Sorry ya'll! School went nuts again. Also had some big decisions to make while writing this chapter. And there was a church retreat.
Anyhoo, I hope ya'll like it, and I can't wait to hear from ya'll! Especially on this chapter. Lol; you'll see. Thanks so much for the reviews!
The Doctor's scream when the beam activated was no less terrifying than any of those before, on the Kadhar ship. Rose wanted to cover her ears, but at least this time she knew what was happening was helping him.
At least this time she could understand what he was feeling. She could remember it, a little. Snatches of the pain. And it had been all right, because she trusted him. She'd been afraid, but not because of the beam itself. It was the same now.
He twisted on the bed, and she wanted to reach out to him but she couldn't. God, had it really taken this long last time? It couldn't have.
There was a faint orange glow, flickering on and off, and for one awful, awful moment Rose was afraid they'd failed. The Doctor was regenerating anyway. But he fought it. She could see him fighting it…willing the stabilizing beam the time to do its job. She watched his face and she knew how hard it was, and she wished she could do more to help than stand here and watch him suffer.
But it ended. His struggle succeeded, and the faint glow faded for good. Another moment and the beam had subsided as well. The Doctor slumped on the bed, unconscious.
Rose hurried to his side, shoved the scanner up and out of the way, and tried to wake him. It was no use now, though. She'd been out for a while herself after enduring that, and she'd been an otherwise perfectly healthy human being. The Doctor was a Time Lord, but he'd been so weak. If he wasn't going to wake up now it might be a while.
When the Doctor woke again everything still hurt, but maybe less. It was still everything, but more sore than sharp. He supposed that was something.
It was better than if he'd felt completely fine. If he felt fine, it would mean he'd regenerated. The very fact that he still hurt told him he hadn't, and that was really the one thing he'd wanted.
He felt a hand move, twitching involuntarily, and that was when he realized he could feel his hands at all. The feeling wasn't all back, but it was getting there. The stabilizing beam had done some real good right off, then, which meant his calculations had been good even punching at the controls with numb fingers.
Well, of course they'd been good; he was brilliant after all, wasn't he? Couldn't let dying get one down.
Slowly he lifted one of his hands to get a look at it, and then noticed that he hadn't actually opened his eyes. It took a moment to convince them to do so. When they did flicker open he was also pleasantly surprised to find that his vision was clear again, for the most part. He could see his hand above his face clearly, and the bandages that wrapped his wrist now—around the wrist, about the base of his thumb to help keep them on, and halfway up his forearm because the burns had crept that high, hadn't they?
Both wrists. He could feel the other one, too. Ow, blimey, and the cuts and burns beneath the bandages, too. He could feel those now. He tried to flex his fingers, and it worked but it burned. Tingly to a point that it hurt. He supposed it would be like that, until all of the feeling was back.
Still, he wasn't going to complain. That meant they were already healing. The one thing he hadn't told Rose was that he'd been afraid the damage to the nerves there might be too much even for his Time Lord physiology to heal, if he didn't regenerate.
He could see all of the bandages, as far up as they went. His jacket and blue shirt were off of him now, then—just the torn t-shirt left. His shoes and socks had been removed, too, but it didn't matter because a blanket had been pulled over him.
Rose. Where was Rose?
A soft snore made him look to his left, where he found her asleep in a chair she'd dragged from somewhere. Of course, though. She must have been exhausted.
He didn't want to bother her, except maybe to tell her he was all right and to get to her bed. Still though, she looked so much more peaceful now than she had in several days…worrying over him while they'd been imprisoned. She'd slept some, but she hadn't really rested well.
So he said nothing. He'd nearly drifted off again himself when she stretched in the chair, her eyes opened and hers locked with his.
"Hi," she said with a smile. She sat forward in the chair and took his hands. "How are you feeling?"
"Well I'm alive. That's a plus. Ow, and I can feel my hands a bit already."
"Yeah," Rose chuckled in relief.
"And I'm still me."
They both laughed then, anxiousness and relief and disbelief all rolled into one because it was over. It was really over and they were really all right. Rose was leaning over him. She was so close, and the Doctor remembered then…the rest of what had happened before she turned on the beam.
Her hands released his and rested on his face instead. She leaned closer, and he thought she was going to kiss him again. He swallowed.
"It's still too soon," he said quietly, before she could. It hurt, but he wanted to do the right thing.
Rose let out an uneasy breath, and shifted to perch on the edge of the bed beside him. "I know. Believe me, if it were the sort of thing we could just…put a pause on…"
"-'d be nice, wouldn't it?" He didn't know what they would do, but they couldn't just…
"It's not because I'm scared, you know, even though I am," she said quietly, with a hand on her middle. "It's not just because I miss him, either. It's nothing to do with any of that. It just is. I need you, and I'm not afraid to say so. I can take care of myself well enough to admit it."
The Doctor closed his fingers loosely around the one hand she still had against his face. "I understand…and I'm sorry about before. I was only trying to look out for you."
"If you understand, then why does it matter anymore?"
"You know why it does. The old reasons, the new ones…pick a few. It just isn't right."
"Who says it'd be wrong? I know John would understand because you would—you do—and saying it's wrong is nothing but you being afraid of the same things you've always been afraid of, and you know it."
She leaned over him once more, arms braced on either side of his head and determined, and he couldn't help but think again how much she'd grown up. "I need you, and you need me—and not just because you've been alone. There's nothing wrong with that. You're just stubborn. You always have been."
"That bit I can't argue with. I am stubborn. It's usually helpful in the keeping me alive department." He stopped, looked at her, and she wasn't backing down. "Rose…I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to take care of you—both of you—for as long as I can. I've already promised you that, and I meant it. What else can I do? Really. I'm not human; I can't give you a normal life together. I can't give you anything more than I'm giving you."
"I've said it before. I was us to be honest with each other. That's all. We can pretend we're friends for the rest of our lives if you want—the rest of my life, anyway—just like we used to. If that's really what you want. But that doesn't make it true."
He'd still outlive her. He would either outlive both of them—Rose and the baby both—or the prophecy would find him and he'd die and abandon them. If he didn't die, outliving another family would kill him. Or it wouldn't, and that would be worse.
She had to have heard the uneasiness in his voice. He didn't succeed well in disguising it. She came close enough that their foreheads touched. "You're scared. I know." And she only knew half of it. She didn't know about the prophecy. She looked him in the eyes and waited, and he couldn't answer. He didn't know how. He wanted her to stay close, but he couldn't say that, either.
"If you really want me to drop it I'll drop it," she said finally, sitting up. "It's all right." He could hear how hard it was for her to say that. He understood. He'd felt the same way in the last three moths…telling himself there could never be more than what he was already doing for her. He heard the beginnings of defeat in her voice, and it was that he couldn't stand. Strangely enough, it was what made him understand what he was doing to her. To himself.
The Doctor closed his eyes and gathered his courage, and knew he was breaking every rule he'd ever set for himself. He wondered if he could really do this.
He wanted to. God, he wanted to.
"It wouldn't be easy," he said, when he opened his eyes again. He was looking more at the ceiling than at her, simply because he was afraid to look anywhere else.
"I wouldn't expect it to be easy or perfect or anything else. I just—I don't want to pretend anymore. I can't do it for a lifetime, Doctor."
"I've known you for ten years and loved you just as long. I think that's more than enough time to be sure."
The Doctor reached up to take her face in his hands, and he was afraid again—just for a moment. If he did this, there was so much that could go wrong…and he didn't want to hurt her. He didn't want to take that chance, but he wasn't sure he could live with himself himself any longer if he didn't.
He wondered if his counterpart had the same thoughts before they married. He must have.
The Doctor kissed her before he could reason his way out of it once more. It lasted longer this time—much longer—and when it was over they both laughed again. It was nervous at first, but then it wasn't. It was joy, and he looked up at Rose in wonder. "I've wanted to do that for so long."
She smiled. She laughed at him a little, and for now it made everything better.
No going back now, but he didn't think he minded that anymore.
She wasn't sure she'd expected anything to happen, when she confronted him like that. Rose had known more than one version of him long enough to know that didn't usually work. He was too stubborn for that. She hadn't really planned to do it, even…it just happened.
Now the Doctor was kissing her, and for the first time he'd started it.
He was right; it was too soon. But there was nothing for it now.
Rose maneuvered under the blanket and lay down beside him, because it was an easy way to break off and because she was still tired anyway. It helped, too, just to be there—to feel him against her and know he was all right. She didn't know she was shivering until the Doctor had turned on his side to hold her closer and her head was buried in his chest.
"It's all right…" he whispered.
"I know, I know. It's over." She let out a heavy breath. "It is, isn't it? You'll be all right? You never really answered that question, you know."
"I'll be fine. I just need to heal, and I'll still do that faster than a human would. You'll see—few days, I'll be good as new."
"You can breathe all right?"
"Yeah. Haven't noticed anything since I woke up. Chest is still what hurts the most, but it's not causing any other problems anymore and that'll clear up too, in time. That and my wrists and hands. That's all. That's it. I just need to get my strength back and let them heal."
"Yeah…thanks for the bandage job, by the way. Nice work."
Rose sighed, and managed to relax again. "I got pretty decent at field dressings. Bit more dangerous saving the world without a Tardis."
The Doctor winced at that, and kissed her forehead. "I'm so sorry…"
"For what?" She kissed his cheek in return, and offered a small smile. "No more apologizing, all right?"
They settled down to rest, and after a few more minutes the Doctor muttered against her hair. "We both need a shower."
She smacked his shoulder. "Shut up and go back to sleep."
He gasped and rubbed at his chest. "Ok, little close. That really hurt, actually."
"You told me you'd be fine!"
"I will be. It's just…taking a little longer than I expected, is all."
Three days later—after he'd spent most of that time all but bedridden in the med bay—Rose woke on the morning to find the Doctor missing from his bed and stumbling about in the control room in his pajamas.
"What are you doing?"
"I don't know! I've been stuck in that bed for three days. You know me; I'll lose my mind if I don't get on and do something."
"Not when you can hardly stand, you're not. And don't even think about landing us anywhere; you set foot outside of this ship and you'll be in trouble before you turn around."
The Doctor leaned heavily on the console and scowled up at her. "Oh, come on; I'm not that bad about it."
Rose crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows at him. "Yes, you are."
He let out a breath. "In any case, we should at least land. Just in Cardiff, if nothing else. I don't want you stranded out here in space if anything happens."
"What would happen? We're just waiting about until you've got your strength back. It's probably safer out here anyway." He started to straighten from where he was leaning, as if he was going to ignore her, start around the console and go about landing anyway. She advanced on him, and made it there to catch him just as he fell. Both of them collapsed on the grating, and Rose sighed and helped him sit back up.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
The Doctor nodded, wincing and rubbing at his chest again as he was wont to do the last few days. "I'll be fine, really. It's only I'm trying to heal the damage to my hearts and an awful lot of nerve damage all at once, and it's not easy even for me. Actually, you humans can't even do that, can you?"
"Not that I know of…" she answered worriedly.
He took her hand. "Don't worry. It's simple enough for a Time Lord; it just takes a lot of energy, is all. Well…energy I don't exactly have. The moment I gain any strength it's sapped right into healing efforts. Vicious cycle. And it's all right—I have it managed—just a bit frustrating, how long it's taking."
"It's only been three days."
"Have you met me? I'm not used to being down and out for an hour, much less a few days."
Reassured, Rose laughed a little. "I think you'll live."
"That was the general idea, yeah."
She shook her head at him, got to her feet, and helped him up. He still had to lean on the console, but he was up. Rose leaned in beside him, crossed her ankles and let her head rest on his shoulder. The Doctor put an arm around her, and she smiled and breathed in the scent of the fabric beneath her nose.
The pajamas smelled of the Tardis and the Doctor now, but beneath all that she could still detect the old traces of the smell of the Powell Estate flat. The old days, when she and this Doctor were just beginning and everything seemed so simple. Which way should we go now? Any direction, pick one. Just going.
The Doctor seemed a little surprised when she hugged him suddenly, and tightly.
"We'll be all right, won't we? I know it's not the same; it'll never be the same. But we'll be all right, right?"
He held her, and he was quiet for a long moment. "I hope so," he said finally. "I really hope so."
Two more days, and the Doctor was able to stay on his feet for long enough to suggest that they at least get finding her more suitable clothes out of the way. She said she'd found a few things in the wardrobe that fit a little better, but they wouldn't hold her for long. And they'd have to do this again before it was all over, wouldn't they?
"It's times like this I miss my Mum," Rose sighed, as they made their way through the largest mall on the moon in the 51st century.
The Doctor squeezed her hand between them. "It's times like this I miss your Mum," he admitted.
"You could have stayed in the Tardis, you know."
"Nah. Hey…promised I'd take care of you, didn't I? Besides, who'd want to navigate this place alone? It's a jungle! Worse than any real ones I've ever seen."
They both laughed at that. "Oh!" Rose said. "Jungle! We should do that. Jungle somewhere, monkeys and bright colored birds. Always wanted to see some of those for real. Somewhere other than a zoo, I mean."
"Sure. Amazon on Earth, or you more fancy an alien jungle? Wait! No. Ohhh, we never got around to Machu Picchu, did we? Can't go without seeing Machu Picchu at least once. Could even go back and see it alive, if you w—"
"No." The answer was quick, and she wasn't looking at him anymore.
"Any other jungle—any other part of the Amazon, even—but I don't want to go there."
"What? What do you mean? Why not?"
"I just don't."
The Doctor's brow furrowed in concern, and he brought them to a stop. "Something's wrong. What's wrong?" he asked gently.
Rose still wouldn't look at him. "-t's where John was taking me, for our anniversary. We never made it, obviously. I don't want to go anymore; not without him."
"Oh…" He took a deep breath, and it hurt a bit—and not only because his chest still ached anyway. "Well, there's uhm…there's a planet, that's mostly jungle. Lot of Earth species transplanted there to keep the populations up, too. We could do that instead."
She nodded, and finally she looked at him again and she smiled now. "Yeah. Sure, I'd like that." She took a step back to him to reach up on her toes to kiss his cheek, and they moved on.
It took a while, to figure out just what the decision they'd sort of made really meant. Rose wondered if they'd ever really have it entirely sorted, but at least there was no more pretending. No lying. If she wanted to kiss him she did, if she wanted to hold onto him for a little too long it was all right, and when he grinned at her neither of them had to pretend the sparkle in his eyes was anything other or less than what it was.
Still, not much really changed. The Doctor was still the Doctor. Though he'd tried once or twice when he thought he might die, he didn't say it now. He didn't have to. It was part of what made him a different man than her husband had been. He was still a Time Lord, and though he'd given in he was still afraid. She could see it in his eyes sometimes, when he held her. Fear of the future. Of losing what they had. Fear of the long life he still had to live.
They'd never have everything sorted, would they? They'd have never had everything sorted even if she'd never left. She'd have stayed with him, aging while he didn't just as she supposed she planned to now, and it always would have been like this. That future always would have been there. Always a little uncertain. It was just a matter of telling themselves it didn't matter.
When he did sleep now, he slept beside her. Sometimes she could feel the fear in the way he held her at night, but when it happened she tugged his lips to hers and it all melted away for a while. When it didn't happen it was better, and they were happy. They really were. It was more than she could have asked for, back in the old days. It was more than she'd eventually come to hope for, once she really knew the Doctor.
When he wasn't letting any of it get to him—when he was happy—he was so happy. Rose had never seen him quite as happy. After the first few days the issues with his recovery didn't seem to bother him anymore; nor did anything else for long.
There were still those moments, like that day in the mall or that night in the grass when something became…awkward, for a bit. Because of John. She knew they might be coming across those moments for the rest of her life, but she willing to live with it. She loved them both too much not to be willing to.
It wasn't only for herself, either. She wanted to stay with the Doctor, but she wanted it for the baby, too. She wanted him to be part of the child's life.
Her first check-up since the Kadhar incident came almost two weeks after their escape. It was the first place they really went, besides the shopping excursion they'd kept as short as possible. Sixteen-week visit, a little late, and there'd been tests. They didn't take very long at all, what with 51st century technology. The results were available immediately. Everything was fine, but that night the Doctor was quiet lying beside her in her bed.
She lay there and watched him staring into space. After a while she picked up one of his hands and laid it spread over her growing stomach. There was nothing much to feel there yet, but it was more to get his attention than anything else.
"This scares you too, doesn't it?" she asked quietly, when he looked at her.
For a long time he didn't answer. He had that look on his face, like he was remembering things she would never understand.
"Probably more than you can imagine," he admitted eventually. "I never thought I could do this again."
"Then why are you?" she asked, just because she really wanted to know.
He smiled a little. "Because it's you, Rose Tyler."
"So I should feel free to feel special, then?"
"I'd say so, yes."
"Right…really, though," she said more seriously. "Will you be okay?"
"I'm not going to be the only one fighting memories…wishing things. As much as I wish you didn't, we both have our ghosts now."
"That's not an answer."
"Sure it is. My answer is I feel much like you do. I don't think I could ever do it alone." He stared at the ceiling again. "I just feel that way for different reasons." He shook his head once, on the pillow. "The last time I only even considered trying because Donna was there…" He trailed off and made a face, like he'd said too much or he wasn't sure he wanted to talk about it or not.
But Rose knew that story. "I know. It still ended badly…and I'm sorry."
The Doctor glanced at her only briefly, processing what she meant—that she knew about Jenny. "She died, and it was my fault. I don't want anything like that to happen again."
The angle Rose gained from pushing up on an elbow let her see that his eyes were damp now. There was nothing she could say to make it better, because she didn't know the future. She couldn't tell him everything was going to be just fine, even though she wanted it to be. She couldn't promise him or herself something she couldn't know, just like he couldn't promise her anything days ago in the control room when she asked.
"Whatever happens…you'll be the best extra dad out there, I think. No other stepdads have a Tardis, after all."
"Oh, is that what I am? Stepdad?" he asked wryly.
"You're more than that, really…I mean, if you want to be…"
"Of course I do…"
"There's not a better word for it, though. Whatever you are. Maybe we'll have to make one up."
He chuckled once, weakly, but it was working—the cheering him up bit. She kissed him, and the answer was more intense than usual. He needed her, and she wasn't going to argue. Though they hadn't actually talked about it, before now they'd been afraid he wasn't strong enough…and really, it might be better to wait longer still, but if they'd have to be careful they'd just have to be careful.
She needed him, too.
The next morning began a little later than usual, but the Doctor had no objections to that. It didn't really matter; time was relative in space anyhow.
Rose padded into the control room with stocking feet and a robe wrapped around her nightgown. She'd taken to nightgowns a few weeks back, when she began to outgrow her pajama pants. He couldn't say he objected to that, either.
"So," she yawned. "How are you doing? We still staying in?"
The Doctor—who was already showered and dressed—smiled and shook his head. "I thought we'd go out, actually, if you want."
"See about that jungle, then?"
"We'll get to it, but I had another thought. We sort of entirely missed New York when we hit the 1950s. Never got around to good old early-era Elvis. We could have another go at that. What do you think?"
Rose agreed readily, and hurried off to the wardrobe to find something period appropriate. This time instead of a poodle skirt she came back in a collared brown-and-white checked dress and black shoes, and she'd put her hair up. A coat was draped over her arm.
The Doctor grinned and pulled his own coat on before he went to take her hands. "Look at you! Sophisticated approach this time, eh?"
"Well I'm not twenty years old anymore, am I? That, and the poodle skirt didn't fit…"
"You look lovely. Come on! Actually landed in the right place this time; you can see the city from here, and everything else seems to indicate the right time period. Shouldn't be hard to find transportation."
"You didn't land in the city?"
He shrugged. "Tried; didn't work. Bit odd. Sort of bounced off and over into the suburbs. Some sort of temporal disturbance, which doesn't surprise me when it comes to New York. Had to land on Ellis Island when Martha and I tried the early thirties. Nothing to worry about, though."
At the doors he offered her his elbow, and laughed and took it as they stepped out onto a perfectly 1950s suburban street. The sun indicated midday, and the city skyline wasn't too far off.
"New York City!" the Doctor said grandly, throwing out his free arm.
Rose looked like she wanted to skip, but held herself back to a grin. She looked toward the city but then she just looked at him.
"Nothing," she smiled. "It's just I think we really are gonna be okay. We don't have to have to all sorted now. Take it a day at a time. We'll be all right…as long as we choose to be."
The Doctor let himself hope she was right. Maybe…maybe she was.
And maybe, just maybe, the fact that she'd come here from another universe entirely could have upset the balance. Maybe the prophecy meant nothing anymore. Maybe she'd saved him. Maybe she'd changed the future, coming back here.
"Yeah," he answered, optimistic. He kissed her firmly, and her arms went around his neck and it lasted a little longer than he'd meant for it to. He didn't mind.
"So," Rose asked, once they'd actually begun to walk. "When exactly are we?"
"Early fifties. Might even be '53 again. Shouldn't be far off from where we were last time, really; just the other side of the pond."
The Doctor and his companion strolled in a leisurely fashion down the street and away from the police box. They were lost enough in conversation that they took no notice of the redheaded woman who watched them from a living room window across the road. Her husband was over her shoulder, watching too.
"But…that's not him," he was saying.
"Of course it's him. Who else has a time-traveling police box that makes that awful noise before it appears out of nowhere?" she shot back. "I saw them come out of it." Fifteen years of living in New York had not at all diminished her Scottish lilt.
"Okay, good point."
"He's had different faces, remember? And I'm pretty sure I've seen a picture of that one."
"So that's him before us, then?"
The woman's lips pressed into a grim line for a moment. "Has to be. If it were after us, he'd be here lookin' for us. And I don't think he could if it was after. Fixed points, and all that."
"But time is…well, you know. How did he get here now at all?"
"He didn't, really. Didn't make it into the city, did he? Fifteen years out and there's still turbulence, I suppose. Not that he knows what it is."
Her husband leaned in closer over her shoulder, watching the man in the pinstriped suit and long brown coat leave with the blonde woman on his arm. Both of them seemed so happy. "Who is she, then?"
"Don't know…didn't really like to talk about the past, did he?"
"Is she pregnant? I think she's pregnant."
The redhead sighed. "They were kissing, a minute ago back by the Tardis. Before you got to the window."
"Oh…oh, my god. Do you think it's his? The baby, I mean. If there's a baby."
She shrugged and shook her head, blinking through the mist in her eyes. She felt her husband's arm slip about her shoulders as she leaned heavily on the windowsill and her forehead bumped the glass. She watched the last Time Lord and his companion disappear over the hill, and the last glimpse she had of him he was laughing.