'space and time ship' but it did just materialize in front of them. He opens his mouth and closes it several times and John can't help but smile. Sherlock Holmes, speechless. There's a sight he never thought to see.

Rose steps forward and lays a hand on the bright blue door. "Doctor?" she calls. There is no response. "Doctor, it's me." Still nothing. "Doctor!" The wind dies down and the groaning subsides, and the room is silent but for the sound of her ragged breathing. She lets her hand fall, stands in front of the door with her feet planted and her hands curled into fists. "Are you going to hide in there like the coward you are," she bites off, "or are you going to face me? I've earned that much, haven't I?"

Inside the TARDIS the only light is the ghostly glow of the Time Rotor. Amy hangs half-off the railing and groans. River has managed to stay mostly upright thanks to the console, although she'll have a bruise in the shape of several levers and a switch on her side come morning. The Doctor stands with his back to the door. The TARDIS is a space and time ship, and when She wishes She is damn near impervious but that door is still wood, and every word from the outside drifts through, loud and clear.

The Doctor's face remains impassive, but his knuckles are white where he grips the console. Amy staggers to her feet. "Are you going to answer her?" she demands. "Doctor!"

The Doctor does not reply. He flips a switch and presses seven buttons: the first part of the dematerialization sequence. River can name every switch, every lever and button on the TARDIS console. She can land the ship silently while her mum has a cup of tea and never spill a drop. She can fire a blaster five times whilst spinning and hit every target, every time. She can send a message via psychic paper and read and write in Old High Gallifreyan. She can speak it too, the lost language of the Time Lords. She can fix the TARDIS as much as anyone can, and she can tell within ten minutes if they're going to get arrested on one of the Doctor's adventures, but there is one thing she cannot do, one thing she will never, ever do.

She will never get to keep him.

Their story, the story of the Doctor and River Song, has been a tragedy from its beginning (both of them). She's hated him for decades and has loved him for longer, but it's twisted up inside her: love and hate and fear and rage and desire and obsession and affection and joy and pain until she can't tell which way is up. They are binary stars, caught in each other's gravity but it ends in destruction, it always does (she's seen him die twice, after all, and once she pulled the trigger). When it's good it's amazing; it's picnics on Arcadia beneath the blossoming Wethleshen trees, it's the sparkle in his eye she glimpses on rare occasions when everyone lives, it's wonder and glory and running, it's passion and fire and the press of his narrow hips against hers, the weight of his gangly body over her and the slight coolness of his lips against her skin.

When it's good between the two of them she's an addict waiting for the crash, because when it's bad it's awful; it's nightmares of being back on the street again still looking desperately for her parents, it's memories of the orphanage that sink around her like tar, it's the helplessness of being trapped inside the spacesuit, it's the knowledge that everything has been decided for her because it has already happened for him, it's waking to an empty bed and finding him perched on the console room stairs watching with rapt eyes a woman he will never even name, it's fighting and pain and wounds that cannot heal because they are never on even ground. It's early days for him, but she's been around for long enough to know the patterns of their relationship, long enough for the bitterness to set in, long enough to resent the giant causal loop that hangs over their heads—long enough to know that however happy they are (and those moments are blinding and ecstatic) there is a shadow over everything.

All of her life as Melody Pond and as River Song has been built around him. She was taken as a child to be used as a weapon against him. Everything that she has, is, and will be has been determined. She is trapped in this cage of a life with a man she could not choose to love, and she remembers Martha Jones. She has met so many of the Doctor's companions: brave Sarah Jane, still lovely in her fifties and her clever adopted son Luke, Captain Jack Harkness with his charm and devilishly good looks and surprisingly clear understanding of how complex time travel makes relationships, Tegan who left him when traveling became too much for her, and even Susan once, though River couldn't say anything to the girl without risking a paradox. And then she'd met Martha Jones, the woman who walked the Earth for an entire year by herself, risking her life a thousand times over to carry the story of a man who saved the universe to every corner of the world.

They'd met years ago, largely by accident, and discovered they had a time traveling alien in common. Since then she stops by whenever she's in the neighborhood and she's found something of a friend in the quiet, determined, clever woman. River asked once, why Martha had left the Doctor. It was obvious that she had feelings for him, even if the Doctor didn't return them; how could she bring herself to go? And Martha had taken her hand and smiled at her, the fine lines around the younger/older woman's eyes crinkling. "I left," Martha said, "because I knew that I could be brilliant all by myself, because I didn't need to stay with the Doctor to be worth something, and because I deserve someone who can love me completely and totally as I am. And so do you."

The Doctor pulls a lever. One more button and the materialization sequence will begin. The longer they stay in this strange parallel universe the more fragile River's timeline becomes. She can feel it, the strange sort of euphoria of her past slowly untangling. One choice and she could be free—it's a paradox, but so is their location and there have been no reapers. She has a sneaking suspicion that even if she does choose none will show. There's something at work here, something more powerful than she's ever encountered before. She can feel that too, a hum in the back of her mind and a song like the universe on the dawn of the very first day.

So she chooses. River covers his hand with hers before he can move to press that final button. The Doctor frowns. "Go to her," she says before he can open that gob of his. "If you don't Doctor, you'll regret it for the rest of your long, long life." She gives him a humorless smile. "And I'd know."

"I can't," he grinds out like it pains him and tries to shrug her hand off. River doesn't let him. "It's already happened, River, and no matter what I want to do I cannot open that door."

"Then I'll let her in," River counters.

"You can't!" He's glaring at her with all the force of the Oncoming Storm but she's weathered these fights before and his tempestuous moods no longer faze her. "You will rip time apart, do you know that? The entire Vortex, destroyed, maybe even the universe! Could you do that, River Song? Could you really kill every living thing? And for what?"

"For you, sweetie," she replies and he opens his mouth to interrupt her but she will not let him. "And for me. I'm not sure who I'll be without you—but I'd like to find out."

"Why are you doing this?" he asks, and the rage is gone from his voice. The Doctor looks at her like he's never seen her before, like she's a puzzle and he will never figure her out. Well, now he won't.

"Because it always comes down to a choice, my love, and we never had one." She removes her hand from his and gives him a shove. It catches him off balance and he reels away from the console. "Now go to her, before it's too late." She catches Amy watching from the sidelines and raises an eyebrow. "You too, Amelia."

"I have talked to women before, River," the Doctor insists, affronted.

"Amy's going to keep her from slapping you, Doctor," River replies dryly. "Given the length of time between when we landed and when you're going out you might need it."

He sniffs. "Come along, Pond. You can tell everyone back home you've been to a parallel universe."

Amy laughs. "Yeah, and then I could get sectioned!"

"I had a medical student say the same thing to me once," he tells her smugly, but she follows him anyway. She hasn't learned that he's just a man, not yet. She looks at him and River can see the stars in her eyes, the blind faith that will get her killed if she isn't careful.

When the TARDIS door closes behind them River turns away. The vague euphoria has progressed into dizziness and a subtle nausea. The console room wavers around her and she notices with a bit of mild panic that the Time Rotor has gone see through. Not long now. Soon she will exist as something else and she won't remember any of this. The hum in her mind is almost a roar and she can feel the song echoing through her like a tuning fork. Golden light cascades over her shoulders and she smiles, a small, tired curve of lips.

"I thought it might be you," Rivers says and turns. Rose Tyler stands in front of River, but it's not Rose Tyler. She is younger than the woman waiting outside the TARDIS, and golden fire shines through her eyes. "You're a goddess on seventeen planets, you know, and a legend on twenty-three more. The girl who was a wolf, the girl who swallowed time."

"What do you wish, River Song?" It's a strange voice, ethereal and stripped of the accent that colored the girl's words before.

River steps forward. There are tears pouring down not-Rose's face, golden bits of fire that sparkle in the shadows of the TARDIS. She's always crying, in every depiction that River has ever seen. "I want a choice," River says. "I want to be my own person. I want a life that's mine. And I want him to be happy—I want him to be free."

Not-Rose smiles. She holds out her hand and River takes it. Golden light flickers beneath her skin and River watches with mild interest as the light dances from Not-Rose to River's own flesh. "Goodbye, River Song."

The TARDIS door shuts and the world turns on its axis. The Doctor staggers as reality abruptly shifts ninety degrees and the universe as he knew it dissolves around him. Memories crowd into his head, events that never happened, people he never met, and some he did that fade away like mist on a warm summer day. The people around him waver and twist like a mirage in the desert and he grasps desperately for something solid, something real.

Donna turns to face him, her hands planted on her hips and one eyebrow raised. Now he's in for it. "So spaceman, why are we at The Library? I thought it was next stop beach, you know—sand and surf and cabana boys?"

He dodges the question. "Do we need a reason?"

She isn't buying. "Yeah, you do."

"Fine." He pulls out the psychic paper. "I got a message." It's blank, but for a single line of what appear to be intricately drawn circles.

Donna frowns. "What's that then?"

He flips the wallet closed. "Coordinates, and a message."

"So what's it say?" She's exasperated now and her slap is very nearly weapons grade, so he answers.

"It says 'hello, Dad.'"

He grips Donna's shoulders and her eyes are wide but he doesn't have time to be gentle, not if what he thinks is happening is actually happening. "When you saw Jenny in that parallel world—did she say anything else? Anything at all?"

Something over his shoulder catches Donna's eye and the hint of a smile blooms on her face. "Why don't you ask her yourself?"

He releases his friend, staggers back like he's been shot. It can't be, but he knows that it is. His daughter is alive, and she's here. He can feel her in his head—the emptiness recedes just a bit and if they had more time he would savor this moment, burn it into his memory. Maybe this time she'll stay. Maybe now they're meeting in the right order.

They're not, and she doesn't.

"So what's a home box?" Amy peers at the small black box the Doctor has fixated on.

"Like a black box for aircraft, but this does one better." He taps the glass. "It records, and then it 'homes.' It brings all the data back."

His ginger companion rolls her eyes. "What's so impressive about that? And what are we doing in a museum?" She perks up. "Is this how you keep score?"

He scoffs. "Amelia!"

"What?" she protests. "What's so interesting about a 'home box,' then?"

"Do you see those markings?" He points to the strange squiggles that cover one side of the box. "That's Old High Gallifreyan, the lost language of the Time Lords. There was a time, Amelia, when those words could topple governments or raise up whole cities from the depths—when they could burn stars and change the very course of time itself."

She's intrigued now, he can see it in her eyes. She's young and eager and easy to impress and it's such a familiar look. The pain is sharp still, so many years after losing Rose and it still hurts like it did that very first day, albeit not so frequently. But enough of the past—he's got a troublesome daughter to find. "It says 'hello, Dad.'"

The soldiers are dead, but the Angels are gone, and he supposes that is something. There is always a price and in the grand scheme of things five lives for the universe is chump change. It doesn't feel like that, though. It feels like a failure and this beach isn't helping. Jenny is talking with Amy and if he squints he can almost see Rose, standing with her arms wrapped tight around her chest, holding herself together by sheer force of will.

He turns away, back toward the planet that won't remind him of Norway, not at all.

"You did good." She's damn quiet, his daughter, and he jumps when she speaks.

"Not so bad yourself," he allows. They stand in silence for a moment, watching the Clerics prepare to leave. Their job is done, after all. "Come with me," he says finally. He always does, every time they meet. Someday it will be the right time, but he knows it isn't even before she turns him down.

"I can't," Jenny says and he doesn't imagine the regret, he can't have imagined the regret in her voice. "Not when I already have."

"When?" It's a bit desperate, asking, but he can't help himself. She's the only one besides him, the only Time Lord and when she's around the emptiness is quiet.

"Soon," she tells him, and smiles. "Very soon."

He hopes she's right.

And then as suddenly as the feeling came it vanishes, leaving him standing with the TARDIS, warm and concerned, at his back and Amelia at his side and Rose Tyler standing in front of him.

"What did you do?" he demands.

She rocks back on her heels, eyes shuttered, face set in lines he's having trouble reading. "No, 'hello Rose, nice to see you?'" she asks mildly, too mildly. "No 'well I guess it wasn't impossible after all?' No 'sorry I left you in this godforsaken universe and couldn't even finish a bloody sentence?'"

He winces. "Right. Yes." His eyes dart around the room, mapping out escape exits and the best routes around the other occupants. It pays to be prepared, especially when Jackie Tyler is in the room—especially when she's giving him the glare that hints at a slap in his near future. "How did you manage it, then? Because I tried, Rose. I tried for weeks and the only thing I found was a gap large enough to get a signal through."

She gestures to the black box next to her. "We built the cannon. It was originally designed to catapult me through the parallels until I reached our original universe, but it was shut down."

The Doctor goes rigid. "You did what?" he snaps. "Do you have any idea how dangerous that is? You could have pulled the multiverse apart! You could have destroyed the universe, all universes!"

"I know that!" she yells right back. "I know all of that, Doctor, and I worked night and day to make sure it wouldn't happen. I checked every equation, every chip, every inch of that machine. And if Pete Tyler hadn't decided that mind control was more important I would have been through the Void years ago."

A muscle in his jaw twitches and his hands curl up into loose fists. "I told you it was impossible, Rose, and it was—not because I couldn't do it, but because I shouldn't. Because I couldn't risk endangering the lives of all of creation for one person. If I really wanted to I could have ripped through the Void like tissue paper but it wasn't worth it. I thought you knew that. I thought you understood that the universe has to come first." He shakes his head slowly.

"Don't you dare," she growls at him. "Don't you dare tell me what I did was wrong. I have worked for ten years to find a way back that wouldn't end in destruction. Ten years and I succeed and this is what you say to me?" Her jaw sets and her hands are balled into tight fists and she walks forward until she has him backed against the door to the TARDIS. "You have no idea what I went through!"

He crosses his arms over his chest. "Enlighten me."

Rose studies him for a moment. He's a different man but she still knows which buttons to press, still knows how to shock him. "I died two days ago." It hangs in the air for a moment, terrible and incomprehensible. "That sniper your friend Moriarty sent was good," she tosses over her shoulder, back to Sherlock. "He found my safe-house, took down Lois between one breath and the next. I didn't even have time to blink, but then I got better. I woke up hours later with a raging headache, covered in blood and lying on top of my friend's body. And now my teeth feel wrong and my scars are gone and I've got so many thoughts it feels like my head is going to explode—and there's this silence, Doctor, an emptiness I never even noticed before but it's so loud now; it breathes and gasps and roars around me."

"That's impossible," the Doctor declares flatly. His face is set, still, but much paler than it was. He might be angry (furious, really) and suspicious, but the thought of her dying when she's so close makes him feel ill.

"Why?" Amy, irrepressible as always, wants to know.

"Time Lords have a way of cheating death," Rose replies. "It's called regeneration: every cell in his body changes; he's practically a new man."

"Except I'm not. The packaging changes, my quirks and dashing good looks—but the core of me, what makes me me, remains. Regeneration can't change that." He glares at Rose and leans in, his hands falling to hang at his sides. "But that's impossible because only Time Lords regenerate. You're human, Rose, and humans don't regenerate."

"Oh, you think?" she snaps. "You don't listen, you bloody stubborn alien!" Her hands shoot out and she seizes the Doctor's wrists.

"Oi!" he shouts and tries to pull away. She holds fast.

"You're going to listen, Doctor," she tells him. There's something in her voice, something that sends shivers down Amy's spine. Rose places the Doctor's hands on either side of her face. She guides his fingers to her temples and closes her eyes. "Now listen."

"Rose," he begins, "you can't…" But as her eyes close so do his, and his voice trails off, mouth hanging open slightly as his eyes flicker back and forth beneath their lids.

"Doctor?" Amy tugs at his arm but it's rigid, locked in in place and for all that he looks like a twig he's stronger than she is.

"Just leave him, love," Jackie suggests with a bit of a smile. "When himself is after sommat there's no distracting him."

They remain standing, silent, for several minutes. Sherlock checks his watch three times and John elbows him in the ribs. Jackie rolls her eyes at the pair of them and casts a worried look at her daughter.

"So, you knew him?" Amy asks, mostly to break the tension that is building like static electricity around them.

Jackie snorts. "Could say that. He abducted my daughter, brought her home a year late with not so much as a by-your-leave. Didn't matter to Rose, though, she was off with him just as soon as they finished blowing up Ten Downing Street." Her frown softens as her eyes linger on the two of them. "He sent her home too, when things got bad—but she was never one to sit around when someone was in trouble, not my Rose. I helped her get back to him and what thanks do I get? She showed up months later, months, an' I thought she'd died, but she came back with himself over there except he didn't look like he did, an' he didn't look like he does now. Said he 'regenerated' and he was sick." She sighs and shakes her head. "Bloody alien for a son-in-law, no one tells you that can happen."

A gasp from the other side of the room pulls their attention away before Amy can answer. The Doctor's eyes are open and his face is frozen in an expression of terrified hope. His hands fall from Rose's temples but one lingers at her throat. He presses two fingers into the soft skin of her neck and her lips quirk into a crooked grin.

"That's impossible," he breathes.

Rose cocks an eyebrow at him. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

He throws back his head and laughs. It's a sound that Amy hasn't heard often; he's so close with everything: his emotions, his plans, his past, that sometimes she feels like she hardly knows him. But now his joy shines through like a supernova and Rose is laughing to, and a smile like sunrise splits her face. He sweeps her up in a hug that lifts her feet off the ground and she clings to him and buries her face in his shoulder. There's a light in his eyes that Amy hasn't seen before, like planets pulling themselves together out of rubble and space dust and stars being born.

The goodbyes are short. Rose and Jackie have already said most of what needs saying. She hugs her daughter and Rose returns the embrace with equal intensity. "You keep him in line," Jackie instructs, "an' don't let his head get too big."

"I will, mum." Rose wipes her eyes and takes a shuddering breath. "You too. Be safe—Tell Tony I love him." Jackie nods. Rose shakes hands with John. She's still smiling. "It's been interesting, John."

"Good luck," he tells her. It's inadequate, but the only thing he can offer. He's heard her story and he's going to tell it and he hopes that it has a happy ending. He likes to think that it does.

Sherlock is last. "Miss Tyler," he says formally.

"Mr. Holmes," she replies, matching him for mood and tone. There's a strange look on his face as he regards her for a moment, like he's trying to burn her into his memory. She places her hands on his shoulders, stands on tip-toe, and presses her lips to his cheek. "Thank you," she murmurs, and then the door slams open.

There was a time when the Doctor was happy to see Pete Tyler, even the strange half-familiar man from this half-familiar universe, because he could do what the Doctor couldn't: he could keep Rose save. Except he didn't. He hunted her and betrayed her and was ultimately responsible for her death. So when Pete Tyler steps into the lever room, holding a gun in front of him like he's some sort of secret agent the Doctor is less than pleased. Enraged is a better term, or maybe furious. He sticks his thumbs behind his suspenders and steps in front of Rose with as much casual disregard as he can.

"Hello Pete." His voice, however, is anything but casual. "Fancy meeting you here."

"Who are you?" Rose's step father demands—and then he sees the TARDIS. His face turns an impressive red for a moment, but it shifts almost immediately to white. "What have you done?" he shouts. "You crazy bitch!"

"Oi!" Jackie's yell cuts through the room and she storms forward. "That's my daughter you're talking about, mate!"

"Jacks!" He holds up his hands, like he's trying to shield himself and the Doctor almost feels pity for the man, after all, the Doctor has also been on the receiving end of one of Jackie's slaps. "You don't understand, the walls between the worlds—"

"Are perfectly fine," he cuts in.

Pete bristles. "Who are you, then? How do you know so much?"

"He's the Doctor." Rose steps out from behind him and completely ignores the glare he sends her way. "Hello, Pete."

"How can he be the Doctor?" Pete demands. "He looks nothing like the Doctor."

He shrugs. "Oh, bit of radiation, felt like a change." He gestures to the TARDIS. "Still, my ship didn't give it away? No police boxes in this universe, after all, and you've seen it before."

"I hoped I was hallucinating," Pete shoots back. "I hoped she wasn't mad enough to try."

"Oh, I know about madness." There's a threat in the Doctor's voice like dark clouds rolling down over the mountains, like the whine of a Tornado siren and the howl of blizzard winds. "And Rose Tyler isn't mad. The jury's still out on you."

"I was trying to save people!" Pete tears at his hair but the Doctor's eyes remain on the gun clutched loosely in his hand. "Can't you understand that!"

The crack of Jackie's palm against Pete's cheek echoes through the room like a thunderclap. "How was killing my daughter saving people!" There are tears standing in Jackie's eyes and it must be hell, caught between two people she loves, but she was a mother first, before she even met this Pete.

"The machine, Jacks, the machine was going to fix things." Pete actually believes what he's saying. "No more stopping riots with rubber bullets and tear gas, no more people trampling over each other, no more Torchwood operating on the fringes of society, no more fear. We can be safe, Jacks."

"Not like that." She shakes her head. "Not like that, Pete." She takes a deep breath. "I'm leaving you."

"Jacks," he implores, and stretches out his hands.

She pushes them away. "No! I can't live with the man who killed my daughter. I can't."

"Are you happy now?" Pete snaps. He glares at Rose like she is somehow responsible for what has happened. The Doctor puts an arm around her and he catches Amy moving closer out of the corner of his eye. "I was going to make the world a better place, a safe place."

"There's a saying about good intentions," Rose replies levelly. "The path to hell is paved with them. Everyone gets a chance, Pete—and this is yours."

He frowns. "Chance to do what?"

"The right thing. Because it starts out innocuous," she continues, "and using the machine gets easier every time until it's on, constantly, and you've turned the PRGB into the kind of government that we've taken down—forcefully. People don't wake up one morning and go 'Oh, I think I'll become a world-conquering psychopath;' the transition is insidious and slow and it always, always starts with the best of reasons."

Pete is silent for a long moment, and slowly the anger fades until he's left looking tired and small and defeated. "I didn't mean for them to kill you." It's a poor apology and he knows it. "I just—I just wanted it to stop. I wanted them to stop you. But that man—" He shudders.

"He's no one to be trifled with," Sherlock asserts.

"I realized," Pete replies dryly.

The Doctor let's his arm fall from Rose's shoulders and takes her hand. "We have to go," he murmurs. "The longer the breach is open the more unstable it will become. I'm sorry." He squeezes her hand. "But we can't stay any longer."

"Right." She takes a deep breath. "I love you, mum. And I hope—I hope you're happy."

Jackie smiles but the tears are back. "I love you too, Rose."

The Doctor and Amy bound up the staircase toward the control console. They're ready to be off, eager for another adventure, but Rose pauses for a moment. It's different than when she last saw it. The coral is gone, hidden behind smooth panels and shiny chrome. The floor is transparent and there's a great deal more space beneath the console than she's used to—no mesh panels to pull up. It's very open and futuristic but the hum is still there, and the song in the back of her mind flares into ecstatic trills and arpeggios. She leans against the door and rests her hands on the smooth surface. "It's good to be home," she murmurs.

The Doctor flips switches and presses buttons with abandon. He's putting on a show and Rose smiles softly as he spins around the console. "Rose Tyler!" He calls and she will never, ever get tired of hearing him say her name—in any body, with any voice, there's something special in how he forms those words. "What do you think?"

"S a bit—Spock," she replies.

He groans. "Oh, we're not starting that again, are we? I swear you're obsessed with that pointy-eared menace." Amy sits on the railing and swings her legs, watching. "Getting back is going to be a bit tricky, Amelia," the Doctor warns. "You'll want to hold on to something."

"Has his driving improved at all?" Rose asks sweetly as she climbs the stairs. "He took me home a year late, once."

"Oi!" The Doctor glares at her, but he's too happy to be at all convincing. "My driving is perfect!"

"His landings leave something to be desired." Amy smirks, obviously thrilled to find an ally in the strange woman who has joined them. "That last one especially—I'll be sore for days."

Rose grabs on to the console. "Just like old times?" She sends a tongue-touched smile the Doctor's way.

He pauses, one hand grasping the final lever, and grins. "Better."

The Doctor parks them in orbit around Earth, present day because they're very nearly out of milk and Amy fancies a visit to Disney World. He tries to distract her with promises of visiting Disney Planet, but she pulls him aside and mentions that perhaps he and Rose would like some time to themselves and she's more than capable of making herself scarce for a few days at Disney World. In truth—he's a more than a little bit nervous about being alone with Rose. She's not the same girl he lost; she's older, stronger, and she's somehow managed to switch species on him. It shouldn't have been possible, but she's made a career out of doing impossible things and he most definitely needs to expand his definition of that word. Amy is right, which is why she swaggers out the door after a quick hop to Florida with one of the Doctor's sonic credit cards and a promise that he'll be back in three days to pick her up.

He tinkers for a while. Rose is tired, surely, and she could use some time to get reacquainted with the TARDIS and with her space. Her room remains. He couldn't get rid of it, not after what happened—and he couldn't bear to let some stranger paw through their things, so everything from their apartment is here too, stored in one of the TARDIS's multitude of empty rooms. He used to visit her room frequently, in the early days of their separation. It was painful to lie on her bed or sit on the floor, surrounded by her things, but it was a comfort too. The universe around them kept expanding, kept moving regardless of his pain. In her room he could mourn her.

The TARDIS sparks beneath his fingers and he jerks his hand back, swearing. He has a penchant for foul language with this mouth, although she is far too much of a lady to deign to translate anything inappropriate. She trills at him firmly and the corridor that leads to Rose's room (conveniently just down the hall from his own) lights up. "All right," he grumbles. "I'm going, keep your pants on."

The TARDIS hums at him.

He sighs. "Yes I know you're an eleven-dimensional space-and-time ship and thus you don't wear pants. It's a human thing." She hums again. "No I don't understand it either, but I'm not human." The wires he was working on spark again and he jumps back. He throws up his hands and turns away. "I'm going, I'm going!" He waits until he is down the corridor before he mutters, "bloody bossy time ship." She hears him anyway, of course. There's nowhere in the ship where she won't and she flickers the lights at him. It's her equivalent of sticking out her tongue. It makes an amusing picture and distracts him from the discussion ahead—until he's standing outside of Rose's room, ready to knock on her door.

There is nothing like coming home after a long absence to highlight what has changed—and what hasn't. The Doctor hasn't changed at all; as soon as Amy was out the door he mumbled something about recalibrating the dimensional stabilizer and checking the integrity of the blinovitz buffers and promptly disappeared (figuratively speaking since the floor is, in fact, transparent) beneath the control console. She sat on the steps for a while but he was intent on avoiding her and she has had enough of waiting passively for someone else to be the catalyst.

Her room remains just as she left it. Photos line her mirror and are tacked up on the corkboard that hangs on the wall at the head of her bed. A few treasured snapshots occupy the frames on her nightstand and dresser. Her clothes remain scattered across the floor, and one of her tennis shoes pokes out from beneath the bed. The walls are pink, the floor is pink, and the duvet is pink. She regards the room with mild dismay. So he hasn't changed and her room hasn't changed (even though the ship has, at least on the outside)—but she has.

The clothes are the first to go. Rose packs them away in cardboard boxes that appear conveniently on top of her mattress. She takes down the photos; she will sort through them later, and asks the TARDIS to redo her room. When she opens her eyes there isn't a hint of pink in sight, and she lays a hand on the wall. The ship thrums in her head. She was always aware of a presence on the TARDIS but it's stronger now. It vibrates through her entire being and she understands for the first time how awful it was for the Doctor to be trapped without Her, to know that his ship was lost on Krop Tor and why he was so adamant on finding Her. A crystalline tinkle that sounds like laughter rings out and Rose smiles. "Missed you too," she says.

The new room is much more to her taste. The walls are a cool gray and the carpet is thick and bouncy and a lovely cream color. Her bed is larger and the frame has shifted from simple wood to an intricate wrought-iron affair. Metallic vines climb toward the ceiling from the corners of the bed and twine together to form a frame for the thick draping that hangs perpendicular to the floor. Two nightstands flank the bed like rooks on a chessboard and when she checks the closet Rose notes with amusement that, a besides a selection of dresses that are much closer to what she had in her wardrobe in Pete's World, is a row of neatly pressed oxfords and black trousers—and all the way in the back are a pair of tweed jackets. "Someone knows something," she murmurs and inside her mind the TARDIS hums smugly.

She strips off the dark jumper and jeans she had been wearing and slides her gun in its holster beneath the bed. They haven't talked about that yet, and she's sure a full-blown Doctor lecture is in her future—but not tonight. When Rose turns around again a silky mauve dressing gown sits on top of her duvet. The TARDIS is one part fantastic ship, one part unknowable alien, and one part doting mother. She slides it on, enjoying the way the silk feels against her skin. It's a good color for her, and she's had time to cultivate an appreciation for materials and craftsmanship in Pete's World. That isn't all she's cultivated, though, and she wonders what he'll think when he finds out how, exactly, she found her way back to him. He's always been possessive, after all. When Jack came aboard he confessed that the Doctor made it quite clear that he was to keep his hands off the blonde, or risk inspecting the TARDIS's airlocks.

A knock on the door pulls her from her thoughts. He's trying, she knows he is—and maybe he has changed, at least a little. He never would have bothered to knock before. "Oh," he says when she opens the door. "You aren't dressed. I'll just—wait until you've had a kip."

Rose's forehead wrinkles as she glances down at the dressing gown, which is tied tightly closed. "Doctor, you've seen me in less."

He swallows. "Not, ah—not recently."

Her puzzlement fades to gentle understanding. "Why don't you come in?"

For a moment she holds her breath and he hesitates—but then he smiles at her. "Yeah." She moves towards the bed and he follows her inside. "It's different." He sounds surprised.

"I'm different. Is that okay?" Rose asks evenly.

The Doctor stretches out a hand and cups her cheek. She leans into touch. It's been so long since she's enjoyed simple intimacies and they've always been tactile. "It's brilliant," he replies. There's a tenderness in his voice that makes speaking difficult and she can only smile at him. He clears his throat. "But I should do some scans, run some tests. We need to know exactly what happened—and how."

"Not tonight." She has never been fond of the med bay; there are too many memories of blood and pain associated with the sterile white room.

He frowns. "Rose—"

She twines her fingers with his. "Not tonight, Doctor. Not my first night back. Tomorrow you can scan and poke and prod away—but not tonight." He gives her a look and she sends one of her own right back at him.

The Doctor breaks first. He's never been able to resist her, not since she agreed to come with him. "Fine. First thing tomorrow morning."

"I thought there aren't any mornings on the TARDIS," she teases.

He squeezes her hand. "For you, Rose Tyler, I'll make an exception." She yawns and he presses a gentle kiss to her forehead. "You humans," he tells her. "You'll sleep your lives away."

"Please," she says and grasps his hand tighter as he turns to leave. "Don't go."

"Is everything alright?" He reaches for his screwdriver and she shakes her head self-depreciatingly.

"I just—I don't want to be alone." One corner of her mouth tilts up. "I've had this dream before."

He swallows. "So have I. I've had a lot of dreams about you."

Rose steps forward until a breath will bring them together. There's a look she knows in his eyes, an intensity she's seen in two other bodies and it never fails to get her heart racing—hearts, now. "I'm not a little girl anymore." Her voice is serious and her expression is grave. What happens next will determine her future and she can feel it, the myriad of senses that Time Lords posses lay out the possibilities like roads on a map and if she wishes she can follow each to its logical destination. She refrains. There are more important matters at hand—because she will not be trapped in the same patterns as before. She is different and he is different, and together they could be different.

"I know." He's still taller than she is, even though he's lost a few inches with this incarnation. He looks down at her and all traces of the bumbling child have vanished. He plays the fool so well, he always has, right up until someone underestimates him and he strikes. "If we do this," he continues, "there's no going back. You'll be stuck with me, forever."

"Good," she says firmly.

Evidently it isn't what he wants to hear. "Good?" he barks incredulously. "You have no idea what I've done—or even worse, you do. You should run away, Rose, run far away from me. Because if we do this I won't ever be able to let you go—not even to save your life."

Rose takes his face in her hands and forces him to be still. "Good," she asserts once more, "because it saves me the trouble of coming back and kicking your arse myself." He opens his mouth to retort but she presses her lips against his and swallows his words in a kiss. For a moment he is passive against her but then his hands curve around her hips and he pulls her firmly against him. She threads her fingers into his hair—still great hair this time—and tugs, just a bit. His hold on her hips tightens. He pulls back after a moment and she is gratified to note that she's not the only one breathing heavily.

"Bed," she tells him firmly and he nods. "Do we need anything?"

The Doctor blinks at her. "Like what?" Rose's eyes flick down pointedly to where his hips are pressed against hers. "Oh! Oh, no. No it's," he swallows again. "It's been taken care of."

"Have you been making plans, Doctor?" she asks and slides her hands up his chest, beneath the lapels of his jacket.

"I hoped," he replies as she pushes the tweed off of his shoulders. It falls to the floor but his attention is on her. She undoes his braces next, then his bowtie, and then the buttons on his shirt. She's had more than enough practice undressing men, although she's shocked he stays still. The white oxford joins the tweed jacket on the floor. The bowtie she tucks into the pocket of her dressing gown, for later. He's wiry, like her second Doctor, but a bit lankier, and very nearly hairless. A flash of melancholy hits her—he'd been so proud of his 'manly, hairy hands' and the bit of sparse chest hair he'd had the last time she saw him. He tilts his head and she shakes off the feeling; now is not the time for reminiscing and comparing. A mischievous smile spreads across her face and she kneels. He blinks. "Rose, what are you—oh."

She rubs her cheek against his erection—and then she unbuttons his trousers with her teeth. She unzips them too and a sharp tug from her hands has them pooling around his ankles. He's wearing tight pink pants and she cocks an eyebrow at him.

He has the decency to blush. "They're rose colored."

"I knew you were a romantic," she murmurs, and runs her tongue over his stomach just above the waistband of his briefs. He inhales deeply and his fingers curl in her hair. She presses a kiss to his cloth-covered cock and he cups her face.

"Next time," he sighs. "It's—been a while since I've done anything like this and if you do what I think you're going to I'm going to come in that gorgeous mouth."

Rose has never heard him be so obviously sexual before and his words raise goosebumps on her arms and down her back. She hooks two fingers into his pants; one sharp tug and they'll join his trousers on the floor, but he covers her hands with his own.

"You, ah." He gasps when she rubs her cheek against him a second time. "You have me at a bit of a disadvantage." She grasps his wrists and pulls herself up his body. His skin aches and burns for her and everywhere they touch nerve endings spark, looking for the connection his people eventually abandoned. Being a Time Lord is more than having a spiffy ship and an ego the size of Saturn—it's about discipline, protection, and isolation. He has conscious control over almost every biological function his body is capable of performing. He can regulate the oxygen content in his bloodstream, tamp down on pesky hormones (or he never would have survived living with Rose for two years without shagging her senseless on multiple occasions), and even bypass the need to breathe altogether (granted, only for a few minutes). He has been the last for so long and he has never been a very good Time Lord anyway. He was too impulsive for his people, too creative, and far too in love with the universe. He has never been able to achieve the distance they prized, the cold placidness of the observer. For a few precious minutes in Pete's World they were together, completely and totally and his mind screams for more of that, for more of her. Time Lords gave up sexual reproduction millennia ago and although they spread the idea that Time Lords were sterile (something to do with their training) he has always had a sneaking suspicion that looming simply gave those in power more control over future generations. He was a fluke, a mistake, and the irony that he should be the one to survive and carry out their legacy is glaringly obvious.

But he's not the last, not anymore, and the council would go into collective apoplexy if they could see Rose. As she told him so long ago, she created herself (though he couldn't understand; he barely even heard her over the roar of his own panic). His hands are shaking as he unties her dressing gown and slides his hands over her stomach and hips. The flutter of her thoughts—so close—dance across his skin like butterfly kisses. She is reaching for him but the connection falters; he doubts there were any telepaths in Pete's World to show her how to use her new abilities. And even if there was, the intimacy required for such a task makes his skin crawl. She is, after all, his: always, completely, and totally.

Her dressing gown slips from her shoulders and joins his trousers on the floor and she is gloriously naked. Human and Gallifreyan bodies are nearly identical and he's always had a sneaking suspicion that the endurance of the upright, bipedal form can be traced back to a time when his people did more than simply observe the universe. There are differences, though, and he wants everything with her. His body craves her and his mind craves her and despite what Martha said at the end of the Universe it was never about her appearance (blonde or sorta brown or even ginger—he will love her the same). He is a Time Lord, after all, and regeneration burns away all the surface characteristics that human beings find so important. He has traveled for so long and seen so many examples of beauty that confining his tastes to one culture's ideal in one specific time is stifling. He sees the heart of her, the core of her existence that not even regeneration can change—and he loves her for who she was, and who she is, and who she will be.

Rose moves back until her legs press against the side of the bed. She has lost the playful mischief he loves so much and maybe she can sense the gravity of the moment or maybe she's going to spare him the indignity of being laughed at in bed. She stretches out her hand and he takes it, as he always does.

"Rose." His free hand slides up her arm, along her neck, and over the curve of her cheek. "I never did finish that sentence."

"No," she replies, her voice carefully neutral. "You didn't."

"I love you." When he was with her he thought that he could protect himself by holding back those three words, by pretending that they were just very good friends. He thought that acknowledging the truth that was obvious to apparently the entire universe would somehow rip her from him. In the end he lost her anyway and he learned that the weight of words unspoken was very nearly enough to break him. Saying them doesn't fix things between them, doesn't negate the years they've spent apart or the ways they have both changed—but it's a start.

Rose threads her fingers with the Doctor's and covers his hand on her cheek with her own. "I know." Then she is limp and falling back on to the bed and their twined hands pull him down with her. He puts his hands out to brace himself above her but she twists and suddenly he is on his back. She's quicker than he expects and before his brain can catch up she is astride his thighs. "What's that saying?" she murmurs as she toys with the waistband of his pants. "Right." There's a twinkle in her eyes that says she's not to be trusted, but he's known from the moment they met that she's dangerous. "All's fair in love and war."

His hands roam over her stomach and up to her breasts which are tantalizingly close. They fit in his hands nicely and scrape of his thumb across her nipples elicits a soft moan. He can feel the heat of her center just inches away from where she needs to be and one hand slides down her back to pull her forward. She catches his hands and stretches them out over his head which brings breasts within reach of his mouth and he doesn't complain; he captures one nipple and teases it with his lips and his tongue. Her thighs squeeze around him and he tries to free one of his hands to play with her other breast—only to find himself securely tied to the cast-iron headboard.

"That's cheating." He tries to sound stern but he's never seen her so dominant before and it's arousing beyond belief.

Rose leans forward so that her lips brush against the shell of his ear. "I think you'll find," she purrs, "that I make the rules at the moment." She grinds herself against him and he bites back a whimper. He's been celibate for centuries and he's pretty sure that what she's doing qualifies as inhumane but the flood of hormones that are raging in his bloodstream make thinking difficult and ultimately unnecessary. There is only one way this can end.

She presses kisses to his neck and scrapes her teeth over his collarbone. The Doctor pulls at the knots but a bowtie makes a surprisingly good rope and Rose ties excellent knots. He gets the feeling that she's done this before. She bites him again where his neck and shoulder meet and he arches up into her.

"I think you like that," she murmurs and he can feel her lips curve into a smile. Oh, he does. He likes her lips and her tongue and her teeth against his skin, he likes the way her breasts move when she grinds against him, he likes the way she feels—soft and strong and completely in control—and he likes the way she holds him on the edge.

Rose squeezes him through the soft cotton of his pants and he groans. "There's—yes, please—there's something you need to—oh—to know." She's working her way down his chest and he squirms underneath her.

She licks her lips and runs her fingers over his stomach. "Talk fast."

"Telepathy's involved." Her breasts rise and fall with every breath and it's hypnotic. He has to force himself to look away, to concentrate on the task at hand. The sooner she understands the sooner he can be in her and they can be together. "Time Lord biology—I—we're telepathic, touch telepathic, but I set up your shields so that no one could get through them—not even me. And I—we—need it."

"You'd be in my head?" There's something sharp in her voice.

"You'd be in mine," he replies.

Rose studies him for a moment like she's trying to see right through him, and the Doctor gets the strangest feeling that she can, that she's always been able to, and that the only thing that's changed is now she lets him see it. "How much will you see?"

"Whatever you want me to," he assures her. "I can show you how to block off whatever you don't want me to see. Please, Rose. The more skin contact the stronger it is and there is a lot of skin in contact."

She slides up his body and this time he does moan, but she unties his hands and lets him sit up. "What do I do?" There's a tremor in her voice he's heard a thousand times before and she's not the same girl she was the last time he heard it, but he isn't exactly the same either.

The Doctor guides her hands to his temples. "Like this." Her tongue touches the corner of her lips and he fights the urge to kiss her breathless. She shifts in his lap and respitory bypass or no, his breathing quickens. He mirrors her position. "Ready?"

"Ready," she affirms.

He takes a deep breath and pushes and everything changes. She's warmth and fire and passion, lightning and fury and the sea in a storm. She's the fathomless ocean and the silence of space. She's everywhere, and so is he. Her emotions wash over him in waves—wonder, desire, and love deeper than the world is wide. After all that has happened, all that he has done, she loves him—and she always will. It is endless and golden, binding them together across space and time, past death itself. For what seems like ages they soak in the glory of their own emotions—and then someone moves.

They are back in their bodies in an instant, but still together. Every touch is doubled, every sensation felt twice over. He thrusts into her and she wraps her legs around him and they're so close. They hover at the edge of oblivion, perfectly balanced and straining for more. His hand finds her clit and her nails sink into his shoulder and for a moment nothing exists but they: one soul in two bodies.

Rose comes back to herself slowly. She can feel him now, his heartsbeat regular and comforting against her back and his drowsy thoughts brush against the edges of her mind softly. She smiles and presses back against his chest.

"Penny for your thoughts," he murmurs and his breath against the exposed skin of her neck sends shivers down her spine.

"Mmm." She turns her head—and realizes that his breathing is even and slow and his arm is heavy over her waist. He's asleep. Rose takes a shuddering breath and something catches in her throat. It's been so very long since she's been able to watch him sleep. Now of course she can't—he cradles her, spooned back to front and she knows that they'll have centuries to fall asleep together, but it feels precious now. "I'll tell you in the morning," she murmurs.

And she does.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC)
Really loved this! River's thoughts and choice to give herself a real choice in her life was brilliantly done. The confrontation with Pete, Jackie, Rose and the Doctor with Sherlock and John as observers was excellent. I loved Jenny filling Rose's spot in JE too. Can't wait for the epilogue - you are going to hint what happened to River, yes?
Nov. 26th, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
Oh you'll find out all about what happens to River. :D

I love the idea of River Song, and I really wanted to give her a chance at the life she deserves. :D
Nov. 25th, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
I don't think I can adequately express how much I love this chapter, but I can try!

Basically, it boils down to the fact that I've read this chapter three times, and will likely read it three more~

When Rose turns around again a silky mauve dressing gown sits on top of her duvet.

Mauve and dangerous, yes? ;) Oh Doctor, you don't know what you've signed up for...

And I never knew I was missing dirty-talking Eleven in my life until now. You've given my another kink, woman. *shakes fist*

*needs the epilogue nooooooooow*
Nov. 26th, 2012 04:16 am (UTC)
I'm really trying to combat 'pot-noodle syndrome.' XP I know you know what I mean.
Nov. 26th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
Oh no!!! Don't let it boil over!!

At least the nice little alarm lets you know when you are in the danger zone.
Nov. 26th, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
I had meant more like the assumption that *ahem* certain people have that Eleven is a bit of a limp noodle. XP

But that alarm is super awesome as I am easily distracted.
Nov. 26th, 2012 07:19 pm (UTC)
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh. Ooops. My bad. I'm a poor gutterite.... *hangs head in shame*

In my defense, though, I was about to fall asleep.... but that's no excuse really. *pets 11 and his poor Geronimo*
Nov. 25th, 2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
*Flails like a crazy person*

Isi, it's perfect! The confrontation between Pete and everyone, Rose's goodbye to Jackie, Sherlock and John.

AND River, oh that is brilliant! Cause that's what River never had, the chance to make her choices and live her own life.

Ohhhh, and the Doctor and Rose FINALLY getting together.

*Is in happy place and refuses to leave*
Nov. 26th, 2012 04:18 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm glad you like it Fogs!

River needs a choice. Her whole life has been controlled by other people and her relationship with the Doctor is fucked up. This way everyone gets what they need. :D

*joins Fogs in the happy place*
Nov. 26th, 2012 12:35 am (UTC)
IEEEEEE! This was lovely! Subbing Jenny for River caught me by suprise but is so brilliant!

River's choice was beautiful and heartbreaking but also satisfying. And the Doctor/rose interaction was delicious.

One question, though. When did Jackie find out about Pete and the assassin? In the last chapter, it doesn't seem like she knows and, although the Doctor thinks about it in this one, I don't see anyone saying it out loud where she could hear. And I got the impression in the last chapter that Rose probably didn't want to tell her and spoil Jackie's relationship further.

Eagerly awaiting the final (are you REALLY sure about that) chapter.
Nov. 26th, 2012 04:21 am (UTC)
I love, love, LOVE Jenny and it really makes me angry that she just sort of disappears.

The only way I could keep River in this story AND give her the ending which I think she deserves is to seriously mess with canon (and, well, history). So I did. I think it turned out well. :D

Jackie was in the room when Rose told the Doctor she died, so that's how she found out. :D
Nov. 27th, 2012 01:11 am (UTC)
She heard Rose say Moriarty sent the sniper, but not that Pete hired him. How did Jackie make the connection? Did she overhear Pete ranting to him on the phone or find something on his day planner like "Moriarty: fix-it man"? I just want to know because I love it when people underestimate Jackie and I like having the details of how badly they underestimated her.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 26th, 2012 04:23 am (UTC)
I think he was afraid. He's seen so much death and destruction and he's got a second chance with the person he really does love most. I think he'll do whatever he needs to do to protect that, even though it's wrong. In my head he's rehabilitated and after a few years apart he and Jackie get back together and he steps down as head of Vitex/Torchwood and lives a quiet life with his wife and his son.

It was painful to write! I ship Jackie and Pete pretty hard.
Nov. 27th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
I absolutely love the idea that River is Jenny! Its a lovely way to keep River and removes the forced romance from the show between River and the Doctor. I'm not much for River but I love the way you've written her here.
Nov. 27th, 2012 02:04 am (UTC)
Actually, if you read the epilogue you'll find that River ISN'T Jenny, but that Jenny took her place (and occasionally Rose's, as we see in the bit I included from Journey's End) when Bad Wolf rewrote time to give River the choice she doesn't get in canon.

I'm so glad you're enjoying her! I love the idea of River Song but I hate how she ended up being written. She's so BAMF in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead and I wanted to capture that awesomeness.

I will never ship her with the Doctor because what I've seen of their relationship is seriously unhealthy (hence my take on it in 'The Woman'). I do, however, ship her with Jenny and with Jack (though not at the same time XP).
Dec. 15th, 2012 07:20 pm (UTC)
What to say, what to say...








Dec. 22nd, 2012 02:04 am (UTC)
Of course the Doctor is a coward! Some things never change, even with regeneration.

I had to write River the way I think she should be in canon. Her relationship, when taken to its logical conclusion, is so different from how it's portrayed on TV.

The smut tripped me up a bit, but Rose has been 'Irene' for almost ten years--she's going to be a bit dominant, I think. XP And thank god because if you left the Doctor to it he'd run away, because as you said--he's a coward, every time.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )



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