Character/Pairing: Ten/Rose, Gemma (an OC), with appearances by Jack, Martha, Donna, and a bunch of other OCs
Rating: Back to PG now...
Summary: "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." The Sonnetsverse reunion. Still totally AU from 'The Unicorn and the Wasp'.
Disclaimer: Alas, no. All I've got is a kitten named Fortuna, but she's not for sale.
a/n: If you notice above, I've finally got a full parts count for this story. Meaning that it is finally, two and a half very long years later, finished. I've still got some tinkering to do with the epilogue, but it's all written. Whew. My never ending thanks to earlgreytea68 for her always cracking beta job, and to mrs_roy for her support to get these parts finished.
Okay, on with the show. It's the home stretch...
Chapter 16: Stick With Me, Baby
“Everybody's been a-talkin'; yes, the news travels fast…
…Come on & stick with me, baby; we'll find a way
Yes, we'll find a way…”
- Stick With Me Baby, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
If this situation was anything approaching normal, Gemma thinks, then she would feel like a princess at this moment. She is sitting on a comfy lounge chair on a balcony overlooking a moonlight canal, which, despite the sub-standard view, she thinks is absolutely gorgeous. However, the crowd of people surrounding the chair, all of them looking at her very expectantly, lends to the feeling of being interrogated. She swallows thickly, and takes a sip from the soda Lou had brought to her.
“So,” Donna says, crossing her arms over her chest, “start explaining.”
She sips at the soda again, puts it down, then sits upright. If she’s going to do this, then she’s going to do it properly. Gemma makes sure her wings are on straight, then folds her hands in her lap.
“Well. Once upon a time, ‘cause that’s how all good stories start, don’t they…”
* * *
Rose adjusts the folds of her sari in the small closet that leads out to the balcony. “I’ll never be able to get this right,” she mutters to herself.
By the time they had gotten back, the party’s wound down. There were a few tables still filled with people and laughing, but the dancers have all gone, and some of the wait staff was beginning to clean up. It was one of these helpful people who had directed them to where he had seen their group of friends sneak out to one of the more secluded balconies.
“You ready for this?” the Doctor asks, peering over her shoulder at the crack in the door that they can both hear familiar voices floating out of.
Rose tugs at the sari once more, then gives up. She just hopes that she can put off questions about her state of dishabille until Gemma’s asleep – there are some things that an almost ten-year-old just doesn’t need to know. “Ready as I’ll ever be.” She straightens up and nods. “Time to face the music.” She pushes the door open, making the small crowd on the balcony stop talking and look up at them.
“And where have you two been?” Donna asks from her perch on the lounge next to Gemma. Gemma looks up and winces when she sees Rose.
“I’m sorry, they made me tell them everything!” she blurts out. “They wanted to know how we got here and Donna wouldn’t let me go to the loo until I told.”
“Everything?” Rose frowns. There are some secrets between sisters (and the Doctor, of course) that shouldn’t be shared with everybody, they both know, but Rose can tell that Donna’s a formidable character who might have intimidated Gemma into letting some things slip that she shouldn’t have.
“Just about,” Gemma says, with a small grin. Rose bites back the sigh of relief. So some secrets are still safe, thank goodness.
“Fine by me,” Rose shrugs, picking her way through the crowd and almost tripping over Neil’s toga as she finds a spot of bare ground by Gemma’s feet. “Saves us the trouble of having to go through it.” The Doctor follows suit, leaning against the back wall by where Donna is.
Lou shakes her head. “It’s given me a headache, frankly. Aliens? Time Travel? Parallel universes? If it was anyone else I would have said that you all were nuts.”
Martha pats Lou on the shoulder. “I know the feeling. You get used to it in time, though.”
Priya shoots Martha a sideways look and nudges Lou in the side. “Even if you don’t believe it at first,” she reassures her with a wink.
“I hope so.” Lou leans forward, bracing one hand on Priya’s wide skirt as she points at the Doctor with the other. “Alien, seriously?
“Yup.” The Doctor waves, smile spreading across his face. “Hello.” Donna leans down and squints at him, her mouth pursing. He looks back up at her and squirms briefly. “What?” he finally asks.
“You’ve got a hickey, spaceman,” she says, eyebrows arching.
It’s not really visible, but Rose is pretty sure that his cheeks are burning, and she bites back a laugh. His hand reaches up to rub the spot on his neck as he replies in a low voice, “Accident with a Hoover. Sorry it’s not anything more sordid.”
“Pull the other, ‘s got bells on it,” Donna fires back.
“Yeah, I’m with her on this one,” Priya drawls, shooting a significant look at Rose. “The probable chances of a vacuum hitting in that exact spot – “
“Moving along!” Rose breaks in, waving her hands in the air. “So, did we miss anything interesting?”
They talk well into the night about everything and nothing, with Neil sneaking off at one point to steal a tray of leftovers from the kitchen. By the time the sun is just beginning to peek over the canals, the only ones left awake are the Doctor and Rose. Donna and Martha have already headed back to the TARDIS, and everyone else has either walked or crawled into their beds upstairs.
“So, one month, right?” Rose asks as she holds onto his hands. They’ve moved back out into the piazza to say their temporary farewells. There’s barely anyone out here, maybe one or two revelers straggling back to their beds, and some early morning churchgoers getting ready to beg penance for their decadence the night before.
“One month,” the Doctor nods.
(He wants to ask if she’s sure she wants to wait, that he can have the TARDIS in her room in a matter of minutes, and that they can be back in the vortex not long after that, but instinct tells him this wouldn’t be a smart move. She wants to take her time to leave properly, so he’ll do things her way. After all, a month’s not very long, is it?)
“Good,” Rose smiles at him, shining like gold in the first rays of the sunrise. She leans up to kiss him hard, then gently pushes him away from her. “So I’ll see you soon then?”
“Oh, yes!” he says, walking backwards across the piazza, keeping her in sight until the very last moment. Rose watches as he turns a corner, disappearing to where the TARDIS inevitably is. She smiles to herself, then heads back inside. To say that it’s been a long day is a true understatement, and she could definitely use a good sleep.
Gemma stirs in the bed as she sneaks back into the room, and smiles up at her. “This is good, right?” she mumbles sleepily as Rose gets out of the sari and into her pajamas.
“Very good,” Rose agrees as she crawls into bed. “One more month, then we’re going home.”
“Home,” Gemma says, curling into Rose’s side. “I like the sound of that.”
* * *
An urgent call from UNIT sends the TARDIS hurtling back towards London to drop Martha off just in time to get to work, her fancy gown draped in a bag over her shoulder. “Let me know what happens,” she calls back as she rushes off, making Donna nod and wave her cell phone in the air in confirmation.
“So, interesting night,” Donna smirks, settling herself into the jump seat for the next journey.
“You’ve got that right,” the Doctor nods, flicking a few switches on the console and sending them back into the vortex once more.
“I mean,” Donna continues, “of all the things for us to find in Venice I certainly hadn’t expected Rose Tyler.”
“Yeah,” he agrees, shooting a look up at the glowing rotor. “Not that I’m complaining, of course.” He has the very strong feeling that the TARDIS’s reticence to let him back in the ship was because of Rose’s presence, but she’s keeping her mouth shut on the issue. No matter, though – the end result was more than he could have ever hoped for, and he’s in no position to complain at the moment. Still, there were those lingering feelings of doubt brewing in him like a foul cup of tea.
“Am I making the right choice?” he finally asks, turning to face Donna.
“What do you mean?” she says, slipping off her sandals and curling her legs under her.
“To bring Rose back on board here. And Gemma, too; I said that she’d be welcome to come along.” He shakes his head and stares off into the distance. “It’s not safe, this life we lead. They could both die in any manner of ways out there. And I can’t help but think that it’d be safer for them to stay on Earth.”
Donna snorts and rolls her eyes. “What makes you think Earth is any safer, Doctor? A war could break out, someone could bomb the buses again, or a, I don’t know, a wild turkey could run out in front of her car causing them to swerve off the road.”
“Donna, please,” he winces, images of flying feathers and dead turkeys suddenly filling his head.
“You know what I mean, though,” she sighs. “All right, just answer me this – if you were saying these things to Rose, what do you think she would say back to you?”
The Doctor laughs to himself and rubs a palm across his forehead. “I’d be lucky not to get smacked if I even suggested that to her.”
“Well, there’s your answer then,” she grins. “Now take me home, space-man,” Donna says, holding up a bag. “I’ve got some souvenirs I want to give to Gramps. I think he’ll get a kick out of the masks.”
Shortly after that they’re landing on Wilf’s hill. It’s nighttime now, and sure enough he’s out there with his thermos of tea and his telescope, eyes trained on the stars once more. “That was a quick trip,” he says when the Doctor and Donna walk out into the air. “You’ve only been gone three weeks since the last visit.”
Donna wrinkles her brow and walks closer to her granddad. “What date is it?” she asks.
Donna spins on her heels and glares at the Doctor, who just grins widely back. “I said I’d give her a month. She didn’t say I had to wait the full time myself.”
“Her who?” Wilf breaks in, getting more curious now.
Donna laughs and settles herself on the ground, grabbing the thermos to warm her hands. “Get comfy, Gramps, have we got a story to tell you.”
* * *
The door to the old apartment above the small convenience store on Commonwealth Ave swings open, revealing the two weary girls standing on the other side.
“Home again,” Gemma sighs, frowning as she pushes her bag inside the flat.
“Three more weeks,” Rose says as she follows, although she’s not sure who she’s reminding at this point.
“So if we are going to leave,” Gemma asks, abandoning the bag and flopping down on the couch, “do I really have to go back to school?”
“Yes, you do,” Rose replies, moving around the flat and opening blinds and windows, letting fresh air and light in. “Chances are you’re not going to get the chance to go to a proper school for a while when we’re on the TARDIS, so you’re staying in there until we go.”
“Fine,” she huffs, folding her arms over her chest, the picture of a petulant child. “Still, no school after that, yay.”
“Who knows, you may change your mind at some point,” Rose calls back. “In the meantime you’ll have one of the best teachers in the universe.” Rose pauses briefly, thinking that the Doctor’s version of historical events might not always work if Gemma ever decides to go back to school in the 21st century.
Rose just shakes her head. “You still have to wake up early tomorrow.” Gemma groans loudly at that, and Rose laughs.
Rose lays in her bed that night, staring at the play of multicolored neon lights on the ceiling. She should be sleeping, given the forces of jet lag on a body that’s just gone through a transatlantic flight, but instead it’s three in the morning and she can’t sleep. Even after ten years she still misses all of the background noises of the TARDIS as she sleeps – whooshes, rushes, random clicks and snaps, and eventually the soft noises of the Doctor in those rare moments when he couldn’t fight the exhaustion anymore and fell asleep next to her. That was what home is, not this flat, despite Gemma’s declaration earlier.
Jackie had once told her that home wasn’t a place, home was the people that you were with. She had said this in an attempt to make Rose feel a little more at ease in the parallel world. The sentiment didn’t take, or was taken in a way that Jackie didn’t intend. Home was an immeasurable void away with no immediate hope of crossing it. But ten years, a handful of scattered Gallifreyan script, two universes, many footsteps, a very solid gate key, and one rather coincidental reunion later, home was within reach once more.
With those thoughts in her head, Rose lays there and waits for the sun to rise. Now, she’s smiling.
* * *
Two weeks pass quickly. There are things that they have to do: Gemma’s busy saying farewell to the people she’s met in school. She says she won’t miss them, but Rose can’t help but wonder how much of that statement is bravado. Rose’s daunting task is to pack up the flat, amongst all of the other things she has to do. With the packing, however, she can draft the others into helping.
“All right, where’s this going?” Priya asks, holding up some dust collector.
Rose pulls her head out of a box of books and stares. “Bin it,” she calls back.
Priya chucks the trinket into one of the many bin bags lying around the flat. “Garbage pickup’s tomorrow, right?” she says, casting a wary glance around.
“How the hell did we collect so much stuff?” Rose grouses, slouching back and giving the box of books a kick. “We’ve barely been living here a year.”
“Are you going to have room on the…spaceship,” Priya stutters out the word, as if she can’t quite wrap her mouth around it, “for all of your and Gemma’s stuff?”
Rose can’t help but break down laughing at that one. “Trust me, there’s more than enough room for us. I believe the appropriate phrase is ‘bigger on the inside’.”
“You’ll see when he gets here. Who knows, maybe you and Lou could come for a trip round the universe with us one of these days.” Before Priya can get the dumbfounded look off her face and force some words out, there’s a loud crash and clatter from the kitchen. “Lou, you okay?” Rose calls out.
“Fine!” she yells back. “You were planning on giving those plates to Goodwill, right?”
“If they’re busted just toss ‘em.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The clattering continues, no doubt the sound of ceramic shards hitting the inside of a cardboard box.
Somewhere in the midst of the noise, Rose can hear her mobile go off. She lunges over a half-filled bin bag and grabs it off the coffee table. The readout says ‘Donna Noble,’ so she quickly clicks it on. “Hello?”
“You left me a message.”
Okay, that’s definitely the Doctor on the other end of the line… “How did you get Donna’s phone?” she asked.
“She was happy to lend it to me. Said I shouldn’t be let loose on London without being able to call for help, despite the fact that I am perfectly capable of handling whatever comes my way. But we’re getting off the point. You left me a message.”
“What message?” Rose asks, leaning back against the couch. Priya’s standing there with a concerned look but she waves her away, pointing at the phone and mouthing ‘Doctor.’ Priya nods with a knowing smirk and wanders off to help Lou out in the kitchen.
“I’m standing here in the middle of the Powell Estates looking at an accurate, if a little inexpertly written, example of graffiti in handwriting from my planet which quite succinctly reads ‘Rose Was Here’. Any idea how that suddenly popped up?”
Rose can’t help it, and she giggles into the phone. “What can I say; I was feeling a bit nostalgic a few weeks back.” She knows he’s smiling now, too. “Actually, I was trying to let you know somehow that I was back. So I was hoping that you’d see it at some point, although I didn’t think it would be this soon.”
If he was close enough, at that moment Rose would have pulled the Doctor close for a long, slow kiss. Instead she settles for another happy giggle.
The Doctor’s voice grows serious. “There is something, however, that I need to tell you before you come back.”
There’s a sudden sinking feeling in Rose’s stomach. She knows he’s not going to tell her that she can’t come back on the TARDIS (and if he did she’d certainly give him what for, and she has the strong feeling that Donna and Martha would help) but what’s so important that it can’t wait until she’s back onboard? “What is it?”
“It’s about Jack.”
The sinking feeling rises back up and lightens. This is something she can handle. “You mean about how he’s not dead?”
“Wha—how?” The Doctor’s voice is slightly breathless, and she can imagine the look like a fish gasping for air that’s now appeared on his face.
“We had an interesting year travelling around the Earth before we settled in Boston. At one point we ran into some people from Torchwood who worked with Jack.”
The Doctor huffs into the phone. “He’s going to have to have a serious talk with his employees about confidentiality, I think.”
She shakes her head, imagining just for a second that he can see it. “Don’t blame them; I weaseled it out of the poor kid.”
“That fluttery eyelash thing again?”
“I’ll never tell. A girl’s got to have some tricks up her sleeve.” The matter’s not fully settled, she knows. Even now an occasional nightmare about Daleks and the heart of the TARDIS and some glowing yellow light sneaks through her consciousness, and she has the strong feeling that whatever happened to Jack has to do with that. But this is not the time or the place to get into that. Maybe they’ll go over it while lying in bed one night, once she’s back home and lying in his arms once more.
* * *
Five days before the TARDIS’s arrival Rose returns back to the flat with a new and familiar look, surprising Gemma and Lou, who had been drafted into babysitting duty that day. “What do you think?” she asks, flicking the ends of her now bright blonde hair.
“It’s interesting,” Lou says, walking slowly around her to get the full view.
“You look like yourself again,” Gemma smiles.
* * *