Title: 22nd Century Morning
Character/Pairing: Ten II/Rose, Ten/Rose
Summary: The wisest man realizes that he knows nothing, and is always willing to be surprised.
Disclaimer: I wish.
Author's Notes: So what do I love about the Doctor and Rose? It was said in ‘The Impossible Planet’ and ‘The Satan Pit’, my two all time favourite episodes. Out of all of the things, he believes in her. But I also think he underestimates her a bit, which makes for one hell of a story. I also love some of that good old fashioned Bad Wolf, and all of its untapped potential there. I love how music is used in the series, in both serious and cracktastic ways.
And I love a great reunion fic.
If the Doctor squinted, he could have been nearly anywhere in the universe. There was blurred, shiny metal, Technicolor lights zipping by, a loud clamor of noise, both from people and mechanisms striking his ears, and a smell of exhaust filling his nostrils. It always baffled him that with one tilt of the head and a flutter of the eyelids that one could find oneself in a place that they’d never been before. He forced himself back down to Earth with a sigh, the sight of the London Underground rapidly filling his senses.
London Underground, early 22nd century, and looking very similar to how it did a century before. He couldn’t remember the name of the station, for all he knew it could have a different name in a few weeks anyway. It wasn’t the greatest place in the world to be, but it was his gift to himself, or so he was trying to believe. A busker with a guitar had set up a makeshift stage by a pillar, serenading this late night (early morning, rather) crowd with songs from long ago. A screen next to where he was leaning against the wall flickered as it changed to show an advertisement for the latest hit television show featuring brainless and collagen-inflated starlets. Things never do change, he thought wryly.
He’d tried to avoid Earth for a long while, preferring to run away from the planet and all the memories there. But out there was just as hard, especially when he ran into River…but it was no matter anymore. It’d been a good long time since she’d taken her last trip, and he just had to get used to losing one more person from his life. River, Donna, the Master, Martha…the list just went on and on.
The Doctor snorted slightly. There was no reason to be so melodramatic about things, really. But it could be argued that he wasn’t quite in his right mind at the moment anyway. He didn’t often follow the half-remembered ephemera of dreams – he prided himself on being rational. This…dream, nightmare, whatever the hell it had been was very convincing. After all, when it’s the form of your half-Time Lord, half Human metacrisis staring you right in the eyes, it’s hard not to listen.
“I’ve got a gift for you,” his other self whispered. “You gave me a hell of a gift, now it’s time for me to return the favour. A gift before dying, you could look at it as. While I look nice and young and handsome in this vision, it sure isn’t like that when I’m awake. This body’s old now, and its time is running short.” He grinned and passed along his message, telling him to go back to the beginning. Which beginning it was specifically demanded clarification, because he’d had rather a lot of beginnings in his life, however his other self just glared at him and said that if he was too thick to figure it out, then he really didn’t deserve it. He did pass along one last clue before leaving for his world, the shared mental connection across the universes becoming too much for his frail body.
“Do you remember what you said once? It’s ages ago now, but I know you’ve never forgotten it. You said ‘I've seen fake gods and bad gods and demigods and would-be gods…Out of all that, out of that whole pantheon if I believe in one thing, just one thing, I believe in her.’ So keep that in mind. Don’t give up your faith in her now, because I guarantee she’ll surprise you every time.”
He did have to think long and hard about it – there was the potential for such a vulnerability there that he didn’t feel at all comfortable with. And there was a danger, something that could be used against him when things got bad (not that this hadn’t happened before though. He was supposed to be emotionally careful, and yet everyone could read just how he felt about one human blonde by a quick look at his face). But, did he really want to waste this one last chance?
So when the time was right, late one Thursday night after everything was closed, he went back to the beginning, sneaking into the basement of the building that used to be Henrik’s department store. And sure enough…there was the impossible. He really ought to stop using that word by now, but old habits die hard, especially at his age.
“Here you go,” Rose said quietly, coming up beside him and handing him a cardboard container full of steaming chips. She looked just as young as she had all those years ago, all pink and yellow, the same as the last time he’d seen her on the beach. It was a bit unnerving, but it didn’t have that profound feeling of wrong about it.
“Cheers,” he murmured, cracking open the top and inhaling the warm, fried goodness.
“I hope they’re good,” Rose sighs as they moved to sit down on a bench. “Think it was the last chippy open in the area this time of night.” The night trains didn’t come with the same frequency as the daytime trains, so they were going to have to wait a bit. Normally they would have just leapt right back into the TARDIS, however the ship was currently residing in a car park outside Stansted Airport, hence the need for a train to get there.
The Doctor watched her for a few moments as she munched on her chips, eyes tracing over the familiar features. Eventually Rose caught onto it and she looked up at him, one cheek bulging. “What is it?” she mumbled through a mouth full of chips.
“Nothing,” he replied, shaking his head. “I just…I’m having a little bit of trouble believing you’re actually here. Again,” he chuckled ruefully.
Rose shrugged and looked out over the tracks. “I’m like a bad penny, what can I say?"
He reached out and traced a finger across her cheekbone, bringing her gaze back to him. He wouldn’t have dared to take a liberty like that before, but at this point he was past caring. Besides, he knew for sure that his other self had done far more things with her than just a simple gesture. She wasn’t going to mind, not at all. “You’re not that, I promise you.” His hand dropped back down to his lap, and he tossed another chip into his mouth. “So how long has it…I mean, how old are you now?” His other self had mentioned something along those lines, but he had to confirm it himself.
This time Rose looked him straight on. She shifted positions on the bench, sitting cross-legged on there with a shoulder leaning against the wall. “Well, it’s like you said, after the second century it’s all a bit of a blur.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so-“
“Don’t,” she cut him off. “Don’t ever apologize. I had the whole of time and space in my head once upon a time. You – the other you – told me that,” she said in response to the incredulous look that had just crossed his face at that statement. He shifted to face her fully, mirroring her position. “But knowing that, knowing what I could do with all of that power…maybe there was a part of me deep down, deep enough that I didn’t even realize it at the time, that wanted to make sure that I could give you your forever, not just mine.”
“I’m not worth that,” the Doctor sighed, eyes dropping to the grubby concrete platform. “You can’t imagine some of the horrible things I’ve done.”
“Now it’s my turn to tell you not to think that,” Rose said, one of her hands going out to grab at his jacket sleeve. “I know exactly who you are and what you’ve done, have for a very long time. And I’m still here. Someone once said once, you’re worth the monsters.”
“Even the internal ones?”
“Warts and all.”
“Charming image.” He popped a chip into his mouth, feeling the tang of the vinegar hit the back of his throat.
“But still…” Rose trailed off, her gaze inching back towards the tracks once more. It was a bit of an avoidance tactic, but he was willing to be patient.
“Where do we go from here?” she asked, dragging her gaze back to his.
The Doctor shrugged. Surprisingly, he’d thought about this before, and none of the answers he could come up with were at all satisfactory. But maybe that was an answer in itself. “Does it matter? Maybe it’s not that we’re specifically heading somewhere, just that we’re going, and what we find along the way. ‘Cause we’ll never know anything for sure, so we might as well just enjoy the ride. Really, it’s why I still keep going, keep travelling. How’s the phrase go: we’ll never be strong enough, or young enough, or alone enough, or cold enough, or old enough.”
Rose gave him an odd look. “He loved that song, you know that?”
He nodded. “I do.” He tapped his temple with two fingers. “There’s never been a true Time Lord/Human metacrisis before, so neither of us knew what could happen. I know when he was created he had all of my memories up until that point…so my guess is that when he died all of his memories somehow zapped, for lack of a more technical term, back here. Even then there must have been some sort of connection between us that never really went away. It’s the best guess I can come up with right now.”
“Meaning you really don’t have a clue, do you,” Rose concluded, another chip getting tossed into her mouth.
“Not a one,” the Doctor nodded. “But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.” He leaned against the grubby tile wall and let his eyes drift shut, sorting through the two sets of memories floating around in his head. “One of his favorite memories was of one of the first trips you took in the new TARDIS, of seeing you open the doors and how Sally’s eyes grew so wide at her first glimpse of an alien planet. He hoped that if you decided to come back here, that she’d inherit the TARDIS and be able to go out and explore the wide universe.” Rose just stared at him, crunching the edge of her cardboard box with her finger tips. She didn’t interrupt, and he kept on, the memories spilling out of his mouth like a sudden rainstorm. “He was furious with me at first. He understood why I did what I did, leaving him there with you, but that didn’t mean he liked it. He thought that the first thing he’d do, if he ever saw me again, would be a hard punch right across the face, one that’d put Jackie’s slaps to shame. Then he’d thank me. Then he’d smack me again because I never really figured out what the vortex did to you. ”
“No turning me into a lab rat, please,” Rose said in a weak voice. He suspected she was a bit overwhelmed by what he was saying, but he was well past the point of stopping, couldn’t stop at this point.
“Her real name is Susanna, after my granddaughter, but you ended up calling her Sally after a line in a song. I’m sensing a theme here. He loved to watch you in the mornings, just before you’d wake up. And he’d take his finger,” the Doctor’s hand rose, mimicking the actions he was describing, “and run it along your cheekbone, just because he liked the way it made your nose wrinkle up.” His hand fell away into his lap and his fingers curled. “This probably isn’t helping.”
Rose stroked her cheek over the spot where his fingers had just been, her face pensive. “It’s a bit unnerving, for sure. But…” she shook her head with a slight exhalation. “He was the one who encouraged me to come back here, you know.”
“What he didn’t know was that Sally also told me to come back here. She said she’d rather I be happy and in this universe than back in that one and miserable because I didn’t have her father – no matter which incarnation of him it was.”
“That’s, that’s very perceptive of her,” the Doctor nodded, crumpling up the remnants of his chip box and shoving it into his coat pocket. “Of course, she came from both of us, so she must be brilliant.”
“How does it feel?” she interrupted.
“How does what feel?”
“Having those other memories in your head?”
The Doctor tugged at his lower lip. That was a minefield’s worth of questions right there. There were too many ways that this question could be answered, and it’d take him ages to find out the answer that was the best. The part that he could barely admit to himself was that if he answered this question with total and heart-shredding honesty, was that it could leave him far too exposed. And that was the last thing he needed. In the end, he went for simple, using the words of his double. “It’s a gift,” he said, meeting her eyes again.
“One more last chance,” she murmured, a sad and wistful smile crossing her lips.
The busker’s guitar stopped, and some sparse applause rang out around the platform. There was something to be said for protecting one’s self, the Doctor knew. He’d be safer that way, but maybe he wouldn’t be as happy as he could. Sometimes it was worth it to take a chance, to make that leap of faith…or give into that urge to fall. “Come here,” he said, tugging gently on Rose’s arm in an odd mimic of the beach the last time he’d seen her.
She leaned in close, no doubt more than a bit puzzled. The Doctor leaned in himself, nearly burying his face in her hair as he whispered into her ear. This was for them, no one else needed to hear it. “I know that over your life together, he said many things to you. Things that maybe I’ll never be able to say. But I know there was one thing he never said that you should know about. I don’t know why he didn’t say it, I’m sure there plenty of reasons. I can’t access them though, which is an impressive feat. Maybe with some meditation exercises I can reach back through my subconscious – “
“Babbling, Doctor,” she giggled lowly, her breath brushing along his neck.
“Yes, quite! Anyway, this is something you should know. It’s from both of us, not just him, and not just me. When we were there, facing one of the oldest forms of evil in the universe that was mere minutes away from getting out and destroying everything in its path, there was one thing that gave us the courage to do what was right. And I said this, right to the beast’s face: I've seen fake gods and bad gods and demigods and would-be gods…Out of all that, out of that whole pantheon if I believe in one thing, just one thing, I believe in her.”
There was a shuddering gasp against his neck, and he wrapped his arm around Rose’s shoulders, keeping her close. “Thank you,” she whispered back. She pulled away a little bit, just enough so she could look him in the eyes. Her mouth opened to say something, but it looked like the words just wouldn’t come. But sometimes, words just aren’t needed, so she leaned back in and kissed him full on the mouth. It took him by surprise, but only for a few milliseconds.
He had the memories of his other self kissing her – doing more than just kissing, really – but it was nothing compared to the reality of it. Rose’s body was warm in his arms, and her mouth knew just how to move against his. A true gift, indeed.
A giggle from the side of them pulled them out of the kiss, cheeks tinged just slightly pink. “Yes, well,” the Doctor said, shooting a glance at the apparent slightly drunk university students giving them sappy looks and smiling their way.
“Yeah,” Rose smiled back, tucking some hair behind her ears. At that moment the train pulled into the station, the doors opening with a slide and a whoosh, spilling the late, late night crowd out into the station. “Come on,” she said, standing up and holding a hand out to him. The Doctor grabbed onto it and she hauled him up, a bit surprised by the strength she was showing. But that was Rose, all the way. She always managed to surprise him.
They were the last ones to get onto the train, the doors closing just as they stepped over the threshold. As the train moved away, speeding into the underground tunnels, the Doctor and Rose just stood there, staring out into the darkness. “We’ll make it up as we go along, yeah?” Rose said, looking up at him with a soft smile on her face.
The Doctor looked down at her and grinned back. “Oh yes. We’re good at that.”