Character/Pairing: Ten/Rose, Gemma (an OC), with appearances by Jack, Martha, Donna, and a bunch of other OCs
Rating: This part is PG, however rating is more than likely to go up by the end of it...
Summary: The Sonnetsverse reunion. "She's been lost, found the key, unlocked the door to the universe, wandered about, took a detour, stopped, stopped some more, then started again. Now, finally, Rose Tyler is on her way home."
Disclaimer: Alas, no.
Author's Notes: This is me, preparing to bury my head in the sand if tonight's episode goes pear-shaped. *cough* Right, anyway! Many many thanks to galadriella1 for her beta job and brilliant britpicking, which is an education in and of itself, and, as always, to Paige for being my sounding board with this epic monster. Thanks as well to solielle for the gorgeous icon! Prior knowledge of the Sonnets stories and the previous parts of Mysterious Ways can't hurt, and all of them can be found here.
Bit of a cliffhanger at the end of this part, but I promise it's worth it.
Six: La Serenissima
“Well, at least it’s not a train this time,“ Gemma sighs as they wait for Louise to get back with their tickets for the vaporetto that would take them to the palazzo. “Train to the airport, train to Priya’s place, train back to the airport, train from Milan to Venice…” she trails off and straddles Priya’s suitcase, using it as an impromptu seat in the middle of the unbridled chaos.
Rose stares around at the mass of humanity seething and flowing all around them, standing there on the edge of the water. There are departure points for various water buses all along the edge, low boats with yellow signs denoting their routes. The view opens right out to Venice’s Grand Canal, welcoming one and all to this fair city. She had previously been told that Venice in the winter was for the locals, but this is a special occasion. This is Carnevale, one last bash before the austerity of the Lenten season sets in, and for the next few nights all bets are off and anything can happen. She zips up her jacket and pushes her sunglasses up her nose. There’s a bit of a chill in the air but the sun is high in the sky, making the day just glorious.
“Here we go,“ Priya says as she walks back towards them, arms filled with various bottles. “Fizzy water for you,” she tosses in Rose’s direction, along with one of the bottles.
“And an Orangina for the young lady.”
“Ooh, I haven’t had one of these in years,” Gemma gushes, cracking the bottle open and taking a gulp.
“Years?” Priya jokes, twisting the cap on her own Diet Coke. “You’re not even ten yet.” Gemma just shrugs and keeps drinking.
“Hey, did you see Lou while you were getting the drinks?” Rose asks. “I don’t think it should be taking this long to pick up a few tickets for the boat.”
Priya shakes her head. “Nope. You’re right, she should have been here by now.”
“Wanna toss for it, see who gets to go find her?” Rose suggests.
“Nah, I’ll take care of it. I’m already up and moving anyway,” Priya says, waving at her as she blends back into the crowds. Rose nods to herself and sits down on the ground next to Gemma’s suitcase. All the benches are full, and her oversized backpack is a bit too squashy to serve as good seating.
“This is really lovely,” Gemma sighs happily as they sit and watch the tourists scramble around. “And it’s right here on Earth!”
Rose nods in agreement, tilting her face back to feel the sun shine warmly on her face. “It’s amazing; some of the most brilliant things out there are the ones that are right in front of you that you never notice.” She snorts to herself, marvelling at how much she’s changed. The Rose Tyler of ten years ago would have never thought like that, preferring all of the mysteries that were out there in the stars. Now there’s a new appreciation – because while Earth is far from perfect, it’s hers. And it is beautiful.
“Although…” Gemma trails off with a slight catch in her voice, making Rose look up at her.
Gemma glances down at Rose, the wind blowing her curls all about her face. “If – if you wanted to go travelling, wanted us to go travelling on Earth again, I really wouldn’t mind that.”
“What’s brought this on?” asks Rose, puzzled. This is a far cry from the little girl who had begged for them to stop a year and a half ago.
She shrugs, mouth working as she tries to come up with a good answer. “I dunno. Are you really happy being stuck in one place all the time?”
“That’s not the point,” Rose says, glaring at Gemma over the tops of her sunglasses. “This is about why you want to go.”
Gemma shakes her head, frustrated. “Well I’m not happy. Thought I would be, but I’m not. It’s boring here.”
“Life is boring sometimes, Gem,” Rose sighs herself. “Most times, really. We were lucky enough to have adventures for a little while, but it isn’t always like that.” Yet more knowledge gained the painful way. Those glorious periods of travel and adventure don’t always last. She wishes it would have, had promised him forever, but things just get in the way sometimes. She wrinkles her nose, wondering just why she’s so melancholy lately. It doesn’t make sense for her to be so maudlin, because life isn’t that bad at all. It may not be a great adventure, but it’s pretty damn good. And there’s a strange sort of progress in getting closer to finding the Doctor as well. So there’s no reason for her to be all shades of gloom and doom.
“But don’t you miss being out there too?” Gemma pushes. “I mean, if this was when we were travelling, we could be heading off to, I dunno, Croatia or something like that next and see whatever beaches or crumbling old castles are there. Instead we’ve got to get back on the train, back on the plane, and then back to school,” she grimaces, the distaste clear on her face.
“So it’s about not wanting to go to school,” she nods, not questioning this time.
“It’s not about not going to school,” Gemma insists. “I just…learn better when we can see things up close.”
“Most people do,” Rose agrees. “I was a disaster at school and ended up leaving when I was sixteen.”
“Yeah, but you were nearly a grownup then, it’s different.” Gemma winces again, scratching her palms over the surface of her jeans. “My progress report isn’t going to be too good this time, you know,” she says, not meeting Rose’s gaze. “The teacher doesn’t like it when I contradict her. She doesn’t know anything about history though, so she’s asking for it. D’you know she thought the Gettysburg Address was signed on September 19th?”
“Gettysburg Address?” The name sounds familiar to her, but she can’t quite place it. Until she’d met the Doctor she wasn’t exactly a history fan, and even after that she still wasn’t as familiar with some of the things that had happened on Earth as compared with the history of the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire.
“Big important speech from the Civil War, American Civil War – they taught us about it last year in class. Happened on November 19th, everyone knows this, but she really believed that it happened in September.” Gemma grimaces and shifts on the suitcase, grabbing onto one of the loose straps hanging off of it. “So now I’ve got a problem listening in class and talking out of turn. She said she was going to call you to have a meeting the day before we left for England.”
Rose rubs her temples with one hand, squeezing her eyes shut behind her sunglasses. “Well I haven’t heard anything from her, if that’s any relief.”
“Not really. She’s still going to get me in trouble.”
“You won’t be in trouble for telling the truth, I can promise you that,” Rose reassures her. “You are going to have to face it though; we’re not going to Croatia just so you can run away from your teacher.” Gemma’s grimace grows even deeper, making Rose throw her head back with laughter. It really does remind her far too much of her own school days. “Oh, here comes trouble,” she says, reining in the giggles as Louise and Priya come hustling back in their direction. “Shift up, Gem, I think we’re going to have to get moving.”
The two girls get to their feet and collect their various bags and backpacks. “All right, ladies, this way,” Louise says, rushing past them with barely a glance and heading towards the docks.
“She better not be like this all week,” Priya grumbles, grabbing the handle of her suitcase and rolling it along. “Otherwise I’m going to stick her in the arse with a syringe full of sedative.”
“I’ll hold her down,” Rose agrees.
The vaporetto is packed with people so the girls end up standing by the entrance of the ship, the only thing holding them back from the splashing water a few well-placed chains. It just adds to the excitement though, so Priya, Gemma, and Rose end up leaning out over the chains, watching as the city of Venice approaches them.
“Gorgeous, totally gorgeous,” Priya mutters, making Gemma nod in agreement.
Suddenly, without any sort of forewarning at all, a feeling skates down Rose’s back, as if someone has decided to glide two fingertips down her spine. She gasps shallowly, hands tightening on the chains. The sea spray splashes against her, and she turns her face up to the deep blue sky. She hasn’t felt this feeling in years upon years, but her body hasn’t forgotten it. It’s that small shiver over her skin, as if a solitary spark is running in patterns over her skin and leaving tiny trails of electricity in its wake. It’s the feeling of the currents of time, moving back and forth like the water below her in waves and tides, and of the Earth spinning thousands of miles an hour beneath their feet. There’s only one thing in the universe, in any universe, that could make her feel like this. And he’s got to be close. She smiles into the wind.
“What are you grinning like a loon about?” Priya asks her, and the puzzlement is clear on her face.
“Can’t you feel it?” Rose says, still smiling. “There’s a storm coming.”
Priya rolls her eyes, taking in the clear blue sky and the lines of the Grand Canal fast approaching. “I’ve already got one insane friend to deal with,” she says, waving a hand in Louise’s direction.
“Hey!” an indignant voice shouts back.
“I don’t want to have to section the both of you,” Priya continues, ignoring the disgruntled muttering from the other side of her.
“I’m fine, really,” Rose insists, still smiling. “We both are. Lou’s just…stressed.”
“I’ve been stuck with my parents, my siblings, and a large amount of extended family for a week, how do you expect me to act?” Louise grouses, leaning against a support post.
“I think you should appreciate them while you’ve got them,” Rose says, shooting her a significant look.
“Oh, I do,” she says. “I don’t doubt that. But isn’t it the ones that you love who drive you the craziest?”
“Anyway,” Louise says, straightening up and waving a hand at the grand homes that they are floating past, painted in every sort of shade possible on Earth and enhanced with marble and gilding and wood. “Welcome to Venice,” she says. “Or, in the local tongue, benvenuto a la Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia.”
“Serenissima?” Rose asks, the word sending a sharp flare of recognition off at the back of her neck. She rubs the back of her left hand against the chain beneath it, imagining that it’s echoing the word that’s scrawled there. “What’s that mean?”
“It’s part of the old name for the Republic of Venice, back from when Italy was a bunch of city-states rather than one country,” Louise says, staring out over the city with a fond grin on her face. “The Most Serene Republic of Venice. Don’t quite remember how it started but I know they used to call the Doges, the Dukes, by that title as well.”
“The serene Rose,” she murmurs, practically to herself, staring out at a bridge down another canal that branches off the larger one.
“Never heard it called that before,” Louise shrugs, and Rose shakes her head.
“No, it was just...something I heard once.”
* * *
Instead of using the formal water entrance to the palazzo, Louise makes them leave the boat at the Rialto stop, and then leads them through a few twisty and turny pathways to get to the back entrance of the palace. The back entrance butts up against a piazza with a few shops and a wine bar inside it. The remnants of the old marketplace are also evident in the large wooden doors that are in front of them, appropriate as an entrance way to an old castle that contained goods from all around the known world at one point in time. Louise grabs a key from her pocket and unlocks a smaller door set within one of the larger one and holds it open for them, ushering them inside.
“Whoa,” Gemma breathes, stopping barely a few feet inside.
“I know,” Louise grins at her. “Impressive, huh?”
Rose just nods in agreement. She’s been to many an amazing place in all of her years travelling, and this easily counts as one of the more beautiful ones. She lets her eyes wander around, looking past the pillars going from floor to ceiling, taking in the spread before her. The dark, covered walkway that they’re currently standing under borders three sides of an expansive courtyard. She walks a few meters forward, going from the gloom of the walkway into the golden light of the courtyard.
The courtyard is open to the air, and she can see clear blue sky stretching up beyond the second floor. The first floor has a balcony on the same three sides that overlooks the courtyard, with ornate gothic arches providing the support. To the left of her is a massive, swooping staircase that curves between the ground and the first floor, connecting the two with a large sweep of golden coloured marble.
The golden colour is prevalent throughout the courtyard, with the stones beneath her feet looking like crystallized sand. The gothic arches lining the two floors are of a paler cream marble, shot through with gold and brown streaks that accent the stone walls. A quick glance to the right shows a solid wall going up all three floors, but there are more pointed arches cut out of the stone rising diagonally.
“The smaller arches there hide a utility stairway,” Louise says, coming up behind her and pointing at the diagonal line of arches. “Come the night of the party the decorators are going to put some funky coloured gauze over there to block out the sight of everyone working going from floor to floor.”
The words make Rose take a closer look, and she sees the buzzing activity going on in the courtyard. Tables are set up and scattered around, with half of them covered in tablecloths of various shades. At the foot of the large staircase a platform is being set up in preparation for live music, and everywhere she looks she can see live plants being hauled in. “This is going to be fantastic,” she mutters, seeing the grin spread across Louise’s face at that.
“Oh yes. They’re really outdoing themselves this year. Wait ‘til you see it on the night of the party, it’s going to be totally amazing,” Louise smiles. “What do you think, Gemma?”
“Very cool,” she says, staring wide-eyed at the scene before her.
“I think that’s all you’re going to get out of her right now,” Priya smirks, coming up besides the rest of them.
“Yeah, she’s right about that. S’not often I see her lost for words,” Rose notes, giving Gemma a gentle, teasing nudge in the shoulder.
“Louisa, is that you?” an accented voice calls out from across the courtyard, making Louise start guiltily.
“Shit, that’s my aunt,” she mutters. “Go, that way, now,” she says, pushing Rose and Gemma toward a small door set in the wall, the way to access the utility stairs. “Just showing the guests to their rooms, Zia,” she calls back, hustling the three girls through the door into the stairwell.
* * *
Sunday and Monday pass by rapidly, full of loud music, lots of rich wine, and tours around San Marco, the Doge’s Palace, the Lido, Murano, the Accademia, and every other thing that Louise’s well meaning grandparents feel that the newcomers to their fair city should see. It was a mostly good time, aside from the incident where Gemma nearly ended up in a canal – she had slid down some steps leading to the water and ended up soaked from the waist down. It had appeared that one of Lou’s many cousins had pushed her in, but since the brat in question’s parents denied all, the culprit wasn’t punished. Gemma was, to put it mildly, not amused.
It isn’t until Tuesday morning while at breakfast, the day of the Carnevale Ball itself, that Louise finally remembers that a Carnevale Ball requires masks fit for a queen to go with the fancy dress. So Rose and Priya are unceremoniously hustled by a very frazzled Louise to one of the mascherari – mask makers – in town. The shop is bustling, full of people attempting to get the final touch for their costume in at the very last minute.
“What do you think?” Rose asks impishly, poking her head around the corner of a shelf.
Priya looks over at her, taking in the papier-mâché mask with its massive nose like a toucan’s beak and painted on round glasses donning Rose’s face. “Suits you, but I don’t think it’s going to go with your outfit.”
Rose shrugs and pulls off the mask, placing it on a ledge somewhere behind her.
“What is your costume anyway?” Louise butts in as she pulls a mask in the shape of a crescent moon down from a hook on the wall.
“It’s a surprise,” Rose says, bending over to find what she thinks is the perfect mask lurking inside a cabinet. It’s gold and bronze, and painted with lighter, glittery gold swirls. It goes across the eyes only, with one side swooping upwards like a stray flame over her head and mingling with the spray of feathers coming from one side of it.
“It’s a sari,” Priya fires back, looking for something pink and lacy to go with her costume. “That’s the only sort of fancy clothing that shop we went to has.”
“But it’s all in the details,” Rose insists, a grin spreading across her face as she weaves through the crowd to the register to pay for this most perfect mask.
“Okay, stop with the enigmatic crap!” Louise calls after her. “We’re never going to be able to stop her, are we?”
“Nope, I think we’re just going to have to go along with it and deal,” Priya shrugs, picking up yet another mask and holding it up to her face. “There’s always one odd one in the group anyway, isn’t there?”
Eventually Priya found something that she felt would match her costume nicely, and so one inquiry later about a few spare masks Lou’s family had ordered(“They’re not ready just yet, signorina, as you can see it’s rather busy right now. Come back in one hour though, we should have them by then.”) they leave the boutique for greener pastures…or at least a greener pasture that serves wine.
They end up at a little outdoor café in an out of the way piazza bordered by a brick chapel on one side and a slow-moving canal on the other – the past few days have continued to be absolutely brilliant weather-wise, and they can comfortably sit outside in the sunshine with just their jumpers on. “So the spares will be done in an hour…what should we do until then?” Louise asks.
“Who says we have to do anything?” Rose sighs, looking dreamily out at the sluggish canal. “I like relaxing. Relaxing is good.”
“It is a nice little escape from real life, isn’t it?” Louise agrees, smiling as she sips at her glass of Chianti. “Don’t have to think about jobs, or worrying about the rent, or relatives nagging you about why you’re still single.”
Rose glances back at her. “You mean you didn’t tell them about – “
“Let’s not go there,” Louise cuts her off with a grimace. Rose gracefully backs off, having heard the rant on this subject many a time. “Until the boy proves himself, I’m not saying a damn word,” she continues.
Time passes by with more idle chatter and wine, until the peaceful afternoon is shattered by the ringing of Louise’s cell phone. “Hello?” Three seconds later she hands the phone to Rose. “It’s for you.”
‘Who is it?’ Rose mouths as she takes the phone.
‘Family,’ Louise mouths back. Rose listens for a few minutes then lets out an audible groan. “I’ll be right there. Yeah, thanks.”
“What’s up?” Priya asks when she’s done.
Rose sighs again, this time more frustrated than before. “Apparently Gemma tried to get her own back at one of your cousins for the incident on the steps yesterday. So now I’m being summoned to explain the actions of my little sister even though it’s your cousin…”
“Yeah. I’m sorry,” Louise says. “The little ones are exactly the same as their parents, unfortunately. Can’t tell you how many times they tortured me as a kid. If Gemma wants, there’s a balcony on the second floor – go into the storage closet at the top of the utility stairwell. There’s a door at the back of the closet that leads out to a pretty secluded balcony – the view’s not the greatest but it’s private and there’s a comfy lounge to sit on. Used to hide out there all the time with a book and a bag of M&Ms as a kid.”
“I’ll let her know,” Rose says with a small smile, standing up and grabbing the box that contains her mask. “See you back at the house.” She waves good-bye and heads off, darting down a side alleyway.
“You see what I said about my family?” Louise says with a pointed look in Priya’s direction.
“I’m not even going there,” she says, shaking her head.
“Don’t blame you for that.” With a glance at her phone she shrugs and stands up herself. “Might as well go pick up the masks now. Shouldn’t be more than ten minutes.”
“All right,” Priya agrees, “got more than enough things to entertain myself here.”
“See you in a bit then.” She takes off down another alley, leaving Priya to her own thoughts. And the peace and quiet is a nice sensation.
The peace and quiet is shattered not three minutes later by a loud voice, making Priya look up in surprise.
“Oh my God!”
a/n 1: instead of using a lyric as a title for this chapter, it's named after a piece of instrumental music by Loreena McKennit that was heavily inspired by Venice. If anyone wants to hear the piece, let me know and I'll try and find a copy for you somehow...
a/n 2: the mask Rose tries on in the shop is a traditional Venetian mask that is often known as a Doctor's mask. If anyone wants to see what it really looks like let me know and I'll get a link. I figured it was appropriate.