Authors: goldy_dollar & _thirty2flavors
Rating: PG-13 for angst and (eventual, off-screen) violence
Genre: Drama, angst. No seriously, angst.
Characters/Pairings: Ten2/Rose, Jackie, Pete, an assortment of others
Warnings: Character death
Summary: Years after settling in on Pete's World, the Doctor must face something he thought he could escape.
Exceprt: It had been sixteen hours since a body was pulled out of the Thames, nineteen hours since Torchwood had lost communications with its team, and twenty-two hours and six minutes since the Doctor had kissed Rose Tyler over toast.
His trainers slapped against the ground and a bead of sweat trickled down his back.
He saw a group of people crowded up ahead, the Thames winding behind them, and he sped up, pushing them out of his way. Police sirens wailed behind him and camera lights flashed in his face. He was dimly aware of a low murmur of voices that whispered “Tyler” and “that’s him.”
The crowd thinned, parting in front of him. He stumbled to a stop, tight pain winding through his chest and down to his stomach. His instincts told him to run, to just leave, go right now, but he was drawn forward.
He got his first glimpse of the body, wrapped in towels and plastic sheets. Blonde hair—the body had blonde hair.
Rose had been unusually cheerful that morning.
“Britain is going to be the first country in the world to sign a free trade agreement with another planet,” she declared, adjusting her suit. “It’s going to be a right bit of diplomacy. Lots of flag waving and canapés and the like. Dad even booked a band.”
“I love canapés,” said the Doctor. He held out a plate of toast and Rose picked up the top piece. “Just... one question. Why on earth would anyone sign a free trade agreement with England?”
“They love our fish and chips,” she said with a shrug. “They’re gonna keep their heart specialists employed for years.”
The Doctor snickered and Rose took a bite of toast. He watched with amusement as she dribbled crumbs down the front of her new suit.
“Tell me again why I can’t go?” he said.
“‘Diplomacy’ is sort of the key word here.”
She grinned at him and he couldn’t stop himself from grinning back. “And if there’s trouble?”
“I imagine I’ll panic, scream, and generally be completely helpless without you.”
“All right,” he said. “You can handle yourself.”
“Yup,” Rose said. She quirked an eyebrow and swallowed the rest of her toast. “D’you like my new suit?”
She spun around in a circle, helpfully demonstrating how a well-cut jacket and pencil skirt showed off all her curves.
“It’s... nice, yeah,” he said, eyes still lingering on her form. “Suits you.”
“Oi,” Rose said. She flicked a finger at his chest. “We both know what happens when you look at me like that. I’ve got an important meeting to attend.”
“Oh, do you have to?”
“Free trade agreement. Fish and chips.”
“Right, that.” He set the plate of toast back down on the table and then leaned in to give her a lingering kiss. “Good luck.”
She smiled. “I’ll see you later.”
It was the last time he saw her alive.
“We lost communication at fourteen hundred hours,” Pete Tyler said in a hollow voice. “The rest of the team is missing and unaccounted for.”
Next to him, Jackie sat slumped over the small briefing table, her face ashen and grey. Pete rested one hand on her shoulder and squeezed.
The Doctor stood off to the side from them, half hidden in the office’s shadows. The air conditioning was on at full blast, but he was sweating, his heart pounding furiously in his chest.
A young man in a military uniform saluted Pete from the other side of the table. “We’re scouring the Thames now, sir.”
The Doctor’s gaze swept over the lad. Torchwood’s head of security, if he hasn’t mistaken. “Sorry, Charles is it?” He waited for Charles’s terse nod before continuing. “You won’t find any more bodies. Rose was head of the mission. She was a symbol. They put her where we would find her.”
“We don’t know that—” Pete began.
“I’ve seen this tactic before,” said the Doctor. “Why go for the legs when you can cut off the head? Rose’s face is the one splashed across the papers—the Vitex heiress,” he spat. “And it got her killed.”
Jackie choked on an audible sob while the colour drained from Pete’s face.
“We don’t know that,” he repeated, voice shaking. “We don’t even know who killed her.”
“Oh, I think we do,” said the Doctor. He curled his hands into fists. “She thought they were after fish and chips. She had no idea...”
Pete and Head of Security Charles exchanged a look.
“Doctor,” began Pete slowly, “that free trade agreement was important to Rose. She knew how badly we needed it. Britain’s made huge gains since the Cybermen, but we’re still behind the rest of Europe. We can’t risk losing this chance. Not without more evidence.”
“Pete Tyler,” the Doctor murmured. “Look at you—standing up for Queen and country.”
“We actually haven’t, um, got a Queen in this world, sir,” said Charles. The Doctor shot him a dark look and he shrank back. “Sorry.”
He focused his attention back on Pete. “Your daughter is dead. And here you are, defending the aliens that killed her.” He paused. “Of course, she wasn’t your real daughter, was she? Maybe if it had been Tony—maybe then you wouldn’t be so quick to defend them for the sake of the economy.”
Pete rose to his feet. “That’s enough. Torchwood isn’t in the habit of enacting vengeance on the first aliens we come across.”
“Then you’ll lose,” said the Doctor. His heart was pounding again and there was a sharp ringing in his ears. “I told you—killing Rose sent us a message. We’ve got to send one back.”
“You’re upset,” said Pete. “I understand that. It might be best for everyone if you... took some time.”
“I’m not asking your permission,” said the Doctor. “I don’t have to live by your rules, Pete Tyler. I’m a Time Lord.”
“You haven’t been a Time Lord for a long time,” Pete murmured. “I’m sorry, Doctor, but Torchwood is in charge of this mission and we’re not acting without more proof.”
The Doctor stared at him in stony silence, ears still ringing. Finally he said, “There’s nothing you can do to stop me.”
Pete flinched. “Right now, you’re not thinking straight, you—”
“No, he’s making perfect sense,” Jackie interrupted. She also rose her to her feet. She glanced in Pete’s direction and then made her way over to the Doctor’s side, folding her arms across her chest.
The fight seemed to go out of Pete. “Jackie—”
“She was my daughter,” said Jackie, voice rising shrilly. “My real daughter and you and your Torchwood got her killed.”
Pete sat back down. “Jacks, I’m sorry.”
The Doctor rested his hand on Jackie’s shoulder, feeling an unexpected connection to the only other person in the world who had some inkling of what it was like to lose Rose. Without another word, Jackie turned and buried her face in his chest, shoulders shaking with sobs.
The Doctor held her quietly, gazed fixed on Pete.
“Alright,” Pete said. He buried his face in his hands. “Do what you want.”
There are ways to kill that are virtually instantaneous, methods as close to painless as possible.
The Doctor chose none of those.
From an empty field nearby he stood and watched the building burn. There was a roar and crackle as the flames engulfed the skeleton of the building; with a loud crack, the ceiling caved in. Even at his distance he could feel the heat rolling off the wreckage in waves, permeating his suit and making his skin damp with sweat. The thick billows of ash and smoke stung his eyes and hurt his nose, but the Doctor barely felt it.
It had taken eight hours to organize and execute what was to be considered Torchwood’s retaliation. It had been sixteen hours since a body was pulled out of the Thames, nineteen hours since Torchwood had lost communications with its team, and twenty-two hours and six minutes since the Doctor had kissed Rose Tyler over toast.
With a lingering groan of metal and wood, the second storey fell in, shooting a flurry of sparks into the sky.
Twenty-two hours, seven minutes.
The Doctor closed his eyes and tilted his chin upward, soaking in the warmth of the blaze.
“You don’t think they’ll come back?” came a voice, and the Doctor opened his eyes to find Jake Simmonds standing next to him, holding an umbrella. It was only then that the Doctor noticed it was raining and that he was in fact soaking wet.
“Doubt it,” he said shortly, watching with a distant interest as a drop of rain rolled from the shoulder of his jacket down his sleeve. “No survivors.” He shrugged, looking back to the fire. “If they do come back, I’ll deal with them.”
From the corner of his eye, he saw Jake shift. “Yeah,” said Jake quietly. Then he nodded towards the road. “Car’s waiting. We’d better go.”
With the simplest of nods and one last look at the fire, the Doctor turned and led the way back to the waiting Torchwood van.
Twenty-two hours, nine minutes.
They gave him back her wedding ring, explaining that the alternative was to bury it with her. When he finally opened his hand an hour later to place it on a chain, he realized he’d been holding the ring tight enough to draw blood.
He spent the entire funeral staring at the floor and listening to Jackie Tyler cry.
He very nearly hadn’t come at all. Back when he’d had the TARDIS he had keenly avoided funerals, no matter whose they were; funerals were the aftermath, part of the clean-up, and clean-up was something he just didn’t do. Breaking that habit with Rose Tyler’s funeral seemed like jumping straight into the deep end, and the Doctor was certain he was going to drown.
But as the widower he supposed he didn’t have much choice, and in any case Rose deserved better than cowardice. So he sat in a pew, fingers aching as he gripped the edge of his wooden seat, and stared at the floor to avoid looking at the casket.
There were songs and eulogies and the sort of religious babble the Doctor found fascinating and naive, but none of it drowned out the sound of Jackie, sobbing unabashedly for the entire service. From his seat at the opposite end of the pew the Doctor listened to her intently, as though his entire being was drawn to the sounds of her heartbreak by some masochistic string. Even when he spoke – empty, inadequate words – he watched her, morbidly fascinated by the way she wore her grief on her sleeve. He kept his own grief jealously guarded, a tight ball in his chest that weighed down his heart and made it difficult to breathe. It was a dead weight somewhere under his ribcage, a burden he couldn’t imagine he’d ever be rid of. It would stay there, nestled alongside the guilt from the Time War, for as long as his single human heart could sustain him. How long would that be, he wondered? Forty years? Forty-five? Fifty?
He gripped the bench harder, his fingernails digging into the wood, his eyes slipping shut. More than anything he wanted to run, to leave the planet and never look back. He longed for the escape, however infinitesimal, that the TARDIS would have offered him.
As it was, he was stuck. Stuck with you, Rose had said once, that’s not so bad. But stuck without her…
The Doctor could think of nothing worse.
“I wish Mum would stop crying,” Tony muttered, tugging impatiently at his tie. “It’s weird.”
He and the Doctor were seated on the back balcony of the Tyler mansion, cross-legged on the wooden floor and out of sight. Somewhere on the first floor there were guests eating hors d’oeuvres and offering their condolences to Jackie and Pete, pretending they had any idea how it felt to be without Rose. Tony had been unhappy with the crowd, and the Doctor was all too happy to escape the never-ending flood of I’m so sorrys. Many of the guests he’d never seen before, and many he suspected he would never see again. Many, he was sure, just wanted to witness the Vitex heiress’ memorial service.
The thought made him sick.
“She loved your sister very much,” said the Doctor quietly, reaching over to undo Tony’s tie for him. “She’s probably going to be sad for some time. She’ll need you to be around for her. It’s very hard to lose a child.”
Tony nodded mutely, staring at the plate of food in his lap, swirling one baby carrot around and around in ranch dressing. “You haven’t been crying,” he said, “and you’re married to her.”
The Doctor laughed, low and bitter. “I wouldn’t consider myself a benchmark for healthy coping mechanisms.”
Tony looked at him, uncomprehending, and then looked back at his food.
Years from now, the Doctor knew, Tony would barely be able to recall his older sister – the sound of her voice or the way she spoke or the particular way she bit her tongue when she smiled. By the time Tony was grown, Rose would be a distant memory, a fairy tale more than a sister. He'd forget the details, and his heart wouldn't try to leap out of his chest every time he saw the right shade of bottle blonde.
The Doctor envied Tony as much as he pitied him.
“Mum and Dad were talking about you last night,” Tony said, tracing ranch dressing shapes on his paper plate. “They’re worried. Mum says you’re too quiet, and you’re keepin’ it all to yourself and it’s gonna make you crazy.”
The Doctor snorted softly, shaking his head and looking up at the dark night sky. Jackie Tyler, worried about his mental health. How bizarre. “You don’t have to worry about me, Tony. I’ll be all right. I’m always all right.” The familiar lie came out all too easily.
Tony fell silent at that, and bent his head. He lifted the plate from his lap and set it down beside him, hugging his knees to his chest and following the Doctor’s skyward gaze. A long silence stretched between them, and then Tony said, very quietly, “I miss Rose.”
“Yeah,” said the Doctor, his throat suddenly thick. “Me too.” He dropped his eyes from the sky to where his hands lay, folded together in his lap. “Every second.”
That night was the first time he returned to the flat he’d shared with Rose.
“Oh, sweetheart, stay with us,” Jackie had offered, her voice soft and sympathetic, her hand on his arm. But he felt claustrophobic in the Tyler mansion, surrounded by Jackie and Pete and Tony and the hired help, and he couldn’t avoid the flat forever.
Beyond that, he was nine hundred years old. He’d killed his own species and destroyed his own planet. He did not need Jackie or Pete to babysit him and teach him how to grieve; he’d been doing it for years.
Still, the second he slipped his key into the lock, his heart rate seemed to double. The instant he stepped through the door, a wave of fresh loss nearly winded him.
He had finally reached the point where the flat really, truly felt like home. Now, without Rose’s constant presence, the walls seemed zapped of their warmth, leaving only a tiny collection of carpets and doors. A surge of nausea hit, and he leaned heavily against the front door, wrestling with the urge to run. There was nowhere to go, anyway, nowhere in the entire world that held a single shred of interest for him. He had no desire to travel, no desire to bury himself in a foreign culture. He knew it wouldn’t help.
He wanted the TARDIS. More than a quick route from point A to point B, the TARDIS had offered companionship and constancy when the rest of the universe turned its back on him. He’d been willing to lose that sanctuary in exchange for a life with Rose, and it was a choice he’d make again and again and again.
But now he had neither, and the Doctor didn’t think he’d ever felt more alone.
A spark of white-hot anger shot down his spine, churning his stomach and warming him to the tips of his fingers. Somewhere on the other side of the Void was the TARDIS, and with her was the other Doctor, one whose last memory of Rose was not the way she looked, cold and lifeless on a gurney – one who still had all of time and space at his fingertips – one whose name still functioned as a threat – one whose life still had meaning and purpose, however much he might try to deny it.
The part-human Doctor had never before resented his doppelganger for leaving him and Rose on that beach in Norway. He’d been grateful, more than anything, that he had never had to fight a competition he knew he’d have lost. Now he felt a fresh, fiery hatred for the man with his face and his name and both of his hearts.
It was meant to be a trade-off, he thought. The universe or a life with Rose – sacrifice one to keep the other. The Doctor was not naïve enough to think of the universe as kind, but to take both from him in such short order was downright vindictive.
He dug the heels of his hands into his eyes and took three steadying breaths to keep his composure, then shoved himself away from the door and strode into the flat.
Their bedroom was the worst.
He stood in the doorway for a long moment before he entered, his gaze traveling from her shoes (just outside her closet) to her shirt (draped haphazardly over the armchair) to her perfume (half-empty in its bottle on the dresser). On the nightstand he saw a single gold earring, one whose mate she’d lost at a Vitex function not three weeks ago and never found.
He felt cold from head to toe and swayed on his feet, gripping the doorframe with one hand to steady himself.
He couldn’t do this, he thought suddenly and resolutely. He couldn’t possibly live out the next four or five decades in a tiny, cramped flat on a tiny, cramped planet, eating chips and watching telly and living the stupid, mundane life humans satisfied themselves with. He couldn’t go on without Rose. He wouldn’t.
Feeling faint, he closed his eyes. When he opened them again his vision was blurred.
He stumbled towards the bed and shed his suit jacket and tie at the same time, dropping them unceremoniously onto the floor. He crawled under the duvet and lay on her side of the bed, breathing deep into her pillow, trying desperately to capture one last lingering trace of her indefinable scent.
Then the Doctor closed his eyes and allowed himself to cry for the first time. He sobbed so hard his lungs ached, until at last exhaustion won out and he fell into a restless sleep.
Continue to part 2