Character/Pairing: Ten/Rose, an OC, with appearances from Mickey, Martha, and Donna
Spoilers: To be safe, all of S1 and S2, Last of the Time Lords, with the casting spoiler for S4
Summary: It isn't about how he always saves her, or how she always saves him. It's about how they save each other.
Disclaimer: Not mine, alas.
Author's Notes: The second half of the story. All other pertinent notes can be found in part one, available here.
Tu mater expers paris
Salva nos, stella maris
Manna celeste paris
Et panem angelorum
In a fit of nationalism Mum took Charlie to a Lessons and Carols service on Christmas Eve. St. Mark’s Church, the only Anglican one in Florence, did one every year and for some reason Mum decided they should go to church this Christmas. Charlie hadn’t heard that much English spoken for a while, since he’d been pulled out of his English speaking school actually, and it was a nice change to hear things in his first language. There was also something purely magical about it, hearing the congregation there sing songs about little babies, apples and falling men, and angels who were there. He dozed off sometime in the midst of the sixth lesson, hearing the carol about a Dancing Day flow through his brain.
Mum roused him at the end, having moved past ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and into a final additional song that neither he nor Mum was familiar with. And if Mum hadn’t woken him, the thumping, rhythmic drums that accompanied the final carol would have.
“That’s really lovely,” Mum whispered, not wanting to disrupt the final chorus as the drums built to a raging crescendo. “I wonder what it means.”
“’Light to the blind, leader to the ignorant, solace of the angels. Save us, star of the sea and queen of heaven,” Charlie murmured.
Mum glanced down at him. “Since when do you know Latin?”
Charlie just shrugged, attempting to look innocent…then held up the pamphlet every attendant was given at the beginning of the service. “Translation’s in here.” Mum just rolled her eyes, but there was a grin playing at the corner of her lips.
Finally the drums ended, the last echo fading off into the distance and leaving Charlie with a sudden and strange empty feeling. It was probably just tiredness though, with the clocks reading after ten p.m. “Did you like that?” Mum whispered to him as they moved down the pews to exit the church.
“It was really pretty,” he sighed, clutching her hand as they walked through the church. “I love Christmas,” he said.
“Me too. Once helped stop an alien invasion on Christmas day,” Mum nodded, looking down at him with her tongue poking through her teeth. Charlie gave her a skeptical look, and her smile grew wider. “S’true. Picture it, there’s me, attempting to negotiate with these really ugly blokes called the Sycorax and absolutely failing at it, when finally the Doctor, your dad, wakes up from his regeneration related coma sort of thing he was in and swoops in to save the day. Saved me too. He always did, really,” she sighed, her thoughts somewhere off far in the distance.
“You miss him,” Charlie said as they walked out into the night air, cool and crisp against their skin.
“Every day.” She wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him in close and making him bury his face in her long winter coat. “But I’ve got you now,” Mum said to him. Suddenly her pocket buzzed, and she fished her mobile out of it. “Hold on one sec,” she said to him, “And don’t wander off-stay right here on the steps. Martha, hi!” She spoke into the phone as she darted down the steps of the church onto the sidewalk where there were a few less people, turning around so she could keep him in sight.
As she chatted in brief, short sentences Charlie saw her face go from winter pale to practically ashen, growing more and more serious by the second. He moved a few steps closer, innate curiosity making him want to know just what she was saying. “How long do we have?” were the first words he could make out clearly, as she grabbed onto the strap to his backpack and pulled him even closer. “All right. Look, Martha, thank you for this, you and Mickey. I really appreciate the help….yes, same here. I’ll try and get a message to you two somehow, that we’re safe. Good-bye.” She flipped the mobile shut, dropped it back into her pocket, and without warning hauled Charlie into her arms. She began to walk down the block at a hurried pace.
“What’s going on?” Charlie asked, looking back down the street from over her shoulder. He felt Mum sigh under him as she weaved in and out of the crowd departing the church.
“There are some very bad people out there who have figured out where Mummy is,” she said, dashing them across a narrow street – they were moving closer to the river, Charlie saw. “And if we don’t leave as fast as possible they could hurt us very badly.” Charlie just nodded and clung tighter to her. Save us, indeed, flitted briefly through the little boy’s head.
* * *
In the background the Doctor could hear the loud chattering of people filled with merriment, music filled with drums, bells, and pipes, a fountain shooting up jets of water high into the air, and the voice of Donna commenting that if she had to be subjected to Christmas music, at least it was in Latin so that she couldn’t understand it. But it didn’t quite register in his brain.
Standing in front of the loggia of the old St. Paul’s Hospital, the Doctor ran the sonic screwdriver from end to end, hoping it’d pick something up. Eventually his arm dropped in frustration, the scans picking up absolutely nothing (except for something that could potentially be a tiara from the Cafrit Collective, but that was definitely not what he was looking for). His feelings couldn’t have been that off, could they? That itch in his head that just wouldn’t leave him alone led him here, to this place at this specific time. He’d even had to land the TARDIS three separate times to get them exactly where they should be.
He turned around, looking at the Renaissance façade of Santa Maria Novella with its it white, green, and pink marble designs, lit up by spotlights on this Christmas Eve, then moving down more to look at the expanse of grass in the piazza surrounded by more modern structures, and filled with people celebrating. Donna was sitting on a bench there, paging through an out of date tourist guide of Florence. In short, nothing out of the ordinary. Frustrated, he ran his hands through his hair, pulling none too gently at it. Maybe if he got a little closer he’d see something more, he thought, leaping up and moving inside the loggia itself as a joy-filled shout echoed behind him.
* * *
O parens expers maris
Salva nos, stella maris
Partu non violaris
Paris sanctum sanctorum
Charlie knew something was very wrong when he saw the lights on in the flat. It wasn’t just the small colored pinpricks of the tree they had set up either, but every electric bulb was burning brightly. Mum just gripped him tighter and moved into the shadows. “Bugger,” she muttered to herself. He tucked his head into her shoulder, feeling beyond tired at this point. They had to keep moving though, he knew that. They couldn’t stop until they were safe.
“Can we go to the police?” he asked.
Mum shook her head. “Torchwood is beyond the police. They couldn’t do anything. Maybe…” she trailed off and twisted around, craning her neck to look up the street. “The train station is barely a ten minute walk from here.” To Charlie’s surprise, she reached for a pocket on his backpack and withdrew a handful of Euros. She met his eyes. “For you, just incase,” was all the explanation she offered. “However, there should be more than enough here to get us a train to Munchen. Then from there…oh, we’ll just wing it.” Charlie just nodded and leaned his head on her shoulder. Mum re-adjusted her hold on him and scurried down the street, keeping to the shadows.
As they moved, Charlie could see that they weren’t taking the most direct route to the train station, using a long and winding route to go a mere few blocks. Being Christmas Eve as well meant they were able to blend into crowds as well, using the others as a mild form of cover. To the average eye, she could have been any young mother carrying her tired child home to await Christmas morning. No one really knew the truth about Rose Tyler though. The truth would be beyond their wildest imaginations.
Eventually their roundabout route led them to the Piazza of Santa Maria Novella, and they moved into the loggia across the square from the church, using the covered walkway to keep them shielded from the people wandering around the square celebrating or heading into the church to pray. Mum slid him down from her waist, steadying him as he landed with a small stumble. “Okay,” she whispered somewhere over his head. “The train station is just beyond the church. We’re almost there,” she grinned.
But Charlie didn’t hear her. He blinked rapidly a couple of times and rubbed at his eyes. He may have been a sickly, only half human child, but he’d never hallucinated before. At least, that was what it felt like to him. He could see the piazza with the people milling around on their way to whatever they were doing, but right over it, as if it were two transparent pieces of film with different designs printed on them were layered, was another scene. Same piazza, same church, but brighter lights, a fountain shooting off, more cars zipping past, and a riotous clash of music hitting his ears. “Can’t you see it?” he murmured.
“See what?” Mum asked.
“There’s…two sets of people there.” He wasn’t quite sure how to describe it-as smart as he was there were just some things he didn’t have the experience to speak of. “Like, there’s the people here on the ground, but the invisible ones right next to them.”
“You mean like ghosts?”
“No! They’re as real as we are, just…different.” His ears pricked up and he stepped forward a slight bit, Mum’s hands never leaving his shoulders. “And can you hear that? It’s the same song as in the church, that last one, but different too! More whistles and drums. Something with strings too. It’s all joy.”
“Charlie, you’re not making sense,” Mum said, moving closer to him.
Before he could try to explain, the ground beneath their feet shook, sending them both tumbling to the marble floor of the loggia. Quickly, Mum wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled them back against the wall. “What the hell is going on?” she asked, not really expecting an answer.
Whatever it was, though, it didn’t feel wrong, not to Charlie. He could feel something inside his head, something reaching out through the darkness looking for him, even though it wasn’t anything harmful. A brief, so brief that he barely caught onto it, idea of the faceless man from his dream a couple of months back flew through his head. Without knowing why, he mentally threw himself after that idea and feeling, squeezing his eyes shut and holding onto Mum’s arms with all of his power.
He almost screamed at the sudden coldness sweeping over him, as if he’d plunged headfirst into the sea. The music was still there in his ears, drums and a recorder noise, punctuated with a tambourine and happy shouts, growing louder and louder as the cold did. It was so overwhelming that he could barely hold onto the image of the man, but with a shout of his own he clung onto it.
And then the world seemed to calm.
Charlie sucked in a deep breath, feeling the ground steady beneath him. The air was once again chilled, but it wasn’t the soul sucking cold from before. This was an earthly cold, something normal. He looked up quickly, seeing that they were still in the exact same spot as before, having really moved nowhere. The sights were reversed this time though, with the invisible people now fully fleshed out, with the fountains and music in stark existence, and what was real before was now nearly completely faded into the background, disappearing totally with a blink of his eyes.
“Mum!” he gasped, whirling around to see her slumped against the wall, unconscious. Her head leant to the side, and Charlie could see the pulse pounding in her neck and her chest rise and fall with each breath she took. He shook her, trying to wake her up, when something bright and blue flashed in the corner of his eye. He spun towards the blue light on his knees, only to overbalance when the glare hit him fully and send him falling to the ground.
With a soft click the blue light turned off, and Charlie could see a man standing there, mere feet from where they were in the loggia. He was tall and skinny, wrapped in a long coat and wearing trainers, with brown hair and a pair of eyes that looked a lot older than he did. Charlie froze for a brief moment - he knew that outfit. But it couldn’t be… “It’s okay,” he said in a low voice, with an accent similar to his Mum’s, “I’m not going to hurt you.” He stepped closer, moving slowly.
Without quite knowing how he did it, Charlie stretched out his mind just a little, trying to get a better feeling for things. There was something so familiar here, but his brain was feeling all rattled about from whatever had happened and he couldn’t seem to make good sense of things. Just as he made contact with something, he saw the man stumble back a step, shock written all over his face. Was it his mind that Charlie was feeling? And how could he feel someone’s mind anyway? He never could before. But his dad was telepathic, he remembered Mum saying…
The man shook his head briefly, as if coming to a fast conclusion, and then moved closer. As he knelt down in front of Charlie he could see that his face was paler than average, and that his hands were shaking a bit. “What’s your name?” he asked.
Mum had always told him to never talk to strangers, but this man wasn’t strange. It was a very odd feeling, but there was something rather familiar there. Almost as if…he couldn’t get stuck on that idea though. It wouldn’t be good to hope and then to be horribly let down. He didn’t think he could take that right now. He should be worrying about his Mum anyway. “Charlie.”
“Charlie, that’s a good name. I like that name. And is th-this your mother?” the man continued, nodding at his mum’s slumped form.
Charlie nodded. “She got hurt. I’m not sure what happened.”
To his total surprise, the man leaned past him and cupped Mum’s face in his hand, thumb stroking carefully against her cheekbone. “I’m a doctor,” he eventually murmured. “If you want, I can help and figure out what’s wrong with her.”
“Okay.” Who else could he turn to? There was no one - everyone seemed to be out to lock them up for scientific study. Not a very good prospect. But this man seemed to care about them, for a reason that, if it was true, was so improbable it was unbelievable, so maybe it was time to take a chance.
“Good.” The man turned his head quickly, looking out over the piazza. “Donna! Come here!” he hollered loud enough to make Charlie wince. He then turned back to Mum and oh-so-gently lifted her into his arms, moving to a standing position with her resting against his chest. Charlie stared at them as the arm that was bracing Mum’s upper back made sure that her head was leaning comfortably against his shoulder. Something about the two of them together, even if Mum was injured and unconscious, just looked right.
A woman with rather shocking ginger hair ran up to them. “What is it, Doct—oh my God! What happened?” she said, skidding to a halt in front of them.
“She’s been injured,” the man nodded down towards his loaded arms. “I’m taking her back to the TARDIS to check her over.” He then nodded in Charlie’s direction. “That’s Charlie, he’s coming too. Hold his hand so he doesn’t get lost on the way.”
“But—“ Donna tried to protest, but it was obvious the man wasn’t listening. He’d already turned to walk off the loggia, to wherever they were supposed to be going. Donna just shrugged and looked down at the little boy, holding out her hand. “D’you have any idea what’s going on here?” she asked. Charlie shook his head no and frowned, grabbing onto the offered hand. “Good, ‘cause neither do I!” Donna said, beginning to follow the other pair.
He hadn’t quite told the truth to Donna – ideas were brewing in his brain. Little puzzle pieces were fitting together in his head, coming up with the impossible but, for some reason, very right conclusion about the doctor in the brown pinstripes. And didn’t Mum always tell him that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, impossible was quite possible, if you knew where to look? As they walked off, the last strains of the music reached Charlie’s ears, ending the song with a flourish and a shout.
* * *
Celeste manna paris
Salva nos, stella maris
Lux cecis, dux ignaris
The mattress and medical supplies had been waiting for them when they got back to the TARDIS, set up on the floor of what the man was calling the console room. He carefully set Mum down, stripped her of her heavy winter coat, and covered her in a thick down blanket. Without stopping for a break, he began to run around the center, setting all sorts of things in motion. Charlie didn’t notice this though, he was that worried about his Mum, and all he did was sit by the head of the mattress and watch her slow breathing. To Donna’s surprise, Charlie hadn’t commented on how the inside was far bigger than the outside appeared. He wasn’t going to tell her that he already knew of a ship like that. The man - the Doctor, he mentally corrected himself, wasn’t at all surprised by his reaction. He sighed and leaned back against one of the supports, closing his eyes in exhaustion.
“What do you mean I have to go home?” Donna’s shrill voice cut into his near-sleep, making him open his eyes blearily.
“It’s just temporary,” the Doctor insisted, standing on the ramp by the open doors. “Look, hold onto your key; I promise I’ll be back for you.” His eyes met Charlie’s. “This is something I have to handle on my own.”
Donna huffed, and only walked out the doors into the yard of her parents’ home in London after imparting the threat that if he didn’t come back for her, she’d track him down and make him suffer. The Doctor shut the doors behind her, then moved back to the console, setting them in flight again. “We’re in the vortex now,” he said. “Nothing will be able to find us here.”
He moved over to where Mum was lying on her mattress, kneeling down next to her. Again, Charlie watched with a slight bit of awe as he cupped her face in one of his hands, leaning in close just to examine her. “Oh, Rose,” he murmured quietly. It should have surprised Charlie by this point that he knew his Mum’s first name, but it didn’t. There were reasons for everything, he knew, but right now he just wanted to hear them spoken out loud. That way they’d become real, and not just something in his head.
The Doctor slid his glasses on, grabbed something very technical looking from the tray by his side and began to run it over her. Every so often it emitted a low beep. “So, Charlie,” he said, never taking his eyes off of Mum, “how old are you?”
“Five. How old are you?”
The Doctor looked up at him, a wide and sudden grin spreading across his face. “A lot older than that. Are you in school yet?”
Charlie shrugged. “I was, but I had to be pulled out. Kept correcting the other kids, got bored a lot, then got in trouble for cutting my hair in the middle of class.”
“Eh, that’s just the perils of being smarter than them. You’ll learn to handle it.” Actually, Charlie felt that it wouldn’t even matter at this point. He wasn’t going to see that group ever again. The Doctor sat upright, snapping the little object shut and placing it back in the box. “Your mum will be fine. A little bit of unconsciousness, but mostly exhaustion. Travelling through time and space – or to a parallel world – without any sort of device will do that to you.” This time he looked right at Charlie. “So how did you get here?” he asked, voice calm as he seemed to try to keep control.
Charlie pulled his knees up, hugging them close as the Doctor moved around the mattress to sit next to him. “There were these people who wanted to hurt Mum. ‘Cause she’d been into space, she said. And they didn’t even know about me. But they were in our flat. So we had to run away.”
“That still doesn’t explain how you were able to get into a parallel universe,” The Doctor said softly, bracing his back against the support as well and sitting cross-legged.
“We were going to the train station, try and get to Munchen. But things started to get…fuzzy.” He made a strange motion with his hands, as if he were stacking something. “One group of people, then another, right on top of each other.” Charlie looked up at the Doctor. “I just wanted us to be safe. An’ when we were stopped by the church, I could feel you there, in my head.”
He wrinkled his brow, obviously puzzled. “And you reached out, to try and contact me...?”
Charlie squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment. It was time. Funnily enough, he could feel the TARDIS in the back of his head, offering quiet encouragement and telling him that all would be fine (and whispering that the Doctor could be a bit of a coward at times, so it was up to him now). “Mum always said that you saved her, thought you could do it again. An’ you’re Dad, you’re supposed to save us. So I tried to reach you.” His voice trailed off, and he stared at the glowing column in the centre of the console. The Doctor’s hand dropped down on his shoulder and squeezed. “Didn’t know it was you I was feeling until I saw you there by the church.”
“I could say the same. I’d been feeling this sort of niggling little sensation there in the back of my head, but I couldn’t place it until I saw you and Rose-your mum-there tonight,” the Doctor said, hand still holding onto Charlie’s shoulder.
“She wanted to tell you about me, but she was scared. She couldn’t tell anyone else either, ‘cause they were after her,” Charlie said, finally daring to look up at his face. To his surprise the Doctor wasn’t at all mad or angry, but just slightly smiling as he looked down at him.
“When you’re a parent, it’s never just about you any more. Well, maybe it is for some bad parents out there, a few names come to mind but you’re probably too young to know who they are. In any case, when you’re a parent, you do what’s best for your child. If that meant her keeping you safe and me not knowing about you…I can live with that.” The hand slipped down and his arm wrapped itself around Charlie’s shoulders. Charlie leaned into his side, taking comfort wherever he could get it.
“Thank you for saving us,” he murmured, feeling tired once more. It had been an incredibly long day, and they had traveled far further than they’d ever imagined.
The Doctor shook his head, making Charlie look back up at him as he felt the movement through the Doctor’s body. “We save each other. Maybe I didn’t tell your mum enough, but she saved me just as many times, maybe more. That’s just the way we do it.” He winked at Charlie and gave him a quick grin. “Stick around and you’ll see.”
Charlie had planned to say something in return, but a large yawn overtook him. “Okay, that’s it,” the Doctor said, uncrossing his legs. “Time for all boys who crossed the void today to get some rest.” He grabbed Charlie by the waist and laid him carefully on the mattress next to Mum.
He shook his head, fighting against the tiredness even though the mattress was quite comfy and the blanket that was being placed over him was thick and warm. “Can’t go to sleep yet; gotta wait up for Santa.”
“Santa? Oh, right, it’s Christmas!” the Doctor said as if surprised to hear the date (he hasn’t the slightest clue, the TARDIS thought into Charlie’s head, making him bite back a giggle). He gave what looked like a desperate glance towards the ceiling. “Uh, well, Charlie, you see—“ His ramblings were cut off by the blanket covered pile beside them shifting a bit, making Charlie sit bolt upright and the Doctor scramble over to the other side of the mattress.
As he stared down at his mum’s face, she opened her eyes slowly. A few blinks later her vision had cleared, and she took his face between her hands. “Charlie?” she asked. “Where are we?”
“It’s okay, Mum, we’re safe,” he said, yawning at the end of his statement. He pulled back slightly, letting her get a glimpse of their location. When her eyes grew wide as dinner plates he knew she recognized where they were.
“Oh my God,” she breathed, pushing herself upright. Then suddenly her breath caught in her throat, and Charlie glanced behind him to see the Doctor sitting there on the mattress, calm as anything but with a gleam in his eyes.
“Hello, Rose,” he said, with a smile that could have lit up half of central London.
“Hi,” Mum said back, a little bit of a gasp in her voice.
“We’ve got a lot to talk about, don’t we?” The Doctor said to her.
“Yeah, we do,” Mum replied. “But it’ll be worth it.”
“You lied to me,” he said, with a pointed glance at Charlie.
Mum pulled Charlie to sit between her legs, rubbing her hands up and down his arms. Charlie leaned back, feeling rather warm and comfortable there. The TARDIS hummed soothingly inside his head, making him feel welcome as well. “I lied to everyone,” Mum said. “I did what I had to do to keep our son safe.”
“The things we do for the ones we love,” the Doctor murmured. “Rip open the heart of my poor ship with a recovery lorry…”
“Dangle from a transmitter tower to save the life of one silly human girl...”
“I’ve missed you quite a lot, you know.”
“Same here. At least I had Charlie to help get me through it.”
Charlie wanted to listen to their conversation so badly, but he couldn’t fight the exhaustion anymore. He drifted off to sleep, slumping back against Mum’s stomach.
His dreams weren’t pleasant. He dreamt of the shivering cold of the void they had passed through, of being so terrified, and of what could have followed them through. They were things that no child, not even a half Time Lord child, should even consider thinking about, but they took up residence in his subconscious and it was hard to escape them in sleep.
He awoke with a gasp, eyes darting blindly around the console room, not quite seeing it. But then, then, he felt the Doct – no, his Dad’s cool palm on his forehead, brushing back his hair. Charlie could feel his mind reaching out for his own, sending waves of comfort into it and making him breathe a bit easier. And Mum was still at his back, her arms wrapped around him holding him tight, just like she always did. “It’s okay, love; it’s just a dream,” she murmured, rocking him just slightly. She hummed softly, a few bars of a random song, calming him even further and making him snuggle back into her arms once more. Between the two of them he felt safe, like nothing in those dreams could even touch him.
On the edge of consciousness once more, he heard the Doctor say in a low voice, “’I do love nothing in the universes so well as you: is not that strange?’”
Just before he dropped back to sleep, he felt Mum giggle beneath him, and heard her whispered reply. “Quite right too.”
Salva nos, stella maris
Et regina celorum
Translation for the Latin lyrics can be found here. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the story!