Character/Pairing: Ten/Rose, Gemma (an OC), with appearances by Jack, Martha, Donna, and a bunch of other OCs
Rating: M overall, PG for this chapter
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: Last full part of this story. It feels very strange to finally type that, considering that there was a point in time I thought I'd never finish this story. There's an epilogue to come, however... My never ending thanks to earlgreytea68 for her always cracking beta job, and to mrs_roy for her support to get these parts finished.
Previous parts of the story can be found here.
Author's note 2: in regards to the Torchwood timeline, this story fits in after the end of S2, but no Children of Earth here. I need a certain character alive in this universe (see Storyteller on the Sonnets page for further details)
Chapter 17: Home to You
“What is this life that pulls me far away?
What is that home where we cannot reside?
What is that quest that pulls me onward?
My heart is full when you are by my side…
Calling, yearning, pulling, home to you…”
- Caravanserai, Loreena McKennitt
Three days before the TARDIS arrives Neil shows up in Boston, claiming that the storyteller in him wants to know exactly how this story plays out. Both Lou and Rose wonder how much of this is professional interest and how much is him trying to hit on Priya again.
“I swear to God, if you even try and make a profit out of this,” Lou threatens him, grabbing him by the lapels of his shirt and dragging him down to her level, “I will find a way to shoot you.”
Neil swears up and down that no profit whatsoever is involved, while Rose and Priya snicker behind their hands.
* * *
One month, the Doctor had agreed to. However, just because he was a Time Lord with an irrefutably accurate grasp of time (it wasn’t he that had made those bad landings, it was his ship. Not that he’d say that with the TARDIS in earshot, of course), didn’t mean he couldn’t fudge things a little. It had taken a great deal of restraint for him to not get in the TARDIS and leap ahead until the scheduled date. He’s not quite sure why he waited; all he can come up with is that he wanted to wait. Still, he’d given his TARDIS key to Donna to hold for the last week, just as a precaution. In any case, he finds himself hustling Donna into the TARDIS one day before the scheduled pickup date, intent on getting a head start on things.
“Well, I suppose one day is all right,” Donna muses as the TARDIS begins to whir to life. “Rose is probably just as eager as you are.”
“I could offer to help with packing, or something like that.” He stares at the sonic screwdriver and twists it about, contemplating. “Wonder if I could put a setting on here that could help.” The Doctor twists a few buttons and pulls a lever. “However, we just need to make one quick stop first.”
Thirty seconds later the Doctor pokes his head out and sees the high ceilings, brick walls, tons of metal scaffolding, lack of sunlight, and highly advanced and possibly alien technology that makes up the Torchwood Cardiff office. There’s a young man and woman staring at him, aided by the large guns pointed in his direction as well. “Hands in the air, now,” the woman says, waving the gun threateningly at him.
“Jack, call them off,” the Doctor hollers out. Not long after that the man in question comes sauntering around a corner, hands shoved in trouser pockets with a very smug grin stretched across his face.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Jack says, waving a hand at the two to put their guns away. “Come to check up on us, make sure we’re not getting into trouble again?”
“Nah, nothing as complicated as that,” the Doctor says, shoving his hands into his pockets to mirror Jack. “I’ve got to go pick up an old friend of ours; you feel like coming?”
Before Jack or the Doctor can get another word out, Donna’s screech carries throughout the underground lair. “’Old friend?!’ You have got to be kidding me!”
The Doctor shrugs. “I can explain on the way.”
“How long is this retrieval trip going to be?” Jack asks, rightfully skeptical.
“I can have you back in a matter of hours,” the Doctor reassures him.
Jack nods and gives in. “What the hell; why not?” He turns to the dapper young man standing next to him. “If aliens decide to blow up Cardiff, you know how to reach me. Otherwise I’ll be back in a day or so.”
* * *
Gemma sighs to herself and stares around the mostly empty apartment. Rose had run down to the post office to forward the mail to Lou and Priya’s flat, and had left her at home for the few minutes it would take to make those arrangements. Their flat looks strange now, she thinks, with everything but a few bed linens boxed up in the living room. She suspects that she won’t miss it for a while though. This sort of normal life was a nice change for her, but all she could remember before that was the traveling and the wandering. And despite her protests, she rather liked that traveling life. And now Rose would be happy with that life, too, because she finally had the Doctor back. So things were definitely looking up.
There’s an odd sort of sound coming from outside. The street is usually noisy on a good day, what with the Green Line train going by every few minutes, the cars taking the road faster than they should with no regard for the pedestrians, and the pedestrians yelling back at the cars. But this noise doesn’t sound like any of those. She goes over to the front windows and pushes one of the cheap blinds aside. There on the sidewalk, between a garbage can and a lamppost, a large blue box fades into existence.
Gemma had never seen the TARDIS before, but she’d heard the stories. She knows that there is only one thing in the entire wide universe that the tall blue structure with the words ‘Police Public Call Box’ on it could be. So even though Rose had told her to stay inside the flat, she runs outside and down the stairs, exiting onto the stoop at the same moment the Doctor walks out onto the sidewalk.
“You’re a day early,” Gemma says as the Doctor hops up on the stone steps, squinting in the spring sunshine. They’re lucky that it’s sunny today; spring in Boston can provide a multitude of weather, from nor’easters with downpours of rain, to the occasional blizzard, and even a heat wave or two now and then. But today is quite brilliant, cool and sunny, with the leaves just starting to poke their heads out on the trees.
“Maybe so,” he shrugs, smiling. “Maybe I couldn’t wait any longer.”
“Fine with me,” Gemma agrees, bouncing on her toes. “Um, you didn’t tell Rose by any chance what happened in the museum, did you?” she asks, stopping with the bouncing and wringing her hands together.
The Doctor suddenly looks nervous himself and raises a hand to scratch the back of his neck. “No, I didn’t tell her anything. Did you tell her anything?”
“Nope. So maybe let’s not tell her anything until things have settled down a bit?” Gemma suggests, firing a winning grin at the Doctor.
(The Doctor is more than okay with this suggestion. Maybe it makes him a coward. He prefers to look at it as waiting to bring up a sensitive matter until the time is right.)
“Fine with me,” the Doctor nods. “So where’s Rose?” he asks.
“She went to the post…actually she’s right there.” Gemma points up the block, where Rose is walking towards them. The moment when she sees the TARDIS outside is clear, as her walk slows and she pulls her sunglasses off. When she gets close enough she smiles at the Doctor and Gemma, taking a moment to stroke the outside of the ship that she hasn’t seen in so long.
“You’re early,” she eventually says, turning to the two on the steps. The Doctor shrugs with a smirk, not offering up any further explanations. “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, despite the fact that you didn’t listen to what I said.”
“It’s one day, Rose; I think he’s okay,” Gemma butts in.
“Oh, he’s fine,” Rose grins, moving closer. “It’s actually pretty good timing – the girls have decided to take Gemma and I out to dinner tonight, bit of a farewell gift. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if you tagged along.”
“Well, I appreciate the invite,” the Doctor says as Rose climbs onto the same step he’s on. “Hello,” he whispers.
“Hi,” she whispers back, leaning upwards to kiss him hello. Gemma giggles, getting that feeling of seeing happy endings in action once more. The wolf whistles that came from the TARDIS are what pulled the Doctor and Rose apart, however. “What’s that?” Rose asks.
“That’s the moving crew.”
She nods. “Might as well get the crew – and the TARDIS – inside so we can get packing then.”
* * *
Six hours. It’s been six hours since she had the Doctor back, they haven’t even gone on a trip in the TARDIS yet, and already the creepy bad aliens have tried to attack them. She’s got one hand holding on tight to the Doctor’s shoulder, and the other’s got a death grip on the metal bar next to her. Between the two she’s able to stay upright on the train that’s hurtling down the subterranean tracks at a speed that’s far faster than it should normally be going.
“Aliens on the T!” Lou yells out, hanging off of her own pole. “Now why, out of everything, does that not surprise me?”
The Doctor looks up from the clutch of wires he’s managed to pull out of the wall of the car. “I won’t be able to stop the car,” he says, “but I will be able to slow us down as we pull up to the platform.” He looks around, seeing the nervous group of people watching him. He’s lucky in that it’s only Rose’s and his friends here right now; all of the rest of the people had run away when the strange little things started flying in the windows. “So I think we’re going to have to jump for it.”
Priya whimpers at his statement, but still stands up straight anyway. “Of all the days to wear a new dress,” she mutters.
“All right, everyone take a door on the same side,” the Doctor orders them. “The train will slow down and the doors will open. When they open – jump. Otherwise we’re going to be stuck on this train for another hour.” Quickly the group arranges themselves; the Doctor’s got Rose on one side of him and Donna on the other. Neil and Priya take the center door, Lou and Jack take the last. Jack’s currently got Gemma draped over his back, having taken on the role of bodyguard for the girl. It’s the safest way, really. Jack has lives to spare, and he’d have no problem giving one or two of them up to protect her.
“We’re coming up to the station,” Rose yells, watching as the tunnel grows lighter. The Doctor clicks a few settings on the screwdriver and sets it into action as they slow down and pull into the station. The screwdriver whirs, the doors open, and the whole lot of them leap for the platform.
Rose, the Doctor, and Donna land in an undignified heap on the dingy pavement. Neil and Priya manage to crash into a group of teenagers, looking angry and shocked that the train didn’t stop all at the same time. Jack, Gemma, and Lou fare somewhat better, as there wasn’t anyone standing in front of them and a slight meeting with the red and white tiled wall stops their forward motion.
“Is it over?” Neil asks as they all get to their feet.
“No,” the Doctor says, helping Donna up. “We disturbed their lair, so they’re going to be coming after us.”
“Just bloody great,” Donna groans, dusting some subway grime off of her dress.
“We’ll have a better chance if we can lure them to some open space, though,” the Doctor continues, staring wildly around the platform. “Where’s the way out of here?”
Priya, Lou, and Rose trade a look, and Lou begins to make an odd whining noise. “What is it?” Jack asks, shifting his hold on Gemma who tightens her arms around his neck in turn.
Lou sighs, as if resigning herself to the inevitable. “The Common’s right above us. You need open space, it’s right there. Just…please don’t destroy it. I don’t want us to be responsible for wrecking a national landmark.”
The Doctor just grins manically at her and races up the stairs, with the rest of them following behind.
* * *
It takes them all night and well into the morning to take care of the aliens, and by the time they’re done, everyone knows it’s time for them to go. “This isn’t good-bye,” Rose reassures her friends. She’s worked too hard to keep them, and she’s not letting them go. “Phone, e-mail, and I’ll come and visit in a month, I promise.”
“You’d better,” they grin at her. “Otherwise we’ll stage an alien invasion just to get you back here.”
Soon, however, the vortex calls and they have to go and drop Jack off back in Cardiff. “You’re good for him, Rosie,” he says to her as she gives him a final hug. “And if he gives you any crap, let me know and I’ll kick some sense into him.”
Gemma’s eyes are wide as TARDIS settles comfortably into the vortex. “That was brilliant,” she breathes. Rose rubs a hand up and down one of the internal coral struts and mouths ‘thank you’. There’s a warm pulse beneath her fingertips and a spark races through her mind. She can tell the TARDIS is welcoming them back home.
“I’m glad you like her.” The Doctor smiles as the young girl yawns widely. “And on that note I think it’s time for you to get some sleep.”
Gemma nods. “I’m tired, but I’m too awake to sleep. And I can’t remember where my room is,” she sighs.
“Come on, I’ll show you,” Donna says, dropping a hand on Gemma’s shoulder and shooting a significant look at the Doctor and Rose. “Unless it’s a universe ending emergency, I won’t be expecting you for dinner tonight,” she says to them with a smirk. Rose just blushes, and the Doctor raises an eyebrow in Donna’s direction.
“Wait a sec,” the Doctor says, scrabbling for something beneath the console. In a few seconds he re-emerges with a familiar looking book, and hands it to Gemma. “It’s a book of fairy tales from all around the universe. If you can’t sleep, maybe read a little.”
(He figures that this is a good way to start getting Gemma used to the reality that there’s a whole wide world beyond the TARDIS doors just waiting for her. The Doctor finds himself having to bite back the smile as he thinks of how much she’ll enjoy the first place they’re going to take her.)
Gemma clutches the book close to her chest, and nods. “I will. Good night, morning, whichever.”
“Sleep well, love,” Rose says. “If you need me, just call out, and the TARDIS will let me know.”
Once Gemma and Donna are gone, the Doctor pulls Rose close as they lean against the jump seat, watching the symbols that scurry across the monitor. “I should go get changed,” Rose eventually says with a sniff at the sleeve of her dress. “That chase through the park really did this outfit in.”
“You know, you could just stay right here,” the Doctor says, tightening his arms around her waist. “We could…do something with the dress. Not sure what, but I’ll figure it out.”
Rose laughs, and twists in his arms to press a kiss to his mouth. That pretty much sums everything up about them, that they’ll figure it out. And the best way for them to do that is together. “I’ll be back in two minutes,” she mumbles against his mouth. “If you want to watch on the monitor, I’m sure the TARDIS will oblige you.”
It doesn’t take Rose long to find her old room, practically unchanged since the last time she had been in there, oh, so long ago. Her current belongings have been moved into the Doctor’s room, but there’s one specific thing she’s looking for. Her eyes scan the room until she sees the small ink pot and stylus on the bookshelf. She smiles to herself as she picks up the items, feeling their familiar weight in her hands for the first time in ten very long years. Rose takes them with her to the Doctor’s room, setting them carefully down on the nightstand.
Longer than two minutes passes as Rose gets distracted by the lovely hot shower the TARDIS has provided in the en suite. When she gets out, steamy and damp but finally clean and wrapped in a fluffy bathrobe, the Doctor’s already tucked up in their bed, looking like he’s about ready to call it a night himself. “When was the last time you slept well?” Rose asks, pulling the towel from her hair and shaking out the excess water.
The Doctor shrugs. “Can’t remember, really. But it’s like Gemma said, I’m too wired to sleep properly right now.”
“Personally, I feel like I could sleep for a week,” Rose says, shedding the bathrobe and sliding under the covers next to him. She curls up against his cool skin, feeling the beating of his left heart under her cheek.
For a few minutes there’s a thick cloak of silence over the room, like there’s been a warm blanket tossed around them. “Rose, can I ask you a question?” the Doctor says, lifting the cloak and shattering the silence with his soft voice.
He tilts his head down to look at her, dark eyes large and earnest. “You said that you had followed the writings that we put on you to get back here. And it’s true, I know it’s true. But I just…I don’t remember half of the things that I did write on you. I should remember, especially with something so large and important. But I can’t.”
“Does it matter that you can’t remember?” Rose asks, shifting herself to lean on her elbows and look him in his worried face.
The Doctor nods. “Yes, it does.”
There’s an easy way to fix this, Rose knows, and she’s more than willing to demonstrate to him. “Do you want me to show you?”
She nods eagerly, and pulls the Doctor to a sitting position on the bed. Rose smiles widely at him, despite her tiredness, and lets all of the writings come out on her skin, black circles, lines, stars and whorls that tell the story of who they are, where they’ve been. Soon, she’ll be able to tell the story of where they’re going as well. The Doctor leans forward and kisses her deeply. She could spend all day doing this, but they’ve got a mission right now.
“Here,” Rose says when they finally separate. She takes his hand and places it over the script that’s on the inside of her left wrist. “It all started here, with ‘run’. You remember giving me that one, don’t you? Then, you follow it up this way…”
Epilogue to follow…